A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: Finale by Stephanie Garber

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in Stephanie Garber’s #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series! 

Publication date: May 7, 2019
Published by: Macmillon/Flatiron
Genre: YA fantasy

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It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates were freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella saw Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancĂ©, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finally, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun—with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win...and those who will lose everything.

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Praise for Legendary:

#1 New York Times bestseller
ABA IndieNext Pick
Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far
“Immersive and imaginative.” —USA Today
“Mesmerizing.” —Us Weekly
“Fantastic in its spectacle and intrigue.” —BCCB, starred review
“A tour de force of imagination.” —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Caraval:

New York Times bestseller
ABA IndieBound national bestseller
#1 ABA IndieNext Pick
Entertainment Weekly Top 10 YA Novel of 2017
Amazon Best Book of the Year
Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Year
Publishers Weekly Flying Start
BEA Buzz Book
Goodreads Choice Award finalist
BuzzFeed Best YA Book of the Year
Paste Magazine Best YA Book of the Year
“The Hunger Games meets The Night Circus. Grade: A-.” —Entertainment Weekly 
“Impressive, original, wondrous.” —USA Today
“Spellbinding.” —US Weekly
“Magnificent. A spellbinding tale of love, loss, sacrifice, and hope.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review


When I’m not writing, I teach creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where I’ve been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings.

To help pay my bills during college, grad school, and the breaks in between, I worked as a barista, a waitress, a bartender, a customer service representative for an energy consulting company, and as a sales girl at Bath and Bodyworks. I also spent years working with youth; I worked as a counselor at space themed summer camp, volunteered at a school for deaf children in Mexico, and I took multiple groups of college students overseas to spend their winter vacations serving at youth hostels in Amsterdam. But out of everything that I’ve done, writing young adult novels has been my favorite job.

You can find her on:
Finale (Caraval, #3)Finale by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This series has been such an infinitely shifting kaleidoscope of wonder and imagination. Her characterization and world building skill is awe inspiring in its magnitude. When you step into Stephanie Garber's world, you immerse yourself inside a story that's so vividly drawn that for those few hours you believe anything is possible. I can easily say that this has been one of the most unpredictable, turn you upside down and shake you until your head spins kind of trilogy I've ever read. And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

With any ending to a series, there's some worry that the characters won't be given a proper farewell, especially when they all become near and dear to your heart. That was even more the case this time with the way things left off in Legendary. It was hard to imagine how every wrinkle would be smoothed out to my satisfaction. With the absence of a Caraval game this time around would it be missed? The answer to that is a categorical no. It was actually refreshing that Tella and Scarlett faced new challenges beyond beating the mind bending, magical game. There was still the sparkling Meridian Empire as a backdrop, the unleashed Fates to conquer, and life or death risks that could lead to ruin. There's a frenetic pace to Garber's books that doesn't let you stop and breathe, even for a minute. You're always running around the next twisting corner looking for answers, and Finale was no exception.

    Fear was a poison that people mistook as protection. Making choices to stay safe could be just as treacherous.

In the first half of the book, Tella made several choices that you could either interpret as bold or rash. In her desperation, I didn't always agree with the danger she kept putting herself in and felt that she was rushing head first into situations without thinking things through properly. Desperation can cause you to act impulsively, but there were times where I felt like shaking her. Especially her rationalizations for trusting Jacks when clearly he had proven himself to be consistently deceptive in his motivations. On the other hand, you learn never to trust anything in these books, and for all I knew she could be taking a leap of faith that would ultimately pay off in the end.

    I want to feel love in its every form. I used to be so scared of it, but now I think love is another type of magic. It makes everything brighter, it makes people who have it stronger, it breaks rules that aren’t supposed to exist,it’s infinitely valuable.

Legend pulled a jaw dropping move at the end of book two that makes you re-evaluate who Tella will end up with, and there is more doubt cast on him here as well. There are new revelations that alter the possibility of Legend choosing love. It's not a question of would he, but could he as well. There was no doubt he had feelings for her, he'd proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt. But how deep did they run? Were they shallow or all-consuming like a rip tide that would pull them both under?

