#BookReview: The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

Short Fun Atypical Romance. This is one of those romance novels that is almost more women’s fiction than romance. Yes, ultimately it satisfies every “romance book” check box I am aware of, even the most stringent ones… but it really does read as more of a women’s fiction “find yourself” type tale. Hell, we don’t even meet the male lead of the book until a fairly decent way into the overall text. Quite a few wokeisms tossed in as well, but those are more irritants than true detractions from the tale, and at least a couple of them are actually fleshed out into realistic characters. Overall a solid and fun tale, and *as a story*, very much recommended.

All of this noted, I would be doing readers a disservice to fail to note that after I picked up this book to review last fall, I became aware that the author had signed a petition in favor of banning books because she didn’t like them. And this reader does not abide those who ban books, no matter the reason. So this author is now on my “never read again until she recants from book banning” list, though certainly you as a reader of this review and potential reader of this book are more than welcome to do with the information I’ve provided here both on the book and the author as you will, and I wish you well either way. ๐Ÿ™‚

This review of The Suite Spot by Trish Doller was originally written on February 28, 2022.

#BookReview: Pleading Out by Dan Canon

Scant Documentation Makes A Weaker Case. First, I generally agree with the author’s overall points here, even while disagreeing with his more leftist slants on a lot of his recommendations – unionizing prison inmates among them. But even in cases such as here where I generally agree, I have a history of judging a book based on the actual merits of the actual arguments and verifications therein, and this book simply doesn’t hold up. Its Bibliography (at least in the Advance Review Copy form) is barely 15% of the text, which is about half the norm and maybe 1/3 the length of the Bibliography of truly well documented treatises. And while the author’s career experience as a litigating attorney can account for some of it, even here – provide at least some documentation for your claims, so that those who *don’t* have that background can verify them. But the lack of documentation is the primary argument here for overall lack of persuasiveness. Furthermore, another star was deducted for ultimately not satisfying the overall premise as laid out in the description – which admittedly is a combined effort of both author and publisher, and not always in the author’s hands. Still, the description here proposes that the book argues that plea bargaining “produces a massive underclass of people who are restricted from voting, working, and otherwise participating in society”… and while Canon occassionally makes reference to this, he never really establishes that particular line of reasoning here. Indeed, for *that* side of the criminal justice system there really are a few other vastly superior texts that have released over the last few years. Instead, Canon more takes these as a given – again, with little documentation – and argues – with little documentation – that plea bargaining is the chief cause of this. As stated at the beginning of this review, while I *generally* agree with this line of reasoning, I simply expect a better documented (and ultimately more evenly argued) presentation of this, particularly in a book released to a wide audience, including those who may be predisposed to *not* agreeing with the argument for any number of reasons. Still, ultimately a worthy read that at least adds yet another voice to the conversation, and for that reason it is very much recommended.

This review of Pleading Out by Dan Canon was originally written on February 28, 2022.

#BookReview: Life Surrendered by Jessica Herberger

Deeper Max Lucado. This book is one whose overall tone and structure fans of Max Lucado – a guy who has been writing books for decades and who is so popular he is on grocery store bookshelves – will easily recognize. But it is also quite a bit deeper than Lucado generally goes, and Herberger here brings up some great points about the various deaths she discusses as she looks at Easter Weekend. Ultimately a truly solid book of its type, but likely without a truly universal appeal. Should do *very* well within the Christian nonfiction market though, where in fact it could be a breakout book – it really is that good. And timed well, with publication roughly 6 weeks before Easter 2022. Very much recommended.

This review of Life Surrendered by Jessica Herberger was originally written on February 26, 2022.

#BookReview: The Social Lives Of Animals by Ashley Ward

Wild Romp. This is a book that takes us on a wild adventure across the planet as we see the societies various animals have built, from the smallest Antarctic krill to the large Orcas and Humpback whales to the largest land animals out there – the African Elephant. Fascinating in breadth (though with a dearth of bibliography, as the Advance copy I read only contained about 9% bibliography compared to 3x that amount being more typical, even in early copies) and often hilarious in approach, this is a book that lovers of any animal great or small are going to want to check out. Though I *would* be careful with younger readers (and apparently there is a children’s edition already being planned), as the primate chapter in particular gets a bit salacious. Apparently you can’t talk about baboon social life without talking about just how promiscuous – and “pansexual”, to put a human label on it – they are. Other than that particular section though, most anything here is about the same as anyone will hear on TV / at work / at school as far as “bad” language goes. Truly a fun tale that never gets too academic and yet manages to present quite a few (presumed, see note about bibliography above) facts that are likely new to most readers. Very much recommended.

This review of The Social Lives Of Animals by Ashley Ward was originally written on February 26, 2022.

#BookReview: Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola

Interesting Story That Could Have Been Better Told. IF you complete this tale, you’ll get one that is ultimately an interesting story more of descent into paranoia than of uncovering the truth of a murder, one where the author chooses an ending that is less conventional and therefore more interesting. IF. The singular biggest problem with this tale is that the way it is told makes it Just. So. BORING. As in, even I caught myself falling asleep to it as quickly at times as if I was trying to read a Chemistry textbook. As in, this could rival the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby for most boring tale ever told. But again, IF you can survive the boring manner in which the story is told, it is quite interesting. Fans of other hyper-boring yet massively successful books like The Road by Cormac MCCarthy may be better suited to this book than I was. Recommended.

This review of Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola was originally written on February 22, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney

This week we’re looking at a dense, dark, and disturbing Southern Gothic tale from a debut writer who clearly has a strong career ahead of him. This week we’re looking at The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney.

Dense, Dark, And Disturbing Southern Gothic. Gwaltney here manages to craft a Southern Gothic tale that will give fans of the genre chills. The world as seen through the eyes of 3rd grader Analiese… well, who knew that the third grade schoolyard could be so reminiscent of the corporate boardroom and its constant behind the scenes power plays? The back third is where the book gets particularly disturbing, as a massive brood of cicadas emerges to devastating effect right as the events of the last several weeks in Analiese’s life begin to come to a head. The finale will disturb many for its revelations, and for those that like perfectly tied up endings… be prepared, you don’t get that here. Which actually speaks to just how well Gwaltney commands his genre here. Indeed, the one knock I have on this book is just how very *dense* it is. It is supposedly around 300 pages, but reads as though it were twice as long. Still, the tale is intriguing enough that you’re going to want to stay in and see just what happens next, and Gwaltney here truly does show great prowess as a storyteller. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen

Interesting And Controversial Story. This is one of those stories that is off-beat enough that it really defies normal conventions in most every way except the obvious: ultimately, it checks every single box to be a romance novel even according to the strictest definitions I am aware of. Now, it turns out to be a very angsty romance novel filled with some unique characters and twists and turns that few romance novels are prepared to attempt, but ultimately it *is* a romance novel. And while I debated internally of 4 vs 5 stars due to pretty heavy handed feminist preaching, one scene in the back of the book redeemed it just enough that I feel comfortable not deducting a star over it – though I won’t detail which scene here. It will be obvious to most readers once they get there. ๐Ÿ™‚ Still, a lot of the quirks that other reviewers commonly panned this book over – The Stake women’s club, the cocktus cactus-styled vibrator, even the quick banter ala Gilmore Girls (my own connection, I didn’t see others panning that one) – were things that stood out as interesting and funny enough to keep me interested. Then there is the billionaire our female lead gets tangled up with, who always struck me more as Mike from Madam Secretary but who one character portrays as Gordon Gecko. Absolutely read the other reviews, as this book truly won’t be for everyone. But if you like *late* late night offbeat comedy… maybe give this one a chance. If that type of story isn’t your thing… yeah, you may not like this one. Very much recommended.

This review of The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen was originally written on February 21, 2022.

#BookReview: Oceans Of Grain by Scott Reynolds Nelson

Remarkable History Of Wheat As Agent Of Change. This is one that I could make a case for either 4 or 5 stars for, and because of the doubt I ultimately sided with 5. The reason here is that while there is indeed considerable time spent on how American wheat of the Civil War/ Reconstruction era (and later) destabilized Europe and eventually led to the late 19th/ 20th/ 21st century histories we know and are actively living, there is also quite a bit establishing the history of wheat being a similar disruptor throughout all of recorded human history. Thus, while the description of the book paints it mostly as a tale of the past 150 ish years, it is actually a tale of the entirety of human existence and instead of the lasting points being about the more recent history, the lasting points (at least for this reader) are more about the overall history. Which was the crux of my internal debate. In other words, no matter the focus or points retained, this is a truly remarkable history of a particular commodity that gives a more complete understanding of major world events, particularly over the last 150 ish years. Very much recommended.

This review of Oceans Of Grain by Scott Reynolds Nelson was originally written on February 20, 2022.

#BookReview: Hollywood Scent by Nick Winters

Creepy Gothic Hollywood Glitz. First things first – I’m writing this review *years* after I read the dang book, because I just saw that apparently when Winters *finally* released it long after I read it as a very early ARC, I never came back and wrote a review for it. Indeed, it was while writing another review for a February 2022 release – A Lullaby For Witches by Hester Fox – that I made the connection to this book due to their blends of historical and modern fiction via witchcraft (and in particular, ghost witches)… and then realized I had never reviewed this book. ๐Ÿ˜€

ANYWAY… this book really will stick with you, long after you thought you had long forgotten about it. It does a phenomenal job of showing Golden Age Hollywood glitz as well as a more modern look at Hollywood… and it gets creepy early and never really lets up. The finale here is particularly well done and particularly memorable, and really the fact that I could very easily spoil large sections of this book in a discussion even so many years and literally thousands of books later… that should tell you how well crafted this story is and just how much it will crawl into your brain like few others. Very much recommended.

This review of Hollywood Scent by Nick Winters was originally written on February 19, 2022.

#BlogTour: The Paris Network by Siobhan Curham

For this blog tour we’re looking at an incredibly relevant book that happens to take place nearly a century ago. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Paris Network by Siobhan Curham.

Despite Being Set Nearly A Century Ago, Still All Too Relevant. This is one of those books that makes a lot of solid political points… without ever actually coming across as preachy, as they are completely couched within the story being told and the period it is being told within. Specifically as it relates to resistance of tyranny not always needing to be violent and that the mind is the only thing the tyrants can never take, as well as a war-born form of “cancel culture” to boot. But again, the tale makes all of these points in a moving tale of a 1990s era 50 yr old woman trying to find her origins in 1943 France – and of a young woman in 1939 France destined to become the mother of the 50 year old. Kudos to the author as well not only for the points I’ve already mentioned but also in not being afraid to take what is a … less conventional… path that makes the tale all the more realistic for it. This is absolutely one of those books that truly takes you to the era and brings out *all* of the emotions therein… leaving you breathless by the end, and maybe sitting in a room that suddenly becomes quite dusty. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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