#BookReview: Hollywood Hustle by Jon Lindstrom

Hollywood Hubris. The evocative and darkly hilarious tale of a kidnapping of a Hollywood star’s daughter is well paced and quite descriptive, though it does evoke more of the 70s/ 80s vibes than more modern times – despite clearly being set in said more modern times. So perhaps it feels a touch anachronistic at times as well, but it actually somehow manages to work?

No, the biggest problem here wasn’t the characterizations or the action or the (dark) comedy, it was the guns – and specifically the typical Hollywood hubris of not knowing basically anything about them. No, civilians do not have “automatic” pistols – those things are hard to get for even criminals, and generally extend a jail term much longer than they’re actually worth as a tool. Instead, every time Lindstrom says “automatic”, he *should* be saying “semi-automatic” or even simply “pistol”, if he is seeking to distinguish it from a revolver (which he also uses in this text). (Both revolvers and non-revolving pistols are semi-automatic, meaning one bullet fires per trigger squeeze vs automatic meaning bullets keep firing as long as the trigger is held down, for those reading this review who may be under the same lack of basic gun knowledge as Lindstrom and his editors.) Further, several times when someone is shot – both from a shotgun (which does in fact pack more of a punch, as depending on the load it can send up to 2-3 .45 caliber sized pellets flying at the same speeds that a pistol sends a single .45 bullet flying at) and a pistol – the body is described as flying backwards, as Hollywood tends to do. However, this is one that anyone who has watched Mythbusters knows is incorrect, as they specifically tested this exact myth and showed that it does not actually happen. And that is *without* even having any actual gun knowledge, as it is basic physics! (F= mA -> Force = mass x Acceleration, but the target also has standing inertia that the force must be powerful enough to overcome to achieve said result… and bullets that civilians might fire – yes, even the vaunted .50 BMG round – simply don’t have that kind of mass and acceleration. And by the time you get up to rounds that *do* have that kind of force… it tends to have a *far*… messier… impact than simply causing someone to fly backwards off their feet for a few feet.) A final note related yet not to these points about guns is that another author I know is actually a medical investigator in Saint Augustine, FL, and per his commentary over the years, the “tangy coppery” smell of blood that so many fiction authors use – including Lindstrom here? Also fictional. It is for all of these blatant inaccuracies – yes, even in fiction, as they actively perpetuate misinformation that could harm real people – that the star was deducted.

Still, for those who simply want an almost “Expendables” type action/ thriller with a cast of “seasoned” Hollywood dwellers trying to resolve a kidnapping of a family member of one of their own on their own… this really is quite a strong tale in that particular vein, and as long as you approach it as just that type of Hollywood action movie and check your brains at the door, you’ll find a quite strong and enjoyable tale.

Recommended.

This review of Hollywood Hustle by Jon Lindstrom was originally written on January 15, 2024.

#BlogTour: The Vacation by John Marrs

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a complex, interwoven thriller with a lot of moving parts. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Vacation by John Marrs.

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

Complex, Interwoven Thriller With Numerous Characters And Flashbacks. Hell, the one thing to knock this book on is just how sudden the flashbacks and returns can be. Other than that, this is one of those twisty, complex, interwoven tales more about the people that find themselves at a particular hostel at a particular moment than any titular “vacation” – though, as you’ll come to see, every single one of them is truly on a “vacation” of sorts, so the title *does* work. I simply think the original title of “Welcome To Wherever You Are” may have actually been a more apt title for the tale.

If you want a single, simple plotline with a one or two true main characters and maybe a supporting cast… this isn’t that kind of tale. If you want a tale where there are definitive answers and everything is black and white… this isn’t that kind of tale. If you want an absolute mind fuck of a tale that makes you question your sense of reality… this isn’t that kind of tale, either.

Instead, this truly is one of those more interesting in between tales that shows a more accurate depiction of humanity and how we’re all flawed and we all have our own stories both before and after any given encounter, this simply happens to be the tales of those people who wind up being in the same Los Angeles area hostel at the same moment in time at the particular moment of the story here. If you’re looking for *that* kind of tale… congratulations. You’ve found one of the better examples of it I’ve ever come across in my own reading.

Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BlogTour: Plot Twist by Erin La Rosa

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid series continuation that still isn’t afraid to touch issues many in its genre will never get near. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Plot Twist by Erin La Rosa.

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

Solid Series Continuation, Maybe Slightly More For the Zoomer Set. As is my custom, I went in and read a lot of reviews of this book *after* I read the book myself. In a bit of an unusual move, I *also* actually went back and read my own review of Book 1 of this series – which I read roughly 200+ book ago. Here, La Rosa continues a lot of the things that made the first book so good – she isn’t afraid to shy away from far deeper issues, but also tries to make sure that they don’t overly weigh down the book (and for the most part, succeeds quite well there). She also uses various social media platforms – in this particular case, primarily current “darling” TikTok – to further the overall story, both in the actual plot and in the comments and DMs related to the various videos. Yes, that means that at some point this book will be quite dated – but it also means that it will serve as a bit of a time capsule for what this particular era really was like. So again, it actually works quite a bit better than its detractors in other reviews claim.

Now, about the Zoomer bit – our female lead is openly bisexual, her former partner is a lesbian, and there are a fairly good mix of sexualities, genders, and most other demographics present in this book. La Rosa actually used them quite well within the world she created here, though yes, depending on where you, the reader of my review lives and the life you lead… maybe this isn’t as expressive of the world you’ve created for yourself. Further, I know nothing of La Rosa beyond her pen name and her general writing style. So while others may want to critique her on not being “real” or not being “own voices” or “authentic” or some other bullshit… I truly don’t give a flying fuck about an author’s demographics, and the story La Rosa has crafted here is genuinely *good*. So complaining about those things, to me, speaks more about your own issues than La Rosa’s storytelling abilities.

Finally, the substance abuse angle. Yes, it is prominent. And yes, it likely doesn’t follow the path of real-world recommendations, particularly in the last chapters of the book when it comes to a head. There again, the dominant real-world recommendations aren’t the only ones, and there are many who have real-world problems with the real-world dominant recommendations. So the fact that La Rosa chose to craft a *fictional romance tale* the way she did… doesn’t bother me as much. And to be clear, I say this as the grandson of an alcoholic and the cousin of more than a few drug abusers, in addition to all the other areas of my life I’ve worked with those affected by these choices. But there again, if this is a topic that is going to be particularly sensitive to you, it says more about you and your issues than it does about La Rosa’s storytelling when you complain about these things in your review. So if you, the reader of my review, thinks this issue will be a problem for you… maybe spare yourself the hurt and La Rosa the 1* and just skip this book? No harm, no foul, and I wish you the best in your own struggles.

Overall, truly a solid sequel, and I’m truly looking forward to seeing how this series progresses. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Plot Twist by Erin La Rosa”

#BookReview: A Fatal Affair by A.R. Torre

Dark Side Of Hollywood. This book is perfect for those types that love the darker stories of Hollywood, and particularly the stories about how demented and depraved some “wholesome” childhood stars become as adults. At under 300 pages, it is a fairly quick read, but with every chapter coming from a different character’s perspectives – and several of them, to boot – this may be one that is too complex for some to follow. And yet, that storytelling mechanic actually works well for this particular tale, particularly the deeper into the tale we get. In the end, it even becomes a bit of a mindbender trying to determine who is actually responsible – so again, people that like their endings all tied up in a bow… probably not your thing either. Overall an interesting tale that keeps the reader engaged, and one that will work well for those darker summer moods. Very much recommended.

This review of A Fatal Affair by A.R. Torre was originally written on June 4, 2023.

#BookReview: Pity Date by Whitney Dineen

Solid (Mostly) Escapist Romance. This is one of those romances such that unless you’ve dealt with one of the all-too-real but also not-every-person issues it uses for a sense of drama – cheating and/ or lying partners and grandparents’ declining health in particular – is going to be largely just escapist fluff that is perfect for some much needed respite from the so-called “real” world. At just over 300 pages, it reads perhaps a touch quicker than that number would indicate, while still telling a solid and compelling story full of hijinx, misunderstandings… and meddling grandparents. Kind of perfect for the Hallmark Romance crowd, really, and truly straight up their alley. Overall a mostly fun tale that hits all the expected notes while not diving too deep into any real drama. Very much recommended.

This review of Pity Date by Whitney Dineen was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins

Fish Out Of Water Romance That Shows That Not Everything Is As It Seems. This is a fish out of water romance between a barely-has-a-job clothing designer assistant for a TV show… and one of said show’s stars. It is very much a slow burn, enemies to lovers type and yet still meets every RWA requirement. This noted, it does get a touch preachy about the differences between the characters actors portray and the actor themselves, though it *does* manage to keep much of this preachiness within the context of the story being told here – so that is good at least. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet another romance where honest communication from the get-go could probably have saved about 80%+ of the overall friction/ drama between the couple, this one is still fairly light and funny despite its at-times heavy handedness noted above. Overall a fun look at a side of Hollywood not often seen, and written by someone with seemingly at least some knowledge of that particular setting. Very much recommended.

This review of Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins was originally written on October 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Built To Last by Erin Hahn

Hallmarkie Romcom Within HGTV model. This is a Hallmark type romantic comedy where 90 min+ of movie (or, in this case, 300+ pages) could probably be condensed to about 15 (min or pages) if the characters would just *be honest with each other*. So if that kind of thing irritates the Hades out of you… know up front that this is the kind of story you’re getting into here.

For everyone else, this is actually a smart and fun (and yes, steamy – again, if you don’t like being in the room with characters having sex… not the book for you either) tale that name drops quite a bit from real-world Hollywood, including National Geographic, Chip and JoAnna Gaines, and several other HGTV home reno type couples. If you enjoy those types of shows and wish you could see more “behind the scenes”, particularly as the couple first got together… this is going to be pretty much your ideal romance tale.

Overall this really was quite an enjoyable read, and seemed to read faster than its 300+ page count would generally indicate. Very much recommended.

This review of Built To Last by Erin Hahn was originally written on October 15, 2022.

#BlogTour: The Secret Keeper by Siobahn Curham

For this blog tour we’re looking at a tense and visceral spy thriller set in an oft-overlooked area of WWII. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Secret Keeper by Siobahn Curham.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Tense Spy Thriller In Oft-Overlooked Area Of WWII. This tale was exactly what I said in the title of the review – a tense spy thriller based in the OSS days of the CIA during WWII and apparently based on the experiences of a real-life actress-turned-spy. Here, we see theoretically neutral Spain (under dictator Francisco Franco, in the early part of his reign) as a hotbed for spying by both sides and the tense and sometimes deadly stakes that arise from any spy story. But we also get a much more intimate and personal look at issues involving trust and betrayal, and throughout the text the reader is kept wondering as much as the protagonist is: just who *can* you trust? One of the more interesting features of this particular tale was the series of letters the protagonist’s grandmother writes – knowing she’ll never be able to send them – describing her ordeals in Paris as France falls and during the war. Overall an excellent tale well told, and very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details”, including the book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Secret Keeper by Siobahn Curham”

#BookReview: Hollywood Scent by Nick Winters

Creepy Gothic Hollywood Glitz. First things first – I’m writing this review *years* after I read the dang book, because I just saw that apparently when Winters *finally* released it long after I read it as a very early ARC, I never came back and wrote a review for it. Indeed, it was while writing another review for a February 2022 release – A Lullaby For Witches by Hester Fox – that I made the connection to this book due to their blends of historical and modern fiction via witchcraft (and in particular, ghost witches)… and then realized I had never reviewed this book. ๐Ÿ˜€

ANYWAY… this book really will stick with you, long after you thought you had long forgotten about it. It does a phenomenal job of showing Golden Age Hollywood glitz as well as a more modern look at Hollywood… and it gets creepy early and never really lets up. The finale here is particularly well done and particularly memorable, and really the fact that I could very easily spoil large sections of this book in a discussion even so many years and literally thousands of books later… that should tell you how well crafted this story is and just how much it will crawl into your brain like few others. Very much recommended.

This review of Hollywood Scent by Nick Winters was originally written on February 19, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Secret Of Snow by Viola Shipman

This week we’re looking at a great novel of finding oneself even later in life that takes us from gut-busting laughter to massive tears, and everywhere in between. This week we’re looking at The Secret Of Snow by Viola Shipman.

The Ghosts Of Christmases Past. This is a story of how running away from your pain can be just as painful – even when buried – as staying and working through it. Here, we actually get to see a bit of both, along with a fair degree of real-world, perfectly-within-story-yet-real, commentary. Unlike the last book from Shipman I reviewed, where one character was seemingly designed as little more than a strawman pin cushion for the author to lob everything she (he) hated about that type of person into the book, the characters here all felt much more authentic and true to the situations they found themselves in. Even Sonny’s precipitous meltdown near the front of the book is wild, yet “realistic” – many of us would at minimum *consider* doing exactly what she did, and if we found ourselves in the exact situation she was at that moment… yeah, totally realistic. ๐Ÿ˜€ But just as realistic is the pain and the ghosts that Sonny has been running from for 30 years, and when she is forced to go home and ultimately confront the pain… also, so very realistic. Spoken as someone just slightly younger than Sonny (nearly 40) who very nearly lived her scenario. (In my own case, there was an accident where I was driving and both of my brothers were in the car, yards from my house – our mom heard the impact. Fortunately we all survived with little lasting damage, but because of that I could that much more easily empathize with Sonny – I could well see my life turning out very differently had that particular day become much, much darker.) While this is more drama than comedy, with a dash of romance thrown in (YMMV on that one, but I thought it was subtle enough that it added more than it detracted), there is certainly enough comedy here to keep the drama from being overwhelming, while allowing the parts that *need* to hit harder to do so. Truly an excellent book, and very much recommended.