The More You Think You See, The Easier It Will Be To Fool You. For the first time since I began reading McKenzie’s books (with 2018’s The Good Liar) at minimum, here McKenzie uses her former profession as a lawyer to craft a women’s fiction tale that almost rivals the legends of legal fiction such as John Grisham. The prologue pulls you in, the alternating timelines build the mystery, and while the pacing gets slow between the prologue and say the 3/4 mark or so, it is always with a tinge of menace right around the corner. And then that final 10-15% or so, where the title of this review *really* kicks in. Almost until the last word, McKenzie begins flipping everything you think you know around so much it begins to look like a Rubik’s cube master’s speed run. Quite an interesting tale, and very much recommended.
This review of Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie was originally written on August 22, 2022.
More Memoir Than Investigative Expose. At least for me, the current description as I write this review nearly three months before the book’s scheduled publication reads more that this book would have been an investigative expose similar to Maxine Bedat’s 2021 book Unraveled. And while many similar issues are discussed – from the rampant sex abuse in sweatshops to the mass markets in Africa where fast fashion castoffs that don’t wind up in landfills ultimately wind up, among others – this is still mostly a memoir based narrative with some interviews to back up Hardy’s own observations from her career in fashion. A career Hardy mentions a few times she left, and which becomes clear she is still processing her time within. Still, as a bit of an “insider’s look” rather than active investigative journalism, this tale largely works and it does show a lot of the perils of the modern fast fashion industry. Indeed, the book really only suffers from two flaws: One is that it discusses COVID frequently, and I am on a one-man crusade against any book that mentions COVID for any reason at all. My only real tool in this crusade is a one-star deduction, and therefore it applies here. The second star deduction comes from the dearth of a bibliography. Even for similar memoir-based narratives and even with my extensive experience working with these narratives in advance reader copy form, the bibliography here is quite small, clocking in at just 2% or so of the text – when 10% is more normal even for this particular type of narrative, and 20-30% is more normal for nonfiction more generally. Still, for what it is and what it discusses, this book is well written and engaging (and a fairly quick read, for those looking for that), and is reasonably solid given the caveats above. Very much recommended.
This review of Worn Out by Alyssa Hardy was originally written on July 2, 2022.
This week we’re looking at a sequel of sorts that takes its original’s much more imminent question of actual physical survival and turns it around to ask questions of survival after less life threatening, but similarly life shattering, trauma. This week we’re looking at Moment In Time by Suzanne Redfearn.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
Interesting Sequel Of Sorts. This book takes as two of its primary characters some of the characters from her 2020 hit In An Instant – and pretty majorly spoils that book almost from the get-go. For those who don’t mind such spoilers (particularly such major ones), this one *can* be read first. But based on reading other GR reviews where the reader hadn’t read In An Instant first… I’d say go back and read that one first. There are also two other key characters introduced later in the story from Redfearn’s 2021 book Hadley and Grace, though their characters are developed enough here and without any truly overt ties (that I remember, hundreds of books later) to that one that it isn’t *as* essential to read it first to understand them. Overall I do think In An Instant hits harder, but I think this one shows a more “everyday” survival that far more people face than the truly life threatening scenario in In An Instant. Both books do great jobs of showing how even seemingly minor choices can have major impacts on how major events play out, and indeed this one seemed all too realistic. Furthermore, Redfearn does a tremendous job of showing the aftereffects of rape on both the victim and those around her – *without* showing the rape itself on screen (which, let’s face it, is difficult at best to read even for those who *haven’t* been through that trauma). Overall a solid and compelling book, and very much recommended.
Short Fun Atypical Romance. This is one of those romance novels that is almost more women’s fiction than romance. Yes, ultimately it satisfies every “romance book” check box I am aware of, even the most stringent ones… but it really does read as more of a women’s fiction “find yourself” type tale. Hell, we don’t even meet the male lead of the book until a fairly decent way into the overall text. Quite a few wokeisms tossed in as well, but those are more irritants than true detractions from the tale, and at least a couple of them are actually fleshed out into realistic characters. Overall a solid and fun tale, and *as a story*, very much recommended.
All of this noted, I would be doing readers a disservice to fail to note that after I picked up this book to review last fall, I became aware that the author had signed a petition in favor of banning books because she didn’t like them. And this reader does not abide those who ban books, no matter the reason. So this author is now on my “never read again until she recants from book banning” list, though certainly you as a reader of this review and potential reader of this book are more than welcome to do with the information I’ve provided here both on the book and the author as you will, and I wish you well either way. 🙂
This review of The Suite Spot by Trish Doller was originally written on February 28, 2022.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book that further shows how an often stigmatized neurodivergence can actually be used for good rather than its stereotypical evil. For this blog tour we’re looking at Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian.
Complex Story With Interesting (But Unnecessary) Commentary In Finale. This is a particular idea that I didn’t really know I was drawn to until reading Victoria Helen Stone’s Jane Doe books, about a slightly more mature psychopath than these college students here. So when I saw the premise here, I pretty well *had* to check it out. The overall story works well and will keep you guessing – and you’re most likely not going to guess right until the final reveal. The various aspects of psychopathy shown work well, and work well to show that *everyone* can lead a fairly normal life – thus helping (a bit) to destigmatize the condition. Including the romance that at least a few other reviewers panned – I enjoyed it for showing that even true psychopaths are capable of it, though admittedly this isn’t a romance book and thus that element is never a core focus of the tale. The switching from character to character was usually abrupt and could have used a bit better editing, perhaps naming the character at the top of the chapter and even breaking into a new chapter (with character name) when a perspective jumps mid chapter. But that is perhaps something that could be seen at the beta/ ARC level (and this book is still almost two months from publication as I write this review) and *perhaps* corrected. So if you’re reading this review years after publication, know that this particular issue may or may not exist any longer.
The commentary in the finale, about the doc and his perspectives, wasn’t really necessary but did provide an interesting, rarely seen wrinkle. One I happened to know about outside of this book and largely agree with, so it was refreshing to see it both discussed and discussed in such a positive light here. But again, it was ultimately unnecessary for the tale and thus a bit of a momentum killer in the final stretch. (Though fortunately it *is* fairly brief, so there is that at least.)
Overall a truly enjoyable read with a fairly rare and possibly unique premise. Very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the usual publisher details – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian”
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a light hearted Southern romance that has a remarkable number of attachments for a book titled “The Summer of No Attachments”. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Summer of No Attachments by Lori Foster.
First, here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:
Record Scratch. There’s… a remarkable amount of attachments here for a book titled “The Summer of No Attachments”. #ijs 😀
But seriously, this is one of those feel good, not even quite Hallmarkie (since it doesn’t really even have any even pushover “big threat”) Southern romance tales. Yes, there are a lot of heavy elements here – mom abandons son, drug use (off screen), abuse (also mostly off screen), #MeToo moments (also off screen), etc – but there is also quite a bit of lighthearted banter and romance. And puppies! And an old cat! This is apparently book 2 of a series, but it totally works as a standalone, as the people from Book 1 barely show up at all – making this one of those barely connected tangential “series” that share the same world and even town, but don’t heavily feature in each others’ tales.
Overall truly a light and refreshing read, despite its occasional heft, and great for a relaxing summer read, or a relaxing read at any point in the year really. Very much recommended.
Below the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the publisher’s information, including a description, author bio, and various links!
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Summer Of No Attachments by Lori Foster”
This week we’re looking at a compelling mystery that keeps things refreshingly realistic – if completely twisted. This week we’re looking at Far Gone by Danielle Girard.
Compelling Mystery. This is one of those mysteries that has so much going on that it could feel disjointed in a lesser storyteller’s hands, but Girard manages to make it work quite well. We get the story primarily through three perspectives – Hannah, who witnesses a murder in her opening scene, Lily, a nurse who is a former kidnapping victim who is now working to rebuild her life, and Kylie, the detective who helped Lily in the first book and who here is investigating the murder. Girard manages to keep the pace of the reveals driving through the narrative, all while maintaining plausibly realistic scenarios. Indeed, even the ending is surprisingly refreshing in its realism on all fronts – despite what some activists would have liked. Truly a great story told very well. Very much recommended.
This week we’re looking at a strong British courtroom thriller that seems to set up a new series. This week we’re looking at Take It Back by Kia Abdullah.
Writer’s block still plagues me, but here’s the Goodreads/ BookBub review:
Nuanced Courtroom Thriller. This is an interesting one. One with a main protagonist that… has several rough edges, at least a couple of which come back to bite her. One with a strong commentary about the role of Muslims in British (and by slight extension, Western) society, at many different levels. One with a strong discussion of what it means to be the “other”… in so many different ways. And one with secrets almost literally to the last word. Tremendous book, and very much recommended.
Standing Outside The Fire. Ok, so possibly *too* on point or perhaps even a little cliché with the title of the review there, since Talley explicitly brings that song in late in the book with one character explaining to another that this is exactly what has been happening. But I *love* that song, it is easily one of my all-time favorites. 🙂
Anyway, on the book itself: Very fun, but also very deep. The two main characters – Olivia and Chase – are dealing with similar events in their worlds, neither of them realizing at first just how similar they are even if their perspectives on the events in question are very different. Along the way, many, many hijinx are had, including one very scared and borderline feral kitty cat. It is hard to note a particular trigger warning that is relevant enough to probably mention (even though I am not a fan of the practice generally, it is that significant here – though off screen, discussed by the characters as past events). So I’ll note that it ties into #MeToo and leave it at that. Truly a very balanced book about taking control of your own life and being open to possibilities that don’t seem obvious at first, and a very fun read. Very much recommended.
This review of Adulting by Liz Talley was originally written on October 2, 2020.
Slow. Then Wow. This debut book is very much a slow burn. A recent college graduate circa 2009 becomes the nanny for a Martha’s Vineyard family, only to realize that there is much going on behind the scenes. One of her two charges, a 14yo girl, is coming of age at the same time and realizing that things are not always as they seem. Then, right around the 2/3 mark, The Event happens. Beyond saying that it ties into #MeToo, which is general enough to note a wide range within a given type of event, I’ll say no more about The Event itself. But both women experienced it, and the back quarter (ish) of the book flashes forward a decade to how it has shaped both of them. To the #MeToo era itself, though this is never directly mentioned in the text by that name. And it is here the book ends, with some of the heaviest punches outside of The Event itself. But who knows, maybe, for me, that was due to my own life and how I know all too well how trauma can shape a life, and thus identified remarkably well with a now early 20s and mid 30s female despite being a late 30s (ugh) male myself. Truly a remarkable debut, and I’m very much looking forward to more from Ms. Spiro. Very much recommended.
This review of Someone Else’s Secret by Julia Spiro was originally written on June 22, 2020.