Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful #1)

Title: Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful #1)
Author: Jamie McGuire
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: May 26, 2011
Publisher: Jamie McGuire
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Emma Galvin 

Genre: Contemporary, New Adult

SUMMARY: Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.


Disaster unearths something deep within us, a dark curiosity. Suddenly, you can't look away, though you know you should. You can't move away, though you know you should. That tragic allure, that inexplicable paralysis... is this book.

In a way, the plot seems to glorify emotionally abusive relationships. I think the only person in this book who has her head on straight is Kara, calling out co-dependent behaviors. Unfortunately, she's regarded as a nuisance and not a voice of reason.

I have no idea how to rate this. As a disaster? 5 stars. The title nails this on the head. BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is intriguing and frustrating and shamelessly leaves more than a handful of casualties in its wake, not all of them fictional. And like any disaster, you can't seem to look away.

As realism? Hmm. The tempestuous dynamic between Abby and Travis is overtly present in society, and this novel doesn't shy away from its faults -- which I appreciate. However, there should be a disclaimer at the end explaining that yes, this happens. But NO, it should not. I also opt for an alternate ending where Abby leaves this unhealthy, unstable, controlling alpha male and builds some self-esteem, finally making her own decisions. 

There is a line between protective and controlling behavior, and though often blurred in real life, it's fairly distinct in this novel. Travis, knowingly or not, plays on Abby's guilt and that doesn't change at all from the beginning to the end of the novel. Every argument he makes to her to stay is justified by how it will affect him if she leaves. And Abby -- as a genuinely nice, NON-self-centered person -- lets him do it over and over again. Classic emotional abuse.

I enjoyed reading this, but a significant part of me was waiting and waiting for Abby to realize she deserves better and to move on, but she never does. And that might be the most realistic and disastrous aspect to this tragic story. I think one draw for readers is the desire to know that despite our flaws, there is someone out there who will love us. We all want a happy ending, and this appears to provide a solution. It puts a pretty band-aid of sex and alcohol over the gaping wound of loneliness and self-worth.

If you want an emotional roller-coaster without the abuse, go with CRASH by Nicole Williams.


Moderate-High (occasional intense swearing including F-word)
Moderate-High (kissing, sex used a means of conflict resolution)
 Moderate-High (frequent physical fighting, mob fights, fire)
Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate (underage college partying/drinking)

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: The Luxe (Luxe #1)

The Luxe (Luxe, #1)
Title: The Luxe (Luxe #1)
Author: Anna Godbersen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Audiobook
Narrator: Nina Siemaszko 

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult

SUMMARY: Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.


A dramatic glimpse at the glamorous--and not-so-glamorous--lives of New York socialites in 1900. 

THE LUXE begins at the funeral of beloved upper class gem, Elizabeth Holland. As we survey the varying shades of "grief" displayed by those in Elizabeth's social circle, it becomes evident that her death may have been more than just a tragic accident. The novel quickly escalates into a provocative whodunnit as devious intentions unfurl and the plot thickens with greed, envy, revenge, and--possibly the most dangerous motive of all--unrequited love

Deft plotting and colorful characterization will leave the reader begging for more. Recommend for fans of Gossip Girl, Agatha Christie, or anyone looking to add a little intrigue and scandal to their reading repertoire.

Nina Siemaszko nails her performance as narrator, highlighting the eccentric nature of every character in this novel.


Mild-Moderate (Kissing, suggested sexuality, lust, infidelity)
 Mild (Murder or suicide implied, physical displays of rage toward inanimate objects)
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild (Effects of alcoholism depicted negatively)

This review also appears on Goodreads.
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