#BookReview: She’s Got Game by Laura Heffernan

Great Game. If Heffernan’s friend Maggie Dallen’s latest book was a Hallmark Movie of the saccharine sweet variety, this one is closer to one of the rocky road jalapeno ice cream variety. Still mostly funny, but deals with some weightier issues in a mostly sweet manner with a hint of burn-your-mouth spice. Heffernan takes several risks with her characters that are rare, and that is much appreciated by this particular reader. The narrator is a gamer – and not a video gamer, which has gained a degree of acceptance in mainstream modern society. No, this narrator is a *board* gamer. And bi. And one of her best friends is demisexual – an orientation I’ve literally only seen used in *one* other book. And the driving narrative force is a board game tournament. And there are several weighty issues that could drag the book down, but Heffernan deftly keeps the focus on her primary couple as they haltingly get together. Excellent work, I’m very much looking forward to the next one. Very much recommended.

This review of She’s Got Game by Laura Heffernan was originally written on July 31, 2019.

#BookReview: The Not So Perfect Fiancee by Maggie Dallen

Fun, Fast, and Fluffy. This was a very light, very funny romance designed for the Hallmark Movie crowd but with elements that could draw in fans of the various home renovation shows all over TV (and even some streaming services) these days. Very fast read, without sleep catching up on me and Facebook being too addicting, I could have easily finished this book in 3 ish hrs. (As it was, I still finished in 12 – most of that asleep.) Book 2 in the series, but the main couple from the first book barely appears at all (indeed, the male half *doesn’t* appear at all) and even the secondary couple in that book barely registers in this one. (The man in it is in this book for maybe one scene, the female is mostly just a convenient plot device to make introductions to other secondary characters.) In other words, can very easily be read as a stand-alone book. Not a lot of drama here, just a syrupy sweet romance where the most action even hinted at is hugs and kisses – so good for the “clean” crowd too. Given that Dallen surprised us with a brand new couple in this book, I’m very interested to see where she takes Book 3 in this series. Very much recommended.

This review of The Not So Perfect Fiancee by Maggie Dallen was originally written on July 31, 2019.

Featured New Release of The Week: The Black Shepherd by Steven Savile

This week we look at an explosive tale of kidnapping, homelessness, brainwashing, and human trafficking. This week, we’re looking at The Black Shepherd by Steven Savile.

Whereas in the first book in this series The Memory Man (a former Featured New Release here itself), Savile put the Catholic Church firmly in his crosshairs with a tale centered on abuse within the Church, for this outing with Ash and Varg, he picks up a few months after the endgame of that book and puts his crosshairs firmly on a fictitious religion eerily similar to reports of the real-life Church of Scientology. Many of the familiar faces from the first book – at least among those who survive it – show up for this outing, and Savile even fleshes out the Division a bit more here.

Savile does an excellent job of briefly examining the realities of homelessness in Europe (and the Western world for that matter) and having his characters at least consider the impact of what they may well have to do will be on those who can least afford to be further harmed. Yet he never loses focus on the overall mystery involved here, and the action and intrigue are well paced.

The one thing that was a bit off-putting about this book was the rather abrupt ending wherein he blatantly sets a sequel in motion and leaves a bit of a cliffhanger. Perhaps the ending could feel a bit less abrupt with a simple change on the title of the final chapter – instead of calling it just “Chapter 69”, call it an “Epilogue” and the reader would know that this is truly the wrap up / set up the next book chapter, which isn’t always implied just by being the last chapter.

Still, a very strong tale that takes the form of a police procedural / action book to ask much larger questions, much as its predecessor did. Very much recommended, and I’m very much looking forward to the as-yet-unannounced sequel.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: A Braver Version of Me by Cindy Ray Hale

Solid Christian HS Story. Hale does an excellent job here of showing the all-too-real mindset of Southern Baptist HS kids as it relates to the Church of Latter Day Saints, at minimum circa the turn of the Millenium when I was in HS myself. While I never actually went to a private school myself, growing up in Ga not far from the Tennessee regions described here, Hale paints the pictures pretty dang accurately there from both the kid and adult perspectives. Solid introduction to a much larger story, by the time of the somewhat abrupt ending to this particular tale, you’ll be invested and interested enough to want to have the next one handy. Very much recommended.

(And as a postscript not overly relevant to this book perse, reading it completely on the beach was awesome, though reading it immediately after the much-more-mature-oriented book I had read earlier in the day I started this one was very interesting, to say the least. :D)

This review of A Braver Version of Me by Cindy Ray Hale was originally written on July 28, 2019.

#BookReview: Threesies by Shaylin Matthews

Hot and Explicit. For those who may not be aware from the title or description, this book contains all combinations of sex between 1 gal and 2 guys – and describes everything very explicitly. If you’re not a fan of either of those things, spare yourself some time and spare Ms. Matthews a bad review just because you didn’t like those things.

That out of the way, for those that *do* like those things, this was a really good book. Enough character development to take it more into NC-17 territory than simply a written form of XXX, though it becomes clear (particularly late) that actual fight scenes are not the author’s forte. Still, the book works as a standalone even while being book 2 of at least a 3 book series, and the world was one that this reader is looking forward to coming back to. Very much recommended (with the above caveats).

This review of Threesies by Shaylin Matthews was originally published on July 27, 2019.

#BookReview: Already Home by Carly Marie

Excellent Conclusion. In this conclusion to the Finding Home series, we pick up shortly after we left off in Book 3 – Jasper has found his relationship. Now he just has to tell his family…

This produces some amazingly touching scenes between Jasper, who stayed home and worked the family ranch, and his brothers, who went off to different parts of the country. As the oldest of three brothers myself, these scenes expressed quite a bit that I only wish I could communicate to my own brothers – even though in our case, they stayed in our home town (one lives barely a mile from where our parents live, the only home he had ever really known prior to moving out) while I moved several hours away.

Once again Marie outdoes herself, showing steadily increasing skill as a storyteller of both human emotion and hot and heavy “erotic scenes”. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended, though at minimum you’ll want to read Book 3 first.

(And I shouldn’t have to note this, but I will – if MM sex offends you in any way, this book isn’t for you. If cursing offends you, this book isn’t for you. Just to try to spare Marie some common 1 star review complaints. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

This review of Already Home by Carly Marie was originally published on July 25, 2019.

#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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Featured New Release of the Week: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

This week, we’re looking at another solar system space survival story in the vein of Andy Weir’s The Martian or Lisa A. Nichols’ Vessel. This week, we’re looking at The Last Astronaut by David Wellington.

Story wise, this book takes the idea of “What if Oumuamua wasn’t just a mysterious space rock?” and spins a story from that premise. It is a story neither NASA nor SpaceX will be overly happy with, though the fictional version of SpaceX – in the book, a company named so similarly that I’m almost positive lawyers were involved to make it just different enough – bears the brunt of the book’s criticisms of both agencies. But overall, it is a story that works as both a pyschological horror movie and a creature feature, and Wellington’s ability to combine both of those generally disparate stylings is to be commended.

Structurally, the book bends toward its similarities with The Martian early on during the setup stages of the tale as it uses space jargon pretty heavily. Later it bends to more of its similarities with Vessel and the jargon drops off considerably. The book’s chapters aren’t numbered but instead are named for various events, and just looking at the table of contents gives the reader a rough idea of the arc of the story – though I can assure you, it doesn’t actually give away any of the meat of the story and indeed just the slightest hint of the bones. It uses a mockumentary style blending of both documentary and storytelling similar to the 2005 movie Supervolcano very well and… well, to say more about that would be to drift into spoiler territory.

Overall a solid book, very much recommended, and I’m looking forward to more from Mr. Wellington.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: Too Nerdy To Handle by Maggie Dallen

Fun and Fast Read. In the second book of the “Nerdy” series (that Dallen officially calls the “High School Billionaires” series), we see the couple from the first book a bit, but the focus is on a pair of secondary characters from the first book: media mogul heiress Jamie and rock god Tieg… except Dallen quickly swerves from the expected to give us a new tale that in a way combines this series with her sport series from 2018 (at least insofar as one of the characters is a major sport guy). Maybe one slight criticism here is that despite the title, the “nerd” qualities of either of the main couple in question are barely if ever mentioned. But beyond that, yet another excellent, fun, mostly light (until the requisite fight near the end), fast read from Dallen. Very much recommended.

This review of Too Nerdy To Handle by Maggie Dallen was originally written on July 22, 2019.

#BookReview: Meander Belt by M. Randal O’Wain

Moving Collection of Essays That Could Have Used Better Editing. I picked this book up because I thought it would be brutal in its similarity to my own life – I too am a son of the South that left home years ago to live a bit of a nomadic life (though far less transient than the author’s). And it did hit home quite a bit, though maybe not as much as I was both hoping and fearing it might. Truly a stark, very real look at life and growing up in the South in the lower middle class. But in the acknowledgements, it becomes clear that this is a collection of essays rather than a truly unified narrative, and that makes the at times disjointed nature of this book become at least slightly more understandable. At the end of the day though, the book could have used a bit more editing to make this a bit more clear in some way or another and thus provide a bit more clarity and structure to the overall narrative. Still, an intriguing look and one that will certainly be enlightening to those who have never lived at this level in the region. Recommended.

This review of Meander Belt by M. Randal O’Wain was originally written on July 21, 2019.