REVIEW: Put A Ring on It by K.A. Mitchell

I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. My receiving this book in no way affects my opinion.

PutARingOnItLGTITLE: Put A Ring on It

AUTHOR: K.A. Mitchell

GENRE: Contemporary Romance

TAG LINE: “Now everyone wants in on the wedding, except the grooms…”

 

RATING: 1 Stars

SUMMARY:  Kieran Delaney-Schwartz—adoptee, underachiever, and self-professed slacker IT guy—lives his under-the-radar life by the motto: Don’t try, don’t fail. His adopted siblings are all overachievers thanks to his driven, liberal parents, but Kieran has elected to avoid disappointing anyone by not getting their hopes up. He’s coasting through his early twenties when he’s hit head-on by Theo. The successful decade-older Broadway producer sweeps him off his feet for a whirlwind thirteen months that are pretty sweet until it all comes screeching to a halt on Valentine’s Day, with an unexpected proposal via a NYC Times Square Flash mob.
BUY LINKS: Dreamspinner | Amazon

 

REVIEW:

 

I’m going to tell you right now that this book got shelved on the DNFR (Did Not Finish Reading) shelf. I grew so frustrated and angry with this book that I finally threw it down (figuratively) and gave up. I did skip to the end to see what happened and wasn’t happy with the resolve, so I stand by my decision with not finishing the book.

I’ve read K.A. Mitchell’s work before and enjoyed it, so I’m a fan of her work. But this book I just could not enjoy. I made it about 80 pages in (a little under halfway?) before I threw in the towel. Now I don’t want to say that my decision to quit reading was because of the quality of the writing.  K.A. Mitchell is a talented author, and as I stated before, I’ve enjoyed previous stories by her, but this particular one just chaffed me the wrong way. On a technical level the story was great. It wasn’t the quality of the writing, but the characterization and the actual plot of the story I didn’t enjoy.

This story had a lot going for it: pre-marital drama, which is always fun, and a nice little age gap between the two characters, a personal kink for me. I was completely psyched to read this. But things got really confusing from the get-go. The first thing we’re introduced to is a scene years before the actual story about Theo interacting with a group of college friends (characters who will appear throughout the series). This threw me off, because it felt really out of place. I understand the author was trying to set us up for the series, and while Theo’s friends play a crucial role to the plot, it felt out of place. It was meant to build Theo’s friendship with his college buddies, but all it did was feel like an unnecessary prologue. The information we gleaned from the first chapter could have easily been integrated into the story.

The second chapter we get to meet Kiernan and see him interact with Theo. This gets into the heart of the story. I immediately didn’t feel any chemistry between them. Kiernan didn’t seem as interested in his relationship with Theo as Theo was. It was obvious Theo adored Kiernan, but Kiernan felt aloof towards his emotions with Theo. This is an ongoing problem throughout the story. Kiernan’s lack of feelings towards Theo, despite the author’s attempt to show that Kiernan does indeed love Theo, made it hard to really root for them. I honestly wanted Theo to kick Kiernan to the curb and go find someone else.

Now I want it to be noted that I don’t agree with how Theo proposed to Kiernan (spoilers ahead). It was stupid of him to make a public display of a very intimate proposal towards someone who has social anxiety, so shame on Theo for that. But Kiernan also failed to explain his feelings properly and only made a bad situation worse.

There was way too much drama in the story. I was frustrated from the beginning. It was like the author took several ideas and then threw them all together, unable to decide which route to go. Where I left off as where Kiernan was agreeing to have one of Theo’s meddling friends help him break off his relationship. It was a childish choice and neither party seemed to have Theo’s best intentions in mind.

Books aren’t meant to stress you out and this book did just that. Because I couldn’t finish it, had no investment in the characters, and felt no chemistry between the main couple, I’m giving this book 1 star.

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GUEST REVIEW: Love Spell by Mia Kerick

I was given a copy of this book for free in order to receive a fair and honest review. My receiving this book in no way affects my opinion of the story. This review was done by guest review Alexa Graham. Follow her blog for more on her.


TITLE: Love Spell

AUTHOR: Mia Kerick

GENRE: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance

TAG LINE: Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

REVIEW: 3 Stars

SUMMARY: Strutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance César, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.

As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.”

But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.

An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.
Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

REVIEW: 

Mia Kerick’s Love Spell is a quirky, entertaining read, and one that addresses issues that are drastically underrepresented in YA fiction. The main character, high school senior Chance Cesar, not only identifies as homosexual, but also as a person struggling with their own gender identity. That makes dating in a rural New Hampshire town a lot more complicated, especially when Chance falls for the quietly sweet Jasper “Jazz” Donahue. But to approach Jazz as male or female? And how to do either when Chance isn’t sure which one they are? Love Spell doesn’t necessarily answer that question and doesn’t have to; it is a sweet tale about love, friendship, coming out, and being true to yourself.

 

One of the best things about Love Spell is its humor. Chance’s voice is sarcastic and drop-dead funny, though sometimes overly flamboyant. There are definitely some great one-liners in this story–some that will make you literally laugh out loud. However, the most compelling writing is when Chance struggles internally with their gender identification. One of the best things Kerick does here is show us how agonizing everyday life can be for genderfluid and genderqueer persons who are still questioning their identity and gender expression. Chance serves as the perfect vessel to question societal standards on the issue, wherein it is seen as “normal” for people to be strictly male or female and “abnormal” to be otherwise.

 

One of the issues that I had with this story is that the writing is so strong in these moments of reflection, but weak in others. These quiet moments alone with Chance make us love them, but then they pull a complete 180 and make us question that; Chance is rude, self-centered, and can be extremely inconsiderate of others’ feelings. There is also a blatant stereotyping [of homosexuals] that can at times be borderline offensive. In addition, the language itself is a complicated issue, wherein the slang is overused (which will not only alienate some readers, but also not hold up well over time) and the swearing is simply ostentatious. Seriously, there is so much swearing in this book that I had to triple check to make sure this was YA. I don’t think I’ve ever read a young adult novel with so many f-bombs in my life. Though I understand high schoolers speak this way (for the record, I did too, and still swear like a sailor) but I think that toning that language down would have been a better strategy.

 

Another issue I have is the integration of the title in the story. The “love spell” does not even feature until the last 30-45 pages of the book, and by that point, it feels like an afterthought. I think that Kerick was trying to stick to the Halloween-esque theme she presented at the beginning of the book, but it fell flat by this point. The “spell” business does not offer anything to to the plot of the book except additional word count.

 

(My final comment on the book is a bit minute and silly, but something someone should have caught: honestly, you can’t play Apples to Apples with just two people. Just saying.)

 

Overall, the book certainly delivered in entertainment and touched on something very little YA is focused on now: the struggles of a genderfluid teen. But did it represent both male homosexuality and genderqueerness properly, without shaming or resulting to stereotyping? That will be up to the reader to decide.

REVIEW: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

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TITLE: Lovely, Dark and Deep

AUTHOR: Amy McNamara

GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

TAG LINE: “A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it.”

 

RATING: 2 1/2 Stars

 

SUMMARY: Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.

REVIEW: I picked this book up by random at my local Half Price Book Store. I really wanted something YA to read and I was feeling a bit romantic, so it seemed like a perfect fit. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and the summary intrigued me, plus it was only like five bucks.

My first impressions of the book were pretty positive. Wren has a fairly strong voice, and Ms. McNamara has a way of stringing words together very poetically. I’ll go ahead and give the grammar Nazis out there a warning: this is written in first person, and Wren speaks in incomplete sentences a lot. At first it was a bit off-putting, but then I got use to it; but, to be completely honest, by the end of the story the short and jilted sentences were getting on my nerves. It would have been okay if it was only once and awhile, but Wren doesn’t seem capable of speaking in complete sentences at all, and by the end of the novel it was tiring, and at times, a tad confusing.

I’m torn between giving this book a two-and-a-half star rating and a three. I really enjoyed it when I first started reading it, but the further I went, the more I stopped liking it. By the time I was done, I wasn’t particularly fond of the story.

The summary says it all: girl meets tragedy, escapes to the woods, meets a boy, and they both heal one another. I feel like the story could have been considerably shorter, and if it had been, it would have been ten times better—probably even a five star rating. Wren is wonderfully tragic. She saw her ex-boyfriend die in front of her in a car accident she helped play a part of. When she comes to her father’s house, which is isolated in the woods of upstate New York, she meets Cal, an architect student who also escaped to the woods for refuge. Cal is running from the fact that he has MS and it most likely will kill him, just like it did his mother.

Throughout the story, Wren and Call develop a bond that helps heal them. They’re never too co-dependent, and for the most part are really freaking cute.

Ms. McNamara is talented at writing. She describes the moments between Wren and Cal, and the pain that Wren suffers, elegantly. She can draw you into an environment and leave you just as chillingly breathless as Wren. You (or at least I did) get all squishy and warm inside when Wren and Cal are being adorable together.

But she made the story last about a hundred pages too long, her secondary characters are weak and all of them are pointless/forgotten about, and she adds unnecessary drama/angst, which she then forgets about, leaving several loose ends. Plus, in the end, the ending was horrible, and if it hadn’t been one o’clock in the morning when I finished the book, and I wasn’t afraid about waking my roommate, I would have hurled the book across the room screaming.

It was that bad.

I’ll address each point, to break it down for you.

First, the length was unnecessarily long. This is because of all the points that followed. If she had trimmed back on some of these plot issues, she could have shortened the length and had a much stronger and well-written novel. Because she seemed determine to turn her gorgeous story into a horrible preteen Lifetime movie, the story suffered.

Ms. McNamara provides a slew of secondary characters, most of who are fleeting and only there to stir the pot. I didn’t come to care for the secondary characters at all. They were just background noise, objects meant to drive Wren into Cal’s arms. They were a means to an end, and nothing more. I prefer stories where I fall in love with the entire cast, not just the two protagonists.

I also want to say that Wren’s dad belongs in the Bad Dads Rad Club, because he’s the worst father. Up until like the very end of the story (and I mean the last two chapters), he’s a useless father who seems to give zero cares about his daughter. He makes horrible decisions about her, including leaving her alone to go screw his girlfriend, when Wren is evidently emotionally delicate and volatile. Plus he was a raging dick to Mary, who spent all of her apprentice with him taking care of his daughter so he could work. If he had died in a fire, I wouldn’t have been sad. I hated him 100% of the time.

And the characters Nick, Mike, and Meredith were all pointless. They had zero point. I’m not kidding. If you removed their arch from the story, it would change nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The loose ends and plot twists were mind numbing. There are four points in the story where unnecessary plot devices are used to up the angst game, and for all but one (sort of), they’re left without any kind of closure. This continues up until the last two chapters of the story. Yes, that’s right, one of those plot arcs, which helps bring the story to an end, isn’t really explained and you’re left scratching your head as to what happened.

I’ll spare the details, mostly because I don’t want to put in spoilers, but needless to say, those characters I mentioned that could have been removed? Yeah, all these loose ends are tied to them.

Now, the ending. The ending, which is the ultimate reason I want to give this a lower rating. I seriously didn’t realize it was over until I turned the next page and there was nothing there—and I don’t mean that in a good way. I was so mad. Raging.

She ended it there? And with that?

I spent the entire book wondering how it would end—dying to know how it would end. Would Cal’s MS win? Would Wren turn to Nick? Would her depression (which grew really old and childish by the end of the story, by the way) consume her? HOW?

Have any of you heard of a deus ex machina? Well, the award for biggest deus ex machina goes to Ms. McNamara. I mean, you can’t get more freaking obvious with the trick she pulled. I’ve been good about spoilers up until now, but I have to put one in here. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, go ahead and quit reading this. All you need to know that the ending sucks and it’s the reason I’ve decided to drop this rating to a two-and-a-half stars.

SPOILERS

The entire story ends with Wren having a very abrupt and last minute epiphany on how life doesn’t absolutely suck, and with Dr. Williams telling her there’s a magical, experimental cure for MS that’ll make Cal’s symptoms go away. The only problem is Cal, for some dumb reason, is refusing to take the pills—not because they’re experimental and could be dangerous, but because he doesn’t believe he’s that bad—so it’s up to Wren to convince him. The last chapter is literally Wren going into his bed room, saying like two things, and him going ‘Okay, I’ll do it because you asked’. That’s it. That is the end.

I read 341 pages to get to that; for a magical cure and Wren to be all hunky dory. No real resolution. About a dozen loose ends not explained.

I can forgive a story for a lot, but I can’t forgive it for pulling one of the most obvious deus ex machinas I’ve read in a long time. Ms. McNamara took a story that held so much potential and began so strong, and finished it with a wet fizzle.