Mini Reviews: Briarwood Academy series by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Today, I’m reviewing an entire New Adult series:

Briarwood Academy
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

Publisher: Little Dove Publishing


Very Bad Things
Book #1

Publication Date: September 7, 2013

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Born into a life of privilege and secrets, Nora Blakely has everything any nineteen-year-old girl could desire. She’s an accomplished pianist, a Texas beauty queen, and on her way to Princeton after high school. She’s perfect…

Leaving behind her million-dollar mansion and Jimmy Choos, she becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex.

Then she meets her soulmate. But he doesn’t want her.

When it comes to girls, twenty-five-year-old Leo Tate has one rule: never fall in love. His gym and his brother are all he cares about…until he meets Nora. He resists the pull of their attraction, hung up on their six year age difference.

As they struggle to stay away from each other, secrets will be revealed, tempers will flare, and hearts will be broken.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy…where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Bad Things.


For a debut new adult romance, Very Bad Things was very good. It had everything I would expect a book in this sub genre to have. It was filled with romantic angst. I could feel the deep connection between Leo and Nora. Their chemistry vibrated off the pages. The only thing that I wasn’t sure if I liked or not was Nora’s brother Finn’s storyline. It made me a little sick. This book has been out for a while, so I’m going to add a

**SPOILER / TRIGGER WARNING RIGHT HERE**

There is talk of incest in this book. If you can’t handle it, you may want to avoid reading it.

**END SPOILER / TRIGGER WARNING**

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Nora, Leo, and Leo’s brother Sebastian. It’s made me excited to read more of the story.


Very Wicked Beginnings
Book #1.5
Publication Date: May 11, 2014

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

A ballerina from the wrong side of town…
The wealthy football star who can’t forget her…

Meet Cuba Hudson, the heartbreaker of Briarwood Academy:

I’m the tattooed bad boy girls think they can change.
I have it all: a football career, a stellar GPA, and a family that owns half of Dallas, Texas. Everyone wants to be me, but all I want is to forget…

Then she shows up.

Dovey Beckham arrives at Briarwood Academy and looks right through me, unconcerned that I rule the school. I wasn’t part of her precious plan, and it drove me insane…so I made it my mission to claim her, to put her notch on my bedpost.

She would be mine and her heart would be broken.

I didn’t plan on falling for her, and I sure as hell didn’t plan on losing her…

Welcome to Briarwood Academy…where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Wicked Beginnings.


Very Wicked Beginnings made me want more of Cuba and Dovey’s story. I liked everything I learned about them in the book. I also like seeing Spider. When I read his book, I didn’t realize his character originated in this series.


Very Wicked Things
Book #2
Publication Date: May 10, 2014

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Born on the poor side of town…

Ballerina Dovey Beckham is a scholarship student at Briarwood Academy, determined to prove she’s more than just a girl with the wrong pedigree. She does whatever it takes to succeed in her endgame, even if it means surrendering her body…but never her heart.

Until the day she meets him, and he rips apart all her well-laid plans. Suddenly, the girl everyone thought unbreakable might just shatter.

Born into wealth and privilege…

Cuba “Hollywood” Hudson is rich, spoiled, and a star football player. With his fast cars and superficial girlfriends, he lives the high-life, hiding his secrets from the world.

Until the day he meets her, and she offers him something he’s never tasted…love.

But once in a lifetime kind of love doesn’t come easy. When trust crumbles and doubts creep in, both will have to decide to either love or let go…forever.

Welcome to Briarwood Academy, where sometimes, only the wicked survive.


Very Wicked Things was so angst filled I almost couldn’t handle it. When I started it, I felt like I missed something from the Very Wicked Beginnings. The story didn’t start off where I was expecting. I still liked Cuba and Dovey as a couple, and I loved their back stories. The only thing I didn’t like was one major ARC of the story. I wasn’t into the whole mob thing and the choice Dovey made. It made me sad. Very Wicked Things stressed me out too much!


Very Twisted Things
Book #3
Publication Date: February 27, 2015

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

A sassy violinist who lives next door.
An obsessed rock star who watches her through binoculars.
And one night when she bares it all.
Life will never be the same in Tinseltown.

