Featured New Release of the Week: The Same Blood by M. Azmitia

This week we’re branching out further than I knew when I picked up this book from NetGalley due to its release date and the fact that it sounded interesting. Today, we look at The Same Blood by M. Azmitia, releasing on August 1, 2018.

I went into this book expecting a novel about a girl who is struggling with the death of her twin sister and subsequent revelations about herself. And I was highly surprised to find not a novel, but a long form narrative poem – a type of literature I hadn’t read since college, when I had to read Beowulf for a world lit class. In 2001.

Even with the unexpected writing device though, this book offers a strong tail of a young teen’s struggles – perhaps made more effective due to its writing and printing style, though I still believe that a stronger tale could have been told in a more traditional novel form. Overall, its examination of mental health, guilt, addiction, longing for home, and the struggles of Puerto Ricans generally and specifically after Hurricane Irma destroyed large swaths of the island last year are strong and worthy of considerable thought – which seems to be the overall goal of the author.

My only complaint this week is of a more technical issue – apparently the publisher only made a certain file type available via NetGalley, and that forced me to get creative to actually be able to read and review this book. Instead of reading it on my Kindle Oasis, as normal, I had to download the Overdrive app to my laptop and read this book on my dual monitor setup there. The book itself was perfectly fine for what it was, and a very recommended read – if for no other reason than a bit of diversity in story format.

And the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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A Month of Reading: July 2018: Starting A Blog and Reading An Entire Series

July 2018. The month I finally gave up politics completely and embraced something I’ve loved for far longer – reading.

It was the month I started this very blog just a few short weeks ago, and the month I finally read a series that I’ve had at least one book from for nearly 5 years, and whose author I’ve known for 6 years – we share a small book club on Facebook where he is one of about 70 or so author members and I run the monthly Group Read subgroup. And those two things pretty well dominated my month in reading.

Overall, I read 14 books in July 2018, per my Goodreads list (which I’ve become devout regarding updating when I finish a book). This pushed me into unknown territory at 81 books on the year – a new personal record. Of the 14 in July, 7 were from Brett Battles’ PROJECT EDEN series. Of the remaining books, 5 were Advance Review Copies (and 3 of those were from Lake Union Publishing) while the other two were new releases from friends – including Jeremy Robinson, who I will be meeting for the first time in just 16 days.

There 14 books accounted for over 3700 pages of (Kindle) text at an average length of over 260 pages each.

I only read one series on the month, so best series of the month goes to PROJECT EDEN by Brett Battles.

Most interesting book of the month I will give to The Same Blood by M. Azmitia, for the simple reason that it was good, yet very far out of the norm for me in virtually everything about it – particularly with it being a long form narrative poem.

I only read one book that was remotely humorous in tone, so funniest book of the month goes to #SecondCivilWar – Letters: Letters from America’s Second Civil War by U. Ray Moran (a pen name of a friend for this effort, though I’ll not reveal who it is). If you’re already sick of politics and political news and 2018 Election coverage, this book is for you.

Overall best book of the month, I think I’m going to have to give to The Space Between by Dete Meserve. It was simply a very wild ride, and I loved the fact that a female NASA scientist got to play a lead role, even if her job wasn’t the main plot of the book.

Below the break, the entire list, in date completed order – with links to my Goodreads reviews of each.
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Featured New Release of the Week: The Space Between by Dete Meserve

This week we’re going to another new-to-me Lake Union author, Dete Meserve and looking at her book, The Space Between.

This book was intriguing from the outset. We first meet Sarah Mayfield when she is in DC presenting the findings of her NASA team – an earth shattering discovery of an asteroid in Earth’s orbit hidden by the sun. This particular BookAHolic lives just a couple hours or so north of Cape Canaveral and absolutely loves going down there, as well as almost anything to do with space generally – I’ve read the memoirs of two separate former International Space Station Commanders this year alone, in addition to the memoirs of a legendary NASA Flight Director. So I was excited about this book nearly instantly, from the first time I even heard about it – much less once I started reading it!

And then Ms. Meserve goes in and spins a form of a Gone Girl type of tale around Ms. Mayfield as soon as Ms. Mayfield gets back home to her family. Her husband is missing, there is a brand new gun in their nightstand, and his last words to his son were to make sure the doors were locked. What follows is the type of tale fans of Gone Girl will love, but also fans of NASA and tech generally – Ms. Meserve has done her research, because Ms. Mayfield is very geeky indeed!

My *only* complaint about this book is that despite being someone who virtually never figures out a mystery before the central character does, in this book I figured out who the person ultimately responsible was about 60% or so of the way in, and I was right on the high points if not the particulars by the end of the book. Still, one of those books I truly did not want to put down, and very highly recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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Featured New Release Of The Week: The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal

This week, we’re going to the first book I’ve read from a new to me author, Barbara O’Neal, whose publisher (Lake Union) I’ve come to trust. This week, we’re looking at The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal.

I’ve never met nor interacted online with Ms. O’Neal, and admittedly the setting of this book was one that I have absolutely no familiarity with at all other than the occasional TV show or movie, and who knows when those things are actually accurate? But the central character herself proved as relatable as can be expected for a first person female perspective being read by a male. Olivia Shaw’s mother has died, and she left behind some substantial secrets – the most obvious of which being that she had a full estate and title in England that Olivia has now inherited and must decide how to handle. She’s also dealing with having been out of work for a few weeks already due to breaking her leg, and once we meet up with her in England on the first page, she’s already dealing with the fact that her relationship with her fiancée doesn’t feel as close as it once did.

As Olivia gets introduced to the land she inherited and the land and people nearby, we come to know more about her, them… and her mother’s far darker secret, along with a tragic secret from her grandmother. And pretty much everyone tends to grow on at least this reader, from the charming townspeople to the knowing Baron of a nearby estate who takes Olivia under his wing. We see a fair amount of character development over the months covered in the story as Olivia struggles to learn to become the new Countess of Rosemere, and we fall in love with the land at the same time she does.

Overall a very strong tale, if not quite the same as I’d come to expect from Lake Union and indeed not a type of tale I would normally pick up on my own. Definitely a worthy read, and I’m very glad I picked it up, even if I was more concerned with the publish date than any other factor when I originally chose to read it. Now that it is out, you should absolutely pick this up and read it at the first opportunity you have. You won’t be disappointed.

And once again, I leave you with my Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#HypeTrain: Jonathan Merritt’s Learning To Speak God From Scratch

Earlier this year – back in February or so – Jonathan Merritt told his social media followers that his new book was on pre-order already and would be released in a few months. I’ve been a fan of Jonathan’s since his 2012 book A Faith of Our Own, so there was no question – I immediately pre-ordered the book. Didn’t even have to know anything about it other than he wrote it.

I actually recently had a chance to actually read the book as an ARC, and – to steal part of the title of his 2014 book – it was “Better Than I Imagined“.

The setup was a familiar tale of a kid from the suburban South moving to the Big Apple… and realizing he couldn’t communicate with anyone using the words he had grown up using and had been using as a professional in his field for several years. One of those timeless tales, really.

But that doesn’t even get to the good stuff, and fortunately the setup, while interesting, mostly is there to explain what comes next.

For the rest of the book, Merritt takes words that are heard in nearly any and every Southern/ Evangelical Christian conversation and dissects them down to the message they are really trying to convey, then looks at how we can convey that message better in some way. And just as with his other books, once he gets to this part of the book is where he really shines.

Various words will mean more or less to various readers, but I found a few truly profound.

When discussing PAIN, for example, Merritt reveals his own battle with chronic pain and how it has both shaped and transformed him in unexpected ways. When discussing CONFESSION, Merritt speaks to a controversy that erupted around the time of the publication of his last book and what he now thinks about it.

When discussing BLESSED, Merritt takes aim at #HollowHashtags, and when discussing NEIGHBOR, he connects Fred Rogers to the current refugee crises.

But for me, the most transformative word Merritt discusses in the entire book is also the last word he discusses in the book, and one of the ones far too many Christians use to cause the most harm: LOST. Merritt’s words here are truly profound, more needed for the American Church than anything I have ever heard his former Southern Baptist Convention President father say in any sermon. And not to be spoiled in a blog post a month before release day.

To find out what Merritt the Younger* has to say about Learning To Speak God – words like PAIN, BLESSED, NEIGHBOR, LOST, SIN, PRIDE, SAINT, CONFESSION, GRACE, BROKENNESS, and even GOD – From Scratch, you can pre-order the book from your favorite bookstore by visiting SpeakGodBook.com. If you speak God at all, from any angle and from any belief, this is truly a book not to be missed.
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When I read Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday a couple of years ago (technically listened to Evans herself read it to me via Audible as I ran many miles along the Lake Murray Dam outside Columbia, SC), I was blown away. Here was someone who was roughly my age, who had grown up in roughly my part of the country (within a couple hundred miles as the bird flies), and who was speaking to one of the things I have been doing for seemingly twenty years already – searching for a way back into the church that she cherished as a child, but that she had grown disillusioned with as an adult. I didn’t agree with her ultimate conclusions then (read the book to find them for yourself), but at least the fact that she did find answers gave me hope that one day I too might find what I’ve sought for so long.

When I recently saw a Facebook ad to sign up for the launch team for her new book, INSPIRED: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water, and Loving the Bible Again, I was extremely excited. I’ve been doing ARC work for various authors for a few years now, some public and some private, and this was a chance to give back to someone who had so inspired me just a couple of years ago. So I applied and, along with around a thousand others, was accepted. This would not be the small, intimate ARC groups I am much more familiar with. And following posts from 1000 people, all excited about this new venture and at various stages of reading the book in question as well as introducing themselves to each other and everything else that goes into a large new group of people joining together for even a limited purpose, well, let’s just say that I probably missed more than a few. And that there is no probably to it.

As a storybook from Evans’ perspective, INSPIRED is an interesting work, told in the familiar cadences of Searching for Sunday. If you like the writing style of that book, you will like the read of this book from that perspective at a bare minimum. And INSPIRED raises some good points, at least a few of them likely not intended by Evans in the way I took them. For example, she speaks of prophets saying “”In other words, the prophets are weirdos. More than anyone else in Scripture, they remind us that those odd ducks shouting from the margins of society may see things more clearly than the political and religious leaders with the inside track. We ignore them at our own peril.”. You see, Evans is a hard core, Obama and Clinton loving Democrat. She hasn’t met an instance of Big Government she doesn’t like (other than maybe war), and insists on disarming peaceful people in spite of the fact that police have murdered more children than school shootings have killed people, and have done so in less time. Evans believes in systemic oppression and praises people who destroy property they disagree with. I myself, as most anyone who knows me knows, am an ardent anarchist. While Evans is so much in the mainstream that she has worked with the White House at times, I stand at the margins of society, both religiously and politically, and declare that in each case the Emperor has no clothes.
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Featured New Release of the Week: Death Warmed Over by Kent Holloway

New blog, new features. One of them I want to do every week will be to feature a new book that I’ve either read that particular book or at least read another book from that author.

For the inaugural edition of this feature, I want to talk about the newest release from one of my author friends that I’ve known for several years and who happens to live in the next county down from me at the moment. This book is Death Warmed Over by Kent Holloway.

I did have the privilege of reading this book as an ARC a couple of weeks ago, and I found it to be a refreshing yet familiar tale in the vein of the TV show Lucifer or even the movie Meet Joe Black. Indeed, it almost feels like Kent took those two as inspirations to tell his own tale, and Meet Joe Black is actually referenced in the book itself.

Here, we meet Silas Mot, who as it turns out currently holds the title of Death. But he has a problem – people are dying that are not actually scheduled to die, and he doesn’t know how. So he enlists the local police department and in particular its blonde female Chief to assist him in his investigation even as they work to solve the murder for their own purposes. Mott is presented as the suave, sharply dressed, playful yet serious Death that fans of Lucifer will instantly recognize, though his power set is a bit different – more in line with traditional interpretations of the Grim Reaper than with Tom Ellis’ portrayal of the Angel of Light.

This is the second book published under Holloway’s new publishing company he founded with his friend David Golemon – Golemon’s latest Event Group book being the first. As such, the slightly higher than I typically pay price point of $4.99 is understandable, and really it isn’t out of the normal range of independent Kindle books, if a bit on the high side of that. Still, well worth the money – I bought a copy even though I was given one for free. That’s how much I enjoyed this book.

I’ll leave you with my GoodReads/ Amazon review (I always just copy the GoodReads into Amazon):
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