Echoes of Silence – Anne Malcom

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People make love seem complicated. Intricate. Novels try to capture its intensity; music tries to rein in its soul.
I’ve read every novel I could. I’ve lived and breathed every song that I could listen to. The sounds fill my unquiet mind.
Then he came.
Killian.
He brought with him the beauty of silence that echoes through my soul and showed me love isn’t complicated. It’s simple. Beautiful.
Some say love at first sight doesn’t exist, that you can’t find your soul mate at sixteen years old. Those are people rooted in reality, chained to the confines of life that dictates how you are meant to think. Killian broke those chains. He broke everything, shattered it so I can see that reality is overrated, that daydreams can somehow come to life.
My life tumbled into darkness in the time after I met him, so dark I’m not sure I’ll ever see the light again. But he is always at my side. His life means he knows how to navigate the dark and he can lead me out.
I wade through the darkness with him at my side.
We’ll be together forever; I’m certain of that.
Until I’m not.

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Officially, this book is the first in the Unquiet Minds series, but Echoes of Silence is the spin-off to the Sons of Templar MC series, written by Anne Malcom. I’m going to just talk about it as if it is all the same, because it’s just easier, and hey, this is my blog. Malcom wrote this story as a YA novel, which tells the sweet romance between 16yo Lexie and bad boy Killian.

If you are familiar with the Sons of Templar series, Lexie is the daughter of Mia, who was featured in the third novel. She and Killian were so enchanting as secondary characters that they have sparked their own novels. Although I would recommend reading the series in its entirety, Echoes could be read as a stand-alone.

Surprisingly, Echoes of Silence was my favourite novel so far by Malcom! I didn’t expect this because I usually read dark romances (so not YA!) and worried that there would be too much re-telling from Out of the Ashes.

The witty banter that I loved in the mother’s book was still present, but few scenes were retold from a different perspective. Reading Echoes made me realize how much was missed from her story before, and Killian in particular I got to know so much better. He is the son of a deceased club member and has been largely raised by the club since childhood due to maternal neglect.

Another favourite aspect is to see the relationship develop between bubbly, positive Lexie and her step-dad Bull, who barely speaks unless with her. I love seeing new relationships develop in a healthy manner instead of the typical “step family” tropes. Who doesn’t want one big happily, Brady-style family?!

There was one unique aspect that set this book aside from the Sons of Templar series, besides the sexual content: the music.

Lexie’s musicality and her band feature heavily throughout and it a key defining tone of the book, particularly in the conclusion. I love that after the story, the author included a “playlist” because I was trying to mentally keep track while reading to go back and listen to the songs that made such an impact to the characters.

Here is a screenshot of Lexie’s (Malcom’s) play list … and hopefully it isn’t a problem I just copied and pasted this one in.

playlist

I recognize many of the artists on the list, but not all and learned a bunch of great new songs.

Echoes of Silence is the first in a two-part special featuring Killian and Lexie. It does not end happily, but the upside is we get two full novels devoted to an amazing couple! Malcom isn’t making us wait too long either; the follow-up – Skeletons of Us – should be released September 2nd, 2016. She even has the first chapter available on her website.

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The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

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I read this book as part of the Read Harder Challenge 2016 for the category “read a book originally published in the decade you were born”. To save you keeners looking it up, that was the 80’s.

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I wasn’t sure of this category. I’m not normally drawn to older books, I prefer to read contemporary novels. But when I brought out trusty old google to search for books published in the 80’s this came up. I also chose this one because I vaguely remember watching the movie with my parents as a child and wanted to check out the story again.

Remember this?

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So The Indian in the Cupboard is based on the idea that a young boy named Omri receives a very old (and unbeknownst to him, magical) cupboard for his birthday. It has a lock and a key which his Mother gives to him and explains is very precious (sentimentally). At first Omri is disappointed with his gifts … until he discovers that any plastic toy locked in the cupboard would come to life!

Enter the Indian. And a horse and cowboy, and Indian Princess and WWI army doctor…

Clearly this story was not written with political correctness in mind!

It takes a while for Omri and the Indian (Little Horse) to understand each other, and for Omri to realize that his toy is no longer just a toy, but a living and breathing being with feelings, needs and fears. He quickly learns to respect Little Bear as another human rather than treat him like his possession or pet. Eventually, Omri seeps to adopt the understanding that Little Bear has travelled from his own place in history because he comes with back-story and the relationships any adult would have (parental, marital, friendships).

I was under the impression that the story took place long ago, in the early 1900’s of England but either the movie was different or my memory faulty, because the plot is set in the second half of twentieth century America.

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I also never realized that this was the first book in a series of five children’s novels. I have a passing desire to read the following novels, mostly because I hate leaving something half finished which it feels like I have, but I doubt I will unless I read them with my own kids one day. Although I enjoyed the story of the Indian in the Cupboard, I had a hard time getting through a very short children’s novels. My best guess is that it is because the writing is too young for me to really become engrossed, even though the events were interesting.

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Wild Cat – a review

Wild Cat is the eighth book in the Leopard series by Christine Feehan. This series has really been improved with each book, and I loved Wild Cat and the previous couple of novels as well. The stories have become much more engrossing than the earliest ones, and I love the community feel when there are different characters mixing together.

If you are familiar with Feehan’s other series, you will notice that the Leopard books are much more erotic and sexual than the others, which are fairly tame (at least by my standards). I love this aspect and the pseudo-bdsm nature of the relationships.

Wild Cat features one of the heroes for whom we have been long awaiting a love story: Elijah Lospostos. Here are the deets of the book.

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A simple request for Siena Arnotto: deliver a gift to her grandfather’s friend. One look at Elijah Lospostos, hard-bodied and stripped to the waist, and Siena succumbs to a feline stirring she never felt before, and to Elijah’s reckless and pleasurable demands. But when that pulse-throbbing moment ends in the murder of an unexpected intruder, Elijah accuses the shaken and confused Siena of setting him up.

Then Siena discovers the truth of her Leopard heritage, of the secrets in her grandfather’s inner circle, and the sinister plot of revenge that has put her in jeopardy. When Siena’s grandfather is assassinated, she realizes the only man she can trust is Elijah. Now as her Leopard rises from within, Siena and Elijah share not only an animal instinct for survival—but a desire so raw and wild it may be the only thing that can save them.

—                —                 —

(Please note that this review contains minimal spoilers. I did my best to leave out the big things and any spoiler you find is from one of the first handful of chapters).

Wow, does Elijah Fuck The Hell Up. He doesn’t really “do” gravelling either to make amends. The arrogant bastard just decides that Sienna should forgive him because he regrets his actions, and more or less bullies her into doing so.

My last two sentences probably make Elijah sound absolutely irredeemable, right? Well, not quite. He didn’t physically harm her. He humiliated Sienna and caused her to lose all confidence and trust in herself which is arguable worse, but I’m more willing to accept this because it is not the result of a gender imbalance.

Also, in his (incorrect) understanding of the situation, Elijah did believe that Sienna had just tried to assassinate him. So ya, I’d probably do a whole lot more in that situation than just throw a naked woman out of my house and call her a few choice terms. And he does his damnedest to protect her after realizing his mistake.

Some of the readers who interact on the author’s social media and website are really not fans of the Leopard series. The sex is too headed or the men too overbearing. They maintain that this is emotional abuse, claims that were commonly thrown at this book, and the previous. I wholeheartedly disagree.

I love the story and the characters. It was sweet to see Sienna integrate into his world by mixing with past heroines, and I wish that Drake and Eli had had expanded roles. This is one that I would read again and again.

If you are looking for a book that exemplifies the type of simpering romance where the hero caters to the heroine’s every whim, these are not the books for you. If you like pushy alphas who lead in a relationship and are incredibly possessive of their ladies, we’ve probably found your niche.

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Out of the Ashes – Anne Malcom

Out of the Ashes is the third novel in the Sons of Templar series. Although this series can be read out of order (and honestly, I mistakenly did this), I’d read it in order if I could do it over again.

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Living a life in darkness causes the soul to char to ash. Battling demons by turning himself into a monster is the only way he can survive…the only way he can keep a grip on sanity. That grip is precarious at best, every day is a silent battle with demons that threaten to yank him into the truest form of darkness, the abyss he’ll never escape. Then it happens. Light shines through the cracks.

Happiness. Mia Spencer’s life is full of it. She has an amazing new job, friends, family, and the light of her life – her daughter Lexie. Running from the demons of the past, escaping a hell that she vowed Lexie would never know about, she worked through hardship and near poverty to create something she was proud of. Buried deep inside, underneath the swell of love she had for her only daughter, were the fractured pieces of her. Pieces that were smashed and battered when she was young and vulnerable.

Then she meets Bull, who seems to hate her on sight. He screams danger, from his huge physique, to his beautiful ink, to the motorcycle club he belongs to. He is silent, his glares threaten to burn her into flames, yet she finds herself falling for him. Finds this broken man slowly fixing the pieces she thought would stay shattered forever.

—                —              —

Out of the Ashes is my favourite book in this series so far! Mia and Lexie are adorable together. It is overwhelmingly obvious that the author is a fan of Gilmore Girls, as Mia and Lexie share more than a passing resemblance to the main characters on the show. They wittily banter back and forth non-stop, and are both addicted to coffee. They have the sweetest mother-daughter relationship and similar backgrounds.

Unlike in the show, Mia was born into trailer park trash, but she finds herself a mother and alone at 16 and raises her baby on her own, by starting out as a maid in a hotel working for room and board and rising to hotel manager. Lexie, just like Rory Gilmore, is a super smart, super kind, eclectic and not at all teenagerish teenager who is destined for great things.

 

Here is an example of some of the more refreshing banter between Mia and Lexie:

“Okay, I’m giving the coffee a hundred and twelve and the pancakes a solid nine and a half. I deducted half because I feel like they could be improved by adding chocolate chips to them,” I declared, leaning back in my seat.

Lexie nodded at me. “I’m seconding the coffee, and I’m hugely impressed a town this small has embraced acai bowls. I must say this one is hells good.”

I rolled my eyes. “I fail to believe that any acai bowl could be “hells good.” It’s a crime to breakfast foods everywhere that that can be considered appropriate as a meal. It’s a smoothie poured into a bowl. It’s like cold soup,” I said, my nose curled in distaste.

Lexie folded her arms. “Acai is a super food and it does wonders for your immune system. It’s full of antioxidants and is a much better way to start the day than with processed sugars and bleached flour,” she told me in a scolding tone.

“The only way, other than coffee, to start a day is with sugar. That’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning,” I argued. “That and the possibility Jensen Ackles will finally realize he’s in love with me,” I added dreamily.

Lexie sighed. “I don’t know how you’ve stayed this skinny, Mom. You should need a crane to get you out of the house,” she said, scrunching her nose at me while she looked me up and down.

“I don’t know how my daughter learned about acai and freaking quinoa when such things are sacrilege in my mind,” I countered.

“A little thing called the internet,” she replied.

Malcom, Anne. Out of the Ashes (The Sons of Templar MC Book 3) (Kindle Locations 158-171). Kindle Edition.

With a teenage daughter in tow, Mia is the most reluctant of all the leading ladies so far to pursue a relationship with an outlaw biker. She is painfully aware that building a relationship with the club could place her daughter at risk and while she is more than willing to risk herself for love, no way is she going to do the same to Lexie.

Leading guy Bull feels the same way. He lost his first wife due to a war with another club and has been in the throes of depression ever since. The optimism and zany banter that Lexie and Mia bring to town starts to draw him out, but Bull remains the quietest, grumpiest and most taciturn biker of the group. Even his club brothers seem to be removed from him and nervous of his control at times. I get the feeling that the only people completely safe from Bull (when he loses it) are Lexie and Mia.

I’m impressed with Mia’s forgiving patience because I would have given up on him long before, but I guess that is just the animal magnetism at work. Bull and Mia also have the kinkiest relationship to date. He is definitely dominant in bed and likes to call the shots outside of it as well. Mia keeps him on his toes and is absolutely alpha when it parenting Lexie, but she loves Bull’s wild and possessive personality and is totally on board with bangin’ against the wall. I wish we had seen more of this unrestrained passion.

I think my one regret in this novel is that Bull and Mia spent so much time working through his (totally justified) hangups to establish themselves as a couple, and then overcoming Mia’s reluctance to associate with people who could be a danger to Lexie, that we don’t actually see them together as much as the other couples. I would love to read another book about them in the future, even if it is a novella, and also to see more of the parent/friend relationship that develops between Bull and Lexie.

There is a super sweet and heart-warming romantic sub-plot between Lexie and bad boy Killian who has been raised by the club and I can see that the author has also published a novel about them, so I am exited to read that one soon.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. As I said, it was the first one that I read, although I held on to my review so I could release them in series order. I’m thankful that taking a chance on this new-to-me author paid off and cannot wait to read more of her works!

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xx

Outside the Lines review

Outside the lines is a novella in the Sons of Templar series. It should be read in between books two and three. It is about the New Mexico chapter that the Cali boys visited in Firestorm, so we get to see the sexy doc Hansen fall in love with club girl Macy.

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My life’s not easy. I’ll tell you that now. It’s not neat. I don’t fit into society the way most people expect me to and I don’t color studiously between the lines, outside the lines is where I reside. The fringes of society is where I found my place, with the Sons of Templar MC. The life they lived gave me everything I wanted, and everything I needed. Most importantly, it gave me something I’d been lacking for over a decade—family. A place to belong.

Club girl—that was my title. There were other words for what I was, but I preferred the less derogatory version. Sure, I’d love to be an Old Lady. It’s the dream. But, as someone who escaped into fantasy worlds when life got too much, I knew the difference between dreams and reality. I had resigned myself to the fact, I’d always belong to the club. It didn’t mean I didn’t crave one man in particular to claim me. To put me on the back of his bike and ride off into the sunset with the man who’d captured my heart the first day I saw him—Hansen. The dream where he’d finally see me and make me his, existed strictly in Macy’s world of wonder. Until now. Until somehow my fantasy world and reality world collided and he looks at me in the way I’d dreamt of for a year.

Fairy tales usually had neat and happy endings once the hero and heroine got together. This wasn’t a fairy tale. Hansen wasn’t your traditional hero and I was the furthest you could get from a heroine. I feared my past might dictate my future. That my world outside the lines would go from messy to complete disaster.

—              —               —

This book is very different from the previous ones in so many ways! I like when an author doesn’t just replicate a winning formula over and over, instead choosing to grow as a writer and take chances with the direction she takers her audience. Outside the lines is a novella, so it is much shorter and less detailed than the first two in the series, but there was still that sense of “club”, or community, despite having fewer pages devoted to establishing those background characters and relationships.

Macy is also the exact opposite of earlier heroines. Instead of a wealthy, sophisticated fashionista, Macy is a complete nerd who quotes LOTR all the time. She doesn’t do her hair in the morning, is perfectly happy in jeans and a tee and has no problem with her status as a club girl. She is the epitome of a quirky, fun-loving, low key geek and I love her! It was nice to have the change after Gwen and Amy who were so alike.

I do think that it would have been nice to read a full length novel about these characters, and to expand upon Hansen’s military career and medical training, but I still loved this sweet, short story. Unlike the Amber chapter, which has gone legit by this point, the New Mexico chapter is still happily outlaw and that does present a slightly different tone to the novel. Not all the characters are as sweet to women as we have seen previously, but still, abuse isn’t tolerated. It is also a unique aspect to witness Macy’s transition from club girl to Old Lady. She has trouble overcoming her previous status as a whore (her words, not mine) and this is an ongoing issue in her and Hansen’s relationship.

Normally, I don’t give too much though to titles, but this one is especially apt. Hansen and Macy live completely outside the lines of what society has deemed acceptable and she is also way outside the lives of what we have so far established to the the norm for an Old Lady. She transcended the barriers between the women who belong to the club as a whole, and the women who belong to the club because they belong to a patched member.

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