Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Book Reviews – the June/July Edition


I only read two books in June, but I read four in July, so buckle up!
1. Crooked River (Pendergast #19), by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. ★★★★ Dozens of identical blue shoes are found in the ocean off the southwestern coast of Florida, all with a severed human foot inside, all exhibiting unmistakable signs of violence. They appear out of nowhere one day, floating in on the tide. Called off the tarmac from his return flight back to New York City, Pendergast reluctantly arrives on Captiva Island and is quickly drawn into the mystery. A preliminary pathology report indicates the feet were wrenched from their bodies in the crudest of ways. As the days continue, more wash in until the number tops one hundred. Soon, Pendergast and his partner, junior agent Coldmoon find themselves squaring off against an adversary more powerful and deadly than they've ever encountered. 
The Bug Says: See that disgusted face up there? That was my reaction to one of the scenes from this book. Which is just par for the course for this series – I always try to remember to not eat anything while reading them. That said, I enjoyed it a lot – it was a return to Pendergast of old & I find him to be a fascinating character. And his ward Constance has a pretty interesting side plot too.
2. Fallen (Will Trent #5), by Karin Slaughter ★★★★ There’s no police training stronger than a cop’s instinct. Faith Mitchell’s mother isn’t answering her phone. Her front door is open. There’s a bloodstain above the knob. Everything Faith learned in the academy goes out the window when she charges into her mother’s house, gun drawn. She sees a man dead in the laundry room, a hostage situation in the bedroom. What she doesn’t see is her mother. When the hostage situation turns deadly, Faith is left with too many questions. She’ll need the help of her partner, Will Trent, and trauma doctor Sara Linton to get some answers. But Faith isn’t just a cop anymore, she’s a witness—and a suspect. To find her mother, Faith will have to cross the thin blue line and bring the truth to light—or bury it forever.
The Bug Says: I’m still enjoying this series quite a bit. Lots of human drama, an excellent mystery, and the enigma that is Will Trent’s brain. Highly recommend!
3. Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristin Kobes Du Mez ★★★★★ A scholar of American Christianity presents a seventy-five-year history of evangelicalism that identifies the forces that have turned Donald Trump into a hero of the Religious Right.

How did a libertine who lacks even the most basic knowledge of the Christian faith win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016? And why have white evangelicals become a presidential reprobate’s staunchest supporters? These are among the questions acclaimed historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez asks in Jesus and John Wayne, which delves beyond facile headlines to explain how white evangelicals have brought us to our fractured political moment. Challenging the commonly held assumption that the “moral majority” backed Donald Trump for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Donald Trump in fact represents the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals’ most deeply held values.

The Bug Says: Oh my gosh this book alternately blew my mind and blew my gasket. Such a good examination of evangelicalism and how it became what it is today. I feel like anything I say wouldn’t do justice to the book – if you’re interested in this subject I recommend that you read it yourself. I’ll end with a quote from one of the reviews on Goodreads: “If you’re like me, you’ll end this book in lament and grief. These are not problems fixed with a clever tweet or a new denomination or a label to replace evangelical. No easy fixes are offered. I guess I’ll sit with the grief for a bit before I try to figure out where we go from here.
4. While Justice Sleeps, by Stacey Abrams ★★★★★ Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together—excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn—the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases—has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court—a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.
The Bug Says: I admit that I got this book because of the novelty that Stacey Abrams wrote it – I was VERY curious about how she would be as an author. I thought it was great – I liked the main characters and the puzzle that they were trying to solve. And the end was very satisfactory. I would definitely read another book by her.
5. Legacy, by Nora Roberts ★★★★★ Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in. A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other. But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins… 
The Bug Says: Nora books just automatically get 5 stars, but this one was, as usual, excellent. I have a slight bias against fitness guru type people, so I had to get around that a bit, but the story is good, and the mystery was compelling.  
6. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir ★★★★ Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he's been asleep for a very, very long time. And he's just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that's been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it's up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.
The Bug Says: I loved (LOVED) The Martian, but for some reason didn’t read Weir’s second book. But when my brother told me I had to read this one I decided to jump right on it. I didn’t love it to the level of The Martian, but it was pretty darned close (and actually, I will definitely read it again & probably love it more with each reading). There is one character in particular that was just the best.
Right now I’m reading Terraform: Building a Better World by Propaganda and I feel like I need to insert that head exploding emoji to communicate how I feel about it. I’m listening to the audio version, which he narrates, and since he’s a performer it is just excellent. I hope I can find actual words to convey how I feel about it when I review it next month. How about you – has anything made your head explode (for good or ill) lately?


  1. Thank you! I just several new books to my "want to read" list.

  2. Marc's ready the Andy Weir book now. I'll pick it up after I finish my current one. Also, is the Nora Roberts book a trilogy?

  3. Jesus & John Wayne - I'd never heard of it but am SOO intrigued now!

  4. That book about Trump and the evangelicals sounds FASCINATING. I've also heard that Stacey Abrams's books are good!

  5. Jesus and John Wayne
    Several years ago the late Joe Bageant wrote "Deer Hunting with Jesus" and pretty much predicted the appearance of a Trump-like messiah for the downtrodden white working class.
    Bageant's angle was that collapse of the industries that employed the white working class naturally lead them to resent any group they saw as getting ahead of them. For Bageant though, this resentment was largely based on economic reasons while from my experience trump love here in South Carolina is based on latent racism.
    Bageant passed away not long after publishing that book but he definitely had a grasp on the what was going on.
    I'll have to get Jesus and John Wayne just to compare.

    Project Hail Mary
    Yeah, I liked it more that "The Martian" just for the constant volume of new and interesting concepts. One of them being how Rocky's home planet, a place mention in a real exoplanet documentary saying it couldn't support life. Of course the documentary did the usual hand waving saying it couldn't support life as we know it, but Andy Weir came up with a way it could.
    Above all else, Hail Mary left me in awe and wonder at the idea of exploration and discovery.
    My one disappointment was now having an epilogue with an old Eva Stratt learning the four beetles had returned with a solution.


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2022 Project 365 – Week Twenty

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