Review: Becoming Wild by Carl Safina

51122634._SX318_SY475_Becoming Wild: How Animals Learn Who They Are by Carl Safina

Published: March 24, 2020 by Henry Holt and Co

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Becoming Wild offers a glimpse into cultures among non-human animals through looks at the lives of individuals in different present-day animal societies. By showing how others teach and learn, Safina offers a fresh understanding of what is constantly going on beyond humanity. With reporting from deep in nature, alongside individual creatures in their free-living communities, this book offers a very privileged glimpse behind the curtain of life on Earth, and helps inform the answer to that most urgent of questions: Who are we here with?

Rating: 2 star

Review: This book turned out to be nothing like I expected when I clicked on the audiobook. I was hoping for a book that explores whether or how animals show a sense of cultural and belonging. Do animals recognize individuals in their community? Do different animal communities have differing cultures? How much of this can be chalked up to evolutionary learning versus active learning?

That is what the synopsis led me to believe I would be reading. But it wasn’t. Most of it was about the author’s personal agenda on how humans interact with animal culture. And the first 50% of the book talks almost exclusively about sperm whales. Then we had whole chapters that discuss the history of commercial and aboriginal whaling. And then whole chapters on the morality of whaling. And then we continued on the diatribe with a very long bit about ocean pollution. Very little of the first 50% of the book was actually about how and why whales experience culture and cultural learning. I was really bored. If I wanted a book about sperm whales, I would have read one.

We even got a long rant about how humans give names to whale species. The author spent a lot of time wondering why humans give whales “demeaning” or “diminutive” names like false killer whale or pygmy sperm whale. And he wondered if perhaps this was to lessen their value in our own eyes so we could more easily kill them. Well, that might be true, but I don’t think the whales really care what we call them.

Also, just for fun, I bring you this particular quote: “I’m not sure yet who these whales are but they sure have sexy flukes.”….yep, I was a little confused by that one too.

Finally, we moved on from whales to macaws and other birds. We got more of a discussion about animal culture here then before but not much. We got long winded rants about evolution, deforestation, and why certain animals evolved to be beautiful. Though beautiful is a human construct, so I doubt that the birds developed beauty for the reason of beauty.

Another problem was that the audiobook was voiced by the author. Naturally you would think that this would be a good choice, the author knows the inflection, tone, and rhythm of what they intended with their work. But this author seemed confused by his own material. He regularly mispronounced things or paused strangely in the middle of sentences. And then he tried to start putting on voices for excerpts from fiction books or for individuals he spoke with, which was equally strange. And almost all of it was delivered in a monotone. They should have gotten a different performer.

I think this book lacked an identity. The author couldn’t pin down his subject material and so he spent a lot of time roaming whatever came into his mind. This one had potential but it was mostly just confusing.

Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

31445891._SY475_River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Published: March 23, 2017 by Tom Doherty Associates

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

Rating: 2 star

Review: I downloaded this audiobook because I was hoping for a fun ride. I mean, how could it not be? Feral hippos have overtaken parts of the Mississippi and there is a gang of gunslingers running around on hippos. This should have been like a B-movie creature feature! I wanted blood and revenge and dismemberment by hippo! Unfortunately that is not what I got.

This is a pretty short novella, the audiobook was only 4 1/2 hours. But honestly it felt like I was listening for 45 hours. The first three hours are a long and tedious introduction to the members of Houndstooth’s gang. One or two of the characters also use non-binary pronouns for some reason. I am not opposed to this being used in a book but since it wasn’t explained or introduced it was very confusing. And the character’s name is Hero, which isn’t really a name at all. I had a really hard time following that because you have a not-name and a not-pronoun being used constantly. The history was tedious, I really want to get to something interesting and it seemed like it was never going to happen. It took three hours just to find out what job the gang had been hired for!

When we finally did get to the action it was abrupt and didn’t make much sense. The author shows a very strong lack of knowledge about how dams and rivers work. The lack of knowledge about hippo physiology I can excuse since it was a creature feature. But you don’t know that water naturally runs downhill? And that dams are built upstream to create larger, still bodies of water? Dams don’t have gates for boats to travel through, that is a loch. All of these questions quickly took me out of the story. It all ended with not much blood, not much gore, and a shocking lack of hippos. This was supposed to be about hippos and I feel like we hardly saw them in action.

Also, there was a short history of how hippos came to be so rampant in Louisiana at the end of the book. It explained what “The Harriet” was, which frankly I was not able to piece together through the whole novella. It might have been better to have that at the beginning. This history says that in this alternate history that Lincoln never got around to the Emancipation Proclamation because he was busy with hippo legislation. So, if the Civil War never happened and the slaves were not freed, then how did you have so much acceptance of such a wide array of people in Louisiana (which was a slave holding state)? We have Hispanic people, African American people, non-binary people, bisexual people, feminists…all in this gang and everyone accepts it, doesn’t mention it, and remembers everyone else’s pronouns flawlessly. That is a head-scratcher right there. Slavery is still a thing but we’re embracing non-binary pronouns. It was weird and nonsensical. The best alternate histories need to make sense.

Review: Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

50921705._SX318_SY475_Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

Published: April 7, 2020 by SoHo Crime

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In June of 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Hitler spent a total of three hours in the City of Light—abruptly leaving, never to return. To this day, no one knows why.

The New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc investigations reimagines history in her masterful, pulse-pounding spy thriller, Three Hours in Paris.

Kate Rees, a young American markswoman, has been recruited by British intelligence to drop into Paris with a dangerous assignment: assassinate the Führer. Wrecked by grief after a Luftwaffe bombing killed her husband and infant daughter, she is armed with a rifle, a vendetta, and a fierce resolve. But other than rushed and rudimentary instruction, she has no formal spy training. Thrust into the red-hot center of the war, a country girl from rural Oregon finds herself holding the fate of the world in her hands. When Kate misses her mark and the plan unravels, Kate is on the run for her life—all the time wrestling with the suspicion that the whole operation was a set-up.

Cara Black, doyenne of the Parisian crime novel, is at her best as she brings Occupation-era France to vivid life in this gripping story about one young woman with the temerity—and drive—to take on Hitler himself.

Rating: 2 star

Review: The premise of this story was good, and I tend to like historical fiction, but this book just didn’t grab me. Full disclosure, I stopped reading about halfway through. It wasn’t interesting enough to make me keep reading.

SPOILER ALERT: Though this review will be brief, the reasons I stopped reading do contain spoilers.

Kate wasn’t a very interesting character. All I knew about her in the first half of the book was that she lost her husband and daughter and could shoot really well. Apart from that she displayed no other personality at all. The German detective who is hunting her down after her failed mission was the same. I have no idea who he is and he showed not a single glimmer of a personality.

The story also told me all the good parts by about page 70, when we have a chapter between Kate’s handler and some of the other spies when he basically just says that they expected her to fail and it was her mission to fail. The Fuhrer will be too busy trying to catch her after the botched assassination attempt to not see the real assassination attempt happening. Yawn. So I am supposed to sit though 230 more pages of Kate trying not to get caught when the only reason she was sent there is to get caught? Wait, I think I know how this ends…she uncovers the nefarious plot to throw her under the Gestapo bus and miraculously escapes.

Speaking of getting caught, in the portion that I read, Kate should have gotten caught at least three times. She gets stopped by German soldiers on three separate occasions (when they know they are looking for someone in the vicinity who shot at their leader) but no one searches her bag? They search her. They look under the bag. One of them even remarks on the heaviness of the bag….which contains the rifle she used to attempt the assassination. But no one actually looks IN THE BAG. No wonder the Third Reich was defeated, they had a bunch of morons working for them.

Also, why does Kate keep the rifle? Her handler was specific that she needed to keep it (you know, to properly frame her). But she realizes that it’s incredibly stupid to not ditch it. And yet, she still doesn’t ditch it. Why? Is she as stupid as the soldiers who should have searched her? She even says that she might have been abandoned by her handlers and still doesn’t ditch it.

I just couldn’t get into the story. It annoyed me more than it interested me. I had no desire to keep reading and so, I didn’t.

Review: IM by Rick R Reed

50535319._SY475_IM by Rick R Reed

Published on February 10, 2020 by Nine Star Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. They invite him over. He’s just another trick. Harmless. They’re dead wrong.

When the first bloody body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. Sickened by the butchered mess of one of his brothers left on display in a bathtub, he seeks relief outside where the young man who discovered the body waits to tell him the story of how he found his friend. But who is this witness…and did he play a bigger part in the murder than he’s letting on?

Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth, a truth that he needs to discover before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity…his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message…it stands for instant murder.

Rating: 2 star

Review: ***I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and NineStar Press.***

This book has an interesting premise, one that is becoming more relevant as the idea of social networking and hook up culture gains ever more steam. It plays on a lot of fears that people have. One side is spurring you on a hormonal rush to an anonymous lover, the other is wondering just how do you know the person you’re meeting isn’t a psycho? Ultimately, the book had it’s good points but it wasn’t done very well. The characterizations had a lot of inconsistencies, the story had gaping plot holes and the entire ending was written in a way that confused me as to what was going on.

One of the good things in this book was Peter. I really enjoyed him. I found him funny, sardonic and at times wise beyond his years. His romance with Ed was very sweet. I was rooting for the two of them because they were both nice guys that desperately wanted a relationship more meaningful than just hooking up.

I also really enjoyed that this book didn’t shy away from the depravity within its pages. Sometimes when an author feels uncomfortable writing something dark they tend to do a “fade to black” just when things are getting serious. I always admire an author that has the courage to see the depravity through. As an amateur writer myself I have written scenes that made myself feel ill and they are really hard to write. I was uncomfortable reading this book, so well done to the author.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get over some big things with the book. The first problem was the ever growing cast of narrators. Virtually every other chapter was “Meet Guy 2, he’s lonely and wants to hook up with a dude from online. He is wary that the person won’t be anything like they described themselves. Ahhh, he’s going to kill me.” Then the killer kills them and we move on to a chapter about Ed being frustrated with finding a killer. It got repetitive and boring, and the constant shuffling of narrators who were subsequently killed made it difficult to connect with the story emotionally. It’s hard to get an emotional investment in a character who is only around for ten pages.

There was also a very huge problem with the characterization of the killer. Sometimes he is portrayed as a victim of abuse and neglect, getting back at the homosexual world that had so richly abused him over the years. Then other times we’re treated to narratives about him being a psychopath and torturing animals as a child, or torturing lovers because the pain is a turn on. Those two things don’t really mix very well. Which one is he? I had a hard time reconciling both in my head as being the same person. Violent psychopaths typically don’t make for very easy victims.

 

SPOILER ALERT: The following paragraphs contain some minor spoilers.

 

A few of the big plotholes took away from the story for me too. First, the circumstances that Ed finds himself in with his job were weird. It literally made no sense and was never explained. Ed gets fired for allegedly “fabricating” the witness who discovered the first body. They allege that he had no witnesses so he made one up to make it seem like he had a lead. But here’s the problem. The witness was seen by several people. Several other people talked to him before Ed even arrived. When Ed arrived, he is directed to the witness by one of those people. But then the person is just too upset about the crime scene to remember clearly? That was very weakly done. There are plenty of options for having Ed be terminated through crooked means but this was just dumb.

I had a big problem with exactly how the killer seemed to be a full head (or more) shorter than everyone he killed, but it wasn’t a problem. He is described as “elfin” about a thousand times. He’s so short that he sometimes can’t be seen through peepholes. But yet, he physically overpowers and kills multiple men who are larger, more athletic and stronger than him. How does that happen? I have no idea. All the book told me is that he does. It’s not explained how that happened at all.

The ending was really confusing. I was being told about a lot of things happening at once and the way it was written made it all seem jumbled. All of a sudden Ed would be jumping up to attack the killer and I was thinking “Wait, but wasn’t the killer over by the door? How did he get here all of a sudden?” I started to skim it for the high points because I just didn’t follow it.

I think there are a lot of good bones to this book. The writing shows a lot of talent and the idea is a good one. It really needs a good edit or two.

Destruction by Sharon Bayliss

Alright guys, I have been MIA long enough. I am literally dragging my fingers across the keyboard to post this, but here it is!

destruction Destruction by Sharon Bayliss

Published April 14th, 2014 by Curiosity Quills Press

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Books a Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn’t a choice.

Eleven years ago, David’s secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David’s wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Curiosity Quills!

This will probably be a short review because the book just wasn’t that good. My first annoyance with it was actually the blurb. It gives away so many big plot points. I mean, who writes these things? It tells me the entire arc of the story almost, guess I didn’t need to read the book after all.

I was highly annoyed with the magic in this book too. I hate it when books don’t give magic any consequences, it’s jut there to fix all your problems. The book claims that doing magic can make you deranged and evil, but the main characters seem to have no problem whipping out complex magic when it suits them…and seem to suffer no ill effects or other consequences. For example, fiddling around in someone’s brain? Well it was for their own good, so no consequences. The only possible consequence is that the person doing the meddling now had to remember all those bad memories they were erasing, oh the horror! End snark.

