The Best of 2016 Part 2: New Adult & Adult

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 I told you my favorite Young Adult reads of 2016, now it’s time to showcase my favorite New Adult and Adult reads of the year! Anyone under 17, this post is not for you. Most of these contain either graphic sex or violence-or both. New Adult books fall between the Young Adult and Adult categories, and typically feature college age characters anywhere between 18 to 25 years old. “Adult” books occassionally contain main characters 25 as well, so I guess it really depends on how the author and their agent decide to market the book.
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My Favorite NA reads of 2016: (In no particular order)

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Wicked and Torn by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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With the exception of The Problem With Forever, I usually prefer Armentrout’s series over her stand-alones. The Wicked trilogy is one of only two New Adult fantasy trilogies she’s written, so I was eager to jump into this one.
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 Twenty-two year old Ivy Morgan is a New Orleans college student who’s struggling with more than just class finals and term papers. She works for The Order, an organization whose purpose is to hunt down and kill the dangerous Fey who roam the streets disguised as humans. Her duty to The Order is her life, and the only protection she has. Especially considering her grave mistake four years previously that resulted in the deaths of three people she loved dearly.
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Ren Owens is new in town and to the New Orleans Order. Right away, Ivy finds herself drawn to his forest green eyes and flirtatious behavior towards her. But she’s wary of letting herself get close to anyone again, after what happened.Image result for white background
Before she knows it though, they’re working together, talking and growing closer and Ivy might just be falling in love again for the first time since her boyfriends death four years ago. But then there’s a shocking new discovery made about the fey and the impending disaster has Ivy pushing Ren away again, afraid to lose anyone else.
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Ivy is a very spunky, sarcastic character and Ren’s flirty behavior and smart-ass remarks created quite the banter between them. It took me awhile to warm up to Ren at first; he seemed a little too cocky, a little too domineering. But he proved to have good intentions in the end, and made up for his initial behavior in more ways than one.
He was determined to draw Ivy out of the protective cocoon she’s retreated into since the tragedy she’d endured, and he encouraged her to not dwell on the negatives, on her past, or the “what ifs” of the future. He encouraged her to open her heart up to love and new possibilities again.
There were many heart wrenching moments in Torn, and although I know what to expect
from Armentrout by now, I found myself in tears of shock and dismay throughout the book, hoping desperate that Ren and Ivy would be able to handle the unexpected barriers that arose between them. But Ren really is a good guy and he did the right thing in the end. The end of book 2 left me satisfied yet still impatient for the final book, being released this summer. Why does it have to be so far away?!
  

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The Return by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Yet another Armentrout favorite I read this year. After being introduced to Seth in the Covenant series, I was eager for him to have his own story and get his own happy ending. So I was super stoked when Jennifer released the first in a trilogy centering around Seth. We get a look inside his head as he encounters new dangers and new love, and like any Armentrout book, this book was packed with romance, action and humor from start to finish.

The chapters switch between Seth’s perspective and that of a new character, named Josie. Josie is a college student living a relatively normal college life until the day Seth shows up to find her and bring her back to the covenant, and she finds that she’s a demigod whose powers have not yet manifested.

From there, much chaos, drama and romance ensues. Josie is a quirky, likable character and Seth turned out to be the hero we all knew he could be despite his actions in the Covenant series. I can’t wait to dive in to book two, but I’m waiting until the final book is released early this year!

 

 

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The Wild Seasons series by Christina LaurenImage result for wild seasons series by christina lauren

These books follow the stories of four friends as they navigate life and love and each find their own romantic happy endings. I haven’t had a chance to read the fourth book yet, as it was released very recently, but I loved the first three and I’m sure it will be no exception!

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filthyIn Sweet Filthy Boy, Mia and her friends travel to Vegas for a post college graduation get-away, where they meet a trio of hot guys-an aussie, a canadian and a cute french guy named Ansel-at a bar. They wake up the next morning, each couple married to each other in a unanimous, drunken Vegas wedding. While their friends instantly set about getting their marriages annulled, Mia and Ansel are hesitant to break things off so quickly.

As the night they spent together slowly comes back in bits and pieces, Mia can’t deny the connection this boy she’s only known for a day. She told him everything about how she got the scar on her leg and how it changed her life. She told him about her past and her fears and her desires, and he listened with endless patience and understanding.

Their friends call them crazy, but Mia has always went with her gut, and her gut tells her that her feelings for this Ansel go beyond the physical, and that she’d be a fool to not give this thing they have-whatever it is-a chance. So in a split second decision she agrees to take off with him to spend the summer in his apartment in France.

Right away, it’s clear that things aren’t going to be as simple as they were that one night, and they struggle to navigate their growing relationship in this new environment. Mia is falling for Ansel hard, but does he feel the same way? Does he regret inviting her to stay with him? And is there more to his past than he’s letting on?

 Mia was relatable to me in a lot of ways-she was very shy and quiet at times, so that people often underestimated her. She could also be very fierce and witty and brave at times. Ansel was sweet and dorky yet equally sexy and intense as well. Yeah, there’s a lot of sex and we all know lust can easily be mistaken for love, but I’ve read many New Adult books with similar situations, and I felt that relationship was genuine. It was complicated and sometimes messy, but genuine.

Despite their awkward start upon arriving in France, I felt like they came to really see each other for who they were and accepted one another’s flaws. They really grew to care for each other as they tried to work out exactly what had drawn them to each other in the first place.

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rowdyIn Dirty Rowdy Thing, Harlow and Finn can’t deny the attraction they’ve felt since they met in Vegas. They got married in a drunken haze, spent the night rolling in the sheets, then had the marriage annulled, all within a couple days. Following their quickie wedding in Vegas, Harlow later shows up at Finn’s house in Vancouver Island for a weekend fooling around. Image result for white backgroundFrom then on they develop a sort of friends-with-benefits relationship, and while both of them sense they could become something more, they’re afraid to pursue it, worried it could ruin what they have and complicate their mutual friend group.

Unlike in Sweet Filthy Boy, this love story is told in alternating chapters between both Finn and Harlow’s POV’s, so we get to see the struggles they’re dealing with in their individual lives. Harlow is struggling to cope with the news of her mothers breast cancer diagnosis. Finn has taken care of the family business for years now, but the fishing boat he and his brothers have owned for year may be on its last leg, and they can’t afford a new one. So Finn joins his friends in downtown San Diego, seeking a solution to keep him family’s fishing business from going down hill. And in Harlow, he finds a much needed distraction from his family drama, as does Harlow in him.

For Harlow and Finn, the sex was a huge part of their slowly evolving relationship, as it was the only way either of them felt they could communicate, and the only time either of them were willing to show any ounce of vulnerability. It was the only time Harlow felt comfortable giving up some control. And although Finn wasn’t usually the type to engage in casual sex, he couldn’t seem to get enough of Harlow.

Outside of the bedroom, however, they find it harder to get along. Finn can’t help but see Harlow as a privileged rich girl whose never struggled a day in her life. Harlow, of course, oftentimes becomes fed up with his hot and cold behavior towards her, and his judgmental attitude. Finn could be really stubborn and prideful at times and there was a point in the story where he took Harlow’s attempts to help him as personal attack to his ego. Harlow wanted so badly to help Finn fix his problems but was hesitant to open up to him regarding her own issues, which caused some more tension between them down the road.

Overall though, these two fit beautifully together in spite of their differences. It took some time, but they eventually worked things out and came to a mutual understanding, each of them acknowledging the mistakes both of them had made, and forgiving each other for them.

I loved Harlow’s bluntness and how direct she was. She didn’t shy away from conflict, went after what she wanted and was perfectly capable of handling things on her own. She does have a hard time coming to terms with the depth of her feelings for Finn, but she’s smart and mature in how she handles their relationship in the long run.

