Featured New Release of the Week: Against the Rules by Laura Heffernan

This week, we’re looking at the second book in an excellent new series about geeky girls and the boys who love them. This week, we’re looking at Against the Rules by Laura Heffernan.

This was an interesting arc for Holly, one of the three best friends we were introduced to in She’s Got Game, Book 1 of this series. We pick up not long after that book leaves off, though other than spoiling that book this one can in theory be read standalone. (But read She’s Got Game first.) Holly has been left utterly devastated by the events of She’s Got Game, and Against the Rules is the story of Holly rebuilding her life and discovering what – and who – she wants… and having the courage to go after it, no matter the consequences.

In a bit of weird coincidence, Holly’s story even mirrors my own, to a point. As she is searching for her next programming job, she winds up interviewing in both Albany and Phoenix despite a nascent relationship she would like to explore, but knows will have to end if she moves to Phoenix (and even Albany is a stretch). My own story is that I had moved to the Southern Albany (the Georgia one, rather than the New York one Holly interviews in), where I had begun a relationship literally within days of quitting my teaching job and actively looking for my first programming job. The weekend before Valentine’s Day 2007 – when I had been dating this girl for less than a month – a company flew me out to Phoenix for a weekend long interview, similar to Holly’s experience. While hindsight would show the Phoenix interview to be an utter disaster, at Valentine’s Day I’m sitting in a Longhorn in Albany (Ga) having interviewed in both Phoenix and a town about 100 miles away called Macon, GA, and at the time I thought either equally likely. If I got Macon, I could make this nascent relationship work. If Phoenix offered me the job, I couldn’t ask this woman that barely knew me to leave her life and family and travel 1000 miles to live with a relative stranger.

In my own life, Phoenix basically told me to go to Hell… and Macon offered me the job. Moving to my nearby apartment was when I realized I loved this woman, and less than 2 months later she had the first ring from me. Within about 6 months of that move (give or take a couple of weeks), I had moved into her house in Albany and we exchanged a pair of rings there in the church she had grown up in. We had met less than 9 months earlier.

What happens in Holly’s life? Well, you’re just going to have to read this book to find out. 😉

As always, we end with the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: Against the Rules by Laura Heffernan”

#BookReview: The Patient by Steena Holmes

Beat Down Of The Ages – With Avatar Ending. There is another Lake Union author whose books I *love* and who is known for writing about a particular idea and spinning amazing stories about it. Here, Holmes walks onto that author’s turf and absolutely *destroys* her. That is how much *better* than those other ones this book is – and remember, I *loved* those other books (indeed, I’ve rated all of them 5*). It *does* have an Avatar-style ending though, and it worked it well to allow for either a true standalone book or even the possibility of coming back to this world. Simply an excellent book, and if this represents a new direction for Holmes, I can’t wait to see what else she puts out!

This review of The Patient by Steena Holmes was originally written on October 18, 2019.

#BookReview: Free To Believe by Luke Goodrich

Decent Start. Before I get into this review, it is probably important that you – *my* reader – understand the perspective I’m coming from. And that is that of the “Doorkeeeper” of Sam Shoemaker’s somewhat famous poem “I Stand At The Door“. So look that up and you’ll understand why I’m approaching the rest of this the way I am.

For those “deep inside”, they will probably rate this book around 4* or 5*. From that perspective, it is solid but might step on a few toes here and there – and they’re not always going to like its slightly-more-pragmatic-than-many-of-them approach to its reasoning.

For the “far outside” crowd, they’re probably going to rate this thing much closer to 1*, though the more objective among them might hit it at 2*. There are just so many issues with the book, and this crowd will likely judge them more harshly than I’m about to.

So that is the range I would expect depending on where a particular reader falls on the scale of “deep inside” Christendom – particularly its American version – vs “far outside” of it. Standing at the door, I note that I deduct 1 star immediately the instant I see prooftexting, which is the practice of citing random Bible verses out of context in support of some point or another.

The fact that the prooftexting herein is so rampant – from the ending of the first chapter until nearly literally the last words of the text – and so invidious – several times very obviously taking verses *far* from their original context and meaning by any even semi objective reasoning and often times taking as little as a single word from a particular verse – means that I can’t rate this any higher than 3*. And we haven’t even gotten to the other issues yet.

The other issues being factual errors and logical fallacies, mostly strawmen but also a few others. This, from a lawyer that boasts of his perfect US Supreme Court record! Factual errors include claiming that a factory is a “typical” work environment in the US. It hasn’t been for many years now. Similarly, the author claims that “many” doctors were practicing while abortion was still completely illegal in the US, pre-Roe v Wade, which was decided nearly 37 yrs before the publication of this book. How many professionals – of any stripe – do you know who are still working after 4o years?

The strawmen primarily involve abortion, gay rights, and public spaces – which form 4 of 7 chapters in the biggest section of the book. Here, it becomes evident – particularly in the author’s discussion of gay rights – that his closeness to the issue from his professional work becomes as much a hindrance to what he is willing to speak to as a help in pointing out various legal aspects of the circumstances.

It is because of these final two issues that I had to drop my own rating from 3* to 2*.

There is much good to be found here, and at minimum it can help even non-Christians see what prominent Christian legal scholars are thinking. But the issues are simply too rampant to allow me to rank it any higher. Recommended, but should be read with an eye to what is not said as much as what is.

This review of Free to Believe by Luke Goodrich was originally written on October 17, 2019.

#BookReview: Ascending by Meg Pechenick

Contact meets Mass Effect’s First Contact War meets Arrival meets Ender’s Game. Reading through this wholly original tale (at least in its particulars – the generic story is more of a trope of scifi), this reader absolutely got flashes of all of the above. And considering that I personally *love* all of the above, that was not unwelcome. Truly a strong tale of first sustained contact, exploration, and the difficulties in understanding and assimilating with a wholly alien world. Truly excellent work, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. Very much recommended.

This review of Ascending by Meg Pechenick was originally written on October 13, 2019.

#BookReview: One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker

Long But Beautiful. This is an incredibly detailed story of loss and love set in the Old West, and while the basic premise has been told many times in many settings, Hawker does an excellent job of highlighting a side to it not often shown. While the tale could have arguably been told with less specific details and at least 100-150 fewer pages, Hawker uses the extra detailing well – in service to the story rather than detracting from it. I know, it is approaching end of year and if you’re concerned about the number of books you’ve read this year, 500 pages is daunting. Trust me, you’re going to want to read this one anyway. 😉 Very much recommended.

This review of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker was originally written on October 11, 2019.

#BookReview: Synapse by Steven James

Christian Mass Effect? Religious Deus Ex? Fair warning on this book: It is explicitly Christian Fiction – and it is pretty damn heavy handed on the preaching. If that isn’t your thing, you don’t want to read the first sentence of this thing. The story itself is decent enough, but the hyper preaching aspects drag what could have been a pretty awesome scifi tale that could challenge some of the Golden Age masters into just another book that likely won’t reach much beyond your local (dying) Christian Bookstore. Instead of a subtle exploration of whether robots could have souls ala Blade Runner, you get what amounts to mini sermons – which is theoretically appropriate, with the central character being a preacher. Overall a solid story that could have been so much more, and recommended if you can withstand the preaching.

This review of Synapse by Steven James was originally written on October 9, 2019.

#BookReview: Everything You Are by Kerry Anne King

Can A Story About Music Pack a Punch? Because this one does. This is the story of a musician who truly lives for his music, his daughter who inherits his passion, the luthier that maintains the cello they love… and the mystical cello itself that seems to have a soul of its own. It is a story of lost virginity and teenage suicidal tendencies and death – lots and lots of death, and all of its fallout on the living. It is a story of alcoholism, with some strong commentary about the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous and an idea that just might work a bit better. And it is a story of the love that connects it all, that consumes it all. That makes you give… every thing you are. Very much recommended.

This review of Everything You Are by Kerry Anne King was originally written on October 8, 2019.

Featured New Release of the Week: When God Rescripts Your Life by Jaci Velasquez

This week, we’re looking at a memoir from a Contemporary Christian Music legend from my teenage years. This week, we’re looking at When God Rescripts Your Life by Jaci Velasquez.

This was an amazing read for me personally. Jaci is a little over 3 yrs older than me, so when she burst onto the CCM scene in the late 90s as a 17yo kid, I was a 14yo kid deeply immersed in that very culture. And part of that culture was that I was actually in church 3x weekly and would thus occassionally be there for concerts from various groups making the church circuit – what Jaci herself had spent most of the previous 17 yrs doing with her parents, though in a different region. (These things tend to be highly regional, for those unaware – mostly due to associated costs, I would assume.) So even when Jaci speaks of her childhood in the back of car and later RV going from church to church singing, I’m at least familiar enough to understand from the angle of one of the people in those very churches what it could be like.

Also, I fully cop that I almost never read book descriptions for my ARC work in particular, unless it is an author or publisher I haven’t previously worked with or know. Since I knew of Jaci from 20 yrs ago, I didn’t read the description here. So when I got to the chapter about her son’s diagnosis of Autism and her reaction to it, this Autistic’s heart dropped. I just *knew* I was about to get a hard core defense of Autism Speaks, the Autistic community’s KKK. At that point I had just finished reading The Boy Who Felt Too Much and was involved in a few other discussions and was very raw.

Fortunately, Jaci doesn’t actually go that direction – I’ve seen far too many others fall into that trap at that very moment, but Jaci makes abundantly clear that she came to take the tack my own mother has taken in raising two Autistic sons. Do the best you can, be the best mother you can, and trust God to fill in the details. I can tell you from experience that this is basically the ideal way to raise an Autistic, and considering the four degrees and near 20 yrs of professional experience between my brother and I, Jaci’s son is in truly good hands there and it was thus a joy to be pleasantly surprised by Jaci’s strength.

And yes, I use her first name because you very much come away from this very conversationally-styled narrative feeling like you really know Jaci, even when your life maybe doesn’t parallel hers quite as much as it seems mine has. (Indeed, her year in London discovering herself? I call what is apparently that exact same year in Earth’s history my personal Year Of Failure, where graduating college was seemingly the only thing I did right – and had already been guaranteed 17 months prior. The year her Autistic son was born? That same year I began the professional career I’ve maintained ever since and also met and married my wife. Our anniversary is even within just a few days before Jaci’s birthday. Jaci speaks in the book about her time as a radio morning show host, I spent one football season working as the guy that presses the buttons to play the commercials when the announcer of the high school football game being broadcast declares “And now time for station identification” or whatever. 🙂 So. Very. Weird. How much we very coincidentally parallel.)

So yeah, this book was *amazing* to me personally, but honestly a truly great memoir generally. Her style is very conversational and humorous, and you’ll find yourself not wanting to put this book down… even when facing more pressing deadlines. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: Life On Loan by Ashley Farley

Make A Decision. This was an excellent book about finding yourself when you find yourself at the end of your rope. Full of sly real-world commentary, particularly as it relates to writing and reading, this book would do well as a vehicle for ageing former Hollywood starlets. The “second life” romance is starting to become more of a thing in women’s fiction, and this book is poised to ride that wave of a so-far apparently underserved market. My second book from Farley in just the last six months alone, this is very different from Only One Life and yet at the same time very much in line with that effort. Excellent work, and very much recommended.

This review of Life On Loan by Ashley Farley was originally written on October 6, 2019.

#BookReview: Their Last Breath by Sibel Hodge

Solid British Police Procedural. This was my second British police procedural in the same month, and this one was a much easier read than the other. The mystery is gripping and compelling – 6 women are found dead after a fire rages through an abandoned hospital on the same night that two other people are stabbed to death in a home. Touching on several issues in the public arena even in America, Hodge manages to deftly tie together several different ideas into a truly fantastic work. Very much recommended.

This review of Their Last Breath by Sibel Hodge was originally written on October 6, 2019.