Next to Me: A Love Happens Novel by Jodi Watters

Ali Ross has secrets. She lies at nearly opportunity. She has a past that she’s running from and will do anything to ensure her own safety. If she has to manipulate her new, good looking neighbor, it’s a small price to pay.

Sam Gleeson is a former sniper and now owns Scorpio Security with a few other former military members. They provide security, and handle sticky situations abroad. They’re good at what they do and they take it seriously.

When Ali buys her new home, she has an ulterior motive. Sam is immediately attracted and her plan falls right into place. Then her past and love comes calling. Can Sam forgive? Can she escape the past she’s running from, with or without Sam? What happens when her house of cards comes tumbling down?

This story has all the necessary elements for a good read. But!!!! It was flat. The tension and drama felt forced and a tad bit predictable. I struggled with the idea that she just left a bad relationship but jumped at the idea of throwing herself on Sam. And the reason was borderline asinine and immature. She had the money and the means to protect herself but she “put out” to make Sam fall in love with her so that she could be sure he would protect her??? Anyone else seeing my point?

Ali was basically weak willed and a user. I hated her by the end of the book. Sam was a good guy but it aggravated me that he never looked into her past when he knew she was lying and hiding at least part of her past. That isn’t believable when he owns a security company.

The sex scenes were repetitive too. They were handled with adult language without reference to peen, or meat stick or other ridiculously immature language. I appreciated that but wish there had been more variety.

Can I recommend this book? I’m unhappily neutral.

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The Heart Attack that Wasn’t

I had a fully chaotic day yesterday. It’s the norm here and I expect nothing less. We had service providers in the house and it gets loud. Five dogs angrily demanding to be pet first and one ticked off grandmother asking them to please be quiet only adds to the ambience of my home. It is too much for most people to cope with under the best of circumstances. Normal doesn’t qualify here as the best of circumstances.

We had a later than normal dinner and went to bed at around the normal time. I settled down with a good book and drifted off in a bit. One hour later, I woke up feeling very ill. Less than 5 minutes later, 911 was being called for a suspected heart attack. I’ve been down this road before. What was decidedly different this time was faintness in addition to weakness and pain. I quickly concluded that an ER was the best place for me.

After an ambulance ride, a few tests that will break my bank until Hell freezes over, the diagnosis was gallstones. The doctor thinks that one must have been stuck but it passed. All I know; it hurt so bad I was ready to reach in and rip it out with my bare hands. Loads of pain meds, follow up appointments scheduled, and 6 hours later I was pretty sure I would live.

I’m writing this post to explain why I may slow down for a bit. If I have to undergo surgery, I expect to sleep quite a bit for the first couple of days. That may throw my schedule off but I will try to fulfill any promises made before that happens. If I can avoid surgery, I’ll adhere to the schedule as tightly as possible.

Anyway, that was my Friday night/Saturday morning. How was yours?

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams

The author wants to relay the story of her life but more importantly her death. She is not yet 40 and has Stage IV colon cancer with metastases. She is a wife, a mother, a sister and now a cancer victim.

Her life had a rough start. She was born blind in Vietnam at a time when doctors and medical help wasn’t exactly plentiful. Her family fled, and sought a new life in a new country. Eventually they came to America. She was given some vision and a new outlook. No one thought she would overcome, but she persevered. She took that same determination into every new battle and beat it. Until cancer.

This book was written over the course of her journey through diagnosis, through treatment, through rage, to acceptance and defeat. It’s rambling and angry, whiny and self indulgent, superficial and redundant but it’s allowed to be those things. She’s facing her own mortality and the suffering of her family.

I felt like for all her writing though that she was never truly present, never on the page, or even honest with herself. She talks endlessly about things like list making and Costco runs but she never talks about the pain or the cost of treatment in real terms. At one point she is offered a treatment that will cost 15K out of pocket. She calls it a small amount and says they can afford it. She never compares it to real life, in real terms ie tuition for a year of school or a family vacation to Europe. She is a bit flat and it bothered me throughout.

She comes close to being open when she describes something she called “the event”. I won’t reveal it here but she comes close to being honest, passionate and alive. That passion finally comes out at about 80% of the book. She begins to get real. She talks about her tumors in physical ways. She describes the pain, the fear, she even makes peace with her demise. Until then, I felt more for the people that she had lost to the same disease than I did for the author.

She never really became emotional. There’s no joy taken in a spring day, or happiness expressed over holidays. She does talk frankly of anger and arguments. She mostly talks about her doctors. They are more present than her husband.

I wanted to read this book because I am infinitely interested in learning how people gracefully accept death as it quickly approaches, especially those with cancer. My father died from cancer without taking a single treatment. He chose that avenue. I know that cancer could come caling for me tomorrow. I wanted to learn from her. I wanted her to impart some great wisdom. I was left with no concrete impression of her and no new knowledge gained. Mores the pity.

In the end, she lived the way she wanted and died the same way. What more can any of us ask for when our visit here on this plane has ended?

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The Homecoming: Book 5 of the Bride Series

In this installment we get the ultimate HEA for Jake and Ellie but we are also introduced to two more main characters. They bring baggage, drama and laughs.

Ruby is a big city girl but finds that she has a connection to Jake and desperately needs a blank slate. It’s the perfect time to get to know each other. She thinks. She hopes. She tries it. It goes better and worse than she thought. Mostly better.

Cody is a cowboy through and through and finds his way to the ranch and settles in immediately. He fits like a glove and never wants to leave. His circumstances aren’t ordinary but his work ethic makes up for it. He’s a good guy and doesn’t mind working hard.

He stumbles onto her and they fight the attraction that they feel for each other, but know that in the end, it’s only right that they find a way to be together. Can that happen? At what cost? When the past explodes into the present can they overcome it?

I found a few more typos and possible formatting errors but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the storyline.

I also didn’t fawn all over Cody in this one. He’s a good guy, great maybe but he’s a bit…much and still somehow not enough. I wanted him to be more complex and layered. I wanted him to wear his love openly and push her boundaries. He didn’t and it was a bit of a letdown. He’s demanding but without the fun of a Dom.

Ruby is very smart-assed and sassy until she’s not, then she’s down on herself. Thankfully that doesn’t happen a tremendous amount. This book is really Ruby foward and about healing her broken spirit. She’s wonderfully layered and by the end, a kindred spirit. She’s indomitable and I loved her.

This a standalone and was pretty terrific so I highly recommend it.

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The Baby: Book 4 of the Bride Series by S. Doyle

Okay, I must confess! I caved. I downloaded the next book. Sigh!! Her writing is addictive. I’m hopeless. I’m also one very nosy bish and I needed to know what happens next. So…without further ado!

Ellie is pregnant throughout and struggling with all of it. The emotions, the fears, the physical nature of pregnancy. It’s pushing her to the brink and to make matters worse, she’s shutting Jake out of all of it. Their relationship is tumultuous and sometimes angry. It’s not an easy transition into parenthood for them. Can Ellie push away the fear and let him in? Can she banish the negative thoughts that aren’t leaving any room for happiness? Will their bond strengthen as her pregnancy progresses or will this be what finishes them for good?

This is more of the same funny, conversational writing that drew me in from the beginning. I have noticed a few more typos and misusage but nothing horrifying.

The pregnancy and the hormonal fluctuations and the fears are all real and felt perfect. The tone of the relationship has never changed. Ellie and Jake against the world. Except when Ellie screws up. She does that alot. Even in this book, where she majorly screws up. That was horrifying. Jake reacts in a very typical man fashion and made me love him even more. Seriously, I’d cut a girl over Jake.

Since this is a very short novella I was able to read it in less than an hour. That breaks an egg. It’s a rule. Also I felt like Jake was a little absent in this one but since it’s about the pregnancy I could almost let that slide, until that absentism pushed Ellie into fear hyper-drive and allowed her to do something collosally stupid. Another egg broken. But then Jake redeemed himself and I gave them another egg. Read the book to see what I mean. Seriously though, read them in order. Don’t be heathen!

