Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ARC Mini-Reviews: Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding & Love the One You're With by Lauren Layne


Title: Ink is Thicker Than Water

Author: Amy Spalding 

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: December 3rd, 2013

Amy Spalding tore down any preconceived notions I may have had about the content of her novels with her debut, The Reece Malcolm List, which stunned me with its honest voice, unexpected depth, and realistic portrayal of family. With Ink is Thicker Than Water, Spalding weaves an even more complex family dynamic with yet another narrator whose voice is spot-on. It isn't nearly as much fun as her debut is, full of its musical cast, but its messages are just as - if not more - important.

Kellie Brooks has never had a nuclear family or, for that matter, a normal life. Sarah, her older sister who has both beauty and brains, is adopted and her hippie mother and step-dad own a tattoo parlor. When Sarah turns eighteen, however, Kellie's "normal" begins to change. Not only is her sister meeting with her biological parents, discovering just how crazy her adopted family really is, but Kellie's best friend has abandoned her for a popular crowd and her father's disappointment weighs her down like lead. Moreover, Kellie is experiencing her own kind of change, complete with a college boyfriend and a new spot as a writer for the school newspaper. As Kellie navigates the turbulent waters that is her life, she'll soon realize that "normal" isn't what society dictates, but rather what you make of it yourself.

Ink is Thicker Than Water is a messy story, often with too many story arcs, but Spalding gives each ample attention. Whether it be Kellie's complicated relationship with Oliver, which is realistically drawn with these two setting boundaries and finding the courage to discuss their relationship or Kellie's relationship with her sister as the two must re-learn how to become a family when both are undergoing drastic changes in their lives, Spalding keeps her characters flawed, but her resolutions realistic. Moreover, I particularly love that Kellie discovers that it is okay to change. As a junior newly joining the school newspaper, previously underachiever Kellie finds that she harbors passions and ambitions and actual dreams for the future and, moreover, that she no longer wants to be the girl she always was; she wants to be someone different. For me, witnessing Kellie, alongside her sister and mother slowly uncover new truths about themselves and the lives they lead was a shockingly well-written growth arc. Additionally, a family with tattooists and adopted siblings isn't common, but Spalding writes them in such a friendly, relate-able manner that it is impossible not to see them as the new "normal" as well. With her sophomore novel, Spalding re-defines what it is to be normal, such an integral theme as teenagers rarely think their lives are going as planned or are as normal as they should be. With Spalding's story being pushed out into the void, however, there is no doubt in my mind that this is one tale that will connect with every reader, regardless of age and, moreover, regardless of family.
 
Title: Love the One You're With (Love, Sex, & Stiletto, #2) 

Author: Lauren Layne

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: December 9th, 2013

I've been trying to figure out what exactly it is that makes Lauren Layne's novels work so well for me. I do think her romantic plot lines are a little too familiar, and yet, aren't all of them? For me, what puts Layne on par with other contemporary romance writers I've enjoyed, such as Julie James, is the fact that she writes about women who are finding their way in life, either by re-creating themselves or putting themselves out there in new and terrifying settings. Grace, in Love the One You're With, is turning over a new leaf after she finds her boyfriend of nine years cheating on her. But, as Grace swiftly realizes, molding herself into a new version - Grace 2.0 - who is strong and sassy instead of kind and meek, is not as easy as it seems. What I love about Love the One You're With is the fact that Grace discovers, over the course of the novel, that who she is isn't defined by mere adjectives; she isn't just Grace 1.0 or Grace 2.0, she's really everything in-between too. For me, the fact that Layne writes strong, independent women who don't live their lives in boxes or around the schedules of men make her books feminist, enlightening, and simply kick-ass.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel, however, was the fact that Grace was forced to deal with a new inclusion into her friend circle. It has always been Julie, Grace, and Riley, the three ladies and their romance articles, but on a short leave from work, Emma joins their group and the confusion this throws into Grace's life is perfectly depicted. For perhaps the first time, Grace realizes that even the friend circles she assumed her molded in place can change - and do change even as these women change throughout their lives. It is a surprisingly realistic portrayal of friendship - tight, loyal, but messy too.

When it comes to the romance, though, what draws me in the most is the fact that these are wealthy, successful women with ambitions which levels out the playing field so that there is no economic dependence whatsoever. Moreover, the healthiness of these relationships shines through in their mutual respect for one another. Jake and Grace hold each other in high regard, which propels them to start off with friendship before taking their relationship any farther. It makes for tantalizing tension, but the pay-off is worth it (though perhaps the cheesy ending isn't). Ultimately, however, while I adore the romances Layne writes, all contemporary adult novels begin to blend together after awhile. Nearly all the characters are similar, as are their romances, which makes the notable differences Layne inserts into her stories all the more integral. Needless to say, I cannot wait to read whatever Layne up her sleeve next!

12 comments:

  1. Ink is Thicker than Water sounds like something I might enjoy, as it's a bit on the edgier side of contemporary. I'm glad to hear that the author managed to make sense of a pretty messy story, too - that's a good vote in its favour for me! I'm not sure Love the One You're With is for me, but I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, Keertana! Lovely reviews :)

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  2. Love that both books you featured today deal with change Keertana! I can definitely relate to having a core group of friends for a long time and then suddenly having someone new in the picture and how much that can temporarily throw the dynamic a little off. I haven't read anything by Lauren Layne, but I'm thinking I need to for sure!

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  3. These books sound hugely enjoyable, Keertana! I'm glad that you had much fun reading them. :) Ink is Thicker than Water sounds totally different. It's true that we don't get to meet adopted sibling and parents who own tattoo parlor every day in contemporary YA! :) I'm a bit skeptical when I saw the cover of Love the One You're With, but your review convinced me otherwise! I have to agree though, reading too much contemporary adults can be boring after some times. The characters are pretty similar, so we can only hope on the delicious attraction between them I guess. :)

    Fabulous review, Keertana! <3 Hoping that I can catch up with your reviews now. ;)

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  4. Okay, first of all, you're reading Ari and Dante! *happy dance*! I'm convinced you'll love it at least as much as I did.
    Neither of these books is something I'd pick up on my own, but if I do pick one up, it will be Ink is Thicker Than Water since it sounds much closer to my reading tastes.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. Hm... both sound fab, but I'm drawn a bit more to Ink. Perhaps it is the different kind of family that makes it more interesting to me. Brilly reviews!

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  6. I've never been a fan of messy novels which is why Ink Thicker Than water did not work for me at all :|

    Great review! <33

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    1. I'm sorry INK didn't work for you, Mel, but I'd encourage you to give Spalding's debut a shot. It's very different and a lot more light-hearted and fun, reading like a regular contemporary opposed to something vastly different. I hope you wind up liking that one!(:

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  7. I have heard really interesting things about Ink is Thicker than Water and it seems like a really interesting read. But I haven't heard of Love the One You're With and it sounds like a great story about Grace. She seems like a great character, maybe too old for my liking, but still very interesting. Great reviews, Keertana :)

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  8. I recently read a negative review of Ink is Thicker Than Water but your description makes it sound like a wonderful read. I'm glad this girl is able to realize that "normal" is what you make it to be.

    And yay! I'm so happy you enjoyed Love the One You're With! It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes Lauren Layne's stories stand out, but they do! I loved Grace and I was thrilled she got her own happy ending after her idiot of a BF, Greg!

    Wonderful reviews, Keertana! :)

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  9. Love is Thicker Than Water sounds really good. I like messy stories and this sounds like it would be good. I've seen Layne around but haven't really given her much thought. I guess I will. Great reviews, Keertana! P.S. I tagged you in the Book Blogger TMI Tag. :)

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  10. Thanks, Sarah, but I'm an award/tag-free blog and won't have the time to pass on the tag. I hope you don't mind, but thanks for thinking of me! Also, I hope you enjoy these reads if you choose to give them a try! :)

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  11. 1) I really need to read THE REECE MALCOLM LIST. I like that this author tackles families and messy relationships. The idea that it is ok to change and grow is also one that I like.

    2) I really liked Isn't She Lovely, and I'd like to try more Lauren Layne novels. I agree, she does tackle well used plots, but for some reason I was drawn very strongly to that story. I'm glad that this one focuses on friendships. I'm looking forward to the first in the series and then tackling this one.

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I love hearing from my readers and I read, reply, and appreciate every one of the comments I receive!(: If you're a fellow blogger, please leave a link to your blog - I'd love to drop by!

Unfortunately, this is now an award-free blog. I simply do not have the time to respond and forward on the award, but I truly appreciate the nomination regardless.