#BookReview: How To Mars by David Ebenbach

Zany Space Story. The best way to describe this book, really, is that if you like Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy – a perennial favorite among the geek set for decades now that has in many cases transcended into pop culture – … you’re probably going to like this one too. There are quite a bit of similarities, given the hilarious and offbeat humor and even the “guidebook” element of the story. (Though unlike the Adams epic, this one actually includes at least parts of the guide in the story.) As others have noted, the fact that this was spurred many years ago by a (now defunct) Mars colonization effort that had the same general premise is, quite frankly, even more amusing. If you’re looking to see what all the fuss over Hitchhiker is about but you’re not willing to commit to something of quite that length, try this one. At roughly 250 pages, it is a short-average length and thus a good primer for that type of humor and creativity. If you’re looking for a more serious/ Hard Science Fiction ala Andy Weir’s take on The Martian… this isn’t that. So strap in and get ready to blast off on one wild ride. Very much recommended.

This review of How To Mars by David Ebenbach was originally written on March 1, 2021.

#BookReview: Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

Very Vivid And Vibrant. This is one of those hyper-descriptive books that wants you to know the exact color of the dresser in the room where the lead couple first “gets together”. That wants you to be able to smell the exact scents around them as they first open up to each other. That wants you to be able to hear the various island sounds all around them as they go from secluded beach to downtown party. That wants you to be able to taste the Cuban inspired flavors of Key West. In other words, this is one of the most sensual – as in, the literal dictionary definition meaning “devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites” – books I’ve ever read. Oh, and there is a solid romance in here too. Yes, one that perhaps wraps up a bit too tidily a bit too quickly, but eh, that is a common feature of many RWA-strict romance books. As the introduction to a new series, it introduces at least two characters what are obvious targets of subsequent books – without being overly obvious as to which is in the *next* book. And it seems to indicate that it will be a series with call it “medium” ties between the books – characters from each book will show up in other books, but you’ll still be able to read any book in any order (provided you’re not averse to hearing that a lead couple in one romance book actually wound up together – shocker, I know ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). So there really was a lot to like here overall, and only minor quibbles ultimately as far as anything at all to nitpick on. Very much recommended.

This review of Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras was originally written on March 1, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Speed Of Light by Elissa Grossell Dickey

This week we’re looking at a strong debut novel touching on many cultural touchstones both in its overall story and in its telling of that story. This week we’re looking at The Speed Of Light by Elissa Grossell Dickey.

As always, the Goodreads review:

No Day But Today. This is one of those books that touches on so much that it can at times appear a bit schizoid… and yet it all works. So very well. It has the pop culture references – including the one I used as the title of this review, but also very heavily Star Wars. It has the romance. It has the life-altering diagnosis and its aftermath. It has the immediacy of a school shooting. It has the dual-timeline nature of someone reflecting on the last year of her life during a particularly traumatic moment. Arguably the singular real flaw here is the predictability of the more dual-timeline nature than the more sporadic nature the description seems to imply. But perhaps that was an editorial decision to play it a bit safer in a debut, as a more sporadic approach can be at least as treacherous when not done well – and it is far easier to do horribly than a straight dual-timeline approach. The specific time tags on the present day timeline serve to give a great sense of immediacy and urgency, though at times the shift to the previous timeline is a bit abrupt and jarring. Still, ultimately an excellent debut novel, one that makes this reader look forward to the author’s next work. Very much recommended.

#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.

#BookReview: Track Of The Beast by David Wood

Fun, Short, Indiana Jones Type Adventure. A lot of times when I say something is “Indiana Jones type Adventure”, I usually mean that it has elements of travel, mysterious ancient artifact and/ or creature, some action of both gun and non-gun type, and usually some form of “Bond girl”… but set in current-ish times. With this book… no. You still get all of that, but the setting itself is actually Indiana Jones type as well – set in the early 30s, though completely in the US. Wood even manages to toss in a line or two about current real world affairs, *very* tightly disguised and well within scope of the characters, setting, and plot. (Which is one reason I love Wood and many of the authors I’ve long associated in his loose group of authors who have at times collaborated together – he does this so well, yet also so minimally.) Also quite a bit of humor that transcends time period here. All in a fairly short (half ish the length of a standard Maddock adventure, from his long running Dane Maddock series) book that is truly a very quick yet fun read. Very much recommended.

This review of Track Of The Beast by David Wood was originally written on February 25, 2021.

#BlogTour: Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish

For this blog tour, we’re looking at another Book 2 of a series that again can be read as a standalone and again features a pair of brothers. This week we’re looking at Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish.

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

Solid Romance, Animals Again Nearly Steal The Show. This was a solid romance featuring one guy that never really had a chance to find himself, and another that perhaps had too much time to find himself. The connection to the prior book is fairly loose, in the way that many romance series are these days, with Charlie of our primary couple here being introduced in Book 1 (Better Than People) as the brother of one half of that book’s couple. We get a touch of his back ground in that book, mostly as it relates to the brother, but here we get even more. And yes, the brother and his boyfriend from Book 1 show up a few times, even to the point of the new guy in this book befriending the boyfriend of Book 1 – which apparently is common when dating siblings. (At least according to what I’ve observed of my wife and sisters-in-law.) But in addition to the new guy, we are also introduced to a new *cat* in Chapter 1… and this cat damn near steals every scene it is in. Even moreso than the cats and dogs (including Charlie’s own cat) of the first book. For me, this book completely worked. There were far less issues reading it than the first book, as while I identified with different elements here, it wasn’t to the point of knowing all too well what certain … sometimes “debilitating”… issues are like. But, yeah, blog tour – I also knew I had to finish this thing soon no matter what, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜€ Still, truly at least as strong as Book 1 (I could see a strong debate on which tale is “stronger”, and I could probably argue either side of it), and at least for this cat-lover, with its emphasis on cats over dogs, I’ll give this one a *slight* edge on the first one. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

After the jump, about a page or so from Chapter 2 (IIRC), courtesy of the publisher, Carina Adores. And then the book information from the publisher.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish”

#BookReview: Unraveled by Maxine Bedat

Eye Opening, Yet Critically Flawed. Bedat does *phenomenal* work in this text when reporting what she has found in her investigations of trying to track even a “typical” cotton *garment* from the cotton seed to its eventual use and destruction. Using each chapter as a way to trace one particular step in the chain was truly a stroke of editing genius, as it concentrates just what is happening at that particular stage. And some of it – including the direct link, in Bangladesh at minimum, between garment factories and sex work (where in one particular harrowing tale, a source tells Bedat that when she gets in the van to be taken to a factory as a day worker, she sometimes finds herself at a massage parlor instead) – is utterly horrific. It is these sections of the book that are *so* strong that the book *had* to be rated fairly highly.

HOWEVER, when Bedat speaks almost at *all* of policy or her own opinions… well, this is when the critical flaws become apparent. To be fair, she *is* at least somewhat more balanced than many leftists, and outright points out things that ardent Bernie Sanders / AOC types won’t want to hear. But in her attacks of “neoliberalist capitalism” – a running strawman throughout the narrative – … eh, I’ll be a touch gentle and go with “YMMV”. If you happen to be on that side, you’re going to love her commentary here. If, like me, you find yourself more an adherent of Milton, Mises, Hayek, Bastiat, etc (the so-called “Austrian School of Economics)… you’re not going to like her commentary so much. The star reduction, to be clear, isn’t from the fact that I don’t like much of the commentary – but that I can so easily refute it, despite not being a trained economist (just a – clearly ๐Ÿ˜‰ – well read human :D).

And yet, the actual reporting here is simply too strong, too eye opening. This is a book that *needs* to be read for its current issues reporting, if for no other reason – and even if her commentary leads one to contemplate defenestration of the book. If you’ve read Hafsa Lodi’s Modesty or Virginia Postrel’s Fabric of Civilization (among presumably numerous other recent texts on fashion / clothing/ fabric), do yourself a favor and read this one too. Even if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and read all three books. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Very much recommended.

This review of Unraveled by Maxine Bedat was originally written on February 20, 2021.

#BookReview: Dedicated by Pete Davis

Blatantly Hypocritical, Yet Strong Discussion Regardless. Davis repeatedly claims that he is not “selling a particular religion, creed, or cause”… and yet the very subtitle of the book is “The *CASE* for Commitment…” (emphasis mine). Though to be fair, the examples Davis cites tend to be individual trees, while making the case that they are representative of the forest they are in. Davis, in this text, isn’t selling a tree – he is trying to sell the forest. Yet he *is* trying to sell a *particular* forest – the forest of long standing and wide reaching oaks, rather than the taller, shallower, and less connected pines. Still, the case he makes (and I’m forgiving the lack of bibliography, for the moment, as this was an ARC – though I *do* expect an extensive one to be provided in the published edition), is at minimum worthy of consideration and discussion. Yes, the language choices are a bit leftist at times, and yes, there are a few holes in the logic and reasonings, but overall, the case made is an interesting contrast to the currently dominant thinking, and this is why I’m willing to overlook the lack of bibliography in this ARC and rate the book at 4, rather than 3, stars. In the end, an interesting take on things that perhaps goes a bit *too* far at times, but is a refreshing change of pace at others. Recommended.

This review of Dedicated by Pete Davis was originally written on February 20, 2021.

#BookReview: Why The Innocent Plead Guilty And The Guilty Go Free by Jed S Rakoff

Excellent Examination Of US Judicial System. This is an excellent examination of the US Judicial system, from a former US District Court judge. Indeed, the *singular* outright flaw in the ARC copy I read was its lack of bibliography and citations, which I expect will be corrected in the published edition. For the most part, Judge Rakoff’s examinations and explanations ring true and he cites several well known works in the field, including Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow during the discussion of the problem of mass incarceration. My only quibble – and it is just a quibble, just as the comments I am about to refer to are almost asides themselves – are a couple of points where the Judge makes comments about a couple of cases of a more political nature. (Including Bush v Gore and Citizens United, among perhaps a handful of others.) Overall one of the better examinations of the breadth of the US Judicial system, and even its acknowledged origins as a set of essays isn’t really obvious or noticeable. Very much recommended.

This review of Why The Innocent Plead Guilty And The Guilty Go Free by Jed S Rakoff was originally written on February 18, 2021.