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The Book Barista Reviews: The Darkest Link by Scarlett Cole

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Title:  The Darkest Link

Series:  Second Circle Tattoos, #4

Author:  Scarlett Cole

Release Date:  August 30, 2016

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The Darkest Link

ISHO Summary

When her car breaks down off the side of a lonely highway far from her sunny Miami home, tattoo artist Lia never expected her very own white knight to ride up on the back of a barely street-legal motorcycle…and she never expected to fall for her dark savior. After a string of failed relationships and a bruised heart, Lia is not looking for forever, and the hot mechanic, with his sexy scruff and shaggy hair, is simply impossible to resist and the perfect candidate for mind-blowingly-perfect, no-strings-attached one night stand.

Reid left his life in Chicago far behind him and hasn’t been back, but he’s never been able to escape the guilt he feels about his own painful role in inviting a monster into his baby sister’s life. A monster who almost destroyed her. Being with Lia is an unexpected gift, one he doesn’t feel he deserves, and their one night together has him wanting more than he should. Especially since she doesn’t know the truth about his past. However, when he finds Lia’s bracelet in his bed, he has the perfect excuse to drive down and surprise her at her tattoo studio, Second Circle Tattoos, in Miami. He’s in for an even bigger shock – and a fist to the face – when his past and present collide in the humid Miami weather when he runs into the last person he’d ever expect to see in a tattoo studio: Harper, the sister he betrayed, and the last link to his former life.

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I was kind of sad to see that this would be the last book in this series, but at the same time I was happy to see that we would find out about Reid.  Reid was mentioned in the very first book and I was definitely left wondering about what had happened to him.  Why he just disappeared from his sister’s life.

Right off the top I want to say that I loved Reid.  A LOT! He rides a motorcycle.  He’s a gentleman.  He’s really caring.  AND he’s sexy as all get out!  All these things are what make him perfect for Lia. She’s smart, talented, looks like a pinup girl and drives a classic car.

Reid and Lia seem to have an instant connection.  They try to treat it lightly but soon realize it’s more than they expected.  Both of them have unresolved issues with their parents, especially their fathers. With each others’ help they manage to navigate through and come to some resolutions.  Along the way there is a some drama which leaves you wondering “WTF?!” but it gets resolved.

Scarlett Cole has wrapped up this series very nicely.  It was a pleasure to read this series and I am definitely looking forward to her next series.  I gave The Darkest Link four very satisfying and delicious cups coffee.

NEW four coffee

 

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Note: I received this ARC from the Publisher/NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


The Book Barista Reviews: Ghost by A. Zavarelli

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Title:  Ghost

Series:  Boston Underworld, #3

Author:  A. Zavarelli

Release Date:  August 26, 2016

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Ghost

 

ISHO Summary

Talia.
I have always been a bird. Caged by one prison or another when the only thing I ever wanted was to fly away.
Sold. Beaten. Starved. Drugged.
Nothing scares me anymore.
Until him.
He makes the numbness go away.
He is hazardous to me. It has nothing to do with his mafia lifestyle, and everything to do with what he offers.
A gilded prison.
A retreat from everything that I once knew. The reality I have no desire to return to.
He thinks he’s caged me, but soon…
I’m going to fly.

Alexei.
I live by a code. The Vory code.
In this mafiya world, there are traditions.
Expectations.
She does not care for these things. She does not care about anything.
She thinks she has me fooled with her haunted eyes.
What she can’t know is that I see her better than most.
She wants to fly.
But I’m going to clip her wings.
And make her my wife.

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I’ve only recently become a fan of A. Zavarelli, thanks to an audiobook group I’m in on Facebook.  After listening to Crow and reading Reaper (the first two books in this series) I was dying to get my hands on Ghost.  I knew that I was going to have to brace myself for this because I had a feeling it was going to be INTENSE.

Alexei and Talia are two extremely damaged people.  Alexei lives with the pain of being disowned by his father and for living with a secret that no one must know.  Talia has endured unspeakable things, both as a child and then again as a young woman.  Although both broken, they seem to come together on a basic level.  Of course, neither one of them will admit how deep their relationship actually is.

Along the way, we get to see some of the characters we already know and love and we meet a few that we now love and a few that we hate A LOT!

A. Zavarelli did not disappoint with Ghost.  I couldn’t put this book down and read through it pretty quickly (if only work and real life didn’t interfere, I would’ve finished faster). This book was definitely worth five very strong and intense espressos.  I now endeavour to read all the other books written by Ms. Zavarelli and I especially look forward to more in this series.

five espressos

 

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Note: I received this ARC from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.


The Book Barista Reviews: Ravage by Tillie Cole

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Title:  Ravage

Series:  Scarred Souls, #3

Author:  Tillie Cole

Release Date:  August 16, 2016

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Ravage.jpg

ISHO Summary

Taken by the Jakhua Clan as a teen, 194 was stripped of his name, his identity, and his freewill, meticulously honed to be a ruthless, soulless killing machine, trained solely to spill blood and stop hearts. This is a role he resents with every fiber of his being, but one he embraces to gain back the precious leverage the Georgians wield as their weapon of control: his younger sister, 152.

Mzia Kostava is in shock. After fleeing her mafia family’s massacre in Georgia as a child, Mzia lives in secret, hiding from her enemies in the dark shadows of Manhattan. At age twenty-five, believing all her family is dead, word reaches Mzia that her brother Zaal is very much alive… and living with their family’s greatest enemy: the Volkov Bratva in Brooklyn.

Yearning to be reunited with her beloved Zaal, Mzia risks her safety and anonymity for the brother she had mourned since childhood. But just as she reaches Zaal’s apartment, Mzia is seized and taken captive by a strange man, who is strong, dark, and brutal… Unyielding, he demands her utter obedience as he locks her away in darkness. He is highly skilled in torture and inflicting pain, and demands to know everything about her brother Zaal and everything about her. He is a man that’ll do anything to get what he wants.

Sometimes love requires the sacrifice and betrayal of those held most dear. But is finding one’s true love worth committing the greatest sacrifice of all?

 

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I look at pictures and videos of Tillie Cole and I ask myself how such a seemingly sweet girl could possibly come up with the darkness that I’ve read in her books (this series and the Hades Hangmen series). Then I ask myself why I love her books so much. With each story she weaves a  world of so much darkness and pain but through all that she allows hope and love to flourish. I do believe this is the reason why I love her books.

I felt so much for these characters.  I can’t say much without spoiling the book but I will say that 194 aka Valentin and Zoya have endured so much pain and fear in their lives.  The circumstances that brought them together are not at all romantic but somehow out of the torture and pain they fall in love.

As always, it’s always so good to connect with characters from the previous books in the series and after reading this book I’m left waiting for the next book.

I gave Ravage four hot, strong espressos.  I feel that I need to explain that the only reason that this book did not get five coffees from me is because some of the scenes were a bit difficult for me to read.  I think I was suffering a bit of anxiety reading this book.  I’m happy to say that I read through my anxiety and loved this book and the characters.

four espressos

 

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Note: I received this ARC from the Publisher/NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


The Book Barista Reviews: Hard Rules by Lisa Renee Jones

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Title:  Hard Rules

Series:  Dirty Money, #1

Author:  Lisa Renee Jones

Release Date:  August 9, 2016

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Hard Rules

 

ISHO Summary

Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy in the smoldering, scorching first novel in the explosively sexy new Dirty Money series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones.

How bad do you want it?

The only man within the Brandon empire with a moral compass, Shane Brandon is ready to take his family’s business dealings legitimate. His reckless and ruthless brother, Derek wants to keep Brandon Enterprises cemented in lies, deceit, and corruption. But the harder Shane fights to pull the company back into the light, the darker he has to become. Then he meets Emily Stevens, a woman who not only stirs a voracious sexual need in him, but becomes the only thing anchoring him between good and evil.

Emily is consumed by Shane, pushed sexually in ways she never dreamed of, falling deeper into the all-encompassing passion that is this man. She trusts him. He trusts her, but therein lies the danger. Emily has a secret, the very thing that brought her to him in the first place, and that secret that could that destroy them both.

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Allow me to start by saying that this is the first book I’ve read by Lisa Renee Jones and I’ll be honest when I say it was the “Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy” part of the summary that caught my attention.  I now must say that there was nothing in this book that I would equate to Sons of Anarchy.  Nothing at all.  That said, I did enjoy this book.

