What I've Been Reading
Hello everyone! How are you all doing? I've been preparing a few blog posts now that I'm officially back to blogging here on Goddess of Books. I'll be going back to my regular posting schedule of Wednesday and Saturday of each week. Thankfully, as I spend time getting caught up on old reviews and posts I've had new Taylor Swift content to keep me occupied with her newest release, Midnights.
Is anyone else addicted to this album or is it just me? Let me know your opinions on the latest album at the bottom of this post all about my opinions on some of the book I've been reading.
This includes Damaged by Onley James, Ignite by Melanie Harlow, and Giving Chase by Riley Hart.
Disclaimer: This blog post will contain affiliate and referral links. I may earn a small commission to feed my book hoarding tendencies if you use these links to make a purchase. This in no way impacts my opinions of the books listed - they are all my own.
Author: Onley James
Description: The first time Dimitri Castallanos experienced obsession, he committed a felony. He was five. Dimitri is a psychopath. And he’s still obsessed with just one person.
Arlo Miller was born a victim, raised as his father’s punching bag and his mother’s scapegoat. Dimitri was his only protection, and they took him away.
As children they clung to each other. As adults, they pretend neither remembers, while both harbor secret crushes. Dimitri hides his feelings behind a mask of indifference. Arlo hides his by falling for very bad men.
When one of those men confronts Dimitri, this time Arlo commits a felony. Murder. But Dimitri won’t allow Arlo to take the fall. With the help of Dimitri’s mother and seven psychopaths, they now have twenty-four hours to fake an alibi, hide a body, and confess their true feelings for each other once and for all. Which is harder? Falling in love or getting away with murder?
Rating: ★★★ (3/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Domestic Violence, Gore, Violence, Murder)
You thought I'd already covered the entire Necessary Evils series up to the fourth book in my last review? You were mislead.
Damaged by Onley James is book #3.5 in the Necessary Evils series and is more of a novella than a full length book like the rest of the series. It is also the only book to follow a psychopath that isn't a Mulvaney sibling, though still adjacent to the serial killer family. The connection being his mother who you may be familiar with as the Mulvaney's almost anonymous tech expert, Calliope.
If you are as curious as the brothers who dominate the other books in this series about the mysterious Calliope, you'll probably be elated by this addition to the Necessary Evils universe. While Calliope still does NOT get her own book, you will be getting a better glimpse at her through the lense of her son and the psychopathic star of this book, Dimitri.
If you've read and enjoyed the other books in the Necessary Evils series then I think you will find yourself better off having read Damaged. This book is advertised as a technical standalone but I don't think it would be ranked as well without its correlation to the rest of the series. It is what I would consider a 'bonus' story or, in video game terms, a side quest. A non-essential inclusion that is still fun in the right context adventure for lovers of the main stories.
Note: Damaged by Onley James is more difficult to get a copy of and is unavailable for purchase on the platforms I usually link. I believe I received my copy from a link in a subscriber email from the author's newsletter.
Author: Melanie Harlow
Description: My new neighbor is a firefighter—and a scorching hot single dad—but I swear I didn’t set off that smoke alarm on purpose.
(And I was beyond mortified when he rushed in and saw me naked.)
Nothing happened, of course—because I, Winnie MacAllister, romance junkie and owner of a constantly broken heart, have sworn off men for one solid year.
Even protective men with chiseled jaws, bulging biceps, and deep brown eyes that make my breath come faster. Even former SEALs with broad chests and strong hands that make my skin sizzle. Even gorgeous, grumpy guys who have their hands full raising two adorable little girls and claim they don’t believe in love.
Until Dex kisses me one night, and I drop all my defenses.
(Also my underwear.)
He says he’s not gentle, and he’s right. He says I should take the dream job I’m offered in another state, and he’s right. He says he’s too old for me and could never be the man I deserve.
Dex and I might be twelve years apart, but the fire between us is the kind that will never burn out.
How can I convince him to give happily-ever-after with me a chance?
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
I have discovered in my many years as a romance reader that I am a sucker for different series that are vaguely interconnected, especially of the generational variety. You know the ones I'm talking about, where one series will follow a group of couples and then the next will follow their kids in the future.
Catching glimpses of the couples from the original series I loved in their fifties or sixties helping their kids with their own happily ever after with minor cameos is what I live for.
Ignite by Melanie Harlow follows the romance of Winnie and Dex. Some of you might know Winnie as the adorable child of a single dad who found love in the book Irresistable also by this author. Not only is that fact alone a sweet tribute but the storyline of this book is reminiscent of its predecessor with a single father of all girls searching for love again, even if he doesn't know it.
Aside from the legacy storytelling, if you're a fan of cliche tropes that make you weak in the knees this book is for you. It has everything from grumpy/sunshine neighbors to an age gap romance bringing a second life to a family that's been in a standstill for far too long. Alongside those you'll also find an awkward meet cute and meddling kids who are too cute for their own good, much like Winnie was back in her childhood.
If you're someone who loves blush inducing rom-coms, contributed to by both the heat of the main characters' chemistry and the unbelievablely hilarious shenanigans that ensues, you'll quickly become a fan of Ignite.
Title: Giving Chase
Author: Riley Hart
I wasn't supposed to fall for my older brother's best friend. Unfortunately, that ship sailed when I was a teenager, even though Chase Hawthorne always treated me like nothing more than a younger sibling. Things were worse after my parents died. Chase was sweet and supportive, which only strengthened my feelings for him. But then he'd act like I couldn't take care of myself, and that part didn't go over well with me. Yeah, I had a habit of screwing up. I'd always been the weird boy in our small town, but just like my big brother, he took overprotective to a new level. Until one night when I was eighteen and Chase and I hooked up. It was a ding to the ego that he left town right afterward. Ridiculously, I'm still not over him. CHASE
I betrayed my best friend, Griffin, the night I messed around with Kellan. So I ran--first to the Marines, then into law enforcement. Ten years later, I'm back home, this time as a patrol officer rather than a troublemaker's son. Oh, and unable to keep my hands off Kellan Caine. There's always been something about him...the way he stands strong in who he is, even when he's standing alone. I'm trapped between someone I want more than anything and Griff, the guy who's like family to me. Yet the more time I spend with Kellan, the harder it becomes to deny there's something real between us. With my dad stirring up trouble, and me going behind my best friend's back, everything's a mess. The more tangled the web gets, the more I realize I need Kellan. And that there might be something in the Hawthorne family history that'll make me lose both Kellan and Griffin for good.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Mentions of Sexual Assault, Homophobia, Mentions of Crimes Such as Murder and Robbery, Brief Scenes of Violence Related To Homophobia)
Giving Chase by Riley Hart can be summed up by the origin of its title, a lighthearted pun thrown out during the most emotional of times, "I’ve spent my whole life wanting you, my whole life giving chase..."
In the midst of the main character, Kellan, making a do or die confession with an inside joke shared with his love interest, Chase, you find the essence of what makes this book special. Not only does it have the heart to have you shedding tears, but it also has the wisdom to not forget about the most joyous moments of falling in love. Because without the joy, the pain isn't as poignant. Without the highs, you can't appreciate what you had while at your lowest.
Reading this book is what I imagine it's like for my grandfather to be rooting for his favorite football team during a big game. It's at once exhilarating, pulse pounding, defeat crushing, and an introduction to elation. It's about cheering for the best for people outside of yourself and knowing that, win or lose, you'll continue to support them. It's willingly getting on a rollercoaster knowing the drop will be fierce, but the peak will be exponentially worth it in the long run when, or even if, it comes to fruition.
And any game is better with a crowd. Giving Chase is what I like to call a community romance. Sure, only the two main characters are in the relationship, but everyone around them is equally as invested, whether they like it or not. In a small town story focused at a bar owned by Kellan's brother, Griff's Place, you'll find the comradery you didn't know you needed.
You'll inevitably see your own reactions in the cheerleaders on the sidelines at the best of times and the booing dissenters at the worst. You watch friends and family on both sides of the conflict as each background character watches with baited breath in the same way as the reader will.
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