Review: Off the Ice by Julie Cross

Off the Ice by Julie Cross

Series: Juniper Falls #1

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Format: eARC

Source: Entangled Publishing

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon


Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

My Thoughts

Claire has returned home from college to help the family business while her father recuperates from a life-threatening illness. Assuming staggering responsibilities, helping run the business and dealing with financial debt, Claire is dealing with a lot. But spending time with Tate, the guy she had previously only thought of as her best friend's younger brother, helps her step away from the responsibilities and have something just for herself.

Tate is dealing with school, an ex-girlfriend, a fractured relationship with his father, and he's just been named the starting goalie for his team. The pressure is intense and he is floundering. He's had feelings for Claire for years and with her back at home he finds himself seeking her out again and again. When little else in his life is making sense, Claire seems to be the one thing that does.

Off the Ice started a bit rocky for me. I felt like some things weren't explained well and I was a little murky on details (and readers like me with zero hockey knowledge are at a bit of a disadvantage). Even so, I was quickly invested in the story which was made easy with such genuinely likable main characters. Both Claire and Tate were mature young adults with a lot on their shoulders. They had great chemistry (those kissing scenes - whoa, baby!) and I loved their honesty and openness with each other. (There is one sex scene that is handled perfectly, with tenderness and humor and just felt so genuine.) These were characters that truly had each other's best interest at heart and were incredibly supportive of one another.

There were a lot of themes touched on within the novel (some could argue perhaps too many) and covered the extreme pressure in competitive sports, illness of a parent, abuse, friendship, and the transition into young adulthood. Even with so much going on I never felt anything was glossed over or treated as a cliché. Instead, Cross managed to create complex main characters that were anything but cookie cutter. Not only were Claire and (the oh-so-swoony) Tate well developed but there was also a full cast of secondary characters that made for a richer story. (Is it too early to hope that the next Juniper Falls book focuses on Tate's best friend, Leo?)

Off the Ice is a solid mature YA contemporary romance filled with emotional topics and tempered with all the romance of first love. I recommend this one to fans of YA contemporary and sports romance and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series. 

3.5/5 STARS

Note: This title was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

The Sunday Post #45

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news - a post to recap the past week on your blog, 
showcase books and things we have received, and share news about what is
coming up on your blog in the week ahead. You can find the info here:

I missed last week's Sunday Post and thinking back I can't remember exactly why. I'm thinking we stayed busy all day but I'm also pretty sure there was a nap involved so... yeah. 

The Husband and I saw Fifty Shades Darker last weekend. It was a really good adaptation of the book and I thought it was even better than the first movie. Christian Grey smiling and laughing... who knew? 😉

My re-do of the master bedroom continues. A couple weeks ago it was pillows and throws. Today it was lamps and flowers. There's more I want to do but I enjoy taking my time to find the pieces I want. Me + home decor = ♥♥♥

Monday, February 20

Tell Me Three Things (AUDIO) - Julie Buxbaum
Undecided - Julianna Keyes
Asa (AUDIO) - Jay Crownover
Off the Ice - Julie Cross

Goodnight, Nic - Marley Jacobs

From the February Bookworm Box
Purple Orchids - Samantha Christy
Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin - Mariana Zapata

Unspoken - Jen Frederick


Off the Ice - Julie Cross
Goodnight, Nic - Marley Jacobs


How was your week? Any new books? Any news to share? 
You know I want to hear about it! :)

Sound Bites Audiobook Reviews: Rowdy and Asa

I've really done an about face over the last year when it comes to audio books. I enjoy listening on my daily commute and I almost almost have one downloaded from my library's Overdrive app that I'm currently listening to (in addition to whatever I'm currently reading). However, I'm a total purist when it comes to reading and while audio books can be fun, for me it's never as rich an experience as actually reading the physical book. Because of that, my thoughts are pretty brief and I'll be combining a couple reviews in each Sound Bites post.

Rowdy (Marked Men #5) by Jay Crownover

Narrated by: Cody Hammersmith and Alexandra Marcuse

Synopsis: After the only girl he ever loved told him that he would never be enough, Rowdy St. James knocked the Texas dust off his boots and set out to live up to his nickname. A good ol’ boy looking for good times and good friends, Rowdy refuses to take anything too seriously, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Burned by love once, he isn’t going to let himself trust a woman again. But that’s before his new co-worker arrives, a ghost from the past who’s suddenly making him question every lesson he ever learned.

Salem Cruz grew up in house with too many rules and too little fun—a world of unhappiness she couldn’t wait to forget. But one nice thing from childhood has stayed with her; the memory of the sweet, blue-eyed boy next door who’d been head over heels in love with her little sister.

Now, fate and an old friend have brought her and Rowdy together, and Salem is determined to show him that once upon a time he picked the wrong sister. A mission that is working perfectly—until the one person that ties them together appears, threatening to tear them apart for good.

