Steve's Book Stuff Has Moved!

Steve's Book Stuff Has Moved!

  Hi Everybody! I have an exciting and important announcement! (Well at least for me...) Starting in July of 2023 Steve's Book Stuff has switched from a Blog to a Newsletter. Check it out at the  new home page  and subscribe to receive continuing book reviews and other stuff.

March Book Review Summary

March Madness!!

I did my undergrad at Michigan State and was there during the Magic Johnson years. (Do the math - yes, I am that old!) I have followed the Spartans basketball team ever since. Spartan basketball games can be heart stoppers to watch. Spartan teams have been, and continue to be, scrappy fighters. 

2022 was a disappointing year for the team. They had all the elements but didn't put them together in a way that, on paper at least, they should have been able to.  Despite a disappointing regular season though, they made it to the semi-finals in the Big Ten tournament, and into the "Big Dance" at the NCAAs. 

The coach, Tom Izzo, is the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten conference, and he recently surpassed Bobby Knight's Big Ten record for most games won. Like his teams, Izzo projects a hard working, scrappy image. He's a native Michigander, born in Iron Mountain, which is about 125 miles from where I live now in the Upper Peninsula. 

I've never been a basketball player, always a fan. Mine have been the endurance sports - running and triathlon. And of course I've been a lifelong reader too. Just like my Spartans, whose scrappy ways led them to the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, I've scraped my way through thirteen books this month. I think that's a personal best, and I'm claiming it as my own March Madness! 

Favorite book this month

I read so many great books this month, including three Five Star reads. Out of them all, my favorite is Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It's likely the book that will stick with me longer than any of the others I read this month, and I can see myself coming back to it again and again. On the fiction side, I'll give the nod to the Kindle Short The Longest Day by Colm Tóibín. It's a charming story and beautifully written.

Book Formats

  • One audiobook (The Power of Geography
  • Four physical books (The Folly and the Glory, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, A Brief History of Earth, and The Rise of Silas Lapham )
  • Eight (!!) ebooks this month (Every book that's not in the prior two categories

ARCs and Book Tours

  • One ARC, from Book Sirens: Rory August's The Last Gifts of the Universe.
  • One Book Tour, hosted by TheWriteReads, Accused: The Kansas City Warlock Weekly #11 by M. N. Jolley.
Both of these books are self published.

Summary Reviews

Summary reviews of each of this month's books are below. The title links in the summary review leads to my full review for each book. At the top of each full review post are links to the publisher's page for the book, and the author's web page (or internet presence). At the bottom of each review post are library and bookseller links if you'd like to borrow or purchase a copy. 

Four Stars 

Rory August packs a lot into this debut novel. It’s fun yet thought provoking. It’s got great characters and a great storyline. It’s a sci-fi novel that's also an exploration of love and relationships. I really enjoyed this book.  I’d recommend it for its exploration of love - love between spouses, love between siblings, love between parents and children. That is the heart of August's book.

Four Stars ⭐

The sequel to The Prisoners of Geography (which I admit I haven’t read) this book explores the geopolitics of eight countries, a region, and outer space. It's a well written and very readable discussion of history, geography and geopolitics (which leans toward a European perspective). It's packed with interesting facts and you are sure to learn quite a bit from it. For fans of history and/or geopolitics it's well worth the read. 

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A compelling overview of political warfare between America and Russia from the Cold War up to 2020. “Political warfare” is shorthand for espionage, disinformation, cyberwar and sabotage. It's a very instructive read if you want to better understand Putin’s motivations in invading Ukraine, and his perception of the importance of Ukraine to Russia.

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The gripping first book in a horror sci-fi trilogy from 2014, this book grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. A biologist is part of a team sent to Area X, a mysterious zone where the normal rules of Earth biology don’t seem to apply. Very strange and unexpected things unfold, and you are never quite sure what exactly is the cause. I’m eager to check out books two and three. 

Two Stars ⭐⭐

The story revolves around a late middle-aged, down on his luck sort of guy whose main daily activity is hanging out at the pub. One night while stumbling home he encounters something wholly unexpected that changes his life for the better. But as things start to turn in a positive direction, he takes a step too far. Good writing style and character development, but this short read ended too suddenly for me. A great beginning and a decent middle with an abrupt end.

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Great writing that explores deep questions of life and death, time and eternity, science and spirituality. In this story, Professor O’Kelly, an archeologist, has made the ancient burial chamber called Newgrange in County Meath his life’s work. Tóibín has spun an interesting tale about the spirits of those buried in the chamber, and the effect on them when the Professor proposes to visit to view the winter solstice light as it shines through the roof on the shortest day of the year. 

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

She’s on the run. She has a fake ID, a .38 revolver, and a broken down Mustang when she checks into the Sleep Tight Motel. But if she’s the only one checked in, why does she keep hearing things in the next room - including a woman screaming? In this noir thriller by bestselling crime thriller author Lisa Unger, you’re never quite sure exactly what’s going on until the very end. 

Two Stars 

Full of history and atmosphere, and obviously well researched, this true crime drama ultimately disappoints. Hazel Drew’s murder was never solved. The authors provide possible reasons why, and speculate as to who the actual murderers may have been. But over 100 years after the fact they can’t do much more than that. True crime fans will find the history perhaps a little TOO detailed for their liking, and the inconclusiveness of the real life mystery will frustrate many - it did me.

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A fascinating account that follows three teenagers - sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen, and Hannie Shaft - as they became part of the Resistance during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in WWII. It's fast paced and graphically detailed, but it moves so fast that the emotional punch inherent in the story doesn’t quite come through the page, which knocked it down a star for me. 

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Books about writing, Stephen King tells us, “are filled with bullshit”. So in this book King takes the approach of telling us how he became a writer, and about how he writes. He offers quite a bit of advice from his own experience. The value of this isn’t that he has the answers on how to write. It’s that he covers the practicalities a writer ought to think about, and offers his own answers as a way of helping you think about what might work best for you.

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A rigorous-yet-accessible biography of Earth”, according to the book's flyleaf, and that’s exactly right. Amazingly, for a short book (230 pages of main text including illustrations)  that covers four billion years of Earth’s history, it doesn't disappoint. It packs just the right amount of information into eight distinct and easily digestible chapters. It’s a book you can read all in one sitting (like I did), or a chapter a day. 

Unrated - Classic Read

A book with dual plots. The first of business and social success, and then failure, in Gilded Age Boston. The other a love farce, and a commentary on ideas of romance in then current novels. The book stands the test of time. The language is perhaps formal, but not too formal. The style is perhaps dated, but not too dated. The humor comes through clearly - I often had a smile on my face as I raced through the pages. There are things going on in this book that make it “important” enough that it is still taught in some classrooms. But it is very accessible and easy to read as entertainment.

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A murder mystery wrapped up in a fantasy novel, that’s set in an alternative Kansas City filled with magic potions and crystals, witches, warlocks, trolls, vampires, and more. It was the Bronze Medalist in last year’s Book Blogger’s Novel of the Year Awards competition, and it’s easy to see why. A good story for fans of fantasy, who also love a good mystery.