#BookReview: Nobody Told Me by Kay Bratt

Controversial Real Life Bleeds Into Story. I fully cop to the title of this review being clickbait, but it is also 100% true. Yet again Bratt brings elements of real-world cases and her real-world life into this particular series, and in this particular case the most obvious direct real world connection is also one of the more controversial things Bratt has ever done in her actual life since I’ve been reading her books since 2018 or so. But revealing exactly where that moment is in the book and what the direct connection is to her real life would be a spoiler… so read this book and see if you can spot where it might be, then follow Bratt on her social media channels to see if you were right. Yes, I’m plugging both the book and the author here, because to be quite honest both are equally great – even if I personally 100% disagree with the choice made both in the book and in real life – but Bratt manages to tell both stories quite compellingly, and it is her books and her life. ๐Ÿ˜€

One word of caution though: This *is* Book 6 in a series, and in this case you really do need to read the prior books first to really have any real understanding of exactly where we are in this tale. Some more words of caution about the actual content: There is stalking, possible gaslighting, bullying, and a touch of animal neglect here (all on the part of the bad guys, to be sure), but Bratt manages to show these as exactly that – actions not to be condoned. Still, if those are absolute no-go issues for you for whatever reason, know that they’re here.

Overall though, this was yet another compelling entry in a series that manages to combine both police procedural and family drama elements quite well, all while showing off the merits and perils of both policing and small town life – which is something few other books I’ve ever read have done quite so well. Very much recommended.

This review of Nobody Told Me by Kay Bratt was originally written on August 10, 2023.

#BlogTour: The Girls On Chalk Hill by Alison Belsham

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a book that is a solid and compelling introduction to a new British police procedural series. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Girls On Chalk Hill by Alison Belsham.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Solid Introduction To New British Police Procedural Series. This book is exactly what I note in the title – a solid introduction to a new British police procedural series, one with a couple of interesting hooks that will be interesting to see exactly how they play out throughout the series. The first being that our lead Investigator is a triplet with a haunted past (which we learn about through this book), the other being that while she is a British national, she has spent several years prior to the events of this tale being trained by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation and working with them. Neither are exactly typical elements of any of the fairly numerous series I’ve read within this exact space, and both contribute to helping this particular series stand out a bit from the pack.

The pacing is near frenetic, starting even with our opening chapter featuring a somewhat shocking and certainly atypical book opener within the police procedural space – much less the very first scene of a brand new series.

Overall, one of the better books within this genre I’ve encountered in quite some time, and I’m glad I already had book two on hand to also read as an Advance Reviewer Copy when I finished this one. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Girls On Chalk Hill by Alison Belsham”

#BookReview: And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle

Slow Burn Hallmarkie Southern Romance. This is another of those books that almost seems destined for the small screen on the Hallmark Channel or one of its newer competitors. But here, the romance is *very* slow burn, taking nearly all of this books 350 or so pages to finally get the couple together – and even then, they barely kiss, much less anything else. So this is definetly more for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd than the crowd that wants damn near erotica level sex in the first chapter. (You know what I mean, and you know who you are.) Cursing is next to non-existent here, and may even be completely non-existent – I certainly don’t remember any. Prayers, church attendance, mentions of God and Jesus… those are far more plentiful – and just as accurate to the Southern small mountain town setting as the broken families, abuse, and alcoholism that are also discussed, but which take place long before this book and are only discussed – not shown “on screen”.

Indeed, the bulk of the tale is a woman being conned… and then trying to re-establish her life after very nearly everything other than her breath is taken from her. Here, the book truly shines as the reader feels quite viscerally everything our lead is going through, as well as just how much the investigator assigned to her case wants to solve it for her. Naigle uses this structure to first get our lead to the point of being willing to move – and then to show the small town that will serve as the basis for the rest of this series (more on that momentarily) as an outsider would see it, for all its wonders and faults.

Really the only thing quite obviously missing here is an obvious second book, as this is listed as “number one” in a new series. As the series name is the same as the town name, clearly the town itself will be central to this series, and thus its establishment here is quite solid indeed. There’s just no real obvious “oh, this is who we’re tracking in the next book” set up. Or maybe I just missed it?

Overall a solid tale of its type, one that some will absolutely adore and others will find… the nearest window to throw it out of. Still, for what it is, truly a good tale, well told. Very much recommended.

