#BookReview: Shasta by David Wood and CB Matson

Maddock and Bones Back Again. This one has a bit more mysticism than most books in this universe, including one particular chapter that seems completely out of the blue for a bit until it is brought back into the real, but overall is a pretty standard action/ adventure tale in this series. If you’re looking for bullets and explosions while exploring arcane legends… this is your kind of tale. Very much recommended.

This review of Shasta by David Wood and CB Matson was originally written on March 19, 2020.

#BookReview: Above The Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Rewrite The Stars. This is a solid book, particularly in the “historical fiction where the lead character believes they can change their destiny” type. Brings to life some real-world trivia points that I hadn’t known, which is always a nice little surprise, and even taught me a bit of geography I didn’t know in the process – which is even more rare and thus even more awesome when it happens. The story itself will be familiar to anyone who has seen A Knight’s Tale (the movie) or read Gone With the Wind or any other numerous stories of its type over the years, but the execution here is excellent and the story is well paced and well told. Very much recommended.

This review of Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen was originally written on March 16, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: What It Seems by Emily Bleeker

This week we look at an experimental tale from an author I’ve been a fan of since her debut a few years ago now. This week, we’re looking at What It Seems by Emily Bleeker.

This was a writing technique new to Bleeker’s published efforts – a tale told in first person. And after reading the book, I can see why this particular tale almost *had* to be told in single narrator first person. This style really gets you into the head of our narrator, and that is absolutely crucial to the story being as good as it is.

Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that this book is reminiscent of one I read decades ago yet updated to include modern discussions, particularly of the YouTube phenomenon. Indeed, the YouTube issue becomes central to driving the story after an introduction grounding us in just how abused our narrator has been, and everything she has had to do to cope as best she could with that abuse.

Truly a spectacular work, Bleeker yet again sets in motion a drama with mind bending secrets and explosive reveals. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

One Perfect Fictionalized Story Of Real World Concerns. I picked this book up the instant I read the description because it seemed like it would be working through in novel form many of the same issues Libby Copeland raised in her nonfiction book The Lost Family, which released about a month before this one will. (Yes, this is yet another book I’m reading as an ARC, and my reviews are my own honest thoughts no matter how I acquire a book or when I read it in relation to its official publication date.) I was not disappointed in that regard at all, and if anything this book actually did a better job of truly exploring these complexities than the nonfiction book did, if only because in novel form it is much easier to express just how messy these situations can be from so many angles. Yes, you may get answers – but those answers in these cases… well, many of them were buried for very good reasons. And then there are the people who just do these DNA kits on a lark to “find out where they’re from” or some such – which is actually how one of our lead protagonists arrives in this situation, highlighting the stark realities of how serious even taking one of these tests can be. Truly an excellent work grounded in real world research and even real world situations, as the nonfiction book shows. Very much recommended.

This review of One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak was originally written on March 14, 2020.

#BookReview: Shuttle Houston by Paul Dye

Fascinating. This book is from a guy that started in NASA in the era right after Apollo and seemingly left right as SpaceX and the other private space agencies were finding their first successes. It is highly technical, yet also very approachable – Dye actively tries to explain as much of his “NASA-speak” (his term) as possible while not getting bogged down in too many details. This covers the entirety of his 40 ish years in NASA, from his first days as a co-op student through his last years planning the recovery missions should a Shuttle be stranded in space in the years after the Columbia disaster. Great insight and sometimes hilarious stories, though it ultimately suffers from the same bad taste of an ending that soured Kranz’s Failure Is Not An Option. In its final chapter, it more often comes across as a bitter old man not understanding the new dynamics of the agency he helped mold, rather than as someone truly hopeful for the future of space exploration and what the promise of the new and immediately future eras. Still, a truly worthy read from one of the people who doesn’t have the name recognition of a Kranz or a Chris Kraft, but who was arguably just as important in getting NASA to where it is today. Very much recommended.

This review of Shuttle, Houston by Paul Dye was originally written on March 10, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: Dovetail by Karen McQuestion

This week we’re looking at a tale with a very interesting spin on the classic dual timeline story. This week we’re looking at Dovetail by Karen McQuestion.

Growing up, my dad watched a lot of This Old House with Steve Thomas and Norm Abrams, as well as Abrams’ other show The New Yankee Workshop. Abrams in particular was an old school wood worker, and This Old House routinely featured shows that were even then 80 years old (over a century old today). So from a wood working side… I saw a lot of dovetails on TV as a child of the 80s and 90s. In this tale, McQuestion even describes them perfectly as she is describing an early 20th century man’s own wood working: a particular join of wood that makes the wood near inseparable even without any kind of glue or other fastener. And it truly is a thing of beauty when done properly, a join that actually adds to the overall beauty of the piece it is a part of.

And let me tell you… this particular story does the woodworking technique justice. McQuestion here does a pretty dramatic departure from her 2019 work Good Man Dalton, which was much lighter and airier. Instead, here we see rural early 20th century mores in full effect, as well as strong themes of jealousy and possession with disastrous results and lifelong regret. But what makes this story truly stand out is exactly how McQuestion executes the dovetail. When you’ve read as many books as I have, you see a lot of dual timeline stories these days. Hell, even the recently ended Arrow tv show famously used dual timelines in its entire run, even long after its initial run of them was over. What you don’t see, what I’ve never seen done before quite like this, is the exact mechanism McQuestion chooses to use to tell that particular story and have it dovetail with what is happening in the more current (though still nearly 40 years prior to the time I write this, and indeed in the year of my birth) story. I don’t want to give it away, even though the description speaks of it, simply because it was so well done and watching it unfold was truly a thing of beauty.

Indeed, in one particular section I was actually expecting one thing to happen – what I would have expected if I was in that situation, with a .308 hunting rifle and scope – and even here, McQuestion chose instead to continue with the dovetail.

Truly a phenomenal work, and very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: Finish Lines and Forevermores by Maddie Evans

Fitting Finale. This was a fitting finale to the Brighthead Running Club, and while I’m sad to see the series go, Evans truly did a great job wrapping up all outstanding plotlines and giving each couple a fitting end. Read the rest of the series first, and you’ll know what to expect from the overall tone and pacing of this story. Truly great work. Very much recommended.

This review of Finish Lines and Forevermores by Maddie Evans was originally written on March 8, 2020.

#BookReview: My Way To You by Catherine Bybee

Stunning. Bybee here uses her real life situation over the last few years to craft a story that is a testament to those who helped her most – the firemen and the flood control guys and the various repairmen – while also sticking to her bread and butter of romance novels. This one has some fun elements, such as when the lead guy comes out of the shower and, seeing his brother and sister in addition to our lead gal, says that he is glad he came out covered. His brother responds along the lines of “yeah, no one wants to see that”, and our lead gal raises her hand “I do!” (Seriously, I’m still cracking up about that particular scene. 🙂 But overall, the tone here is much more serious. For our lead gal in particular, life isn’t exactly easy. But she has an AR, an AK, a shotgun, a 911, and a .40 cal Glock and she’s a good shot – as she tells another character who thinks he can just come on her property any time he needs to. Not as light as I remember the Not Quite series being, but absolutely a strong story, and with such a cast that it isn’t clear (as it usually tends to be) where this series is going next. (I have suspicions, but even that is only a somewhat educated guess.) Very much recommended.

This review of My Way To You by Catherine Bybee was originally written on March 8, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: Keep Me Afloat by Jennifer Gold

This week we are looking at a sophomore effort that manages to keep some of the more interesting storytelling decisions and at the same time show solid growth as a writer and storyteller. This week we are looking at Keep Me Afloat by Jennifer Gold.

With this effort, Gold continues to use dates rather than chapter numbers, though this time there is a bit more cohesion to the dates. Basically, once again we have a current day storyline with flashbacks to earlier events, but those events are the key moments of the relationship that our lead is mourning – when they met, their initial relationship, their wedding, their marriage, their main issues, etc. This is one of the key areas Gold shows that she is growing in her style and storytelling abilities, and it works much smoother this time around.

Once again, Gold manages to bring us the story of a seemingly childfree woman – she mentions a desire to be an aunt a time or two, but the only references to having kids of her own are from others – yet once again Gold doesn’t actually use the term. Which as a mild activist about being childfree myself – in that I am very open about it and make frequent jokes about it with friends and family as well as being active in a few childfree communities on Facebook – is a bit annoying. USE THE WORD ALREADY! (Also a mild joke, btw, and not a serious complaint. 🙂 )

The biggest change, however, in this story from the previous is that here, Gold deals with some very weighty issues – and you’ll likely want a few tissues on hand by the end – but manages to instill in the book a sense of hope, even as our lead finds herself quite lost and hopeless through much of the tale. It is here that Gold’s quiet strength and progress truly shines, and it gives great… hope 😉 … for her junior effort.

Truly a very much recommended book, and I am very much looking forward to the next one.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: From Sky to Sky by Amanda G Stevens

Christian Scifi. For those who want a hyper preachy Christian book with a sense of the former Iaon Gruffudd tv show Forever… this is your book. If you liked the show and can withstand hyper preachy Christian elements, you’re still going to like this one. Or if you’ve never seen the show but the general idea of humans that can live forever after ingesting a serum intrigues you… you’ll probably enjoy this one too. Overall the story of how a group of people like this find each other and deal with the guilt of having to kill one of their own that turned into a serial killer over the decades while also struggling to uncover why some of them are suddenly aging and dying within days, the story here was well told and intriguing. Just, as mentioned, hyper preachy. Ultimately it is how a reader feels about the hyper preachy element that will likely determine just how high they rate it, for an average reader anyway. (I typically try to not let such things impact how I rate a tale unless they don’t fit within the overall structure, and here it is clear from the beginning of the text that this will be that type of book.) Recommended.

This review of From Sky to Sky by Amanda G Stevens was originally written on March 1, 2020.