Review: Long Way Home by Katie McGarry

Long Way Home
Series: Thunder Road, #3
Author: Katie McGarry
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.


Utter devastation. That’s what I’m feeling right now. I am so, so sad the Thunder Road series is over. Done. Caput. No more books. Finishing Long Way Home has given me book hangover.

Long Way Home was just as amazing as the first two books in the Thunder Road series. The plot was brilliant, the characters continued to shine, and it was just so much fun to read. My experience with reading it was a little different from my experience with the first two book because I listened to them. I enjoyed both formats. I do have to admit that I did miss listening to the narrators’ accents, though. They made the first two books exceptionally fun.

Katie McGarry had to up the ante in Long Way Home. We don’t just get one Reign of Terror / Riot plot with this one, we get two. Violet and Chevy face a life changing ordeal together. It faces them to deal with lingering questions they’ve had over the years. Each forced to deal with an issue they have regarding the clubs they’re dealing with. This made Violet and Chevy’s book more stressful than the last two books.

I can’t say I was particularly a fan of Violet in the past couple of books. I felt a dedication to the Reign of Terror like the other characters did. I wanted her to get over her problems with them. Long Way Home had me rethinking my judgement of Violet. I finally understood her point and got it. She was right in a lot of ways I didn’t realize. I loved how Violet stood her ground and didn’t back down based on tradition.

Chevy was as lovable as I knew he would be. He had a happy-go-lucky feeling to him. I enjoyed getting to know him better. I loved the realizations he came to in this book. He really matured from a teenager to a young man during Long Way Home.

Violet and Chevy’s relationship had a special magic to it. They were childhood best friend, practically siblings, who grew to love each other. I hurt for them when they weren’t together, and knew how tough their decisions to be apart and together were. Their love was cemented down deep, and I couldn’t imagine them not ending up together.

As for the other series characters, don’t worry, they make appearances. There were some great moments between both Violet and Eli. I especially liked the touching moments between Violet and her mom and Eli and his mom and Cyrus.

The only slight frustration I had with Long Way Home was some unanswered questions that lingered after finishing it. I had some confusion surrounding Issac’s mother in relation to his father. I didn’t how she ended up somewhere based on his job. It didn’t add up to me. Also, who was the new prospect mentioned toward the end that was mentioned with Addison? I really needed the fourth book we didn’t get to make things clearer for me. Dang Harlequin Teen for keeping it from me! 😉

Long Way Home was everything I expected it to be. It reunited Violet and Chevy in the best way possible. It was a fitting ending for the series, even if I wanted more. I guess the sadness of losing this series will motivate me to read the rest of McGarry’s books (I didn’t really need motivation. Her writing speaks for itself.).

Review: Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry

Walk the Edge
Series: Thunder Road, #2
Author: Katie McGarry
Narrators: Callie Dalton, Andre Eiden
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Audio
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

One moment of recklessness will change their worlds.

Smart. Responsible. That’s seventeen-year-old Breanna’s role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyber-bully’s line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas “Razor” Turner into her life.

Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don’t belong. But when he learns she’s being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it’s time to step outside the rules.

And so they make a pact: he’ll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she’ll help him seek answers to the mystery that’s haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they’re both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they’re going from here.


Last month, I listened to Katie McGarry’s Nowhere But Here. It was my first book by McGarry, and I fell in love with her writing. I couldn’t wait to continue with the Thunder Road series. Walk the Edge was just as amazing as Nowhere But Here. Everything about it was incredible.

I loved the plot of Walk the Edge! It had a similar feel to Nowhere But Here, but was completely different.  Both books are about bonds and trust between family members and friends. They’re also about the characters finding their own truths, and learning to live with what they have discovered. Oh, and falling in love. What sets each book apart is the characters and their situations. The blackmailing plot and the mystery of Razor’s mother’s death were addicting!

Razor and Breanna were extremely lovable. Razor was a young man on the edge. The mystery of his mother’s death had left a piece of him missing. He never felt like he was truly happy until he met Breanna. Breanna was the insanely smart girl who everyone knew of but few really knew. She was one of nine kids and was completely lost in the middle. The last person Breanna ever thought she would find a connection with was Razor.

Razor and Breanna seemed like an unlikely pair, but I immediately felt their connection. I loved how they became their true selves with each. There was a sweetness between them that I loved.

Just like the first book, I also fell in love (or more in love) with the rest of the characters. I grew to love the Reign of Terror family even more. I loved Razor’s relationships with Violet, Oz, Chevy, and Rebecca. Breanna’s family was harder to love. I mostly loved the younger kids, but I appreciated the roles of her older siblings and parents for what they brought to the book.

Walk the Edge was such a great book. I can’t even properly write about how much I enjoyed listening to it. The writing was amazing and addictive. I adored the characters and their story. The narrators were fantastic. I could go on and on. I can’t recommend this book and the Thunder Road series enough. I am not so patiently waiting for my library hold to come through on the third book. I can’t wait to continue the series.

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women. About the highest stakes a family can face and the bonds that can tear a community apart, this is a novel as spectacular and powerful as Alaska itself. It is the finest example of Kristin Hannah’s ability to weave together the deeply personal with the universal.


The Great Alone was wonderfully written and captivating book. The Alaskan setting was both beautiful and brutal. Leni was a fantastic narrator. She, along with her parents and the other characters, were well-developed and had important stories to tell. Everything about The Great Alone was pretty much perfect — except that it was torturous to read at times.

There were just so many tragic moments. It hurt to read about Leni’s life. There was just so much heartbreak. I had to take little breaks to get through much of it. I never felt like I could relax and just enjoy it.

In a way, that’s a compliment to Kristin Hannah’s writing. She really did touch my heart with The Great Alone. She depicted a life that was tough, but never let me give up hope for a brighter tomorrow for Leni. Even though The Great Alone wasn’t a comfortable read, it was a great one. It shared an important story in a fascinating landscape.

Review: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List
Author: Kasie West
Publication Date: December 26, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.


Kasie West is one of my go-to YA contemporary romance authors. I love her writing. It’s cute, heartwarming, and addictive. I’m always excited to start one of her books because I know I’m in for a fun time. That’s exactly how I felt when starting Love, Life, and the List, and that’s exactly what I got.

Love, Life, and the List is all about friendship, love, and growing up. It’s about letting go of the things that hold you back and discovering who you really are. Abby had to do a lot of that in this book. She had to navigate an unrequited crush on her best friend. She had to deal with disappointment and learning how to express her emotions.

I loved how the Heart List helped Abby open herself up to new experiences and find who she was. I also loved that it helped her identify unhealthy relationships she had, and helped her stand up for herself.

The biggest one of those was with Cooper. Cooper wasn’t a character I liked. That was because I adored Abby and saw how destructive their relationship was. Yes, there were the cute times they shared. And, yes, I could see what Abby saw in him. I just didn’t like how he treated her. It wasn’t that he didn’t do nice things for her or treated her horribly. It was because he led her on. I know he wasn’t exactly trying to, but he took advantage of her love for him.

I do have to admit that I liked that Cooper didn’t hold Abby back on the love front. He pushed her to date other guys. I loved that he tried to set her up with Elliot. Elliot was an amazing guy, and I loved what he had in common with Abby. They were cute together.

Love, Life, and the List was almost perfect. Almost. The one thing that drove me nuts was the ending. I can’t say why, but I will say that it didn’t jive with what I wanted for Abby. It didn’t feel like it completely fit in my opinion. The end wasn’t my favorite outcome, but I do have to admit it was still cute.

Overall, I adored this book. It was cute, fun, addicting — all the things I mentioned before. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t want to. I am so excited that this is the first in a series of three crossovers. I can’t wait to see who shows up in those books!

Review: Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Foolish Hearts
Author: Emma Mills
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.


So. Stinking. Cute.

Really. That’s all I need to say. I’m not joking.

But I know you’re here for an actual review, so I’ll go ahead and write one.

