Gas or Ass by Eden Connor

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Not every relationship is about love.

The odometer on my sex life was stuck at zero the day my mother dragged home a husband I’d never met. Dale brought his two grown sons to help pack and move us into their house. Both were hard-bodied and handsome, but Caine didn’t speak to me. Colt, on the other hand, said crude stuff like, “Wanna ride with me? Then I’m gonna need gas or ass,” but I couldn’t take my eyes off his rippling muscles and challenging blue eyes.

Some are about speed, sex, and defiance.

When Colt offered me a ride to school, I thought the ‘gas or ass’ thing was a joke, but he wasn’t kidding. Though he barely touched me, he shattered the innocence I couldn’t wait to shed. Even then, I sensed I’d never be the same. He and Caine soon upped the stakes, putting me behind the wheel of cars that could reach insane speeds. They kept challenging me to find my inner wild child, pairing illegal drag races with high-octane sex games, games like ‘winner gets head’.

And some are about trying to break you.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked, but I always planned to walk away. Then everything spun out of control and walking wasn’t an option. 
I had to run.
_____

**Disclaimer: This is a tale of a young girl’s crush that turns to hatred and back to love. Gas and Ass is the crush-to-hate part of the story. There’s no HEA inside these pages, so if that’s a must, this isn’t the story for you. If you can delay gratification, however, the hatred-to-love part is the basis of the sequel, Turn and Burn.
(Description provided by the GoodReads page)

Whew boy. I’d been seeing this series recommended in several book groups I’m in, but never gave them a shot before. I’ve always thought they sounded interesting, but I just kept putting it on my TBR pile and read something else.

Well.

I was in the mood for a dark romance, so I thought, sure, why not? and downloaded this bad boy. I’m brand new to the author and aside from the blurb and a few hints here and there, I had no idea what to expect, so I was going in blind.

Holy. Freaking. Crap.

To say this is dark is being polite. To say it’s taboo is putting it mildly. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that was truly difficult for me to read. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it–I sure as heck did–but it was definitely not an easy read.

Shelby is blindsided when her mom comes home one day announcing the fact that not only did she get married without telling her daughter (to a man she’d been dating for just a few weeks at that), but the man she married comes with two adult sons–both of whom catch Shelby’s eye immediately. Colt and Caine Hannah are undeniably sexy, frustratingly self-assured, and completely off limits.

What follows their meeting is a relationship that awakens Shelby’s sexuality and forces her to grow up quick. She knows it’s wrong to have the kind of relationship she, Caine and Colt have, but she can’t bring herself to stay away from them–even when multiple “red flags” tell her she should.

Shelby is insecure–sometimes frustratingly so. But you have to keep in mind that she’s still a teenager, not to mention that she never knew her father and has watched her mother have a revolving door of boyfriends growing up. At the beginning of the book, Shelby doesn’t really know who she is, but you really see her progression as you read–not all of it good, but compelling, nonetheless.

You really go through the ringer with Shelby in this book. There are so many conflicting emotions on top of being a young adult and learning who you are in the world. I went from raging at the pages to fanning myself to wanting to strangle the brothers to wanting to shake Shelby and her best friend to wanting to high five her throughout the story. There are so many things you feel while reading this book. There are also plenty of moments that heated my cheeks and made it difficult to read. There’s a level of promiscuity in this book that I had never read before, short of those that deal with sex trafficking (and that’s another issue entirely) and while I did find it somewhat tasteless at times and just plain hard to read, it fit the story and I think the author was going for something raw and brutally honest, which I can appreciate. Also, despite the fact that it was different from my usual read, I still managed to devour it in one day…so it obviously didn’t bother me enough to set it aside 😉

The story is also heavily influenced by NASCAR as the stepfather works for the company. This is so completely out of my interest range, but the great thing is that Shelby isn’t too interested in NASCAR either, so I wasn’t being bombarded with a sport I don’t particularly understand or care for. I’m not knocking anyone who has this interest, I would just rather spend my time reading or playing video games (read: being a nerd) than follow sports. I do think the author does the sport justice for those who are interested, though. She obviously has some level of comprehension just to be able to write about it, and if that’s your thing, then that’s one more plus in your direction 🙂

While reading this book, I was pretty certain it was going to end a certain way–the author herself even says this book doesn’t have a happily ever after (you have to keep reading the series to get the full story)–but I didn’t see the ending coming. If you think you got angry with the brothers before, it’s nothing compared to the bomb that’s dropped on you at the end of this book and it sent me reeling.

So, if you enjoy very out of the norm stories with taboo and/or dark subject matters–or if you’re just willing to read with a bit of an open mind–check this book out. Seriously. I honestly loved it. There were a few times where I had to take a break and step back from the book for a bit, but in all honesty, it was only for a few minutes because I had to get back to it to find out what happened next, lol.

4 stars 🙂

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Ocean by Jo Raven

oceanBLURB
I thought I was a normal kid once. Do normal kids have to beg from door to door for food? Not sure. It wasn’t always that bad, I guess – and then it was. Really f***ing bad.
I tried to protect my younger brother from the fallout. Lied to him about how bad things were.
But it wasn’t enough. And when the accident happened, he blamed me, like everyone else.
I’m guilty of many things. He’s right about that, at least. So d**n guilty I’m sure everyone knows and will call me out on it.
Except they don’t. Nobody does, except my brother.
Not even Kayla, sexy and sweet and coolest girl ever, who keeps buying me coffee and trying to read my future. But my future isn’t in the g*****n cards, or even in my hands. I don’t see a future. I deny fate, but fate has me pinned like a moth and won’t let me walk away.
Won’t let me escape.
And yeah… you know you’re losing grip when the girl you want reads your palm and you’re scared to hell of what she’ll see and of the pain you can tell is coming.
**WARNING** This book is NOT for the faint of heart. If you have issues reading about abuse (physical or mental), then please DO NOT read this book. 18+ for sexual content, language and violence.

(Photo and description from the GoodReads page)
I’m a huge fan of Jo Raven’s. She is one of those authors I one-click immediately, even before reading the premise of the book, just because I can almost guarantee I’ll like it since she’s the one who wrote it. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in this book. I’ve been following the lives of the Inked Brotherhood and Damage Boyz for quite some time now and feel pretty invested in these characters, and Ocean has always been a mystery. There was always something beneath the surface that had me scratching my head in wonderment. Thankfully, we get some answers in Ocean that explain more than I expected.
Per the very apt title of Damage Boyz, Ocean is very notably damaged like the rest of his “brothers” in his workplace. Thinking he is someone unworthy of love, Ocean spends his time wallowing in guilt and self-hatred. He works hard to help his undeserving mother get through her sickness, and he is desperately trying to piece his relationship with his brother, Raine, back together.
Kayla is a unique soul following the sound of a drum only she can hear. She loves fashion and colors, and is very into tarot cards and the answers she hopes to find in them. Kayla doesn’t believe love exists. She’s spent all her life watching her parents go through a loveless marriage and she doesn’t want to end up like them, so rather than take a chance and try, she has stayed away from relationships altogether. That is, until she meets Ocean. There’s just something about him that makes her want to delve beneath the surface and get to know who he is underneath his fun-loving and tattooed exterior.
The two watch each other from afar for some time before one night when Ocean takes Kayla home after having too much to drink and sparks start to fly. Next comes a tumultuous relationship with more ups and downs than a roller coaster. When they realize they’re falling in love with each other, they have a choice to make: stay where it’s safe, but live a sad and lonely life, or risk having their hearts broken, but possibly have the love they’ve always desired.
Ocean is a beautifully flawed love story that will tear at your heart and leave you breathless and rooting for these two people who you can’t help but love. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the romance/new adult genre with a bit of edge. And if you do read it, be sure to tell me what you think 🙂
Get your copy here!