Review: Fired Up by Anna Durand

Fired Up
Author: Anna Durand
Publication Date: July 28, 2017
Publisher: Jacobsville Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

He sets women on fire, but the only one he needs is fireproof.

Humiliated by her cheating ex, control freak Mel Thompson has resolved to avoid sex and romance. But her plans skid off the rails on her birthday, when she overindulges in champagne and tries to seduce her best friend, Adam Caras, exposing her long-repressed attraction to him. She’s determined to remain just friends, but her erotic fantasies have other ideas…

Firefighter Adam Caras has seduced more women than he’d ever admit to, earning the nickname the Arsonist, thanks to his explosive sensuality. Unfortunately, he realized he’s in love with his best friend Mel five minutes after she hooked up with her sleazebag ex. For two years, he’s kept his true feelings a secret. His libido, on the other hand…not so easy to rein in. Now that she’s free, he has a plan of his own. He’ll win her heart the only way he knows how–in bed–by employing every weapon in his lady-killer arsenal.

As their firecracker chemistry transforms into much more, past mistakes and a new crisis converge to test their loyalty to each other. But will it forge their bond into an unbreakable love or tear them apart?


A while back, I read Anna Durand’s novella Tempted By A Kiss. It was so much fun, and I wished it wasn’t just a novella. I really wanted to read a full length novel about Mel and Adam falling in love. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who wanted more of them. I was very excited to get the opportunity to read their new, full length novel Fired Up.

Fired Up begins similarly to Tempted By A Kiss, but is slightly different. Instead of stopping after Mel’s birthday night the story continues. Best friends Mel and Adam go through a torturous time of figuring out what their friendship really is and where it should go from there. I loved watching them navigate their newfound relationship and how they adjusted to no longer being just friends.

The one tiny issue I had with the story was Mel’s instant forgiveness of Adam’s secrecy. I expected more of a reaction from her at times. The one time she did react, I was a little surprised. It didn’t seem like as big a deal as the other times when she didn’t react.

Overall, Fired Up was a very fun friends to lovers story. It was sweet, steamy and everything you would expect in a great contemporary romance.

Review: Beard Science by Penny Reid

Beard Science
Series: Winston Brothers, #3
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Penny Reid
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult, Humor

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Make a deal with the devil and you might get what you want, but will it be what you need?

Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate.

And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.

Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So… what’s a maniacal mastermind to do?

Likely, the last thing you expect.


Move over Duane and Jethro, there’s a new favorite Winston in the house!

Cletus Winston is unlike any other book character I’ve come across. He’s eccentric, but his oddities mask the genius within. Cletus is perfectly happy hiding in plain sight if it means he can put his secret plans in motion. No one, besides his family, knows what Cletus is capable of.

No one except Jennifer Sylvester that is. Banana Cake Queen Jennifer may be the local celebrity, but she’s not exactly sought after. Everyone looks past her and considers her to be just a pretty face. Jennifer, like Cletus, has more going on behind her mask than people believe. Jennifer watches people. She’s knows what Cletus is up to. She’s smart and might just be able to give Cletus Winston a taste of his own medicine when she blackmails Cletus into helping her find a husband.

Cletus and Jennifer were a match made in book heaven. Seriously. These two were so perfect together. They were both smart and weird in the best of ways. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved their story and the time it took for them to realize what they had found in each other. It was such a fun journey — my favorite book in the series so far!

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, you’re going to want to read this book and the entire Winston Brothers series. It’s non-stop laughs and love.

Review: Some Whisper, Some Shout by K.K. Weil

Some Whisper, Some Shout
Author: K.K. Weil
Publication Date: August 16, 2017
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Suspense, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Devices. Jolie’s got tons of them. Coping mechanisms that ensure she’s not falling victim to the mental illness that’s taken hold of both her brother and father. Helping the homeless gives Jolie much needed consistency. But when a stranger struts into her Jersey Shore creperie, writing cryptic songs on napkins and then disappearing, her world becomes anything but routine.

Reed can play the soul out of his saxophone, but he’s hiding something. Why else would he reveal so little about himself, or plan one secluded, albeit eccentric, date after another? And what’s in that backpack he carries everywhere? Then again, with her distressed brother missing, an estranged mother returning home, and a feisty grandmother acting weirder than usual, Jolie can’t decipher whether her suspicions are valid or dangerous delusions.

When inexplicable slashings of the homeless occur in her otherwise safe town, Jolie’s devices begin to fail.


Some Whisper, Some Shout is the second book I’ve read by K.K. Weil. I enjoy her writing and the mysterious stories she comes up with. I do have to admit that I didn’t like this book as much as the other book I’ve read by Weil. It was good, but there were a couple of things that kept me from falling in love with it.

To be honest, I didn’t connect with Jolie’s character. I didn’t like her. She was immature and self-centered when it came to her friends and family. Jolie couldn’t see past her own needs or the rules she gave herself. That was weird considering how self-less she was when it came to her homeless charity endeavors and her brother, Tristan. It was frustrating reading the story from her point of view. I hated the choices she made.

Reed was a more enjoyable character. I loved when the story switched over to his point of view. I liked that Reed had flaws. He was trying to become a better version of himself, even if he did mislead Jolie at times. His character was easier to relate to.

Another thing that I wasn’t quite on board with was the speed at which Jolie and Reed’s relationship progressed. It happened too fast for me. She knew nothing about him, and knew she knew nothing about him, yet she jumped into a relationship with him quickly. They were in love before they truly even knew each other.

I hate that this sounds so negative. Some Whisper, Some Shout actually had a lot of great things going on. The writing was good and the story moved at a quick pace. I loved all of the social aspects that were included. The spotlight on both homelessness and mental illness was awesome. I think I would have loved it had I loved Jolie.

Overall, Some Whisper, Some Shout was a good read. I have a feeling other readers are really going to enjoy it, especially those who like romantic suspense novels. I wish I would have connected better with Jolie and enjoyed it more myself.

Blog Tour REVIEW & Excerpt: Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

BEARD IN MIND BT BANNER.jpg

Beard in Mind, an all new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid, is available NOW!

BIM-cover (2)

All is fair in love and auto maintenance.

Beau Winston is the nicest, most accommodating guy in the world. Usually.

Handsome as the devil and twice as charismatic, Beau lives a charmed life as everyone’s favorite Winston Brother. But since his twin decided to leave town, and his other brother hired a stunning human-porcupine hybrid as a replacement mechanic for their auto shop, Beau Winston’s charmed life has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Shelly Sullivan is not nice and is never accommodating. Ever.

She mumbles to herself, but won’t respond when asked a question. She glares at everyone, especially babies. She won’t shake hands with or touch another person, but has no problems cuddling with a dog. And her damn parrot speaks only in curse words.

Beau wants her gone. He wants her out of his auto shop, out of Tennessee, and out of his life.

The only problem is, learning why this porcupine wears her coat of spikes opens a Pandora’s box of complexity—exquisite, tempting, heartbreaking complexity—and Beau Winston soon discovers being nice and accommodating might mean losing what matters most.

Review:

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Note: I received an ARC from Social Butterfly PR in exchange for an unbiased review.

If you’ve been following my blog the past week, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been on a fun-filled journey reading The Winston Brothers series to prepare for the release of Beard in Mind. I’ve had such a good time getting to know all of the Winston brothers. They’re an always entertaining and almost always mischievous bunch. Each of them is individually interesting and lovable, but Beau has been portrayed as the charismatic flirt and most liked brother. I couldn’t wait to read his story.

In Beard Science, the reader is introduced to Shelly Sullivan. Cletus hires her as a mechanic in their shop. She’s an awkward, straightforward person and Beau is not her biggest fan. Beard in Mind shines a light on what was happening between Shelley and Beau in Beard Science and takes the reader on a special hate to love story.

Beard in Mind had a different feel than all of the Winston Brothers books. It was humorous, but there was a seriousness that overshadowed the humor. All of these books have dealt with a different issue or life choice, but this one was much deeper. Shelly was dealing with a disorder that affected her daily life. She was struggling but working to get herself in a better place. Her story was presented in a brave and inspiring way. I really appreciated that.

The seriousness of Shelly’s condition brought a seriousness to Beau’s story. In the past, we’ve only seen the happy-go-lucky side of him. I was impressed with how Beau dealt with Shelly and her needs. It made me respect him in a way I wasn’t expecting to. Everyone needs a Beau in his or her life.

