Complicated Yet Beautiful. Hawker has a way of painting pictures with words that are utterly beautiful, and yet also utterly ugly at the same time. Ultimately, this book reads like a more evocative, more painting quality version of the somewhat similar story David Duchovny created in Truly Like Lightning, even as it seems that both authors were working on these works for quite a number of years. Particularly in their showing of the worse sides of Mormon life, complete with overbearing and hypocritical fathers, this reads almost like as much an attack on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as the character study that it is. And yet, again, the way Hawker executes it here is utterly beautiful in its prose and storytelling. Hawker sucks you in, weaving these plot threads near and around each other before bringing them all together to grand effect. Ultimately the biggest quibble with this entire effort isn’t Hawker’s writing, but the actual description of the book – which leads one to believe certain aspects arguably happen sooner than they do. Indeed, Linda becoming “privy to a secret Aran and Tamsin share that could dismantle everything everyone holds dear” happens quite late (later than 80%, maybe even closer to the 90% mark), though again, the actual execution here is quite solid and indeed allows the book to end in surprising ways that were only very subtly hinted at much earlier. Even Aran and Lucy getting together to begin with seems to happen much later in the tale than the description seems to indicate, though that relationship *is* particularly well developed. Ultimately this is a book that Mormons likely won’t like, people with various misconceptions about Mormonism will probably tout, but one that tells a remarkable tale in the end. Recommended.
Real Life Disaster Movie Memoir. This is one of those memoirs from someone who was “on the ground” at an event that so very many of us have lived through and with, and thus someone whose experiences are at least worth exploring. That noted, Almand and her husband are both 70 ish yr old seniors with comorbidities (including Type 1 Diabetes in her husband) that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, and this does in fact inform much of her own thoughts on the issue. Still, as a memoir of a sort of Gilligan’s Island – where they went out expecting one thing and got something dramatically different that cast them into a survival situation – this is quite remarkable. From being at Mardi Gras 2020 to being at some of the last NBA games to be played outside the “bubbles” to piecing together where to go in light of confusing, conflicting, and scant data to the various experiences of coming to terms with the new life and reality, this is truly an interesting memoir. Recommended.
First, here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
Fun Tale. Unnecessary Element In Epilogue. This was a fun rom-com full of angst and banter and miscommunications. The book-within-a-book worked, even while I’m not really a fan of the Regency style historical romances. Indeed, until the epilogue itself this was truly a fun, witty, banter-filled tale filled with heart. Even the actual endgame itself (the last 15% ish of the book, IIRC) was interesting, even as it got away from the main storyline for quite a bit of it. (Unlike some other reviewers though, I totally get why and how it worked. It isn’t a *usual* storyline in romance novels, but I’ve seen it before – and even a few times in real life.) My only issue, and it is more of a quibble since it *is* just in the epilogue, is the completely unnecessary baby. It adds nothing, and only reinforces the “you’re not a real couple unless you procreate” bigotry. (Also, not an actual spoiler – romance novel. Couple by definition ends up together. :D) Still, on the whole this book really was fun and had some interesting twists to it. Very much recommended.
Below the jump, an excerpt provided by the publisher and then the book details and buy links. 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley”
This week we’re looking at a fascinating examination of the history of pigments – not a book about vision itself, but about the pigments humans have used over the course of our history and how these pigments have been a part of our technology since pre-history. This week, we’re looking at Full Spectrum by Adam Rogers.
A Rainbow Of Possibilities. This isn’t the book about vision I thought it was when I originally picked it up (admittedly without even reading the description, the title alone was intriguing enough). This is instead a book about the history and current science of dye manufacturing and how it is both one of the most ancient of technologies humans have known and one of the most groundbreaking. As it turns out, my own area – Jacksonville, FL – plays a role in the narrative, being a large source of the most technologically advanced white dye currently known. Yes, at times the book gets a bit… winding… and it can seem like we have diverged into other topics altogether, but the author always winds up coming back to the central thesis after these jaunts through various bits of history. Truly a fascinating read about a history many don’t know and a topic many might find a bit mundane – which is exactly what makes the work so awesome, particularly combined with the author’s great timing with comedic levity. Very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book that has a *phenomenal* sequence after the opening scene… and then gets confusing. But then picks back up by the end and “breaks” a lot of “rules” for its genre, which makes it quite interesting indeed. For this tour, we’re looking at Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica.
