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review 2017-10-01 00:32
Okay, not quite what I thought it would be.
The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Mo... The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear - William J. Barber II,Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

I had heard of the Rev. Barber but it did not click until I saw him speak at the 2016 Democratic Convention. But once I connected the dots and saw that this book was available I was excited to read more, especially on the Moral Mondays movement and how it developed.

 

The book is a story of his life, with information of how Moral Mondays came to be plus advice for organizers at the very end. After seeing the convention speech I had expected (perhaps incorrectly) something either along those lines or more of a history of Moral Mondays (as the title indicates). Unfortunately that wasn't the case. 

 

I have a hard time with books that deal with religion (any religion whatsoever, it just doesn't interest me) in great detail or if it's a big underlying theme, etc. So I'll admit to being disappointed. There are reviews that talk about how it's not quite a history and that it's information that can be found in videos of his speeches. Unlike other reviewers I'm not as familiar with his work but I can understand why they were disappointed and think maybe this was something that should have been more for YouTube watching.

 

Still, for the right person this could be something that could really work for them/speak to them. It just didn't do it for me. The last part about organizing was probably the most interesting and informative one was more in line of what I thought the book was going to be. I borrowed this from the library and it sounds like that was best.

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review 2017-08-04 03:05
The series continues to impress, and the writing improves.
Strife: Third Book of the Nameless Chronicle - M. T. Miller

The first two books of this series feature Nameless just struggling to survive, while along the way stumbling into adventure, some wealth and other kinds of success. He really never seemed to have much of a plan, but things worked out in his favor (eventually, and at great cost). But after the great success -- if it is that -- after Ascent, Nameless isn't worried about survival, about doing more than subsisting this time. He's got time for plans -- not just plans for himself, but for the citizenry of the Pyramid.

 

Whoops. Maybe he should go back to just eking out a living.

 

Things don't go so hot for him this way -- but man, what character growth. Really, there are depths to Nameless that may not surprise readers, it makes sense that they exist, but we've never had the opportunity to see it before.

 

There are two other cities on the post-apocalyptic landscape, New Orleans and the White City. New Orleans is full of the New Voodoo Movement, and the White City is the home base of the One True Church of America -- religious movements that Nameless doesn't have a good track record with, and has done a lot to try to get rid of. Now both of these cities have plans for Babylon and Nameless -- but it's clear that pretty much all the White City wants out of them is abject surrender and assimilation. That's just not going to sit well with Nameless.

 

Now Nameless has to look at the world that he's helped to create, but he has a chance to reshape it, and save the city he's adopted.

 

There's some soul-searching here, there's a lot of exploration into what makes Nameless tick and his origins. But the focus is on what he's going to do next and why. This is only the third book in the series, so you really can't say what a "typical" Nameless book would be -- but whatever that would be, this isn't it. I don't know how to really talk about it without divulging all the nuts and bolts of the plot, sadly. There are old friends and new, old threats and new (and some old friends are new threats and vice versa). Which is not to say that the core of Nameless -- a ruthless, skillful killer of all in his way -- isn't there, he is and he does. But there's a little more to him than just that.

 

I've enjoyed Miller's writing in the past, but this is at a whole new level for him. There's a complexity to his writing, a subtlety that hasn't been there before. There's a good balance of lightness and darkness in the story, the writing itself. He's clearly maturing as a writer, hopefully people give him a shot to impress them, he will.

 

This isn't the place to jump on for new readers -- the first two books are cheap and pretty entertaining, too, grab them first. I don't know if Miller's going to be able to keep this series going, if so, I can't wait to see where he goes from here. But if not, I'm more than satisfied with where things are left. A very satisfying ending after a good mix of thrills, fighting and character growth.


Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Thanks, Mr. Miller! This didn't impact my opinion of the book in any discernible way.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/08/03/strife-by-m-t-miller
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review 2017-07-04 18:05
Third Grave Dead Ahead / Darynda Jones
Third Grave Dead Ahead - Darynda Jones

Paranormal private eye. Grim reaper extraordinaire. Whatever. Charley Davidson is back! And she's drinking copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake because, every time she closes her eyes, she sees him: Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan. Yes, she did imprison him for all eternity, but come on. How is she supposed to solve a missing persons case, deal with an ego-driven doctor, calm her curmudgeonly dad, and take on a motorcycle gang hellbent on murder when the devil's son just won't give up?

 

***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

Some light-hearted fluff to follow an interesting non-fiction book.

I’m tiring of Charley & Reyes, since they seem to make very little progress on their relationship from book to book. In this one, he kidnaps her at knife-point, but that it somehow okay because she “knows that he cares about her.” And although I appreciate her friendship with Cookie, it really seems like both of them are way too focused on “finding a man” and not paying enough attention to their families, their careers, and all the myriads of others things that life consists of. I want to give both of them Penelope Russianoff’s book Why Do I Think I Am Nothing Without A Man?.

