Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review: Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire


***Spoiler Alert***

I'm not sure if many would agree with me but I think that despite the many mixed reviews, Beautiful Disaster most likely propelled the New Adult category into the spotlight. I read it and loved it, even when there were parts of it that I didn't always agree with. 

I started reading Walking Disaster and stopped at the first couple of chapters because I was seized by this fear that I might read something that will move me out of my happily oblivious state and change my mind about Beautiful Disaster. I wanted to preserve that fascination and the reviews and ramblings of what followed in the rest of the series (and what little I had read of Walking Disaster) threatened it a little so I stayed away.

When I first heard that the rest of the Maddox brothers were going to get stories of their own, I sighed in relief because while the books are most likely going to exist in the same immediate world as Beautiful Disaster, it was going to be focused on new love stories with new people and new dynamics. It was a happy compromise so I went for Beautiful Oblivion the moment it came out. I drove to the next city to get the copy because all the other book stores near me haven't got their delivery yet. LOL.

Anyway, my thoughts on this...

I actually like Trent Maddox although I worry that he's forever going to be cast in the shadow of his more famous brother, Travis. He's a sweet guy (although it's totally unfair that he shamelessly relied on the cutest five-year-old girl in the world to win him a lot of extra points). He's got the same nasty, virulent, violent streak as Travis (because this is apparently a very Maddox sort of thing), a healthy dose of baggage that all NA male leads seem to have in excess, the possessiveness, the confident swagger, the to-die-for face and build, the reckless charm. I also like the fact that he's a little more grounded as a character, made more realistic by the fact that he isn't rolling in cash or has some fancy-schmancy job. Although I'm not sure how he makes enough money considering how often he goes out and gives away free tats but then he doesn't drive a swanky car or pay a fortune for rent. He's quite down-to-earth, funny and protective. 

As for Cami, I'm a little more torn about her. She's drawn up to be tough and the drinking and smoking probably add the extra edge to her, along with her future tattoos. I liked her a lot of times, when she speaks up and puts her foot down but in pretty much half the story, she gets pushed around—by her boyfriend, her brothers, her father, occasionally her best friend, and sometimes, even by herself. It does make her a more complex character, giving her a flaw parallel to her strength which is hard to do but I'm just not sure that the two sides to her came together quite as smoothly to give her more pull as a character that readers would understand and relate to as well. 

As for the plot, I will never be ashamed to admit that I like formulaic stories, mostly because I like to know that I'm getting exactly what I'm looking for. I'm not the type to find excitement in picking out a chocolate from a box and leaving it to fate to decide which one I'll get. I'm a bit of a maximizer that way. I like picking up a book and knowing that yes, I'm going to read about a modern Cinderella or a girl who's always been in love with her brother's best friend, etc. I loved the are-we-just-friends-or-are-we-more-than-friends plot of Beautiful Disaster. The push and pull, no matter how infuriating at times, really got me right there, smack in the middle of Travis's and Abby's drama. I wouldn't mind reading a story like that again. I just don't know that I would want to find it in another book so close to Beautiful Disaster that BD's plot was unfolding in the background of this story. I also wish I didn't know what was revealed about Travis and Abby's marriage in the Beautiful Wedding but it came up here.

This is where my overall feelings about this book get a bit tricky. Trent is a Maddox and I get that those boys share an overwhelming amount of similarities. I grew up an only child that this isn't something I can totally relate to but that's fine. The only thing is Trent is very much like Travis at times that their lines nearly echo each other in some parts, especially when Trent is trying to deal with Cami in where they stand exactly. I know a lot of stories are going to overlap in some plot dynamics, especially in romance, but I just found myself a little perturbed at times when I was reading this that I could hear BD's lines in the back of my head and I haven't reread that book in a while and I don't have the best memory in the world. I reminded myself that it was that plot that really won me over to BD and it shouldn't be something to complain about in BO (I really don't like this acronym, by the way) so I read on.

One thing that did distinguish this plot from BD is the presence of T.J. (if presence is what you could call it considering how absent he really was in the entire duration of his relationship with Cami that the book covered). Lots of people commented about this 'reveal' and it struck me as a little odd that it caught people by surprise because even though it's been a while since I read BD, something from there clued me in almost right away, as soon as T.J.'s identity was hinted at, about his connection to the main characters. It's not given away until you're literally at the last page or two of the book and I get that there are reasons why Cami didn't confess anything (even though it's not explained in this book) because it's probably going to be in future books but it's just a little weird that something that important a detail was hush-hushed all the way to the end. But enough said.

I would still recommend this book, especially to all faithful followers of the Beautiful Disaster series, because despite all the little bits here and there that didn't quite make it a perfect read for me, I still had an awesome good time reading it and really, those Maddox boys are going to cost you your heart at some point. A lot of issues that New Adult books should address (but many don't for which they are getting dragged through the mud) really got highlighted here: the struggle with second jobs, having to drag out college and taking fewer classes because you just can't afford both the time and money for it, dealing with a family you love and hate and who still think they've got all the say in your life when you're already out there trying to make your own way, opting to work where money's guaranteed instead of risking the stable income to try to finish your degree, etc. And of course, there are those toxic relationships a lot of people around this age get into, from which they would hopefully learn valuable lessons so they can use better judgement and make better decisions in the future. And trust me, there are some pretty toxic relationships in this story. There's a great cast of supporting characters and even their drama can get to you.

McGuire's work here bears the same brand of realness to the dialogue and the relationship-building that has appeared in her most popular work. It has the same edgy humor, the boldness of larger-than-life personalities, the bittersweet angst of first and true love that characters reluctantly resign themselves to eventually, and the same kind of slow, simmering attraction that burns right under the surface.

I'm so looking forward to the next Maddox Brothers book! 

Read more reviews about it here: Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker


Ever since I picked up K.A. Tucker's One Tiny Lie from an airport souvenir store a few months ago, I seemed to have developed the habit of picking something from her whenever I come across the difficult decision of bringing one book with me on my travel.

This time I brought Four Seconds To Lose and it didn't disappoint.

It holds the same signature Tucker employs in her previous books but this has a grittier side to it—one that Charlie glosses over in an effort to keep it out of her reality. Some might say it's an opportunity the author could improve on but I think the way it's approached, since the story is told between Charlie and Cain's first person POV, is effective because we feel it the way Charlie would like to feel about and not feel about it. Her reality is one she likes to pretend doesn't exist even though it would eventually catch up with her. I actually liked Charlie although I did get a bit confused in the end what her name really is.

And Cain's a great guy. He really is. It's hard not to like a guy who goes out of his way by a long stretch to help people out. Like most New Adult male MCs, he's got a lot of baggage but in this story, it didn't overwhelm his character.

I only wish that there were more moments between Charlie and Cain before the calm set in just as hell was about to break loose.

It was an addictive read and I felt the pull of both characters. I'm looking forward to Ben's story next!

Read more reviews about it here: Four Seconds To Lose by K.A. Tucker

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton


For years now, my reading choices have narrowed to one genre—romance—and I'm yet to regret it.

There aren't many other kinds of stories that interest me currently and I knew, while picking up this book, that it wasn't going to be my usual but I had a pretty good feeling about it. Maybe, in physically touching the book, some of the Roux family's magic seeped through my fingertips and granted me the same instinct that has taken so many of them down strange, tumultuous and tragic paths. 

The lyrical, mysterious and whimsical quality of Leslye Walton's writing is the main strength of the book. And with that voice, she wove a story that transcends the stark, ordinary reality as we know it while letting you feel every raw nerve the layered plots hit each time. 

The story is filled with so many people—beautiful, grotesque, broken, reckless, foolish, wise, all hungry—and they vividly portray a human condition that could never be fixed or improved because its very root is that fact that the culprits and contributors are all, simply enough, human. 

I won't say too much about this book because I feel that I couldn't fully describe it. It is more of a life-altering experience than a mere read. It encompasses the many foolish and tragic things we do for love and the versions of it that we settle and waste our lives for. 

In the end, it is a love story. Whose is a more complicated question to answer.

Read this book if you want to feel parts of your heart you didn't know existed to ache and mourn, and bits of your soul to let go and soar.

© Ninya Tippett. All rights reserved.