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
Confusing Front. Interesting Ending. This book has one section at the front of the book that seems to go on *forever*… and yet is the singular most fascinating passage of the tale. In this particular section, we get a girl who is trapped in utter darkness and we *feel* what it is doing to her after being here for so long. Then she *finally* breaks free and runs for her life, and we feel her utter terror viscerally.
And then… the book completely transitions into a more “typical” domestic psychological suspense/ thriller. There is someone threatening someone. There is a murder. There is a suicide. And through 2/3 or so of the book, we get a fairly standard (though to be clear, engaging, if a bit confusing to pick up on at first, particularly in the mind-shock of coming from the escape into this) tale.
But then… Kubica begins to do things that you’re not supposed to do in this genre. We get a major reveal *before* the last 20% of the book. And then we build… and we get *another* reveal before the last 10% of the book! And another! And the actual ending… well, it isn’t the complete mind-bender that so many of these books end on. Which may be a good thing, depending on your tastes. And which I enjoyed just because it *didn’t* go the “typical” route, if for no other reason.
Truly an interesting story, one that could have arguably been told in a better way. But still engaging and still worthy of reading – and without any objective flaws to hang a star reduction on. Therefore it maintains the full five stars and is very much recommended.
Below the jump, a chapter long excerpt from one of the early scenes in the book followed by the book and author details.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica”
For this blog tour we’re looking at a book that is a great summer/ road trip tale with a ton of heart and a lot of laughs. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan.
Fun Summer / Road Trip Tale With Heart And Laughs. This is one of those books that is great escapism, and yet also clicks on so many levels in your “real” world – almost no matter your situation. You’ve got a lot of growth here across three generations of women in a family (80 yr old grandmother who wasn’t always around for her daughter and who has secrets, 40s ish mother who is at the end of her rope, twin teens daughters who are doing usual Zoomer teen girl stuff) – but then you *also* throw in a reasonably well developed husband (not a focus of the tale, and yet not written as an absolute brute either) and a pair of strangers with their own well developed and complicated backstories. Truly a great road trip tale along the classic Route 66, with the usual hilarity and hijinx along the way – and *also* truly a great summer “break from reality” tale of finding yourself and what really matters – both in one (longer, 400+ page) book. Very much recommended.
After the jump, we have the first chapter of the book as an excerpt, followed by the book details from the publisher.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan”
For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid tale of four old friends coming back together in the face of a tragedy that is marred by its preachy real-world politics. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman.
First, here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:
Solid Story Brought Down By Emphasis On Real-World Politics. As a camp story and as a story of long ago friends coming back together after a tragedy and working through both the awesome times and the tragedies of both then and now, this story was really quite good. The way Shipman (a pen name for a dude, making this even more remarkable) is able to craft each of the characters and use the settings themselves as additional characters really shows just how strong of a storyteller she (he) is. Ultimately though the aftertaste of this book – if you even make it that far – will be flavored by your view of its politics and arguably more pointedly, how it portrays the side the author very clearly abhores. Me, I read to avoid the real world. Between the events of 20201 and my own real-world background as a political activist at various levels, I *really* don’t want politics in my books, and if it must be there, I want a balanced and non-preachy approach. Neither of which I got here, and thus the star deduction. Still, a worthy read and truly a good one, other than the preachy politics. Recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt from the opening of the book followed by the publisher details. 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman”
Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
False Promise? Let me be extremely clear: As far as “facing constant threat of death from mysterious operators” plot lines go, this one was solid. After what has become a usual opening chapter establishing Jake Parker just trying to live his life, we pretty well immediately go into “constantly running from the bad guys while trying to solve a global mystery” mode, and in this part Thacker is excellent. We even get a bit of real-world discussion on yet another oft-neglected topic, in this case … well, revealing that is a bit of a spoiler. But an interesting one, for sure.
