Solid Look At A Topic Few Look At – Possibly Benefits From Me Reading It In Audible Form. I’ll be upfront- this was one of my Audible books. Thus, I really have no way of knowing how extensive the bibliography is here, as Audibles never include them. And admittedly, this book *needs* an extensive one, as it makes quite a few quite remarkable claims- and remarkable claims necessitate remarkable documentation. But because I read the Audible and thus have no record of any biliiography for good or ill, I can’t base my rating on something I did not see.
What I *did* see here was a solid look at concepts most – even myself – don’t actively consider, and here Schatzker takes us on a detailed yet intriguing look behind the scenes and gets quite technical indeed… while never losing his readability (at least when having the book read to you). That alone is quite the feat for many science writers, and that he was able to pull this off so well is a mark of a stronger science writer.
Schatzker was also remarkably *balanced*, decrying Big Food and Big Ag for their efforts that led to blandness and loss of flavor over the last several decades while acknowledging that these same efforts are what has enabled humanity to continue to feed itself – and applauding these same groups’ efforts to re-introduce flavor while maintaining as much modern yields as possible. Even here though, he does note – and *arguably* seem to take a touch of glee in – the idea that flavorful, more nutritious foods will always be a few multiples more expensive than more bland, less nutritious foods. Which yes, does allow at least a potential perception of classism, though I note here that I never really felt he was being classist so much as simply a gourmand passionate about truly great food. Indeed, the final pair of chapters, structured around his efforts at a “perfect meal” of sorts, brought the entire narrative together quite well while also being quite visceral in its love of both that meal and telling the tale of it.
Overall a truly intriguing book, and one that even 8 years after initial publication, as I write this review having read this book just this month, still needs to be widely read and… digested. Very much recommended.
This review of The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker was originally written on January 31, 2023.
Hot Chicks. Cool Gulf Breeze. Fast Cars. Compelling Mystery. What’s Not To Like? Another reviewer 2*’d this book citing the line herein about men never progressing beyond the maturity of a 14yo – and noting that the book was entirely written for said 14yo and that this was a *bad* thing.
Um, no. This book is written for *adults*, with quite a bit of four letter words (and not “four” or “word”) and sex… well, anywhere Jake and Nicole can find a few minutes alone. Even on a stakeout. There is also a decently high body count, including a few particularly grisly murders and at least a tease of a rape threat (that, to be clear, never *really* develops – a bit of a spoiler, perhaps, but a needed one, for some).
So this is written for adults, but adults who enjoy a more laid back approach. Not every mystery tale has to be Big City Something or some frenetic John Wick / Jeremy Robinson / Matthew Reilly balls to the wall action with guns blazing and other weapons flying all over the place all the time.
This tale is written for those who enjoy the more laid back vibes of the Gulf shores of the US or the general Caribbean region, who want their murders with their margaritas as they sit by the pool on a cruise ship (exactly what I was doing while reading part of this book, fwiw). And as the first book in what I now know to be a decently long running series (I’ve now worked books 5 and 6 – or is it 4 and 5? – as Advance Reader Copies over the last couple of years before now coming back to the books I missed), this one sets up everything I already knew I loved from the series. Indeed, Jake and Nicole’s meeting is both abrupt and quite hilarious, and I love how both prove themselves capable in their own ways in this very first outing.
Truly a great, fun, relaxed book perfect for those pool side drinking days – or any other place you may find yourself reading it. Very much recommended.
This review of Deep Six by D. P. Lyle was originally written on January 31, 2023.
LONG – And Still Only Tells One Part Of The Story. The biggest thing I was left with at the end of this book was whether I was satisfied with the tale here – and thus the book should get the full 5* rating- or whether I thought it was a cash-grab that only told one part of the story and demands money to get the rest of the story (which I’ve seen in other books and written about in other reviews, though I note here that neither of these refer to books from this author) and thus should get a star deduction. Obviously, I ultimately sided with it being a complete tale *so far as it goes*, and I personally would love a sequel that picks up moments after this book leaves off.
As to the tale itself, think “Dead Space” or maybe a touch of the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2 or any number of other movies / tv shows / games / book / etc where our main characters wake up already in a survival situation… and things only get more horrific from there. Here though, we also get almost disaster movie type setup with a bit of the “normal life” of each of our crew members before they are sent on this particular mission, and this both helps ground the characters and serves as a touch of foreshadowing of how the tale plays out. The horror is real and visceral, but of a type that if you have your internal “blood filters” set, you may envision at least somewhat less carnage than others who envision the more complete “Mortal Kombat experience”. And as horrific as the physical horror is, the psychological horror here could be said to be even worse – yes, this book goes *that* deep. Ultimately, if you like any of the franchises I’ve named here – and I’ll even drop in the original, space based, Aliens movies here – you’re likely going to enjoy this book. If you like visceral survival / horror type space tales, you’re going to like this book. Again, I truly do want a sequel here, so I’m hoping either Wellington is already planning that or sales/ outcry is enough that we get one. Very much recommended.
This review of Paradise-1 by David Wellington was originally written on January 30, 2023.
Old. Not Dead. This is one of those nice women’s fiction/ romance blends where instead of one or the other or both friends going on similar journeys, we get one friend going on one journey and the other going on the other – which is a nice divergence from the norm. That Newton manages to pack so much into so few pages is a mark of a strong storyteller, and that she manages to break the norms means she is a storyteller I’ll be coming back to – as this was the first book I’d actually read from her (despite owning books under all of her names, in some cases for *years*). On the theming, this is more large luxury yacht maybe a *very* small cruise ship (such as the real-world WindStar cruise line) than a traditional cruise ship, but it works for the tale told here – and gives the author the timing she needed within story, as larger ships/ lines are not often at sea for this length of time (15 days at sea, iirc). The romance works well here, the women’s fiction side – dealing with a more recent widow and how she has coped – works so well it almost jumps off the page in its realism. Overall simply a great – and short – tale, one perfect as a quick getaway whether you’re at sea yourself or not. Very much recommended.
This review of The Sound Of The Sea by Jessie Newton was originally written on January 30, 2023.
Well Documented Examination Of How Class Is Used To Separate More Than Race In Modern Era. Seriously, this is one of the better documented texts I’ve read in quite some time, clocking in at about 37% documentation. And given its claims that some might find extraordinary – such as “In a 2014 analysis, one researcher found that the level of segregation between poor Black and affluent Black families was actually greater than that between Black families and White families” – the extraordinary documentation is needed in order to more fully prove the case, which Kahlenberg does quite well indeed here. As Kahlenberg notes early, zoning isn’t really something most Americans think about too much unless they happen to buy a piece of property (and how many of us actually do that these days??) and have some issue with the local zoning board. But zoning directly impacts the availability of housing – which is something quite a few Americans are worried about in the early part of the 2020s. Kahlenberg pulls no punches here, and shows how elites – no matter their Party or race – have been using these issues to overcome previous (and wrong and correctly outlawed) race-based barriers. As a white dude who grew up in the 80s and 90s in a trailer park, and whose wife once lived in a duplex – both forms of housing that are routinely being zoned out of existence in more recent years – I’ve been in and around this all my life, but Kahlenberg finally puts an academic focus on what I’ve observed “on the street” and shows that the problem is actually far worse than even I had realized. Truly an outstanding work, and one anyone concerned about the housing market or “social justice” needs to read. Very much recommended.
This review of Excluded by Richard D. Kahlenberg was originally written on January 30, 2023.
Another Fun And Hilarious Bones Adventure. Yet again we find Bones getting called off in search of some cryptid and getting sucked into some minor-ish mystery, with all of the usual tracking, fighting, wisecracking, and bone cracking this generally entails with this character. Another short tale at barely 120 pages (in the Kindle edition anyway), this is an easy read perfect for when you need a quick break from reality. As it does heavily reference characters from previous Bones adventures, those at minimum are recommended reading before this one, even if you don’t want to get into the larger Maddock universe quite yet (which is also very much recommended and more tangentially referenced, as in nothing there plays a truly essential role here the way characters from prior Bones stories do). As always here, very much looking forward to the next one and this one is very much recommended.
This review of Lair Of The Swamp Witch by David Wood was originally written on January 28, 2023.
Precisely Detailed. Needs Better Bibliography. You know that time when a friend has already read an ARC of a book that somewhat interests you and you go on a cruise for your 40th birthday only to come back to an email from the publisher asking if you’d also like to ARC review the same book? A book that happens to be about an event that happened when you were 10 yrs old but which was overshadowed in your own memory by another, much larger and much more directly impactful event (The Storm of the Century in 1993), but you still remember some details of this event itself live? No? Only me? Ok. Well then.
For everyone *else*, this is actually a remarkably detailed book, as Guinn’s histories tend to be (as evidenced by the only other book I’ve read from him – 2021’s War On The Border). Indeed, while only 83% or so of this book is narrative – more on that momentarily – we don’t actually begin the tale of the siege itself until around the 52% mark. Meaning over half of the actual narrative of the book focuses on detailed histories of everything that got us to that particular moment in time at that particular place with these particular players. We get an entire history of the Branch Davidian religion, including how it formed and some other offshoots that seem to have come to play to certain extents. We get a history of the ATF and what exactly it was dealing with in that moment (an embarrassing sex scandal and looming budget hearings, which were rarely ‘friendly’ in the best of times). We get a detailed history of this particular Branch Davidian organization and how it came to be exactly where it was and exactly in the state it was, both physically and mentally, including biographies of the man who came to claim the name “David Koresh” and earlier leaders of the group and their internal rivalries. We get all of this richly detailed setup…
And then we get a near second by second play by play of exactly what went down and when and by whom, told from both sides and clearly showing when the evidence seems to support one side or another and when each side differs in their views and exclusive claims. This is no celebration of the man who called himself “David Koresh”, nor is it a celebration of the various police agencies and politicians and political appointees who executed the raid. Instead, it is a remarkably balanced look at just how these people came to be where they were and what happened when these two groups came to such explosive conflict. It is a remarkable look at how a clearly gifted orator could become so twisted in his own thinking – and use his gifts to twist the beliefs of so many, including some who continued in these beliefs long after the orator himself was dead. It is a remarkable look at the mistakes made by each side of the conflict and just how many points there were where history could have changed for a more peaceable outcome. It is truly a remarkable tale of the entire event seared into the American zeitgeist as simply “Waco”.
And yet, getting back to the 83% narrative bit: It is specifically because the bibliography clocks in a touch short at 17% – 25-40% is a more normal bibliography length in my extensive experience with nonfiction ARCs – that I had to drop the overall rating by a single star. The tale told here is remarkable – but remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, and the cited evidence here needed to be more extensive, at least to this reader.
Still, this is absolutely a book every American should read and understand in full, as this truly was a seminal moment in American history, one that foretold much of what was to come over the next 30 years. Very much recommended.
This review of Waco by Jeff Guinn was originally written on January 27, 2023.
If We Don’t Get A Sequel, We Riot! Or we at least start jokingly pestering McKinnon until she finally caves and gives us the sequel this story demands. And I in particular have a history with more than one author of eventually getting my way in these matters – through nothing more than constant begging. 😀 Read this book, and join my campaign!
Seriously though y’all, this book starts out a touch slow ish – Frankie is in anger management and meets a guy. But as things start to pick up, they *really* start to pick up. Then, it appears that McKinnon has shot her shot a touch early and we get into almost a Return of The King situation (where the ending begins to feel long and drawn out for no obvious reason)… except those last few pages. That is where you’re going to join my campaign to demand a sequel from McKinnon, and we will eventually win this battle and get our sequel.
One of McKinnon’s better books – which is saying quite a bit in and of itself, as McKinnon really is a masterful storyteller across all the books I’ve read from her – and I do believe the first I’ve ever demanded a sequel from. Yes, the story and particular its ending are that compelling. Very much recommended.
This review of The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon was originally written on January 13, 2023.
Solid Romance – On A Cruise. For those unfamiliar with Keim’s various romance series, this is a great – and short, at roughly 150 pages – introduction to her style of beach/ coastal romance. A solid entry in this genre, you have some mild drama both with the titular contest/ winning tickets and later with one character in particular, but the focus really is on the friends (both old and new) and the pair of romances (one primary, one secondary in that it gets slightly less attention). As with every book in this series I’ve read so far, Keim manages to pack quite a bit into the short length here, including a full cruise and a decent amount of story before and after the cruise. Overall truly a solid tale, and one that makes me glad I’ll be able to see the forts at Old San Juan myself in just a few days (as I am getting on my own cruise tomorrow as I write this!). Very much recommended.
This review of The Winning Tickets by Judith Keim was originally written on January 14, 2023.
Stargate Meets The One. There really is a lot to love about this book, and the fact that it has elements of two scifi movies that I personally love (one which became a cult classic, the other of which has largely been forgotten) was more icing on the cake and something I could use in this review to give an idea of the scope of this book without actually revealing any spoilers. If you like either of the IPs I listed in the title here, you’re likely going to enjoy this more hard-scifi (ish) take on them, where Riddle manages to ground them at least somewhat more in actual reality… and yet still tell an intruging tale of family, secrets, and how far a person will go within the scope of what he has set up. Truly an excellent setup here, and apparently even Riddle himself doesn’t yet know how long he’ll take this series – but I for one can’t wait to see where he takes it next. Will it be a Stargate type? Quantum Leap type? Something truly novel and groundbreaking? Riddle’s talent as a storyteller – shown well in this very book – alone says the next book will be good. I challenge him to make it truly, truly *great*. Very much recommended.
This review of Quantum Radio by A.G. Riddle was originally written on January 13, 2023.