#BlogTour: A Dish Best Served Hot by Natalie Cana

For this blog tour, we’re looking at the spicy second entry in Natalie Cana’s series of family, friends,… and a meddling grandfather. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Dish Best Served Hot by Natalie Cana.

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

Slow Burn Second Chance Romance With Quite A Bit Of Political Commentary Baked In. Straight up, just from the nature of the work of our female MC in particular, this book has *quite* a bit of left leaning politics baked in. That noted, if you can accept that this is simply this character… it actually isn’t overly preachy. I’ve certainly seen *far* more preachy books given similar characters in other works by other authors before, so, truly – don’t let that scare you too much, just know your eyes may roll a bit if you disagree with the politics being espoused.

Beyond that though, this really is a solid and remarkably deep second chance/ single dad romance showing the power of love… and meddling grandfathers and saccharine sweet young daughters. But it *is* a *very* slow burn, almost with more focus on everything *other* than the romance itself. Like, our MCs met in HS and had this instant chemistry, broke it off, went their separate ways, and yet the flame never died… so it is never really *shown* in the book so much as *told* that it is there (with the *occasional* view of it, often seeming more to remind the reader that this *is* intended to be a romance novel).

And yet… the story really does work quite well. There’s nothing definitively *wrong* with it, and the world created here is remarkably “real” and one of the more fully fleshed out communities I’ve encountered in all of my reading. It just may not be *exactly* the kind of book various readers are looking for for various reasons. Including pissing off the sweet/ clean crowd with its in-the-room sex scenes.

Still, ultimately this *was* a really good book. I *am* looking forward to Book 3. And this *is* very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book excerpt, book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Dish Best Served Hot by Natalie Cana”

#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: Thank You For Sharing by Rachel Runya Katz

M/F Romance For The Queer Theory / Traditional-Masculinity-Is-Toxic crowd. I’ve read a lot of books in a lot of genres with nearly every bent you can imagine outside of swords and sorcery fantasy – which I simply can’t get into, no matter how much I try – and this one has some interesting things going for it. Our female lead is a museum curator – not usually shown in such books, male or female – and has an awesome career opportunity laid out in front of her. Our male lead is a digital marketing specialist – has there ever been a more “Millenial/ Zoomer” job? – who is unsatisfied in his own career, and this next project is make or break for him. So there’s a lot of work angst here in addition to the history of these two together. Combine their friends into one common group, and you’ve got a solid story that at a high level, the Hallmarkie set can easily enjoy.

But then… then you’ve got the pervasive bigotry against virtually anything non-queer, traditional, and/ or white. To the tune that this line deep in the book gives a good indication without even being anywhere near the worst examples: “”I fully endorse lesbian country songs and murder ballads about abusive husbands if you want to play those. It’s the I-like-guns-and-women-and-beer-and-trucks stuff I can’t stand.” (For the record, this reviewer has a problem with murder and domestic violence *no matter who is being attacked or why*.) So, Carrie Underwood and the Dixie – oops, I mean, just “The Chicks” – are perfectly fine, Brad Paisley (whom Underwood has worked *many* events with) and Alabama are out. Got it. But again, this is just a minor example that is concrete evidence of the overall problem. And to be clear, since readers of this particular review may not follow *all* of my reviews and may not know how I work this particular issue (and really, if you want a wide range of good books to read that you’d likely have never found on your own… you really should follow me wherever you’re reading this :D), I look at bigotry by flipping the demographics involved. If [insert demographic A] was behaving this way or saying these things about [insert demographic B], would it be seen as a problem? If it would, and yet [insert demographic B] is behaving that way or saying those things about [insert demographic A]… *it is still a problem*.

But, as I also say quite frequently, there will *always* be someone out there who LOVES the book (or item, more generally) for the EXACT reason a particular reviewer HATES it (and vice versa), so the more you agree with the title and the line I quoted, eh, the more you’re probably going to enjoy this book.

Overall, again, if you remove the pervasive bigotry here, it actually is a rather interesting tale that fully hits everything a younger Millenial/ Zoomer would expect in a romance and meets all genre requirements I am aware of. Combined with others sharing a similar political bent across the generations, and I’m sure Katz can still make quite a career playing into these same ideologies – we see both in books and elsewhere these days that what I once thought impossible is now a daily occurrence, so far as cutting out roughly half of your potential market and yet still having a wildly successful career goes.

Recommended, if you’re open to the particular biases here. The more opposed you are to them… the more you’re going to want to throw this book through the nearest window and DNF it, then leave a scathing 1* review strictly because you didn’t like the politics/ biases at play. Spare Katz the drama and yourself the heart and headache, and just skip it in that case.

This review of Thank You For Sharing by Rachel Runya Katz was originally written on September 5, 2023.

#BookReview: Fly With Me by Andie Burke

Solid Premise Marred By Pervasive Bigotry Against Anything Non-Queer. My book stats don’t lie- I read pretty well damn near everything. I’ve read several lesbian/ bisexual (of all forms) romances over the years, and actually still have another outstanding one to read in the next few weeks. And this one, as a slow burn with very heavy concepts… eh, it works reasonably well. Even as I find myself writing a 4* review and mostly siding with the existing 1* – 2* reviews that are currently on Goodreads as I write this as far as my own personal feelings about the book. But I pride myself in my “subtractive method” and trying to be objective-ish when deducting stars, and really the only thing objectively wrong here is the bigotry against anything non-queer, as noted in the title. As in, literally every single character – religious or not – that is not queer in this book is a bad guy, and while there is a singular queer bad guy as well – the ex-girlfriend of one of our MCs here – even this is portrayed in a better light than the non-queer characters. Yes, there is also a trans character that plays a small yet somewhat important role as well.

But, as I constantly say – “someone is going to LOVE the book for *EXACTLY* the reasons a given reviewer HATES it, and vice versa”, and I fully expect this to be the case here. A girl/ girl romance, no matter how you want to classify it, already has a fairly limited market, for any number of reasons. Within that market, I expect this tale to do reasonably well, as it is actually reasonably good from certain perspectives. Outside of that market, I think the bigotry so pervasively on display here is going to sink its chances even more than the girl/ girl romance nature of the tale.

I will say that as someone who frequents Walt Disney World and as a former runner with a couple of half marathons (though never a Disney one) under his belt… the sequences inside the park where actually quite fun, and the descriptions of a half marathon… show this particular runner didn’t train and/ or prepare particularly well for that length of race. Just to toss in a couple of observations I haven’t seen in other reviews as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall, if you’re into queer and/ or girl/ girl specifically romances… give this one a try. I genuinely do like to try to support debut authors, which is the actual primary reason I picked up this ARC, and there is certainly a sizeable market amongst those who will more readily agree with the author’s overall perspectives. If you’re less open to those types of romances… I’d say skip this one. There are certainly less problematic ones out there to try to broaden your horizons with a bit than this one, and maybe you skipping it will spare the author a 1* or 2* review. Recommended.

This review of Fly With Me by Andie Burke was originally written on August 28, 2023.

#BlogTour: Women Of The Post by Joshunda Sanders

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a great work that shows the complex yet all too real lives of some WWII veterans you’ve likely never heard of. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Women Of The Post by Joshunda Sanders.

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

Well Told Story Based On Real Unit/ People. This is a story probably unlike most any other you’ve encountered in historical fiction of WWII. Even if you’ve read about mail carrriers (there are a few such books out that I’m aware of, and likely more that I’m not), you likely haven’t read about *these* mail clerks. Even if you’ve read about African American servicemembers during the war, you likely haven’t read about *these* African American servicemembers during the war. Even if you’ve read about LGBT people during the war… you get the idea.

One thing that became interesting to me as I read this was thinking of the grandmother I don’t often think of much, my mom’s mom. But this was the grandmother that was married during WWII, and who bore her first child – my oldest uncle – just months before D-Day. Her husband at the time, my grandfather, I’ve spoken of a fair amount in reviews of WWII books, including his Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of the Bulge. But here, the connection is with his wife, back home in Georgia alone (presumably with family around) with their infant son. You see, even when I knew her almost 40 years later, during the dawn of the Personal Computer era and as the Net was coming online (she would die a few years after the Dot Com Bust of the mid 2000s, having outlived both of her husbands and sharing this earth for over 23 years with me)… that woman always *loved* writing and receiving letters. Actual, handwritten, long form, letters. As with my grandfathers and their experiences in WWII, I can’t *know* what she went through living through that era – I never once asked her about it. But seeing how letters and morale were stressed so dearly in this tale here, and knowing her own situation at the time, I can maybe make some assumptions about how *I* would feel in similar situations, and it brings another level of depth to both this tale and my memories of her life.

Even if you don’t have a personal connection, however tenuous, to the subject here though, this really is an interesting and clearly at least somewhat well researched tale showing a “based on” level tale of real people who really lived and did and likely experienced these very things during that period, up to and including the Klan burning crosses in their front yards and the active discrimination that was so rampant even after the war, even well after supposed “integration”.

About the only suspect detail here is the idea that lesbians could live more comfortably in post-war Ohio than in South Carolina, but that is perhaps explained away as being able to get to an area where neither person is known by anyone, and thus be able to craft your own identity and reputation away from those who have ever known anything but what you tell and present to them. Which, one could argue (and build a genuinely solid case for) is simply no longer possible in today’s hyper-connected world.

Overall truly a great work that shows the complex yet all too real lives of some WWII veterans you’ve likely never heard of. 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: Women Of The Post by Joshunda Sanders”

#BookReview: The Hook by Victoria Helen Stone

Feminist Horrible Bosses. If you’re familiar with the 2011 movie Horrible Bosses starring Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day… you’ve got a good idea of what you’re getting into here. Though that movie was played for comedy, and this is much closer to suspense/ thriller here, and from a much more feminist perspective. These three ladies have been *wronged*, and the bastard that did it must *pay*. Except that there are those things that are illegal, and then there are those things that are wrong… and then there are those things that are prosecutable. And rarely do those three things intersect – and nothing any of these guys has done is technically all three. Indeed, one could argue that one of the guys was actually a moral, outstanding citizen who simply sought to have the laws enforced. Yeah, right. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Still, the tale ultimately becomes a cautionary one, as things begin to spiral out of control… as these things tend to do. In the end, this was a solid bit of escapism for a few hours, and really that is all that I really expect in any entertainment medium. As others have noted, Stone’s Jane Doe series is genuinely superior to this particular tale, but where I disagree with some of them is that this one wasn’t *bad* – it just wasn’t as good as the Jane Doe series. Still, if you need some escapism and perhaps some catharsis… this book may just provide a touch of both. Recommended.

This review of The Hook by Victoria Helen Stone was originally written on May 10, 2023.

#BookReview: Beautiful Union by Joshua Ryan Butler

Proposing A New View Of Sexual Ethics. This book is remarkably well written and remarkably well balanced, one that no matter your views on any sex or gender related topic, at some point here you’re most likely going to fall into the classic preacher joke of “Woah, woah, woah, preacher! You’re stepping on my toes!” “I apologize, my [brother/ sister] in Christ. I was aiming for your heart.” (and/ or, in this case, the brain as well) ๐Ÿ˜€ In other words, no matter your views on these topics coming into this book, there are more than likely going to be things you’re wholeheartedly agreeing with… and others that are likely going to make you want to throw the book out of the nearest window. For those who have routinely been condemned by existing Christian ethics, know that there is no condemnation here – indeed, Butler spends a fair amount of time examining exactly what Paul was doing in Romans, one of the oft-cited condemnation passages, and explains how it doesn’t really directly apply to sexual issues, but to *all* issues. And yet, at the very same time, Butler does not shy away from the idea that homosexuality is a perversion of God’s perfect design and intention, and explains a new view of exactly why he still holds to this position. Ignoring Frank Viola’s Parable Of Marvin Snurdley, Butler does a truly remarkable and seemingly thorough job of looking at all issues surrounding sex and gender and shows that traditional views are the closest to being correct… though not always the closest in actual reasoning or in explaining *why* they are correct, which is something he seeks to change here. Oh, and those who have read Ted Dekker’s Circle Series are likely to notice some similar language. Indeed, while it is unknown to me if Butler had ever read this particular (somewhat famous in Christian circles) series, Butler here truly elevates and grounds some of the concepts Dekker explores particularly early in that series.

The single star deduction is for prooftexting, which while not *as* prevalent here and while Butler *mostly* explains the full contexts of the passages he spends extended time with (such as the creation account in Genesis and the aforementioned passage of Romans, among a few others), he *does* still engage in citing Biblical verses out of context at times in “support” of some point or another, and I am on a one-man-war to eradicate this practice everywhere I see it. In book reviews, my only weapon is the single star deduction, and thus I apply it in all cases where I notice the problem.

Ultimately this is a book that will prove highly controversial, and yet it is also a book that truly everyone, particularly those who consider themselves “thinkers” or “educated” or “learned” or some such, will need to at least read and consider. Very much recommended.

This review of Beautiful Union by Joshua Ryan Butler was originally written on December 6, 2022.

#BookReview: A Light In The Forest by Melissa Payne

Strong Story Well Told – Yet Very Preachy As Well. I’ve been reading Melissa Payne’s books since the very first one, and I can assure long time fans that while this book is in fact quite preachy on a couple of subjects in particular (more on that momentarily), it is also her usual quite strong storytelling here. For people that haven’t read Payne yet, this is a good one to start with *if you don’t have issues with the topics she is preachy about here*. (Otherwise go with literally any of her other books – The Secrets of Lost Stones, Memories In The Drift, or The Night Of Many Endings.)

The preachiness here is *mostly* around trans/ LGBT issues, though there is also a fair amount of “country men who don’t agree with my opinion on these issues are all backwards a**h***s”. (I’m not going to say outright misandry, because there *are* a few male characters who are both country and shown in quite positive lights – so long as they agree with particular views on the above issues.)

Beyond the preachiness though, there *is* a genuinely strong story here. Perhaps not quite as strong as the prior works by the author, all of which created strong dust storms no matter where they are read, as this reader’s eyes got watery no matter what environment he was reading them in – and *that* never actually happened with this book. Still, as a story of finding oneself even in tragedy – a few times over – and how traumas can last to new generations, this really was quite a strong tale. And heck, there are even elements of the tale that the most hyper militant pro-LGBT types probably aren’t going to like much either, but discussing those gets *way* too far into spoiler territory to mention beyond the simple fact that they exist.

Overall truly a strong tale well told, and one that while preachy, is still readable and enjoyable by most anyone – one that even if you would normally be put off by the preachiness, it is still a tale strong enough to push through those feelings and read anyway. Just please, if you do that, don’t lower your rating because of the preachiness. Do what I did here, and put your thoughts on that subject in the text of the review. ๐Ÿ™‚
Very much recommended.

This review of A Light In The Forest by Melissa Payne was originally written on November 2, 2022.

#BookReview: Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

Dang Near Erotica Level MILF Lesbian* RomCom. Seriously: Read the title of this review. If that type of book isn’t for you for any reason at all… save yourself the time and the author the 1* review and just find something else to read. The sex scenes start in Chapter 1 and are fairly frequent throughout the book – and *far* from closed door. XXX “on screen”, in fact. And all the sex is between a 40 something woman whose daughter is in college and a 21yo female college senior. Again, if that isn’t your thing… just move on. Finally, there are f-bombs and other curse words quite heavily as well (not sailor/ programmer level, but also not Independent Baptist Church level either). So yet again, not your thing… just move on. Please.

For anyone else that is still here… this is a somewhat slow ish angsty romcom, but the resolution comes perhaps a bit too quickly once it finally gets to that point. Still, there actually is a decent amount of drama here, and a seemingly realistic (enough) portrayal of people actually in these types of situations. The comedy part of the “romcom” label is mostly in the initial few scenes between the leading couple, but there are laughs to be had throughout the book and the romance itself picks up when the comedy wanes, so it works. Really the only quibble for those still here is the flash-forward epilogue, which is one of those things your mileage may vary on but which does add a bit of humor to the tail end of the tale.

Overall this was a solid tale well told, and the characters themselves are rare enough that anyone seeking “something different” will find this quite refreshing indeed. Very much recommended.

*Note: While the characterization of the leading couple is *actually* bisexual, according to the text here, and one has even been married and had a kid (and the other had a boyfriend before the events of the book), the only romantic/ sexual relationships actually in the book are all of the sapphic nature, and thus for actual purposes of review would be considered lesbian in at least some circles.

This review of Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner was originally written on October 8, 2022.

#BookReview: Nation Of Victims by Vivek Ramaswamy

Stacey Abrams == Donald Trump. And The Way Back Is To Ignore Both. Ok, so the title here was a bit intentionally inflammatory – but Ramaswamy *does* essentially make this very point late in the book, pointing to how both Abrams and Trump see themselves as victims of election fraud rather than candidates who lost elections because more voters legitimately sided with their opponents. But to get there, and to get from there to how we can truly come back, Ramaswamy dives through American history, legal theory, and even his Hindu religion to show how both progressives and conservatives have largely adopted a victimhood mentality. Interestingly, he never once cites Ayn Rand’s examinations of this same idea in Atlas Shrugged. Overall an interesting book worthy of consideration, and with a fairly normal bibliography at about 21% of the overall text here. Very much recommended.

This review of Nation of Victims by Vivek Ramaswamy was originally written on July 17, 2022.