Vital Rejects front guy Sebastian Tate never imagined his YouTube music video would go viral, sky-rocketing him to acting success in Hollywood. Okay, maybe he did. After all, he’s a cocky dude who knows he’s hot-as-hell, and it was only a matter of time before his stars aligned.

But life in Tinseltown is never what it seems.

After being cheated on by his ex-lover, his only rule to falling in love is simple: Keep Calm and Don’t Do It. So, spying on his mysterious new neighbor with binoculars seems innocent enough, but quickly escalates into an erotic game between two very unlikely people.

Twenty-year-old Violet St. Lyons is a world-renowned violinist who’s lost her mojo on stage. She hides away in a Hollywood mansion, trying to find her way through her twisted past in order to make her future.

He’s the life of the party with girls chasing him down for his autograph. She’s the introvert with a potty mouth who doesn’t even know who he is.

When they meet, stars collide, sparks fly, and clothes come off. Yet, giving his heart to a girl isn’t Sebastian’s plan; falling for a guy who craves attention isn’t Violet’s.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy—Hollywood style—where sometimes the best things in life are VERY TWISTED THINGS.

This book is a standalone even though it’s part of a series. Everything you need to know is in this book. Genre: 18+ Hot New Adult Romance.


Ever since I met boisterous Sebastian in Very Bad Things, I’ve wanted his story. Everything that’s happened from the moment I met him in that first book to the kind of cliffhanger of his ARC in the second book had me wondering who he’d end up with. I liked Violet as his love interest from the moment I met her. Her story started off in a heartbreaking fashion, and I couldn’t wait for Sebastian to fill the hole in her heart. This book was my favorite in the series.

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: Ryan’s Bed by Tijan

Ryan’s Bed
Author: Tijan
Publication Date: January 22, 2018
Genre: (Mature) Young Adult , Contemporary, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

I crawled into Ryan Jensen’s bed that first night by accident.

I barely knew him. I thought it was his sister’s bed—her room. It took seconds to realize my error, and I should’ve left…

I didn’t.
I didn’t jump out.
I didn’t get embarrassed.
I relaxed.
And that night, in that moment, it was the only thing I craved.

I asked to stay. He let me, and I slept.

The truth? I never wanted to leave his bed. If I could’ve stayed forever, I would have.
He became my sanctuary.

Because—four hours earlier—my twin sister killed herself.


WOAH. I cannot stop thinking about this book. I actually had a hard time falling asleep after finishing it I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Ryan’s Bed was an interesting book. It definitely fit the Tijan YA mold. Girl who is deeply scarred from an emotional death/family event. She’s tortured by it, but finds comfort in a guy willing to go the distance for her and protect her at all cost. Mackenzie had a little bit of both Samantha (Fallen Crest High) and Alexandra (Broken and Screwed) in her, but that’s where the similarities end. I couldn’t help comparing her story to theirs, but this one was actually very different.

You see, Mackenzie didn’t just lose a sibling, she lost a twin. She lost what she considered to be half of herself to suicide. It sent her over the edge. Mackenzie no longer felt like herself. Her family no longer felt the same. The destruction in the wake her twin’s death felt catastrophic to her. Mackenzie’s grief and anger made Ryan’s Bed a very dark YA read.

I have to admit I had no idea where the story would go even at half way through. Mackenzie was so messed up mentally that I feared there wouldn’t be a good ending. Everything about it was heartbreaking. The sadness of it all consumed me. I didn’t like feeling the way it made me feel…and then there was a subtle reprieve. Slowly, things started coming together in a way I could see some relief.

And then the end came. I have to say I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t prepared.

Ryan’s Bed isn’t a joy to read, but it’s a very well crafted book. If I’m going to be honest, I probably would have given Ryan’s Bed three stars if it wasn’t for that ending. I couldn’t tell where this book was going for the first several chapters. I didn’t know if I wanted to know where it was going at that time. But the progression to the end was good, and then that damn ending was spectacular. So, four stars it is.

You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about the romance in this novel. Ryan’s Bed has a romance, but it’s not the front and center star of the show. Mackenzie’s journey is, and I think it needs to stay that way. All I will say is that I loved Ryan and his support of her.

I can’t end this review without saying that the Author’s Note at the end was worth reading. It helped me process what I had read, and I loved how Tijan’s thoughts about the beginning of this book reflected how I felt. I applaud her for her courage in writing this book.

TIJAN’S ULTIMATE RYAN’S BED GIVEAWAY:

https://tinyurl.com/ryansbedgiveaway

CONNECT WITH TIJAN
 
 
BUY LINKS:
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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: My Enemy Next Door by Whitney G. & Nicole London

My Enemy Next Door
Authors: Whitney G., Nicole London
Publication Date: January 11, 2018
Publisher: Nicole London & Whitney G.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

We used to be close.
We used to be best friends.
Until we became enemies all over again…

Courtney Ryan ruined our on and off again friendship with one swipe of her sexy, red pen. After the final rude message she wrote in my yearbook, I decided that we didn’t need to see each other anymore. (But if we ever did, I would show her exactly why I had every reason to be “cocky,” and make her admit that I really *was* “that damn sexy.”)

Now that it’s ten years later, I’ve graduated from law school at the top of my class, and I’m being recruited to work at the number one law firm in New York City.

Since I’m in desperate need of a change and want to meet new people, I don’t hesitate to accept the offer.

Until I find out that Courtney Ryan graduated from law school, too.
Until I realize that she’ll be working at the same exact firm, in the office right across from me.

And if this timing isn’t unfortunate enough, she’s far more tempting and sexier than I originally remembered.
(Oh, and last night I found out that she lives right next door…)

We don’t have to be close.
We don’t have to be best friends.
But she’s going to pay me back for making us enemies all over again…


My Enemy Next Door is a romance I liked, but I could have loved. It was the story of  former high school best friends and lovers whose romance ends horribly. They get a second chance at love as adults when the enemies end up working together.

I loved the second chance and enemies to lovers tropes in this book. Courtney and Jace’s high school romance was sweet. They were opposites who connected in a fun, cool way. Even their demise (when revealed) was cool — and relevant to today’s society. I also loved their stint as enemies. Their high jinks cracked me up.

So, what kept me from loving My Enemy Next Door? It was the combination of a couple of things. First, it started out a little roughly. It wasn’t the actual story, but the characters that I wasn’t sure of. Every single one of them came across in an argumentative way. Their words were so brisk and unkind. The only one who seemed nice was Jace, and he was supposed to be the bad boy. It was uncomfortable to read all the negativity. That got better as the story went on, but it left a mark on the story for me. The other big thing that stood out was the ending. The book was short, and I think there should have been more meat to it, but that’s not what I’m complaining about. The ending was just so abrupt. It was done in a cute, but kind of impersonal way. I needed a stronger conclusion.

Overall, My Enemy Next Door was a cute enemies to lovers / second chance romance. It was fun to read, and had some really great parts. It just needed a couple of tweaks, in my opinion.

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!

Review: Spider by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Spider
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Publication Date: November 13, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

He’s a British rock star.
And my stepbrother.
What can go wrong?

He called himself Spider. I just knew him as the sinfully gorgeous guy with eyes of fire that fate sat next to me on the airplane. I didn’t know who he really was…rock star…my stepbrother.

He kissed me because he thought we’d never see each other again. We would.

Everyone warned me about him.
They said he was ruthless and cold and screwed up.
They said he’d leave me with a hole in my heart.

Maybe I should have listened.
Maybe I should have built up a fortress to keep him out.
But I crumbled instead.

Some have said there’s an unbreakable thread that connects those who are destined to meet. If that’s true, then the moment he sat next to me, we were bound together forever.

He just had to figure it out before it’s too late…


I almost didn’t read Spider. I saw “step-brother” in the blurb, and was like no thank you. Then, I reconsidered. I love Ilsa Madden-Mills’ writing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to miss out on one of her books. When I realized Spider was part of the KU program, I went ahead and downloaded it.

I have some mixed feelings about Spider. I liked it for the most part. The whole step-brother thing wasn’t an issue for me. Rose and Spider are newly acquainted step-siblings. They didn’t grow up together. Their attraction preceded their knowledge of their new familial status. I liked their connection and most of the scenarios they ended up in.

My biggest problem was Rose’s age at the beginning. She was only seventeen, not quite an adult. Spider didn’t know this at first, but once he did I felt a little uncomfortable with his attraction to Rose. He wasn’t that much older, but it still kind of bugged me. Luckily, not all of the story was in this age gap.

Another thing I had issues with was Trenton. I’m not going to say what went down, but I was a little disappointed in Rose. It was all resolved well, but still. She was too good of a person for it.

Despite this all sounding negative, I did enjoy reading Spider. The story kept my attention, and I loved the ending. I just wish those couple of things didn’t bug me so much.

Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King
Series: The Raven Cycle, #4
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


I bought The Raven King when it was originally released. Several factors kept me from immediately picking it up and reading it like I wanted to. One of those factors was that I wasn’t quite ready to be done with The Raven Cycle. Blue, Gansey, Adam, Noah, and Ronan are some of my most cherished characters. I didn’t want to say goodbye yet. It took me over a year to pick it up. I’m happy I finally devoted the time to say farewell to the gang.

I really enjoyed The Raven King. The story from the previous books was continued, but everything still felt fresh. There were new discoveries to be made, and so many “ah ha” moments to enjoy. The complexity of it all was a little overwhelming at times. I had to take my time reading to really examine what each revelation meant to the story.

While I loved the journey The Raven King took me on, there were some things that struck me as strange and left me wanting more explanation. Blue’s father is the first one. The whole tree thing was just plain weird and I didn’t get what it meant for Blue. The second one was Piper, Henry’s mom, and Mr. Gray. Their last scene together left everything feeling really up in the air. The big ones, though, were Glendower and the Gansey-Blue kiss. Those two things left me wanting more.

Despite feeling a bit confused and possibly let down by the end of the story, I did appreciate the epilogue. I liked knowing what possibilities were ahead for my favorite characters. I did wish that we had been privy to what the ladies at Fox Lane had in store for them.

Overall, The Raven King was a strong ending to a great series.

Review: After the Game by Abbi Glines

After the Game
Series: The Field Party, #3
Author: Abbi Glines
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Two years ago, Riley Young fled from Lawton, Alabama. After accusing the oldest Lawton son, Rhett, of rape, everyone called her a liar and she had no option but to leave. Now she’s back, but she’s not at Lawton High finishing up her senior year. She’s at home raising the little girl that no one believed was Rhett’s.

Rhett is off at college living the life he was afraid he’d lose with Riley’s accusation, so Riley agrees to move back to Lawton so she and her parents could take care of her grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. But the town still hasn’t forgotten their hate for her, and she hasn’t forgotten the way they turned on her when she needed them most.

When town golden boy Brady Higgens finds Riley and her daughter, Bryony, stranded on the side of the road in a storm, he pulls over and gives them a ride. Not because he cares about Riley, of course, but because of the kid.

But after the simple car ride, he begins to question everything he thought he knew. Could Brady believe Riley and risk losing everything?


In the last Field Party novel, Under the Lights, I felt bad for Brady. He was on the losing end of a love triangle. I was excited to learn After the Game was going to be his story and chance at love. What made me even more excited was that Brady’s love interest was going to be Riley. I liked what I learned of her in book two, and was excited to get to know her character better.

After the Game wasn’t simply a love story. It was a story about growing up. For Brady, that meant dealing with the harsh realities that some things in life might not be what they seem. The things Brady had to deal with were a slap in the face to a boy who had lived a charmed life. For Riley, After the Game was a story of redemption and moving on. She had been falsely accused of lying and lost all of her friends in that moment. Now, she was getting a chance at not only friendship, but love.

I loved that Riley and Brady first found friendship. They rekindled their relationship just when they both needed it. They were a support system for each other that no one else could have been. I loved that Brady wasn’t put off by Riley’s teenage motherhood. In fact, it was just the opposite. Riley’s determination and dedication to her daughter impressed him. That was very mature for a high school senior. I also loved that Riley was willing to forgive Brady and those who had thought poorly of her. The peace she offered Brady in his time of need was special. I loved that all of this lead to a romantic relationship between the two of them.

After the Game was a great addition to The Field Party series. Brady and Riley’s story was one I really enjoyed reading. I hope there are more books to come in the series.