Review: Hitched to the Gunslinger (Michelle McLean)

Hitched to the Gunslinger
Author: Michelle McLean
Publication Date: August 24, 2021
Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Genre: Historical, Western Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Synopsis:

Gray “Quick Shot” Woodson is the fastest gun west of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, he’s ready to hang up his hat. Sure, being notorious has its perks. But the nomadic lifestyle—and people always tryin’ to kill you—gets old real fast.

Now he just wants to find a place to retire so he can spend his days the way the good Lord intended. Staring at the sunset. And napping.

When his stubborn horse drags him into a hole-in-the-wall town called Desolation, something about the place calls to Gray, and he figures he might actually have a shot at a sleepy retirement.

His optimism lasts about a minute and a half.

Soon he finds himself embroiled in a town vendetta and married to a woman named Mercy. Who, judging by her aggravating personality, doesn’t know the meaning of her own name. In fact, she’s downright impossible.

But dang it if his wife isn’t irresistible. If only she’d stop trying to steal his guns to go after the bad guys herself.

There goes his peace and quiet…


It’s not very often I stray from contemporary romance, but lately I have been in a reading funk so I decided to branch out. Historical romance sounded like a fun change, and I was excited to try a new author.

Hitched to the Gunslinger was a fun read. Gray was a stubborn, grumpy gunslinger who was looking forward to retirement when he stumbled into a fake fiancé situation with Mercy. Mercy was a determined, strong woman who was trying to hold onto the land she and her father loved so much. Gray was her fake fiancé before Mercy even knew what she was saying. There was a bunch of enemy-like banter for the first part of the book that was highly entertaining. Things didn’t start getting romantic between the two until about the middle and then their relationship was full of a different kind of fire. Mercy and Gray were actually kind of sweet together.

The drama in this book revolved around Mercy’s land and a man who wanted it. It was a predictable kind of drama that added entertainment and not stress. It made the Western part of this historical romance shine. I loved how the entire town was involved and all of the characters in the town. It was a special mix of people, setting, and even bad guys.

My only real complaint about this book was that it was written in third person. I’m not a big fan of the third person, and it took me a while to get into. I wasn’t sure if it was the third person or just a slower start. Other than that, Hitched the Gunslinger was nothing but a good time.

Review: The Broken Girls (Simone St. James)

The Broken Girls
Author: Simone St. James
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman

Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Audio

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants-—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too-smart-for-their-own-good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won’t be silenced… 


Last year, I read The Sun Down Motel. I enjoyed that book so much that I knew I wanted to read some of Simone St. James’s back list. I decided to start with the audiobook of The Broken Girls. I was intrigued by the blurb and loved the cover. By the time I finally got it from my library, I had completely forgotten what it was about. That made this listen very interesting because I had no idea where the story was going or how the two timelines were connected at first.

The Broken Girls didn’t quite captivate me the way The Sun Down Motel did. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy The Broken Girls. I did. Rebecca Lowman brought the story to life in a great way. I love her voice and narration. I enjoyed Fiona’s POV and the mysteries she was trying to solve. Her POV was especially interesting considering her thoughts and opinions were skewed by the untimely murder of her sister. I loved the ghost aspect of the story and was curious as to why Mary was haunting the halls of Idlewild. Plus, there were some great twists.

All of these good things being said, there were still a couple things that prevented this book from wowing me. First, the two timelines didn’t mesh as well as I wanted them to. I think part of the issue was the past timeline. It was in four different POVs and it took me a while to keep the girls and their stories straight. It was too distracting. I get why the four were used, but I also think it might have been better to just have it be Katie’s POV. Second, I loved the ghost aspect, but it also ended up feeling a little anticlimactic at the end. I wanted there to be a better tie in or timeline all of its own.

Despite those two things, I did end up enjoying listening to this book. It moved at a good pace and kept my curiosity going. It was a good mystery.

Review: Tarnished Soul (Beth Flynn)

Tarnished Soul
Series: A Nine Minutes Spin-Off Novel, #4

Author: Beth Flynn
Publication Date: May 21, 2021
Genre: New Adult, Dark Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒔𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒔 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒏𝒊𝒔𝒉𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒔, 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒘𝒐 𝒄𝒐𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒅𝒆, 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒕𝒘𝒊𝒄𝒆, 𝒊𝒕 𝒔𝒆𝒆𝒎𝒔 𝒇𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒎𝒂𝒚 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒘𝒂𝒚.

