One of the More Intriguing Historical Fiction Novels I’ve Ever Read. The title says it all. In this story of a legendary train ride from coast to coast – just a year after doing so was even possible – Daynard manages to put some aspects into this tale that were very much unexpected, but does so in a way that is at least possible. Indeed, for much of the back half of the book the reader constantly expects something to happen – whether or not it does is up to you to read and find out. 😉 Very much recommended.
This review of A Transcontinental Affair by Jodi Daynard was originally written on October 29, 2019.
This week we are looking at a romance book written by someone I previously knew as a historical fiction author. This week we are looking at Once Upon A Cowboy Christmas by Soraya Lane.
The book itself is, as I titled the Goodreads review below, a “solid romance”. It hits billionaire, cowboy, and second chance tropes all in one book, which is a feat unto itself at times. And it works well as an entry point into the series, even though it is Book 3.
But really what I want to talk about here is that dichotomy between the genres Lane writes in and how brave – and skillful – she is for doing so. Some authors may shy away from risking splitting their fan base or not wanting to take the effort to grow a “second” fan base, and let’s face it, far too many readers will absolutely refuse to read outside of a given genre. I’ve spoken with those types online numerous times, and honestly I just don’t get them. A good story is a good story, no matter the genre or language or anything else. And Lane has conclusively proven to me that she can give me a good story in at least two different genres – so I for one would *love* to see her try even more. 😀
I absolutely love when authors are willing to take risks, whether that means staying within one genre but doing nearly every subgenre possible within it, ala the “Modern Day Master of Science Fiction” Jeremy Robinson or pushing the bounds of their given genre ala Laura Heffernan’s Gamer Girl series or outright writing in multiple genres as Lane does. And I genuinely wish more authors had the balls to do it and more readers had the balls to follow authors they know can give them good stories no matter where that author decides to push themselves. Everyone involved in publishing, from the authors through the publishers through the sellers and all the way to the readers themselves would be stronger for it if authors would challenge themselves in this way. I get playing it safe and the reasons there, and let’s face it, there is arguably a steadier income stream from the author/ publisher side when authors choose to go that route. But, well, I’m a guy that has always lived by the words of Garth Brooks’s Standing Outside the Fire: “Life is not tried it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.”
Take the risk. Live a little. If you’ve never read romance before, give this one a try. If you’ve never read Lane’s work before, this is as good a place as any to start. Stop reading this review and go buy the book already. 😉
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: Once Upon A Cowboy Christmas by Soraya Lane”
Jack Campbell Loves Big Brother. This is a solidly written and told story that is quite a bit infuriating, but I try to be “professional” enough in my reviews to not drop stars because I disagree with the story of a fiction book. And most of the infuriating aspects of the tale are spoilers to discuss anyway and may not (likely won’t) be as infuriating to most people to boot. But Mercer does an excellent job of telling her tale, and therefore there is nothing to actually ding here other than the fact that it simply pissed me off. (And if you catch the dual references in the title, that gives you a clue into why I am so pissed off with it – but as I said, actually referencing what makes me so mad is to go into spoiler territory.) So yes, the book is very much recommended in and of itself, even though I personally wanted to throw my damn kindle down in disgust.
This review of The Puzzle of You by Leah Mercer was originally written on October 27, 2019.
Not A Megachurch. (Ignore the first paragraph. 😉 ) In this book, LaBan describes the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe – as it is formally known – as a megachurch for those drawn to Disney but still religious enough to go to church while on vacation, and it is *NOT*. I’m an annual passholder at Disney and go there at least every couple of months – and frequently stop by at the outlet mall directly beside this church and know for a fact how empty it tends to be! 1* book! (OK, how do people write serious reviews like that? Get a life!)
But seriously, this book was really, really good. It takes the reader on a ride many have been on in real life and while it may bring back painful memories, it does it in a way that can provide a bit of catharsis – and maybe even hope. Funny yet mostly realistic, this book pulls few punches indeed and at times can be a bit uncomfortable for some because of it. But at the end of the day, an excellent story and very much recommended.
This review of Beside Herself by Elizabeth LaBan was originally written on October 26, 2019.
Solid In-World Christmas Tale. This book picks up shortly after the events of Wildflower Hope and gives a brief Christmas interlude to Kara Hart’s story at Wildflower House. Works very well in-world and even gives a brief introduction to a pair of characters that could play larger roles in future Wildflower books. Very much recommended.
This review of Wildflower Christmas by Grace Greene was originally written on October 24, 2019.
Everyone Has An Agenda. This is one of those books where if you spend more than a couple of pages or so with a character… they have some ulterior motive to everything they’re doing. Dark and twisted, with pretty solid pacing throughout. Couple of places that seemed to be a bit *too* trippy, but that could have been just this reader – and these places usually resolve themselves well enough if you just keep going. Overall an excellent work, and I’m looking forward to more from this author. Very much recommended.
This review of The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner was originally written on October 24, 2019.
Fitting Conclusion. In this swan song for the Red River Valley series, there are no swans. But there is a little girl named Noelle who has a Christmas wish, and our final couple in town gets thrown together to try to grant it… Along the way, we get the same elements this series has come to be known for – zany antics from old busybodies, solid small town atmosphere, a hot sex scene or two, and solid, heartwarming romance. This *can* be an entry point into the series – if you don’t mind minor spoilers about previous books, any book in this series is fine for that – but go all the way back to Book 1 and start from there. A truly excellent book, and I can’t wait to see where Alexander takes us next. Very much recommended.
This review of It’s In His Christmas Wish by Shelly Alexander was originally written on October 24, 2019.
A Warm Blanket. Ok, so I’m ripping off a video game review I just read with that title for this review, but it fits. This book has exactly one feature that others of its type -WWII flygirl stories -released in the last year or so did not, and while that one feature winds up enhancing the story pretty dramatically, it can be a bit jarring at first due to mostly not having any time cues. The effect turns out to be mostly cool, as I personally came to see the fades in a very cinematic fashion. It just took a few chapters to pick up on what was happening. If you have read some of the other WWII flygirl stories this year, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re new to this particular type of tale, this is still a solid entry in that line. It isn’t overly new or revolutionary, but it is a solidly comforting warm blanket. Very much recommended.
This review of Beyond the Horizon by Ella Carey was originally written on October 22, 2019.
This week we’re looking at what is quite possibly the first modern book I’ve ever read that was originally written in another language. This week we’re looking at Letters To A Stranger by Mercedes Pinto Maldonado, translated by Jennie Erikson.
This was an interesting read. The mystery is solid and compelling, and the writing is excellent (at least in the English, and presumably in the Spanish – though I barely read or write Spanish and thus read the English version). But the book itself is all about loss, and that depressive state pervades this book almost from the first words to the last. (Though to be fair, the last words are a bit cliche, a slight mar to the finish of an otherwise outstanding work.) So as I note below, you’re almost going to be begging for a zany and hilarious romantic comedy as a palate cleanser after this one.
But there *is* a love story embedded within the loss, as well as a pair of redemptive arcs that play out on different time scales. These provide just enough levity to allow the gravitas of the loss to settle without being overbearing, and these show just how adept at her craft Maldonado is. This seems to be the first of Maldonado’s works to be translated into English, but this reader for one is hoping that more follow – I’m not quite so desperate to read more of her work that I would learn Spanish just to be able to do so, but I would indeed like to see more. Very much recommended.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: Letters to a Stranger by Mercedes Pinto Maldonado, Translated by Jennie Erikson”
Playing For Keeps. This is another YA sporty romance from Maggie Dallen, and is her usual excellent and fun work. If you’re familiar with her work, you’re going to enjoy this book. If you’re not, it is a good introduction to her style. Shortish at under 200 pages, this is a fairly light and easy read, perfect as a palate cleanser from something heavier or darker. Very much recommended.
This review of Playing for Keeps by Maggie Dallen was originally written on October 20, 2019.