Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

Kaz Brekker is known as Dirtyhands because he’s not afraid to do what’s necessary to achieve his goal. When he’s offered a job that will make him wealthy beyond his dreams, he can’t turn down the chance, especially if in the process he can settle an old vendetta. But the job just might be a suicide mission. His team is made up of other misfits like himself, each bringing a particular strength to the table, but they all have plenty to lose.

Six of Crows is not the kind of book I normally would choose for myself, but based on a friend’s suggestion, I gave it a shot. I’ll admit it took me a little while to get into the story as there is a lot to learn about the world Kaz and his team live in. But once I got to the meat of the story, I absolutely couldn’t put it down. It’s the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

All of the characters were well thought out, and I enjoyed the way the author gave us little peeks into their lives, unveiling a new layer to a character yet leaving the reader yearning for more. I was so attached to each of the characters on the team; I couldn’t stand any one of them being in peril. They each had their own demons to face, adding even more depth to the plot.

I enjoyed this so much I immediately checked out the next book in the series from my library.

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Happy reading!

Rach

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Idea of You through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

To an outside observer, Lucy Carpenter has it all. She’s been promoted through the ranks at work and other women aspire to be like her in their professional careers. She’s finally found a wonderful man, and they’re happily married. But what no one else can see is the baby-shaped hole in Lucy’s heart. It’s what she wants more than anything in the world—to be a mother. And it’s the one thing that constantly eludes her. Her stepdaughter’s presence puts a strain on Lucy and Jonah’s marriage, in addition to being a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. And suddenly, Lucy’s on the verge of losing everything.

The Idea of You is a powerful, emotional book that had me turning pages late into the night. Lucy’s story drew me in immediately, and its hold never lessened. The format was interesting and different, keeping the reader somewhat guessing for a while but with enough information to feel Lucy’s despair and pain right along with her. Parts of the story were difficult to read, but only because the author made me feel like I was in the story with Lucy. I hurt for her, I cried with her, and I laughed and loved with her. Watching her knit so many baby items was heart-wrenching, and seeing her finally bond with her stepdaughter was inspirational.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Ms. Prowse, and it definitely won’t be the last. She has a way of presenting everyday human issues and taking you on a poignant journey through the lives of her characters. Having only been in Lucy’s shoes to a very slight degree, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate to her situation or the book, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Sometimes I wanted to hit Jonah over the head and tell him to take a good look at his wife, and other times I was sure Lucy was going through life with blinders on thinking of nobody but herself. Regardless of who was right or wrong in any particular situation, the story was about the journey, the ups and downs life takes us on in finding our path to happiness. And sometimes, that path doesn’t end up where you thought it would.

I look forward to reading more by this author and highly recommend this book.

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Rach

Cade’s Loss (California Cowboys Book 1) by Selena Laurence

Cade’s Loss (California Cowboys Book 1) by Selena Laurence

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Cade’s Loss by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Cade Jenkins had to give up his whole life at only twenty-five years old. After his parents’ sudden death, he became the guardian of two younger brothers and was responsible for a large California ranch, putting his dreams of a professional surfing championship on hold indefinitely. Years later, he still feels responsible for keeping the ranch running and his brothers in line. When his brothers want to ride the ranch wave of the future—organic ranching—Cade can’t seem to move forward without feeling like he’s forgetting his past.

Organic consultant Nina Cline values her independence just slightly above the environment. She will never again be beholden to a man for her happiness. Meeting Cade in a bar was only a bit of fun for the night, but when he turns up at the ranch as her next client, the sparks begin flying thanks to their opposing outlooks. Cade becomes Nina’s biggest stumbling block. He not only wants to resist every change Nina suggests for the ranch, but she’s also in danger of losing her heart to him.

Cade’s Loss is a remarkable story about family, love, and letting go of the past. It’s a wonderful start to the California Cowboys series, drawing the reader in to the entire Jenkins family even though it’s a standalone book. And what could be sexier than a surfing cowboy with a tortured soul?

Cade’s personality made him easy to love right off the bat. He was a family man through and through, but he’d yet to realize his love for his family had become misguided. He still saw his brothers as needing guidance when they were not only capable of taking care of themselves but also more than qualified to run the ranch.

Nina was a strong woman who had been burned in her career by a man and wasn’t willing to let it happen a second time. Her strong convictions toward herself and the environment made her an endearing character, and her relationship with Cade made her a better person. The relationship between the characters occurred at a natural pace, with plenty of time to actually get to know the other person before falling in love.

The Jenkins brothers were an intriguing family, and I felt connected to the secondary characters and am looking forward to the rest of this series to read more about them.

Other reviews of Ms. Laurence’s books can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Southern Fried Blues (The Officers’ Ex-Wives Club Book 1) by Jamie Farrell

Southern Fried Blues (The Officers’ Ex-Wives Club Book 1) by Jamie Farrell

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was gifted a copy of Southern Fried Blues by the author. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

When her husband divorces her out of the blue, Anna Martin finds herself a thousand miles from home in a job she doesn’t love and lacking the education she was never able to complete. She’s uprooted her life too many times for a military man, and vows to never do it again. But finding herself and figuring out what she really wants in life might be pushing her toward a sexy man in a uniform after all.

Jackson Davis is a Southern gentleman through and through. Despite his jokes about his mama, it was really his daddy who taught him everything he knows about being a gentleman. And if the best man he’s ever known couldn’t keep a woman happy, Jackson doesn’t hold out much hope for himself. Yet there’s something about Anna Grace that makes him want to try.

Any relationship between Anna and Jackson comes with an expiration date—deployment—so it should be safe for them to spend some time together while they have the chance. But when their hearts get involved, things could get ugly.

Southern Fried Blues is book 1 in The Officers’ Ex-Wives Club series and it can comfortably be read as a standalone. This witty contemporary romance is full of Southern slang and banter that kept me amused throughout the entire story. Jackson had a habit of playing the dumb redneck when he didn’t want to show his true colors. Thankfully, his Anna Grace saw the man underneath and called him on it every time.

The characterizations of the main characters were interesting and consistent. Anna was a Yankee with OCD tendencies. She loved her label maker more than anything else, and organization was her life. Jackson’s appreciation for her idiosyncrasies made their relationship that much more solid. He watched her sort her potato chips, figured out which pile contained her favorites, and then offered his up just to make her happy.

Jackson’s Southern upbringing made him a true gentleman. Every man could take lessons from him on how to treat a lady. Although he had a wonderful relationship with his mamie, his relationship with his sister and his mama needed some work. With Anna’s help, Jackson was able to make great strides in those relationships.

This book didn’t lack secondary characters, and they were all well-developed and entertaining, keeping the story interesting on all levels. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire book and would definitely read more by this author.

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Rach

POTUS: A Powerplay Novel by Selena Laurence

POTUS: A Powerplay Novel by Selena Laurence

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of POTUS by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

The first female President of the United States is beloved by her nation. After more than two years in office, the country already knows they want Jessica Hampton back for a second term. But what does Jessica want? She’s spent the last six years fulfilling someone else’s legacy, and although she loved her late husband and still loves his family, Jessica’s ready to move on with the rest of her life.

Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Kamal Masri has had demands placed on him from a very young age. In his culture, family comes before all else, and you never disobey your father. Having spent so much of his life outside Egypt, Kamal begins to question these ethics—especially when his father’s request goes against everything he’s been working toward in his career.

The attraction between Jessica and Kamal is undeniable, but their situations make a relationship impossible. Family issues and politics just add to the chaos surrounding them. Each will have to make their own decisions about what’s right for their country … and what’s right for their hearts.

POTUS is part of the Powerplay series, but it is a standalone story. It can easily be read without having read the previous books in the series. The most appealing factor of this book is how both main characters are older and more mature, and their choices have life and death consequences. They each need to make decisions based on not only what is best for themselves but also what is best for their country, and those scenarios rarely overlap.

Aside from the differences between Jessica and Kamal’s goals for their respective countries, the most appealing layer of the story was the differences in their cultures. As an Egyptian, Kamal was raised to believe that men should protect women, yet he was falling in love with the most powerful woman in the world. His protectiveness was not always completely misguided, but he still had to learn to let go and allow Jessica to take care of herself. It amused me to see his friends laughing at him about some of his beliefs.

The plot itself was complex and woven together tightly, creating plenty of intrigue to keep me turning page after page. Every action had a consequence, politically and personally, and no choice could be made in a vacuum. Jessica and Kamal’s relationship grew at a believable pace, and their feelings for each other evoked every one of my own emotions.

I would have liked to see a bit more wrap-up about Kamal’s father, but overall the story left me enthralled and satisfied. I have yet to find a book by Ms. Laurence I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and I look forward to future additions to this series.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Teach Your Heart (Far North Book 3) by Tracey Alvarez

Teach Your Heart (Far North Book 3) by Tracey Alvarez

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Teach Your Heart by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Gracie Cooper has been wandering Europe since her mother’s death four years ago, but now it’s time to return home to New Zealand. That, unfortunately, means once again being under her father’s microscope and having him point out all the ways her life has fallen short of his expectations. Gracie needs a job, because she’s still got plenty of student debt to pay back, but also to fund her next adventure—far away from her father in the United States.

Dr. Owen Bennett is so focused on his career since the death of his sister that he essentially lives a solitary life even when surrounded by people. That will all have to change when his nieces and nephew come to stay with him for a few months while his mother—their guardian—recovers her own health.

