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BOOK REVIEW ~ HARD EVIDENCE BY PAMELA CLARE

After the murder of a teenage girl, a mysterious man in a black leather jacket was seen lurking near the crime scene. Investigative reporter Tessa Novak has him in her sights as the culprit… That man was Julian Darcangelo, an undercover FBI agent working with the Denver police. He’s closing in on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. Tessa’s accusations could blow his cover, and he wants her off the investigation.

But just as Tessa has made Julian a target of interest, she is now a target of the killer. And as they are forced to trust each other, their physical attraction escalates as intensely as the threat from a ruthless murderer who wants to see both of them dead…

Continuing on with my re-read of this series!  I adored the first book which I thought was pretty suspenseful, but I keep forgetting that with each new book in the series, the author takes the suspense up a notch so plot-wise this was even better than Extreme Exposure! And then there’s the fact that the author has created this irresistible, protective hero Julian that I couldn’t help but swoon over…

“I’m half Italian.”
“Which half?” the words were out before Tessa could stop them. Was she flirting with him? She never flirted with men.
His lips curved in a slow, sexy smile that made her heart trip. “From the waist down.”

So this is book 2 in the I-team series and investigative journalist Tessa Novak’s story. I remember when I was reading book 1 for the very first time and saw that Tessa would be the next I-team member to get a book, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it (I still thought the same while I read it now). Don’t get me wrong, she’s a wonderful heroine, really mature, and great at her job but there wasn’t anything about her that made her stand out from the other I-team members. She’s what I like to call a quiet heroine, and her sweet southern belle personality wasn’t something I was fond of. I like bold, outspoken, gutsy heroines and while Tessa was strong in her own way, she had a very timid side that the author captured in the romance aspect of the book. In short, Tessa is a pretty average heroine to me because she didn’t add anything to the story but certainly didn’t take away from it either.

The main highlight of the book for me besides the nail-biting suspense was definitely the hero Julian. I’ve said this so many times before but it’s worth mentioning again: this author creates some of the BEST literary heroes ever!! No matter their pasts, their occupation, their ordeals and tribulations, there is always this core code of honor each of her men have and this innate sense to protect. There’s no other way of saying it – her men are so male. Julian is all the above and more. I loved him when I read about his dedication to bringing down a huge sex trafficking ring and how that has affected him personally. I loved him even more when he willingly let his undercover agent persona get compromised if it meant he could protect Tessa. So yeah…while I wasn’t a huge fan of Tessa, I do have to admit she was perfect for Julian. His ugly, heartbreaking past is slowly revealed as the story progresses, and it made sense that a broken, but resilient man like him would be drawn to and find comfort with a sweet angel like Tessa.

Another thing that I have to mention is how amazing this author’s attention to detail is. Even down to the smallest things, nothing is left out but not detailed to the point where the plot is boring. It’s obvious that she’s done her research and I could really feel the love and passion she has for journalism and the topics she incorporates into the story. The writing flowed in a way where I’m eased into the story so not everything is thrown at me all at once. It’s just really well-paced!

For this series, it’s especially hard for me to pick favorites because I seriously love each book for different reasons BUT I’d have to say that I liked this second book a little less than the others. Don’t take that in a negative way though because I still really enjoyed it. What makes the difference between the really good books (which this book was!) and the stellar, outstanding ones are how strongly I feel about the characters. Julian shined brightly but because Tessa was an average heroine to me, the character dynamic felt unbalanced. I still recommend it though! The suspense, the well-researched sex trafficking aspect, and the amazing hero are all worth it. And of course if you don’t mind a more sweet and timid heroine like Tessa I’d say you’ll like this book just fine. As for me, I’m beyond excited to get to books 3, 4, and 5 because those were all 5+ star favorites of mine

BOOK REVIEW ~ EXTREME EXPOSURE BY PAMELA CLARE

It’s been years since her child’s father dumped her, and since then Kara McMillan has kept men at bay – although every day she aches more for a lover’s touch. But to get that, the hard-boiled journalist must become vulnerable – a feeling she vowed never to have again.

With his dangerous good looks, charm, and power, Senator Reece Sheridan could have just about any woman he sets his piercing eyes on. But he’s intrigued by only one. This Kara, this gutsy investigative reporter, has a sensuality that arouses him to no end. If she’s a firebrand in print, he guesses, she must be just as fiery in bed…

But this is no fling. A sudden political scandal – and attempts on Kara’s life – could very well drive them apart. Or maybe, just maybe, adversity could draw them into a bond even more intense than their steamy sexual embraces.

It’s such a great feeling to re-read an old favorite and still find it to be a winner! It’s sad to say but lately, very few ‘new’ books can keep my attention so I decided to revisit an oldie and I’m really glad I did. The last time I read this book was over 2 years ago and reading it again now reminds me why I’ve always considered it (and this series) to be one of my all-time favorites. It just hits all the right buttons. The characters are very mature and there’s hardly any relationship drama, the mystery was well concocted while the suspense kept my attention, and the amount of romance and steam was just right. But most of all, it’s the quality and depth of the story that just really gets to me. There’s a journalistic feel to the book which I loved. It didn’t make the story preachy but at the same time I still feel like I learned something. The author was an investigative journalist herself, so a lot of the newspaper jargon and methods are drawn from personal experiences which just made the book feel so authentic.

The I-team series focuses on a group of top-notch investigative journalists who are the best of the best, all specializing in a specific news area. This first book is journalist and single mom Kara McMillan’s story. The stories she covers all have to do with the environment and her latest piece is exposing a potentially corrupt company for harmful waste disposal that breaks environmental standards. I like smart, complex plots that make me think, and so even though Kara’s investigation is pretty detailed, it worked well for me. I also really like how well-rounded her character is. While she’s working, Kara gives off this hard, unrelenting vibe but when she’s with her son, she becomes unguarded and relaxes. She’s pretty much perfect in my eyes!

Then there’s the hero Reece Sheridan who’s a state senator. If there’s one thing I remember about this author’s books (I’ve read all her books) is that she always creates these memorable and extremely honorable heroes. At first, I was a bit wary about Reece because I mean, he’s in politics and realistically speaking, there aren’t that many politicians you can wax poetic about. But Reece is really different. Not only is he not

corrupt, he’s one of those very rare people who entered the world of politics for all the right reasons: to promote change that benefits society and its people. In a way I feel like his character pokes fun at all the greedy, single-minded politicians out there today. While I did think his interest in Kara was too sudden, I didn’t mind because neither Kara nor Reece were looking for random hookups, so their relationship still progressed at a believable pace. From the start, Reece was all in, and even though Kara was being indecisive at first, I understood why. Unlike Reece, she had her young son to consider, her past abandonment issues to work through, and just the whole journalist/politician dynamic put pressure on both of them. I liked that while there was drama, there was nothing dramatic about it and all issues were resolved in a mature, respectable manner. And through it all, Reece stood firmly by her side, defended her, protected her, pampered her…gah!! So who cares that he was a bit too perfect and the love was instantaneous? Give me an honorable, good-hearted hero and I’ll waive all my usual complaints away 😉

The one thing that did bother me though was when Kara’s 4-year old son asked if she and Reece were having sex and that just rubbed me the wrong way. In context of the book, it was meant to be funny (and I swear, I did laugh) but it was the uncomfortable kind of laugh… I mean, the kid is FOUR and he knows what sex is. Hmmm… I docked half a star for that but in no way did that affect my enjoyment of the book overall.

This book was steamy, well-researched, and really well-written. Since I’ve read the other books following this one, I can tell you this is a series that gets better (suspense and romance wise) with each new book and I’m already getting giddy at the thought of revisiting the other wonderful I-team heroes and their leading ladies. If you’re looking for a new romantic suspense series to fall in love with, definitely go with this one!

Extreme Exposure is the 1st book in the I-team series and is a standalone. Each book will have a main character who’s a journalist focusing on one specific news area (in this book it was environmental standards).

BVR WEEKLY RECAP 4/21/15 part2

  • Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare – this is book 2 in her I-team series! Once again the heroine is a journalist (friend of the heroine from book 1) and the hero is an undercover agent. I enjoyed this one and am beyond excited to get to the rest in this series (here’s my review)!
  • Extreme Exposure by Pamela Clare – I’m doing a re-read of this great romantic suspense series and this is book 1! The heroine is a journalist and the hero is a senator. Scandal, corruption, murder, romance…this one’s got it all  (here’s my review).
  • Interim by S. Walden – WOAH this book made me feel so many things! I would recommend it for the amazing writing and unputdownable factor alone, but be warned the premise is an extremely sensitive topic (here’s my review).
  • Third Debt by Pepper Winters – recent release and gahh!!! How I loved it  It’s the 4th book in this dark and twisted romance series and my favorite thus far. If you’ve been following this series from the start definitely don’t miss out on this one! (here’s my review)
  • Breakable by Tammara Webber – this is the companion novel to Easy (easily – pun intended – one of my all-time favorites) and is in the hero Lucas’s POV. It’s my 2nd time trying to read it and this time I really enjoyed it! I think I fell for Lucas even more after reading this companion novel (here’s my review).
  • She’s So Money by Cherry Cheva – this one’s an oldie but a goodie!! I’ve re-read this YA romantic comedy numerous times and it never fails to surprise me that every time I read it, it feels like the first time. TOP recommendation!! (here’s my review)
  • Elements of Chemistry – Attraction by Penny Reid – TOP recommendation!! I adored this fun and flirty NA romance. It’s a bit on the short side but luckily, the next one will be out in just a few weeks so we’ll get answers  (here’s my review).
  • Silver Bastard by Joanna Wylde – JW is one of the few biker romance authors I’ll gladly read anytime! Overall I liked this book, though I had a really rough start (here’s my review).
  • The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz – one of my highly anticipated reads of the year! This series is my #1 favorite of all time and as to be expected it didn’t disappoint. While it’s not my favorite in the series, it’s a book that’s still better than 90% of books I read these days…just to put things into perspective  (here’s my review)
  • Fisher’s Light by Tara Sivec – TOP recommendation!! This second chance military romance brought out all the feels and made me cry. It just really reminded me why I love reading so much and is an epic love story (here’s my review)!
  • Little Peach by Peggy Kern – TOP recommendation!! It’s not a romance of any kind and it’s a realistic fiction read meant to bring awareness about prostitution. I believe everyone needs to read this book (here’s my review).
  • Wild Reckless by Ginger Scott – TOP recommendation!!! I absolutely adored this book and it’s the perfect choice if you’re in the mood for a dark, angsty read. One of my favorite YA romances for sure (here’s my review).
  • The Trouble with Love by Lauren Layne <– OMG this book!! Another winner for me – 4.5 stars – and it’s a book that’ll make you fall in love with the idea of love. Complete and total escapism and by the time I was done I just had this warm, happy book feeling…(here’s my review) TOP recommendation!!
  • Becoming Rain by K.A. Tucker <– I loved this romantic suspense read!! Clever, suspenseful, and surprisingly there were moments of deep emotion too. Definitely a TOP recommendation (here’s my review)
  • The Deal by Elle Kennedy <– TOP recommendation!! This was seriously one of the best college romances I’ve ever read (here’s my review). Or better yet, don’t read my review. Just DIVE RIGHT IN and experience the whole thing for yourself
  • Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young <– an oldie from over a year ago but definitely a goodie! This is a TOP recommendation and it was such a FUN, steamy, and feel-good friends to lovers romance! Definitely will be making my favorites list for this year (here’s my review)
  • Until We Fly by Courtney Cole <– TOP recommendation!! Why did I wait so long to read this one?! Either way, I’m glad I finally read it because this NA romance was gripping, it was unputdownable, and I didn’t want it to end when it did. Highly recommend!! (here’s my review)
  • Shug by Jenny Han <– this was a re-read for me, and one of my favorite YA books!! I’m amazed that after seven years since I last read it, it still affects me and makes an impact. 5 stars and a book I’d recommend to everyone – you, your teenage kids, your friends, etc…(here’s my review)
  • The Hooker & the Hermit by LH Cosway & Penny Reid <– TOP recommendation and a 5 star read for me! Such a fun, fresh, and quirky book – you won’t find a more wonderful, full-of-heart story to fall in love with (here’s my review)
  • Hero by Samantha Young <– favorite and recommendation!! This enemies-to-lovers office romance was fun, sexy, and at-times emotional! It had the perfect amount of angst and swoon (here’s my review)
  • Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler <– TOP recommendation and a 5 star read for me! Just thinking about this book is making my eyes water. I took a chance on this one and I strongly encourage you all to do the same (here’s my review)
  • Extinguish (#1) and Reignite (#2) by JM Darhower <– TOP recommendation!! This 2-book paranormal forbidden romance was unputdownable from the get go and I didn’t want the story to end. I mean, the hero is Lucifer, the Devil! That alone made me pick these up  Here’s my review for book 1 and here’s my review for book 2.
  • Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn <– TOP recommendation!! This 5 star book rocked my world, 200% unputdownable (here’s my review)
  • Clockwork Angel (#1)Clockwork Prince (#2), and Clockwork Princess (#3) by Cassandra Clare are my ultimate TOP recommendations!! I seriously finished this sensational trilogy and had tears dripping down my face, a pile of tissues discarded on the floor, and food wrappers scattered around me. It was SO emotional, SO intense, SO passionate, and SO good. 6 star series for me!! (here’s my series review) These books must be read in order!

Remember the article I posted a few weeks ago that said ABC Family would be releasing a Shadowhunters TV series based on Cassie’s Mortal Instruments books? The question(s) on everyone’s mind was who was going to be cast as the main leads and I’m so excited to announce that Dominic Sherwood will be playing Jace!!  Don’t get me wrong, I adored Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace in the movie but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to Dominic bringing Jace’s character to life…because I am!!

 

BVR WEEKLY RECAP 4/21/15

Hey book junkies, happy Tuesday! Posting this week’s recap a little early since I won’t be online for most of Tuesday  Anyways, some of the book that caught my eye this week are Art & Soul by Brittainy Cherry(scorned girl in school + new guy), Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby (heroine falls for the guy who receives her former boyfriend’s heart!!), Caught by Erika Ashby & AE Woodward (I *think* the heroine has a crush on her best friend’s guy), and Alienated by Melissa Landers (YA sci-fi romance).

Upcoming Releases: Did you know I now have a section that’ll list upcoming releases for the year? Be sure to bookmark the page below as I update it daily with preorders/Goodreads links.

Cool tip: Tired of seeing all the $.99, $1.99, $2.99, etc… on your bills? Send yourself an Amazon gift card and plan a budget accordingly

P.S. Don’t have a Kindle/Kindle account? No worries! Get a free Kindle Reading App, regardless if you have a Kindle! I have an iPad and I mostly read on the app

  • Asa by Jay Crownover
  • Art & Soul by Brittainy Cherry ($.99) – sounds heartbreakingly good! “I had always been the invisible art student in high school…After one bad decision, and being labeled a slut, I was no longer unseen. I was the whore. The ignoramus. The tramp. I would never be invisible again. Particularly to Levi Myers. He was the odd boy with the beautiful soul who accepted and understood the broken girl inside me…We were shattered. We were scarred. We were something strange and beautiful. We were two lost souls holding on to the only thing that could keep us together. Each other.”
  • Need Me by Tessa Bailey – student/teacher romance!!
  • Aflame by Penelope Douglas
  • Down the Shore by T. Torrest – rock n’roll romantic comedy! My review will be up soon!
  • There You Stand by Christina Lee – M/M NA romance
  • The Consequence of Loving Colton by Christina Lee – NA romantic comedy!
  • Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby – this sounds AMAZING!! The heroine falls for the the guy who received her boyfriend’s donated heart (!!!)
  • Marrow by Tarryn Fisher – I’m kind of scared of this book LOL! Knowing this author, I bet it’s a dark, deadly read but I can’t resist her stunning writing so I will be reading it…soon
  • Do Not Disturb by Alessandra Torre – erotic thriller
  • His First & Last by Terri Osburn – second chance romance!
  • Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick – I love this author!! She writes fabulous mystery romances with just a touch of paranormal in them
  • Dear Juliet by Trudy Stiles ($.99)
  • Here’s to Falling by Christine Zolendz – now this sounds pretty epic! “Every girl has that one guy…that one guy who steals her heart and never gives it back. We were all friends…until we weren’t. We depended on each other…until we couldn’t. We were in love…until we were ripped apart. We moved on…even when we didn’t want to let go. This is our love story.”
  • Never Too Late by Micalea Smeltzer
  • Sunshine & Whiskey by RL Griffin
  • Instigation by Tessa Teevan – forbidden romance alert!! “He was the Prince Charming to her Cinderella, until suddenly he became the Beast from whom she could not escape. Until him. When [the hero] is hired to oversee the guest home construction of one of the most powerful businessmen in the country, he finally has his in. Nothing will get in the way of what he sets out to do. Until her. Watching from the shadows, he’s drawn to the beautiful, isolated woman of the house. His curiosity is piqued and he has to have her. She may be taken by the boss, but that’s not enough to stop him. Or her…Passions ignite. Tempers flare. Secrets kill.”
  • Complete Love series by Melissa Collins – great deal! This is a completed series ranging between NA, adult, and M/M romances.
  • Caught by Erika Ashby & AE Woodward – this NA romance sounds really good!! “There’s this boy. He kinda owns my heart. Who am I kidding? He owns all of me–but he’s completely oblivious to it.  And I can’t tell him. Because there’s this girl. And even though he’s my best friend, she is too. Then there’s me… CAUGHT between what feels so right, yet is so wrong.” :/
  • Don’t Walk Away by Elle Kennedy & Vivian Arend
  • Grind by Sawyer Bennett
  • Valorous by Marie Force
  • Diamonds by KA Linde ($.99) – angsty ‘golden girl to gold digger’ romance: “Bryna feels his eyes on her. Hot, seductive, enticing. He’s at least ten years older than her seventeen years, and he knows exactly what he’s doing to her with that look. Walking away would be the smart thing to do…But she can’t. Not that first night when he takes her home and claims her body. Not when he shows up in her life again with expensive gifts to win her trust. Not even when she’s falling for him, and everything else is falling apart…”
  • Five Days Until You by Monica Murphy – SURPRISE NEW RELEASE!! This is an extra novella within the One Week Girlfriend series
  • Promise Me Once by Paige Weaver
  • A View From Forever by Charles Sheehan Miles – prequel to his Thompson sisters series!!
  • Spark by Erin Noelle – I like the sound of this one! The hero’s brother is ill and as a last resort, he turns to unconventional treatments that lands him on the front doorstep of a holistic resort. “In our search for medical marijuana, I find…a girl who may not only hold the key to heal my brother, but to fix me as well. Even though I can’t afford distractions right now, she’s all I can think about. All that I want.”
  • Wild Side trilogy by RK Lilley – complete bundle of all 3 books!
  • Third Debt by Pepper Winters – gahh!!! How I loved this one  It’s the 4th book in this dark and twisted romance series and my favorite thus far. If you’ve been following this series from the start definitely don’t miss out on this one! (here’s my review)
  • Meet Me in the Dark by JA Huss – dark romance!! The hero is a freelance assassin and years ago he failed to save the heroine from a cult but gave her some hope that he’d be back for her. Now in present day, the hero’s been betrayed by the heroine’s father and his new target is her…“He’s empty, inhuman, dishonest, and cruel. She’s never wanted anyone more.”
  • Tangled by Emma Chase ($1.99) – THIS. BOOK!!! This is such a rare sale and if you haven’t read it yet you need to!! One of my all-time favorite romantic comedies that will seriously make you pee from laughing
  • True Love trilogy by Harper Bentley ($.99) – complete NA romance series!
  • Dirty Secret by Emma Hart ($.99) – second chance romance!! Years ago, the heroine left the hero without a reason and now she’s back while his band is on break. “Conner has questions, and when his broken heart and her guilty one collide, Sofie has to start answering them. Their present is rocky, their future unknown. Only one thing is certain: Sofie’s daughter will change everything.”
  • Alienated by Melissa Landers ($.99) – I really like the sound of this one, even though it’s a YA sci-fi/fantasy romance and I don’t read many of those. The heroine is picked to host the first Alien exchange student and is giddy at this opportunity as she gets insider access that most people would kill for. But with this mysterious, handsome boy’s arrival also comes trouble. “School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in [the heroine’s] locker…and [the hero] has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon [the heroine] will be in for the fight of her life–not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.”
  • Hope Over Fear (#1) and Wings Over Poppies (#2) by JA DeRouen are both $.99 each! They’re NA romance standalones – first one’s about a heroine moving on after the man she loves marries someone else, and book 2 is a second chance romance.
  • The Force of Gravity by Kelly Stevenson ($.99) – THIS BOOK!!! I swear it’s one of those that’s been on my TBR forever. I have heard so many incredible things about this student/teacher romance and seriously need to find the time to read it!
  • Loving You is Easy by Wendy S. Marcus ($.99) – sounds good! The heroine is a prominent politician’s daughter who runs a pen-pal initiative. The hero is a sergeant who becomes her pen pal but an injury and a sexy photo posting gone wrong ends up ruining the heroine’s reputation along with casting the hero in a bad light, and now all he wants is a second chance…“She’s a survivor of the front lines of politics. He’s a wounded soldier returning home from the battlefield. Can they place their trust in the power of love?”
  • Champagne Toast by Melissa Brown ($.99)
  • Fearless by Brynley Bush ($.99) – “Three brothers, bound by a secret that could change the world of medicine. Three women, hired to protect the secret that someone is willing to kill for. The last thing they expected to find was love.”
  • Resist Me by Chelle Bliss ($.99)
  • Rock Candy Kisses by Addison Moore ($.99) – another book that sounds really great! The heroine was born deaf and though she never let that define her, she always feels like something’s missing. Enter the hero, who’s the exact opposite of her: a rocker, a player, a college dropout. “Her friends want to sleep with him, her brothers want to kill him, and all [she] wants is a chance to see where her heart takes her…Often first love and first heartbreak go hand in hand. Sometimes the thrill of one is worth risking the other.”
  • Love Irresistibly by Julie James ($1.99) – the 4th book in her fun & suspenseful FBI/US Attorney series. The hero is a prosecutor determined to expose a corrupt senator and to do that he needs the heroine’s help. As general counsel for a restaurant company, she can get a bug to the senator’s table at one of her five-star restaurants so the FBI can eavesdrop on him. “All Cade has to do is convince Brooke to cooperate—and he’s not afraid to use a little charm, or the power of his office, to do just that.” 
  • Boomerang by Noelle August ($.99) – I’ve heard really great things about this book! The hero and heroine had a one night stand and things start to get awkward when they share a post-hookup taxi to the same work location at Boomerang (dating site). “What began as a powerful connection between them is treated to a cold shower courtesy of two major complications. First, Boomerang has a strict policy against co-worker dating. And second, they’re now competitors for only one job at the end of summer.”
  • Faking It by Cora Carmack ($1.99) – NA romance standalone where the hero and heroine have a fake relationship, but “the more they fake the relationship, the more real it begins to feel.” If you read the first book, the hero is the guy who got friend-zoned in there

BOOK REVIEW (WELL SORT OF) ~ BLACK IRIS BY LEAH RAEDER

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

Ever since I finished this book I’ve been thinking about it non-stop and how to convey all these weird feelings I have in a cohesive review but because I’m on a time crunch that won’t be happening. This will be short and unadulterated.

Because WHAT THE FUCK WAS THIS BOOK?!?!?!?!?!

I want to say 95% of books I read it’s easy for me to tell where I’ll fall in the like/dislike/love zone. Then 4% where I get mixed feelings but in the end I’ll let my heart take over. Then that super rare 1% where both my brain and heart are muddy and I honestly have NO CLUE how to feel or what to say about a book.

Black Iris is in that 1%.

I want to applaud the author for writing such a raw and real story that ideally, I want everyone to read and would wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read. However, the book is like a poisonous black hole; read it and prepare to get sucked in and it doesn’t even matter if you read a chapter or the full book: you head will get fucked with and Leah Raeder does it with a little evil smile on her face.

Of course there were some technical issues I had like the jumpy timeline that seriously made me use all my brainpower to focus on (then again, I despise choppy timelines and those make me think extra hard so this may just be an issue for me) and the way things tied up in the end made me think it got a little cheesy considering the other parts of the book were dark, crazy, and completely unpredictable. The writing is bloody brilliant though, and some quotes just stun me speechless with their truthfulness and brutal beauty. Like this one for instance:

“Girls love each other like animals. There is something ferocious and unself-conscious about it. We don’t guard ourselves like we do with boys. No one trains us to shield our hearts from each other. With girls, it’s total vulnerability from the beginning. Our skin is bare and soft. We love with claws and teeth and the blood is just proof of how much. It’s feral. And it’s relentless.”

^^What. What is that. I don’t even know what to say to that. Quotes like these just kill my brain and make me experience such gripping fear, like I know this is an author whose words – if read enough – will probably AK-47 my psyche. I mean, I already feel like I need to check in to the nearest mental facility.

Bottom line is, I read books to escape from reality. This book was not an escape. It wasn’t romantic or fun or light or even an easy read. It was ugly, it stressed me out with how complex the plot and characters were, and it was like all the crazy in the world was gathered together and stuffed into this one book.

I’m not even going to try to rate this book as that in itself is a mindboggling task. I hated it, loved it, wanted to burn the book and yet wanted to hug it tight to my chest all at the same time.

I really don’t know what else to say. I’ll end with a quote from the book that 200% describes what I’m feeling right now:

“Sometimes you feel things so much, so intensely, it becomes a new kind of numbness, the oblivion of overstimulation.”

An advanced copy was provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BOOK REVIEW ~ HEAT BY PENNY REID

**Blurb contains spoilers if you haven’t read Elements of Chemistry: ATTRACTION **

Four days left.
Private beach (…and boat).
Not so invisible girl.
And maybe less of a jerk-faced bully than originally thought.
What’s the worst (or the best) that could happen?

Kaitlyn is finding life outside of the science cabinet of obscurity to be quite illuminating …and so are her pants.
When things heat up between Kaitlyn Parker and Martin—previously known as the jerk-faced bully—Sandeke, she places her trust in the one person she never thought capable of earning it, let alone keeping it safe. Fortunately or unfortunately for Kaitlyn, where she gives her trust she can’t help but also give her heart.

But how will the world beyond the sanctuary of their newfound connection react to their relationship? Soon senators, chinless billionaires, and elements beyond Martin and Kaitlyn’s control want to weigh in on the young couple’s future.

Navigating the chaotic inferno of new love might be more than Kaitlyn bargained for, and much, much more than her trust—or her heart—can handle.

I think Penny Reid is a mad genius. I know that once I pick up a book from her I’m in for an amazing reading experience and with her one-of-a-kind sense of humor and sharp wit, her stories always hit the mark for me. It certainly rang true for book 1 in this series Attraction and to an extent it was also true for this second one; however I do have some reservations about this book. A big one that’s on my mind is that while this book was entertaining and addicting, I felt like that the plot wasn’t substantial enough to warrant its own book. I think if this book had been split between the first and third or squeezed in more, the series could’ve easily ended up as a duet and would’ve still done justice to Martin and Kaitlyn’s story. However, I respect the author’s vision for her story and characters and despite not agreeing with the story arc structure as of now, I have complete faith that she will deliver a stunning and fitting conclusion to the series with the third book.

FYI, the rest of my review will contain minor spoilers if you haven’t read book 1.

This book picks up right where the first one left off. Martin and Kaitlyn are on shaky ground relationship-wise but the author wastes no time to straighten things out and get them both on common ground. They’ve both got so much baggage but the one thing they agree on is that they’re absolutely crazy for each other, and are willing to give this new relationship of theirs a shot. The plot of this book actually spans just a few days, but it’s a rich in quality timeframe as Martin and Kaitlyn open up to each other like they’ve never done before. I know one of the things that kept me from giving book 1 a full 5 star rating was that I needed more about Martin and the author delivered on that aspect here. Hidden secrets and sordid details about his family are revealed, and really helped me understand why he always acted like a jerk to everyone. But on the downside, while Martin’s character development I was happy with, I struggled with Kaitlyn. Her socially awkward personality and overall shyness were qualities that made her endearing and adorable in book 1 but I felt like they were exaggerated and drawn out in here, so sometimes she annoyed me with how naïve she was. But at the same time I understood that her upbringing, family pressures, and her young age played a huge role so I’ll end my complaints about poor Kaitlyn here

Things I did adore included the cranked up steam level and the angsty, emotional side to Martin and Kaitlyn’s romance that previously hadn’t been explored before. Unlike book 1, this book was not just all fun and games. It had its fair share of turmoil and heartbreak and as I got closer to the end, the author really yanked hard on my heartstrings so despite my issues with the story, I was still heavily invested in this couple.

Now for the ending. I knew there was a gigantic cliffhanger at the end and the author also warned readers beforehand but sheesh. It still freaking burns woman! I wish it didn’t have to conclude this way but at the same time, I don’t see how it couldn’t so I’m not too aggravated about it. And luckily, the final book will be out in just a few weeks so I’m excited about that.

But okay. I admit I still want to kick Martin in the nuts and dunk his head in a toilet

Despite my so-so average rating for this book, it’s still a really good installment in the series and filled in some empty holes from the first book that gave me greater character insight. I never felt bored and read it in one sitting, and it’s safe to say I’m hooked on this series and am currently not-so-patiently waiting for the final book. As I mentioned before, I have complete faith in the author to deliver an epic conclusion to Martin and Kaitlyn’s story.

Heat is the 2nd installment in the Elements of Chemistry series and must be read after Attraction.

Rating: 3.5 stars!

BOOK REVIEW ~ SWEET BY TAMMARA WEBBER

He’s the love of her life, but he doesn’t know it.
She’s his one moment of sacrifice in a lifetime of survival.

He was damaged and wild, but resilient.
She’s always been obedient. Now she’s restless.

Home for the summer between college and med school, Pearl Torres Frank knows two things: Boyce Wynn is the embodiment of everything she should run from, and everything she wants to run to. Rebellious and loud. Unconcerned with society’s opinion of him. Passionate. Strong. Dangerous.

And one more trait he hides from everyone but her:
Sweet.

Ever since I read Easy and then Breakable a few weeks ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Boyce and Pearl’s story. From the moment they were introduced, they were characters that needed a book, not just because they were important side characters and a big part of Lucas Maxfield’s (hero from Easy + Breakable) life, but because behind their tough attitudes there were hidden secrets dying to claw their way to the surface and a story demanding to be told. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and while I did run into a few things I wasn’t too fond of, it was a winner for me. I’ve always been a fan of this author’s writing and it’s fantastic as usual, the story flow was great, and the romance was heartmelting. It’s definitely one of the better NA books I’ve read this year!

One of the reasons this book worked for me was because of the heroine Pearl. Even though she was in Breakable, I still didn’t get to know much about her and wasn’t too sure of her as the heroine. But my fears about Pearl quickly disappeared because while I loved Boyce, I loved her even more. I’m in the same age group as her and could relate to her personally as I am going through the exact same self-discovery process. The obstacles she faced with her family and the pressure she shouldered, along with struggling with what she wanted to do career-wise are all troubles that resonated with me deeply, and I feel like the author has really captured and portrayed that inner turmoil well.

As for Boyce, there wasn’t anything about him I didn’t love! With an alcoholic, abusive father, an absent mother, and a dead brother, Boyce learned the hard way that the only person he can count on is himself. It was so sad to read how he struggled in school and all the taunts he got, and little Boyce ignited a maternal instinct in me I didn’t even know I had. Even though he acted like a trouble-loving bad boy, it was evident that deep down he was a good guy, and his feelings for Pearl drove that point home.

I think the romance aspect of the book is what made me love the story even more, but also made me feel like some things were missing and I needed more depth in certain areas. Pearl and Boyce have a very special but complicated relationship. They knew each other since they were little kids and didn’t really cross paths until one fateful day Boyce pulls a drowning Pearl from the water and in that crucial moment, an understanding and connection is born. They operate in totally different social circles but there’s this silent agreement between them that they’d always watch out for each other. The way the author shows these scenes made my heart melt and the little romantic in me couldn’t wait for them to get older and finally get together 😉 Perhaps that’s why I was a little discouraged that the second half of the book didn’t have that much of a romance focus so there was a disconnect. However, it didn’t bother me too much because while the romance went behind the stage, the self-discovery process for Boyce and Pearl individually was developed well and I was a big fan of that. Nowadays, I read too many NA books that just throw sex and insta-love at me with no real story plot or depth to it so I appreciated and savored the scenes where Boyce and Pearl were maturing as individuals while at the same time, letting their longtime dormant feelings for each other awaken.

As mentioned before, I love this author’s writing! She writes in a descriptive and detailed way that’s never flowery or overwhelming and in this book, she breathes life into Boyce and Pearl’s sleepy little hometown. When she describes the beach and Boyce and Pearl’s special spot, I know it. I can smell the ocean air and feel the sand cushioning my feet. I love it when authors can transport me into the world of their stories and it’s what this author does for me. I recommend this book for those that are fans of slow-burn romances and don’t mind the kind of deep, heartwarming character self-discovery processes that happen along the way

Sweet is a NA romance standalone. While it’s connected to Easy and Breakable, you do not have to read either of those to read this book. Do I recommend reading them though? Sure! I love that I started this book already feeling a connection with the main characters because of the background knowledge I got beforehand but I promise you’ll be okay if you don’t read them

BOOK REVIEW ~ DOWN THE SHORE BY T. TORREST

Livia Chadwick is a photographer by day and a self-proclaimed rock slut by night.

Her dating life is a lackluster parade of evasive jerks and her boss is an unrelenting nightmare of a human being. What else can a girl do but rent a beach house with her girlfriends and blow off a little steam every weekend? But hey, she’s from Jersey. Barhopping down the shore all season is sort of mandatory. All is going according to plan… until she meets Jack.

Jack Tanner is a contractor-turned-musician in a small-town cover band suddenly thrust into the limelight. He’s already had enough of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, and groupies have never been his thing. Then again… there’s a gorgeous brunette in the audience tonight, checking him out with the most incredible green eyes he’s ever seen.

She’s looking for a fling.
He’s looking for forever.

It’s gonna be one helluva summer.

“She’s looking for a fling. He’s looking for forever. It’s gonna be one helluva summer.”

Unfortunately for me, Down the Shore went downhill really fast. It had some great positives though, which really stood out in the first portion of the book and made me think this rock and roll romantic comedy might just be a winner. I liked that the rockstar aspect was different from what’s usually been done: the hero isn’t a manwhore and doesn’t have an entourage of groupies nor an inflated ego. The heroine is strong-minded and together, they really made a great pair. Great banter, nostalgic, humorous references (the story takes place in the ‘90s), and palpable sexual tension. Everything else…not so hot, which is sad to say since I adored this author’s Remember When trilogy.

“I’ll save you a lot of trouble right now and let you in on a little secret: there’s no such thing as happily ever after.”

