#BookReview: Second Chance Lane by Nicola Marsh

Typical, Yet Not. This was a solid genre piece with a few nice wrinkles. If you like romance novels generally, you’re going to like this one. If you don’t, you may still actually like this one specifically because of the wrinkles. Without going into spoiler territory, the drama here just seems far more realistic than some others of the genre. You’ve got the mother with a secret. The haunted rock star. The rambunctious and inquisitve 12 yr old. But you’ve also got a second romance in this particular tale – a feature so rare as to be seemingly unique in all of my reading. Normally you get a secondary character blatantly introduced to continue the series in the next book. Here, this secondary character gets their own full story-within-the-story. This story-within-the-story serves to fill out the town and its wide cast even more fully, even as the main story does a good job in and of itself with this. Ultimately this *is* a romance novel and hits pretty well everything one expects – including on-screen (though not erotica-level explicit) sex. So if you are a reader that can’t handle such a scene (and there are less than a handful of them here, basically enough to fulfill the genre requirement and little else) or you can’t handle the occasional “curse” word (again, not prevalent, yet present), you may want to skip this due to your own hangups. For the rest of us, this was an excellent read. Very much recommended.

This review of Second Chance Lane by Nicola Marsh was originally written on October 2, 2020.

#BookReview: Adulting by Liz Talley

Standing Outside The Fire. Ok, so possibly *too* on point or perhaps even a little clichรฉ with the title of the review there, since Talley explicitly brings that song in late in the book with one character explaining to another that this is exactly what has been happening. But I *love* that song, it is easily one of my all-time favorites. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, on the book itself: Very fun, but also very deep. The two main characters – Olivia and Chase – are dealing with similar events in their worlds, neither of them realizing at first just how similar they are even if their perspectives on the events in question are very different. Along the way, many, many hijinx are had, including one very scared and borderline feral kitty cat. It is hard to note a particular trigger warning that is relevant enough to probably mention (even though I am not a fan of the practice generally, it is that significant here – though off screen, discussed by the characters as past events). So I’ll note that it ties into #MeToo and leave it at that. Truly a very balanced book about taking control of your own life and being open to possibilities that don’t seem obvious at first, and a very fun read. Very much recommended.

This review of Adulting by Liz Talley was originally written on October 2, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Unique by David Linden

This week we’re looking at one of the most precise science books I’ve encountered this year. This week, we’re looking at Unique by David Linden.

Given the topics Linden discusses here – among them sex, gender, sexuality, race, experience, even memory and sense – it is incredibly easy, maybe even tempting, for many authors of science books to wax at least somewhat political even while discussing the science of a given topic. Indeed, many do.

Linden does not, and that is one of the greatest strengths of this book.

Instead, Linden focuses *exactly* on where the science of the issue currently is, and says it with a fair degree of specificity. Such as instead of saying “many”, he’ll say “30%” – even if the exact number may be 27.84% or 32.16%, “30%” is close enough for those of us just trying for a general understanding of the topic at hand, and far more precise than many authors will give. Further, if the science is changing or inconclusive on a given topic, Linden notes this as well, at times even clearly noting where he himself has reviewed the research at hand.

Ultimately, the book does a truly remarkable job of explaining what we currently know about the science of human variance and how all of these combinations form to make an individual… well, an individual. Truly a remarkable read, and one that many would do well to read. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ BookBub review:
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#BookReview: Scripture First by Daniel B Oden and J David Stark

Interesting Discussion. This is a collection of six academic essays, mostly seemingly from the same basic starting viewpoint of a particular line of academic thought in a particular realm of a particular Christian denomination. So a reader not necessarily steeped in that exact line of thinking may find this a bit more dense than others, but I actually fit exactly that mold (of not being particularly knowledgeable of the intricacies of this viewpoint), and I found the discussions to be interesting if not particularly illuminating in the ways I had hoped. (For reference, I was approaching this more from being a fan of Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity and as someone who has thought and discussed much within Southern and Independent Baptist circles on the issue at hand – whether Scripture truly is the basis of Christian thought or whether the various traditions have any import whatsoever.) Ultimately this really was an interesting and informative read particularly well suited for anyone with any form of academic interest in Christian theology and practice. Very much recommended.

This review of Scripture First by Daniel B Oden and J David Stark was originally written on September 27, 2020.

#BookReview: Mutation by Michael McBride

Not The Direction I Was Expecting, Excellent Conclusion (Or Was It) Regardless. First off, as I said on the review for Forsaken (Book 2 in this series where this book is Book 3), IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE EARLIER BOOKS HERE (Subhuman, Forsaken), READ THEM FIRST. You’re not going to really know what is happening here without having read them, and McBride spends pretty well zero time catching the reader up on previous events.

That out of the way, this particular entrant into the series works well as a blatant effort by a writer who was given a three book contract and is hoping to be picked up to continue the series… but doesn’t know as he is writing whether that will happen. So while the conclusion of FORSAKEN almost sets up a potential dozen ish book series, MUTATION goes the more balls-to-the-wall, Matthew Reilly‘s Jack West Jr series combined with Jeremy Robinson‘s CHESSPOCALYPSE event series approach to wrapping everything up in one fell swoop… then using the epilogue to “move the chess piece” (as in the last second of X-Men: The Last Stand) to allow for future stories within this universe.

Overall an excellent book and series, one I hope McBride can come back to once his current contract for these books expires and he gets the rights to them himself. Very much recommended.

This review of Mutation by Michael McBride was originally written on September 27, 2020.

#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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#BlogTour: A Better Man by Michael Ian Black

I got invited to work with another blog tour, this time working with a celebrity I’ve seen on my screens enough to be aware of the name and to have a generally good impression of. So for this tour, we’re looking at a book written by comedian Michael Ian Black talking about… well, most everything under the sun in what is truly a letter of love to his son on the event of his son leaving for college. This really is one of those kinds of books that so many fathers wish they could write to their own sons, and even more wish they had the ability to tell their sons their own thoughts on these topics and many similar ones. And that is the truest, brightest fact about this book: Black’s love for his son shines through in ways I’ve very rarely encountered in any other book. Which alone is more than enough reason to recommend picking up this book. Yes, I did in fact have a couple of quibbles with it as I discuss below in the Goodreads review. But even more than those, seriously, read this book just to see what so many sons wish their fathers could have told them and what so many fathers wish they could tell their sons. Truly a superb job, and you should absolutely go buy this book for yourself.

And the Goodreads review…

More Solid Than Jello, Less Solid Than Steak: Advice From Father To Son On The Event Of The Son Leaving For College. And with that long-ass title out of the way… ๐Ÿ˜€ Seriously, this is a near-perfect letter of advice about life, love, and other mysteries from father to son as the son heads off to college and happens to have a celebrity dad. His statements about mass shootings are 100% demonstrably incorrect in a couple of places (and I in particular once analyzed such data at a level *few*, *if any*, others have), and his statements about Ayn Rand and White Guilt are philosophically incorrect (but in line with expectations given his own liberal philosophy), but otherwise what Black writes here rings true. And nearly as importantly, the love for his son rings through even louder than any moral or philosophical point he makes here. This is a type of letter than nearly any man wishes his dad would have left him, and Black truly does an excellent job of showing his own thinking and philosophies about the various issues discussed. In the end, I personally would love a celebrity from the right – as well as one of the very few celebrity anarchists such as possibly Woody Harrelson – to write similar public letters for their own kids, as between the three one would likely get an even stronger overall look at the topic at hand. But for exactly what it is, this truly is a phenomenal work with a quibble here or there, and very much recommended.