Review: Keepsake (True North, Book 3) by Sarina Bowen

Review: Keepsake (True North, Book 3) by Sarina BowenSeries:
Narrator: Erin Spencer, Teddy Hamilton
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Title: Keepsake by Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #3
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Pages: 326 • Format: Audiobook (10hrs, 8mins)
Published By: Rennie Road Books
Purchase Links: Amazon US Barnes & Noble

There’s a first time for everything.

Lark Wainright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he’s good for much more than farm labor.

four-stars

I enjoyed this book as much as I did the previous one. It had family, damaged characters and the readers finally got to find out Zachariah. Lark and Zach were a great match together. Both characters were at the Shipley Farm in Vermont looking for a safe haven. Zach and Lark were trying to heal from past hurts, so it was so sweet to watch the evolution of the characters.

I am glad that we didn’t know wild child Lark as I am not sure that I would have liked her. However, she was the carrot that drew Zachary out of his cocoon. They were sweet and tender with each other and their connection was intense.

In addition to the romance, I love the tidbits we learn about farming, cider and apples. I never gave much thought to the choices farmers make but it seems to be such an interesting process. I also love the Griff’s family and how accepting they are of everyone around them.

The writing is smooth, entertaining and completely engaging. I really enjoyed this book as well as the series overall. I loved the ending to this story.

 

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

Tempting Tristan (Harborside Nights #3) by Melissa Foster @TastyBookTours @Melissa_Foster

Tempting Tristan Book Cover Tempting Tristan
Harborside Nights #3
Melissa Foster
Gay Romance; Contemporary Romance
EverAfter Romance
October 19th 2016
e-arc
306

                               

                                   TRISTAN AND ALEX

Fresh off the heels of yet another bad relationship, Tristan Brewer is taking a break from men to try to figure out where he keeps going wrong. He knows his biggest fault—he leads with his heart, not his head—and that’s never going to change. But after several introspective weeks, he’s beginning to get a handle on things. That is, until badass heartthrob Alex Wells walks into his bar...

Alex has spent eight years in the army, months in a hospital bed, and far too long hiding his sexual identity. He’s guilt-ridden, damaged, pissed off, and up for a Silver Star for the incident that nearly cost him his life—and kept him from his grandmother’s funeral. But all he wants to do is live the life he’s always dreamed of and forget his stint with the institution that allows but doesn’t necessarily accept.

The chemistry between Tristan and Alex ignites from the moment they meet, and the more time they spend together, the hotter the flames burn. But the closer they become, the more Alex's walls go up, and when the two walk onto a military base, Tristan finds out Alex’s physical scars aren’t the ones that run the deepest.

Tristan Brewer was a bartender, working hard to move on from a bad break up when a mystery man came riding in on a bike. Once the biker Alex Wells spoke to Tristan, it was clear that Tristan’s current vow of staying away from men would not last
I like this story but it didn’t move me like I expected. It’s a story about two men struggling to heal from past wounds and find wholeness again. Tristan and Alex had some esteem issues that kept them from letting the other in, but as both guys reminisced about Alex’s grandmother, the walls around their hearts began to crumble. It just happened really fast.
One thing that I loved about Tristan was that he was definite about what he wanted in any relationship going forward. Tristan communicated clearly and had no qualms about being known as the “female” since he was in touch with his emotions. Alex was impressive as a character because he grew the most. Alex didn’t want to hide his sexuality after eight years in the military and it was sad to see how much the denial damaged his spirit.
Tristan and Alex’s journey of self-acceptance and learning to trust others was made easier by their attraction to each other.  I felt that Tristan capitulated quickly when it came to his declaration of abstaining until he got exactly what he wanted in a relationship. Tristan fell into his old patterns of compromising while hoping the new partner Alex will eventually give Tristan the emotional connection he craved.
I loved that Tristan wanted monogamy and someone to share his life with. I disliked the fact that Tristan was teased and called a “lesbian”. There was a good amount of sex in this book and there was a good amount of actual communication between the characters. Overall, I found the book enjoyable and plan on reading the prior books in this series.

The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden

The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFaddenon 2016-04-11
Pages: 400
AmazonNarrator: Robin Miles
During World War II, two African American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he becomes a musician. Soon, Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are lured across the Atlantic Ocean to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians.

When the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. The experience irreparably changes the course of Harlan’s life.

Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden’s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden’s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.

Wow. I almost quit this book but I am glad I didn’t. This book is really touched my soul. I have never given much thought to black people in the context of World War II period as most of the narrative revolves around the Jewish Experience. This is the most detailed accounting I’ve personally read about a real black person captured and sent to a concentration camp.

Harlan Elliot grew up in that 1920’s period where music was going through a revolution. Harlan, his best friend Leo “Lizard” Rubenstein “and their bandmates got an opportunity to travel abroad to Paris and perform.

Harlan and Lizard were captured by the Nazi’s when Paris was invaded in 1940, and they were sent to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Five long years later Harlan made it out but Lizard didn’t survive and Harlan’s life was forever changed.
The latter half of Harlan’s story portrayed a wounded soul. This story was painful yet informative. Disturbing yet rousing. At times, I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t bring myself to halt. The author’s use of imagery and prose leaves the reader feeling raw at times, but also mesmerized with the portrayal of the period’s musicality.

There were other subplots in this story but Harlan’s experience was the centerpiece. It was written with care and I was left astonished by the time I was done. This is Historical Fiction done well. I appreciate the author sharing this story and giving voice to a marginalized segment of the 1920-40’s era. This book wasn’t a flowers and candy read, but it was engaging, informative and inspirational.

*Special Thanks to Perseus/PGW/Legato via by Edelweiss for the e-arc given in exchange for an honest review.

Werewolves of Chernobyl by K.A. Merikan and L.A. Witt

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

WerewolvesofChernobyl-f-400Werewolves of Chernobyl by K.A. Merikan and L.A. Witt
Release Date: May 5, 2016
Pages: 214 • Format: eARC
Published By: Wing & Fang Press
Purchase Link:
Amazon 

Being kidnapped by two werewolves is an adventure after all, right? Right?! —

Quinn

If Quinn wants to get the best photos for his travel blog, no gate is too tall, and no ‘do not enter’ sign actually means he won’t go in. What he finds in a hidden exclusion zone by Chernobyl blows his mind. Mutants? Monsters? He doesn’t know, but he is bound to find out when not one but two of them break into his hotel.
Too bad the rules and attitudes they have toward sex don’t match Quinn’s at all.

Dima

Born with a disabled hand, smaller than the other werewolves, Dima is the lowest of the low in his pack, but when he meets the loveliest human he’s ever seen, he knows his luck has changed.
The last thing he expects though is his beloved friend Nazar turning on him once Dima’s affection for Quinn deepens, and he refuses to be mounted by Nazar anymore.

Nazar

Nazar is a high ranking soldier in his pack, but in his powerful body hides a gentle soul, and all he wants is to escape the pack with Dima. But once Dima claims Quinn as his, secrets Nazar has so far kept hidden rear their ugly head.

The werewolf language doesn’t have words to describe what they crave, so Quinn might be the only one to help them solve the puzzle of the desires that go against the rules of their pack.

four-half-stars

I don’t know where to start with this or how to even say what I want to about this book. I mean, when I saw the book it looked good but then I saw the Pinterest board for it and I won’t lie, I drooled. I mean, the image inspiration for Quinn was enough to get me going – I’m a sucker for hipsters – and then you have Nazar and Dima? Yeah, sign me up for this ASAP.

But then… I started reading and I had to stop reading to google a few things and I learned about a new form of werewolf called a bodark and then I had to stop again and consider what I pretty much knew was going to happen. Well, I can tell you I decided to keep reading and holy mother effing cow, what I thought would happen, did happen and oh boy, was it hot. Like ridiculously hot to the point I should probably be ashamed that I found it so hot but screw it, I own all my kinks and this is just a new one I’ve found. Oh and yeah, there is KNOTTING in this book and be prepared, it’s pretty hot. Have I mentioned this was hot yet? Just making sure.

Now I have always said that any subject can be read as long as you have a good writer and I didn’t just have one in this story, I had three and I had three different POV’s that I adored.

We meet Quinn while on a tour of Chernobyl, the horrible nuclear power plant in Pripyat (then in Russia which is now Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union) that housed on of the worst nuclear accidents in history. The tour guides strongly insist that no one go to black zones on the map but Quinn, he is all about the anarchy and arrogance with being told what to do so… yup, he goes to that area. While there, he comes upon a creature, something he has never seen before as it appears to be a wolf, yet it’s also a biped though strangely, hunched over. But this creature is curious also so Quinn and it, well they have a moment. I am going to say how I really wanted the creature to shift when Quinn shared a treat with him but that’s just because I have seen too many commercials and my brain is a wacked place to be.

Anyway.

We get to meet the creature, aka Dima, and from the first line of his POV I fell hard for him. There is so much in Dima right away that draws you to him, makes you want to champion him, cuddle him and later on, yeah you want to beg him to do things to you. But Dima, he is this soft-hearted bodark who was born with a lame arm that makes him think he is inferior. He is at the bottom of the pack and would be treated worse than he is if not for his friend and protector, Nazar.

Good lord, Nazar. How is it that we get these bodarks, these werewolves who walk on two legs and have tall the characteristics and mannerisms of wolves and yet I fell in love with them? We know from early on that Nazar, he feels more than friendship for Dima, he wants him in every way he can… except the one way he truly wants him but I won’t give that bit away. Nazar is head over heels for Dima and has always wanted to take him out of the hierarchy of wolves and be free. Free to be whom they want to one another without shame and it’s just so heartbreaking to me.

But when Dima tells Nazar he found a human, a human who was nice to him, who wanted him and who Dima now wants of course Nazar will do anything for his friend and off they go to get themselves a hipster to play with.

Goodness. I just adored the hell out of this. It was much sweeter than I had anticipated with the longing between Dima and Nazar and the complications that come into their relationship once they add Quinn to the mix. It was also witty and funny and downright sexy AF but it was also and engaging read that had me doing many searches on wolves of Chernobyl and yeah, imaging that some of the pictures were possible on Quinn’s blog. Don’t look at me like that! I suspended belief that a hipster would take a chance and leave everything he knows to be real when two freaking werewolves – one who talks – come into his room and want to hang out. So yeah, I will imagine it but really, watching the Radioactive Wolves Of Chernobyl, documentary had a different meaning after reading this.

Once again, I have said nothing with a whole lot of words but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love how we learn the dynamics of the bodarks in this seemed forgotten place and how they teach and learn from Quinn. How the three males learn to be with one another, learn to respect one another in a new way and learn to um… get it on with each other.  I loved how this book made me take a moment out of a poly romance story to look up an actual horrific event and even after finishing the book, take time to watch and learn more about the effects of the Chernobyl accident. But what I love most, is this book took me out of my comfort zone and wrapped me in warm furred arms and told me to just relax, because it’d be worth it.

Werewolves of Chernobyl was a great read about two bodark wolves who don’t know how to move from being parallel in their emotions until a third shows them a triad is the way to go. It’s a romantic story with bits of realism and slight engagement of humanities and injustices that are carried out without regard. It’s a story about being free, being authentic to your wants and it’s about love.

About K.A. Merikan

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

About L.A. Witt

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.

She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…

The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

WorstBadThing[The]LGThe Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk
Release Date: March 23, 2016
Pages: 123 • Format: eARC
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Purchase Links:
DreamspinnerAmazonARe

Iceland, Stonehenge, London, Paris….

To the casual observer, it looks like a dream trip. For Tate O’Reilly, it’s anything but. He’s a man on a mission to rectify a critical mistake, and there’s nothing to hold him back—certainly not friends or family. For Tate, it all comes down to one simple thing—he must fix what he has broken.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Gabriel Carillo. Gabriel is kind, mysterious, and seems to be on his own mission to ensure their paths keep crossing. But Tate’s hiding an awfully big secret—one he’s certain even Gabriel can’t forgive.
Does a man’s past have to determine his future? In the middle of cities filled with history, Tate is going to find out.
four-half-stars

This book is much deeper than I expected. I am not sure how much to divulge in this review but the first page, hits you hard and really makes you sit down and take notice. It makes you take notice and it intrigues you to know more.

* * * TRIGGER WARNING * * *

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View Spoiler »

We meet Tate O’Reilly on an Icelandic shuttle headed toward the Blue Lagoon. Tate seems to be on a vacation but that’s not really what he is doing. Tate is on a quest, a quest to attempt to make things better through a primary motivator, if only he can. On this shuttle, he meets the handsome and ridiculously charming Gabriel Carillo who takes it upon himself to infuse himself into Tate’s day

It was great how these two met. I liked that it was purely a “let me show you how cool this place is” to the men truly finding camaraderie with one another and wanting to explore that once they realize they are both headed to London and oh how sweet the flight to London was.  Sigh

Tate and Gabriel are wonderful tour guides. Taking us through first to bits of Iceland and the gorgeous Blue Lagoon that it felt like we were there with them. From touristy sites in London, to Stonehenge and even a ride on the London Eye, we experience these places as the men do and learn about who Tate and Gabriel are, just as they do. I love this way of storytelling though there is something the reader knows ahead of time and it’s the why of Tate is on this trip.

“But I don’t think it’s the same thing—what you’ve done and what I did.”

“Probably not… But it’s all ghosts and skeletons that live in our closets, no matter how they got there.”

I felt for Tate. I cannot imagine the worst bad thing that has made him take this “vacation.” Each time the reason is mentioned, each beginning to each day,  each time the thinks to the Tumblr page and how it would have been posted seeing, The Globe in London or any other landmark, I got sick to my stomach. I wondered how he would be able to tell Gabriel his secret and when.

Gabriel, I love that he had an instant attraction to Tate yet he took his time with it. He found someone during his work travels that he wanted to spend time with and took the attraction at an instinctual pace with Tate and I LOVE that he was the first person Tate called when, well when things happened.

We get a glimpse into the worst bad thing Tate was involved in before each day of his trip. It outlines not only the tragedy but it details the aftermath. I again, don’t know how to tell you what happened and if I do tell you would it be a spoiler… which I believe it would… so I won’t BUT you get it immediately and just, goodness. So much hurt.

Gabriel, he is a mystery when we meet him and yet as his feelings grow for Tate over the short but emotionally intense days they share, we get into his past as well. There is SO MUCH dark and intense emotion in this book that I am truly at a loss to describe it but it’s all so beautifully written.

Guilt is a strange thing.  I’ve felt it dividing me from others, constantly leaving me separated from all those who don’t carry its weight. And then there it is, all of the sudden, connecting me to this stranger I’ve only know for a few days. And the connection is stronger than any I’ve felt in years.

This book really makes you think about guilt and the right to move passed it and on with your life. It focuses on loss of life, even by accident, that burdens someone so much that they don’t know how to move forward and when they do, IF they feel happy for a moment and forget the past… are the allowed to feel that way? Ugh. This was such an emotional read for me. It went to places I didn’t expect and while the end was swift, I thought it was handled well.

The Worst Bad Thing, as I mentioned is a pretty dark and emotional read but under all of it there is a light of hope. A hope that the worst bad thing could lead to the best good thing you’ve ever found, if only you allow it to happen.

 

About J.E. Birk

J.E. Birk has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them since she was introduced to the alphabet. She hails from Colorado, where you can usually find her skiing, training for a 5K she won’t end up running, or trying to figure out why a good strong housecleaning never lasts longer than two days.