#BookReview: Saxon’s Savior by Pandora Pine

Superior Saving Skills. In this continuation of the new (non-paranormal) series from Pine, a lot of people need saving in a lot of different ways, and everyone saves everyone else in their own ways. 😀 Along the way, yes, Saxon does find a Savior – in more ways than one (though religion is never mentioned, for those worried about that either direction). But you get all kinds of other things too – superheroics during a traffic accident gone bad (think: severe accident, 80s movie style action 😉 ), more superheroics during a hurricane to bookend the tale (with a different person/ people being the superhero(es) here), and some subtler saving – saving from preconceptions, saving from bad relationships, saving from family disasters that could have been far worse, etc etc etc. Overall arguably one of the strongest books in this series, and yet another fine example of family coming together – particularly the family you choose. Very much recommended.

This review of Saxon’s Savior by Pandora Pine was originally written on October 28, 2020.

#HypeTrain: High Heat by Annabeth Albert

In this first of two weekend-bookending #HypeTrain posts, we’re returning to the world of MM romances set in the world of hotshots and smoke jumpers that Annabeth Albert created a few months ago now in this second book in that series.

Today’s book is High Heat by Annabeth Albert, and here’s what I had to say about it on my normal review channels:

Less Smoke, More Fire. In this second book in a new series, we follow one of the people who was featured in the first book as he continues his recovery from events there. And the book really is more about recovery and coming to terms with limits rather than the more overt firefighting of the first book. Here we get a much more personal drama rather than being so intensely focused on the overall world of Hotshots and Smoke Jumpers as the first book was. And there is a *lot* more sex. Which fans of the genre will likely appreciate. But much less actual firefighting, though one scene in particular *strongly* evokes the real-life drama of the Yarnell Fire and the book Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers by Brendan McDonough or the movie Only The Brave that was based on that book. Ultimately a strong book in its own right, it manages to hold its own in this world and in this particular culture while being free to be its own entity… which is actually a large theme in the book itself. Very much recommended.

These have been my first books from Albert, and she is truly showing a solid range of overall styles here, going from intensely in the overall culture of Hotshot firefighters in the first book to a more character driven focus here. Truly impressive work, and I hope you’ll check it out. 🙂

#BookReview: The D In 403B by Jess Bryant

Fun Style. This was a mostly light book that took a rare tack, and that is generally fun when executed well – which it absolutely is here. There is a fair amount of drama here, but the most interesting part about this book is absolutely the notes each man leaves on the other’s door. The author even includes them in the text (as well as actually typing them out), so bonus points for going a bit above and beyond creatively. Beyond that, this is a fairly standard MM romance, with all that the genre entails. Maybe a bit more preachy about being explicitly egalitarian in the relationship than many are, though apparently many readers like the genre specifically for this feature of it, so perhaps that would be a bit of a selling point in and of itself. Not one I particularly care about, but eh, it didn’t really detract from the story – which is what I absolutely do care about. All in all, very much recommended.

This review of The D in 403B by Jess Bryant was originally written on June 4, 2020.

#BookReview: Shuttle Houston by Paul Dye

Fascinating. This book is from a guy that started in NASA in the era right after Apollo and seemingly left right as SpaceX and the other private space agencies were finding their first successes. It is highly technical, yet also very approachable – Dye actively tries to explain as much of his “NASA-speak” (his term) as possible while not getting bogged down in too many details. This covers the entirety of his 40 ish years in NASA, from his first days as a co-op student through his last years planning the recovery missions should a Shuttle be stranded in space in the years after the Columbia disaster. Great insight and sometimes hilarious stories, though it ultimately suffers from the same bad taste of an ending that soured Kranz’s Failure Is Not An Option. In its final chapter, it more often comes across as a bitter old man not understanding the new dynamics of the agency he helped mold, rather than as someone truly hopeful for the future of space exploration and what the promise of the new and immediately future eras. Still, a truly worthy read from one of the people who doesn’t have the name recognition of a Kranz or a Chris Kraft, but who was arguably just as important in getting NASA to where it is today. Very much recommended.

This review of Shuttle, Houston by Paul Dye was originally written on March 10, 2020.

#BookReview: The Math Of Life And Death by Kit Yates

No Formulas. Just Numb3rs. In this book about how math shapes our lives, British math professor Yates doesn’t take us into the algebra, geometry, and even trigonometry that we all use daily – whether we realize it or not. Instead, he takes an approach similar to the now decade old US television show Numb3rs, starring David Krumholtz and Rob Morrow, wherein he shows applications of higher level mathematics in fields such as epidemiology, medicine, law, journalism, elections, and several others. Yates cites real world examples including unjust convictions and Ebola outbreaks and many others to show how math was used incorrectly and what the math actually showed in that situation, to help the reader begin to get an overall sense of math without getting bogged down in the technical calculations. Truly an excellent book for even the more arithmophobic among us, as it shows the numbers all around us and explains how we can have a better sense of them.

Disclaimers: 1) I LOVED Numb3rs back in the day and would still be watching it if it were still on the air. 2) I have a computer science degree and very nearly got secondary mathematics education and mathematics bachelors degrees at the same time as my CS one – so obviously I’m a bit more attuned to math than others.

This review of The Math Of Life And Death by Kit Yates was originally written on September 29, 2019.

An Open Letter To Shane Claiborne Regarding Executing Grace

Shane,

We’ve never met, but from what you said about yourself in Executing Grace, we come from a roughly similar background. You grew up in Tennessee, I grew up on the exurbs of Atlanta. We’re within a decade of the same age, and we were raised in similar conservative church backgrounds. We’ve both made something of ourselves that those in our hometowns may never have suspected us capable of back in those days.

