Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Give it All (Dessert Dogs #2) by Cara McKenna



22668806Keep your friends close—and your enemies closer….

Bar owner Raina Harper can’t say for sure what Duncan Welch is to her. With her small Nevada town under siege by a ruthless casino development and still reeling from a spate of murders, she knows that trusting the public face of the corporate invaders is risky to say the least. Though, damn, it’s one fine-looking face.…

Duncan may be a mercenary when it comes to getting the job done, but he’s no villain. In fact, the calculating fixer soon finds himself in the bad guys’ crosshairs, framed and facing professional ruin. To clear his name, he’ll need help from Raina and her roughneck motorcycle club, the Desert Dogs. Gaining their trust won’t be easy, and the molten sexual tension between Raina and Duncan only makes things more complicated—especially since Miah Church, Raina’s friend and ex-lover, would sooner strangle Duncan than shake his hand.

One thing’s certain, though: If they don’t deal with their incendiary attraction soon, the whole damn town might go up in flames.…

Goodreads | Source: Purchased

Review:
Cara McKenna is a must read author for me, although I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy the first book in her new Dessert Dogs series, Lay it Down. One of the reasons for that was how much the secondary characters overpowered the leading couple. Duncan and Raina (the couple in this book) lept off the page and stole every scene they were in. So despite not loving Lay it Down. I knew I was going to give book #2 a shot because it was their story.

I absolutely loved Raina and Duncan as individuals and their initial mating dance was hot as hell. Duncan is probably one of McKenna’s most f*cked up characters – and that’s saying something. But once you see past his snobbish, OCD, pill popping, elitist lawyer personality, he is one of the sweetest too. He’s not a typical romance hero and not nearly as dirty as McKenna’s previous heroes. He does have a kink but I’m betting you would never in a million years guess what it is.

Raina is awesome too. I loved how she has a tough exterior but she’s also refreshingly honest about her wants and desires. We learn more about her past, her relationships with her father and Miah – her friend and former lover – who’s still very much hung up on her and her hopes for the future.

I like how Raina and Duncan’s relationship slowly developed and they both saw past each others icy exteriors. But somewhere along the line it kind of fell apart for me. She an Duncan share a near combustible attraction and it turns to something more sweet and intimate but they had so many hang ups and issues that the resolution felt rushed. I wished I could have seen them outside of the bedroom more so I could see how they functioned outside of a sexual relationship.

Duncan is working to clear his name of bribery charges and goes way outside his $3000 suit, Mercedes driving comfort zone looking for clues in the Fortuity dessert but he mostly does this with every other character from the book except Raina. Don’t get me wrong – I loved those interactions – of Duncan bonding with Casey,Vince, John Dancer and even Miah. They were actually my favorite part of Give it All but he and Raina mostly come together for sex. Again, I want to point out that this isn’t your typical  kinky, sex solves all kind of thing. What they have is something more – waaaay more intimate but it doesn’t seem to extend outside of the bedroom.

For example, Duncan gets arrested or brought in for questioning several times. While Raina is worried, she never goes down there to check on him. She also repeatedly accuses Duncan of trying to change her but she’s never really called out on how she is with Duncan. Part of the attraction to him is her desire to break him down and make him unravel under her control. She also likes the fact that he needs her. It’s a super interesting dynamic but by the end it feels really one sided and unfair to Duncan. He’s making all the compromises and gestures. Taking all the risks. I love how it’s all wrapped up. Very gratifying and balance is restored. I guess I feel like the steps in between are missing.

The mystery of the bones continues form the first book and I found that more interesting this time around as well. Especially with Duncan doing all that dirty work, working through his discomfort and panic. He was really fascinating to read about.

Final thoughts: Overall this was a much stronger book than Lay it Down and I thought it was headed for a 5 star read but then the story kind of got messy for me. The romance and the mystery felt like two separate entities – both interesting but choppy in their transition from one to the other. There's crime solving Duncan and then here's relationship Duncan and Raina but the two don't mix.

Even so, I had a lot of fun reading this one and would still highly recommend it. I guess the romance part could be read as a stand alone but I think it’s better if you read the books in order. There is a bigger story and characters that carry over from each book.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I’m Watching…Fortitude, Togetherness



Fortitude


Perched on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Fortitude is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime here. Until now.

Fortitude, a UK psychological thriller, is a super trippy show. The first episode is kind of confusing, and to be honest, boring, until everything is set up. I wasn’t even sure what I was watching - if it’s sci-fi, a straight up murder mystery or a genre mash up.

I’m 6 episodes in and I’m still not 100% sure but that’s what makes it so interesting. I’m invested in the characters (who are seriously f*cked up) but unsure of their motives or where this all might be headed.
The polar landscape makes for an interesting, desolate backdrop and the seemingly simple town of Fortitude has many secrets.

I watch it on Pivot but it’s also on Amazon etc

***

Togetherness – HBO



The spark in parents Brett and Michelle Pierson's marriage is all but extinguished. When his best friend, out-of-work actor Alex, and Michelle's sister Tina move in with the Piersons in Los Angeles, the four adults try to remain good friends/siblings/spouses while achieving their personal goals: Sound designer Brett, pushing 40, wants to rediscover himself; Michelle wishes to rekindle passion for life; Tina tries to get her bounce-castle business off the ground; and Alex takes yet another shot at an acting career.

I binge watched the first 5 episodes on Sunday, and while there isn’t anything particularly original about Togetherness, I think it’s a really honest portrayal of marriage and parenthood.

The show is at it’s best when it allows the characters to be messy or yell, revealing those really raw moments that we all feel if we’re in any kind of relationship long enough.

It’s at it’s worst when it tries to be edgy, the masturbation jokes – the wife trying to reenact 50 Shades of Grey with her husband to spice up their marriage. Those moments feel forced and like – hey! We’re on HBO – we need to throw in some sex!

But the more honest scenes of Brett taking Michelle to a hotel overnight and they just cuddle because sex between the married couple has gotten so awkward lead to pure gold.

Togetherness isn’t really drama or comedy but it has a bit of both.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Nothing Like Paris (Bend or Break #2) by Amy Jo Cousins



23579352Humble pie wasn’t supposed to taste this sweet.

Jack Tarkington’s life is in the toilet. He was supposed to be spending his junior year studying someplace cool like Paris or Rome. Instead, after taking out his anger on the campus “golden boy”, whose dad ripped off his parents, Jack is facing possible expulsion.

Sure, it’s all his own fault, but coming back to the small Iowa town he thought he’d escaped, after crowing about his admission to a prestigious school, has been a humbling experience.

When he runs into Miguel, Jack braces for backlash over the way he lorded it over his old friend and flame. Instead, Miguel offers him friendship—and a job at his growing farm-to-table store and cafĂ©.

Against the odds, both guys bond over broken dreams and find common ground in music. But when Jack’s college gives him a second chance, he’s torn between achieving a dream that will take him far from home, and a love that strikes a chord he’ll never find anywhere else.

Warning: This book contains a humbled guy who’s on the brink of losing it all, a determined entrepreneur who seems to have it all together, apologies issued through banjo-picking duets, and two lovers who can play each other’s bodies like virtuosos.

Goodreads | Source: ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

*ARC review - Release date: March 3, 2015

Review:

I discovered Off Campus (Bend or Break #1) by Amy Jo Cousins the end of last year (my review) and she's quickly become a favorite author of mine.

We first met Jack, in Off Campus and, honestly, he was a total asshole. I was curious as to how Cousins was going to explain his journey to redemption and make him more likable in Nothing Like Paris.

We learn more about Jack and why he’s so damn angry. Jack has baggage and it explains a lot about his actions. However, it doesn’t excuse them and Jack has to do the hard work to gain the trust and respect of those who mean the most to him if he wants to get his life back on track. I like how he’s written. I’m not sure I ever loved him exactly. He’s a whirlwind that I’m not sure I could ever handle lol, but I did end up rooting for and liking him.

Miguel was a really great friend and love interest for Jack. He’s the calm, reasonable center to Jack’s hurricane of a personality but he’s also torn between his own dreams, heritage, family and Jack.

He resists Jack’s magnetic pull for as long as possible. It’s not just about hormones and sex though. They are vastly different in how they approach life but there’s a bone deep connection between the two that’s about friendship, love and forgiveness.

I have to admit that I loved Off Campus more than Nothing Like Paris. Mostly because I’m in a place right now where funny books are what I gravitate to and Off Campus was snort out loud hilarious at times. But I really did love this book.

I adore the way this author writes dialogue between characters. She digs deep and doesn’t let them off the hook. You think everything is going ok and then she peels back another layer. They yell, they talk, they push back, they love. It’s angst but it feels like authentic, not manufactured, angst. The character growth is always so impressive and inspiring.

I don’t usually pay attention to series names. They don’t seem to apply, except superficially, to the actual series but when typing up this review and the phrase - “Bend or Break”  #1 & #2, I realized just how much it does apply here. These characters are at their low point. They are about to lose it all. They can chose to bend and change or break.

I highly recommend this series. Nothing Like Paris can be read as a stand alone but you would miss Jack’s initial downward spiral & a hell of a great book if you don’t read Off Campus first.