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Cat is down on her luck.  She’s been fired again, creating another entry on her resume in the string of odd jobs that she calls her life.  It’s just what she needs, too – she’s already barely scraping together the money to pay for her mother’s expensive nursing home.  If only Flynn hadn’t come into the coffee shop and egged her on.

Flynn can’t believe that his mother likes Cat better than she likes her own son.  But it’s true – after her stroke, she’s the only person his mother will speak to.  It’s too bad that Cat got her to speak by sharing erotic vampire novels with her.  "Spank me harder" wasn’t exactly what Flynn was hoping for, in terms of progress.  So when he sees Cat in the coffee shop, he can’t help but give her a piece of his mind.  He never imagined that Cat would get fired for giving it right back to him.

Luckily, Cat’s friend Landon swoops in with an interesting job offer – he’ll take care of her completely, paying her good money, along with good benefits – if she becomes the general manager of his phone sex business.  What, what?  PHONE SEX BUSINESS?  (So that’s where he gets all of his money from…)  Cat accepts.  What else is she going to do?

Flynn lives in the same building as Landon, so he and Cat can’t avoid each other.  They’ll have to get over their problems eventually.

All in all, Talk This Way is a pretty cute novella. It was too short for me to really connect with the characters, but it was a nice distraction. I probably won’t read the rest of the books in the series, but reading it was an hour well-spent.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

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Let’s get one thing out of the way here. I don’t read a lot of thrillers. I don’t like being scared, I don’t like creepy things, and I definitely don’t like waking up in the middle of the night feeling like some disturbed child is plotting to kill me. But I set all of that aside because of the good ratings and general buzz surrounding In the Blood. And am I ever glad I did.

In the Blood tells the story of Lana Granger, a psychology student at a small college in New York. Lana is struggling to overcome a difficult past and the media circus that surrounded it – her father is on death row, accused of murdering her mother and hiding the body. Her grandfather – her mother’s father – was also a convicted murderer. Despite all of this, she was taken care of – sent to live with her loving aunt, with all of her parents’ money set aside in a trust fund for her, accessible whenever she needed it. Accessible, that is, until her lawyer tells her that the conditions of her trust fund stipulate that she must find a job. Excited by the prospect of earning her own money, with no strings attached, she takes on a job babysitting a troubled young boy.

Luke has been expelled from multiple schools for his violent outbursts and manipulative ways. He now attends a school especially for the emotionally troubled, but it’s not helping. Some say he’s beyond help. His single mother, Rachel, is exhausted because Luke demands 110% of her energy, and Luke’s father is mysteriously absent, seemingly unable to handle the nature of his child. Rachel is happy to see that Lana and Luke seem to share a special connection. His outbursts, his rages, are few and far between when she babysits him.

Then Lana’s friend Beck disappears, just as her friend Elizabeth did years before. Lana was the last person Beck was seen talking to. Was she involved? Does murder run through her blood? Luke seems to know so much about the case, even with his limited access to the internet and his very controlled school environment – is he somehow involved as well?

Lisa Unger pulled me into the Lana’s world so quickly and so forcefully that I read the book in just a few short hours on a Sunday afternoon. Unger throws twist after twist after turn at the reader to keep the pages turning. Because there are so many twists, I’m going to cut my review short and just say that if you’re interested in thrillers, if you like mysteries, if you go for a general creepy ambiance, then this book is for you. Even if you’re like me and you usually wouldn’t touch anything creepy with a ten foot pole, you’ll probably still like this book.

Final rating: 

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Welcome to Hotel Horny Women, home of scruffy cheese and sensual produce.

Sarah Marshall, otherwise known as Pixie, is at a difficult time in her life. Her best friend Charity was ripped away from her in a tragic car accident, and Charity’s brother, Levi, won’t give her the time of day anymore. They used to be such good friends. The Three Musketeers, they called themselves. Now Pixie and Levi haven’t even spoken in almost a year. She’s happy enough to be avoiding him. After all, she feels a lot of guilt for her involvement in the accident, and a lot of resentment at being abandoned. But as she starts her summer job at her aunt’s bed and breakfast, she finds she’ll be sleeping next door to handyman Levi – and they’ll share a bathroom, so there’s no avoiding him, either. He’d dropped off the face of the earth, and now she can’t get away from him.

Best Kind of Broken is a very well-written novel. Chelsea Fine has a distinct voice, with a unique humor that was right up my alley. The first part of the book in particular has some great inner monologues from Pixie: 

Surprise! You’ll be sharing a sink, a shower, and a daily dose of weird sexual tension with him.

I liked all of the characters, and I liked that all the characters had their own distinct personalities. I liked Jenna, Pixie’s friend, as the constant voice of reason throughout the novel. She was one of my favorite characters, and I found her advice to Pixie (below) very refreshing, especially for a NA novel, which are so often focused on sex:

Sex is not a requirement for a relationship. It’s a perk. And if you don’t want to get perky with Matt, then don’t.

Overall, I really liked this novel, but I had to knock two stars off my rating – one for the sheer amount of angst (my number one pet peeve in a book is too much angst, and this book is bursting at the seams with it), and another for making us wait so long for the characters to finally be happy. I feel bad subtracting two stars since I did like it so much, so I’m going to call this a solid 3.5.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read a free copy of this novel.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Sex is not a requirement for a relationship. It’s a perk. And if you don’t want to get perky with Matt, then don’t.

Best Kind of Broken | Chelsea Fine

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Jane Forrester just wants to help people. It’s as simple as that. So she takes a job as a social worker, and while her husband isn’t exactly on board with that idea, he allows it. It’s the 1960’s and it’s just not proper for the wife of a physician to work, but Jane is strong-willed, independent, and unsatisfied with simply playing the role of a subservient housewife. As a social worker, she’ll get to help people. She’ll bring them much-needed supplies, much-needed money, much-needed assistance. Or so she thinks.

Assigned to a few families in rural North Carolina, her job is nothing like what she imagined, and the Hart family quickly sucks her in. Ivy Hart is practically running the family at fifteen years old. Her parents are gone. Her grandmother, Nonnie, is sick. Her older sister, Mary Ella, has some intellectual problems. And Mary Ella’s son, Baby William, while well-loved, isn’t well-cared for. Ivy, Mary Ella, and occasionally Nonnie work on a tobacco farm, barely earning enough to keep themselves fed, even with the extra assistance from the state. Jane gradually becomes more and more involved with this family, bending the rules and paying them extra attention.

When she finds out that a large part of her job is ordering the sterilization of at-risk children, such as Ivy, her world comes crumbling down around her. It seems so wrong to her, to sterilize these girls without their consent, without their knowledge – yet to her coworkers, it’s common practice. As Jane protests more and more vigorously against the sterilization, she puts her job – and her marriage – at risk.

I was pulled into this novel from the very first sentence, and I was absolutely done for by the time Jane got her job as a social worker. I couldn’t believe what I was reading about the eugenics program – in all the history classes I’ve taken, all the college courses I sat through, all the books I’ve read, I never once heard about this awful program. I had to research it myself, see if it was true, and the horrifying part is that it was. North Carolina had a particularly aggressive eugenics program, approving nearly all proposals involving the “mentally defective,” “feebleminded,” or those with epilepsy. Knowing that this book is based on real events is chilling.

If I could give this book more than five stars, I would. Not only is it incredibly well-written, it’s such an important topic. Highly, highly recommended.

Final rating: 

But did you know that eyewitness testimony is often totally unreliable? The human memory only records events through the filter of its own frame of reference. We try to fit the information we receive into schemas, units of knowledge that we possess about the world that correspond with frequently encountered situations, individuals, ideas, and situations. In other words, we often see things as we expect to see them, or want to see them, and not always as they are.

In the Blood | Lisa Unger