ARC Review: Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon

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Author: Josh Lanyon
Publication Date: April 23, 2018
Format: ARC
Page Length: 250 pages
My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.

Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. As unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst—but who?

MURDER MYSTERY IN THE HIGHLANDS. This was, for the most part, an entertaining story. The story works on introducing us to the characters and a tour of Scotland, but it definitely picked up around the 60% mark. That is a bit to read before getting to the main part of the story that keeps you on your toes. It’s almost a shame it’s a one-off and not part of a series, because I would love to read more adventures with Carter and John. The story is told solely from Carter’s POV, so John is a bit of a mystery and nothing is really revealed about him until closer towards the end of the novel.

This story is about Carter Matheson, a librarian who is stubbornly on vacation in Scotland as part of a bus tour for fans of a mystery author. He had booked this trip months ago with his then-boyfriend and when they broke up, Carter was not giving up his chance of a vacation and his seat to his ex’s current boyfriend. So, this trip starts off pretty awkwardly for everyone involved when his ex DOES bring his current boyfriend with him and their relationship is flaunted in front of Carter the entire trip.

That also leaves Carter without a roommate, and he is stuck with a mysterious last-minute addition to the group – John Knight. His presence is a big question mark, because he seems to know stuff about the author the tour group revolves around, but not really enough. Because wouldn’t only the superfans be willing to pay the kind of money it takes to go on this trip and visit all the places that are mentioned in the author’s books? John is one big mystery, while there’s a more sinister mystery lurking around the tour group when people keep dying or disappearing from their tour group.

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ARC Review: Medley (Changing Lanes #2) by Layla Reyne

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Author: Layla Reyne
Publication Date: April 23, 2018
Format: ARC
Page Length: 207 pages
My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

Sebastian Stewart was never Mr. Dependable; he was more the good-time guy who only wanted to swim, party, and ink tattoos. Until he cost his team the Olympic gold four years ago. Bas is determined to do right this time around—by his medley relay team and his rookie mentee.

Jacob Burrows is in over his head. The Olympic experience—from the hazing, to the endless practices, to the unrelenting media—makes the shy nineteen-year-old’s head spin. He’s trying to be everything to everyone while trying not to fall for his gorgeous tattooed teammate who just gets him—gets his need to fix things, his dorky pirate quips, and his bisexuality.

When Jacob falters under the stress, threatening his individual races and the medley relay gold, he needs Bas’s help to escape from drowning. Bas, however, fearing a repeat of his mistakes four years ago, pushes Jacob away, sure he’ll only let Jacob down. But the only path to salvaging gold is for Jacob to finally ask for what he needs—the heart of the man he loves—and for Bas to become the dependable one.

Medley is the sequel to Relay. Although the relationship could possibly work as a standalone, the story is strongly connected to the first book, and should be read as a sequel. Where Relay talks about the lead up to the Olympics, Medley picks up the story at the Olympics.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I love competitive swimming, especially so when it pertains to the Olympics. So, this book was right up my alley. I liked the characters, but I found myself preoccupied with the plot – will they or won’t they win gold during their team medley??? I…tend to get really caught up on the sports aspect of a book when there is a sport in the story. Which means that I should probably re-read this book now that I do know outcome.

But what I can tell you guys is that this book is about fly swimmer Sebastian “Bas” Stewart, and breaststroke swimmer Jacob Burrows. Bas has been on the team as long as the captain, Alex. Bas is the second-in-command, if you will, and Jacob is the new kid on the Olympic team. Bas has a bit of a reputation upon the Olympics crowd, one that cost the relay team their gold four years ago. He’s determined to not go down that same path this time around, but his growing attraction to Jacob could be his undoing.

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ARC Review: Life of Bliss (Love Life #2) by Erin McLellan

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Author: Erin McLellan
Publication Date: April 30, 2018
Format: ARC
Page Length: 211 pages
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

Nobody plans to accidentally marry their frenemy-with-benefits.

Todd McGower and Victor Consuelos do not like each other. They can’t have a conversation without insults flying, and Victor seems to get off on pushing Todd’s buttons. The fact that their antagonism always leads to explosive sex . . . well, that’s their little secret.

Victor has a secret of his own. His full-blown crush on Todd is ruining his sex life. He hasn’t looked at anyone else in months, and he’s too hung up on Todd to find a date to his cousin’s wedding.

In a moment of weakness after a heart-stopping night together, Todd agrees to be Victor’s fake boyfriend for the wedding. Victor will have his plus-one—which will get his family off his back—and Todd will get a free mini-vacation. It’s a win-win.

But pretending to be fake boyfriends leads to real intimacy, which leads to too much wine, and suddenly, Todd and Victor wake up with wedding bands and a marriage license between them. That was not their plan, but a summer of wedded bliss might just change their minds.

I feel like all I want to say about this book is that the characters are super precious and that everyone should GO READ IT. Because this is a book that makes me smile and makes me happy. I loved read it, and everyone should check out this book and Life on Pause! ❤

This story is a standalone, but I feel like you do get a better sense of who Todd and Victor are from their intro in the first book. This book is an enemies-to-lovers story with a fake boyfriend AND impromptu marriage trope!

Todd is a former high school football player who now plays the piano for the middle and high school choral groups. His ex, Rusty, is the choir’s music director, and got his own HEA in book one. They get along well, Todd even friends with Rusty’s boyfriend, Niles. Victor is Niles best friend, and had previously spent his days working on a cruise ship.

The story starts off with the Todd, Rusty, and Niles getting back from a vacation in Cancun and Victor meeting up with the trio for dinner. It’s really fun to watch Todd and Victor snark at each other in front of Rusty and Niles when you know it’s all just foreplay.

Todd and Victor had a thorny relationship. Victor was horribly gorgeous, sarcastic, and infuriating…And Todd loved hate-fucking him.

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Review: His Cocky Valet (Undue Arrogance #1) by Cole McCade

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Author: Cole McCade
Publication Date: May 11, 2018
Format: E-Book
Page Length: 347 pages
My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

Ash Harrington’s life is out of control.

At twenty-three years old, he’s suddenly the head of a multibillion dollar global corporation he is in no way equipped to run. His father is dying. His mother’s run away. He’s spent his entire adult life playing fast and loose with his life and his loves, but when he’s dragged into a position of responsibility with the fate of the company on his shoulders, he goes spinning into freefall.

And Brand Forsythe is the only man to catch him.

Icy, detached, nearly twice Ash’s age, the massive monolith of a British valet is impossible to deal with and like no servant Ash has ever met. Domineering and controlling, Brand quickly puts Ash’s life in order.

And quickly takes Ash in hand.

Even if by day Ash has to project authority, leadership, and calm…by night he’s discovering the breathless pleasure of giving up control. The shivering thrill of surrendering to Brand. The sweet taboo of being submissive to the man in even the smallest things. Ash can’t quite understand why it feels so good to put himself in Brand Forsythe’s capable, commanding hands.

He only knows, as he faces the hardest decisions of his life…the only thing that can save him is the love of his cocky valet.

This book was written in response to #cockygate (if you don’t know what that is, I highly suggest going on Twitter to see what it is), and for the time it took for this book to get written, edited, and published, the book is quite impressive. I did like the characters a lot, but the story just wasn’t really my thing. The story revolves around a character’s father having cancer, and the story never quite moves out from under that storm cloud.

This is one of those instances where it’s not you, it’s me…because I don’t handle dying family member stories well. Like, at all. And I didn’t realize what exactly this story would be before going into it. Yes, there are content warnings at the beginning of the book, and I appreciate the author putting them in, but I did not know just how large a part this would play into the storyline.

This story is about Ash, who suddenly has to take oven his father’s company when he discovers that his father is being moved into a hospice and that his father is dying from bone cancer. Ash is 23-years-old and while not entirely unprepared to take over the family business, he thought he had more time.

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Review: Unmasked by the Marquess (Regency Imposters #1) by Cat Sebastian

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Author: Cat Sebastian
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Format: E-Book
Page Length: 384 pages
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

The one you love…

Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.

May not be who you think…

Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.

But is who you need…

When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?

Why is this book not available in audiobook??? This book is absolutely wonderful and lovely and I just want to be able to re-read this over-and-over again when I’m commuting, when I’m at work, when I’m cooking, etc. You get the idea.

Cat Sebastian is my first foray into reading historical romance and I have loved every single one of her books.  Unmasked by the Marquess is no exception. I feel like it’s maybe a good thing I hadn’t really read any of her books yet when I went and got my current collection signed at a book festival last year; otherwise, I would have been flailing all over the place with my utter FEELS for these books and the characters.

This book is about Alistair, a marquis who has diligently spent his time trying to repair his family name and fortune from the scandals his father had once wrought upon it. He wishes to be the exact opposite of the man his father was and would love to see that his younger brother, Gilbert, have a sense of duty and not walk down the same path as their father.

His plans take an unexpected turn when a Robert Selby enters his home wishes for Alistair’s influence to help his sister, Louisa, get introduced into Society. This Robert Selby claims connections to Alistair’s father and Allistair initially does not see reason to help out this unknown man in his home. But it turns out that Robert Selby has been dead for some time now, and Charity Church has assumed his identify to help out Robert’s sister found a husband.

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Review: It Takes Two to Tumble (Seducing the Sedgwicks #1) by Cat Sebastian

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Author: Cat Sebastian
Publication Date: December 12, 2017
Format: Paperback
Page Length: 304 pages
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

Some of Ben Sedgwick’s favorite things:

Helping his poor parishioners
Baby animals
Shamelessly flirting with the handsome Captain Phillip Dacre

After an unconventional upbringing, Ben is perfectly content with the quiet, predictable life of a country vicar, free of strife or turmoil. When he’s asked to look after an absent naval captain’s three wild children, he reluctantly agrees, but instantly falls for the hellions. And when their stern but gloriously handsome father arrives, Ben is tempted in ways that make him doubt everything.

Some of Phillip Dacre’s favorite things:

His ship
People doing precisely as they’re told
Touching the irresistible vicar at every opportunity

Phillip can’t wait to leave England’s shores and be back on his ship, away from the grief that haunts him. But his children have driven off a succession of governesses and tutors and he must set things right. The unexpected presence of the cheerful, adorable vicar sets his world on its head and now he can’t seem to live without Ben’s winning smiles or devastating kisses.

In the midst of runaway children, a plot to blackmail Ben’s family, and torturous nights of pleasure, Ben and Phillip must decide if a safe life is worth losing the one thing that makes them come alive.

I’ve been putting this book FOREVER because I’ve been waiting for an audiobook release. I absolutely loved The Turner series in audiobook, and was expecting for these to be released in audio too; but alas, it seems like they will be released in audio for quite some time (if ever). I’m still new to historical romance, seeing as how I’ve only read the three books in The Turner series thus far. But luckily, Cat Sebastian has managed to rope me into the genre with this gay Sound of Music-ish story. Maybe without the songs, twirling about a hill, and all the children, but you get the idea.

It Takes Two to Tumble is about a vicar, Ben, and a sea captain returning home while on leave, Phillip. Phillip’s wife has passed and his three children are left to pretty much their own devices. No one wants to work at the Dacre house with the wild children, and it is only out of the goodness of his heart, and as a favor really, that Ben looks after them in the meantime.

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ARC Review: Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert

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Author: Annabeth Albert
Publication Date: April 16, 2018
Format: ARC
Page Length: 352 pages
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

I LOVED THIS BOOK. All the stars, you guys. Is this my favorite Out of Uniform book? I want to say…maybe? I managed to read this book in one sitting, because I could not put it down. It’s hard to beat At Attention and On Point, BUT this might have done just that.

The story starts out in the past, to the day Mark and Isaiah meet for the first time at Mark’s sister’s wedding. Back then, Mark definitely thinks Isaiah as being too wild and too young. The backstory is actually a sad one, marked by tragedy. Mark’s sister, Dani, and brother-in-law, Cal, have been killed in a car accident and leaves behind three children. Cal is Isaiah’s cousin. And while Mark was away in the military, Isaiah was the one who babysat and looked after the children. Mark knows next to nothing about raising kids, but will do anything within his power to make sure he gets custody.

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April 2018 Wrap-Up

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Hey, lovelies! Here’s my April check-in, and y’all, April has been a MONTH. I went to not one, but TWO book festivals this month and I am still recovering.

San Antonio Book Festival
April 7, 2018

It was my third year attending the San Antonio Book Festival, and this festival is a blast. There’s a lot of authors and the festival does invite quite a few big name YA authors every year. This year was ridiculously cold for no reason, but I got to meet Holly Black (for real this time, since the last time I met her was at a comic con and I was NOT prepared with books for her to sign) and Neal Shusterman! This is probably the…third time I’ve met Jason Reynolds, and he is a delight each and every time. His talks are always so inspiring and I definitely recommend going to meet him and listen to him speak if you have never done so!

North Texas Teen Book Festival
April 21, 2018

This is my first year attending NTTBF, and definitely my first time driving up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I was scared of going to this event at first because there’s a LOT of people. But then I remembered that I’ve braved comic cons in San Antonio and Austin with even more people in attendance, so why not go? I’ve been dying to meet Sarah Rees Brennan ever since I read In Other Lands last year, and she was my MUST MEET AUTHOR. She is so sweet and I could have talked to her forever.

Jennifer Nielsen was my other must see author because I read her Ascendance Trilogy three years ago, right when I started picking up books and reading again after college. Don’t let the fact that the series is middle grade fool you. It’s delightfully appropriate for all ages and contains plot twists that makes the series heartfelt and fun.

Other wonderful authors I got to meet were Nic Stone (check out Odd One Out coming out later this year!), Brendan Kiely (his latest book, Tradition, looks so good!), Shaun David Hutchinson  (I LOVED We Are the Ants and I need to read his latest works), and Ally Carter!

One of the best things about NTTBF is how they have a LOT of events specifically for teen readers and it’s one of the things I wish I got to have when I was in high school. The festival also makes sure to have a lot of books on hand for sale, and best part? They have most of the books signed, so even if you don’t get to meet an author in the big signing line at the end of the day, you get a chance to pick up a book first thing in the morning!

Will I be going back next year? I definitely plan to! ❤

Goodreads 2018 Challenge Update

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Review: Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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Author: Kelly Loy Gilbert
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Format: Paperback
Page Length: 368 pages
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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SYNOPSIS

Ten years ago, Braden was given a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in his father’s upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four mile per hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

Holy shit, you guys. What even is this book??? I saw this book at a bookstore and picked it up on a whim and I finally got a chance to read it. And I read the entire book in one day. It is just that good. I am entirely blown away by the fact that this is a debut novel. There’s an underlying intensity that builds and builds with each chapter. The story jumps between the past and the present, but it never feels like it’s taking away from the story. It feels like it’s another layer that gets peeled away to reveal the the heart of what makes these characters who they are.

Trigger warnings include homomisia, racism, emotional abuse/emotional manipulation, physical abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

This book is about 16-year-old Braden Raynor. In the beginning, we see him as a kid in the first grade and he’s with his dad and brother at a major league baseball game. It was the last time they all went to a game together. His brother is 11 years older, and by current day, he hasn’t seen his brother in two years. This story is subtle. At first. There’s tension between Braden’s older brother, Trey, and their father, Martin. But we’re led to think it’s just a teenage son butting heads against his dad. But is that really all there is?

Current day, Braden is home alone. His father got dragged off in handcuffs by the police, under the charge that he killed a police officer. They live in a small town where everyone knows everyone. Braden’s dad is a Christian radio show host and is beloved by the town. Braden was raised in church, and knows the bible. He believes in God and prays and bargains with Him to make things better. But this latest trial with his father is what really makes him question his faith.

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Blog Tour Excerpt + Q&A: Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope

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Author: L. Penelope
Series: Earthsinger Chronicles
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Page Length: 384 pages

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SYNOPSIS

A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers.

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Read on for an excerpt!

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