#BookReview: Margaritas At The Beach House Hotel

Entertaining. This is a book that is somewhat deep in a series – Book 5 – and never once shies away from that fact. It has a wide range of established characters and storylines, but Keim does a remarkable job of making sure the reader understands the relevant histories, no matter if they’ve been a long time fan or if this is your entry point to this series or even this author – as it was both for me. Indeed, it is arguable that perhaps Keim does *too much* rehashing of prior stories- more in repeating a few sentences (with variation, not copy/ paste, at least not obviously) about whatever relevant fact such as how characters met or why another character is so problematic, etc.

And yet, despite and perhaps because of all of this, this book absolutely works as a continuation of its world and as a showcase for the author’s style and tone. Those that enjoy ensemble casts with a lot of characters and a lot going on will thoroughly enjoy this book, those who prefer fewer characters… probably won’t like it as much. But the storylines all interweave remarkably well, particularly with the narration being solely driven by one character’s perspective and the primary focus being that character and her business partner and friend – who enjoy catching up in stolen moments via the titular event.

Ultimately a strong book about friendship and defending the hurting, this tale is very much recommended.

This review of Margaritas At The Beach House Hotel by Judith Keim was originally written on June 8, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Appalachian Trail by Philip D’Anieri

This week we’re looking at an intriguing way of looking at the history of the Appalachian Trail. This week we’re looking at The Appalachian Trail by Philip D’Anieri

Unfortunately my string of being plagued by writer’s block continues, but here is the Goodreads review:

Biography – By Way Of Biographies. This was a very interesting read, if primarily for the narrative structure D’Anieri chose in writing it. Here, the author doesn’t set out to provide a “definitive history” of the Trail or the technical details of how it came to be. Instead, he profiles key players in the development of the Trail as it has come to exist now and shows how their lives and thoughts and actions proved pivotal in how the Trail got to where it is. Overall a fascinating book about a wide range of people and attitudes about the boundary of civilization and wilderness, written in a very approachable style – much like much of the Trail itself. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Stability by Emily Alter

Perfectly Titled. This is a solid adult FF romance featuring two established-yet-still-young ladies who know themselves and yet still find themselves growing… together. I titled this review as I did because the book really is perfectly titled, as the major conflicts between these women truly do center around the issue of stability and what that can mean for different people in different situations. Some, such as Zaira, more grounded and family oriented may need one form of “standard” stability. Others, such as former child prodigy Paige, may find a more gyroscopic sense of stability in the chaos. Merging the two worlds… well, Alter does a great job of showing the realistic headaches and heartaches that such an attempt can bring about. Excellent story set in an existing world, but within its own corner of it and with prior characters featuring heavily. For those who are less concerned about details of prior books being revealed before the reader actually reads those books, this is absolutely a book you can enter this world in and go back and read the details of the other relationships discussed in the other books. For those who are more concerned about such things… you’re going to want to read those other books first. Based on this book – the only one I’ve read from the author so far – I can tell you that you’re most likely going to want to read those books anyway, and when you read them you’re going to want to have this one on hand anyway if you didn’t read it first. Truly an excellent and seemingly realistic-ish story. Very much recommended.

This review of Stability by Emily Alter was originally written on June 7, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a strong character study of three very different women, perhaps where one of them doesn’t look inward quite enough. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery.

First, here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:

Strong Character Study With Maybe Not Quite Enough Introspection. This is one of those strong women-bonding-as-character-study type books where we get to see three very different women thrown together as a result of a family that blended and then dissolved years ago, and how that blending and dissolution affected all of them and even their common parents (one step father, one stepmother, both of whom combine to be the natural parents of the third sister). As someone who has a cousin that is actually in the exact position of the third sister – both parents having been previously divorced and having kids from those marriages – this was particularly interesting. As with the other Mallery book I’ve read so far, she does excellent work keeping things mostly realistic, and really my only fault here – potentially intentional, as it is still a realistic scenario – is that one of the three sisters perhaps doesn’t look into herself as deeply as the other two do. Ultimately an engaging and satisfying book, this is thus very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the publisher information, including book description and buy links! ๐Ÿ™‚
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery”

#BookReview: In A Jam by Cindy Dorminy

Sweet Home … Well… Er… Georgia. This was a sweet and fun yet angsty look at small town Southern life mostly through the eyes of a woman who was raised as a damned Yankee. Being a native Georgian and actually having lived in Leesburg – home of Luke Bryan, Buster Posey, and Phillip Phillips and County Seat of Lee County, where the *real* Smithville, Georgia is located – I can testify personally that the small town life depicted here is pretty damn realistic. (And if you can’t tell from the pair of D’s I’ve already used, I can also testify from the side of being a bit of a black sheep/ outsider in these realms, despite arguably having a *deeper* connection to Southern History than many I’ve encountered in these real-life small Southern towns. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

