#BookReview: Love Lockdown by Elizabeth Greenwood

Making The Case For A More Systematic Examination Of Its Topic. This book does a *tremendous* job in looking at as many facets of love and relationships involving the United States’ millions – literally -of prisoners via multi-year case studies of five particular couples. And therein also lies its chief weakness – while the original research for the case studies themselves was conducted directly by the author, the author states many facts beyond the people she is directly interviewing… and then the text doesn’t provide any form of bibliography to back up these (sometimes alarming, shocking, or even dubious) claims. But even with this weakness noted, the text’s strengths via its case studies are truly remarkable, and show the pressing need for a more systematic – and documented – examination of this particular topic. This is a book that will shock you. It will pull at your heart strings. It will make you cheer and cry and scream out at the people involved “WTF ARE YOU DOING!!!!!!”. And in these regards, it truly is a phenomenal book. Very much recommended.

This review of Love Lockdown by Elizabeth Greenwood was originally written on June 22, 2021.

#BookReview: Margaritas At The Beach House Hotel

Entertaining. This is a book that is somewhat deep in a series – Book 5 – and never once shies away from that fact. It has a wide range of established characters and storylines, but Keim does a remarkable job of making sure the reader understands the relevant histories, no matter if they’ve been a long time fan or if this is your entry point to this series or even this author – as it was both for me. Indeed, it is arguable that perhaps Keim does *too much* rehashing of prior stories- more in repeating a few sentences (with variation, not copy/ paste, at least not obviously) about whatever relevant fact such as how characters met or why another character is so problematic, etc.

And yet, despite and perhaps because of all of this, this book absolutely works as a continuation of its world and as a showcase for the author’s style and tone. Those that enjoy ensemble casts with a lot of characters and a lot going on will thoroughly enjoy this book, those who prefer fewer characters… probably won’t like it as much. But the storylines all interweave remarkably well, particularly with the narration being solely driven by one character’s perspective and the primary focus being that character and her business partner and friend – who enjoy catching up in stolen moments via the titular event.

Ultimately a strong book about friendship and defending the hurting, this tale is very much recommended.

This review of Margaritas At The Beach House Hotel by Judith Keim was originally written on June 8, 2021.

#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.

#BlogTour: Hard Sell by Hudson Lin

For this first entry in our Slide Into Summer Romance Blog Tour Series. we’re looking at a MM romance that makes its name thanks to its interesting dichotomies. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Hard Sell by Hudson Lin.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Interesting Dichotomies. This book, for me, was more about the interesting dichotomies than anything. You get a MM romance… with both an FF couple as side characters and set within the Asian community, which isn’t overly common. (Maybe not as hyper-macho as wildfire firefighters, but seemingly near that level in rarity.) You get a hyper successful financial type… who isn’t being his normal hyper successful self, and in fact is desperate for a win and who comes from… less successful… beginnings. You get a black sheep who feels he must prove himself apart from his ultra-successful family. And you get the particular blend of tech and finance that I could have felt was a bit too close to my own “real” world (where I work in IT for a Fortune 50 financial firm) that it could have been *too* real. And yet it all worked. And worked well in fact. On the actual romance side, you get a fairly standard will they/ won’t they / this is a freaking romance novel so you know they do. You get the whole “best friend’s sibling” dynamic, with its usual problems and resolutions. And you get a *crap ton* of angst. If you want your romance novels bright and breezy… this aint it. But if you want a romance novel unlike most you’ve ever seen before… this one is probably *exactly* that. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the beginning of the book (seemingly Chapter 1, but it *could* have been Chapter 3) and the publisher information ๐Ÿ™‚
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Hard Sell by Hudson Lin”

#BlogTour: When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer

For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid young adult/ new adult tale of lesbian love in high school. For this blog tour we’re looking at When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer.

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

Solid Lesbian High School Romance. This one has the metric shit-ton of angst one would expect from teenage girls – you’ve got the foster kid trying to fit in. You’ve got the spoiled rich kid hating herself over something the foster kid knows nothing about (but finds out about eventually) who leads one group of friends. You’ve got the spoiled rich kid’s ex-girlfriend who shared in the tragedy and the guilt… and who leads the other group of friends. You’ve got the foster kid trying to fit in with both sets. And along the way, you get all kinds of will-they/ won’t-they teasing between the three… which *also* leads to quite a bit of angst. ๐Ÿ˜€ But yes, somewhere along the way it becomes a bit like Sky High’s *awesome* final line, and you do in fact get an actual romance as it does so. Zimmer also did an excellent job of making this a shared universe with her first book, but while making it effectively a standalone book rather than a true “series” book. So if you’re into high school and/ or LGBT/lesbian romances, give this one a try. Even if you’re not, this one is a good book to experiment with. As is typical of many high school based romances, there is less sex than many/ most older adult romances and more kissing. Though there is an eventual rounding of the bases. Or several. It just primarily happens “off screen”. Not for the “clean”/ “sweet” romance crowd, though I’ve seen little evidence of that crowd looking to the LGBT romance arena anyway. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, the publisher information, including the book description, a bit about the author, and some direct buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer”

#BlogTour: Up In Smoke by Annabeth Albert

For this blog tour we’re looking at the latest book in Annabeth Albert’s year-long tale of MM romances set in the hyper-macho world of “hotshot” firefighters. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Up In Smoke by Annabeth Albert.

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

Another Solid Entry In Series. This is another solid entry in the series Albert has created over the last year featuring MM romances set in the hyper-macho world of western US “hotshot” firefighters and smoke jumpers – the front lines of any wildfire containment efforts. Here, we finally get smokejumper Brandt’s story, and it is at least as good from the romance angle as any of the other entries in this series. Maybe even better, since it runs a bit smoother with lower angst, minimal separation, both equally hoping for the other’s success, etc. Has an almost A Star Is Born vibe to it at times, though without the more depressing elements of that tale. But the biggest thing that will be hit or miss depending on exactly what you feel about it is the baby stuff in particular. Even as a childfree married male who generally doesn’t like babies (older kids are much cooler, though I’m always grateful that I can leave when I need to :D), I didn’t find the baby aspects *too* detracting, even for my tastes. Because the story really did focus on the interactions of the adults, with the baby providing the realistic distractions that adults having to care for a baby would actually provide. But if you’re particularly opposed to anything remotely baby related… well, you were told in the description that this one had one. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Overall a truly solid story, and very much recommended.

Below the jump, about a page long excerpt from the very first scene of the book, when Brandt and Shane first meet. Followed by the publisher information. ๐Ÿ™‚
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Up In Smoke by Annabeth Albert”

#BookReview: Hennessey’s Handler by Pandora Pine

Hairy Harmony. Another solid entrant into this series, this time featuring the one natural child of the unifying parents of all five brothers this series revolves around. As with every other entrant here, if you don’t mind minor (and sometimes not quite so minor) spoilers about previous books, this one is perfectly fine as an entry point into the series. Solid MM romance with a rather shocking ending given how this series has been built to this point, and as with every other book in this series introduces the next brother and features him fairly prominently. (Including a rather interesting revelation about that particular brother’s mysterious past.) Very much recommended.

This review of Hennessey’s Handler by Pandora Pine was originally written on April 15, 2021.

#BookReview: We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia

Mostly Solid Work A Bit Misguided By Its Own Biases. This is one of the more comprehensive books I’ve found about the actual issues facing Autistics in the current world (circa 2020) – well, in the US anyway. Discussions of education, gender, housing, personhood, etc are mostly solid and mostly problem free, focusing on numerous interviews the author has conducted over several years combined with well documented (roughly 32% of the text of this Advance Reader Copy I read) research.

