#BookReview: Collision Course by Matt Hilton

Sold Reacher-Style Mystery, Deep In Series. This is a solid mystery of the “Reacher” style. In that there is a compelling mystery of someone being missing and/ or in danger, and the good guy (in this case, a team of a PI and her two ex-con friends) has to find them and/ or stop the bad guys. Usually with significant fisticuffs and generally lots of rampant destruction and gunshots. Hell, this book opens up with our female PI pulling off a similar stunt to one of Reacher’s own more memorable ones. One thing to note here is that this book *is* deep into the series – something I didn’t realize when I signed up for the ARC. Not a big deal for me personally, as the backstory was appropriately mentioned enough to get where the characters currently are and whet the appetite for going back as a reader, but those particularly sensitive about spoilers will want to read this series from the beginning. Overall, a solid, action packed mystery. Very much recommended.

This review of Collision Course by Matt Hilton was originally written on October 14, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Meteorite by Tim Gregory

This week we’re looking at a science book that turns out to be both poetic and a page turner. This week, we’re looking at Meteorite by Tim Gregory.

I’ve read a lot of books in my lifetime, and over the last couple of years in particular. I’ve read light and airy books. I’ve read dense academic tomes. I’ve read even more dense philosophical treatises. But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a book quite like this one, where the author not only truly knows his stuff, but presents it so understandably and even poetically. Here, in this book ostensibly about space rocks, Gregory manages to inform the reader of the basis of all of astrophysics and how astrophysics lead to chemistry – both organic and inorganic – as we know it. Indeed, echoing a comment I made below in the Goodreads review because it is that astounding, I learned more about chemistry from reading this book than I ever did in my high school chemistry class. (Though in my high school’s defense – to a degree – I did a weird one semester “combined” chemistry and physics class and got the credit for both.)

This was simply an excellent book all around, and a great one to read if you’re leery about science books but at least willing to *try* them. Gregory will treat you well here, and you’ll learn a lot to boot. 🙂

As always, the Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: I Ain’t Marching Anymore by Chris Lombardi

Legacy Of Power. So I blatantly ripped off the title of my favorite episode of Power Rangers ever for the title of this review. It fits. In that episode (a decade+ old now), the new Rangers of that season are shown a video detailing where the show has been up until them, from the original Mighty Morphin (OG Rangers that came into the zeitgeist in the mid 1990s) through the previous season’s Ninja Storm. This book does the exact same thing for service members who dissent from killing people or assisting efforts to kill people. It traces the history from the earliest days of Europeans in America (at least the British variants of them), including the French and Indian (aka Seven Years’, for the Continentals) Wars through some of the most current modern dissenters (with particular focus on Bradley/ Chelsea Manning). Indeed, the one glaring omission here seems to be Edward Snowden, though perhaps his case is just different enough to be outside the specific scope of this text. Still, in most other cases where this happens – a group or individual opposes war, but for reasons or in situations different from the very specific situation the author chooses to pursue here – such groups are usually mentioned and quickly dismissed. Which makes the Snowden case being missing all the more glaring. Regardless, a well documented tome highlighting quite a bit of history that many Americans – particularly of the post-WWII and post-Vietnam eras – have likely never heard of. Which makes it that much more important, and that much more powerful in terms of a “Legacy of Power” look at nearly 300 years of history of dissent among American soldiers (and sailors, and Airmen, and Marines, and… whatever the hell they’re gonna call the Space Force people). Very much recommended.

This review of I Ain’t Marching Anymore by Chris Lombardi was originally written on October 12, 2020.

#BookReview: The Rule Of All by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders

Epic Conclusion – Ripped From The Headlines. I’ve had this book for almost exactly 6 months before publication. (Yes, that means it was an Advanced Reader Copy, with all that that entails.) Finally read it (hello, 180+ books this year, all ARCs), and y’all… dayum. This book was written no later than 2019 ish, *well* before the Summer of 2020 that saw massive riots all across the US, many of which seemed to be sparked by outside agitators. And guess what plays into the plot here? Overall the Saunders Sisters do an excellent job of focusing on four key perspectives – the Traitorous Twins, The Hacker, and The Dictator’s Grandson – and yet managing to make the battles *feel* far larger than just those four people. (Much as many films – including Lord of the Rings and the Avengers movies – do with similar character sets.) Fans of the series will enjoy many callbacks to the previous two books, and newbies to the series should absolutely start with Book 1 – The Rule Of One – as each book very much builds on the previous. A truly satisfying conclusion, and yet also one that allows them to come back to this world, should they so choose. Very much recommended.

This review of The Rule Of All by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders was originally written on October 11, 2020.

#BookReview: A Christmas Rescue by Kirsty McManus and Diane Michaels

Fun And Quirky Christmas Romance. This one has most of the makings of a Hallmark Christmas movie, if you toss in the “international travel” to a small town bit. Lots of self exploration when tossed into a new environment with ulterior motives. Lots of “Hemsworth brother”-esque swoony surfer dude. Lots of interference from the quirky grandmother. And a touch of drama on the existing relationship and job front. In other words, pretty well all of the ingredients of a classic Hallmark Christmas movie, and yes, this one qualifies as “sweet”, for those that care about such things. No cursing, and while masturbation is mentioned, not even that – much less any interpersonal stuff beyond a kiss – is shown. Very much recommended.

