Joey James Hook – One Two Three, Shatter (The Xander Series, #1)

Author: Joey James Hook
Reviewed by: Valentina
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: M/M
ISBN 13:   9781614952503

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 


Summary: Life was harsh and cruel to Kaleb Xander, and he was never given a moment’s rest to breathe in the misery. Finding his way out in the real world from the cage of wrath and perverted lust, he found it to be a mere step up from what he was used to, abuse coming in different ways, through different avenues. One would think all it would take is one person to reach out their hand and save this lost soul — but Kaleb is more complicated than that. It’ll take a miracle, and he’s banking on someone to be just that for him before he gives it all up.

CONTENT ADVISORY: This title contains scenes of rape or near rape.

Review:  Sometimes even when the page count screams at you not to take the plunge into a week-long adventure (depending on how fast you read) taking the risk might surprise you. The blurb for this book promises a lot of heartache, a long struggle and plenty of situations that might push your limits, and for the most part the book delivers. At the end of this life story you’ll most likely either love it or walk away with mixed feelings. I can’t say either of the two is bad.

This is primarily a story about Kaleb. The side characters, while a big part of the main character’s life aren’t much of a focus because Kaleb tends to look inward most of the time and his thoughts take a huge amount of page space.

We see his life from an early age, a memory that marked his life when his mother left and later on the abuse that followed. It isn’t until almost the end of the book that Kaleb truly starts to heal and all that happened before is like an explanation to why he is the man that choses badly and keeps others at a distance.

Fair warning, something that was listed after the blurb, this book contains male/female relationships, two to be exact and sex does happen. While this might be a tiny bit of a spoiler, the story does end happily and the final pairing is Kaleb and another man. The only thing is, the females do dominate Kaleb’s life and while that might be mostly in a negative way, they do keep our hero afloat at some of his hardest times. Another thing to keep in mind is that the editing isn’t perfect. I caught quite a few mistakes, which I think is normal considering the length, but since I don’t care about such stuff, those who do might find more.

Sexual and physical abuse is shown as well as told many times over and heroin plus alcohol abuse will be hard to kick. None of it makes this story an easy one to read, but for those of us who pick the books precisely because of it, I have to say none of it was to the extent I was expecting. I don’t mean the explicitness or intensity, just the writing that somehow kept me at a distance from the worst of it. The author has a certain writing style where he turns the scenes that should have a powerful impact into something that seems almost told from a third party and is essentially much weaker. That is a positive as well as negative, depending on the reader, but for me it was only a vague dislike.

My biggest issues were the amount of introspective with the very length of the story as a result of it and the inconsistencies that drove me insane. I love long books, but length isn’t always a good thing. A lot of the stuff here could have been shortened and instead replaced with the situations and crucial times that were glazed over. Some parts of Kaleb’s life that were cut seemed more important to me than the others I could have easily done without. Combine it with the amount of questions I had that were never answered and you get a very frustrated reader.

Now I understand that this is only the first book in a series, but a lot of issues could have been solved even in the first part of the book and some I would have rather left for the second book than forced a weak solution just to give the ending a happier note. That bugged me a lot of the time as I read (and it took me a while to actually read it), the author gave explanations or stated past events too long after the subject/situation was active that it seemed almost as an afterthought.

Kaleb’s relationships were strong as far as the plot goes. The differences between Sid, Anna and Trent were very distinctive and Kaleb took the best from all of them. But what I liked the most was the way he acted with each of them. How he changed and opened up and how he finally got what he needed. The last sex scene in the book was just beautiful and really touching after everything Kaleb went through that I don’t think it could have been written better.

As far as positives go, Kaleb is a truly remarkable character. There are so many sides to him and I loved how the author chose to present some of them. From his outlets to his talents, he is someone worthy of seven hundred pages.

I can’t really say much about others potentially liking this book. Tastes are so different and this is a heavy read, even more so for someone who doesn’t stray into these subjects often. But there is talent and intensity in this author’s work that is sure to find an audience.

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