Mostly Solid Examination – If From A Single Worldview. This is one of those examinations of an issue where the examination seems mostly solid, but is also clear that it is from a particular worldview – and the reader’s own feelings about that worldview will likely determine how much the reader enjoys or agrees with the author’s reasonings and recommendations. Specifically, Smeitana’s ultimate point is that older white churches are out, and younger multi-ethnic churches are in. Mostly using a more case study approach with a few more general facts thrown in (and with a scant bibliography of just about 12% of the text, rather than the 25-33% or so that is more typical of more scholarly based examinations in my experience), this book tells the tale of where the American Church finds itself now, what Smietana thinks got it here, and how he believes it can adapt into the future. And again, all of this seems objectively pretty reasonable, and how you view his particular slant will likely determine whether you agree more or less with it.
Ultimately the two stars deducted here – while I considered a third star deduction for the scant bibliography, I ultimately leaned against it due to the power of the case studies and clear direct investigations – were for proof texting and for large discussions of COVID. The proof texting was a complete brain fart, as he really only does it twice (vs other “Christian Living” books doing it *far* more often), but it is an automatic star deduction *every* time I see it, in my own personal war against the practice. The discussions of COVID largely couldn’t be avoided for anyone writing a book about where the American Church is in 2022, with the COVID disruptions of the past couple of years shifting the landscape in this arena at least as much as within any other, and objectively I can acknowledge this. However, *I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID*. Period. And therefore I wage a one man war against any and every book that mentions it as well.
Ultimately this is a book that I think it is important for anyone interesting in American Christianity and where it is and can go to consider, as there really are a lot of interesting and compelling discussions within it and points to consider, no matter your own religious or political persuasions. For this reason, it is very much recommended.
This review of Reorganized Religion by Bob Smietana was originally written on August 31, 2022.
Interesting Concepts Yet Disjointed Storytelling. This is one of those books where there is nothing objectively wrong with it, and yet it also feels a bit disjointed. Separated into several parts, it could likely have been better separated into a trilogy, with the events of Parts 1 and 2 in one book, 3 and 4 in a second book, and 5 in a final book. Then you could expand each section out beyond what was presented in even these 400 pages (since you’d arguably need at least another couple hundred or so for a third book) and really make the effort to take a good tale into the stratosphere of being among the best in scifi. Overall the specific application of time travel here was one I hadn’t seen in any form since the early 2000s era Jet Li movie The One, and even here the specific direction Riddle applies is unique in my experience and intriguing overall. Ultimately this is a good tale and well told, it just seemed like it could have been better with a different editing approach. Very much recommended.
This review of Lost In Time by AG Riddle was originally written on August 30, 2022.
This week we’re looking at a book that manages to combine the crime thriller and paranormal genres in ways I’ve never seen done before, giving us a killer in many ways more terrifying than even Kilgrave from the MCU’s Jessica Jones. This week we’re looking at Twisted by James Beltz.
Chilling Combination of Crime Thriller and Paranormal. For a book on the shorter end of the spectrum = roughly 220 pages or so – Beltz manages to pack quite a bit of action into this one, and along the way gives us some truly memorable sequences of various psychic abilities. The murderer is chilling and brutal, the mystery is taut, and the final battle is ultimately a refreshing blend of near slapstick humor (needed, as heavy as other elements immediately around it can get), psychic badassery normally seen only in comic books, and shocking action that not even Stephen King has managed to pull together in Carrie or Firestarter. In the end, you’ll be glad that Beltz wrote this trilogy at one time before releasing each book just a month apart – because you’re going to be wanting the next book in your hand immediately. Very much recommended.
Approachable Combination Of Science And Self-Help. This book is exactly what I said in the title – an approachable combination of the hard science (explained in such a way that anyone with a roughly high school education should be able to follow along reasonably well enough) and practical self-help type recommendations showing just how much sleep and the circadian rhythm affect virtually everything about the human mind and body, even down to things we may not associate with them such as cardiovascular troubles or the effectiveness of cancer treatments. It doesn’t hurt that includes one of my favorite short jokes at the beginning of one of the chapters as well. 🙂 Clocking in at around 29% bibliography, the narrative here uses a sequential numbering system for its footnotes that I distinctly remember was at least approaching – and may have surpassed – 600 individual citations. It also has an almost “FAQ” section at the end of each chapter, briefly answering common questions the author has encountered about the ideas discussed in that specific chapter. An excellent book for anyone seeking information about this topic, particularly those who may have questions about how sleep and circadian rhythms could potentially be affecting their own health. Very much recommended.
This review of Life Time by Russell Foster was originally written on August 28, 2022.
Solid Setup But With Slight Torture Of English Language. This is a tale that manages to tell its own complete tale… and yet also manages to setup a new trilogy for the Saunders twins that is perhaps at least as compelling as their debut trilogy had been. Once again, these twins writing together focus on twin primary characters, and once again having that real world dynamic really helps with the in-world dynamic. Reading the author note about their extreme aversion to twin studies as teens and seeing what they put the twins through here was particularly relevatory, but the social commentary on homeless camps here was also thought provoking and compelling, without coming across as overly preachy in real-world terms. The *one* irritating thing about this read was the presence of the trans character and the torture of using the singular “they” repeatedly – showing in novel form why a completely different and new pronoun really is needed there (perhaps “ze” instead, as some promote?). Note that the trans character itself wasn’t the problem, the singular “they” was, particularly as often as was used here – to the level of almost reading more as a sudden dose of dialect rather than the usual tone of the writing. Overall another great book from the Saunders Twins, and I for one am looking forward to the next entry in the trilogy. Very much recommended.
This review of Exiles by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders was originally written on August 28, 2022.
For this blog tour we’re looking at a solid middle entry in its series that deepens the overall mythos and has the reader anxiously awaiting the finale. For this blog tour we’re looking at Second Chances At Brambleberry Creek by Elizabeth Bromke.
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
Solid Middle Entry In Trilogy. This book picks up where Home To Brambleberry Creek (released just a month earlier) leaves off, and focuses on a different member of the family and her own familial and relationship issues. Yet it also continues the overall mythos set up so far and does an excellent job of it. Quite humorous at times to boot, though the mystery here goes back to an unresolved issue from the first book… which will clearly be revealed in the finale of this excellent series. Whereas in Home we got to see a lot of the history of grandma, in this one we get to see a lot of the history of grandpa and how *his* actions would shape the family for generations to come. Bromke’s usual storytelling excellence is on full display here, and as is often the case with her penultimate books, you’re going to want that final book in your hands seconds after finishing this one. Which is where those of you reading this review after all three books have been released have an advantage over early adopters and ARC readers in particular. Still, read these books as early as you can ethically acquire them. You won’t be disappointed. Very much recommended.
After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Second Chances At Brambleberry Creek by Elizabeth Bromke”
Complex Story With More Action Than Medical. I came into this book after having won an ARC of it in the Readers Coffeehouse (Facebook group) Great Big Book Giveaway Day 2022 and having not read Book 1 (Adverse Effects). Honestly, with the amount of story that happened before this book began (that gets repeatedly referenced when necessary here – in case anyone wants to avoid spoilers from that book), it seemed like this book was *much* deeper into the series than just Book 2. I honestly thought this was somewhere in the Book 3 – 5 range as I was reading it.
And while the overall story here is absolutely more action based than medical – though there is certainly a major medical mystery happening – and *is* very complex (more complex than say a typical Crichton, less complex than say a Robert Ludlum Bourne series book), it is also quite interesting and compelling. Shulkin here manages to take some scifi-ish concepts (ala, arguably most famously, Total Recall) and combine them with some more modern dissociative identity stories (ala Kerry Lonsdale’s Everything trilogy) to create an innovative mythos and rare (in my vast reading) hero and villain who each share the same condition and use it in completely different ways.
As complex as this is – and perhaps those coming from Book 1 won’t find it as complex – this is also one of the more interesting overall mythoi I’ve found in recent years, and I will absolutely be back for the next book, whenever that may come. Very much recommended.
This review of Toxic Effects by Joel Shulkin was originally written on August 25, 2022.
The More You Think You See, The Easier It Will Be To Fool You. For the first time since I began reading McKenzie’s books (with 2018’s The Good Liar) at minimum, here McKenzie uses her former profession as a lawyer to craft a women’s fiction tale that almost rivals the legends of legal fiction such as John Grisham. The prologue pulls you in, the alternating timelines build the mystery, and while the pacing gets slow between the prologue and say the 3/4 mark or so, it is always with a tinge of menace right around the corner. And then that final 10-15% or so, where the title of this review *really* kicks in. Almost until the last word, McKenzie begins flipping everything you think you know around so much it begins to look like a Rubik’s cube master’s speed run. Quite an interesting tale, and very much recommended.
This review of Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie was originally written on August 22, 2022.
Light And Fluffy But Tackles Serious Issues As Well. This is one of those books that is centered as a romantic comedy – and never really strays from that, despite tackling serious issues of trust in various forms: infidelity, love languages, being the black sheep of a family, etc. Some bits are truly laugh out loud funny (yet of the cringing variety), including the scenes where the central plotline is first revealed. Other scenes are romance of the level Nicholas Sparks even often fails to pull off. (Including the one in the garden, all I’m saying there.) Ultimately this is a story of a woman discovering just what she wants and being in a position to make it happen, and that is the ultimate feel-good here, even above the pair of romance stories embedded within. Very much recommended.
This review of With Love From Wish & Co by Minnie Darke was originally written on August 22, 2022.
For this blog tour we’re looking at a book that could have gone far darker and more serious than it did and instead chose to have fun even while dealing with serious subject matters. For this blog tour we’re looking at Would You Rather by Allison Ashley.
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
Solid Friends To Lovers Romance. This is one of those books that takes a legitimately serious issue – insurance, insurance fraud, and organ transplants – and spins a charming and fun romance around it. Ashley manages to weave the ultra-serious in with the frivolous to great effect, enhancing both the seriousness and the fun while leaning more into the fun and romance. Overall a truly fun book, and a solid one for its end-of-summer release time frame. Very much recommended.
After the jump, the “publisher details” – including an excerpt, book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Would You Rather by Allison Ashley”