CANDYLAND THUNDERDOME!!! Stories Beneath Our Skin by Veronica Sloane

Tattooing might have once been Liam’s passion, but he left it all behind along with ugly memories when he went to college. When his uncle’s health fails, Liam must come home at last to say his goodbyes. His days are spent at the hospice, leaving his nights to rake over the past. To fill those empty hours, he takes a job at Great Sin Ink. The close knit friendship of the workers there both intrigues and shakes Liam, who has spent the last four years keeping everyone at arm’s length. Neither Deb, the no-nonsense piercer, nor Goose, a manic tattoo artist, will let Liam get away with his isolationist ways for long.

If it were just those two, Liam might have stood a chance -- but there’s also Ace, the owner of Great Sin. He hires Liam despite a thin resume, and that is a kindness Liam can’t forget. The two start up a tentative friendship, learning about each other as the summer days melt into each other. Slowly, Liam reveals a tender heart underneath the wall of quotes he uses to keep everyone out. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stand still, and both Liam and Ace have hard struggles before them that might break them up before they can even get together.

Why did Jem choose this story for me for CANDYLAND THUNDERDOME? Because she knows me. She knows me well. Couple of tattooed boys with broken hearts and an ENTIRE book filled with snark? Yes, please! Good job Jem, you done good!

You know how sometimes you can read a story that tells you profound things in one simple collection of sentences that you can’t get out in rambling paragraphs of word vomit with any kind of clarity? This is one of those stories. There were so many things I loved about it. Liam came from a background of heartache, but he wasn’t a ridiculous mess of angst. His pain read true without being overly dramatic and I really appreciated the subtlety the author used to tell his story. The impact was so much greater with fewer, well thought out words. The secondary characters were just as important as the mains. These guys were so close with their friends and ‘family’ so the strength of the secondary characters gave Liam and Ace a lot of depth because I could see them as more than just a “boyfriend”. They were fully fleshed out because of Deb, Goose, Frankie, Gene and Cole. I didn’t mind when one of the MC’s was off talking with the secondary characters instead of to one another because the conversations were just as important and just as entertaining.

Most of all I loved the love story here. It was quiet and real and beautiful. Liam and Ace were perfectly meshed. Each provided the other with the missing pieces they need to be whole and balanced. It was a slow build up to get to their relationship and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Anything sooner would have cheapened what they had. My favorite part was the first real conversation the two of them had alone in the diner. Liam is very quiet but the words he does say have a lot of impact and Ace can appreciate them and draw them out. I loved that they were honest with one another. There was never a moment of “I can’t let him know how I feel even though I’ve basically already told him and the rest of the world knows and wants to smack us upside the head and just freakin’ say something already” crap. That was refreshing and it didn’t take away from the UST at all.

Finally, the snark. The snark is hilarious. There were so many great lines and so much love, even in the bickering between any and all of the characters. It was like listening in on best friends and just wanting to be a part of their world.

I did a lot of highlighting with this story, but this line stuck with me:

“The epiphany broke over him quietly, the groundwork long since laid.”

They are beautiful words on their own, but taken in context, at this part of the story, they are everything.

So Jem, you were spot on. Everything you knew I would love is here in this book in spades. Jem wins ALL the things.

Find out more about Stories Beneath Our Skin over on Goodreads . . .