But no, the “False Promise?” question from the title more has to do with the ending of Book 2 and my own expectations for this book based on that. I was expecting a lot more direct involvement from Parker’s dad, leading up to a direct confrontation between father and son where guns would be blazing both directions. That… doesn’t happen here. Though Parker’s dad *does* play a role in most of the tale and there *is* (eventually) a confrontation and even a resolution. It just wasn’t the all encompassing explosive type I for some reason was expecting/ hoping for.
But Thacker does in fact do an excellent job of telling yet another globe trotting Jake Parker tale and both wraps up this current version while allowing for new possibilities down the road. This reader, for one, hopes we eventually get to explore some of those. Very much recommended.
Below the jump, the publisher information, including a book description and buy links. 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: False Allegiance by Nick Thacker”
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
Jumbled And Disjointed, Yet Somehow Works. This is one of those books that arguably *shouldn’t* work, given how truly disjointed it is with its time period and character jumps, and yet as more of a meditation/ reflective work on life and death, it really does actually work. As we work through the various streams of consciousness of Fred, Lil, Shelley, and Harvey, we see each of their lives through their own eyes as they struggle with past, present, life, and death. We see the traumas large and small, the regrets and the victories, the confusions and the joys. Admittedly, the particular writing style will be hard to follow for some, and even I found it quite jarring despite my own abilities to largely go with any flow of a book. But in the end it really does work to tell a cohesive yet complex story, and really that is all anyone can ultimately ask of a fiction tale. Thus, there is nothing of the quasi-objective nature that I try to maintain to hang any star reduction on, even as many readers may struggle with this tale. And thus, it is very much recommended.
And here’s the new paperback cover provided by the publisher, as well as a photo of the author. 🙂
Remarkable Biography Of One Of The Most Influential Men Of The 20th Century. In this, the first biography of John Moses Browning ever written by anyone other than a descendant (and only the second ever written, period), Gorenstein does a truly remarkable job of showing the life, times, and inventions of a man who could arguably be said to be more actually influential on the 20th century than even Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. Yes, Edison revolutionized how we are able to see and gave us the truly 24/7 world, and Ford revolutionized both transportation and manufacturing more generally, but Browning revolutionized how we *kill things* – animal or human – and that alone has driven many of the most important issues of the 20th century. It was Browning’s early rifles that may not have won the West – but certainly made it even easier to live there. It was Browning’s (then-Colt) 1911 that is *to this day* one of the most popular types of pistol in the world, over a century after Browning won the competition for the US Army’s new service pistol (a contract it would keep for over 70 years and through both World Wars, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War). Indeed, that very model – the Colt 1911 – played a legendary part of the lore of one Lieutenant George S Patton and the first motorized military raid in the 1916-17 Punitive Expedition. In WWII, many infantry units – very likely including both of my grandfathers’ own units – carried up to four different Browning guns into battle, between his 1911, his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and his “Ma Deuce” Browing M2 .50 caliber machine gun.
And Gorenstein does a phenomenal job of showing the development and importance of each, including Browning designing the gas-piston system of modern automatic and semi-automatic rifles *in a single day*. Gorenstein shows how Browning, of truly humble beginnings, designed his first gun from scraps laying around his dad’s engineering and repair shop – just to hunt small game to help feed the family. Gorenstein shows how these humble beginnings played such a role in Browning not even really beginning to invent until at or beyond the age when others in more academic professions say genius decays – and how this “lost decade” played such a role in Browning’s later drive and inventiveness.
It doesn’t matter what you think of how Browning’s designs and their derivatives over the last 100+ years have been used. You know about Edison, or can. You know about Ford, or can. You deserve to educate yourself about this genius as well, if only to learn the lessons of his genius. And this book is the very first time you really can. Very much recommended.