Book Review: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

903127b0f0f762213e926967662b81bcTitle: Flat-Out Love
Author: Jessica Park
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
How I got it: I bought it
Click here to buy this book from Amazon

SYNOPSIS:
He was tall, at least six feet, with dirty blond hair that hung over his eyes. His T-shear read Nietzsche Is My Homeboy.

So, that was Matt. Who Julie likes. A lot. But there is also Finn. Who she flat-out loves.

Complicated? Awkward? Completely.

But really, how was this freshly-minted Boston transplant and newbie college freshman supposed to know that she would end up living with the family of an old friend of her mother’s? This was all supposed to be temporary. Julie wasn’t supposed to be important to the Watkins family, or to fall in-love with one of the bothers. Especially the one she’s never quite met. But what does that really matter? Finn gets her, like no one ever has before. They have *connection*.

But here’s the thing about love, in all it’s twisty, bumpy permutations: It always throws you a few curves. And no one ever escapes unscathed.


REVIEW:

I liked this book a lot. I am actually hunting down New Adult books that could *maybe* make me swoon more and cringe less but I haven’t found a single one aside from Easy, and that was from a year ago. And then this book came along, and although Julie and Matt’s love story wasn’t as breathtaking for me as Jacqueline and Lucas’ was, this cute little novel still made me smile and giggle and even shriek a few times.

Julie was a fairly likeable character; she’s nice and smart, she’s not a whiner or a complainer, she was reasonable for the most part, and she was brilliant at handling Celeste. But she was not without flaws and I actually have a few issues with her, specifically a.) she complained at the beginning of the novel that her friends don’t understand her love of studying and that if she ever tells them how much she likes to learn, they would make fun of her. But then she went and criticized – even made fun of – Matt’s preference for geeky t-shirts and asked him many times to stop wearing them. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that Julie just became one of the people she was complaining about. And b.) I get that Julie was a fixer and she wanted to fix Celeste and the whole Watkins Family, but there were times when she was so overbearing that I wondered why on earth was Matt still putting up with her. It was painful to read those parts of the story, and maybe this is just me because I hate it when people stick their hands in my business, but if I were Matt or Erin, I would’ve told Julie off a long time ago. Subtlety’s probably not Jessica Park’s style, but I wish she wrote those scenes in a way that made me like Julie more, not less.

Matt was an adorable character. I felt his burden and hardships as I read, and he didn’t even have to say them out loud. Jessica Park did a great job with his character and she weaved his struggles into the plot seamlessly. Also, the geeky shirts are sexy, Matt! Don’t listen to Julie!!! Yes, I just had to put that out there. But let’s move on to Matt’s brother, Finn. I guess I get why Julie would fall for him and why it took her so long to see the truth behind him. Even I couldn’t be sure about what to make of him for 70% of the novel because Park’s writing style leaves so many room for surprises (a good thing). I was glad when I turned out to be right, but oh holy fudgebuckets. That’s all I’m going to say.

Now let’s talk about Celeste, my most favorite character in the whole freaking book. My heart went out to Celeste many, many times. I loved her and pitied her but mostly I just wish I could adopt her and shower her with hugs and kisses. Celeste was the heart of this book, and yes I was very interested with the love story as well, but Celeste’s evolution is 70% of the reason why I couldn’t put this book down. I thought that Jessica Park handled Celeste and her unique case brilliantly, and she’s just been added to the list of my most adorable fictional (sadly) children.

Writing-wise, Flat-out Love could do with a bit more polishing, but Jessica Park did a really good job at sequencing scenes and transitioning them. Some characters felt so flat they were as good as non-existent (Jamie, Dana) but the main characters were solidly built and multi-faceted. The romance was sweet and heart-warming and Park was good to avoid some clichéd reactions that I was expecting. Since this book was NA, I was expecting to feel some of that college-vibe that I loved from Easy, but it was noticeably weak in this novel. It was still a good story, though. Better than most NA’s out there for sure.

If you are a romance and/or contemporary aficionado or if you’re just like me who hasn’t given up yet in finding treasures out of the notoriously avoided New Adult genre, I urge you to try and read Flat-Out Love. It’s a sweet and heartening story of love and healing and second chances. Jessica Park is an author to watch out for, and I will most definitely read her other works from here on out. 3 and 1/2 coconuts!

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section! Happy reading!

{P.S: I’ve changed my rating art! I know I’ve been making so many changes lately, but I hope you bear with me! My blog is turning 3 months old this October 11, and I want everything to possibly be semi-permanent and fixed by then. Hopefully I get things done and hopefully I don’t confuse you. x}
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Book Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

16056408Title: Easy
Author: Tammara Webber
Genre: New Adult, Romance
How I got it: I bought it
Click here to buy this book from Amazon

SYNOPSIS:
When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night – but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.


