#BookReview: This Secret Thing by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Strong Multi-Generational (and multi-POV) Tale of Secrets And The Havoc They Wreak. This is a tale told from half a dozen or so intersecting POVs – the teenager whose mom has just been arrested for prostitution, the detective investigating the case, the grandmother who must now care for a granddaughter she hasn’t seen in over a decade, the down the street neighbor who had a major falling out with the mother years ago, and the neighbor’s oldest daughter who has suddenly left college under mysterious circumstances. Every single person, even the non-POV characters, has secrets, and all of these secrets are causing all kinds of problems.

Truly an excellent tale, though you may need to be reader for the multi-POV thing to really appreciate it (and hence the reason I spent so much of that first bit detailing that). Couple of lines in there that fit perfectly within the story that we *all* need to apply to our lives today – which is always an awesome find.

Ultimately Whalen did another excellent job, and I’m yet again very much looking forward to her next book. Very much recommended.

This review of This Secret Thing by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen was originally written on September 23, 2020.

#BookReview: Forsaken by Michael McBride

Read Book 1 First… And Be Glad You Have This Book On Hand. This is one of those sequels that picks up from the first book and directly uses its base to tell this book’s story. So if you haven’t read Book 1 (Subhuman) yet, start there first. But go ahead and buy this book so you have it on hand when you finish Subhuman.

If you like classic horror/ scifi tales along the lines of Aliens, The Thing, or even Jurassic Park… you’re gonna want to pick up this series. If you’re looking for a Crichton-esque technothriller or a Preston/Child-esque dark mystery or a Brett Battles-esque tale of global peril… you’re gonna want to pick up this series.

Indeed, my *only* quibble here, and I happen to be in somewhat of a rare/ possibly unique position to have it, is that here, in this ostensibly horror/ scifi tale, McBride creates a bigger and more ominous global threat than his alter ego Michael Laurence has created by the end of his own Book 2 in the Exinction Agenda series (which is still awesome in its own right, as more of a police procedural/ scifi action thriller). That noted… I happen to be glad I have an ARC of the next book in this series, Mutation, which releases in just 10 days from the time I write this review. Very much recommended.

This review of Forsaken by Michael McBride was originally written on September 20, 2020.

#BookReview: The Three Mrs Wrights by Linda Keir

Fun, Interesting Read – With A Seemingly Tacked On Ending. This was truly a fun book. Told mostly from three perspectives – a woman a man meets at a bar, another woman a man has plucked away from a medical fellowship at Duke to be in his cancer research startup, and a third woman who is married to a man who is always away on business – the book follows each relationship and becomes clear to the reader fairly early that these “three” men are in fact the same guy. From there, it begins to pick up a more serious version of The Other Woman – the 2014 comedy featuring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton. But the last chapter, ostensibly from the view of the woman from the bar, is seemingly tacked on and extremely rushed, and that ultimately hurts the aftertaste of the book. Truly solid work before that point, the book probably would have had a better aftertaste had it actively shown the event the last chapter speaks of instead of from a perspective of a few years after the event, maybe with the things of a few years later as an active epilogue (which this book doesn’t actually have). Still, truly a fun book before that point, and very much recommended.

This review of The Three Mrs Wrights by Linda Keir was originally written on September 20, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Divided We Fall by David French

This week we’re looking at THE book every single American needs to read before they vote in the 2020 General Elections in a few weeks. This week, we’re looking at Divided We Fall by David French.

Note: In light of the events unfolding this weekend following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’m moving this post’s publication up by a couple of days and giving it that much longer at the top of the site and my socials. Yes, this is *that* important. Particularly now. -Jeff, 9/20/20

I’ve read some *extremely* disturbing books. Books with some of the most graphic, horrific acts any human can possibly imagine. Some of them have even been nonfiction.

And y’all, the scenarios French lays out at roughly the halfway mark – one from the left, one from the right – of how America as we know it could dissolve nearly instantaneously are at least as horrific as any of them. This is the clarion call that will hopefully snap people awake and get them to realize just how perilous the path we are on truly is. Particularly since these scenarios are truly so real that in theory either one of them could happen between when I write these words on July 4th, 2020 and when they publish – along with the book – on September 22, 2020.

He spends the front half of the book building to this point by showing, in crystal clarity, the stark realities of exactly where we have been and exactly where we are now. His analysis of history and current events seems solid to my mind, and it is only once he is finished showing exactly where we are – at least through the end of 2019 – that he unleashes his horrific master strokes.

French then spends the back third of the book in “this could happen – but it doesn’t have to” mode. Here, he expounds on really two primary points – which I’ll not spoil here – that would require a commitment from us all to actively work towards, but which could ultimately walk us back from the brink we currently find ourselves at. Neither of his points are nearly as readily achievable as the disaster scenarios, but both – particularly when working together – present arguably one of the best defenses against the disaster scenarios I’ve come across of late, and indeed actually play into my own “stop the pendulum” philosophy of the last decade.

Ultimately, if you are an American reading this, you need to stop reading this review and go read this book already!

As always, the Goodreads/ Bookbub review:
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#BookReview: His Brown Eyed Girl by Liz Talley

Deep Romance. This is one of those romances with deep character backstories and a fair amount of action, particularly in the back/ closing sections of the book. Excellent dramas that all get resolved to make a self-contained story, but allow for some explorations elsewhere should the author decide to pursue them. If you can’t handle reading any form of stalker-based tale at all, this one probably isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a “clean” romance… eh, this one probably won’t work for you either. But for most everyone else, truly an excellent romance book that hits pretty well all of the expectations while doing each quite well. Very much recommended.

This review of His Brown Eyed Girl by Liz Talley was originally written on September 15, 2020.

#BookReview: Ghost Walk by Pandora Pine

Great Continuation – With An Intriguing Twist On Vampires. This is Book 9 of this particular spinoff series and something around book 30 or so of the overall universe, so if you’re particularly sensitive to any remote spoilers of previous books… you don’t want to start here (but should absolutely read this entire excellent universe). If you’re just looking for a good story with a decent entry point and don’t mind reading previous books to get the details on what you’ve missed so far… this is an *excellent* story to start with. Many/ most of the characters from the overall universe make an appearance here, particularly the recurring ones, and the usual hijinks of a police procedural-ish tale unfold. Though with seemingly more pop-culture references this time around, including an excellent chapter-closing line about going off to an interview with a vampire. And yes, there actually is a remarkable twist on the overall vampire mythos, along with some excellent commentary about said mythos to boot. Truly an excellent work and very much recommended.

This review of Ghost Walk by Pandora Pine was originally written on September 15, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

This week we’re looking at a superbly written yet shoddily cited story of how one town’s historic pursuit of freedom potentially led to some creative bears. This week, we’re looking at A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling.

The title of this book is one that grabs you, and it grabbed me more than most because of my own former work as both a Libertarian Party official and a more general libertarian political activist. In those roles, I actually knew a handful of Free Staters myself, though only one that I ever had any direct interaction with is cited in this book – Christopher Cantwell, who I once had to argue against in my proclamation that killing cops outside of active self defense – ie, when they are actively and directly causing an imminent threat of death or severe bodily harm to someon – was wrong. But despite the Free Staters being a bit extreme by their nature, most weren’t quite the level of Cantwell… despite Hongoltz-Hetling’s efforts here to portray them as being at least as bad. (Though to be clear, Cantwell himself is discussed only very briefly late in the book.)

Instead, Hongoltz-Hetling spins some yarns about creative bears with critical thinking skills far beyond any research I’m aware of showing them to possess, with minimal at best documentation of his claims even in this regard. He then combines these bear yarns with stories of the Free Staters of Grafton, NH, which seem to be a splinter group from the main Free State Project types to begin with – at the time of this writing the weekend after Easter 2020, I’ve reached out to my one remaining contact from the FSP from those days but have yet heard back from him. Hongoltz-Hetling then spends the majority of the book focused on Grafton and only mentioning another FSP targeted town, Keene, late in the book and even then only briefly. Indeed, he only gets to Keene at all after having established repeatedly that the Free Town Project of Grafton was the originator of the Free State Project, despite the FSP’s own historians noting that their effort began even before Hongoltz-Hetling is quite clear in his assertions of the beginning of the Grafton effort.

Throughout the text, Hongoltz-Hetling’s disdain for the very people he is writing about, and seeming preference for the bears themselves, becomes quite abundantly clear. Though the bear stories are indeed entertaining, and the prose itself is quite great. The structure of the book into three parts – which this author calls books – seemingly follows that great libertarian magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, which the author references a few times but seems to have never fully understood – if he ever even fully read it. (To be clear, this writer has read it on three separate occasions, one of the only books to have been re-read during my eReader era.)

Overall an entertaining book, if not quite accurate enough for a book claiming to be non-fiction, this would probably be better suited had the author changed the effort into simply creating a novel out of the same material. Still, recommended for entertainment value alone.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: Golden One by Rick Chesler

Towering Adventure. This was a fun romp through NYC and the Amazon that I kinda sorta wish Chesler had connected to one of his standalone books that ventures into the same general region, but features a *really* fun – and terrifying, if it were real and you were there – scene of its own. Well paced, with Omega Team picking up new assets that could be a major asset if Treasure Inc comes on much stronger. If you’re looking for a solid bit of escapism, this is it. Very much recommended.

This review of Golden One by Rick Chesler was originally written on September 12, 2020.

#BookReview: Truth Of The Matter by Jamie Beck

Messier And More… Real. Beck continues to show the true strength of her storytelling in her sophomore effort in the women’s fiction genre after breaking out from exclusively writing romances. And here, she brings quite likely her most real – and messiest – story to date. Life is full of complications, and while Beck tends to bring some of them out even in her romances, here we get a much more real look at just how messy things can be – and an intergenerational tale of struggling to be yourself even when others tell you not to. One of – if not *the* – Beck’s strongest works to date. Very much recommended.

This review of Truth Of The Matter by Jamie Beck was originally written on September 12, 2020.

#BookReview: A Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King

Funny And Evocative. This was a strong look at a woman who had had her joy figuratively beaten from her by life and who gets a second chance later in life… and it happened to reference one of my favorite jokes ever. 🙂 As usual, King does an amazing job of showing how wondrous life can be if you simply embrace its quirkiness rather than trying to dictate rules to it, and here in particular she does a phenomenal job of showing a woman rediscovering the self she had allowed to die off many years ago. The singular sex scene is *smoking*, the jokes are rampant and hilarious, and the drama is perhaps all too real – on stage and off. 🙂 As someone who has been all too familiar with the types of religion King shows here but who never truly let himself succumb to it the way Liz does, I felt her transformation deeply. I *lived* a version of it in my mid-20s, which wasn’t too terribly long ago seeing as I’m only in my late 30s now. 😀 Truly an excellent book that the more talibaptist oriented probably won’t like as much as I did… and which is all the more imperative that they read it. Very much recommended.

This review of A Borrowed Life by Kerry Anne King was originally written on September 10, 2020.