WTF – Welcome To Florida. This is one of those sprawling South Florida/ Everglades “Florida Man” stories that are so extremely entertaining even in the real life versions, and here comedic story master Dave Barry pulls no punches. Similar in tone and style to Jimmy Buffet’s A Salty Piece Of Land, there *is* some social/ societal commentary here – but it is buried in a tale that is so “unrealistically real” (as another reviewer noted) that it is one of those “jokes with a point” that are freaking hilarious – yet also perhaps a touch too real. Specifically, much of the commentary in this particular tale revolves around social media and “fame”/ “celebrity”, and Barry’s observations here – baked into the overall narrative of the tale – are quite biting. And yet… the over the top insanity humor is never far away, and is ultimately the driving force of the tale. If you’ve been experiencing too much seriousness in your “real” life or in your reading and you need a break from all the death, drama, and destruction… this is the perfect getaway, no matter where you may physically be or what time of year it may be where you are. Very much recommended.
Interesting Blend Of Real-World Physics And Paranormal Into Top-Notch Action Thriller. Sexton… you’re doing it again. You just said this book was a “top notch action thriller”, yet it is set in the *midwest*. What are you smoking, and can I get some? Why yes, yes I did say that – and I mean it. The tale opens with an all-consuming fire… in the middle of a torrential rain. As we get the perspectives of about a half dozen or so different characters, we find that one of them somehow has psychic abilities. When the scientist and the psychic meet… things get rather interesting and the tale becomes rather twisty yet also very down to earth and relatable. The ending itself is almost Christopher Nolan-esque in how mind-bending it is, and some of the scenes getting us there are edge of your seat thrill rides. Overall an intriguing series starter, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Mejia takes this. Very much recommended.
Center Strikes Again. This is another feel-good story from Center that takes an unusual situation and uses it to show how even suddenly-forced differences can be used to tremendous effect – without ever feeling like she is white-washing the difficulties of the given condition at hand. Indeed, Center goes into detail showing the various struggles here, but also how they can be overcome and adapted to. Along the way, we also get a strong and relatable tale of finding yourself and finding what truly matters to you… and some pretty hilarious sequences as well. 🙂 Overall a strong and interesting book that puts a more “real” spin on this particular condition than the *few* other books I’ve read that feature it (which tend to do into more paranormal/ thriller spaces). Very much recommended.
Innovative Use Of Both Duology And Story-Within-A-Story. There is so much to like about this book, but I suspect that later reviews will hit all you need to know about just how strong at least one of the two romances here is – one is clearly one of those life-altering once-in-a-lifetime loves which we mostly see play out via two books, the other romance is a more contemporary (40 years ago anyway, which is still more recent than the 80 yrs ago for the first romance) tale of two people coming together via unusual circumstance. But it is truly the duology/ story-within-a-story structure that I want to highlight here, as this is what truly propels this book and makes it everything that it eventually becomes. I’d never seen this particular approach done – yes, there are other books with stories-within-stories, but this was truly the first time I’d ever encountered a duology done this way, and Davis manages to make all *three* books – the duology plus this actual book we’re actually reading “in real life” – truly compelling due to the nature of how she has crafted this. Simply superb, and truly, truly well executed. And yes, the actual romance aspects of this are well done, as are the heart-wrenching dramatics. You want a book for “Most Anticipated of 2023”? This very book had better be on that list. Very much recommended.
Innovative Use Of Multi-Perspective. This is one of those tales that repeats itself a decent amount – something like 50-60% or so of the text is the same events through two different perspectives, each providing their own wrinkles. It is within the back third that the overall tale really begins to take off, and is quite explosive in its own right. Quite a few twists and turns – some even bigger than the ones we’ve already experienced to this point – occur through this section, and indeed at times it feels like we may be going a much darker direction (of a couple of different variants) than we ultimately do. Indeed, the ending itself is quite reminiscent of a particular 90s era movie, but revealing which movie would likely be a significant spoiler, so I’ll just point the reader of the review in that direction and allow them to figure it out for themselves. Ultimately a fun book that raises some challenging points without ever being preachy about them. Very much recommended.
Slow, Slow, Slow – And Then A NASCAR Race Through The Mountains. This is one of those mysteries that perhaps spends a bit *too* much time in the “setup” phase, letting us get comfortable with – though never *too* comfortable with – an unlikely budding friendship. Then, in its final quarter or so, the twists and turns and flips and flops and zigs and zags come so rapidly paced that it will feel like someone let loose a NASCAR race on the roads of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (Some of the twistiest roads I’ve ever personally driven, for those who don’t quite get where I’m going there. :D) Ultimately it all works and works great together, if a bit tried and true in its ultimate design. Still, the process of getting there was new-ish and done quite well. Very much recommended.
New Spin On Wedding Wars. Fenton and Steinke manage to craft a new, much more dramatic yet still hilarious, spin on the Wedding Wars trope, this time by introducing quite a bit of explosive drama between three of the four parents involved. Yes, the drama itself takes up more of the pages than those who prefer a less dramatic romcom will probably like, but overall it works here to elevate the trope and provide a good bit of “meat” for those who are looking for something a bit sturdier than yet another vapid romcom whose details will be forgotten seconds after finishing it. Instead, this one will challenge you without putting *too* much pressure and will show you things you might not have otherwise considered – particularly if you’re one of the not-small population that can readily identify with much of the drama herein. And yet, ultimately this is more Lifetime meets Hallmark than anything *truly* dark and foreboding – it *is*, still, at its heart, a romantic comedy. Just one with a bit more bite than usual, which helps elevate it over so many of its genre siblings. Very much recommended.
Grief And Madness. One of the things I like about this particular book, and the way it parallels my own family’s life, is in showing how events during WWII can have generational impacts via creating madness – the older term for insanity, yet which feels like it applies more appropriately here – in some of the survivors of that war. Here, we see it even in two people who were far from soldiers, far from the front lines. They were simply mothers who had daughters at nearly the same time in the same city who happened to become friends… and then had that friendship tested in pretty horrific ways. But the varying types of madness we see here do a great job in showing how the war impacted different people differently, even people as connected as these two mothers were. Without giving too much away, we even see the horrors of the Holocaust a bit – and there again, we see survivors trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
All told this was one of those books where the gut punches land heavy – but early. The “big reveal” is, in fact, rather obvious *much* earlier than the explicit reveal, and yet the way this is done works within the story being told of the varying madnesses and how these survivors are trying to cope in any way they can. So while I can’t personally fault Harmel for this, I can see where other more stringent reviewers might. Even the near 400 page length works well here, never feeling bloated or too slow and instead simply packing in a *ton* of rich detail and events, many – even among the seemingly more insignificant in this tale – based on real world events and seemingly quite accurate. (The author’s note in the end reveals how one particular incident within the last few pages of the book is actually the author inserting her characters into that particular moment, but otherwise being pretty close to an actual nonfiction report on the incident in question.)
Overall a truly well done, beautifully layered tale of two beautifully broken women and the impacts their choices have across decades. Very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a tale that seems to describe New York City (at least its yuppie Upper West Side types) to a T. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Small Affair by Flora Collins.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
NYC To A T. I’ve been trying to think about what to say about this book for four days and I’ve got… nothing. There isn’t anything overly technically wrong here (the time and perspective jumps can be jarring at times, maybe, but that’s about it), and it is in fact a mostly engaging story – you’re going to want to know what happened, and then you’re going to want to know how and why it happened. On both of these points, Collins gets rather explosive. Overall though this book just has the feel of an utterly pretentious New York… witch… who can’t see beyond her Upper West Side aspirations. Certainly for the characters, and maybe Collins herself was simply being a solid conduit of these characters. If you like tales of that particular yuppie New York world, eh, you’re probably going to LOVE this book. And again, even if that isn’t overly your thing, this is still a good book. But if you’re more of a Southern Suburbanite/ hillbilly type who remembers with fondness the old Pace Salsa commercials with their “*NEW YORK CITY?!?!?!?!?* tagline… this is NYC to a T from that perspective. So know that going in. Recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Small Affair by Flora Collins”
More Mystery Than Romance. This is apparently Novak’s 75 book, and while I’ve only read a handful of those prior books – mostly a few of her most recent ones – this seems to be a bit of a departure from her usual style. At least in my own experience with her, she tends to write more women’s fiction/ romance blends… and this is pretty far from that. This is more of a Catherine McKenzie / Kimberly Belle / Leah Mercer style mystery that also includes a romance than the more usual Novak style, though still set in an idyllic small town island. It is specifically because the title and cover don’t really match the overall tone and substance of the tale told here that it lost a star for me, and admittedly this is something that can easily be corrected in the nearly five months between when I write this review and the book’s actual publication date.
For what it actually is, this story is pretty solid and well told – if you like your mysteries to also include a romance, you’re going to love this book. If you enjoy a tale that meets all known RWA criteria for being a “romance book” but the story is more about the mystery than the romance, you’re going to enjoy this book. But if you’re looking for more of a “classic Novak” women’s fiction/ drama on an island… eh, read this book and see what you think. I personally think it is a bit darker than her usual and thus is a fairly significant departure, but again, I’ve only read her last few books. For all I know this is where she built her fan base and is *returning* to this rather than this being an entirely new thing for her. Again, what she does do here, she does in fact do quite well indeed, so there is that at least.
Overall this was an excellent tale that was told well – it just doesn’t match its title (which has only the most tangential of connections to the tale) or cover imagery. Very much recommended.