I have to admit, I wasn't a fan of Scarlett's sudden triangle that cropped up at the end of book two. When I read the synopsis, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of a "competition" for her hand in marriage. It was probably the thing I was most worried about going into this one, but thankfully it ended up not being an issue. I'm happy to report that this didn't take up too much page time and was resolved fairly quickly. She had a much more intriguing storyline to follow that took me by surprise. I will say that this conflict that cropped up seemed overwhelmingly impossible. Secrets are unearthed that stacked the odds against her and would force her to make a sacrifice for the ones she loved most.

I don't want to go too deeply into the plot for fear of spoiling the mystery and grandeur that can be found in the grand finale. All I can tell you is how impressed I was in the way that so many different pieces clicked into place seamlessly by the end. With the level of detailed layers put into the plot, the scope of everything coming together in a believable way seemed like such a daunting challenge. The final installment came through with flying colors because I can't imagine this wild ride ending more smoothly. I'll miss Tella's bold and courageous spirit, Scarlett's romantic heart and the unbreakable sisterly bond that these two never lose sight of no matter what tribulations they have to survive and conquer. It was bittersweet to end the journey here, but I feel optimistic that Stephanie Garber has plans for something just as exciting in the future. I love this author's spellbinding way with words and I'm a forever fan that will always be first in line to take a journey into the fantastical worlds she creates. I can't wait to see what she imagines for us all next.



Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: Last Things by Jacqueline West

When strange things start happening to local music idol Anders Thorson, everyone blames his number-one-fan, Thea. But is she out to hurt him? Or protect him?

Publication date: May 7, 2019
Published by: Greenwillow
Genre: YA fantasy

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High school senior Anders Thorson is unusually gifted. His band, Last Things, is legendary in their northern Minnesota hometown. With guitar skills that would amaze even if he weren’t only eighteen, Anders is the focus of head-turning admiration. And Thea Malcom, a newcomer to the insular town, is one of his admirers. Thea seems to turn up everywhere Anders goes: gigs at the local coffeehouse, guitar lessons, even in the woods near Anders’s home. When strange things start happening to Anders—including the disappearance of his beloved cat, then his sort-of girlfriend, and, somehow, his musical talent—blame immediately falls on Thea. But is she trying to hurt him? Or save him? Can he trust a girl who doesn’t seem to know the difference between dreams and reality? And how much are they both willing to compromise to get what they want?

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Praise for Last Things:

A suspenseful tale wrought from power chords, creeping darkness, and disquieting twists.
Kirkus Reviews

West uses evocative language, including song lyrics, to enhance the ominous atmosphere in this updated Faustian thriller; her pitch-perfect depiction of music conjures pulse-pounding concerts and Anders' passion for metal. A dark and lovely saga, ideal for fans of Brenna Yovanoff and Holly Black.
-- Booklist


Jacqueline West is the author of the middle grade fantasy series The Books of Elsewhere (Dial/Penguin Random House, 2010 – 2014). The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One: The Shadows was a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start, an Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, a Junior Library Guild selection, a New York Times bestseller, and was the winner of the 2010 CYBILS Award for Fantasy. Volume Two: Spellbound was also a Junior Library Guild selection and a Minnesota Book Award finalist. Volume Five: Still Life received the Silver Falchion Award for middle grade novels. The series has also garnered multiple starred reviews and been published in eleven other languages to date.

Jacqueline loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, is sadly allergic to cats (though she manages to write about them without developing a rash), and is at least a little bit afraid of all fish larger than a hot dog bun. If you are sharing a pizza, she will ask for the crust pieces. Don't get her talking about Kurt Vonnegut, Tori Amos, Northern Exposure, or Sylvia Plath, or you'll be sorry. Jacqueline lives amid the bluffs of Red Wing, Minnesota, with her husband, her son, and her dog, a Springer Spaniel mix named Brom Bones.

You can find her on:
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Last ThingsLast Things by Jacqueline West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacqueline West explains in the author's note that this story is inspired by the legend of blues singer Robert Johnson, the man who's told to have sold his soul to the devil for his musical talent. She gives it her own metal band spin with a high schooler who has rocketed to fame in a small town in Minnesota. I'm not a metal fan, but those who are will find a lot of references in the book to enjoy. Thea Malcom adds an extra level of mystery and creepiness as the second protagonist with ambiguous intentions. After reading the first chapter I was immediately disturbed by her behavior and curious if she was a morally grey character, a villain, or a hero in disguise. The story was a shade slow moving in the beginning, but once it gains momentum, it's pretty compulsive reading.

Anders Thorson is one third of the band Last Things and unarguably the mega talent that has them hanging on the edge of stardom. Patrick, the drummer, and Jezz, the bassist are decent but can't compare the the awe inspiring performances Anders has quickly become known for. First impressions of him tell you that he's typically a quiet guy who's not entirely comfortable with people praising his talent. When he steps onstage he dons his alter ego. The boy that has lightning fast hands on the strings, and an aloof rock star edge that makes the girls in his school crazy. At first he seems humble. Unable to take compliments or reach for fame and fortune because he hasn't properly suffered as an artist. He seems to drown in Self-recrimination and shame. The truth is far darker. It's a secret that he convinces himself is only his wild imagination, but constantly wears on his conscience regardless.

    You can’t be the lead in something without it putting other people in the background. And you can’t just keep taking what you didn’t earn. You need to pay for it somehow.

I don't want to say too much about Thea for fear of spoiling the mystery surrounding her. Be prepared to wonder if she's a sick in the head stalker who has become unhealthily fixated on Anders. She exhibits all of the traits of someone like that, but there's always a little niggle of doubt about her true objective. There are dark and sinister creatures lurking in this tiny town that give more dimension to the story. Thea and her Aunt Mae are the only ones who seem to be aware of them, both gifted with supernatural talents. Mae is widely distrusted and gossiped about for odd occurrences she was tied to in the past, and as a result Thea is given a wide berth at school. Everyone sees her intense interest in Last Things, but more specifically Anders. She's even jokingly called his stalker for showing up at every single one of their shows and staring him down with laser focus. But when a local girl disappears it's no longer a joking matter.

West constantly attempts to cast doubt on the motivations of Thea, pretty far into the book. She also withholds a lot of the character background until later on to maintain a level of suspense for the reader. You're given small pieces of history and character development, but nothing concrete until around the last third of the book. While I understood her reasoning for that, it caused Thea to feel somewhat two-dimensional for a good portion of the plot. That being said, once her truth was revealed I was impressed with how distinct this was from anything else I've read. There were a couple of things that were not at all what I was expecting before opening up the book. Most notably, the small romantic sub-plot. However, I wouldn't categorize this book as romantic, really. It has a strong horror/paranormal feel that permeates every page.

    The dark things aren’t quite real, anyway. Not on this side of the cracks. But when you’re empty inside, dark things will find a place inside of you. Like water. Like air. Dig a hole. There will always be enough darkness to fill it up.

The seemingly ordinary town is crawling with malevolent things that the townspeople are completely unaware of. Some glaringly dangerous, others hiding behind a facade. The only question is, who will come out victorious in the end?

I appreciated West's lyrical writing style and her ability to create a dark, atmospheric setting that almost becomes a character in and of itself. If you're looking for a YA fantasy that's a little different than what's being offered right now, give this one a shot.



Blog Tour with Excerpt: Time by Penny Reid


"Utterly addictive, fascinating, hilarious, and absolutely electric chemistry!"

-- Samantha Young, New York Times Bestselling Author

New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid’s The Laws of Physics Trilogy is complete with TIME!


A (brokenhearted) physicist.
Now an infamous (who is LITERALLY EVERYWHERE!! UGH!) musician.
The worst has already happened.

Mona has learned that she has nothing figured out and plans are meaningless. After leaving her in Aspen, Abram is now breaking sales-records, rising to rock star fame almost overnight. Mona can’t seem to escape him. He is literally everywhere, or at least images of him are.

