My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Review: Tech Ghost: The Complete Series: A Sci-Fi Thriller Box Set

Tech Ghost: The Complete Series: A Sci-Fi Thriller Box Set Tech Ghost: The Complete Series: A Sci-Fi Thriller Box Set by Ben Wolf
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Performance: ***

The Ghost Mine ***
Pretty much a basic story with standard tropes similar enough to aliens 2 (just swap mutants for xenomorphs with a few techie references) that there were few surprises. After a very slow start with cookie cutter spacer roughnecks talking smack, the back half of the story is just a long run for your life horror parody with a body count in the top right corner (a la Hot Shots! Part Deux) … complete with macabre details that were so gratuitous as to be humorously entertaining (YMMV). There wasn’t much world building and a complete absence of character development, so the plot is basically just a simple thrill ride with a few easily missed twists toward the end (and a rather corny conclusion). Over all, there was nothing too terrible, but also there was nothing particularly unique or interesting, so with a pretty solid narration, you get just enough that you could easily have it playing in the background … tuning in now and again to check on where you are in the fairly predicable plot.

The Ghost Pact **
After surviving the disaster of the “Ghost Mine,” Justin moves on to mining asteroids instead of planetary shaft mines … only he takes with him a shiny new prosthetic arm and the ghost of his best friend (Keontae). Before long, the scenery changes to a colony ship where Justin continues to show off his ability to find trouble anywhere. As with the previous book, the world building is pretty limited (basically a modern western world view grafted onto a very simple sci-fi space adventure). Unfortunately. we get a slow build-up while the story takes a promenade through Triad territory in the space station/ark for several chapters before we get even a glimmer of plot. I am sure there was a point to that little segue, I just can’t figure out what it was … but at least now we have a direction (and something of a mystery). And that is when the Corporate Big Bad shows up with an absolutely unbelievable lack of any accountability to anybody with a new and very deadly “asset” that starts the inevitable run for your life stage of the story. Over all it is a simple story with stereotypes and tropes stitched together with a touch of deus ex machina that requires a boat load of suspending disbelief that makes it difficult to connect with anything (characters or world). However, if you can just let it all go and roll with it, you do get some solid entertainment that would give the A Team a run for the money.

The Ghost Plague *
Coming into the final stretch, this is only nominally book three of the trilogy, picking up the story right where the last book ended with all the same characters and bad guys and the same run for your life plot line with nothing in particular resolved from book 2 … just an added hazard of a self-inflicted tech plague turning humans into zombies lurking in the background … and we have officially entered into competition with superhero comic books, complete with its own giant, blue super soldier villain aka Vesh (I’m being literal). Queue the Space Ninjas (seriously … they’re in there). Unfortunately this style is not one of my favored genres, so the entertainment value started to bleed out here as the sophomoric bluff and bluster characteristic of the nearly all of the character dialogue started to grind on the nerves. There are a few surprises with shifting alliances that don’t really add much to the over all story. Overall it was an exhausting wild ride for Mr Toad and I was happy when it was over.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TechGhost #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Review: Rusted Synapse

Rusted Synapse Rusted Synapse by Elwood Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a solid cyberpunk story starring a jaded cyborg waiting on her inevitable blue screen who is recruited by Mr Faustus (Yes, even the MC noted the significance of the name) for a daring, off book, snatch and grab.  Added to this team is another soldier/paladin on overwatch, a cartel smuggler for logistics and a tech wiz wonderkid for counter-e. The team dynamics get off to a rough start, as the cartel’s man was responsible for the MC’s original dilapidated condition (aka ripping off arms and legs before smashing the batteries). The character growth primarily comes from within the team as they learn to depend on each other when things go south … and a few poignant personal issues that point to deeper philosophical questions that make you go hmmm (or you can ignore if that is not your thing). In short … I thought ALL of the cast of characters were very well done and I connected with each in some way that made the story a lot more fun that I expected.

The world building was also top shelf … especially the tech (speaking as a professional techie). It all felt plausible and real … so much so that I found myself reading straight through to the other side of midnight (making it tough to get up for work the next day). I really enjoyed some of the concepts that were developed … such as AI vs Sentient Daemons, Full body prosthetics vs body cloning … and my personal favorite … combat synchronization! Then stir in a pandemic (a flesh rotting disease euphemistically known as “Rust”) to get the appropriate dystopian feel expected in punk and the result is simply fantastic. Just in case some of the jargon loses you, there is a glossary in the back to bring you up to speed. The story itself is pretty standard and told well, despite the expected tropes, and with a surprise ending that left me wanting more.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#RustedSynapse #BookSirens

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Sunday, June 25, 2023

Review: Interpretation for Preaching and Teaching: An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics

Interpretation for Preaching and Teaching: An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics Interpretation for Preaching and Teaching: An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Stanley E Porter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The task of hermeneutics must come before homiletics.”

