I am not lost…

March 22, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: ASHBY HOLLER by Jamie Zakian

I was provided a copy of this book by the author at no cost, in exchange for my honest review.

It’s been a while since I read anything that primarily features LGBT characters. I’m not sure if that speaks to my choice in books or just how isolated my current collection is, but when Zakian reached out for a review, I had to jump at the chance. Now, to be fair, the last book I read that dealt with ladies who like other ladies was…less than stellar. So I was hoping for the best in this one.

It’s a definite step up. (And I know that sounds like a lukewarm compliment, but I don’t mean it to be! Honest!)

The book takes place back in the 1980s, dealing with drug rings and long-distance trucking, and the complicated situations therein. Now, I have literally no experience with any of this, other than I read a book about the child of a long distance trucker once, and I was commissioned to write a story about a driver. My experience with drugs is even more sparse; I had friends who smoked weed in college. (I have friends who smoke weed now. Eh.) So I can’t speak to the veracity of the setting, but I can say that it immerses you well, and makes you believe it, and that’s really half the battle.

Sasha Ashby is the daughter of the head of a huge trucking gang, running drugs and whatnot all over the place. It’s sex and drugs and rock and roll through and through–and through it all Sasha has to deal with her own dirty little secret: she likes women the same as men. And when you want the respect of a team of truckers, you can’t be the lesbian on board. She’s been knocked down a peg or two for that before, and she’s determined to be the leader she knows she can be. And it all looks like it might work out for her…when her best friend’s older brother is released from jail, and throws a wrench into all the works. As expected, drama ensues.

It’s interesting; a lot of the things I might consider flaws in other books are things that make this particular book stronger. Most of the characters are huge personalities, larger than life and twice as loud. The ones who weren’t that big were the exact opposite: so small you could easily overlook them. Normally I’d fault this for being hard to believe–but in rings like that, you almost have to be that way. It’s go big or go home, and if you go home it’s probably in a casket. (More likely, a body bag, if you’re lucky.) The impetuous nature of all the characters, and their relationships, is the same way. It’s almost comical to see the characters bounce between themselves, lie to each other, sneak quickies here and there. But when you’re playing others for that long, you play everyone. I can completely believe it, though I don’t feel much remorse for them when the consequences thereof come back to bite them in the butt. (That’s what you get, Ellen. That is WHAT you GET.)

I’m not overwhelmed by the end of the book. I won’t go into details so as to not spoil anyone, but it seemed like kind of the opposite of a deus ex machina to get Sasha out of a situation that Zakian wasn’t sure how to salvage. I think the “situation” that was removed from Sasha’s life was an unnecessary complication to the whole process, and frankly, I’m astounded that it lasted through all of the final chaos. The timelines don’t seem to make much sense to me. While Sasha’s final destination doesn’t shock me in the slightest, and I’d be interested to see what happens when she gets there, I’m not really sold on the rest of that final chapter. It’s weak, it’s a huge skip in the story, and it just leaves everything feeling very hollow. I think there could have been a much better way of handling it all.

That being said, there are some really nice plot twists in here, and the characters are all pretty likable. I had a particular fondness for one character–who turned out to be…not what they seemed, which startled me. (Well done; that’s hard to do!) Another I really liked and lost to the world, unsurprisingly. And of course, the main trio of Sasha, Vinny, and Dez all had their own selling points. (I feel bad for Vinny. I like him. He can come chill with me.)

All in all, not a bad book at all, and definitely good enough to make me consider picking up the sequel. There are a lot of questions to be answered, and I’m intrigued to see how it all goes down.

Rating: **** (Recommended)
(In all fairness, I’d likely give this a 3.5 if I could, but I’m rounding up because I totally got played by that one character. And it’s hard to play me, just like Sasha.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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