Monday, September 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Torture to Her Soul by J.M. Darhower

Happy Release Day for J.M. Darhower's Torture to Her Soul
If you haven't read the first book Monster in His Eyes, what are you waiting for? Click on the title for buy links and the blog's book review! 
If you already read it and want the scoop on the sequel, here goes...

Torture to Her Soul (Monster in His Eyes #2) by J.M. Darhower
5 Stars

I have to admit I was scared to read this book. Not that the book is scary…well okay I’m sure Naz would be scary if you met him in the dark while he’s wearing those black gloves, but I was scared for how the conclusion to Naz and Karissa’s story would turn out. After all it is listed as being the conclusion. As in the end, close, finish, wrapping up—you get the definition of conclusion. But was this only the close to their story or the end of them as well?

I was tempted quite a few (read many) times to peak at the final pages. But I didn’t. 
“Just keep breathing, and it’ll be okay.”
So instead I read page by page, face in my Kindle screen while the rest of my household did chores and went about their evening. (Hey I warned them this day was coming.) Still, the lingering question remained as I read. Will this end as a romance? A tragedy? Or a tragic love story?  (Note: If you don’t want the answers, stop reading when I address those questions again. Till then you should be safe from any real spoilers. An abbreviated review is posted on Amazon and Goodreads. This is the unabridged version.)

The story picks up pretty much where Monster in His Eyes left off. Naz and Karissa are at a bit of an impasse. She hates him but she loves him. He loves her but he knows she’s hurt.  So how do they cope? What are they left with? 
“We’re a disaster, a certifiable catastrophe, and there’s nothing beautiful about the way we’re going. She’s trying to be unbreakable but I’m unshakeable. She’s going crazy, and I’m already goddamn insane. I clipped my jailbird’s wings so she couldn’t fly away from me, and then I wonder why the f*ck I can’t make her soar.”
Karissa has taken to torturing Naz with cooking shows and Tinker Bell, whether intentionally or not. 
“The woman tells me I’m a monster, but there’s a little beast in her that she unleashes from time to time.”
Naz, on the other hand, well he must work through his life and his issues. And, told from Naz’s perspective this time around, the story is largely about Naz the man.

Is he not a good man? Is he a bad man? (What’s the difference you ask? There is one perhaps.)  Is Naz even a real man at all? At least one person in his life thinks not. And the one closest to him is still trying to figure him out. 
“You’re like a caricature to me, Naz…you’re an outline of a man, a vague sketch of a person, and I’m just trying to fill in the rest of the picture…”
But Naz is no caricature to the reader.  He’s a fully developed, intriguing, mesmerizing, deep, intelligent character who sticks in the reader's head long after you’re done being in his. 
“I’m the kind of man who easily slips between the dark and the light, the kind of monster who walks along the shadows.”
Monster or not, one thing is certain, Naz is a man with fears and haunted by the past. The confident, fearless Naz that Karissa introduced  in Monster in His Eyes, is struggling with so much. He suffers insomnia, is plagued by nightmares that were once a reality, and contemplates death. A lot. Right down to the interpretation of fairytales. Others death. His own death. Yes, the foreshadowing is heavy and it contributed to my own fears—how will this all end for two characters that fell in love in the first book and, in return, readers fell in love with them?

Will Naz kill Carmela and if so will Karissa hate him even more for it? Will Ray take out Karissa if Naz won’t? Will Carmela get her own revenge for Johnny? If it comes down to it, will Naz give Karissa the “plank?” 
“I can see the curiosity in her eyes, and I have all the answers in the world, but she never asks the right questions.”
Not to worry, most lingering questions from the first book are answered. If you wondered what Naz thought or did about something in MiHE, then you’ll get the answers in this one.  Naz’s parents; the details of Santino’s death; how he felt about Karissa drugging him; the specifics of Naz’s “job;” Naz’s brand of kink—it’s all here.

The story this time is more psychological, less twists and suspense beyond the ultimate question of their fate. I did miss the mystery clues from the first book— ya know when you weren’t quite sure if Karissa was getting the double meaning in all of Naz’s….well Nazisms. But I appreciated the deepness to this one. Like Monster in His Eyes, Torture to Her Soul comes full circle from prologue to epilogue and Naz will tell you a secret in both. ;-)

So is TtHS romance? A tragedy? Or a tragic love story?  In a sense it’s all those things.

There is romance, particularly Naz and Karissa’s brand of romance. Once again there’s a trip and plenty of rough sex and a little exhibitionism this time. But there’s also a deeper level to their relationship shown, which should leave no doubt to the extent of their love—the things they are willing to accept of each other; the things they are willing and able to overlook.  

There is tragedy, much blood on Naz’s hands leaving him a damaged man who lost love and never grieved. As much as Karissa’s world was turned upside down, it is Naz who is the tortured soul, clinging to the light of the one he was never supposed to love.

So does that make this a tragic love story? For the most part I would suggest it is a love story with tragedy, but in the end love prevails.  There were aspects that made me tear up—I had immense sympathy for Naz and his loss of Maria. (Yes, Johnny I would have wanted to gun you down too.) That was tragic.  But Karissa is not Maria, nor is she her replacement. Naz may have found romantic love young and lost it young, nearly destroying him, but in the end, I did feel like Naz and Karissa’s love was more…as Naz put it— real. Right down to the ring this time. 
“What I have with you isn’t blissfully ignorant. It’s real, and it isn’t always pretty, but when it’s good, it’s good.”
They fight, they have angry sex, their age difference accounts for generational dissimilar cultural tastes, their daily habits are completely opposite. Yet inside they aren’t so different.  
“I thought at first she just didn’t see it, didn’t see what I was, but after a while I realized she saw it—she just didn’t mind it so much.”
Plus it’s Karissa (unlike anyone else he’s encountered in the last two decades) that makes him reexamine the person he is and desire to become something more. She touches him, reaches him, in a way no one else does.
“Because nobody is hopeless as long as they’re still breathing.”
 The End.

Oh wait!....There’s also a bonus scene via Karissa that left me wanting more of them—more of their life, more of their future, and of course those hypothetical children that Naz has stumped Karissa about ;-)  While this is their conclusion, I still craved more... 
Hey, even Karissa begs for more.;-)

2/23/16 UPDATE:  
Book 3, Target on our Backs!

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