Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Wow! We were really not expecting a book like this to be this good and this fun to read! The authors of Queen Bee's Alphabet Cook Book really went above and beyond to make this book fun and interesting for their readers.
The art, while not elite or extraordinary by any means, still does the work. And the stock images/photographs are of workable quality with art/character superimposed onto them almost seamlessly. It is similar to Ronnie Pool in that sense.
Where this book really shines, especially as a children's book, is the writing and the content. There is so much value in being able to teach language and the alphabet to young children. Growing up, programs like Hooked on Phonics were staples. They helped us to be where we are today—being able to read and write to a higher degree. Along with communicating with parents and other loved ones, books like these are one of the cornerstones of acquiring language.
This book could've very simply been strictly an alphabet book like “B is for Bee” and “C is for Cat” but it went far beyond that. The writing in this children's book is very compelling. The rhymes are fun and interesting. It isn't wordy. It's not too hot, not too cold. It's just right.
“C is for carrot and
cookies and cake.
So many things
to learn how to make.”
This might seem like a simple quatrain, and it is, but that's the beauty of it. It's this brevity and economy of language that shines. Young kids don't need to be bombarded with words. They tend to latch onto sounds and form meaning from them.
“U is for up
that's how you'll grow.
When you eat healthy,
the benefits show.”
Something that you may have noticed from these quotes is that they do more than just tell you what the letter of the alphabet is and what it could stand for, it also teaches the young reader broader concepts like using smaller parts/ingredients to make something bigger/better or how eating healthy will benefit their bodies/growth. Those are valuable lessons for kids to learn just like language and communication are.
Queen Bee herself is a charismatic and compelling character. She's positive (always smiling and/or high-spirited) and adventurous. There are times she's seen mowing or spreading seeds across a field, stirring batter in a bowl, trying out new or different clothes (like when she wears a “fancy orange suit”), and watching people play at a park or gather ingredients from the farmers market. She is definitely someone you can get behind. She reminds us of Oprah.
The other characters, well, are a little less compelling and maybe even a little strange. First of all, they're purple, green, blue, and aqua blue. This could possibly be upsetting to a child who has a set of expectations about what a human being should look like. In other words, this has the issue of the uncanny valley—when something looks human enough to be recognized as human but different enough to possibly be unsettling. You could probably explain this all away as the characters basically being vegetable people—like Veggie Tales.
The second part of this is an actual recipe book that children and their parents/teachers can engage with! That's the cherry on top of an already stacked book. What's also incredible about these recipes is that it not only comes from a passionate source but also a reputable one. Mariah Ecker is a legitimate registered dietitian, so that means that most of the recipes you are getting are helping your children to reach one or more nutritional goals based on the concept of nutritional balance. How wonderful is that?
What's more is that the authors do not skimp on the importance of safety. There is a whole page about safety in the kitchen which parents and teachers can over with their kids.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 89/100 (8.9 out of 10)
We read this book about a week ago and really had to wait to let it sit and simmer. We've come away with the recognition that When All Hope is Lost is an ingenious, clever, and very cynical book about many issues facing our society today.
Interestingly, despite the fact that most of this book takes place in Melbourne, Australia (one of our favorite places on the planet), it is applicable to people living in places like the United States and Europe—western nations arguably undergoing a socio-cultural and political upheaval with some even claiming they're heading the route of civil war. At the very least, there is a culture war between the Left and the Right.
What's very interesting about this book is that even though a matriarchy reigns supreme in it and you get some feminist vibes that appeal to Progressives and Leftists, people who lean the other direction could equally argue that the book has aspects that appeal to them too. It is very, very complicated, but let's try to unwrap this little by little. In a lot of ways, this book is written as a satire of current and recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic, race wars, and the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion rights. The author cleverly and cunningly does this by completely reversing the situation, putting MEN and BOYS in the shoes of WOMEN and MINORITIES who are frequently marginalized and have their rights taken away. Sorry for the all-caps, but we really needed to emphasize that point.
In this dystopian, apocalyptic vision of Australia's future, a virus in the late 2030s wiped out a large portion of the male population and continues to kill them shortly after the age of 18. Most of the book takes place between 2049 and 2069 in the aftermath of this catastrophic pandemic which left most of the population female. So, naturally, most of the power in government, business, and practically every institution is run by women in the world of this book. Furthermore, homosexuality has seemingly usurped heterosexuality as the norm with the majority of women turning to Lesbianism while men and boys are used only as “donors.” Men and boys are also exploited in this book where male suicide, infanticide/abortion of males, and a slave trade of vulnerable young males are as common and open secrets as McDonalds and Walmart. Furthermore, there are advocates for writing males (or at least their importance) out of the history books because they're seen as obsolete and unnecessary. It is actually quite haunting.
If we were going to compare this book to any work of fiction, it would actually be World War Z. The book is actually presented in much the same way as it was in that zombie apocalypse book, from multiple perspectives and somewhat in hindsight with multiple people talking about what came before. You follow the deputy premier, Monika Thomas, as she is conflicted between attending to her personal convictions about humanity and pressure from her party and the diabolical Evelyn Perkins—the Queen Maker—who wants to rid the world of males. Monika is placed into a position of great influence and authority after the mysterious assassination of Premier Anderson. There's also Patricia, a political journalist trying to get the scoop on both the assassination of the premier and the plan to eradicate boys (to supposedly free them from homelessness, joblessness, and exploitation). We also get the perspective of Dr. Bonnie Harris, a researcher dying to find a cure despite shocking and continued obstacles put in her way by the government who want to defund her and “move on.” On the side, we also get the perspective of a heterosexual couple in Karen and Josh.
This book has INCREDIBLE potential. It should absolutely have scored at least a 9.3 if only for two things: it is poorly edited and barely formatted. It was impossible to ignore that. It just did not look polished or finished at all. It is really unfortunate because the content is pretty much all there. However, there are instances when words like “premier” are spelled wrong. And all throughout this book, there are no indentations at the start of paragraphs or dialogue. There are also odd times when things are double-spaced while other sections are single-spaced. In the hands of a caring and thoughtful editor or proofreader, this book could really be a top-tier book. Also, as an side (not affecting the score at all), the cover definitely needs more work as it is low quality and doesn't nearly reflect what the book is about.
With that out of the way, the content of this book is actually incredible and compelling.
Check it out!
Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Vigilante justice comes to the 19th century is in this edgy novel by Adrian Winney!
The book follows the titular Tosher, a disabled boy who was abandoned in a London sewer by his parents only to be raised by an ex-soldier/mercenary named Jack Tanner, often just called “Da” (probably short for dad). Jack, acting as a father, raises Tosher to use his head and to think past and around his missing leg. Due to this upbringing, Tosher grows up to be a incredibly ingenious boy who is able to figure out advanced problems, make contraptions, and even improve on cutting edge technology like revolvers and shotguns.
In a sense, he's kinda a mix between Batman, Iron Man, a Ninja Turtle, Edmund Dantes, and the Phantom of the Opera. He's an orphaned kid with a chip on his shoulder raised by a grizzly old wise guy to create weapons and traps to defeat unscrupulous foes. He's like a Ninja Turtle while not being, well, a turtle.
Going with that, Jack/Da is a lot like Master Splinter, Alfred, or the priest from Count of Monte Cristo. He was arguably our favorite character in the book as he demonstrated so much love and care for this little boy who he could've easily passed over as someone else's problem. No, he's not perfect, and he does have a dark side, but Jack is mostly a good man in some very dark and dangerous scenarios.
SPOILER AHEAD! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
Unfortunately (and this is kinda a spoiler but kinda not since it happens so early on, but BE WARNED), Jack doesn't make it very far in this book. It is one of the most frustrating things about it, actually, similar to the death of Joel in The Last of Us Part II. Why would you set up this awesome character who has so much more butt to kick only to kill him off less than a quarter of the way through? Well, if the author's intention was to make it tragic and to anger us enough into wanting vengeance, then they succeeded.
The problem is that as cool, capable, cunning, and interesting as Tosher is, can he really carry this entire plot on his shoulders? Yes and no. Yes, he can because he's cool, capable, cunning, and interesting. But no, he would've likely been better off playing off of Jack. Without Jack, Tosher is like Shaquill Griffin without Shaquem Griffin. He's like Bubba Ray Dudley without Devon Dudley. It's like Bo Duke without Luke Duke or Lamont Sanford without Fred Sanford or Officer Jon from CHIPs without Erik Estrada. And we all know CHIPs would've sucked without Erik Estrada.
The dynamic duo is disrupted.
Yes, it can work, but should it? Does it have to?
It's almost exactly like The Last of Us Part II in that this tragic death of a father figure is intended to trigger a very strong emotional reaction, however it also makes us feel a bit cheated.
But we digress. It does work for dramatic effect and as the catalyst to the main plot in which Tosher predictably seeks revenge. The thing about this also is that Tosher seems to become a worse person as a result of Jack's death. Yes, he still tries to draw from Da's wisdom, but he mostly just becomes very mean and angry. Well, do you blame him? There are times in here in which he just outright murders in cold blood. Yeah, this isn't Batman or a Ninja Turtle anymore, this almost becomes the origin story of a mad genius serial-killer or a mass-shooter. He abducts and tortures people, albeit people who likely deserve some comeuppance. But he also threatens their family members who've done nothing wrong as far as we know. Yes, he feels bad about it later and it's questionable if he'd actually follow through with his threats, but it's still something he does.
He legitimately goes into shops asking how he can make his guns more efficient at killing people. On one hand, it's hard to blame him, and the other hand, well... do we really want to cheer for this kid anymore? How far is too far?
If you enjoy books about dark ingenious antiheroes, you can check this out on Amazon!
Score 94+ out of 100 (9.4+ out of 10)
This book is so much fun!
The camaraderie between the young characters is superb, and there's a prevailing sense of adventure that keeps you turning the pages. There's also a fun and empowering sense that anything is possible—that you can go anywhere and do anything.
Although there are stakes (and some frightening alien creatures), it never feels like the characters are ever at risk of being permanently maimed or dying. They are, however, at risk of being stuck in time and not seeing their loved ones again, which serves as the crux of the book.
This is really a fun book and strictly a fun book. It is very friendly and accessible to grade school children and young adults (this is technically a middle-grade book).
It also teaches young readers the importance of not taking for granted what they have in a family and a home. It teaches them to value the time they have with their parents and siblings, even when they can be a headache sometimes.
Let's talk about the characters because they really bring some spice to an already-loaded book. There's Nic, a boy who begins this book as a bit of a downer and gradually transforms into an adventurous and optimistic sort. Nic is more or less the main protagonist of the story, although it is a ensemble cast. There's also Sophia, the smart and spunky little girl who is always trying to talk sense into the others. She's also always among the first to volunteer for dangerous tasks like infiltration missions. Tate might seem like the least memorable of the central characters, but he too can be quite interesting. He is a young man who aspires to be a pilot like his late father. Despite his ambitions, Tate is frequently one of the more apprehensive characters.
But the character who stole our hearts was Zoe. How can you not like Zoe? She's a girl from the future with futuristic knowledge, futuristic technology, and (as the book constantly points out) futuristic clothes based on movies like Back to the Future, which she references. Zoe is a true nerd, an apparent Whovian too.
There's some really awesome world-building in this book too including flying and self-driving cars, quadcopters, jetpacks, implants that give you some special abilities/knowledge but also allow the government to track and influence you. Even the “puffy” fashion style is unique to this world. But perhaps the thing that stuck out to us is the diet of these futuristic people: they love to eat crickets! Fried crickets, boiled crickets, and even chocolate crickets!
Anyway, if you're looking for a book with some lighthearted, time-traveling adventure, fun characters, and good world-building, check out this book!
Gilraen and the Guilds by Joanne Reid is the best installment of the Jaralii Chronicles since the original trilogy! It is the fifth installment in the series after Gilraen Returns, a book which left a bit to be desired. Thankfully, Gilraen and the Guilds is much more eventful, and there’s a fresh sense of adventure with it also as our heroine finds herself in a new land.
The reader is dropped right into the armored shoes of Gilraen, in the guise of Gillian Gilaman, as she ventures through a foreign land. This takes Gilraen out of her comfort zone, forcing her to improvise and rely on her wits in dealing with the powerful guilds of Narwortland. The world-building, as usual, is top-notch. The world feels lived-in, full of different ways of speaking (in which parts of speech are sometimes switched), colloquial terms for bees ("shi") and honey ("cyli"), highwaymen, a special currency, and the unique guilds themselves--each one having their own specialty such as smithing, mining, or wizardry. This book is adventurous and imaginative, taking the reader to a whole new land they've never seen or experienced before!
This series of books always polarizes us because there are ways in which it is absolutely incredible and a master-class in world-building, and there are also ways in which we see room for improvement. This is especially evident when it comes to character development and pacing. Gilraen herself is a very polarizing character. Our judges, many of whom have read every other book in the series thus far, have always felt strongly about her. That can be a very good thing. The worst reaction is no reaction at all. There are times we loved and adored her, and times (as in the previous book and at points in this one) that we couldn’t get behind her quite as much. We think it might be because it seems like she reached her zenith or pinnacle earlier in the series. In other words, she is a character who has already undergone her character arc, growing from a stranger in a new world to a strong and capable queen in that world. She marries the love of her life and gets pregnant. She wins huge battles and overcomes every obstacle in her way. You don’t want to go back to the well one too many times. Look at the Terminator series, as great as it is.
Thankfully, this novel does shake things up a bit. In this, Gilraen is essentially a spy. She can’t come right out and overpower everyone as she has in the past as that would blow her cover. Instead, she has to be mindful and tactful. She has to be clever and diplomatic. It’s when Gilraen has to use her mind and cleverness (gained perhaps by Tony’s gaming experience and his experience in the military), that she is at her best and most interesting.
The first half of this book is some of the best work in the series as Gilraen must talk and act like a guild leader of Nartwortland. She must be a problem-solver.
In this book, we were also introduced to a surprisingly compelling character named Merry (Meredith Zochanges), who became our favorite character in the book. She joins Gilraen, William, and Reuben as our favorite characters in the series. There’s just something about her… the way she is so often underestimated and talked down to despite being a young girl with tremendous potential if she’s just given a chance. She’s an underdog, a Cinderella, and everyone loves an underdog and a Cinderella.
Gilraen is not finished as a character. The Adjudicars and their allies still stand in her way, and she truly has a lot to fight for, most of all REVENGE. Something we’d love to see in future installments like Gilraen and the Two Cities and Gilraen Regent is for the author to dig deeper and explore the emotions Gilraen and William experience due to the loss of their loved ones in battle.
As we’ve said in previous reviews, this conflict should be personal–it should be a blood feud. Gilraen and William need and deserve their revenge for Dominica, Richard, Rue, and the elves who were slaughtered/massacred in previous books. And we’re sure the Adjudicars hunger to avenge Cairne and Thandekre as well as Gilraen thwarting every one of their pawns they put in her way.
In a sense, we do see hints of the effects these tragic events had on Gilraen and William. Gilraen is more agitated and William seems depressed and impatient, different from his time as an upbeat, lively prince. Talking to each other clearly raises their spirits, but it doesn’t mask the hurt they feel from the reader.
That’s another wound that really needs to be opened for the sake of raising tension and drama in the series: there feels like there should be more tension in their relationship–a challenge to them being together. Distance is one such challenge, and that’s something both of them wrestle with throughout the story. What other challenges might Gilraen and William face in the future?
