Monday, June 1, 2015

The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years #4) by Sarina Bowen Review

Hey readers! Ethan here on this Sunday night with another review for you guys. What am I raving about this time? The Shameless Hour, the fourth full installment in Sarina Bowen's The Ivy Years series. Before we get to my thoughts, here's a bit about the novel and our author:

The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.

Bella doesn’t want Rafe's help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can't be extinguished.

Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty contemporary romance from Vermont's Green Mountains. (Her ancestors began logging and farming Vermont during the 18th century. These were rugged, outdoor types without benefit of a laptop or a good latte. It boggles the mind.)

Sarina enjoys skiing, skating and good food. She lives in Windsor County, Vermont, with her family, eight chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

My Thoughts:

And here we are a fifth time to celebrate Mrs. Sarina Bowen. For five amazing reads, I have raved about the work of Bowen. Each novel in her Ivy Years series touched me in ways I cannot begin to fully explain. Through my reviews of this series, I have made many new bookish friends and have recruited several into the world of NA literature. This has been one of my most fun reading experiences I have had and I cannot wait to see more. Sadly, with this review, I'm caught up with Sarina Bowen's series! Ahh! Before we worry about that, we need to tackle my thoughts on The Shameless Hour.

I've said this many times and I'll say it once more, Bowen gets better with every novel she publishes. I know this is how things are 'supposed' to be, but we all know it oftentimes doesn't work out like that. Sarina Bowen is a literary goddess and it's gotten to the point where she would rewrite the Yellow Pages and I'd still give it 5-stars. Seriously, if you haven't started this series, you are greatly missing out.

This fourth full installment of the series follows the stories of Bella and Rafe. I apologize in advance if this review seems a little 'Bella-centric', but her story was the one that hit me the hardest. 

The plot of The Shameless Hour was among the most unique I have read in a NA novel. We oftentimes see the promiscuous female character in NA series, but we never see her side of the story. This was a phenomenal twist on that dynamic. Unfortunately it didn't come without heartbreak. The plot follows Bella's descent into madness and depression after a horrible event changes her life forever. Forced to reinvent her life, Bella must first discover herself to make herself truly happy. Rafe is a bit of a wild card in this one, he also has a very touching story in the plot in the form of an unexpected heartbreak that really had me going for a loop.

This is probably the most jarring of the novels in the series thus far. There were three different parts of this novel where I had to stop what I was reading and give myself a moment to let my mind comprehend what was happening. It was a lot to wrap your mind around. Especially for someone like me who is generally not an emotional reader, in any capacity. This novel does, thankfully, have a happy ending for Bella and Rafe, but it comes a great cost. It's was another of Bowen's novels that ripped me to shreds, but I am such a better person now for having devoured it.  

Bella is probably one of the strongest literary females I have ever read about. What she goes through is absolutely terrifying and made my blood absolutely boil. I talked, briefly, on my thoughts of Greek Life in my review for Blonde Date, as it dealt with a similar situation, but the event that occurs in this novel was nearly enough to make me stop reading. Not in a bad way, at all, it was just so heartbreaking and emotionally shattering that I didn't know how anyone would be able to pick themselves back up from that. Now I know you may be thinking sexual assault, but thankfully it wasn't quite that. However, in my eyes, it was nearly just as bad. The simple fact is that acts such as what happens to Bella (and far worse) are occurring on college campuses across the country to both women and men. It's not comical, it's life ruining. I know that the actions of a few can really impact the public views of the organization as a whole, but actions anything similar to what happened to Bella are the reason I absolutely detest Greek Life. In my eyes the entire system should be abolished. One of the saddest things about Bella's situation is that had it happened to someone who wasn't quite so... Bella, nothing would have been done. Bella is an extremely brave and strong woman to overcome this dilemma and to do her part to 'get even' and make sure other girls don't suffer the same fate as she. Bella deals with a lot of inner-demons in this story, not all of them pertaining to this even, that only help to solidify her position on the list of my favorite book heroines. I cannot say enough great things about Bella. I'm only sorry that women tend to think that all college-aged males are like the ones that performed the heinous acts in Bella's life. I truly hope that one day our society will advance to the point where issues such as these are nonexistent and a thing of the past. Only then can we call ourselves the superior species on this planet. Abuse of any form (physical, mental, verbal, sexual, psychological) should never be tolerated. 

