#BookReview: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID!!!!!!!

A note to any and all authors and publishers, up front: I ABSOLUTELY, 10000%, DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID!!!!! I READ FICTION TO *ESCAPE* THE “REAL” WORLD!!!!! Write the stories if you feel you must. Maybe for your own mental health, you *need* to write COVID stories. For the rest of us, PLEASE do NOT publish them for a while. It is still *TOO* real, no matter what one thinks about the virus or any of the politics around it. (And remember, no matter your own thoughts on it, there are large segments of your potential customers who will disagree with you.)

All of the above noted, the actual story here is well crafted and well told. Picoult manages to bring in, from a more mysticism side, one of the aspects of Bill Myers’ Eli that made that book one of the most influential of my own life – even as he approached the concept from a more science/ science fiction side. The scenes in the Galapagos in particular are truly viscerally stunning. You feel yourself being there as much as our lead character is, in all of the messy situations she finds herself trapped in on this paradise as the world falls apart. Indeed, had the entire book been based there, to me it would have been a much better book overall – even though I objectively rated this story as a 5*, I must admit the latter third of the book, while still strong and compelling storytelling objectively, was less interesting to me (other than the mysticism mentioned above, as this is where those aspects come into play).

At the end of the day, I write this review roughly six weeks before publication and this book has nearly 600 reviews on Goodreads – at the time I began writing this, it looked as though this one will be number 569. Which speaks to the marketing reach and prowess of its publisher, and Picoult’s own status as, as I described her on Facebook earlier this morning “a grocery store book section level author that seems to occupy half of said grocery store book section”. And the mystic hook being so rarely used is perhaps reason to rate this book as more compelling than others, but overall the tale here and the level of the writing… as I mentioned on my review of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising: there is absolutely *no* doubt that this is a strong tale strongly crafted. But I really have read oh so many authors from less powerful publishers that are at least as good, and thus I truly don’t understand the hype.

For those that *do* want a “real” look at COVID in their fiction, whether that be in 2021 or later, this book is absolutely must read. For those that want island escapism and don’t mind COVID being a central part of the tale, you’re definetly going to want to read this one, even if you’ve never read Picoult (as I had never before this book). But for those who, for any reason at all, just can’t deal with COVID “realism” in their escapism/ fiction… maybe hold off on this one until you’re at a point where you can. And then read it, because it really is a great story overall. Recommended.

This review of Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult was originally written on October 15, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: A Dancing Tide by Grace Greene

This week, we’re looking at a book that the author originally had no intention of writing… and then the reviews began coming in from her fans (including this very blog) begging for a sequel… and so here we are. πŸ™‚ This week, we’re looking at A Dancing Tide by Grace Greene.

Here’s what I said on Goodreads:

Beautiful Sequel. Full disclosure up front on this one: I read the book a month ago and somehow forgot to write my review then. Fortunately, I’ve been slowing down and I’ve only read about a dozen and a half books since. πŸ˜€ This book was a great continuation of a story… that the author originally had no intention of continuing. But she listens to her fans – including myself – and when we began clamoring for a sequel to A Barefoot Tide due to several unresolved threads at the end of that tale, Greene eventually wrote this tale as well. And while I think we could continue in this world for at least one other book, most of the threads that were left a bit too open in the previous book are more fully explored here, and thus if this series ends as a duology, I think that too could work. But while it *can* *technically* be read first, you really should go read A Barefoot Tide before this book… and then you’ll be glad the rest of us begged Greene enough for this book that she finally wrote it. πŸ˜€ Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Christmas In Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Interesting Blend Of Gilmore Girls, Home Alone, Hurricane Survival, and Hallmark Christmas. I’m pretty sure this has one of the more interesting premises of any Hallmark Christmas type tale I’ve ever seen, one that blends elements of Home Alone with a tale of a post-Thanksgiving major hurricane along the Georgia coast before transitioning into a more “traditional” / “typical” Hallmark Christmas type tale. For those that don’t mind coming into an existing world, you’ll be able to follow everything perfectly fine here. For those others that can absolutely never have any prior book’s events revealed before reading that book… well… this is actively marketed as Book Number 4. πŸ˜€ A solid if standard-ish tale of its type (re: Hallmark Christmas), this one is told from five female perspectives – a grandmother, her three daughters, and one of those daughters’ own teenage daughter – and even the various guys involved here are given solid characterizations and never belittled, which can at times be a problem with other authors. (This is my first book from Harvey.) Indeed, it is actually with the involvement of one of the guys in particular where the Gilmore Girls elements *really* come to play, with some recurring hilarity. Overall a truly solid book within its type, and a good break for those looking to break away from their own situations during the holidays. Very much recommended.

This review of Christmas In Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey was originally written on October 3, 2021.

#BookReview: And The Bridge Is Love by David Biro

Friendship In The End Stages Of Life. This is one of those books that covers an area not usually written of – single women in their 70s. Here, we see an introduction where three women come together at the Verrazzano Bridge in New York City by pure chance, followed by the ‘meat’ of the story taking place 20 years later, after these women have been best friends since that first day they met. Life has tossed them a few curve balls, but we see them as they are dealing with what they have in this stage of their lives – including a couple of gentlemen interests, various community activities, a kid and a grandkid, and a whole lot of meddling – from every angle. Ultimately both depressing and hopeful at the same time, this is one of those books that anyone who has ever *had* a single grandmother in her 70s will likely see as being all-too realistic, as I do from having had such an experience myself. If you’re looking for an action-oriented book… this isn’t for you. But if you want a strong character study involving characters in demographics that don’t often get to be the primary focus of a story… this is a remarkably good one. Very much recommended.

This review of And The Bridge Is Love by David Biro was originally written on September 8, 2021.

#BlogTour: The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross

For this blog tour we’re looking at a strong book filled with strongly developed characters. For this blog tour we’re looking at The Inheritance by JoAnn Ross.

Solid Women’s Fiction With Historical Elements. This is one of those books where the description perfectly sets up what you’re actually getting here – a tale of siblings finding each other after their father passes away and sets in motion a plan for the three of them to meet. Along the way, they discover their still-living grandmother and get to hear the stories of her activities in WWII – including meeting and falling in love with their grandfather. On these elements, this is a solidly written women’s fiction tale with historical fiction *elements* – but I personally would not market this as a “historical fiction” title. So if you’re a reader that *only* reads historical fiction… I’d still say this one is worthy of your time, just know that you aren’t getting a true tale of that genre here. Indeed, along the story of one of the sisters in particular (and to a lesser extent another of them), this *could* be marketed as a romance – though the women’s fiction side is still the dominant side of the tale. The titular Inheritance? Well, that’s actually the best part of the tale… when you realize what Ross intends it as. Overall a strong book filled with strongly developed characters among is main and primary supporting cast, and a very well told story. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the usual publisher details – book description, author bio, social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: The Keeper Of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis

Blend Of Historical And Women’s Fiction That Leaves The Room Dusty Through Its Final Quarter. This was an excellent blend of historical fiction on one end and a “current” (mid-80s) timeline women’s fiction tale on the other. Not quite an either/ or thing, but both play well with each other (and most of the historical stuff is done by the 2/3 point or so). Just be prepared for a VERY dusty read through the back quarter of the book, where Davis does an excellent job of revealing things but then letting them play out in a more natural setting and timeframe than other authors may have done. The book starts off with a lot of The Giver type vibes before becoming something so much more than that work ever intended to be – but the fact that it even feels similar to that award winning book speaks to just how well Davis crafts her story here. Very much recommended.

This review of The Keeper Of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis was originally written on August 27, 2021.

#BookReview: The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy

One Book. Two Stories. Both Compelling. This is a story with a LOT going on and a LOT of intricacies that it seems most (at least those on Goodreads so far, about 5 weeks before publication) miss out on touching on. This is effectively *both* a historical fiction (which I think it will ultimately be marketed as) of a young Jewish girl in WWII who leaves a diary behind (where does that ring a bell? πŸ˜‰ ) *and* a modern day psychological drama. Valpy does a remarkable job of bringing a sensuous and visceral understanding of both periods of Casablanca and Morocco, and both periods and their relevant issues – WWII / Nazis / Resistance / Operation Torch and modern shipping conglomerates / expats / refugees / immigrants – are shown in a degree of realism not often seen. Truly, either story could have been expanded a bit more – perhaps by extending out the later chapters of both – and stood equally well as standalone books. Which is high praise, as few dual timeline historical fiction books can pull this off, in my own reading experience at least. Truly a remarkable book, and very much recommended.

