Book Reviews

Weekend Pick Me Up: Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills


ANGST! Oh, the angst, the beautiful turmoil of the angry.

I’ve been asking myself, “What took you so long to read this book?”

I misunderstood the construction of the series when I read Very Wicked Beginnings. I thought since next novel wasn’t about Cuba or Dovey I’d put off reading it. I hadn’t realized that Very Wicked Things was about those two, and that really it would have been sensible to read the book blurbs before jumping in.
Library Lesson: Don’t believe the book with the word ‘beginnings’ is always the start.

Nora Blakely is skating by on the red hot stuff that creates great art and burned bridges: discontent. This girl is determined to rebel in a most exacting fashion to bring upon Armageddon and family ruin. There is only so much tucking in one can do before all that self-loathing spills out and Ms. Blakely is overflowing in all direction with stunning passion.

Now, I know, I burned away a world I used to live in as a budding woman. What doesn’t kill you keeps on trying until you kill it. Nora is my girl; I got her number and I am sending her an infinite abundances of high fives. Sometimes you just have to destroy what is there and rebuild.

The Tate brothers have just escaped the drama of Southern California to begin a new life in Texas, free and clear of Los Angeles’ cray cray. Leo’s focus is getting Sebastian through the remainder of high school; giving him some true stability, in a better place. The two brothers are tight and Leo wants to do right by his little brother; like their parents would have wanted. He has no intention of falling in love at first site with a buttercup of a girl who just opened up the Briarcrest Academy assembly with an F-bomb laced non-welcome. Nora Blakely rattles his cage but he can’t help becoming obsessed with her.

If there is one thing I give major props to it is authors who allow their characters to grow in a natural frame of time. Leo and Nora don’t just go for it. Neither of them are ready, and they can’t get on one another’s page for some time which just shows how unprepared they are. That is how most adult relationships evolve and Ilsa Madden-Mills lets this story evolve beautifully. Nora drives you crazy because she is trying so hard to grow up and break away, making mistake after mistake until things shake out right. Leo fights to keep his eyes on Sebastian while going a bit crazy himself because sometimes the thing you want isn’t good for you at the time you want it.

Both of these personal struggles make this book full and beautiful, although it also makes for some anxious reading because it’s hard not to become frustrated with two characters who are in it to screw it up.

I loved these book peeps Ilsa Madden-Mills created, especially Sebastian. Good Heavens and beautiful devils do I look forward to his book. And, baby, I promise you Cuba is by far more tempting in this novel than in Very Wicked Beginnings. ME-ow! I’ll have me one of him, and two of the younger Tate.



Very Bad Things Synopsis:

Born into a life of privilege and secrets, Nora Blakely has everything any nineteen-year-old girl could desire. She’s an accomplished pianist, a Texas beauty queen, and on her way to Princeton after high school. She’s perfect…

Leaving behind her million-dollar mansion and Jimmy Choos, she becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex.

Then she meets her soulmate. But he doesn’t want her.

When it comes to girls, twenty-five-year-old Leo Tate has one rule: never fall in love. His gym and his brother are all he cares about… until he meets Nora. He resists the pull of their attraction, hung up on their six year age difference.

As they struggle to stay away from each other, secrets will be revealed, tempers will flare, and hearts will be broken.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy… where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Bad Things.

Purchase Very Bad Things:

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Briarcrest Academy Books:



Very Bad Things Excerpt:

SOMETIMES, YOU JUST need a badass song to get you moving in the right direction, to pump you up. Like a theme song. All the superheroes have them.

Even the Power Rangers have a hardcore guitar anthem. So, I may not be Wonder Woman with her invisible plane, but I have been called brilliant before. In fact, I have a collection of theme songs for different days, depending on what was going on in my life, and tonight my theme song was “Perfect” by Pink. I blasted it in my car, listening to her sing about a girl who’d been mistreated and misunderstood.

It was Saturday night and Emma Easton’s party, but first I was swinging by Club Vita to pick up Sebastian and Mila. Sebastian and I had eaten lunch together every day at school this week, and I’d told him all about my passion for sewing and how I planned to wear one of my creations. Tonight I was wearing last year’s Dior black prom dress, or at least part of the dress, since I’d chopped off the long skirt and the sleeves. Now it was strapless and super short. I’d worn my hair braided and twirled up low in the back with loose curls hanging down the sides. I’d put on more make-up than usual, too, coating my eyes in dark liner and smoky eye shadow. On my lips I’d worn the deep red color that matched my hair. Did I look trashy? I shrugged. Who cared. Tonight’s goal was to get drunk and get fucked.

“Sweet,” Sebastian said, whistling as he let me in. “Got a hot date tonight?”

I wiggled my eyebrows like he always did. “I might get lucky.”

“Mm-hmm,” he said, watching me with an interesting expression. I started to ask him what that look meant . . .

Just then the buzzer rang.

“That’ll be Mila,” I said eagerly. Since I’d been leaving school early, we hadn’t had a chance to catch up.

She bounced in, and I swear she looked like a teenage Laura Bush, wearing pearls, a pink velveteen tailored jacket and a pleated chiffon skirt. She’d flung a pink Coach bag over her arm, and I wanted to hug her she was so cute.

I introduced them and her eyes widened, taking in Sebastian’s tall form and blue eyes.

Wait until she met the full-sized version.

“Alrighty then, let’s head up to the loft. Leo’s date brought appetizers for us to try, and he wants to meet Mila,” he said. I noticed when he had said date , his eyes had locked on mine, like he was assessing my reaction.

“You didn’t mention how frickin’ hot Sebastian is. I’m pissed I don’t have any classes with him. By the way, your hair is sweet . So glad you went the Monte Carlo Red and not the blue,” Mila whispered to me as we followed Sebastian up the stairs.

“It was called Midnight Indigo.”

She scrunched her nose. “Whatever. Blue hair is strange.”

When we walked in the spacious kitchen, Leo was laughing down at the petite twenty-something-year-old that had been with him at the park. Up close, I could see she was pretty in polished, confident way, with lots of make-up and manicured nails. She looked relatively normal, too; I couldn’t compete with that.

I watched them, remembering how he didn’t want me. Even though he wasn’t mine, I wanted to pummel her with my fists; I wanted to rip out all her long dark hair. Which looked like extensions.

I stood there uncomfortably until Sebastian eased up beside me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders. I leaned back against him.

Leo saw us, stiffened, and quickly looked away. I wondered if it was going to be weird between us. It’d been a week since our movie. I’d seen him a couple of times, once when I’d dropped off Sebastian from eating out and once when I’d come to deliver some muffins he’d ordered from Aunt Portia’s. He’d been cordial then, yet detached, his eyes looking everywhere except at me.

He sat down his bottle of Corona. “Guys, this is Tiffany. She works for the catering company that’s doing the food for the grand opening,” he said.

“Tiffany, this is Nora and her friend . . . Mila?”

Mila nodded, a dazed and goofy expression on her face. I wasn’t surprised my normally loquacious friend was suddenly struck quiet. Leo could do that.

“They’re both attending Briarcrest Academy with Sebastian.”

Tiffany smiled at us, showing her super white teeth. She raked her gaze over me and Mila, and I assumed mentally dismissed us as no competition. “Oh, really! How charming!” she exclaimed in a true, slow-talking Texas drawl.

Charming. Seriously, do people in their twenties use that word in conversation? I mean, I had a large vocabulary and used words no one else did, but charming just seemed pretentious. I cocked my head and studied her, trying to see what he saw in her.

She kept talking in her dulcet tones. “By the way, it’s Tiffani-with-an-i,” she said, giving us a smile that showcased her dimples. Gag.

As she chatted about her own years in high school, I did the calculations in my head and figured she was only three or four years older than me. I glared at Leo. This was the kind of girl he went for: fake with big tits?

He finally glanced at me, his eyes scanning over my skimpy dress and when he raked both hands through his blond hair furiously, I knew he was fuming about something. I shrugged and took a page from the stupid girl book and flicked my hair over my shoulder.

“Leo,” Tiffani-with-an-i purred, running her hand possessively across his shoulder and down to his bicep, “you’ve got to tell me what machines you use to get this defined. You feel so hard,” she told him teasingly and glanced over at me with a smug look. I looked back in confusion, not understanding her sudden animosity.

She pouted at Leo. “But I only want you to show me how to use them, not one of those mean trainers I’ve seen,” she said, shuddering theatrically.

“Tiffani here is a big fan of astrology,” Sebastian stated suddenly, his mouth twitching. “She’s getting an online license to be an accredited astrological consultant.”

“What like a psychic?” Mila scoffed. “Is that a real thing?”

Tiffani-with-an-i sniffed. “For your information, tarot cards are a science, and I can tell the future.”

“All for nineteen ninety-nine per minute,” Sebastian muttered under his breath, and I covered my laugh with a cough. Mila patted me on the back.

“Hey, aren’t you Ellen Blakely’s daughter, from Good Morning, Dallas ?” she asked, her eyes squinting at me.

I stiffened. “Yes.”

“I knew it! I worked with your mother once when she did a cooking segment, and I got to make my spinach quiches on her show! She’s classy, absolutely divine.” She smirked, her eyes flashing over my dress. “Funny that you look nothing like her.”

“Yes.” Thank God.

“You were there that day,” she said as she shook her finger at me, “but I almost didn’t recognize you with the red hair. And, wow, you were a bit of a chunk then, no offense. How much weight did you lose?”

“I just got taller,” I said politely.

“Sorry if that came out all wrong,” she said in a sugary voice. “I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings?”

I laughed. Fat chance. She’d hurt me enough just by being with Leo. “No, I did have a big butt. I had buck teeth and braces, too,” I said as Sebastian started singing Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” I reached over and popped him in the arm while he laughed and tried to get away.

When Mila grinned at Tiffani-with-an-i with a sly gleam in her eye, I knew her fur had been rubbed the wrong way by Tiffani’s comments. She was going to bite back. “Speaking of being classy, Nora would never tell you herself, but she won the Miss Texas Rose pageant last fall. I saw the whole thing. Big honking diamante crown on her head, and a big-ass sash over her shoulder. It was sweeeet.”

Sebastian’s mouth gaped. “No way. Nora’s no pageant princess.”

I shrugged, not sure what to say.

Sebastian grinned. “Are you going to be in the Miss America pageant because that would be kinda cool. You’d be famous. Which reminds me: do you really glue the bottoms of your swim suit to your ass cheeks? You know, so it doesn’t move?”


Meet Ilsa Madden-Mills:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She’s addicted to dystopian books and all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding females. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), Sephora make-up, and tattoos.

She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education.

When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets, paints old furniture, and eats her weight in sushi.


Ilsa Madden-Mills’ Web Tracks:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | instagram | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | Pinterest



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