Beyond the Horizon – a Sons of Templar novel

beyond-the-horizon

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.

—                         —                         —

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.

* * * * *

xx

Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody is the funniest book I have ever read. I went with the audiobook, which Kendrick read herself, because I am now convinced this is the only way to take on comedic or biographic novels. So thankful for this choice! Once again, a shout-out to my co-worker Ewa who recommended this book!

She just gets me 🙂

anna

Official Blurb:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

—                         —                         —

In some ways, Anna could be me and in others, she would definitely be my best friend. I love her. I wish I knew her IRL. Speaking of … Anna. Want to move to Canada?!

Things H & A have in common:

  1. We both lust after Tom Hardy
  2. Directionally challenged (both in terms of height and finding our way to places without GPS)
  3. Mostly anti-social peeps who prefer to be at home
  4. Neither of us can sail
  5. Nerds
  6. List-makers
  7. Awkward and riddled with self-doubt

One of the things that struck me the most about this book is that Anna is well-spoken and SMART! Not that I thought she wasn’t, but the more serious portions of her book are much deeper than I was prepared for and she appears markedly more self-possessed, driven and self-aware than I am myself.

I was also very surprised by the fact that she was still dirt-poor and living with roommates after her Oscar-nom for her role in Up in the Air. Listening to her describe this period in her life, when she was barely getting by but everyone around her spoke about her like she’d made it big, was definitely an eye-opener.

In Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna describes herself as a “Man-Child” who is perpetually three months away from maturing enough to take care of “shit”. I KNEW I couldn’t be the only one who stopped emotionally developing at a much younger age! She and I are experts at rationalizing ANYTHING. Make the bed? Why make the bed when you are just going to mess it all up again tonight? Do homework? Isn’t the point of going to school to learn? I can learn without regurgitating it all back to the Teach, who assuredly, most know this stuff already. So I’ll just skip that step thank you very much.

I have OCD so if I start something, it has to be done PERFECTLY or I will drive myself and anyone around me cray. It’s so much easier to just not start a project at all.

Scrappy Little Nobody doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like a conversation, albeit one where the listener is very good at listening and Anna is constantly “on”. Six hours have never passed so quickly and I am seriously contemplating just re-starting her book over again, because I am not ready for it to be over. It’s been 24 hours since I finished listening and I am still missing Anna like a friend who popped in for a short visit and was off again.

* * * * *

xx

 

My (Not So) Perfect Life…

my not so perfect life

Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

—                         —                         —

Sophie Kinsella is my favourite British writer by far. Her novels are always on-trend with modern-day life and completely relatable to me, as a woman and a young professional. Her books are laugh-out-loud funny and a great way to cheer up. Considering I usually read dark romances or heavy erotica, it is a lovely treat to sit down and read something completly different when Kinsella releases a new novel.

My (Not So) Perfect Life is the most recent book to be released and one that I have devoured. Kinsella’s books are fast-paced page-turners, filled with good feels, awkward situations and a happy ending.

When Katie is laid off from her job in London she is devastated. It may not be the perfect position, but she is starting out in the field of her dreams, living in the “best” city in the world and learning loads everyday. The last thing she wants to admit to her beloved father is that she has failed, especially since he is all too eager to have Katie move home and live locally.

This experience is similar to one I went through a couple of years ago. I was working a shitty job in the field of my dreams, learning and putting in time until I could rise up in the ranks. Then I was laid off (five days before Christmas mind you!) and absolutely devastated. Looking back, I can say that it is one of the hardest – and best – things that I have ever been through because it made me grow as a person and I have ended up in a better place. But at the time, I thought the world was ending and that I was the biggest failure going, much as Katie does.

My (Not So) Perfect Life was a real win for me. I am a country girl at heart and totally into the organic and environmentally-friendly lifestyle that is trendy at the moment. The fact that this was so heavily favoured in Katie’s branding of her parents’ new glamping business, and the fact that most of the book took place in the country, made this country-girl shine.

Some of the plot is overly predictable, but that isn’t what you are reading a Sophie Kinsella book for. This isn’t a book full of mystery or intrigue. The story is character-driven, as the author unravels new layers of each of the characters and focuses on the relationships between them.

If you are a fan of Kinsella and think you have read all of her books, check out the ones under her pen name of Madeleine Wickham.

* * * * *

xx

Exquisite Redemption – a review

Exquisite Redemption is the third book in Ann Mayburn’s Iron Horse MC series. They feature a Texas-based 1% motorcycle club and the hardcore bombshells the members fall for… and they fall hard.

I’m not sure if this will continue throughout the series, but the first couple introduced have two books to tell their stories and the current couple are also in a two-parter. Beach and Sarah’s story begins in Exquisite Redemption and concludes in Exquisite Karma, which will probably be out around February 2016. I was lucky enough to score an e-arc from one of my fave authors, so here is my review!

redemption

Blurb:

Sarah

In my wild, reckless past Carlos ‘Beach’ Rodriguez would have been my ideal man. He’s handsome, experienced, rich, kind, and in complete control of his destiny. Unfortunately he’s also a criminal, the President of an outlaw motorcycle club, and I’ve sworn off bad boys in my efforts to live my dream of being normal. It would be so much easier to resist him if he hadn’t saved my life more than once and didn’t treat me like his queen.

Beach

Gorgeous, smart, and deadly, Sarah is my ideal woman, even if she is almost young enough to be my daughter. On the surface she’s one of the toughest females I’ve ever met, but underneath all that hard beauty and menace lies an incredibly tender heart that’s been damaged in the past. Winning her love is gonna be a challenge, but I’m determined to have her as my old lady and I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make that happen. That would be a hell of a lot easier to do if people weren’t trying to kill us all the time.

**Author’s note- This is part ONE of TWO for Beach and Sarah’s story and ends on a Happy For Now. Book TWO of Beach and Sarah’s story will be available February 4th, 2016.**

—                   —                  —

** Side-note: Although this book is the third in the series, it is a pre-quel. It takes place about two years before book one. If you’ve read the series, you know why. If you haven’t I don’t think it really matters which way you start, but book four will take place in current time so either read them as they were written (1, 2, 3, 4) or chronologically (3, 1, 2, 4). That is all. **

It was really interesting to see things from Sarah and Beachs’ points of view. You meet both characters in the first two novels but see very little of either so you form an impression based off of other characters’ takes on who they are, which turn out to be rather narrow. Not inaccurate mind you, but the reader definitely gets to see more of the real person behind the facade with “Redemption”.

I liked the book and seeing more characters from other perspectives (Smoke is a prick before he meets the love of his life!) is cool, but Exquisite Redemption wasn’t a hit for me. Too much of the story was repetitive and followed the exact same path as Trouble and Danger did. The driving motivation behind the plot is the machinations of the “unknown” traitor within the IH MC and if you have read the earlier (later?) books, you know who it is. Personally, I hate when the reader knows and the characters don’t because it is so frustrating and I always feel like the characters are the biggest idiots in the world for not putting it together…. kinda takes away from the badassery of a 1%er outlaw.

I wish that we had gotten more time with these characters and been able to see them interact with each other and the people surrounding them a little bit more. They are such interesting individuals and so much more could have been developed! We barely scraped the surface of the daddy/lg relationship  that forms between Beach and Sarah, which would have been fascinating to see (I trust the author can do it in a totally non-incesty way). It seemed like Beach and Sarah went from one plot point to another with guns blazing, but there was so much action that there wasn’t any character development, and relationships don’t build as much as I would have wanted.

I also want to learn more about Sledge, the club VP and Beach’s best friend. Three books in and we have had one scene with him. Based off of the author’s pinterest account he sounds really fun and yummy, I hope he has more scenes in Karma!

Overall this book felt rushed to me. I believe it is shorter than the first two books in the series and was originally intended to be one novel, but it became too large for the romance genre as one novel, so the author was encouraged to split it up into two. That’s so trendy these days. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough meat on the bones of this book.

Also, I continue to follow authors on social media to be able to get chances like this, to review an e-arc and help publicize their work, but it means you get little tidbits and teasers of their works in progress as well. It is great at the time but you start to form an impression of what you think the book will be like and when that impression is completely off, it throws you. For example, Ann posted several times that the way in which Sarah and Beach met was super dark compared to the watered down version they tell Sarah’s twin in book one, but it wasn’t dark at all. I think that Smoke and Swan have a much darker beginning. I beg to differ with the claim that “Beach practically kidnaps her [Sarah]” but I was expecting this book to be really dark and sinister at times and I didn’t find that it happened at all! To me, it was actually more light-hearted than either of the two previous novels which was disappointing to me, personally.

I hope I still get the chance to review Exquisite Karma in February and that it is more fulfilling to me. Dark and sinister and full of evil things happening to a certain traitor!

* * *

xx

Exquisite Danger – a review

Exquisite Danger is the second part of Smoke and Swan’s story and the second book in the Iron Horse MC series. As such, it cannot be read as a stand-a-lone. For my review of book one, click here.

smoke 2

 

Blurb:

For the first time in my life I know what it’s like to be completely and truly adored by a man who loves me for exactly who I am, a high functioning autistic with more personality quirks than there are stars in the Texas Hill Country night sky.

Some people think my boyfriend, Smoke, is a total biker psycho, a natural born killer who will destroy anyone who threatens what he considers his. They wouldn’t be wrong, but he’s so much more than that. He’s my dark salvation, my beloved fallen angel who is trying with all of his wicked heart to save me from what seems like an entire world bent on either killing me or a fate worse than death.

We’re headed to the Denver, Colorado chapter of the Iron Horse MC, chasing after my narcissistic, junkie mother who decided to steal from some very bad men leaving her two daughters behind to pay the price for her betrayal. My twin sister, Sarah, old lady to the Iron Horse MC president, is looking for my mother as well, but Sarah’s gone rogue and has no one to guard her back which worries me deeply. To further complicate matters, there are traitors in the Iron Horse MC who are working with my mother, not only helping her to escape but also informing my enemies of my every move.

The odds are stacked against me, but I will do whatever is necessary to protect those I love, and with Smoke at my side, I just might make it out of this mess alive.

—                     —                   —

Oh man. I loved some things about this book. Getting to see more of Smoke’s POV is awesome. I think it gives the book more balance and I really liked getting both leads’ perspectives throughout the story. In this book particularly, Smoke’s very complicated psyche needed some exploration and I thought his generally steadier thought processes helped to balance out Swan’s frenetic, jumpy POV. It was also fun for Smoke’s scarier side to come out to play. I love how gentle he is with Swan – she is incredibly fragile and insecure in some ways – but the last thing a writer wants is her audience doubting whether the badass Master at Arms biker is really all that intimidating…. he definitely is! Do not get on Smoke’s bad-side.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the plot was as strong as the first novel. Most of “ED” was about the identity of the Iron Horse traitor but to the reader, it is painfully obvious who is at fault. This is one of my biggest turnoffs in any type of entertainment and unfortunately it is persistent in this series. I almost wonder if the author is playing some sort of end game, because on her social media sites there is a pretty clear consensus on which secondary character is the traitor but she is is continuing to play dumb and carry over the “ruse”. It annoys me and I hope she ends it soon, and gets back to the good stuff.

The second point that drew me away from the story is the overly dramatic nature of some scenes. I felt that the characters just went from one super dramatic situation to another, to the point that these actions scenes felt like fluff.

This meant that IMHO, there was less deep content than there was in Trouble, when I had been hoping Mayburn would build on it instead. The scene between all the different factions (MCs and mafias and bratvas) in particularly was so overdone that it lost all meaning, for me at least. These men are all supposed to be so terrifying that you can’t help but laugh and shake your head. They just cancelled each other out whereas if it had just been the Boldin Bratva, I would have probably been shaking in my boots.

The book is solid and if I had read it first, I probably would have rated it higher, but after the stellar start in Exquisite Trouble, “Danger” was a bit of a let-down. I love this author so it was disappointing and surprising. Still looking forward to the series continuation though! And it was great to finally meet Sarah. Her and Beach’s story will be released this winter in another two-parter.

* * *

xx

Exquisite Trouble – a review

In a genre saturated with terrible biker romance/erotica, there are a small handful of authors who stand apart. Ann Mayburn, with her Iron Horse MC series is definitely one of those stand-outs.

The first two novels, Exquisite Trouble and Exquisite Danger, are Mayburn’s debut MC couple, Smoke (hero) and Swan (heroine). I’m going to review the books separately, but because they are about the same hero/heroine, I’ll try to get up my review for the second book this week as well.

smoke 1

Blurb:

Before I met Smoke I’d never been kissed, really kissed, by a man, let alone a biker sex god bent on taking my virginity and my heart.

I got dragged into the deadly world of the Iron Horse MC by my crazy twin sister who is engaged to the club’s President and even crazier mom who only cares about herself. Smoke has been assigned by the club to keep me safe even though he’s everything that I should be afraid of. He’s the kind of man who lives by his own rules and does whatever he wants whenever he wants, but he treats me like I’m something rare and precious, not a socially dysfunctional basket case who has no idea how to love, but needs him more than her next breath.

Not that my feelings matter, because if we don’t find my mother soon, the only thing I’ll have to be worried about is who is going to kill me first.

NOTE- This is Part One of a Two Part book with a ‘Happy for Now’ ending.

—                             —                             —

I loved Exquisite Trouble but I did find it a little bit hard to get into the rhythm of Mayburn’s writing. She wrote first person perspective and it might just be the first time I’ve read this style since highschool. Also, Swan is autistic, so her brain tends to jump around a lot, which means the writing does too. Once I got used to her idiosyncrasies though, I settled in and enjoyed the story.

One of the best things about Ann Mayburn, which I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is that she does a phenomenal job of building an entire world in her series. I love that her couples don’t exist in a private bubble; they interact with other characters and it all fits. It flows. Feels natural. This is incredibly difficult to achieve (I’m guessing, considering the huge numbers of authors who fail) but in an MC type story where there are so many secondary characters who are integral to both plot and character development, it is even more important. And this author nails it on the head.

One thing I wish is that there were more scenes from Smoke’s POV. The book finishes from his perspective but the rest of the time we can only see his thoughts from his conversations, or from Swan’s interpretation of Smoke … which is problematic at times. Because of Swan’s autism, she has a difficult time reading people and understanding certain social cues and situations. As a result, there are points in the book when you know she is misunderstanding him.

The second book has many more scenes from Smoke’s POV which is awesome, and he reflects on the mistakes he made with Swan in the beginning. Smoke starts out as the typical egotistical, alpha-male, sexually dominant biker, but changes his way of relating to and understanding Swan as he gets to know her better and realizes the differences in which they communicate.

Swan is a kick-ass, take no names, completely comfortable with violence chica. Raised by a mob assassin mother-figure and mentally unstable Spec Ops superstar father, she curses like a sailor and stands beside her man. But at the same time, due to an isolated childhood and problems relating to other people, especially her peers, she is very vulnerable emotionally. She has limits that absolutely cannot be pushed without her shutting down. Swan is also a virgin, and once Smoke realizes these things about her, he discovers a sweet, gentle side of himself that only comes out for his girl. I wish the reader could have had those chapters from his POV to see these realizations occur, so it is great that the next book has more dual perspective sections.

Smoke and Swan are one of those couples where you can just see that they were made for each other, and their love makes you believe in a higher power.

I do wish that the book was a bit longer, to allow for more interaction between Swan and some of the other characters, particularly Beach, her twin’s fiance and the President of the same MC Smoke belongs to. Other than that, their story is awesome and I highly recommend this series if you need a break from the biker junk littering the romance and erotica genres right now.

* * * * *

xx

Breaking Love – a review

I’m a happy girl 🙂 I received an e-arc copy of Breaking Love from the amazing and talented B.B. Reid! The following is my honest and unbiased review.

If you aren’t familiar with this series, “BL” is the fourth book in the Broken Love series. The first two novels are about the first couple and are very dark. The other two couples each have just one book since their back stories are well-established through the series openers and are also not as dark. If you are sensitive to dark themes, you might want to start with this book as a test-run. While I always prefer to read in order, I think the author does enough catch-up that a new reader could jump in here and not feel confused.

Okay, here’s the good stuff.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00037]

Blurb:

She’s the girl who got away, but now she’s back…

Four years was all it took.

I told myself I didn’t need friends. I didn’t need family. I sure as fuck didn’t need him.

And you know what?

I was right.

He had been inside of me, coursing through my veins.

So I cut and bled Dash Chambers until I was free.

But the day I returned to Six Forks and was thrown at his feet, I realized I would never forget how it felt to have every inch of him inside me.

…and he’s waiting.

Angel thought if she ran far enough, she’d be free.

What’s mine will always be mine.

This time I do things my way.

* * *

DISCLAIMER: While Breaking Love isn’t dark, the first of the series contains sensitive themes many people aren’t able to swallow.

—                —                —

This was the come-back book in my opinion. The third really rubbed me the wrong way for various reasons, but Breaking Love was more true to the author’s writing in the first two novels, albeit lighter in content.

I liked how the story unfolded for Dash and Willow and that you could see how they had grown from their teenage selves we were first introduced to. Dash is less likely to lash out and seems to be the most stable man in this series. Considering the parenting that they all had, it is remarkable that the characters weren’t institutionalized, actually.

Willow on the other hand is much more vulnerable than in the past. I felt a lot of empathy for her. She has never really had someone who loved her unconditionally without demanding anything of her. It seems that every time she starts to feel something and take a chance on someone, that person lets her down or makes demands alien to her personality, even her parents. I’m glad that she starts to really connect with the people around her by the end of the novel, people she’d been around for years but never actually connected with before.

I would have preferred the plot to be refined a little more because I did feel like there was a lot going on at times. Despite this, the story was such a vast improvement over the third book, that “BL” was a miraculous joy to read and review in comparison.

I do wish that the author had removed some of the superficial plots to stream line the book. I found it confusing for her to reveal that Willow had been making secret trips home every month for years while in hiding (between book 2 and the start of this one) and never got caught, when she is estranged from her abusive mother and stepfather, and her beloved brother was away at university. What exactly was the point of taking huge chances to go home and visit people she detested when she had run away from everything and everyone in her old life?? This was never explained to my liking and I wish a beta-reader had pointed it out.

By taking out minor things like this, the story could have been made less confusing and opened up word count for the areas where there was VAST room for expansion: Willow’s relationships with the old gang and especially, between her and Keiran. I loved the couple of scenes between these two, about 85% in, and wish that BB Reid had further explored their relationship. I think Keiran was a huge part of why Willow was so hurt and disappeared for years, possibly as responsible as Dash was, so seeing this interaction was hugely important to me. I really like to see main characters interact with characters other than their romantic partner, because you get a much fuller sense of who they are in that way.

I hope you take a chance on this new author, she is doing a great job with very complicated material for a rookie. And she left a little bonus present for her dedicated fans at the end of the book 🙂

* * * (and a half)

xx