#BookReview: Next Of Kin by Kia Abdullah

Legal Thriller With Most Explosions Outside The Courtroom. This is a British legal thriller where the trial actually ends with about a quarter or so of the book left to go… and *then* the explosions start. By the end of the trial, you think you know what happened. And then there is the Detective, who, like in V for Vendetta, just isn’t quite satisfied with the answers he’s been given. So he continues to poke around a bit… and in the process the reader gets put through a shock and awe campaign that would wow even the Iraqis circa 2004. Truly an excellent tale very smartly told but covering topics which make a lot of us cringe at – which is one surefire sign of a tale that *needs* to be told. Truly the only potential negative mark here is for those readers who like every single plot thread tied up neatly in a nice little bow by the end of the book. This book… is more messy and “true to reality” than that. Still, partly *because* of that abrupt ending, this book is thus very much recommended.

This review of Next Of Kin by Kia Abdullah was originally written on September 15, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: This Place Of Wonder by Barbara O’Neal

For the fifth straight year, Barbara O’Neal‘s annual release is the Featured New Release on this blog. This tradition began in 2018 with The Art Of Inheriting Secrets, which was the very *first* FNR post, and continues this week with This Place Of Wonder.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

O’Neal Delivers Yet Another Solid Family Drama. O’Neal’s solid 2018 book The Art of Inheriting Secrets was the very first Featured New Release on my blog, and I have kept up that tradition every year since – and 2022 is no exception there. Her 2019 book When We Believed In Mermaids continues to be one of my most “liked” reviews on Goodreads to this day, and continues to garner attention seemingly every few days.

All that to note that I have a rich if recent history with O’Neal’s work, and this is yet another truly solid and sensual tale of family secrets and drama. In this particular work, we get four women struggling with the sudden death of one man that all were connected to – his ex-wife and mom of his step-daughter and step-mother to his daughter, his most recent girlfriend, and both of the daughters in question, though we only “hear” from the two elder ladies + his biological daughter.

While this tale “hits” a few solid blows emotionally, it doesn’t really land the haymakers that Mermaids did – this is more in line with most of her other books, including Secrets, on that level. This noted, it is ultimately a very satisfying tale that has several great moments not always seen in novels, including the daughter’s actions in the prologue and the elder ladies’ blend of pragmatism and romanticism. Several issues from alcoholism to rape to child abuse are touched on, so be prepared for that if one needs to be. Overall truly an excellent tale, and yet another wonderful read from O’Neal. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Decimate by Christopher Rice

Mind-Bending Scifi Action. This is one of those trippy books that has enough mystery up front to draw you in, a lot of exposition in the middle to make you understand what is coming, and a balls to the wall back third to show off all that you now know within the context of the original setup. At 440 ish pages, it may read a tad long to some, but I felt the length was pretty solid for all that it was doing here. And the ideas it discusses are intriguing in a vein similar to Marcus Sakey’s Afterlife, where death… may only be the beginning. The backstory here was perhaps a well tapped a bit too often in the genre, particularly for anything of this form, and yet was still done well and was truly horrifying (though fortunately not too much of it actually “onscreen”). Overall the tale here was interesting and well told. Very much recommended.

This review of Decimate by Christopher Rice was originally written on May 6, 2022.

#BlogTour: A Family Affair by Robyn Carr

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an otherwise strong family drama marred by COVID references and bigotry. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Family Affair by Robyn Carr.

Bigotry And COVID Mar Otherwise Strong Family Drama. On its whole, this is a mostly solid family drama about a mom and two of her three children dealing with a tragedy and trying to move on with their lives in the wake of it.

However, it does have significant problems, problems I’ve yet to see any of the other 44 Goodreads reviews in existence at the time of this writing address.

The first is the near-constant references to the insanities of 2020-2022, mostly as a way to ground the story in a sense of time and place. But here’s the thing: I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. PERIOD. And thus a star was deducted for this. Maybe you, the reader of my review, are less adamant about this or maybe you even appreciate such references. Good for you, you’ll enjoy those parts of this text. But for those who feel as I do on the matter, know that it happens here.

The second major issue is the portrayal and handling of the Autistic third child. To say that this is a highly bigoted view along the lines constantly spewed by the Autistic hate group Autism Speaks is still being a bit too polite, to this Autistic’s mind. This character is every tired and worn out Autistic stereotype rolled into one, and while the family claims to love her, they also drug her into oblivion so that Carr can write her out of the back half of the book. Indeed, if an author treated pretty well any demographic other than the neurodiverse/ Autistics like this in a book, that author would likely go viral for social media cancelling them – and yet something tells me most will be silent about or even praise Carr’s reprehensible treatment of this character. That it publishes just days after World Autism Acceptance Day and during World Autism Acceptance Month is a slap in the face to Autistics from the publisher, but perhaps they were not aware of just how offensive this characterization truly is and were not aware of April being so designated.

The third issue, a throwaway line that further reveals Carr’s political leanings, is a reference to a school shooting where the shooter got “automatic weapons” from his dad’s garage. In California. In the 2000s. BULLCRAP! For one, while *some* automatic weapons *are* legal, the manner in which they are legal is INCREDIBLY expensive to obtain and subjects one to an entire alphabet soup of agencies – both Federal and State, particularly in California – knowing exactly where and how you store such weapons. Further, in the *extremely* rare case of Columbine/ Parkland style attacks as is described in this part of the text, such truly automatic weapons are virtually *never* used. But someone who only follows certain paranoid propagandists on this matter would have no clue about these facts, and Carr reveals herself to be just such a person in this instance. However, this did *not* result in a third star deduction as this was more of a one-off throwaway backstory line and not a pervasive element within the book as the first two issues were.

