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Jamie McGuire

REVIEW: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

REVIEW: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Dear Ms. McGuire:

Angela James loaned this book to me and I went on to purchase my own copy ($1.99 using the Kobodollaroff coupon). This book is often recommended on the goodreads forums and it is highly rated. I totally understand the appeal because it is a very readable book plus I think that there are hookable elements such as a fantastical ideal of the bad boy who transforms for one person only. The voice of the author is compelling and her command of the characters make the book seem all the more real. The reason that it is disturbing is the fairly positive light in which this dangerous and dysfunctional relationship is portrayed. In real life or as an exemplar of a healthy relationship, this is a terrible book. It’s a book that you want to talk about with your daughter if she reads it. There may be triggers ahoy for those sensitive to physical abuse.

beautiful disaster jamie mcguireAbigail Abernathy attends an illegal fight in the bowels of her university early on in her freshman year. There she catches the attention of fighter Travis Maddox (whom I believe is a junior). They come into more frequent contact as a result of her best friend, America, dating Shephley (Shep), Travis’ cousin. Travis and Shep live in an apartment off campus and when the dorm showers break down, America and Abby move into the apartment.

Travis immediately attaches himself to Abby but he’s a man whore, bringing home any number of women after drunken binges. Abby recognizes that Travis is bad news right away, particularly given her past, and she agrees to be friends only with Travis.

Travis leaned so close that I could feel his breath on my cheek. “I’m sorry…did I offend you in some way?”

I sighed and shook my head.

“Then what is your problem?”

I kept my voice low. “I’m not sleeping with you. You should give up, now.”

A slow smile crept across his face before he spoke. “I haven’t asked you sleep with me,” his eyes drifted to the ceiling in thought, “have I?”

“I’m not a Barbie twin or one of your little groupies up there,” I said, glancing at the girls behind us. “I’m not impressed with your tattoos, or your boyish charm, or your forced indifference, so you can stop the antics, okay?

Travis is determined that they should be friends and Abby is helpless against Travis’ charisma.  The flirty exchanges between Travis and Abby are very cute.  Their relationship, however, to any one looking on the outside is more of a girlfriend / boyfriend. Abby sleeps with Travis in his bed, platonically. They spend almost every minute together when they aren’t in classes.  Travis worships Abby and demands every one treat her respectfully, even though he has little respect for other women.

While Travis is taking home a different girl every night, Abby starts seeing Parker, a wealthy pre med kid, who happens to be Travis’ fraternity brother.  Abby’s on again/off again relationship with Parker might drive readers crazy but I saw it as a defense mechanism.  How else could she prevent herself for falling for Travis?

I loved the setting of this book at Eastern University and Abby, Mare, Shep, and Travis felt authentically college aged to me, full of self confidence and invincibility but without the responsibilities and worries that post college brings. Eastern U must be a tiny college, though, given that it seems everyone eats lunch at the cafeteria at the same time. In some respects, this setting resembled a high school more than a large university. The dialogue was engaging and fresh. Shep warns Abby off, saying that her having a one night with Travis will lead to Shep and Mare breaking up:

“This isn’t my first rodeo, Mare. Do you know how many times he’s screwed things up for me because he one-nights the best friend? All of a sudden it’s a conflict of interest to date me because it’s fraternizing with the enemy! I’m tellin’ ya, Abby,” he looked at me, “don’t tell Mare she can’t come over or date me because you fall for Trav’s line of BS. Consider yourself warned.”

The interaction between the four was really well done and displayed the volatility of youthful romance.

I didn’t feel that Abby’s past was fleshed out enough to provide a basis for her refusal to date Travis.  It would have been easy to understand her refusal to date him based on his seeming inability to treat woman as anything other than objects but instead her refusal to date him was based on the idea that she was bad for him. Yet, this is a guy who went insane after Abby left him:

“He took a swing at Shep when he found out we helped you leave. Abby! Please tell me!” she pleaded, her eyes glossing over. “It’s scaring me!”

The fear in her eyes forced only the partial truth. “I just couldn’t say goodbye. You know it’s hard for me.”

“It’s something else, Abby. He’s gone fucking nuts! I heard him call your name, and then he stomped all over the apartment looking for you. He barged into Shep’s room, demanding to know where you were. Then he tried to call you. Over, and over and over,” she sighed. “His face was…Jesus, Abby. I’ve never seen him like that.

“He ripped his sheets off the bed, and threw them away, threw his pillows away, shattered his mirror with his fist, kicked his door…broke it from the hinges! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”

There were a number of unbelievable elements such as Travis being not only the bad boy, but a card carrying member of a popular fraternity. He smokes, is an incredible instinctive fighter, never trains, drinks constantly, drives a motorcycle, and is so brilliant he doesn’t need to study. He doesn’t even run or lift weights or engage in any kind of physical activity other than fight occasionally (and even that is not on a regular basis). At one point, he even sings in the cafeteria getting everyone to sing along with him.  His charisma is just that amazing.   Abby is an even more shallow character. We know only that she wants to remake herself in college but into what, I don’t believe if even Abby knows which would be fine except that eventually Travis becomes her whole world.

Travis’ default reaction to everything is violence, no matter the danger in which might place Abby.

Travis barreled his way onto the dance floor, and plunged his fist straight into the pirate’s face, the force sending both of us to the ground. With my palms flat on the wooden floor, I blinked my eyes in stunned disbelief. Feeling something warm and wet on my hand, I turned it over and recoiled. It was covered in blood from the man’s nose. His hand was cupped over his face, but the bright red liquid poured down his forearm as he writhed on the floor.

Travis scrambled to pick me up, seeming as shocked as I was. “Oh shit! Are you all right, Pidge?”

When I got to my feet, I yanked my arm from his grip. “Are you insane?”

America grabbed my wrist and pulled me through the crowd to the parking lot. Shepley unlocked his doors and after I slid into my seat, Travis turned to me.

“I’m sorry, Pigeon, I didn’t know he had a hold of you.”

“Your fist was two inches from my face!” I said, catching the oil-stained towel Shepley had thrown at me. I wiped the blood from my hand, revolted.

The seriousness of the situation darkened his face and he winced. “I wouldn’t have swung if I thought I could have hit you. You know that right?”

 He is a scary guy who views everyone as a threat and every situation as a potential fight.  Abby encourages this for all her protestations otherwise.  Later in the book she tells Travis to teach another guy a lesson in manners and Travis goes over and beats the hell out of said guy.

“Did you mean it when you said you didn’t want me to change?” he asked, squeezing my hand.

I looked down at Chris laughing to his teammates, and then turned to Travis. “Absolutely. Teach that asshole some manners.”

….

Travis lifted Finch’s tray off the table and swung it into Chris’ face, knocking him off his chair. Chris tried to scramble under the table, but Travis pulled him out by his legs, and then began to wail on him.

Chris curled into a ball, and then Travis kicked him in the back. Chris arched and turned, holding his hands out, allowing Travis to land several punches to his face. The blood began to flow, and Travis stood up, winded.

“If you even look at her you piece of shit, I’ll break your fuckin’ jaw!” Travis yelled. I winced when he kicked Chris in the leg one last time.

In some ways, Abby is more of a possession than a person to Travis.  Abby chastises him for acting like he is marking her, peeing on her leg (figuratively), yet despite all the warnings, this is where Abby wants to be.

This book, for its flaws, is compulsively readable. While reading the book, it is easy to get caught up in the fantasy of it and the romanticism of Travis’ strength of feeling for Abby but at the end, you are left with this uneasiness because Travis doesn’t change. He’s still the uber violent rage monster that he was in the start of the book who is routinely destroying things and then asking for forgiveness and Abby is the very young woman who keeps forgiving him.  C

Best regards,

Jane

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What DA January is reading

What DA January is reading

As promised, I’m working my way through a bunch of Indie/Self-Published reads right now. I have a few reviews in the hopper. Those should be going up in the next few weeks. A few are things I’ve liked, but nothing I’ve fallen in love with. I picked several of the current books on my Kindle simply because of the number of positive reviews, just to see where my tastes line up with those on Amazon.

Here’s what’s on my Kindle this week:

Claimed by Evangeline Anderson – This one has a nice cover and a lot of reviews. I am thinking this might be greatness. I read the sample and her writing style was very easy and clean. I wanted to find out more, so I purchased. I am about 25% in and losing interest fast, though. The heroine isn’t winning me over, the characters are inconsistent, the hero is emo, and something called a ‘mating fist’ keeps being mentioned, and I just might be terrified of what it might be. I’m trying to finish this one, because I have a feeling it might be another epic review if the mating fist turns out to be as alarming as I think it might.

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Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire – The cover on this one is foul. Just foul. What am I supposed to think about a multicolored tongue? This book has lots of positive reviews, however, and some devotees on the forums at Amazon. The romance in this is supposed to be intense. I bought it, but have only read a few pages so far. It’s classified as a romance for teens but right now it reads a bit older. I am guessing the YA category was selected simply for popularity.

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A Modern Witch by Debora Geary – I liked her voice in a shorter work that I read (review pending), so I bought this. Again, this has almost 200 reviews on Amazon, almost all of them positive. That is very impressive. So far though, the story opens with the heroine having a discussion with her brother about the bra in her shopping cart. And the brother tells her that the color will look good on her. My squick factor just doubled. Also, the book opens with formatting errors on the first page. Never a good sign. Yes, I do hold indies to a high standard. I’d point and laugh at any NY book that had an enormous error on the first page, too.

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A Knight In Central Park by Theresa Ragan – I just downloaded this one for free because I was intrigued by the cover. Ragan’s books seem to be popular and have a fair amount of positive reviews. The story sounds different, which is nice. However, I started it and I’m seeing typos galore, so this might go into the “Abandoned” pile. I don’t consider myself a grammarian, so if I’m noticing your typos? It’s bad.

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Warrior by Violette Dubrinsky – This was sent to me by the author. I said yes because the excerpt was intriguing and seemed like the author could write. This seemed like a typical romance fantasy, but I thought that might be interesting. The story opens with an infodump, and I felt like the first 8% of the story was entirely unnecessary. It picks up a bit after the hero is introduced, but he is quite possibly the most toothless warlord I have ever read about. Also? I hate his name (Vulcan). The heroine has a porny name (Jaisyn St. Ives), and makes the worst decisions I have ever seen. She tries to assassinate the hero by running into his camp alone. She gets caught. She decides to lead her army on the front lines, despite everyone warning her what a bad idea this is. She puts her city through a siege and forces the warlord to fight his way in when he showed up to marry her sister. It would have been an amicable capitulation with no bloodshed, but the heroine decides that for her sister, she will go to war. Many, many people die so her sister won’t marry a man she is scared of. And then she decides to marry him to save this sister. They marry, have sex together, and then she stomps her foot every time he tries to rule the kingdom. This feels like the fanfic lovechild of a Julie Garwood fan, and I do not mean that in a positive way. I won’t spend 400 pages with a TSTL heroine, so into the DNF pile this goes.

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That’s what is on my Kindle this week. Has anyone read these?

All Best,

DA January