A Charm of Finches (Venery #2) by Suanne Laqueur

 

A Charm of Finches (Venery #2) by Suanne Laqueur

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00019]

5 out of 5 Stars

This is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever written. How do you proclaim love for something so heart-wrenching? When one of the characters goes through an ordeal beyond your most horrid imagination? When the story is about loneliness and despair? It feels sacrosanct to shout that this book is amazing and everyone should read it.

But really, everyone should.

A Charm of Finches delves deep into the tough subject of male rape survivors and connecting with others on a human level. This book will shred your heart and stitch it back together piece by delicate piece. The theme of loneliness and surviving—but not really living—is prevalent in all three main characters. It’s jam-packed with emotion, and the characters will stick with you long after you’ve finished their story.

We first met Javier Landes in book 1 of the Venery series, An Exaltation of Larks. If you haven’t read Larks, I highly recommend it, though it’s not strictly necessary before reading Finches. Jav has finally decided to give love a chance, and love comes in the shape of a therapist named Steffen Finch. Stef hasn’t given much thought to a relationship with a man, but the attraction between the two men is undeniable. While Jav and Stef are getting to know each other, a young man named Geno Caan is spiraling down toward rock bottom.

Geno’s life was picture perfect until he became a victim of a horrendous crime. He’s trying to survive, but the world looks like a completely different place now. It’s bad enough he lost those closest to him. Then he realizes the world doesn’t even believe his story. How can he have a life when he’s so alone?

Landing in art therapy sessions with Stef, Geno slowly begins to trust again. He forms a friendship with Jav and begins to get his life back on track, but the journey is long and full of landmines waiting silently to explode.

Ms. Laqueur has a way of reaching deep into your soul and rearranging everything you thought you knew on an elemental level. Her words are powerful and moving, and she has done justice to a subject that rarely gets spoken about. She writes therapy sessions as if she were a fly on the wall, and the pain of sexual assault is vivid even when not described in horrid detail. I felt everything her characters felt—every high and low, every heartbreak and every triumph—thanks to the imagery that put me right in the scene with them.

This is my top book for 2017, and though the subject matter isn’t pretty, everyone should read this epic tale of survival.

Please note that although I have included Romance as one of the genres for this book, it is not the main focus of the story.

All of my reviews of Ms. Laqueur’s books can be found under the author spotlight tab.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 apple-ibooks-80x80 bn-logo-80x80 kobo-buy-80x80 smashwords gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

Advertisements

Mend Your Heart (Bounty Bay Book 4) by Tracey Alvarez

 

Mend Your Heart (Bounty Bay Book 4) by Tracey Alvarez

 Mend Your Heart Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

For the past five years, Isaac Ngata has stayed out of the public’s eye and out of Natalie Fisher’s way. The former All Black rugby star prefers to keep an eye on his best mate’s widow from afar. The accident that took Natalie’s husband and Isaac’s teammate’s life also left Isaac as a celebrity pariah. When he’s asked to coach the girls’ rugby team so Natalie’s daughter can have her chance to play, Isaac’s long-buried feelings for Nat resurface with a vengeance.

Natalie Fisher has resolved herself to life as a single mother and would be happy to put the sport that took her husband behind her for good. But her daughter’s desire to play rugby has put Nat in the direct path of the one man she’d be happy to avoid forever—Isaac Ngata. With Isaac’s reputation in question, Nat has no choice but to help him with practices, and suddenly the sullen man is something more than her husband’s best friend.

Both Nat and Isaac will have to get beyond the past if they want to see what the future holds for them.

Mend Your Heart is book four of the Bounty Bay series, but like all books in this series it can be read as a standalone. And also like all books in this series, it takes romance a step beyond the standard. I can always count on Ms. Alvarez to give me a little something more. In this case, both main characters have to deal with the same issue—the death of Jackson Fisher, who was Natalie’s husband and Isaac’s best friend—but different aspects of the issue. Isaac has always loved Natalie, and his guilt will eat him alive if he can’t let it go. Natalie doesn’t think anyone could love her the way Jackson did, and she has to fight to keep from going back to the girl who made herself invisible in order to survive in the foster care system.

All of the characters in this book, including thirteen-year-old Olivia, were easy to love. One of the things I appreciated most about this story was the gradual change in relationships and characters. The book started with clear examples of Isaac’s miserable life, including his cluelessness in talking to teenagers. Bit by bit, and with a little help from Natalie, he was able to smile again and not only relate to the girls but also coach them to be better people and a better team. Natalie would have preferred to hide from her problems and be invisible once again, but she fought her way back to the strong, assertive woman she’s supposed to be.

Another aspect of this book I truly loved was that the conflict between the characters was mostly internal yet it wasn’t forced or manufactured. The death of a loved one affects people in different ways. Natalie and Isaac both loved Jackson, and they both needed to find a way to move on from their residual feelings five years later. There was plenty of emotion along the way, and like always, this author also knows how to turn up the heat between her characters.

Ms. Alvarez is the queen of happily ever after, providing well-rounded characters, an intriguing plot, and a polished story every time.

All of my reviews of Ms. Alvarez’s books can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 bn-logo-80x80 apple-ibooks-80x80 kobo-buy-80x80 google_play gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

Vaughn’s Pride (California Cowboys #2) by Selena Laurence

Vaughn’s Pride (California Cowboys #2) by Selena Laurence

Vaughn’s Pride Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

Everyone in Big Sur knows Vaughn Jenkins and T.J. Brisco are meant to be together, but life has a way of slapping a man down and putting him in his place. First was the death of Vaughn’s parents when he was seventeen, and now the loss of part of his leg once again pushes him away from the love of his life. Vaughn will never be the man T.J. deserves to have by her side.

T.J.’s loved only one man her whole life—Vaughn. She’d do anything for him. Anything except get pushed away yet again and be expected to sit around and wait for Vaughn to realize he’s worth her love. The sensible head on her shoulders says it’s time to move on. If only her heart would fall in line with that plan.

Vaughn’s Pride is the second book in the California Cowboys series and can be read as a standalone, but book one was so good you might want to read Cade’s Loss first anyway. The stories surround three brothers who tragically lost their parents and inherited one of the biggest ranches in California. Vaughn is the youngest brother and lives his life working the land. Someday he wants to be able to have a farm of his own for himself and T.J., but when an accident takes part of his lower leg and he’s unable to lead the active life he once led, he has nothing left to give her. Pride keeps him from letting her back into his life.

I loved these characters, both past and present versions of them. The author gave glimpses of their history at the beginning of each chapter, which added to the connection I felt to them and their relationship. Vaughn’s pride might’ve felt misplaced at times, but having witnessed their history of best friends turned lovers and their ultimate childhood downfall gave clearer insight into just how devoted he was to T.J. and why he couldn’t let her love him when he didn’t feel he had anything to offer her.

Seeing things from T.J.’s perspective made it even harder to watch him push her away, but character growth continually fueled their connection. Watching them recognize the changes in themselves and each other brought a warm satisfaction you don’t find in every second chance romance.

One of the key factors in any 5-star read for me is the ability of the author to draw me in immediately and keep me invested in the lives of the characters. Ms. Laurence delivered in spades. I hurt for and loved both Vaughn and T.J., turning page after page right up until the end. And having been the second book in the series I couldn’t put down, I’m highly anticipating the final book about the middle Jenkins brother, Ty.

All of my reviews of Ms. Laurence’s work can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 apple-ibooks-80x80 kobo-buy-80x80 bn-logo-80x80  gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

Sugar & Gold (Dreamcatchers Book 2) by Emma Scott

Sugar & Gold (Dreamcatchers Book 2) by Emma Scott

Sugar & Gold Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

Sugar & Gold is the second book in Emma Scott’s Dreamcatchers series, but as a standalone novel, you can comfortably read this amazing book without having read the first in the series (although I highly recommend reading How to Save a Life anyway—my review can be found here). Like the first book, this one contains what I’d categorize as a touch of paranormal. It’s so well-incorporated into the characterization that it doesn’t feel like a paranormal story though, so definitely don’t let that scare you off from reading if you’re not a fan of paranormal romance.

Nikolai Young was born with a gift he’d rather not have. His ability to know people’s emotions set him apart from a young age and caused his father to leave and his mother to think he had the devil inside him. He spends his life running from his ability, crisscrossing the country to keep his gift from overwhelming him. He plays poker to win just enough money to live off of and then moves on. Until he meets Fiona, the woman who calms the chaos of his gift.

Fiona Starling has a dream of moving to Costa Rica. The bright colors and lush greenery will help her escape her ugly past. She’s already begun rebuilding her life on her own terms, and a one-night stand with a tattooed stranger fits the bill of doing whatever she wants in the moment. Their physical connection is so strong right from the start that Fiona and Nik can’t seem to stay away from each other. But both of them have inner demons to deal with before they can find peace with each other.

I have yet to read a book by Ms. Scott I didn’t love, and this one was no different. It captured my heart right from the start with Nik’s poor, tortured soul just trying to find a little peace. I also loved sweet Fiona, so happy and carefree on the outside but with a difficult past she kept buried inside. The character growth in this book was a joy to watch. Nik and Fiona each had issues to come to grips with, and they knew they couldn’t depend on the other as their sole resource.

As with all of Ms. Scott’s books I’ve read so far, this story is full of passion and emotion. The author has a way of making you feel everything right along with the characters. I am a fan for life of Ms. Scott’s work and will be eagerly awaiting each of her new releases.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

Saying I Do (Stewart Island Book 8) by Tracey Alvarez

Saying I Do (Stewart Island Book 8) by Tracey Alvarez

Saying I Do Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

MacKenna Jones has been designing wedding gowns since she was a little girl, but for other people. Mac isn’t the marrying type. She got close once, but she now knows that forever is not for her. Yet there’s something about Oban’s sexy doctor, Joe Whelan, that keeps her coming back for more. Too bad Joe hates her for ruining his chance at happily ever after.

Left by his fiancée a week before his wedding, Doctor Joe Whelan has no interest in holy matrimony. He should hate MacKenna for causing the breakup, but he can’t seem to stay away from her now that their orbits have crossed. Since Mac so successfully broke up his wedding several years ago, it should be no problem for her to break up Joe’s sister’s wedding, because no tattooed bus driver could be good enough for his little sister. Never mind that his diabolical plan forces him and Mac together. Shouldn’t be a problem since they’re both allergic to marriage.

Saying I Do is book 8 in the Stewart Island series, and like all other novels in this series, it can comfortably be read as a standalone book. Of course, if you’re already a fan of the series, some of everyone’s favorite characters make reappearances. Good old Mrs. Taylor, Oban’s resident octogenarian matchmaker, is back for another book, and this time she’s pointed her walking stick at Dr. Joe. No one has yet escaped Mrs. Taylor’s matchmaking!

One thing I love about every book written by Ms. Alvarez is that the story always goes beyond the romance. This one is no different. Both Mac and Joe are nuptially-challenged, and they each have good reason to stay away from the institution, in addition to good reason to stay away from each other. The plot is driven forward as much by their family situations and need for growth as it is by their lust. And in typical Tracey Alvarez style, the heat is turned up between the two, and the romance blooms in vivid color across the pages of the book. Attraction turns to love in a natural pace, making the reader fall in love with the characters right along with them.

Another thing I always enjoy in this author’s books is the taste of New Zealand I get by reading them. Descriptions of the weather and scenery are naturally integrated, painting a picture for me of a place I likely won’t ever be able to travel to. This book also had the benefit of including Joe’s Irish slang for added culture, as well as a trip to Las Vegas and the dry desert heat.

Saying I Do was as witty and enjoyable as every other book I’ve read by this author. Although I tend to tire of a series after a few books, Ms. Alvarez somehow keeps me coming back for more … eagerly!

