Category Archives: Rated C

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


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.


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


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.


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

Review: Sweet As Sin by J.T. Geissinger

sweet as sinTitle: Sweet As Sin by J.T. Geissinger
Bad Habit Series Book One
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 386 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Inside a drop-dead sexy, hard-partying rock star lies a good heart…and a dark secret.

Twenty-something Kat Reid is loving life as an in-demand Hollywood makeup artist. She has absolutely no interest in rock ‘n’ roll, but in order to pay the mortgage, she agrees to work on the set of a rock video for the world-famous rockers known as Bad Habit…which brings her face-to-face with Nico Nyx, lead singer of Bad Habit and Adonis in the flesh.

However, the fiercely independent Kat isn’t impressed by the hard-living, womanizing rock star. But when Nico’s model girlfriend shows up to the set drunk and Kat is tapped to replace her as the video’s sexy bride, her combustible chemistry with Nico suddenly threatens to consume the set. Nico feels it, too–and becomes determined to win Kat over, body and soul. Yet behind his rock god swagger, Nico hides a dark secret. Can he rock Kat’s world forever, or will he just break her heart?


Sweet As Sin is the first installment in J.T. Geissinger’s rock star series, Bad Habit. This first novel starring lead singer Nico Nyx and makeup artist Kat Reid is quite steamy and full of drama.

Kat Reid is a successful makeup artist whose an ironclad rule against dating celebrities is pretty hard to remember once she meets über sexy musician Nico Nyx, the lead singer of Bad Habit. The two are instantly attracted to one another and he persistently pursues her until she agrees to consider going out with him. After careful consideration, Kat decides to give Nico a chance and the two are soon embroiled in a scorching hot relationship.

In the beginning, Kat and Nico are wonderful characters that are easy to like. Kat is feisty, independent and speaks her mind. Nico is charismatic and he is charmed by Kat’s candor and feistiness. Kat is hesitant to date Nico but he patiently waits until she is sure she wants to go out with him. She has been in abusive and controlling relationships in the past and she is upfront about what she wants (and does not want) in a relationship. Nico is also honest about his expectations and their romance is off to a very sweet beginning.

However, things go downhill very quickly after they begin dating. Nico has a lot of emotional baggage and he is very possessive and a little too over protective. He also has a few violent outbursts that scare Kat but he easily convinces her he will control his temper in the future. Nico is big on trust but he is not forthcoming about his issues. These secrets endanger Kat, but instead of giving her the information she needs that will keep her out of harm’s way, he becomes even more possessive and controlling.

Although the story starts out rather light-hearted and fun, it quickly turns dark and brooding. Kat becomes very insecure and jealous while Nico comes across as obsessive and domineering. Kat’s unease with some of Nico’s actions is overshadowed by her desire for him and she becomes so passive it is very frustrating. Their sex scenes are very sensual early on but then they take a light BDSM turn towards the end of the novel when out of left field Nico begins spanking Kat during sex.

Despite a few troubling issues, Sweet As Sin is an enjoyable read. Kat’s friendships with her besties Grace and Chloe are the best part of the story, but some of their jokes are a little insensitive. The other band members are intriguing and it will be interesting to see what J.T. Geissinger has in store for them in future installments of the Bad Habit series.

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Filed under Bad Habit Series, Contemporary, JT Geissinger, Montlake Romance, Rated C, Review, Romance, Sweet As Sin

Review: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

truth and otherTitle: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Dark, witty, and suspenseful, this literary crime thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and The Silent Wife follows a famous author whose wife—the brains behind his success—meets an untimely death, leaving him to deal with the consequences.

“Evil is a matter of opinion…”

On the surface, Henry Hayden seems like someone you could like, or even admire. A famous bestselling author who appears a modest everyman. A loving, devoted husband even though he could have any woman he desires. A generous friend and coworker. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. No one besides him and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous.

For most of Henry’s life, it hasn’t been a problem. But when his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant and his carefully constructed facade is about to crumble, he tries to find a permanent solution, only to make a terrible mistake.

Now not only are the police after Henry, but his past—which he has painstakingly kept hidden—threatens to catch up with him as well. Henry is an ingenious man and he works out an ingenious plan. He weaves lies, truths, and half-truths into a story that might help him survive. But bit by bit the noose still tightens.

Smart, sardonic, and compulsively readable, here is the story of a man whose cunning allows him to evade the consequences of his every action, even when he’s standing on the edge of the abyss.


The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango is a rather clever novel about a manipulative man whose life takes a dark turn after finding out his mistress is pregnant with his baby. Henry Hayden has a somewhat disturbing past and he does not hesitate to take care of his problems in a very permanent fashion.

Henry Hayden is a bestselling mystery writer who has never written a single word. His wife Martha is actually the author, but with her blessing, he takes the credit for her work. This arrangement works out perfectly since for unknown reasons, Martha was never interested in publishing her books. Martha spends her nights writing while Henry takes care of household chores, attends book signings and goes on publicity tours. In between all of that, Henry also indulges in affairs with his editor Betty and other women he meets along the way. After Betty’s surprise pregnancy announcement, Henry runs through several possible scenarios for this very unwanted complication but he quickly discards them and he impulsively makes a decision that make matters worse for him.

Not much is knows about Henry’s past, but from the little that is revealed, it is clear that he is definitely troubled. After his father’s death and his mother’s disappearance when he was a child, he was in and out of group homes and after striking out on his own, he turned to a life of crime. There is a fairly large gap in his personal history until he meets Martha in his mid thirties and they eventually marry. After they marry, Henry lives a fairly normal life and he is well-liked by the people who know him. He is friendly, generous with his friends and gracious to his many fans. But Henry has a very sinister side that surfaces soon after learning about Betty’s pregnancy and although he still continues to be pleasant and outgoing, he is also desperate to rid himself of the complications that are plaguing him.

While the premise for The Truth and Other Lies is intriguing, the pacing of the story is incredibly slow. There are numerous shifts in perspective and these transitions in viewpoint are often abrupt and not clearly marked. Henry is a rather unreliable narrator so it is difficult to know what events are real and which are figments of his (surprisingly) active imagination. Although the characters are interesting, many of them, including Henry, are difficult to like.

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango has a very unusual plot which makes it a fascinating novel to read. There are several unexpected twists and turns and it is impossible to figure out how the story will end. The conclusion is a little ambiguous but mostly satisfying.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Rated C, Review, Sascha Arango, suspense, The Truth and Other Lies

Review: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes

loved onesTitle: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Historical (60s, 70s), Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The nationally best-selling Hughes returns with a darkly brilliant Mad Men-esque drama of family secrets and professional lies reminiscent of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and James Salter’s Light Years.

From the outside in, the Devlin family lead almost-perfect lives. Dashing father, Nick, is a successful businessman long married to sweetheart Jean, who upholds the family home and throws dinner parties while daughter Lily attends Catholic school and is disciplined into modesty by the nuns. Under the surface, however, the Devlins are silently broken by the death of their little boy. As Nick’s older brother, a man driven by callous and rapacious urges, inducts Nick into the cut-throat world of cosmetics the Devlin family are further fragmented by betrayals, and victims of the cruelest kind of hurt.

In The Loved Ones Hughes takes her gimlet eye deep into the secret places between men and women to give an incisive portrayal of one family’s struggle to stay together against stacked odds of deception, adultery, and loss. Years in the making, this is Hughes’ astonishing and compulsively readable break out, a sweepingly cinematic novel of relationships defined by an era of glamour and decadence.


The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes is a poignant novel about a family trying to cope with the death of their child.

The emotional divide between the members of the Devlin family is soon compounded by an unwanted move from their beloved family home in the US to London. Nick is coerced into taking a position in a cosmetic company by his manipulative brother Lionel and after his relocation to the UK, Nick tries to bury his grief with illegal drugs and extramarital sex.  Jean is less than thrilled with the move but she eventually capitulates and she, along with their daughter Lily, join Nick in London where she continues to distance herself from both Nick and Lily. Poor Lily was already struggling to fit in at her old school in the US and she does not find it easier to make friends or find her niche after the move.

Numerous characters are introduced early in the novel and it is virtually impossible to keep up with them or their relationships with the key players. With the exception of Lily, the main characters are difficult to like and despite feeling compassion for their loss, they are rather unsympathetic.

The Loved Ones is a somewhat difficult novel to follow. The narrative is rather disjointed and the shifts between past and present are not clearly marked. Despite the descriptive passages, there is a vagueness to the overall storyline that makes it impossible to connect with neither the plot nor the characters. A lack of quotation marks adds to the confusion and when the dialog lasts longer than a few sentences, it is hard to keep up with which character is speaking.

There is no doubt that Mary-Beth Hughes is a gifted storyteller. The Loved Ones is a well written novel with a decent storyline that is unfortunately buried in the midst of the rambling, confusing narrative. The story’s conclusion is quite unexpected and although a little abrupt and somewhat ambiguous, it is satisfying.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Fiction, Historical (60s), Historical (70s), Mary-Beth Hughes, Rated C, Review, The Loved Ones

Review: Meant for You by Samantha Chase

meant youTitle: Meant for You by Samantha Chase
The Montgomery Brothers Series Book Five
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Brand new Book #5 in Samantha Chase’s popular Montgomery series

She dares to dream…
Summer Montgomery wants to be taken seriously almost as much as she wants her brother’s best friend, Ethan. But with a long resume of seemingly random career choices and a protective brother on watch, those things are nothing more than pipe dreams…

Does he dare to try?
Ethan Reed would like nothing more than to live by his own rules. Not wanting to disappoint his best friend Zach, or any of the Montgomerys, Ethan’s had to push his long-denied feelings for Summer aside. But it only takes one night away from watchful eyes to make impossible dreams come true…


Meant for You is the fifth installment in Samantha Chase’s Montgomery Brothers series. In this outing, William Montgomery is still matchmaking and his free spirited niece Summer is his latest project. He convinces his brother (and Summer’s father) to send Summer to the Portland office to work with her brother Zach in the hopes that her longtime crush on Zach’s best friend (and company VP) Ethan Reed will lead to love.

Summer has been trying to find her niche for quite some time and the rest of her family views her as flighty. The family does not take her seriously and when she begins working with Zach, he does not give her any worthwhile projects. Nonetheless, she shines as she works in the various departments and she is well liked by the other employees. Summer and Zach have been quarreling over his next thrill seeking adventure and to keep the peace, Summer takes off for a weekend retreat. Her overprotective brother asks Ethan to make sure she is ok and Summer seizes the opportunity to act on her attraction to Ethan.

Ethan is a great guy but because of his loyalty to Zach and the Montgomery family, he has decided to ignore his interest in Summer. He is laidback, easygoing and not eager to rock the boat but when Summer makes the first move, he finds it impossible to resist her. After their one night of passion, the two go their separate ways, but when they unexpectedly run into one another while playing tourist, a push from Zack’s assistant and Summer’s friend Gabriella Martine is just what they need to spend some quality time together. Away from the prying eyes of Montgomery clan, Ethan and Summer enjoy getting to know one another while indulging their desire. Both are aware of the potential problems awaiting their relationship when they return to their regular life, but they decide to live in the moment. Unfortunately, the real world intrudes when a crisis brings the Montgomery family together and the couple decides to keep their romance a secret.

The relationship between Summer and Ethan is sweet and there is no denying they share a real connection. But as soon as they are reunited with the rest of Montgomery family, trouble begins. Neither is willing to come clean about their romance and they are forced to sneak around to see one another (which is completely ridiculous considering both of them are adults). Summer’s brothers are overprotective to the point they are insulting to both her and Ethan. The family’s reaction to Summer and Ethan’s relationship is incomprehensible considering that he has been treated like a family member for twenty years.

But what is the most astounding is the patronizing and disrespectful attitude that the Montgomery family displays toward Summer. They unfairly blame her for another family member’s decision and they treat her like a child. She is forced to prove herself over and over again and despite her efforts, they refuse to take her seriously. The utter disregard for her feelings and complete lack of faith in her professional abilities is appalling and absolutely infuriating. This part of the storyline is incredibly frustrating and completely unforgivable despite the story arc’s resolution.

Despite a few issues with the rest of the family, Meant for You is a lovely romance and a nice addition to The Montgomery Brothers series. Fans will enjoy seeing Summer find her happily ever after and Samantha Chase’s intriguing glimpses of Zach will leave readers impatiently awaiting his story.

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Filed under Contemporary, Meant for You, Rated C, Review, Romance, Samantha Chase, The Montgomery Brothers