What To Read Wednesday – The Lonely and Lost Boy by Tara Brown

cooltext1310418041

This week’s I’m reviewing two books for the price of one. The Lonely and Lost Boy by Tara Brown

The Lonely by Tara Brown

The truth is subjective to what the lonely lets in.

Emalyn Spicer has lived with it for a long time. She thinks it goes back further than her memories do. She knows it goes back further than the OCD.

When she arrives at college, her OCD and the lonely refuse to let her have her wish to be normal.

When she meets Sebastian and starts to fall for him, she lets herself believe it’s possible to outrun the things chasing her from the past. But how to you get away from the things inside of you? How do you run from yourself?

Just as she gives up and succumbs to the lonely, the unthinkable happens. She finds herself once again trapped in the dark, once again held against her will.

This time she meets the lonely head on. In the darkest corners of her mind, she discovers there is more to her world than she ever imagined. She discovers that the lonely was there for her, protecting her from herself and her secrets.

How far would you go to find yourself?

This is a dark and captivating novel, tread lightly.

cooltext1310419007

I eat books. When I find ones I enjoy, I can devour them in one sitting, leaving the cooking, washing, ironing and child-watching for another day. The Lonely, and its companion novel, Lost Boy, provided me with some gourmet reading.

It’s really hard to explain what happens in the book without giving the plot away. This is one of those novels where the twist in the middle really makes the story, so I’ll endeavor to do everything I can to avoid spoilers. Take it from me that the twist is worth waiting for, and reading more about it in The Lost Boy only makes it better.

Emalyn is a broken character. She has severe OCD, barely makes it through each day, and her entire life seems to be directed by an anonymous voice at the end of her phone. The only two people who seem to accept her are her best friend, Michelle, and her driver, Stuart. As the book continues we learn that she is an orphan, discovered on the streets of a small town in New Mexico, and brought up by nuns. At some point after this, her benefactor (or ‘Uncle Daddy’ as Michelle calls him) has discovered her, and pays for everything, while also ruling her life.

During her first weeks at college in Boston, she meets Sebastian. A good-looking, friendly and seemingly normal guy, he asks Emalyn out. He seems to understand her OCD, and is willing to overlook any quirks she might have and see through to the softer girl inside. But all doesn’t run smoothly; she can’t bring herself to have a physical relationship with him, and her messed-up view on life threatens to stop the relationship before it can really start.

At this point, her mysterious benefactor takes on a life and character of his own. To say more would spoil the twist in the middle, but the reasons for his generosity and control come out in the latter part of The Lonely, and very clearly in The Lost Boy. Whether I agree with his decisions are another matter!

That’s where I’m going to leave any description of the story. If you want to read it—and I recommend you do—both books are available for 99c on Amazon.

The Lonely is a dark book with messed up characters and a twisty storyline. It has the same sort of tone as stories like Captive in the Dark and Consequences, and if you liked those books, you’ll probably like this one too.

As for me, I LOVED it. It had interesting characters, a dark plot and writing that drew me right in. Five dark and twisty stars.

0de33-amazonkindle

Goodreads Button

What to read Wednesday – Unbound by Cara McKenna

Unbound by Cara McKennaShe set out to find herself, and discovered the darker side of desire.

Merry’s lost a lot recently—first her mother, then close to a hundred pounds. Feeling adrift, she strikes out in search of perspective. A three-week hike through the Scottish Highlands was supposed to challenge her new body and refocus her priorities, but when disaster strikes, she’s forced to seek refuge in the remote home of a brooding, handsome stranger…

Rob exiled himself to the Highlands years ago, desperate to escape his own self-destruction. Haunted by regrets, he avoids human contact at all costs…but when Merry turns up injured, he can’t very well run her off. And as he nurses her back to health, Rob can’t resist his guest’s sweet demeanor—or her flirtatious advances. The igniting passion between them rouses a secret appetite Rob has long struggled to keep hidden. But Merry craves nothing more than to help Rob surrender to his desires, and the journey draws the lovers into an entirelydifferent kind of wilderness.

Goodreads Button

What I thought pink

I have the biggest girl-crush on Cara Mckenna. Since I first read another of her books, Willing Victim, she’s been on my list of must-read authors. Whenever she has a new book coming out I find myself eyeing up the calendar like it’s my birthday. It’s fair to say that as soon as I opened the book, I was expecting it to be great.

I’m delighted to say McKenna didn’t disappoint. While the hero—Rob Rush—deviates from her usual, built, alpha male, (in attitude if not in physique) he was a beautifully depicted character. His flaws and problems have led him to hole himself up in a shack in the middle of the Scottish Highlands, far away from civilized society.

It’s here that the heroine—Merry—first encounters him. She’s been hiking in the Scottish hills and has been struck down by a vomiting bug. In need of shelter and medical help, she finds herself hammering at Rob’s ramshackle door.

What follows is a journey into the unknown for the both of them. At first they are wary of each other, Rob is taciturn and stoic, Merry over-talkative and grating. But gradually they become attracted to each other, leading to a hot encounter with a bed and a length of rope.

But the path of true love, or lust, never did run smooth. For Rob is a recovering alcoholic, and Merry is intent on returning to civilization and dragging him with her. When they both reach Inverness, he is confronted by the easy acquisition of alcohol for the first time in years. What follows is cataclysmic for them both.

An erotic romance that reaches deep into the psyche of both protagonists, Unbound isn’t always the easiest read. For those who prefer their men to be the dominants in a BDSM encounter, this may be challenging. For me, though, I loved the way the story made me question what I found attractive in a man, and made me realize that a hero doesn’t have to be an alpha to be hot as hell. It’s a testament to Cara McKenna’s excellent writing that I found myself falling a little in love with Rob Rush right alongside Merry.

I’d give this story five, rope-burned, hot as hell stars.

gold-stars_zps9723be0b

What to Read Wednesday – Good by S. Walden

This week’s recommendation is Good by S. Walden.

Good by S. Walden

Cadence Miller is a good girl. She just happens to make one terrible mistake her junior year in high school which costs her ten months in juvenile detention. Now a senior, she’s lost everything: her best friend, the trust of her parents, driving privileges, Internet access. It’s a lonely existence.

But there is one bright spot: Mark Connelly, her very cute, very off-limits 28-year-old calculus teacher. She falls hard for him—a ridiculous schoolgirl crush headed nowhere. She can’t help it. He’s the only good thing at Crestview High. She doesn’t expect him to reciprocate her feelings. How inappropriate, right? But he does. And he shows her.

And that’s when her life goes from bad to good.

What I thought pink

When the book opens, Cadence is working on a modern-day equivalent of a chain gang. A juvenile offender, she’s forced to wear an orange jumpsuit and pick litter up off the road. While following the trail of debris, she comes across a good looking guy changing out his flat tire. In spite of the close scrutiny of her supervisor, she chats with him a bit, his sweet charm and interesting clothes a bright spot in an otherwise dreary day.

Flash forward a few months. Cadence is now back home, having to go back to school and face her senior year after nearly ten months in juvie. She’s dreading going back to high school, and she’s right to feel that way. From the start she is the subject of ridicule. Nasty notes are stashed in her locker, kids shout names at her as she walks down the hallway. And then, to top off a great day, she walks into her math class to find her new teacher is none other than the tire-changing hottie she met while in juvenile detention.

As the story unfolds, we see Cadence trying to be good. She made one—big—mistake, but nobody is allowing her to forget it. Her parents don’t trust her at all, her little brother has no patience for her, and her ex-best friend won’t even speak to her, at school or outside. The only light in an otherwise dark existence is her math teacher. And that’s where things start to get murky.

S. Walden treads a very careful line during this story, and I loved the way she didn’t try to glamorize the situation or paint Mr. Connelly into a good light. From the start I found myself suspicious of him and his motives, even when he seemed to be saying or doing the right things. But as Cadence came to trust him, I found myself softening too. He seemed to truly care for her, and was the one person who could see through the tough exterior of her past into the sweet girl inside. And when they finally consummated their relationship—after her eighteenth birthday—it was a beautiful, passionate moment.

Good isn’t a glossy, easy read. It is a story about a forbidden relationship, after all. All the characters have flaws, and at times make you want to scream, shout and berate them. But it is artfully written, perfectly plotted with characters that seem to pop off the page. I’m not ashamed to say I loved every word. If you like your characters broken, your stories edgy and your climaxes explosive, then Good is definitely for you. Go read now!

Five naughty, taboo-like stars.

gold-stars_zps9723be0b

What to Read Wednesday – Where We Fell by Amber L. Johnson

This week’s recommendation is Where We Fell, by Amber L. Johnson.

ce228-wherewefellfinalcover

 

Oliver Bishop is having a seriously bad day. With one diagnosis, his life suddenly has an expiration date. Confused about the numbness he has to the idea of it, he unwittingly puts himself directly in the sights of a girl that just may give him a reason to fight – and to live. 

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

What I thought pink

Seventeen; an age when you have everything to look forward to – college, girls, and a summer of post-graduation relaxation. But not Oliver Bishop. After falling over during track, he discovers a lump in his leg, and his normal, teenage life is transformed into a blur of hospital appointments, treatments and panicking parents.

Then, one day, he walks into a local diner and is served by Hannah Hartwell, a local girl who has just finished her freshman year at college. The daughter of an oncologist and cancer survivor, she knows something is wrong, and so begins a beautiful and tender relationship with the two of them, as they come to terms with Oliver’s cancer diagnosis.

Heartbreaking at times, hopeful at others, this novella is so beautifully and whimsically written that I had to read it in one sitting. Johnson’s characterizations were perfectly formed and they made me feel I was part of the book. Even smaller characters, such as his Environmental Science teacher, are deftly carved with few words; his short-sleeve, button-down shirt and pleated khakis bringing him to life like an actor has just stepped into his clothes.

Where We Fell is a love story as well as a tale of survival, as we see the burgeoning relationship between Oliver and Hannah. And though their path isn’t smooth – it isn’t just Oliver’s diagnosis, but his reactions that make the road bumpy – it is emotional and enjoyable and pulls your heart strings in a perfect way. I particularly enjoyed reading about Oliver’s relationship with his parents, the way they were so supportive yet understanding, knowing their son was facing the fight of his life at a time when he should be fleeing the nest.

This was a little slice of perfection, wrapped with beautiful words and interesting characters. I loved everything about it, and have no hesitation in awarding five, perfect stars.

NB: This book will be published on 28th October.

gold-stars_zps9723be0b

What to Read Wednesday

This week’s recommendation is Painted Faces, by L.H. Cosway.

Painted Faces
Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn’t have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.

Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she’s around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn’t know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.

She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.

In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.

What I thought pink
I was skeptical when this book was first suggested to me. I like my heroes strong and edging toward the Alpha, and the thought of a guy who dressed up as a woman seemed like the opposite of this. However, from the moment I opened the book I was drawn in, first by the character of Freda; a strong, self-deprecating Dublin girl, then by Nicholas, her new, gorgeous neighbor, who turns out to be a drag queen.

They become friends, maybe a little more, though Nicholas’s closed-off emotions and Freda’s lack of self-esteem make things messy and rocky. She agrees to be his assistant, finding sensuality in the way she dresses him up before his appearances, then takes his clothes and his make-up off, transforming the glamorous Vivica Blue back into Nicholas. The dichotomy between his two personas is absolutely fascinating, as is Freda’s reactions to both sides of him. I loved reading about their burgeoning relationship, the way their characters grew as a result of the emotions it brought out in them both.

I confess, when I read the blurb I turned my nose up at this story. But I’m so glad I listened to Lucia and bought it regardless. I still love Alpha males, and there was definitely a side to Nicholas that was very Alpha, but he was so, so much more. He had depths and scars and emotions that tore me up and made me cry, but he also took what he wanted without necessarily thinking things through. He was messed up, but his relationship with Freda made him a better person, and that’s exactly what I wanted from this story.

Five glamorous, beautifully dressed stars to this one.

gold-stars_zps9723be0b

What to Read Wednesday

This week’s recommendation is Left Drowning, by Jessica Park

51RHoZ1JPPLWhat does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

What I thought pink

From the moment the book begins, Blythe McGuire reveals herself as a damaged, lost soul. A loner who is finishing her final year at college, she’s made no friends or connections that could bring her out of her self-imposed exile.

In the space of a day, that all changes. A chance encounter with a cute guy over coffee followed by a deep connection with a tall, dark and handsome man at the lake ensure her life is never the same again. These meetings turn out to be related; they are two of the four Shepherd siblings, and are some of the most rounded, interesting characters I’ve ever been introduced to.

Christhe tall, dark and handsome oneis the eldest Shepherd sibling, the head of the family who fights to keep them all together. Sabin, the dramatic, cheeky brother that Blythe met over coffee, is the second eldest. Then come Eric and Estelle, the beautiful yet haunted twins.

Suddenly, Blythe finds herself right at the heart of the family, becoming fast friends with the twins and Sabin, and falling head over heals for Chris.

But things aren’t ever as easy as they seem, especially for Blythe who has suffered more than her fair share of tragedy. Yet she drags herself out of the despair she has been wallowing in for years, rebuilding her life and allowing herself to be taken care of for the first time.

I loved all the characters in this story. Each one was so beautifully described, from Blythe’s tragic history, to Chris’s tortured soul, I felt like each one of them could have been somebody I knew. And the story, oh my, there were twists and turns, but more than that, there were things that played at my heart and tugged at every emotion it was possible to feel.

Left Drowning was an unputdownable story. Jessica Park’s excellent writing style dragged me in from the start; her poetic words and unerring ability to paint a story make this one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’m not going to lie, parts of it were hard to read, and a few times I wanted to scream at the characters, particularly Chris. But to see Blythe’s character grow and shine, like a butterfly climbing out of a chrysalis, made everything worthwhile.

Five stars don’t seem enough for this book, but that’s all I’ve got. So if you haven’t read it already, go see what the fuss is about – you won’t regret it.

gold-stars_zps9723be0b

What To Read Wednesday

This week’s recommendation is Don’t Make Me Beautiful by Elle Casey

Don't Make Me Beautiful by Elle CaseyA ROMANTIC SUSPENSE NOVEL. No one knew a woman lived there or that she even existed. A monster, living in darkness…

At twenty-two, Nicole doesn’t even look human anymore. The beast made sure of that. So she hides. A monster, consigned to a life of fear and solitude. This is all she deserves, she is quite sure of that.

And then one day out of the blue, the autographed baseball caught by Brian Jensen at the latest Marlins game enters her prison and manages to turn her world completely upside down.

Temptation comes in the form of pity at first, and then perhaps something more. Does she dare to believe the things she’s told, that this is not the life she was meant to live? That being a monster is not her forever-fate? And will she be willing to risk everything, to reach out and accept the helping hands around her and share her deepest, darkest secrets? She knows only too well that hands can hurt. Finding out whether they can also heal is a risky proposition, especially when the beast is still out there. Looking for her.

What I thought pink

This book left me speechless. Written in third person present—a tense that I’ve never particularly liked but worked brilliantly here—Don’t Make Me Beautiful is the story of Nicole, a woman beaten so cruelly she looks like a monster. At least, that’s what six-year old Liam thinks, when his ball flies through her living room window, causing him to knock at the door.

Nicole is a prisoner in her own home. She is locked inside the house by her cruel husband, and locked inside her mind by her crippling fear and disfigured face. But her encounter with Liam, and later with Liam’s father, Brian, leads to a turn of events that change her life forever.

Brian is a single dad, living with his son Liam and making a living creating furniture. He isn’t a rich man, nor is he particularly an alpha male. He’s a good, kind man, and this comes across in everything he does. The day after the incident with the ball, he goes back to Nicole’s house and sees her lying on the floor, bloody and unconscious. He calls the police and ambulance, and stays by her side as she’s rushed to hospital.

Don’t Make Me Beautiful is a tale of second chances, of how love can bring redemption and set you free. It’s also a reminder that beauty is truly only skin deep, and it’s the kindness you show others that makes you truly attractive. And the well- crafted characters of both Nicole and Brian really shine through in this story. It’s different from anything else I have read recently, and this is just one of the reasons that I loved it. I gobbled it up avidly, like a child with a candy bar. I was just sorry when it came to an end.

I laughed, I cried and I sobbed some more. The story hooked me in and wrung me out, in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything by Elle Casey before, but I will definitely be back for more.

Five wonderful, emotional, life-affirming stars.