Dark Celebration (Dark #14)

Dark Celebration is a special book within the Dark / Carpathian series. Rather than featuring one couple, it is a reunion story that features chapters on most of the characters we have been introduced to so far, as well as some hints as to the upcoming heroes/heroines. And it takes place at Christmas, so it is perfect for my December reviews 🙂

I have read this book multiple times, and each time I am astonished at how seamlessly Ms. Feehan writes. There was plenty of opportunity for this book to feel choppy with some many key characters, but it remains fluid and perfectly balanced. Nothing felt like it was forced in for the sake of including a specific individual.

Dark Celebration is one of the funnier books in the Carpathian series. There are cooking disasters, kids, and the “jolly red elf”. There is also danger, mystery, intrigue, adventure and lots of sex.

It was fun to get an update on couples who rarely show up as secondary characters in this series. I personally love to see when characters interact with each other in a world. I am not a fan of romance where the hero/heroine seem to exist in a bubble, devoid of other people.

If you are looking for romance, with a bit of comedy and action, this is the perfect Christmas story to pick up… something that is still themed, but doesn’t shove Christmas down your throat. And hey, if you are new to the series, you might be inspired to pick up book one, Dark Prince, and start there.

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Damage (Collateral Damage #2)

damageWe’re a match made in hell, Stefan and I.

He took me to exact his revenge. I went from being a pawn to my father to being a pawn to Stefan. The only difference is I have a ring the size of a boulder on my finger and a husband I don’t want.

And the hardest part is I thought he was different. I thought I was falling in love.

I guess my father was right. I’m not a very smart girl.

Stefan is a powerful man. He doesn’t play nice, not if you’re his enemy. But I’ve learned one thing about my husband.

He takes care of what’s his.
And I am his.

His enemies have become my enemies, but he’ll never let anyone hurt me. He’s fiercely protective. It’s the predator inside that scares me.

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Damage picks up immediately after the cliff-hanger ending of CollateralI thoroughly enjoyed this book as well and also read it in an evening, but I wasn’t as in love with it as I was the first in the series.

The tone of Damage is still dark, and the couple actually as sex in this book! Gasp!

There were times that I felt like Gabriela was too stupid to live. In her defence, she is very young – just 18 – and in completely surreal circumstances. So I tried to remember that and it felt me sink back into the story.

Overall I enjoyed it and was happy with where the author leaves off this couple, but I felt really poorly for a couple of secondary characters. I seriously hope that poor cousin Rafe one day gets to be the hero of his own story.

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Collateral (Collateral Damage #1)

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Gabriela

Stefan Sabbioni showed up in my bedroom on my sixteenth birthday. Uninvited, he stood in the shadows smelling of whiskey and death and wrapped a broken, blood-crusted necklace around my neck.

I thought he’d strangle me with it.

That night, he left a message for my father. He said he’d be back to take something precious.

I never delivered that message, though. I wonder if things would be different if I had because now, two years later, he’s back. And he’s not hiding in any shadows.

He’s come to make good on his promise.
He’s back to take that something precious.
Me.

Stefan

Marchese is the manipulator of my family’s tragedy. I won’t just bring him to his knees. I’ll bury him for what he did.

Taking his daughter is only the beginning. I’ll do it knowing I’m starting a war. I’ll do it knowing my enemies will become his allies. They’ll stop at nothing to destroy me and he’ll stop at nothing to get her back.

I’ve never shied away from war, though. I’m not one to play nice and I don’t share my toys. I’ll demolish you if you touch what’s mine.

And she is most definitely mine.

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Collateral is the first book I have read from Natasha Knight. It was recommended to me online and the blurbs drew me in. I have found one of my new favourite series!

Collateral is a dark romance, mafia romance novel. Gabriela and Stefan start as enemies, and, well, I can’t quite say the are lovers by the end of this book, but hopefully they will be by the end of book number two.

Gabriela is being forced into marriage with Stefan as he seeks revenge for his brother and father’s deaths, at the hands of Gabriela’s father. Natasha Knight is one of the few authors who is writing in this trope and in possession of actual talent.

