Featured New Release Of The Week: A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields

This week we’re looking at an excellent coming of age tale featuring the dawn of the war on drugs as seen through the eyes of a 13yo New York City girl in 1965. This week we’re looking at A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields.

Once again, as I write this in late August 2020 I am still being afflicted by a form of “writer’s block” that makes even Goodreads level reviews a bit difficult to write at the moment, so that level is all I really have to offer still.

Solid Coming Of Age During The Dawn Of The War On Drugs. As a coming of age tale set in the mid 60s, this evokes feelings of The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing, and My Girl – all phenomenal works. The use of a 13yo girl as the primary character is an interesting perspective that really allows Fields to tell a tale in a newish way even as she deals with things that most anyone who knows anything about that period at all is aware of on multiple levels. Truly a great story, and one that several of Fields’ fellow Lake Union authors have appropriately lauded in words far more poetic than anything I’ll be able to create, even in a review. As counterprogramming to the 2020 US Elections – it releases on Election Day 2020 here – it actually provides a truly interesting perspective that all too often gets lost, particularly in this particular Presidential election. And yes, since I am writing this review on August 23 and it releases on November 3, this is indicative that this is in fact an ARC, with all that this entails. But pick this up on release day. Go ahead and preorder it so that you have it on release day. You’re going to want a distraction, and this tale is an excellent distraction. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Address Book by Deidre Mask

This week we’re looking at an interesting history of a seemingly mundane topic. This week, we’re looking at The Address Book by Deidre Mask.

Fairly quickly in this text, Mask establishes herself as one of the “new breed” of historians more concerned with editorial story than with actual historical fact. That noted, the stories she chooses to highlight do seem to show the origin of the subtopic in question fairly well in most cases, though there are a few times where the “editorial narrative” focus takes over and Mask pointedly notes that while several things happened seemingly at once, she is highlighting the story she prefers. And it was this part of the tale that ultimately lost a star from me – she could have explored these same stories but also provided the actual historical context – did the Austrian ruler do that first or did the Spaniard or the Greek or whoever was also doing it? – and it would have solidified the history without sacrificing story.

Overall an utterly fascinating look at several issues related to an address, having one, and what having one and living in a particular location means, this spans the history from the earliest known addresses to how various parts of them came to be to current issues related to addressing both New York City and the slums of Calcutta. Along the way, we find things that these days we tend to take for granted – house numbering, why odd numbers are on one side of the street and even on the other, how roads are named, the origins of the ZIP code, and many more – are in many cases fairly recent developments and just what they meant to the people who first created them.

A truly fascinating read even with the editorial slant, this is one of those esoteric books that will give you plenty of nerdy trivia bits for parties. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Address Book by Deidre Mask”

#BookReview: Revenant by David Wood

Solid NYC Action / Mystery. This was truly an excellent action/ mystery book centered in NYC and surrounding areas. Full of rich and disturbing (and apparently real) history, this book does an excellent job of continuing the evolving mythos Wood has created with these characters while still being a mostly self-contained (and thus easy for newbies to enter) story itself. Very much recommended.

This review of Revenant by David Wood was originally published on July 16, 2019.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Good Man, Dalton by Karen McQuestion

This week, we are looking at an intriguing examination of social media, reality television, and homelessness… all within the confines of a literally laugh out loud romantic comedy. This week, we are looking at Good Man, Dalton by Karen McQuestion.

Structurally, this book is intriguing because while it uses the split chapter approach so common in romance novels these days, it doesn’t actually have the couple meet up until just over 50% into the book. Instead, the first half of the book focuses on the individual arcs of the lead couple, and it is here that the book is perhaps its most moving.

Greta is a young college graduate who gets an internship with her second cousin’s prestigious New York City mega-company. She only knows her cousin through the family Christmas cards and the cousin’s perfectly fabulous social media channels, and she is awestruck. But when she gets a peek behind the curtains… McQuestion begins to show the reality of “reality television” that many of us have long suspected. Dalton is heading to New York City on a two week experiment of what it means to be homeless. He has carefully planned this excursion so that he has no easy access to the comforts and privileges he has enjoyed his entire life, and when he actually gets there and begins learning on the street, he finds that even many of the theories he has learned in college at even the graduate level are… in reality not always as the textbooks claim. Here again, McQuestion embarks on an intriguing examination of just what it means to be homeless in America circa 2020 ish, along with some intriguing ideas for approaches that may actually work.

At just before the halfway point, Greta and Dalton see each other for just a few seconds… and instantly realize there is some connection with this stranger on the other side of the glass. Just after the halfway point, their lives intersect again and they remain around each other through the end of the book. It is in this section of the book that it becomes perhaps its most hilarious, if a bit more “standard” in story. But even here, McQuestion plays with the questions of reality and living up to expectations.

Overall this is a remarkable work that is elevated by both McQuestion’s talent as a writer and the storytelling decisions she made. Both serve to take what could have been just another run of the mill New York City based romantic comedy and make it something that could stick with the reader for quite a while, in a way I’ve only ever seen done once in all the books I’ve ever read as it relates to homelessness in particular – Creston Mapes‘ 2007 work Nobody.

This is quite possibly the best book I’ve read so far in 2019, and I look forward to seeing what Ms. McQuestion has in store for us next.

As always, we end with the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: Good Man, Dalton by Karen McQuestion”

Featured New Release of the Week: Loving Liberty Levine by Colin Falconer

This week, we look at a multi-generational tale of a mother’s love from yet another new-to-me Lake Union author. This week, we look at Loving Liberty Levine by Colin Falconer.

This book was a bit structurally divergent from most other Lake Union books I’ve read – while also being longer than others at 442 pages, it divided those pages up into nearly 70 short-ish chapters rather than the more common 20-30 mid-length chapters. Since I was just having a discussion about such things in one of my Facebook book groups recently, it felt worthy of mentioning here.

Overall, the story is very nicely told, beginning circa 1912 or so in Russia and then moving to the US in 1913, where the majority of the rest of the story – save for the last couple of chapters – plays out primarily in New York City. The descriptions of life as an immigrant Jew seem accurate to my knowledge of the actual history and yet tell an excellent tale of a family doing whatever it takes to give their daughter the life they think she deserves. Along the way we encounter World War I – also a topic of two other recent Lake Union books -, the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Depression, and finally, World War II, where we end. The story ultimately calls into question the lengths a mother is willing to go through for her child and the secrets she is willing to bear, but even goes deeper than many books that explore these issues and dares to go into infertility and what truly makes a mother. It is for these last two reasons in addition to simply great storytelling that this book rises above many others. Excellent book, yet another smash hit from Lake Union. Very much looking forward to seeing more work from this author.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: Loving Liberty Levine by Colin Falconer”