Category Archives: Rated C

Review: Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis

too closeTitle: Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 417 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

For readers of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, and Elizabeth Flock comes a riveting and timely novel that delves into a modern family’s harrowing encounter with the complex world of cyberbullying.

Jenna Moore finally feels that she and her family are exactly where they should be. Leaving busy London behind, they’ve moved to the beautiful, serene Welsh coast. There Jenna, her husband, Jack, and the couple’s four children have found a little slice of heaven. In the house of their dreams, Jenna and Jack are ramping up for the launch of their new publishing business, and the kids are happier than they’ve ever been, wandering the wild, grassy moors that meet white sand beaches and wide ocean.

But a fissure cracks open. The once open and honest Jack suddenly seems to be keeping secrets, spinning intricate lies. And fifteen-year-old Paige has become withdrawn, isolating herself from her family and her new friends. Frightened of the darkness enveloping her family, Jenna struggles to hold her loved ones together. But a cruel disturbance has insinuated itself into her home, threatening to take away everything she holds dear.

Review:

Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis is a rather grim novel about a family who slowly begins to unravel. Difficult subject matter is deftly handled but the pacing is slow and the message is sometimes lost in the tedious details of day to day life.

Jenna Moore is a happily married mother of four. Despite the loss of her husband Jack’s job the year prior, they and their children have settled into a rather idyllic life in Wales following their move from London. Just as she and Jack are on the verge of launching their internet publishing company, she is struggling with writer’s block as the deadline for her next novel approaches. While Jenna could not be more thrilled with how well their life is going, slowly, but surely, cracks begin to appear in her marriage and as her once happy union begins to fall apart, so does the rest of her family.

Initially, Jenna is a likable character who is, without a doubt, an involved and caring mother. She is a little naive and trusting and since she is the creative side of their upcoming publishing company, she never thinks to question Jack’s business decisions despite a few anomalies that come to her attention. Even when faced with Jack’s increasingly secretive behavior and inconsistent explanations, Jenna remains woefully blind to what should be glaringly obvious to her. But when the full truth comes out about Jack and their business, Jenna’s over the top and outrageous behavior puts her in the completely unsympathetic category. While her anger and hurt is understandable, her inability to put her children first makes it impossible to feel sorry for her. But what is completely beyond comprehension is Jenna’s inability to see how terribly wrong things are with her oldest daughter.

At the beginning of the novel, fifteen year old Paige has everything going for her. Although she does not have a huge circle of friends, she is well-liked and popular. She is doing well in school and she is very excited about a few upcoming projects she is involved in. But the tide begins to turn for Paige after her Facebook account is hacked and a stranger befriends her online. Her situation deteriorates quickly and despite her best friend’s attempts to convince her to tell someone what is going on, Paige keeps quiet in hopes that things will improve on their own. The escalation of what is happening to her coincides with her family’s problems and Paige’s trust in the wrong person leads her down a very dark path.

While the different story arcs are interesting, the novel moves at a snail’s pace. The first half of novel is filled with superfluous details of the family’s day to day life and it is not until about the halfway point that anything noteworthy occurs. The next several chapters are sometimes cringe worthy as Jenna makes one bad decision after another regarding Jack. Paige’s situation rapidly deteriorates as her situation worsens and she continues making misguided choices. The last quarter of the novel moves at a breakneck speed once Jenna finally discovers what has been happening with Paige.

Despite its flaws, Too Close to Home is well worth reading. Paige’s storyline is sadly true to life and her reactions to the situation ring true. Although Jenna’s portion of the novel is a little hard to relate to, her circumstances are also dishearteningly realistic.  Life is not always sunshine and roses and I commend Susan Lewis for tackling such difficult (yet topical) topics in her latest release.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Rated C, Review, Susan Lewis, Too Close to Home, Women's Fiction

Review: Wyoming Rugged by Diana Palmer

wyoming ruggedTitle: Wyoming Rugged by Diana Palmer
Wyoming Men Series Book Five
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 320 pages

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Diana Palmer is back in Wyoming with a tale of love born in Big Sky Country…

Billionaire oilman Blair Coleman has always taken care of his business. After having been used and cast aside by a woman he thought he loved, his personal life is far from his first priority. He knows only one has ever truly cared for him—but the irresistible blonde beauty is the daughter of his best friend.

Niki Ashton has seen her father’s friend wounded and she’s seen him fight. Blair is the strongest—and most stubborn—man she’s ever known. That very heart and passion makes him the man of her dreams, but whenever they’ve been in danger of getting close, Blair has always pushed her away.

It takes a possible tragedy to strip away all of Blair’s misgivings. Now it’s all or nothing: marriage, baby, family, forever. But will the choice be too much for Niki…or too late?

Review:

Wyoming Rugged, the newest installment in Diana Palmer’s Wyoming Men series, is a May/December romance between a naive young woman and her father’s friend and business partner.

Nicolette “Niki” Ashton is a sweet and incredibly sheltered young woman. In fragile health due to severe asthma and allergies, her father treats her with kid gloves and she is happy living in relative isolation on their ranch. How Niki’s innocence remains intact after going to college is a complete mystery, but she is definitely a throwback to much simpler times (which she readily admits).

Blair Coleman is a wealthy and successful businessman who discovers a little too late that the woman of his dreams is more interested in his bank account than him.  After his divorce, he realizes that his feelings for Niki go beyond friendship, but he resists acting on his attraction to her since there is a sixteen year age gap between them. Blair is charmed by Niki’s genuine interest in him but he drives her away time and again since he just cannot seem to move past their age difference.

Niki does not date much and this is reinforced when a blind date takes a rather sinister turn. Luckily Blair is there to rescue her, but his heroic act only solidifies her unrequited love for him. Although she realizes her feelings for him are hopeless, Niki is content to remain Blair’s friend and she continues to live on her father’s ranch even after she graduates and begins working in Blair’s company. After Blair breaks her heart in an effort to distance himself from her, Niki finally decides to date a co-worker, but after learning unexpected news about her health, she makes a shocking decision that nearly ends in tragedy. However this crisis serves as an impetus for Blair to finally overcome his doubts about the difference in their ages but a future together is far from certain when he has second thoughts about continuing their relationship.

Wyoming Rugged is an old-fashioned love story that feels just a little out of touch with today’s world despite references to modern technology. The storyline is predictable without any real surprises (which is not necessarily a bad thing). In the end, the reader’s patience with the on again/off again relationship between Niki and Blair is eventually rewarded, but their journey to happily ever after is rather frustrating. Although this is the fifth installment in Diana Palmer’s Wyoming Men series, it can be read as a standalone.

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Filed under Contemporary, Diana Palmer, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated C, Review, Romance, Wyoming Men Series, Wyoming Rugged

Review: Rock Me Two Times by Dawn Ryder

rock me twoTitle: Rock Me Two Times by Dawn Ryder
Rock Band Series Book One
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

First in Dawn Ryder’s sizzling new Rock Band series.

Rock star Syon Braden writes and plays the most extreme-and profitable-music from the depths of his shredded heart. He’s got a double platinum record, adoring fans, and success for his band Toxsin-but it’s what he can’t have that he craves. Custom leather designer Kate Napier has her sights set on success, and that means keeping irresistible rock stars like Syon out of her bed. The chance to tour with the band and provide them with a fantastic custom wardrobe is too major an opportunity to turn down. But immersion in the dark, wild world of Toxsin on tour means Kate’s about to get rocked…hard…body and soul.

Review:

Rock Me Two Times is the first installment in Dawn Ryder’s newest series, Rock Band. Fans of erotic romances starring bad boy rock stars are sure to enjoy this outing starring one of the band members and a custom leather designer.