The majority of this story takes place in the south of Italy, and as I stare out my window at snow, I am more than a little jealous of Knight’s descriptions of warm weather, turquoise water and soft sandy beaches.

I finished reading this book in an evening and cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel, which thankfully, is already released! I definitely will be checking out more books from this author ASAP.

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Wall Street Titan (Alpha Zone 1)

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A billionaire who wants a perfect wife…

At thirty-five, Marcus Carelli has it all: wealth, power, and the kind of looks that leave women breathless. A self-made billionaire, he heads one of the largest hedge funds on Wall Street and can take down major corporations with a single word. The only thing he’s missing? A wife who’d be as big of an achievement as the billions in his bank account.

A cat lady who needs a date…

Twenty-six-year-old bookstore clerk Emma Walsh has it on good authority that she’s a cat lady. She doesn’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but it’s hard to argue with the facts. Raggedy clothes covered with cat hair? Check. Last professional haircut? Over a year ago. Oh, and three cats in a tiny Brooklyn studio? Yep, she’s got those.

And yes, fine, she hasn’t had a date since… well, she can’t recall. But that part is fixable. Isn’t that what the dating sites are for?

A case of mistaken identity…

One high-end matchmaker, one dating app, one mix-up that changes everything… Opposites may attract, but can this last?

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* I received a free ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Wall Street Titan is the first book I have read from Anna Zaires that was not a dark romance, so I wasn’t if I would enjoy reading a regular romance as much I love her darker stories. Luckily, it was awesome!

Marcus is a total alpha male, and very dominant, even if he is not “dark”. I feel like the billionaire romance genre cannot help but compare every book to Fifty Shades and Christian Grey, and I am happy to report that Marcus completely stands on his own. Marcus and Emma are a cute couple with instant chemistry, much to their chagrin.

Let’s be honest though. The real star of this book is Mr. Puffs. The shenanigans he gets into is hilarious and reminds me of my own not-so-little furball.

Wall Street Titan is the first in a series, so expect to wait a few months before Marcus and Emma meet their happily ever after.

I highly recommend this book and will definitely be one-clicking the sequel when it is available for preorder.

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Leopard’s Wrath (Leopard People #11)

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He’s a man used to getting what he wants, but she’s not the type of woman to take things lying down….

Born into a life of crime, Mitya Amurov has had a hard life, and his leopard has developed into a feral beast to protect him. It’s constantly trying to claw its way to the surface—until a chance encounter with a stranger instantly calms the predator inside him. While Mitya wants Ania desperately, it’s only a matter of time before his past catches up with him, and he’d rather die than put her in danger. But Ania is dealing with dangers of her own….

Considering her family’s history, Ania Dover should know better than to get mixed up with a criminal like Mitya, but she just can’t stay away. Something wild in her responds to his presence. A need so strong it scares her. But she’s not sure she can accept what he’s offering. Ania has always been an independent woman, and Mitya expects to be obeyed in all things.

Even with her body calling out for his, Ania won’t let anything stop her from settling a deadly score years in the making—not even the man who wants to claim her as his mate.

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I have been a huge fan of Ms. Feehan for nearly two decades now and even though I have outgrown some of her series as a reader, others I have thankfully grown into. The Leopard People series is definitely included in the latter category and Leopard’s Wrath is an amazing new addition to the existing canon.

I really enjoyed Ania and Mitya and the developments their story brought to the series. LW wrapped up some arcing plot points that have carried through the last several books, while at the same time, creating new threads that will clearly be carried forward in future.

This was a really emotional book. I wasn’t expecting some of that heartache going into it, and to be honest, there was one late night of reading when I cried myself to sleep. I could relate to Ania’s troubles on a personal connection, making it difficult to separate the character’s emotions from my own. I love how this led to a few emotionally explosive scenes, some of my favourites in this series, and how Mitya and Ania dealt with it.

Mitya is a super sexy, Russian lead character and I have to give him the title of my latest book boyfriend! Though, Sevastyan has certainly piqued my interest and I really really hope that he stars in the next instalment.