Just when she thinks things can't get any more confusing, Abram returns . . . What happens next? Only TIME will tell.

Download your copy today!

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/TimePR
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Sm1Zmu
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2WSQbXe
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Start the series today with MOTION!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/Motion
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2DoH8pv
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2T4ebo9

Continue the series with SPACE!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/SpacePR
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2RRny94
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2tfBT5C


     I wrapped my arms around her body, lifted her off the ground, and kissed her lips.
She was warm, and soft, and tasted like peppermint and honey. I bit back a groan.
     God, she felt good. Great. Celestial. Heavenly. I may have surprised her, but she responded immediately, enthusiastically, twisting her arms around my neck, opening her mouth and welcoming the invasion of mine.
     It wasn’t enough.
     It was a crumb, and I was starving. Desire—to tighten my hold, devour, take, keep, cherish, to never let her go—obscured thought and sight, and I slipped a hand under her shirt to touch the silky skin of her back, sliding my fingers upward until they rested under her bra strap.
     Mona lifted her chin, breaking our mouths apart, and I kissed the point of it, the elegant line of her jaw, the tender spot beneath her ear, the hot skin where Mona’s graceful neck met the slope of her shoulder. I was so hungry for her, I couldn’t stop myself from tasting every exposed inch.
     “Abram,” she said, her voice a breathless, disbelieving whisper, followed by a little laugh. Her fingers flexed at the back of my neck, pressing me closer. Every part of my body hummed and vibrated, unable to contain the immensity of now, of this divine feeling.
     “You’re here,” she said, her soft voice full of wonder and happiness, soothing the ravenous panic holding me hostage for the past six days. It had been a peculiar kind of madness, not being able to reach her while pretending all was fine, pretending she didn’t occupy my mind every second of the day. But receding now, it left a new kind of turmoil and urgency in its wake.
     We had no time.
     No, I corrected myself, We have time. We have the rest of our lives.
     “I need your fu—your phone number.” I spoke gruffly against her neck, squeezing my eyes shut and breathing her in, again and again, the heat and sweetness of Mona.
     I’d missed her, and that was a gross understatement. I’d been speeding toward this moment for days and being with her now felt like the aftermath of a head-on collision. Stupefied, frantic, but determined to enjoy every shared second remaining. My hands were shaking.
     We have time. Calm down. Calm down.
     Mona laughed lightly, the sound melodic, beautiful, and she pressed a kiss under my ear. “Why didn’t you just ask Leo? Or send me an email?”
I worked to keep the darkness of my thoughts from showing on my face as I leaned away, letting her slide to the ground but unwilling to release her fully, fisting my unsteady hands into her T-shirt. “I couldn’t find an email for you anywhere, and neither could Marie. She tried calling your department for me. They told her all media requests had to go through the PR department at the university and it would take two weeks to a month for a response.”
     “Ah, that’s true. My email is on lockdown, otherwise it gets out of hand.” She nodded contritely. “But what about Leo?”
     “Leo.” I forced my jaw to relax and I lowered my voice but couldn’t completely disguise the intensity of my wrath. “Leo wouldn’t give me your number.”
Mona’s hand moved to my face, her palm pressed against my cheek, the pads of her fingers softly stroking my beard. “What? Are you serious?”
     “Yes,” I ground out. “He said he was doing me a favor. So I flew to LA.”
     “You flew to LA?” I felt her body tense, and the moment realization dawned, her beautiful eyes growing impossibly large as they moved over my face. “You must be so tired and—but I wasn’t in LA, I was—”
     “Here. Yes. I found that out yesterday when I stopped by your department at Caltech and they told me you weren’t due back until Friday,” I rushed to explain, multitasking, using the time to devour the sight of her, soak and submerge in the reality of being here with her.
     Calm down. We. Have. Time.

Meet Penny Reid:

Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja. 

Connect with Penny:

Stay up to day with Penny by joining her mailing list: http://bit.ly/2szN34G

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: Anything But a Duke by Christy Carlyle

Publication date: April 30, 2019
Published by: Avon Romance
Genre: historical romance

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Self-made man Aidan Iverson has seen more closed doors in his thirty years than he’s ever cared to count. As a member of the elite Duke’s Den, he has all the money he could possibly need, but the one thing he can’t purchase is true power. If roguish Aidan can’t buy his way into society’s hallowed halls, he’ll resort to a more extreme measure: marriage.

Brought up to be a proper lady, the only thing Diana Ashby desires is to be left alone to the creation of her own devices. But when her dreams are crushed, she must find another way to secure the future of her invention. Knowing his desire to enter her world, Diana strikes a deal to arrange Aidan’s marriage to the perfect lady—as long as that lady isn’t her. She doesn’t need any distractions from her work, particularly of the sinfully handsome variety.

As Diana and Aidan set out to find him an aristocratic match, neither are prepared for the passion that ignites between them or the love they can’t ignore.

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Praise for Anything But a Duke:

“Christy Carlyle writes poignant, genuine characters who will melt your heart and keep you turning pages long past your bedtime.”
- Kelly Bowen, New York Times bestselling author

“I absolutely adore Christy Carlyle!”
- Lorraine Heath, New York Times bestselling author

“Carlyle inventively incorporates a Victorian riff on the concept of Shark Tank as well as the hero’s hunt for his own past into the engaging plot of the second quirkily different and splendidly sexy addition to her Duke’s Den series.”
- Booklist

“In Carlyle’s memorable second Duke’s Den Victorian romance, a budding scientist and a wealthy businessman discover they are a perfect match. Fans of historical romance with strong, intelligent heroines will adore this novel, in which emotionally vulnerable, highly motivated characters complete the sensuous story.”
- Publishers Weekly

“Mature, interesting, and romantic protagonists elevate a familiar story.”
- Kirkus Reviews


Fueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, USA Today bestselling author Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there's nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.

You can find her on:
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Anything But a Duke (Duke's Den, #2)Anything But a Duke by Christy Carlyle
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After reading and loving A Duke Changes Everything, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second book in the series. The Duke's Den series revolves around three friends who own a gambling club that the nobility and the lower class both frequent. Aidan is one third owner, and it was with his sharp instincts in investments as well as skill in profiting at gambling that gave them the financial means to build their empire. At the club they are respected and sometimes feared, but there's one aspect in his business ventures that Aidan can't seem to breach and conquer. His humble beginnings and lack of "breeding" is a handicap that only marriage to a noblewoman will solve.

    There would always be a disparity. No matter how much money he earned. No matter how many devices he funded. No matter how many London men of business spoke his name with a mix of fear and reverence.

After getting denied permission to participate in an industrial exhibition that he's set his heart on, he vows to obtain a fiancé that will give him a golden ticket into whatever door he knocks on. So why is it that he can't seem to stop thinking about a woman who is wrong for him in every logical way? A woman he's struck a bargain with to find him a willing bride in exchange for investing in her invention?

Diana Ashby is an unconventional woman of the time. She spends all of her time in her lab with her inventions, and hasn't the slightest interest in the marriage mart. Not even when finding a rich husband could drag their family out of poverty where her father left them. She's convinced that she will succeed in selling one of her ideas, if only her mother will give her the time to make it happen. Aidan is her last chance to make a success of herself before she's forced to give up her dreams and passion for creating. Diana is a woman who leads with her head, not her heart. She's not one for silly day dreams of happily ever after, or allowing herself to be guided by impulses of the moment.

    “Poets tell of love. Novelists write characters who fall far too readily. But I don’t have time for reading poetry or novels.” Diana smiled, but didn’t meet her friend’s gaze. “I prefer to make decisions based on what’s rational. On what I can see and touch and calculate.”

She was also stubborn to a fault and single minded in her pursuit of personal goals. In that way she was much like Aidan. Their deal should have given both of them everything they could have ever wanted. But as she introduces him to a few of her friends she becomes increasingly uncomfortable thinking about him finding a match in another woman. For once in her life she's beginning to feel driven by emotion and wanted in a way that she's never experienced before. Seen and appreciated for who she truly is rather than an eccentric who doesn't fit into the mold that society wants to put her in. Aidan too, is struggling with accepting his attraction for someone who wants nothing to do with marriage. Once he accepts the reality of his altered feelings, the challenge of winning Diana is his new end game. And nothing will stand in his way.

    All he truly wanted was to find a way to have her in his life every day and his bed every night. His ambition, his hunger for success—none of that was a shadow of how much he wanted Diana.

There is also a subplot that ties into the overall conflict. Aidan is desperate to find news of his mother and sister. To finally find out what happened to them when he lost contact with them as a child. The need to know if they are all right, to learn his father's identity and put the mysteries of the past at rest is overwhelming.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, but I found it to be a little slow in the first third of the story. I struggled to get completely invested in the couple's romance which was a pretty slow burn, and didn't feel the same excitement I did for the first couple. But in general, I thought it was a good story. Aidan's pursuit of her in the end was wonderful to see. She had a hard time relinquishing the idea of what she thought they both needed so he had his work cut out for him in changing her mind.

Though this wasn't a smash hit for me like the previous book, there was still plenty to enjoy. Fans of a light historical romance with strong, unconventional heroines will find what they're looking for here. It is not necessary to read book one, as these are all easily read as standalones. I encourage you to give it a shot.



Review: Fumbled by Alexa Martin

A second chance doesn't guarantee a touchdown in this new contemporary romance from the author of Intercepted.

Publication date: April 23, 2019
Published by: Berkley/Penguin
Genre: romance

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Single-mother Poppy Patterson moved across the country when she was sixteen and pregnant to find a new normal. After years of hard work, she's built a life she loves. It may include a job at a nightclub, weekend soccer games, and more stretch marks than she anticipated, but it's all hers, and nobody can take that away. Well, except for one person.

TK Moore, the starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs, dreamt his entire life about being in the NFL. His world is football, parties, and women. Maybe at one point he thought his future would play out with his high school sweetheart by his side, but Poppy is long gone and he's moved on.  

When Poppy and TK cross paths in the most unlikely of places, emotions they've suppressed for years come rushing back. But with all the secrets they never told each other lying between them, they'll need more than a dating playbook to help them navigate their relationship.

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for Fumbled:

"I wish I could jump into the Fumbled world and hang out on the couch and drink wine and gossip with Poppy and her friends!"—Jasmine Guillory, New York Times bestselling author

"Get ready for sparks to fly..."—PopSugar

“Spending time in Martin’s world is like having a heart-to-heart with your bestie.”—Entertainment Weekly

"Martin expertly captures the struggle between the need for a quiet, ordinary life and the demands of an all-star career path that invites gossip, grudges, and jealousy. In this delicious follow-up to Intercepted (2016), Martin once again draws on her own experience as an NFL wife to create a winning sports romance."—Booklist starred review

"Readers will laugh, swoon, and grow to love every character in this entertaining contemporary romance."—Publishers Weekly

“A hardworking single mom comes face to face with the gorgeous star athlete who got away in the second installment of a football romance series by a fresh-voiced newcomer to the genre… Poppy leaps off the page as a contemporary biracial woman navigating dating, motherhood, and career with seriousness and a fantastic sense of humor.”—Kirkus Reviews

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. She lives in Colorado with her husband, a former NFL player who now coaches at the high school where they met, their four children, and a German Shepherd. When she's not telling her kids to put their shoes on...again, you can find her catching up with her latest book boyfriend or on Pinterest pinning meals she'll probably never make. Her first book, Intercepted, was inspired by the eight years she spent as an NFL wife.

You can find her on:
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Fumbled (Playbook, #2)Fumbled by Alexa Martin
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Alexa Martin's debut Intercepted was hilarious and highly entertaining, but her follow up was even better. The snarky narrative that I enjoyed so much was just as present this time in the form of Poppy Patterson. Single mother, waitress, and high school sweetheart of TK, wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs. This is a lighter second-chance romance which was refreshing to read. The majority of the time they are heavier on the angst and I do highly enjoy those, but this was a nice break from the norm. Which isn't to say that this lacked in the emotion department, because there was still plenty of moments that will tug on your heartstrings.

    I want our lives to become so intertwined we can’t figure out where one starts and the other ends. I want you and Ace around as much as I can have you around. I want you both.”

Poppy was a teen mother who had to sacrifice her dreams of attending Northwestern in order to raise her son on her own. After choosing to keep the baby, her parents disowned her and she didn't have an easy road. Instead of wallowing in bitterness, she works her butt off without complaint in order to give her son the happy life he deserves. I felt nothing but admiration for her drive, determination, and sense of humor-even when life threw her a curveball. Her crappy job at the Emerald Cabaret brings her face to face with a ghost from her past: Trevor Kyle "TK" Moore.

TK made brief appearances in the previous book and he always came off as a sweet and respectful guy despite his supposed reputation for partying and enjoying a wide variety of women. You're told this about him, but his player lifestyle is not really something you witness. Their first interaction is very early in the book, and from first glance on, he has his eyes set on one woman. His first love, the woman he could never forget, despite the fact that she disappeared on him ten years ago without the courtesy of a goodbye. He was a fantastic hero that is easy to love right from the start. Extroverted, and the life of the party without being ridiculous or too silly. He revels in teasing Poppy and flustering her which almost always ended in a moment of awkward hilarity.

This is not the typical second chance romance where the hero becomes famous and the heroine has stars in her eyes over his fame and glamorous lifestyle. If you think that, you'll be wrong. Rather than feeling awe over her ex's career, it's actually a hindrance to their reconciliation. Poppy makes it abundantly clear that she despises football and the danger it poses to its players.
    FOOTBALL IS THE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE EQUIVALENT TO A CULT. It seems like tons of fun and everyone around you is an avid follower of the religion. Oops. I mean sport.

Fanatics idolize football players as god-like beings, and treat them as if they're incapable of feeling hurt over insensitive words. Martin's first-hand experience as a spouse of an NFL player lends authenticity to her heroines' feelings and challenges. We see examples of what it would be like for family members attending home games in the stadium. The toll that it takes when you have to witness your loved one injured and worry about the severity of the next hit they'll have to take.

I would say that the main conflict of the book revolves around this fear of Poppy's. She has done extensive reading on the brain disease called CTE-Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is a degenerative brain disease that's caused by repeated concussions or head trauma. She feels so strongly about the dangers of this to the players' health that she's firmly against her son's interest in the sport and won't budge on her refusal to let him play. Seeing TK out on the field scares her more than impresses her and it's not a simple roadblock for them to overcome.

There are other various things that crop up as they get to know one another again.

    What I don’t know is, after all his time as a party boy, star football player supreme, if he’s ready to settle down. It might seem fun to play family man now, but how long until the novelty wears off and he wants his VIP club status back?

I loved the fact that he was all in in his pursuit of her right from the start, but that didn't mean that she was able to trust that things would work out this time around. Years had passed, and they were different people now. Could their love endure through shocking revelations and unexpected strain on their tenuous relationship? TK needed to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was in it for the long haul and that he was willing to put his new family first above all else.

Together, I thought Poppy and TK were adorable, charming, and intrinsically right for each other. Their separation as teens was caused by interference by a third party and a misunderstanding rather than any horrible action on either of their parts. When they reconnect, their love is as strong as ever, and the heat between them equally so. There was no doubt in my mind that they had the goods to remain strong partners and parents long term. There was minimal drama with a malicious person leaving threatening notes for Poppy, but it wasn't over the top. In the previous book there several moments where the heroine's safety was threatened to the point where it didn't feel entirely realistic. I was impressed with how it was toned down this time and didn't add anything unnecessary to the plot. 

I simply love Martin's brand of humor and romance, and I think she's a new voice in the genre that will be around for a long time to come.