The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

20896313
Grade: A
Hotness Level: Ember
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult
Series: The Ivy Years #1
Published: 3/24/14
Reviewed by Anne
193 pages

Corey should have been starting college on the hockey team.  Instead she’s starting in a wheelchair, hoping she might walk again some day, knowing the hockey is not in her future.  Her wheelchair means she’s been placed in the sparsely populated “gimp dorm” instead of one of the many large and not-handicapped-friendly dorms most freshman stay in.  Luckily for her, she got assigned an awesome random roommate, and the guy across the hall is Adam Hartley.

Hartley is a hockey player whose having a year off from the sport after breaking his leg in two places.  He and Corey become good friends as they limp and roll around campus.  They help each other work through issues big and small and start to wonder if their friendship might turn into something more.  Hartley doesn’t feel ready to leave his high class girl friend, yet, though, and Corey feels like Hartley is way out of her league.

Let me start by saying, in general, I don’t read New Adult books, and this is one.  I heard some good buzz, and specifically read a review by Jane at DearAuthor.com and decided to give this story a try.  I’m so glad I did!

My main complaints against New Adult romance in general are 1.) too much angst  2.) my inability to relate to characters.  I found Corey and Hartley to be relatable, and for all their issues, they were surprisingly low angst characters.  It certainly takes place in college, and in a college atmosphere.  It’s socially nothing like my geek experience was, but I know a lot of people who had experiences like those in the story, so that’s believable to me.

Corey is such a strong character.  She’s not perfect, and she makes some poor choices, but her attitude toward life is one of soldiering on.  She doesn’t just hope that better days are coming, but she makes the most of where she is right now.  Hartley is pretty messed up emotionally, and his friendship with Corey helps him to see things more clearly.

Without ruining things, I want to say that when Corey hits a major sad point in her life, I was impressed with how she handled things.  She made choices to improve her life.  She mourned her losses, and with the help of her friends, she moved on.  That kind of maturity was very relatable.

I also felt like the author did a great job explaining why Hartley was making the choices he was.  You could feel his confusion that his choices weren’t leading him toward happiness, and see him struggle to make changes that would.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s got great characters and a wonderful story.  It’s going on my best of 2014 list!  In fact, it might be the best book I’ve read this year so far.  How about you?  What’s your best book so far?

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Too Stupid to Live by Anne Tenino

16149703
Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m
Series: Romancelandia #1
Published: 1/14/13
Reviewed by Anne
247 pages

I’ve been on an Anne Tenino kick, and this book was part of her backlist I’m working through.  I think her TAG books are my favorite (start with Frat Boy and Toppy) but Too Stupid to Live was very enjoyable!  The back cover blurb bothered me, though, because it was a bit misleading.  So I’m going to edit it as I think it should be here: 

Reformed rakes make the best husbands.

Sam is too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels.   His One True Love is certainly still out there, and he knows what he’s learned from his reading is going to help him identify that man.  He’s cultivated the necessary skills to see the highlander hiding inside the jeans clad player.

That’s when he meets Ian.

Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now—possibly—ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships.  His history of hookups and hiding his sexuality is over.  He’s not sure how to do it, but he’s going to have a meaningful relationship and be honest and open about it.  If he can only find the words. 

That’s when he meets Sam.

Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong . . . can they?


So, Sam and Ian meet each other and stumble into a relationship that plays out sweetly as they try to figure out themselves and each other.  Ian is actually seeing a therapist and trying to figure out how to have a real relationship.  Sam is trying to believe that he deserves a good man.  It’s a pretty low conflict story, which I love.  Just these two men trying to sort themselves out.  It’s very cute and funny, and the sex is very hot and steamy.  

When I was typing up this review I saw that there’s a second book in the series listed as coming out later this year featuring secondary characters from this book.  I’m looking forward to it!  I should also mention that this book is linked to two short stories written by Anne Tenino,  Whitetail Rock and The Fix.  Sam was a secondary character in those books and Ian is a cousin to one of the main characters.  I don’t think it’s necessary to have read them before – but they are good stories.

Love, Hypothetically by Anne Tenino

15749088
Grade: C-

Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m
Series: Theta Alpha Gamma #2

Published: 8/27/12
Reviewed by Anne
89 pages

Paul is a graduate student and tutor.  Trevor is a new coach at the same college, and he’s got student athletes Paul will be working with.  Paul and Trevor have history.  And lots of baggage.  Horrible painful baggage. Trevor terribly wronged Paul nine years ago in high school, and he’s hoping that now Paul will forgive him.  Paul’s not sure he wants to forgive Trevor.  He might just want a little revenge.

This story was believable, but painful.  It doesn’t have a lot of the humor I expect from Anne Tenino.  Or if it’s there, I just don’t remember it because of how sad the rest of it was.  I also think I had a hard time feeling like these two were going to be ok together.  Trevor was awful to Paul in the past.  Then Paul is awful to Trevor in the present.  That’s a lot of awfulness to set aside.  In the same way that two wrongs don’t make a right, two really emotionally painful experiences don’t cancel each other out.

This story does get bonus points for a sex scene with a deflating erection.  It’s not something you read of often in romance – every man seems to be some sort of super stud.  I appreciated that scene, and it was really well written.  Actually the whole story was well written, I just didn’t enjoy it.