#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.

#BookReview: The OC by DP Lyle

Never Bring A Rock To A Gun Fight… Unless You’re A Former MLB Starting Pitcher Turned Private Eye. Full confession here: These books have seemed interesting enough over the years, and they’ve been at the right price points often enough ($2.99 or less, and likely free) that I’d actually picked up the entire series before this book… and never read any of them. So even while I already had the previous four books in this series in my library, this was the first book in it – or from this author at all – that I had actually read. And it totally works as a standalone, as long as you don’t mind commentary that references the previous stories in ways that absolutely spoils many of them.

So far as this book itself is concerned, it was a fun tale full of quite a bit of banter between Jake Longley and his friends and colleagues, with a bit of “oh, crap, our friend is in trouble in a way that we might be able to help with” thrown in. So even while many of the characters are PIs, this isn’t a case they are getting paid for. And it is a stalker case, with only the last few chapters having any real, direct action. Which is actually where the title of this review comes in. Early in the book – possibly when Jake is first introduced, that early – it is mentioned that Jake often travels with baseballs both in case he runs across fans *and* to use as a weapon if the need arises. Well, in our finale… he doesn’t have his baseballs with him. So he gets creative, in ways that even by that point in this book – even if it is your first book in this series – you’ve come to expect. Very much recommended.

This review of The OC by DP Lyle was originally written on August 29, 2021.

#BookReview: Good As Dead by Susan Walter

Solid Mystery, Could Have Used Better Time Notations. This is one that is intriguing, yet also a bit slow up front – and sometimes hard to keep track of who/ when we are in any given section. There are four main perspectives – the survivor of a horrific car crash, her daughter, a lawyer, and a new neighbor of the survivor and her daughter – with several others also thrown in at different times – the lawyer’s client and the neighbor’s wife being the main two of these. All interweave at various points all the way through the ending, and indeed the epilogue is almost Fallout style in giving updates on what happens from each character’s perspective. The only real issue I had with the book was specifically the editing, and specifically that it could have used a “Present” header the same way it often used a “3 months ago” header when shifting perspectives. Usually the chapter after the “3 months ago” chapter is from the same character perspective, but now we’re back in the present… except this is only really noted via context clues. Still, truly an excellent book that is much more that it appears at first, with a bit of a thriller at the back of the book in an epic conclusion. Very much recommended.

This review of Good As Dead by Susan Walter was originally written on August 23, 2021.

#BookReview: Trejo by Danny Trejo

A Hell Of A Life. Danny Trejo didn’t start acting – professionally – until he was almost 40 years old. Mostly because a large part of the rest of that time, he was high and/ or in prison, including some of California’s most notorious. Today, Trejo is known as one of the more prolific and high profile actors out there, with over 400 acting credits to his name + his line of Trejo’s Tacos restaurants.

Here, we see at least pieces of pretty much all of his 70+ years, from his early childhood as the only male in a house full of women and girls to his first time using various substances to his first robbery and the time he was worried he was about to face capital charges after a prison riot. Much of the front half of the story in particular focuses on his times in and around prisons during the first 2-3 decades of his life, and we see how he gained his “tough guy” persona. He lived it. It was either be tough or be dead.

Which actually makes the discussions of his confrontations with none other than (then *recent*) Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos over the movie American Me even more epic.

And yes, the back quarter ish is primarily about Trejo’s life in Hollywood and how that impacted him and his family. It is here that we see some of the things that will cause many of us to go “I remember that movie!” and “Oh Trejo was [insert opinion here] in that one!”.

In between, we get to see what Trejo was doing in between – which aside from a lot of personal mistakes, was saving a lot of lives and helping a lot of people recover from drug addiction – a passion he pursues to this day.

Serious yet hilarious throughout, this book doesn’t pull any punches. Trejo, an ex-con, openly admits to many things in this book that many would probably try to hide, including things that weren’t known world wide before now (at least to casual observers). And yet we also get to see behind the scenes of just how much good Trejo has been able to accomplish throughout his life.

Truly a remarkable man, and a memoir well written and told. Very much recommended.

This review of Trejo by Danny Trejo was originally written on June 30, 2021.

PS: Special thank you to the publicist at Simon & Schuster – they know who they are – who sent me the *hardback* version of this book! First one of those I’ve read in at *least* 2-3 years!

#BookReview: Stability by Emily Alter

Perfectly Titled. This is a solid adult FF romance featuring two established-yet-still-young ladies who know themselves and yet still find themselves growing… together. I titled this review as I did because the book really is perfectly titled, as the major conflicts between these women truly do center around the issue of stability and what that can mean for different people in different situations. Some, such as Zaira, more grounded and family oriented may need one form of “standard” stability. Others, such as former child prodigy Paige, may find a more gyroscopic sense of stability in the chaos. Merging the two worlds… well, Alter does a great job of showing the realistic headaches and heartaches that such an attempt can bring about. Excellent story set in an existing world, but within its own corner of it and with prior characters featuring heavily. For those who are less concerned about details of prior books being revealed before the reader actually reads those books, this is absolutely a book you can enter this world in and go back and read the details of the other relationships discussed in the other books. For those who are more concerned about such things… you’re going to want to read those other books first. Based on this book – the only one I’ve read from the author so far – I can tell you that you’re most likely going to want to read those books anyway, and when you read them you’re going to want to have this one on hand anyway if you didn’t read it first. Truly an excellent and seemingly realistic-ish story. Very much recommended.

This review of Stability by Emily Alter was originally written on June 7, 2021.

#BookReview: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Strong Story. Strong Storytelling. Don’t Understand The Hype. Let me be extremely clear on this: This was a very strong story of a family’s rise and fall across two generations, told in both past and “present” (with the “present” being nearly 40 years ago from the time of publication) and executed very well in both. The use of a full 24 hour timestamp as a narrative structure was great, as it really drove home that the story was counting down to some cataclysmic event. Truly, there is absolutely no doubt here – this is a great story superbly told.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t share my *other* overriding thought about this book, and that is simple: I truly don’t get the hype. I stand behind everything I said in the last paragraph 100%. But this was book 56 on the year for me and I’ve read over 250 since the COVID-related lockdowns began 53 weeks ago. And *many* of them were equally strong, and some quite similar in genre and tone. So I simply do not understand how this review will be number 990 on Goodreads – over two full months before this book publishers – while others languish in obscurity, seemingly struggling to get even double digit reviews even though they are at least as strong and good as this one. And again, I cannot emphasize this enough: This isn’t saying in any way that this book isn’t an excellent tale excellently told. My sole point is simply that there are *so many others* that could and arguably should receive the same amounts of attention and love, yet do not. And I truly don’t understand how this happens. I mean, I know *how* it happens- massive marketing campaigns. I just don’t understand the *why* of it and why *not* those others. Something that will likely always elude me.

Anyway, read this book. It deserves it. And maybe follow me wherever you find this review, and maybe you’ll find some equally deserving books you weren’t aware of. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid was originally written on March 23, 2021.