Two Books About Trauma and Its Aftermath

August 30, 2016 / 0 Comments / Mini-Reviews, Review

two-books-about-trauma-and-its-aftermath-mostly-ya-litHi guys, today I have nice, light-hearted reviews for you, perfect for sum–I’m just kidding. And I probably shouldn’t kid about this. Today I’m reviewing All We Have Left by Wendy Mills and 738 Days by Stacey Kade. These are two very different books about trauma and that deal with grief in different situations and circumstances. They’re not super easy to read, but they’re both pretty good and portray trauma with honesty and compassion. Read on for my thoughts.

Two Books About Trauma and Its Aftermath

Two Books About Trauma and Its AftermathAll We Have Left

Goodreads
Author: Wendy Mills
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Publication date: August 9th 2016
Source: Netgalley
Format: eARC from publisher (thank you!)
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books

Now: Sixteen-year-old Jesse is used to living with the echoes of the past. Her older brother died in the September 11th attacks, and her dad since has filled their home with anger and grief. When Jesse gets caught up with the wrong crowd, one momentary hate-fueled decision turns her life upside down. The only way to make amends is to face the past, starting Jesse on a journey that will reveal the truth about how her brother died.
Then:In 2001, sixteen-year-old Alia is proud to be Muslim . . . it's being a teenager that she finds difficult. After being grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her in danger she never could have imagined. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers, Alia is trapped inside one of the buildings. In the final hours, she meets a boy who will change everything for her as the flames rage around them . . .
Interweaving stories from past and present, All We Have Left brings one of the most important days in our recent history to life, showing that love and hope will always triumph.


A moving portrayal of the before and after of 9/11 and how it affects two teens and their families. Alia is a Muslim teen trying to break free of her parents’ wishes. She ends up at her father’s workplace in the Twin Towers on Sept 11, 2001. Jesse McLaurin is a teenager who lost her brother in the 9/11 tragedy. Jesse’s family is now broken and silent about the event. Alternating narratives tell how the past informs the present, and how grief and memory merge and linger.

Warning to readers: this is a slow read at the beginning. It took almost 35% before the action really built. And it’s somber, as befits the topic. But the thing is, even though this isn’t an easy read, I think it’s one worth reading, for a few reasons:
1) I’ve never read a book that tries to portray what happened on 9/11 to people who were in the Towers. I felt this was done accurately, honestly, and respectfully for a teen audience.
2) The portrayal of grief, trauma, and a family still broken by what happened that day was really well done as well, showing the after effects of 9/11, even 15 years later.
3) This book tackles racial issues, hatred, prejudice, and grief in a way that is really compassionate and comprehensible.

If I have qualms, they are that I just didn’t fully connect with either Alia or Jesse. I think the concept of the book overcame the actual characterization of them. That said, I’m glad I read All We Have Left. It showed such a variety of perspectives on grief and trauma, and how to articulate and move past them. It definitely made me think about how we’ve changed as people and as a world after 9/11 .

Teachers, this is one for the school library and the classroom, and it’s a great one to spark discussion.

Two Books About Trauma and Its Aftermath738 Days

Goodreads
Author: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Tor/Forge
Publication date: June 7th 2016
Format: Hardcover
My rating:
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.
Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.
Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he's sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.
To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?
With charm and heart, Stacey Kade takes readers on a journey of redemption and love.

738 Days is a very, very good new adult romance book that deals with trauma. I just want to be clear about that because there are some sexy and dark scenes in this book, and I want people to know what they’re getting into. This is not a young adult novel. It’s a novel about a girl who is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after being horrifically kidnapped, raped, and locked in a room for, yes, 738 days when she was 16.

Fast-forwards to a year after she escapes. It’s…not good. Amanda is terrified to leave the house, her family is either overly protective or ignoring the problem and nothing is getting better.

Enter Chase Henry, the washed-up TV star whose poster was on the wall of the room where Amanda was locked up. He represented hope for her then. Now, his publicist wants him to go meet Amanda to convince her to help him improve his image.

