Book Review

Book Review: Rome by Jay Crownover

RomeCora Lewis is a whole lot of fun, and she knows how to keep her tattooed bad boy friends in line. But all that flash and sass hide the fact that she’s never gotten over the way her first love broke her heart. Now she has a plan to make sure that never happens again: She’s only going to fall in love with someone perfect.

Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He’s stubborn and rigid, he’s bossy and has come back from his final tour of duty fundamentally broken. Rome’s used to filling a role: big brother, doting son, super soldier; and now none of these fit anymore. Now he’s just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes the only color on his bleak horizon.

Perfect isn’t in the cards for these two, but imperfect might just last forever . . .

This is third book in Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series, you can read my reviews of the first two books Rule and Jet – the short version is that I absolutely adored them. I was really looking forward to reading Rome, not so much for the very attractive male lead but instead for the very attractive female lead – Cora. I had enjoyed her so much in the first two books that I was looking forward to getting to see her take centre stage.

It was, as I expected, a complete delight to spend the time reading a book with Cora front and centre. She’s a really interesting character, and getting to see so much more of her lived up to all of my hopes. She’s tough and strong but has a vulnerable streak a mile wide. She sees herself as a protector of the group, her role managing the tattoo shop means she spends her working time looking after all of the boys whilst they work and she doesn’t stop when the working day is over. Seeing her stand up both for and to them makes her increasingly impressive throughout the series, in this book we get to understand how she fits into the shop and their lives, and how they all fit into hers. Understanding all of this made me love her even more.

Before this book even starts we’ve seen enough of Rome to know his decade spent serving his country have changed him, he’s done numerous tours of active duty and as a result seen and experienced things that have left their marks on him both literally and figuratively. There’s an author’s note at the beginning of the book that in writing Rome as a character she did not try to write him as “a portrait, in a generalized or documentary way” – I think she achieved this really well. There is no question that Rome felt very genuine as a character to me based on what I know of the experiences of former members of the armed forces. At the same time he never feels like a cookie cutter model – his personal difficulties are as a result of far more than his military service, he’s a complete product of his circumstances. I found that the more I read about him and the more I understood what was going on in his head the more I rooted for and liked him.

The relationship between Rome and Cora feels nearly as inevitable as the ones between Rule and Shaw, and Jet and Aiden did. The difference in this relationship though is that we can see how huge the potential stumbling blocks are. I found that I was really willing them to find their way through or around them, at times I did start to wonder whether they would be able to. They work really well together as a couple, and their more intimate scenes work just as well and are just as hot as any in this series.

I can’t review a book in the Marked Men series without talking at least a little about the rest of the characters. Firstly I must mention how great it was to see how the characters I’d already come to love and care for continue to develop in this book – both those who’ve had their time in the limelight and those who haven’t yet had the chance to star in a book. There is one plot thread in particular that began in Rule that makes a lot of progress in this book and I loved how it played out. The set up for the next book in the series, Nash is threaded throughout this book and again I felt it worked really well. In addition to the core group of characters I really enjoyed the couple of newer characters, Asa who has made an appearance before but in this book really starts to find his place, and Brite who is completely new to the book. I enjoyed both characters immensely and am pleased to see that Asa will get his turn to lead a book sometime next year!

This book isn’t quite like the previous two. It took me a little while to work out why this was, it follows the same basic structure as the other books in the series but has a slightly different feel. I think it’s because Rome himself is not an intrinsic part of the core group of characters, Cora is. In the previous two books it has been the male characters, Rule and Jet, who’ve been part of the tightly knit group of friends and the female characters, Shaw and Ayden, who’ve been the new additions. Did this mean reading the book was a different experience? Yes. Did I enjoy it any less as a result? Absolutely not. This is another brilliant addition to the Marked Men series – I think there’s no question that this is going to be one of my favourite series of 2014.

Rome is published by Harper. in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: Jet by Jay Crownover.

JetWith his tight leather pants and a sharp edge that makes him dangerous, Jet Keller is every girl’s rock and roll fantasy. But Ayden Cross is done walking on the wild side with bad boys. She doesn’t want to give in to the heat she sees in Jet’s dark, haunted eyes. She’s afraid of getting burned from the sparks of their spontaneous combustion, even as his touch sets her on fire.

Jet can’t resist the Southern Belle with mile-long legs in cowboy boots who defies his every expectation. Yet the closer he feels to Ayden, the less he seems to know her. While he’s tempted to get under her skin and undo her in every way, he knows firsthand what happens to two people with very different ideas about relationships.

Will the blaze burn into an enduring love. . . or will it consume their dreams and turn them to ashes?

Last week I reviewed Rule, the first book in Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series and mentioned that I ordered Jet the second in the series as soon as I finished reading. I made myself read another book in between, but was quickly back to the world of tattooed, pierced boys and strong ladies. Whilst there won’t be any specific spoilers for Rule in this review there are some similarities I will be drawing to the review so if you didn’t read it and are interested now might be a good time to read it – here.

Jet again follows a dual narrative structure, with the heavy metal bandleader Jet and Ayden, Shaw’s best friend and roommate, taking their turn in the limelight. The book begins partway through Rule – we get to see one specific scene from the book from Jet and Ayden’s perspective, this acts as a prologue and scene setter before the timeline jumps forward a year. I liked this a lot, whilst it was nice to get that look back at part of Rule the jump forward meant that the whole cast of characters continued to develop. The only slight niggle I had as a result of this was that initially Jet felt a little like he was info dumping, this passed very quickly and his voice then shone through clearly.

One of the things I loved about Rule was the tight knit nature of the group of characters, this holds absolutely true for Jet too. The group dynamic is brilliant, and I enjoyed seeing how the group had evolved over the year that had passed. Having the book from Jet’s perspective in particular was interesting, he doesn’t work at the tattoo shop like the majority of the male characters so his relationship with them is slightly different. Cora again stands out as a character I love, she plays a slightly more prominent role in this book – this made me very happy.

The relationship between Jet and Ayden is beset by difficulties. Both are characters who keep quite a lot of themselves hidden, this only results in miscommunication and frustration on both sides. Even when things are going well it is easy for the reader to see how fragile their relationship is – I found I was, like the characters, waiting for the other shoe to drop. At times whilst I was reading it felt like my heart was aching for both of them. I have to say too that whilst the more adult moments between them were well written and hot, it was the quieter moments that I loved the most.

Jet in particular spoke a lot to me as a character. He’s a hugely talented musician and as such everyone has an opinion on what he should be doing and achieving. They’re less keen on listening to what he wants and accepting that he might know himself better than they do. I think these sorts of assumptions are all too easy to make, if Rule focused on knowing who you truly are then Jet turns on the focus onto knowing what you want to be. These are both such huge themes that root the books firmly in the New Adult styling and both ask and attempt to answer the meaningful questions many people are still trying to answer much further into their grown up lives.

This book is another really excellent read, I loved it just as much as I did Rule though for different reasons. If this series is an indication of how the New Adult publishing world is evolving I may have to reconsider it completely.

Rule is published by Harper in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: Rule by Jay Crownover.

RuleOpposites in every way . . . except the one that matters

Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight-A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want – and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.

To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess – and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw – even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.

But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love… or each other.

I have to be honest and say that I don’t read many New Adult novels at all. I’m a big fan of adult romance novels, but there hasn’t been a lot to make me want to dip into the New Adult selection – mainly I think because it has turned out to be something entirely different to what I’d expected it would be (but that’s a blog post all in its own right). I had Katie McGarry’s books recommended to me and loved those so when the same recommender (thanks Liz!) told me about Jay Crownover’s books I knew I needed to give them a try. I’m so glad I did, having now read the first two books I’ve found I love them as dearly as any series I’ve loved in a while.

This book uses a dual narrative, both Rule and Shaw share in the story telling duties. I think this works really well for this sort of story, when emotions are such a driving force behind interactions I want to understand both characters rather than seeing one of them only through the other’s eyes. It does of course mean that when one or both of the characters are being stupid you both understand why they’re being stupid and find yourself wanting to shout at them both. Or maybe that’s just me getting over-invested in things?

Rule gets the opening chapter of the book and had captured my attention well before the end of it, he’s an intriguing character and I want to get to know him and what makes him tick. The reader gets to meet Shaw in this first chapter too, but the version of Shaw that Rule sees – when she takes over the narrative in the second chapter you quickly come to realise that the real Shaw is pretty different to Rule’s version. Again my attention was well and truly captured, my reading pace picked up a little.

In addition to the two main characters the author has created a whole cast of interesting supporting characters, from Shaw’s friend Ayden to Rule’s coworkers in the tattoo shop. I was really pleased to see that the subsequent books in this series, Marked Men focus on these supporting characters – I actually downloaded the second book Jet as soon as I finished reading Rule. Whilst I loved all of the men that Rule’s friends with my favourite of the supporting characters was Cora, I can’t wait for it to be her turn to be in the spotlight.

Like all good romance novels the will they won’t they doesn’t focus so much on whether the couple will get together, but instead on whether they’ll make it work. The stumbling block that they experience was not remotely what I’d expected, but it definitely fit the characters very well. It was one of those revelations that made so much sense of much of the story that had come before, the sort of thing that makes me look forward to re-reading the book with this new knowledge. I loved the way their relationship didn’t exist in a vacuum, with such a tight knit group of friends the repercussions were broader and more genuine as a result.

The New Adult age banding allows for adult style sex scenes, these are well written and appropriately steamy. This means of course that it’s not a book I’d be recommending to teenage readers. I know that this goes with the target audience but I think it bears repeating. Considering the New Adult label I have to say that this is the sort of book I want from New Adult, Shaw is a student and both she and Rule are still finding their way in the adult world. They’re juggling their adult lives with the pressures of family and expectation, and of finding their own path and way. If I drew up a list of what I wanted to see in a New Adult novel Rule would tick the core criteria and offers more still.

This book worked so well for me because I really cared about all the characters. This meant it completely clawed its way under my skin – once I’d started reading it I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night until I’d finished it. The overarching theme of the book is about being true to yourself, being the person you are regardless of the external forces trying to mould you into something altogether different. This is such an important message, and it’s conveyed really well in this book. It left me thinking after I’d finished reading, always the sign of a good book.

Rule is published by Harper in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Recent Reads: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, Crossing the Line and Dare You To by Katie McGarry.

A round up of some of the books I’ve recently read.

imageSome Girls Are by Courtney Summers. St Martins Griffin.
Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around. Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first.

Regina is the focus of this book, once a member of the highest and meanest tier of school, some pretty awful actions mean her position changes overnight – she’s now at the very bottom of the pile and number one target for her former co-conspirators. The opening of the book, the incident that causes this downfall, is hard to read and leaves you wondering what else is going to happen in this book.

The book is all about the social structure of high school, particularly the more toxic aspects of it. The teenagers in this book are not nice, they have few if any redeeming qualities. Their actions are brutal, and the consequences are far reaching. All of this makes the book a gripping, but unpleasant read – the tension levels at times made me feel sick with nerves. Never once though was I put off, this is such a strong novel, it’s hard, shocking and oh so very real. It’s been a couple of weeks since I read it, and still I’m thinking about aspects of it – truly a book that gets under your skin.

imageCrossing The Line by Katie McGarry. MiraINK.
Katie McGarry captivated readers with her “riveting, emotional”* Young Adult debut, Pushing the Limits. In this gripping novella, she tells the story of Lila and Lincoln, who discover that sometimes it’s worth crossing the line for love…

Lila McCormick first met Lincoln Turner when tragedy struck both their lives. But she never expected their surprise encounter would lead to two years of exchanging letters-or that she’d fall for the boy she’s only seen once. Their relationship is a secret, but Lila feels closer to Lincoln than anyone else. Until she finds out that he lied to her about the one thing she depended on him for the most.

Hurting Lila is the last thing Lincoln wanted. For two years, her letters have been the only thing getting him through the day. Admitting his feelings would cross a line he’s never dared breach before. But Lincoln will do whatever it takes to fix his mistakes, earn Lila’s forgiveness-and finally win a chance to be with the girl he loves.

Wow, that’s a pretty long blurb for a novella, I’m afraid my review will be quite a bit shorter!

I really loved Pushing the Limits and was thrilled to hear there would be further books and novellas featuring key characters. This is the first of the novellas, focusing on Lila – Echo’s best friend. I must admit it took me a few pages to settle into the book, and understand how it fitted into the world McGarry has created, but as soon as I’d done so I loved it.

Whilst it is a much shorter story, I didn’t feel robbed or cheated – the characters are still well developed and I really cared about them. I particularly loved hearing about Lila’s wonderful organisational techniques – I’ve got a few new ideas to try now!

imageDare You To by Katie McGarry. MiraINK.
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

This is the first of the companion novels to Pushing the Limits, it focuses on Beth – Noah’s friend and housemate and introduces Ryan, a baseball star in the making.

I have to admit, when I read about the dare element of this book I was really worried. I generally find that books with secrets like this leave me so stressed out as I read, and so I end up not really enjoying the book. I was so pleased to find that this part of the plot didn’t play out as I’d expected it to, and so I could just enjoy the reading experience.

The majority of this book is set at a different school, in a different town, to Pushing the Limits so there’s a whole new lot of characters to get to know. Beth makes numerous trips back home though, giving us time to catch up with Echo and Noah, and with Isaiah.

This isn’t a perfect book, but the writing is so good that I was completely swept away by the reading experience and can happily overlook things that might have been gripes in a weaker book. I’m completely in love with this series, I think it’s the closest a series of books have got to making me feel the way watching Friday Night Lights did.