Featured New Release of the Week: Marked By Love by Tim Stevens

This week, we return to nonfiction and in particular Christian nonfiction. This week, we’re looking at Marked By Love by Tim Stevens.

This was a 200+ page narrative built around the idea that Christians are supposed to be “marked by love” and exploring what this might look like if it were more readily apparent in the life of the modern American Christian. Stevens pulls no punches, and at times it seems that he is trying to step on as many toes as possible in an effort to show that no matter how loving you may think you are, there are always areas to work to improve on in this regard.

And by and large, Stevens does an amazing job of showing his primary point in many different ways. He actually uses some of the same examples that Jonathan Merritt did in his book Learning to Speak God from Scratch two months ago, including the Good Samaritan and the adulterous woman of John 8. And in one of those points that might (and probably should) hit close to home for many, he says “What is going to be a stronger statement to a waitress – taking her away from her work to ask her about her soul and her relationship with Jesus, or treating her with grace and dignity, learning a bit about her story, and leaving a large tip? How many people just want something from her all day every day, including you with your Christian-ese questions, rather than trying to add value to her day and life?”

Overall this is an amazing book that everyone – not just Christians – should read and learn from. But it does have a few problems. It does indeed get a little too preachy at times as it relates to “being saved”, and it is a little too WASPy at times, effectively noting that members of the LGBT community are the “other”… even while decrying others being non-loving in noting the same. And it is for these two reasons alone that it went from a 5 star book to a 4 star book for me. Everything other than these two points was phenomenal, truly. And I very much agree that Stevens’ message is desperately needed for the American discourse in its current form. Just be prepared to roll your eyes a little and continue reading through these particular parts.

Very highly recommended!

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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A Month of Reading: September 2018: Trilogies!

September 2018 turned out to be all about trilogies – from starting the month reading a book about movies in pop culture that frequently cited Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy to following it with a romance trilogy to ending the month with a trilogy about zombie dinosaurs and a ‘trilogy’ of some of the remaining nonfiction books on the #2018TBR project.

The highlight of the month was the surprise announcement of the LONG anticipated sequel to Steven Savile’s 2011 book SILVER, GOLD, at the beginning of the month and its release just two weeks later. Which contained the most horrifically beautiful scene I have ever seen in a book.

Overall, I read 15 books in September 2018, per Goodreads. Five of them in just the last four days of the month. I now stand at 105 books read on the year, with at least five ARCs still outstanding. Of the 15 books this month, there were three series – Jamie Beck’s St James trilogy, Rick Chesler and David Sakmyster’s Jurassic Dead trilogy, and DJ Jamison’s Real Estate Relations series. There were three nonfiction books, Nate Silver’s 2012 The Signal and The Noise, Brendan McDonough’s Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers, which the 2017 movie Only the Brave was based on, and Jennifer Knapp’s Facing the Music. Overall, this month featured ten books from the #2018TBR project and just five review copies – four of them ARCs. I also read my first Century Book near the end of the month, crossing 100 books on the year for the first time in my life.

The 15 books combined for 4542 pages according to Goodreads, for an average of 302.8 pages per book – and took the single longest novel and nonfiction books off the #2018TBR stack.

Best series of the month goes to the Jurassic Dead trilogy by Rick Chesler and David Sakmyster. Because zombie dinosaurs. Do I really need to say more there? Ok, well, in book 2 the zombie dinosaurs attack Washington, DC. There. Now you have to read the trilogy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Most interesting book of the month goes to The Signal and The Noise by Nate Silver, as it was an astounding and needed look at applied probabilistic statistics and how they can help us make informed choices in a wide range of situations.

There really wasn’t any humor to be had in this month’s books for the most part, so I’ll go with most tear jerking book instead – and that is without a doubt Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers by Brendan McDonough. I watched Only the Brave last year, the movie based on this book, without knowing anything about the story. While on a Caribbean vacation. Yeah, that ending was very unexpected. Then. I knew what I was getting into reading the book, so I listened to the Audible. And still bawled my eyes out in the later chapters, which included a few scenes of the aftermath that I don’t remember making it into the movie. I almost challenge anyone to read this book via text form, as I don’t really think it is possible due to all the crying in those sections.