Finn was a lot softer and more sensitive than I would have thought after our brief introduction to him in Sweet Filthy Boy, but he too had a bit of a controlling side and was as much of a fixer and get-shit-done type of person as Harlow. This second addition to the Wild Seasons series was just as hot and heart warming as the first, and I have definitely found a new favorite NA author in Christina Lauren!

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darkwildIn Dark Wild Night we’re finally given Lola and Oliver’s story, the only couple out of the six friends who never consummated their “marriage” or became anything more than friends the night in Vegas. They mutually decided to maintain a platonic relationship, although secretly, they’ve both always wanted more but are completely ignorant to each others shared feelings. Like in Dirty Rowdy Thing, this story is also told in alternating POV’s.

Lola is probably my favorite character of this series so far. She’s a huge comic nerd and has even published her very own graphic novel, a story she’s been working on since she was fifteen. She’s fiercely passionate about her work it was very inspiring to see a woman become so successful in an industry typically dominated by men.

Many people see comics and graphic novels as primarily “guy things” and as her novel began the process of becoming a movie, she experienced a lot of sexism from the filmmakers and producers. But she stood her ground as they tried to change her non romantic graphic novel into a romantic film and continued to invalidate all her complaints that they were incorrectly interpreting her story. She stood firm in her opinions and didn’t let the Hollywood bullies shut her down. She was a very empowering female narrator and her flaws only made her feel more real.

Oliver is the adorably dorky, nerdy, glasses-wearing type. He was very supportive of Lola’s career and never doubted her intelligence or ability. I loved that they were friends-best friends-for months before they became something more. I never get tired of friends-to-lovers romances. From the beginning, it was obvious that they both loved each other in a more-than-friends kind of way, but were both blind to the fact that they shared these feelings.

Lola’s past brought up some complications in their delicate new relationship. Her mom had abandoned her and her dad when she was a young girl, and her fear of being left again resulted in her shutting Oliver out suddenly and without explanation. It took her awhile to see that Oliver was nothing like her mom, and it brought out Oliver’s own insecurities as he worried that she didn’t fully trust him or didn’t love him the way he loved her.

This was one of the sweetest, most thought provoking NA romances I’ve read. It’s without a doubt my favorite book in this series so far, and Oliver and Lola are hands down my favorite couple. I loved watching this sweet, nerdy couple start off as friends with a shared love for comics and slowly move towards something more. This story was equal parts romance, equal parts the story of a woman finding her path as a graphic novelist, and I loved every second of it.

 

 

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Books 1 & 2 of The Radleigh University trilogy by Dahlia Adler

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This college trilogy tells the love stories of three friends, each featuring diverse main characters and romances. They’re full of fierce female characters and sexy romantic interests, with plenty of hilarious and swoon-worthy moments. I have yet to read the final book in the series Out on Good Behavior, but I’m excited to as it’s a f/f romance! They can be hard to find within the NA category.

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I’ve already written a review for Last Will and Testmant, in which college sophomore Lizzie’s life is turned upside down when her parents die in a sudden car crash, leaving her as guardian to her two younger brothers. As she struggles to balance her college work and new guardian status, she finds herself seeking the help of her class TA Connor.

Connor has never been Lizzie’s biggest fan, and Lizzie only ever seen him as preppy, uptight know-it-all. However, as he proves to be both an excellent tutor, babysitter and friend, she finds herself falling for him despite knowing that a relationships between teacher and student is expressly forbidden.

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firstrefusalIn Right of First Refusal, we’re given a look into Caitlin’s life as an ambitious college lacrosse player struggling with unexpected family drama and the sudden appearance of someone from her past.

The day Cait moves into her new dorm, she gets the shock of her life upon meeting her roommate’s boyfriend; Lawrence Mason, who just happens to be the boy who broke her heart two years previously, and who now works as the school’s new basketball student-coach.

Cait and Mase agree it’s best to keep their history a secret from her roommate, but Cait is surprised at how determined Mase is to ignore their past and the connection they shared. He seems to want nothing to do with her now, but she can’t figure out why. When Cait begins posing as the girlfriend of a player on Mase’s team, she can’t help the satisfaction she gets at seeing him as jealous as she’s been ever since she met his new girlfriend. It’s obvious that they never stopped caring for each other. They’ve always had something real, ever since since they were brought together by a shared love of athletics at a sports camp two years previously. So why did he break things off? And is it impossible to ever get him back?

On top of Mase’s reappearance in her life, Cait is also dealing with her dad getting remarried to a girl not much older than she is. That and the fact that he’s moving across the country. He’s pestering her and her sister to transfer colleges and move out to California so they can stay close to each other, but Cait is perfectly happy where she is. Her dad just doesn’t seem to understand how important her lacrosse team is to her or realize how difficult it would be to just pack up and leave all her friends and sports commitments behind.

Cait is a very level-headed, hard working girl whose passion for lacrosse and loyalty to her friends made her an easy character to like and sympathize with. She’s a team player on and off the field; reliable, responsible and always there to support her friends, as long as they do the same for her.

I loved Cait’s story because I feel like it’s hard to find sporty romances where the girl is as much a player as the guys are. Usually it’s just the guy who’s the athelete. Girl’s sports are often overlooked and I liked how much work Cait put into improving her game, how big a role it played in her overall strength and resilience as a person.

Although this book is primarily a romance, it was also so much more. It was about Cait’s perseverance as an athlete even amidst the pressure that sometimes came along with it, and her growth as a person as she struggled to adjust to Mase’s presence in her life and the new differences between them. It was about her friendships with Lizzie and Frankie and her struggle to adapt to the changes in her relationship with her father. Cait is a very empowering character whose drive and passion is very inspiring and easy to relate to.
Mase, although a bit stingy towards Cait upon their reunion, was very supportive of her dedication to lacrosse and never doubted her strength in both mind and body.She and Mase shared a fierce competetiveness both on and off the field and it showed in how they bantered and danced around their feelings for one another. Although Mase tries to claim that what they’d had had been anything more than teenage lust, they eventually found themselves unable to deny the attraction and emotion bond between them that’d never really gone away. I loved this second chance sports romance and can’t wait to dive into Out on Good Behavior!

Diversity bonus: this is a biracial romance, as Mase is black!

 

 

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The Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy

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Yet another college centric series following the love stories of three separate couples, each with vastly different main characters navigating their own relationship complications. In this case, the love interests are all friends and hockey players on the same college team. The fourth book The Goal was released just a few months ago, and I started reading just a few days ago! I have no doubt it’ll be as romantic and hilarious as it’s companions.
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thedeal{Trigger warning: (off page) rape & domestic violence}
In The Deal we meet 20 year old college junior Hannah Wells, a sarcastic, intelligent and fiercely independent brunette who thinks she’s finally found a guy who can turn her on. Ever since she was raped five years ago, all her attempts to attain a fulfilling sex life have failed. She was a virgin when it happened and attributes that to her lack of a sex drive.
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 She’s attended therapy in the five year since it happened, is in a good mental place, and has supportive parents who’ve defended her and stood by her even since. But she’s afraid the act of violence may have ruined any chance she has at ever getting intimate with someone….and enjoying it. Now she has her sights set on a hot football player named Justin, and is determined to capture his attention.
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 Garrett Graham is a hockey player with a bit of a reputation as a man-whore around campus. He shares a Philosophical Ethics class with Hannah, the one class that he currently happens to be borderline failing. So, knowing that she’s acing it, he enlists Hannah’s help in achieving a passing grade.
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 She’s very reluctant to help him though, having pinned him as a typical dumb jock with nothing but hook-ups and partying on his mind. But eventually she caves and they make a deal: she’ll agree to tutor him, and he’ll help her capture Justin’s attention by escorting her to a party that he’ll be attending. Garrett claims it will improve her social status by making her seems unattainable-something that is sure to pique her crushes attention.
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 While Garrett is undeniably gorgeous, Hannah doesn’t have any initial attraction to him. And Garrett is only interested in utilizing Hannah’s smarts so he can maintain a passing grade. But soon, amid the banter and traded quips, they become good friends. And after a kiss that eventually leads to more intimate activities, they become more than friends.
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 Hannah and Garrett were two very lovable characters with realistic qualities both negative and positive, and we got to see inside both their heads since the chapters switched between their POV’s. Garrett could be very cocky and teasing at times but he was also trustworthy, gentle, affectionate and often times loyal and selfless to a fault. The combination of traits made him feel more real-he wasn’t too perfect, but he was an overall good guy who wanted the best for the people in his life and had a lot of passion for his role as a hockey player.
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 The playful repartee between them was both amusing and endearing and I loved that they became close friends before they moved anywhere near relationship status. When Hannah opened up to Garrett about her past and how it still impacted her life, he didn’t flinch at the prospect of emotional bonding like some guys might. He was very patient and understanding as their relationship slowly progressed, and eventually opened up to Hannah about his imperfect past as well.
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 While Garrett has Hockey, Hannah has her own passion for singing and hopes to win the $5000 scholarship at the upcoming Winter Showcase. We got to see more of her life aside from just the romance aspect (same with Garrett), which I loved. She was the opposite of a pushover and didn’t let anyone tell her what to do, and I really admired her dedication to singing and how determined she was to perform what she wanted to in spite of certain complications that arose. I loved Garrett and Hannah’s love story from start to finish and was impressed with how deep and realistic her characters and their lives where. Elle Kennedy is definitely an NA writer to watch!
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themistakeIn The Mistake John Logan is struggling with the feelings he has for his best friend’s girlfriend, Hannah. But Hannah is happily in love with Garrett and Garrett with her. Not that Logan would ever make a move on his best friend’s girl anyway.
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One night, Logan mistakenly knock on freshman Grace Iver’s door. Grace is a “good girl”, one who gets stellar grades, keeps to herself and has never done anything rebellious in her life. Until Logan shows up at her door, interrupting her solo movie marathon.
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She lets him in so he can borrow her phone to call his friends, but Logan quickly becomes distracted by the fact that Grace had been watching Die Hard. Soon, he’s joined her on the bed to share gummy bears and finish the movie on her laptop. And before they know it, they’re making out, despite Logan’s rule against hooking up with freshmen and his lack of interest in anything serious.
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Grace is shocked that hockey star John Logan is in her bedroom, kissing her. But after their brief hookup, he takes off suddenly and Grace is left feeling embarrassed and confused. They soon cross paths again though, and begin fooling around regularly. Until she confesses the fact that she’s a virgin, which drives Logan away, after he states that he’s not looking for anything serious and may have feelings for someone else. Understandably angry, Grace kicks him out for good. And thus begins Logan’s attempts to win Grace’s forgiveness and woo her all over again. He realizes he’s made a big mistake, and is willingly to do whatever it takes to win her back.
