I really appreciate Cara McKenna. In a time where it's nearly impossible to find a romance or erotica without a billionaire for a hero, and the down o...moreI really appreciate Cara McKenna. In a time where it's nearly impossible to find a romance or erotica without a billionaire for a hero, and the down on her luck girl he sweeps off her feet, she's a refreshing voice of reason and realism.
Her characters are most often blue collar, poor, and struggling with real life issues. And while the sex is as rough as her characters' edges, it doesn't veer into the trendy, BDSM-lite territory that's so pervasive.
If you're looking for an erotica that is hot, but real, and a romance with more emotion than swoon or schmaltz, Cara McKenna's the author for you.(less)
Maybe if I'd taken the time to read the blurb or ask what How to Love by Katie Cotugno was about, I wouldn't have read it. Or maybe morbid curiosity w...moreMaybe if I'd taken the time to read the blurb or ask what How to Love by Katie Cotugno was about, I wouldn't have read it. Or maybe morbid curiosity would still have gotten the better of me, but I'd have had an easier reading experience for being prepared.
Because there are some books you read for the pleasure of losing yourself totally, of becoming an entirely different person in a different time and a different reality. And there are some books you read to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, to see yourself reflected back from a new perspective.
I wasn't prepared to see myself staring back at me in the form of Reena Montero.
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists . . . until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to life without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.
Full disclosure: this is going to be a very personal review from me, likely without even a hint of objectivity. Because I've been Reena. As you might know, I am a single mother. I became a mom much earlier than I intended to be, and I did have to put most of my plans on hold to raise a child by myself. So to say this book hit home is a pretty enormous understatement.
This book destroyed me.
I don't know if I've ever been more emotional. I ran the gamut from sorrow to despair, to frustration to PISSED OFF. I might still be a little pissed, to be honest.
Katie Cotugno got a lot of things right. The bone deep exhaustion of a single mother, the constant worry, the unending juggling act of trying to work full time, while still going to school and trying to raise a child without asking too much help from your family. The shame and the disappointment from your family, from your friends, and from everyone who wanted better from you. The resentment and the guilt tempered with the joy and wonder and absolute devotion you feel toward your child.
And most importantly, the armor you have to forge to get through those first few years without shattering under the weight of responsibility and fear and despair.
I identified with Reena so much, in both the Before and After points of view. The heady enormity of first love that eclipses every single thing in your life. That spark that, even in the After--after the worst kind of heartbreak--lingers, lives dormant under your skin just waiting to be ignited again.
A baby before my seventeenth birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still just the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.
I know Reena. I was Reena. And I wanted better for her.
I won't go into the spoilery details of why How to Love threw me into a rage, but somewhere along the line it shifted from a story about how Sawyer left Reena to raise a baby by herself, to a story about how it wasn't Sawyer's fault.
For me, Sawyer was never redeemed. He never made an effort, or seemed penitent. He just slipped back into Reena's and Hannah's life like he belonged there, without having to earn his place at the table. I'm pretty sure he never actually said sorry, without an excuse immediately following it.
And uh... yeah, I may have been projecting just a teeeensy bit of my own issues onto a fictional character, but I was what you might call a Rage Monster for most of the last half.
That being said, I think--my issues not withstanding--How to Love is a beautifully written book with strong characters (some stronger than others *cough*), and an important story about what life looks like after the teen pregnancy. (less)
This review appears on The Midnight Garden. Check back Monday, 6/10/13 for a guest post by author Katja Millay!
I’ve been in a book rut. I’d started no...moreThis review appears on The Midnight Garden. Check back Monday, 6/10/13 for a guest post by author Katja Millay!
I’ve been in a book rut. I’d started no less than five books, and finished exactly zero of them. Nothing grabbed me. Nothing excited me, or made me feel anything but vague annoyance, boredom, or mild confusion.
So, I did what anyone would do in such dire straits: I took my plight to the twitters, who told me almost in unison to read Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. I was skeptical. New adult, you say? High on the angst, is it? Originally self-published? Hmm.
But I remembered Wendy recommending it during our conversation with Leigh Bardugo, so I picked it up.
And I didn’t put it down until I lay in bed with an aching chest and bittersweet tears rolling down my cheeks at two in the morning. I went to sleep with a shaky smile and a satisfied sigh because yes, THAT was what I had been looking for.
Sea of Tranquility isn’t an easy story to read--on any level. The beginning was extremely slow for me; I think at least 20% of it could have been excised for a tighter story, and a trimmer pace. I’d flounced books for much less, but something about Nastya and Josh Bennett’s story kept me reading, reaching for more.
I wanted to know them. I may have thought Nastya made ridiculous decisions, and rolled my eyes at her affectations--but I wanted to know the why of them. I wanted to know what happened to make her so brittle and brash. I could feel the throb of her bruises just under the surface of the story, but I needed to know their shape.
“I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.”
Katja Millay does an excellent job of keeping the reader in almost total darkness about Nastya’s past, giving us just enough to know without knowing, to feel without seeing.
Sea of Tranquility is an unquestionably heavy read, but leavened with just enough humor and romance to keep the reader from drowning, and Millay excels at writing characters who feel and sound authentic, and infusing them with a depth that is often surprising. (Here I am speaking of Drew, of course, who may be my favorite.) Every single character has an arc, and grows in some way over the course of the story.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Josh Bennett. Josh f*cking Bennett--it says so right on his birth certificate. Has there ever been a swoonier guy? With the chair. (THE CHAIR.) And the pennies. (YOU GUYS, THE PENNIES.) And the EVERY. SINGLE. THING. ABOUT. HIM. (Except for that one thing. The one that made me want to barf.) He is supremely flawed, and damaged, and sad, but just so... so... good. Josh is a good person in the way real people are good, in the way you can be good but not always nice. “I’m going to walk over to you,” I say, taking one step at a time in her direction like I’m talking down a jumper. “I’m going to put my arms around you and I’m going to hold you,” I pause before taking the last step, “and you’re going to let me.” I think what I appreciated most about Sea of Tranquility was that love was not the answer to every one of their problems. Nastya and Josh’s issued didn’t dissolve because they fell in love. They helped each other, in some ways they healed each other, but they couldn’t fix each other. Not by themselves.
When their issues had been written in such stark, unflinching realism, I appreciated that the resolution wasn’t a tied-with-a-bow happily ever after. It was just as romantic and bittersweet as it needed to be.
And the last two words of the story? They made every stomach twist, heart ache, tear trickle, and next-day-puffy-eyes worth it. MY. HEART.
So, Sea of Tranquility ended my Book Rut. But now I have a different problem: the Book Hangover. How can anything else I read possibly measure up? I guess I’ll have to take this to twitter again...(less)
I've read this exact book at least three times before. Rich guy with secrets steamrolls some young, naive girl with issues into a Dominant/submissive...moreI've read this exact book at least three times before. Rich guy with secrets steamrolls some young, naive girl with issues into a Dominant/submissive relationship. Yawn. (less)
Though i don't know how well this would have held my interest if I'd read, the format worked great for the audiobook. The full cast narrating was awes...moreThough i don't know how well this would have held my interest if I'd read, the format worked great for the audiobook. The full cast narrating was awesome, and the amount of research Brooks put in was rather staggering.
Will be interested to see how they pull this into a cohesive storyline for the movie.(less)