One of my favorite things about this book and series is the Winston family dynamic. They’re always looking out for and trying to keep each other safe. I especially loved the twin dynamic between Beau and Duane in this one. We got Duane’s side in Truth or Beard, and it was fun getting Beau’s side. Their personalities and strengths complimented each other so perfectly.

Overall, I enjoyed Beard in Mind. It was an inspirational love story. I do have to admit that I missed the constant humor that I felt during the other books, but I was okay with that. Beard in Mind was a special story that needed to be told.

Now, I just need Roscoe’s and Billy’s story…

Excerpt:

She’d taken the sofa, in her own house, and given me the bed. That didn’t make a lick of sense.

I crouched next to her, threading my fingers into the silky hair at her temples. “Honey.”

“Mmm.”

I bent to whisper, “Shelly.”

“Hmm?”

“I’m going to carry you to your bed. I’ll take the sofa.”

“Mmm.”

I grinned at her soft noises, at the untroubled expression on her face, and how her brow—even in sleep—still looked regal and stern.

Sliding my arms under her legs and shoulder, I picked her up. And, unfortunately, that woke her up.

She jerked in my arms. “What are you doing?”

“I’m taking you to the bed.”

“Don’t do that.”

“I don’t mind, I’ll take the sofa.” Our mouths were just inches apart, and hers was distracting.

She squirmed. “Put me down.”

Sighing unhappily, I did. I set her on her feet next to the couch. The blanket pooled at her feet and I stepped back to give her some space. It was dark, but I could see her just fine, and that meant I had to force my eyes to remain above her neck. The woman was wearing two pathetic scraps of fabric as pajamas. A thin little tank top and shorts. That’s it.

I set my jaw and turned to the side, waiting for her to walk past.

“Where are you?”

I glanced at her and realized she couldn’t see at all. She didn’t have a hand out, but the way her eyes were moving about the room gave away her blindness.

“I’m here.” I didn’t touch her, because if I did, I wouldn’t want to stop.

Shelly turned her head in my direction and took a deep breath. Still she didn’t reach for me. I didn’t know the specifics of what to expect after her Friday session, but I recalled Dr. West saying something about Shelly doing self-guided ERP exercises over this week.

“Can you see?” She licked her lips, her voice sandpapery. “Because I can’t see at all. It’s so dark.”

“I can see.” Unbidden, my eyes dropped to her body, to the swell of her breasts, the panel of bare stomach, the curve of her hips. Pinpricks of heat raised over my skin and I curled my hands into fists.

She shuffled forward and I caught her before she bumped into me, setting my hands gently at her waist.

“Let me take you to your room.” My voice was rough, for obvious reasons.

Saying nothing, she brought her hand to my forearm, her body gently colliding with mine. And then her hand on my arm slid up my bicep to my shoulder.

“Shelly.” I was running out of breath.

“I like this.”

“What?”

“Touching you.”

Oh fuck.

I held still and endured her hands moving over my body, down the front of my shirt, stopping at the hem, then pushing it up.

“Take this off.”

I did. I pulled the T-shirt over my head and let it drop to the floor.

We stood there, facing each other in the dark, not touching. Despite the session on Friday and the progress that had been made, I realized she wasn’t quite there yet. Dr. West was right, Friday was just a step, the first step. Shelly wasn’t able to initiate contact. Not yet.

Her hands balled into fists and she swayed forward, her breath struggling little puffs.

If anything was going to happen tonight, I had to initiate it. I had to be the one to touch first.

God, how I wanted her. How I wanted her above me, beneath me, surrounding me. But how could I?

“I know why I hesitate,” her voice was breathless, “but why do you hesitate?”

“Lots of reasons.”

“Give me one.”

“I don’t want to you use you.”

“I wish you would.”

That pulled a laugh from me, just a small relief from the mounting tension. My eyes moved over her body, an undeniable impulse to devour the sight of her, her legs, stomach, chest, then up her neck to her lips.

“You asked me on Saturday if sex was a big deal for me, or if it was you. The answer is both.”

She held very still, and I got the sense she was holding her breath, straining to listen.

“You are a big deal to me. I don’t want a fling. I don’t want a flirtation. I want promises.”

“What can I promise you?”

That you’ll love me. That I’ll be your priority.

She shifted her weight from foot to foot. A spike of anxiety that she might leave me like this had me acting without forethought. I lifted my hands to her waist again and immediately, her fingertips skimmed over skin of my lower stomach in response, making my muscles tense in hot anticipation. She grew more assertive as she caressed my sides, abdomen, ribs, chest, shoulders, and then back down.

Shelly stepped closer, a hint of thrilling contact between her breasts and my torso, and all the words and worries melted from my mind, died on my tongue, suffocated by the feel of her body, and the possibility of this moment.

Her finger hooked in the waistband of my jeans. “Take these off.” Her hand turned, her fingers and palm cupping me over my zipper.

Instinctively, I pressed myself into her touch even as I grabbed her wrist.

“Beau, I promise—”

She didn’t get to speak, because I kissed her, hard and wild, unbuttoning and unzipping my fly with one hand and bringing her palm inside my boxers with the other.

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Meet Penny Reid:

Penny Reid is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. When she’s not immersed in penning smart romances, Penny works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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Review: Grin & Beard It by Penny Reid

Grin & Beard It
Series: Winston Brothers, #2
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Penny Reid
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Comedy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sienna Diaz is everyone’s favorite “fat” funny lady. The movie studio executives can’t explain it, but her films are out-grossing all the fit and trim headliners and Hollywood’s most beautiful elite. The simple truth is, everyone loves plus-sized Sienna.

But she has a problem, she can’t read maps and her sense of direction is almost as bad as her comedic timing is stellar. Therefore, when Sienna’s latest starring role takes her to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park she finds herself continually lost while trying to navigate the backroads of Green Valley, Tennessee. Much to her consternation, Sienna’s most frequent savior is a ridiculously handsome, charming, and cheeky Park Ranger by the name of Jethro Winston.

Sienna is accustomed to high levels of man-handsome, so it’s not Jethro’s chiseled features or his perfect physique that make Sienna stutter. It’s his southern charm. And gentlemanly manners. And habit of looking at her too long and too often.

Sienna has successfully navigated the labyrinth of Hollywood heart-throbs. But can she traverse the tenuous trails of Tennessee without losing her head? Or worse, her heart?


If you read my review post for Truth or Beard, you know I’m currently binge reading the entire Winston Brothers series. I loved that first book and I was so excited to read the second, Grin & Beard It.

Grin & Beard It is Jethro Winston’s story. He’s the ex-troublemaker of the Winston family. He put his brothers and sister through a lot growing up, and he still feels the guilt of his former life. Jethro doesn’t feel he’s worthy of love.

Enter Sienna Diaz. Sienna is the hottest actress and screenwriter in the business right now. Her “plus size” curves and witty sense of humor set her apart from the rest of the Hollywood crowd. Sienna loves her career, but having a family has always been her ultimate goal.

Jethro and Sienna’s relationship was a slow burn romance that was built on humor, acceptance and an immediate connection. I loved their witty banter. The way they saw things in each other no one else did was so special. Their support of each other was unwavering and inspirational.

Reformed Jethro was an amazing character, but Sienna is the one that stood out in this story. Sienna is one of my all time favorite female characters. She’s so much more than an actress. She’s a writer. She’s a comedian. Most of all, Sienna is happy with who she is. I loved that she loved her body. She was proud of her curves and knew she was more than what the media or society saw her as. I also loved that family was Sienna’s first priority. Her relationship with her mother was so sweet.

I adored Grin & Beard It. Penny Reid’s writing is brilliant. The Winston Brothers is one of the best series I’ve read in a long time. Each book gets funnier and funnier. If you like funny romance, you have to read this series! I can’t wait to read Beard Science next. I can only imagine what Cletus has in store for me!

Review: After Ever Happy by Anna Todd

After Ever Happy
Series: After, #4
Author: Anna Todd
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Tessa and Hardin have defied all the odds, but will their fairy tale ending be turned on its head? AFTER EVER HAPPY…Life will never be the same. #HESSA

It’s never been all rainbows and sunshine for Tessa and Hardin, but each new challenge they’ve faced has only made their passionate bond stronger and stronger. But when a revelation about the past shakes Hardin’s inpenetrable façade to the core—and then Tessa suffers a tragedy—will they stick together again, or be torn apart?

As the shocking truth about each of their families emerges, it’s clear the two lovers are not so different from each other. Tessa is no longer the sweet, simple, good girl she was when she met Hardin—any more than he is the cruel, moody boy she fell so hard for. Tessa understands all the troubling emotions brewing beneath Hardin’s exterior, and she knows she’s the only one who can calm him when he erupts. He needs her.

But the more layers of his past come to light, the darker he grows, and the harder he pushes Tessa—and everyone else in his life—away. Tessa’s not sure if she really can save him—not without sacrificing herself. She refuses to go down without a fight. But who is she fighting for—Hardin or herself?


I liked this book. I can’t believe I’m saying that after my feelings for the previous books in this series. The only thing that’s kept me reading is Anna Todd’s knack for creating cliffhangers that I can’t resist. I’ve hated Tessa and Hardin’s abusive relationship for so long. I honestly can’t believe After Ever Happy had me changing my tune. I actually wanted Tessa and Hardin together in this book! Say what?

I wish Anna Todd would have written this book sooner in the series. After Ever Happy had everything I have wanted from this series in it. Tessa, Hardin and their relationship went places I wish they would have gone a lot sooner. If this somehow had been the second book in the series, things would have been so much better for me!

Tessa finally got a clue. She realized what everyone has known about her relationship with Hardin from the moment they met. I was proud of the growth she made in this book. Tessa finally made the changes she needed to make to change the cycle of her life. The changes Tessa made forced Hardin to confront his faults.

Hardin… Another thing I can’t believe I’m saying, but Hardin wowed me. He redeemed himself in ways I thought would never happen. Hardin did everything in his power to make himself a better person. He won me over, and I would have never ever expected that to happen. I have hated him for so long that I can’t even understand how I can love him now, but I do. Well, just in this book.

Tessa and Hardin’s relationship came full circle in After Ever Happy. It was just as drama filled as the rest of the series, but the drama felt less crazy and more productive. Everything that happened was for a reason and pushed Tessa and Hardin to the place they needed to be. Nothing felt completely unnecessary. (Well, except for Zed. He’s always unnecessary in my book). I was surprised at how much angst I felt, and how I longed for Tessa and Hardin to reach a happy place.

My only big complaint is that the last 25% of this books had way too many time jumps. I felt like an important time frame was skipped in the first two year jump. I liked some of the other jumps, but overall I was left with a lot of questions.

I’m happy I kept reading this series because this book was its salvation in my eyes. It dealt with Tessa and Hardin’s abusive relationship in a more positive way, and was able to show how long it can take to change an unhealthy pattern. I also have to say that Anna Todd’s writing has grown so much from the beginning to the end of this series. I am happy to say that I am finally excited to read more of her books. (Yes, that means I’ll be reading Before and Landon’s books.)

Review: Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

Truth or Beard
Series: Winston Brothers, #1
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Caped Publishing
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?


Why, oh why, did I wait so long to read Truth or Beard? I’ve had this book on my Kindle forever. I’ve read Penny Reid’s collaborations with L.H. Cosway and loved them. I’m not sure why I waited, but I’m happy that I was pushed into reading it by receiving an ARC for the newest release in the series.

Truth or Beard was delightful. I loved the writing. It was so dang funny! The thoughts going through Jessica James’ head were priceless. That girl was crazy, but in a good way. I loved how her attraction to her nemesis Duane Winston tormented her, and how she realized that her childhood tormentor had honorable intentions towards her.

One thing that surprised me in Truth or Beard was the small town setting. I loved it. It was fun to read about all the different groups in the town and how they all meshed or didn’t mesh with each other. The local biker gang added a little bit of suspense that I wasn’t expecting.

My favorite thing about this book was the family aspect. Duane was extremely close to his many brothers and sister. They had a bond that was special. Their relationships also created some very funny moments. Jessica also had an interesting family dynamic going on. She was constantly trying to push the limits with her overprotective brother and father. I loved how Jessica and Duane’s relationship altered their relationships for the better with their families.

Truth or Beard was a hilarious romantic comedy. It was just so much fun to read. It’s a book I wouldn’t mind seeing made into a movie.