There’s lots of intrigue in this book.  Like, what is really going on in the Brandon family and who really is Emily?  After reading this book I was left with more questions than answers.  I did not realize that this book ends in a cliffhanger and that I will have to read the next books in the series to get any real answers.  I wish I had been warned about this.

I enjoyed Shane Brandon, he’s smart and sexy and does not seem fooled by any of the treachery around him.  As for Emily, I liked her most of the time.  I found myself rolling my eyes at her sometimes.

I liked this book enough to want to know what is going to happen so I will be looking out for the next book in the series which I believe will be released in February 2017.  I gave Hard Rules three cups of java and settle in for the wait for the next book.

NEW three coffees

 

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Note: I received this ARC from the Publisher/NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


Cover Reveal: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

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Title:  The Goal

Series:  Off Campus, #4

Author:  Elle Kenney

Release Date:  September 26, 2016

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TheGoal iBooks

 

ISHO Summary

 

She’s good at achieving her goals…

College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

But the game just got a whole lot more complicated

Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

 

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The Book Barista Reviews: Searching for Harmony by Kelly Elliott

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Title:  Searching for Harmony

Series:  Boston Love, #1

Author:  Kelly Elliott

Release Date:  July 12, 2016

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Searching for Harmony

ISHO Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Kelly Elliott comes the gut-wrenching story of a love that transcends all odds—and transforms the deepest pain into the brightest hope.
 
Firefighter and first responder Preston Ward thought he had grown immune to the job’s emotional burns. But when he goes out on a particularly tragic call, he realizes that some scenes are too devastating to forget. And yet, if it weren’t for that terrible night, he never would have met the woman who makes him want to risk his heart.

More than once, Harmony Banks has watched her perfectly ordered world torn apart by fate. Now she’s finding out that what she lost wasn’t as perfect as she thought—and it’s tearing her apart. The only thing that keeps her going is the kindness of a stranger: the firefighter who saved her life the night everything changed.

Preston isn’t like the men who have come before. For one thing, he’s far more genuine. And the love Harmony feels growing between them is almost too intense for her wounded soul. But if she and Preston can push past heartbreak, they’ll find that something incredible awaits in each other’s arms.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

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This is the first book by Kelly Elliott that I have read and I’m pretty pleased that I did.

As I was thinking about what to write in this review one word kept coming to mind.  Sweet. Sometimes you just want to read a book that is..sweet – not too much angst, not too much sex.  Just lovely characters that you’re rooting for and a sweet love story.  This is that book.

Harmony and Preston are brought together by cruel fate.  At first, I didn’t know how Harmony could endure such tragedy but with the help of her brother and Preston, she gets through.  At first her relationship with Preston is based on friendship but it obviously becomes more.

I enjoyed this book and felt good when I finished it.  I do believe I will read other books by this author.  I gave Searching for Harmony four sweet and comforting cappuccinos.

four cappuccinos

 

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Note:  I received this ARC from the Publisher/NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


The Book Barista Reviews: Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

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Title:  Cream of the Crop

Series:  Hudson Valley, #2

Author:  Alice Clayton

Release Date:  July 12, 2o16

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Cream of the Crop

ISHO Summary

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton brings her trademark blend of funny and sexy to this second contemporary romance in the brand-new Hudson Valley series!

Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is…cheese.

Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.

Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be…love?

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This is book two in Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley series.  When we were briefly introduced to Natalie and Oscar in the first book I knew I wanted to know more about the quiet creamery owner.

As expected when reading Alice Clayton books there were plenty of laugh out loud moments.  An exchange between Natalie and Oscar that included  the quote: “great comma big ass” was my absolute favourite. [Note of advice:  don’t read Alice Clayton books at work.  It’s hard to explain why you’re laughing your ass off.]

Natalie was one of my favourite book characters.  She’s a successful advertising exec and a big girl that owns her curves.  She makes men bow down to her.  Except for when she sees Oscar.  Oscar is the only man that makes her a little tongue-tied.

As for Oscar…*swoon*…he’s a beautiful, quiet man.  I think that he sees things in a simple manner.  He doesn’t get sucked into drama.  Aaaaaand he makes cheese! That’s a win in my book.  He’s a fantastic book boyfriend.

Cream of the Crop gets four delicious cappuccinos made with delicious  milk from Bailey Falls Creamery and served with some delicious brie.  I am definitely looking forward to the third book in this series.

four cappuccinos

 

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Note:  I received this ARC from the Publisher/NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


The Book Barista: Guest Review of Higher Ground by Nan Lowe

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SPECIAL MESSAGE:  One of my book besties, Michelle/@allthingshhh,  was so excited about this book and asked if she could share her review here on my blog.  Her enthusiasm was contagious and I immediately knew it would be my pleasure to let her share her thoughts on this book with you all.  You are in for a real treat!  Michelle is a very eloquent reviewer.  I want to be like her when I grow up.  Please enjoy this review!!!

Title:  Higher Ground

Author:  Nan Lowe

Release Date:  July 12, 2016

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Higher Ground

 

ISHO Summary

Nearly a decade after leaving her tumultuous high school years and New Orleans behind, Dr. Violet Foster is thriving in Atlanta. She’s landed a job in the English Department of a prestigious school and shares a home—and her heart—with Wade Price, the love of her life.
Everything’s going according to plan.
Until a phone call from Violet’s younger brother thwarts her holiday plans and upends her carefully constructed life. She’s managed to avoid her hometown for years and dance around the secrets she left buried there. A wedding reception and an ailing grandmother beckon her return to The Big Easy, but as her departure nears, Violet is forced to reconcile the person she was with the woman she’s become.
Even if it means losing everything she holds dear.

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 Somewhere in each of us, there are moments when we reflect; we cast our minds back to our youth and wonder ‘what if’?  What if our journey to the present had been different? Most of us wouldn’t want to go back to the drama and insecurities of those years. But with just a song on the radio, a call from an old friend, or chance encounter with the ‘first heartbreak’, our mind drifts back to that time and we wonder.

Nan Lowe, in her unique storytelling way, gives life to those very emotions. In her self-published debut, Nan’s gift of emotional imagery draws you into Violet’s past and present.  Through the entire book, I grew closer to Violet and wanted to spare her from the turmoil of those yester-years. And her love interest, Wade, let’s just say you’ll want him all for yourself.  His love, strength, and compassion for Violet is so very touching.

Switching between past and present timelines, without interrupting the plot or pace of the storyline, is integral to the flow of the book. That’s hard to accomplish and Ms. Lowe does it seamlessly.  Nan not only gives us a well-defined heroine (Violet) and hero (Wade), but also incorporates an array of strong supporting characters that round out Violet’s life. You get a sense of Violet’s temperament in her youth versus her maturity in later years.  Some of these characters you’ll like or love.  Others might make you want to throw your e-reader across the room.  Violet’s Grandmother is wise and endearing. Another key player has such a dark pull on Violet’s life, you’ll feel compelled to shout out a warning. Nan’s ability to transport readers via narrative, imagery, and description gives proof to her skill and talent for weaving a fictional story into one that seems so very real.

The desire to keep reading the next chapter, and then the next, is a testimony to how invested you become in Violet’s secrets. If you’re anything like me, reading until the wee hours will have you yawning at work the next day.  I chose to read this book on my own and had to comfort myself with chocolate. My suggestion to you is to make Higher Ground a book club read so you can discuss this emotional roller coaster with a group of girlfriends while sharing wine!

Higher Ground is essentially about love, trust, and healing.  It’s about saving yourself when you can’t save another from their fate. Violet’s story has it all.  Nan brings us from such sweet moments to such lows that hurt us on behalf of Violet and Wade.  With honesty and trust in Wade, you end up cheering for Violet when she finally reaches the safety of Higher Ground.

Using Stefter’s rating system, I’m giving Nan Lowe’s Higher Ground five out of five Lattes.  This is exactly the kind of book you’ll want to curl up and read with a warm cup of java. Whether a cozy corner or a sunny spot at the beach, reading Higher Ground will make you feel, think, and ponder.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Michelle

@allthingshhh

 five caffé latte

A big thank you to Stefter for allowing me to share my thoughts about a new book. I’ve been excited about this since Nan first stated she was in the process of writing her debut story.  Stefter and I often fangirl about books we’ve read via Twitter or Skype sessions.  This time, she’s sweet enough to let me barrow her blogging stage to fangirl with all of you.

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Note: Michelle received this ARC from the author in exchange for her honest opinion.