Thursday, June 30, 2016

Grace, by Randy Alcorn

At a conference a debate arose about "what belief, if any, was unique to the Christian faith."  C.S. Lewis chimed in: "That's easy.  It's grace."  Grace.  Amazing Grace.  Grace that is greater than all my sin.  There's no question that grace is central to the theology and experience of the Christian life.

Randy Alcorn has been chewing on grace and has gathered his own ruminations, as well as those of many other Christians, in a new 203 day devotional, Grace: A Bigger View of God's Love.  (Why 203 days?  That's 29 weeks.  If there's a significance to the number of days, I totally missed it.)  Each day's reading consists of a verse (or two or three) of scripture, a paragraph or so from Randy, and a quote from a pastor or writer.  The reading is certainly short enough to read over your morning cup of coffee and have plenty of time left to reflect.

I like Alcorn, and have enjoyed his thoughtful and challenging work through the years.  While I welcomed the opportunity to reflect on grace, and to be reminded of God's amazing grace and love for me, I was a little disappointed in this book.  I picture him gathering quotes about grace over the years, and when he has another book manuscript due he puts them together, slaps together some comments, and ships it off to his publisher.  There are certainly worse ways to spend five minutes each morning, but Grace wasn't all that amazing.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Poverty Industry, by Daniel L. Hatcher

This book makes my blood boil.  University of Baltimore law professor Daniel Hatcher has exposed a perspective on the welfare state that is as disgusting as it is unsurprising.  In The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America's Most Vulnerable Citizens, Hatcher examines the widespread practice of federal and state governments working with providers and private firms to siphon off funds intended for the poor and elderly to fund other government budgets and agencies.

Put crudely, a target population, e.g. foster children or elderly nursing home residents, qualify for federal grant money.  State governments contract with private firms for "revenue maximization" to discover what sources of additional funding individuals may qualify for.  Then the state accesses those funds, such as by being named as payee for a minor in foster care, and absorbs those funds into the general state budget.

Hatcher gives example after example of the various ways state and local governments accomplish this.  The resulting "poverty-industrial complex" results in "Medicaid funds . . . often not used for Medicaid purposes." "Child welfare agencies . . . obtain foster children's Social Security benefits for state use," while "states and their revenue contractors seek out loopholes and illusory schemes to maximize and divert the aid to other uses."

I don't share Hatcher's absolute opposition to the use of contractors to maximize revenue.  It's the practice of diverting funds to uses other than the benefit of the children, disabled individuals, or retirees for whom the funds are intended that troubles me.  The fault lies less with the contractors than with the government agencies that are directing the funds, reflecting the inevitable corruption caused by the centralization of power with people who have a great deal of access to other people's money.

I also wonder about Hatcher's blanket assumption that the funds are misdirected.  He makes a solid case, but when, for example, funds intended for a foster child are put into the general fund, is it possible that these funds rightly go toward the bureaucracy that supports the foster care system?  In that case, the conversation should center around the role of such a bureaucracy and its necessity and effectiveness.  Granted, this may be beyond Hatcher's topic, but I think it should be addressed.

Lawmakers, agency heads, state and local government officials, please take note of this book.  Activists for foster children and disabled individuals, please hold the government to account.  To the extent Hatcher is right, the practices he describes must stop.  It's unconscionable, and a violation of public trust.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, June 27, 2016

My Year of Running Dangerously, by Tom Foreman

When TV news correspondent Tom Foreman's daughter suggested they run a marathon together, it didn't come completely out of the blue.  After all, he was a decent runner in his youth, and had run some marathons.  But now that he was on his second half-century, running a marathon was not on his current list of superpowers.  In My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, A Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan, Foreman tells the story of their training, their race, and his ongoing running and racing experiences.

Like any good running memoir, Foreman writes with contagion.  The reader can't help but be swept up in his renewed love of running and commitment to training.  Even though he had lots of natural speed and ability as a teenager and into his twenties, when he starts training for the marathon, he's way out of shape.  He hadn't run in years.  His rebirth as a runner is encouraging to those of us who have never been runners or have been avoiding the starting line and training routes for a long time.

Further, he writes about fitting in his training in a busy schedule.  Sure, he had to sacrifice time with his family and doing other activities as he mileage increased, but he managed to train for a marathon and then a 50-miler while not completely alienating his family and while working actively as a TV journalist.  His experience is a reminder that, even though it can get challenging, it's possible to fit your training in.

