Featured New Release of the Week: Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This week we look to an excellent tale of coming of age in the summer of 1969 – that only mentions one of the numerous events happening in the US that summer. This week, we’re looking at Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Well, y’all are. This is going up a few days early because I am leaving to meet up with a cruise ship and spend the week in the Caribbean. 😉

This was another strong book from Hyde, with quite a few individual dramas all interconnected via how they intersect with one teenager’s own life. Some school drama, some first romance drama, plenty of familial drama with two different characters impacted by service in Vietnam but also two separate couples having their own difficulties, a black sheep of an entire small town, and more. Overall this story, like so many of Hyde’s, comes down to the power of a caring community – and this is exactly where the book finds its power.

Truly a great story touching many difficult and sensitive topics with an adroitful grace, this is yet another that would work well on the silver screen. Very much recommended.

As always, the Amazon/ Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: No Hallow’s Eve by Kane Gilmour

Gilmour Again Makes Stoker Proud. In a bit of an ironic twist, I was reading this as my wife was watching one of her sparkly “vampire” movies. If you detest those as “not real vampires” as so many of us do, you’re going to love this tale where yet again Gilmour *finally* comes back with an old school Dracula tale that shows the Black Prince in all his glory – while actually setting in motion much grander plans. Gilmour has author’s notes at beginning and end explaining the delay since Crypt of Dracula was published 6 yrs ago and his future plans for hopefully 2020, and if all goes as planned fans of old school Dracula (among others) should be very pleased indeed. Very much recommended.

This review of No Hallow’s Eve by Kane Gilmour was originally written on November 30, 2019.

#BookReview: Dead End by Pandora Pine

A Cop A Week From Retirement. A Baby A Day After Being Kidnapped. When these two meet up, we get yet another excellent entry in Pandora Pine’s expansive Cold Case Psychic universe. Filled with further progression both professionally and personally for both Ronan and Tennyson, this story is yet again episodic in a long running universe – enough is explained in the text here that you won’t be lost starting here, if you don’t mind spoilers from previous books. Which is a balance that Pine is particularly skilled at. Very much recommended.

This review of Dead End by Pandora Pine was originally written on November 29, 2019.

Featured New Release of the Week: Tribe by Jeremy Robinson

This week we are looking at the latest electric release from the Modern Day Master of Science Fiction. This week, we are looking at Tribe by Jeremy Robinson.

I speak here somewhat frequently of my desire for authors to take risks, even within the confines of their own genre. And boy does Robinson do that in spades here – and yet they all work to combine to make the book so much better than the sum of its parts. He speaks of politics and religion – two areas he tends to not discuss with any level of commentary even while building in numerous allegories through many of his books – and yet it totally works within the context of the story he is building here and never feels preachy at all. He has much more nudity than is typical of his books, which while sometimes pretty gory are almost never explicit nudity. (Though to be clear, no sex scenes, just nude bodies.) The man who literally named a character “F-Bomb” yet rarely actually drops them in his writing uses several of them here – and again, within the context of this story they work to enhance the realism. Even the more pure fantasy elements – again, something Robinson typically doesn’t use – work well to enhance the story here (and are used fairly sparingly, even though critical to the plot at points).

Overall simply one of Robinson’s best in recent memory, and a bit more arguably one of the best he’s ever written. If you’re looking for Robinson to return to the frenetic balls to the wall action of some of his earlier tales – you’ve found it. Very much recommended.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: I Died Swallowing A Goldfish by Kent Holloway

Max Lucado Meets CSI. Holloway has been writing fiction stories for many years, sometimes involving various cryptids, other times involving various folklores, and even one time using his day job to create a fictional tale of a crime scene “cleaner”. This is his first foray into the nonfiction realm, and here he uses his day job to talk about Christian ideals in a style very reminiscent of Max Lucado. Each chapter is roughly half “here’s a story from my day job as a forensic death investigator” and roughly half “here’s how that tale impacts the Christian life”. Because Holloway consistently uses prooftexting – the technique of citing Bible verses out of context in support of one’s thesis – I personally cannot give it any more than the four stars I’ve chosen to give it here. Others, particularly Christians or at least those than enjoy reading books such as Lucado’s works, will likely rate it higher and honestly I cannot fault them for it. It was a solid tale in that vein, I simply am so adamantly against prooftexting that I cannot allow myself to give 5 stars to any text that uses the technique. Others more critical of Christian beliefs reading this more for the CSI side of it (which is a valid approach, that side is truly fascinating) might rate the book a bit more critically specifically because of the Christian points, and that too would be fair-ish. Holloway, as he admits in the text, is an ordained minister and a Southern Baptist, and what he says throughout the text is mostly solidly in line with current Southern Baptist theology. So if you’re reading this book just for the CSI side, maybe just skip over the back half of most chapters, or skim them for any conclusions about the CSI side of the chapter. Overall a very well written book with a rare if not unique perspective in this field, and one that is very much recommended.

This review of I Died Swallowing A Goldfish by Kent Holloway was originally written on November 20, 2019.

