#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 Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi

When The Storms Of Life Slam Into You. This is a book that can be a bit oppressive at times in just how *heavy* it is. Our main character has suffered a lot of loss that she’s never fully recovered from – some more recent than others – and now she has to confront it all. And yet, it is because of such heavy tragedy that the book is able to explore all that it does and indeed show just the level of hope and forgiveness it does. By the end, the reader is left feeling much lighter and more hopeful for the future, and yet also somber in the face of all that has been lost and yet also all that has been found. If you’re looking for a lighter, quirkier book ala Nolfi’s earlier Sweet Lakes trilogy… this isn’t that. But if you’ve been through some White Hurricanes yourself, or maybe are currently in the middle of one, and just need some level of hope to cling to… this is the kind of book you’ll want to read. And let’s face it – we’ve *all* been through a White Hurricane, are in one, or are about to be in one. (And often all three at once.) For those times and any other, this book is very much recommended.

This review of The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi was originally written on April 5, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: For All She Knows by Jamie Beck

This week we’re looking at a solid story that also does a remarkable job of showing a truly balanced social examination. This week we’re look at For All She Knows by Jamie Beck.

Amazing Social Examination While Telling Solid Story. I gotta admit, when I first heard about this story featuring “a teen party with a tragic outcome”, I was a bit scared that Beck was about to go preachy. More than a bit, if I’m being perfectly honest. But I’ve come to truly appreciate her strength as a storyteller, and I knew that no matter how preachy she may have gotten, it was going to be a truly excellent story that allowed her to do it.

And yall: She didn’t get preachy. At all. Instead, what we get is a truly balanced, truly nuanced look at how even local politics and tragedies can tear even decades long confidante level friendships to shreds. What we get is two very realistic approaches to parenting – I’ve seen both even within my own family. What we get is two mothers fighting for their sons who happen to be on opposite sides of both the local political issue and the tragedy. And we see in depth the love and devotion each mother has to her son – and what each is willing to do to try to help.

Beck’s older books – romances – were still excellent stories, even if constrained by that particular genre’s (some would argue obsessive and insane) rules. Now unconstrained by those rules and able to tell exactly the story she wants to tell in exactly the way she wants to tell it, this already strong storyteller shows that she is truly a master of her craft. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: A 5K and a Kiss by Maddie Evans

Running and Tragedy. Ok, so with a title like this you’ve gotta be expecting a romance and some running, right? Because if you’re not, you’re in the wrong place – that is exactly what you’re getting here. Evans does an excellent job of showing her characters experiencing real pain in the midst of tragedy, and she does an excellent job of showing the journey of a beginner runner going into her first 5K. Excellent book, very much recommended – and this reader can’t wait for the next one. 🙂

This review of A 5K and a Kiss by Maddie Evans was originally published on July 24, 2019.

On Diversity in Writing

Over the last week or so in Booklandia, one hasn’t been able to escape the controversy over Nicholas Sparks. This particular controversy – unlike the one almost exclusively within Booklandia where if you’ve read one Sparks novel, you’ve read them all – revolves around a school he created over a decade ago and a now former headmaster he hired nearly a decade ago and then later fired, who then sued him in 2013 or so. And in its particulars, well, Sparks doesn’t exactly come out looking like the squeaky clean author of A Walk To Remember.

And that is bad, don’t get me wrong. I am not apologizing for nor defending Sparks’ views on race and sex in any way. Indeed I personally think his views are idiotic at best, but are also views that having grown up in South, I shared long ago before my own eyes were opened via various life experiences.

But that actually isn’t what I want to discuss here, as it is being heavily dissected elsewhere. What I want to discuss here is more akin to the actual Booklandia controversy around him, and in particular the claim that “he isn’t a romance author”.

Now, I’ve gone to war several times – including over the last week – with Romance Writers of America (RWA) (and regional variants) Board Members over this, but the sheer simple fact is that they will not change me, nor will I change them. For many various reasons both deep seated internally and economically, they have their particular views about exactly what is “in” as a “romance novel”, and because of those particular reasons they will never truly get what I am saying here.

But I’m a guy that doesn’t even believe all life *must* be carbon based, that allows for the possibility even among the most bedrock of scientific principles that there is a *possibility* that we are wrong in some minor or major way and that “reality” isn’t thus what we currently believe “reality” to be.

In matters of style – and all writing is *completely* a matter of style – I am far more open. There literally are no set rules. What is popular today might not be popular in 10 yrs. What sells millions of copies now may struggle to sell tens of copies in a century. And a good story is a good story, no matter what rules it breaks or follows.

My own definition of a “romance novel” is any novel wherein the love story in the book is the primary driving narrative. The RWA purists insist that at minimum it include a Happily Ever After (HEA), and since Sparks never includes an HEA, he is by their definition not a romance author. And in truth, the case could in fact be made that since a romantic *tragedy* is almost always how Sparks’ books turn out, that he is actually a tragedy author. But when was the last time you heard of a book marketed as a tragedy selling what Sparks has?

But romance novels aren’t the only ones that have their “rules”, they’re just the only one I know of to officially “codify” them. (Though some have attempted to codify Christian Fiction as well, I am unaware of any agency within Christian Fiction that is similar to RWA.) Most any genre has a general arc somewhat specific to that particular genre. An adventure novel is almost always going to have some small team looking for some historical artifact in some remote region and facing some form of bad guy also after the same artifact. A military technothriller is almost always going to open up with some battle or some test of some new hardware and proceed into a full scale battle to save the world from some enemy that is always at least a step behind in some way.

And RWA types (and to almost as bad of an extent, Christian Fiction types in at least some circles) are the only ones I’ve seen to be so exclusionary – indeed, they are as exclusionary of other works as Sparks himself is of other people. In most other genres, if you want to say “My book is this, but it has these other features”, they’re largely going to say “awesome, you do you bro”. In romance world, if you try to say “My book is a love story, but it doesn’t end well”… prepare for the torches and pitchforks.

Which is a shame, because while books that fit within the “rules” can be great, in all honesty after a while they start bleeding together and it becomes difficult to tell one book from another or in some cases even one author from another.

Have enough courage to at least spill outside the mold a bit. Give us *some* wrinkle we’re not going to find with anyone else. And if you can have the true bravery to absolutely shatter the mold – as I have indeed seen some authors do – even better.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Wildflower Heart by Grace Greene

This week, we’re talking about yet another new-to-me Lake Union author’s newest book, the first in a new series. This week, we’re looking at Wildflower Heart by Grace Greene.

This book ultimately is all about finding yourself again after loss. And it resonates quite a bit, as most all of us have felt these things to one level or another. The story itself works well in grounding us in the world it is creating while also allowing several possibilities for the stories to come – and making us look forward to them. This isn’t an action packed bombastic ride, and yet it also isn’t the cozy, feel good story others might seek. But it is a quiet, well crafted story of heartbreak and hope, and in that vein it can prove very cathartic.

Overall, this is a world I would love to come back to, and I can’t wait for the next book.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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