#BookReview: The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson

Complex Almost Anti-Hero Leads Layered World Into Promising New Series. This is one of those books that touches on a lot of things – the opioid epidemic, the crash of coal in the push for so-called “green” energy, land speculation, family, the complexities of being on the right side of the “law” when your family isn’t, high school romance and the fallout thereof, traditional Southern living vs the newer get-rich-quick ethos… and even a strong dash of the militia movement and the mistakes on both sides of Ruby Ridge and Waco and the long shadows both of those events cast in certain communities. In the process, it creates a truly layered and compelling world that while just as complex as our own, still allows for a high degree of escapism (for most). And yet, it is also a brutal tale of survival and betrayal, of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over and over again. Of trying to become something you want to be, even as your community and even family are doing their damndest to drag you in other directions. Overall truly a remarkable tale for what it is, and one I am very much looking forward to coming back into this world. Very much recommended.

This review of The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Liquid Shades Of Blue by James Polkinghorn

South Florida Noir. This really does have that combo South Florida / Noir vibe to it, and if you approach it from that sense… it tends to make more sense. In the end, this is a tale of one man and his daddy issues, and while ultimately nowhere near the literary feat of The Great Gatsby, also gives off some similar vibes there too.

Note that the Amazon listing even for the Kindle book shows it dramatically shorter than what Goodreads currently shows it as – 209 pages on Amazon (which feels closer to accurate with just how quickly this book reads) vs 336 on Goodreads (which feels remarkably long for just how quickly this book reads). And yes, as I am writing this review a full week before release, that means I read an Advance Reviewer Copy and a Goodreads Librarian can update the page count on that site at any point between when I’m writing this review and when you are reading it. So if this has been corrected, ignore this part of the review. ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall, this is a great, fun, short read perfect for a bit of escapism and perhaps a degree of catharsis. Maybe not a Dr. office read, and arguably not really a beach read either, yet perfect for one of those languid hot humid Southern summer nights. Particularly if you happen to be *in* South Florida at the time, and likely particularly with a good cigar in one hand while sipping a fine Old Fashioned. Damn, now *I* need to read this book again in that manner. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of Liquid Shades Of Blue by James Polkinghorn was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: The Overlooked Americans by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

Wokeism (n): The Tendency Towards Social Justice Turned Toxic. Got your attention with the headline here, right? Good. Now sit down in that chair right there and let me show you how “it’s done”.

When you get beyond David Auerbach’s Meganets, when you get beyond Tobias Rose-Stockwell’s Outrage Machine, when you get to the *person* you think you so adamantly oppose

… what happens when you find out that while they may come from a different culture than you, the human condition remains the same across cultures, and ultimately they share quite a bit of commonality with you?

What happens when you find out the monster at your door, the horrid kaiju that is threatening your children and your very way of life…

… is just another person who is just trying to protect his own way of life and his own kids, who thinks that *you* are the horrid kaiju threatening *his* kids and way of life?

What happens when you stop shooting at each other for just one minute

… and find out that you had far more in common than you ever had different all along?

Don’t get me wrong, this book has a few problems. Currid-Halkett still tends to be at least somewhat elitist and/ or condescending to those opinions she disagrees with, and there is quite a lot of discussion of COVID here – the latter point being the star deduction, as even in 2023 I remain adamant in my one-man war against any book that mentions COVID, and the single star deduction is my only “real” “weapon” there.

Overall though, it is on the higher end of normally well documented, at 29% bibliography, and fairly well reasoned overall. For those that want to avoid the fates shown in David French’s Divided We Fall… this book is one that so very many people will need to read and take to heart.

Very much recommended.

This review of The Overlooked Americans by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Pity Date by Whitney Dineen

Solid (Mostly) Escapist Romance. This is one of those romances such that unless you’ve dealt with one of the all-too-real but also not-every-person issues it uses for a sense of drama – cheating and/ or lying partners and grandparents’ declining health in particular – is going to be largely just escapist fluff that is perfect for some much needed respite from the so-called “real” world. At just over 300 pages, it reads perhaps a touch quicker than that number would indicate, while still telling a solid and compelling story full of hijinx, misunderstandings… and meddling grandparents. Kind of perfect for the Hallmark Romance crowd, really, and truly straight up their alley. Overall a mostly fun tale that hits all the expected notes while not diving too deep into any real drama. Very much recommended.

This review of Pity Date by Whitney Dineen was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Little Ghosts by Gregg Dunnett

Chilling Thriller With A Unique Take On Ghosts. Straight up, know that this book is about a child murder – if you can’t handle that, this isn’t the book for you. For those of you still here, Dunnett does a solid job of showing the aftereffects of an unsolved child murder on the family the child leaves behind, before transitioning into a cat and mouse game to try to stop the killer before he strikes again. These elements of the story are well done, but have been done time and time and time again… and again and again and again. To the point that there is an entire genre of these types of tales, and this tale is on par with its genre mates – if you like the genre, you’re probably going to like this one, and vice versa.

What sets this book apart, really, is its take oh ghosts – how they present, what abilities they have, what they know, etc. And here, Dunnett really does a remarkable job of showing how his particular brand of ghosts could work within the overall story being told here. Overall a truly entertaining book with an intriguing take on ghosts. Very much recommended.

This review of Little Ghosts by Gregg Dunnett was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BlogTour: The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a tale that in some ways is a more current American President. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Almost A Texas-Based The American President. Mostly in overall tone, and with this one being in some instances both funnier and more poignant than even that classic movie – though far from its extremely quotable climactic speech – if you enjoyed that movie, you’re very likely to enjoy this book. In both, you get a lot of Democrat-heavy politics, so if that is a major turn off for you – either because of the specific politics or because you don’t like real-world politics in your fiction, particularly your romantic fiction, generally – ummm… this may not be the book for you. If you *do* enjoy Democrat politics but want your Democrat politicians to be shown as near John Galt mythic heroes… eh… you’re going to be disappointed here, as both of our leads are shown to be very flawed people who happen to meet and fall in love in the middle of an intense campaign. And speaking of the campaign itself, this was actually a remarkably solid look at the inside of campaigning in America today, for all its positives *and* negatives, so there is that – but again, if you’re reading for more pure escapism… that may not be what you want.

Overall the book used its near 400 page length well, showing both a slow burn “fake” romance *and* the various political escapades quite solidly, while allowing several secondary characters various chances to shine as well. All told, this is a solid story for what it is that may not be what everyone wants, but there is nothing technically wrong with what it is. Very much 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: The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead”

#BookReview: Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell

Strong Claims Need Strong Documentation. Ultimately, the greatest weakness of this book comes down to the title of the review – and the reason for both star deductions here. The text is barely documented at all, coming in at just 10% or so of the overall text – well below the 20-30% which is more typical in my extensive experience reading advance reviewer copies of nonfiction texts. Though as I’ve begun noting of late, I may need to revise that expectation down a touch – to 15%, not 10%. The other star deduction comes from the other part of the title – while the overall premise about the titular Outrage Machine seems sound and the explanations directly on it seem fairly spot-on, Rose-Stockwell uses the sciences, history, and even semi-current events in a way that actually brings to mind the practice rampant in the Christian nonfiction space known as “prooftexting”, wherein Bible verses are cited outside of their context, and often even contrary to their original context, in “proof” of some point or another. Here, Rose-Stockwell does this with the sciences and history, both near and far. Yes, many of the examples he cites seem at least somewhat relevant, but even in the most relevant of them (such as his discussion of COVID), he ignores and even denigrates needed context which deviates from his intention. At other times, he simply gets the needed context quite wrong, which was particularly noticeable in his treatment of some of the issues surrounding the Founding of the United States and which other, far more well documented, texts have explored in much more and more even depth.

All of this noted, to be crystal clear, this really is an important book that when focusing on its central premise of the Outrage Machine and how it works both now and throughout history, is actually quite good. I was simply hoping for a better argued, perhaps slightly more academically rigorous, explanation of the topic at hand – and this is almost more of a memoir form of discussing how Rose-Stockwell realized the idea himself and came to explain it to himself, if that makes any sense. But again, truly an important work that can legitimately add to the overall discussion, and thus recommended.

This review of Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell was originally written on May 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Broken Angels by Gwyn Bennett

Modern Sherlock Holmes/ Police Procedural Blend. Here, we get yet another police procedural set in Great Britain, so the terms and some of the procedures are a bit different than American audiences generally expect, yet are in-line with other similar books I’ve read. This particular new series has a different bent than most in that its central (series titular) character is a trained tracker/ behaviorist, and his backstory and actions here are reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Original Detective. His tracking abilities are also reminiscent of the more modern day author David Wood’s Bones Bonebrake, and indeed both Lane and Bonebrake have connections to the same region of the US. This book also features a bit more of a disturbed villain than usual, and some scenes may be a bit much for some readers. Nothing overly graphic, and certainly not “on screen”, but the Carrie-type religious abuse is quite heavy handed, while also being necessary to establish the full depravity and insanity of the villain. Overall, a compelling series starter – which is great, since new publisher Storm Publishing is re-releasing almost the entire series under new titles on the same day. Very much recommended.

This review of Broken Angels by Gwyn Bennett was originally written on May 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Desert Gold by David Wood

Next Up. Yet again, Wood shows that he knows his characters and audience quite well – this is yet another excellent Maddock and Bones tale with both of them working together, along with a wide range of the friends they’ve picked up over the years, to solve some puzzle involving some long lost artifact. We get the same banter and action that the audience has come to expect, and we get the same quick (120 page or so) tale that has come to typify these later works in particular – meaning they’re never too much of a time commitment even for people new to the series. Though this one does reference *several* prior tales, so those who are anti-spoiler absolutists… well, this *is* listed as Book 15 of the series… ๐Ÿ˜€ The addition of an in-world park that is clearly distinct from, yet also clearly similar to, a certain real world park with complexes in both Los Angeles and Florida is even better, with quite a few solid jokes (and some mild, one-line and move on type, commentary). Adventure fans and/ or anyone looking for a quick read that could likely be completed while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, look over here. Very much recommended.

This review of Desert Gold by David Wood was originally written on May 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Cold Fire by Matt Hilton

An End, Once And For All? This is one hell of an action-packed thrill ride, with Tess, Po, and Pinky struggling as never before to figure out and then confront an enemy that may yet prove to be too powerful for even their considerable combined might. For the first time since I began reading this series (admittedly late in its run), Po and Pinky in particular have finally met an opponent who can best them – which produces even tighter and more visceral fighting sequences than the still-great “normal” for this series.

And then… that ending. Not a Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King ending at all – more like a Fallout one or the one at the end of the Mass Effect Original Trilogy (whose soundtrack song over this sequence provides the title of this review). And unlike Mass Effect 3 in particular (and more similar to the widely-regarded-as-best-single-game-in-the-franchise Mass Effect 2), the overall action of the book goes pretty well right up to the moment the “After” is triggered.

If this is truly the end, what a way to go out. And if these characters ever do get a chance to come back… what a way to leave it until that time. Very much recommended.

This review of Cold Fire by Matt Hilton was originally written on April 28, 2023.