REVIEW:
First of all I just want to express my dislike of the cover. Seriously? The cover does not do this book any justice at all. If I were at a bookstore, I won’t even bother picking it up. Thankfully, I have Kathryn who harassed me until I bought this book. I told her she should make a blog because she has impeccable taste, but she’s lazier than lazy and can’t be bothered. (Whatever, Kath.)

But omg, we better get down to business before I get more distracted.

Last Sunday was my fourth time to read Easy. It was kind of a spontaneous decision I made because I spent the whole morning trying to read some of the New Adult selections on my Kobo Library, but each one was at least 5x more cringe-inducing than the next. I am losing faith in the genre, truth be told, and I needed something to remind me that there’s hope in finding a gem out of all the stones I’ve unearthed.

When I first read Easy, I wasn’t really expecting much from it. Mainly it’s because of that hideous cover and of course, the misleading title (I am judging you, Tammara Webber’s marketing team) but the book itself was such a pleasant surprise. The writing was neat and eloquent, but what really pulled me in was the first sentence.

I had never noticed Lucas before that night. It was as though he didn’t exist, and then suddenly, he was everywhere.

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I am a firm believer in opening your book not with a fizzle, but with a bang. For me, this opening line was perfect because it gives you a vivid image of what happened after that night, and it makes you curious. Why was Lucas everywhere all of a sudden? What exactly did he do? What exactly took place during that night? And now you can’t wait but read it and find out.

Easy has a very simple but multi-layered plot. I’m not going to give you the juicy details because I think it would work better if you find out on your own, but let me just say that this book tackles a very delicate yet relevant issue for men and women everywhere. Granted that it did not dominate the plot, but it was a catalyst of sorts for all the events that followed and towards the end, it was given the justice that it deserves in such a beautifully simplistic and sophisticated manner.

In terms of characterization, I honestly loved the way Webber built her characters and their connections with each other. Jacqueline and Lucas were so different as individuals but their chemistry was so palpable even from the very beginning. They both had stories of their own, histories that were independent of each other, and it added to their realness as characters in my opinion. I can’t say I’m in-love with Jacqueline but she never got on my nerves either. She grew on me and she felt genuine in a way that it was so easy to empathize/sympathize with her. Her emotions and responses were reasonable and her voice in the narrative remained consistent all throughout. And Lucas – oh dear lord. Lucas was very hot, and I don’t know about other people, but I find his feelings for Jacqueline pre-accident to be so indomitably human. It added to his appeal in my opinion, because it showed that despite his seemingly cool façade he can be boyishly stupid underneath. Plus, he’s hot, and I know I already said that but WTH, I don’t think I can say it enough. The boy’s hot! H-A-W-T!!!!

Anyway, aside from the main characters, the secondary ones also deserve applause. Erin and Dr. Heller were my favorites because of the way they shaped the story. And Erin was probably one of the most-entertaining and lovable best friends I’ve read about in a while. The whole college-vibe in the book felt real to me as a Uni student myself, and I guess that’s one reason why I loved this book very much.

But of course I can’t forget to talk about the romance. THE ROMANCE, OMFG! It was honestly one of the best I’ve ever read, and I’m not giving that praise lightly. This book was oozing with chemistry and swoon-worthy scenes that would make you want to scream and giggle and roll on the floor. There were no declarations of love or some jazz like that, mostly just whispers and one liners that just hit you where it matters.

All in all, Easy is easily one of my most favorite books of all time. It’s a great story with complex characters and a thoughtful pacing that lets you savor every moment in the book. It deals with an important issue that young and old people everywhere should definitely know about. It’s deliciously romantic and if you’re like me who is dangerously close to losing their faith on the New Adult genre, this is the perfect read to renew your hope. Easy is a beautiful and heartwarming read, and I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. 5 coconuts!

5coconuts

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Leave me comments and links and let’s talk!

lp,m

Book Review: Sins & Needles (The Artist Trilogy #1) by Karina Halle

16029994Title: Sins & Needles
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Adult Fiction
How I got it: I bought it.

SYNOPSIS:
Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents’ latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen.

Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.


REVIEW:
Before I say anything else I would just like to point out that this book is an indie-published contemporary romance. Not exactly the usual qualities I’m looking for in a book; in fact, just the opposite, and yet there was no mistaking the high ratings and positive feedbacks that Sins & Needles have been receiving from book bloggers and casual reviewers alike in and out of Goodreads. I wanted to know what this was all about. What’s so special about this book by Karina Halle that makes it stand out among other contemporary romance novels out there that’s gained over the top popularity even with its mediocre plot and clichéd characters? And I know you know which ones I’m talking about, so I guess you can’t fault me for being careful.