We look forward to reading the future installments to find out what happens next!
You can check this out on Amazon!
Score: 87/100 (8.7 out of 10)
From Dusk to Dawn: The Vicissitudes of Life by Henry Krauss is one of the most beautiful poetry books of the season—a book that encapsulates many of the changing seasons of life, per the title.
Presentation-wise, this is the clear frontrunner among the poetry books this season. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best of those books this season, but we'll get to that in a moment. Right now, we wanted to first talk about what makes this book so beautiful: the images. And not just the images, but the way in which those images are used. They are presented to us on one cover page (of each poem), then juxtaposed onto the poems themselves. Its a brilliant concept and really helps to elevate this book in terms of presentation.
But this book isn't just beautiful in a superficial way, it serves as a memorial and an homage to many of the great people the author knew and loved, many of whom endured times such as the Great Depression and World War II. They are members of “the greatest generation.” The book also includes poems of deep and powerful topics such as terminal illness, namely cancer, coping with tough times, and enduring loss. There are also poems in here like Time and Microcosm-Macrocosm that are beautifully symbolic and reflective in an existential sense. You can practically feel the poet observing the natural world and thinking about how it speaks to such things as the existence of a higher power or meaning. The poet takes such simple, mundane things as icicles and a coffee table, then can make them mean something. That's a poet for you!
There are some things about this book that hold it back a little bit. First of all, unlike books by Anthony Toomer and Tony Caico, these poems lack some of the exciting things we like to see like rhyming and beats. Well, there is a distinct beat to many of these poems, but it usually very abrupt and choppy. That can work, and it actually kinda does, but it really is a matter of taste for us. It just wasn't as fun or interesting to us. That's subjective though. So like, we'd take a ghazal poem over a haiku any day. That's a matter of taste.
Speaking of the abrupt and choppy nature of these poems, let's look at one example, What Counts?
His face is deeply wrinkled
Bones crooked and broken
Bald, no teeth
How do we view this man?
Past? Present? future? Or ALL?
On the plus side, though, the poet demonstrates one aspect of poetry that's very important: the economy of language. You aren't supposed to write a lot when it comes to poetry. You aren't supposed to turn it into prose, and the author definitely understands that. He can say a lot in very little words.
Another thing that we caught was that there are several grammatical mistakes or inconsistencies in this book. Perhaps a proofreader, editor, or even just a beta reader could've caught it. The main one is the inconsistent use of commas. We could've given the author a break if he'd just stayed consistent, choosing one style or another. There is a time at the end of the poem Gennie that both a period and a comma are used along with a quotation mark. Why is there a comma at the end of the word born instead of a period in To the Manor Born?
Why are there commas around the word dad in the poem Dad, and why is the second comma outside the quotation mark? The same issue applies to the phrase “pipe of the day” in that same poem. The comma should go inside the quotation mark. The exclamation mark should also go inside the “peace pipe” quote.
There's also a time in Outside Looking In in which the quotation mark is double-spaced and facing the wrong way, being joined to the wrong word.
There are times, like in Pop, when he sometimes chooses to use a period at the end of a line or sentence and sometimes doesn't. You really need to choose as a writer and stay consistent with these things. You're either going to use punctuation or you're going to use alternatives like line breaks (which are common in poetry).
Our favorite poem in this whole book is probably the shortest in the whole book: Birds. In only about two lines, the author makes a ton of social commentary that seems directed at Republican political leadership. How we got that from just two lines about a seemingly innocuous subject matter like birds in a flying-V formation is due to the masterful work of the poet. We just wish there wasn't a random hyphen thrown in there, but we digress.
Anyway, this book of poetry is presentation-wise one of the better poetry books of this season full of poetry books. It also packs a punch while adhering to the economy of language.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
What a fun, wild, and exciting ride! It seems like we read ICDA by Andrew Zellgert at just about the perfect time. We just got done reading several mind-bending books about anti-heroes trying to solve chaotic and crazy mysteries together, exploring everything from aliens and and time-travel, usually with surprising seriousness. The difference between many of those books and this one is that this book is plain, ole' FUN!
Andrew Zellgert clearly wrote this book for young adults, and it shows. There's a lightheartedness and sense of adventure that reminds us of a combination of The Sun and the Starlings by Barbara Hill and Einstein's Desk by Dominic Melillo. What a combination, huh? But they are all awesome books that, despite being tonally different, cover relatively the same grounds.
Something that immediately grabbed us and held us tight was the endearing and cute fantasy element of this novel. For example, one of the best characters in this book is a talking owl named Mr. Barns! Get it? “Mr. Barns” as in barn owl. We loved him! He's a mix between Dumbledore and R2D2 if you can even believe that. He's very wise (as an old own should be) and serves as a great, loyal companion to the protagonists. There's also a talking brachiosaurus in here!
Anyway, moving on to the MCs... Timmy is a great blank-slate protagonist. Though he doesn't especially stand out as an elite character, he still gets us behind him with his youthful energy and positive disposition. There's also Bethany, another solid character. In fact, Bethany is an even more interesting and charismatic character than Timmy. She is a Mary Sue, but in the best way possible. She's an extremely capable and intelligent young woman who is wise beyond her years, but she is still vulnerable and we are still able to worry about her and fear for her. Timmy and Bethany are constantly put into dangerous and difficult situations. They are constantly in peril. That's GOOD! Well, not good for them, but good for us as the readers. It constantly has us on edge worrying if they'll be alright. And we want them to be alright. They are truly protagonists that young people can relate to and cheer for.
Speaking of being on edge, there's a character in here who always has us on edge when he's around and that's Agent Orange, one of the main villains/antagonists. And, yes, his name is really Agent Orange, so people who actually know what that is can get a chuckle at the inside joke. Agent Orange is ruthless and relentless. He would obviously be played by someone like Michael Ironside or Peter Stormare if this were a movie. The guy just keeps coming. Just when you think the heroes are safe and successful, there he is again!
Despite Agent Orange probably stealing the spotlight, the main villain is the aptly named Beezley Bub (sometimes just called “Bub”), a demonic figure who steals a valuable McGuffin and declares himself the king of the universe. The hilarious thing is, when he declares himself the king of the universe, the protagonists basically have a “no you're not” conversation with him like this is the 4th grade and we're at lunch recess. The entertainment factor never drops. It just keeps going. Even when something serious happens like someone gets shot and killed, we still get a lighthearted time-travel subplot from it.
So, yes, we can definitely recommend this book if you're interested in a lighthearted fantasy story!
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
You Will Know Vengeance is an imaginative and wild technothriller by WA Pepper, a brilliant human being with a PhD and a creative mind that won't stop pumping out ideas.
This novel follows a man named Tanto, a top-tier hacker who embraces the Bushido code and hinges his life on its philosophy. Tanto is arrested by the government who treat him like an animal and strip him of his rights. He is forced to work for a corrupt and ambitious prison warden among a group of other hackers. Their goal is to “kill” or “capture” as many cyber-criminals and domestic terrorists as possible to meet a quota under the threat of otherwise being sent to Guantanamo Bay. Tanto is also charged with developing a software to make it easier to catch these criminals. Compounding these problems, a big and notorious criminal is introduced into the same prison, shaking things up. Can Tanto use his technical savvy, wit, and cunning to survive this ordeal?
You'd think this story were taking place in some post-apocalyptic dystopian world. Seriously! The introduction of the character also highlights the inhumane treatment of prisoners. It just seems like this is the government from 1984 or The Hunger Games. Would you be shocked and surprised to hear that this book takes place in the early 2010s in the good ole' United States of America?! We were!
You pick that fact up through little breadcrumbs and subtle clues scattered here and there. There are mentions of the 2008 recession, 9/11, the mistreatment of Arab prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and events relevant to the time.
Tanto is the hero this story needed. He is brilliant and clever. He thinks his way around problems. His idealism of Bushido is also a nice, interesting wrinkle to his character.
There were a few challenges with this book. For one, if you'd avoided reading the back of the book (like we did), you'd be hard pressed to find the plot. This book almost feels like it has no main plot and that its a series of side-quests in an RPG—like some fetch quests that some NPCs send you on to pad out the playtime. Interestingly, the author expressed a great interest in RPGs like Final Fantasy, so perhaps that's not surprising. But some of these side-quests, while interesting, don't seem like they advance the plot.
Well, they are. With every kill or capture, Tanto is working closer toward his freedom, but it doesn't feel that way. For example, there's a part in which it seems like Tanto is trying to entrap a cybercriminal without actually entrapping him (so that the person can be convicted). There's a part in which the protagonists bait some p***philes online to catch them. There's even some sort of bonding scene over basketball that just feels like fluff. It seems to jump from problem-of-the-day to problem-of-the-day. Perhaps the most interesting part of this book was when Tanto and Barca are forced to work together, something that reminded us of season one of Prison Break in which the brilliant, heroic Michael Schofield is forced to work with gangsters and murderers to break out of prison and save his brother on death row.
Like the character says, nothing brings a team together like a crisis.
There are some truly great parts of this book. One is a scene involving CPR. It is the most tense and realistic-seeming CPR scene we've ever seen or read about. Another thing is just how incredible and masterful the author is at using similes and analogies. For example, you get lines like:
“...flows like a song”
“...like a firefighter who has just saved me”
“...like a dead fish”
“...like a scene in a horror movie”
“...like a grizzly bear about to pounce”
“... like a light switch flipping”
“... break through a firewall as if someone made it out of tissue paper”
“...as if they were attached to sandpaper.”
This might be the best use of similes we've seen this season.
There is also a lot of social commentary in here, especially regarding incarceration in the United States.
If you're into thrillers and smart anti-heroes wrestling their way out of tight situations, this book may be for you!
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 96/100 (9.6 out of 10)
Business Leadership in Turbulent Times by Michael Lawrie & George Tsetsekos should be required reading for all MBA students, entrepreneurs, and business owners. It could be argued that this is THE definitive encyclopedia of business. It covers a diverse range of topics including business leadership, planning, strategic choice, value creation, risk management, value-chain analyses, SWOT analyses, asset deployment, economies of scale, competitive advantage, corporate/organizational culture, board participation, lessons from the pandemic crisis, and so much more! What more could you ask for in a business book?
The book is well-written, well-researched, and very well-organized. Yes, the information is presented in a very straight, matter-of-fact, and dry way. It can be a bit boring. However, if you came to learn then you came to learn. Entertainment value comes second with a book of this kind.
For comparison's sake, we had several business books we'd read in the past (like The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt) and ones we read this season (like Flying Penguin by Asoka Jinadasa, Never Sit in the Lobby by Glenn Paulos, and Twelve-Minute Risk Management by Ivy Walker). It is so interesting to compare these books to each other. Tonally, this book is a lot like Twelve-Minute Risk Management. The language is very plain and simple, what you'd expect to find in a textbook. It's very... dry.
By comparison, Flying Penguin was a much more idealistic, fun, and exciting business book, but you could also make the argument that's not necessarily a good thing. Do you want people to live with their heads in the clouds or do you want them to know the cold, hard facts? Flying Penguin had a lively pep in its step. Business Leadership in Turbulent Times comes at you with a sledgehammer. If there were ever two books that reminded us of the difference between Shiva and Visnhu, it would be these two books. They're two very powerful business texts with two separate approaches to success.
If we were going to narrow down the thesis of this incredible book with such a broad scope, it would be something like the following:
It is often said that strategy is the most important aspect of business. However, strategy is secondary to the people involved in planning and executing that strategy, mainly good leaders.
