Place(s) Traveled To: Boston, Massachusetts // Concord, New Hampshire
First Line(s): Lydia Kincaid could pull a pint of Guinness so perfect her Irish ancestors would weep tears of appreciation, but fine dining? Forget about it.
If you are looking for a fun romantic story then you really can't go wrong with a Shannon Stacey book and that's exactly what you get in her newest Heat Exchange. Heat Exchange is the start of a new series involving firemen in Boston and this book stars Lydia Kincaid and Aidan Hunt. Lydia has been leaving far, far away (or so the dialogue/text make it appear) in New Hampshire and she's called home to help run the family sports bar and local fireman hangout when her sister has marital troubles. On her return she finds instant attraction with fireman, Aidan Hunt but there are obstacles. The first being she was married to a fireman in the past and she's so not doing that again and Aidan is also her younger brother's BFF.
Falling for the friend of a sibling is one of my favorite tropes so I was really looking forward to this one. And while I did enjoy Aidan's and Lydia's relationship with her brother I never really felt the chemistry between them as a couple. Lydia had this HUGE chip on her shoulder and she was always throwing things in Aidan's face that had nothing to do with him. She was also hung up on the idea that if she didn't flee back to New Hampshire than she was stuck. As if all the family drama and her issues with her dad just magically disappeared once she crossed the border. Plus Lydia ran so hot and cold when it came to Aidan that it was a wonder that he pursued her at all.
Then there was the subplot romance between Lydia's sister and her fireman husband. Normally I hate this little subromances as they tend to take away from the main story but in this case I preferred those moments over Lydia's story as I liked those characters better. Although, I did want to shake those two characters as they were just so passive at times and really needed to just sit down and talk to one another. I'm so not a fan of plots that revolve around a lack of communication.
In the end, while Heat Exchange was a quick read it left me feeling a bit meh. The lack of chemistry between the main couple just made it hard to get into this book although I did like the world and the family dynamics. So while I didn't fall head over heels in love with this one I do plan on checking out future books in this series in the hopes that I like those characters better.
First Line(s): Jeremy Rixey stood in front of the ruins of half of the warehouse building he owned in east Baltimore - his home for the past four years, and wondered what the hell had happened to his life.
Hard to be Good is a short novella in Laura Kaye's crazy pants Hard Ink series and it tells the story of Charlie and Jeremy. Charlie is Becca's brother and Jeremy is Nick's, both who had their story told in the first book in the series, Hard as it Gets (my review). Hard to be Good picks up hours after the events in Hard to Come By (my review) end and nothing in this story really adds to the over crazy pants story arc. This is just a short little vignette that brings Charlie and Jeremy together as a couple which is something that has been in the works since the beginning. These two have danced around each other as secondary characters in the other books and it was nice to get into their heads for a bit.
Both of these characters made my heart ache as they struggled with their feelings unsure of where the other stood. Though, I felt that this story lacked depth and seemed to focus on the sexy times more so than the emotional bonding moments that make you really cheer for a couple to get together. Not that I didn't want Charlie and Jeremy to find their happily ever after because I did. I've been hoping since they first met that they would fall in love. And in many ways Charlie and Jeremy have a longer courtship than any other couple in the series even if theirs is one of the shorter stories.
Hard to be Good is a quick read and can be skipped if you just want to dive back into this whole crazy world that Laura Kaye has created. I for one though did enjoy the little break from the crazy times and enjoyed this installment in the series.
Place(s) Traveled To: Twin Oaks, Louisiana // Baton Rouge, Louisiana
First Line(s): I used to be the guy who had it all.
Some Kind of Normal is a companion book to Juliana Stone's Boys Like You (goodreads) and takes place after the events in that book end. Its a continuation of the story and you first meet Trevor in Boys Like You but you don't have to read that book in order to enjoy Some Kind of Normal. Which is a good thing because I still have to read Boys Like You which I've added to my wishlist since finishing Some Kind of Normal. Some Kind of Normal is told in altering perspective and switching between Everly and Trevor which is usually a narrative style that I enjoy. However, in this book the voices were just too similar that it was hard to tell them apart. I also thought that there was too much breaking of the fourth wall and explaining of what typical guy behavior was. This often took me out of the story and it felt like Stone was trying to hard for that authentic male voice.
In terms of story, there isn't a whole lot of originality in Some Kind of Normal. You have the good girl meeting the bad boy and the two fall in love. Everyone thinks the good girls life is all sunshine and roses but its not. Just as everyone thinks the bad boy has it all or in irredeamable but those assumptions too prove to be false. In the case of Trevor, he's recovering from a bad car accident that left him unable to graduate on time with his friends along with some lasting medical effects. Everly is the good girl who is assigned to tutor him over the summer so that he can graduate. She's a bit judgmental and stuck up and he's rude and aloof but eventually they find common ground and start to fall for each other. Sound familiar? Yes. But a story doesn't have to be wholly unique in order for it to be enjoyable.
Some Kind of Normal isn't a perfect book but it was a decent one and I enjoyed reading it. While the characters annoyed me at times I understood them and believed that they could be real people. The secrets that Everly and Trevor have are part of what separates Some Kind of Normal from all the other similar stories out their. They aren't alone in their struggles but because they hold things close to the vest they feel bigger and more insurmountable then they are. Some Kind of Normal is a book that you can get lost in. This was a quick read for me and I read it in just two short sittings. While I didn't always connect with Trevor's voice I did like his and Everly's characters. Mostly.
This was my first book by Juliana Stone but I liked her writing style and I am curious about her other books. As I said above I do plan on picking up Boys Like You and seeing how Trevor's story starts. If you are looking for a good beach read this summer then you might want to consider picking up Some Kinds of Normal. Its an easy read and a good way to waste a few hours while sitting in the sun soaking up some rays.
Place(s) Traveled To: London, England // St Petersburg, Russia // San Francisco, California // Coral Sea (Future)
First Line(s): My hand shakes as I brace myself against the brick wall.
Its no secret that I can be picky with books and so I was a little wary of Claudia Gray's A Thousand Pieces of You as it was a book a lot of my friends were talking about and hyped up books and I don't always get along. Since I do like audiobooks I thought that I would try A Thousand Pieces of You in that format and was a little unsure of it at first. I didn't trust one of the main characters and then there was that learning curve of trying to figure out just what was going on. A Thousand Pieces of You thrusts you right into the action and while I liked it I just wish there was a little more explanation at the start on what was going on.
By the 50% point though I was totally hooked on this story. I mostly loved the events in Russia and I think that was in part because they were Theo-less. I just got such a creepy vibe from him and that was in part due to the age difference between him and Marguerite. What I did like, was Marguerite. She was a strong character who was just trying to find the truth about what happened to her father. I liked how she wasn't boy crazy and that she made the best of all the various situations that she found herself in. I didn't always agree with her choices when she was living the lives of other Marguerite's but I do understand why she made them.
Overall, I did enjoy A Thousand Pieces of You. Once the story got going I couldn't listen fast enough though there were moments where things seemed to contradict themselves and I found that frustrating. There were things that happened that certain people shouldn't have known. However, things got to be a bit shaky at the end with hints of WTF-ery that just made me roll my eyes. There were things that happened that made me roll my eyes and I think it took away from the story a bit as it pulled back some of the earlier punches that this novel threw.
The ending of this also starts to set the stage for things to come in the next book in the series and while I get that the seeds need to be set I do think that there were times they were a bit distracting in A Thousand Pieces of You. That said though, this is a book that I would recommend as overall it is a fun and unique read. If you like audiobooks then you might want to check this one out as Tavia Gilbert did an amazing just bringing this book to life. Gilbert didn't have it easy either as there were many accents that she needed to cover throughout the length of this story. Accents can always be such a tricky thing in an audiobook and Gilbert nails them every single time.
First Line(s): I swallowed past the lump in my throat and leaned over to pat Chopper, the dog I'd inherited from Joe, my latest asshole boyfriend.
Over the last year or so I've noticed a bit of a trend in long term series, in that there will be at least one book featuring and LGBT couple or one involving BDSM. Christina Lee already did a light BDSM story with Promise Me This (my review) and now she's trying her hand at an M/M romance with There You Stand.There You Stand is billed as part of Lee's Between Breaths series but for me, this one doesn't really connect very well to the other books in the series. There isn't a lot of overlap between the other books and so this one is more easily able to be read as a standalone novel. The story revolves around tattoo artist Cory and a new guy in town the quiet and ofttimes shy Jude. Cory is out and proud and while he likes Jude he can't get a good feel for him as he barely talks to those around him. The two become closer when Jude approaches Cory for a tattoo and they slowly become friends.
I liked the chemistry between Jude and Cory and thought that the romance was sweet and even a little heart achy. It contained so many elements that I love and this one was quickly working its way to becoming a favorite read. But then the narrative changed and there was this whole other crazy story element added to the story. Jude's backstory is a bit convoluted and over the top and it just became a bit of a distraction for me. I know I rolled my eyes more than once and I just found it hard to believe. To me, this aspect of the storyline really came out of no where and didn't add much to the story except for unnecessary drama. Its this story line that also really sets it apart from the other Between Breaths books.
I did enjoy There You Stand and its a book that I will probably recommend to some of my friends there were just elements about it I didn't really care for. I wish that it had stayed with a romance focus and avoid that unnecessary drama or that random motorcycle club. It was just odd and didn't really seem to fit and all the cryptic references leading up to the big reveal just annoyed me. I've never been a fan of cryptic comments and foreshadowing of things to come. Well, maybe once or twice is fine been when its brought up time and again it just grates on my nerves and I find myself yelling at the characters to just spit it out already!
There You Stand is a quick read and I read it in a day. I was engaged enough with Jude and Cory's romance that I kept turning the pages looking to see how they'd reach their happily ever after. I loved the early moments between these two when they were both learning how to open up and trust the other. And I loved their game of Truth. It was just a simple and yet often emotional way to get across so much information without having to say too much. Seriously, without that motorcycle club aspect I probably would have ended up rating this one much higher and if I ever do decide on a re-read then I'll probably just skim through reading those bits that I loved best and trying to ignore some of the other aspects of the story that I found distracting or just so-so. All in all though, if you are a fan of Christina Lee then you should give this one a shot as she does know how to write a good love story.