Leopard’s Blood by Christine Feehan

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan cuts straight to the heart of a man who stalks the shadows in an intoxicating Leopard novel.

Though born into a leopard’s lair in the bayou, Joshua Tregre’s fighting skills were honed in the rainforests of Borneo. Sleek and deadly, he’s the perfect man to take over a crime syndicate back home in Louisiana’s lush swamplands. His razor sharp instincts give him an edge in the violent underworld he knows so well, but even the watchful leopard inside him isn’t prepared for the danger that comes from the girl next door…

She is a woman who can create beauty out of thin air—and out of the ruins of her own life. The games that dangerous men play have taken their toll on her, but she is bent, not broken. And it’s her fierce spirit that’s like a lure to Joshua, a temptation he can’t resist—even if it means bringing his true nature into the light…

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Leopard’s Blood starts with a bang!

The couple meet straight off when Sonia’s leopard goes into heat for the first time, and she calls to her mate, Shadow. This is a change from many of the other books in the Leopard series where the heroine doesn’t shift forms until the latter part of the book. One of the aspects of this series that I really like is seeing the interaction between the two leopards, and the leopards and their respective human partners so it provided more opportunity for this to happen.

Joshua is much more patient and understanding than most of the other Leopard men we have met, which makes sense because he has a reputation as one of the more level-headed guys. He might actually be my favourite hero! Although paranoid about his mate’s security, he is happy to work with her and support her career, rather than trying to get her to stay at home. He also doesn’t mind her having male friends, secure in her commitment to him emotionally, even when she is still on the fence. This is a welcome change from previous couples – not that I dislike the he-man routine, but it helps keep the series from becoming repetitive and one-dimensional.

Throughout my reading of Leopard’s Blood, I was going to give the book a five star review for most of the story, but I decided to drop it down to four. Without giving away too many plot details, a serious altercation occurs which results in Sonia and Joshua’s leopards being furious with each other and although the humans resolve it, the leopards never really appear again, except in fight sequences. It felt like the story was unresolved and a moment I was really looking forward to didn’t happen.

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Dirty Dealings (Zeta Cartel #3)

Dirty Dealings is the third book in the dark romance series Zeta Cartel by AJ Adams. Click these links if you are looking for my reviews of book one or book two.

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Quique is having a bad time. Back in Mexico his marriage has fallen apart and his wife has made him a laughing stock by cheating on him. Now he’s in London and finding himself out of his depth with a complex commercial deal. To make things worse, Natalia Truelove, a chef and pub manager, is blackmailing him. Quique is ready to commit murder and he’s pretty sure who his first victim will be.

Warning: Dirty Dealings contains strong adult language and themes as well as graphic violence and fully depicted love scenes

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I somehow completely missed the release of this book last year. I just picked up and started book four and realized that Quique was now married to someone new, and went back to one-click this book. No wonder it seemed like such a long time between book releases in this series. I’m just a dunce.

Dirty Dealings features an antihero who is familiar to readers of the Zeta Cartel. Quique is a surprising revelation within the macho Latino world of the Cartel. He has a thing against hitting women, and is amazingly lighthearted and sweet when not in work mode. He also likes his woman to be independent, a partner in life, when most of his colleagues view a woman as an ornament.

This book is mostly set in Britain, with lots of dry Brit humour and colloquialisms throughout. The heroine is a tough, brash woman with a disreputable backstory and an extended family of ex-inlaws with reputations of their own. Natalia reminds me of a workhorse, in the nicest of ways. She just doesn’t stop. She doesn’t acknowledge the obstacles in her way, she is always looking for solutions, searching for better, and will drag her family along with her no matter how much bitching or feet-dragging they do. She truly cares about them and their BS, even when they treat her horribly and have been the cause of much past suffering.

I felt like Quique and Natalia were well-matched and once they got over being on separate sides of a business deal, they realized it as well. Bruja mala leche (evil, little witch) is one of my favourite insults to use IRL (and I’ve been known to call my sisters this) so I was vastly amused as Quique’s use of this term gradually changed from a hate-filled curse to an endearment.

Also, apparently my efforts in learning the Spanish language are having an effect because I could translate most of the Spanish bits without referring to a dictionary or the internet! Woot!

Dirty Dealings is very plot-driven, more so than the previous two books. I felt that the romance took a backseat, and should have been brought forward more. The couple don’t fall into bed together until nearly 60% of the way in, so if you like super steamy books, that is something to take note of ahead of time.

** getting darker … **

I also wish that the issue of rape had been examined more. Adams wrote Quique mostly as a dark hero, a baddy who would still drop everything to rescue a child, but he is also a high-ranking member of the most powerful Cartel in the world, and a former Guatemalan special forces soldier. He doesn’t like rape, but had used it in the past as a tool of war, of intimidation and interrogation. Unfortunately, this subject is examined in a couple of short, introspective paragraphs and I think it is something that should have more of a big deal in the plot. Hopefully Adams will bring it up again with a future character in the Zeta Cartel.

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Club Shadowlands (Masters of the Shadowlands Book 1)

Cherise Sinclair has been my favourite author for the last year or two, especially lately. I stumbled upon Club Shadowlands when she only had four published novels, and burned through those in a week. Ever since, it seems I have been anxiously waiting for the next book. Cherise Sinclair, the Queen of Tease 😉

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Her car disabled during a tropical storm, Jessica Randall discovers the isolated house where she’s sheltering is a private bondage club. At first shocked, she soon becomes aroused watching the interactions between the Doms and their subs. But she’s a professional woman–an accountant–and surely isn’t a submissive…is she?

Master Z hasn’t been so attracted to a woman in years. But the little sub who has wandered into his club intrigues him. She’s intelligent. Reserved. Conservative. After he discovers her interest in BDSM, he can’t resist tying her up and unleashing the passion she hides within.

Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, strong BDSM theme and content (including/not limited to bondage, caning, restraints, spanking, etc), exhibitionism, voyeurism.

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Club Shadowlands is a fantastic introductory story for someone who is new to erotica, and especially for those who are new to BDSM. I adore Sinclair’s writing style, steamy sex scenes and well thought out plot lines. Things rarely feel contrived or forced in a Cherise Sinclair novel.

Another reason why she is my go-to recommendation for those dipping their toe in to the kink pond is that Sinclair’s books contain informative explanations about bdsm, with healthy relationships that are based on consensual scenes. I asked her once about this on social media and she explained that she tries to introduce a new kink in every book, so I really feel like these books serve as stepping stones into the bdsm community. If you are a newbie, like I was when I discovered Club Shadowlands, you will get a great introduction to different kinks and relationship types, without feeling like you are reading something educational.

Early on in Club Shadowlands, the heroine makes a comparison to her adventure into the club, likening it to a kinky Alice in Wonderland experience which is both hilarious and apt. There are sprinkles of humour throughout although I wouldn’t describe this as a funny book, but I love Jessica’s matter of fact way of looking at the world and her clear, unmuddled emotions.

Club Shadowlands is novella length, but you get updates on the couple throughout the series so it doesn’t feel like they have been short changed at all. Indeed, several of the books in the beginning of this series are shorter, and as the author became more comfortable (and as readers demanded longer tales), they gradually grew in length.

“Z”, the hero of the story and the owner of the bdsm club Jessica stumbles into is a mind-reader, military vet and current psychologist. I adore him and his mind-reading ability is more of a quirky plus in the series, rather than a lead-in two a whole new range of paranormal.

Club Shadowlands is Free on amazon so try it out! There are lots of books out in this series if you decide you love it as much as I do, which I can pretty much guarantee if you like the majority of other books that I blog about.

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The World’s Strongest Librarian

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An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7″ when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humour and candour, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

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It’s funny, all the lines one could draw between my life and Joshs’, the parallel direction we both seem to have taken at some point. I randomly came across this book on Goodreads – it was recommended based on other things I had read – and the title and cover immediately drew me in. My interest was piqued.

The fact that Josh was a librarian, writing his memoir, was one of the original things that drew me to this book. While those professional experiences took a backseat in the book, it is hilarious how relate-able some of his interactions with customers were to me. Some of the conversations I swear I have had almost verbatim at my own library. I particularly loved the old woman who described her favourite genre to be “the nakedest of romances”. Well okay then.

I have worked in a library since I was sixteen years old, and still do. Librarians in my experience are rarely men, and even more rarely, men super into fitness or sports. So I checked out the audio book from my library’s streaming service and started listening. This is how I found out that Josh is Mormon. One questioning his faith by the end of the book, but a self-identified and fully baptized Elder none-the-less.

I am also Mormon. Unlike Josh, I wasn’t raised in the church, I didn’t go on a mission, and I don’t currently attend meetings. My faith is questionable at times, and I don’t feel a sense of urgency about it at the moment. Though I’m sure this would be hard to explain at the Pearly Gates if I was killed tomorrow, I know that I will get more serious about religion when I have children of my own. Right now it feels like I have time to be young, and in my precarious job field, you take the extra Sunday shifts while they’re offered, lest they dry up.

Unlike Josh, I don’t have Tourettes. THANK GOD. But one of my best friends does. I see her physical tics and slight vocal tics every time we hang out. They aren’t severe like the authors’ but I know she wishes she didn’t have them. They can be frustrating to deal with for her friends and family as well, but mostly I wish that she could have freedom from them for her own peace of mind. I know this friend was interested when I started taking about The World’s Strongest Librarian and his Tourettes. She had never thought to name hers the way Josh did, and told me that his description of his disorder was exactly how she had always felt and never been able to express in words.

I hope she chooses to listen to this book. I would highly recommend it for anyone with Tourette Syndrome or anyone looking to find out more about it.

