Lone Star Round-Up: Round Two

I’ve spent a long time struggling with how to review books I don’t like. Once upon a time I would gleefully rip them apart… but in my zeal I once admitted that it was cathartic to rip apart a book and was blasted for it.

I felt horrible after and stopped reviewing books that I didn’t like.

The problem with that is that people I care about would then buy those books and hate them as well and dammit, I could’ve prevented that if only I’d spoken up!

Then there’s the added pressure of reviewing ARCs. Do I release a bad review on release day? Do I zip my lip? Do I post it on goodreads and not the site?

Finally I came to a compromise with myself (and my conflicting guilts.) I would post my bad reviews once a quarter, sharing the bad, the worse, and the…

*clears throat*

These are in chronological order by date read and do not include anything beyond the synopsis and review (brief as it might be.)

Note: as with all reviews, these are only my opinions. If you have a different opinion, that’s fine. We’re allowed to like different books.

It’s funny, isn’t it? How when something is either really good or really bad it can be described in the same way.

“This book was just… jaw-dropping. I don’t even know where to begin in my review. I’m just blown away.”

See? It sounds like that’s good… doesn’t it? But it’s not.

Oh god, it’s not…

Diving into Trouble by Shona Husk

Synopsis: A submarine, a one-night-stand, and a forbidden workplace romance…

Kurt Garland is at a crossroads: sign for another two years as a submariner or leave and rejoin civilian life. With only weeks to make up his mind, he’s torn between the financial stability and mateship of life in the Navy, and the freedom and balance outside of the military. With big life decisions on the line, Kurt needs space to think, so a one-night-stand with a sexy stranger is all he can commit to. Until his sexy stranger shows up on his submarine…

Getting accepted into the Submarine Corps was an enormous career goal for Rainy Miller, and she has no intention of screwing it up. A Marine Technician for the last eight years in the surface fleet, Rainy craves the new challenges of a submariner. With her training complete, she’s about to join a boat for the first time, and her career relies on a good impression. When her one night stand shows up in the galley, she has to shut it down, walk away, pretend it never happened. But all submariners know that secrets don’t stay secret for long on a sub.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I keep trying to read this one, and I just can’t seem to get into it. There was nothing problematic up to the point where I gave up, but there wasn’t anything to grab my interest either.

I could have probably forced myself to read the rest, but why bother reading books that don’t interest you? It’s not like there’s a shortage of things to read out there…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

One True Pairing (Fandom Hearts #2) by Cathy Yardley

Synopsis: They couldn’t be more opposite, the Hollywood actor and the hometown girl, but all they need is a little convention magic to become the perfect ship in Cathy Yardley’s One True Pairing.

Jake Reese needs a decoy girlfriend. Fast. The lead actor of the popular TV show, Mystics, is tired of losing his shirt to overeager fans. Literally. Which is why a chance meeting with gothabilly bookworm-slash-barista Hailey Frost seems almost too perfect to be true. Hailey is not impressed with his TV fame and is desperate to save her family’s bookstore. It’s a match made in Hollywood, but as the two pretend to date, fan fiction becomes reality. Can this OTP become canon?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: You know when you love a song and you memorize it? Not just the lyrics, but every nuance of the song. You know that song, down to its basic core elements. It is your song. If you hear even a few notes you can tell exactly where it is. You just know. You feel it. Because it is your mother fucking song…

Then you hear it live and its tempo is off.

That was this book.

The feminism felt hollow when there were repeated mentions of “I’m not slut shaming, but…” and “there’s nothing wrong with being a sex worker, but…

ProTip: If you keep having to point out what you’re not doing, chances are you’re doing it…

So while the narrative was fast paced and enjoyable, it just didn’t resonate with me. The tempo was all wrong.

(note: I wrote this review mid-July and I’m still disappointed that this book wasn’t better than it was.)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Badlands (Laura Elliston/Sawbones #3) by Melissa Lenhardt

Synopsis: Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in the conclusion to Melissa Lenhardt’s fast-paced historical series.

“A fast-paced page-turner, kill or be killed historical romance with bandits, Pinkerton agents, bounty hunters, mystery and more. Melissa Lenhardt writes with passion and does not hold anything back. Her research on the historical facts and people she portrays enhances the plot without overwhelming.” RT Book Reviews (4.5 stars, Top Pick!) on Blood Oath

Laura’s worst fears have been realized: Kindle has been taken into custody and she is once again on the run. The noose awaits her in New York, but Laura is realizing that there are some things worse than death. Finally running out of places to hide, it may be time for Dr. Catherine Bennett to face her past.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I grabbed this in one of my “request all the books” binges and as a result, I got to “Outlander meets wild west” without reading any further. If I had, I would have realized that this was book three in a series. That it was bound to be offensive. In other words, I would not have bothered.

But I did, so I also got to learn it was historically inaccurate… something the author could have learned with minimal research. In the acknowledgments (because I did read all of it) the author mentions wanting to peel back the mythology to show the brutality beneath, but this goes beyond that. It reinforces horrific stereotypes. It needlessly kills off characters. It’s racist, sexist, homophobic, and has every last character just being absolute monsters.

The worst of all was Kindle, probably because I read two hundred pages of how great he was before he shows up and is just a giant fucking piece of shit with an eye patch. Who occasionally speaks. Usually to try and coerce his wife into having sex at inopportune times.

I have nothing against “gritty” or “real” books. I just want them to actually be real. Like, really real, not whitewashed patriarchal bullshit. And if you’re going to tackle multiple tough topics, do it with fucking care. Not for titillation or shock value. You can manage to write a great book that’s shocking and makes you feel and think without being offensive as fuck to as many people as possible.

Basically, in closing… you might enjoy this book. If you’re white and don’t mind wearing your privilege like a comforting blanket, blocking out the casual hatred thrown about in the narrative.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Body Parts
by Jessica Kapp

Synopsis: People would kill for her body.

Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha’s been sculpted into a world-class athlete. Her trainers have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family, even though personal health has taken a backseat outside the training facility. While Tabitha swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, hoping to find a permanent home, the rest of the community takes pills produced by pharmaceutical giant PharmPerfect to erase their wrinkles, grow hair, and develop superhuman strength.

When Tabitha’s finally paired, instead of being taken to meet her new parents, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason for her perfect health: PharmPerfect is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs. And her friends from the center, the only family she’s ever known, are next in line to be harvested.

Determined to save them, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to infiltrate the hospital and uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I’m honestly trying to think of a nice way to phrase my complaints about the book, but I’m not sure that I can. Instead, I’ll just mention the biggest issue I had. They discuss the removal of a uterus as if it was the most horrific thing that could’ve been done to a person. This company is harvesting orders from teenagers, but the uterus… the ability to create life… that’s the worst thing…

A uterus does not a woman make. The ability to procreate does not increase your worth as a person. The implication that harvesting a uterus is worse than taking the cornea and kidney from a young girl is disgusting.

I said I wouldn’t… but I did… because I’m still upset over the uterus thing…

Add in:
A narrative felt disjointed
Characters that were two-dimensional cutouts of YA tropes
Including Magical Special Girl (you know how I feel about that)
A love triangle, but only half way through the book… because obviously, we don’t mention that she may have feelings for the boy she obviously didn’t have more than friend feelings who was introduced in the first chapter
And an ending that is 100% Deus Ex Machina

And you’ve got the perfect storm of shitty story telling.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

How to Marry a Marquess (Wedded by Scandal #3) by Stacy Reid

Synopsis: Lady Evie Chesterfield is a darling of the ton who refuses to become engaged. She’s been desperately in love with her brother’s friend, Richard Maitland, Marquess of Westfall, since forever. But the dark, dangerous marquess only sees her as a friend and refuses to marry any woman. When circumstances change and Evie has no choice but to take a husband, she decides to convince London’s most notorious gentleman to marry her by seducing the scoundrel.

Richard Maitland decided long ago that he wanted nothing to do with love. So when the gorgeous, off-limits Evie asks him for lessons in seduction, Richard knows he’s playing with fire. Despite Richard’s determination to protect her from his dastardly reputation, he is tested at every turn by his need for the infuriating, but enticing, Lady Evie. Before too long he is faced with making an impossible choice…

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: So Richard (the dick) was hurt by the woman he loved at age 22 and so he nurses a deep hatred of women. And society, but that’s pretty typical in historicals… so it’s sort of moot. What’s worrisome is his hatred of women. Despite his stating that Evie is different. She barely counts as a woman despite the fact that he wanted to fuck her at fifteen. And then it seems as if he comes to actually despise her as she grows older.

So whatever complaints I might have for Evie (as much as she seeks to be outside the marriage mart holding out hope for someone who has REPEATEDLY told her no, she covets her role as a darling of society…) I cannot spend much time on her because HOLY FUCK HOW DO YOU MAKE A ROMANTIC LEAD THAT HATES WOMEN?

Distrustful, yeah. Obviously hurt, sure… But Richard (the dick) takes it a step further all while also controlling Evie and her marital prospects without her knowledge.

He’s trying to control her. She’s trying to manipulate him. I’m so over it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days (The Tale of Bryant Adams #1) by Megan O’Russell

Synopsis: Ever wanted to grow a five-story tall flower in central park? How about fight a deadly battle under the subway tunnels of Manhattan?

Don’t worry. I never wanted to either. But if you’re ever being chased by ladies made of mist and you have to save the girl with the sparkly eyes you’ve never had the guts to say actual words to, there’s an app for that.

I found a magic cell phone, opened an app I shouldn’t have, burned down the set shop for my high school’s theatre, and it was all downhill from there. A drag queen seer who lives under a bridge is my only hope for keeping my mom alive, and I think the cops might be after me for destroying my dad’s penthouse.

But it gets better! Now I’m stuck being the sidekick to the guy who got me into this mess in the first place. It’ll be a miracle if I survive until Monday.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: dnf the second I learned that one of the characters misgendered another because they were able to see the truth of things and were not easily deceived.

I don’t put up with transphobic bullshit in my reading materials.

(also, pretty sure the main character was one year at college without a girlfriend away from becoming an incel)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles by Taisia Kitaiskaia

Synopsis: With a strange, otherworldly style, poetic clarity, and striking honesty, Ask Baba Yaga contains beautifully skewed wisdom to be consulted in times of need.

Dear Baba Yaga,
I think I must crave male attention too much. I fear that, without it, I would feel invisible.

When you seek others this way, you are invisible nonetheless. Yr shawl is covered in mirrors in which others admire themselves; this is why they greet you so passionately. It is good to be seen, but it is better to see. Find a being to look hard into, & you will see yrself and what is more than you.

In age-old Slavic fairy tales, the witch Baba Yaga is sought out by those with a burning need for guidance. In contemporary life, Baba Yaga—a dangerous, slippery oracle—answered earnest questions on The Hairpin for years. These pages collect her most poignant, surreal, and humorous exchanges along with all-new questions and answers for those seeking her mystical advice.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: There were a few problems I had with the book.

A) the formatting. It was hard to read the responses because words were abbreviated oddly and punctuation was thrown in at random. I don’t know if this was intended because Baba Yaga is other worldly or just because it was a review copy, but it was not appreciated by this reviewer

B) The advice didn’t feel like advice Baba Yaga would give, namely because

C) The advice was steeped in internalized misogyny. And Baba ain’t got time for that. She doesn’t feel it herself, and if someone comes to her soaked with it, she is more likely to eat them than help them…

So while it was an interesting concept, it fell flat in its execution.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Synopsis: In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: It was hard for me to get into the book and once they started throwing the racism around (savage Indians, really? They’re native Peruvians and you’re stealing their shit) I was just done. I don’t have time in my life for books full of racist slurs, stereotypes, and slander or featuring racist characters. Even in my historical fiction.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Her Book Boyfriend (The Awkward Duckling #1) by K.R. Grace

Synopsis: She believes the secret to love is in the tropes of her favorite romance novels. He’s the best friend prepared to prove her wrong.
Then comes the bet.
If she can’t land a boyfriend for prom by recreating the ten popular tropes in her favorite romance author’s books, she has to go to the prom with her.
The glitch?
They’ve been close their entire lives. He’s the rock god and school legend, while she’s the brainy sidekick who does all his dirty breakups. Thus, finding a guy who doesn’t think they’re already an item is going to be a lot harder than she thinks.
Will she land the book boyfriend of her dreams? Or will she be forced to go to prom with her best friend?
The truth is in the pages.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I love the friends to lovers trope. I love the idea of this book. But from page one, we learn that both the romantic leads in this book hate women. They don’t say it overtly at any point, but it’s clear from the way they discuss his conquests, her mission to land the perfect man, herself…

It’s just… disgusting… and trying to enjoy the story through the slut-shaming and moral superiority over anyone who dares to not be a virgin is just…

It feels like this

(I use this gif a lot in reviews…)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Break the Stage by Erik V. Wolter

Synopsis: Break the Stage tells the story of Tia Lewis, a troubled teen at an urban Florida high school, who struggles to win her father’s approval and the respect of her step team, only to discover she must confront her own faults before she can lead the team to the Nationals. Tia’s journey of self-discovery includes an ensemble cast of multi-racial high school students, each with their own personal issues, who clash with Tia’s style and her inability to deal with the death of her mother and her father’s unrealistic expectations.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Older white guy wrote a book about a black teenage girl and I did not know I swear or I would not have requested. Long story short: the flow of the narrative is just awful and the way the characters are described is even worse.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Demolished (Blue Bay Crew #1) by Cathryn Fox

Synopsis: From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cathryn Fox comes the first in the hot new Blue Bay Crew series that follows the sexy, blue collar Owens men who take over their family’s construction business in the small town of Blue Bay, CT.

Summer Wheeler is on the run. Hiding from the men who killed her father, Summer is on her way to her childhood cottage in Blue Bay when she runs into Sean Owens, the forbidden bad boy from her past. After giving him a fake name, she gives in to one steamy night with him, never expecting to see him again.

Sean isn’t sure why Summer is pretending to be someone she’s not, but he’ll play her game if that means he can indulge in one of his oldest fantasies – a night with Summer. He’s shocked to see her when he returns to Blue Bay, and even more surprised when Summer offers him a job renovating her old family cottage. Hot workdays turn into hotter nights, but when Summer’s secret catches up with her, she’ll have to decide if she can trust Sean with her heart—and her life.

Demolished nails the perfect combination of emotion, scorching intensity, and a touch of suspense that will draw readers to this fantastic new series!

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Listen, unqueers. This is fucking important.

A) having to jump up and shout “OH NO, I’M NOT A LESBIAN” is offensive.
B) As fuck.
C) And I won’t tolerate that kind of bigotry in books anymore.
D) sexual encounters do not have to include vaginal intercourse
E) especially if the D in question is the size of a toddler’s leg
F) because that shit ain’t gonna fit in most Vs without proper preparation which is a chapter in and of itself
G) adolescent desires that you were previously unable to act on do not count
H) Casual sex and random hookups only cause instafeels in those prone to them or those who already had feels that they did not want to acknowledge
I) am outta fucks with this title.

The characters don’t stay true to their own voices, the narrative makes me roll my eyes, and I’m too tired to handle the trite bullshit that is nearly every NA featuring a bad boy who’s not really bad and has feels for the good girl who always wants the bad boy’s monster cock but they both don’t want to admit it because feels are bad and scary and fire and just… no

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Her Fake Engagement by Gigi Garrett

Synopsis: No artists, no smokers, no men with beards… Manhattan real estate broker Lottie Langerman feels confident that if she follows her long list of dating rules, she’ll meet The One and her life will unfold exactly as planned. Everything changes when her best friend decides to throw a fake bachelorette party—just to see what all the fuss is about—and Lottie reluctantly agrees to play the role of bride-to-be for a night.

Faking an engagement turns out to be more fun—and trouble—than Lottie could have imagined. Not only does her dream man think she’s taken, but Lottie keeps running into bearded Brooklyn jewelry designer Tyler, who breaks every single one of her rules…yet manages to get under her skin like no one else. Soon, Lottie finds herself at a crossroads where she must decide: Play it safe—or ditch the rules and follow her heart?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: While the book was actually pretty cute on the whole, I had a few complaints. Namely that the book was not romance, it was chick lit. While I enjoy chick lit, if I go into a book expecting romance I want it to be romance.

On top of that, there were moments of internalized misogyny (“we’re prettier and smarter” about women you don’t know is never cool) contrasting their feminist catch phrases. (Example: stating that bachelorette parties are part of the patriarchy. Using the phrase “patriarchy” does not a feminist make.)

Finally, they take a group picture and one of the women tells Lottie she should use that as her tinder pick because she looks so good that Mia has “like, a total girl crush on her right now.”

The phrase “girl crush” is, sadly totally homophobic and totally offensive. It’s the female equivalent of the phrase “no homo.”

Don’t believe me? Just check out this helpful and informative sketch from Just Between Us.

(they’ve since published another video where Allison refers to her girl crush and I died a little inside…)

As a queer feminist who deals with a lot of homophobia and misogyny in my life, I just don’t have time for it in my fiction

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Ward & Weft by Parker Foye

Synopsis: Wales, 1912

For generations, the magic wardens and the fierce werewolves combined forces to keep their enemies at bay. But when his family breaks longstanding ties to the pack that’s been a part of his life since birth, warden Griffith Jones sets out on a journey to learn all he can of the magic that will reunite them. And reunite Griffith with the first—and only—man he’s ever loved.

Llywelyn ap Hywel, son of the alpha, can’t let painful—or passionate—memories of Griffith distract him. His dwindling pack is in trouble, reeling from loss and locked in a grim battle with a dangerous rival—a pack with a warden who hasn’t abandoned them. A warden whose dark magic could destroy them all.

Up against enemies determined to steal their land and end life as they know it, Griffith and Llywelyn must fight as one to protect all they hold dear—their territory, their people and the fiery love they can no longer deny.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I spent large chunks of the book feeling lost. The lore was never explained and since this wasn’t listed as part of a series (but it turns out it is) it took awhile to piece things together. Added to that the fact that you never feel as if these two characters have a real connection beyond a childhood crush that is- once again- never fully explained. Topping it all off is this strange sensation I had that I was only skimming the book. That I was never really getting into the meat of the story and was only being offered the barest of bare bones version. I struggled to finish and if the book was longer I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Her Hometown Girl (Belladonna Ink #3) by Lorelie Brown


Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Originally I wasn’t going to include this because I’ve been friendly with the author on social media in the past and it felt awkward, but the scene stuck with me and I feel everyone deserves a warning.

There is a rape scene in chapter three and I’m shaking and feel sick so I can’t continue reading. TW should’ve been included

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Real Thing (Sugar Lake #1) by Melissa Foster

Synopsis: This sassy, spirited baker is fine with heat—but is her fake fiancé too hot to handle?

Bakery owner Willow Dalton’s friendship with Zane Walker has always been a bit complicated. Now a scrumptiously hot A-list actor, Zane’s always had a reputation as player. He’s arrogant, and he’s definitely not boyfriend material. Sure, he did Willow a favor by agreeing to take her virginity before college, but is that reason enough to go along with a fake engagement a decade later—even if it comes with a real diamond ring?

Zane should have known better. Nothing involving Willow has ever been easy. Still, he knows her better than anyone, and becoming America’s hottest new leading man means cleaning up his reputation. An “engagement” to curvy, sass-mouthed Willow is the perfect PR move . . . provided no one gets hurt.