Kate Napier is not at all happy when her business partner, Percy Lynwood, makes arrangements for her to make a last minute wardrobe repair for über popular rock group Toxsin. She is instantly attracted to hot band member and songwriter Syon Braden, but she has a strict no rock star rule. However, when presented with the opportunity to go on tour with the group, she cannot deny the publicity would do wonders for her business. Trying to keep her distance from Syon is virtually impossible, but will their relationship last once the tour ends?

Insta-lust flares between Kate and Syon right from their very first meeting which pretty much sets the tone for their passion fueled relationship. Syon is possessive, demanding and persistent while Kate wavers back and forth between sticking to her rules and giving in to her desire for him. Syon is intense and dedicated to his career but he can be overbearing when it comes to getting what he wants. His business sense is something Kate respects since she is equally serious about her own career. However, her previous relationship leaves her reluctant to become involved with another rock star but her attraction to Syon proves too powerful to resist. Not all the members of Toxsin are happy with their burgeoning romance and it soon becomes obvious someone is willing to go any lengths to sabotage Kate’s business association with the group.

While Rock Me Two Times has an interesting storyline, it unfortunately gets lost amongst the numerous sex scenes between Kate and Syon. The sex scenes are incendiary but the encounters eventually become repetitive. Regrettably, character development also suffers a bit as well and it is difficult to feel much of a connection to the main protagonists or the secondary characters.

Rock Me Two Times by Dawn Ryder is fast paced with plenty of smoking hot sex scenes. Fans of erotic romances are sure to enjoy this first installment in the Rock Band series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dawn Ryder, Erotic, Rated C, Review, Rock Band Series, Rock Me Two Times, Romance, Sourcebook Casablanca

Review: A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas by Kim Redford

cowboy firefighterTitle: A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas by Kim Redford
Smokin’ Hot Cowboys Series Book One
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Warm up this Christmas with a sexy cowboy firefighter who knows how to ignite flames as well as put them out…

He’s hotter than a wildfire
Trey Duval is a rancher, proud as can be of his Wildcat Ranch. He’s also the top volunteer firefighter of Wildcat Bluff, Texas, the town that pulls out all the stops for its Christmas festivities.

City girl Misty Reynolds comes to Wildcat Bluff just in time to help Trey put out a suspicious fire, leading him to dub her his “Christmas angel.” Unfortunately, Misty’s past has left her with terrible memories of fire, and of Christmastime.

As the two are thrown together again and again, Trey finds himself wanting Misty more and more, and Misty feels stronger and braver when Trey is around. Though their trust grows slowly, their passion for each other is burning hot…

Review:

With its unique premise and cast of eclectic characters, A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas by Kim Redford is a lovely holiday romance that fans of contemporary western fiction will enjoy. This first installment in the Smokin’ Hot Cowboys series features an investigation into a series of fires in the small town of Wildcat Bluff and a sizzling hot love story between Misty Reynolds and Trey Duvall.

Misty does not let her fear of fire stop her from investigating a rash of suspicious fires in Wildcat Bluff. She immediately crosses paths with Trey and she overcomes her phobia long enough to help the sexy volunteer firefighter put out a grass fire and despite her attraction to him, she cannot completely rule him out as the arsonist. Trey is equally drawn to Misty but he quickly senses that she is being less than truthful with him about her reasons for visiting Wildcat Bluff.

A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas is a little slow paced with an over-the-top (but somewhat unusual) storyline. Insta-lust quickly turns to insta-love for both Misty and Trey as they investigate the fires. Endearing character traits and Misty’s cutesy nickname soon become annoying while the secondary characters are so quirky they comes across as caricatures instead of real people. The weakest part of the storyline is the fire investigation since there is little suspense as to who is responsible for the setting the fires.

