#BookReview: It All Comes Down To This by Therese Anne Fowler

Nothing Technically Wrong, Yet SLOW. This is one of those books where there is nothing technically blatantly *wrong* about the storytelling… and yet the reader is left with the sense that this story could have been so much more engaging had it been told differently. To the level that while this book is around the 350 page mark, it almost reads as though it is a dense academic tome of twice its length – even though it very clearly is *not*. As other reviewers have noted, there are a LOT of characters to keep up with early, but that does in fact get easier probably by even the 25 – 33% mark, once we’ve visited each a couple of times and get a sense of where their individual arcs are. In the end, this is a solid slice of life family drama that touches on very real and very messy issues, but could have been better told in this format with several dozen fewer pages (to speed the pacing) or with this number of pages in a different format. Still, as noted, there is nothing technically wrong here and other readers may have a better time with this book. Recommended.

This review of It All Comes Down To This by Therese Anne Fowler was originally written on June 20, 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.
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#BlogTour: Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell

For this blog tour we’re looking at an interesting FF romance that dives into some areas not usually seen in romance novels, but which does have a couple of major flaws. For this blog tour we’re looking at Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell.

Interesting FF Romance Brought Down By Preachy Politics And Blatant Racism. As a romance, this book works. It starts out as a “forced” (ish) proximity before turning into a bridge-the-gap, all revolving around two female academics at different points in their careers. Not for the “clean” / “sweet” crowd, as others have noted there is a fair amount of sex in the first four chapters alone. Also falls into the trap of describing both women as very buxom, which is a bit of a cop-out to my mind designed to get those of us with… “active imaginations”… more into the book. But that point is but a minor quibble. The preachy politics, and in particular the blatant racism, is the reason for the star deduction here. Let me be perfectly clear. My standard is this: If you reverse the [insert demographic in question] and keep everything else absolutely identical, would anyone cry foul? I believe this book fails that test in its characterization of its singular straight white male character, and thus the star deduction. But still, on the whole this is a mostly solid book, and thus it is *only* a singular star deducted. Fans of the romance genre generally should enjoy this one, fans of FF romances in particular will probably thoroughly enjoy this one, and it does indeed dive into areas not frequented, particularly academia and art professors. Thus, this book is recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio and contact links, and a link to buy the book.
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#BookReview: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID!!!!!!!

A note to any and all authors and publishers, up front: I ABSOLUTELY, 10000%, DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID!!!!! I READ FICTION TO *ESCAPE* THE “REAL” WORLD!!!!! Write the stories if you feel you must. Maybe for your own mental health, you *need* to write COVID stories. For the rest of us, PLEASE do NOT publish them for a while. It is still *TOO* real, no matter what one thinks about the virus or any of the politics around it. (And remember, no matter your own thoughts on it, there are large segments of your potential customers who will disagree with you.)

All of the above noted, the actual story here is well crafted and well told. Picoult manages to bring in, from a more mysticism side, one of the aspects of Bill Myers’ Eli that made that book one of the most influential of my own life – even as he approached the concept from a more science/ science fiction side. The scenes in the Galapagos in particular are truly viscerally stunning. You feel yourself being there as much as our lead character is, in all of the messy situations she finds herself trapped in on this paradise as the world falls apart. Indeed, had the entire book been based there, to me it would have been a much better book overall – even though I objectively rated this story as a 5*, I must admit the latter third of the book, while still strong and compelling storytelling objectively, was less interesting to me (other than the mysticism mentioned above, as this is where those aspects come into play).

At the end of the day, I write this review roughly six weeks before publication and this book has nearly 600 reviews on Goodreads – at the time I began writing this, it looked as though this one will be number 569. Which speaks to the marketing reach and prowess of its publisher, and Picoult’s own status as, as I described her on Facebook earlier this morning “a grocery store book section level author that seems to occupy half of said grocery store book section”. And the mystic hook being so rarely used is perhaps reason to rate this book as more compelling than others, but overall the tale here and the level of the writing… as I mentioned on my review of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising: there is absolutely *no* doubt that this is a strong tale strongly crafted. But I really have read oh so many authors from less powerful publishers that are at least as good, and thus I truly don’t understand the hype.

For those that *do* want a “real” look at COVID in their fiction, whether that be in 2021 or later, this book is absolutely must read. For those that want island escapism and don’t mind COVID being a central part of the tale, you’re definetly going to want to read this one, even if you’ve never read Picoult (as I had never before this book). But for those who, for any reason at all, just can’t deal with COVID “realism” in their escapism/ fiction… maybe hold off on this one until you’re at a point where you can. And then read it, because it really is a great story overall. Recommended.

This review of Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult was originally written on October 15, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: A Dancing Tide by Grace Greene

This week, we’re looking at a book that the author originally had no intention of writing… and then the reviews began coming in from her fans (including this very blog) begging for a sequel… and so here we are. ๐Ÿ™‚ This week, we’re looking at A Dancing Tide by Grace Greene.

Here’s what I said on Goodreads:

Beautiful Sequel. Full disclosure up front on this one: I read the book a month ago and somehow forgot to write my review then. Fortunately, I’ve been slowing down and I’ve only read about a dozen and a half books since. ๐Ÿ˜€ This book was a great continuation of a story… that the author originally had no intention of continuing. But she listens to her fans – including myself – and when we began clamoring for a sequel to A Barefoot Tide due to several unresolved threads at the end of that tale, Greene eventually wrote this tale as well. And while I think we could continue in this world for at least one other book, most of the threads that were left a bit too open in the previous book are more fully explored here, and thus if this series ends as a duology, I think that too could work. But while it *can* *technically* be read first, you really should go read A Barefoot Tide before this book… and then you’ll be glad the rest of us begged Greene enough for this book that she finally wrote it. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

#BlogTour: The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross

For this blog tour we’re looking at a strong book filled with strongly developed characters. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross.

