Review: Stay by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Stay
Series: WAGS, #2
Authors: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the authors in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never even met?

Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch—an anonymous virtual assistant service—is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.

Although it’s against the rules for her to check his file, she’s 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting… until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.

Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He’s still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth—that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won’t show her pretty face.

But it’s nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can’t fix. Hailey can’t resist the offer. Matt can’t resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn’t have to. Fire up the kiss cam!

Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.


Stay was my #1 anticipated release for 2017. I could not wait to get my hands on this book. Heck, I can never wait to get my hands on any of their books. Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy are my dream team of contemporary romance writing. Their books bring me such joy. I’ve fallen in love with all of their characters, especially those in the Him and WAGS world. I couldn’t wait to get to know Matt Eriksson better and find out what it would take to win his heart.

In Stay, Matt’s still trying to move on from his divorce. He knows it was for the best, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. One thing that has made it easier is Fetch and the virtual assistant from the company who has fulfilled all his needs. Matt can’t stop thinking about her and their computer chats. He would do just about anything to meet her, including give her tickets to his next hockey game.

Luckily for Matt, Hailey Taylor Emery is a huge hockey fan. Specifically, she’s a Matt Erikkson fan. She’s known deep down that her favorite client is Matt, but now that it’s confirmed, Hailey’s not sure what to do. How can she handle Matt’s advances when she can barely utter a word around him?

Once again, Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy have won the game with Stay. I absolutely loved this book! Their writing shined. Matt and HaiIey were amazing characters. I loved the witty banter between them and the rest of the characters. The incredibly funny and sometimes awkward situations they created made laugh constantly.

Matt Eriksson may have been a god in the rink, but he was even more so in life. I can’t get over what a stand up guy he was. He was perfect, but he was pretty dang close. Matt was a guy who put his family first. That, combined with his dominant personality, was super sexy. He had me fanning myself more than I would like to admit.

I adored Hailey Taylor Emery. She was one cool chick. She was smart, determined and real. I loved that Matt terrified her a bit. Hailey’s reaction to Matt was exactly what I think I would be like if I met my celebrity crush. I’m sure I would be a bundle of nerves, too! Another thing I loved about Hailey was her personality. She could hold her own and a relationship wasn’t the only thing she had going for her.

Matt and Hailey’s relationship was full of ups and down, and I loved every minute spent with them. My only complaint about Stay would be that I needed another 500 pages of it. I could have gone on reading about Matt and Hailey forever. Their story was that much fun. I guess I’ll just have to hope there is another WAGS book coming in the near future. I want another book. I need another book. Please, please let them write an O’Conner book! Or a spin-off about Mr. Dick would be fun, too. Heck, I would even read a book about Puddles and Rufus falling in love if these two wrote it! Just give me more books from my dream team!

Review: Until Tomorrow by Nancy Naigle

Until Tomorrow
Series: Boot Creek, #2
Author: Nancy Naigle
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an e-book from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

After yet another heartbreak, Flynn Crane is pretty much done with dating. She’s not even sure she can keep her grandparents’ struggling bed-and-breakfast afloat. But just as she’s about to give up on both her business and her dream of settling down in Boot Creek, Ford Morton walks back into her life.

Even from thousands of miles away, Ford never forgot the spark that ignited when he first met Flynn. Now a monthlong artists’ residency near Boot Creek gives him the perfect opportunity to find out just how intense the fire between them can get.

Neither of them expected just how that little spark would turn into heated passion. With Ford’s return to Alaska looming near, Flynn is torn between her life in Boot Creek and a chance to move to the wilderness for love. Can Ford and Flynn find a way to share tomorrow together—before they both lose their hearts in Boot Creek?


A while back, I read Every Yesterday (Boot Creek, #2). It was my first book by Nancy Naigle, and while I liked her writing, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I was excited to get a chance to read another book in this series.

In Until Tomorrow, Flynn is done with dating men who use her. She’s going to take a break from men and work on getting her bed and breakfast back up and running. Flynn’s able to do just that until Ford comes strolling back into town. Flynn met Ford at her best friend Angie’s wedding, and sparks flew between the two of them. Flynn never imagined anything could ever happen between them since Ford lives in Alaska. The more time Flynn spends with Ford, the more she wants more with him. But is Flynn willing to give up her bed and breakfast dreams to move to Alaska?