With this somewhat implausible premise, we’re launched into a story about trust, respect, honesty, and courage. What really sings in this novel are the characterizations of Amanda and Chase – both so different on the outside than they are in private. Kade peels back the layers of Amanda and Chase so carefully that even though it’s sorta insta-love, you believe in this relationship. Their sense of humour is the same. They’re both dry wits, with a lot to offer, but unable to get past themselves. Amanda and Chase are both battling demons, internal and external; it’s amazing to see how their support for one another changes and shapes them.

The only thing I didn’t love about this novel was the last quarter, which brought more intrigue suspense than I expected – and honestly, not in a good way. Even though I enjoyed the story all the way through, I couldn’t help wishing that this long book had four acts instead of five.

Nonetheless, this is a very good new adult romance that deserves your attention. If you’re okay with some explicit scenes and language, and you’re ready to deal with some really emotional characters, this one is for you.


Have you read All We Have Left or 738 Days? Are you okay with really heavy reads? What books about trauma have you read recently that you think I should read? Hit the comments and let me know!


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Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate | Waiting on Wednesday

August 24, 2016 / 2 Comments / Book Memes, Waiting on Wednesday

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate | Waiting on WednesdayWires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerves, #1)

Goodreads
Author: Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate
Also by this author: , , Scarlet, Winter, Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)
Series: Wires and Nerve #1
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: January 31st 2017
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository

In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure -- with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.
In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

If you know me, you know I’m a huge The Lunar Chronicles fan. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter are on my list of best YA sci-fi ever. (I also really loved Fairest and Stars Above!). Marissa Meyer is a master at blending young adult feels with spaceships, misfits, and fairy tales.

I was so excited to find out that we’d be hearing more from one of my favorite characters in the Lunar Chronicles, Iko the android, via this new graphic novel, Wires and Nerve. In the novels, I loved how well Meyer managed to blend Iko’s fun personality with the unique issues that come with introducing an AI lifeform. Getting to read Iko’s story now in graphic novel form? I mean, just look at that cover. It’s going to work so well!

Is WIRES AND NERVE on your to be read list? Are you a fan of The Lunar Chronicles? What are you waiting for this week? Let me know and I’ll stop by!

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“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.


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Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!

August 23, 2016 / 0 Comments / Feature, Mini-Reviews, Recently in Romance, Review

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Hi guys, I’m back today with Part 2 of my Sarina Bowen love fest! If you missed Part 1, Sarina is a new adult romance author whose books I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. Check out yesterday’s post for reviews of hockey romance series The Ivy Years and her upcoming book Rookie Move!

sarina bowen collage books 2

Today I’ll be reviewing the Him series, her male/male hockey romance collaboration with Elle Kennedy, as well as her newest books, and my personal favorites, Bittersweet and Steadfast, from her True North series set in Vermont.

The True North series by Sarina Bowen

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!Bittersweet

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Series: True North #1
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: June 14th 2016
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | iTunes | Google Books

Farmers make the earth move.
The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. 
At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price. 
Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way. 
They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some. 
Warning: Contains sexual situations, gourmet yumminess, a steamy outdoor shower and proof that farmers don't mind getting dirty.
Keywords: Vermont, sexy romance, lumbersexuals, not cowboys, hard cider, good times, steamy kisses and homemade ice cream.

LOVE LOVE LOVE. Sarina Bowen has knocked it out of the park –err, orchard with this sexy, sweet tale of foodie love. I never thought I would fall for a big, burly, grumpy farmer, but here we are.

Bittersweet is a love story about how plans can be derailed – but for the better. It’s basically a foodie’s dream. Are you obsessed with farm-to-table cooking, or artisanal cheese and cider? If you are, and you’re looking for an adorable, funny, fast & steamy romance, this one is for you.

Audrey is an intern at a big restaurant group in Boston looking to find her way into becoming a chef. Griffin is an ex-hookup from college who is now running his own apple and dairy farm in order to keep his family afloat. Against a heck of a lot of odds, these two meet and the chemistry is explosive. But they live in two different worlds, with a lot of issues – financial, and emotional – that come with them. The push and pull of this relationship is what made this book work – along with the incredible descriptions of Vermont’s natural beauty and the FOOD. Seriously, do not read this book while hungry!

I was a bit annoyed by Audrey’s flightiness at first, but I loved how it balanced out Griff’s grumpiness. And the secondary characters were superb – I had so many questions about farmhand and former addict/convict Jude and bartender Zara. Griffin’s family and the workers at the farm were an absolute delight.

Highly recommended to anyone who loves a good, unputdownable romance or people in a book slump. You will be captivated from the first word to the very last page.

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!Steadfast

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Series: True North #2
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: July 12th 2016
Source: ARC from author (thank you!)
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | iTunes | Google Books

She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have. Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there's no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere. 
Sophie Haines is stunned by his reappearance. After a three year absence, the man who killed her brother and broke her heart is suddenly everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never volunteer in the church kitchen. 
No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie's police chief father. But it's a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself. 

Absolutely freaking loved this book. Possibly my favorite Sarina Bowen book, which is saying a lot. Steadfast is a story of survival, of a young man dealing with addiction in the small town where he first became addicted and the girl he loves who can’t give him up. The narrative alternates between Jude and Sophie, with Jude’s indicating his “cravings meter” and Sophie’s her “internal DJ” (she’s a singer). This sets the tone for a dark and heartrending story, full of the bad in life (wow, are there some crappy situations in this), but also with glimmers of hope.

It’s also really, really sexy. Jude and Sophie’s love for one another is not only smoking hot, it’s tender and honest. These are two people on a crash course towards each other, with every odd stacked against them, and the way they take comfort in and learn from one another…it’s exquisite.

There’s a surprising amount of plot in this book, which also occasionally throws in some flashbacks to when Jude and Sophie were younger and first fell in love, as well as their friends and family in their current situation. Sarina Bowen never writes characters in a bubble, so we also get to see a ton of the Shipleys, the family that Jude first stayed with when he got out of rehab (and the stars of book #1 of this series). I really loved the secondary characters, and the way they wove in and out of the love story.

In between all that, I learned a lot about addiction, ways to fight it, and finding people and moments that help you get through the fight. Even though I’ve never experienced what Jude is dealing with, the themes of finding acceptance, believing you deserve good things, and being able to have hope? Those are universal. I felt so much for Jude and Sophie, and I was definitely inspired to think more about giving people second chances and the benefit of the doubt.

Coming soon from Sarina Bowen…

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!Steadfast (True North, #2)

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Series: True North #3
Publication date: October 2016

Lark Wainright, 23, has nightmares. She used to be fearless. But while overseas for her nonprofit employer, she was kidnapped and held at gunpoint in a dusty shack. Everyone has an opinion about what might have happened to here there, but she's not saying much. She's too consumed by guilt to talk about it.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the Shipley orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps into her little car and heads to Vermont. Unfortunately, the night terrors don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret from those who know her best, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of Orange County, Vermont, to calm her down when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah, 23, is a survivor of a different kind. It’s been three years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult out west, and the only home he’d ever known. In Vermont, he’s found a peaceful place in the bunkhouse at the Shipley’s farm. He’s good with animals, and he’s good with his hands. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. And he doesn’t always know what to make of a world where apps and movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV. He’d never spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are still a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she shoves Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he's good for more than farm labor.

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The Him series by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!Him

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Series: Him #1
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: July 28th 2015
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Audible

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?
Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.
Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.
Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.
Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

It took me a long time to get to Him because I just couldn’t see how this book could offer me anything better than Rikker and Graham’s story in The Understatement of the Year. When I finally got to it, I realized how wrong I was because this book was even more smoking hot than TUotY – and I’m pretty sure the reason for that is Bowen and Elle Kennedy working together. Together, Bowen and Kenny bring us a tale of two college hockey players – and former best friends – who come back to the summer hockey camp where they first met.

Ryan Wesley and Jamie Canning were best friends as teens, but the friendship was broken one night when they got intimate together at their summer hockey camp. Now, four years later, they’re both coaches at that camp and it’s just like old times. Except not, because Wes is gay and out, and Jamie is straight – or so he thinks, because he’s pretty attracted to Wes. Together, they explore a physical relationship – and possibly an emotional one?

I loved this story because it was an honest portrayal of a guy who thinks he was straight, exploring his sexuality. I also loved how Jamie and Wes navigated their friendship/relationship – their own fears of inadequacy, of unrequited love, of dealing with the pressures of prejudice. The story is both idyllic with the summer camp/summer romance, and realistic. And yeah, like I said, this book is so hot it basically bursts into flames as you read. For anyone who enjoys smoking love scenes, hockey, and summer camp.

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!Us

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Series: Him #2
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: March 8th 2016
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes

Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?
Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.
Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.
Or can they?
When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?
Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.

Us is the sequel to Him, set a few months after the end of Him. I don’t want to give too many spoilers because if you haven’t read Him, you won’t want to know how this one starts, but suffice to say, Jamie and Wes are together, and Wes is in the NHL. They’re trying to navigate keeping their relationship a secret so that Wes’ sexual orientation doesn’t become a big thing during his first year in the NHL. This is proving difficult since Wes’ very annoying and very in-your-face teammate moves into the same building. Meanwhile Wes is on the road constantly and time and distance away from each other are taking their toll.

Of the two books, this one almost feels more realistic because Jamie and Wes are out of their honeymoon phase and are dealing with real-life adult pressures. This makes for a harder book to read – I really felt for these guys as they tried to navigate other friendships, their own romance, and their jobs. While it wasn’t quite as swoony as the first book, I was still totally swooning for these guys and cheering them on in the midst of some serious problems that come up. It’s definitely a harder read, but it’s one that I still enjoyed a lot, and I’m really looking forward to the last book in this series, which focuses on some of the secondary characters from this book. 

Coming soon from Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy…

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen edition, Part 2!Untitled

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Series: Him #3
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: Early 2017

No synopsis yet, but we know this book will feature Blake, Jamie and Wes's annoying neighbor!

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About Sarina Bowen

sarina-bowen-author-photo

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont's Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

With Elle Kennedy, Sarina is the author of HIM and US.

 

About Elle Kennedy

elle-kennedy-author-photo

A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!


Have you read any of these fantastic romances? Are you a Sarina Bowen or Elle Kennedy fan? If the latter, which of her solo books do you recommend? Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts on contemporary romance!


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Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!

August 22, 2016 / 2 Comments / Feature, Mini-Reviews, Recently in Romance, Review

Recently in Romance banner Since becoming a romance reader two years ago, I’ve struggled to figure out where romance reviews belong on my site. I don’t usually write full reviews of romance books, and I’m not sure if all of you like the X-rated books! Recently in Romance is my mini-review feature where I bundle my recent reads and buys for those of you who are fans.

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Guys, what do you do when you’re book slumping? In my case, when I’m burnt out on reading, I often turn to romance. And for the next two days, I’ll be giving you some serious recommendations for one of my favorite romance authors: Sarina Bowen.

sarina-bowen-collage-1

Looking for a feminist take on romance? Sarina has got you covered.

Looking for good new adult? Sarina has got you covered.

Looking for characters who are dealing with sexual orientation, anxiety, slut-shaming, physical challenges, financial challenges? Sarina has got you covered.

Looking for completely compelling, can’t-do-anything-but-read-this books? Sarina has got you SO covered.

Today, I’m reviewing Sarina’s most popular series, The Ivy Years, her six-book new adult book about hockey players at an Ivy League college (*cough*not called Yale*cough*), as well as her upcoming novel Rookie Move, the first in a hockey series that has ties to the Ivy Years.

And stay tuned for tomorrow, when I’ll be reviewing the Him series, her male/male hockey romance collaboration with Elle Kennedy, as well as her newest books, Bittersweet and Steadfast, from her True North series set in Vermont.

