review: Legal Affairs Boxed Set by Sawyer Bennett

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

So, I cut my pinkie finger open while reading this set.

I was trying to get ice out of the tray to make my 2nd G&T, and bam, the cocktail knife thingie attached to the cocktail mixer thingie (technical term) bounced back and nearly sliced off my finger. It did not feel good.

Note: don’t attempt to get ice out with a knife. Even if it is for icy gin. You will nearly decapitate your digits, resulting in blood everywhere, a curious puppy, and your husband being all, “Jesus Christ, WTF happened in here?”

Anyway. There’s that. I still finished this set of novellas in one go.

Matt Connover is like, “Fuck you bitch, I don’t do commitment.”

And I’m like

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So I understand Mac, I do. At the same time, I feel like perhaps she could have benefited from locking herself in a room and listening to Selena Gomez on repeat.

If anyone can help you, it’s someone who had to get over The Biebs, am I right? For one thing, the SHAME of having let that person into your life, it must be enough to make a girl write a few songs bemoaning her own idiocy

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I’m just playin’ Selena, I’ve had my fair share of guys I’d like to forget. And guys I wish I’d never even set eyes on because oh now, the horror and revulsion…. I feel you.

And Mac, I feel you.

But honey. You need to get some more ovaries, because Matt deserved to be kicked to the curb long before he did actually get his ass handed to him. Regardless, I enjoyed this set. Yes, it did have the whiff of novella=money=hungriness but still, it was highly entertaining and I love Sawyer Bennett’s scorching writing.

 

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review: Hanover House (Hanover House Chronicles 0.5) by Brenda Novak

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Greatly appreciated, as always!

Official Synopsis
Welcome to Hanover House….

Psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the psychopathic mind. Why do psychopaths act as they do? How do they come to be? Why don’t they feel any remorse for the suffering they cause? And are there better ways of spotting and stopping them?

After having been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead when she was just a teenager—by her high school boyfriend—she’s determined to understand how someone she trusted so much could turn on her. So she’s established a revolutionary new medical health center in the remote town of Hilltop, Alaska, where she studies the worst of the worst.

But not everyone in Hilltop is excited to have Hanover House and its many serial killers in the area. Alaskan State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok, is one of them. And yet he can’t help feeling bad about what Evelyn has been through. He’s even attracted to her. Which is partly why he worries.

He knows what could happen if only one little thing goes wrong…

Review
So, you’re Evelyn, right?

And when you were a teenager, your lovely boyfriend viciously murdered your friends and then for kicks, kept you in a shack in the woods, tortured and raped you and then sliced open your throat… because he’s just that kind of guy.

You escaped, natch (or there wouldn’t be a book) and you’ve decided the best thing to do with your remaining days is set up camp in the Alaskan wilderness and study serial killers and psychopaths, right.up.close.

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Evelyn…

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Seriously though, this was really entertaining! Especially for a prequel AND a novella, two things I normally don’t enjoy in the slightest.

I understand that a prequel is simply meant to set the stage, rather than delve too deeply, so I won’t dock this one too many points for what I see as missed opportunities – greater depth for Evelyn’s character, more of a sense of ‘place’ (the Alaskan wilderness has to be one of the most scenic and interesting places in terms of ambiance in the United States) and perhaps a touch more development as to the idea of Hanover House and its purpose in the world.

However, I expect to see all those things and more in Whiteout, the first book in the series, which comes out in September of 2016. I can’t waiiiiiit. The premise is just so fascinating.

While I think Evelyn’s plans have a whiff of whackadoodle, I can still understand and sympathize with her. Raped and within a breath of being murdered by the guy you trust the most? That has to mess with a girl’s head. And Evelyn seeks some semblance of control by attempting to talk to, reason with and understand these men who commit these hideous crimes. She wants to find out why she didn’t see Jasper’s madness, why she didn’t even have the faintest hint that he was as black as night inside, as black as the deepest holes in space.

The book largely concentrates on Evelyn’s past, and her uncertain future. Her romance with the dashing Sergeant Amarok is a non-starter, given Evelyn can’t bear to be touched, but she’s still drawn toward the state trooper because let’s face it, he’s a total babe, and she wants him baaaad.

When Evelyn’s past becomes present in one sickening rush, she’s forced to confront her own scars in a way she hasn’t had to for decades. Taut and electrifying (if a tad too quick for my tastes), the end of this novella is a definite page-turner. I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of Novak’s extensive research into psychopathy. Recommended…. and can’t wait for the series.

review: She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciate it!

Official Synopsis
A novel of psychological suspense about a woman whose life takes a shocking turn when a young girl contacts her, claiming to be her daughter, kidnapped in Mexico years earlier, from the New York Times bestselling author of Someone is Watching.

A lifetime ago, every year Carole Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha. Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated, Carole is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. However, this year when the phone rings, Carole hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Carole doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

Review
The ending brought tears to my eyes.

I thought I should say that before exploring the rest of the journey, because truly, the ending was sublime and it felt earned, which doesn’t happen often with these types of thrillers.

I’ve been reading Joy Fielding books since I was 14. I picked up See Jane Run because my Mum suggested it. My Granny, who was dying of a brain tumour at the time (though we didn’t know it) had read the book and been thrilled by it. So we all read it. All the women in my family, one by one. I remember later, a lunch outside on my grandparent’s deck. My Granny’s face was slack on one side – her smile slightly jagged, she was unable to eat the way she normally did. I told her I had liked the book, and she smiled. A small moment, but it’s one of the few memories I have of the end of her life.

We shared a book. A great, entertaining, electrifying mystery. It’s one of those memories you just don’t let go of – whenever I see that novel, I think of my brave and beautiful and kind Granny, who read those words right before I did. Who absorbed them, thought about them, fought with them. For it was a shocker of an ending – before ‘shocker endings’ were fashionable. It felt special to have read that with her. Of course, not knowing it would be one of the last things we shared in this life.

I like to think my Granny would have enjoyed She’s Not There with me, but who can tell? I do think she would have been as disturbed as I am with the casual use of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and the subsequent media frenzy. While I completely understand the fascination with Madeleine – missing children are one of my ‘issues’ – you know the ones you just can’t stop thinking about? Along with animal rescue, it’s missing children. For instance, I was the only one in my circle of family and friends who knew who Jaycee Dugard or Shawn Hornbeck were when they were discovered. I’m not saying this as some sort of “brag” but it’s just the truth – I follow that news, so I’m aware.

So, when I hear about Madeleine, I feel infinitely sad – imagining how her parents feel, entrenched in darkness – what happened to her, what might continue to happen to her. It’s all so horrifying and just that. It’s horrifying.

Regardless – I’m here to review this book as it stands, and She’s Not There is as unputdownable as it gets. It begins with Caroline Shipley, in the present day, a mother tormented by the kidnapping of her daughter fifteen years before. Left with an ex-husband, an unruly daughter and only the memories of her “sweet thing” Samantha, Caroline is struggling to put one foot in front of the other, when she gets a call. A girl named Lili is on the other end. She thinks she might be Samantha.

BOOM.

A bomb explodes in Caroline’s life. Of course. The dream she has been dreaming for fifteen years might be coming true. But what does that dream look like? Who is Lili? And who was truly behind Samantha’s abduction?

While I guessed parts of the surprise, I didn’t guess it all. Joy Fielding is still the master of suspense, and it doesn’t ever feel like a Gone Girl redux. She manages – with a sleight of hand so perfectly positioned – to bend and twist her characters into the most unlikely positions, without it feeling unlikely at all.

However, I must give a shoutout to Caroline’s family, for being the biggest bunch of assholes I’ve ever come across. From Hunter (gag me), to Mary (die now), to Steve (shut the fuck up), to Michelle, (SERIOUSLY SHUT UP YOU BRAT) .. how did Caroline not just shut herself in a room and lock the door forever?

ANYWAY. I loved the ending. Perfection. And honestly, when it’s Joy Fielding, I’m sold to begin with. She holds a special place in my reading heart.

review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciated the chance to read this book!

Official Synopsis
In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago.

Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago.

As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—n the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

Review
From the very first words —

Gone is coming. Gone is coming! The words pounded in her ears as the rocks and branches of the forest floor tore her feet and shins. Her head was whirling and fear made her heart constrict.

I was riveted by this compelling mystery.

The Forgotten Girls is Sara Blaedel’s seventh in her Louise Rick mystery series, translated from her native tongue to English – much to my delight! I haven’t read any of the others (I will be rectifying that quite quickly) but had no issues in picking up the book and diving right in. There are minimal references to other cases / characters, but this novel is the beginning of a new career for Louise, so it’s in some ways a natural starting point.

Louise is heading up a new agency, searching for missing persons. Her new partner, Eik Nordstrom (who I kept picturing as Eric Northman from True Blood… delicious!) has to be picked up from a bar the first day, and she quickly realizes that her boss wants her to close cases quickly, without doing the necessary and crucial police work that Louise so loves.

When the case of Lisemette crosses her desk, Louise expects that she will be able to solve it before dinnertime. After all, the dead girl has a large and grotesque scar down one side of her face. Surely someone will recognize her and come forward?

But no one does, and Louise begins to learn of the forgotten girls… and all that has befallen them since they were institutionalized many, many years ago. In between searching for Lisemette’s twin sister, Louise and Eik also deal with the very real and very present-day threat of a vicious rapist and murderer, attacking women as they walk through a nearby wood.

Are the cases related? Will Louise be forced to confront the very painful realities of her past?

I could not put this book down, and read it in one evening. Sara Blaedel has the refreshing style of many Scandinavian writers – succinct, raw and often disturbing. What happened to the girls is so revolting as to be almost unfathomable. It presents uncomfortable questions of morality and cruelty – and surely echoes what must have gone on in many of these institutions in the past.

These girls were for all intents and purposes, dead to their families, and suffered because of it and beyond it. Truly forgotten in the darkness, as if they slipped into an oubliette, out of reach, out of sight, but trapped in their own terrorized bodies.

review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciated the chance to read this book!

Official Synopsis
Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

Review
What a delightful read.

Although – hand on heart – I am a feminist through and through, I don’t/didn’t know a lot about Gloria Steinem. I read her interview in Lenny (Lena Dunham’s newsletter) and found her to be intriguing and funny. So I was anxious to get started with this book.

In recounting her “life on the road” as a nomad, Steinem could be staid or depressing – after all, she has seen a lot of history that would be unpleasant to think about, AND had a lot of men figuratively and literally pat her on the head and call her “dear” or “honeybun” (you know it happened).

Thankfully, Steinem is a pleasure to spend time with. What’s more, she comes across as genuine, intelligent, warm and openhearted. This is inspirational to me, as I cannot even imagine the vitriol she’s had directed her way throughout her journey in feminism and fighting for equality.

The most fascinating thing to me about this collection of stories is that none of them are designed to make Steinem seem ‘more’. She does not seek to become ‘more’ important, ‘more’ liked, or ‘more’ in any sense. Instead, she shines the glow on others – her father (who inspired her to travel, learn and grow), taxi drivers, servers, college students, and others she has met while traveling. These chance encounters and brief conversations have all served to inform Steinem’s views on the world and its inhabitants. She comes across as grateful and appreciative of these experiences and encounters, no matter how minor they might seem to an outside perspective.

Highly recommended – this is a lovely read, and offers a new and fresh look at Steinem’s past, as well as the birth and rise of the feminist movement. Further, it’s a deeply moving rumination on the importance of every day encounters and of paying attention – no matter the occasion.

review: Alex (Cold Fury #1) by Sawyer Bennett

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Official Synopsis
Hockey star Alexander Crossman has a reputation as a cold-hearted player on and off the rink. Pushed into the sport by an alcoholic father, Alex isn’t afraid to give fans the proverbial middle finger, relishing his role as the MVP they love to hate. Management, however, isn’t so amused. Now Alex has a choice: fix his public image through community service or ride the bench. But Alex refuses to be molded into the Carolina Cold Fury poster boy . . . not even by a tempting redhead with killer curves.

As a social worker, Sutton Price is accustomed to difficult people–like Alex, who’s been assigned to help her create a drug-abuse awareness program for at-risk youth as part of the team’s effort to clean up his image. What she doesn’t expect is the arrogant smirk from his perfect lips to stir her most heated fantasies. But Sutton isn’t one to cross professional boundaries–and besides, Alex doesn’t do relationships . . . or does he? The more she sees behind Alex’s bad-boy facade, the more Sutton craves the man she uncovers.”

Review
Oh Good God.

I’ll just be over here, not sure what to say. Sawyer Bennett is shockingly adept at writing New Adult romance and hot-as-fuck heroes to the point where it’s difficult to review, because my only thought after putting this down was can I have him now please?

Alex Crossman. Um, where to begin?

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The guy is sex on skates, lemme tell you. Sure, he’s somewhat of an asshole, but don’t let that stop you from reading. The guy may have been voted “Most Valuable Prick” but that could be taken two ways is all I’m gonna say.

When he meets Sutton Price, a fiery, compassionate and beautiful (natch) drug crisis counselor, Alex is startled to discover he actually has… what are those now… oh right, feelings. He takes this about as well as most commitment phobic jerks do, and goes through the usual crisis where he just doesn’t know how to examine these ghastly emotions without completely breaking down into little man pieces of worry and regret and avoidance.

And I didn’t even hate him for it.

Mostly because their first sex scene is one of the most scorching things I’ve ever read. I won’t pick out the specific moment that surprised even me – a seasoned romance reader. I can’t say anything else without making this X-Rated. Dammit.

Suffice to say, my reaction to Alex in this scene – and every scene?

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What else is there.

Good job, Sawyer Bennett. I am Rachel on Friends, proudly proclaiming to the world:

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review: The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for providing with me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciate it as always!

Official Synopsis
In the middle of his usual hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive when he realizes that a new case is being foisted on him, but a few hours later, he receives some shocking news that leaves his headstrong assistant Rose more furious than usual. Carl has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a strange sun worshipping cult, where Carl, Assad, Rose, and newcomer Gordon attempt to stop a string of new murders and a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything—or anyone—get in the way.

Review
Since first reading The Keeper of Lost Causes (one of my favourite mystery titles ever, by the way – I love a good title, and this one sums up Department Q perfectly), I have been obsessed with Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series about Carl Mørck and his band of merry ‘men’ – Assad, his curly-haired, slang-challenged, quick and mysterious assistant, Rose, their cuttingly intelligent colleague with an acerbic wit and the necessary skills with the Internet that one needs these days (rest assured neither Carl nor Assad will be much help in that department), and now Gordon, the gangly mess of a fledgling investigator, who never asks the right questions and manages to infuriate Carl every time he opens his mouth. Spending time with them is a riot.

In The Hanging Girl, Carl and the gang have stumbled upon a case that is colder than the Arctic during a deep freeze, and yet… their interest is piqued. Alberte, a young, vibrant and disturbingly beautiful young girl. Dead, years earlier… found hanging in a tree. A bereaved family. A close-lipped community. No suspects. No leads. It’s just the type of case that Department Q excels at solving.

Interestingly, Alder-Olsen chooses to switch back and forth between perspectives. On one hand, you have Carl, Assad, Rose and Gordon, struggling to trace Alberte’s footsteps and track down a maddeningly elusive killer. On the other, you meet Pirjo, an icy, merciless and cunning woman, who worships with a strange group of followers at the feet of their spiritual leader, Atu, in a remote commune dedicated to peace, tranquility and unifying religions.

In the beginning, I thought I had the mystery figured out… how boring. Not so, of course. I was stunned by the denouement, having not guessed the killer, nor the motivations behind taking Alberte’s life. Nor did I expect the sadness I felt – at the possibilities that lingered, the lost love, the unmet potential.

I have heard complaints that The Hanging Girl is not up to Adler-Olsen’s previous standard of work, and while I agree with the criticisms that the novel is a touch too long, I don’t agree that it isn’t as complex and riveting a case as in the previous novels. His best, in my humble opinion, was The Keeper of Lost Causes, with A Conspiracy of Faith coming in a close second, but this was moving and entertaining too. The true villain in this book is stunningly evil, and seeing inside the rotten quagmire of this person’s brain is terrifying.

The detective work is meticulous and may prove to be too detailed for some, but I love how small clues and tiny truths can add up to the break in a case that was decades cold and forgotten. It felt, to me, that Carl and crew really cared about finding justice for Alberte, and that is something Adler-Olsen never ceases to excel at portraying – that for these people, no matter how jocular and lazy they may sometimes seem – are dedicated bloodhounds, sniffing out every clue and trail until they find their culprit. It’s a bit old fashioned, and I love it for that.

Most touching and well written, however, is the continuing bond between Assad and Carl. I just love the strengthening of their friendship, and the perfectly placed moments in this novel – from the patting of Assad’s arm, to Carl’s smile and Assad’s revelation at how empty his life would be without their work – these moments feel earned, and they add a beauty to the levity that I find very effective.

Everything can’t be jokes about camels, after all.

 

review: In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

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(Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it, as always!

Official Synopsis
Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life–and about her husband’s death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think.

Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

Review
The writing is exquisitely detailed, but I did not connect with In Another Life the way I hoped to, especially having read the glowing reviews. I’m not sure why, but I’ll try to explain in my review. I should say right away that I think Johnson is immensely talented and will have a long career ahead of her … the writing isn’t the problem here.

First of all, this book has zero in common with Outlander, despite the comparisons in reviews. Outlander is a saucy, rich and sexy romance (disguised as “historical fiction” by Diana Gabaldon, who hates to be labeled as a romance writer…). This book is not humourous, nor does it evoke the badassery of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser. It’s much more English Patient than it is Outlander. Not a bad thing, but worth noting.

It’s apparent that Johnson did a lot of research while writing this novel, and that comes through in the text. As we follow Lia Carrer, reeling after the untimely death of her husband Gabriel, we are transported straight into the beauty of southern France. Lia is recovering at the house of her dear friend Rose, an American who married a French wine-maker. Lia is also determined to finish her languishing dissertation on the Cathers. I had no idea who the Cathers were, so looked them up while reading:

Catharism was a religious movement with Gnostic elements that originated around the middle of the 10th century, branded by the contemporary Roman Catholic Church as heretical. It existed throughout much of Western Europe, but its home was in Languedoc and surrounding areas in southern France. The Cathars were also sometimes labeled Albigensians.

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While in Languedoc, Lia meets a number of mysterious and strange men, including a secretive priest, a sexy photographer, and a dark and handsome widower. It is with Raoul, the widower, that Lia forms an inexplicable (and melodramatic) attachment. She falls in love with him almost immediately, for no reason at all, and continues to moon after him throughout the narrative. Stricken by grief, Lia is a sympathetic character, but I could never quite connect with her. I spent the book struggling to understand her, get to know her and honestly thinking if I was her friend, I’d suggest a counselor and maybe a few anti-depressants…

I won’t reveal any of the surprises in the plot, nor the interesting historical elements (where Johnson really shines). When it comes to the paranormal elements, I think the novel weakens… the time travel aspect is never fully explored, and I still am not sure why these people ended up where they did.

However, the writing is lovely, atmospheric and has a strong sense of place (something I always appreciate). I’ll be interested to see what Johnson writes next.

review: Friction by Sawyer Bennett

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake Romance for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Official Synopsis
At the powerhouse law firm of Knight & Payne, winning comes first and ethics a distant second. Leary Michaels uses her female charms to daze opponents, and it’s always worked well—until now. On her most personal case yet, she finds herself going up against a defense attorney just as skilled, shameless, and seductive as she is.

