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Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

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ALC was provided by Libro.fm and Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (July 7th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, minor scenes of heterosexism, racist remarks, mentions of cancer, mentions of drug and alcohol abuse, mild depictions and mention of eating disorder, mentions and depictions of emotional abuse (parent to child)

Let me say that I truly wanted to love this book. I really wanted to fall in love with these characters, get caught up in the story line, and gush about it with all of you, but this book wasn’t for me. Even though I gave this book the rating I did, this isn’t a bad book. There are many elements in this book that I know many readers will love. This just wasn’t it the right book for me and that’s okay. I still liked some elements and I hope to share those all with you.

Luc O’Donnell is looking for a fake boyfriend. One that’s perfect and won’t make Luc stand out in a negative light. You see, Luc O’Donnell is famous, reluctantly famous from both of his parents being rock stars, once upon a time ago. After twenty years, Luc is back in the public eye and after one bad photo, it seems like his life is about to fall apart. Thus, Luc starts a fake relationship with Oliver Blackwood. He’s absolutely perfect in Luc’s eyes, too perfect, but just perfect enough for Luc to fall in love with.

I really loved some of the moments that Luc and Oliver shared. Some of them were really sweet, really touching, and I liked the way they seem to balance each other out. Luc is fully disorganized, works for a charity for dung beetles, and not the best in social situations. Oliver is the absolute opposite; he’s serious, a barrister, vegetarian, and thoroughly organized. Complete opposites of each other that somehow balance each other out very well.

“I don’t want fine. Fine isn’t enough. Isn’t not about the open fire or whatever other clichés you can conjure up, but yes, I want a connection. I want you to care as much as I care. I want you to need it and want it and mean it. I want it to matter.”

I also really liked the family dynamic for Luc. You know I couldn’t have this review without talking about the family dynamic. Luc has spent his entire life raised by his mother since his mother and father split from one another. Luc and his mother are very protective of one another. There are a couple moments shared with Luc and Oliver or Luc’s mother and his father, Luc immediately becomes protective of his mother and runs defense to prevent his mother from getting hurt. I loved it so much. I love seeing family dynamics where that love and loyalty is fierce, an undeniable powerful form of love.

Despite these fantastic elements, it wasn’t enough to distract me from the issues I had with this book. The first thing that really struck me from the moment I started reading this book was how much I really disliked Luc’s character. The majority of this book is spent with Luc being really terrible to his friends, overwhelming hateful to his estranged father (which I understand, but it was to the point where it was impossible to focus on the story line when that hatred would be shoved into your face in the chapter), and there’s even a few moments when Luc and Oliver are together where Luc is really terrible and offensive. I just didn’t like his character at all. Nothing in this book made me want to sympathize with him or feel very connected to him. I don’t mind a flawed or broken character, but the fact he only had a few moments where he realized he messed up or the fact that it took 75 percent of this book before Luc started having a turn around, I just wasn’t here for it.

Another issue I had with this book was the whole cycled loop of this hot and cold relationship. Luc and Oliver have this constant break up, get back together dynamic and it was the most annoying element. Now, I’m a full believer that two broken people can heal each other. However, there was a huge lacking of communication, a big lack of honesty, and the constant on and off with their “fake relationship” made it hard to believe it was even a fake relationship. Even though their personalities balanced each other out, it was hard to believe in the relationship between them because Oliver and Luc were so up and down. You could listen to Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold while reading this book and it would fit perfectly. While on the topic of the relationship, I really didn’t enjoy how Luc’s best friend kept trying to force them together. It felt very unnatural and near the end it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

My biggest issue with this book is with one particular scene that’s about 80-90 percent through the book. Oliver and Luc end up going to some lunch to celebrate Oliver’s parents’ anniversary. I’ll be honest, I completely disliked this entire scene. In this one particular scene, there’s a jab at couples who are in situations where they’re being pressured to have children. This rubbed me the wrong way and the apology was far too short to my liking. Then during the toast there’s a sexist remark toward Oliver’s mother from his father. It was never challenge, none of the characters tried to say anything in her defense, I haven’t seen anyone talk about how Oliver’s mother could be “replaced” in their reviews. I had to pause and relisten to the entire passage to make sure I heard it right. Then, the icing on this scene, was the constant homophobic remarks. It’s not challenged immediately, in fact, you have to read halfway through the scene before Luc tries to challenge the statements, but ultimately everything gets brushed off and excused. If we had been exposed to Oliver’s parents sooner, I feel like (as the reader) you would be able to expect them doing something like this. However, that wasn’t the case and it came out so far from left field that when it happened, I was shocked. And homophobia shouldn’t be used for shock value when it’s a serious issue.

“The conversation hadn’t so much died on us as been taken out back and shot in the head. And I knew I should be playing paramedic but I couldn’t quite bring myself to or work out how.”

With all of this being said, I feel like this book would have benefited from Oliver’s perspective. This entire book is told from the perspective of Luc and with that perspective we suffer details because we’re never exposed to Oliver’s perspective. If I’m being honest, being inside Luc’s perspective was draining some of the time and I feel like Oliver’s perspective would have helped add a little more stability to the story as a whole.

Overall, I just didn’t enjoy my experience with this book. It feels like I read a completely different story compared to everyone else. I truly wish I could have experienced the story everyone else has been enjoying, talking and raving about, but maybe I’m too much of a critical reader for this book. However, this isn’t me telling you not to pick it up. Even though my reading experience was bad, I still want to encourage others to pick this book up if it interests you, and make your own conclusions.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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The Perfect Hope (Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, #3) by Nora Roberts

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💐 The Next Always (InnBoonsBoro Trilogy, #1) | ⭐⭐⭐⭐

💐 The Last Boyfriend (InnBoonsBoro Trilogy, #2)| ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one, talk of cheating & adultry, toxic relationship, talk of parental abuse, scene of assault, scene of graphic war themes (Ryder’s dream)

We have finally reached the end of this trilogy. I just don’t want this series to end, ever. I love these characters, this town, and just every bit that went into making this trilogy. I say this all the time, but this really is a great series to read if you’re new to Nora Robert’s work. I truly love this series and it will always have a piece of my heart.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re following Hope Beaumont and Ryder Montgomery in this book. Hope was recruited by Avery MacTavish and Clare Brewster to move to BoonsBoro to be the inn keeper at Inn BoonsBoro. Even though her friends are happy to have her and Justine is thrilled to have such a confident inn keeper, Ryder Montgomery is anything but happy about it all. Of all the Montgomery boys, Ryder is the hardest nut to crack. He’s anti-social and can’t see Hope as anything other than a city girl. But after a New Year’s kiss, things have somehow shifted between the unlikely pair and soon they’ll realize what their hearts’ desires are.

“Time with a friend was as refreshing as a nap.”

💐 Hope Beaumont – The inn keeper for the newly redesigned Inn BoonsBoro by the Montgomery. Recently moved to BoonsBoro for a fresh start and the former manager of a D.C. hotel. She’s confident, independent, and right where she wants to be in life…except for in the love department. And constantly sparring with Ryder Montgomery.

💐 Ryder Montgomery – The hardest, most stubborn, alpha male of the Montgomery family. He’s anti-social and hard to figure out, but he’s honest and fair. But there’s only one person who gets under his skin and her name is Hope Beaumont.

💐 Elizabeth/Eliza – The spirit who lives at the historical inn the Montgomery family is fixing up. Waiting at the inn for her Billy to return to her.

💐 Justine Montgomery – Sassy mother of the Montgomery brothers and the head boss over every project the Montgomery boys take on.

💐 Beckett & Own Montgomery – Brothers to Owen Montgomery, Beckett the architect and husband to Clare Brewster/Montgomery, father of three boys and Owen the organizer of the Montgomery family and engaged to Avery MacTavish.

💐 Clare Brewster/Montgomery & Avery MacTavish – Best friends to Hope. Clare is the wife of Beckett Montgomery, mother of three boys with an exciting bundle of love on the way and Avery is the fiance of Owen Montgomery, owner of MacT’s Restaurant and Tap Room.

I say this all the time as well. I love these characters. They’re fantastic and I swear, Justine is such a delightful, sassy, take no b.s. character that I absolutely love. They’re wonderful in their own ways and they’re always there for one another. Even more so in this book. We really see how everyone rallies to Hope and how Ryder stands by her in very specific moments.

“It’s never simple.” Avery slid an arm around Hope’s waist. “It shouldn’t be. Because being with someone should matter enough to be at least a little bit complicated.”

I’m not going to lie, I loved the way Hope and Ryder somehow balance each other out and are exactly what one another need. Hope can handle herself and throw it right back at Ryder when he’s being alpha. She challenges him, gets under his skin, but despite all that, she’s drawn to him because he’s stable and honest. Ryder drives Hope up a wall, always assumes she’s just a city girl, but he’s drawn to her for her strong will and independence. Not to mention, their intimacy and chemistry is 10/10.

Of course, I have to talk about the sense of family and community in this book. Being that this is in a small town setting, it’s very much small town vibes. I really wanted to point this out because even though Hope has Avery and Clare, she’s essentially still on her own in a new environment. So when a certain incident arises in this book, we really see how the Montgomery family flocks to her defense and surrounds her in that family love. I love books that that sense of family and community, the way they rally to someone who has carved out a space of importance.

“But you stand up for me. You tell me the truth. You make me laugh, and you make me want. You let me be and feel who I am. And you fell in love with me even when you didn’t want to.”

We finally get a conclusion for Eliza and Billy in this book. We learn all about them, their story, and we receive a final closing moment with Eliza and all the main characters. While I’m still not a fan of the paranormal element, I liked how their story was wrapped up.

However, I do want to take a moment to address Ryder’s dream though. First, please make sure you practice self-care when you read that section. Most importantly, this is probably the most conflicting thing that could have been added into this book. Despite the paranormal element and how I dislike it, I liked that so much more than this one scene. Now, it might be reading too much into it, but this was an indirect way of trying to represent trauma and possible PTSD. Basically, Ryder is “dreaming” yet he’s really reliving someone’s trauma and death during the war. For those who don’t know, those who suffer with PTSD or trauma can have flashbacks while they sleep. After this dream concludes, Ryder exhibits all the reactions of someone who just had a flashback. He’s woke up drenched in sweat, his heart was pounding, even when he talks with his family later on he says it felt so vivid, like he was living through it. I completely understand why we learned about this person’s death through Ryder’s “dream.” However, a character shouldn’t be having traumatic or PTSD flashbacks if they have never experienced trauma or have PTSD. There has never, ever been any indication that Ryder experienced something traumatic and there has never, in the whole trilogy, been a statement that Ryder has PTSD. So, I was not a fan of this particular scene and truly wish that whole scene had be executed in a completely different way.

Overall, I still enjoyed this book despite the paranormal element and despite the conflict with the trauma/PTSD representation in this book. The epilogue in this book is also lovely. It’s about Avery and Owen’s wedding. However, I’m still holding on to a glimmer of hope that one day we’ll get a novella about Hope and Ryder’s wedding. Fingers crossed. But I can’t recommend this trilogy enough. I love it with my whole heart and I’m constantly recommending it to fellow readers.

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The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts

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💐 The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy, #1) – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warning: Loss of a loved one, minor obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), talk of cheating/adultry, talk of abortion, talk of divorce, grief

Friends, this is probably my favorite out of all three of the books in this trilogy. I usually don’t like having favorites when I a trilogy or series, but this book just has my whole heart, and hits so close to home. And even though there’s the paranormal element in this book, it doesn’t have such a huge role in this books as it does with the other two books. And I just really love how Avery and Owen remind me of the way my spouse and I came into each other’s lives. I just love this book so, so much!

💐 Avery MacTavish – Owner of the popular pizza place, but has plans to run her own restaurant one day and wants nothing more than to play her part in helping the Montgomery family. Only she never planned for her feelings for Own Montgomery to be in the picture.

💐 Owen Montgomery – The softest, most organized boy and probably my favorite Montgomery boy. He has minor OCD and shows how things have to be done a certain way or it’s the highway. And in all his organization and needing to have a plan for everything, he never planned for Avery MacTavish to shake things up every plan he’s ever had.

💐 Elizabeth/Eliza – The spirit who lives at the historical inn the Montgomery family is fixing up. Waiting at the inn for her Billy to return to her.

💐 Justine Montgomery – Sassy mother of the Montgomery brothers and the head boss over every project the Montgomery boys take on.

💐 Beckett & Ryder Montgomery – Brothers to Owen Montgomery, Beckett the architect and husband to Clare Brewster/Montgomery, father of three boys and Ryder the muscles, the alpha male, of the Montgomery family.

💐 Clare Brewster/Montgomery & Hope Beaumont – Best friends to Avery. Clare is the wife of Beckett Montgomery, mother of three boys with an exciting bundle of love on the way and Hope just moved from D.C. to BoonsBoro, who now works as the inn keeper.

“Love runs the engine”

We follow Avery MacTavish who has never had any time to slow down. She runs the local pizza shop that always seems to be busy and every once in a while does she get a short pause to enjoy the little things in life. With a plan in mind, she wants nothing more than to take over an empty lot, the Montgomery family purchased, to turn into the restaurant of her dreams. But despite all of her planning, she never imagine Owen Montgomery, her lifelong crush, to play such a huge roll in her future. Owen Montgomery has had everything planned down to the final details with a backup plan in store. While the inn keeps him busy, he can’t stop his eyes or his mind from wandering to Avery MacTavish. Despite all of his fine planning, he never imagined Avery coming into to life and shaking up every plan for the future he’s ever had. Together, they’ll navigate what it means to be in a relationship and show each other that their future plans can include one another.

I said this before with the first book, but I’ll say it again here, I love all of these characters. They’re so thoroughly developed and you really get a feeling of who they are as individuals, but also when certain characters come together into the relationships forming. I also really love how we have a character who has some obsessive compulsive disorder aspects. Even though it’s minor, it’s still nice to see that kind of representation.

Of course, I have to talk about the family dynamics. Oh wow, when I say this book hits close to home, damn if it doesn’t hit close to home. For starters, Justine Montgomery is a character that deserves so much praise. Not only is she a widow and raise her three boys into wonderful men, but she’s a business woman and doesn’t tolerate any b.s. from anyone. She also talks about what it means to want companionship after the death of her husband. This leads to her having a conversation with Owen about her expressing her feelings and how she wants to have some fun in her life again, with a certain Will B. MacTavish, Avery’s father. Speaking of the MacTavish family, Avery’s mother walked out of her life at a very young age and was raised by her father, Willy B. Every time I read about Avery being raised by her father, my heart gets all warm for all the dad parents out there who are doing it all on their own. Single dads don’t get the spotlight they truly deserve and I’m glad we have such a strong, positive father-daughter relationship in this book. And when I mean this book hits close to home, even though I was raised in a single mother household, my father walked out on my life at a young age too. So it lands a certain way especially after Avery’s mother does come back into the picture and boy, it hit so hard. So you really see some great family dynamics in this book and I’m just really appreciative that there’s so much positivity, but it also shows the reality and the hardships that come with them.

What I love most about this book is the way Owen and Avery balance each other out. They’re so similar, yet so different in so many ways. Together, they’re like this unstoppable force that keep each other held together with love and determination. Without Owen, Avery would probably run herself into the ground and without Avery, Owen would never branch outside of his plans. Out of all of the couples in this trilogy, I truly love and appreciate the way Owen and Avery work. Plus, their conversations and the way their intimate scenes are set up, they hit all my expectations. And I also have to appreciate the way Avery’s father reminds Owen that even though she has the nickname, “Little Red Engine,” she still has bruises deep within her and Owen really provides a space where Avery can drop all her barriers, to show her vulnerable side.

“I want you to be careful with her, Owen. She’s had other boyfriends, but you’re different. You’ve got history and connections, and she’s had a sweet-on going. She’s tough, my girl, but she’s got places that bruise easy. It’s easy to forget that, so…don’t. I guess that’s it.”

This book also tackles so many important things that I don’t often find in the romance books I read. We really see Avery and Owen try to navigate what it means to love someone since childhood into adulthood and more so from Avery’s part, but trying to believe you’re worthy of love when someone who should have loved you and been there for you, rejects you. Now, I also want to state a warning, there is also a scene where abortion is talked about and it brings up a lot of discussion of pro-choice, pro-life, and when we should or shouldn’t include someone in these situations. I’m not going to talk about my feelings or opinions on that one, but there’s a whole scene of that in the book and it’s there to spark neutral discussion. I’ll just say this, there’s a lot of themes revolving around Avery’s mother that are there to spark discussion among readers.

“No matter how bad things are, and sometimes they were bad in our house, you want your mother to be there, to love you. And when she doesn’t, you feel . . . less.”

The only reason this book didn’t get the five stars is of course, the paranormal element. I truly believe this would have been better without the paranormal element. While it doesn’t bother me that it’s there, it feels like it’s unnecessary at times. However, I understand why the paranormal element was thrown in and I know many readers love it. For this particular series, the paranormal element just doesn’t work for me. If you’re not a fan of paranormal elements, out of all the books in this trilogy, this book has the least amount of paranormal in it.

Overall, I love this series so much and I really love this particular book. I just really love the positive representation of family dynamics, the way Owen and Avery mesh so well together, and of course, Justine Montgomery throwing her wild business plans all over the place. It’s just a really fun time and it’s just my favorite of all three of these books. I mentioned in my review of the first book that I get asked about Nora Roberts all the time and I truly think this is one of the best series you should read if you’re new to Nora Roberts. It’s just a great way to be introduced to her writing and the way she tends to write couples. Ugh, I truly love this series with my whole heart.

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The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1) by Nora Roberts

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/loss of a loved one, grief, assault, talk of domestic violence, misogynistic language, sexist language, stalking

“I’ve wanted to be with you when I didn’t have the right to.”

Friends, if you’ve been here a while then you probably already know I’m a reader of Nora Roberts. Yes, yes, I know. I have heard it all. That’s not the point. I grew up on Nora Roberts. In fact, I’m a third generation reader of Nora Roberts so it’s only natural that I would read her books. So if you’re one of many who have followed me from the very beginning, then you probably already know what I’m about to say. That I love the Inn BoonsBoro series with my whole heart and soul, and if you were thinking about trying to read some books by Nora Roberts, the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy is a perfect place to start!

💐 Beckett Montgomery – Architect in the Montgomery family, social life consists of talking shop over pizza and beer with his brothers, and has been waiting to kiss Clare Brewster since they were sixteen.

💐 Clare Brewster – Widowed mother of three, Harry, Liam, and Murphy, runs the town bookstore, and absolutely in love with the inn the Montgomery family is fixing up and might be falling in love with a certain architect.

💐 Sam Freemont – The antagonist, a know womanizer and abusive partner known among BoonsBoro town folk, has his eyes set on Clare and refuses to take the hint of rejection, but soon starts forming a plan.

💐 Elizabeth – The spirit who lives at the historical inn the Montgomery family is fixing up.

💐 Justine Montgomery – Sassy mother of the Montgomery brothers and the head boss over every project the Montgomery boys take on.

💐 Owen & Ryder Montgomery – Brothers to Beckett Montgomery, Owen the organizer, the softest boy, and Ryder the muscles, the alpha male, of the Montgomery family.

💐 Avery MacTavish & Hope Beaumont – Best friends to Clare Brewster. Avery owns the local pizza shop and Hope just moved from D.C. to BoonsBoro for a fresh start.

I love all of these characters (except Sam Freemont)! They’re wonderful, they truly paint the picture of a family who takes care of one another no matter what. It was everything my heart needed and loves to read about! Plus, the family dynamics are wonderful and shows them in such positive lights.

“That’s possible to likely. We’re involved, you and me. I’m telling you what I’m going to do because I figure when people are involved, when they matter, they tell each other.”

The Next Always follow our two main characters, Beckett Montgomery and Clare Brewster, as they navigate the challenges in their life, but navigate the road of romance to find one another. Beckett is trying to manage the challenges that come with rebuilding an inn, but also navigating the heart of a widowed mother who is too busy to consider love and romance. Clare is a busy mom of three sons, the owner of the local bookstore, and dealing with a creep who won’t take no for an answers. The last thing Clare has on her mind is starting a romance with anyone, let alone Beckett Montgomery, but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.

I say this all the time, I love this trilogy, the characters, the world building, and relationships. For those who didn’t know, the inn that’s talked about throughout this whole trilogy is an actual inn in BoonsBoro, Maryland that you can stay at or tour. While I haven’t been there myself, just from the photos alone and their website, it looks like an absolute dream!

This book also discusses many topics. For example, what it means to leave home to start a family and when it feels like you have no place to go, you can always go back home. That’s one of the main themes throughout this book, no matter what, you can always go home. This book also talks about what it means to be a single parent and how there are many challenges a single parent faces. I do say it often, I am from a single parent home and I watched my parent struggle with fiances, dating, and feeling like the only person they could rely on was themselves. And I think Clare’s character really opens the floor up for discussion for single parents and the hardships they may face.

“Harry, I promised you something. I said I’d clear it with you before I asked your mom to marry me. I need you to tell me it’s okay if I do.”

I also really love how you get the true feeling of small community and small town vibes with this book. When you read this book, you get a sense of everyone looks after one another. Also true to small towns, you pick up on how fast “gossip” flies around BoonsBoro in this book. Not only that, the description of the book store, the pizza shop, and the inn are so vividly described that it feels like you’re walking around BoonsBoro.

I also want to take a moment to talk about the problem with Sam Freemont and the way Clare handles the situation with Sam Freemont. I think this might be something that causes a lot of readers to have an issue with this book or cause dislike. So, I thought I would come in and give a little perspective from someone who has experienced the things Sam Freemont does is this book. Of course, please make sure you practice self-care while reading the sections. Sam Freemont is a character in this book who has always been given everything he wants and if he can’t have it, he takes it. Sam’s character starts off as a narcissist, but over time escalates to stalker, but eventually develops to showing signs of psychopathic traits. Sam refuses to hear Clare’s rejects, refuses to take a hint, and it has been indicated that Clare has been hiding the situation from everyone, including her best friends. As someone who has gone through having a stalker and people in my life showing psychopathic traits, Clare’s action or natural response is an accurate representation of those who have gone through these situations. It’s not the correct response, but it is accurate and valid because most of the time, you convince yourself it’ll stop all on it’s own.

Despite all the things that happen within this book, I think the part that dulled my experience was the paranormal element in this book. When I first read this book, I was head over heels and while I still love this trilogy, the paranormal element wasn’t my favorite part. I think if it was removed, I would have been able to give this the five stars I had originally gave it.

Overall, this was a reread for one of my favorite series and even though it only got four stars, I still love this series. I’m always asked what is the best place to start with Nora Roberts books and I will always say this series. The family dynamic will have you falling in love, small town vibes, there’s an inn involved, and characters you will love with your whole heart. There’s something in here for everyone and I just can’t stop recommending it.

Read for the Stay Home Reading Rush 📖

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Check Please!, Book 2: Sticks & Stones (Check, Please! #3-4) by Ngozi Ukazu

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🏒Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey | Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Hazing, underage drinking, homophobia, anxiety/panic attacks

“It’s about having each other’s back. Because they’ve taught me I can be strong just how I am. Exactly how I am.”

