Featured New Release Of the Week: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

This week we look at an intriguing book about a female firefighter dealing with fires both physical and metaphorical. This week, we’re looking at Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center.

One of my favorite songs growing up and even to this day has been Garth Brooks’ Standing Outside the Fire. For me, it has always been a source of inspiration to overcome any obstacle set before me – no matter what it is, where it comes from, how hard the solution is, or anything else. But what does it have to do with a book about a female firefighter? Don’t firefighters make it a habit of standing inside fires?

Well, in this book our heroine has a problem. You see, we open up with her being awarded her city’s most prestigious award for valor for her efforts in saving a group of kids no one else could. She truly is among the best, if not the best, firefighters in her (not small) town – of any gender. But she’s standing outside the fire in her relationships. She got metaphorically burned pretty damned severely on her 16th birthday by multiple people, and a decade later she hasn’t managed to move on. She’s acted like she has, and she’s become a “model citizen”. To the outside world, she is perfectly awesome. But because she’s been outside the fire and has yet to actually deal with the burns she got on her 16th birthday… her life is about to spiral out of the tight control she’s maintained over it for the last decade.

In the process, she’ll grow. She’ll learn things about everyone involved in the dumpster fire of her 16th birthday, she’ll meet new people and learn about them, and most importantly she’ll learn things about herself.

Overall an excellent tale that uses a reliable and relatable first person narrator well. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: Hunt the Bismark by Angus Konstam

Riveting and Illuminating. Despite being one of those “know a little about a lot” types, I fully admit that prior to reading this book, I didn’t know much about the Bismark or its sinking. I knew that it was the pride of the Nazi German Navy during WWII, that it was supposedly the most deadly ship afloat, and that it was sunk in a famous naval battle. Thus sums up my knowledge of the topic prior to reading this book. Yet Konstam does a deep dive into the full history of the Bismark and the events leading to its demise, and he does it in a very readable fashion almost akin to watching an actual movie about it. Thus, this naval historian – not exactly a group known for their readability outside their own circles – crafts a tale Tom Clancy would be hard pressed to top, even were he still alive. Truly excellent work. Very much recommended.

This review of Hunt the Bismark by Angus Konstam was originally written on August 24, 2019.

#BookReview: What We Did In Bed by Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani

Intriguing History. Fagan and Durrani do a superb job of showing the construction, uses, and activities associated with the humble bed throughout hisrory. Truly eye opening in so many ways, it really does bring to mind the quote about if something happens for just a couple of generations, people generally assume the thing has always been that way. Here, Fagan and Durrani do an excellent job of showing how the bed and its associated practices have changed throughout history, and in particular over the last couple of centuries. Truly amazing work, and very much recommended.

This review of What We Did In Bed by Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani was originally written on August 22, 2019.

#BookReview: How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado

Solid Pointers, Regardless of Philosophy. This is a partial review based on the first 5 chapters of this text being provided by the publisher.

Here, one of the icons of my childhood, Max Lucado, takes on the topic “how can I be happy?”. And regardless of your particular belief system, he makes some really great points. Yes, the man has been a preacher most of my life if not longer. His first book was published when I was just 6 yrs old and learning to read, and his style really hasn’t changed in all that time. And honestly, that is one of the things that makes him so great. His style is very conversational and quite funny, and that makes any of his books – this one certainly included – very easy reads.

And yet, it is exactly that approach that gets him 4 stars here. Why? Because I *need* to see the back half of the book to see exactly where between 3 and 5 stars this text will ultimately land. With what he has laid out in the beginning of this book, combined with the titles for the back half that I don’t yet have access to, this book could go anywhere from mind blowing to just run of the mill Lucado (which, again, is still great – particularly in regards to how easy it is to read his books). Based on what I know of him from reading his books for literally most of the time I’ve had the ability to read and of his situation from having grown up in the same types of circles he has lived in throughout my life, I *expect* Lucado to play it a bit safe in that back half. He likely isn’t going to say anything that will get too many people too angry either direction. What he likely says will be theologically orthodox, but verbally kind – that is pretty much Lucado in a nutshell. But man, if he does the unexpected and actually takes some bold-for-his-age-and-position stances… it could be revolutionary.

A pessimist will find several faults here, chief among them the continued use of proof texting, and likely hit that 3* ranking.

An optimist is going to see how readable this text is and how refreshing its message is and likely hit it with the 5*.

This realist could agree with both of them and really needs more information to make a more sound judgement, so the 4* feels like the right option at least for now.

Excellent work, and it truly is an honor to be able to ARC a book from one of my childhood literary heroes.

This review of How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado was originally written on August 22, 2019.

#BookReview: The Memory Tree by Linda Gillard

Century Old Memory. In this repackaging of a 3 yr old book under a former title, Gillard weaves an excellent pair of mysteries across a century of the English countryside. Both mysteries drag the reader in and compel them to keep reading via well paced clues and ultimately resolutions, though one of the mysteries isn’t resolved until the closing pages of the book. Excellent work, and my first from this author. Very much recommended.

This review of The Memory Tree by Linda Gillard was originally written on August 21, 2019.

#BookReview: Shipping Orders by Ashe Winters

Rushed Shipping. In this second installment of the Valentine’s Inc Cruises event, we get Ashe Winters’ solid entry of a transatlantic back to back cruise – though curiously, Ashe never mentions the words “back to back” in relation to the cruise itself. The pacing is solid through most of the book, until we get to the end. At that point, Winters rushes to wrap up the various story lines rather than simply writing a second book to conclude them. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the project? Regardless, a solid MM romance featuring two very relatable characters. My first book from this author, but it will not be my last. Very much recommended.

This review of Shipping Orders by Ashe Winters was originally written on August 21, 2019.

#BookReview: A Polar Affair by Lloyd Spencer Davis

Amundsen. Scott. Shackleton. Levick. … Wait, who? The world knows of the exploits of Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott, and Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton – men of renown from the turn of the 20th century famous for their exploits in the Antarctic and beyond. In this book, Davis – a lifelong penguin biologist and filmmaker – traces the path of a man who both inspired his own work and is forever tied into the lives of the more famous men who were his contemporaries. That man being George Murray Levick, the member of Scott’s crew who inadvertently became the very first penguin biologist – and who made discoveries about Adelie penguins that would go hidden for nearly a century before Davis himself next observed them. In this book, Davis explores both his own path and research and that of Levick, as he finds himself on a quest to find the “real” George Murray Levick and the reason Levick hid his more salacious findings about Adelie penguins. Truly remarkable work, told in an incredibly approachable and easily readable manner. Very much recommended for all, particularly those who – like this particular reader – find themselves also very attached to penguins.

This review of A Polar Affair by Lloyd Spencer Davis was originally written on June 15, 2019. In accordance with the publisher’s stated wishes on NetGalley, its publication has been delayed until August 20, 2019.

Featured New Release of the Week: On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

This week we are looking at an excellent tale of small town life and life long best friends who have a tumultuous history as adults. This week, we are looking at On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci.

I gotta admit, I really, really liked this one. It is no real secret that I am a former political activist who actively left a political project to start this very project. In that former period of my life, I even ran for City Council twice in a town very similar to Hope Lake, and indeed the things pushed by our narrator and her family and friends are actually similar to my own goals for that town back in the day. So I really identified with this book. 🙂 For those who need a political fix but don’t want to pay attention to real world news, this can be your Nicorette. 🙂

But even without such a personal connection, this book is genuinely solid in a Hallmark movie kind of way. Lots of angst, quite a few misunderstandings, and even a nefarious opponent or two. Maybe my only minor quibble is that I like the actual title of a book to show up in the text somewhere, and that is missing here – though the title does indeed describe our narrator’s struggle quite well.

Excellent work, and very much recommended.

And as always, the Amazon/ Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: The Love Solution by Ashley Croft

Interesting Solution. This is a single romance book that actually features *two* couples – which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. The science methods are plausible, the characters are all interesting and flawed, and the overall tale works well as a fairly real-ish romance. All around a great effort, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from this version of this author. Very much recommended.

This review of The Love Solution by Ashley Croft was originally written on August 15, 2019.

#BookReview: A Tease And A Trail Run by Maddie Evans

Goats! Wood Chippers! Bonfires! In this second entry into Maddie Evans’ Brighthead Running Club series, we meet a new character that didn’t appear in the first entry… and yet is still intertwined with the cast we did meet then. Charlie is an artist running from a cheating fiancee… and Brighthead’s resident artist runner happens to be an old friend. But Brandon is also an idiot, thinking that because he was poor growing up he can’t be relatively wealthy as an adult – and I say this as someone who has undergone just such a transformation in my real life. When Brandon’s efforts for Kealty begin to get him more notice, will he let his history with her sabotage the best things he’s ever come across? And with one final tease at the very end, Evans throws a swerve as to who the couple in the final book in the series may involve… Very much recommended, very much looking forward to the conclusion of this series. 🙂

This review of A Tease And A Trail Run by Maddie Evans was originally written on August 13, 2019.