Six months after eighteen-year-old Layken's father passed away suddenly, she and her mother and brother, nine-year-This review contains some spoilers.
Six months after eighteen-year-old Layken's father passed away suddenly, she and her mother and brother, nine-year-old Kel, are leaving their Texas home for a small rented house Ypsilanti, Michigan, where her mother's found a nursing job that pays better than her current one. Lake isn't happy to be moving, but she understands the need for it. Having driven a U-Haul across the country with her brother keeping her company, while their mother drives Lake's jeep (her own van is coming later with the rest of their stuff), the morning they arrive at the small new house in the quiet town, Lake meets their neighbour from across the street, Will Cooper, and his own nine-year-old brother, Caulder. Will is twenty-one and dresses for work, so Lake assumes he's finished uni and is employed - especially when she discovers that his parents are dead and he's supporting his brother on his own.
During the week of settling in before Lake starts her last year of high school, she gets to know Will even more, and there's such strong chemistry between them, both of them feel it. She doesn't know a lot of everyday details about him, but she knows what kind of person he is, and she's quickly falling in love - especially when he takes her to Slam poetry night where he performs one of his poems. And the intense, passionate kiss they share speaks loudly for an amazing start to a promising relationship.
That is, until Lake's first day of school where she discovers that Will is finishing his teaching degree by working at her school - teaching the poetry class she signed up for. Instantly, everything is ruined. They both know they can't see each other anymore. Will depends on his job to support his brother, not to mention a future career, and a relationship with a student would destroy that instantly. Lake understands this, but still the pain at the way Will now treats her - not to mention the fact that her feelings for him haven't really changed, only become somewhat tarnished with the sense of threat and gloom hanging over them - starts to consume her life. Between that and the new iffy suspicions she has about her mother and why they moved to Michigan, Lake's eighteenth year is turning out worse than she could ever have imagined. How can she continue this dance with Will when they are constantly struggling against their feelings, living in fear of discovery - even when there's nothing to discover?
I made the decision to reveal the obstacle between Layken and Will's blooming romance because otherwise there isn't enough plot to talk about, though I have kept the truth about her mother out of it. I am struggling with it though, because I didn't know about Will's job when I started reading it - and hadn't guessed, why would you? I didn't even know there was going to be an obstacle, not like that. But I felt the need, so there it is.
This was one of those classically over-the-top, intense, drama-fueled soap-like stories, the kind American authors are especially good at, and Hoover's no exception. She brings out all the guns and leaves you bleeding - or rather, crying - by the side of the road. And then you're up and coming back for more. How does that work, anyway? It does veer into self-indulgence territory quite a lot, but somehow I found myself enjoying it anyway. "Indulging" myself, definitely. There are times when you want to watch some really cheesy drama on TV, right? Well, I'm the same with books.
Slammed is another in an ever-growing list of self-published books made popular by readers that are being picked up by the barrel-load by Simon & Schuster and its imprints (in this case, Atria); it makes good marketing sense, especially after the Fifty Shades trilogy, and with a fan base already established and more readers eager to find out what all the fuss is about, it makes for a thriving business. Slammed is pretty well written, in present tense though Hoover writes it pretty well, with maybe too much focus on small details that, while I'm not averse to details, could have been more smoothly integrated.
I take the coffee out of his hands and pour the contents into my own, then toss the mug into the trash can. I walk to the refrigerator, grab a juice, and place it in front of him. [p.80]
It is consistent though, at least. Wish they'd hired a copy editor though, to remove all the typos.
The story is told from Layken's perspective, and she's a fleshed-out, angst-riddled teenager on the cusp of the cusp of adulthood - no, that's not a typo. She's not quite on the cusp of adulthood, but leaning up against it. It's in how she deals with her frustration and her anger, which makes her sound like a sixteen-year-old all over again; I sometimes lost patience with her, but she still had this nice dose of humour and I liked her for her love and loyalty towards her family. She didn't always make great decisions, but that's what adolescence is all about. And, apparently, your 20s. Have you noticed how much more teenager-like people in their 20s behave these days? God that makes me sound old. They write whole books and studies on it.
My point for bringing it up is Will. For the most part, he's a charming, intelligent, respectful, reliable, supportive young man, and maybe Lake just brings out the youthfulness of him. He's a boy trapped in an older man's responsibilities, and he's doing an admirable job. But Lake strips all that away and suddenly he's a uni student again, sometimes less mature than he makes out - he does punch a guy over her, after all. His inner struggles garnered more sympathy from me than Lake's, in terms of their relationship, or lack thereof.
Speaking of, it's interesting how it was resolved, especially considering the book I read before this, Laura Buzo's Love and Other Perishable Items - there, it's an inappropriate romance because it's between a fifteen-year-old girl and a twenty-year-old uni student, and they both do the right thing - that is, wait. Here, the obstacles are simply removed so that they can have a happy ending. I far prefer stories with the moral ambiguity of Buzo's, and the maturity with which its dealt with, but I confess that this kind of romance is far more exciting. Cheesier, definitely, but satisfying. That's the difference between Fiction and Romance, though.
There were some issues with the plausibility of the plot, such as the idea of Will being able to support his brother while being a uni student with no inheritance or life insurance to help, and along the way certain things just seemed awfully convenient. One of them is Lake's new best friend, a foster-care girl called Eddie. Now, I loved Eddie and I wish there were more girls with her sense of loyalty, discretion, reliability, priorities etc. But she was also a bit unrealistic. In general, a lot of the characters had that quality about them. Either they fulfilled some stereotype role, or they were a bit too pat. That kind of thing does go hand-in-hand with this kind of heavy-on-the-drama story, though, so you come to expect it and not dwell on it.
I enjoyed this, I really did - I was in the right mood for it, it was a quick, engrossing read, it made me smile at times and it definitely made me cry. I loved Kel and Caulder's halloween costumes - which I can't describe or it gives away a plot point I made an effort not to reveal - and I enjoyed the slam poetry, as well as the snippets of lyrics from the band The Avett Brothers that Hoover includes at the beginning of each chapter - I'd never heard of them before but I'm curious enough to look them up and listen to their sound. And I loved the advice that her mum gives her, or rather the three questions "every woman should be able to answer yes to before she commits to a man."
"Does he treat you with respect at all times? That's the first question. The second question is, if he is the exact same person twenty years from now that he is today, would you still want to marry him? And finally, does he inspire you to want to be a better person? You find someone you can answer yes about to all three, then you've found a good man." [p.37]
These questions, this advice, is spot-on, and I've certainly learned the truth of it the hard way. The story has some beautiful moments like this throughout, that really lift it up from being just a run-of-the-mill drama, and highlight the humanism in the characters. You can quite easily make a personal and emotional connection to the characters and their lives, which is all I really look for in a good book. So my feelings may be a bit mixed, but I enjoyed this enough to go out and get the second book, Point of Retreat, even though I can't see where the story can go from here and I don't know if I can handle more angst from Lake when everything seemed to be going so well! Still, she's young and life isn't easy. There'll be a day when I'll be in the perfect mood to read more of her story, just you wait. ...more
Harper was raised by her father, an officer in the Marine Corps who kept her under his cold and distant thumb. Having been brought up - and schooled,Harper was raised by her father, an officer in the Marine Corps who kept her under his cold and distant thumb. Having been brought up - and schooled, in her father's office - on the base in North Carolina, her friends and pseudo-siblings are all "jarheads" who have taught her how to defend herself but not much else. Now she's eighteen and ready to start university, she's moving to San Diego in California to finally start a life of her own. Her roommate in the dorms is Breanna, a lively, fun-loving girl who, on Harper's first day, takes her to a party at the share-house her older brother Chase rents. Harper's first experience of a real student party with dirty dancing and booze doesn't impress her much, and neither does Chase, a womaniser who drinks too much and speaks aggressively to her.
When the semester starts, she meets more of Bree and Chase's crowd of friends, including one who hadn't been at the party: Brandon Taylor. A tall, large, muscled guy, he's surprisingly sweet and tender and is instantly attracted to Harper. Unlike Chase and Bree, who are independently wealthy from an inheritance from their grandparents, Brandon earns money from the underground fights he continuously wins. As he and Harper start seeing each other, Harper is surprised by how antagonistic and strangely Chase is behaving. It doesn't help that for as much as she loves Brandon, she's still strongly attracted to Chase.
Bree's parents, Claire and Robert, welcome her into their family as another daughter and Harper spends every Sunday with them, a family day. There she sees another side of Chase, a funny, relaxed, caring Chase, an artist who works at a tattoo parlour and designs a tattoo for Harper: orange lillies, her favourite flower. Seeing this side of Chase she starts to believe him when he tells her he quit drinking and sleeping around, but he also does her head in with his erratic behaviour, friendly one moment, aloof the next.
It's at New Year's that Harper succumbs to her desires and makes one huge mistake - a mistake she can't entirely regret. But it changes everything, and no one could have predicted the events that follow, least of all Harper.
I just have to say - in fact it's dying to come out, I can't stop it: WOW. Just. Wow. This isn't going to be pretty, and I've barely had time for it all to sink in so as I go my rating will probably decrease even further, but I just have to let my thoughts out. They need some fresh air after being trapped in this book for the last couple of days or so.
This is - I don't even know what to say. Unbelievable? Only if I were being ironic. It's the kind of self-indulgent melodrama that I deplore, that not only doesn't appeal to me, it makes me feel pretty scornful. I mean, Wow, the Angst! The Drama! Four hundred and fifty-four pages of self-indulgent melodrama! In many ways this book reminded me of two other self-published novels that hit the Big Time and scored a publishing contract: Jamie McGuire's Beautiful Disaster and Thoughtless by SC Stephens. If you've read those, you'll have an idea of what to expect from Taking Chances, story- and character-wise at least. Like the guy from Beautiful Disaster, Brandon fights in the underground fight scene. Both Brandon and Chase have lots of tattoos, and Harper, well, let's just say she gets married awfully young. As in Thoughtless, Harper is with one guy while lusting after the other. At least Harper came clean with her mistake after less time than it took Kiera, and with less self-flagellation about it too. But really, I felt like these were all the same book, more or less.