But hey, I’m just very glad to say that this book does not belong on the list of those infamously bad contemporary romances. I would even go as far as saying that Sins & Needles might just be the saving grace of the aforementioned notoriously avoided genre. It’s different, it’s well-written, it’s deliciously sexy, and the characters in it are devastatingly hot, not to mention multi-dimensional. Karina Halle has succeeded in luring me into a world of grifting and revenge, of love and hate and pain. Of cons and marks and pasts that catch up with you, no matter where you go or what name you take. More importantly, Karina Halle has proved to me that contemporary romance can work without having to make your male character an abusive, control-freak, pretty-faced psycho.

Camden and Ellie are our main characters. They are not perfect and they know it. They are bad people, and they know that, too. For the first time since I can remember, I am able to read about characters that are on equal footing on the negative side of the moral scale. Most of the time we see a bad boy and a good girl and the bad boy trying to make the good girl bad, or the good girl trying to make the bad boy good. It’s refreshing to see Halle change the trends a bit by giving us bad boy and bad girl and telling us their story. Almost no one has the guts to go against the standard and overused tropes anymore, but Miss Halle is gutsy enough to give us something new, something different, and what’s more impressive is how she managed to make it work.

Ellie is a character not everyone will like, but I’m happy to say that I did. She’s fierce and strong-willed and she puts survival first before anything, thus she is willing to screw anyone over if that means it’ll buy her one more day. ‘Spiteful’ is the adjective that both her current and past lover had described her as. Not the ideal role model, yes, but intriguing all the same. Camden, at first glance, would probably look like your ideal hottie: he’s insanely gorgeous, he seems to be doing well with his life, and he’s got ink. But don’t mistake this fraudulent façade for the real picture. Camden is a tortured soul, a brimming reservoir of hatred and vengeance and regret. There is a darkness inside him, probably a shade or two richer than the darkness inside Ellie, and it’s fascinating to watch it all unravel, to see how who he is is affected by who he was. All in all, he is the perfect bad boy – and not in the way that Christian Grey of Fifty Shades fame or Travis Maddox of Beautiful Disaster was – but in a better, more believable way that’s entirely his own. I guess what I’m trying to say is that he’s angy, scarily so at times, but he doesn’t use his issues to justify manipulative, controlling, or psychotic behaviour.

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I say that Karina Halle deserves a round of applause.
(source: tumblr)

I also liked that Camden and Ellie has a foundation, a back story that binds them together, something that validates his anger and explains her frustrations. We see first class character and relationship development, courtesy of the author’s meticulous writing style. We see vivid imagery, clearly described settings, thoroughly expressed emotions, and maybe I’m praising this book a bit too much but I can’t help it. I loved it a lot and really, there’s just something about the way Karina Halle paints her pictures with her thousand words that astounds me so. She gives her characters flaws, dimensions, motivations and appropriate reactions; exceptionally enough that they jump out on you from the very pages and make you remember them. And oh, before I forget to tell you (like I’m actually capable of forgetting), sexual tension is this book’s middle name. It’s everywhere and I honestly cannot complain. The series of events that eventually lead to the actual sex scenes are almost as good as the sex itself. Almost. And the sex is satisfyingly glorious and those are the only words I have to describe it.

I love this book and I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store for me. I want more of the anger, the spite, and the desperation to keep the past at bay and run towards the promise of escape. I need more of Camden, who despite his rage and his desire for vendetta, has never controlled, manipulated, forced, or abused Ellie. And I can’t wait to know more about our heroine, Ellie, who was able to make decisions that stood because she is capable and because Camden respected her enough not to underestimate her. We need more books like this; we need more contemporary romances that uplift the genre instead of painting it the bland, ugly color of stereotype (no thanks to you, E.L. James and Jamie Maguire).

I’m giving this book 4.5 coconuts because it ended on such a relevant note and I’m pretty upset that I don’t have the sequel yet and have no way of knowing what happens next. But needless to say, I am one happy camper because of Sins & Needles, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Shooting Scars which is book 2, and the short prequel entitled On Ever Street. And you, too, should be excited! I would highly recommend this book to those who are in for a good and healthy mix of angst, drama, action, and romance, and if you plan on picking this up after you read this review, I suggest you brace yourself for a fun, sexy, dark, and thrilling ride into Ellie and Camden’s world, where we get to see the bad people in action and witness their story as the layers of deceit fall off and we are left with nothing but their truths for us to judge.

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Happy reading! x ♥