Featured New Release of the Week: Summer Hours by Amy Mason Doan

This week we look at an excellent tale of a pair of disillusioned 30 somethings who had gone to school together and are reuniting for the remaining member of their trio’s wedding. This week we are looking at Summer Hours by Amy Mason Doan.

This was a solid story told in both the past and the present, with the past storyline taking us through the best friend trio’s high school and college years and the present taking place around 2008 when the trio was now in their early 30s. The pacing is well done, with the story lines hinting at just enough of what is to come in each other to keep the reader diving back into the next chapter to see what comes next.

As a bit of a disillusioned 30 something myself right now, the book hit home quite a bit, particularly in its back half when the present storyline begins picking up and dominating. Indeed, there were five quotes in particular that stood out:

  • “We say ‘we’ll never be like them’, but it happens. It happens gradually. We give in a little here, put off the hard decision there, say we’re paying our dues. We forget to swim against the current.”
  • “[The quest] has given me a taste of something I haven’t had in a long time. The thrill of the chase. Entering other people’s worlds, so different from your own. One fact leading to another, feeling your way in the dark, sometimes crawling and sometimes backing up and sometimes running. The certainty that [the goal] is important, that you have to keep going because no one else will. Until you’re out of the maze, holding a fragment of the truth up to the light.”
  • “We pick this industry we’re passionate about, and then if we’re *really* *really* good at it and *really* *really* lucky, we get to watch the job become a total perversion of what we once loved. Maybe we’re better off keeping the passions to the side. Separate from the paycheck.”
  • “I’m thirty-two, and yet I feel so locked into my life. And I’m scared I’m running out of time to change it.”
  • “They thought they knew exactly who I was, because I’d done such a good job of pretending *I* knew. When I didnt have a clue.”

Indeed, this book resonated so much that it seems to have contributed to the slump I noted in last week’s Featured New Release of the Week entry, as this was the book I read immediately prior to starting that one. Very good book, highly recommended.

As always, the Amazon/ Goodreads review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: Summer Hours by Amy Mason Doan”

#BookReview: Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans

I’m going to treat this #BookReview entry more like a Featured New Release of the Week column just because of what it is and why I’m reading it and when.

In reading Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans today, I knew that today was the day of her funeral – announcements had been made a few days ago. And despite one final book coming from Rachel, likely this fall (she had finished writing it before the illness that ultimately took her life struck, from what I am told), I knew that this was effectively my way of saying goodbye to Rachel.

I never actually met Rachel, to my knowledge we were never so much as in the same city at the same time. But, as I do with Jonathan Merritt, I considered her a contemporary as we were all within a couple of years or so of the same age and were all raised in similar conservative evangelical environments in the same general region of planet earth. And like Merritt’s books, Evans’ spoke to my own journey even while actually speaking about hers, because we were all so similar. When I found Evans’ book Searching for Sunday a few years ago, I wanted to have Thor’s reaction to seeing Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok with virtually every sentence. It was simply transcendant, and I had finally found a contemporary who could speak that which even I found difficult to put into words at times. It was on the strength of that book that I jumped at the chance to help launch her next book, Inspired, last year. While that book hewed closer to Rachel’s beliefs that I didn’t share, I continued to hope that she would come back to the transcendence of Searching for Sunday, and particularly now that this followup to Inspired will be her last.

As I say in the Goodreads/ Amazon review below, this book shows several glimpses of being as amazing as Searching for Sunday was. In speaking of her early life and through college and into meeting Dan, her husband, she speaks to a lot of the same things that many young Christians were going through at those same points in those heady days of the 80s and 90s and early 2000s as the oldest of the Millenials grew up and came of age.

I never actually met Rachel, but I do know that the world is now just a little more dim without her in it – and I know that she will live on as long as her books do, if only in her writing and the memories of those she knew and who knew her.

And now, the Amazon/ Goodreads review:
Continue reading “#BookReview: Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans”

Featured New Release Of The Weekend: I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

This week we’re looking at a book about summer camps, just as summer camp season starts up! This week, we’re looking at I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie.

This is the story of a family that each experienced the same tragic event years ago – and has been keeping secrets from each other about their own involvement in that event ever since. The story is intriguing and well paced, with a convenient in-story and in-book chart that helps drive the plot along nicely. With the explosive mandate set by their father, will the children be able to come together and finally spill the secrets each keeps? Or will these secrets tear this family asunder?

Structurally, the story is told from the perspective of very nearly everyone involved as each struggles to piece together what really happened that night all those years ago. Because someone truly has secrets that they never intend to tell. This is an excellent technique for telling this story, as it reveals many things to the reader before the characters reveal it to each other, and yet at the same time this very mechanism increases the mystery for the reader.

Overall an excellent book that had this reader hooked from the get-go. Very highly recommended.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Weekend: I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie”

#BookReview: Food or War by Julian Cribb

Insane Conspiracy Theories Bring Every Other Claim Into Question. I *wanted* to like this book. I *really* did. The premise is something I’m interested in and could see happening – if we do not solve the global food system and make it truly sustainable for billions of people, the food crises resulting from our failure to solve this problem *will* lead directly to war.

But in Chapter 4 in particular, and in particular the section of Chapter 4 regarding “Food or Poison”, the author seriously espouses several claims that are truly nothing more than conspiracy theories claimed only by the truly scientifically illiterate, such as that autism, male infertility, depression, and even gender identification are caused by chemicals in both pesticides used in growing food and in the packaging used to store and present food.

The fact that the author would even seriously consider such claims, much less try to seriously propose them, brings into question literally every other claim that the author makes throughout this book, and thus this book must be given 0 stars – it is absolutely not worthy of human consumption.

Hell, Jeremy Robinson’s book HUNGER, a fiction tale wherein world hunger is solved via genetic modification that then turns everything that eats the modified food into monsters – is more believable than this purportedly nonfiction tale.

This review of Food or War by Julian Cribb was originally published on May 29, 2019.

#BookReview: Flux by Jeremy Robinson

Did Robinson Just Do What I Think He Did? This tale was yet another home run by the Modern Day Master of Science Fiction. Somewhat reminiscent of his earlier book REFUGE, this tale takes us on a Eureka-esque tale of a diabolical scientist and the innocents who have to battle to survive and to return home. Overall a fun, fast paced read… that gives Robinson an opportunity to build into something this reader would love to see – Avengers Level Event 2 y’all! 🙂

This review of Flux by Jeremy Robinson was originally published on May 28, 2019.

#BookReview: Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin

Legendary Man, Solid Vision. Often lost in the fact that Buzz Aldrin was on the first team to land on the moon and the second man to step foot on the moon is the fact that he actually had a PhD – from MIT no less – before that legendary accomplishment. Here, this former fighter pilot and lifelong engineer lays out a comprehensive vision to make humanity a dual planet species forevermore. Reading it several years after publication and just weeks before the 50th anniversary of his walk on the moon – an anniversary Aldrin repeatedly says would be a prime day for a definitive “We Choose To Go To The Moon” speech regarding Mars – it is interesting to see how this vision has been followed (or more accurately, not) over the last several years and how fiction (specifically, The Martian by Andy Weir) has actually hewed closer to Aldrin’s vision than NASA or the various real-world space agencies and corporations have. Very highly recommended.

This review of Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin was originally published on May 28, 2019.

Featured New Release of The Week: Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Today, we look at a book that begins with a tragedy and ends in secrets layered in secrets layered in secrets. Today, we look at Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon.

As I note in the Goodreads review below, I had a bit of difficulty with this book – at first. It seems that my brain needed a break from reading for a bit (it happens) *and* the opening 10% or so of this book is just *so* depressing – McKinnon does an amazing job of showing a man and a boy’s emotional turmoil when their lover and mother (respectively, obviously) suddenly dies. But that is somewhat similar to my experience reading The Great Gatsby so many years ago. And like that book, once you get beyond the opening, it becomes a truly stupendous tale. In this case, Once the secrets start coming unravelled, they unravell into… other secrets. That unravel into other secrets. All the way to literally the last page of the book. Along the way, we do in fact get the answers we seek as readers, and McKinnon does a stellar job of showing a practical investigation by a person untrained in any investigative techniques. Very highly recommended book.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of The Week: Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon”

#BookReview: The Opposite of Hate by Sally Kohn

Interesting Yet Flawed. To be clear upfront, I am writing this review after having just finished reading this book on my Kindle Fire HD 8 (and more specifically having its text to voice feature read to me while I achievement grind in Age of Empires HD) and having seen some of the controversy of this book when coming here to leave my review.

The book itself showed promise, but how much it delivered on that promise largely depends on how much State force you find acceptable. Her points early in the text (the first chapters) about hate being mitigated by genuine community (though she never once used such a term) were enlightening and true in my own observations. But then, after covering the Rwandan Genocide, she begins advocating ever more State force in “addressing” hatred, contradicting her earlier words about voluntary community being the solution.

Overall, the text here is worthy of consideration yet has several flaws that deal it at least body blows in its recommendations, and is thus recommended yet independent consideration about the points it raises is also recommended. And thus my star ranking.

Addressing a bit of the controversy:

1) Assuming Kohn did in fact misquote at least two sources, that is a serious lack of judgment and care on both her part and everyone at her publisher involved in the printing process. This was not a self-published book, where such issues may have at least some level of understanding and forgiveness, but was instead a book published by a traditional yet small publisher, one who should have at minimum contacted cited sources and verified the veracity of the quotes used and the context in which they were used. As an extremely small independent publisher myself, this is one basic thing I would do if I ever published a nonfiction book, and no one would have to tell me to do it.

2) As wrong as the above is – and again, I find it *very* disturbing and extremely wrong – it is *just* as wrong to leave a review about a book that you have not personally read. For the purposes of review, it really doesn’t matter how one acquires the book so long as the book is at least genuinely attempted before leaving the review. (For purposes of ethics or law, obviously how one acquires the text matters.) I have little issue with the reviewer who at least attempts to read a text, throws it away in disgust, and lambasts the book in reviews detailing exactly why it was thrown away in disgust. I may disagree with it, but that at least is an honest reaction to the act of reading the text itself, and thus it at least is fair. I have major issues with a person leaving a review lambasting a book they have never attempted to read and thus attempting to cause harm to the author simply over a perceived slight rather than being honestly critical of the work in question. Again, leaving a review without actually reading the text (or more generally, using the product being reviewed) is *wrong* at least as much as Kohn and Algonquin Books were wrong in their quote issues.

But leaving this review back on the text in question: Kohn repeatedly makes the case that when we reach across the gap to try to communicate honestly yet civilly with the “other” that we begin to understand them, and in that understanding hatred is destroyed. Perhaps her detractors could learn a lesson from reading how she arrived at this conclusion as related in this very book.

This review of The Opposite of Hate by Sally Kohn was originally published on May 27, 2019.

#BookReview: When They Come For You by David Kirby

Well Written. Flawed in Spots. Didn’t Live Up To Potential. This book was solid in a journalistic sense – it has quite a bibliography at the end, though it went a bit editorial at times. Does a good job of showing some of the numerous ways the US government at every level works to deny the rights of its citizens, and mostly does a good job of balancing criticism between “both” “major” US political parties. Cites the dramatically undercounted Washington Post numbers when making claims of how many people police have killed – that number counts for several years less than the number of people that are actually killed in any given year. Similarly misinformed regarding vaccines, but that one in particular shouldn’t be shocking given the author’s prior work. Overall a good primer for those who aren’t yet aware of the full breadth of the US government’s abuses, though independent research should be done after reading this book. Recommended.

This review of When They Come For You by David Kirby was originally published on May 25, 2019.

#BookReview: Healthy Habits Suck by Dayna Lee-Baggley

Strong Start, Falters About Halfway In, Never Really Recovers. This book had an intriguing premise – it was going to explain the scientific reasons for why you don’t want to be healthy and help you overcome them. And it had some excellent points in the beginning regarding human evolution, even as it glossed over any actual science or citations. But around halfway in it begins using a particular metaphor that effectively says “you’re not to blame” and rather than continuing with the quasi-scientific explanations it goes full bore with this metaphor through the end of the book. Intriguing in the first half, and genuinely well written throughout. May be exactly what people who generally read self help books are looking for. Recommended.

This review of Healthy Habits Suck by Dayna Lee-Baggley was originally published on May 24, 2019.