I would choose another title for this story, because Colleen Hoover never writes anything that's ugly. And "Ugly Love" makes me think of...moreTraumatic Love
I would choose another title for this story, because Colleen Hoover never writes anything that's ugly. And "Ugly Love" makes me think of hostile arguments, violence, and deeply dysfunctional characters a la The Silver Linings Playbook or The War of the Roses. This story is more about a drowning man who tries to claw his way back to the surface after suffering a trauma. Hopefully he won't drag the heroine down to the depths with him on his journey.
Tate Collins is a fresh college graduate who moves in with her brother Corbin in San Francisco as she pursues her master's degree in nursing. Corbin and his friends are airline pilots, an interesting profession. (And those pilot uniforms are sexy!) When Tate first arrives to her brothers apartment, one such pilot is drunk, propped up against the door. Why is there such sadness in his sky-blue eyes?
The next morning Tate finds out the hungover man is Miles Archer from across the hall. She feels instantly attracted, but Miles barely speaks to her. Because 25-year-old Miles hasn't been with a woman for 6 years, Corbin believes he's gay. But the smoldering looks Miles gives Tate challenge that hypothesis.
The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Tate and Miles, and between present and past. While Tate pines for the emotionally unavailable Miles, Miles shares his relationship with Rachel, a girl he met in high school who ended up being a forbidden love. While Tate agrees to a sex-only relationship with Miles in the present, Miles develops a deep attachment to Rachel in the past.
While I sometimes enjoy bouncing from the present to the past, I think this format prevented me from truly getting to know the characters, because there's not enough time for either storyline. It's like there are two incomplete stories in this book. First, I don't have a good handle on Tate. Why is she so quiet? What is her family background? What drew her to nursing? Why does she put up with such a dissatisfying relationship? Then there's Miles. I didn't really care about his relationship with Rachel at first, because I had no idea who Rachel was. I got frustrated when things would heat up between him and Tate, followed by a jarring shift back to him and Rachel.
I have mixed feelings about the poetic style of Miles's POV. It was sometimes difficult to follow on the page, but I like how the author takes risks and tries new things. The whole "it's my new favorite spoon" or "new favorite word" is getting a little repetitive, so I like fresh approaches.
We don't get to hear about Miles's feelings for Tate until the very end, when the past catches up to the present, which feels unfinished to me.
Another aspect of the story interfering with character development, in my opinion, is the lack of dialogue. Colleen Hoover has a gift for writing funny, realistic banter, and I missed that here. Brooding Miles rarely speaks, and Tate isn't loquacious either. To have both characters fall mute for much of the story makes it hard to connect with them.
Still, I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. finishing this book. The story gains momentum about halfway through, and I had to see what happened to turn Miles into such a sad man. This story reminds me of the movie Angel Eyes with Jim Caviezel. Colleen Hoover excels at writing wounded men who are kind, intelligent, and competent. The one novel of hers I haven't read yet is Maybe Someday and I'm looking forward to it!
Recommended for: Readers of New Adult, romance, and redemption stories.(less)
Thank you to Karla for alerting me about this novella when I posted my review of Protecting What's His. I loved Ginger and Derek...moreGood Companion Novella
Thank you to Karla for alerting me about this novella when I posted my review of Protecting What's His. I loved Ginger and Derek from that romantic suspense novel, and this novella is a follow-up to their story one year later.
Unfortunately Lieutenant Derek doesn't do such a great job of protecting what's his (aka Ginger) in this story. He has a dangerous police assignment looming, and he doesn't want his woman to worry about him so he avoids telling her about it.
Keeping silent isn't a good idea in the best of circumstances, but given Ginger's insecurities from a loveless childhood, it's a recipe for disaster. His absence festers in her catastrophic thinking. She believes he's going to leave her right as she discovers she's pregnant.
Will he get his head out of his ass?
This novella is short but sweet and I'm glad I got to spend more time with these characters.(less)
Hopeless and Losing Hope are two of my favorite reads. Too bad it took me a while to figure out this novella is...moreThe Best Friends' Story: Daniel and Six
Hopeless and Losing Hope are two of my favorite reads. Too bad it took me a while to figure out this novella is part of the Hopeless series or I would have jumped on it sooner! The amazing Colleen Hoover wrote this for her fans and gives it away for free. If you've read Hopeless and haven't read this, GET ON IT.
Daniel is Holder's foul-mouthed best friend. He's thrilled that school administrators screwed up his schedule, giving him 5th period free without a scheduled class. How does a resourceful young man spend that hour? Napping in the broom closet, of course!
One day a girl interrupts his slumber and they strike up a conversation. Then they strike up a kiss. Then they strike up a... *fade to black*
Fast forward to months later and Daniel meets Sky's best friend Six, who has been in Italy for some time. Though he's cynical about love after breaking up with his bitch-beast girlfriend Val, he feels instantly drawn to Six. But she has a secret that may threaten their future together.
Nobody can top Holder as book boyfriend extraordinaire for me, but I have to say I LOVE Daniel's humor. The banter between him and Six is priceless.
Six switches her books. "Sky crawls through my window every night. You can't be in my room." "I thought your window was out of commission." "Only to people with penises." I laugh. "What if I told you I didn't have a penis?" She glances at me. "I would probably rejoice. My experiences with people who have penises never end well." I shake my head. "That's not something my penis wants to hear. He has a very sensitive ego." "Well, maybe you should go home after school and stroke his ego a little bit until he feels better."
And I truly appreciate an author who shows good parents in the YA/NA genre--a rare treat.
"You mean all of you hated Val?" My father turns to face me. "Your mother and I are masters at reverse psychology, Danny-boy. Don't act so surprised." I lean against the frame of the door and stare at them. "You guys were just pretending to like Val? What the hell for?" My dad sits at the table and picks up a newspaper. "Children are naturally inclined to make choices that will displease their parents. If we had told you how we really felt about Val, you probably would have ended up marrying her just to spite us. Which is why we pretended to love her." Assholes. All three of them. "You're never meeting another one of my girlfriends again."
The only time I don't give CoHo stories 5 stars is when I believe she goes a little over the top with the drama. I felt that way in Point of Retreat and in this story as well, when Daniel learns Six's secret. I thought the novella would've been stronger without that element, but that's just me. (view spoiler)[So are we to assume that the condom broke? Or maybe he didn't get it on correctly in the dark? (hide spoiler)]
Thank you to Brooke from The Cover Contessa for alerting me to the epilogue available for this story, available here http://www.wattpad.com/story/13919732... . It tied up Sky and Holder's secret, as well as Six and Daniel's secret, nicely.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
If you don't know Archer Hale yet, what are you waiting for? He's one of the sweetest book heroes I've met.
Bree is a recent co...moreSweet and Honorable Hero
If you don't know Archer Hale yet, what are you waiting for? He's one of the sweetest book heroes I've met.
Bree is a recent college graduate whose father was just murdered by a man robbing their family deli. She flees from the tragedy to Maine, a peaceful location on the lake. As she settles in, she makes a trip to the drugstore, where she runs into a bearded man whose longish hair and ratty clothes belie a set of beautiful whiskey-colored eyes: Archer.
Their first meeting is noteworthy in that Bree's bag of drugstore purchases breaks, spilling Almond Joy bars and of course tampons that roll toward Archer's feet. *dies*
Their journey toward love is so endearing, including sharing clever lists and sign language. I especially enjoyed when Bree made a list of names for the puppies that matched Archer's uncle's Soviet paranoia.
Archer lacks experience with most aspects of life, including sex. But he's a quick learner, according to Bree:
I thought dazedly how much of this dance between a man and a woman was pure instinct, pure unspoken communication...
When I leaned back, his face broke into a huge grin. Oh God, my heart. My heart couldn't take those grins. They were too much -- too beautiful and too overwhelming. I laughed at the smug look on his face.
This really is a coming-of-age story for both characters that made me cry with its innocence and insight into love. And I liked feeling surprised by some of the suspense elements of the story.
The setting of Maine is perfect and I love that Bree and the author are from Cincinnati, my hometown. Hopefully I'll meet the author at the Queen City Indie Con October 24 & 25, 2014.
There are some things I question about the story. I think the editing could have been a little tighter, knocking out repeated "nodding my head" or "shrugging my shoulders". I also believe the impact of Archer's back story becomes muted when he remembers a tragic scene from his past then later tells the flashback to Bree. I think the history would be more powerful without the retelling. The ending of the story is a little saccharine for me, as well.
But overall, this is a lovely New Adult romance.(less)
Thank you to Vishal for recommending this YA dystopian novel. It was unique, exciting, and touching. Unfortunately, I...moreGreat Story, Disappointing Ending
Thank you to Vishal for recommending this YA dystopian novel. It was unique, exciting, and touching. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the dystopian world-building due to one event in the world, And, the ending was so dismal that it left me with a bad taste in my mouth, without a desire to continue the series.
Todd is a 15ish boy living in a society decimated by war. During the fight, the aliens released a virus that makes all the males’ thoughts audible (aka NOISE). Can you imagine if every thought you ever had was broadcast all around you? Not to mention, the thoughts of the men in Prentisstown are ugly, mean, and LOUD.
The virus killed all the females (or so Todd thinks). When Todd encounters a space of quietness in the swamp—a human he can’t hear—his life or death adventure begins. Prentisstown men inexplicably want him dead.
The quiet is almost scarier than if there was Noise everywhere.
Todd is such a lovable character. He is clearly a good boy who the author tortures beyond belief, and I cried when he nears death several times. He feels confused by his caretakers who send him away from the town.
Why’d you do it, Ben? What did I do that was so bad?
Todd hasn’t had much schooling and I loved his spelling of words like explanashun.
One of my favorite characters is Manchee the dog, whose thoughts we can hear, like “Ouch, Todd” when his owner smacks him or “Poo, Todd” when it’s that time of the day.
When we find out what really happened in Prentisstown, it’s an intriguing history. But the lore of this dystopian world falls flat for me due to Todd committing a horrible act that seems to negate his ability to escape the town legacy. If you’ve read this book, what do you think of that part of the story? To me, a Spackle is just as worthy as a human. That’s fine if the author wants to show universal fallibility, but it doesn’t fit with Todd being the only Prentisstown man worth saving.
”I think maybe everybody falls,” I say. “And I don’t think that’s the asking.” I pull on her arms gently to make sure she’s listening.” “I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”
The main relationship is sweet, and I grew to love both characters. After their long, torturous journey, I was looking for a hint of hope. A slice of happiness. The author refuses to give either, which angered me.(less)
Sometimes Never was such a gem, so I was thrilled to hear Cheryl McIntyre had written a follow-up novella about t...moreSo Glad to See These Characters Again
Sometimes Never was such a gem, so I was thrilled to hear Cheryl McIntyre had written a follow-up novella about two favorite characters Hope and Mason. The author does a wonderful job of accurately portraying psychology and therapy.
Hope and Mason are trying to make their relationship work but Hope's demons and Mason's mother don't make it easy. Hope bravely faces therapy in an effort to stop injuring herself.
Mason is so wise. His mother questions him staying with a girl who cuts herself, and Mason asks her if she would judge him for staying with Hope if she had cancer. "That's different," his mother says, "because nobody asks for cancer." Mason patiently explains that Hope didn't ask to be sexually abused and cutting was the only way she knew how to deal with it. I've used the helpful cancer parallel when trying to help family members understand their loved one's eating disorder or depression or other mental illness.
It's awesome to witness Hope healing from pain, like when she bravely calls Mason's mother:
"I'm in therapy. I go every week. I've only missed one session." "Well that's good, Hope. I'm glad." I close my eyes and take a deep breath. "But it doesn't matter to you. Does it? I'll just always be the crazy girl that stole your son." She laughs dryly and the sound resembles Mason's laugh. My stomach twists. "You can't understand -- you're not a mother. We have a fierce protectiveness for our children." "Not all moms," I say quietly. I feel the tears sting my eyes and I blink them away.
Gah! Poor Hope.
Hope's bff Guy continues to steal the show with his hilarious one-liners like:
"If I wasn't gayer than a Christmas sweater, I'd steal you away from this joker in a heartbeat."
This novella fills in the blanks between the end of Sometimes Never and its epilogue in a sweet and satisfying way.(less)
The Development of a Criminal...The Development of a Good Man?
What a fascinating psychological study! This epic story begins when Theo Decker is 13 ye...moreThe Development of a Criminal...The Development of a Good Man?
What a fascinating psychological study! This epic story begins when Theo Decker is 13 years old and ends when he's twice that age. Wow, does the author torture him in this story. What does not kill us, makes us stronger? I'm not so sure that's true in this case. Tragic events weaken Theo and it's unclear if he will ever regain his strength.
Theo lives with his mother in New York City after his alcoholic father abandoned them. His beautiful, fun mother has to take him to a late morning disciplinary meeting at school, so they stop in an art museum on the way. Then a terrorist's bomb explodes. The blast rips Theo's life apart when it kills his mother. In the ensuing surreal melee, a dying man insists Theo take "The Goldfinch": a famous painting.
The painting haunts Theo for the rest of the story just like the story has haunted me.
The characterization is raw, real, and detailed, and the author made me care deeply for Theo. Every time he suffers a post-traumatic symptom, I wanted to hug him. Every time he veers into drug use, I wanted to smack his neglectful father. Here's a vivid description of Las Vegas Dad, who has shifted from abusing booze to pills:
From his genial cursing, his infrequent shaving, the relaxed way he talked around the cigarette in the corner of his mouth, it was almost as if he were playing a character: some cool guy from a fifties noir or maybe Ocean's Eleven, a lazy, sated gangster with not much to lose.
Thank goodness for quality mentors like furniture-restorer Hobie, who is connected to the dying man from the museum.
Theo's Ukranian friend Boris is simultaneously endearing and infuriating. Boris is the saving grace to a lonely boy, and the loving shove to a boy perched on the precipice of a deviant, criminal life. I freaking love how Boris nicknames Popper the dog "Popchik".
The writing is exquisite. I dog-eared so many pages with impressive passages, like these:
Tormented by what was happening, yet unable to stop it, I hovered around and watched the apartment vanishing piece by piece, like a bee watching its hive being destroyed.
When I got off the phone, I felt sick -- like someone had just reached a hand in my chest and wrenched loose a lot of ugly wet stuff around my heart.
Spring in New York was always a poisoned time for me, a seasonal echo of my mother's death blowing in with the daffodils, budding trees and blood splashes, a thin spray of hallucination and horror. (What a vivid description of PTSD)
My moods were a slingshot; after being locked-down and anesthetized for years my heart was zinging and slamming itself around like a bee under a glass, everything bright, sharp, confusing, wrong -- but it was clear pain as opposed to the dull misery that had plagued me for years under the drugs like a rotten tooth, the sick dirty ache of something spoiled.
Speaking of pain, Theo pines for a girl who also survived the museum bomb: Pippa. But she doesn't seem to requite his love.
"Well, girls always love assholes," said Platt, not bothering to dispute this. No, I thought bleakly, untrue. Else why didn't Pippa love me?
Aww, Theo. You are quite lovable!
One of the reasons I became so involved in the characters is the impressive length of the book: 770 pages. Unlike some readers, I didn't find the story unfocused, though the end did drag just a little. I'm glad I invested the time to read this moving drama.(less)
I hadn't heard of this novel but when I saw the movie trailer, featuring one of my favorite actresses (Kate Winsl...moreThe Movie Inspired Me to Try the Book
I hadn't heard of this novel but when I saw the movie trailer, featuring one of my favorite actresses (Kate Winslet), I knew I wanted to give it a try. Then I found out there was a prison escape element to the story, and I was hooked!
Thirteen-year-old Henry Wheeler lives with his off-kilter mother Adele in New Hampshire in the 1980's. Since Henry's parents divorced, his beautiful mother has become a recluse for reasons revealed later in the novel. His father has moved onto his new family but grudgingly takes Henry out to dinner every Saturday. Henry is a lonely old soul who dreads school starting after the Labor Day holiday weekend. He doesn't have friends and he sucks at baseball.
Henry's circumstances become more interesting when a bleeding man strikes up a conversation with him at Pricemart. Do you think your mother would be kind enough to give me a ride, the stranger asks Henry. (This is how dialog is used in the story, without quotation marks. At first this style was confusing then it seemed like the a good fit with the stranger's easy manner and gradual pacing of the story.)
Turns out the stranger is an escaped convict, Frank. Since Adele is not your typical mother, she brings Frank home with them. But her instincts seem solid when Frank isn't the scary killer he's purported to be. Their first night he "offers" to tie up Adele so that if he's caught, it will look like he held Adele and Henry against their will. When Frank feeds Adele, it turns into a sensual experience:
Their eyes were locked on each other. Still, many things were coming across: the way she arched her neck toward him, like a bird in the nest, the way his body leaned forward in the chair, like a painter in front of a piece of canvas. Sometimes making a brushstroke. Other times, just studying his work.
He himself did not eat. I had been hungry, but sitting there now, at the table with the two of them, it felt as crude to chew or swallow as it would have to munch on popcorn at a baby's christening, or lick an ice-cream cone while your friend told you his dog died.
Adele springs to life in Frank's presence, and Henry has the father figure he's wanted all along. But with the police searching for Frank, how can this bizarre family unit survive?
Henry's voice as the narrator was the best part of the story for me. He is insightful and real.
There is a thing that happens sometimes, where you wake up and you forget for a minute what happened the day before. It takes your brain a few seconds to reset, before you remember whatever it was that happened -- sometimes good, more often bad -- that you knew about when you went to bed the night before and blanked out in the night. I remember the feeling from when my father left, and how, when I'd first opened my eyes the next day, and stared out the window, I knew something was wrong without remembering exactly what. Then it came to me.
The reason Frank went to prison is heartbreaking. I felt so sad for this family, and for Frank. I wished for a little more lightness in the sadness, but I guess that wouldn't be realistic for their situation. The story is touted to be one of "devastating treachery", and I don't really agree with that description.
Overall I enjoyed this story, and recommend it to those who enjoy fiction with a hint of romance and coming-of-age elements. Unfortunately the movie disappeared from the dollar theater before I had a chance to watch it, so I plan to rent it.(less)
I read only one third of this novel, so take my review for what it's worth.
Wally Lamb is certainly a mas...moreExcellent Character Development, Plodding Plot
I read only one third of this novel, so take my review for what it's worth.
Wally Lamb is certainly a master at creating characters with depth -- male and female. The heroine from She's Come Undone was so rich and layered that I felt like I was reading about one of my psychotherapy clients. (And I didn't love that book because it felt too much like a day at work.) I Know This Much Is True was a fascinating exploration of mental illness in twin brothers.
We Are Water starts off interesting enough. Quirky artist Anna has divorced her husband Orion and is preparing to wed gallery owner Viveca. Anna and Orion's adult children have varied reactions to their mother marrying another woman. The author explores how each of these characters deals with such upheaval, and he really leaves no stone unturned. These characters muse and introspect for hours about the past, present, and future. While the characters are unique and interesting, they didn't seem very likable to me. I found myself skipping ahead to see when the chapter would end, which isn't a good sign about my absorption in the plot.
I did enjoy Orion's profession as a therapist at a university counseling center--it's a job I've done in the past and it is difficult to take care of yourself amidst the pressing needs of the student body. I also enjoyed the exploration of bisexuality in Anna's life.
Some book clubbers finished the novel and said it was worth the read, but I chose to put this one down and turn to more compelling reads for me. If you enjoy in-depth psychological family stories, you might want to check this one out.(less)
While I liked Divergent and Insurgent, something seemed missing, preventing me from loving it. Veronica Rot...moreThe Most Worthy Sacrifice is An Act of Love
While I liked Divergent and Insurgent, something seemed missing, preventing me from loving it. Veronica Roth found that missing piece in Allegiant. The story is powerful, intriguing, and emotionally gripping. It is a mature romance between two teens who had to grow up too fast ... two teens who show unfathomable strength. Tris's choice at the end is a beautiful demonstration of her selfless, brave, and intellectual divergence, following on the cusp of an honest conversation with someone she loves.
In the conclusion to the series, we learn what lies beyond the experiment known as Chicago: The Bureau of Genetic Welfare. And what a bureau it is! Its location at O'Hare Airport is perfect, and learning about the Purity Wars and the origin of the factions is fascinating.
I tick off each quality in my mind -- fear, low intelligence, dishonesty, aggression, selfishness. He IS talking about the factions. And he's right to say that every faction loses something when it gains a virtue: the Dauntless, brave but cruel; the Erudite, intelligent but vain; the Amity, peaceful but passive; the Candor, honest but inconsiderate; the Abnegation, selfless but stifling.
I was thrilled to hear Four's perspective in about half of the chapters, though I agree with a Goodreads friend Brooke who stated that Tris's and Four's POVs are not distinct enough. Four's story is heartbreaking.
I have never had parents who set good examples, parents whose expectations were worth living up to, but she did. I can see them within her, the courage and the beauty they pressed into her like a handprint.
Four shows that he is anything but "genetically damaged". Genes vs environment? The Bureau leans too heavily on genes, forgetting that our experiences also shape us. And Four is so strong that he turns the environmental pressures he experienced into resilience, not weakness.
I find the abuses of government to be appalling, and the cautionary tale about those abuses to be timely.
It's not hard for me to believe that the Bureau would do bad things, because every government I've ever known has done bad things.
In the end, this story is about love, especially the sacrifices we make for those we love.
That's what love does, when it's right -- it makes you more than you were, more than you thought you could be.
I hear they will likely split Allegiant into two films, and I can't wait to see who they cast as David and Matthew. Wonderful series!(less)
Hopeless blew me away. (See my review here). Colleen Hoover has amazed me by turning Sky and Holder's trauma into...moreI Live to Read Colleen Hoover Novels
Hopeless blew me away. (See my review here). Colleen Hoover has amazed me by turning Sky and Holder's trauma into triumph, and she has made Holder my favorite book boyfriend. He is so smart, loving, and kind. So it was such a treat to read Sky's journey of discovery from Holder's perspective in Losing Hope.
I'm impressed this story didn't feel rehashed. The addition of Holder's interactions with his sister's boyfriend, along with heart-wrenching letters to and from Les, pack a powerful emotional punch in this story.
There are two issues I have with this series:
1. Les's therapist. The trauma Les sustained is horrific. And, people can heal from that. If Les wasn't getting better after years of therapy, TIME FOR A NEW THERAPIST. Did the therapist even ask if Les was thinking about suicide? Sometimes even the best therapists can't help clients, especially if clients are hell-bent on killing themselves, but I thought this potential malpractice was glossed over in the story.
2. The cover model is cute and all, but he just doesn't look like Dean Holder to me. I picture Holder as taller and lankier, with less of a preppy look. What do you think?
These are minor complaints I have for a masterpiece of a story. The sadness, the humor, the depth of characterization, and most of all, the hope…I can't wait to read what Colleen Hoover writes next.(less)
Intricate Plot, Well-Drawn Characters, Yet Lacking in Heart
One fortunate aspect of book club is exposure to books I might not normally read, and thoug...moreIntricate Plot, Well-Drawn Characters, Yet Lacking in Heart
One fortunate aspect of book club is exposure to books I might not normally read, and though I had some problems with this novel, I'm glad I read it.
The story bounces from coastal Italy in 1962 to present day Hollywood, and documents the interweaving lives of a washed out film producer (Michael Deane), his assistant (Claire), a young starlet (Dee Moray), a small town Italian hotelier (Pasquale), a WWII vet/wannabe writer (Alvis), a loser writer/wannabe wealthy screenwriter (Shane), and a ne'er-do-well drug addict (Pat). Oh, and Richard Burton (and by extension Liz Taylor) play key roles too.
How the HECK do these disparate characters weave together? So begins Jess Walter's tapestry of a plot.
The story starts in Portovergogna, Italy (translating to "Port of Shame"), a tiny coastal town next to Cinqueterre, in 1962.
I thank Pinterest for introducing me to the gorgeous area of Cinqueterre. I hope some day to visit this explosive color vista:
Pasquale (my favorite character) has left the university to return home and run the crumbling hotel after his father's death. He is quite excited when a gorgeous blonde comes to stay at his hotel after being dumped by a movie producer in the remote location. Sadly, she's been diagnosed with cancer. But is she really sick?
Pasquale speaks English with his guest, actress Dee Moray, and I loved what he said about learning a language:
It was curious what trying to speak English had done lately to his mind; it reminded him of studying poetry in college, words gaining and losing their meaning, overlapping with images, the curious echo of ideas behind the words people used.
Fast forward to present day Hollywood. The famous Michael Deane's assistant Claire dreams of a more glamorous life but is stuck listening to inane movie pitches like:
Title: SECOND PERIOD: DEATH Genre: YOUNG ADULT HORROR Logline: The Breakfast Club meets Nightmare on Elm Street in SECOND PERIOD: DEATH, the story of a group of students who must battle a deranged substitute teacher who may in fact be a vampire...
Failed writer Shane Wheeler hopes to pitch his own idea: Donner!: a cannibal epic about the Wild West. *laughs* Shane's parents taught him the ACT philosophy: have faith in yourself and you can do ANYTHING. It worked for a while (even Shane believed his own shit) but it's not working so well lately. This cracked me up:
But recently, fissures have appeared in this philosophy -- faith proving to be not nearly enough -- and it was in the run-up to his divorce that his soon-to-be ex-wife (So tired of your shit, Shane . . .) dropped a bombshell: the Bible phrase he and his father endlessly quoted, "Act as if ye have faith . . ." never actually APPEARS in the Bible. Rather, as far as she could tell, it came from the closing argument given by the Paul Newman character in the film The Verdict.
I enjoyed learning the motivations behind the characters. For example, a starvation story about the Donner party fascinates Shane because he has an older sister who almost died from an eating disorder. Also, alcoholic Richard Burton is an entertaining ASS in this story. It's clear the author put a lot of effort into plot and characterization.
Unfortunately, I didn't find myself emotionally involved in their intricate stories. This is a longer book, and it didn't have a gripping quality to make me fly through the pages. But I am psyched I finished it before book club!(less)
Carol Oates, you have officially horrified me with this taut, suspenseful novella.
Lincoln (Link) Downing is a young...moreThe Link Between Science and Horror
Carol Oates, you have officially horrified me with this taut, suspenseful novella.
Lincoln (Link) Downing is a young man who becomes intimate for the first time with his girlfriend Nancy, after senior prom, only to crash his car and suffer a near-fatal head injury. Luckily neurosurgeon Matthew saves Lincoln with his revolutionary brain treatment.
Dr. Matthew still pines for Lincoln's mother Kathleen, who married another man when Matthew left town to study medicine. Here, Matthew observes Kathleen:
She'd twisted her rich, caramel hair into a knot at the back of her head, highlighting the gentle sweeping curve of her long throat. She wore a black, form-fitting shift dress that stopped just below her knees, displaying her shapely calves and slim ankles. Matthew couldn't deny she'd aged well, showing only a few fine lines around her eyes--eyes that seemed sad and tired now.
I love Carol's descriptions.
While grateful to Matthew for saving his life, Lincoln doesn't feel quite himself. Are the brain treatments working like they should? He starts to have vicious nightmares of a monster killing its prey aka Lincoln's friends.
Are those nightmares merely dreams? Or REALITY? Mwa ha ha!
Every book will have a typo or two no matter how polished, but my ebook is rife with errors. The beginning dragged for me, so the pacing needs work. I also thought the exposition needs tightening.
Kayden's in residential psychiatric treatment at the beginning of the story. The introduction of his therapist certainly didn't impress me.
"Tell me how you feel," the therapist says. He says it every God damn time. And every God damn time I give him the same response. "I feel fine."
Really? This nincompoop therapist supposedly has a Ph.D. from Berkley? Thankfully he gets a little better, but this inept portrayal ticked me off at first.
When Callie says 10% into the book "Maybe it's time to quit being so scared," I thought AMEN. Too bad it takes her so long to follow through with action. It seems like weeks that she's apart from Kayden, with no real purpose for their separation (other than to keep him with the ninny psychologist).
Here's an example of my struggle with the writing style:
Seth starts thrusting his hips wildly as he flicks the end of his lighter and puts it up to the tip of the cigarette. The paper curls in and turns black as he takes a long drag.
I'm not an editor but I think this could be stated more economically, something like Seth thrusts his hips as he lights his cigarette. He takes a long drag." or something like that. The extra verbiage distracted me.
I did love moments like these:
I start to shove my finger down my throat, when suddenly I see Kayden lying on the floor. Helpless. He needs help...I might not be able to take away Kayden's past pain but maybe I can help with his future pain. I move my finger from my mouth and it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
Callie really knows how to help Kayden. And Seth is a wonderful character.
"No, but I've never been one for wise ideas," Seth says. "I believe in irrational, fleeting decisions that keep life interesting."
Callie makes great progress in securing her redemption. But Kayden's story feels unfinished. Instead of feeling buoyed from these characters triumphing over pain, I felt "meh".
Ms. Sorenson does an excellent job evoking emotion with her characters. She tackles tough issues like self-mutilation and eating disorders with rawness and accuracy. That's why the poor editing bugs me, because this story has so much potential. (less)
L.G. Castillo is a psychologist/author and it was a treat to read this psycho author's novel about a naughty angel and the...moreEmotional Supernatural Tale
L.G. Castillo is a psychologist/author and it was a treat to read this psycho author's novel about a naughty angel and the humans he affects.
Lahash (Lash) is a guardian angel sent on a mission years ago to save a boy from a plane crash. When he took matters into his own wings and saved another life on the plane, he messed up the natural order of things. That poor decision got him banished to earth, stripped of his angel duties.
Thirty-five years later, Lash feels forsaken by God. He channels his bitterness into smoking, drinking, and employing prostitutes. But he still manages to come across as appealing, which is one reason I love this story. Lash has a humor and vulnerability that endears him to the reader despite his occasional arrogance and mistakes. When one of God's angels finally gives Lash an assignment, I was pulling for him not to mess up this second chance. A big challenge for him is dealing with his palpable attraction to the woman he's assigned to protect: Naomi.
Naomi is a 21-year-old woman who has suffered many losses in her life. Her mother died years ago, and the story opens with her father's fatal car accident -- an accident involving the human Lash wasn't supposed to save years ago. Now some bad men seem hell-bent on killing Naomi. Luckily she has Lash, as well as some plucky family members. Naomi's grandmother Welita is a fantastic character; loving, sarcastic, and direct. Welita sees right through Lash, and tells him:
"I know you'll take good care of Naomi, and I know it's not because she's an assignment to you." Lash swallowed. "I will, I promise." Welita placed a hand on his cheek. "I see it in your eyes as I see it in hers. Remember, there is always light where there is love and if that is what is meant to happen between the two of you, then it was destined."
How lovely! I want a grandmother like Welita. The Latino culture fascinates me and it's great to get an authentic view in this novel.
A couple of aspects amused me in the story. One is that the devil owns a fracking business. In the battle between Republicans and Democrats over fracking's effects on the environment, that cracks me up. Another tongue-in-cheek moment was when the psychologist turns out to be EVIL. Lash's mentor describes the psychologist:
"He works on Lucifer's behalf, which is why he has his powers. He's highly skilled, able to put on many faces to deceive the humans he controls... That is why he works as a psychologist. It's a well-respected profession and is a perfect cover to complement his talents. He can use his inherent gifts of mind manipulations and hide them behind the skills humans refer to as psychodynamic therapy."
Hehe! I always wondered about those Freudians with their psychodynamic techniques.
My one complaint was that the plot became a bit convoluted at the end of the story.
Supernatural stories aren't my favorite but this story drew me in starting at the prologue. Highly recommended!(less)
While it's hard to top my love for Colleen Hoover's Hopeless series, the Slammed series comes darn close. And like...moreWonderful End to the Slammed Series
While it's hard to top my love for Colleen Hoover's Hopeless series, the Slammed series comes darn close. And like Holder's male perspective in Losing Hope, Will's point-of-view in This Girl is fresh, funny, and poignant. It takes a special talent to write the same story from a different point of view and keep the reader turning the pages, and obviously Ms. Hoover has it.
Will tells his story in flashbacks from his honeymoon bed shared with Layken.
Starting the storytelling with the time before he meets Layken is heartbreaking. Will's trying to make sense of life following his parents' sudden deaths. No more college scholarship. No more carefree young adult life. No more girlfriend, who dumped him when she couldn't handle the responsibility. He's now the parent of his younger brother.
Why weren't they better prepared for something like this? Why would they risk leaving me with all of this responsibility? I snatch the picture up and place my thumbs over their photograph. With all my force, I squeeze until the glass cracks between my fingertips. Once it's successfully shattered--just like my life--I rare back and throw it as hard as I can against the wall in front of me.
I look up and see Caulder standing in the doorway, crying. He looks terrified. It's the same look I've seen so many times since the moment our parents died.
It's a look that immediately brings me back down to earth.
I laughed at Will's reaction when he meets Layken's younger brother Kel for the first time:
"Kel is name my," he says. I stare at him blankly. Was that even English? "I can talk backwards," he says, explaining the clutter of words that just came out of his mouth. "Like this. Backwards talk can I." Interesting. Someone possibly weirder than Caulder? I didn't think it was possible.
And the whole "That's not a good idea" repetition is so clever!
I loved the epilogue and final slam poem.
If you haven't read a book by this incredible author, what are you waiting for?(less)
Though I loved the movie LA Confidential, written by this author, I couldn't get into this novel. Not when there are so many great romance novels (my...moreThough I loved the movie LA Confidential, written by this author, I couldn't get into this novel. Not when there are so many great romance novels (my preferred genre) to read!
If you love crime novels set in the 1940's/1950's Los Angeles, this will be more up your alley.(less)
I love the New Adult genre, representing a time of life that features growth and development. Lacey and Drew, th...moreInterracial Couple Overcomes Obstacles
I love the New Adult genre, representing a time of life that features growth and development. Lacey and Drew, the heroine and hero of this story, definitely mature as they stumble into adulthood.
Lacey is a Biracial 18 year old who dreams of becoming an opera star, but cares for her dying mother instead.
Drew is an Asian 19 year old adopted son of a wealthy Illinois senator. Much to Mommy and Daddy's dismay, he has a penchant for hijinks.
They meet when Drew sneaks away from his father's fundraiser to find an illegal poker game. He happens to witness Lacey sing in a performance, and he's immediately enthralled.
She's not too impressed by this playboy from the North Shore "slumming' it in her neighborhood, and she promptly sets him up to get arrested! The girl's got spunk, that's for sure.
It's not looking too good for this unlikely pair until an interesting situation throws them together. For them to have a chance at love, Lacey needs to learn how to trust, and Drew needs to leave his "douchebaggery" behind. Are their differences insurmountable?
I enjoyed the character development, not only for Lacey and Drew, but also for Drew's sister, and even the "evil" Ashley.
The space between rich and poor, refined and ghetto, black and white...it might not be such a big space after all.
“Sometimes things are more complicated than they seem. Sometimes what you see isn’t so black and white.”(less)
Holy Weird, Batman. My colleague chose this collection of short stories for book club, and it's rather unique! I've never rea...moreBizarre, Clever, and Dark
Holy Weird, Batman. My colleague chose this collection of short stories for book club, and it's rather unique! I've never read George Saunders before, but it seems he has a twisted, complex world view. His characters are not likable at all, and I felt frustrated trying to figure out what was happening in some of his kooky stories.
One of my favorite stories was Escape from Spiderhead--a lab where prisoners were subjected to injections of various chemicals to test their scientific effectiveness. Verbaluce makes you eloquent, Vivistif is a version of Viagra (ha ha), Darkenfloxx makes you feel so horribly depressed that you want to kill yourself, and an unnamed chemical makes you horny. It was creative world-building with despicable characters.
In Exhortation, a manager writes a letter to his employees performing some ghastly duty (are they working at a morgue?). The parody of psychobabble cracked me up:
If we spend the hour before the shelf-cleaning talking down the process of cleaning the shelf, complaining about it, dreading it, investigating the moral niceties of cleaning the shelf, whatever, then what happens is, we make the process of cleaning the shelf MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT REALLY IS. We all know very well that that "shelf" is going to be cleaned, given the current climate, either by you or by the guy who replaces you and gets your paycheck, so the question boils down to: Do I want to clean it happy or do I want to clean it sad? Which would be more effective?
But most of the stories left me confused, frustrated, or icked out. Did I really need to take that stuff in my consciousness?
The colleague who chose this has very different reading tastes than me, and I bet he loved it. If you enjoy creative, dark literary short stories, you may love this! I tend to enjoy romance novels and this wasn't for me. (less)
I adored Katie McGarry's first novel in this series (Pushing the Limits), so naturally I was eager to read book two....moreDare to Break Free of Family Cages
I adored Katie McGarry's first novel in this series (Pushing the Limits), so naturally I was eager to read book two. And Dare To You did not disappoint. The gripping elements of secrets, poverty, family dysfunction, and brilliant characterization of mismatched lovers weave a common thread through both books.
Beth Risk doesn't take risks with her heart. She's been burned too many times. Beth points to the past boyfriend who used her for sex as the source of her mistrust, but more likely it's her parents' abandonment, neglect, and abuse that have molded her dark view of the world. Beth's mother is a drug addict who keeps returning to her asshat boyfriend Trent despite his penchant for beating Beth and her mother. When Beth takes the fall for her mother and gets arrested, her long lost uncle Scott shows up to yank her out of the mess.
But Beth is far from grateful for living with her wealthy ex-pro-baseball-player uncle because now she can't make sure her mother stays alive. To add to her heartache, Uncle Scott wrenches her away from her friends Isaiah and Noah. Beth is miserable at her new school. Even the handsome star baseball pitcher Ryan Stone can't bring her out of her funk. Beth thinks his life is perfect, so why the hell would he be interested in her?
In reality, Ryan's life is far from the perfect image his parents project to the small town Kentucky community. When Ryan's older brother came out to his parents, his father disowned him. Now there's hidden conflict between Ryan's parents. Ryan has to decide whether to try to go pro or go to college on a baseball scholarship. His father doesn't care what Ryan wants to do--he cares only about appearances.
Beth's mother is some piece of work. I HATE her. Listen to what she tells Beth:
Mom throws her head back as she drinks. "You're right. I do blame you. Your father would never have left it it wasn't for you."
Wow. She gets my vote for worst mother of the year. Yet Beth keeps returning to her, which is frustrating but realistic. Beth continues to search for the love she never received.
Beth intrigues Ryan because she's so different from him. He follows all the rules. She breaks them. He strives to please authority figures. She couldn't care less. He can't get her out of his mind. How can she be so hostile? Why does she dye her beautiful blond hair black? (The reason is devastating). Is there any sense of vulnerability hidden deep down beneath that frosty exterior? As he describes it:
Like other predators, Beth can smell fear.
Ha ha! Ryan is a great mixture of strength and softness. As a sports fan, I loved the element of baseball in the story.
It's hard to pinpoint but there seemed to be a little lag in the pacing toward the end of the story, which was the story's only negative for me.
Katie McGarry opens the novel with this Chinese proverb:
"It is the beautiful bird which gets caged."
What a deft metaphor for this heartbreaking couple busting free of their respective families. (less)
A pretty girl leaves her parents' house to live with her aunt, and to attend a different high school for her senior year. She wears thi...moreBeautiful Story
A pretty girl leaves her parents' house to live with her aunt, and to attend a different high school for her senior year. She wears thick, black eyeliner and hooker clothing, and she calls herself Nastya yet has no Russian heritage. Although she doesn't speak, she radiates rage.
Why does she do this?
So begins the mystery of The Sea of Tranquility. This book sucks you in and doesn't let you go.
When I read:
My eyes are drawn to the old-school metal hand-crank pencil sharpener on the principal's desk. I focus on the ring of adjustable pencil holes and wonder idly if my pinky finger would fit into any of them. I'm contemplating how much it would hurt to sharpen it, and how much blood there might be...
...I knew Nastya had experienced something horribly nasty in her life.
At the "highly unsupervised hell dimension" otherwise known as lunch, Nastya notices a boy who everyone avoids, like he has a force field around him. His name is Josh, and he loves woodworking. Josh has pain of his own, having suffered the deaths of his parents, sister, and grandparents.
Nastya jogs at a punishing pace in the Florida heat in order to calm her agitated mind. On one run, she stumbles upon Josh doing carpentry in his garage. He doesn't say much, and she doesn't talk at all. But a few nights later Nastya returns to watch him work. She's constantly observing, taking in every movement.
The sob-fest started for me when Josh makes her a chair. I had the great fortune to win cookies for this book (see the cover cookie above). Check out this gorgeous quote about this momentous event in their relationship:
Josh is friends with man-whore Drew, and by extension, Nastya becomes Drew's friend too. I loved the complex characterization. To say Nastya doesn't trust easily is the understatement of the year, yet somehow she allows both Josh and Drew into her circle of trust. These teens are smarter and wiser than their years. Listen to this astute observation Nastya makes:
I stayed in therapy long enough to know that nothing that happened to me was my fault. I didn't do anything to invite it or deserve it. But that just makes it worse. Maybe I don't blame myself for what happened, but when they tell you that something was completely and utterly random, they're also telling you something else. That nothing you do matters. It doesn't matter if you do everything right, if you dress the right way and act the right way and follow all the rules, because evil will find you anyway. Evil's resourceful that way.
Chilling yet true. We have trouble accepting that bad things aren't all fault because when we do, we give up all control for preventing the bad stuff from happening again.
I also loved the snarky voice of the author, like:
Immoral people debating the existence of God is always a crowd pleaser.
Josh refers to Nastya as "Sunshine", LOL.
But when Nastya and Josh share a moment of connection, her face does shine like the sun:
Thank God there's not a cliffhanger after all the pain these characters endure. Thank God for resolution and healing -- realistic healing, like:
I'm trying to see the magic in everyday miracles now: the fact that my heart still beats, that I can lift my feet off the earth to walk, and that there is something in me worthy of love.
Amen, Nastya and Josh. You're both quite lovable.
I implore you to pick up this book and fall in love with these characters just like I have.(less)