Breaking Beautiful is the perfect blend of heartbreak and triumph told through the eyes of a girl trying to find the pieces of her life to pick up. Sp...moreBreaking Beautiful is the perfect blend of heartbreak and triumph told through the eyes of a girl trying to find the pieces of her life to pick up. Sprinkling details of an abusive relationship between the stitches of what is left of Allie's normal life brings just the right amount of drama to this beautifully crafted story.
Allie is one of those narrators that isn't easy to forget. What she has been through leaves both physical and internal scars that color the ways she sees everything. At the beginning, we find Allie trying to cope with the loss of her boyfriend from a tragic car accident and to recover from her physical injuries. Living in a small town means she is under a microscope and one tiny wrinkle in her mourning causes a wave in the town. I was afraid Allie was going to be too mopey for me to like but as she starts to make herself go through the motions of her day, the reader begins to see who Allie actually is and not what grief and guilt wants her to be. We find out that she was involved in an abusive relationship with the boy who died and is so broken and conflicted by what they appeared to have on the outside that she can't get over the death. I loved how even though Allie was hurting, she could still find the good people. I was a little frustrated that she wouldn't stand up for herself and wanted to shake some sense into her for always succumbing to what people expected instead of what she wanted. But because she was so broken and timid, it made the moment she started fighting back so very satisfying.
Blake was literally the perfect guy for Allie. He understood that she needed to heal, though he didn't know how much, and he never stopped trying. After some of the stunts Allie pulled, I'm not sure I would have kept trying to be her friend but he was unrelentless. Blake's reputation as a bad boy made him appealing but his soft edges and kindness made him irresistible. I loved their relationship because I believed in it. Their attraction was undeniable but the fact that they took their time and started to realize how wonderful the other was made watching them fall in love addictive. Blake was pretty much the perfect opposite of Trip and I liked watching him win everyone over despite his reputation.
Besides Blake, I also fell in love with Allie's twin brother Andrew. Born several minutes after Allie and with little oxygen he has celebral palsy that confines him to a wheelchair. Even though he has trouble speaking and using his limbs, he is incredibly smart and can often see things that other can't. I loved that Allie respected him and their bond really warmed my heart. That the author worked to make Andrew a complete character instead of a stereotype turned this book from awesome to incredible and truly delighted me. I found myself understanding Andrew like Allie and it felt like a secret that we all three shared.
I think abusive relationships are really hard to write about because it's easy to get preachy or to go for the shock factor. Though Trip was incredibly abusive, I felt the author did a tremendous job of broaching the subject. We get snatches of Trip and Allie's relationship during the good times mixed in with the bad. As Allie fights to remember the night of the accident, she uncovers more details of abuse and a disturbing pattern of Trip's behavior that forces the reader to understand why she is so timid. Wrapping those good and bad relationship scenes in with the narration of the current time worked to move the pace forward and build anticipation as to what actually happened on the night of Trip's death. Since Allie truly doesn't remember it turns the book into a mystery about halfway through. Allie even questions herself as a suspect.
I also liked how the author portrayed small town living. As a girl that moved around a lot, Allie was always longing for a home. But when they finally settle down, she beings to realize that in a small town nothing can be hidden unless people don't want to see. Trip comes from a rich family and is loved by most of the town so no one wants to see him as an abuser even if it is right in front of their face. Allie is still the new girl and is far more susceptible to the town's whispers. She feels pressure not to start a new relationship--though she realizes early on that Blake is a good guy-- and to act like the normal widow. She can't move on from Trip because the town she lives in won't let her. Even if I didn't always agree with Allie's choices, the author did an awesome job making us feel the suffocation that small town living can offer.
