Wild Cards brings is the story of Derek and Ashtyn. Derek Fitzpatrick moves to Chicago with his stepmother after he is expelled from his private school for letting loose some pigs as a prank at the senior graduation. It is there, in his new home, that he meets Ashtyn Parker. Through a series of events Derek and Ashtyn learn what it means to love and forgive, while navigating the world of high school football.
Derek was a prodigy quarterback on the fast track to the NFL, when his mother was diagnosed and later died of lung cancer. At the end, when she was calling for him, Derek chose to go to football practice before going to the hospital, and when he finally got there is was too late. That choice has haunted him ever since, and he hasn't touched a football again. He doesn't take anything seriously anymore and only has casual hookups with girls, but when he meets Ashtyn when he moves to Chicago with his stepmother, that begins to change.
Ashtyn is the kicker for her high school's varsity football team, and recently appointed captain. She is the opposite of Derek in almost every way. She takes everything seriously and only wants a serious relationship. She wants someone who will love her unconditionally and won't leave her like so many others in her life have. They both have one thing in common: football. One will do anything to play the game, and the other will do anything to avoid going out onto the field.
I fell in love with this story from the very beginning. I really liked the dynamic between Derek and Ashtyn, not to mention the steamy makeout sessions. Everyone loves those swoony moments. I also like how football factors into the whole story. It's a prevalent part of the story and plays a major role in all the characters lives. There is one character that I found immensely entertaining and that was Derek's grandmother. She is a total snob and isn't afraid to say what she's thinking, but underneath all her haughtiness you can tell that she truly cares for Derek. She just covers it up with her snobbery.
Wild Cards ends with a very emotional and satisfying conclusion. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this series will go next. Will the next book be from a new characters point of view or will it continue with Derek and Ashtyn? Either way, I can't wait to read about the Fremont High football gang again.(less)
In A Vampire's Christmas Carol, Cynthia Eden has brought us a paranormal version of the classic Christmas story. Ten years ago, as he was meeting his girlfriend to propose, Ben was attacked by a vampire, turned, and left with the message "Welcome to the darkness." It wasn't until the death of his girlfriend that he was really plunged into that darkness. Now, ten years later, Ben is really close to becoming the true monster that people fear in the darkness. But three people from his past have come back to show him the past, the present, and the future, in the hope that he will change and take hold of the second chance that he's being offered.
Since Simone's death, Ben's been hunting criminals and killing them. But while he's in his own dark world, there are many things happening around him that he should have noticed but didn't. If he continues along his current path, he will be lost forever and this is what motivates someone from his past to risk everything to save him. Three visitors - a demon, an angel, and a shifter - show him key moments from his past, present, and possible future in an attempt to show him that he need to change. That his existence influences more than just himself. That he can do more than just kill. That he has worth.
I have loved every book by Cynthia Eden that I have read to this point, and it's no different with A Vampire's Christmas Carol. The characters are likable, and I really took a shine to William and Jamison. Ben became a broken man when he lost Simone, and even though he is very close to losing himself to the darkness completely, you can still see pieces of who he was before he was turned. And Simone is definitely completely devoted to Ben, even when she was away from him for so long. I had to admire her. And I even liked Cale. He has a small role in this story, but it's a very important one.
A Christmas Carol is one of my all time favorite Christmas stories, and it was just really awesome to read a paranormal version from one of my favorite authors in this genre. Although the characters are different, the story is just as powerful in its message. Even the most dark person can change for the better given the right motivation. All it takes is one moment to change everything.(less)
Gerald Faust was an angry kid way before his mother called Network Nanny to come to their house. But it hit a whole new level when the TV crews began invading their house. To show hi anger he used to punch holes in the walls, but after the TV show came, he began crapping on tables, in shoes, pretty much anywhere but the toilet. This earned him the nickname "The Crapper" and it has followed him to now, twelve years later. No one realized that he was trying to bring to their attention a very serious and life-threatening problem in their home, and it is still very much present now. And Gerald is still angry.
Gerald is a character that seems to have lost all hope of a future after Network Nanny ruined his life. He's been in anger management classes and been put into the special education class at school. The anger management he needed, but the special education he did not. People think that they know Gerald, but they do not. And when you learn the reasons behind his behavior as a small child, your heart really goes out to him. It isn't until Gerald meets Hannah that he begins to realize that he can make his own future, one where he can succeed. Network Nanny was one turning point in Gerald's life and meeting Hannah was another. One turning point was for the worse, and the other was for the better.
Reality Boy shows us the negative effects fame can have on children, or in Gerald's case "infamy." Even when the people involved in the show (particularly the fake nanny) realized that something wasn't quite right in that house, they did nothing to help the situation. They only cared about the ratings for their show and not how it affected those they were exploiting. Whether Reality Boy is an accurate depiction of the effects showbiz has on children or not, for this story it is not something I would ever want to involve my children in if I had any.
I really liked how the story went from Gerald's life now, to scenes of the Network Nanny show when he was five years old. We get a really good look into what was happening during that time to make Gerald the way he is now. There were some pretty entertaining moments, and seeing Gerald finally take a stand after so long was a great thing to witness. And that he was able to find love in the process made it all better. Gerald's not angry anymore.(less)
Sia Holloway wakes up in a park not knowing where or who she is. Only the words "Sia's Playlist" on the iPod on her arm gives her any clue on who she is. Lost and alone, Sia ends up on the street homeless for a week. If not for the help of a fellow homeless woman named Carol who befriends her, Sia may not have survived. One day after being chased out of the soup kitchen by a volunteer for some unknown reason, she is hit by a taxi and ends up in the hospital where she is reunited with her family. As she tries to piece together her fractured and forgotten life, she learns things about herself that are hard to hear, and she vows to change herself for the better.
