Monday, February 8, 2016

Until September by Chris Sully

Until September*** 1/2

As a teenager, Archie Noblesse clawed his way out of the poverty, heartache, and abuse of the reservation and left his family behind. Desperate to shake the shadow of his past, he reinvents himself as Archer Noble, an outspoken blogger and controversial author who lives only for himself. But when his beloved sister dies, Archer is saddled with guardianship of his niece and nephew.

Elementary school teacher Ryan Eriksson is devastated when his best friend Marguerite is killed, leaving her two young children orphaned. Helping Archer with his new responsibilities eases his grief, but when Archer offers him custody of the children, Ryan’s left with an impossible choice: get the family he’s always wanted, or respect Margie’s wishes and convince Archer to give parenting—and his heritage—a chance.

To buy time, Ryan promises to stay for the summer, hoping that Archer will change his mind and fall for the kids. But Archer’s reluctant, and the growing attraction between him and Ryan complicates matters. Legal decisions must be made, and soon, before Ryan returns to school. But with hearts involved, more than just the children’s future is on the line.


Review:

Archie Noblesse had a nightmare childhood.  Between watching his mother sell her body to pay for the drugs that were destroying her, his mother’s eventual disappearance and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his uncle as his grandmother looked the other way, it’s a miracle he survived.  But his desire to protect his sister was all the motivation he needed.  He ran away, he worked and scrimped and did unimaginable things so his sister could have a future.  Sounds like an amazing guy, right?  Not exactly.  Don’t get me wrong.  Archie is dedicated but his moral compass is a little out of whack – he makes his money on creating controversy. Enmeshed in that controversy is his inability to form relationships and his somewhat misdirected anger at Indian Reservation is which he grew up.  Having grown up without being able to depend on anyone (other than his younger sister) has made him into a man that lacks trust and has no desire to put his heart on the line for anyone.  Not even his niece and nephew.

Ryan Eriksson is, quite simply, adorable.   A sweet grade school teacher that wants nothing more than to have a family.   You know me.  I love a forever boy.  Any hero that just wants to take care of people immediately wins me over and Ryan was no exception.  The family that he wants so badly is being handed to Ryan on a silver platter when his late best friend’s brother (the famous Archer Noble) tries to sign custody of her children over to him.  But he made a promise that he would convince Archer to stick around (Margie had Archer’s number from the get go) so he does just that. 

The compromise is that Ryan move in for the summer and help Archer because Archer has no idea how to deal with two children let alone two grieving children.  As the summer progresses Archer finds himself falling for his niece and nephew and in turn faces the impossible hurdle of dealing with his own grief and anger about his childhood.  And, of course, he falls for Ryan too.  Until September is, first and foremost, a romance.  But the growing relationship between Archer and his niece and nephew are in no way overshadowed and are significant part of this story.

I found Archie’s character to be quite fascinating.  He’s not a kind or naturally empathetic person.  He’s super focused and ruthless.  What I loved most about this story was that even though his character grows, he never changes the core of who he is.  He was/is never abusive or cruel but in the end, Archer Noble is still an extremely driven man that will do anything he needs to in order to care for the people he loves.    

Before I close this review I have to commend Chris Sully for her in depth research on First Nations Cree and the history and politics of reservation life in Canada.  That research was evident throughout the book which was both informative and compassionate.  Archer Noble’s heritage and history were a significant part of who he was and Sully did not minimize that.

If you are looking for a m/m romance with plenty of angst and a promise of a happy ever after I highly recommend this one.  I definitely enjoyed Until September and I plan on reading more books by Chris Sully in the future.  


Nat

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Peek In The BiblioBin #186


Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the lovely ladies at Tynga's Reviews.


Stacking the Shelves is a way for bloggers to share what books they have won, received for review, bought from the bookstore, borrowed from the library or friend, etc.