All of my reviews of this author’s work can be found on the Author Spotlight tab.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 apple-ibooks-80x80 bn-logo-80x80 kobo-buy-80x80 google_play Smashwords Small gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

SCOTUS (A Powerplay Novel) by Selena Laurence

SCOTUS (A Powerplay Novel) by Selena Laurence

Title Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

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

If you’re looking for a romance you can really sink your teeth into, look no further than Selena Laurence’s SCOTUS. This Powerplay novel is a standalone political romance that truly packs a punch, dealing with some serious current issues like racism and political scandals and featuring an interracial couple. It’s an emotional second-chance romance that will keep you turning the pages right up to the end.

Teague Roberts has had his eye on becoming a Supreme Court Justice since he was a little kid growing up in a neighborhood filled with gangs and violence. All his life he’s been trying to get out of the shadow of his upbringing, but he’ll never really be able to forget where he’s from. Just as he’s on the cusp of getting everything he’s ever wanted, a blast from his past shows up and threatens to ruin it all.

Deanna Forbes was once engaged to Teague, but now she’s assigned to report on him as the president’s Supreme Court nominee. Her boss wants her to find a scandal, but Teague appears squeaky clean on the outside. She’s the only person who knows his darkest secret and could ruin his entire career. Deanna already has sins of the past to atone for. Despite having never stopped loving Teague, she’ll never be able to forgive herself for what she did to him twelve years ago.

The way the author handled the racial issues in this book was both heartbreaking and brilliant. The reader gets both perspectives, with Deanna having been raised by parents who wouldn’t accept a black man for their son-in-law and Teague struggling to overcome every racial roadblock thrown in front of him.

Teague’s character was so complex I couldn’t help but love him right from the start. On the outside, he was a successful attorney wearing power suits and working eighty hours a week. On the inside, he was still the kid who grew up in a rough neighborhood and was used to defending himself, sometimes for no other reason than the color of his skin. No power suit would change the perception of some people, and throughout the story Teague had to accept this and find ways to overcome it.

Deanna was intriguing on her own as well. It wasn’t long after letting go of Teague the first time that she realized it was the mistake of a lifetime. She spent the next twelve years trying to make up for it any way she could. And once Teague was back in her life, she was going to do whatever she could to right her past wrongs.

The emotion in this book was off the charts, and it ran the gamut of heartfelt to heartbreaking and everything in between. I was so emotionally connected to these characters that I hurt for them and could feel every bit of their pain. Even a secondary character brought me to tears several times.

I have read quite a few books by Ms. Laurence and truly enjoy her writing, but this one is her absolute best. The present-day issues and emotional journey will stay with me for a long time to come.

You can find more of my reviews of Ms. Laurence’s books under the Author Spotlight tab.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

Inappropriately Yours by Cara Dee – Guest Review by Judi Wile

Inappropriately Yours by Cara Dee

Inappropriately Yours Cover

Guest review by Judi Wile

5 out of 5 Stars

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

Inappropriately Yours makes me wonder if Ms. Dee felt this way as Isla did when she started writing her first books. Both father and daughter find love in Camassia Cove. I really enjoyed getting to read 2 parts, one with Jack and Isla’s love story and one with Isla’s father Aiden and Chloe’s love story. I also loved getting points of view from each character involved.

A beautiful heart-warming story of love and devotion, of family and compassion, of understanding and acceptance with a HEA. Great story-line and characters. The angst in this book is low, sometimes you just need to read a mushy love story that makes you swoon. The ending just gives you this goofy smile.

Ms. Dee’s writing has always been incredible to me for years. She seems to just know how to keep the reader excited to read the next chapter until the end. I can’t wait to read more about the characters in Camassia Cove.

Thanks to Rach for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing book.

You can find more reviews of Ms. Dee’s books under the Author Spotlight tab.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 gr-icon
Happy reading!

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.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

Title Cover

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.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 gr-icon
Happy reading!

Rach

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

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

Cade’s Loss Cover

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.

Book Links:

amazon-logo-80x80 bn-logo-80x80 itunes-icon kobo-buy-80x80 gr-icon

Happy reading!

Rach