While I do agree that there are some great authors out there who started out self-publishing, or at least, some great books that were self-published first, the one thing that Taking Chances desperately needed above all else, was a good, experienced editor. It wasn't painful to read, in that sense, but it really needed to be trimmed back, pruned to rid it of the endless descriptive fillers - I'll give you an example in a bit - and shortened, and it really needed someone to fix the grammar and punctuation. McAdams has the most bizarre and awkward habit of using run-on sentences: linking clauses, or two distinct sentences, with just a comma, so much so that it was sometimes hard to follow the direction of a sentence. What she should have done was use my friend the semicolon (;) or simply end the first sentence and start a new one, even if it was a short one. (Incidentally, she used a semicolon ONCE - yes, I do notice these things - and it was used incorrectly, which just makes me wince.) It makes it harder to read because the flow is shot to pieces, and I had to fix it in my head as I read it. Her dialogue punctuation was off too; McAdams has another habit of using a comma instead of a full-stop before dialogue. I can open this book at any page and find examples, so here you go:
I floundered for a minute trying to remember everything that he and Derek had said, "Because you ... isn't that ... wasn't that why you wanted me to leave?" [p.138]
That should have read: "I floundered for a minute trying to remember everything that he and Derek had said[FULL STOP!]" - and then start the dialogue. There are so many of these, it's like they kept breeding.
Here're some random examples of run-on sentences:
Right away Kale threw a punch, Brandon leaned back letting it pass an inch from his face, his smile never faltering. [p.88]
First thing Brandon did was thank Bree for her hand in my earlier outfit, she winked at both of us before running back to the side of some new guy named Ryan. [p.99]
I smiled and rushed back to Brandon's room. I had just grabbed my suit when Brandon's phone chimed, I glanced at his desk where it sat and continued to take my shirt off. [p.99]
I slipped off my shorts and tank top, grabbing the gray and white button down shirt he'd been wearing last night, I pulled it on leaving all but one of the middle buttons undone. [p.127]
I think you get the picture, but I could honestly find multiple examples for you on every page. There were other mistakes, of the typo variety, but at least McAdams used "led" instead of "lead" - that would have been one error too many for me! You can also get an idea from these snippets of how focused the narrative is on including all the little details, no matter how irrelevant (or rather, everything becomes relevant when really it's not). I've noticed the same thing in other self-published books, including (especially) Thoughtless.
The other thing Taking Chances does a lot of is perpetuate stereotypes and clichés, and it's clearly written with the Bible Belt in mind. I don't want to include any spoilers in this review, but I'll just say that for all the premarital sex (and excessive drinking) going around, when consequences catch up with Harper, there's never any question about what course of action she's going to take. This speaks to a sad lack of character development with Harper - with all of them, really, but she's the narrator going through all these big changes and important decisions, and yet not only did I never feel like I understood her, she never really had to deal with the consequences of her actions. Certainly, there are consequences, but there happens to be one very convenient factor in Harper's life: EVERYONE LOVES HER. Seriously. Seriously??
Yes, seriously. She has two gorgeous (so we're told) young men desperate for her love, Bree's a loyal friend and her parents informally adopt her. Her best friend from the base, Jason Carter, is also in love with her, everyone likes her and everyone accepts her and everyone just conveniently embraces the directions her life takes. It's hard to elucidate on that last point without giving things away, but let's just say that her life is a tad unusual, the way it all turns out. It's all just highly unbelievable, because sad to say, people just don't agree all that much. We're all opinionated, have our own motives, our own experiences to draw upon, and so on. It's great that everyone was so supportive and understanding of her, but really, how likely is that? Possible, sure, but not very realistic.
Brandon and Chase love Harper so much, but who is she, really? (And who are they?? We never really get any deeper than their surfaces.) What are her interests? (nothing) What does she want out of life? (um, nothing? except to be loved?) To me she came across as bland and uninteresting. I couldn't relate to her, especially the casual way she tossed aside her tertiary education like it was the least important thing in the world. After one year. Just like that. Oh she can afford it, but what would she do with an education? She's just a woman, after all. Only once does she think that she shouldn't jump into a relationship but should take the time to "find herself" and figure out what she wants, but she tosses that aside just as easily. It's not that, within the scope of her life, she isn't a strong person with solid morals and a loving temperament. It's that, and I hate to say this, it's that her world is small, narrow-minded and downright tacky. She's far too young - emotionally, mentally, age-wise - for the things she takes on, and for all that she's happy with the way her life has turned out, I couldn't get over the uncomplicated tawdry tackiness of it all. It wouldn't have been so tacky if it weren't so self-indulgent, but that's the quality that adds to the sense of Harper's narrow world view. Her story never goes beyond what's happening to her, that's all her world is. Everything revolves around Harper, and I got more than a bit sick of it.
Actually, I got a bit tired of the whole story, to be honest. It just kept going on and on and after the sudden and dramatic (as always) events of chapter 13 (around the 272-page mark), it definitely lost steam and its "oomph" died with a whimper. After that, I just kept doggedly turning the pages because I'd made a commitment to read and review it - something I agreed to because I had actually bought this as an e-book last year, only I hate reading things electronically and I knew I'd never read it otherwise. (And this paperback is rather lovely to hold! About the best thing I can say about it.) Oh and it lost major points for the pregnancy/labour/child birth descriptions, which clearly showed that the author has little experience with any of it - and I'm sorry, but after all the emphasis on how huge the pregnancy belly was, and how big the baby was, you can't then tell us the baby weighed only six pounds at birth. That's pretty small for a boy these days. Mine was nearly 9 pounds when he was born (over 4kgs), and that's pretty average these days. 6 pounds for a boy baby?? Ha. None of that added up.
It's at this point that I have to drop my rating from an initial 2 out of 5 (it was okay) to a measly one (it was crap). I always feel bad giving a book a "crap" rating but I have to be honest with you. There were moments when I was entertained by this story, almost against my will, and I definitely started reading it with that rosy blush of anticipation that you get when you start a new book, only to have it severely doused when it became clear this story wasn't going to improve. It's a story of second chances, on the surface anyway, but really it's a generic story of how much everyone loves Harper and how easily they forgive her for her stupid mistakes. It's clearly not my kind of story, even if it hadn't been so self-indulgent. It's like really cheesy reality TV, of the Kardashian/Jersey Shore variety, and reality TV is my least favourite thing. I suppose these days this book fits the "New Adult" label, but I refuse to use it so I'm calling this "lite adult romance" with some kind of grammatical dyslexia.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via TLC Book Tours....more
Kennedy Monroe was warned away from bad boy Memphis Adams in her first year of university; she had only to watch all of his bitter and dejected one niKennedy Monroe was warned away from bad boy Memphis Adams in her first year of university; she had only to watch all of his bitter and dejected one night stand's to see why. But when she met him, she found herself becoming his friend instead of his latest conquest - and the two have been best friends ever since.
Twelve years have gone by since that first meeting, and with Memphis's support Kennedy has finally made it as an artist with her own exhibition - never mind what her parents wanted her to do. Memphis is a successful photographer for a travel magazine, and gets to fly around the world to snap locations - and he's still a commitment-phobe, or so Kennedy has always believed. Kennedy doesn't have that problem: for two years now she's been going out with the head neurosurgeon at Vancouver General Hospital, Ian Brooks. Over a decade older than her, he seems to be everything she wants, and yet his job always comes first and he never wants to talk about the baby they lost just months into their relationship, no matter how devastated Kennedy is by the loss.
Things become even rockier with Brooks when he forgets to turn up for the opening of her exhibition, while Memphis is, of course, there for her. When Memphis tells her he's going to Alaska again to photograph a new resort and talked the owner into letting him bring a guest, Kennedy jumps at the chance. She's never travelled, and has wanted to see Alaska since she saw the photos from his previous trip. And it will give her time to decide whether she will keep trying with Brooks or simply end it, though her feelings are even more confused after the drunken kiss she shared with Memphis the night of her exhibition.
In Alaska, things change between the best friends, when their growing sexual tension explodes into fulfilment. But what does it mean, really? Kennedy is now torn between her best friend and her boyfriend. She'd like nothing more than to be with Memphis, but she doesn't believe he's looking for something long-term and permanent, whereas Brooks is stable, predictable. Mostly. Things get even messier when she returns early to Vancouver and Brooks wants to start over. Kennedy's fear of being alone threatens to cause her to make a decision she will always regret.
This is an intense, emotionally-taught story in the vein of Beautiful Disaster and similar contemporary romances, with boiling sexual tension and some serious angst. I have a mixed reaction to this, as I usually do with such stories: on the one hand, I loved the sexual tension, it was practically throbbing on the page, and I easily let myself get sucked into the story, like watching a soap opera (which I don't do - this is as close as I get). But the angst was so much, and Kennedy's flaws, her insecurities and the things she put the two men through because of them, did make me gnash my teeth. I tend to look on the positive side: I cared enough to be annoyed. Nothing worse than reading a book and feeling completely disinterested.
The drama - or melodrama, as you could easily call it - was something I enjoyed while reading it, and afterwards felt a bit surprised at myself for getting into it as much as I did. I put the success of that down to Schmidt's compulsive writing style, which flows well from scene to scene and has that dose of realism that really makes it come alive in your head. It's easy to visualise the story, and get caught up in the characters' lives.
