#BookReview: Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth

Excellent Twisty Thriller With Uniquely Broken Characters Will Be Far Too Difficult For Some. Straight up, I loved this one. It was so *oppressively* dark, yet done in such a way that even though there is truly little light to be had and also with no supernatural element to the darkness at all… you still want to see exactly what happened to make this tale this way.

The reason it will be difficult for some, perhaps many, is because of the *rampant* child abuse, including some sexual abuse and even a rape – though while “on screen” it is more “dark room” based. Still described, but not as… vividly… as it could have been. Showing that Hepworth *does* show restraint when going even more explicit doesn’t add anything further to the actual story. There is also a rather horrifying birth scene, though this is far from the “splatterpunk” / “horror” that one reviewer described it as. Though going further would perhaps spoil what happens there *too* much, so I’ll show the same restraint in the review that Hepworth did in the text. If such scenes are difficult for you… this may not be the book for you.

The reason I actually enjoyed the book though was because of how the central characters – three chosen sisters bound not by blood, but by shared trauma and survival- were both broken… and how they used that brokenness as adults, showing that even some of the most difficult times, the darkest times of someone’s life, *can* be overcome to varying degrees. Not that any of our adults are truly “normal” healthy – again showing a great deal of reality here – but that they’re still, to use a term used to describe Autistics that I truly despise but fits here, “functional”. Ish.

Ultimately this is one of those books that will likely prove divisive in at least some groups, but I thought was done well, with the author using so many real world horrors (and yes, in my own work through my church as a teen and just generally being an observant adult, I’ve seen this and so much worse on occassion) to craft the story she is trying to tell… while showing restraint where further graphic details don’t add any more needed information to extract the desired emotions from the reader. Showing that Hepworth truly is a master of her craft, even when she is somewhat intentionally pushing some buttons of some people.

Very much recommended.

This review of Darling Girls by Sally Hepworth was originally written on April 24, 2024.

#BookReview: Hello Goodbye by Kay Bratt

Shocking Final Chapters Leave Readers Breathless. This book was one of the more interesting in this series both because the crime being investigated here is one of the more brutal Bratt has ever put into her fiction (at least in my now 5+ yrs of reading most of her work) *and* because Bratt’s style doesn’t normally lend itself to “oh my god I can’t stop reading I have to know what happens next NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” level pacing… and yet this one’s last several chapters read exactly that way. Thus, showing a truly deft hand with her storytelling along with strong growth as a storyteller. Indeed, perhaps one minor weakness here is that given the somewhat limited number of characters (wait, what? I know – but bear with me here), it isn’t really *possible* to show just how shocking this particular crime would be throughout an entire region of small Southern towns – though even here, Bratt works well within her style and within the world she has crafted through this series to relay that as best as possible. And yes, as others have noted, given everything that happens here… Book 8 *could* be the series finale… but I too agree I’d like to see it continue well beyond that point. Very much recommended.

This review of Hello Goodbye by Kay Bratt was originally written on November 17, 2023.

#BlogTour: When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer

For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid young adult/ new adult tale of lesbian love in high school. For this blog tour we’re looking at When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer.

First, here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Solid Lesbian High School Romance. This one has the metric shit-ton of angst one would expect from teenage girls – you’ve got the foster kid trying to fit in. You’ve got the spoiled rich kid hating herself over something the foster kid knows nothing about (but finds out about eventually) who leads one group of friends. You’ve got the spoiled rich kid’s ex-girlfriend who shared in the tragedy and the guilt… and who leads the other group of friends. You’ve got the foster kid trying to fit in with both sets. And along the way, you get all kinds of will-they/ won’t-they teasing between the three… which *also* leads to quite a bit of angst. 😀 But yes, somewhere along the way it becomes a bit like Sky High’s *awesome* final line, and you do in fact get an actual romance as it does so. Zimmer also did an excellent job of making this a shared universe with her first book, but while making it effectively a standalone book rather than a true “series” book. So if you’re into high school and/ or LGBT/lesbian romances, give this one a try. Even if you’re not, this one is a good book to experiment with. As is typical of many high school based romances, there is less sex than many/ most older adult romances and more kissing. Though there is an eventual rounding of the bases. Or several. It just primarily happens “off screen”. Not for the “clean”/ “sweet” romance crowd, though I’ve seen little evidence of that crowd looking to the LGBT romance arena anyway. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, the publisher information, including the book description, a bit about the author, and some direct buy links.
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