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The Lover: Book 3 of the Bride Series by S. Doyle

Our story picks up after Ellie has made a decision that affects them both. It will put literal distance between them and she hopes that it will help heal them. They’ve each grown understandably angry and frustrated with the status quo.

She made this decision with some hesitancy and some nudging from Jake. He wants to do it so that she has options and knows exactly what she wants for her future. She wants it because staying is tearing her apart and breaking her heart.

They accept it as the new reality and adapt. It’s what they do. It’s what they know. It’s just life – just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

They each face their own feelings. They conquer the unconquerable and make each other crazy. Do they make it back to each other? Do they get their HEA? I’ve said it before; read the book!

Now! I have two ratings! Two? Yep! This book gets its own rating and the series gets another.

Book 3:

The author handles some very sticky situations very well. I laughed and I cheered. Easily five eggs.

The series:

Why only four when I really loved the series? There were a couple of hurdles to my enjoyment. I’ll get to those in a second.

What did I love?

  • Each character is fully realized. They are complex, hilarious and I want to meet them.
  • Each character gets equal play. When each chapter is written from a different point of view – especially if the author gives us the same scene from both perspectives – we get the whole picture and I absolutely love that!
  • I adore the writing style the author used. Each character is sarcastic, open, funny (sometimes not intentionally and that’s even funnier and harder to do!) and very realistic in word usage and in how they tackle the obstacles in front of them.

Those hurdles I mentioned?

  • The short nature of each book. They’re a part of Kindle Unlimited so I didn’t pay for each book but if I had, in all honesty I probably would have stopped after number one. You can buy the first three in the series ( I just discovered that there are two more but after reading the description and the included ending of this one… I’m not sure I’m interested. I’m not disinterested; more on the fence.) for $7. You can add the others for another $5. It’s one story. Whether you pay $7 or you pay $12, you’re still only getting one story. I expect to pay $5 maximum for one complete story. I’m cheap! There I said it!
  • Jake and Ellie. I admit to being one very strange duck but the names. Yes, they are ordinary. I love that! But….it’s the same names as two characters on NCIS. I have no idea if the author is a fan or if this was a complete coincidence but it threw me. One of the major perks of reading for me is that I get to create what each character looks like. Yes, the author gives us the broad strokes but as the reader we paint the finer details. In this instance, I kept picturing the two TV characters and it kind of ruined it for me. I’m an idiot, I know. It doesn’t need to be said.

Overall, it’s a very thoughtfully written story. It’s laugh out loud funny, poignant, some might even say brilliant (I probably wouldn’t argue with them!) but it’s still just one story.

Four very respectable and well deserved eggs. I highly suggest you read this story (series, whatever) or anything else by this author. I haven’t yet but I plan to add her name to my Top 10 authors of the year list. She’s that good.

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The Wife: Book 2 in The Bride Series by S. Doyle

This installment picks up right where the last one left us. Jake and Ellie are still struggling with the decisions they’ve made and the emotional entanglements that come with them.

Jake is still trying to be her White Knight. Ellie still wants to throw caution to the wind, especially where sex is concerned. Jake is fighting for both of them. He wants them to have the happy future they both deserve, whether that means being together or not. Ellie isn’t ready to see that. Will he make her understand?

Once again, they have heavy discussions and they make compromises. They yell and scream and storm off. They make bad decisions and they argue about that. It’s very realistic. I thoroughly loved every word.

I won’t tell you if they see each other naked. Read the book. I won’t tell you if they explored each other’s bodies. Read the book. I won’t tell you if they become intimate. Read the book. It’ll make you laugh, and Jake will piss you off. Read the book. Ellie will infuriate you but also make you realize you were once the same 18 year old kid. Read the book. Seriously, read the fricking book already.

As a warning, there is an assault in this book. It’s dealt with quickly and responsibly but I know that’s a huge stop sign for many readers.

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