My heart is so bitter sweet right now! I can’t believe that this is it. This is the last book in the Check Please duology! My heart is full, but sad at the same time. I love all these characters, this story, and there’s a part of me that’s excited to see what Ngozi will come up with next! If you haven’t read this series yet, hop on it! It’s so wonderful and it’s a piece of my own heart. I think this duology has made into my top five favorite graphic novels and I’m not okay!

If you haven’t read the first book, well, you definitely need to change that asap! Book Two follows introduces us to Bitty’s junior year and with that, we follow up on how things ended in Book One. So you have to go read the first book before diving into the final book. However, I will keep this review as spoiler free as I possibly can!

Of course we’re following Bitty (Eric Bittle) in his junior and senior year, and boy have things changed! Bitty is now the captain of the Samwell hockey team and he’s facing all kinds of new challenges. Like how to manage the team and trying to be the best captain for the team that he can be. We also discover that Bitty is dating someone and we watch them navigate the struggles of being in a relationship with one another. And of course, Bitty is still his typical self with baking, cooking, and all the food goodness! I was living for all the food in this graphic novel!

That aside, I really loved this book a lot more than the first one. While the first book was more about Bitty coming to college and how he became part of the hockey team, book two deals with a lot harder topics. For example, Bitty and his boyfriend navigating their relationship, figuring out who they want to tell and how open they want to be about their relationship. We see the hardships and we also see how coming out can be hard, scary, painful, and being unable to find the words to tell the ones you love most. There’s even a scene where Bitty and his father end up in a very heavy topic. It really shows how being out in your sexuality can cause someone such internal turmoil and the emotional strain one may be enduring.

There’s also really great representation throughout this entire book as well. You have players from different nationalities, there are actual characters of color on page, and there’s so much lgbtqiap representation! Now can you understand why I love this graphic novel so much. It has everything a reader could want in a book and there is a bisexual character as well. So you know my heart is filled to the brim with happiness.

“God Bits, I wish I could kiss you.”

We also see a lot of our favorite from the first book as well! They’re there for all the important points and we even get updated on how they’re doing since they left Samwell. Even though they’re not around as much, they still remind us of why we love them so much. Plus, in the back of the second book, we find out Shitty’s real name! One of the biggest highlights of this whole book. And even though a lot of the original crew isn’t around too often, the new member we meet are just as entertaining, charming, and captivating as the first crew.

I just love this graphic novel series so much! And the ending of this book was absolute perfection! I don’t think I’ll ever be over this duology and any chance I get, I will probably be recommending it to anyone who’ll listen. This is such an enchanting book with great characters who you’ll fall in love with. Besides, I’m not much a sports reader, but this is one sports book that I will sing the praises of for all eternity. I hope you fall in love with this duology as much as I have, love these characters as much as I do, and just enjoy the ride of it all!

Read for the Stay Home Reading Rush 📖

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Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1) by Tessa Bailey

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, depression, emotionally abusive parent, talk of divorce

“You have to fight for what you deserve. What you want is no more or less important than what anyone else wants.”

Holy shit, friends… This might be the best damn romance I have read all year so far. When everyone said to go listen to the audiobook and then never gave an explanation why, I finally understand. It’s so good, so steamy, and definitely the first time my spouse has ever saw me listening to a sexy read on audiobook. What an experience for the both of us! Don’t let this cover fool you, this book is too hot to trot and I’m still quaking. For my first Tessa Bailey read, it hit the ball right out of the park!

We follow two main characters who grew up in the same small town together. But after five years have past, one of them returns home, they both realize that maybe you just need someone who really believes in you to make a brighter, happier future.

Georgette Castle – 23-year-old clown, an actual birthday party clown, and the youngest or “the baby” in her whole family, and you better believe that they have no problem letting her know they never take her seriously.

Travis Ford – 28-year-old, who’s newly retired professional baseball player, due to an injury. But after moving back to his hometown, he’s struggling now more than ever.

Both Georgie and Travis want to be taken seriously by everyone around them. So the two of them come together to strike up an agreement, a friendship agreement, that start with a few meals, some deep cleaning, and one broken fireplace. But all of these things can lead to so much more and soon a fake-dating act is sprung! Travis wants to look more wholesome so he can land a job that brings him back to baseball. While Georgie wants everyone to see her as more than the comedic relief.

“We’re not about cutting people out of our lives. We’re about refusing to accept anything less than what we deserve. About realizing that we’re all important here despite mistakes or bad relationships or lackluster careers.”

And of course, sex is completely out of the question especially once Travis finds out she’s a virgin. Sparks fly, it becomes hard to keep hands to themselves, yet Travis doesn’t want to be the stepping stone to Georgie’s sexual awakening. Meanwhile, Georgie knows she’s different from Travis, wants different things, things Travis doesn’t want to give her. All of this mixed together, I was on cloud-nine, from the angst all the way to watching the chemistry ignites flames between these two characters. Watching these two figure out their attraction and discovering how strong their pull was to one another, absolutely priceless!

Let me just say, I was screaming for every time Travis would say ‘babygirl.’ Most people would find it very cringey with how often it was said, but I was living for it. The entire time I was constantly reminded of Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds and how deep their connection is. It also made me super soft because my own partner uses that nickname to show endearment. So I was wrapped in some deep feelings and felt my own little flame in my chest burn while reading this book.

“You . . . accept me. Exactly as I am. But you still change me for the better.”

Overall, I can understand why many readers had issues with this book. I see you, your opinions are valid. However, this book was perfection and this was something that I ultimately needed to help bring a little light back into my life, right now. I loved the dirty talk, I loved reading how both characters viewed one another, and the fake-dating was so good! This was my very first Tessa Bailey, gotta say, color me impressed because now I need to read more by her. I have no idea why I put this off for so long!

