Book Review: Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

This book is a television show waiting to happen.  I swear, the writing was so lyrical, but cinematic at the same time that I vividly imagined the entire story as I read.  Now, I know that sounds kind of like the definition of reading in general, being able to picture the story.  But this was something beyond picturing it, Done Dirt Cheap was to the point of me already having cast actors and actresses and it was playing out on the page, dancing around the words.

As a woman who was born and raised in the South, it was such a wonderful and brilliant story of two girls overcoming their circumstances and not only owning them, but bending them to their will.  By no means are Tourmaline and Virginia weak willed, they are by far two of the most fully realized characters I’ve read in a long time.  I find myself torn to try and decide which character I identify with more on a personality level.  I think every reader will find a little of themselves in both T and V, and this is such a compliment to Lemon and her narrative capabilities.

I think that their friendship is almost like those slow burn romances that come on in in books where the characters almost hate one another at first, only to realize they have more in common than they thought. That’s how I view Virginia and Tourmaline, two souls who reluctantly came together but ended up becoming friends against all odds. I love a book that celebrates female friendship in that way, and readers, this has it.

Speaking of slow burn romances, I’m here to tell you that *spoiler alert* Virginia and Jason equate to Deadpool’s Vanessa and Wade.  To not give any MORE spoilers from Done Dirt Cheap, here’s an exchange from Deadpool that can pretty much sum up this pairing (in a good way):

Wade: Well, your crazy matches my crazy, big time. And, uh, we’re like two jigsaw pieces, you know, and we have curvy edges.

Vanessa: But you fit them together and you see the picture on top.

Along more obvious romance lines, I loved the way Lemon kept readers on their toes concerning Cash and Tourmaline and how she made the reader feel the turmoil that Tourmaline did while trying to figure out her feelings and what exactly she was going to do in such an interesting situation.

Overall, I found this book to be really easy to read in that it kept my focus and it is one I wish I could have read in one sitting.  I blame the real world for getting in the way of my reading time, but nonetheless my reading experience was amazing.

 

4.5 Bards for Done Dirt Cheap!

Book Review: Roseblood by A.G. Howard

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known. 

Release Date: January 10, 2017

As much as I love Phantom of the Opera, I wouldn’t 100% classify myself as a Pham, but I do enjoy the musical and the original novel by Gaston LeRoux.  Yeah, yeah, I was one of those obnoxious kids who absolutely had to read the original novel before ever seeing the play or the movie (the book is amazeballs, guys).

ANYWHO, anyone who has followed Midsummer for a while will know that I’m a giant fan of A.G. Howard’s Splintered series and *cough* MORPHEUS, so when it was announced that she was doing a modern retelling of Phantom I got pretty psyched. Now, I’d probably steer away from calling it a retelling after reading it all the way through, it’s more of a modern continuation of the story.  Erik (yes, that is the phantom’s name from the original novel) is STILL haunting the opera house, albeit he is pretty old and a bit creepier in a whole new way thanks to Howard’s take…I refuse to spoil this for you. It’s pretty brilliant.

So, I will admit to you that the novel does start off a bit slow as it seemed that the pacing just wasn’t 100% there at the beginning.  We immediately see our new Christine (Rune) arriving to her new boarding school, which we all know means some shenanigans will happen when the parents are gone!

Rune has some pretty deep mental scars, I mean her grandmother tried to drown her and set her house on fire, but music has always helped her get through.  She has a strange compulsion to sing upon hearing certain songs, and it honestly sounds like she is capable of hypnotizing those around her while she is singing (that’s important).

Low and behold, she finds the phantom haunting her….except her phantom is Thorn.  He’s crush worthy and described as absolutely beautiful. I immediately imagined Dominic Sherwood, but I think he will always be in my fan cast for Wintersong. Either way, their fates are clearly intertwined, and sometimes I absolutely love the fated couples trope, while other times I find it ridiculously cliche…but this one was one I was absolutely here for. Rune x Thorne…Rorne. RORNE STAN.

Anyway, I’m sure this book won’t be for everyone, but I really enjoyed reading it. (In a 5 hour period..worth it)

4.5 Bards for my love, A.G. Howard.

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

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Release Date: November 1, 2016

Gael Brennan is about to have his heart broken when his first big relationship crumbles on the heels of his parents’ painful separation. Love intervenes with the intention of setting things right—but she doesn’t anticipate the intrusion of her dreaded nemesis: the Rebound. Love’s plans for Gael are sidetracked by Cara, Gael’s hot-sauce-wielding “dream girl.”

The more Love meddles, the further Gael drifts from the one girl who can help him mend his heart. Soon Love starts breaking all her own rules—and in order to set Gael’s fate back on course, she has to make some tough decisions about what it means to truly care.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

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Release Date: October 11, 2016

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

Book Review: The Graces by Laure Eve

In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.
 
Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

Release Date: September 6, 2016

This book was an easy read, and one I enjoyed reading while I was enjoying a glass of wine and while I was relaxing in the sun on Lake Norman.  But, there are some really…interesting aspects of the novel that put me off as I first opened it.

First, the summary on the back of my ARC copy is a bit different from the one above, and it focuses much more on River’s obsession with being friends with the Graces and how much she literally wants to become one.  So that’s a bit stalker-ish in an obsessive and not fun way, and the character comes off as desperately wishing for her friendship and relationship with these three kids that she came off a bit one dimensional and just so desperate for them to give her life meaning.  I imagined her annoying Roger on F.R.I.E.N.D.S with her absolute need for them to give her purpose and direction.

So, never to go against the YA trope that the main character is going to be somewhat special and plucked from obscurity in her social caste, Eve’s character, River, becomes exactly what she wanted to be: one of the Graces – or rather, someone the Graces grow to trust and bring under their wing.

Eve’s writing really excels when River is simply observing the Graces and the interactions between the Grace siblings is one that makes me wish I was closer to my own sister, you know, minus all the witchcraft.  In fact, I think that the Grace siblings having more well-rounded character traits was instrumental in showing the progression of River as a character throughout the novel.  River adapts certain aspects of their personalities into her own, and there’s a scene where the youngest Grace seemingly transforms River into almost a carbon copy of herself.

River is just such a troubling character for me, because you go into the novel wanting to root for her since she is portrayed as the protagonist.  However, by the last fourth of the novel I kept thinking to myself that River should really just break out into the song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I’m the Villain in my own Story.” Even with her deplorable actions, I found myself still waiting and wanting her redemption. *Shakes fist at Laure Eve* How dare you make me care for someone with so many shades of gray!

The novel could have stood to have a bit more world building in the aspect of witchcraft, and the different types of witches that exist…or even some kind of explanation for River, herself, since she clearly didn’t fit into any of the definitions given to us.

Overall, I found this novel to be a fun and fast read and perfect for a lazy summer afternoon in the sun.

3.5 Bards, because I just really am torn on the main character and the need for a bit more world building, but it comes out soon and you should pre-order your copy now!  Then we can discuss.

3.5bards

 

 

 

 

SIDE NOTE:

Isn’t the cover amazing?


 

Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

I absolutely adore William Shakespeare and I am a sucker for Historical Fiction, so an adaptation of Hamlet set during Prohibition era America?  Sign me up.

Winters has created a great story using the bare bones of the Hamlet story.  It definitely veers off of the main stereotypical Hamlet character arc, as there isn’t a straight comparison between the characters and their counterparts in The Steep and Thorny Way.  Obviously Hanalee is Hamlet, her father’s ghost comes around and haunts her town in order to help find out more about his mysterious death, her stepfather (who was close enough friends with her parents to be considered her “uncle,” I see what you did there, Cat.), and a merry band of friends/teens that serve as Rosencrantz and Gildensterns.

Placing this during Prohibition era Oregon was a stroke of genius because it gave motivation for the characters to showcase their two sides.  For instance, the brothers who appear to be straight laced and good Christian boys who actually stash porn and moonshine in secret.  But another accomplishment for Winters was to use the terrible racial climate in the United States during the early twentieth century due to the continued activity of the Ku Klux Klan, and by making the main character half-black in this time added a second depth to the story.

The writing isn’t necessarily eloquent, but Winters does an excellent job of using dialect and colloquiallisms to properly set the time and place for the novel.  But, it must be recognized that Shakespeare also used primarily conversational English in his plays in order for the common play go-er to understand and follow what was happening.

Overall this novel was an easy read, entertaining, and very historically accurate.

BONUS: the novel has historical facts and comments at the end to help showcase more about the KKK and bootlegging business in Oregon during this time.

4 Bards

fourbards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: December 15, 2015

A post-Ensnared collection of three stories—available in both print and e-versions.

The headlining short story, Six Impossible Things, takes readers into Alyssa’s future, via new and deleted scenes, to offer a deeper understanding of the decisions made at the close of Ensnared. It’s an extended, detailed version of the epilogue and beyond. Two bonus stories, The Moth in the Mirror and The Boy in the Web, delve into the past.

Together, this collection provides a “director’s cut” glimpse into the past and futures of your favorite Splintered characters.

Book Review: Ensnared by A.G. Howard

After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world—-a parallel dimension filled with mutated and sadistic netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But even if everyone succeeds and comes out alive, can they all truly have their happily ever after?

Release Date: January 6, 2015

I finished Ensnared almost two months ago, but I am just now writing this review.  Why? Well, I am devastated that one of my favorite trilogies of all time has ended.  Not only have I always considered myself as an Alice in Wonderland fanatic, but I now consider myself a Splintered fanatic. This trilogy really was an immaculate reimagining of the Wonderland universe and its characters.  I don’t know if that really expresses how much I love this story, but I’ll try to get on with the review and stop gushing.

Ensnared Tweet

Ensnared does an excellent job of keeping the action up and continues to hold you in suspense for the first chapters on what exactly happened to Jeb and Morpheus when they were trapped in a dying and infected Wonderland after the envents in Unhinged.  In fact, I was kind of on the fence about which suitor I preferred when going into the final installment, but after seeing the changes in both Jeb and Morpheus in this novel, it was clear which one I preferred.  (*cough* MORPHEUS *cough*)

I’m not going to lie when I say I downright hated Jeb at the beginning of this novel.  He definitely had talked himself into a mood and rejected any feelings he had for Alyssa in the past, which made him bitter and hard.  Morpheus, on the other hand, was still the clever trickster and was just as in love with Alyssa as always.  One of my favorite characteristics of him is that he is so open about it, despite his joking tone.

Alyssa has really grown as a character since the first novel, and she is down right vicious with some of her gifts in this book.  It is really great to see her come into her own and really embrace the Wonderland side of herself.  I also really liked that her father got to get in on the action in this book instead of being left behind at home.  I like that Howard really connected and brought her parents respective stories together and showcased their relationship with one another as well.

Howard just did a fantastic job. I cannot go into more or I’ll likely give away some plot points that are vital and I’d hate to ruin your reading experience!

5 Bards

fivebards

P.S. Howard informed me that there is a novella coming, so I don’t have to be too sad yet!

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Emmeline knows the woods outside her settlement are forbidden. The mysterious enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. 

Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent. When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s a rare opportunity to wash the family stain clean–even if she has eyes for another. But before she is forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her out to the woods, where she finds a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the settlement will kill to protect. Her grandmother went down that path and paid the price.

If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.

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