Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Double Review: Never Tear Us Apart / Never Let You Go by Monica Murphy

Monica Murphy dropped two novels in 2016 with her new adult series Never Tear Us Apart.  The first book is titled the same of the series, and is followed by Never Let You Go.  It is a dark, gripping tale of two young adults struggling to find themselves -- and love -- in the wake of a devastating tragedy.

Never Tear Us Apart - Book 1
Perfect for readers of Colleen Hoover, Jay Crownover, and K. A. Tucker, the first novel in this darkly sexy contemporary series from bestselling author Monica Murphy kicks off an emotionally powerful two-part tale of forbidden love.

A long time ago, when I was fifteen and a completely different person, I saved a girl’s life. I spent only a handful of hours with her, but somehow, we connected—and I’ve never been the same. No one understands what we went through. No one knows what it’s like to be us. We survived, yet I don’t feel like I’m really living—until now. Eight years later, I find her. I want to make her mine. I need to make her mine.  But she’ll hate me forever when she finds out who I really am.
@Goodreads - @Amazon

Never Let You Go - Book 2
The second novel in this darkly sexy contemporary series from bestselling author Monica Murphy wraps up an emotionally powerful two-part tale of forbidden love.

The truth hurts, they say—and my pain cuts deep. While I was falling for Ethan, he was deceiving me the entire time. He held a huge secret, protected by his lies. When I discovered what he was hiding, the truth shook my world, threatening to ruin us forever. Ruin me. But I soon realized that what we share can’t be destroyed.

The connection between us is too strong. It always has been. I can’t deny him any longer. And I can’t deny my truth: I’m in love with Ethan.

I don’t want to let him go.

While we’re trying our best to make this relationship work, other forces are fighting against us. My family, who wants to keep me safe. The media obsessed with my tragic past. The public that feeds off of it. Even Ethan’s father—the man who nearly destroyed me all those years ago. He’s doing his best to finish the job.

Despite my love for Ethan, the doubts creep in, clouding my mind. Is he worth the pain? Will our love survive, or will we have no choice but to end it—end us—once and for all?
@Goodreads - @Amazon

This is the story of a twelve year old girl that was kidnapped from a local amusement park by a man that brutally raped and tortured her for three days, and the fifteen year old boy that saved her... the kidnapper's very own son.  Told in the dual perspective of Katie and Will (now Ethan), both past and present, Never Tear Us Apart is a strong beginning to the series.

Eight years after the highly publicized kidnapping, torture, and rape of Katie, Ethan finds the girl he saved.  The girl he rescued from his monster of a father who also abused him throughout his life both and physically and emotionally.  The man that was a confirmed killer of two other teenage girls he also abducted and raped.

Katie is a shell of a person; utterly destroyed, and believable as a victim of something no living creature should ever have to endure. Scared, but desperate to get her life back, she finds herself at the amusement park where she was abducted eight years prior, where she meets Ethan. She then forms a bond with him that she has never had with another man, understandably.

But she does not know that he is the boy that saved her.

Overall, four stars.  Fast-paced, believable, dark enough to interest my even my incredibly black soul, and most importantly, the two characters had their own unique voices.  The end was a bit... clean and tidy (too much for my taste), but overall, a very decent read.

Never Let You Go picks up where Never Tear Us Apart left off.  Still told in the dual perspective of both Katie and Ethan/Will, and still with flashbacks to the incident 8 years ago.  Except this time, the flashbacks add nothing; the story was already told.  In fact, there's issues with the flashbacks; in the first novel, Katie stopped talking to Will after the incident because her mother insisted on it, but in the second novel, Will was the one to cut ties with Katie.  So I guess the flashbacks did provide something -- plot holes.

The second novel, although readable, simply dragged.  The ending was bad, Will annoyed me so much I started thinking he was a slight creeper (not great to think when reading a romance novel).  In my opinion, this entire novel could have been summed up in a few chapters and added to the end of Never Let You Go, which should have been a standalone.  Two stars.

(Combined rating of both books in the Never Tear Us Apart series)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Uh-oh; Colleen Hoover (lovingly known by the blogging community as simply 'CoHo') has a new novel out that guarantees to make you cry and be depressed and think about things you normally wouldn't... like every other Colleen Hoover book.  Worst book introduction ever? Maybe. But this is CoHo, guys; you know what to expect.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

@ Goodreads - @ Amazon

The good:  Colleen Hoover, y'all! (Note: this is the first time in my life I've ever even thought the word 'y'all', let alone used it in a sentence)
The bad:  Insta-love, love triangle :(

This one is hard for me to review for two pretty significant reasons:
  1. Colleen Hoover, y'all! (Make that number two; I'm on a roll here)  Honestly, I feel that if anyone other than CoHo wrote this, I would have given it a higher rating.  So please, keep that in mind. 
  2. I can't really say much about the novel without giving the entire thing away.  Unfortunately, the "reveal" (which comes at approximately halfway through the book), is the entire book.  
Every review I read on Goodreads was gushing with praise, and of course, completely lacking in detail.  If I had zero problems with the novel, my review would undoubtedly follow suit.  Unfortunately, I had some problems with it, and in order for me to discuss them, I have to talk about the novel a little bit.

BEWARE: Major Spoilers!

Review: Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1) by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1) by Julie Murphy is a young-adult standalone series novel featuring a beloved self-proclaimed fat girl named Willowdean, with a deep and profound love for Dolly Parton (not a typo); it is a novel about accepting oneself, and making the most out of life, no matter your circumstances.

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

@ Goodreads - @ Amazon

The good:  Unconventional (read: overweight) heroine
The bad:  Love triangle, weak, shallow characters, slow moving plot

Before I tear into this like a piece of bloody meat and have the entire internet (or the four of you that still read this blog, in any event) thinking that I am some kind of fat person hater, I feel like I should explain my mindset and why I didn't connect with this novel on any level despite spending the vast majority of my life as fat, if not fatter, than the heroine in this novel.

So, briefly:  I got fat at the age of six which I could blame on a psychological event, but for the purpose of this review the whys are quite irrelevant.  After years of not really caring much about what I looked like, I was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2 at the age of 30.  I found that losing weight as a morbidly obese diabetic was not just difficult, but pretty much damn near impossible.  I underwent weight loss surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass) in January of 2015.  My Diabetes type 2 was cured immediately post-op; I've lost 168.8 pounds to date.  I went from a size 22 to a size 4.  From 300 pounds to 130 pounds.

Now, back to the novel.
Read on for spoilers...

Willowdean,"lovingly" called Dumplin' by her former beauty queen mother, is a fat Dolly Parton loving fanatic.  She's not necessarily proud to be fat, but she's not exactly ashamed of it, either.  So basically... girl is fat. Girl has no desire to lose weight, but is unhappy with her body and constantly deludes herself about it. Girl likes guy. Guy likes girl, but girl sees herself as too fat to allow him to get close to her. The end.

Very contradictory main character. She's proud of her body / she doesn't like to be touched because she's embarrassed by it. She doesn't care what people think of her because she's fat / she cares what people think of her if she were to date a really hot guy that she really likes. ???????????????

Oh wait -- did I mention that "Dumplin'" had a morbidly obese aunt that died in her 30's of a heart attack? Yet even then all of her concerns about her weight are aesthetic. It would have been really easy for the author to have had the main character decide to lose weight to get healthy like her deceased aunt would have wanted -- tell me she wouldn't have! (and hey! looking better is a perk, too!), but no!  

Willowdean's aunt's weight held her back her entire life, right up to her untimely death on the couch.  Where she effectively ate herself to death.  So what does Willowdean do?  Signs up and participates in a beauty pageant.  Because she found out that her deceased aunt wanted to enroll some twenty years prior, but didn't because she was fat. 

So yeah... Girl is going to kick herself in the fucking ass when she gets diabetes type 2 at the age of 30 because she was so "content" with being fat her entire life. Positive body image bullshit would be fine, in theory, if being obese wasn't extremely fucking unhealthy. But it is extremely unhealthy.  Love your body regardless of what it looks like, absolutely, but if you are overweight, try to lose some weight for your health.  Not for society.  For YOU.  

Willowdean's desire to actively not lose weight really doesn't make sense, because despite convincing herself that she is okay with her body, she really isn't.  She holds herself back because of her weight.  So the overall message of the book to love yourself is a huge fucking miss here.   If she really did love herself, and didn't hold herself back at all, my review would have been different.  But, deep down inside, I felt that Willowdean didn't like herself, purposely held herself back because of what society might think, and still didn't give a fuck about losing weight.  It's like the author is telling every overweight teenage girl to stick with being fat, and to just accept mediocrity and loneliness.

In summary, aside from my bias, Dumplin' was still not very great. Nothing really happened. Slow-moving "plot" (I use that term loosely), with lackluster characters.