Note: almost every single one of these books was purchased, which tells you how I feel about Sarina.

The Ivy Years by Sarina Bowen

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!The Year We Fell Down

Goodreads
Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: The Ivy Years #1
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: March 24th 2014
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves wants someone else. What now?
She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.
Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.Also, he’s taken.
Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.
They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.
But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.
"I absolutely loved it, and I can't wait to read the rest of her books." Colleen Hoover, bestselling author of Hopeless.
"I bought - and read - this entire series in a week. It is OMG-awesome-NA-at-its-finest." Tammara Webber, bestselling author of Easy.
Keywords: new adult, college, Ivy League, hockey, disability, sports romance.
For fans of: Colleen Hoover, Elle Kennedy, Kristen Callihan, Cora Carmack, Tammara Webber

The first in this series about hockey players at elite Ivy League school Harkness College, this book focuses on Corey Callahan, a former women’s hockey star who was seriously injured a few months before she starts at Harkness. Corey is now in a wheelchair, and is sent to live at an accessible dorm. Adam Hartley, one of Harkness’ current hockey team stars, lives across the hall, with a broken leg. Together, these two characters try to navigate a non-accessible world and their own bitterness about not being able to play hockey.

There’s a lot more to this story than just that, though – there’s, as Hartley calls it, “sh*t to shovel”, meaning family and relationship issues that they both have. I loved how complex those pieces were, and how naturally Corey and Hartley’s friendship grew into more. I also loved how true-to-life this picture of college life was. But above all, I really enjoyed the strength and grace with which the characters dealt with their injuries and their lives, and how realistic a look this was at spinal cord injuries and what you can and can’t do. Even though there was a bit of drama that (to me) should have been easily solved, overall, this book was an excellent introduction to Sarina Bowen. Addictive and enjoyable!

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!The Year We Hid Away

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: The Ivy Years #2
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: June 1st 2014
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | IndieBound | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

She’s hiding something big. He’s hiding someone small.
Scarlet Crowley’s life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror. 
It’s a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet’s fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID — with a newly minted name on it — she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she’s falling for.
Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.
The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won’t work anymore. And if they can’t learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they’ve struggled to keep.
Keywords: sports romance, hockey, Ivy League, new adult, college.

Remember how I called The Year We Fell Down addictive? The Year We Hid Away is even more so. Scarlet is a former women’s hockey player, and Bridger a current one at Harkness College. Both are hiding things – Scarlet her true identity (because her father was arrested and she wants to get away from the media), and Bridger his younger sister, who might be taken away into foster care. I loved how this story started out very casual between them, but grew into more as they realized they couldn’t run from their problems. I also loved how strong they both were in their desperation to just lead normal lives and not seek or take help. Bowen isn’t afraid to touch on very dark issues in this one, which makes the climax and the conclusion that much more meaningful. And the steamy factor went way up in this book, which I am definitely not complaining about. Very enjoyable and very addictive.

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!Blonde Date

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: The Ivy Years #2.5
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: July 9th 2014
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | iTunes | Audible

A blind date. A nervous sorority girl. A mean-spirited fraternity prank. What could go wrong?
As a sorority pledge, there are commandments that Katie Vickery must live by. One: thou shalt not show up for the party without a date. Two: the guy shall be an athlete, preferably an upperclassman.
Unfortunately, Katie just broke up with her jerkface football player boyfriend. Even worse, her last encounter with him resulted in utter humiliation. She’d rather hide under the bed than attend a party where he'll be.
Yet staying home would mean letting him win.
Enjoying herself tonight was out of the question. She could only hope to get through the evening without her blind date noticing that he was spending the evening with a crazy person.
Andrew Baschnagel is living proof that nice guys don’t finish first. He’s had his eye on Katie since the moment her long legs waltzed into his art history class. So when her roommate sets Andy up to be Katie’s date, he’d be crazy to say no. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of practice with either girls or parties. Yet.
“Blonde Date is nothing short of brilliant.”— KimberlyFayeReads.com“I loved the preceding Ivy Series books but this novella has just become my favorite.”— Booknerdian world
Keywords: sports romance, new adult, college, basketball, novella, sororities, fraternities, humorous romance

SO. FREAKING. CUTE. We first meet Andy as Bridger’s roommate in The Year We Hid Away, and here, in this novella, we see him fumbling around on a blind date. Despite how short this novella is, it manages to touch on many of Sarina Bowen’s signature themes: family, sexual consent and slut-shaming, feminism and breaking out of cliches. Oh and did I mention that it’s sexy and cute as well?