For Review:


Never Let You Go (Never Tear Us Apart #2) by Monica Murphy

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Bend or Break #6-7) by Amy Jo Cousins


Borrowed:


A Taste of Honey: Stories by Jabari Asim

Drift by Sharon Carter Rogers


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Romance is in the Air Blog Hop Giveaway!


It's my birthday and I want to give stuff away!  We are thrilled to participate in the Romance is in the Air Blog Hop and offer a big thank you to Bookhounds for hosting.  We love a good romance, so this time, we are giving you any romance you want up to $15.  Really, who doesn't?  Hot boys, kissing, strong women...  I could go on, but really, we're all there for the hot boys!  

Check out the fine print in the Rafflecopter below and thank you all for stopping by!  

Don't forget to check out the other blogs participating in the Hop.  We are experiencing technical difficulties with the list of participating blogs, so here is the link to the Bookhounds giveaway post and their list is working.  Sorry for having to take the long way around; we are working on it. 


Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anything For You by Kristan Higgins

Anything for You (Blue Heron, #5)* * * 1/2

Before you get down on bended knee…

…you should be pretty darn sure the answer will be yes. For ten years, Connor O'Rourke has been waiting for Jessica Dunn to take their on-again, off-again relationship public, and he thinks the time has come. His restaurant is thriving, she's got her dream job at Blue Heron Vineyard—it's the perfect time to get married.

When he pops the question, however, her answer is a fond but firm no. If it ain't broke, why fix it? Jess has her hands full with her younger brother, who's now living with her full-time, and a great career after years of waitressing. What she and Connor have is perfect: friends with an excellent benefits package. Besides, with her difficult past (and reputation), she's positive married life isn't for her.

But this time, Connor says it's all or nothing. If she doesn't want to marry him, he'll find someone who does. Easier said than done, given that he's never loved anyone but her. And maybe Jessica isn't quite as sure as she thinks… 



Review:

I love a lot of romance tropes and Anything For You includes one of my favorites.  Falling-in-love-as-children/teens-then-finding-each-other-as-adults.   I’m sure there is a better way to describe it but we’ll just go with that for now.  Connor falls head over heels in love with Jessica Dunn when she not only saves him from a dog attack but also when he sees her usually hidden vulnerability after dealing with bullies all day at school.

Jessica Dunn is a wonderfully complicated heroine.  She learned in her teens to use sex as way to protect herself and her brother.  Yes, she had to deal with name calling (she lost count of how many times people have called her Jessica Does) but, to her, that was a small price to pay for safety.   After high school, she moved out to get away from her alcoholic parents and took her younger brother (who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) with her.  She worked multiple jobs to keep her brother safe and to give him every opportunity possible. She also busted her ass to work her way through school and earn a Master’s degree.  She proves she’s a fighter and survivor at every turn. 

Connor O’Rourke is a strange combination of simple and complicated. He’s really the ultimate introvert and I found him at turns to be frustrating (his relationship with Jess and his lack of understanding in regards to her brother) and completely loveable (his relationship with is sister and patient focus on the things he loves).

I understood their attraction to one another.  Connor is one of the few people that has seen Jess’s vulnerable side and he treats that with care (except for that one time but no spoilers – let’s just say I wanted to throw him through a window).   He also truly appreciates her dedication to her brother and her constant motivation to make a better life for them.  Jess sees Connor as one of the few people that treats her with respect and not just as someone that will easily agree to sex.  She stopped being that girl a long time ago and Connor is the one person that never saw her as that girl.  Match made in heaven right?  Of course not.

As amazing and strong as Jess is, you don’t walk away from a childhood like hers without scars.  Her need to care for her brother runs deeper than sibling devotion and she will do WHATEVER it takes in order to make her brother happy.  And, because of something that happened when her brother was small, her brother vehemently hates Connor.  To the point he becomes violent.   Rather than seeing if that is something that can be resolved therapeutically or medically, she decides that there can be no normal relationship for her and the one guy she’s ever been in love with.  But she’ll take what she can get with a secret relationship. 

Connor has his own set of parental issues.  Having a father that was not only unfaithful but also the kind of guy that would knock Connor down in order to put his twin sister on a pedestal.  Needless to say, Connor has some issues believing in his own self-worth when it comes to relationships. Which is why he puts up with Jess’ need for secrecy and their on-again, off-again relationship.   But after a decade he has to step back and decide if it’s worth the constant emotional strain and the sacrifice of his dreams of having his own family.   

But this isn’t just about their relationship.  Kristan Higgins does an amazing job of incorporating the growth and resolution of other relationships in Jess and Connor’s lives.  There is Connor’s attempt to forge a relationship with Davey which is sweet and sometimes alarming.  Jess and Davey’s dad shows up after being MIA for years.  He’s sober and wants to make amends.  Then there is Connor’s dad who is also looking to have a better relationship with his son.  None of these relationships are given quick fixes.  Each take work and they weave in perfectly with Connor and Jess’s romance.   

On top of that there are the positive relationships these two already have.  Between the Holland family and Connor’s twin sister, Colleen, these two main characters have an amazing and humorous support group.  Despite the heaviness of some of the story lines, there were some hilarious laugh out loud moments.  Higgins shows true adeptness at balancing comedy with serious situations in this novel.

I struggled with my rating on this book.  There was obviously a lot that I enjoyed.  But there was a lot that made me uncomfortable and/or annoyed.  Mostly in regards to Connor’s reaction to things.  His lack of confidence made him tactless and awkward to the point it was uncomfortable and not entirely forgivable.  In the end, he grows a backbone but until that point it could be difficult to read. 

That being said, I’ve read four out of the five Blue Heron books and this is my second favorite (it’s really hard to top Emmaline’s book, In Your Dreams).   If you are a Kristan Higgins fan, you won’t be disappointed one bit.  And if you enjoy your romance infused with the perfect mix of comedy and angst, I urge you to pick this one up.


Nat

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (179)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that highlights future releases that we are excitedly anticipating.


Out of BoundsBy A.R. Barley
Publication Date:  March 14, 2016

When the weather outside starts cooling down, inside the dorm things are heating up. Can these college roommates fall in love without going out of bounds?

Beaten and heartbroken, Jesse Cole is placed in a new dorm room after his last roommate attacked him. Just wanting to be left alone to heal in peace, he's shocked when tall, dark and dangerous-looking Nick Moretti walks in.

Nick doesn't have time to tiptoe around his new roommate—he's too busy working in order to pay for school. But something about Jesse brings out his protective instincts. As their cautious friendship grows and becomes loaded with sexual tension, he wants to make Jesse comfortable.

Enter the perfect plan: a line of tape down the center of the room. Boundaries established.

But as innocent movie nights become hours-long temptation marathons, and whispered chats from across the room delve into straight-up dirty territory, crossing the line has never been so satisfying.


The Haters
By Jesse Andrews
Publication Date:  April 5, 2016

From Jesse Andrews, author of the New York Times bestselling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and screenwriter of the Sundance award–winning motion picture of the same name, comes a groundbreaking young adult novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom as three young musicians follow a quest to escape the law long enough to play the amazing show they hope (but also doubt) they have in them.

Inspired by the years he spent playing bass in a band himself, The Haters is Jesse Andrews’s road trip adventure about a trio of jazz-camp escapees who, against every realistic expectation, become a band.

For Wes and his best friend, Corey, jazz camp turns out to be lame. It’s pretty much all dudes talking in Jazz Voice. But then they jam with Ash, a charismatic girl with an unusual sound, and the three just click. It’s three and a half hours of pure musical magic, and Ash makes a decision: They need to hit the road. Because the road, not summer camp, is where bands get good. Before Wes and Corey know it, they’re in Ash’s SUV heading south, and The Haters Summer of Hate Tour has begun.

In his second novel, Andrews again brings his brilliant and distinctive voice to YA, in the perfect book for music lovers, fans of The Commitments and High Fidelity, or anyone who has ever loved—and hated—a song or a band. This witty, funny coming-of-age novel is contemporary fiction at its best.
 