It even has two *extremely* good points:
1) “We don’t know what Autism in and of itself looks like. We only know how autism informed by trauma presents itself.” -Cal Montgomery
2) From the close of Chapter 9: “People who are not Autistic often assume they are acting benevolently by hand-holding those on the spectrum. But despite their best intentions, there is an element of condescension in thse actions because it assumes that non-Autistic people know what’s best. But it is Autistic people who live with the condition of Autism – for all of its positives and negatives – as well as the consequences of any collective action meant to help them. If there is going to be policy that has seismic impact on their lives, they deserve to have a say it in, no mater how they communicate. Furthermore, while many parent advocates, clinicians, and other “experts” may have good intentions, centering their voices continues to give them power that should lie with the Autistic community. To achieve any true sense of freedom, Autistic people need to take this power back.”

HOWEVER, the fact that the discussion routinely ignores and even outright dismisses the needs and challenges of white Autistics and/ or Autistics who *do* find meaningful employment in the science and/ or technology sectors means that the book fails to have truly the comprehensive discussion of the condition that it seems to seek to have. In ignoring these facets, it doesn’t truly “change the Autism conversation” in any truly helpful manner, as it blatantly ignores and dismisses a key component that can actually do quite a bit of good in trying to address all of the other issues the narrative does go in detail on. We Autistic technologists can create the very technologies Garcia sometimes points to as being needed, in part because we ourselves truly do live with these very same issues – and thus, we don’t actually need a neurotypical trying to approximate some solution, as we can create a solution that works for our own particular case and allow for it to be customized to fit other cases as well.

Ultimately this truly is a very strong look at the state of Autistic society today and the issues Autistics face in trying to fully integrate into larger neurotypical societies, it simply missed its potential to be so much more. Very much recommended.

This review of We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia was originally written on March 14, 2021.

#BookReview: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten

Intriguing Mystery. Explosive Ending. This was my first book from Holten, and thus obviously I hadn’t read the prior three books in this series. And yet this book totally works. Yes, there are references to prior events, but they are explained enough to keep the current story going without overburdening the current story with prior details. If you’ve ever started in the middle of a military technothriller series ala Tom Clancy or Dale Brown – similar feel here.

Overall, the world is interesting in that you get a typical-yet-not detective and an entire cast of well developed characters all working together almost in an ensemble fashion that works so well in so many mediums. Holten shows herself adept at the technique of using the final sentences of a chapter to hook the reader into reading the next, and indeed uses the final chapter of the overall book to similar effect – the reader is left almost breathless in desperate need for the next book.

If you’re open to police procedurals at all, particularly those set in the UK, you’re going to enjoy this book. Even if you’re not, you should really give this book a chance – the characters are that strong. Very much recommended.

This review of Dead Secret by Noelle Holten was originally written on March 10, 2021.

#BookReview: His Mistake by Pandora Pine

Opens With A Bang. Ends With Promise. If you read MM romance virtually at all, you pretty well know that porn level sex is almost a requirement of the genre. Even then, I’ve rarely if ever seen a book actually open in the middle of a sex scene… and yet, this one does. ๐Ÿ™‚ So you know up front what you’re literarily “walking in on”. ๐Ÿ™‚ Beyond that, this works well to set up a series that can in theory run as long as Pine wants it to. There *seem* to be a couple of (possible) connections that more trivia-minded readers might know the specifics of – the Inn in Vermont where half of the couple works for a time seems to be tied into the Valentine’s Inc stories that Pine has taken part in, and another scene takes place in Salem, MA – home to Pine’s long-running Cold Case Psychic world, though it could also be a tie in to her less-paranormal oriented Protect and Serve series. One character in particular seems particularly well set up for Book 2, but Pine may choose instead to continue letting that particular storyline simmer in the background a bit longer – even though that particular character has one of the more interesting ideas I’ve seen in my (admittedly scant) reading of paranormal books over the years. In other words, truly solid story here that has a lot to carry – and manages to pull it off. Very much recommended.

This review of His Mistake by Pandora Pine was originally written on March 6, 2021.