#BookReview: The Keeper Of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis

Blend Of Historical And Women’s Fiction That Leaves The Room Dusty Through Its Final Quarter. This was an excellent blend of historical fiction on one end and a “current” (mid-80s) timeline women’s fiction tale on the other. Not quite an either/ or thing, but both play well with each other (and most of the historical stuff is done by the 2/3 point or so). Just be prepared for a VERY dusty read through the back quarter of the book, where Davis does an excellent job of revealing things but then letting them play out in a more natural setting and timeframe than other authors may have done. The book starts off with a lot of The Giver type vibes before becoming something so much more than that work ever intended to be – but the fact that it even feels similar to that award winning book speaks to just how well Davis crafts her story here. Very much recommended.

This review of The Keeper Of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis was originally written on August 27, 2021.

#BookReview: The Happy Accidents by Jamie Beck

Awesome Yet Also Problematic. This story is Beck’s usual excellence as far as storytelling itself goes. Beck sucks you in with the aftermath of almost a Hangover (movie) type night (though to be clear, not *that* wild) where three women – two sisters and their friend – have made life-changing decisions… and now have to handle the repercussions. We open the story the morning after, and only ever get the high level details of what happened that night – the story is about life *after*. And for two of the three women, Beck does *amazing* work showing that even in screw-ups, good things can happen. The other lady’s story is the more problematic one, and it comes from Beck’s own unfamiliarity with the growing subculture of the childfree. Seeming without meaning to, Beck confronts this particular issue as much of society at large does… and unwittingly causes many eyes to roll. Having been a part of this community for several years (I’m a 38yo DINK – Dual Income No Kids and happily childfree), know that if you’re a part of this community and in particular a woman in it, this storyline is going to make you want to throw this book off the nearest dam or into the nearest bonfire. But don’t, because the other two subplots are truly excellent, and even this one is dealt with *some* degree of realism. Overall an excellent book, and let’s face it – even with its growing popularity, the life of the childfree isn’t exactly dominant yet. Meaning most readers will enjoy all three subplots very much. Very much recommended.

This review of The Happy Accidents by Jamie Beck was originally written on August 16, 2021.

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: What’s Left Unsaid by Emily Bleeker

This week we’re looking at an interesting look at race relations in the South by an author who was raised in the South yet lives deep within Yankee country now. This week we’re looking at What’s Left Unsaid by Emily Bleeker.

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

Solid Work of Fiction. This is a difficult one. There is *so much* “white people are evil” “racial discussion” through the first 2/3 of the book that at the time it looked like it would be my first *ever* 4* review for this author (and I’ve reviewed *all* of her prior books, either after publication or, as in this case, as advance reader copies). That noted, it *did* have a couple of moments of calling out the white guilt in ways I’ve often wanted to scream myself. Between these moments and the back third largely dropping these discussions in favor of more deeply diving into the substance of the tale at hand, the latest 5* review was indeed saved, as the story overall is in fact that strong – particularly that back third, when the various discussions and plot threads are woven together quite remarkably… and explosively. Indeed, while it is not known if the *exact* resolution of everything is real, one could very easily imagine it being so. I read for escapism, and if you’re looking for that particular goal in the current environment… maybe wait a few years to read this one. But realize that this one was effectively finished (minus the polishing and publication mechanics) right as the race wars of the summer of 2020 were exploding, which alone provides a degree of context for much of those discussions. Overall a truly strong book for what it is, and still very much recommended.

And for the first time in a very long time, I actually have some additional commentary here. ๐Ÿ˜€

Emily is a long time Facebook friend. Indeed, a lot of the areas I now work heavily in within the ARC world, she was the one that got me into the early steps of. I had read her debut book, WRECKAGE, years ago and LOVE it, and when she posted about an opportunity to join up with an ARC group for her publisher, I jumped on it. But she and I have had *dramatically* different experiences with race in the South, even as white adults of a similar age (+/- just 5 yrs or so). This book is actually based in part on letters uncovered in her own family research there in the actual town in Mississippi she places the book in, and the book is what she saw growing up.

But for me, my own formative years as a Child of the South were truly *extremely* different. Right around the time I was reading this book – and likely why I had such a strong reaction to it those weeks ago – I found out that my former elementary school Principal had died seemingly unknown in a minor one car accident on a somewhat back road in my hometown – the very day of the Atlanta Spa Shootings that grabbed national headline among accusations of racism. What is significant here is my own relationship with that man, Mr. Ralph Lowe, in particular. Mr. Lowe was a black teacher in the exurbs outside of Atlanta in the late 1970s, when he would become one of my dad’s high school teachers. A few years later, he was my own elementary school Principal, and just given the era had to be among the first – possibly *the* first – of his race to hold that title in that school system. But despite being active in causes and boards seeking to genuinely help his people – often quietly/ without media attention – throughout his life, and despite being of an age when he or his siblings likely actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Lowe demanded one thing and one thing only: That everyone treat him with the respect of his position, but otherwise exactly as they would anyone else. This was a point my dad emphasized himself emphatically in one memorable situation where I don’t remember what exactly I did to cause it (though I know that given the era, I did in fact do *something*), but dad – a product of his own era and location – made it *crystal* clear that I was to respect and obey Mr. Lowe just as much as I did my dad himself. In another foundational moment – really moments, as this was repeated much throughout my childhood, whenever my own step grandfather, the only “second grandfather” I ever knew after my natural one (dad’s father) died five weeks after my birth – would utter the infamous “N” word – my mom made it equally emphatic that her children were to *never* use that word under *any* circumstances. And again, my step-grandfather had been the product of his own generation and location, having been born deep in the Jim Crowe area in the area in the northwest corner of Alabama near Muscle Shoals. But I grew up in the 80s and 90s along the very route of that war criminal terrorist bastard William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. I literally graduated high school within steps of rails of the Great Locomotive Chase at Adairsville and I graduated college in the same town the event had begun in, Kennesaw, Georgia. My college alma mater’s logo for years bore the outline of the mountain made famous during Sherman’s campaign that sits just a few miles from campus. My hometown, along the rails of the Locomotive Chase roughly halfway between the two, literally still bears the scars of Sherman’s actions via former train track pylons in the Etowah River whose tracks his men destroyed. And yet despite being steeped in so much history just from growing up where I did, my parents taught me *very* different lessons than what so much of society then and now wanted to preach. Growing up on the lower end of middle class (if we were even that high), I was shielded from the worst effects of American poverty – which is admittedly a much higher standard of living than the truly abject poverty I’ve seen even in my adult travels in the Caribbean. While I grew up in a trailer until just after I turned 12, my parents made it a point that we would always have food, clothing, shelter, and each other. Yes, this was helped at times by family (including my farmer/ hunter grandfather who would give us enough venison to last the winter, and who himself had not only survived the Battle of the Bulge, but had won a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his actions there… and then *never spoke of them*, not in the 20 years I knew the man and apparently not even in the 40+ my mother knew her own father). So with regards to *race*, I was taught to neither see nor treat anyone any differently at all, and any time I fell out of that standard the standard was very pointedly reinforced. With regards to *socioeconomic status*… other than one cousin (in a *very* large family) that I never really knew, I am the first to actually graduate college in my family. And thus in going from trailer park kid to now Assistant Vice President of a Forbes 50 company… I’ve seen a bit along the way. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But that is an entirely different story.

Read Emily’s book. It really is excellent, and she really is a truly amazing storyteller. My point with the above is more that hers, and the common media narrative, are not the *only* stories of my homeland and its people. And I urge you to seek out others, perhaps more similar to my own, as well.

But stop reading this and go read Emily’s book. ๐Ÿ˜€

#BookReview: Blood Kin by Matt Hilton

Tess And Po With Elements Of Reacher And The Lottery. This is only my second Tess and Po book, but I’ve quickly fallen in love… and noticed the basic pattern. (Which is the same basic pattern most books of this type have. Brief interlude of “normal life” leads into some inciting incident – in this case, Tess and Po stumbling into a mother and child in peril – leads to an investigation which leads to action. It is a successful pattern given how often it is employed across so many books, and it is well executed here.) When we get to the investigation/ action stages is when this book evokes one of the more memorable Reacher tales due to the similarity of the enemy faced (controlling militia type). And then we bring in elements of the ultra-creepy The Lottery to boot. Completely a Tess and Po story, but the common elements serve to enhance it even more (assuming you’ve read those tales, anyway :D). A final note: This *is* deep in a series of investigative/ police procedurals. It can work as a standalone/ entry point as long as you don’t mind seeing more advanced stages of the investigative team’s life together, but if you’re a reader that doesn’t like any level of spoiler of previous books, you’re going to want to start at Book 1 and get to here. Because if you do start at Book 1… just go ahead and buy the entire series. You’re going to want to have them on hand as you finish each one anyway. Hell, I’m already wishing I had Book 9 in my hands, and this one doesn’t even release to the public for nearly a month! Very much recommended.

This Review of Blood Kin by Matt Hilton was originally written on July 7, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale

This week we’re looking at a remarkably strong series opener from a great storyteller who is breaking out of her shell. This week we’re looking at No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale.

As always, the Goodreads review:

Excellent Series Opener. This is one of those books that sucks you in so completely you don’t even remember it is a series opener… until certain plot threads are left dangling at the end. And yet those very threads are clearly worthy of at least one more book, and possibly a book each… which is clearly exactly the point. ๐Ÿ™‚ Lonsdale has always been a remarkably strong storyteller, and here she really begins to break away from everything that could have previously been seen as getting awfully close to “typecasting” – while still maintaining a strong and rare/ possibly unique voice of her own. A great story that hooks you in from chapter one and leaves you desperately begging for Book 2 at the end, this is one book you certainly won’t want to miss. Very much recommended.

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: Between You And Me by Carol Mason

Domestic Drama With A Touch Of Loss Lake. This is an engaging, real, and honestly a bit depressing look at the trials and travails of your first marriage being your partner’s second marriage and coming into a situation where they already had a family with another person while you’re still growing and working to establish yourself outside of the marriage as well. In that vein, Mason was startlingly real, including all of the various messy issues that can come up and even showing how finding a place to find support or even just vent can be crucial. The ties to Lake Union stablemate Amber Cowie’s Loss Lake… well, in the title of my review of that book, I proclaimed “Screw You (In The Best Possible Ways), Amber Cowie” – which I still chuckle at and produced a few good laughs by those in the know. And if you do know why I wrote that, know that you’ll be saying the same thing to Ms. Mason for similar (though to be clear, not identical) reasons. And that’s all I’m saying about that. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I suggest you go read *both* books. ๐Ÿ˜€

Seriously, this tale was excellently done on a topic and with particulars that I’d never seen done quite this way before, and that is always something I seek out and love to find. Mason executed everything beautifully, and you’ll find yourself constantly reading to see what comes next. You just may want something a bit more bubble gum for your *next* read. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of Between You And Me by Carol Mason was originally written on June 13, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington

For this blog tour we’re looking at an intriguing emotional rollercoaster of utterly devastating secrets within a family. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington.

Devastating Secrets. This is one book where two timelines intertwine to devastating effect. In one timeline, we get an epic romance between an Irish immigrant and a 2nd generation Irish American. In the other timeline, we get a woman who is both the daughter of a 2nd generation Irish American and an Irish immigrant who seems to have a mystical “13 Going On 30” / “Frequency” scenario going on where a childhood project is speaking to her and directing her to make amends for mistakes she has made in the intervening years. Both timelines work well independently, but when they come together… well, refer back to the title of this review. And then it gets even more devastating. Indeed, the ending and epilogue will likely have you in tears, even moreso than when the timelines converged. Overall a truly solid book and very much recommended.

After the jump, the publisher information – including book description, a bit about the author, how you can connect with the author, and where to buy the book.:)

Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington”

#BookReview: Ghost Ship by Pandora Pine

Solid Use Of Misdirection. Here, Pine seems to be building to an epic confrontation through much of the book, and then… boom. Quick resolution to that conflict, move on thankyoukindly. Still, one thing that Pine truly excels at is misdirection – the tales that it seems like the resolution will come quick, you get intense, epic showdowns. The books you’re anticipating the intense, epic showdown, you get something else. And yes, along the way you get the standard “police procedural” stuff of showing the friendship and family among our primary cast – this time featuring primarily medium and witch extraordinaire Copeland Forbes, private investigator with a supernatural connection Jude Byrne, and former Cold Case Captains in the Boston Police Department Ronan O’Mara and Kevin Fitzgibbon. And yes, this book is primarily focused on the Titanic disaster, with Pine showing several features many likely were unaware of, as well as crafting a few fictional details to suit her needs in this story. Yet again another book in this series that if you don’t mind coming into an existing universe and having various prior books spoiled to some degree or another is a perfectly fine entry point. (So fans / followers of the Titanic and related stories, here’s your shot!) And yet, also yet another book that long time fans of this ever expanding series and world will love. Very much recommended.

This review of Ghost Ship by Pandora Pine was originally written on May 11, 2021.