Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Well, I haven’t been feeling well this week at all but unfortunately I had to work through it. Normally I am working about 70 hours a week so the fact that Monday was the Family Day holiday … so thankful! I firmly believe there should be at least one holiday long weekend every single month.

This weekend I took the opportunity to enjoy a few nights in, some hanging out with room-mate and others with my family, and I brought out the old movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).

I haven’t seen it since I was a little kid. I totally forgot this movie even existed, although it had some pretty big names in it in its day. If you aren’t familiar with the story, here are the important deets (copied and pasted from wikipedia):

“Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a 1971 British-American musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions. It is based upon the books The Magic Bed-Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1945) by English children’s author Mary Norton. The film, which combines live action and animation, stars Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson.”

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“The film is frequently compared with Mary Poppins (1964), since it combines live action and animation and is partially set in the streets of London. It also features numerous cast members from Mary Poppins, particularly Tomlinson. This movie is great for all ages.

During The Blitz, the three Rawlins children, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul are evacuated from London to the remote village of Pepperinge Eye. They are placed in the reluctant care of Miss Eglantine Price, a reclusive woman who agrees to the arrangement temporarily. The children attempt to run back to London, but change their minds after observing Miss Price attempting to fly on a broomstick. Miss Price reveals she is learning witchcraft through a correspondence school with hopes of using her spells in the British war effort, and offers the children a transportation spell in exchange for their silence. Miss Price casts the spell on a knob that the youngest child, Paul, has removed from the bed in the children’s shared bedroom, and she adds that only Paul can work the spell.”

Well, you know trouble is going to ensue from that, now don’t you?!!

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I was a little nervous that rewatching a movie I had loved as a child would tarnish its image in my mind, but the charm remains. All the tunes in this musical are very catchy. A bit like Mary Poppins, I feel as though Bedknobs and Broomsticks will never age too much to be enjoyable, although it would be neat if they remade it with updated special effects and animation.

Any of the scenes with the bagpipes or military songs are my favourites!

It seems like the movie is available for free from a couple of youtube accounts (which I have no association with). Try these links: First Try     Second Try

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xx

 

Saving for School by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a Canadian personal finance guru. She was the host of television shows “Til Debt do us Part” and “Princess”, which is where I first learned some of her lessons. I am actually super passionate about both personal finance and national debt / state budgets, but I took a break from reading non-fiction because I went back to school around the time that I started this blog. I’m looking forward to reading more for learning over the next little bit, now that I don’t have to focus on boring old text books!

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I LOVE this book. It is perfect because it is super easy to read. Let’s face it – books about money can be intimidating to read. The average person worries that they won’t be able to understand it, or that they will be faced with some hard truths … maybe that they’ve messed up so bad they won’t ever be able to sort it out or that they are going to have to make big changes to create the future they want.

It’s easy to put aside for “later” and never really get into it. Don’t do that!

“Saving for School” is short and sweet. The book itself is small, like the size of a Harlequin Romance paperback. And it is only 84 pages. I read it in a couple of hours … in the same room where my parents and sister were talking and my nephew was (loudly!) watching soccer. There were a lot of distractions around. I promise you can get through it too.

Gail has a way of writing as if she is sitting down next to you explaining. Her books don’t come across as academic or “lectury” to me. It could be a friend or a parent trying to explain something, only with Gail, I’m sure it isn’t well-meant but completely inaccurate advice.

So who is “Saving for School” written for?

Anyone with an interest in post-secondary education. That could be a parent of a teenager or a pre-schooler, or someone planning to become pregnant.

It could be a grandparent, uncle, church leader, or the student himself (or herself).

I’ve already graduated from university, but even I found some tips to help me pay back my student loans in a way that reduces the interested that I pay, and how to do the calculations that will tell me how much interest I’ll pay based of different payment options.

Ideally though, the earlier you (parent/student) start planning for post-secondary expenses, the more prepared you will be, both in the knowledge of how to take advantage of the system and how much things cost, and in how much money you will have managed to squirrel away for tuition and other expenses.

“Saving for School” helps explain the ways to get free money from the government.

FREE MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT?!!! Is it possible?! Yes!!!

Truly. I’m not taking about OSAP, I’m talking about the Canadian Education Savings Grant money. You don’t have to pay it back. And you can earn interest on it in the mean-time. I did have an RESP from my parents, which covered the academic expenses for about one year of uni. But I didn’t have any idea of the CESG or whether my parents were able to take advantage of it or not. If a little bit of planning and strategic saving can give you $7200 (plus whatever interest you earn on that!) for each child’s education, you want to take advantage of it!

Other ways to save for university: apply for scholarships and bursaries. I’m not that smart (remember, I dropped out of school and it took me a while to go back … seriously, I’m not Harvard Med material over here) or that poor. I still got entrance scholarships that were renewable for each year, and bursaries. Apply even when you don’t think you will get anything. Easy money! You can apply directly to your university and to scholarship websites like… :

http://www.scholarshipscanada.com/

Scholarships, grants and bursaries for Canadian students

You can also make money by working during high-school and university, or borrow from a family member or the bank. Predictable response, I know. Sorry.

I like that Gail reminds the reader to make sure that a young adult goes off to university with lifeskills, like how to shop at the grocery store, or do laundry. Moms and Dads have a tendency to want to do everything for their child, but that isn’t actually helpful. A parent’s role is to raise a competent adult who knows how to do things for themselves so that they are prepared to handle what life throws at them.

I would add a point of my own here – it is awesome to have activities and hobbies as a child and a teenager and this should be continued through adulthood. It is fun and healthy! After all the purpose of life is to be happy, not to work that 9-5. But if you can guide a child into some activities that may be lucrative later in life …. not the worst thing either.

I feel that most of my hobbies are not something that I can market to make money in the “no-collar” economy when I need a little more. I had friends making minimum wage at McDonald’s and friends making twice that working as lifeguards and swim instructors during school. Guess who ended up with more money and fewer hours at a job?!

Yup. Splash splash.

Same with less organized hobbies, like sewing or knitting, playing a musical instrument … these are all things that a poor university student (or newly employed-broke-dying under student debt young adult) can leverage at certain times to make money, by selling a product or teaching others. My nephew loves hockey and soccer, but it would be hard to make extra money as a soccer instructor, especially mid-way through the academic year which would be January. In Canada. His sister could be a great swim teacher through, if she stuck with it. She is “artsy” too, maybe she could sell her skills in that division.

Probably getting a little off track of the book review, but I think the point is really important and as an Auntie, I try to hammer it into those kids’ heads. They think they understand now but they won’t really until they are halfway through university and eating Ramen noodles three times a day. I don’t want them to be without marketable skills when they realize it.

“Saving for School” teaches the reader the most effective ways to leverage your savings – whether it is $20.00 a month or $200.00, to put someone through university. It covers how to engage a financial institution to create an RESP (registered education savings bond) and get the CESP (grant money) and the great tool that TFSAs (tax free savings accounts) can be to keep your money out of the tax man’s hands. It gives some advice for how to prepare a child to become a responsible university student and how to establish a credit history as a young adult.

I HIGHLY recommend it and hope you pick up this book.  If you feel it wasn’t for you, you only wasted about two hours. And I’ve searched about five local library systems and they all had a copy. So you can go borrow it for free.

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xx

P.S. Gail has a website with tools on it. Check it out here.

P.P.S. Still stuck on that comment I made about paying off student loans and interest calculators? I copy and pasted this from Gail’s website for you. Credit to her please!

Let’s say, for example, that you have a $20,000 loan at 8%, and you want to have your student loan paid off in 3 years, which is 36 months.

First, the interest: $20,000 x 8% ÷ 12 (months) = $133,33. That’s the interest part of your monthly payment.

Now the principal repayment: Take your total principal of $20,000 and divide it by the number of months you want to take to pay off the loan, in this case 36.

So, $20,000 ÷ 36 = $555.55.

Add the principal amount of $555.55 to $133.33 in interest and your monthly payment is $688.88.

