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review 2018-05-11 02:36
Red Dirt Heart 2
Red Dirt Heart 2 (Red Dirt Heart Series) - N.R. Walker

This started off kind of rocky, to the point I even considered quitting at one point since the first book was only ok. I'm glad I stuck with it though since it ends much stronger than it started. All it took was Charlie to stop acting like a twelve-year old (jealousy and angry snits are really not appealing to me) and the guys to actually start talking to each other instead of just having sex as the basis of their relationship. Go figure. 

 

There's still too much of everyone thinking the gay couple is cute, and I wanted to (lightly) smack everyone who was smiling/laughing at Charlie's discomfort at various points throughout the book. Their reactions came from a place of love, but that still wasn't cool.

 

I felt that this ended with a stronger relationship between Charlie and Travis, which helped me to care about them as a couple and as individuals. Charlie's coming out process is maybe a bit too rushed considering his years of baggage, but it was too satisfying to bother me long. :)

 

I also got a (somewhat) better sense of some of the side characters. Greg is an even better friend to Charlie than originally thought.

 

Onto the next one.

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review 2018-04-20 04:06
Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt Heart #1)
Red Dirt Heart - N.R. Walker

I like this! It was standard, as far as M/M goes, but has the distinction of being set in the Outback. Charlie and Travis were fun, and it was nice to see Travis pull Charles out of his shell and self-loathing. I really liked Ma and George, too. (Though I did get a little annoyed with the chapter headers, gotta be honest.)

 

This is a short read though, barely longer than novella length, so we don't get to see much of the other workers on the ranch, who are basically just there as set dressing. A lot of the relationship development between Charlie and Travis was set in the bedroom too, and after one-and-a-half standard sex scenes, I just started skipping them altogether. There was still enough development outside the bedroom for me to appreciate why they're clearly good together, so that was good.

 

The next one looks longer, so hopefully it'll have more meat on its bones. And be better formatted. The formatting for this book was all over the place. It though Ch 6 was Ch 8, for instance, and thought the book was complete when I was still at 70%. 

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review 2018-03-20 20:39
Unsettling, entrancing tale of escaping the traps we're born to
Along the Indigo - Elsie Chapman

Disclaimer: Reviewing pre-publication proof via NetGalley

 

I loved this. Vivid, strong character writing and a fully fleshed-out sense of place from the first page made this an engaging story, and the dark fantasy/paranormal elements, while light, tinted the story with a deliciously creepy atmosphere.

 

Marsden is saving up to skip town with her 8-year-old little sister before one or both of them get roped into joining Nina's girls like their mom. Their dad died (or killed himself) when she was her sister's age, and their mom started working the not-so-secret nightshift in the boarding house they live in/brothel.

 

Being pressured toward sex work isn't the only source of Marsden's misery. She's half Chinese in a white, rural American town. Her mother's job - and her likely future - are an open secret, and the predatory, bullying behaviour of her peers and neighbours has her self-isolating to survive. And she can't hear the voices of the dead - despite regularly visiting the covert behind the boardinghouse to strip the bodies of the dead for cash. It's the last remaining piece of family property, a sort of suicide forest, tainted by the murder spree of a mad ancestor.

 

So there's a lot going on here. The visible minority/POC/mixed ancestry thing is handled well and comes up in Mars & her sister's experience, as well as another boy in town's story. The absent/abusive parent thing is troubling but very well handled, as is the dysfunctional community. And the suicides. There's heaps upon heaps of messed up in this book, but the author doesn't bury you in it. It's an engaging read, atmospheric and challenging without feeling hopeless. It reminds me of Brenna Yovanoff's books, and Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed In Blood just a touch. I think it's set in eastern Oregon or Washington maybe, or one of the prairie/desert states further east of there, but it has more in common with Southern Gothic paranormals. Creepy, foreign and familiar at the same time, unsettling and entrancing. Will circle back to this author's earlier works and follow her future books with great interest. Highly recommended read.

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review 2018-02-25 16:10
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land - Monica Hesse

American Fire is about a rash of arson committed by a local couple. Simple direct story found in the crime beat section until the author digs into the area's history, especially its heyday and then decline. She also goes into the history of the couple: Charlie, a native of the area with a solid reputation and a rap sheet (mostly due to his drug use) and Tonya, also a native without such a solid reputation and a need to set things on fire. The author also profiles the local volunteer firefighters and law enforcement officials who had to clean up the messes Charlie and Tonya caused without the resources of suburban town or urban center. That is what really spoke to me, as I grew up in an area with only volunteer firefighters and EMTs - the resources and manpower can be overwhelmed very easily, but the level of dedication of those volunteer units can't be found in a lot of places.

 

I would recommend this book to true crime readers or those who like a closer look at rural towns and their problems and the people trying to solve them.

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review 2018-01-29 04:38
Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)
Stillhouse Lake - Rachel Caine

CW: Gruesome details of murder victims

 

This story opened with a bang and didn't really let up from there. 

 

Gina has a great life: perfect husband, 2.0 kids, house with white picket fence. Until she comes home one day to a nightmare and realizes that everything she though she knew was a lie: her husband is a serial killer.

 

Several years later, after spending life on the run from internet trolls and real crime sycophants and the families of her ex-husband's victims who want revenge any way they can get it, Gina's reinvented herself as Gwen, and her children also have new names. They're starting over in a quiet, idyllic lake town and while Gwen is paranoid about everything and everyone around her, she thinks they might just be able to put down roots here. Things are far from perfect, but for the first time she things just might have the possibility of getting better.

 

And then a body is found floating in the lake outside her home.

 

This was an interesting thriller that details just how hard it is to "disappear" in the age of internet, smart phones, GPS and social media. Gwen can't trust anyone with the secret of her previous identity, the one everyone hates without getting to know, but she does have to trust some people in order to keep fleeing when trouble gets too close. She's a woman who lives in a constant state of alert, and though she tries to shield her children from the worst of it, it still rubs off on them and affects them too. She sees hints of her ex-husband's detachment in her son and her own paranoia in her daughter. Though all her instincts are telling her to run, it makes sense why she decides that this time she's going to stand her ground.

 

The reactions of those around her also ring true and while some things do start become if not obvious then at least obviously suspicious, there's enough reason given to understand why Gwen isn't making these connections, even despite her paranoia. There are also enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing. I saw reviews that mentioned this ended in a cliffhanger - let me assure you that the main conflict that appears about halfway through the book is resolved in this book, but there's a last-minute development to hook you for the next book. 

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