Solid Exposition Of Its Premise. This book is pretty well exactly what its title says it is: an examination of cognitive biases, with fractions as the common access point to all of them. Thought of in this manner, the book is solid, though on its overall points – many political, including repeated attacks on the 45th President of the United States – your mileage will vary considerably. Indeed, on many of the issues Zimring examines, his overall consideration of the issue at hand is actually limited by his devotion to fraction-based thinking, at least within the confines of this text. Ultimately, this book is more a rare take on cognitive biases than anything truly mathematical, and the math here really is simplified such that pretty well anyone capable of reading the text itself can follow the math easily enough. The bibliography clocks in at around 20% of the overall text, which is close enough to the average of similar texts in my experience to be acceptable. Recommended.
For this week’s Featured New Release, we’re looking at a solid examination of childlessness, divorce, and Alzheimer’s as experienced in the life of a woman in her thirties. This week, we’re looking at Everything Must Go by Camille Pagan.
Solid Examination Of Childlessness And Alzheimer’s. This book continues Pagan’s trend of writing books about real-world issues women in their 30s ish encounter and doing so in a thoughtful and poignant manner that allows people to more fully explore their own thoughts and feelings on the matters at hand even while telling its own unique story. In this particular book, Pagan brings out two issues that I’ve seen up close and personal in my own (late 30s male) life – childlessness and Alzheimer’s. While there are some (such as my wife and I) who start out childless (no kids, want them) and later become childfree (no kids, don’t want any) and there is considerable debate within the childless and childfree communities (yes, they are distinct), this tale accurately explores a woman realizing that becoming a mother is truly important to her and what she must do to ensure that. Its explorations of Alzheimer’s and the familial relationships it both strains and enhances also ring true to what I observed from my own mother – then in her late 30s/ early 40s – when she, along with her over half a dozen siblings, dealt with her own father developing the disease. I’ve even known friends and family to divorce as seemingly seamless as happens here, particularly before kids are involved. So ultimately, I see the plausibility in virtually everything Pagan did here, and the story thus became, for me, likely more of the thoughtful examination she meant for it to be rather than getting hung up on “I don’t think [this thing or that thing] is realistic enough” as so many of the other reviewers (on Goodreads as of December 29, nearly 4 months before publication) have done. While not quite as powerful or funny as Pagan’s previous books (which you should absolutely read as well), this one still does its thing quite well indeed, and is thus very much recommended.
Green Finds The Eggs, Butter, and Sugar. Yes, the title here references one particularly poignant line deep in the text – just 7% or so from the final words. Through this point and after, Green has managed to tell the story of what happened on River Road in Camden, New Jersey on September 6, 1949 through the eyes of nearly all of the people who survived the events there that day. A bit later, she’s even going to connect it to a more recent event that was in the news – and that the granddaughter of one of the survivors happened to be at. This is narrative nonfiction, and it has next to no documentation (and hence the star deduction), but it is structured and told much in the manner of a novel – which makes it infinitely more readable. But the most remarkable thing about this book is just how truly balanced it is. A horrible tragedy occurred that day, but rather than painting the perpetrator as some otherworldly monster as so much coverage of and conversation around more recent similar people does, Green builds the case that this man is just as human as the rest of us. There is no “other” here, simply a man – a man who had faults, but also a community that had faults too (and also had amazing things as well). Indeed, the entire reason I picked up this book was because I saw a Yankee author and British publisher working on a book about “the first” (not really) mass shooting in the US… and this defender of the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment worried that it would be just ever more anti-gun drivel. For those who may be looking at this book with similar thoughts, know that there is little of that here. Yes, Green calls a “magazine” a “clip” repeatedly, particularly when discussing the actual actions that day. But even when she brings in Stoneman Douglas (Parkland), she never actually goes those directions at all really. (At least one person she chronicles does, but it is clear that this is that person’s position only and not an “official recommendation” from the book.) But even that speaks to just how well balanced the book overall is. Truly an excellent and admittedly unexpected work, and very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid new entrant deep in a series and this new entrant happens to be set in the tranquil and beautiful San Juan Islands of Washington State. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Wrong Victim by Allison Brennan.
Solid Mystery Deep In Series. While this is only book 3 in the series, as heavily as the first two are referenced it actually feels much deeper in. So up front, my recommendation is actually to go back to the beginning of this series and start there, if you haven’t already. But once you get here… this is a solid mystery with a lot going on both within the mystery and town it is placed in – this band of FBI cops travels the country, and this particular mystery is set in Washington’s San Juan Islands, familiar to many from Discovery Channel’s long running Island Life show (which I watched – for months, over meals – on Discovery+, for those that may have missed it and want to get a feel for the real islands here). Both the islanders and the FBI team prove interesting characters, but the series depth *really* shows through in the interactions between the FBI team. The choice to almost go Disaster Movie-esque and show the victims of the murder first was actually quite bold and refreshing, and overall this book simply worked so much better than Brennan’s previous effort I reviewed, The Sorority Murder – which worked well enough for what it was and had some unique things going for it, this was simply a better executed story here to my own mind. Overall a great story, and perfect for any fans of long running police procedurals. Very much recommended.
After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Wrong Victim by Allison Brennan”
Powerful Examination Of Oft-Ignored Areas. Know up front that there is a LOT going on in this book, and to me it absolutely warrants the 400 page length. The book begins and ends in Galveston during the Depression, when one family had absolute control of the island. In between, we see a lot: the burlesque shows of the era – including their seedier sides engaging in open pedophilia, the dance marathons that were cheap entertainment for so many in this pre=television era and the marathoners that endured so much just to stay off the streets, the politics of the era (where your mileage is absolutely going to vary, but was true to the period at minimum), the treatment of homosexuality in the era, a new surgery meant to cure so many mental health issues – including homosexuality – that was just as barbaric as described late in the text here, and so much more. For those that care about precise historical fact in their historical fiction – I personally tend to give authors at least a touch of leeway, depending on particulars including overall story – know that this surgery was real, and the details provided about both it and the doctor that originated it – Dr Walter Freeman – are real. Bird simply moved up the timeline by about 15 years or so, and used it to great effect within the confines of her story. Truly a remarkable work, and very much recommended.
Note: For those seeking more details on the real horrors of the transorbital lobotomy described in this tale, My Lobotomy by Howard Dully – which I first encountered as a late night NPR broadcast – is truly tragically horrifying.
Interesting Twist On Dual Timeline Historical Fiction. Over the course of 800+ books in the last three years alone, I’ve read quite a few dual timeline historical fiction books. Generally, one of the timelines is “current”, or at least mostly current – end of the 20th century at its oldest. Here, the “current” timeline is actually much older – the last months of WWII – and the “older” timeline is *much* older – 16th century. The poetic prose here highlights the idealized South of the pre-air conditioning era… and yet also doesn’t shy away from discussing some of its lower points, including both slavery and extrajudicial murders. (I intentionally don’t use a particular “l” word there, as it generally has connotations that do not apply in the particular situation in the book.) All of this is wrapped around the mysterious Dare stones and how so many of them could be judged to be fake… except the first one, Eleanor Dare’s stone and the tale therein inscribed isn’t necessarily so easily dismissed. The care Brock takes to show an atypical yet also completely realistic and plausible tale of what happened and why to Ms. Dare is quite remarkable, and indeed this shines through in the variety of other situations portrayed in this book as well. It quickly becomes readily apparent that Ms. Brock is a Southern storyteller of the best form – one that doesn’t excuse the atrocities of our past, yet one that also respects the real and vibrant cultures of the era, showing that even while misguided on particular points, the overall people were not the monsters many non-Southern (or even Southern of particular political persuasions) writers portray them as. Truly a remarkable work in so many ways, and very much recommended.
For this blog tour, we’re looking at a solid yet unexpected entry in this great police procedural series set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Lighthouse Girls by BR Spangler.
Another Solid Entry In Series. With Book 5 (The Memory Bones) wrapping up the core long-term mystery of the series (and this book spoiling that reveal early, so be forewarned if you haven’t read that book yet), I wondered then if Spangler was closing out the series, not really seeing how it could move forward. Here, in a sense Spangler is offering more closure, with former teammates returning and (without going *too* far into spoiler territory) another teammate’s death in this tale – while not yet offering any hint of any further long term mystery. Still, this is a murder mystery series with heart, and I’m absolutely along for the ride in Book 7, whatever Spangler decides to do with that. Start earlier in the series if you’re new to it – possibly all the way back at Book 1 (Where Lost Girls Go), but I personally started at Book 4 (The Crying House) and found that to be a reasonable entry point as well. When you do, you’re going to want this book on hand anyway, just to come back to a now-favorite storyline. 🙂 Very much recommended.
After the jump, the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: The Lighthouse Girls by BR Spangler”
Current (420 Day 2022) Description Inaccurate. Read As Memoir. If you go into this book expecting what the current description claims the book is – a take down of all drug laws by a lawyer who knows them well – ummm…. you’re going to be severely disappointed. As pretty well every review earlier than my own notes. If you go into this more as a memoir with some generalized points about why legalization of all drugs would make for a more just world – with scant documentation, accounting for only 10% of the ARC text -… you’ll be more satisfied with this book than had you believed the current description. The text here is truly more about Margolin and her parents – her dad being one of the more famous/ infamous drug criminal defense lawyers in the US – than any other central issue, though the drugs Margolin uses and she and her dad defend others using in court are never far away. Overall, this is more of a primer text for those who may not be familiar with many of the complete legalization arguments to see how they play out in the life and mind of one particular LA-based drug lawyer. If you’re looking for a more detailed examination of the arguments and their pros and cons… this isn’t that text. Still, for what it is this is a worthy read that can at least add a degree of nuance to the overall conversation, and for this it is recommended.
Interesting Yet Documentation Is Substandard. This is a work of narrative nonfiction where the author uses case studies of six people she has followed for some period of time as they fight to get released from prison and come back into the non-correctional life. As such, it is quite well done, though readers who struggle to follow multiple characters in a fiction book will likely struggle to follow along here, as the author herself is largely the only commonality among the six (though two of them knew each other on the inside, their stories are largely separate and told separately). Indeed, the only real negative is that the author makes a lot of claims… that the scant 10% bibliography (at least in the advance edition I read) fails to really document. And thus the star deduction. Still, a solid work and one worthy of consideration. Very much recommended.
The Master Ascends To Douglas Adams Level. I’ve long considered Jeremy Robinson to be the Modern Day Master of Science Fiction. With this book, he even manages to ascend all the way up to Douglas Adams level scifi insanity – while, like Adams, making the insanity completely work within the tale he is telling here. I’m not going to ruin any of the surprises or the hilarities, because both are awesome and deserve to be experienced without warning. But truly, for those fans of Adams – and he is among the more popular science fiction writers *ever* with his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy -… do yourself a favor and check this one out. Though this *is* one of the final books in Robinson’s “Infinite Timelines” Avengers Level Event, and thus you really do need to read at *bare* minimum Exo-Hunter first (as the story is told through the eyes of our hero from that tale), but also The Others and Flux, the other two books on this branch of the timeline. And as The Dark is referenced heavily, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read that one before this one either. If you’ve done all of that though, you’re truly going to love how this book comes together – and you’re going to want to read them just so you can get to this book to see just how truly utterly insane (in the best possible ways) it really is. Very much recommended.