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Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

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Content/Trigger Warnings: High risk childbirth, panic/anxiety attacks, seizure mentions, talk of underage drinking, minor bullying

“When I’m with you, I can just exist”

Friends, this book touched so many parts of my soul. I laughed, I cried, I probably swooned multiple times while I read this book. This book was truly everything and touched every inch of my soul. Foolish Hearts is a piece of my soul now and I want to share that with all of you before I tell you the synopsis.

💘 Boy Bands & Video Games – If you have been following me, you probably already know that I’m a gamer and a LARPer. It has been a part of my life for the longest time and it’s a part of my soul that brings the happiest moments to my life. Add my never ending love for boy bands from Backstreet Boys and NSYNC all the way to K-Pop bands, they have always been there in my life. It’s not secret that I discovered BTS after a really bad accident and that band alone turned a dark, scary time in my life into something brighter and happier. Both of these things hold a large corner of my heart and there will never be words to say how grateful I am that I have them in my life.

💘 Best Friends & Family/Siblings – I am always open about how much my family and my siblings mean to me. My family and siblings mean everything to me, they’re an important piece to have in my life, and I constantly miss them. Despite the calling my friends and family, despite texting and messaging one another, and despite all the video calls, I constantly miss them and feel homesick. They are my whole world, half of my heart, and I would an army to protect them.

Foolish Hearts is about our main character Claudia, who spends her time playing video games with her best friend and siblings, not really for any additional people to come into the mix. Until the end of summer comes along and she accidentally ends up overhearing two girl breaking up. Iris and Paige were the “it” couple at Claudia’s school, but now they’re broken up. While Paige still gets to be loved and popular, Iris gets cast as a villain for being heartless and mean. When Claudia and Iris are forced to work together, not just one, but twice in a row, they’ll each uncover things about each other and an unlikely friendship with grow.

“He is my small son.”

Let start by saying, I have always been a boy band lover and even more so of K-Pop. Without getting too personal, Kayla from Book and Blends is truly the one who brings out the best in me and constantly right there talking about K-Pop with me. Every day I’m so thankful because Kayla truly is my best friend and to have someone understand my deep love for K-Pop, but also be there for things outside of that is a true blessing. And reading about our two main characters, it reminded me so much of the conversations Kayla and I have had. It really melted my heart and made me feel very soft.

However, so many other things happen in this book! Maybe I was swooning a bit too much from Claudia finding someone who sees her for her and wants to know about the things she likes, maybe it was reading Claudia make outfits and teach others their lines, or maybe, just maybe it was all the gaming that was occurring that had me swooning because I’m super nerdy and a little gremlin when I game. I mean, the majority of this story revolves around a play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and that alone is enough to make me swoon. And the interactions during the play just felt so real, so natural, and how things truly are in drama class.

Of course, I have to talk about the family dynamic and the sibling relationships. It was the realest family dynamic that I have felt in a long time and I loved how it shows that no matter how good or bad things are, you can always be there for one another or fix things. I also really loved how this book wrote the expectations of siblings and how siblings can all be given fair chances, but if one siblings does better than the other, can be given more privilege. I also loved how the author thought to include what it’s like for the main character’s sibling and best friend to be dating. All the responses felt very natural and really felt like what it would be like to have that happen.

I also really fell in love with the love interest for Claudia. A lot of the things he says and does speaks to my heart and soul. They way he unapologetically loves so fiercely and cares about the people in his life. Even more so when he goes to such lengths to understand Claudia and really take part in the things she likes. I really loved his character and I loved how even in the serious scenes he was still a ray of sunshine. I just really appreciate his character and everything he represented in this book.

You can tell Emma Mills really understands fandom culture too. How sharing something with another person can be a truly magical experience and is a true gift. How many fandoms just want love, support and to bring happiness to the people who bring them happiness, but how many people can turn it into a fetish and how fetishizing is very real, very serious in many fandoms. The author truly understands on a deeper level and I wouldn’t be surprised if she even declared she was once a boy band fan.

“It’s like a snort,” I say. “Like a snort chortle. It’s a snortle.”

He moves a little closer. “Is that a Pokemon?”

Overall, this was such a an impactful read that touched my soul with everything I hold dear. I can’t believe no one told me about this book sooner. I can’t believe I waited so long to pick this book up because wow… the actual blessings this book exists. To have a book touch your soul on an intimate level, to feel like a book has literally read you and the things imprinted on your heart, it truly is an experience to have. This book is the biggest love letter to friendships, fandoms and boy band lovers, to the nerdy gamers, the dreamers who are just getting started, and the ones who are still trying to navigate life when things are constantly changing. It’s been a while since I’ve been so soft, wrapped up in my feelings, and feeling the happiest that I can be. This book is just a ray of sunshine and I hope that if you have read this review, you pick this book up and it brings you some of the joy that it brought to me.

I read this for The Backlist Readathon 2020 💗

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, panic/anxiety attacks, racist micro-aggression, toxic relationships, emotional abuse/manipulation, minor gaslighting, pseudocyesis (phantom pregnancy), talk of cheating, alcoholism, body shaming/body issues, talk of eating disorder, talk of rape, mentions of death and terminal illness, and mention of trypophobia

“I want to be with someone I can talk to. I want to be with someone who automatically has a fat folder on me. Someone who feels lucky when I tell them the most unflattering, scary stuff.”

Readers, let me start this off by saying I understand why many readers didn’t like this book or enjoy it. However, I couldn’t get enough of this story, of these characters, and I really loved the various elements this book has. It’s a story I enjoyed, I read this book within a day, and I’m still thinking about it after all this time. This book truly touched a soft spot in my heart.

