Book Review: General Fiction

Book Review: A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur

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A Charm of Finches (Venery, #2)A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there were ever a review that I found difficult to write, it would be for a book written by Suanne Laqueur… simply because she is such a phenomenal writer, and I know I will never do it justice. A Charm of Finches is the second in the Venery series, and the second book I’ve read from the author to date. While nothing will ever surpass the first one, this comes very close. This is not a book for everyone. It addresses many topics which will be awkward, painful, invasive, and too raw for those who prefer something lighthearted. But at the same time, Laqueur is such an intense and powerful writer, every moment is packed with beauty and emotion that will make any and all readers cry. If you do not bawl while reading this, you need to speak with someone about getting your tear ducts repaired.

Okay, the facts: a multi-day gang rape of a young teenage boy, death of someone’s family, survival after Auschwitz, divorce, suicide attempts, new love, discovery of homosexuality, addressing fears head on, psychology / art therapy for the truly physically and mentally abused… BUT, forget what the story deals with and focus on the path that our beautiful and tragic characters take to climb deep into a hole and thrust themselves through the pain to find the one ray of shining hope. It doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t always happen. But when it does, your heart will feel such an immensity of relief, you don’t ever want to put the book down.

But you have to. Not because it’s not a page-turner. It absolutely is. But you can only handle so much reality at once. I might never complain about anything again after seeing what others have gone through. While some of this is fiction, there is a huge component of truth. This has happened to people. Probably people you’ve met. But you never knew. And now, an amazing author can deliver it, and while what Laqueur has dropped in our laps, though some of the best writing I’ve read in years, is probably minor compared to what victims truly experienced. Laqueur has given us gift in this series… a way to understand people we might not know in person.

It’s not all emotionally-wrecking behavior. There are moments of levity. Laqueur captures those early new relationship feelings when we don’t trust ourselves that someone can love us. She highlights what we do wrong and what we do right when trying to share our love through both physical and mental methods. Whether she’s comparing fellow members of a rape-survival group to the Easter Island statues protecting us from anyone getting in or out, to the flight of a finch or a lark, you will connect with this author.

The only reason someone shouldn’t read the book, or doesn’t like it, is if he or she can’t handle the topics. Other than that, this is a finely crafted, must-read book for true literary fiction fans who can immerse themselves in the world of people you will grow to love like family. But do it the right way… buddy read it with a friend, like I did. Nina and I carried each other through this book for a few days. Almost chatting like two awkward teenagers who share a language no one else understands. It was the words we didn’t say that explained our mutual feelings… and that’s exactly what happens in the book, too… it’s what the author purposely doesn’t say that shows how awesome she is and how she should be on the top of the charts for all to see. I don’t often praise this highly, but this is a series that I will never forget, and I will always recommend.

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BTW, thank you to Sophie @ Beware of the Reader for recommending this book — she has changed my life!

Check out The Cozy Pages review to see what Nina thought of our buddy read!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: What’s in a Name? (Volume 2) by Sally Cronin

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What's in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and RomanceWhat’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes the second book in a series or multi-volume collection of short stories doesn’t live up to the first. I can say with certainty that’s not the case with volume 2 of ‘What’s in a Name?’ by Sally Cronin. In this collection of stories of life and romance, following names that start with the letters K through Z, Cronin delivers a plethora of immersive, delightful, and intense characters.

I truly don’t know how she manages to pack such distinct and complex drama in a story that’s usually under ten pages. From the first few lines to the closing words, I was drawn in by each of the tales in this collection. There is something about the power an author chooses in certain words which helps create the proper ambiance for a setting, draw out the intrigue in the plot, and ignite a reader’s passions.

From the descriptions to the connections between a few of the stories (not in terms of characters but themes and approaches to decisions), Cronin provides us with a bevy of situations to consider… how would we react if such a problem found its way into our lives? Would we get revenge? What kind of sacrifices could we live with? What does love mean when it comes with strings?

I highly recommend both collections, as you’ll see some growth and evolution from volume one to two. Now I’ll have to look over her canon of other books to see what might be something else I want to read.

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In case you missed last week’s review of volume 1, check it out here.

ABOUT SALLY CRONIN -- Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.
My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-me/

Her Latest book: Tales from the Irish Garden
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
MeWe: mewe.com/i/sallycronin

Book Review: What’s in a Name? (Volume 1) by Sally Cronin

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What's in a Name?What’s in a Name? by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are many topics that will draw my attention to a book. In Sally Cronin’s collection ‘What’s in a name?’ I found a whole bunch that piqued my curiosity: short stories, genealogy, and how first names are chosen. On top of that, it’s the first volume in this series, which means I have another to read soon. Now this made my weekend!

Cronin shares ~20 short stories covering the letters A through J in volume one. She lists a male and a female name for each letter, then contributes a story ranging from five to ten pages each. Short, but not simple, and I mean that in a good way. Cronin packs an immense amount into each brief tale… whether it’s personality traits, complex plots, or comparisons between two people over different periods of time, I found everything from nuggets of glory to hilarious banter.

One of my favorite aspects of this work was the varying time frames, locations, and genres of each short story. Cronin deals with normal life events, everything from death to pregnancy, marriage to sickness. How she manages to pack such a punch with so many characters in so few pages is astonishing! I kinda want a sequel to cover what ends up happening to many of the people we’ve met.

If you’re looking for something fun, clever, and easy-to-digest in short samples, this is definitely for you. I recommend it for those interested in learning about how personalities sometime echo the name chosen for an individual… and perhaps vice versa. Kudos to the author for finding a new fan… and I’ll be reading volume two next month, so be prepared!

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Book Review: Focus Lost by Doug Cooper

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Focus LostFocus Lost by Doug Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doug Cooper is not afraid of a challenge when it comes to his plots and characters. In his latest book, Focus Lost, due to be released next month (yes, I got an early copy!), he tackles another set of complex human emotions that many of us have experienced but usually only in the privacy of our own immediate life circle. Add the fame and fortune of the art world and Hollywood, then you’re entire existence is on display for the public and your ‘adoring’ fans to admire, impugn, and question. And Cooper gets it all right in this intense ride.

The three central characters–Levi, Eva, and Gabe–represent the actor, the agent, and the artist. Yes, they represent a whole lot more, but in this case, we’ll start there. Gabe’s a photographer who accidentally takes a few photos of Levi and his 17-year-old film co-star having a romp on the beach. Given Levi’s in his 30s and playing her father in the next movie, it’s quite compromising. Gabe’s sister sees the photos and decides to take action. Eva, Levi’s agent, is called upon to find the photos. Thus, an elaborate scheme has begun, except… it actually began much further back. You’ll have to read to find out what I mean by that.

All three of our main characters have siblings or parental figures who met some sort of tragedy. They’re bound together in a way without knowing it. Levi’s younger co-star has an odd reaction to the photos becoming public, what game is she playing? Eva plays both sides against one another, what’s she truly after? Gabe appears to be innocent but makes a few less-than-proper decisions, what is really going on? Ultimately, Gabe’s sister is the one we should all feel the emotional tugs for. She may have done something wrong, but it was for the right reason, and she’s just a teenage girl who hasn’t had enough life experience yet to know the implications of her actions. Eva should know better, but she’s had some painful experiences that have taught her to look out for number one. Levi, while he’s suffered, is your true stereotype of a golden boy-turned-egomaniac. But he’ll surprise you with his final play near the end of the book. I wasn’t expecting some of his decisions!

By now, you either love this plot or know it’s not for you. I’d urge you to give it a chance as you will see a different side of life, but it also has a sentimentality running through the story and the words like a small stream that will eventually open into a large body of water. In other books I’ve read by Cooper, he tackles sex, drugs, and the intensity of the partying lifestyle. While there are touches of those elements in here, it’s more driven by an inner desire to succeed despite what hand life has dealt you. The characters aren’t very likable, but they’re not meant to be. They’ve been jaded for years, and Cooper drops tons of memories and past events to show us what’s made them who they are today. Between the author’s descriptions and his actions, I felt fully engaged and connected with the characters’ choices. Agreeing with them is a different thing. That’s solid writing!

I found myself unable to put the book down on several occasions. Each chapter builds upon the last by showing us what’s unfolding in the primary characters’ mindsets. Since we follow a few of them around, we know when they’re making wrong decisions based on what someone else has just done. But we can’t stop them. We’re drawn in at this point. We are invested. Well-crafted and clever are the two words that quickly come to mind about this book. We’d all like to say we wouldn’t change when fame knocks on our door, but is that a true statement? How far would you go to protect your reputation or survive in a society that quickly shreds you for the littlest of mistakes?

Kudos to Cooper. Definitely my favorite of his books so far. I’m glad to get in early on this one and spread the word. High-recommendation!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Patch: United States Marshal: Wanted Dead by Russ Towne

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Patch: United States Marshal: Wanted Dead: A Classic New Western Action Adventure From The Author of Patch: United States Marshal: Wanted Dead: A Classic New Western Action Adventure From The Author of “A Bullet In The Neck” by Russ Towne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Russ Towne has found another genre to excel in. I’ve read a few of his books in the past, including one other Western, but this new book–part of a future series about US Marshal Patch Elkins–is a winner. At ~150 pages, it chronicles the US Marshall’s life as he navigates the ‘territory’ to bring in criminals. Unfortunately, there’s a price on more than just the criminals’ heads this time…

My favorite aspect of this book is how much the story tells ‘above and beyond’ the words, for instance… life was insane back in the ‘old days’ of Western adventures. No cars, minimal maps, changing territorial boundaries, it took days to spread the word about outlaw problems via newspapers, it might take a month before someone found a dead body, etc. By reading this book, I actually realized what life was like for a US Marshal during those days. People died in tragedies all the time, just like they do now, but we didn’t hear about it the second it occurred in the days of long ago.

When an author can push you to think beyond ‘what you know,’ you’ve found someone fantastic. Towne’s style is easy-to-read, informative, and reflective. While being an outlaw and traveling by horseback across a territory can be intense, the book is not a totally dark and instructional take on this type of life. It’s not light and fluffy either. There’s a balanced equilibrium where we see love, blood, fighting, anger, death, and hope. Towne shows us how two strangers can bond, how a young teen needs a role model, how what’s fair doesn’t always occur, and how a man with an injury can still protect himself and the country.

I’m excited to see how this series develops. Kudos on an excellent book for a non-typical reader. View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Legacy of the Tropics by Mary Deal

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Legacy of the TropicsLegacy of the Tropics by Mary Deal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every once in a while, you come across an author who can write across multiple genres and make it seem like an incredibly easy task. Mary Deal is one of those not-so-frequent-few who can deliver romance, mystery, thriller, historical, and contemporary all throughout a wide variety of settings. Legacy of the Tropics is my fifth read from her growing literary works, and while I’m not sure if it’s my favorite yet, it is definitely in the top two or three of what she’s produced. At a 50-foot glance, it’s a collection of three short novellas (~90 pages each) revolving around weather impacts in those lush and beautiful (not always serene) beach locations many of us adore. While each of the stories are stand-alone, and the first two are completely separate, there is a connection between the characters in the third story which was a beautiful surprise.

One of the facets of Deal’s work I’ve grown quite fond of is her ability to incorporate detailed histories of her characters all throughout the text without overwhelming the reader. Sometimes it’s a few pages, others it’s just a line here and there. By the end, you’re fully immersed in someone’s struggle or plight, rooting for him or her like no one before. In all three stories, weather plays a huge and dramatic role. At first, it’s a freak storm impacting a boat at sea off the cost of Puerto Rico, then it’s an unexpected rip tide on a beach in Hawaii. I’ve been to both places and she instantly brought me back there. By the third, a powerful hurricane wrecks havoc on an already burdened set of inhabitants and characters we’ve come to know. Deal knows how to toy with your emotions… whether it’s making you want to reach thru the pages to save the victim yourself, cry when someone unexpectedly takes a turn for the worse, or shout with strength when it appears a reward might finally happen. But it’s never over when Deal’s at the helm. Just when you think things are looking brighter, she drops the truly big one on you! Every possible conflict appears among these stories.

Deal’s knowledge of these places and various water-related incidents is vast and descriptive. You will feel (1) stuck in the middle of an ocean with little hope for survival, (2) as if you’re being lifted by 100 mph winds into the air as a roof is ripped off your house, or (3) the jitters when a sea creature begins attacking your legs just because it wants to toy with you. Between the ocean-life and real-life in between the words of these 3 stories, be prepared for emotion, knowledge, and shock. I expected to read one story for the next 3 days. Instead, I read 1 last night and 2 first thing this morning… and I still want more. What a fantastic way to share a common theme and experience. Awesome work, Deal!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A World Without Color by Bernard Jan

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A World Without Color: A True Story Of the Last Three Days With My CatA World Without Color: A True Story Of the Last Three Days With My Cat by Bernard Jan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you lose a cherished pet, sometimes the loss is so inexplicable, all you can do is cry. When I had to let go of my ten-year-old shiba inu just about a year ago, it was a painful 2-week process. It is nearly impossible to put into words for most people how you go about making the decision to end an animal’s pain, begin your own, and suffer the consequences. Not impossible tho, as proven by Bernard Jan in the second book of his I’ve read this year. Jan lost his beloved cat, Marcel, and shares the emotional turmoil he encountered throughout the process.

This book is ~100 pages covering the three days when Jan and his family know they have to say goodbye. His words and imagery are stellar… honestly… he captures all those emotions pet-parents go through trying to rationalize our decisions, understand the whys, convince ourselves we will be okay, and determine how or if we can lean on anyone around us. By showcasing Marcel’s movements and struggles, we see the pain Jan’s family has gone through. It is visceral and constant. It is harsh and definitive. It is widespread and menacing.

I had to put the book down several times as it brought me to tears thinking of my own pet loss this year. Jan is brave. He shares everything from the moment he adopted the cat to the treasures of their ~15 year life together. As a younger guy suffering through this, he’s developing all his emotions and reactions to something he’s truly not ready to handle. I say this not because Jan’s not strong enough (he is), but because this is one of his earliest life experiences dealing with death. It is never easy. But to write about it and share those feelings, notions, worries, and sighs of relief when it’s all over (even tho it really isn’t) is remarkable.

Translated into English, the creators of this version are masterful in their descriptions. The comparisons… similes… references… moments… all bring readers to experience as closely as possible what the author experienced. If you’ve never gone thru it, it’s probably not fully apparent. Human loss is different… agreeably more harsh in most circumstances, but when your pet cannot talk to tell you what kind of pain they have, you are the sole person responsible for deciding how to help them.

I felt the intensity from Jan’s writing, and I recommend this for anyone who has a pet and/or is coping with [or the potential] loss. It might not be a good idea to read it as you’re going thru it depending on what kind of person you are and how you handle grief, but it’s something you should read when you are starting to recover. Thank you for sharing this truly humbling work, Bernard Jan.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.