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REVIEW:  Fight by Kelly Wyre

REVIEW: Fight by Kelly Wyre

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To Nathan Hunt, honesty is anything but the best policy. Telling the truth has gotten him nothing but heartache and pain; so lying about who he is and what he wants seems to be the only path to job security and friends. Hell, it even brings him a hollow kind of happiness.

Except, that’s not much of a life for any man. Especially one with Nathan’s passions. Desperate to cure his self-made misery, Nathan agrees to go along with a con that will score cash for Nathan to start over. There’s just one problem: lying is getting harder by the day. And a con who can’t lie, is a con who gets caught.

Nathan’s attempts to distract himself from his moral quandary lead him to a mysterious, intoxicating man named Fury. The Mixed Martial Arts fighter knows a thing or two about lies and pasts better left buried. He and Nathan have something else in common – they both want to be with someone who lets them be themselves.

Together, they undertake a journey that proves honesty is more dangerous and more difficult than either of them could have imagined. And as they combat addiction, thugs, guns, and their own inner demons, Nathan and Fury can only hope that their battle to be together will be worth the bitter fight.

Dear Kelly Wyre,

Debating the grading of your book made me think once again about the emotional component in the reviews and how far I am willing to go in allowing the emotional component to be part of the grade. To the extent I feel qualified to say, I thought your book was very well written, and the main characters had great chemistry (and to me the great chemistry between the leads is always an important reason to consider romance book a success).

At the same time, spending time with your leads exhausted me so very much that I am absolutely sure that I will not reread this book. I also found Nathan’s character arc problematic to certain extent – he definitely grows and changes through the story, but the reason for such change was well, a little problematic for me. That is the reason I was unable to grade this book higher.

Nathan is engaged to the daughter of the man who leads the corporation and his job involves doing some business stuff which I did not quite understand. They connect companies who need promotional stuff with vendors who can supply those. What this corporation does specifically is honestly not important at all for the plot and not mentioned in more details than that, except that Nathan’s boss and father of his fiancé Greg is a religious man who supposedly against gay marriage and supposedly he personally fired Nathan’s predecessor for being gay. It is also clear that Greg loves Nathan very much as his future son-in-law and really respects his contributions to business. Nathan is engaged to the boss’s daughter, Laura, but in his free time he is quite self-destructive: he fucks people in clubs, does drugs, and drinks (it is pretty clear that he is a drug addict, I also thought he was an alcoholic, but I thought that was a little less clear). Nathan knows he is gay and seems to really hate himself for being gay. And the depth of his self-hatred frankly tired me out.

“He had no defense. Sometimes the urge to escape beat him down so hard that there was no other option but to curl into the fetal position and promise anything if only it would stop tearing open his insides.
He hated himself for giving in, but he hated the hatred too. Being crazy felt like the real Nathan. The Nathan who went to work Monday through Friday, sat in his office, took meetings, went to the gym with his friends, and waded through the bullshit of the mundane – this guy was a pussy. That guy was an illusion built on habit and practice, and he was getting more indistinct by the day.
The Nathan curled up between a stall wall and a toilet in some club while high and recently fucked by a kid who might or might have not been legal? Now that guy was obviously the better man. Nothing said upstanding, righteous citizen like emotional repression, illegal drugs, and meaningless sex”.

It is ironic that I recently reviewed a book where I was reminiscing about the fact that I am usually very sympathetic to closeted characters, but here it was just personally too much for me. I did not hate Nathan by all means, even though I was kind of nervously waiting to learn the details of his relationship with Laura. I was worried that besides being tired out by him, I would start disliking him a lot for lying to Laura.

Alas. Here came my biggest surprise in the book. SPOILERS

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

Laura is a lesbian and she came up with a scheme for her and Nathan to get engaged, get married, get dowry from her dad, split it, and then get divorced. Then she was going to try and get together with the woman she met in Italy when she was in the navy.
So, needless to say that there is no cheating in the book and despite that crazy con (that’s what the blurb refers to) I did not dislike either Laura or Nathan for that. I mean, I thought they were not thinking clearly and I certainly did not consider this scheme a good decision or anything like that, but neither of them was portrayed as bad people. I cannot say I quite understood their desire to do it though, besides trying to stay in the closet and I thought they could just continue doing that. The money thing just confused me all together – the motivation for it I mean.

Nathan meets Fury (what a name, especially since it is one of his real names) early in the story. They are attracted to each other and I guess Nathan’s resistance to Fury does not last too long. Soon enough they find out that even though the exact circumstances of their lives are different, they are similar in many ways – both hide who they truly are (although Fury not as much as Nathan does), both have the bad pasts and the things from their pasts that they need to overcome and that they keep dealing with in unhealthy (albeit different) ways.

Fury exhausted me just as much as Nathan did; I mean in some ways he honestly tried to deal with his past and even did some kind of therapy. As the blurb says, he is an MMA fighter, and at first I thought that at least the part of his fighting was some kind of wrestling equivalent but then I decided that it looked too bloody for that so I was not sure. What exhausted me about Fury was that while one part of him was trying to deal with his past, another part was continued to show self- destructive tendencies and while I kind of understood his reasons (same as with Nathan), I wanted to shake him and say enough already.

But of course there comes a time in the story where both Nathan and Fury have no choice but fully deal with their problems – I liked it a lot on one hand, on another I felt that the only reason they change is because they met each other. And the story says all the right things – Nathan tells Fury that he is not his only reason for change – because of course if there is a person who loves you and supports you, of course it is at least partially your reason and why not — that he needs to deal with his shit, etc. However, however I guess I did not feel that the book showed me that Nathan *had* other reason for change, that he also started to work on being sober for himself, not just for Fury. I hope my interpretation was wrong and I hope the boys changed their lives because they realized that they want it for themselves and if they ever split up, Nathan will still want to stay sober and Fury would not come back to whatever he were doing.

The biggest surprise of the book was for me Greg, Laura’s father. I thought Laura was a wonderful character – very flawed but sympathetic, but I thought Greg was the most subtly written secondary character.

Grade C.

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REVIEW:  Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

REVIEW: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

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Dear Ms. Heasley,

The premise of your novel intrigued me. What does happen when the subject of a mommy blog grows up? If it’s embarrassing when your mother whips out your baby pictures to show your friends, how much more so when those pictures are plastered all over the internet to a faceless audience of tens of thousands?

Imogene is that girl, the girl you watched grow up on that popular blog. Imogene’s mother runs Mommylicious, a popular mommy blog. Her mother started the blog when she got pregnant with Imogene — she even held a poll to determine Imogene’s name (I know, right?) — and has chronicled being a mother and raising Imogene ever since.

While Imogene liked the attention when she was five, it’s a different story now that she’s in ninth grade. After all, what teenage girl wants their first period to be blogged about? Or the fact that they don’t have a date to the upcoming dance? It’d be one thing if Mommylicious were an obscure blog. It’s not. Imogene’s classmates read her mom’s blog. That’s so much worse.

Then Imogene’s English teacher assigns them a major project: keep a blog. Now is her chance to tell her mother all those things she’s never been able to. Surely it’ll be easier via a blog than to her face, right? But will her mother listen or will it just be an all-out war?

I realize this is somewhat meta. Reviewing a book about blogs on a blog! But I think it’s an interesting question. I’ve seen mommy blogs along the lines of the fictional Mommylicious. Sure, the photos of those adorable little kids are cute. But what happens as those children get older? In a highly connected world, does growing up have to be chronicled to the last detail on blogs and social media? Seems tough.

Maybe it’s because I come from this corner of the blogging world but I felt strong secondhand embarrassment when reading about the things Imogene’s mother blogged about. Picking your daughter’s name because it’s what your readers want? Blogging about your daughter’s first period? Chronicling your daughter’s crushes? Lack of boundaries! Where’s the privacy? I would be incredibly concerned if strangers came up to my daughter in the mall food court and started talking to her because they recognize her on sight and think they know her. I can’t blame Imogene for flipping out.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why Imogene didn’t fight back more. So maybe she can’t say these things directly to her mother but even using the platform of a blog, she was still a little wishy washy about it. Some people get braver on the internet. Imogene stayed the same. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. It just didn’t work for me narratively. Her initial posts, while angry, were more passive aggressive than anything else. I don’t understand why she couldn’t have posted a simple message along the lines of “My mother posts every little detail about my life and i consider it an invasion of privacy. I feel like she listens more to her blog followers and sponsors than me.”

I love that the book focused on the relationships between mothers and daughters but in some ways, I thought the handling was shallow and scattered. Part of this is because Imogene’s best friend is also the daughter of a blogger (a health/vegan blogger versus a mommy blogger). The best friend also feels like her mother cares more about her blog than her daughter, so the two make a pact about using the English class blogs to make her moms understand. But when Imogene begins to wonder if maybe this is the wrong approach, the two have a falling out.

Add to this a crush whose parents are absent and who thinks Mommylicious is the epitome of a mother’s love for her child, and I just couldn’t figure out what point this book was trying to make. Mommy bloggers are terrible people who exploit their children? Get off the internet, stop blogging and take a walk on the beach? Blogs are great for some people and not so much for others? I want to think it was the last one but there were several points in the book where I just wasn’t sure.

I really liked the premise of the novel. I do think it’s something to think about. But the treatment was shallow and thin. Maybe it’s the age? I usually don’t read YA in which the protagonist is in 9th grade. In the book, this isn’t even high school yet. Maybe young, sweet YA just isn’t for me. C

My regards,
Jia

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