Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

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Writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos firmly believed she was supposed to be a mom, but Mother Nature and modern medicine had put her in a headlock. So she made a choice that shocked friends, family, and even herself: with only fourteen hours’ notice, she adopted a preschooler.

Instant Mom is Vardalos’s poignant and hilarious true chronicle of trying to become a mother while fielding nosy “frenemies” and Hollywood reporters asking, “Any baby news?” With genuine and frank honesty, she describes how she and husband Ian Gomez eventually found their daughter . . . and what happened next. Vardalos explores innovative ways to conquer the challenges all new moms face, from sleep to personal grooming, and learns that whether via biology, relationship, or adoption—motherhood comes in many forms.

The book includes laugh-out-loud behind the scenes Hollywood anecdotes, plus an Appendix on how to adopt worldwide. Vardalos will donate proceeds from the book sales to charities.

Vardalos candidly shares her instant motherhood story that is relatable for all new moms (and dads!)

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I have been very interested in listening to adoption related true stories lately. Adoption is something that calls to my heart. One day, when I am ready to start a family I will adopt. Hopefully I will be able to have biological children as well.  But I know that I will become a Mum through adoption.

I had no idea before coming across this book that Nia Vardalos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, had adopted and was the celebrity face of the national adoption campaign in the US. It seems natural now that she has written a book about the adoption process and her personal stories, even though she and her husband do not live the glam Hollywood lifestyle and seek to protect their daughter’s innocence and privacy.

Nia Vardalos is Canadian-born, which added a warm perspective for me. As a fellow Canadian, I could relate to a lot of her anecdotal stories, like wearing a snowsuit under her Halloween costume.

Instant Mom is a funny and poignant story of womanhood. I love Nia’s perspective on life. Her brand of feminism feels organic; it isn’t “ra-ra sisterhood” or anti-man. She doesn’t try to tell you what you should do. I found her story superbly easy to relate to and felt like she would be someone I could easily be friends with if she were to move in next door.

In a world where we all seem to take ourselves too seriously, we could use a little more light-hearted comedy and a few manners reminders from Nia!

This audiobook is read by the author.

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xx

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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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xx

The Light Between Oceans

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After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

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I just finished listening to The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. It was read by Noah Taylor and his narration was fantastic. I was surprised at first by his Australian accent – which is probably strange considering that the book is set in Australia, about Australians and written by an Australian – but it made such a difference that I would recommend to anyone that they listen to this book rather than read it. It sounded like Hugh Jackman was in my ear for 10+ hours, whispering sweet nothings. Magical. Taylor has spot on portrayals of male and female characters, particularly little Lulu, and I felt that each of the characters had their own “voice”. I would be open to listening to future audio books just based on the fact that he is the narrator.

The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully written tale of love and the connections it weaves between people, often unseen over many years. It is also a story of heartache. The pain of parents who lose children, of children who lose parents, and the bitterness that can develop between two people who love each other, when life gets in the way.

Stedman pulls and tugs at the strings between a loving, committed husband and wife, and manipulates those ties. Will they break? How much is too much to overcome? And how far will someone go against their personal code, to meet the needs of the person they love most in the world?

I found myself questioning what I would do in place of Isabel and Tom. Would I have kept the child who washed up on the only shore within a day’s sailing, seemingly in answer to my prayers? More to the point, would I give her back, after learning her mother is alive and desperately searching for her?

The ending of the Light Between Oceans is sad, more than I expected it to be, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out throughout the final chapter. Prepare to have a few tissues handy if you have a sensitive soul.

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xx

Air Bound by Christine Feehan

Air Bound is the third book in the Sisters of the Heart series by Feehan. Although this is written as a series, it can definitely be read as a standalone. Unfortunately. I understand it is better for an author’s sales to write every book as a standalone because it is easier for new readers to try them out, but it is extremely annoying for a regular reader to keep having recaps in each book of a series.

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For as far back as she can remember, Airiana Ridell has always been aware of her extraordinary gift. She can intuit revealing and illuminating ‘patterns’ in the air around her-whether in a spray of mist, in billowing clouds, or in the dense swirls of an impenetrable fog. Her abilities led to her placement in a secret government training facility when she was a child, but everything changed after her mother was murdered.

Airiana fled the program, but she couldn’t outrun the desperate members of a shadowy cabal who want her, who need her, who will kill to get her. Kidnapped and held aboard a ship bound for dangerous seas, her only chance for rescue is Maxim Prakenskii. He has his reasons for helping her, but he isn’t about to reveal them to Airiana. Not yet. Not as the two are drawn together as moth to flame. Not when there are so many secrets yet untold that could shatter the quaint community of Sea Haven and all who reside there…

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Air Bound has a lot more action than the previous two books in this series. It starts with the heroine, Airiana, getting kidnapped from her home by Maxim, one of the feared and mysterious Prakenskii brothers, and her true love, although neither of them knows this yet. He is working undercover and was a little bit of an enigma, compared to the three brothers who have already had their stories.