Reeve Holloway has never met a woman as sure of her own sexuality, or as ruthless in wielding it, as Leary is. But he won’t be toyed with. What Leary starts, he’ll finish—in the courtroom, the bedroom, or any-damn-place he wants. The sex is uninhibited, electrifying, and absolutely against the rules. Reeve’s job is to ruin Leary’s case…even if it destroys her in the process and costs him the woman he’s come to love.

Review
Whoa, nelly.

Um, I’ll be in my bunk.

I’ve never read anything by Sawyer Bennett until now, and let me say that I feel I’ve been sorely lacking in this department, given how much I loved reading Friction. It’s straight-up scorching sexy, with a powerhouse heroine and an alpha hero that is, gah, where are my words? He’s dirty, controlling, kind, sensual and he doesn’t take anyone’s shit. In other words, he’s the kind of hero you understand the heroine wanting to bang, and you’re not rolling your eyes thinking, what in the hell does she see in this schmuck?  Note: that was my reaction to the entirety of Fifty Shades of Grey. Even Dornan couldn’t save that colossal mess.

So, Friction. Even the title is sexy. It’s just so… readable. The bathroom scene is quite possibly the best sex scene I’ve read in ages (with the exception of anything involving the Lord and Master series, which is my fave in terms of how the heroine doesn’t orgasm purely from penetration and requires that extra attention, praise Jesus).

Not to mention, Leary isn’t an imbecile and Reeve doesn’t immediately start kowtowing to anything she desires. They push and pull and fight and get naked, and tell each other their secrets. They care about their careers. They get invested in their cases and their outcomes. Leary, especially, isn’t backing down to anyone – she brilliantly uses her intelligence AND wiles to get what she wants, and humiliates a number of assholes in the process. It’s delicious.

The book isn’t perfect, of course. I would have enjoyed A LOT more ‘showing’ in terms of their emotional progress toward each other, rather than just ‘telling’ us that they’re getting attached. Their sex scenes are technicolour, but their love scenes are often montages, doing cutesy things like washing his dog or bonding over dinner. It’s a little frustrating, because I do feel Bennett could do much, much more with this, given her talent at writing interactions.

However, that really is a minor quibble when you have molten sex scenes and such a badass couple. It’s certainly preferable to Bella Swan I mean Ana Steele tripping over her own feet and hula hooping with her inner goddess or whatever. Thank goodness we have awesome NA authors who shower us with hotness like Friction.

review: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán

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Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it!

Official Synopsis
Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.

With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?

From critically acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a hilarious and hopeful story about a woman choosing between a “perfect” life and actually living.

Review
This is a very likable book, but very predictable, all at the same time. It’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back meets Love Story. A woman is dying of cancer, so she flees to the sunny shores of the Caribbean. There, she meets a sexy local and falls in love. Will she go home and face the music? Will she seek treatment? Does she even want to?

You know the drill.

However, I will say that Life and Other Near-Death Experiences will suck you in. It’s an enjoyable and often emotional read, if a tad rushed and perfunctory in some bits. Libby, the heroine, is frustratingly stubborn, refusing to entertain the idea of fighting the cancer, for fear of opening up memories about her mother, who died when she was very young.

Through her journey, we meet her twin brother Paul (the best of the bunch), her lover Shiloh, her boss Jackie, and her “friend” Jess. These characters are all caricatures in their own ways (supportive gay brother, sexy guy on vacation, psycho bitch boss, unreliable friend…) Her ex-husband Tom is insufferable, and I wanted to stab him with a fork. I guess I’m not alone in that.

Libby’s time in Puerto Rico is lovely, and I felt like I dearly wanted to be there too, learning Spanish and drinking my face off. I understood why she wanted to escape, and what it cost her to return to the darkness of her former life.

Flaws aside, toward the end, I started to really root for Libby. I wanted her to be okay. Though I felt the epilogue summed everything up in a way that felt very pat, still… I was rooting for Libby, and it was good to get the details on what happened to her… she felt worthwhile. If anything, that was my take away from this book – Camille Pagán made Libby’s plight worth noticing and caring about. That’s talent.