Category Archives: Contemporary
Book: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker, Simon & Schuster Audio, May 14, 2013
Book Info: Contemporary Romance / NA, Audiobook received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio. Running time: 8 hrs, 58 mins. Read by: Elizabeth Louise. Also available in e-book format from Atria Books.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker is an emotional and addictive story about learning to breathe again when your world falls apart. I’ve read my share of angsty New Adult books so I could anticipate the twists and turns in TTB, but I still listened with rapt attention. I rooted for the physically and emotionally scarred main character to heal and to hopefully get her HEA.
Kacey is reeling from a traumatic car accident that turned her world upside down. All she has left is her sister Livie, and she’ll protect her with her last breath. The two sisters relocate from Grand Rapids to Miami to get out of a dangerous situation and try to make it on their own. Kacie has demons to overcome, and new friends and a handsome stranger are more than willing to help.
This New Adult book tackles the issue of PTSD. Kacey numbs her pain with one-night stands, kickboxing and alcohol. But now she has a chance at a fresh start and to find healthier coping methods. She has her fifteen-year-old sister relying on her so she gets a job to keep a roof over their head.
In the Melrose Place style apartment building, Kacey makes fast friends with Storm and Trent. Storm is the mother of a young daughter, and she gets Kacey a job bartending at the strip club she works at. Storm, aka Nora, is a sweet and supportive friend in Kacey’s corner and helps her to open up. Trent is the hot neighbor Kacey meets in the laundry room and they both have dirty laundry to air so to speak. Trent’s always around right when Kacey needs him, and literally and figuratively breaks down her door.
I liked the theme of healing and forgiveness and remembering to breathe in TTB. Each section of the book is titled with a stage in Kacey’s healing journey. Kacey’s progress is hard earned and realistic- nothing comes easy. The PTSD story is intriguing and handled well.
In Kacey we see a different New Adult character; Kacey’s not in college, but just trying to survive and provide a better life for her sister. Kacey is tough yet vulnerable and is a hard shell to crack. We see her at work, putting food on the table, and blowing off steam at the gym. Kacey’s sister Livie is a ray of sunshine and is working towards college. She also helps out with babysitting Storm’s daughter. It’s nice seeing the new family/friendship bonds that form for the sisters.
The romantic relationship in the story is an important part of Kacey’s journey, but it’s refreshing that the story is not entirely all about that. There are many issues that Kacey face on her own before tackling a relationship, and I like the way Tucker handles that aspect.
Elizabeth Louise reads the audiobook. I was pleasantly surprised to find I recognized this narrator’s voice. It took me a second to figure it out but she also narrates the Thoughtless series under the name Rebekkah Ross. If you’re an S.C. Stephens audiobook fan, you’ll be happy to hear Kellan and Kiera’s narrator again. Louise has an age appropriate sounding voice for New Adult age characters, and she captures the damaged voice of Kacey well. I really like Louise’s voice for the male characters too- they sound very natural. I got through this 12-hour audiobook in no time at all.
Ten Tiny Breaths is engaging with good, well-rounded supporting characters and relationships that take the story to another level. Tucker weaves a good story and I’m eager to read more about Livie in One Tiny Lie.
The author has an audiobook giveaway going on now if you’d like to give the Ten Tiny Breaths audiobook a try.
In honor of the paperback release of First Comes Love (out today!) I have a review of the book and the sequel Second Chance. First Comes Love came out a year ago with a very different smoldering-looking cover. The cover re-design sells a whole new image that I personally think match the tone of the story very well. Making up for lost time, I read the first two books in the series back to back.
First Comes Love is the story of Dylan and Gray, opposites in every way. Gray is drifting after suffering a loss; he’s depressed and lost focus, even giving up his college baseball scholarship. Dylan is a free spirit who loves to travel and live life to the fullest. She does not want to get tied down and is just into having experiences. Gray gets sucked into the bright light that is Dylan and against the odds the pair fall in love. But are they just too different to go the distance?
This is Katie Kacvinsky’s first contemporary series- she also writes the dystopian Awaken series. I think this is a seamless transition for Kacvinsky and I like that she wrote a New Adult book without even knowing it was a thing. After high school, life is not always easy for everyone with the perfect college and life, and this book addresses the messiness of it all.
I wanted Dylan to save Gray from his funk, and for Gray to help Dylan to settle down, but in this book there’s no easy answers or tidy ending. The way the two see each other kind of reminded me of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. Gray is drawn to Dylan, but also a little embarrassed of her too. She marches to the beat of her own drummer with ill-fitting mismatched clothes, messy hair and impulsive behavior.
We get inside both Dylan and Gray’s heads with alternating POV. Gray’s character is a little easier to warm up to than Dylan’s MPDG type. Still, I kind of loved that the two got together- they balance each other out. Writing slow-burn romance is Kacvinsky’s forte and that’s my favorite kind to read. There’s emotion and romance along with some light, heart-warming moments.
The summer in Arizona setting is a nice backdrop to the story, and Kacvinsky makes you feel like you are there with Gray and Dylan on their hikes and adventures. They also take a little road trip to Los Angeles and that just sets a vacation like mood.
First Comes Love was written as a standalone, but Kacvinsky decided to extend the book to a trilogy. She self-published book two Second Chance. After reading First Comes Love, I felt satisfied by the ending as is, but was attached to the characters and glad to see Gray and Dylan’s story continue.
In Second Chance, there’s been a little distance between Gray and Dylan. Dylan is traveling around the world and doing her thing, while Gray is trying to go back to normal and reconnect with his college baseball goals. Where do the two fit in each other’s lives?
I like the angst and the opposites attract story- the two have chemistry, but they are such different people. I root for this pair and hope they make it work. In this book, there’s a new setting and new characters and stumbling blocks in the way of the couple’s HEA. Both Gray and Dylan still have some growing up to do and need to figure out what they want and if compromises can be made.
There’s one song Gray mentions listening to in the book (Missed the Boat by Modest Mouse) that kind of sums up the mood:
The laid back pace, setting and romance in this series makes for an ideal summer read to tuck in your beach bag. Dylan and Gray’s love story will leave you eager for the next book. (Write faster, Katie!)
I had the chance to interview Katie Kacvinsky recently about all her books, and you can check it out here and also enter the giveaway for your chance to win First Comes Love and Second Chance. I’m jealous of whoever wins! I borrowed First Comes Love from the library and bought a kindle edition of Second Chance but think I’ll have to pick up the paperbacks for my own library.
Find out more about the series here:
Book: manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen, Random House Books for Young Readers, On Sale Now
Book Info: YA Contemporary, Review copy provided by the publisher, Available in HC 256 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Tom Leveen has a unique voice and writes interesting male characters, so I was intrigued to check out his latest book manicpixiedreamgirl. Leveen’s characters are usually creative types and not the typical leading men you see in YA. And since I’ve seen lot of movies featuring manic pixie dream girls, I was curious to see the bookish incarnation of that quirky unattainable girl.
I always think of Zooey Deschanel in 500 days of Summer (or any of her projects really) when I think of MPDG‘s. These types of characters are like the muse to tortured artist type guys. After seeing MPDG’s in several films, it seems like they are there on to inspire the male lead & help them take the next step to reach their goals. So, based on my movie viewing experience, I had an image in my mind of the typical MPDG- pictured below with the smitten male leads:
In manicpixiedreamgirl, Tyler is in a relationship with Sidney Barrett, but secretly worships Becky Webb. Becky is a talented actress in school productions, and a loner type who reads Stephen King, just like him. Tyler joins the tech crew in drama class just so he can be near her. Everyone but Becky knows about Tyler’s obsession – even his girlfriend Sid knows. Tyler’s a writer and Becky’s his muse, but he has her on too high a pedestal to make a move. One of his stories about Becky gets published though, getting his feelings out in the open ready or not.
The book has an interesting structure and is set on one pivotal night in seventeen-year-old Tyler’s life, with frequent flashbacks to fill in the important details in the story. The story takes place over two years from when he first sets eyes on Becky. We follow Tyler as he stalks Becky around school and asks his friends for info on her. Sidney falls for Tyler in the meantime, and he strings her along while pining for Becky. It’s tortured and messy like real life, and none of the characters behave how you want them to, but I still had to keep reading to see how it would turn out.
I thought the male voice in manicpixiedreamgirl was very strong and unique. Tyler’s smart and likes being around the drama kids and writing. It’s nice to see the guy’s POV when he falls for the unattainable sort of girl, and all the missteps along the way. Leveen’s writing is sharp and engaging, and he juggles the flashbacks with ease. Becky is in many ways similar to MPDG’s in film, but she keeps you guessing all the same.
I think this book will appeal to guys as well as girls, especially readers who enjoy John Green and David Levithan, and Leveen’s own Zero. manicpixiedreamgirl is in stores this week, and his next novel Sick is due out in the fall.
Audiobook: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, published by Blackstone Audio Inc, March 26, 2013
Book Info: YA contemporary, purchased via Audible. Run time: 7 hrs, 51 mins. Read by: Tai Sammons. Also available in HC, 256 pages from St. Martin’s Griffin.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars, Raw, emotional, and honest.
I read the book If You Find Me recently and was so impressed. I didn’t write up my thoughts on it right away though, so when I saw the audiobook I took the chance to experience the book with fresh ears. If You Find Me is Emily Murdoch’s debut novel and is heartfelt, harrowing, and lovely all at once. This is a tough issue book about abuse and survival that is hard to hear/read at times but very powerful and uplifting too. Tai Sammons’ narration makes the story feel even more realistic, and I noticed things I missed the first time I read the book.
If You Find Me is the story of 15-year-old Carey and her 5-year-old sister Jenessa. They live in the woods in a camper with their unstable mother who frequently leaves them alone to find drugs. Carey is more like a mother than a sister to Jenessa and they only have each other to rely on. One day, Carey’s father and a social worker suddenly appear to rescue them from the woods. Now they must adjust to life in the real world, including school, technology, what to wear, and how to act. But the woods still haunt them in various ways, and secrets can’t be kept forever.
Even though I’ve read the book and listened to the audiobook now, it’s still hard to put my thoughts into words. The descriptive writing would sometimes distract me with its elegance and I’d get lost in the story. Even though the subject matter is disturbing, Murdoch adds lighter moments like a new friend, or a cute dog, to brighten the mood. But at the same time there are certain recollections of Carey’s that hurt like a kick in the gut. The reader learns about Carey’s backstory through flashbacks that hint at the mystery behind Jenessa losing her voice.
Carey has an artistic spirit and a unique way of thinking and expressing herself. She is such a mature character, that it was easy to relate to her from one mother to another, even though she’s still a teen. The sisterly bond is strong understandably, and I rooted for them both to get some well-deserved peace and happiness. My heart soared with each small victory on their journey, and ached for the pain that lingered.
Tai Sammons’ reads the audiobook, and this is my first experience with her narration. Her dialect is spot on and she conveys Carey’s emotional state of being well. The book is set in Tennessee and Sammons’ gives the book an authentic feel with her Southern accent. Sammons’ gets to use her talents on different types of voices like the mean girl, authority figures, and a child’s voice for Jenessa. I’d listen to this narrator again- she delivers a strong, nuanced performance that made me feel all the emotions. Though the book is powerful on its own, the audiobook made me connect even more with the story.
If You Find Me is a great choice for realistic contemporary readers, and one you won’t want to put down. I’m looking forward to reading more from Emily Murdoch.