Audiobook Review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat
Series: Creekwood, #2
Author: Becky Albertalli
Narrator: Shannon Purser
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.


I might be the only one who feels this way, but I thought Leah on the Offbeat was even better than Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I loved Simon, but it took me almost until the end to appreciate it as much as I did.

I was in love with Leah from the beginning. She wasn’t perfect. Leah had some major flaws, but they made her easy to relate to. Her world was changing. Even when she was fighting those changes or making dumb decisions, I could understand why she made the choices she did. Leah was afraid to put herself out there and get hurt or hurt her friends. I loved the reality of those situations. I’ve felt that way so many times in my life.

What struck me most about Leah and this book were the relationships in it. Everything that happened with Leah and her friends reminded me of some of my own school friendships. There’s always drama and ups and downs with friendships in high school. This book did an excellent job portraying friendships and how they evolve. It was my favorite part of the book. Well, besides Leah’s relationship with her mom. I loved that. Leah wasn’t the nicest to her mom, but when are we ever the nicest to the people who love us unconditionally when growing up? It was a good reminder to me that our parents are people, too. I still forget that even as an adult sometimes.

Overall, I adored listening to this book. Becky Albertalli’s writing was as amazing as always. Her characters were complex but easy to love. Shannon Purser brought life to Leah in an unforgettable way with her voice. Leah and the Offbeat is one of my favorite YA audiobooks I’ve read so far this year.

Review: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Autoboyography
Author: Christina Lauren
Narrators: Deacon Lee, Kyle Mason
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.


Wow, guys…

I wasn’t expecting to feel the way I did about this book.  I didn’t really have any expectations going into Autoboyography other than it was going to be a fun YA contemporary. That’s not what it was at all. Reading it was an experience I am grateful to have had. The duo behind Christina Lauren wrote a profound story about love, family, friendship, and faith. I’ve listened to a couple of their other adult books, and while those were fun, they never hit me like this one did.

Autoboyography was about Tanner, a high school senior who is bisexual. Tanner’s kept his sexual orientation a secret since moving to Provo, Utah due to the stigma it has in the predominantly Mormon city. It wasn’t hard for Tanner to hide until he met his writing class TA. One look at Sebastian and Tanner is infatuated. Tanner’s not the only one either. Sebastian seems to be just as into Tanner. The problem is Sebastian is a devout Mormon. A relationship with Tanner is completely against everything Sebastian has been taught.

(Almost) everything about this book was heartbreaking. From the moment their story begins, the writing is on the wall. Things will not be easy for Tanner and Sebastian. While Tanner has accepted his identity, Sebastian has not. His family and his religion does not allow him to. The closer they become, the harder life is for both of them. I was sad for Tanner (and Sebastian) so many times. I wanted a happy ever after for them, but I could never be sure that was going to happen for them. Their lives were so different. Their journeys, together and apart, were tough. I loved them and just wanted everything to be magically better for them.

My favorite character in Autoboyography wasn’t either of the main characters. It was actually Tanner’s dad. He had an openness to him that I hope my daughter will eventually find in me. He accepted Tanner for who he was and wanted to the best for him. That didn’t stop him from giving advice and establishing boundaries. In fact, it was his advice and guidance that I loved the most. His statements were so profound, truthful, and beautiful.

To be honest, I felt like I learned a lot about the Mormon religion/culture that I didn’t know before. Some things I had heard of, but others were new to me. I liked that while Autoboyography pointed out short coming regarding the religion’s lack of accepting diverse relationships, it was also respectful of the religion. It not only hit on its short comings but the positive aspects of it as well. The book didn’t bash the religion, just questioned aspects of it through Tanner and Sebastian’s characters.

The one thing I didn’t love about this book was Tanner and Autumn’s relationship. While their friendship was cute and totally supportive, I didn’t like part of it. It’s very apparent Autumn is in love with Tanner. They both try to ignore this so they can save their friendship. There are times when their friendship was uncomfortable for me because I felt that they shouldn’t really be friends. I felt that it was a lopsided friendship. Maybe that was just because Autumn didn’t have a POV, but I felt like it was an unhealthy relationship for her.

Sorry if this review feels a little discombobulated. I loved this book so much, and it’s really hard to put all of my thoughts and feelings into words. I really want everyone to read Autoboyography. It was a beautiful book.

Review: Alphas Like Us by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Alphas Like Us
Series: Like Us, #3
Authors: Krista & Becca Ritchie
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: K.B. Ritchie
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

His Bodyguard. His Love.

Maverick, know-it-all bodyguard Farrow Keene knows publicly dating American royalty comes with a great cost. Everyone wants a piece of their relationship. And as a protective boyfriend, he’s not here for the malicious hands that grab at their love life and seek to rip them apart.

But Farrow is confident — he’s confident that he could’ve never prepared for the storm to come.

Keep him safe.

Maximoff Hale isn’t a big fan of change. And to regain the charity CEO position he lost, he agrees to a task that he’s always rejected. One that could uproot his unconventional world.

But Maximoff is afraid — he’s afraid of the consequences that could destroy his boyfriend and his family.

Keep him safe.

Changes are on the horizon.
Big.
Messy.
Complicated.
Changes.

Maximoff & Farrow will fight for their forever. And with every breath, they promise that their love story won’t end here.

​​The Like Us series is a true series, one continuous timeline, that follows a family of wealthy celebrities and the people that protect them. You must read Books 1 and 2 before reading Alphas Like Us.


I’ve been waiting to get my hands on Alphas Like Us ever since the end of Lovers Like Us. That ending made me so happy, and I couldn’t wait to see where Maximoff and Farrow’s relationship would go from there.

I’m happy to say that I loved where it went. Alphas Like Us was almost everything I hoped it would be. I loved how Maximoff and Farrow acted as a real couple. I enjoyed how they supported each other through everything and the tenderness they showed. I also liked how Maximoff and Farrow navigated fans and the media. Everything that happened to them in this book felt like it had potential to happen in real life to a celebrity couple. Alphas like Us gave Maximoff and Farrow the chance to grow in their relationship and themselves. I loved being part of that experience.

My only disappointment in Alphas Like Us was that so many questions were left in regards to some of the Hale-Cobalt-Meadows siblings. I wanted some resolution for them now, but those resolutions were left for future books. It made me sad because I wanted to know how things end up for them sooner rather than later! That being said, I know I’m going to answers in the future with Jane’s upcoming book. It’s just torture having to wait!

Alphas Like Us was definitely my favorite book in the Like Us series so far. The first two books felt like a build up to this book, and the pay off was so worth it. I ended up loving Maximoff and Farrow more than I did before. I can’t wait to see them again in Jane’s upcoming book.

Review: The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

The Last to Let Go
Author: Amber Smith
Publication Date: January 6, 2017
Publisher: McElderry Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, LBGTQ
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

How do you let go of something you’ve never had?

Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.

But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.

In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.


Amber Smith’s The Way I Used to Be was one of my top reads for 2016. I couldn’t get over the fact that a début author had written such an emotionally raw book. I loved everything about that book. It touched me so deeply. I’ve been waiting for her next release from the minute I finished that book, so I was very eager to read The Last to Let Go.

Everything about The Last to Let Go was so raw. Brooke had too much to deal with in this book. Her mother killed her abusive father, she’s worried about her siblings, she’s making unexpected friends, meeting new family members, and she might just be finding love. Everything is more than she can handle. She was doing everything to hold onto her family and what she thought was important.

I felt so bad for Brooke. As much as I wanted her to get herself together, I completely understood why she was falling apart. It broke my heart. Luckily, I’ve never been in Brooke’s situation. It’s one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Obviously, I can’t relate completely with her life, but I felt like her feelings of needing to control and having a hard time letting go were something everyone can identify with at some point.

The Last to Let Go was so good — in a painful sort of way. What I mean is that it was utterly heartbreaking. Amber Smith has a way of writing that makes me feel the emotions her characters are feeling. It’s breathtaking and it’s brutal. The Last to Let Go is a book that’s going to stick with me for a long time, and it’s one I definitely recommend.

Mini Reviews: Man Candy, Undone By You, and Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin

Man Candy
Series: Real Love, #3
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: Loveswept
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Is there room for two in that sleeping bag? When it comes to love, a chiseled loner takes the scenic route in this irresistible standalone from the author of Eye Candy.

Dax: After spending the summer buried up to my eyeballs in my family’s affairs, I’m ready for a break. The kind of break where I can spend two solid weeks camping and fishing in the company of absolutely no one. Then I find myself directly in the path of a drop-dead gorgeous tornado by the name of Becca Stone. Who can resist a night with a damsel in distress? Especially when she happens to be a leggy blonde? The last thing I expect is for Becca to show up on my cabin doorstep the next night, shivering in the rain and ready for seconds.

Becca: One minute I’m admiring the rock-hard jaw of the Magic Mike lookalike who walks into my bar, and the next I’m getting fired by my own brother. Loudly. In front of everyone. Luckily Dax Vaughn is a gentleman who aims his white-hot smile at me. Oh, it’s on. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Then a torrential storm washes out the main road and causes a massive power outage, giving us two whole weeks to enjoy each other’s company. At which point Dax will go back home, leaving “us” in the rearview mirror. That’s the plan. Or it was . . . until I started falling for him.


Man Candy was my favorite book in the Real Love series by Jessica Lemmon. It was so fresh and funny. I adored Becca and Dax. Dax especially. There was something about the strong, almost silent guy. I loved his clipped responses and his maturity throughout the book.The only thing I could have done without with was part of the epilogue. I won’t say what, but it just didn’t fit for me. Otherwise, Man Candy was one of those perfect contemporary romance reads.



Undone By You
Series: Chicago Rebels, #3
Author: Kate Meader
Publication Date: March 5, 2018
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports, LGBTQ+
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

USA TODAY bestselling author Kate Meader brings her signature “steamy sex scenes, colorful characters, and riveting dialogue” (RT Book Reviews) to this novella in the Chicago Rebels series, following the general manager of the Rebels as he scores with one of his players off the ice.

Dante Moretti has just landed his dream job: GM of the Chicago Rebels. And screw the haters who think there should be an asterisk next to his name because he’s the first out managing executive in pro hockey. He’s earned the right to be here and nothing will topple him off that perch—especially not an incredibly inconvenient attraction to his star defenseman, Cade “Alamo” Burnett. Cade has always been careful to keep his own desires on the down low, but his hot Italian boss proves to be a temptation he can’t resist. Sure, they both have so much to lose, but no one will ever know…

As Dante and Cade’s taboo affair heats up off the ice and their relationship gets more and more intense, they’ll have to decide: is love worth risking their careers? Or is this romance destined to be forever benched?


I have to admit that I requested this ARC because I thought it was going to be about the third Chase sister, Violet. I didn’t read the blurb first. Imagine my surprise when I figured out this wasn’t her book, but her good friend Cade’s. It was a great surprise because Cade and Dante’s story was perfection. I loved every minute of their journey together. There was so much personal growth in it. Undone by You was such a great read! Each book in this series gets better and better. I can’t wait for Violet’s book even more now!



Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin
Author: Mariana Zapata
Narrator: Carly Robins

Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Twenty-six-year-old Gaby Barreto might be a lot of things (loyal, sarcastic, one of the guys and a pain in the butt depending on which family member you ask), but dumb isn’t one of them. When her twin brother invites her to go on tour as his band’s merch girl, she isn’t exactly screaming at the top of her lungs with joy.

With no job opportunities pounding on her door, an ex-boyfriend she would still like to castrate, and no end in sight to moving out of her parents’ house in Dallas… it would be dumb to say no to the chance of a lifetime. Two bands, three continents, one tour. Spending the next ninety-plus days with three beloved idiots and eight complete strangers shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

If only the singer of the headlining band didn’t have tattoos… a great personality… a fantastic body… and if he wasn’t so funny….

Let’s be real: Gaby never had a chance against Sacha Malykhin.


My library’s only copy of Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin was an audio book. Having two sets of family come over on two separate days for holiday gatherings meant I had a lot of house cleaning to do, so I loaded the audio version and started cleaning. I’m so happy I did!

I loved Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin just as much as the other Mariana Zapata books I’ve read recently. Her writing is so easy to identify with! I can remember having some of the same thoughts and insecurities as Gaby when I was dating. I loved how Gaby and Sacha’s entire relationship played out. It’s one of the funnest rockstar romances I’ve read. I didn’t want to stop listening to it! (Kudos to the narrator, Carly Robins, she was awesome!)

Review: Lovers Like Us by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Lovers Like Us
Series: Like Us, #2
Authors: Krista & Becca Ritchie
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Twenty-seven-year-old Farrow Keene lives by his All Postsactions, and his actions say he’s the best at whatever he does. As a 24/7 bodyguard and the new boyfriend to Maximoff Hale, protecting the headstrong, alpha billionaire has never been more complicated. And one rule can’t be bent:

Keep your relationship secret from the public.

Farrow is confident he’s the best man for the job. But a twist in Maximoff’s fast-paced life sticks them with the rest of Security Force Omega and their clients.

On the road.
In a sleeper tour bus.
For four rocky months.

Sexual frustrations, check. Road trip drama, check. Awkward bonding, check.

But Farrow couldn’t have accounted for a high-risk threat (identity: unknown) that targets Maximoff before the ignition even turns. And it hits Farrow — someone has it out for the guy he loves.

Every day, Maximoff & Farrow’s feelings grow stronger, and together, they’ll either sink or swim.

The Like Us series is a true series, one continuous timeline, that follows a family of wealthy celebrities and the people that protect them. You must read Damaged Like Us, Book 1, before reading Lovers Like Us.


After the big bombshell in Damaged Like Us, I was wondering where Lovers Like Us would go. I knew we would get lots of Moffy and Farrow time, but I wasn’t sure how their relationship was going to change things between the Hale – Colbalt – Meadows clan. I also wasn’t sure how they were going to be able to keep their relationship a secret from the media. Lovers Like Us answered all of the questions I had. It also made me an even bigger fan of Moffy and Farrow’s relationship.

Moffy has always seemed mature for his age, but he truly grew up in this book. I felt like he gained a deeper understanding of his siblings’ and cousins’ feelings. He also grew to understand Farrow better. I liked how he handled all the situations thrown his way.

Farrow was strong and steady. He was good at being himself. I liked that he didn’t back down from a fight or give into anything that would compromise his beliefs.

My favorite thing about Lovers Like Us was that it showed a real progression in Moffy and Farrow’s relationship. I got to see some ups and some downs, and how their relationship only grew stronger because of them. I was sad when the book ended because I loved where things were for them, and didn’t want to wait to find out what comes next.

I can’t end this review without talking about some of the other family members. I want books for all of them, but I desperately need books for both Jane and Charlie. Jane because I love her and she deserves more than she’s got so far. Charlie because I kind of hate him right now, and I need to understand him better. I also need him to meet his match.

Lovers Like Us took the Like Us series exactly where I wanted it to go. I enjoyed reading this book so much. If you’re a fan of Hale, Meadows, and Cobalts, you’ll love it!

 

Review: Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen

Hello Forever
Series: Pay it Forward, #2
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: July 14, 2017
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance,  LGBT+
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

A SINGLE BASKETBALL GAME CHANGES EVERYTHING…

When they were only teenagers, Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at church camp. And afterward, Cax had disappeared from all the youth group activities.

Six years later, Axel is astonished to spot his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a school which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural town. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.

Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same Massachusetts town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again, because loving Axel will mean giving up everything else he holds dear.

Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, it’s Hello Forever.

Hello Forever is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers. Readers of Goodbye Paradise will get to check in on Caleb and Josh and their clan.


Hello Forever is a second chance love story. It’s the story of two men who fell in love as teenagers, but were forced apart by the expectations of others. Neither Axel or Cax thought they would ever see each other again. Then, Axel spots Cax on a televised college basketball game. Seeing his first love again inspires Axel to accept a position at the very same school. Axel hopes he’ll run into Cax again, and that they will be able to rekindle what they almost had.

Their reunion isn’t exactly what Axel had hoped. The same demons that drove Axel and Cax apart are still at play in Cax’s life. As much as Cax wants what Axel is offering, he may not be able to accept it. Some things in Cax’s life are more important than his love for Axel.

After reading Goodbye Paradise, I had very high expectations for Hello Forever. I loved that first Pay it Forward book so much, and I wanted to have a similar experience with this book. Hello Forever was a great book, but not quite as amazing as Goodbye Paradise. I can’t put my finger on exactly why that was. The only thing I can think of was that it took me a little longer than usual to connect with the characters. A lot of the beginning was Axel setting up his history with Cax. It wasn’t until Cax and Axel were back in the same room that I felt engaged with the story.

I don’t want you to think I didn’t love Cax and Axel’s story. I did.Their second chance at love was sweet, sexy, and had just the right amount of drama. Cax having to decide if his personal happiness was more important than his devotion to his family was a really great story line. It was a tough choice for him, but I loved the way it all played out. It was fun to read. I especially loved the ending!

It was exciting to be back in Josh and Caleb’s world. I loved seeing them again and how they worked into Cax and Axel’s story. I also liked the other new characters I met. I’m hoping some of them (Jason) will get their own stories in the future.

Overall, Hello Forever was a great M/M romance. It’s one I would recommend if you’re a fan of M/M romances, Sarina Bowen or new adult romances in general.

Review: Damaged Like Us by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Damaged Like Us
Series: Like Us, #1
Authors: Krista & Becca Ritchie
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: K.B. Ritchie
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, M/M Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Don’t date your bodyguard. 
It was the one rule he had to break.

Maximoff Hale is a force of nature. A ship unwilling to be steered. Headstrong, resilient, and wholly responsible — the twenty-two-year-old alpha billionaire can handle his unconventional life. By noon, lunch can turn into a mob of screaming fans. By two, his face is all over the internet.

Born into one of the most famous families in the country, his celebrity status began at birth.

He is certified American royalty.

When he’s assigned a new 24/7 bodyguard, he comes face-to-face with the worst case scenario: being attached to the tattooed, MMA-trained, Yale graduate who’s known for “going rogue” in the security team — and who fills 1/3 of Maximoff’s sexual fantasies.

Twenty-seven-year-old Farrow Keene has one job: protect Maximoff Hale. Flirting, dating, and hot sex falls far, far out of the boundary of his bodyguard duties and into “termination” territory. But when feelings surface, protecting the sexy-as-sin, stubborn celebrity becomes increasingly complicated.

Together, boundaries blur, and being exposed could mean catastrophic consequences for both.

The Like Us series is a true series, one continuous timeline, that follows a family of wealthy celebrities and the people who protect them. Damaged Like Us can be read and enjoyed without reading any of Krista & Becca’s other novels.


Thank God they’re back!

I know the blurb says the Like Us series can be read without reading any of Krista and Becca Ritchie’s other books, but let’s be honest. There’s no way anyone who hasn’t read the Addicted /Calloway Sisters series could be near as excited for Damaged Like Us as fans of those series. I binge read the entire series last year, and the countdown to release day began the minute I heard Moffy was getting his own book. I couldn’t wait to be back in that world. When Damaged Like Us finally showed up on my Kindle, I dropped everything to read it because I needed more of the Hales, Cobalts, and Meadows in my life.

I found Damaged Like Us to be just as addictive as Krista and Becca Ritchie’s other novels. I immediately loved adult Moffy. I got to know him a little bit as a kid in previous novels, but it was so rewarding getting to know the adult version in this book. He was exactly who he should have been, who I would have pictured him to be. Moffy had a quiet strength. He was there for his family members in the most unconditional way. He put them first, even when he shouldn’t. Sometimes that meant he suffered, but that didn’t really bother him. Or at least it didn’t bother him until Farrow was assigned to be his body-guard.

Farrow was dreamy. He was tough and tatted on the outside, but kind of a traditionalist on the inside. I loved that about him. I also loved that he knew what he wanted in all aspects of his life and went for it. The way he pushed Maximoff’s boundaries made Farrow a great match for him.

I wanted more of this book. I felt like it flew by and ended before I was ready for it to be over. I know that Moffy and Farrow are getting a second book and that I’ll get more of their story, but I wanted this one to be longer. It left me with some major questions about how things progressed after the end. It’s me being selfish, but I want to know now!

I’m really hoping that this series is not going to be just Moffy’s story, but will also include each of the Hale, Cobalt and Meadows kids. Reading about them again only furthered my curiosity! I am especially interested in Jane’s story. I got to see a bit of her life in Damaged Like Us, but there has to be more to her story! The little I read about her didn’t do her justice. I needed inside her head! Same for Xander. I have so many questions about what’s next for him.

If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed Damaged Like Us. I’m so, so happy Krista and Becca Ritchie decided to write this spin-off series.

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us
Author: Emery Lord
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord’s storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges.


I’m going to apologize before I start this review because it might be a little scattered. I had a hard time reconciling my thoughts and feelings after reading The Names They Gave Us. On one hand, I loved what Lucy discovered about her faith and the world around her in this book. On the other hand, this book might have tried to accomplish too much.

Religion and faith make up a huge part of this book. That wasn’t a problem for me. I grew up going to church. I’m not part of organized religion now, but I do have my own personal beliefs and faith that was shaped by my early years in church. Even though I wasn’t as religious as Lucy was growing up, I found myself identifying with some of the teenage questioning of her faith. I liked the way her doubts and confusion regarding certain decisions were portrayed. At times, I did feel like Lucy’s faith felt overly dramatic or built up, but then I had to remind myself that Lucy’s experiences may be another reader’s, even if they weren’t mine. Overall, I really liked the message this book sent.

As for the accomplishing too much…This will sound bad, but there might have been too much diversity and too many issues included. I know, how can I say that when everyone is crying for more diverse books these days? While I applaud Emery Lord for trying to include someone from every walk of life in this book, it felt forced in the time span of a summer. It was overwhelming for both Lucy and me. There just wasn’t enough time to devote to every separate person or issue.

One more thing I need to talk about is the ending of this book. It left me reeling. And crying. Yes, crying. It was perfectly imperfect. I wasn’t exactly happy with it, but I got it. I just needed more. I was disappointed that I didn’t get more. You’ll understand if you read this book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Names They Gave Us. I was immediately immersed in Emery Lord’s writing, and I couldn’t wait to find out how things would turn out for Lucy. I loved Lucy and Jones’ new found relationship, and all the friendships she made. The Names They Gave Us felt relevant and important to today’s teens, even in moments that felt like too much.

Review: The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, GLBT+

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?


I don’t even know where to start reviewing this book. There are so many things to talk about! To me, it was utter perfection. The writing was fantastic, and the characters were perfectly flawed. I loved every moment of it. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one evening, sacrificing much-needed sleep to finish it.

The Upside of Unrequited is told from Molly’s point of view in first person narration and was very easy to relate to. She’s this sweet girl (everyone confirms it) with some extra weight on her frame. That weight defines Molly. It’s hard for it not to when her twin sister, Cassie, and the rest of their friends are thin. Molly feels like she’s always in the background. She’s always the sidekick, never the one the attention is on. Guys don’t like her, they like her friends.

Cassie disagrees with Molly on this point. She thinks Molly needs to abandon her meaningless crushes and put herself out there. When Cassie falls for a new girl, she takes the opportunity to hook Molly up with her girlfriend’s best friend. The opportunity excites Molly — or at least it should. Will’s cute and funny, but Molly can’t keep her mind off her co-worker Reid.

Weight is a tough topic. Everyone has one, but rarely does anyone seem happy with theirs. I’ve been fit. I’ve been fat. I’ve been somewhere in between. At all of those stages I felt like Molly did in this book. Feeling uncomfortable with your body and knowing it affects how people see you is tough. Not letting your weight dictate how you feel about yourself and the actions you take is really hard. I think it’s especially tough for a teenager. Becky Albertalli did an amazing job conveying the thoughts and feelings Molly had. They felt truthful and real. I could identify with each and every one of them. I applaud her for the way she wrote this book.

I’ve also felt the way Molly felt about her sister trying to hook her up with Will. I remember my best friend always being in a relationship. She would try to push her boyfriend’s friends at me. It was exciting, but also uncomfortable. No one wants to be forced on a guy (or girl) just because your best friend is dating theirs. It rarely works out and is so awkward. I loved watching Molly try to navigate through the situation and discover that maybe Will wasn’t what would hold her relationship with Cassie together.

Molly’s friendship with Reid made me smile so hard. He wasn’t the super cool guy Will was, but he was cool in his own way. The way he was unapologetic about his likes was awesome. I loved how that was Molly’s favorite thing about him. It was cute how Molly’s attraction to Reid came in bits and pieces.

Another thing that struck me as true was the evolution of Cassie and Molly’s relationship as girlfriends/boyfriends entered the picture. It’s so true that the dynamic of friendships change when one or both of the people are in a relationship. It’s no longer just the friends against the world. You do kind of lose part of your relationship. The way Molly and Cassie thought about this really made me think back to my younger years and how I handled that will all of my friends. I thought this was a great topic to include in the book because this happens to everyone at some point, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it discussed anywhere.

This is really random, but I also totally got the Molly looks like everyone thing. That is so me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told by people they know someone who looks like me. It’s cool, but strange. Once, someone even showed me a picture of their friend. We did look exactly alike and it was creepy.

I know this review has been one big ramble, but I couldn’t help it. I loved The Upside of Unrequited so much. It’s a book I think every teenager (and adult!) should read. It’s filled with so many great moments and topics. It really made me examine some of my thoughts and feelings from the past and present that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t read it.