#BookReview: Never Back Down by Christopher Swann

Comic Book Justice. In this epic conclusion (?) to Suzie Falkner’s story, Swann manages to keep the tension tight even when filling in backstory – and showing that the characters have lived through the year ish since the publication of Never Turn Back in near real-time with the rest of us. Except that for Suzie, that year has been spent being tormented by the fallout from Never Turn Back. (In other words, read that book first in this particular case.) We spend most of the book with the Big Bad more a menacing presence in the shadows (ala the opening sequence) or the general background (most of the book) while showing off Suzie’s own skills ever more prominently, including several other tie-ins to Never Turn Back. (Seriously, read that book first.) And then, in the last third of the book or so, Swann gets into Suzie’s toughest tests yet – and into some of the most creepy and traumatizing events of these books. Getting into the specifics would be spoilery, but one does need to be generally referenced in case the reader is particularly sensitive to this issue: there *is* a school shooting in this book, and yes, people die in it. Given the realities of the world today, that caution needed to be mentioned. Along those lines, Swann has a line or two where his personal politics tinge the page – but they tend to be throwaway lines that are not pervasive and are quickly moved past, and therefore don’t warrant a star deduction so much as a mention of their presence. Overall truly a breathtaking book that you won’t want to put down for even a second. Very much recommended.

This review of Never Back Down by Christopher Swann was originally written on December 2, 2022.

#BlogTour: A Family Affair by Robyn Carr

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an otherwise strong family drama marred by COVID references and bigotry. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Family Affair by Robyn Carr.

Bigotry And COVID Mar Otherwise Strong Family Drama. On its whole, this is a mostly solid family drama about a mom and two of her three children dealing with a tragedy and trying to move on with their lives in the wake of it.

However, it does have significant problems, problems I’ve yet to see any of the other 44 Goodreads reviews in existence at the time of this writing address.

The first is the near-constant references to the insanities of 2020-2022, mostly as a way to ground the story in a sense of time and place. But here’s the thing: I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. PERIOD. And thus a star was deducted for this. Maybe you, the reader of my review, are less adamant about this or maybe you even appreciate such references. Good for you, you’ll enjoy those parts of this text. But for those who feel as I do on the matter, know that it happens here.

The second major issue is the portrayal and handling of the Autistic third child. To say that this is a highly bigoted view along the lines constantly spewed by the Autistic hate group Autism Speaks is still being a bit too polite, to this Autistic’s mind. This character is every tired and worn out Autistic stereotype rolled into one, and while the family claims to love her, they also drug her into oblivion so that Carr can write her out of the back half of the book. Indeed, if an author treated pretty well any demographic other than the neurodiverse/ Autistics like this in a book, that author would likely go viral for social media cancelling them – and yet something tells me most will be silent about or even praise Carr’s reprehensible treatment of this character. That it publishes just days after World Autism Acceptance Day and during World Autism Acceptance Month is a slap in the face to Autistics from the publisher, but perhaps they were not aware of just how offensive this characterization truly is and were not aware of April being so designated.

The third issue, a throwaway line that further reveals Carr’s political leanings, is a reference to a school shooting where the shooter got “automatic weapons” from his dad’s garage. In California. In the 2000s. BULLCRAP! For one, while *some* automatic weapons *are* legal, the manner in which they are legal is INCREDIBLY expensive to obtain and subjects one to an entire alphabet soup of agencies – both Federal and State, particularly in California – knowing exactly where and how you store such weapons. Further, in the *extremely* rare case of Columbine/ Parkland style attacks as is described in this part of the text, such truly automatic weapons are virtually *never* used. But someone who only follows certain paranoid propagandists on this matter would have no clue about these facts, and Carr reveals herself to be just such a person in this instance. However, this did *not* result in a third star deduction as this was more of a one-off throwaway backstory line and not a pervasive element within the book as the first two issues were.

Ultimately, this is one of those books where your mileage may vary quite a bit. If you don’t mind references to COVID in your fiction and if you agree with Carr’s views on Autism and guns, you likely will enjoy this book quite a bit. And to be clear, other than these issues – which were *not* on every page – the story itself really is quite good. But if you feel as I do on these issues… still read the book. It really is that well written, mostly. Just know there is going to be some infuriating moments. Recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Family Affair by Robyn Carr”

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Speed Of Light by Elissa Grossell Dickey

This week we’re looking at a strong debut novel touching on many cultural touchstones both in its overall story and in its telling of that story. This week we’re looking at The Speed Of Light by Elissa Grossell Dickey.

As always, the Goodreads review:

No Day But Today. This is one of those books that touches on so much that it can at times appear a bit schizoid… and yet it all works. So very well. It has the pop culture references – including the one I used as the title of this review, but also very heavily Star Wars. It has the romance. It has the life-altering diagnosis and its aftermath. It has the immediacy of a school shooting. It has the dual-timeline nature of someone reflecting on the last year of her life during a particularly traumatic moment. Arguably the singular real flaw here is the predictability of the more dual-timeline nature than the more sporadic nature the description seems to imply. But perhaps that was an editorial decision to play it a bit safer in a debut, as a more sporadic approach can be at least as treacherous when not done well – and it is far easier to do horribly than a straight dual-timeline approach. The specific time tags on the present day timeline serve to give a great sense of immediacy and urgency, though at times the shift to the previous timeline is a bit abrupt and jarring. Still, ultimately an excellent debut novel, one that makes this reader look forward to the author’s next work. Very much recommended.