Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Complete Me by J. Kenner

Title: Complete Me
Series: Stark Trilogy #3
Author: J. Kenner
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 07/30/2013
Publisher: Bantam
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"For fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You comes the third novel in the erotic, fast-paced trilogy including Release Me and Claim Me. This sexy, emotionally charged romance continues the story of Damien Stark, the powerful multimillionaire who’s never had to take “no” for an answer, and Nikki Fairchild, the Southern belle who only says “yes” on her own terms.

Our desire runs deep. But our secrets cut close.

Beautiful, strong, and commanding, Damien Stark fills a void in me that no other man can touch. His fierce cravings push me beyond the brink of bliss—and unleash a wild passion that utterly consumes us both.

Yet beneath his need for dominance, he carries the wounds of a painful past. Haunted by a legacy of dark secrets and broken trust, he seeks release in our shared ecstasy, the heat between us burning stronger each day.

Our attraction is undeniable, our obsession inevitable. Yet not even Damien can run from his ghosts, or shield us from the dangers yet to come."


MY THOUGHTS

Warning: "spoilery" fangirling contained herein!

*HEAVY sigh*...*sniff sniff*...*happy swoony face*...

So, that's all she (Julie Kenner) wrote. Damien and Nikki's story is completed! NONONONONO!!! I mean the ending was positively ("Yes") scrumptious, but I have come to care for Damien and Nikki more than, do I dare say it, Christian and Ana?! >:O We're going to miss them, aren't we? *more sniffing* GAH!

Ah, I do believe that Damien Stark has the singularly most sensuous "voice" I've ever read. What makes him so...swoon-worthy? Is it the way he speaks to Nikki? (rapidly nodding my head)
“You’re the one person in all the world I cannot bear to hurt, and yet I’m the one who put fear in your eyes.”
And then there was...
“You’re what gives me strength. If I am what centers you, Nikki, then you are what anchors me. Every time I touch you, every time I bury myself deep inside you— Nikki, don’t you see? You are the talisman of my life, and if I lose my grip on you, then I have lost myself.”
Honestly, there were so many hot, sexy, and even sweet passages they could fill a book. *facepalm* DOH! They did fill the book! ;)

Is it the great gifts he gives her? Not all bazillionaires give the perfect gift every time, but Damien does. (uh huh, uh huh)

Could it be what he does to her? Or, maybe it's what he does for her? I'd say it's more like he recognizes what she wants him to do to her and what she needs him to do for her.

Well, his sexy notes sure don't hurt...
"Tonight I’ll show you just how much a woman with her own business turns me on. Until then, imagine me, touching you. —D" *dreamy sigh*
Damien and Nikki are two highly functional, emotionally damaged characters, but dammit, they are good for each other. They sizzle and spark, but I'll say it again (mentioned it in my review for Claim Me) their flirtatious interchanges are...the...best!!!

Not only was Complete Me erotic with touches of sexy humor, it was also quite suspenseful. There were several mysteries to be solved, and there was that devastating separation. Thaaaat killed me! <\3 (<------brokenhearted)

Ahh, but when Nikki found Damien. Oh GAWD!!! Then they... ('}{') <---kissed and ...YOU know how they are! SSSSSST!!!

Then, Damien, he says AND does the exactly perfect thing...
“There’s only one woman in the world who can bring me to my knees. So tell me, Ms. Fairchild. Will you do me the greatest honor? Will you be my wife?”
And, then there's that "YES" that made their story so epically freaking perfect!

I am going to miss them, but I also know each time I revisit them all those feelings I had the first time will not have diminished. Julie Kenner, I LOVE YOU for writing these two characters. Thank you for every single word!!!



Monday, July 29, 2013

Vegan Dessert: Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies


Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies, originally uploaded by valeehill.
Made using King Arthur Flour, Florida Crystals Organic Sugars, Earth Balance Margarine, Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Silk Soy Milk, real Vanilla extract, and other premium vegan ingredients. And since we all like chewy cookies I baked them the for lowest recommended time. Delicious!

From a recipe included in the book The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker

Title: One Tiny Lie
Series: Ten Tiny Breaths #2
Author: K.A. Tucker
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 06/11/2013
Publisher: Atria
Genre(s): Contemporary New Adult

DESCRIPTION

"In this follow-up novel to the top-selling Ten Tiny Breaths, Livie Cleary faces a new set of challenges as she navigates freshman year at Princeton, wild parties, and the gorgeous rowing team captain who is everything she doesn’t want in a guy, or so she thinks…

“Make me proud.” These were the last words Livie’s father ever spoke to her. In the seven years since her parents’ tragic death, Livie has done her best to keep this promise through her every choice, word, and action, while looking after her sister with strength and maturity. But with college right around the corner, unexpected challenges will test her resilience—and her heart.

Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she’s dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy to marry someday. What isn’t part of her plan are Jell-O shots; a lovable, party animal roommate she can’t say “no” to; and Ashton, the arrogant—and extremely attractive—captain of the men’s rowing team who makes Livie’s usually non-existent temper flare. Worse, he’s best friends and roommates with Connor, who fits Livie’s criteria perfectly. So why does she keep thinking about Ashton?

As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn’t have, she’s forced to let go of her last promise to her father and, with it, the only identity that she knows."

 MY THOUGHTS
 
*minor spoilers contained herein*

To begin, let me say I thought Livie and her story were "remarkable!" I felt the preceding book in the series, Ten Tiny Breaths, was a very good read, but there's something special about Livie...

First impressions: I loved the beautiful cover, was intrigued by the title, and found the "blurb" to be altogether tempting. All very effective at building anticipation for a new release; especially in a continuing series. Well done!

The few hours I spent reading One Tiny Lie I chuckled, laughed, sighed, trembled, and cried. Oh, not ugly crying for I didn't find any element of it that crushing; thank goodness. I wanted the worst to be behind Livie and Kacey—no more devastating setbacks, please! Livie certainly faced a lot of challenges in the book, but those challenges got her to rethink the life plan she put into effect with the death of her father, in particular.

Livie was pretty much the polar opposite of her outrageous sister, Kacey—in appearance, in behavior, in their opposing lifestyles...just about every way, but in sisterly affections they were united.

The book began with this epigraph:
    I walk away.
    I walk away from the voices, the shouts, the disappointment.
    I walk away from my deceptions, my mistakes, my regrets.
    I walk away from all that I am supposed to be and all that I cannot be.
    For all of it is a lie.
Powerful, right? It certainly got me all shivery and wanting to find out exactly what had happened to influence this dramatic decision.

Very early on in the book Kacey had traveled with Livie to Princeton to help her settle in. Livie had only just decided to have regular "chats" with her sister's highly unconventional therapist, Dr. Stayner. Between his suggestions, Kacey's guidance, and Livie's new roommate, Reagan's, influence Livie was pretty much blackmailed into attending a Toga Party her first night on campus. What ensued was waaaaaay too much drinking, recklessly outlandish behavior, and several other "firsts" for Livie. Let me say that I am not a fan of excessive drinking in any scenario—real life or in fiction, and I especially dislike underage drinking. However, even with my being displeased about the excessive drinking in One Tiny Lie I still found myself laughing over the shenanigans that occurred while Livie, in particular, was sauced! I would have to attribute my finding any humor at all in the drunkenness of these young people to the inordinately sharp and witty exchanges that managed to occur despite their inebriated state. I very much appreciated that the author relied on clever verbal exchanges rather than incoherent ramblings, which would not have been interesting in the least. So, kudos for K.A. Tucker for making her characters fascinating even while drunk! :)

For those of us eager to get to the introduction of the romantic hero in our books, during that same party, while doing Jell-O Shots, Livie met Ashton Henley in a rather, um, forceful way. I won't divulge specifics, but he certainly made an impression. An impression so strong that sweet Livie let loose with her first-ever punch! Afterwards, Kacey threatened Ashton on behalf of her sister, and in her verbal diatribe used the word "capisce!" The use of that word was perfection. It got me good!

Of course, even with being drunk, overly confident, a "giant ass", and, let's face it, a man whore, Livie still found Ashton "dreamy." Apparently, even first impressions of a hugely offensive nature weren't everything, because the things that Livie and Ashton did later that evening were all kinds of crazy. Some of those things led to Ashton giving her a new nickname, and both of them ending up with permanent reminders of their escapades! And, when she didn't remember much, would he tell her? Yes, but only incrementally, and only with bargaining playing a part. What a tease he was!

As the story proceeded other characters were introduced, including Connor, who in all ways should have been Livie's perfect guy. He was polite, charming, smart, good looking, and had an Irish brogue that reminded her of her father's. See? Should have been perfect. Upon meeting him she was not made aware of exactly whose friend and roommate he was though. Oops!

I don't recall much of the book actually taking place during class or times of study. I think most of it dealt with character interaction—Livie's with Reagan, with Connor, with Dr. Stayner, and with Ashton. Livie also has a few emotional volunteer visits with a couple of brothers in a playroom at Children's Hospital. *sniff*

More parties were attended, too much drinking inevitably occurred, Connor was unceasingly charming, and Ashton continued to show up—frequently. In effect, he drove Livie to distraction. He flirted and teased and had her doubting her sensibility. She should have thought him off limits for many reasons, including a "complication" Livie's good sense recognized as the biggest barrier of all.

Even though Ashton avoided answering Livie's personal questions, and alternated between dallying with her and telling her he was no good for her I wasn't driven crazy by their collective self-denial. I contribute that to strategic plot development. Kathleen Tucker carefully created a storyline where Ashton's secretive nature and Livie's uncertainty only made me want to uncover what made these two tick, and not pull out my hair in exasperation. So, some angst, but not overdone. What a relief!

Also, despite the fact that no outright declarations of love were made Ashton would stir Livie up saying things like:
“Because you’re not a one-night girl, Irish.” Leaning in to place a kiss on my jawline, he whispers, “You’re my forever girl.”
However, he didn't just say things to make her reconsider her not-so-favorable opinion of his character—he did things too.

After she admitted to herself that she was indeed attracted to him she thought this:
Wait. Is he available? He never answered my question. But I guess a whore is always available, so it’s a moot point.
Oh Livie, you are precious!

When she consulted with Dr. Stayner about how to tell when a guy really liked you, Dr. Stayner shared this bit of "knowledge" with her:
“It’s usually by the things he does rather than the things he says. And if he does them without making a show of it, then he’s got it bad.”
The chemistry between Livie and Ashton really couldn't be denied, and even though it was pretty much instantaneous the "build" was still very much present. That is an important part of this kind of romance, I think. Inevitably Livie's empathetic and observing nature provided her with insight into some of the horror from Ashton's past. This led to the pivotal event, which further inspired the epilogue at the beginning of the book and featured above.

I want to clarify that although this is not a wrapped-up, happily-ever-after ending it does insinuate a promising future for Livie and Ashton. This is a perfectly wonderful way to end book two in the Ten Tiny Breaths Series, and to mentally prepare for the wait for book three, Four Seconds to Lose. That will be Cain's story, and it has an expected publication date of November 4, 2013.

Autograph from the Richmond Author Event 12/14/2013!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: Lick by Kylie Scott

Title: Lick
Series: Stage Dive #1
Author: Kylie Scott
Published: 07/01/2013
Publisher: Self-published
Republished: 11/11/2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre(s): Contemporary Erotic Romance

DESCRIPTION

"Waking up in Vegas was never meant to be like this.

Evelyn Thomas's plans for celebrating her twenty-first birthday in Las Vegas were big. Huge. But she sure never meant to wake up on the bathroom floor with a hangover to rival the black plague, a very attractive half-naked tattooed man in her room, and a diamond on her finger large enough to scare King Kong. Now if she could just remember how it all happened.

One thing is certain, being married to one of the hottest rock stars on the planet is sure to be a wild ride."


 MY THOUGHTS
 
*minor spoilers contained herein*

This is how it's done and done very well indeed. After a couple of bumps in my road to romance reader nirvana I began reading Lick and almost immediately felt a sense of relief. I don't know how I would have handled another disappointment. Fortunately, Kylie Scott wrote a rockin' good read!

I really wasn't up for another angst driven book, but that didn't mean I wanted something light either. I think in David Ferris and Evelyn Thomas the author created characters that were neither damaged nor haunted, but rather understandably affected by some unpleasant events in their lives. David by desertion, cheating, and the "f*ckwittery" (concisely colorful description, BTW) he had to deal with as part of his celebrity, and Evelyn by a jerk of a first boyfriend and her father's plan for her life.

When Evelyn awakened on the floor of that Las Vegas hotel bathroom she most assuredly regretted tying one on for her twenty-first birthday. She also, through blurry eyes, realized that the man asking her if she was okay was "strangely familiar", beautiful, and not like anyone she'd ever met before. Yeah, David made a very pleasant first impression on me too. :) Before long she realized he should have been familiar, but couldn't recall the chain of events that led up to the shocking discovery...of the five carat stunner on her left hand—"Holy sh*t!"
“Let me get this straight, you don’t remember anything?” “No,” I said, swallowing hard. “What did we do last night?” “We got f*cking married,” he growled.
Instead of wondering how on earth the aftereffects of this 'insta-marriage' were going to be explained I read on with acceptance. Their reactions didn't seem fictionally phony at all. David recalled everything and Ev didn't remember anything...at this point. What followed was the understandably intense display of emotions brought about by frustration and bewilderment.

Evelyn decided that whatever happened in Vegas was gonna stay there, because she naively thought she would keep her marriage a secret. HAH! She planned to go back to Portland with her best friend, Lauren, resume her studies and her job as a barista. Meanwhile, David and his attorneys were to take care of the "mess" (divorce) in Los Angeles. Other than knowing her new husband's given name was David (I will leave it to you to discover how she learned that!) she was completely unaware of exactly who he was until she arrived at her hometown's airport. There she was immediately accosted by paparazzi and required a fast-thinking Lauren to get her outta there.
“Ev?” With a small smile Lauren patted my knee. “Did you somehow happen to get married while we were away?”

“I … yeah. I, uh, I did. I think.”

“So, who did you marry?” “D-David. His name is David.” “David Ferris, by any chance?” The name sounded familiar. “Maybe?”

“Do me a favor?” she asked. “Mm?” “Don’t break up my favorite band.” “Ohmygod.” I shoved the sunglasses back up, frowning hard enough to make my head throb. “Guitarist. He’s the guitarist. That’s where I know him from.” “Yes. He’s the guitarist for Stage Dive. Well spotted.”
So, not the criminal she absently considered—a rock star!

Evelyn escaped to her parents' house where her previously ordinary life further unraveled. Rather quickly David sent someone (Sam, the most polite, respectful, and likable bodyguard ever) to escort Ev to L.A. to sign "the papers." What followed her arrival in La La Land should have been enough to have her agree to anything and hurry home. Evelyn, however, showed gumption in the face of evil (um, the attorneys, and David's bitchy personal assistant) before being rescued by David's friend and band mate, Mal.

David felt horrible about how Evelyn had been treated by his attorneys and he genuinely wanted her to remember why they decided to get married in the first place. He relayed to her how they met, and then what it was about her that attracted him to her. (I thought they were all wonderful reasons!)
“You treated me like a normal person. We just talked about everyday stuff. You weren’t angling to get anything out of me. You didn’t act like I was a different f*cking species. When you looked at me it felt …

It felt real, okay? It felt right. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
As David and Evelyn spent time together I found so many things I appreciated about them! Ev was mildly self-conscious, but not overly concerned about her appearance. Even when she was feeling overwhelmed or justifiably upset her "pity party" lasted only momentarily before she "pulled up her big girl panties" and moved on. She was not a doormat, but she was not unpleasant either. She was also good at self-evaluation and when she did something she considered wrong she tried not to repeat it—like drinking in excess.

David was moderately burned out and, I think because he immediately recognized how special Evelyn was, that he was subconsciously looking to change up his life. Even though David was presented as a very masculine guy who was not afraid to use strong language or his obviously bodacious charms, he still showed the ability to openly communicate with Ev. He intuitively exhibited patience and tenderness with her, but was keenly aware when she wanted more. I don't recall him ever pulling the "celebrity card" on her and when a misunderstanding led to an estrangement he was willing to turn his life upside down to get her back. I liked how he was willing to be playful with Evelyn and how he gently coaxed her into recalling more of the events from the night they married. Something else I found enjoyable was the playfully crude teasing and obvious camaraderie between David and his friends. Mal, in particular, was very entertaining!

The fact that David wrote and performed beautiful music for Evelyn sure didn't hurt his prime book boyfriend status either. *swoon*
“Hi. Sorry to interrupt, folks. My name’s David Ferris and I’d like to play a song for my wife, Evelyn. Hope you don’t mind.” Stunned silence broke out into thunderous applause. David stared at me across the sea of people as everyone swamped the dance floor to get closer. “She’s a Portland girl. So I guess that makes us in-laws. Be gentle with me, yeah?”
One thing I was hoping would happen that didn't in this book was a wedding ceremony that included friends, family, and a sober bride and groom. Since this is book one in the Stage Dive series, maybe that will happen in an upcoming release. There should be three more, because Jimmy, Mal, and Ben need to find their own Evelyns!

So, five shiny (rock) stars for sharp writing, clever dialogue, great chemistry, an extremely likable heroine, and all that is David Ferris!

My Autographed Copy from Kylie Scott - 09/30/2013!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Week at the Beach



My husband, daughter, dog, and I spent a week in Nags Head, North Carolina, with my husband's family. Being a total bookworm I spent entirely too much time reading (finished FOUR books while I was there!), but I managed three wonderful strolls on the beach. It was gorgeous, and surprisingly not too crowded in the early morning. It rained several times and I preferred the cloudy skies to the sunny weather that came later in our stay. This was my daughter's and my first time in North Carolina and my third time seeing the Atlantic Ocean. I much prefer the dunes to the overdeveloped shoreline I had previously visited. It was breathtaking!