Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kiss Me Hard Before You Go by Shannon McCrimmon

Title: Kiss Me Hard Before You Go
Author: Shannon McCrimmon

Publisher: CreateSpace

Published Date: May 14, 2014

Buy on Amazon: Kindle  &Paperback 

Author Facebook:

Author Website: www.shannonmccrimmon.com


Every summer, Gray Barnes and his eighteen-year old daughter, Evie, open up their farm in the foothills of South Carolina to Kip Kierkin's Carnival of Wonder. The carnival attracts hordes of locals and out-of-towners, and it brings in the extra cash that Gray and his daughter need to keep the family estate running.

Evie decided long ago that she wants nothing to do with the carnival or the farm that her dad so desperately works to keep afloat. She doesn't understand her father's appreciation for the land or the work that it takes to maintain it, but that's all about to change when she meets Finch Mills.

Finch is a lifer – a carny since birth. He's spent all of his twenty-two years on the circuit and longs for a different path. He's never paid much attention to Evie, not until this eventful summer of 1978.
My Thoughts:

Kiss Me Hard Before You Go, by Shannon McCrimmon, is a wonderfully heartwarming story about first love, true friendships, and family. McCrimmon did a fantastic job of hooking me into her novel during the first chapter. I instantly grew attached to Evie, the main character, who is a spitfire with a heart of gold and spunky personality.  

Evie is not a normal young adult in that she keeps to herself, doesn't date, and works on the family farm day and night. She has one best friend, Katie, who has been her BFF since Kindergarten. Evie's dad, Gray, owns a beautiful piece of land in South Carolina where they farm and raise cattle. Gray is a single father but makes up for it by providing Evie with all of his love and support. He really is an A+ father. However money, as with many farmers, is always tight. To help make ends meet, Gray built and runs a skating rink on his property and also rents a parcel of his land out to a traveling carnival every summer.

Year after year, the carnival comes and sets up for a month and Evie hates every minute of it. Sitting on her porch she can smell the sweetness of the food, see the lights from the rides, and hear the music and laughter. It's enough to make her dread the long summer month and wish she were anywhere but there. Gray, on the other hand, is in little boy heaven during carnival season. He loves everything about the carnival, especially the rides.

The year that Kiss Me Hard Before You Go takes place finds Evie in a surly mood. She is worried about her future and starts dreading the possibility of working on the farm for the rest of her monotonous life. Day in and day out she wakes up, cooks breakfast, takes care of the cattle and other farm issues, and then falls into bed exhausted. However, what she doesn't realize is that this year is different. Her life is about to be turned upside down in more ways than one.

Finch, the carnival maintenance man, has been a carny all of his life. His mother and father were both from the carnival circuit and it never occurred to him that he could do anything different. He runs into Evie as the carnival is setting up and they quickly get off on the wrong foot. Her snappiness brings about his sarcastic cockiness and Evie decides he is a horrible boy. However, fate has other plans for the two as they run into each other again and again and their chemistry is undeniable. What follows is an unforgettable summer that will change Evie's life forever.

There are many stereotypes about carny’s that have existed for years. They are gypsies, crooks, drunks, can't be trusted, etc. McCrimmon touches on many of these stereotypes in Kiss Me Hard Before You Go. While a few of the carny’s were less than stellar individuals, four of the most kind hearted people in the novel were carny’s. Finch, Doris, Mouse, and Friedrich are not related by blood but are each other's family. They are there for each other and make sacrifices that many related by blood would not make. I LOVED these characters. Doris, Mouse, and Friedrich are side show attractions. Doris is the 'largest' woman alive, Mouse the 'smallest' man alive, and Friedrich is known as the tattooed man. These characters receive insults, snickers, and constant stares everywhere they go, but learn to take it all with a grain of salt. When Evie meets them she sees past their outward appearances and embraces their kindness.

I really can't say enough about Shannon McCrimmon's Kiss Me Hard Before You Go. I have read three of her books and loved them all. I have learned that McCrimmon writes stories with wonderfully developed characters, catchy plots, and beautiful settings.  Kiss Me Hard Before You Go does not disappoint- in fact it exceeded all of my expectations which is very hard to do! This has quickly become the best novel I have read in a LONG time. I finished reading it five days ago and Evie and Finch are still occupying my thoughts. My fingers are crossed for a sequel to this wonderful story!! If you buy one book this summer season to read trust me, buy Kiss Me Hard Before You Go. You won't be disappointed!!!

Shannon McCrimmon

*I have been provided a complimentary copy of the book, Kiss Me Hard Before You Go, for the purpose of review.*

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Outside In by Doug Cooper

Title: Outside In
Author: Doug Cooper

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Published Date: August 13, 2013

Buy on Amazon: Kindle  Paperback
Author Website: http://www.bycooper.com/blog/


From Memorial Day until the student workers and tourists leave in the fall, the island community of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, thrives on alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, and any other means of forgetting responsibilities. To Brad Shepherd--recently forced out of his job as a junior high math teacher after the overdose death of a student--it's exactly the kind of place he's looking for. 

Allured by the comfort and acceptance of the hedonistic atmosphere, Brad trades his academic responsibilities and sense of obligation for a bouncer's flashlight and a pursuit of the endless summer. With Cinch Stevens, his new best friend and local drug dealer, at his side, Brad becomes lost in a haze of excess and instant gratification filled with romantic conquests, late-night excursions to special island hideaways, and a growing drug habit. Not even the hope from a blossoming relationship with Astrid, a bold and radiant Norwegian waitress, nor the mentoring from a mysterious mandolin player named Caldwell is enough to pull him out of his downward spiral. But as Labor Day approaches, the grim reality of his empty quest consumes him. With nowhere left to run or hide, Brad must accept that identity cannot be found or fabricated, but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.
My Thoughts:

Outside In, by Doug Cooper, is a novel set in a very familiar place to me.  Growing up in Ohio, Put-in-Bay has always been a well-known destination that is known for its crazy days and even wilder nights.  Cooper had it right when he mentioned that once you step onto the island you forget that you're in Ohio.  You really feel like you are on an isolated island where the sky is the limit.  Put-in-Bay is a very touristy location and Outside In describes it perfectly.

Brad fled to Put-in-Bay after he went through a very traumatic experience.   In his ‘old’ life he was a Math teacher and he seemed to enjoy his job and the kids he taught.  However, when a student in his classroom dies of a drug overdose he blames himself for not doing enough.  Should he have gotten the nurse sooner?  Did he ignore the signs of trouble?  Could he have done more?  After it is evident that his administration is not behind him, Brad makes the decision to leave teaching in order to find himself.  Living in St. Louis, Brad had never heard of Put-in-Bay; however after becoming friendly with a band he decides to follow them to the island for the summer.

Having been to Put-in-Bay several times myself, I could easily picture the places that Cooper wrote about. Put-in-Bay really is a beautiful location. Once you step onto the ferry and leave the mainland behind a new attitude comes over you. Your every day stresses and worries vanish as you look forward to all of the fun that is about to be had. The only way on and off of the island is the ferry or Jet Express.  There is also an airport that is used for emergencies and other island needs.  There are not many cars on the island; you get around by walking, biking, or driving golf carts.

Cooper hit the nail on the head when he wrote about the excessive partying.  The streets are lined with bar after bar and you can literally step out of your hotel room or cabin at any point and find people drinking.  ‘It's 5 o'clock Somewhere’ is definitely the slogan on Put-in-Bay.  People flock to the island to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or to throw bachelor or bachelorette parties.  It is also a getaway for those that have a weekend off in the summer. 

It is on Put-in-Bay that Brad goes through some major changes.   In his old life Brad would drink every now and then but he remained in control and responsible.  However, in his new life readers find Brad piling cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms, pot, and alcohol into his body 24/7.  He definitely enters a party hard stage to try and forget his past. He doesn't want to think about what he is going to do next with his life.  Throughout Outside In, Brad is on a journey of self-discovery.  While he goes through many struggles, at the end of the book Brad believes he has discovered who he is.

Before reading Outside In I had never given much thought about the island workers or their lives and where they lived.  However, reading this book has really given me a whole new appreciation of who resides on Put-in-Bay. I could definitely see the party atmosphere growing old very quickly. In the novel, Cooper says that four months on the island equals a year of living. This makes total sense to me and is easily seen as the characters in Outside In party to oblivion.

I really enjoyed Doug Cooper’s Outside In.  The characters were well-developed and Put-in-Bay was described masterfully.  Cooper painted real places like the Roundhouse, Boardwalk, and winery perfectly.  I could truly see each and every place as Brad and his friends visited each. If you are looking for a coming of age story to read this summer then Outside In is for you.

Doug Cooper

*I have been provided a complimentary copy of the book, Outside In, for the purpose of review.*