New Adult, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: The Hookup (Midnight and Motor Oil #1): by Kristen Ashley

Publish Date: December 19th, 2017
Number of Pages: 358 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

The going will get tough, and you’ll stick. We’ll fight, and you’ll stick. Our world could rock, Eliza, and there’s one thing I’m certain about, you’ll stick.”

– Kristen Ashley, “The Hookup”

This was an alright book that was a nice change of pace from what I’ve been reading recently. Lately I’ve been trying to overstock on more Fantasy-genre titles, and I think I’ve burned myself out with it trying to memorize all the different names and places and magic systems, so I tend to switch over to the Romance-genre when it all becomes too much. Romance titles are usually lighter and easier to read through, but are also limited by way more consistent tropes and clichés that you see in so many other titles. It’s a balance you just have to accept, but sometimes just going into a new title with the acceptance of knowing they’ll be there is how you’ll really enjoy it more.

This title has been on my “To-Read” shelf on Goodreads for quite some time, but not because someone recommended it to me by someone or I’ve heard really good reviews of it. To be honest, I really liked the design of the cover and at the time I guess I was just in the mood for a small-town setting with two young and attractive people who meet and fall for each other. You’ve gotta admit that has a nice appeal to it! For me, it makes me think of those romantic country love songs that are so popular in the summer. Anyways, one day while I was extremely bored while working at the bookstore, I looked through our database that shows us if any of the other stores have a copy of whatever specific title you’re looking for, and wouldn’t you know it, one store out of state just happened to have a copy come in! Since I’d never seen a copy come into my location in the two years I’ve worked, so I thought why not? I get a 50% off discount anyways.

The Hookup is an alright book to enjoy if you’re like me and you’re looking for some easy, mostly lighthearted romantic beach read that has the small town aesthetics; it’s nothing too special or unique, but still enjoyable nonetheless. I gotta stop thinking I’m going to find the next most innovative, distinct romance title because I just think that in order to count as a romance title, it has to follow a somewhat strict set of guidelines, and that’s where I think the clichés and overly familiar tropes stems from. Just because you see something over and over again doesn’t mean it’s automatically bad, so long as the author makes something unique about it.

The romance was, of course, the main highlight of the story along with the exploration of what the two main characters struggled with in their pasts before they met and how those issues came between them. I really loved the message towards the end of the book where it tells you that while you may have been dealt a shitty hand at life at some point and that there’s no going back from it or receiving any closure for it, sometimes those things can also lead you to what could possibly be the best thing that happens to you. Life throws many curveballs at you, some bigger than others, but it’s always a nice reminder to really enjoy the sweeter moments too, especially when life takes a more tragic turn for the worse.

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

When the new girl in town, Eliza “Izzy” Forrester decides to hit the local drinking hole, she’s not ready to meet the town’s good, solid guy. She’s definitely not prepared to engage in her very first hookup with him.

Then Izzy wakes up the next morning in Johnny Gamble’s bed and good girl Izzy finds she likes being bad for Johnny.

Even so, Izzy feels Johnny holding her at arm’s length. But Johnny makes it clear he wants more and Izzy already knows she wants as much of hot-in-bed, sweet-out-of-it Johnny Gamble.

Floating on air thinking this is going somewhere, Izzy quickly learns why Johnny holds distant.

He’s in love with someone else. Someone who left him and did it leaving him broken. Whoever was up next would be runner up, second best. Knowing the stakes, Izzy will take what she can get from the gentleman that’s Johnny Gamble. And even knowing his heart might never mend, Johnny can’t seem to stay away from Izzy.

Until out of nowhere, his lost love comes back to town. He’s not going back, but Johnny still knows the right thing to do is let Izzy go.

And Izzy knew the stakes, so she makes it easy and slips through his fingers.

But that’s before Johnny realizes Eliza moved to town to escape danger that’s been swirling around her.

And that’s why Johnny decides to wade in.

That and the fact Eliza Forrester makes breakfast with a canary singing on her shoulder and fills out tight dresses in a way Johnny Gamble cannot get out of his head.

What I Liked:

  1. The Two Leads’ Inner Conflicts! Both Johnny and Izzy have some major baggage that threatens to keep them apart: Johnny was ditched three years prior by the love of his life and has been going through the motions ever since, and Izzy is secretly escaping from a psycho-ex. Add to the mix that both come from a childhood where one of their parents was gone, but for different reasons; one being more tragic than the other. I won’t spoil what I mean by that, but it certainly adds to the depth of what these characters have been through in the past, thus making you more emotionally invested that the two help each other and end up together because of it.
  2. The Love Story Between Johnny and Izzy! The story starts the morning after they hooked up for the first time, and from then on the main drive of the story is their relationship and how it changes over time as they get to know each other on a much deeper and intimate level than just FWB’s. It wasn’t insta-love, but there was definitely an immediate attraction from both of them, and I thought their romantic relationship developed rather organically and realistically

We’re allowed to want things and not only earn them and work for them and fight for them, but have someone maybe once in a while give them to us because they love us and they want us to have what we want.”

– Kristen Ashley, “The Hookup”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Where’s the Conflict?… Hate to say it, but the blurb made it sound like there was going to be a lot more drama in this story than there actually was. Yeah, Johnny’s ex makes a surprise reappearance in town after running away three years ago, but that ended up being such a minor part of the whole story and Johnny was hardly even affected by it to be honest. Izzy was way more wigged out about it, but most of the story is just them and how their relationship strengthens, so this may feel like a slower read for most readers. There’s something that happens at the end to add some level of stress and worry, but it’s really quick and over with before you know it.
  2. Leads May be Too Perfect… There’s the cliché character turn named the “Mary Sue” where a character seems so perfect and hardly has any flaws that it’s almost annoying. That’s kind of the case with both Izzy and Johnny here. Izzy is like a straight up Disney Princess and has a plethora of pets that follow her around as she works from sunrise to sundown plus has other characteristics but too many times when you’re in Johnny’s head in his perspective chapters does he look at her and it literally seems like she’s the sun shining all up on everything she touches or stands by. There’s things about Johnny too, but overall it felt like the author put way too much emphasis on making sure her two main characters were absolutely morally and physically spotless despite both having difficult things from their pasts.
  3. Male Lead Gets Angry When She Tries to be Independent… This was a minor thing, but it felt odd whenever Johnny got annoyed at Izzy for doing something heavy lifting and absolutely insisted he always do it for her, like only he was allowed to do what he considered “man’s work.” While it’s sweet that he offers to clean out the barn, mow her large lawn and plenty of things tasks, it’s weird how much it irks him when she still tries to do it too. Like when she sets up a table she had to grab out of the shed, he tells her to watch an infant when he put it away, and there was no room for debate…I don’t know, something about that seemed off to me.
  4. Felt Very Little for the Minor Characters… There are plenty of side characters that also encompass the story and add to the relationship between Izzy and Johnny: there’s an elderly couple who are like Johnny’s parents with the wife being extra spunky and full of southern sass while the husband gives her a hard time but it’s obvious they’re very much still in love, there’s Izzy’s less-than-perfect sister who shows up with her baby unexpectedly and moves in, there’s also Johnny’s brother who shows up so late that I really felt very little for him…these characters just felt very cliché and didn’t really stick out to me; i’ve seen them in countless other romantic books/movies/tv shows before

Conclusion:

Overall, I found The Hookup to be an overall light & easy book; a sweet, small-town romance that can be a comfort read for anyone who’s a fan of the romance genre. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking or obsession worthy, but it was still a joy to read and definitely checks all the marks of what readers are usually looking for when it comes to books like it: two lead characters who have emotional baggage they both need to sort through while helping each other and falling for each other at the same time, an ex who “unexpectedly” shows up and causes drama, an elderly couple with plenty of spunk to remind us all what a long lasting love can look like, side characters who may or may not end up together later on, and of course pets and a baby. The story was equal parts sweet & tender mixed with a little steam and spice with some well written smut for romance readers who like the more descriptive side of the material, but the scenes of heartfelt confessions and admissions will also pull your own heartstrings.

I feel like fans of authors like Colleen Hoover and Christina Lauren will really enjoy this book; they have a similar style of writing with quirky female leads who have some heavy baggage that really gives them some great depth and great character development.

While I did think the story was pretty decent and Johnny and Izzy are easy to get behind and support, I don’t find myself caring enough to read the second part of this series—or duology—just because the side characters didn’t draw me in nearly as much, and most likely the next part will somewhat be centered around a baby of a single mother and I’m sorry, but those kinds of stories don’t interest me.

2021 has been a weird year so far, and I’m also bummed to admit that I think I may be in my first ever major reading slump…books just aren’t hitting me like they used to lately, and it’s been like that for the last month. I just can’t seem to sit down and want to concentrate. So I regret to say that maybe I won’t be posting as many reviews as I normally do, but it could also just be that my seasonal depression is just really hitting me different with everything like COVID and whatever the latest scandal on the news is because the writing for my college story has been on hiatus too…I’m not happy about it, but I’m also trying not to beat myself up about it too much as well. We’ll have to wait and see, but I also have a new iPad and downloaded Procreate to get back into drawing too, so there’s hope!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Horror, Mystery/Thriller, Writing/Articles

October Reads and Reviews: Prepare to be Scared!

It is now October, the month of many different things: the leaves turning into majestic shades of reds, oranges and yellows, the air becomes crisp and cool, Hot Apple Cider and Pumpkin Spice, Sweater Weather, and the sky becomes darker earlier which may or may not bring me to my next example: Halloween.

People love to be creeped out this time of the year and go all out for the candy-crazed holiday: there’s costumes to be made or bought, trick or treating, maybe a halloween themed party, and enjoy a horror movie marathon or two. I personally will do doing pretty much all that, plus reading some creepy, thrilling stories that might make me need a flashlight when I go to bed. In honor of October and Halloween, the only reviews will be about books that have things that go bump in the night! I plan on reading some new titles as well, which will be some amazing fun!

I will admit, I’ve never read “Pet Semetary” by Stephen King or “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, but wanted to save both of these horror classics for the festivities. Below will be the titles to look for during the next couple of weeks that I’ll post reviews about:

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1): by Leigh Bardugo

A young woman is given a miraculous chance of attending an Ivy league school to investigate it’s secret societies, but is in for a shock at the sinister plans she may discover…

Project 17: by Laurie Faria Stolarz

A group of kids break into an old, abandoned insane asylum in order to record a short video for a film contest, but things take a turn for the worse when they realize they’re not alone…

The Woman in the Window: by A.J. Finn

A woman with a passion for classic film noir, and suffers from agoraphobia, suddenly feels like she’s in her own Hitchcock movie when she see’s a neighbor murdered within their house, but no one believes her…Was it a lie? Was it all fake, or is that just what a killer wants her to think?

Two Can Keep A Secret: by Karen McManus

Sometimes we have secrets that we’d rather keep buried. In a luxurious small town with a mysterious history of disappearances and secrets, a young girl and her friends must find a missing person and stop a murderous tradition that her family is oh so familiar with…

Vicious (Villains #1): by V.E. Schwab

Former college roommates and best friends Eli and Victor made a terrible discovery during their senior thesis science experiment. Years later, Victor breaks out of prison in order to exact his revenge; who will still be alive when the dust has cleared?…

Dracula: by Bram Stoker (with Ben Templesmith’s Illustrations)

An OG horror story for the ages; a man is sent to a looming castle in Transylvania and comes face to face with the Count himself, and must save his wife before the King of vampires can carry out his sinister plans…

Pet Semetary: by Stephen King

A man moves to a rural home in Maine with his family and pet cat, but with an indian burial ground near the cemetery filled with people’s pets of the past, some things don’t like to stay buried…

There you go, it sounds like some pretty fun titles are coming your way! Which ones sound better to you? Are there other titles you’d recommend? What are your favorite horror or thriller books to read? Let me know, I love to hear other people’s recommendations!

While I have you here, be sure to check out some book reviews I already have posted below! Why not look into some more creepy, twisted tales?

Click HERE to see my book review for Stephen King’s “IT”

Click HERE for my book review of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.”

Click HERE for my book review of Riley Sager’s “The Last Time I Lied.”

Click HERE for my book review of Taylor Adams’ “No Exit.”

Click HERE for my book review of Claire Legrand’s “Sawkill Girls.”

Click HERE for my book review of Shari Lapena’s “An Unwanted Guest.”

Click HERE for my book review of Colleen Hoover’s “Verity.”

Thanks for Reading!

–Nick Goodsell

Mystery/Thriller, Romance

My Review: Verity: by Colleen Hoover

Publish Date: December 20th, 2018
Number of Pages: 314 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Mystery/Thriller, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

They say there are three sides to every story; one person’s side, another person’s side, and the actual truth. Now, this quote can be or can not be actually related to this book, but I will admit that after reading it, this idea certainly came to mind.

This is a novel about the truth, different versions of the truth, what is true versus what is fiction, the characters an author can create, and when the line between them is called into question.

How well do we really know the truth? Do we think we know absolutely everything, do we think we have a grasp on everything in our lives? What if you discover that it was all a lie? It could be earth shattering, inconceivable, traumatizing, horrifying, and make you want to scream into the dark at the absurdity of it all.

This book is so unlike any other Colleen Hoover book you’ll ever read. It was fuucked up to say the least, and unlike her other titles, it leaves you staring at your ceiling late into the night, maybe even afraid of turning out the light. It explores a darker side of some of her complex, traumatized, and morally grey characters, but remains as binge-worthy and addicting as any of her lighter romance titles.

I will forewarn anyone who is heavily triggered by stories with child abuse and graphic violence should avoid this title!

I mean, I was kind of at a loss for rational thought as I finished this title…the ending absolutely tears you a new one; the final line pierces your heart and leaves you in an unstable state where you don’t know if you’re alright and question the stability of everything around you. It leaves you in a conundrum because it gives us an idea that will never be answered, it will remain up in the air in in our minds like a parasitic bug that will never be squashed.

It was a mindfuck, to be perfectly blunt about it.

I was totally not expecting this style from the author, who’s more known for New Adult Romance titles instead of psychological thrillers. She expertly leads us down a path of lies, manipulation, sex and betrayal as the story escalates, and it’s crazy to think that the story is about a writer who is reading up about another writer to work on their book series, all the while the author of this book is telling this to you; its a bit of a feeling of inception, and makes you question how reliable are all the sources you’re reading from? Is Colleen herself lying, is it the main character, or is it the author the main character reads about?

What It’s About:

Struggling author Lowen Ashleigh is in a tight spot; her mother had just died of cancer a week before, she received the pink slip of eviction from her apartment, and to make matters worse, the opening scene is her witnessing a random stranger’s head popping open like a champagne bottle when it’s squeezed beneath the wheel of a moving car, blood splattering all over her clothes as a nice souvenir for the free show.

FML, right?

It turned out she was on her way towards a meeting with her agent at a publishing company because she’s about to be offered the deal of a lifetime: Jeremy Crawford, husband of the bestselling mystery/thriller author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to finish his wive’s book series as she’s no longer physically able to continue it herself due to a life-threatening injury in a car accident.

How ironic…

After the contracts are signed and everything seems sorted out, Lowen goes up to Jeremy and Verity’s expansive estate up in Vermont in order to work through all the paperwork, the plot lines, the character sheets, and other ideas in order for her to feel confident enough to continue Verity’s books.

What she doesn’t expect to uncover is an unpublished autobiography from Verity about the days from when her and Jeremy first met all the way towards the deaths of their twin daughters, both of which died at separate times. Among that, things Lowen could never have thought of in her wildest imagination comes to light, thoughts Verity had kept beneath the surface until now, and what may have really happened on the day one of their daughters died. Disgusted and devastated, Lowen keeps the manuscript from Jeremy; he’s been grieving long enough, surely he didn’t need this startling discovery on top of everything else, right?

As she continues to dig through the chaotic office, her feelings for Jeremy begin to grow, and she finds herself struggling between that and whether she should really share the truth she found hidden in that office. It would make her life a lot better for him to learn the truth, and stop being the loyal, devoted husband he is towards his bed-ridden, human vegetable wife…

Whats a girl to do?

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance! True to her usual line of work, there is a romantic subplot through the story while Lowen slowly loses her fucking mind like the rest of us. While sorting through his wife’s office, she develops feelings for Jeremy Crawford and together they become closer and closer as she remains living in his home. Even the way they met was a great addition, even if it resulted from such a bloody opening scene!
  2. The Unreliable Narrator! This novel is told entirely from Lowen’s point of view, and as things progress, she tells us what she sees, or what she thinks she sees, and the author did an amazing job at using this to add tension to the story; make Lowen question her own sanity quite a bit, but also add tons of creepy vibes in order to make this book unable to be put down!
  3. IRL vs. Manuscript! After she discovers the manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, the chapters start to switch back and forth between what’s going on in the house, and the actual chapters of the manuscript itself. We see the actual words Verity typed up for her twisted tale. It started off sweet and innocent, but began to unravel and deeply disturb us as the chapters continued, revealing Verity as a much darker character than you’d come to realize.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Final Words…If you couldn’t guess by the way I describe it above, the final message this novel gives you is a one-way ticket to Mindfuckopolis, because I was NOT OKAY after reading it! It’s not a badly written ending at all, it’s just so unnerving and chilling! I loved that it evoked so much emotion from me, but I felt like the meme of Kelly from The Office as I sat there and shook me head repeatedly trying to figure out what the real truth of it all was. It’s not even funny how much my expression matched hers shortly after I set this book down:

Conclusion:

So it’s not all stickers, rainbows, ponies and myspace.com in this book like some of Colleen’s other romance titles; it’s dark, it’s twisty, it’s disturbing and unnerving and I am both HERE FOR IT but also low-key terrified at the promise this novel gives us…If this is something Colleen Hoover can deliver us from her first psychological thriller, imagine what else she could possibly come up with?!

I recommend this title for those looking for something absolutely chilling and creepy to read underneath the covers late at night. The tone of this book is so much darker and ominous that I anticipated from this author, but wound up loving how it drew me in and up late into the nights I read it. It felt subtle yet chaotic all at the same time, everywhere you turn will lead to more questions, more disturbing images, and make you take a second to glance around and observe the people closest in your life.

Whats truly boiling beneath the surface? Are they entirely honest, or is something much more malicious and benevolent hiding within?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: It Ends With Us: by Colleen Hoover

Publish Date: August 2nd 2016
Number of Pages: 376 Pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, New Adult

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

This novel was powerful! I had read some of this author’s work before this title specifically, but holy shit you guys…This one has to be her best, most personal work that she’s ever written!

It was a whirlwind of emotions to get through this story, but it is something that EVERYONE should read. Yes, everyone; it doesn’t matter that it’s categorized a contemporary new adult romance. It’s a much deeper love story about finding the strength to make the right choice in an hard situation. The romance is nothing compared to the subject matter that this novel covers, all I can say is that it’s highly sensitive material, so I caution certain reader’s who don’t react well to heavy materials.

What It’s About:

Lily Bloom has moved away from her small town in Maine to start a new life in Boston, and she has begun to start her own business. Not too much later after she’s settled down, she unexpectedly meets Ryle Kincaid, an extremely handsome neurosurgeon. Both immediately feel a spark, but Ryle has a strange fixation to keeping it purely physical, no dating kind of relationship. Lilly starts to divert him from that notion, and they’re soon in an actual relationship, but part of her always wonders why he became that way in the first place.

Things take a tumultuous turn when a man from the past, Atlas Corrigan, also comes back into the picture and rocks her world. Atlas was her first love, and no one had ever connected to her like he did. With him back in her life, Lilly comes to realize that those who love us can sometimes be the ones that hurt us the most…

What I Liked:

  1. The Raw Subject Matter! There is another, extremely prominent part of the story that reader’s don’t easily expect early on in the story, but as it develops, the becomes a much stronger, deeper and emotional novel. I’m not going to give much information into what it is because finding it out for yourself is part of the experience, but it’s a great take on an important subject that is seen in today’s world. It’s something you always tell yourself: “Why would someone do that? I would never do that if it happened to me.” Instead of being an onlooker on the outside looking in, it brings readers right into the mindset of Lilly and all that happens, and brilliantly explains what could be going through a victims mind.
  2. The Complex Characters! The layers beneath each of the characters and their relationship was so incredibly well done, it exposes whole new layers that not too many authors can do. The author makes readers understand a dark situation that most people write off, assume before receiving all the necessary information, and makes it a way that they sympathize with a character, who to many others, wouldn’t believe they deserve it. It’s such an emotional ride, I found myself in tears at several parts in the story.
  3. The Letters! In the story, reader’s are brought back into the past through letters that Lilly wrote to Ellen Degeneres. Like flashbacks, Lilly talks about her childhood, her family, and how she met Atlas. It sounds a little ridiculous, but it surprisingly worked incredibly well for this story, and I love that the “Just keep swimming” quote from Finding Nemo is used throughout.
  4. The Power of Friendship! Lilly meets another woman in the story, Alyssa, and they become insta-best friends. A self-confessed “Pinterest Whore,” Alyssa helps Lilly by becoming her first employee and starting her new business. She’s an amazing character who’s hilarious and I wish she was real and that she was also my friend.

Conclusion:

Overall, some books are read for pure enjoyment and entertainment. Other books, like this one, are read to hopefully allow readers to gain knowledge and perspective on a certain important subject that not everyone has been exposed to, or has ever had to face. Not that it’s something that anyone should ever have to endure what the main character goes through in their life, but I think this book allows a lot of people to maybe see inside the mind of a victim and see why it’s so hard for people who are in situations like this to simply walk away.

If people are looking for a lighthearted, easy going beach read then this is definitely not going to a story that they will enjoy. It’s heavy, raw, and emotional that stays with readers long past the time they close the pages. It’s not without its lighter moments though, and leaves your heart fluttering with joy that overcomes the darkness. Like I said earlier, everyone should read this novel.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell