Featured New Release Of The Week: A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields

This week we’re looking at an excellent coming of age tale featuring the dawn of the war on drugs as seen through the eyes of a 13yo New York City girl in 1965. This week we’re looking at A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields.

Once again, as I write this in late August 2020 I am still being afflicted by a form of “writer’s block” that makes even Goodreads level reviews a bit difficult to write at the moment, so that level is all I really have to offer still.

Solid Coming Of Age During The Dawn Of The War On Drugs. As a coming of age tale set in the mid 60s, this evokes feelings of The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing, and My Girl – all phenomenal works. The use of a 13yo girl as the primary character is an interesting perspective that really allows Fields to tell a tale in a newish way even as she deals with things that most anyone who knows anything about that period at all is aware of on multiple levels. Truly a great story, and one that several of Fields’ fellow Lake Union authors have appropriately lauded in words far more poetic than anything I’ll be able to create, even in a review. As counterprogramming to the 2020 US Elections – it releases on Election Day 2020 here – it actually provides a truly interesting perspective that all too often gets lost, particularly in this particular Presidential election. And yes, since I am writing this review on August 23 and it releases on November 3, this is indicative that this is in fact an ARC, with all that this entails. But pick this up on release day. Go ahead and preorder it so that you have it on release day. You’re going to want a distraction, and this tale is an excellent distraction. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Appalachian Trail by Philip D’Anieri

Biography – By Way Of Biographies. This was a very interesting read, if primarily for the narrative structure D’Anieri chose in writing it. Here, the author doesn’t set out to provide a “definitive history” of the Trail or the technical details of how it came to be. Instead, he profiles key players in the development of the Trail as it has come to exist now and shows how their lives and thoughts and actions proved pivotal in how the Trail got to where it is. Overall a fascinating book about a wide range of people and attitudes about the boundary of civilization and wilderness, written in a very approachable style – much like much of the Trail itself. Very much recommended.

This review of The Appalachian Trail by Philip D’Anieri was originally written on November 26, 2020.

#BookReview: Ouch by Margee Kerr and Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Comprehensive Look At Pain. This book is a seemingly comprehensive look at pain, what it is, how humans handle it, and why it is in at least some cases necessary for our development. What it is *not* is well documented, having only a scant few page “selected works” section to document its various claims – far short of the more routine 25% ish bibliography section of many science books. It is also *not* a biological-exclusive look at the issue, instead covering all aspects from the biological to the psychological to at times even the metaphysical. Still, for anyone interested in the subject it is a worthy read, and a very approachable read to boot. Very much recommended.

This review of Ouch by Margee Kerr and Linda Rodriguez McRobbie was originally written on November 26, 2020.

#BookReview: Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis

Amazon’s Long Shadow. This book seeks to show the America that was, and the America that is in the Age of Amazon and how the former became the latter. And in that goal, it actually does remarkably well. Sprinkling case study after case study after case study with history, political science, and social science, this book truly does a remarkable job of showing the changing reality of living and working in an America that has gone from hyper local business to one of hyper global – and the giant blue smiley swoosh that has accompanied much of this transition over the last 2o years in particular. Very much a literary style work, this perhaps won’t work for those looking for a more in-depth attack on Amazon, nor will it really work for those looking for a true in-depth look at Amazon’s specific practices. But it does serve as a solid work of showing many of Amazon’s overall tactics and how they are both the result of change and the precipice of other change. Very much recommended.

This review of Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis was originally written on November 25, 2020.

#BookReview: ExoHunter by Jeremy Robinson

Space. Nazis. In The Future! I didn’t think there was much new ground that The Modern Day Master of Science Fiction, Jeremy Robinson, had left to cover. I was wrong. He hadn’t covered space Nazis in the future yet, and that has now been corrected in truly awesome fashion. This one has everything you would expect from a tale of late 80s Special Forces soldiers being thrust 1,000 years into a future where the Nazis eventually came back, destroyed Earth… and are trying to take over the entire galaxy. Some Firefly, a good dose of WALL-E, and a few key callbacks to other previous Robinson books (easily explained in context, but then you’re going to want to go read those books too 🙂 ). And a pair of significant cameos at the end that could signal that Robinson is FINALLY about to give us another Avengers Level Event soon! All told, one of Robinson’s more fun books to date, which is saying quite a bit, and very much recommended.

This review of ExoHunter by Jeremy Robinson was originally written on August 12, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Operation Moonglow by Teasel Muir-Harmony

This week we’re looking at a fascinating angle on globally well-known history that I had never considered. This week we’re looking at Operation Moonglow by Teasel Muir-Harmony.

Unfortunately I continue to be besot by writer’s block as I write this in late August 2020, and therefore we are left with the Goodreads review:

Interesting Angle I Had Never Considered. This book takes a topic that many around the world, and particularly many Americans, know about and presents an angle on it that few openly consider. So many talk about the amazing scientific accomplishments of the Apollo program and NASA at the height of its prowess in its earliest days, but here Muir-Harmony explores the dimension of *how* did so many around the world know of this and *why* did the know of this. Muir-Harmony makes the case reasonably well from a *political* side that from the beginning, NASA’s actual chief mission wasn’t specifically science-for-the-sake-of-science, but much more closely science-as-covert-imperial-tool. NASA was tasked with achieving remarkable scientific feats, but it was only when the political pressures to be the “peaceful” face of Democracy And Western Ideals came to bear that the funding and urgency were truly put in place to make the “race to the moon” a thing… even as it never really was a thing, since the Soviet tech for such missions was… lacking. Still, an utterly fascinating history that puts well known events in a new light, and that alone makes this truly a worthy read. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: All American Princess by Maggie Dallen

Edgier Dallen. This is Dallen going in a direction she hasn’t in a fair amount of time – still HS / YA romance… but this time with edgier language (even… *GASP*… a *few* curse words!!!) and situations (including one memorable barely-there bikini and some extensive making out and glancing at certain areas). And she nails it, as usual. What will be remembered about this book though is really the somewhat abrupt ending. It will arguably spark debates of whether she should have gone even more atypical and wrote one 300 ish page book, and thus that she deliberately cut this story in half, or whether the approach here was fine, that she told one complete story here that happens to have a bit of a cliffhanger ending. To be honest, it was a war that waged in my own mind for many hours (while in and out of consciousness with some kind of illness). But you can see from the 5* I gave this book that ultimately I came down on the side of this being one complete story that happens to have a cliffhanger ending, and thus the full 5* rating. Very much recommended – and I very much want the next book *now*. 😀

This review of All American Princess by Maggie Dallen was originally written on November 12, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Loss Lake by Amber Cowie

This week we’re looking at a solid mystery surrounding a small Canadian town on the shores of a lake that has a particularly dramatic ending. This week, we’re looking at Loss Lake by Amber Cowie.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this part of this blog on release day as I get ready to head down to EPCOT at Walt Disney World for the day – and I read this book almost two months (and 45 books) ago. Yes, as with very nearly *all* of my reading this year (other than three books over this past weekend), this was an ARC project – with all that this entails. 😀

This book is one of those mysteries where you’re never quite sure what is really going to happen. The titular lake features prominently and forebodingly throughout the narrative, and in fact plays an ultimately central role in the book. But really, the singular most defining piece of this book is its final words. Which led me to almost literally verbally scream out:


Now, I mean this in the best possible of ways. Seriously, it is more joke than actual rage. Because the ending is truly that explosive in both what and how it does its thing.

And that is the primary reason you need to read this book. To determine for yourself if my reaction mirrors your own. So go pick it up already. 😀

As always, the Goodreads review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: Loss Lake by Amber Cowie”

#BookReview: The Answer Is by Alex Trebek

Unprecedented Look At A Man We All Came To See As An Uncle. For me, this book will always be tied up in so many emotions. I listened to it while driving home from my hometown, which is never easy to begin with, knowing that the next time I come back, it will be to say goodbye to the house I spent my teens and early 20s in – the house I truly became a man in. And I listened to Alex tell me about his life, with the assistance of Ken Jennings – the person who won the most Jeopardy games ever – for much of the book. Alex himself did the introduction and final chapter, as well as chapters about Ken and other mega winners and about his wife. And in the Audible form, with Alex reading the final chapter, some combination of himself and/ or the engineers actually allowed his cancer-ravaged voice to come through in much of this final section. Though the final paragraphs, with Alex saying goodbye, return to the “old” Alex – the Alex Trebek I daresay is known to billions. It was a bittersweet ending, knowing that his time was limited by the pancreatic cancer he had revealed nearly two years before I read this book on November 8, 2020. And therein lies the final reason this book will forever be tied into so many emotions for me. Within roughly an hour of finishing this book while just arriving in the far side of my (largest US city by land area outside of Alaska) town, I learned that Alex Trebek had passed away that very morning, quite possibly as I was listening to this very book. (Though less likely as I was listening to him actually say goodbye.)

Alex Trebek as a cultural icon is right up there with Mr. Rogers.

Alex Trebek, the human revealed in these pages, is the same as any of the rest of us, though perhaps with a much higher sense of decorum than many of us.

RIP Alex Trebek, and thank you for writing this truly excellent book. Very much recommended.

This review of The Answer Is by Alex Trebek was originally written on November 9, 2020.

#BookReview: Cowboy Karma by Laura Drake

Fun and Quick Cowboy Romance. At just under 100 pages, this book is one of those easy, quick reads that is perfect for stepping away from the family for a few minutes during the holidays and getting a quick read in without feeling too guilty. And guilt is actually a large theme of this book – specifically, arguably undeserved guilt and in particular guilt that really only exists inside your own skull. If you’re into this particular subgenre, this book will hit most everything you’re expecting. Even if you’re not necessarily into this subgenre, this book will give you a solid taste without demanding too much from you, so is a great introduction to both the subgenre and the author. Very much recommended.

This review of Cowboy Karma by Laura Drake was originally written on November 8, 2020.

#BookReview: The Order Of Time by Carlo Rovelli

Physics, Metaphysics, and Poetry. I read the Audible version of this while driving to my hometown in another State (a solid book for such a mid-distance, 6 ish hr drive) and thus had the unique pleasure of having Alan Turing himself (as played in The Imitation Game and read here by Benedict Cumberbatch) lecture me on theoretical physics, metaphysics, philosophy, and poetry. If you’re looking for a more concrete look at the exact theoretical physics at hand… this isn’t the book you’re going to want to pick up. If you’re looking for more of an easy-read, high-level, pop science level look at whether or not time exists… this is a very good book from that perspective. And indeed, ultimately the text is all about perspective. At the most distinct levels, time simply does not exist, according to Rovelli. And yet obviously we humans experience time. So how can these two prior statements be resolved? Read this book for Rovelli’s solid examination into the question and attempt at resolving this seeming paradox. Very much recommended. Particularly the Audible. 🙂

This review of The Order Of Time by Carlo Rovelli was originally written on November 8, 2020.