Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

NailedNailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All

By: David Fitzgerald
Paperback: 248 pages
ISBN-10: 0557709911
ISBN-13: 978-0557709915
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
I first heard about Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All while listening to The Dogma Debate. The Dogma Debate is an absolutely outstanding Spreaker internet radio show hosted by David Smalley, the author of Baptized Atheist (and his partners in crime Daniel Moran and Shayrah Akers). The show explores Atheist subject matter in a professional manner, free of the condescending attitudes that close the door on intelligent debate. By the way, I am the 4th listener. The author of Nailed, David Fitzgerald, was a guest on the show and was just as compelling on air as he is in his book.
Nailed explores the legend of Jesus in the same lens that we explore so many other things in history, with facts and rationality. There is no way that any sane mind can come away from reading Nailed with the believe that Jesus ever existed, was influential in that time, or that there is even evidence that his story coincides with what is know about the first century. There is no doubt that apologists will continual to dismiss the evidence presented by Fitzgerald. If only they could be so critical in their self analysis because if the empirical evidence that Jesus never existed isn’t enough, I can not see any way possible to argue that Nailed does not demonstrate that the Biblical stories about Jesus never happened.
Sadly, there will never be anything that completely proves that Fitzgerald is right because you simply cannot kill what never existed. Some will walk away from reading Nailed and say, “AH HA it doesn’t prove Jesus didn’t exist, only that your SCIENCE doesn’t prove that he did!” Well, okay then, let Jesus join the ranks of Santa Claus, Leprechauns, The Easter Bunny, and whatever other mythical creatures of folk lure that you can think of.
If any of this offends you, then please read Nailed and come back to comment on here.
Some of my favorite things that a reader needs to contemplate…
Why does no one else in history document the biblical events, despite many with tremendous motivation to do so?
Why did the Christians feel that it was necessary to forge so many things and destroy so many others that may have shed light on the subject?
Why is there so much Christian anger?
Why is it that despite the millions who claimed to be Christians, I have never met a single one that followed anything Biblical?
Some problems with Nailed
Jesus (pun intended), why is it so expensive? I read the Kindle version because, despite buying many books, I couldn’t justify the paperback price. The benefit of having the paperback would have been being able to break it out in debates with the blind to reference, but I have many like this and the blind will fight you before they try to listen for a moment.
It is very dry and held my intention only because of my personal interest. You need to be wanting this knowledge to read it all, but hey, the knowledge is worth it.
Please, I am begging you, no matter what your back ground, read Nailed. If you are stuck on being Christian, you can learn where Atheist are coming from. If you are Atheist, you will understand more of why you are, and if you are just curious, the break down here is excellent. Everyone benefits from taking the time to learn.

Fell in Love with a Band: The Story of The White Stripes
By:  Chris Handyside
Paperback, 226 pages
ISBN13: 9780312336189

Overall: 3 out of 5 stars
The main reason I read this book and the main reason that it was bumped up to 3 stars is because I am a completely biased White Strips fan. To me, Jack White is a rock god. Other than a handful of people, all living musicians shall bow down before this living legend. Reading the story of Jack’s evolution to stardom was extremely entertaining, but admittedly, only because I am such a huge fan. See the thing is, Jack is a product of nothing but extremely hard work and dedication. There is no crazy Hollywood story, no drama, nothing. Jack played, and continues to play, whenever, wherever, however he can. He is a machine, never stopping, and seeking constant improvement.
Jack’s dedication seemingly began from birth, as he listened to his older siblings jam out on an almost daily basis. His upbringing played a huge role in who Jack has become. The Detroit home that he was raised in, not only blared out the sounds of his siblings playing, but placed Jack in an environment of isolation. That isolation, from being in the racial and cultural minority, allowed Jack to focus on his own person and not be distracted by the trappings of society. When you listen to Jack play today, despite his huge popularity, you can still hear that boy playing alone with his instrument, oblivious to the world and its judgements. The best part of Fell in Love with a Band was its ability to convey the world in which Jack came from.
It was additionally very cool to find some unknown musical treasures that Jack participated in.
Creativity: 1 out of 5 stars
It certainly does not take much creativity to write a story about a legendary figure. The investigation into Jack’s world is told through factual information and from those around Jack and Meg White. The words of Jack and Meg are sorely missing.
Characters: 2 out of 5 stars
Chris Handyside had to do a lot of work to catch up with all of the characters that grew up knowing Jack and Meg, but the inability to get their first hand input was a big hindrance on the complete picture.
Spelling and Grammar: 4 out of 5 stars
Nothing that I noticed, but not like I was blown away by its perfection or eloquence.
Execution: 3 out of 5 stars
If not a fan of The White Stripes to begin with, I believe this would be quite dry and maybe boring. But if a fan, there are some stories that further endear you to both Jack and Meg.
The unbelievable luck that follows Jack, like when there was a manufacturing SNAFU that led to the last minute vinyls being made as red and white swirls, really?!
The love that he and his fans share, like when Jack lost a rare (because cheap and weird) guitar and a fan tracked one down and replaced it for him, giving it as a gift at a concert.
Some stories from Jack and Meg’s friends growing up.
All in all, I have to say it again, if you are a fan of The White Stripes, you will enjoy it, if not, probably not.

The Pyramid Legacy
By: Clive Eaton
Paperback, 356 pages Published June 20th 2012 by CreateSpace
ISBN13: 9781477531037

Overall 3 out of 5 stars

I received the Kindle version of The Pyramid Legacy from Clive Easton for a review request. But, I am very good at avoiding any preference because of Mr. Eaton’s generosity.
The Pyramid Legacy as title sends an impression of an ancient Egypt story, which could not be further from the truth. The pyramids are the beginning of a science fiction adventure.
Creativity 3 out of 5 stars
I am fair and tough in my critics, while the idea was good behind The Pyramid Legacy, it was not revolutionary by any means, it was average, thus 3 stars. Mr. Eaton does very well in blending archeology, mystery, science fiction, and a bit of a love story. Each of the elements were stories we have heard before but sewn together into one story.
Characters 4 out of 5 stars
Mr. Eaton did an outstanding job of making his characters believable and dialogue was generally good. The protagonist, Ben Anderson, is the best character in the novel, he grows nicely and remains true to his fundamental personality. There is a group of secondary characters that are also well done, Harry, the General, Evans, and a few more fit nicely into the story. The minor characters are okay at best, not much effort was put into them, which is generally the case with any author because we just don’t care about them, there are objects used to progress the plot. My big problem with the characters in with the second main character, Sam. While writing my novel, Eliot, I spent time learning about writing fundamentals and it is highly annoying how Sam completely changes her fundamental personality. I have no problem with characters growing, but they cannot inexplicably completely change who they are. Sam is known for her professionalism but just as she is achieving her dream, she completely loses all professionalism out of nowhere.
Spelling and Grammar 3 out of 5 stars
I am unsure if Mr. Eaton did the editing in this himself. If he did, trust me, I understand how difficult it is, I did my own editing as and eventually just had to settle with what I had, perfection is tough. The Pyramid Legacy is nowhere near perfect and I am not buying that much effort was put into editing. There are quite a few grammatical errors and fundamental sentence structure that does not make sense. When there are only a handful in a novel, I try to write them all down to help the author, but I gave up in this book because I would have never gotten through it. I will say that if I wasn’t particularly looking for such things, I probably would not have noticed. The things I am talking about are such as:
The World Wide Web is referred to as “infamous” with no explanation as to why, what the heck makes the world-wide web infamous?
…bone-shaking drive couldn’t shake it loose. – I do not like the same word so close to one another, I would prefer, the bone-jarring drive couldn’t shake it lose, or the bone-shaking drive couldn’t knock it lose.
Taxi halted abruptly outside his hotel. – It sounds like outside came abruptly, should read, the taxi abruptly halted outside of his hotel.
Things like that, which are not killer, but a little annoying.
Execution 3 out of 5 stars
Starting with the good, it is important to note that I enjoyed The Pyramid Legacy, it was a good adventure. I enjoy science fiction but do not generally write science fiction. Recently, I read the Dean Kootz book, Writing Popular Fiction, and in that book there is a section on the basics of science fiction writing. When I reviewed A.I. Apocalypse by William Hertling,  I felt it was a complete disaster in its violations of the basics of writing science fiction. A.I. Apocalypse stands as an example of how not to implement future technology in a novel. Conversely, The Pyramid Legacy stands as an example of exactly how to properly implement future technology. The future technology is believable and expertly utilized. The mPC (micro PC) is perfect in name and function, it utilized the laser projected keyboard, which is available now but is not utilized popularly. The idea that it becomes accepted as common  is perfect. The use of anti-matter as a future fuel source, the next generation of exploratory robots, space hibernation technology, moon outposts are more are believable and genuine feeling.
Now, the bad. There were two plot line flaws that were highly irritating. The big one tempted me to knock this down to 2 stars for Execution and even Overall, until I factored in how much I did enjoy the story.
1. Why does the internet not exist anymore because of a simple virus. The internet as we know it is gone in The Pyramid Legacy because of a viral attack. I understand the net being down for a while because of this but it just does not make sense that a software attack would destroy the internet. There was no hardware damage explained, so it wouldn’t take long at all to get everything back up and running.
2.  The pursuing of the murder on the ship does not make any sense at all, I mean none whatsoever. The mission was top-secret and everything about the mission was held in secret, absolutely no one was to know about it. It was even discussed how it was a surprise that government let the mission participants return to the regular world because the secret was so closely guarded. Then they go and prosecute the onboard murder of someone who would have been sentenced to death anyway, threatened the life of the crew and jeopardized the mission. The prosecution resulted in lawyers knowing about the mission and even a jury! That’s just silly. Then what reason would the murderer have for keeping the mission secret? Dumb, dumb, really dumb plot flaw.
If any writer is considering near future technology, it would not hurt them to read The Pyramid Legacy and see how Mr. Eaton did it right. Other than that, it was an enjoyable story and I believe the Mr. Eaton will make a very good book with some fine tuning. This would make a cool movie too.
Michael A. Wood Jr.

A Cup Full of Midnight : A Jared McKean Mystery
By: Jaden Terrell
Hardcover, 288 pages Published August 15th 2012 by The Permanent Press
ISBN13: 9781579622251

Overall 4 out of 5 stars

This is is second book in the Jared McKean Mystery series. I have not read the first book, yet, but as soon as I get a chance to, I will. A Cup Full of Midnight is a murder mystery. McKean is a private investigator and former homicide detective whose nephew has become a suspect the the murder of a former lover. McKean gets involved to clear his nephew’s name but uncovers a lot more trouble than simply clearing his nephew’s name.

Creativity 4 out of 5 stars

This is a classic murder mystery in format and the story itself is classic murder mystery so the for stars do not come from the creativity in plot. The four stars come from one of the two outstanding things about this novel, style. Jaden Terrell’s writing style is awesome, I loved it. There is a certain style to the writing that i cannot quite explain. Jaden Terrell does a little more telling than showing than I do, but it really works. Terrell leaves much of the scene to the imagination of the reader, which I prefer because it makes everyone see the book from a slightly different perspective, but Terrell throws in these little nuances of the scene that you would probably not even notice in a movie, but add a poetic style to the writing.

Characters 5 out of 5 stars

These characters jump from the pages and this is really where Jaden Terrell shines. Almost all of the characters have the appropriate amount of page space, have  their own uniqueness that you can relate to and really make the story. The best thing about this book is the main character, Jared McKean, who is one of the best protagonist that I have ever read about. These types of books generally have extremely tough, manly men, that you wouldn’t really like in real life, overly smart detective minds that make preposterous conclusions with psychic like abilities, or females that have and implausible ability to defeat multiple foes that are way stronger than her, but not McKean. Jared McKean is human, his vulnerability, compassion,  and realism shine through to create a main character that you can empathize with, root for, and thoroughly enjoy. This is everything that character development should be. When other authors read my criticisms about their characters, this is how it should be.

Spelling and Grammar 4 out of 5 stars

I did not find anything glaring about the editing at all. The knock comes from the occasional repeating of certain things. For instance, the first time Jaden wrote about a character counting down with his fingers by saying that he ticked them off on his fingers, which was a nice way of visualizing the movement of pulling the top of a finger down, like people do to count something off, but the third or fourth time I heard it, the uniqueness was lost and it became annoying.

Execution 4 out of 5 stars

Jaden Terrell executed A Cup Full of Midnight very well. For about three fourths of the way through, I thought I knew how it would end, but I was wrong, which was nice. The best part about the execution was that while McKean has a police background and still has connections in the department, Jaden Terrell has some familiarity, but is no expert and chose to not get into the procedural elements of how police interact or run investigations, like I do in Eliot because it is my expertise. Terrell chose instead to focus on character driven elements of the plot and did it exceptionally well.

Without question I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys mysteries or character driven stories. Outstanding job by Jaden Terrell and please remember that recommendation does not come very often from me.

Michael A. Wood Jr.
The Critical Critic

Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator By: Ryan Holiday
Hardcover, 288 pages Published July 19th 2012 by Portfolio Hardcover
ISBN13: 9781591845539

Overall 3 out of 5 stars

My system is set up to review fiction novels, so I will have to adapt a bit. I received this copy of Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator in a Goodreads.com giveaway, which I have been having some good luck with lately, enough to have a hard time keeping up on reviewing them. I received a signed copy, so I guess I feel pretty cool right now.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with this book that I am giving it 3 stars, it simply did not entertain me enough to warrant higher, or lower. Ryan Holiday built most of his reputation and education working in public relations with Tucker Max, author of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, and for American Apparel. Holiday tells some of the behind the scenes stories of “news” stories that have grabbed the spotlight in recent years. This behind the scenes look includes how he has manipulated the system to grab positive attention for his employers and fend of negative attention, as well as how the world of blogging is flawed in its fundamental structure.

A lot of what Holiday reveals about the underbelly of internet media is shocking to say the least. It’s not as if we don’t know how it works, but when Holiday lays it all out so you can easily see the cause and effect, you will be left with no desire to ever read an internet blog again. This subject was quite interesting to me because, being an aspiring author without a publisher or literary agent, I need to find a way to get my work out there on my own. I was hopeful that maybe there was some dark magic to be revealed in Holiday’s writing, but sadly not for me. I even tried one of Holiday’s techniques without any success, no that it did not work in his world, but these are not universal tactics.

It would be grand if Holiday ended this on a positive note, but he couldn’t even if he wanted to. No matter how much he reveals, the internet world of page views and advertising will keep us all being feed gossip, lies, and half truths as long as people keep clicking on the headline, and they will.

Creativity 3 out of 5 stars

Again, it’s not has if Holiday had to come up with a gripping fiction plot, he is just telling his version of some events that he has been a part of. It is like my police leadership guides, you really can’t give me creativity points for writing about what I do for a living, can you?

Characters N/A

Spelling and Grammar 4 out of 5 stars

Some of the normal run on sentences or confusing sections that had to be re-read but certainly nothing distracting like some books I have read that are so bad, you just start looking for the errors instead of reading.

Execution 3 out of 5 stars

Holiday worked with what he had. Ironically, just like he talks about in the book pertaining to people simply not being very interested in fact based news that is supported by evidence, he subject just isn’t sensational enough for me to get all giddy about. That is quite a sad truth that Holiday repeatedly comes back to in the book and I give 3 out of 5 stars to support his beliefs. Holiday often repeats himself in the book and I assume that is because he believes in what he is saying and really wants to make people understand.

I enjoyed Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator as I think anyone that is into social media, blogs, self-promotion, advertising, conspiracies, et cetera would also enjoy giving this a read, maybe in ebook or something though, I can’t see forking over hardback money for this.

A.I. Apocalypse
by William Hertling
Paperback, 262 pages
Published May 24th 2012 by liquididea press (first published March 1st 2012)
ISBN 0984755748

Overall: 1 out of 5 stars

Being an aspiring writer myself makes these types of reviews very hard to do. If I am also going to be “The Critical Critic” which I very much enjoy and like to be a gatekeeper of quality, then I have no choice.

I only read the first few chapters of A.I. Apocalypse and skimmed the rest because it was simply all I could take. No matter how much William Hertling wanted to write a good story or had good ideas, there is simply no way that he can look someone in the eye and said that he did his best writing this book. There is minimal effort given in writing A.I. Apocalypse and it came through in the pages and dialogue. Reading the first few chapters, I said to my wife that it read like someone who just used technology terms but had no idea what they actually meant, then I read on the back cover that William Hertling is a fifteen year veteran of the technology field and that is….let’s just say interesting.

If you had to put A.I. Apocalypse into a genre, it would be a technological thriller set in the not so distant United States. A 17 yeard old, smart kid develops a virus that infects the computers and things become a mess.

Creativity: 1 star

Anyone heard of this idea before?

Spelling and Grammar: 3 stars

Nothing stood out, but wasn’t really looking.

Characters: 1 star

The main character Leon, is very smart and has aspirations of going to a great college. Leon’s family cannot afford college, so he is doing his best to fulfill his dream and hunts after a scholarship, from being so smart, Almost, immediately he completely risks all his dreams because an uncle, that he has met once and lives in Russia, emails him, asking for help in committing a crime. When the main character’s completely violates his reported personality, imagine how weak the rest of the characters are. I am a rookie writer, I know that, but this mistake is a basic writing no-no.

Execution:  Black hole that adsorbed all of the other stars

The whole of the writing sounds like someone simply making stuff up to try and sound cool or fool the people around them. I have to go over some of them:

It took 6 years to develop this cell phone, if you spend six years developing something in today’s technology, how obsolete would it be when it came out? You can’t spend six years developing anything anymore.

These teens spend time drooling over the resolution of this cellphone screen and this is set in the future. It doesn’t matter how high the resolution of the screen is…WE CAN’T SEE IT! The new ipad screen exceeds our visual capabilities. We are at the limit now of not what technology can do, but what we can see and anyone into graphics knows this, and these kids would know this for sure.

