Month: December 2020

Book Review: JoinWith.Me by Mike Meier

“JoinWith.Me” is a fascinating book….part near-future realistic dystopia, part cautionary tale, and part plain old great storytelling. It explores themes like humanity’s increasing dependence on technology, how technology can evolve and learn, and the resilience (or lack thereof) of the human spirit. In case that makes it sound like you’re being asked to read a philosophy textbook, let me reassure you: these themes are woven into the plot so seamlessly they’ll take a backseat to the action of the story. The reader will follow Sam, a disconnected and discontented young man, as he navigates his society, his personal issues, and interactions with an increasingly worrisome AI. I enjoyed following Sam’s progress, and witnessing his emotional and personal growth as he responded to the challenges he faced. Sam is an intriguing character, as he is simultaneously becoming aware of his flaws, and moving deeper into a scenario that makes it harder for him to change things for the better.

For me, the main take-away was a lot to think about in terms of the future possibilities for some of the technology that is common in today’s world. For anyone who has read “The Arc of a Scythe”…..plenty to ponder in terms of this book’s AI vs. The Thunderhead.

I highly recommend this book for those looking for a unique, fast-paced dystopian read, as well as for book discussion groups. Trust me: there will PLENTY to talk about after you read this one!

As an added bonus, QR codes (both on the cover and in the text) link to videos from a short film based on the novel.

Five out of five chunks of colby jack!

Book Review: Olive Bright, Pigeoneer by Stephanie Graves

I have so many good things to say about “Olive Bright, Pigeoneer”!

  1. Olive herself is wonderful! Her character is very well-written, detailed, and realistic. I enjoyed learning a bit about her past as I got to know her through the storyline. She has plenty of room to grow, and I think she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
  2. Several other characters added a great deal to the story, and I hope to see more of them in future books. In particular, Hen, Violet, and Jamie still have plenty of character development and back-story revelations to look forward to!
  3. The historical aspect: This book is set in England during World War II, but it focuses on a less-popular part of history. Instead of being on the front lines, the reader gets a close look at what life was like in a small (fighting-free) village during the war. Since Olive and her father train messenger pigeons and hope to have them used for the war effort, I learned a lot about the role of pigeons in wartime, which was fascinating.
  4. The mystery storyline was excellent, with plenty of suspects, suspicious behavior, real clues, and red herrings. Olive makes a very competent investigator as she tries to follow in the footsteps of Hercule Poirot, her literary hero. The final reveal made perfect sense, and left plenty of room for further developments in the next book.
  5. The slow-burn romance: I liked the way this was written. In this initial installment, the two characters are just getting to know each other. I appreciated that they weren’t rushed into romance by the author. I’m now invested in them, and look forward to watching them get to know each other better in future books.
  6. This is book one in a new series! I am very happy about this, as I am eager to see what happens next for Olive and her friends, and to get further glimpses into pigeon-craft.

All in all, five out of five slices of perfect Provolone!

Book Review: Beyond the Higher Ground by Thomas A. Brigger

“Beyond the Higher Ground” by Thomas A. Brigger is a very impressive book! I was initially unsure if I’d enjoy it, as it’s about a man sent to rural Virginia to oversee the building of a new prison. I opted to give it a try based on the location, as I’m from near that area, and have traveled through locations mentioned in the book. I’m SO glad I did! (If the prison aspect is holding you back, no worries…what matters is the location, not what is being built. Tuck could have been building a strip mall or apartment complex….what’s important is that he is in that place at that time. This is NOT a prison story.)

That being said….this book was so much more than I expected! The author obviously knows both the area and the construction business well, and it shows throughout the story. Everything rings true, and the descriptions of the area are detailed and allow the reader to vicariously appreciate the view. Despite the often-dark elements of the story, the reader is always reminded that everything is taking place in a region of astounding natural beauty.

The story itself centers around Tuck, who is sent to live in this area for roughly 18 months while he oversees the building project. In the course of this time, he encounters and deals with a lot…his actual job, new friends, friendly locals, hostile locals, bizarre occurrences, and the local drug trade. During it all, he’s still trying to process the unexpected death of his young wife, and figuring out how to move on with his life.

There is plenty going on throughout the book, with the action really ramping up toward the end. By that time, I was strongly invested in several other characters in addition to Tuck, and really cared about what happened to them.

There is plenty of harsh reality in this book….it’s not a light, fun read. The various aspects of the drug trade and their effects on the mostly lower-income locals are addressed realistically, which means not in a pretty way. Nothing gratuitous is thrown in just for shock value, and there’s no excessive violence or gore. I still walked away feeling truly saddened by the knowledge that things like these happen in real life every day, both in the book’s area and in other parts of the country.

You’ll meet some admirable characters: Tuck, who is trying to do his job (and the right thing), Cletus (who is trying to stand up for what he believes in), Sally (who is trying to make everyone happy and comfortable), Cecil (who has an amazing life story to share), and others. It was fascinating getting to know them all, and to learn more about the history of the area through the lives of certain characters.

There are two special, happy bits near the end….one a minor character moment/reveal that I didn’t see coming, and one a glimpse into the future that I’d been hoping for. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I appreciated both of these thoughtful touches from the author.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality of the writing itself…it is excellent! There is true poetry contained in some of the passages, and I often found myself stopping to re-read a sentence or two, just to appreciate the beauty of the language.

Give this one a try…I highly recommend it!

Five out of five chunks of spicy Pepper-Jack!