#BookReview: The Breakup Vacation by Anna Gracia

Racism And Misandry Mar Otherwise Genuinely Fun And Funny Tale. This tale was marketed as essentially an updated Forgetting Sarah Marshall for more Zoomer sensibilities, and that kind of thing absolutely shines through. There is a shit ton of drinking and graphic on screen sex of the XXX damn near erotica level in a tropical location where the main cast has gone to “escape from” – but secretly damn near stalk – an ex of one of them. Ok, close enough to the movie – which, IIRC, MTV Films produced (MTV is also publishing this book).

So many people in the reviews here note misogyny, and many make their cases quite well. And yet there is also quite a bit of misandry here, where even the “good” males are only “good” because they agree with literally everything the females say and don’t genuinely challenge any of their preconceptions.

Even more problematic for me personally was the blatant anti-white racism. Including this line in particular:

“I don’t usually judge people, but when a white person’s like, “My family goes back six generations in Texas”, I’m definitely side eyeing them ‘cuz you know which side of the Civil War they were on.”

My family doesn’t go back “six generations in Texas”, but it *does* go back in the South to the Colonial era before the US even existed. Yes, that’s right – some of my ancestors came in via Virginia, not New York. One of them even died during the Civil War – *defending* the Union, at a battle in northern Alabama. I grew up with the scars of the war criminal terrorist bastard William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign literally all around me, in the town that is the hometown of both the first female and last slaveholding – same person – US Senator. Her land, as described in her journals, was just a couple of miles from the trailer park I spent the first decade of my life in.

No, Ms. Gracia, you most certainly do NOT know “which side of the Civil War” such a person’s family was on, and to make such a claim is pretty fucking racist.

And yet the misandry and racism, while prevalent throughout the text, only serve to deduct a single star combined, as while prevalent they were also somewhat minor in that it wasn’t on every page. While I know others may claim otherwise, perhaps justifiably, that wasn’t my own experience with the text, at minimum, and I do know other reviewers who will (and I think here did?) 1* a book for any modicum of bigotry, even a single line, I try to judge the work as a whole.

And speaking of judging the work as a whole, this has to be one of the thinnest “romances” I’ve read in quite some time. Indeed, the entire “relationship” is more about the aforementioned damn near erotica sex and happening into each other while one of them is on vacation than anything, and the actual romance elements, such as they are, almost feel tacked on to ensure that it can be claimed to be a romance and satisfy RWA (and potential censors, if this ever becomes a movie) rules rather than actually, you know, building a genuinely romantic story. This was thus the other star deduction, and I can honestly say that across my 1100+ reviews I’ve written since 2018 alone, I genuinely think this is the first time I’ve ever deducted a star for such a reason. That I have here is telling of just how justified I think this reason in this book is.

Finally, the fact that a *fiction* book got 3* from me, given my “subtractive method” of rating where every single book starts out at 5* and I must have specific, describable, and preferably objective-ish reasons for deducting stars, should tell you just how problematic I personally think this book is. I think I’ve given less than a handful of fiction books 3* or less across those aforementioned 1200+ reviews, and yet this book managed to get on that particular list.

If you want a book for a tropical getaway, there are better books out there. If you want a book for a tropical getaway *and agree with the comments these characters make* – which is entirely your right – then yes, this book may be for you. But despite being genuinely funny at times, and despite my own completionist nature when it comes to book series, if I give Ms. Gracia’s books another try it will mostly be down to trying to give *everyone* a second chance at all times. And honestly, I’m not sure at this time that I would do that here.

Not recommended.

This review of The Breakup Vacation by Anna Gracia was originally written on March 5, 2024.

#BookReview: The Beauty Of Rain by Jamie Beck

Beck’s Most Powerful Book To Date. Somewhat surprisingly, I seem to either own and/ or have read every single book Beck has put out to date – and I think there’s only four (the Cabot trilogy + In The Cards) that I haven’t actually read yet. So I can absolutely speak with a degree of authority on that title here in particular. With her move towards women’s fiction over the last few years, after spending her earlier career in romance novels, Beck has seemingly been working to exactly what she pulled off here – a balls to the wall, full out emotional rollercoaster that has the sheer power of the best coasters around, even Universal Orlando’s Velocicoaster (my personal standard for most powerful coaster online today).

To be clear, those struggling with suicidal ideation should absolutely steer clear of this book, as that subject plays a substantial and substantially heavy role in this tale – and which Beck herself makes clear in a forward to the book.

Also, this book is nearly black hole heavy, with a few jokes and other lighter moments thrown in, but the emotional weight of all that has happened before this book and is happening during this book truly is some *heavy* stuff – and indeed that is one of the things that makes this book so great. Because even while it is indeed so heavy, it never feels oppressive or hopeless. Quite the opposite – Beck does a tremendous job of showing the hope even in the depths of such tragedy and misfortune.

Overall, if you’re looking for something more light and fluffy, go with one of Beck’s earlier books. But if you’re ready to see some hope even in some of the darkest times that normal people do in fact experience… maybe you’re ready for this book. Very much recommended.

P.S.: While this book does in fact mention COVID, it is in the period before the events of this book, and while the events that play out in that period are significant here – COVID never really is, thus I did *not* deduct a star there.

Also, the struggles of parents of Autistic children is a major storyline in this book, and for my fellow Autistics as well as our parents, I want to point out just how *real* that story does in fact play out. Yes, at times it seems like Beck may be following that agency that claims to “Speak” for Autism (yet is actually the Autistic community’s KKK, according to many of us) and their “hopeless” commercial (one of the things we hate so much about them), but I need to stress here that there is no mention of that organization or even that idea. There is no child endangerment or abuse here. No so-called “Applied Behavioral Analysis” that so many of us in the community consider to be active child abuse. Certainly no filicide that is all too rampant among far too many parents. Instead, Beck shows a very real view of a parent just trying to do her best for her Autistic child. And indeed, even when looking for positive, Autistic Adult created and/ or inspired resources for parents, *even as someone who was once plugged into various Autism advocacy networks*… it was shockingly difficult to find something so basic “Here’s some resources if you think your child may have Autism” from the more respected organizations. And y’all… that’s on us. We need to create those resources to help these exact types of parents and prevent them from becoming the parents who actively harm their children.

But again: Unless you’re struggling with suicidal ideation… read this book. It really is Beck’s Most Powerful Book To Date.

This review of The Beauty Of Rain by Jamie Beck was originally written on July 10, 2023.

#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: No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

Interesting Look At Business Practices Less Common Than Many Claim. Let me be clear here: I am a 14+ year professional software developer in my “day job”. I’ve worked for very small companies with barely 100 people and owned by a single person all the way to one of the largest companies on the planet (Fortune 50). And because I’ve had a 14 year career in this field as of 2021, that means this has all been done since NetFlix has been doing its thing.

And yet while I’ve heard that the Valley works a bit differently than the East Coast / Southern companies I’ve worked for, I’d never heard of several of the policies Hastings and Meyer discuss in this text. For this developer, most of them sound *phenomenal*, and I would *love* to work in environments that had them. Though there are others – “Adequate performance is given a generous severance” in particular – that would exacerbate issues I’ve already had at times in my career. Here, Hastings explains the reasons he adopted these policies at NetFlix and how they have grown over the company’s existence. Meyer provides a degree of “outsider feedback” going around interviewing people at all levels from Hastings to the janitors and examining the claims Hastings makes.

Overall, this is a solid business book explaining these policies, why NetFlix chose them, why other businesses should – or should not, in certain situations – and how they can begin to be implemented in any company. More for Executives than heads down coders or low level team leads, though there are some interesting points even at those levels. It is absolutely something business leaders should read and ponder, and it is a good primer for those who may want to push for similar changes in their own companies. Very much recommended.

This review of No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer was originally written on June 18, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan

For this blog tour we’re looking at a book that is a great summer/ road trip tale with a ton of heart and a lot of laughs. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan.

Fun Summer / Road Trip Tale With Heart And Laughs. This is one of those books that is great escapism, and yet also clicks on so many levels in your “real” world – almost no matter your situation. You’ve got a lot of growth here across three generations of women in a family (80 yr old grandmother who wasn’t always around for her daughter and who has secrets, 40s ish mother who is at the end of her rope, twin teens daughters who are doing usual Zoomer teen girl stuff) – but then you *also* throw in a reasonably well developed husband (not a focus of the tale, and yet not written as an absolute brute either) and a pair of strangers with their own well developed and complicated backstories. Truly a great road trip tale along the classic Route 66, with the usual hilarity and hijinx along the way – and *also* truly a great summer “break from reality” tale of finding yourself and what really matters – both in one (longer, 400+ page) book. Very much recommended.

After the jump, we have the first chapter of the book as an excerpt, followed by the book details from the publisher.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan”

#BookReview: Lilliana Jones and the Temple of Groom by Rich Amooi

Amooi has quickly gained my attention as someone who writes fun, quick romantic comedies that make you laugh enough while pulling your strings just enough – a great combination for a palate cleansing read. This story is full of his usual quirky characters – this time a super serious “plan everything” type woman and a man with a lot on his mind who is determined to get her to come out of her shell. Can he succeed? Does he really want to? Well, the answers can be found at the Temple of Groom…

This review of Lilliana Jones and the Temple of Groom by Rich Amooi was originally published on May 15, 2016.