Review: Laura Pavlov’s Beautifully Damaged

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Beautifully Damaged
tells the story of Peyton Kroft and Jackson Vance. Peyton and Jackson were soulmates. In love, the two vowed to stay together through it all. They were unbreakable, until an unthinkable tragedy occurs. Jackson walks out of Peyton’s life, seemingly for good. Nine years later, Jackson reappears and he’s ready to mend fences (and also Peyton’s broken heart). They both are forced to decide whether they will let the past continue to haunt them, or love each other through all their damage. 

You might like this book if:

  • you love second chance romance
  • you enjoy the friends to lovers trope or the childhood friends to lovers trope
  • you like reading dynamic characters with complex, emotional backstories

You might not like this book if:

  • you dislike reading flashback scenes
  • you don’t enjoy second chance romance
  • you don’t enjoy reading third person POV

There was a lot I enjoyed about Beautifully Damaged. I received it as an ARC from the author, who is so sweet and lovely. I was very excited to read this one as it was highly anticipated in my reader friend group. I don’t read many second chance romances, so I was excited to dive into this book all around.

My favorite thing about Beautifully Damaged was reading about our two main characters, Peyton and Jackson. Reading their friendship was amazing and you could truly feel as a reader the strong, emotional bond they had. You could feel the desperation, the angst, the longing, and the heartbreak. I thought the author did a beautiful job of not just telling us what the characters were feeling, but actually showing us. This, for me, is the marking of a talented author.

I also enjoyed the bit of danger/suspense element thrown in surrounding a situation that Peyton had to deal with. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m a sucker for a danger element in a romance.

I also loved the complex backstories for both our main leads. I love reading about strained, complicated family dynamics, because it mimics reality. I thought the author did a great job of introducing these dynamics without making them cookie cutter. These relationships aren’t magically solved or perfect by the end of the book. (Which is good, because in real life, relationships are hard and take work. There is no easy fix). I enjoyed how these strained relationships turned into a source of strength and familiarity between our two leads.

In terms of romance, it was really very sweet. You can tell that Peyton and Jackson are destined to be together from the very beginning. I myself am still with my childhood sweetheart (10 years later!!) so I could really relate to their childhood love morphing into a true, deep and emotional one.

As you all may know, I typically am not a fan of 1) flashback scenes and 2) third person POVs. This book has both. However, I honestly felt like it worked here. I almost think that flashback scenes are necessary for a second chance romance to help set the scene and explain the past. For me, I just like a linear storyline and this is a personal choice. However, I did not mind the flashback scenes here. Additionally, I just prefer to read first person POV, because it helps me connect better with the characters and what they are thinking. However, I found that I still was able to connect and bond with these characters even in a POV that isn’t my favorite, which I think is a testament to the strength of the author’s storytelling. These aren’t criticisms as much as they are my personal preferences.

All in all, I gave this one a 4.5/5. I enjoyed this sweet, second chance romance, and I’m excited to see what else this author has in store for the rest of the series.

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Ratings
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5
My Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Steam: 2/5
Romance: 5/5
Friendship: 5/5
Suspense: 3/5

Get More Info: visit Laura Pavlov’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Facebook; find Beautifully Damaged on Amazon

Beautifully Damaged is new adult contemporary, and it published on July 24, 2017. It is the first book in the Shine Design series. It is available to purchase here.

About the Author: Laura Pavlov writes sweet and sexy contemporary romance that will make you both laugh and cry. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, mom to two awesome almost-grown kids, and dog-whisperer to a couple crazy yorkies. Laura resides in Las Vegas where she is living her own happily ever after. Be sure to sign up for updates on new releases. Laura loves to hear from readers!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. The author was kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera’s What If It’s Us

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Ok so I’ve been sitting on this review for a little while. I felt so conflicted upon finishing the book that I didn’t trust myself to write a honest review right off the bat. There was a lot that I liked here, but honestly there was a lot that I didn’t. I know the internet seemed to be really championing this book, as the authors are loved and the book features very inclusive characters, but unfortunately it didn’t really work for me.

Synopsis
Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office in New York, where Arthur is working for the summer. Arthur feels its a sign from the universe – he’s ready for his first big shot at romance. Ben doesn’t buy into the whole “the universe works in mysterious ways” – he thinks the way the universe works sucks. After all, the sucky universe is one of the reasons he is at the post office in the first place – to mail back his ex-boyfriend’s things. Arthur is determined to find the mysterious boy from their meet-cute, because he can’t help but thinking what if?

Will I like this?
You might enjoy this book if…

  • You enjoy YA romance that is sweet with little to no steam
  • You love books with inclusive characters of diverse backgrounds
  • You enjoy having your romance rooted in realism

You might not enjoy this book if…

  • You prefer a romance that is more new adult/adult
  • You prefer more mature characters
  • You prefer endings with a firm resolution

Spoiler Free Review
I want to start with what I liked. I loved the representation and inclusion in this book. This is a romance between Arthur, a Jewish boy who has ADHD and Ben whose Puerto Rican. It’s so important to write romance stories for everyone, and I love this book for its inclusivity. Also, it’s obviously a M/M romance, which is awesome! For this reason alone I wanted to absolutely love this book, but unfortunately,  it just missed the mark in other ways for me.

I also loved how this book wasn’t afraid to tackle big issues. We’re talking everything from homophobia to anxiety to privilege. This book also features a host of secondary characters with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Truly, this book’s diversity is its strongest aspect in my opinion.

I also enjoyed the fact that this book was just plain ol’ realistic. The romance between Ben and Arthur felt real. There was no fairy tale aspect. There were times when things felt awkward between them or when things just did not work out the way they wanted them to. I appreciated this. I even loved the realistic relationship mirroring between Ben & Arthur and the relationship we saw in Arthur’s parents. While there were some points that I felt the parent’s relationship was a bit toxic, they also showed that a loving relationship isn’t always perfect.

Onto what I didn’t love. I hated all the pop culture references, I’m just going to say it. While I appreciate a few Harry Potter references (because, c’mon, I love HP), this book seriously went overboard. There were so many. So, so many. They were in every chapter and even became plot points in the book. (Honestly, I found this to be an issue in other Becky Albertalli books that I’ve read.) This makes the book feel so immature and young to me. While I appreciate that this is YA, the references just brought it down a level. Also, I feel like this dates the book. When people are reading this ten years from now, all the references can be isolating to a reader who wasn’t there to appreciate them. I’m down for a few, but this book overdid it.

Lastly, while I loved that the book was realistic, the romance honestly still felt forced and a bit off to me. It didn’t feel like a natural progression and it felt like both characters were trying to force their relationship to work because of all they went through to find each other again. It felt like a bit of “well after all that, we have to make this work!” Everyone was cheering them on and a fan of their relationship, so it felt like they were trying to hard to make it work because they felt like they should. I really wasn’t buying into it. As a book where the romance is such a huge focus, this is where it really brought it down for me. I think the book could still keep its realism, while injecting a bit more romance/friendship between the two. Sometimes  felt like they were making it so awkward for the sake of being like “this is real romance! sometimes its awkward!” that they went overboard and lost the heart of the romance.

Overall, I give this a 3/5. I enjoyed reading the book, but there were minor issues that kept me from really liking it or even loving it.

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Ratings
Goodreads Rating: 4.0
My Overall Rating: 3/5
Steam: 0/5
Romance: 2.5/5
Friendship: 4/5

Get More Info: visit Becky Albertalli’s website; visit Adam Silvera’s website; find What if It’s Us on Amazon.

What if It’s Us is a young adult contemporary collaboration between Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Becky Albertalli is author of the wildly popular Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Adam Silvera is author of the deeply emotional book They Both Die at the End. What if It’s Us released on October 9, 2018. It’s available to purchase now.

About the Authors: Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, D.C. She now lives with her family outside of Atlanta. She is an American author of young adult fiction, best known for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which was adapted into the 2018 film Love, Simon.

Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of They Both Die at the EndMore Happy Than NotHistory Is All You Left Me, and What If It’s Us with Becky Albertalli. All his novels have received multiple starred reviews. He worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, community manager at a content development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He was born and raised in New York. He lives in Los Angeles and is tall for no reason.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Karen M. McManus’ Two Can Keep a Secret

TwoCanKeepaSecret.jpgThrillers and mysteries are my jam. There is something about a whodunit that I literately cannot resist. So I was really excited to read Karen McManusTwo Can Keep a Secret. I unfortunately had the ending to her debut novel (One of Us is Lying) spoiled accidentally (thanks a lot internet. kidding), so this was my first read by her. Going into it, I only knew the book had murder and homecoming queens. I had heard it compared to Pretty Little Liars, so I was immediately intrigued. (Ugh that show and book series used to be my guilty pleasure.)

Two Can Keep a Secret essentially kicks off with Ellery and Ezra, teenage twins, who moved back to their mother’s home town, Echo Ridge, to live with their grandmother. Echo Ridge is famous for the murder of Lacey, the town’s Homecoming Queen. Lacey was murdered in the town’s fair ground, known as Murderland. Years before that, when the twin’s mother was in school, the mom’s twin sister disappeared…without a trace. Now the Murderland killer is back. With threats happening all over town, it seems everyone is keeping secrets.

spoiler free review: So, I flew through this book. I loved the autumn atmosphere and the Halloween-themed park (and murder site). It gave off an eerie vibe, which was great for a thriller novel.

