You know that feeling you get when you have a pretty new book in your hands? The exuberance that radiates through your fingers itching to open the pages Right. That. Second. and dive in?
How about the feeling you get when you read the first 10 pages (of that beautiful book) and you are less than impressed?
What would you say if I told you “All Lined Up” by Cora Carmack is both of these? Both “Meh” *insert shoulder shrug* and “Wow” *fans face.*
Would you believe me? Would you care?
Here’s the thing (Geez I say that a lot.) I really like Cora Carmack. Is she my favorite author? No. She’s (if I’m being honest) not even my favorite NA author. But she IS very TALENTED. So when I saw that she was a releasing a new novel that basically summed up my small town Texas upbringing (Football and gossip) I knew I had to read it.
I was not the friendliest kid in HS. (Well, I guess that really hasn’t changed much.) But I wasn’t a pariah either. (Hey, I still sat at the cool kids table!) So it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that I spent my Friday nights under hideous bright lights watching my older brother toss a pigskin around (while simultaneously eavesdropping on every conversation within earshot.) Sunday’s were dedicated to church and the Cowboys. I knew, understood, and could carry on a full blown (totally legit) conversation about the ins and outs of things like: being offsides, pass interceptions, running game vs passing game. This was the circle of my (limited) extroverted existence.
Which is probably why I found this book to be both awesome and…not so much.
You know what, why don’t we just go ahead and get the bad news out of the way first. (So that I can pretty much nullify everything I said with the good in the second half of this review.)
If you happened to look down (or up depending on which site you are reading this on) you might have noticed that I gave “The Plot” 3 stars.
There wasn’t enough of it.
To make a long story short there were gobs and gobs of opportunities to “add events” to Dallas and Carson’s story. Potential love triangles. (Though I’m kinda happy that didn’t happen…I’m a little tired of having to pick a team.) Public scandal. (The introduction of drug and steroid use.) Relationship eruption via miscommunications (Think: “She’s All That” for the sexually promiscuous.) With every chapter came a new problem, unfortunately, nothing came of any of them. For those of you that enjoy run-of-the mill HEA novels, this isn’t going to bother you one bit, but for ME? I wanted more drama. I wanted Dallas and Carson’s steller angsty push and pull to be challenged around EVERY corner. (Not every 5th.) I wanted the face off between Coach Cole and Carson to feel like Armageddon. I wanted Dallas’s choice to relocate to throw Carson’s world into peril. I wanted more. Simply put.
That doesn’t mean that what was there was insignificant, or bad, it was just…there.
And because of it’s sad “just there-ness” (yep, totally just made that up.) The plot seemed to be at hyper-speed. (Which is not necessarily a good thing when you are trying to build romantic suspense between characters.) Hence the “Meh” *insert shoulder shrug* comment at the beginning of the review.
So where did the “Wow” come in? I can safely attribute all “wow” moments to Carmack’s fantastic swoon building skills.
I enjoy magnetic couples (ie: couples that insist on staying apart but can’t help but be pulled back together.) They make for some of the most breath-stealing scenes a girl can read. If crafted correctly, all an author has to do is mention a phantom touch and my insides will melt. “All Lined Up” is FULL of magnetic scenes between Dallas and Carson. (Both of which BTW have a voice inside this novel. AKA: Dual narration.) From the simple act of watching someone dance, to sharing a blanket the tension (that was actually expanded upon) deserves a solid five stars.
But, let me say this…
Out of all of the scenes I DID find utterly compelling, the best was by far Dallas’s breakdown. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say it was the most well written scene in the entire book. (Though one particular snuggle buggle time came in a very close second.) Why? Because it was logical. (Yeah, I know…not what you were expecting huh? Stay with me.) Breakdowns are NOT pretty. They don’t make sense. Your train of thought is completely derailed (usually by a need to be self-destructive.) Your actions are (90% of the time) overwhelmingly out of character (I think mine included the words “I want to be a nun.”) and you will ALWAYS target the people you love. You will also (God help us all) embrace the ones you despise. Not because you’ve suddenly seen them in a different light, but because they suddenly embody what YOU think you deserve. Dallas hit every one of these marks, and she did so with an intensity that radiated off the page. An intensity that Carmack (the uber talented wordsmith that she is) was brilliant enough to manipulate and then put onto the page. She kept it raw…and real. Logical if you will. She didn’t try to soften the blow with big puffy hearts and a rom-com-esq walks through the park. She allowed her characters to be devastated. Like ANY PERSON that walks and talks in the real world would be. This single choice pole-vaulted her characters onto a higher cloud. They became more relatable. Their overall characterization became deeper and fuller. They (for a lack of a better description) suddenly morphed into three-dimensional people, not flat shadows on a page.
This scene is what opened the door (emotionally) for Dallas. Without it, the rest of the book would have fallen flat. The conversations with her dad, the come to Jesus with her BFF, even the choices she made regarding her future, ALL OF IT would have meant NOTHING if this scene had been absent.
On a lighter note…I love Carmack’s ability to leave golden nerd nuggets for her readers to run across. For example:
So where do I stand when it’s all said and done?
A little to the right.
“All Lined Up” is a little better than average. (Or a lot if you look at some of the other books I’ve reviewed lately.) It’s also the perfect length. (322 pages.) I’m not certain if I’ll continue to read the series (only because I didn’t find any of the supporting characters all that interesting) but I DON’T regret reading THIS one. It is what it is. A book with heart. Perfect for the beach, pool, and the occasional girly chat session with other NA fans.
You know where I stand…the choice is now yours.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: people CAN surprise you from time to time….if you allow them the opportunity to.