Twisted Pride (The Camorra Chronicles #3)

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Remo Falcone is beyond redemption. As Capo of the Camorra he rules with a brutal hand over his territory – a territory the Chicago Outfit breached. 

Now Remo is out for retribution.

A wedding is sacred, stealing a bride sacrilegious.

Serafina is the niece of the Boss of the Outfit, and her hand has been promised in marriage for years, but kidnapped in her wedding dress on her way to church by Remo, Serafina quickly realizes that she can’t hope for saving. Yet, even in the hands of the cruelest man she knows, she is determined to cling to her pride, and Remo soon understands that the woman at his mercy might not be as easy to break as he thought.

A ruthless man on a quest to destroy the Outfit by breaking someone they are supposed to protect. A woman intent on bringing a monster to his knees. Two families that will never be the same.

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This. Book.

I had such a difficult time waiting for it to be released. I ended up reading nonfiction for awhile because every romance left me unsatisfied, and I realized it was because I only wanted to read Twisted Pride.

Thankfully, the book mostly lived up to my expectations : )

It certainly wasn’t how I played out Remo and Fina’s relationship in my head. Fina is dang feisty and I liked how important her relationships were to her. She is brave and proud and extremely loyal.

It was lovely to more intimately know Remo. He has been a secondary character in several books, but he is a difficult character to get a read on. Learning more about him made me admire him more. He may be crazy and capable of great evil, but he is also a family man and amazing with babies. He is an incredibly loyal fucker so long as you never cross him.

Even though I fell in love with both of these characters, I had a difficult time relating to them. Maybe I will feel differently on my second read – this has been known to happen with highly anticipated books – but I felt like some of the heart was missing from Twisted Pride.

It is possible the timeline is why I had trouble relating. The tale takes place over 18 months and nearly all of that time the couple are confrontational, even while falling in love.

The previous book, Twisted Emotions, is going to remain my favourite for a long time I think, but I would still recommend Twisted Pride. It will make far more sense when the series is read in order.

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The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

—                         —                         —

The Hate U Give. This is a revolutionary book.

I know I’m late to the party. Everyone and their mother has already read this book. Or seen the film.

It is truly amazing though. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Shocking though it is, this is the debut novel for author Angie Thomas. She has recently released another, On The Come Up, that I will definitely be listening to as well.

The Hate U Give deals with racial relations, growing up poor and black, and the tensions between black communities and the police. It incorporates pop culture, humour and heartbreaking pain. This is definitely one book that you will want to read in some privacy, because if you are anything like me, it will have you ugly crying for sure.

The main character, Starr, is incredibly easy to relate to. Ms Thomas created an entire world of fictional characters interacting in a very realistic setting. Starr’s voice is clear throughout the narrative. I couldn’t put this audiobook down, draining my phone from 100% power to 4% multiple times.

Even if you are not a reader of young adult fiction, I hope you will give this title a try.

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Everything we Keep (Everything #1)

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A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keepexplores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

—                         —                         —

This is the second book that I have read by Kerry Lonsdale, and I think that this author has skyrocketed to my top ten authors list.

Her writing is passionate and heartfelt. I could not stop listening to the story because I was so emotionally invested in what would happen to the characters, particularly Aimee.

Everything We Keep starts off at James’ funeral, and is told from his fiance Aimee’s POV. Obviously, the start of this book is extremely sad, but I didn’t feel like the abrupt beginning took anything away from the moment. Lonsdale’s writing is emotionally pure, and not knowing the characters took nothing away from Aimee’s loneliness, sadness and despair.

I don’t know who the original owner of this quote is, but is perfect for Everything We Keep.

“Some books you read Some books you enjoy.

But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul.”

The narrative takes place over the course of a fairly long time period, approximately two years. It also flashes back in time periodically, as Aimee recalls memories from her and James’ shared childhoods.

The story is very driven by character development rather than intricate plot points. Aimee struggles with reinventing herself as an independent women after the death of her fiance, with whom she had been best friends since childhood. The book progressed a little too slowly for me.

I enjoyed the audiobook performance by Amy Landon. She wasn’t great at the male characters’ voices though. I preferred the narration of All the Breaking Waves by Dara Rosenburg.

Overall, I loved this book, will listen to the rest in the series. This book tore my heart out at times, and was definitely accompanied by a box of tissues.

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Bitter Heat (Singed #1)

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She was the wood. He was the flame. After this, they would be ash.

A cruel twist of fate leaves Jasmine Hennessy stranded in a remote cabin with her worst nightmare—her ex-husband, James Roth, who she hasn’t seen in five years. He isn’t acting like the man she married, but did she ever really know him?

One night together kicks off a series of events that threatens her freedom as Roth seeks vengeance on those who ruined him seven years ago. He’s determined to bring her back into the world she left behind where money is king, reputation is everything, and people will kill to keep their secrets.

Author’s Note: This is a dark romance novel with triggers and mature themes that may make some readers uncomfortable.

—                         —                         —

* I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read Bitter Heat in one sitting. And I want book two now. Not six months from now. NOW.

Sooooo, I guess you could say that I liked it.

This is the first book in the Singed dark romance series by Mia Knight. I hope it lasts a long time because it sure has started out strong.

The hero is James Roth, a self-made billionaire who takes cold ruthlessness to the extreme. He is determined to own and control his ex-wife “Jasmine Hennessy”, and punish her for walking out on their marriage years ago.

I have a feeling that book number two will be darker than book one, which is a-ok with me. I liked that there was a strong cast of secondary characters to flush out the story. Personally, I enjoy this because it makes the fictional world the author creates more realistic with the extra dimensions, but Ms Knight does an excellent job of controlling the flow of information, so it never takes away from the key love story between Roth and Jasmine.

If you like alpha males or dark romance, Bitter Heat should move to the top of your automatic buy list. It will be released on all retailers on March 29, 2019.

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Toxic Game (Ghostwalkers #15)

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On a rescue mission in the heart of the Indonesian jungle, Dr. Draden Freeman and his GhostWalker team need to extract the wounded as quickly as possible—or risk spreading a deadly virus unleashed by a terrorist cell. When Draden gets infected, he forces his team to leave him behind. He won’t risk exposing anyone else. He intends to find the ones responsible and go out in a blaze of glory….

Shylah Cosmos’s mission is to track the virus and remain unseen. Her enhanced senses tell her that the gorgeous man eradicating the terrorists one by one is a GhostWalker—and his lethal precision takes her breath away. When he’s hit by a lucky shot, she can’t stop herself from stepping in, not knowing that by saving his life she’s exposed herself to the virus.

There’s no telling how much time Draden and Shylah have left. Racing to find a cure, they quickly realize that they’ve found their perfect partner just in time to lose everything. But even as the virus threatens to consume their bodies, they’ve never felt more alive.

—                         —                         —

Shylah and Draden are part of the fourth Ghostwalker team that has been dominating the series the last few years. Thankfully, this book takes place in Indonesia, instead of the Louisiana swamp, a welcome change of pace from many of Ms. Feehan’s recent books.

The Ghostwalker series is a mixture of science fiction and romance. It is heavily researched before hand and I always feel like I learn new things when reading it. This time, the author devoted a significant amount of time making sure that the science behind hemorrhagic viral infections was accurate and informative.

Although there is still a significant amount of romance / love interest story-line incorporated into these books, I personally feel they have edged further into the science fiction classification. The first few were much more romance-centered than the more recent instalments.

I did enjoy this book and read it very quickly. However, I have to admit I skimmed over several sections. I am really tired of this Ghostwalker team, and miss the original characters I fell in love with, some of whom have not been mentioned or seen in the books in more than a decade. Although I am glad I read this book, I am also very thankful I was able to borrow it from my library rather than purchase it.

** Spoiler Alert **

 

 

loved the wedding scenes between Draden and Shylah. Most romance stories do not include a wedding or will just gloss over it. It was sweet that they each put so much effort into personalizing their gifts to each other, particularly given the circumstances. It made me a little teary that all the other teams dressed up to honour the couple and watch the wedding take place over video screens. This was definitely my favourite aspect of the entire book.

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Becoming (Michelle Obama)

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In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

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I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Michelle Obama herself.

I have always been a fan of Michelle and Barack and family. I liked that they appeared to stand above many political pundits, as evidenced by Michelle’s “when they go low, we go high” slogan. I was also a fan of her political and social movements, championing health and fitness for children.

Listening to this book made me feel closer to her. That is a weird idea, considering that we have never met, but I felt like I gained a much deeper understanding of her as an individual – not just FLOTUS – and appreciated what I learned. She comes across as more of the high-achieving girl next door, rather than as the “elite” I always pictured her as.

She is relateable.

She is the epitome of the American Dream.

I am a Canadian citizen. I agreed with a lot of the policies and values that were championed by the Obamas but I think I was granted some emotional distance from the political drama that always seems to unfold in the USA, by nature of my geographical distance. I remember thinking about the insane and unrealistic expectations everyone seemed to have of Barack Obama when he was first elected. He was optimistic and a talented politician, but he was still just one man who was forced to work within the same political machine as each of his predecessors and successors.

Becoming obviously tells Michelle’s personal history, as well as chronicling many of the key points in her journey through the White House. It is very informative. It also put certain things into perspective.

I am white. Michelle is black. I am Canadian. She is American. I grew up in a small town, she grew up in the inner city of Chicago. We are a lot alike though.

History that seems to have occurred so long ago – like Jim Crow laws – isn’t so long ago when you think of them in terms of generations. To have grown up knowing people who were oppressed by those laws. To know that their grandparents – your great great grandparents – were slaves…. that is a heady realization. It makes you realize that those periods of history weren’t so long ago after all. I have greater awareness for the lingering affects of this history today.

As I mentioned, I was easily able to relate to Michelle at times. I never would have imagined that she was burned out by school. That she trained to get a prestigious degree in a career that she quickly discovered she had no love for. To feel burdened down by school debt, expectations, and difficulty conceiving. I was extremely emotional listening to her talk about her Dad’s death. And incredibly impressed over her career trajectory, and professional self-confidence.

One thing I learned about her husband is that President Obama always had to have something to attain and reach for. I couldn’t help but wonder, when you have held the highest office in the country for 8 years, what else is left to do afterwards?

On a more technical note, I did find that the recording of the book dragged. The narrative itself was great, but I sped up the playback to 1.5x, very unusual for me. Most of the word count is devoted to Michelle aged 5-30, with less than I expected devoted to the Obama Family’s time in the White House.

I particularly loved the stories related to her experiences with Queen E.

One lingering question I still have, silly though it may be, is how much freedom does the first family have to redecorate the private residence? Like, did Sasha have a pretty pink bedroom when they first moved in and she was still a young girl? If I ever had a chance to meet Mrs Obama, that would definitely be a question I asked!

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Hidden (Deep Ops #1)

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Hide. That’s all Pippa can do to escape the terror chasing her. But now that she’s off the grid in a safe house, she finds plenty of interesting things to watch through the window. Like her new neighbor, with his startling green eyes, killer smile, and sexy bad-boy tattoo . . .

Run. Malcolm West is fleeing the hell he unleashed in his last assignment as an undercover cop. A backwoods bungalow sounds like the perfect place to start over. Until he discovers he’s been set up . . .

Fight. Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to bring them together. No matter how much he resents that, and his own driving needs, Malcolm will have to dig deep and let loose the banished killer inside himself, or Pippa’s fears could come true faster than the flip of a bolt in a lock .

—                         —                         —

Hidden is a great new romantic suspense novel from Rebecca Zanetti. It is the premiere of the Deep Ops series, and there are two more books coming up in a couple of months. I love it when an author doesn’t keep fans waiting for long periods of time!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. Zanetti introduces quite a few secondary characters and arching plot points that are clearly meant to carry the series through more than just the first book. I like when this happens in a series. To me, “community” within a book is what sets a series apart from standalones!

Most of the characters are a little whacky. You can tell that the world has chewed them up and spit them out and they are more than a little out of sync with society because of it. But it also leads to some interesting situations and wildly amusing anecdotes in the midst of a serious and fast-paced plot.

Even the dog is crazy!

West came up on the other side in case the dog made a move on Nari. What was it with the tie? It was blue with a red crisscross design on it. Pretty boring…

Force handed the tie to Roscoe. Snarling and growling, the dog took it over to the corner, where he started ripping it apart.

Tension permeated the room. Adrenaline flowed freely.

Forced eyed his calming dog. “I thought we were doing better with that. Hmmm. Okay”.

Suffice it to say, no one wore argyle again.

There is a lot of action in the Hidden, from shootouts and knife fights to bombs and abduction. This quote is from the start of one of my favourite scenes.

Strong arms banded around her waist from behind, and a hand clapped over her mouth. Her body seized. It took a second for her brain to catch up with reality.

She tried to scream and the large, male hand muffled the sound. The man lifted her right off her feet and turned, forcing her past the archway in the opposite direction from her car. Panic burst through her, and she started to struggle, fighting against him with all her strength.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of romantic suspense!

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Pieces of her (Karin Slaughter)

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Andrea Oliver’s mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. Laura lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She’s a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner and everybody’s friend. And she’s never kept a secret from anyone. Or so Andrea thinks.

When Andrea is caught in a random violent attack at a shopping mall, Laura intervenes and acts in a way that is unrecognisable to her daughter. It’s like Laura is a completely different person – and that’s because she was. Thirty years ago. Before Andrea. Before Belle Isle.

Laura is hailed as a hero for her actions at the mall but 24 hours later she is in hospital, shot by an intruder, who’s spent decades trying to track her down.

What is Andrea’s mother trying to hide? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together Laura’s former identity and discover the truth – for better or worse – about her mother. Is the gentle, loving woman who raised her also a violent killer?

—                       —                       —

This was another audiobook I could not put down. I listened to it in just three sittings, and still wish that there was more. I listened while I worked, commuted, snuggled the cat, cooked, folded laundry … nothing was more important than finishing this story.

I am a huge fan of Karin Slaughter. I only started reading her work around a year ago, but I have quickly fallen in love with her style, and her stories have drawn me further into the thriller genre. I will devour any book she puts out.

Pieces of Her switches perspectives and time periods, between the 1980s and 2018. I was thoroughly engrossed and emotionally invested in Slaughter’s characters. This book was heavily reliant on a fast-paced plot to drive the story. There was much less graphic violence than the other standalones this author has published, and I would easily recommend it to someone new to her, or to the genre.

There were a few points in the book that brought out some light-hearted humour to balance out the heavy tone predominant throughout the chapters. I liked the author’s references to pop-culture references. When Andi first is on the run, she can’t think straight and so falls back on tv and movies as her aliases. Hence, her proclamation that she came from the town of Mystic Falls.

I will definitely be picking up the next audiobook as soon as Karin Slaughter released a new book!

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Breaking Meredith (Disciples #4)

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For five years – one thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two nights to be exact – I’ve watched her from afar…

Protecting her. Keeping her safe from the world.

And stalking her every move.

What started as a favor for her brother has grown into something so much more.

A full-blown obsession.

I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, unless I get my Meredith fix.

Claiming her could start a war, and might very well result in my death.

But she’s mine, she’s always been mine.

She just doesn’t know it yet.

—                         —                         —

What to say, what to say, what to say. Breaking Meredith is not what I expected.

Meredith is Lucifer’s estranged step-sister, who has been living in Europe since before the series began. She isn’t painted in the best light. Meredith was previously painted as a superficial socialite which is not true at all. However, she is also depicted as a super smart individual who is actually pretty airheaded and powerless through the entire story.

The anti-hero, Simon, was also unexpected. He has a serious serial killer vibe going on in past books. Super intelligent, emotionally detached, and the biggest germaphobe in the world. He reminds me of a stronger, better looking version of the Lord Varys from Game of Thrones. They even share the same nickname, “The Spider”.

Well, our Spider loves to torture enemies and is into some rough lovin’ as well. I fully expected him to be a sadist, or at least have sadistic traits in the bedroom, but he doesn’t. This would have stepped the darkness up a level in the series, which is marketed as dark romance, so I was disappointed that this expectation of mine was unmet.

Overall, this was my least favourite book in the series so far. I hope that the author will write another one at some point though. The series didn’t feel finished, especially with James single out there, but I haven’t found any evidence online that the author is working on another at this point.

Them: why we hate each other – and how to heal

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing American Adult, an intimate and urgent assessment of the existential crisis facing our nation.

Something is wrong. We all know it.

American life expectancy is declining for a third straight year. Birth rates are dropping. Nearly half of us think the other political party isn’t just wrong; they’re evil. We’re the richest country in history, but we’ve never been more pessimistic. What’s causing the despair?

In Them, bestselling author and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, our crisis isn’t really about politics. It’s that we’re so lonely we can’t see straight—and it bubbles out as anger.

Local communities are collapsing. Across the nation, little leagues are disappearing, Rotary clubs are dwindling, and in all likelihood, we don’t know the neighbour two doors down. Work isn’t what we’d hoped: less certainty, few lifelong coworkers, shallow purpose. Stable families and enduring friendships—life’s fundamental pillars—are in statistical free-fall.

As traditional tribes of place evaporate, we rally against common enemies so we can feel part of on a team. No institutions command widespread public trust, enabling foreign intelligence agencies to use technology to pick the scabs on our toxic divisions. We’re in danger of half of us believing different facts than the other half, and the digital revolution throws gas on the fire.

There’s a path forward—but reversing our decline requires something radical: a rediscovery of real places and real human-to-human relationships. Even as technology nudges us to become rootless, Sasse shows how only a recovery of rootedness can heal our lonely souls.

America wants you to be happy, but more urgently, America needs you to love your neighbour. Fixing what’s wrong with the country depends on you rebuilding right where you’re planted.

—                          —                          —

I listened to this audiobook on the recommendation of a social media influencer I follow, Angie Braniff from This Gathered Nest. Although Sasse is an American Senator writing from an American point of view, I found it very interesting and his arguments are easily applicable to most other countries, including here in Canada.

Sasse self-describes as the second or third most conservative Republican in the Senate. There are limited points that I agree with Republicans on so it was particularly interesting for me to read a book by someone from whom my political ideology differs so greatly.

I was surprised though, by how much we did agree on points in Them. Sasse has authored books in the past and his experience is on display. His points were eloquent, factual and well-written. His use of quotes helped to structure and support his arguments, but were not so plentiful as to take over the narrative.

I appreciated his takes on community, technology and economic environment, and the relationships these factors have with social policy and politics.

I find it disheartening to witness so much vitriol and divisiveness on every online platform, as well as in interpersonal dialogue. His argument that the collapse of positive community structures has led to the development of anti-tribes is easily understood and something I wholeheartedly believe is true.

I highly recommend Them to anyone interested in politics, building stronger communities, or just wondering what the hell happened.

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