This review of And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle was originally written on June 8, 2023.

#BookReview: Instant Karma by Kay Bratt

Excellent Mid-Series Wrap Up And Soft Reboot. This book is exactly what the title says – an excellent epilogue to the series as it has been, and a soft reboot for what is to come. The story to this point, as much as it has been about Hart’s Ridge, has also been about the one family, and here we see (most) of their initial travails handled and handled well. Meanwhile, a dark secret emerges that will seemingly drive at least the next book and, depending on how Bratt chooses to play this, could well drive the back half of this planned eight book series. This is also one of the creepiest, and yet even more real because of it, books, with the crime here not being rape or murder or torture or some such, but scams and elder abuse – another facet of life that is seemingly all too common these days in the “real” world, and one which Bratt manages to work into her town and series quite well indeed. And as a bonus, as a “soft reboot” of the series… this is actually a decent entry point for those who have not read the prior books and yet don’t mind events from them being discussed within this book. Overall a well told story in a well developed small town in real-enough North Georgia Mountain country, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Bratt takes this next. Very much recommended.

This review of Instant Karma by Kay Bratt was originally written on May 26, 2023.

#BookReview: The Peer Effect by Syed Ali and Margaret M. Chin

Overt Racism And Extensive Elitism Mar Otherwise Intriguing Premise. In “shit sandwich” form, let’s start out with something good, shall we? The premise here, that peer groups affect behavior more than most other factors, is one that few sociologists – at least those I’ve seen in my 20+ years on the outskirts of that field – have openly espoused. Thus, this book was immediately intriguing and in fact had at least some promise here.

But then we get to the overt racism against anything white male and the extensive elitism in promoting New York City and in particular one particularly exclusive high school as the epitome of virtually everything, openly declaring multiple times that NYC is the cultural heart of the US, among several other elitist (and typical New Yorker) claims. The longer the text goes, the more and more overt the authors get in showing their anti-white male racist misandry, until finally at one point, after clearly establishing “cultures that are longstanding” and similar phrases to mean “white male”, the authors openly state “Cultures that are longstanding have a built-in legitimacy to them; to change them means that people inside and outside of that culture *have to see aspects of their identity, their culture, as illegitimate, as immoral, as wrong.*” (emphasis mine). Imagine the outcry if a white author had made the same statement in reference to virtually any other demographic – and *that* is my standard for detecting bigotry: invert the demographics involved. If there would be outcry, it is likely bigoted. Thus, one star is deducted for the overt racism in particular, and the other star is deducted for the pervasive elitism.

Finally, I can say that the bibliography being roughly 20% of the text was perhaps a touch low, but at least on the low end of *normal* in my extensive experience with Advance Reviewer Copies. And yes, as I am writing this review almost fully six months prior to publication, this means that I am in fact reading and reviewing an ARC here.

Overall, there is enough positive and worthy of consideration here to keep this fairly safely above my dreaded “gold mine” label, but there is still enough detritus here that one should approach the text a bit warily. Still, it does in fact bring some worthy wrinkles to the public discourse, and for that reason it *should* be widely read. Recommended.

This review of The Peer Effect by Syed Ali and Margaret M. Chin was originally written on May 24, 2023.

#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: Little Ghosts by Gregg Dunnett

Chilling Thriller With A Unique Take On Ghosts. Straight up, know that this book is about a child murder – if you can’t handle that, this isn’t the book for you. For those of you still here, Dunnett does a solid job of showing the aftereffects of an unsolved child murder on the family the child leaves behind, before transitioning into a cat and mouse game to try to stop the killer before he strikes again. These elements of the story are well done, but have been done time and time and time again… and again and again and again. To the point that there is an entire genre of these types of tales, and this tale is on par with its genre mates – if you like the genre, you’re probably going to like this one, and vice versa.

What sets this book apart, really, is its take oh ghosts – how they present, what abilities they have, what they know, etc. And here, Dunnett really does a remarkable job of showing how his particular brand of ghosts could work within the overall story being told here. Overall a truly entertaining book with an intriguing take on ghosts. Very much recommended.

This review of Little Ghosts by Gregg Dunnett was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan

Small Town Southern Mystery Draws In Feds. While technically this is Book 4 of the Quinn and Costa series, they and their team don’t actually show up for a decent chunk of the beginning of the book – it seemingly took them longer to come into this narrative than Book 3, The Wrong Victim (which does get referenced here, for those that cannot stand any spoilers whatsoever). But once they do show up, things begin escalating quite quickly and as always we see the various team members doing what they each do best and what makes them such an effective team. As is the norm of “freak of the week” police procedurals, we also get a fair amount of team and personal development of much of the team as well, and in the end the reader is left ready for the next adventure. This is a well told and well paced tale that even at 400 pages, doesn’t quite feel it – it reads more like maybe a 320 pager or so. I’m very much looking forward to Book 5 in this series, and this entry is very much recommended.

This review of Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan was originally written on April 25, 2023.

#BookReview: Lucy In The Sky by Kay Bratt

Diamonds Aren’t Always What They Seem. Once again, Bratt – in a bit of a departure from her “normal” books, at least the later ones before this series I am most familiar with – manages to craft a compelling tale of a broken family in small town rural Georgia (among other places) and make it seem all too real. In this particular case, we get two different yet linked stories here, as the titular Lucy deals with the fallout of her actions from her introduction in Book 1 of this series while big sis Taylor, the lead in Book 1, continues to unravel the deep family secret she uncovered in the first book. Yet again. Bratt is perhaps too comfortable with modern police tactics for some… but yet again, Bratt *does* manage to *also* highlight at least some of the problems with modern US policing and even brings in the real-world Innocence Project here and cites some of their real-world figures regarding the number of convictions they’ve helped overturn in the last 30+ years. In both plotlines, “reality” as each sister knows it begins unravelling more and more the deeper the sister looks, and each sister has to find out just how far down the particular rabbit hole they find themselves in they’re willing to go. And with the conclusion of this particular tale… you’re going to want Book 3 (In My Life, currently slated for release one month from now on March 14, 2023) pretty well immediately. Very much recommended.

This review of Lucy In The Sky by Kay Bratt was originally written on February 14, 2023.

#BookReview: Hart’s Ridge by Kay Bratt

Genre-Bending Series Starter. This is a police procedural, ala so many others such as BR Spangler, Noelle Holten, and Allison Brennan, among so many others. Which is perfect for TV fans of shows like Blue Bloods or NYPD Blue or Chicago Blue or the various Law and Order shows. Bratt’s explicit inspiration here is the true crime genre she personally loves, and in fact the case here is based on a real-world case nearly four decades old.

But it is *also* a women’s fiction tale of a woman, her family, her small town, and the various secrets involved all around, all over town. It is here where the true “hart” ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) of the story is, and as with the various police procedurals named above (and others), it is on the strength of these stories that really makes this book as strong as it is and sets up the new series as well as it does. Which is quite commendable here.

The one thing that *must* be mentioned by me in particular, as a former Cop Block activist that largely (though not *completely*) gave up that activism to become a book blogger -with Bratt’s own Dancing With The Sun one of my earliest books in that switch over – is that Bratt *does* get quite cozy with the pro-police “copaganda” bullcrap. Understandable, given Bratt’s own small-town, rural life, the market she has created for herself, and even the tale set up here. As a native of the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains / exurbs of Atlanta, I can say without question that the sentiments Bratt expresses here are genuine to the region. But that region is also home to cops who murdered a pastor for taking a parishioner to a convenience store, who threw a grenade on a baby sleeping in its crib, and who murdered a 17yo JROTC cadet for the “crime” of opening his door with a Wii controller in his hands. For those who despise copaganda in all its forms, I *can* say this: Read this book despite this. It really is that strong as a story outside of those elements, and there are at least hints that maybe they won’t be as pervasive going forward in the series.

Another thing that Bratt does particularly well, however, is showing North Georgia fairly well, warts and all, including even a seeming reference to the now-defunct yet legendary Poole’s BBQ of Ellijay, which closed its doors less than a couple of months prior to the publication of this book. Others who have followed Bratt for a while will notice other true-to-life elements, including a lot of the various dynamics at play within the book ringing similar to things Bratt has spoken of within her own family and the Yorkie rescue Bratt works with quite heavily. (RIP, Grandpa.)

Overall this is truly yet another great book and a solid opening to a series with great potential from Bratt, despite the copaganda, and it truly is very much recommended.

This review of Hart’s Ridge by Kay Bratt was originally written on December 16, 2022.