Despite these issues, A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas is a well-written, light-hearted holiday romance. Kim Redford incorporates factual information into the storyline, which adds to the novel’s overall appeal. Wildcat Bluff is a charming, close-knit town with interesting and diverse residents. All in all, it is a nice beginning to the Smokin’ Hot Cowboys series that I recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under A Cowboy Firefighter for Christmas, Contemporary, Kim Redford, Rated C, Review, Romance, Smokin' Hot Cowboys Series, Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review: Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr

wildest dreamsTitle: Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr
Thunder Point Series Book Nine
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 361 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

With Thunder Point, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr has created a town where hard work and determination are all it takes to make dreams come true

Blake Smiley searched the country for just the right place to call home. The professional triathlete has traveled the world, but Thunder Point has what he needs to put down the roots he’s never had. In the quiet coastal town, he can focus on his training without distractions. Until he meets his new neighbors and everything changes.

Lin Su Simmons and her teenage son, Charlie, are fixtures at Winnie Banks’s house as Lin Su nurses Winnie through the realities of ALS. A single mother, Lin Su is proud of taking charge and never showing weakness. But she has her hands full coping with a job, debt and Charlie’s health issues. And Charlie is asking questions about his family history—questions she doesn’t want to answer.

When Charlie enlists Blake’s help to escape his overprotective mother, Lin Su resents the interference in her life. But Blake is certain he can break through her barriers and be the man she and Charlie need. When faced with a terrible situation, Blake comes to the rescue, and Lin Su realizes he just might be the man of her dreams. Together, they recognize that family is who you choose it to be.

Review:

Wildest Dreams, Robyn Carr’s latest stop in Thunder Point, pairs up Blake Smiley and Lin Su Simmons, both of whom were introduced in an earlier book in the series. The languorous romance between the hardworking single mom and the champion triathlete is sweet but it is teenage Charlie who manages to steal readers’ hearts.

Lin Su is working as a home health care nurse and she meets Blake when he moves in next door to her patient Winnie Banks. Lin Su’s fourteen year old son Charlie is immediately enthralled with him but her first few encounters with Blake are adversarial. She is extremely overprotective of Charlie due to his asthma and weakened immune system and although he is doing much better, she refuses to let the poor boy spread his wings. Lin Su is great with Winnie but in her personal life, she is secretive, inflexible and judgmental. She is also extremely proud and getting her to accept help from anyone is next to impossible. Quite frankly, Lin Su is frustrating, stubborn and almost impossible to like for much of the story.

Blake is a dedicated athlete but he knows his career is beginning to wind down and buying a house is just the first step for the next stage in his life. He has come a long way from his very humble childhood and he is committed to helping other underprivileged youths. He is a genuinely caring and compassionate man who might have overstepped with Charlie initially, but to be fair, Charlie was not exactly forthcoming about his health issues. Blake is pretty unflappable and while he understands Lin Su’s concerns, he presents a calm and well thought out rebuttal to her somewhat irrational fears for Charlie’s health.

Charlie is a super smart kid who has a good head on his shoulders. He is aware of his limitations but he is also ready to be an active participant in his life. He is also incredibly curious about his family but Lin Su flat out refuses to discuss her past with him. When his curiosity gets the better of him, Charlie takes matters into his own hands but he is ill prepared for his mother’s response to the information he uncovers.

The storyline of Wildest Dreams is interesting and unique but it is very slow paced. The triathlon aspect is well researched but these details sometimes overwhelm the rest of the story. There are multiple mentions of characters from previous installments of the Thunder Point series and while it is nice to catch up with them, these peeks are a bit of a distraction from the main storyline.

The relationship between Lin Su and Blake builds at a leisurely pace but their romance does not develop until nearly the end of the novel. Once Lin Su begins dating Blake, she begins to soften somewhat but she still remains tightlipped about her past.  Things are going smoothly between the couple until Charlie’s revelations and in the aftermath, Lin Su is quick to end things with Blake. The resolution of these issues occurs in an unexpected but realistic fashion and Robyn Carr wraps up Wildest Dreams with a heartwarming epilogue that is sure to delight readers.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated C, Review, Robyn Carr, Romance, Thunder Point Series, Wildest Dreams

Review: Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie

still lifeTitle: Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie
Illustrations by Sungyoon Choi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When Walter Stahl was five-years-old, his mother drove away in the family’s blue Volvo and never came back. Now seventeen, living in the dregs of Las Vegas, taking care of his ailing father and marking time in a dead-end job along the Strip, Walter’s life so far has been defined by her absence. He doesn’t remember what she looks like; he’s never so much as seen a photograph but, still, he looks for her among the groups of tourists he runs into every day, allowing himself the dim hope that she might still be out there, somewhere.

But when Walter meets Chrysto and Acacia, a brother and sister working as living statues at the Venetian Hotel, his world cracks wide open. With them he discovers a Las Vegas he never knew existed and, as feelings for Chrysto develop, a side of himself he never knew he had. At the same time, clues behind his mother’s disappearance finally start to reveal themselves, and Walter is confronted with not only the truth about himself, but also that of his family history.Threading through this coming-of-age story are beautiful, heart-wrenching graphic illustration, which reveal the journey of Walter’s mother Emily: how she left everything to chase a vision of Liberace across the country; and how Walter’s father Owen went searching for her amongst the gondolas of the Venetian Hotel.

In James Sie’s debut novel, Still Life Las Vegas, the magical collides with the mundane; memory, sexual awakening and familial ties all lead to a place where everything is illuminated, and nothing is real.

Review:

Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie is a young adult novel that is unique and intriguing. Written from multiple points of view, the story goes back and forth in time and details the somewhat tragic life of the Stahl family but it mainly focuses on seventeen year old Walter. Interspersed with beautifully rendered illustrations by Sungyoon Choi, some parts of the story are told in graphic novel format while some of drawings are from Walter’s sketchbook.

Walter lives in a seedy part of Las Vegas with his father Owen who suffers from debilitating bouts of depression. Walter keenly feels the loss of his mother, Emily, who abandoned the family when he was five years old. He works in a tourist attraction where he searches the faces of the visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of his mom. He leads a rather lonely life until he befriends living statues Chrysto and his sister Acacia. This acquaintance becomes a time of discovery for Walter as his friendship with Chrysto takes a surprising turn while an unanticipated visit brings him unexpected news about his mom.

Forced to grow up too soon, Walter is extremely mature for his age. He often finds himself in the role of caregiver for Owen and he is responsible for most of the household chores and managing their meager finances. Although he has no memories of his mother, Walter finds himself looking for her in the faces of the tourists he meets. However, she is relegated to the back of his mind after he becomes enthralled with Chrysto. This friendship opens Walter to new experiences and also provides him with startling insight about himself. Shocking news about his mom coincides with a betrayal and sends Walter into a downward spiral.

The chapters in the novel alternate between Walter, Owen and Emily’s points of view. Walter’s chapters take place when he seventeen while Owen and Emily’s jump around to different time periods in their lives. Emily’s perspective includes pivotal information about her childhood while Owen’s detail the early years of his romance with Emily and their marriage. There are also chapters detailing Emily’s life after she abandons the family and her experiences reach nearly mythical proportions by the novel’s conclusion.

The coming of age aspect of the storyline, Walter’s personal awakening and learning the series of events that led to Emily’s abandonment are quite fascinating but the overall execution of the novel is disjointed and difficult to follow. Although the perspective changes are clearly marked, the time periods are fluid and some of the chapters end rather abruptly. The graphic novel sections are interesting but if you are not a reader of graphic novels, this switch from prose can be annoying. (I personally found the longer segments with the graphic elements frustrating since they contained vital information about the unfolding story.)

Although the plot is a little busy, Still Life Las Vegas is a poignant and engrossing novel coming of age novel. The characters are well-developed, the storyline is quite distinctive and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. The Las Vegas setting is the perfect backdrop for the unfolding story and James Sie brings the city vibrantly to life. Unexpected plot twists keep the novel moving at a brisk pace and the conclusion is realistic and mostly satisfying.

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Filed under Contemporary, James Sie, Rated C, Review, St Martin's Press, Still Life Las Vegas, Young Adult