Understanding hermeneutics, or in more specific terms, the process by which we interpret scriptural text (aka exegesis), it an important first step in “preaching and teaching" scripture in a way that is applicable to today (aka homiletics). At just under 200 pages, this book is a quick read that is easily accessible to any reader, regardless of background (in other words, you don’t need to be a theologian or biblical scholar to understand and/or benefit from it). Ultimately we get an introduction to many of the critical methods used by scholars so that the reader is better able to understand context and nuance from which contending interpretations can emerge. In fact, I find this work to be an excellent companion to another favorite of mine: Biblical Reasoning which introduces that concept of biblical pressure to exegesis of scripture.

Beginning with a definition and brief history of hermeneutics and end with its use in homiletics, each chapter starts with a topical introduction, detailed discussion, study and practice recommendations and a conclusion to wrap it all up. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate all bias within the realm of biblical interpretation, the author does an awesome job chartering the middle path with a brief explanation of the pros and cons of the principle approaches (aka diachronic and synchronic approaches), genre and form analysis, et al. while making illustrating the author’s preferred approach (to facilitate preaching and teaching) using NT examples (Gospel and Philemon). My only critique here would probably be a wish for more in the study and practice section. Over all this book would be a excellent addition to the bookshelf of any student of the Christian Bible.

1. What Is Hermeneutics, and Why Are So Many Talking about It?
2. Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture
3. Hermeneutics at the Level of Language and Linguistics
4. Hermeneutics at the Level of Text: Part 1
5. Hermeneutics at the Level of Text: Part 2
6. Hermeneutics at the Level of Biblical Theology
7. Hermeneutics at the Level of Systematic Theology
8. Hermeneutics at the Level of at the Level of Homiletics

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#InterpretationForPreachingAndTeaching #NetGalley

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Thursday, June 22, 2023

Review: Deadly Refuge

Deadly Refuge Deadly Refuge by Drew Avera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: ***

Space Pirates … eventually

Part two (2) of the story that began with Broken Worlds where our heroes make their way to a Pirate world for badly needed repairs to their bucket of bolts, known as the Replicade. Of course there is more than meets the eye with this former military scout, and the Pirate King of Ferax (aka Crase). If you have not done book one, I highly recommend you do that first (I started this book and got lost before going back and getting the first book). I still haven’t yet figured out why Deis and Malikea basically let Brendle and Anki take over the ship … but apparently they are all still friends as they hatch a plot to survive the port call that routinely makes Greshians disappear. Once again, the pacing at the start is almost painfully slow; although it does move, accelerating nicely for the last half of the book until it comes to an eventual, and inevitable, conclusion. With that in mind, I am interesting to see if that carries forward into the next book of the series.

The narration doesn’t really improve much from the first book; however, by now I am mostly use to it so it was not too difficult to enjoy.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#DeadlyRefuge #TheAlorianWars #StoryOrigin #KindleUnlimited

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Review: These Burning Stars

These Burning Stars These Burning Stars by Bethany Jacobs
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book did Not work for me (DNF@50%). The biggest reason for that is I just did not connect to any of the characters; in fact, I hated them all (because they are pure evil). There is an unhealthy focus on violence, death and sex in this story that seems to preclude any character redemption and/or growth, making the world building the only element that could possibly save this hot mess … and it did have a lot of potential (with a tripartite ruling class of brute, priest and spy along with some gender/pronoun games); but in the end that too falls flat as none of the concepts are really explained well nor explored. While I applaud the avoided of info dumping that seems to be common in the genre, the over reliance on made up words and redefined terms make it extremely difficult to get a bead on what is going on from the context. This is only exacerbated by the use of third person singular (present tense), which keeps the action moving but doesn’t allow much in the way of exposition.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheseBurningStars #NetGalley

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Sunday, June 18, 2023

Review: How to Talk about Jesus without Looking like an Idiot: A Panic-Free Guide to Having Natural Conversations about Your Faith

How to Talk about Jesus without Looking like an Idiot: A Panic-Free Guide to Having Natural Conversations about Your Faith How to Talk about Jesus without Looking like an Idiot: A Panic-Free Guide to Having Natural Conversations about Your Faith by Andy Bannister
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a number of reasons why christians might struggle in talking about their faith; and for the most part, I think the author does a good job identifying most of them in the first three (3) chapters. Perhaps the most significant one that I have encountered, and is missing from this book, is that many christians really don’t have a lot of depth to their faith and they are comfortably fine in their own little bubble with no real desire to learn more about it (or themselves). Regardless, christians are expected to evangelize and this book does have some good general ideas on how to do that; however, it falls down in the specifics that rely too heavily on gotcha moments and logical fallacies (I am looking at you scarecrow). For example … that author makes a huge deal about relative moralism and how it just doesn’t work, ignoring any nuance introduced by social needs … in other words, either it is every man for themselves or there are objective truths that must by nature be determined through divine revelation. Next up … the belief that good and evil are solely christian concepts because you can’t define evil in a relative moralistic society … et al. If any of these arguments actually work, you need to find a better class of atheist ‘cause even I can swat those soft pitches over the back wall.

But that is not why this book actually fails to prevent you from looking like an idiot. The whole premise of this book is how to drive openings into personal interactions so that you can engage in apologetics. This type of ambush theology is exactly what makes “crunchy christians” (define by the author as christians people go out of their way to avoid). It may work for the author, who is obviously quick-witted and disarmingly humorous, but for the rest of us, it’s a mixed bag (and there is a growing body of research that indicates that apologetics is not very effective in driving conversion). In other words, you may not feel like an idiot, but that opinion is not shared by your target audience. That is not to say that you would not gain any useful tips, tricks or ideas … only that some tweaking (and practice) is needed before achieving the results you may be looking for.

Chapter 1 Undercover Christian
Chapter 2 The Sum of All Fears
Chapter 3 The First Steps to Total Fear-Less Evangelism
Chapter 4 Evangelism in Everyday Places
Chapter 5 The Power of a Good Question
Chapter 6 Learning Questions From the Master
Chapter 7 A Toolbox for Evangelism
Chapter 8 The What Question
Chapter 9 The Why Question
Chapter 10 The Wondering Question
Chapter 11 The Whether Question
Chapter 12 Five Simple Steps for Answering Tough Questions
Chapter 13 Bringing It Back to Jesus
Chapter 14 How Not To Be a Crunchy Christian
Chapter 15 Foolish Evangelism

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#HowtoTalkaboutJesuswithoutLookinglikeanIdiot #NetGalley

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Thursday, June 15, 2023

Review: Broken Worlds

Broken Worlds Broken Worlds by Drew Avera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: **

Slow Start and a Quick End …

This is a short “Enemy Mine” Space Adventure story. On the Dark side you have the evil Greshian Empire that brooks no defiance from inferior races on pain of completely destroying your home worlds (not actually the best strategy, but who can figure out the alien mind). While experiencing a twinge of conscience, a young Greshian officer is betrayed by an ambitious fellow officer and exiled on an abandoned planetoid after a ridiculous kangaroo court in from of his commanding officer. Soon thereafter, a Luthian transport breaks apart over that same place, introducing the enemy pilot as an obvious future love interest. The remainder of the story centers around the two of them trying to get off the rock without alerting the lurking Greshian patrol main plot point). Along the way they meet two more refugees of the Greshian genocidal policies whose only purpose in the story is to bring the ship to our intrepid heroes … so, while it IS a very short story that takes a long time to actually DO anything, it does actually resolve the plot; so technically not a cliffhanger, but nothing really major accomplished either.

The narration was subpar, though not horrible … the cadence and enunciation just didn’t feel natural to me; although I did get somewhat use to it by the end. Additionally the narrator struggled with voicing male characters making it hard for me to differentiate the speakers.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#BrokenWorlds #TheAlorianWars #StoryOrigin #KindleUnlimited

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Review: City of Bones: Updated and Revised Edition

City of Bones: Updated and Revised Edition City of Bones: Updated and Revised Edition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charisat is the City of Bones … built on the decaying bones of an Ancient civilization that fell when the Wastes rose up to consume the world … or perhaps it takes it name from the practice of burning human[oid] bones to some necromantic effect. Regardless, it is the most powerful Trade City in the authoritarian dystopian landscape that remains with a stratified power structure, giving raise to very believable biases and prejudice based on which “tier” of the city they have access to … patricians and elites with their warders at the top and destitute at the bottom 8th tier. The system is stacked against outsiders (non-citizens).

The main character is doubly an outsider, being denied any change of citizenship because of his heritage as a “krisman” or desert person; a genetically altered human designed to withstand the dangers and hazards of the Waste where most of the flora and fauna want to kill you. The obvious mystery here is what happened to destroy the world of the Ancients? The answer here becomes a central part of the overall plot … and doesn’t get much play until the action picks up in the second half of the story. Still, the fantastic and somewhat unique take on world-building and character introduction of Khat and his supporting cast in the first 25% kept me fully engaged … with the next quarter starting to drag somewhat.

The story opens with Khat, desperate to get out from under his debt to the merchant crime lord, agrees to take a group of elites out into the Wastes on a Relic hunt … which quickly the rails to bring the Khat into the dangerous realm of elite power games, where his somewhat hidden talents help figure out the various puzzles and mysteries (a la Indiana Jones). Along the way, we get a little more backstory, but not enough to completely dispel the shadows (and this helps give the world a feel of incredible depth). And the interplay between all of the characters allows for some interesting social elements without being overly preaching (letting the PoV speak for itself). Finally … the plot is fairly predictable, so the small twists you get along the way keep it interesting and entertaining.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#CityOfBones #NetGalley

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Sunday, June 11, 2023

Review: What Jesus Intended: Finding True Faith in the Rubble of Bad Religion

What Jesus Intended: Finding True Faith in the Rubble of Bad Religion What Jesus Intended: Finding True Faith in the Rubble of Bad Religion by Todd D. Hunter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A re-examination of what Jesus meant when He commanded christians to love, and how dogma and tradition can sometimes get in the way of this. Each chapter covers a brief vignette to illustrate slight variations on the theme that can feel a bit repetitive by the end; although this could also be seen as baby steps toward an end goal where some readers are already further along their journey and don’t need as much hand holding or convincing (I am already well aligned how this concept was presented, so it did drag a bit for me). Each chapter title is a good summary of the topic contained there in, followed by a few verses of scripture, an introduction to the personal encounter before diving into a Jesus centric discussion on WWJD, because upon how the author interprets the ministry of Jesus found the the Gospels … and just as important, how such a response ultimate worked in the situation introduced at the start of the chapter. Finally, at the end of each chapter, there is a Practical Exercise (Reflection Questions) and a prayer that wraps it all up. Although not pitched as such, this book is probably more effective when taken slowly and one chapter at a time, allow time for meditation before moving on.

1. Am I the Only One Who Thinks This? How the Church Failed Us
2. Can I Find Faith Again? A Fresh Proposal Regarding Jesus
3. I Am Failing to Connect to Faith and Church: Jesus’ Self-Identity Is Our Rescue
4. I’ve Lost the Religious Plot Line: Jesus Knew He Was Living in an Unfolding Story
5. I Feel Pain, Cynicism, and Despair - Where is Jesus? Jesus; Orientation to the Kingdom of God
6. What About All the Bad Things Done in God’s Name? Jesus Taught That Eternal Life Empowers Good Religion
7. Can I Trust the Church to Be an Instrument of Restoration? Jesus Was a Healer
8. How Can I Find Vibrant Faith? Jesus’ Teachings Point Us to a New Way of Life
9. Why is Consistent Spiritual Growth So Difficult? Jesus’ Emphasis on the Centrality of the Heart
10. Is There an Authentic Community of Faith? Jesus Intentionally Called and Sent a People
11. Do My Religious Reservations and Churchly Hesitations Disqualify Me? Jesus Walks with Us on a Journey of Doubt

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#WhatJesusIntended #NetGalley

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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Review: Die Again, Mr. Holmes

Die Again, Mr. Holmes Die Again, Mr. Holmes by Anna Elliott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Performance: ****
Story: **

A Mixed bag and Missed Opportunity

Another solid performance from this narrating duo; and frankly that is was saves this story.  By now it is de riguour to present two mysteries that converge toward the end.  Lucy investigates a missing person while Holmes tries to unravel a similar case that appears to involve an opium smuggling scheme … which is the first misstep.  As noted several times in the story, selling opium was actually legal at the time, so such an operation must therefore take huge risks just to avoid the custom fees (which I am sure would be able to fund such a powerful cartel </sarcasm>).  Stir in a bit of moralizing and preaching about the evils of said legal product and it all seems quite out of place for the time period.  To make matters so much worse … the story appears to glorify torture and kidnapping (by the good guys) that is very nearly a bridge too far for me; I expected a lot more perception and deduction for a Holmes story (it is after all what lifts such stories above its peers).  To be clear … the story is not too bad, I was just expecting better so it was an overall disappointment.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Review: Shorefall

Shorefall Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the second book of The Founder's Trilogy that began with Foundryside ...
Previous Review of Foundryside.

I am not sure what happened here, but I found the first book to be incredibly interesting and fun while this follow up attempt to be decidedly less so. You still have the basic plot … it opens with a heist by our expanded team of main characters before the next big bad makes the scene and we ramp up to the exciting finale (despite several reviews complaining about a cliffhanger, technically it is a really crappy "to be continued" instead since the main conflict is resolved … perhaps it is a nuance without a difference for some). So where did this loos points? In the first book the world building was new and fantastic and carried much of the story … here it seemed like the world-building devolved into a hot mess … starting with the return of the undead hierophant who seems to be able to just do some magic without scriving (while at the same time being limited by plot armor called permissions, rights and privileges that work better in the IT world from which they came than here). That pretty much blew any plot discipline out the window as soon as he appeared with the only reason he didn’t crush our heroes being his apparent need to monologue (because all the kool villains do this). This ridiculousness is compounded through the introduction and abuse of the concept of twinning where this Vulcan mind meld seems to always get the plot rolling again when the author writes himself into a corner.

The pacing is deceptively slow … yes there is a race against the clock feel; however, this is interrupted by simplistic and convenient dialogue added to frequent exhibitions of extensive and repetitive details (info dumps) that was supplied as the main characters stand around talking about what to do next … I am sure this was an attempt to stretch out the forced feeling of suspense and anticipation … but it fails miserable. ["Now, unless anyone else wants to tell me his or her life story, can we shoot the big gun?" - Zurg] Too many words and not enough action make Jack a very bored boy. To make matters worse … whatever connection I had to protagonists from book one (1), it completely evaporated here … I just could not bring myself to care about any of the. Sancia spends a lot of time just being shocked and offended to the point of near paralysis … she just isn’t that interesting as the main PoV character without her interactions with Clef. Overall she was primarily the driver of the trainwreck of all the over the top emotional drama. Bearanice was completely flat where even the relationship between her and Sancia had no fire at all. Orsa was a grumpy old man that was only there to insert his collection of course vocabulary … speaking of which … if replacing only one curse word with some meaningless invented word while keeping the prolific use of all the other gorram curses (of which there were way too many instances to be effective at all) is just stupid. All or nothing please. Then there is Gregor … who was simply there for the big reveal at the end. Seriously I connected with none of them.

Crasedes was actually more interesting than I expected, if still a little creepy in the way he was always stalking Sancia. He loses points for being ridiculous overpowered and for the unneeded torture scenes (trigger warning are appropriate for this book), but I could almost understand his motivation to bring about his end goal of total human enslavement (almost) … especially after more of his mysterious past is revealed in several surprising plot twists. Unfortunately his reticence to actually explain anything that he was doing only served to keep him in the shadows as the main bogeyman (a bit of clumsy misdirection while the real antagonized works against both him AND our team of intrepid adventurers). Valeria, the artificial god limited only by her “programming," was also interesting … in a rogue AI trope in a sci-fi meme that we all know always ends badly. Go Team V. Ultimately the ending was a relief when it came … no I still need to figure out if I want to read the next installment (odds are decent as I still enjoy the world building).

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Review: Religion: Reality Behind the Myths

Religion: Reality Behind the Myths Religion: Reality Behind the Myths by Jonas Atlas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am not sure what I was expecting here (this wasn’t it so this review probably reflects that). While I am not a relies scholar, I have a fair amount of experience with several different religious traditions, to the point of at least reading the scriptures that are generally believed to define them as well as engaging comparative studies of them (in fact I am a fan of Dr Campbell’s work). This is specifically true for the three (3) religions chosen by the author to make his point: Christianity, Islam and Hinduism (which are actually community cohorts and not specific cults or sects like the author seems to imply). This makes his seven (7) rants on how we just don’t understand religion (because there is not common definition that applies to all religions) really strange … especially given that he doesn’t seem to offer any positive representations of what religion is … only what it is not. And from my experience, he was almost entirely incorrect with his critiques that mostly rely on showing that specific sects within a religion don’t agree with each other therefore there is no common definition … additionally he seems to have no concept of what a credal religion actually is, since he confidently states no such thing exists (despite evoking this term later on in the book).

Then we get to myth 2 about hierarchies where, after a rather twisted and confused examination of the orthodox churches, declares that they are not hierarchical because they can’t force their interpretations and dogmas on each other (ignoring the hierarchies within each). To be fair, there ARE non hierarchical christian churches … organized by a congregational governance … but even they have a pastor and elders. Still … there were certainly better examples out there that could have been revealed with a little more extensive research (perhaps the reform tradition). Additional his critique of Myth #3 seems to be entirely ignorant of how acculturation/appropriation and syncretism actually work within a religious context. The main premise here appears to be that since many religions share certain elements, it is difficult to distinguish one religion from another (a completely untenable position for the examples provided). About the only concept I can agree with the author on is his comparison of religion to language (I would go further and say that religion IS a language). Regardless … in each of his attempts to debunk common myths about religion, the author basically fails to identify areas of commonality and thereby illustrates either a lack of understanding of the example religions, or is an intentionally misdirecting the argument based on multiple logical fallacies, common biases or misapplied tropes.

That is not to say that there are not any interesting facts here (which saves this book some being completely panned); only that they are selected and curated to support (or at least not undermine) generalized, and often rather dubious, opinions with regard to how we understand religion. I was especially entertained by the author’s attempt to use the etymology of the word religion to support the idea that the word has racist elements in its current usage. The chapter on contracting spiritualism and mysticism with religion was also quite strange to me … having engaged in all three at one time or another and being familiar with Venn Diagrams, I don’t struggle with this nearly as much as the author appears to do. There is also some decent information regarding the presumed conflict between religion and science … although this is primarily an issue in some sects of the abrahamic religions … so I would have used the term faith vs science instead; however, this is a position that I, and most folks around me, have held for quite some time.

The last two myths discussed actually represent ongoing debates that I have recently witnessed and the author does bring up some solid points with respect to what is uniquely an element of religion and what is simply human nature. Where previous support had a decided wag the dog approach, here the argument tries to look at the nature of humanity and illustrates how religion, or more appropriately religious elements, are appropriated to rationalize and justify abhorrent social behaviors targeting outsiders. The underlying theme here is that a secular society in not inherently better or worse than a religious society … which, while true is still an odd point since in most societies that I am aware of, there is an overlapping spectrum for both and the author just finished explaining why they are actually not opposed to each other (and can co-exist with each other).

Myth #1 - Religions Are Determined by a Series of Dogmatic Beliefs and Well-defined Rules of Conduct That Adherents Must Follow
Myth #2 - Religions Are Structured Hierarchically
Myth #3 - Religions Can Be Clearly Distinguished, Based on Their Beliefs, Rules, and Structures

Interlude - On the Definition, Origin, and Racists Dimensions of the Word :Religion”

Myth #4 - Spirituality and Mysticism Contrast with Religion
Myth #5 - Science and Religion Are at Odds with Each Other
Myth #6 - Religions Are Dangerous Because Their Irrational Truth Claims Inevitably Provoke
Myth #7 - A Secular Society Is Completely Different (and Inherently Better) That a Religious Society


I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Review: The Return of the Ripper

The Return of the Ripper The Return of the Ripper by Anna Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Performance: ****
Story: **

An Interesting Mystery amid the Hollywood Drama

I remain a fan of the audible series even thought the quality of the stories has been slipping. With two narrators for the two PoV(s) still putting in a solid performance overall. The story here kicks off with what appears to be a Jack the Ripper copycat (or is he) that draws in Lucy and her father, who was otherwise involved in a case concerning stolen diamonds. As could be expected, the two cases quickly converge. While the portrayal of Sherlock is not particularly good, as a general mystery for Lucy is good enough to entertain and the weepingly relationship with her fiancee Jack (a police Sgt) has a Hallmark network feel to it. One minor quibble would be the typical Hollywood profession of love et al that happens in the middle of a mortal threat where time is an important factor (so yeah … lets hug and kiss and cuddle and then worry about the bomb on a timer … seriously can we please not do that?). So once again … not the strongest performance but after the last episode it was not the weakest either.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.