I also enjoyed the dual POV. Ellery was always fun to read through, and as a fellow true-crime junkie, I related to her character. I enjoyed her naturally suspicious personality. I feel like I would be the same way if I suddenly found myself in a town where a murderer was sending out threats. Malcolm was also great to read through. Just imagining myself stuck in his situation, I can’t imagine how I’d handle it.

Overall, this was a really fun thriller read. I did not figure out the ending (although there were some things I did guess… I’ll explain more in the spoiler’s section below). There were some strings that I would have liked tied up in the end (see spoiler section). However, the last line of this book literately gave me chills.

Ultimately, I would give it a 3.5/5 stars. I liked it, and I would recommend it.

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get more info: Visit Karen McManus’ website; connect with the author on Twitter; connect with the author on Instagram; find Two Can Keep a Secret on Amazon; find One of Us is Lying on Amazon

This is Karen McManus’ second novel. It is a young adult mystery/thriller, and it was published in January 2019. McManus currently plans to release a third book (a sequel to One of Us is Lying) in January 2020 in addition to a standalone YA mystery as her fourth.

spoiler’s ahead: So I knew there was going to be some type of twin switch when I read the scene with the porcelain doll with the crack down her face. For some reason, in my head this made me think of two halves of a whole and then I suspected that the twins had switched in some capacity. (Then, I remember the bit in the beginning about twin switching, so I became sure of it). I will admit though that I didn’t fully figure it out – I was thinking more along the lines of Sadie had actually died and Lacey was alive (posing as Sadie) although the why/when I wasn’t sure. Clearly, I was somewhat off base, but I was still a little disappointed that I had figured out even that much. My favorite mysteries are when I have all the clues, but absolutely no idea how to put them together.

My only real issue with this book was the situation involving Sarah. I felt like I did not get enough closure on this issue! How did he get the twins mixed up? Did he kill Sarah because he thought Sadie was going to go public with their affair? I need answers!! Although, I guess if the book did answer all these then the last line would lose its punch (and it really was such a great sentence to end on.)

Overall, I recommend this one! I can’t wait to read what McManus comes out with next!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Fredrik Backman’s Beartown

FullSizeROne of my goals this year is to re-read some of my favorite books. Sometimes I find myself so wrapped up in new releases that I don’t make time for the favorites I’ve already read. So in January, I knew I wanted to re-read Beartown.

I received Beartown as a Christmas gift from my boyfriend, who had read (and loved) another Fredrik Backman novel, A Man Called Ove. I went in to this novel with zero expectations and I was shocked.

This is one of the handful of books that I can say has had a profound impact on my life. At random times I will find myself still thinking about the characters and there are passages of the prose that are still suck in my head.

This book was beautiful. It was hard. It broke my heart. It was dark. It was impactful. Beartown is worth it.

Before I get further into the review, I need to include a trigger warning. Like, a really huge trigger warning. Beartown involves the rape and sexual assault of a young female character. Yet, the previous sentence seriously understates the content of the novel. Beartown goes beyond the details of the violence itself and explores the impact of such an event on the victim, the families, the abuser, and the community itself. Beartown talks rape culture, homophobia, misogyny, and victim blaming. It allows the reader to see how this abuse can occur in a community – and what has allowed it to persist. You can view a more thorough synopsis here on Goodreads.

spoiler free review: I loved Beartown. Fredrik Backman has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve been blessed enough to encounter. (Seriously, though.) Backman writes in such a way that packs a punch. The prose is written in a delicate, but an impactful way. I felt like I could find a meaningful quote on almost every page. (I’ve included a few of my favorites below in the spoiler section.)

Overall, I truly can’t recommend this book enough. It get a full 5/5 from me.

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get more info: visit Fredrik Backman’s website; connect with the author on Twitter; connect with the author on Instagram; find Beartown on Amazon; find Us Against You on Amazon

Beartown is the first novel in Fredrik Backman’s Björnstad book series. It is a work of fiction and it was published in September 2016. It is followed by Us Against You, which was published in August 2017.

note: I wanted to include some resources here for anyone who may be dealing with a similar situation to the sensitive content seen in Beartown. Whether you want resources, support, or if you are looking for ways to support others – please consider some of the links below.

RAINN is a great resource for those in the United States. RAINN provides national resources for survivors and their loved ones. Their hotline number is 800-656-HOPE. RAINN also has international resources here for those who reside outside of the United States.

I reside in the United States, so I’m not as knowledgeable in resources for international folks. However, as I research further, I will add any resources here that may be of help to y’all.

You are never alone.

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