#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? 😉 ) *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. 😀 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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#BookReview: The Magic Of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson

Another Maddie Miracle. When I read my first Maddie Dawson book last year as an ARC, I knew I had found an author that will be able to give me a satisfying tale in a way I might not think at first is satisfying, but who can make it work and make it be truly magical. Thus, I was waiting for her 2021 release to hit my ARC channels… when suddenly it showed up out of the blue as a Kindle First Read instead. So I didn’t even look at the others, I automatically picked up this book. Then when Amazon began their Kindle Summer Rewards beta program and included me in it, it turned out I needed to read an actual book – rather than my “normal” (these days) ARCs, which come into the Kindle as “personal documents” – and thus I automatically turned to this book to read.

And again, Dawson crafts a quirky, off beat tale unlike any I’ve ever encountered, essentially a coming-of-age tale… at damn near the time most people are beginning to have their mid-life crises. Not quite a true dual-timeline book, and with quite a bit of time elapsing “off screen” both in the remembered history of our main character and in her current life we’re following, this book manages to explain where she is right now emotionally and how she got there. For those readers, like me, who often straddle the line between two worlds, Dawson does an excellent job of showing at least one version of how our lives look and the dichotomies we face, and she does it remarkably well. The finale, featuring our primary character despairingly trying to resolve both halves of herself, is something we all face at some point, and Dawson plays it with the sincerity, sweetness, and cathartic laughter that such moments tend to so desperately need. Yes, this tale is absolutely off-beat, and yes, it may arguably be better presented as women’s fiction rather than romance, but it *does* serve well to highlight the real-world romantic realities of being single in your mid-30s (not that I’ve experienced this directly) and does quite well in showing both how jaded it can make you… and how oblivious. Very much recommended.

This review of The Magic Of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson was originally written on July 23, 2021.

#BookReview: Margaritas At The Beach House Hotel

Entertaining. This is a book that is somewhat deep in a series – Book 5 – and never once shies away from that fact. It has a wide range of established characters and storylines, but Keim does a remarkable job of making sure the reader understands the relevant histories, no matter if they’ve been a long time fan or if this is your entry point to this series or even this author – as it was both for me. Indeed, it is arguable that perhaps Keim does *too much* rehashing of prior stories- more in repeating a few sentences (with variation, not copy/ paste, at least not obviously) about whatever relevant fact such as how characters met or why another character is so problematic, etc.

And yet, despite and perhaps because of all of this, this book absolutely works as a continuation of its world and as a showcase for the author’s style and tone. Those that enjoy ensemble casts with a lot of characters and a lot going on will thoroughly enjoy this book, those who prefer fewer characters… probably won’t like it as much. But the storylines all interweave remarkably well, particularly with the narration being solely driven by one character’s perspective and the primary focus being that character and her business partner and friend – who enjoy catching up in stolen moments via the titular event.

Ultimately a strong book about friendship and defending the hurting, this tale is very much recommended.

This review of Margaritas At The Beach House Hotel by Judith Keim was originally written on June 8, 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.
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#BlogTour: The Choice I Made by Cynthia Ellingsen

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a remarkable book about the murky real world choices so many of us face. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Choice I Made by Cynthia Ellingsen.

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

Choices Are Rarely Clear Cut. Ellingsen does a remarkable job here of showing the tensions between competing choices so many of us face. Spouse vs genetic family. City vs rural. What I wanted to be vs what society made me into. Finding myself vs keeping what I have. And so many more. All within a solid tale ostensibly about a childless married woman trying to help save her family’s Dirty Dancing-style wilderness resort… and stumbling across a secret that could bring it all tumbling down. Excellent work layering so many issues into a readable and average ish length (circa 300 page) story. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, all of the publisher information, including a description of the book, contact links, and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Choice I Made by Cynthia Ellingsen”

#BookReview: The Sound Between The Notes by Barbara Linn Probst

Solid Story, Could Have Used Better Structure. This was a solid story of a woman trying to find herself after putting her career on pause to raise her kid and give him a life she had never had. For me, though, the structure of the storytelling itself would have dramatically benefited from a slight variation of the technique here. Here, we get a mostly dual timeline story, a bit scattered at times (date stamps alone would have been useful in that regard, even if just “x years ago”) but workable. What *really* could have elevated this story though would have been to take a page from another tale of another professional struggling to find his way and looking back on his life – Billy Chapel in the *movie* version of For Love Of The Game. (We shall not speak of the book – one of very few cases where the movie is by far the superior story.) There, the story is told in the same dual timeline approach that we get here – but with *both* timelines happening before the seminal event (in that case, the last game Billy Chapel will ever pitch as a professional baseball player, in this case an important concert), then some follow-up after the event itself. Ultimately just a tweak, though a significant one, that would have made the story flow so much better for at least this reader. Still, truly a worthy read and very much recommended.

This review of The Sound Between The Notes by Barbara Linn Probst was originally written on February 25, 2021.