BeachReads · Book Reviews · Fiction · RomCom

Book review: ‘Loathe at First Sight’ by Suzanne Park

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Thank you @booksforwardpr @avonbooks for my gifted copy of ‘Loathe at First Sight‘ by Suzanne Park! (pub 8/18)

Melody Joo is thrilled to land her dream job as a video game producer, but her new position comes with challenges: an insufferable CEO; sexist male coworkers; & an infuriating—yet distractingly handsome—intern, Nolan MacKenzie, aka “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss.”

Just when Melody thinks she’s made the worst career move of her life, her luck changes. While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly Melody’s “joke” is her studio’s most high-profile project—& Melody’s running the show.

When Nolan is assigned to Melody’s team, she’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she realizes he’s smart & sexy, which makes Melody want to forget he’s her intern. As their attraction deepens, she knows it’s time to pump the brakes, even with her Korean parents breathing down her neck to hurry up & find a man.

With her project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a devastating trolling scandal. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work & in love?

So, this book is not really what it appears to be from the blurb or cover. It’s about 15% funny, rom-com about a Korean woman in the gaming  industry w/ a charming enemies-to-lovers story woven in.

The other 85% is more “let’s get the reader fired up w/ some real, hard hitting, serious issues” such as: toxic work environment, racism, harassment, discrimination, humiliation by co-workers, stalking, online trolls who threaten violence, cyberbullying & misogyny. (The photo comment above & below from the publisher are somewhat misleading. Smart- yes! Hilarious- here & there, maybe.)

I enjoyed ‘Loathe at First Sight’, but it did make me angry & triggered memories from the past where I, too, dealt w/ several of the above issues. I am not a gamer (wait, does Words w/ Friends count?), so learning about the industry was fun. Overall I thought the book was well-written, insightful, & very thought-provoking & I really rooted for Melody & her fight against the patriarchy in a male dominated work place.

Also featured in my Instagram post (pictured at top of blog post) is Park’s other 2020 new release, ‘The Perfect Escape‘, which published in April from Sourcebooks Fire.

The Perfect Escape‘ is a hysterical comedy about a teen boy who teams up with his crush to enter a survivalist competition, only to discover that love is its own battlefield.

Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?

Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and she needs the money too.

If the two of them team up, Nate has a real shot of winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…

A great pick for readers who want:

  • comedy books for teens
  • books for teen boys
  • multicultural books for teens

Editorial reviews for ‘Loathe at First Sight’:

Loathe at First Sight bursts with humor, heart, and great energy. I loved it! Park is a hilarious new voice in women’s fiction.” (Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient)

“Hilarious and poignant, Park’s debut sparkles as a great addition to the new voices of the rom com renaissance.”

(Roselle Lim, author of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune)

“Park gives us the story that only she could create. It’s hilarious, smart, and the rom-com we need!” (Alexa Martin, ALA Award-winning author of Intercepted)

“Park has created a wholly original, smart, fierce heroine (with a hilarious inner voice) who takes on an industry hell-bent on underestimating her…Just like the “entertaining, fresh, snarky” video game she conjures in her novel, Suzanne Park has written a fast and fun debut, putting females in the lead.” (Amy Poeppel, author of Musical Chairs and Small Admissions)

“A smart, funny workplace romance set in the world of video game design.” (Popsugar)

“[A] punchy adult debut set in the world of video game design. Park makes tough topics go down easy by couching them in wry humor and lighthearted romance, and her fierce, snarky heroine is irresistible. This smart rom-com is a winner.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Park’s first book for adults is a funny and feminist geek novel… Readers into both gaming and women’s fiction will scramble for this fast-paced charmer.” (Booklist)

“Melody’s characterization and voice shine throughout. Smart, punchy, and memorable.” (Library Journal)

Suzanne Park is a Korean-American writer who was born and raised in Tennessee. As a comedienne, she was selected to appear on BET’s “Coming to the Stage.” Suzanne was also the winner of the Seattle Sierra Mist Comedy Competition, and was a semi-finalist in NBC’s “Stand Up For Diversity” showcase in San Francisco.

Suzanne graduated from Columbia University and received an MBA from UCLA. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, female offspring, and a sneaky rat that creeps around on her back patio. In her spare time, she procrastinates. Loathe at First Sight is her adult debut. (‘The Perfect Escape’ is her YA debut.)

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Book Reviews · Fiction · MurderinoMonday · Paranormal · Thriller

Book Review for ‘The Hollow Ones’ by Guillermo Del Toro/Chuck Hogan

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Thank you @grandcentralpub for my gifted copy of ‘The Hollow Ones‘ by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan! (pub 8/4).

From the authors who brought you ‘The Strain‘ Trilogy comes a strange, terrifying, & darkly wondrous world of suspense, mystery, & literary horror. ‘The Hollow Ones is a chilling, hauntingly original new fable from Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro & bestselling author Chuck Hogan featuring their most fascinating character yet.

A horrific crime that defies explanation, a rookie FBI agent in uncharted territory, & an extraordinary hero for the ages: an investigation spirals out of control in this heart-pounding thriller.

Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. But what most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.

Questioning her future with the FBI & her sanity, Hardwicke accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the NY office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named Hugo Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries, & who is either an unhinged lunatic, or humanity’s best & only defense against unspeakable evil.

First off, it’s pronounced ‘Gee-AIR-mo’ (Gee like GHEE butter, not like Gee wiz.) Del Toro is a well-known Hollywood film maker (click HERE for his IMDB page) & if you haven’t heard, he is bringing a remake of ‘The Witches’ (by Roald Dahl, 1983) to the big screen (Oct ’20, unless delayed). ‘The Strain‘ TV adaptation gave me nightmares, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark‘ gave me even more nightmares, but I STILL could not wait to get my hands on this book!

The Hollow Ones‘ is a gripping suspense/thriller/mystery with some unsettling, supernatural elements. It’s a well-developed story for as short as it is & hits the ground running with it’s fast-pace. Spell-binding, creepy, suspenseful & entertaining, ‘The Hollow Ones‘ didn’t give me the sleepless nights like the above mentioned adaptations, but I enjoyed it. If you liked the Denzel Washington movie ‘Fallen‘ (1998), you will love this!

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What others are saying about ‘THE HOLLOW ONES’:

“A transporting, pageturning thriller that rips open a brand new universe, filling it with suspense. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have a dark vision to share — and they’ve created quite a duo in Hugo Blackwood and Odessa Hardwicke, a Sherlockian partnership for the ages.”―Brad Meltzer, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Escape Artist

“If one could combine the world-conjuring magic of C. S. Lewis with the dark energy of Thomas Harris, one would be at least part of the way to understanding what makes THE HOLLOW ONES so special. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have yet another twisted masterpiece on their hands. An enduring new series combining horror, suspense, and fable.”―Stephen Chbosky, NYT bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Imaginary Friend

“A welcome gift to disciples of Lovecraft-ian fiction. Odessa Hardewick is cast in the mold of Clarice Starling. . . Inventive and macabre.”―Kirkus

“Fans of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast books will be enthralled.”―Publishers Weekly

Guillermo del Toro was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1964. He is the director of the films Cronos, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II, Pacific Rim, and Pan’s Labyrinth, which garnered enormous critical praise worldwide and won three Academy Awards, and The Shape of the Water, which won the 2018 Oscar Award for Best Picture.

Chuck Hogan is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Devils in Exile and Prince of Thieves, which won the 2005 Hammett Award, was named one of the ten best novels of the year by Stephen King, and was the basis of the motion picture The Town.

BeachReads · Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review: ‘A Star is Bored’ by Byron Lane (pub 7/28)

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Thank you @henryholtbooks for my gifted copy of ‘A Star is Bored‘ by Byron Lane! (pub 7/28)

A hilariously heartfelt novel about living life at full force, & discovering family when you least expect it, influenced in part by the author’s time as Carrie Fisher’s beloved assistant.

Charlie Besson is about to have an insane job interview. His car is idling, like his life, outside the Hollywood mansion of Kathi Kannon. THE Kathi Kannon, star of stage & screen & People magazine’s worst dressed list. She needs an assistant. He needs a hero.

Kathi is an icon, bestselling author, & an award winning actress, most known for her role as Priestess Talara in the iconic blockbuster sci-fi film. She’s also known for another role: crazy Hollywood royalty. Admittedly so. Famously so. Fabulously so.

Charlie gets the job, & embarks on an odyssey filled with late night shopping sprees, last minute trips to see the aurora borealis, & an initiation to that most sacred of Hollywood tribes: the personal assistant. But Kathi becomes much more than a boss, & as their friendship grows, Charlie must make a choice. Will he always be on the sidelines of life, assisting the great forces that be, or can he step into his own leading role?

Laugh-out-loud funny, & searingly poignant, Byron Lane’s ‘A Star is Bored‘ is a novel that, like the star at its center, is enchanting & joyous, heartbreaking & hopeful.

I adored Carrie Fisher, not only as an actress, but as an author, way back to her early novels, ‘Postcards From the Edge’ (’87) & ‘Surrender the Pink’ (’90). So to read a (fiction) book authored by someone who was her personal assistant for 3 yrs was intriguing, to say the least. You can 100% picture Fisher as ‘Kathi’ even though Lane has stated that the story is a work of fiction.

At times this book was absolutely heartbreaking, but mostly it was laugh-out-loud hilarious! (And the books depiction of mental health struggles was very realistic & not exploitative. ‘A Star is Bored‘ is quirky, engaging, heartfelt, & amusing…anything but boring. I highly recommend this fun book which is available now!

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What others are saying about ‘A Star is Bored’:

“Wildly funny and irreverent… Lane’s writing lifts the novel far above its gossamer Hollywood setting, suffusing [the novel] with a complex sensitivity.”
― The New York Times Book Review

“The fun summer read so many of us are craving.”
― USA Today

“A sweet goodbye and an ode to friendship… it delights”
― NY Post

“Ingenious and very droll… Lane turns out to be such a good writer, so funny and rapier sharp…He’s made a fascinating character out of his perennially bored star, a pill-popping, foul-mouthed creature at once cynical and sentimental, self-loving and self-hating, with a lust for life and a self-destructive streak as wide as Santa Monica Boulevard… [Lane] gives us the best of both worlds, savage satire leavened with compassion…This reader was rarely bored.”
― L.A. Times

“With prose in turns incandescent and uproariously funny, as well as poignantly tender and sweet, Lane’s novel is a love letter, not only to Carrie Fisher, but also to the ridiculous, bizarre and oft-magical world of Hollywood.”
― Variety

“Carrie Fisher’s spirit animates this funny, dishy, and deeply affectionate roman à clef by her former personal assistant. The force is with him.”
People “Must-Reads for Summer”

“Lane debuts with a fizzy roman à clef about a celebrity assistant, playfully alluding to his experience working for the late actor Carrie Fisher. Lane begins with Charlie Besson’s job interview…an assistant to Kathi Kannon, famous for playing the beloved Priestess Talara in the science fiction epic Nova Quest. Lane brings wit and tenderness to Kathi’s mostly acerbic personality, and her attachment to Charlie is potent and palpable… Lane’s affecting tale would show how the real Charlie found his own superpower―as a novelist.”
― Publishers Weekly

“Aside from being laugh out loud funny, brazen, charming and exquisitely observed, ASIB is romantic, soulful and filled with tender sweetness. For those of us who knew Carrie and Byron it all brings back chokingly funny and necessarily sad memories of a uniquely beautiful and deranged ménage, but it will make every reader feel at home and a part of it too.”
― Stephen Fry

“I’m in love with this hearty story of a hilarious Hollywood friendship. It’s fierce and funny and will warm your heart in these often frigid times. This is some queer chicken noodle soup for my soul, honey.”
― Jonathan Van Ness, New York Times bestselling author of Over the Top

“I didn’t go into this expecting a love story, but the one here between a Hollywood assistant and his famous, hilarious and deeply lonely boss came very close to breaking my heart.”
― Julia Claiborne Johnson, bestselling author of Be Frank With Me

“Byron Lane has written a book that will touch you on so many levels. I was prepared for the laughs, but didn’t expect the poignant story of a relationship both difficult and wonderful at the same time. A terrific read.”
― Laurie Gelman, bestselling author of Class Mom and You’ve Been Volunteered

“A Star is Bored is an absolute knockout. Riotously funny and wickedly tender. The pitch-perfect absurdity and sharp heartbreak of this story come to life so vividly that the last page left me aching. Completely outrageous and positively lovely.”
― Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones and the Six

Byron Lane is an author, playwright, & screenwriter. His debut novel, A STAR IS BORED, is about a celebrity assistant struggling to manage his eccentric & hilarious movie star boss, inspired in part by Lane’s time as assistant to beloved actress Carrie Fisher. The novel has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, OK Magazine, & People Magazine which hails: “Funny, dishy, deeply affectionate… the force is with him.”

Lane also wrote and co-stars in the play TILDA SWINTON ANSWERS AN AD ON CRAIGSLIST, a comedy hit having sold out runs in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Edinburgh Fringe. It’s been critically praised by The Guardian, British Theatre, & Broadway World which says, “Hysterical… Lane has written a brilliant tour de force.”

Lane wrote & co-stars in LAST WILL & TESTICLE, an award-winning web series about his testicular cancer diagnosis which screened at festivals around the world, was called “fearless” by Cosmopolitan Magazine, & named “New York Television Festival Pilots to Put on Your Radar” by NBC Out. He wrote & co-stars in a feature film called HERPES BOY, starring Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, which won Best Comedy at Comic Con & an Audience Award from Austin Film Festival. And he wrote & produced a trailer for a series called GAY DIVORCE which was a finalist in Project Greenlight’s See Yourself contest.
​​
Lane is a regional Emmy Award winner from his time as a TV News journalist. He’s originally from New Orleans & lives in Los Angeles with his boyfriend, best-selling author Steven Rowley, and their rescue dog, Tilda.

Book Reviews · CrimeThriller · Fiction

Happy Pub Day and Review: ‘Blacktop Wasteland’ by S.A. Cosby

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Happy Pub Day & Thank You @flatiron_books for my gifted copy of ‘Blacktop Wasteland‘ by S.A. Cosby! (And HAPPY 100th BLOG POST TO ME!!)

A husband, a father, a son, a business owner…And the best getaway driver east of the Mississippi.

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland…or die trying.

Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, with a Southern noir twist, S. A. Cosby’s ‘Blacktop Wasteland‘ is a searing, operatic story of a man pushed to his limits by poverty, race, and his own former life of crime.

***Someone PLEASE make this into a movie! My husband use to build race cars & was a competitive drag racer (the legal kind) when I met him, winning many awards. (Pic below is my fave pic of him back then). He is also obsessed with the whole ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise, so I KNOW he would love ‘Blacktop Wasteland‘ (the movie, if it existed), but sadly, he is not a reader. So he will just have to listen to me telling him how awesome this book is!

My super sexy drag racer, way back when…

Cosby has pure talent as a vividly descriptive storyteller & this will certainly be the most talked about noir, crime thriller of 2020. Buckle your seat belts & hold onto tight, ‘Blacktop Wasteland‘ will have your heart-pounding & breaking at the same time. (And you will love Bug!) Fast-paced, atmospheric, gritty & pitch-perfect writing, I highly recommend this one! It’s available today! Get it on your TBR!

Click HERE to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
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Click HERE to use BookstoreLink & find this book at a local indie bookstore.
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What others are saying about ‘Blacktop Wasteland’ by S.A.Cosby:

“A fast-paced, fresh take on noir that tears through the underbelly of Virginia.”
―New York Times

“One of the year’s strongest novels. 
The noir story quickly accelerates and doesn’t lose speed until it careens to its finale. It’s a look at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives. Cosby invests Blacktop Wasteland with emotion while delivering a solid thriller.”
SunSentinel

“Violence-tinged heists, muscle cars, and dead-end poverty in America generate the full-on action and evocative atmosphere in this beautifully wrought tale.”
―Boston Globe

“S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is the buzz book of the summer, and for good reason―this nailbiter of a thriller has everything, including road chases, fast cars, robberies gone south, carefully calibrated underworld shenanigans, standoff after standoff, and some deep family bonds.”
―CrimeReads

Cosby never misses a note in this high-energy readA superb work of crime fiction, uncompromisingly noir but deeply human, too, much like Lou Berney’s November Road (2018).”
Booklist, starred review

“Diamonds and fast cars, trailer park dreams and late night illegal street racing, S. A. Cosby reinvents the American crime novel. Black and white with bills unpaid and no exit in sight, his characters feel the pull of family and swagger with the melancholy ache of wanting to be someone. Blacktop Wasteland thrums and races―it’s an intoxicating thrill of a ride.”
―Walter Mosley, bestselling author of Trouble Is What I Do

“For fans of: BullittThe Fast and the Furious and gritty Elmore Leonard-style noir…[Cosby] never lets up on the gas. The result is a high-octane, white-knuckle thriller that will have readers whipping through the pages at breakneck speed…Cosby’s tightfisted prose fuels this story with heart-pumping (and often brutal) action that begs to be adapted for the big screen but never loses its compassionate edge.”
Bookpage

“High-octane neo-noir thriller…The gritty, brutal narrative is complemented by the author’s sublime use of sensory description and regional imagery. In addition, the epic, jaw-dropping chase sequences that figure prominently are reason alone to read this pedal-to-the-metal but profoundly sorrowful novel. Cosby is definitely a writer to watch.”
Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully wrought and worthy of envy…Call shotgun, and then buckle up. Blacktop Wasteland is a ride that will stick with you long after the engine has cooled.”
―Salon

We’re in Elmore Leonard land…Bug’s got a conscience not typical of the thriller genre, but other than that, this novel recalls almost perfectly the classic heist thriller in the vein of Richard Stark’s “Parker” novelsIt’ll go like hot cakes.”
―Library Journalstarred review

“It’s fitting Blacktop Wasteland opens with a drag race. This is the literary equivalent of a muscle car―sleek, a little dangerous, and when it kicks into gear, you hold on for dear life. Lucky for you, Cosby is an expert wheelman.”
―Rob Hart, bestselling author of The Warehouse

“Every once in a while a writer comes along with an incredible voice. Think Elmore Leonard, or Chester Himes. With Blacktop Wasteland, add S. A. Cosby to that list.”
―Steve Cavanagh, bestselling author of Thirteen

“Powerful, gritty, and lyrical, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is the unflinching portrayal of a man who’s deeply aware he needs to make a better life for himself and his family, but can’t ― or won’t. This story is an emotional gut punch, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Beauregard while he’s ripping your heart out. Cosby is a mesmerizing new voice in crime fiction you won’t soon forget. This is literary noir at its finest.”
―Jennifer Hillier, award-winning author of Jar of Hearts and Little Secrets

“With Blacktop Wasteland, Anthony award-winning author S. A. Cosby cements his position as one of the leading crime fiction voices of his generation. The story crackles with a dynamically flawed main character, vivid description, unexpected reveals and dialogue so real you’d swear you were eavesdropping. I couldn’t wait to finish yet never wanted the book to end at the same time. There’s no doubt that Cosby is an authentic and much needed voice in today’s crime fiction.”
―Kellye Garrett, Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty award-winning author of The Detective by Day series

“This book shook me in the best way possible. Cosby’s gritty, powerhouse novel evokes some of the modern masters – Mosley, Pelecanos, and Lehane – with a tone and vibe that is wholly unique. Epic but also grounded and painfully relevant, Blacktop Wasteland is a crime novel for today, and S. A. Cosby is a writer we’ll be hearing from for quite some time. I loved this book.”
―Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Blackout and Miami Midnight

“Blacktop Wasteland is a guaranteed thriller-of-the-year with muscle and heart and characters who will linger long after the last page is read. S.A. Cosby writes with grit and grace. Do not miss this one.”
―Michael Koryta, bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead

“There is a sweet spot in a vehicle, whether it’s a car or a book, a perfect point of harmony between torque and horsepower or character and plot―Blacktop Wasteland is that sweet spot. S. A. Cosby’s new novel reverberates with a throaty roar, pegging the needles with a welcomed strip of rubber laid down in a silk-scarf, lace-backed driving glove mystery world.”
―Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries

“Buckle up. S. A. Cosby is about to take you on a high-speed spin through the rural black south. Muscle cars, backroads racing, double crossing deals and that elusive big score. Red Hill County is my kind of place!”
―Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Revelators

Blacktop Wasteland will let the world at large in on what the crime fiction underworld already knows: S. A. Cosby is a major, original talent. Searing, twisted and jaggedly human, this Southern noir heist novel leaves scars.”
―Jordan Harper, Edgar Award winning author of She Rides Shotgun

S.A. Cosby is an Anthony award winning writer from S E Virginia. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies & magazines his story “Slant-Six” was selected as a Distinguished Story in Best American MysteryStories for 2016. His short story “The Grass Beneath My Feet” won the Anthony award for best short story in 2019. His writing has been called ” gritty & heartbreaking ” & ” dark, thrilling & tragic “. His style & tone is influenced by his varied life experiences which includes but are not limited to being a bouncer, construction worker, retail manager & for six hours a mascot for a major fast food chain inside the world’s hottest costume. When he isn’t crafting tales of murder & mayhem he assists the dedicated staff at J.K.Redmind Funeral home as a mortician’s assistant. He is also known as one hell of a chess player… Actually its checkers, he’s good at checkers.

Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review: “What Unbreakable Looks Like” by Kate McLaughlin

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Happy Pub Day & Thank you @wednesdaybooks for my gifted copy of “What Unbreakable Looks Like” by Kate McLaughlin! Available today, 6/23!

Lex was taken –trafficked– & now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt & uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend & his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her & that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight & realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, & a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s “What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life & learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

I will warn you upfront, this is a very difficult book to read. I had to stop at least 3x & go back to it on a day where I could handle it better mentally. (Trigger warnings for graphic physical & sexual violence, rape, & human trafficking. And kudos to the publisher for noting this at the beginning of the book.)

I live in Ohio, which is 5th highest in human trafficking cases, & about 45 mins from Toledo, which is the 4th highest city in the US for cases. We often have reports of unmarked vans trolling through our area w/ people in them trying to get kids (& sometimes adults) to come to the van & help w/ directions or some other seemingly innocent problem. One girl I know had a car follow her & her friends one night, someone jumped out at a stoplight & slashed one of her tires, & then they continued to follow them. But the girls were smart & called 911 right away. There are more stories I could share, but let’s get to the book. (And just talking about the above freaks me out so much!)

Gut-wrenching, raw, relevant, & thought-provoking, Lex learns to allow herself to trust again, even while dealing w/ the aftermath of sexual assault, followed by cruel treatment & bullying by her peers, & coming to terms w/ her past & finding the courage to tell herself she is worthy of love & a future & happiness. It was often painful & emotional to read, but the overall message is hopefulness & strength. A really powerful read!

Click HERE to add this book to your Goodreads TBR.
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What others are saying about “What Unbreakable Looks Like“:

Book Riot, “The Ultimate Guide to Spring 2020 YA Books for Your TBR”

Culturess, “13 must-read June YA book releases to start your summer off right”

“This shines a light on a little-talked-about topic that involves teens.” – Booklist (Starred Review)

“This story of resilience and recovery is gritty and heavy but ultimately hopeful… A gut-punch story with an uplifting ending.” – Kirkus

“[A] beautiful insight into what it means to heal and have hope. …If you are wanting a heartwarming, heartbreaking, inspiring, and hard hitting story, I would definitely recommend you pick this book up.” – The Nerd Daily

“Gritty and moving, What Unbreakable Looks Like is a compelling story about recovery and the problem of human trafficking that persists today.” – Young Adult Books Central

“With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader’s own healing or foster empathy for life’s walking wounded.” – Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13

“Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.” – Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” – Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” – Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats.