As mentioned, Southern Fried Reads and I chose this one for a buddy read. As if by design, we both finished tonight.
Hard Justice is a reread for me and honestly, I'm really glad we chose it. I appreciate it even more than I did the first time I read it. Is it campy and cheesy and over the top? Of course. But that's kind of the appeal of romance novels, isn't it? Indulging in some fantasy? Plus, I really think Foster is a solid writer. The story follows a good progression, has its tense moments, and a satisfying ending. I'm not expert of the genre, but I find Foster's books some of the better romance novels I've read.
Final rating: 5 out of 5 this time. It's delectably indulgent and I will not apologize.
I've officially finished my buddy read with A Monster Called Me and we wanted to read something romantic for the month of February. So a Lori Foster book fit the bill!
I'll be honest, I was skeptical of this book in the very beginning. I listen to all of my books through Audible because it allows me to multitask. The narrator for Hard Justice does a phenomenal job of providing a voice for Justice. It's a masculine laid back New Yorker drawl. But good lord, the voice he provided for Fallon and the other women in the book was awful. It was an overly lispy high pitched voice that sounded terrible. It came off as a bad memory of drunk gals in the club whining, "I just wanna dance!" after their fifth vodka cranberry. I wish the narrator would have just kept his voice normal for the female parts of this book. It would have been way better.
Beside the audio aspect, the book started off rough for me. I had to take a step back and remind myself I was reading a sappy romantic novel that isn't exactly supposed to be held to high class literary works (Not like that's my cup of tea either, but you get the point). Fallon's mega naive ways come off as a little over the top in the beginning. But once the first few chapters were out of the way, I started to adore this book.
Foster paints each detail so perfectly that it does become very immersive. She doesn't sacrifice any of her characters to just being stand ins. They all have their own side stories (which I later found out there are books for!). I'm the kind of person who LOVES the side stories of books. I find myself enjoying side characters more than the main characters sometimes. So you can bet I'm going to be reading the rest of the characters books.
By the time the book ended, I was left wanting more. I wanted to see Justice and Fallon get married, have kids, take vacations, grow old. This book was a deliciously cheesy and savory book to read for fun. If you don't take it seriously, you'll love it.
I don’t know how I began following Jedidiah Jenkins on Instagram. One day his travel photos began flooding my feed and I continued to see his book “To Shake the Sleeping Self” over and over. A biking story? That seemed like the last thing I would read. But after collecting so many audible credits, I decided what the heck and bought it.
The story of monotony in the workforce automatically had me nodding my head. As someone in their mid 20’s I too often wonder, where is the time going? Days and weeks and months fly by relentlessly. The fact that 30 is creeping up so quickly and I’ve still yet to do so many things I wanted to do, freaks me out! But I digress…
Jed’s decision to do this journey at age 30 gives him the time and money to save and plan for this trip. I had a friend walk across the USA a few months ago. It took her six months. And the whole time I couldn’t stop saying, “How can you afford to just take off life for six months?!” Jed takes off about a year and a half for this journey. Maybe it’s simpler than I think if you just plan wisely?
Jed’s riding partner Weston ultimately became my favorite part of this book. His carefree spirit, constant pondering on random topics, and scenes where he gets lost or makes friends with strangers became the best parts of this book. You can only imagine how crushed I was when he didn’t return to South America.
Jed’s relationship with Weston is bittersweet. The two are complete opposites yet balance each other out so well. I didn’t enjoy how Jed portrayed Weston’s character towards the end. After searching through Instagram, I found Weston’s (or should I say Phillip’s) profile. After reading through comments, it seems as if Jed created Weston as a poor caricature. Jed explains how Weston talks about never having money, but always finds some for weed. While that maybe how Jed saw this, Weston explained on Instagram that his relationship with cannabis was never as dramatic as Jed portrayed it. Jed also remains ultimately jealous over Weston throughout the book. Whether it be his attitude, his body, or his opinions. Like a marriage, I do think them being close for so many months, caused this. But whenever Weston seemed to be enjoying himself or having fun, Jed was off to the side shaking his head in weird envy.
Jed seems to struggle with his privilege throughout this book. He has a lofty job working at a nonprofit-esque international group. He could afford to take off for a year and a half without repercussions. He felt safe to bike alone across the globe. He snaps at Weston for calling him privileged without understanding Weston’s background of struggling for money and stability in life. He notices his whiteness in these countries, but seems to use it as an advantage at times without much thought. He also leaves to go back to the United States halfway through his trip. And finally, he describes some of the rural parts of these countries as “wow people actually LIVE like this everyday,” and peddles along without much more thought to simmer on. None of this is inherently bad, but for a book titled “To Shake the Sleeping Self” it doesn’t come off as awake to these moments.
This book heavily discusses the themes of Evangelion and being a gay Christian from Tennessee. Jed’s struggle with his sexuality and faith is raw. He doesn’t get any of the answers he asks on this trip, but he does think he has a better understanding. While I enjoyed the pondering and questions about his faith, I eventually became exhausted with it. How many times could you ask the same questions over and over? Am I a Christian? Am I sinning? Do I believe? Once Weston breaks away in Peru, the rest of the book felt as if a long drawn out discussion what it means to be a Christian. I so badly wanted to jump in and say, “dude you don’t have to have all the answers to this! It’s okay! Look around!”
The final hike of Jed’s journey is shared with his mother and two friends. Jed’s 67 year old mother is hell bent on doing this walk. Jed, doesn’t think she should. While I do agree with Jed on this, the way he treated his mother in the long cold descent had me feeling terrible for his mother. All she wanted to do was share this life changing walk with her son as a reward. I understand Jed was tired, cold, wet, and hungry. But the way he snaps at his mother for putting them in that situation ticked me off some. Dude, that’s your 67 year old mother who adores you. Cut her some slack. I could never imagine shouting at my mother like that, even if she made me that mad. I also was confused to why Jed’s friends never alerted any authorities that Jed and his mother weren’t back yet. Jed says they finally get back to the lodge at midnight. I don’t think I would twiddle my thumbs waiting for their return at that point.
The ending of this book felt slightly abrupt and left me feeling unsure. Jed did it. He finished this incredible adventure. It didn’t have to end with a victory dance, but a spat with his mother didn’t feel right either.