Review: 180 Seconds by Jessica Park

180 Seconds
Author: Jessica Park
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Skyscape
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.


I’ve been sitting here staring at my computer screen for a while now trying to put together this review. It’s been hard because I don’t think I can adequately write about how 180 Seconds made me feel. Just thinking about this book makes me so emotional.

Jessica Park has been one of my auto-buy authors since I stumbled upon her novel Left Drowning. I’ve read every one of her books because they always manage to touch me in ways I’m not expecting. She has me wanting to know her characters and everything about them from the first sentence, chapter and page. I’m always surprised by what I find, but never by how much I enjoy the journey. And I loved the journey I took in 180 Seconds. There was so much raw emotion in it. I couldn’t help being swallowed up by all of the feelings. So many things touched me deeply. I tried to hold back tears so many times unsuccessfully. 180 Seconds made me feel more than a book has made me feel in a long time.

Allison was such a vulnerable character. Everything about her life had been and was hard. She wasn’t your typical college student. She craved privacy and anonymity. Allison was afraid to let people in. That made being pulled into a social experiment with the famous Ebsen Baylor all the more nerve-wracking. Spending 180 seconds with him did something to her, something big. It was exciting and stressful to be in her mind.

Ebsen’s point of view wasn’t included in this book, but I didn’t need it. His character was so open that his thoughts and feelings came across well. I loved his part in Allison’s awakening. Their connection was so raw. I could feel it. He was an exceptionally amazing guy, and learning what experiences made him who he was made me believe Ebsen could actually be as amazing as he was.

All of the secondary characters in this book were incredibly important to the story. I adored them all, and I would love to read future books about their stories. I do have to rave about one particular character, though: Steffi. Steffi was Allison’s best friend. She was a tough cookie and the only person Allison could rely on for a long time. I loved how they got each other as only best friends can. The way Steffi pushed Allison out of her comfort zone was very special. Their friendship was truly touching.

One of my favorite things about 180 Seconds was how it portrayed social media. It showed the good and bad of being so connected in this day and age. It also showed how easy it is to be happy about the positive recognition received and how hard it is to deal with the negative.

This is where I’m going to stop my review. I know I haven’t told you much about the story itself, but I don’t want to give anything away. 180 Seconds was such a beautifully written journey. It’s one that should be experienced for yourself. What I will say is that I absolutely adored this book. I didn’t put it down once I started it. I couldn’t. It was just too special to take a break from. 180 Seconds is going on the list of books I recommend to friends, and will be one I give often as a gift.

Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?


I’m going to admit something very crazy. I had never read a book by Morgan Matson before Since You’ve Been Gone. I don’t have any good excuses. Since You’ve Been Gone has been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. I’m just happy I finally read it.

Since You’ve Been Gone is a coming of age novel about finding yourself. Emily has lived in her best friend Sloane’s shadow for the past two years. That’s been fine with Emily. She was more than happy to be the sidekick. But when Sloane suddenly disappears at the beginning of summer break, Emily’s distraught. Not only is she concerned about and missing Sloane, she’s suddenly all alone. The only thing Emily has left of Sloane is a random and scandalous list of things Sloane wants her to do. As Emily begins to work on completing the list, she find herself making friends with a guy from school, Frank Porter. Frank surprisingly offers to help Emily complete her list. As the summer goes on, Emily discovers more about herself and the world around her.

My love for Since You’ve Been Gone wasn’t immediate. To be honest, Emily really annoyed me at the beginning of the book. Her continued whining over Sloane and her absence drove me nuts. I know it was because I hadn’t gotten to know her before Sloane’s disappearance, but it grated on me for a bit. It wasn’t until she started working on the list and all of the supporting characters started showing up that I started to fall in love with the story.

Once I got past the beginning, I absolutely loved Since You’ve Been Gone. I was surprised to see a lot of my younger self in Emily. I, too, had a friend whose shadow I was content to live under in my school days. I empathized with Emily’s discomfort when she had to figure out how to be without Sloane, and make new friends. I can remember going through that and how tough it was. But, just like Emily, once I had been through it I was a stronger me. I loved the way Morgan Matson portrayed Emily’s growth as a person throughout this story.

Another thing I loved about this story were the other characters. Every one of them was so vivid and entertaining. I loved Collins and his absurdity. Frank was my favorite, though. His friendship with Emily was really sweet. He was a stand up guy. I loved their running program and the playlists they shared.

Since You’ve Been Gone may not have started strong, but it definitely ended that way. It had a great message and was beautifully written. It’s a book that I would highly recommend to teenagers (and adults!). I loved it.

Review: Love Story by Lauren Layne

Love Story
Series: Love Unexpectedly, #3
Author: Lauren Layne
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Over the course of one wild road trip, feuding childhood sweethearts get a second chance at love in this charming rom-com—a standalone novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Blurred Lines and Good Girl.

When Lucy Hawkins receives a job offer in San Francisco, she can’t wait to spread her wings and leave her small Virginia hometown behind. Her close-knit family supports her as best they can, by handing over the keys to a station wagon that’s seen better days. The catch? The cross-country trip comes with a traveling companion: her older brother’s best friend, aka the guy who took Lucy’s virginity hours before breaking her heart.

After spending the past four years and every last dime caring for his sick father, Reece Sullivan will do just about anything to break free of the painful memories—even if it means a two-week road trip with the one girl who’s ever made it past his carefully guarded exterior. But after long days of bickering in the car turn into steamy nights in secluded motel rooms, Reece learns that, when it comes to Lucy, their story is far from over. And this time, they just might have a shot at a happy ending.


Lauren Layne is one of my go-to contemporary authors. Her romances are always filled with fun characters and sweet romances. Love Story was filled with both of those things. It also included two of my favorite relationship tropes: falling for the older brother’s best friend and a second chance romance.

In Love Story, Lucy is forced on a cross-country road trip with her brother’s best friend, Reese. Reese isn’t just her brother’s friend, though. He’s also Lucy’s ex and the last person she wants to spend two weeks in a car with. Reese isn’t exactly pleased to be stuck with Lucy either. Their failed romance didn’t just scar Lucy, it tore Reese apart, too. Two weeks on the road together will either mend their broken hearts or kill them both.

Love Story was written in first person dual point of view. I loved this because it gave me a glimpse at both Lucy and Reese’s true feelings about being around each other. I also loved the little memories of the past Layne included. They shed light on what really happened between the two back in high school. This love story wasn’t as simple as I was expecting. There were so many little revelations along Lucy and Reese’s journey. Some I saw coming, but many surprised me.

One of the thing that surprised me was that it took me a long time to warm up to Reese. He was pretty hard-headed. I could understand where he was coming from, but it was hard to empathize with his anger. He created the situation they were in, so I didn’t feel as bad for him as I did for Lucy. Reese had so many hang ups.

Lucy I could completely identify with. She had every reason to be angry with Reese. He broke her heart in the meanest of ways. I could understand and empathize with every feelings and thought she had. Personally, I thought Reese was lucky Lucy had an unconditional love for him that she couldn’t let go of. Lucy was a catch — even when she was being a bit of a witch.

The only thing that bugged me a bit about Love Story was that pretty much the entire book was filled with angst. The love-hate thing between Lucy and Reese was fun, but it went on entirely too long for my taste. I liked the sexual tension it built, but I got a little tired of the dramatics. I wanted their hot nights together to last longer than their hatred of each other.

I did love the climax of the story, though. It was pretty perfect. The way Lucy and Reese resolved their problems was so much fun. And that ending! It totally made me swoon.

Love Story wasn’t my favorite Lauren Layne novel, but it was still a ton of fun. There was some great witty dialog, a believable romance and a swoon worthy happily ever after. Contemporary romance fans will enjoy this second chance romance.

Review: Read Between the Lines by Jill Breugem

Read Between the Line
Author: Jill Breugem
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Small town girl Sadie continues to live in the city after finishing university. She finds work as a journalist which ultimately leads to her real passion of writing romance novels. Sadie becomes an accomplished author of many New York Times best sellers. At the beginning of her success she is picked up by Levi, a literary agent to represent her. They become close friends and business associates over the years. What happens when Sadie writes her latest novel about the love she has for him? Will she publish it at the risk of losing him as an agent and best friend?


Read Between the Lines is a friends/co-workers to lovers story. Sadie, a bestselling author, has just realized she’s in love with one of her closest friends. Levi isn’t just a friend, though; he’s also her literary agent. And he has a girlfriend. Sadie and Levi have had a crush on each other for years, but the timing has never been right. One of them is always in a relationship when the other’s not. Saddened by the inability to act of her feelings, Sadie resorts to writing a romance novel about her relationship with Levi. Sadie’s not sure what she’ll do with it when she’s done. She can’t chance losing him. Sadie can only hope that Levi still has feelings for her.

Sadie and Levi’s story was fun to read. They had such a great friendship. It was easy to tell they had greater feelings for each other, but they did a good job of keeping things platonic. I especially loved the tension Levi’s girlfriend Barbara created. It was the perfect love triangle. There was a clear winner in my head, and I didn’t feel bad hoping Barbara would be out of the picture soon. Levi and Sadie were just so perfect for each other.  They had so much fun together.

I would have loved to have rated Read Between the Lines higher than 3.5 stars based on how much I liked the story, but I just couldn’t get past one thing. It was written in third person point of view with multiple narrators. While that itself wasn’t a problem, the absence of marked transitions between narrators was. One minute the story would be in Sadie’s perspective, and then all of sudden it would switch to Levi’s. Those transitions were a little hard to follow. It always took me a minute to figure out whose head I was in. It would have been more enjoyable to read had the different perspectives been divided into different marked chapters, or simply marked within the chapter.

Overall, Read Between the Lines was a solid début novel. I truly enjoyed the friends to lovers story. It was filled with fun characters and a believable romance. The writing was good and showed a lot of potential for growth. I imagine with each book Ms. Breugem writes, it will become better and better. Read Between the Lines is a novel contemporary romance fans will enjoy.

Review: The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

The Last Thing You Said
Author: Sara Biren
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.


The Last Thing You Said is a coming of novel about two young people dealing with the grief of losing someone close to them. Lucy’s life changed the moment she lost her best friend, Trixie. She no longer has the brave best friend by her side to give her courage. Not only did she lose Trixie, though. She also lost Trixie’s brother, Ben.

Ben can’t forgive himself for what he couldn’t do the day Trixie died. His grief has caused him to push away the people he loved the most. One of those people is his sister’s best friend, Lucy. He can’t stop thinking about Lucy, but he knows there’s nothing he can do to make up for the way he’s acted.

After a year of carefully avoiding each other, Ben and Trixie are forced to see each other at their summer jobs. Despite the pain of the past year, neither can stop thinking about what could have been.

The Last Thing You Said broke my heart over and over again. It did it slowly, throughout the entire book. The pain each character felt crushed me and made me yearn for better times for Lucy and Ben. Their pain was so raw. I wanted to lock them in a room and force them to talk to each other.

Ben was a tough character to like. I wanted to give him a good shake! The way he treated Lucy and everyone around him was frustrating. I hated how he became dependent on alcohol to numb his pain. His way of coping hurt more than it helped, and it was painful to read. I wanted him to dig himself out of the hole he was creating.

I loved Lucy, but she made me so sad. I remember what it was like to have my heart-broken and I empathized with her pain. She knew the way he treated her was horrible and she shouldn’t want to be with him anymore, but she couldn’t stop her feelings for him. It was painful to feel her discomfort every time she saw Ben. I liked that Lucy tried hard to move on, even if the way she did it wasn’t the best.

No matter how painful The Last Thing You Said was to read at times, I still loved it. Ben frustrated the heck out of me and Lucy made me want to cry, but I couldn’t put the book down. I loved it. It was so beautifully written and filled with emotion. Even when I hated something a character was doing, I loved them. I wanted to see them overcome their problems and be happy.

I can’t believe this is Sara Biren’s debut novel. Reading The Last Thing You Said felt like reading a book from a seasoned author. It felt so real and raw. I’m incredibly excited to see what comes next from her.

Review: Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen

Goodbye Paradise
Series: Hello Goodbye, #1
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: March 21, 2015 (previously published as In Front of God and Everyone in 2015)
Publisher: Sarina Bowen
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh and Caleb called it home.

In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.

Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?

Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and love against the kitchen counter. This book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone.


I had no idea Sarina Bowen had published a M/M romance series under another name. I am so happy she decided to rerelease Goodbye Paradise because I probably never would have found out about these books without her doing it. That would have been a travesty because I love Sarina Bowen’s writing, and Goodbye Paradise was outstanding.

Goodbye Paradise captured my heart from the very beginning. I was immediately pulled in by Josh and Caleb’s thoughts and experiences in the Paradise cult. I also enjoyed experiencing all their new experiences through their eyes once they left the cult. Their world was fascinating to me. I was so impressed with the settings and characters Sarina Bowen created in this book.

Both Josh and Caleb were amazing characters. Caleb was a protector with Josh’s best interests at heart. He knew what he wanted and went for it, but he did so in such a sweet and controlled manner. I loved his inner strength and confidence. I absolutely adored Josh. I have to admit that he was my favorite. He may not have had the strength that Caleb had, but his soul was beautiful. Josh radiated kindness. His thoughts of inadequacy and his internal struggles with what was right and wrong were easy to connect to. There was so much depth to his journey.

Caleb and Josh’s romance wasn’t an easy one. Coming from the cult, they both had different ideas of how their lives together should progress. They not only had to navigate through concerns of what others would think of their relationship, but they had to discover and experiment to learn what type of physical relationship worked for them. The love and understanding between the two of them was very sweet.

Another amazing thing about Goodbye Paradise were its side characters. Everyone Caleb and Josh met along the way was special and contributed to their journey. I especially loved Daniel, Maggie and Chloe. Their support of the boys was heartwarming. I loved the family they made.

Goodbye Paradise has taken a special place in my heart — right behind Him and Us. I loved every minute of Caleb and Josh’s journey to freedom and love. Their story was such a special one, and M/M romance fans are not going to want to miss out on it. I also can’t forget to mention that fans of the True North series are going to love the little mentions here and there about some of their favorite people. 😉 I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon: http://geni.us/GPamazon
iBooks: soon
B&N: http://geni.us/GPnook
Kobo: http://geni.us/GPkobo
Google: http://geni.us/GPgoogle

COMING SOON:

Hello Forever
Hello Goodbye, Book 2

Review: Irresistible in Love by Bella Andre & Jennifer Skully

Irresistible in Love
Series: The Maverick Billionaires, #4
Authors: Bella Andre, Jennifer Skully
Publication Date: March 8, 2017
Publisher: Oak Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the authors in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Evan Collins is the man with the Midas touch. Having left his hard childhood behind him, the tech genius vowed to one day have everything. But when he discovers that his marriage is built on lies, the only people he can trust now are the Mavericks–and the woman who has always been there for him: Paige, the sister of his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Paige Ryan has always loved Evan Collins, a secret she’s hugged close to her heart for nine long years. But when her sister’s devastating betrayal is revealed, Paige can’t keep her feelings hidden any longer.

Paige is a beacon of light for Evan. Despite believing he needs to keep the walls around his heart stronger than ever, he’s irresistibly drawn to her sweet, pure heart–and the undeniable sparks flaring between them. She’s the only one he trusts to help him face the darkness of his past head-on before it destroys him. But will their forbidden romance end up destroying them both?

IRRESISTIBLE IN LOVE is an exciting and emotional contemporary romance from New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors Bella Andre and Jennifer Skully! The Maverick Billionaires are sexy, self-made men from the wrong side of town who survived hell together and now have everything they ever wanted. But when each Maverick falls head-over-heels for an incredible woman he never saw coming, he will soon find that true love is the only thing he ever really needed…


Irresistible in Love is hands down my favorite book in The Maverick Billionaires series yet! I’ve been waiting since the series began for Evan’s story, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Mavericks haven’t understood why their brother Evan has stayed with his witch of a wife Whitney for years. He’s stood by her in sickness and in health, but she’s never made an effort to be part of their family. So when Evan suddenly tells everyone he’s get a divorce, they’re happy but shocked. No one is as shocked as Whitney’s sister and Evan’s friend, Paige.

Paige has harbored a crush on Evan for years. Now that Evan’s finally going to be single, Paige knows this is her chance at love with Evan. Evan isn’t so sure, though. Paige is his friend and sister-in-law. There has to be something wrong with the attraction he feels towards Paige.

Bella Andre and Jennifer Skully have this billionaire love story thing down. I would never be able to tell their novels are collaborations without both of their names being on the cover. Their writing together is seamless. Third person dual points of view isn’t always my favorite to read, but theirs is always so well done that I always enjoy the story and perspectives.

Getting the story behind Evan’s marriage to Whitney and friendship with Paige was so fulfilling. I finally learned all of the secrets I’ve been impatient to know since the beginning of the series. I also loved learning about Evan’s past. Evan was such a great guy. He may have been rich, but his past kept him grounded in reality. Paige and her insecurities were very easy to relate to. She was a normal woman trying to compete with a bombshell sister. I liked that Paige didn’t want to waste any more time and went for what she wanted. Evan and Paige were definitely made for each other. There was such a sweetness to their relationship.

The forbidden aspect of this story isn’t one of my favorite relationship tropes. I’m not a big fan of guys or girls falling for their ex’s sister or brother. There’s kind of an “ew” factor for me. I can’t imagine hooking up with someone my sister has. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. That being said, it didn’t bother me too much in this story. I think it’s because I completely detested Whitney and loved Paige for three books prior to this one. I could see this relationship coming, so I was prepared for it. Plus, I loved that Whitney finally got what she deserved.

Fans of The Maverick Billionaires series are going to love Irresistible in Love. They’re going to be so satisfied with Evan and Paige’s story. I was, and now I’m looking forward to the next book. I want Daniel’s story!