David was a fairly likeable character until he started excusing a rape (he’s a dark wizard, can’t help it) and then perving on a 17 year old (but she’s a fertility witch, he couldn’t help it!). Notice a pattern here? It is always the magic’s fault, not the character’s.

In the end, I didn’t care for this book. It was a fairly good idea but not executed very well. The characters were marginal but not unlikeable. The magic was poorly executed and seemed completely secondary to the story. I won’t be continuing with this series.

 

Review: Surrender by Tawny Taylor

surrenderSurrender by Tawny Taylor

Published May 27th, 2014 by Aphrodisia

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository / Books a Million

 

Synopsis:

I was his.
To touch.
Anywhere.
Any time he wanted.

Abby is ready to agree to anything to stop her brother from going to prison, but Kameron Maldondo, the owner of MalTech Corporation, is asking for the unexpected. Enthralled by his commanding brilliance, she agrees to be his assistant, at his beck and call for whatever he needs–whenever and however he wants. What that means is for him to decide and for her to submit to. Frightened yet fascinated by what he promises, Abby becomes a willing captive to his caress, undone by his peerless touch, a quivering submission to an aching need for complete carnal surrender. . .

 

Rating: 3 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Aphrodisia!

Warning: This book is an erotica and contains explicit sex scenes. It features light BDSM and dubious consent. Be advised this review might also contain some explicit material.

 

On the whole this book was okay. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t the best erotica I’ve ever read. Honestly, on the sizzle scale it barely hit a simmer.

The sex scenes in this book were actually pretty alright. But I am not sure why the author termed this as a BDSM. The ONLY thing that happened was they used a few sex toys and he restrained her hands a few times….with some nibbling and nipple pinching. That is such vanilla BDSM that I don’t even know where to start. Then we have the issue of Kam and Abbie’s affair being started under dubious consent, he blackmails her into agreeing to his terms. Yes he retracts that very quickly and gives her back the choice but not before they had a few sexual encounters together. Also, there is no warning in the synopsis about it being a dubcon, bad author bad!

I had a few issues with the BDSM and I started to doubt whether the author had ANY knowledge of the BDSM community at all. You can’t choose a safeword after you already began play. You can’t start play without discussing what is and is not acceptable to the sub, where their hard and soft lines are. You can’t tell your sub that you respect that they are not comfortable with something and then press the issue and demand trust that it will be okay. All of these things make you a bad dom. If any of those things happened in group play, that dom would have to answer to the whole group before being thrown out of playing. These things annoy me, Google could have straightened all of that out. And all of those things happened in this book.

Another thing, while I’m on the BDSM topic, why do all people involved in BDSM in books have an abusive background? Literally all of them. That is not an accurate representation of the community at all. Not everyone who likes being tied up during sex was abused. Not everyone who gets horny when their lover takes a paddle to their ass was raped and beaten. Stop doing this already authors, seriously! Just one time I want to see a BDSM book where the participants had no abuse and just like it a little rough but are mentally healthy individuals.

Now, let’s move on to the characters. Kam was a typical alpha male character, but surprisingly not an offensive one apart from being a terrible dom. He takes care of Abbie, he respects her, and he protects her. These are things that a real alpha male does, and it’s sexy. Unfortunately Abbie is a moron. She seemed incapable of putting two and two together and not coming up with eight. She is responsible for getting the information that will free Kam from suspicion. She knows that her brother is to blame and then starts feeling funny (after being drugged once already) and has no clue what’s going on. Um hello dummy, this happened a handful of chapters ago. She also repeatedly asks herself whether something actually happened. Example, she almost gets shot. A few paragraphs later Abbie thinks to herself “Did I really almost just get shot? Like, for real?” No dummy, it was a hallucination. If you can’t be sure of what’s happening to you mere moments after it happened then you are beyond hope.

The plot was what ruined this book for me. It was so dumb. And so predictable. I knew exactly what was going on as soon as we found out the gender of the accomplice within the company. It seems the only people who didn’t know were Kam and Abbie, probably because they were busy screwing.

Final grade, not very good but not offensively bad.

 

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

the here and now The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Published April 8th, 2014 by Delacorte Press

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Book Depository / Books a Million

 

Synopsis:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Delacorte!

 

This book was a bit boring and not exactly that I expected. Overall, I enjoyed parts of it but a large portion of it made me scratch my head with the WTF. Warning, from here on there will be spoilers.

Characters: I did not like Prenna. She was so boring! She did not do anything really. She acknowledged over and over again “I really shouldn’t do this” only to do it a paragraph later. She was incapable of doing anything for herself and had to be bailed out by people through the entire book. Ethan was okay but he was really just a plot device to save Prenna from her TSTL. The other characters really made no impression on me because they were so pointless.

Plot: This thing had plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon. The premise of it was not bad. Horrible things happen to the world in the future and a plague wipes out most of the world and the survivors go back in time to prevent the bad things from happening….except what they are really doing is just hiding out and doing not much of anything. Boring. Prenna and Ethan also spend most of the book doing nothing. They are on a mission to save the future but then they sit around on the beach and play cards for the majority of the book. Also boring. Now for the plot holes:

– Prenna says that in the future they have no technology to speak of. They don’t use computers, they use paper and pencils. But then…how exactly did they figure out time travel?

– Prenna says that there is no new manufacturing so things like clothes are scavenged from the current time period. Except she says that the downfall of society didn’t happen until twenty years or so before they traveled back in time, which was like 90 years before the current time. So what happened in that 50 years exactly? Were there no new clothes for 90 years even though sciety only fell apart for the last 20 of it?

– This plague is described as dengue fever. The mortality rate for dengue fever is actually pretty low, by catching it early enough and getting proper treatment then you will most likely pull through just fine. It still isn’t pleasant but it is uncommon for it to be deadly. Now, Prenna explains this as the virus mutating into something more deadly. Okay, fine, but isn’t 100 years a bit to quick for that drastic of a mutation. I almost feel like the author spent most of their research time reading stuff like this: http://greenbugallnatural.com/wordpress/infected-mosquitoes-become-more-effective-carriers-of-disease/ Which has a definite “OMG MOSQUITOES ARE COMING!” feel to it.

– Prenna goes on loooooooong rants about how this was all caused by global warming. And I do mean long and boring rants. But then when they actually figure out the answer, it had nothing to do with global warming at all, it was someone from a third alternate future that carried a virus back with him and infected humans…who then infected the mosquitoes, who in turn started the plague. So what the hell did all that global warming garbage have to do with anything at all? Answer, I have no fucking clue and I don’t think the author does either.

This story was not well thought out. For an author as acclaimed as this one, I expected a lot better.

Review: The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki

the traitors wifeThe Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki

Published February 11th 2014 by Howard Books

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository / Books a Million

Synopsis:

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason . . .

Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the Revolutionary War general who betrayed America and fled to the British—as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.

Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.

Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, no compensation nor promise of a good review was made. Thank you Howard Books!

Summary:

As much as I wanted to like this book, I just couldn’t get there. It should have been so good. Some parts of it were good but unfortunately the bad outweighed the good much of the time. Everyone knows the story of Benedict Arnold, even if it’s just the basics. It has been speculated that his wife Peggy was a much bigger part of that plot to betray the U.S. than history gave her credit for. So I was very excited to read a story about her part in things and how she orchestrated the entire plot. Spying, betrayal, secrets, and traitors is what I expected. That’s not what I got though.

Plot:

This part of the book was actually very good. The book begins by introducing us to Peggy Shippen, the future Mrs. Peggy Arnold. She is a society girl in Philadelphia whose entire existence revolves around the next big party and whether she’s been invited or not. She has been having a love affiar with a British office, Major John Andre. When the colonialists take over Philadelphia Major Andre is ordered to leave the city. With her main romantic match gone she fakes sympathies with the colonial cause in order to win the affection of the new big dog in town, Major General Benedict Arnold.

Eventually they marry but Peggy is not happy with this new lot in life. Her husband is accused of several crimes, most of which he is guilty of, but he manages to beat the charges with little more than a reprimand. They do not make enough money to occupy the vast estate that Arnold bought for his new bride and are forced to live on her parents’ property. Peggy mentions that she is a personal friend of John Andre, who is looking for colonial spies….and thus our treachery begins.

I liked seeing this side of a story, it was interesting and told from an objective POV, Peggy’s maid Clara.

Characters:

Peggy – I hated Peggy Shippen so much. She is vapid, shallow, selfish, narcissistic, manipulative, and mean spirited. Yet she had men falling all over her all the time, it was maddening. The only thought ever in her head was “How will that benefit me…and do I look pretty enough to do it?” It would have been different if she was subtle in her manipulations, then I could have liked her. But she wasn’t. She actually looked at her suitor one time and says, “if you love me then you’ll learn to walk for me. I don’t want to be married to a cripple.” Yeah, Peggy is about as subtle as a brick to the side of your head.

Clara Bell – Seriously, that’s her name. And EVERYONE insists on calling her by her full name too. I felt like I was watching an episode of Hee Haw. But the character was great. I found her to be observant, delightful, funny, and a great narrator.

Benedict Arnold – I don’t know what to say about this guy. What a pushover! I think Peggy took his cajones away and kept them in her jewelry box. He puts up with outright emotional and verbal abuse and calls it love. She insults him constantly, stokes the fire with his complaints about the colonial army, outright lies, and then puts him in correspondance with her former lover! This guy is a doormat with a capital D.

I have no real thoughts on any of the other main characters since they all seemed very secondary and I didn’t feel any particular emotion about them.

Writing:

This was the biggest problem with this book, the execution. Approximately 40 pages of this is told in flash forwards. We get a brief scene about what will happen on that fateful day that Benedict’s treachery is revealed, and then back to the main story. That’s fine on its own but the problem came at the end of the book when that same 40 pages is repeated again when the store caught up with itself. Either don’t do the flash forwards or don’t repeat it again later, that was massively annoying.

There were also some continuity problems with Peggy’s character. Yes she was petty and selfish and treated people poorly, but as far as the reader was aware she was never physically abusive. Then all of a sudden out of the blue Peggy hits Clara. And Clara goes on and on about how this is typical of her mistress and she’s been fed up with her abuse for years. But, wait, that’s the first time anything like that has happened. And it never happened again. So either it’s a pattern or a one time incident, it can’t be both.

I also felt the story took far too long to get going. I didn’t care about Peggy’s tantrums, I didn’t care about the next party she went to. If the author got rid of the extraneous details this book would have been half the length it is, and would have been a better story for it.

Overall:

This book was decent. I liked parts of it and I disliked parts of it. But ultimately it was my dislike of Peggy’s character that drove the rating down. The ending though was brilliant with Clara taking Peggy to task, I liked that scene a lot.

Review: The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

forever engine The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

Published January 7th, 2014 by Baen

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Books a Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

London 1888. His Majesty’s airships troll the sky powered by antigrav liftwood. Iron Lords tighten their hold on Britain choked by the fumes of industry. Mars has been colonized. Clockwork assassins stalk European corridors of power. Far to the east, the Old Man of the Mountains plots the end of the world with his Forever Engine.

2018 Jack Fargo, scholar, former American special forces agent in Afghanistan. Aided only by an elderly Scottish physicist, a young British officer of questionable courage, and a beautiful but mysterious spy for the French Commune, Fargo must save the future, the universe, from destruction.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Baen!

I wanted to like this book, really I did. I am far more often reading and liking steampunk, so when I hear the words time travel, steampunk, and Nikola Tesla I was all over this book. But in the end it was just boring.

Time travel is a tricky issue in any book. It can be done well and in certain aspects this was done well. It plays with the idea of infinite universes, that somewhere out there is a universe where the exact opposite of every decision and outcome in this world has taken place. However, time travel can also be used as a crutch to aid lazy writing and suspense building. To a larger extent this book did that too. Toward the end I felt like the time travel aspect was the go-to answer to creating drama and tension. That was annoying.

The characters were very thin and had no real life to them. I had a hard time keeping track of who everybody was because they were largely so interchangeable. Even when we started learning more about Fargo’s past I just felt……confused I guess because it was so out of the blue.And I HATED that the author kept trying to give everyone an Asperger’s diagnosis. First off, you’re a history professor and a former soldier, not a psychologist or psychiatrist so shut up. And second, I don’t get it. These two characters seemed more Obsessive Compulsive to me. And believe me, I am speaking from personal knowledge here. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and my brother is an Aspie. Yes, there are areas where the two things overlap but I didn’t see the Aspie in these two characters at all. I think the author just wanted to use it to force us to see the similarities between the two characters, which didn’t make the ultimate connection he gave them any more realistic.

If the blurb didn’t tell me this was steampunk, I probably wouldn’t have known. There was a few pages in London where we saw steam powered airships, and coal engines, and everyone having to wear goggles out in public. But after that the entire cast of characters were in the middle of the desert with weapons that actually existed in that time and so…..that’s it? That’s my steampunk? Cause that’s a pretty poor effort if it is.

The ending was stupid. I felt like the final climactic finale was very contrived. The most obvious and logical course was discarded as a trick and the most complicated and unlikely to succeed course was taken, more than once. And the ending didn’t seem realistic to me. After 300 pages of Fargo going on and on at length about missing his daughter and being willing to do anything to get back to her, he totally screws over any chance he has of seeing her again and just happily moves on in the other universe without even mentioning her again. Wait, what? And what about his theory that him and Thomson could recreate the device and get him back to his own time anyway? What happened to that? I didn’t like or understand this ending at all.

Overall it wasn’t terrible, there were some enjoyable moments. But I felt the book was much too flawed for me to enjoy it enough that I overlooked the problems.

 

 

 

Review: Night Harvest by Michael Alexiades

night harvest Night Harvest by Michael Alexiades

Published September 26th, 2013 by Turner Publishing

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Book Depository / Books a Million

 

Synopsis:

A riveting debut thriller from one of New York’s most eminent surgeons, Night Harvest follows the bizarre disappearance of patients from a Manhattan hospital into the murky underground of the city.

Fourth-year medical student Demetri Makropolis has been assigned to cover orthopedics at Eastside Medical Center, one of New York City’s finest hospitals. Just as his surgery team begins to operate on New York’s leading drama critic, F. J. Pervis III, the patient suddenly goes into cardiac arrest. The team fails to resuscitate him, so the corpse is moved to the hospital’s morgue. But before the autopsy is even performed, the body vanishes from the morgue and mysteriously reappears a day later—with the brain surgically removed. Even more disturbing is the medical examiner’s discovery: Pervis was still alive when the ghostly craniotomy was performed.

With their reputation at stake, the hospital assigns NYPD’s Detective Patrick McManus to the case; meanwhile, Demetri learns of an eerily similar century-old unsolved mystery that leads him to an enigmatic figure lurking in the bowels of the medical center. With Pervis as his experiment, the perpetrator initiates a chain reaction of chaos and murder in Manhattan.

A gripping tale filled with ambition, romance, jealousies, and black humor, Night Harvest is a thrilling ride that culminates in the long-abandoned elaborate network of subterranean rooms and corridors that still lie beneath present-day Manhattan.

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Turner! Past this point this review contains spoilers.

 

This book was kind of boring. The idea was that this medical student gets involved in the plot of a serial killer when a local celebrity dies on the operating table only to have his body go missing. Then later they find out he wasn’t dead at all and was killed later. Other people go missing, medical student plays detective and we all know how it proceeds from there. I wouldn’t really call this one predictable, because it was just so random. But, I present you the pros and cons of this book.

Pros:

Writing – The writing is not bad. It is adequate for a story of this type, although I felt like it tended to ramble a little too much without really going anywhere. But largely I have no complaints about the writing, it accomplished what it needed to accomplish.

Characters – Again, no complaints but nothing truly spectacular. The characters were decent and not too cookie cutter like. I did really like Demetri and McManus, I would have preferred that the POV was strictly kept between the two of them. The other characters I didn’t really care much about either good or bad. They were just set pieces for the greater story.

 

Cons:

The Bad Guy – This was just weird. He kills because he has found the secret to immortality, but then he alternately kills other people and rapes them just because. He seemingly has no preference for male or female victims to rape, not even seems to care if they are alive or not at the time. This is so out of synch with everything that makes a sexual predator what they are, they have very specific preferences. It just, I don’t know. Oh yeah and did I mention that he is supposedly like 100 years old? Weird.

POV Jumping – We spent time with at least 6-7 different characters and we seemed to jump between them every 2-3 pages. It was so confusing. I still don’t think I know who half of the characters are and how they related to the story. And it seemed like the author wanted to give every character a back story, so it is just a long line of one page of plot and one page of backstory then on to a new character. I found that I learned absolutely nothing about any of the characters as a result.

Plot – Meandering and aimless. I wasn’t sure what the actual point was except to just set us up for a sequel at the very end. Nothing really was accomplished. And I found that I cared less than I should.

Overall it was not a bad book but it was not very well executed. It needed a lot more work before being put on the market to really tighten up the story and characters. So I would rate it as slightly less than average.