Trust me on this: Foreman's book is not as boring as my review.  I enjoyed his style and light-hearted comments.  Examples:

  • On the popularity of half marathons: "If you finish well, you can brag about it, and because the word marathon is in the race title, non-runners will take notice."
  • On staging ultramarathons "out in the woods": "First, it cuts down on road closures."  Second, the courses aren't as boring as road races. "And third, if you're going to do something this stupid, you don't want many witnesses." 
  • On an easier portion of the 50 mile race: "It was pleasant, in the same sense that even in prison some cells are better than others."

As I've said in many a review of running books, the best measure, to me, of a good one is whether it inspires me to put on my shoes and go run.  Foreman's book passes that test.  He's a regular guy running like a regular guy--I can relate to that.  And he reminds us that, no matter the time or skill level or experience of the runner, no matter what else has changed, "The formula for success never has: Step to the road, bend your knees, and run."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Edward Adrift, by Craig Lancaster

It has been about three years since Edward's father died, and now Edward finds himself . . . adrift.  Craig Lancaster has followed up his first novel, 600 Hours of Edward, with Edward Adrift.  Edward isn't quite as fixed in his routines as he used to be.  Even though his father left him a nice trust fund (he's f---ing loaded), he has enjoyed working at the newspaper.  At least he did, until he was let go.  With time on his hands, he makes plans to go visit his former neighbors, who have moved to Boise, and then to Texas to spend Christmas with his mother.  He hits the road--and the adventure begins.

Equipped with his new "bitchin' iPhone," loaded up with all of R.E.M.'s music, he heads west in his dad's Cadillac.  On the way he gets punched in the nose, nearly runs off the road due to texting while driving, and subsequently gets his first traffic ticket.  In Boise, things go poorly, and when he leaves earlier than expected he gets a stowaway--his troubled, teenage friend.  They continue the road trip together, venturing to a Colorado town he remembers visiting with his dad, years ago.

In Edward Adrift, Edward continues with his growth and increasing independence.  He gives up some of his routines, and improves his ability to develop relationships.  In fact, he may finally have found love. . . .  Lancaster's fans who loved 600 Hours will find the same type of humor and quirkiness in Edward Adrift that made them fall in love with Edward.  His perspectives on life, shaped by his OCD and Asperger's autism, might be different from those of neurotypical readers.  But we can see plenty to relate to and enjoy in Edward's adventures and observations.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Uniquely Human, by Barry Prizant

Dr. Barry Prizant has consulted with countless families and schools who have children with autism, becoming one of the world's experts in the field.  In Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, he wants the reader to see, first of all, that "autism isn't an illness.  It's a different way of being human."  Working with children and adults with autism isn't a matter of healing, changing, or fixing them.  "We need to work to understand them, and then change what we do."

Dr. Prizant draws from his years of experience, telling stories of families and individuals with whom he has worked to illustrate his perspective.  Anyone who works with people with autism, whether in a professional, personal, or social capacity will benefit from Dr. Prizant's insights.  Per his major theme, that autism is not an illness to be cured, he is gently critical of parents who "harbor the belief that somewhere out there is a mecca of autism services.  There's a school or a doctor or a therapist that just might be able to rid their child of all of the challenges associated with autism."  There is no "magical place" or treatment that will "render a child 'normal' so that families can put autism behind them and move on with their lives."

Accordingly, the best thing to do for someone with autism is "get the child out in the world."  I appreciated Dr. Prizant's advocating inclusive education.  One big reason: "Children learn as much from watching and engaging with their classmates as they do from the formal classroom learning experiences."  Every case is different, but children with autism can learn behaviors from their typical classmates, such as "social and language modeling," they can't learn from their autistic classmates.

Parents and teachers of children with autism will especially benefit from reading Uniquely Human.  All of us, especially those among us with an autism diagnosis, will benefit from Dr. Prizant's perspective that autism isn't something to be healed of, but a different way to live.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Dangerous to Believe, by Mary Eberstadt

Mary Eberstadt would acknowledge that it's not as dangerous to be a Christian in the U.S. as it is in, for instance, ISIS-controlled regions, where terrorists cut the heads off Christians.  Nevertheless, as she points out in It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, American Christians are increasingly being pushed to the margins of culture, academia, and politics.

