Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

 

Book Description:

Published: July 30, 2019

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this game, even winning can be deadly…

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

Review –

It was supposed to be book club as usual: a group of suburban mothers gathering to talk over a glass of wine or two and then going home to bed. But when new neighbor Angelica Roux shows up at hostess Amy’s door, it doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose. The booze flows freely, and soon the women are engaged in a game: What is the worst thing you did today? This week? This month? In your life? There are many women in the gathering with secrets to protect, but none more than Amy, who, as a teenager, committed a terrible crime that almost destroyed her. Saved by her love for diving, and then by meeting her husband and stepdaughter, Amy has worked hard to build a normal, stable life; she even has a new baby.

Angelica has come to threaten all of this; she clearly knows about Amy’s past and will expose her to her loved ones if Amy doesn’t pay her. As Amy tries desperately to outscheme Angelica, she also realizes just how much she has to fight for—and what she might be willing to do to keep her family safe and her secrets buried.

This is a fantastic book and once you start reading or listening(as in my case), you can’t bear to stop.

There are so many twists and turns. Just when i thought I knew the motive for all of Roux’s actions, the author throws a curve ball that puts the story in a totally different direction. No spoilers, but you don’t get to the true crux of the plot until the end and what an ending it is!

Five stars!

The Fire Between High & Lo (Elements #2) by Brittainy C. Cherry

Book Description:

Published: March  25, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

There once was a boy, and I loved him.

Logan Francis Silverstone was the complete opposite of me. I danced while he stood still. He was quiet, and I was always running my mouth. He struggled to find a smile while I refused to frown.

The night I saw the darkness that truly lived inside of him, I couldn’t look away.

We were broken together, yet somehow whole. We were wrong together, but always right. We were the stars that burned across the night sky, searching for a wish, praying for better tomorrows.

Until the day I lost him. He threw us away with one hasty decision—a decision that changed us forever.

There once was a boy, and I loved him.

And for a few breaths, a few whispers, a few moments, I think he loved me, too.

Review –

This is the second book in the Elements series by Brittainy C. Cherry and boy oh boy can she write the Hell out of angst!

The Fire Between High & Low is not an easy book for me to read. There was so much angst. I had to take breaks. I even knew at 4% that this book was going to wreck me, and it did. The author is like a puppeteer who pulls at your heartstrings until you have no choice but to feel. I sniffled, I cried, I bawled big, fat, ugly tears. It wasn’t within my power to NOT feel empathy for these characters and their situation. This made their HEA so much more powerful, too.

Alyssa (High) and Logan (Lo) came from opposite sides of the track. Each had different interests. Each lived very different lives. They were opposite in most every way that should have mattered. But their spirits were the same. Each was damaged from their parents — whom I hated with every fiber of my parental being! Each was lonely and desired to be loved.

What started out as childhood friendship eventually turned into teenage love. They depended on each other for their mental well-being. Spending time with one another, laughing with and supporting each other, they were inseparable. High needed Lo as much as she needed him. And then due to lies and manipulation, Lo left. Leaving High to figure out how to live without him.

Fortunately, this is written in dual POV. I don’t think this would have worked any other way. Because when Lo acted like an ass, we eventually found out why.

This story shows the power of how people can endure so much hurt, but overcome it. They couldn’t catch a break. Bad things kept getting between them until they didn’t.

Their story is a train wreck happening in slow motion and I couldn’t look away!!!!!

Five stars!

 

The Air He Breathes (Elements #1) by Brittainy C. Cherry

Book Description:

Published: September 25, 2015

Format: Audio/Audible

I was warned about Tristan Cole.

“Stay away from him,” people said.
“He’s cruel.”
“He’s cold.”
“He’s damaged.”

It’s easy to judge a man because of his past. To look at Tristan and see a monster.

But I couldn’t do that. I had to accept the wreckage that lived inside of him because it also lived inside of me.

We were both empty.
We were both looking for something else. Something more. We both wanted to put together the shattered pieces of our yesterdays.

Then perhaps we could finally remember how to breathe.

Review –

The Air He Breathes had all the makings of a rich, romantic and beautifully told  “second chance at love “story between two wretchedly broken characters seeking solace with, and in each other following the loss of their loved ones.

The slow to smolder relationship was superbly and sensitively handled by the author,Brittainy C Cherry, the romance was emotional and yet encompassed a swoon factor that took my breath away.

The slow burn relationship was superbly and sensitively handled by Brittainy C Cherry, the romance was emotional and yet encompassed a swoon factor that took our breath away. She also showed us that the previous relationships were just as important as the new one.

The sex scenes are HOT  but low-key so I place this book in the “soft smut” category, meaning they are there for a purpose and not just to take up space.

It’s a sad but beautiful love story with a shocking event near the end and I gave it five stars!

 

 

Corrupt (Devil’s Night #1) by Penelope Douglas

Book Description:

Published: November 17, 2015

Format: Audio/Audible

Erika

I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession.

His name is Michael Crist.

My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me.

But I noticed him.

I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away.

Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore.

Because he’s finally noticed me.

Michael

Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika.

My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.

Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college.

In my city.

Unprotected.

The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing. Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out.

We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.

***Corrupt can be read as a stand-alone. No cliffhanger.

Review –

This is the first book in the Devil’s Night series by Penelope Douglas.  Each book focuses on a different man from the main group of friends. The story takes place in the same world as stand alone Punk 57(whose main character is cousins with a character from the Devil’s Night series). You could read this as a stand alone too because there is no cliffhanger and it’s currently available on kindle unlimited.

The book revolves around the events of one night, three years prior and the revenge planned in the present. There is a lot of going back and forth in the timeline.

Four former students who used to be considered “kings” of the school come back on Devil’s Night (the night before Halloween) to whip the basketball team into shape. They do this by showing the current team how to haze, drink, and screw their way into a brotherhood that can hopefully perform on the court. After helping out their old school team, they then proceed to relive their youth by spending the rest of Devil’s Night pulling off some pranks that include sex with an underage girl, arson, and vandalism. They do all this while dragging along a sixteen-year-old girl and basically daring her to participate while constantly treating her to verbal abuse and veiled and not so veiled threats of rape etc. yet she stays. 

Something goes terribly wrong and the videos of their adventures (yes, they record everything) fall into the wrong hands and three of the four end up going to jail for three long years. They think the girl betrayed them so they spend those three years planning an elaborate revenge that will result in her being at the mercy of all four boys to be used by them in every way imaginable. Do they confront the girl, ummm…no. They just assume and plan. The fact that they did everything they were accused of meant nothing, they were just mad they got caught.

It’s dark, uncomfortable, twisted, creepy, exciting, intense, thrilling, and still very sexy.  This wasn’t a romance story that’s just set within a suspense plot, the romance itself was suspenseful and nerve wracking

This is one where I feel like TRIGGER WARNINGS are important but really the whole thing could be triggering so I don’t even know how piece it apart.  Consent is on the shakiest ground here and there are multiple nonconsensual interactions where the main female  character is clearly saying NO and being harassed or attacked and an almost rape scene situation.  Pretty much all of this behavior is meant to add to the scary suspense of the story and it definitely works, making you question just how far these characters are going to go and if you can handle it.

It had a HEA but it is a f***ed up story meant to push your limits – I’d be getting restraining orders and therapy after this sh*t if it happened to me, but again, what a ride. Also if you’re not into sex scenes in public places and mfm threesomes, steer clear!

Five stars!

 

Until You (Fall Away #1.5) by Penelope Douglas

Book Description:

Published: February 18, 2014

Format: Audio/Audible

Have you ever been so angry that hitting things felt good? Or so numb that you actually felt high? The past few years have been like that for me. Traveling between fury and indifference with no stops in between.

Some people hate me for it, while others are scared of me. But none of them can hurt me, because I don’t care about anything or anyone.

Except Tatum.

I love her so much that I hate her. We used to be friends, but I found out that I couldn’t trust her or anyone else.

So I hurt her. I pushed her away.

But I still need her. The sight of her centers me, and I can pool all of my anger into her. Engaging her, challenging her, bullying her…they are my food, my air, and the last part of me that feels anything human.

But she left. She went to France for a year, and came back a different girl.

Now, when I push, she pushes back.

Review –

If you’re expecting Until You to just be a retelling of Bully in Jared’s POV, well, you’re in for a lovely surprise. Until You has so much more than what happens in Bully, and the timeline is longer. We get more of the year that Tate left for Europe (when Jared is totally moping about how Tate won’t be there for him to bully), more flashbacks of Jared and Tate’s childhood , and  more of what happens after the end of Bully. And Penelope Douglas writes this all with Jared’s no nonsense, totally badass POV. 

What is it with boys who are totally hot but complete jerks? And WHY do I still keep on loving them? Maybe it’s the sweet side that they show only to the women they love, or maybe it’s the whole redemption thing, but whatever reason it is, I can’t stop reading about them! And Jared is probably my all-time favorite jerk. He’s the jerk of my dreams. The lovable jerk. Sometimes he takes it too far, but whenever that happens, we know that he feels guilty (even though he tries to be badass and not show it). 

We get to see how devastated Jared felt when he came home from his father’s, and how he kept spiraling downward, and pushing Tate away. But then, when Tate comes back, everything changes for him. It’s not so easy to bully her or to bottle up his feelings for her. Because no matter how many times Jared tries to push Tate away, she is always in his heart. And when he’s finally done with the bullying… He turns on the charm because he knows Tate can’t resist him, just like he can’t resist her, and the two of them together are explosive.

Jared’s lantern tattoo!!  The sweetest thing I’ve ever read. Until You is perfect. Reading from Jared’s POV about how much he loves Tate, and how he tries to redeem himself is just the best thing ever. Penelope Douglas is a goddess for creating one of my favorite book boyfriends.

Fantastic read!

Too Much by Ella Miles

Book Description:

Published: April 6, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

A romance that starts at the end, and ends at the beginning.

He’s not coming.
He promised.
He swore.
He said he would always be here for me.
Except this time, when I really need him to be here, he isn’t.
He isn’t fucking here.

Quinn met Hunter five years ago at age eighteen. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, it was the complete opposite. But they did make a promise that day. If times ever got shitty again, all either of them had to do was text each other for help. For five years, they had always been there for each other until…they weren’t.

A standalone, new adult romance, contemporary romance.

Review –

This was the most confusingest book I have read. I never understood what was going on between the characters one minute they were together and the next they could never be together. And one minute Quinn had Ava and the next she didn’t. It wasn’t until the very end that I understood how all the characters were connected. My brain was literally discombobulated.

The idea of going backwards in their relationship before giving them a HEA was aggravating and I didn’t like it. I think it would’ve been good to have some of the flashbacks, but to also have more from the present to counteract it. The book was entirely about their past with just a few short parts about their present, and I just didn’t feel like it was enough.

There is a bit of “soap opera” drama and I felt the end was rushed. Nuff said.

 

The Sister (The Boss #6) by Abigail Barnette

Book Description:

Published: August 22, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Sophie Scaife finally feels like her personal life is on the right track. Her marriage to her devastatingly sadistic billionaire Dom, Neil Elwood, is as sexually adventurous as ever. Their relationship with their lover, the glamorous and rich El-Mudad ibn Farid ibn Abdel Ati, is growing closer. Even sharing guardianship of Neil’s granddaughter with his ex is going smoothly.

But a trip to Sophie’s hometown leads to a heartbreaking discovery, and she’s forced to confront a family she never knew. When they ask her for a life-changing favor, she must choose between helping them and healing herself—unless she can find a way to do both.

While she navigates the unrelenting emotional pressure, long-simmering tensions come to a head in her professional life with dramatic consequences. Reconciling what her heart wants with fears for the future, Sophie must learn to let go of the past and embrace possibilities she never knew were options…

Review –

In The Sister, the sixth installment in The Boss series, you can expect a lot of movement in regards to romantic, family, and work relationships.

I wanted to love this book. I really did. and I did enjoy it! I enjoyed the dynamic between Sophie, Sasha, Susan and Molly. AND the fact that Sophie finally admitted to herself that she didn’t want to be in Mode anymore and gave it to Deja, and that she finally understood that she didn’t have to feel guilt about what she has.
As far as El-Mudad, Sophie and Neil… yeah I don’t know if I’m feeling it. I came into this series with a love for Sophie and Neil’s love and bringing in a third person just doesn’t allow focus on Sophie and Neil. I don’t know, I don’t necessarily hate it or even dislike it. The whole polygamy aspect doesn’t bother me. Plus I LOVE El-Mudad. Maybe if that had been the initial plot I wouldn’t be on the fence about it. I do appreciate the respect that all three have for each other through it all though. Just not sure if I’m ready for the full focus to no longer be on Sophie and Neil. In the beginning the love between them was so BIG it didn’t seem like there was room in their hearts for anyone else.

Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar

Book Description:

Published: May 2, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Pallavi is an aspiring writer living in California. Her mother, Usha, is thousands of miles away in Delhi – and obsessed with finding her daughter a husband.

In Madhuri Shekar’s ingenious Evil Eye, hilarious back-and-forth via phone and social media takes a shocking, supernatural twist when Pallavi meets the perfect man – leading to a climactic showdown that will leave listeners on the edges of their seats.

Review –

“Usha is convinced that the Evil Eye, a curse that brings continuous misfortune, was cast upon her daughter, Pallavi, in the womb. What else could have possibly left her driven, career-oriented daughter edging closer and closer to 30 without a prospective husband? Determined to set Pallavi on the right path, Usha arranges date after date with potential suitors—but after yet another setup fails, it seems her efforts are proving fruitless. But in an unexpected turn of events, Pallavi becomes her own matchmaker when she meets—and quickly falls for—Sandeep, a young Indian-American entrepreneur. And though she expects her mother will be elated with her finally finding a man, Pallavi is distraught and confused to find her mother growing increasingly suspicious of Sandeep’s motives…and his true identity.

Told through a series of phone calls and voicemails, this Audible Original penned by award-winning rising star playwright Madhuri Shekar transitions seamlessly from a light-hearted family dramedy to an unexpectedly supernatural thriller. With an endearing cast of well-rounded characters, sharp, natural dialogue, and a shocking edge-of-your-seat climax, Evil Eye is a can’t-miss tale about cultural miscommunications, family secrets, and the lingering echoes of trauma.

Please note: This audio contains strong language, distressing situations, and descriptions of abuse and violence that some listeners may find upsetting. Discretion is advised.” Audible Originals

Fantastic short story that will keep you captivated from beginning to end.

 

The Boss (The Boss #1) by Abigail Barnette

Book Description:

Published: July 15, 2013   

Format: Audio/Audible

Sophie Scaife almost ran away once, trading her ticket to college for a ticket to Tokyo. But a delayed flight and a hot one-night stand with a stranger changed her mind, putting her firmly on track to a coveted position at a New York fashion magazine.

When the irresistible stranger from that one incredible night turns out to be her new boss – billionaire and publishing magnate Neil Elwood – Sophie can’t resist the chance to rekindle the spark between them… and the opportunity to explore her submissive side with the most Dominant man she’s ever known.

Neil is the only man who has ever understood Sophie’s need to submit in the bedroom, and the only man who has ever satisfied those desires. When their scorching, no-strings-attached sexual relationship becomes something more, Sophie must choose between her career and heart… or risk losing them both.

Review –

I believe this may be the first BDSM/contemporary romance written by a woman that Ive read and I found that not only are the sex scenes amazingly hot, but the characters are well developed and seem like real people, not caricatures. This book portrays a good relationship with proper communication, boundaries, and an equal partnership even with the economic/age disparity. The D/s aspects of the story make sure to stress concepts like consent, safewording, and aftercare. The wealth of likeable and love-to-hate characters span a wide range of diversity and don’t fall into the usual clichés you’d expect from this kind of story, which is refreshing and wonderful.

The build-up to the cliffhanger and the cliffhanger itself was expertly done and my heart is currently aching wondering how the heroine and hero will handle the next stage of their lives. I’m looking forward to the second book.

My recommendation is: if you can get over the age difference (twenty-four years), navigate through the sexual athleticism, and the fact of the cliffhanger ending, you’ll enjoy this novel.

This is a series of seven books and I don’t know if I will read them all, but I’m definitely reading the next one to see what happens.

 

 

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Book Description:

Published: April 7, 2009

Format: Audio/Audible

A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much-loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairy tales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

Review –

If I had to pick just one thing that Kate  Morton does extremely well with her writing it would be how she brings the settings featured throughout the story to life. One can feel the warm, thick air in Australia, hear the busy, bustling streets of London, and see the magic that surrounds Cornwall, England. I have never laid my eyes on any of these locations, but I could picture them all so vividly with the way that Morton breathes life into her words.

Overall, The Forgotten Garden is a magical novel; it was as delightful as it was suspenseful. I truly did not want to put this book down because the author is so careful to feed her readers little spoonfuls of information—enough so as to keep one partially satisfied but still craving more. I just thoroughly enjoyed watching the many beautifully executed components of this book unfold. This is a must-read specifically for those who are a fan of the historical fiction genre. 

I rated this book Five Stars and it shines brightly as one of my favorites of the year so far!