Moving Coming Of Age For Two Sisters During Surfing’s Golden Years. Another dive into the 1960s, with stops in the 1950s and 1980s as well, this is one of those books that takes that period and adds a flavor not always seen as readily. Yes, even when we eventually go to Vietnam with a couple of characters here, the book manages to show-without-showing the horrors there while focusing on its own spin on the story and era – in this case, how to move on from insta-fame and transition back to “normal” life while still in love with the surf. There is a lot going on in this book, as there was in the era, and the book manages to treat all of it in the same faded golden tones of the current (release day) cover. Note that if you have personal problems with reading about any of the common problems of the era – racism, cults, abuse, the Vietnam war, neglect, unhealthy doses of narcissism, etc… eh, maybe this book isn’t for you. But for the clean/ sweet romance crowd (and yes, this book meets every qualification I’m aware of for that genre), know that there isn’t much if any sex shown “on screen”, and even the worst of the domestic violence is actually off-screen. Overall a fairly realistic while still clearly fictional take on the era, and one fans of surfing’s Golden Age on the untamed shores of Southern California in the early 1960s and Hawaii in the mid 1950s will absolutely love. Very much recommended.
Solid “Locked In” Mystery Asks Serious Questions. This is one of those “everyone is trapped in the house, and everyone has secrets” kind of mysteries that classic mystery lovers will love, and newer mystery lovers that are all about the shock value/ twist… eh, your mileage may vary. I personally thought the ending was particularly well done and while not *overly* shocking in *who* was involved, was brilliantly executed in *why* they were involved. Which gets to the whole “asks serious questions” bit, as the “questions” indicated in the description… are *NOT* the only questions raised. This book has a lot of meat there for those who *want* a deeper psychological dive, particularly in probing their own consciences – but it also offers enough directly in the text that if all you want is a few hours of classic mystery escapism… that is all you have to take from this particular tale. Which is usually a sign of a particularly strong storyteller, when they can give both readers what they want in the same story. This was my first book from Cross, and most likely will not be my last. Very much recommended.
Slow Burn Hallmarkie Southern Romance. This is another of those books that almost seems destined for the small screen on the Hallmark Channel or one of its newer competitors. But here, the romance is *very* slow burn, taking nearly all of this books 350 or so pages to finally get the couple together – and even then, they barely kiss, much less anything else. So this is definetly more for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd than the crowd that wants damn near erotica level sex in the first chapter. (You know what I mean, and you know who you are.) Cursing is next to non-existent here, and may even be completely non-existent – I certainly don’t remember any. Prayers, church attendance, mentions of God and Jesus… those are far more plentiful – and just as accurate to the Southern small mountain town setting as the broken families, abuse, and alcoholism that are also discussed, but which take place long before this book and are only discussed – not shown “on screen”.
Indeed, the bulk of the tale is a woman being conned… and then trying to re-establish her life after very nearly everything other than her breath is taken from her. Here, the book truly shines as the reader feels quite viscerally everything our lead is going through, as well as just how much the investigator assigned to her case wants to solve it for her. Naigle uses this structure to first get our lead to the point of being willing to move – and then to show the small town that will serve as the basis for the rest of this series (more on that momentarily) as an outsider would see it, for all its wonders and faults.
Really the only thing quite obviously missing here is an obvious second book, as this is listed as “number one” in a new series. As the series name is the same as the town name, clearly the town itself will be central to this series, and thus its establishment here is quite solid indeed. There’s just no real obvious “oh, this is who we’re tracking in the next book” set up. Or maybe I just missed it?
Overall a solid tale of its type, one that some will absolutely adore and others will find… the nearest window to throw it out of. Still, for what it is, truly a good tale, well told. Very much recommended.
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.
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.
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
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”
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. 🙂 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”
“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. 😉 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.
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.