#BlogTour: It All Comes Back To You by Melissa Wiesner

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a strong atypical romance. For this blog tour, we’re looking at It All Comes Back To You by Melissa Wiesner.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Strong Long-Form Romance. You know those romance tales where someone meets on a plane on their way to their (separate) vacations that happen to be in the same place, fall in love on the plane, and are damn near married by the time they get on the plane back home?

Yeah… this isn’t that. At all. This one takes more like 15 years, and has a LOT more growth of both of our lead characters between the initial meeting and the proposal. There is a strong coming of age element here, there is a strong sense of destiny here, but more importantly and one of the strongest features of the tale is that there is a strong sense of “[S]he’s *right there*! Get your FUCKING act together!”… except that it truly does take both of them the entire time frame to really get to the point where they *can* be together.

And you know what… sometimes… sometimes that happens in real life too. And those real life stories deserve to see their fictional counterparts too. So I’m glad Wiesner wrote this one, so that these types of stories *can* get out more. Because let’s face it, these kinds of romances aren’t exactly the typical ones in the genre – and that makes them all the more refreshing and interesting when you *do* find one like this. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: California Golden by Melanie Benjamin

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.

This review of California Golden by Melanie Benjamin was originally written on August 8, 2023.

#BookReview: The World Played Chess by Robert Dugoni

Multi-Generational Coming Of Age. This is an interesting review to write, particularly for a man, as Dugoni explicitly notes in his author notes at the end of this book that he sought to write a book about that transition period where the world expects a boy to suddenly become a man. Thus, any man’s thoughts on the book will likely be tangled with his own memories of that period in his own life, and mine are no different – for me, it was the summer I graduated HS… that ended with the Sept 11 attacks.

But the story Dugoni plays out here is with generations before and after my own, with the earlier Boomers – those old enough to fight in Vietnam in the late 60s-, Gen-X – Vincent here, and Dugoni in real life, graduated HS the summer after my own parents did -, and Gen-Z – the son here is in college just a couple of years ago as when the book is published in Sept 2021. And he captures each period and their own idiosyncracies well, despite using only really a couple of perspectives – an 18yo soldier in Vietnam, mostly told through letters and other remembrances, and an 18yo construction worker in 1979 who is also the parent in the 2010s era.

Still, the raw emotions and the conflicts and turmoils Dugoni captures here are visceral. The hits land like haymakers, and there isn’t really any levity to be found. Yet even throughout, this is a story of hope, of the idea that no matter the struggles you’re facing in your immediate world, things *will* get better. And it is this hope that is also so prevalent throughout the text and provides the gravitas that allows the haymakers to hit as hard as they do without the story becoming too depressing.

Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.

This review of The World Played Chess by Robert Dugoni was originally written on August 10, 2021.

#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.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

This week we’re doing only our second ever FNR post that also happens to be a Blog Tour post, featuring a remarkably cinematic coming of age tale. This week we’re looking at Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan.

First, here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Cinematic. This is one of those books that is very easy to imagine on a screen somewhere, with the younger more idyllic scenes in bright yellow tones and the older, more mature scenes in blue tones. While it didn’t hit me as hard as Doan’s prior works, it was still a strong coming of age tale of secrets, revelations, finding oneself, and forgiveness. Both timelines were extremely vivid and visceral, and both worked well to show where our main character was at each point in her life. Truly an excellent read, particularly in the summer (and perfectly timed, releasing the week before a traditional major vacation week in the US). Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt and the publisher details, including a description of the book and buy links!
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#BookReview: Rock The Boat by Beck Dorey-Stein

Great (Summer) Read. This is one of those books that is a great read at any time of the year, but by the end feels particularly like the great “end of summer” movies of old such as American Pie. Largely taking place over the course of one summer, with its titular event the week after Labor Day, this book follows three former high school friends as they rediscover themselves and each other now in their early 30s. Dorey-Stein does a remarkable job of showing inherently flawed – and thus, realistic – characters just trying to live their lives and rebuild old friendships in the wake of various personal tragedies and struggles, all with a smattering of laugh out loud hilarity and heart breaking poignancy. One of those books and stories with a great deal of catharsis and resetting, perfect for the “let’s get back to work” period there at the end of summer – or any time one needs such a feeling. Very much recommended.

This review of Rock The Boat by Beck Dorey-Stein was originally written on June 17, 2021.