Overall book of the month? Has to go to the one I waited SIX YEARS for and spent literally YEARS begging for – Steven Savile’s GOLD. It was absolutely worth the wait.

As is traditional here, the full list, in date completed order, with links to Goodreads reviews of all:
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Featured New Release of the Week: Gold by Steven Savile

This week, we feature a book that produced a longer wait between books than even George R. R. Martin is infamous for. This week, we feature a book that I have waited more than SIX YEARS for, and other fans have waited over SEVEN YEARS for. This week, we feature Gold by Steven Savile.

Roughly six years ago, I was introduced to a “Secret World” Facebook book club by an author friend of mine who it turns out I gave the first review of his first book. In this new world, I met several authors and fellow readers alike, and have developed strong friendships with some of them, which is how I met Savile. At the time, one of the main books he was talking about was called SILVER, a story of a diverse team of spies, assassins, and soldiers came together outside the bounds of MI-6, similar to the crew in Mission: Impossible – but even more deadly and with even higher stakes.

SILVER, to this day, remains one of the best thrillers I have ever read and completely changed how I greet news of a new Papal election. It is HIGHLY recommended reading – but not the actual subject of this post.

But after reading SILVER, I wanted Savile to release GOLD post haste. I wanted to see how this story ended, dangit! And I would ask him about it quite frequently at first, petering out over the years until it got to the point where I never mentioned it.

Two weeks ago, Savile made a surprise announcement: GOLD was coming in just two weeks! SEVEN YEARS after the publication of SILVER, the Ogmios team was finally going to conclude their adventure. I was quite shocked to be offered an ARC, but hey, I never turn down those kind of opportunities – particularly not when it is THIS ARC, one of the ones I had hoped to be able to read for so long and was FINALLY getting a chance to.

And y’all, this book has lived up to the anticipation. As good as SILVER was – and it was truly phenomenal – this one may be even better. It has one particular scene in two parts that is the most horrifyingly beautiful scene I have ever read, bar none. It picks up with the fallout from SILVER, and the threats made in SILVER plague our heroes throughout this book as they fight to end this threat once and for all and save as many lives as possible – even as the odds are stacked ever more against them.

I don’t say this often, but this is truly one of those “drop whatever you’re reading and read this book” level books – it is *that* good.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon and YouTube reviews after the jump.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: Buyer’s Remorse by DJ Jamison

This week, we’re checking in on the real estate market in Fields, Kansas, specifically as it relates to commercial real estate suitable for a new deli. This week, we feature Buyer’s Remorse by DJ Jamison.

This book is the second in Jamison’s “Real Estate Relations” series and features leads who were secondary characters in the first book, Full Disclosure. In Full Disclosure, we meet Lee when he has to flee into an even more secretive form of witness protection after he is nearly killed thanks to a mole inside the US Marshall’s Service. He flees to Fields, Kansas with his guard, Reid, and they go undercover as boyfriends. Complicating this is that Reid begins to develop feelings for his new real estate agent, Camden… who happens to be best friends with fellow real estate agent Miguel.

In the beginning of Buyer’s Remorse, three years have passed since the events of Full Disclosure, and Lee is coming back to Fields of his own volition in an attempt to finally leave his past fully in his past. He brings his mom and sister along with him, and together the three of them intend to start a new deli. Complicating matters are Lee’s feelings for Miguel… and the fact that they find a dead body in the first building Miguel shows Lee.

This is an excellent second chance romance, one that really does a good job of exploring just how far a person will go to get forgiveness and move on from their mistakes. The mystery is better built, with even more perilous stakes for the couple than the first book – it seems that Miguel and Lee are constantly in danger of arrest, while Reid and Camden never really felt like they were in danger until the moment they were. The romance also struck me as more realistic in this book.

One thing I will note, in case it isn’t obvious: Yes, Lee and Miguel (and Reid and Camden) are both men, and yes, this is a romance book that largely adheres to the trappings of its genre. Meaning that yes, there is M/M sex in this book. If that is something that you can’t handle for whatever reason, just skip this book.

That said, this book is a very solid romance, and Jamison really set the stage to go in at least a couple of different directions with the next book in the series – one of which would be very intriguing indeed. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

As always, the Amazon/ Goodreads and Youtube reviews are after the jump.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: Infinite Blue by Darren and Simon Groth

This week, we find ourselves reading a great new adult romance with a tinge of science fiction. This week, we feature Infinite Blue by Darren and Simon Groth.

This book starts with an imperiled teenager – he is caught in a riptide, can’t get out, and is getting too tired to continue. A world class swimmer happens to be nearby and saves him… and they begin dating.

We next cut to a scene some months later, when the couple has been together for a few months already. And here, so early in this book, we get our first whispers of some science fiction elements – even while the story ostensibly remains about the couple and their work. (His art, her swimming). Soon enough in this less than 200 page book, our swimmer encounters a life changing tragedy and must find her way out of it – including whether or not she can remain with her boyfriend.

This is a great, quick read that shows the depth of love no matter the age of the adults involved and as such is quite a heavy read, even though quick. And that ending… left me breathless. Absolutely pick this book up, I for one am very much looking forward to future projects from the Groth Brothers.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon and Youtube reviews below the jump.
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Featured Release of the Week: Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls

This week, we turn to a science book that proved to be utterly fascinating. This week, we turn to Sleepyhead by British science journalist Henry Nicholls.

As we find out at the very beginning of this book, Nicholls has a very personal reason for looking into the science of sleep and sleep disorders – he himself is narcoleptic. And his own narcolepsy becomes the narrative that ties the entire book together.

In this extremely well researched book – the last 24% of the book is nothing but bibliography and index -, we get a personal and scientific look at narcolepsy, its origins, discovery, scientific basis, and personal effects. We also get an examination of several other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, phase disorder, and the feeling of being awake yet unable to move. We learn what scientists consider to be the causes of each, their effects, and how to attempt to manage them.

We also learn about the scientific reasoning for some of the general “better sleep” tips most of us have heard at some point – be careful with artificial lighting, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Indeed, the second chapter is all about the effect light has on the circadian rhythm and the chemical processes that control it. That said, DO NOT go into this book expecting a quick tip or two about how to get better sleep – you’ll get that, but it will be as a part of the scientific explanation behind that piece of advice.

Overall, this is truly a fascinating, approachable look at the science of something many of us barely actually consider – how exactly sleep works, why it is necessary, and how to try to get the best sleep possible. Very highly recommended.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review followed by the newer feature, the YouTube review!
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A Month of Reading: August 2018: Robinsonfest and ARCs

The highlight of this month – and easily in the running for highlight of the year – was finally meeting Jeremy Robinson in real life at Robinsonfest 2018 after having known him online for a decade. I flew into Boston for the first time in my life, for a weekend of firsts as far as locations, some modes of transport, and even some activities. I mean, how often in your life do you get to cosplay as yourself AND “cause the Apocalypse” while doing so? (Which is what is happening in the pic – here, I’ve just “planted corn”. When I did that in the book Jeremy wrote that I appear in, I wind up accidentally causing the Apocalypse.) I covered all of it in a post here both before and after the event, along with a couple of YouTube videos.

The end of August also marked a new review strategy for me – YouTube Book Reviews. The first was for The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker, and I’ve since shot videos for Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls and The Perfect Catch by Maggie Dallen.

Overall, I read just 9 books in August 2018, per Goodreads. But this was all unknown territory for me as far as overall annual count goes, as I busted my previous record there at the end of July and now I stand at 90 books on the year, with four more ARCs already on deck. Of the 9 books on the month, only three were from the same series – Lisa Clark O’Neill’s Sweetwater Trilogy. Only four of the books were from the 2018TBR project – the first three (the aforementioned trilogy) and the last one, The Postman by David Brin. The remaining five were review copies (four of them ARCs), with only one of those being from an author I’m not connected to at all on Facebook.

The 9 books accounted for over 3100 pages of (Kindle) text at an average length of 347 1/3 pages per book.

As I mentioned above, I only read one series on the month, so best series of the month goes to the Sweetwater Trilogy by Lisa Clark O’Neill.

Most interesting book of the month goes to Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls, which was a fascinating look at the neuroscience of sleep and sleep disorders.

There wasn’t much humor in the list again this month, just a couple that could really be considered humorous at all, and I’ll give the edge on those two to Christine Nolfi‘s The Comfort of Secrets, mostly because her Sweet Lake Sirens are frakkin hilarious old broads.

Best book of the month? Emily Bleeker‘s The Waiting Room, for reasons that can only be discovered by reading the book – it would be a spoiler to discuss them openly.

Below the break, the entire list, in date completed order – with links to my Goodreads reviews of each.
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Featured New Release of the Week: The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker

This week, we look at Emily Bleeker’s The Waiting Room. I’ve known Emily for a few years now, first getting curious about her when I saw her debut book WRECKAGE all over the place. Since then, we’ve become Facebook friends and brought each other into a few groups that we were each in.

In The Waiting Room, we encounter three characters – Veronica Shelton – our primary protagonist-, another woman, and a man. All three will come to intersect in this explosive examination of womens’ mental health and in particular the damage losing a child can wreak on the female psyche. Veronica is dealing with the death of her husband months earlier, just weeks after she gave birth to their daughter. And she has post partum depression so severe that she can’t even touch her daughter, so her mother has moved in to help take care of the baby. This part of the book is perhaps the darkest, most difficult section – but also a very real examination of this issue, at least as real as this man can imagine it would be. And it is this grounding that gives this tale its early gravitas, much like the titular wreck in Bleeker’s debut novel Wreckage just a couple of years ago.

But as we have come to expect with any Bleeker book – this being her fourth -, things are not always as they seem, and that begins becoming apparent about halfway into the book, when Veronica discovers that not only has someone been in her house taking pictures of her baby, but now her baby is missing – and her mother refuses to help her find her baby. This is about the point that the book summary stops, so I’ll reveal nothing further about the story other than to note that the story gains is true heft and power in the back half of the book. The front half, dealing with post partum depression, is deep in itself, but the front part of the book is more the edge of a continental shelf in the ocean, and the back half is the abyssal plain – far deeper and at times even more fascinating.

One particular line stood out in the book, and out of context it gives away nothing, so I’ll share it here because I like it so much: “Sometimes you run away from the flames, and other times you stay and help put out the fire.” In the end, that line effectively comes to summarize the entire book without really giving anything away about the back half.

Yet again, Bleeker has hit another home run, an absolute 5 star read no matter your scale. Very highly recommended, and I’m genuinely glad I was among the first to preorder.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon:
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Robinsonfest 2018: The Wrap Up

This time last weekend, I was laying in my hotel room at the Homewood Suites Hilton in Portsmouth NH, just a few hours away from going whale watching for the first time with Granite State Whale Watch in Rye, NH. I had already had amazing experiences dining at Moxy and Tuscan Kitchen in Portsmouth, NH and Wild Willy’s Burgers in Rochester, NH and had had a lot of fun racing, gaming, and playing putt putt at Hilltop Fun Center in Somersworth, NH as well as beginning the Apocalypse while relaxing at Butternut Farm in Farmington, NH. I had even been able to step foot in Maine long enough to get a selfie at Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery, ME.

I was doing all of this really fun stuff while also having a chance to meet and hang out with an author I’ve known online for a decade, Jeremy Robinson. The event, organized by Jeremy and his long time editor/ coauthor / friend Kane Gilmour, is called Robinsonfest mostly because Jeremy’s books are what bring everyone together, and no one has yet thought of a better name for it. As Jeremy somewhat wryly states in his own wrap up, he isn’t overly fond of the name and never really has been. ๐Ÿ™‚

But for those of us Jeremy brought together over a love of his books, it really was an awesome chance to just hang out with each other, have some fun, and relax. Having been to a few conferences of varying sizes both personally and professionally, it was a unique experience, even though it had the same basic idea – a bunch of people coming together over some commonality. At Robinsonfest, you had a fairly wide slice of life even with such a small amount of people. One person came from Australia and has made the trek across half a planet every year since this event started. One couple drove from Pennsylvania, where they both work in the government sector. Another couple came from Long Island, where he is a teacher and trying to break into the book narration field. Another guy came from the northern Chicago exurbs. I came from Georgia by by way of Jacksonville, the only person from the Southern US in the group. Most of us have known each other on Facebook for years. And while most of them had met each other and Jeremy and Kane in years past, I was the newbie to interaction in real life. And then there was the real newcomer, someone who mysteriously found out about Robinsonfest without any of the rest of us knowing and decided to come see what it was all about. Which was probably the most fascinating story of the weekend. Particularly once we discovered her reaction to the word “moist”. ๐Ÿ˜€ (Yes, I’m still needling her with it a week later. :D)

But the sense of camaraderie among all of these people, even while wildly divergent on all beliefs outside of the fact that Jeremy’s books are awesome, was simply amazing. And it was truly a truly phenomenal feeling to be a part of a group that could set aside all of those other differences and just hang out and be a community for a weekend. We laughed a lot, we cried a little. We worried when someone was worried. (A Kindle that was thought missing turned out to have been placed in an unexpected area of the person’s backpack. Yes, I am the person that misplaced his Kindle. :D)

I’ve got a summary video I shot 6 days ago as I was preparing to leave, and I’ve also got a 33 minute video I put together from everyone’s pictures and videos as well. I’ll link both of those after the jump.

But I want to close with this: I went into the weekend thinking that I could be the “weird guy”, as I have been in so many situations in my life. And instead, I was openly welcomed and embraced – in some cases literally. (There are some huggers in the bunch. :D) For someone that doesn’t have many friends, to be around people that I could so openly be myself with is always a treat. And it isn’t just fans of Jeremy’s books that come and are so embraced. There were at least three significant others there at various points of the weekend that really haven’t read Jeremy’s books at all, but were coming to support their partner. And they were made to feel just as welcome as anyone else, even if we did have to explain jokes based on Jeremy’s books (ok, so it was mostly me cracking those). So come if you’re a fan of Jeremy’s books. But come even if you’re just curious about them or have a partner that is either crazy or curious about them. You’ll be warmly embraced no matter what, and at minimum you will have a good time with good friends.
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Featured New Release of the Week: Coldfall Wood by Steven Savile

This week, we look at the latest release from another long time friend, Coldfall Wood by Steven Savile.

This book is the sequel to Savile’s late 2017 release, Glass Town, and picks up just some time after the end of that book, immediately dealing with the repercussions of that book – which will reverberate throughout this one. That said, this book can be read first – as I did – as everything that is crucially important from Glass Town is explained again in this book.

The front half of Coldfall Wood is basically setup and transition from Glass Town into the meat of the story of Coldfall Wood. We get a lot of detail about the origins of several new characters, and finally around the halfway point these new characters start to actually work on their mission. And what a mission it is – to destroy modern London and return her to her more natural state. The book actually does an excellent job of showing that everyone is the hero in their own story, that there are few indeed truly bad people. It also has some fairly blatant pro-environmental themes, though those are deftly pit against the idea of “well, we need to change things… but we also can’t just kill the people that are currently here or increase their suffering”.

Fans of fantasy books or Anglophiles generally should truly love this book, as it tends to be an excellent fantasy tale solidly centered on London and British myths of the Horned God, the once and future king, the Wild Hunt, and the surrounding myths.

And now, the “but”. I personally struggled mightily with this book, and both Savile and I thought I might. I’m not a fan of fantasy. As in, almost at all. Particularly the sword and sorcery level that this book gets into. I’m fine with real world stories with fantasy themes where the fantasy is almost a macguffin and/ or just hinted at to establish an overall mythology for a given series, but I just can’t handle the sword and sorcery level fantasy. I never have been able to get into it in text form, going back to some of my earliest reading experiences. So this book was extremely difficult for me – I was barely halfway into this book that Goodreads lists as 336 pages after 7 hours of reading. To put that in perspective, I normally read books twice that long in less time – and indeed did so just this past weekend with another author friend who I’ve known nearly as long as Savile and met in the same place I met him.

So this book just wasn’t for me, but it was extremely well written and a compelling story generally – one I personally would love to see in movie format, as I think it could do well in that medium. (And again, I have a history of being able to enjoy fantasy stories there – I’ve never been able to read more than a paragraph of Lord of the Rings, yet I *love* those movies.) Because of this, I gave Coldfall Wood 4 stars.

As always, here is my Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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