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 five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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 Stranger in France by Kim Knight

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Love comes in all forms. Sometimes you fall in love, then out of love. It happens. As it did in A Stranger in France by Kim Knight. Kate is a wonderful heroine. Unfortunately, she’s emotionally abused by an alcoholic husband. When he pushes her beyond reason, she escapes to France to visit a good friend. She meets a stranger and falls in love. Everything becomes quite wonderful quite quickly. But then it gets a little complicated. She wants out of her marriage. She wants to love her new boyfriend. Can she make it work? If she can’t, I’ll take ’em!

I’m not a romance reader. This book might change my mind. Knight builds a beautiful character in Kate, and I believe her journey and approach to how she wants to fix her life. I’m sad when she encounters trouble. I’m happy when she wins. It happens a lot and then Kate worries it’s not all real, but Knight made me a believer. Is there truly a prince charming (or princess!) out there for all of us? The thriller and mystery buff in me waited for the shoe to fall… I won’t say if/when/how it does. But… you’ll have to read to know.

Knight created a series of scenes and events that easily make you attached to her characters. For story and hope alone, I gave this 5 stars. But it’s quite a solid book and will bring lots of joy and curiosity to many. I like the casual yet structured style between phone calls, letters, text messages and emails. It is modern but old-fashioned. I love a fairy tale ending. I wish I could tell you if we got one here, but that’d be spoiling the story, wouldn’t it?

Kudos to Knight for telling a wonderful story. I must check out more of her work now!


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.

Review: And a Nightingale Sang…

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And a Nightingale Sang...Book Review
3 out of 5 stars to And a Nightingale Sang…, a play written in 1981 by Cecil P. Taylor.

When a man is torn between two women whom he loves, he cannot help but hurt at least one of them. In C. P. Taylor’s play “And a Nightingale Sang,” the character of Norman found himself deeply embedded in the predicament of having two such loves. When he finally made a decision about his feelings for the two women, Norman was forced to disappoint Helen, the woman whom he truly loved. Norman took on an excess of blame due to his choice, which made him look like a pathetic two-timer, when he was only trying to make the best out of a situation that happens to most people at some point in their life. Norman, being afraid of dying without love, did the best that he could, which is all anyone is humanly possible of doing.

After Helen and Norman got over their first few emotional encounters, the two paramours began to meet in the park. When Helen and Norman became close enough to take the next step in their relationship, it was revealed that Norman was already married to another woman. Norman claimed to no longer want to stay married to, nor love, his first wife. However, due to religious beliefs and society’s impact on love, Norman couldn’t end his marriage to his wife. Helen heroically suggested that they should get a small cottage together, which meant that they could be happy together when Norman was on leave from the war. His wife would never need to know what happened to him. However, a few problems soon caught up with Helen and Norman.

Norman’s guilt eventually wore him down, prompting him to reveal to Helen that he had still been going to see his first wife on his leaves from the war. To make matters worse, Norman and his wife had slept together and created a baby while he was still courting Helen. Helen was utterly devastated, but stood strong to get through the tragedy. Norman felt horrible, but his marriage wasn’t what is seemed to be, which was why he was able to still court Helen. He had been very young when he was drafted into World War II. At the time, he looked upon the entrance into the war as his march to death. Norman never wanted to die without the love of a good woman. When he was drafted, he didn’t have time to find love, which led to his shaky marriage with his first wife. It was never a marriage of great love, rather one of quick decision and great friendship. He loved his wife, but it was never a love that was matched with chemistry and lust.

Norman went to war as a boy, but returned as a man. Norman found real love when he visited Helen, which is why he kept pursuing her despite his marital status. Norman was just like any other man (or woman) on the planet. He simply wanted to be in love with someone who loved him back. Helen complemented him perfectly, which is why they couldn’t help but fall for each other. They were a perfect match, but they were not made to remain together. Norman never went after Helen with the intention of hurting her, but that was what came out of their relationship. Norman tried his best to let the guilt over his first wife go, but he felt an obligation to the past and to his duties, which was a respectable move in his case. He may have had some type of love for his first wife, but it was never comparable to the love he felt for/with Helen. After thinking over his life, Norman, as a man who had seen the effects of war, realized that he had to fulfill a man’s duties. He was married to his first wife, which meant that he had to support her. When Norman told Helen that he was leaving her and never coming back, she was strong enough to handle the situation. Helen had gained a strength from Norman and their relationship. He was only making up for his past mistakes and taking care of his duties as a husband and a father. Norman was a good man who had just strayed off course for a little while. He was afraid of dying without love, which is why he made the rash decision to get married despite being not truly in love with the woman. He cannot be faulted for being afraid for this. Many men (and women) have been in this position before.

Norman and Helen were a match made in heaven, but often things aren’t meant to be. The two lovers found love for a short while, but Norman belonged with his first wife and child. He never meant to make a huge mess of the situation, but he was human. He wanted to find love before he died, just like every other person on this planet. He cannot be faulted for trying to succeed at life. Helen was just caught up in the grand scheme of things, suffering some in the end. However, Helen too, will come out of this a stronger person. The follies of love are simply a force that constantly alters one’s state of mind, forcing humans to succumb to their passions. It’s just one of the punches humankind has to deal with on a daily basis. Norman, his wife, and Helen were three of these people who were forced to play a role in the follies.

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write 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 also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can 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. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 33 – Strong

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Strong: having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks, or able to withstand great pressure

I wonder if we have mis-used the word ‘strong’ during everyday conversation, or perhaps it is just me. I often use the word strong to mean mentally capable of handling a lot. I suppose that would fall under “great pressure,” but it makes me wonder how words change their meaning over the years… but not to get too far off topic, I did intend today’s word to meet the definition I used above. And I plan to cover both the physical aspects and the “pressure” aspects of it, especially since I said I would several posts ago.

Why am I physically strong?

I am not a bodybuilder. I am not a sports guy. I do go to the gym, but I don’t always know what I’m doing. I’ve had a personal trainer. I am persistent. Somehow, through all these things, I have actually been able to stay in fairly good shape.

I debated whether to post of a recent photo of me at the gym or the beach, where there’d be some proof that I actually am in good shape. Then I thought about it… that might be a little too vain… a little too cocky… a little too over-selling it. 😛 If necessary, I believe there are a few pictures on my social media accounts where you’d be able to see for yourself. And that’s assuming you even care.

But my point here… is that I feel I am strong. No, I’m not counting how much I can bench press. No, I don’t know the names of each of the muscles and which ones are my best features. But I am proud of myself for working out as much as I have over the years. Someone needs to be! And since I do eat all those desserts and drink a bit more than I should from time to time, and I’m now 40, I gotta do something to at least balance it all out. I’ll never be the perfect prime conditioned body model (is that what they’re called?) but I look good.

I didn’t always workout.  I played some baseball and soccer in grammar and middle school. I bowled in high school. I started taking a few classes when I went off to Moravian College in 1995, where they required 1 physical activity course for each semester. This was a fantastic idea: required physical education courses. Not everyone would agree, but I think it makes for a more balanced lifestyle. Nonetheless, I didn’t play sports, so I went for the classes where I could do things on my own and still ask questions if I wanted to. I hated those group activities. 🙂

And ever since then, I’ve pushed myself to workout.  There have been a few years where I only went to the gym once or twice a month. When I lived in the suburbs, I bought all the equipment for a spare room and used it almost daily. For one year, I took all the extra supplements. (Legal and healthy ones… don’t get any bad ideas… I know how YOU think!) Now that I live in NYC, and I have a gym in my building, it’s a lot easier. I get there at least 4 times per week, alternating between weights and cardio.

And in the end, I feel strong. I feel great when I have a powerful workout. (Not that it gives me the energy to go do more, as in a previous post, I said it didn’t…) It makes me feel like I could defend myself if I needed to. I could keep up with the young ones. I might even get a second, third and fourth look at the beach. Woo Hoo! Goals in life have been met. Ha! I’m amusing this morning.

But the strength I am talking about is being in touch with my body, knowing my limits, understanding my capabilities. Being able to look at a set of weights and challenge myself to add 5 pounds extra the next time. Upping the level by one on the cardio machine or extending an extra three minutes to really push myself. I am strong and I know it… except for those two annoying spots called mini-love handles, which won’t go away. And all because I won’t cut the fat out of my diet. Grr…

Why am I mentally strong?

Life is hard. People hurt you. Things don’t go your way. But I’ve been blessed with the ability to control my thoughts and actions with enough strength that I can lead a healthy, happy and open life. Not everyone wakes up each day and feels good about themselves. Whether it’s an awful prior experience, a chemical or blood issue, or even just depression, a large part of the population struggles to get through life. I’ve certainly had some moments where I wasn’t too keen on myself or what was going on, but in general, I’m pretty blessed with a strong mind and the will to go on. And I’m thankful for it.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had days where I watched sappy movies and cried to a friend. Or that I didn’t sit in the dark for hours, wishing it all to go away. We all have moments like that, but it’s important to find your way out of it… and towards something better. Maybe that’s part of the goal of this 365 Daily Challenge: to help provide more strength for my future, and perhaps anyone reading it, too.

An unusual post for me today… but I feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Demonstrate why I am strong, saving why I am weak for another day. 😛

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post.


“Watching a Glass Shatter” – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 “Who is Olivia Glass?” has been released and the widow reacts to her husband’s untimely death prior to sitting for the reading of the will.  What secrets are going to come out?

Summary:  The wealthy Glass family has lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons prepare for the will reading in their own way but Olivia receives a very unexpected confession via a letter from her late husband that will shatter the whole family: one of their 5 boys is not really their biological son. Prior to revealing what Ben put in the letter, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past.  Olivia visits each son with the expectation she will reveal the newly learned family secret while with each son but when she arrives, Olivia learns that her sons have each been keeping a secret from her.

In this family drama, Olivia and her sons are on a quest to determine the course of their life without Ben.  Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life altering.  As she spends time with each son, she gets a clearer picture of what she needs to do. By the final visit, Olivia is ready to move forward but will her family ever be the same?

Chapter 1 – Who was Benjamin Glass?

Chapter 2 – Who was Olivia Glass?


“Watching a Glass Shatter” – 9 Chapters Drafted

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The story spoke to me this week and pushed me to draft 5 additional chapters each focusing on one of the five sons to patriarch Benjamin Glass who passed away in chapter 1.  Each son is unique, has his own story to tell and comes away from this loss with a sense of burden and potential. Widow and mother Olivia learns tolerance and forgiveness.

Mapping characters and their feelings to a storyline can be a challenge.  You want to reveal the right amount of details early on but you also want to hold back some of the emotional content until your readers are invested in the drama.

I believe I’ve found balance in these chapters and will move on to editing next month.  But for now, I have 21 more chapters to complete in this story.  Off we go…

Click here for a sample.


“Watching a Glass Shatter” – Writing of a Funeral and a Will Reading

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I drafted two new chapters in my novel “Watching a Glass Shatter” today.  Chapter 2 was the widow’s view on the funeral and Chapter 3 was the reading of the late husband’s will where she learns a shocking secret.

The secret while a bit of a game changer was not the hardest part.  It was the letter I had to write that the husband leaves the wife.  I poured emotion into it trying to convey both the heartache behind dying and the the pain of the choice he made years ago.

I internalized it and I feel the weight of the story on my shoulders now.  It’s temporary,  but it is still powerful. I feel good about these chapters.It encourages me to continue with this story.

I feel the characters are powerfully depicted but I of course wrote them so I’d hope I feel that way.  I’ll be curious what others think if I post anything.

Progress was good today. 🙂