This is set in the future with crazy technology, but the communication that changes everything, was sent on email? to his phone? and the guy waiting for a response keeps clicking refresh to see if he got a response, who clicks refresh anymore? and this is like 40 plus years in the future, we are using email to send what a simple text message could?

All of the cars have government mandated stopping devices to avoid collisions and the HOV lane cars are controlled by a central computer. This is not fantasy, this is our world in the near future, so these things must have a logical basis. The cars would all need to be retrofitted with this technology at a cost that would be impossible, even if we started today with such a project, it would take 15-20 years to accomplish and that’s just for stopping, now centrally controlled cars is a whole different problem. This must be set a good 40 or more years in the future but the military still has some 1960-70 jeeps running around?

One character’s father was in the military about 14 years ago (in the story’s timeline) and she has his M16, they hardly use M16 now, they won’t be using them 30 years from now.

The electric car engines, emit an electric whine noise, but today’s electric motors are silent, thus the controversy over the subject with blind people not being able to hear them. Did we suddenly lose technology and our electric engines got noisy?

When downloading an email attachment from his uncle, Leon note’s the huge size of the file. The files was nothing but text, algorithms, and notes, By today’s standard that files doesn’t make a blip. With today’s technology an entire book is (overestimated) 2MB and my service can download at 9MB/sec (and that’s slow compared to some) so in 1 second, I can presently download 4.5 books, Leon certainly didn’t even download that much and with future bandwidth and file that size would be literally nothing.

This novel feels cheesy and a less than half hearted effort. There is no effort to research technology, military, or anything at that matter. The characters are weak and violate their own codes. I do not recommend this book to anyone for any reason.

By the way, this is the sequel to Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears

Michael A. Wood Jr.
“The Critical Critic”
http://www.criticalcriticreviews.com


Damage Control: A Jonathan Grave Thriller
By: John Gilstrap
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
ISBN 0786024933
edition languageEnglish
url: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=20659

Overall: 4 out of 5 Stars

Maybe I’m too critical, haha, I am the Critical Critic, but when I see a mass market paperback, I frown. That’s what I did when I received Damage Control in a Goodreads giveaway. I have promised myself that I would conduct a thorough, unbiased, review of every book that an author sends me, so I cracked open Damage Control. I loved it! This is an entertaining thriller in John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave series, of which I have not read any of the others, but I am certainly ready to, now. Jonathan Grave has spend a life being the hunter, but now he is the hunted. His back against the wall, he must fight to survive, while still protecting his valuable cargo, a young teen, Tristan.

Creativity: 2 stars

Sorry, but it is not that I am knocking Gilstrap here, it is just not creative, not in the surprising or revolutionary sense. As stated under the Execution section, I believe Gilstrap could take any old idea and pull it off well.

Characters: 4 stars

There are many characters in Damage Control that play roles in helping or harming the three targets, Graves, Boxers, and Wagner there was no connection with them, but there didn’t need to be. Graves, Boxers, and Wagner were very well written. I felt the personalities of all three of them, their actions were always consistent with their stated personalities. In other words, show and tell, blended seamlessly, a true compliment for a writer.

Spelling and Grammar: 5 stars

I always look for grammar and spelling errors, none were noticed.

Execution: 5 stars

I am going to admit some arrogance and prejudice here. When I am about to read something based off of the military or police, my experience in the Marine Corps and Baltimore Police Department causes me to brace myself for tons of B.S. about tactics, weapons, the way we speak, and so forth. I looked on the back cover and saw the picture of John Gilstrap, honestly, I presumed, here we go again, what could this guy know about tactics and weapons? Once again, I was put in my place. John Gilstrap thanks some SEAL members and other military members for teaching him a bit. Whether they were excellent trainers or Gilstrap is an excellent learner, I cannot say, but I did not find myself complaining a single time about the military and police issues. A job well done, indeed.

When I write, I painstaking focus on ensuring that there is not a single flaw in my time lines and that everything makes complete sense. Due to my OCD, I constantly looks for flaws in this with other writers. While there were some minor issues that I noticed in Damage Control, nothing detracted from the story and the real praise for Gilstrap is that I am sure there are more. The praise comes in the fact that I was so into the story, it was so fact paced, and there was so much going on that I lost my desire to scrutinize the details.

I think that anyone that enjoys reading, would have to enjoy Damage Control, regardless of their preferred genre. The story has a bit of everything, while predominately a thriller, there are some love interest, comedy, and mystery, in order to appeal to everyone. This is the first novel that I am giving 4 stars to and the first that I can  recommend to everyone. I am reserving my 5 stars for a true classic, if it ever comes along.

Michael A. Wood Jr.
“The Critical Critic”
http://www.criticalcriticreviews.com