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ARC Review: Built to Last by Erin Hahn

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Built to Last releases October 18, 2022.

"Built to Last" by Erin Hahn (cover)
Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Erin Hahn’s Built to Last is a sparkling second chance romance about owning what you’re worth and fighting for the one who got away.

Shelby Springfield has spent the last ten years trying to overcome her past, sanding it away like the rough spots on the vintage furniture she makes over. But as a former child star, it’s hard to forget a widely documented meltdown and huge public break up with her former co-star Lyle Jessup. It’s also hard to forget her other co-star and childhood sweetheart, Cameron Riggs—the one who got away.

Anytime Shelby has called, Cameron has come running… And then he runs right off again to chase stories around the world by making documentaries, too scared to admit what he really wants. But when Lyle stirs the pot, getting the two back in the spotlight with a home renovation show, Cameron can’t help but get on board.

There’s something in it for everyone—almost. Cameron wants to set down some roots. Shelby wants to prove she’s not the messy party girl anymore. And a jealous Lyle can’t help but try to get in the way. But for his two childhood friends who had more chemistry than he could ever dream of, nothing is getting in the way of their second chance at love.

 

REVIEW: I adored this story about two child stars and sweethearts with a messy history getting a second chance at love!

I was wary at first but the story gradually got better with each passing page. There was so much pining and angst between Shelby and Cameron. Even after so many years apart, their chemistry remains undeniable and strong on and off screen. It was a slow burn worth reading about. I was hooked!

I liked that Shelby and Cameron got to reconnect as they worked on the pilot for the home renovation show. Also, I loved how they had each other’s back through the whole process, especially with Lyle (who is the worst, as well as Shelby’s mom) constantly meddling. It’s a rocky slope for the main characters. They have to reconcile with their pasts (as individuals and together) in order to figure out what they most want from life and to have a future together.

I love how interchangeable the theme of renovation is throughout the story. Shelby’s discovered passion for refurbishing things. Mending family ties (or not). Revamping a once-thought lost romantic relationship. Restoring one’s self-worth. And so much more. It’s a well-done, exquisite use of theme.

The interview with the main characters at the end was nice to read. I liked the brief hint to who the next book will feature (please, let there be a book 2!).

Overall, I ended up really enjoying Built to Last. Shelby and Cameron’s romance was so sweet and tender and funny. Cameron was so loyal and charming. Shelby was so strong and passionate. I can’t wait to read whatever Hahn writes next!


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams

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"The Fastest Way to Fall" by Denise Williams (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Britta didn’t plan on falling for her personal trainer, and Wes didn’t plan on Britta. Plans change and it’s unclear if love, career, or both will meet them at the finish line.

Britta Colby works for a lifestyle website, and when tasked to write about her experience with a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal coaching, she knows it’s a major opportunity to prove she should write for the site full-time.

As CEO of the FitMe app, Wes Lawson finally has the financial security he grew up without, but despite his success, his floundering love life and complicated family situation leaves him feeling isolated and unfulfilled. He decides to get back to what he loves—coaching. Britta’s his first new client and they click immediately.

As weeks pass, she’s surprised at how much she enjoys experimenting with her exercise routine. He’s surprised at how much he looks forward to talking to her every day. They convince themselves their attraction is harmless, but when they start working out in person, Wes and Britta find it increasingly challenging to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance.

Wes isn’t supposed to be training clients, much less meeting with them, and Britta’s credibility will be sunk if the lifestyle site finds out she’s practically dating the fitness coach she’s reviewing. Walking away from each other is the smartest thing to do, but running side by side feels like the start of something big.

 

REVIEW: The Fastest Way to Fall was a heartfelt, adorable, and inspiring read.

Britta is an editorial assistant who wants to be promoted to writer for Best Life. I loved Britta and could relate to her so much. She’s likable, hardworking, and a talented (enviable) writer. Britta isn’t focused on weight loss when she signs up for the FitMe app. Instead, she merely wants to look and feel good naked. Her journey is incredible and inspiring. Again and again, she pushes herself beyond her limits to achieve her goals. Britta is a wonderful character and I would love to be her friend.

Wes is a great coach and I love his dedication to his job. But his mother’s addictions and the unknown whereabouts of his runaway sister have been taking a toll for a long time now. He feels compelled to carry this burden without taking care of his own health. But towards the end I didn’t like him as much.

Britta and Wes had a smooth, easy, natural connection. I like how they built a relationship and fell in love before even meeting.

I loved the body positivity in this story. Britta is comfortable in her own skin and loves her curves, butt, and boobs, but isn’t immune to hurtful words. I liked that the author showed what negative body image looks, feels, and sounds like. How the way we view ourselves can affect our nutrition and physical health. I loved that FitMe is about making healthy choices/changes and setting realistic goals/expectations.

I was really into the story in the beginning, but then the pace slowed to a point where I was getting bored and restless for something to happen. The building of the romance was very slow-going. It felt like a full story but I’m wondering if maybe some scenes could have been shortened or cut.

I have mixed feelings about the last 80 or so pages, particularly with what happened when Wes and Britta’s secret came out. Wes is the CEO of FitMe and Britta was his client. Both took personal responsibility when things went south. Both were equally at fault for crossing boundaries. However, to me it felt like most (if not all) the blame was placed on Britta. I didn’t like the way Wes treated Britta when they realized each other’s position, as if it was more her fault than his. Britta gracefully accepted the criticism and bias she received from everyone. It pained me to see her basically suffer in silence.

This was an enjoyable story for the most part. I like that the author uses mixed media – email, blog posts, prose, text messaging – to tell the story. I enjoyed seeing Jake and Naya again (from How to Fail at Flirting). The conflicts and all of the characters were realistic. There were a lot of adorable moments between Britta and Wes. But towards the end it was tough reading. The epilogue was fantastic!

Content Warnings:

  • intentional changes in exercise and nutrition habits by a main character (that do not include dieting) including on-page reflections on exercise and eating habits
  • off-page Alcohol and drug abuse of a side character; the heroine participates in brief and off-page over-exercise
  • reference to the eating disorder of a side character

Favorite Quotes:

  • (p.60) “Libby had always hated gym class – she’d complain, and I never got it. Eventually, she confessed she hated that she felt judged and forced to focus on her body, when she didn’t want to in this very public way. I’d never thought about it like that.”
  • (p.100) “I share it because that night, I felt desirable, attractive, and wanted for the first time in my life. So, the next day, when he said it was a mistake, I was certain feeling wanted was a mistake, too…It took me years to fully shake that and realize his assessment didn’t have to shape how I felt about myself.”

More by Denise Williams

How to Fail at Flirting


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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Bookish Memes Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday – March 23, 2022

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where you spotlight a highly anticipated book.


Don’t you just love it when characters also have a passion for books in some shape or form? Book Lovers by Emily Henry seems like my kind of read, which is why it’s made my highly anticipated release this Waiting on Wednesday.

Books Lovers seems like an ideal enemies to lovers romance story. I love that the main characters are a literary agent and an editor. I get the feel that there will be some funny and cute encounters as the two really get to know each other.

Book Lovers releases May 3, 2022.

"Book Lovers" by Emily Henry (cover)
Image via Goodreads

ABOUT: One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming…

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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Bookish Memes Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday – February 9, 2022

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where you spotlight a highly anticipated book.


Today’s spotlight is on Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram, a YA lgbtqiap+ boy band romance (yes please!💕).

This story sounds spectacular and feelings. I’m intrigued by the questions already posed by the synopsis. I love the color palette of the cover art – cotton candy perfection! I think this will be a fun, possibly heartbreaking, and engaging read, so I hope there’s a chance at some point this year for me to read it.

Kiss & Tell releases March 22, 2022.

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram (cover)
Image via Goodreads

ABOUT: A smart, sexy YA novel about a boy band star, his first breakup, his first rebound, and what it means to be queer in the public eye, from award-winning author Adib Khorram.

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend–leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all–and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens.

But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the star of the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble—for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself.


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Bend Toward the Sun releases August 9, 2022.

Cover of "Bend Toward the Sun" by Jen Devon
Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Jen Devon’s Bend Toward the Sun is a gorgeous, emotional love story about taking unexpected paths, accepting loss, and finding strength in the transformative power of love.

Rowan McKinnon believes love isn’t real. Armed with a PhD in botany, two friends who accept her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she has everything she needs. What she doesn’t share is that she hides deep wounds from the past—by an emotionally negligent mother, and by a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. The only love she’s ever known came from her grandmother Edie, who taught her to care for all things that grow. After a chance encounter at a future winery, Rowan is captivated—by the beauty of the land, the challenge of the vineyards’ restoration, and by the warm and inviting family that plans to run it. They’ll offer her a job. She’ll eventually accept it.

And try not to think about Harrison Brady.