Breaking Beautiful is perfectly named as we see what Allie could be through Blake and Andrew's eyes and it is beautiful but we also see how broken Allie is. Deeply emotional with a satisfying slow relationship that burns hot like embers, Breaking Beautiful is damn near perfect. Dealing with such a tough issue could allow this book to be swallowed in grief but it chooses to show that even the broken can heal into something beautiful once again. (less)
Fun, flirty and with a very liberal amount of kissing spread through out, The International Kissing Club is an adorable novel exploring the farthest r...moreFun, flirty and with a very liberal amount of kissing spread through out, The International Kissing Club is an adorable novel exploring the farthest reaches of friendship. Told in the third person following four best friends as they go their separate ways in the student exchange program, The International Kissing Club is an easy read with something for everyone.
The four friends in this novel are different from each other in all the best ways but love each other so fiercely that they can get through anything. Piper is the artist with a flair for the dramatics and more than a little boy crazy, Mei is the practical brainy star student, Cassidy is the sports guru and Izzy is the green friendly hippie. Following each of these girls around the world was a pleasure as they all had life lessons to learn. I originally thought I'd identify with Piper but I ended up really liking Izzy which is odd since I'm so not like her. I like how each character was stretched to their limit and forced to change in order to help them when the got back into town.
Ivy Adams is a pen name for three separate authors who came together to write this book. I always find author collaborations interesting so this was no exception. I could tell where one author started and the other ended. As a result, I felt like I got the best of each author in the prose. I've made it no secret that I'm not a fan of third person but this one was done well enough that it didn't bother me, I liked that the voice stayedconsistent throughout each chapter yet it was also tailored to the person the narrator was following. For instance, Mei's chapters had very sensible metaphors whereas Piper's were a bit more dreamy. The voice overall kept a fun light tone, even when the girls were learning some serious life lessons.
The plot was quite good. I couldn't figure out where the story was going until it finally got there. I do wish the chapters hadn't jumped around so much. One chapter Piper had landed in Paris (France) and in her next one she'd been there for almost four weeks. I felt like sometimes we were just told things instead of actually shown them which did get me a bit frustrated. For instance, Mei talks about these two mean girls but we only ever see them in a scene once and supposedly they terrorize her for the rest of her trip. Regardless, I really liked the concept for this book. The girls used a social media site to try to stay closer together and I liked that at the end of each chapter we got to see the Facebook page and some of its updates. It was definitely one of the highlights for me.
Germaine was deliciously evil. I couldn't believe what happens to poor Piper in the beginning of the novel and how Germaine is able to get the friends again. My biggest thing is that I wanted to see Germaine punished and she wasn't. I know in real life sometimes the bad guys win but I like my fiction to give the baddies a huge dose of their own medicine and I didn't see the happen to her. I really wish it would have. I dealt with her evilness only because I knew she had it coming but then she never got hers. It made me sad.
The destinations were glamorous which I loved and the kissing scenes were knock-your-socks off good! I really liked all the guys the girls kissed. I think my favorite smooch goes to Mei (though I could be biased as she is stopping by the blog a bit later on). I knew that some of the relationships had to end because they were all foreign exchange students but I didn't know which ones I wanted that to happen for. I liked them all so much! I also liked the humor in this story because they mention The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants which was what came to my mind when I read the summary for this novel.
The International Kissing Club utilizes a fun, flirty voice to tell a great story about the bonds of friendship and how far they can stretch. There's a character for everyone to identify with and plenty of sexy smooching to keep the pace going. While it did have a few snags for me, I have to say that over all I really enjoyed it. I'd defintiely "like" The IKC Facebook page any day of the week!(less)
It feels premature to say I just read one of my favorite books of 2012 but I'm going to say it anyway. Fracture is every bit the stuff favorites are m...moreIt feels premature to say I just read one of my favorite books of 2012 but I'm going to say it anyway. Fracture is every bit the stuff favorites are made of. Every sentence is something I wanted to commit to memory and hold close, the characters all felt so raw and real and the story had me guessing until the last chapter... and speaking of the last chapter, it had me reeling. Beautiful, complex, and raw, Fracture is one debut you won't be forgetting.
There are too few characters that get under your skin and implant themselves into your heart. Delaney Maxwell, "miracle and anomaly", is most certainly one of those girls. From her first chapter, I could tell she was someone I was going to fall in love with and she didn't disappoint. True nerd to the core, she is witty and intelligent without seeming like a know-it-all and her inner turmoil all feels real and valid. The slow measures in which she went insane and then pulled herself out of it is so subtle, it sneaks up on the reader. Being a passenger in her head, we know the reasoning behind her actions and it is all valid. But then the author expertly slips in the reactions of other people and we, as readers, get a rare opportunity to view her as we probably would if we were around her. I loved how real Delaney was, how her actions and reactions and interacts all felt like something a living, breathing person would do.
And you want to talk about solid relationship building? I haven't seen a best friend story told like this since The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting. Just like Jay and Violent, Delaney and Decker are given the chance to fall in love. Decker is flawed, he makes plenty of mistakes in this novel, but for me, that's what made him human. I'm really tired of guys that are too nice or too rude. Decker was the perfect in between. But the most important part is that he was always there for Delaney, whenever she truly needed him. And Delaney knew she could always call Decker, no matter how angry they were with each other. Watching these two fumble around in the darkness of their own grief, each trying to figure out how to deal with it in their own way and still grow together was addictive, sweet and absolutely wonderful.
The only thing I knew about this novel was that "Decker pulled me out at eleven". I had no idea what to expect for a plot and was pleasantly surprised when what I found was part thriller, part contemporary with just a dash of the unexplainable. Like a runaway freight train, I had no idea where this story was racing to and was shocked when we crashed into the final destination. I literally had no idea where would end up and the ending completely shocked me in all the right ways.
Fracture had me laughing, it had me crying and it had me feverishly marking each page where I'd find even more beautiful revelations, heart-breaking emotions, or pulse pounding scenes. The range of emotions jammed into this relatively small novel is just incredible and the complexity of grief and happiness is remarkable. The author plays with the shadows between miracle and damnation with the mastery of an author with 20 novels under their belt. Yet, this is a debut writer. If this is novel number one, I can't wait to see what Ms. Miranda is going to proved us with next. My only small compliant is with the length. I'd have like to see 50 more pages not because it felt like the novel needed it but because I wasn't ready for Fracture to end. I didn't want to stop hanging out with Decker and Delaney.
Like cracks in the ice, there are a million different ways to express how beautiful and amazing Fracture truly is. But probably the best and most effective way is with the words of the author herself. Fracture is "a miracle, an anomaly". Fracture is "alive".(less)
Shifting brings something completely new to the paranormal genre, giving the reader a rich background, new creatures and a cast of characters that jum...moreShifting brings something completely new to the paranormal genre, giving the reader a rich background, new creatures and a cast of characters that jump off the page with their vivacious personalities. Bethany Wiggins' writing is flawless and the pacing is literally prefect, with a plenty of twists and turns until the very end. Shifting is absolutely addictive from beginning to end.
Maggie Mae's voice drew me in instantly as did the circumstances behind her being passed around from foster home to foster home. What I found when I read further was a resourceful, intelligent and independentyoung heroine. As her story unfolded I began to bond with her, feeling sorry for those holes still in her heart and rejoicing when she began to find people to fill them. Her voice just rolled off the page and I loved that she seemed like a normal girl but that she was completely capable of taking care of herself most of the time. But she wasn't against letting someone take care of her when she simply couldn't. Plus, this girl was smart, funny and had major guts which I loved!
Bridger O'Connell and Maggie Mae's relationship is everything I want in a love story. They start out slow and build to a strong crescendo with plenty of sexual tension and suspense sprinkled in. Once the spark is fanned, their relationship spreads like fire. I liked Bridger because he was difficult to figure out. I had no idea what his role would turn out to be in the book and was surprised twice over as it unfolded. He was the perfect blend of sweet without being corny and sexy but sometimes aloof. Mrs. Carpenter, the lady Maggie Mae moves in with, was just as vivacious, delivering most of the lines that had me laughing to myself at the middle of work. Every character in here, even the little bitty secondary characters, felt real to me. We might not have known their thoughts and motivations but we certainly know that they were there.
