Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: Better by S. Walden

Better by S. Walden


Their relationship has been exposed, and now their lives are changed forever.

For Cadence Miller, the fast track to adulthood proves intimidating and frustrating. She’s a little girl lost—abandoned by her parents and uncertain of her future. She doesn’t think she “fits” anywhere. She’s eighteen. She wants to be older. And the result is both comical and heartbreaking.

Mark Connelly will do anything to provide Cadence a stable, loving home—to be her protector. But he’s just as broken and lost, and his heart won’t let go of his past so easily. He knows he must share his secret with Cadence. And he hopes his revelation won't tear them apart. He hopes it will draw them closer, and make their love better.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If GOOD had me conflicted, BETTER had me downright pulling my hair out.

In GOOD, we experience the love affair between Cadence and her high school math teacher, Mr. Connelly (Mark).  GOOD didn't hold back any punches and I felt completely torn—I fell in love even as certain things about their story made me question my sanity for being so intoxicated by their forbidden love!  It's no happily ever after either, people find out and Cadence and Mark's world comes crashing to a halt.

So you’d think: okay, they’ve essentially hit rock bottom and now BETTER is just about the journey back up, right?  Well, not exactly.  S. Walden doesn’t let you off that easy.  She’s going to show you all the frustrating nuances of a relationship with an 11-year age gap, particularly when one of the individuals is still growing into an adult.  The story is told in third-person perspective with alternating views, not my personal favorite narrative, but I thought it was done well.

The first half of BETTER felt like a soft, diluted version of how life might be for Cadence and Mark.  It was the day-to-day issues of a girl who is suddenly disowned by her family and the man who loves her trying to support and take care of her through it.

I felt like people were too easy on Cadence and Mark.  Everyone told Cadence how wrong her parents were for how they reacted.  I’m not saying Mr. Miller wasn’t wrong for hitting his daughter – of COURSE he was.  But at the same time, I thought it seemed unrealistic how everyone, even adults, were so quick to find fault with her parents without mentioning Cadence or Mark's mistakes.  I mean, let’s think about this.  Cadence’s whole life she has followed all the rules.  Then within a two year span she tries cocaine, robs a convenience store, spends 10 months in juvenile detention, and has an affair with her high school math teacher.   I can sort of see why the Millers would overreact when finding out the latest in a series of questionable decisions!  I was just a little surprised because it appeared so black and white in BETTER —the parents were wrong, they were bad parents, they never tried to reconcile, end of story.  

I also found myself getting angry at Cadence for all of her self-centered, immature actions.  But then, it finally hit me.  Of course she’s an immature girl.  This isn’t the author being easy on her, this is Ms. Walden showing all of Cadence—flaws included.  She is immature and young and inexperienced and she makes so many mistakes.  But that is what Mark signed up for and he either loves her in spite of it or he hits the road.

My favorite part of the story by far was the huge fight between Mark and Cadence when Cadence found out Mark’s secret.  

Mark’s anger was hideous and ugly and cruel.  But I thought it was so honest and raw and it gave me back that gritty, torn feeling I’d loved so much in GOOD.  And it broke Cadence.  It really broke her.  And I loved that because it should break her.  What girl could hear those things and not be devastated.  But then, she got angry.  I’m not talking yell and scream and fight it out angry, I’m talking never get over it angry.  

It got to a point where I felt like the only reason Cadence stayed with Mark was because she had nowhere else to go.  When Avery confronted Cadence about the fact that eventually she had to forgive Mark or they’d end up breaking up, Cadence’s biggest fear seemed to be who was going to take care of her if they broke up.  He’s not supposed to be her dad, he’s her boyfriend!  Doesn’t she see this?  Why is this not a bigger problem in the story that Cadence feels this way?  And Mark was a saint while Cadence worked through her anger.  A true saint! Mark revealed some pretty upsetting life experiences and Cadence never had to show him any support simply because she was mad about the lie and his subsequent explosion.  And when she’s still whining over it 2 months later and telling Mark she thinks it's irreparable, I’m just thinking, then leave already!  He’s paying for your school and being patient while you work through your anger and you’re just going to torture him forever?  

Through all of this—Cadence is also desperately trying to decide what she believes in God and her faith.  She’s trying to objectively evaluate all the things her parents taught her with what she has seen and learned on her own.  Rather than believe what her parents believe, or what Mark believes, she looks inside and around herself and makes her own decisions about what she believes to be true.  I thought Cadence handled this soul-searching much better and more maturely than she did her relationship with Mark.

All things considered, I thought the author did a really good job of writing a challenging story.  It was difficult to read at times because I was so frustrated with the characters; at times I felt indifferent and other times ready to throttle someone, but it also felt like a choice.  A choice to write not the most easily digestible story, but a story that makes you think and evaluate your own comfort zones.  I struggled with the story a lot, and certainly more than GOOD which I thought was beautifully conflicting, but I also appreciated it.  I give BETTER 3.5 stubborn stars.  

**Copy provided by the author/publisher for an honest review.

**Reviewed by preppea on I ♥ Bookie Nookie Reviews.

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About the Author:

S. Walden used to teach English before making the best decision of her life by becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Georgia with her very supportive husband who prefers physics textbooks over fiction and has a difficult time understanding why her characters must have personality flaws. She is wary of small children, so she has a Westie instead. Her dreams include raising chickens and owning and operating a beachside inn on the Gulf Coast (chickens included). When she's not writing, she's thinking about it.

She loves her fans and loves to hear from them. Email her at and follow her blog at where you can get up-to-date information on her current projects.

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Tour Coordinator: 

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Life Without Frank said...

Looks good, added to my TBR list

I ♥ Bookie Nookie said...

Is your TBR pile never-ending like mine? Don't forget to enter to win it! Hope you like it!

S. Walden said...

Thanks so much for participating in my tour for Better! Appreciate you helping me spread the word about the series.

xo Summer

I ♥ Bookie Nookie said...

Thank you Summer!

preppea said...

You're welcome, Summer! Thanks for pushing people's boundaries with your books - I really enjoyed Cadence and Mark's story!

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