Monthly Archives: January 2016

Book Reviews: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

As is usual I received this book free for the purpose of review, this time from “Shelf Awareness.” Despite that abundant kindness, I’m utterly honest in my assessment.

The book describes itself as a thriller but I’m not completely sold on that assignment of genre. Really it’s more of a personal/crime drama. Our protagonist gets into some pretty tight spots and has to do absolutely anything she can to get out of them including… well, crime.

To the positive, the book is smoothly and well written. The text drips off the page like soft cream and you can get lost in the prose after only a few pages. The pacing is fast and pulls you along very steadily but never really reaches any huge crescendo. As you read you’re immediately plunged into a cloud of mystery on the very first page that’s not entirely resolved until very nearly the end.

To the negative, many of the plot-level details were rather implausible. Our deliciously strong protagonist pulls herself out of tighter and tighter spots until you can’t quite believe that any of it was possible. It is only the author’s writing skill that makes this palatable. In the hands of a lesser wordsmith the plot would have fallen to pieces like overcooked fish. As it stands, you take the gravy along with the lumps and never mind a bit.

In summary, this is a book for readers who like a strong and clearly empowered female protagonist who gets the job done but doesn’t feel hindered by the saddle of 100% credibility. “The Passenger” is a book to be gobbled down in one delicious bite on a cold winter day off. It’s not going to win any literary awards but it will keep you mentally engaged and interested in what’s going to happen on the next page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Embracing the Wild in Your Dog by Bryan Bailey

As is typical, I received this book free in exchange for a review. Also as usual I’ll be absolutely candid about it because I buy books too and I certainly wouldn’t want to get a stinker when I think I’m getting something great.

The nutshell view on this book is that it’s not only a book about dog behavior but also the personal journey of the author during his childhood in Alaska. Either of the intertwined narratives could stand on its own but together they make for a pretty engaging duo.

To the positive, the book has a lot of key information to convey about dogs and their behavior. It lays out in great detail the disservice we’re doing to our pets when we treat them like furry humans and gives the background needed to hopefully convince us of our folly. The author’s personal story meshes well with this message as he spends his early years under the tutelage of a survivalist in the wilds of Alaska and living with the animals about which he’s writing. The viewpoint is fresh, vibrantly written and has the deep ring of truth to it.

The only negative, which could be negative or positive depending on your view, is that it does have a strong streak of Native American mysticism to it. Each chapter is commenced with a quote from our wise predecessors on this continent and they tend towards the more spiritual rather than scientific view on animal behavior. To me, they compliment the other contents wonderfully but those who do not share my view on the wisdom of Native American teachings may find them rather ponderous. Further, it should be pointed out that this is NOT a book written to help you train your dog. The lessons here are conceptual in nature and not specific to any behavior. It won’t help you teach your dog to sit but it may help you figure out WHY he refuses to.

In short, in reading this book my mind turned to all the people I could give it to that might appreciate it and would benefit from it. I wish I had a half dozen copies to hand out because this is powerful insight that needs to be in the hands of dog owners everywhere. Properly framing the relationship between human and pet would make every dog in human care a lot happier.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Reviews: Unwanted (The Unwanted Chronicles) (Volume 1) by Matthew Muns

I received this book free in exchange for a review but despite that kindness I will be completely candid below.

The nutshell on this book is that it is a direct descendant of The Hunger Games and Divergent. There is a group of privileged few who live in relative luxury while the balance of the population slaves away to support them. Of course this enslaved majority doesn’t like that very much and they’ve united to try to unburden themselves.

To the positive side, and it’s difficult to find a positive side, the author does at least keep it simple. There’s no winding complexity to be had in this book. It’s lots of short choppy sentences that are fairly easy to digest.

To the negative, the book isn’t terribly original. It’s completely derivative and doesn’t have a lot of original things to say that make logical sense. Characters behave in ways that are nonsensical and ill befit their positions while saying things that contradict their actions. The text is over-dramatic and rife with typos and words that simply vanish into thin air via some form of typographical omission.

In summary, I have trouble finding a demographic to which I can recommend this book. It’s a pale shadow of a greater thing.

Some reviewers have asked if this is the “next big thing” but sadly it cannot be because this particular “big thing” is already over. Our author, as well intentioned as he must be, is simply copying what has come before. Unwanted is rather sadly derivative of things that have already been popular.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Reviews: Jolt: a rural noir by Roberta M Roy

I received this book free in exchange for a review but despite that I’ll be completely candid about it as will quickly become evident.

The nutshell on this book is exactly what the back cover would have you believe. A disaster ensues and the pages take you carefully and ploddingly through every minute detail of what comes thereafter.

To the positive, it is obvious that the writer really knows her material. She is an expert in how such a situation would play out and she spends a painstaking amount of time telling us all about it. The writing is also pretty solid for a book of this sort. A few typographical issues haunt its pages but fewer than the average self-published book.

To the negative, all this detail reads like a government report. One can read 10 pages only to realize that nothing has actually happened. This would be perfectly fine in the right context but the jarring single-word title, aggressive cover and the book’s milieu set the reader up to expect a story with some level of action. Instead we get a work with all the energy of the 6 am farm report.

In summary, the writer has written what could be restyled as a helpful book but wrapped it in a container that spoils it and sets readers off on the wrong path in thinking about what is to come. Perhaps if were to be retitled as “The sociological fallout of non-conventional weapons attacks on daily American life” then it would set a better precedent for itself. As it stands, it just plods on and the reader constantly keeps waiting for the key to change and for the tune to pick up. Sadly, it never does.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Reviews: Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart

The nutshell on this book is that it is, essentially, a self-help book. It doesn’t start out that way but at the end of the day, it’s quite a lot of fluff.

I was excited about this book for the entire first chapter. It starts out VERY grippingly. My thrall was complete. Then as the chapters dragged on, my enthusiasm drifted away like snow before the wind. Watch my YouTube video for the face-to-face description:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized