Keeping Her by Cora Carmack

Keeping Her (Losing It, #1.5)
Title: Keeping Her (Losing It 1.5)
Author: Cora Carmack
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Source: Inkslinger PR and Edelweiss

Garrick Taylor and Bliss Edwards managed to find their happily-ever-after despite a rather . . . ahem . . . complicated start. By comparison, meeting the parents should be an absolute breeze, right?

But from the moment the pair lands in London, new snags just keep cropping up: a disapproving mother-in-law-to-be, more than one (mostly) minor mishap, and the realization that perhaps they aren't quite as ready for their future as they thought.

As it turns out, the only thing harder than finding love is keeping it.

I may be alone in this, but wasn't exactly gaga over Losing It. No, don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't like it - I did enjoy it - but I didn't really find it that memorable. Other than Bliss and Cade's friendship, there was really nothing else that pulled me in. Losing It was a light read, funny at times, but I never quite connected with the main characters. While I did find Bliss a ridiculously entertaining character, I simply can't relate to her. She was supposed to be this awkward college senior... but she's not. Clumsy, sure, but awkward? Not really. Also, I never did understand just what the fuss was all about with Garrick. I mean, sure, he's British (and let me roll with the stereotype that British guys are the bomb), but honestly? That's all I remember about him. I can't remember anything else! I wasn't exactly sold on the relationship between the two either - there was just no chemistry. I don't doubt that they cared about each other, but everything was... bland. And for all the talk about the relationship being forbidden, that aspect wasn't really explored either.

And now, you may ask... why on earth did I read this novella? Simple. It's in Garrick's POV, and I do want to learn more about him. Also, I wanted to figure out just how Bliss and Garrick fell in love (you know, that forever kind of love, because Garrick did propose to Bliss - and again, I can't help but feel that the proposal came out of nowhere) because I was never convinced that they ever were, and a peek inside Garrick's head just might help me figure this conundrum out. And, again, while I'm not exactly this series' biggest fan, I do enjoy Carmack's writing. Besides, a trip to London to meet the rigid in-laws promises all sorts of fun shenanigans, right?

And.... sigh. Again, I found the entire read just okay. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to make myself invest in the relationship of these two characters. One of the reasons I still somehow liked Losing It was because of Cade, Bliss' best friend, but now that I'm reading a novella that has Bliss and Garrick and no one else, I found it really difficult to keep myself interested. Heck, I read this novella just last week and I can't think of a single scene to include in this review. Yup, that bad. Sadly, I still don't understand all the hype that the relationship between these two characters get, and since Carmack has stated that this is her last novel that would focus on these two as main characters, I might as well give up trying. On a positive note, I did like the next book in the series, Faking It, much better (though I did have my issues with it too)!

Rating: 3 Stars

Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross

Letters To Nowhere
Title: Letters to Nowhere
Author: Julie Cross
Release Date: August 2, 2013
Seventeen year old Karen Campbell has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Grief stricken and alone, her gymnastics coach opens his home to Karen, providing her a place to live while she continues to train, working toward a spot on the world championship team.

Coach Bentley’s only child, seventeen year old Jordan is good-looking and charming enough to scare away a girl like Karen—someone who has spent ten times more hours on balance beams and uneven bars than talking or even thinking about boys. But the two teens share a special connection almost immediately. It turns out Jordan has a tragic past of his own, grief buried for years.

As Karen’s gymnastics career soars, her nightmares and visions of the horrible accident grow in strength. She can only avoid facing her grief for so long before it begins to surface and ultimately spin out of control in a very dangerous way. Can discovering love and lust (simultaneously) help with the grieving process or will it only provide a temporary distraction while waiting for reality to hit full force?

As a huge fan of gymnastics (and I do mean HUGE - I stay up to watch all sorts of competitions from all over the world and everything, plus I cried like a baby when Alicia Sacramone announced her retirement), this book is something that I simply can't pass up. I adore everything about the sport - from the highly intricate routines and down to the drama that comes with team selections - and I have nothing but respect for what these gymnasts go through just to achieve their goals. When I saw Julie ask for bloggers who would be willing to review an early copy of her new novel set in the elite world of gymnastics, I jumped at the offer. Not only do I follow the sport, I'm also a huge fan of Julie's Tempest series, so it's a win-win right?

Damn right it was!

I was half-expecting a sort of watered-down version of elite gymnastics (hey, Make It or Break It) but Cross surprised me with how accurate everything was. Folks, if you want a deeper look into the world of US Gymnastics, this is it. The skills, the elaborate selection process that comes into making a team, the choices that plague an elite athlete's life, the grueling training and conditioning... Cross didn't skip past ANYTHING. Every single thing that cements the notion that elite gymnasts are among the world's toughest athletes... Yup, all here. Cross was able to paint such a vividly detailed picture of the world of elite gymnastics, and I believe this is possible due to her experiences as a coach and (I'm going to assume here) as a serious fan of the sport.

Cross did such an amazing job writing this novel. Elite gymnastics - the skills, the scoring system - is not exactly an easy sport to fathom (I've been following the sports for a few years now but there are still skills I can't name), but she was somehow able to make the novel as easy to understand as possible. Also, Cross was able to portray how these gymnasts sacrifice so much of their childhood to fulfill their dreams. The way Cross wrote as Karen truly shows that though Karen may be seventeen, she has been sheltered all her life, and there are situations that others teens may perceive as normal that she hasn't encountered yet. I also loved the concept of Karen writing in letters what she can't say to other people face to face - it shows that even the strongest athletes are still human, and that they can still go through what everyday people go through.

Off the bat, I loved Karen, and I couldn't help but root for her every step of the way. Heck, I can almost see her as one of the gymnasts I cheer for at Worlds and the Olympics! I wanted nothing but the best for her - I wanted her to shoot for the stars and continue towards her dream of being an accomplished elite gymnast; I wanted her to face her fears and come to terms with her grief towards her parents' sudden death. I wanted her to get that Amanar on vault and that standing arabian on beam; I wanted her to finally be able to speak her thoughts out loud. I yearned for her to get that self-confidence she badly needed, and most especially, I wanted her to fight for HER dreams. Not her parents', not her coaches', but hers and hers alone.

Nothing about this novel's romance felt forced. Jordan is a great male lead, and I enjoyed reading about him tremendously. I can't help but adore just how easily he understood what Karen was going through, and just how willing he was to help her through her most difficult times. Karen and Jordan started off as friends, and I believe that's what makes the gradual change of their relationship to something more so believable - it wasn't all about lust, but rather more about trust. Both characters were able to understand each other so thoroughly, and their connection was just so palpable!

Julie Cross really impressed me with this novel. The writing, the characters, the plot... everything was perfect. I honestly felt like I was able to connect to every aspect of Letters to Nowhere, and I truly can't wait to find out what else she has Julie has in store for us in the next two books of the series!

Rating: 5 Stars

[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] The Guys are Props Club by Ingrid Seymour

(Check out the rest of the tour stops HERE!)

The Guys Are Props Club
Title: The Guys are Props Club
Author: Ingrid Seymour
Release Date: May 13, 2013
During her senior year in high school, Maddie Burch promised herself not to ever fall for a cute guy – or any guy – again. Cute guys are players and not to be trusted, a fact she learned the hard way when her first boyfriend ran her heart through a paper shredder. Two years later, her promise is still intact, and she’s determined to make it through college without falling victim to another creep. She has her job, school and The Guys Are Props Club to keep her mind and hormones in check.

The club was founded by Jessica, Maddie’s best friend. It is a sisterhood of girls who have fallen prey to heartless jerks and who have vowed to turn the tables. Once a semester, Jessica requires members to “do onto others as they’ve done unto you.” Setting the example, Jessica’s next play is Sebastian Capello, a theater major with heartthrob looks and a flair for Latin dance, whose heart she plans to break the way hers was once broken.

What the friends don’t know is that Sebastian is different. Despite his perfect looks and popularity, he’s not a jerk. He doesn’t play games to get his way. Instead, he keeps it real and goes after what he wants with honest intentions. And what he wants is not a bombshell like Jessica, but a down-to-earth girl like Maddie – even if it causes a riff in the girl’s friendship. Even if it means getting Maddie to break her personal vow.

If I were to be completely honest, this is not a type of book that I would usually read. Sure, I still consider the NA genre one of my favorites, but after reading my fair share of NA novels with games, bets, and clubs, paired with no decent plot whatsoever, I can't help but choose to ignore most novels that event mention one of the aforementioned words. I can handle cliche storylines, sure, but they have to make some sense! So yes, I've become akin to judging books by their blurbs and cover even though I advocate to others that they shouldn't. But hey I'm only human, and I feel really bad for initially doing that to this said novel. If it weren't for one of my trusted fellow bloggers (Hey Dianne!) convincing me to give The Guys are Props Club a shot, I probably wouldn't, and I would have missed out on an entertaining read.

I found this novel to be a quick read. While I can't say with a hundred percent conviction that I was able to relate to Maddie's character through and through, I was able to sympathize with how she found it difficult to stand up to Jessica. While it was adamant that Jessica's scheming and plotting to give boys a taste of their own medicine was getting out of hand (and Maddie herself wanted out of the club and all the games), I do understand why Maddie couldn't just leave Jessica to fend for herself. When Maddie was at her lowest, it was Jessica who gave her all the support she needed, and that's not something that Maddie can easily forget. I'm sure that that sense of loyalty is something that most readers can find familiar.

What sets this book apart from others of its kind is that the male OC, Sebastian, is your quintessential nice guy. Confident - even a bit cocky, yes - but he's not event the slightest bit alike the tattooed bad boys that are a dime a dozen in the New Adult genre. I may like my fair share of bad boys (come on.. who doesn't?) but reading about them all the time can get a bit tiring. Characters like Sebastian allow a breathe of fresh air in this genre that is now full of formulaic plots and storylines. I can't help but admire how he never rushed Maddie to do something that she's in no way ready to do, and how he always respected her decisions. I loved how Seymour was able to make Sebastian attractive without resorting to the bad boy prototype!

The plot pacing was pretty good, and it allowed for character development, especially in Maddie's part. (Even Jessica, in hindsight.) After letting Jessica handle the reins of her life for almost a year, we get to see her stand up for herself and fight for what she believed in. Maddie finally stopped judging other people based on baseless preconceived notions, and thanks to Sebastian, she realized that not all stereotypes are true. Simply put, I never found myself bored while reading TGAPC. I really loved how Seymour explored just how complicated some friendships can be, and why it's so difficult to let go of them even when they're not bringing out the best in the both you anymore. Also, despite all my complaints with the concepts of games and clubs in NA novels, Seymour actually made them work!

All in all, if you're looking for a not-so-typical NA read, you've found it. (And yes, I am never judging books based on their blurbs again. Yes I know I already said this before... but I promise!)

Rating: 4 Stars

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