#BookReview: Losing My Voice To Find It by Mark Stuart

Underdog With A Mighty Good Leader. Audio Adrenaline was yet another of those groups that provided a voice for an Autistic kid’s teenage years as he transitioned from innocent trailer park kid to… not so innocent… young adult that grew up in the American Church. Seeing the story of its founding lead singer was very interesting, as was seeing the stories behind so many of their biggest hits and how so often they came out of what was going on in Stuart’s life at the time. With a poetic and evocative prose that displays his songwriting talent well, Stuart lays bare the story of his own life, its tragedies and its moutaintops – and the time the mountaintop literally crumbled before his eyes in Haiti. He speaks seemingly candidly about his struggles in his marriage to TobyMac’s sister and how very much TobyMac himself did for Audio Adrenaline over the years, particularly at the beginning. He mentions signing Jennifer Knapp, but only spends a couple of brief paragraphs talking about her debut and Kansas before moving on, gently sideswiping that particular bit of CCM drama over the last decade or so (but which Knapp herself lays bare in her 2014 work Facing The Music). And through it all, we get the story of the rise and fall (and rise again) of Audio Adrenaline, one of the major acts in Christian Music through the 1990s and early 2000s, as seen through the eyes of its lead singer at the time. Great for music fans, great for Audio A fans, and even great for those just looking for a solid story with maybe a bit of hope to it. Very much recommended.

This review of Losing My Voice To Find It by Mark Stuart was originally written on November 25, 2019.

#BookReview: Make Your Move by Laura Heffernan

Adequate Wrap Up To Otherwise Awesome Series. I *love* that Heffernan has been courageous enough in this series to give us several things we don’t usually see in romance books, be it the gaming focus generally, girl gamers specifically, the various sexualities and atypical romances at play, etc etc etc. And this book continues that work of showing those various elements and giving several of them payoffs that at least work to close out a trilogy.

There are two primary issues with this book. The first is that the “bad guys” – IIRC, a first in this series – are barely cogent enough to even qualify as strawmen. And indeed one of them in particular seems to exist just so Heffernan can paint all “cishet straight white men” (as she would call us) as absolute bastards. Heffernan even makes this pretty explicit when she has our lead female outright state at one point “Who will fight for the other non-cishet white dudes? The people of color, the queers, the women?”. … Because “cishet straight white dudes” are pure evil and absolutely prejudiced against anyone not exactly like them? Is this attitude not prejudicial against those people? The second issue – and it too is fairly big, particularly for what is seemingly a series finale – is that the ending is quite abrupt and seemingly comes out of left field. (Indeed, it would have been more courageous for Heffernan to have left the epilogue out – while possibly not satisfying everyone, ending it that way would have felt more coherent with the rest of this tale.)

This was a story I was very much looking forward to, it simply isn’t quite up to par with the first two books in the series, and that is quite a shame. Still, recommended if only to see how Shannon’s story does wind up playing itself out and to get a bit of closure with Holly and Gwen.

This review of Make Your Move by Laura Heffernan was originally written on November 22, 2019.

Featured New Release of the Week: Mercy Road by Ann Howard Creel

This week we look at another WWI tale from another new to me Lake Union author. This week, we’re looking at Mercy Road by Ann Howard Creel.

This took an aspect of WWI I’d never heard of – the American Women’s Hospital – and showed a fictional version of the life of its people in what seems to be a very realistic manner, never hiding the various horrors of that particular war – be it discussing bodies decomposing in No Man’s Land, the very real threat of chemical weapons, aerial bombardment, or even the Paris Gun. Along the way, we get another all too real tale of how a life can turn in an instant and the social pressures of suddenly finding oneself in dire circumstances. We even get a discussion late in the book of things not usually spoken of in that era, but which were obviously very real.

But there is one particular commentary aspect of the story that I do want to mention, and that is a particular situation involving a discussion of things that should be “given” to the troops.

You see, for this ardent anarchist, such discussions always bring to mind the following Ayn Rand quote from Atlas Shrugged: ““Miss Taggart, we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. We come here because we want to rest. But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I’ll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘give’.” (Full disclosure: I literally have a version of the title of this particular section of the book, “A is A”, – indeed, not far removed from this very sentence – tattooed on my wrist.)

Without giving anything away, let’s just say that giving the troops the thing in discussion is held as an ideal, and quite frankly it is an ideal this reader for one does not personally share. 🙂

All of that said, this really was an excellent book and is very much recommended if for the other atypical discussions alone. (Though seriously, it is an excellent story even absent the few sporadic instances of social commentary solidly embedded within the overall arc of the story.) So go buy it already. 🙂

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: The Light In The Hallway by Amanda Prowse

Sad Yet Hopeful – And With Sequel Potential. Up front: This book has moments that can be *extremely* depressing. But here’s the thing – Prowse does an excellent job of using those moments to explore real world emotions very well. And then she uses the story she creates here to restore a bit of hope to those who are going through similarly depressing phases of life. And along the way we find a solid story of a man rebuilding his life at a time he never thought he’d have to while also getting the story of one pivotal summer many years ago. This was my first of Prowse’s books, and it won’t be my last. (Particularly if we get that sequel, Shirley. 😉 ) Very much recommended.

This review of The Light In The Hallway by Amanda Prowse was originally written on November 17, 2019.

#BookReview: Full Circle by Andrea Barber

Amazing Story. Barber is obviously known to millions as Kimmie Gibbler, but here for the first time those same millions meet Andrea. And Andrea is full of the dichotomies that plague many of us. An introvert who happens to be a “celebrity”. Someone plagued with anxiety who is known for portraying the zany neighbor that always has a plan. The mother that slipped so far into anxiety and depression that she couldn’t take care of herself and nearly lost everything. Barber does an excellent job of easing the reader into the darkest moments of her life and explaining how she was able to come out of them and come… Full Circle. Very much recomended.

This review of Full Circle by Andrea Barber was originally written on November 15, 2019.