I’ve been away for a month on a lovely vacation. Mountains, beach, Boston, family, and 10 great books. And now I’m back to reality. Laundry, unpacking, back to school shopping, and book reviews. I’m not sure I can take it.
Because I read a 5-book (well, actually, 4 novels and one novella) series, I’m going to start my reviews there. Even though they were the last books I read, and the freshest in my mind, and I should probably try and remember what happened in those books I read back at the beginning of July. But no. I’ll write about the Ivy Years collection, because that will take a big chunk of my review pile away.
While I was away, I read a bunch of great reviews for a “new adult” series called The Ivy Years Collection. All of the books take place at fictional Ivy League Harkness College, somewhere in Connecticut. And all of the books somehow have to do with the hockey team, and have many recurring characters.
The Year We Fell Down
Corey comes to Harkness for her freshman year in a wheelchair. She had a terrible hockey accident that left her unable to walk on her own. Stuck in special housing for students who are injured or disabled, she feels like she’ll never fit in. But Corey finds a new friend in her roommate, Dana. And even better, the guy across the hall is the handsome star of the men’s hockey team, Adam Hartley. Hartley broke his leg and is out for the season. Sparks fly, angst ensues, happiness reigns.
This was my favorite of the series. Corey and Hartley were vibrant, fun, lovable characters, and I just really liked them. A lot. I might have even cried a few times.
The Year We Hid Away
Hartley’s best friend, Bridger, is dealing with some tough stuff for a college student. His father is dead, his mother is a drug addict, and he’s trying to look out for his 8 year-old sister. Between working various jobs to keep himself able to afford school and looking after his sister, he doesn’t have much time for a social life. Until he meets Scarlet. Of course, Scarlet has some problems of her own. Horrible, disgusting, evil problems. They get to know each other and help each other through the worst year ever.
I liked Bridger. I thought Scarlet was fine. But I hated everyone in her life and really didn’t enjoy reading about her backstory. Yes, I get that life is hard and can often be ugly, but this was a bit much.
Blonde Date (an adorable novella)
Scarlet’s blond roommate Katie needs a date for the sorority Christmas party. And she’s through with piggish football players. So Scarlet sets her up with Bridger’s neighbor, nerdy Andy from the basketball team. A really nice guy.
Like Courtney Milan’s adorable A Kiss for Midwinter in the Brothers Sinister series, this was a fun breath of fresh air. I was really rooting for these two kids and hoping they would both help each other to see their very best selves and how much they had to offer each other. So cute.
The Understatement of the Year
Michael Graham can’t believe his eyes one day when he meets the new hockey player on his team. John Rikker, his best friend from high school, and his first boyfriend. Torn apart after a vicious hate crime, Graham can’t handle having Rikker back in his life again, because that will mean he just might have to come out of the closet.
This was my least favorite of the books. I really wanted to root for Graham, and wanted to care about what happened with him and Rikker. But I just didn’t. Graham was a very one-note character for me, and I was hoping for more. One good thing about this story, it gave us Bella, the main character in the next book.
The Shameless Hour
Bella likes the company of men, and isn’t ashamed about it. While others sometimes whisper behind her back and call her a slut, she just does what she wants and is happy with her friendships and relationships — mostly with the men’s hockey team. Until a horrible, embarrassing incident occurs and Bella hides away from everything and everyone — except for her new neighbor Lianne and her handsome downstairs neighbor (and former one-night-stand) Rafe.
I really liked this one, too. Bella’s struggles and the truths she faces regarding feminism raised many interesting things to think about. My only complaint about this one was that Rafe was really just a bit too good to be true. Too handsome, too patient, too kind, too perfect. But if he makes Bella happy, well, then that’s ok with me.
All in all, the stories and characters were perfect vacation reading (except for the heavy Scarlet bits). I like the universe created here, and enjoyed seeing characters from the other books pop in and out at various times. It was like Sarina Bowen knew I just wanted to check in on Corey from time to time, and make sure she and Hartley were ok.
I don’t have much criticism. Sometimes I worried about how lonely these characters were. They didn’t seem to have much going on socially other than spending time with the person they were suddenly paired off with. But the characters were aware that they were lonely, and often tried to do something about that, so I got over it and just rolled with the story.
Bowen has another book coming out later this year — this one about Lianne and a young hockey player — and I definitely plan to pick it up.