Review: Falling for the Backup by Toni Aleo

 

Title: Falling for the Backup

Author: Toni Aleo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After serving as a dutiful bridesmaid in the wedding from hell, Aynslee Shaw just wants to slink home to Nashville and forget the whole trip. That is, until the hottest guy she’s ever seen is seated next to her on the flight and dazzles her with his easy laugh and killer smile. But just when she thinks things are getting good, he vanishes, leaving Aynslee wondering, was that guy the one? And did she just let him slip through her fingers?
Former superstar goalie Jordan Ryan is back on the ice—finally. After a crippling knee injury that had him wondering if he’d ever play pro hockey again, he’s got his full attention on rebuilding his career. So a pretty—okay, beautiful—girl on a plane shouldn’t be a distraction. But Jordan is very, very distracted. And when Aynslee crosses his path again, he’s not sure any job in the world is worth missing his second chance with a woman like her.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from the Loveswept title Empty Net.


Review:

This novella did not work for me, and judging from the ratings on GoodReads, I am definitely in the minority in regards to this title.  I wanted to read Falling for the Backup because it’s a sport romance with hockey, and I love hockey.  How can I not? I’m from Detroit, and hockey is in our blood.  What else is there to look forward to in the middle of the long, dreary winters?  Why, the battle for the Stanley Cup is about all that keeps us from falling into a bleak, seasonal depression.

Jordan Ryan is a goalie for the Assassins, but after an injury that almost ended his career, he’s gone from superstar to backup.  Frustrated with his life, he’s watched his career go down the toilet, his fiancée left him when he was at his most vulnerable, and now he’s warming the bench for a hotshot youngster who’s taken his position, as well as the all of the glory that goes with it.  Desperate to play again, he’s shopping himself around the league with his father’s help.  His father is his agent, and he’s adamant that Jordan stay on the straight and narrow and that he doesn’t do anything to jeopardize a contract offer from another team.  Easy enough.  Jordan’s only interest in life is getting back on the ice full-time.

Until he meets Aynslee on a flight home to Nashville.  After he accidentally dumps a cup of coffee on her dress, Aynslee can’t keep her eyes, or her mind, off of Jordan.  She thinks they have a connection, but after disembarking, he takes off with a curt good-bye.  No phone numbers are exchanged, and Aynslee is confused.  And disappointed.  How could the most breathtaking guy she’d ever seen take off without even getting her number.  Ugh!

When they continue to bump into each other, Jordan finally gives in and allows Aynslee to sweep him off his feet.  The timing stinks because he’ll be leaving town once he signs with a new team, but he lets her know up front that they aren’t, and can’t be, a long term thing.  Aynslee goes along, willing to put her worries about their breakup in the back of her mind.  She’s sure that Jordan will change his mind and that they will figure out a way to stay together.

Why didn’t this work for me?  Because Jordan and Aynslee are obviously meant to be together, but Jordan is too caught up in himself to even think of asking Aynslee to go with him to his new team.  He’s convinced himself, without asking her, that she’s got a perfect life, with perfect friends, in Nashville, and that she would never consider moving.  This just frustrated me, because after dismissing a long distance relationship because they never work out, he is resigned instead to breaking up with the love of his life and moving off to reestablish his glory on the ice.  Aynslee isn’t much better, because she can’t seem to discuss their impending breakup, either.  She’s just content with the way things are, and she has faith that things will work out, without any effort on her part.

The other aspect of the novella that bothered me was that both characters acted too young for their ages.  Jordan is in his early thirties, but his behavior was closer to a guy in his early twenties.  Sure, his confidence has taken a few knocks after losing his starting position and after getting dumped by his girlfriend, but it was like he reverted to a much younger version of himself, and I just couldn’t buy into that. 

This is a quick, steamy read, and you can get beyond the contrived conflict, it will make a great beach read.

Grade:  C-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Game. Set. Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli

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Title:  Game. Set. Match.

Author:  Jennifer Iacopelli

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.


Review:

Wow! Coliloquy does it again!  Here’s another book with lots of angst, set amid the ultra competitive world of tennis.  Here’s a secret; I can’t stand tennis, and yet I couldn’t put this book down!  The interpersonal relationships had me hooked.  Would Penny get over her fling with tennis bad boy Alex?  Would Jasmine live up to her parents’ legacy?  Would Indy ever fit in at OBX and make her dreams of being a top tennis player come true?  Will I get over the cruelty of those painful little words – THE END??

While I don’t enjoy tennis, I was drawn to this book because I love sports stories.  It doesn’t matter what the sport is, either.  As long as the protagonists are committed to training hard and being the best they can be, I’m onboard.  There is just something about a competitor refusing to be second best that keeps me engaged in their struggles.  I want to see them persevere, to overcome all obstacles in their path, and become the best they can be.  Throw in rivals, disinterested parents, interfering parents – in short, any emotionally distracting relationship, and I am that much more invested in the story.

Game. Set. Match. has three central characters, and the book is told in alternating POVs.  Penny has just won her first major tournament, defeating the world’s number one player.  She’s determined to win the French Open next, but she’s still having flashbacks to a disastrous competition where Alex Russell messed with her mind, her heart, and destroyed her game.  To her utter dismay, her coach has brought Alex to OBX to help her train.  Can she keep herself together and ignore the attraction raging between them? Can she ever trust him again?  I loved this story line, because Alex is such a player, yet he’s ready to make a commitment to Penny, if only she’ll give him the time of day.  There was a lot of great tension between Alex and Penny, as they both strove to train for their matches at the French Open.   Penny has so many pressures now that she’s finding success, from potential sponsors to rivals waiting in the wings to take her down a notch.  Great stuff here!

Jasmine is probably my least favorite character, because she came across as a spoiled princess.  Her parents were both tennis superstars, and since she was seven, all she’s wanted was to follow in their footsteps.  When Indy shows up at OBX and promptly derails her dreams and hopes for the future, she lashes out at her new tennis opponent.  Jasmine lost the mental game long before she even stepped out on the court.  She expected that success would just fall into her lap, without her truly working for it.  While I did like her better by the end of the book, it took a lot for her to win me over.

Indy gave up on tennis after her mother’s death.  After Penny wins the Madrid Open, her fire to play tennis is re-ignited.  She is surprised that her offer to attend OBX is still open, and jumps at the chance to train at the best tennis academy in the country.  I really liked Indy and found her story arc highly engrossing.  Still reeling from her mother’s death, she and her father have a distant relationship at best.  She’s never been as interesting to him as his work, and Indy has resented his indifference for years.  Now she’s facing the toughest competition of her life, and she’s learning the hard way that tennis is more about the mental game than she realized.  Her early success at OBX hasn’t earned her any friends among her classmates.  She’s surprised to discover how down to earth Penny is, and the two girls soon become close, which leads to more rivalries with the other girls at the academy.  Indy’s story was my favorite, and I thought that her romantic pursuit of Jack, Penny’s older brother, was very sweet.

Game. Set. Match is a great read with lots of emotion.  Even if you don’t usually enjoy sports stories, give this a try.  It’s more about relationships and chasing your dreams than tennis.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Reveal! Blue Lines by Toni Aleo!

I’m excited to help with the cover reveal for Toni Aleo’s Blue Lines.  This is book 4 in Toni’s Assassins series.   What do you think?  While I love the guy’s back, I don’t think I’m over the moon about his jeans.  Would I like it better without them? Ummmm…yeah.  What do you think?

 

About the book:

Opposites do more than just attract in Toni Aleo’s latest Nashville Assassins novel about a very bad boy and the good girl he can’t resist.

The instant Piper Allen sees Erik Titov, she wants him—wants his rock-hard body, sure, but the strength and mystery that lie behind that superstar hockey jock demeanor, too. So when he sidles up to her at a bar and slinks his arm around her waist, she’s lost. What follows is the wildest night of her life . . . followed by inevitable heartbreak the next morning. And then, a few weeks later, a very big surprise: two blue lines on a pregnancy test.
Only a check to the head could make Erik fall for a nice girl like Piper. But since their crazy-sexy night together, he’s been trying to forget about her alluring body by falling into bed with every woman in Nashville, and it’s not working. So when Piper shows up at his house with a baby-bomb to drop, it doesn’t take much for Erik to suggest the nuclear option: marriage. While it’s supposed to be all for show, the second they say “I do,” the ice between them starts to melt into sizzling steam.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Taking Shots, Trying to Score, and Empty Net.

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Lines-Assassins-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00BH0VTUW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366653309&sr=1-1&keywords=Blue+Lines%3A+The+Assassins+Series+Toni+Aleo

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

iBookstore: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

Random House and other retailers: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/227840/blue-lines-the-assassins-series-by-toni-aleo

Weekly Shonen Jump–January 28th Edition

This issue clocks in at 171 pages.

First up is Toriko Chapter 219- I guess there is nothing as intimidating as group of pissed off chefs.  As the Gourmet Corp launches a fearsome attack during the cooking competition, Toriko and his buddies counter with some powerful, yet ultimately useless attacks.  Oh, my!  Komatsu is in trouble!  I don’t think all the cooking skills in the world are going to help him save himself from the freaks attacking him.  It’s a good thing the other chefs seem more competent at defending themselves.  Plus they will probably get pissed if their carefully prepared dishes are ruined.  This series is still not one of my favorites, but at least there were lots of speed lines and attacks to keep me somewhat entertained.

One Piece – chapter 696 – Lots of eating and celebrating their escape from the island.  The rescued kids are going to go with the Navy, and Luffy has big plans! He’s going to crush all four emperors! Hopefully this wraps up all involvement of Caesar, because I thought he was obnoxious and I’m not going to miss him much.

Naruto – Chapter 617 – Naruto hands out chakra like it’s candy.  The ninjas get ready for an all out attack.  Naruto’s shoulder is dislocated!  But wait! Now it’s not!  Can Naruto’s buddies keep Neji’s death from being a tragic waste?  Maybe we’ll find out next issue!  Nah, probably not, but maybe the fighting will start again?

Nisekoi - Chapter 59 – Christmas chapter! Chitoge’s mom is coming home for the holiday!  She’s a terror, too.  Everyone is terrified of her, despite her less than imposing appearance.  When her secretary collapses, she quickly lassoes Raku in to handle the job until Christmas Eve.  Poor guy!  She wants to see what he’s made of, and I think his work experience with her won’t be pleasant.  I am curious to see just how bad Chitoge’s mom can be!  If he can stick it out, she’ll reward him with a stay for two in a penthouse suite at a deluxe hotel.  Can he make it that long?

One-Punch Man – Chapter 2 – Another short chapter, giving more background on Saitama.  He became One-Punch Man after taking on a crab dude, and then trained like a fiend, losing his hair (as well as his good looks) in the process.  I am a bit disappointed with the length of the chapters so far, and the lack of a story.  Maybe we’ll get a story next issue?

Bleach – Chapter 524 – Oh MY!  The battle between Unohana and Zaraki rocks!  That is all.

Cross Manage – Chapter 18 – Soccer team manager Chiumi drops by to watch the lacrosse teams’ second game, and she has a crush on Sakurai!  She’s studied up on lacrosse, and she’s all ready to wow him with her knowledge of the game and  the team.  She knows Sakurai has some problems communicating with girls, and she’s going to help him with that, and earn some brownie points at the same time.  This chapter was bogged down with lacrosse rules, and it didn’t hold my attention like previous chapters. 

Kintoki One-shot – Cute color splash page!  Though I enjoyed this one-shot, it’s more a throw away chapter than anything else.  Great art but not much substance.  It did get a few chuckles from me, and that’s saying a lot since I am sick as a dog today.

Oh, they will start running a colorized DBZ starting next issue!  And there will be new series announcements next week, too!

Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Cover Shot! Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

This is another YUM! cover!  And since we didn’t get much hockey this season, I may as well read about it.  Taking the Shots by Toni Aleo will be available in May.

In Toni Aleo’s exhilarating Loveswept debut, the first in a series featuring the hockey hunks of the Nashville Assassins, a reformed bad boy helps a charming, willful woman face off against the demons of her past.
No matter how hard she tries, Elleanor Fisher never thinks she’s good enough, from her job to her weight to her love life. After enduring years of abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, Elli has been drifting through life in a daze. Until, that is, she meets Shea Adler on a promotional shoot for the NHL’s Nashville Assassins. Before Elli knows what’s happening, the gorgeous Shea breaks the ice and shatters her world.
A brilliant athlete inside the rink, Shea Adler is tired of the life he’s living outside of it: the women, the money, the drinking. But everything changes when he meets Elli. After laying eyes on this feisty, witty, beautiful woman, he feels like he’s just taken the hardest hit of his life. No matter how skeptical she is, Shea knows they are meant to be together—if only he can convince Elli to put her insecurities aside before she misses out on a shot at love.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Trying to Score, Empty Net, and Along Came Trouble.

Cover Shot! One Sweet Ride by Jaci Burton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Jaci Burton has some of the yummiest romance covers ever! I love seeing each new addition to the Play-by-Play series.  I really need to make the time to start reading these books!  Are you reading them? Which cover is your favorite?  Do you like the cover for One Sweet Ride?

In stores June 2013.

    

Race car driver Gray Preston enjoys fast cars and an uncomplicated life, until political aide Evelyn Hill enters the picture and complicates the hell out of it with a request that he help out his estranged father’s political campaign. Racing and politics don’t mix, but Gray and Evelyn’s sexual attraction sizzles like asphalt in August.

A Look Inside Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

 

 

Title: Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

Publisher: Sports Illustrated

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Get everything you ever wanted to know about America’s pastime in FULL COUNT: TOP 10 LISTS OF EVERYTHING IN BASEBALL . Presented in the format of Top 10 lists, this book is a comprehensive yet fun look at the greatest aspects of the game. From the top World Series moments to the most colorful characters, SI Kids ranks a variety of topics from the baseball diamond. Readers are guaranteed to love the big, exciting action photos from the Sports Illustrated collection and the insider knowledge of SI Kids. Filled with trivia and information, this dynamic book will be the definitive kids book on baseball.
Top 10 Rankings include:

Hardest throwers
Slickest infielders
Powerful sluggers
Loveable losers
Fastest base stealers
Best ballparks


The Look Inside:

As with all of the Sports Illustrated Kids books, Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball is beautifully presented.  The book is huge, featuring eye-popping photographs, both in color and black and white,  of the best in baseball.   I love these Top 10 books, and  the material had me flipping eagerly through the pages.  While I was a huge baseball fan in my teens, I have flipped over to football and hockey, preferring a faster, harder hitting game.  There was still plenty to hold my attention here, including Top 10 Ugly Uniforms (and yes, they are hideous! Most of the fugly are from the 70s, which doesn’t surprise me, but gaak! I can’t believe anyone thought these uniforms looked COOL!), Top 10 Mascots, and Top 10 Nicknames.  There are lots of Tigers mentioned, too, though Ernie Harwell only ranked second on the Top 10 Announcers list.  What?!  He was baseball in Detroit, and listening to games will never be the same without him.

Now, for those baseball fans out there, don’t be alarmed – there are plenty of lists with compelling baseball moments.  If Top 10 Facial Hair doesn’t interest you, I’m such that Top 10 Future Hall of Famers, Top 10 Scandals, and Top 10 Legendary Home Runs will get your blood pumping.  It was fun Googling footage of some of the most memorable moments in baseball, but without this book, I never would have thought to do it!  Hank Aaron’s 715th home run?  it’s on YouTube.  Kirk Gibson’s game winning homer in 1988?  Read about it in the book, then go watch it for yourself. 

If you have a young baseball fan at home, Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball will keep them entertained with the action-packed shots and fun trivia.  With the holidays fast approaching, this will make a fun gift for the baseball fan in your life.

Grade:  Fun!

Review copy provided by publisher