Sunday, 15 May 2016

Toward the Sound of Chaos by Carmen Jenner - Review


Jake Tucker is broken. At twenty-two, he went in to the Marine Corps a naïve, troubled youth. Nine years and four tours later, Jake finds himself back on US soil, though his mind remains firmly planted in the sands of Afghanistan with the men he left behind.

Wounded, chewed up and spat out by war, Jake has only his dog, Nuke, PTSD, and survivor’s guilt to keep him company. He’s lived every day for nine years wondering when it will be his last, but there’s little comfort in the fact that he’s still standing when his platoon isn’t.

Ellie Mason doesn’t have time for broken. She’s too busy trying to put food on the table. And keeping up with the demands of her autistic son, Spencer, is sometimes like fighting behind enemy lines. As if navigating the minefields of single parenthood isn’t enough, Ellie finds herself drawn to the quiet Marine who’s just as lonely as she is. But she’s loved damaged men before, and it left her wounded.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Fairhope, Alabama, Ellie and Jake find themselves running toward the sound of chaos.

Love is war.

Only the strong survive, and surrender is inevitable.  

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Kristine's Review:

Reviewed: May 2016.

I have been a long time fan of Carmen Jenner's work, her ability to seamlessly create worlds that I want to be part of, worlds that both excite and terrify me, characters that are robust and developed, characters that leap off the page demanding that you LOOK at them, that you SEE them, that you see beyond the pretty smiles or ripped abs, beyond the bad boy or nice guy façade, that you see beyond the carefully constructed image they want projected to the world, there's something inherently thrilling about discovering a characters secrets, knowing that you as a reader dug below the surface and uncovered deeper meaning, that feeling of knowing you might be one of hundreds or thousands reading the same book but in some way it was written just for you. That's the feeling that washes over me EVERY TIME I pick up one of Jenner's books, it's a feeling of exhilaration and anticipation, a feeling that floods your belly with butterflies, a feeling of something BIG is just out of reach, a feeling a warmth that settles around you like a soft blanket on a chilly day, it's knowing with absolute certainty that the author will test your resolve, will make you think, will make you question what you would do in that situation, but most importantly will make you FEEL. Turning the first page of Toward the Sound of Chaos was equal parts filled with anticipation and trepidation, I've made no secret of struggling to connect with darker or heavier tropes of late, from the glorious cover to the intriguing blurb I knew that Ms Jenner wouldn't be pulling any punches here, the authors tag line asks the reader what's a happily ever after without a little torture? In the moments when my heart was falling in shards, shattered and broken at my feet, when my soul wept, when my emotions were battered and bruised, when I sat there questioning everything, needing to believe in the good and the just, echoes of the tagline floated through my mind, reminding me, begging me to see the world through a different lens, to feel every moment of this story about a broken man returned from war, of a woman who's life is dedicated to loving and protecting a little boy that so much of the world doesn't understand.

Funny how those things never leave you. Even now, seven thousand  five hundred miles away. I still hear those words I whispered into the darkness."

Jake Tucker returned from War a broken man, memories of his service haunt him, his body covered in reminders of being chewed up and spat out by conflict and oppression, he's returned from War but he's very much still living the agony and torment Stateside, returning to normal day to day life is something returned Vet's often struggle with, the horrors and atrocities of War branded on their minds, ensuring that forgetting all that they've seen and done is not possible. The dichotomy of the warring sides of his character ever present, the Marine who served his country, who ran towards chaos instead of away from it, the serviceman whose courage and gallantry saw him become a respected and trusted leader juxtaposed with the battered and broken man who returned home, the man shackled by his memories, by the sights and smells of fighting a War that has no winners or losers, scarred physically and emotionally by things most of us will never understand, Jake Tucker returned home a hero and yet doesn't feel like one, therein lying the greatest problem, swamped by feelings of inadequacy, of loss, of ruin, a man changed by all he has seen and lived through struggling every day just to continue breathing.

"Every f*cking cry for help or scream of terror, of loss, of agony from nine years' worth of service, I hear it all on a loop in my head. Afghani, American, man, woman, child, it don't make no difference, because terror sounds the same in the dark, no matter whose lungs it's ripped from."

Ellie Mason knows a thing or two about having a past you want to forget, business operator and single mother to young son Spencer she knows all to well what it's like to put the needs of others before her own.  Rearing a child with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder can be challenging to say the least, raising a child is filled with pot holes and landmines on most days, equal parts joy and desperation, trial and error, Ellie has had to readjust her life and her parenting techniques to best suit Spencer's needs. Living in a small town, a blessing and a curse, fighting small town mindsets and challenging ideas about her sons treatment needs is a constant battles, modifying her own behaviour and actions to best create a stable and structured environment that allows Spencer to thrive her only priority. The love and fierce maternal protective instinct for her child has been Ellie's guiding light, with only a couple of friends, she's been steadfastly relying solely on herself.

"That woman is a walking time bomb and the more I talked to her, the more I didn't care that I'd be swallowed up by the blast once it went off. And it was sure to detonate. Anything that came from this, anything we built would be blown to smithereens because if she was a time bomb, I was a nuclear weapon."

From side glances, and sly looks, Ellie and Jake meeting was destined to shake both of their foundations, it's often said that our souls can recognise it's mate, it's in those quiet moments where they co-exist that we find sheer beauty, fleeting as they may be. The instant connection, the click of recognising something deeper than the smiles on ones face,  the immediate knowledge that this person knows of struggle and heartache, that they inherently understand what it's like to wake up every morning and donne your mask for the world, to wear your scars and fears as a shield to protect you. From shaky breaths and lost looks, to longing glances and heart breaking need, the quietest moments in Toward the Sound of Chaos were the most thrilling, the moments that rely purely on the author's ability to convey her message, that allow two battered and bruised people who are desperately wading the river of life, praying to come out unscathed. It's those moments of eloquent prose, where this reader wasn't tantalised by gratuitous sex or heart stopping violence that the story clearly shone through, where I lost my heart, it was in those quiet moments that I had to set down my kindle, suck in a deep breath and just reflect, the only way to quiet my trembling hands, to slow my beating heart was to concentrate on the sound of my own breath, it was in those moments that I found beauty and peace in the chaos and the silence.

"You've spent so long building that wall around yourself, that you don't even know that every day since we met I've been chipping away at the thing and I finally made a hole. I let the light back in."

Military Romance as a trope is not new to contemporary romance, it's not new to this blogger, the realities of war is something I will God willing never need to face, I have family, friends and acquaintances that have served, that continue to serve, but so far in my short life I have not experienced first hand what PTSD and the lasting effects of the horrors of wartime have on not only the serviceman or woman but their families and friends. While I have family members and friends that fall somewhere along the Autism spectrum I don't truly understand the struggles of raising an ASD child, I don't understand the pain and heartache of not being able to hug your child for fear of setting off an episode, I don't understand having to stick to regimented schedules as to avoid causing confusion and stress on a child who's biggest concerns should be shirking their vegetables and playing outside, and yet I felt Jake's fear and guilt, I felt his pain, I felt Ellie's anguish and heartbreak, her sorrow, throughout Toward the Sound of Chaos I felt it all in spades, I felt it in my bones, in my heart, in my soul, and in those quiet moments, where the melancholy and sorrow threatened to overwhelm me, I felt the light break through, I felt the hope for a better day tomorrow, I felt overwhelming love and joy.  As I sit here reflecting on a story that examines the horrors of war, the struggles of a single parents just trying to muddle through, the story of a little boy with big eyes and a bigger heart, the story of the rainbow that comes after the rain, I'm once again reminded that sometimes the most beautiful fairy tales are the ones that come along in the middle of an ordinary life.

About Carmen Jenner:

Carmen Jenner is a thirty-something, USA TODAY and international bestselling author of the Sugartown, Savage Saints, and Taint series.
Her dark romance, KICK (Savage Saints MC #1), won Best Dark Romance Read in the Reader’s Choice Awards at RWDU 2015.
A tattoo enthusiast, hardcore MAC addict and zombie fangirl, Carmen lives on the sunny north coast of New South Wales, Australia, where she spends her time indoors wrangling her two wildling children, a dog named Pikelet, and her very own man-child.
A romantic at heart, Carmen strives to give her characters the HEA they deserve, but not before ruining their lives completely first … because what’s a happily ever after without a little torture?

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