The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)

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A tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that, despite its profound flaws, gave the author the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story.

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I found this book very difficult to listen to at times, not just because of the subject matter, but because of the author’s approach to her story. Ms. Walls reflects upon her childhood with frankness and affection, seemingly content with her eccentric parents decisions for the family. She talks about growing up “wild” and how she appreciated the freedom her parents gave the four Walls kids to explore, make mistakes and

Walls comes across as very matter of fact regarding the many abuses she and her siblings faced growing up as a result of her parents decisions, and more often, as a result of their neglect. Her father’s drinking and mother’s distain for housekeeping or mothering made me ache for these children who often missed the barest of essentials, including food and warm clothes.

As the listener, I felt that Jeannette had been brainwashed by her father growing up, a mentality that exists today to some degree. She doesn’t seem to find fault with their poor decisions that put her and her siblings into danger, and at times brought the attention of medical personnel, and children’s aid employees. It was difficult to listen to her seemingly idolize her parents at times, even as an adult reflecting on the past, knowing how selfish, neglectful and at times abusive her parents were.

The mother’s whining that she didn’t want to get up and go to school to teach – knowing this paycheque was the only thing that was feeding her children at the time – was so bizarre and highlights the irresponsible and selfish nature both parents exhibited, as did hiding her chocolate snacks while her children are literally starving because neither parent is working and the family doesn’t receive food stamps.

Despite their actions, I cannot doubt Rex and Rose Mary Walls loved their children, particularly Rex. And as Jeannette muses, I think we make the lives we want in the end.

The Glass Castle is well-written and compelling. I didn’t love this book because I felt the author was overly sympathetic to her parents and her parents’ behaviour made me angry, but I am still giving this book four stars.

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Show Me Baby (Shadowlands #9)

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A Masters of the Shadowlands Novella

After his last lover chose her career over him, Jake knows he wants a woman who will put him at the top of her priorities—as he would with her. One of the trainees, Rainie, has caught his attention. Lush body, a gift for living life to the fullest, always laughing or smiling. Yeah. She trips all his switches. But she’s never given him a second look and that’s damned annoying.

Rainie has been burned enough times that she’s not going to get serious about any man. Sure, the BDSM club trainees are supposed to be looking for a permanent Dom, but no harm, no foul—they don’t need to know she lied. Trainees get to be involved in everything—and with everyone. But there’s one she avoids. Master Jake is always frowning at her. No matter how gorgeous he is, she doesn’t need any disapproving Dom up in her business.

Unfortunately, her best friends are having a double wedding. Little hearts are floating in the air. Every breath is filled with romance. Rainie is doomed.

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Show Me, Baby is supposed to be a novella but it is too long IMHO. I’d rate it more of a short novel which is great because I hate romantic novellas – they are too short for the love to unfurl and blossom.

Oh God, I’m waxing poetic.

Rainie is a BBW. I love that the author includes heroines who are a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Any woman reading these stories will be able to find someone who matches their body type.

Jake and Rainie have both been on the proximity of past Shadowlands stories for a while now, so I am glad that they are getting their stories told. I would also love to read about Uzuri, Anne, Saxon, Holt, Karl and Edward if anyone happens to have the author’s ear.

I reviewed the tenth book in the series, Servicing the Target, back when it was first released, so my next post will be skipping ahead to #11, Protecting His Own and then I will almost be caught up in this series!

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Bon Cop Bad Cop

Bon Cop, Bad Cop (the first and the sequel) are comedic Canadian bilingual movies. Yeah you heard me, bilingual movies. They feature an Ontario officer and a Quebec officer who have to work together to solve a series of murders.

There are English subtitles if you don’t speak French, and French subtitles for the English sections as well. Or if you’re real fancy, you could enjoy the movies sans subtitles if you speak both languages. Warning: they speak fast.

“Ontario” is a by the book, up-tight hardass who has trouble communicating with those be loves. “Quebec” is a rough and tumble, charming, good ol’ boy who pays little observance to the rules. Anyone who knows anything about Canadian politics knows that Ontario and Quebec don’t usually play too well with each other and this is personified in Colm Feore and Patrick Huard’s performances.

The first film is one of my favourite comedies and I would highly recommend it for anyone to watch. The sequel won’t really make sense unless you have seen the first one, but I guess it might be ok on it’s own. I thought that #2 was just as funny as the first, but there were a lot of plot holes in it which I felt brought down the entertainment value. This leads me to rate the first film five stars and the second film three stars.

At the end of the day, these movies are not meant to be taken too seriously. They provide funny caricatures of Ontarians and Quebeckers in the first film, and Canadians and Americans in the second.

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If Only (Shadowlands #8)

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After the last fiasco, Sally gives up. She’ll never find a Dom of her own. Instead the computer whizz is job hunting in between bending the law—just a bit—to unearth the bastards who’d enslaved her friends. The clueless cops and Feds obviously need help.

FBI special agents, Galen and Vance, have waited to play with Sally for a long time. When the mischievous submissive returns to the exclusive Shadowlands BDSM club after an ugly relationship, the experienced co-tops are pleased. Realizing she’s suppressing her emotions, the powerful Doms push her—only to find that her sassiness conceals a scarred and vulnerable heart.

Shaken by the unexpected emotional exposure, Sally flees the demanding Masters and the Shadowlands.

Both Galen and Vance have reasons not to seek a long-term submissive, but when a brutal attack by her ex-Dom sends Sally into their home, the two agents are driven to protect her. To help her. To take her under command. Falling in love isn’t in the plans.

But as the little imp brings light into their lives, they begin to want more…until they discover she’s hacked into an organization that delights in burning people alive.

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If Only is another exceptional story from the terrific Ms. Cherise Sinclair. It is a closed polyamorous relationship (MMf). The men consider each other (non-biological) brothers and are not gay. They do not have scenes with just each other, but do share the heroine, both together and in separate man-woman scenes. Essentially, Vance and Galen co-top and co-dom Sally who is their spirited, smart and bratty submissive.

I loved this book for a lot of reasons.

Firstly, Sally has been a supporting character since the very first Club Shadowlands book and she definitely deserved her own book and love interest this whole time. I love her and her story tore at my heart strings.

Secondly, often a series starts to plateau at this point and become repetitive but the author has done a great job at changing up the kinks and relationship types. For example, the previous book introduced the first S/m couple and this book is the first in the series to be MMf. There are multiple anal play/sex scenes in If Only, as well as fisting, which is new to the series.

Thirdly, the plot of this book will tie up the four book human trafficking arc that we’ve had going. It was great while it lasted but I am ready to move on. Thankfully the author saw this through without dragging it on forever and turning it into the basis of her series.

believe that If Only is also the first Shadowlands book where the heroine has safeworded during a scene. I love that the author brought this up and I hope she explores it more deeply in a future book. Although I love some aspects of romance novels, HEA and all, sometimes I hate that things tend to go along a little “too perfectly” or when all of the problems the characters face are external or from their pasts. In real life, Doms can’t read our minds and sometimes go too far (physically, emotionally, sexually) and the sub has to call “Red”. I’m glad it happened the first time (in this series) the way that it did and hope that the author will explore it during a more carnal scene eventually, because the aftermath for the characters would be delicious reading.

Cherise keeps enough humour in her books to keep the stories light, even when the subject matter is depressing, like taking down a human trafficking ring. After all, Sally has long been the club’s principle prankster, so you know she had to get into some type of trouble, especially when her Doms get grumpy from work. It is a submissive’s delight to cheer them up you know <evil grin>.

If Only also gives the reader some updates on other characters who have been quiet lately, especially Dan and Kari, who I LOVE. I highly recommend this book, but you should definitely read them in order. All seven previous instalments have reviews on this blog, and I will be catching up the rest before the newest book is released.

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Judgement Road (Torpedo Ink #1) – Christine Feehan

I was lucky enough to receive an arc from the publisher for Judgement Road, in return for an honest review. This book will be released on January 30th, 2018 and I highly recommend it!

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An outlaw motorcycle club sets up shop next door to Sea Haven in the dangerously sexy new series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan.

As the enforcer of the Torpedo Ink motorcycle club, Reaper lives for riding and fighting. He’s a stone-cold killer who turns his wrath on those who deserve it. Feelings are a weakness he can’t afford–until a gorgeous bartender gets under his skin…

Near Sea Haven, the small town of Caspar has given Anya Rafferty a new lease on life. And she’s desperate to hold on to her job at the biker bar, even if the scariest member of the club seems to have it out for her. But Reaper’s imposing presence and smoldering looks just ratchet up the heat.

Anya’s touch is everything Reaper doesn’t want–and it brands him to the bone. But when her secrets catch up to her, Reaper will have to choose between Anya and his club–his heart and his soul.

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Judgement Road is the first official book in the Torpedo Ink MC series by Christine Feehan. It builds on the world first introduced in the Sea Haven novels (Drake Sisters and the Sisters of the Heart), but could be read as a standalone if you are not familiar with those series.

Judgement Road is everything Feehanistas have come to expect from the Queen of paranormal romance. There is a wonderful balance of main couple / background characters, action, sex, intrigue and sexy alpha bad boys.

The paranormal aspect of this book was toned way down in comparison to the Drakes and Sisters of the heart, to my surprise. This isn’t a criticism, I just expected more knowing that all of the MC members have “extra gifts”. There is some, but the book reads much more like romantic suspense novel than paranormal romance.

Other reviewers have pointed out that Reaper does something really stupid … like REALLY stupid … and that Anya forgives him too easily. I partially agree. I definitely would have liked for him to have to work harder to earn forgiveness. Ms. Feehan has a habit of letting her tortured heroes reveal their sob-story when they are in deep doodoo with the heroine, playing on her emotions to get themselves out of trouble which borders on emotional abuse in some situations. It definitely isn’t playing fair.

However, one of the strongest attributes these heroines share is their compassion and ability to forgive. If those personality traits weren’t at the forefront of their characters, these women could never take on such a damaged hero in the first place, so I am completely willing to let this point go for now, as long as it doesn’t reoccur in every book going forward.

The sex in this book isn’t overly explicit IMHO. There is definitely steam but I felt that the heat was solidly romance-level rather than erotica.

For Feehan aficionados, I am happy to report that the first chapter of Covert Game (her next book) is in the end of Judgement Road!

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This is who I am (Shadowlands #7)

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When trying to save a woman from slavers, Sam screwed up. Royally. Now Linda wants nothing to do with him. Or with BDSM. She won’t even admit she’s a masochist. As a dominant and sadist, he can give her what she needs, and when an opportunity arises, he slips into her life, intending to make amends. She’s everything he knew she would be…except for her bullheaded determination to be ‘normal’.

Now the horrible time is past, Linda just wants to return to her small conservative town, pick up her quiet life, and be normal. But how can someone who likes pain be ‘normal’? To her dismay, when someone spray-paints her home with obscenities, Sam shows up to rescue her. Again. Doesn’t he understand that the last thing she needs in her life is a sadist? He’s amused by her objections. But his dry sense of humor can’t disguise that he’s tough as nails and dominant and stubborn. He’s not going to let her drive him off this time. Soon she realizes she wants him to stay.

When he takes her to the Shadowlands, she feels as if she’s found a home…until she hears a voice from out of her nightmares.

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This is who I am was a huge surprise hit! I am not into S&M and had never read a book with this kink before, but I trust Sinclair more than any other author so I knew that I would still give Linda and Sam a go. True to form, Cherise Sinclair never disappoints!

One of the best things about the Shadowlands books is that we get to see previous couples and get updates on their lives. I’ll just say that this one has a very exciting wedding in it and I loved the special moment the bride and groom share before the ceremony.

Sam wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought he would be scary and grumpy a lot of the time. He definitely isn’t Mr. Personality, but I think Sam is way harder on himself than anyone else. He holds himself to a very high standard but isn’t an ass about it towards everyone around him, as most people tend to be. I loved his reflection that sadists tended to be more polite than most Doms, at least outside of a scene. Sam ALWAYS put Linda’s needs before his own, and isn’t too immature or macho to apologize when he messes up. I sincerely hope that this author writes some more sexy cowboys in the very near future.

Sam sighed. Sometimes he enjoyed his “eat babies for breakfast” reputation, but sometimes it got old. Eventually the girl would discover that sadists tended to be politer than regular Doms—at least, when not in a scene. After all, if a sadist was nasty, then how would he get anyone to play with him?

Sinclair, Cherise. This Is Who I Am (Masters of the Shadowlands Series Book 7) (p. 122). Loose Id LLC. Kindle Edition.

Linda gave a different perspective of a sub than any we have seen before. She is the oldest heroine I have blogged about to date and is very mothering. I love how she was able to let her hair down and have fun with the other Shadowkittens, working side by side as an equal partner in life with Sam – even while being his submissive in the bedroom – and she had an iron hard backbone when things go wrong. Linda isn’t a youngster to cry on the couch about how hard and unfair life is. She reminded me numerous times of the saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

The S&M scenes in this book did not squirk me out at all. They were super hot. Drop your panties hot.

This is who I am helps to wind down the human trafficking plot line that has weaved the last few books together and while it has been very interesting, I am also ready for this series to move in a new direction. I don’t want to see it become a crime thriller. Although, those feds still haven’t partnered up with a Shadowkitten so I’m am sure the next book or two will contain the concluding threads ; )

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Crime Lord Series (Books 1-3)

Three years ago, Lyla fled from her ex, Gavin Pyre. She created a new identity and began a relationship with a man who knows nothing about her past. The normal life she built for herself is shattered when Gavin blackmails her into returning to Las Vegas where he rules the criminal underworld. As Lyla navigates through the dark secrets of her past she’s forced to face a man who refuses to let her live without him.

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I read all three of these books in one day. They are just slightly addictive.

Crime Lord is a series of mafia romance books. The first three tell the story of Gavin and Lyla. Gavin is the King of the Underground in Las Vegas.

I felt that these books got better as they went on. The first one was a little over-dramatic at times, and I kept waiting for Lyla to overcome her fear enough to show Gavin how she has changed in their three years apart, but she seems to just slide into her old role of silly, spoiled airhead. Despite her misery, she goes shopping, and has spa days and wears her old styles instead of updating her wardrobe to reflect the person she is now. I also expected her to pick up volunteering – since Gavin won’t let her work and she purports to miss it – but this doesn’t happen until the third book.

I don’t feel that these books are the best of the Mafia or dark romance genre, but they are still delicious reads that I greatly enjoyed. They certainly hit the spot and I will be reading more from this author as books are released. I’m glad that Ms. Knight has started to expand the series by giving background characters like Blade expanded roles, and also introducing more dark anti-heroes, like the Roman brothers and Lucifer.

The heat level of this series is a solid “romance” level but doesn’t pass into erotica, IMHO.

The author has announced that she is working on the fourth book in this series, but is finished with this couple for now. The next books will feature different anti-heroes/heroines and there are lots of yummy folks to choose from!

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