#BookReview: Iris In The Dark by Elissa Grossell Dickey

Solid Sophomore Effort That Doesn’t Live Up To The Author’s Debut. With this book, Dickey gives a solid story that has elements across several genres – and thus may not work for readers who are exclusive to any given genre. For readers who are more open though, this one actually works quite well. There is a mystery/ creepiness factor (combined with a tragic/ dark backstory) that almost gives mystery/ suspense vibes, but when combined with the more romance side of the tale switches to almost a romantic suspense vibe. Then there are the women’s fiction elements of a woman trying to find herself yet again when her world begins to collapse – or is it simply her mind collapsing? In the end, I would suggest that the book ultimately follows all rules I know of for the romance genre, and thus likely best fits there – though I’m not sure that this is what Dickey or her publisher (not known for romances) intended. I appreciate that Dickey tells a dramatically different story here than her debut (The Speed of Light), and I encourage all readers to go check out that book as well, no matter your own thoughts on this one. This book is ultimately the well-travelled tale of a phenomenal debut making the next work so much harder, as it has so much to live up to. Judged on its own, this story is truly a solid and intriguing one. Recommended.

This review of Iris In The Dark by Elissa Grossell Dickey was originally written on June 10, 2022.

#BookReview: Miss Memory Lane by Colton Haynes

Raw. Brutal. Not A Name-Dropping Hollywood Story. Like so many others, I first “met” Haynes when he showed up on my TV screen as Roy Harper in CW’s Arrow. A show which I didn’t want to like at first because it came *so* close to Smallville and Justin Hartley’s own excellent portrayal of the same (now titular) character, but whose grit and realism shined through and made me a fan (at least of its earlier seasons). But I never knew too much of the actual Colton Haynes other than knowing that he seemed to be friends with his female cast mates in particular and that he had previously been on the MTV version of Teen Wolf.

And while both of these shows are mentioned here (with more details about Teen Wolf than Arrow, though not a Hollywood-gossip type entry on either of them), the focus of this book is more about Haynes’ upbringing, from his earliest memories to his first sexual abuse at age six to his later sexual abuse throughout his teenage years, and his life as all of this was happening. Even when we get into the areas where he came into the public eye, beginning with modeling in New York and LA (after h

This review of Miss Memory Lane by Colton Haynes was originally written on June 9, 2022.

#BlogTour: The Girl With The Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring

For this blog tour we’re looking at a moving portrait of a loving daughter trying to understand her tortured artist father… and a protective sister trying to prevent her artist brother from becoming too haunted by the war they are living through. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Girl With The Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring.

Moving Portrait Of Tortured Artist And Loving Daughter. This is an interesting dual timeline historical, one in which a man is at the center of both timelines… and yet his own perspective is never once actually included in the narrative. And yet despite this, the book does *not* come across as misandristic at all, as the two perspectives we *do* get – the man’s older sister in WWII Florence and his daughter in 2019 – are both seeking to understand him in their own ways. Thus, this book actually becomes an interesting look at how the experience of war ultimately shapes lives in so many divergent ways. While little of the horrors are shown “on screen”, some are, including a few murders, torture with a cigarette, general abuse, and a rape attempt (that may or may not be successful). Also discussed is how the Jews of the area are rounded up, gang rapes (alluded to but not directly shown), and how a citizenry can live with themselves not stopping either. So truly a lot of horrific stuff – and even after the Allies “liberate” the city, at least a few pages are devoted to the continued deprivations. Truly a well rounded look at a difficult and trying period – and the modern story of a daughter trying to understand the messages her tortured father left behind are solid as well, without having quite the horrific impact of the WWII scenes. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Girl With The Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring”

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

For this week’s Featured New Release we’re looking at a tale of suspense set in three different timelines – present, years ago, and unknown – that all merge into a masterclass of suspense of a finale. This week we’re looking at The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Master Class In Suspense. Up front, this tale is told in three different timelines from three different perspectives – so if you’re a reader that struggles with that… well, this is an excellent read and you should still try it, but I get it. ๐Ÿ™‚ That noted, what makes this tale so strong is that each of the three threads – present day, years ago, and unknown – could be separate books and still be equally compelling, and yet here Gudenkauf weaves them together so masterfully that they play off each other even better and produce an overall much tighter grip on the reader’s mind. Yes, they all ultimately come together – and when they do, the finale is ultimately some of the best suspense of the entire book. Which is saying quite a bit, given just how good the parts before that are. This is another one that uses its setting in winter well, as well as its setting in the US central plains arguably even better than its winter placement of the present day timeline. Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf”

#BookReview: The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding

“So Many Secrets. So Many Lies. And So Much Anger.” Yes, the title of this review is a direct quote from the book. Yes, it is during the final 10%, when everything is being revealed and wrapped up. And yet you still have no idea what it actually refers to. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But that particular line really does sum the book up in and of itself. This is a four person family consisting of mom and dad who have been married for over 20 years, 20 yo college dropout son, and 17yo high school junior daughter – and *every single one of them* are keeping secrets from all the others and actively lying to both the other people and themselves. Harding does a tremendous job of showing flawed, nuanced characters just trying to do what they think is right with limited information… sometimes with tragic results. No one comes out looking squeaky clean, and yet no one comes out looking overly monstrous either. Great job of showing just how murky real life often is. Very much recommended.

This review of The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding was originally written on May 27, 2021.

#BookReview: The Rise Of Light by Olivia Hawker

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.

This review of The Rise Of Light by Olivia Hawker was originally written on May 21, 2021.

#BookReview: Echoing Hope by Kurt Willems

Solid Exploration. Once one gets past the rampant (and expected) proof texting and leftist/ West Coast language barriers. Here, Willems makes a lot of really strong points about Jesus, pain, and Jesus’ humanity that many have rarely if ever considered. And thus this is truly a strong book. It drops a star due to the rampant (beginning on page 2 or so) proof texting (which was expected, he *is* a pastor, after all) and I am waging a one-man war against the practice, with my book reviews being really my only weapon. And thus, any time I see the practice in a book I am reading, it is an automatic one star deduction, no matter how strong the rest of the text is. The rest of the text, away from the prooftexting, will largely vary by the reader’s comfort level with leftist/ West Coast language, which is also rampant. To me, Willems could have adjusted the diction in these places to reflect more inclusive – see what I did there? ๐Ÿ˜‰ – language and arguably made a stronger book as a whole. As it is, the book reads a bit political with its talk of privilege and context and intersectionality, among other terms, even as Willems actually repeatedly makes the point that if you’re looking to politics for solutions, you’re looking in the wrong place. So ultimately the book will likely play better in certain crowds than others, and truly YMMV with the text solely based on the diction Willems uses. But ultimately his actual points are sound no matter your own political bent, and that is the very reason this book is recommended as highly as it is. Seriously, don’t let Willems’ word choices have you throwing the book out the window in disgust, keep reading and auto-translating in your head. It was very much worth it, at least for me. Truly a strong book with a couple of quibbles, it is still very much recommended.

This review of Echoing Hope by Kurt Willems was originally written on February 16, 2021.