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: 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.

Review: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Nowhere But Here
Series: Thunder Road, #1
Author: Katie McGarry
Narrators: Marguerite Gavin, Sean Pratt

Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.


Nowhere But Here has been out for a couple of years. I’ve seen it around, and wanted to read it. I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. When I saw it was available as an audio book through my library system, I jumped on the chance to listen to it. I’m really mad at myself for not starting this series earlier!

Katie McGarry is a phenomenal writer. The way she puts words together and the story she tells… I’m trying to think of something to compare those to, and all that comes to mind is chocolate. Smooth, silky, and oh-so yummy. The plot of this book and how it was strung together was perfection. I loved the twists, turns, and revelations that were made. Somehow how Katie McGarry made a story involving a motorcycle gang sweet. That’s talent.

I adored Emily and Oz. Their points of view were so distinctive and had so much personality. Emily was this girl who started out seeming really small and scared. I thought she was going to be a delicate snowflake throughout the entire book, but she wasn’t. Emily had more backbone than I expected, and I loved it. It made for so many fun moments! And Oz…I absolutely adored his character. He was such a mature 18-year-old. He was more a man than a teenager. Honestly, his parts were my favorite. The way he articulated his thoughts was just so cool.

The rest of the cast of characters were just as good as the main characters. I liked Emily’s relationship with her parents, especially her father. Their closeness was sweet. I did wish I got to know Emily’s mom a little bit better, though. I also liked Eli, Olivia and that side of Emily’s family. The entire Reign of Terror group won me over immediately. Their family ways were so cool. I’m excited to read more about them in future books.

Why did I wait so long to read this book??? If you’re like me and haven’t read it yet, you need to bump it up your list. Everything about it was amazing. I highly recommend the audio version. The narrators are so good — especially Sean Pratt. I could listen to his voice all day.

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: 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!

Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?


Earlier this summer, I read Alex, Approximately. It was my first book by Jenn Bennett and I knew it wouldn’t be my last. I absolutely adored that book. It’s what lead me to read The Anatomical Shape of a Heart.

I didn’t immediately fall in love with The Anatomical Shape of a Heart the way I did with Alex, Approximately. It took me longer to get into. I didn’t connect with Beatrix or Jack the way I wanted to at first. I’m not exactly sure why. My best guess is that I personally dislike getting in trouble, and Jack had trouble written all over him. Beatrix’s connection to him and his secrets made me nervous for her. It wasn’t until about half way through the book when I started to get a better understanding for the characters and the importance of the story.

From that point on, I was in love with The Anatomical Shape of a Heart. I loved that it wasn’t simply about Bex and Jack connecting through art and falling in love. It was about what made them who they were. It was about family relationships, and how their lives were shaped by them. There were so many great learning moments between all of the characters. I loved that!

While The Anatomical Shape of a Heart may have started off slow for me, it ended up pleasantly surprising me. It was a heartwarming young adult novel that was well worth reading.