Dark Places – book review

Gillian Flynn seems to be the darling of bookclubs and studios all over Canada and the United States. Everyone loved Gone Girl and 2015 is the year of Dark Places.

dark plaecs

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars. Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. Who did massacre the Day family?

—                 —                     —

If you are a regular reader of my blog (sidenote: do I have any of those yet???), then you will know that this is a deviation from the normal romance and erotica genres that I usually stick to. I’ve been trying to push my boundaries a little bit this year and I read some other books that have been hanging out on my goodreads TBR list for a long time. It’s good to expand your horizons and since I went back to uni full-time in February, I’ve kept my distance from my usual non-fic reads. I get enough of that with text books!

Hence, Still Alice and now Dark Places.

I listened to Dark Places on my Audible account this month and definitely recommend that you read this book. I will have to pick up some more by Gillian Flynn – she has a natural talent for writing twisted stories with multi-faceted characters, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

I hate to read a “mystery” where you know who the murderer is from several chapters out. I kept changing my mind as to who killed the Day family throughout Dark Places, marking it in my mind as an excellent murder mystery.

The performance by voice actors on the audiobook were great as well.

I didn’t realize it when I was reading … err, listening … but the movie that is based on this book will be released in theatres in North America on August 7, 2015.

dark places movie cover

Can’t wait to see it. If there are significant deviations from the book, I will probably review it as well and edit this post to leave in a link.

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xx

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Servicing The Target (Shadowlands #10)

I am a huge fan of author Cherise Sinclair. She is the most dependable author I know for churning out new books that I will love. I don’t usually write a review for a book the day that I read it, I like to let it percolate through my brain for a while first, but I read Servicing the Target today and I’m reviewing it too.

Because you know what??? It’s awesome!

Here’s from goodreads:

servicing the target

A discharged Army Ranger, Ben considers his job as a BDSM club security guard to be an excellent hobby. He’s never been tempted to join in. But everything changes when the notorious Mistress Anne inadvertently reveals the caring heart concealed beneath her Domme armor.

Now, he’s set his sights on the beautiful Shadowlands Mistress. Maybe he’d considered himself vanilla, but she can put her stiletto on his chest any day, any time. He’ll trust her delicate hands to hold his heart. And if she wants to whip his ass on the way to an outstanding climax, he’s just fine with that too.

Sure, he knows she likes “pretty boy” slaves. And he’s older. Craggy and rough. And six-five. Minor hindrances. The mission is a go.

—                     —                    —

This is the first time I’ve read a book that featured a female dominant and male submissive type relationship so I was curious as to whether I would like it or not. I figured it might not be my favourite book ever from Ms.Sinclair, but that I would still enjoy and I was right.

I do have many submissive aspects of my personality so I had a harder time relating to Anne and Ben than other characters in her series, but their story was still very enjoyable.

It was healthy I think, to read about about the other side of the relationship and one kickass-take-no-names woman. Anne was the perfect mixture of strong, confident, empowered female and femininity, with her long hair prettily styled and toes painted. Her grace and manners in uncomfortable situations, as well as her ability to handle stress was very inspiring.

I liked Ben and Anne’s balancing of their relationship and the apparently very different needs each had. This book allowed us to catch up with so many of the previous couples that it felt like a reunion. I hope that the author will go back and write a second book about so many of couples we’ve me, who are now in established relationships.

And Uzuri! That poor girl needs a happy ending forthwith.

* * * * *

xx

This Means War

This Means War is a 2012 movie starring Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy. It’s a romantic comedy about two CIA agents (partners) who fall in love with the same girl and then – unbeknownst to her – compete for her love.

This-Means-War-Poster-this-means-war-30830229-1800-1350

I love how funny this movie is and light-hearted. It is pure entertainment. The extent to which (FDR) Pine and (Tuck) Hardy go to win their lady’s affections and undermine the other guy are wonderfully ridiculous and entertaining. And most certain in violation of the United States Constitution. Talk about expropriating Agency resources!

Tuck-This-Means-War-tom-hardy-31043758-500-411 images

Okay, from the photos, you can probably that I have a little bit of a crush on Tuck. As wonderful as FDR was, the decision would have been no problem for me! I mean, look at this guy …

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… Plus he has a British accent, an adorable personality and mad fighting skills.

* * * * *

xx

Craving Resurrection – a review

Nicole Jacquelyn writes an outlaw MC series that is full of strong-willed, dominant bikers with out-spoken alpha females at their sides.

The fourth book in the series is Craving Resurrection and it is my favourite thus far. This is Poet’s story, so most of the story takes place in the past, when he a young man working for the Irish Mob in Ireland and known as The Butcher of Dublin. He lived there during the height of the Troubles, before moving to America and taking up with the Aces MC, where we saw him in the first three books.

The last part of the book is real-time, and sees him reconnecting with his true love after the events in the first three books in the series. You learn what has kept them apart for decades and Amy’s relationship (or non-relationship) with Brenna, Poet’s daughter who is in the first book.

craving resurrection

Book Blurb:

Poet and Amy’s story…

Patrick Gallagher’s future was mapped out—and it didn’t include Amy Henderson or the IRA.

She was everything he’d never wanted. Too young. Too naïve.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t help but be fascinated by the girl who took refuge in his old bedroom, staying with his mum more often than not.

She looked like a Renaissance painting and argued like a solicitor. He couldn’t resist her, and before long, he didn’t even want to.

Instead, he loved her unreservedly… then he married her.

But he couldn’t have prepared for what happened after.

Actions, no matter how large or how small, have consequences—and when the IRA comes knocking, he’s sucked into a life that he’d never anticipated.

Choices were made.

Hearts were broken.

Trust was shattered.

Lives were lost.

Through it all, he loved her.

It was a love that spanned decades.
Epic.
Intense.
Unquestionable.
Unbreakable.

—         —            —           —

Craving Resurrection is written in a different style than the previous books, because the Irish speak English differently from Americans and Canadians, with different syntax and pronunciations. I found it charming and it added to the character’s ‘voices’ in my head, helping them to become distinct from the other characters in the series. Others may find it confusing or distracting though so that style choice may impact your enjoyment of the book.

It was interesting to see how much the characters changed and evolved over four decades or so. It is unusual in a romance novel to have such a long story arc, so it added incredible depth to their character development. In the first stages, they are young, passionate, and argumentative, making questionable choices at times that make the reader doubt their ability to imagine the impact of these decisions on their future. You see them react to situations rather than acting with the benefit of life experiences.

Later, the older versions of Amy and Poet have much more maturity, befitting older lovers, though they are still just as passionate. I felt really sorry for them, that they didn’t have their HEA until grandparent age, despite meeting as teenagers.

It was nice to catch up with Dragon and Brenna several years after their story, and conversely, to see Strider and Vera years in the early years, when they were newly married. It gives new dimension to each of these and helped to create a more complete world within the series.

* * * * *

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Craving Absolution by Nicole Jacquelyn – a review

Nicole Jacquelyn writes an outlaw MC series that is full of strong-willed, dominant bikers with out-spoken alpha females at their sides.

The third book in the series is Craving Absolution. It features Casper, who was introduced in book 1 as a prospect to the Aces MC, and is now a full-patch member. His heroine is Farrah Miller, the main supporting character in book two and the daughter of the Club President.

craving absolution

Book Blurb:

Farrah Miller and Cody “Casper” Butler have a longstanding relationship that both refuse to discuss.

It isn’t romantic.

It may not even be classified as a friendship.

Casper’s been saving Farrah from herself for longer than he’d care to admit, watching silently as she drowned herself in alcohol. Then, when she finally got her act together, he left. He told himself he was giving her time to sort herself out. He tried to give her space.

But getting shot in the chest can change a man’s perspective, and Casper’s done waiting.

When he shows up on her doorstep one night, everything changes.

He’s the man who’s seen her at her very worst.

She’s his weakness.

He runs when things get hard.

She never lets anyone see below the surface and is terrified of being abandoned.

He knows it’s a long shot, that there’s a good chance she’ll never drop her guard for him—but he has to try. Because a life with Farrah is exactly what he wants—even if he has to fight her for it.

—                   —                    —

I really liked Farrah’s character, she was my favourite part of this book. She is a strong chick and is an example of how someone who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety and is completely unsure of herself in relationships, can still be strong and opinionated. Having panic attacks doesn’t make her weak, and it isn’t a character flaw.

IMHO, Jacquelyn is excellent at adding depth and development to her characters, allowing them to change and mature through the events of the story. Often, this is a recurring failure in romance novels so character growth is one of my favourite aspects of the Aces MC books.

Farrah moves on from barely acknowledging her father’s existence after meeting him in book 2, to reaching out to him and Vera (her stepmother), trying to establish some sort of emotional connection to them and including them in her family. She also embraces a maternal, nurturing role as she takes on being a parent to two children, despite never having a childhood herself and certainly lacking responsible parents growing up.

Although romance novels typically feature a couple as dual main characters, I definitely felt that this one was ‘the Farrah story’. The reader spends most of the pages in her perspective and Casper has little character development in comparison to the vast amount that Farrah experiences. Casper is more the companion piece to her character and a way to move the plot forward. I would have liked to see him grow up a little more and be more in control of himself and his destiny.

I really liked this installment in the series and cannot wait to read the next.

* * * *

xx

Still Alice – a review

I’ve been listening to Still Alice on my Audible account these last few weeks and finished it on Saturday. I have to admit, the main reason I picked this book up was because everyone was reading it for book clubs and as a librarian, I got tired of admitting that I hadn’t read it yet.

It is about a brilliant cognitive psychology researcher and professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at fifty years old. Here’s the cover and blurb:

still alice

From goodreads:

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life–and her relationship with her family and the world–forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Judith Guest’s Ordinary People.

—                          —                           —

To start with, I want to comment on the recording. The author read this book herself, which I believe is incredibly rare in the industry. I have never heard of someone doing this and she did a great job, so kudos to her.

I really liked the story. It is told just about entirely from Alice’s point of view and so the reader gets a privileged viewed of her experiences, repeating some of the loops that she does as her mental state deteriorates. It felt poetic to me. Still Alice is very well written.

I think it is a great resource for anyone dealing with a loved one who has EOAD, particularly for caregivers. Because it is a fictional account, and not a pamphlet or article written by some well-meaning health centre, it captures the emotions involved and really provides insight into the thought patterns of an individual with Alzheimer’s, providing clarity and understanding to circumstances that appear utterly baffling from the outside.

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xx

Jurassic World – a review

I saw Jurassic World yesterday and it was so much better than any of my expectations!

If you haven’t seen it yet, you should, even if you are not a big fan of the first three movies.

I’m 26 and I hadn’t seen any of the original Jurassic Park movies until this year, when I finally decided to watch them so I could be a part of the conversation. And because they were on television for free when I was bored. And because the new one looked good and I didn’t want to be lost.

OK, basically, this idea of dinosaur island has become a part of the pop-culture canon and the idea is just so original that even if I didn’t like the movies, I still respected what the author and filmmakers were trying to create.

I feel like Sea World staff are very jealous right now

I feel like Sea World staff are very jealous right now

I thought Jurassic Park 1-3 were ok, but only based on originality. Admittedly, I watched them for the first time in 2015 so in the early 1990s, well I’m sure that was freaking fantastic special effects, but I wasn’t overwhelmed.

Jurassic World though? Out-Freaking-Standing! It was amazing. The acting was great (go Chris Pratt and those two brothers) and I loved the storyline. I cannot wait for the fifth and hopefully it also features Chris Pratt.

The whole movie I had this little running self-commentary, things like “oh crap” and “they’re fucked” and “how have they still not evacuated this island”. I had this feeling of dread in my stomach, so much so that I couldn’t even finish my slice of theatre pizza. I ate it during the drive home instead. The only other movie I can remember feeling so much dread in, so unsure that things were not going to be ok, was in that train movie, Unstoppable, with Denzel Washington.

Not good. NOT GOOD. So very very seriously not good.

Not good. NOT GOOD. So very very seriously not good.

Seriously, even if you didn’t think this was your thing, I highly urge you to go watch Jurassic World. I might even drag some reluctant friends out to see it. It doesn’t even matter if you have seen any of the others, or if dinos are your thing.

* * * * * no question.

xx

Comic Con Deadpool Panel

So San Diego Comic Con 2015 took place over this weekend which sent my average weekend viewing time sky high on youtube.

I watched the Deadpool panel almost out of idle curiosity, because the movie wasn’t really on my periphery. I like comic book movies but not comic books, and the X-Men movies, my only introduction to Deadpool, left me hot and cold. It has been so, so long since Deadpool emerged in X-Men Wolverine: Origins, I had kinda forgot about him!

What I learned in the panel that got me excited enough to write about, is that this movie is going to be rated R!!!! This is the first real comic book movie that will be R rated and that is awesome.

It is a huge pet peeve for me that production companies take an adult scenario and drop down the content to PG-13 or 14A. It happens in books too.

The hunger games.

Wow, an arena where kids are forced to fight each other to the death, and you have 18yo men taking out a 13yo girl… that is not a PG scenario. And yes, I know that it is based on a young adult book, but that concept is very, very adult and I wish it had of been depicted as such in the movies.

I was going to R-rated movies at 16 and I am the goodiest goody-twoshoes going. There are a whole lot more individuals in the 16+ or even 18+ age group than 12-16 year olds but it seems like they are the target audience for Hollywood.

Even Fifty Shades of Grey, although technically R-rated, felt PG-13, especially in comparison to the book. I was expecting something much heavier and more erotic than what I saw on screen. But at least they made it, and hopefully learned from fans’ criticisms.

I hope the fact that movies like Fifty Shades (weak though it was) and Deadpool are being made will help break through that ceiling and pave the way for more films with adult content to be released with adult content.

xx

Craving Redemption by Nicole Jacquelyn – a review

Nicole Jacquelyn writes an outlaw MC series that is full of strong-willed, dominant bikers with out-spoken alpha females at their sides.

The second book in the series is Craving Redemption.

Craving Redemption

Book Blurb:

Asa and Callie had nothing in common. He was an Ace, raised in the club and loyal to it above all else. She was a high school student with braces on her teeth and a narrow view of the world.

They should have never crossed paths.

But when Callie decides to defy her parents, and Asa goes on an errand for the club, their lives collide. He saves her, and she mesmerizes him.

They part believing they’ll never see each other again.
Neither could have predicted the chain of events they’d put in motion.

Now the two have to navigate the dark waters of a relationship built on tragedy and need without drowning in guilt for things outside their control.

How do you love someone when the worst decision of your life was the reason you met them?

—                  —                     —

Craving Redemption is a solid sequel to Craving Constellations, but it wasn’t quite a good in my opinion. I just didn’t buy it.

For most of the book, the characters are not physically together. Either they are living in different states, or Asa aka ‘Grease’ is in prison. Despite this, Callie wasn’t able to overcome the psychological trauma of her past until the end of the book, when she undergoes serious therapy following a second traumatic event that triggers a mental breakdown.

The reader doesn’t get to experience her resolving many of the issues in her behaviour because the book glosses over it to the end, where she is “better” and Callie and Grease have their happy reunion. It seems like she has all this time apart from him to learn to be independent and know her own mind and in many ways she does, but she didn’t take that emotional step to independence and healing which was really the point of her journey in the book.

The second aspect that I don’t quite buy is why Grease feels this commitment and sense of duty towards Callie. He rescues her from a dangerous situation and delivers her safely home, even though he wasn’t the one to endanger her in the first place. When his rescue marks her as a target, because the bad guys think she belongs to the club, he again swoops in and rescues her and sets her up in a new state, with an apartment in his name that he pays for, basically setting up her life and getting her enrolled in the new high school.

I don’t understand the sense of responsibility that he feels towards her. He is a big bad, weapon-dealing, drug-running, murdering outlaw biker bad boy, who is going way out of his way to financially support and care for an extremely traumatized teenager, who is agoraphobic at first. I don’t believe that he feels sexual attraction to her at this point in the story, when he is taking care of her. It would be really messed up if he was because her traumatized brain is so devastated that she is fragile, and child-like in the beginning. They don’t have any established relationship on which these interactions are based …

So why is he helping her, besides a romantic attraction (for when she has ‘healed’) or a sense of duty and responsibility, neither of which I accept.

Despite these failures (in my opinion), the story was still enjoyable and I recommend it to you, because it is part of a great series which is better than just this one book. I still rate it four stars.

* * * *

xx

Hold Me by Anna Zaires – book review

This is a series of three books, the third of which is Hold Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I have already posted reviews of the first two books (Twist Me; Hold Me) and this review WILL contain SPOILERS for them.

Anna Zaire writes a couple of series. The one that I am going to review is a modern, new adult, (very) dark romance. The male protagonist (Julian) is an anti-hero, a very successful international weapons dealer. In the first novel, he kidnapped 18yo Nora and took her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he held her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges, bending her mind to his will. In the second, they marry, somewhat against her will, and start to build a new life together before their old enemies kidnap Julian and torture him for information. Nora has realized that she loves him and convinces his security to allow her to risk her life to save them both, something she ultimately succeeds at, but not without some consequences.

book 3

Book Blurb:

Captor and captive. Lovers. Soulmates.

We’re all that and more.

We thought we were past the worst of it. We thought we finally had a chance.

We thought wrong.

We’re Nora and Julian, and this is our story.

***Hold Me is the conclusion of the Twist Me trilogy, told from Nora & Julian’s point of view.***

—                    —                    —

Hold Me continues to follow the evolution of Julian and Nora’s relationship, which began in Twist Me. Now a (mostly) united front, Nora has admitted her true feelings for Julian, acknowledging her love for him and accepting the nature of their relationship. She decides it doesn’t matter how their relationship started and gives up on wondering if it can all be boiled down to psychological programming and stockholm syndrome. She wants to be with him, even though their relationship is unequal, and now accepts the dominance and submission aspects of their relationship and the power exchanges that occur. Her only remaining desire is to see Julian also admit his love for her, loving her as the person she has become rather than an object under this thumb.

Hold me is still an excellent read, but I didn’t like it as much as either of the preceding books, for a couple of reasons which will be the focus of my review.

Firstly, Nora’s parents were introduced in a limited capacity in the second installment during the webcam wedding scene, but their presence in this book is greatly expanded. I liked how the Mum and Dad had different attitudes and abilities to manage Julian and what they regard as their daughter’s brainwashed ramblings about her husband. But I would have liked to have seen Zaires expand upon the interactions between Julian and Nora’s parents, particularly without Nora present. He kidnapped their daughter, twice!, married her hastily and moved her to another continent permanently, where she now resides with him, despondent and abused (or so her parents believe). They understandably bit their tongues around Nora to keep from alienating her, but I felt that the book built to an explosive confrontation between the parents and Julian, one that never occurred.

The second thing that took away from the book in my opinion, was the high octane, overly dramatic car chase between Julian’s troops and the Irish-Chicago Mafia. Between the three books, Julian has lost well over 100 men, all of whom are supposedly highly trained and many are former Spec-Ops. So far, they only seem to be good at their chauffeuring services, and beating up unarmed teenagers. Seriously, is he not scraping the bottom of the barrel yet for men to put on assignment? He really shouldn’t have lost Peter’s services so easily. He needs the tough Russian bruiser on his side at this point.

At the end of the day, the three books have built up Julian as this unstoppable force – even with the torture by the Middle East group in book 2, he didn’t break – but the local mob and cops just about had them with one car chase. It would have been better to not have the cops and mob team up (an unbelievable plot-point in my opinion) and have Julian take care of them without losing half the men he did. The scene just made him seem like less of a badass, which is exactly how you don’t want this series to end.

Despite three paragraphs of complaints, I did love Hold Me and gave it a very good rating. It starts out differently than the others, with Julian using a much gentler approach with Nora. He will never change, but he does learn to embrace different aspects of his personality to manage her that, thus far, he only expressed while she was in hospital.

After the horrors of the second book, both characters are in need of healing, and Nora requires a gentle touch. She is badly traumatized, suffering from panic attacks and night terrors. She has always had Julian’s protection, but this development lends her the emotional protection and support that was missing from their relationship, bringing them closer together. Julian even brings a psychologist to their compound to work with Nora.

It takes some brass balls for her kidnapper to move a professional mental health expert in with them to work with the abductee and be secure in the knowledge that his own programming of Nora will not be affected!! While he may not be able to admit it yet, he has fallen in love with her.

I loved the pregnancy that Zaires wrote in. She did it differently than authors usually do, and it helped to re-establish the relationship parametres between Nora and Julian. She wonders if he impregnated her on purpose, deceiving her with the implantation of a fake birth control device in her arm, and is able to take him for his word when he assures her otherwise, because if he had wanted her pregnant, he would have made it happen regardless of her wishes and wouldn’t have hidden it, something she knows. After seeing a softer side of Julian for much of the book, this scene helps to ground them in the roles that were established in Twist Me, and that Nora has just accepted will never change.

* * * *

xx