devil’s cut, by j. r. ward

Fans of the wildly successful Bourbon Kings have been waiting a year for the final installment in this captivating trilogy. The anticipation was quelled a little over two weeks ago when Devil’s Cut was released to well-deserved praise. Readers will easily be drawn back into the world of the rich, powerful, and incredibly dysfunctional. There were so many loose ends to tie up:

  • Edward was in jail for killing his father, William Baldwine
  • Sutton had been banished from Edward’s life and was stepping into the role of CEO of Bradford’s rival in the world of Kentucky bourbon
  • Chantal was pregnant with her recently murdered fathers-in-law baby
  • Lane had blackmailed his best friend into becoming CEO of Bradford Bourbon Company (BBC), while reconnecting with the love of his life Lizzie
  • Miss Aurora has succumbed to a coma as a result of her rapidly spreading cancer, complicated by her age and sickle-cell
  • Let’s not forget Gin’s marriage made in Hell to Richard Pford, in spite of her heart belonging to Samuel T., who we found out is Amelia’s father
  • And why has the black sheep of the family, Max, come home?

Rest assured, Ward delivered in bringing resolution to all outstanding cliffhangers–except for why that finger was buried in the yard? If anyone comes across the reason for that, please let me know. On the whole, this finale to the series was just as enthralling as the first 2 books and I for one am sad to see the series end. (Though rumor has it NBC has purchased the rights to make it a tv series. Fingers crossed on that one–pun intended.)

There are twists and turns a plenty in the book, with threads of humor, and Ward’s classic style of keeping you on the edge of every chapter by alternating story arcs throughout. In the end, the result is a cohesive tale that holds true to the essence of all of the characters we’ve come to love and hate, and some whose opinion may even swing from one side to the other.

I have to admit that I loved this series far more than I thought I would and found myself anxiously awaiting each book. A child of the 80’s, I was a huge fan of Dynasty, Knots Landing, and the original Dallas so this plot line was right up my alley. You see that money can’t buy peace of mind and certainly not morals. It also doesn’t shield anyone from hurt, feelings of inadequacy, mental or physical abuse. I guess the rich really are just like “us.”

It goes without saying to make sure to get your hands on this book as quickly as possible so your friends don’t start revealing spoilers. While a year can sometimes seem like forever when it comes to books, the wait was definitely worth it in this case.

 

movie review: ingrid goes west

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to a private screening of the movie, Ingrid Goes West. A dark comedy with an extreme take on social media–Instagram in particular–I found this movie to be very entertaining. While the cast is largely unknown, with the exception of O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (son of rapper Ice Cube and star of Straight Out of Compton) they deliver solid performances with perfect timing.

Ingrid, played by Aubrey Plaza, has just lost her mother and is desperately trying to connect with someone, (anyone) and at the same time, get over her recent loss. When the grief and pressure prove too much for her, she snaps and her antics land her in hot water. But after a stint out of the lime light and having seemingly pulled herself together, Ingrid takes her inheritance and moves across the country to California to start anew.

With O’Shea Jackson, Jr., as her landlord and Elizabeth Olsen (sister to Mary Kate and Ashley) her new bff, the ongoing adventures begin. And in the era of social media where people document their every move online, Ingrid’s actions are captured in real-time. But as most people have come to realize, most of the time what you see on social media, isn’t what’s really happening, or is it…

On top of being funny and thought-provoking, there are a host of messages in this flick; and while overt, they aren’t preachy. This movie just might give you pause the next time you decide to broadcast where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing.

Ingrid Goes West will be released broadly on Friday, August 11.

the ghost bride, by yangsze choo

The Ghost Bride is  debut author Choo’s stand-alone novel about the plight of a young girl in 19th century China. Li Lan is the daughter of a once wealthy and revered family. However, after her mother’s death, her father sinks into a depressive state that he combats by self-medicating with opium. While their financial status continues to deteriorate, Li Lan’s father is approached by the upstanding and well-to-do Lim family, who ask for his consent to have Li Lan marry their recently deceased son–thus becoming the bride of a ghost.

This curious and entertaining tale takes the reader on a journey through the small village of Melaka, as well as the Chinese spirit world. Billed as a romance novel, this story is equal parts mystery and fantasy with some underlying teenage love and angst mixed in. Though Li Lan and her suitors (yes there’s more than 1) are young, for the time period they are of age to marry–and though in her late teens, her time to become betrothed is slowly slipping away.

Not one for the fantasy/magic genre I was intrigued by the premise of this book. I read (or rather listened to the audiobook) because it was a selection by my book club. The majority of the tale is spent chronicling Li Lan’s travels through the spirit world and her interactions with various ghosts–and there are quite a few. I am admittedly biased because I find the twists and turns of ghosts, demons, magical powers, and spirits hard to keep up with, thus making my enjoyment of a book more work than fun.

However, ghosts and goblins aside, the plot is an interesting one and marrying the dead is a practice that actually used to occur. Li Lan and her devoted servant, who also guides her through the behavior of a proper lady and superstitious beliefs, have more of a mother-daughter relationship which gives the book an endearing quality. And Li Lan’s suitors range from evil and stubborn, to mild-mannered, to mysterious and amusing.

I enjoyed the portions of the book that were spent in the real world as opposed to the after-life. Overall, this was definitely off the beaten path of what’s considered a romance novel. If you’re looking for something a little different and enjoyed books like Geisha Girl or Snowflower and the Secret Fan, then definitely check this out.

 

sexsomnia–sleepless in manhattan, by anya omah

Sexsomnia, or sleep sex, is a condition in which a person will engage in sexual activities while asleep. I had no idea such a thing existed. Intrigued by the subject matter, I borrowed Sexsomnia–Sleepless in Manhattan on my Kindle.

To start, Abigail is one of the strongest heroines I’ve read in quite some time. She’s not a wide-eyed virgin who’s infatuated with the hero. Her initial actions might give you pause, but her dialogue, particularly in the beginning, is demonstrative of genuine reactionary retorts. Absent are the one-liners that have you thinking, “no man would do that and no woman would ever say that.” In their place are the heroine actually rolling her eyes and calling out the hero in what would surely be multiple sexual harassment suits in the face of his over-the-top-behavior.

Jayden, on the other hand, is the typical over protective, arrogant, alpha billionaire that we’ve read before. CEO of the Four Kings Group, a hotel empire, he has a dark secret, rift in his family, owns a club… There’s always a club. The hero always owns it and comps the heroine for everything on the night she’s there and doesn’t know that he is. A fight breaks out and he saves the day. That can’t be considered a spoiler since that same scene appears in most billionaire romance novels. Do people still go to clubs? Is that even a lucrative investment for the rich in this day and age? I digress.

Make no mistake, club scene aside, this was a throughly enjoyable read. Abigail has been diagnosed with sexsomnia and she’s desperate to gain a better understanding of the condition in the hopes  of leading a normal life. While employed as Jay’s assistant, their relationship evolves into more than that of employer/employee and the cloud that hovers over both of their pasts begins to dissipate as they learn to trust one another. But while the past ceases to haunt them, it’s the secrets of the present that threaten to tear the lovers apart.

There is strong subject matter, outside of the sleep condition, but the writer, Omah, handles the situations respectfully and without being overly sensationalistic. A German author, this is Omah’s first book written in English. While there are a few grammatical inconsistencies, they aren’t enough to derail the complexity of emotions and plot that make this book such a good read. By mid-book, the author has you asking yourself, “What would I do in this situation?”

I finished the book in one day and after you’re drawn in, I think you’ll find it hard to put down as well.

Edible Bookmark Request: I have absolutely no idea how to use my Kindle Paperwhite and I find the reading experience on my iPad Mini far more enjoyable. If anyone has pointers on how to get more use out of my Paperwhite, please reach out either in the comments or my contact form–I’m stumped!

 

complicated, by kristen ashley

If I can offer one piece of advice with audiobooks: Don’t listen to one where you have preconceived notions of what the characters sound like, you’re apt to be disappointed. Not the case with Complicated. This stand alone novel has been released as an audiobook only until November 2017, when it will be available in print. Since it’s not part of a series, there was little to no room for disappointment and it’s by one of my most beloved authors, Kristen Ashley.

The story begins in the midst of a 1-night stand. Or rather, at the end. Hickson (Hicks) is fleeing the home of Greta after they met at the club where she sings part-time. He’s the local sheriff, 3-months divorced, begrudgingly, and Greta is a full-time hair dresser during the day.

With the ink barely dry on the papers dissolving his long-time union to Hope, which produced 3 children, the last thing Hicks is looking for is a relationship. Greta, on the other hand, is ever hopeful in spite of her wrong-side-of-the-tracks upbringing and streak of general bad luck. She too was married but her divorce was long ago and left a shadow of ‘it just won’t happen for me’ over her expectations for love. So when Hicks is hastily fleeing her bedroom, Greta, while hurt, is not all that surprised.

With a special needs brother who lives in a facility that offers the best possible care and a mother with no qualms about blackmailing her daughter for money—Greta has her hands full. But she also has a support system composed of the owner of the salon she works in and the proprietor of the club she sings at. Not to mention a local community who comes to her aid in spite of the prom king and queen status Hicks and his ex-wife essentially hold in the town.

The title of the book describes the relationship between Hicks and Greta. For those who are in a marriage or have had the unfortunate experience of divorce, you know that relationships in and of themselves are complicated. With elements such as local gossip, young children, and a murder thrown in—it only serves to make things more convoluted.

Kristen Ashley, true to form,  managed to make us care deeply about the characters she has brought to life through the power of the pen—or in this case, the spoken word. The pain and anguish that Hicks feels for a divorce that was forced upon him leaves us bereft and sympathetic. He’s trying to do the right thing for his family and ultimately himself by learning to live again.

With interwoven intrigue and sex scenes that will leave you blushing, Complicated is a story rife with emotion about people you could easily know and love. The sexual tension, underlying suspense, and deep emotional connection to the characters once again, has us praising Ashley for her storytelling.

If you can wait until the print version of Complicated hits the market in November, you are stronger than I am. At just over 15 hours on audiobook, I managed to finish in about 2 days—listening at every opportunity I could find. And if you’re new to audiobooks, like I was, this is one that won’t disappoint.