ARC REVIEW: Relay by Layla Reyne

About the book

Relay
(Changing Lanes #1)
by Layla Reyne

ebook
Publication Date: January 8th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
>> Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion <<

Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.

Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.

Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.

review

When I received Relay I was in a foul mood after dnf-ing the last three books I’ve read, so I put it aside, because I was sure if I would read it with a feeling of lingering disappointment that I would not like it. That was a wise decision by me. Instead I read it after I read a book I absolutely loved. Lol.

Layla Reyne is a new-to-me author, but after reading Relay I will check out her other books as well.

Anyway Relay had all the things I love combined: m/m romance, an enemies-to-lover relationship that also included a second-chance romance and it had a sports theme. I loved the whole animosity between Dane and Alex in the beginning of the book. That was fun.

Also their whole 2nd relationship was a slowburner, which I also loved. Slowburners are more fun in my opinion and the relationship makes more sense if its built up slowly instead of over the course of just 30 pages like in some books I’ve read. We didn’t get to find out a lot of their first relationship though. Normally I’m not a big fan of flashbacks, but in this case I would have liked one or two, but that’s me nitpicking.

Dane’s parents I wanted to hurt – a lot. Poor Dane. I kinda disliked the fact though that Dane let them control his own life for that long of a time, but I’m glad he finally stood up to them.

The writing style was really good and while I read some reviews that were disappointed that the whole swimming thing wasn’t as prominent as they hoped and that we didn’t find out if they won any medals at the Olympics, I was quite glad this was the way it was. I want an incentive to read the next book – which I would have read nontheless, just saying –  to know how they did at the Olympics.

Also I’m curious about Bas and Jacob. Their book will be the second one in the Changing Lanes series and according to Riptide Publishing’s website it’s called Medley and will be released April 23. Can’t wait.

Rating: 4 stars

Advertisements

Mini Reviews #4

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Review copy provided by NetGalley)

To be honest with you I knew the second I hit ‘request’ on NetGalley this was not a book for me, but I let myself be swayed by all the people on Twitter who hyped this book up and I wanted to be in on the hype as well. Well… it’s two years later and I finally decided to own up to my mistakes and pick this book up.

Sadly, like expected this just wasn’t for me. I really gave it a fair chance. I read till 25% in the hopes that it could change my mind, but it never did.

Also I was quite thrown by the way the book started. Normally I wouldn’t mind if the book started right in a situation, but in this book I was lost. Too many characters at once and too much happening that I couldn’t place nor understand.

This book is the very reason why I’m normally not riding the hype wave, because those books never live up to my expectation.

The writing style of this book was ok-ish, didn’t keep me hooked or anything, but maybe it’s just the content that couldn’t keep my interest and not the actual writing.

Rating: DNF


Rachel Van Dyken – Cheater (Review copy provided by NetGalley)

I love everything written by Rachel Van Dyken, may it be NA, Paranormal Romance or something as dark as her Eagle Elite series, but I couldn’t make myself pick up this book. Simply because of the goddamn title. If this book had any other name I wouldn’t even have cared about the title, but that word ‘Cheater’ was the biggest reason I didn’t want to give it a chance.

This is an RVD book, did I really expect some type of big cheater? Apparently… yes, and I wasn’t happy with this book.

For a good part of the book I despised Lucas, because he was so… And I was so… *throws plant pot at wall* but I got over it and over time he grew on me a bit, like mold. Ok, not really, I still was annoyed by him for most of the book.

Avery I liked from the beginning, she was kinda shy, but also not afraid to speak up to Lucas.

BUT, big but, as much as I liked RVD’s writing style – as always – and as much as I found the banter funny, this will not be my favourite book by RVD, probably will be my least liked book by her, because of Lucas. I couldn’t stand him for the fact that once he started seeing Avery, he was still seeing all the other girls right in front of Avery. He was a manwhore and I did not like it.

In hindsight I probably should have trusted my gut and should have never touched this book, because than it couldn’t have ruined this picture I have of RVD’s books, like that she can’t do wrong. Sadly, she proves with Cheater that she can, at least for me :/

This turned out longer than I intended. So to keep thing short: not my piece of cake.

Rating: 2.5 stars

ARC REVIEW: Soul To Keep by Garrett Leigh

About the book

Soul To Keep
(Rented Heart #2)
by Garrett Leigh

ebook
Publication Date: April 2nd 2018 by Riptide Publishing
>> Review copy provided by NetGalley <<

Recovering addict Jamie Yorke has returned to England from California. With no home or family to speak of, he sticks a pin in a map and finds a small town in the Derbyshire Peak District. Matlock Bath is a quiet place—he just needs to get there, keep his head down, and stay clean. Simple, right? Until a chance meeting on the flight home alters the course of his so-called life forever.