Rafe, on the other hand, has a mountain of issues of his own. That being said, it's kind of hard to even being to compare them to Bella's problems, because Rafe is probably the 'safest' character that Bowen has ever written. And with good reason. It's what makes he and Bella's relationship absolutely perfect. Only by being steadfast and a grade-A guy all the way around could Rafe help Bella overcome her issues and help guide her back to a safe place in her life. Everyone needs a friend like Rafe in their life. I really loved Rafe's background, it was so unique. His ethnic heritage and family really added depth to the storyline (not that it was lacking in any). Rafe is a very 'grounded' character. He holds down a job (a job that most all college males I know would turn their noses up at), he dedicated himself to both his education and his sport, and he is supportive of his family and is constantly thinking of ways in which to better them. I can really appreciate Rafe's ethics in every way, shape, and form. He was seriously an amazingly written character. Bowen really outdid herself with this one! Many, many reviews have made it a point to mention that Rafe is a virgin when Bella clearly isn't. Why? I'm not sure what all these reviews are mentioning that like it's some unheard of thing. Sometimes I wonder if most readers of NA novels have ever actually met a 'new adult' in real life. Anyone who has spent any time in college or on a college campus will tell you that it's very little like how it's portrayed in the media and in literature. Not everyone is a social butterfly, celebrating their achievements in bacchanal-style festivities. Just saying. 

This novel features most every other character from The Ivy Years as well as introduces us to a few new ones including Lianne, Bella's movie star neighbor with a story of her own. In fact, her story will be the focus of the next installment of the Ivy Years series! I will be anxiously awaiting that one. 

Can I just say that I wish I had gone to Harkness College? What a fun place to be? The classical architecture, the house divisions, the amount of school spirit and campus pride? Yeah. I can definitely get behind that. I said this earlier, but I believe that Sarina Bowen has written the perfect college setting within Harkness. It's so awesome! I really got the feel that I, too, was attending classes next to these characters! Talk about reader immersion! This novel takes us back primarily to the Harkness setting, but we do see numerous new sides to the University which were really awesome to see. With each installment we see a bit more of the beautiful fictional campus and its' history. Bowen paints such a beautiful picture with her literary voice that I can feel myself hanging out on the Harkness Quad. I'm definitely Harkness fan all the way!

As with many of the stories in this series, this novel touches on at least one topic that I have no experience/knowledge of that Bowen not only helped to educate me on, but also change my outlook. In this case, this topic was asexuality. To be honest, I've only ever really heard of asexuality as an orientation, I've never met someone who claims to be one. The Shameless Hour features one such character in a very large light. I won't spoil it for anyone, but it was so interested to learn more about the psyche of an individual who identifies as such. Major props to Bowen for bringing awareness to a much misunderstood topic that is happening in our society. By the end of the novel, I had an entirely new view on asexuality. I am anxious to see if that character makes another appearance in a Bowen novel. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing them get their own novel, in however way that could happen. 

This novel really hits on some pressing issues in the modern New Adult society. Acceptance is a big one, but I think this novel really hits on a bigger social issue that we are facing in today's world: slut shaming. This is a big deal right now. I will admit that as a male, I have been guilty of this in the past, but novels like this really open my eyes to the issue and show me the error of my ways. Every person has a story. Every human, male or female has problems, issues they have to handle on a personal basis. We all handle our issues in a different manner, so who are we to judge how Bella handles hers? This all really ties into the acceptance theme and also really adds to a theme of self-confidence/self-esteem. You have to own who you are, and Bella definitely does that. Bella is true to herself and that's a really beautiful trait for any person to have in my opinion. Rafe's character really displays some incredible themes as well, primarily forgiveness and understanding. It isn't easy for someone to forgive the way Rafe was eventually able to. It take a big person to forgive such an awful event, Rafe was that big person. In true Bowen fashion, if you don't sit down this novel and find yourself a better person, you need to pick it up and start again. 

Clearly, I had many positive thoughts on this novel. This has proved to be a running theme with this series and I am so honored to have been able to review it for you guys. There are more books in the works, and I cannot wait for their releases! That being said, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am granting The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen a near-perfect 5-star review. It is not often that I can say that I've given every novel in a series a 5-star review, in fact, it's only happened one other time, so I'm anxious to continue the trend. As of tonight Sarina Bowen is tied only with 3 other authors to have received the most 5-star reviews from me, making her a top author here at One Guy's Guide to Good Reads. Congrats to that Mrs. Bowen! You guys know how picky I can be about reads so I hope that gives you an idea of how serious I am about these being amazing novels! Check them out! You won't regret it!

Check out my five star reviews of 
The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1), 
The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years #2), 
Blonde Date (The Ivy Years 2.5), and
The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3)
by clicking the covers below!
Alright readers, that is all I have for you on the topic of The Understatement of the Year. This entire series is fantastic and I cannot say enough great things! Be on the lookout for my thoughts on the next novel, The Shameless Hour, soon (like within the next hour soon)! Have you read this series? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Happy Reading!


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