Review: Sidelined by Kendra C Highley

Sidelined (Entangled Teen)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

After being pushed to excel her entire life, high school basketball star Genna Pierce is finally where she wants to be. University scouts are taking notice, her team is on its way to the state tourney, and Jake Butler, the hot boy she’s daydreamed about since ninth grade, is showing some definite interest. When he asks her out and their relationship takes off, Genna believes things can’t get better.

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Review: Love and Other Games Anthology

 

Love and Other Games

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

All of these short stories take place during the Olympic Games in Switzerland, and they all feature a legend about a replica of the torch that brings good luck to anyone fortunate enough to find it.  I enjoy stories with sports settings, so I dove right into Love and Other Games.

Trouble with Gold by Melinda Dozier

I had a hard time connecting with these characters.  Ty is a US snowboarder, and Nadia dreams of landing a job at the Olympic Committee Headquarters.  Ty is a brash thrill seeker, while Nadia is conservative and serious.  I usually enjoy stories with total opposites, but this one didn’t work for me, and I don’t know why.  Ty came off as very immature, and the conflict with Nadia and her father was never resolved.  Granted, this is a novella, so there weren’t enough pages to flesh out all of the plot conflicts as much as I would have liked, so I wish that  her demanding father had never been introduced in the first place.  Nadia and Ty had enough problems to work through without her father chastising her for being seen with a wild snowboarder, which was putting her promotion in jeopardy.  The funny about that was Nadia’s supervisor assigned her to follow Ty and his teammates around to ensure they behaved.  Their antics and practical jokes were garnering complaints from other athletes, and it was her job to make sure they stopped pulling pranks on their competitors.

Overall, this is a fast read that entertained during my wait at the airport, but didn’t stick with me.

Grade: C

Ice Gold by Kara Leigh Miller

I was more interested in Cole and Brenna than Ty and Nadia.  Brenna is a photographer, and much to her dismay, she has been assigned to cover the USA hockey team.  She meets Cole on the plane over to Switzerland, and immediately thinks he’s an ass.  Granted, he behaves like one, so her impression isn’t out of left field.  He pranks her, she accidentally pranks him, and then, to top everything off, he is hurt on the ice because of her mistake.  Through it all, Brenna has to work through her dislike of both athletes and the Games.

Ice Gold is fast paced and a fun story overall.  I liked both characters, and found this a breezy read.  It doesn’t require much brain-power, so it was perfect for a light read after having to get up after only four hours of sleep to catch a plane.

Grade: B

The Girl Behind the Gold by Aria Kane

This one just clicked for me.  Lia is an aerial skier, and she desperately needs to score gold so she can get some lucrative endorsements.   Her family back in Greece is in danger of losing their family farm, and she will do anything to help them keep it.  Her only problem? She’s not very likable.  She’s been told she needs to lighten up because public opinion of her is not favorable.  It’s doubtful that even if she brings home the gold that she’ll win any sponsor money.  Then in walks Brandon, a journalist on a mission.  He has to find a story that will win the hearts of his readers, or he isn’t welcome back at the publication offices.  Just what Lia needs, right?

I found this one compelling and hard to put down.  Lia is driven to save her family’s home, so she is all work and no goofing around.  She’s puzzled why that would have any bearing on her pitching products.  I liked how determined she was.  She worked hard to get to the Games, and she’s not going to risk losing by playing around.  Then she meets Brandon, who fails to tell her that he’s a journalist.  Lia is a very private person, and she doesn’t want anyone to know about her circumstances at home.  The attraction she feels for Brandon is so strong that she puts aside her usual rule of keeping to herself while she waits for her turn at competing. 

Even though Brandon was not entirely honest with Lia, I liked him, too.  I started worrying about how Lia would deal with the news that he was a journalist.  I knew she was going to blow a gasket, and that it was just a matter of time before her happiness was abruptly brought to a halt.  Would it ruin her concentration enough to make her lose her competitive edge? 

This is one of the stronger stories in the anthology.

Grade: B+

Worth More than Gold by Ana Blaze

This was my favorite story.  The pacing is spot on, and relationship between Erik and Amy is engaging.  After an evening of letting her hair down, Amy wakes up in a stranger’s bed with little recollection of the night before.  All she can remember is meeting a hot Viking at party and having a little too much to drink.  She’s hurt that her hook up didn’t even bother to stick around long enough to say good morning or good bye.  Ugh! How mortifying!  Amy is embarrassed and ashamed, and firmly decides that she is going to stick to business for the rest of the Games.  She’s there to keep an eye on her sister, the current figuring skating sweetheart, and stay away from both guys and alcohol.

What she doesn’t count on is that Erik, her ski jumper hook up, considers her his lucky charm.  He pursues her relentlessly, unleashing his devastating charm.  Amy has some self-esteem issues from living in the shadow of her talented and beautiful sister, so Erik is careful not to scare her away again.  He is sweet and charming and impossible to resist.  How could Amy avoid her HEA with a wonderful guy like Erik?