Can you tell Livia is a cynic? The story basically has reverse gender roles. Instead of the hero being a manwhore, you have a heroine who’s a complete and total rock slut. Right off the bat, I immediately disliked Livia, not because she slept around with practically every musician she’s attracted to, but her attitude that’s supposed to relay cool and emotionally calm just rubbed me the wrong way. She was the definition of unapproachable to me, and I felt sorry for the hero who fell hard and wanted to be ’the one’ for her.

On top of that, one of my biggest book peeves is when a heroine is clearly interested and is falling (or already fell) for the hero, only to continuously deny the attraction, send out hot and cold signals, and basically drag the entire story out. The hero Jack wasn’t totally innocent either; he kept refusing anything beyond kissing with Livia just to show he’s interested in more than just sex, but at sudden points throughout the book he drags Livia to the nearest wall/closet/room/etc…and proceeds to maul her. Between the two of them, I honestly don’t know who sent out more mixed signals. What I do know is that I’m sick of it. Sick, sick, SICK of their back and forth shit.

And now I get to the biggest problem of all I had with this book that knocked it down to 2 stars. In short, the last 25% of the book gets 0 stars from me. Aside from his random bursts of passion that frustrated both Livia and me, Jack is overall a really great hero. Thoughtful and attentive which is why when he makes such a DOUCHE move in the final quarter of the book it officially lands him on the DOUCHENUGGET list. It’s not cheating if you were wondering, but what he did was just asking for trouble. And then having this issue resolved through a weak time gap and even weaker explanations given made my blood boil. While the characters were rejoicing I was internally screaming in frustration.

I honestly would not recommend this book but I would never discourage anyone from reading it either, so if you were interested before, don’t let my one negative opinion deter you away from it. I just happen to have a bunch of odd, quirky things that’ll bug me if I read it in a book and unfortunately for this book, it had every one of those pet peeves so of course it didn’t work out for me. While I’m still a fan of this author, this book – in my opinion – is not her best.

Down the Shore is a rock and roll romantic comedy standalone.

APRIL FOLLOWER APPRECIATION GIVEAWAY

It’s that time of the month again!! I host a follower appreciation giveaway at the end of each month as an extra thank you to every Book Vigilante Reviews follower for your support. Every comment, like, share, email, book recommendation, etc… I all love and appreciate and it’s just so great to be able to chat with like-minded readers about books!  So for this giveaway, one winner will receive a paperback of their choice from the list provided.

How do I decide what goes on the list? It is a compilation of all the books I’ve read, reviewed, and blogged about each month – it doesn’t matter if I loved the book or disliked the book. The only ones not listed are the few books I may have started and then not finished.

**Note: Some book titles do not have paperback options available. In the event you choose that book, I will gift you an ebook copy instead. If a book hasn’t been released yet, paperback or ebook copy will be delivered on release date.**

He’s a player in more ways than one…

College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…

After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have to workfor it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.

Earlier this year, I read and ADORED book 1 in this series The Deal. It was everything I could ever ask for in a NA romance – fun, entertaining, and truly a breath of fresh air with likable main characters, witty banter that had me grinning from ear to ear, and a believable romance that wasn’t just hinged on a heroine having big boobs or a reformed playboy hero like so many NA books today. Not only did I fall in love with the story and characters, I also found in Elle Kennedy a new author to book stalk and whose writing was so fresh and engaging I couldn’t wait to read more from her, especially this second book in this series. Thus, I’m really sad, disappointed, and quite frankly, a tad bit annoyed that I didn’t love or even like The Mistake much because believe me, I wanted to love it badly.

One of the biggest issues I had with this book was the way the author portrayed college life and the character stupidity that resulted because of such a shallow, inaccurate, and offensive portrayal.

“I’m allowed to hook up. No, I should be hooking up, because that’s what college is all about. Having fun and getting laid and enjoying the fuck out of yourself before you go out in the real world and your life turns to shit.”

I don’t know why I feel so offended by this motto but I do. I think it’s the standard for NA books to have characters with this kind of mentality who treat college like it’s a huge joke. As a college student myself, I don’t find this to be true one bit. Maybe this kind of setting is present for some schools but it’s not a majority and I wish authors would stop portraying colleges like it’s a hotspot for orgies and guys are nothing more than manwhores and girls sluts. Aside from Hannah and Garrett (from book 1) the guys in this book – including Logan – have getting laid at the top of their to do lists and all the girls can’t help but want to get nailed and desperately want to lose their virginity, like the heroine Grace for an example (this is literally the first thought of hers I read).

“I started my freshman year of college as a virgin. I’m beginning to think I’ll be ending it as one too.”

The first couple chapters of this book consisted of Logan moaning over Hannah, him nailing girls, Grace stuttering and wondering if she’ll ever lose her virginity and somehow this is supposed to be considered normal and just pure entertainment value because I mean, it’s college right? *insert sarcasm* And if you’re wondering if colleges in the US are all like the way they’re portrayed in NA books (especially in this book), the answer is NO! I won’t hide that book 1 also touched on this kind of setting, but at least in that book the author didn’t allow her main characters to fall victim to that kind of mentality unlike Logan and Grace here.

To build up on this aspect, the characters also made some really dumb and unbelievable choices that made me scratch my head and go huh. Logan and Grace officially meet in one of the cheesiest ways – him accidentally stumbling upon the wrong dorm room and happens to find her room instead (hmmm okay…). They’re strangers at this point (except Grace has only been fangirling about him for so long and can’t wait to tell her best friend about him ugh) and you’d think that since they don’t know anything about each other they’d chit-chat and that’d be the start of a potential relationship right? Instead, Grace – who knows absolutely nothing about Logan except that he’s HOT – invites him into her dorm and further invites him to watch a movie. And then they proceed to mess around. I’m sorry, but that’s something I find hard to accept considering they are complete STRANGERS at this point and have next to zero interaction.

These problems I mentioned above are all issues for me because of my inability to separate fiction from reality and how easily I’m able to compare & contrast the story setting along with the character age so these things may very well not be issues for anyone else. But for me, these were kinks and hindered me from liking the book from the start.

As the story progressed, I found myself relaxing a bit more as the humor, wit, and golden dialogues I know this author is capable of writing appeared and for a while I enjoyed the story. I liked that even though Logan was pining after his best friend’s girl, he was upfront about it, knew it was wrong, and definitely didn’t act on the attraction. His dedication and love for hockey along with his commitment to his family were admirable qualities and even made me feel for him. And when he made the biggest mistake of his life romance-wise, I liked that he didn’t crumble away and throw his hands up and say whatever. He fought for his girl and got his act together.

Grace…what to say about this chick. Overall, she didn’t leave much an impression on me as a standout heroine who could match the hero. Like I mentioned earlier, the college setting snafu and Grace’s naiveté annoyed me so much and even though she made Logan grovel, there was nothing else about her that stood out. While the author painted a vivid background for Logan (hockey, family), there was nothing on Grace. I mean, when I think about her character my mind’s a blank slate whereas for Logan I feel sympathy, love, annoyance and compassion.

The last quarter of the book took a nosedive for me as obstacles were swiftly cleared away with little development and oh my god…the part where Logan and his dad resolve their issues made me eyes roll. The engaging writing I came to love in book 1 was mostly absent in this book sadly. Once again, it may just be me but I felt the story was more telling than showing. The author tells me Logan and Grace screwed like rabbits. The author tells me time passed. The author tells me this happened while that occurred and it’s so frustrating to read such lackluster writing! The story did make me crack a smile here and there but the thing is, those parts all involved Hannah and/or Garrett. While I love those two dearly, I wanted something about Logan and Grace to make me sigh, swoon, or laugh over. It just didn’t happen for me.

I am definitely in the small minority who feels like this book was a bust so don’t let my one opinion stop you from checking it out. No matter what, The Deal will always remain one of my top favorites but as I have zero interest in the other side characters (not the manwhore Dean, not Logan’s other teammates, not Grace’s backstabbing, drama-creating friend Ramona, etc…) I highly doubt I will continue with this series.

Rating: 2 stars!

An advanced copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

BOOK REVIEW ~ UNLAWFUL CONTACT BY PAMELA CLARE

Taken hostage by a convicted murderer while reporting at a prison, Sophie Alton has no idea that the man holding the gun to her head is the bad boy who was her first love in high school. Condemned to life without parole, Marc Hunter finds himself with no choice but to break out of prison after his younger sister disappears with her baby.

Though he regrets what he has to put Sophie through, he can’t let anything get in the way of his stopping the corrupt officials who are set on destroying what’s left of his family. But being near Sophie rekindles memories for both of them. As the passion between them heats up, so does the conspiracy to put both of them in their graves.

SPOTLIGHT, STANDALONE, TOUR
MAY 4, 2015

BOOK REVIEW ~ UNLAWFUL CONTACT BY PAMELA CLARE
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Taken hostage by a convicted murderer while reporting at a prison, Sophie Alton has no idea that the man holding the gun to her head is the bad boy who was her first love in high school. Condemned to life without parole, Marc Hunter finds himself with no choice but to break out of prison after his younger sister disappears with her baby.

Though he regrets what he has to put Sophie through, he can’t let anything get in the way of his stopping the corrupt officials who are set on destroying what’s left of his family. But being near Sophie rekindles memories for both of them. As the passion between them heats up, so does the conspiracy to put both of them in their graves.

[Read more…]

2 COMMENTS
FILED UNDER: 5 STARS, ADULT, CONTEMPORARY, PAMELA CLARE, REVIEWS, ROMANCE, ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, SERIES, STANDALONE, UNFORGETTABLE
MAY 1, 2015

UPDATED PREORDERS + NEW RELEASES LIST FOR MAY!
Hi everyone! I’ve just finished updating the new releases + preorders list for May! I’ll definitely be adding to it as the days pass but for now, here’s what’s on there:

MAY 2015
01 – Sweet Dreams Anthology (romantic suspense)
02 – My Time in the Affair by Stylo Fantome
03 – Pucked by Helena Hunting
04 – Dirty Past by Emma Hart
04 – Fury by Fisher Amelie
04 – Worth the Trip by Tara Sivec
04 – Easier to Run by Silver Rain
05 – Last Kiss by Jessica Clare & Jen Frederick
05 – Caged by Lorelei James
05 – Two of Hearts by Christina Lee
05 – The Gentleman Mentor by Kendall Ryan
05 – On Dublin Street by Samantha Young (paperback edition)
05 – 21 Stolen Kisses by Lauren Blakely
05 – Shattered by Janet Nissenson
05 – The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan
05 – Tribeca by Lili St. Germain & Callie Hart
05 – Yield by Sawyer Bennett
05 – Tessa Ever After by Brighton Walsh
05 – Across the Distance by Marie Meyer
05 – After the War by Jessica Scott
05 – Holding You by Kelly Elliot
05 – A Shattered Moment by Tiffany King
05 – Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis
07 – Forbidden Heart by Lynetta Halat & Melanie Dawn
11 – Brendon by Nicole Edwards
11 – Henry’s End by Julie A. Richman
11 – Chasing the Dragon by TK Leigh
11 – Under the Influence by LB Simmons
12 – All Played Out by Cora Carmack
12 – Echo by EK Blair
12 – Fair Game by Monica Murphy
12 – Shadow of a Doubt by Tiffany Snow
12 – Born of Defiance by Sherrilyn Kenyon
12 – Compulsive by Lia Fairchild
12 – Working with Heat by Anne Calhoun
12 – Breaking Noah by Missy Johnson & Ashley Suzanne
15 – Black Rainbow by J.J. McAvoy
16 – Elements of Chemistry – Capture by Penny Reid
17 – Never Never 2 by Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher
18 – #Selfie by Cambria Hebert
19 – Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
20 – Shuttergirl by CD Reiss
25 – Revelry by Carmen Jenner
26 – Searching for Beautiful by Jennifer Probst
26 – Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
26 – Breaking Noah by Missy Johnson & Ashley Suzanne
26 – Afraid to Fly by SL Jennings
26 – The Illusion of Annabella by Jessica Sorensen
26 – Ultraviolet by Jessica Sorensen
26 – Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant
26 – Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt
27 – Conviction by Corinne Michaels
27 – While We Waited by Tammy Falkner
31 – Beautiful Sacrifice by Jamie McGuire
No release date yet – Sweetest Venom by Mia Asher
You can see the full list with books for the rest of the year here. I’ll be constantly updating that page so check back every once in a while 😀

BOOK REVIEW ~ CAPTURE BY PENNY REID

There is no official synopsis available, which makes sense since it’d contain spoilers for the first two books if you haven’t read them yet. All you need to know is that this is the 3rd and final book in the Elements of Chemistry series and must be read after Attraction and Heat.

BLOG TOUR ~ UNDER THE INFLUENCE BY L.B. SIMMONS

Dalton,

I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.

Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.

I loved you.

I raged for you.

I wept for you.

And now, I’m letting you go.

Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.

What do you do when desire drives you to the very brink?

The day Navajo journalist Katherine James met Gabriel Rossiter, the earth literally moved beneath her feet. Nearly killed in a rockslide while hiking, she found her life in the tall park ranger’s hands. Although she can’t forget him she thinks she’ll never see him again. She is crushed when she recognizes her rescuer among the law enforcement officers raiding a sweat lodge ceremony one night, throwing her and her friends off Mesa Butte, land they consider sacred.

Gabe long ago swore he would never again lose himself to a woman not even one with long dark hair and big eyes that seem to see right through him. But from the moment he first sees Kat, the attraction he feels is undeniable. Appalled by what he has been ordered to do, he’s determined to get to the bottom of recent events at Mesa Butte and to keep Kat safe.

But asking questions can be dangerous almost as dangerous as risking one’s heart. And soon Kat and Gabe’s passion for the truth and each other makes them targets for those who would do anything, even kill, to keep Native Americans off their sacred land.

I’m a huge fan of the Rusk University series by Cora Carmack and I honestly believe it’s her best New Adult series to date. The first two books were huge winners for me (my review of book 1 and my review of book 2) as they were such entertaining but relatable and realistically written stories that didn’t just focus on the steam factor. There was great character development and an emphasis on self-discovery that is rarely ever found in most NA books I read today. Plus, no author is better at incorporating awkward fun into character banter than Cora Carmack. If you’ve read a book or a few from her you’ll know what I mean

Today I have the pleasure of sharing an excerpt (and then a giveaway at the very end) from All Played Outwhich will release on May 12. But before that here is the full cover and blurb for the book just to give you some background information.

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay… Scratch that. She knows she hasn’t had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a “to do” list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it’s impossible to get hurt… again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she’s never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he’s willing to take the chance when it’s more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.

Garmin Forerunner 210 Heart Rate Monitor Watch

The Garmin Forerunner 210 is a classic-style GPS watch aimed at providing you with easy to access information during and after your workouts, created by one of the most reputable GPS watch-making companies out there. So, read below for the low-down on the Forerunner 210.

This great GPS watch has been made with simplicity in mind. The focus from Garmin is on your workout, so there are no complicated features for you to get confused over. If you want a watch that you can pretty much just “plug-and-play”, then the 210 is the one for you. A simple charging session, followed by a connection to the satellites and then some easy question and you’ll have it on your wrist and working out in no time.

This great watch will provide you with all the basic knowledge you’ll need after your run or workout. With a vast array of complementary attachments, this really could be the last GPS watch you’ll ever purchase.

We have found the best price for Garmin Forerunner 210 at Amazon – click here to check it out.

Features:

  • Premium Heart Rate Monitor – allows you to set alerts and zones for different rates
  • Interval training setting – set and monitor bespoke training sessions
  • A simple interface – enables you to better track your performance
  • Easy to use 4-button control system – easy access to the data whilst exercising

The Forerunner 210 is designed for runners in mind, hence the name, and can be used indoors as well as outdoors. One of its greatest features is the ability to set up and customize your own personal interval running sessions. Couple this with the possibility of measuring your cadence (foot speed) throughout and after your workout and you’ve got yourself a winner! That’s not to say that you couldn’t use all the other great features for non-running exercises, for example measuring your heart rate during your weights or rowing sessions in the gym.

If you’re looking for a non-complicated GPS watch, then the Forerunner is most definitely a great purchase even if you’re not planning to do a lot of running. Plus, if you’re concerned about how many calories you’ve burned so far, you can opt for that information to be displayed in the simple to use interface.

This could really be the last GPS watch you buy if you consider adding in the brilliant Foot Pod accessory, which is a very lightweight and small pedometer that can attach to your shoelaces or in your shoe, perfect for measuring cadence and fully analyzing your movements.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable for interval training
  • Easy monitoring reports for better training
  • Possibility of buying extra features
  • Simple and easy to use interface
  • Good battery life – can last for a full week if used for approxiamtely 40 minutes per day
  • Lightweight – extremely light compared to other GPS watches
  • Multi-use – acts as a casual day-to-day watch as well as a GPS-workout watch
  • Good GPS connection – consistent and decent speeds to the satellites

Cons:

  • Primarily designed for running, so might not be suitable for everyone
  • Data connector not generic and isn’t easy to connect

Almost all of the feedback for the 210 is positive, which isn’t surprising at all.

The Reviews:

“My previous sports watch was too big and too heavy, over-complicated and hard to use. I then discovered the Garmin Forerunner 210 and was elated to read that it did all the basic things brilliantly, being exactly what I was looking for. It really is so simple to use and the information displayed is very easy to understand. The distance traveled is right at the top, time elapsed is situated right in the middle and finally the pace shows down at the bottom of the screen. At the end of the day, it does all the little things perfectly and is lightweight. If you’re like me and became frustrated with the touch-bezel models and confused over the complicated interfaces, then this is the watch you’re looking for.”

“This GPS watch acquires satellites quickly and easily, even indoors. The band is very sturdy and I can’t see it breaking easily. Overall, it’s a really great watch.”