The single thing that impressed me the most was Bethany Wiggins writing because it was invisible. Not once did I feel like Ms. Wiggins was telling me a story but rather Maggie Mae was. The voice had a life of its own that lifted it off the page and made me forget that this was a character out of someone's head and not a living breathing girl. It's extreme rare for me to read a novel and not notice the prose but I was never broken out of Maggie Mae's story because of the writing. It was incredible!
Another highlight of this book was the Navajo mythology and background that is soaked into every page. I'd never heard of Skinwalkers before and was eager to find out what it all meant and how it tied into Maggie Mae. Everything in the small town Maggie Mae moves to is tinged with the Navajo ethnicity from the house she moves into to the kids she goes to school with to the restaurant she gets a job at. It really helped immerse me in that world.
Shifting truly is a unique reading experience filled with people you've not met before and things you probably don't know. These characters will carve a place in your heart and this debut isn't something you're likely to forget. Exciting, adventurous and tinged with magic, Shifting was everything I didn't know I wanted and more. Pick a night, crack open this book and prepare to be blown away.(less)
Told in alternating view points from Aimee and Alan, After Obsession is one heck of a paranormal thriller that will have you obsessed. An exciting ble...moreTold in alternating view points from Aimee and Alan, After Obsession is one heck of a paranormal thriller that will have you obsessed. An exciting blend of Indian mythology and demonic possession, this is a fast paced read that is guarantees a couple of chills as the plot barrels on to a satisfying ending.
The alternating point of views made this novel special, especially since they were written by two separate people but jived so well together. I liked how powerful Aimee was and how she had a few things to battle on her own before she could really start to help. Jones chose to focus on family with Aimee and did an amazing job crafting a caring character. I expected good things from her after loving her Need series. This is why I was surprised to find that I preferred Alan's chapters. Please don't read into this thinking I didn't enjoy Aimee's chapters because I most certainly did, but I liked getting into Alan's character. Being part Indian, I was interested in how strongly he felt connected to that half of him since he didn't know his father. I wanted to know all about his spirit guide and the rituals he practiced even if he only learned how to do them on the internet. Together, Aimee and Alan made a great pair and you could just feel the excitement flowing off the page as each chapter was handed off to the next character.
I was interested in Wedel so I looked him up and found out he was a horror author prior to writing this novel. This worked so well for the paranormal aspects. The scratching and dark shapes in Alan's chapters really amplified the terror of the demon that Aimee and Alan were facing. Not to be outdone, Jones' chapters were equally as terrifying with their dust storms, knives and possessed best friends. Both authors did an amazing job creating a tone and creepy atmosphere. What was also refreshing was that the demonic possession part wasn't too complicated. There were steps the characters had to take but it was tangled up in a lot of convoluted rituals and magic. Everything about the force they fought was pretty simplified and there wasn't really a need to over-explain.
That being said, I did feel like a bit more explanation was needed in some parts. I would have liked to know a little bit more about where Aimee and her mother developed their powers and possibly a little bit more about Alan's father, even if it was just things Alan surmised or his spirit guide revealed. Sometimes the plot would speed up and things would just be glossed over without much explanation. This might have just been because I'd had an ARC. Overall, I really liked how well both of the author's voice complimented their characters and each other. Aimee and Alan's pull to each other was undeniable.
Benefiting from it's mixed mythology and simplicity, After Obsession really is a hit. Alan and Aimee were a pleasure getting to know, both author;s excitement leaked from the page and there was just the right amount of creep factor to keep pulling the reader in. The tagline for this book says it best, watch out because After Obsession really will be your newest obsession!(less)