I loved Worth More Than Gold.  The author manages to squeeze a lot of character growth into a small amount of space, and I didn’t put my Kindle down until I reached the last page.  What a great story to close out this anthology. 

Grade: A

Overall, I’d give Love and Other Games a B.  There is a nice mix of stories here, with enough variety that readers should find something to enjoy.  This is a perfect book to load up on your mobile device and read in small chunks when you are stuck standing in line or waiting to pick the kiddos up. 

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: REAL by Katy Evans

Real

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A fallen boxer.

A woman with a broken dream.

A competition…

He even makes me forget my name. One night was all it took, and I forgot everything and anything except the sexy fighter in the ring who sets my mind ablaze and my body on fire with wanting…
Remington Tate is the strongest, most confusing man I’ve ever met in my life.

He’s the star of the dangerous underground fighting circuit, and I’m drawn to him as I’ve never been drawn to anything in my life. I forget who I am, what I want, with just one look from him. When he’s near, I need to remind myself that I am strong–but he is stronger. And now it’s my job to keep his body working like a perfect machine, his taut muscles primed and ready to break the bones of his next opponents . . .
But the one he’s most threatening to, now, is me.

I want him. I want him without fear. Without reservations.

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Interview with Jami Davenport, Author of Backfield in Motion

Please welcome Jami Davenport to the virtual offices this morning!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jami Davenport] Best-selling Contemp. sports romance author, charter 12thWoman, Animal Lover, Native Washingtonian living good life–rain or shine. GoHawks

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Backfield in Motion?

[Jami Davenport] Backfield in Motion is a bridge story. I had planned for Book 4 in my Seattle Lumberjacks series to be about the backup quarterback, who has tons of baggage. That book needs to span the 2nd half of the football season, which meant I’d have a big gap between the end of the last season (where Book 3 ended) to the middle of the next season. Since I’d always planned to write Bruiser’s book, I decided to go for it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jami Davenport] Usually I know the beginning and the end before I ever start, along with at least one character’s major flaw. I didn’t know anything about this book. I wrote three chapters not knowing who these characters were. Without realizing it, I flipped the beauty and the beast theme I used in Down by Contact. In BIM, the heroine is the "beast" and the hero is the beauty.

I’m always looking for something different, and I was reading about how difficult it is to keep a football field in perfect condition with players on it all the time. It’s really an exact science. So I decided to write about a heroine who wanted a career in grounds management. Also, theirs a mystery component in which the heroine’s brother has been missing for 3 years. I’m obsessed with true crime TV shows so I decided I might as well put that obsession to good use.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Mac?

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Love and Other Games Anthology Will Make You Swoon and Giveaway!

I love sports romances, so I’m happy to be part of the Love and Other Games cover reveal!  Get the deets below, and enter for a chance to win a gift card to the book store of your choice!
Love and Other Games is a collection of four sexy new adult stories centered around athletes competing in the Winter Games by Ana Blaze, Melinda Dozier, Aria Kane, and Kara Leigh Miller. It releases October 1st from Swoon Romance in all major electronic formats.
 
 
 
Worth More Than Gold by Ana Blaze
 
Amy Pierce, the klutzy sister and manager of America’s Skating Sweetheart, is used to being invisible. But when a friend drags her to a party near the Olympic Village, Amy catches the eye of a sexy Norwegian ski jumper. It’s a magical night, but an awkward next morning has her running.
 
Everyone knows Erik Andresen’s best shot at an individual medal was back in 2010, before an injury pulled him from the competition. He’s there for his team, but a hot night and a remarkable final training session have him wondering if a gorgeous good-luck charm could give him another chance at the podium. With a little bit of luck, these two might have a shot at something worth more than gold.
 
Ana Blaze’s: Website | Twitter | Facebook
 
Trouble With Gold by Melinda Dozier
 
US snowboarder and notorious prankster, Ty (Trouble) Madsen is only getting a taste of his own medicine when his Olympic teammates shackle him to a fence wearing nothing but his boxers.
 
Reception and protocol volunteer, Nadia Hoffman, gets up close and personal with the sexy snowboarder to rescue him, but she’s not the kind of girl who lets her hormones get in her way. A professional performance could help her land her dream job at Olympics Committee Headquarters, but her new assignment supervising the rambunctious US Snowboarding Team is making that difficult.
 
Can she see behind the snowman in the community center bathroom and into the warm heart of the man everyone calls Trouble?
 
Melinda Dozer’s: Website | Twitter | Facebook
 
The Girl Behind the Gold by Aria Kane
 
Greek aerial skier Lia Milonas’s parents are about to lose the family farm. Saving it means medaling and landing a huge sponsor. While her no-nonsense attitude has her well on her way to a medal, it hasn’t won her a place in fans’ hearts.
 
“Come back with a story that will make readers cry, or don’t come back.” This is what Brandon James’ boss told him before he left New York to cover the Winter Games for Moment Magazine. With a wink and a smile, he can charm his way into any invite-only party, but that career-making story is nowhere to be found – until he meets Lia.
 
The two strike a deal that should get them both what they want – but neither would have guessed they’d also find what they need.
 
Aria Kane’s: Website | Twitter | Facebook
 
Ice Gold by Kara Leigh Miller
 
Colton Campbell thrives on the fast paced, adrenaline rushed lifestyle of being an Olympic hockey player. Despite Brenna Jessup’s abhorrence for the games and the athletes, she’s hand-picked as the official photographer for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. When a faux pas by Brenna almost costs Colton his career, she owes him. Too bad for her, Colton doesn’t want apologies — he wants retribution! And he knows just how to get it — and her — in the process.
 
Kara Leigh Miller’s: Website | Twitter | Facebook
 
 
To celebrate the cover reveal, the authors are giving away a $20 gift card to the bookstore of the winner’s choice. Check out the rafflecopter below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway Rafflecopter direct link

Meet Dominic Chekovsky From Debra Kayn’s Seductively

Please welcome special guest Dominic Chekovsky to the virtual offices this morning.  Dominic took some time away from his busy practice schedule to introduce himself, so give him a big hello!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Dominic Chekovsky] Dedicated, competitive, sincere, misunderstood, and sensitive. What? I am.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in the life of Dominic Chekovsky?

[Dominic Chekovsky] It’s all about hockey and Diana. I get up and plug in the coffee maker for Diana while I make a protein shake for myself. Usually this takes about an hour, because Diana strolls into the kitchen looking adorable with her curls going in every direction and distracts me. Then I head to the arena for hockey practice. I play hard. It’s going to be a banner season. By the evening, I’m ready to reconnect with Diana again and relax. We’re homebodies lately, preferring to entertain ourselves at home. She’s still trying to beat me in sock hockey. Once in awhile I let her win, because it benefits me. In two weeks, we’re taking a few days to travel to Cottage Grove and meet up with our friends.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to choose one moment that made you the person you are today, which would it be?

[Dominic Chekovsky] *grows serious* My parents. Their unending support and dedication in my career have made me the man I am today. My father gave me the advice as a young boy, "Whatever you do, throw your heart into it and you’ll always be happy." I think that’s true, don’t you?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Diana?

[Dominic Chekovsky] Hot, Mouthy, Adorable. *sighs on a smile* She’s perfect for me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you find most exasperating about her?

[Dominic Chekovsky] *scoots to the edge of his chair and lowers his voice* She argues a lot. Don’t tell her I said this, but her attitude drives me crazy. Sometimes I’ll argue with her just to set her off, so I can see the passion in her. She’s beautiful but when she fights, she steals my breath away.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Dominic Chekovsky] Ugh. I approached Diana all wrong back when I first met her. I’ve learned a lot about women since we got together, thanks to her. It all worked out for the best but if I would’ve known the secret to handling women, I would’ve stayed out of trouble early on in my career. I would’ve learned to say no to them sooner, before my life derailed.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Dominic Chekovsky] My car keys. Only because if I don’t take them with me, Diana steals my Porsche out of the garage. I’ve never seen a woman so attached to a car before. She drives way too fast.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Dominic Chekovsky] Babies. *grins and looks away* Yeah, babies with Diana.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Dominic Chekovsky] Thanks! It’s been fun. Don’t forget to watch the San Jose Sharks. We’re gonna kick ass this season.

To learn more about Dominic and Diana, be sure to read Debra Kayn’s Seductively.

Purchase link

Check out Wildly Book One in Debra’s Playing for Hearts series, too

About the book:

Independent and goal orientated, Diana Spenner has set her sights on buying the old Ferriday House and running her own Bed and Breakfast by the end of the year. Nothing will sway her from her plans, especially the famous hockey player Dominic Chekovsky, who can’t take no for an answer. But, when Dominic strolls into Cottage Grove and begs her in his thick Russian accent to keep his adoring female fans away from him, she’s not going to turn him down—because the job pays half a million dollars.

Dominic Chekovsky life is out of control. American women go crazy around him. They invade his personal space, leave their husbands for him, and make his life hell. Except, Diana. She’s the one woman who always turns him down, no matter how many times he asks her out on a date. Now he’s desperate. He needs Diana’s help to figure out why she’s the only female immune to his charm, so he can continue to play hockey in the United States. Maybe when Diana finally allows herself to say yes to having sex with him, he’ll be over his wild fascination with the one woman who always tells him no.
Warning: Sexy Russian accent, big ego, and thick, hard thighs on ice. Go Sharks!

Cover Shot! Melting the Ice 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?

Wow! This is the seventh Play by Play novel, and I still haven’t read The Perfect Play (which I purchased at Borders during their fire sale).  I like that the background looks like ice. Even though everything about this cover makes me think of winter, which I hate, I still think it’s fun to look at.

In stores February 2014

 

Carolina Preston has only one goal in mind—launching her new fashion line. She needs only one last thing to make it perfect—hockey phenom Drew Hogan. But Carolina and Drew have a history that goes back to their college days, and Carolina doesn’t want the embarrassment of her past to cloud the brightness of her future.

Drew is eager for the chance to show Carolina he isn’t the boy who hurt her back then, but a man now, with the skills necessary to melt the icy exterior of her cold heart.

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