But you’re not reading this book for reality. You’re reading it for hilarity. And if you like the style of Southern rom-com ala Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama, you’re going to enjoy this tale. It’s got plenty of fish out of water hilarity as this Yankee tries to learn Southern speech and customs. It’s got the crazy old lady hilarity. It’s got the zaniness of various family / friends / neighbors oddballs and their connections. And yes, it has a bit of heat (though nothing more than heavy kissing “on screen”, for those that care about such things – either direction) and a lot of savory.

Overall, a solid “homemade” jam that has a deeper profile than many might expect, but hits all the notes it has to hit to be beloved by many who appreciate what it is. Very much recommended.

This review of In A Jam by Cindy Dorminy was originally written on June 5, 2021.

#BookReview: Haven Point by Virginia Hume

Excellent Debut. First off, I have to thank a very particular PR person at St Martin’s – they know who they are, I’m not going to publicly name them in this review. I had requested this book on NetGalley around the time I first saw it there, and after several weeks languishing in my “Pending Requests” queue there, I finally contacted a contact at SMP I’ve worked with on various other ARCs and Blog Tours in the past, and that person was able to approve my request for this book, and viola. I’m reading it. ๐Ÿ˜€ So while I normally don’t even mention this level of activity in reviews, this effort was unusual and therefore it deserves this unusual step of thanking the person involved directly in the review.

Having told (vaguely) the story of how I obtained this ARC, let me now note what I actually thought about the book, shall I? ๐Ÿ˜€

As I said in the title, this really was an excellent debut. There are a lot of various plot threads weaving themselves in and out of focus over the course of 60 or so years, and anyone of a few particular generations, particularly those from small towns, will be able to identify readily with many of these threads. In 2008, we get a grandmother waiting to reveal some secrets to her twentysomething/ thirtysomething grand daughter – this actually opens the book. Then we get both the grandmother’s life story – up to a particular pivotal summer – interspersed with the granddaughter’s life story – mostly focused on two summers in particular, but with some updates in between. The jumps in time are sequential, but not always evenly spaced, so for example we start the grandmother’s tale during WWII when she is serving as a nurse and is courted – in the rushed manner of the era – by a charming doctor. When we come back to her tale after spending some time in the granddaughter’s life, we may be days later or we may be years later, depending on how deep in the story we are at this point. Similarly, when we leave the granddaughter in 1994, we may come back to later that summer or we may come back to 1999. (Or even, more commonly for the granddaughter’s tale, back to 2008.) 2008 serves as “now”, and the histories of the two women remain sequential throughout the tale. The editing, at the beginning of the chapter, always makes clear where we are in the timeline, and yet this style of storytelling *can* be jarring for some. So just be aware of this going in.

But as a tale of generational ideas, aspirations, and difficulties… this tale completely works on so very many levels. Perhaps because I find myself of a similar age as the granddaughter, and thus much of what she lives, I’ve also lived – particularly as it relates to a small town home town and its divisions.

And, for me, Hume actually has a line near the end of the tale (beyond the 90% mark) that truly struck a chord: “Haven Point has its flaws, of course it does. But while it might not be the magic that some pretend, there was never really the rot she claimed either.” Perhaps the same could be said of my own “small town” (it now has a population north of 100K) home town.

Ultimately, this was a phenomenal work that many will identify with but some may struggle with. I will dare compare it to The Great Gatsby in that regard and in this one: keep with the struggle. It is worth it. Very much recommended.

This review of Haven Point by Virginia Hume was originally written on June 5, 2021.

#BookReview: American Schism by Seth David Radwell

Intriguing Premise Marred by Hyperpartisanship and Hypocrisy. This is a very well documented polemic whose bibliography comes in at nearly 30% of the text, so that is definitely a positive. The premise, spinning the common American knowledge that the American Founding was grounded on Enlightenment thought on its head and declaring that the wars between Hamilton’s Federalists and Jefferson’s Democratic Republicans were actually wars between two competing strains of Enlightenment thought, is genuinely intriguing. In laying out the history of what Radwell considers these two separate strains of Enlightenment thought, Radwell is particularly strong – possibly because that is one area of my own knowledge that is somewhat lacking. While knowing Paine and Locke (among others, all of whom Radwell considers on the same side of this divide), the majority of those Enlightenment thinkers that Radwell claims were more radical are ones I had never heard of, much less read or even considered.

