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4.5 out of 5 stars
Left Drowning
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119 of 126 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
There is one thing that I will give Jessica Park credit for in addition to her impeccable writing, and that is contributing to my reader's anxiety. I, myself, am a writer. I'm not much a reader. It takes a lot for me to get sucked into a story long enough to actually enjoy a book or to connect with the characters, so when I do, and the book ends, I mourn slightly. I feel sad, and would like to know what has happened since then. (They ARE real people, damn it!) I think other hardcore bookies will understand that - either that, or I'm crazy. Regardless, after discovering Jessica Park earlier this year, I am hooked. Her writing style is fresh, fearless, pushes boundaries, and utilizes the eloquence of our language while beautifully flowing from scene to scene, infusing modern-day, young vernacular with hints of sarcasm and freely dropping an F-bomb wherever she deems fit. (That's my kinda writing!)

Left Drowning was no exception to any of this. I will admit, I'm not typically a fan of any sort of erotica, but the "adult content" fit so well with the storyline and made the bond between the characters that much stronger. It was beautifully written, with that hint of "naughty" that 99% of people pretend to be offended by but are secretly wishing their significant others would say to them in the middle of a midnight romp. (Don't lie, you know it's true. You're mad because you got caught. It's okay.)

The love story is believable. Whether or not you agree with me completely depends on how you feel about God, or Fate, or whatever entity (or lack thereof) that you may or may not hold dear to you. I have read a few reviews from readers who "didn't get" Chris and Blythe's immediate connection or thought it was weird, and I'm honestly sorry for you. For me, it was actually a relief to read something so beautiful and unforced. I have lived through something very similar, and I married my "Chris", so this book really hit close to home with me (as do all of her other books, in their own special way). He came home from work after I finished reading this last night and I looked at him and couldn't help but cry happy tears. This book helped me reconnect with my own fate for a moment, and that's extraordinary.

I laughed. A lot. I fell in love with Sabin and Blythe's friendship, as I'm sure most other people did. I also cried. The pain is real and emanates right off the page. When Blythe says she can't breathe, you can't breathe. When she talks about the electricity between herself and Chris, your chest is on fire and aches for that.

I honestly can't recommend this book enough.

Thanks again, Jessica. I will be forwarding my therapy bill to you.
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171 of 192 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I wanted to like this book. I really did. Flat-Out Love was charming. And, although the book has some of the interesting character dialog as that in Flat-Out Love, I just couldn't bring myself to accept this book.

Maybe I am too much of a feminist to enjoy it? Maybe I just want my heroine to have self respect? I have no idea, but it achieved the opposite effect within me. What I was reading felt like a horribly toxic relationship that made me want to take a mental shower.

Super Spoilers

First, the characters. The main character, Blythe, showed promise. She had issues, which suggested some sort of growth potential. I liked that she had an obstacle to overcome, and I would have loved, just loved, if the novel addressed more of self-forgiveness, growth, and realization of self worth. Or maybe her renewed interest in faith or maybe something else that gave her comfort? I don't know. But, within the story, it is like Blythe is measured and measures herself based on her relationship with the other characters. As such, Blythe's personality falters. Once she is defined by her relationship with the other characters, her personality becomes secondary, and we readers are left to assume Blythe is just stellar and fabulous only because others find her so.

Christopher, the main love interest...where do I start... It seems that the book goes to great length to describe just how he looks, how hot he is, etc. But, his supposed wonderful personality is just not present or just wanes as the story goes along. The actions of Chris, however, speak loud and clear. Of course he is protective, he is damaged, he is hot, but why exactly am I supposed to root for him? To be honest, I couldn't stand him after reading the novel. (See below)

The Story:
The biggest issues that I have with the story deal with the narrative of how their relationship is played is just. so. toxic. There are two hugely troubling points:
A) Our heroine has little to no self respect, and I really, really wish she did; and
B) It is almost delusional to think that endings usually work out like this.

*Super Spoiler Heavy*
- Chris tells Blythe, straight up, that he doesn't want a relationship with anyone, and Blythe seemingly processes this yet somehow feels that, one day, Chris will see the light and be with her. [um, no dear..]
- Blythe takes control of her destiny and tries to pursue Chris by being more forward. (as is her right to take control of her own destiny) Chris, in turn, accepts this unwillingly and then later willingly, but then turns around to promptly ignore her for proportional lengths of time. It seems somewhat clear that Blythe is giving some kind of incentive so that Chris will like her and be with her, as she wants, but Chris feels no incentive to stay. [Blythe never asks herself the fundamental question of "why would I want to be with this guy anyway?"--we as the readers do not know, until the book reminds us that it is because of, oh yeah, their fate/destiny/magical pheromones]
- Blythe states to Chris that she doesn't want a boyfriend because she is too messed up, but yet contradicts this with her actions and internal dialog.
- Blythe sleeps with Chris (her first time, of course) because he is just so so beautiful and because of their *connection*. Blythe says that this was the moment that she fell in love. (Sending the supposed message that sex=love for women? I wish that sex=sex for Blythe, but no)
- Once Chris gets said sex, he promptly cuts and runs, ignoring her some more. [Wasn't their a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode about this? At least Chris didn't turn into a demon, though]
- Surprise surprise, Chris is involved with someone new...and even gets engaged! Our heroine Blythe gets angry about this and ignores Chris, feels depressed, etc. Why be shocked? He told Blythe that he was unavailable from the beginning. [But, I have to give her a slow clap, as Blythe did appear to walk away....until....]
- She professes that she loves him and that they belong together. Of course, Chris says indirectly he just feels toooo much with her and that's why he must marry someone else. [Excuse me? Run, Blythe. Do not walk. Run away from this sociopath]
- A year passes, but Blythe swears that can be no other except Chris. Chris, meanwhile, is still engaged and getting married. Blythe appears to interpret, through suggestion, that it would be a great idea to crash the wedding. [...I have no words]

But, here is where it gets into fantasy B)
- After crashing the wedding, Blythe comes to find that Chris is not, I repeat, not getting married! That is because the wedding is called off! Why is the wedding not called off? Because Chris saw the light and stopped it?? Nope, he just waited until his fiance stopped it, because at least *she* was smart enough to recognize that Chris was (a sociopath) not in love with her.
- Blythe basically forgives him (or at least enables him) within minutes! After all, no more wedding!
- Added bonus, Chris tells Blythe that, even though he was engaged for more than a year, he did NOT sleep with his fiance! So Chris is joyously unsullied by the new woman and may now resume his relationship with Blythe! (AGAIN with this theme of sex=love?)
-(Emotional unavailability by Chris, rinse and repeat, etc. etc. until....)
- The end! Where Chris FINALLY SEES the light, and he is changed! Blythe changed Chris! He stays with Blythe because he realizes there can be no other.

At the end, I just felt Chris was this hard-won prize to Blythe, but he was just so awful and manipulative. Was he to be women's ideal?!

The aforementioned sequence of events seems like some sort of perverse wish fulfillment.

People, for the most part, do not change like this. Yet, stories are made that try to convince us that people can, in fact, change like this. All that women have to do is keep pushing and sacrificing themselves, and eventually the men will change. This message is just really wrong.

I'd much rather go back to Flat-out Love, thank you.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I have been racking my brain for the right words to clearly describe my love for this gut-wrenching, amazing, brilliant novel. I've looked up words in the Thesaurus and still, nothing can quite fit the bill. I can only compare it to the feelings I had when I read Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. I was left feeling overwhelmed by the tragedy these characters faced. My chest ached (I caught myself rubbing my chest to try to alleviate the discomfort quite a few times), my heart hurt and my brain was buzzing with all kinds of emotions. I had this crazy urge to flag people down on the street and tell them to mark their calendars for July 16, 2013 so they can buy this book, because it's going to rock their world. Left Drowning is the perfect combination of angst and sex with a storyline that is gripping, thought-provoking, tortured and dark.
Blythe McGuire breaks my heart. To say she is an emotional wreck is an understatement. Her life was changed forever when a fire took half of her family. I can't even imagine how one would live with a tragedy like that. She drinks to numb herself from the emotional pain she carries around. She's haunted by a brother, who she was once extremely close to, and now isn't. You can feel her desperation in wanting to be forgiven for her actions the night of the fire. Blythe is closed off, shut down and barely functioning when she meets Chris Shepherd. Almost instantly, Blythe feels a connection to Chris that leaves her reeling, wanting more, and suddenly... hopeful. Hopeful that she can pull out of her despair and be normal again. Hopeful that she and Chris can become something more.
Blythe becomes close to Chris and his siblings, since they all attend the same college together. As they become their own little family, Blythe finds herself coming to terms with her past and finally allows herself to begin the grieving process and heal. Chris is instrumental with the healing. He knows just the things to say to allow her to cope and keep moving -
"Blythe." Chris looks around the room as if trying to find a way to convince me. He thinks for a minute. "Your parents died. Your world fell apart."
I nod. He puts his hand on my cheek. "You were left drowning."
I nod again. "And you're struggling to breathe." I am. It's a constant struggle to stay near the surface. I have just enough air to stop me from totally going under, but not enough to thrive.
"So do it. Breathe. Just Breathe."
But Chris Shepherd is just as screwed up as Blythe is, he's just better at hiding it. He's built walls so high even his feelings for Blythe can't get past them. Blythe makes him feel something real, too real. Chris can't deal with anything other than being numb, so he closes himself off from Blythe. Even after a weekend of letting their guards down and really getting to know each other, Chris can't cope. So he runs. And he hides. And he gives Blythe the ultimate slap in the face.
I think it was at this point in the story where the tears flowed almost constantly. I was overcome with such a deep sadness for what Blythe had been through, and yet, I admired her strength and determination to become a new version of herself. Blythe and Chris have a connection that sizzles off the page. You can feel it in your fingertips as you turn the pages. This is one of those books that will stick with you. You'll be talking about it months later and recommending to your friends as a "must read". This book satisfies all your senses and leaves you wanting more. I hope we'll see more of Chris and Blythe.
My rating: 5 heart stopping, gut wrenching, mind-blown stars!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
First off, let me say I am giant Jessica Park fan. I love Flat-Out-Love so much; it will always have a special place in my book heart. I was super excited to Left Drowning, especially when I heard it was going to be crazy emotional to read.

"How can I possibly say good-bye to the person I am so hopelessly, deeply, and permanently in love with? Because I love you, Chris. I do. I will always be in love with you, even though you'll never love me back. You have been my sanctuary this year. You saved me. Do you know that? You saved me. And I wish that you would let me save you."

Left Drowning is one of those books I think readers are either really going to click with and cherish forever while other readers won't hate it but won't love it either. I am afraid I fall into that second category. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with Left Drowning. It is a beautiful book about falling in love, overcoming tragedy, with a great story, and characters to go along with it. Jessica Park is a fantastic writer and I love how Jessica was able to make me laugh while reading a dark, emotional book like Left Drowning.

"You are the great love of my life that I'm never going to have."

Gosh, that is line is beautiful. This scene was one of my favorites of the book.

Now you're probably thinking... Well why didn't you love it? It took me a really long time to connect with the characters. I just felt no connection whatsoever to the two main characters Blythe & Chris. I felt their first meeting by the lake at school was a bit awkward and the connection they felt toward each other right away I did not feel or understand. I will say, about the 65% spot I started to finally connect to the characters and become really interested in their story... maybe by then it was too late for me, maybe the story was a bit too slow for me? I'm not sure but I didn't seem to care like I should have.

Left Drowning was H-O-T... this is definitely an 18 plus book. I wasn't expecting such description coming from Ms. Park but I LOVED IT! It made the slow pace of the book really pick up for me at times. The character of Sabin I think might be one of my favorite characters of the year! He stole every scene he was in and made me laugh throughout the book. I adored him. I liked Blythe & Chris but Sabin was my star.

I loved the ending. I really did. I loved the connection between Blythe & Chris at the end; a bit predictable but it was moving and beautiful what they shared together. I am glad it wasn't the perfect ending/epilogue that I would have wanted in most books because Chris & Blyth are not the lovey-dovey big white wedding type of characters. I am not saying there is no HEA, just read! It's perfect for them.

As I said, people are either going to LOVE IT or LIKE IT. It's a beautiful book that is beautifully written with great charm. I just sadly did not connect to the story or characters like I would have liked. I am back and forth between a 3-4 star review for me. Left Drowning is definitely a read for someone who doesn't mind a slow start with a lot of build up.

I give Left Drowning 3.5 Stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm 40% through this book and I doubt I'll finish. I'm usually one to finish a book no matter what, because i'm committed to giving the book the full chance it deserves. However, this book is just too unrealistic for my taste. The main character's relationship with an entire family of youngsters at a college they all conveniently attend together doesn't make sense. She portrays one of them as a witty and go-lucky comedian but then has him swearing like a sailor and denouncing the Christian faith while attacking his sister on the next page. It just doesn't fit. And the sex scenes are literally thrown in without rhyme or reason. Let's bake a pie.. and have sex. Let's talk about how sad i am... and have sex. Let's skip rocks by the lake.. and have sex. Seriously! The back-story of the main character is haunting and it would have been a great story had the story line been thought out better and the weird semi-creepy relationship with the siblings of this random family been minimized.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I really wanted to love this book and thought I would since almost every review I read was 5 stars. The first half of the book seemed to move very slowly. Blythe and Chis have issues in their past that make them distant themselves from other people. When they meet they are drawn together. I found it far-fetched that Blythe would have such an instant best friend connection with Chris' siblings. The friendships felt forced to me. You don't find out until the very end of the book just how Chris and Blythe's messed up pasts have a connection but it is hinted throughout the story. The one good thing about the book were the sex scenes between Blythe and Chris. Very HOT! but other than that, the book felt drawn out and a little slow at the start. When I finished it I wasn't wowed like I wanted to be. 3.5 stars at best.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
JP is an amazing writer with fantastic prose and even better dialog. That being said, the story itself of Blythe and Chris was a little too contradictory. Insta-connection, steamy love scenes, cheesy one liners and a goofy gang of problem solvers. And then there's the horrific past/idea of fatalism all set on the lavish lake estate of American Pie movies.
The two main themes were so far apart that it was hard to find the middle ground of empathy and this distance only became weirder with the ending. If a book is going to feed me emotions and then try to rip my heart out, out of nowhere, I need to believe there's a connective theme to tie everything together.
As far as the secondary characters, are they fabulous? Yes. But the entire gang came across a goofy and almost a stereotypical cop out from the author. Like how can you include a hot guy with issues, a slutty sidekick/roommate, the boisterous comedian with secrets and a gay guy? Exactly, make them a family. (dusts hands and has a latte, that's done)
Will I recommend it? Yes, people really seem to enjoy it. Did it change my world? No, I don't even remember Blythe's brother's name.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
By the end, the storyline was ridiculous and corny. Based on the synopsis, I thought the characters were going to be way more messed up than what they were.

My biggest gripe with the book is the main message that it preaches because IRL finding a man does not cure depression. In the beginning, Blythe is severely depressed. She's cut herself off from people to the point where she is antisocial. She binge drinks often enough that it could be considered alcoholism. She is so repulsed by the thought of someone touching her body that she's never done more than kiss a guy although she's in her early twenties. Then she meets Chris and everything changes. Two months later, all of those issues mentioned above disappear. Clinically depressed people cannot be cured by love. It can help them on some level but it will not make the depression go away.

In the last half of the book, Blythe kept spewing that he saved her. No he didn't; the only person that had the potential to save her was herself. But depression doesn't work that way. Depressed people do not simply choose to be better and have it happen. No one would be depressed if it worked that way. This book completely trivialized the seriousness of mental illness
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Considering how much I adore Flat Out Love, I had really high hopes for this book. Sadly, I felt like a lot of the story was rushed. Don't get me wrong, there were a few convincing scenes which helped motivate me to finish/skim the rest of the book.

Overall, however, it was hard for me to connect with the Shepard family as much as I wanted to fall in love with them. Instead, a majority of each chapter is spent in Blythe's head as she rambles on about how her life is changing etc etc. There just wasn't enough genuine interaction between characters...aside from the fluff between love birds in the middle - which was overkill IMO.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
How is it possible for nearly everyone to rate this puerile rubbish five stars?

Lots of spoilers ahead. But this material has already spoiled badly.

First,there's a place for sex in romance novels, of course. But it's so overdone and repetitive here it becomes insufferable. Any feelings that the reader might have for the protagonists are lost when they become porn stars. Doesn't every virgin become a raging nympho in one night? And he the sexual superman! Five days in a hotel and 10 times a day and each orgasm is endless and better than the previous. There is no such thing as coming softly here. The dirty talk intensifies it. Soreness is wonderful, blah, blah, blah. Zzzzz. Lets see, are there any more cliches I missed? Oh yeah, and not until the last night does she even think about giving a blow job and getting on top. Got to retain the reader's interest, yes? Oh, and it was only on that last night, while she was on top, that they suddenly looked into each other's eyes and realized they were in love. Hallucinating from exhaustion, more likely.

Then, after being forced to end that frenetic interlude, but with the realization they were in love, they suddenly and inexplicably force themselves to end the sex even as they're living only doors apart? Why? No reason to keep it a secret; we're told that the family members they're trying to hide their gymnastics from are wise to it! It's a convenient, manipulative ruse to allow the other woman to enter, and of course, a new opportunity to begin rebuilding that all-important sexual tension.

And then there's the matter of Chris' three siblings all attending the same college. How's that for perfectly timed children. The family that goes to school together... Of course one is gay, and the others are outright weirdos. The episode with Sabin trying to sled off the roof was pointless; it added nothing to the story line. If it was meant to show how brave Blythe was, it didn't impress her beau.

The whole forced abstinence followed by sexual marathon thing is repeated later on, but it balloons (maybe that's his secret) into a month-long binge. It's crude, cheap and gratuitous, and does nothing to advance the ridiculous plot, such as it is.

New heights of suspending disbelief are required. I lost count of the times the story elicited snickers. A few examples:

Blythe, crashing her ex-lover's non-wedding, follows up by inviting the guy who left her for another woman to join her for the entire summer at a gigantic palace in prime vacationland that she's never seen. And oh, why not bring along the entire family as well.

Chris, who has well established his libidinous bona fides, has managed to go for a year and a half without doing it with his fiance, because she wants to wait for marriage. But then she cheats on him because she can tell he doesn't love her. Chris, who was about to embark on marriage, an institution we're told he doesn't believe in, with a woman he doesn't love either, and only learned of her unfaithfulness when she didn't show up at the altar.

At their summer getaway, Chris and Blythe, in that all important "sexual tension" buildup somehow manage abstinence for an entire month, although they cuddle and read books together. Then once the dam bursts in an outdoor shower, they turn back into rabbits.

Predictably, Chris's and Blythe's siblings also get it on.

You can see this stuff coming, there are no surprises here.

I thought the story actually started out promising, although suspending disbelief at the aforementioned thought of an entire family enrolled at the same college was tough, as was Blythe revealing her secret torment to a guy skipping stones who she had met 10 minutes before. Both of the main characters turned out to be insufferable and angst-ridden. Blythe was sort of sympathetic at first, but she was spineless, flying back into Chris' arms (among other body parts) without so much as an apology from him for dumping her. Chris was a jerk. His "you're too good for me" excuse for leaving her was another tried and true cliche. We never really get to see what she saw in the guy, except for his hard body, finely chiseled features, and the way he could work his tongue and fingers. Oh, and for his talent at skipping stones. The scars from his father's beatings weren't nearly enough to elicit empathy.

Somehow, I made it most of the way through the story, until the guffaws came with practically every new paragraph and I could go no further. Update: I skimmed thru most of the rest. I didn't think it could possibly get worse, but she surprised me, cynically juxtaposing kinky sex and child abuse. Is that supposed to be a turn-on?

I could go on, but I've spent far more time on this review than is warranted.
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