The Garmin Forerunner 210 is very simple to use, with it’s basic but informative interface and easy to press buttons. It should suit all your running needs with the customizable training planner and ability to monitor your heart rate, cadence and calories burned.

Garmin Forerunner 60 Heart Rate Monitor Watch

The Garmin Forerunner 60 has been specifically designed to be used for multiple forms of exercise, meaning whether you’re a runner, swimmer or cyclist then this brilliant GPS watch will really aid you in your training. Read on to see why the Forerunner 60 really is an awesome watch.

In a nutshell, the Garmin Forerunner 60 is a GPS fitness watch. If you look at all the features it possesses, then you’ll soon realize that it’s more than just a GPS fitness watch. It contains an easy-to-use fitness tool that enables you to track the essentials during your training session, such as: duration, heart rate and calories burned.

The great thing about a Garmin watch is the wide range of accessories that you can use in conjunction with the watch itself. One of these is the wireless foot pod. Add this to your watch and the Forerunner 60 will track your speed and distance, inside and out, via its advanced accelerometer technology.

We have found the best price for Garmin Forerunner 60 at Amazon – click here to check it out.

Product Features and Specification

  • Water resistant – up to 50 meters so perfect for you swimmers out there
  • ANT+ technology – connects heart rate monitor and speed cadence sensor wirelessly
  • Multi-use – easily used for cycling, swimming and running due to the GPS technology

Thanks to the easy-to-use interface and buttons, the Forerunner 60 is perfect for you if you’re a beginner or a professional, giving you all the information you would need to enhance your training and track your progress.

If you’re looking for greater utilization from your watch, then the wide range of accessories will help you allowing you to collate all your data on your computer wirelessly whilst you’re out on your run, jog or swim. Data such as lap times and average speeds can be analyzed for you to work out areas where you’re struggling. You can then use the Virtual Partner feature to race a virtual assistant to give you a target on your pace.

If you’re more into cycling, then try out the speed/cadence sensor. Attaching simply to your bike, it measures your pedaling cadence and wheel speed as you carry out your training session.

Pros:

  • Great wireless connection – transfer data to your computer for data analysis
  • Possibility of buying extra features – the foot pod is a necessity!
  • Simple and easy to use interface
  • Lightweight – male version weights a mere 1.6 ounces. 1.4 ounces for the women’s
  • Multi-use – perfect for all cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling and swimming
  • Good GPS connection – consistent and decent speeds to the satellites

Cons:

  • Watch strap – not very hard-wearing so liable to break
  • AMT+ technology – it’s advanced so some gyms might have the ability to connect

Not surprisingly, the Garmin Forerunner 60 is receiving brilliant reviews.

The Reviews:

“The Forerunner 60 does everything my previous watch, the Polar RS800CX, did but at a much lower cost. The display area and the UI are so much easier to use and the foot pod is so lightweight. If you’re looking for a watch that will give you all the information you need, get the FR60″

“Thanks to the water-resistance, I’ve been able to use this in my triathlons. I use the foot pod and the speed and cadence sensor to aid my in my training and they work brilliantly. The Garmin Forerunner 60 is a great GPS watch”

The selling point of the FR60 is its ability to be used for most sports. Like all of Garmin’s watches, accessories such as  the foot pod and cadence sensor make the Garmin Forerunner 60 a great GPS watch for your training needs.

Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor

Just when you thought Garmin had cornered the market on powerful, affordable, and effective wrist-mounted GPS devices, here comes the Garmin Forerunner 305. The release of this device is a major achievement from a design and technology perspective. This isn’t just marketing-speak; the Forerunner 305 is the most accurate, most reliable wrist-mounted performance and GPS tracking tool we’ve ever tested. Yes, it’s that good. While no device this compact can do everything (yet), the 305 pushes the boundaries of what is possible from something strapped around your wrist. The 305 model includes wireless heartrate monitoring and it can also be connected to Garmin’s wireless bicycle speed and cadence sensor. If you don’t need these features, consider the lower-priced Forerunner 205.

Design
The 305′s design is a radical departure from Garmin’s previous generation of wrist mounted GPS devices, which reached a pinnacle with the Garmin Forerunner 301. While the 301 delivered accurate heart rate monitoring, good performance tracking, and decent GPS reception, it didn’t quite deliver in the design department. The form factor was bulky and wearing it wasn’t much different than duct taping a full-sized GPS device to your wrist.

Not so with the 305. Garmin’s engineers obviously burned the midnight oil and have come up with a waterproof design that, while certainly not as small as a sports watch, feels just as comfortable. The curved casing allows the unit’s antenna to face the sky when you’re running, while the widescreen display is perfectly positioned for viewing when you need it. And the display certainly deserves a few kudos. While it’s smaller than the display found on previous Forerunners, its resolution is far higher, offering incredible clarity and crispness.

Garmin has smartly given the 305 a simple button layout and the buttons have a nice tactile feel with good pressure response. The right side houses the menu selection and enter buttons, while the left houses a power/backlight button and a mode button. This simple and elegant solution is a big improvement over the sometimes confusing button functionality of previous Forerunners.

The underside of the 305 is pretty nondescript, except for a row of contacts that interface with the included charging and data cradle. The cradle is small and unobtrusive and its single mini-USB port connects to either an included AC adapter, or a USB cable that connects to your PC. In addition to data transfer with the USB cable, you can also charge the 305′s embedded lithium-ion battery via a powered USB connection from your computer.

GPS Performance
The big news about the Forerunner 305 is that it features an integrated, high-sensitivity SiRFstar III GPS receiver. What does this mean? It means that the 305′s ability to both track, and maintain a lock on, your position is better than anything before it. After an intial battery charge, the tester had the 305 on his wrist and was tracking speed and distance with GPS satellites within 3 minutes. The next time we used the 305, satellite acquisition was nearly instantaneous. A run through dense trees didn’t faze the unit either; tracking remained true and steady. Performance on a bike was equally impressive. Whatever witchcraft has been cooked up by the designers of the SiRF technology, we like it!

Training Functions
While the Forerunner 305 isn’t billed as a GPS navigation device, it does have some rudimentary mapping, waypoint marking, and routing capabilities. In addition to marking locations along your journey, you can zoom in or out of a simple map that displays your current direction and path. There’s also a “go to location” feature that routes you back to your starting location, or to any location you have defined. Once you have defined several locations, you can save this information as a route, allowing you to travel the same path in the future. As you’ll see below, the 305′s new “Courses” feature gives you new levels of control over how you define your favorite runs and rides.

The 305 is first and foremost a training tool, and its ability to organize a ton of data types into a user experience that is intuitive and simple is no small feat. Whiz-bang technology aside, if you can’t use it and make it a natural part of your exercise routine, it’s worthless. When it comes to these factors — and here’s the take home message on the 305 — this device is successful where many other devices fail.

The heart and soul of the 305 can be found on the data screens, which give you real-time information about all aspects of your workout. In fact, the 305 can display a dizzying array of data, such as calories burned, distance, elevation, grade, and heading, as well as multiple lap and pace modes. The 305 adds the ability to track heartrate, lap heartrate, average heartrate, and heartrate zones via the included coded heartrate chest strap. With the purchase of a separate wireless cadence and speed meter, you can also track bike performance data.

Thankfully, the device makes it easy to define how much or how little data you want to view during a workout. You can arrange the data that’s most important to you and then make that data appear front and center on the device. Indeed, within a few minutes of skimming the manual and fiddling with the device setup, you’ll have your most important data displaying just the way you like it. The ability to display heartrate is a big plus, too, as it’s a fairly good indicator of excercise output, fatigue, and fitness level. The 305 has all the heartrate functions you’d expect from a full-function monitor, including the ability to set target zones and alerts to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts.

Garmin’s Virtual Partner function was cool feature of previous Forerunners and they’ve decided to keep a good thing going with the 305. If you’re the type that performs best when you’ve got a competitor egging you on, you’ll love this function, as it allows you to set up virtual running or biking companions that compete against you.

If you’re looking for an complicated workout with a variety of intervals and intensity levels, or just a quick three-mile jog against your best time last week, the 305 has you covered. Navigating to the Workouts menu on the device yields three options: Quick Workouts, Interval, and Advanced Workout. A quick workout is just that; set the distance and time, distance and pace, or time and pace of your planned workout and off you go. Interval workouts are just the same, but they allow you to add repetitions and rest between them. When you really want to get fancy with your exercise, you can step up to advanced workouts, which include goals for each workout step, as well as varied distances, times, and rest periods. You can use the Garmin Training Center software to set up these workouts and then upload them to the device.

Computer Connectivity and Software
Garmin has been outfitting their devices with USB connectivity for some time now — a welcome move for those who struggled with serial port connections in the days of yore. Thanks to USB, the 305 integrates seamlessly with the Training Center software and we quickly had workout history uploaded and stored on the computer. Not only does Training Center–which is compatible with both PC and Mac–make it easy to track your performance, you can graph data such as heartrate alongside your speed and distance. Over time, this is a great way to view your fitness levels increase, and it also helps you see what types of workouts are necessary to strengthen your weaknesses. For instance, if you see your heartrate begin to spike after a certain distance, you know you need to increase your endurance workouts to train that area of fitness.

In a first for the Forerunner series, the Training Center software also lets you define courses on your computer that you can upload to the device. When course information is combined with uploaded workout information, the Forerunner becomes a complete guide, telling you where to go, when to make a turn, and what kind of workout to do when you’re on the road or path. Back on the computer, the software’s ability to overlay workout data on maps of the course makes it easy to see where the course offers up the tough hills and the easy recovery spots. Plus, the ability to track historical performance on a given course is a great way to measure your improvement.

The 305 is also fully compatible with Garmin’s MotionBased service, which takes your training to another level by connecting your data with the Internet. While we weren’t able to use the service, the promise of sharing courses, maps, workouts, and performance data with other users is intriguing. And if you’re a serious endurance athlete, you’ll be glad to know that the 305 is also compatible with TrainingPeaks.com, an easy-to-use web based training system designed to help athletes train for any event.

Pros

  • Radically new design is better in every way
  • Amazing accuracy and fast satellite acquisition time
  • So simple to set up and use, you will actually use it

Cons

  • Okay, it’s bigger than a sport’s watch — but so much more powerful

What’s in the Box
Forerunner 305, Garmin Training Center CD-ROM, heart rate monitor, docking cradle, expander strap, A/C charger, USB cable, owner’s manual, quick start guide.

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Product Features and Specification

  • High-Sensitivity, Watch-Like GPS Receiver That Provides Exceptional Signal Reception
  • 1 Piece Training Assistant That Provides Athletes With Precise Speed, Distance & Pace Data
  • Includes Training Center Software, Which Allows Users To Download Workout Data For A Detailed Analysis
  • Used For Multiple Sports Such As Cycling, Cross- Country Skiing & Windsurfing
  • Data Acquired May Also Be Analyzed With Motionbased, Which Provides Online Mapping & Route Sharing

The Reviews

The Garmin Forerunner 305 Heart Rate Monitor Watch is very accurate and really helps me pace myself. It’s very light weight despite how it looks. Would reccomend it to anyone.

I like the Garmin Forerunner 305 quite a lot. I’ve had it for about three weeks, and have used it on 12 workouts so far. I use it primarily for running, with biking a secondary usage. The main reason I wanted it was for the instantaneous readout of distance, running pace and heart rate, the latter needed for the speed work I want to do this running season.

The core functionality (distance and heart rate monitoring) works perfectly. There’s none of the signal drops I’ve had with other heart monitors. Once the satellites are initially acquired, I’ve only had one dropout when I was outside. The initial acquisition of the satellites can be quirky and can take some time. The accuracy (according to the readout) is +/- 25ft, depending on how many satellites can be found. I’ve compared the distance measurement on the GPS with a known, measured distance on one of the trails I run on (the Chicago lakefront path). The GPS always increments a mile when I’m within 5 or 10 feet of the mile marker sign on the path. Well, I guess that’s the least I should expect from a $350 GPS unit! Of course it’s bigger than a normal running stopwatch, but that hasn’t bothered me at all. The heart rate strap is also very comfortable and well-designed.

The display is crisp and has one outstanding feature: The information presented on the various pages can be completely user-customized. The default screen layout is rather poor, but in just a few steps I could replace it with the information I wanted to see while I run. There are almost 40 different data fields you can choose from for display. Examples: current pace, average lap pace, average run pace, heartrate, distance.

The only disappointment is the point-in-time (instantaneous) pace measurement: It varies wildly during a run. I see swings as big as +/- 3 minutes/mile. I’m a marathoner and I know my pace is fairly consistent during a run. I just looked at my run today, and according to the data the first mile varied from 5:57/mile to 12:06 mile. I suspect the problem is either in the averaging algorithm (too short a distance?), or in the uncertainty that results from different satellites coming in and out of view. The variations seem to get worse under tree cover compared with an open area. Luckily there’s a lap-average pace that can be presented, and at least that value is useful and more accurate. The bottom line is that you can’t look at the watch and say “right now I’m running 9 mins/mile”. There is the ability to specify a pace smoothing factor, but I have it maxed out and still see the variations. The elevation readout also seems inaccurate, but that isn’t important to me.

Upload of workout data to the PC software (Training Center) is transparent. The PC software is very good for presenting time/distance/pace/heartrate/calorie data. However the maps it shows are very crude. I’ve worked a bit with one of the online, subscription services (MotionBased). That looks really good and provides some additional functionality beyond the included Training Center software, although I still haven’t decided if it’s worth the money yet for long-term data storage. MotionBased allows export to Google Earth, and it’s tremendously cool to see your running path superimposed on a satellite image. You can recharge the unit through the USB port on your computer, although it’s slower than using the dedicated recharger.

I had hoped that owning this device would prove motivational for me, and indeed it has. I can’t imagine running or biking without it. Updating my training log is trivial now: Plug this thing into my computer, and it’s done. My hope is that a future software update will do something about the pace calculation (maybe a few additional levels of smoothing?). If so, the Garmin Forerunner 305 would earn 5 stars+++.

Timex T5G941 Heart Rate Monitor

The Timex T5G941 is a perfect heart rate monitor for anyone looking for the basic features at an extremely affordable price. The Timex T5G941 is one of the most popular heart rate monitor products by Timex. The display is large and has a very easy to see screen. The activity timer is a special feature with the Timex T5G941 which allows this heart rate monitor to be set on a minimum, average and maximum heart rate for each workout.

The Timex T5G941 does what it’s supposed to do and more. It keeps up with the heart rate changes efficiently, and the chest and wrist bands are very comfortable. The minimal controls are intuitive and work well. I was surprised to find that it automatically timed my workout which is neat. It comes with a small instruction guide  which is easy to read and touches on all the features and possible adjustments. This is the best heart rate monitor I have had among dozens at the lowest price.

We have found the best price for Timex T5G941 at Amazon – click here to check it out.

Product Features and Specification

  • Target Zone (preset your desired heart rate exercise zone;  alarm notification when you are not in zone)
  • Preset your desired heart rate exercise zone
  • Alarm notification when you are not in zone
  • Shows the percent of max heart rate display or BPM
  • Recovery Heart Rate Timer
  • Automatic Activity Timer (elapsed workout time is automatically recorded)
  • Time in Zones (spent within your selected heart rate target zone)
  • Recalls activity time (time-in-zone, average and peak heart rates, and calories
  • Analog Heart Rate Sensor (works with heart rate interactive treadmills and gym equipment)
  • Water resistance to 30m

The Reviews

I’d hoped that getting a new heart rate monitor would encourage me to exercise more often. So far so good. The main reason I got the Timex T5G941 was so I could monitor my heart rate while I went running, which I do on a daily basis now. As a heart rate monitor, the functionality is very simple yet effective. It tracks your heart rate for the entire workout. You hit the big button to start, and it goes to work tracking the length of time, the average heartbeat, and the peak. While you are running, it displays your current heartbeat. That’s it – but sometimes it’s better to keep it simple.

I should point out that, as a watch, the watch piece tells the time and date only. If you want/need splits and a stopwatch, you should look elsewhere.

Here’s some other thoughts: I was worried that the strap would break but realized after a couple workouts that I was probably wearing it a little too tight. Since adjusting, it is much more comfortable, has not fallen off, and, as a guy, you almost forget that you have it on.

I had no original intention of wearing it while NOT working out, but I’ve found it addictive, and have enjoyed observing how drinking a cup of coffee while sitting at my desk does raise my heart rate about 10-15 beats per minute on average. Also, as I’ve started to get in a little better shape over the last 3 weeks, I see that I have to run either farther or faster to get my heart rate up to certain thresholds. And, now my heart rate does not go up as high from merely climing the stairs at home. I believe that these insights, among others, are very encouraging for someone who is just getting back in shape. The encouragement aspect combined with the simplicity makes this a great starter heart rate monitor for anyone considering.

I use this everytime I work out, it even comes with a fitness booklet. Very easy to use, It works perfectly and was a great price! The Timex T5G941 heart rate monitor is exactly what I was wanting to exercise with. Something small, accurate, and simple! The functions are very simple that after just a quick read through the instructions you are ready to go! Strap it on and hit the button at the beginning of your workout. When you are done, you hit the same button to stop the workout and then you can easily review your average heart rate, workout length, and the peak.

Since it also shows the current heart rate, it has become addicting to see how certain exercises exert more force than others. I will admit, it’s also really cool to see how something simple like drinking a cup of coffee will affect your heart rate. I thought the other reviewers were kidding about that, but it’s true! To me, that makes this product great to use for exercise and my own curiosity about how the foods I eat affect me.

Overall, great product. If you want something that doesn’t have a lot of extra features, this is it! Small, convenient, and simple.