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!The Understatement of the Year

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: The Ivy Years #3
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: September 4th 2014
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.
Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexual preference from everyone. Including himself.
So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.
John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.
And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.
Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.
Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.
Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.
Keywords: new adult, college, romance, hockey, gay, MM, Ivy League.
For fans of: Heidi Cullinan, Colleen Hoover, Kindle Alexander, Elle Kennedy, Amy Jo Cousins, Megan Erickson

This book. THIS BOOK. This was my first ever male/male romance, and my first gay romance. It’s the reason I picked up this series, because after hearing amazing things from Diana Peterfreund and a host of other bloggers, I knew I had to try Sarina Bowen out. I’m so glad I did. The other books in The Ivy Years were great, but this one…it just blows you out of the water with feels.

Michael Graham is a Harkness College hockey player who’s spent years in the closet, hiding his true feelings behind hook-ups with girls. So when his former best friend, John Rikker, the one he betrayed years ago, gets transferred to Harkness, Graham is in shock, and scared of what this could bring to the surface. Meanwhile, Rikker is just trying to fit in on a team that hopefully won’t be freaked out by having a gay teammate – all the while remembering all his feelings for Graham.

Bowen creates characters who are not only memorable, but also completely understandable and relateable. And nowhere was I more amazed by this than in The Understatement of the Year. Even as a cis-het female, I was completely able to fall into Rikker and Graham’s story. I found their voices incredibly authentic and honest about hockey stereotypes, unrequited love, and yeah, sexual orientation. The characters ache and soar – both the main characters and the secondary ones. It’s actually not surprising to me that this book pretty much launches the rest of the series – the next two books and Rookie Move all feature characters that started in this story.

If you could only read one Sarina Bowen book, I might encourage you to go with this one.

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!The Shameless Hour

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: The Ivy Years #4
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: April 13th 2015
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.
For Bella,  the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.
Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.
Bella doesn’t want Rafe's help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can't be extinguished. 
“The Shameless hour is a gift to any girl or woman who’s ever been slut-shamed. It’s magnificent.”— Tammara Webber, New York Times bestselling author of Easy“Gripping and deliciously steamy, The Shameless Hour will make you cry and swoon. Sarina Bowen is a master at drawing you in from page one and leaving you aching for more.”— Elle Kennedy, USA Today bestselling author

The Shameless Hour stars Bella, the Harkness College men’s hockey team manager. She’s a big part of The Understatement of the Year (as a former hook-up and friend of Graham’s), so definitely read that one before this one. Bella is a girl who loves sex and isn’t afraid to flirt or have fun with it, and it’s awesome. Rafe is a guy who lives in her dorm who secretly holds a torch for Bella, even though he has a girlfriend. After Rafe gets dumped, he ends up getting comforted by Bella, and they form a bond. The bond is furthered when Bella is roofied one night and abused by a group of frat boys. I won’t got into details because it’s horrific. Terrified, Bella retreats into her room, spending most of the rest of her year there. One of the only bright spots in her life is Rafe, who won’t let her hide away.

I really loved this one. It spoke my language because it’s a romance for any feminist out there who believes in sex positivity and speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse. What happens to Bella in this book is not okay, and I’m so grateful that this romance exists to discuss some of the consent issues that keep cropping up around college campuses across the world.

Also, Rafe is smoking hot perfection and I love his relationship with Bella. This is a true partnership – it’s one that’s based on both the physical and the emotional, and even with all their walls, I love how they come together. I don’t want to say much more because this one deserves to be enjoyed – for both Bella and Rafe, and also secondary character Lianne!

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!The Fifteenth Minute

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: The Ivy Years #5
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: October 13th 2015
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Format: eBook
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | iTunes | Google Books | Audible

Just because she's famous doesn't mean she's happy.

Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks.

She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid.

But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel "DJ" Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. Something's haunting his dark eyes, and she needs to know more.

DJ's genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans.

Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can't get close to Lianne, and he can't tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.

Lianne Challice is a world-famous actress who is trying to have a normal college experience. Daniel “DJ” Trevi is a fun-loving guy with a past he’s trying to escape. When these two meet, sparks fly, but Lianne is scared of DJ having to deal with paparazzi and her screwed-up family. Meanwhile, DJ isn’t even allowed in college dorms because of a mishap, and he’s depressed. Despite all of the external circumstances, DJ and Lianne try to strike up a relationship and it’s super cute and a bit dorky, because Lianne is a big computer nerd, as well as being the star of a fandom-busting movie series.

What I liked most about this novel was how honestly it dealt with a relationship that is very difficult to have – one with not just a movie star, but someone who is maybe not in the best circumstances. I know it’s a cliche for new adult books to have “broken” characters, but like the rest of Bowen’s series (stay tuned for a series review), the characters just soar with the way they relate to each other and Bowen deals with their issues sensitively, smartly, and definitely with a feminist lens.

Also, if you’re a fan of college/university romances, I really like how Bowen really ties in Harkness’ traditions and how much you see of their actual university life. If you haven’t read The Ivy Years series, I highly, highly recommend it.

Brooklyn Bruisers series by Sarina Bowen

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!Rookie Move

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: September 6th 2016
Source: Netgalley
Format: eARC
My rating:
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes

The first novel in a sexy new series featuring the hockey players of the Brooklyn Bruisers and the women who win their hearts—from the USA Today bestselling author of the Ivy Years series.   In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold...   Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.   Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast....

I was super excited for this book because we’ve heard about Leo Trevi in the Ivy Years series several times – and then more prominently in the final book. His romantic history is painful – he and his high school sweetheart, Georgia Worthington, were very much in love and the perfect couple, until Georgia is raped in the middle of senior year at tennis camp. Even though Leo stayed with her and took care of her afterwards, Georgia broke up with him on graduation day – and they haven’t seen each other since. Rookie Move sees Leo being drafted for new NHL team the Brooklyn Bruisers six years after this – where Georgia is a publicist, and her father is the coach.

I enjoyed seeing the characters in this new setting a lot – Brooklyn, in particular, is very much a character in the book. I also liked the secondary characters a lot, especially Georgia’s roommate Becca. While I personally didn’t find this book as compelling as Bowen’s other books, but I still appreciated how much thought Bowen put into the story – little things like the fact that Georgia liked “filled” things (dumplings, turnovers, Combos) made this story very readable for me. I also liked Bowen’s focus on trauma and sexual assault and how to heal and get past that. T

While the narrative wandered a bit too much for my liking, and I felt that the things keeping the main characters apart were slightly unrealistic, I still enjoyed this one. I’m not sure I related as well to Leo and Georgia as I did to some of Bowen’s other protagonists, but I’m looking forward to diving into this new series. Like the rest of Bowen’s work, the secondary characters make this book worth reading, so I’m excited for them to have their own stories moving forward.

Coming soon from Sarina Bowen…

Recently in Romance: Sarina Bowen Edition, Part 1!Hard Hitter

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Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #2
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: January 3rd 2017
Buy It: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | B&N | The Book Depository | iTunes

From the USA Today bestselling author of Rookie Move comes the second novel in the series that’s hot enough to melt the ice.   He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score...   As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.   After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good...

About Sarina Bowen

sarina-bowen-author-photo

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont's Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

With Elle Kennedy, Sarina is the author of HIM and US.

 


Have you read Sarina Bowen’s many, many fantastic series? Are you a fan of sports romance, or just hockey? Have you read a great contemporary romance recently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


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