Now Zane and Willow’s little white lie has turned into an irresistible recipe for sweet temptation. And soon no one will be able to tell the difference between their fake engagement or the real thing—including them.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Pretty standard “best friend’s sister” story where the female lead wanted to lose her virginity before college and enlisted the male lead to “do the deed.” He always had feelings. She developed feelings after the deed was done. Pretty run of the mill romance trope, and it could’ve been a good time if not for all the female lead’s slut shaming. Both of the male lead for his promiscuous past and the women the male lead slept with. Also, when pressed, the male lead said that all the women he’d been with before “weren’t like” the female lead and left me generally feeling like he didn’t respect the partners who had shared their bodies with him.

When a romance is not sex-positive and includes internalized misogyny, I am unable to enjoy it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Boomerang Boyfriend (Boyfriend Chronicles #3) by Chris Cannon

Synopsis: Working with her best friend’s brother at Betty’s Burgers, free-spirited Delia starts to see Jack in a new light. Not only has Jack-the-Jerk turned into a hottie, he’s even acting like a nice guy, who rescues dogs and knows how she likes her coffee. But if Jack is into her, then why is he keeping her a secret? Of course, if her best friend doesn’t approve, Delia could lose the only family she’s ever known.

Seeing Delia in her retro waitress uniform throws Jack’s world out of whack. She’s always been just another pain in the butt little sister…not a datable female. But she’s rockin’ the Pie Princess tiara, and even her hot-pink striped hair is sexy. What’s that about? He needs to get his head on straight, because artsy, funky Delia and her nonconformist ways don’t fit in his safe and ordered world.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains kisses that make the world fall away and snarky humor that may cause you to LOL in public places.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: So I really love Chris Cannon’s Through The Flame series, and was pumped for a chance to read her take on contemporary romance. But uh… well the thing is… okay so…

Listen, can I be totally honest with you? It’s not that the book was bad for the most part, per say. Aside from the repetitiveness of “I can’t date her because she’s my sister’s best friend” or “I can’t date him because he’s my best friend’s brother” it would have been alright if not for the big gay secret being used as a plot point. I get that *something* was needed to add a dramatic punch to the story and that without dragons that can be rough… but the real honest fear of coming out while in high school is a major deal for many teenagers. People kill themselves over this.

And your boyfriend insisting you tell him your friend’s big gay secret (or any secret) and claiming that if you wanted to be together you would tell him? That’s some abusive bullshit right there.

This whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Breaking the Rules of Revenge by Samantha Bohrman

Synopsis: Mallory Jones is tired of being the girl who stays home and practices French horn while her identical twin, Blake, is crowned homecoming queen. So when she has the opportunity to pretend to be Blake, she takes it. At Camp Pine Ridge, she will spread her wings and emerge a butterfly. Or at least someone who finally gets kissed by a cute guy. That is, until bad boy Ben Iron Cloud shows up, ready to get revenge on Blake—aka Mallory.

If it weren’t for that infuriating girl, Ben wouldn’t even be at camp. Luckily, he now has six weeks to soak up some rays and get even with his nemesis. But the more time he spends with Blake, the more he realizes she’s nothing like the girl he thought she was—she’s kind and innocent and suddenly way too tempting. And soon enough, revenge is the last thing on his mind. Unfortunately, the girl he’s falling for is keeping a major secret…

Disclaimer: This book contains a super-hot bad boy out for revenge, all sorts of camp hijinks, and a girl who realized she’s been a butterfly all along.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Blake is an entitled monster. Like, seriously, the worst. She gets rejected by a boy so she spends a year torturing him and making his life hell. She goes so far as to hire a stripper to show up at school with her dad’s credit card and he gets arrested.

So obviously she gets sent to a normal summer camp for six weeks. Instead of going, she convinces her shy twin sister to take her place. We have a sixpence none the richer she’s all that moment where Mallory takes off her glasses, get’s a haircut, and is a total man killer.

Then Ben engages in some childish pranks and they somehow fall in love anyway… Fine, whatever. It would’ve been a cliche book I never thought of again had it not been for Blake getting a total pass for being a bully bitch and then them acting as if Ben was the one who needed to apologize when he found out Mallory had been lying to him.

The second they say “if you apologize, maybe she’ll take you back” all the little things that I brushed off came back. The awful caricatures they tried to pass off as characters. The shitty parenting and shittier sister. The fact that these silly pranks are actually assault and what the fuck you can’t dye someone’s teeth green. It’s 2017. I cannot believe I actually have to say that you do not have the right to modify another person’s body without their consent.

So basically, if Blake had not gotten a total pass I would not have cared about the book. But she did, so now it’s on my “this irked me, for realz” list.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Quarterback by Mackenzie Blair

Synopsis: Matt Lancaster is the star quarterback at Bodine College, a small Southern Division II school with an ultra-conservative Dean of Athletics. Matt is also very much in the closet, and he thinks he’s kept his secret well hidden. Until his best friends take him to a happy endings massage parlor and request a male masseuse for him.

In walks Trevor Kim, a gorgeous, pierced, tattooed fellow Bodine student who does massages—without happy endings—to pay for school after his family kicked him out for being gay. Trevor takes one look at Matt and breaks all his own rules about mixing business with pleasure.

Matt needs to keep his scholarship, win the National Championship, and survive his asshole father. Instead, he falls in love. Trevor needs to accept that the football god is meant to end up with him rather than a perky cheerleader. It’s time for a happy ever after for both of them.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: “I’m not a prostitute. I only let guys feel me up over my boxer briefs while I watch them jerk off. Totally not a whore.”

A) Sex-worker
B) There’s nothing wrong with the oldest profession. It didn’t survive this long by being wrong.
C) stop policing vices
D) Yes.
E) You
F) Are

People have some fucked up idea of what constitutes sex and/or sex work so let me just clear things up. Watching someone jerk off in the same room is sex. Getting paid to do so is sex work. There is nothing wrong with either act. Implying otherwise is simply not sex-positive and for my own mental health, I no longer read romances that are not sex positive.

I spent too long being ashamed by my sex drive to go back now.

DNF at 15%

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake

Synopsis: Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I had to DNF. It’s a thing that happened.

See, the problem with a lot of Marvel fanfiction is that they tend to write Thor as a total muppet. You know, a lot of big over the top action and awkward dialogue and just… awful. (The only time it’s acceptable is when he’s trolling the rest of the Avengers. That’s it. But that’s not the point.)

All the characters in Thunderstruck felt more than a little bit like Muppet Thor. I had no real sense of who they were. Well, there was the comic book loving geek who had a heart problem that may or may not have been operated one and reminded mini Muppet Thor of the human he once loved, but I learned this by being told this, not being shown it. Ergo, no idea who they really were.

And then at 28% I realized I didn’t actually care. The prose was poorly constructed, and I’m just too old to waste time with this nonsense.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Fraternize (Players Game #1) by Rachel Van Dyken

Synopsis: Emerson just made her dream come true as a professional cheerleader for her favorite pro football team. But even though the plus-size athlete is breaking down boundaries, she still has to contend with the massive rulebook. Carbs? Nope. Chocolate? Definitely not. Still, Emerson loves her curves, and she’ll rock the hell out of this job even if it kills her. Except for one mandate that is easier read than done…

No fraternizing with the players.

Problem one is Miller Quinton: Emerson’s first love, first sex, and the guy who still ignites her daydreams and R-rated fantasies. Thrown back together, Miller and Emerson feel the undeniable pull of passion again, even if the conflict that tore them apart seems insurmountable. Then there’s way-too-sexy Grant Sanchez. He has a serious reputation with the ladies, and when it comes to winning someone he wants, he doesn’t let anyone stand in his way.

Now Emerson is breaking every rule in the manual. But what she doesn’t know is that she’s part of a wicked little game—one that could steal both her dream and her heart.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: The last book I read had shit prose, so when I started Fraternize I nearly cried because the prose is on point. And then the toxic masculinity poisoned the well. There was “not like other girls,” there were men making bets on who could bag a cheerleader, there was pursuing a woman after she said she wasn’t interested, there was taking a girl’s virginity because you were leaving and you wanted a part of her.

FFS, the whole book was a redemption ARC for the two alpha assholes… and it was well written enough that I almost cared if the douches managed to get that redemption they sought.

But then there was this big thing about how Em hadn’t had sex in years even though she’d literally just had oral sex and I face palmed hard because it’s 2017. How are we honestly still having moments of “but it’s not sex” in regards to oral sex?

I don’t know… all I can tell you is that I’m tired of the patriarchy ruining everything.

(over three weeks later and I’m still upset about the wasted potential of this book)

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Synopsis: Do you believe in second chances?

Romance Writers of America® brings together seventeen of today’s hottest authors in an anthology of never-before-published tales that reveal true love always deserves a happy ending.

Follow New York Times best-selling authors J. Kenner and Christina Lauren back to reader-favorite worlds.

New York Times bestseller Alyssa Day sprinkles djinn magic in her humorous paranormal romance, while Rachel Hauck brings the enchantment of the holidays in her New Year’s Eve contemporary love story.

And Liliana Hart delivers thrills and adventure in her hero and heroine’s search for the impossible.

With characters who find love through tough situations, in elegant 1800s ballrooms, with an old friend who shows up when least expected, at a tender age when cliques and homework get in the way of relationships, or after a random encounter in an unlikely setting, Second Chances delivers romance to strike every reader’s fancy.

Plus tales from:
Marilyn Brant
Kerri Carpenter
CiCi Coughlin
Cassandra Dean
Tina Ferraro
Renee Luke
Ariella Moon
Brandi Willis Schreiber
Lizzie Shane
Sharon Sobel
Damon Suede
Tara Wyatt

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Normally I don’t get collections. I’m picky about short stories as they’re my favorite fiction to read and write. Also, inevitably, half of the collection of stories sucks and you’re left slogging through oodles of pages to find that one story you liked and cannot remember the name of.

It was in one of these collections, I just know it…

But, and you’re going to laugh, I saw this review and went “AUTHOR NAME REDACTED! I LOVE AUTHOR NAME REDACTED” and requested the book. Except that I was not paying enough attention and somehow managed to take the first name of an author I love and the last name of an author I love and request a book based on an author I’d never heard of.

…let’s never admit to that again, k?

Anyway, the collection pretty much met my expectation. Some cute stories that had great development… and then suddenly ended without warning. Basically 90% story and 10% hasty ending and wrap up. Which is a pet peeve of mine, personally, but if you just want a bundle of cute stories with a happy quick abbreviated ending… then this is the book for you.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Traitor’s Club: Hugh by Laura Landon

Synopsis: Hugh Wythers was a man of great promise, but none would know it. Recently returned from the Crimea, he found his only delight in the midnight playgrounds of London. And why not? War had taught him to live every day to the fullest. And then his father cut off his funds. Reeling from the predicament in which he found himself, he fell head over arse—literally—into the arms of the perfect wife. The homely, unmarriageable Lady Annalise Lyman.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: In every way that The Broken Duke was exceptional and unique, Hugh was… not. Honestly, the text felt more like a first draft or an outline. Something that could’ve been turned into a decent enough novel with the write editing team. Instead, points were repeated (sometimes in the same paragraph), characters names changed, and the entire book just felt very superficial.

Not the best effort I’ve read recently…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Rising Star (Shooting Stars #1) by Terri Osburn

Synopsis: Can love survive the bright lights of fame?

A popular DJ at the hottest station in Nashville, Charley Layton is doing what she’s always wanted to do: living in the heart of country music. Charley puts her career first and relationships second, but when a charismatic stranger in a black cowboy hat invites her back to his place, she decides to give herself one night of no-strings fun.

But Dylan Monroe isn’t a no-strings kind of guy. Charley is beautiful, brainy, and brassy as hell—the kind of girl he’s always wanted. When his record label books him an interview on Charley’s show, he’s determined to find out why he woke up alone, and when he can see her again.

With Dylan now the most eligible bachelor in country music, Charley doubts their fling stands a chance, but she’s willing to try. Dylan dreams of fame, but he also craves a life offstage with Charley. Can he convince her that both of their dreams are worth chasing, and that love is still possible, even in the spotlight?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: every so often there’s a book that has just enough internalized misogyny to not be enjoyable, but not enough to make me throw it across the room. This is one of those books. I’d start settling into it, and like a missed note the female characters would attack each other over not having one night stands. I’d shake it off and continue on and then a skipped stitch of them attacking the same character for having a one night stand. I’d keep reading and like being pet backwards the one night stand would show up and admit that he lied to her about being a musician (she works as a DJ) but it’s okay because she snuck out.

Bitch, she can leave whenever the fuck she wants. And if you were planning on starting a long-term romance with her instead of the one night stand she clearly wanted, why not admit that HEY, we work in the same industry and, fair warning, you know all industries judge women for sleeping with any men so have fun at work on Monday…

I just get so tired of having to stop reading to go “but why?” But why is that a big deal? But why is that your business? But why are you questioning your friend’s sex life? But why are you not calling your friends out on their shit behavior? BUT FUCKING WHY?

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Karina’s Silver Shoes by Denise Marques Leitao

Synopsis: She’s got the fate of a kingdom in her hands—or rather, in her shoes.
14-year old Karina is not sure what she wants, but she knows what she’s found: fascinating silver shoes. Fascinating, dangerous, and potentially evil. On the upside, they do bring cool visitors.

When two princesses ask her to go to Whyland, a kingdom in a parallel dimension, to destroy the shoes, of course Karina accepts. Who would refuse a free trip to an alternate world?

