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BOOK REVIEW: In Harmony by Emma Scott

BOOK REVIEW: In Harmony by Emma ScottIn Harmony by Emma Scott
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The root of all madness is an unbearable truth…

At seventeen, Willow Holloway’s life was torn apart. The happy, driven girl is gone, and she is left wracked by post-traumatic stress her body remembers even if she does not. When her father suddenly uproots the family from their posh penthouse in New York City to the tiny town of Harmony, Indiana, Willow becomes more untethered and lost under the weight of her secret. On a whim, she auditions for a part in the community theater’s production of Hamlet and unexpectedly wins the role of Ophelia—the girl who is undone by madness, and her love of Hamlet…

Isaac Pearce is from the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ The town bad boy. Girls pine for his attention and guys are in awe of him. That he’s an acting prodigy only adds to his charisma. Isaac utterly disappears into his characters; the stage is the only place he feels safe from his own traumatic home life. He wants nothing more than to escape to Broadway or Hollywood and leave Harmony behind for good.

No one can play Hamlet but Isaac, and when the director pairs him with Willow in acting class, they clash again and again—neither willing to open their hearts to anyone. But clashing leads to breaking, breaking leads to the spilling of terrible secrets, and soon Isaac and Willow find Shakespeare’s words mirroring their lives. When they are cruelly torn apart, neither know how this play will end—with madness and heartache? Or healing, love, and the discovery of who they are truly meant to be.

In Harmony is a standalone YOUNG ADULT/NEW ADULT love story, and is intended for readers 18 and up. PLEASE NOTE, this book contains sensitive material such as physical abuse, and the aftermath of sexual assault (off the page). Reader discretion is advised.

Thank you NetGalley, the publisher (Trillian) and the author, Emma Scott, for my free copy in exchange for my honest review.

5/5

I was completely blown away by this book. I had never read Emma Scott before, so I had no idea what to expect. But I’ve been pretty down lately and was looking for something to bring me out of my funk and this seemed like a good one to try. I’m so glad I did, because even with the heavy subject matter, I was so drawn and invested in these characters.

Long review below, because this book deserves it.

I searched book after book of Celtic legend and lore, but I couldn’t find the tale of Little Light. Instead, the dark found me. Two weeks after my seventeenth birthday.

Meet one of our main protagonists, Willow. I adored Willow. Here was this girl, who had something absolutely terrible happen to her and was doing her best to deal with it, especially with fairly absent parents who refuse to acknowledge how seriously their daughter is in turmoil. In the middle of her senior year, her father is moved from NYC to a small town outside of Indianapolis and Willow is the new girl at school. (Side note: Hooray to a small Indiana town not being painted in totally terrible light!) Even in a new location, Willow struggles to understand and deal with the trauma of her ordeal from the year prior.

I tried not to let myself think of him. He didn’t even have a name in my reckoning. He didn’t deserve one. Names are for humans.

On day one in her new school in Harmony, Willow meets two very important characters in this story: Angie, an amazing side character, and other other damaged protagonist, Isaac. I loved Angie. She was quirky but unabashedly herself. She goes out of her way to help Willow, even when Willow does not always return the favor. Their friendship was lovely and I really enjoyed when they were on the pages together.

And Isaac. Dark, dreamy, damaged Isaac. Isaac, who is a phenomenal actor and lives in a broken down trailer with his alcoholic father. Isaac who is determined to use his talents to get out Harmony and help those who he cares about.

After a brief but memorable meeting at the school, Willow decides to audition for the local production of Hamlet, which Isaac will star in. I really liked the author’s emphasis on using art as a way of healing for both Willow and Isaac.

I didn’t care whether I got the part or not. All that mattered was that for the first time, I’d told the truth. Cloaked in other words, but still my truth.

Willow ends up getting the part of Ophelia, opposite of Isaac as Hamlet, and that’s really where their interaction begins. And I was here for it.

He shoved his shoulder against mine playfully, not looking at me, but his Oedipus curtain call smile slipped out, and it put a crack straight across my block of ice.

If you’re looking for a slow-burn YA contemp romance, you have come to the right place. Because there is a lot both Isaac and Willow have to deal with in their personal lives, as well as their feelings for each other. I really appreciated nothing being rushed and the small moments and interactions as they got to know one another. It honestly felt so real and natural, which is exactly what I love.

Take this interaction for example:
I swallowed hard. “It doesn’t matter.” “Matters to me,” he said, his voice gruff. “It fucking matters to me Willow.”

And this one:
“You’re not dead,” I said, crouching down. “You’re not dead, Willow.” I won’t let you die. “Not all of me,” she said, sleepily. “But a part of me is dead and gone. And I’ll never get it back.” And that hit me in the heart a thousand times harder than her screaming rage at the sky.

The scene in the graveyard killed me. It was so good. Definitely one my favorites in this book, and there were a handful I could have picked from as a favorite.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you want to laugh, smile, cry, be heartbroken and then whole again, look no further. There were a lot of important themes to this book and some heavy topics, but I thought they were handled in a good way. Just FYI, TW for: rape, PTSD, physical abuse, verbal abuse, use of slurs (though it is acknowledged it is wrong) and underage drinking. It’s also definitely a mature YA novel, so just be aware.

Overall, I loved this book and I loved these characters. Any little issues I had are completely overwhelmed by everything else. This book was wonderful and if you are even slightly thinking you might be interested in it, you should absolutely do so.

BOOK REVIEW – All In (Full Tilt #2) by Emma Scott

BOOK REVIEW – All In (Full Tilt #2) by Emma ScottAll In (Full Tilt #2)
by Emma Scott
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

*HUGE SPOILERS FOR THE 1ST BOOK - FULL TILT*

*********************************************************************************

Reeling from her loss, Kacey Dawson is grieving and heartbroken, her addictive demons hauling her back into the alcohol-soaked abyss she worked so hard to crawl out of. Kacey teeters on the edge of oblivion, and must fight her way through the pain, to build a new life for herself with her music, and somehow fulfill the promise she made to Jonah…one she feels is impossible to keep.

Theo Fletcher has a secret burning in his heart, one that he holds close, while he struggles to keep strong for his family that is falling apart. His mother’s health is fragile and his father’s disapproval is breaking him down. Theo is afraid if he follows his heart, he’ll fail, and not just himself, but his brother who believed in him when no one else did.

Drawn together by their pain, Theo and Kacey slowly build a friendship, re-forge old ties, help each other to heal, and give one another the courage to reach for their dreams. Together, from the depths of grief and guilt, they learn to laugh again, to trust again, and quite possibly find something beautiful and lasting amid the shattered pieces of their broken hearts.

***HUGE SPOILERS FOR FULL TILT!  You can read my review of the 1st book, Full Tilt → here***

*********************************************************************************************************

Review:

All In was an enjoyable conclusion to the Full Tilt trilogy.  Their lives were nicely wrapped up, and we received not one but two epilogues looking into their future.  I fell for both Kacey and Theo in the first book, and I loved the moments that showed us clues Theo was interested in Kacey.  It gave me hope that Kacey would get her happily ever after since it seemed inevitable that Jonah wasn’t going to survive.  So I started this book with my heart in the palm of my hands.  Especially since the Prologue backtracked to when Theo went into Jonah’s hospital room to say goodbye for the very last time. Their conversation brought tears to my eyes, I miss Jonah so unbelievably much!  But I knew Theo would keep the promise he made to his brother.  That Theo would make Jonah more than proud!

Goddammit, Jonah, come back and fix all this because I fucking can’t. – Theo

Fast forward six months after the funeral and Theo is still reeling.  Not only from the loss of his brother, but Kacey has fled and he has no clue where she went.  Watching Theo’s interactions with his parents, friends and co-workers was devastating.  He tried to put on a good show, but he was so stilted from all of the pain weighing him down.  And when he was alone, the amount of suffering he radiated was monumental.

My chest constricted and tears burned behind my closed eyes. After six months, I should’ve been used to the way he snuck up on me. Little bits of conversation. Little slivers of memory.
Little moments.
Jonah
. – Kacey

Kacey is in an even darker place than Theo.  She is drowning herself in alcohol to numb the pain.  Being drunk 24/7 allows her to continue on with her life and her music.  Even if she knows she’s teetering on the edge of killing herself.  While Kacey continued to spiral hard out of control, I held out faith that Theo would rescue her.  Much like how Jonah rescued her in Full Tilt.

But as the story progressed, I found myself struggling here and there.  At times I couldn’t fully connect to the characters.  It was like what I went through while reading the second half of How To Save A Life.  Which shocked me, because Full Tilt was a solid 5 Stars and I loved these characters.  While I more than loved how the story played out, I constantly found myself being pulled away from being emotionally connected.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was still hung up on the epicness of Full Tilt or if in fact parts of this book just honestly fell flat.  So I’m going to try and pick this book back up again down the road.  These characters more than deserve that and I’m going to hold out hope that I fall just as madly for this story as I did for Full Tilt!

*ARC kindly provided by author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Reading Order & Links:
Amazon (click on covers) & Book Depository (click on book #)
full-tilt-emma-scott
Full Tilt #1
Reviews:
Jen
all-in-emma-scott
Full Tilt #2
Reviews:
Jen

 

BOOK REVIEW – Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

BOOK REVIEW – Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma ScottFull Tilt (Full Tilt #1)
by Emma Scott
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

"I would love you forever, if I only had the chance..."