I’m currently working on what I call a “2018TBR” project, where I set before myself a set list of books I wanted to read in 2018 – over 100 books in all, and I allowed for books to be added due to my Advance Reader Copy work with a few authors and publishers. Your book, Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It Is Killing Us, was on that list and I finished reading it today after having just started it yesterday. (Such is the norm for many of the books, and why yours was the 30th book I have read this year.)

Just so we are upfront with one another, despite agreeing with the premise of Executing Grace wholeheartedly and finding the stories you presented moving, the overall execution of the book was simply lacking. I won’t rehash what I’ve already put openly on Goodreads and Amazon, my normal places for reviewing books. Instead, I want to try to appeal to you personally.
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How The Political Climate Led Me To Read More

Earlier today, I read a post on BookRiot titled HOW THE POLITICAL CLIMATE LED ME TO ROMANCE NOVELS, and the title held such promise. Unfortunately, the article itself went on yet another political diatribe. So allow me, if you will, to explain in my own way how the political climate of late has led me to read ever more.

In 2017, I read 80 books. In 2018, I’ve got closer to 120 or so on deck, and we’ll see how many of them I actually read. This, after struggling in 2008 to even read 53 books. Of course, 2008 was very different in terms of the US political climate and my own life. In 2008, I was newly married and working 100 miles (one way) from home. This was before the era of eBooks, and even audiobooks weren’t quite on full mp3 the way they are now. So I had to lug around physical books and could only read on my lunch break or a few hours at home – hours dominated by sleeping, eating, and spending time with my new bride. So 53 books that year was quite an accomplishment – one that my new bride said I should never ever repeat.

But over the last couple of years, I find the political discourse in the United States to be ever more rancorous, and honestly even I – the former Libertarian Party official and political blogger/ activist – am honestly getting sick of it. While I still debate more on Facebook than I should, I’ve also unfollowed quite a few pages, unfollowed or defriended many people, and blocked over 1500 people on Facebook in 2017 alone. But even with all of this, there is just so much discord out there. You almost can’t discuss a political topic, even among the closest of friends, without people speaking harshly to each other and in many cases seemingly coming close to throwing punches. And it doesn’t matter the topic or your position. Someone is inevitably going to disagree, and then the fight is on.
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Frank Viola’s The Letters of Marvin Snurdley

Over the last month or so, I’ve been listening to Frank Viola‘s Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices via Audible on my 10k runs. The entire book has been utterly fascinating, particularly for someone like me who saw quite a bit of this over the years but could never quite give it voice.

The story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley was a particularly fascinating example found in Chapter 11 (of 12), but the only place I could find it online was on a blog called “Common Sense Atheism“, and since they go on to attack Christianity in general, I thought I would copy it here with no commentary other than these notes and a strong recommendation to acquire and study this book for yourself. The story, in case it isn’t clear, is a direct examination of exactly what happened to form the largest single piece of the New Testament: The Pauline Epistles. Frank then does a great job throughout the rest of the chapter of examining and explaining why the issues presented in the story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley unfortunately affect us all in the real world.
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A Gold Mine

I finally finished reading David Murrow’s “Why Men Hate Going to Church (updated)”, after having put it down for a couple of months while I read other books and worked on other things.

The best I can say about this book is that it is a gold mine, in the truest sense of the term. You see, my wife watches Gold Rush on Discovery Channel, so I wind up watching quite a bit of it with her. On that show, various crews move around literally TONS of earth, searching for a few specks of gold. That is EXACTLY what you will be doing reading this book – searching through tons of detritus (to put it gently) for the occasional HINT of something worth noting.

To say I was disappointed in this book would be a statement in contention for understatement of the year, at least. Upon seeing the title and even a couple of the other BookSneeze reviews, I actually requested BookSneeze make this available in eBook format, which is how I read all my books now. I was hoping for something as mind blowing and concrete as Shaunti Feldhan’s seminal work, For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Instead, the “research” in this book at one point literally consisted of the author standing outside an Alaska sporting goods store and asking 97 men what they thought was masculine or feminine about church.

And that is the most glaring flaw of this book – little to no actual research to base the author’s claims on. Instead, he draws on what he personally sees and how he personally feels. Which is fine, if the title would have been “Why Me and My Friends Hate Going to Church”. But in purporting to talk about a genuinely real crisis, the author falls flat on his face due to so little research on the topic. Add to this the guy’s blatant homophobia and misogyny – he dislikes any song that mentions a love of Jesus, because it sounds too gay – and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. Indeed, one of the reasons I put the book down for a couple of months was because of the sheer number of times I was almost ready to destroy my Kindle just to get this book away from me. But I agreed to participate in the BookSneeze program (a truly great program, btw), and I didn’t want to review the book without completing it, so here I sit, having now done so.

Overall, I’d give this book 0.5 stars out of 5. It has enough good in it that if you’re DESPERATE for something to read and can get your hands on a free copy, I’d say it is better than nothing – but not by much. Had I paid for the book, I’d be demanding my money back.

BookSneeze Review: With: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God by Skye Jethani

Skye Jethani’s With: Reimagining The Way You Relate to God was my first book through the BookSneeze review program, and I’m honestly glad I found the program and this book on it. You see, this is one of the more mind blowing books I’ve ever read – which is saying something, considering I’ve read books such as Ted Dekker’s Circle Series and most books Bill Myers has put out.

If you want to quit reading this review now, I’ll leave you with this: READ THIS BOOK. You will NOT regret it.

Some details:
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