Monthly Archives:: July 2016

ARC Review: Swear on This Life

July 29, 2016 Reviews 5 ★★

ARC Review: Swear on This LifeSwear On This Life by Renee Carlino
Published by Atria Books on August 9th 2016
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
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two-stars

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Based on all of these early five star reviews, I can already tell that this is a book that people are going to love, but it’s just not for me. One thing that I personally dislike in romance books is tons of pointless angst that never feels fully explained, and that happened in Swear on This Life. I wanted more intensity and chemistry between the two main characters instead of mostly seeing that through the flashback chapters. I didn’t believe in this romance and I just found the book as a whole to be rather disappointing to say the least. I hope you guys have better luck with this if you choose to read it!

I’m a total fan of the concept that the love of your life is suddenly a bestselling author after writing about your tough childhood. Honestly, I didn’t realize that it was going to be a book within a book. Meaning, as Emi reads the book, we get to read these chapters with her. Sometimes I find really long flashbacks extremely boring, but Carlino wrote it in a way that immediately drew me in. The story of Emi and Jase’s is definitely a tragic one, my heart continually broke for them as they faced hardship after hardship. So I didn’t have any issues with J. Colby’s book, I had issues with everything occurring in the present day.

As a person, I did like Emi for the most part. Her childhood was beyond difficult and I really sympathized with her in those pages. I love that she was able to overcome her past and be able to make something of her life. I loved that she was a writer, it was something I could identify with on a personal level. However, some of the decisions that she made in the present were beyond the point of simply being questionable. I didn’t understand why in the world she strung along her long term boyfriend when she still had deep feelings for her first love. I understand that she developed a different kind of feelings for the boyfriend, but her feelings for the other were so strong that it just seemed cruel to keep going along and leading the other guy on. In my opinion, that’s the worst type of love triangle, because the answer is so obvious, but there’s still a ton of drama with the boyfriend before she can achieve happiness with her first love.

Look, I strongly disliked Jase from the start. I didn’t find him all that charming now that he’s reached some level of fame. Besides that, it’s actually never made clear why he didn’t contact her for a decade. Like that’s such a huge part of the plot so you think it’d be addressed in a more direct way, but nope, you never get answers really. I did fall for the Jackson character in the story that Jase wrote, but I honestly believed that they acted completely different. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, the whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way. I also felt like he was a bit of a douchebag who reveled in all of the female attention. Yeah, he wrote the book to catch Emi’s eye, but he just didn’t feel all that genuine in person to me. The gesture was definitely nice, but he was beyond cocky when it came to winning her love one final time.

I have no doubt that this book will win over many people, it just didn’t do it for me. Did I mention that this book has hardly any sexual content at all? It’s pretty disappointing since I expected this book to be a bit more mature, but it really doesn’t. Swear on This Life would have been a better book if the main character was more decisive and handled her decisions in a more mature fashion. I’m never going to be a fan of a romance that includes a love triangle that makes no sense. Though I’m all for this concept, the general execution could have been so much better, in my opinion. I hope you guys like it, but I’m hoping to find a romance that I can personally connect with in a way that I wasn’t able to do here.

two-stars

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Paper Princess & Broken Prince Reviews

July 28, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★

Paper Princess & Broken Prince ReviewsPaper Princess (The Royals, #1) by Erin Watt
Published by Everafter Romance on April 4th 2016
Pages: 370
Source: Purchased
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two-stars
From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.
These Royals will ruin you…
Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone. 
Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.
Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.
He might be right.
Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees. 

Immediately, this book started receiving ridiculously positive reviews, so I was intrigued to pick this up. Not to mention the fact that I absolutely adore both authors that make up this new pen name, Erin Watt, which is Jen Frederick and Elle Kennedy. I heard that Paper Princess had a cliffhanger, so I waited until Monday when the sequel was released to read them both. Honestly, both books are extremely fast paced, I couldn’t stop reading. Seriously, I stayed up until like 3 in the morning finishing the first book and then instantly purchasing Broken Prince to keep reading some more. Though it was definitely interesting and dramatic, I sadly didn’t like either of these books for a number of reasons. In my opinion, it’s just not a high quality novel in terms of plot, characters, and writing, despite its clear entertainment factor. I’m in the minority here with my views, so it’s highly possible that you’ll love it just like everyone else seems to be!

There’s nothing fun about writing negative reviews, but I feel like if I simply have no other options in this case. First things first, this book is being marketed as Young Adult, but trust me, (and the other reviews saying the same exact thing) this book is very mature. It’s better to go into this book knowing that it isn’t this cute little YA book, it’s filled with some ugly behavior and language. Yeah, the characters are technically in high school, but they certainly act much older than that.

I went into this story knowing that it was mature, but I was still caught off guard when the main character is a stripper in the beginning. Anyway, Ella herself isn’t a bad character by any means. As a matter of fact, I did respect her and felt like she was a strong and independent girl who has been through so much for her age. I did start question her behavior when she begins falling for a terrible guy, more on that later though. Basically, she did start off promising, but I wanted to sit her down and tell her not to get involved with Reed. She’s a good character, just not good enough for me to really LOVE the story.

One of the issues that I had with this book was the love interest, Reed. I’m sorry but he just isn’t a good guy at all. I know that a lot of people enjoy a messed up bad boy, but this kid is beyond hope honestly. I don’t buy that love can save him due to how he straight up lacks morals. I’m the type of reader who loves seeing a love interest who is kind, loyal, loving, and nerdy. I prefer the sweet underdog guy to the douchebag who comes across as being misunderstood, but has some deep issues as well. To put it simply, I’m not a fan of Reed at all. I didn’t buy how he was such an asshole in the beginning, but magically changed a great deal because of Ella. I just didn’t find anything that he did to be charming, to be honest.

Besides Reed, all of the Royals are actually awful people. Yes, they act nicer to Ella as the book progresses, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are entitled douchebags who apparently run the school. They also have no moral compass whatsoever. I understand that they suffered a terrible loss when their mother killed herself, but I don’t believe that gives them a free pass to do and say however they want. There’s five brothers yet somehow each of them turned out to be total manwhores. Well, they only actually label one of them a manwhore, but none of them are innocent.

Look, I get that teens have sex, party, and do drugs, but the way the Royals and the rest of the kids at this school are portrayed is NOT realistic at all. It disturbed me that the authors chose to describe high school life in such a startling and horrifying manner. Really though, do you actually expect me to believe that high school students actually have the power to RUN the school over principals and teachers? There’s literally zero teachers around, the only authority figure is the headmaster who gets paid off by the rich kids parents in order to get them out of trouble.

Despite how much I disliked this book, the cliffhanger at the end caused me to keep on reading to the next book. I hate that I didn’t love this book since I think both authors are fabulous on their own. The writing here just wasn’t impressive at all, and it wasn’t because of all the horrible language and appalling things that are said. It’s because the writing is awkward at times, and not accurate of conversations between actual teenagers. So if you’re a fan of soap opera style dramas, you’ll probably love this one.

Paper Princess & Broken Prince ReviewsBroken Prince (The Royals, #2) by Erin Watt
Published by Everafter Romance on July 25th 2016
Pages: 370
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one-star
These Royals will ruin you…
From wharf fights and school brawls to crumbling lives inside glittery mansions, one guy tries to save himself.
Reed Royal has it all—looks, status, money. The girls at his elite prep school line up to date him, the guys want to be him, but Reed never gave a damn about anyone but his family until Ella Harper walked into his life.
What started off as burning resentment and the need to make his father’s new ward suffer turned into something else entirely—keep Ella close. Keep Ella safe. But when one foolish mistake drives her out of Reed’s arms and brings chaos to the Royal household, Reed’s entire world begins to fall apart around him.
Ella doesn’t want him anymore. She says they’ll only destroy each other.
She might be right.
Secrets. Betrayal. Enemies. It’s like nothing Reed has ever dealt with before, and if he’s going to win back his princess, he’ll need to prove himself Royally worthy.

So I’m not going to go into too much details with Broken Prince since a lot of my opinions are still exactly the same after reading the second one. The frustrating yet obviously intelligent thing about these books are the insane cliffhangers. You guys, the one in Broken Prince is even worse than Paper Princess’s cliffhanger. I don’t know how I’m going to manage waiting for the next book to come out in October, which feels impossibly far away. Though some of the characters did grow some in this one, the drama and how unrealistic it is just became out of control for me. The romance still wasn’t solid at all to me, but it’s highly possible that you guys will love Reed even more here. If Paper Princess kept your attention, you’ll likely be glued to this story in a similar fashion.

Just like Paper Princess, Broken Prince was extremely wrong on a moral level. Surprisingly, the authors even took it a step further by adding even more terrible immoral actions spread throughout the book. Seriously, it’s astonishing to me that someone can up with a world as messed up as the one written here. I’ve seen the series compared to Cruel Intentions, but I think that this is so much worse in a lot of chilling ways. The school in Cruel Intentions was not as wildly out of control in the way that this one is. Bullying and physical violence is present throughout this book on an unbelievable level. The fighting was actually ridiculous and present pretty much like every thirty pages or so. I would love to see less fighting and pointless drama in (hopefully) the final book, but that’s simply wishful thinking.

You might be wondering, why in the world am I going to pick up the next book if I disliked this one so much? Like I already mentioned, the cliffhanger in this one is downright cruel so naturally I have to purchase it. As a whole though, I believe that this one is filled with a lot more twists and turns. The twists will definitely make your head turn, and it even made me forget for a moment just how far fetched basically all of them are. I think the most puzzling thing to me is how the Royal family has such power over not only the school they attend, but everyone in the entire community and even beyond it. As already established, they are awful people, and sure, they do have money, but even that only gets you so far. It’s a total mystery to me, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering other readers out there.

So we do get to see Reed’s POV here which was interesting, but didn’t make me like him more honestly. He still doesn’t seem all that genuine to me, his attitude is still ridiculously awful to me. Oh cool, love has changed you entirely, please tell me more about it. If you can’t already tell, I’m a little sick of that storyline since it’s so overused. Reed does improve some, but unfortunately his past and drama still manages to follow and haunt him. I highly doubt this guy is ever going to fully win me over, which makes me a bit sad.

Though I am starting to warm up to more of the other Royal boys, they still don’t act like real teenagers in my opinion. It’s not just them though, their classmates are just as unrealistic as well. For example, the Quarterback of the football team that two of the Royal boys are on actively participates in threesomes, and one of the Royals ends up making it a foursome. I mean really? What high schooler, or even college kid has a threesome or a foursome? I can’t even wrap my head around some of this crap. Yes, this book does have quality entertainment, but it lacks serious realism and depth.

two-stars

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Openly Straight Review

July 27, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

Openly Straight ReviewOpenly Straight (Openly Straight, #1) by Bill Konigsberg
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on May 28th 2013
Pages: 320
Source: Purchased
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four-stars
The award-winning novel about being out, being proud, and being ready for something else . . . now in paperback.
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.
This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

The concept of Openly Straight is one that instantly fascinates me: a boy who has already came out of the closet attends a boarding school where he keeps his sexuality a secret. Rafe is sick of being labeled “the gay kid” back in Boulder, Colorado, so that’s why he makes the decision to go across the country to go to school in New England. Once he arrives at his new school, he gets the opportunity to start fresh and even hangout with the jocks. Anyway, Openly Straight is a fabulous book that addresses the subject of stereotypes, fitting in, labeling, friendships, relationships, sexuality, and much more. It’s a beautifully written novel, and I’m definitely embarrassed that it took me so long to pick it up.

Rafe is an interesting main character. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about his choice at first. It definitely seemed to me like he was hiding who he was, but then I slowly realized that his sexuality doesn’t define who he is, it’s just a small part of him. I also completely understood that he desperately wanted to fit in with the other kids. Back in Boulder, though the kids were mostly accepting, they still looked at him differently knowing his sexuality. Ultimately, Rafe was a character that basically every high school student, gay or straight, can identify with due to his need to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, at times I wanted to shake some sense into him and tell him to be honest with certain people about it, but I still understood where he was coming from.

Ben is a different type of love interest. Though he’s on the soccer team with Rafe, he isn’t your typical jock. He’s ridiculously smart and loves thinking deeply about things in a surprising way. Ben is yet another interesting character, and I loved watching his friendship with Rafe gradually grow into something deeper. It broke my heart for him that he doesn’t come from a supportive and loving family like Rafe does. His parents are pretty judgmental and the only reason he isn’t is because of his amazing uncle, who died last year. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that Ben handled his feelings, but it’s also very realistic considering the circumstances.

So the family factor is still a pretty big deal in the plot, even with him being away from them. Rafe’s parents were extremely supportive when he first came out to them. I mean, they even threw this huge embarrassing coming out party involving balloons and party hats saying, “Yay! Rafe is gay!” His mom is also overly involved in PFLAG. You might imagine that his parents aren’t overly thrilled about his plan to go back in the closet while away at school. However, they suck it up and support his choice anyway, which I really respected.

This was an incredibly fast paced novel that I absolutely couldn’t put down. Seriously, I started out reading it, and before I knew it, I was sadly already reaching the end. If you haven’t read this book yet and are planning on reading it, you should prepare yourself for the ending. Obviously I’m not going to ruin anything, but I will reveal that it isn’t a HEA. This was definitely one of the main reasons why I held off on picking it up, but the ending here did make a lot of sense even if it wasn’t all that satisfying in terms of the romance. This was a quick read, and even though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was a solid book that I do recommend. I’m not sure if it sends the right message to LGBT teens, but it’s a unique kind of story that I’m glad was written.

four-stars

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P.S. I Like You Review

July 26, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

P.S. I Like You ReviewP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Published by Point on July 26th 2016
Pages: 304
Source: Dahlia Adler
Also by this author: The Distance Between Us, The Fill-In Boyfriend, By Your Side
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five-stars
What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?
While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?
From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.

It’s insane to me how each book that Kasie West writes gets better and better. If you’re a fan of quirky contemporary YA romances, you need to read something by Kasie. Though I adored The Fill-in Boyfriend, this might be my new favorite by her just because I was able to connect to these characters in a totally awesome way. This book has it all: friendship, family, awesome MC, cute romance, and cool plot. I honestly can’t recommend this book enough to you guys! Before I get into my review though, you should know that I am going to name the love interest. To be honest, it’s not that hard to figure out who it is, but still proceed with caution when I discuss the romance towards the end of my review.

So I related to Lily from the very first page. She may or may not now be one of my favorite MC’s ever. I loved how quirky and awkward she was. Most of all, I loved how she wasn’t afraid to be herself. She has a bit of an eccentric style and makes her own clothes. Lily isn’t the best at talking to boys, which is definitely one of the things about her that I instantly connected with. I’m pretty sure that so many others are able to relate to this awkwardness as well, talking to boys back in high school was always the worst. I also loved how passionate she was about music. Lily expresses herself through her song lyrics and playing her guitar. I loved how creative and awesome she is. Once she gets past her initial awkwardness, she’s truly a beautiful and hilarious person.

One of the best parts of this book was Lily’s family. Both her parents are happily married and relatively normal. They cracked me up with how they would have these competitions with food and make their kids pick what they liked better. Her little brothers were adorable and her old sister was hilarious and a fascinating character. In some ways, this family reminded me of the Garretts from My Life Next Door. Basically, it’s a flawed and very chaotic family but I want to be a member anyway. Sometimes I feel like YA books have a habit of only showing families that are totally messed up and only bring drama to the plot, so it was nice to see a crazy but loving and supportive family in P.S. I Like You.

Another great thing about this book was the friendship side of things. Yeah, I adored the romance, but I’m always a sucker for a solid friendship as well! Isabel and Lily have an unbreakable friendship. While they occasionally fight, they always find a way to get past whatever the issue is. I also loved how understanding Isabel was when it comes to Lily having to put her family first too. Meaning, sometimes Lily couldn’t go out somewhere because she had to babysit her little brothers and her best friend understood that. There is a tiny bit of drama involving a boy that temporarily comes between them, but don’t worry, it’s honestly not over the top and I loved how the situation was handled by Isabel. This is an incredible friendship between two very different girls who support each other no matter what.

Now we’ve reached the part in my review where I’m going to talk about the romance, so skip over this if you don’t want to see the name of the love interest. As most Kasie West romances manage to do, this romance brought up all the feels. I just loved how adorable the whole concept is. Let’s be real here, the concept of writing song lyrics on a desk and finding that someone added to it isn’t new, it was also in the book Faking Normal, but I loved it anyway. This was also different since they do end up graduating to writing each other full page letters, which was always entertaining to read. This novel portrays an incredible hate to love romance. This trope doesn’t always work for me, but Kasie managed to make it work with a natural ease. Once Lily discovers that her enemy Cade is the one writing the letters, she doesn’t know what to do. The Cade she sees in his letters is entirely different from the person he is in real life. Gradually, she starts hanging out with him more in person and getting a chance to see who he really is. If you can’t already tell, I absolutely loved this romance. I honestly don’t think it could have been written any better!

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for over a year now, and Kasie West didn’t disappoint. This is one book that I know I’ll want to reread again and again. It’s such a memorable and light read. Sure, it has some drama, but I felt like it was a realistic amount and never too much. If you’ve never read anything by this notable YA contemporary author, this is a great place to start. If you’ve loved her previous books, you’ll likely find a new favorite with P.S. I Like You. This book just hit shelves today, so be sure to go grab a copy!

*Big thanks to Dahlia Adler for sending me her ARC as a prize for Dahlia’s Book Club!*

five-stars

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Love Show Review

July 24, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★

Love Show ReviewLove Show by Audrey Bell
Published by Createspace on January 5th 2014
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three-stars
three-half-flames
Hadley Arrington is the career-driven Editor-in-Chief of her university’s prestigious newspaper. Jack Diamond is a laid back student whose good looks have made things even easier than they need to be. She’s the girl who came out of nowhere and kissed him in the rain. He’s the boy who made her do something crazy.
When the stakes seem too high, they have to decide if they’ll let their love show or if they’ll walk away for good.

This is a book that hadn’t been on my radar until I read that the love interest was totally swoony. Naturally, I knew that I had to check this book out immediately. Based on some of the hype, I was expecting a little more from the story, but it was still a pretty compelling NA book that I enjoyed for the most part. I recommend this one if you’re looking for a funny book that also contains a good amount of angst and also manages to avoid some common NA cliches.

Honestly, it took me a long time to warm up to Hadley. She isn’t a bad person or anything, she’s a fabulous best friend to her roommate David, and provides him advice even when he doesn’t want to hear it. I was annoyed by how obsessive she was regarding her journalism career. I respected that she was willing to do whatever it takes in order to achieve her dreams, I just wasn’t crazy about her behavior at times. She reminded me of Rory Gilmore at times, which can be both a good and bad thing. I can’t explain what it was about her, I never found her that memorable or unique.

As I said, I’d already heard positive things about Jack, so my expectations were set high for him. I liked that he wasn’t some typical controlling and hot tempered love interest that we’re used to seeing in NA books. Jack isn’t perfect, but he’s a sweet, slightly nerdy, incredible guy who also makes a heartwarming Titanic reference. Though I really liked him, he wasn’t my favorite book boyfriend, which was a bit disappointing to me. Jack also doesn’t have this horrible and traumatic past, but the way his father died will certainly break your heart and explain all of his previous actions to you. Anyway, he was a solid guy who I really enjoyed throughout the book.

The relationship between Jack and Hadley was complicated right off the bat. As soon as she meets him, Hadley is attracted to him, and she kisses him after David dares her to kiss a stranger. Once they finally begin seeing each other, Hadley sets a crazy amount of rules in order to establish that this is strictly a friends with benefits deal. Unfortunately for her, a lot of these rules are soon broken. Since this is strictly sex, there are some steamy scenes. If you’re not a fan of too much sex, don’t worry, it’s actually not all that graphic at all. I liked the relationship between them, it was just frustrating how she completely refused to date him. Don’t get me wrong, her reasons for holding back made total sense to me, the angst was simply a lot for me as a reader. In the end, I wasn’t sure how great they were as a legit couple, since so much of the novel was spent avoiding that label.

This wasn’t a terrible book by any means and I understand why it has mostly 4 and 5 star ratings. I couldn’t rate it that high because it simply wasn’t all that memorable to me when I put it up against those higher rated books. I’m glad that people seem to like it, and I did enjoy it for the most part. Another issue I had was the lack of editing, there was quite a few rather obvious grammatical errors that bothered me. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure what direction the author was going in as the book reached closer to the end. It was a seriously emotional last 50 pages or so, and the writing was very solid here. In the end, I liked how fast paced and intense it was, it just wasn’t my favorite.

three-stars

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Third Degree Review

July 23, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Third Degree ReviewThird Degree by Julie Cross
Published by Flirt on March 25th 2014
Pages: 240
Source: Library
Also by this author: Whatever Life Throws at You, You Before Anyone Else
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four-stars
three-flames
I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.
But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

Unfortunately, New Adult books often receive a bad reputation. This comes from some books in the genre focusing more on sex than college, jobs, and friendship. Third Degree is one of those books that has pretty much everything that I want in an NA story. Not to mention the fact that the plot is fairly unique, it also focuses on the medical field as well. Don’t worry though, the medical jargon isn’t too much, Julie Cross includes just enough to get her point across, but not enough to put you to sleep. I’m sad that I waited this long to read Third Degree, but I’m really glad that I finally did. Though it’s been out for over two years now, I don’t think it has as many reviews as it should. That being said, I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a unique and well written NA romance.

In the beginning, Izzy is a little difficult to relate to. In the early pages, we see her at the hospital, discovering a diagnosis that her colleague was clearly missing out on. It also becomes obvious that Isabel lacks some serious social skills when it comes to communicating with her patients and other people. So yeah, the beginning is a bit on the boring side, but it sets the tone for what comes next for her. When she decides to attend college when she isn’t selected to become a resident at any hospital, she has a rather shaky start. In the end though, the audience starts to relate and understand her more. My heart particularly broke for her rough start in foster homes, but she was lucky to be adopted by a loving family. With the help of Marshall, she starts to find a way to interact in a healthy way with other people. The point is, while she’s not my favorite protagonist, she had a unique personality that managed to standout.

Dude, Marshall is a fabulous love interest. He was totally swoony, and a wonderful guy in general. He’s Izzy’s RA, and he immediately begins helping her out with her social skills. From the start, he’s able to understand Izzy in a way that no one else has ever been able to do. Marsh is so memorable, and you can’t help but love him. I can’t exactly explain what it is about him, he’s just impossible to dislike. He’s clever, funny, smart, witty, and I already mentioned that he was charming. Marsh actually has a secret that will likely surprise you, but it was definitely something that I’ve never read about before. Is he all that different from other NA love interests? Looking back on it now, he doesn’t seem to be, but Julie Cross writes him in such a way that makes him rather irresistible.

The relationship between Marsh and Izzy is pretty great. The best part about it is the way it slowly builds. They start out being just friends as Marsh teaches her more about college life and getting along with her roommate. However, the attraction between them becomes more and more apparent and they eventually give into it. As a whole, it’s not an overly steamy book. I’ve never had a problem with sex in books, but I think Cross does an amazing job at making the actual relationship part the foundation and not their sex life. That being said, there is one ridiculously hot scene that you’ll certainly remember long after reading it. All I’ll say about it is that you’ll think of studying anatomy using real people in a completely different way after reading.

If you can’t already tell, I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. I was planning on reading another book before this one, but I couldn’t put this one down after I started it. It’s pretty light on the drama for the most part. As I said, it contains literally every element that I believe that a solid NA book that is set at a college should have. I loved her YA book, Whatever Life Throws at You, and this slightly more mature book managed to impress me as well. If you want a unique NA story and don’t mind some medical jargon, check out Third Degree.

four-stars

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Blog Tour: Smash & Grab Review

July 21, 2016 Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult 4 ★★★½

Blog Tour: Smash & Grab Review

Blog Tour: Smash & Grab ReviewSmash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on July 19th 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Random House Books for Young Readers
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from Random House Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ocean’s Eleven meets the star-crossed lovers of West Side Story. Grab some popcorn and get ready for an adrenaline-filled heist!   LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.   CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . .   Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.   Told in alternating points of view, this caper is full of romance and fast-paced fun. Hand to fans of Perfect Chemistry, The Conspiracy of Us, and Heist Society.

So Smash & Grab was a very unique and surprising read for me. I’ve never gotten a chance to read books like The Heist Society or The Conspiracy of Us, so I’ve basically never read a book that follows teen criminals committing heists. Is the concept here realistic at all? Nope, not by a long shot. But that doesn’t make it any less fascinating to read. Sometimes it can be nice to take a break from all of these contemporary YA books and read a book will some light thriller elements to it. Smash & Grab is seriously action packed, and I enjoyed getting caught up in the story as a whole. I also loved the dual POV narration, Amy Christine Parker did a wonderful job at getting inside the minds of these two extremely different characters. My point is, this book probably won’t be for everyone, but I personally found it to be a fast paced and genuinely interesting read.

Christian was definitely my favorite character by far. I enjoyed the chapters where he narrated the best because I felt more of a connection to him for some reason. Naturally, I also loved the fact that he loved books. My heart absolutely broke for him as he desperately longed to escape the gang life and the awful jobs that they gave him, but at the same time, he struggled with wanting to support his mom and little sister. It’s safe to say that I just wanted to give this a kid a huge hug and tell him that things were going to be okay. He’s an amazing selfless guy who I instantly clicked with from the very first chapter.

Lexie wasn’t as easy to connect with for me on a personal level. To be honest, she’s a little bit spoiled and I didn’t know what to make of her at first. However, she’s gone through a lot and lost all her money when her father was arrested. Lexie then goes to great lengths to prove that one of his coworkers from the bank had a hand in the illegal action as well. Lexie is a feisty character who thrives on taking huge risks. For one, this girl loves BASE jumping. She’s just full of adventures and seems to not be afraid of absolutely anything. Though I’m totally the opposite, I loved seeing the confidence and pure adrenaline that came from this incredible character.

The romance started out extremely slow for me. That’s weird to say because it contains insta-love, but it still takes quite a long time before either of them act on their feelings. I guess I was expecting for the romance to take up more of the plot due to the West Side Story comparison in the blurb. But what I’m trying to say is that somehow it didn’t bother me that there wasn’t more romance here. I was so wrapped up in all the extravagant action that unfolded within the pages that for once, I found myself not longing it. Once they finally get together though, I believe that Lexie and Christian make a cute couple.

All in all, this was a quick book that captured my attention from start to finish. Lexie and Christian both have such distinctive personalities and wonderful stories to tell. Though I normally prefer stories with plots that I can relate to, I found myself on edge while reading all of this intense action. I’m glad that I broke outside of my shell a little here and read a book that I probably wouldn’t normally. Like I already mentioned, I wouldn’t recommend this book for people who only enjoy realistic stories, but this is still a light and fun book that I’m glad that I had the chance to read it.

ABOUT AMY CHRISTINE PARKER:

Amy Christine Parker

AMY CHRISTINE PARKER writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Visit her at amychristineparker.com and follow her on Twitter @amychristinepar.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:
 
Week 2:

Giveaway:

3 Finished Copies of SMASH & GRAB (US Only)

Rafflecopter Code:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

three-half-stars

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Blog Tour: Don’t Tempt Me Review

July 20, 2016 Blog Tours, Reviews 1 ★★★

Blog Tour: Don’t Tempt Me ReviewDon't Tempt Me by Lori Foster
Published by HQN Books on July 26th 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars
four-flames

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Love comes along when it's least wanted 
Jason Guthrie has no time for entanglements—between helping out his widowed brother and teenage nephew and getting his hometown back on its feet, his days are spoken for. But his nights are another story… And when his lovely new neighbor, Honor Brown, reluctantly accepts his help in remodeling her house, Jason finds himself wishing his handyman skills could knock down the defenses she keeps building around herself. 
Martial arts teacher Sullivan Dean knows real danger when he sees it—even when it takes the form of the gorgeous blonde helping her friend move in across the street. After putting his wayward past behind him to focus on teaching control to troubled kids, Sullivan has learned to avoid party girls like Lexie Perkins. But Sullivan can't seem to keep his hands off the real woman behind that flirty charm—or keep his heart from landing at her feet…

Don't Tempt Me - Tour banner

 

Lori Foster’s fantastic contemporary romance, DON’T TEMPT ME, is a story of how love comes along when you least expect it. Be sure you order this amazing standalone novel today!

 

 

Don't Tempt Me - tour teaser 1

 

 

Lori Foster’s DON’T TEMPT ME – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule

July 18th

Curvy and Nerdy – Review

Bookworm Dee Reads – Excerpt

Bridget’s Book Bungalow – Review

From the TBR Pile – Review & Excerpt

July 19th

Curled Up and Cozy – Review & Excerpt

My Girlfriends Couch – Excerpt

East Coast Book Chicks – Review & Excerpt

July 20th

With Love for Books – Review

Go Read A Book – Review

Mama She’s Crazy About Books – Review

I’m A Book Shark – Review

What Is That Book About – Excerpt

July 21st

Books, Coffee & Passion – Excerpt

Fiction Fangirls – Review & Excerpt

Best Book Boyfriends – Excerpt

LucyLicious Reads – Review

July 22nd

Book Munchies – Review & Excerpt

Ebook Indulgence – Excerpt

I Love Romance – Review & Excerpt

Red’s Romance Review’s – Review

July 23rd

Nicole’s Book Musings – Excerpt

Booknerd1107 – Review & Excerpt

Southern Vixens Book Obsessions – Excerpt

Always Booking – Review & Excerpt

July 24th

Up All Night Read All Day – Review & Excerpt

Becky on Books – Excerpt

Book Briefs – Review

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm – Review

July 25th

EskieMama Reads – Review & Excerpt

Whispers from the mountains – Excerpt

Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Okie Dreams Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

July 26th

A Bookish Mess – Review & Excerpt

Embrace the Romance – Review & Excerpt

Take Me Away To A Great Read – Review & Excerpt

July 27th

A girl and her books – Review

Margie’s Must Reads – Excerpt

Author Groupies – Review

Smut Book Junkie Reviews – Review & Excerpt

July 28th

I am a book addict…and proud of it – Review & Excerpt

The bookworms obsession blog – Review

Romance Book Nerd – Excerpt

BJ’s Book Blog – Review

July 29th

The Smut-Brarians – Review & Excerpt

Friends Till The End Book Blog – Excerpt

Bookalicious Babes Blog – Review & Excerpt

July 30th

Short and Sassy Book Blurbs – Review

A Brit and a Yank – Excerpt

For The Love of Fictional Worlds – Review & Excerpt

Majorly Delicious – Review & Excerpt

Don’t Tempt Me is a sweet, fast read about finding family, love, and more! You can’t go wrong with this book! It’s a must read!”—Night Owl Reviews

“Best friends find hunky men and everlasting love in Foster’s latest charmer.”—Publishers Weekly

Don't Tempt Me - tour teaser 2

 

“It’s lust at first sight and a double romance in this new novel of neighbors helping neighbors by the prolific Foster”—Kirkus

 

Lori Foster - Author photoAbout Lori Foster:

Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has become a USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times bestselling author. Lori has published through a variety of houses, including Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin, Silhouette, Samhain, and Berkley/Jove. She is currently published with HQN. Visit her online at LoriFoster.com.

 

WEBSITE ** FACEBOOK ** TWITTER ** GOODREADS ** PINTEREST ** YOUTUBE

 

 

MY THOUGHTS:

Despite the fact that I’m a major romance fan, I’ve actually never read any books by Lori Foster. I’m glad that I picked this one up, and I plan on checking her other titles out whenever I get the chance. I think that Lori Foster is a quality author who has written a steamy and fast paced romance that was really enjoyable to read. If you’ve been a fan of romance books for a long time, you’ve probably already read some of her works, and I think you’ll enjoy reading this one as well. If you’re like me and somehow have missed her other works, I’d say that this is a solid place to start.

Honor is a pretty sympathetic and interesting main characters. She’s such an independent and determined woman, and I loved that about her. She’s spent so much time either fighting for herself or helping out with her only true family member, that she doesn’t really understand how to accept help from other people. Anyway, I loved that her personality was so strong and sweet. I wouldn’t say that she’s my favorite heroine or even the most memorable, but she still had admirable qualities about her, and I never get tired of seeing those in romance books.

Jason is the swoony alpha love interest who will definitely met your heart. He’s a guy who wants to help everyone he possibly can, and I loved how selfless he was throughout the novel. Jason really knew how to put Honor, and every other person who he cares deeply about first. Jason has done his best to build up the not so great neighborhood that he lives in that Honor recently moved into. However, it now has attracted more robberies and violence than Jason and the rest of his neighborhood alpha friends would like to happen. Basically, Jason does his best to protect Honor, and I loved that about him. He wasn’t the swooniest book boyfriend, but he was still very alpha male and extremely sexy.

So Don’t Tempt Me doesn’t contain just one romance, it also has another romance between Honor’s best friend Lexie and Sullivan, a guy who lives in the neighborhood. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of how this was written at all. Maybe I’m just too used to reading romance books that strictly focusing on one couple, not two in one book. Whatever the reason, I found the secondary romance to be a distraction from the main one. Focusing strictly on the romance part of it, Lexie and Sullivan were a fascinating couple to read about and I would liked to see a whole book of their romance. The relationship was filled with steam and added an additional emotional elemental to the story.

Overall, I found Don’t Tempt Me to be a refreshing and fast paced novel. I definitely understand the hype about Lori Foster as an author, and I want to read the rest of her works now. Though I had a few issues with the fact that this focused on two totally different love stories in one novel, I don’t regret reading this book. It was an easy read that was well written. Longtime Lori Foster fans and those that have yet to read her works will likely adore her latest story.

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three-stars

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Dumplin’ Review

July 18, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

Dumplin’ ReviewDumplin' (Dumplin', #1) by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 15th 2015
Pages: 375
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

I’m not sure why I waited so long to read this delightful book. Honestly, I didn’t have a great experience with Julie Murphy’s first novel, Side Effects May Vary, but this one was much more up my alley. It wasn’t my favorite as a whole, but I still believe that Dumplin’ has such a strong message that everyone needs to hear. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you give it a try. The outcome is a fabulous book with such powerful and memorable characters. Willowdean and all her friends will make you feel all the feels, this book is definitely a refreshing one.

Willowdean or Will is a sassy and confident character who isn’t afraid to admit that she’s fat. She embraces her size, and she doesn’t want to change that about herself. So yeah, Will is a super cool Southern chick who absolutely loves Dolly Parton. I felt like her whole attitude was so awesome. Like any other teenager out there, she does have her insecurities that have a way of showing up, but she never lets it completely control who she is. She always finds a way of overcoming those insecurities, like through being inspired by her new friends or remembering something about her dear Aunt Lucy who passed away not too long ago. Will is your average teenager in so many ways, but she’s also a lot more than that as well.

Dumplin’ has such charming supporting characters that totally make the book for me personally. If you haven’t read it yet, those “unlikely candidates” that are mentioned in the summary are named Amanda, Millie, and Hannah. I loved each of these characters so much for separate reasons. The one that standouts the most is Millie. At first, Willowdean isn’t really sure what to think of her. Millie is a big girl who gets made fun of on a regular basis, and Will doesn’t understand why she’s okay with all of it. The point is, I loved the fact that she didn’t care about what people thought about her. She desperately wanted to compete in the pageant, and unlike Will, she truly believes that she can win it, and I love that confidence. Amanda isn’t nearly as memorable as Millie, but she’s also overweight and doesn’t care about what people say about her. I also loved her attitude and how positive she was about everything. Hannah is a lot different from the other girls. For one, she isn’t actually overweight, she gets made fun of because of her teeth. Hannah is a lot more cynical than the others, and she doesn’t care much about the pageant, she just wants to make a point. However, she turns out to be a lot nicer than Will initially assumed, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship.

Bo is the love interest and I truthfully don’t want to talk all that much about him. In a way, I did like the romance. I felt like his character had quite a bit of growth and I loved getting to know more of his background. I still ended up having some questions regarding their relationship at the end. I don’t know, it just didn’t fully work for me for some reason. I think it bothered me that he talked about being such a jerk while at his old school, but now he’s suddenly this incredible guy that doesn’t care much about looks. Maybe this is something that only bothered me, hopefully you’ll have better luck with it. I’m ridiculously picky about romances sometimes, and that was definitely the case here.

So there’s still a lot of characters who I haven’t talked about yet. Willowdean’s mom was a hot mess who was satisfied with living in the past. She cares WAY too much about the beauty pageant, and I naturally hated how subtle and cutting she could be regarding Will’s weight. Ultimately though, she does grow more of a character, I personally would have liked to see more of that though. I wasn’t a major fan of Will’s best friend Ellen for most of the book. I didn’t like how she didn’t defend her best friend when someone was talking crap about her. I do understand where she’s coming from, it can be hard to want to fit in, and it can be easy to forget Ellen’s side of the story.

All in all, this was a pretty quality book overall. It was a very quick read, and I enjoyed it. It’s not the best book that I’ve ever read, but I still feel like it has a lovely message that needs to be heard. I hope that you guys have already read Dumplin’ since it’s been out for almost a year now, but if you haven’t then I recommend it. Julie Murphy has written a pretty great novel with extremely well developed characters that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

three-half-stars

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Fast Connection Review

July 17, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Fast Connection ReviewFast Connection (Cyberlove #2) by Megan Erickson, Santino Hassell
on July 11th, 2016
Source: Purchased
Also by this author: Strong Signal (Cyberlove, #1), Overexposed (In Focus, #4), Daring Fate (Silver Tip Pack #1), Strong Signal (Cyberlove, #1), Sutphin Boulevard (Five Boroughs, #1), Sunset Park (Five Boroughs, #2), First and First (Five Boroughs, #3), Interborough (Five Boroughs, #4)
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
five-stars
five-flames
After a decade of serving in the Army, everyone still expects me to be Dominic 'Nicky' Costigan--the skirt-chasing player. They don't know I've been spending my days trying to figure out my post-military life. Including how to pick up guys.
When I meet Luke on a hookup app, he makes it clear it's for one-night only. That's fine with me, because I'm down to see what this silver fox can do. But after I arrive at his doorstep, it doesn't take long to realize we have serious chemistry, and we end up meeting again.
He's got more walls around his heart than a military base, but I think he's as addicted to me as I am to him. He can't resist me for long. I mean, who can? Except Luke's rules exist for a reason, and when I test his limits, things get complicated. Maybe too complicated.
*FAST CONNECTION is a standalone, full-length romance novel with no cliffhanger*

Wow, this book was seriously amazing! I’ve been waiting for it to come out since I first read Strong Signal back in February. It’s safe to say that these two amazing authors didn’t disappoint with their second book co-authoring together. Fast Connection is a beautifully written and fast paced novel that definitely managed to keep my interest throughout the entire book. Dominic and Luke are two flawed but incredible characters that you can’t help but love from the very first page. I really identified with both of them for several different reasons. I was beyond impressed with this book. Honestly, there aren’t any bad things to say about Fast Connection at all. I felt like the romance was steamy but also well developed at the same time. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re a fan of fabulously written romances between two super hot men!

So Dominic or Nicky Costigan is totally my dude. He was portrayed as a douchebag who used Garrett somewhat in Strong Signal, but we gradually learn that there’s more to his story once we learn about his struggle with his sexuality. He’s just returned from so many years spent in the military and he isn’t sure what to do next with his life. He thinks that he wants to become an EMT, but for now he’s stuck working at his dad’s deli. He used to be a major manwhore, jumping from girl to girl. Now after his time in the military, he has come to terms with the fact that he also likes guys. Despite his few brief encounters with Garrett, he’s never really been with a guy, so that’s when he turns to Grindr to find someone to hook up with. Though he seems like a douchebag in some ways, he actually has a huge heart when it comes to his sister and anything else that he truly cares about. He’s a solid guy, and I loved how passionate he became when it came to particular things.

Luke is a seriously complicated guy to say the least. He’s quite a few years older than Dominic, and also lived a more full life in a lot of ways. He has two teenage kids and he’s divorced. Like Dominic, he was also in the military, but he was unfortunately dishonorably discharged for incredibly stupid reasons. After a crazy ex gets a little too close to his kids, Luke is hesitant to start anything serious with anyone. Instead he simply meets random hookups on Grindr when his kids are gone and then quickly moves on to the next one. I was able to identify with the trust issues that Luke had, though sometimes I wanted him to open up more with Dominic just because he’s such a loving and honest guy. He’s a wonderful father who makes so many sacrifices just to make his kids lives even better than they are. One of my favorite things about him is how the authors portray his sexuality. He identifies as bisexual because he really did love his wife, they just weren’t meant to be a couple, but still stay close friends. It seems like characters who are bisexual are still relatively low, so it was nice to see it here.

The relationship between Dominic and Luke was pretty great and steamy all around. I loved the chemistry that was very present from their first encounter. Yes, it obviously got pretty sexual really fast, but I still felt like it was handled. As already mentioned, Luke has commitment issues and it takes him quite some time to get used to having Dominic around. I also felt like it was interesting how Dominic and Luke’s paths ended up crossing in ways outside of their weekend hookups. Once they finally become a couple, I really enjoyed seeing their love progress and become gradually stronger as the book went on. It was a beautiful and steamy love story that I couldn’t get enough of! I love both of them individually, and they are seriously a forced to be reckoned with as a couple.

I can’t recommend Fast Connection enough to you guys! It features two incredible characters who have flaws, but still are extremely great people. The plot wasn’t all that complicated, but it didn’t need to be. It’s just about two guys trying to figure out who they are, want they want, and what they want to do with their lives. Ultimately, who can’t relate to at least some of that? It’s a beautiful and honest thing to read about, and I love seeing that. This was a fabulous book and I’m hoping that Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell are able to right together again, because they are definitely amazing at it!

five-stars

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