Featured New Release Of The Week: This Is The Voice by John Colapinto

This week we’re looking at an amazing examination of the science of the human voice. This week we’re looking at This Is The Voice by John Colapinto.

Phenomenal Discussion, Perhaps Marred by Blatant Political Preferences In The Closing Chapters. This was a truly phenomenal discussion of all things related to the human voice: its physiology, evolutionary development, and impact on all areas of human life. However, the ultimate “taste” of the book will likely be more based on whether the reader agrees with the author’s fawning over former US President Barack Obama and blatant disregard of current US President Donald Trump. Even in these sections of the book, however, where Colapinto is discussing the actual voices of the two men and how they are created and perceived, the book continues its phenomenal look at an oft-overlooked topic. The “YMMV” bit is more concerned with where the author steps away from a strict analysis of the voice and instead veers into editorializing over which man is preferred and why. Still, ultimately a well written and researched book, and very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: What’s Worth Keeping by Kaya McLaren

This week we’re looking at a strong tale of often under-explored topics. This week we’re looking at What’s Worth Keeping by Kaya McLaren.

And here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:

Strong Look At Often Unexplored Topics. Glancing through the other reviews (as I generally do before writing my own, fwiw), it seems that so many people miss what I happen to see as the overall point of the book: Exploring how individuals can find themselves again and discover what they feel is worth keeping in the face of overwhelming tragedy. Here, McLaren uses three primary characters: A mother who has “survived” cancer, including a mastectomy and radical hysterectomy, only to have to piece back together her sense of self and whether she is still attractive. (A battle, it seems, that the author herself went through in real life.) A father who began working as a cop in order to provide for his then-young family, and who was one of the first responders shifting through the rubble behind Timothy McVeigh trying to save as many people as possible after the bombing of the Alfred P Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City – a tragedy that still haunts him all these decades later, at the end of his career. And a daughter who learns that her mother’s cancer is to some degree hereditary, causing her to question any future she may have even as she graduates high school.

In these situations, McLaren points to tragedies and situations that are relatable to many of us, and paints a story that even across roughly 500 books read in under three years, I’ve rarely if ever seen. A story of survival (which is common, in and of itself) and of finding love (also common), but these particular wrinkles of the overall story have often been overshadowed in the stories by other, “flashier” topics.

While I am genuinely sorry that the author lived through at least some of this, I am exceedingly happy that she was able to use those real life experiences to craft this tale in this way. It is a story that needed to be told, and it is a story that needs to be read by far too many. And for that reason, it is a story that is very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Troubled by Kenneth R Rosen

This week we’re looking at a troubling – yet anecdotal – tale that bears further research. This week we are looking at Troubled by Kenneth R Rosen.

Here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads, and below that I’ll have a confession about a degree of a personal connection. 🙂

Tragic. Rosen uses case studies of four particular people and their experiences with wilderness re-education camps (and residential, boarding school style similar institutions) to paint a truly tragic picture. On an anecdotal basis, these camps seem horrifying in an Orange Is The New Black kind of way – an in depth look at the what really happens to some individuals. For what it is – these anecdotal experiences with a few claims backed up with the barest of bibliographies – it really is a strong read and a needed one. However, I would welcome a much more comprehensive, and cited, further examination along the lines of Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Because this particular topic, based on the strengths of these particular anecdotes, seems to warrant such an investigation. Very much recommended.

And here’s my personal connection to the book, such as it is:

Back during my personally-infamous “Year of Failure”, when virtually nothing was going right in my life, I actually worked at a Wilderness Education Camp for a month. In the middle of summer. In the mountains of North Georgia. (And, in my final week with that long-defunct company, the tidelands of the Big Bend area of Florida.) I thought, based on my own history, I might be able to make a difference in this type of environment, working with these types of kids. I quickly learned otherwise, but the overall experience – over 15 years ago now – was remarkably memorable in many ways, and indeed some of the lessons I learned there prodded me in directions that came to dominate at least some of my thinking for the past 15 years and, possibly, for the remainder of my life. So I personally look back on my own time in such a camp with a degree of fondness, and yet I can very much understand the tragedy of what these camps did to at least some kids. (To be perfectly clear, in my month there I never personally witnessed anything remotely like what Rosen describes in this book. One situation I personally witnessed involved a kid storming off on his own through the woods, and a counselor having to track him and try to talk him into rejoining the group. Another I learned about from the person it happened to after the fact was when a kid brought a copperhead into camp, proud to show it off. The counselor – who was originally telling me this story when I found him in the counselors’ cabin after having been to the Emergency Room over this – told the kid to bring the snake to him. The counselor got the snake from the kid, “calmly” walked over to a nearby cliff, and proceeded to try to toss the snake out of camp and off the cliff. Whereupon the snake wrapped down and bit him on the leg – resulting in the ER trip. But these are the only two incidents I remember of my time there that are even remotely similar to what Rosen describes.)

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Accidental Text by Becky Monson

This week we’re looking at an excellent source of a few hours of escapism. This week we’re looking at The Accidental Text by Becky Monson.

In between the time I originally wrote the Goodreads review below early this morning and when I am forming this actual post closer to sunset, social media exploded with real world news today that has many on edge. Which actually makes the release of this book even better – it really is engrossing escapism that will allow you to take a few hours to calm down from the real world before responding. And let’s face it, if there isn’t an actual imminent danger to your life – and for the vast majority of us, there isn’t -, taking a few hours to calm down before responding is generally a very good strategy – it is why we are told to sleep on a major decision before executing on it.

So take a few hours with this world. You’ll laugh. You might even cry. But you’ll have a good time regardless. And then you’ll be more ready to handle whatever may be out there when you’re done with the book. 🙂

As always, the Goodreads review:

Perfect Distraction. If you’re like me, you’re damn near desperate for any distraction from the constant fighting in “the” “real” world. Well, good news for you – Monson has written a poignant yet hilarious tale of love, loss, and adventure that will take your mind away from said “real” world for a couple of hours. And you’ll have a blast on the ride as you skydive, cliff jump, drive fast cars, and do other adrenaline junkie type stuff… all while being embarrassed for the awkwardness of the main character accidentally texting someone else when she thought she was texting her recently dead mother… 😀 Truly funny book with heart, and since the only weighty real world issue is the death of a parent (in non-recently-in-the-headlines fashion), a truly great escape and perfect distraction. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Last To See Her by Courtney Evan Tate

This week we’re looking at a solid escapism tale where virtually none of the characters come out likeable. This week we’re looking at The Last To See Her by Courtney Evan Tate.

Here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads and Bookbub:

Solid Story Full Of Unlikable Characters. This is one of those stories where *none* of the characters come out looking overly rosy. The characters that are developed well are either assholes or idiots, and the characters that aren’t developed so well seem to barely be caricatures. That said, the story is solid enough and compelling enough that once you get into it, you’re going to want to finish it. And sometimes, that level of escapism is really all you need. Particularly with when this book is slated to release, barely a week before Christmas, it could be near-perfect counter-programming escapism for the season. Recommended.

Below the jump, the first 2.5 ish pages of the book! 🙂
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Featured New Release Of The Week: Memories In The Drift by Melissa Payne

This week we’re looking at a book that I’ve been talking about for weeks, one that made me cry unlike any this year. This week, we’re looking at Memories In The Drift by Melissa Payne.

Here, the Goodreads review below really does sum up my thoughts on the book quite well. It is a very well told, very visceral look at memory loss and pain, and it is so gut-wrenching it will leave you breathless. Truly one of the best books I’ve read this year for that very reason.

Prepare To Cry. Holy hell y’all. This book is one of the more tragic and yet also visceral books about memory loss I’ve encountered to date, bringing you into the mind of the person more than any other I’ve yet encountered. And it is also the one that made me *BAWL* unlike any since Barbara O’Neal’s 2019 WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAIDS. Which was over 300 books ago for me. If you’re looking for a great story and a good cry, you’ve found one here. And just to be crystal clear, it isn’t like the things that make you cry are hidden – in both cases I picked up on them about a quarter ish of the book before Payne actually explicitly revealed them. And yet the execution on the actual reveal was so gut punching both times… wow. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Loss Lake by Amber Cowie

This week we’re looking at a solid mystery surrounding a small Canadian town on the shores of a lake that has a particularly dramatic ending. This week, we’re looking at Loss Lake by Amber Cowie.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this part of this blog on release day as I get ready to head down to EPCOT at Walt Disney World for the day – and I read this book almost two months (and 45 books) ago. Yes, as with very nearly *all* of my reading this year (other than three books over this past weekend), this was an ARC project – with all that this entails. 😀

This book is one of those mysteries where you’re never quite sure what is really going to happen. The titular lake features prominently and forebodingly throughout the narrative, and in fact plays an ultimately central role in the book. But really, the singular most defining piece of this book is its final words. Which led me to almost literally verbally scream out:

SCREW YOU, AMBER COWIE!!!!!!!!!

Now, I mean this in the best possible of ways. Seriously, it is more joke than actual rage. Because the ending is truly that explosive in both what and how it does its thing.

And that is the primary reason you need to read this book. To determine for yourself if my reaction mirrors your own. So go pick it up already. 😀

As always, the Goodreads review:
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Featured New Release Of The Week: A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields

This week we’re looking at an excellent coming of age tale featuring the dawn of the war on drugs as seen through the eyes of a 13yo New York City girl in 1965. This week we’re looking at A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields.

Once again, as I write this in late August 2020 I am still being afflicted by a form of “writer’s block” that makes even Goodreads level reviews a bit difficult to write at the moment, so that level is all I really have to offer still.

Solid Coming Of Age During The Dawn Of The War On Drugs. As a coming of age tale set in the mid 60s, this evokes feelings of The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing, and My Girl – all phenomenal works. The use of a 13yo girl as the primary character is an interesting perspective that really allows Fields to tell a tale in a newish way even as she deals with things that most anyone who knows anything about that period at all is aware of on multiple levels. Truly a great story, and one that several of Fields’ fellow Lake Union authors have appropriately lauded in words far more poetic than anything I’ll be able to create, even in a review. As counterprogramming to the 2020 US Elections – it releases on Election Day 2020 here – it actually provides a truly interesting perspective that all too often gets lost, particularly in this particular Presidential election. And yes, since I am writing this review on August 23 and it releases on November 3, this is indicative that this is in fact an ARC, with all that this entails. But pick this up on release day. Go ahead and preorder it so that you have it on release day. You’re going to want a distraction, and this tale is an excellent distraction. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Steena Holmes

This week we’re looking at a breakneck psychological thriller that also serves as a clarion call on an issue many are speaking of quite a bit over the last decade. This week we’re looking at Lies We Tell Ourselves by Steena Holmes.

Trying to force myself out of the writing funk I’ve been in for several months now when it comes to these posts, I want to add at least a little bit to the Goodreads review below.

First, I love that Holmes frequently includes a reference to one of her friends’ books – usually released in the same year – in her books. This one is no different there, and the book in question (which you’ll have to read this book to find out) is in fact one that was also a Featured New Release on this very blog earlier this year.

Second, at least on the ARC copy I read Holmes includes a note at the end about a particular Easter Egg… which I completely missed. I remember getting the sense that it was a very random encounter – usually a good clue of an Easter Egg – but in my defense, I’ve read over 200 books since reading Holmes’ two releases last fall. (The Perfect Secret and The Patient, both of which included this same character, apparently.) Indeed, I actually thought that a more major character was the joining fabric potentially of all three books – and I would love to see future books including that particular character. Let me know which character you think I’m referencing here, I don’t want to give it away in this post. 🙂

Finally, this book really does go in depth with nearly all facets of sex trafficking, and while most of the worst of it is “off screen”, there is enough discussion in enough detail of enough facets that this book could in fact be very difficult to read if this issue has impacted you. But honestly, I think that in that case, you need to read this book arguably more than the rest of us. If only so you can write your own review and tell us just how close Holmes gets here. From the outside looking in, it seems that she captured the emotions and struggles quite well indeed, but this is something that I have no direct knowledge of and thus can’t know. So please, even if you think this book will be difficult for you, read it and write a review on Goodreads and Bookbub and let the rest of us know just how close – or, perhaps, far off – Holmes really was.

As always, the Goodreads review:
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Featured New Release Of The Week: Reviving The Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

This week we’re looking at a book marketed as gothic literature but which actually tells a strong dual timeline tale of survival in the Great Depression South. This week, we’re looking at Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter.

Upfront, I want to note that this was a strong dual-timeline family mystery. It was very well written and particularly with having spent most of my life in the region, utterly believable in every facet of this story. Carpenter has truly done some outstanding work here.

Indeed, my only issue here isn’t the actual book itself, but the marketing of it, which features the word “gothic” prominently and heavily.

“Gothic literature”, per this first result on the term when doing a Google search, is:

In the most general terms, ​Gothic literature can be defined as writing that employs dark and picturesque scenery, startling and melodramatic narrative devices, and an overall atmosphere of exoticism, mystery, fear, and dread. Often, a Gothic novel or story will revolve around a large, ancient house that conceals a terrible secret or serves as the refuge of an especially frightening and threatening character.

Despite the fairly common use of this bleak motif, Gothic writers have also used supernatural elements, touches of romance, well-known historical characters, and travel and adventure narratives to entertain their readers. The type is a subgenre of Romantic literature—that’s Romantic the period, not romance novels with breathless lovers with wind-swept hair on their paperback covers—and much fiction today stems from it.

When I personally think of Gothic literature, I tend to think more in terms of Edgar Allan Poe or Kim Taylor Blakemore’s The Companion, as I mention in the Goodreads review below. Those definitely fit that first paragraph above.

Hawthorn, however, more meets the second paragraph above. There are touches of the supernatural and of romance, Billy Sunday in particular appears, and there is a fair amount of travel and adventure as it relates to the church revival circuit in particular.

So perhaps my views on “gothic” are a bit outdated? Maybe I’m weird? (Well, I know I am. :D) What do y’all think?

As always, the Goodreads review:
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