Review: The Lonesome Young by Lucy Connors

The Lonesome Young Book Cover The Lonesome Young
Lucy Connors

Get swept away in the first book of the sensational romantic drama that is Romeo & Juliet meets Justified.

WHAT HAPPENS when the teenage heirs of two bitterly FEUDING FAMILIES can’t stay away from each other?

The Rhodales and the Whitfields have been sworn enemies for close on a hundred years, with a whole slew of adulterous affairs, financial backstabbing, and blackmailing that’s escalated the rivalry to its current state of tense ceasefire.

IT’S TIME TO LIGHT THE FUSE . . .

And now a meth lab explosion in rural Whitfield County is set to reignite the feud more viciously than ever before. Especially when the toxic fire that results throws together two unlikely spectators—proper good girl Victoria Whitfield, exiled from boarding school after her father’s real estate business melts down in disgrace, and town motorcycle rebel Mickey Rhodale, too late as always to thwart his older brothers’ dangerous drug deals.

Victoria and Mickey are about to find out the most passionate romances are the forbidden ones.

. . . ON A POWDER KEG FULL OF PENT-UP DESIRE, risk-taking daredevilry, and the desperate actions that erupt when a generation of teens inherits nothing but hate.

Review:

I find myself growing increasingly frustrated with instalove and other clichés in YA romance. It never used to be more than a mild annoyance to me, but lately I seem to be reaching the edge of my tolerance. There are only so many times I can read about someone feeling an immediate, unexplainable connection with some impossibly sexy stranger before I lose my cool.

Unfortunately for The Lonesome Young, it was the book that finally sent me over the edge. It’s got a lot of redeeming qualities, but I’ve been so inundated with YA tropes that I’ve reached my saturation point and couldn’t get past The Lonesome Young’s flaws.

Basic summary of this book? There are two families, the Rhodales and Whitfields, who’ve been at war for ages. They’ve got all kinds of beef with one another – romantically, financially, and otherwise. The feud, which has been at a tentative stand-off for a few years, is suddenly reignited when a new generation of Whitfields moves to town and shakes things up.

In this story there is Victoria Whitfield, the poor little rich girl who nobody understands. Then there’s Mickey Rhodale, the swaggering boy with a bad rep and secret heart of gold. Naturally, Mickey is dark and ripped and gorgeous. Naturally, Victoria is blond and curvy and gorgeous. Naturally, they immediately fall head over heels in love. Naturally, I wanted to hurl the book out the window.

“The powerful feeling of instant connection between us ran too deep to be pleasant, or even casual.”

Come on, guys. I understand instant attraction, but hitting it off with someone doesn’t mean you have to go straight to being fated lovers.

Another trope I’m beginning to loathe is the whole “sweet but spunky girl saves the damaged, undeserving guy with her angelic goodness.” Why are there so many tortured-soul boys in YA? And why can their demons only be exorcised by the power of a perky blond girl’s love?

“But where I was mad at the world, she was compassionate as she confronted the demons of a guy she’d been told to avoid and even fear.”

I’ve seen all of this before. It’s like Connors took a bunch of YA clichés and made an effort to check each one off the list. Guy calling the girl “princess”? Check. Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear? Check. Connors even went so far as to do the cheesy “admire the stars and say how beautiful they are while actually talking about the girl” bit. I’m not kidding. Here it is:

“‘Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful,’ I whispered.
‘Yeah. Beautiful.’ Mickey’s voice was husky and I turned my head and saw that he wasn’t looking at the scenery at all.
He was looking at me.”

The Lonesome Young is super melodramatic, too. In a way, some drama is justified – the mess the Rhodales and Whitfields get mired in over the course of the book is serious, life-or-death trouble. The stakes are high, and there’s no easy way out. This would actually be a strength of the book if Connors didn’t overdo it with hysterics. The events of the book speak for themselves; the characters don’t need to hammer the points home by wailing things like “This might explode into an inferno that could burn down the entire county.”

“Mickey Rhodale, for all of his dangerous, bad-boy exterior, had a hint of damaged vulnerability about him that I was pretty sure he didn’t let anybody else see, and he’s shown it to me.

Something inside me, in a very small voice, was saying, ‘Yes, of course. Finally. Here you are.’

And it scared me to death. But I had to face it head-on.”

It’s possible I’m being overly critical. Despite my raging, The Lonesome Young isn’t completely terrible. As I mentioned previously, there are several aspects I liked about this book. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve been up to my eyeballs in instalove recently, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly so harsh in this review.

One noteworthy plus of The Lonesome Young is the complexity Connors weaves into the Whitfield and Rhodale families’ dynamics. Mickey and his half-brother Ethan share a complicated relationship, one that I was actually invested in. Mickey’s negative, dangerous experiences with Ethan in the present are countered by their more pleasant childhood memories. Like Mickey, you’re forced to wonder how the boy who used to play Three Musketeers and protect Mickey from harm came to be the person Ethan is during the events of the book.

Victoria’s family is believably flawed as well. There are moments when they’re vulnerable and human, and there are moments when they’re unreasonable and completely self-centered. They’re your classic terrible relatives without being caricatures.

Another thing I liked in The Lonesome Young is that Mickey’s not truly a bad boy. He does have some violence issues to work out, but for the most part his bad-boy reputation is an unfair one, caused by his association with his drug-dealing brothers. Mickey works hard, is honest with his parents, and stands his ground against his brothers’ negative influence. He tries to toe the line, and when he does get sucked into trouble it’s usually because his family gives him no choice in the matter. It was a relief not to have him be the typical tough guy with an attitude.

Because of these positives, I grugdingly awarded The Lonesome Young two whole stars. This is pretty generous, considering I was practically foaming at the mouth in rage for much of the book.

Review: Feud by Avery Hastings

Feud Book Cover Feud
Avery Hastings

In this breathless story of impossible love, perfection comes at a deadly cost.

For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or “Imps.” A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother’s legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he’s a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis—her father’s campaign hinges on the total segregation of the Imps and Priors—but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold--and Davis’s friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her world...

Review:

Feud has a lot of elements that usually appeal to me – a dystopia, forbidden love, ballet, even cage fighting – but I just couldn’t get into this book. The plot’s insipid, the world building’s lackluster, and there’s a horrific case of instalove that I just couldn’t stomach.

Normally I’m not really bothered by instalove, but in the case of Feud it’s so bad that it undermines any potential the book has. The only thing that Cole knows about Davis is that she’s a Prior who’s into ballet, and the only thing that Davis knows about Cole is…oh, wait; nothing. I mean it – not a thing. And yet the two fall in love, to the point where they’re willing to sacrifice their families, their friends, and their own well-being for each other. Um, what?

Their romance could have been so, so great if Hastings had just given them time for their relationship to develop. Cole and Davis are from opposing social classes; Davis is rich, beautiful, and smart, with every luxury available to her. Cole, on the other hand, is poor, discriminated against, and forced to fight for his life in a cage for other people’s entertainment. You’d think this would provide for some great tension between Cole and Davis – I was anticipating a great hate-that-gradually-turns-to-love relationship reminiscent of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse – but it just doesn’t happen. Instead, Feud skips the hate completely and goes straight to unfounded, head-over-heels passion. I enjoyed the attraction between Davis and Cole, the tingles and make-out scenes and sexual desire, but them being in love? I didn’t buy it, and this made it incredibly difficult to be invested in their relationship.

Another thing I found strange is that even though they’re supposedly so madly in love, Davis and Cole sure don’t have a lot of faith in each other. They’re constantly misconstruing each other’s motives and falling for other people’s lies. You’d give the world for each other, yet you so easily believe that your other half would betray you? Doesn’t make sense to me.

The storyline and setting underwhelmed me, too. I know I should describe the plot, set the scene by giving some context about the Priors and Imps and the world in which they live, but I was so disenchanted and unengaged by this book that the thought of delving into its events is about as appealing as doing my taxes. Just take my word for it that the plot and world building are lackluster and not nearly scintillating enough to compensate for the poor romance.

Feud isn’t wholly without merit. Cole may be way too free with his heart, but he is a sexy guy, and I liked the intrigue of him being bribed to get close to Davis. I was also really into the idea of him being a cage fighter. My husband and I are huge fans of mixed martial arts and even got tickets to an Ultimate Fighting Championship event as a wedding gift, so Cole’s occupation as a fighter really appealed to me. I was especially intrigued by his mixed emotions towards the fights, the way his fear and guilt and self-loathing temper the rush he gets from fighting.

Another thing I liked was Davis’ non-cliché relationship with her stepmom and half sister. Her stepmother is a sweetheart and really loves Davis, which is a nice change from the “wicked stepmother” trope in fiction.

Ultimately, though, the bad in Feud far outweighs the good. The only thing that kept me reading to the end was the fact that I really hate not finishing books, and even that was barely enough to get me through.

Trailer Reveal: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Banner for I Heart Robot trailer reveal

I hope you’re ready for a treat, because today I’m revealing the book trailer for I Heart Robot, a new novel by Suzanne van Rooyen! I Heart Robot will be released on March 31, 2015, and trust me when I say you should mark that date on your calendar right now; this is a book you’ll want to run out and buy as soon as it hits the shelves in the bookstore. I’m currently a third of the way through an ARC of the book and have loved every minute of it so far. There’s music, a robot revolution, an adorably sweet android boy, the promise of forbidden romance…I can’t wait to finish this post so I can get back to reading! So, without further ado, here’s a synopsis of I Heart Robot as well as the trailer!

About I Heart Robot

Book cover for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenSixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Add to Goodreads ButtonPre-order I Heart RobotAmazon | Barnes & Noble 

Ready for the trailer? Here it is!

About Suzanne van RooyenAuthor photo for Suzanne van Rooyen

I’m a YA author with a penchant for the dark and strange. I primarily write speculative fiction but enjoy literary writing as well. I occasionally delve into adult genres too.

I’m a musician and have a Master’s degree in music, but I prefer writing strange stories, baking peanut butter cupcakes and playing with my shiba inu.

I’m repped by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Publicity manager for Anaiah Press.

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Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: Lifer by Beck Nicholas

Blog tour banner for Lifer by Beck Nicholas

Lifer is an incredible novel, and I’m so glad for the chance to share this book with you as today’s stop on the Lifer blog tour hosted by Chapter by Chapter. In addition to a synopsis and review of Lifer, there’s a Rafflecopter at the end of this post that will give you a chance to win a copy of the book!

About Lifer

Lifer-CoverAsher is a Lifer, a slave aboard the spaceship Pelican. A member of the lowest rung of society, she must serve the ship’s Officials and Astronauts as punishment for her grandparents’ crimes back on Earth. The one thing that made life bearable was her illicit relationship with Samuai, a Fishie boy, but he died alongside her brother in a freak training accident.

Still grieving for the loss of her loved ones, Asher is summoned to the upper levels to wait on Lady, the head Official’s wife and Samuai’s mother. It is the perfect opportunity to gather intel for the Lifer’s brewing rebellion. There’s just one problem—the last girl who went to the upper levels never came back.

On the other side of the universe, an alien attack has left Earth in shambles and a group called The Company has taken control. Blank wakes up in a pond completely naked and with no memory, not even his real name. So when a hot girl named Megs invites him to a black-market gaming warehouse where winning means information, he doesn’t think twice about playing. But sometimes the past is better left buried.

As Asher and Blank’s worlds collide, the truth comes out—everyone has been lied to. Bourne Identity meets Under the Never Sky in this intergalactic tale of love and deception from debut novelist Beck Nicholas.

Review

Lifer is so darn easy to read.

There are some books that are just smooth, you know? Books where the characters are consistent but still capable of surprising you, the world building is solid and doesn’t raise questions, the plot never drags, the writing flows seamlessly. Books that you don’t want to reach the end of, because it feels so right to read them. Lifer is one of those books.

Beck Nicholas’ debut is wonderful, through and through. Even if you’re not usually a fan of science fiction, I highly recommend this book. It’s got great action, believable relationships, and a plot full of rebellion and secrecy and lies that won’t leave you disappointed.

Stories told via alternating first person viewpoints have the potential to go one of two ways. Either the viewpoints work in harmony, providing extra dimension and interest, or they work against each other, with one point of view being less compelling than the other and dragging down the story. Lifer definitely falls into the first category.

Getting both Asher and Blank’s perspectives makes for a rich, exciting novel. Each storyline could conceivably stand on its own and support a novel by itself, but combining the two – and having them intersect towards the end – results in a much stronger book. Getting to switch back and forth between two very different worlds with different technology, social dynamics, characters, and plotlines keeps things fresh and keeps the pace up and the action flowing.

The characters are wonderful, too. Blank and Davyd are my personal favorites, and I developed book crushes on each of them. Davyd, the brother of Asher’s late boyfriend, is as different from Asher’s beloved Samuai as it’s possible to be. Whereas Samuai was a warm, sweet boy who dreamt of a world where Lifers and Fishies could live in equality, Davyd is authoritative, icy, condescending, and formidable. However, Davyd is also intelligent, sexy and resourceful, and he’s a bit of a wild card in the book. He’s as likely to ally with Asher as he is to betray her, and he figures greatly into her storyline. Watching the two of them spar – physically and mentally – is a source of great entertainment and, more importantly, sexual tension.

As for Blank, my other book crush, I couldn’t get enough. Even though he’s adrift in a foreign world, he’s smart enough and quick enough on his feet to survive. He’s curious, courageous, strong, and caring but not afraid to be tough when he needs to be. He’s an all-around good guy, someone that I’d love to meet and hang out with in real life.

Asher, unfortunately, wasn’t my favorite. Although I was just as invested in her story as I was Blank’s, this was due more to the plot and supporting characters than Asher herself. She just didn’t wow me. In a way, I felt she was simply a stock female protagonist and that her role in the story could have been filled by just about any girl. I didn’t dislike her, but she didn’t stand out enough for me to love her.

Something else that contributes to my joy over Lifer is that it isn’t predictable. I like when authors are able to surprise me; I get frustrated when characters act like clichés and I can tell what’s going to happen before it occurs. There were a few times in Lifer when I called some of the plot, but for the most part Nicholas kept me guessing. She gave me characters who acted in unexpected ways – I’m specifically thinking Davyd and Lady and Asher’s mom here – and I really appreciated that.

The end of Lifer leaves plenty of room for a sequel, which is a relief; it gives me hope that I won’t have to be in my current sad state of Lifer withdrawal forever. I need more Blank, Asher, and Davyd, and I need it now!

A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Add to Goodreads Button Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | IndieBound

About Beck NicholasBeck-Nicholas-head-shot-248x300

I always wanted to write.  I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

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Giveaway

Want to win a copy of Lifer for your very own? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to be one of five winners who will receive a digital copy of Beck Nicholas’ book.  The contest is open internationally, and winners will be drawn on January 16, 2015.

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Review: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Boy Toy Book Cover Boy Toy
Barry Lyga

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.  Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t.

And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not. 

Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won’t stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink. 

And then there’s Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh’s past. It’s time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.

If only he knew what the truth was . . .

Review:

I used to work for a local newspaper, and one of my tasks was typing up the weekly police blotter. Most of the contents of the blotter were your run-of-the-mill car accidents, petty theft, or disorderly conduct, but every now and then a report of child molestation would come across my desk. The reports were sickening, and each time I typed up the details of the incident I would ask myself a) how someone could be twisted enough to engage in a sexual relationship with a child and b) how that relationship had come about in the first place.

Barry Lyga explores the answers to those questions, and more, in Boy Toy. The story centers on Josh Mendel, a senior in high school who, five years earlier, was involved in a full-blown affair with his seventh-grade history teacher. The book goes back and forth between the present and the past, taking you through the life of the affair from beginning to end and showing the impact it has on Josh’s life five years after the fact.

The amazing thing about Boy Toy is that even though it’s about a very heavy subject, it’s still compelling. I honestly could not stop reading it – I switched from my small purse to my jumbo diaper bag of a purse just so I could carry Boy Toy with me everywhere I went. I wanted to hear Josh’s story. I wanted to understand. How on earth did a 12-year-old boy end up having sex with his teacher? What did the teacher see in him? How was their relationship discovered? What were the implications for Josh later, as a teenager?

What’s brilliant about Lyga’s writing is that he makes you look at things in ways you’d never expect. For one thing, I never would have anticipated that I would sympathize with Eve, the woman who molested Josh. This isn’t to say I think what she does is right – there’s no doubt that it is twisted and wrong and incredibly screwed up. Rather, what I’m trying to say is that Eve is more than just your cardboard villain. She seems like a real person, with complicated motivations and clear strengths as well as clear weaknesses. She seems to truly care about Josh in her own messed up way, taking him on dates, cooking for him, cheering him on at his baseball games, etc. Where it all goes wrong is in the progression of their relationship from platonic to physical.

Lyga has caught some flack for the intensity of the sex scenes in Boy Toy. Some readers argue that the scenes are gratuitous and inappropriate, focusing on feelings of excitement and eroticism rather than trauma or violation. I disagree with those readers wholeheartedly; I think the fact that the sex scenes are so hot and heavy is part of what makes the book successful.

Before you start calling me a sick creep, let me explain. I do find it disturbing and twisted that Josh’s teacher seduced him, but I can’t deny that if the scenes were written between two consenting adults rather than a teacher and underage student, they’d be incredibly arousing. Reading the details of Josh’s sexual encounters triggered warring emotions of disgust, excitement, and shame, which is exactly what Josh feels when he thinks back to his experiences with his teacher. It put me in Josh’s shoes and helped me realize just how confused and conflicted he must have felt.

Lyga’s ability to make his readers see things from the point of view of his characters is one of his many gifts as a writer. It’s scary how easy it is to understand why Eve falls for Josh. He’s different from the other kids at his school, mature for his age, precocious, thoughtful. Even at 12 he is almost as tall as Eve herself. He’s capable of holding meaningful conversations with her, of understanding her humor and making her laugh in return.

Josh at 18, the age he is when recounting the events of the book, is no less amazing. He’s insanely smart, with a nearly photographic memory and the ability to calculate the square root of 52 or the product of 12 and 144 in his head. He’s enthralled by the stars and planets. He dedicates himself to working hard at all that he does, whether in the classroom or on the baseball diamond, where he’s a star hitter.

It’s incredibly fascinating to watch Josh try to come to terms with what happened to him all those years ago, to witness him trying to deal with the guilt and the embarrassment of knowing that everyone in his town knows all the details of his sex life. He’s got a great voice, with a compelling blend of attitude and self-consciousness. I developed a bit of a book crush on him, and he’ll go down in my mind as one of my all-time favorite characters.

Barry Lyga is an author who never disappoints me. He always presents a unique perspective, troubled but enthralling characters, and a plot that keeps you interested from start to finish. I strongly encourage you to go out and read Boy Toy. I know I’ll be revisiting it over and over again.