Ex-con and ruthless biker, Jonas Brooks is stunned when he encounters the selfless angel who saved his life six years ago. With his massive size and alarming tattoos, Jonas terrifies people on sight. But the beautiful, kind, and intelligent Lucy Renquest sees beyond his frightening exterior the moment she lays eyes on him.

Despite being an outcast with an extremely high IQ, Lucy’s confidence and courage propels her to success. Finding the good in people is her biggest strength—and greatest weakness. When Jonas cleverly deceives her into accompanying him to a secluded cabin in the alligator-infested Florida Everglades, she’s beyond furious—until her anger fades and their passion ignites.

When Jonas and Lucy return to their normal lives, he discovers that she’s in danger. Now, it’s up to Jonas to save the woman who saved him.

Can a criminal with a tarnished soul protect his angel and find the truth before it’s too late? 


Every new Nine Minutes related book from Beth Flynn feels like a gift. I could not wait to read Tarnished Soul. Brooks and Lucy’s relationship has been hinted at in two of the previous books in this series, and I was dying to know more about them. Brooks is Anthony Bear’s right hand man, if that helps anyone trying to place him from previous books. I wish Beth Flynn would give us a “family” tree because I had to refresh my memory to remind me which biker gang he was related to. 

Tarnished Soul was exactly what I would expect from Beth Flynn. It was a journey through Brooks and Lucy’s relationship. We get to find out how a studious and somewhat geeky woman attracted a devilish brute like Brooks and vice versa. (When I say devilish, I’m not talking devilishly handsome like some romance novels. I’m talking brute force with no conscience, so be prepared for some stomach turning scenes that you would probably expect in a dark romance.) Their love story was unconventional and sweet. I would never condone what Brooks does, but I did love his love for Lucy and desire to protect her from the world. 

One of my favorite things about Nine Minutes books is the way they are all woven together through characters, setting, and plots. Each new book puts a piece in place and makes the entire series better. This book had some fun cameos and pieces of the puzzle. The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was a major revelation about Brooks that came toward the end. It caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. What the revelation was didn’t bother me, but more that it was one. I should have seen it coming. There were some major hints and I admit one had me thinking back to something, but I guess I thought I just missed that it was foreshadowing. I don’t know how to explain it without giving it away. I just thought it was an interesting direction to go.

Anyways. Tarnished Soul was another fantastic addition to the Nine Minutes Spin-Off series. I loved getting the story behind Brooks and Lucy’s romance. I loved getting more time with everyone. I am only sad I finished this book because now I want another from Ms. Flynn. 

𝔾𝕠𝕠𝕕𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕕𝕤: http://bit.ly/TarnishedSoul-GR

𝟙ℂ𝕝𝕚𝕔𝕜: http://mybook.to/TarnishedSoul

Review: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba (Chantel Cleeton)

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
Series: The Cuba Saga, #4
Author: Chantel Cleeton

Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

At the end of the nineteenth century, three revolutionary women fight for freedom in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel inspired by real-life events and the true story of a legendary Cuban woman–Evangelina Cisneros–who changed the course of history.

A feud rages in Gilded Age New York City between newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. When Grace Harrington lands a job at Hearst’s newspaper in 1896, she’s caught in a cutthroat world where one scoop can make or break your career, but it’s a story emerging from Cuba that changes her life.

Unjustly imprisoned in a notorious Havana women’s jail, eighteen-year-old Evangelina Cisneros dreams of a Cuba free from Spanish oppression. When Hearst learns of her plight and splashes her image on the front page of his paper, proclaiming her, “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba,” she becomes a rallying cry for American intervention in the battle for Cuban independence.

With the help of Marina Perez, a courier secretly working for the Cuban revolutionaries in Havana, Grace and Hearst’s staff attempt to free Evangelina. But when Cuban civilians are forced into reconcentration camps and the explosion of the USS Maine propels the United States and Spain toward war, the three women must risk everything in their fight for freedom. 


I have been a fan of Chanel Cleeton’s Cuba Saga since I read the first book. It’s been a delight to learn more about Cuba, its history, the people, and its relation to the United States through her words. Each book has a told a different story through multiple view points. The same was done with The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba. For this review, I’m going to tell you a little bit about each character and then I’ll sum up my final thoughts.

Grace Harrington – Grace wanted desperately to be a newspaper reporter like Nellie Bly. In order to become one, she found herself entrenched in the battle between the Journal and the World papers. This battle brought her attention to the one going on in Cuba. To be honest, it took me a while to get into this character’s story. I wasn’t immediately drawn to her desire to be a newspaper reporter. Once I got several chapters in her point of view, her involvement in the story became more fascinating to me. That was good because the majority of this book seemed to be in her POV. I also enjoyed Grace’s interactions with Rafael.

Evangelina Cisneros – This was the POV that I kept wanting more of. Evangelina was a real life person who went through some horrible things in Cuba. I could tell Cleeton did her due diligence researching her plight and life. I, like Americans of the time, found her life fascinating. I could have read a book entirely in Evangelina’s POV. I would have liked more of it in this book.

Marina Perez – It’s always nice to learn more about the Perez family. I found her backstory to be very interesting and her current life situation as well. I liked how her POV tied the story together. Marina was probably the least fleshed out character with the least amount of time spent on her POV. I would have loved more inclusion of her in this story.

Now for more on the book as a whole…

I found the subject of the Cuban Revolution to be incredibly interesting. I hate to say that I knew nothing about it prior to this book, but I knew nothing about it. I loved how Cleeton used real life inspiration to craft her story and create her characters. Each woman’s tale was well written and inspiring. I do have to mention that at times I found The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba to be quite information heavy. It had more information than her past books in this series and less focus on the romantic relationships. Being a romance reader, I missed the focus on that aspect. That being said, it was still a great read that fans of this series are sure to love.

Review: Malibu Rising (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

Malibu Rising
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Ballentine Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six . . . Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.


Not going to lie. I was curious as to how Taylor Jenkins Reid was going to follow up the masterpiece that was Daisy Jones and The Six. That book was so unique and cool and well done. What could possibly be as good? Malibu Rising. That’s what.

Every year, Nina Riva throws the biggest party of the summer. Anyone who is anyone attends. Major things always happen at the summer party and are gossiped about for years to come. 1983’s party is sure to be the most epic of them all, and we, the readers, are invited to the fun.

How I just described Malibu Rising was pretty simple. An epic party. It was more than a party, though. Malibu Rising was a family saga. The story alternates between that day of the party in August 1983 and the past. The past began with Mick and June Rivas falling in love. Their story was a hot mess. Mick’s fame brought many problems along with it. Both of their decisions shaped their kids, and it wasn’t always done pleasantly. The past continues right up until the day of the party. On the day of the party in 1983, we get what the Riva kids are up to as adults on the day of the party that will shape their future. I was fascinated by both timelines. There wasn’t one I liked more than the other. I didn’t want to set the book down. The writing was soooo good. I could easily imagine this book as a television show — like Dallas or Dynasty with a Southern California flare.

Another thing that made this book so good were the characters. They felt real. Malibu Rising almost felt like a tell all memoir from the Riva family.  Just like I did while Daisy Jones and The Six, I found myself wanting to Google the Rivas family and find out more about them. I loved the close knit feeling from the kids and how they helped each other through their struggles.

I’m not sure what else to say about Malibu Rising. This review already feels rambling. I loved just it so much I want to read it all over again. And I want everyone to read it. It will definitely be on my list of top books for 2021.

Review: The Last Night in London (Karen White)

The Last Night in London
Author: Karen White
Publication Date: April 20, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a captivating story of friendship, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her.  Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew.  As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love.


Before I start this review, I have to talk about the author’s note. I have read all of Karen White’s books. Two on my list of favorites are Falling Home and After the Rain. It’s been years since I read those books and that is the only reason I have for not remembering who Maddie Warner was! Now, you don’t need to have read those two books to enjoy this one, but it sure had a delayed emotional impact on me when I made the connection! Now for the review…

The Last Night in London is one of those books that had my attention from the prologue. That chapter set up a story and mystery that had me questioning everything and everyone in the 1940’s setting. I was as curious as Maddie was to unravel the story in 2019. Even when I thought I knew, I don’t know that I knew what had happened with Precious, Eva, Graham, and Alex. It was frustratingly good to try and figure out.

As for the 2019 end of the story, I really enjoyed that part too. Maddie was a frustrating character when it came to her own life. She had her reasons, which I understood, but I wanted her to get over it. I loved how she played detective with Precious’ family to find out what had happened to her during the war and after.

Overall, this was another winner by Karen White. I love how she mixes past with present in her books, neither story winning me over more than the other. Both sides or timelines always keep me intrigued. She has done this with all her previous releases and again with The Last Night in London.

Review: The Songbook of Benny Lament (Amy Harmon)

The Songbook of Benny Lament
Author: Amy Harmon

Publication Date: March 16, 2021
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.

New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.


You guys… I HAVE A NEW BOOK TO ADD TO MY FAVORITES LIST!!!

Amy Harmon consistently writes amazing works of art. It is always hard to pick a favorite book of hers, but The Songbook of Benny Lament just bulldozed right over all her other books to my top spot.

I loved EVERYTHING about this book. It alternates between chapters of radio interviews with Benny and his story of what happened along his way to fame. The radio chapters set up the story perfectly. They hinted at what was to come, making the story that followed all the sweeter. The story of Minecraft and Benny’s relationship with Esther Mine built in the best of ways. I had all these ideas of where things were headed, but didn’t even want to guess. I wanted to experience it all as I read it. It was such a fascinating love story set in the chaotic and violent times of the 1960’s. I enjoyed the way it wove music, the mob, politics, racial injustices of the 1960’s, and a sweet love story all into one package. There was even some humor!

The only book I can compare The Songbook of Benny Lament to is Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It gave me that same feeling. It had me forgetting that it was fiction and had me wanting to Google everyone and everything related to Benny Lament and Esther Mine. Their story felt real and true. I was so caught up in it that I forgot it was fiction. That’s not to say that The Songbook of Benny Lament was a copycat of Daisy Jones and The Six. It wasn’t. It was a completely different story.

If you love books that revolve around music, complex love stories and a ton of heart you won’t want to miss this book. Amy Harmon put so much heart into The Songbook of Benny Lament. It checked all my boxes. I will be thinking about it for a long time.

Review: The Things We Leave Unfinished (Rebecca Yarros)

The Things We Leave Unfinished
Author: Rebecca Yarros

Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Twenty-eight-year-old Georgia Stanton has to start over after she gave up almost everything in a brutal divorce—the New York house, the friends, and her pride. Now back home at her late great-grandmother’s estate in Colorado, she finds herself face-to-face with Noah Harrison, the bestselling author of a million books where the cover is always people nearly kissing. He’s just as arrogant in person as in interviews, and she’ll be damned if the good-looking writer of love stories thinks he’s the one to finish her grandmother’s final novel…even if the publisher swears he’s the perfect fit.

Noah is at the pinnacle of his career. With book and movie deals galore, there isn’t much the “golden boy” of modern fiction hasn’t accomplished. But he can’t walk away from what might be the best book of the century—the one his idol, Scarlett Stanton, left unfinished. Coming up with a fitting ending for the legendary author is one thing, but dealing with her beautiful, stubborn, cynical great-granddaughter, Georgia, is quite another.

But as they read Scarlett’s words in both the manuscript and her box of letters, they start to realize why Scarlett never finished the book—it’s based on her real-life romance with a World War II pilot, and the ending isn’t a happy one. Georgia knows all too well that love never works out, and while the chemistry and connection between her and Noah is undeniable, she’s as determined as ever to learn from her great-grandmother’s mistakes—even if it means destroying Noah’s career.

Told in alternating timelines, THE THINGS WE LEAVE UNFINISHED examines the risks we take for love, the scars too deep to heal, and the endings we can’t bring ourselves to see coming.


The Things We Leave Unfinished… Where do I even start? With each new release, Rebecca Yarros somehow exceeds my expectations and writes my new favorite book of hers. I fell in love with The Things We Leave Unfinished from the very first page. Past and present were beautifully woven together. I could have read two separate books about the two different timelines and been completely happy. Weaving the two together made it all the more fascinating. With every page I turned and chapter I finished, I wanted more. I needed to know what was going to happen in WWII England with Scarlett and Jameson. I wanted to know where the unraveling the past would take Georgia and Noah. Their individual and combined journeys were both heartbreaking and heartwarming. I loved every minute of this stunning love story.

Review: The Last Train to Key West (Chanel Cleeton)

The Last Train to Key West
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel.

Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.


The Last Train to Key West was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, and it didn’t let me down. This book was absolutely fabulous. The writing was everything I’ve come to expect from Chanel Cleeton and the story… Talk about the perfect mixture of heartbreaking and heartwarming. The journey these three women went on emotionally and physically showed just how strong and courageous they were. That was without the horrible hurricane that went on around them. That just added another fascinating aspect to the story. I had no previous knowledge of the hurricane that hit the area in 1935 or of the railroad that used to go to Key West. I felt like I learned so much by reading this book, and I loved that.

The Last Train to Key West is one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. If you enjoyed Next Year in Havana or When We Left Cuba, you’re guaranteed to love this book. If you haven’t read either of those two, you should and you should read this one as well. So. Dang. Good.

Review: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (Bryn Greenwood)

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Synopsis:

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.


I won a copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things from Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings YEARS ago. Years, people. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t immediately start reading it. To be honest, I was a little scared of it. I had been warned it wasn’t an easy book to stomach, but also told that it was really good. Both of those are correct. This was both a hard and easy book to read. Here’s my thoughts…

All the WONDERFUL things about this book:

  • Bryn Greenwood is a master storyteller. Her words put you right in the story with the characters. Her descriptions and characters are raw and almost too real. She was good at making me question my moral boundaries.
  • The story was told in multiple points of view. That gave more than one opinion and insight into what was going on. In some ways, that eased some of the sting I might have felt otherwise. It made me empathize and sympathize with the characters.
  • The baddest of the bad guys were so well written. I hated all the adults and even some of the kids. I don’t know that I truly liked any of them. Well, except maybe Amy.
  • This book is fascinating like an episode of Dateline is fascinating.

All the UGLY things about this book:

  • I felt uncomfortable the entire time I was reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things because I was captivated by all the things that shouldn’t have been happening. The fact that it’s loosely based on some of the things that happened in Bryn Greenwood’s own childhood made it even more disturbing.
  • I hated where this book went even when it felt true to the characters and their story.
  • At the heart of this book is a love story between a child and a man. Wavy meets Kellan when she’s about 8. He’s 24. Kellan starts out as a protector — sort of friend but almost family. As Wavy gets older and becomes a teenager, their relationship takes a turn it shouldn’t. Their relationship becomes more boyfriend and girlfriend. I couldn’t stomach this.
  • While Greenwood is trying to push boundaries and make people take another look at consent and age, it’s still disturbing. I kept thinking there was something wrong in Wavy and Kellan’s heads.
  • The abuse some of the adults (not Kellan) doled out was horrifying.

All the things I was left thinking about after it was all over:

  • I feel like the author was trying to make the reader understand that in some cases a teenager can be mature enough to consent to a relationship with an adult. I’m just going to have to disagree on that for a lot of reasons.
  • This is not a romance and shouldn’t be categorized as one. Some readers have shipped Wavy and Kellan together. That feels wrong to me. It’s like shipping Mary Kay and Vili together. (If you don’t know who they are, you can Google their story. They’re infamous.)
  • I still can’t decide if I liked the end. It fit the book, but I almost wanted an ending that was even more devastating than the story already was.
  • I am glad I read another one of the author’s books before reading this one because I’m not sure if I would push myself to read another one if I read this one first. It gave me feelings like Tabitha’s Suzuma’s Forbidden gave me feelings. I feel relieved, disturbed, and a little gross after finishing it.

I could probably come up with a bunch more to put under each section, but I need to leave some things for people interested in reading this book. I guess what I would tell people who were interested in reading it would be to go in with an open mind, know your boundaries are going to be pushed, but hang in there for the ride. I probably would have rated All the Ugly and Wonderful Things higher based on the writing and storytelling ability, but I just couldn’t get past the ugliness of some of it.