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What I Read: April 2016

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I read a whole bunch of books in April and a majority of them came straight off my TBR lists! I’m slowly but surely making progress on thinning out those lists. I read 16 books so I’ve narrowed this list down to my favorites from the month. 

1- Find Her by Lisa Gardner– Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure. Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home. When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

I borrowed this new release from the library because it sounded so good that I couldn’t wait. This is book 8 in the DD Warren series but I think it can be read as a standalone. I’ve read a few of the other books in this series but not in order and I wasn’t confused or lost reading this one. This book was really good. It kept my attention and interest up until the very end. 

2- A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole– One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe. When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation? Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

Oh my heart. This book. It made me cry the ugly cry. It was amazing and heartbreaking and I could not put it down. I read this entire 316 page book in one day. It was that good. The epilogue…oh the epilogue. You need to read this book. 

3- Protecting the Future by Susan Stoker– Wolf and his fellow SEAL team members have saved many lives, and been in even more harrowing situations, but their latest mission might prove the most difficult of all. Charged with rescuing American soldier, Sergeant Penelope Turner, from the clutches of ISIS, the men infiltrate the refugee camp where she’s believed to be held. The conditions are horrific, the search nearly impossible, but Penelope herself could prove the key to their success…if the SEALs can interpret her clues. An unforgiving desert, perilous mountain terrain, a rising body count and insurgents on the hunt…all of this and more stands between the SEALs completing their mission and returning home to their women, left to bravely deal with fears of their own stateside. Sometimes a mission is more than one team can handle. With a little help from newfound friends, the SEALS won’t stop until they’ve won the day. Failure is not an option.

This is the final book in the SEAL of Protection series and I loved it. I truly loved every book in this series and this one was great because it featured the whole team and all the wives. I’m so sad that this series ended but there is a spin off series that features some of the Delta Force members we met in this final book. So I have something to look forward to. Sniff. 

4- Rescuing Rayne by Susan Stoker– As a flight attendant, Rayne Jackson is used to cancellations, but she never dreamed her latest would lead to a whirlwind tour of London with a handsome stranger…or a life-altering night in his bed. One evening is all the enigmatic man can give her, and Rayne greedily takes it, despite suspecting it will never be enough. Heading home after another extreme mission, Keane “Ghost” Bryson hadn’t planned to seduce someone during his layover, but Rayne is too sweet to resist. Being a Delta Force member means lying to protect his identity, which is unfortunate, considering Rayne seems made for Ghost, right down to the tattoo on her back. For the first time in his life, regret fills him as he slips away the following morning. Both are shocked when, months later, they meet again—under the worst possible circumstances. Seems fate has given them a second chance…if they can survive the terrorist situation they’re in. If Rayne can forgive Ghost his lies. And if Ghost can trust Rayne to be strong enough to endure the secrets and uncertainty that come with loving a Delta Force soldier.

This is the spin off new series I mentioned above. This is book one and it is fantastic. The storyline kind of starts right where Protecting the Future takes place so it’s an easy transition to this new series. I loved seeing old characters and meeting the new team. The book was fast paced and intense. I highly recommend. 

5- Grayson’s Vow by Mia Sheridan– Kira Dallaire is desperate. Some challenges in life seem too hard to overcome. With little money, and even fewer options, the quick-witted and vibrant twenty-two-year-old needs to reinvent herself. Known for her generous heart and impulsive personality, she devises a survival plan, possibly her most outrageous idea yet. Grayson Hawthorn is losing hope. Some obstacles in life seem too hard to overcome. Betrayal definitely being one of them. With limited capital, and dwindling resources, he is attempting to resurrect his failing family vineyard, a self-imposed vow seemingly destined to fail. That is until a young woman enters his office with an outlandish, unexpected proposition impossible to refuse. What begins as a temporary business arrangement, soon evolves into more as vivacious, spirited Kira challenges detached, arrogant Grayson to want more from life. To want more for himself. But as their wills clash and fiery passion ignites, they’ll realize that sometimes the past creates walls too difficult to climb, and that lies and deception rarely precede a happily every after. As Kira and Grayson race toward their destiny, they will discover that some vows are meant to be broken, and others are worth risking everything for . . . even your very own heart.

I enjoyed this book. The premise of a marriage of convenience is not new but I enjoyed the spin that Mia Sheridan put on this story. I liked both main characters a lot and the secondary characters really added to the enjoyment of the story without taking it over. 

6- Sustained by Emma Chase– When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand. Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be. Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I’m going to Mommy & Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal’s office. Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids. And that — that, I know how to do.

I almost didn’t read this book because I’m not a big fan of reading romance books from the male point of view. I’m so glad I decided to give it a chance because it was easily my favorite book of April. The story is great, the characters are fantastic, and it kept my interest the entire time. This is book 2 in the series and I haven’t read book 1 yet but I’m definitely going to after reading this one. 

7- Southern Pleasure by Kaylee Ryan– They tell you that a parent’s love is all consuming. I never put much thought into it. Not until the minute I heard her take her first breath. That little girl is my world. I’d do anything to protect her. My ex signed over her rights and her family vowed that my daughter didn’t exist. Now that she’s gone, they want my little girl. They’re trying to say I can’t give her what she needs. I’ve known Evan all my life. Our families farms run parallel with each other. He and my brother Aaron have been best friends for as long as I can remember. What they’re trying to do is wrong. He needs my help, someone he can trust and I’m more than happy to do it. I volunteered without hesitation. I should have thought about what it would be like to have our lives intertwined. I should have thought about what would happen when our time together ended and how my heart would feel when I had to walk away.

This was another marriage of convenience type of book but with a spin. I liked the premise a lot and then when I started reading I couldn’t stop. I had to know what happened and how it all worked out in the end. I enjoyed the characters a lot and their connection felt real and natural. I definitely recommend this one. 

I read so many good books in April! And May looks good too with several that are popping out at me from my TBR list. A glass of wine, the hot tub, and a great book….what could be better?

 
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What I Read: March 2016

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I read a lot more books this month, mainly because we spent quite a bit of time in the hot tub so I had some time to catch up on my reading. And I read quite a few great books from my TBR list! I knocked 7 books off my main TBR list which was a great start for me!

1- Into the Fury by Kat MartinA faceless menace is threatening lingerie models on a cross country tour, and Ethan Brodie is there to defend and protect. Ethan’s learned the hard way that beauty is no substitute for character. So even though Valentine Hart is one of the most breathtaking women he’s ever seen, he’s keeping his hands off and his eyes open. Or that’s what he tells himself. Then one of the models is murdered, and the closer Ethan gets to the answers, the closer he finds himself to Valentine—and the hotter the pressure feels. There’s more to Val—more to the other girls—than he could have guessed. But one is keeping a secret that could kill them all.

This was a good book that kept my interest throughout the whole story. I enjoyed the characters and will definitely read the next book in the series. The secondary characters were well developed and I hope to see them in other books later in the series. 

2- Blue by Danielle Steel– Ginny Carter was once a rising star in TV news, married to a top anchorman, with a three-year-old son and a full and happy life in Beverly Hills—until her whole world dissolved in a single instant on the freeway two days before Christmas. In the aftermath, she pieces her life back together and tries to find meaning in her existence as a human rights worker in the worst areas around the globe. Then, on the anniversary of the fateful accident—and wrestling with the lure of death herself—she meets a boy who will cause her life to change forever yet again. Thirteen-year-old Blue Williams has been living on the streets, abandoned by his family, rarely attending school, and utterly alone. Following her instincts, Ginny reaches out to him. Leery of everyone, he runs from her again and again. But he always returns, and each time, their friendship grows. Blue glows with outsized spirit and an irresistible mix of innocence and wisdom beyond his years. Ginny offers him respect as they form an unusual bond and become the family they each lost. But just as Blue is truly beginning to trust her, she learns of a shocking betrayal that he has been hiding. Is it a wound too deep to heal, or will she be able to fight the battle that will make them both whole again?

I really enjoyed this book. The main characters really evoked strong emotions during the story. Danielle Steel is always good for a tear jerker story and this one was no exception. I really disliked Ginny’s sister and brother-in-law throughout most of the book but they were necessary to add a little drama to the story. I highly recommend this book. 

3- Shades of Gray by Maya Banks– The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business. Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background. Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t… P.J. and Cole were sharpshooting rivals on the same KGI team and enjoyed a spirited, uncomplicated camaraderie. Until the night they gave in to their desires and suddenly took their relationship one step further. In the aftermath of their one-night stand, they’re called out on a mission that goes terribly wrong, and P.J. walks away from KGI, resolved not to drag her teammates into the murky shadows she’s poised to delve into. Six months later, Cole hasn’t given up his search for P.J., and he’s determined to bring her back home where she belongs. Bent on vengeance, P.J. has plunged into a serpentine game of payback that will make her question everything she’s ever believed in. But Cole-and the rest of their team-refuse to let her go it alone. Even if it means sacrificing their loyalty to KGI, and their lives.

This is book 6 in the KGI series but it can really be read in any order. I’ve only read a couple of the other books and none in order and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I’m going back and reading the rest of them in order. Definitely recommend this series!

4- Hopeless Vows by Rachael Duncan– It was a modern take on an arranged marriage that was supposed to lead to my happily ever after. The rules were simple: 1. Marry a complete stranger chosen for you by professionals. 2. Live together as man and wife for eight weeks while cameras record your every move. 3. Make a decision to stay together or get a divorce. Call me crazy, but I had complete faith in the process, until I saw who was waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Austin James has never met me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know him. With no other choice, I say my vows and pray I can make it through the next eight weeks. Then I’ll leave. What connects us is my best kept secret, and I’ll protect it at all costs even if that means walking away from the only person I’ve ever cared about.

I loved this book. It was like an episode of Married at First Sight in book form. The main characters were great, and Austin was truly swoon worthy. There’s a big secret in this book that you don’t know until the end but when it explodes- boy does it explode. Definitely a 5 star read!

5- Dare to Run by Jen McLaughlin– Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble. Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one.

I enjoyed this book. It’s book 1 in a new series and it set up the rest of the series really well. I liked Heidi- she was strong and fearless and didn’t take crap from anyone. Lucas was just hot. Seriously, HOT!

6- Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster– With the life he’s led and the muscles he’s gained, Armie Jacobson isn’t afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter’s effect on him. It’s not just that she’s his best friend’s little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that’s all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life. Good girl meets bad boy. It’s a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they’re both about to learn what’s truly worth fighting for.

This is book 4 in the series and it was as fantastic as the other 3 books. I’ve been waiting for this one and it did not disappoint. I love how Lori Foster brings back all the characters from previous books- it’s like visiting with old friends. The two main characters in this story, Armie and Merissa, are just so good together and I was so happy to see it work out for them. 

7- New Leaf by Catherine AndersonWhen Taffeta Brown was viciously betrayed by her wealthy husband, she lost everything—including custody of their daughter, Sarah. Now that Taffy has moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, to start over, she unexpectedly meets the one man who might help her get Sarah back. Barney Sterling, a local lawman, finds himself drawn to the lovely, guarded Taffy, but he’s stunned by her proposition—that they marry immediately to improve her chances of regaining custody of her daughter. Barney takes marriage too seriously to commit himself to a woman he hardly knows. Yet soon his sympathies fall with the desperate Taffy, and pretending to be in love becomes the easiest part of the plan. But they have no idea what they’re up against, or what they’re willing to risk to make a miracle come true in Mystic Creek.  

This is book 2 in the series and while not as good as the first one, it was still a good story. I enjoyed seeing the characters from the previous book in this story. The premise was great but the ending was a bit rushed and I wish it had been more developed. Still worth the read. 

8- Dark Promises by Christine Feehan– Gabrielle has had enough of battles, of wars, of seeing Gary Jansen, the man she loves nearly lose his life when it isn’t even his fight. Once he was a gentle and very human researcher. Now he’s a fearless and lethal Carpathian warrior with the blood of an ancient lineage coursing through his veins—a man Gabrielle still needs and desires and dreams of with every breath she takes. All she wants is a life far away from the Carpathian mountains, far from vampires and the shadows cast by the crumbling monastery that hides so many terrible secrets. But Gabrielle soon learns that promises made in the dark can pierce the heart like a dagger. And she isn’t the only one in search of answers in the corners of the unknown…Trixie Joanes has come to the Carpathian mountains in search of her wayward granddaughter, fearing that she has been lured there by something unspeakable. Instead, Trixie has stumbled into the path of a desperate man and a woman in love and on the run. And they’re all fated for the lair of a mysterious ancient with revenge in his soul and the undying power to make bad dreams come true.

One of my favorite authors and one of my favorite series ever. This is book 29 in the Dark Carpathian series and it was great. I’ve been waiting for years for Gabrielle and Gary’s story to happen so when the twist happened early in the book I was shocked and my heart actually sank. I almost stopped reading in protest. But I ended up being really happy with the way the story went. 

9- Jacob by Kris Michaels– Victoria Marshall didn’t cooperate by dying in the Afghani hell-hole like the CIA expected. Defying all probability, a privately-funded black ops group led by a handsome, sexy-as-sin southerner pulled her out of the warlord’s prison cell and brought her home. Even half out of her mind with pain Tori knew this man was special. She made a date with the commander to meet one year later at a restaurant of his choice. Keeping that date was the best thing she ever did. Jacob King found little physically attractive about the woman he saved from the warlord’s camp, though it was hard to see what lay under the filth and suppurating wounds she suffered from countless beatings. He admired her brave humor in the face of her agonizing injuries. This kind of tough-minded woman was someone he’d like to know as a friend. He never expected the leggy, blond bomb-shell in the red dress who showed up for their date. But then he never expected she would save his life, either. In a world of shadows, smoke, and dangerous covert missions, where people routinely vanish and living one more day was never a given, Tori and Jacob fight to build their happily ever after.

I loved this book. It was amazing. I’ve never read anything by this author before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Military books tend to either be amazing or really cheesy. Thankfully this one was amazing. Victoria was a beast. Seriously, she’s my hero. The story was fast paced and exciting and kept me interested the whole time. I already bought the next 2 books in the series, that’s how much I enjoyed this one!

10- SEALs of Honor: Mason by Dale Mayer– Kill or be killed. Part of an elite SEAL team, Mason takes on the dangerous jobs no one else wants to do – or can do. When he’s on a mission, he’s focused and dedicated. When he’s not, he plays as hard as he fights. Until he meets a woman he can’t have but can’t forget. Software developer, Tesla lost her brother in combat and has no intention of getting close to someone else in the military. Determined to save other US soldiers from a similar fate, she’s created a program that could save lives. But other countries know about the program, and they won’t stop until they get it – and get her. Time is running out… For her… For him… For them.

This was another military book that was done well. It was a little more over the top with drama than the one above. But it was still good. Tesla was another fantastic strong female lead character and she didn’t suffer from any too stupid to live moments so that’s always a plus. This is book 1 in the series so I can’t wait to read the others. 

11- Deathless & Divided by Bethany Kris– Lies and love. This is how a war starts. A life for a life. That’s the mafia way. Damian Rossi owes his life to a man who is ready to collect. That payment comes in the form of an arranged marriage to the daughter of another leading family in the Chicago Outfit. He’s ready to follow through, even if that means making sure Lily knows she’s his. Lily DeLuca isn’t being given a choice. Forced home to marry a man she doesn’t know and back into a life she’d rather forget, her world is full of half-truths, buried pain, and uncertainty. But Damian is nothing like she expects. His motives aren’t clear. Her beliefs are being tested. When it comes to this world, no man can be trusted. Someone is ready to flip the Chicago Outfit on its side all for the promise of something better. But no one runs a clean game and these men play for keeps. When blood begins to paint Chicago red, four families will be divided by loyalty, hatred, and revenge. There is no hiding. There is no safety. No one is deathless.

A mafia book! I love me some mafia books. And combine an arranged marriage with the mafia and I’m pretty much in heaven. But it took me a bit to get into this one. I enjoyed it but compared to some of my favorite mafia books this one wasn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be. 

12- Hitched by Karpov Kinrade– What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…Or it changes your life forever. He called me “wife.” This man standing naked in front of me. Tall. Dark. Sexy as sin…He’s my husband? Disjointed images from the night before, the night I can’t entirely remember, float into my mind. Meeting him in the bar. Sharing tidbits of our lives. I own a company that plans bachelor parties. He’s a pediatric heart surgeon. We both live in Las Vegas, but we come from very different worlds. And then I remember that kiss. The way his lips brushed against mine, gentle at first, then harder, deeper, with more urgency. Sex in the elevator. Hot, forbidden, delicious. I remember the way he made me feel. The way our bodies fit perfectly together. But I don’t remember marrying him. And now, he won’t let me go. Dr. Sexy who saves children for a living. He wants the summer to prove we are meant to be. I can give him a summer. But can I give him a lifetime?

A oopsy drunk marriage in Vegas? Yes please. This book was really good. The main characters were great and they had good chemistry together. There was very little real drama and focused more on them trying to make a marriage work. I enjoyed it!

13. Wrong by Jana Aston– I have a history of picking the wrong guy. Gay? Player? Momma’s boy? Check, check and check. 
Now I can’t stop fantasizing about one of the customers at the coffee shop I work at between classes. It’s just a harmless crush, right? It’s not like I ever see this guy outside of the coffee shop. It’s not like I’m going to see him while attempting to get birth control at the student clinic. While wearing a paper gown. While sitting on an exam table. Because he’s the doctor. Shoot. Me. But what if, for once, the man I’ve had the dirtiest, most scandalous fantasies about turned out to be everything but wrong?

This book was pretty entertaining. It made me laugh out loud a few times. But the male lead character was a little controlling and it got annoying. I wanted to smack him a few times. But overall it was a good book and I’ll read the next one when it releases. 

14. The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers– Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption. Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she’s questioning whether she’s cut out for the role of wife and mother. Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again, and she trusted him. But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted. Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.

This was a really good book! I enjoyed the different view points from all the characters. There were parts that were a little bit of a stretch but the story flowed well. I really did not care for the male lead character at all. He was a schmuck. But I found myself lost in the story a few times and couldn’t wait to see how it ended. 

15. Valor in Darkness by Isla Dean– Suzanne Smith started her life from scratch in the tiny coastal town of Valor, Maine after narrowly escaping death at the hands of her former fiancé. Now her life is quiet, simple, and calm—just as she wants it. Legendary Buster MacKade finished out the last baseball season with a World Series win and a torn rotator cuff. Returning to his snowy hometown in Maine to rehabilitate before heading to spring training, the national hero is fascinated and frustrated by the private woman across the street who keeps her emotions frozen under a stoic surface. Struggling to stay distant from a man who spends his life in the spotlight, she knows she can’t afford to step out of the shadows—it could mean risking her life. But when a picture of the two of them lands in the local news, she quickly becomes part of a national headline and a series of events begin to terrorize the town. Danger is creeping closer than she knows. Suzanne must decide between hiding in the dark forever, or staying and fighting for life and love.

This was a good suspenseful book that had some twists. I thought I had it all figured out but in the end I was surprised. The pacing could have been better and I wish the ending and the big reveal had been drawn out a bit more. But all in all it was a pretty good book. 

Like I said, I read quite a few books in March. I hope to read at least that many in April too!

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What I Read: February 2016

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I was so overwhelmed with trying to put my master bathroom back together again this month that I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to but I did find a few favorites. I only bought one of these books this month, the rest were either borrows from the library or from my TBR list.

1- Defenseless by Corinne Michaels– My life is a secret. His life is dangerous. We’re both stubborn, calculating, and controlling. Mark Dixon doesn’t know what he’s getting into. He doesn’t know his games could cost us our lives. I have to do what is necessary to keep us alive, and that means guarding my heart. But I know I’m defenseless against him, and in the end, he’ll force me to surrender.

I enjoyed this book. A SEAL and a CIA agent…right up my alley. It was fast paced and the characters were developed well. It was a solid 4 star read for me. I’m not sure why it wasn’t a 5 star read. I think maybe I wanted more development in the main characters relationship. And for a CIA agent she seemed a little naive. But it was a good book and I will read more in the series if it continues. 

2- Indecent Proposal by Molly O’Keefe– With his chiseled jaw and his thick blond hair, Harrison Montgomery was born to lead. Four generations of Montgomery men have served the state of Georgia and now he’s next in line. Harrison, though, is driven to right wrongs: namely to clean up the political mess left by his father’s greed and corruption. But Harrison must first win his congressional bid, and nothing can get in his way—not even an angel who served him whiskey and gave him a shoulder to lean on and a body to love for a night. Problem is, she’s pregnant. Scandal is brewing and there is only one solution: marriage. Damage control? Ryan Kaminski can’t believe that a cold, calculating political animal now inhabits the body of the emotionally vulnerable stranger who’d given her the most unforgettable night of her life. Really, she doesn’t want anything from Harrison, except to be left alone to have her baby in peace. But Ryan is broke, jobless, and essentially blackmailed by Harrison’s desperate family to accept this crazy marriage deal. For two years, she will have to act the role of caring, supportive wife. But what is Ryan supposed to do when she realizes that, deep in her heart, she’s falling in love.

I loved this book. I’m a huge fan of the arranged marriage and marriage of convenience story lines so this book was my kind of story. I loved the angst and the conflict. I really liked the main characters. I liked that Ryan wasn’t a weak simpering woman. She was strong and didn’t take any crap. Definitely a 5 Star read. 

3. Darkest Before Dawn by Maya Banks– The enigmatic Hancock has been both opponent and ally to the KGI teams for as long as they’ve known him. Always working a deep game, Hancock’s true allegiance has never been apparent, but one thing is for certain—he never lets anything get in the way of duty. But now, his absolute belief in the primacy of his ultimate goal is challenged by a captive he’s been ordered to guard, no matter how much she suffers in her prison. She’s the only woman who’s ever managed to penetrate the rigid walls surrounding his icy heart, but will he allow his perplexing feelings for the beautiful victim to destroy a mission he’s spent years working to complete or will he be forced to sacrifice her for “the greater good.

This is book 10 in the KGI series. I’ve only read 2 of the other books and I wasn’t lost at all so I think this one definitely stands alone. Although I am going to read the rest of them because I liked the characters. I loved this book. I wasn’t sure going into it that I was going to love it because it seems very un-romance like to have the male lead willing to sacrifice the female lead for any reason. But it worked in the story. You have to read it to see how and why. 

4. The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton– Football pro Mick Riley is an all-star, both on the field and in the bedroom. But a sexy, determinedly single mom just might be the one to throw him off his game. For years Mick has been taking full advantage of the life available to a pro athlete: fame, fortune, and a different girl in every city. But when he meets and beds confident, beautiful event planner Tara Lincoln, he wants much more than the typical one-night stand. Too bad Tara’s not interested in getting to know football’s most notorious playboy any better. As the single mother of a teenage son, the last thing Tara needs is the jet-set lifestyle of Mick Riley; even though their steamy and passionate one-night stand was unforgettable. Tara’s life is complicated enough without being thrust into the spotlight as Mick’s latest girl du jour. Tara played the game of love once and lost big, and she doesn’t intend to put herself out there again, especially with a heartbreaker like Mick. But when Mick sets his mind to win, nothing will stop him. And he has the perfect play in mind.

I’ve read a couple of the other books in the Play by Play series and really enjoyed them. This is book 1 and I figured I should read it too. I liked this book. It was a solid 4 star read for me. There was a lot of smexy time and it did detract from the story a little bit, which is why it wasn’t a 5 star read. Still a solid book and worth the read.

5. Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb– Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head. Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.  As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate . . . and a new case that no one saw coming.

I just adore the In Death series. This is book 42 and I’ve read every one of them, some of them I’ve read multiple times. They are just THAT good. It’s one of those series where you just feel like you know the characters and you really care about them. If you haven’t yet started this series, what are you waiting for? Go. NOW! 

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What I Read: January 2016

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This year I have committed to reading as many books off of my TBR lists as I can. Yes, I said TBR lists. It’s ridiculous how many unread books are on my kindle. I have a problem. I’m a book hoarder. So instead of buying every book that catches my eye, I’m concentrating on finding those hidden gems already on my Kindle. All of the books I read this month are books that came straight from one of my TBR lists. 

January Reads:

1- Life Support by Candace Calvert: Nurse Lauren Barclay put her life on hold to keep a watchful eye on her troubled sister. It’s why she’s back in Houston. But that means confronting the brooding physician assistant who caused painful turmoil in her family–and left Lauren with memories her heart can’t forgive.PA and single parent Elijah Landry is no stranger to stormy relationships, including one with his father, who is threatening him with a restraining order. It won’t stop Eli from protecting his disabled brother–or from making peace with Lauren. He wants that and so much more.But as Lauren and Eli draw closer, a powerful hurricane roars toward Houston. Survival instincts take priority and everything changes. Can hope weather the storm?

I liked this book. It’s a Christian Fiction book so it was very clean but it didn’t center totally on religion. The story was good but it lacked action. I thought the hurricane storyline would have some action but it was more drama driven. Still a good read though. 

2- Her Vigilant SEAL by Caitlyn O’Leary: Sophia Anderson takes care of everyone but herself. She will stop at nothing to keep her family safe. When she goes searching for her runaway little brother in a bad part of town, she becomes the one in need of rescue. Navy SEAL, Mason Gault, faced many dangers while in the line of duty. No matter how bad a mission has gone, he finds solace in three things: His family, friends and the waves of the Pacific. When he hears a woman’s screams for help, he charges in to save her without a second thought. Sophia is burdened with scars from her past. Mason understands that empowering her spirit is just as important as protecting her well-being. As their love and passion soars, so do threats against her. Can Mason continue to be the compassionate white knight that she needs, while ensuring her safety?

This was actually my first 5 star read of 2016. I really enjoyed this book. Plenty of action, plenty of steamy, plenty of hot SEALs. The storyline was fast paced and the characters were interesting. The MC, Sophia, was hard-headed, stubborn, and strong. I liked her a lot. She wasn’t a weak, silly, girly girl who waited around to be saved. Definitely worth the read. This is book 1 in a series but no cliffhanger ending.

3- Her Loyal SEAL by Caitlyn O’Leary: Lydia Hidalgo is still defiant as she and her family are sentenced to death at the hands of the Mexican drug cartel. Not knowing if she will survive, her one request is that her sister will be cared for. Clint Archer and his team mates will stop at nothing to rescue Lydia and her family from their captors. Having to carry this brave woman for five days through the jungle creates a bond that he cannot resist. The closer they get to civilization, the slimmer Lydia’s chance of survival becomes. The Midnight Delta SEAL team work desperately to get her the help she needs, while Clint finds himself losing his heart more each day.

This is book 2 in the same SEAL series. It was a good story with action and a strong female lead. I liked this book but I loved book 1 more. I would definitely recommend reading book 1 first because the story overlaps. I’ll read book 3 when it comes out even though this one wasn’t my favorite. 

4- Talon by Carian Cole: The concept was scary but exciting… Marry a total stranger. Live together for six months. Journal everything. (Feelings. Fights. All of it.) After six months, we each get $50K in trade for our journals, whether we stay married or not. But the goal is to commit to the experience and see if the relationship experts could put together the perfect matches. I have never been lucky in love. This was my chance to find my soulmate. I couldn’t wait to meet the man the experts felt was perfect for me. My hopes were immediately dashed when I saw him at the altar. I married my worst nightmare. Right?!

And this was my second 5 star read of the year. This book is number 4 in a series but I have not read the others and this one definitely stands alone. I loved this book. I love watching shows like Arranged, Married at First Sight, and Married by Mom & Dad. I think they’re fascinating and this book is the print version of those shows. It was so good! 

5- Bury the Hatchet by Catherine Gayle: He was poised to be an elite goalie for a contending team. Hunter Fielding has long since proven himself to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. The problem? His former team had another (slightly better) backstop. They left Hunter out to dry, the upstart Tulsa Thunderbirds claimed him in the expansion draft, and he made a few stupid comments about backasswards Oklahomans. Now the T-Birds say the only way he can redeem himself is to make nice for the media with some local goody two shoes who’s made some mistakes of her own. Oklahoma’s sweetheart could do no wrong until she could do no right. Tallulah Belle Roth was the reigning Miss Oklahoma USA until a night of out-of-control drinking, a naked foray in a hot tub with very bad boy, and a bunch of lowlights on TMZ. Now she’s been stripped of her crown and is facing the censure of the same people who made her out to be Little Miss Perfect. Tallie won’t ever get her title back, but her life is another matter—and the only way the public will allow her to do that is if she presents herself as happily settled with someone else under Oklahoma’s eye. The marriage is to be in name only—one year of sickeningly-sweet lovey-dovey PDA, all to get their detractors to bury the hatchet. Those kisses and tender moments for the cameras take an emotional toll, though. Can in name only be enough?

And this was my third 5 star read of January. Holy cow! This book was so good. It’s the first in a new series by Catherine Gayle and it centers around hockey. Again, the arranged marriage storyline is one I enjoy so this book was right up my alley. I loved all the different dynamics and relationships in this story. I will definitely be reading the other books in the series. 

6- The Best Goodbye by Abbi Glines: The look on Rose’s face had screamed that she was hiding something. Hell, she’d practically run away from me. There was something to that. I knew there was…After ten years in the employ of a mysterious crime boss, River “Captain” Kipling is ready to leave his sordid past—and his cover occupation as an upscale restaurateur—behind him. The only thing standing in the way of his “retirement” is his commitment to launch a new restaurant in the resort town of Rosemary Beach. With his sister, Blaire, nearby, Captain can delay his dream of running a humble bar on the waterfront, but the unwanted attentions of his head server, Elle, have him itching to get out. Until he notices Rose Henderson, the new server at the restaurant. All he knows about the pretty redhead with the cute glasses is that she’s a hardworking single mom from Oklahoma. But there’s something overly familiar about her laugh…something strange about the way she looks at Captain.

This is book 12 in the Rosemary Beach series and while each book is a standalone it helps to read them in order so you know the characters. I enjoyed this book but it’s definitely not my favorite in the series. I had a hard time connecting to the characters and I didn’t love the storyline. Still a good book but not one I would read again. 

Pretty amazing that I ended up with 3 five star reads in January and all of them came from my TBR lists! That tells me I definitely need to get those books read before I buy new ones. So I’m staying the course- read the books on my TBR lists and only buy new books from my must-read authors. Bonus- think of all the money I’ll save!

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10 Nonfiction Books On My 2016 Reading List

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It’s no secret that I read a lot, right? Most of the books I read are fiction- I love romance, romantic suspense, mystery, contemporary fiction, chick lit….I love them all. But I also love to mix it up with some non-fiction books too. I have an abundance of them saved on my Kindle just waiting for me to get to them. This year I want to make a point to read at least 10 of them, if not more. These are the top 10 non-fiction books that I already own that I want to read this year. It’s a mix of funny, inspirational, parenting…

1- Carry on, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton– Glennon Doyle Melton’s hilarious and poignant reflections on our universal (yet often secret) experiences have inspired a social movement by reminding women that they’re not alone. In Carry On, Warrior, she shares her personal story in moving, refreshing, and laugh-out-loud-funny new essays and some of the best-loved material from Momastery.com. Her writing invites us to believe in ourselves, to be brave and kind, to let go of the idea of perfection, and to stop making motherhood, marriage, and friendship harder by pretending they’re not hard. In this one woman’s trying to love herself and others, readers will find a wise and witty friend who shows that we can build better lives in our hearts, homes, and communities.

2- I Heart My Little A-Holes by Karen Alpert– Once upon a time you and your partner had a perfect life: dinners out, weekend mornings cuddling in bed, brunch with friends. Then you gave birth to a poop machine (or two). Now, it’s all about the pediatrician, breast pumps, princess dresses, and minivans. And discovering that your pride and joy is actually a little A-hole. When your son wakes you up at 3:00 A.M. because he wants to watch Caillou, he’s an a-hole. When your daughter outlines every corner of your living room with a purple crayon, she’s an a-hole. When your rug rats purposely paint the kitchen ceiling with their smoothies, they’re a-holes. At times like these, it’s only natural to want to kill them (or yourself). But it’s against the law (and there’s the suicide hotline). Plus, there’s that whole loving them more than anything in the whole world thing. In I Heart My Little A-Holes, Karen Alpert shares hilarious stories, lists, and deep thoughts on the joys and horrors of raising children. Accompanied by cheery illustrations and photos I Heart My Little A-Holes will make you laugh so hard you’ll wish you were wearing a diaper.

3- Sh*tty Mom by Karen Moline– Sh*tty Mom is the ultimate parenting guide, written by four moms who have seen it all. As hilarious as it is universal, each chapter presents a common parenting scenario with advice on how to get through it in the easiest and most efficient way possible. With chapters such as How to Sleep Until 9 A.M. Every Weekend and When Seeing an Infant Triggers a Mental Illness That Makes You Want to Have Another Baby, as well as a Sh*tty Mom quiz, this is a must-have, laugh-out-loud funny book for the sh*tty parent in all of us.

4- Ketchup is a Vegetable by Robin O’Bryant– If you don’t have anything nice to say about motherhood, then… read this book. Robin O’Bryant offers a no holds barred look at the day to day life of being a mother to three, running a household and the everyday monotony of parenting. It’s not always pretty but it’s real. Whether she’s stuffing cabbage in her bra… dealing with defiant yet determined daughters… yelling at the F.B.I… or explaining the birds and the bees to her preschooler… you’re sure to find dozens of humorous and relatable situations. From the creator of Robin’s Chicks, one of the South’s most popular blogs on motherhood, misunderstandings and musings, comes a collection of essays that will not only make you laugh and cry, but realize that you’re not alone in your journey.
Sit back and relax, pour yourself some “mommy juice,” throw a fresh diaper on your baby and deadbolt the bedroom door to keep your kids out… because once you start reading you’ll be too busy wiping away tears of laughter to wipe anybody’s butt.

5- Moms who Drink and Swear by Nicole Knepper– Attention all potty-mouthed, cheap-wine-drinking mothers: Prepare to meet your match. Any bad thought you’ve had about your kids, Nicole Knepper has had worse. Much worse. It’s not that she doesn’t love her kids. It’s that she understands what a mind-f*?% it can be to try to civilize those wild little beasts. Based on her hugely popular Facebook page, “Moms Who Drink and Swear,” this book reveals why family dinners are like herpes, how to avoid smashing toys that are being fought over, and the joy of hearing that your son has murdered his imaginary friend. As Nicole rants and raves about caring for children (without crushing their souls), family togetherness (without too many tears), the saving grace of girlfriends (and vodka), and love and marriage (and all the baggage that goes with them), she gets to the heart of what every exasperated mom is thinking, just much funnier.  

6- People I Want To Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann– Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms, and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage, and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. So the next time you find yourself wearing fuzzy bunny pajamas in the school carpool line or accidentally stuck at a co-worker’s swingers party, just think, What would Jen Mann do? Or better yet, buy her book.

7- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson– When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it. In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

8- Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle– There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself. Yet over the last couple of decades, we’ve substituted the joy of real friendship with cheap imitations. We settle for “community” on Facebook and Twitter and a series of text messages that allow us to communicate with someone without the commitment. We like each other’s beautifully filtered photos on Instagram and delude ourselves into believing we have a community. But real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard. It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off. Written in the same comedic style as the New York Times bestsellers Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room, Nobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. From the friendships we develop over a lifetime to the ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better, Melanie Shankle reveals the influence our friends have on who we were, who we are, and who we will become. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, they are the ones who will look at us and say, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”

9- A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson– There’s nothing quite like family—for good or bad. But in a world where we sometimes know more about the Kardashians than we do the people sleeping right down the hall, it’s easy to forget that walking through life with our family offers all sorts of joy wrapped up in the seemingly mundane. There’s even a little bit of sacred sitting smack-dab in the middle of the ordinary. And since time’s-a-wastin’, we need to be careful that we don’t take our people—and their stories—for granted. Whether it’s a marathon bacon-frying session, a road trip gone hysterically wrong, or a mother-in-law who makes every trip to the grocery store an adventure, author Sophie Hudson reminds us how important it is to slow down and treasure the day-to-day encounters with the people we love the most.

10- Ever After by Vicki Courtney– Most every woman dreams about having a family and a building a home. We grow up on a steady diet of fairytales and chick flicks that drive our dreams . . . and leave us with a sugarcoated version of reality. We want it all: the prince, the kiss, the proposal, the ring, the castle, and eventually, the kids in smocked rompers playing cheerfully on the perfectly manicured lawn. Our hopes and dreams are pinned on the world’s version of happily-ever-after. The problem is, the fairytales and chick flicks end where real life begins. We never see that follow-up scene where the prince and princess argue at 3 a.m. over who will get up with the colicky newborn. Or the princess reluctantly returns to work to help pay the bills and feels the stress of juggling work and family. And you certainly won’t see that part where the princess moves her last child into the dorm and realizes the bulk of her identity has been based on being a mother. The truth is, marriage and motherhood are hard. Few of us are prepared to handle the balancing act of being a good wife and a good mother, without one or the other getting the short end of the stick. No matter how much we give or how hard we try, we never quite feel like it’s enough. And heaven help us, we always imagine every one else is doing a much better job. In Ever After, best-selling author Vicki Courtney addresses the realities of marriage and motherhood, the difficulties and the blessings. It offers women a behind the scenes glimpse of what a fairytale really looks like on the average day for the average wife and mom. Poignant, funny, and even cathartic, Vicki shares mistakes made, lessons learned, and memories to keep. Most of all, she reflects the hope and promise that God meets us in the middle wherever we are in the journey.

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