Place(s) Traveled To: Hastings, Massachusetts // Boston, Massachusetts
First Line(s): He doesn't know I'm alive.
The Deal by Elle Kennedy was first released in February but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I first heard about it because it seemed like everyone in my social media was talking about it. The chatter made me curious and so I purchased a copy for myself to see what all the fuss was about. At first I was super frustrated with The Deal because Hannah was often bitchy and judgmental. She'd rail at Garrett for little things like not knowing her name despite sharing a large lecture hall class but then she'd forgive others of the same slight and even did it herself. Hannah was a bit of a cliche being the klutzy beautiful girl with self-esteem issues but as I continued to read The Deal I began to like her better as I learned her backstory and as she grew over the story.
But the thing that bothered me most was the trope of a popular crowed on a college campus. That Garrett was somehow more because he was on the hockey team. That Hannah became well known and easily recognizable because she spent some time with Garrett. I don't care what size college you went to this just does not happen. College is not high school and I've yet to find or hear of a college with a popular crowd. My eyes also almost rolled out of my head when Garrett was able to make all the guys on this campus avoid dating Hannah just because he said so. Because in what universe would that ever happen on a college campus?? None! None I tell you!! So yes, there were times when The Deal frustrated me to know end but despite all this the story was like crack and I couldn't stop reading.
While I didn't really like Hannah at first I adored her by the end. She made my heart ache and I loved how she and Garrett interacted. These two had chemistry that sizzled off the page. By the end of the story I was totally invested in Hannah and Garrett my heart ached for them and all I wanted was for them to find their happily ever after. I also enjoyed all the secondary characters and want them all to have their own stories so that I can spend more time in this world. There was a great camaraderie among these cast of characters and with a the few exceptions mentioned above you can believe that they are all real.
The Deal isn't a perfect story. Its riddled with flaws and yet despite all the things that annoyed me during my read of it I still walked away happy and entertained. I devoured this book and couldn't get enough of it. It was witty and fun and a great way to spend an afternoon. The Deal is a book that I've already campaigned for others to read that like sportsing new adult stories. Elle Kennedy doesn't get everything right (my hockey loving friend had many things to say about how the hockey draft really goes) but a book doesn't have to be perfect to be good. Yes there are plenty of times when inaccuracies take me out of a story but sometimes I fall in love with a book despite its flaws and that was the case with The Deal. I enjoyed this story and think that you might as well.
Place(s) Traveled To: Boston, Massachusetts // Concord, New Hampshire
First Line(s): Lydia Kincaid could pull a pint of Guinness so perfect her Irish ancestors would weep tears of appreciation, but fine dining? Forget about it.
If you are looking for a fun romantic story then you really can't go wrong with a Shannon Stacey book and that's exactly what you get in her newest Heat Exchange. Heat Exchange is the start of a new series involving firemen in Boston and this book stars Lydia Kincaid and Aidan Hunt. Lydia has been leaving far, far away (or so the dialogue/text make it appear) in New Hampshire and she's called home to help run the family sports bar and local fireman hangout when her sister has marital troubles. On her return she finds instant attraction with fireman, Aidan Hunt but there are obstacles. The first being she was married to a fireman in the past and she's so not doing that again and Aidan is also her younger brother's BFF.
Falling for the friend of a sibling is one of my favorite tropes so I was really looking forward to this one. And while I did enjoy Aidan's and Lydia's relationship with her brother I never really felt the chemistry between them as a couple. Lydia had this HUGE chip on her shoulder and she was always throwing things in Aidan's face that had nothing to do with him. She was also hung up on the idea that if she didn't flee back to New Hampshire than she was stuck. As if all the family drama and her issues with her dad just magically disappeared once she crossed the border. Plus Lydia ran so hot and cold when it came to Aidan that it was a wonder that he pursued her at all.
Then there was the subplot romance between Lydia's sister and her fireman husband. Normally I hate this little subromances as they tend to take away from the main story but in this case I preferred those moments over Lydia's story as I liked those characters better. Although, I did want to shake those two characters as they were just so passive at times and really needed to just sit down and talk to one another. I'm so not a fan of plots that revolve around a lack of communication.
In the end, while Heat Exchange was a quick read it left me feeling a bit meh. The lack of chemistry between the main couple just made it hard to get into this book although I did like the world and the family dynamics. So while I didn't fall head over heels in love with this one I do plan on checking out future books in this series in the hopes that I like those characters better.
Place(s) Traveled To: Twin Oaks, Louisiana // Baton Rouge, Louisiana
First Line(s): I used to be the guy who had it all.
Some Kind of Normal is a companion book to Juliana Stone's Boys Like You (goodreads) and takes place after the events in that book end. Its a continuation of the story and you first meet Trevor in Boys Like You but you don't have to read that book in order to enjoy Some Kind of Normal. Which is a good thing because I still have to read Boys Like You which I've added to my wishlist since finishing Some Kind of Normal. Some Kind of Normal is told in altering perspective and switching between Everly and Trevor which is usually a narrative style that I enjoy. However, in this book the voices were just too similar that it was hard to tell them apart. I also thought that there was too much breaking of the fourth wall and explaining of what typical guy behavior was. This often took me out of the story and it felt like Stone was trying to hard for that authentic male voice.
In terms of story, there isn't a whole lot of originality in Some Kind of Normal. You have the good girl meeting the bad boy and the two fall in love. Everyone thinks the good girls life is all sunshine and roses but its not. Just as everyone thinks the bad boy has it all or in irredeamable but those assumptions too prove to be false. In the case of Trevor, he's recovering from a bad car accident that left him unable to graduate on time with his friends along with some lasting medical effects. Everly is the good girl who is assigned to tutor him over the summer so that he can graduate. She's a bit judgmental and stuck up and he's rude and aloof but eventually they find common ground and start to fall for each other. Sound familiar? Yes. But a story doesn't have to be wholly unique in order for it to be enjoyable.
Some Kind of Normal isn't a perfect book but it was a decent one and I enjoyed reading it. While the characters annoyed me at times I understood them and believed that they could be real people. The secrets that Everly and Trevor have are part of what separates Some Kind of Normal from all the other similar stories out their. They aren't alone in their struggles but because they hold things close to the vest they feel bigger and more insurmountable then they are. Some Kind of Normal is a book that you can get lost in. This was a quick read for me and I read it in just two short sittings. While I didn't always connect with Trevor's voice I did like his and Everly's characters. Mostly.
This was my first book by Juliana Stone but I liked her writing style and I am curious about her other books. As I said above I do plan on picking up Boys Like You and seeing how Trevor's story starts. If you are looking for a good beach read this summer then you might want to consider picking up Some Kinds of Normal. Its an easy read and a good way to waste a few hours while sitting in the sun soaking up some rays.
Place(s) Traveled To: London, England // St Petersburg, Russia // San Francisco, California // Coral Sea (Future)
First Line(s): My hand shakes as I brace myself against the brick wall.
Its no secret that I can be picky with books and so I was a little wary of Claudia Gray's A Thousand Pieces of You as it was a book a lot of my friends were talking about and hyped up books and I don't always get along. Since I do like audiobooks I thought that I would try A Thousand Pieces of You in that format and was a little unsure of it at first. I didn't trust one of the main characters and then there was that learning curve of trying to figure out just what was going on. A Thousand Pieces of You thrusts you right into the action and while I liked it I just wish there was a little more explanation at the start on what was going on.
By the 50% point though I was totally hooked on this story. I mostly loved the events in Russia and I think that was in part because they were Theo-less. I just got such a creepy vibe from him and that was in part due to the age difference between him and Marguerite. What I did like, was Marguerite. She was a strong character who was just trying to find the truth about what happened to her father. I liked how she wasn't boy crazy and that she made the best of all the various situations that she found herself in. I didn't always agree with her choices when she was living the lives of other Marguerite's but I do understand why she made them.
Overall, I did enjoy A Thousand Pieces of You. Once the story got going I couldn't listen fast enough though there were moments where things seemed to contradict themselves and I found that frustrating. There were things that happened that certain people shouldn't have known. However, things got to be a bit shaky at the end with hints of WTF-ery that just made me roll my eyes. There were things that happened that made me roll my eyes and I think it took away from the story a bit as it pulled back some of the earlier punches that this novel threw.
The ending of this also starts to set the stage for things to come in the next book in the series and while I get that the seeds need to be set I do think that there were times they were a bit distracting in A Thousand Pieces of You. That said though, this is a book that I would recommend as overall it is a fun and unique read. If you like audiobooks then you might want to check this one out as Tavia Gilbert did an amazing just bringing this book to life. Gilbert didn't have it easy either as there were many accents that she needed to cover throughout the length of this story. Accents can always be such a tricky thing in an audiobook and Gilbert nails them every single time.
First Line(s): I swallowed past the lump in my throat and leaned over to pat Chopper, the dog I'd inherited from Joe, my latest asshole boyfriend.
Over the last year or so I've noticed a bit of a trend in long term series, in that there will be at least one book featuring and LGBT couple or one involving BDSM. Christina Lee already did a light BDSM story with Promise Me This (my review) and now she's trying her hand at an M/M romance with There You Stand.There You Stand is billed as part of Lee's Between Breaths series but for me, this one doesn't really connect very well to the other books in the series. There isn't a lot of overlap between the other books and so this one is more easily able to be read as a standalone novel. The story revolves around tattoo artist Cory and a new guy in town the quiet and ofttimes shy Jude. Cory is out and proud and while he likes Jude he can't get a good feel for him as he barely talks to those around him. The two become closer when Jude approaches Cory for a tattoo and they slowly become friends.
I liked the chemistry between Jude and Cory and thought that the romance was sweet and even a little heart achy. It contained so many elements that I love and this one was quickly working its way to becoming a favorite read. But then the narrative changed and there was this whole other crazy story element added to the story. Jude's backstory is a bit convoluted and over the top and it just became a bit of a distraction for me. I know I rolled my eyes more than once and I just found it hard to believe. To me, this aspect of the storyline really came out of no where and didn't add much to the story except for unnecessary drama. Its this story line that also really sets it apart from the other Between Breaths books.
I did enjoy There You Stand and its a book that I will probably recommend to some of my friends there were just elements about it I didn't really care for. I wish that it had stayed with a romance focus and avoid that unnecessary drama or that random motorcycle club. It was just odd and didn't really seem to fit and all the cryptic references leading up to the big reveal just annoyed me. I've never been a fan of cryptic comments and foreshadowing of things to come. Well, maybe once or twice is fine been when its brought up time and again it just grates on my nerves and I find myself yelling at the characters to just spit it out already!
There You Stand is a quick read and I read it in a day. I was engaged enough with Jude and Cory's romance that I kept turning the pages looking to see how they'd reach their happily ever after. I loved the early moments between these two when they were both learning how to open up and trust the other. And I loved their game of Truth. It was just a simple and yet often emotional way to get across so much information without having to say too much. Seriously, without that motorcycle club aspect I probably would have ended up rating this one much higher and if I ever do decide on a re-read then I'll probably just skim through reading those bits that I loved best and trying to ignore some of the other aspects of the story that I found distracting or just so-so. All in all though, if you are a fan of Christina Lee then you should give this one a shot as she does know how to write a good love story.
First Line(s): There's a half-naked man in my kitchen.
All Played Out is the latest book in Cora Carmack's Rusk University series and features characters that we've met in previous books, Nell and Torres. Nell is the roommate of Dylan who we meet in All Broke Down (my review) and Mateo Torres is another player on the Rusk University football team. Nell is shy and quiet and very focused and the complete opposite of Torres who is loud and vibrant and the life of the party. But you know what they say, opposites attract and these two are drawn together like moths to a flame. They are further brought together when Nell makes a list of things that she wants to do before she graduates. Nell decides she's been a little too focused on school and wants to live a little of the typical college life before starting grad school. When Torres finds the list he decides to help her out because he wants to get to know this shy girl that he can't stop thinking of a little better.
At first, I wasn't sure about Nell and Torres as a pairing they just seemed so opposite of each other but the more the narrative moved into each of their heads and we get to know them you see that Nell and Torres are pretty perfect for each other. Nell and Torres really compliment each other and they help bring out the best traits in the other person. Torres helps Nell's confidence and to be more outgoing and Nell helps to anchor Torres. These two characters often hurt my heart during their journey towards their HEA and I found myself rushing to flip the pages needing to see how it would all work out.
As with most romances, All Played Out, will often fall back onto a common cliche or trope and there where times when those things would make me roll my eyes a little. There was the break up and unnecessary drama, like when Dylan would try to convince Nell not to hang out with Torres as she was a 'good girl' and he was a 'bad boy'. Which just made me roll my eyes as the same was said during All Broke Down and if Dylan had listened to those people then she and Silas wouldn't have had a story. Overall though, I liked the fire and the humor between Nell and Torres. I liked how they were each flawed and how they were both better people when they were together.
All Played Out is a fun story and one that can be read independently of the others in the series. As of now, All Broke Down, is still my favorite (Silas <3) but Torres is a close second. There is just so much heart in these male leads and it just makes your heart ache as you watch them fall for their ladies. All Played Out is a quick read and one that I'd recommend to anyone looking to read new adult. Its well written and plotted and yes there are cliches but sometimes in life there are cliches so its also real and heart felt. I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to the next installment in the Rusk University series.
Place(s) Traveled To: Redding, California // Pike's Peak, Colorado // Unnamed, Idaho // Chicago, Illinois // Nashville, Indiana // Lewis, Kansas // Cape Elizabeth, Maine // Jefferson City, Missouri // Unnamed, New Hampshire // Unnamed, Oregon // Unnamed, Pennsylvania // Toutle, Washington // Buffalo County, Wisconsin // Moorcroft, Wyoming
First Line(s): More than a thousand graduation caps flew into the air behind me, but I was already walking down the aisle between the concrete bleachers.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Megan Erikson's Trust the Focus when I requested the title for review but I did know that it included two of my favorite book tropes: the road trip and a friends to lovers romance. Trust the Focus starts off with Justin and Landon graduating college and embarking on a cross country road trip taken in memory of Justin's dad who had passed away. They plan to visit some of the places that Justin's dad photographed and re-rake the pictures with the his ashes in them. Along the way Justin has decided to confront the feelings that he's always had for his best friend, the openly gay Landry.
There are many ups and downs throughout this story and it made my heart ache on numerous occasions. There were also times when I wanted to reach into the pages and shake these characters as they weren't doing the things that I wanted them to do when I wanted. In other words, I was invested in this story from the start all the way until the end. I cared what happened to Justin and Landry and really wanted them to find their happily ever after. Where this book would lose me was when it got a bit preachy with other characters coming onto the page seemingly just to validate Justin and Landry as a couple. It was almost always the same phrasing and just made me sigh a bit as it just seemed a bit much.
Trust the Focus isn't a deep story but it was a fun, quick read and just what I needed at the time. Its a book that would make a great pallet cleanser between heavy reads as you just just lose yourself in the story without having to think too much. Landry and Justin are realistic characters and readers will cheer for them to find their happily ever after. Best of all there is no pointless breakup. Yes there is conflict and tension because no romance is without that but its all realistic in its execution and it will make your heart ache.
While there were parts of Trust the Focus that frustrated me I did enjoy it and I couldn't stop reading when I started. In fact, this was a book that I didn't mean to read at all. I'd accidentally deleted my current read off my kindle and then accidentally opened this one when I was trying to move another book into a folder. Then before I fully realized what was happening I was staying up way past my bed time hurriedly flipping through the pages as I raced to the end of the story. Thrust the Focus was my first book by Megan Erikson but it won't be my last as I enjoyed her writing and the characters that she created.