It is when Radwell leaves the Founding generation that his hyperpartisanships and hypocrisies become ever more blatant, particularly in his excessive time attacking Donald Trump for his “Counter Enlightenment” philosophies while never once acknowledging – and even actively glossing over – when Democrats do the same things in the same manners. Radwell claims objective truth exists and reason should guide us, yet disparages the recent election security measures taken by Georgia and Texas despite very clearly not having actually read either bill. (Full disclosure: I’ve read the Georgia bill, and indeed have a history of having read – for at least one term – *every single bill presented in the Georgia General Assembly*. That particular accomplishment was over a decade ago, but I daresay it gives me the authority to challenge the author on this point. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Further, his hyper progressive blinders are very firmly in place in his disdain for Citizens United – which *defended Hillary Clinton*, for those unaware -, his frequent (in the latter stages of the book) calls for term limits on a wide range of elected and appointed officials, and his disdain for the US Senate and the Electoral College – crucial elements in ensuring the minority’s voice is heard at the national level.

Indeed, Radwell’s very clear hyperpartisanships and hypocricies when discussing more modern events – including events of 2021 – brings into doubt his thinking, if not his actual scholarship, regarding events hundreds of years old. (While it is hard to doubt such an extensively cited discussion, it is also very easy to cherry pick those sources who confirm one’s preconceived ideas and other prejudices.)

I wanted to like this book, based on its description. I wanted to be able to write a glowing review and scream this book’s praises as I did two similar books last year. Unfortunately this book simply fell far from the required objective standards to allow me to do so. And yet it *is* an intriguing premise, and if one can wade through the hyperpartisanships and hypocricies, it does actually have a few interesting and discussion worthy points. Thus I believe I am satisfied with giving it two stars, but cannot justify even a single additional star according to my own reading of this text. Perhaps those whose own preconceptions and prejudices more fully align with the author’s will feel differently, but I also know of many readers who would likely throw this book off a cliff by around the 35% mark (which is about halfway through the discussion itself. Recommended, but make sure you read many other sources about the issues and histories in question as well.

This review of American Schism by Seth David Radwell was originally written on June 2, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington

For this blog tour we’re looking at an intriguing emotional rollercoaster of utterly devastating secrets within a family. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington.

Devastating Secrets. This is one book where two timelines intertwine to devastating effect. In one timeline, we get an epic romance between an Irish immigrant and a 2nd generation Irish American. In the other timeline, we get a woman who is both the daughter of a 2nd generation Irish American and an Irish immigrant who seems to have a mystical “13 Going On 30” / “Frequency” scenario going on where a childhood project is speaking to her and directing her to make amends for mistakes she has made in the intervening years. Both timelines work well independently, but when they come together… well, refer back to the title of this review. And then it gets even more devastating. Indeed, the ending and epilogue will likely have you in tears, even moreso than when the timelines converged. Overall a truly solid book and very much recommended.

After the jump, the publisher information – including book description, a bit about the author, how you can connect with the author, and where to buy the book.:)

Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington”

#BlogTour: The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid debut featuring tough choices in the aftermath of a disaster. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell.

First, here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Tough Choices. Great Debut. This is a solidly written, compelling story that is a tremendous debut book. Farrell manages to use a miracle during a disaster to show that miracles… are not always that… while also showing just how complicated and messy real life is in oh so many ways. The mystery is solid enough to keep the reader invested, and then the action kicks into high gear a bit as things begin to unravel. Finally, a choice is made in an instant that will affect numerous lives – and Farrell shows all of this with remarkable reality. The overall style and tone won’t necessarily be exactly to everyone’s liking, but stick around – the book really is very, very good. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the publisher’s press release about the book followed by some praise for it from a variety of sources:
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell”

Featured New Release Of The Week: These Tangled Vines by Julianne Maclean

This week we’re looking at a remarkable tale of love and family. This week we’re looking at These Tangled Vines by Julianne Maclean.

What A Tangled Web We Weave. This was a strong story of finding yourself, even if that happens a bit later than some would like and creates a bit of a mess. And it was a strong story of ever lasting love, treachery, and forgiveness. All set (mostly) in the idyllic Tuscan countryside. The pacing was solid, the dual timeline worked well – even if a sense of foreboding hung over one of the timelines its entire duration. (We learn early in the book – Chapter 1, IIRC – how that timeline ultimately turns out, so getting there is wonderful, yet also like watching a replay of a momentous event… that you know turns out in disaster.) Overall, the writing here really speaks to the strength of Maclean’s storytelling abilities and shows them to be quite strong indeed. Very much recommended.