Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Genre: New Adult, Romance
Pages: Paperback, 432
Publication: May 26, 2011

Synopsis:
The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. 

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.


I know I’m late to the party on this book. It’s been out and very popular for several years, but somehow I’d managed to avoid it. A couple years ago, Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, and Tamara Webber all came to a local bookstore near me, and, without knowing anything about them or their books, I went. While I was at this meet and greet, the people who had obviously read their books were extremely enthusiastic about them, especially Travis’ character in Beautiful Disaster. So, I got Beautiful Disaster in hopes of falling in love with the book like everybody else in that room.

Characters:
I loved Abby in the first part of Beautiful Disaster. She’s independent, powerful, and doesn’t takes shit from anyone, especially Travis. However, in the second part of this book, it seems that she changes. Her independent nature turns into being dependent on Travis and most of her actions tend to be influenced by what he’s feeling, even when they’re broken up. It’s not consistent characterization. At the same time, maybe Abby’s change is just a realistic portrayal of passionate romantic love that affects all of us at one time in our lives.

I feel pretty similarly about Travis as I do about Abby throughout this book. Travis is the biggest smart ass of all time. He’s funny, sarcastic, and passionate about what he does. Basically the guy I would be lusting after throughout the entirety of high school. I really loved his character, but after he and Abby break up for the first time, he’s consumed by grief and even obsession. While I loved that Jamie McGuire was able to show the sensitive side of a guy, especially one who is the epitome of what masculinity is to many people, I didn’t like that he became super obsessive about Abby. He’s actions toward her in the second half of the book are extremely creepy. His character is pretty wishy-washy.

Shepley and America are, hands down, my favorite characters in this book. They’re funny, protective over both Abby and Travis, insanely loyal, and a kickass couple. I wouldn’t mind reading a book about their relationship if I’m being completely honest.

Plot:
I split this book into two parts: before Travis and after Travis, the split being the first time they actually started dating. I really enjoyed the first part. I loved the build up to Travis and Abby’s relationship. Their relationship was a slow burn, which is my favorite kind of build up to any romantic relationship in books. You could tell from the instant that Travis and Abby interacted with each other that there was an undeniable passion that can’t be ignored by either party. Abby, the POV character, went from kind of hating Travis to tolerating him to being best friends with him to falling in love with him. I loved their build up; it was intense and passionate in a way that you sometimes don’t get from YA novels.

However, the second part of the novel, I wasn’t a big fan of. I felt a disconnect from both Abby and Travis when they were in their on-again-off-again relationship. Maybe it was because I couldn’t identify with their type of relationship. 

I thought that Abby being freaking amazing at poker would play a bigger part in this story, but it wasn’t. I really enjoyed their side trip to Vegas, but I felt like the duration of that plot point was wayyyyy too short. After they left Vegas, you hardly heard anything else about it.

The plotline that I loved the most was Travis’ fighting. The fights were awesome and action filled, and it made Travis 10 times more badass. The only problem I had with that portion of the book was the very last fight and the fire. This seemed completely random and unnecessary. I understand that it was used as something to endanger the characters that we are supposed to care about and basically be the catalyst for Travis and Abby to get married, but the author could’ve done this in a million different ways.

To me, Beautiful Disaster seemedvto be made up with a bunch of random events that were haphazardly sown together in order to create a somewhat convincing love story. Sometimes, it worked, other times, like with the fire, it didn’t.

Relationship:
Another issue I had with the second part of the novel was the nature of Abby and Travis’ relationship. To me, and it may be only me who had this problem, it seemed that their relationship was extremely problematic. Many times throughout the latter part of the novel, after Abby breaks up with Travis, he basically stalks Abby, claiming that he loves her. Travis ignores all of Abby’s requests for him to leave her alone, and wears her down into giving in to being in a relationship with him. This kind of stalking, called obsessive relational intrusion, is romanticized by the characters as a type of love. Abby and others around her accept it as Travis “just being Travis,” which is extremely problematic.


In short:
For my first New Adult book, Beautiful Disaster was a great entry into this genre that I haven’t explored before. It had some problems, but it was generally an entertaining read.







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Waiting on Wednesday: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Year We Fell Apart

Author: Emily Martin
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: Hardcover, 320
Publication: January 26, 2016

Synopsis:
In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.

I’ve been in a contemporary kick for a while, so I’m very excited to check this book out. It kind of gives me a How to Love by Katie Cotugno vibe. Also, I’m a total sucker for a best friend turned lover story. So, basically, I think I’m going to absolutely fall in love with this book.


Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely ladies at The Broke and Bookish.
Check out their TTT here.


1. The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkowski (March 29, 2016)

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.

But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?

I absolutely loooooovveeeee this series. Plus, this cover is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (March 8, 2016)

Los Angeles. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to to discovering exactly what it was that killed her parents and getting her revenge.

Raised in the Los Angeles Institute with the Blackthorn family, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn. A series of murders in the city catch her attention — they seem to have the same characteristics as the deaths of her parents. Could the murderer be the same person? And her attention isn’t the only one caught: someone has been murdering Downworlders as well. The Fair Folk make a deal with the Institute: if the Blackthorns and Emma will investigate the killings, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn to his home. The catch: they have only two weeks to find the killers. Otherwise it’s open war between faeries and Nephilim.

The Shadowhunters of the Institute must race against time to catch the killers, even as they begin to suspect the involvement of those closest to them. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

Okay, so a lot of people think that Cassie Clare should’ve just stopped writing in this world with the end of The Mortal Instruments series, but I kind of disagree. I think the world Clare created is so incredibly rich, and I can’t wait to see more of it.

3. The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry (January 26, 2016)

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves. 

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

First of all, this cover is breathtaking. Secondly, the synopsis for this book has me very intrigued.

4. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (March 1, 2016)

The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.

Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.

Equal parts tender, thrilling, and hilarious, A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy brimming with wit and edge-of-the-seat suspense. 

I love anything Sherlock Holmes, so I feel like I’m absolutely going to love this book. 

5. The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine (February 16, 2016)

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about C.J. Redwine’s writing. I haven’t had a chance to actually read any of her other books, but this one sounds really good. I haven’t read a good fantasy book in a while.

6. When We Collided by Emery Lord (April 5, 2016)

Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Jandy Nelson, When We Collided is a powerful story of two teens whose love is put to the test by forces beyond their control.

The first sentence of the synopsis has me sold

7. The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (March 22, 2016)

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

This book seems very different from what I’m used to getting in YA novels. It’s about a serious topic that no one seems to want to talk about, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

8. The Blood Between Us by Zac Brewer (May 3, 2016)

Family secrets turn deadly in this edgy page-turner about the insidious limits of labels and the ties that bind just a little too tightly, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.

Growing up, Adrien and his sister, Grace, competed viciously for everything. It wasn’t easy being the adopted sibling, but Adrien tried to get along; it was Grace who didn’t want anything to do with him. When their scientist parents died in a terrible lab fire, there was nothing left to hold them together.

Now, after years apart, Adrien and Grace are forced to reunite at the elite boarding school where their parents were teachers. Being back around everyone he used to know makes Adrien question the person he’s become, while being back around Grace makes him feel like someone he doesn’t want to be.

For as much as Adrien wants to move on, someone seems determined to reopen old wounds. And when Adrien starts to suspect that Grace knows more about their parents’ deaths than she let on, he realizes there are some wounds no amount of time can heal. If Adrien isn’t careful, they may even kill him.

Mystery and murder? Count me in.

9. Even if the Sky Falls by Mia García (May 10, 2016)

Julie is desperate for a change. So she heads to New Orleans with her youth group to rebuild houses and pretend her life isn’t a total mess. But between her super-clingy team leader and her way-too-chipper companions, Julie feels more trapped than ever.

In a moment of daring, she ditches her work clothes for DIY fairy wings and heads straight into the heart of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, where she locks eyes with Miles, an utterly irresistible guy with a complicated story of his own. And for once, Julie isn’t looking back. She jumps at the chance to see the real New Orleans, and in one surreal night, they dance under the stars, share their most shameful secrets, and fall in love.

But their adventure takes an unexpected turn when an oncoming hurricane changes course. As the storm gains power and Julie is pulled back into chaos she finds pretending everything is fine is no longer an option.

Mia García’s Even If the Sky Falls is a whirlwind twenty-four-hour romance about discovering what it means to feel alive in the face of life’s greatest danger: love.

Yet again, another gorgeous cover (tbh all of these covers are beautiful). I consider myself a hopeless romantic, so this book seems perfect for me.


10. The Crown by Kiera Cass (May 3, 2016)

Kiera Cass’s bestselling Selection series has enchanted readers from the very first page. Now the end of the journey is here, in a wonderfully romantic series finale that will sweep you off your feet.

Twenty years have passed since the events of The One, and America and Maxon’s daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own. Princess Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

The Selection series has sold more than 3 million copies and captured the hearts of fans around the world. This swoonworthy final installment is the happily ever after they’ve all been waiting for.

I freaking loved The Selection series. I haven’t finished The Heir yet, but it’s pretty good so far. I’m excited to read the conclusion. 

What books are you looking forward to in 2016?

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: Hardcover, 339
Publication: August 14, 2014

Synopsis:
Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is the last book in Stephanie Perkins’ companion series, Anna and the French Kiss. I first started this series about three years ago, and absolutely fell in love with the books. While Anna and Etienne will always be #1 in my heart, I really enjoyed Lola and the Boy Next Door as well. So, suffice to say, I had very big expectations for this book. It did not disappoint.

First of all, I need to say that I feel like every single person who has ever had a crush on anyone can relate to Isla. I mean, I’d been in Isla’s position tons of times– daydreaming about a boy who I thought never knew that I existed. The only difference between me and Isla is that she ends up with the boy.

Readers of Stephanie Perkins’ books should be familiar with Josh. He is Etienne St. Clair’s best friend in Anna and the French Kiss, but because that story is told from the point of view of Anna, the readers don’t really get to know him. In Isla and the Happily Ever After, we get an in depth look at who Josh is. 

Like most teenage girls, Isla plays Josh up into something of a fantasy in her years of yearning for him, but when we really get to know him, we don’t just to get to see the good side, we get to see the bad too.

The build-up to Isla and Josh getting together was very small. In fact, I think it only took about 100-150 pages. I generally like a slow burn romance, so I wish Perkins would’ve spent more time building up that aspect of their relationship. But I think that she did this on purpose. This book is very different from Anna and Lola’s story in that Isla story isn’t solely about getting the guy. The way that I perceived it, Isla’s story also has deals with growing up (both emotionally and intellectually) and Isla finding herself. Josh and her relationship with Josh just kind of help that growing along.

Our fingers are in each other’s hair, and his breath is in the hollow of my neck, and I wish the world would swallow us here, whole, in this moment. And that’s when it hits me that this–this— is falling in love. -Pg. 98 

Another thing that I really loved about this book was how realistically her relationship with Josh is written. They don’t just get together and everything is better. They get together, go through a shit ton of problems, and break up along the way. Josh is self-assured and confident, but Isla is timid and completely unsure of herself, and through her relationship and break-up, she gains some insight into herself and what it means to be herself. I love that Stephanie Perkins can write a character that is both emotionally driven and strong-willed, something that, sometimes, isn’t that prevalent in YA romances. Isla’s story is about finding herself, and I love it.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is overwhelmingly romantic, heartwarmingly funny, and realistically messy. So, if you’re wanting to read a fun and romantic book with a swoon-worthy boy, I would look no further than Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

In short:
You know that book that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Well, this is that book.


A Week in Review: When the Going Gets Tough

Hey y’all! So this coming week is my finals week, and I’m stressing out. While I already have most of my stuff done, I still have to write an essay on Margaret Fuller (who is hella interesting) and study for my Psychology final. I can’t wait for this week to be over. Then, FINALLY, I will be able to read for pleasure. These past few months have been dedicated to the books I had to read for school.

Me during finals week

Because of this, I thought that I would discuss the books I’ve bought, received, read, or studied this semester. Also, I think I’ll also blog about some of the movies, music, and TV shows that I’ve been watching/listening to this semester.

I know that I haven’t been posting on this blog, which is super sad. I really wish that I had had more time this semester to work on the blog. However, after finals week, I will have three weeks to read whatever I want, and I’m extremely excited. I don’t even know where to begin.

This semester, I took an English class called Nineteenth Century American Women Writers. Super specific, I know. While I didn’t enjoy the class, I loved a lot of the novels that we read. My favorites were definitely Little Women, which I had never read before this class, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. While both of these novels show completely different types of women, it’s very interesting that many characters have the same, fiery, and independent spirt, despite their societal limitations.

5ever wishing Jo and Laurie ended up together

Studied:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Voice from the South by Anna Julia Cooper
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Janet Mock being adorable with her book

I also took a Women’s and Gender Studies class this semester. I absolutely loved this class. The first thing we read in this class was Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. It’s an amazing book about Janet Mock, a trans woman, and her journey to become who she is today. Not only was it incredibly captivating, it was also both heartwarming and heartbreaking. If you’re ever wanting to read a memoir, I definitely recommend Mock’s book.

Bought:
In Real Life by Joey Graceffa
Binge by Tyler Oakley
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (look out for a review soon!)
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Me reading Isla and the Happily Ever After

Received:
Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings (courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Like I said earlier, I haven’t really had much time to read for pleasure, but I’m looking forward to checking out all the amazing books that I’ve bought or received.

Now, I’m going to move on to some movies, music, and TV that I’ve been loving recently.

Forever loving Peeta Mellark

Movies:
Mockingjay Part 2 (This was 100% better than the book. I cried so much.)
Happy Family  (This Italian film is incredibly funny and heartwarming. Definitely check this out.)
Miss Representation (This is a documentary that completely blew me away. It’s essentially about sexism in the media and society.)

OTP

TV Shows:
Once Upon a Time (Still reeling from the midseason finale)
Bob’s Burgers (Fucking hilarious)
The 100 (I don’t think I can possibly tell you how much I love this show)
How to Get Away with Murder (Viola Davis is my queen)
Jessica Jones (Netflix original about a Marvel character. David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor, is in it and holy shit he’s amazing.)
Parks and Recreation (BEN WYATT IS MY LIFE)

WORK

Music:
Hamilton: An American Musical (I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING IF YOU HAVEN’T LISTENED TO THIS SHOW YET YOU HAVEN’T LIVED)

So, I guess that’s my week in review! I’m so happy to be back to blogging, especially after the Facebook page hit 500 LIKES this week. I’m very excited for the future of this blog.

Until next time,
Halee