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REVIEW:  Wingspan by Karis Walsh

REVIEW: Wingspan by Karis Walsh

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When architect Kendall Pearson finds an injured osprey on her property, she expects to simply drop it off at a local wild bird rehabilitation center and be done with it. Quick and painless, like every other relationship she has. But wildlife biologist Bailey Chase has other plans for Ken. First, as surgical assistant, and second, as the designer for her new raptor sanctuary.

Bailey protects her privacy with the vigilance of a hawk, hiding in her rescue center where she has complete control over her life and her work. Isolated on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, she’s surrounded by natural beauty and plenty of solitude. Until sexy Ken Pearson walks in with a wounded bird and Bailey finds her life has been invaded by more than just an extra beak to feed.

Sometimes pain is invisible, and only love can soar over protective barriers and heal a wounded heart.

Dear Ms. Walsh,

I’ve mentioned in several of my past book reviews that I enjoy reading about characters with different hobbies, jobs, or careers. Since I turn into a big, old softie when I read about wild animal rehab efforts, I immediately requested a copy of your book when I saw it on Netgalley.

Kendall – known throughout the book as Ken – and Bailey are each wounded souls who have closed themselves off from the world. They are so separated from others it’s almost as if they’re surrounded by a force field, a brick wall and a moat.

Ken has submerged herself into looking like everyone else, acting like everyone else and seeking out girlfriends and lovers who fit the profile of whom an upwardly mobile, young professional lesbian should be seen with. Never mind if she feels stifled – the order of the day is Thou Shalt Not Stand Out. Yet every once in a while her actual personality insists on rearing its head as when she can’t resist the vintage Vette or the lovely piece of undeveloped property way out in the country.

Bailey has known since childhood that the world views her as an oddball. Her parents volatile marriage drove her into the woods around their home where she discovered a kinship with birds that she finally turned into her life’s vocation after graduation from Vet School. The world is welcome to bring her injured birds but after that she prefers that it go the hell away and leave her to do what she loves and does better than most.

The way these two are brought together is both realistic as well as an organic utilization of their professions. Ken finds an injured osprey on her property and Bailey is the closest as well as best rehabber around. Bailey has reluctantly accepted funding from the WSU Vet School but that also entails a new annex being built on her land to allow for students as well as interns being sent to work with her. When architect Ken gets assigned to design the new flight cages and building, the two are thrown together.

Ken’s and Bailey’s solo and joint journeys back from their strict isolation is fairly obviously laid out and followed through. Though it felt real and was handled well, there were almost no surprises along the way. Point B followed point A which lead to point C even as I guessed what would happen when the story reached section D. But that’s not to say the story is boring or badly written as I enjoyed reading about the struggles behind successfully helping injured birds – but I’ll pass on feeding an owlet mouse bits no matter how cute he might look – and the bursts of genius behind inspired buildings which are more than a box.

Bailey and Ken are central to the self change of the other – and I do like that each woman reached her own decision to begin to alter her life and accept love into it rather than being driven to it. Bailey is a bit more open to it but there were times when I wanted to shake Ken out of her martyrdom. It was also a bit too easy that one or two major confrontation was all that stood between these two finally coming to grips with their years long issues. I did enjoy the book but I just wish the storyline wasn’t quite so easy to see coming. C+/B-

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Broken Trails by D. Jordan Redhawk

REVIEW: Broken Trails by D. Jordan Redhawk

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Scotch Fuller has already run the Iditarod three times and is preparing for a fourth attempt. Her single-minded focus on the rigors of training allows her to forget the shocking loss of her lover in a tragedy for which she blames herself.

The only race Lainey Hughes runs is away from her past and into the bottom of a bottle. After a devastating injury in a war zone, she’s continued her photojournalist career in the natural beauty and warmth of Uganda. A trip to Alaska to cover dog sledding is not what she wants, but the lure of a paying gig proves too tempting.

Lainey trusts her camera and Scotch trusts her dogs—and neither cares much what the other thinks…not at first.

Dear Ms. Redhawk,

The description of your latest book had already caught my attention before I read the glowing review at Ladylike Book Club. Since I have a long time fascination with the Iditarod – ever since reading “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulson and “My Lead Dog was a Lesbian” (no, I’m not trying to be funny, that really is the title) by Brian Patrick O’Donaghue – I probably would have read it anyway but the other review sealed the deal.

From the blurb, I hadn’t realized that Lainey would end up running the race as a rookie or that so much time would be spend in months long preparation for the March race but this allowed for some in depth, behind the scenes insight into just how much effort goes into sled dog racing – tons – and how grueling it is for the mushers – unbelievable. By the time the race arrives, I was mentally exhausted.

But I was loving all the information. I enjoy a book where the characters are given unusual occupations or a unique event takes place and this book has both. Better still, instead of being mere window dressing, they are integral to the plot, well researched, and seamlessly integrated into the whole.

When the mushers and their dogs set off from Anchorage, the real endurance begins. Reading about Scotch’s efforts to win the race and Lainey’s to merely finish it, I truly understood that this race ain’t for sissies. If you’re not prepared, you could die. If you don’t take proper care of your team, you all could die. Worst of all, even if you do everything right, the conditions could still be enough to cause you to scratch after all that hard work. Or die. Being in Lainey’s head as she navigated and experienced the race was almost like being there but it also convinces me as nothing else could that following from home via the official race website is the way to go for me.

Ah, but where’s the romance? For the first third of the book, both Scotch and Lainey play the is-she-isn’t-she guessing game and lust a little as they’re dishing out dog chow and taking the dogs out on trail runs. The mental lusting never becomes as bad as some books I’ve read wherein the characters practically stand in a daze of drool. I do think readers should anticipate that the sexuality is low key for a good long time. When Scotch and Lainey do finally get a chance to jump each other’s bones, the jumping is delicious, sexy and nicely done but it takes a while to get there.

Scotch and Lainey also have other issues to deal with namely a disastrous past romance for Scotch and Lainey’s alcoholism. Of the two I felt the alcohol issue got more page time and attention. You don’t hesitate to show how addicted Lainey truly is, how it runs her life and how hard she denies it. As the book ends, each woman is coming to terms with her issue and things are looking up but I would like to have gotten more insight into the demon of Scotch’s past.

As an exploration of what goes into the training for the Iditarod – both for mushers and dogs – I think the book is great. As for the romance, I’m afraid that takes a back seat to the race so readers looking for a more even balance or a book heavy on the relationship will probably be disappointed. I like that not all the loose ends are tied up, that Lainey and Scotch both know there will be more work needed for their past and present issues but also that they’re committed to solving their problems and building a life together. B

~Jayne

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