What I've Been Reading
Hello everyone! How are you guys doing? I've been keeping myself occupied as I try to stay on track for my yearly Goodreads goal. After this batch of reads, I can thankfully say that I am no longer falling behind. I have read 32 out of the 50 books I planned and Goodreads says that is just right if I'm to cross the finish line in time. I'm hoping to maintain the momentum going forward with my reading, even if it kills me - or rather forces me to stay up many nights past my bedtime.
Who am I kidding, though? I do that anyways.
Title: The Best Friend
Author: Raleigh Ruebins
Description: My best friend’s a former quarterback, and I’m a nerdy math teacher.
He has no idea how badly I want him.
Back in high school, Mitch protected me from bullies and was at my side through tragedy. It didn’t matter that he was a football star and I was a mathlete, or that I was gay and he was straight. We stuck together like glue--until he married a girl and ran away.
Now Mitch is back home, and he’s a divorced single dad. His son is in my math class, and I collide with Mitch everywhere in this small town. When he starts bartending at the only local gay bar, I’m screwed. Red’s Tavern is my haven, but how can I fake it for other guys when I’m in love with the big jock behind the bar?
Then Mitch invites me into his bed, saying it's just for fun. But I’m addicted to him the second his body is on mine.
I’ve done the math a million times. I know the odds are bad, but I know I want him.
And now that he’s given me a taste, I can’t stop begging for more.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Reading The Best Friend by Raleigh Ruebins is like coming home, even if you haven't had one as warm and welcoming as this. The books in this series follow the common thread of taking place at Red's Tavern - a gay bar near a small town. Red's is more than a bar, it is also a found family for the characters decorating the setting. It envelopes the reader in contentment and bliss at the utter emphasis on a safe community for the characters who present in all manner of identities.
While The Best Friend primarily focuses on the romance between Mitch and Evan, it wouldn't be nearly as memorable without the ensemble cast of characters. Every chapter that builds Mitch and Evan's relationship is solidified thanks to the assistance of the people in the background. They are what all of us strive for in a family: accepting, loving, and humorous. Ignoring the romance, which I often don't advocate on doing, the reader still finds themselves amidst an atmosphere of camaraderie.
At its best, The Best Friend is an endearing, second chance love story with appropriate amounts of cuteness and angst. We are given far more than what we may take from the synopsis at face value. There isn't a rush toward the happily ever after as some romance authors tend to believe is necessary. The reader is given the opportunity to immerse themselves in Mitch and Evan's lives among their hometown - specifically Red's Tavern.
Title: The Cellar
Author: Natasha Preston
Description: When sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson goes missing one night, her family, friends and boyfriend are devastated. Nothing ever happens in Long Thorpe, so the disappearance of a school girl shocks the whole community. The police waste no time in launching a search and investigation, but with nothing to go on and no trace of Summer, hopes of finding her quickly fade.
Colin Brown, is a thirty-year-old solicitor living alone after the death of his mother. He suffered a traumatic and abusive childhood, and is left with no sense of right or wrong. Desperate for the perfect family, Colin, referring to himself as Clover, turns to drastic measures to get what he wants.
Rating: ★★★ (3/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Kidnapping, Violence, Abuse, Murder, Trauma, PTSD)
I was a preteen around the time Wattpad was coming to prominence, and with it the emergence of stories like The Cellar. I remember reading the online version hesitantly since, at the time, young adult romance was where the platform shined. I read half of it as it was being released but never got around to finishing it, let alone the officially published version. I did, however, choose Natasha Preston's other book, You Will Be Mine, as my first blog review.
The Cellar is a mystery novel mixed with a stacked dose of horror. It shows the worst facets of human nature. No one is spared the ugliness of the kidnapping of Summer. Other novels may try to dull each blow through outside POVs that instead display the search for a missing person and the hardship it puts on their loved ones. But, while it does that occasionally, the book centers its narrative on Summer's voices and what she is forced to endure.
The Cellar is a twisted, downright brutal read at times. It doesn't hold back punches when discussing topics such as kidnapping and sexual assault. The toll on the reader watching these atrocities happen to the 'flowers' is almost psychologically scarring. There is nothing gentle about the way in which the book delivers its lessons and trauma. If you're looking for subtlety, you will not find it in the pages of The Cellar.
Title: Twisted Loyalties
Author: Cora Reilly
Description: Fabiano was raised to follow in his father’s footsteps as Consigliere of the Chicago Outfit – until the man abandons him. Left to fend for himself, Fabiano is forced to fight for a place in the mafia world. As a ruthless street fighter, he quickly earns his place as the new Enforcer of the Las Vegas Camorra – a man to fear.
Leona wants to build a decent life for herself, away from her drug-addicted mother. But soon she catches the attention of a dangerous man – Fabiano Scuderi. Staying out of trouble and living a normal life are near impossible with a man like him.
Leona knows she needs to avoid Fabiano, but men like him aren’t easy to shake off. They always get what they want.
Fabiano cares about only one thing: the Camorra.
But his attraction to Leona soon puts his unwavering loyalty to the test. Is Leona worth risking everything he’s fought for, and ultimately his life?
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Violence, Abuse, Murder, Fighting, Assault)
I am not shy to admit that I love to read Cora Reilly's books. If I'm in the mood for a dark, angsty romance I will always turn to her. This is especially the case when I want a mafia romance because she is the queen of the genre without comparison. Almost all of her books are also available through Kindle Unlimited which makes them far more accessible for me than many other reads.
I've read most of the books in both her Born In Blood and Camorra Chronicles series. I was apprehensive about the main character, Fabiano, being the choice to kick off the first book in the Camorra Chronicles, but I was gratefully proven wrong. He is the bridge between the two series that coaxes you from one to the other. It is a seamless transition from the world of his sisters, who are married off in each of the Born in Blood books, and into his own story.
Leona presents the perfect avenue for Fabiano to move past his tortured and miserable past. She is unlike any of the other leading heroines in Cora Reilly's books who may be portrayed as abundantly perfect. The reader can recognize that she isn't glamorous or considered royalty in his world. Rather she is a normal person struggling to survive in, first, adulthood and then the Camorra at Fabiano's side.
I thought Twisted Loyalty stepped outside the constraints of what Cora Reilly's books have been in the past and set up a fantastic series to come.
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