#BookReview: Eastern Drift by J.M. LeDuc

Sinclair O’Malley Meets Her Match. I’ve said in reviews of earlier books in this series that Sinclair O’Malley is an even more bad ass Jack None Reacher, and this book is yet another example of this. And yet, an interesting wrinkle here is that when Sinclair has to keep her enemies close… it turns out one of them in particular is actually just as badass as she is, and is damn near O’Malley’s equal in pretty well every way – a very yin/ yang situation going on here, which was pretty awesome for LeDuc to include. You’ll never see Child doing that with Reacher, and indeed very few characters of this level of badassery ever get that camaraderie with a genuine yet darker equal. Thus, it introduced an interesting dynamic to the usual “beat the bad guys into submission” action trope. Also, with starting out featuring a different character altogether and having this particular character go through an entire development arc through this book, again LeDuc manages to craft more interesting wrinkles and make this series so much more than just “good guy is better than everyone”.

Mostly centered in the Miami area, the trip to beautiful lush Thailand is well done – and an interesting pairing with reading Sara Och’s The Resort, about suspicious deaths at a remote Thai resort, when read close together.

Overall yet another excellent entry in this series, though it does follow on almost immediately from its prior book and has several references to at least one other book earlier in the series (Painted Beauty, book 2 in the series), so for those who can never have any spoilers at all… go back and read those books if you haven’t yet. You’ll get awesome stories and be glad you have this one when you get done with them. 🙂

I, for one, am hoping we get Book 5 in this series with a much shorter gap between the books. 😀 Very much recommended.

This review of Eastern Drift by J.M. LeDuc was originally written on February 22, 2024.

#BookReview: DARE To Say No by Max Felker-Kantor

Well Documented History of DARE Marred By Undocumented Editorial Commentary. Coming in at over 30% documentation, this is one of the more well-documented books I’ve come across in my ARC reading over the years. However, the weakness here is that while Felker-Kantor cites nearly every word he says about the DARE program and those involved with it, he then proceeds to make quite a bit of left leaning social commentary that he then fails to document *at all*.

Which is sad, because this is a program that I too grew up in – the first uniformed cop whose name I remember is Deputy John Morgan of the Bartow County (Ga) Sheriff’s Office, the DARE officer for much of the Bartow County School System (if not the *entire* school system, at first) in the early and mid 90s. Deputy Morgan became a local legend there in Cartersville and Bartow County, to the tune that he could well have challenged either his then boss or his newer boss when he retired a few years ago for the top job – all because of his work with the DARE program. I even actively went to church with the second Deputy to begin teaching DARE in the BCSS – Deputy Richey Harrell, who was very active with the youth of Atco Baptist Church when his own kids were small and who served on the Deacon Board of the church with my dad.

But despite knowing Richey in particular so well – though as his sons were closer in age to my brothers, they knew him and his family even better than I myself did – as an adult to say my views on policing have changed would be an understatement. Which is where I approached this book from – having been a former DARE student who now sees just how problematic the entire program was, from top to bottom, and indeed who even concurs with Felker-Kantor on just how problematic the program’s insistence on using active duty police officers as front line teachers really is.

Not to mention agreeing with him on how truly ineffective it is. Not even just with a police officer teaching children he isn’t connected to outside the school. Again here, I know people directly who went through these same DARE programs in the same system and also knew Richey as well as my family did – and who later fell so deep into drugs that they lost pretty well everything except their actual life, yes, including their kids.

Had Felker-Kantor at minimum documented his editorial comments such as about the disparate impacts of the war on drugs based on race – not hard to do – or other related commentary about mass incarceration (also not hard), the rise of the militarized police force (ditto), or any similar editorial comments, this would have been a slam dunk five star book, even with the left leaning commentary. It is that strong and that complete a history of the program, including discussions of its *continued existence* in a much diminished capacity – something I myself did not know until reading this book.

So read this book for a truly comprehensive history of something so many of us experienced first hand, particularly those of us who grew up in the 80s through early 2000s. And may we finally kick this particular program to the curb in favor of something that might actually work.


This review of DARE To Say No by Max Felker-Kantor was originally written on December 31, 2023.

#BookReview: Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner

Several YMMV Issues But Nothing Objectively Wrong. This is one of those stories where there are a LOT of valid issues that people may have with the book, but ultimately pretty well all of them are matters of taste and not something truly concretely objectively *wrong*. Some may quibble about the rather obvious nature of having lesbians playing women’s professional sports (in this exact case, soccer). Fairly or unfairly, this is almost insulting in just how much it plays into the stereotypes of women’s professional sports in particular. Some may quibble about the extremely casual and flirting with erotica level sex that dominates most of the book, or the way that neither character actually knows much about the other before starting this form of “relationship”. That last bit may actually be the most realistic thing about that aspect of the relationship here, however! Some may quibble about the lack of communication and arguably even consent in at least a few key aspects of the later story. Some may quibble about the insistence on medication and the glorification of a “miracle cure” that eventually comes up. Some may quibble about the rather blatantly obvious “bad guy ex” stereotype or the rather wooden and largely barely characterized at all extended cast of friends and teammates that play such crucial roles at various points in the tale.

And I could keep going, but you, *my* reader, begin to get the picture here. There are issues, but they are issues that any given reader may or may not actually have problems with, and that is completely for Wilsner’s readers to decide for themselves here. Ultimately, I felt the book was fine for what it was, with nothing truly *jarringly* glaringly wrong about it, and nothing to objectively say “THIS IS WRONG!!!!” about. So read it for yourself if you’re remotely interested in reading about lesbian romances. Recommended.

This review of Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner was originally written on October 5, 2023.

#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: Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan

Small Town Southern Mystery Draws In Feds. While technically this is Book 4 of the Quinn and Costa series, they and their team don’t actually show up for a decent chunk of the beginning of the book – it seemingly took them longer to come into this narrative than Book 3, The Wrong Victim (which does get referenced here, for those that cannot stand any spoilers whatsoever). But once they do show up, things begin escalating quite quickly and as always we see the various team members doing what they each do best and what makes them such an effective team. As is the norm of “freak of the week” police procedurals, we also get a fair amount of team and personal development of much of the team as well, and in the end the reader is left ready for the next adventure. This is a well told and well paced tale that even at 400 pages, doesn’t quite feel it – it reads more like maybe a 320 pager or so. I’m very much looking forward to Book 5 in this series, and this entry is very much recommended.

This review of Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan was originally written on April 25, 2023.

#BookReview: Mystic Wind by James Barretto

Strong Legal Thriller Debut. As a former District Attorney’s Office employee (I worked on their tech) and (mostly) former police accountability activist who also happens to be a former trailer park kid… I have quite a bit in common with our hero of this new series. Which may have made this particular book have a bit more impact for me – while not having these *exact* experiences, I’ve been close enough that they all rang all too true. And what experiences we have, from having (and losing) it all in order to truly find yourself (which to be clear, never really happened in my own life) to crime lords not caring about the “little people” they are destroying to cops, prosecutors, and judges – who are *supposed* to care about those very people – placing their own profits and aspirations ahead of truly serving the people and truly seeking justice. Of course, Barretto also does himself a few favors in setting the book in the early 80s, before American police – and the entire “justice” system – became as militarized as it now stands, and before activists really rose in response to such militarization. For example, data does not exist for the period in question, yet American police are known to have killed over 10,000 people within the last decade as I write this review. In setting this story (and likely series?) in such a “simpler” time, Barretto manages to be able to tell his tale(s) without having to worry about such issues. Overall truly a solid legal thriller that also provides a solid look at some areas many might prefer not to see. Very much recommended.

This review of Mystic Wind by James Barretto was originally written on September 5, 2022.

#BookReview: Love On The Coast by Jennifer Snow

Short, Quick Introduction. This a short novella – just 56 pages according to Amazon – that is meant to introduce a new small Alaskan town and series. This complements the “back door pilot” from Alaska Dreams – Book 6 in Snow’s Wild *River* (Alaska) series, where the Coast Guard actually played a role in that tale as well and it was clear what Snow was doing the instant it happened.

This tale itself is a solid introduction to Snow’s overall style, without the 350 ish pages she normally works with. Which makes it a great first book for someone that may be wanting to try Snow out for the first time, as the time investment here is minimal – pretty sure I finished this book in under an hour, and I’ve already got the official Book 1 of this series – Sweet Home Alaska – on deck. Very much recommended.

This review of Love On The Coast by Jennifer Snow was originally written on May 13, 2022.

#BlogTour: The Summer Of No Attachments by Lori Foster

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a light hearted Southern romance that has a remarkable number of attachments for a book titled “The Summer of No Attachments”. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Summer of No Attachments by Lori Foster.

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

Record Scratch. There’s… a remarkable amount of attachments here for a book titled “The Summer of No Attachments”. #ijs 😀

But seriously, this is one of those feel good, not even quite Hallmarkie (since it doesn’t really even have any even pushover “big threat”) Southern romance tales. Yes, there are a lot of heavy elements here – mom abandons son, drug use (off screen), abuse (also mostly off screen), #MeToo moments (also off screen), etc – but there is also quite a bit of lighthearted banter and romance. And puppies! And an old cat! This is apparently book 2 of a series, but it totally works as a standalone, as the people from Book 1 barely show up at all – making this one of those barely connected tangential “series” that share the same world and even town, but don’t heavily feature in each others’ tales.

Overall truly a light and refreshing read, despite its occasional heft, and great for a relaxing summer read, or a relaxing read at any point in the year really. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the publisher’s information, including a description, author bio, and various links!
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#BookReview: Adulting by Liz Talley

Standing Outside The Fire. Ok, so possibly *too* on point or perhaps even a little cliché with the title of the review there, since Talley explicitly brings that song in late in the book with one character explaining to another that this is exactly what has been happening. But I *love* that song, it is easily one of my all-time favorites. 🙂

Anyway, on the book itself: Very fun, but also very deep. The two main characters – Olivia and Chase – are dealing with similar events in their worlds, neither of them realizing at first just how similar they are even if their perspectives on the events in question are very different. Along the way, many, many hijinx are had, including one very scared and borderline feral kitty cat. It is hard to note a particular trigger warning that is relevant enough to probably mention (even though I am not a fan of the practice generally, it is that significant here – though off screen, discussed by the characters as past events). So I’ll note that it ties into #MeToo and leave it at that. Truly a very balanced book about taking control of your own life and being open to possibilities that don’t seem obvious at first, and a very fun read. Very much recommended.

This review of Adulting by Liz Talley was originally written on October 2, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Buyer’s Remorse by DJ Jamison

This week, we’re checking in on the real estate market in Fields, Kansas, specifically as it relates to commercial real estate suitable for a new deli. This week, we feature Buyer’s Remorse by DJ Jamison.

This book is the second in Jamison’s “Real Estate Relations” series and features leads who were secondary characters in the first book, Full Disclosure. In Full Disclosure, we meet Lee when he has to flee into an even more secretive form of witness protection after he is nearly killed thanks to a mole inside the US Marshall’s Service. He flees to Fields, Kansas with his guard, Reid, and they go undercover as boyfriends. Complicating this is that Reid begins to develop feelings for his new real estate agent, Camden… who happens to be best friends with fellow real estate agent Miguel.

In the beginning of Buyer’s Remorse, three years have passed since the events of Full Disclosure, and Lee is coming back to Fields of his own volition in an attempt to finally leave his past fully in his past. He brings his mom and sister along with him, and together the three of them intend to start a new deli. Complicating matters are Lee’s feelings for Miguel… and the fact that they find a dead body in the first building Miguel shows Lee.

This is an excellent second chance romance, one that really does a good job of exploring just how far a person will go to get forgiveness and move on from their mistakes. The mystery is better built, with even more perilous stakes for the couple than the first book – it seems that Miguel and Lee are constantly in danger of arrest, while Reid and Camden never really felt like they were in danger until the moment they were. The romance also struck me as more realistic in this book.

One thing I will note, in case it isn’t obvious: Yes, Lee and Miguel (and Reid and Camden) are both men, and yes, this is a romance book that largely adheres to the trappings of its genre. Meaning that yes, there is M/M sex in this book. If that is something that you can’t handle for whatever reason, just skip this book.

That said, this book is a very solid romance, and Jamison really set the stage to go in at least a couple of different directions with the next book in the series – one of which would be very intriguing indeed. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

As always, the Amazon/ Goodreads and Youtube reviews are after the jump.
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