For What It's Worth

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: Taken by Storm & Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison

Leesie Hunt has many rules: No kissing. No sex. No dating outside the Mormon faith.
When Michael Walden—a deep-sea diver who lost his parents in a violent hurricane—arrives in town, Leesie sees someone who needs her. They fall for one another, even though his dreams are tied to the depths of the ocean and hers to salvation above.
Will their intense chemistry be too strong to resist?
Leesie and Michael must make the hardest choice of their lives: whether to follow their beliefs or their hearts.
Readers will be swept away by this tale of forbidden romance told in online chats, Leesie’s chapbook poems, and Michael’s dive log. It’s as steamy as Twilight and just as clean. (YA)

Leesie is a Mormon girl going to a public school in Washington. She is constantly harassed by the boys and called “Ice-Queen” by the fellow students. She’s in her senior year and is just waiting until she can leave to go to BYU and be with people who are like her and respect her beliefs.
Michael is a deep-sea diver who is the lone survivor of Isadore, the hurricane that claimed his parents’ lives. Struggling with nightmares of not being able to save his parents and unable to use diving as his escape anymore, he goes to live with his Grandmother in the small town of Tekoa, WA and tries to make it through the nightmares one day at a time.
From the moment Leesie sees Michael’s haunted eyes, she knows she is meant to save him. The question is, how can she save him without losing herself? As a Mormon she won’t make out (with tongue), no skin and definitely no sex until you’re married.
Despite the limitations on their relationship Michael falls hard for Leesie and she does save him. That’s not to say it all goes well, he constantly pushes her boundaries and at times is a selfish jerk. I would go as far as to say I don’t think I even like him in this book until the end where he really comes through. I have read book two, Unbroken Connection, and you can really see what the author is doing here, setting Michael up for something much bigger so you just have to bear with it. (I fell in love with Michael in book 2)
The story is told in on-line chats, Michael’s Dive Log (my favorite) and Leesie’s private Chapbook/poems in alternating POV’s. I liked the style because it affords you an intimacy with the characters that you don’t usually have.
I have to be honest and say that I usually stay away from religious leaning books but this is a beautiful story that is not heavy handed. I never felt preached to, but I also was interested in learning more about her religion and related to Leesie’s struggles. Leesie’s best friend and on-line chat buddy Kim is not Mormon and is a nice contrast in personality to her. I just wish she was there in person a few times.
For a book without any sex , it’s pretty steamy. Morrison explores the topic of teen sex with honesty. Michael has had several sexual relationships and as much as he likes Leesie, it’s a struggle to be with her and not be able to touch her the way he wants. I didn’t always like the things he did but I got it. While Leesie remains firm on her stance to remain a virgin until marriage in her relationship with Michael, the book does explore different types of teenage sexual relationships, with Kim and her boyfriend Mark for example, and the potential consequences of those actions.
The intensity of Leesie and Michael’s relationship is sometimes overwhelming – which it’s meant to be, so that you can come to appreciate the compromises and sacrifices they have to make for each other.
I don’t really like to compare books but Taken by Storm was very reminiscent of Twilight for me. They had this all-consuming, obsessive love like Edward and Bella but instead of vampirism keeping them from having sex, it was Leesie’s devotion to her faith. This is not a criticism but I had mixed emotions while reading this book. On one hand it seemed like every interaction, every conversation led to the edge of sex or a fight about the lack of sex, on the other hand it also makes perfect sense for two teenagers who are this crazy for each other to be consumed by it. First love is an intense experience, especially when it takes on a forbidden quality. Leesie is feeling things she’s never even thought about before with this amazing boy came into her life and it makes her doubt herself and her commitment to Mormonism constantly. Michael believes sex and love are one in the same and wants to show Leesie how much he loves her, to make that ultimate connection.
I think part my issue results from the exclusive use of the dive logs, Chatspot Logs and Leesie’s poems to tell the story. I enjoy the style but it takes on more of a dear diary quality, so you don’t see many of the day to day events and their relationships with others to get a little moment of relief from their feelings for each other. At times I felt I was drowning in their pain and desire.
Ultimately though, I fell in love with Leesie and Michael and the way their characters develop and grow. Their story really got under my skin. I thought about the two of them long after I put the book down.

Rating: 3 out of 4

Buy the book! Taken by Storm

Since I read the series back to back I’m following this with a review of Unbroken Connection – Book 2 in Michael and Leesie’s story. In my opinion, this series is best when you read the books together and you can see where author Angela Morrison is headed with the characters and story arc. It makes more sense and resolves the few complaints I had with the first book.

Unbroken ConnectionAgainst all odds, the couple that swept you away in TAKEN BY STORM is back. Michael is in Thailand diving his dream. Leesie is at BYU living hers. And they just can't leave each other alone. Their romance rekindles, deeper than before. They grow desperate to see one another again. To hold one another again. Michael decides there is only one direction their relationship can go and asks Leesie the ultimate question. Her answer challenges everything Michael is and wants to be. Can she change for him? Can he change for her? Enough? (YA)


Spoiler Warning:
I’ve kept this review mostly spoiler free but if you haven’t read Taken by Storm you may want to skip this review.
Last chance.
You were warned.

In Unbroken Connection we pick back up with Michael and Leesie after the events of Taken by Storm. Both have followed their dreams of career and college even though it meant they had to leave each other behind. But they can’t seem to be able to stay out of each other’s lives.
Michael realizes due to Leesie’s religion, being with her will never be a casual relationship and comes to a major decision.
I’m not going to lie – Unbroken Connection was tough to read. Angela’s writing is so raw that I felt like I was in these characters shoes and it’s not always an easy place to be.
Both Michael and Leesie realize they love each other but there are still many obstacles in their path. Temptations, tragedies and a crisis of faith test this couple and their commitment to each other.
The character growth of both Leesie and Michael are what won me over from any issues I may have had in Taken by Storm. Leesie is at BYU, her lifelong dream, but it’s not entirely what she expected. Not everyone follows the rules and this frustrates her. In one instance a roommate keeps stealing everyone’s food (amoung other things) and the other roommates get together to pull a prank on the girl. Michael sees Leesie’s participation in this and is disappointed in her, even reprimanding her and shaming her into doing the right thing. This moment marked a real turning point with the characters for me.
It’s hard to talk about this story without spoilers but Michael has grown as a character and as a man. It’s easy to be in a relationship in those early days of lusting and when things are going great but the true test is when you are there for the ugly parts as well, and he is. Although he doesn’t share Leesie’s Mormon faith - he respects it now and loves her because of the person it makes her.
After a tragedy strikes, Michael rushes to her side. Jaron, Leesie’s potential Mormon suitor is there for her also. On paper he is the perfect choice. But the way these two men respond to Leesie’s suffering speaks volumes about their love for Leeslie and about the kind of man Michael has become. There are two scenes between Jaron and Michael that just broke my heart. True love. Through the good and the bad, that’s what they have now. I found myself choking back tears several times.

Rating: 4 out of 4  With Unbroken Connection a real relationship has formed not just the teenage lusting from Taken by Storm (although there is still plenty of that! LOL)

Buy the book! Unbroken Connection

Morrison is continuing (and concluding) Michael and Leesie’s story with Cayman Summer. She is posting the chapters as she writes so you can follow along, then she will be releasing the final book next year. Excerpt from her blog:

“CAYMAN SUMMER is the third novel in Michael and Leesie's romance that began with TAKEN BY STORM. When my editor left Razorbill and her boss rejected UNBROKEN CONNECTION (Book #2), my readers rallied around me—giving me the guts to release it independently. I want you all with me every step as I write CAYMAN SUMMER. You'll get to see my messy rough drafts, half-baked poems, revised scenes, and polished chapters as we finish Michael and Leesie's journey together. This blog is for you!”

Follow the story here:

Karen here: if these two don't get their happy ending after three agonizing books....meaning together......married at that little white steepled church, my heart will break into a million tiny little pieces. Just sayin..... :-)


  1. oh I need to read this series...sounds good.

  2. SO GLAD you like them! This series is my favorite contemporary one ever. I haven't been able to find the time to help with the Cayman Summer blog, but you better believe I'm aching to read the book when I can. It'll be interesting to see how it comes out, with the helps of edits by her readers and such.

  3. @Julie - I can share :-)

    @John She is about halfway with Cayman Summer and it's just as painstakingly beautiful as the first two.

  4. Awesome and epic double review! I hear you on the little white church thing. If I have to agonize with a couple through multiple books, I better get payoff in the form of a happy-ever-after at the conclusion!

  5. Thanks for this review, Karen. I'll take that plot suggestion under advisement! You know, the biggest difference between TAKEN BY STORM and UNBROKEN CONNECTION is I had an editor to fight with over how Michael should be in TAKEN BY STORM. UNBROKEN CONNECTION I didn't. You get Michael in his pure form. Good lesson for me as an author. Fight harder next time. (Or release only indies!)