[ARC] Elastic Hearts by Claire Contreras

Elastic Hearts by Claire ContrerasTitle: Elastic Hearts
Author: Claire Contreras
Series: Hearts (Book #3)
Expected Publication Date: March 20, 2016
Publisher: Claire Contreras
Format: ARC
ISBN: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★
Pre-order: iBooks
Summary: Victor Reuben.

Most sought out divorce attorney in LA.

Nicole Alessi.

Soon to be ex-wife of Hollywood’s biggest star and Victor’s latest client.

In such a high profile divorce, they can’t afford any extra drama. Luckily, neither one of them has anything to hide.

Unless you count the mind blowing sex they had…

Once…

Twice…

Three times all those years ago.

The past is in the past, though. As long as they keep their hands off each other until the divorce is final, they’ll be fine. But she keeps wearing those tight dresses, and he keeps giving her those heated glances, and keeping their hands to themselves is proving to be more difficult than either one of them realize.

It won’t be long before the paparazzi starts smelling the smoke, and where there’s smoke…

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Claire Contreras for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

I have to admit that I always saw Victor as being just there in the last two books in the Hearts series. But the fact that he was a divorce lawyer and never wanted anything to do with serious relationships was kind of intriguing. And then this gem of a book came along and was kind of, sort of so much effing better than anything I expected. Elastic Hearts can’t even be compared to its predecessors. It’s different from Kaleidoscope Hearts and Paper Hearts in that the two mains, Victor and Nicole, don’t have a history the way Oliver and Elle, and Jensen and Mia do. They had past encounters, but Nicole is a totally new character, and she just fit into this universe so seamlessly. It’s less drama but more intensity and sophistication.

I loved finally getting to know Victor more. Where Oliver and Jensen are sweet and sensitive, Victor is aggressive and all business; he gets s#*! done, and he’s just… woah. Different. And extremely sexy. He’s so confident and cocky and you can’t even get mad at him because it’s so, so justified. Ladies, I’m telling you, you’re gonna want a Victor Reuben after reading this.

Nicole, on the other hand, is going through a high-profile divorce from her Hollywood soon-to-be ex-husband. But she’s far from the doting trophy wife. She’s very much her own person; fierce and independent, but at the same time there’s a vulnerability to her. Sure, there’s something undeniable between her and Victor, but she still wants to be amicable with her ex-husband and do what was right with the divorce. She has this admirable quality of self-respect and confidence that made her totally likeable from the very beginning.

What I really adored about this book was that these two were so career-driven and mature. Even though their feelings for each other pushed them to the edge, they respected each other’s decisions to not act on anything that could ruin what they’ve each worked so hard for. The tension that resulted from this push-pull relationship was so incomparable to anything I’ve read in this genre in the last little while. They had amazing chemistry and I couldn’t help but root for them to make things work despite the emotional rollercoaster they were put through.

Of course, there was the aspect of seeing the other characters: Mia, Elle, Oliver, Jensen, and the Reubens, all of whom I love. It was fun getting different sides of both Victor and Nicole when they interacted with the others. Some of my favourite moments actually came from scenes with the whole gang together. And Nicole just eased right in there perfectly.

Giving this book five stars, five unicorns, five rainbows, five hearts; kaleidoscope, paper, elastic– just five out of five everything, because it’s amazing and had me feeling all kinds of emotions. I didn’t want it to end, but I needed to see where it would go. I feel like sending Claire Contreras a fruit basket (or a whole orange grove) as a ‘thank you’ for writing an addicting series and concluding it with this book.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire is caring, smart, witty, and funny as heck. Despite being a New York Times Best Selling Author of a popular contemporary romance series, Claire doesn’t read many romance novels. However, when she sits down to write, those are the ones that pour from her fingers. Much to her displeasure, we like to say she’s a romantic at heart.

She is a breast cancer survivor who lives in Miami with her good looking husband, two adorable boys, three bulldogs, and two stray cats that she refuses to admit are hers (even though they live on her porch and she continues to feed them). When she’s not writing, she’s always lost in a book (the more suspenseful, the better). (via Goodreads)

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Paper Hearts by Claire Contreras

Title: Paper Hearts
Author: Claire Contreras
Series: Hearts (Book #2)
Publication Date: September 9, 2015
Publisher: Claire Contreras
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780986416729
Rating: ★★★★★
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Summary: I lost her. No, I didn’t lose her. I threw her away. She was my best friend. I was never supposed to fall in love with her. I was careless. She was heartbroken. I thought I was doing fine. But here she is, years later, forced to work with me, reminding me why I fell in love with her in the first place. And this time I’m going to do everything in my power to never let her go.

My Thoughts:
When I read the first book, Kaleidoscope Hearts, I fell in love with Contreras’ writing style and couldn’t get enough. As much as I liked Oliver and Elle’s story, I found myself wanting nothing more than to know about Mia and Jensen’s past relationship (and more about Victor, but that’s a review for another time when Elastic Hearts comes out later this month. Cue happy tears). I have to admit that I had really high expectations for this book after also reading the novella that came before it. I think my rating speaks for itself; I loved, loved, loved this book. So much.

Like the first book, this is a second chance romance story. Jensen and Mia cross paths again after five years. The past isn’t easily forgotten; Mia still isn’t over what happened between them and even though life’s drastically changed for Jensen, he hasn’t fully gotten over her, either. It seems impossible for them to rekindle what they had before due to circumstances and bad timing. They went through hell and back, and then back again a couple more times throughout. But as one of the quintessential quotes in the book states, “Real love stories never end.”

I can’t say enough about Contreras’ writing. She narrated the story from both Mia and Jensen’s perspectives, and as a reader, I felt for both characters; the way she perfectly penned out their inner struggles and conflicting feelings versus actions was just super intense and gorgeous. Poetic, almost. The fact that Jensen was a writer and had such a penchant for words also lent itself to the story beautifully. It was also fun to revisit all the characters that we got to know in the first book, but getting to expand on the then secondary characters was such a gift. I always love when authors follow up books focusing on different characters– in this case especially, because Mia and Jensen both intrigued me in the first book. I didn’t favour Mia over Jensen or sympathize with Jensen more than Mia, or vice versa. That’s what was captivating about this book; you could relate to both of their situations and it was honestly pretty heart-wrenching to read. My precious babies. I wanted to hug them both.

I read this book for the first time a few months ago in December, and even months later I still find myself going back to it from time to time just to read little quotes and excerpts because it’s that good.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire is caring, smart, witty, and funny as heck. Despite being a New York Times Best Selling Author of a popular contemporary romance series, Claire doesn’t read many romance novels. However, when she sits down to write, those are the ones that pour from her fingers. Much to her displeasure, we like to say she’s a romantic at heart.

She is a breast cancer survivor who lives in Miami with her good looking husband, two adorable boys, three bulldogs, and two stray cats that she refuses to admit are hers (even though they live on her porch and she continues to feed them). When she’s not writing, she’s always lost in a book (the more suspenseful, the better). (via Goodreads)

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[ARC] Beyond the Stars by Stacy Wise

Beyond the Stars by Stacy WiseTitle: Beyond the Stars
Author: Stacy Wise
Expected Publication Date: February 8, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781682811009
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Most girls would kill for the opportunity to work for Jack McAlister, Hollywood’s hottest actor, but twenty-one-year-old Jessica Beckett is ready to kick him out of her red Ford Fiesta and never look back. She should be spending her junior year in France, eating pastries and sharpening her foreign language skills. Instead she’s reluctantly working as Jack’s personal assistant, thanks to her powerhouse talent agent aunt.

Jack is private, prickly, and downright condescending. Jessica pushes his buttons—she’s not the type of girl to swoon over celebrity heartthrobs, precisely why her aunt thought she’d be perfect for the job—and Jack pushes right back.

But as she begins to peel away his layers, Jessica is shocked to find she craves her boss’s easy smile and sexy blue eyes. The problem is, so does the entire female population. And what started out as the job from hell soon has Jess wondering if a guy like Jack could ever find love with a regular girl like her.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

Life doesn’t always go as planned, so when Jessica Beckett’s college dream of studying in France falls through, she’s looking for help from her talent agent aunt and winds up being the personal assistant of Hollywood heartthrob, Jack McAlister.

In true “boss/assistant storyline” fashion, she seems to be the only girl in the vicinity who’s not impressed by his good looks, and he’s an ass. Along the way, they discover the other isn’t all that bad and lo-and-behold, something blossoms between them. I’m all for this trope, so of course I was pretty stoked to read it. Jessica and Jack are lovely characters when it comes down to it, but there weren’t any life-changing obstacles in their way, so their story was kind of… ordinary. Nice, but ordinary. But oh, this story has a pig — I’m not talking about a disgusting male character; an actual pig. Let that sink in. It’s actually a charming little storyline.

While I wasn’t blown away by the book, I enjoyed the pacing of how things progressed. My only issue was that, while I appreciate a good “the journey is more important than the destination” story, the journey to their inevitable relationship took up a majority of the book and we didn’t really get to witness any of the results. I guess that’s me wishing that the book was longer, because I did enjoy their relationship and wanted to see more of it.

I feel like I’m so drawn to angsty love stories that I don’t know when to stop and take a breather. I already knew, judging by the synopsis, Beyond the Stars was anything but. So I thought it’d be a nice change from my choice of gut-wrenching reads as of late. I definitely wasn’t wrong. If you’re looking for something nice, quick, and fluffy, pick up this debut novel from Stacy Wise.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stacy Wise is the author of BEYOND THE STARS (Entangled Embrace, 2016). She has a B.A. in Communication Studies from UCLA and a Masters in Teaching from Chapman University. She lives in California with her husband, four children, two dogs, and an ever-changing number of fish.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Stacy worked in television casting on shows including Party of Five, The X Files, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Married…With Children. When she’s not dreaming up stories, you can find her beating up the bag at a kickboxing gym or walking her dogs, Bailey & Rex. (via Goodreads)

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Kaleidoscope Hearts by Claire Contreras

Title: Kaleidoscope Hearts
Author: Claire Contreras
Series: Hearts (Book #1)
Publication Date: January 8, 2015
Publisher: Claire Contreras
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9780986416705
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Summary: He was my older brother’s best friend. He was never supposed to be mine. I thought we would get it out of our system and move on. One of us did. One of us left. Now he’s back, looking at me like he wants to devour me. And all those feelings I’d turned into anger are brewing into something else, something that terrifies me. He broke my heart last time. This time he’ll obliterate it.

My Thoughts:
“Older brother’s best friend? Forbidden relationships? Second chances? Yes, yes, and yes. I’m in” was my initial reaction when I came across the summary for this book. I’m such a sap for these kind of stories. It centers around Estelle (Elle), who has to move in with her older brother, Victor, after her fiancé passes away. Being around her brother everyday again means being around his group of friends — one of whom is Oliver, Vic’s best friend. Oliver also happens to be the guy who broke her heart years before.

There are hundreds of books written with these tropes, but Claire Contreras writes it in a way that really hits your emotional core. She’s gained a fan in me after this one, despite certain things that didn’t really sit with me. But there was more to love in Kaleidoscope Hearts than there was to dislike.

Oliver and Elle have a history, which I enjoyed because things made sense. They already had a foundation built and we get a glimpse down memory lane through flashbacks in order to get the context of their present-day relationship.

My biggest issue was how increasingly difficult they made their relationship when honestly… it shouldn’t have been. They kept going around and around and around and around in circles. It seemed like their biggest conflict was Elle’s brother not finding out about them. But when he did, well… that was that. Not even a big deal after a while. That, coupled with Elle’s back and forth between wanting to be with Oliver and not wanting to betray her deceased fiancé’s memory by moving on lost some points with me. I understood her inner turmoil early on, but when Oliver was so supportive of her, she kept pushing him away and it was incredibly frustrating. And then Oliver would randomly become indecisive and I’d be ready to pull my hair out. Because I really, really loved their chemistry and just wanted them to for the love of all that was holy own up to it.

I’d sigh with relief when other things were brought up besides their, at this point, non-issues. The tiniest break from the drama was very much welcomed, like the little mentions of Victor’s job as a lawyer and hints of Mia and Jensen’s past relationship. The friendship between the group of friends was a strong point for me in the book. So imagine how happy I was to find out this was followed up by a novella and sequel focusing on other characters, because I really do enjoy Contreras’ writing.

Overall this was a lovely read and I enjoyed it enough to look into the author’s other books. Throes of fans of second chance loves, childhood friends into lovers and other related clichés will definitely walk away with a smile on their face.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire is caring, smart, witty, and funny as heck. Despite being a New York Times Best Selling Author of a popular contemporary romance series, Claire doesn’t read many romance novels. However, when she sits down to write, those are the ones that pour from her fingers. Much to her displeasure, we like to say she’s a romantic at heart.

She is a breast cancer survivor who lives in Miami with her good looking husband, two adorable boys, three bulldogs, and two stray cats that she refuses to admit are hers (even though they live on her porch and she continues to feed them). When she’s not writing, she’s always lost in a book (the more suspenseful, the better). (via Goodreads)

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He Found Me by Whitney Barbetti

20151211Title: He Found Me
Author: Whitney Barbetti
Series: He Found Me (Book #1)
Publication Date: May 22, 2014
Publisher: Createspace Publishing
Format: eBook
ISBN: 9781499395808
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Summary: When I was seventeen, I disappeared. I walked out the door of my apartment with a backpack and never looked back. I left the life of Cora Mitchell behind, seeking freedom from my real-life nightmare. But my freedom came with a cost. I lived a fictitious life for the next six years, never letting anyone close enough to see underneath the facade that was Andra Walker. I was content with my simple little life. Until I met Julian. And the moment I started allowing myself to open up, allowing someone to see through the superficial, was the very same moment the Monster from my past would return to find me.”

My Thoughts:
I got this book for free in late 2014 on Amazon and it served as my gym read earlier this year when I actually used to bother going to the gym once upon a time. It kept me occupied, that’s for sure. I’d read for 2 hours at a time and it flew by like it was nothing. That said, I thought the book was pretty good. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t completely over the moon about it. What I did enjoy most wasn’t the romance that the book looks to be marketed as, but the suspense and thrill of the story. And I’m not actually a huge fan of suspense or thriller novels.

Mainly it was the fact that the past could catch up with the main character, Cora/Andra, at any time and the nagging need to know exactly what happened to her years ago that kept me invested in this story. I also appreciate an author who can be so descriptive in their writing that I can actually picture the setting and feel the atmosphere.

Aside from that, the rest was bleak. I did enjoy the relationship between Cora and Julian at times. But my major gripe with their relationship was how very, incredibly rushed it felt. It was nice to see Cora happy after the complete s#!*storm she so obviously went through when she was younger. Still. Insta-lust or insta-love isn’t a lot of people’s cup of tea, like myself, and I have a hard time even deciphering when their lust turned into love because it happened pretty quickly. Days? A week? And moreover, I found it really frustrating that, while I was invested in Cora’s past and waiting for a huge twist and the impending climax, it didn’t turn out to be very believable. What a letdown.

The cliffhanger at the end kind of piqued my interest in the next installation, though. So I might check that out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I am a wife to one and a mom to two humans and one cat. I have a deep and abiding love for nachos – especially the kind with the liquid cheese, like from Taco Bell (sorry). I run on less than four hours of sleep thanks to copious amounts of Diet Dr. Pepper. (Note: this paragraph is not sponsored by anyone except my hungry stomach.)

As a Navy brat, I grew up all over the country, from California, up the east coast from Florida to New England and Colorado. I currently live in Idaho, where we have lots of potatoes and windmills.

I write character-driven New Adult novels, heavy on the emotional connection. I LOVE love. I love writing about broken characters who find their soul mates. (via Official Site)

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Confess by Colleen Hoover

Confess by Colleen HooverTitle: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781476791456
Rating: ★★★★★
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry. For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it. The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin…

My Thoughts:
I don’t think I’ve finished reading anything this fast in months. It’s one of those books that you actively seek out in the library or a bookstore because you have these specific personal criteria in your head of what you want to read: character archetypes, storylines, writing style, etc. But you just can’t seem to find it no matter how hard you look, so you dabble with the idea of writing it yourself. And if there was ever one book that I wish I’d written, it would be this one.

I’ve been working on a story on and off over the last two years. On paper, the outline is similar: an artist meets someone that they feel this peculiar and inexplicable connection with, and they do everything they can to try and keep from crumbling even though secrets threaten to come out that could ultimately ruin everything. I’m sure there are countless books with this exact premise; as Barbara Grizzuti Harrison said, “There are no original ideas. There are only original people”. Colleen Hoover is original. How she took real-life elements and visuals and the way she incorporated them into her story was so interesting to me. I wish I was lucky enough to have as much talent and originality for narrative as Hoover in my pinkie finger. It almost makes me want to shelve my entire manuscript because this is way better than anything I can ever write on the topic. Almost. Because more than anything, it’s inspiring to see that maybe my ideas and goals aren’t so impossible to meet. She’s a great storyteller and she’s now on my list of authors I admire. Her words just flow so well and reading every single descriptive sentence and line of dialogue just gave me feelings, man.

Right from the beginning, the story has this really mysterious air to it and I refused to go too long between chapters; I couldn’t put it down. Then I hit the midpoint and was a goner. I carried the book around with me literally everywhere and read it even when I only had 10 seconds to spare. The storyline is easy enough to follow for those who aren’t into books that are insanely heavy and weave every which way, but at the same time, it’s the portrayal of thoughts going on in the characters heads that make it interesting and complex. Throughout the entire thing, I thought I had certain storylines and characters figured out, but I was so, so wrong. And I loved that.

This was my first foray into Colleen Hoover’s books, and since I put this down I’ve been wondering at what point in the last few years I started living under a rock. I began reading Ugly Love immediately after, and wow. There’s no shortage of swoon-worthy characters in that one. But that’s a review for another time. Trust me, I’ve already visited several bookstores and gathered up as many of her books that I could find just so I don’t have to wait too long to start reading another. One last thing while we’re on the topic of swoon-worthy characters: Owen Gentry. Where can I find one of those?! I rarely ever use the term “book boyfriend”, but… don’t even get me started.

I’m not saying this book is for everyone and that you should go get a copy of this book now, but… you should get a copy of this book now. Honestly though, whether this book appeals to you or not, I personally was just surprised at how much I loved it, because I’ve been waiting so long to read something like this. The thing about “personal criteria” that I mentioned earlier? They’re all here in this one book. It just goes to show that a book you’re waiting to be written could very well be around somewhere. Just keep looking; keep reading.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Hoover is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including the #1 bestseller, Hopeless. She lives in Texas with her husband and three children. She is the founder of The Bookworm Box, a book subscription service which donates 100% of its proceeds to charity. She also owns The Bookworm Box, a specialty bookstore located in Sulphur Springs, Tx. (via Amazon)

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