Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

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This book came highly recommended by many people and when I read the blurb I was intrigued. What followed was horror disguised as romance. Maybe I’m special – or have seen and experienced real life – and that is why I can see the dark truth hidden in this story geared towards young adults who will not recognize it, but I feel I have a duty to let others know what this story is really about: domestic abuse.

Abby is our main girl and she is someone who I tried very hard to like. She has a secret past that has her hiding (don’t all romances have someone with a deep, dark secret?) and wary about starting a romantic relationship. So, she runs off to college to make a fresh start. Unfortunately, this particular place of higher education is actually just an extension of high school and the book reads like it. In the same manner of the majority of young adult romance, the bad boy sees her and immediately must own her. The sad part is that she barely puts up a fight. She allows this man to control her and dictate how she lives her life. Time and time again, he abuses her and she forgives without fail and lets him walk all over her again. She never lacks for excuses for his bad behavior.

Travis is the campus bad boy who looks like Adonis and acts like Narcissus, only with a heavy dose of hidden insecurity. He’s a street fighter and takes a new woman, or three, to his couch every night. (Important Note: Even he subconsciously recognizes that his behavior is despicable, which is why he refuses to have sex with these desperate groupies in his bed. The filth stays on the couch and possibly in his blood. A smart woman would have him tested before ever going near him.) That is until he spots Abby. Like a dog with a bone, he’s not giving up on this stunning little lamb. When circumstances provide the opportunity to stay in his apartment and then ridiculously never leave, he forces her into his bed – “just to sleep”. Don’t be fooled by his noble declaration. He goes out of his way to make her uncomfortable in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the living room, on campus, literally everywhere. She stubbornly stays in his apartment, even though he allows her no privacy and crams the emotional abuse down her throat. He also throws temper tantrums like a drunken toddler and doesn’t see the harm in that. For some inexplicable reason, he cannot understand why she is hurt by what he does and instead lashes out in anger, which happens a lot, and you can guess how he behaves when another man enters the picture.

What could have been an interesting, yet unoriginal, story was deeply disturbing. From the get-go I recognized Travis for what he truly was and found Abby’s inability to accept it and blindly falling for his tricks appalling. One of the most memorable moments was when they had a squabble and instead of acting like a big boy, he races off to a bar, where he gets wasted, and then brings home not one, but two, women and then proceeds to have an orgy loud enough to wake the neighbors. Abby’s response is to lay in HIS bed and cry and listen to the hours of moaning and screaming going on in the living room with the man she is falling for. Needless to say, he apologizes and swears it meant nothing, so she lets it slide. This hefty book continues in this fashion and never gives up in its quest for a happy ending. But, in reality, how can a man who refuses to fully acknowledge his abuse for what it is and a pitiful woman who condones his despicable behavior ever have a happy ending? The author made it seem like happily ever after, but it’s honesetly a story that millions of women live and regret deeply every day – smothered by an obsessive husband who keeps her on a tight leash and makes her believe she doesn’t deserve better.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It is supposed to be a romance and is meant for young adults, but I would never advise my own daughters to read it, no matter how old they are.
  • Level of sexuality – Very high and at times repulsive. Nothing like listening to a raging orgy of wasted people rather than having the self-worth to walk right out the door, to make your stomach churn.
  • Is there graphic language? Heaps.
  • Did I cry? No, but it was touted as a spectacular “good cry book”. I have no idea why.
  • Did I laugh? Not at all.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, apparently there is a second book, which is the same story told from Travis’s perspective.
  • Level of character development – I didn’t see much. The main characters were unlikable and weak. Weakness is not a bad thing and is a necessary element for a good story, but they didn’t overcome anything and evolve, which would have made them relatable and strong characters. The side characters were just as sorry. It seemed that nobody was ready to be an adult, but they were taking on the responsibilities that come with college living – booze, illegal fighting, lots of sex with random strangers, and the occasional class. I’d toss the petty gossiping into the mix, but that felt more high school and actually suited them just fine.

When this book arrived in the mail I couldn’t wait to tear into it. In the beginning, I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, but I had high hopes that things would turn around. The book is massive, and my patient wait for them to become something better turned into dread over the fact that this book is a statement for women, telling them that it’s okay to accept a hot man’s abuse and scary obsession. What could have been a powerful testament to a man turning his life around and a woman loving and helping him change, turned into a how-to book for abused women. While the writing is undeveloped and immature – think more along the lines of something for a sixteen-year-old – it is the message that forces me to give this ⭐️ dismal star. There are thousands of people who love this book, but the likelihood of them being a reader who completely overlooked the nasty truth is extremely high, and I’m relieved to see that there are also thousands of women who know how damaging this book is. If you’re looking for a strong heroine who matures into someone you can respect, read Gone with the Wind. If you want someone who will eventually end up wearing long sleeves to hide the bruises, this is the book for you.

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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I wasn’t sure if I should review this book. It has thousands already and was made into a truly horrible movie. Fortunately, I read the book before watching it. For all those people who saw the movie but haven’t read the book, and those who haven’t given it a thought at all, this review is for you.

Samantha Kingston is a snobby, popular – yet despised by many – teenager. Her three best friends are equally superior and they are all hard to like. They are typical teens with complicated home lives that turn them into monsters who mistreat the other kids at school. From the get-go, I disliked each one, including Samantha. The movie Mean Girls describes them perfectly: callous, selfish, unsympathetic, shallow, and they think they are entitled to everything. That all changes, though.

The book starts with Samantha’s death. It’s eloquently written and grabbed my attention right away. Every time she died, my heart ached, and she matured dramatically. When she wakes up that first morning and realizes she is replaying the previous day – much like the infamous Groundhog Day – she finally notices the people around her and takes a deeper look at her friends, family, and fellow students.

These so-called popular girls have made the lives of everyone around them miserable. There are certain characters that are vital to the story, because they open Samantha’s eyes and she recognizes the abuse she doles out. Having once been a loser, she will do anything to maintain her popularity and that means being a nasty individual who follows the queen bee like a thoughtless sheep. Through her death, she is able to see the repercussions of that one day on those who choose not to be a groupie.

Determined to figure out how to survive, she sets about righting her wrongs and dealing with the emotional pain of repeating them over and over. She approaches each day as a test to figure out what she needs to do differently in regards to a specific victim. Multiple tests lead to her feeling better about herself, after all she did just help someone whom she had originally ridiculed or destroyed their relationships. But she’s not surviving. She is missing the purpose behind this cosmic experiment. Needless to say, she eventually figures it out in a great epiphany.

While this book is more young adult, I think the message is something that applies to everyone. Whether you can get through it, due to the whole high school scene which is a bit nauseating, is up to you, but I believe it is worth your while. I sped through this book, eager to reach the end. Would she live? Would she die? Whose life would she alter for the better? For once, I found a book that kept me in suspense. Watching her evolve over a short period of time was heartwarming and the author did a phenomenal job of putting the reader inside her head. It was beautifully written, especially considering the content that was emotionally difficult to read. Thus is high school, though; it’s one long, often discouraging, trial after another.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It’s not quite fantasy, but it does have that timeline aspect. It’s not time travel, but it’s definitely disruption. It’s aimed for teenagers, but I’m an adult who absolutely loved it.
  • Level of sexuality – They’re teenagers. They think about it a lot and put great emphasis on it. Part of her day and a decision she faces repeatedly, is whether or not to lose her virginity to her drunk, superficial boyfriend. Overall, the level is mid, but that is due to the importance and detail given to sex in general.
  • Is there graphic language? Like I said, they are teenagers, desperate to become adults. There is some, but it’s not excessive.
  • Did I cry? You bet and more than once.
  • Did I laugh? There were entertaining moments that made me chuckle. They were a nice break in an otherwise serious novel.
  • Level of character development – Samantha grows exponentially. She starts out as an obnoxious teenager who follows the cliché popular girl everyone hates, and turns into someone who cares about the people around her and her impact on their lives. Her friends do not evolve, but they are not the ones living the same day over. The author peels the layers away for each one and they become something much deeper and, surprisingly, they are all relatable. I would be interested to find out how they are affected by Samantha’s last time repeating that day.

Considering the high number of books I have read, it means a lot when I say that this is one that will haunt me forever. Will I ever read it again? Probably not, but that does not reflect upon the writing, the story, the characters, or the message. It is cemented in my mind and I will never forget it. I cannot recommend this highly enough, even for readers who cannot stand high school books. This goes beyond the trivialities of high school. The true story is applicable to every person and every stage of life. I gladly give it a rare ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. The movie will quickly fade from my memory, but the book will live on forever.

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Jane of Manchester by J.G. Dow

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Jane has to be the loneliest and most bored woman in existence. She is thirty and pretty, but it has been a year since her last boyfriend. She works for a florist who doesn’t particularly like her and she goes out for drinks with her friends several times a week for ‘Is this all there is?’ drinking. When she dines with her friends there is a lot of discussion about what to eat, what they like to eat, and agreement that they have never had such amazing food before. Every meal, except breakfast, inevitably has a delicious wine to discuss.

No wonder Jane is such a boring person. She hangs out with the most boring people imaginable. Even when one friend has a bridal party, interestingly called a hen-do, the women travel out-of-town and proceed to drink themselves silly for a weekend, expressing joy over the approaching wedding. One friend, Natasha, gets so drunk that she invites a young man to accompany her to the ladies’ room. Her friends are horrified, but somehow this action doesn’t appear to be the first time and won’t be the last.

Jane’s friends, and even her mother, begin mentioning how long it has been since Jane had a boyfriend, so she starts to give it serious consideration. After all, she needs a date for the wedding. Her mother’s neighbor, Dan, has recently broken up with his girlfriend, and according to her mother, Jane should give him the chance to prove himself boyfriend material.

The following week, pondering the attractiveness of Dan, she sees him on the sidewalk near her work. She stares. Then she notices Dan with a bunch of coworkers at her favorite drinking hole. He doesn’t see her and she decides not to call attention to herself by speaking to him. What if he doesn’t know who she is? Her friends egg her on, but Jane figures she needs to think about this for a while more. As she thinks on what to do, she does nothing.

This book was slow. The only reason I kept reading is that I found the British expressions fascinating. Some of the phrases are definitely different: totally cheesed off, feeling a bit knackered, wardrobe full of natty dresses, make a pot noodle for lunch, hen-do, etc. These make Americanisms sound down-right dull. I think the hardest part was slogging through all the drinking and the hangover headaches. They were in abundance. So, I find myself wanting to read more of these fun and interesting expressions, but in a different subject matter.

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Contemporary. The reading age is difficult. I don’t think it would hold a teen’s attention.
  • Level of sexuality – Very little.
  • Is there graphic language? Yes, but it has to be read in context, otherwise you may wonder what the gist of ‘that!’ was.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No, but occasionally I smiled internally.
  • Is this part of a series? I haven’t heard of a sequel, but it has the best cliffhanger ever!
  • Level of character development – What you see is what you get.

Due to the incredible cliffhanger, I give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Crashed: Siren’s Call by Kerri Ann

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As the title ‘Crashed’ implies, this is not an easy read and deals with the aftermath of the first book in this phenomenal series. It has moments of beauty, pain, anger, regret, and caused me a lot of frustration. After finishing Casper’s Ghost, I was dying to get my hands on this one. The wait was blessedly short, but still felt too long, as I was overwhelmed with the need to know what happened next.

The story is the opposite of the first book. While Casper’s Ghost had a good deal of interaction, this one focuses on the individuals. I was thrilled that China saw a lot more action. She’s a magnificent character and now I’m anxiously waiting for her book to come out. The first allowed readers a hint at her strong, sassy character, but this one did her justice, allowing her the freedom to become a fully fledged member of the series. Whiskey is another nice touch, although he is not included in much, I got a good sense of his upbringing and his reasoning behind his decision to stay away from the Crown family. Their stories will be wonderful additions to this series.

I admit I was frustrated for a long while. I had expected more one-on-one between Wyatt and Circe, but the story is so much more than that. It is the back story and emotions of each character outside of their relationship and how it affects them as an ‘us’. Wyatt is allowed a lot of time for introspection and, due to his manic depression, suffers a lot with his heightened emotions. It was difficult to read about his struggles to survive and deal with his past and his regrets. I was ecstatic to finally discover the secret of Circe’s past. It was brutal and brought tears to my eyes. The fact that these lovers are kept apart while they deal with these issues is a strength to the story, even though I longed desperately for them to come back together. It was more than worth the wait.

The story is well-done, but it is the author’s writing and connection to her characters that really drew me in. I could feel what they were feeling and it is apparent that the author was fully invested, loving them as much as I do. This is not your typical love story and must be read after Casper’s Ghost, but is a perfect finish for their tale. The story is quick and short, but fulfilling. I did not want for anything, as this book had it all. When I came to the end I was sad that it was over, but I was relieved to finally see the power of their love.

Now, for the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Romance for adults.
  • Level of sexuality – There was one scene that was rather graphic, but it was mellow compared to the first book. The focus was not on sex, but it was touched upon.
  • Is there graphic language? You betcha.
  • Did I cry? There were definitely moments that pulled at my heart-strings.
  • Did I laugh? Not this time. It was far too serious.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, it is book two in the Crown and Anchor series.
  • Level of character development – The characters are extremely well done and the fact that this book focuses more on the emotional aspects of each one, allowed me to connect with them. They are consistent the entire way through without any weaknesses in the plot.

I love the series and I love this book. It is a perfect follow-up for Casper’s Ghost and is unique in its own beautiful way. It opened my eyes to the mental anguish of someone with Wyatt’s condition and the aftermath of a great tragedy. I’m excited to give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. This is one that will stick with me.

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Confess by Colleen Hoover

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This book evoked every emotion, from heartbreak to anger to joy. I was hooked from the very beginning by the characters and the author’s incredible writing style. It is more than a romance; it’s a story of fate and sacrifice.

The story starts with a stab to the heart, but it is the underlying theme throughout and is a necessary tear-jerker moment. Thankfully, it’s very brief and just long enough to make you have to wipe away a tear. After that, it switches to adult Auburn, who is hilarious and has suffered a lot of loss, but does not let it keep her down. She is an incredible character that is impossible to not love. Since it is written in first-person, I was able to read her thoughts and she made me laugh all the way through, even when the scenes were more serious.

Owen, with the mysterious past and secrets, is equally loveable. He is what a man should be. He does not seek to own her. In fact, he is livid over the fact that another man lays claim to her. In his opinion, it is not a matter of ownership, but a matter of deserving and loving someone with all you have. He offers that to Auburn, but life has a way of coming between love and responsibility.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the meaning of the word Confess. It is the backbone of the story and brings new meaning to the word. Owen is an artist who paints people’s anonymous confessions. Some were incredible and shocking, while others were heart-wrenching and painful. A wonderful surprise is the inclusion of some of his artwork. They are truly magnificent and give the reader a true feeling for the confessions. The story starts with a confession and it ends with a confession. All the confessions in-between added so much to the story that I was overwhelmed.

I have read other books by this author and been a little disappointed due to the overwhelming stellar reviews. This time, I made sure to ignore any of the hype and go into it completely blind. I am so relieved that I did, because it is truly a beautiful story. The ending felt a bit abrupt and I wish it had a bit more meat to it, but it is a strong story throughout and the characters are consistent and incredibly well-developed. This is one book that will stay with me forever.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It is a romance, but there is so much more going on that it is also contemporary fiction. It is definitely for adults.
  • Level of sexuality – There are definite steamy moments, but they are beautifully done and are not graphic. There is a scene that is hard to read, but was not over the top. It is a sensitive topic, though, and some readers might find it hard to read. I know I did and it only scratched the surface of what could have been.
  • Is there graphic language? There is a moderate use of the f-word, but it is not extreme.
  • Did I cry? I got misty eyed on more than one occasion.
  • Did I laugh? Over and over. The first half is especially entertaining, but even the second half has moments that made me chuckle.
  • Is this part of a series? Nope.
  • Level of character development – Owen and Auburn are magnificently done. I was thrilled to read their story and they never lacked or left me wondering how they felt or what their motivations were. The side characters received less attention, but Trey had enough screen time to create strong emotions.

To say I loved this book is an understatement. It was beautiful and has left its mark. I flew through this book as quickly as possible, because I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a light and fluffy read, but it is addictive and I highly suggest it for readers who are looking for a more emotional read that is not time intensive. I am happy to award it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ shiny stars.