Featured New Release of the Week: The Sum of the People by Andrew Whitby

This week we’re looking at a history of the origins and current uses of the census – at the very time the United States Census officially begins. This week, we’re looking at The Sum of Us The People by Andrew Whitby.

I don’t exactly hide the fact that despite reading quite a few books, at heart I’m a numbers and computing guy. And few things get more numeric than efforts to count literally billions of people around the world in the span of just a year or two – the very subject of this book, and efforts that officially began a couple of months ago when this post (and the book it is about) are published. (I sit here writing this post on New Year’s Day 2020, having made this book the first book I read in the year the Census begins in the US.)

And y’all, Whitby does a seemingly excellent job of taking a complex and complicated subject like the modern realities of counting people – particularly when such counts can lead to shifts in power – and boiling it down so that anyone, even those without the mathematical foundations Whitby and I share a portion of, can understand what is happening, why, and why both are important. He states early on that a primary goal is writing a book that can be understood by most anyone, and to me it seems he has done an exemplary job of this.

I might nitpick about his discussions of the beginnings of computing and even the mathematics of statistics as its own field of study (among others), but neither does my own cursory knowledge of those areas allow me to outright refute them. So while I tend to think that he *may* have overstated his case in believing that these things came about due to a need to count people, I cannot be positive of this and his arguments are well documented and worthy of critical examination. (And here, he has provided nearly 25% of this text in notes and bibliography – generally a sign of a very thoroughly researched and presented discussion, in my experience.)

Truly a fascinating book, and one anyone remotely interested in the how or why of a census should read. Very much recommended.

As always, the Amazon/ Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: The Politics Industry by Katherine Gehl

Just Another Dogmatic Diatribe. With a title and premise like this, I truly had high hopes for this book. I should learn to not have such high hopes for such books, given that they almost always are utter disappointments, and this one is no exception to that generality. It raises some good points, particularly as they relate to ballot access and the nature of the duopoly system of government we have in the US. But beyond that this truly is just another dogmatic diatribe, this one from self-professed “moderates” that are actually anything but. It ends with an “altar call” urging *you* to act and donate your money, even as the authors sit back comfortably writing books and being “activists” rather than actually putting their own names on the ballot to try to achieve their stated goals. They want *you* to take the heat in running for office… even as they don’t have the guts. So take it from someone who *has* run for office, twice. Read this book, as it genuinely does have a couple of good ideas. But read it with a boulder of salt, because the authors aren’t brave enough to get in the fire themselves, and it is only within the fire that you truly see your ideas in action. Recommended.

This review of The Politics Industry by Katherine Gehl was originally written on March 26, 2020.

#BookReview: My Know-It-All Nemesis by Maggie Dallen

Nemesis Mine. This is a short yet heavier-than-many standard Maggie Dallen “Hallmarkie” high school romance. There’s still some laughter, but particularly in its final pages it really starts landing some haymakers that are not really typical of Dallen at all. Still, when you need something to dive into a rich, well developed “fake” world to escape the “real” one with all of its issues right now… this is a solid distraction for a couple of hours or so. Very much recommended.

This review of My Know-It-All Nemesis by Maggie Dallen was originally written on March 23, 2020.

#BookReview: Those Who Wander by Vivian Ho

“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” … But Some Are. Ho does an excellent job of focusing on one particular tale – of a trio of homeless kids in the Bay Area convicted of a pair of murders – while exploring young adult homelessness generally quite well. Maybe it was because the version I read was the Audible, but there didn’t seem to be many citations throughout the book, and indeed Ho waxes poetic and goes into editorial mode quite often – a bit too much, for my own personal tastes, particularly when making various claims that really do need supporting evidence to be provided. (Checking the text based version of the book I also have, I do in fact see that the notes/ bibliography is a bit too sparse for my thinking.) Which is ultimately what dropped this a star for me. Other than the sparse bibliography and a too much editorializing, this truly was a beautifully written book that highlights an oft-overlooked circumstance and does a stupendous job showing these people as the humans they are – warts and all. Very much recommended.

This review of Those Who Wander by Vivian Ho was originally written on March 25, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: Problem Child by Victoria Helen Stone

This week, as we gear up for Autism Awareness Month in just a few days, we’re looking at a book that does a great job in humanizing and normalizing another neurological divergence. This week, we’re looking at Problem Child by Victoria Helen Stone.

This was a great tale in and of itself – the pacing was solid, the “shocks” were used well, the mystery was compelling, etc etc etc. Seriously, if that is all you care about here, then you’re good at this point. Go buy the book. 🙂

Where the book really shines and elevates itself is in its use of a neurodivergent character as its primary protagonist = and in showing that such a neurodivergence doesn’t mean that the person is “good” or “evil” or “better” or “less”, that they just *are*. Yes, many neurodivergences give abilities beyond the typical, and the one highlighted here – sociopathy – is no different. Ultimately it is up to the neurodivergent individual to assess their own abilities and learn to use them to live their life however they want – which is exactly what our protagonist has done and is doing… and what another character has to learn. Truly a great and yet also frank look at the issues surrounding sociopathy specifically but also neurodivergence in general, this really is a solid book to read in preparation for Autism Awareness Month beginning barely a week after this book releases.

Very much recommended, and I’m very much looking forward to more from this author and this world.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: Tomboys Don’t Wear Pink by Christina Benjamin

Solid YA Romance. This actually continues the world introduced in Benjamin’s collaboration with Maggie Dallen and Stephanie Street last fall, The Trouble With Tomboys, and serves as Book 1 to its own series, making Benjamin’s entry in that former series what would be called a “back door pilot” in TV terms. And honestly, this was exactly the kind of bubblegum pop high school romance I know *I* needed in these challenging times. Just a fun few hours to get wrapped up in a fictional world and leave the “real” one behind, and this does that excellently. Very much recommended.

This review of Tomboys Don’t Wear Pink by Christina Benjamin was originally written on March 21, 2020.

Piracy Is WRONG. Why Is Nerdist Promoting It?

Earlier this week, a writer at Nerdist wrote a post – that Nerdist then not only allowed to be published, but also sent the link out on both their Facebook and Twitter feeds, at minimum. (And no, I will not be providing any links to this here, though I do have screenshots of everything provided at the end of this article.)

This link not only actively promoted book piracy, but actively tried to defend it, claiming that the author herself endorsed it.

Here’s what actually happened:

Around the turn of the Millenium, author Katherine Applegate (then known as K. A. Applegate) wrote an intense series of books about children are recruited into an alien war and given the ability to shift into animal form. These books were published through Scholastic and I know for a fact I saw them at a Scholastic Book Fair back in the day, even read a few of them – though I do not remember where I got them from. We’re talking 20+ years ago at this point.

Around 2001, publication of these books ceased.

A decade later, the eBook Revolution is gaining steam when, on April 28, 2011, Applegate hosts an AMA on Reddit. In it, she is asked about piracy, where she notes the text seen here, which is eventually cited in the Nerdist article in defense of piracy. At this point, the books have been out of print for roughly a decade and the author seems ok with whatever it takes to keep the series in the minds of readers. Which is fair enough on her end, but possibly a bit lazy if she does not actually own the rights to the books – which is another matter entirely, and one that cannot be spoken to either way in this blog, as I simply do not know.

HOWEVER, moments later, a bit lower in the very same thread, Applegate expresses a desire for the books to be republished in eBook format, hopefully at the $1.99 price point. See next image: .

Now, remember the date: April 28, 2011.

As it turns out, according to current data on Amazon.com, the first book in the series was published as an eBook on… May 1, 2011. Just 3 days later. While its current price is $3.99, I cannot speak to what the initial price point was nearly 9 years ago, nor can I speak to what it has been at any point before a couple of days ago.

So the books have been available legitimately for nearly 9 years ago now. And yet Nerdist chooses to promote a pirate site to obtain them, rather than asking fans to obtain them legitimately.

But wait! In the comments when I decry Nerdist actively promoting piracy, someone chimes in claiming Applegate tweeted in support of the pirate site!

Well… not exactly. She tweeted that her fans were great, but didn’t actually address the pirate site at all.

As of press time (roughly 630 EDT on Friday, March 20, 2020 – nearly 4 full days after the initial article went up on Nerdist), a few tweets have been directed at Applegate, who seems to be normally fairly responsive on that forum, asking if the pirated copies are legitimate – including at least one such tweet by this author himself – and so far Applegate has not responded to any of these tweets. This noted, so far she has *also* not retweeted the Nerdist article in question.

So that’s where we’re at presently. Nerdist has published and actively and repeatedly linked on social media a post that encourages book piracy, which is WRONG. Will they do the right thing and remove the post and apologize for promoting stealing from authors? Only time will tell.

Below the jump, the various screenshots of everything from the Article to the relevant sections of the AMA to the tweet claimed to support the piracy to the social media links from Nerdist to the article.
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#BookReview: Shasta by David Wood and CB Matson

Maddock and Bones Back Again. This one has a bit more mysticism than most books in this universe, including one particular chapter that seems completely out of the blue for a bit until it is brought back into the real, but overall is a pretty standard action/ adventure tale in this series. If you’re looking for bullets and explosions while exploring arcane legends… this is your kind of tale. Very much recommended.

This review of Shasta by David Wood and CB Matson was originally written on March 19, 2020.

#BookReview: Above The Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Rewrite The Stars. This is a solid book, particularly in the “historical fiction where the lead character believes they can change their destiny” type. Brings to life some real-world trivia points that I hadn’t known, which is always a nice little surprise, and even taught me a bit of geography I didn’t know in the process – which is even more rare and thus even more awesome when it happens. The story itself will be familiar to anyone who has seen A Knight’s Tale (the movie) or read Gone With the Wind or any other numerous stories of its type over the years, but the execution here is excellent and the story is well paced and well told. Very much recommended.

This review of Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen was originally written on March 16, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: What It Seems by Emily Bleeker

This week we look at an experimental tale from an author I’ve been a fan of since her debut a few years ago now. This week, we’re looking at What It Seems by Emily Bleeker.

This was a writing technique new to Bleeker’s published efforts – a tale told in first person. And after reading the book, I can see why this particular tale almost *had* to be told in single narrator first person. This style really gets you into the head of our narrator, and that is absolutely crucial to the story being as good as it is.

Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that this book is reminiscent of one I read decades ago yet updated to include modern discussions, particularly of the YouTube phenomenon. Indeed, the YouTube issue becomes central to driving the story after an introduction grounding us in just how abused our narrator has been, and everything she has had to do to cope as best she could with that abuse.

Truly a spectacular work, Bleeker yet again sets in motion a drama with mind bending secrets and explosive reveals. Very much recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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