I absolutely loved this contemporary teen gay romance! It was such an adorable and sweet, but also so heart-wrenching and gripping, story with amazing fleshed-out characters with flaws and secrets that completely stole my heart. I read it feverishly in one sitting, hoping for the HEA the main characters so deserved, but fearing that the evil persons in their lives or the characters themselves would cause a train wreck hindering that. (Just be aware of the trigger warnings - parental abuse, violence and grief – before picking it up.)
In sixth grade Noah Stone is assigned an anonymous pen pal for a school assignment. Little did he know, when reluctantly writing his first letter, that the anonymous pen pal would become his closest confidant for the next years, nor that the anonymous pen pal would move to his school and find out who Noah was in real life. Neither could he ever suspect that the annoying but intriguing superjock Evan Santiago would be that pen pal, nor that he would be the one encouraging Noah to come out of the closet and make a move on a boy he fancies, even though the thought of Noah with someone else breaks Evan’s heart. Nor could he guess why Evan has all the bruises, why he’s so aggressive or why he’s so protective of his little brothers.
Evan keeps a devastating secret that he can’t confide in anyone, believing he doesn’t deserve to be loved, that he deserves the hell he’s living in. His life is full of fear and responsibilities, knowing he has to protect his little brothers from his abusive dad at all costs. The only positive thing going on in his life are his chats with the anonymous pen pal. But when he learns his identity by mistake, he no longer wants to stay trapped in his lie, and when he learns that Noah is interested too, he takes a chance at love, risking everyone he’s tried to protect, including himself.
This might seem like a light and funny YA gay romance, but it had such depths and sadness in addition to the sweet and heartwarming parts. Evan’s situation was absolutely devastating and I rooted so much for him. He was such a complex character, with his tough attitude to try to cover his insecurity and vulnerability, and with his loneliness, his compassion and his love for his little brothers. My heart ached for him, even when he made the most stupid choices. But also Noah had demons to struggle with and a father pushing him into things that were not his own choice.
They were both such wonderful characters, with depth and flaws, and their chemistry was just amazing! I loved the way Elizabeth Arroyo captured the suppressed feelings, their love and fear, and how she made us readers come along on Evan’s and Noah’s journey to finding themselves and coming to a decision what’s really worth living for.
My only minor complaint is that some parts of their relationship felt a bit too toxic. It was fully understandable knowing what Evan had had to deal with, but I still would have preferred if Evan hadn’t been as dominant and over protective of Noah all the time and that he hadn’t been so opposed to bottom, that part felt a bit problematic to be honest.
But all in all, My NOT So Anonymous Best Friend was such an addictive, emotional, poignant and sweet story about first loves and finding your forever that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. I can’t recommend this book enough!
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of the book, which I have voluntarily reviewed.
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What a beautiful, sparkling little gem! This book was such a heartfelt, adorkable and sweet queer YA romance, full of relatable, fleshed-out characters to root for, a swooning friends-to-lovers romance, amazing friends and family, and some truly gripping and heartbreaking moments. I read this book in one sitting, completely hooked from the very first page!
Set in Brisbane in 2008, Henry Hamlet’s Heart tells the story of Henry Hamlet and his best friend Len during their last High School year; at that moment in life when you’re supposed to make important decisions impacting your whole future, but still struggling with the journey of growing up, finding out who you are and learning to love. There was so much Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Red, White & Royal Blue vibes to the story, but with some darker layers in the form of trauma after losing a parent, social awkwardness and anxiety, and bad/abusive parenting.
Henry and Len have been friends forever, despite their differences. Len is a heart-throb, a popular jock who is also on the debate team and love photography. Henry is clumsy, socially awkward and too smart for his own good sometimes. But somehow they’ve always matched. Even more than Henry had realized until a truth-and-dare kiss changes everything.
I absolutely loved Rhiannon Wilde’s writing style and the amazing friendship and dynamic between Henry and Len. I loved their banter and the humor, and not to mention the burning chemistry… Both of the characters immediately stole my heart in their own separate ways. I also really appreciated the little twist that the most popular of them both, Len, was the one that had been secretly pining for Henry, not the other way around as one would expect. The way Len always looked out for Henry and how he truly loved him for him and for all his quirks was truly adorable.
I also absolutely loved the side characters (except Len’s mean and abusive father). Their friends and family were all so well developed as characters and so sweet, hilarious and supportive.
The story dragged a little in the middle, but it was still addictive enough to stop me from putting it down even for a second.
All in all, this was an adorable, quirky, heartfelt and emotional friends-to-lovers story that I recommend with all my heart!
Thank you to NetGalley and Charlesbridge for the free review copy of this gorgeous YA book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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I read this sweet and super romantic second chance, small town and happily ever after romance book in one sitting, it was that addictive!
This book consists of two stories that have been published previously as The Imperfect Love Duet. In part one, we get to follow Chloe who’s had to leave her one true love, Wyatt, and hide a major secret for him for years. It’s been five years since she’s last been home. Since she last laid eyes on the only man she’s ever loved and ever will love, but who now hates her. Can she go against her parents’ wishes this time around and fight for herself and maybe, maybe, find a way to get Wyatt to forgive her?
In the second part, focus is on Addison, who knew she was in trouble from the moment she first laid eyes on Adam. Addison is dealing with some demon from the past, and when she meets Adam, she has to relive some of her worst moments in life for a chance of love. But we also get to see glimpses of what happened to Chloe and Wyatt after the first part, which was lovely.
Both these stories were sweet, old fashioned romances (in the best possible way), with destined love between soul mates interrupted by evil meddlers and twists of fate, that were such quick and enjoyable reads. I enjoyed the first story the most, I didn’t root quite as much for Addison as I did for Chloe, and the reason for Addison’s mother’s evilness never made sense to me.
And yes, I have to admit that the stories were really cheesy at times, that both romances were very conventional with a strong masculine hero and a beautiful and sweet heroine and that there were some major plot holes and illogical and unrealistic behavior going on. But when the characters are this lovable and the writing this addictive it doesn’t really matter… this was just such a highly enjoyable feel good book!
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours and NetGalley for the free review copy, which I have voluntarily reviewed.
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4/18/2022 0 Comments
Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram
This was such a special, refreshing, thought-provoking and entertaining book about what it’s like to be a queer member of a boy band. There were so many meaningful discussions and insights on homophobia, racism, bottom-shaming, and expectations put upon queer celebrities from the queer community as well, but it was also such an adorable coming-of-age story with lovable characters.
Kiss & Tell follows seventeen-year-old Hunter Drake, who is an out and proud gay member of an international sensation Canadian boy band, who has recently broken up with his long-term boyfriend Aidan Nightingale. Aidan is also the twin brother of the bandmate, Ashton Nightingale, which makes things extra complicated. Especially as Hunter starts to get feelings for the drummer in the opener band, Iranian-American Kaivan Parvani. When a jealous Aidan leaks some sexting tweets between him and Hunter, Hunter will learn the hard way the limits to what level of queerness that is respectable to heterosexual fans and media, but also the homophobia and pressure to be masculine even in the queer community and bottom shaming. As damage control, the record label set Hunter and Kaivan up for some public fake dates that might not be as fake as the label thinks though…
I really loved the coming-of-age parts and the way Hunter had to grow as a character to break free from the expectations put upon him from both the label and fans and not the least the queer community, to find a balance between the public persona forced upon him and trying to live his life authentically. Hunter was such a lovable character, who truly wanted to make a positive difference to the LGBTQ+ community, and who had to struggle not to lose himself despite constantly being told how to act and how to dress, then criticized by the public for every little thing. He was a little ignorant and selfish at time, not understanding that his band members also had struggles on their own with racisms, but I rooted so much for him from the very start.
I also really enjoyed the extra content with tweets, interviews and news articles, which added to the understanding of what Hunter had to deal with in the form of media, fan opinions and the record label’s cynicism.
The romance part of this book was not as strong as I’d hoped for and I basically think this book is more of a coming-of-age story than a YA romance. I never fully trusted Kaivan and couldn’t fully invest in his and Hunter’s relationship, which felt lukewarm all the time to be honest. I also had some problem relating to the other band members, who weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. Especially since there were a lot of potential in their culturally diverse backstories as well. But I truly enjoyed the aspect of the story where Hunter realized that he was not the only one struggling, but that his bandmates were also facing bigotry and discrimination.
All in all, this was a thought-provoking, yet sweet and adorable, read about finding out who you are in the spotlight! I adored the main character and appreciated the way Adib Khorram addressed issues like bottom shaming and how Hunter felt the pressure to conceal his identity even after coming out, in order not to be “too queer” and how not only conservative fans and media but also the queer community put expectations upon him. Highly recommended!
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4/16/2022 1 Comment
StrangeLove by T.L. Bradford
This is the third book in The Young Americans series following the cast on a Hollywood TV show and their friends and it just keeps getting better by each book! This is my favorite one yet!
StrangeLove can be read as a standalone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read the two previous books in the series first. Even though this book focuses on the budding romance between football player Archer and dancer and former member of the YA cast Kai, it was so lovely to see the main couple from the first two books, Josh and Noah, as well as some other favorites among the YA crew again.
I won’t get into the story too much, since it will spoil the previous books in the series if I do. But I just want to say that compared to the complicated and sometimes toxic relationship in the first two books, I shipped the slow-burning and sweet romance between Archer and Kai so much more. They felt right for each other from the beginning despite their differences.
I also really appreciated how this book shows that love for another person can exist in many forms and how you can remain friends with someone even after concluding that you are not a romantic fit. I also loved Archer’s and Kai’s sweet and adorkable quirks and their snarky banter.
Some parts were a bit too long and dragged unnecessary, and there were some plot twists that didn’t make sense to me. It was also a bit hard to fully comprehend Archer as a character. He was really sweet and goofy, but there was something about him that didn’t add up in his persona. Some parts got their explanation towards the end, with his homophobic family and their rejection, but I hope his character will be even more fleshed out in the next book. Which I’m eagerly awaiting… I can’t wait to continue Archer’s and Kai’s story and to get more of their snarky banter!
I also hope for one more couple in this series, and I hope it will involve Liam Allen who is an intriguing character that definitely grew on me in this book!
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for the free review copy and blog tour invitation for The Young Americans series. All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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This is the second book in the Atonement Camp series and just like the first book it was such a fun, queer and completely unique read! I described the first book, Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes, as “The Da Vinci Code goes queer in a hilarious and thought-provoking story about an ancient artifact that has the power to change the world, a secret organization with connections into the Vatican and a young pastor who is about to question everything he thought he knew” and most of that applies to the sequel as well. Compared to the first book this sequel has even more of mystery, intrigues, spy plots and secret societies à la Dan Brown. It’s so action-filled with riddles and twists that it kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through!
It was so lovely to be back in the queer world of the campers at the atonement camp and meet all the colorful and compassionate characters that stole my heart in the first book again. It was also lovely to see the former closeted and homophobic young pastor Rick Harris now living a full and happy life as gay in the open. He is even dating a 19-year old hunk named Ryan (even though he secretly hopes to rekindle the romantic relationship with his childhood friend Garrett who he reconnected with at the camp). I must say that I didn’t particularly like the way Rick objectified Ryan, nor their age difference, or the fact that he cheated on him as soon as he got any chance and blamed it on insecurity to justify himself. The way Rick changed his heart on who he loved throughout the book made me like him a little less to be honest. But luckily, the other characters grew on me even more this time, when more of their past struggles and the fierce way that they’d tackled them were portrayed. The campers in this book have become one of my absolute favorite found families!
All in all, this was such an easy, entertaining and action-filled read, with both an intriguing mystery plot and an important message about self-acceptance, inclusivity and everyone’s right to love who their heart desires.
Thank you to Pride Book Tours for the free review copy and tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
3.5 stars rounding up to 4
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Evan J. Corbin
4/5/2022 0 Comments
True Faith by T.L. Bradford
This second book in The Young Americans really surprised me and made me question my feelings from the first book… Suddenly I’m Team Noah after having some real problems caring for him in the first book, and my sweetheart Josh is suddenly selfish and immature, and the other cast members certainly are not behaving their best either. Just like the first book, this one was a bit too long and with too much soap opera drama, but it was fun to have your thoughts and feelings overthrown by the author!
True Faith continues where Just Like Heaver finished, with the love affair between Josh and Noah. But instead of a happily ever after and a happy marriage that we all expected, they are really struggling to navigate the twists and turns of their newly public relationship…to varying degrees of success. And when Josh suddenly becomes the new Hollywood it-boy instead of Noah things soon get out of hand…
I was a bit disappointed in the way Josh acted, but on the other hand I’m glad that I finally got to root for Noah. The problem was that their relationship was so toxic and melodramatic most of the time, that I almost didn’t want for them to end up together. It was also sad to see the relationship of some of my other favorite supporting characters turning toxic as well.
What I really loved about this book was the way the author made her characters so real and so human with all their flaws and shortcomings. The story was a very angsty, emotionally complex and intriguing one, and I’m glad that we got more of Josh and Noah than just the first book. So all in all, it was an enjoyable read, but now I’m feeling more than ready to move on to some of the other members of the Americana cast.
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for the free review copy. All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Wesley Chu Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez