Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: "These are the Moments" by Jenny Bravo + GIVEAWAY

These are the Moments Jenny Bravo
Published: April 30, 2015
ISBN: 0996301100
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Reading YA novels as an adult, New Adult Fiction, books by Rainbow Rowell, well-developed primary and secondary characters, on-again off-again love stories

Wendy Lake... Big dreams. Small bank account. Back home from college, she's the girl with the day job, the girl whose mom still packs her lunches, the girl with the memories she can't shake.
Simon Guidry ... The boy who holds her past in his pocket. And maybe her heart, too.

This is the story on-again, off-again Wendy and Simon, told in the now and then of their relationship. As the couple is thrown back into each other's lives through their friends' wedding, These Are the Moments dares to ask the questions: 

Do people ever really change? 
Do two people, who can never make it work, actually make it right? 

And most importantly, do they even want to?

My Thoughts:
Folks, this is it. This is the book that has convinced me that the world of self-published books is worth exploring.  I came across this book by finding the author's blog. I was intrigued enough from what I read there to give her book a try, and I'm glad that I did.

I loved Bravo's writing-it is at least as good as anything that comes out of a major publishing house (and, in many cases, better!).  She has a fun readable style that is very reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell.  Yet, Bravo's real strength is in building characters.  Wendy is a well-rounded and complex character, which shouldn't be surprising as she is the main character of the novel.  However, Bravo takes the same care with all of the characters of this book, which really brought Wendy's world to life with me.  It was surprising because in most books, even books that I consider exceptional, the secondary characters just aren't as full as the main characters.  So, bravo for Bravo.

This book is told between two time periods--the present day, when Wendy and Simon are both going to be a part of their friends' wedding, and "the past" starting when the two met 10 years earlier.  It does alternate chapter by chapter, but Bravo does a good job of bridging the two narratives.   At times, though, I wished that she had combined  some of the "then" sections so that she could have 2-3 "now" chapters for each "then" chapter.

I do want to talk a bit about the genre of this book.  I did note early on that I wasn't quite sure what genre Bravo was going for, young adult or new adult.  In truth, the book reads well through both lenses--which really is not a detriment as young adult and new adult are pretty much Irish twins in the literary world.  But there is something much more interesting when it comes to genres here.

Wendy is a devout Catholic.  In fact, she meets Simon--and most of the secondary characters--at a youth retreat.  Wendy's faith is important, not just in terms of character development, but also in terms of plot.  While this book is not "preachy" in the least, the presence of this character's faith would cause any major publisher to slap a "Christian" title on it.  But, there is also a lot of drinking, some illusions to drug use, implied sex, and a whole army of f-bombs here--none of which any publisher would allow in a work of "Christian" fiction (and pretty much all of it was important to the story).  So, if Bravo had gone the "traditional" publishing route, she would either have had to take out Wendy's spirituality, which would have flattened the main character, or taken out all the other stuff, which would have flattened all the other characters and sucked the life out of the world she created.  By self-publishing, she wasn't forced to conform to one genre or another and her story benefited from it.

There was one aspect of this book that didn't work for me.  I really felt that this story should have been told in the first person voice.  As it is, Bravo uses a close third person point of view, much like you would find in a book where the narrative shifts between two characters--which is what I thought this story would be when I started (it isn't--and that's a good thing!).  My guess is that Bravo probably would have been more successful using Wendy as a narrator.  As it was, there were several points in the book where I was suddenly reminded that the book was in third person and I thought that Bravo had switched viewpoints on me--which resulted in my re-reading sections and interrupting the flow of the book.

However, that really is a small point against all the other strengths of the novel (and, I'm a critical reader, so many readers may not even pick up on it).  I was wonderfully surprised by this book and now consider myself a Jenny Bravo fan and I urge readers to brave the world of self-published novels to read this gem.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Because I was so wowed by this book, I am giving away a Kindle copy!  This giveaway is open to anyone, but you need to have a Kindle or the kindle app installed on a phone or tablet in order to read it.  This giveaway will end at 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on October 20th.

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These Are the Moments
by Jenny Bravo

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