Ex-Army medic Marc Ramsey is recovering from life-changing combat injuries while pulling nights as a trauma specialist at the local hospital. Keeping busy is a habit he can’t quit, but when Jamie—so wild and beautiful—bursts into his life, working himself into the ground isn’t as compelling as it used to be.

Marc falls hard, but chaos lurks behind Jamie’s fragile facade. He’s winning his battle against addiction, but another old foe is slowly consuming him. Both men have weathered many storms, but the path to the peace they deserve might prove the roughest ride yet.

reviewSoul To Keep is the first book by Garrett Leigh I read and I’m quite sure it won’t be the last one. Also it is the second book in the Rented Heart series, but can perfectly be read as a stand-alone in my honest opinion, because that’s what I did. I might have missed some backstory about Jamie and Zac (main character from the previous book), but I didn’t need it to understand Soul To Keep, so no harm in not knowing the first book.

Garrett Leigh’s characters were quite broken. Marc not as much as Jamie, but he also struggles. Both, Jamie and Marc, had to fight with some sort of darkness in their life and I like, how after meeting and getting to know each other, they complemented each other. Their relationship started off as some sort of friendship and morphed into a romantical relationship. What I loved about that relationship as well was that it was quite a slowburner. The first time they really had sex was at 80% of the book. Don’t understand that wrong, they did make out a bit before that with BJs and stuff like that, but it took some time till they had the real deal. Nowadays I feel like most of the books have the first sex scene in the first 30% and sometimes it feels totally unnatural, more like it’s a requirement to have one that early. So I was glad that was not the case in Soul To Keep.

I also liked how Garrett Leigh dealed with Jamie’s addiction and other problems and didn’t totally make them disappear at the end of the book, because that’s not really the way that works. That little conflict Marc and Jamie had near the end also made perfectly sense, because of Jamie’s past.

Also this book had quite a lot of angst, mostly from Jamie’s POV. Marc was more relaxed in that manner, because he already had enough years to deal with his problems, but I liked to read from both POV’s. That’s always my favourite, because this way I can experience the feelings from both sides of the story.

I absolutely recommend this book, if you are looking for an angsty, but at the same time cute and slowburner-y book to fill some of your hours.

Rating: 4,25 stars

 

Mini Reviews #2

Max by Sawyer Bennett (Review copy provided by Netgalley)

>> Goodreads link, Genre: Romance, ice hockey, M/f

Max is the sixth book in the Cold Fury Hockey series and I can say it totally blew me away, but I love ice hockey and I absolutely loved Max, the character. He was perfect and sadly I probably will never find a guy with his character in real life. LOL. The reason I can’t give this book 4 or even 4,5 stars is the heroine, Julianne.

She was an really, really ungrateful. Whenever Max wanted to help her in any way, she said no. Also the reasons why she pushes him away were just plain, old stupid. I couldn’t deal with her. Max deserved better, even though in the end she got a bit more tolerable.

There was the tiniest bit of drama in this, otherwise it was a cute, light afternoon read.

Rating: 3,5 stars


Going Overboard by L.A. Witt (Review copy provided by NetGalley)

>> Goodreads link, Genre: military, M/M, romance

Going Overboard is the fifth book in the Anchor Point series and the first one of it that I read.

I previously read a different series by L.A. Witt and really liked that and while I also liked the writing style in Going Overboard, I was kind of… do I dare to say it… bored by this book.

I really liked the transition of Dalton and Chris’ friendship to a romantic relationship – I’ve always been a sucker for friend-to-lover books – but that’s about it. Regarding all other aspects of the story I was utterly bored, which makes me kinda sad, because this book had promise.

So all in all this book was just average for me.

Rating: 3 stars


Cross Check by Kelly Jamieson (Review copy provided by Netgalley)

>> Goodreads link, Genre: Romance, ice hockey, new adult, M/f

Cross Check is the second book in the Bayard Hockey series.

I really liked reading it. It had funny and light scenes, but also touched  the darker aspects of life. Also its a enemies-to-lover story, I’m totally down for those. Huge fan. The sparks between Ben and Ella were on point.

Although the big fight that Ella and Ben had near the end was kind of stupid and unnecessary in my opinion, but I get the need for it.

Overall it was a good read and who can hate books about ice hockey and romance. I know I can’t. Love me some ice hockey.

Rating: 4 stars

 

[Review] Mistletoe Games by Jaci Burton

About the book

Mistletoe Games
(Play by Play #6.5, 8.5, 10.5)
by Jaci Burton

ebook
Publication Date: October 18th 2016 by Berkley
ISBN: 045148813X

No one brings the sexy out in sports like Jaci Burton, the author of the New York Times bestselling Play-by-Play novels. Now, she puts together a holiday hat trick with three novellas featuring the hottest sports around: baseball, hockey, and surfing—because hard bodies are always in season…

Holiday Games
For the high-achieving Elizabeth and her husband, baseball player Gavin Riley, failure is not an option. So when it comes to making a baby, they’re not about to let any holiday distractions get in the way of their necessary pleasures…

Holiday on Ice
It’s the season for giving and superstar hockey player Patrick “Trick” Niemeyer is ready to give dancer Stella Slovinski his heart wrapped up in bow. But he’ll have to melt the ice surrounding her heart to keep her from walking away…

Hot Holiday Nights
Christmas in Hawaii brings sports agent Tori Baldwin two presents: a young surfer at the top of his game and his business manager. But this hot threesome has to decide if the romantic wave they’ve caught is nothing more than a vacation fling, or the kind of love that could change their lives forever…

review~ Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion

Note: I haven’t read any books in the Play by Play series yet, but I’m pretty sure all these short stories can be read as stand alones.

Holiday Games:
What could I possible say to Holiday Games, except for it’s basically one giant-ass sex scene, with some bits of  story here and there – and those weren’t even interesting. If I had read the previous books in this series, I might have appreciated this story more, but as it is, I was not impressed by it.

After reading Holiday Games I just couldn’t immediately continue reading the other two short stories of this book, so I put it aside for a while.

To be quite honest, I picked it up again a few hours ago and I just can’t. I can’t finish it. The writing style didn’t keep me hooked and I’m not sure if I want to read the rest of the book, just to get disappointed by those stories as well. So I decided after a long internal battle – I hate quitting ARCs – to stop the struggle I have with this book and just call it a day. I won’t continue reading it.

Should you pick it up, I hope you enjoy it. I guess Jaci Burton and me, we don’t mix well. Maybe I should have read a book in Play By Play series first to fully be hooked to this series, but I highly doubt it.

Rating: DNF

 

[Review] At Attention by Annabeth Albert

About the book

At Attention
(Out Of Uniform #2)
by Annabeth Albert

ebook
Publication Date: April 10th 2017 by Carina Press

Lieutenant Apollo Floros can ace tactical training missions, but being a single dad to his twin daughters is more than he can handle. He needs live-in help, and he’s lucky a friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay. He’s surprised to see Dylan all grown up with a college degree…and a college athlete’s body. Apollo’s widowed heart may still be broken, but Dylan has his blood heating up.

It’s been eight years since the teenage Dylan followed Apollo around like a lovesick puppy, and it’s time he showed Lieutenant Hard-to-Please that he’s all man now—an adult who’s fully capable of choosing responsibility over lust. He can handle Apollo’s muscular sex appeal, but Apollo the caring father? Dylan can’t afford to fall for that guy. He’s determined to hold out for someone who’s able to love him back, not someone who only sees him as a kid brother.

Apollo is shocked by the intensity of his attraction to Dylan. Maybe some no-strings summer fun will bring this former SEAL back to life. But the combination of scorching desire and warm affection is more than he’d expected, and the emotion between them scares him senseless. No fling lasts forever, and Apollo will need to decide what’s more important—his past or his future—if he wants to keep Dylan in his life.

review~ Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion

Truth be told after reading the synopsis I was a bit afraid – for two reasons. First because I couldn’t quite remember who Apollo was and if he even was in the previous book. I’m bad at remembering names, let me tell you that. Reason number two was that a few days ago I’ve read a book about a married guy with children, who was secretly gay, but never came out to his wife and then she died. So, because I couldn’t remember who Apollo was, I thought it would be the other book all over again. Note: I didn’t like that other book. But of course, I didn’t need to worry, everything was totally different. I really need to work at remembering names. I remembered there was a guy in the military who was gay with children, but I didn’t know anymore that that man was Apollo.

So if you made it through my little “I am stupid” paragraph, let me tell you that I love this book. I rarely give a book a full 5 star rating, but I just can’t do anything different with At Attention. I loved the character, loved the story and loved the writing.

I loved Dylan, Apollo’s love interest. He was adorable. ADORABLE. He didn’t push Apollo into starting something new after his husband’s death, but let him decide the pace. Also he was really good with the children. He was fun and at the same time everyone thought of him as a child, even though he’s long grown up.

Then there was Apollo. There were some scenes where I wanted to bash his head in, because he kept hurting my poor Dylan without knowing it, but I still also loved him.

At Attention didn’t have too much talk about the military part of Apollo’s job. There were a few scenes that dealed with that topic, but overall it only took a minor role in the book.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, which could be about Ben and Maddox, but I’m not quite sure it actually is. I guess I have to wait and see.

Also I told myself to wait before I start reading At Attention. I didn’t want to start till March. Joke’s on me. I already finished it and it isn’t even February yet. LOL.

Rating: 5 stars

[Review] Wrapped Together by Annabeth Albert

About the book

Wrapped Together
(Portland Heat #5)
by Annabeth Albert

ebook
Publication Date: December 6th 2016 by Lyrical Shine

In the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town . . .

For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected .

review~ Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion

Wrapped Together was only my second book by Annabeth Albert and haven’t I just looked it up on Goodreads I still wouldn’t know that this is part of a series. The fifth installment in fact. I was perfectly able to read it as a stand-alone.

But guys, I did it in the wrong order. This story works around Christmas. When do I read it … right, after Christmas, of course. Didn’t hurt the story, but it made me miss Christmas already. Stupid me. Haha.

Wrapped Together was a really cute and heart-warming book. I read it in one sitting, that’s how glued to the pages I was.

The guys – Hollis and Sawyer – Annabeth created were really down-to-earth and felt so real. Their romance hadn’t overly much drama, except for that one scene that I thought fit perfectly into the story. Reading about the progress between these two was sweet and fun. Their sex scenes were steamy though! I loved how they told their families that they are together. So funny. I highlighted so many funny conversations between those two on my Kindle. They made me smile a lot.

The only thing that made me a bit sad was that Wrapped Together was so short. Only a bit over 100 pages, but I think that gave the story the charm it had.

Wrapped Together was a really cute story about Christmas and really likeable characters. This won’t be the last time I read a book of this series.

Rating: 4 stars

[Review] Justice Ascending by Rebecca Zanetti

About the book

Justice Ascending
(The Scorpius Syndrome #3)
by Rebecca Zanetti

ebook, 400 pages
Publication Date: January 31st 2017 by Zebra

Before surviving the Scorpius bacterium, Tace Justice was a good ole Texas cowboy who served his country and loved his mama. After Scorpius, the world became dark, dangerous, and deadly… and so did he. The Vanguard medic is stronger, faster, and smarter than before, but he’s lost the line between right and wrong. His passion is absolute, and when he focuses it on one woman, there’s no turning back for either of them.

Sami Steel has been fighting to survive right alongside Tace, convincing the Vanguard soldiers she’s one of them. In truth, Sami is a former hacker turned government agent who worked at The Bunker, where scientists stored both contaminants and cures. Only she knows the location, and she’s not telling. Yet when sexual fire explodes between her and Tace, she’ll face even that hell again to save him.

review~ Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion ~

I might have been way to happy when I saw the email from NetGalley telling me I got approved for this title, just saying. I usually hate book that deal with apocalypse themes, but this series had sucked me in right from the beginning.

I love the world that Rebecca Zanetti has created and her characters as well. Also I love how she gives us one piece of the puzzle that brings as one step closer to beating Scorpius but also it opens up a whole lot of more questions. I’m quite curious how that whole problem with Scorpius will be resolved in the future books and what characters will get their books next. I’m hoping for a particular couple that we got to meet in Justice Ascending, but whose names I can’t write without it being major spoilers.

On to the characters of Justice Ascending.
First we have Tace. I loved Tace since Mercury Striking. He has his dark and his light sides and I loved his reaction to Sami’s confession. Yes, he was pissed, but he also understood her.
Then we have Sami. She has her own head and will do what she has to do to save the ones she loves. I loved her from the beginning as well.

Those two together – they were explosive. They had their fights, but also their cute and funny moments. Truth be told, I shipped them since book one and I would have been mad had they not ended up together. Also I loved how Sami would take BS from Tace. Their fights were fun to read. We need more strong women in action books – well, in books in general.

Speaking of action, the action in this book was on point. While reading Justice Ascending, I felt like watching a good action movie on TV. On one hand I wish to be a part of this story, but on the other hand I’m glad I’m not, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive more than 2 days in this new world by Rebecca Zanetti.

On another note: I love how Rebecca Zanetti incorporates the last names of her heroes in the title of their books. I’m curious what the next book will be called.

All in all, another great addition to the series and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series. I hope our heroes find a cure on the way – but not to soon. I want to read another few books of the Scorpius Syndrome series first.

Rating: 4,5 stars

[Review] Off Base by Annabeth Albert

About the book

Off Base
(Out Of Uniform #1)
by Annabeth Albert

ebook
Publication Date: January 9th 2017 by Carina Press

After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike’s flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike’s arrival would spark from Zack’s teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can’t refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won’t be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He’s an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he’s had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can’t risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack’s restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn’t know how to be the man Pike deserves.

review~ Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion

I found this book on NetGalley by pure accident. I was browsing through the pages and then my mouse decided to twitch and stop on this book. I was intrigued and click on it to read the description and after reading it, I knew I had to request it. Thankfully I got accepted otherwise I would have had to wait for more than another month.

On this note, this is my very first book by Annabeth Albert and it won’t be the last one, let me tell you that.

I have this weird love for M/M books where one of the guys is totally out in the open about him being gay and the other one is still fully in the closet. In this book Pike was the one out and Zack was the one still in the closet.

Both of these guys were pretty awesome in their own ways. Pike was so compassionate and honored Zack’s wishes about coming out on his own terms and Zack was sweet and always around to listen to Pike’s rant about his teaching gig.

I loved that this book was about a gay military guy – Zack’s a SEAL – but without the typical “he’s a SEAL, don’t you forget it”-stuff that seem to take place in straight couple books. Also Pike’s teaching job at the university was a nice contrast.

Annabeth Albert’s writing style drew me in from page one and hadn’t I looked up to take a look at the clock and hadn’t I seen that it was midnight, I most definitely would have finished Off Base in one sitting, but sadly I had work in the morning. So I had to cut my reading session short and read the rest of the book right after I got of my shift.

I will absolutely read At Attention, the second book in the series, as well as Ryan and Josiah’s story Connection Error – two side characters in Off Base – I really want to find out more about how they got together. By the way I only now in the progress of writing this review found out that the Out Of Uniform series is a spin-off series of the #gaymers series. So if you read those, I’m totally confident that you will like Off Base as well. If you haven’t read those, trust me, you can read Off Base without reading the #gaymers series first.

Rating: 4,5 stars

[Review] If Santa Were A Cowboy by Melissa Cutler

About the book

If Santa Were A Cowboy
(One And Only Texas #2.5)
by Melissa Cutler

ebook
Publication Date: October 25th 2016 by Swerve
ISBN: 1250108403

This Christmas, Santa wears a Stetson.

Paul Savage loves Christmas at Briscoe Ranch Resort, when he gets to take a break from being a back country guide to play Santa in the resort’s lobby and talk to kids about toys. The last thing he expects is his high school crush to come waltzing in as his new assistant photographer, wheeling a suitcase that’s more naughty than nice.

Kelly Walker is a disaster. All she’d wanted was spice up her life by saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity, which is when the universe started pelting her with ‘no’s. So when she comes across a job listing for a holiday photographer working with the sweet, scrawny boy whose advances she’d laughed off in high school, she jumps on the chance to turn her bad Karma around by giving Paul a second chance.

Trouble is, Paul’s anything but scrawny anymore, and his cowboy swagger throws her grand plans for a loop—especially when he tempts her with a red hot proposition of his own. Kelly’s in way over her head, but as she gets swept up in the magic of Briscoe Ranch’s holiday charms—and Paul’s—could Kelly’s year of ‘no’s be leading up to the ‘yes’ of a lifetime?

review~ Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion

I really loved Melissa Cutler’s Bomb Squad series, so when I saw If Santa Were A Cowboy on NetGalley I had to request it, even though these two series have nothing to do with the each other.

I started it right when I got it, back in September, but I couldn’t get into it. I blamed it on me not feeling christmas feelings yet. So I pushed it a bit back in my reading schedule. I started it again yesterday, but even now – with Christmas right around the corner – I couldn’t get invested into this book and that’s really sad. Maybe I would be more interested in this story and its characters if I actually read the previous two book in this series, but I honestly don’t think so.

The main reason why I couldn’t get into this book: Kelly. I didn’t like Kelly much. I didn’t agree with her choices. She was just …. a bitch. Paul deserved a much better girl for himself.

If you’re in the mood for a romance book with a christmas theme and you don’t care for a bitchy heroine, this might be it for you. For me it was ok, but I could have done without it. I guess I stick with Melissa Cutler’s Bomb Squad series.

Rating: 2 stars