#BookReview: Ghost Ship by Pandora Pine

Solid Use Of Misdirection. Here, Pine seems to be building to an epic confrontation through much of the book, and then… boom. Quick resolution to that conflict, move on thankyoukindly. Still, one thing that Pine truly excels at is misdirection – the tales that it seems like the resolution will come quick, you get intense, epic showdowns. The books you’re anticipating the intense, epic showdown, you get something else. And yes, along the way you get the standard “police procedural” stuff of showing the friendship and family among our primary cast – this time featuring primarily medium and witch extraordinaire Copeland Forbes, private investigator with a supernatural connection Jude Byrne, and former Cold Case Captains in the Boston Police Department Ronan O’Mara and Kevin Fitzgibbon. And yes, this book is primarily focused on the Titanic disaster, with Pine showing several features many likely were unaware of, as well as crafting a few fictional details to suit her needs in this story. Yet again another book in this series that if you don’t mind coming into an existing universe and having various prior books spoiled to some degree or another is a perfectly fine entry point. (So fans / followers of the Titanic and related stories, here’s your shot!) And yet, also yet another book that long time fans of this ever expanding series and world will love. Very much recommended.

This review of Ghost Ship by Pandora Pine was originally written on May 11, 2021.

#BookReview: The House With The Blue Front Door by Elizabeth Bromke

Interconnected and Interweaving. Bromke executes on an interconnected and interweaving style here better than many other attempts I’ve seen at such an approach. Told via half a dozen or so perspectives – mostly the various ladies who live in a particular neighborhood – this book has its own central mystery while also revealing bits and pieces of a larger mythos. A mythos that will leave the reader with bated breath desperate for the next book… where it is possible Bromke will continue to tease out this particular larger, seemingly darker, mystery. If you are a reader that can have *no possible spoilers* when reading a book, you’re going to want to start with Book 1 of this series. I personally started with Book 2 and had no real problems following the story (thanks in part to Bromke putting a summary of each character and where they are at the start of the tale), but I generally have no issues doing this and back reading the original stories. This is one of those women’s fiction tales that might come close to the cozy mystery label, perhaps – I’ve never read a book knowing it was labeled as a “cozy mystery”, but knowing how friends speak of what that genre entails, this book certainly gets close to that feeling. Ultimately a fun, compelling, and short-ish (just over 200 page?) read that truly will have you coming back to this series. Very much recommended.

This review of The House With The Blue Front Door by Elizabeth Bromke was originally written on April 24, 2021.

#BookReview: Darling At The Campsite by Andy Abramowitz

Quirky With Heart. This is one of those books where it doesn’t seem like much is happening other than a loveable loser continually losing… except then you find its real heart, even amidst the continual “what the fuck” situations. If you’re a fan of slower paced, zany, small town explorations… you’re going to love this one. If that isn’t normally your thing, you should still try it out, because this is a good example of that kind of story. Because sometimes people *do* wait until they’re in their 30s to find out what they really want out of life. Even if it is both the same as and yet completely different from everything they ever imagined. Very much recommended.

This review of Darling At The Campsite by Andy Abramowitz was originally written on March 23, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham

This week we’re looking at a remarkable and rare blending of the historical fiction and women’s fiction genres. This week we’re looking at You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham.

If you’ve read very many of my reviews on WWII historical fiction books at all, you know it is a subject that has long fascinated me due to my own personal family history there – both grandfathers were at the Battle of the Bulge, one got a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions there, the other was in the area (at minimum) when the Americans liberated the first concentration camps on their front of the war. And the dichotomy of what I knew of those two men decades later – one (concentration camp) whose lifespan my own intersected with by 5 weeks, the other who I knew for the last 20 years of his life – has become a long running, simmering thread in my own tale.

And without further ado… the Goodreads review. ๐Ÿ™‚

Long Buried Family Secrets Find Closure. Here, we get an interesting spin on this oft-travelled subject and technique. So many books of this genre want to take place primarily in the past with only the occasional jump to the future (ala Titanic), but here Graham sticks remarkably close to alternating every single chapter past and present. The past storyline is, perhaps, a touch more urgent, as it involves hiding a brother and trying to smuggle him out of France in 1941. But the present storyline has more of the “women’s fiction” elements of a woman trying to find herself after the tragic loss of her grandmother soon after the loss of her significant other and business partner… and stumbling across things about her grandmother that had never been known in the family, which leads to her quest and ultimately the resolution of both timelines. Both timelines worked quite well, and it is indeed rare to see a single book blend elements of the two distinct genres together so effectively – which speaks to just how good Graham is. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Perfect Daughter by DJ Palmer

If you liked Steena Holmes’ THE PATIENT or Kerry Lonsdale’s EVERYTHING series (all excellent books that you should absolutely read if you haven’t yet)…

You’re *definitely* going to like this one. Palmer takes a similar base idea and puts a spin on it that neither Holmes nor Lonsdale did. This is somewhat of a slow burn, but the mystery is compelling throughout. And then that last 10% of the book (well, from roughly 90% – roughly 98%) is some explosive courtroom stuff straight out of John Grisham’s best works.

And if you were already a fan of Palmer… this may be his best one yet. Seriously. ๐Ÿ˜€

This review of The Perfect Daughter by DJ Palmer was originally written on December 4, 2020.

#BookReview: The Family Ship by Sonja Yoerg

Blame And Forgiveness. Let’s face it, the central conceit of this tale – a mostly abandoned boat left on a property that a family purchases that the parents and older kids then use as a mechanism to control the younger kids – is a bit… strange. And I note this as the son of two people who both had six or more siblings each – so while I only have two brothers myself, large family dynamics are not completely foreign to me. This noted, once your brain accepts the central conceit here, the actual story is truly a very solid one of finding oneself, struggling with roles that are not always chosen and not always permanent – both by choice and by situation, and, ultimately, self-recrimination of past wrongs and the need to forgive both yourself and others. The back half *really* picks up, and actually features a scene reminiscent of one particular story of my own family history that I was told for years – in this case, a particular confrontation at a particularly … inopportune… time. (Doing my best to note that this was a phenomenal scene without giving much away, since it *does* happen in the climax of the tale.)

Ultimately, those who have only known smaller families – where you and your entire family you’ve ever known have had the stereotypical-ish 2-3 kids or less – may struggle a bit with keeping up with the fairly large family and the dynamics therein. But work with it, because most everyone gets their chance to be a mostly-realized age-appropriate actual person… even as most of the actual action really does focus on the more senior people. (In other words, even the toddlers get a chance to be toddlers, but the teens and adults ultimately drive the story.)

Truly a great work, and a Toby Keith level master class in “I can spin off a story about anything”. (Look up the story of TK’s “Red Solo Cup” to understand that reference. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Very much recommended.

This review of The Family Ship by Sonja Yoerg was originally written on February 15, 2021.

#BookReview: Take A Chance On Me by Beth Moran

Not What You Expected, But What You Need. As is often my norm when getting ready to write reviews, I had a look through the existing ones first. And so many were so critical of this book claiming it was effectively a bait and switch and had too many characters.

Now, I’m a man that can have and has had a dozen different books going, and can easily track what is happening in all of them. I’ve compared my (Autistic) mind to an AEGIS threat detection and tracking system before – able to track *far* more things than most can even readily know is happening. I also happen to be the child of two people who each have more siblings than our lead female does here, so again, I’m used to large families and tracking everything. But yes, if your mind is smaller in scale and can’t cope with a dozen ish important characters… you’re going to struggle with this tale. For me, this was actually fairly normal and I thought the dynamics were very solidly portrayed, with no characters feeling unduly flat, other than perhaps the children that were only in a scene or two. (And even then, within those scenes the children in question felt quite alive.)

As to the “bait and switch” of “claiming to be a romance” and actually presenting a “women’s fiction”… The timing for me was actually quite interesting, as in a prominent multi-author book group on Facebook, one of the founding authors asked *just yesterday* what kind of endings people preferred. Of 416 responses across 8 options, with multiple selections allowed per voter, over 2/3 of the respondents to this particular (18 hr old at the time of this writing) poll responded with some form of “surprise me (174) / give me something to think about (75) / messy endings are fine (17) / pull lots of threads together (15)”. So at least in this particular group of readers, I honestly think most of them would be along the lines of how I personally felt about this: I personally thought it was a wonderful tale of life, love, and other mysteries. (Kudos if you get that reference, you’re awesome! :D) YES, if you are an RWA purist, this book will NOT fit all of the RWA rules for “romance”. If you argue (as I do) that Nicholas Sparks writes romances that are often *far* more emotional and loving than many RWA-pure romances and thus should be considered romances themselves… you’ll be fine here. (Though note: This is NOT a tragedy ala Sparks, but that is as close as I get to revealing anything here.) Further, examining the description and even genres listed by the publisher on Amazon, I find no evidence of them claiming this is a romance novel. Instead, the marketing tagline is that you will get a “life-affirming and uplifting tale of love, family, friendship, and risking it all for happiness”.

I would argue that the tagline given is *exactly* the book we ultimately get, and thus any claims of being led to expect one thing and being given something else (aka “bait and switch”) are ultimately baseless and indeed utterly absurd.

For me, this book was a very solid, very fun tale with aspects not seen in many other places, including struggles with childlessness, fostering, different takes on what it means to be married/ have a happy marriage, and even, yes, its central premise and ultimate resolution thereof. For me, this was a book that completely worked from top to bottom, and enough that I personally will be on the look for future books from this author. Which means that, of course, this book is very much recommended.

This review of Take A Chance On Me by Beth Moran was originally written on February 4, 2021.

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 Weekend: I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

This week we’re looking at a book about summer camps, just as summer camp season starts up! This week, we’re looking at I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie.

This is the story of a family that each experienced the same tragic event years ago – and has been keeping secrets from each other about their own involvement in that event ever since. The story is intriguing and well paced, with a convenient in-story and in-book chart that helps drive the plot along nicely. With the explosive mandate set by their father, will the children be able to come together and finally spill the secrets each keeps? Or will these secrets tear this family asunder?

Structurally, the story is told from the perspective of very nearly everyone involved as each struggles to piece together what really happened that night all those years ago. Because someone truly has secrets that they never intend to tell. This is an excellent technique for telling this story, as it reveals many things to the reader before the characters reveal it to each other, and yet at the same time this very mechanism increases the mystery for the reader.

Overall an excellent book that had this reader hooked from the get-go. Very highly recommended.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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