#BookReview: The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle

Meganets And Pre-Networks. Ok, I know what you’re thinking – what does computer networking and the Internet have to do with this book? Well, on some level, it is somewhat obvious – one of our main characters is a social media “influencer” with a million followers. But on another level… Belle actually manages here to show the pitfalls and advantages of two different eras of human history, perhaps without even being cognizant of doing this, just seeking timelines that worked for the story she was telling and making the other details work around that. Yet speaking of details, there are some wrong ones here, particularly around guns – which anyone who follows Belle’s own social media knows that the anti-gun paranoia expressed by one main character is at least somewhat close to Belle’s own real life feelings (though, to be clear, I am not saying the character’s specific motivations for these feelings are anywhere near Belle’s, as I have never seen any public comments from her anywhere near those specific actions). Specifically, guns are not “registered” anywhere in Georgia, not even in Fulton County (home of Atlanta and generally heavily left-of-center of American politics, much less non-Atlanta Georgia politics). Still, going back to the main thrust of this review, Belle truly does do a remarkable job of showing just how easily today’s meganets can be used for harm… while also showing that the pre-meganet era was still pretty dang bad itself. All told this is a remarkable tale that manages to bring elements to the general setup not often seen anywhere else – and never seen before in my own reading within the genre – and thus this alone is quite commendable. Very much recommended.

This review of The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle was originally written on October 30, 2022.

#BookReview: Meganets by David Auerbach

A Needed Conversation. As someone also in tech at a megacorporation (though to be clear, not the same ones Auerbach has worked for) that openly seeks to employ several of the technologies discussed in this book, and as someone who finished this book right as Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter was being completed and Facebook announced that it was open to colluding with Twitter regarding content moderation… this was an absolutely fascinating look at my field and where at least one part of it currently is. But it is also written in a very approachable manner, one such that anyone who so much as uses any social media even casually or who interacts with their government virtually at all (if you see what I did there ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) will be able to follow along with reasonably well. Fear not! No Discrete Modeling, Statistics, Calculus, or any other high level collegiate mathematics Computer Science majors are forced to endure will be required here. ๐Ÿ™‚

And yet, this is also a book that everyone *needs* to read and understand. Auerbach manages to boil his primary thesis of what meganets are and how they operate into three very simple yet utterly complex words: Volume. Velocity. Virality. And he repeats these words so *very* often that you *will* remember them long after you’ve read this text. (Though I note this writing this review just 24 hrs after finishing my read of it, and knowing I’ll read at least 30 more books before 2022 is done. So check back with me on that after this book actually publishes in about 4.5 months. :D)

Indeed, really the only problem here – potentially corrected before publication – is that at least in the copy I read, the bibliography only accounted for about 15% of the text, which is fairly light for a nonfiction book in my experience, where 20-30% is more normal and 50% is particularly well documented. Thus, the single star deduction.

Still, this truly is a book everyone, from casual readers uninterested in anything computer yet who are forced to use computers in modern life to the uber-techs actually working in and leading the fields in question to the politicians and activists seeking to understand and control these technologies, needs to read. Very much recommended.

This review of Meganets by David Auerbach was originally written on October 29, 2022.

#BookReview: Don’t Hold Back by David Platt

Far From Radical. This is a book that should be widely read because it does have some interesting and important things to say – and yet it was also far from a radical adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ that the description would lead one to believe. Even among the first three chapters, Chapter 2 openly counters the claims and arguments of Chapters 1 and 3, with Chapter 2 being a hyper-progressive/ leftist screed one would hardly expect from someone affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and whose arguments are never actually found in the words or actions of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The ubiquitous-but-heavier-later defense of the American government and American military is, again, far from radical and completely unBiblical, but will feed right into those very conservative SBC churches Platt has long been associated with. Thus showing that Platt doesn’t mind crossing current political boundaries – and yet, again, Platt never in this text does the truly radical thing of embracing a full-throated embrace of YAHWEH as declared in 1 Samuel 8 (which would require a full rejection of all earthly kings).

But on all of the above, ultimately your mileage will vary and there will be some points you agree with no matter your own political slants and others you disagree with, which is actually (to my own mind at least) the mark of a Christian preacher actually doing his job – because in Christ, there *are* no politics, and the things Christ does speak of and do do *not* align neatly with 21st century American politics.

No, ultimately the two star deductions come from two more basic and more technical errors here:

1) Prooftexting, which is citing Bible verses out of context. Platt is far from alone in this practice – most *every* Christian author does it, and even some non-Christian ones – and yet it is *wrong* on so many levels. Thus, I wage a one-man war against the practice any time I encounter it, and the only “weapon” I have in that war as a book reviewer is a star deduction.

2) Lack of Bibliography. Coming in at barely 15% of the overall text here, this is lighter than the 20-30% that is more typical in my experience, and far from the particularly-well-documented level of near 50%. For the amount of non-Biblical claims Platt makes and in particular how controversial at least some of them can be, there really needs to be *far* better documentation of them.

Ultimately this *is* a book that will challenge you to some degree or another virtually no matter what your thinking is on religion and/ or politics, and that alone makes it a worthy read for everyone. Very much recommended.

This review of Don’t Hold Back by David Platt was originally written on October 29, 2022.

#BookReview: The Mystery Of The Undying Man by J. Kent Holloway

Fun Amalgamation Of Scooby-Doo, Stranger Things, and The Sandlot. This is one of those fun, nostalgic types of kids-solving-mysteries tales that will bring back all of the above + Nancy Drew/ The Hardy Boys type vibes, as well as a touch of Johnny Quest. Now, if I’ve named enough popular franchises to get you this far, know that this book *does* still have its own feel – it isn’t merely a clone of the other franchises, though it does share a genre and general vibe with them. Here, Holloway manages to spin is own form of the tale and involve science fiction ala the *earliest* science fiction (yes, there’s a touch of Frankenstein and his monster involved here) while centering the tale in his own “native” (and actually native) Kentucky and Southern lore and mythology. Ultimately this is simply a fun romp through a simpler time that still had its evils and mysteries, and Holloway shows the period and style – and his own particular culture – particularly well. Very much recommended.

This review of The Mystery Of The Undying Man by J. Kent Holloway was originally written on October 25, 2022.

#BookReview: The London Girls by Soraya M. Lane

Yet Another Realistic Fiction Of WWII. Lane does a tremendous amount of research for all of her WWII historical novels, then takes licenses where needed to tell the story she is trying to tell within that setting, and this tale is no different. Yet again Lane manages to bring a spotlight to a particularly deadly role in the war, that of the female motorcycle dispatch riders in the UK -where in the author’s note Lane reveals that of the 303 women killed in the line of duty (of 100,000 serving), roughly one third of them were these very riders.

And yet, even in this realism we also get a remarkable sense of who these characters are and some of their all-too-real motivations, as is also typical of a Lane tale. You’re going to fall in love with these women and their men, and that makes the tragedies of war all too real for the reader as well.

The only modicum of anything remotely negative here is likely at least parts of the epilogue, where Lane falls into tropes all too common in romance books (which this could *maybe* qualify as, as well?)… but here again, given the events of the years immediately after the war… even this particular thing is more real than not, and thus contributes to the very “mostly accurate” depiction Lane strives for and achieves.

Ultimately this tale does exactly what Lane set out to do – highlight these women most have never really known about, and tell tales of their lives that are all too plausible in every respect. Very much recommended.

This review of The London Girls by Soraya M. Lane was originally written on October 25, 2022.

#BookReview: Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

Haunting Yet Preachy. This is a book in the vein of if i stay, though here we know up front that our narrator is dead – and she knows it. Still, when searching through my memories trying to find a comparison point, that is what comes up and I think the comparison works. This tale has a similar haunting effect, not from the haunting itself (though the narrator is, if anything, a benevolent ghost just trying to be helpful), but more from the style of the story being told. There is a lot of trauma here in terms of child molestation/ exploitation (though within the last few months pre-18th birthday, at least on screen). adultery, abuse, and safety generally. It is on this last point – safety generally – that this book veers too far into the “preachy” side, hammering the reader over the head several times with its own metaphorical version of the murder weapon used here, and this is the reason for the star deduction. Still, overall the tale is solid if a touch slow, but interesting enough to want to find out what is going on and to keep reading through the end. Very much recommended.

This review of Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz was originally written on October 24, 2022.

#BookReview: Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins

Fish Out Of Water Romance That Shows That Not Everything Is As It Seems. This is a fish out of water romance between a barely-has-a-job clothing designer assistant for a TV show… and one of said show’s stars. It is very much a slow burn, enemies to lovers type and yet still meets every RWA requirement. This noted, it does get a touch preachy about the differences between the characters actors portray and the actor themselves, though it *does* manage to keep much of this preachiness within the context of the story being told here – so that is good at least. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet another romance where honest communication from the get-go could probably have saved about 80%+ of the overall friction/ drama between the couple, this one is still fairly light and funny despite its at-times heavy handedness noted above. Overall a fun look at a side of Hollywood not often seen, and written by someone with seemingly at least some knowledge of that particular setting. Very much recommended.

This review of Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins was originally written on October 23, 2022.

#BookReview: When Innocence Is Not Enough by Thomas L. Dybdahl

Compelling Arguments Need Better Documentation. This is another of those nonfiction tales that uses a singular case as its overall narrative structure, but also looks to several other cases and events related to the overall thesis of the text. The overarching case is a brutal murder out of 1980s Washington DC where several black kids where wrongfully convicted of a murder they could not have committed, and where police and prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence that resulted in these kids spending decades behind bars. Dybdahl then expands out to show that while this case was particularly egregious, it is also far from uncommon. Indeed, it is almost banal in just how common the abuses at hand truly are, causing one (later disgraced for unrelated reasons) judge to even call it an “epidemic” within the last decade prior to publication of this book!

The problems here are related yet distinct enough to my mind to warrant a two star deduction. The first star is lost due to the small bibliography, something that could potentially be corrected prior to actual publication of this book roughly three months after I sit to write this review of this advanced reader copy. Coming in at just about 15% of the overall text, this is short of the 20% – 33% that is more normal for works such as this one, and well short of the 40% – 50% that I *prefer* to see in such texts.

The second star is lost specifically because the claims herein are not as well documented as they need to be to make these points something that opponents cannot simply dismiss.

Make no mistake – I actually have been following this general issue (though not the specific cases at hand) for quite some time and nearly completely agree with the author’s points and recommendations. But as the author points out often, there is quite considerable opposition to these ideas in the minds and actions of the very people who could most correct these injustices – and the only way to really be able to attempt to convince such opposition of our correctness is to more fully document our case. Thus, I always appreciate books such as this one – I simply need it to be much more documented. Still, for the ideas it presents and how it actually presents them, this is still a book that needs to be read by every American. Thus, it is very much recommended.

This review of When Innocence Is Not Enough by Thomas L. Dybdahl was originally written on October 21, 2022.

#BookReview: War By Other Means by Daniel Akst

WWII Like You’ve Never Seen It Before. This is an account primarily of WWII and specifically a few particular people and their associates within the war – and these are people who you may have heard of, but likely never heard of their actions within the WWII period. As the description states, some of these people became quite famous indeed *after* WWII for their actions during the Vietnam / Civil Rights era – but those actions were originated when they were 20 years younger, during the trials and travails that history now knows as World War 2. As an anarchist who strives toward pacifism himself, learning of these people – several of whom I had never heard of before, and the others of whom I had never heard of this side of before – was utterly fascinating, and indeed actually eye opening, as even I had never heard of the philosophy of personalism before reading this book. Now, I intend to research it further.

The *singular* detriment to this book is that while it is clear in the narrative that the book is quite well researched indeed… the Advance Reader Copy of this text I read had barely any bibliography at all, clocking in at just 5% of the overall text when a minimum of around 20% is much more common for even barely-researched-at-all texts.

Still, even if the publisher doesn’t correct this flaw at actual publication, this is absolutely a worthy read and one that anyone who wishes to discuss the events and impacts of WWII needs to study in order to have a more complete picture of that era. Very much recommended.

This review of War By Other Means by Daniel Akst was originally written on October 20, 2022.

#BookReview: The Midlife Male by Greg Scheinman

Male Self-Help/ Lifestyle Podcast Turned Book. This is essentially a podcaster turning his podcast (apparently of the same name as the title of the book) into a book. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from an interview from one of the episodes of the podcast, then the author continues the theme of the chapter with his own commentary for seemingly 2,000 – 3,000 words or so while including a few lists of various things related to the chapter at hand. As such and given the nature of the podcast in question, this is primarily geared towards adult males and yes, has the occasional cursing in it as a result, but there is enough here that women *may* find useful as well that it might warrant a read from a particularly curious woman. One refreshing thing to note is that there isn’t really anything “toxic” about the masculinity portrayed herein, Scheinman’s schtick seems to be mostly “embrace who you are, do the right thing, and have fun doing it”. Overall an interesting if not particularly deep read, and it will be interesting to see if the success in printed form mirrors the apparent/ claimed success of the podcast form. Recommended.

This review of The Midlife Male by Greg Scheinman was originally written on October 19, 2022.