#BookReview: Project To Product by Mik Kersten

Intriguing Theory Scant On Application. This is one of those books you might read in a Computer Science degree program – probably more on the Master’s degree level rather than the Bachelor’s, as this is more designed for Tech/ Business Leadership than necessarily a traditional Bachelor’s program that is more geared towards students entering the workplace or pursuing further academic careers. *In theory*, the theory here presented sounds pretty solid. While using a manufacturing plant as the touchpoint even though the author later admits that physical manufacturing and software development actually have little in common even in the theoretical world Kersten has crafted here, the actual software development theories *sound* like they could work. But that is precisely the ultimate problem here – though not enough of a problem to warrant a star deduction. Namely, that in failing to provide even a singular concrete example – even from within a classroom or study! – of how this could potentially work in the “real” world, Kersten does himself and his readers a significant disservice.

This book was actually recommended to me by my Group Manager when speaking of my own future career goals as an existing roughly mid career Senior Developer, and again, from a more Tech Leadership level, the book really was quite fascinating. I just *really* wish there had been even a single instance of real world application of the theory at any level at all.

Recommended.

This review of Project To Product by Mik Kersten was originally written on December 29, 2023.

#BookReview: Tides Of Fire by James Rollins

Sigma. Is. Back. With Kingdom Of Bones, it looked like Rollins was delving too far into the fantastical and leaving behind the more grounded roots of this series. Here… the ties are more to the scifi than the fantastical, including The Abyss, Pacific Rim, Earthcore by Scott Sigler, and even… Mass Effect 3??? Yes, there is one particular scene roughly 2/3 into this tale that while not *quite* word for word with a particular moment in Mass Effect 3, is damn close – and the sentiments and reasons are identical within their worlds. (To be fair, in this particular situation… the wording is always going to be very similar, no matter where you encounter it.)

But more than the scifi zeitgeist connections here, this tale truly gets back to the real roots that make Sigma Force so special. We’ve got the historic and the scientific, and again, the scientific is at least more closely based on actual science this time around. But we’ve also got the camaraderie among the team, including having most of the team (minus Painter, Lisa, and newer team member Jason) together the first time we see them and having a bit of a mini-adventure then as the overall tale begins to pick up. Then we’ve got the Sigma Split, with the team breaking up to go their own separate projects to try to uncover and stop whatever is happening. Each of their specialties get highlighted and tested to degrees not seen in recent Sigma books in a fair amount of time, even Gray’s “special brain”. More akin to David Wood’s Dane Maddock Adventures in this particular point, there are even several callouts to other characters from prior Sigma tales and how those characters are still impacting the world even through the events of this tale.

And that epilogue… It sets up the 2024 entry into this series to be one of the most explosive in quite some time, and you’re going to want *that* book in your hands the moment you finish this one.

Very much recommended.

This review of Tides of Fire by James Rollins was originally written on August 12, 2023.

#BookReview: Kingdom Of Bones by James Rollins

The Most Fantastical Sigma Book Yet – Yet Also Much More Real Than Previous Attempts. You can almost see in this book where Rollins was working on his fantasy books by this point, or at least his mind was already going that direction, just by how truly implausible and into the outright fantastical the “science” of this book gets. As in, hello Fergully / Avatar, complete with vividly colored creatures and mystical tree with healing powers. And yet, this is still solidly a Sigma Force tale, complete with a divided team and links to both history and science, however tenuous. Still, it may truly be getting to the point of needing to end on as high a note as possible before becoming a laughingstock, because yes, admittedly, this one does truly get that bad at times in reflection, while still feeling like the taught action thriller it is while reading it.

For those that can’t possibly read about animals being in any degree of “harm” at all, know that war dog handler Tucker and his dog, Kane, play major roles here – and indeed, some of the more inventive while still realistic roles in this tale.

As for the “Much More Real Than Previous Attempts” bit, in The Last Oracle Rollins portrayed Autistics as damn near superhumans, with almost god-like abilities. Here, the Autistic character – a different one, and seemingly the first one mentioned at all in Sigma since Oracle – is a much more grounded and realistic Autistic, complete with hyperfocusing, rambling, self-recriminations, blowups, sensory issues… and no real meltdowns, which is perhaps the only “not-real” aspect of this particular character. In other words, at least in regard to Autism generally, Rollins shows tremendous growth over the last decade or so and is to be commended for showing how such a person could be a benefit even in such tense, potentially Apocalyptic, times.

Overall, this is going to be a particularly divisive book mostly because of just how fantastical it does get at times, but I thought while reading it that it worked perfectly well within the story – though even while reading it I was thinking it was a touch fantastical, and the Avatar notes in particular were unavoidable even while reading – and this was a solid several hours of pure escapist fun, no matter the exact bent of the genre of the story. Very much recommended.

This review of Kingdom of Bones by James Rollins was originally written on August 1, 2023.

#BookReview: Aeon Burn by Matthew Mather

Solid Middle-Of-Trilogy Tale. This book is one of those that has basically one goal – tell a solid tale that picks up well from the opening book and sets up the final book to be MUST. READ. It does that job pretty solidly. It continues our various storylines from the first book, though it perhaps could have used a “Last Time, On…” bit at the beginning for some of the storylines that don’t get *as* much attention. But the two main storylines – in the Amazon and on a race through the US – are well done, the chapters nearly all end on the classic mini-cliffhangers that make you want to read the next chapter immediately (while skipping to one of the other storylines for the next chapter and thus making you wait to come back to the cliffhanger you just left). The reveals get more and more impactful, all while the overall situation continues to deteriorate in light of the events of the opening book. And yet… *so much more* is coming. Indeed, the only real weakness of the tale here is that while so much more is indeed coming and this book truly sets up the final book where those things, along with the major confrontation between our heroes and primary antagonist, will be resolved… because of the *timing* of those So Much More events, the ending here takes a much more expanded time scope than the rest of the tale before that point, which leaves one with a minor sense of pacing issues. Still, this is a problem even the great T2 trilogy by S.M. Stirling faced – and wound up working quite well. So we’ll see how this works out when AEON FURY releases next year.

A note here: This is the book that Mather had apparently mostly completed when he was tragically killed in a car accident in September 2022, and thus this is his last work. While it is always a high honor to be able to work such a book as an Advance Reviewer Copy, my thoughts on the tale itself above are *just* about the tale and how it was completed out by Dale Nelson, whom Mather’s family brought in to do just that. This book really does do quite an honor to Mather’s legacy, but my own hope is that Nelson’s name can be on the cover of AEON FURY along with Mather’s, recognizing his work both here and in that book. I do not know if FURY will be entirely Nelson (or some other author, potentially)’s work or if Mather had at least left some level of notes or perhaps even rough drafts of some of that tale, but to my own thinking the cover author there should perhaps read something like “[smaller letters]In Memory Of[/smaller letters][big letters]Matthew Mather[/big letters][smaller letters]Written By[/smaller letters][medium letters]Dale Nelson (or whoever it turns out to be)[/medium letters]”. But this is just my own thoughts there based on my own sensibilities, and won’t really actually affect that book in any way.

Final thoughts:
Overall, this book truly was a solid Book 2 of a trilogy, one that did a great job of extending the story from Book 1 and setting up an exciting conclusion in Book 3. The more complex emotions relating to this being its author’s final work only add a touch of extra “spice” to the feelings of a genuinely good book. Very much recommended.

This review of Aeon Burn by Matthew Mather was originally written on July 8, 2023.

#BookReview: Remote by David Heinemeier Hanson and Jason Fried

Hallelujah. One thing of note up front: I read the Audible version of this, so I have no way of knowing how well documented it is – and given its almost memoir-based approach, those tend to be on the lighter side of documentation. But again, because of the form I consumed this book in, I just don’t know.

This caveat understood up front, this text is absolutely phenomenal – and will have any office worker in 2023 scratching their heads over why virtually *any* of us are constrained to a physical location we must report into x number of times per week. This book is a decade old this year, released *well* before certain worldwide insanities led to a (sadly temporary) shift to very nearly 100% remote work for a time, and yet lays out the case for fully remote work *even with that era’s tech* so clearly and so completely that one will be left wondering why any business person would ever consider forcing their staff to work in a physical office space, unless that business person happens to own said space outright and can’t offload it because everyone else is going fully remote.

For those of us who love(d) working remote, this is absolutely preaching to the choir and having them sing its praises from the rafters. Even for those more opposed to remote work… read this book and try to find a reason the authors here haven’t already addressed, up to and including your own personal preferences and management styles.

Indeed, the most irritating thing about this book is how long it has existed and how few business leaders in 2023 are heeding its lessons. Particularly business leaders who spent 2020 and 2021 praising their teams’ increased productivity while fully remote.

So read this book. Learn why remote work really is the best work for everyone whose jobs don’t involve physically touching some widget or another. And then go and spread the message ever more.

Very much recommended.

This review of Remote by David Heinemeier Hanson and Jason Fried was originally written on June 14, 2023.

#BookReview: You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard

Hunter and Hunted – But Who Is Who? This is one of those books that seems like it wants to take on Big Ideas, but in its brevity… eh, those Big Ideas are more sacrificed to telling a more compelling and less potentially divisive story, while still hitting some of the high points of the Big Ideas. Ultimately, this is a book whose main characters are very finely drawn and nuanced… and whose lesser players are almost cardboard caricatures. Still, Heard here uses the main characters, their varying histories, and the island setting (through at least half the book) quite well indeed to craft a suspenseful tale that will keep you on the edge of your beach or pool lounger just enough to keep your feet in the water… without giving you a heart attack before you can finish the book and dive in. A couple of bits in particular are more mind-bending than others, though those are quickly moved on from and the more cat and mouse nature of the book again reasserts itself. Overall a solid, mildly pulse pounding book that will be quite enjoyable as a vacation read and one that should be able to be devoured almost no matter how little reading time one may have on a summer break or vacation. Very much recommended.

This review of You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard was originally written on May 26, 2023.

#BookReview: Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell

Strong Claims Need Strong Documentation. Ultimately, the greatest weakness of this book comes down to the title of the review – and the reason for both star deductions here. The text is barely documented at all, coming in at just 10% or so of the overall text – well below the 20-30% which is more typical in my extensive experience reading advance reviewer copies of nonfiction texts. Though as I’ve begun noting of late, I may need to revise that expectation down a touch – to 15%, not 10%. The other star deduction comes from the other part of the title – while the overall premise about the titular Outrage Machine seems sound and the explanations directly on it seem fairly spot-on, Rose-Stockwell uses the sciences, history, and even semi-current events in a way that actually brings to mind the practice rampant in the Christian nonfiction space known as “prooftexting”, wherein Bible verses are cited outside of their context, and often even contrary to their original context, in “proof” of some point or another. Here, Rose-Stockwell does this with the sciences and history, both near and far. Yes, many of the examples he cites seem at least somewhat relevant, but even in the most relevant of them (such as his discussion of COVID), he ignores and even denigrates needed context which deviates from his intention. At other times, he simply gets the needed context quite wrong, which was particularly noticeable in his treatment of some of the issues surrounding the Founding of the United States and which other, far more well documented, texts have explored in much more and more even depth.

All of this noted, to be crystal clear, this really is an important book that when focusing on its central premise of the Outrage Machine and how it works both now and throughout history, is actually quite good. I was simply hoping for a better argued, perhaps slightly more academically rigorous, explanation of the topic at hand – and this is almost more of a memoir form of discussing how Rose-Stockwell realized the idea himself and came to explain it to himself, if that makes any sense. But again, truly an important work that can legitimately add to the overall discussion, and thus recommended.

This review of Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell was originally written on May 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Intruders by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders

Pulse Pounding Conclusion Evokes ALLEGIANT To A Degree. This is a solid continuation and conclusion of the EXILES story, and both combined are short enough that one almost wonders why the two books (each sub-300 pages) were not simply written as one complete story rather than one story in two halves? It seemed to make sense at the end of EXILES, when at least my own expectation was that this would be a second trilogy from the twin sisters that write twin characters. With this clearly being a short duology now… one begins to question a bit more. Ultimately, I’ll leave the 5* and not deduct one for blatant cash grab, but I’ll also be interested to see what other readers think on that point, and perhaps hear in some interview or social media post or some such why the decision was made to split the story as it was. That noted, particularly with its emphasis on fear and our heroes having vials that can evoke or conquer fear… yes, this book absolutely has a degree of a feel of ALLEGIANT to it. Which was an interesting connection, given just how reviled the ending to that particular tale was (though to be crystal clear and yet without actually giving anything away, this tale does *not* use the specific type of ending that got ALLEGIANT most of the scorn it has ultimately gotten – scorn that I have disagreed with since the moment I finished that book myself).

And yet, even with these issues this tale really was another pulse-pounding thrill ride, perhaps with fewer questions for the reader to ponder and more fights to marvel at. The sisters continue to show their evolving skills and natural-seeming storytelling talent, and it will be very interesting to see what they come up with next. Very much recommended.

This review of Intruders by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders was originally written on January 3, 2023.

#BlogTour: Mr Perfect On Paper by Jean Meltzer

For this blog tour we’re looking at a comedic look at romance during the Jewish High Holy Days that presents some interesting ideas. For this blog tour we’re looking at Mr Perfect On Paper by Jean Meltzer.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Interesting Story Built Primarily Around Jewish Holidays With Epic Final Meeting. This was a genuinely interesting – if long (seriously, the same story could have been told with roughly half the length and worked just as well, maybe better) – story built around a Jewish tech magnate and a desperate ploy to use the Jewish High Holy Days (+ Hanukah) as a way for a daytime TV show to save its ratings and thus the jobs of its staff. The comedy hits well, particularly in the initial appearance of the tech magnate on the TV show and on the first few dates (that all end in some form of disaster). The romance plods along a bit (this is where the shorter length proposed above could dramatically help), but the slow build works to get to a truly epic final meeting between the lead couple. Overall a solid story and well told, and gets some different ideas out to boot without being overly preachy about them. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Mr Perfect On Paper by Jean Meltzer”

#BookReview: Aeon Rising by Matthew Mather

This week we’re looking at an action packed series starter from a thrilling scifi author. This week we’re looking at Aeon Rising by Matthew Mather.

Action Packed Series Starter. This is one hell of an action packed series starter for Mather, and one that despite a few similar general ideas (such as crippled communications due to space activity) with his CyberStorm series never gets quite as dark as that one can. Indeed, the darkest thing here is unfortunately all too common, but to reveal it specifically would be a spoiler (though even here, Mather manages to put a scifi twist to it in furtherance of his ultimate series objectives). The different types of action here are reminiscent of everything from nearly-every-Amazon-based-action-movie-you’ve-ever-seen such as Predator or Anaconda, just to name a couple, to more urban based ala Daniel Pyne’s Sentro Security or a Mission Impossible / Jason Bourne type. Throw in some elements similar to Deep Impact, as well as a few other elements of a few other popular tales that would be a touch spoilery to add here, and you’ve truly got a promising start to a potentially long series. This book is mostly set-up without ever truly *feeling* like it is mostly set-up – the action is tightly paced, as is the exposition, there is just *so much here* that by the end it is quite clear that this series is intended as a trilogy at minimum. Very much recommended.