Talking About…(9)

Speed Reading. That’s what I’m Talking About today.

Last Monday – Wednesday I did something I have never done before. I read a 700 page fantasy book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, in under 3 days. Typically I take DAYS/WEEKS to read a fantasy book that is that long. I mean I think it took me 3 weeks to finish A Court of Mist and Fury just last May. I never read them that fast because I usually need to take my time and get back in the setting. But there were two reasons I read it so quickly. First I am co-moderating Sarah Maas’ signing this Wednesday so I had to be prepared. Second:

I was in a rush to read it for fear of being spoiled.

I felt like I was in a race to finish ACOWAR so I wouldn’t be spoiled by someone that finished it before me. The truth is, we all look at spoilers differently. I know saying well this is what happens is 100% a spoiler. But there are also other spoilers out there. Like if I know you LOVED books 1 and 2 and then I see you rated the book a 3 then I’m gonna have been spoiled somehow because I know you would never give a 3 in that series unless something went terribly wrong (note: I still haven’t rated ACOWAR and I won’t until it is out for 2 weeks). I also know if you post a Goodreads update saying you are angry on a certain page that I will know something is coming that I shouldn’t know is coming. This is why I was speed reading my way through ACOWAR and it took me less than 48 hours, from start to finish, to read the whole book.

That’s the problem with being so “connected”, we all live in fear of someone ruining something for us. We race others so we can get through without knowing. It is exhausting to not be spoiled when there is an easier answer. Just do one thing…

 

Have you ever felt like you were racing others to finish a book just so you weren’t spoiled? What do you consider a spoiler?

 

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The Dish: Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas

The Dish: Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. MaasCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Published: August 27th 2013
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"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

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Andi: I’m not sure how to even start this chat. I mean what can you really say about Crown of Midnight other than it was amazingly fantastic??!! It broke my heart and made me cry in public, but I LOVED it. What is your initial reaction?

Michelle: Oh man, what part made you cry?  Then again, you probably can’t say without spoiling.  My initial reaction was that this book had a much darker vibe. Even though we saw Celaena in the labor camps and fighting to be the King’s Champion in the first her assassinations and the progression of the King’s desire for world domination was quite a bit of doom and gloom. I thought the magic aspects were infused pretty well though, not too over the top.  What did you think?

A: Yah, I’m not ruining the story for everyone. I’ll tell you on the side what made me cry. HA

I’m not going to lie, the magic part through me off a little bit as I wasn’t 100% expecting it. In the first book it was more contemporary fantasy so when magic was brought it making it even more fantasy I took pause. But I didn’t hate it. I think it worked well for what Maas was trying to do to the story, how she was trying to further the plot. After I got over my initial shock, it worked for me. And made me understand some of Celaena more.

And you are right, it was a darker book. There was a lot more darker themes, but it worked. I think it played a nice juxtaposition to the stronger bound of Celaena and Chaol. A nice mix of the dark and the light, kind of like Celaena herself.

How did you feel about Celaena being somewhat darker in Crown? And her relationships with both Dorian and Chaol? It was quite the shift from the first book in my opinion.

M: Being dark was more of a necessity than anything else. She had so much to hide about herself and her job that lying, cheating and stealing were the only ways to navigate her circumstances. I liked, however, that she wasn’t a victim in this book.  She was far more dominant than in the previous book in the series and didn’t take a bunch of crap from anyone.  The counterpoint to that was the softer side she was able to enjoy in her relationships with Chaol, Dorian and Nehemia. Their interactions were much more softer in tone and gave the book a nice balance. The relationships also did a great job of creating conflict.

Speaking of, which conflict did you find to be the most interesting?

A: 100% all Celaena and Chaol interactions were the top bill for me in terms of conflict. There were a lot of levels to their relationship where it was romantic or not. On the surface they are completely different people that have stood for completely different things their whole lives. It was so interesting to see that relationship have its ups and downs and I think it added a level to the story that was missing in Throne of Glass. It added some depth. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Chaol is one of my favorite characters in the series. HA. But seriously I love how they never backed down from one another and got in each other’s face.

What about you?

M: I agree !One of the best dynamics in the story is the internal battle Choal had related to loyalty. He was constantly in flux between his loyalties to the King and Celaena and was desperate to find a way to be true to both. I’m interested to see how that dynamic progresses in the Heir of Fire; I imagine there will be a great deal given how this book ended.  Though I suspect there will be a real shift in roles for everyone in that installment.

Let’s talk Dorian shall we? I kinda felt like he was wallpaper through most of this book.  He pined for Celaena a lot but only had a few really pertinent moments when he felt like a strong character in his own right. I have to say there was a real missed opportunity with he and Nehemia from the romantic and political perspectives.  Without giving anything away I was sorry to see that potential fizzle out over the course of the book.  How did you find his role?  Satisfying or just meh?

A: He was super meh for me. As I’ve said in my review of Throne of Glass and many times on Twitter I compared Dorian, Chaol and Celaena to Dawson, Pacey and Joey in Dawson’s Creek. There was one season of the show that Dawson was just background and that is how Dorian was in Crown of Midnight. I understood some of it to a degree as Celaena is the focus of the book, but he was written to be more than that in the other book. I know a lot of how he was written was to lead into stuff in Heir of Fire (not to give anything away) but I still would have liked more depth from him. And like you, I would have liked to see something with he and Nehemia.

But really what I liked most in Crown of Midnight was the interwoven relationships and what it all meant to the story. Dorian and Chaol, Celaena and Chaol, Celaena and Dorian, Nehemia and Celaena; each relationship has a purpose to further the story, to add tension, but it wasn’t tension for tension sake. It worked and was one of my favorite parts.

M: Yes! I agree 100% on how the development of the differing relationships contributed to the larger dynamic of the plot.  I didn’t feel as though anything was superfluous or distracting to the story. It all revolved around Celaena and the progression of her story in a way that didn’t take away from it or make the plot so confusing that it was difficult to follow.  Maas did a fantastic job with weaving it all together and creating a really dynamic cast of characters that each played a significant role in a larger story as opposed to smaller roles in their own individual sub-plot.

A: All I know is that I’m excited to see just where this story is going to take us and just how these relationships will survive.

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Second Chance Sunday – Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols (discussion)

such

Title: Such a Rush [Amazon]
Author:  Jennifer Echols [website]
Publisher: MTV Books
Genre:  Contemporary
Source/Type: Own/Hardcover
Stars: 5 of 5

Publisher Description:
When I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park next to an airport, I could complain about the smell of the jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else, or I could learn to fly.

Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. At school, they may diss Leah as trash, but she’s the one who negotiates with the landlord when the rent’s not paid. At fourteen, she’s the one who gets a job at the nearby airstrip.

But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons, to take her up just once. Leaving the trailer park far beneath her and swooping out over the sea is a rush greater than anything she’s ever experienced, and when Mr. Hall offers to give her cut-rate flight lessons, she feels ready to touch the sky.

By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true . . . but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they’re determined to keep the banner planes flying.

Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly.

My Thoughts:
Michelle: Hottie Hot HOT!!  That’s what this book was.  Oh.Em.Gee there was so so much for me to love here.  Angsty drama, good smokin’ romance and a bad boy with a heart of gold.  You know how I adore me a boy who’s misunderstood!  Echols has been called the Nora Roberts of YA Romance and boy does Such a Rush prove that point and then some.

Andi: OH.EM.GEE is right!!!! Holy hotness batman! What a great, great, did I mention GREAT, story! This was by far and away my favorite Echols book to date. I will admit that I had a little trouble in the beginning with all the flying talk, but once the boys were completely introduced to the story and the spiciness abound, I was in a free fall of love! Those Hall boys are two for the record book for book boyfriend! YUM-MY!

M:  Yea, the very first chapters were a bit slower but I’ve found most of her books take a few to ramp up.  But when they do, OHHHH boy you best be ready for the love.  I have to agree with you on the favorite status.  This one might be right up there for me too.  It’s definitely a tie between Such a Rush and Love Story.

What I truly adore about this book (and pretty much all of Echols work) is that she creates such awesome characters.  I mean, I love absolutely all of them.  None more than Grayson (hubba hubba!) but even the most annoying jerk-offs *cough* Mark *cough* had some sort of value.  He was detestable but not entirely despicable when it came down to it.

Leah was amazing.  Her low impression of her worth was in such contrast to her relatively high self-esteem.  She knew who she was and accepted it.  Sure, she wanted to change her life for the better but he didn’t wallow in her less than ideal circumstances.  She just worked her ass off to get closer to what she wanted.  Mad props to her.

A: Exactly! Echols knows how to write her characters in a way that they are so deep and complicated but it comes off flawlessly. Like Molly for instance. Here she was a side character, not really in the main action, but just as important as Leah and Grayson. She is what made Leah have heart a lot of the time and to show emotion which she worked so hard to hide. And yet Molly was jealous of everything Leah was because Leah just put it out there. It all worked and you don’t even think about it when reading it and that is a sign of talent.

And I loved Leah’s relationship with Mr. Hall too. It was somewhat more important than her relationship with the boys because he gave her a feeling of self worth. He basically gave her a reason to not give up on herself and become her mother (ARGH don’t even get me started on her). Like you said Leah’s self worth was so low and yet she worked to become more no matter what.

Now can we talk about Grayson?! **PLEASE**!!!! I waited two whole paragraphs to ask!

M:  Grayson was fantabulissimo!  As we’ve already established I love me a “bad boy” with a heart of gold and Mr. Hall fit right into that mold.  He was deeply flawed but his cocky demeanor allowed him to play it off.  He just needed that one person to cut through the bull and see him for who he was to make it all crumble.  Oh how I love the crumble!!

Not only that but the family relationships he had to navigate added a whole other level of complexity.  He never really had that one person who got him, the one person who he could rely on totally until he met Leah.  He wanted to be more than the family disappointment and he was so dedicated to keeping all of them together after his Jack and his dad were gone.  He was just an all around stand up guy.

A: He really was completely amazing. Here was this “screw-up”, trying to hold everything together after an unthinkable tragedy that fell on his family. All of a sudden he had to be the one with the head on his shoulders or he may lose something else he cared dearly for. And his relationship with Leah was so amazingly awkward and slightly twisted, but it worked completely for the two of them. They had this amazing push/pull thing going on. He would make all these generalizations about her and then lean on her when he needed someone to just be there for him. Watching their story unfold was truly enjoyable. It added something to Grayson. Instead of him being a, for lack of a better term, dick, through Leah you got to really get to know him and the love he really had for his family.

M:  Leah was such a fantastic character too.  All she wanted was to have important connections in her life.  But she got stuck with a selfish mother, no father and judgmental kids at school.  The one true connection she finally had was with flying and as a result with Mr. Hall.  He understood her in a way that a father would understand his child.  I do truly think Mr. Hall considered her one of his own.  It was a sweet relationship that sparked a deeper love between she and Grayson.  I wish we would have gotten to know Mr. Hall a little better because I can totally see he and Grayson being very similar.

A: Leah really was a great character. She was developed so well you couldn’t help but love her. She was focused on two things and two things alone…survival and flying. And because of both those things she had a hard shell around her. She knew what people thought about her, what they said behind her back and in some cases, to her face, and she took it. But because of that she was also hard to thaw and Grayson certainly didn’t make it easy with his snark and rudeness. But underneath the toughness you really could see she was just a kid that wanted to be taken care of and loved and thank goodness for Mr. Hall. He really was the one and only parental like unit she had and he did love her like family. I completely agree there. And like you I too wish we had more of him. He was so integral and yet not around for long enough.

But I guess that was par for course with Leah. I mean her mother wasn’t really around either. What did you think of her? I wanted to run her over with the trailer by the end.

M: I do think the way the mother was written was pretty convenient.  Leah needed to be parentless and somewhat downtrodden in order to open up the rest of the story.  Her mother was definitely cliche in that woman who needs to have a man take care of her and a crappy man at that.  Add to that the abandonment of her child to keep those types of relationships with men alive and you have a pretty open opportunity for Leah’s story to move in the direction it did.  The mother was loathsome to be sure but I did like that their relationship allowed for Leah to be independent and ultimately shrug her mother off in the end.

A: Oh, her mother was definitely plot driven. She had to be that way to make Leah so independent, but it still made me want to run her over with the trailer no matter.

What I really liked most about the whole story in general was the message. Because really it doesn’t matter where you come from or what kind of means you have available to you. If you want to make something of yourself you can. You just have to work for it. Leah had next to nothing. No money, no parental support, no core group of family/friends and yet she went after what she wanted and she did it the right way. She was driven and independent and smart and that is all it takes to make a dream come true.

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The Dish: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

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Title:
Where the Stars Still Shine [Amazon]
Author: Trish Doller [website]
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Netgalley/Digital ARC
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Discussion:
Andi: I am so flipping excited that we got a chance to read this super early. I was completely enamored with Doller’s first book Something Like Normal so I’ve been chomping at the bit for this one. And can I just tell you in love. Callie and Alex. Alex and Callie. Um, did I mention Alex?!?! HA. I love that Doller doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff, you know?

Michelle:  I gotta say, she does get right to it in a story.  There isn’t any light and fluffy build up to some of the harder-hitting subject matter.  I’m not quite as far along in the story as you but the fact that Callie is so quick to give herself to Alex (heck any boy) shows just how broken she is.  I’m super interested to see how her relationships with men develop and how the different dynamics play out.  She has romance (sorta) with the boys and then is so reserved and scared with any adult male like her father.

As for the Alex scenario, I have two words…. Bad.Boy.

A: Boy is sex on legs. I mean YUM-MY! He has the swagger and the looks and the man whore thing, but you can tell her is really really caring and has a huge heart(without giving too much away since I’m not sure where you are in the story). He is totally sexy and I don’t blame Callie for having some of that. HA

But you’re right, she is so completely broken with no self worth at all. She is a jumble of emotions that she doesn’t know what to do with and is too scared to take them out on anyone and deals with them one way and one way only. Her mother destroyed her and Callie feels guilty for even thinking that when it really is the truth. And my heart goes out to poor Greg too. He is so caught in the middle of wanting to be a dad but not knowing what to do, treading lightly afraid to lose his daughter again. Honestly I don’t know what I would do in his position.

M:  I’m going to give up the ghost and just say that there isn’t any way we’re going to be able to have this discussion without including spoilers.  So if you’re reading and you don’t want to be spoiled it’s probably best not to move any further into the conversation.

Callie was definitely the strongest and most interesting character of the lot.  She had a depth that I felt the rest lacked. The cousin was fun and a good pick me up from the heavier tone of the abuse and kidnapping scenario.  Alex was definitely the eye candy and there was some attempt to give him more emotional depth but I didn’t feel like it got to the right point even with the story about his mother.  The mother was totally cliche and the father was just vanilla.  All this to say I think there could have been a bit more to the kidnapping and reconnection to her family part of the story.  It all felt pretty surface level and it definitely wrapped up fast.

A: I get what you’re saying to an extent. Callie was definitely the strongest character but I thought the rest of the characters were strong in the roles they were meant for. Callie’s dad was actually one of the characters that I liked the most because he didn’t know his place in her life and how to juggle a child he knew as a little girl that was now an adult with the life he had come to live. The cousin was the throw away character for me. She was too much right off the bat, but again she had her place that was important to Callie. The mother was a very very troubled person and I was psyched when she finally did the right thing by her daughter.

But what I liked the most was watching Callie’s walls come down slowly whether it was Alex that helped bring them down, her dad or even the cousin. That was the biggest and brightest part and I found that to be a pretty slow progression on a short book that wrapped up quickly. I really found myself falling in love with the whole story from start to finish. I thought it was strong and emotional and I got where all sides were coming from, you know?

M: Yes, I agree that I got where all sides were coming from but I think my issue is with the slow progression that wrapped up so quickly in the end.  I would have liked another 50 pages to allow for the build up and culmination to be paced more evenly.  I wanted to see more out of the relationship that Callie and Alex were building and definitely more out of how his own family life related to how hers was changing.  There was a lot to build off of there that I think got bypassed.

I’m right there with you on the annoying cousin.  She was just a bit too over the top for me.  If she were just a little more muted in her personality there could have been a great BFF vibe between she and Callie.  I mean, it was there in  a small way but it could have been outstanding had she stopped twirling her hair and snapping her gum, you know?

Thankfully, Doller definitely has it in the romance department.  She creates characters that have awesome chemistry. I loved me some Alex and enjoyed seeing how he and Callie interacted. It made perfect sense to me that Callie had no respect for herself and pretty much jumped into bed with him so quickly.  Particularly given the fact that she had a horrible female role model and was raised in the environment she was. It was interesting to see how her lack of trust played into that.

A: Doller is the queen of a good romance. But I also like how she tackles the real issues from the start. She didn’t shy away from what Callie had happened to her. She showed how it affected her in a way that made sense, at least to me anyway. Like you, I do think the book could have been longer, but I like what she did tackle and how things were mostly resolved. We got to see the most about Callie in the way that she dealt with Alex right from the start. That said a lot about the character of Callie and her background and how Alex responded to her said a lot about him.

Let’s discuss the step-mother. What did you think of her role in this story? I got where she was coming from but I didn’t get the feeling that she thought about what Callie had been through and where her husband was coming from. I found her to be somewhat harsh.

M: I understood where she was coming from too but I actually thought she was pretty reasonable overall.  How many women with two young children would be comfortable with a strange teenager in her house?  Especially one that has had the past that Callie has had?  Not many that I can think of.  But, she was supportive of her husband and ultimately supportive of Callie. The harsh parts made sense to me and I like that they were in “private” between the step-mother and Callie’s dad.  I also felt like the drama with the small child while Callie was babysitting seemed pretty real too.  As a mother she was just freaking out when her child got injured and lashed out.  In the end, I do think she was pretty supportive of Callie and after awhile she did calm down and embrace her as part of the family.

I feel like we should be talking more about the Alex and his mom story but it felt kind of meh for me.  What about you?

A: It wasn’t my favorite part of the story. That much I can admit. It just kind of seemed random. But with that said I got what its purpose was in the long run. It was used to give Alex some depth and a past of sorts, something he was running from, much like Callie, but it did seem like a throw away part of the book. It didn’t take away from my love of it, but it almost wasn’t needed in the way that it was used. There could have been some other way for Alex to have something emotional in his past. Some other reason for him to stick around and do what he was doing and not living his own life. And the part with Alex’s father was a little awkward and never really touched on much. Did he beat him or not? I was kind of a little confused about that small aspect.

But again, all of that didn’t take away from what I truly loved about the book and that was the emotional depth. When I was reading I could feel what Callie was feeling and that’s important to me in a great book.

M: Exactly, it was an unnecessary sub-plot to give Alex relatability to Callie.  I think it could have worked better if we got a glimpse of it earlier in the story and if the part with the father was excluded entirely would have made it more understandable. But, like you, I can’t help wondering if there was some other way to create that bond between he and Callie.  I must admit, too, that I was a bit disappointed that he was alluded to as a bad boy and really he didn’t ever do anything bad.  This “reason” for his badness was anti-climatic.  I did appreciate his love for his mom though, that was super-sweet.

A: That was really sweet. And I loved seeing him with his nephews. That totally got my heart pitter pattering. I think the world needs more of those kind of boys in it. HA.

M: Couldn’t agree more.  Doller does this exceptionally well too. She gets how to create chemistry between two characters be it romantic or platonic. This is one of the reasons that I don’t have a problem picking up her books and reading it without even knowing what it’s about!

A: And really, what more is there to say than that! 🙂

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The Dish: Wild Cards – Simone Elkeles

wildcardsTitle: Wild Cards [Amazon]
Author: Simone Elkeles [website]
Publisher: Walker Books for Younger Readers
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Netgalley/Digital ARC
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain–people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Discussion:
Andi: By far my least favorite Elkeles book to date. I really liked Derek in the beginning and then I found him to be super annoying when he was around Ashtyn. She was so wishy washy and back and forth. I didn’t find the emotional connection at all and I found myself rolling my eyes a couple of times which bums me out. I had really high hopes for it too. I know you felt differently than I did though, right?

Michelle: That’s kind of a bummer!  I did feel differently but, like you I didn’t feel like it was my favorite of hers.  I wonder if we felt it was lack luster because we’ve read another book that focused on a girl football player that we really liked?

So, what did I like?  You know I always like a bad boy so Derek worked for me.  He could have been a little bit more “bad” though.  It felt like he lacked some of the grit that Elkeles’ male leads typically have.  He obviously didn’t need to be a criminal but making him more of a prankster felt a bit fake.  I also liked Ashtyn, probably more so as an individual character than as part of a couple with Derek.  I liked that she was strong (but still vulnerable) and stood her ground as she navigated being the only girl on the football team.

What did you think of the family focused storylines?

A: I found it to be a little muddled and not really resolved at all. I HATED the grandmother story. She was too over the top for me even for a fiction book and for Derek to just have a change of heart like he did just didn’t work. It didn’t make sense. And Ashtyn’s father was another piece of work. He was a horrible parent, but I didn’t understand the point of him. All he did was complain and then he was all better. I just didn’t believe it would be that easy. His wife up and leaves him with their two daughters, then one daughter leaves and he gets a massage and everything is A-Okay.  It took away from the whole point of the story if you ask me.

And I’m not gonna lie, I did think of that other book you mentioned the whole time I read it and that may have swayed me for sure. 🙂

What did you think about Derek and the football reveal? I found it contrived.

M:  LOL, I figured you were thinking of that book.  It was hard not to compare frankly it was so similar at least with the girl football player scenario.

The grandmother story was a bit over the top but I got it.  I think it would have been better if the character had been a bit more muted.  Like you, I think it would have made more sense and been more realistic if she was infused into Derek’s life a little more smoothly.  The initial meeting being abrupt made sense, even the blackmail, but ultimately the moving to the same town as Ashtyn and then infusing into her family was definitely out of place.  Even if she did have a change of heart she was awfully accepting of all the “lower-class” lifestyle super quickly.  I can’t imagine that anyone would uproot their life like that after knowing their long lost family member (and his friends?) for as little time as she did.

As for the father, he was just kind of there for me. Honestly, I think there was plenty of conflict in the story without his role.  It was just kind of there for me and I pretty much glazed right over it all things considered.

The football reveal wasn’t really a reveal for me.  I saw that coming a mile away so when it happened the way it did it was no surprise.  I actually did find the circumstances surrounding his having stopped playing to be very touching and realistic.  I think exploring a bit more of that connection and a bit more of a struggle as he built himself up to play again would have been a really good story.  Instead of “hey, I’ll jump back on the field because this girl I like needs me to”.  That felt a bit off.

What did you think of the story involving Ashtyn’s former boyfriend?

A: Not a fan at all of the boyfriend arc. It was just a plot point for me because I don’t think Ashtyn even liked him. He was written right off the bat to be unlikeable and he was. As a reader there was no conflict for me to decide if I knew where he was coming from. He sucked and it was as simple as that.

But I also didn’t really find Ashtyn all that likeable. I think I liked her football supporting cast more than I did her. Here she was saying that she was the football star that worked for her star status and how she didn’t care what others thought and then she was ready to give up captain to make a jerk happy. It just didn’t sit right with me and made Ashtyn not look like the strong girl she was supposed to be. I mean I know we all do stupid stuff for guys sometimes, but it just didn’t fit the character. It actually really bothered me. May have been the first time of many I rolled my eyes.

Did you like her? 

M:  To start, I don’t think she was the central focus of the story and I think that may have been part of the problem.  Elkeles has always made the male the center so this more evenly told story was a departure.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Ashtyn felt off?  I didn’t dislike her but I didn’t really connect too much to her either which was a problem given the fact that she was the central storyline.  I have a feeling the story would have been tighter and more open for connection if it was more centralized on Derek.  She definitely could have used more relatability and compassion.  Some of this disconnect could also have come from the fact that she didn’t have any girlfriends.  Maybe a girlfriend would have softened her up a bit and given her some more depth?

A: You know, it never even crossed my mind that she had no girlfriends. I didn’t even think about that, but you’re right, that totally could have softened her. She wasn’t close to her sister, her mother left, and I didn’t see enough of the friendship between her and the boys on the football team to even notice. She probably would have been more likable to me if she did have that one friend, even if it was a guy, that she went to and joked with. She was really just blah for me and that took away from the relationship between she and Derek. Something was just off for me between them, you know? I think I just expected more after the fun of her other books.

M: I agree, I liked it more than you but ultimately it lacked some of the oomph her other books have.  It just felt a bit more cliched and like I’d seen it before somewhere else.  The advantage of the Perfect Chemistry books was that there was definitely a lack of that gritty hard story (at least that I’d seen at the time) in contemporary romance books.

A: And that pretty much sums up what I thought was missing.

Other Books by Author:
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