Lovin' los libros

A book blog dedicated to young adult and new adult novels

Reviews: The Understatement of the Year and The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

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The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3)
    by: Sarina Bowen

Publication Date: Oct. 15, 2014
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Age Group: New Adult
Source: e-copy provided via BocciPR in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Page Count: 306 pages
Order Links: Amazon | B&N
My Rating: 3/5 stars

What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

I can't emphasize to you all enough how much I am enjoying this series. Maybe it's because it's been so long since I've read a truly great college new adult romance series, where the characters go to class, they go to sports practices, hang out with friends, attend social functions, etc. It's not all about the romance and sex. Friendships are developed and emphasized and I love seeing these characters find their way.
With that being said, I am a bit bummed to say this book has been my least favorite of the series thus far. I say this mainly because I was SO frustrated with Michael. I hated how he treated Rikker for a good portion of the book and while I understand his fears, it was really frustrating at the same time. It took Michael a good long while to come around and admit to himself that he had feelings for Rikker, so there was a lot of avoidance on his part.
I really loved Rikker though. It's not easy to be the new guy- but it's even harder to be the new gay guy. He deals with a lot of crap because of his sexual orientation and it really hurt my heart to see people be so cruel. I also hated how lonely he was. While he ends up befriending Bella and Hartley, he still doesn't have that camaraderie that some of the others have. He isn't ashamed of who he is and where Michael clung to his fear, Rikker stared it in the face and came out the better man.
One of my favorite new additions to the series is Bella. She has a reputation for being the hockey go-to girl, but she really has deeper feelings for Michael. Naturally, she is deeply hurt when she finds out the truth, but she is still supportive of her friend. I am really looking forward to her story because she really deserves to find her person.
Even though I wasn't crazy about Michael, I did enjoy the romance once we got to that point. Michael has always felt more for Rikker, so seeing him finally coming to terms with that and embracing his feelings really endeared him to me. It just took a long time to get to that point. I know it seems sort of unfair for me to be hung up on Michael, because I honestly cannot imagine what it's like to be struggling with your identity and sexual orientation. He has been raised in a very Christian environment, and while his parents were always a bit more lenient than say Rikker's, he is afraid of the repercussions. He sees firsthand what Rikker deals with the slurs and the separation and he isn't ready to step out into that just yet. I really hope we get to see more of Rikker and Michael in Bella's book now that they are together!

The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years #4)
    by: Sarina Bowen

Publication Date: Apr. 12, 2015
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Group: New Adult
Source: e-copy provided via BocciPR in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Page Count: 332 pages
Order Links: Amazon | B&N
My Rating: 5/5 stars

The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.

Bella doesn’t want Rafe's help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can't be extinguished.

While the previous book in the series was my least favorite, this one just might be my favorite. (It's pretty close with Bridger's book, The Year We Hid Away) I adored Bella with Rafe and I loved how they became friends first, which seems to be the common theme in this series. This book tackles a pretty important topic that I fear is more common in college settings than most realize.
We met Bella in the previous book, as the spunky, feisty, hockey manager who doesn't hide the fact that she likes hooking up with the players on the team. She got a little razzed about it by one of the other players (Big-D, who is a total big D....) but no one really did any slut-shaming with her. She doesn't do relationships, as both times she's allowed herself to fall, she's gotten her heart broken. She's confident in herself and I love that she goes through life so brazenly and without shame. Which is why my heart absolutely broke for what happened to her in this book. I hated seeing the light snuffed out of such a vibrant girl because there are so many cruel people in this world. No, it's not what you're probably thinking thank goodness, because I think I would have been destroyed had things gotten worse. However, seeing Bella transform into a girl who hides herself away and shut out the world, was not cool. I am so thankful she had so many amazing people in her corner.
Rafe is absolutely one of the best people she could have the privilege of knowing. Sure, things were a little awkward after they slept together one night, but he ended up being such a good friend to her. I loved that he was so dedicated to her and trying to help her through everything, but he still wanted her desperately. However, Bella doesn't do relationships and he refuses to sleep around. (Love the role reversal!) Don't worry though. These two have plenty of sexy times together and I just adored them together.
I also really liked Bella's roommate Lianne. In the beginning she isn't a very likeable character because of how she pretends Bella doesn't exist, but she does come around and I ended up loving her. She's a total geek and she's really shy. Oh and she's famous too, so there's that. I'm so glad Sarina decided to write a book for her. She needs to come out of her shell and feel the love too!
We do get to see Rikker and Michael like I hoped and they are happier than ever, so I'm glad they were able to get past everything and really work as a couple. While this book isn't centered around hockey as much as some of the others, I did love seeing them rally behind Bella, especially after she completely isolated herself from everyone. It was heartwarming to see how much they cared for her and missed her.
You can read all of these books as stand-alones, so I would definitely make sure you get this one, especially if you love a realistic, poignant storyline that has great friendships and romance to round it out.

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  1. I just added all of these books to my wishlist because I need to read them. I actually can't remember the last NA book I read that actually had college and I think these would be the perfect way to get back to that. Great reviews!


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