Foolish Hearts is the story of an average girl navigating friendship, love, and family relationships. Claudia is that average girl. She doesn’t see herself as anything special — but of course she is. (Just like we all are.) Claudia has her best friend, but doesn’t feel the need to really have any other close friends even though she doesn’t go to school with Zoe. She also doesn’t have any desire to fall in love again. Claudia learned how easy it was to have her heart-broken. Claudia’s happy flying under the radar.

Life isn’t that simple, though. When Claudia witnesses a major breakup at school, it has a ripple effect that lands her working on the school play. Suddenly, people are noticing her. She’s being forced to make new friends and there’s this guy who might be into her. All of this makes Claudia uncomfortable, but also teaches her a lot.

Like I said before, Foolish Hearts was so stinking cute. I adored Claudia. I felt a lot like her when I was in high school oh so many years ago. I could relate to feeling average and then shocked when people liked me. I think so many of us feel this way in life, whether it’s in high school or as adults. I loved how much Claudia learned about life and herself throughout the story. It felt so true to real life.

If I adored Claudia, I don’t know how to describe how I felt about Gideon. If you follow my blog or Twitter, you’ll know one of my most favorite characters EVER is Frank Sanger (This Adventure Ends by Mills). My love for Gideon isn’t quite on the Frank Sanger level, but it’s pretty darn close. Gideon was an amazing friend. He put others first, and it did it in a way that was fun and interesting. I couldn’t get enough of his dialog. The things he said. Oh, Emma Mills, you make me smile so much!

I can’t leave out the rest of the characters. They were all awesome. Emma Mills has a way of making a cast of characters as important as the main characters without having them takeover the story. I loved the whole Iris and Paige thing, but especially Iris. That girl was a gem in this story. Same with Noah. He just added that extra something special. And I can’t leave out Claudia’s family — such great storylines! I love that family is actually a big focus in Mills’ books. They’re so often MIA in YA books.

Another thing I must touch on is the drama aspect of Foolish Hearts. Not drama as in what goes down, but drama as in a play. I’ve read books before with a theatrical theme, and they’re not normally my favorite. I loved the way the whole play thing was done in this book! It was fun. It worked well with the story and the characters. I was surprised by how much I loved it! I’m so happy Claudia was the Shakespeare Whisperer.

Obviously, Foolish Hearts gets a standing ovation from me. It was just so stinking cute and amazing and everything I ever want in a YA contemporary. If you haven’t read it yet, you must. If you haven’t read anything yet by Emma Mills, you must go and devour all of her books. They’re simply all so good.

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’
Author: Julie Murphy
Narrator: Eileen Stevens
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean 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 Teen Blue Bonnet 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.


Hmm…This is going to be a tough review to write. Get ready for a long one.

Dumplin’ started out strongly. I loved Willowdean and her declarations about weight. I imagine anyone who has ever been overweight or self-conscious can relate to many of her thoughts and feelings. But…there were so many things that bothered me.

Willowdean’s negativity about herself and others got to me quickly. Her thoughts made me uncomfortable. Listening to them was rough. Mostly, I hated how she thought about and treated people.

I hated how she discounted Mitch and his feelings. Mitch was a nice guy. He didn’t deserve to be led on by Willowdean. She used him for his companionship, and I think she generally liked him, but she let him think they were more than they were. That made me sad. I don’t get why she didn’t feel a spark for him. I felt like there was a spark between them.

I hated how Willowdean thought about all of her new friends. She looked down on them. I didn’t get why she thought she was so much better than them. They were there for her when she was friendless and supported her. I was happy she learned what great people they were, but her thoughts were hurtful and upset me.

I hated Willowdean and Bo. There were some sweet moments between them, and they were a good couple. I just didn’t like how she thought of herself in relation to Bo. I didn’t understand her embarrassment of being seen with him. I get not liking to be the center of attention, but I figured she was be elated to be seen with someone who was so good-looking. (I only say that due to her low self-confidence and how she talked.) It was like being with Bo made her feel bad about herself, and that’s not healthy. Mitch didn’t have that same effect on her.

Last, I hated the way Willowdean handled everything with Ellen. I completely understood it because I’ve felt the way Willowdean felt at times in my life, but I feel like she should have apologized a whole heck of a lot sooner. Friendship is worth more than how she treated it.

This has been really negative so far, so let me tell you some of the things I loved.

I loved Willowdean’s new friends. They were all good people. They added so much to this story.

I loved Willowdean’s rocky relationship with her mom. I could relate to both Willowdean and her mother. You always want what’s best for your kids — want more for them than you had yourself.

I loved Mitch and all of his wisdom. He was a great human being who deserved more.

I loved Bo’s step-mom. She was a little kooky, but sweet.

I loved the performers and bouncer from the gay bar. Oh, and I can’t leave out Dolly. I loved all the Dolly Parton stuff.

I loved the narrator and the way she voiced Willowdean.

I loved how Elle and Willowdean worked out their friendship.

I loved how everything worked out with the pageant and her mom.

Most of all, I loved the many times Julie Murphy gave incredible thoughts and insight.

Despite all of these great things, reading Dumplin’ made me kind of miserable. Maybe it would have been better to read than listen to it. I don’t know. I felt consumed by Willowdean’s negativity and that was just so hard. I don’t know what else to say about this book. I think it will probably resonate differently for each person who reads it.

Review: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Once and For All
Author: Sarah Dessen
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Listening Library
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

From Sarah Dessen, the beloved New York Times bestselling author of SAINT ANYTHING and JUST LISTEN, comes a new novel set in the world of wedding planning!

Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happy-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.

Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily ever after.


Wedding related romances have been all the rage lately. I’ve read books about wedding planners, bakers, photographers, etc. finding love a lot in the past year. They’re all different, but so similar. Each was focused on falling in love. That wasn’t what Once and For All was about. It was about more. That was surprisingly different — and in a great way.

Once and For All was a story about love, but also a story about dealing with the loss of love. Louna is the wedding planner’s daughter. She’s worked at weddings for as long as she can remember, but this year being surrounded by love isn’t easy. After losing her first love, Ethan, Louna has lost her faith in that forever sort of love. Louna doesn’t believe she will ever find a love as perfect as the love she had with Ethan.

Unfortunately (or fortunately!) for Louna, the newest employee of her mother’s business isn’t about to let her abandon love forever. Ambrose is annoyingly in love with the feeling of falling in love. He’s determined to prove to Louna that one bad breakup isn’t the end, and that there’s another great love out there for her.

I’m happy I listened to Once and For All. Karissa Vacker is an excellent narrator. I loved the way her voice brought Sarah Dessen’s words alive. It felt like a close friend was personally sharing her story with me. Louna was a great main character on her own, but hearing her thoughts through someone’s voice made it feel like she was a close friend personally sharing her complex feelings. All her thoughts and feelings felt that much more real and raw.

Ambrose was an interesting character. I loved the things he taught Louna. For someone I thought was going to be shallow, he really wasn’t. He may not have always made the smart decision, but everything he did was with good intention. Ambrose had more heart than I expected.

My favorite thing about this book was the way that it was written. One and For All alternated between the present and the past. Sarah Dessen shares both Louna and Ambrose’s, and Louna and Ethan’s love stories. There’s a natural progression of both couples’ stories and how one leads to the other. It was done in such a way that made Louna’s beliefs about love completely understandable and so easy to relate to. I was so impressed with how Sarah Dessen described the act of falling in love and all the excitement and emotion that goes with it.

Speaking of  Ethan… I am sad he and Louna didn’t get a longer love story. I loved him for so many reasons. I can see why Louna wasn’t sure there would be another love like his for her. I wish there had been a happily ever after for them, even though I’m happy how the story ended.

Another thing I loved was all the detail included about wedding planning. Some of those details brought back memories of my own wedding. It’s definitely harder planning a wedding than one would think. There are so many little things to organize and keep track of. I can’t imagine being a wedding planner and dealing with people getting married. You would have to be able to tolerate a lot!

With Once and For All Sarah Dessen continues her streak as the Queen of young adult contemporaries. It was a brilliantly written story filled with so much heart. I highly recommend it!