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Like the rest of the books in this series, and like many NA romances in general, this romance switches between both Grace and Logan’s perspectives. Logan has resigned himself to a life spent taking over the family business, despite his professional hockey star status and being a shoo-in to be drafted into the NHL. His brother has put his life on hold to handle their fathers mechanic shop while Logan attends college. After he graduates, Logan will take over the business and the care of their alcoholic father.
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After Logan breaks her heart, Grace spends the summer rebuilding her emotional strength, and starts off her sophomore year by making positive changes to her life, which includes ending toxic relationships. I could relate to a lot of her friendship issues and insecurities. She kinda let people push her around at times couldn’t help but compare herself to other girls. But inspite of her messy friendships, Grace is very independent, intelligent and self respecting, and isn’t going to forgive Logan so quickly. She wanted him to prove to her that he truly liked her and wasn’t interested just because of her hard-to-get attitude. She pushes him to make up for how he treated her and show her that he’s worthy of a second chance.
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And show her he did. Logan’s attempts to flatter Grace and the lengths he went to to earn her forgiveness were hilarious and sweet and romantic. He writes crappy but heartfelt poetry, among other things, and it was admirable how seriously he took the second chance she gave him. Logan, in spite of his initial lack of proper respect for Grace, is a true gentleman and romantic. I found myself forgiving him long before Grace herself did. The Mistake is full of snarky dialogue, realistic characterization and lots of sexy scenes, and I was drawn in from the very first chapter. Grace and Logan were so sweet and cute together and they will be hard characters to forget.
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 thescoreIn The Score, we finally get inside Dean’s head, another of the hockey players we were introduced to in The Deal. Dean’s sexual reputation very much rivals that of his friends. He rarely hooks up with the same person twice, and is very open and unashamed of his over-abundant sex life. But he’s also respectful of the girls he’s with-he never slut shames and always makes sure anyone he hooks up with is looking for the same thing he is; nothing more than a night of no-strings-attached sex.
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Allie doesn’t do casual sex. She’s a relationship person through and through, and craves the emotional aspect of being with someone as much as she does the physical. So no one expects her to hook up with Dean when she crashes at him and his friends place one night. Both Allie’s best friend Hannah, and Dean’s best friend Garrett, are extremely protective of her and instruct Dean not to make any sexual advances on her when she spends the night. He can’t keep himself from trying to woo her, though, and Allie finds herself unable to resist the offer. And suddenly Dean, who usually never goes back for seconds, finds himself unable to get enough of Allie.
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Allie is a talented and hardworking actress who’s majoring in drama. Her drive and dedication were very admirable and inspiring. Dean works equally hard, gets excellent grades and is overall a very kind and selfless guy in spite of his manwhore status. He’s not quite as passionate about hockey as his friends are, but just as good a player. And although he grew up in a very rich home, he’s still humble and works to earn his own money. I liked how persistent Dean was of Allie, how he went from wanting only sex to wanting so much more.
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Allie was reluctant to become involved with him, because she was sure he’d never be able to commit to a relationship, and she didn’t want her heart broken. But eventually she saw how sweet of a guy he really was, and couldn’t help but give in. They form a casual friend-with-benefits relationship, and Dean is surprised to find himself wanting more. He’s never really been in a serious relationship though and is unsure of how to proceed.
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There’s an unexpected tragedy that occurs near the middle-to-end of the book, and it creates some huge complication for Allie and Dean, and she begins to wonder whether their relationship will really be able to last. Dean however, is very patient and gives Allies the space she needs to wrap her head around things and find it in her to forgive him. I was a little frustrated with of both them regarding the whole thing, but it helped me to understand their actions better being able to see inside both their minds.
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The chemistry between Allie and Dean was off the charts, as were the love scenes. I loved how their tentative friends-with-benefits relationship developed into something much stronger, how they slowly grew to trust, respect, and really know one another. I can’t wait to finish The Goal. Elle Kennedy is another NA author who became a favorite of mine this year!
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 2016 NA Honorable Mentions:

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My Favorite Adult Novels of 2016:

Wondering which Adult books I read this year? I only got around to reading two, but they both made the favorites list. They were also the first Adult books I’ve willingly read! I already wrote mini reviews for them in my recent post Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2016 Reads That Lived Up to the Hype, so click the link to read my thoughts on Uprooted by Naomi Novik and The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon!
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So that’s a wrap on 2016! 🙂 Here’s to 2017 and all its new book releases.
I can’t wait to find more favorites!
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One thought on “The Best of 2016 Part 2: New Adult & Adult

  1. Wow! Great writing done with a real passion for sharing the books and your insights with your audience. That’s a lot of writing. Have Kris P explain the basics of growing a social media following.

    Like

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