This review of The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy was originally written on August 16, 2021.

#BookReview: The Happy Accidents by Jamie Beck

Awesome Yet Also Problematic. This story is Beck’s usual excellence as far as storytelling itself goes. Beck sucks you in with the aftermath of almost a Hangover (movie) type night (though to be clear, not *that* wild) where three women – two sisters and their friend – have made life-changing decisions… and now have to handle the repercussions. We open the story the morning after, and only ever get the high level details of what happened that night – the story is about life *after*. And for two of the three women, Beck does *amazing* work showing that even in screw-ups, good things can happen. The other lady’s story is the more problematic one, and it comes from Beck’s own unfamiliarity with the growing subculture of the childfree. Seeming without meaning to, Beck confronts this particular issue as much of society at large does… and unwittingly causes many eyes to roll. Having been a part of this community for several years (I’m a 38yo DINK – Dual Income No Kids and happily childfree), know that if you’re a part of this community and in particular a woman in it, this storyline is going to make you want to throw this book off the nearest dam or into the nearest bonfire. But don’t, because the other two subplots are truly excellent, and even this one is dealt with *some* degree of realism. Overall an excellent book, and let’s face it – even with its growing popularity, the life of the childfree isn’t exactly dominant yet. Meaning most readers will enjoy all three subplots very much. Very much recommended.

This review of The Happy Accidents by Jamie Beck was originally written on August 16, 2021.

#BookReview: Housewife Chronicles 2 by Jennifer Snow

Fun Middle Ground, This Time With Interesting Meta-Commentary. When I wrote my review for the first book in this series last October, I mentioned that it was a “light-ish, women’s fiction level mystery”, and that holds true here as well. Maybe a touch more suspensful/ action oriented than a typical women’s fiction book, though nowhere near enough to come into the actual suspense/ thriller genres. And funny (and at times outright hilarious), yet ultimately too serious to be a true comedy. Which ultimately makes this series a *great* “middle ground” of sorts between Snow’s bubblegum/ Hallmarkie romances and her dark-as-3AM JM Winchester persona. All of which speaks to just how talented a storyteller she is. And yet here we get enough meta-commentary about the publishing world and authors’ lives that one begins to question things. πŸ˜€ Truly a great tale here, again excellently told, and I for one can’t wait to see what these housewives manage to get wrapped up in next. Very much recommended.

This review of Housewife Chronicles 2 by Jennifer Snow was originally written on July 27, 2021.

#BlogTour: Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman

For this blog tour we’re looking at a beautiful tale of life on Hawaii between December 7, 1941 (the day we open the book) through the Battle of Midway months later. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman.

Here’s what I had to say on GoodReads:

Beautiful Story Of Life On Hawaii Between Pearl Harbor and Midway. This is one of those books where you almost audibly hear Faith Hill singing through parts, particularly the obligatory romance subplot – and particularly its later stages. Fortunately the romance subplot is well done yet mostly muted in favor of showing the women’s bonds and work, which was an area of WWII I’d never heard of. Specifically, while college football player men were being rounded up to bolster island security forces, these ladies – both natives and those there because their husbands were already military – were being recruited (almost drafted, really) to man the very radar stations that had failed to realize what the Japanese were on that fateful morning in December 1941. It is actually on that morning that our story opens, with main character Daisy “borrowing” a horse and going skin diving for subsistence… when she witnesses an air battle directly above her. The story then spends most of its time in the next few months, culminating in the Battle of Midway from the perspective of these “Radar Girls”. (And following with the obligatory post-war epilogue.) Beautifully written and full of heart, this is one that fans of historical fiction / WWII fiction will definitely love, and readers of all types should read even if it isn’t normally your thing. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the book followed by the publisher details, including buy links!
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