Covert Game (Ghostwalkers #14)

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Despite the death of a traitor and key conspirator, the plot to use the GhostWalker experiments to undermine the security of the U.S. by foreign interests still exists. The GhostWalkers themselves must race against the clock to neutralize the danger.

—                         —                         —

I really liked the couple in this book but overall I didn’t like the book itself. I just feel like nothing happened for most of it.

I have been frustrated with this series lately anyway, which didn’t help. There are four different Ghostwalker Teams but they interact very little. As a reader, I fell in love with the original team we were introduced to but there hasn’t been an update on them in YEARS. There seems to have been a trend in recent books to only write about a handful of Ghostwalkers, even within a team. There are members of Team 4 who were not included in this book, or who only showed up for a couple of chapters. I miss the camaraderie that was displayed in earlier books where more characters were included.

I did enjoy reading about Zara and Gino and I appreciate that their relationship is different from many of the others. It is hard for me to relate to warrior women heroines all the time, which Feehan has often written in this series, because that is not my personality at all. Zara is much closer to how I am.

This book was ok for me, but not one that I plan to read again. I am glad I waited to borrow it from the library, rather than purchase the more expensive hardcover price placed on the kindle version.

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xx

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Firestorm by Anne Malcom

Firestorm is the second book in the Sons of Templar series. You can read my blog post about book one here.

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Amy Abrams doesn’t do love. Nor does she do emotional attachments, unless you count the connection she has with designer handbags. She grew up in an Upper East Side penthouse, which had about as much affection within its tastefully decorated walls as Castle Dracula. Her family is the precise reason why she points her red-soled heels firmly in the opposite direction of that dreaded four-letter word.

Then it happens. Love. It comes right out of the blue and knocks her off her six-inch heels. She learns that love comes with pesky side effects such as heartbreak, which seriously messes with the complexion. Amy promises herself that she’ll never open herself to that horrible feeling again. She doesn’t count on an infuriating, albeit drool-worthy biker to roar into her life and ruin the plans she had of locking up her heart. She keeps her distance, wary of the sinfully sexy biker whose tattoos should read Warning – dangerous alpha male, will screw up your life.

Amy may be an Upper East Side princess but she wasn’t looking for Prince Charming. She wouldn’t mind the name of his hair stylist, though. Brock certainly isn’t a knight in shining armour, but he consumes her, body and soul. Drama pulls them apart; danger will bring them back together. When Amy is threatened Brock is there ready to save her life. Her heart is another story.

—                —                —

Firestorm is the ultimate love triangle book. Amy previously fell in love with her best friend’s Spec Ops brother Ian- the first love of her life – but he broke it off to return to the theatre of war, not believing it was fair to keep her waiting. A year later she moves to Amber and starts falling in love with Brock, only to discover that Ian is leaving the military and coming home with the intentions of settling down with her.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Please note that there is no cheating in this novel, for anyone who is concerned.

One of the biggest differences in Firestorm, compared to the first in the series, is that the book bounces around a lot in the timeline. Because the relationship between Ian and Amy began before the series, their story is told in flashbacks. So is much of Amy’s back-story with Brock; Malcom recaps the goings-on between Amy and Brock in the first book, giving an insider look to issues that were only hinted at in Making the Cut. At the same time, obviously there is a present day, where Amy is try to dealing with the fallout of book 1.

MAJOR spoiler alert for book 1

Ian dies in book one, remember. He was killed in action and Amy feels a lot of grief and guilt around his death and her life going forward. It would have been much easier I think, for her to accept a second love in Brock and make a new life if she had met him after Ian’s death. But she didn’t, and can’t allow herself to be happy for the longest time.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Sons of Templar novel without some drama and kidnapping : )

I love the longer style of book Malcom has perfected and that we get updates on Cade and Gwen and their baby girl. The pacing of the story is a little different since the author doesn’t need to spend a lot of time introducing the characters and the world to the reader. I did find that the jumpy timeline slowed down my reading a little bit. Sometimes I needed a moment to reset myself after a jump, to remember where we had last left off. As long as you’ve read the first novel though you already know at least some of what is transpiring, so it helps to not be trying to learn who the characters are as well.

I loved learning about how absolutely shitty Amy’s family members are. It would have been neat to also learn more about Brock though. I find that 99% of the books are about the women and their history. Considering each is written from the perspective of the heroine, this partially makes sense, but I still wish we had gotten more backstory on the hero.

One of my favourite parts of Amy is her forced optimism, bravery and sheer mouthiness. Happiness doesn’t shine from her soul, she has to work for it and sometimes gets dealt a pretty shitty hand, but she perseveres through humour, which is a valuable quality to have. She inspired me to try to remember to use humour more frequently through the bad times. My go-to is to try not to acknowledge a lot of the bad, because I figure the world is dark enough and I don’t need to invite more into my life, but sometimes there is no helping it, and then, humour can be invaluable.

I highly recommend you pick up Firestorm asap. This is one where you probably need to read book one first to enjoy it though.

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xx

Making the Cut by Anne Malcom

Okay, so Making the Cut is the first book in a Cali-based outlaw motorcycle club romance series (the series is called Sons of Templar). It is more “pop-culture” than the other MC books I have been reading so it is a good choice if you prefer less explicit romances that still have sex and bad boys.

Malcom’s books have an interesting dynamic, because she is a New Zealander, as is her main character Gwen in Making the Cut. Most of the authors flooding this market are American, and whether it is because of her nationality or her writing style, Malcom’s are different from anything else I have read in a while.

I blitzed through the entire series in a week and these books are awesome! Here are the deets on the first novel in the series.

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Gwen Alexandra does not need a man in her life. Especially not a man who looks like Chris Hemsworth and Joe Manganiello’s love child. One wearing leather, riding a Harley, and covered in tattoos.

Gwen can bet every pair of her Manolos that Cade Fletcher is trouble. From the moment she meets him, the attraction sizzles between them. Gwen has a problem when it comes to attractive men in motorcycle clubs. The last one she got involved with almost killed her.

After healing physically, Gwen decides to get a new start in a small town, half a country away from the man who nearly cost her her life. She isn’t in town five minutes when she runs into Cade, a man that is too sexy and dangerous for his own good.

She tries to keep away from him, to ignore the attraction between them. But the biker has other ideas, soon she is in way over her head. Her heart, and her life are in danger once again.

—                    —                    —

Have you read the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella? The start of Sons of Templar reminds me of that because the first two books feature Manhattanite fashionistas who have a serious eye for clothing. I don’t really care about clothing much at all, so I skimmed over their outfit details, but that is a point that would add a lot of detail to the book for some ladies out there. In any sense, I didn’t feel like it took me away from the story at all.

For example …

“Don’t you think we’re a bit too dressed up?” I questioned Amy, looking down at my outfit self-consciously. I had a tight printed Prada skirt on with a white blouse that showed way too much cleavage and Amy’s black strappy Manolos.

“Bite your tongue, Gwen Alexandra,” Amy scolded. “There is no such thing as being overdressed. Ever. You are not changing who you are just because we’re not on our little island anymore, now let’s go.”

She swatted my bum, strutting past me to the door. Her outfit made me look like a nun. Her little black Gucci dress, a halter neck displaying her ample assets, was skin tight and had an open back which dipped almost to her butt. With red lipstick, red shoes and her red hair tumbling past her shoulders, she looked amazing. If I swung that way I would totally hit that. Alas, my taste appeared to be sexy sociopaths.

Malcom, Anne. Making the Cut (The Sons of Templar MC Book 1) (Kindle Locations 461-469). Kindle Edition.

The dudes in Making the Cut are smokin’ hot examples of sex on a stick. Throughout the book, we are introduced fairly extensively to Gwen’s circle and somewhat into Cade’s. With Cade’s belonging to an MC, there are a lot of “cast members” to write in, and Malcom decided to focus on a handful instead of someone new popping up in every chapter. This gives the reader a chance to get to know these background characters in-depth and forge an emotional connection to them, without taking away from the focus of the story, which is Gwen and Cade.

One of the best things about these books are their length! (they are super long, compared to a lot of romances). This is how the author is able to take the pages necessary to involve the supporting characters in a meaningful way, and invoke emotion so easily in her audience. While the main action happens over the course of about four months, I figure the book covers the timespan of about a year. For me, it is easier to buy the reality of Gwen and Cade like this, because it isn’t such a contrived work of fiction, fitting an epic romance into an unrealistically short time-frame. It flows naturally.

It also allows for the comedic breaks – usually Gwen and Amy’s banter – and a plot lasting months rather than days or weeks.

Gwen, I think I may like it here. I just went to grab us coffees from next door,” she said, gesturing with the two takeaway cups in her hands, “and there was the most fuckable looking men sitting having coffee. I swear I almost came. What I would do to be those coffee cups…” She trailed off, sounding breathy.

“I’m glad there’s something in this town that is to your liking, Amy,” I stated sarcastically.

Malcom, Anne. Making the Cut (The Sons of Templar MC Book 1) (Kindle Locations 451-454). . Kindle Edition.

There were many points in the second half of the novel where we reached the pinnacle of a big moment the author had been building up to and I thought to myself, ‘okay, this is where it probably ends’. Except there were always more pages still to go. I usually feel that authors end their books prematurely; you know the type, a chapter or two after the big climatic moment and the whole show is over. I like to have more book to ease me down from the emotional high so I loved how Malcom finished hers off.

Malcom’s stories have a HEA. But there are gut-wrenching moments of agony along the way. I will warn you now, Making the Cut had me bawling my eyes out at some points. The violence wasn’t difficult to read about, it doesn’t go into too graphic of details, but not all the supporting characters will achieve the happily-ever-after that the main couple does and Malcom’s writing is certainly strong enough to make you suffer loss alongside her characters.

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xx

Claim Me by Anna Zaires

Claim Me is the third and final novel to the Capture Me Series, which is in turn a companion series to the Twist Me series. Reading both series would enhance your enjoyment but is not necessary; however it is necessary to read these novels in order.

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Here is the blurb, from Goodreads:

She’s on the run.

Yulia Tzakova’s freedom comes at a heavy price. Her former captor dominates her dreams, and survival consumes her waking moments. She may have escaped, but she’s far from safe.

In the shadowy world of spies and betrayal, nothing is what it seems.

He’s obsessed with getting her back.

Lucas Kent’s rage knows no bounds. The danger of his job occupies his days, but hunting down Yulia is what he lives for. When he finds her, she’ll never escape again.

He’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

—             —

* Please note that my review contains some spoilers. Read with caution. Also, I received a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Claim me is much longer than either of the two previous novels, which is something I was super thankful for. The pacing remains fast, but I enjoyed the experience of reading a full-length novel instead of a longish novella.

Unlike in Capture Me and Bind Me, there is very little of the struggle between Yulia and Lucas that was previously present. They have both given up on fighting their feelings and present more of a united front. Similarly, the book didn’t feel like a “captive romance” anymore, because Yulia wasn’t really a prisoner. She wasn’t allowed to leave the compound sure, but she also didn’t have any desire to and Lucas certainly indulges her everything whim and desire. I would venture to say that they have an easier relationship than Julian and Nora!

The first third of the book follows Lucas’ attempts to retrieve Yulia after her escape. He ends up rescuing her and her brother in Ukraine, and feels like a right idiot for not realizing she was protecting a sibling from him, rather than a lover. I was glad to see that little realization since I wanted to kick him in the last one.

The main issue is that Julian will never forgive Yulia for her actions in the Twist Me series, which is a very awkward thing when Lucas and Yulia live on his compound. The solution to this problem actually made me a little sad. It makes sense and it works, but I guess I wanted a Brady Bunch family-style moment.

My least favourite part is Nora going badass on Yulia. Having read the Twist Me series, I didn’t feel like it was in keeping with Nora’s normally very forgiving personality, especially given her (admittedly limited) interactions with Yulia in the past. I’m going to have to re-write that little scene in my head if I ever re-read the story.

Claim Me is a very character-driven book; Zaires’ focus is on the relationship between Yulia and Lucas growing and establishing roles for Yulia and her brother in his world. The whole arc in the series is wrapping up and I didn’t find that there were many plot twists or much that I could comment on. Everything was very predictable to me, but I still found the book enjoyable. The story is satisfying as a conclusion, although it did leave me wishing that Peter will give his own books sometime soon.

I did read this in one sitting and highly recommend it to anyone who has read the series. There is also an epilogue from Julian’s point of view taking place a few years in the future. As much as I loved Yulia and Lucas, I still prefer Julian and Nora and hope we will get to return to them one day!

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xx

 

The Finest Hours – a review

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The synopsis:

On Feb. 18, 1952, a massive storm splits the SS Pendleton in two, trapping more than 30 sailors inside the tanker’s sinking stern. Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors. As word of the disaster reaches the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff orders a daring rescue mission. Despite the ferocious weather, coxswain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) takes three men on a lifeboat to try and save the crew against seemingly impossible odds.

Deep breathe. Wow.

This movie certainly has anticipation down. I think I was holding my breath for half the movie, and when I left the theatre, my ticket was shredded into ribbons in my pocket from working it through my fingers during the many tense moments in this film.

I love a story that can invoke so much emotion. That is surely the point of creating anything in the first place. The last time I felt so much anticipation in a film was Unstoppable, also based on a true story. I may have to re-watch it and put a blog of here sometime soon.

In the mean-time, go watch The Finest Hours.

One of the best aspects of this movie is that it shows the harrowing events taking place both on-board the stern of the sinking oil tanker, and the experiences of the Coast Guard crew trying to reach them. Both stories were incredibly interesting and could have comprised a movie in themselves, but having both perspectives in the same one shows how incredible it was that the rescue was able to succeed and the narrow odds both crews were up against.

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Although I suspect that some creative liberties were taken in the scenes depicted, mostly due to the extremely dramatic nature, this was still a remarkable feat of will. As I sat in the theatre, I couldn’t help but think how awe-inspiring humanity can be the iron will every man exhibited to keep struggling towards life. From the actions of the sailors fighting to buy time and keep a sinking ship alive for as long as possible, in the hopes (not knowledge) that someone was coming to save them, to the Coast Guard crew who went out on a suicide mission, fully expecting to never even make it to the sinking ship, it was one heroic moment after another.

And the Coast Guard seemed to think their cutter was a surf board, cruising over, and under, massive stormy waves.

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The story made me think of soldiers in war and this movie inspired a whole new level of respect for Coast Guard members, and their families, for the dangers faced and sacrifices made, in serving. We all know that the Navy can be grounded due to poor conditions, but the Coast Guard cannot. Their mandate is to serve; if there is a ship in distress, the Coast Guard will respond.

One of the themes repeated throughout is that the Coast Guard always goes out. They don’t have to come back. This is so very different from the Marine motto of never leave a man behind and it shows the differences in mindset between the two organizations. Management in other corps will weigh the costs and benefits of performing a certain mission, and plan for the least number of casualties possible. The Coast Guard just goes out, because they don’t have the option to re-plan, re-schedule or just the “null”.

Casey Affleck and Chris Pine were both magnificent in this film. Although I was more drawn to Affleck’s character, I couldn’t help but compare Chris Pine to some of his other notable roles such as Captain Kirk (Star Trek) or Prince Charming (Into the Woods), simply because this one was so different. I love versatile actors and consider them one of the greats when they can inhabit such different characters with apparent ease, rather than sticking to the same role in thirty different productions. Chris Pine is surely a great.

Clearly I am a huge fan of The Finest Hours. It brought up a whole lot of similar feeling films that I want to go re-watch now. Hopefully I will get some blogs up on here shortly.

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xx

 

 

The Darkest Hour – a review

I love the first few books in Maya Banks’ KGI series. They feature a post-military career family of 6 boys who start their own consulting business together, covering everything from outsourced government jobs, to private hostage rescues and corporate security.

What sets these books apart from other contemporary military/LEO series is the strong sense of family and the supporting cast that shows up in every book. Because the author starts with such a large family and immediately introduces supporting characters, you don’t get the sense that she is merely adding characters to pair up, in order to continue the series. They are a part of the story from the beginning.

I also love how the heroes are sensitive and gentle to the woman in their lives, without losing any of that badassery. You get to see characters like Rachel experience meaningful relationships outside of the romantic lead in novel, which is something many romances lack.

Speaking of Rachel … here’s the blurb and cover to book 1.

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Blurb:

It’s been one year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt over his failures as a husband, Ethan shuts himself off from everything and everyone.

His brothers have tried to bring Ethan into the KGI fold, tried to break through the barriers he’s built around himself, but Ethan refuses to respond… until he receives anonymous information claiming Rachel is alive.

To save her, Ethan will have to dodge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise. And even if he succeeds, he’ll have to force Rachel to recover memories she can’t and doesn’t want to relive—the minute by minute terror of her darkest hour—for their love, and their lives, may depend on it.

—                        —                        —

The Darkest Hour is a stand-out first book in the KGI series. I love Ethan and Rachel together and how the whole Kelly clan came together to support them and help Rachel reintegrate back into her old life. If you are looking for a book full of action and explosions, some of the later books in the series might be more to your taste. While The Darkest Hours definitely has action, more of the book is dedicated to Rachel’s overcoming of the abuse she suffered during her year as a captive, and the journey she and Ethan have to take to find their ways back to each other.

The KGI books have less sex and steamy scenes in them than many of the author’s other books, if you are familiar with her writing. There are no bdsm or kinky scenes, making it a good choice for someone who prefers “sweet romance”.

The relationship that Ethan’s brother Garret and Rachel share is incredibly special, and one I’m a little jealous of. The second and third KGI books are about Sam and Garret and I look forward to reviewing them shortly.

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Edit: I just noticed that the first 1.5 chapters are on the book’s amazon page if you want to try this book out before purchasing.

xx

Girl, Stolen by April Henry – a book review

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Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she’s blind, he really doesn’t know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes–now there’s a reason to keep her.

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

—                        —                        —

I seem to be making a habit lately of unknowingly choosing young adult novels to read, whether they are marketed as such or not.

Girl, Stolen is another example.

It is a wonderful abduction/crime story – for tweens and teens. For that age group, I would rate it an excellent story. Friendship develops between Cheyenne and her reluctant abductor, Griffin, and the story has some twists and turns that are unexpected.

The fact that Cheyenne is blind is the most interesting aspect of the novel. I kept imaging what I would do if I had been the one kidnapped, and then realizing – oh, that doesn’t work because she is blind, she couldn’t follow that plan.

Listening to everything from her perspective really helps the reader to imagine their life as a person with a physical limitation, especially in an extreme situations when you can no longer rely on your usual aids and loved ones for assistance.

For me, Girl, Stolen was a little too tame and the characters predictable. I like tortured souls and dramatic confrontation in my books, and R-rated sex or violence goes along with that. Other than the PG-13 rating though, this book was very good, and there are lots of people who don’t share my preference for R-rated material.

I listened to Girl, Stolen on Audible. I’d recommend reading it instead, the voice performer was not very good. She did a great job of performing Cheyenne, but terrible at the multitude of male characters. Hopefully the author opts for dual narration next time.

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xx