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REVIEW:  Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

REVIEW: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Dear Ms. McGinnis,

A few months ago I mentioned a personal need to take a break from the YA dystopia subgenre. The books weren’t working for me, and I was growing increasingly frustrated. Then I heard the premise for your debut novel: a world in which fresh water became a scarce, much sought after resource. I found this idea far easier to believe than some other dystopian concepts I’ve read.

not-a-drop-to-drink-mcginnisLynn’s existence is one of desperate survival: purifying drinking water, fending off coyotes, finding enough food to last the winter, and protecting their pond against strangers who’d want to steal their precious water. It’s a hard life but it’s the only one she’s ever known. She’s used to it and wants nothing more than to remain in the family home with her mother. Lynn doesn’t need anyone else.

When her mother is killed by coyotes, Lynn must now fend for herself. Not only does she have hungry coyotes to deal with but she also has to protect her home from scavengers who’d love nothing more than to steal it from her. But when she encounters strangers camping out by the stream near her home, Lynn learns what it means to trust and love another human being. Now she has to protect them too while the scavengers she’s been fending off growing in strength and number.

Given how many dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels there are, it’s hard to be original and this book isn’t. But a lack of originality is fine, provided the characters are interesting and the story are interesting. For me, Not a Drop to Drink delivered on both fronts.

I liked Lynn a lot. She’s a hard heroine, raised to be fierce and independent, by a mother who became a hard woman in order to survive in a world that was falling apart. Some readers will find her unlikeable. I thought her characterization was great. Given her upbringing, it made sense that Lynn didn’t trust anyone. She was taught to shoot first and forget about asking the questions later because the person you shot at better be dead.

I also thought Lynn’s innocence about certain topics made sense. She didn’t grow up around men so why would she know anything about them? That said, this ignorance wasn’t played for laughs. Lynn wasn’t a wide-eyed naive girl. Sex, love, and flirting were foreign concepts to her. There was the usual instalove romance subplot but it was more low-level than in other books in this genre, which I appreciated. So if you’re a reader who prefers much prevalent romance in your YA, this is not the book for you. That and the romance doesn’t end well.

Regarding Lynn’s ignorance about certain topics, I’m of two minds about the handling of rape. At a point in the novel, it’s necessary to explain to Lynn what rape is and it didn’t sit well with me that rape was equated to sex. Rape has more to do with power rather than with sex, and the narrative didn’t make that distinction clear in my opinion. On the other hand, Lynn received this explanation from a male neighbor and perhaps that is how he viewed rape and that’s why he explained it to Lynn that way. The lacking distinction is murky, so I’m not entirely sure if it was deliberate.

One of the reasons I liked this book is because despite an obvious dystopian premise, it reads more like a post-apocalyptic survival adventure. I miss those kinds of stories and even if there is a rather useless love interest, the narrative remains focused on Lynn and her growth as a person. The story makes it clear that it’s perfectly all right to be a hard person, sometimes the circumstances require it in order to survive, but that it was okay to have some soft edges too. That it was okay to trust people.

The ultimate confrontation at the end could have used more build-up. I thought that the initial threat was set up nicely in the beginning when both Lynn and her mother were shooting at the scavengers in the dark. But once Lynn made contact with her neighbor and then befriended the people by the river, that thread dropped, only to be picked up at the end. It almost read like an afterthought: Oops! The book is ending! We need an exciting climax!

I also thought the identity of the antagonist was predictable and cliche. That said, I did think Lynn’s choice was the correct one. Blood doesn’t trump everything.

While not an original story, I thought Not a Drop to Drink was a worthwhile read. People tired of introspective dystopias might find this more to their liking. The constant spectre of rape might be a turn-off, as well as the way it was handled, however. And romance readers definitely need to mind what I said about that subplot. B-

My regards,

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REVIEW:  Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha

REVIEW: Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha

Dear Kit Rocha:

This is the third book in the Beyond books which are a series of erotic romances set in a post apoclyptic world. Outside of a gated and tightly regulated moralistic community are sectors were gangs run the show. If your gang has a good king, you can live a decent life of bootlegging, fighting and fucking. If your gang has a bad king, women often are treated like commodities to be traded and sold in exchange for power and goods.

Beyond Pain Kit RochaSix lived most of her adult life in Sector Three where she was essentially a toy. She’s learned to cope by shutting down. In Sector Four, anything goes so long as you are willing is the motto and this confuses her and entices her.

Six saw it over and over, every time an O’Kane woman took that stage. Power in the place of helplessness, pride where she would have felt sick and exposed. There was a secret in these women that went deeper than the ink around their wrists, and sometimes she thought if she watched for long enough, she could unlock it for herself.

Bren was former military police inside Eden but overtime the things he was asked to do eroded his sense of purpose but he still remained true to Eden. Eden took his loyalty and service and spit on it, allowing Bren to take the fall for a corrupt official resulting in Bren being cast out.

He’s found a new life and a new home in Sector Four as an enforcer of the O’Kane gang. Dallas O’Kane, the head honcho of Sector Four, sends Bren into their newly acquired territory of Sector Three to assess what the temperature of the residents of Sector Three. Who will be a problem? Who will need to be terminated? Who is an asset? For aid, Dallas recommends Bren take Six who knows Sector Three better than all of them.

Bren embodies the big, silent type. He doesn’t talk much and he likes to be in charge in the bedroom but he’s so very patient when it comes to Six.  Because of his strong sense of loyalty, his heart and spirit is still bruised from the betrayal from the leadership in Eden and unfortunately, this leads to conflict with Six.

The romance between Bren and Six seemed more intimate than the previous two and I’m not sure if it was because the type of sex that they enjoyed was limited to the two of them or whether it was because the writing made it so.  This book’s kink was voyeurism but the relationship was focused solely on Bren and Six (although there are strong hints at the future books such as Ace, Rachel and Cruz).  I do admit to being less than interested in the group sex and often find myself chafing to move on to find out more about the world in which they live; their fight with Eden; and the political struggles between the Sectors.  To me that is more interesting at times than how many people Dallas and Lex can fit in their bed at one time.

I know it is ridiculous to complain about the dirty sex when this is a series that is about the celebration of openness of physical relationships.  The sex scenes in these books are some of the best out there in the erotic romance world and I do appreciate the type of message the books send – that no sex, so long as it is consensual, is wrong or deviant or shameful.  Finally, I’m uncertain whether you can read Bren and Six’s story without having read Book 2, Beyond Control.  It sets up Sector Three’s acquisition and lays the groundwork for Bren and Six’s attraction. But saying that you have to read Beyond Control before Beyond Pain is a bit like saying you need to eat the pie with the ice cream. It’s no burden. 

This is an exciting erotic romance series that manages to deliver both  interesting and intriguing world building but also a diverse cast of characters whose favorite thing to do is make others happy – with their fingers, tongues, lips, and so on.  B-

Best regards,


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