Harry Brady is a doctor. Was a doctor. An obstetrician profoundly struggling after the unexpected loss of a patient, Harry no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling from the loss and his crumbled four-year relationship, Harry leaves Los Angeles to spend time emotionally recuperating at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania. He’ll work to get the place ready to open, and try to pick up the pieces of his heart. Because if there’s one thing Harry Brady knows how to do, it is love deeply, fiercely, with his whole heart.

As soon as he meets Rowan McKinnon, sunlight begins to crack through the dark cloud smothering Harry’s soul. He wants to explore the compelling pull between them. Rowan just wants to keep things casual—she’s spent a lifetime protecting herself against feeling anything, for anyone.

But even Rowan can feel their extraordinary connection tilting the axis of the world they both thought they understood.

A moving, powerful novel about the ways love can irrevocably change your life, Bend Toward the Sun is a cinematic, unforgettable romance.

 

REVIEW: Bend Toward the Sun was an emotionally charged story with an electrifying romance that was painful, exhilarating, and deeply personal.

This story wears its heart on its sleeve as Rowan and Harry struggle to reconcile with their pasts in the wake of the instant attraction and affection they feel for one another.

The main characters had polar opposite upbringings. Rowan is socially awkward and understands plants far better than people. She had her beloved grandmother Edie who fostered Rowan’s love for nature – which led to Rowan becoming a botanist – until age 12 when she was then left in the uncare of her estranged mother. Meanwhile, Harry is one of six in a very close and loving family. This major difference is one of many roadblocks in Rowan and Harry’s relationship.

But I love how these two lost souls find their way again through love. It’s a painful journey and several times you’ll question in chest-tightening worry if their chance at true love and happiness will burn away.

Past intimate relationships have not gone well for either (an understatement). So to have such strong feelings feels right, wrong, and terrifying all at once. Plus, they both can be very, very, very stubborn.

I felt those months and months worth of time skips, which made their back and forth will-they won’t-they arguments seem redundant and a tad frustrating. Post-read, Rowan and Harry’s romance is really well fleshed out with all the necessary growth, drama and angst you’d want in an enthralling love story. Time just dragged some.

In the end (oh my goodness!), Rowan and Harry filled my heart with such joy and fondness. The chemistry between them was sizzling, the banter endearing and funny, and a satisfying conclusion worthy of a standing ovation.

I had a good feeling I would end up truly enjoying Bend Toward the Sun, and I did! I loved the story and all of the characters. Rowan was my favorite because I could relate with her and she’s unexpectedly hilarious. Jen Devon wrote a wonderful, heartfelt romance. I highly recommend this novel.


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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Book Reviews

Book Review: Damaged Goods by Talia Hibbert

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DAY 20

Cover of "Damaged Goods" by Talia Hibbert.
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Ravenswood #1.5
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Second chances shouldn’t be this sinful.

Laura Burne‘s husband is a monster, her diamond ring is a trap, and her pregnancy is the push she needs to finally escape. She runs away seeking safety… and finds Samir Bianchi, her long-lost teenage sweetheart.

With his kind eyes and dirty smile, Samir’s still hot as hell—and he still treats Laura like a goddess, baby bump and all. The wild boy she spent one magical summer with is every inch a man, and he’s more than ready to care for her tiny family.

But Laura’s been keeping a secret Samir might never forgive. When she finally confesses, will he remain by her side? Or is this fairytale ending too good to be true?

 

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This is a heavy story indeed but the mood is balanced well with lighter and steamy moments. You should definitely read the trigger warnings before the story begins (see 24/7 resources below).

Some parts were slower paced than others, but I was still interested. When Laura and Samir reunite it’s like they nearly fall back into place where they left off well decades ago and they clearly still have strong feelings for one another.

So it was just a matter of when Laura would tell Samir about the abusive marriage she escaped and watching as she slowly rebuilds herself after all she’s been through. Samir’s character felt more like the rock of the story to anchor Laura and the reader.

I like how stalwart and patient Samir is with Laura, and enjoyed his happy-go-lucky demeanor. I loved the part where Laura was brainstorming baby names.

The story was alright to me. I like Laura and Samir as a couple and the easy way they interact with each other. Some parts were hard to read and it broke my heart learning about what Laura went through. The ending and epilogue were very sweet though.

I would read the other books in this series because of how well the author writes characters and romance.

CW: descriptions of domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, child abuse, gaslighting


24/7 Support That’s Here For You

Women’s Aid
https://www.womensaid.org.uk
0808 2000 247 (24/7 helpline)

National Domestic Violence Hotline
thehotline.org
espanol.thehotline.org
1-800-799-7233
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Crisis Text Line
www.crisistextline.org
US and Canada – Text HOME to 741741
United Kingdom – Text HOME to 85258
Ireland – Text HOME to 50808

To Write Love On Her Arms
https://twloha.com/


More by Talia Hibbert

The Brown Sisters
Take A Hint, Dani Brown (#2)

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

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DAY 7

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQIAP+ Romance, Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Will Tavares is the dream summer fling ― he’s fun, affectionate, kind ― but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to… except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted ― and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right? Right.

 

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Only Mostly Devastated was everything! Soul-stirring and fun, the thrill and anguish of first love, the desire to fit in and be your true self. I loved this story so much.

I was highly invested in Ollie’s story. His growth throughout was riveting during the best and worst of times. He’s dealt a curve ball having to remain in North Carolina during his senior year of high school, adapting to a new social environment, his aunt’s declining health due to cancer, and attending the same school as his summer love. But I like how Ollie tries to rise to the occasion, keep calm and carry one, i.e. only mostly devastated.

Ollie’s character makes me smile, his self-awareness great to see. His internal thoughts are hysterical and his personality makes you instantly want to be his best friend forever. I love his passion for music and adore the nickname one of his new friends gives him, Ollie-oop.

Ollie and Will’s relationship is like a catch-22. One the one hand, Will isn’t out and isn’t ready for people to know, deserving to take as long as he needs to because there’s no time limit. On the other hand, Ollie can’t help feeling dejected and disappointed by Will’s behavior even though Ollie understands and empathizes with the reasons behind it.

Clearly, the boys still have strong feelings for each other. But all the teen angst and drama, societal and family pressures, and rage-inducing homophobic remarks/”jokes” don’t help things. It creates a lot of tense, frustrating, and disheartening situations and complicated feelings. More than once I wondered if there would be an HEA/HFN for anyone.

Sometimes I didn’t like Will and I still don’t fully see what made him so exceptionally special to Ollie (and occasionally vice versa). I understand why Will did/said the things he did. I worried if he’d even make it through the year.  Will is a good person. He wants what any of us want: to be accepted. He fears the repercussions of coming out and letting down those he cares about or their idea of him. And those fears are valid.

I think I needed more from those glimpses of the past summer. They were sweet and cute, but too brief. I wish there’d been a few chapters in Will’s point of view because I wanted to know more about him, his thoughts, and feelings. Towards the end I started viewing him more favorably and liked how his storyline ended.

This story had an ideal number of pages. Short (under 300) but you still got a full story with a lot of depth and great characterization and development. Nothing seemed to drag and every scene made an impact.

Only Mostly Devastated was better than I could’ve ever imagined. Why did it take me so long to get to reading this?! I loved the nostalgic but more modern Grease vibes in the beginning and the direction the story took off from there. I loved Ollie-oop, I loved the plot, the writing, how the author tackled various issues like heteronormativity, and the ending made my heart deliriously happy. There’s so much to talk about and reflect upon.

Only Mostly Devastated was an enjoyable and emotional experience reading this book and highly recommend it to everyone.

CW: homophobia

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

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DAY 2

Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Weekday Brides #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Blake Harrison:
Rich, titled, and charming…and in need of a wife by Wednesday. Blake turns to Sam Elliot, who isn’t the businessman he expected. Instead, Blake is faced with Samantha Elliot, beautiful and feisty with a voice men call 1-900 numbers to hear.

Samantha Elliot:
Owner of matchmaking firm Alliance and not on the marital menu…that is, until Blake offers her ten million dollars for a one-year contract. And there’s nothing indecent about this proposal. The money will really help with her family’s medical bills. All Samantha will need to do is keep her attraction to her new husband to herself and avoid his bed.

But Blake’s toe-curling kisses and sexy charm prove too difficult for Sam to resist. It was a marriage contract that planned for everything…except falling in love.

 

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A pleasant marriage of convenience story featuring two strong, dynamic characters with complicated pasts.

Blake and Samantha complement each other really well: sharp, capable, self-assured, adaptable. I like that they cut to the chase and agreed to have a mutually satisfying (and quite steamy) relationship built on open and honest communication instead of spending an entire novel fighting their obvious attraction for one another. That was a nice change of pace.

When their pasts come back to threaten their loved ones and what they most desire, Samantha and Blake work together effortlessly as a team to maintain the facade of happy newlyweds. However, the realization of their true feelings for one another soon starts to unravel those carefully laid plans. That enhanced the uncertainty of if or when they’d get caught.

Getting to know the main characters was an up and down experience (in a good way). Samantha’s painful past was particularly tough and frustrating to read. I liked how both still tried to build a life worth living for themselves despite what others may think.

Overall, Wife by Wednesday was a good story with a sweet and spicy romance and likable main characters.


More by Catherine Bybee

Not Quite
Not Quite Mine (#2)
Not Quite Forever (#4)

The Weekday Brides
Taken by Tuesday (#5)
Treasured by Thursday (#7)

Creek Canyon
Home to Me (#2)

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ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! You’ve Reached Sam is out now!

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Magical Realism
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.

 

My Review: An astonishing story! I really enjoyed You’ve Reached Sam.

Julie is having a difficult time coping with the recent death of her boyfriend, Sam. Miraculously, when she calls Sam’s phone number, he answers. They have an envious second chance to reconnect and say goodbye, but now Julie struggles even more to let go and live.

Readers will easily be able to connect with this story and empathize with what the characters are experiencing. Not only are characters grieving over Sam but also dealing with the stress of their last year of high school.

There are a myriad of reactions to Sam’s death. Angry, guilty, sad, lost, barely staying afloat. Grief brings some together and tears others apart, as seen between Julie and Sam’s cousin, Mika, and his best friend, Oliver.

I like the fantasy element of the story, of Julie being able to talk to Sam through their phones. It’s what initially piqued my interest in this story. There’s lots of questions about how this is possible, and I like how that’s kept open ended. It also makes sense for them to reconnect by phone based on events prior to the story’s beginning. Julie has to keep this a secret because there are certain (sometimes vague) rules involved and telling someone else could end their connection for good.

I love Sam’s character and appreciated him more and more as the story progressed. In life, Sam was friendly, compassionate and outgoing. He and Julie had a really strong bond. How they met was so adorable; Sam is such a romantic. In death, Sam is still that same kind, caring, loving person, looking out for the ones he left behind but also trying to grapple with being dead. Knowing his hopes and dreams, it’s especially tragic Sam died so young.

The goodbye when it finally came was bittersweet, but really well done by the author. Thao built the story up to a satisfying climatic moment.

You’ve Reached Sam is beautiful, heartbreaking, and feelings. The title and cover art are perfect! Julie and Sam’s relationship was great. I’m glad there were chapters that took place in the past so we could really see the depth of their love.

I highly recommend You’ve Reached Sam. It’s an all around lovely and emotional read.

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[BLOG TOUR] ARC Review: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

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Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! You Can Go Your Own Way is out now.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

 

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You Can Go Your Own Way is a heartwarming story about growing up, moving on, community, and family.

Adam and Whitney used to be close friends until Adam’s father passed away, causing a rift forming in their relationship. Now, Adam struggles to hold on to his father’s memory by keeping Old City Pinball financially afloat and out of the hands of big tech business. Whitney is busy running the social media for her father’s chain of eSports cafes in the hopes of getting her father’s attention (to no avail). Now they’re sworn enemies.

I liked that the story alternates between Adam and Whitney’s pov, though this seemed more like Whitney’s story than Adam’s. Her journey seemed fuller and hectic, more in depth. Adam’s journey was good, kind of deep but in a smaller, quieter way. You really feel for both characters because it seems like they’re fighting a losing battle.

Their constant bickering over social media doesn’t help either of them. I didn’t like those exchanges because they were using business accounts to argue or talk about personal stuff. Their petty, immature, and unprofessional behavior was (for me) hard to get past. It wasn’t all bickering. There were some funny exchanges with other accounts.

I liked that the story takes place in Philadelphia and the strong sense of community between all the small businesses. It gave the story a homey, cozy atmosphere.

I also liked the excerpts from The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair by James Watts (fictional book) that Adam studies because of how it juxtaposes pinball machines and real life situations. Those quotes enhanced the community and family values depicted within the story.

You Can Go Your Own Way was so wholesome and I enjoyed how much Adam and Whitney grew together and along their personal journeys.


Photo of Eric Smith taken by Hannah Siddiqui
© Hannah Siddiqui

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ERIC SMTIH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/
Twitter: @ericsmithrocks
Instagram: @ericsmithrocks

YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55920774-you-can-go-your-own-way

ISBN: 978-1335405685
Inkyard Press
Teen & Young Adult; Romance
$18.99 / $23.99 CAN
336 Pages

BUY LINKS: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | IndieBound | BookShop.org | AppleBooks | Google Play


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