Eberstadt writes of "the mounting toll of a widespread and growing effort to shame, punish, and ostracize people because of what they believe."  The root of the issue is a new form of Puritanism.  The first commandment of the new secularist orthodoxy "is that no sexual act between consenting adults is wrong--possibly excepting cases of adultery."  People who hold traditional Christian views of sex "are seen as a threat . . . [to] laissez-faire sexual morality."

Like their Puritan forebears in Salem, the orthodox secularist Puritans are on a witch hunt.  Their standard of proof and quickness to judge and accuse offenders also resembles the Salem witch trials.  "'You're a bigot if I say you're a bigot' is today's equivalent of 'you're a witch if I say you're a witch.'" For all their talk of diversity, the new secular Puritans have no tolerance for "traditionalists and non-progressive scholars."

Eberstadt's book is chock full of examples, some of which I had seen wide coverage.  Traditionalist Christians are faced with the daunting task of figuring out how they fit in among the secular Puritans.  Just try to get a teaching position at a major university if you don't support gay marriage.  For their part, "Secularist progressivism must find a way to coexist with affronts to its own orthodoxy, not suppress them." Eberstadt offers a couple of glimmers of hope, but I'm not particularly hopeful.  When a professor at a Catholic university can be chastised for defending a traditionalist view of marriage, when a Baptist university seemingly softens its prohibition of homosexual activity, when religious expression is continually excluded from public spaces, it's easy to start feeling like Christians have no option than to pull away from society.

Eberstadt breaks down the societal divide cleanly between those who say anything goes sexually and those who uphold traditional, heterosexual, marital monogamy.  The witch hunt will continue until further notice.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Caleb's Healing Story, by Kathleen Chara and Tasha Lehner

The thing to remember when reading Kathleen Chara and Tasha Lehner's Caleb's Healing Story: An Interactive Story with Activities to Help Children to Overcome Challenges Arising from Trauma, Attachment Issues, Adoption, or Fostering (whew, how's that for a subtitle?) is that this is not a typical children's book designed for independent reading, bedtime reading, or traditional story time.  Rather, it's a therapeutic tool.  Read through that lens, Caleb's Healing Story can be help children interpret and cope with some of the challenges they face.

Caleb was removed from his birth mother's home at age 4, and adopted by the Smith family.  He loves the Smiths, but still has fond memories of his birth mother and sister.  Unfortunately, there were plenty of bad memories of neglect and abuse, too.  He recognized that "simply removing me from a scary place would not make the fear (and all the problems that came with that) go away."  Caleb's Healing Story is for the Calebs out there who have similar stories.

Each chapter tells part of Caleb's story, and offers discussion questions and activities for the child to process all that he or she is going through.  In conjunction with counseling and family interaction, these discussions, worksheets, and activities can certainly help a child move forward.  I don't know of many resources like Caleb's Healing Story.  If you are a parent, counselor, or teacher of children who have been through foster care or traumatic family issues, check this book out.  It might be just what you're looking for.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, June 17, 2016

600 Hours of Edward, by Craig Lancaster

You ought to meet my friend, Edward.  OK, he's not really my friend, but I sort of feel like he is after spending a few weeks of his life with him in Craig Lancaster's 600 Hours of Edward.  Edward Stanton is a young man with OCD and Asperger's syndrome.  He likes his routines, he likes to watch Dragnet (the color episodes only, and every one of them is one of his favorites), and he loves spaghetti.  A lot can happen in 600 hours, and in 600 Hours of Edward, a lot does happen.

Craig Lancaster does not have OCD or Asperger's, but he captures Edward's personality in a way that seems authentic and sympathetic.  I could definitely see traits in Edward that I have seen in autistic individuals I have known.  Central to Edward's story are his struggles in relationships, both with his controlling father and with the little boy across the street and the boy's mother.  In the boy, Edward finds his first friend.  With his father, Edward feels unloved and unaccepted.  It doesn't help that his father, who supports Edward financially, sends a letter from the family lawyer to summon him when he wants to talk.

Edward will make you laugh.  He can be funny sometimes.  Even though his routines are rather monotonous, like recording the high and low temperatures every day and eating the same things every week, Edward is anything but ordinary.  He handles emotions and relationships differently than neurotypical people, but we can learn from his foibles and adventures.  Maybe writing--and filing--a nightly letter of complaint would help me reflect on my day.  Edward has no guile and is alway honest with others.  That gets him into trouble from time to time, but honesty is the best policy, right?  And speaking of right, right turns are safer than left turns.

And my data is complete.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book from a library

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Infomocracy, by Malka Older

Have you ever picked up a book that sounded so cool, but the plot and style didn't end up appealing to you?  That's Malka Older's Infomacracy for me.  In this near-future sci-fi novel, nation-states have gone the way of history, and now governance is done by competing organizations, selected democratically by each centenal, which is 100,000 people.

The story revolves around several people gearing up for the next election, in which some of the organizations are seeking to gain a supermajority, expanding their control.  There are obvious opportunities for interesting political and social commentary here, and Older does have her moments.  But I didn't enjoy the story, which was lots of talking, was sort of confusing (there I go, once again proudly displaying my intellectual shallowness), and did not engage me.

In one of her moments of brilliance, Older comments on the response of the governments to a major earthquake:  "They're getting help, probably more than they need, because of the election.  Because it looks good.  Because these damn governments are competing with each other to help the most."  Nobody wants to be Bush after Katrina. . . . She goes on to point out other persistent problems around the world that are routinely ignored.  That always bothers me, too.  Have a big disaster like the earthquake in Haiti, and suddenly the whole world cares.  But have generations stuck in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, and just try to get the world to pay attention. . . . Good luck with that.

Later on, she talks about the evolution of news coverage: "We find that people who hate each other that much rarely view the same types of information."  That made me think of Hillary voters and Trump voters.  The internet has made information access so customizable that one voter can read only articles critical of Hillary, while another can read only articles critical of Trump.  She says, "despite all the information available, people tend to look at what they want to see."  Ain't that the truth.

Older has some interesting passages like this in Infomacracy, but I couldn't get into the story much.  What about her overall idea, the fall of the nation-state and the rise of specialized democratic governance, some of them corporate concerns like Philip Morris and Coke?  The concept of "nano democracy"?  I guess we'll have to wait a few decades to see if she is a prophetess. . . .

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Persuader, by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is one of those fictional characters I never get tired of.  I do have to admit that Persuader wasn't one of my favorites, but I did like it.  It's classic Reacher.  Lee Child, creator of Jack Reacher, writes about Reacher in such a way that the books can be read in any order, but in case you're counting, Persuader is book seven of twenty (and counting).

As Persuader opens, he has a brief encounter in Boston with a man he killed ten years prior.  As he attempts to find out more, he gets caught up in a DEA investigation of a Maine-based rug importer and suspected drug trafficker.  DEA agents convince him to go undercover, find an inside track to the rug importer's operation, and find another agent who has disappeared.  These rug guys are really bad dudes, and Reacher has a way with really bad dudes.  It's a twisting and turning tale, with lots of gun violence and hand-to-hand violence, and, especially, lots of cleverness on Reacher's part.

Things don't turn out like anyone expects, but Reacher gets his man (as Child's readers expect!).  Just as in the other Reacher novels, he comes and goes with only the clothes on his back, and in between he picks up what he needs to get the job done.  In the end, he drifts away to somewhere else, where eventually he'll get caught up in some other exciting crime-fighting adventure.  That ease of drifting away and blending in is one of the things that I like about Reacher, but at the same time bothers me as unbelievable.  The other thing is the coincidences that get him into these cases.  He kills a guy in California 10 years ago, then randomly runs into him on the street in Boston?  Why?  In the end, though, I don't really care.  It's an unlikely set up, but Child can be forgiven, since the ensuing story is so engaging.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Reivers, by William Faulkner

When I picked up The Reivers, William Faulkner's final novel, published in 1962, I had a couple of questions.  First of all, what is a reiver?  Second, why have I never heard of this novel?  The first question is easy.  A reiver is one who takes away by violence or stealth, snatches away, or robs.  The second question, well, that's probably easy, too.  It's because I'm ignorant.  The Reivers won a Pulitzer Prize, after all.  But I now realize I just haven't read much of Faulkner.  As I peruse a list of his novels, I'm not sure I've read any of them.  My bad.

The Reivers is not one Faulkner's better-known books, and people who know Faulkner say it's not one of his best.  But it's a fun story.  When 11-year-old Lucius's family leaves town for a funeral, the so-called responsible adult left to care for him takes him along on a trip to Memphis is Lucius's grandfather's car--certainly without Grandfather's permission!  (One might say they reived the car.) Their black employee comes along for the ride and they have quite the adventure in the city.

It's a coming-of-age tale for Lucius, who learns all about bordellos, knife fights, car theft, horse racing, gambling, and more very enlightening parts of life.  Faulkner tells the story from Lucius's point of view, keeping his innocent prospective on these very grown-up pursuits.  In the end, he was a little surprised that back home, nothing had changed.  He thought :
It should have been altered, even if only a little. . . . I mean, if those four days--the lying and deceiving and tricking and decisions and indecisions, and the things I had done and seen and heard and learned that Mother and Father wouldn't have let me do and see and hear and learn--the things I had had to learn that I wasn't even ready for yet, had nowhere to store them nor even anywhere to lay them down; if all that had changed nothing, was the same as if it had never been--never smaller or larger or older or wiser or spend for nothing; either it was wrong and false to begin with and should never have existed, or I was wrong or false or weak or anyway not worthy of it.
The fleeting innocence of youth.  The mystery of fitting worldly wisdom into what we thought we knew as children.

Faulkner's story-telling style is enjoyable, capturing the early-twentieth century south and the voice of the young protagonist.  In a sense the novel felt like a long run-on sentence (and the excerpt above might demonstrate).  One stylistic characteristic that I got a kick out of, which I wonder if it is characteristic of Faulkner's other fiction, is what I will call "amplification."  Have you ever read The Amplified Bible?  They add lots of alternative words to "amplify" the translation, e.g. "In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned,) and created the heavens and the earth. . . . And God saw the light, that it was good--suitable, pleasing--and He approved it."  Faulkner does this a lot in the The Reivers: ". . . with Boon beside me, over me, across me, one hand on mine. . ."  ". . . we were reaching, approaching the other side of the swamp. . . " "Because you should be prepared for experience, knowledge, knowing: not bludgeoned unaware in the dark. . ."   Examples abound in every chapter.

I'm no one to judge where The Reivers ranks among Faulkner's work.  It may not be his best-known novel, but it's certainly worth reading, thoroughly entertaining and thoughtful.

2016 Reading Challenge: A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The House of Secrets, by Brad Meltzer and Tod Goldberg

Brad Metlzer is back with another political conspiracy mystery thriller.  His recent books have focused on the Culper ring.  In his latest, The House of Secrets, which he coauthored with Tod Goldberg, readers will appreciate a cameo by archivist Beecher White.  Other than that, there's little connection, either in style or content, with the Culper ring.

Jack Nash is the long-time host of The House of Secrets, a TV show dedicated to uncovering the great mysteries of history.  When he dies in a car accident, his daughter Hazel sets out to uncover some mysteries about her dad.  The problem is that she was in the accident with him, and has lost a good deal of her memory.

The addition of Goldberg as a coauthor changes the style to a certain degree, but The House of Secrets is still very much Meltzer.  The mystery they lay out, about Jack's killer, about the shows taped overseas, about the pages of Benedict Arnold's bible, and about Hazel herself and her memories, all combine for a convoluted story.  I felt like the partial amnesia story element was contrived and didn't add that much to the story, other than slowing down the development.  I did like the idea of Jack's show as a cover for CIA operations.  Ultimately the revelations and resolution were unexpected but not impressive.  By the time I got to that point, I wasn't all that interested.

The House of Secrets seemed like a step down from the Culper ring series, and certainly from some of Meltzer's earlier books.  I think even die-hard Meltzer fans will be disappointed.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Reason I Run, by Chris Spriggs

Like many runners, myself included, Chris Spriggs took up running rather late in life.  As he got into running, he looked to his Uncle Andrew, an avid runner, for advice.  Andrew was one of those nuts (I mean that in the most affectionate, admiring way) who ran several marathons and ultramarathons every year.  His passion for running rubbed off on Chris.

When Andrew was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), it was a shock to Andrew and all who knew him.  (MND is what we Americans call ALS.  According to the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations, "Although MND is the widely used generic term in the United Kingdom, Australia and parts of Europe, ALS is used more generically in the United States, Canada and South America.")  Once Andrew was no longer able to run, Chris decided to ask Andrew if he would agree to running a marathon together, with Chris pushing his beloved uncle in his wheelchair.

This is the story Chris tells in The Reason I Run: How Two Men Transformed Tragedy Into the Greatest Race of Their Lives.  Chris writes with such passion, heart, humor, and love, that I couldn't help but be inspired by the joy with which he runs and the love and admiration he has for his uncle.  I felt like I was welcomed into Chris's extended family and into the family of runners.

As part of his research and preparation, Chris tracked down "Mick n Phil, Marathon Lads."  Mick has pushed his son, Phil, who has cerebral palsy, in dozens of races, including 12 marathons.  Besides practical tips about the chair and running form, "Mick helps [Chris] see that running is many things.  It is friendship.  It is sacrifice.  It is dedication.  It is also play."  Chris and Uncle Andrew seems to keep a good grasp of running as play.  Children "remind us that running is more than obsessive clock-watching and teeth-clenching defiance as we lunge across a finish line.  What do children to most easily when they run?  They laugh.  Like the two are twins, running and joy, hand in hand."  I love that!  It's so easy to forget when I'm cranking out miles on a training run or in the second half of a tough race.

It's not always easy.  Chris shares the experience of many runners: "Rarely do I feel in the mood for a run. . . . Yet I'm always glad I've conquered the apathy and clocked up a single mile, or many miles in one go."  By Chris's account, he has been pretty successful in overcoming that apathy and accomplishing the goals he and Andrew have set.  But it goes way beyond running.  Uncle Andrew taught Chris "to live like I'm running at my best.  With my head up, leaning into the day I'm given.  To cherish the body I'm resident in and encourage others along the way.  To remember that some miles are for enjoying, while others are for enduring, but that we should live them all until the finish, always searching for our personal best." 

The Reason I Run is an inspiring read for runners, non-runners, and future runners.  If you have forgotten why you run, Chris and Uncle Andrew can help you find a reason.  

Here's a nice article about the pair:

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Saturn Run, by John Sandford and Ctein

Saturn Run is my favorite kind of science fiction.  John Sanford is well known for his mystery and suspense novels, specifically the Prey series.  With Saturn Run, he has teamed up with writer and photographer Ctein to venture into the world of sci-fi.  When an alien presence is detected around the rings of Saturn, both the US and China retool their Mars missions for a race to get to Saturn first.  Everyone knows that the country with exclusive access to advanced alien technology will be able to dominate militarily and economically.

Sandford and Ctein set the story a few decades in the future.  All of the scientific and technological elements are currently available or can be developed or extrapolated from current technology.  I appreciate the absence of "magical" or completely made-up technology.  I don't mind such things all the time.  Light sabers, warp drives, transporter devices, etc., all have their place in sci-fi.  But it's refreshing to read something as believable as Saturn Run.  (Caveat: I am a lay person, with no scientific background beyond my college science classes for liberal arts majors.)

In this realistic scientific setting, they also happen to tell a great story.  The preparation, the voyage, the difficulties along the way, and ultimately the unique form of "contact" with the aliens and the subsequent run-in with the Chinese are very well-done and make for an exciting read.  Hard science, a great story with personal and political intrigue, and imaginative use of current and projected technology combine for a terrific book.  I know Sandford's readers love his police novels, but I hope he has enough success with Saturn Run that he and Ctein can be convince to collaborate again.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kill Devil, by Mike Dellosso

Jed Patrick thought his days of dealing with Centralia, an off-the-books government agency, were behind him.  In Mike Dellosso's book, Kill Devil, the second Jed Patrick book, Jed and his family are on the run again.  Kill Devil is a thriller that might be compared to Lee Child or Robert Ludlum.  Full of action and psychological twists and turns, Dellosso keeps the suspense meter on high.

I did enjoy Kill Devil, but it didn't have the convincing level of detail and complexity of plot development that some of these more experienced thriller writers have.  That said, I wouldn't mind checking out Dellosso's first Jed Patrick book to get a better picture of what Centralia was all about.  I have a feeling that Patrick will be back for more action in another book.

Thanks to the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary electronic review copy!