Defensive Play is a lovely, sweet and heartwarming story about first love and coming out. It’s a very quick read, a novella that can be read in a single sitting. But even though it’s only about 80 pages long, it’s amazing how Jamie Deacon manages to tell a wholesome story and describe the characters and make you root for them on those few pages!
“One glance is all it takes to bring his defences crashing down…”
Seventeen-year-old Davey is shy, anxious and does not makes friend easily, but has nevertheless earned respect and acceptance at school for his soccer skills. He is deep in his closet though. Fearing his teammates’ rejection, he’s kept the fact that he is gay a secret from everyone. Even his own family.
But when he meets Adam at a soccer tournament, the ache is too strong to resist. One look and sparks start to flare between them and Davey has to make a choice. Should he follow his heart and take a chance on finding love and happiness with Adam, or should he stay closeted and not risk losing his teammates, the closest thing to friends he has ever known?
Reading this book was a pure pleasure. It’s emotional, sweet and realistic with such a gentle and beautiful romance between two teenage boys.
It was really refreshing to see two such different characters in a sport setting, and that both Davey and Adam felt like real teenager, with a lot of depth and that neither of them was casted as a stereotypical nerd or jock, but a little of both. The way Davey feared not being liked and respected for who he is was so relatable. And even if Adam was confident, popular and comfortable with his sexuality, he had his own heart-ache and pain to deal with.
I also really liked that there was no forced outing and that Adam didn’t put any pressure on Davey in that respect, but realized that it was all Davey’s decision if and when he felt ready for it.
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Beaten Track Publishing
What If It’s Us was one of my most anticipated releases this year. The collaboration between two of the greatest YA authors today and the plot raised my expectations sky high. Unfortunately though, I was quite disappointed.
It wasn’t that it wasn’t good. It was. It was very cute, fast-paced read, with a lot of enjoyable New York scenery and pop culture and Broadway references, in a story about two teenage boys meeting at the post office in NYC and their efforts of finding each other again because maybe “life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?”. It was just that it could have been so much better! Especially the characters.
The story was told from different POV:s, alternating between Ben and Arthur. Normally, I like this set-up, but here I found a bit unnecessary, and unfortunately I didn’t fully connect with the characters. Arthur was a bit over the top and Ben was always talking himself and Arthur down and reflecting on how Arthur was too short and not being chill, which after a while got a bit annoying. I also missed a bit of chemistry between them too; it wasn’t Broadway magic between them, which I had hoped for.
On the other hand, I really adored some of the side-characters. Especially Ben’s friend Dylan and his hilarious, awkward “future-wife”-way of jumping way ahead in a relationship. Jessie seemed to be a really good friend, and Samantha was an adorable character with a big heart.
I also really liked that the story was a bit softer and sweeter, more quiet somehow, than most YA books. It was about Ben and Arthur and their little part of the world, which was enough. And the representation was great, the main characters are a gay Puerto Rican and a gay Jewish with ADHD who is obsessed with the musical Hamilton, yay to that! And even though I would have liked some more swoon-worthy magic between Ben and Arthur, the authors did a great job in describing the insecurity you feel about doing things for the first time (first date, first kiss etc.) in such a realistic and adorable way that it made your heart ache.
“I am actually dead. There’s no other way to explain it. I’m sitting in fucking Herald Square, holding hands with the cutest boy I’ve ever met, and I’m dead.”
I really, really enjoyed the descriptions of the dates all over New York and the pop culture and fanfiction references.
But, besides my problems with the main characters, I also have to say that I found the ending thoroughly dissatisfying. I just really, really wanted to love this so much more than I did. But that’s got more to do with my extremely high expectations than the book, and if I hadn’t read anything by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera before, I’m sure I would have thought that it was a really cute and sweet YA story.
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Learning to Feel is such an adorable M/M romance story with characters that you immediately root for. It’s a heart-warming story about awakenings; to finally find that thing that makes you happy, and about being brave enough to risk it all for love and happiness.
Doctor Nathan Tierney has never felt real love, lust or passion. Giving up on finding it, he’s resigned to living a sexless, loveless life, focusing on his career instead. But deep down he knows something is missing, and in a rash decision, he leaves his life-consuming job at Mass General Hospital, Boston, to be the small-town doctor in Belfast, Maine. With the job comes a house, and with the house comes a handyman-painter. Trent Jamieson, a nomadic artist, and his dog Bentley, are offered free accommodation for the few weeks he fixes up the hospital-owned house. And soon, Nathan finally starts to feel. And wow, how he feels… Confused but amazed by the overwhelming feelings for another man, Nathan doesn’t know if he can allow himself to follow his heart.
This book had so many things I loved like opposites attracts, a wonderful, loving and accepting family, sexual awakening, small town originals and a gorgeous dog. There was also the right amount of angst and a burning attraction. The only objection I have is how the book went from sweet, slow-burning, awkward romance to very explicitly sexual quite sudden. I personally would have preferred more of the sweetness and less of the detailed and explicit sex descriptions, but that’s just my personal opinion, and I really understand if someone else appreciate the steamy parts.
All in all, this is a gorgeous gay romance that I highly recommend! And even more so, as it is available to download for free via the author! See the link below!
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Download a copy for free from the author
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is something of a companion book, or prequel, to the heart-breaking, sad and beautiful Salt to the Sea. In this book we get to follow Joanna’s (from Salt to the Sea) cousin Lina as she is hauled away by the Soviet secret police from her home in Lithuania and thrown into a cattle car en route to a work camp in Siberia. Up until then, Lina had been just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941, but with an extraordinary talent for drawings. Separated from her father, Lina finds solace in her art, and at great risk documents events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea can be read as standalones, but I really enjoyed learning about Joanna’s life prior to meeting her in her struggle in Salt to the Sea.
This is a beautiful, gripping story about survival and hope in the darkest of places. It’s deeply moving and emotional, but compared to Salt to the Sea, it didn’t steal my breath and heart just as much. Perhaps because I read the books in the wrong order? Or perhaps because it was Ruta Sepetys’ debut book and she’s gotten even better at creating heartfelt characters and plots along the way?
Still, Between Shades of Gray is an amazing, important and highly recommended historical read with loveable characters. And even though the tragic, horrible, historical events it describes, it’s a fast and easy-read YA story that in the end gives you hope and shows you the strength of love and compassion.
Ruta Sepetys is an extraordinary writer, always doing thorough research and creating heart-piercing fiction based on historical events that must not be forgotten. I will definitely keep reding more of her books!
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So, this will be my first one star rating ever. I know this is probably a very unpopular opinion, but this book was just too disturbing and collided with my values and everything I stand for that it made me utterly uncomfortable reading it. I can never find rape, torture and pedophilia sexy. Never. No matter how well written the story was or how much I rooted for the characters, the focus on sexual slavery and all other disturbing parts with rape, torture and abuse really put me off. Slavery isn’t sexy. Rape isn’t sexy, and it certainly isn’t entertainment.
I really cannot for my life understand how this book can be praised by so many. It’s well written, yes, and the plot resembles Game of Thrones quite a bit, with fights for power and dark setting, and there are complex characters to root for (especially Prince Damen, who is captured by his half-brother, stripped of his identity and right to the throne, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave), but in my eyes that can never justify the toxic values and ideas presented in this book. This book is NOT a cute enemies-to-lovers M/M romance! Not in any way. (The series might end up there eventually, but I will not continue it to find out, since this book is the furthest from it.)
This book presents so many dangerous ideas that it makes me scared, with its society where rape is seen as entertainment, and where no one raises an eyebrow at older men having sex with twelve-year-olds, and where it seems that it is not rape if someone gets an orgasm. But you know what, men CAN be raped. Forced oral sex IS rape. Unwanted preparations of someone’s “entrance” IS sexual assault. Orgasm is NOT consent. And sexual slavery can NEVER be justified. This book is NOT about romance at all, it’s about abuse, about power over slaves and about toxic views on other people’s value.
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No, please don’t!
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz 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 Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody 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 Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman 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 Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker 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 Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher 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 M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie 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 Taylor Jenkins Reid 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 Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez