Review: The Deep End by Kristen Ashley

Review:  The Deep End by Kristen AshleyThe Deep End by Kristen Ashley
Published by St. Martin's Griffin March 7th, 2017
Genres: Erotica, Erotica Romance
Pages: 454
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Also by this author: At Peace
Amazon US

Enter a decadent sensual world where gorgeous alpha males are pleasure slaves committed to fulfilling a woman's every desire. At the elite Honey club, no boundary will be left untested, and one's darkest desires will become a sensual reality.

Olivier isn’t sure what he’s gotten himself into when he joins the Honey Club, only that a dark part of him craves the lifestyle offered by this secret, exclusive club.

When Amèlie invites Olivier to surrender, she pushes him to explore his deepest desires as a submissive. As they grow closer and find themselves falling harder than either of them anticipated, the truth about Olivier’s past could threaten the budding relationship they both long for.

Gripping and seductive, The Deep End is the first book in a sensational new series from bestselling author Kristen Ashley

I’m going to tell you a secret.   I totally signed up for an ARC of this book without even reading the blurb.  All I knew is that it was written by Kristen Ashley, and it was erotica.  

That’s it.

And then right before I started to read it, I checked on Goodreads to see what was being said so far…and that’s when I learned that the premise behind The Deep End was a Domme female, and an alpha male who is her submissive.

I was so surprised, and maybe a wee bit hesitant.  I’ve read a handful of male sub books and I can only remember ONE where I was able to connect to the characters and enjoy the story line.  And really, typical romance glorifies male characters dominating in the bedroom…  and this is the opposite.  

Reviews were mixed on GR, and I was even more hesitant.  But I jumped in… and I’m actually really glad I did.

Let me start by saying this…  if you’re going to read this book because you’re a huge KA fan and you love her writing style (quirky heroines, mega-alpha males, tons of silly shenanigans), and that’s the only reason… DON’T.   Her writing in this book is very, very different from her previous work.  If your expectations are to get a Rock Chick story, you will be so incredibly disappointed.  (Actually, if I didn’t know this book was by Kristen Ashley, I would have thought it was a new story from Ella Frank.  Have you read her Masters Among Monsters series?!  I swear the writing style is SO CLOSE to that.  It’s a bit different and can take time to really get the hang of the flow and connect to the character’s voice.  But once you do, you’re there and it’s magical.)

BUT, if your mind is open to a different writing style from her, and you’re into erotica and BDSM stories… DO IT!

Any hesitation I had about KA  portraying an alpha sub male was obliterated.  Trust me, a man can be a submissive and still be alpha.  He can still test his dom and try to have authority inside and outside the bedroom.  The book has a ton of sex… and I really, really liked it.  It was good BDSM, if that makes sense.  You can really tell when an author has either first hand experience or has truly researched that community when you read BDSM books, and KA’s scenes are phenomenally executed.

Overall, I think it was a very sexy story.  I really enjoyed the entire club she has her characters in, and I really liked a lot of the secondary cast.  I can see so much potential for following books, because the characters are interesting, mysterious, sexy and witty.

There were times I had trouble connecting to the characters as a couple, and there was some lingo used a lot that I didn’t love, but as an overall story I think it was good and I’m glad KA is dipping her toes into the erotica genre.   If you like BDSM and hot sex…  definitely give it a  try.



About Kristen Ashley

Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA. She nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorise and she hadn’t taken her first breath!).

Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana but has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up.

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

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Review: Damage Control by Lisa Renee Jones & Giveaway!

Review:  Damage Control by Lisa Renee Jones & Giveaway!Damage Control by Lisa Renee Jones
Published by St. Martin's Griffin February 21, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 304
Format: ARC, Audio
Source: Copy for Honest Review, Purchased
Narrator: Grace Grant, Jeremy York
Also by this author: Hard Rules
Amazon US

Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy in Damage Control, the smoldering, scorching next novel in the explosively sexy Dirty Money series.

The only thing more dangerous than a dark secret is a damaged heart…

Shane Brandon has been pushed to the brink, torn between his corrupt family and his explosive, all-consuming desire for Emily Stevens, who he now knows is not who, and what, she seems. Has he trusted the wrong person? Will she, not his brother Derek, be the ultimate destruction of his family Empire?

Emily tries to run from Shane, but he will stop her, confront her, force her to reveal all — one hot touch and kiss at a time, under every intimate detail of who this woman is, and what she wants, is exposed. But as he tears away the dangers of the unknowns with the woman in his bed, and in his heart, The Martina Cartel has set their sights on his company, his family, and the one piece of leverage they believe he won’t gamble with: Emily.

The blurb is what got me to read book one, Hard Rules, in this series by Lisa Renee Jones:

“When Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy…”

There really isn’t a better way to describe these books.  Picture the chaotic, crazy mess and ever-constant web spinning of the Sons of Anarchy cast… but instead of dirty (but sexy) bikers, picture filthy rich (and equally as sexy) bajillionaires.

I absolutely loved book 1 (you can read my review here) and was so excited to get my hands on book 2, Damage Control.  But with my entire family dropping like flies with the flu, my life got a bit hectic and I was late starting my ARC and ended up buying the audiobook and switching back and forth from e-book to audio (I highly recommend the audiobook, I think the narrators are fabulous, by the way!)

Damage Control starts exactly where book one leaves off, with a giant freaking mess, more secrets than you can remember, and pretty much zero answers as well.  I seriously haven’t read a book with so many intricate details, and lies, and side plots going on at once… it’s incredible the web that Lisa Renee Jones spins in these books.  You never really know who is good, who is bad, what side someone is on, who is going down next, who is plotting what…  seriously!   I am good at figuring things out but good lord I leave each book wondering how the flaming fig newton someone can get out of these disasters unscathed.

Emily and Shane both have secrets and terrible families that are desperately trying to drag them down.  There’s international hacking groups, murder, a cartel, a billion dollar family business changing control, cancer… you name it.  It is all in there tearing everybody apart at every angle.

I felt like this story was a lot of figuring out Shane and Emily’s pasts and how they would conquer their future… if they even have one together.  A lot of the plots are intense and action-packed, but Shane and Emily handle it separate from each other.  Unlike book one where they are busy trying to handle their feelings, and the hiding of their relationship from co-workers and family members, in book 2 they’re together in the open.  The plot is more focused on the suspense, the mystery, the scandal.  The parts where Shane and Emily are actually together are when they’re home from work or bustin’ cartel booty… and naked.

I loved that their relationship was there in the very steamy background, and the story instead took on a very strong voice more based on plot than relationship, if that makes sense.  It’s such an amazing, mind-boggling storyline that I loved immersing myself in the wtf is happening, how can they fix this, omg what now?!    

Yes, they are still figuring out what “us” even means, and let me tell you…  *fans face*   Their “us” is sexy AF.  *fans face harder.*   Shane is the epitome of alpha male.  And Emily is just as strong, no matter how lost she is in life, that chick is one bad ass mamba-jamba!

I can’t recommend this series enough, and if you enjoy romantic suspense that’ll get your heart pounding (for multiple reasons) this series is a must click!

Enter to win (2) $25 Amazon gift cards, (3) signed books of Hard Rules and (3) Dirty Money totes!!



About Lisa Renee Jones

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series.

In addition to the success of Lisa’s INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is presently working on a dark, edgy new series, Dirty Money, for St. Martin’s Press.

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Review:  Hard Rules by Lisa Renee JonesHard Rules by Lisa Renee Jones
Published by St. Martin's Griffin August 9th, 2016
Genres: Romance, Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Also by this author: Damage Control
Amazon US

Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy in the smoldering, scorching first novel in the explosively sexy new Dirty Money series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones.

How bad do you want it?

The only man within the Brandon empire with a moral compass, Shane Brandon is ready to take his family's business dealings legitimate. His reckless and ruthless brother, Derek wants to keep Brandon Enterprises cemented in lies, deceit, and corruption. But the harder Shane fights to pull the company back into the light, the darker he has to become. Then he meets Emily Stevens, a woman who not only stirs a voracious sexual need in him, but becomes the only thing anchoring him between good and evil.

Emily is consumed by Shane, pushed sexually in ways she never dreamed of, falling deeper into the all-encompassing passion that is this man. She trusts him. He trusts her, but therein lies the danger. Emily has a secret, the very thing that brought her to him in the first place, and that secret that could that destroy them both.

This book.  I have so much to stay about this story and I’m not even sure where to begin.

When the ARC sign-up came across our email, I read the blurb and was immediately interested. “Wall Street meets Sons of Anarchy.”  Um… yes please!

But here’s the thing. We all know what a finicky reader I am. Due to that I don’t typically sign up for books with new-to-me authors, because I hate signing up for reviews when I end up not loving the book. Can you say awkward? It’s one thing to read it on my own time and not love it, but when I sign up for a release and I’m just not sure about an author… well, yeah. I tend to say away. 

But I couldn’t, because I was super intrigued and I wanted this story.  So I did it. I signed up.

And I am so glad I popped my Lisa Renee Jones cherry because this book was everything I want in a story. Mystery, lies, secrets, steamy sex, angst, suspense, LOL moments… you name it.

I will say, it was a bit of a rougher start for me. There was a finger-zap meeting at the very beginning, which is one of my pet peeves and DNF triggers… plus the Alpha had a lot of sly one-liners which I tend to roll my eyes at. But I’m telling you, those one-liners are smooth as fucking butter and I ended up highlighting like…twenty of them. They. Were. Hot.

Emily, the main character, is an absolute secret. We really know nothing about this chick except she loves sweet coffee, is a light weight drinker, can stand her own against the toughest mother fuckers on this planet, and she’s on the run from something or someone. She has multiple burner phones, has major secrets she keeps close to herself, and while she’s slumming it with crap jobs and a bare apartment, she obviously has expensive tastes and came from money at some point.


Then there’s Shane. 

Okay, so, you can’t see me…but I’m grinning like a loon. I typed his name and then just stared at my laptop with the biggest shit-eating grin on my face for like 10 seconds. Shane is HOT. Super alpha.  Super dreamy. He’s this big shot lawyer from New York who’s moved back to his hometown in Colorado to join his family’s business because his Dad is dying from cancer and his dad and brother are horrible human beings who play with dirty money and have mafia connections they’re entwining with the company. Shane wants to take over and turn it back into a profitable, lucrative business… but to do this he has to play just as dirty as his own blood and push them out. In any way possible.


Saying his family is a disaster is putting it lightly. When I thought they couldn’t get any worse, they proved me wrong. Over and over again.

All the while Emily is stuck in between all of the family’s mess while she’s trying to figure her shit out and keep her secrets secret.

It’s just a complete cluster fuck of what-the-hell-is-going-to-happen-next?! moments. All you want is to figure out all of the lies, all of the connections and see the big picture. I’m usually really good at reading between the lines and figuring out the big a-ha! moments early… but this entire story I was in the dark just begging for a glimpse of light to help me out.


Shane and Emily have such a heated chemistry, and their pull is visceral. You can feel it. They’re constantly pushing each other away, but you know it won’t last long. They totally, 100% need each other.

And before you know it, you’re at 95% and you’re pissed the fuck off because you know the story is coming to an end and you just don’t want it to. You want more. You even consider emailing the author, begging her for more, but then you realize that’s a little weird, so instead you tell your husband all about the story and plot and your ideas about what’s going to happen next until you notice he’s just nodding his head absent-mindedly every few seconds while he watches the golf channel.

Anyways. My first LRJ book was an absolute knock out and I cannot wait until book two. Shit is about to hit the fans and I have a box of popcorn just waiting for the show. These secrets can’t stay hidden forever and oh em gee I need a front row seat for when it all starts to crumble.

ALSO! Check out our Facebook page tomorrow (the 11th) because Lisa Renee Jones is hosting a super-duper amazing giveaway. You seriously don’t want to miss it!



About Lisa Renee Jones

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series.

In addition to the success of Lisa’s INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is presently working on a dark, edgy new series, Dirty Money, for St. Martin’s Press.

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Review: First Touch by Laurelin Paige

Review: First Touch by Laurelin PaigeFirst Touch by Laurelin Paige
Series: First and Last #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin December 29, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Amazon US

When Emily Wayborn goes home to visit her mom while on hiatus from her hit TV show, she receives a voicemail from her former best friend, Amber. Though the two were once notorious party girls, they haven't spoken in years. Although the message might sound benign to anyone else, Amber uses a safe word that Emily recognizes, a word they always used to get out of sticky situations during their wild days. And what's more chilling than the voicemail: it turns out that Amber has gone missing.

Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that lead her to the enigmatic billionaire Reeve Sallis, a hotelier known for his shady dealings and play boy reputation. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must seduce Reeve to learn his secrets and discover the whereabouts of her friend. But as she finds herself more entangled with him, she finds she's drawn to Reeve for more than just his connection to Amber, despite her growing fear that he may be the enemy. When she's forced to choose where her loyalty lies, how will she decide between saving Amber and saving her heart?

Sometimes you read a book and you can see what’s coming, you know where it’s leading…you see the black hole, the fall, the break…yet it doesn’t deter you from frantically getting to the next page.  That was how I was reading First Touch. 

Emily is an up and coming Hollywood starlet in search of her missing and estranged best friend.  She has little to go on, a cryptic message for help and a few tabloid shots of her last known lover, Reeve Sallis.  Reeve, an elusive hotelier with a past mired in scandal and danger won’t be easy to get close to but he’s Emily’s best option to picking up Amber’s trail.

The last thing Emily expects to find is a man she could actually care for under the cold exterior and brutish behavior.  She can’t deny the connection they have or the fact that he sees something in her she tried to bury ages ago.  The closer she gets to him, the closer she gets to finding out what happened to Amber but also the closer she gets to falling in love with the man that may still be in love with her best friend….or may have killed her best friend. 

There is so much to say about this book yet so little I want to say because I don’t want to give anything away.  So little can be taken at face value.  SO FUCKING LITTLE. 

Paige slowly releases details of Emily, Amber and Reeve’s past and it builds the suspense perfectly.  You’re constantly waiting for the next little tidbit to surface.  Now, as I mentioned before, I saw the fall coming but never quite saw the road to the cliff.  Does that make sense? 

First Touch has so many great aspects…it’s steamy, dirty, dangerous, exciting and ending that leaves you in so much anticipation for the next installment.  Seriously, I’ve spent hours agonizing about what’s coming next.  It hurts my heart. A lot.  Though it’s going to be a bit of a wait for book two, Last Kiss, don’t let that deter you from reading this now.  I think it’s the kind of story that deserves a little reading torture, a little build up…plus, I don’t want to be alone in my pain! 😉

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Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth FlynnFirsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Published by St. Martin's Griffin January 05, 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Amazon US

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

Mercedes Ayres has a secret. Well, she has more than one and they are all doozies. But it’s her biggest, longest kept secret that leads to her newer, less well kept secrets.  The secrets that involve giving herself over to virgin boyfriends in the hopes of teaching them a trick or two in how to please their loving girlfriends.  You see Mercy had a bad experience with losing her virginity and in her damaged, young mind, she’s rationalized that she is doing something for the greater good.

She’s not trying to steal anyone’s boyfriend. In fact, she’ll go above and beyond teaching them about sex and actually help them plan the perfect nights for their girlfriends.  It was only supposed to be a few times, a few well chosen guys, a little good will and paying it forward.

Until it became something more like a coping mechanism. An escape from her less than satisfying life and from her horrific memories.  Now, it’s become a danger to her safety, to her friendships and to a relationship that could teach her what love really is supposed to be about.

Firsts starts off rather slow and took me a handful of chapters to feel any type of pull from the story. Mercedes…was actually pretty annoying. She’s young and delusional, which was really frustrating for me.  She continually repeats actions and then regrets them and it had me wanting to pull my hair out.

Then there is a shift in the story. Two characters, two friends, become more prominent in the story line and I became invested.  A new friend and a long time fuck buddy turned it around for me.  I think because that was when Mercy felt like a real person to me. Someone with a life that people actually did notice her for who she really is.  She became more than just a shell, she became more than just an empty character.

It’s also when the story becomes more heartbreaking.

Firsts is Flynn’s debut novel and I think it’s a promising one. It’s not perfect in its execution and lacked some real character depth, but it’s a brave story to tell and deals with some very real issues.  It makes you consider the teenage psyche and how tragic and dramatic situations really can take hold and skew your outlook on life.


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Review: Reap by Tillie Cole

Review: Reap by Tillie ColeReap (Scarred Souls, #2) by Tillie Cole
Published by St. Martin's Griffin November 10th 2015
Genres: Dark, Dark Romance, Fiction
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Also by this author: Souls Unfractured

Raised as a prototype for the Georgian Bratva's obedience drug, 221 fails to think, act, or live for himself; he's his master's perfectly-crafted killing puppet. Standing at six-foot-six, weighing two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, and unrivaled in to-the-death combat, 221 successfully secures business for the Georgian Mafiya Boss of NYC, who rules the dark world of the criminal underground. Until his enemies capture him.
Talia Tolstaia dreams to break from the heavy clutches of Bratva life. She dreams of another life--away from the stifling leash of her Russian Bratva Boss father and from the brutality of her work at The Dungeon, her criminal family's underground death-match enterprise. But when she stumbles upon her family's captive who is more monster than man, she starts to see the man underneath. A powerful, beautiful, damaged man whose heart calls to hers. But sacrifices must be made--blood for for life...souls for scarred souls...

INSTANTLY after finishing this book all I wanted to do was start it again, but that’s the effect of Tillie Cole, her words make you needy and ache for more until you are left helplessly full in a world this woman has created with characters you know better than yourself.

REAP is the second in a 4 book series and being this is book 2, the series is already half way done and I am mourning the end before it has even come. We were first introduced into this Russian family in book 1 titled RAZE and I along with the rest of the world did not know there would be more after the conclusion of Luka and Kisa’s soul matching love, but there was…

This is a forbidden love story a little different from the norm, considering Talia belongs to a Russian Bratva family and her love interest as she learns is none other than the enemy she’s been taught to hate her whole life. Okay so maybe not so different, but the love these two begin to foster is completely soul-shattering and in their case life altering. But how deep does that hate run and can one forget the damage thats been done, and can the other get past what still lies ahead to be learned?

“He wasn’t mine to have. He couldn’t be. It was a stupid naive obsession.”

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this book is that there are 3 POV’s… Talia, Zaal, and Raze all narrated and usually I am opposed to “too many” POV’s for the simple fact that it’s annoying and can be distracting, but it felt actually crucial in this book. I needed to experience Luka’s chapters almost if not more than I needed the others, his struggle to become the man he was expected to be played heavily into Talia and Zaal’s storyline and created a balance.

With all of that covered… I loved both Talia and Zaal’s characters, Tillie has this gift of crafting amazing characters in a nutshell nurturing heroines and need to be tamed heroes. But I can never say this enough her characters never waiver in their essence of who they are and we see the growth when need be. The connection was not immediate in this book but it was gradual and once it happened it was like a hammer to my heart, the space these two shared was completely beautiful and all-consuming. But the reality of their situation was also very sad and draining. Talia was looking for an escape only to be brought further into a life she was looking to hide from if only for a short while and Zaal literally had no sense of life or even basic knowledge of where he came from all he knew was that he had a master and he was to be obeyed.

“My stomach knotted so hard I thought I’d never breathe again, the crack in my soul so great I thought it would never heal.”

Lastly I want to address all that is ZAAL Kostava, this man has stolen all of me! He is the epitome of broken even though it is almost hard to believe when you take into account his physical form but oh my, my heart kept falling for him and then the final drop just shattered it.

He knew nothing more than the fate he served as a slave to a Georgian leader and the killer he was bred in to. He was experimented on since being only a mere child stripping him of any memories or human life he ever had. Watching Talia care for him the way she did knowing his capabilities and the threat he could be only made me love her more. Ugh I need this man to be REAL!

I would say throughout reading I had an inkling of the next book and the direction things were heading, so even though it was a little predictable it was completely shocking when a turn of events arised. All in all I loved this book and the journey it took me on, ZAAL Kostava, “You are for me?”



About Tillie Cole

After years of teaching high school Social Studies and following her Professional Rugby Player husband around Europe, they have settled in Calgary, Alberta where Tillie spends most of her days (and many a late night) lost in a writing euphoria or in her dream of pursuing a dazzling career as a barrel-racing, tasselled-chap, Stetson-wearing cowgirl… Ye-haw!
Tillie Cole is a Northern girl through and through. She originates from a place called Teesside on that little but awesomely sunny (okay I exaggerate) Isle called Great Britain. She was brought up surrounded by her mother — a farmer’s daughter, her crazy Scottish father, a savagely sarcastic sister and a multitude of rescue animals and horses.

Being a scary blend of Scottish and English, Tillie embraces both cultures; her English heritage through her love of HP sauce and freshly made Yorkshire Puddings, and her Scottish, which is mostly demonstrated by her frighteningly foul-mouthed episodes of pure rage and her much loved dirty jokes.

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RERUN Reviews: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

RERUN Reviews: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Griffin February 26, 2013
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 328
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon US

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Rerun Reviews features reviews by Debbie, previously published on Keep Calm Read Romance or Talk Supe — and reviews by Ali previously published on GingerRead Reviews.


When I received the review request from St. Martin’s Press, as I always do,
I popped over to Goodreads and Amazon to read the synopsis and take a closer
look at the author. Had I gone by the blurb on Goodreads (the one shown above),
I may have passed this book up.  It was what I saw on Amazon that had me
anxious to read Eleanor & Park:
Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.


What about Romeo and Juliet?


Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of
two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never
lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll
remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
It was the banter between these two that I found intriguing.  Plus, I
am a product of the eighties…if I thought I could get away with it, I would
probably still where my hair in some ridiculous angular cut.  Okay, not
really but you will still find me lovingly listening to “new wave”
music while I clean my house.  Anyway, what I’m saying is the book seamed
like something I would like.
I was wrong.
This book is something that I loved.
When I read on my Kindle, I highlight all the bits I want to remember for
when I write my review.  There are usually a handful.  If you peak at
my Eleanor & Park file there is yellow all over the place.  There is
so much good stuff here, it has it all.
Eleanor has a rough life and that is putting it mildly.  After a year
of couch surfing she’s brought back home to live with her mother, her four
younger siblings and her creeper stepfather.  She has to share a room with
all her brothers and sisters, there is no door on the bathroom, almost all of
her possessions were thrown out while she was gone and her mother can’t even
remember to buy Eleanor her own toothbrush.  To say she is an awkward
outcast with fluffy red hair and a ridiculous wardrobe would be an
Park is the only (half) Asian kid in the area.  He’s not sure where he
fits in and no one else really seems to know either.  He’s not a pariah at
school but he is somewhat on the outskirts of the ‘in crowd’ and is careful to
not be completely pushed to the outer limits.
This unlikely pair is forced to sit together on the bus but don’t talk or
acknowledge each other for weeks. Yet a relationship, a bond, forms between
them that is undeniable and utterly heart oozing sweet.  When they first
interact and become more than two strangers simultaneously riding a bus, watch
out because all the warm fuzzies will be spreading from your ears to your
toes.  The first hand holding is to die for cute.
Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like
holding something complete and completely alive.
If you’ve ever wondered what that feels like, it’s a lot like melting
– but more violent.
As the relationship develops, so do the insecurities that Eleanor and Park
both harbor and so do the secrets of Eleanor’s home life and struggle with
girls at school.  It is the love that these two feel for each other that
carry them through each day and living without each other becomes something of
an impossibility. 
The exchanges between these two is nothing less than adorable and their
inner monologues are even better.
She sat completely still because she didn’t have any other option. She tried
to remember what kind of animals paralyzed their prey before they ate them…
Maybe Park had paralyzed her with his ninja magic, his Vulcan handhold, and now
he was going to eat her.  That would be awesome.
This started out as such a quirky and fun story, I often found myself
giggling aloud.  As the story became more intimate and serious, it began
to tug at my heart and with one absolute ‘mom moment’, I was reduced to
tears.  Not something I do regularly with books.
I won’t lie and tell you this a super feel good HEA type of book.  It
has many super feel good moments but the crux of the story is more profound and
questions the power of love – what it makes you do – and what you are willing
to give up to hold on to it.
Now, I have recently berated a book for having an untidy ending. 
Eleanor & Park’s ending leaves a lot to the imagination as well. But, I
think this ending works and I’ll explain why.
First, this is a standalone book. I have not invested hours upon hours
developing deep emotions for the story, nor have I spent years waiting and
wondering what is going to happen next and how it is going to end. 
Second, these are teens experiencing their first love, the kind of love that
your heart hurts when you are away from the person for an hour. The type of love
that stays with you in your heart forever, even if the relationship itself
doesn’t last. When you’re young you think everything will last forever and
always be as perfect as it is now. It’s not reality. Life gets in the way,
growth gets in the way.  In my head, this ending was reminiscent of that
sort of love and it was quite fitting.  Others may not agree.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a first love, somewhat
coming of age type story or someone like me who loves the nostalgic feelings
that can’t help but surface when reading about young love in the age of your
own teen years. 


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