March 8, 2019

Abbreviations #80: The Art of Losing, Running with Lions + My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Harley Langston’s world is turned upside down one night at the beginning of summer when she discovers her younger sister Audrey hooking up with her boyfriend Mike at a party and leaves them both there in her rage. And then, something even worse happens: a very drunk Mike is driving Audrey home when they get into an accident that leaves Audrey in a coma. Harley wrestles with her anger and pain at the betrayal of two people she loves, and her grief and guilt over Audrey’s fight for her life and her ex’s alcoholism. Unexpectedly, she finds understanding and support in the form of her childhood friend and neighbor, Rafael Juarez, who has just gotten out of rehab and is still struggling with his own demons. As her connection with Rafael grows and Audrey slowly recovers, Harley might just find the strength to begin to forgive, to heal and to move forward with her life.

I don’t necessarily gravitate towards contemporary fiction, particularly when it centers around real issues (like alcoholism and toxic relationships, which are both aspects of the plot in The Art of Losing). But I knew I was going to pick this one up specifically because, and full disclosure here, Lizzy has been one of the publishing folks and friends I’ve known for years. The Art of Losing surprised me, in a good way, as it does one of my preferred things in the novels I read: exploring a complicated character and her relationships. Harley is under a tremendous amount of emotional stress, which is unsurprising considering all the situations (and the emotions they elicit) that she’s trying to handle in the most responsible, least worrisome (to other people) way. While I can’t say I’ve been in her exact position, I will say that her coping mechanisms and reactions were things that felt authentic and relatable. In addition to that, Lizzy also touches on how complicated families can be (even when you love them), teen alcoholism and addiction, rehab experiences, the effect of all sorts of relationships (healthy or otherwise) in a teen’s life. She also manages to throw in some comic and pop culture references too! All in all, I flew through The Art of Losing and I ended up finding it to be a solid debut.

The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason | Publisher: Soho Teen | Publication Date: February 19, 2019 | Source: ARC picked up at BookExpo 2018

Sebastian Hughes has been looking forward to his soccer summer training camp before his senior year. After all, what could be better than quality time with his beloved team as they train to ensure they do well in the upcoming soccer season? But he doesn’t expect to have his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah show up at his camp, and the initial ice-cold reception he gets is discouraging. But as the summer goes on, they might just end up reconnecting again…

I was instantly drawn to the cover for Running with Lions when it first popped onto my radar, courtesy of Twitter, simply because it was just a delightfully illustrated soccer team in a huddle. I finally picked it up on a whim when I was trying to decide on my new Kindle read, and overall, I’m glad I did. It has a lot of elements that I personally gravitate toward: a summer setting (and bonus, it’s at an out of town training camp), a group of friends filled with a variety of personalities, complicated relationships (including the adorable romance I was rooting for!), and a main character going through a period of personal growth. Unfortunately, the one thing that ended up really knocking my enjoyment down overall was the writing, specifically the narration style. I just didn’t click very well with the way Winters chose to write this tale (which is something a few other people haven’t really been into either), and it also made me feel more detached from the characters. However, if you can push past the way its written (like I did), Running with Lions is a cute, quick contemporary YA read.

Running with Lions by Julian Winters | Publisher: Duet Books | Publication Date: June 7, 2018 | Source: Owned the Kindle book

Millie Morris is a professor at UC Santa Barbara, an expert on female serial killers and intimacy deflection and the only girl in her current group of friends. Things get complicated when their entire group agrees to sign up for an online dating service to find plus-ones for an upcoming black-tie university function, especially when Millie winds up creating a second profile to avoid the dick pics and creepers that have responded to the original. As “Catherine”, Millie can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been able to be in real life. As “Catherine”, Millie is matched with Reid and starts exchanging emails with him… complicated even more by the fact that the two of them had a half-night stand in real life. Will Millie ever be able to face her fear of intimacy and tell Reid the truth?

Ever since I read my first Christina Lauren novel last year, I’ve been a fan. Their books tend to be just the sort of romance reads I’ve craving at certain times of the year, and My Favorite Half-Night Stand was no exception. I enjoyed it for what it was – a contemporary romance where the couple isn’t officially together because to miscommunication (or the lack of it). Millie was a tough nut to crack initially, but I think that was deliberate since our girl shies away from any sort of intimacy with anyone. Once her vulnerabilities began to show, I began to feel a bit more empathetic towards her. Reid, on the other hand, was an incredibly appealing love interest from the start (though he’s certainly not perfect in every regard, let me just say) so it was easy for me to like him right away. Their romance is… well, it’s complicated. And while I’m total on board with all sorts of complicated relationships and could understand their reasons, it didn’t make the lying or lack of communication between these two best friends any less frustrating to read about. You can likely tell that My Favorite Half-Night Stand is not a new favorite from this author duo, but it was just what I wanted at the time I picked it up, so I still wound up enjoying it overall.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren | Publisher: Gallery Books | Publication Date: December 4, 2018 | Source: Owned the paperback


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