WHAT I LIKED: While this was probably my least favorite of the Marked Men series, I still enjoyed Rowdy's story and the continued involvement of all the previous characters. I liked getting Rowdy's back story and it went a long way in explaining his lack of (romantic) attachments and his preference to just be a good-time guy. To be honest, I didn't connect much with Rowdy and Salem's story and I found myself getting most of my enjoyment from all the other Marked Men cast of characters. Seeing all the new developments with Rule/Shaw, Jet/Ayden, Rome/Cora and Nash/Saint did my heart good.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The female narrator almost ruined the whole experience for me. She spoke in a monotone and her voice had as much emotion as an automated telephone voice system. That probably didn't help me warm to Salem but even with the narration aside, I just never cared for her. I found her motivations confusing and it took me by surprise when I realized she was interested in Rowdy romantically. Any mention of their previous relationship (as kids) focused only on their friendship so her sudden desire for Rowdy felt completely out of left field. I felt like she really forced the relationship. Overall, I just wasn't a fan of Salem's addition to the group.

3.25/5 STARS

Asa (Marked Men #6) by Jay Crownover

Narrated by: Christian Fox and Harper Kendall

Synopsis:  Starting over in Denver with a whole new circle of friends and family, Asa Cross struggles with being the man he knows everyone wants him to be and the man he knows he really is. A leopard doesn’t it change its spots and Asa has always been a predator. He doesn’t want to hurt those who love and rely on him, especially one luscious arresting cop who suddenly seems to be interested in him for far more than his penchant for breaking the law. But letting go of old habits is hard, and it’s easy to hit bottom when it’s the place you know best.

Royal Hastings is quickly learning what the bottom looks like after a tragic situation at work threatens not only her career but her partner’s life. As a woman who has only ever had a few real friends she’s trying to muddle through her confusion and devastation all alone. Except she can’t stop thinking about the sexy southern bartender she locked up. Crushing on Asa is the last thing she needs but his allure is too strong to resist. His long criminal record can only hurt her already shaky career and chasing after a guy who has no respect for the law or himself can only end in heartbreak.

A longtime criminal and a cop together just seems so wrong . . . but for Asa and Royal, being wrong together is the only right choice to make.

WHAT I LIKED: When Asa was first introduced in the second book, Jet, I couldn't stand him. And knowing the final book in the series was focused on him had me cringing. No way was I ever going to get behind this guy. What a difference a few books can make! I loved getting Asa's story and reading from his point of view. There has been such growth and change in his character over the last 4 books and seeing Asa's redemption was so satisfying. Royal was likable I appreciated her willingness to see beyond Asa's past and instead focus on the man he'd become. I was pulling hard for Asa to make peace with his past and allow himself to find some happiness. The epilogue ended things on a perfect note, with everyone together, and seeing how far these characters had come over the span of six books was a little emotional. (Side note: Christian Fox's narration for Asa was perfection.)

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: This one felt a little different than the other books in the series in that the story felt more insular and less of an ensemble. There were brief scenes with Rome and Rule and a few others but I missed the inclusion of all the characters in this big group of family and friends. 

3.75/5 STARS

Have you ever completely changed your opinion about a character
 over the span of a series?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Liked More/Less Than Everyone Else

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme 
Ever feel like the odd man woman out in the book world? You love a book that everyone else is trashing? Or you hated a book that everyone else is raving about as the Next Big Thing? Yeah, me too. Here are my picks for the books that I liked (or disliked) more than everyone else.

The Infinite Moment of Us - Lauren Myracle
This one has a rather dismal 3.22 rating on GoodReads and I'm not sure why. I really enjoyed this YA contemporary.
99 Days - Katie Cotugno
This one proved to be incredibly polarizing and many readers slammed the book for a main character that cheated, but I loved it for presenting a flawed character who made mistakes and struggled to find her way.
I Want It That Way - Ann Aguirre
I feel like this one is more overlooked than disliked. But this was a new adult gem for me.
Changing Tides - Sarah Darlington
Some recent troll activity and attacking of the author (be people who probably have not even read the book) has driven this GoodReads rating down to 3.14, which is absurd.
The Summer I Found You - Jolene Perry
Another case of maybe not disliked by others (it has a GR rating of 3.71) but just overlooked. I loved this contemporary YA and it became an instant favorite.

I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
This book is practically revered in YA contemporary. And I really, truly disliked it.
A Thousand Boy Kisses - Tillie Cole
I just recently reviewed this one so I won't go into specifics. But the schmaltz and cheese that had me rolling my eyes were apparently loved by most everyone else.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han
A hugely popular book that just didn't do it for me. The main character came across as a naive 12 year old instead of a teenager and I couldn't take it.
Dreamology - Lucy Keating
A great premise that didn't deliver. It has mostly good reviews but I thought it was just silly and pointless.
Looking for Alaska - John Green
It took three books to finally realize that John Green's writing just isn't for me. I didn't like Alaska, I didn't care much about Miles/Pudge, and I was on pretentiousness overload. 

What book do you seem to love
 more than everyone else?  

Your Tempting Love by Layla Hagen | Review + Giveaway

I'm so happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Layla Hagen's latest release, YOUR TEMPTING LOVE! This is the fifth book in the Bennett Family series but can absolutely be read as a stand-alone. I was introduced to this series with the fourth book, Your Inescapable Love, and instantly fell in love with the big, boisterous Bennett family, and with Layla's writing. But today is about celebrating the release of YOUR TEMPTING LOVE! Check it out and grab your copy today!
Releases February 17, 2017
Christopher Bennett is a persuasive man. With his magnetic charm and undeniable wit, he plays a key role in the international success of his family’s company. Christopher adores his family, even if they can be too meddling sometimes… like when they recommend him to employ Victoria Hensley’s decorating services for his new apartment in an attempt to set him up with her. Christopher isn’t looking to settle down, but meeting Victoria turns his world upside down. Her laughter is contagious, and her beautiful lips and curves are too tempting. Victoria Hensley is determined not to fall under Christopher’s spell, even though the man is hotter than sin, and his flirty banter makes her toes curl. But Christopher is her client, and she knows better than to get involved with clients. Besides, Victoria isn’t looking for love. After her parents’ death, Victoria is raising her much younger siblings, and she can’t afford any mistakes. But Victoria and Christopher’s chemistry is not just the sparks-flying kind, but the downright explosive kind. Before she knows it, Christopher is training her brother Lucas for soccer tryouts and reading bedtime stories to her sister Chloe. Victoria wants to resist him, but Christopher is determined, stubborn, and oh-so-persuasive. When their attraction and connection both spiral out of control, will they be able to risk it all for a love that is far too tempting?  
M Y   T H O U G H T S 

After the sudden loss of her parents a year ago, Victoria is now raising her three younger siblings while also trying to grow her fledgling decorator business. She's excited to meet with potential new client Christopher Bennett after his sisters recommended her. Sparks fly at the very first meeting and, despite her misgivings at getting involved with a client, it doesn't take long for Victoria to know Christopher is someone special.

Christopher isn't interested in a serious relationship - or at least that's what he's been telling himself. But meeting Victoria changes his tune and he finds himself completely taken with her, and growing attached to her sisters and brother.

Victoria was such a down to earth and likable character. She had so much on her shoulders, between her business and caring for her siblings, but she handled it all remarkably well. She was full of self-doubt when it came to raising her siblings but she didn't give herself enough credit. She was patient and loving and always put their needs ahead of her own. I had such much respect for her. She was cautious about getting involved with Christopher, aware of how a new relationship might effect her brother and sisters, but once she did I loved how open and giving she was with him. 

Christopher was impossible to resist. He was handsome and funny and so full of charm. I loved that he wasn't put off by Victoria's responsibility to her family and instead took an active role and made himself available, especially to the two younger children. 

My favorite thing about about their relationship was the total absence of artifice. They were so open and honest with one another - there was no game playing, no coyness, just two people who were so supportive of one another and willing to take a chance on the possibility of a future together. Their relationship wasn't without its challenges, and they didn't always get it right the first time, but it was impossible not to pull for Christopher and Victoria and the happiness they deserved.

If you're a fan of contemporary romance, I wholeheartedly recommend Your Tempting Love and the entire Bennett Family series.

Get your hands on the rest of the Bennett Family books:

Your Irresistible Love (The Bennett Family Series, Book 1):

Amazon US:


Nook (Barnes and Noble):


Google Play:

The AUDIO version:

Your Captivating Love (The Bennett Family Series, Book 2):





Google Play:

The AUDIO version:

Your Forever Love (The Bennett Family Series, Book 3):





Google Play:

The AUDIO version:

Your Inescapable Love (The Bennett Family Series, Book 4):

Amazon US:


Nook (B&N):



About Layla Hagen

Layla Hagen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She fell in love with books when she was nine years old, and her love affair with stories continues even now, many years later. She writes steamy and romantic stories and can’t wait to share them with the world. She is represented by fabulous Louise Fury (The Bent Agency) Connect with Layla Hagen: Website Facebook Twitter

That's What He Said Thursday #30

(graphic created by Kei at The Lovely Pages Reviews)

That's What He Said Thursday is a weekly meme created 
and hosted bChapter Break. It's a fun way to share a quote 
from a favorite book boyfriend (aka male protagonist) to his girl.
For more info, visit Chapter Break here.