• Burn Me by Jess Whitecroft

    Burn Me

    Burn Me by Jess Whitecroft
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Disclaimer: I may be biased seeing as rock stars are my favorite type of character, but this book has to be at the top of the list of best reads for me this year.

    So, this is going to be the most personal review I’ve written. Reading the blurb and content warning about dark themes should have made me run away from this book given that I started it while in the middle of a depressive episode and while coping with an unrequited crush. Sounds like a recipe for disaster of the mental health variety, right? Well, I don’t consider myself a masochist for nothing.

    Imagine as an adolescent, you have a massive crush on someone who is unattainable for various reasons and years later, you still can’t get them out of your head. Then, one day, your feelings are inexplicably reciprocated and everything you imagined, daydreamed, fantasized about becomes reality. But the reality is a thousand times more fantastic than what you ever conjured up in your mind.

    Add to the thrill of attaining what you most desire the complication of mental illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism, and you have yourself a perfectly angsty love story.

    There is so much I can say about this story that I loved. It’s hot and filthy. Funny and real. Raw and heavy. Simultaneously heart-wrenching and heartwarming.

    The author throws in several music references–classical and rock’n’roll–that appealed to my music-loving heart. (I may have squealed at the Blur reference .) And the history and science lessons interspersed throughout were educational without being boring or taking away from the romance.

    This is going to be one I reread many, many times. And if I end up sleeping with it under my pillow with a smile on my face and tear tracks on my cheeks, who will know? 😉

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  • Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson

    Fourteen SummersFourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I LOVED this book. The premise is delightful: Twins Aiden and Max are childhood bffs with Oliver until Oliver moves away. The twins run into Oliver over summer break from college and they pick up where they left off. I enjoyed the interactions among the three and the shenanigans they got up to as they rekindled their friendship. The author did an awesome job cultivating their varied personalities–even the twins’–and I enjoyed getting to know each of them. The three person POV worked really well, and I appreciated getting insight into Max’s head even though he wasn’t one of the love interests. The development of a summer romance between Aiden and Oliver is so sweet, I wanted to reach out and hug them tightly. And I especially loved the dynamic between the twins. Their arguments–err, fights, really–are written so well and true to life as someone with siblings. A slight case of mistaken identity adds to the charm of this read.

    Oh, and that cover! What a work of art. I seriously can’t stop staring at it.

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  • What it Seems by Sydney Blackburn

    What it SeemsWhat it Seems by Sydney Blackburn
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I adore this story with every fiber of my being. Darcy is asexual and Michael is straight; at least, he claims to be. Michael becomes infatuated with Darcy and can’t get Darcy out of his head. The kicker is, Darcy is a guy but Michael thinks he’s a girl. Fate intervenes and they run into each other a year after Michael’s first spotting of Darcy. Michael makes his moves and discovers Darcy isn’t the woman Michael thought Darcy was. Throughout most of the story, Michael maintains his “straightness” even while he is drawn to Darcy. Darcy, meanwhile, has never been interested in anyone, male or female or in between.

    They continue hanging out (dating, really, but neither is aware of it) and feelings develop on both ends. The author handles Darcy’s confusion and development of feelings for Michael in such a relatable way as a fellow ace.

    I love how Michael, even when he staunchly maintains that he’s straight, just kinda accepts that he has romantic and sexual feelings for Darcy. And he never pressures Darcy, letting Darcy set the limits and boundaries.

    “I love sex, I really do, but if I have to choose between it and you, I pick you.”

    The characters’ internal discussions and conversations together are informative to readers who may not know or understand asexuality. Asexuality is a spectrum, and people who identify as ace have different experiences and may not completely relate to this author’s storytelling via Darcy. I, however, think the author did a bang up job creating an ace character and a non-ace love interest.

    One of my favorite passages from the book that accurately describes sexual versus love/affection:

    “‘Isn’t kissing sexual, though?’

    ‘Is it?’

    Michael had always thought that love and sex were intertwined, in spite of the fact that he’d had many sexual relationships but very few girlfriends. Sex without love was one thing, but love without sex? If one was possible, the other had to be too.”


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  • Fabulous!: An Opera Buffa by Laury A Egan

    Fabulous!: An Opera BuffaFabulous!: An Opera Buffa by Laury A Egan
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This book was…WAY over-the-top and campy.. I learned way more about opera than I ever imagined I would. Gilbert Eugene Rose (or Kiri De Uwana or Guilia Hancock or Christopher Wren.) is a talented opera singer trying to make a name for himself. He ends up taking roles in two operas organized by two different opera houses, and he takes a job performing privately for a reclusive fan of opera. Drag queens, psychics, spirit guides, mobsters, lesbian best friends, ex-lovers, hitmen/women, crazy love interests, absent parents, multiple identities, kidnappers…you name, this book has it. In fact, it has so many kooky characters and situations that I felt overwhelmed. I know not every story needs to be based in reality but, man, this one went off the deep ends at times.

    That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy any of the book. There were parts I did like and I managed to read the entire book in a day and a half. It was an easy read for me. I didn’t have trouble following all the weird tangents the author takes the reader on. While I might have smirked at some of the funny lines, nothing made me laugh at loud. I’ll say it was amusing but not funny enough to chuckle.

    This book has action, suspense, and comedy along the lines of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. If you’ve ever read any of Stephanie’s adventures, you have a very good idea at how ridiculous (and not always in a bad way) this story got.

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  • Inside Darkness by Hudson Lin

    Inside DarknessInside Darkness by Hudson Lin

    **Copy provided by author for honest review.**

    3.5 out of 5 stars

    Cameron, an international aid worker, suffers from PTSD from being out in the field for several years. His darkness is a place of fear at times, and at times a place of safety. He meets Tyler, a journalist, while on location in Kenya. The attraction is mutual but they part on less than ideal terms.

    As the title implies, darkness plays a big part in this story. The insight into Cam’s struggles (his “darkness”) is written in such a way that I felt his anxiety and fear. The description of his disassociation when triggered was spot on. This is a heavy read, and Cam’s spiral into the darkness and his methods of coping elicited conflicting emotions. There were times when I wanted to yell at him to get his act together. Other times, I empathized with his downward spiral.

    Tyler starts off as self absorbed and career driven. As he gets to know Cam and his struggles, Tyler becomes more likable and the best support system for Cam. I appreciated how their relationship evolved and how in tune he is to Cam’s emotions and needs.

    It took me a few chapters to get into the story, and the ending left me feeling like something was missing. There is so much detail in the middle (Cam’s road to recovery and the development of his relationship with Ty), that the ending felt rushed. I felt like a needed more detail for a proper resolution.

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