‘We fell apart. Broke each other’s hearts and screwed up our friendship. Now I’m adrift, unmoored without her. I keep treading water, looking for lan‘We fell apart. Broke each other’s hearts and screwed up our friendship. Now I’m adrift, unmoored without her. I keep treading water, looking for land. All I can see is endless blue.’
After Vada Bergen and her best friend Ellis Carraway are in a car accident, Vada slips into a depression after being injured and left with the inability to do the art which gave her life. Vada and Ellis aren’t just best friends, their relationship goes beyond that, but Vada has always struggled to accept her feelings of love towards Ellis. Even so, their bond still can’t withstand the after effects of the crash either and they drift apart. Unable to go back to school since her injury will barely allow her to hold a pencil, Vada chances upon meeting a couple that introduces her to the world of being a cam-girl; performing sexual acts on camera for anonymous strangers for money. She renames herself Morgan and becomes the companies highest earner with her signature move: a silk tie wrapped around her neck.
Morgan performs for strangers with an unwavering emotional detachment, but then one of her clients begins asking for personal one-on-one chats and then finally to meet in real-life. Ellis comes back into her life as well only jumbling her thoughts and feelings further. Vada has to make the decision to take the chance on a man she knows nothing about, or to re-attempt to accept her perplexing feelings for Ellis.
‘This world is so thick with ghosts it’s a wonder anyone can breathe.’
Leah Raeder continues to amaze me with her powerful novels that tackle those difficult subjects that are too often just easier to ignore. In Cam Girl, she tackles depression, gender-identity, same-sex relationships, and she tackles the sex trade. At first glance, you would probably say that that’s likely to be a bit overwhelming, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Raeder manages to handle these various different topics and their multiple facets with ease though. Her lyrical writing style is once again present in all its glory, transforming an ugly subject matter into something beautiful.
The focus on not just same-sex relationships but the confusion Vada felt due to her mother’s insistence she wasn’t really feeling what she knew she was feeling was a tough pill to swallow. Also, the way the sex trade was presented is definitely a hot topic for conversation. It may be because I just read Tricks and Traffick so I struggle to see the sex trade in anything but a negative light, but Vada used her role as a cam girl as a way to regain her confidence in life. It can be argued that this is healthy or not, but I appreciated having a new spin on that topic.
For those who have yet to experience one of Raeder’s books, you should know they get quite dark and extremely graphic. Her characters all possess their own unique darkness which they spill across the pages for you to experience. It doesn’t make her novels easy to read, but they are honest, full of passion, and brings to light those dormant topics that we should all be discussing.
‘This is what they don’t tell you about losing someone: It doesn’t happen once. It happens every day, every moment they’re missing from. You lose them a hundred times between waking and sleep, and even sleep is no respite, because you lose them in your dreams, too.’
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘Scars tell a story. My whole life was written on my body. How are you supposed to leave the past behind when you carry it with you in your skin?’
La‘Scars tell a story. My whole life was written on my body. How are you supposed to leave the past behind when you carry it with you in your skin?’
Laney Keating is a troubled teen questioning her sexuality while battling bullies and a severe drug addition. She just wants to successfully make it to college so that she can start completely over with a fresh slate. That’s the bottom line, however, that doesn’t even begin to touch the contorted sort of life she leads. Still reeling from her mother’s suicide, Laney becomes intensely close with two individuals: Armin and Blythe. After finding out the details of her sordid story, the two agree to help her get back at those that hurt her so she can finally get the revenge she’s been dying for for so long.
‘I am not the heroine of this story. And I’m not trying to be cute. It’s the truth. I’m diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes.’
First and foremost, Black Iris is one seriously dark and twisted thrill-ride of a tale. With a sense of being on a rollercoaster whipping you to and fro, the story throws us back in the past and forward into the future with each alternating chapter, slowly uncovering the facts of what caused Laney to become the sort of person she is. It’s such a thoroughly absorbing and well-written tale that keeping your facts straight isn’t ever a chore. And speaking of well-written, this book is simply sublime. Leah Raeder sees this world from a different perspective than the rest of us mere mortals. She sees this world in vibrant colors and intense detail and has the poetic ability to bring it to life for the rest of us.
‘I don’t categorize people by who I’m allowed to like and who I’m allowed to love. Love doesn’t fit into boxes like that. It’s blurry, slippery, quantum. It’s only limited by our perceptions and before we slap a label on it and cram it into some category, everything is possible.’
This book touches on a lot of severely dark aspects of life such as excessive drug use, mental illnesses such as depression and mania and not only the personal effects but how it manages to effect everyone in your life. It also tackles bullying, self-denigration and learning to come to terms with your sexuality despite it not being ‘the norm’. Revenge is a central part of the story as well and I loved how unrepentant Laney is about taking it, regardless of any ramifications. Her actions might not have been the easiest to understand or even to stomach, but her raw brutality still managed to be profound.
Black Iris may not be for everyone because its crudely savage and Laney remains remorseless to the very end without your quintessential self-realization over all the wrong that was done. But that crudeness is what completely ensnared me, shocked me and by the end left me completely stupefied (in the best way possible).
I received this book free from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
A copy of Tampa was provided to me by Ecco/HarperCollins for review purposes.
'The rage of lust was like an IV drip in my veins; I felt it beginning toA copy of Tampa was provided to me by Ecco/HarperCollins for review purposes.
'The rage of lust was like an IV drip in my veins; I felt it beginning to spread inside me with the helpless awareness of someone realizing she's been slipped a drug.'
Celeste has the intensity of a psychopath or even a serial killer when it comes to her sexual obsessions. The desperation in doing whatever it takes to satisfy her need was disturbing to say the least. Her complete disregard for how her actions would affect others in her life was unsettling. Celeste is hands down one of the most warped characters in literature I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Comparisons to Lolita cannot be helped (although it could also be compared to Belinda by Anne Rampling, one of Anne Rice's lesser known novels written under a pseudonym), despite the fact it's actually quite different it still manages to touch upon the same subject. Unlike Lolita, this is not a retelling of events or even a confession but a first person accounting of the main characters sexual forays. But be warned, Celeste makes Humbert Humbert look tame in comparison. Nabokov wrote a truly lyrical story that managed to win over many readers despite Humbert's wrongs; he became one to be pitied. Nutting has done the opposite with her character Celeste and does not ever intend for you to pity her or feel sorry for her affliction. She's extremely lewd and vulgar and the pages reek with indecency and she's not ashamed to admit it.
'I found that sometimes it was a relief to do something unattractive in private, to confirm that I'm deeply flawed when so many others imagine me to be perfect.'
She found anyone that had begun to show signs that adolescence was leaving them to be completely foul and disgusting and was utterly envious of the female children of her class. The fact that she was flawless and appeared much younger than her true age I think was the only mitigating factor that prevented her from personally disgusting herself as she took extremely good care of herself to avoid showing signs of her age for as long as possible. It could also be said that her sexual encounters with the younger boys was seen as a purifying or cleansing ritual in her eyes. Bottom line, she was an extremely disturbed individual.
Tampa is a book that opens up the discussion that women are obviously not always the victim, that they can be just as guilty and just as psychopathic as their gender counterpart. It's a topic that forces you to look at the stereotypes in society today whether it is gender stereotypes or even stereotypes based on looks alone. Also, it definitely brings to light how the pursuing of an older woman no matter the age of the pursuer has become slightly glamorized over time.
In an interview with Cosmo (incredible review, definitely worth a read), the author stated that there is a void in literature about female sexual psychopaths and she sought to fill it. I can't think of any books related to the topic either but I have to applaud the fact that Nutting tackled this subject head-on and didn't water it down simply to avoid controversy. The extensiveness of her sexual conduct did at times seem gratuitous and left you feeling just as empty as Celeste, however, there’s no denying this was an exceptionally scandalous yet efficiently written debut novel.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars Source: Purchased via Amazon
You have no idea how much it pains me to give this book only a 3 star rating. The Experiment in TerMy rating: 3 of 5 stars Source: Purchased via Amazon
You have no idea how much it pains me to give this book only a 3 star rating. The Experiment in Terror series is one of my favorites, ever, and I was anticipating this so very badly ever since I got hooked on this series earlier this year. I can't say for sure whether it was my extremely (and possibly unrealistic) expectations that made this not as good or not but I definitely had some issues that nagged at me.
I started reading this series because I love ghost novels especially because they aren't so paranormal as to be completely out of this world; that there are instances where you could really feel this being fact. I absolutely loved Perry and Dex as a team and I loved watching their relationship grow over installments. But what I loved the absolute most was the well-blended way that Karina Halle mixed the two together. It wasn't a paranormal novel and it wasn't a romance novel, it was a perfect amalgamation of the two. And therein lies the main issue I had with this novel: the lack of blending.
While Into the Hollow left Dex and Perry's relationship at an imbalance, I understood and expected drama to have to be sorted out in Come Alive. What I didn't expect was for it to take up practically the entire first half with no plot in sight. Now don't go get me wrong, I love me some Dex and Perry but it just felt way too focused on their crazy (and oftentimes unnecessary) drama and their equally crazy sex life. For those of you adverse to this, Come Alive toed the line of erotica and while I'm not against this, this is not what I've come to expect from these novels. If I wanted to read erotica, I would read erotica.
The other big issue I had: the point of view. I did read 'The Dex-Files' and while I enjoyed these short glimpses into Dex's point of view, they weren't my absolute favorite. I was a bit leery when I found out that Come Alive would be told solely from Dex's point of view but of course I reserved judgment. WELL. Dex is one crazy fucker, I think we all know that, but being inside his head and knowing each and every one of his (mostly sexual) thoughts was a bit much. He's just too much sometimes and can be quite intense. I wouldn't be completely adverse to a story from his point of view again, however, I think I'd like it more if it was shared with Perry's POV because, well, Perry is the absolute best.
Regardless, I'm still a die-hard fan and will gladly read anything Ms. Halle writes because she really is an amazing writer of truly entertaining stories. While this is not my favorite installment, the ending did hold much promise for future installments so this is far from my last Perry and Dex story.
Following the disastrous outcome of the events in Shooting Scars, Javier, Ellie and Camden are forced to team up to right the wrongs. Having the threeFollowing the disastrous outcome of the events in Shooting Scars, Javier, Ellie and Camden are forced to team up to right the wrongs. Having the three thrown together forces Ellie to finally choose between the two men that stole her heart.
Bold Tricks is the final installment of The Artists Trilogy where we finally get to see how everything culminates. Told from the sole point of view of Ellie, Bold Tricks maintains the violent and thrilling complexity we've come to expect. All loose ends are tied up sufficiently but without that picture perfect ending because that's the least you could expect with a cast of characters like this. Is there a happily ever after? Well... I suppose that depends on which Team you're on. I will say I was a bit disappointed at the portrayal of a certain character though, but won't reveal who. My guess is it was a way of making Ellie's choice a bit easier but that person's actions seemed too out of character and didn't fit as well with what we've come to expect.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is not my normal genre and if I didn't adore Karina Halle's writing from her Experiment in Terror series then I likely would have never picked this up. Contemporary Romance is not my go-to genre, but the fascinating cast of characters is what truly makes this series shine. They may be written in such a way that makes them incredibly realistic, but they are in no way average nor predictable. I'm incredibly sad to see this series come to an end and despite my slight disappointment, Bold Tricks is still a satisfying enough end and a fantastic trilogy overall....more
My rating: 4 of 5 stars A copy of Shooting Scars was provided to me by Netgalley/Grand Central Publishing for review purposes.
I read Sins & NeedlesMy rating: 4 of 5 stars A copy of Shooting Scars was provided to me by Netgalley/Grand Central Publishing for review purposes.
I read Sins & Needles on a whim last year... it's one of those romantic suspense novels that appeared to be just like all the others but managed to shock the hell out of me with how explosive and thrilling it really was.
And as far as Shooting Scars goes... no middle-book syndrome here! Shooting Scars is an action packed follow-up that takes you on a thrill ride that refuses to let up. It's intense, exciting beyond belief and has the perfect amount of sexiness. This story is a definite favorite of mine... I love the rarity of flawed characters possessing such a mesmerizing story.
The dual-narrative was perfection and offered us the opportunity to witness Ellie facing head-on the issues that drove her and Javier apart... and how their reunion dredges up the same feelings that brought the two together in the first place. It also allows us the internal look at Camden's dark transformation and just how deep his feelings for Ellie are and of the things he's capable and willing to do to get her back. The ending will no doubt leave you anticipating the last piece of their story... it's bound to be intense there's no doubt about that. The Artists Trilogy is dark, seductive and extremely exhilarating. ...more