2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Bearly Pucked (Alpha Champions #1) by Janna Rayne

Bearly Pucked B.C.

I hadn’t read a shifter book in a while and decided I felt like reading on again. I’d gotten this novella on sale a few months ago and decided to read it to get it off my Kindle. It was actually better than I expected it to be.

The story follows Griff, an bear shifter pro-hockey player, as he is put on a week long suspension for having a short temper. The love interest is Maddox, a half-bear shifter athletic trainer who grew up in a human family. Maddox is sent by Griff’s team trainer to check on Griff while he is on suspension. The two instantly connect and the rest of the story is them accepting and celebrating being together. There are a couple issues that pop up with Maddox being half-shifter, but for the most part it is a simple, happy, sexy read.

The story line isn’t super inventive but also not completely stale. The characters are decently developed and the family dynamics are interesting. There is actually only on shift throughout the entire novella. The majority of the shifter integration is through the instincts and increases senses. There was also not any hockey either. They talk briefly about Griff being a player, but the mechanics, skill, and professional responsibilities aren’t mentioned. The characters were decently developed, but they could use a lot more fleshing out. There was also no real events where Maddox dealt with being half-bear shifter. She’d mention it, others mentioned it, but it was just kind of like a “that’s all I can be and I accept that” feel, no real actual dealing with it.

I can’t say I was disappointed with the book, but it wasn’t really interesting enough to read again or get me to continue the series. The only other book I might be interested in reading is the one about Griff’s older brother, but there is no mention about that in the works right now. For someone getting into shifter books, this is a good starter. For regular readers of shifter books, this would be a filler read when you just needed to pass the time

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Heller Brothers Series – Hockey Romance by Kelly Jamieson

Breakaway (Book 1) – The story of Remi and Jase reviewed here.

Faceoff (Book 2) – The story of Kyla and Tag.

Kyla is an up-and-coming lawyer who grew up with the Heller boys. They have been close since they were little, Kyla trying to keep up with the much more athletic boys. She’d had a crush on Tag since her later years in high school, but she buried it. When her mom tells her about a week-long double family reunion between her family and the Hellers, Kyla is reluctant to go. She is in the running to become partner at the law firm and work is her focus. After fighting the boys club mind set at work for too long, she gives in and goes away for the week with the family.

Tag is dealing with the movie of his professional hockey from Phoenix back to his hometown of Winnipeg. With the crush of publicity, media requirements, and pressure to pull his teammates through the move, Tag is grateful for a reason to get away for a week. What he and Kyla did not reckon on was the firing attraction that blooms as soon as they see each other again. They spend the week getting familiar with each other again and dealing with their attraction and the impact it would have on their families.

The book wasn’t too bad, but it was very predictable. You could tell pretty much exactly what was going to happen and there wasn’t anything really surprising. There was the topic of developing a work/life balance that was a nice backdrop to the romance. It was very erotic and focused quite a bit on sex scenes. There was the addition of some kink in this book as well. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite book or even that I would read it again, but that is just me. It doesn’t mean the book is bad, just that I personally won’t reach for it again.

One Man Advantage (Book 3) – The story of Nicole and Logan.

After Nicole is basically called a hockey whore on live television by her ex-boyfriend, she vows never to date another hockey player. In walks Logan Heller and throws her plans off track. Logan is not searching for a relationship. He has just been traded to Minneapolis to try to help bring the team out of a slump. He is not happy about leaving his comfortable, sunny California, but he has not choice. He finds a happiness and love with Nicole he has never known anywhere else. Nicole however is fighting the relationship with everything she has and often hurts Logan in the process.

This book is probably the most believable so far. It seems like a perfectly plausible meeting and relationship development that would actually occur. Even the emotions the characters feel is quite real and logical even if the road from hello to love was quite fast. I wasn’t really able to connect with the characters though and felt they needed to be developed a little more. There was more kink in this book than the other two and also seemed to focus heavily on the physical relationship between the characters. I think that was an issue I had with it as I like to read about the emotional growth between the characters that leads to a relationship where this book was missing that.

Hat Trick (Book 4) – The Christmas book.

I was actually quite disappointed with this book. It was supposed to be the Christmas book where the boys and their girl friends go to the Heller house for Christmas. You would expect a standard issue or two popping up as they pretty much have to in a romance book, but for some reason the characters in the book had issues that caused a LOT of issues. One character became a real asshole for a while. I tried to think that yes there are really people like this, but it seemed a bit on the extreme end. It did a good job of showing how issues really disrupt lives and people deal with things a lot differently, but the book just didn’t come together well in my mind.

Offside (Book 5) – The story of Honey and Matt.

This was probably one of the best books of the lot. You have Honey, a young woman with the rich wildchild past trying to make something of herself now and trying to move on from her past. Your hero is Matt Heller, who was very comfortable in his position in California when he is traded up to Minnesota to help revive a sluggish hockey team. Honey and Matt had a past when Honey was in the height of her crazy days and he helped instigate her parents to finally curtail her. When they meet again, the attraction is still there, but Honey has a lot to deal with and fights Matt most of the way. Throw in the emotional turmoil that Honey deals with and the hard life reality she makes herself face, you actually have a good emotional read. You get to see Honey and Matt deal with difficult emotions and checkered pasts as well with the real life effects that people and pasts can have on current emotions. Like the other books, there is a lot of sex and erotica, but this book has a genuine storyline that makes you feel for the characters, particularly Honey.

Overall rating:

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2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Breakaway (Heller Brothers #1) by Kelly Jamieson

I hadn’t actually intended this book to be a part of my 2016 reading challenge. I found the set on sale in the Kindle store and decided it sounded good. I like simple hockey romances so I just picked it up for fun. I needed to relax the other night so I thought I’d read one of the books in the series. It was only after I started reading I realized the main female character was a teacher. It just kind of worked out and now I’m one more down on my reading challenge.

The story follows Remi, a sixth grade teacher, and Jase, a professional hockey player. The meet in a club when neither of them wants to be there. Remi had just helped her younger sister move out of the family home and Remi was finally on her own. Jase had just broken up with his super model girlfriend and wasn’t interested in finding anyone. One thing leads to another and they end up in bed. They meet again by accident at a presentation at Remi’s school where she finds out he’s a hockey player and he finds out she’s a teacher. He doesn’t like teachers having had bad experiences with them when he was younger. The core of the story is them both dealing with their past, and current, issues and how they start to build a relationship by accident.

The book is predictable and heavily focused on the sex. It was good for a simple hockey romance. The characters were developed but could use a little bit more. There is a variety of emotions and it does a good job focusing on the emotional growth between the characters. I’m not a bit erotica fan which is what this crosses into at points. However, for an erotica book there is a decent story line and a good bit of story in between sex scenes. The writing was good and easy to follow. The story line fairly believable and flows well. I liked the addition of the baggage the characters brought and dealt with throughout the story. The development of that baggage could’ve been done more intensely. Some of the things they were dealing with would not have been solved that easily or quickly.

The book is definitely intended for mature audiences. I’d recommend it to fans of hockey romance, erotica, or just needs a good read to unwind to.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge · Book Reviews

Delayed Penalty (Crossing the Line #1) by Shey Stahl

I was quite surprised by this book. First off, it is not really a novella – it’s a full length book. Secondly, it was what I had hoped for when reading hockey romance. Not a focus on sex, but a focus on relationships and the game. I had never read anything by Ms. Stahl before, but I will be looking into more of her work.

The story follows Evan and Ami. Evan is a 20/21 year old professional hockey player for the Chicago Blackhawks. Ami is a 17/18 year old orphan who Evan found almost dead from a brutal rape. Evan feels drawn to her and doesn’t leave her side during her recovery. Ami is drawn to him when she awakes from her coma. The begin a friendship and a deep connection grows between them throughout the story. I was fascinated by how the author portrayed Ami’s rape from Evan’s viewpoint. Usually you just read about the victim and all she is dealing with, but not here. It is how Evan handles the emotional pitfalls he feels as her friend and lover. Ami doesn’t remember much of her attack, so most of the memory comes from Evan. Throughout the story, Evan is constantly looking for the attacker because not knowing just rips him apart. They eventually find the guy, and there is more emotional upheaval at his arrest.

I loved the deep emotional quality of the book. Every character is thoroughly fleshed out and has a personality. You get to meet Evan’s family (who are from Pittsburgh by the way, my hometown – Go Pens!) and several teammates. You also meet Callie, a lively woman who tends to sleep with everyone on the team, but becomes a great friend to Ami. You read mainly from Evan’s point of view, but there is a lot of Ami in there as well. I wasn’t super drawn to Ami, but she is a lovable character and solid. I preferred Evan and Callie, they seemed more animated and fascinating.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves hockey. It is not a lighthearted romance by any means, so if that’s what you’re looking for don’t read this one. However, if you are looking for a well-developed story with a strong emotional pull and intricate characters, this is a good book.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Melting Away the Ice (Ice Series #1) by Mary Smith

I wanted to continue with my hockey novella reading in honor of the NHL playoffs, so I downloaded this book. I was hoping it was a well-written and thought out as some of the other series I had read, but it wasn’t. That’s not to say it was bad, because it wasn’t. It had a good story line, something a little different but not too different at the same time.

The story follows Sara as she is working to get back to herself before a terrible domestic violence incident. She is drug by her friend Rachel to a hockey game where she meets Lucas Sharp by accident. Lucas is the captain of the Chicago Eagles. He doggedly pursues her until she relents and, with the help of Rachel, gives in and begins dating him. Sara keeps Lucas in the dark for most of the story about her past. The story mainly focuses on Sara and how she is dealing with dating and falling in love. You get some of what Lucas is experiencing, but it strikes me as mainly surface emotion, or a general emotion that one would assume he is feeling through the different events.

I would like to guess this is an early writing, someone new to being an author. A lot of my issues were with phrasing and tense. She wrote in present tense which is always a little jarring at first. Furthermore, she had the Chicago Eagles as the reining team in the league. For some reason that bothers me. I would think it would make for a stronger book if the team was placed somewhere in the middle of the field. Also, I thought the progression of the romance was a little too quick for a domestic violence case. The emotional struggle of recovering could easily have been fleshed out and been more in-depth. But like I said, it felt like the writer was new. So hopefully her books will improve as her skills grow.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Dropping Gloves (Portland Storm #10) by Catherine Gayle

Catherine Gayle’s ability to pull out strong emotion was again displayed brilliantly in this latest installment of the Portland Storms series. I had actually skipped a few books to read this one. I have only read 1-4, and 6 before this book, but since it was between Katie and Babs, I couldn’t wait to read it.

You meet Katie and Jamie “Babs” Babcock in the first books of the series and follow their budding, yet non-existent romance, through the different books. You are always hoping they will get together, but they never have. This book picks up as Katie returns from Los Angeles after her show, The Cool Kids, has been canceled and she is questioning her desire to go back to Hollywood. Jamie is finally trying to put Katie behind him, telling her that he can’t see her anymore if she is going to keep leaving. I won’t be giving away too much when I tell you that Katie decides to stay in Portland, especially after her cancer returns. The story follows Katie and Jamie as they begin to navigate a relationship and her cancer relapse.  It also follows Katie as she figures out what she wants to do now with her life, and Jamie as he adjusts and grows into being the captain of the Portland Storm team.

I liked the book as I had hoped to read the story for these two characters for a while. The book is not as emotionally intense as some of the previous books, but it is still very strong and emotionally authentic. You feel for both characters, feeling the struggles and heartaches they go through.It was a more common story line than I expected from the author, not quite as interesting as I expected, but she did it beautifully. Anyone who knows someone with cancer or who has cancer will appreciate the emotional struggles in the book. Anyone not linked to cancer will get a glimpse into the world that cancer patients and their families have to go through. Overall, a good book. I liked the first book more, but I can relate more easily to abuse survivors as opposed to cancer survivors.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Portland Storm: The First Period (Books 1-4) by Catherine Gayle

I found this series on sale in the Amazon Kindle store and thought I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be a fantastic little series so far. The third book was quite short, more like a set of deleted scenes, but it helped to bridge the gap between books 2 and 4. My favorite was the first book, Breakaway. I can’t wait to find more books in the series. The novellas were actually quite long, but I was still able to finish each under 4 hours.

You do need at least rudimentary knowledge of hockey to read the books. There are a lot of sections where it focuses on the male lead and what he is doing in the game, so the reader needs to understand a little of the game to be able to follow.

One thing I did really like was the fact the novellas only had a couple sex scenes in each. They are not overrun with them. Mostly it focuses on the emotional development and hardships of the couple instead of the sex, which is fantastic in my opinion. The author does a phenomenal job portraying the inner turmoil and true emotions of her characters in a way I rarely see. The strong emotions she digs into fascinate me.


Breakaway – Book 1

I absolutely loved this book. It follows the story of Dana and Eric. Dana and Eric grew up together, and both played hockey. Eric left with Dana’s brother, Brenden, to go to college and Dana went to a different college. Dana was a star hockey player on her college team until she was gang raped after a game by a group of rival fans. She decided after seven years of counseling, she needed someone she trusted to help her learn how to deal with intimacy again and aid her in conquering her panic attacks. Eric is not at all happy with the idea but has been in love with her for years, so he gives in and agrees to help her.

Anyone who suffers from panic attacks, or survived rape or abuse will be able to relate very strongly with Dana. Her portrayal is amazingly realistic to what panic attacks are like and how hard it is to heal from sexual violence. As an abuse survivor, I was able to relate to her extremely well and found the book to be a great example of what a loving, healing relationship can do. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance or is struggling to recover from sexual violence.

My rating:

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On the Fly – Book 2

After the first book, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the second book as emotionally strong and tangled. You follow the story of Brenden and Rachel. Brenden is Dana’s brother and has just been called up from the minor league. He is struggling with trying to prove he deserves to be in the major league and also with the relationship that has developed between Eric and Dana. Rachel is running from her husband who she found out and successfully convicted of abusing her daughter. Throughout the book she struggles a lot with trust, overprotectiveness, and insecurity over her growing feelings for Brenden. An added obstacle is her learning the ropes of her new job – secretary for the Portland Storm General Manager, taking over for the retiring Martha.

It was endearing to see these two people slowly cross the obstacles in front of them and find each other, in particular how they became a family with Rachel’s two children. You also get to learn more about the other team members and begin to really get a feel for the different personalities. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was how abruptly it ended. But that is really my only complaint. Other than that, I thought it was a brilliantlyl written work.

My rating:

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Taking a Shot – Book 3

This is actually considered an in-between novella. It is just a short snippet, very quick, that helps segue between On the Fly and Light the Lamp. It is the story of Jamie “Babs” Babcock taking Katie to her prom. I don’t want to give away something that happens in On the Fly, but I will say it is important that she is able to go. I thought it was a great way to portray a small development between these two characters, as their love story has been woven through each book so far. However, it was very quick and I hoped for more. It makes sense to read it, but I cannot wait for their actual full-length novella to come out next week.

My rating:

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Light the Lamp – Book 4

This is another book I greatly enjoyed. The book follows Liam and Noelle. Liam is a widower who is still grieving for his wife who was hit by a drunk driver while she was trying to change a tire. He finds Noelle on the highway, trying to fix her car, and insisted on taking her somewhere safe until the car cooled down. He later finds out she is homeless and jobless and insists she go home with him. The story unfolds as the fall in love and struggle to become emotionally close. You also learn about Liam’s Light the Lamp foundation that helps addicts begin to put their life back together.

It is a very emotionally charged book. I found I was very able to relate to Liam. His struggles to deal with the death of his wife and the love he is developing for a new woman are strong and realistic. I had a harder time relating to Noelle, but she is so sweet and genuine you have to like her. Her emotions do come through very strongly as well, especially with her fighting to maintain her independence and need to make the world a better place.

My rating:

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