Our story starts off by following Penny, an 18-year-old Korean-American girl, getting ready to start her first year at college in Austin, Texas. This story also follows our second main character Sam, a 21-year-old tattooed boy living above the coffee shop he works at. Though Sam really enjoys baking, he really wants to become a documentary director. Both of these characters come together when Penny’s roommate, Jude introduces Sam as her uncle. Though the first encounter is awkward, the second time these two characters meet is when Sam is having a panic attack and Penny is the one to find him. Penny is always prepared and after helping Sam work through his panic attack, they exchange numbers and become each other’s emergency contact.

For starters, I loved when Penny and Sam exchanged numbers to be each other’s emergency contact. I don’t think many readers realize how accurate the way the exchange and communication between Penny and Sam really was. Some of my strongest and most intimate friendships have been built through being an emergency contact. And though most of the time Penny and Sam communicate via text, there are times where they do call each other and very few times they meet face to face to talk. Being an emergency contact isn’t always when there’s a panic attack. Sometimes it’s just being a friend and having a normal conversation with them to prevent their stress from reaching a climax of developing into a panic attack. I truly loved that we really got to see that and how realistically it was shown in the texts.

I also fell in love with the way the relationship between Penny and Sam was blooming. Even though each character had their own things happening that they were trying to navigate, they truly felt like two realistic young adults. We really see how they struggle with wanting to be more than “online friends” and what it really means to put yourself out there, whether or not it will mess up the friendship, and questioning if that’s truly what they want. I think many readers will be able to relate to these characters and how they feel especially with how natural it is nowadays to find your friends online, meet your romantic partner online, or even date online. We see how both characters struggle to talk about their feelings face to face. The way they text is the way they can openly share their thoughts and emotions without risking a panic attack and I don’t understand how some can read this only to say that it’s not realistic. Some of the strongest foundations in a friendship are built through emails, letters, or texts and I have experienced that to the fullest over the years of my life. Also, the way they build their friendship before they fully realize they each have romantic feelings for one another was fantastic. The friendship became a larger focus instead of the romance and I really liked how we still got the romance, but it wasn’t snuffing out the friendship. It was a beautifully crafted relationship with so many layers and every time I think about it I fall in love with them all over again.

“Loving someone was traumatizing. You never knew what would happen to them out there in the world. Everything precious was also vulnerable.”

And you know I have to talk about the family dynamics in this book. What a hard hit to home! I say it all the time that I come from a single parent home and how odd my own family dynamic is. To see Penny who comes from a single parent household with an actively dating parent hit me right in the feels. Then to read about Sam’s family dynamic hit me just as hard. I can relate to both of these characters and the struggles they faced with their families. However, it just goes to show how meaningful and how important it is to show diverse families in books. It makes the characters more relatable and it really allows the readers to feel closer to those characters. It just hits a certain kind of way and I really appreciate that the author included the family dynamics in this book.

However, I truly wish I could have given this book a full five stars. There were two things that stuck with me that even now I wish I could remove from my memory. The first thing I had issues with was the false pregnancy. While I understand why it was written the way it was and the part it played for the development of a certain character, it didn’t sit right with me. I’m not going to go into details on why it didn’t sit right with me. However, I will say for those who have fertility issues, those who struggle with becoming pregnant, for those who want a child more than anything else in the world, this may be triggering for you. I wish someone would have told me about this before I started reading this book.

The final thing I want to address was the opportunity that was missed between Penny and her mother. While I understand why Penny revealed what happened to her with Sam, I definitely feel an opportunity was missed. Penny’s mother ends up driving to her dorm and they have a discussion. I feel like somewhere within that discussion Penny could have addressed certain things, but I understand why they weren’t. However, I really wish they had been talked about or addressed it.

Overall, I loved this book and these characters. They felt very realistic and there were so many things in this book that were so relatable. I definitely hope more readers give this book a chance and pick this one up. I think there will be many readers who will fall in love just as much as I did. I have no idea why I let all the hype and negative reviews stop me from reading this book before, but I’m so glad that I picked it up now!

“And for all the people waiting for permission to level up enough before they start working on something big and scary–just go in. Don’t be like me.”

I read this for The Backlist Readathon 2020 💗

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Heartstopper: Volume Three (Heartstopper, #3) by Alice Oseman

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, homophobia, guilt, talk of self-harm, eating disorder/disordered eating, scene of underage drinking

💕 Vol. One – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

💕 Vol. Two – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“There’s this idea that if you’re not straight, you HAVE to tell all your family and friends immediately, like you owe it to them. But you don’t. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready.”

How to make me smile, cry, rip my heart to pieces and put it back together in one sitting? Hand me a volume of Heartstopper. This series is everything and it hits super close to home. It turns my heart into a puddle every time I read it and it keeps getting better. I’m just sitting here patiently waiting for 2021 to come and deliver Vol. Four into my mailbox already!

As I always say, if you haven’t started this series yet, what are you even doing! Go start it before you decide to read this. Unless you’re someone who wants to spoil, even though I do try to keep this a spoiler free zone. Go check it out, you can read this comic for free HERE!

Volume Three is a bit of a divided comic. Half of this comic takes place near the end of the school year and then the other half is spent on a school trip to Paris. In this first half we see how Charlie and Nick go about handling their relationship while also being at school. But there’s also many things Nick and Charlie tackle separately from each other. Nick ends up dealing with some homophobia inside his home and learning how to live with an un-accepting family member. Also, Nick reconnects with some friends that he closed out of his life and we see him struggling with coming out to them. Then we have Charlie who finally told his parents about his relationship with Nick. However, we also see him suffering from great deals of stress school wise and relationship wise. Charlie starts to show signs of burn out and mental strain which lead into a lot of other things coming to light later on in the book. Charlie also finds out one of his friends may have been the cause of his outing at school and how he’s trying to mentally process this information before leaving on the school trip.

However, the majority of this book takes place during the school trip to Paris! This is where things start to get really heavy. This volume is centered very heavily around mental health. Please make sure you practice self-care while reading into this section. Even for me, I struggled reading through some of this because of my own coming out and mental health struggles. So definitely take care of yourself, fellow readers! During the whole trip Charlie, Nick, and the whole gang have a series of cute moments. From stealing kisses to their playful ways of trying to stay in, everyone gets up to some really adorable shenanigans. However, we see Nick struggle with trying to meet up with his father and we see his growing concern for Charlie. Charlie, on the other hand, is struggling a lot while in Paris and it really starts to show leading to concern from Nick. Charlie also confronts his friend and we see how both of them handle everything in the moment. There’s also a really great moment shared between Charlie and Tara. We learn more about Tara and how she came out, we see how she and Darcy handled any homophobic backlash, and Tara starts to see how stressed Charlie is and offers some really good wisdom. The rest of this book as a whole was an intense wild ride packed with many emotions, feelings, and surprises.

Also, I have to talk about the teachers in this graphic novel because they deserve a spin-off series! We have Mr. Ajayi, the art teacher and Mr. Farouk, the science teacher. They had so many great moments in this book and I wish we hand more! Thankfully, Oseman thought of this and provided a mini comic for my two new favorite beans! I really loved the conversation both of them had at the vending machine and how sometimes you don’t figure out your sexuality until later in life, when you’re out of school, and much older. I think that’s going to hit the mark for anyone who has had that experience and I hope this is the ground work for authors to bring this up in future books. I also liked how the mini comic also goes into further detail and builds off what we learn about Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk in this book. I just need more from these characters and I hope we start seeing them a little more in this series!

Overall, I love this series and I love these characters! Oseman hits the nail on the head every time she releases a new panel or a new volume. I can’t wait for the next volume to come out even if we do have to wait till 2021 for it to release. And hopefully we will get more mini comics because the cuteness overload is too much! And if you haven’t started this series yet, definitely give it a try. These characters will have you falling in love and swooning over the whole series!

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10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Grey area cheating and emotional cheating, high risk pregnancy threats, emotional and mental manipulation, toxic relationships

Oh boy, if you have been putting this book off because of all the hype and out of fear you’re not going to love it then let me be the voice that tells you that everything you hear is true and so much more. So many friends and family picked this book up this holiday season and I wanted to start my year off on the right foot. So after much boosting and much spamming from my friends, I picked this book up. And I’m in love. I can’t believe I fell in love with this book and how quickly I fell in love with some of the characters. If you been here for a hot minute then you know this book holds some of my favorite things that will instantly hook me and boy, does this book have it’s hooks in me deep. This was such a heart warming and delightful book to bring in the new year and honestly, I can’t believe I didn’t pick it up sooner!

10 Blind Dates follows our main character, Sophie who has been planning on celebrating the holidays with her grandparents (and her whole extended family) while her parents are off celebrating with her sister who is on bedrest with her pregnancy. She also thinks she’ll be able to sneak out during the chaos of the holidays and spend some time with her boyfriend, Griffin. But things rarely go as plan and they don’t work out they way she imagined they would. When she drops by at a party and over hears her longtime boyfriend saying he’s having second thoughts about her relationship, she decides to make things easy on both of them and end things. Now her family is swooping in to make this one holiday season she’ll will never forget and hopefully help heal all of her broken pieces.

“I don’t expect to meet the love of my life but maybe, just maybe this will help heal the pieces Griffin broke.”

I adored this book so, so much! I was truly surprised with how much I fell in love with it and there were so many aspects that I adore. I am a huge sucker for different family dynamics and this book delivers. We get that big family dynamic that’s full of chaos, mishaps, shenanigans, and so much love! It’s one big Italian family and I loved every detail we got to see of the different family members especially the betting board, that had me dying of laughter! I also loved that this book didn’t shy away from the pregnancy complications with Sophie’s sister. I really appreciated how this book made it feel very realistic with how the family was handling things and then seeing how the whole family came together to support one another in this time. It really warmed my heart. I also appreciated that this book went into enough details with the complications of the pregnancy that you could feel the urgency and how life threatening the situation was, but without overdoing it on the details that it became too graphic. I think it was all really well done and it was really enjoyable to see how the good and the bad kind of came and mixed with one another, but not to the point of each element overshadowing the other.

“Is there no privacy in this family?’ Everyone at the table answers, ‘No.”

But with every good there is always bad and there was just one element in this book that prevented me from giving this a full five stars. That element is known as Griffin in this book. I was incredibly frustrated with Sophie’s ex-boyfriend. Not to mention his behavior and actions were just unforgivable. Throughout this entire book he was constantly texting her, harassing her about the things she was doing even after Sophie told him they were over. He even shows up at Sophie’s grandparents’ home and has a confrontation with Sophie in the front yard where the neighbor boy even gets involved to make sure she’s okay. He also bought her a last minute Christmas present that was causing a lot of mixed feelings and reactions from our main character. But the most unforgivable thing he did and most stressing, unbelievable thing that this character could have done was used the emergent situation with Sophie’s sister as a way to post on social media, “one-up” Sophie’s family, friends, and the guys she’s been going on dates with, and then try to play it cool and say that the photo was just “nothing.” Griffin is a very problematic character for many reasons, but that scene alone rubbed me the wrong way for so many reasons. It just didn’t sit well with me and I know it was a scene of development for Sophie’s character and to forward the story-line, but it still irks me and it’s one of those moments that’s so bad that I have to bleach it from my memory.

Overall, this is going to be a perfectly cozy, heartwarming, holiday read that you don’t want to miss. This book puts so much importance on (healthy) family, how the love of family can be so strong and unconditional. There’s a big emphasis of sibling relationships, which you all know I tend to flock to. It was just a really soulful book and this book is truly so beautiful in so many ways. If you’re looking for a book to kick off your holidays or new year with a good note then you need to give this book a go. I can’t begin to explain all the feelings this book gave me and all the soft spots of my soul it touched, but I can recommend it with my whole heart and tell you this is worth the hype. And in case you didn’t know already, this book has already been picked up by Netflix! I’m truly excited to see this adaptation and you better believe I’m waiting for the cast announcements!

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