But Kennedy, oh Kennedy! She has me conflicted because, adhering to that realism I mentioned above, she's a likeable character, a woman who's worked hard to be independent and follow her own interests and make a career out of it. She values her friendships. She respects Memphis even though she secretly thinks he's a womaniser. And I could empathise with - or at least understand - why she stuck it out with Brooks. Even though they weren't living together, Kennedy's fears and insecurities around losing him and being alone were understandable, even if they were too often the basis of causing hurt to others - including Brooks. Her fears were all too understandable, including her worry about giving in to the intense sexual tension between her and Memphis - introducing sex could destroy their friendship, and she doesn't feel that she could live with that.
You can see Kennedy's flaws clearly from early on, her fears, but it takes Memphis pointing them out to her in a moment of raw honesty for her to really own up to them. By that point, I wanted to shake her myself, and I was proud of Memphis for putting his foot down and stopping her from dicking him around constantly. She was getting ridiculous. But Memphis himself could have helped by being clear about his feelings and motivations and hopes for the future - though, if he had, Kennedy wouldn't have learnt her lesson and stopped using people to plug her own hole of fear. Still, whenever I read stories with seemingly needless misunderstandings and the heartache that ensues, I tend to get a bit frustrated. One of the key ingredients in a relationship is open communication, and when none of the characters practices it, I start to wonder whether they can work as a couple at all. But I think there are a lot of people like Kennedy and Memphis.
Memphis was perhaps the real strength of the novel. He is a fantastic romantic lead, revealing a vulnerable, sensitive side at key moments, ferocious in bed, intensely charismatic and so clearly in love with Kennedy, even if she can't see it (and he does a good job of dissembling and protecting himself from rejection). His character is revealed in the small, thoughtful details, and while he has his moments of over-reacting too, he gets my respect for owning up to it and apologising once he's cooled down. He's not domineering, and while that final scene the night Brooks proposes is heartbreaking, it's also cleansing, and increased my respect for Memphis even more. He wasn't going to let Kennedy use him forever, and toy with him. She needed that, boy did she need that. It has to be one of the most satisfying yet sad scenes I've read in ages. What makes it work exceptionally well, is that you can see - and feel - from the beginning that these two should be together, that they make each other better people, complement each other, make each other happy. Without that, the story would never have worked, and their chemistry is spot-on.
As a romance, it was highly satisfying. It hit all the marks, even the ones I don't care for. As a drama, likewise. This will be compulsive, engrossing reading for people who enjoyed dramatic romance, or should we call them "intense love stories full of drama, gentle tender moments, real life and flawed characters, and incredible chemistry". That works. I definitely enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading more by Schmidt.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via Netgalley....more
Echo Emersen feels a far cry from normal. No longer the girlfriend to the hottest, most popular boy in school, Luke. No longer hanging out with her frEcho Emersen feels a far cry from normal. No longer the girlfriend to the hottest, most popular boy in school, Luke. No longer hanging out with her friends Lila, Grace and Natalie; in fact, she doesn't even go to the cafeteria anymore. Now, everyone whispers about her. Everyone speculates about what happened. She's the outcast, the freak, at school, wearing long-sleeved tops and gloves to hide the new scars that cover them - scars she can't remember even getting. What happened that night at her mum's place? Why can't she remember? Did her mother, a bipolar artist, really assault her?
Even before that night, Echo's life was scarred by the tragic death of her older brother Aires from a road-side bomb in Afghanistan. Now there's no one to help support her in the face of her father's controlling tendencies, his decision that Echo will study business, not art. No one to help her deal with Ashley, once her babysitter and now her step-mother, and pregnant as well.
Mrs Collins, the new clinical social worker at Echo's school, wants to help. But that would require Echo to trust her, and to actually say the words that come into her head. To help Echo raise the money to fix Aires' car, Mrs Collins organises for her to give tutoring lessons, to help the other student she sees regularly: Noah Hutchins, a foster-care bad boy almost constantly in trouble. Even though Noah thinks Echo is hot - she's got curly red hair and has "big tits" - and smart, he also thinks she's a pretty typical princess who thinks she's above people like him. Their first tutoring session doesn't go well, and that's before Noah sees the scars on Echo's arm.
Echo's sure he'll tell everyone and the gossip mill will start up again, but strangely, it doesn't. After more edgy confrontations, they become friends with a shared goal: to access their files in Mrs Collins's office. Echo knows that the truth of the night that changed everything is in her file, and Noah wants to learn the names and address of the couple who have his two little brothers, Jacob and Tyler. He's determined to find proof that they're not being well cared for, and just as determined to petition for custody as soon as he turns eighteen, which is soon.
As Echo and Noah get to know each other, their tentative friendship turns into a passionate relationship. But with Echo's forgotten past leaving such deep scars on her psyche, and with Noah's vague plans for the future seeing him look after two young children while shelving any ideas for furthering his own education, where can their relationship go?
There are quite a lot of YA novels about people, girls mostly, who have no memory of whatever traumatic event caused them to be traumatised now. In general, they don't appeal to me, but I have read a few and it's true, they are different, but it's not a possible comparison that bothers me. I'm more put off by what's becoming a cliched narrative device. Being an adolescent is hard enough - it's a hormonally-charged, lonely, scary time - without such massive, dramatic tragedy piled up on top of it, so it always seems like masochism to want to read such books.
Instead, it's other elements of these stories that appeal to me, and keep me reading: character growth, and romance. I like romance, when it's written well. And that's the other cliche turning up a lot in YA (and no doubt has been for decades): the resident good girl cozying up with the resident bad boy. Fun, but hardly original. Realistic? Sure, why not. But often the stereotypes are firm and inflexible, including the big one: that the bad boy is simply struggling against forces set in motion against him, that he's really a good boy at heart, and smart, and never pressures the girl for sex. All the right stuff. Everything else is an image, or other people's judgement, or circumstance. Nature vs. nurture, right? Here you can choose to look past the cliche to the social commentary, which is hopefully the authors' intention.
Take Noah Hutchins. I've never been in a situation like his, but I felt immense sympathy for him. A standard by-product of a flawed foster care system, he got an unfair reputation for violence that ruined his chances of being able to spend time with this brothers - and he fears they will forget him, especially the youngest. It's like being put in a mental institution, and saying you're not crazy. Once you're in the system, no one's going to believe anything you say. I could understand Noah's anger, and his fear, and his lack of trust. This is a very urban story, in the sense that there are many teenagers - too many - like Noah, who have responsibility for younger siblings, responsibility they should never have to bear, and it means they end up sacrificing other areas of their life, especially school. They are always late because they're having to get their siblings out of bed, dressed and fed, and taken to school. With no one supporting them, no parent to talk to, they can lack the coping skills to handle other people, resulting in confrontations that get them in trouble. And so on.
In Noah's case, his parents died in a fire - a fire he blames himself for. He's had a shitty time in foster care until now, living with a couple who have taken in two foster kids for the money and basically ignore them. His foster-brother, Isaiah, and the niece of his foster parents, Beth, are his best friends and his siblings. They form a tight unit and look out for each other. So Noah is a strong teen, and a well-developed character. Where I winced a bit was in his flowery, romantic language when thinking about Echo. Moving on from the cringe-inducing "big tits" comment (one I'm sure was used as an aid in establishing his bad boy, foul-mouthed character), he reverts to "nymph", "siren" and "goddess" (to add to this pile of corniness, Echo tells Noah that she was named after a wood nymph from Greek mythology) - I sometimes felt like I was reading an adult romance, because some of his lines (and Echo's) could have jumped straight off the page of one.
Echo was a bit harder to like. It wasn't that she couldn't stand up for herself, especially with her father, and it wasn't that she was a quiet tragi-queen. I found it hard to relate to, and sympathise with, her apathetic effort to be "normal" and accepted again, by letting her ex-boyfriend Luke absorb her into a relationship again - that especially I didn't get, since she had broken up with him before for good reason - and for putting up with comments from her "friends" about how everything would go back to normal if she just sat with them at lunch and went out with Luke again. I'm sure the point is just that, that it's a fake normal and you should be true to yourself, and Echo's not the same person, etc. etc. But it made for hard reading at times. Echo could be frustratingly dim. Her friends were pretty awful, even Lila, who supposedly "had her back". And while I am sure Echo is a talented budding artist, I found it a bit much that galleries across the country were already wanting to buy her work. A far-fetched device to establish her independence from her father, but I wish it had come more naturally, from both of them.
Of them all, I liked Mrs Collins the best, but that leads me directly to my problem with this book: I felt played. While reading it, I enjoyed it a lot. Yes it's big on the tragedy and the dramatics, and the romance is pretty formulaic. But I liked the writing in general, and I was genuinely curious about what had happened with Echo and her mother, that night she can't remember. And I was probably more upset than Echo, at her mother's words and behaviour when she sees her again for the first time since that night. I felt for Noah's predicament, and felt his pain at being separated from his brothers, and having someone tell him he wasn't allowed to see them, or what he could and couldn't say to them when he did see them. There's chemistry between Noah and Echo, the pacing is steady and just fast enough to keep up the momentum, and it's got layers.
And yet, and yet. When I finished it, I felt a bit odd. And the more time went by, the more disillusioned I felt with it. Basically, I felt emotionally manipulated. That I had been led along by the hand. I felt everything I was supposed to feel and nothing more, nothing less. I liked the characters I was supposed to like, and as for the others, well I went through Echo or Noah's perceptions, like with Echo's father, who I actually felt sorry for by the end. It all felt so deliberate, and therefore somehow fake. I could have used less religion, too, but that's just me. I think it just got too heavy-handed and melodramatic for me, perhaps because it tackled so many issues facing adolescents: drinking, sex, drugs, abuse, the system, fitting in at school, relationships, popularity, peer-pressure, bullying, loneliness, betrayal/back-stabbing, broken family, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, right down to deciding what to wear. (I just finished another YA book that was similarly over-loaded, though a very different story, which probably just adds to this sense of being overwhelmed.)
I wasn't sure whether to say any of this, because it makes me think: but isn't all YA like that these days? Which means I'm being unduly harsh towards this book. But no, I don't think all YA is like this. It's a subtle thing, and I don't want to make it into a bigger thing than it is. Bottom line is: this is a good book, a well-written book, dealing with some tough issues. McGarry has worked hard to create distinct voices for Echo and Noah, who take turns narrating in first-person, and she's done pretty well at it (though for Noah in particular there are some rather obvious devices used, like his language). And I do enjoy these kinds of contemporary YA romances, with or without the drama. But I can find no other way of explaining why, after finishing it, I found I liked it less than I had while reading it.
Fans of Simone Elkeles, Louise Rozzet and Jennifer Echols will enjoy Pushing the Limits; for me, it was a solid coming-of-age story about two young people finding their way and finding each other, successfully tackling some hefty issues, but sadly it left me feeling hollow at the end....more
Aria has always lived inside the utilitarian, uniform grey walls of Reverie, one of a group of domes called "Pods" constructed to save people a long tAria has always lived inside the utilitarian, uniform grey walls of Reverie, one of a group of domes called "Pods" constructed to save people a long time ago. Her mother, Lumina, is a geneticist working on a top-secret project, and left for another Pod called Bliss. Aria hasn't heard from her in five days and she's becomingly increasingly worried about what might have happened at Bliss to bring the communication channels down. Outside the Pods, the environment is a death zone to people like Aria: with its poisonous air she knows she wouldn't last hours - there's a reason why it's nicknamed the Death Shop - so the thought of Bliss attacked by one of the increasingly frequent Aether storms and even partially destroyed, is enough to make her feel panic.
In an attempt to find out information, she and her friend Paisley agree to tag along with three boys, led by Soren, the son of Counsel Hess, one of their leaders, into a damaged service dome used for agriculture but now sealed off. Soren is a wild card, though, and discovering a fully-grown forest within the dome leads him to the decision to start a fire, something strictly forbidden inside the Pods for the risk of killing them all. The boys go crazy and attack the girls, and Aria is saved by a Savage - one of the uncivilised peoples who live outside the domes. But later, when Aria tries to tell the story of what really happened inside the service dome, she finds herself betrayed and cast outside Reverie.
Alone and at the mercy of the elements, Aria is shocked to find that she hasn't died from breathing the noxious air, though an Aether storm nearly finishes her off. Instead, she has been rescued from certain death by the very same Savage who helped save her from Soren inside Reverie: Peregrine, or Perry for short. The younger brother of the leader of a tribe called the Tides, Perry is "Marked" and has two talents - super-powers derived from evolved genetic mutations. He can smell people's emotions, giving him an extra sense for what people are thinking or about to do, and he has nocturnal vision. When his nephew Talon is captured by the "Moles", or Pod dwellers, he makes a plan for getting him back and that plan involves Aria.
Together these two very different people traverse a wild and inhospitable landscape to reach the one person Perry is sure can help them. Along the way they build trust where there was none, friendship where there was hostility, and come to value each other for more than their skills (of which Perry has lots but Aria, none but singing). Their quest to rescue Talon and find Aria's mother leads them to dual truths: the truth behind the disappearances of other people Perry knows, and the secret as to why Aria can survive outside the domes.
I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories featuring domes - or any kind of story featuring domes, really, it doesn't have to post-apocalyptic like this one. My love affair started with Isobelle Carmody's Scatterlings, which at a guess was the first YA book featuring a dome to be published. As such, I have a habit of measuring similar stories against it - it can't really be helped. Under the Never Sky has plenty in common with Scatterlings and other stories featuring domes, but it forges its own path too. It takes the familiar tropes of dome vs. wilderness, people mutated by manmade toxins into a new kind of human, someone from the inside at the mercy of the elements on the outside, and a quest story - it takes these elements as the common threads but spins a new story with enough original elements to help it stand on its own feet.
And there is plenty to like here. The biggest strength this novel has is the writing. The prose is controlled, confident and clear. The pacing is smooth and fairly fast, and even the parts where not much is happening read well and are interesting. I've read my fair share of poorly written YA and this is definitely not one of them, and I have a high appreciation for good storytelling and good prose. There are other parts to this too, like Aria.
Aria started out as a fairly conventional heroine, with a distinctly familiar-sounding voice. She's spent her whole life not only confined to a sterile dome, but has spent most of that time actually living inside the Realms: computer programs that simulate everything from ancient Rome to a nightclub to the opera - places that don't even exist anymore. That's where everyone "lives", experiencing everything through simulation. They might touch each other or even have sex inside a Realm, but outside it, they do little more than eat and sleep and physical contact is strange. They don't even have children the "natural" way anymore, and people give their kids little genetic tweaks - like how Aria was given a stellar singing voice, or Soren was given a tan. "Upgrades", they're called. So her whole life is artificial and very tragic, and she's never learned anything useful. She would never have survived the world outside Reverie without Perry, and she knows it.
But Aria is not one of those annoying, whiny, difficult heroines we've all read. She's smart, she learns from her mistakes, she listens and she's not narrow-minded. She's super ignorant and the mistakes she makes ring true for her character and upbringing, but they garnered more sympathy from me than annoyance. And she grows. She really does grow as a person, in a life-changing way. She "comes into her own", as they say. She finds her inner strength, a confidence and resilience she never would have discovered if she'd stayed within Reverie. But she doesn't change in a way that's unrealistic or too fast; she's still a nicely flawed - or we should say "imperfect" - character who has plenty to learn.
Then there is Perry. He's a bit more typical, being a bit stubborn and taciturn, but at least it fits his character and he, too, grows up some. He's got a long way to go too though. His situation is interesting and a marked contrast to Aria's, and he moves fluidly within the landscape that shaped him. I found it hard to get a good mental image of him, as one of the rare times when the prose stumbled was in describing things like Perry running his hands through his long dark blonde hair, when we'd already been told he had dreadlocks - bit hard to run your hands through dreadlocks like that! I'm not a huge fan of the silent moody heroes anymore than I like the stubborn, mouthy heroines, but I did come to like Perry. I rather wish he went by the name "Peregrine" though, because I really like that name and I'm not so keen on "Perry", which makes me think of a rather nerdy suburban middle class kid who'd really like to be popular but has a daggy haircut.
So where did my love for this story fall short? Everything was there, in place, all the elements for something truly outstanding. And I did enjoy reading this, don't get me wrong. But somehow, at the end of the day, it was all a bit ... safe. Slightly conventional. There was nothing specially new here, for me. It lacked that zing, that spark to make it really stand out. Everything was just a bit too ... neat - including Aria and Perry's slowly growing romance (though, yay, no "instalove"!). I don't know how else to describe it, and it's quite likely that had I read this at a different stage in my life that zing would have been there for me. That's the trouble with growing up and having life experiences, or with reading a lot of books: it gets harder to feel energised and surprised and zapped by books. Maybe I'd feel the same way if I read Scatterlings for the first time ever, now. How sad. Sigh. Anyway, this is a solid story with a fast-moving, exciting storyline and two strong, memorable characters who are taking the overall story in a new, untamed direction. I'll have to read on to find out what's at the other end (or I could just wait for the film)....more
Five years ago Evangeline Bailey, then only nineteen, met the man who set her aflame and got married - not in that order, and not even with the same mFive years ago Evangeline Bailey, then only nineteen, met the man who set her aflame and got married - not in that order, and not even with the same man. She married her dear friend, Leo Fitzherbert, because he was trying to get into politics but was gay - to help him avoid the scandal of being caught by a journalist in a compromising situation, they gave the paper a juicier story: a wedding. It was always meant to be a temporary thing, to appease his parents and get his career started. But it stretched into five years before they finally divorced.
Now, twenty-four and a bit more mature, Eve and her four-year-old son, Tyler, have arrived at a tropical resort island in Asia for a much needed holiday with Leo, sparking rumours that they might be getting back together. Leo has fallen in love with a man and is gearing up to come out of the closet, while Eve is simply enjoying spending time with her son. Or so she tells herself. But when she sees Gabriel Gray at the resort, Leo's cousin whom she hasn't seen in five years - not since her wedding night when a chance encounter led to a night of passion that ended abruptly when Gabriel discovered she was married - everything she'd kept locked away threatens to burst out into the open.
Gabriel still feels the same searing anger when he sees Eve again as he did when he first discovered her betrayal: betrayal of his cousin, betrayal of him. Despite his anger, he still feels on fire at seeing her again, talking to her, dancing with her. Ignorant of the truth of Eve's marriage - and that of her son's parentage - Gabriel takes a warped kind of pleasure at tormenting them both, and Eve rises to the bait each time. But as they're thrown into each other's company more and more, they start to learn about each other, and come to realise that neither is the person they'd built up in their heads for all these years.
Alexandra Slater's debut novel is pretty standard romance fare, plot- and character-wise, but the writing is capable and there's potential here. My biggest problems with Evangeline's Secrets are the lacklustre plot, the immature heroine and the unlikeable hero. Romance depends on its characters, rather than plot: they need to be likeable, loveable even, and there needs to be strong chemistry between them. I found neither here. Certainly, I was told the chemistry was there, repeatedly, but I didn't feel it, precisely because Gabriel was such a bastard and seemed to relish saying cruel things to Eve and being unpleasant and rude in his manner all round. His thoughts are as toxic as his dialogue.
Setting his jaw, Gabriel headed back down to the ground floor and tried not to think about the last time he had held Evangeline in his arms.
"I hate what I become when I'm with you."
Her final accusing words returned to haunt him, as they had haunted him for the past three days, filling him with molten fury.
How dared she attempt to make him feel as if he was the only guilty one in this sordid affair? [Location: 1544]
Gabriel's mental reasoning often confused me, not that a character has to understand everything of course. But since I was trying to get my head around this pair, trying to understand what they saw in each other and why they kept torturing each other, I was disappointed that he misunderstood Eve's comment so drastically. They were like two characters performing two different plays together, following a different script. It could get frustrating.
Gabriel has some excuse for his anger and bitchiness, but he failed to be a better man and handle it in a mature way. He continually did everything to make me dislike him, and even feel contempt for him, so that I couldn't understand why Evangeline still found him so attractive. I like to think that personality makes up a huge portion of man's attractiveness - for me it does, anyway (on a related side note, I may have found the Fifty Shades books fun to read, but I would never find Christian Grey attractive in real life: arrogance and superiority, and all his other issues, would make him quite repulsive to my eyes). So why was she "gagging for it", so to speak, when he's being such a prick?
Was he destined to become a carbon copy of his father, whose pursuit of his own selfish desires twenty years ago had caused his family untold heartache and ripped apart two marriages?
I'm damned if I'll be the cause of that kind of misery!
But confronted by the fresh, delicate beauty that had been responsible for his unintentional lapse five years before, Gabriel felt bitterness rising in his throat like bile.
Because of her you broke a solemn vow. Don't forget that. She may look like an angel, but underneath she's ... [Location 413]
I wanted to like Gabriel for having standards, and morals, and I could understand and sympathise with how he must have felt when, having made such an explosive connection with Eve, he learned that she was shagging him on her wedding night. I can understand the contempt he feels. But what I don't understand is his attraction to her, and her to him. Especially when Eve is so stupidly immature:
"Evangeline, Rachel is..."
"Your PA?" Eve cut in, sarcasm dripping from every syllable.
Gabriel's expression hardened and he turned to face her. She looked away instantly and stared straight ahead, thrusting her jaw out mutinously, refusing to return his gaze.
"That's right," he drawled. "And no. I have no problem with Rachel. She can be trusted. Happy now?"
Bastard! [Location 539]
When I first started reading it, I had somehow created an idea of Eve as a graceful, calm, patient sort of woman, one who might tease a man like Gabriel with softly-spoken jibes and clever innuendo, but who didn't tend to show how she really felt. I'm not sure where this impression came from except the first chapter, where we first hear of Evangeline Bailey and her ex, arriving at the island resort, but haven't met them yet. I don't know, it was just me putting together a picture of a woman I could respect, one I would be interested in knowing more about, the kind of woman who had helped a friend out by marrying him, had a son without the support and love of his father, and who was keeping all these secrets in order to protect others. That's no one's fault but my own. I wanted to like Eve for her own sake, as her character slowly came together, but I have little patience for sulky, immature people who make things difficult for themselves and then whinge about it.
"By the way, that's some dress you're almost wearing," Gabriel muttered, curling his hand round hers in a curiously possessive gesture as he led her on to the dance floor.
Eve's cheeks crimsoned. "Whatever," she replied sulkily. [Location 787]
Gabriel is, of course, a philanthropist, not just a millionaire businessman - he's like every Mills & Boon hero in that way. It was heavy on the cliches:
"That man is so modest," sighed a lavishly-clad woman standing to Eve's right. Leaning towards her rapt female companion, she added confidingly, "GG Inc my foot! He funded the entire project out of his own pocket. Sir Terence was telling me this morning."
Feeling more bewildered with every passing second, Eve gazed up at Gabriel's autocratic profile. How could a man so unprincipled in his personal life be so dazzlingly altruistic in business? [Location 1574]
The two of them do the usual dancing around each other: lusting after each other, refusing to acknowledge it, almost deliberately misunderstanding each other, and showing none of the usual signs of actually caring. Eve does finally acknowledge to herself that she knows nothing about Gabriel, but she doesn't make much effort to get to know him. Same goes for Gabriel. The only time you get to see him act "normal" is when Eve is laid up in bed for a week and he spends all his free time playing games with Tyler and keeping them both company. That week is mostly glossed over, so we still don't get to know Gabriel much better. And I've never cared for romantic heroes who play the stoic card, the "I want this woman but I WILL rise above it, dammit!" Like that's a show of strength or something.
At the end of the day, there'd be no drama between these two if they'd just act like sensible, mature adults and had a calm conversation, or even if they made an effort to get to know each other enough to trust each other with the truth. Since trust and communication are such key attributes of a loving, respectful, successful relationship, I spent the entire novel uncaring whether they got together, and thinking that I'd actually rather they didn't get together.
This debut novel falls into too many old and worn pitfalls, uses too many formulaic cliches, and struggled to hold my interest. If only it had had steamier sex scenes, I might have at least picked up on their supposed chemistry. A disappointing read, but I think Slater has potential....more
Hugely enjoyable, this one was. Really, I'm so glad I gave this series another try after starting with book 3 (Be Still My Vampire Heart) and dislikHugely enjoyable, this one was. Really, I'm so glad I gave this series another try after starting with book 3 (Be Still My Vampire Heart) and disliking it so much, because all the other books I've read (eight so far) have been so much fun and not at all annoying. Toni is a solid heroine, hired as a day guard by the "good Vamps" to watch over them while they sleep because her fighting skills impressed Connor so much when he rescued her from a group of Malcontents.
There are several storylines going here, including Ian's search for a nice Vamp lady to marry that results in some rather hilarious (and rather sad) dating fiascos, and Toni's neighbour Carlos' big secret. Lots of action and some attempt on the part of the bad guys (the Malcontents) to use some brain cells and come up with a plan of attack. Plus there's some delightful chemistry between Toni and Ian and we get to see young Constantine work his magic. Literally. ...more
Mara Dyer isn't her real name. In a letter at the beginning of the story, Mara explains that it's a pseudonym, and that without her, "no one would knoMara Dyer isn't her real name. In a letter at the beginning of the story, Mara explains that it's a pseudonym, and that without her, "no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count. And it's important that you know, so you're not next." It all begins with her best friend, Rachel: at her birthday, Rachel's new friend Claire brings out the Ouija board, and one macabre question - "How does Rachel die?" - brings the answer: "Mara". Ominous? The girls just think the board wants Mara to ask a question, so they think nothing of it. But not long after, the three girls and Claire's brother Jude, who is also Mara's boyfriend of two months, sneak out in the middle of the night to do a tour of the abandoned mental asylum. A few days later, Mara wakes up in the hospital, her friends and boyfriend dead, and no memory of what happened.
To help her deal with the loss of Rachel, Mara and her family move from Rhode Island to Florida for a fresh start. Mara's mother enrols her and her older brother Daniel into a private school some distance away, and it's there that Mara meets Noah. Noah is the school's ultimate hottie and bad boy, with a reputation of sleeping around and breaking girls' hearts, and he seems to have fixated on Mara. But Mara isn't dealing so well: she's hallucinating, seeing her dead friends in mirrors and injuring herself when she imagines a force holding her arm in a scalding hot bath. Days later when she gets the bandages changed, the second-degree burns have vanished.
There's definitely something strange going on in Mara's life, and that's just the beginning. When people start turning up dead after she's imagined their death, in the exact same manner of death that she had imagined, she starts to realise she's far from innocent. And as the memories of what happened in the asylum slowly resurface, she learns a scary truth. Only Noah can understand what's going on, and help her. But there's someone else out there, abducting children and teens and leaving their bodies for the alligators, and the culprit may be closer to home than Mara ever expected.
This is quite a confusing book, in some ways, and painfully simple and cliched in others. The plot is very busy, and for the first, say, half, I had it figured in my head that this was a horror novel. The mysterious deaths of her friends in an asylum, the hallucinations - that were really quite scary - and the general sense that Mara was going crazy. Also, unlike many readers, I always assumed, from the very beginning, that the murderer Mara refers to in her letter at the start is her ex-boyfriend Jude, not herself. We learn early on that they never recovered his body, and Mara keeps seeing things, seeing him. This attempt to be tricky and twisty with the plot just annoyed me, because it was a bit clumsy. The Death Cab for Cutie (a band) is something of a red herring, because practically everyone in the book seems to like the band. Anyway, we'll have to wait and see with the next book, The Evolution of Mara Dyer.
Anyway, so at some point it turns into a romance, and then into a kind of paranormal, urban fantasy-romance thing, throwing new shit at the page as if the story were slipping down a cliff and Hodkin was hoping something would help halt its fall. I was quite enjoying it at first, even though there are too many YA stories about girls with amnesia and some secret or traumatic past. And then she arrives at the new school. First of all, why is she lost? I mean, before you start a new school you do a tour, right? New kids at my schools always came through with their entire families days before they started. Mara and Daniel, though, just suddenly start, and Mara spends a great deal of time being lost, as do all YA heroines these days. But worse than that was this shining light into the American secondary school system, that I hope to God is not as indicative as it comes across, considering it's represented this way in all the books and TV shows and movies I've come across - this condensed scene from Mara's English class, taught by a Ms Leib:
"[...] I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you've read the Three Theban Plays at your previous school?"
"Yep," I said, fighting self-consciousness.
[...] Then she continued on with her lecture, most of which I'd heard before. [pp.58-9]
(I did say "condensed", yes?) Two things here leap out at me, as a high school English teacher (even if I'm not teaching these days): 1. it's implied - not just here - that all schools read the same books, throughout the country. Unlikely, and also somewhat disturbing. But that's just something that makes me frown. What really bothered me about this scene was the line: Then she continued on with her lecture, most of which I'd read before. First of all, all teachers ever seem to do in American high schools - and primary schools!! - is lecture. Really, really bad. I hope this isn't true-to-life. And secondly, the idea that the teachers all have the same lecture - as if one person wrote them all and handed them out to all the English teachers at the beginning of the year - is just so, so wrong. As if, there is only one interpretation of a book etc., only one answer to a question, only one way to think, and question, and analyse. Sorry to go off on a tangent - no, I'm not sorry, this really makes me mad, because even if these are just fictional characters, I still want to know that they're getting a good education, and being taught NOT the right answer to a question, but HOW TO ANALYSE AND QUESTION things! The one thing I've always stressed to students, the real genius of the subject of English, is that you can argue anything, as long as you can back it up. There is no right or wrong answer, only poorly articulated, weakly thought-out arguments lacking substantive evidence. The idea that these kids are expected to memorise one interpretation, that there's only one angle, one perspective, one interpretation - that's so awful I can't even comprehend it. I just had to get that off my chest.
Back to Mara. She comes afoul of the bitchy popular girl in school, Anna Greenly, and her giant gay sidekick, Aiden Davis. She makes friends with a boy called Jamie Roth who is, get this, black AND Jewish AND gay - no, bisexual. Because gay would be too straight-forward. These supporting characters are weakly fleshed out, pumped up with tired old stereotypes that keep them afloat, barely. Mara half-heartedly befriends Jamie - she isn't even all that friendly towards him, considering he's her only friend, but he's a good tutor - and he seems to function mostly as a mouthpiece for all the bad gossip about Noah.
Jamie crouched with me. "You're unraveling the very fabric of Croyden [High] society."
"What are you talking about?" I shoved my things into my messenger bag with unnecessary force.
"Noah drove you to school."
"Noah doesn't drive anyone to school."
"So what?" I asked, growing frustrated.
"He's acting like your boyfriend. Which makes the girls he treated like condoms a trifle jealous."
"Condoms?" I asked, confused.
"Used once and then discarded."
"He is." [p.255]
If Mara is a hard character to get to know, Noah is someone who filled me with ambivalence. On the one hand, he was quite clearly a mortal version of Edward Cullen, if Edward had an English accent (a completely unnecessary English accent, as is much about Noah). His family is filthy rich - again, why? - he's sexy and gorgeous, he's a "bad boy": wearing a dishevelled version of the private school uniform, with messy "bed hair", and a reputation as a slut - one all the girls chase and make eyes at. (It's a tough ask of readers, to establish a character this disreputable and then to turn around and say, But he's really very sweet and trustworthy!) I could handle all that, if I stopped thinking about it for long. I didn't find him "stalkerish" like a lot of other readers did, or overbearing. Actually, after their secrets are out in the open, I thought he was sort-of sweet. Certainly a lot less complicated than Mara. And it seemed that he had generated, or encouraged, the gossip that he sleeps around and breaks girls' hearts, but that it wasn't really true. That's what Noah seemed to say to Mara, though I notice he never actually refuted any of it, except Anna. So it was hard to know whether you could trust him.
And am I the only one who found the whole Joseph-kidnapping-midnight-rescue thing upsetting, disturbing, weird and creepy?
The novel is long, but a lot of its length is made up of dialogue, especially between Mara and Noah. It was sometimes fun, this dialogue, but other times it was just frustrating. This escalated in time with the changes in the plot, in general, so maybe it was all one and the same. There are a lot of unanswered questions in this first volume - a lot of answers too, but for every answer there seem to be two new questions. I kept expecting a twist (based on reviews I'd read last year, when it first came out - it took me nearly a year to decide to read this!) but never got one. I would have liked this a lot more if it had stuck with the horror genre, which says a lot considering I don't really read horror.
In many ways, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer plays it incredibly safe. The characters are ones you've read before, and most of them serve as plot devices (like to help with red herrings, or to propel Mara in a certain direction), while the plot is so busy being original and surprising that it may leave readers bewildered. By the end it had become The X-Men, and I love the X-Men, but this new theme started to sink almost immediately under the next new genre, murder mystery. It's amazing I didn't get dizzy and nauseous.
However, for a novel that tries too hard to be many things, including a by-the-numbers crowd-pleaser, it certainly is pretty readable. A hunger for answers will keep people reading, if nothing else. Or you could read it for the romance, since that takes up a good portion of the story - a very virginal romance, of course; as I said, this is a crowd-pleaser, and to sell well you need to please the Bible Belt mothers. (Murder is okay, as long as the heroine doesn't have pre-marital sex. Oh see how books like this bring out my snarky side?!) I liked it well enough, despite all my criticisms, but it's not one I want to spend too much time thinking about, lest I grow more and more annoyed with things that didn't bother me too much as I was reading it....more
I really enjoy this series. They're warm, funny, they focus a lot on building chemistry and genuine love between the main characters as well as touchiI really enjoy this series. They're warm, funny, they focus a lot on building chemistry and genuine love between the main characters as well as touching on the practicalities and logistics of mortals having relationships with vampires (Shanna and Roman from book 1 are often handy for providing insight to the newest female mortal on how a relationship could actually work). Plus the idea of "good Vamps" surviving on synthetic bottled blood is a better solution than Lynsay Sand's "bagged blood" from blood banks - that's always bothered me a bit because of how hard it is to get people to donate blood in real life, and so the idea that so much of it would get sidelined for vampires to drink has never really sat well with me. You know what they say: even fantasy must be believable, plausible, realistic (within the realms of said fantasy). Okay so "they" don't say it but I do.
Heather and Jean-Luc were an engaging pair and well suited. Plus in this book the first were-animal is revealed, and Ian finds a way to physically age so he no longer looks like a teenager despite being over five hundred years old. There's a lot of tension and excitement in this one; a very good addition to the series....more
Four years ago, a spot of nighttime journalism leaves Darcy Newhart dead - and reborn as a vampire. She didn't choose it, and she hasn't adjusted allFour years ago, a spot of nighttime journalism leaves Darcy Newhart dead - and reborn as a vampire. She didn't choose it, and she hasn't adjusted all that well, and after four years stuck in Roman Draganesti's harem, her opinion of vampire life hasn't improved all that much. Things have changed now for the vampire coven master: he's getting married to a mortal woman, and has kicked the centuries-old harem out of his house. Now Darcy's forging her own path, trying for a spot as news' anchor on the vampire television station, DVN.
Unfortunately, vampires are notoriously chauvinistic, and the going theory is that no one will want to listen to a woman giving the news - they'll be too distracted by her womanly bits. Instead, Darcy's given the chance to direct DVN's first-ever reality TV series, a show where male contestants vie for the position of master to Roman Dragenesti's master-less harem - and a million dollars. Darcy hits upon the idea of calling it The Sexiest Man on Earth, and to add an extra layer of surprise, sets out to recruit a few mortal men to throw into the mix of vampires. She knows a mortal isn't allowed to win - that would cost her her job - but the vampires' general sense of arrogant superiority annoys her enough that she wants to prove human men can be their equals. To a point, anyway. She also has to convince the harem women to take part as the judges, which is no easy feat after their lifetime of indulgence and high expectations.
The undercover Stake-Out team is paying close attention to this new TV show. Their leader, Sean Whellan, is Shanna's - Roman Dragenesti's new wife - father, and he thinks she's been brain-washed and wants to rescue her. Sean doesn't understand that there are two kinds of vampires, the "Vamps" who drink synthetic blood and wouldn't hurt anyone, and the "Malcontents", Russian-based vampires who see it as their right as superior beings to take whatever they want, including mortal lives. Austin Erickson is on the Stake-Out team, and with his high-level telekinesis and telepathic abilities, he's a formidable foe to the vampires. He goes undercover as a contestant on the show to gather intel on the vampires and find out where Shanna is, but his objective becomes muddied after meeting Darcy Newhart, whom he can't take his eyes off.
Austin is sure Darcy is human - she must be, with her thoughts of sun and the beach and her kindness. Vampires, Austin has been taught, are only one thing: evil monsters. Discovering that Darcy is in fact a vampire shakes his world, and her state of being isn't enough to put Austin off. But something has to be sacrificed: his new love for Darcy, or his career with the CIA. Someone will end up betrayed. And he's not entirely sure what he's willing to give up.
The second book in the Love at Stake series is hugely entertaining and so much fun! While there are definitely moments of serious introspection and tension, not to mention life-changing decisions, the tone overall is one of humour, silliness and a playful mockery of reality TV.
I don't watch reality TV shows, whether they're reality game shows or the cameras-inside-the-house type, I can't stand them, I find them incredibly boring and I don't see anything of merit in them at all, but as Darcy, the harem ladies and the contestants work their way through the different tests and elimination rounds, I was engrossed. Being "behind the scenes" was much more fun than watching the edited version on the telly, plus you get the added layer of plot with Austin and one of his co-workers from the Stake-Out team, Garrett, working undercover. Some of the scenarios as well as the harem ladies were really very funny, and as a mortal reader naturally it's fun to see the vampires - so sure of their superiority - get taken in by a couple of mortals.
Darcy is very sweet, with enough backbone in her to propel her forward and make her a strong protagonist. Her situation - having to give up her life, her family, her career all because of an attack by a Malcontent and then being converted by a Vamp in order to save her "life" - is sympathetic because it's one of those "that could have been me" scenarios. Darcy's a modern-day woman and she's now in hiding from the world she used to live in; that has to be tough. The other Vamps had been changed centuries ago, or in times of war or other upheavals, and have no particular attachment to the current age, so that they can have more fun and they've had more time to come to terms with things. Everything's still very fresh for Darcy, and she can see the world she used to belong in but isn't allowed to move around in it. Her character-growth arc was very satisfying, watching her make a place for herself in the Vamp world, make new friends, and ultimately a big decision - it worked well.
Austin is also very likeable. He's a fun blend of modern man, sexy man, dangerous man, skilled man. He's not perfect, but he's relatable, familiar. When he first sees Darcy, he's instantly struck by his lustful desire for her - she ticks all his boxes, and he ticks all of hers. A happy coincidence! Lust turns to love after they spend more time together on the set of the game show. Probably the thing I liked about him the least was the unapologetic way he'd trespass on Darcy's mind and listen to her thoughts. But he makes up for it in other ways. Austin and Darcy have some solid chemistry, and while there's little in the way of graphic sex scenes (I think I remember there being one), there's some very heated kissing and some well-timed interruptions that add to the tension nicely.
