Kitty Photobomb (Book Haul)

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I picked up a few bottles of wine today for the weekend (I’m preferring Pinot Grigio these days) and decided I had a few minutes to stop by the thrift store and check out the books. Look at what I found!

My cat (deftly named Kitty by my then-three year old daughter) decided she needed to investigate and proceeded to rub all over them. I’m not sure if she smelled another cat or was claiming them for herself! Everything we own belongs to her anyway. She just allows us to live here.

I have actually read Gilded Cage before, but liked it so much that I had to get a physical copy! Same for Ever After. I’ve been wanting to read Brave New World and Cruddy looks interesting.

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ sounds fascinating. For years, I have been intrigued by how the gut is called the “second brain” and how it contains serotonin and sayings likes “butterflies in your stomach” and “trust your gut” have emotional connotations. I need a healthier gut, and there is evidence it can improve mood and lessen depression and anxiety! So hopefully this book lives up to my expectations, ha! It has an almost 4.0 rating on Goodreads and over 1200 reviews. Sounds promising!

Sea of Shadows has been on my TBR for at least a year and a half. Wicked Lovely looked good, but now I’m perusing my friends’ ratings on Goodreads and going hmmm…

Did you “collect” any books this week? What did you find? Comment below and/or let us know what you thought of the books mentioned here if you have read them!

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

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Meg Elison’s 2014 debut has one of those titles that makes you think twice. At first glance, it appears maybe a bit generic, vague, clunky…? You might think you’ll be reading a lot about babies being delivered. But don’t worry! This is a legit post-apocalyptic book rather than one of those that pretends to be but is really just fiction with the apocalypse as an afterthought, set way in the background (I’m looking at you, Station Eleven).

Almost everyone catches a virus and is horribly sick. The women and children? Almost all of them die. So society falls, and women are EXTREMELY rare. What do you think is going to happen? Roving gangs of men enslave any woman they find, while other women form “hives,” where they rule like queens. Any woman who is unfortunate enough to become pregnant, either dies in childbirth, or survives, but their babies are stillborn. One hundred percent of newborn babies die. It’s not pretty.

There is a lot of violence towards women (and men) in this. There are triggers of many kinds. The book doesn’t go into graphic, prolonged detail, but it’s there.

However, I enjoyed this. Jane’s story was very interesting. She chooses to become a man because it’s safer (cross-dressing trope – yay). I won’t go into the things that happen to her, but it’s a story worth reading (if you can stomach lots of cursing and violence and people being pretty despicable). Jane is a strong female, but she also has a more, let’s say, progressive, set of morals than your average character.

The ending is hopeful. I won’t say more. It has a vague The Road vibe to it and is an easy read. It alternates between first person journal entries and third person narrative.

She starts out in the San Fransisco bay area and she spends a winter in Utah before finding a group she settles down with. The writing was a little choppy, and filled with short sentences, but it really worked for me. It definitely gets you out of your comfort zone, but I didn’t feel like it was too much.

Buddy read with the MacHalo group.

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Like Shelly, when I first saw the title I was quick to file the book under a category that was definitely not post-apocalypse, science fiction. As misleading as the title is, I actually kind of dig it. It is quiet and unpretentious.

I won’t really give a synopsis since Shelly took care of that, but I will say this:

I found being inside the head of our unnamed protagonist a pretty sad and lonely place. The choices she had to make, the way of life she had to develop to survive, it’s something I hope I never have to do. She not only had to isolate herself for safety, but in order to survive no one could actually know her. Like really know her. She had to become someone new entirely, from her mannerisms to her thought patterns, her old life fell away and she became a person caught between.

It took me aback sometimes, realizing the toll this transformation took on her mentally. But that’s part of what made this book feel genuine, not like a watered down version of the end of society, but what could happen when no holds are barred on a world truly dominated by one sex. While this played out in nearly every horrible way you can imagine, there were some end results that made me go, “Well, that’s one way to turn the power around” and I had to give a little mental ‘atta girl, even though it was still a pretty awful turn of events.

If you want to read a story that feels like it could be the real version of a world gone horribly wrong, where humanity is tested and many people fail, this is worth a shot. And while that may seem very doom and gloom, it is, but in the end it is not without a glimmer of hope.

Shut Up and Take My Money Already!

From overfilling their books with blah, blah, blahs (AKA needless, contrived details) to forcing us to choose yet another team in the dreaded love triangle (#teamlogan—alright, that’s Veronica Mars, but still), authors LOVE to get up to their shenanigans.

But for some reason we keep coming back for more. We keep buying books and we keep reading them.

Why?

Is it because we are gluttons for punishment? Is it because we just don’t know when to throw in the towel? Is it because we secretly love to be pissed off?

Nope, it’s none of those things (okay, well maybe it’s a little bit those things). The real reason we turn again and again to books as a means of escape is that for every habit an author may have that bugs the shit out of us, they have that thing they do that drives us crazy…but in a totally good way.

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Yep, you got it: we’re talking about the tropes that we love and can’t get enough of.  And boy, there are A LOT of them. So to all you writers out there, current or potential, take note: if you want to win the heart of a MacHalo, here’s a few ways to do it.

 

1.Surrender your women: The old “Mars needs Women” trope

Yes, I know. Our dearest Abby has already hit on this point, but I thought I’d say it again just so we’re clear: we love us some alien sexy times. Like love, love it.

Take a hulky, hunky alien (I personally think the more alien he is the better…but that’s just my preference) and send him to Earth to seek a suitable mate because the viability of his very species depends on it. Let him stalk her, then abduct her, then tell her she’s his chosen one. Then let him set about seducing her by any means necessary: vibrating tongues, secret tentacles, ridged peens, whatever it takes to get the job done (but also make sure they realize in the process that they can’t live without each other!)

Ah, man. Good stuff.

I also personally enjoy a good “human stranded on an unknown alien planet” trope. You know the one, where the h and H have absolutely nothing in common, including language, but now they must learn to communicate with each other in order to survive.

Do you know what language is universal?

Body language. Bow chicka wow wow.

Some books we’d recommend that feature some hot alien on human action are:

Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon. This series basically hits all our alien trope needs and is definitely a group favorite. If you have not heard of it, what rock have you been living under? And if you have not read the first installment, what are you waiting for?

Abducted by Evangeline Anderson.  Our very own Shelly rated it 5 stars (and she has impeccable alien smut tastes.)

 

2.Dude looks like a lady! Uh, that’s because she is: the “Cross-dressing” trope

We know that women are capable of all sorts of things: cleaning, cooking, sewing, birthing babies, just to name a few.

Wait! Don’t shoot! I’m making a point!

Now what if I told you that women are capable of sooooo much more? Would you believe me? Well, there are some societies (fictional and real) that just don’t get it. They don’t understand how a woman could be anything other than a wife, mother, and/or helpmate. Don’t get me wrong, I totally support a woman’s CHOICE to be those things, but I don’t support an ideology that decrees she HAS to be only those things. In other cases, women are meant to be seen but never heard, and their only purpose is to serve their lord, husband, master, whatever. Now this, I never condone.

That’s why we love it so much when a woman rebels against this philosophy, even if she has to dress like a man to do it. We love the thrill of knowing that she is getting the better of every man she meets. We love knowing that the person who is keeping up with the boys, who has put herself in their world and been deemed equal, is missing that little penile projection that the men find so necessary for equality. We love it even more when, disguised a boy, she meets a man that learns to value her for her, not for what she can do for him. Gets us every time.

The “cross-dressing” trope kind of falls into the bigger “mistaken identity” trope, which we also dig. There’s one book in particular that I loved for this trope (though, in all honesty it wasn’t too hard to figure out), but I can’t recommend because **SPOILERS**! Let’s just say we love when there’s a secret a figure out, and watching it unravel on page is tantalizing.

If you’re interested, here’s a couple of titles that we recommend:

Rebel of the Sands (Book #1 Rebel of the Sands) by Alwyn Hamilton. This is the first book in a YA fantasy series that both Shelly and I adored.

Ship of Magic (Book #1 of Liveship Traders) by Robin Hobb. This one is a little different. It’s the first in an epic fantasy trilogy. While there is a potential love story simmering under the surface, one you hope will happen, it’s still in the process of being built.

And, just for good measure, one for mistaken identity:

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt. A good pick if you enjoy historical romances, which (shhhhh!) I do.

3.I love how much I hate you, errr, I mean I hate how much I love you: the “Haters to Lovers” trope.

This one is so much fun to experience, seriously. You have this super hot alpha douchebag (usually) who reeks of sensuality and sexuality and dominance (hopefully) and you just know that he blows fucking minds in bed, but….he’s a super hot alpha douchebag. We HATE him, or rather our girl hates him and we gotta stick by our girl. He’s haughty and arrogant and he does that thing that drives her/us crazy. We know, as readers, the second he appears on the page that it’s going to be a very sexually charged, tension filled ride, and we’re going to love every friggin second of it. Watching as their heated barbs and blows turn to passion of a more sexual nature gets us feeling all funny in our womanly places.

“Friends to Lovers” is another we bandied about. I’m mentioning it here because the dynamics are similar. They’ve known each other forever, you know they are perfect for one another, one of them knows it too, if only the other person could see it as clearly. There’s usually a lot of tension with unspoken feelings and a catalyst that pushes one over the edge. It gets you right in the feels as you watch the oblivious one finally realize they were meant to be together.

Here are our picks for this group favorite:

Darkfever (Fever#1) by Karen Marie Moning.  This should go without saying. What kind of MacHalo groupies would we be if this didn’t make the list? If you haven’t read this yet, what the frack is the matter with you? Read it already!

Big Rock by Lauren Blakely  Now this one is a good choice for a look at the “friends to lover” trope. You know, for research. Plus I never get tired of looking at that book cover. Drools.

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4.He’s never been the settling kind…until you: the “Reformed Rake”

Any self respecting historical romance aficionado will tell you that a reformed rake is the absolute best. He’s the broodingly dark bad boy of the ballroom, the one who has lived through a dozen duels and whose second home is the gaming hell. He drinks too much, he swears in front of ladies, and if the tales are true, he’s a master in the bedroom and no single woman will ever satisfy him. He’s a confirmed bachelor, through and through. Until he meets the one he’d give it all up for. Swoon. Get ready to catch us as we fall all over this. We especially like to see this used in conjunction with the “wallflower” trope. It’s like crack for the soul.

Of course, this same trope can also be used in a contemporary setting. We’re not super picky. If an author can make it work, we will buy the shit out of it.

You can find this trope is some form in nearly all historical romances, but some of our favorite former rakes can be found here:

Devil in Winter (Wallflowers #3) by Lisa Kleypas. Not only does this one meet the “reformed rake” trope, but said rake is brought down by a wallflower.  Our squee meter doesn’t register much higher than that.

On Dublin Street (On Dublin Street #1) by Samantha Young If you’re looking for something more contemporary, anything written by someone named Samantha is bound to be awesome, right? I’m not biased. Nope. Not. At. All.

5.We’re not kids anymore: The “Brother’s Best Friend” trope 

Now, full disclosure: I don’t have a lot of experience with this trope, but I can totally see how this would be one that gets the heart going all pitter patter (that’s a thing people say still, right?) If you had an older brother growing up, odds are you had a crush on his best friend. He was the cooler, older guy that you got to see behind the scenes. You two developed a close rapport. I mean, you are his best friend’s sister. You shared laughs and maybe some accidental touches. Of course, you were basically his kid sister too, so he never looked at you like that, right? 

Fast forward ten years. What happens when you both grow up? I’m sure he’s hot, successful, and still utterly charming with a soft spot for his surrogate sis. But here’s the truth of the matter: you’re not his sister and you’re definitely not a kid anymore. The only question left to answer is:

What are you going to do about it?

Yep, I can totally see how this works. I already feel invested in this completely fictionalized couple now residing in my head. See her, damn it!

And just so I don’t steer you wrong on a recommendation, Abby was kind enough to provide one:

Seven Years by Dannika Dark. Of course, the synopsis doesn’t really sound like my made up scenario but I’m sure the heart of it is there.

 

Which brings me to my honorable mention category:

Ragtag Group or Band if Misfits

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If you have not seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, get your ass in gear and go!

I’m adding this as a “bonus” mainly because I recently watch Guardians Vol. 2 and loved it AND it wasn’t on our original list AND it has nothing to do with lurve and romance. I mean, I guess it could, but it doesn’t have to. Who doesn’t love a good motley crew with interesting eccentricities? Take the socially awkward, absentminded genius, add in a gruff and misunderstood lug who is magic in the kitchen, throw in someone who borders on psychotic when you get on their bad side, and don’t forget to include the female mechanic (because that in itself is an oddity?), and then have this group led by the “down on my luck but I know a big score is just around the corner” charismatic and slightly narcissistic leader. It doesn’t have to be this exact set-up, but you get my drift. This is a group you just know is destined for some epic, kick-ass adventures. Take me with you!

Some suggestion for this trope include:

The Palace By (Rogues of the Republic #1) by Patrick Weekes Think a bank heist with a band of misfits done fantasy style.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers Features one of my favorite ragtag groups: a space crew!

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So, there it is folks, five of our group’s favorite tropes (plus a bonus!) I found it pretty telling. Upon reviewing all of the suggestions there seemed to be one common element: romance. The MacHalos may seem like group of stabby crazies, but deep down we’re just a bunch of softies (except for our magnanimous group Daddy-she really will murder someone with her horde of crustacean assassins if one were to attempt to suggest such a thing.) We want to see our h and H fall in love and get their HEA, but no “boy/girl meet cute” will do.

Make it interesting.

Make dangerous and dark.

Make it worth it.

Do you have a favorite trope we didn’t mention? Maybe another book rec? We’d love to hear from you!

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(NOTE: I do realize most of these tropes also work with the genders reversed or can be applied to M/M or F/F. For the sake of brevity, I only used the tropes as they applied to my reading preferences, not to intentionally discount others!)

 

Everyone Loved It but Me: Indie Edition

There are always those books that everyone raves about. They’ll have high ratings on all the popular book sites. Your goodreads feed will be flooded with positive reviews from people whose opinions often align with yours. So you finally read it just to discover that it really sucks.

It’ll be too wordy, poorly edited, use every ridiculous trope in existence, or have the most annoying characters, etc., and everyone you know will love it.

How is it that I can read the same book as everyone else but have a completely different take on it? Is it me? Life experiences and mood can influence how we interpret what we read. It still baffles me that the same piece of literature can be viewed so differently from one person to the next. It’s the worst when I can’t stand a book and everyone else loves it. I feel like I missed out on something great. And it’s no fun when I want to rant about it, and there isn’t anyone else to commiserate with me. Sometimes I think I’m too critical or picky. Maybe it’s not me, it’s you.

These aren’t mainstream books, but they’re generally popular among the people reading them. Just because they’re indie doesn’t mean it’s only some random groupies reading them either. Some of these have tens of thousands of ratings on goodreads. Here are some of the indie books I either strongly disliked or passionately hated that most people loved:

 

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Freaky Friday – The KFC Colonel Sanders Romance Novella

I have a couple of work friends, and we’re always joking about inappropriate things. As it should be at work. We saw the cover somewhere online and thought, surely this will be pure comedy. That cover, right?! That title. This has the potential to be awesome. (The only thing missing is a horse running in the background – and why is she wearing rolled up jeans and carrying a purse with car keys dangling off the strap when this is supposed to take place like a couple hundred years ago?)

Unfortunately, it was horrible. The problem, in my view, is the lack of any humor. It was so serious. How can you write a serious story about Colonel Sanders?! Where were all the biscuits and chicken puns?!

You have the well-bred spinster who is a member of the ton, even though she never feels like she belongs. Harland was a sailor. I admit, I skimmed it because… it just wasn’t any finger-lickin’ good.

To call their affair passionate was an understatement. Sometimes it seemed as though the two of them had been made to love each other, and they tried to do so at every given opportunity.

Their eyes would meet the instant he walked into the tavern, as if they could feel each other. In that instant, a spark would light and quickly grow into a raging inferno deep within them.

They were so consumed that it took every ounce of their restraint not to give into the fire right then and there. The flames would continue to rage throughout the night until the fire was too much, and at last they could let it engulf them.

THOSE WERE THE STEAMY PARTS.

I didn’t expect smut because, it’s KFC and all. But, wow. I would almost call this a rated-G romance. If that is even possible.

They should have thrown caution to the wind and had him butter her biscuits and then drizzle his gravy all over her meaty thighs.

I could have done it better.

7ya8izz

Q & A with Ashleigh Zavarelli

When I saw A. Zavarelli had a new book coming out and that it was going to be a dark adult fairytale retelling of Beauty & the Beast, I was literally salivating at the idea. If you haven’t read anything by her yet, you are truly missing out. The characters she creates are utterly captivating.  When the offer to get an ARC copy of Beast came through my e-mail, I jumped on the opportunity like it was the actual cover model in the flesh being presented for my grabby hands. 

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Because I also follow Ashleigh on her Femme Fatales facebook page, I requested an author interview for our blog. But because I am a boozy bitch, I thought I would throw in some margaritas to set the tone. Shots of Jameson were on the menu in honor of her Boston Underworld series, but let’s be honest, a few shots in and this interview would devolve into virtual hugging and professing my undying love for both her and her characters.
*cough* Ronan *cough*
So, margaritas it is.
Pour yourself one, or whatever you have handy, and join us for a round as I ask all my burning questions.


C: Your prior romantic leads have been a billionaire bad boy and members of an organized crime syndicate. What should your readers expect from the leading man in Beast?

A: The leading man in Beast is more of an anti hero than anything I’ve ever written before. He is harsher than most of my male leads, and doesn’t have as many redeeming qualities. But I think that when readers learn about his past, it will explain many of his actions. I can’t say too much about him without giving away spoilers except for that he is a highly intelligent recluse with a sinister side.

C: You have described Beast as a contemporary twist on traditional fairytales. What inspired you to make the leap into creating stories about a twisted ever after?

A: I just really like the idea of dark fairytales. The twisted relationships and the light and dark sides that many of these traditional characters seem to have. A big inspiration for me was the show Once Upon a Time. I liked that they took traditional stories and turned them on their heads, shaking up everything we thought we knew about the characters.

C: You create playlists for your books and sometimes even list them in the books so it is clear that music provides a way to direct your creative thoughts, but if you could only choose one song from your Spotify Playlist  Beast (Twisted Ever After #1) to capture the overall feeling of Beast, which would it be?

A: Oh this is a such a hard decision. There are so many songs from my Beast playlist that I adore, but if I had to choose one it would be I Know You by Skylar Grey. This song perfectly sums up Isabella and Javier’s relationship and the emotions between them.

C: Your books have dark themes and the characters are frequently put through hell. How do you prepare yourself to write the thoughts and feelings of the characters? And when you are done, what techniques do you use to prepare yourself to come back to the real world?

A: It’s honestly one of the hardest things for me. I get into that mindset and once I’m there I don’t want to come back out because I’m afraid of losing momentum. I tend to live on a rollercoaster of emotions myself while writing these books. There’s always a huge high when it’s over but then I have to sit back and process everything afterwards and it takes me some time to recover before I can start on the next book. I do get emotionally involved with the characters, so it’s always a little bit sad to let them go.
When I finish a book, I find that just taking time to do things I didn’t have time to helps me the most. Watching my favorite shows. Reading books I want to read. Visiting with friends. I don’t have a lot of time for these things when I’m writing so I basically just go back to being a part of the real world for a while and that really seems to help.

C: What has been your favorite book to date?

A: This is a hard one as well, but I think I’d have to say Reaper. I loved his character and had so much fun getting into his mindset. There are always some characters I connect with more than others and for me, he was the one I could really relate to.

C: Now, as I mentioned, the MacHalos did a buddyread of the entire Boston Underworld series so if I don’t take this opportunity to ask you some things about those books, the extremely bloodthirsty ladies over there are likely to set my head on a spike. They’ll enjoy it, too. They’re a bunch of freaks like that. You would adore them. Anyway, could you tell us a little bit about what inspired some of your and our favorite scenes from the series?

A: LOL well we can’t have your head on a spike! This is starting to feel like a Game of Thrones episode…
As for the inspiration for some of the Boston Underworld scenes, I’ll talk about a couple that I hear often about from readers and explain how they came about.
The one I always tend to hear about is the scene in Reaper with Ronan and Sasha next to the dead body. This one was really quite easy for me. I just sat back and thought about the most taboo things that could occur in this situation between them, and this was the first to pop into my head.
(SPOILER ALERT)
What could be more twisted than Ronan losing his virginity to Sasha after he murdered her boyfriend and is still covered in his blood.
To me, this really spoke of the level of emotions that had been brewing between them for some time. And there were zero fu#%s given at that point. It was going to happen then and there.

Another scene I hear about is the tattoo scene in Ghost. I love this one because this is the ultimate expression of Alexei’s Alpha side coming out to play. He wants the world to know that she belongs to him and he will protect her. The inspiration for this was pretty simple as well and came about through my research of the Russian mafia.

C: In Crow, there is a crucial moment when Lachlan and Mack are really enjoying a few drinks of tequila. It was one of the hottest scenes that didn’t actually include sex that I’ve ever read. In the least creeper way I can possibly put this, please tell me more about that scene!

A: Ha! Well I will take that as a compliment, with a shot of tequila please!
Honestly, this scene was inspired by a teaser that I came across while browsing stock photo sites. It was just a hot graphic and I kept thinking how can I put this into a book? And the rest was all Mack and Crow. It felt different and I just went with it. That scene was one of my favorites to date that I’ve written.
It didn’t hurt that I love tequila and limes either.

*Disclaimer – Ronan is in my top five book boyfriends of ALL time. I cannot be rational in my thoughts about him. I had to defer to someone else’s favorite scene in this book because I couldn’t even begin to narrow it down to just one.
C: In Reaper, Ronan is training as a child and he is expected to cross a pit on a narrow plank to get to his father. Was this something you created entirely in your beautifully terrifying brain space, or did the inspiration for it come from one of the mildly creeptastic documentaries you like to watch?

A: LOL, well my brain is a pretty terrifying place. But… this one was actually something I stumbled across in my research. And not even a creepy documentary either, just something I found on the dark inter webs. So this is a technique that has really been used before, and the psychology of it really resonated with me. For Ronan to feel that trust towards someone who should have nurtured him and then to be betrayed so badly was something that I felt really helped to explain part of his fractured personality.

C: Ghost was a particularly difficult story for some because of the hell that Talia lived through prior to Alexei rescuing her, but that revenge torture scene with Boris and Dmitri was epic.
(I tried to warn you, we really are a bloodthirsty group)

At what point in the story did you decide Dmitri’s fate would be settled by a date with Karma?

A: This is actually funny and I’m glad I get to talk about this scene because it makes me laugh every time I think about it. But originally, this was not part of the story. It was only after I sent the story to my critique partner Rose that she started giving me some much needed whip cracking.
In all honestly, the very first beta draft I sent out of Ghost was much milder. I had been holding back a lot because I was afraid of venturing into such dark territory. But Rose told me very bluntly to quit being such a baby and write the story as it was meant to be written.
So I did.
I fixed things. And at her suggestion (and reminder that readers in general can be quite a bloodthirsty group) she told me I better damn well bring back Boris.
So I did.
And therein lies the incomprehensible value of my beta readers, who have given me a swift kick in the pants on more than one occasion.

C: In Saint there is this awesome scene when you realize just how well Rory gets Scarlett. In the hotel room preparing for the masquerade, Rory presents Scarlett with her choice of weapons, which includes a set of bladed stilettos. Guns, throwing knives… I get it… but how did you come up with the bladed stilettos? That is just amazingly badass.

A: This was hands down one of my favorite scenes to write. Who doesn’t want to be as badass as Scarlett? I know I do. And all the weapons he offered up were so much fun to research. The bladed stilettos were something else I stumbled across on the dark web and just knew it was love at first sight. How could I not put them in there?

C: Speaking of Saint, there seemed to be some people that felt you may have gone too far with Scarlett’s character, and I can assure you, not one of the crazies in our reading group thought that for even a second, in fact Scarlett was our favorite leading lady of the series. Has there ever been a time when writing that you felt like maybe you did take a character too far?

A: I am always terrified that I am taking every character too far in some way or another. I think that fear is natural, but I have had to learn how to push past it. My characters are not all molds of each other and I think it would be rather boring if they were. I love flawed characters. I love to write them. And people are never one hundred percent of anything. They are messy and broken and we all carry around their own baggage. Those are the characters that I like to write, and my only saving grace is that there will always be some readers out there who might resonate with them.

C: As I might have mentioned, I have an undying and possibly unhealthy love for Ronan, but who is your favorite leading man? Which female do you most connect with?

A: My favorite leading man is definitely Ronan. He is so childlike and broken that I can’t help but feel protective of him. He will always have my heart.
And the female character that I connected most with was Scarlett.
Hmmm… now that I think about it, they are probably my two craziest characters.
What does that say about me? 😛

C: You have said that you plan to revisit the Boston Series at some point, and I’m sure you have some more twisted fairytales up your sleeve, but what is up next in your writing lineup?

A: I do plan on writing Nikolai’s book next to wrap up the Boston Underworld series. And I also have Storm and Booker’s story to write as a spinoff. But before I write either of those I actually have a contemporary romance that I’ve been working on. It’s something lighter than what I usually write, but every once in a while I like to do something a little different.

C: Finally, what is the one thing you would like your readers to know about A. Zavarelli?

A: I would like my readers to know that they are my rockstars!
Honestly, I couldn’t do what I do without them. To have people who love my stories is beyond anything I ever could have imagined and it still blows my mind every day.
So thank you for your support. It really does mean the world to me.
XOXO
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To learn more about Ashleigh’s general awesomeness please see her author page. Click HERE for my review of Ashleigh’s new release, Beast.

Thanks for joining me for a drink!

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Beast by A. Zavarelli

Once upon a time I believed in fairytales.
But then he took me.
And he taught me that life isn’t a fairytale.

He is scarred. Broken.
A dark and wild thing.
His beauty is violent, and his words are cruel.
His heart is a shadowed landscape where nothing can grow.
He tells me he could never care for me and he proves it every day.
He’s destroyed my life.
Tortured me.

And worse…
He’s trained me to beg for his affection.
This prison is a place where sunlight doesn’t reach.

He taught me that hate is born in darkness.

And then he taught me that sometimes love is too.

This is one of the darkest books I have read in a while. At the time I received the ARC, there was still no description for Beast on GoodReads, just this beautiful cover.

I miiiight have licked my computer screen… but like, just a little bit.

Fortunately, A. Zavarelli was kind enough to include a warning in the epigraph:

This book contains dark subject matter. Wait let me rephrase that.
This book contains DARK subject matter. Please read at your own discretion.

Without that heads up, I probably would not have been prepared to appreciate this book for what it is.

And it is fucking brilliant.
But also, a thousand kinds of fucked up.

This Beauty and the Beast retelling is everything the Disney version would never be, and yet there are amazing moments woven into the story that are these perfect little nods to the Disney version most of us grew up with and loved dearly. This is not a story that you will want to curl up with and snuggle on a rainy day, but it is a version that makes you question how you could possibly love the romance of the fairytale when you see what lurks under the surface.

So how do you take a beloved classic and make it soul crushingly dark?

Take a young boy, strip him of his humanity and raise him to be more animal than man.

“For a rose can wither in darkness, but burn in the light.”

Mix in a young woman, raised by a father with secrets of his own, who doesn’t quite fit the mold they’ve created for her.

“The flame inside of me has burnt out. And the truth is, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to light it again.”

Liberally sprinkle in Stockholm Syndrome…

“My mind is a prisoner now too. And I am merely a puppet.”

Add in subtle references to the original…

“You must promise to stay out of the West Wing.”

And there you have it.

But what really makes this retelling stand out from others I have read, is that the author doesn’t shy away from what it would take to truly break Bella. The events that play out on the page are shocking, and the twists pull you in different directions all the way to the very last page.

“The weight of his malice has finally suffocated me. I can’t breathe at all. I’m deep in the throes of a panic attack.
And this is how I’m going to die.”

“I don’t understand how I can be so broken. How can I be relieved that it is him, even after what he just did to me.”

“I swallow and look up into his eyes when he is finished. Wondering if he is angry. Wondering if I’ve done something wrong.”

“When he even mentions a scenario where we don’t exist together, I can’t cope. The possibility douses me in fresh terror.”

This story will certainly have you questioning whether truly everyone deserves a happily ever after…

Overall rating:

Once upon a time I believed in fairytales STARS

ARC of Beast was provided by A. Zavarelli in exchange for an honest review.

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Suggested Drink while reading Beast:

Tattooed Rose

Martini Glass

1 OZ Tequila Rose

1 OZ Captain Morgan’s Rum

Shake and serve on the rocks