All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Date of Publication: August 9, 2016
Genre: Romance, Adult, Contemporary
As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.
There goes my feelings. After reading this book, I found myself playing all the events in my mind over and over again. They were too absorbing and nothing short of brilliant. I didn’t expect I was in for a roller coaster ride!
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was a tough book to read. It screamed heartache and many different overwhelming emotions. A well thought-out story about a girl named Wavonna Lee “Wavy” Quinn, the book opens in the year 1975 when she was 6 years old and has started to live under the roof of her aunt Brenda and her husband and two daughters Amy and Leslie. Wavy has always been a different girl. She doesn’t eat, doesn’t speak if she doesn’t want to, and always sneaks out of the house. It was when her parents came around to take her and her brother Donal when her life went back to being miserable. Her irresponsible parents are the worst. Her dad is a drug dealer while her mom suffers a mental illness. But when a tattooed ex-con named Kellen came into her life and basically helped her manage her awful childhood, she started looking up to him and she developed more than brotherly feelings to him.
Told in multiple POVs, I found this book in a way, emotionally challenging. It wasn’t that easy to dive into various characters’ minds and perhaps explore their feelings and thoughts. Wavy’s thoughts alone were more than enough to destroy me. What more when it comes to her cousin, to the people around her, and especially Kellen? But the good thing that I found in this multi-POVed book was that it made me become more open-minded to the main characters’ situation. If I have read this book without getting into other characters’ perspective, I think I may have the tendency to judge Wavy and Kellen’s relationship. Their age gap was odd and I can’t blame this story if it led to so many negative reactions from the people around her, especially from Wavy’s aunt. Reading this book made me feel accepting. It made me feel as though I was the one wearing their shoes, thus I found myself empathizing with them.
I was awestruck by the series of events here, both the good and the bad. It was pretty much unpredictable. All throughout the book, I didn’t know what’s about to happen and worse, I already envisioned a sad and tragic ending. Because gaaah books like this tend to end that way! But despite all the ugly things that happened here, there were of course wonderful things as what the title implies.
“I liked to pet his feet with mine. Touch his hands with mine. Rub my cheek against his. I liked how we were different, but the same.”
I believe this is one of the most unforgettable books that I’ve read this year and I’m glad I really read this gem. It was gripping and it definitely offered a whirlwind of emotions. The characters were painted with enough realism and everything kept me on the edge. Just a heads up though, there were many delicate issues here such as drugs, abuse, marital cheatings, and crime. All in all, it was a highly emotional read and certainly one of the best books ever written in 2016!
(Apart from being intrigued with this book, I’ve also read it for a purpose which is to greet my dear friend AJ a happiest birthday. Happiest birthday, my dear! I hope you did have a blast! AJ happens to love this book so I decided to delve into it, too. Click her name to read her fabulous review and send her birthday wishes as well. 🙂
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Author: J.M. Darhower
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: April 1, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Dark, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense
In this thrilling and sexy follow-up to Sempre, two young lovers struggle to keep their relationship intact after they become deeply enmeshed in the dangerous mafia-run crime ring they once tried to overthrow.
The electrifying sequel to Sempre! This is a story about loyalty and love. It is a story about finding redemption— even when all seems lost.
Swearing allegiance to the Mafia in order to save Haven Antonelli—the girl he loves—forces Carmine DeMarco to make the ultimate sacrifice. Sent to Chicago to work for La Cosa Nostra, he refuses to place Haven in harm’s way by taking her with him. She deserves a shot at a normal life. But as he becomes more and more immersed in a world of terrible crimes, he realizes that surviving without her may be more than he is able to bear. . . .
Stunned and hurt that Carmine has left her, Haven must now learn to make her way in the world without him. Her heart aches with the loss, but for the first time, she’s making her own choices and accomplishing dreams she never thought were within her reach. The past, however, is not done with either her or Carmine. As Haven discovers dark secrets about the family who enslaved her and her mother, and why she matters so much in this web of lies, she realizes what terrible pain may still lie in wait for her and the boy she loves. And what they must suffer to find redemption. . . .
“What do you do when the thing you want most suddenly feels like it’s beyond your fingertips?”
5 stars will never be enough for this book.
I still can’t believe how this series ended in such a beautiful, satisfying, and all-consuming fashion. This is absolutely one of the riveting series-enders I’ve read so far– one that will stay glued in my mind forever.
In this second and final book of Sempre duology, Carmine and Haven’s life totally changed. Both of them were forced to separate and go in opposite directions because of the deal Carmine made with Salvatore in the previous book. Carmine is now a full-pledged member of the Mafia while Haven is basically free and is pursuing a normal college life in New York. With the absence of each other, their hearts didn’t seem to grow fonder and despite the things that happened, both of them weren’t able to forget their love.
I cannot think of better words that will do the book justice. Everything messed up my emotions. First off, I loved J.M. Darhower’s writing. As always. It just didn’t get old. This author manages to leave such an overwhelming impact to her readers because of her raw and brilliant way of writing. The dialogues shared by the characters were so intimately sensitive that I found myself falling in love and feeling their sadness and pain.
“He was surrounded by violence and death, the ugliness eating away at him, but then on the other side, there was her. She was peace and hope, and pure beauty. She was the good that he hoped would overpower the bad.”
Sempre: Redemption didn’t particularly prepare me with its much darker approach. I thought Sempre has a mild touch of darkness and graphic violence scenes but in this book, I can say that J.M. Darhower gave it all when it comes to the intensity of its dark theme. Some daring actions were thrown in and even the major character Corrado Moretti(who was so much badass-er) was given an opportunity to stand out.
Haven and Carmine’s character was also nicely developed here. I loved their strength and their faith. What basically made them admirable was how they didn’t give in to possible new relationships when they were no longer together. It took a lot of chapters for me to endure their sacrifice but in the end, I was glad because what happened to them was exactly what I wished to transpire in the book.
Yes, this book was hard to read at times because of its emotionally-draining scenes which were dragged on an interlude of heartaches and even tragedies, but it was so worth it. This book was so heartfelt and it wasn’t just about two characters in a forbidden love but it was also more about how these Mafia people value their devotion to their family. Given the length of the book which is about 500+ pages, I wasn’t intimated. It’s because no matter how tough this book was and even if there were sad and terrifying moments that occurred, the ending turned out to be a perfection it made me wept both sad and happy tears. I will never forget this series. It will remain in my heart, SEMPRE.
“Everyone falls sometimes, son, even me, but the trick is to get right back up. They’ll always target the ones who appear vulnerable, so you need to be strong. Fake it until you make it.”
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Author: J.M. Darhower
Publisher: J.M. Darhower
Published: October 27, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Young Adult, Contemporary, Dark
One wrong choice.
That was all it took to destroy a friendship.
*takes place before Sempre*
Friends is a Sempre novella. It’s about what happened to our boy Carmine DeMarco before he met Haven Antonelli. I loved how we get to see a glimpse of his friendship withNicholas here and the reason why they fell apart. This novella pulled on a few heartstrings. A bit heavy but it sure was worth reading. My heart ached for both boys since obviously these two are f*cked up in more ways than one and they came from families who have complicated issues.
Once again I was awed by J.M. Darhower’s writing style. It made me miss reading Sempre. I have yet to read Sempre Redemption and I’m so excited on what’s about to happen to Carmine and the rest of the gang.
P.S. You can read this novella after reading Sempre. 🙂
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(Sugar Bowl #2)
Author: Sawyer Bennett
Published: August 16, 2016
Genre: New Adult, Adult, Contemporary, Romance
In the steamy and suspenseful sequel to Sugar Daddy, a heartbreaking rift threatens to unravel a dangerous alliance… and a fragile new love.
After posing as an escort for the Sugar Bowl online dating service, Sela Halstead is looking for one thing: payback. She’s closing in on the site’s heartless founder, Jonathon Townsend, and she needs Beckett North, Townsend’s business partner and her lover, by her side. She’d thought that their intimate nights together had forged an unbreakable bond, but after a shocking betrayal, Sela begins to doubt the brilliant bad boy. When push comes to shove, can she trust Beck to do the right thing?
Now that he understands the truth, Beck will stop at nothing to secure the reckoning Sela deserves. But between his desire for her and his disgust for JT, Beck doesn’t exactly have a lot of control over his emotional state. Left with no other choice, he must summon all his discipline to maintain JT’s trust and pretend that they’re still friends. But how far will Beck go to prove his loyalty to Sela? He nearly lost her once. To keep her, Beck might have to kill for her.
Note: Sugar Rush ends on a cliffhanger. Sela and Beck’s story concludes in Sugar Free!
That ending. What the flying f*ck was that???
I knew I’m in for a ride when I started this book because the first one turned my world upside down. I was right. Sugar Rush evolved on a new level. It’s darker, a lot more gripping, and intense!
As Sela Halstead and Beck North‘s relationship progressed and their quest to seek revenge and destroy JT started, things become trickier. Family ties and the Sugar Bowlbusiness get in the way for Beck to achieve his goal so they dived into a more concrete yet risky plan with the help of their trusted investigator. But things are not as easy as they thought. More revelations keep coming out that hinder their plans. Even their dream of a happily ever after is almost impossible if they don’t do it right.
This sequel was brought out very well. I loved Sela and Beck’s character development and how they became at ease with each other and even gave their complete trust to one another. Sela opened up to Beck and told him about that part of her past that continue to give her a lot of reason to get back to JT. And after all the things she revealed, Beck was there to protect her.
Alright… so once again Sela made a stupid decision here which kind of pissed me off but I was still surprised that her stupidity was actually the thing that created a boomerang in this sequel. I did get nervous and I freaked out in every chapter.. especially the last few ones.
If you haven’t started this book yet, you better do so. Unless you’re not into dark romantic reads and deadly cliffhangers, then stay away from it. But if you love this kind of theme, this series is going to satisfy you. I’ve never been so happier to try Sawyer Bennett’s book. She is so worth it. Her writing style is superb and something that I wasn’t perhaps expecting.
Sugar Rush, all in all, is one amazing sequel. It had my mind spinning and my emotions on a ride, something I cannot imagine of feeling. I need the third book to come out now!
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(Sugar Bowl #1)
Author: Sawyer Bennett
Published: May 24, 2016
Genre: New Adult, Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Seduction has never been so sweet! The New York Timesbestselling author of the Cold Fury series—Alex, Garrett, Zack,and Ryker—returns with the first novel in a hot new trilogy.
Sela Halstead lost her innocence in a way that no sixteen-year-old should ever have to endure. She’s spent years trying to forget that night even while wondering about the identities of the monsters who brutalized her—until a telltale tattoo flashes across Sela’s TV screen. The incriminating ink belongs to Jonathon Townsend, the millionaire founder of The Sugar Bowl, a website that matches rich older men with impressionable young women. Obsessed with revenge, Sela infiltrates Townsend’s world, only to come face-to-face with a tantalizing complication: Beckett North, his charismatic business partner.
The tech mastermind behind The Sugar Bowl, Beck always gets what he wants, in business and in bed. And yet, for a man who’s done every dirty thing imaginable, there’s something about the naïve, fresh-faced Sela that sparks his hottest fantasies. Because with her, it’s not just about sex. Beck opens up to her in ways he never has with other girls. So why does he get the feeling that she’s hiding something? In a world of pleasure and power, the shocking truth could turn them against each other—or bind them forever.
Note: Sugar Daddy ends on a cliffhanger. Sela and Beck’s story continues in Sugar Rush and Sugar Free!
What a book!
I’m incredibly impressed. And I’m in shock that I have not read a Sawyer Bennett book. Clearly I was missing out because this book is written so well. It left me on the edge and kept me on my toes.
I wasn’t expecting what I got when I started Sugar Daddy. I knew it was a dark read and yet I was stunned by all the surprising elements that I found here.
Sugar Daddy follows the main character Sela Halstead. She was 16 years old when she was drugged and gang-raped by the men she could not identify. All she could remember when it comes to the people responsible for the rape was a guy who has a phoenix tattoo on his body. All throughout the years after she recovered, she bowed to herself that she would take revenge and destroy that guy. One day she learned that the guy was Jonathon Townsend, the owner of the dating app sensation known as Sugar Bowl. Seeing a great opportunity for her plan, she took the risk of getting involved with his business by pretending to be a sugar baby. But there is a huge conflict and that is Beck North, Jonathon’s co-founder of Sugar Bowl who happened to make his way through her heart.
What specifically made me feel drawn to the book was the pacing. Sugar Daddy is a quick and fast moving read and it was so hard for me to put it down. There was an intensity in its plot that made it all the more gripping and edgy.
And for someone like me who easily gets attached to the characters with enough depth, it wasn’t that difficult for me to be enthralled by both the male and female leads. I loved Sela’s character. I knew she lacked a little bit of development in her character and she has some flaws… like lying to Beck all the time in order to keep her secrets and plans hidden, but despite her imperfections, she felt real to me and I totally connected with her. She was’t anything annoying and I loved her strength and how she was able to overcome her traumatic experience. Beck, on the other hand, quickly wormed his way under my skin. I loved that he always gives his everything to the woman he loves and even though he didn’t say the three magic words to Sela, his actions tell everything a woman needs to know. To put it simply, he is a perfect male lead. Not to mention hot.
There were of course, a lot of steamy scenes thrown here and there and by steamy I mean really, really HOT. Those scenes were delivered so nicely that you can’t help but swoon and root for the two characters to be together until the very end. Another thing that I loved most about this book was the conflict which had a great impact to me. It was so nerve-racking!
If you read the synopsis of this book, you will have an impression that it’s dark and yes, it was truly dark but not to the extreme. I could say that the book very much focuses more on the romance rather than its dark theme.
All in all, it was a spectacular contemporary read. The romance was all-consuming and too good to be true and the author’s writing style was a win. I’m happy to say that Sawyer Bennett made it successfully to my new favorite authors in this genre. I will surely read the sequels of this series as well as her previous and upcoming books!
Note: This book ends with a cliffy. Prepare the second book before you start this one if you don’t want to freak yourself out. 🙂
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Author: Nicole Williams
Publisher: Nicole Williams
Published: March 22, 2016
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark, Adult
From New York Times Bestselling Author, Nicole Williams:
When a seventeen-year-old girl vanishes,
A community is shaken.
Parents turn desperate.
Friends hold vigils.
And the boy who loves her searches.
When a year goes by,
The community is recovering.
Parents feel hopeless.
Friends feel helpless.
And the boy who loves her continues his search.
When ten years go by,
The community has forgotten.
Parents cling to the past.
Friends move toward the future.
And the boy who loves her . . .
Brings her home.
Jade Childs spent ten years in captivity, but now that she’s back, the real battle for survival begins. The media shadows her. Flashbacks haunt her. Her old life evades her. Her so-called new life rejects her. She spent too many years in the dark to recognize the light. She spent too long repressing her feelings to remember how to express them. She spent a decade abandoning hope and cannot dare letting it back into her life. Jade’s not just defined by what happened to her—she’s collared to it.
When the twenty-seven-year-old woman is found,
A community wants to know the story,
Parents want to forget the story,
Friends want to be a part of the story,
And the man who still loves her faces the greatest challenge yet: letting her go.
***This is a standalone novel***
“I’m just hoping you’ll figure out one day that you can’t save everyone. Sometimes you have to just let go.”
Can I even possibly formulate a proper thought right now? After reading this book, a host of different emotions took me over because everything about this story was so subtle and real.
Collared begins when 17 year-old Jade Childs was kidnapped by a man who’s so sick and twisted. For about ten years, she was held captive and was literally collared by a man who has an obsession over getting back his biological daughter who happens to look exactly like Jade. Jade’s childhood sweetheart Torrin Costigan was left devastated after she was abducted but he did everything to find her and didn’t give up. Now, ten years later she was finally found and was back in her family’s arms. Things could have been better after that but she later on realized that ten years really changed a lot of things, including her relationship with Torrin and everything between them.
All the things that happened in this book hooked me the entire way through. The plot was gripping and intense and there was definitely a touch of darkness that is centered around the crucial parts of a girl’s traumatic experience. What happened to Jade was so difficult to take. And what she went through after she was found– the depression, the confusion of whether she should forgive or hate the man who took away her dreams, was even a lot to take in. Things even made it more difficult for me when Torrin suddenly revealed the huge decision that he made after Jade was lost. I was so stunned and hurt and devastated ugh my heart is torn into pieces!
“When you love someone, you love them. You love them as hard as you can, as best as you can.”
It’s been a while since I’ve read something as emotionally driven as this book. Collared sure portrayed a unique, heart-tugging story that was so subtle in the emotions. One of the best parts of this book was Torrin and Jade’s series of interactions and dialogues. These two really made so much sense. I was really hoping that the stars would collide and that their love will find a way in the end.
This book is not your typical mushy, romantic book. It’s emotionally draining but in a good way. Regardless of its dark and sensitive theme, I would highly recommend this book to everyone who’s brave enough to face a heartbreaking and soul-crushing story of two characters who have gone through such a rocky road towards reunion. Hats off to Nicole Williams for this wonderful book that gave me a good cry. 🙂
“I spent ten years wishing you were here. I got mine. Maybe one day… someday, you’ll get yours too.”
(I’ve read this book for the #NALitLoversPH #NewAdultAndBeyondPH readalong)
You might also want to read my girls’ review of this book:
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