Ultimately, this is one of those books where your mileage may vary quite a bit. If you don’t mind references to COVID in your fiction and if you agree with Carr’s views on Autism and guns, you likely will enjoy this book quite a bit. And to be clear, other than these issues – which were *not* on every page – the story itself really is quite good. But if you feel as I do on these issues… still read the book. It really is that well written, mostly. Just know there is going to be some infuriating moments. 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 “#BlogTour: A Family Affair by Robyn Carr”

#BookReview: Life Surrendered by Jessica Herberger

Deeper Max Lucado. This book is one whose overall tone and structure fans of Max Lucado – a guy who has been writing books for decades and who is so popular he is on grocery store bookshelves – will easily recognize. But it is also quite a bit deeper than Lucado generally goes, and Herberger here brings up some great points about the various deaths she discusses as she looks at Easter Weekend. Ultimately a truly solid book of its type, but likely without a truly universal appeal. Should do *very* well within the Christian nonfiction market though, where in fact it could be a breakout book – it really is that good. And timed well, with publication roughly 6 weeks before Easter 2022. Very much recommended.

This review of Life Surrendered by Jessica Herberger was originally written on February 26, 2022.

#BookReview: Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Lots Of Moving Parts That All Work Well. This book is a 400 page version of the first time we see a Transformer transform in the first live action movie all those years ago – so *very* many moving parts, so many that it can get quite dizzying and hard to keep up with at times, but if you put in the effort… you get a pretty solid story out of it. Though yes, it does in fact get a bit preachy at times (never enough to truly ding it a star, but enough to roll the eyes at times) and yes, with a bit of editing this story could have been much stronger overall. Still, all the various issues Wilkerson brings to the table – various race based issues, LGBT, rape, workplace discrimination (of varying forms), the ease of adopting a new identity pre-mass surveillance, etc etc etc – ultimately work to create a rich, vibrant tapestry rather than crowd each other out too much. And for a journalist turned debut novelist… this is a pretty solid indication that maybe she has something here. Admittedly, I’ll be a bit leery that Wilkerson could indeed get too preachy in subsequent works… but I’m going to read the next one based on the strength of this one and find out then. Very much recommended.

This review of Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson was originally written on February 15, 2022.

#BlogTour: Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a tale that is an interesting examination of life and death. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Jumbled And Disjointed, Yet Somehow Works. This is one of those books that arguably *shouldn’t* work, given how truly disjointed it is with its time period and character jumps, and yet as more of a meditation/ reflective work on life and death, it really does actually work. As we work through the various streams of consciousness of Fred, Lil, Shelley, and Harvey, we see each of their lives through their own eyes as they struggle with past, present, life, and death. We see the traumas large and small, the regrets and the victories, the confusions and the joys. Admittedly, the particular writing style will be hard to follow for some, and even I found it quite jarring despite my own abilities to largely go with any flow of a book. But in the end it really does work to tell a cohesive yet complex story, and really that is all anyone can ultimately ask of a fiction tale. Thus, there is nothing of the quasi-objective nature that I try to maintain to hang any star reduction on, even as many readers may struggle with this tale. And thus, it is very much recommended.

And here’s the new paperback cover provided by the publisher, as well as a photo of the author. 🙂

#BookReview: Darling At The Campsite by Andy Abramowitz

Quirky With Heart. This is one of those books where it doesn’t seem like much is happening other than a loveable loser continually losing… except then you find its real heart, even amidst the continual “what the fuck” situations. If you’re a fan of slower paced, zany, small town explorations… you’re going to love this one. If that isn’t normally your thing, you should still try it out, because this is a good example of that kind of story. Because sometimes people *do* wait until they’re in their 30s to find out what they really want out of life. Even if it is both the same as and yet completely different from everything they ever imagined. Very much recommended.

This review of Darling At The Campsite by Andy Abramowitz was originally written on March 23, 2021.

#BookReview: Journey Through A Land Of Minor Annoyances by Al Kline

Death… Is The Ultimate Road Trip. This is one hilarious book that will leave you in tears – even as it ends exactly the way it must. A trippy road trip through space and time at the edge of the Millenium, this is one of those random, stoner-esque comedies with soul that makes you laugh out loud so very often and yet makes you fall in love with the characters at the same time. Truly an excellent, feel-good work and a great short-ish (under 300 page) escape for the holiday season. Very much recommended.

This review of Journey Through A Land Of Minor Annoyances by Al Kline was originally written on December 12, 2020.

#BookReview: Everything You Are by Kerry Anne King

Can A Story About Music Pack a Punch? Because this one does. This is the story of a musician who truly lives for his music, his daughter who inherits his passion, the luthier that maintains the cello they love… and the mystical cello itself that seems to have a soul of its own. It is a story of lost virginity and teenage suicidal tendencies and death – lots and lots of death, and all of its fallout on the living. It is a story of alcoholism, with some strong commentary about the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous and an idea that just might work a bit better. And it is a story of the love that connects it all, that consumes it all. That makes you give… every thing you are. Very much recommended.

This review of Everything You Are by Kerry Anne King was originally written on October 8, 2019.