#BookReview: Everyone Is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf

Solid Mystery Lacks Real World Punch Of Other Similar Works. At this point, we’ve all read some variant of some mystery set in and around the world of reality television, right? This is truly a solid tale of its type, so far as it goes, so even if you haven’t read one, this is a good one to start with there.

I’m not sure if a certain aspect of the tale was *meant* to be picked up on early or if I (and apparently a few other reviewers) just *did*, but to me if that particular aspect was supposed to be a “twist”, it was about as curvy as say the bend in the US coastline from roughly Charleston to roughly Jacksonville – ie, easily seen from orbit without much effort at all.

The thing blatantly missing – or perhaps it was so subtle that even I simply missed it within this text, as other reviewers have said they loved its presence – was the lack of any actual social commentary baked in to the tale of “reality television”, as most in this space tend to have to some degree or another. While I’m glad there was no heavy handed preaching on the subject – no matter the view the author was trying to convey – I do wish that there had been *some*, or perhaps, again, at least some that was more obvious and memorable.

Outside of those two aspects though, this really was a fun and solid mystery of its type, maybe not quite as hard hitting as some of Gudenkauf’s previous works, but that is also ok – sometimes both the writer and the reader need a chance to simply enjoy a tale without having to think too hard or without having emotional strings pulled too heart or without too much strain on the heart re: pulse and blood pressure. Not to say that this tale is bland, it absolutely is not. It just isn’t *as* intensive as Gudenkauf’s prior books – akin to an “easy” 5K at half of your normal running pace while training for a half marathon. You’re still getting a good workout, it simply isn’t anywhere near the intensity that could hurt you. ๐Ÿ˜€

Overall an enjoyable work and a solid one given its premise. Very much recommended.

This review of Everyone Is Watching by Heather Gudenkauf was originally written on March 15, 2024.

#BookReview: Pity Pact by Whitney Dineen

Solid Romantic Comedy Builds On Characters From Prior Book. This was a solid romantic comedy – yes, in the Hallmarkie type vein – where two people in Small Town USA suddenly find themselves on the same reality dating show that is being shot not only in their small town, but actually in the country club one of them owns. Both of the main characters here played fairly heavily into the prior book, Pity Party, and it was nice to see some strong character growth from the male lead in particular between the two books. Otherwise, there are yet again some fairly hefty subjects broached here, including high school bullying. There are a few laugh out loud moments – always great in something billed as a comedy ๐Ÿ˜‰ – and I enjoyed that this book was much more directly about our lead couple and the people surrounding them. Yes, including the couple from the prior book. One scene in particular may give the clean/ sweet romance crowd a case of “the vapors”, but to be clear even that scene isn’t actually a sex scene. Overall a fun romance that at least somewhat sets up the next book as well, which I’m very much looking forward to reading. Very much recommended.

This review of Pity Pact by Whitney Dineen was originally written on February 7, 2024.

#BookReview: On The Plus Side by Jenny L. Howe

Lots Of Grand Ideas. No Technical Errors. Plenty Readers May Not Like. This is one of those books that is filled with GRANDIOSE IDEAS it wants to communicate and build an interesting story around. And it does that. There are no glaring technical errors with anything about this book. The plot works within world, the characters are serviceable enough for the genre generally, and the GRANDIOSE IDEAS are all given at least some “screen time”.

All of this noted, there are *several* issues here that individual readers may have problems with, depending on their own experiences.

The book opens with an author’s note about why she doesn’t have a problem with “fat” in the context of this tale + trigger warnings. Ok, there is a lot of discussion on trigger warnings at the front of books in Booklandia, with different people coming down on different sides there. Clearly, Howe has staked her position. Fair enough, but again, some readers may not like this.

Then we get into the various GRANDIOSE IDEAS as we go throughout the actual tale.

Self Acceptance. Noble idea, some may not like the execution of how it is explored.
Family Drama. While a certain family member is written almost as an antagonist… this is going to be one of those “antagonists” that at least some readers are likely going to agree with more than the main character.
“Reality” TV (and the lack of actual reality therein). This is a main driver of the plot, and for the most part works well enough. But there is a lot of social commentary here that I suspect won’t hit as hard for many as perhaps Howe had hoped.

Others get more into spoiler territory, so I’ll not discuss them here. But you get the idea. For at least some readers, this will absolutely be OHMYGODAMAZEBALLSAWESOMESAUCETHANKYOUFORWRITINGTHISMOSTIMPORTANTBOOKEVAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! level. I suspect that for most readers, this book will more likely fall into the “ok” – “good, but a few problems” range. And I do think that its 4.06 average across just over 500 reviews just days before publication (yes, I too read this as an ARC) is both evidence that I am right and, to my mind, roughly where its rating average is likely to pan out over time.


This review of On The Plus Side by Jenny L. Howe was originally written on December 22, 2023.

#BookReview: Cupid Season by Nicola Marsh

Short, Fun, And Little Drama. This is one of those romance tales that is great for someone who wants a mostly lighter-side tale with just enough actual drama and backstory to make things interesting without overly weighing the tale down. Throw in some reality-show type antics, and you’ve got a solid formula for an easy vacation/ by the fire read for those times when maybe you don’t have the time or energy to invest in a tome, but you just want or need something a bit on the lighter and shorter side. Very much recommended.

This review of Cupid Season by Nicola Marsh was originally written on September 15, 2023.

#BlogTour: The Wildest Ride by Marcella Bell

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a fun romance with a very atypical… well, twang. For this romance we’re looking at The Wildest Ride by Marcella Bell.

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

Romance With An Atypical Twang. Let’s face it. When you think of rodeo, you don’t exactly think of non-white dudes competing. Much less a non-white chick. Nor do you really think of “reality competition show”, despite that particular type of show being *so* overdone these days. And yet, in this particular romance, we get all of the above. We get the obligatory overt Garth reference or two, a more subtle Merle reference or two, and two non-white rodeo champions putting it all on the line in a rodeo-based reality competition show in order to save the things they love. And since this is a romance tale, yeah, that builds along the way too. For the clean/ sweet crowd… y’all aint gonna like this one. It only has two outright sex scenes, but one of them is about as far from blink-and-you’ll-miss-it as you can get without dragging the story or veering into erotica. Overall a well-done tale that sets up what looks to be a medium-coupled series – not so loose that the characters never appear in each other’s books, but also not so tightly coupled that future readers would be completely lost if coming into the series in later books. It will be interesting to see where Ms. Bell goes from here and exactly how she executes stylistically on joining the series together. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an except and the publisher details ๐Ÿ™‚
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