Tell the Wind and FireBy Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication Date: April 5, 2016

Tell the Wind & Fire is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone.

The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life…

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Making a Play by Victoria Denault

***1/2
He'll do whatever it takes to win--on and off the ice.

Luc Richard is the hottest player in the NHL--and it has nothing to do with hockey. His racy relationship with his supermodel ex set the tabloids on fire but nearly put his career on ice. To avoid being traded, Luc agrees to take a break from the spotlight--and from women--and spend the off-season at home in Silver Bay, Maine. It's the perfect plan... until he reconnects with Rose.

Rose Caplan is tired of being shy, sweet, and safe. She's ready for passion, romance--and Luc. Having loved him longer than she can remember, she's finally ready to prove she's not the same innocent little girl he once knew. Off the ice Luc doesn't do games, but this new Rose makes him feel like playing a little dirty. If he's really got a shot at her heart then he's not just playing to win. He's playing for keeps.


I love this series and Making a Play does not disappoint.  A family of uber-hot hockey players that are genuinely good guys (despite their playboy pasts)?  Yes, please.  Luc and Rose grew up together, their families close and they became close, but Luc always thought Rose was too good and innocent for the likes of him.  Rose has loved Luc her whole life, but he dates super models and lives the life of a hot professional sports star, so why would he want her?

Luc and Rose are the standard sweet girl and bad boy, who thinks he shouldn't have her, but there are enough twists in their story to keep it fresh and interesting.  Victoria Denault's Hometown Players Novel is sport's romance perfection.  The Final Move is leap frogging to the top of the TBR pile!

~ Shel

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Distance From A to Z by Natalie Blitt

* * *

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.



Two reasons I picked this book: the adorable cover and French. It’s that simple!

Abby is anxious to get away from her sports-centric family to escape to a summer program where she can indulge herself in the love of her life: the French language. See, her parents and older brothers are obsessed with everything baseball and the Cubs (well after last season, who can blame any Chicagoan?) Anyway, Abby needs a break and to establish her own identity far removed from all that incessant baseball chatter. What better way to do that than to immerse herself in a completely different culture!

She meets Zeke on her first day there and it’s not exactly love at first sight. Unfortunately, Abby has very high standards and if a guy shows any sign of being remotely interested in sports, baseball especially, then she’s out. Zeke is charming, pretty laid back and interested in Abby, and even though she’s made up her mind to be off limits. Though she can’t help but be into him, too.

There were two things that I wrestled with as I read this. One, I felt that Abby’s instant repulsion to baseball was exaggerated. I mean, I’m not a football fan but I don’t think I’m anywhere as violently opposed to it as she is to baseball. On the flip side, I get it that when you’re bombarded with something 24/7 and there’s no refuge from it, it can become a negative in your life. However, I also felt her very vocal negativity about it hindered honesty in her brewing friendship with Zeke. Here’s what really irked me, and it’s not just this thing between Abby and Zeke because anyone is capable of it, and it's this: accusing someone of not being truthful with you when in the first place, you yourself have not created a sense of acceptance. It may not make a whole lot of sense now but when you read the story, you’ll get what I mean, hopefully.

Despite that part of the story, I enjoyed everything else. I majored in French in college (though don’t ask me to speak it because I’ve not used in since) and it was such a treat to return to the language. I liked how Abby studied it and tried to live it as much as possible. Her love of the language and the culture is evident through the writing. It’s as if you’re inside her head as she’s absorbing and processing everything. Another highlight is Abby learning to help her roommate who suffers from social anxiety. I think it was a good lesson for her to see how people adapt to the hand that they’re dealt. Abby matures a lot by the end.

The Distance From A to Z is one of the cutest reads I’ve experienced. It’s sweet and funny with some challenges along the way. Abby is your typical teenager so this summer program is very much a learning curve for her in multiple ways. I say definitely give it a go!

~ Bel