Genre: Family Life

Review: Ugly Love: A Novel by Colleen Hoover

Posted July 31, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Ugly Love: A Novel by Colleen HooverReviewer: Holly
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
Published by Atria Books, Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 5th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, New Adult, Contemporary, General, Family Life
Pages: 336
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four-half-stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with a new heart-wrenching love story.
When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn't think it's love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.
Never ask about the past. Don’t expect a future.
They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.
Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered.Love gets ugly.

The only other thing I’ve read by this author is the novella Finding Cinderella. If these two are any indication clearly I need to more.

Tate moves to San Francisco to finish grad school and get a job. To save money, she moves in with her brother, who happens to be a pilot. Much to her surprise, he lives in a high rise in the middle of downtown. He’s out of town the night she arrives and she finds a man passed out in front of his door. He turns out to be Miles, another pilot and one of her brother’s friends. They don’t get off to a good start and Tate pretty much wants nothing to do with him. Except the pesky fact that she’s wildly attracted to him. He might be a jerk, but he’s a hot one and they have off-the-charts chemistry.

It isn’t long before they begin an affair. Tate doesn’t have a lot of time for a relationship, but the more she gets to know Miles the more she wants to make time. Unfortunately, he’s emotionally closed off. He made her promise she wouldn’t ask about his past or try to create a future with him, and it’s clear he isn’t going to change his mind. Which is too bad, since she knows they could be great together.

Miles dealt with something really tragic in his past, which has turned him off love and relationships. He’s deeply damaged and not really looking to get better. But Tate makes him want to love again. He just…can’t.

The novel is written in the first person with alternating POVs. The chapters from Tate are told in the present while the chapters from Miles share his past. Novels like this tend to frustrate me, because I hate waiting to find out what the big secret from the past is or I want more in the current tense. That wasn’t the case here.  I was completely riveted by both stories, their relationship in the present and Miles’ past.

Tate was a strong woman who was relatable and approachable. She was sure of herself and focused on her career. She wasn’t looking for a relationship when she met Miles, but she wasn’t closed to the idea. She had a sometimes smart-mouth and extremely quick wit.

Dillon doesn’t seem to take the hint. He just continues to stare at me until my sandwiches are made.
I’m not offering to make him a damn sandwich if that’s why he’s still here.
“I’m a pilot,” he says. He doesn’t say it in a smug way, but when no one’s asking you what your occupation is, voluntarily contributing it to the conversation naturally comes off as smug. “I work at the same airline as Corbin.”
He’s staring at me, waiting for me to be impressed by the fact that he’s a pilot. What he doesn’t realize is that all the men in my life are pilots. My grandfather was a pilot. My father was a pilot until he retired a few months ago. My brother is a pilot.
“Dillon, if you’re trying to impress me, you’re going about it the wrong way. I much prefer a guy with a little more modesty and a lot less wife.” My eyes flash down to the wedding ring on his left hand.

If I had a complaint about Tate it was how quick she was to lose herself in Miles. She didn’t give up her career or sacrifice her schooling, but she did put up with more from him than she should have, because she was hoping he’d fall in love with her. What saved her for me was how quick she was to realize it. No, she wasn’t able to walk away from him, but she wasn’t unaware of his effect on her.

If any other man ever treated me like he did, it would be the one and only time. I don’t put up with the things I’ve seen a lot of my friends put up with. However, I find myself continuing to make excuses for him, like something could actually justify his actions last week.
I’m beginning to fear that maybe I’m not so tough after all.

The Miles of today from Tate’s point-of-view and the Miles of the past from his own POV are entirely different. It’s clear he was deeply affected by what happened in his past. I felt like we got to know the real him from his chapters, as well as flashes of things he did or said to Tate in the present. The closed off, angry, guilty man who wants nothing but sex from Tate.

I can see why he hasn’t been in a relationship for six years. He’s obviously clueless when it comes to how a guy should treat a girl, which surprises me, because I get these vibes from him that he’s really a decent guy. However, his actions during and after sex seem to contradict his character. It’s as if pieces of the guy he used to be bleed over into the guy he’s trying to be.

Not only did I want to learn what happened to make Miles into the man he is today, I also wanted Tate to break through and form a true relationship with him. Once it’s revealed why he’s so broken, my heart hurt. I wanted him to open up to Tate, but I understood why he couldn’t.

Despite the heavy tone of the book, there’s a surprising amount of humor. The way Tate looks at life and the relationships she’s formed are very real. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the scenarios she describes, expecially those involving her mom and brother.

Let me explain something about my mother. She’s a great mom. A really great mom. But I have never been comfortable talking to her about guys. It started when I was twelve and I got my first period. She was so excited she called three of her friends to tell them before she even explained what the hell was happening to me. I learned pretty early on that secrets aren’t secrets once they reach her ears.

The secondary relationships are all well-written. Tate’s relationship with her family and one of the employees in their building, Miles’ relationship with his friend Ian, and the way Tate’s brother Corbin fit in with them really stood out.

This novel is heartbreaking and poignant, with just the right amount of humor to keep the story from being bogged down. I laughed, I cried. It was beautiful..and it was ugly. A must read.

4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Atria Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

Review: Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Posted July 21, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Once in a Lifetime by Jill ShalvisReviewer: Holly
Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #9
Also in this series: Simply Irresistible, Forever and a Day, It's In His Kiss, He's So Fine, One in a Million, Merry Christmas, Baby
Published by Forever, Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 18th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Family Life, Fiction, Friendship, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 294
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four-stars

SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT

After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he's back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she's not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben - even though he has absolutely no idea what she's done . . .

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

For those of you who haven’t read a Lucky Harbor book before, they’re split into trilogies. Though this is listed as the 9th book, it’s actually the third in a series about friends Jack, Luke and Ben (It Had to Be You, Always on My Mind, Once in a Lifetime). So don’t let the number of books intimidate you.

Aubrey was a troubled teen and one of the mean-girls in high school. She’s spent a lot of years making mistakes, but when she comes home to Lucky Harbor to re-open her late-aunt’s bookstore, she determines to right past wrongs and make amends for her behavior. In a small-town with a long memory, this isn’t easy. Especially when it comes to one Ben McDaniel, the man she wronged more than any others – even if he doesn’t realize it.

Ben has spent the past five years working in dangerous places, looking to escape the loss of his beloved wife. He’s back home now, trying to decide what he wants to do with his life. When Aubrey’s uncle asks him to help her renovate her bookstore, he agrees just to have something to do.

The two are extremely attracted to each other, but neither is willing to put their hearts on the line. They agree to act on their attraction as long as neither looks for any kind of relationship. Too bad for Aubrey, since Ben’s overprotective nature and ability to read her like no one else really tugs at her heart. She knows better to get attached, even without his warnings. Since she knows as soon as she works up the courage to tell him how she wronged him, he’ll walk away and never look back.

I often feel like a broken record when talking about Shalvis. Her books are comfort reads for me. They’re easy to fall into and blend the perfect amount of humor, romance and emotion.  Once in a Lifetime is another classic Shalvis read. Aubrey’s struggle to make amends for her past sins and her father’s neglect, while trying to earn the trust of the town, mend her broken relationship with her sister and create a friendship with some of the women in town really tugged at my heartstrings. I teared-up several times at the way her family and the town treated her. Her insecurities really made my heart ache.

Ben was really good for Aubrey’s self-esteem. He recognized her hurt and did his best to take her out of her head. His anger at her struggle was sweet. He was fighting demons of his own and trying to rebuild his life in town, but he made time for her. As with all Shalvis heroes, he was brooding and alpha, but sweet and caring. I don’t know how she always manages to write the perfect alpha-man for the heroine, but she pulled it off again.

I love the town of Lucky Harbor, but the constant making-out by past characters bugged me. I don’t like all the matchmaking, either. I get that all the happily married/together couples want everyone else to be the same, but it was kind of ridiculous. On the other hand, I loved the friendships between the men and women. They were really there for each other, and not just while pushing the relationship angle.

Overall this is a a well-rounded story. Fun characters and an emotionally compelling story made this hard to put down.

4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-stars

Review: Back to You by Jessica Scott

Posted January 17, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 5 Comments

Review: Back to You by Jessica ScottReviewer: Holly
Back to You by Jessica Scott
Series: Coming Home #3
Also in this series: Back to You
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: July 29th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, War & Military, Family Life
Pages: 336
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five-stars

"Jessica Scott is an exciting new voice in romantic fiction who bursts upon the scene with an unputdownable debut novel!"--Robyn Carr, New York Times Bestselling Author on Because of You
He's in for the fight of his life . . .
Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn't explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family-so he deployed again. And again. And again...until his marriage reached its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs ...if she'll have him
. . . to win back his only love.
Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she's just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together. But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried-and a love that won't be denied. But can she trust that this time he's back to stay?
(85,000 words)

 

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this story since I read the first book in the series. Trent fascinated and frustrated me in the previous books and I wanted to explore the mystery of him.

Laura and Trent have been through a lot of years of marriage and a lot of deployments together. Laura figured she’d be able to stand by Trent no matter what. As the years drag on and Trent pulls farther and farther away from her and their two children, she starts wondering if they can make it. When trouble starts brewing during Trent’s latest deployment and he freezes her out, Laura really struggles to hold it together. When she finds out he’s volunteered for every deployment and lied to her about it, then gets charged with sexual misconduct, she’s done. Though she doesn’t want to be the wife who gives up on her man, she just can’t take anymore and files for divorce.

The last thing Trent wants is to lose his wife, but he has no idea how to open up to her. He can’t share the horrors of war with her, or the guilt he feels whenever he’s at home with his loving family and his guys are overseas. Which is the main reason he kept volunteering for deployments. And with each one he felt more and more disconnected from his life back home. Until he couldn’t open up at all. Now that he’s back stateside and facing a court-martial, he’s rethinking his past decisions. When his lawyer says he and Laura need to look like a happily married couple in order to help his case, he flat refuses. He doesn’t want to hurt her anymore than he already has. Until she agrees.  Then he realizes he might have another shot.

After years of deployments and months alone, the last thing Laura wants is to have Trent move back in and disrupt her new normal. But she can’t deny him the time with his kids, and no way can she let him hang out there all alone when there’s a possibility she might be able to help clear the charges against him. So she agrees to help, as long as he agrees to grant her a divorce as soon as his trial is over.  But spending time with him and watching him try to get his feet under him and find his new normal is harder than she expected. She still loves him and wants nothing more than to work things out. If only love was enough.

This was an extremely realistic look at the trials and tribulations our military members and their families face.  I admit I was bawling by page 8 and that didn’t really let up until about halfway through the book.  My heart went out to Trent. He really wanted his family, but he had no idea how to get them back. He’s felt disconnected for so long, he doesn’t even know where to begin to reengage. I was glad to see Scott didn’t just wave a magic wand and make him better. He had to find a way to deal with his near-death and the loss of so many of his men, and that included medication and counseling.

As Trent opens up and learns to be a husband and father all over again, I felt myself melting right along with Laura. Though he made choices that hurt his family, his love for them was undeniable. He may not have known how to reopen the lines of communication, but he made real effort.

I really empathized with Laura. It isn’t easy being the one left at home, especially when your husband slowly disconnects from you and your family. When the rumors started up about Trent and a female soldier, she didn’t put much stock in them. Until she found out he’d been volunteering for his deployments when he’d told her otherwise, divorce was the farthest thing from her mind. That was her breaking point. I can’t say I blame her, either. She felt betrayed by his lies more than anything else, not understanding how he could run off to war and leave her behind time and time again.

While this is a romance about a husband and wife falling in love with each other again, it’s also a hard-to-put-down look at the troubles our military heroes face when coming home from war. Scott did an excellent job of balancing the romance with the realities. It was hard to read at times, and I straight bawled at one point, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4.75 out of 5

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

five-stars

Review: The Memory of Water by Karen White

Posted June 11, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: The Memory of Water by Karen WhiteReviewer: Holly
The Memory of Water by Karen White
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: March 4th 2008
Genres: Fiction, Family Life
Pages: 336
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four-half-stars

On the night their mother drowns, sisters Marnie and Diana Maitland discover there is more than one kind of death. There is the death of innocence, of love, and of hope. Each sister harbors a secret about that night-secrets that will erode their lives as they grow into adulthood.
After ten years of silence between the sisters, Marnie is called back to the South Carolina Lowcountry by Diana's ex-husband, Quinn. His young son has returned from a sailing trip with his emotionally unstable mother, and he is refusing to speak. In order to help the traumatized boy, Marnie must reopen old wounds and bring the darkest memories of their past to the surface. And she must confront Diana, before they all go under.

 

Sometimes I’m in the mood for something darker and emotionally engaging. The Memory of Water was exactly that. In it, White explores the bond between sisters, the various shades of mental illness and how secrets from the past come back to haunt you, no matter how far buried they seem to be.

The bond between sister’s was broken on a stormy night at sea 16-years-ago, and both feel the loss keenly. Diana resents Marnie for coming home as the prodigal daughter and gaining favor with both her ex-husband and her traumatized son. Marnie still struggles with feelings of inadequacy in the face of her perfect sister, and the feelings she still evokes, even after 16 years of separation. Quinn, Diane’s ex, wants to believe Diane is getting better after a manic episode caused her to take their son out sailing during a terrible storm. Gil, her son, has stopped speaking, knowing it’s a sin to lie, but unable to speak the truth of what happened that night on the water.

These four wounded souls come together in a powerful tale about love, loss and the power of secrets and lies to hold us forever in the past.

I truly enjoyed this story, though the unconventional telling of it sometimes caused some confusion. It’s written in the first person, but from four different POV’s. Unfortunately, Gil’s “voice” was the only distinct one, so while I was reading from Diane, Marnie or Quinn’s POV’s, I was often confused about who was doing and thinking what.

Each character was flawed and compelling in his/her own way and the story was thought provoking and engaging. The pacing lagged somewhat in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I was emotionally invested in each of these characters. It didn’t take me long to figure out what their deep, dark secrets were, but it’s rare that I don’t figure it out and the mystery itself was less important than the personal struggles each character faced.

Overall an engaging novel with emotional depth, flawed, compelling characters and a wonderful setting among the Lowcountry of South Carolina and the dark, turbulent sea. I highly recommend it.

4.5 out of 5

This book is available from NAL Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-half-stars