Kacey Dawson has always lived life on the edge--impulsively, sometimes recklessly. And now, as lead guitarist for a hot up-and-coming band, she is poised at the brink of fame and fortune. But she is torn between wanting to be a serious musician, and the demons that lure her down the glittering, but alcohol-soaked path of rock stardom. A wrecked concert in Las Vegas threatens to ruin her career entirely. She wakes up with the hangover from hell and no memory of the night before, or how she ended up on her limo driver’s couch...

Jonah Fletcher is running out of time. He knows his situation is hopeless, and he's vowed to make the most of the handful of months he has left to him. His plans include seeing the opening of his glass installation at a prestigious art gallery…they do not include falling in love with a wild, tempestuous rock musician who wound up passed out on his couch.

Jonah sees that Kacey is on a path to self-destruction. He lets her crash with him for a few days to dry out and get her head on straight. But neither of them expected the deep connection they felt, or how that connection could grow so fast from friendship into something more. Something deep and pure and life-changing…something as fragile as glass, that they both know will shatter in the end no matter how hard they try to hold on to it.

Full Tilt is a story about what it means to love with your whole heart, to sacrifice, to experience terrible grief and soaring joy. To live life with all its beauty, and all its pain, and in the end to be able to smile through tears and know you wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Review:

Full Tilt was an emotional powerhouse that kept me on a wonderfully vicious cycle.  I found myself smiling, then laughing, then swooning and then crying.  And I would repeat that time and again.  I completely loved this book, even when I didn’t want to.  Even when I was scared out of my mind, right alongside Kacey, that Jonah wouldn’t make it. *shuddering breath*  So I must advise you to step into this story at your own risk, because your heart will definitely be on the line and put through the wringer.  But it’s worth it.  I swear.  It’s more than worth it.

I kissed Jonah Fletcher with all of my heart, and with every piece of my soul that would love him forever.

Kacey and Jonah met in the most different of situations.  You see Kacey was an up and coming rock star.  She was in a band that was on the brink of huge stardom.  She drank herself into blackouts to avoid the world and her reality.  And those that surround her sure as hell weren’t going to help pull her out of that cycle.  Jonah on the other hand kept to his strict schedule, since receiving a heart transplant.  He didn’t drink or smoke, ate crazy healthy and he had his days and life planned out for him.  Then one night, Jonah was Kacey‘s limo driver. Kacey was in one of her blackouts and Jonah being the good guy that he is, took her home.  So she could be safe.  He rescued her in a sense, and Kacey realized it.

“Every time I see you, I think, This is it. She cannot possibly look more beautiful than she does right now. And then I see you the next time.”

While they seemed worlds apart, they were both desperately looking for a connection.  For someone who they could confess their deepest, darkest secrets and fears to.  A friend that would always be there.  No matter what.  And after spending not even five minutes together, you could just tell that they were going to be something spectacular.  You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just know they’re going to be your best friend in the world?  Well that’s how their interaction felt like.  While there was an underlying simmering of sexual tension, what stood out was their connection.  How they pulled out the best from one another.  How they were able to feel comfortable just being around each other.  I loved watching their friendship unfold.

“So, the whiskey bottles ,” I said, nodding at the lights. “Are you repurposing my bad habits?”
He smiled. “No, just a friendly reminder.”
“Of what?”
“That you can find beauty everywhere, even in the things that scare you the most.”

I became invested in hoping that Kacey would get her act together and I became terrified of how Jonah’s healing after his transplant panned out.  And as the pages passed, I can’t even put into words how alive and real they felt to me.  How they became insanely important to my happiness.  The more I learned about them, the more they interacted, the more I fell for this book.  I loved how much I smiled, laughed and even had tears in my eyes.  Full Tilt was filled to the brim with characters whose emotions were pounding against my heart to feel what they felt.

You don’t give up,” I shrieked, making him flinch. Making me flinch at the hysteria that was lurking just below the surface.

As the clues unfolded, I had a good idea where this book was headed.  Especially when it became.. View Spoiler »  I don’t want to say whether I’m elated or devastated, because I don’t want to give away the ending.  But know that I am most definitely looking forward to diving right into the second book in this duology!  I can’t wait to see what happens, even though this book doesn’t have a cliffhanger!  While How To Save A Life and I didn’t mesh all the way, I completely fell in love with Full Tilt.  Full Tilt was beautifully heart wrenching and I can’t wait to read more of her books!

*ARC kindly provided by author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Reading Order & Links:
Amazon (click on covers) & Book Depository (click on book #)
full-tilt-emma-scott
Full Tilt #1
Reviews:
Jen
all-in-emma-scott
Full Tilt #2
Reviews:
Jen

BOOK REVIEW – How to Save a Life by Emma Scott

BOOK REVIEW –  How to Save a Life by Emma ScottHow to Save a Life by Emma Scott
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Josephine Clark is trapped. A harrowing past haunts her every time she looks in the mirror, and she can’t escape the violence of her everyday life. More and more, her thoughts turn to Evan Salinger, the boy she knew in high school. The boy they called a mental case. A loner. A freak. The boy who seemed to know things no one could know. For a few short weeks, Jo had found perfect solace in Evan’s company, sneaking every night to meet him at the local pool. In the cool of the water and the warmth of Evan’s arms around her, Jo had tasted something close to happiness.

Cruel circumstances tore them apart, and four years later, the sweet memory of their time together is dissolving under the punishing reality of Jo’s life now. Evan seems like a fading dream…until he reappears at the moment she needs him most. Guided by Evan’s strange intuition, they flee her small Louisiana town, on the run from the police, and Jo begins to suspect there is something more to his sudden return than he admits.

Over twelve days across America’s heartland, deep secrets come to light, buried pasts are unearthed, and the line between dreams and reality is blurred as Evan and Jo fight to hold on to their soul-deep love, and discover that there is more than one way to save a life.

How to Save a Life is a complete second-chance STANDALONE novel with shades of the paranormal. It carries the characters from high school through to their early twenties. Mature subject matter and sexual situations. TRIGGER WARNING: some domestic violence (on the page) and mentions of sexual abuse (off the page) For readers 18 years and up.

Review:

How To Save A Life kept me intrigued with its fresh twist on a familiar storyline and with characters who boldly stood out.  Yes we have a girl who chooses each time she moves to a new school to be a freak or a slut (fyi she chooses the latter this time) and a boy who is shunned by the rest of the school.  Yet their back story and how they handled their situation felt entirely unique to me.  It left me wanting to know what would happen to them.  And if they could fight the odds for a happily ever after.

I was trapped between who I was and who they wanted me to be and it was crushing the life out of me so I could hardly breathe. – Evan

The first half of this book was set in High School and I loved this section of the book.  Even though I struggled liking Jo in the first few chapters.  You see, she’s set herself on this path to control how others view her.  And while that sounds reasonable, the ways she goes about it, like giving someone else’s boyfriend a blowjob behind the bleachers, made me cringe.  How in the world could I connect or like her?!  I didn’t think it would happen.  But she shockingly won me over.  And it helped that she hides nothing from the reader, so we get to understand why she acts the way she does.  My heart hurt for this girl and the life she’d been dealt.  Luckily Evan stepped into her life, and hope bloomed into my heart for the both of them.

His fingers ran through my hair and caressed my cheek. “Let’s do something really fucking crazy and trust each other.”
I laughed a small sob. “Okay.” – Jo

When Evan and Jo met for the first time *smiles hugely* you could feel the pull and connection between them.  Here’s this girl who’s never had a true friend and is constantly moving around and here’s this boy who has been shunned by the whole school and is constantly taunted and mocked, yet together they work.  When they’re around each other they can finally laugh, smile and be happy.  They can be themselves.  There’s finally hope in both of their lives.  Their moments together were beautifully perfect and butterfly inducing.  And when their sweet friendship took a dive into the steamy area, wow.  I had SO much hope that this book was going to be a solid 5 Stars.

They say all who wander are not lost. But some of us are. We’re really fucking lost, wandering until our feet bleed, and it feels like we’ll never find our way home again. – Jo

But right after the halfway mark we jump 4 years into the future, and the second part of this book fell flat for me.  Everything felt so different.  I wasn’t able to connect with Jo.  Then Evan did SO much for Jo, and instead of swooning over him like I should have, I kept thinking why was he doing all of this?  Because I couldn’t feel the connection between them anymore.  So I was devastated with how this second half unfolded.  Especially since the first half was so breathtaking.

I let go.
He caught me and held me up. My arms went around his bruised and beaten body, and I held him up too. Together, we stood upright and unwavering. I was strong in Evan’s arms. And I never wanted it to end. Ever. – Jo

Speaking of breathtaking……Evan….sigh.  There’s a reason why I didn’t gush on and on about Evan.  You slowly get brought into his world, when it’s through his point of view.  As I got to learn more about him, not only did I become more devastated but I kept falling harder for him.  Which makes being conflicted over this book so brutal.  Because I loved the first half and the characters, but that second part left me entirely unsatisfied.  So I think what I’m going to do is try another book by this author.  Because the potential for me loving her work is there.  So fingers crossed the next one I pick up will be a much better fit for me!

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