Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: "What You Left Behind" by Jessica Verdi

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college. The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
Okay I really liked this book but I am soooooo mad at Meg!!!  How can a dead character piss me off so much?!  Her actions were extremely selfish, and even though Ryland's actions (and reactions) throughout this book weren't always...appropriate, let's say, I found myself feeling so sorry for him! I would really love to say more on this, but it would give way too much away. If you end up reading this one yourself and feel the need to vent, know that you've found a sympathetic ear in me!

But, other than Meg, "What You Left Behind" was a great read for me. I think Jessica Verdi paints a pretty realistic picture of what it must be like for a teenage single father to juggle all of the responsibilities in his life: school, a job, soccer team commitments, and last but definitely not least, taking care of a newborn, including bottles, diapers, and incessant crying. Honestly, that last item there, caring for a newborn, is hard enough when there are two financially stable and mature parents to share the burden, but for a single teenage father? Damn near impossible! Ryland was soooo lucky to have his mother on board to help out, otherwise I don't think he would have been able to keep Hope in the first place. 

I loved Joni! She is one cool chicklet! The way she makes Ryland laugh and have fun was so great to see, and I feel like she was exactly what he needed in his life. I'm glad he found her, and I was cheering them on throughout the book.  Hopefully they have what it takes to make their relationship last through all the rocky stuff sure to crop up in the future.

This is my first book by Verdi, but I'm certainly keen to try other titles by her. The writing here was solid, and the pacing excellent.

My rating:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: "Crushed" by Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need. Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon. Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side. After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?
Thank you to Penguin Random House/Flirt Publishing for the free review copy!
Once upon a time, I read this book with every intention of giving a review right away.  And then, something happened, I think along the lines of my computer was completely dead, and writing a review via phone was a little bit more difficult than I'd expected, and this poor review was placed on the back burner.  So, probably a year after I first read "Crushed", I decided to go back and read it over.  And you know what?  To my surprise, I enjoyed it even more the second time around!

Out of the three books I've read in this series, I'd have to say that "Crushed" is my favourite! And yes, it does surprise me to say this because I wasn't expecting to like Michael at all. And really, how are you supposed to like a romance novel if you can't stand the hero? Michael St. Claire is one of those guys who knows exactly how good he looks, and he knows how to work that to his advantage in order to get what he wants. He's also lived a very privileged life, getting everything his heart desired with little to no effort on his part.  Until Olivia, that is.  Olivia is the heroine of the previous book in this series, and Michael always felt he loved her.  Unfortunately, Olivia was together with Michael's best friend, Ethan, so Michael kept his true feelings hidden until that fateful day when things blew completely apart for everyone.

To make a long story short, Michael feels guilty about many things, and his behaviour, while on the surface seems self absorbed and focused on revenge, ultimately is based on his fear of rejection and his dwindling self worth. He hates himself, and after he grew on me a bit, it was really sad to see. I totally felt for the guy, dammit, and I normally can't stand guys like him!  It was a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

And then there's Chloe. Chloe is something else, I've gotta admit. I don't think I've ever seen another heroine like her, and I absolutely loved her from the first moment! I loved the banter between her and Michael, and how they really didn't like each other at first, and how they developed a strong friendship over time. No insta-love here, folks! The best part, though, is how Michael gradually helps Chloe build her self-esteem and confidence. Chloe knows she's smart, and kind, and has more substance than her sister, Kristin, but she also uses her sarcasm and snark to cover up her perceived inadequacies. She definitely has more in common with Michael in that regard than she realizes.

Although the plot was somewhat predictable, it did not take away my pleasure in reading it. If you've read the synopsis and found yourself thinking, "Been there, done that", think again, because Layne takes what has worked for readers in the past and makes it fresh and original with her strong characterizations. "Crushed" is such a fun read, and I absolutely recommend it to any fans of the New Adult genre looking for a little more substance than the norm.

My rating: