Monday, July 27, 2015

The Pledge (College Bound #1) by Laura Ward and Christine Manzari Review Tour (Review + Giveaway)

Hey readers, Happy Monday! Ethan here with a fun post for you guys today. My stop on the blog tour for one of my most anticipated reads of the summer. A collaboration between two of my favorite authors that really blew me away. What are we talking about? The Pledge by Laura Ward and Christine Manzari. Before we get to my thoughts, here's a bit about the novel and our authors:

TitleThe Pledge
Authors: Laura Ward & Christine Manzari
Age: New Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Designed by: Okay Creations, Sarah Hansen
Release date: July 27, 2015

Taren needs a do-over. She’s decided the best way to put the high school bullies behind her is to pledge a Taylor-Swift-lip-syncing, beer-guzzling, sorority. Sisterhood helps Taren find the acceptance she’s always craved, but not the love she needs.

Alec wants freedom. To escape his father’s iron fist and unrealistic expectations, he pledges a campus acrobatics club where he finds that drugs and alcohol aren't the only ways to get high. His addiction to danger helps him gain his independence, but it comes at a heavy price.

When the two cross paths, Alec fears his undeniable attraction to the party girl just might threaten everything he's worked so hard to earn. Taren hasn’t forgotten that Alec humiliated her back in high school, but she also can't deny the chemistry they share.

Alec and Taren have nothing in common, but fate is bound and determined to bring them together. They know falling in love is a risk, and yet it’s too hard to ignore. When their worlds clash and they both end up suffering, will they fight to stay together? Or are some pledges too hard to keep?

About the Authors:

Laura Ward

Laura Ward lives in Maryland with her loud and very loving three children and husband. She married her college sweetheart and is endlessly grateful for the support he has given her through all their years together, and especially toward her goal of writing books. When not changing diapers, driving to lacrosse practice, or checking spelling homework, Laura is writing or reading romance novels.  

Find Laura Ward

Christine Manzari

The first thing Christine does when she's getting ready to read a book is to crack the spine in at least five places. She wholeheartedly believes there is no place as comfy as the pages of a well-worn book. She's addicted to buying books, reading books, and writing books. Books, books, books. She also has a weakness for adventure, inappropriate humor, and coke (the caffeine-laden bubbly kind). Christine is from Forest Hill, Maryland where she lives with her husband, three kids, and her library of ugly spine books.  

Facebook Twitter Website Goodreads 

My Thoughts:

As anyone who follows this blog well knows, I am a huge fan of both Laura Ward and Christine Manzari. I have been closely following their careers for over a year now and have absolutely loved each novel they have released. Imagine my excitement when I discovered the two of them were collaborating on a new project, a new adult contemporary with a lot of potential! Well, did it live up to the hype?

In short? Yes. But, it didn't come without a few faults. Allow me to explain.

The most intriguing part, to me, about this collaboration was just how Laura and Christine were going to pull it off. Anyone who has read from these ladies will tell you that they write very different stories with very different content. Their writing styles are like night and day at times. I love their writing for multiple reasons, but each reason is different. I go to one author when I want one style and the other when I'm looking for another. Make sense? So... as you can imagine, I was a bit nervous about the collaboration between the two of them. 

I will go ahead and admit that The Pledge took me a while to really get into. I was enjoying it at a surface level, but the spark that makes both of these authors so special to me really wasn't there for a while. Each chapter in this story alternates POVs between Alec and Taren. Each character was written by a different author. And it's very distinctive. It's almost as though you are reading two entirely separate novels for a little while. I found myself anxious until I got to the part where the story finally 'clicked' and it was smooth sailing from there.

I'll also admit that prior to reading The Pledge, I have had very little experience with reading novels that are co-written (Beautiful Creatures being the only other that comes to mind). I've spoken with other readers who have confirmed to me that this is a normal feeling when reading a collaboration between two authors so I do feel better about it now than I did when I first devoured the story. 

Once I was able to see find the 'streamline' part of the story where the chapters blended together much easier, I was really able to plant myself into the story. In one sense, this was kind of a negative to me, but in another sense, after finishing the novel, I found the feeling to be very fitting. It really showcased just how different our MCs are from one another and is reflective of the plot as a whole. I don't imagine I will see any other collaborations between Manzari and Ward to have this issue, but seeing as this was their first collaboration, I can totally understand how this would happen. Writing is hard when you're doing it alone. I can't imagine how co-writing would be!

When it comes to the plot of The Pledge, I was overall satisfied. There were a few bumps in the road and a few things I didn't completely understand at the time of reading, but in the end all questions were more or less answered. One of the really unique aspects of this plot was the inclusion of Gymkana. I love college books with a twist or some kind of special activity/organization that makes their college experience unique. The Gymkana thing really was fun to read about. Each scene was fun and did a fantastic job of setting the tone. The novel had a few plot twists that I didn't really see coming which were fun as well. When it comes to college novels, I really get ridiculously aggravated when the characters done have 'real life' college experiences. Thankfully, I found The Pledge to be an accurate description of college life. That was a huge plus for me. 

The Pledge really pulled out the feels in terms of characters. While I absolutely loved our MCs, I despised the supporting characters. I don't know if it was because of their attitudes or what, but I found nearly all of the supporting characters to just be all around horrible people. Their were immature, really crappy friends, and... just not very important in the grand scheme of things. Particularly the supporting female cast, I was really shocked at just how much I despised those characters. I'm hoping that in future installments of this series they grow on me a bit, but for now I really didn't care for them. Back to Alec and Taren though, I really enjoyed them both. I will say I was a bigger fan of Alec, just because I was really able to relate to some of the hardships he faced. Alec really has a big 'growing up' moment in The Pledge that really shapes his future in the novel. It was emotional for me in particular, but I gained so much more respect for him as a character. It was so refreshing as a male reader to see such a turnaround and inspirational development from a male character. Huge kudos to both Ward and Manzari for that.

While I've never been to the University of Maryland, I loved the description that Ward and Manzari put into The Pledge. Having recently graduated from college myself, I was able to immerse myself into the setting and really get the most out of the story. Everything from the campus feel to the college dive-bar atmosphere, I really felt myself transported into the story in a way I haven't been in quite some time. 

In true Laura Ward fashion, The Pledge included themes dealing with mental illness. I really love how Laura finds a way to include these special characters into her stories. Each character gives the story heart and emotion in a way you don't see anywhere else in the genre. It's truly an art to see these characters and setting so beautifully crafted. Manzari's signature snark is present as well. One of my favorite things about Manzari's writing is how well she able to emulate the YA/NA mindset into her written words. It's not easy to plant readers within the mind of a character and to see things their way, but Manzari always blows me away with this and Alec and The Pledge were no exception.

As you guys can clearly see, I have a lot of thoughts on The Pledge, and thankfully most of them were huge pluses! I know I has a few negatives to point out in this one, but overall I still enjoyed the story immensely. I believe that this first collaboration between Ward and Manzari was an awesome journey that will only strengthen their bond as authors and with their readers. With a full series planned, I know each passing installment will get better and better. I am ridiculously excited to see what these ladies come up with next!

All-in-all, I am granting The Pledge a well-deserved 4-star review. While it isn't my favorite story from either author, I found it to be a fantastic addition to the New Adult genre and highly recommend it to any NA reader who is looking to add something a little different to their summer TBR lists! Thank being said, do yourself a favor and check out The Pledge and the other works from these amazing authors, I can assure you that you'll not be disappointed!

THE PLEDGE: 1 print 3 ebooks

Alright readers, that's all I have for you on the topic of The Pledge by Laura Ward and Christine Manzari. I'm huge fans of each of these ladies works and consider them to be both friends and great inspirations of mine. They truly are amazing women. Reading this first ever collaboration from the two of them was a great honor. I cannot wait for more from them! 

Special thanks to our authors and the team at Mark My Words Publicity for allowing me to participate. Until next time, Happy Reading!