Having little luck with Reyes, Charley is throwing herself at two other guys, without really considering the consequences and the thought of the entanglements to come wearies me already. Needless to say, if I continue reading this series, I will be in no hurry to pick of the next volume.

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review 2017-06-28 21:35
A solid and entertaining cozy mystery set in the world of the circus, and a must for those who love big cats
A Spark of Justice - J.D. Hawkins

I was sent an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is classed as a cozy mystery and is set in the world of the circus, probably in the recent past, although this is not specified and the novel has a somewhat timeless feel.  There are mobile phones (but hardly ever used, and most people rely on land lines as nobody is located unless they are at home or at work), computers (but only an old-fashioned one is ever mentioned or seen and reports are paper based) but most people do not seem to use any modern commodities, although the mauling of Rolo, the lion tamer and the victim whose murder/accidental death is the mystery at the centre of the novel, is available on YouTube. And of course, the circus where the story is set still has performing animal, including big felines (lions, leopards, tigers, and panthers). In the US there is no federal ban as such yet (although they are banned in many countries) but most of the big circuses have stopped showing those numbers (and indeed Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave its last performance in May this year) and there are many local bans, so that adds to the feeling of a somewhat idealised and old-fashioned world.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of John (Juan) Nieves, an insurance investigator of Puerto Rican origin, born in New York, who left his studies as a vet to join the police, and after working for the police for a time, moved to the Mid-West and changed his job to try and save his marriage. Unfortunately, it did not work, but he loves his son, thinks about him often and lives for his visits.  His lifestyle is itinerant and he feels no strong attachment to his current job or to his apartment. For some reason, he feels irresistibly attracted to the world of the circus from the moment he sets foot in it. Although he does not like clowns and he is less than welcome by the circus artists initially, he cannot stop going back, even when he does not have a very good reason to. At first, it seems it is due to his attachment to detective work and to his wish to solve the mystery, but later we realise there is something else at play.

As happens in all good detective or mystery novels, the story is not only about the mystery but also about the investigator. In this case, John’s motives and sense of self and identity are put into question from the very beginning, and eventually, the process of self-discovery becomes more interesting than the case itself. If circuses have traditionally been places where people could run away from their circumstances and become a new person, this novel shows them as a big family happy to accommodate those who might not fit into normal society and others who want to become who they feel they really are, no matter how alternative. It is perhaps significant that Rolo did not spend all year with the circus but lived at times with his outside family, and was not as fully invested as the rest of the artists and did not truly belong.

The mystery is pretty intriguing too, don’t get me wrong. A death by a deadly tiger attack is not everyday news, and the fact that the tiger had been spooked by an electrical spark from a damaged cable makes it even less common. There are a suitably large number of suspects (both from within the circus —as Rolo was not very well liked, for reasons we discover later—, and from his personal life, including a wife, a lover, and a brother), a complex web of deceit and betrayal; there are threats and warnings to John to keep out of circus’s business, and there are wonderful descriptions of the world of circus, wild cats, clowns, and behind the curtains insights that will delight anybody who has ever felt curious about this world.

Although there are anxiety provoking and scary moments (near- miss accidents, close calls with a knife thrower, eerie moments with a lion and a panther, and also more run of the mill human violence), there is no actual gore and the investigation itself is not precise and full of detail (in fact, once some of the suspects are removed from the scene they practically disappear from the story).

I liked John (Juan) Nieves, the main character. He is not the usual noir detective, full of clever repartees and sarcastic comments. He thinks before he acts (mostly); he is not unduly violent and uses no foul language; he thinks of his son often and is kind towards animals and kids, and he acknowledges his weaknesses, his doubts, and his mistakes. He is happy to let certain things drop and to hide others that have no real bearing on the matter and will not affect his employer. He is not a rigid believer in the value of finding the truth and revealing it at all costs and is more interested in human beings (and big cats) than he is in some perfect vision of duty.  The author, who describes a personal background in carnival attractions, creates some interesting secondary characters, particularly the circus’s performers, although due to how different clowns look with and without makeup, it is quite easy to get confused as to who is who, but this does not prevent us from following the plot and enjoying the story.

I have read some comments that describe the ending as a let-down and this is true if we think of the novel as being only about the investigation of Rolo’s death. On the other hand, if we see it as a process of investigating and revealing who the real John (Juan) Nieves is, there is no disappointment at all.

Recommended to lovers of cozy mysteries set in original settings, to those who like big cats (or cats of any size), and to readers who appreciate a good background and an inside knowledge of the world of circus, especially those who feel nostalgic about a world that seems to be on the verge of disappearance. A solid and entertaining read.

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