Solid Women’s Fiction With Historical Elements. This is one of those books where the description perfectly sets up what you’re actually getting here – a tale of siblings finding each other after their father passes away and sets in motion a plan for the three of them to meet. Along the way, they discover their still-living grandmother and get to hear the stories of her activities in WWII – including meeting and falling in love with their grandfather. On these elements, this is a solidly written women’s fiction tale with historical fiction *elements* – but I personally would not market this as a “historical fiction” title. So if you’re a reader that *only* reads historical fiction… I’d still say this one is worthy of your time, just know that you aren’t getting a true tale of that genre here. Indeed, along the story of one of the sisters in particular (and to a lesser extent another of them), this *could* be marketed as a romance – though the women’s fiction side is still the dominant side of the tale. The titular Inheritance? Well, that’s actually the best part of the tale… when you realize what Ross intends it as. Overall a strong book filled with strongly developed characters among is main and primary supporting cast, and a very well told story. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the usual publisher details – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: Write My Name Across The Sky by Barbara O’Neal

In what is just about the only tradition we have here at BookAnon, yet again Barbara O’Neal has released a new book, and for the fourth year in a row, it is the Featured New Release of the Week on release week. This week, we’re looking at Write My Name Across The Sky by Barbara O’Neal.

Swinging For The Fence… But Not Quite Putting It Over. This was another of O’Neal’s works over the last few years where she is very clearly swinging for the fence in attempting to write a masterpiece that will leave you breathless – which she nailed in 2019’s When We Believed In Mermaids – that doesn’t quite make it over. Ultimately this is a solid double/ stretch triple – powerful and great, but also very clearly not quite what she was hoping for. And honestly, most of that has to do with the ending and particularly the flash-forward epilogue. As at least one other review has mentioned, this could have been better with another hundred pages or so to flesh out that particular area, or perhaps (my own suggestion here) as a duology wherein the resolutions to the varying plot threads are set up, and then executed (with complications, of course) in the second book. Still, truly a solid and compelling read that hooks you in early and makes you want to read all the way through. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Singing Trees by Boo Walker

This week we’re looking at a book that absolutely owns its space in a way that I’ve only seen exactly one other time in all of my reading. This week we’re looking at The Singing Trees by Boo Walker.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Boo Walker Just Has A Way With Words. That’s really all there is to this one. The story is emotional yet also one told in so very many ways by so very many people. The story of the late 60s and mostly early 70s (with prologue and epilogue in 2019, and penultimate chapter later in the 70s), of a pair of star crossed lovers in that perilous time, of loving someone yet having goals of your own. Walker walks into this well-worn area and even era, and owns it in a way I’ve only seen *one* other book do in all of my vast and diverse reading – Laurie Breton’s Coming Home. That book was an absolute gut punch that left you absolutely devastated for days. Walker’s is one that will slap you in your face several times, feint to the groin, and then land a hay maker right in your solar plexus at the end, right when you thought you were already completely spent. Truly a beautiful story, superbly crafted. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Magic Of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson

Another Maddie Miracle. When I read my first Maddie Dawson book last year as an ARC, I knew I had found an author that will be able to give me a satisfying tale in a way I might not think at first is satisfying, but who can make it work and make it be truly magical. Thus, I was waiting for her 2021 release to hit my ARC channels… when suddenly it showed up out of the blue as a Kindle First Read instead. So I didn’t even look at the others, I automatically picked up this book. Then when Amazon began their Kindle Summer Rewards beta program and included me in it, it turned out I needed to read an actual book – rather than my “normal” (these days) ARCs, which come into the Kindle as “personal documents” – and thus I automatically turned to this book to read.

And again, Dawson crafts a quirky, off beat tale unlike any I’ve ever encountered, essentially a coming-of-age tale… at damn near the time most people are beginning to have their mid-life crises. Not quite a true dual-timeline book, and with quite a bit of time elapsing “off screen” both in the remembered history of our main character and in her current life we’re following, this book manages to explain where she is right now emotionally and how she got there. For those readers, like me, who often straddle the line between two worlds, Dawson does an excellent job of showing at least one version of how our lives look and the dichotomies we face, and she does it remarkably well. The finale, featuring our primary character despairingly trying to resolve both halves of herself, is something we all face at some point, and Dawson plays it with the sincerity, sweetness, and cathartic laughter that such moments tend to so desperately need. Yes, this tale is absolutely off-beat, and yes, it may arguably be better presented as women’s fiction rather than romance, but it *does* serve well to highlight the real-world romantic realities of being single in your mid-30s (not that I’ve experienced this directly) and does quite well in showing both how jaded it can make you… and how oblivious. Very much recommended.

This review of The Magic Of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson was originally written on July 23, 2021.

#BlogTour: What Happens In Miami by Nadine Gonzalez

For this second entry in the Slide Into Summer Romance Blog Tour Series, we’re looking at a sizzling Miami romance that takes us all over the city while telling a tale of mystery and romance. For this blog tour, we’re looking at What Happens In Miami by Nadine Gonzalez.

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

Sizzling Miami Romance. This is an incredible tour of Miami through the eyes of a megastar – who wasn’t always – and a struggling artist. As the two come together, we see most sides of Miami from its glittering glitz of the mega-famous to the down-in-the-dirt seediness of its struggling working class – and everything in between. Gonzalez does remarkable job of showing the breadth of the hispanic community’s lives in that city – and tells a solid tale of mystery and intrigue while building what is ultimately a romance novel. All tied up in less than 200 pages, making this a solid July 4th vacation read no matter what your plans for the weekend may be. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt and the publisher information! ๐Ÿ™‚
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