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You are a BADASS

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The #1 New York Times Bestseller YOU ARE A BADASS IS THE SELF-HELP BOOK FOR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY WANT TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVES BUT DON’T WANT TO GET BUSTED DOING IT. 

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

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I picked up this audiobook from my local library because it has an attractive cover and a person had recommended it to me a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it at the time.

The audiobook was read by the author herself, and her voice is … pleasant? She doesn’t grate on my nerves, the way some narrators do, but I also found that I tended to drift off a lot. I’m not sure how much of that is due to her narration skills or her writing skills, but I had a very difficult time connecting to her and paying attention.

I found that Sincero had some interesting and inspirational ideas throughout the book, and I liked that her book was full of “real talk”. She seems to be trying to reach out to the self-doubters, my term for people who scoff at the “self-help” genre, and the author fully admits that she used to be one of those people.

However, Sincero mostly came across a someone who “drank the Kool-Aid”, IMHO. In Part II, she talks about certain profound meditation experiences where she has ‘seen the walls melt’ and ‘people levitating’. Uh-huh. Backing away slowly now.

It may be “boring”, but I am trying to put Christ and financial security at the forefront of my life, and when I have a family of my own, I know that they will jump into first place. I’m definitely not talking about earning millions of dollars, but I am working really hard and making sacrifices to be debt free and then eventually buy a house of my own one day (renting sucks. Am I right or am I right?!).

The author of You are a badass talks a lot about trips, expensive things, and taking tons of chances to make yourself happy even, if the consequences could be dire. She is all about finding the thing that makes you happy.

That is one way to look at life I guess, but personally, I think happiness starts from within. We all need certain things to be happy and what I need is different from what you need. My happiness stems largely from a strong sense of security and self-sufficiency, as well as a close romantic relationship and one of the things I desire most in the future is to have a large family, and a family-oriented existence.

So financial security, owning a home, these things that might seem arbitrary are actually feeding into what I need to be happy, those senses of belonging and of safety, of home. But if I can’t find some degree of happiness in my life now, as I am pursing my dream, that is a problem. To borrow an oft-repeated phrase, life isn’t about the destination, its the journey along the way.

Sincero doesn’t take into account that not everyone is operating on an equal playing field, and appears to scoff at others, creating the idea that she is judging others, and by extension, the reader. I particularly detest that she is of the opinion that depression and anxiety are reflective of an undisciplined mind rather than (in many) actual illnesses.

Her official blurb describes the book as 27 hilarious and inspiring stories, but I didn’t find them to be either. I also had difficulties with following the book. Perhaps this was because the book didn’t hold my attention and I drifted off, but I didn’t find that each chapter was building to a conclusion, that “aha” moment that pulled everything together. Instead, it felt more like a random series of self-congratulating moments and “you had to be there” stories.

You are a badass is a polarizing book. A quick glance at Goodreads user reviews showed that reviewers tended to love or hate this book. Many found her to be incredibly inspiration and there is no denying that Sincero has created “buzz”, but too many others had similar opinions to mine.

If you give this book a chance, I recommend you pick it up from the library until you know whether it is for you or not.

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Beyond the Horizon – a Sons of Templar novel

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From Goodreads: 

Life is counted in tiny breaths, ones that measure the length of your existence. Life stole the ability to make those breaths easy when Lily was nine years old. Turned her quiet. Made her curl into herself, and shut out a world that threatened to bury her under its weight.

The end of her world is what brings him back—her biker. His chocolate eyes pierce her soul while his club tempts her with a life that she didn’t know she could ever have. Especially not when she was clutching the tattered remains of her existence, and with a weight bearing down on her which makes her unfit for the role of Old Lady. Asher changes that. He wants to set about repairing it, repairing her and her broken world. The problem is, even his strong shoulders can’t carry the burden of her sorrow.

Asher doesn’t take no for an answer. She may have given him her heart three years ago, but never in her wildest dreams would she imagine she had possessed his for the same amount of time.

Just when it seems like she may be able to ride off into the horizon, the world isn’t quite finished trying to rob her of breath. Of life.

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This review was really hard to write. I’ve been sitting on it for months and months. Because Beyond the Horizon was really hard for me to read. Straight up trigger warning here.

The book opens with the heroine on the day of her mother’s funeral. She died from cancer. I don’t think there are many people out there who haven’t had cancer touch their lives in some way. I have lost several family members to cancer and didn’t last five pages before I was bawling my eyes out.

The book in large part comprises Lily’s grief and attempts to get on with life. There are also numerous flashbacks to the years where she is her mother’s primary caregiver. Beyond the Horizon has more heart and is much more of a tear-jerker than any other Sons of Templar MC novel. The story is great but it was so difficult to read that it will probably only ever be a book I can skim in future, rather than properly re-reading.

So if you don’t want to read about cancer or a daughter overcoming her mother’s death, skip ahead to Dauntless. If it is a topic you can handle, read on because you are in for a great story.

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