Until Tomorrow was a fun read. It’s exactly the kind of adult contemporary romance I like. It was fast-paced, cute, and the characters’ chemistry was strong. I immediately felt connected to Flynn and Ford. Their story was definitely instant lust and a little bit instant love, but it was also had a slow burn feel. I liked that Flynn and Ford’s relationship was built on what started between them in the previous novel. It made their romance easier to rationalize. (Not that you would have to read the previous novel to read this one. It can be read as a standalone.)

I’m glad I gave the author a second chance. Until Tomorrow had everything I thought Every Yesterday was missing. Romance readers who enjoy a traditional contemporary romance will love this book. There’s a lot of relationship build up and just a little bit of sexiness to enjoy.

Review: The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here by Lark Griffing

The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here
Author: Lark Griffing
Publication Date: April 1, 2017
Publisher: Wind Lark Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

“Hey, Skank”

Amy’s day was starting off just great.  Ronnie was already giving her grief, she’d had an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, and it was only first period.  Sitting in class fuming, while the word skank filled her head, Amy made a choice. From now on, things were going to be different. Amy was done — done with it all, her school, her endlessly grieving dad, and the always annoying Ronnie and her bevy of friends.

Amy’s decision to take off may not have been her finest moment, but she had to save her sanity.  Her grief-stricken father wasn’t going to help in that department.  Escaping to her childhood sanctuary was Amy’s only hope to save herself and heal.

Irresistibly engaging, The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here, is a journey of heartbreak, hope, and adventure that will leave you wanting more.


The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here is Lark Griffing’s début novel. It’s a young adult coming of age journey. Amy, harassed by classmates and emotionally abandoned by her father, sets out to her maternal grandmother’s house. Her grandmother’s house was her happy place growing up, and Amy hopes spending time there will help her find what she needs.

The majority of The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here was written in Amy’s perspective. She was a young woman struggling with the loss of her mother, being constantly uprooted to new towns by a grieving father, and finding herself under constant ridicule by the mean girls of her newest school. Amy was unhappy, and she sought out her happy place to find solace. What she found at her grandmother’s house was a link to her mother, and a way to discover more about herself. I admired her strength and willingness to try something new, liking hiking.

Smaller sections of the book were told in Dan’s perspective. He was a young man who was trying to make decisions for the next phase of his life. Dan was very into hiking, and much of his point of view were his hiking journeys with his friend. I have to admit that Dan’s chapters threw me off at first. They were linked loosely to some of Amy’s through the sport of hiking, but it wasn’t until almost the very end that Amy and Dan’s connection became apparent.

That leads into my biggest issue with this book. The majority of the book passed by at a very slow pace. There was way too much set up for me. Nothing very exciting happened until almost 80% into the book. There were tons of details about Amy learning about hiking, but not a whole lot of action. I wasn’t really invested in the story until that 80% mark. And then, the wrap up at the end flew by too quickly for me. I think the story would have worked better for me had the big event happened toward the beginning or middle of the book, and had more time spent on the connections between the characters after. I felt like I missed a bunch of healing and friendships developing at the end.

The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here was a strong début novel. I found the writing to be good, and the third person narration flowed well. It’s a book anyone interested in hiking or adventures in the great outdoors would appreciate.

Review: Lessons is Losing It by Jessica Peterson

Lessons in Losing It
Series: Study Abroad, #4
Author: Jessica Peterson
Publication Date: June 2, 2017
Publisher: Peterson Paperbacks
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

I swore I’d keep things platonic with the studly soccer player I met in Madrid…until we ended up naked together on his living room floor #Screwed #PunIntended

Just friends…

That’s all soccer star Fred Ohr wants to be with Rachel Collins, the American student he meets at party in his adopted hometown of Madrid. He’s looking for the real deal—someone who’ll stick around Spain for more than a semester—so he resolves to keep her at arm’s length. Even if she is sexy as hell. Smart. And as crazy about sports as he is.

But friends don’t kiss. They don’t do sleepovers. And they definitely don’t get rug burn from having the best sex ever on the living room carpet.

Fred and Rachel’s connection is instant. Intense. He loves to cook breakfast for her. She loves it when he cooks wearing nothing but his glasses.

Only Rachel’s got a dream internship waiting for her back in the states. And Fred is lining up a contract worth millions to stay in Madrid. They’re playing with fire to keep seeing each other like this. But how can they resist when the sex is so great—really, really freaking great—and the fun they have together is even better?


Lessons in Losing It is the fourth and final book in Jessica Peterson’s Study Abroad series. I’m really sad to see this series ending. It’s been a fun semester in Madrid filled with so many great times. What I’ve loved most about this series is that each book, while connected through friendships and setting, was a standalone novel. They each had a different feel, which was perfect because each tone and relationship was different.

In Lessons in Losing It, Fred and Rachel meet at a party. Their attraction and connection is instant. Both find something in the other that comforts them and makes them feel less alone. They could possibly be the perfect match for each other, but with Rachel returning home to the states in a few weeks there’s no reason to start something they can’t finish. Fred and Rachel will just have to be friends.

Being friends is easier said than done with the attraction simmering between them. The more time they spend together, the harder it is to keep things platonic. When they finally act on their physical attraction to each other, Fred and Rachel can’t deny they have something special. They’ll just have to decide if what they have is worth more than the plans they had before they met.

Rachel was a cool girl. I loved how smart and self-confident she was –especially when she was following her heart. Fred was a gem. I adored everything about that big lug! His views on how to treat a woman were a little redundant at times, but I loved what his mother had instilled in him. Fred was just so dang caring! It was sweet. I couldn’t get enough of him.

Fred and Rachel were such a fun couple. They had so many amazing things in common. Every time they were together, I found myself smiling. I love when a couple just get each other. It reminds me of my relationship with my husband. I didn’t even mind their drama because I knew only good things could happen for a couple like Fred and Rachel.

Lessons in Losing It was a great way to end the Study Abroad series. I loved every minute of Fred and Rachel’s story. Even though I’m sad this book ends the series, I can’t wait to see what Jessica Peterson has in store for us next in the new adult genre!

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: Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

Pipe Dreams
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers, #3
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre: Contemporary, Sports Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.

Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.

One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love.


I am so happy Pipe Dreams is finally here. I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I finished Hard Hitter (Brooklyn Bruisers, #2). But, then again, I’m always waiting on a new release from Sarina Bowen. I’m in love with her romances. She has a way of crafting characters and their love stories that makes me swoon every time. It doesn’t hurt that one of those characters is usually a hot hockey player. 😉

Pipe Dreams was a sweet second chance romance. Years ago, Brooklyn Bruisers’ goalie Mike broke things off with Lauren in the worst way. He cut ties without an apology or real excuse. Their break up left Lauren devastated and turned her into an ice queen. She did everything she could to avoid both Mike and hockey…until her boss and owner of the Brooklyn Bruisers forces her fill in during playoffs in the Bruisers office.

Working in the office should be easy since it used to be her job, but having to see Mike and watch hockey is harder than Lauren thought. It reminds her of what used to be. It doesn’t help that Mike also wants to remind her of what used to be. Lauren’s been there, done that and isn’t about to put herself in the position to be hurt again. Mike is determined to change Lauren’s mind and give her everything she wants.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of the characters in the beginning. Lauren has been this cold, heartless person since book one. There wasn’t anything that made me want her story besides the fact that one of the players broke her heart. Once I got to know her better, that changed. She was actually a pretty sweet person. Lauren had just built a wall around herself. I loved the way that wall was brought down. She was still strong and determined, but happiness made her a better person.

Mike was single dad perfection. Seriously, there’s not much hotter in a romance novel than a dedicated single father. Everything I learned about Mike made me root harder for him. He made some tough choices for the sake of his daughter and, even though they sucked, they showed what a good person he was. Mike deserved happiness as much as Lauren did. I’m so happy Mike and Lauren got a second chance at life and happiness again with each other.

Some may say Pipe Dreams was a little too perfect. They might say Lauren forgave Mike too easily or things went too smoothly for them. Maybe those things are true. Honestly, I didn’t care. I was so wrapped up in Lauren and Mike’s story that one of them would have to have cheated on each other or done something incredibly stupid for me to have any complaints about Pipe Dreams. I loved it so much I stayed up WAY too late reading it. It was everything I want in a contemporary romance and more. You need to read it!

I’m really, really hoping this isn’t the end of the Brooklyn Bruisers series. There are so many more characters whose stories I need — #1 is Nate and Becca’s. (I think all fans of the series would agree with this!) I got to see a bit of them in this book, but not hardly enough. I’m crossing my fingers that Sarina Bowen and Berkley Books will give us the opportunity to experience their love story and many more of Mike’s teammates’.

Review: Finding You by Jo Watson

Finding You
Series: Destination Love, #3
Author: Jo Watson
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis:

When you go to Greece to meet your family but end up making out with your smokin’ hot tour guide #sorrynotsorry

Being adopted never made Jane Smith feel unloved, just unlike the rest of her family. As her twenty-fifth birthday approaches, she is struck by an overwhelming longing to finally find her place in the world. So in a very un-Jane-like move, she books a last-minute ticket to Greece to find her birth father and the real Jane. All she knows about him is it that he was a tour guide named Dimitri. Armed with this knowledge and several surprise boxes of condoms from her mom (not embarrassing at all), Jane takes off.

Within minutes of landing she makes two important discoveries. First, everyone in Greece is named Dimitri, and second, fate might be playing a sick joke on her when a sexy tour guide called Dimitri comes to fetch her from the airport. He offers to help Jane with her search—if she’ll go on an adventure with him. Stable Jane would never risk a steamy vacation romance. But real Jane might finally be ready to listen to her heart. Will Jane find her biological father, or will she end up finding something else entirely?


Review:

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

I’ve been a fan of Jo Watson’s Destination Love series ever since I read the first book, Burning Moon. She has a way of taking you both on a physical and emotional journey in her books. Each book brings to life another gorgeous setting and wonderful woman. I love that these women are friends looking for themselves, but each one’s life and destination is very different. The characters’ journeys to finding themselves and love are filled with so many fun and awkward moments.

Jane is as plain as her name. She’s completely okay with that until her next birthday starts to sneak up on her. All of a sudden, Jane’s in a tizzy. Nothing seems right until she sees a tour sign advertising a trip to Greece. Soon, Jane’s on her way there to look for the birth father she’s never met. His name is Dimitri and he’s a local tour guide.

Nothing goes as planned when Jane arrives in Greece. Instead of meeting her father, Jane meets a completely different tour guide named Dimitri. This Dimitri is the most gorgeous man Jane’s ever met. Soon, he’s helping Jane look for her father and herself.

Finding You felt a little different from the first two novels in the Destination Love series. It was more serious, not quite as over the top funny. That wasn’t a bad thing. Finding You dealt with some very serious emotions regarding being adopted and Jane not knowing who she was. It’s a very real situation. Jo Watson mentions in her acknowledgements that she’s adopted and has felt these very real emotions. I am also adopted, and could relate to what Jane was going through. I’ve always been secure in my adopted family, but there are moments growing up where you have to deal with who you are compared to your adopted family. Jo Watson did an outstanding job translating these feelings and needs into Jane’s story. Jane had a lot of fun and interesting thing happen along her journey, but nothing was as important as her coming to terms with who she was. I really loved that part of the book.

Don’t worry, there was still a ton of humorous moments in this romance. Jane had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time for silly things to happen to her. I loved how Dimitri was always there, right by her side, making Jane comfortable. They had such a sweet dynamic between them. I loved how easily their relationship fell together. It was perfect.

Finding You was a great addition to the Destination Love series. I absolutely loved it, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series. (I’m really hoping it’s Stormy-Rain’s story!) If you’re a fan of contemporary romance filled with beautiful settings, humorous moments and sweet romances, you really need to read this series!


Excerpt:

He stepped toward me. My heart stopped pumping. He leaned in close and pulled my hand from behind my back and placed his card in the center of my palm. My nerve endings prickled and the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

“Just in case.” He repeated the words and they sounded so loaded.

In case what? In case I decided to lose all common sense, judgment, control, my mind (although that was already up for debate) and call you for a midnight beach romp. I’ll be sure to bring my watch so I can take note of how long it takes you to make me start screaming your name in wild ecstasy…Oh God, that sounded good!

I took a large step back. He took a large step forward. Back. Forward. Then he leaned in again. Holy Crap! He was coming in for that double-cheek kiss again and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to remain cool and calm and controlled this time. Only he didn’t. He did something far, far more odd and unsettling. He pulled my sunglasses off, placed them in the same hand as the card and then closed my fingers around them. He squeezed my hand closed while looking into my eyes in a way that rattled me to my very core.

My head started spinning and suddenly I felt a tad unsteady. I hoped to hell that I wasn’t about to be knocked off my feet by my raging hormones and fall into his arms. He gave my hand one last squeeze, and then… he was gone!

What the hell did that mean? You can’t just take off a person’s glasses, put them in their hands, stare into their eyes meaningfully and then mysteriously walk away without saying a word. What the hell was he playing at?

And why was it so hard to keep myself from falling for it?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Watson is an award-winning writer of romantic comedies. Burning Moon won a Watty Award in 2014. Jo is an Adidas addict and a Depeche Mode devotee.

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