July 30, 2015

REVIEW: Dare to Desire (Dare to Love #2)

Dare to Desire (Dare to Love #2), by Carly Phillips
Publish Date: April 10, 2014
Publisher: self-published
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(From Goodreads) Quarterback Alex Dare, had it all -- an all-star football career with the Tampa Breakers and his choice of willing women -- until a severe injury forces him into early retirement. When he is offered a ground-breaking position with a rival team, he’s intrigued, but there’s a catch. He’ll be working alongside the same woman he hasn’t been able to get out of his head for too long.

Social worker Madison Evans grew up in foster homes and knows first hand what it means to have-not. She isn't impressed by Alex Dare’s wealth or charm. Not since she fell hard for him once before, only to discover she was just one of his too-easy conquests. This time around Madison refuses to succumb to Alex so easily.

But Alex wants Madison. And if there is one thing Alex does well, it’s to get what he wants. The playboy athlete must prove he’s got game in more places than on the field. He means to prove that he’s a changed man but no sooner does he begin to break through Madison’s defenses when a new opportunity comes knocking and threatens her new-found trust. Can he make Madison take a risk and dare to love?

The thing that I'm coming to love about Carly Phillips' Dare to Love series is the distinct lack of angsty drama. Don't get me wrong - super angst has its place. But, a lot of times - most of the time - I prefer a little bit of drama mixed with a whole lot of romance, and that's exactly what this series delivers.

Dare to Desire was a fantastic second chance love story. In most of these types of stories, years pass between interactions between the MCs. In Alex and Madison's case, it's only six months. But, it was a significant six months.

Alex's whole life was playing football, so he floundered a bit when an injury prematurely ended his career. At first, he was an outright asshole, which was when he permanently drove Madison away when she wanted to help. Six months later, Ian pairs the two of them together on a new program designed to help injured athletes. Once they're forced to work together, Alex is also forced to deal with how poorly he treated Madison and the fact that he might have driven her away for good.

I had mixed feelings about Alex in book 1, but I felt much better about him in Dare to Desire. He was man enough to know he let a good thing go when he drove Madison away. And he was man enough to admit it out loud.

To her credit, Madison didn't make it too easy on him, and thank goodness for that. He needed to squirm a bit. But, thankfully, it didn't go on too long, and we finally got to the sexy times. And there were lots of those. Madison and Alex had tons of chemistry and they used it well.

Madison was very much on edge the whole time she was with Alex. Her whole life, she's been made to believe that people leave her. Her parents left her, and her foster mother now has Alzheimer's. That broke my heart - the scenes with her foster mother. Now, her foster brother is taking Madison to court over his mother's decision to make Madison her power of attorney. Everyone Madison knows has turned away from her - Alex eventually will too, right? Especially if he has the opportunity to return to the limelight.

For a change, this couple actually communicates, and it was so refreshing. Madison was very forthcoming about her doubts and fears. When Alex had an opportunity to return to TV in some capacity, she told him she didn't think she could stay with him if he did it. It was so nice that secrets weren't a part of their relationship.

These Dare siblings are bound together by an awful family secret, and the more I read about them, the more I love them.

July 29, 2015


I am so excited to help introduce you to Chaos and the Mayhem series! If you haven't started it yet, don't wait! And, if you need some more convincing, check out my review and the excerpt below. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for copies of both Mayhem and Riot.

Chaos (Mayhem #3), by Jamie Shaw
Publish Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Avon Books
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(From Goodreads) From the moment she saw Shawn Scarlett perform at a school talent show, Kit Larson has loved two things: the guitar, and the gorgeous, green-eyed boy who inspired her to play. But one careless night in high school shatters her hope of ever being more than a notch on his bedpost.

Six years, two bands, and one mostly-mended heart later, Kit’s about to make her rock star dreams a reality as the new guitarist for Shawn’s band, The Last Ones to Know. He may not remember their reckless night together, but Kit has never forgotten… and she’s determined to make him eat his heart out.

The release of their new album means a month cooped up on a tour bus, sleeping inches away from the ridiculously sexy musician she’s never quite gotten over. And as Kit gets to know the real Shawn—not Shawn Scarlett, the rock god, the player—their attraction becomes too hot to resist. But the past is paved with secrets, and when they finally surface, Kit could lose everything: the band, the music, her dreams… and Shawn.

I love books that break the mold just a little bit, especially in the name of Girl Power. CHAOS is like that. I'm always happy when authors put girls in a non-traditional position that sets them up to surprise and delight their male counterparts. And, maybe even make them a little mad. That's especially fun.

Ever since she saw The Last Ones to Know, and especially lead guitarist Shawn Scarlett, play live, she knew she wanted to play like that - to be able to connect with the music on a personal level. Many lessons later, she runs into Shawn at a party, and is compelled to tell him how much his performance changed her life. That declaration resulted in a one-night stand - one of many for Shawn but unforgettable for Kit. Years later, the band is in need of a new rhythm guitarist, and Kit knows she's perfect for the job. But, it will mean having to spend long hours with the guy she's never gotten over.

After the prologue, which sets the stage for Kit's and Shawn's present-day feelings for one another, Chaos backs up the timeline a bit and overlaps with RIOT (Mayhem #2). It opens with Kit preparing for her audition with her twin brother Kale. She knows exactly what band she's trying out for and who is in it. She knows how hard it will be for her if she makes it, since her crush on Shawn never went away despite his casual discarding of her after their night together. But, this chick has some serious lady balls, and she's willing to try and put aside her emotions for the chance to really make a living doing what she loves the most. With the exception of Kale, her family isn't entirely supportive of her guitar playing, but she really wants this and will do whatever she has to to get it. I really loved and respected that about Kit. She walked into this situation knowing full well that it would be difficult for her, but wanting this shot to prove herself more.

Kit's audition was awesome. Female guitarists aren't the norm. Like I said - I love that Jamie Shaw used her to break the mold. The guys in the band are immediately suspicious of her ability, and Dee right away thinks she's a groupie. So, when Kit plays and blows them all away, it was a thing of beauty. Kit handled their preconceived notions with grace, which was another thing about her that I liked.

And then there's Shawn Scarlett. Let's face it - even his name is sexy. He was the last one to fully accept Kit into the band, but once he does, he's all in. Shawn is the intellectual one of the group. He loves to read and he writes the band's songs. And, he's all about the music and its integrity. Once he sees that Kit is the same way, he sees her as a sort of kindred spirit. A HOT kindred spirit. And, there's this connection between the two of them that goes beyond the music.

Kit's reactions to Shawn are a little volatile. She's still totally into him, but she's also still so upset and hurt over his rejection. Her present day interactions with him reflect her confusion. They are getting along great, making awesome music together, and then Shawn will say or do something that brings back all those hurts and emotions from when she was 15. All of a sudden, Kit is giving him the cold shoulder or being completely nasty to him. Shawn is confused, and rightfully so. This is the only problem I have with Kit. It would've been better for her to get it all out in the open, instead of playing games with Shawn's feelings. Especially after it comes to light that Shawn has developed feelings for her that go beyond those of friendship or band mates.

Of course, as you would expect, Kit does come clean eventually about her history with Shawn, and she does it in EPIC fashion. I loved Kit's relationship with her brother Kale. Kale has never been a fan of Shawn's, after he saw how upset his sister was six years earlier because of him. So, when things between Kit and Shawn fall apart, it's surprisingly Kale who becomes Shawn's champion. Kit actually has several other older brothers who are very protective of their baby sister, and the family dynamic among them is one of the best parts of this book. They love and accept each other unconditionally, and are very willing to admit when they are wrong - like when they see Kit play with the band and realize that she totally rocks.

In Chaos, I started seeing all these side characters that I wanted full stories for. Some of them we've met before - like Van from a different band - but in this book, they were fleshed out so much more. After Mike's story, of course, I'd love one for Van and one for Leti and one for each of Kit's brothers. Jamie did such an amazing job making these side characters come to life.

Chaos was funny and sweet and emotional, and there was lots of awesome rock band music moments. It was everything I wanted.  

It takes me an hour to drive to Mayfield. An hour of drumming my fingers against my Jeep’s steering wheel and blasting the music so loud that I can’t hear myself think. My GPS interrupts the eardrum massacre to give me directions to a club called Mayhem, and I park in the side parking lot of a massive square of a building.

With my Jeep in a spot and my ignition turned off, I drum on my steering wheel a few more times before smacking the heel of my palm against my glove compartment. It pops open, a hairbrush spills out, and I use it to tame my wind-tangled locks.

Earlier this week, the name of Shawn’s band—The Last Ones to Know—popped up on one of my favorite bands’ websites. I blinked once, twice, and then pushed my nose toward the screen to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

They were looking for a new rhythm guitarist. After doing a little digging, I found out that their old one, Cody, got kicked out of the band. The website didn’t say why, and I didn’t care. There was an opening, and everything in me told me to send an email to the email address listed at the bottom of the online flyer.

I typed the email in a daze—as if my guitar-loving fingers wanted to be in the band even more than my spaced-out brain did. I wrote that I had been in a band in college but that we broke up to go our separate ways, I sent a YouTube link to one of our songs, I asked for an audition, and I signed my name.

Less than half an hour later, I received a reply overflowing with exclamation points and an audition time, and I wasn’t sure if I should smile or cry. It was a chance to make all my dreams come true. But in order to do that, I’d have to face the dream that had already been crushed.

These past six years, I’ve tried not to think about it. I’ve tried to erase his face from my mind. But that day, with that email in front of me, it all came back in a rush.

Green eyes. Messy black hair. An intoxicating scent that seemed to linger on my skin for days, weeks.

I give my head a little shake to clear Shawn from my mind. Then I finish brushing my hair and take one last glance in my rearview mirror. Satisfied I don’t look nearly as messy as I feel, I hop onto the asphalt and haul my guitar case from the backseat.

Now or never.

After a deep breath of city air, I begin making my way around the concrete fortress casting shadow over the parking lot. Unforgiving rays of afternoon sunshine wrap themselves around my neck and send beads of sweat trickling between my shoulder blades. My combat boots hit the sidewalk step by heavy step, and I force them to keep lifting and falling, lifting and falling. It isn’t until I’m at a massive set of double doors that I finally stop long enough to let myself think.

I raise my hand. I lower it. I raise it again. I flex my fingers.

I take a deep breath.

I knock.

Born and raised in South Central Pennsylvania, Jamie Shaw earned her M.S. in Professional Writing before realizing that the creative side of writing was her calling. An incurable night-owl, she spends late hours crafting novels with relatable heroines and swoon-worthy leading men. She's a loyal drinker of white mochas, a fierce defender of emo music, and a passionate enthusiast of all things romance. She loves interacting with readers and always aims to add new names to their book boyfriend lists.

Learn more about Jamie --> Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

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July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This is one meme I can get on board with - I LOVE lists! I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Top Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

1. Manwhore, by Katy Evans - The main character, Rachael, writes for a lifestyle magazine in Chicago.

2. Off the Record, by K.A. Linde - Liz is first a reporter for the student newspaper at her college, and then later the editor.

3. Some Girls Bite, by Chloe Neill - Before she becomes one of the illustrious undead, Merit was earning her masters degree in literature.

4. Wallbanger, by Alice Clayton - Although he doesn't write for a magazine, Simon does take pictures for them.

5. Sugar on the Edge, by Sawyer Bennett - Sexy Brit Gavin writes books and comes to the shores of North Carolina to clear writers block.

6. Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs, Molly Harper - Before she got canned (and subsequently turned), Jane Jameson was a librarian. Later, she becomes a bookstore owner.

7. Obsidian, by Jennifer L. Armentrout - Katy is my soul sister - she's a reader and a blogger.

8. Nothing Between Us, by Roni Loren - Georgia is an author, holed up in her house after a brutal attack left her paralyzed with fear.

9. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things, by Ann Aguirre - Sage does some of the best kind of writing - she writes notes of positive affirmation on Post-its and gives them to people who really need it.

10. Connected, by Kim Karr - Dahlia and her best friend work for a magazine and Dahlia's fiance is an investigative reporter.