Second Rate Chances by Holly Stephens

17234442Title: Second Rate Chances

Author: Holly Stephens

Published: January 11th 2013

Genre: Romance

Age group: Adult

Rating: ★ ★

Second Rate Chances

Summary:

Sam wakes up in the hospital expecting to find his girlfriend by his bedside. Instead, he finds a bleached-blond diva, claiming to be his fiancée, hovering over him. When he learns that he’s just woken up from a coma and has lost the last three years of his life, any semblance of stability he thought he had falls down around him. All he wants – all he needs – is Lil.

After countless visits with her shrink and too many sleepless nights waiting for the one man she loves to walk back through the door, Lil wants nothing more than to separate herself from the life she used to have. But the moment Sam smiles at her, Lil knows it’s going to take more than self-restraint to stay away.

Second-Rate Chances is about a young man fighting to regain his memory, and the one thing in his life that felt real. A modern-day Samson and Delilah, it’s a look at what it means to love and be loved, and to fight though it seems hopeless.

iiThe concept of amnesia of the main character after some major accident is not new either in books or movies, and I’m particularly wary of plots dealing with it. But the summary of this story made this whole idea look fresh and actually appealing. The two main characters were in love once, but then life set them apart and only the loss of memory the main hero helped them find their way back into each others arms.

The story had so much potential to me, the summary really pulled me in and I couldn’t wait to read it. But instead what I got was like some really bad TV soap opera,where every more or less important plot twist happened at the very last possible moment.

When Sam wakes up from coma after hitting a pavement with his head, the first person he asks for is Lil. They had been together since college and the last memories Same has of her is when they bought a house together. So when he learns that these events happened 3 years ago and he and Lil are no longer together, he can’t understand why. What he knows now is that his heart is full of love for Lil and he can’t even begin to imagine what could have possibly separated them.

I was OK with the story till this very moment, but what happened next absolutely pissed me off. I mean, if the author didn’t drag this story out so much, it would have been really great. First of all, the reason for Lil and Sam not being together was kept secret for so long, I absolutely lost any interest for it, especially when I totally guessed it by myself. I just couldn’t get why Lil insisted on not telling it Sam for so long. Yes, I get it, it was a really tough moment of her life to remember, but taking time and keeping it secret didn’t actually make it any easier.

Besides, in the end, when everything was cleared out and Sam remembered, I was once again pissed off, even more than the first time. Yes, Sam and Lil admitted they still love each other, they even spent the night together. They both forgave each other for their mistakes, and Sam promised to break up with his fiancée, also his boss’s daughter, who he didn’t have any feelings for, which was mutual, by the way. So why wait for the very day of the wedding, when she is already in her gown and the guests are gathered??? You had four days to do something, and you just waited!!! This is what you typically get in soap operas, these absolutely annoying dramas! And if I wanted this, I’d be watching TV. But when used in the book, this type of plot development not only made the characters seem irrational and annoying, but totally spoiled whatever good feelings I had left about this book.

I really wanted to give only one star to this book, but I give two only because I did cared about Sam and Lil getting back together and their romantic scenes were really cute, but the story itself, not so much.

iiFavorite quote: “I’m not asking for a second chance with her. I’m asking for forever.”

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

 

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Title: Slammed

Series: Slammed, Book 1

Author: Colleen Hoover

First published: January 4th 2012, Atria Books

Edition: ebook, 206 pages

Genre: Romance, drama

Age group: New Adult

Rating:  ★ ★

Slammed (Slammed, #1)

18-year-old Layken’s once happy family now goes through a hard time, following her father’s sudden death. Besides, Layken has to deal with moving from the home in Texas she grew up in to a new one in Michigan, where her mother gets a job. Layken takes the move very closely to heart, believing it to turn out hard for her to adapt not only to life in another state but also without her dad.

Her brother Kel, though, being a 9-year-old and that’s why not having such conflicts, isn’t scared of the new home. In fact, the moment he steps out of the U-Haul he makes a new friend in also 9-year-old Caulder, living in a house across the street.

Layken is happy for her brother, but she feels lonely and nostalgic. In her opinion, there’s, supposedly, nothing to lift up her mood or make the move any easier. That is until she meets Caulder’s 21-year-old brother Will. From the first time they meet it’s an instant pull between them. Will is the most caring and attractive guy Layken has ever met.

In just a matter of three days their connection deepens. Will takes Layken on a date to a bar where he introduces her to the slam poetry, the type of reading a poetic work in front of an audience, pouring in it as much emotion as possible, in an attempt to win the competition among other performers. From Will’s performance Layken learns that both his parents were killed in a car crash, and he actually rises his brother by himself.

Layken feels strong sympathy and admiration towards Will, easily falling in love with him. Life in Michigan doesn’t seem so boring and unbearable to her anymore. Until the first day of school, when she finds out that Will is actually the teacher of her poetry selective course.

No matter how strong their feelings to each other already are, Will doesn’t want to compromise his reputation. This work at school is the only chance for him to get an education and support his brother. These are his first priorities, there’s no place left for his feelings to Layken, no matter how much the separation hurts him.

Layken is deeply wounded by Will’s rejection, she goes through a whole storm of emotions. She tries to reason his actions, yet his slips, when he would kiss her or look into her eyes only to step aside then, drive her crazy. But very soon her life becomes not that much different from Will’s. Layken’s mother has lung cancer and doesn’t have much time left. So Layken makes a similar choice in favor of her family, her feelings set aside.

But sometimes you don’t have to separate yourself from happiness while doing the right thing. Both Will and Layken soon have to reevaluate their priorities, and it’s actually the slam poetry that gives them the so needed courage.

I wasn’t very impressed with this story, though there are points in it that I liked. First of all, I should mention the introduction of the slam poetry. I’m not much into poetry at all, never been interested in it, never understood it. But I like that this approach makes the poetry more touching and alive. I liked that there weren’t many rhymes, just feelings and emotions put into words.

The whole organization and rules of the Slam Evening were also very interesting to read about. I believe it’s really an impressive show to watch. I wouldn’t mind to see it in reality, to listen to people’s readings. Besides it’s amazingly brave of these people to talk about such personal stuff in front of an audience. I find it very admirable.

Secondly, I liked the main plot of the story, it’s attempt of bringing up the problem of life and death and what’s valuable. Life is what it is, we have to accept it as there’s nothing we can do about its turns. But what we can control is our place in it. I liked how Layken’s mother’s illness is portrayed, the way the family learns about it and deals with it.

Layken’s set to spend all her time with her mother and Kel, she makes them her first priority, but it doesn’t mean that while doing so she has to cut herself off from happiness.

What I didn’t like in the story was the way the idea was presented. The book seemed very rushed, like the author tried to briefly skip through the course of events to finally get to the ending. The development of Layken and Will’s relationship is so quick, like they meet and fall in love just in the course of 2 chapters! Thus to me their romance lost its credibility and appeal.

Besides Layken is too self-centered, the way she throws temper tantrums practically on every page, made me tired. Couldn’t this girl just sit and listen quietly for once? And Will’s personality is not fully disclosed, I feel like I don’t know anything about him besides what happened to his family. But maybe it was specifically planned by the author, as the sequel of the story is apparently written from Will’s point of view.

And what’s also good about this story, though, is that it’s a very quick read. I’m glad I could finish it in one day, I wouldn’t want to spend another day on this story.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

 

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Title: Beautiful Disaster

Series: Beautiful, Book 1

Author: Jamie McGuire

First published: May 26th 2011, self-published

Edition: ebook, 276 pages

Genre: Romance

Age group: New Adult

Rating:  ★ ★

Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)
Synopsis:

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

My thoughts:

“This is wrong. This is wrong on so many levels,” says Abby at one point in this story, and these words pretty much summed up my whole impression of this book. There is so much going on in this book that just seems way off normal, but I kept reading till the end in hopes I would finally get something worth the time spent. Sadly, I didn’t.

The thing that bothers me most about the book are the characters. And not just the main ones, but all of them. Most of them are very distinctive personalities, but despite all of them being bad, Abby is just plain. There’s not much facts given about get personality, aside from her poker-obsessed father. That’s it, we just have Abby who went to Eastern University to escape her troubled family. And what about her family? Yes, we know about her father, and her mother is mentioned only being described by Abby as an alcoholic. And that’s it! Well, then how am I supposed to sympathize with her if I don’t know her story. Abby keeps saying she will mean only trouble for Travis and break up with him for that reason and I am supposedly expected to be heartbroken by it. Not gonna happen!

Than it’s Travis, of course, and just like in Abby’s case we are not given any worthwhile background story, though we do get to learn more of him, than Abby. We see his family, his fights and find out the reasons behind his intentions to be a fighter, we see him changing from being a womanizer to a committed boyfriend. But the main object is still his relationship with Abby.

The characters I found even more disturbing are America and Shepley, Abby’s and Travis’ best friends. They are even more inconsistent, strangest persons in this story. Their points of view change every second. Like on one page they don’t want Abby and Travis to be together because it will stain Travis and Shepley’s friendship, and on the other they are pushing Abby into Travis’ arms after he punched some guy for having a look at Abby, because he just loves her so much and Abby is stupid not to see it.

The relationship between Abby and Travis it the main plot of the story and I get it, that the author’s idea was to show an unhealthy bordering with obsession relationship. But to me, even Fifty Shades of Grey managed it better! Again we are just presented with the fact that Travis loves Abby unconditionally and he will quit his womanizing ways to be with her. And Abby is also in love with him but she is just afraid to show it, but she has a whole month living with him to get used to it. There is no feelings-growing story in here, when the characters get to know each other and find out that they really belong together.

And it’s probably the first romance story I read in my life where I didn’t want the characters to be together… Because there was nothing about them being together to make them even slightly interesting. It’s like when they got together they just lost all their character traits and merged into one creature with least attractive qualities. Travis is too possessive and in charge while Abby is a voiceless sidekick.

And it’s just a roller coaster ride with this story. It keeps turning from being a too sweet lovesick love song into a heartbreak hotel. The events would just happen so randomly in this story sometimes I was left feeling like the author didn’t have any idea how the story should end. Like she just put in any scenes that came to her mind in hopes something interesting would come up out of them. But in the end I was just tired of all this mess. The only exciting scenes that captured my interest were the fight scenes especially the last one, but that’s it.

Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

 

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Title: Just the Sexiest Man Alive

Author: Julie James

First published: October 7th 2008, Berkley Sensation

Edition: ebook, 271 pages

Genre: Romance, humor

Age group: Adult

Rating:  ★ ★

Just the Sexiest Man Alive

Synopsis:

COOL. CALM. COLLECTED.
Nothing fazes Taylor Donovan—not in the courtroom and not in her personal life. So when she’s assigned to coach People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” for his role in the next big legal drama, she refuses to fall for the Hollywood heartthrob’s charms. Even if he is the Jason Andrews.

CONFIDENT. FAMOUS. IRRESISTIBLE.
Jason Andrews is used to having women fall at his feet. When Taylor Donovan gives him the cold shoulder, he’s thrown for a loop. She’s unlike any other woman he’s ever met: uninterested in the limelight, seemingly immune to his advances, and shockingly capable of saying no to him. She’s the perfect challenge. And the more she rejects him, the more he begins to realize that she may just be his perfect match. . .

My thoughts:

When I think how much I love Julie James’ FBI/U.S. Attorney Series, this book comes as a total disappointment to me.

Th story instead of Chicago is now set in Los Angeles and it is no longer about special agents or crime investigation. The central characters are Taylor Donovan, a lawyer, and Jason Andrews, world’s most popular movie actor and People’s “Sexiest man alive”.

If with FBI/U.S. Attorney Series Julie James was completely in her element, this book seems way out of her normal path. She writes so well about FBI investigations which she skillfully incorporate passionate love stories into, that Just The Sexiest Man Alive is like a test of the pen for her on a story with totally different kind of setting. And though I generally like the idea of the book, the way it was conducted didn’t personally impress me.

First of all the characters were too self-sufficient. Jason is the most acclaimed Hollywood actor and is used to live a free life full of money, parties, girls and no restrictions. And Taylor is strongly committed to her job, so much so that she doesn’t mind spending her whole weekend checking the cases once more in hopes to find more clues.

And when these two meet there is nothing but physical attraction between them. I like how the story develops from this point, though. It’s a slow but entertaining personal changing of both Jason and Taylor. Jason goes from the conceited man who was used to rely on his celebrity status to finally realizing how fame has clouded his mind and the person he really is under this mask of his.

But no matter how good the progression was, the story nevertheless was full of cringe-worthy moments. Jason’s behavior is the first. Throughout the best part of the story he acts like a total jerk. The thing he does to make Taylor jealous and then expecting her to fall eagerly into his arms when he tells her he chose her over some actress is crazy. Does he know women at all? And also the fact that being a celebrity he expects everything to be easy for him and to have people do for him whatever he wants. That’s just not normal, but maybe that’s how every celebrity behaves, I wouldn’t know as I’m not acquainted with any of them. But even omitting the fact of his popularity, Jason seemed too immature for a nearly 40-year-old man. He is definitely not ready for a serious relationship, and so when he goes from skipping business meetings for a trip to Las Vegas to asking Taylor to marry him, the situation just seems absurd.

And speaking of Taylor, she is very similar to Jayson in the way of her not being ready for a relationship and not even wanting one. Her whole life is centered on her job and after she caught her ex-fiancé cheating on her, no men is allowed into her personal life.

Just like Taylor is too self-centered as an actor, Taylor is no different, being probably the best lawyer at her firm. The way she constantly shows off her status and achievements is tiresome. And when she is conflicted about whether she would be enough for Jason, it actually seems like Taylor is not sure if Jason is good enough for her.

Taylor’s inconstancy is another problem to add to the list. One moment she says she doesn’t want to go out with a celebrity being afraid of paparazzi and losing her privacy and next moment she’s dating second best actor Scott Casey. And she definitely likes being this mystery woman with the whole world wondering who she is.

But as I mentioned earlier, the story’s developing was quite natural and I could see that the characters would change eventually, but I didn’t expect it to happen so out of the blue. Yes it was one of those now-or-never moments, but it was so forced. And now in just one day Taylor and Jason become this madly in love couple kissing in public and proclaiming their love in front of the willing audience. The reader just has to accept this. But I didn’t get it, I’d better get back to Julie James’ FBI special agents.