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It Started With a List (Pacific Grove University #1) by Tinia Montford



A bucket list. The popular guy. A loner. What could go wrong?

Time’s up for Vassa Blackwell.

With her college graduation looming, Vassa reflects on the past four years. After a devastating betrayal from her closest friend leaves her ostracized, she trusts no one. Now she is mega disappointed. No wacky misadventures, no drunken nights, and no regrettable mistakes that you can NEVER tell your parents. Work and class, class and work. That’s it. College is supposed to be the best years of your life… Right?

Vassa feels as though she’s cheated herself out of a full college experience. Notable with romance and boys and stuff. So, she makes a college bucket list. Then the worse thing ever happens. Her list falls into the hands of Lazarus Gilbert. King of the baseball team, sworn enemy (in her opinion), and her annoying upstairs neighbor. He thinks he’s found something fun to do. She thinks she’s in trouble. That’s until she discovers there’s more to Lazarus than he lets on…

With the pressures of post-college decisions and failing classes, can they complete the bucket list before the semester runs out? Are Vassa and Lazarus just too different to get along? Will they both come out winners in the end, or will she retreat to her safety-zone? Is it too late for her to learn to live and let live, and let love enter her heart?

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What’s not to like about this amazing debut novel? It’s an addictive page-turner about the joy and apprehension of college graduation and the fear of the unknown afterward. Throw in a young woman afraid to trust again and a young man trying to please everyone but himself.

Vassa Blackwell keeps to herself after her best friend’s betrayal. No socializing, no parties, no dating. She’s counting on her acceptance to graduate school to fulfill her dream of becoming a professor. But during her senior year, she feels she’s missed out on the fun part of college life and makes a bucket list. All she needs is someone to show her. Enter Lazarus Gilbert. The captain of the baseball team and the popular guy on campus. Who better to show her a good time, but at what cost?

Lazarus is just trying to pass his English Lit class so he can graduate. Too much partying in his earlier years has caused a rift between him and his older brother Harvey who is keeping a tight rein on Lazarus by manipulating him into working for his company. Lazarus just wants his successful family to be proud of him so he makes a deal with Vassa. He will help her with her bucket list and she will tutor him for his class. 

There is so much to like about this coming-of-age romance. Vassa’s clutziness is priceless from her attempt at baseball and rollerskating to her drunken singing at the karoake bar with Lazarus. She finally lets loose which opens up a whole new dynamic to her and Lazarus’s relationship. Vassa grows under Lazarus’s unabashed positivity and patience while Lazarus grows more confident about his future with Vassa’s encouragement and support. There are so many LOL moments in this book that had me roaring with laughter. Case in point, the pimp brawl and surprise drag party in Vegas during spring break. Hilarious!  There are also some poignant moments with Lazarus’s vulnerable side about his volatile family dynamics and the pressure that comes with it and Vassa’s mistrust caused by a shitty ex-best friend who screwed her over. Most of all I adored watching Lazarus and Vassa slowly fall in love and become the mature and trusting adults they were meant to be.

Overall, I am delighted to recommend this entertaining new adult romance filled with compelling and funny characters in a beautiful San Francisco setting. The one thing that bothered me in the book was that Iowa State does not have one of the best writing programs in the country. That would be the University of Iowa.

Thank you to Ms. Montford for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.



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Tinia MontfordTinia (TUH-NIA) Montford is a Pisces who’s a sap for romance, especially when there’s (tons of) kissing. Loves eighties sitcoms and will consume anything with chocolate. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in English and Graphic Design.

She is a world traveler having climbed a volcano in Nicaragua, scaled Angkor Wat in the blistering sun, and roamed the Acropolis of Athens. Oh, she also dabbles in short stories occasionally.

If you can’t catch her writing, you can bet she’s overindulging on poke bowls, listening to the same four songs, or chilling with her adorbs doggie. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction.

Follow Tinia on her website, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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