That’s a good indicator of what your monthly payment will be on the loan. It’ll actually be a little less since interest is calculated on a declining balance (as you pay off your loan, the principal goes down, so the amount of interest goes down).

The government of Canada has a website that offers a loan repayment calculator (http://tools.canlearn.ca/cslgs-scpse/cln-cln/40/crp-lrc/af.nlindex-eng.do) to take the math out of the exercise, if you’re number-challenged. You can enter up to three scenarios at a time to see how much you’ll have to pay monthly along with the interest you’ll pay over the life of your student loan.

Happy saving!

A Game of Chance by Linda Howard

A Game of Chance is the fifth book in the Mackenzie’s Mountain series by Linda Howard. My blog’s name is roughly taken from this series, because it had a marked influence on me in my youth.

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Blurb:

The last book in the Mackenzie Family series focuses on Chance Mackenzie, a feral, homeless adolescent until rescued and adopted by Wolf and Mary Mackenzie. The stunning and aloof half-breed has built a career in undercover ops, first as a Naval Intelligence Officer, then as a private consultant. However, one particularly vile terrorist has always eluded the law. Chance and brother Zane find a way to lure Crispin Hauer in: They’ll use his daughter Sonia as bait. First step: Make Sunny fall in love with Chance. What could be simpler?

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This is probably the only series I’ve read by Ms. Howard, but it has a special place in my heart. I love macho men like Chance. This type of character epitomizes everything I am attracted to in a man; he determines his own future, is handy, knowledgeable in self-defence and survival skills, kind and funny, and big and strong and take-charge.

I do wish that the story had of been expanded upon in the post-plane rescue scenes. I always feel that romance authors rush the endings. It’s like they feel after the action has come to a head, they only have a chapter or two to bring the story to conclusion. Well, that’s just not true.

This plot made me wonder, if I was in Sunny’s position, could I ever forgive Chance for his deception and betrayal? Would you?

I think that I’d get over it fairly easily. It is not as if the two were in a relationship and then he betrayed her, with another woman for example. He set up an unknown woman to take down her terrorist father, and in the process, managed to free her from him as well. And Chance protected her as much as he could through the whole process.

I like how he handles Sunny at the conclusion, giving her space to process and then overwhelming her with love, all the while having her back with Margreta. That is how a real man treats the woman he loves.

The following excerpt from A Game of Chance is my favourite scene. It is so heartwarming and sweet that it actually made me cry. It is my dream to one day marry into a large, loving, demonstrative family such as the Mackenzie clan.

‘Chance looked up at him, the only father he had ever known, and the man he respected most in the world.

“I don’t know who gave birth to you,” Wolf said. “But I do know bloodlines, son, and you’re a thoroughbred. Do you know what I regret most in my life? Not finding you until you were fourteen. Not feeling your hand holding my finger when you took your first step. Not getting up with you in the night when you were teething, or when you were sick. Not being able to hold you the way you needed holding, the way all kids need holding. By the time we got you I couldn’t do any of that, because you were as skittish as a wild colt. You didn’t like for us to touch you, and I tried to respect that.

“But one thing you need to know. I’m more proud of you than I’ve ever been of anything in my life, because you’re one of the finest men I’ve ever known, and you had to work a lot harder than most to get to where you are. If I could have had my pick of all the kids in the world to adopt, I still would have chosen you.”

Chance stared at his father, his eyes wet. Wolf Mackenzie put his arms around his grown son and hugged him close, the way he had wanted to do all these years. “I would have chosen you,” he said again.’     – copyright to Linda Howard

Isn’t that the sweetest? One of the things that we don’t do often enough in this world, is to tell our loved ones exactly how much we love them and that we are proud of them. Hearing those words fills the recipient with such a feeling of empowerment and hopefulness, providing courage and belief in self to get through future hardships.

Even though I am re-reading the books out of order, I will try to post reviews as I do so. Lately I’ve just been reading based on what I feel like in that moment, because I’ve felt so overwhelmed. I haven’t wanted to exert the discipline necessary to read and review things in order!

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xx

The Finest Hours – a review

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The synopsis:

On Feb. 18, 1952, a massive storm splits the SS Pendleton in two, trapping more than 30 sailors inside the tanker’s sinking stern. Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors. As word of the disaster reaches the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff orders a daring rescue mission. Despite the ferocious weather, coxswain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) takes three men on a lifeboat to try and save the crew against seemingly impossible odds.

Deep breathe. Wow.

This movie certainly has anticipation down. I think I was holding my breath for half the movie, and when I left the theatre, my ticket was shredded into ribbons in my pocket from working it through my fingers during the many tense moments in this film.

I love a story that can invoke so much emotion. That is surely the point of creating anything in the first place. The last time I felt so much anticipation in a film was Unstoppable, also based on a true story. I may have to re-watch it and put a blog of here sometime soon.

In the mean-time, go watch The Finest Hours.

One of the best aspects of this movie is that it shows the harrowing events taking place both on-board the stern of the sinking oil tanker, and the experiences of the Coast Guard crew trying to reach them. Both stories were incredibly interesting and could have comprised a movie in themselves, but having both perspectives in the same one shows how incredible it was that the rescue was able to succeed and the narrow odds both crews were up against.

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Although I suspect that some creative liberties were taken in the scenes depicted, mostly due to the extremely dramatic nature, this was still a remarkable feat of will. As I sat in the theatre, I couldn’t help but think how awe-inspiring humanity can be the iron will every man exhibited to keep struggling towards life. From the actions of the sailors fighting to buy time and keep a sinking ship alive for as long as possible, in the hopes (not knowledge) that someone was coming to save them, to the Coast Guard crew who went out on a suicide mission, fully expecting to never even make it to the sinking ship, it was one heroic moment after another.

And the Coast Guard seemed to think their cutter was a surf board, cruising over, and under, massive stormy waves.

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The story made me think of soldiers in war and this movie inspired a whole new level of respect for Coast Guard members, and their families, for the dangers faced and sacrifices made, in serving. We all know that the Navy can be grounded due to poor conditions, but the Coast Guard cannot. Their mandate is to serve; if there is a ship in distress, the Coast Guard will respond.

One of the themes repeated throughout is that the Coast Guard always goes out. They don’t have to come back. This is so very different from the Marine motto of never leave a man behind and it shows the differences in mindset between the two organizations. Management in other corps will weigh the costs and benefits of performing a certain mission, and plan for the least number of casualties possible. The Coast Guard just goes out, because they don’t have the option to re-plan, re-schedule or just the “null”.

Casey Affleck and Chris Pine were both magnificent in this film. Although I was more drawn to Affleck’s character, I couldn’t help but compare Chris Pine to some of his other notable roles such as Captain Kirk (Star Trek) or Prince Charming (Into the Woods), simply because this one was so different. I love versatile actors and consider them one of the greats when they can inhabit such different characters with apparent ease, rather than sticking to the same role in thirty different productions. Chris Pine is surely a great.

Clearly I am a huge fan of The Finest Hours. It brought up a whole lot of similar feeling films that I want to go re-watch now. Hopefully I will get some blogs up on here shortly.

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xx

 

 

The 5th Wave – a review

The 5th wave (2015) is a film based off of a young adult trilogy of the same name, written by Rick Yancey.

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From imdb.com

The human race stands on the brink of extinction as a series of alien attacks decimate the planet, causing earthquakes, tsunamis and disease. Separated from her family, Ohio teenager Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) will do whatever it takes to reunite with her brother Sam. Fate leads her to form an alliance with Evan Walker (Alex Roe), a mysterious young man who may be her last hope. Forced to trust each other, Cassie and Evan fight for survival during the fifth assault from the invaders.

I am confused as to who the target audience of this film was. The books are written for tweens and teens and the movie has the same vibe to similar films, such as Divergent. But the opening scene is of the teenage main character killing an innocent man. And her romantic interest in the movie is a college-aged man, Evan (played by Alex Roe). As a twenty-six year, I was a little squeamish seeing them develop a romantic relationship. Admittedly, Cassie (played by Chloë Grace Moretzseems older than her years and our social constructions of age and maturity might matter little in an apocalyptic world, but I do wish that Cassie’s character would have been a little older.

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I really loved the idea driving the story. I haven’t read this type of story in a while and I am going to check out the rest of the books in the series. I am hoping that they are better written than the film! The film … why is it that 90% of the time I dislike a show or a movie, it is because I feel the writing is lacking? Is writing really that hard?!

The 5th wave starts out great. Interesting and compelling. I liked how the timeline wasn’t entirely linear, I felt that it added depth to the series. I also felt that most of the initial acting was really well done. There are a lot of highly talented and well-known actors in it. Maggie Siff (from Sons of Anarchy) and Ron Livingston played Cassie’s parents and Liev Schreiber (from Wolverine and Ray Donovan) was Colonel Vosch.

– Spoilers ahead –

However, the plot involves turning children into soldiers to fight The Others, and their acting is childish and lacking. It is so bad you almost wonder if it is on purpose…

The director and producers have the children sitting around the barracks, playing cards and gambling in their down-time, the way adults would. To me, it would have been more believable if the kids were running around, playing like children do, when not in training. It was also baffling that the kids were not broken down into teams based on age. Instead, the 7 year olds were mixed in with 17 year olds, and expected to operate as soldiers and snipers in actual urban combat situations. Apocalypse or not, someone that young could never keep up with the older teens, mentally or physically.

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For these young ones, most of their acting was one-dimensional and even the teenagers in the group seemed to accept everything they were told without ever wondering where the non-military adults were… they were all brainwashed way too easily.

Evan on the other hand, Evan I loved.

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I thought that Evan was one of The Others, and I was half-right. I loved Alex’s depiction of him and wish that we could have seen him a little more in action. He was my favourite character in the film, and if they do another, I hope that his role, and his abilities, are expanded upon. Evan is deeply conflicted about his identity and the role he has to play in the war for Earth, which makes him the most interesting and compelling character on the screen.

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Unfortunately, throughout the entire film the plot is utterly predictable – I actually called the “plot twist” just from the trailer. It made the characters seem very stupid and naive to not be suspicious until the end. Call me paranoid, but as soon as the school buses showed up at the refugee camp, I would have been out of there with my kids. I would never have let them separate me from my children. Somehow, the kids who were told that their parents would follow behind never seem to question why they never show up, or why the only refugees taken to the base are children.

It was also obvious to me that Evan had some connection to The Others. He stayed in his family home, completely safe and secure from concern and seemed to have no need to hide. He chopped wood outside for heating and cooking, knowing that there were snipers and drones hunting in the forest, but again, wasn’t concerned and maintained to Cassie that she was perfectly safe in his home, despite her insistence that there is no safe place.

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Evan is H-O-T hot.

In the end, I felt disappointed that what had seemed like such a good idea was so poorly executed. I walked away from the movie theatre feeling let-down, and so did my viewing partner. I still find the idea intriguing and will probably check out the second and third books in the series, to see what happens. Hopefully they are better than the film.

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xx

 

Winter of the Wolf – Cherise Sinclair

Winter of the Wolf is the second book in the Wild Hunt Legacy series by Cherise Sinclair.

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Blurb:

After years in foster care, Breanne Gallagher has the stable life she’s always wanted, living with her foster-sister, working as a chef, enjoying her comfortable routines. Then one devastating night, a hellish creature invades her apartment and shatters her fragile existence. Shifting between monster and man, it slaughters her foster sister and assaults Bree. Alone, wounded, her beloved home tainted by gruesome memories, Bree flees to a tiny wilderness town, following her only clue to her past.

Shapeshifting warriors, Zeb and Shay move from one pack to another, hunting the hellhounds which prey on their kind. Assigned to Cold Creek, they take over management of a decrepit fishing lodge for their “human” cover. Their first renter is a pretty human female who trembles at the sight of them—yet stands her ground. Furious at the hurt they see in her eyes, the protective nomads are drawn into helping her. Although no shapeshifter is ever attracted to a human, her scent is oddly compelling, and her ferocious determination to conquer her fears ignites longings neither loner ever expected to face.

Bree is healing, learning to shoot the biggest pistol she can find, and overcoming her fears, especially of the two deadly, disconcertingly attractive hunters. Her life is getting back on track…until she tries to save a little girl from a hellhound and discovers that everything she knows about herself is false.

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It isn’t often that you see a second novel build so incredibly from the first in a series. Often, the story revolves around new characters in the same format and world.

Well, the world might be the same. And the initial premise too, of an adult woman discovering that she is a shapeshifter and trying to find her footing on new ground. But Bree is such an incredibly different character from the heroine of book one, almost her opposite in many ways, that it feels like a completely different story. Her male companions too are different, friends and partners in the field instead of littermates.

While I loved the original story, I also loved the differences that made this one unique. Bree is vulnerable and emotionally fragile throughout much of the book, with a difficult foster care background and abuse suffered both as a youth and an adult. Yet she grabs hold to a new existence in Cold Creek, forging personal relationships and business ties, and just generally establishing a life for herself.

I love books where the heroine does this. I find that … gumption? determination? pizzazz? something … to be an extremely admirable quality. It is something that I have many doubts I could do but wish I could. One day maybe I will pack up and move somewhere completely foreign to me and start again. Lord knows I wish I could, and Bree gives me the encouragement that maybe it would be possible for me as well.

Another difference from the first novel is that the protagonists are werewolves rather than were-cats, which means that in addition to belonging to the territory, they also have a pack that all the wolves in their territory belong to. The were-cats and bears don’t have this second community so it was an interesting development that added depth to the Wild Hunt series. I wanted to tear the pack leader limb from limb, but hey – that’s just a sign of a great author if they can make you care so much.

Ms. Sinclair adds enough humour into her novels to make them light, even when there is dark content, and that is a rare and lovely addition to erotic romance. Here is a brief excerpt from Winter of the Wolf, a scene that shows both Breanne and Zeb’s true natures, and is humorous as well.

A sweet voice caught his attention. Carrying a small tray she could use one-handed, Bree was taking drink orders. As she wove her way around the tables, her sunny hair gleamed in the light from the wall sconces. The wavy tangle stopped just above her waist, drawing attention to the way her jeans cupped her round ass. An inch or two taller than Vicki, she was even curvier and totally appealing.

Fuck.

Others had noticed, as well. She was collecting interested looks from the entire male population of the bar, even Daonain. But, true to form, humans started the trouble. Drunk, human, and male spelled pain in the ass, and the centre table held four PITAs.

One latched onto Bree’s arm tightly enough she couldn’t jerk away without spilling the drinks. Another had the effrontery to grab her ass.  Taller than everyone in the room, Zeb had a clear view. He started to push his way through the crowd.

She scowled and snapped something, but the human males only laughed. And then, she pivoted and planted her foot into the ass-toucher’s stomach. Man and chair went over backwards, skidding a few feet until coming to rest against the adjacent table.

She hadn’t even spilled a drink.

She turned toward the other male. He snatched his hand from her arm. With a swing of her blonde hair, she moved away as if she’d never been stopped. Fucking amazing. Zeb adjusted his jeans around a disconcerting hard-on and returned to the bar.

Calum was waiting for him. “Could you do me the favor of taking out the trash? Just the two. Politeness is not required. The others may stay.”

Sinclair, Cherise (2012-03-23). Winter of the Wolf (The Wild Hunt Legacy Book 2) (Kindle Locations 1144-1148). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Winter of the Wolf is certainly a romance novel, but you won’t find gratuitous sex scenes in the first couple of chapters. It is a menage relationship between two male “cahirs” and one little female, and they take their time getting to know each other before jumping beneath the sheets. Sometimes this gets boring, but it works for this series and the plot moves quickly without the spicy scenes.

I highly recommend this series, it is currently my favourite in the fantasy-romance genre!

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xx