It’s serendipity when Gracie runs into the misfit kids. They need a nanny; she needs a job. Everyone’s happy. Except this darn attraction zipping through her every time she sees her new employer could be a problem. He’s so far from her type. She doesn’t stay put long enough to have relationships. How in the world could this ever work? Maybe some lessons need to be learned the hard way.

Teach Your Heart is book 3 in the Far North series but is completely standalone. If you’ve read the first two, you’ll enjoy the updates on the characters from those books, but you won’t be missing any pertinent information if you start with book 3. As usual, Ms. Alvarez has created a believable, well-paced romance that encompasses more than just the relationship of the main characters. One of the reasons I continue to come back to her stories is because I can always depend on their being something more, something that gives the story and the characters depth.

In this book, both main characters had family issues to solve. While they were somewhat predictable issues, in no way was the growth of the characters predictable or boring. Even when I could feel how things were going to play out, I still couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to see it and get the emotions that went with it.

Owen Bennett had immersed himself in work at the hospital, so when his parents could no longer care for his orphaned nieces and nephew and he was nominated for the job, things became complete chaos. He wanted to do right by his sister’s kids, but the situation was only temporary so how could he make life decisions for them, and especially decisions he knew went against her wishes? With little nudges in the right direction from Gracie, his new nanny who had a free spirit like his sister, Owen began to understand there were more important things than his job, and loving these three kids wasn’t temporary, nor was loving Gracie.

Gracie Cooper was restless and didn’t plan on returning home for long, mostly to stay off the radar of her overbearing father. Finding the nanny job with Owen’s kids would allow her to pay back her student loans and still have travelling money. She didn’t bank on making friends, finding a career she actually enjoyed, loving those crazy kids, and of course loving her boss.

Combined with the enjoyable pace of the relationship and growth of the characters was a nice dose of humor. I loved the kids and all their antics, as well as Owen’s rules and how they changed throughout the story.

Another abundantly entertaining read from Ms. Alvarez. I will continue to read more books in this series. All of my reviews of her work can be found under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Happy reading!

Rach

An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

An Exaltation of Larks Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of An Exaltation of Larks by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Alex Penda’s life is forever changed at the age of eleven, and though these changes will haunt him for years to come, he makes the best of it. A new country, new friends, ultimately a new family, and eventually a wife.

Valerie Lark comes from a prominent family in a quiet town, but Alex shakes up her world when she’s only twelve years old. They live their lives separately but connected until the time is right for them to be together.

Javier Landes is one of New York City’s top male escorts. Disowned from his family at the age of seventeen, Jav is unapologetic about the life he leads in order to make ends meet. He’s good at what he does, but love is no friend of Jav’s.

Lives cross paths and bonds are formed and strengthened. Everyone has something that shapes their life, and it dictates who we are and how we respond. An Exaltation of Larks follows the journeys of three seemingly different but strangely bonded people through life, love, hardships, and loyalty.

This novel takes you through three decades and across two continents, an intricately woven look at the lives of Alex, Valerie, and Jav. It’s an amazingly different type of story, showing us the events that formed the characters into who they become. Their lives intersect and diverge, but it’s in the divergence where the intersections make the most sense.

Ms. Laqueur’s fifth novel is a masterpiece of life. It’s brutally honest; life isn’t always pretty, and this author doesn’t withhold the ugly parts. Sometimes we make wrong decisions, but our mistakes are ours to own. The characters in this book are perfectly flawed—real human beings who have been molded by their circumstances and relationships. How they interact and the story they create made for one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read.

Each main character is interesting in their own right, and there is no rooting for any one person to come out ahead. Life is not always filled with simple choices, and loving each character equally made it all the more heart-wrenching to witness their ups and downs. I was fully engaged in the world the author created, feeling like a fly on the wall in every scene. I laughed and cried right along with Alex, Val, and Jav.

And if the story of the three main characters isn’t enough, Ms. Laqueur has a way of incorporating secondary characters into the plot that makes you love them too and want to know more. If she were to write a book about any of the secondary characters in this book, I have no doubt I’d be hanging on every word of it just the same as I did with this book.

Suanne Laqueur is a must-read author, and this latest book is no exception. It deserves more than 5 stars.

An Exaltation of Larks will be released on November 22, 2016 but can be pre-ordered from your favorite retailer now. All of my reviews of Ms. Laqueur’s works can be found by selecting her name from the Author Spotlight tab.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt #1) by Emma Scott

Full Tilt Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Full Tilt by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Jonah Fletcher knows his time is short, but he’s vowed to leave an impression behind and focuses all his waning energy on completing his masterpiece—a glass installation. He didn’t count on the drunk guitarist storming into his life and changing all his priorities. Kacey Dawson’s impulsiveness has landed her in a world of trouble, but it’s also put her at a crossroads. Continuing on with the band the way she has is self-destructive, and ultimately it’s not what she really wants to do with her life. But her demons chase her and she has nowhere to escape.

Until she wakes up on Jonah’s couch with no recollection of how she got there.

An unlikely friendship blossoms into something more, but life doesn’t always give you what you want. Sometimes it gives you exactly what you need.

There are few words I can use to describe Emma Scott’s Full Tilt. Heartbreakingly beautiful are the main words that come to mind. This is the type of story that will keep you reading late into the night, and then have you lying awake for hours after, unable to sleep because of the impression it leaves.

I was immediately sucked into the lives of Jonah and Kacey, both characters with depth and intrigue. Jonah doesn’t allow people to get close. What’s the point when he knows his time is short? He wants to be remembered for doing something amazing, not mourned or pitied. But when Kacey crosses his path, he can’t help but be drawn out of his comfort zone, out of his routine. The attraction is undeniable and real, but Kacey has to go into it with eyes wide open. She knows how this will end, but is she strong enough to enjoy it while it’s here? Her life can only change for the better by letting Jonah be a part of it.

I’ve now read a few of Ms. Scott’s books and enjoyed them all, but I can say with absolute certainty that this one will remain high on my favorites list for years to come. I’m not typically a fan of this kind of story, but the emotions Ms. Scott is able to draw out made the story worth every minute of lost sleep.

Although this is book one of two, it can comfortably be read as a standalone, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself clamoring for book two as soon as you turn the last page.

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Rach

Paper Castles by Terri Lee

Paper Castles by Terri Lee

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4.5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Paper Castles by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

In 1963, Georgia Socialite Savannah Palmerton has what looks like the perfect life: a successful husband, two children, and a beautiful house. But looks can be deceiving. Secrets hide behind that perfect façade, secrets that are just waiting to be let into the light. With Savannah’s marriage and family crumbling around her, she must search through the rubble for the woman beneath the garden parties and pretty dresses. She can’t even begin to love anyone else until she learns to love herself.

Paper Castles is an expertly woven tale of lies, betrayal, and murder. I became immediately invested in the life of the main character, and I was hooked to the story right up until the end. The story is set in the midst of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the civil rights movement, and the historical details added a layer of uniqueness. The author kept true to the time period in the characters’ actions, clothing, and outside occurrences. It was a different world 50 years ago, and women didn’t just divorce their husbands without becoming the talk of the town. Mental illness was a dirty little secret. Ms. Lee convinced me I was living in the 60s with the way her characters reacted.

The plot of the story was much more than just one genre. It was about family, finding yourself, finding romance when you thought life was over, and most of all it had suspense. The murder investigation was well executed, keeping me guessing until the end without unnecessary surprises.

The single reason for rating this book less than 5 stars is that it could use another pass by a proofreader. The errors were noticeable enough to catch my attention but thankfully not enough to draw me out of the story. With such a fantastic story and the wonderful talent with words Ms. Lee has, I hate to see it dragged down by incorrect punctuation.

I truly enjoyed this book and Ms. Lee’s writing and look forward to reading more of her work.

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Happy reading!

Rach

Life’s Hope (Life’s Series Book 2) by Rebekah Raymond

Life’s Hope (Life’s Series Book 2) by Rebekah Raymond

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Life’s Hope by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Twelve years after Rochester’s demise, Seleah works as a vigilante delivering justice where it is needed. She has assumed a new identity to hide from those who continue to target her, but some parts of Seleah refuse to remain hidden. She still struggles with who she is—a killing machine or a woman with needs and feelings.

A call from her former lover, Tomlin, brings Seleah back to where she spent her formative years for the funeral of her mentor and father figure, StPatrick. Seleah’s personal struggle heightens as she’s reunited with Tomlin, and just when life becomes bearable again, a new enemy arises. Seleah and Tomlin must go up against a man with goals similar to Rochester, but this new enemy may also have the power to tear them apart.

Life’s Hope is book two in the Life’s series and can be read as a standalone, although it is best read in order as part of the series. The important pieces of information from book one are supplied in book two without rehashing or boring readers who have already read the first book.

The story was action-packed from start to finish, and it kept me on my toes and turning pages throughout. We finally learned the name of the soldier we came to love in the first book, but she’d had to assume a new name to keep her fellow vigilantes safe once she realized she was a constant target. A new identity didn’t change Seleah’s struggle though. She constantly battled against the killing machine hidden inside her that Rochester created and her desire to be a normal woman who loved a man. Seleah struggled with this throughout the story, and this internal battle threatened her relationship with Tomlin.

Similar to book one, this story had lots of descriptive fight scenes, but they fit the theme of the plot and provided the reader with the true scenarios Seleah and Tomlin had to deal with. This was an impressive addition to the series, and with this only being Ms. Raymond’s second book, I anticipate more great works from her in the future and look forward to reading them.

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Happy reading!

Rach