From Lukov With Love (Mariana Zapata)

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If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.

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It’s funny how the last book I read from this author seemed waaaayy too long, but this one was barely long enough! From Lukov With Love is a fantastic romance novel that I read in one sitting.

All 552 pages.

The author, Mariana Zapata, certainly timed the release of this book well to coincide with the Winter Olympics 2018. But it does not feel in any way like a rushed book that was pushed out as a get-rich quick effort. I honestly believe that the story would have evolved the same way and been just as good if there wasn’t a major international competition taking place in figure skating right now.

Hero/ines who start out quarrelling but are forced into closed proximity by circumstances seem to be Zapata’s bread and butter. This same has been true of each book of hers that I’ve read, yet the romances still develop differently. More than any other couple, Ivan and Jasmine start out detesting one another and are stubborn, mouthy jerks. Neither is remotely shy about sharing their thoughts with the other but they are forced into extremely close circumstances when they partner up professionally.

There is no such thing as personal space in pairs figure skating!

I love that the author paid tribute to the astonishing amount of work that professional athletes put into honing their bodies and their sport. Especially something like pairs skating, where two people have to become one, and make it look easy. This is an art form. Some readers might think that the amount of training Jasmine did every week was overkill but she was trying to do something that is inhuman. It only makes sense that the training would be as well.

From Lukov with Love is a sweet, mostly clean romance with a slow burn. It follows the couple over the course of three seasons and includes a strong cast of background characters that I hope we see more of. Ivan was more dominant and protective than I expected, which made my lady parts tingle.

Zapata is definitely my favourite sports romance author and I am going to be checking out Dear Aaron – which I technically should have read before this one I now realize – pronto.

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Wait For It (Mariana Zapata)

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If anyone ever said being an adult was easy, they hadn’t been one long enough. Diana Casillas can admit it: she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing half the time. How she’s made it through the last two years of her life without killing anyone is nothing short of a miracle. Being a grown-up wasn’t supposed to be so hard. With a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and friends, she has almost everything she could ever ask for. Except for a boyfriend. Or a husband. But who needs either one of those?

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Wait for it is a sweet romance novel between two neighbours who start out as … let’s just say less than friends … before their relationship evolves into best friends and soul mates. There are only a couple of sex scenes in this book, both near the end and not at all descriptive, but there is swearing, so I consider it a clean romance but more conservative folks may disagree.

That’s my one disclaimer.

Diana is a single mom of two boys, struggling to make ends meet as a hair stylist, and feeling like she is running everything into the ground. I loved Diana. She is patient (even though it does NOT come naturally to her), loving, generous, friendly and the hardest frickin’ worker in the universe. Nothing is more important to her than raising happy and healthy kids.

Diana was a secondary character in the book The Wall of Winnipeg and Me which I loved, and is also a cousin to the hero in Kulti, but do not mistake these books as a series. They are more like companion novels to each other with limited crossover.

I initially loved Wait for it, but the book just dragged on for way too long. Goodreads and my kindle disagree slightly on the length of the novel, but it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 670 pages. I started getting bored around 400/450. There just wasn’t enough plot development to keep me going. No explosions. No gunfire. No raunchy sex scenes eating up the pages.

At the end of the day, I loved this book for a while, but I really had to push myself to finish it. I would have rated it higher if the author had compressed the story into roughly 200 fewer pages. If you like long romantic arcs and clean(ish) romance, this is a great book to try out, but it isn’t one that I will read again.

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Deathless (Anne Malcom)

Deathless is the second book in the Vein Series Chronicles. It is a new vampire romance series with witches, hunters, demons and gods. You can read my review of book one, here.

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My life was never black and white.
Heck, it wasn’t even black, white and gray.
Lines were not drawn between good and evil, and if they were, I would have jumped those suckers for fun.
But now it was simpler. It wasn’t black and white. Or gray. It was only one thing.
Blood.
A crimson-tinted world. That was all I needed.
All I wanted.
Him.
Despite the war raging around us, or the secrets between us, there was nothing simpler than blood.
It didn’t matter that it would be fatal.
After all, it’s the things we’re not undead without that will kill us in the end.

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This is my second attempt at reading this book. It is a fantastic idea but the prose just kills me. The author tends to be wordy at the best of times, IMHO, and her new heroine Isla is rather prone to going off on tangents. She talks and talks and talks.

At times, I actually lost focus on Isla’s original point and felt that it was taking away from the otherwise excellent story. The blurb I posted above is an excellent example of text from the book. I’m sure that there are tons of people who love this style, but it is not for me.

At times I had to force myself to finish reading the book, or at least skim the current section, because I did want to find out what happened. But I will admit that if the author wasn’t someone I usually like, I would have given up before the 50% mark.

In addition to the run-on sentences and overly wordy style, sometimes sentences just didn’t make sense. Ms. Malcom’s editor/betas did not do her any favours in this instance.

For example:

“Well, I need to think of something that your mind wouldn’t conjure me up doing that will make you sure of that fact” – Pg. 18

“No, it was the benevolent power of nature herself that gifted the first of our kind with gifts. Not the powers of gods but the powers of mortals unrealized. Or maybe forgotten powers the gods had left strewn about the leaves which had settled into the soil when they wandered the earth.” – Pg. 139

“He’ll not want to be hoping to run into me” – Pg. 277

The next book in this series is going to be one I wait and borrow from my local library, rather than purchasing. I still want to know where the series goes but if it is written the same way, I won’t be continuing.

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8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS (Dr. Fiona McCulloch)

8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS: A Proven Program to Reset Your Hormones, Repair Your Metabolism, and Restore Your Fertility by (Dr. Fiona McCulloch)

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A Unique 8-Step System to Reverse Your PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal condition in women. It affects ten to fifteen percent of women worldwide, causing infertility, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, acne, and hair loss. PCOS varies from woman to woman, each experiencing her own unique presentation. In 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS, author and naturopathic doctor Fiona McCulloch dives deep into the science underlying the mysteries of PCOS, offering the newest research and discoveries on the disorder and a detailed array of treatment options.

In her book, Dr. McCulloch introduces the key health factors that must be addressed to reverse PCOS. Through quizzes, symptom checklists, and lab tests, Dr. McCulloch gives readers the tools they need to identify which of the factors are present in their bodies and what they can do to treat them. Readers will be empowered to be the heroines of their own health stories with the help of this unique, step-by-step natural medicine system.

Dr. McCulloch has worked with thousands of people seeking better health over the past fifteen years of her practice. She is committed to health education and advocacy, empowering her patients with the most current information on health topics and natural medicine therapies with a warm, empathic approach.

Dr. McCulloch has authored articles in publications for health professionals on a variety of topics, including PCOS, thyroid health, autoimmunity, and infertility. Her popular research-based blog receives a  readership of twenty thousand per month. 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS is Dr. McCulloch’s first book.

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This may be the first time the “blurb” is longer than my review!

I hesitated to write this review because it is a personal topic. Clearly I have PCOS (or someone close to me does but I’ll admit it is me) or I wouldn’t be reading this book. However, since it is such a common disorder for women to have and can often go un-diagnosed for YEARS, I had to write on this subject and hopefully help someone else.

My naturopathic doctor recommend this book to me when she told me that I have PCOS. It is written from the perspective of holistic medicine as the author is also naturopathic doctor and someone who has PCOS herself.

This book is very detailed and offers lots of amazing recommendations for herbal supplements. It would be a FANTASTIC resource for someone who cannot afford regular doctor’s visits, or naturopathic services, although I have to stress it should not be used as a substitute to medical supervision.

If you even suspect there is something wrong with your thyroid, hormones, or menstrual cycle, definitely go get checked for this and do some research before you go to your doc. Some of the tests are not routine which is why I had all the symptoms and still went un-diagnosed for years.

Back to the book.

It is incredibly in-depth and very “smart”. I am a decently intelligent individual, I have a university degree and a college degree. And I had trouble understanding it at times. If you have an interest in the medical sciences, this would be more helpful. I do not and definitely got lost at times.

However, I still gained a deeper understanding of this disorder and how to treat it. This enabled me to bring ideas and questions to my doctor that I might not otherwise know to ask. I was able to better understand how severe / not severe my disorder was (because there can be a huge scale with PCOS).

And the naturopathic treatments are helping. I feel better, my symptoms are decreasing and my test results are improving. My DHT level is not four times higher than it should be anymore!

Yay!

So I recommend this book if you are the type of person who is interested in medicine or were smart enough to pursue a post-secondary education. If you struggled in school, this book would probably be a waste of time and become a source of frustration, but there are other resources out there.

Additionally, I would recommend purchasing this book rather than borrowing it. I found it very helpful to highlight charts that scale blood test results so you know which category you fall in. This is great for referring back to in the future! Also, I highlighted sections I needed to ask questions about and supplements I wanted to try, to chat with my doctor about.

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(it would have been five stars if I understood more)

xx

P.S.

What are the symptoms of PCOS (to my understanding)?

persistent acne that doesn’t clear up with topical medications, birth control, etc

(especially along jaw-line/ face, chest, back)

difficulty losing weight

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fatigue

insulin-resistant or diabetic

irregular or non-existent periods, painful periods

otherwise unexplained female infertility

male-pattern hair growth

thinning of hair on head

dark spots on skin

low appetite

and many more!

 

 

Cop Town (Karin Slaughter)

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Karin Slaughter, author of the bestselling Will Trent novels, is widely acclaimed as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post). Now she delivers her first stand-alone novel: an epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet—a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

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Cop Town is the third book I have read from this author. It is VERY different from the other two in so many ways, so that was surprising and fun.

One of the biggest differences is that this book is set in the 1970s instead of modern-day. It follows two main characters, a pair of female patrol cops in Atlanta named Maggie and Kate, but also includes scenes from the main baddie’s POV. The story takes place over four days – Kate’s first four on the job – and they are full of action, intrigue and dirty cops.

Cop Town is eye-opening. True to history, Slaughter’s writing is full of the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and police abuses of power that were rampant in the 1970s. It is amazing to think that not so long ago, police departments were worse than half the perps they chased down.

I changed my mind several times on the true identity of “Fox” over the course of the book. I will happily tell you I was wrong in the end. I never convinced myself s/he was this person or that, but I definitely wasn’t leaning in the right direction. This is awesome in a thriller, I hate when the ending is really predictable or completely out of left field!

Whether you are a fan of Ms. Slaughter or have just been reading my latest blog posts, you will be aware that she usually writes dark psychological thrillers in which characters are raped and tortured, often graphically. Cop Town doesn’t contain any of this explicit content, so I would recommend it as the book to start with if you are new to dark stories.

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xx

 

Mischief and the Masters (Shadowlands #12)

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She wants a short, sweet Master. One Master.

The two devastatingly dominant Drago cousins have other ideas.

Her life destroyed by a stalker, Uzuri Cheval starts anew in Tampa and joins the exclusive Shadowlands club. Unconvinced of her claims that she can overcome her fear of big men without help, Master Z gives her a time limit. And she is improving–until she hears the stalker is out of prison. Now her time limit is up, and the Masters will intervene, which is okay–as long as whoever helps her is short. Okay, sweet and gentle would be good, too.

But two Doms? Dangerously experienced and dauntingly powerful cousins? No way.

Having volunteered in every hellhole in the world, Dr. Alastair Drago is ready to settle down. Detective Max Drago has joined him and, once again, the cousins share everything. A house, lives, problems…and whatever submissive catches their interest. One mischievous submissive has definitely caught Alastair’s. However, having been burned by a woman, Max remains detached…until little mischief’s troubles turn deadly.

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Uzuri refers to her Doms as “Dragon Doms”, a play on their last name of Drago, but I kept remembering Sally’s preferred phrase, “Demon Doms” and using that instead. These two definitely keep a girl on her toes!

The first time that I read this book I wasn’t overly thrilled with it. I read it last summer while there was lots of racial BS going on in the US. I am not American and although racial tension can be found everywhere in the world, where I live, we don’t seem to have problems like the US does. Regardless, American news dominates everywhere (especially in the Trump era) and I was damn tired of reading about racial issues. I definitely wasn’t happy to find it addressed in my erotica.

But time is a sweet cure for all things.

Media coverage of this issue isn’t bombarding me 24/7 anymore and on a second read of Mischief and the Masters, I realized that there isn’t as much “lecturing” in it as I felt on the first read.

Uzuri and Alistair are both biracial with white fathers and black mothers. Alistair’s cousin Max is white. The three enter into an exclusive DDs polyamorous relationship (similar to how it works between Sally and her doms in If Only.

I did enjoy this book much more on the second take. I appreciate the author have biracial characters and relationships in her books and although I still feel that certain sections were written with the political climate in mind, I can get past that and just enjoy the story at this point. Ms. Sinclair is currently writing the 13th book in the Shadowlands series, and has announced it should be out in Spring 2018. It’s February now so I’m thinking an April release date sounds about right. Can’t wait!

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Protecting His Own (Shadowlands #11)

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Landscape designer, Beth King survived an abusive husband and built a new life for herself with the help of Master Nolan, the strongest, most protective man she has ever known. She loves him with all her heart, but the one thing he wants, she can’t give him. To her grief, the damage from her abusive first marriage means she can’t bear him children.

As Beth and Nolan change their plans and pursue adoption, they’re already imagining a baby girl in the nursery. But when two boys from the local domestic violence shelter see their mother taken to the hospital, they call Beth in a panic. Agreeing to care for them temporarily, Beth soon falls in love with the two adorable boys.

Now Master Nolan has a new problem. How can he protect the children when their drug-addicted mother is released—and how the hell can he keep his sweet submissive’s heart from being broken when they leave?

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This is the 11th book in the Club Shadowlands series but the second book about Nolan and Beth. Book #3 is called Breaking Free and it tells the story of the two meeting and falling in love. Alas, it was a short novel, and I am super excited that Ms. Sinclair has FINALLY written a followup story. I always felt that we never got the full story from Nolan and Beth and we definitely did not get enough time with this strict and sexy full-time Dom.

To Protect His Own is a sweeter story than I am used to – and although there are multiple kinky scenes – it is more focused on family and relationships than on intimacy and sex.

There’s still enough time to introduce a new kink though – mummification!!

Fostering and adoption are topics that are near and dear to my heart. I loved seeing them included in a romance novel. Life isn’t all rose petals. Sometimes past abuses leave an enduring mark, physically and emotionally. Thankfully Beth has a devoted Master to help see her through them and together they have more than enough love for a couple of kids who haven’t had nearly enough of it in their short lives.

To Protect His Own has a unique plot that is a welcome change from the criminal romantic suspense that has been so popular lately. No bad guys chasing down the heroine, no undercover police operations … just love finding a way through bureaucracy and bullshit.

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