Review: Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

Dear Aaron
Author: Mariana Zapata
Publication Date: June 10, 2017
Publisher: Mariana Zapata
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Ruby Santos knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to write a soldier overseas.
The guidelines were simple: one letter or email a week for the length of his or her deployment. Care packages were optional.
Been there, done that. She thought she knew what to expect.
What she didn’t count on was falling in love with the guy.


This book made me swoon so dang hard. Normally, I like my characters to instantly have chemistry that leads quickly to sexy times, but I was all about the slow burn romance in Dear Aaron.

The way Mariana Zapata set this story up was amazing. I absolutely loved how Dear Aaron began with a series of letters between Aaron and Ruby. It was easy to see the friendship and camaraderie developing between them. They exchanged so much about their days and themselves with each other. Their silent attraction grew and grew for the first half of the book through those letters and then online chats. I could have read the entire book through their online communication with each other.

Then, Aaron and Ruby’s mode of communication changes. The story switches from letters and chats to Ruby’s point of view. I loved this change. It gave me even more insight into the characters. I wish more of the story would have been done this way. I wanted more of Aaron and Ruby’s story through her eyes. There wasn’t enough of that part for me.

I loved both Ruby and Aaron so much. Aaron because he was what every girl dreams of. He was the perfect combination of strong and sweet. He wasn’t perfect, but his imperfections are what made him special. It also helped that he was hotter than sin. Ruby was that nice, shy girl who doesn’t know how gorgeous she actually is. She had some annoying self-confidence issues, but they made her more real and genuine. These two characters truly brought out the best in each other.

I wasn’t ready to be done with Aaron and Ruby’s story when it ended. Honestly, I could have read another 400+ pages about them. I loved Dear Aaron that much. I have some other books I need to read next, but I really, really want to go devour Mariana Zapata’s backlist right now! I’m pretty sure I’m going to be her new biggest fan.

Review: Wrecked by J.B. Salsbury

Wrecked
Author: J.B. Salsbury
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

When you can’t trust yourself, how can you ask anyone else to?

It’s been months since Aden Colt left the Army, and still the memories haunt him. When he moved into a tiny boat off the California coast, he thought he’d found the perfect place to escape life. Then Sawyer shows up and turns his simple life upside down. Beautiful and sophisticated, she seems out of place in this laid-back beach town. Something is pushing her to experience everything she can-including Aden. But as much as he wants her, starting a relationship with Sawyer puts them both at risk. For Aden, the past doesn’t stay there; it shows up unexpectedly, uncontrollably, and doesn’t care whose life it wrecks.


Sawyer’s sister is on her death-bed in Phoenix. She requests that Sawyer go to San Diego to pack up her stuff and bring it home. Celia asks that Sawyer pretend to be her so that none of her friends know she’s dying. She can’t bear them thinking of her wasting away. It’s not something that will be hard to do because Sawyer and Celia are identical twins.

In Celia’s world, Sawyer has to be someone she’s not. She has to be more carefree, less rigid. She uses the flip of a coin Celia gave her to help her make decisions. Most of those decisions revolve around a troubled ex-Army soldier she meets. Both Aden and Sawyer have troubles they’re trying to escape in each other’s arms. Sawyer quickly falls for Aden, but he has no idea who she really is. He doesn’t even know her real name.

This was my first experience reading a J.B. Salsbury novel. I liked her writing style. It included both Sawyer and Aden’s first person perspectives, which was very helpful in understanding what each character was going through.

Another thing I liked was the plot. I thought it was fun that Sawyer had to be Celia and let go. I don’t think I could have held onto that secret as long as she did, but I understood why she did it. I also liked the PTSD part of the story. Aden’s struggles with it were very real and disturbing. I wanted help for him so badly.

Which leads to my major problem with Wrecked. I thought the PTSD was a great topic to tackle, but I was disappointed in how it was dealt with at times. I liked how Sawyer “helped” Aden feel comfortable and get through some of his attacks. I did not like how Aden was not pushed to seek treatment. It especially disturbed me after one scene. Sawyer quickly dismissed the problem and ignored what happened. That bothered me. Even in the end, I didn’t feel like I got enough resolution when it came to Aden’s PTSD. It was severe and I wanted more explanation to how he was able to deal with it.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Wrecked, and I’m looking forward to reading more from J.B. Salsbury.

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publication Date: June 14, 2015
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

A cinematic, inventive, heartwarming, and completely nerdtastic adventure from the best-selling author of Ready Player One.

Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull math class when the high-tech dropship lands in his school’s courtyard-and when the men in the dark suits and sunglasses leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he’s sure he’s still dreaming. But the dream is all too real; the people of earth need him. As Zack soon discovers, the video game he’s been playing obsessively for years isn’t just a game; it’s part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they’ll need to defend earth from a possible alien invasion. And now…that invasion is coming.

Soon Zack and a handful of top gamers find themselves in a bunker beneath the Pentagon, hearing about our planet’s vast secret history over the last forty years-ever since a NASA probe first discovered evidence of intelligent life in our solar system, hidden beneath the ice of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

As he and his companions prepare to enter their ships and do battle, Zack learns that the father he thought was dead is actually a key player in this secret war. And together with his father, he’ll uncover the truth about the alien Europans, race to prevent a genocide, and discover a mysterious third player in the interplanetary chess game he’s been thrown into.


I’ll be the first to admit I am not a science fiction fan. A couple of months ago, I listened to the audio book of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. I loved that book, but I had no idea he had written another novel. It wasn’t until I saw another blogger saying she was going to read it that Armada was on my radar. I immediately looked it up, and when I saw Wil Wheaton was once again narrating, I requested the audio book from the library.

When I first started listening to Armada, I was hit with familiarity. Armada was reminiscent of Ready Player One from the beginning. Wil Wheaton’s narration sounded similar, and sometimes I had to remind myself that this was a new character and story. His voice was once again perfect for the genre, though. I couldn’t imagine anyone else narrating. I think he should continue to do all of Ernest Cline’s audio books.

Another thing that felt familiar was the writing. Ernest Cline once again centered the story around video games and a young adult male character. I liked Zack. Like Ready Player One‘s Wade Watts, Zack was a high school senior on the verge of graduating. He was just as obsessed with video games as Wade was. The difference between the their stories was their missions. Instead of fighting for a fortune, Zack was fighting to save the universe.

Here’s where I have to admit that I wasn’t into Armada‘s deadly alien invasion story line as much I was into Wade Watt’s quest in Ready Player One. This has nothing to do with it being good or bad. It has everything to do with me not being into aliens. I didn’t really care about Zack’s plight to save Earth and humanity. What I did love, though, were the relationships in this story.

There were so many amazing relationships going on in this book. First, there was Zack and his mom. I loved the easy relationship they had. Then, there was Zack and his schoolmates, friends and fellow alien fighters. The moments Zack spent with them lead to some really great revelations. But the relationship I liked the most was the one Zack had with his dead father and his dead father’s things. That probably sounds weird, but so much of this story was wrapped up in Zack’s dead father’s past and suspicious journal entries. I learned a lot about Zack in those moments, and he did, too.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to Ernest Cline’s Armada. It was well written, well narrated and addicting to listen to. It wasn’t quite as good as Ready Player One, but I could appreciate it for what it was. Anyone who enjoys video games, aliens and references to old alien movies is bound to love it.

Review: Hot Shot by Kelly Jamieson

Hot Shot
Series: Last Shot, #2

Author: Kelly Jamieson
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Military Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

A former Navy SEAL and current bad boy bar owner learns to trust a free spirit in this steamy novel of unexpected romance from the bestselling author of Body Shot and the Heller Brothers series.

Marco Solis knows that if he gets too close to people they disappear. His parents were deported back to Mexico when he was fourteen, his fiancée married someone else while he was in the military, and now his business partner’s spending more time with his girl than with Marco. For better or worse, that’s how Marco meets Carrie Garner. She’s legitimately model-hot. She’s also a nut—a wild, artsy, unapproachable nut. So why is Marco so interested in cracking her shell?

Although Carrie Garner is a natural in front of the camera, her dream is to make it as a photographer. Soon she’ll be heading to Spain for design school, and she’ll miss her best friend, Hayden, like crazy. She’ll even miss Hayden’s boyfriend, Beck—but she won’t miss Beck’s partner, Marco. Bossy, brooding, and annoyingly sexy, Marco really pushes her buttons, though he obviously wouldn’t mind pushing her buttons in an up-against-the-wall, hard-and-fast kind of way. The craziest part is, if Carrie lets him do that, well . . . she may never want to leave.


I’m no stranger to Kelly Jamieson’s contemporary romance novels, but this is the first book I’ve read from her Last Shot series. To be honest, it took me a while to become invested in Marco and Carrie’s love story. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the enemies to lovers vibe they had going on. I just didn’t immediately feel their emotional connection. Looking back at the story after finishing, it was probably because there wasn’t an emotional connection between the two for the first half of the book. Everything was based on attraction. It makes more sense to me now, but didn’t help at the time.

Once Carrie and Marco decided to act on their attraction, there became an intense emotional connection between them. They were able to share parts of themselves with each other that they’d never shared with anyone before. It bonded them and deepened their sexual connection. This is when the story took off for me and I fell in love.

Carrie and Marco had some deep emotional scars they were living with. Carrie never felt good enough for her family, or that she was more than a pretty face. She hated Marco because he seemed to only see her for her beauty. Every suggestive comment from him felt like a smack in the face. Carrie didn’t realize Marco found her extremely attractive. Marco felt constantly abandoned. He kept his newer relationships with people on the surface to avoid the pain of losing people. Carrie was the perfect sexual relationship for Marco because there was a time limit. He knew when thing would end and that was safe.

What I liked most about Carrie and Marco’s relationship was that they weren’t looking for it to fix their insecurities. They had plans to do that on their own. In the end, their relationship helped them achieve their goals, but it wasn’t the only thing giving them strength.

Despite its slow start for me, Hot Shot was a great contemporary romance. It had two down to Earth main characters and some very fun secondary characters. While I would have rather it have been in first person, the third person narration was good. After reading it, I would love to finish reading the rest of the series.

Mini Reviews: Unraveled, Unrequited and Unwritten by Jen Frederick

I was finally able to finish my series binge of Jen Frederick’s Woodlands series this past week. Rather than post each review separately, I am going to post all three reviews at once. So, here we go!


Unraveled
Woodlands, #3
Publication Date: January 18, 2014

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.

Twenty-two year old Samantha Anderson lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan just two months after their vows. Two years later, Sam is full of regrets—that she didn’t move with her husband to Alaska; that she allowed her friends to drift away; that she hasn’t taken many chances in life. Now, she’s met Gray and taking a risk on this Marine could be her one opportunity to feel alive and in love again. But how can she risk her heart on another military man who could share the same tragic fate as her husband?

My review:

I absolutely loved this military romance between an army widow and a Marine. There was so much depth to the story. It was all about healing and living the best life possible. I liked that it brought me back to the Woodlands, but wasn’t about one of the main guys who lived there. It gave the story a completely different feel than the rest of the series.

Sam was a really complex character. I could feel the two different sides of Sam. One side was an older Army widow who feelings of guilt and heartache. The other side was a twenty-two year-old young woman who wanted to be an adventurous young adult. Meeting Gray was the best thing that could have happened to her. I love the ability to heal being around him gave her. I loved Gray. He was a good guy with his own cross to bear. His wasn’t as hard as Sam’s, but it threw some great twists in their story.

Unspoken is still my favorite Woodlands book, but Unraveled is a close second. I can see the progression and improvement in Jen Frederick’s writing with each book.


Unrequited
Woodlands, #4
Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Winter Donovan loves two things: her sister and her sister’s ex boyfriend. She’s spent her whole life doing the right thing except that one time, that night when Finn O’Malley looked hollowed out by his father’s death. Then she did something very wrong that felt terribly right.

Finn can’t stop thinking about Winter and the night and he’ll do anything to make her a permanent part of his life, even if it means separating Winter from the only family she has.

Their love was supposed to be unrequited but one grief stricken guy and one girl with too big of a heart results in disastrous consequences.

My review:

I’m not the biggest fan of romances between a woman and her sister’s ex, but this one works. I think it helped that I didn’t like Ivy, Winter’s sister. She was a hag. The more I found about Ivy and Finn’s previous relationship, the more Winter’s relationship with Finn the less it bothered me.

Winter was a sweet young woman. She cared a lot about people. I really liked her and how she tried to put the good of her family first. I loved her when she grew a backbone and stood up for what she wanted. Finn was a cool guy. He’d had some tough blows in life, but he also did what was needed. I loved Winter and Finn together. Although, I did get tired of hearing about her nipples.

Overall, Unrequited was a fun read and strong addition to the Woodlands series.


Unwritten
Woodlands, #5
Publication Date: March 6, 2017

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

After years of trying to hit it big with his band, Adam Rees’ dream is finally about to come true. A new lead singer brings with him a hot tour invite, but with a catch—his sister has to come with them. Despite an off-limits edict, Adam is instantly attracted the smart and beautiful Landry. But if he wants to claim his woman, it might be at the expense of all his ambitions.

Landry Olsen has had success at every stage of her life, except when it comes to men. She’s put her heart on the shelf, but one look at Adam and she’s a goner. The hot rocker heats her from the inside out, and she wants him as much as he wants her. The only thing standing in their way of their happiness is Landry’s brother—she ruined his musical hopes before, and she won’t do it again. Even if it means saying no to the one guy who makes her believe in love again.

There’s no fruit more tempting than the forbidden kind…


I’ve read several rock star romances that are similar to Unwritten in the past year. It’s basically a tour bus romance. Unwritten stands out from the rest based on Jen Frederick’s awesome writing and the love I already had for Adam prior to reading this book.

What made Unwritten stand out from other rock star tour romances was Landry’s reason for being on tour with FMK. I won’t giveaway why she’s forced to go on tour with her brother and his band, but I thought it added a lot to the story. My favorite part of this book was getting to know Adam better. I didn’t know all the layers he had. It was interesting to hear what people in his industry thought of him and his past. I also really enjoyed the forbidden aspect of Adam and Landry’s relationship. It was a lot of fun and super hot!

The only thing I would have liked was if Adam and Landry spent more time in the Woodlands. The few glimpses I saw of the old gang were fun, but I need more of them and less of the new characters.


Overall, the Woodlands series is a really great read. You can find my reviews for the first two books by clicking on the links below.

Undeclared (Woodlands, #1) and Undressed (Woodlands, #1.5)
Unspoken (Woodlands, #2)

Review: Altercation by Mignon Mykel

Altercation
Series: Playmaker Duet, #1
Author: Mignon Mykel
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sometimes it’s the fight that proves your worth.

Porter Prescott spent years fighting to be his own person.
His goal of playing for a hockey club not associated with the Prescott name finally comes true.
But just as he’s leaving for the next chapter in his life, he meets her.

Asher Spence spent a lifetime learning she was worthless and unwanted.
She learned that sometimes the only person you can count on is yourself, and even then, you can fail.

What starts out as picture perfect can only come crumbling down.
No one listened to her pleas before,
Why should they listen to them now that she’s found a place to finally call home?

But sometimes, it’s the fight that takes you out of the game.

Note: This is book 1 of 2 in the Porter and Asher story. This does end with a cliffhanger that will be resolved in book 2, Holding.


I’ve been waiting to read Altercation ever since I finished its prequels, Troublemaker and Breakaway. (Click on the titles of the prequels for my reviews.) Getting to know Porter and Asher’s pasts was both heartbreaking and addicting. Their stories made me hunger for a happy ending for them both. I couldn’t wait to find out how Mignon Mykel was going to navigate their struggles and make them wind up together.

Altercation begins where the prequels end with Porter and Asher meeting. There’s an instant attraction between them, especially for Porter. He immediately picks up on the fact that Asher is more complicated than she’s letting on. That (along with the fact that he’s moving to another state for his hockey career) should deter the nineteen year old’s interested in her, but it instead makes him want to know more about Asher.

Asher is just as attracted to Porter, but she knows nothing will come of her attraction. She’s found a temporary family within Porter’s and she’s not willing to give up her newfound happiness and safety. Nor does Asher think she’ll be able to have the relationship with Porter he would expect. Despite her reservations, it doesn’t take long for Porter to convince Asher to give him a chance.

With each book I read from Mignon Mykel, I fall further and further in love with her writing and the love stories she crafts. Her first person dual points of view was amazing in Altercation. Porter and Asher had two very distinctive voices and their histories melded so well together. I also loved getting to see a little bit more of the large Prescott family — I hope I get books about each sibling!

Porter surprised me a lot in this book. I knew he was a great guy, but I wasn’t expecting the patience he had for a young man. He truly cared about Asher’s well-being and it made me love him even more. Porter created a slow burn romance with Asher and controlled himself better than any book boyfriend I’ve ever read. He was almost a saint.

Asher was the more complicated of the characters. Her story broke my heart, but I loved that it was Porter who helped her restore faith in life and love. Their relationship was adorable. I loved how Mignon Mykel made it span not just weeks or months, but years. It was the perfect progression for Asher and Porter’s love story.

Altercation was just as good as I was expecting it to be. Watching Porter and Asher falling in love was so sweet and satisfying. I loved the twists and turns to their story. I was shocked by the cliffhanger at the end, even though I knew it was coming. I can’t wait to find out what’s next for Porter and Asher in Holding.

Review: Unspoken by Jen Frederick

Unspoken
Series: Woodlands, #2
Author: Jen Frederick
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Jen Frederick
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Whore. Slut. Typhoid Mary.

I’ve been called all these at Central College. One drunken night, one act of irresponsible behavior, and my reputation was ruined. Guys labeled me as easy and girls shied away. To cope, I stayed away from Central social life and away from Central men, so why is it that my new biology lab partner is so irresistible to me?

He’s everything I shouldn’t want. A former Marine involved in illegal fighting with a quick trigger temper and an easy smile for all the women. His fists aren’t the danger to me, though, it’s his charm. He’s sliding his way into my heart and I’m afraid that he’s going to be the one to break me.

Impulsive. Unthinking. Hot tempered.

I allow instinct to rule my behavior. If it feels good, do it, has been my motto because if I spend too much time thinking, I’ll begin to remember exactly where I came from. At Central College, I’ve got fighting and I’ve got women and I thought I was satisfied until I met her.

She’s everything I didn’t realize I wanted and the more time I spend with her, the more I want her. But she’s been hurt too much in the past and I don’t want to be the one to break her. I know I should walk away, but I just can’t.


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started Unspoken. Undeclared (Woodlands, #1) was good, but it wasn’t as amazing as some of the newer Jen Frederick books I’ve read. I was hoping to connect more to the characters and the story in Unspoken. Happily, I did.

AnnMarie is all about avoiding Central College’s campus for everything except classes. She would rather keep her head down and avoid it all than face the gossipy stares and whispers about what a slut she is. It’s easy to keep her head down until she’s paired up with Bo as a chemistry partner. Bo is everything AnnMarie should avoid, but the sexy ex-Marine doesn’t make it easy. He’s determined to break down her walls and prove he’s worth taking a chance on.

Unspoken was exactly what I like in a new adult romance. It had moments of angst, a swoon worthy romance, and two characters who didn’t just fall in love but also found their inner strength. The first person dual point of view made it easy to connect with the characters. Each one had such a unique voice and experience.

AnnMarie was a tough chick. She was way tougher than she thought she was. I can’t imagine sticking around somewhere you knew you would be taunted. Her restraint around Bo was pretty amazing. I’m not sure I would have been able to hold on quite as long as she did around him. Bo was everything I hoped he would be after reading Undeclared. I loved the alpha male thing he had going on, and the way he went about breaking down AnnMarie’s walls. I loved how he gave her space when she needed it, but didn’t completely abandon her. He did an amazing job of proving himself.

Another thing I liked about Unspoken was the sexiness of it. It was incredibly hot. It was way sexier than the first book. That had a lot to do with the connection AnnMarie and Bo shared. It felt much more intimate and sensual than Noah and Grace’s. I loved it.

Unspoken has made me very excited to continue reading the Woodlands series. I can’t wait to see all of the guys fall in love. Now, if only my library hold of Unraveled would hurry up and come in!