Beard in Mind

Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

4 stars! 

“People, all people, are blinded by their own expectations.” 

Beard in Mind is the fourth book in the Winston Brothers series and can be read as a standalone novel. This book follows Beau Winston, twin brother of Duane from the first book, and Shelly, sister of Quinn from the Knitting series. Beau and his brothers Duane and Cletus own and run a mechanic shop in town. With Duane leaving the country soon to travel with his girlfriend, Cletus hires a new mechanic, the beautiful and cold Shelly Sullivan.

Right off the bat, due to a misunderstanding, the two don’t get along. Beau doesn’t like Shelly’s demeanor toward him and her unfriendliness toward customers. Shelly is highly intelligent and Beau had insulted her. But, at the end of the day, Beau is a good and friendly man and he makes the effort with her, discovering her secrets and becoming her friend. But eventually they both want more, and Beau’s brother Cletus stands in the way of that.

“I don’t think Beau Winston would purposefully hurt anyone.” 

I know when it comes to a Penny Reid novel, I can always expect the unconventional romance. You don’t get the same old story when you read one of her books, you get something unique, and something special. It’s why she’s an auto buy author for me, the woman has never let me down. In a time where many authors are spitting out repetitive and unoriginal stories, Penny Reid offers something more to readers with her work.

This book made a few observations about society without being preachy about it. The most obvious, being the cultural norm of how we perceive OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and the misunderstanding of what the actual disorder it. The heroine, Shelly, has it, and it’s an everyday struggle that she has to conquer, that she works hard at, but it makes her misunderstood to those around her. It has something interesting for the reader to take away and think about, maybe not use the phrase so casually in conversation.

The second one I noticed, which is less obvious, is the subject of rape culture. Shelly is a beautiful woman, and because of that, many men think it’s okay for them to hit on her/assume they have the right to do so, and it isn’t. Just because someone is beautiful, doesn’t mean it’s okay to assume you can make advances on them or touch them without permission. Granted, Shelly’s sharp wit and intelligence proved no match for whatever man came her way, but just because she can handle herself still doesn’t mean it’s okay.

I liked Shelly and Beau equally, neither one of them drove me crazy or made stupid decisions. They each had some issues to work on and work through, and they made the decision to include each other in their problems. It doesn’t mean that being together solved everything, but now they had someone to support them throughout what was happening. As a couple, they didn’t seem to have that spark between them. Personally, while I liked them together, I didn’t feel the attraction between the two like I had for other couples in this series. And at times, I felt this book was more about the side characters than them as a couple. Which is fine, I loved the side characters, but to me, something lacked.

If you haven’t read the Winston Brothers series yet you need to. If you haven’t read a Penny Reid book yet, I can’t even with you right now. The series only has two books left, making me just one book closer to my love Billy!!! I need Billy ASAP!

“Don’t let anyone in your life who isn’t the best, and don’t hesitate walking away from a person who can’t give you what they need.” 

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review 

Wild Card

Wild Card by Karina Halle

4 stars! 

“Just because someone has a broken heart, it doesn’t mean the heart doesn’t work anymore.” 

Six years ago, Rachel left the town of North Ridge and fled to the city of Toronto, heartbroken and alone. Now she’s returned to her hometown because she’s learned her mother has cancer. With a career and a boyfriend to get back to, Rachel is eager to avoid her past, mostly her ex Shane, the man who destroyed her six years earlier.

Shane mad a choice years ago, and it’s one he’s always regretted. Shane works on his father’s ranch, a country boy with a dog and his truck. Now that Rachel is back in town, it brings up many memories for Shane. And while he tried to give her space, it becomes clear the two need closure. But Shane wants Rachel back, and he’s gonna fight for her.

“The fault of man is that we never live long enough to be the person we want to be.” 

Second chance romance is like catnip for me, I cannot get enough of it! Karina Halle delivers an emotional and intense romance between two people who were ripped apart too early in their love story. Rachel and Shane had such a sweet and innocent romance, childhood friends to lovers, later to be ripped apart. You couldn’t help but root for them to be together.

I really liked Shane and Rachel as individuals as well as a couple. Rachel is a driven young woman who does the right thing even when she’s been wronged by those who love her. All Rachel really wants is security and for someone to love her. Shane is a quiet yet bold cowboy, a man living a simple life but he knows what he wants and he will tear about the earth for it.

A romance many readers will love, I cannot wait to meet the rest of the men in the North Ridge series!

“My heart would always return to him.” 

ARC provided by the author. All quotes in this review came from an advance unedited copy and may be subject to change in the final product. 

Royally Endowed

Royally Endowed by Emma Chase

4.5 stars! 

“I feel more alive just standing next to him, than I have around anyone else.“ 

Royally Endowed is the story of bodyguard Logan, and the girl he is to protect, Ellie. Ever since Ellie’s sister began dating a prince, a bodyguard was required to keep her and her family safe. Logan is assigned to her by the Prince is Wessco himself.

Spanning over a few years, we see the progression of a friendship based on respect and understanding between Logan and Ellie, and as the two get older, something more begins to form. But Logan’s job means the world to him and he doesn’t want to compromise that. Ellie is the perfect woman for him, but will there ever be a perfect time for the two of them to be together?

“Subtlety, thy name is not Logan St. James.“ 

This book came to me at exactly the right time, I needed something fluffy, funny and sexy in my life. I’ve been having a hard time finding books I loved, and this one broke the pattern! This is the book you turn to when all other books fail to make you smile. I cannot go on enough on how refreshing it was to read this story, how much I loved the characters and the plot. Some things may seem a bit tropey, but it just works.

Bodyguard romances seem to be the new trend in romance and I am totally on board with this. I feel it adds a touch of the forbidden to otherwise safe romances, kind of like the office romance where there’s a chance someone could get fired. The other side of it for me, is that protector role. We get that tiny bit of alpha, wanting to protect someone and keep them safe, but it’s their job which makes it not so creepy to me than some random dude going all Tarzan on a woman.

Full of humor (seriously, I laughed out loud quite a few times reading this), tenderness, and a touch of magic, Royally Endowed is the perfect end of summer book. It’s my favorite in this series and I am honestly excited to see what Emma Chase has in store for us readers in the future.

“Happy endings are for all of us.“ 

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review 

If There’s No Tomorrow

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L Armentrout

5 stars!!! 

“I should’ve listened to that little voice in my head and that feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I hadn’t. If I had, today would’ve been different. Tomorrow would be like all the better yesterdays.” 

Gosh I love JLA books, she never fails to pull me out of a book rut and brighten my day!

Lena Wise is about to start her senior year of high school, and her biggest concerns are getting into her college of choice and having a crush on her best friend Sebastian, the boy next door. But very quickly, something changes her life, a choice. The wrong choice. Now Lena’s entire life has changed leaving her in turmoil and completely turned around.

Lena’s friends try to be supportive, but more and more she pushes them away, including Sebastian. But Lena falls deeper and deeper into a spiral of guilt, and she needs to find the strength within herself to move on from what happened.

“Actions and inactions have consequences. If we did not accept responsibility or blame for them, then we’d be at risk of repeating those actions.” 

It’s no secret that Jennifer Armentrout is one of my top favorite authors, I can open 99% of her books and fall in love with them in a couple of words or pages. If There’s No Tomorrow follows in the same vein, I was completely sucked in by JLA’s writing and Lena’s story from the very beginning and stayed up late into the night to keep reading. She also writes the best male love interests that make you swoon and want to date the good guy.

The themes most present in this book are consequences and forgiveness. I won’t say exactly what happens with Lena as it’s a spoiler, but what happened to her could happen to anyone, teen or adult. My heart bled for this girl, and all of the other people in the world who had been through what she had. It may be a story we’ve heard before, but I think it’s one that merits repeating.

A beautiful story, and one that will stay with you for a long time. If There’s No Tomorrow is a book worth driving to the bookstore to buy on release day!

“You do deserve happiness and a future and everything you’ve ever wanted. That one night is not going to define your whole life.” 

ARC provided by the author. All quotes in this review came from an advance unedited copy and may be subject to change in the final product. 

Illegal Contact

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

4.5 stars! 

“I’m your boss. You’re my assistant. We’re not anything else.” 

Gavin Brawley is one of the NFL’s biggest players, and after an assault charge he’s been confined to his home for six months, monitored by an ankle bracelet. Being benched means Gavin needs to hire an assistant to manage his entire life, something he’s not exactly happy about.

Noah Monroe is in desperate need of a job, after him and his father lost theirs they need to make ends meet. The last thing Noah wants is to be a PA to a cranky NFL player, but despite his reservations, he takes the job.