Leadership is at the heart of this book. Ineffective leaders cause coordination problems, distrust, loss of morale, and failures in identifying problems or potential problems. The authors have a very Goldratt-like view about assets and value. They remind us that business is ultimately about value—the value of our products and services to the customer or client. These things lose value and increase in value. Value is a flexible, mutable, and sometimes even fickle thing. Toilet paper in 2020 had a lot more value than toilet paper does now owing to scarcity. Gas in 2022 is arguably more valued than in 2019 for very similar reasons. As a business owner, you have to be sensitive to these changes. Hope for the best and plan for the worse. Have a plan B and a plan C. Have an exit strategy. Value is also influenced by inefficiencies in production and distribution, by bottlenecks. By finding these inefficiencies and bottlenecks, you can increase your potential to make a profit.
If you're someone who runs a business or are interested in it someday, this book is definitely worth a read! Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 87/100 (8.7 out of 10)
A wind storm (tornado) rips through Pinkerton in Circlegold County. There's a sighting of a large, terrifying creature by a kid named Jake. Bill Cahill, a former NASA employee, is found badly injured and taken to a hospital. There are reports of deer in the area being found dead and mutilated, mirroring incidents in other places where cows were found mutilated. To make matters worse, people have gone missing and believed to be in great danger!
Are aliens involved?
Sheriff Boggs, Officer Hayworth, and Major Sears are in a race against time to find these missing people and get to the bottom of all this craziness. A strange individual named Ted Templeton is the primary suspect, seen as one capable of kidnapping and killing children. The investigation is constantly sidetracked by Police Chief Purvis Moore and Dr. Cleatus Potter who either have greater insight into what's going on or are hiding something....
If you're thinking to yourself that this sounds like A LOT, it sorta is. However, there's some enjoyment you can derive from it anyway.
Into the Storm by DJ Adamson is a sci-fi/crime thriller with mystery and paranormal elements. It is a suspenseful novel that may push you out of your comfort zone and possibly give you several hours of entertainment depending on the kind of reader you are.
Despite what we initially expected to be a silly, lighthearted story written just for the fun of it, you quickly realize that this book is incredibly DARK. There is shocking amount of extreme violence and sexual assault in here. There's also some language including a few F-bombs and the “R” word being used. There's even a suicide in here. So, right off the bat you realize this isn't War of the Worlds or The Iron Giant—sci-fi books that can comfortably be read by people of all ages. This is definitely intended for adults who can take edgier content.
DJ Adamson has a policy of making life as terrible as possible for her characters, and she succeeded! In a previous book, she had a recovering alcoholic be waterboarded with vodka, so author-wise she's a modern-day Dante Alighieri. It really is a good policy overall since it forces you into the characters' corners and draws sympathy from the reader.
There are a few other issues with this book beside the edgy content and convoluted plot. First of all, this book is formatted in some sort of encrypted, coded way. That means that if you try to copy and paste from it (like while taking notes or quoting it), you'll get gibberish. The same with if you try to play it as speech-to-text, it'll come out as gibberish. We've actually never seen that before. Ever. We reached out to the author via multiple e-mail accounts to ask her for a different copy but received no reply. So, we tried to use the Kindle version which at least appears readable. Another problem is that there is some room to be desired in terms of proofreading/editing. That's why we wished we could copy and paste from the document without it coming out as code from The Matrix so that way we could take note of specific sentences that were written wrong. One example is “I thought we were all were done for.” There are a few instances of that happening. Unfortunately, because of the problem described earlier, we had two choices: try to remember it or take a screenshot.
UPDATE: We actually did receive a reply from the author after this review and the problem with our ability to read the file was fixed. We've provided a slight ratings boost.
Keep in mind, it is unlikely the problems above will actually affect your reading experience. It is more pertinent to judging and reviewing than it is to casual reading.
This book is creative. It's ambitious. It takes chances. There are plenty of twists, turns, and red-herrings. You could really end up enjoying this book.
Check it out on Amazon!