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.
Fun With Sex. My god this review is going to get me on so many porn bot radars, isn’t it? But the title here really fits – starting with the very title of the book, “Sex Ed”…. which then features a 28yo virgin named Ed being taught about sex by his wildchild best friend. The friends to lovers trope is in perfect display here, the friendship and trust there deeply established… until we get into Hallmarkie level drama at the exact point in the story you expect Hallmarkie level drama in a romcom. We even have the “interesting grandparent” trope hitting and hitting well, as well as some sisterly bonding. And yes, there is a lot of sex, pretty much all of it “on screen”. So if you’re not a fan of that… maybe the title here (of the book and/ or review) clued you in that this isn’t the best book for you? Speaking of the sex, while not necessarily the “oh my God this is nuclear hot” type found in some other works, this was more of the playful variety that to my mind is just as important in a relationship and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves in romcom books in particular. So kudos to Ms. Bailey for going that direction with it, it was clearly an inspired choice. Overall a fun tale that will offend few other than those actively looking to be offended, great for both fans of romcoms and for those looking for some level of a “palate cleanser” from darker tales. Very much recommended.
If Jimmy Buffett’s Secrets Had Secrets. Seriously, if you take the classic line from The Avengers where Tony Stark says about Nick Fury, “his secrets have secrets”, and add an equal part Jimmy Buffett coastal/ tropical “WTF” kind of vibe… this book is a pretty solid idea of what you would get there. Set primarily in and around the general Charleston, SC area, we also get a jaunt into the Upcountry around Greenville as well for a scene or two (while completely ignoring the Midlands area of South Carolina, around Columbia and Aiken, where I once lived for a few years).
But the mysteries (yes, there are actually several – the “secrets have secrets” I was referring to above) are compelling, and our heroine is both remarkable and remarkably flawed, making for a greatly relatable story even as the more fantastical elements of it play out.
Overall the book truly works well, particularly as a series starter. We get a complete tale with no obvious lingering threads, but in a way that the reader *wants* to come back to this world and see what happens next. Very much recommended.
Crystal Palaces Still Hide Much. Growing up, it seemed that one aunt in particular always had the perfect… well, everything, other than not having kids herself and having married a couple of times. She was the one that my brothers and I always dreaded coming over, because we knew we would have to clean the house to her (damn near white glove) level, and we *hated* that. (Meh, we were young Southern boys. ie, not exactly the cleanest neat freaks around. 😉 )
Get to a point about the freaking book, Sexton…
I’ve noted in reviews of other books in this series that Bratt manages to detail small town rural northern Georgia (outside of the Atlanta Metro area) remarkably well, and here Bratt shows even more of both the features and the bugs of the region. Including the all-too-real scenario of the aunt who has it all… but doesn’t, as I’ve learned later in life. In real life as in this book, there are a lot of trials and travails that for various reasons the person chooses to hide, particularly from their siblings’ kids and even from their siblings themselves. Even the exact scenarios here… are all too common. (To be clear, even now I have no idea about the exact circumstances in my real-life aunt’s case.)
Fortunately (so far as I know), it never got quite as intense as the one scene from the trigger warning in the book. And while I’m no fan of trigger warnings… yes, even that nearly successful attempted suicide scene – it is stopped in the last seconds by an intervening action – deserves a mention in reviews at minimum, as it *is* something that could cause others issues. Seriously, that thing was *that* intense, some of the most tense moments Bratt has ever weaved into any of the dozen or two of her books that I’ve now read.
But that is still just one scene in an otherwise compelling book that continues the story of Deputy Taylor Gray’s family and community, this one with yet another heinous and yet all too real crime, though I do not remember seeing an author’s note to see if this one (like others in the series) was based on specific cases from the general region.
Very much recommended.
Fun, Short, Delightfully Quirky. This is one of those romance novellas that is exactly what I said in the title – fun, short, and delightfully quirky. Great for a short break from reality, both in its brevity and in its fun relatability. A few scenes are almost literally laugh out loud funny (including the first pool scene), certain characters in particular are charmingly quirky (and all too ubiquitous on actual cruises), and again, the length here is just right for reading… on a cruise yourself, perhaps. Or maybe while the kids are splashing away at the local splash pad or running themselves ragged on the local playground as you daydream of stepping away from your current actual reality. There is a touch of seriousness here in that our lead has divorced her husband, who knocked up and married someone else, but the drama here never even really rises to Hallmarkie level. Instead, this is near pure romance with a healthy dose of comedy, mostly set during a cruise through the Mexican Riviera (which is one area I’ve yet to get to in my own cruising, but Puerto Vallarta in particular I know a good chef, should anyone need any recommendations there). Overall truly a fun book and a quick one. Very much recommended.
Discover Yourself And Push Yourself Further Than You Ever Dared. This title of this review is pretty well exactly what happens in this tale of a forty something mother finally having enough and breaking away from the only life she has known as an adult. Along the way, we get the beautiful and sometimes charming waters and towns along the US Eastern Seaboard – and a *lot* of sailing terminology. The techno-babble didn’t bother me too much as a *long* time reader of military technothrillers (where Clancy infamously spent seemingly dozens of pages on the first *nanoseconds* of a nuclear detonation in The Sum Of All Fears, among numerous other examples), but perhaps it could be more of a problem for someone whose experience is more exclusively within the women’s fiction/ romance genres (where this book squarely resides). An excellent tale that almost begs for a sequel to more fully explore the new setting the characters find themselves in at the end. Very much recommended.
For this week’s Featured New Release, we’re looking at a solid examination of childlessness, divorce, and Alzheimer’s as experienced in the life of a woman in her thirties. This week, we’re looking at Everything Must Go by Camille Pagan.
Solid Examination Of Childlessness And Alzheimer’s. This book continues Pagan’s trend of writing books about real-world issues women in their 30s ish encounter and doing so in a thoughtful and poignant manner that allows people to more fully explore their own thoughts and feelings on the matters at hand even while telling its own unique story. In this particular book, Pagan brings out two issues that I’ve seen up close and personal in my own (late 30s male) life – childlessness and Alzheimer’s. While there are some (such as my wife and I) who start out childless (no kids, want them) and later become childfree (no kids, don’t want any) and there is considerable debate within the childless and childfree communities (yes, they are distinct), this tale accurately explores a woman realizing that becoming a mother is truly important to her and what she must do to ensure that. Its explorations of Alzheimer’s and the familial relationships it both strains and enhances also ring true to what I observed from my own mother – then in her late 30s/ early 40s – when she, along with her over half a dozen siblings, dealt with her own father developing the disease. I’ve even known friends and family to divorce as seemingly seamless as happens here, particularly before kids are involved. So ultimately, I see the plausibility in virtually everything Pagan did here, and the story thus became, for me, likely more of the thoughtful examination she meant for it to be rather than getting hung up on “I don’t think [this thing or that thing] is realistic enough” as so many of the other reviewers (on Goodreads as of December 29, nearly 4 months before publication) have done. While not quite as powerful or funny as Pagan’s previous books (which you should absolutely read as well), this one still does its thing quite well indeed, and is thus very much recommended.
Strong Summer Beach Romance / Women’s Fiction Tale Marred By Referencing COVID. If one takes away the pervasive references to COVID, this is a strong summer island getaway beach romance/ women’s fiction tale of three women escaping to the far coast from where they currently live in order to get a break and maybe even heal or find themselves in the process. At it absolutely works in those elements, particularly as our central character unpacks her history and uncovers an astonishing family secret. Truly the only reason for the star deduction is because I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. PERIOD. And thus I’m waging a one man Crusade against any book that mentions it via an automatic star deduction. So if you feel as I do, know that this book does reference COVID quite a bit, but at least in this case it is more backstory/ explanatory than something the characters are actively living through within the text of this tale. Truly a strong, fun summer/ beach type read, great for those who have been stuck inside for two years and are just now beginning to venture out again. Though one final note: For those that want their books “clean” or “sweet”… this isn’t that. Hell, there are some XXX scenes here – as is typical in many romances. Closed door, this ain’t. So know that going in too. 😀 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 “#BlogTour: Summer On The Island by Brenda Novak”
Atypical MM Romance. This is at least a somewhat atypical MM romance in that we get two guys who neither one is a big fan of penetration (and yet, it *does* happen – a couple of times, at least) and who are both fairly well fleshed out in their motivations and who they are, and both ring fairly true. One is the Navy guy that finds himself at a career crossroad, the other is a single uncle/dad going through a messy divorce. Being at a bit of a career crossroad myself and having a few nieces and a nephew and having to at least consider what happens here… yeah. Both of the situations here hit hard. The steam… not so much. I think I’ve seen coffee with thicker steam, but I actually *like* that about this tale – it is part of its atypicality, in very good ways. If you’re into radioactive heat and steam you can’t see your hand in front of your face through… this isn’t for you. If you’re more into *real* without being *too real* (ie, “real”, but still escapist)… this is going to be more your thing. Overall a strong continuation of this series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Albert takes this next. Very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a strong character study of three very different women, perhaps where one of them doesn’t look inward quite enough. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery.
First, here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:
Strong Character Study With Maybe Not Quite Enough Introspection. This is one of those strong women-bonding-as-character-study type books where we get to see three very different women thrown together as a result of a family that blended and then dissolved years ago, and how that blending and dissolution affected all of them and even their common parents (one step father, one stepmother, both of whom combine to be the natural parents of the third sister). As someone who has a cousin that is actually in the exact position of the third sister – both parents having been previously divorced and having kids from those marriages – this was particularly interesting. As with the other Mallery book I’ve read so far, she does excellent work keeping things mostly realistic, and really my only fault here – potentially intentional, as it is still a realistic scenario – is that one of the three sisters perhaps doesn’t look into herself as deeply as the other two do. Ultimately an engaging and satisfying book, this is thus very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the publisher information, including book description and buy links! 🙂
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery”