The Safe Word by Karen Long

Hello, friends!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I’ve been working on trying to find balance in my life with a new full time job and what I want to do now that I’m done with school, but I’m ready to dive headfirst back into this!

This is going to be a spoiler-FREE review of The Safe Word by Karen Long, which is the first novel in the DI Eleanor Raven series.  I’m trying to read my MASSIVE backlog of books from when I first got on Netgalley and requested pretty much everything, and this is one of the lucky winners that was on my Spookathon TBR.

The Safe Word - Karen Long

There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision.

Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement.

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.”

I felt very meh about this. The overall idea was interesting and I really enjoy detective-based thrillers/crime novels, but I just didn’t quite connect with this story.

The plot itself felt very realistic, and the pacing was interesting. Like I said, I enjoy detective-based books and reading from an officer’s perspective. I liked the fact that everything was constantly moving, and the way that they found clues seemed realistic (at least for me, someone who hasn’t worked as a detective/police officer and hasn’t read a lot of it). The killer was creepy but also deranged and sloppy and that was a strong point for me.

I could predict nearly every single plot twist, and even if I couldn’t, I wasn’t all that impressed with them. There was one twist that just had me shaking my head in disbelief. I don’t want to spoil anything since it’s definitely a huge part of the plot, but I didn’t think it made sense at all.

Towards the end of the story, I felt like the pacing got weird. The story felt so realistic, I could completely understand where everything was coming from, then in the last 20% all of the timing was SO convenient and perfect, like everything ended with a little bow tied up around it. It felt a little like the plot was moving at regular speed, and then it got put into slow-mo for a very specific portion.

I hated the characters. Eleanor is rude and acts like a child about her new partner, which is both understandable and yet so irritating. She’s convinced her previous partner, who can barely walk anymore without wheezing, is going to come back to the station and resume duties, and she can’t be convinced any other way. She doesn’t give Laurence much of a chance, especially at the beginning, but he doesn’t give her much to go off of, either.

Laurence is this goof of a guy who tries to charm his partner but is hopeless at the actual job of being a detective. He’s sweet, but kind of stupid. Part of that might be influenced by Eleanor treating him like he’s stupid, so maybe take that with a grain of salt. By the end he magically figures out how to be a great detective, so at least we get a little development.

The side characters were all annoying and forgettable. They were kind of funny sometimes, but mostly the same person with a slightly different dialogue and always rude.

I HATED Eleanor’s “dark secret”. The book immediately starts with you finding it out, and then you see small sprinkles of it throughout the story, but NEVER to the extent that you would assume based on your first impression. It’s not that I have anything against the BDSM community, but it just felt so random and convenient for the plot. I guess that’s the point, but it still just felt so out of place. There could have been a million reasons for the ending to happen, but it had to be tied back into this secret? It also created this incredibly weird subplot that was a bit of a red herring.

I also don’t feel as though the representation was very good. The only people who you see as part of the BDSM community were kind of slimy individuals, or they just seemed like total whacks; not a great way to show off an already misunderstood group of people. The representation for other minority groups didn’t impress me much either; they were often stereotypes and it was incredibly frustrating at times.

On a similar vein, I disliked the setting immensely. It didn’t feel like it was a real place. There are sex clubs with the most stylized people in them. Maybe I live in a very conservative area, but I’ve never seen a club so blatantly sexual and possibly illegal, like, ever. It felt entirely too fictional for what I had expected. Though in reflection, a book with the title “The Safe Word” is probably going to be a little bit focused on the raunchy.

I felt very average about the actual writing of the book. I’ve certainly read worse, but I wasn’t blown away either. Finally, I KNOW that you can’t judge a book by it’s ARC, but the formatting of the file I got drove me nuts. I hope that the actual book isn’t like it; there were grammatical errors, weird line breaks, and NO SCENE BREAKS. So the scene would change and there would be no indication of it, which made reading very confusing. While this didn’t necessarily change the way I would rate the book, it did pull me out a few times.

Overall, it felt very much like the beginning of a series, but not one that I think I would continue.

Rating: 3 Book

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


July TBR

Am I the only person who has a massive TBR pile that only seems to get bigger?  It feels that way sometimes!  This month I wanted to share with you all my TBR, or To-Be-Read, for the month of July.

Since I have so many books (over 900!), I wanted to come up with a fun way to pick the books to read for each month instead of just trying to randomly guess what sounds good at the time.

I chose 10 books that I would try to read this month!  They’re sorted into different categories based on how they were picked for the month and where they come from!

The first books I have on my list are the ARCs I received recently that are going to be published in July or the beginning of August and so need to be read this month!

The first is a NetGalley book called The Tarot Cafe; it’s a manga collection that I thought sounded incredibly interesting and I wanted to check out what I thought of it!  The second book was from FirsttoRead, and it’s called The Boy at the Door.

The next two books are rollovers from June that I haven’t finished and want to complete in July!  The first book is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the second is Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

Those four were the books that I had to add to my July TBR for one reason or another. The next six are all books that I had a lot of fun finding!  I decided to use a random number generator for all the books on my GoodReads to-read shelf, and find the book that corresponded with the number I chose.

Two books I got randomly were both books on my physical TBR shelf in my apartment!  I was definitely excited to see that. The first was Why Not Me? (715) and the second was My Life Starring Mum (504).  I’ve owned both for quite a while so it’ll be nice to read them and hopefully move them out!

Old Yeller

This month I only had one book that I didn’t own & had to get from the library, which was Old Yeller (190).  I’ve watched & read enough dog books and movies to know that I will cry at the end of this, but I don’t remember ever reading this before and I want to do that!

Finally, I had three books randomly selected that were all digital NetGalley books I needed to read and review.  The first is The Safe Word (673), then On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service (741), and finally Eternal Neverland: Steps Before the Fall (446).

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get to every book this month, which means there might be some rollover to next month, but I will try my hardest!

What books are you reading this month?

July 2018 TBR


8 Ways to get Free or Cheap Books

Happy Monday, y’all!

Today I wanted to share with you 8 different ways that I get my books either for free or for really cheap.  If you’re a book lover, you know how hard it is to fund your love of books; they’re expensive!  Any easy way to get a book for less than full price is a win in my book.

Some of them may be more or less relevant to you, depending on how well you fit into the criteria, but I can almost guarantee that you’ll find yourself able to do at least one of these!

1. Netgalley

If you’ve never heard of Netgalley, don’t worry about it!  Netgalley is a website where publishers post early copies of their books to readers in order to receive feedback.  The books are all digital, and can be sent directly to your Kindle App on your phone or tablet!

I love this service, and it’s how I get a lot of my new books.  The requirement for Netgalley is that you have either a blog or GoodReads account that you connect to the website, and you review the books as you finish them.  They recommend reviewing 80% of the books you receive, but I would suggest reviewing all of them!

You aren’t guaranteed to get the books you request, but if your feedback ratio is good and your profile is filled out, you should still get quite a few!  There are also “read now” books that you can immediately download without having to request to read them, which is super cool!

If you’re interested in learning more about Netgalley or signing up, the link is here.


Another website that I’ve recently found is  Similar to Netgalley, publishers put their digital books on this website early to receive reader feedback.  This website is a little bit different, however.

You don’t have to link any social media or be a book reviewer to get signed up with this site. However, you have to earn points by interacting with the website, which can then be redeemed for a guaranteed copy of the book (limited quantities available).  Otherwise, you can enter for a chance to win instead, which is a chance win.

If I’m being honest, I don’t love this website as much as Netgalley.  The book selection is much smaller, and you have to use a special app called Adobe Digital Editions in order to get the copies of these books.  If this is a website you’re interested in, the link to sign up is here.

3. Library

One that may seem pretty obvious is the local library!  Most towns should have one, and if there’s not one in yours, there should hopefully be one in a nearby location.  Libraries are an amazing resource if you’re someone who much prefers physical copies of books to the digital ones.

A library card should be free, or really cheap, so it is well worth the investment for tons of books. Plus, libraries are always getting new books, meaning that your selection should always be fresh!

4. Prime Reading

Something that I hadn’t known about for a long time was the existence of Prime Reading.  If you have Amazon Prime currently, you have access to a decent sized library of digital books.  While this isn’t technically free, it is a perk of a larger service that you pay for.  They range from incredibly popular fiction and nonfiction, to magazines, to lesser known new titles.  There is a huge range of novels, and I have a big list of books I want to read from it.

You are given a max of 10 titles to borrow at a time, which is kind of sad but also makes sense.  When you finish a book, you simply go to your Prime Reading location and select “return” to remove it from your app, and then you can get a new one!  I personally have a private list of books on Prime Reading I want to read but can’t take yet due to the limit.

5. Amazon Kindle Free Books

If you have a smart phone or tablet and are a book lover, chances are you have the Amazon Kindle app already installed!  But did you know that the Kindle store often has books that are completely free?  I got tons of my books starting out by simply going to the search bar in my app and searching “free” or “free books”.  This will bring up those books with a $0 price tag, something I know we all love to see!

They’re not always the most popular books, but some of them do sound interesting. Plus, any classic novel now in public domain is listed as free as well, meaning you can read all sorts of classics you might not have thought of before!

If you don’t have this app, it’s a free download either in the iTunes store of Google Store.


Another website!  I personally don’t use Thriftbooks, but my boyfriend swears by it!  It’s a website that has tons of books, including textbooks, for extremely cheap.  He’s gotten lots of books from there, and usually gets free shipping as well.  There’s usually a deal going on to get some sort of discount , so be sure to check this site out next time you’re looking to get a book!  The link is here if you want to give it a try!

7. Direct from Publishers

An option that may be a little less available to us common folks is receiving books directly from a publisher. You’ll find that most times the people who are getting these are larger YouTubers and bloggers.  If you have a blog or YouTube channel, it might be worth it to reach out to companies and see if they’d be willing to send you something!  If you’re an avid reader, it might be worth a shot as well, but no guarantees. (:

8. Secondhand (Garage sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Thrift shops, etc.)

I’ve gotten nearly all of my physical books in the past year from the local Goodwill.  They’re priced so affordably and always had a great range of titles to choose from!  My Goodwill charged $1.49 for paperback and $1.99 for hardcover.  I’m not sure if all stores price the same way, but hopefully any local thrift shop has cheap books for you to pick up!

My grandma is a huge advocate for garage sale books.  Usually, you can find them anywhere between a quarter and one dollar, which is a great deal.  The only issue with this is that you’re usually getting older or lesser known books, not necessarily new or popular ones.  If you’re fine with reading whatever you can find, garage sales are great options!  Local “for sale” groups on FaceBook may be another great option for you to ask about garage sales or books being given away for free or cheap!

I hope that these tools made it possible for you to discover a few new ways to get books!

Share this with a book lover in your life!

8 Ways to get Free or Cheap Books