Maxim is less than impressed that he has found his soul-mate. In fact, he actually is angry with her for disrupting his life and is pretty damn selfish. I mean, Airiana was just minding her own business on her farm and he swooped in with a helicopter and a team of thugs and kidnapped her! But he doesn’t understand love and relationships and is frightened that she is tempting him to things he never expected to find in his life, and turning his well-ordered world upside down!

Love does that to you.

Within 12 hours, Maxim has Airiana (and four children they rescued) trailing after him and begins to feel a little bit like the Pied Piper. He is unused to others looking at him with trust or hope and shudders under the pressure of the others’ expectations of him as a man. He knows that he can return them home safely, but the emotional commitments that each expect is daunting to a man who has suppressed emotions for his entire life.

Air Bound is a good book, but it is my least favourite in the series so far. I liked the characters but did not find this to be the best example of Feehan’s writing skills.

The action is so non-stop that is feels like it drags on for 15 chapters. From the time Maxim kidnaps her, to the drama on the helicopter, to the ship and the sub and the yacht and back to the farm, there just wasn’t enough down-time for me to feel like I got a break while reading. These emotionally intimate moments are what grounds a story with lots of action, and after years leading up to these moments, the author has to know that fans are yearning for brotherly unification to play out on page.

As a reader, I felt cheated that we didn’t get to experience Maxim’s introduction to Stefan or Lev, or see the brothers greet Airiana after they rescue the couple. Especially since they are essentially greeting the brother who kidnapped their sister-in-law from under their noses, when they were supposed to be protecting her. And he wasn’t particularly gentle about it!

So why didn’t the author include these moments on the page, even at the risk of sacrificing a bit of action? Does she doubt she can do justice to the moment?

I have a theory that this book came in way over the word count and parts had to be cut. Airiana and Maxim seem to jump from being on the sub to being on the yacht without it happening on page. At first read, I actually missed this transition and had to go back and re-read a bit to make sense of what had happened. The only point of importance that happens on the sub is the introduction of a new supporting character, Valentin. I hope he turns up again in the series, but surely he could have been introduced elsewhere.

Overall, the book is another worthy edition to the Sea Haven saga, but it isn’t going to be on my favourite list any time soon. Air Bound could have used another round of beta readers or edits.

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xx

Craving Absolution by Nicole Jacquelyn – a review

Nicole Jacquelyn writes an outlaw MC series that is full of strong-willed, dominant bikers with out-spoken alpha females at their sides.

The third book in the series is Craving Absolution. It features Casper, who was introduced in book 1 as a prospect to the Aces MC, and is now a full-patch member. His heroine is Farrah Miller, the main supporting character in book two and the daughter of the Club President.

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Book Blurb:

Farrah Miller and Cody “Casper” Butler have a longstanding relationship that both refuse to discuss.

It isn’t romantic.

It may not even be classified as a friendship.

Casper’s been saving Farrah from herself for longer than he’d care to admit, watching silently as she drowned herself in alcohol. Then, when she finally got her act together, he left. He told himself he was giving her time to sort herself out. He tried to give her space.

But getting shot in the chest can change a man’s perspective, and Casper’s done waiting.

When he shows up on her doorstep one night, everything changes.

He’s the man who’s seen her at her very worst.

She’s his weakness.

He runs when things get hard.

She never lets anyone see below the surface and is terrified of being abandoned.

He knows it’s a long shot, that there’s a good chance she’ll never drop her guard for him—but he has to try. Because a life with Farrah is exactly what he wants—even if he has to fight her for it.

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I really liked Farrah’s character, she was my favourite part of this book. She is a strong chick and is an example of how someone who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety and is completely unsure of herself in relationships, can still be strong and opinionated. Having panic attacks doesn’t make her weak, and it isn’t a character flaw.

IMHO, Jacquelyn is excellent at adding depth and development to her characters, allowing them to change and mature through the events of the story. Often, this is a recurring failure in romance novels so character growth is one of my favourite aspects of the Aces MC books.

Farrah moves on from barely acknowledging her father’s existence after meeting him in book 2, to reaching out to him and Vera (her stepmother), trying to establish some sort of emotional connection to them and including them in her family. She also embraces a maternal, nurturing role as she takes on being a parent to two children, despite never having a childhood herself and certainly lacking responsible parents growing up.

Although romance novels typically feature a couple as dual main characters, I definitely felt that this one was ‘the Farrah story’. The reader spends most of the pages in her perspective and Casper has little character development in comparison to the vast amount that Farrah experiences. Casper is more the companion piece to her character and a way to move the plot forward. I would have liked to see him grow up a little more and be more in control of himself and his destiny.

I really liked this installment in the series and cannot wait to read the next.

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xx