Tension is high between the two of them, and things don’t start off smooth. But the more time they spend with each other, the better it gets until a tentative friendship and mutual respect is formed.

“Better to have an insolent nerd with no interest in football than a kiss-ass fan who will tell all to all their friends.” 

Illegal Contact is the sports romance you’ve been waiting for! Football is never my first choice (like ever), so I was surprised when I ended up loving this football romance. Well, I shouldn’t have been because Santino Hassell is everything that’s good in the MM romance genre. The voice he gives to his characters is so strong, Noah and Gavin felt like real people to me, one’s I could turn my head and talk to.

This is an I hate you/I love you kind of romance. The beginning starts out with much badgering and barb trading, but I loved the journey from dislike to mutual admiration. They always say there’s a thin line between love and hate and this book encapsulates that phrase excellently. I loved Noah and Gavin equally, neither one of them got on my nerves at any point and I was rooting for them both to get what they want.

This is the next big series in MM romance, so you’d be an idiot not to pick up this book!

“You are trustworthy. And I’m tired of always hiding.” 

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

First and First

First and First by Santino Hassell

5 stars! 

“There’s not one way to to live or to love, and whoever tries to tell you any different will probably be dead in a decade or two anyway, so screw them!” 

Santino Hassell has easily become one of my favorite authors in the last year, and it’s because he delivers amazing books like this one! First and First is everything I never knew I wanted.

First and First is about Caleb, a thirty six year old former CFO having trouble finding himself after losing his ex to another man. Oli is a programer whose sex life is open and adventurous. On New Year’s Eve at a party, the two ending up spending a night of mind blowing sex with each other, spinning Caleb’s world and causing him to rethink who he’d always assumed he was.

It’s clear that Oli is not up for a relationship, but Caleb finds more and more often they are spending time together. Oli encourages Caleb to be more free with how he is, yet Caleb still struggles with anxiety at points. A companionship forms, but Caleb knows not to expect anything from Oli….. but should he?

“I said I wasn’t your Prince Charming. You don’t enjoy being banged like a ragdoll because I pranced into your life. You didn’t discover hot sex just because I happen to exist. I don’t want you thinking of me as your savior. As someone you’re beholden to because now you know what you like. You told me what to do that night. You were just drunk enough to stop caring about what I would think of you.” 

I loved this book, if the 5 star rating isn’t clear enough. I love the way Hassell writes, how his characters are flawed and yet so lovable. Caleb at many points in this book spoke to my heart, his struggles with anxiety, his self doubt. After spending so many years hiding what he was it made him insecure, which affected his relationships and his sex life because he never learned how to be himself until now.

Oli is a bit of a mystery, I really liked him for David, but without dual POV it was difficult to gage what he was feeling and thinking. Our perspective was only what Caleb saw, and at times what Caleb thought about Oli instead of Oli himself.

Lately I tend to not enjoy books with erotic tones because I feel there is more sex than plot: Santino’s books are the exception to this because he gives readers an amazing combo of hot and plot every single damn time. It’s like the perfect recipe for my reading tastes, the best of both worlds.

This book can be read as a standalone, it features characters from the two previous novels. So while you can read it as a standalone, I do recommend that you maybe consider reading book 2, as those characters are in this a bit more and it could help with context.

An amazing read, I stayed up until 2 am to finish it. I cannot wait to devour more of Santino Hassell’s books.

“But regardless of what you think of yourself, when I look at you, I see someone beautiful. Someone who makes me insane, because all I can fucking think about is touching you. Being close to you. Being inside you. And there’s a reason for that, baby.” 

Amnesia

Amnesia by Cambria Hebert

3 stars 

“The sun sees your body, but the moon sees your soul.” 

Amnesia is the story of a small town, where one evening a young woman washes up on the shore of the lake. Eddie, who works at the local grocer, finds this young woman and runs her to the hospital. Once she wakes up a few weeks later, she has no memory of who she is and what had been done to her leading up to her ending up in the water.

Eddie becomes obsessed with Amnesia (as she chooses to call herself) as she reminds him of someone from his past. The two spend a lot of time together, but he’s advised by her doctors to keep his suspicions a secret. Also, someone in town doesn’t appear to be happy that Amnesia is around, and has been watching and threatening her.

“Nothing can stay paused forever. Eventually, you have to hit play.” 

I’ve only ever read the book #Nerd by Cambria Hebert, and I enjoyed it very much. Plus, she’s an absolute sweetheart in real life so I’ve always been meaning to read more of her books. Rave reviews and an interesting memory loss premise are what attracted me to this book. That and an outstanding cover. The book really started out strong, sucking me into the story. Where it fell a bit flat for me was it slowed down about halfway through and seemed a bit too long.

On top of that we have a cliffhanger ending, and I kind of already have my theories what will happen in the next book. I would have been happier with a longer book and gotten all the answers right away than wait for a second book. Plus the romance was a bit too sweet for my personal tastes, but that’s just me.

If you want to read something different and well written, this is the book for you. Suspenseful and filled with kind hearted characters, many reader will love this mystery small town love story. It honestly reminded me of a Nora Roberts type novel.

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

4.5 stars!! 

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” 

This was my favorite book as a child, in fact I devoured the entire quintet throughout my tween awkward years. I remembered I had loved the book, but aside from a few random details, I found I barely remembered what happened. In fact, I read it so long ago, this was my copy:

Okay, so I’m not THAT old, my mom just bought a lot of books from the local used book store. I read too fast for her to keep up with me, normally it was just library books growing up. Anyways, I digress.

A Wrinkle in Time is about a young girl named Meg, she’s very awkward, has many faults (according to herself) and feels like an outcast. The only people she really finds a comfort with are her scientist mother, and her odd brother Charles Wallace. Meg’s father had also gone missing about two years ago, and while the town suspects he ran off with another woman, Meg and her family know this not to be true.

On a stormy evening, Meg and Charles Wallace receive a visitor, the peculiar Mrs. Whatsit. From there, Meg and Charles Wallace, along with a boy named Calvin, get whisked away in a journey to rescue their father. But they must travel through time and space to do so, and face a terrifying darkness to get him back.

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.” 

First off, I have to say, with the few exceptions this book really stands the test of time. It’s not dated at all, and except for the mention of a typewriter, this book could take place during any decade. It’s so rare to read a book written in the 1960’s that’s like that, so a solid kudos to the author.

One thing I’ve always loved about the story is Meg, and the idea that she’s not a perfect heroine, and that’s what makes her the hero of the story. It portrays that even though we have faults, sometimes our faults can be our advantage, and that fitting in with everyone else isn’t always the best thing for a society. I love that we have an “ordinary” heroine, who is expected to do extraordinary things, even though she’s not the smartest of the bunch.

It’s a bit obvious, being when this book is written, there are some subtext about the dangers of communism. The evil IT and how it makes everyone and everything the same, or else. I think with this subtext, it also portrays how important it is to be an individual and to make up one’s own mind. In a way, this book is very relevant even present day. To fight against what’s wrong and not succumb to forces who want their definition of perfection.

Once I was able to put my mind to it, I was able to devour this book in a matter of hours. It’s a very fast read and one I believe all ages can and will enjoy.

“Like and equal are not the same thing at all.” 

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

4 stars! 

“When you play a game of thrones you win or you die.” 

Wow what a novel!!! I bought my paperback copy of this book years ago, just before the series aired for the first time. I always intended to read it, but in about seven years my reading tastes veered away from fantasy and swayed into romance for a good six years. Now I’m back! And I finally read this darn book. And it only took me four and a half days! That’s a miracle in itself.

Anyways, I apologize in advance because my review might be a bit of a comparison to the tv series, but as I watched those first my brain cannot help but compare. I will say first off, their adaptation of the book, at least for the first season, is completely spot on. I also want to note, I feel if I hadn’t watched the show I might have given up on this book because there were some slow bits that if I didn’t know added up to something else later, I would have been sitting there reading and cursing the author for extraneous details (that turned out to be important).

All that being said, A Game of Thrones takes place in a land where some global phenomenon changes the seasons, making them last longer than usual. They are coming out of a nine year summer, hence everyone saying “Winter is coming” all the time. Lord Eddard Stark is approached by the King, a friend from the past, to become is right hand man or officially The Hand of the King. Despite being wary, Ned takes it mostly from the urging of his wife, and gets sucked into a world of deceit and murder.

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” 

Based on my knowledge of the show (and yes I am all caught up), I saw hints that Martin dropped in this book that came true soooooooooooooooo much later in the series. So bravo to a brilliantly thought out plot. The beginning of the book was a tad slow, with a middle I devoured rapidly, and then around 600 pages in it slowed down again. There were so many character names thrown around I found myself googling who they were and once seeing the actors who played them, I understood what was happening. I also saw lots of DNF reviews around pages 600 or so and I totally understand where those readers come from, that was a slow 100 pages in the book.

My least favorite POV chapters were Eddard, Catelyn and Bran. They fell a bit flat for me which is sad, but I still like them as characters. My favorite POV’s were Tyrion, Jon and Arya. Basically the characters I love most on the show. Tyrion I absolutely adore and know why the readers love him, knowing his inner thoughts and how friggin smart he is, I just wanted to hug him all the time. I felt a bit more for Sansa when reading from her perspective, she truly was a young girl who believed the best in the wrong people and paid for it. A horrible life lesson, but one that was going to happen no matter what.

Anyways, I am very glad I finally sat my butt down and read this book, from what most readers have told me they only get better in books 2 and 3, so I look forward to reading those. I am going to take a break before charging on, but that doesn’t really matter because I am sure I could take years to read these books and Winds of Winter will still have not been released. Maybe Brandon Sanderson could finish the series? KIDDING. Kind of.

“Fear cuts deeper than swords.” 

Trust

Trust by Kylie Scott

2 stars 

It really pains me to say this, but I did not enjoy this book. Kylie Scott is a go-to author for me, she’s written some of my favorite romances ever, but this one fell flat for me.

Trust is about Edie, a seventeen year old who finds herself a hostage in a convenience store robbery. Having just popped in for a few things, the entire encounter changes her life and leads to her decision to leave private school and her so called friends behind and attend public school.

At her new public school, Edie begins to cross paths with John, a boy who was stuck during the convenience store robbery himself. Because of their bond from the tragic night, they begin to form a friendship that means a lot to the both of them. Edie begins to make other, more loyal friends at her new school as well, and things seem to be looking up. But as can be expected, feelings for John begin to form, but does John like her back?

This book started out really strong, but then around 30% slowed down a bit for me. The pacing was a bit off throughout most of the book, and with an unclear plot for most of it. That combined with a rushed ending made it difficult for me to truly enjoy this book. I also didn’t care for John, he and Edie seemed to have zero chemistry, on top of his lack of personality. He wasn’t developed well enough.

I loved that we got a plus sized heroine, Kylie Scott has always shown readers that beauty is more than a skinny body. I respect that she challenges traditional standards of beauty. Plus sized women are often seen as undesirable, and that’s just not true. I also liked the friendship between Edie and Hang, I love seeing stories that portray healthy and supportive female friendships.

According to the Goodreads definition “Young-adult fiction (often abbreviated as YA) is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 13 to 18.” Considering this book contained graphic sexual content that I in my job as a public librarian would not feel comfortable handing to someone 13-15 years old (and 16 is stretching it), I do not consider this YA. I’ve seen lots of reviews citing this as “YA I actually like to read, and I don’t like YA”. Well….. that’s because it’s not YA. This was a contemporary romance novel meant for readers 17 and up. That’s my professional opinion, I understand if you disagree with me.

Obviously I am in the minority when it comes to this book, there are a ton of favorable reviews out there and I encourage you to read them. Also, everyone has different reading tastes, mine fall pickier than others, so I think you should pick up this book and decide for yourself.

ARC provided by the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

4.5 stars! 

“Going outside is highly overrated.” 

Ready Player One is one of the best and most unique books I have a read in a long time! The year is 2044, and our world has been torn to shreds by environmental problems. Most people are logged into a virtual reality called the OASIS, a whole universe better than our own. The creator of OASIS left an Easter egg in it when he died, and whoever finds it gets his entire fortune.

Wade Watts is an 18 year old gunter, someone who devotes their time to finding the hidden egg that Halliday left. It’s been five years since Halliday died and the world has become obsessed with 80’s culture, as it was Halliday’s favorite. One day, Wade stumbles upon the first clue, and everything changes from there. Now it’s a race to find the egg, and some competitors aren’t play fair.

“No one in the world gets what they want and that is beautiful.” 

First things first, I have to admit that between some of the gamer talk and the 1980’s talk, a little bit of this book went over my head.

Yeah, I know I know. But, when you are born literally at the very end of 1989, it’s a bit hard to let go of your 90’s upbringing. And yes, I know I just made a bunch of you feel old. SORRY NOT SORRY! Hahaha.
Anyways, I ramble.

This book started off slow for me, but really picked up the more I read. There were times when I devoured whole chunks of it, and then would put it down and walk away for a while. There were bits I needed to skim for my sanity, because I know I will never be smart enough or have the attention span to know what Cline was talking about, technology wise and gaming wise. But this was a really solid book and a solid story.

The past few years I have been reading mostly books from the indie romance community. As of lately I have been distancing myself from that because quality has been lacking. This book proved to me why traditionally published books still work, and that’s the amount of time, editing, and research that goes into a book. Ready Player One was so well thought out, I can’t even imagine how long it took to write this book and this universe. It was simply, mind blowing.

I’ve seen this compared to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and aside from the addictive writing style and the competition, this book stands on its own and does not need comparison. It should be setting the standard for comparisons. I think as new as it is, it’s a classic. Or at least a classic in the making. By the end, I found myself wanting to do nothing but read more science fiction and fantasy, and that’s the mark of an amazing book!

This book will having you rooting for the characters and dancing with joy!!!

“For a bunch of hairless apes, we’ve actually managed to invent some pretty incredible things.” 

Jane Unlimited

Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

4.5 stars 

“People tell you that what happens to you is a direct result of the choices you make, but that’s not fair. Half the time, you don’t even realize that the choice you’re about to make is significant.” 

Jane Unlimited is the story of a college dropout, still grieving the death of her beloved aunt, who accepts an invitation from a family friend to stay at her estate Tu Reviens. Before Jane’s aunt died, she made Jane promise that if she ever was invited to Tu Reviens, she must accept. And so Jane embarks on a journey to a new place filled with people she doesn’t know.

Once Jane is inside Tu Reviens, she is confronted with a choice, between five different options. From there, we see what happens with each of those choices, and how something so simple can alter the course of one’s life.

“I feel all over the place, like my parts are spinning away.” 

I read the acknowledgments at the end before I started the book and I am so very glad I did. In them Cashore wrote that this book originally began as a choose your own adventure novel, and I feel that provides a lot of insight into how this book is structured. I can only imagine that this book must have been a beast for Cashore to write, because there are so many intricacies and important facts to remember and she pulled it off so, so well.

First off, I really want to commend the writing in this book, from the very beginning it felt like I had stepped into a classic novel, along the lines of Jane Eyre or Rebecca. And well, it fits the theme of those classics a bit with the orphan coming to the manor. The book did start out a bit slow, but I reminded myself that Graceling did as well, and I knew once I got the hang of things it would flow, and that’s exactly what happened. I devoured this book, finding it very hard to put down.

I also fell in love with each and every single one of the side characters, honestly I wish they all could get their own novel, or at least a novella. But this really is Cashore’s strong point in her writing, I felt the same way about her Graceling series, every character became precious to me.

I loved the first half of this book, to the point where this was going to be one of my top favorite novels. Then I read the second half of the book and while it wasn’t bad in any way, it was extremely…….. odd. To explain the structure a bit, we get our introduction to this world and the characters in it, and then the rest of the book is split into Jane’s five choices, but told as five different stories. I loved the first two stories, I felt they were phenomenal. The third, fourth and fifth…. Were a bit beyond me and not was I expected. One of them was downright terrifying, and the other two were bizarre. Not in a bad way, but I really wasn’t expecting those aspects in this book. I wouldn’t say it took away from my enjoyment of this book, but what was a five star read went down to a four point five if that makes any sense.

“I’m finding that despite everything, I’m glad to live in this universe.” 

ARC provided by the publisher. All quotes in this review came from an advance unedited copy and may be subject to change in the final draft. 

Hello Forever

Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen

4 stars! 

Sarina Bowen writes the best MM romance! Hello Forever is a rerelease of the novel, Never Over, previously published under Bowen’s pseudonym Nealy Wagner. Hello Forever is in the same universe as the book before it, Goodbye Paradise, but features different characters.

Axel and Cax were sixteen years old when they were caught kissing in the woods at church camp, and from that day on they were separated never to see each other again. Years later, Axel is considering taking a job in the sports department at a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, when he sees Cax on tv in the audience at that schools basketball game. That, combined with the fact that he had no other paying job offers, Axel accepts the position and moves there.

Cax is busy helping out raising his three younger brothers. After the death of his mother, his homophobic father has made it clear Cax won’t be allowed anywhere near his brothers if he’s gay, so he hides himself and pretends to be straight for the sake of his brothers. Axel is excited to reunite with his childhood friend turned crush, but Cax proves to be a bit more skittish. The two begin a tentative friendship, but it’s hindered by Cax’s fears of his father finding out about them. What was a happy reunion may not be a happy ending, but it’s up to Cax and Axel to figure out a solution.

Despite the subject matter, this book was much sweeter and less intense than the book before it. At the beginning it reminded me a bit of Bowen’s other mm romance novel The Understatement of the Year, but once it gets going the two grow apart from there. This is the romance between a graduate student and a faculty member, friends to lovers and second chance romance all wrapped up in one!

I live in a liberal bubble, and I like to believe that people are accepting of the LGBT community, but that’s not really the case. This book was a good reminder that not everyone is tolerant and can embrace love and acceptance, and my heart went out not only to Cax, but to all the other men and women like him who were shunned for who they are. I loved reading Cax’s journey to himself, and I think Axel was the perfect man to help him to it.

I do wish the relationship between Axel and Cax had been developed a bit more, we got a glimpse of their past but I felt it wasn’t enough. Without that, this book borders on the line of instalove, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment. I honestly hope Sarina Bowen never ever stops writing mm romance, or stops writing in general. She’s a go to author for me and has never let me down. I urge and encourage you to pick up her books if you haven’t yet, and you need to make sure you read this one.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review 

The Impossible Vastness of Us

The Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha Young

5 stars!!! 

How do you begin to gush about a book you loved so so much? Samantha Young is one of my all-time favorite authors, I’ll read anything the woman writes. So when she published a YA I was intrigued, and decided to give it a shot. I was completely blown away!!!! Young delivers a heartfelt and beautiful story, filled with angst, friendship, love and family.

India Maxwell is alarmed when her flight attendant mother tells her she’s been seeing a man on the other side of the country. Pretty soon her mother is engaged, and she’s whisked away to Boston to live with her soon to be step father, Theo, and step sister, Eloise. India and her mother have never been well off, so she’s in for a world of shock when she finds her new family insanely rich. And because of trust issues from her past, India has no desire to get close to her new family.

While India is adjusting, Eloise is not cruel but also not kind. Eloise’s boyfriend Finn appears to dislike India as well. All India wants is to be on top, and to get enough extracurricular’s to get into a good college. But as time goes by, feelings thaw between the two girls and a tentative relationship forms.

This book wasn’t anything like I expected in the best possible way. India had such a presence on the page, I absolutely adored her, flaws and all. There’s something about a girl trying so hard to be strong that I find endearing, and I felt for her and wished for her to succeed the entire time I was reading.

While this is a young adult romance, my favorite part of the book was the themes of friendship and family. People need more than just romantic love to feel supported in life, and I loved being on India’s journey to find her forever friendships and her way to a new family.

I cannot recommend this book enough, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. So if you find yourself curious about this book, just do yourself a favor and buy it and read it. You won’t regret it.

After All

After All by Karina Halle

4 stars 

After All is a standalone spin off of the book Before I Ever Met You, with characters featured in that book. Alyssa is a curvy and sassy office assistant, Emmett an actor making his comeback. They are both part of the bridal party for their friends Will and Jackie, and they meet the day of the wedding. Right off the bat Emmett is attracted to Alyssa, he loves her prickly and spitfire personality, and Alyssa is attracted to Emmett against her better judgement. The two end up having a one night stand and expect to never see each other again. But a tabloid gets pictures of the two of them at the wedding, and they look like a couple. So Emmett, needing some good PR, asks Alyssa to be his fake girlfriend. From there, the lines get blurred.

I always enjoy Karina Halle romances, she never fails to deliver a great story. I loved Alyssa as a heroine, she didn’t fit into the typical role being abrasive and outspoken, as well as being a size ten. It goes to show that not every heroine is a simpering girl that plays doormat to the hero. Alyssa held her own, she knew when to push and when to let go, and I admired her. Emmett is a complicated hero with a damaged past, just the kind of guy readers enjoy to watch fall in love. He challenged Alyssa and thought she was beautiful.

I’m glad we got this story from Halle, it was a nice surprise to get a second book in the BIEMY univserse. I know Tiffany has a boyfriend, but I cannot help but want to get a book for her too. Make this book your next summer romance read!

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review