This review of A Christmas Rescue by Kirsty McManus and Diane Michaels was originally written on October 10, 2020.

#BookReview: The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes… Yes, I’m blatantly stealing from RENT, because this book – featuring (roughly) a year in the life of three women who randomly move in to the same block on the same weekend – brought out those vibes for me. It also harkens to fellow Amazon publishing colleague Emily Bleeker’s 2020 book What It Seems in that this is another look at how “reality” according to social media… rarely turns out to be actual reality. (Ha! Another RENT reference :D) Another strong look at the various damages secrets can wreak, though its portrayal of childless people was at times a bit extreme. Ultimately a well written story of several interweaving lives, and very much recommended.

This review of The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher was originally written on October 9, 2020.

#BookReview: The Age Of Wood by Roland Ennos

Mr. Ennos, I Read This Book On A Kindle. 😉 This was a fascinating and at times novel look at how wood – not stone or metals – has allowed and even encouraged human biological and civilizational evolution. Written by a British academic-engineer, this book looks to the bioengineering of woods of various forms and how the material’s strengths and versatilities have allowed so much human progress, from eras before homo sapien sapien appeared through the future of the species. While the text does have a couple of weaknesses – he assumes that the book will be read on paper and there is a distinct lack of bibliography, at least in this advanced review copy I read – overall the book really is an amazing look at an oft-overlooked feature of human history. Very much recommended.

This review of The Age Of Wood by Roland Ennos was originally written on October 6, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann

This week we’re looking at a fun, twisty book that takes an interesting look at how childhood traumas can affect a person later in life. This week we’re looking at Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann.

This book is set in and around Atlanta, Ga – which happens to be where I am from (well, the northern exurbs anyway). And which happens to have had a very similar – and very nearly equally as tragic – incident as the backstory that drives much of the action here. You see, I was actually very tangentially tied to the real-world story.

Revealing what actually happens in the book would be a spoiler, but allow me to note what happened in real life.

May 1999. Just a couple of weeks after the Columbine shooting.

A teacher and his wife, the school secretary, are out for a night with friends – including the school Principal and his wife. The teacher and secretary leave their two sons, a Senior and a Sophomore at the school they work at, home alone.

Suddenly, their across the street neighbor – who happens to be a local radio celebrity – bangs on the door. The boys let her in, as she is fleeing from her exhusband who is intent to kill her. She hides somewhere in the house.

The exhusband demands to know where she is, and enters the home via blasting the door down with his shotgun.

Time passes, cops have surrounded the house, and now the two sons are in a back bedroom with the exhusband. He has leveled the shotgun at the younger son, demanding to know where his exwife is.

The elder son jumps in the way as the shotgun is fired, and is killed as a result. The younger son still catches shot in his shoulder and is hospitalized. But the blast – and death – create the opening for the cops outside to kill the shooter, which they do.

Yes, this really happened. The younger brother was actually in at least a couple of my classes. I knew him and his mom. I was a new student at the school, having transferred from another school across the County just that very semester. I was there as the school sat in shocked disbelief all week at what had transpired to kill one of our graduating seniors – in a school that would only graduate 67 students two years later. I would go on to be one of those 67 students graduating high school from that school two years later… though I would barely step foot in it at all over those two years. How I spent those two years – and the four more beyond them – would also result in me becoming a young male teacher in my early twenties, which is another point that I personally identified with this story on. Fortunately for me, only this particular incident of the backstory is even remotely similar to anything I actually experienced – as you’ll see when you read this book.

But what could be even more tragic than the real world story? Well, to find out – and to see what happens as a result… you’re gonna need to read this book. 😀

As always, the Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: American Messiah by M. Andrew Holowchak

Will The Real TJ Please Stand Up? Growing up as I did inside the Southern Baptist Church of the Moral Majority/ “Conservative Resurgence” era, Jefferson was one of those Founding Fathers frequently cited in defense of… well, somehow both sides of the issue of religion in the public sphere. Here, Holowchak does a deep dive into the evolving religious beliefs of the infamous Founding Father and third President of the United States of America. And y’all… Holowchak makes it crystal clear that if good ol’ TJ were alive today, he would recognize very little – if anything – of what constitutes the American Church today. Utterly fascinating read, but in a very academic way. If you’re looking for a more conversational approach to this topic… this aint it. But if you’re looking for a well documented critical examination of exactly what this infamously aloof former President actually believed based on his writings and correspondences… this is exactly what you’re looking for. Very much recommended.

This review of American Messiah by M. Andrew Holowchak was originally written on October 3, 2020.

#BookReview: Holiday Home Run by Priscilla Oliveras

Perfect Quick Escape From The Family During The Holidays. This is one of those shorter novels – 94 pages or so, per Amazon – that is great for just getting away from everyone and everything for a couple of hours or so and reading an entire book in the process. Mostly light and fun, there is next to no drama here really – more in line with a Hallmark Christmas movie, if even that much. But like a Hallmark Christmas movie, it mostly focuses on the romance of the two leads – in this case, a Puerto Rican looking to establish herself apart from her family and an ex-MLB pitching ace looking to re-establish himself. Very much recommended.

This review of Holiday Home Run by Priscilla Oliveras was originally written on October 2, 2020.