#BookReview: The Sentient Machine by Amir Husain

Great Overview Of Pervasive AI. This book is a love story to coding and its arguably most advanced manifestation – artificial intelligence. Husain spends quite a bit of time explaining what, exactly, AI is and its history, where we currently are, and where we will be in the near future. He then spends considerable time looking at various areas where AI research is already being done and where it is already having an impact. His praise of the idiot John Maynard Keynes is a bit too effusive, and is indicative of how wrong Husain’s thinking can be when he leaves the programmatic space. While this is but one concrete example, there are numerous others too that are the basis of the drop of a star. Among these are his praise for National Security Agency spying as well as domestic police spying on every day citizens, disregard of Constitutional freedom protections, labeling anything he disagrees with as a “myth”, and a few others. Still, quite a remarkable book when it sticks to its central thesis, and highly recommended.

This review of The Sentient Machine by Amir Husain was originally written on February 28, 2020.

#BookReview: What You Need To Know About Voting – And Why by Kim Wehle

Even The Good Parts Will Rapidly Be – Admittedly – Outdated. This was yet another of those books whose premise held such promise, and yet whose execution was sorely lacking. The only redeemable parts of this platitude, inaccuracy, and outright lies that are damn close to libel (but to be absolutely clear do *not*, in my understanding, actually cross that line) filled book are the numerous charts of where the law stands on various issues relating to voter registration, ballot access, and similar State level issues. The rest of the text is at best a series of platitudes about how “vital” voting is and at worst lies such that if the target were not a public figure would likely be a fairly easy libel case. (The standard for libel against a public figure is much higher than the one for just a “normal” private citizen.) The charts are the *only* thing preventing this text from being a “gold mine” level – my singular worst personal rating – and as the author admits every time she discusses one, will be outdated within just a few years and potentially even before this book actually goes to print. This is one of those books that in all honesty I personally would not publish with its existing text, but which could make a buck or two from the charts alone. It is for these charts that I can recommend this book at least for the next couple of months, but other than the charts I would not recommend it at all.

Just to be perfectly clear, I have never supported the current President, nor his predecessor and in all likelihood nor his successor. Instead, I am a person that has a fair degree of expertise in election laws and issues myself, having ran for City Council twice in rural southern Georgia, recruited a Statewide candidate for office in Georgia under a non-D/R Party, been that Party’s Legislative Director, ran a Facebook group promoting open ballot access, ran a political blog focusing on various issues including election laws, and even interviewed both Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams as a result of some of those other efforts. I am no law professor as the author is, but I am *far* more knowledgeable about these issues than the average reader and, based on my reading of the text, it seems that I may in fact be more knowledgeable on these issues than the author herself. Despite much of my knowledge being 10 yrs out of date on exact particulars.

This review of What You Need To Know About Voting – And Why by Kim Wehle was originally published on February 27, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan

This week we’re looking at a great tale of a woman picking up the pieces of her life after it is unjustly shattered. This week we’re looking at This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan.

This was a fairly light hearted book that dealt with some pretty significant issues, including another perspective on the #MeToo movement. Pagan demonstrates her skill well in her ability to use a comedy of errors of sorts to tell a much more meaningful story, and we get to the title of the book something like 2/3 in. From the bumbling Mo to the seemingly ditzy Harper to the eccentric friends and family, this is ultimately a tale of finding yourself when you thought you’d already done that.

While this book doesn’t have quite the emotional punch of Pagan’s 2019 work I’m Fine And Neither Are You, it does well in more of a cathartic, palate cleansing role – and sometimes, those are exactly the kind of books we need as readers and, I would imagine, writers need to write for their own sanity and heart.

Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: The New Husband by DJ Palmer

Starts Slow Then Gets Explosive. This is one of those that is a very slow burn at first – things maybe feel a bit off, and there is more of a sense that a particular character is pretty dark without any real evidence at first. Then just before the 50% mark, the game changes completely and we spend the rest of the book waiting for various characters to catch up to what the readers now know. Strong use of an Autistic character in that he is shown to be perfectly “normal”, just Autistic. The one jarring part in at least the ARC copy I read (which could very easily be fixed before publication, so if it is fixed in your version, just ignore this comment) is that the perspective shifts at random chapter beginnings can be a bit jarring and perhaps a label could be used to better identify what is happening. (Note that the chapter is from whatever singular perspective, but the character that may be narrating a given chapter can and does change.) Ultimately everything builds to an explosive yet satisfying ending. Very much recommended.

This review of The New Husband by DJ Palmer was originally written on February 22, 2020.

#BookReview: Thriving In Love And Money by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

Solid Continuation of Decades Long Research. I first encountered Shaunti’s writing back *before* she began researching the things that would eventually lead her to much fame and this book, back when she was a *fiction* writer. Then she wrote a book called For Women Only nearly two decades ago… and has continued in that vein ever since, with this being the latest entry. Here, Feldhahn and her husband Jeff look specifically at how money shapes relationships and how each partner can understand both themselves and their partner in order to make the relationship stronger. Relying on research specifically for this book in addition to research and insight from previous books, this does a solid job of showing the root causes of much strife when it comes to money and will be yet another book quite a few therapists – Christian or not – recommend their patients read. I know the original books For Women Only and For Men Only helped me and some friends, and this one looks to have the same impact. Very much recommended.

This review of Thriving In Love And Money by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn was originally written on February 21, 2020.

#BookReview: The Quarterback and The Ballerina by Maggie Dallen and Anne-Marie Meyer

Dallen Strikes Again – With A Friend. This is my first book Meyer has been a part of, but I’m very familiar with Dallen’s work (as my review history shows 😉 ), and this reads very much like a solid Dallen HS romance. If any real difference was noted, it was that much of the drama was more internal and less relational (whereas a pure Dallen tale tends to have some internal but mostly relational to some degree). The ending was a bit interesting in that it began to play with the timeline a bit, which provides a nice little tease for the presumptive Book 2 in this series. So when can we get it? 😉 Very much recommended.

This review of The Quarterback and The Ballerina by Maggie Dallen and Anne-Marie Meyer was originally written on February 20, 2020.

#BookReview: Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather

Fantastical Yet All Too Real. Reading this book 6 yrs after publication in preparation for the coming sequel, this has come to hit a little to close to reality for comfort. With the ongoing Coronavirus scare and the Turkish power outages, it is very easy to see these days just how easy a scenario like what happens in this book could be made reality. A bit too real at times with its in depth character studies of just what lengths people would go through to survive an apocalyptic scenario, this was an extremely well thought out, visceral tale of survival. Very much recommended.

This review of Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather was originally written on February 20, 2020.

#BookReview: In An Instant by Suzanne Redfearn

More Tragic if i stay. Probably the singular best way to describe this book is to take a fairly well known book/ movie that has a very similar overall narrative structure – if i stay – and point out that this is a survival tale that is even more tragic than that tale. Going into this blind, I thought from the prologue that something would happen to a particular character (and that this tale would thus become more similar to Catherine McKenzie’s I’ll Never Tell), but the expected tragedy strikes an unexpected character instead. The rest of the book is then a tale about the fight to survive the tragedy, both in the immediate physical fight to live and in the aftermath of dealing with the consequences of that fight. Overall a very powerful, very raw, look at human nature and just what happens in the face of true imminent peril. One made even more powerful by the afterword, where the author reveals a stunningly tragic episode from her real life. Very much recommended.

This review of In An Instant by Suzanne Redfearn was originally written on February 17, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Life On Repeat by Amy Larson Marble

This week we’re looking at an intriguing take on the repeated lives trope from a debut author. This week, we’re looking at Life On Repeat by Amy Larson Marble.

Admittedly, I haven’t read or seen too many takes on this particular trope – repeated entire lives, vs singular events or days or such – but of what I’ve seen, this effort actually presents a very intriguing version of it. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just stick to what is in the synopsis: In this particular take, our lead character lives a full life, dies, and is born again as another person with the same name. And at some point… she remembers.

Overall there were just two issues with the book, neither one of which by themselves were enough to justify dinging a star, but the combined effect warranted it. The first issue was pacing, particularly early in the book. By the time we’re two chapters or so into the book… we’re nearly 20% in, in a book that has 30+ chapters. After this point, the chapters largely go to a shorter style that they maintain through the end of the book. The second issue was the nature of the ending. It is indeed a cliffhanger, and it is such that it is unclear at this time if it really resolved the issues of this book while setting up many more adventures to come… or if this was a case of one tale being split into two halves, which is a practice I utterly despise. But since it isn’t yet clear which of those this will ultimately be, this was not quite enough to trigger my automatic removal of a star for such situations. Combined with the pacing issues from the front of the book, I felt it was fair though.

Overall this truly was an excellent book, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this goes. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: No Justice In The Shadows by Alina Das

Very Similar to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow But Focusing On Immigration. This book directly references Alexander’s work at a couple of points and is told in a similar style and with similar strengths and weaknesses. Namely, it builds a well documented case, but uses more anecdotal “evidence” as its primary narrative structure. I rate it slightly above Alexander’s work because it doesn’t have quite as glaring a blindspot as that other work. Specifically, while Alexander’s work regarded race above all other factors, Das’ work here shows the truly wide scope of immigration control in the US, from its earliest days working as much against Europeans as anyone to its more modern incarnations targeting first Chinese and other Asians to the fairly ubiquitous in current regimes of pretty well everyone. By and large, how you feel about Alexander’s work will mirror how you feel about Das’, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Das’ pocketbook since Alexander’s work is so often discussed and cited even so many years after publication. Recommended.

This review of No Justice In The Shadows by Alina Das was originally written on February 13, 2020.