Friday, June 30, 2023

REVIEW: Business of Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon


OUR REVIEW:

Business or Pleasure gave me a few firsts in my reading journey and it's always fun when I come across something I'm new to or not expecting. For instance, I don't think I've read a romance that establishes early on that the first sexual encounter between the two main characters is terrible...which is a shame as I'm absolutely certain there are many who've had a similar experience. I realize that romance is supposed to be an escape but it's also nice when reality collides with fiction. I've also never come across a set of characters who actually confront that bad experience and then use it as a learning experience. That's exactly what happens with Chandler and Finn, which interestingly intersects with her being hired by his team to ghostwrite his book. 

So after a surprising meeting-where they figure out that their one night stand hook up is also the writer/ghostwriter-they decide that they can actually make this work and begin traveling together to get the book written. It's on these travels that Chandler reveals what a sucky lover he was and he convinces her to teach him how to be better. From city to city, they not only get to know each other's personal histories, hopes, and dreams, they learn how to pleasure each other. 

As the drafting of the book comes to an end, so do their travels, which leads them both wondering what's next? Can this work when they lead different lives, live in different cities? If it's a true romance, of course it can and so we leave this novel with a happily ever after that's completely satisfactory and yet I can't help but wonder if we'll see them more in maybe a secondary character's novel? I wouldn't be mad about it.


SYNOPSIS:

A ghostwriter and a struggling actor help each other on the page and in the bedroom in this steamy romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling author of The Ex Talk.
 
Chandler Cohen has never felt more like the ghost in "ghostwriter" until she attends a signing for a book she wrote—and the author doesn’t even recognize her. The evening turns more promising when she meets a charming man at the bar and immediately connects with him. But when all their sexual tension culminates in a spectacularly awkward hookup, she decides this is one night better off forgotten.
 
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Her next project is ghostwriting a memoir for Finn Walsh, a C-list actor best known for playing a lovable nerd on a cult classic werewolf show who now makes a living appearing at fan conventions across the country. Chandler knows him better from their one-night stand of hilarious mishaps.
 
Chandler’s determined to keep their partnership as professional as possible, but when she admits to Finn their night together wasn’t as mind-blowing as he thought it was, he’s distraught. He intrigues her enough that they strike a deal: when they’re not working on his book, Chandler will school Finn in the art of satisfaction. As they grow closer both in and out of the bedroom, they must figure out which is more important, business or pleasure—or if there's a way for them to have both.

 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

COVER REVEAL: Second Down Darling by Lex Martin

 




Title: Second Down Darling
Author: Lex Martin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Single Dad/Forbidden Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber
Photographer: Lindee Robinson
Models: Hannah & Trevor
Release Date: August 7, 2023


BLURB

Jake’s my best friend and first love. There’s just one problem—he belongs to my sister.


I’ve been crushing on Jake for years, but never had the guts to tell him. One drunken night with my sister and two pink lines later, and he’s lost to me forever.

She doesn’t care that I met Jake Ramirez first. That he and I were best friends first. That I fell in love with him first. Because what my sister wants, my sister gets.

When she video-calls me and Jake accidentally walks by in the buff, something in me snaps.

Transferring to a different college might seem like a copout, but I have to get away from Jake and my sister before I say or do something I’ll regret. In an act of desperation, I ghost my old life.

For the next two years, everything is great—until I come face-to-face with Jake and his son, who my sister abandoned.

Jake’s the new wide receiver at my school, and he wants nothing to do with me, which is fine because I plan to keep my distance. Except we’re thrown together in the most dire circumstances that bring back all those old feelings.

They say everyone deserves a second chance, but my heart can’t handle breaking one more time.


Second Down Darling is an angsty, friends-to-lovers, forbidden romance, featuring a sexy single dad who’s a down-and-out college football player and a nerdy girl determined to overcome her wallflower ways. It has major second chance vibes and lots of steam! Second Down Darling is a dual POV standalone in the USA Today-bestselling series Varsity Dads.







PRE-ORDER LINKS

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

Pre-order now on the retailers below as
Second Down Darling will be exclusive
to Kindle Unlimited on release day







AUTHOR BIO

Lex Martin is the USA Today bestselling author of The Varsity Dad Dilemma, the Texas Nights series, and the Dearest series, books she hopes readers love but her parents avoid. A former high school English teacher and freelance journalist, she resides in Texas with her husband, twin daughters, and a bunny named Dandelion.


AUTHOR LINKS





GIVEAWAY


BLURB REVEAL: Son of a Gun by Jay Crownover

 💚 SON OF A GUN by Jay Crownover 💚






💚 BLURB REVEAL 💚

SON OF A GUN by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Jay Crownover is releasing in late August!! We are thrilled to share the blurb with you!! 


Sign up for Jay Crownover’s newsletter for the latest news here: https://www.jaycrownover.com


Blurb:

Heavy is the head that inherits the crown.

The only thing on Daire Archer’s mind when she pulled a disappearing act on Christmas was proving she was worthy of being her father's daughter. She was born an Archer, which was a blessing and a curse, and Daire was determined to show everyone she deserved to carry the legacy that came with her name.

 

There is power in a name, and being an Archer meant Daire needed to do better, to be better. At least, that’s what she thought she needed, until a boy from nowhere—with a name that meant nothing—showed her that she was already pretty great just the way she was.

 

Campbell has always rejected everything concerning his maniacal father and his troubled past. When he left Nowhere, he was certain he wanted a nice, quiet life free from the only things he'd ever known: violence and bloodshed. He thought he needed to be a better man. He wondered if there was a kinder, gentler version of himself under his thick armor of scars and tattoos.

 

It wasn't until he started chasing Daire Archer all over hell and back that Campbell realized he needed to be a man who was better at being bad than everyone else in his troubled world.

 

Because now, he had a problematic princess to protect. One with an uncanny ability for finding trouble. Where Daire is concerned, being a good guy isn't necessary.

 

She keeps telling him that he's pretty great, no matter what he’s done. 





Find more books by Jay Crownover here: https://www.jaycrownover.com


Blogger Sign Up: https://forms.gle/UMxBVXpJuyQoGRbEA


 ABOUT JAY CROWNOVER:

Jay Crownover is the international and multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men Series, The Saints of Denver Series, The Point Series, Breaking Point Series, the Getaway Series, the Loveless, Texas Series. and the Forever Marked Series. Her books can be found translated into many different languages all around the world. She is a tattooed, crazy-haired Colorado native who lives at the base of the Rockies with her awesome dogs. This is where she can frequently be found enjoying a cold beer and Taco Tuesdays. Jay is a self-declared music snob and outspoken book lover who is always looking for her next adventure, between the pages and on the road.


 AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook Page | Instagram | Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads | Website | Tik Tok | Twitter


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

REVIEW: Deconstructing Delilah by Alison Rhymes


DECONSTRUCTING DELILAH by Alison Rhymes is NOW AVAILABLE!!


Grab Your Copy Today! 

https://mybook.to/deconstructingdelilah


Add to Goodreads: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/143343916-deconstructing-delilah


OUR REVIEW:

Do you need to read the previous releases of Alison Rhymes to be able to follow along with Deconstructing Delilah? No, not really. Do I think you'll have a more enhanced understanding of the main character? I do. In this novel we get to know more about the mysterious Pope and really get to know Lorelai's cousin, Delilah. This is their unconventional love story.  As I've come to expect in this series, there's a societal issue (or issues) that one of the characters must delve into for their own safety or peace o mind, there's steamy chemistry between characters, and there's the push and pull between them until they manage to get the balance right. 

In the case of Delilah and Pope, she's seeking to understand the world and he's seeking to protect her from certain aspects of it. As they get to know each other, she becomes more intrigued by him and he does his best to keep her at arm's length. Years progress and the next time we see them, Delilah has become more confident in herself and her world view...and yet still cannot stop thinking about Pope. Apparently he can't stop thinking about her either. While it would be easy to say that she's the innocent and he's the typical alpha male, they are more than that. She's more than some simpleton and he ends up showing us that he's more than some tough guy that likes to bark orders. And the more time they spend together, you learn about their nuances, their fears, and the things that make them feel vulnerable and afraid.  

I enjoyed the evolution of their relationship, especially as Delilah makes demands and dictates how she wants her life to be, something of a surprise to Pope. I also really enjoyed that Alison Rhymes really knows her way around my beloved New Orleans. So many people like to use it as a simple prop, but our city is so much richer and complicated than that. It's not just happy tourists, or rampant crime, or seedy underbelly, or food and music--it's all of those things and then some and Rhymes does a good job of showing her off in all of her complexities.

If you're an Alison Rhymes fan, I think you'll really enjoy this one and if you're new to her, what are you waiting for? Jump in and see why so many can't wait for her next new release.  

BLURB

A modern-day retelling of Samson and Delilah… As the son of a preacher, Pope Blackwell believed he learned the difference between good and evil early in life. After all, it was beaten into him regularly. Now as an adult, he’s traded in his life of abuse for one where he holds all the power.


When a young woman strolls into his life full of more bravery than she should possess, he becomes consumed by her fire.


Although a world of differences stands between them-Faith. Experience. Age.

His obsession only grows the more she challenges him until he’s ready to topple any pillar that stands in her way.


Find more books by Alison Rhymes here: https://alisonrhymes.com


 ABOUT ALISON RHYMES

Alison lives somewhere in the shadow of a Pacific Northwest Mountain, bordered by the Puget Sound, and not too far from the country roads she grew up on. 


When she’s not writing, she can be found avidly reading, traveling with youthful wanderlust, or slowly turning the inside of her home into her own personal houseplant jungle. 


AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook Group | Facebook Page | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon | Bookbub | Goodreads | Website | TikTok | Newsletter



Monday, June 26, 2023

REVIEW: Will They or Won't They by Ava Wilder


OUR REVIEW:

I really enjoyed How to Fake it in Hollywood so when I saw the newest Ava Wilder novel, I requested to review it immediately. Like her debut novel, Will They or Won't They also focuses on the love (hate?) story of two actors: Lilah and Shane. These two have a tumultuous relationship that we follow in flashbacks woven in with their current situation, which is less than warm and fuzzy--it's so NOT warm and fuzzy that their show ends up putting them in couples therapy (even though they aren't a couple) just so they can get along/get past their issues for the sake of a final season of work. As the novel progresses we come to understand the source of their continuing friction--a really yucky break up after the close of their first (and very successful) season--and both of them are holding some serious grudges and hurt feelings. Without going into it, I'll just say that Wilder did a good job of spreading the blame between these two, though I definitely had more frustration with Lilah than I did with Shane but maybe that was because of how passive (or passive aggressive? manipulative?) Shane was--he came off as less of the aggressor, even though he did some really crappy things too. To be fair to Lilah, the more you get to know her, the more you understand her motivations and mistakes and some of the sources of her issues. And as this is a romance, obviously they get past all of their hurts and manipulations to make a tentative peace that becomes even more than the first time they were together--the years apart did them some good, in that respect.

Other similar traits that this novel has to the previous one are things like a great ensemble cast of characters--they all enhance the plot between Lilah and Shane and make things entertaining and interesting, making our main characters seem even more real and well rounded because of the conversations and events undertaken with their friends. And Wilder doesn't shy away from digging in the things like anxiety and panic attacks, as well as the natural fear of career transitions and the unknowns that come with that.

Overall this friends to lovers to enemies to lovers really worked and leaves me just as interested and curious about what Ava Wilder will write next as I did after her debut. 


BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3IY4Mej

SYNOPSIS:

Onscreen, they’re in love. Offscreen, they can’t stand each other. Two costars with a complex history reunite in this tension-filled romance novel from the author of How to Fake It in Hollywood.

“Readers will be on the edge of their seats waiting for Lilah and Shane to just kiss already. Ava Wilder is a master of anticipation and satisfaction.”—Elissa Sussman, nationally bestselling author of Funny You Should Ask

Lilah Hunter and Shane McCarthy are madly in love—at least, their characters are. As the stars of the hit paranormal TV show 
Intangible, Lilah and Shane spent years pining for each other onscreen . . . until Lilah ditched the show at the end of season five in hopes of becoming a movie star. With no such luck, she’s back to film the much-hyped ninth and final season, in which Lilah and Shane’s characters will get together at last.

But coming back means facing one of the biggest reasons she left: Shane. Ever since their secret behind-the-scenes fling imploded at the end of season one, the two of them have despised each other.

Now reunited on set for the first time in years—with the world’s eyes on them and their post-show careers on the line—they’ll have to grit their teeth and play nice. But under pressure to give 
Intangible’s fans the happy ending they’ve been waiting for, Lilah and Shane are forced to get closer than ever. And if they’re not careful, they might just get blindsided by one final twist: a real-life happy ending of their own.
 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

REVIEW: Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune


OUR REVIEW:

After reading Every Summer After, I stalked all the places I knew to stalk to find out when Carley Fortune would be releasing her next book and as soon as it was available on the Libby app, I downloaded it. Honestly, I didn't really even know what Meet Me at the Lake would be about, I just knew that if it was anything like her debut, I'd enjoy it. I think I naturally assumed it would be connected to the first book and might have been a smidge disappointed when it wasn't, but that disappointment quickly faded into nothing as I was quickly taken with the story of Fern and Will. And by the end, I enjoyed it even more than Every Summer After

Just like Every Summer After, the narrative of Fern and Will swings between the past and present. We get to see their first meeting and then their second; we get to know them as they were and as they are. We learn how they ended up so far from where they originally thought they would be and mixed in with that we get to know their losses and complications and everything in between. And finally, we get to see the hows and whys of them falling in love, how they almost break it, and how they end up making it work. One added addition? Journal entries of Fern's mom (which will all make sense once you read it). 

When I take a minute to think about why I prefer Meet Me at the Lake to Every Summer After, some of that has to do with the how less anxious I was as I was reading. Fortune's first novel had me twisted up in anxiety knots way more than this novel and while I appreciated the tension it created in the first novel, it made me so antsy. In this novel, the anxiety level was way lower and I felt like I could really enjoy the story of these characters. I also enjoyed how honest and flawed they were and how willing they were to learn and improve. Other things were: Fern and her tough, filterless demeanor, Will and his gentle-family first moral code, the Roses, the whole premise of where Fern grows up and ends up, and just the whole vibe, now that I'm thinking about it. 

Meet Me at the Lake was the right book at the right time. I needed a romance that had a little bit of everything and wasn't too deep or too shallow, a romance that was easy to read and follow, and a romance that has me excited for the next one that she writes. A great summer read. 

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/43pa3Dj

SYNOPSIS:

A random connection sends two strangers on a daylong adventure where they make a promise one keeps and the other breaks, with life-changing effects, in this breathtaking new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After.

Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in the city. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.

At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s lakeside resort—something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.

She needs a plan—a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is. 

But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?

 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

REVIEW: Coach by Devney Perry

 


OUR REVIEW:
Coach was something different than what I usually expect when I think of a Devney Perry novel. I typically associate her novels with a character that's in danger or trouble and in their plight to escape it or avoid it or rectify it, they fall in love with someone involved...or something along those lines. When I saw her first announcement of this novel, I was intrigued. I like football and romance and the single dad/second chance tropes so I grabbed it up when it went live. 


This novel follows the story of Millie and Ford and how they went from best friends to strangers, with Millie having some really hurt feelings about how things went down. Fast forward to many years after college and Ford ends up being hired at the head coach where Millie is one of the assistant athletic directors. As you can imagine, things heat up almost immediately. Ford is instantly interested in Millie as soon as he sees her and Millie is instantly guarded when she sees him. As the pages go on, we learn more about why there are hurt feelings and why things happened the way that they did. Soon it's less about the past and more about how they navigate a world where he's a dad, plus they're colleagues in a place that has a zero tolerance policy on coworkers dating. It's at times tense, at times frustrating, but ultimately satisfying that things end the way they do.


 It's always interesting when a tried and true author does something a little different from what many expect and I can only see this series getting stronger as Devney Perry delves into it.


SYNOPSIS:

AN AMAZON #1 BESTSELLER

single dad, sports romance from Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, Devney Perry.

Football star. Single dad. And once, a long time ago, mine.

I’ve spent the better part of a decade forgetting Ford Ellis. If he had just stayed away from Montana, I might have erased the memory of his striking blue eyes and rugged smile forever. Avoiding him was easy when the only place I saw his face was on ESPN—and a remote control could fix that problem.

Except my boss just hired Ford as the new head coach for the Treasure State Wildcats. Not only will I be stuck watching him on the sidelines this season, but avoiding him will be impossible now that we’re working together.

Maybe I haven’t forgotten Ford. Maybe I still dream about what we might have been. Maybe he hasn’t forgotten me either.

Except those maybes won’t change the fact that we were never meant to be. Maybe he was mine once. But as of today, the only thing I’ll be calling Ford Ellis is Coach.


BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3HNVW1t

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

REVIEW: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

 

OUR REVIEW:

Hello Beautiful immediately grabbed my attention and I had to actually use it as my reward for getting work done to force myself to put it down; I was completely taken by William and the Padavano family. 

Young William's story was heartbreaking and informed so much of his adult life; he seemed to believe that he was unworthy of real friendship and real love and when it was offered to him, he didn't always know what to do with it. He lived the first part of his life carefully shielding himself from the hurt that his parents continually foisted upon him through their neglect--their barely going through the motions of being a parent to this precious young boy. When he leaves them for college his chance to know something different is right there, and while he does eventually take the opportunities, he always lived such a careful, quiet, risk averse life. Even in his happiest years, you could sense his comfort with living within the routine and boundaries he'd created --to me this just showed how deeply embedded his childhood hurt and loneliness lived within him. By the end, though, the hope of a future that would continue his growth of character shined brightly.

A huge part of William's story (or maybe it's more apt to say he's a huge part of their story?), are Julia and Sylvie. The eldest Padavano sisters would play a part in his growth and grief and hope and happiness through the years. These sisters, all four of them, were hard to look away from. They loved each other fiercely and deeply-which made when they hurt each other or surprised each other feel like earthquakes in their lives.

Julia, the oldest, was controlling. She was known as the fixer, and was always the first one to jump in with a solution to a problem. When she wanted something, she had a single-minded focus and really couldn't fathom things any other way than the way she wanted it. When there was a shift or a change, she would almost will it back to the way she wanted it. Julia was also the one who could cut people out with almost surgical precision. Her abilities to be a fixer, a problem solver, willful, and stubborn were a double edged sword; these were the things that helped her become successful but left her without so much of what she needed and loved. I wanted to hate her but I couldn't; I wanted to feel sorry for her and that came sparingly. 

Sylvie, on the other hand, as flawed as she was, was so easy for me to love. She was accepting and warm and a dreamer. She made life changing choices that were hard and brave and caused her so much love and so much grief and it's through her eyes that we see and learn so much about her other sisters and other family and friends. Her chapters fleshed out so many things and offered a perspective that was honest and full of hope.

Rounding out these three characters are Cecelia and Emmeline, Izzy, Rose, Charlie, and Kent. Each of these characters influenced Julia, Sylvie, and William in ways that were loving, in their own special ways.

The family interactions, the losses and gains, the grief and love, and the exploration of what love is and what it can look like were stamped onto every chapter of this novel. I loved the imagery, the characterization, and some of the wonderfully profound pearls of wisdom that came with getting to know these characters. "Grief is love...Forgiveness is too".

Maybe I loved this novel because I've been facing a crisis of my mortality, alongside my friends and family; or maybe I loved this novel because it was so well written that I will carry these characters and this reading experience in my heart for a long while. 


BUY IT: https://amzn.to/42vRbBu


SYNOPSIS:

William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.

But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?

An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, 
Little WomenHello Beautiful is a profoundly moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

REVIEW: Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood

 


OUR REVIEW:


I super loved Love, Theoretically. I'm sure it has something to do with having a strong female character. Probably also had to do with that strong enemies to lovers trope. And no doubt, it had to do with the way Ali Hazelwood played with my emotions..I mean I had literal tears on my face at one point and was NOT expecting that to happen, at all. 


In Love, Theoretically we get to see Elsie, a theoretical physicist, pitted against her nemesis (even though he has no idea she exists), Jack, a experimental physicist. Through a series of events, we learn that they *do* know each other but not as the STEM gods they are...no they know each other because Elsie's been fake dating his brother. It all comes to a head when she shows up to an interview dinner and realizes he's on the hiring committee. 


Without going into detail because it would be easy to spoil, I'll just say that their snarling and sniping made for some great reading and then when they, because of course they do, eventually get together, the sweetness is a great contrast to all of the earlier angst. I loved all aspects of their story, even the science-y stuff; it was perfectly paced, the dialogue was well done, and I couldn't help rooting for them, even when I was rooting against them (I know it doesn't make sense, but it kinda does). Loved this one and can't wait to grab something else by Ali Hazelwood. 


BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3JwbDMu

SYNOPSIS:

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
 
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.
 
Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

Thursday, June 8, 2023

REVIEW: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

 


OUR REVIEW:

I've been a fan of Barbara Kingsolver since she altered my universe with The Poisonwood Bible. When a dear friend offered her copy of Demon Copperhead to me to read while I recovered from surgery, I couldn't refuse...and bonus: right when I got it, they announced the novel as the Pulitzer Prize winner.

Demon Copperhead was an intense read; there were many times I had to take a prolonged break from it because it made me so hurt or angry or frustrated. Our protagonist, Demon (aka Damon), was seemingly doomed from the beginning. He was born to an addict (to her credit, she kept trying her best for him), lived through an abusive stepfather situation, then through horrible foster care conditions, became a runaway only to find his biological grandmother who finally gave him some hope for stability. Each of these hardships were extended and sometimes brutal to read, but I suppose, in reflection, they made the more hopeful sections that much more elevated. 

When Demon finally got some stability, he temporarily flourished. He had a little room to breathe and even though he never really felt like he was family in his new home, he had people who cared for him and thought of him as such. As he grew into his late teendom, he fell in love with the absolute worst person to fall in love with and found himself in a downward spiral. With her assistance he managed to sabotage every good thing he'd acquired. He discovered the dark underbelly of being addicted to painkillers and how hard they are to resist. For years he alienated the people who loved him and kept making the worst choices. Of course he justified them and he, at times, tried to be a good person, but his addiction just made him a pretty yuck version of himself. It was during this part of the reading that I just found myself so angry--I felt my disappointment and frustration viscerally and had to walk away from Demon before I did something silly. 

Barbara Kingsolver had me by the throat and I had to go back in and finish and I'm so glad I did. The final section showed strength and truth and hope and when I put the book down, I could finally breathe again. She'd given Demon an unconventional family in his neighbors, his grandmother, a foster sibling, some teachers, and in Angus; it was with these characters that we get to see Demon as the kind, talented, caring person who is so loved and cherished that he can't end as a the frustrating drug addict he once was. Thank goodness.

Even on the hardest day of reading, I couldn't help but want to pick it up again. These characters became so important to me that I talked about them to whoever would listen and now they're taking up space in my heart and mind.

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/42ltA6o


SYNOPSIS:

From the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible and The Bean Trees, a brilliant novel that enthralls, compels, and captures the heart as it evokes a young hero’s unforgettable journey to maturity

Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. Relayed in his own unsparing voice, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.

Monday, June 5, 2023

REVIEW: The Girl in the Woods by Kristen Ashley

 


OUR REVIEW:

If you know us, you know that Kristen Ashley is a one-click for us--she's our comfort read, our guaranteed escape from whatever is plaguing us; The Girl in the Woods was exactly that. 

The thing I'm discovering that I really enjoy about this series is that while the romance is definitely a factor, it's not the main factor. In both novels in this series, there's a killer on the loose and somehow our protagonists are involved. In The Girl in the Woods, a story told from Rus's point of view, we learn that he's an active FBI agent working on a serial killer case and a new murder lands him in Misted Pines and in the direct path of Cin, the employer of the victim. The attraction is instant and mutual, but of course, completely not okay during an active investigation so they work hard to concentrate on solving the case and tracking the killer(s) and somewhere along the way, they figure out a way to discretely pursue the burgeoning relationship. 

As usual, I loved these two together; they're both strong but not afraid to be vulnerable. They're sensible and reasonable and are a great team. He supports her and she supports him and when it's time for Rus to wrap up the case and move on, he stays.

Like every other Ashley series, we get to see some of our favorite characters from the previous book and now we can add Rus and Cin to the list of characters we'll be looking out for when the next book comes out.


BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3lYmCoC

This body would be the last for Zachariah Lazarus…

The Crystal Killer’s latest casualty was discovered in a sleepy town in the Pacific Northwest, Misted Pines.

His years in the FBI, and tracking the Crystal Killer, have taken their toll on Rus. He lost his marriage to the job. And the burdens he carries for the victims was crushing him.

Misted Pines has recently survived a killer’s rampage and a town scandal that made global news. The media was primed to devour a new story. So Rus already has his work cut out for him.

But it’s more.

Something is just not right with this latest victim.

As Rus works with the local sheriff to unravel the mystery, the victim’s employer, Lucinda Bonner, decides she’s going to do everything she can to help.

To help Rus find the killer. To help Rus survive the hunt. To help Rus navigate the intricate, and sometimes sordid, history of the town of Misted Pines.

And to help Rus let go of his burdens.


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