Standalone Sunday (6/25/17): Under Locke by Mariana Zapata 

Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!
Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick this week is: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata. 

BLURB
: He was my boss, my brother’s friend, a widow, an ex-felon, and a man I’d seen casually with a handful of women. But he was everything that gripped me, both the good and the bad. Worst case scenario: If things turned awkward between us, I could go somewhere else. I’d gotten over epic heartbreak before; one more wouldn’t kill me.
After moving to Austin following six months of unemployment back home, Iris Taylor knows she should be glad to have landed a job so quickly… even if the business is owned by a member of the same motorcycle club her estranged father used to belong to. Except Dex Locke might just be the biggest jerk she’s ever met. He’s rude and impatient, and he doesn’t know how to tell time. And the last thing they ever expected was each other.
Narrated by: Callie Dalton
Length: 16 hrs and 5 mins

ADD TO GOODREADS 

I’m currently listening to this audiobook because I loved The Wall of Winnipeg and Wait For It by the same author. Zapata takes her time with character development so that the friendship, attraction and subsequent love story never feels rushed. I am anticipating a satisfying story today.

Have you read or listened to this book? Did you enjoy it? What about this author, have you tried her before?

#audiobookmonth #standalonesunday 

What Matters by Gracie Leigh

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What Matters by Gracie Leigh
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 192 • Format: eARC
Published By: Fox Love Press
Purchase Links:
Amazon

“It’s a good fear, Sam. I’d miss it if it wasn’t there…”

Musical prodigy Eddie Dean gets everything she wants. The best violin, the best boyfriend, and a place at the best music school in London are hers until her father goes bankrupt. Once the financial facade comes tumbling down, Eddie’s broke and her boyfriend couldn’t care less.

The doorstep of Jimmy’s Café is the last place she expects to wash up.

Scrubbing dishes and serving fried breakfasts to pay her rent is as hellish as she imagined, and her new life is made worse by the distain of her boss’s sneering grandson. Sam Novak is arrogant, rude, and gorgeous, and if Eddie never sees him again, it will be too soon. Shame she can’t stop thinking about him. Dreaming about him. Craving him.

And then there’s his best friend Dylan.

Dylan is as light as Sam is dark, and Eddie wants him too. She can have him too—according to Sam—but when Sam reveals a vulnerability that could cost him his life, it’s time for Eddie to face the music. Does she still need to get everything she wants, or should she choose what matters?

two-stars

I could not be more disappointed in this book. This author also writes under a different name in the m/m romance genre and in that she is one of my favorite authors. I was SO excited when I saw that she was writing a m/f romance. I expected great things. What I got was a book I barely finished.

The plot is in the blurb (obviously) and the first 15% or so of the book was pretty good. I liked Eddie (the heroine) at the beginning and it seemed like a great set up. The book went bad for me pretty early on because Sam (the “hero”) was an absolute, unmitigated asshole. He was dreadful to Eddie when they first began to work together at his family restaurant but I thought as he fell for her he would show her his tender side and start to be kind and loving to her. Nope. He continued to be rude and disrespectful to her throughout. He insults her every chance he gets. I hated him as much at the end of the book as I did at the beginning. Some examples of Sam talking to Eddie:

“I want you to piss off, but as that’s unlikely to happen, you can go round and fill up the sauce bottles.”

“You think I owe you a conversation, or some shit? Just because I fucked you the other night?”

“You want to feel special? Is that all this is, Eddie? You want the whole world to revolve around you?
“No! That’s not what I meant.”
“Great, ’cause I don’t actually give a shit what you meant.”

“How many times do you need telling before it sinks into your entitled brain?”

“You know what, Eddie? Fuck you.”

Soooo……..as you can tell, Sam’s a prince among men. I guess this is all a matter of perception. Some people may not have an issue with someone talking to them like this but it doesn’t work me at all. I don’t call it romance. I don’t call it a broody hero. I call it verbal
abuse.

I mentioned that I liked Eddie at the beginning and I did. That didn’t last though. While she wasn’t as horrible as Sam was for me, she still wasn’t a very nice person. She treats the people around her poorly, she’s rude and disrespectful to Sam (two wrongs don’t make a right & all that) and she’s dreadful to her mother. Her mother, also not a nice person, is still her mother and I’m not a fan of telling her to “Get the fuck out of my apartment”.

This also contains my least favorite plot devise and that is “The Giant Misunderstanding That Could Have Been Avoided With Communication”. There’s a few instances of it here and both characters are immature and fly off the handle and refuse to speak to each other, say mean things, send mean texts, blah, blah, blah. I’m completely befuddled as to why it’s in this book. I know it’s common in a lot of m/f NA (which is why I avoid them) but I’ve never seen this author use this plot device so I was completely shocked to see it here.

The sex. Some readers will think this next complaint is petty but it really irked me. They’re together for the first time and he asks if she’s on the pill and she says “yes” so they don’t use a condom. They’ve just met and she’s been sleeping with another guy. This drives me insane. Yes, she won’t get pregnant but she or he could get any number of sexually transmitted diseases. Then there is this really odd threesome with Sam’s friend Dylan. It was hot, I’m not gonna lie, but it didn’t fit in the story. I don’t understand why it was there. It really served no point as far as the plot went. And…..for some reason Dylan had to wear a condom??? **best Scooby Doo confused shrug here** Also, the sex was super unrealistic. Eddie’s only had boring, bad sex with her ex before and has never had an orgasm. She’s also never given a blow job. So jump forward to the second or third time she’s had sex with Sam. She’s deep throating him (it mentions his dick hitting the back of her throat more than once) and then she’s doing both him and his best friend, deep throating them both and taking both of their dicks at once. Now I appreciate a girl who throws herself into things but I feel she really jumped ahead of the learning curve. I actually thought at this point that I had misunderstood and this wasn’t supposed to be a romance but was in fact an erotica story. And I was happy. But then sadly, this threesome ended, Dylan just weirdly disappeared from the book as fast as he’d shown up and we were back to the romance portion.

By the end of the book they were all “I’ll love you forever and ever”. I have ZERO idea how they got there. There was no relationship development, no scenes of them being tender with each other, no communication, no feelings whatsoever. This was a huge case of “telling” the reader rather than “showing” them.

It makes me sad to say this cuz I’m usually such fan girl for this author but I really disliked this. A lot.

signature-fonts

Standalone Sunday (5/21/17): Wait for It by Mariana Zapata

Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick this week is: Wait For It by Mariana Zapata

  

BLURB: If anyone ever said being an adult was easy, they hadn’t been one long enough.

Diana Casillas can admit it: she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing half the time. How she’s made it through the last two years of her life without killing anyone is nothing short of a miracle. Being a grown-up wasn’t supposed to be so hard.

With a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and friends, she has almost everything she could ever ask for.

Except for a boyfriend.
Or a husband.

But who needs either one of those?

Kindle Edition: 670 pages

Audiobook
: 15hrs, 52 mins

Published:
December 7th 2016 by Amazon Digital Services LLC

ADD TO GOODREADS 

I’m currently listening to this audiobook narrated by Callie Dalton. I chose this book because I read The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by the same author a week and a half ago and loved that book. So I purchased this book. I plan to also get the Audiobooks Under Locke and Kulti by Mariana Zapata. This author’s writing was that gripping and entertaining to me.

Have you read or listened to this book or any book by Mariana Zapata? Did you enjoy it? Happy First Day of the Week!

If Not for You (New Beginnings #3) by Debbie Macomber

Series:
Narrator: Khristine Hvam.
Source: Netgalley

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: If Not for You by Debbie Macomber
Series: New Beginnings #3
Release Date: March 21st 2017
Format: e-ARC (432 pages) • Audiobook: 10 hrs and 46 mins
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published By: Ballantine Books
Purchase Links:  Amazon US Audible

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not—and her parents’ worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam—who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived—Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital—even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.

Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.

three-half-stars

This book was in the usual Debbie Macomber style. A nice contemporary romance with ordinary and relatable characters. While you may not love the characters, they typically remind me of people I know. It’s like watching a Saturday afternoon show on Lifetime. In fact, this one would make a good movie.

Beth Prudhomme and Sam Carney were set up on a blind date by mutual friends (Nichole and Rocco from Book 2: A Girl’s Guide to Moving On) and that first dinner was a disaster. Both of them came to the date with preconceived notions, so nothing really clicked for them. One the way home, Beth got into a car accident and Sam was one of the first people on the scene. Beth’s misfortune paved a way for Sam to connect with her in a new way. As Beth recovered, Sam came to visit and keep her company in the hospital. They began looking
forward to spending time together.

I thought it was sweet that Sam kept coming to check on Beth, but I had issues with both of them. How could a grown twenty-five year old teacher be so completely under the mother’s thumb? Beth seemed to be a sixteen-year old girl at times where Sam had the jaded attitude made him seem really old. Sam had a painful experience with a woman, so he swore off love and relationships. Yet, he went to visit Beth every chance he got because he just wanted…what exactly did he expect?
Each character seemed to be the opposite of their counterpart. Beth as sweet and flexible, Sam was gruff and inflexible. Beth’s mom Ellie was pushy and judgmental while Beth’s dad seemed like he took things lighter and respected the autonomy of others.

I liked Sam but didn’t feel like his past gave him a pass to be so mean and unforgiving. I had a harder time liking Beth because she was pretty weak as a heroine, yet nosy as hell with other people’s issues. Her mother was annoying and rude. I am glad Beth’s dad was in the story to balance out the mother’s prickly personality. It’s obvious that Beth wouldn’t even live on her own if not for her dad.
I liked the side story of the Aunt Sunshine, which ended well after 30 years. I also had issues with their communication or lack thereof, but it did end well, so I had to be content with that.

Overall, the story was a pleasant read and I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Ezi

Release Blitz: It’s Me Again, Baby (O’Connor Family #3) by Katie Reus

Series:
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Source: IndieSage PR

It’s Me Again, Baby

by Katie Reus
O’Connor Family Series
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Purchase: Amazon | Amazon Print | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

She lost him once…

Years ago Samantha made a mistake and lost a chance at something real with Maguire O’Connor. Now that she’s living in Holly again, she knows seeing him is inevitable. But the last thing she ever expected was to take him on as a client.

Now they have a second chance…

Maguire never got over Sam. Thanks to a meddling family member, he mistakenly hires Sam as his real estate agent. With her in his sights again, he’s not letting her go. But someone from her past followed her back to Holly with a sinister intent. Now Maguire will do whatever it takes to protect the woman he intends to claim as his forever.

Length: NOVELLA

O’Connor Family Series:
1. Merry Christmas, Baby
2. Tease Me, Baby
3. It’s Me Again, Baby
4. Mistletoe Me, Baby

 

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About Katie Reus

Katie Reus is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Red Stone Security series, the Darkness series and the Deadly Ops series. She fell in love with romance at a young age thanks to books she pilfered from her mom’s stash. Years later she loves reading romance almost as much as she loves writing it.

However, she didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer. After changing majors many times, she finally graduated summa cum laude with a degree in psychology. Not long after that she discovered a new love. Writing. She now spends her days writing dark paranormal romance and sexy romantic suspense.

Goodreads Monday (5/15/17): The Year of Loving by Traci L. Slatton 

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To participate, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners and add your own links! 

My choice today is The Year of Loving by Traci L. Slatton. 

BLURB: Art gallerist Sarah Paige’s world is crumbling. One daughter barely speaks to her and the other is off the rails. Sarah is struggling to keep her gallery afloat in a tough market when she learns that her most beloved friend has cancer. In the midst of her second divorce, two men come into her life: an older man who offers companionship and stability and an exciting younger man whose life is as chaotic as hers. 

Sarah’s courage, humor, and spirit strengthen her, but how much can she bear, and what sustains her when all else falls away?

Traci L. Slatton wrote the After series, one of my favorite Dystopian series. See my Review of Fallen (Book 1). Every time I read a book by her, I am so drawn into the story that I read them in one sitting. I’m amazed that her books fly under the radar. Her writing is so visceral to me. 

So Today’s choice is a contemporary novel she releases recently and it’s been languishing on my TBR because of Goodreads challenges that dictate my reading choices. I will add a review as soon as I’m done.

What are you reading today from your Goodreads TBR shelf? 

The Perfect Play (Play by Play, #1) by Jaci Burton

Series:
Narrator: Lucy Malone
Source: Tantor Audio

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton
Series: Play by Play, #1
Release Date: March 4, 2013
Format: Audiobook (8 hrs and 36 mins)
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Published By: Tantor Media
Purchase Links: Tantor Audio Amazon US

 

The last thing event planner Tara Lincoln needs is the jet-set lifestyle of a football pro like Mick Riley, even though their steamy and passionate one-night stand proved that Mick is an all-star—both on the field and in the bedroom.

Tara played the game of love once and lost big, and she doesn’t intend to put herself out there again, especially with a certified heartbreaker. But when Mick sets his mind to win, nothing will stop him. And he has the perfect play in mind to catch this sultry vixen.
two-half-stars

Aside from this book being uninteresting, I was baffled that two grown-ups were having such simple misunderstandings when they can just text or call each other.

Tara Lincoln was an event planner who was trying to make a name in San Francisco when she landed a huge contract to plan a preseason party for a professional football team. There she met a nice guy Mick Riley and they ended up in bed together. She later finds out that Mick is a quarterback for the professional football team, but they didn’t really discuss this “thing” being anything more. And that was part of the problem for me. There was very little or unclear communication about anything other than sex and career aspirations. Tara and Mick were good at having sex but discussing life and how to have adult relationships, they were quite juvenile in their actions.

Well, mostly Tara was the annoying character as she was full of assumptions and didn’t give Mick a chance to explain himself. She was just one of those heroines you want to slap. I liked Mick but their relationship seemed so shallow that I wasn’t sure why he would even want to put up with her drama.

The characters were not developed that well and the writing was so inconsistent for me. The narration made the story worse that I considered quitting on the audiobook several times and just reading the paperback. Honestly, this book was forgettable because there are plenty of better done sports romances with single parents finding love. I will try book 2 before I decide on this series but I will likely not listen to the audio because the narrator’s tone grated my nerves.

Ezi

Tease Me, Baby (O’Connor Family #2) by Katie Reus

Series:
Narrator: Sophie Eastlake
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: Tease Me, Baby by Katie Reus
Series: O’Connor Family
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Format: Audiobook (2 hrs and 43 mins)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published By: KR Press LLC
Purchase Links: Audible Amazon US

She never wanted perfection, but that’s what she finds.

Pastry chef, Fallon O’Connor is torn between her dreams and her obligations. Right before she reluctantly sets off for a degree she doesn’t want, she’s reeling from a mind-blowing encounter with Mr. Perfect. But one sexy, toe-curling kiss isn’t nearly enough when a Boy Scout like Sheriff Fulton lights her fire.

After one delectable taste, he’s never letting her go.

Brad Fulton would do anything for more time with Fallon. After all, he’s wanted a chance with her ever since she moved back to town. And just when things start to heat up, Fallon starts packing her bags—for a future without him. Now, it’s up to Brad to show Fallon that everything she’s ever wanted is right in Holly, North Carolina. But can Fallon trust her heart enough to stay?

three-half-stars

This novella was short but enjoyable. The narrator, Sophie Eastlake, is one of my favorites so I knew I was in for a treat. The story was set up as a good boy – bad girl trope. I didn’t read book 1 so I felt like I was missing a little of Fallon and Brad’s history. It was clear though, that the attraction that developed between the two was reciprocal.

Brad is the kind of guy I would want my daughter to marry. He is the sheriff, he is respected and he is completely responsible. Fallon wasn’t as wishy-washy as she appeared. She just held her cards close to the vest and didn’t share her dreams because she was afraid of visible failure.
These two had great chemistry and they actually communicated about their expectations and wishes for the future. For a novella, it was developed nicely and felt complete.

Ezi

About Katie Reus

Katie Reus is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Red Stone Security series, the Darkness series and the Deadly Ops series. She fell in love with romance at a young age thanks to books she pilfered from her mom’s stash. Years later she loves reading romance almost as much as she loves writing it.

However, she didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer. After changing majors many times, she finally graduated summa cum laude with a degree in psychology. Not long after that she discovered a new love. Writing. She now spends her days writing dark paranormal romance and sexy romantic suspense.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Narrator: Callie Dalton

Title: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Format: Audiobook (16 hrs)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published By: Tantor Audio
Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?
five-stars


Mariana Zapata came correct! The perfection lay in the way the author subtly developed the character’s relationship. The narrator Callie Dalton’s voice was so smooth that it didn’t feel like 16 hrs. She really gave vulnerability to Vanessa and a gruffness to Aiden that didn’t make him too much of a jerk. The narrator recitation brought these characters to life and aided my enjoyment!

Vanessa Mazur and Aiden Graves barely had a working relationship. Vanessa was Aiden’s personal assistant and he barely acknowledged her even though she kept his life operating smoothly while Aiden played professional football.

After Vanessa quit to pursue her own dreams, Aiden convinced her to return to his employ with promises to help her solve her financial dilemma. In turn, Vanessa agreed to help Aiden solve his issue regarding residency. From that quid pro quo agreement, The author slowly constructed a friendship, which then developed into a deep affection for one another.

The magic of this tale was that the characters were developed well and their individual journey of growth converged into a beautiful love story. The author allowed the reader to glimpses into Aiden and Vanessa’s past as they shared the events that molded their characters so I was able to feel their emotions. That’s a sign of awesome writing when the reader is drawn into the story instead of being told. Aiden and Vanessa came from troubled childhood so they both harbored hurts but through connecting with each other, they slowly let go of the pain and found comfort in their life together.

I didn’t really find the story as slow as others did because it was a steady and consistent to me. It didn’t feel long at all, but more like a well marinated and seasoned romance.

I will definitely check out more books by Mariana Zapata because she impressed me.

Ezi

Release Blitz & Giveaway: What Matters by Gracie Leigh

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK


Length: 50,000 words


Cover Design: Black Jazz Design


Blurb

“It’s a good fear, Sam. I’d miss it if it wasn’t there…”

Musical prodigy Eddie Dean gets everything she wants. The best violin, the best boyfriend, and a place at the best music school in London are hers until her father goes bankrupt. Once the financial facade comes tumbling down, Eddie’s broke and her boyfriend couldn’t care less.

The doorstep of Jimmy’s Café is the last place she expects to wash up.

Scrubbing dishes and serving fried breakfasts to pay her rent is as hellish as she imagined, and her new life is made worse by the distain of her boss’s sneering grandson. Sam Novak is arrogant, rude, and gorgeous, and if Eddie never sees him again, it will be too soon. Shame she can’t stop thinking about him. Dreaming about him. Craving him.

And then there’s his best friend Dylan.

Dylan is as light as Sam is dark, and Eddie wants him too. She can have him too—according to Sam—but when Sam reveals a vulnerability that could cost him his life, it’s time for Eddie to face the music. Does she still need to get everything she wants, or should she choose what matters?


Author Bio


Gracie Leigh is a pseudonym of Garrett Leigh

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with photographer Dan Burgess.

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