Advised by a wise master and threatened by a beautiful stepmother, Karina goes on a journey with a princess to defeat a powerful witch. But Whyland is nothing like she expected. Karina finds herself stuck in a kingdom she doesn’t understand, with no clue on who to trust. Before saving anyone, she’d better save herself—if she figures out how.

From Brazilian / Canadian writer Denise Marques Leitao comes Karina’s Silver Shoes, a teen parody of fantasy and fairy-tale tropes with many female characters, friendships between girls and women, and some subtle romance.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: No. Just… no.

This book was 100% unreadable. The writing style lacked all style it felt more like something a tween would turn in as a creative writing assignment and would get, at max, a C- on.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

me, formating this review: hooked on a witch? I don’t remember– *sees cover* oh. That one.

Hooked On A Witch (Keepers Of The Veil #4) by Zoe Forward

Synopsis: Pleiades witch Shannon Randolph has been framed for a theft she didn’t do. She has one week to return a stolen relic to the god it belongs or she’ll be executed. What’s worse? Evil magic-wielding wackos are coming out of the woodwork after her to get it. But the biggest danger is Merck. This sexy, dangerous witch-hunter who understands all forms of magic might be her only hope. Enlisting his help may require she be a very naughty witch.

The moment Shannon strolls back into Jason Merck’s life he’s in trouble. There’s something about the witch he can’t resist, but he must. The witch hunter can’t fall for the witch.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I should have put the book down when it referred to a character simply as “The Asian” several times in the first chapter. A) Don’t. B) Asia is huge… calling a character “The Asian” means they can be one of multiple ethnicities and actually gives me nothing about the character. Oh, and “The Asian” would only stand out in the south if you believe in Hollywood’s narrative in which everyone from Asia might as well not exist.

But I didn’t set it down, and so I was subjected to less of a witch story and more of a mythology story. And it could have been good. The prose was relatively well constructed. It’s just that it didn’t flow well, the pacing was off, and the misogyny was so strung I choked on it.

Daddy tells her no so she just shuts down? I mean, I know I do but that’s because my father is a recovering alcoholic and I still have moments where I’m physically afraid of him. Are you saying her father is abusive? Because while the subtext clearly states that, the character doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with it. Or with the male romantic lead being bossy without any explanation. Why explain? Clearly, she should just listen to him because he “feels safe.”

It’s offensive and personally triggering so I could not finish it.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1) by Catherine Bybee

Synopsis: From Weekday Brides to First Wives, a dazzling series about four women and their alliance of newfound friendship, unexpected love, and second chances.

Cynical divorce attorney Lori Cumberland lives by one motto: Love is grand, but divorce is a hundred grand. With one failed marriage under her own personal belt, Lori had fallen hard and early—and it isn’t something she plans on repeating. She’s content focusing on the temporary marriages of her rich and famous clients. When she joins some of her recent divorcées on a celebratory cruise, her only vow is fun, sun, and new friends. But Lori finds herself tempted by a jury of one.

For Reed Barlow, falling into the world of private investigation was easy. He knows the law and knows how to avoid breaking it—all while doing his job. His rule to live by? No emotion, no involvement…until Lori. His charming smile and cocky attitude distracts Lori and lowers her guard, which is exactly what Reed desires.

But what appears as a one-time-only flirtation may be a plot orchestrated by Reed. As he’s taking his investigation to a dangerous level, it’s Lori who could end up in jeopardy. Reed has only one shot for Lori to grant him a second chance. But if he comes clean with her, he blows his cover. And that just might cost him the opportunity for an alliance of family…and of love.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. It basically sounded like a modern take on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. As such, I gave this book more time than I should have. Even when I pondered that the misogyny was straight out of the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes era. Maybe it was just me. Maybe I was reading into it…

But then a male character makes a predatory statement about “wearing a woman down” to the male romantic lead. He even thinks that this was a predatory statement and that he feels uncomfortable. However, the next time he sees the female romantic lead and she asks about the man in question, he says nothing.

He says nothing.

He knows that someone is potentially dangerous, and does nothing to prevent that danger. That is disgusting, misogynistic, and perpetuating rape culture. His silence here equates to complicity. And I cannot tolerate that in a romance novel.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Ride It Out (Desert Dogs #4) by Cara McKenna

Synopsis: There’s a new deputy in town, and she’s a law unto herself.

Jeremiah Church is still aching for justice to be served after his father’s murder. Though the killer has been caught, the authorities are no closer to knowing why the Churches were targeted—and if the family’s still at risk. When Miah receives an anonymous letter hinting at a darker conspiracy, he decides it’s high time he seeks justice on his own terms, with the help of his fellow Desert Dogs.

Patrol Deputy Nicki Ritchey is new to Fortuity, and hoping to make a clean start for her and her son. Involved in the Church’s case, she’s kindled a friendship with Miah that’s evolving into something more. But Miah is crossing lines with his personal vendetta, and Nicki’s attraction is making it tough to tell right from wrong…

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I got about 10% in before I had to pick the book up with tongs, place it in a plastic bag, seal the bag, place the bag in a box, seal the box, but the box in a chest, seal the chest, and the coat the entire thing in concrete and chains before finally tossing it in the ocean where it can curse future generations.

If it only had racism or classism or sexism or shit talking Chicago… if it only had a combination of two or three of them… but it didn’t. It contained all of that and more. Topping it all off was a level of toxic masculinity so high it was a wonder the pages didn’t melt.

How do you justify writing this shit in 2017?

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Holy Crap! The World is Ending!: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth (The Anunnaki Chronicles #1) by Anna-Marie Abell

Synopsis: End times are here! Now you can eat whatever you want and not care if you gain weight.

The president has announced that Earth is going to collide with a rogue moon, and in the process, our entire planet is going to be smashed to bits. As one would expect, upon hearing this news, humans went ballistic. It was as if every sports team in the world lost their championship game at the same time. No car was left unrolled—but oddly enough, Taco Bell remained open and made unfathomable profits in the last days. Apparently, Doritos Locos® Tacos were a popular last meal.

Autumn (who for the purpose of this retelling asked to be portrayed as drool-inducing hot with kick-ass ninja skills) has just been handed the task of saving all of humanity. With the help of her unbelievably sexy alien boyfriend and her kleptomaniac friend with fire-retardant hair, Autumn races to save her fellow humans by using the Ark of the Covenant. Along the way, she discovers how sheltered people are from the truth of extraterrestrials and their power to either protect us or destroy us.

Stupid government.

Grab a bottle of wine, a shipload of snacks, and prepare to take a ride on this humorous chick lit romantic sci-fi paranormal adventure. If you’re into Ancient Aliens, conspiracy theories, UFOs, crave a little sexy time in your reading, are curious if we were genetically engineered (like the Sumerian cuneiform texts claim), and are dying to find out the meaning of life, then this book is for you.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Right at the very beginning, we get eating disorders and fat shaming. I should’ve known. I should revisit my hard limits in books. But I haven’t yet, so I kept reading. Next, I stumbled across “her smooth Asian features,” and just… no. Asia is huge, you need to be more specific. And I really need to revisit my hard limits, because I still kept reading.

And that’s when, after some major Twilight “I should stay away from you” bullshit, we got to the whole bit on where humans came from, slavery, “covert” racism, and some disgusting misogyny happened.(also in line with Twilight) and by the time human women were being torn apart by birthing hybrid babies of pure evil because male aliens were addicted to getting off and the women of their species weren’t able to make that happen…

I am… I am going over there. I am going over there to consider never reading again. Because there is nothing in the world that will soothe my rage if I stop and think about that too long.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

To Conquer a Scot (Time-Traveler’s Highland Love #1) by Tamara Gill

In my defense: they put the pretty boy suitor from Brave on the cover… how was I supposed to not get this book?

Synopsis: Time-traveling isn’t what Abigail Cross had in mind for her Scottish vacation, nor was a potential marriage to the Laird Aedan Macleod. The fact that the obnoxious, yet hot, and definitely sexy Highlander sees the world very differently than she does, is beside the point.

Aedan Macleod knows what he wants in a wife, and Abigail certainly doesn’t meet his Highland standard, even though he must rein in his desire because beautiful, opinionated Abigail would never suit as a laird’s wife.

Tempers flare yet passion is undeniable, as Abby navigates her way in seventeenth-century Scotland—without toilet paper. When two rival clans threaten the maddening twenty-first-century minx who’s captured Laird Aedan’s heart, the mighty Highlander is willing to sacrifice everything to keep Abigail safe.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Oh, casual mentions of rape to further along the plot of another character, how I loathe you. Especially in a book where the writing style is the equivalent of the acting in the trash compactor scene of A New Hope. All yelling, totally over the top, and leaves you wondering if it’s to hide a lack of ability.

So when mid chapter you learn that the heroes sister was returned from the rival clan nearly blind and in disgrace after being used as a “plaything” by said clan… and then it just skips back to him and his other sister… him demanding that they avenge this affront to their honor and her waving it all away wanting him to marry the girl she pulled from the future…

The rage I feel in passing over this one throw away section of one chapter… where a woman with magical powers is using them to get her brother a bride instead of burning their rival clan to the ground not out of a sense of honor but because your sister was horribly abused….

Oh… oh my emotions. I just….my emotions. Namely rage. A little disgust. A lot sad and helpless and I am not in a good place now just from writing this review.

Using the sexual assault of women as your motivation is lazy, and when not handled well it can be harmful. Especially to survivors and the loved ones of survivors. As I’m both, the lack of a warning on this book is not appreciated.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Running into Love (Fluke My Life #1) by Aurora Rose Reynolds

Synopsis: Fawn Reed has kissed one too many toads and has finally decided that Prince Charming doesn’t exist. After countless mishaps, mistakes, and unmitigated disasters on the dating scene, she’s decided to give up and move on with her life…solo.

Everything changes, however, after Fawn runs into Levi Fremont, a homicide detective new to New York City.

Dedication to the job has rendered Levi’s love life nonexistent—until he moves in next door to the free-spirited Fawn. After a series of comedic run-ins push them together, will they finally give in to the inevitable and realize—maybe—they are perfect for each other?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I couldn’t even make it to page 20 before reading bits to my feminist friends got tired and I gave one last snort and closed the file forever.

You see, I didn’t remember that “free-spirit” tends to be code for MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL. You know, that harmful as fuck awkward boy male masturbatory fantasy that us odd and nerdy girls are supposed to aspire to. There was the section where she was running while flailing that we still don’t know the reasoning for,. The alpha male neighbor who is actually just a standoffish dick. The two pretty sisters encouraging their MPDG sister (who is obviously gorgeous but in a UNIQUE way) to wear makeup, go out, and dress like a hoe (literally) and I just… cannot even. There are too many terrible cliches and tropes being used to express the author’s internalized misogyny and the writing is subpar to boot.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

Synopsis: A contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market.” Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters…

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out.

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: Oh, what a pretty cover. What an interesting blurb. Fourteen-year-old me was fascinated by the premise of this entire book.

Thirty-four year old me was horrified when I realized it was actually just The Big Book of Goblin Induced Rape.

The rest of the review talks about rape and sexual assault. Skip if these trigger you.

Let’s start with the curse, shall we? Lovely and vibrant Skye wanders into the woods and accepts food from a Goblin. They grab her, take her, and force feed her more food while she’s crying and trying not to eat but their magic is making her. They take away her autonomy and force her to take something into her body in a grotesque pantomime of on page rape.

Later she cannot speak of it. She can barely speak at all.

She knows she has to choose a mate, runs across Grady in the woods, and chooses him to thwart the Goblins in some minor way, dooming Grady as well. Grady starts working for Skye and her sister, and even though Sky can barely speak and he acknowledges that it is wrong to take advantage of her, they start a carnal relationship.

While both are under a spell.

Now I know that magic isn’t commonly believed in our society anymore, but it should still go without saying… if you’re unable to say no, you cannot say yes. That’s consent 101. Having a compulsion to mate (in the woods while Goblins watch) means you are incapable of granting consent.

Ergo, this book is The Big Book of Goblin Induced Rape.

Beyond that, the book lacks any real depth. It’s superficial in its story telling and we’re told things rather than being shown them. We’re told the couples fall in love rather than seeing any connection beyond initial attraction quickly followed by them falling into bed together. There’s affection, sure… but I never once saw love.

I feel like this review deserves an outro, but at the same time it feels like putting anything else in would be twisting the knife, so…

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

I am begging you, authors, please stop including on page rape between your main characters and trying to pass it off as romance. Take a fucking consent class, a sensitivity class, and a concious.

One Summer Night (At the Shore #1) by Caridad Piñeiro

Synopsis: Smart, mainstream contemporary romance from bestselling author Caridad Pineiro. Millions of people visit the Jersey Shore every year, for beaches, boardwalks, sand, sun, and summer fun. This romantic series features families that go back generations on the shore, their ties to New York City, and their love for the Shore, and each other.

An offer that’s impossible to accept…

Maggie Sinclair has tried everything to save her family’s business, including mortgaging their beloved beach house on the Jersey shore. But now, she’s out of options.

The Sinclair and Pierce families have been neighbors and enemies for almost thirty years. That hasn’t stopped Owen Pierce from crushing on Maggie, and he’s determined to invest in her success. Now he has to convince her that he’s more than just trouble with a capital T…

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: dnf page 35

woke up to a fascinating thread on anti-capitalism and then jumped right into this book. It was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had. In my defense, the blurb says “family business” not “high-end boutique chain in NYC and real estate empires. By page 35 I was flabbergasted that the characters seemed oblivious to their wealth. Yes, the female lead had to mortgage her beach-front mansion she barely uses to keep the boutique chain alive since her father was obviously stuck in the past but…

There are problems and then there are rich people problems, is what I’m trying to get at…

When you add in the fact that a lot of the retail properties are in Harlem and Queens (triggering my loathing of gentrification), use of the word “exotic” to describe a character’s eyes, and just meh prose and I just could not envision reading another 90% of this book.

I’m sure other people will enjoy the book though, and I’ve enjoyed other works by this author, this one just didn’t do it for me.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Grigori (Brothers of Ash and Fire #1) by Lauren Smith

Synopsis: He’s one of the last of a powerful but vanishing bloodline …
Grigori Barinov is the eldest in an ancient line of dragon shifters and the guardian of his family’s lands and fortune. Sworn to protect their history and magic, he won’t rest until he neutralizes any threat to their existence. When he discovers an ancient manuscript that exposes his family and their dragon lineage has fallen into a mortal woman’s hands, he knows he must get the book back by any means necessary. If that means seducing a nosy American woman with an intoxicating scent, he is more than willing to carry her off to his palatial home deep in the heart of Russia.

She’s the one woman who could expose him to the world…
Madelyn Haynes has never fit in. As an adopted child she grew up in a loving home but never felt as though she belonged. Plagued by mysterious dreams she’s had of a silver scaled beast ever since she was a little girl, she is convinced dragons are real. While in Russia working on her PhD in mythology in order to escape the ridicule from fellow professors, she unexpectedly crosses paths with the sexy and dominating Grigori, and after just one night with the man whose eyes seem to burn, she starts to change inside. Isolated in the Russian wilderness Grigori calls home, Madelyn can’t help but fall under his sensual spell, yet something deep inside her calls out that she can’t trust him. She has to show the world dragons are real to salvage academic reputation, even if it means costing her the heart of the dragon she’s falling in love with.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: If nothing else, this book inspired me to tweet: Periodically, people’s prose prompts my propensity to punch them in their pompous pieholes

Because why just complain when you can complain via alliteration.

For starters, the prose in the heroine’s POV sounds as if was written in a breathy whisper or a baby voice. And while I acknowledge there are people who actually speak like this, it feels infantilizing in this instance. Then we skip to the hero’s POV and sweet Jesus fuck, this book is dripping with male condescension and misogyny. Oh, your dragon perks up at your uber-hot secretary’s legs? Because you’d have to be dead not to notice but she’s not worthy of your fucking? Even though you talk about women as if they’re orgasm vending machines and nothing more. But, oh, it’s because you’re bored now and want to settle down with your perfect mate. That one woman good enough for you… because you’re a fucking gem of the highest fucking order and …

No. I’m done. 10% and I just cannot with this bullshit anymore.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Earning It (Stolen Moments #1) by Angela Quarles

Synopsis: One blind date. One case of mistaken identity. One Navy SEAL faced with his high school crush. What could go wrong?

To Score…
Holy cow, my blind date is rawr-hot. Everything in me aches to explore more with this man, but I can’t. I’ve got too much on the line professionally, with me starting at my new medical practice on shaky ground. But I can’t deny that I want the sex. A fling is perfect. Bonus—I will prove my idiot ex-boyfriend wrong. I’m not cold.

Or Not to Score…
Once she mistakes me for her blind date, my plan is clear. Be this Rick the Lawyer she thinks I am. And for the space of this coffee date, talk to the only woman who’s ever made me feel any spark outside of combat. Best case scenario, I get to be outside my skin—free to be whatever the hell I want. Worst case—she recognizes me as we chat. She’ll be pissed, call me an asshole, but it won’t be anything she hasn’t called me in the past, so… Win/Win?

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: This is… a lot to unpack. And I really liked the books I had previously by Angela Quarles, so give me a minute to come to terms with it.

Okay, for starters: It is one thing to give a fake name to someone you meet and want to fuck. Some might even say that’s protecting yourself. But when you know the other person, and know they would not fuck you if they knew who you were and you lie so that they will fuck you? You’re the scum of the universe. You.are.the.scum.of.the.universe.

There is no partial credit for feeling conflicted during and still continuing. There is no partial credit for feeling bad after the fact. GO directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Now let’s talk about the heroine.

She dated a hockey player she met at work. As a doctor. She dated someone she met professionally. AS A DOCTOR. That’s… no. There are rules against that. And I know she alludes to that being an issue later and says she’s on probation, but honestly how did it get that far. And how is she even softening towards Luke when it turns out he is also her patient. That should be… listen, asshole lied to and then sexually assaulted you (she was unable to consent to sex because of withheld information) and then it turns out he’s also a patient? Romance novel over. Why are we even still here?

I just… I’m disappointed. And while looking up “can doctors date patients” to make sure I was correct I stumbled across “can doctors have beards” and I blame this book for me knowing people googled that.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

Scarecrow by Danny Weston

Synopsis: Jack and his dad are runaways. Jack’s father recently turned whistleblower, revealing the truth about the illicit dealings of some powerful people. Realising that he and Jack might be in danger, Dad drives them to a remote shooting lodge in the Scottish Highlands, where they intend to lay low.

In the cornfield beside the lodge stands a scarecrow. When Jack witnesses something incredible, he begins to realise that it is no ordinary scarecrow – it is alive, hungry and fuelled by rage. And when Dad’s enemies begin to converge on the lodge, the scarecrow might just turn out to be Jack’s best hope of survival.

Ginny Lurcock’s Thoughts: I know that it used to be common practice to treat pacing in novels as if you were pushing a boulder up a hill. Slow going at first, then you peak about halfway through and race to the finish.

I’m over this pacing model.

So while this was a slow burn, I found myself drifting off. In fact, it took me a week to finally finish this. I cleaned instead of reading. The whole bit where they overcame the bad guys was too convenient. The story lacked depth. And the ending left me incoherent with rage I don’t even understand because honestly I should not relate to a creepy-ass scarecrow who’s first instinct is to murder.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair and honest review via Netgalley.

But hey… at least the last book didn’t have a rape on page, right? Just the threat of torturing children before they murdered them. But that’s okay. The bad book round-up is over… for now.

(get it? because Halloween is coming up? And nothing is scarier than a bad book…)

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