#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: The Lost Book Of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock

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.

This review of The Lost Book Of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock was originally written on April 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Loserville by Clayton Trutor

Intriguing Look At Atlanta And Professional Sports History. As I sit to write this review, the Atlanta Braves are less than 90 minutes from First Pitch on Game 5 of the 2021 World Series – and with a 3-1 lead over the Houston Astros, Atlanta stands a chance at winning the series in front of the home town crowd before the sun rises again, its first in 26 years. And yes, I’ve made it a point to read this book – which I’ve had on my ARC Calendar for seemingly a couple of months now – this particular weekend, for exactly this reason.

Here, Trutor does a phenomenal job of showing the full history of the first decade of professional sports in Atlanta, with all five of its major league teams at some point in the late 60s to early 70s – my parents’ own childhood, on the exurbs of the very town in question. Indeed, Trutor speaks of the *development* of things that were well-established by my own childhood in the same region in the 80s and 90s, such as the Omni, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the Georgia Dome, and even Underground Atlanta (which apparently had been redone by the time of my childhood, as it wasn’t nearly so infamous then). He then does a great job of showing how while Atlanta was the first Southern City to acquire these franchises, there were (and are) several other Southern Cities that have largely followed Atlanta’s model over the decades since… with similar results, for the most part.

There are arguably two weaknesses to the version of this text I read: On a style side, the final chapter, covering in broad strokes what happened in the other Southern Cities that tried to follow Atlanta and how they turned out over the years, is a bit of an abrupt ending. Apt, but abrupt.

The other is that Trutor tends to argue that race played quite a bit of a role in the development of Atlanta Sports and what I came to know as the Geography of Atlanta. I wasn’t alive during the periods Trutor mostly covers, so I can’t speak to those periods as the Native Georgian I am. But I *can* speak to one move Trutor covers, if briefly – the Braves’ move from Turner Field to SunTrust (now Truist) Park over the last decade, where fans are finding their seats as I type this to hopefully watch their hometown baseball club win the 2021 World Series. I was actually there for that one, and as one of those fans on the northern Perimeter I can attest to a lot of the fears about safety and finding a good (yet not overly expensive) parking spot at Turner Field. (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where I saw my first Braves games as a child and even a monster truck rally or two, was demolished right around the time my age began having two digits in it, so I can’t speak to issues there.) I can also attest that the new Battery design is much more conducive to getting me to spend money in the area immediately around the park, which is something the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium / Olympic Stadium / Turner Field site has never offered. But these are observations from a native who has been to the relevant areas throughout his life – vs a Vermont-based academic.

Even with these differences though, Trutor’s work here is truly well written and solidly documented – roughly 20% of this copy was bibliography, and the prose here is enlightening and engaging without ever going too deep into “academic speak”. Fans of Atlanta and Georgia sports or history are absolutely going to need to read this book, and indeed fans of major US sporting in general should fine quite a bit here to be illuminating. Even people who decry “sports ball” will find an utterly fascinating read about a little-documented series of events that has come to shape, in parts, the entirety of American professional sporting. Very much recommended.

This review of Loserville by Clayton Trutor was originally written on October 31, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Anchored In Jesus by Johnny Hunt

This week we’re looking at another former Southern Baptist Convention President’s latest book. This week, we’re looking at Anchored In Jesus by Johnny Hunt.

As I say in the Goodreads review below, just to be completely upfront: I’ve been in the crowd a few times when Johnny Hunt has preached. The church he has been at for over 20 years, Woodstock First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga, was where some relatives were members for several years and was not far from my grandfather’s home in nearby Hickory Flat. One aunt in particular damn near considers the guy one of her favorite preachers ever.

So I know the guy and his style, despite neither of us ever saying a single word to the other in any medium I am aware of, including face to face. And I knew what I was getting into in reading this book. And the only thing that struck me as somewhat unexpected was when he specifically speaks of showing love for everyone, no matter their sins. Some of his parishioners… well, they’re some of the reasons I began using the term “Talibaptist” many years ago, and some of them are fairly influential in local and State politics there.

But the book itself very much reads as though you are sitting in the sanctuary for his Sunday morning sermons for a month or two (twelve total chapters, but a couple of them could be combined into one sermon). And they really are pretty much exactly what he would say on a Sunday morning, all the way down to outright including the Sinner’s Prayer a couple of times. If you’re a conservative evangelical American christian, you’re going to love this book. The further you are away from that philosophy… the more you likely won’t. If you don’t want a preachy book even if you are in that mindset, I cannot emphasize enough that this book reads as though he strung several sermons together.

Theologically, I can and over the last 20 yrs have several times poked so many holes in the overall theology that it begins to resemble swiss cheese, but again, I knew what I was getting into here so I’m not overly going to lambast it in this review. Hunt is a bit more hard headed and blunt than I prefer, and absolutely old school – at one point he tells the story of talking to his daughter about the birds and the bees years ago and says that he told her “if a boy tries to get you in the backseat of a car, you better not go back there!”. Basically the dude is one of those that you listen to while letting most of his points go in one ear and out the other, because he does occasionally have a solid if not excellent point, and those are usually worth sticking around to find. Kind of like a bitter grandmother or crazy aunt. You respect them, and you’ve heard it all before, but occasionally you get an “aha” moment.

Thus, I think the three stars I decided on for this book are pretty solid for my own feelings with it. Again, someone more ardently in Hunt’s particular mindset will likely rate it higher, those brave souls who read this book despite being even less inclined to Hunt’s mindset than I will likely be a bit more harsh. But I’m comfortable with this, and this is my review and my blog. 🙂

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:

A Few Good Points. A Few Troubling Ones. Standard Johnny Hunt. Full disclosure up front: I’ve been in a few crowds Johnny Hunt has preached to, and some relatives have been members of First Baptist Woodstock, where he preaches. So I know most of Johnny’s story, what he believes, and his style. And this book is effectively sitting through a month or two of his sermons – each chapter tends to sound nearly identical to a given weekly sermon, in at least two instances complete with the Sinner’s Prayer. And that is why I can’t rate this book any higher, yet also don’t feel comfortable rating it any lower. Conservative American Evangelical Christians will likely hit this book with 5*, the further away you are from that group, the lower your rating will likely be. Overall he does in fact make some solid points, he just does it in the lazy country preacher style I’ve known him to employ for the last 20 yrs – which works well in a region that 20 yrs ago still composed a fair amount of farmland, despite being in the middle of Metro Atlanta’s northward surge. Recommended, just do your own research any time he makes a claim.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Post by Kevin Munoz

This week we look to an excellent post Apocalyptic zombie tale by a promising debut author. This week, we look to The Post by Kevin Munoz.

This was a book that was very reminscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in terms of overall bleakness. The key difference being that while I often cite The Road as the singular worst book I have ever read, this particular book was genuinely great. While I cop to being a Georgia native – and UGA athletics fan -, I am not overly familiar with most of the particular locales described in this book. That said, it is always nice to see an area you’ve known even a bit to be featured in a book. This book is an excellent examination of how society can rebuild itself from nearly anything, including the dual Apocalyptic events described as having happened years before the events here. Truly an excellent human centered book that happens to take place in a world that has survived the Zombie Apocalypse and is still in the process of rebuilding, this book shows those efforts – and secret efforts that could undo every ounce of progress made so far. I really cannot heap enough praise on this debut work. If you are open to genre, read this book. If you like post Apocalypse, read this book. If LGBT centered stories are your particular bent, you will also enjoy this book. If you’re just looking for a solidly entertaining read, read this book. Seriously, just read this book and hope – as I do – that we get an unnecessary yet welcome sequel.

And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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