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How to be Happy (or at least less sad)

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Author and illustrator Lee Crutchley brings his lively interactive approach to a little-discussed but very common issue: the struggle with depression and anxiety.

Through a series of supportive, surprising, and engaging prompts, HOW TO BE HAPPY (OR AT LEAST LESS SAD) helps readers see things in a new light, and rediscover simple pleasures and everyday joy…or at least feel a little less sad. By turns a workbook, trusted friend, creative outlet, security blanket, and secret diary, the pages of this book will offer solace, distraction, engagement, a fresh perspective, and hopeful new beginnings—for readers of all ages and walks of life.

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I haven’t been very active online lately. The title of this post might give a hint as to why. Depression has been a constant struggle for me this year. I’m not really sure why, given that I’ve been trying to address it, and a lot of good things have happened for me this year, but depression is like most diseases – you can’t control when it attacks.

How to be less happy is a wonderful tool that has been working really well for me. As well – or better – than any of the tools professionals have given me so far.

This book has text broken down into small chunks that are not overwhelming. It is very interactive, and has many different ways to engage with the ideas presented. I think the should appeal to artsy and non-artsy folks alike.

If you are anyone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, or just feeling lost in their life, I highly encourage you to buy a copy of this book. Below, I have included snapshots of a few of the pages to give you an idea of the types of exercises you will do as you move through it.

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Secret Obsession (Cordova Empire #3)

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Layla

From the moment of my birth I’ve been rejected by those who should have loved me, labeled as a freak because of my birthmark, bullied and tormented because I look different. When you’re told every day that you’re ugly and worthless you start to believe it. I managed to escape my malicious family and build a life for myself, but they’d broken something inside of me. I’m afraid to go outside, afraid to be around large groups of people, afraid of any type of confrontation and my panic attacks have left me pretty much house bound. If it wasn’t for my online friends I probably would have given up on life long ago. But there is one special friend, a man by the name of Mark, who keeps me going. He’s brave, smart, strong, and kind…and has no idea that I’m secretly in love with him.

Mark

Once I was a good man with a perfect life. I had a job I loved training dogs for the police with my wife, had a great family who filled our lives with laughter, and I woke up every day with a smile on my face. I was completely content in my blissful ignorance. I had no idea about the criminal world that thrived all around me, no idea that I’d made some powerful enemies who do anything to destroy me. Including killing my wife. I swore my revenge, and got it, but in the process I lost my soul. It was during these dark times, after my vengeance was fulfilled and I was drifting in anguish, that a beautiful soul rescued me from my own personal hell. I tried to keep my distance, tried to shield her from the villains of the world, myself included, but the evil that surrounds me wouldn’t be denied. Despite my best attempts to keep her safe, someone is out to destroy Layla, and I’m the only one who can protect her.

But who’s going to save her from me?

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Secret Obsession is the third book in the Cordova mafia series, written by Ann Mayburn. This series would best be enjoyed if read in order, but each could be read as a standalone.

Ms. Mayburn is an excellent writer who has crafted an intricate and detailed world in for the Cordovas. It is linked to two of her other series, the Iron Horse MC and Submissive’s Wish.

Unfortunately, Secret Obsession did not live up to the expectations that she has previously built. SO felt much shorter than the previous two books, and the storyline was simpler, predictable. In addition, there was less interaction between the main couple and their friends and family, compared to the first two books.

Mark and Layla do not engage in a physical relationship until about halfway through the novel. This can be done really well and make complete sense for the characters in some novels, but felt like wasted time in this instance. Mark’s inability to accept his love for Layla grew tedious long before he overcame it.

Overall, this is not a book I enjoyed or would read again.

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OITNB

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Well, I just finished binge-watching the final season of Orange Is The New Black. I wasn’t planning on writing about it, but now that I am finished, I just had to talk about it.

I loved this season.

The producers, writers and actors did justice to all the story that had come before in the show. This final season was very well done, IMHO, and is a great example. So, so many shows end terribly – I think it is the one thing that most series have in common – and there have been some fantastic failures in recent high-profile series. GoT, I’m thinking of you …

Season seven of OITNB was well balanced between new storylines and tying up loose ends. It didn’t feel too easy, or too neat. Some characters ended up in great places, others still trying to make a life for themselves behind bars, and a couple met the Big Guy upstairs, but each ending felt right to me.

My favourite new storyline was the incorporation of current political and cultural affairs in the US, with illegal immigration, Dreamers and immigration detention centres incorporated into the plot in a creative and surprising way. This aspect definitely made an impact on me, even though I am not American.

Throughout the season, old characters from earlier seasons made cameos and it all flowed perfectly naturally. There wasn’t anything that felt disjointed or forced.

I was surprised that the show did not make any reference to Piper writing her memoir post-prison, but I also did not feel I missed out on any particular storyline.

I am sad to see a good show ending, but mostly just happy that it ended on a high note, rather than concluding unsatisfactorily or taking a long, slow march towards small screen death.

If you haven’t checked out Orange Is The New Black before, I highly recommend you do so now that the series is concluded and you won’t have any waiting periods for new episodes. I warn you though, you might need to clear your calendar for some solid binge time.

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I have always meant to read the book that this show is based off of, and never got around to it. Not that I don’t have a new season to look forward to, maybe this is the perfect time to pick it up from my library.

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Jack Ryan (TV series)

tcjr1Jack Ryan is an action-thriller series, produced by Amazon Prime. The characters originate from “Ryan” series authored by Tom Clancy, and have been through numerous film adaptations in the past.

The show stars John Krasinski as the titular character. He is a former marine turned CIA analyst whose instincts and intellect place him at the tip of the anti-terrorism sword in the US. In season one, he travels all over the world trying to identify and pre-empt Yemen-born Syrian terrorists.

I just binge watched season one on Amazon Prime in a couple of days. There are eight episodes in the first season, and I am assuming there will be roughly the same number of episodes in season 2, which releases on November 2nd.

Jack Ryan is an excellent show, that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in political/military/action/thriller entertainment. Although it is American-based and draws story from current flash zones and news headlines, the characters are fictional – you are not going to see a Donald Trump look alike in the Oval Office. And unlike typical military dramas such as Seal Team Six, The Unit, or 24, I don’t find it to vomit American patriotism all over the audience, a huge turn-off to most non-American viewers, like moi.

A second aspect that helps set this show apart from other counter-terrorism entertainment is that Ryan is a reluctant hero. He has flashbacks to his Marine deployment which ended in a fiery helicopter crash that he blames himself for, and comments multiple times that he prefers when he is behind the desk, not gunning down terrorists in crowded plazas. Jason Bourne he is not.

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Finally, the producers have dedicated screen time to developing backstories and relationships for the terrorists, and explaining how and why they were radicalized. The picture isn’t as black and white as one might think, and it really drives home what a mess the whole system is. Trying to eliminate one threat has repercussions that last generations and often just spur on a whole new crop of terrorists.

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I highly recommend this show, and am eagerly awaiting season two. I thought it was already out when I started watching, so now I will have to find something else to entertain myself while sick.

Season one trailer

Season two trailer

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Still Alice (2014)

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Still Alice is a film based off a book by the same name, written by Lisa Genova.

I read and reviewed the book several years ago but I had never watched the film version.  Something sad fit my mood to night though and Still Alice was the winner. Surprisingly, it was just as good as the book. I greatly enjoyed it.

Although this movie deals with emotional topics and is heart-wrenching at times, it isn’t a constant sob fest. There are lighter moments throughout that help balance the tone throughout.

Julianne Moore plays the titular title, Alice Howland. She portrays a woman struggling with Early-onset Familial Alzheimers Disease. Ms. Moore won an Oscar for this role.

The movie also stars Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristin Stewart.

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Very few film adaptations live up to the book and this is one that I absolutely think is just as good. There are some slight differences between the two versions, but overall, it is pretty true to the book.

Trailer

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