Sia impressed me greatly in this book. If there were more people like Sia in this world, there would be no homelessness or hungry people. Even though she has gone through a pretty serious trauma, she still looks for ways to help others. And then when she begins to learn about who she was, how horribly cruel she was before her amnesia, she tries to find ways to better herself.
I liked how that story focused on Sia's journey, and not on the romance between her and Kyle. Usually when a love interest is introduced, the story tends to focus more on that relationship than the storyline the book began with. I also like how Sia and Kyle didn't have an insta-love. They worked toward a relationship and had to overcome some pretty big hurdles in the process, namely Sia's amnesia and whether she would revert to how she was before when her memories returned.
With stories like this, which are standalone novels, I like when there is a conclusion that ties up all loose ends, and you're not left hanging on anything in the end. Sia has an epilogue that takes place two years after Sia's amnesia that ties everything up real nice. There's a definitive ending to this book, and it's a happy one.(less)
Maggie Mitchell has an unexpected reunion with an old high school crush when she enters the lab for her undergraduate studies. But Sawyer Reed is a lot different than he was in high school. He is now in a wheelchair after a skiing accident paralyzed him. Maggie and Sawyer begin to reconnect, when she rear ends a police car and is sentenced to community service at The Little Theater, where she meets Jude Marino. Will Maggie be able to see past Sawyer's wheelchair or will be be blinded by Jude's bad boy good looks?
Although they were complete opposites in high school, Maggie and Sawyer are more alike now that they are in college. They both love science and don't want to do anything else career-wise in their lives. They just seem to connect on all levels. Jude, on the other hand, is one of those intense and brooding artistic types. He loves the theater and acting and plans to go to California when the time is right. Jude and Maggie seem to only connect on a physical level. Sawyer and Jude used to be best friends until Sawyer's accident. They were always competitive with each other, but now that Sawyer is in a wheelchair, Jude doesn't see him as an equal anymore. So now the contest is on for Maggie's affections.
I felt that Community Service had a pretty powerful message at its core. The physically disabled are not any less of a person because of their condition. In a lot of cases it makes them more than they were before. The romance was very sweet (and I'm not saying who Maggie chose), and I was very happy with how the book ended. I'd even say that everyone won in some way at the end. It may not have been what they originally wanted, but it was what they needed.(less)
Becca Merrit was sent a cryptic message from her brother telling her to find a member of their father's former Special Forces team, a man named Rixey, and to ask for his help. But when she enters the Hard Ink tattoo parlor and finds Nick Rixey, he wants nothing to do with the situation. She leaves feeling completely hopeless. Nick has his reasons for not getting involved with his former CO's daughter. But after she leaves Hard Ink, Nick can't help but check up on her. What he finds makes him realize that a whole lot more is going on than he first thought. It's a dangerous game they're involved in, with a life in the balance. Nick knows that he needs to gather his former teammates together and reconcile with them is they have any hope of protecting Becca, saving her brother Charlie, and clearing their names in a massive coverup.
As you're reading, there are times when you think you have the whole story figured out, but then something else happens to change all that. There are twists and turns, some expected and others that are a complete surprise. I just really like this story as a whole. The relationships that are formed and those that are reconnected have really strong bonds. The romance was complicated to say the least. The physical attraction was instant, but the feelings of love didn't come so easy. Becca and Nick had a lot to work through, mentally and emotionally. And when things seemed to be getting too serious and heavy, there were moments of humor. Hard As It Gets had a very well-balanced storyline that I enjoyed immensely.
You know, I really liked Nick. He's kind of down on himself, because he feels responsible for what happened to his team. He feels he should have noticed something sooner, and because he didn't half his team lost their lives. But you can see that he deeply cares for those that were lost and those that still remain. If it weren't for Becca entering his life, thought, there are a lot of chances that he would have missed out on. Not only does he find love with Becca, but because of what's happening to her and her brother, he was able to get the remaining members of the team together an reconcile with them the fact that he pretty much abandoned them after they returned stateside.
I really admired Becca. Even though her life is in great danger, she's willing to do anything to find and save her brother, Charlie. Her strength in the face of possibly losing the only family she has left and learning the hard truth about her father is amazing. A lot of people would bow beneath the pressure, but Becca carries it like a champ. And I loved how she was able to gain all the team's respect, knowing what her father did to them.
Shane McCallan, Beckett Murda, Edward Cantrell, and Derek DiMarzio are the remaining members of the team. I liked all of them, but I'd have to say that my favorite team member was Marz. He's probably to most easy-going guy on the team. He suffered the most debilitating injury of those that survived, but he doesn't let that stop him. Then there is Nick's younger brother, Jeremy, and his funny t-shirts. And I can't forget my favorite three-legged puppy. The naming process was really entertaining and the Hard Ink Puppy (I'm not saying her name!) was just so darn adorable. I wish she were my puppy.
I am really looking forward to what happens next in this series. Hard As You Can continues with Shane as the main character. And the same baddies and their nasty plot continue to haunt our Hard Ink heroes. It sounds pretty darn exciting!(less)