I've read quite a few of the books in this series now, having read them slightly out-of-order, but whether you're coming to the second book as a new reader of the series or you've been reading later books before returning to the beginning, like me, Vamps and the City offers great world-building, introduces new characters, and presents a great story that can easily be read as a stand-alone. Reading the first book, How To Marry a Millionaire Vampire, would help supply some backstory to this one, especially in regards to the Stake-Out team and who the kilted vampires are, but it's not hugely necessary. Vamps and the City is a funny, entertaining, well-paced and plotted romp. Makes me remember why I used to love reading Paranormal Romances so much!
Roman Draganesti leads the largest vampire coven in America; he's also a scientific inventor who changed everything for humans and vampires alike withRoman Draganesti leads the largest vampire coven in America; he's also a scientific inventor who changed everything for humans and vampires alike with his creation of synthetic blood eighteen years ago. Now the world's vampires are divided - they're either modern Vamps who drink synthetic blood from a glass, or Malcontents (who call themselves the True Ones), who believe themselves superior to humans and that it's unnatural to drink any other way than from the source: mortals.
When Roman's head of marketing, Gregori, brings one of their scientists to Roman's New York townhouse with a new idea for making drinking synthetic blood more palatable, or fun, for the Malcontents, Roman decides to test it out himself. Laszlo's invention is called VANNA: a life-size, realistic human sex toy equipped with a pulse to stimulate blood flow and special tubing to bite into. The trouble is, the doll's synthetic flesh and skin is a tough bite, and one of Roman's fangs is wrenched out of his mouth. Knowing he has to get it put back in before he falls into the dead sleep, during which his body will heal all wounds; otherwise he'll be a one-fanged vampire for the rest of his existence.
Shanna Whelan works the night shift at a 24-hour dentistry clinic. The nights are long and slow and lonely; her only interruption is usually the pizza delivery she orders every night. She has to remind herself that boring is good: since being put in the witness protection program after being the only witness to a Russian mob killing at a restaurant, she needs to lay low. Tonight everything changes, though. The Russians have found her and are coming, and then a darkly handsome man turns up - despite the door she's just locked - asking her to put a wolf's tooth in his mouth.
Roman quickly takes control of the situation, rescuing Shanna from the Russians and convincing her she needs his help - especially when he sees that a Malcontent called Ivan is involved with hunting Shanna for reward money. He takes her under his protection, but will need to do something creative to get her to help him with his tooth, since she resists mind control.
In Roman's home, Shanna learns new things about Roman: like how he has night guards who are all large Scottish men in kilts, and a harem of mostly mean women demanding to have sex with him. There's plenty that's fishy about Roman and his home, but Shanna also finds him sexy and charming, as well as a genius and a great philanthropic man. She wouldn't have a problem following her hormones on this one, if it weren't for the harem.
As the Malcontents come closer than ever to grabbing Shanna and wrecking serious havoc at the compound where synthetic blood is made, dark secrets come to light and Shanna must make a decision that she will have to live with, forever.
Several years ago I read the third book in this series, Be Still My Vampire Heart, and liked it but not enough to want to read more of the series. But I kept seeing them, with their lively covers (most are much better than this one) and funny titles, and decided to try another one, the sixth book, Secret Life of a Vampire. That one was much more fun, and wasn't saddled with much of a Malcontent sub-plot, so I happily got back into the series. I finally got around to getting the earlier books that I'd skipped over, and have lots to catch up on. I already knew a few bits of Shanna and Roman's story - I knew that she was a dentist, and I remembered there being something funny about a tooth, and about Shanna waking up next to Roman during the day and thinking he was dead. But it's always fun to get the full story.
This series is the closest vampire paranormal romance series to Lynsay Sands' Argeneau series that there is, in terms of humour and characters and general plot. But the vampires are more traditional, following the usual rules for vampires, and more diverse too. The relationship, romance side of the story is propelled forward by the drama and escalating action - in this first book, there's quite a bit of action and plotting, while the romance builds slowly and takes quite a while to become physical. As an introduction to the series, it's pretty exciting, but it wasn't as good as some of the later ones. It can take a while for an author to hit their stride, perhaps.
I like Roman a lot, and as you'd expect with a vampire who's lived a really long time, he's a pretty consistent character. Once a monk, the sins he believes he's committed weigh on him, and he thinks he has no soul - thus doubling the sins even more. I liked Shanna a great deal at the beginning, but after a while she seemed to be just like all the other paranormal romance heroines, a blend of fiesty, stubborn, argumentative, and sometimes bereft of common sense. Why must these women do stupid things in order to come across as strong and independent? Or is the aim to make them seem more human, a human in unusual circumstances. I don't know any women like this, that's for sure.
There was enough action to keep the story zipping along at a good pace, tempered by quieter, slower moments where Roman and Shanna get to know each other. Roman was a fairly serious character, but the people around him could lighten a scene. It's a good intro to the series, though certainly not the strongest book. Well worth reading for fans and newbies of the genre. ...more
Omaha, Nebraska, 1986. Eleanor has just moved back home after a year spent sleeping on the couch at the Hickman's, which was only supposed to be for aOmaha, Nebraska, 1986. Eleanor has just moved back home after a year spent sleeping on the couch at the Hickman's, which was only supposed to be for a weekend - but her new stepfather, Richie, took longer than that to cool down and let her back into the family. The oldest of five children, Eleanor hates and fears Richie, and for good reason: he's an abusive alcoholic with a precarious temper who regularly beats up their beautiful mother, who seems incapable - or afraid - of striking out on her own and raising her kids without a man (and she picks the worst kind of men). Even though Eleanor doesn't look much like her mother - she's a big girl, overweight with curly red hair and lots of freckles - she's seen Richie looking at her. Everyone lives in fear of Richie, but Eleanor worries most of all for her much younger brothers and sister. The truth is, they have nowhere else to go.
She takes the bus to her new high school, wearing a random assortment of clothes her mother has picked up from the Goodwill - mostly men's clothes, embellished with ribbons and scraps of fabric. No one wants to share a seat with the new weird girl on the bus, but finally one boy lets her sit next to him: a beautiful Asian kid called Park who reads comics on the bus. No one talks to her, and it's a while before Park realises she's reading his comics surreptitiously. He starts lending them to her and she stays up all night, reading them. Next he's leaving piles of his immaculate comics for her, which she carefully returns to him in the exact same condition.
Finally, they start talking. Park learns that Eleanor is very tight-lipped about her personal life, and quick to interpret things negatively. But he's fascinated by her. She's so completely different from anyone he's ever known, and the two become friends, then more than friends. Park introduces Eleanor to songs she's always wanted to hear, and makes her mixed tapes - only she doesn't want to tell him she can't listen to them because she can't afford batteries for her walkman. She doesn't want him to know that her family has no money, or what it's really like living with Richie and having to use a bathroom that has no door, or that she's being harassed at school by some of the other girls. But gradually, Park learns more about Eleanor's life, and his growing love for her never wavers.
Keeping her new friendship - and new relationship - from both her mother and her stepfather takes up a lot of effort on Eleanor's part, and with her siblings no longer trustworthy, she knows it's only a matter of time before Richie finds out and there'll be hell to pay. She has a new plan, but it will require her to sacrifice what she has with Park.
I loved Rowell's first book, Attachments, so when this became available in the UK I decided not to wait for the smaller trade paperback edition to be released in North America next year: I wanted to read it NOW. And I don't regret that for a second. This is very much a different story, a story that never once leans on its predecessor, and the two aren't comparable.
Eleanor & Park is about two teenagers, two very different teens, who look past the usual social boundaries to discover kindred spirits, best friends, future lovers. Eleanor has an absolutely awful home life, a really shitty situation, and you can't help but feel for her and worry about her - and her mother and siblings too. But Eleanor won't let you pity her. She's strong, and independent, and while beneath her prickly armour she's vulnerable and sensitive and full of potential, you have to admire her for her ability to soldier on.
She remembered her books today, and she was wearing fresh clothes. She'd had to wash her jeans out in the bathtub last night, so they were still kind of damp... But altogether, Eleanor felt a thousand times better than she had yesterday. Even her hair was halfway cooperating. She'd clumped it up into a bun and wrapped it with a rubber band. It was going to hurt like crazy trying to tear the rubber band out, but at least it was staying for now.
Best of all, she had Park's songs in her head - and in her chest, somehow.
There was something about the music on that tape. It felt different. Like, it set her lungs and her stomach on edge. There was something exciting about it, and something nervous. It made Eleanor feel like everything, like the world, wasn't what she'd thought it was. And that was a good thing. That was the greatest thing.
When she got on the bus that morning, she immediately lifted her head to find Park. He was looking up too, like he was waiting for her. She couldn't help it, she grinned. Just for a second. [p.58]
She's intelligent and does very well at school, but with her looks and her chubbiness and her poverty (she doesn't even have a toothbrush), the deck is stacked against her. Which makes the sweet, blossoming romance between her and Park all the more wonderful. It happens so naturally, so organically, and feels so real. Park is a real sweetie, caring little for stereotypes and what people think, he just wants to love Eleanor and spend time with her. Told from their alternating perspectives, the story reads almost like a puzzle that you patiently piece together, unhurried, knowing that the end picture will be worth it.
That morning, in English, Park noticed that Eleanor's hair came to a soft red point on the back of her neck.
That afternoon, in history, Eleanor noticed that Park chewed on his pencil when he was thinking. And that the girl sitting behind him - what's her name, Kim, with the giant breasts and the orange Esprit bag - obviously had a crush on him.
That night, Park made a tape with the Joy Division song on it, over and over again.
He emptied all his handheld video games and Josh's remote-control cars, and called his grandma to tell her that all he wanted for his birthday in November was double-A batteries. [p.61]
Watching her slowly thaw and open up to him was a bit scary, because of how tenuous her home life is, and you're never sure what awful thing is going to happen to them, you just know that something awful will happen - because people like Eleanor don't get a happy ending without the awful, first. Not with someone like Richie eyeing her. He's so volatile, a real lowlife bogan, the worst kind of bogan there is. The kind of man you want to take out the back and shoot like he's a rabid dog threatening your flock.
Eleanor and Park's influence on each other, how they bring out each other's best qualities, is subtle and something like a warm buzz throughout the pages. Eleanor isn't the only one with drama in her home life: Park's parents have their moments too, but it's never black-and-white. They come to really like and care for Eleanor, which brings with it a sense of relief. The worst thing to witness about kids like Eleanor, is when all adults turn their backs on them, assuming the worst, judging.
Eleanor & Park is full of pop culture references from the 80s - I was particularly happy to see a reference to The Young Ones, which was a show I grew up watching with my family but I had no idea people in America had heard of it. I didn't get all of them of course, some where specific to the setting and the country it's set in, but I got most of them. There was a real sense of place and time, though it felt like it could have been my own rather than a foreign country.
Rowell's ability to create realism, and believable characters, to bring to life a story that is at once new and alien and also deeply familiar, is quite something. And for as heavy as the subject-matter can get, her snappy sense of humour underlies it all, making it equally entertaining. I absolutely loved this; it's not as fundamentally happy as Attachments, and it's more serious in theme (there, and I said I wouldn't compare!), but I enjoyed it just as much, just for different reasons. It spoke to me on a personal level, because looking beyond Eleanor's awful home life, she's someone I could relate to, or at least feel genuine sympathy and empathy for. We have a few things in common. She's pretty awesome, in fact, and Park was just lovely. The ending is quite open, and in my imagination I give them the happy ending they definitely deserve. ...more
Abby Abernathy has moved as far away from her town and her father as she can get when she picks her university, and takes her best friend America withAbby Abernathy has moved as far away from her town and her father as she can get when she picks her university, and takes her best friend America with her. Her plan is simple: don't drink, don't swear, date nice boys, wear cardigans. Her hope is to leave her past behind and not drag anyone else down with her. But through America's boyfriend Shepley, Abby meets his cousin, Travis Maddox, with shaved hair and tattoos and a reputation of never being beaten in the secret underground fights called The Circle, through which he makes enough money to get himself through uni.
Travis is known as the university's Walking One-Night Stand, and when he shows an interest in Abby, she's quick to tell him she won't sleep with him. Instead, they become friends, and everyone's amazed: Travis doesn't do "friends" with girls. When Abby loses a bet to Travis and has to live with him for a month, even sharing his bed with him, it becomes apparent that Travis doesn't just want to be friends, and he's not handling that well.
As Abby and Travis navigate their way through new territory - for both of them - the tension ratchets up higher and higher. Being Travis' first real girlfriend is a strange new experience for both of them, but can it last? Especially when Travis is dragged into Abby's real world, her past life, and Abby sees nothing but ruin in their future.
This is another self-published success story, following on from EL James: you can now get Beautiful Disaster from Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). Judging by what McGuire says on her website, there was some editing done, so to be clear, I read the second edition of her self-published book, and all quotes in this review come from there.
I enjoyed this far more than I expected to (it is self-published, after all), and if it wasn't for the ending I would have rated it higher. The ending was awful, very tacky and cloying and bogan and rather ridiculous as well as unnecessary, even given Travis' nature. But I'm not going to talk about the ending beyond that, so, moving on.
The writing is clear and confident and pretty well-edited. The story reminded me of Tammara Webber's Easy except with no rape/attempted rape and an arguably more interesting heroine. The comparison is based mostly on the university setting, which was quite similar, though there was less time spent in classes in this book than in the other. The focus was strongly placed on the ever-changing relationship between Abby and Travis, and it's amazing they got any work done at all half the time.
Abby, as I said, was quite interesting. She managed to keep Travis out of her pants for quite some time and was good at sticking to her convictions, though too often her method of dealing with Travis was to pretend things were fine to his face and then sneak out the back door and run away. Which would send him on a real bender of angst-riddled violence and craziness. Their relationship was incredibly intense, whether they were friends, going out together, breaking up or getting back together. I think it may have given me whiplash, it changed so often, so suddenly. It was actually hard, at times, to read it, because it's hard to watch a grown man fall apart so easily, or be so dependent on someone in such a desperate way. Yet I always love those kind of scenes - they just get to me, they really do, even though afterwards I cringe a bit. And Travis was as vulnerable and fragile as he was violent and obsessive. That said, I do love a story with major intensity and raw emotion, which is why I enjoyed the Fifty Shades trilogy, and plenty of other, better-written books, so much. I love the raw emotion, even though I have to agree with Abby's roommate, Kara, on her assessment:
"Do you know what co-dependency is, Abby? Your boyfriend is a prime example, which is creepy considering he went from having no respect for women at all to thinking he needs you to breathe."
"Maybe he does," I said, refusing to let her spoil my mood.
"Don't you wonder why that is? I mean ... he's been through half the girls at this school. Why you?"
"He says I'm different."
"Sure he does. But why?"
"Why do you care?" I snapped.
"It's dangerous to need someone that much. You're trying to save him and he's hoping you can. You two are a disaster."
I smiled at the ceiling. "It doesn't matter what or why it is. When it's good, Kara ... it's beautiful." [pp.232-3]
Basically, Abby and Travis were a mess, a chaotic, drama-fuelled, obsessive mess, always at the edge of violence if not going right over. Not towards Abby, no, but Travis has serious impulse-control issues and for a guy who we're told is such a genius (book smarts), his only comeback to the snarky or lewd comments of others towards Abby is to punch them. Repeatedly. Not that he ever gets in trouble for it: the people he punches seem to take it as just deserts, as if it wasn't a gross over-reaction. Very bogan, and very gross. Abby did have some positive influence over Travis, but mostly her very existence seemed to make him more volatile.
Which is partly the point of the story, from Abby's perspective at least: she's convinced she's no good for him, and that it's her and her baggage that's at fault. Don't you love a heroine who blames herself for how violent her partner is? Worrying, yes. But this isn't a YA novel, don't forget: it's adult romance, and the whole point of being an adult is to not be impressionable. So, while I was reading this, I enjoyed it. Doesn't mean I'd ever want it in real life, or wouldn't be worried if a friend got into a relationship like this. Keep it on the page, right? It's not Travis' obsessiveness that bothers me, it's his violence. His unpredictability. How easily and quickly he can slip off into crazy-land and how dependent he is on Abby to pull him back out again.
I reached my hand across the table, sliding my fingers into his. "You meant what you said last night, didn't you?"
He began to speak, but Chris' laughter filled the cafeteria. "Holy God! Travis Maddox is whipped?"
"Did you mean it when you said you didn't want me to change?" he asked, squeezing my hand.
I looked down at Chris laughing to his teammates, and then turned to Travis. "Absolutely. Teach that asshole some manners."
A mischievous grin spread across his face, and he walked down to the end of the table where Chris sat. Silence spread across the room, and Chris swallowed back his laughter.
"Hey, I was just givin' you a hard time, Travis," he said, looking up at him.
"Apologize to Pidge," Travis said, glowering down at him.
Chris looked down at me with a nervous grin. "I .. I was just kidding, Abby. I'm sorry."
I glared at him as he looked up to Travis for approval. When Travis walked away, Chris snickered, and then whispered something to Brazil. My heart began to pound when I saw Travis stop in his tracks and ball his hands into fists at his side.
Brazil shook his head and huffed in an exasperated sigh. "Just remember when you wake up, Chris ... that you bring it on yourself."
Travis lifted Finch's tray off the table and swung it into Chris' face, knocking him off his chair. Chris tried to scramble under the table, but Travis pulled him out by his legs, and then began to whale on him.
Chris curled into a ball, and then Travis kicked him in the back. Chris arched and turned, holding his hands out, allowing Travis to land several punches to his face. The blood began to flow, and Travis stood up, winded.
"If you even look at her you piece of shit, I'll break your fuckin' jaw!" Travis yelled. I winced when he kicked Chris in the leg one last time.
The women working in the cafeteria scampered out, shocked at the bloody mess on the floor.
"Sorry," Travis said, wiping Chris's blood from his cheek.
Some of the students stood up to get a better look; others remained seated, watching with mild amusement. The football team simply stared at Chris's limp body on the floor, shaking their heads. [pp.216-7]
Where the hell is campus police in all this? It's like the whole university believes that this is an acceptable method of communicating.
And I have to say, wow the sex was boring. Abby's first time was realistic enough, but it seemed like Travis - who's such a lady's man and has the women he's shagged practically begging for a second go - only has one style of sex, and almost zero foreplay. Not inspiring, for a romance. I mean, for such an intense relationship outside the shagging, it was surprising how un-intense the shagging was. Make sense? Not that there's a lot of it.
The novel follows a year, or almost a year, and is full of drama. I sometimes couldn't quite get over just how much drama there was. I tend to steer clear of drama, in my life, so if people really do have this much crap going on, or react to things in this way, I've never been witness to it. But it does have the feel of realism, and it was easy to get involved in the story and forget about the world around you. The first half was much better than the second half, and I have to say that it often didn't go in the direction I had half-heartedly predicted (based on similar stories), which was nice. The pacing is steady and the writing has just enough description and reflection to flesh it out without slowing it down or losing the tension. For a first novel, it's pretty good if you like these kinds of stories, just don't take it too seriously if you want half a chance at enjoying it.
Walking Disaster, a companion novel told from Travis' point-of-view, will be available next year. (Midnight Sun anyone? At least this one isn't going to be aborted.) Not entirely sure if I want to read it - not because I wouldn't mind getting Travis' point of view, but because I don't think I want to live through this drama all over again. Well, maybe next year... ...more