Review: Unearthed by Marc Mulero

Unearthed by Marc Mulero

Published: July 26, 2020 by Amazon CreateSpace

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Rating:

Synopsis: I wish the global quake had buried me. It would be easier, then, to cope.

My love? Murdered. My family? Betrayed. Friends? Fallen.

And all that in the name of the Hiezers.

My name is Blague. Just Blague. My surname was stripped the day I was marked for exile. Now I wander in the sands of the forgotten continents, scraping by among the rest of the outcasts. There are others like me, out here. Capable minds and able bodies, all scorned in one way or another by our oppressors. Every one of us has witnessed that same terrible scene: screaming citizens as they’re bagged and dragged off into labs, intended for some experimental purpose. We dare not act out, of course. Not under the watchful gaze of the Hiezers. Not beneath their lashing whips, where one false move could be our last.

It’s only in the shadows where we can plot. Tactically. Quietly. Gathering munitions until the time is right. I know something is amiss about the chemical they’ve used to brand our skin. It burns hot when we fight. So I’ll use it… I’ll use it, and light the fire that defines the legacy of an entire rebellion, even if it kills me.

By the time this is over, I’m going to make them wish they’d buried me too…

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***

I really wanted to like this book. The premise sounds interesting, the synopsis piqued my interest, and the cover is awesome. I really tried to love this book. But I just couldn’t. I made it about 75% if the way through but then just lost interest.

None of the characters really made a dent for me at all. Blague was incredibly dull and he had no reason to be. He should have been a really compelling character. But all he did was quiet and brooding, never saying much, then he’d come out with a rousing speech and that was about it. None of the other characters felt authentic to me. They didn’t feel like real people and they didn’t feel like the personalities they were given fit them at all.

There were a lot of great ideas in this book and I wanted to look forward to where it was going. The writing needs a lot of work though. The sentences are very clunky and there’s so many similes and metaphors stuffed in there that I had no idea what was going on most of the time. And other times there was way too much description, so much that it confused the situation. In a fight scene a character is described as having a mohawk, and I get reminded about his hair style no less than four times in the scene. I got it. I know. I didn’t forget. I could tell that there was a really good idea in there somewhere, but the abundance of simile and metaphor and flowery language just obliterated the meaning of the words.

There also wasn’t much explaining of this world at all. What is a sin? How did the world get this way? What exactly is the social structure here? Who are the ruling class? Why? I feel like we spent so much time on fighting scenes that we didn’t actually explain this world and that’s a problem because I needed to live in it for a time.

I also don’t really see how the first part of the book related to the second part of the book. Maybe it all came together at the end, but I just couldn’t get that far. If the author decided to get some serious editing and rework this and publish it again, I would give it another shot for sure.

Review: Hella by David Gerrold

Hella by David Gerrold

Published: June 16, 2020 by DAW

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Rating:

Synopsis: A master of science fiction introduces a world where everything is large and the problems of survival even larger in this exciting new novel.

Hella is a planet where everything is oversized—especially the ambitions of the colonists.

The trees are mile-high, the dinosaur herds are huge, and the weather is extreme—so extreme, the colonists have to migrate twice a year to escape the blistering heat of summer and the atmosphere-freezing cold of winter.

Kyle is a neuro-atypical young man, emotionally challenged, but with an implant that gives him real-time access to the colony’s computer network, making him a very misunderstood savant. When an overburdened starship arrives, he becomes the link between the established colonists and the refugees from a ravaged Earth.

The Hella colony is barely self-sufficient. Can it stand the strain of a thousand new arrivals, bringing with them the same kinds of problems they thought they were fleeing?

Despite the dangers to himself and his family, Kyle is in the middle of everything—in possession of the most dangerous secret of all. Will he be caught in a growing political conspiracy? Will his reawakened emotions overwhelm his rationality? Or will he be able to use his unique ability to prevent disaster?

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you DAW and NetGalley!***

I went into this book with a mixture of expectations and unfortunately it didn’t really meet any of them. On the one hand, I would have been happy if this was a B-movie style Creature Feature. But it wasn’t. And on the other hand it comes to me from David Gerrold. I have not read Gerrold before but I know him from being the writer of the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode of Star Trek and writing The Man who Folded Himself. A highly acclaimed writer in the sci-fi landscape and so I would have been happy with a wonderful sci-fi adventure from a practiced hand. Unfortunately it wasn’t that either.

The world was built in a convincing way, even if the descriptions were not that great. I liked hearing about the trees that weren’t really trees, and the creatures so large that they have their own small ecosystem. The settlers on this planet seem to have a structure similar to that of the show Stargate. Half military, half scientific exploration. You have the head of the expedition who is called Captain and there is largely a military like structure to a lot of the colonists activities. And they are there for the express purpose of conducting scientific exploration of their new home to figure out how to exist there with minimal impact on the natural environment. Why then are we naming things “bug-things” or “bat-things.” Our narrator, Kyle, is highly scientifically minded and he tells us that all of these things have scientific names…..so why are we calling them stupid things? They even have a giant salt flat that is called, no joke, “Oh my God!” because that’s all anyone could think of saying when they discovered it. It was really lame and annoying. I mean, they named the planet Hella because everything is “hella big”. Eye roll.

Kyle was a great character. He has some kind of “syndrome” that they never actually name but many have speculated is supposed to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. He was volatile and aggressive as a young child and so got a chip implanted in his brain to help him suppress his emotions. I loved how Kyle transitioned and changed throughout this book. He starts as a boy who feels that he doesn’t fit in and the only person he can talk to is his brother, Jaime. He relies on Jaime for just about everything. Throughout the events of the book Kyle decides to explore his emotions and build himself a more expansive support system. It was really great character development.

The author also introduced us to some really intriguing concepts in this society that I really wanted to learn more about, the government structure of the colony and the evolution of how society understands sexuality and gender. The government seemed to be a ruling committee that is guided by their Charters in making decisions for the good of the whole colony. I wanted to know what the ramifications would be when one of the committee decided to put themselves over the needs of the colony. Unfortunately we never really spend much time on that.

This is also a society that can change gender at will. Kyle’s brother, Jaime, was born a girl and decided to change. Kyle was also born a girl and decided to change because Jaime did. Later Kyle and his boyfriend have a discussion about whether the boyfriend would prefer Kyle to be a girl and he’d change back. It seemed that most people had changed genders at least once and technology has evolved to a point that the change can fully make you the other gender. Kyle’s mom was a girl, switched to be a boy for awhile, then went back to being a girl so she could experience pregnancy and childbirth. But it just seemed so casual. People are changing out of curiosity, just because, pressure from romantic interests, etc. But we never actually met someone who wanted to change their gender because they wanted to be their authentic self. It was more like choosing a new hair color. I wanted to see some depth to that discussion, but that never comes either.

This book was also way too long. At 448 pages I didn’t expect to be bored. But literally nothing happens for about 260 of those pages. The last half is very action packed. But literally NOTHING happens before then. Nothing. So overall, the whole thing left me feeling underwhelmed.

Audiobook Review: Broken People by Sam Lansky

Broken People by Sam Lansky

Published: June 9, 2020 by Hanover Square Press

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Rating:

Synopsis: A groundbreaking, incandescent debut novel about coming to grips with the past and ourselves, for fans of Sally Rooney, Hanya Yanagihara and Garth Greenwell

“He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”

This is what hooks Sam when he first overhears it at a fancy dinner party in the Hollywood hills: the story of a globe-trotting shaman who claims to perform “open-soul surgery” on emotionally damaged people. For neurotic, depressed Sam, new to Los Angeles after his life in New York imploded, the possibility of total transformation is utterly tantalizing. He’s desperate for something to believe in, and the shaman—who promises ancient rituals, plant medicine and encounters with the divine—seems convincing, enough for Sam to sign up for a weekend under his care.

But are the great spirits the shaman says he’s summoning real at all? Or are the ghosts in Sam’s memory more powerful than any magic?

At turns tender and acid, funny and wise, Broken People is a journey into the nature of truth and fiction—a story of discovering hope amid cynicism, intimacy within chaos and peace in our own skin.

Review: I gave up on this book about halfway through. It was just boring. It wasn’t so awful that I felt I needed to give it one star, and the writing was somewhat competent, but it was really pointless. Another point that hindered this book is that it read like a poorly disguised memoir and the audiobook was voiced by the author. It was monotone and came across as whiny.

The first 20% of this audiobook was about the main character, Sam, whining to his friends. And his friends whining back at him. Seriously, we spent (what felt like) hours hearing his friends drone on and on about their pointless lives. Brand name clothes they bought, disappointing lovers they had, drugs they did recently, bad parties they attended, and on and on. At one point I forgot to put it on pause and walked away for 20 minutes and when I returned had no idea that I’d missed anything because we were STILL WHINING when I got back.

I thought things would pick up once we got to the shaman. That was mildly more interesting until Sam has a conversation with his friend about whether it’s a moral problem to see a white shaman who was using rituals inspired by indigenous people. And his friend replies (not an exact quote but close), “Well yeah, probably, but capitalist worshippers are screwing over everyone anyway so whatever.”

It was just so asinine. Nothing actually happens. Then I realized what happened when I read a few other reviews. Sam wrote a memoir, by all accounts a profound one. He approaches his editor (this is real life Sam, not character Sam) and says he wants to write a memoir. His editor replies, “Sam, buddy, memoir sequels are not really a thing. So that’s a no.” So Sam went home and wrote this memoir and then called it fiction.

In the end this was nothing more than a young white male whining about the endless privileges he enjoys. It was boring. I didn’t want to read an entire book about Sam’s self loathing and woes about being a prep school graduate who would consider a dusty condo in the middle of Manhattan to be slumming.

Audiobook Review: His & Hers by Alice Feeney

His & Hers by Alice Fenney

Published: July 28, 2020 by Macmillan Audio

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Rating:

Synopsis: There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown–the sleepy countryside village where she grew up–Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. Alternating between Anna’s and Jack’s points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep listeners guessing until the very end.

Review: ***I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio!!***

This audiobook was just another in a long line of underwhelming thrillers for me this year. It had a lot of promise but it was just never realized. At least the audio of it was well done otherwise I probably would have stopped halfway through.

Both narrators did a wonderful job. I thoroughly enjoyed their reading and felt that they did the book as much justice as they could. I have no problem with anything related to the audio. The problem this book had was a plot problem and a disappointing twist.

So the synopsis lays out that Jack becomes a suspect in his own investigation. Unfortunately for everyone that didn’t actually happen until about 80% of the way through. Anna was also supposed to be a suspect, but that comes up very late in the story too. The lead up to the finale was alright. There was nothing earth shattering about it but nothing overtly bad either. I found the characters lack luster and I had a hard time connecting with any of them.

The ending of this book is where the wheels really fall off. The entire last two hours of the audiobook were an equivalent of a ping pong match. Ten minutes on giving us reason to suspect Jack, then explaining that and giving us reason to suspect Ann, then switching to Priya, then switching to Kathleen, then back to Jack, then back to Priya. And then at the end it’s a whole chapter of the killer breaking the 4th wall to explain to us (the readers) who they are and why they did it. It didn’t work for me. It was such a bizarre explanation that I just kind of sat there listening to it with a very puzzled expression before exclaiming “WTF, that doesn’t even make sense!”

Review: Docile by K.M. Szpara

Docile by K.M. Szpara

Published: March 3, 2020 by Tor

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Rating:

Synopsis: There is no consent under capitalism

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Tor!***

SPOILER ALERT: I don’t think I can actually discuss this book without spoilers, except to say it had no point.

This book was basically a slavefic erotica with a messy attempt at a moral/political/social message attempt. But it failed pretty badly on all fronts with it. Instead I was left with a book that had a good idea and a snazzy tagline but otherwise had no purpose. It gets an extra star for being well written, because the writing is very good.

I had hoped this book would make some point about the social and economic gap between the wealthy and the poor. I mean, re-instituting slavery is a rather aggressive step to deal with a debt problem so I expected there to be some kind of larger point. But this is very rarely touched upon except to be pointed out that “this person is wealthy, this person is not.” There exists no other purpose for this distinction that I could fathom. I also don’t understand how there’s seemingly two classes of people at play here (3 technically). First, we have the very poor and indebted county folk. Most of them seem to have somehow accumulated millions of dollars in debt over three generations but I am not clear how. They live in a house that was built with abandoned bits of other houses. They run a self sufficient farm. No one is college educated and all of them refuse to seek medical care. So, where exactly did all this debt come from? Never explained. Then you have the trillionaires who buy the debt of the county folk. Always trillionaires. I don’t know why, and it’s not clear how they amassed such extreme wealth either. Then they have a mostly absent third category of people who work in the city, live outside the city, and spend most of their time worried about making sure they don’t accumulate debt. They aren’t wealthy but they aren’t in debt either. But these people only become relevant in the latter half of the book so they don’t matter.

We spend the first few chapters of the book being introduced to this world system. Laws have been passed that make debt inter-generational. You inherit your parents’ debt. We later learn that this has been in place for about three generations. You have two options to handle your debt. Go to debtor’s prison or become a Docile (a slave) for a set period of time that is set forth in the contract agreed upon by you and your Patron (the one who will be paying your debt). As a Docile your Patron can do….well basically anything they wish to you, as long as they get you medical care and try to keep you alive. The wealthy seem to mainly use this power to rape their Dociles and have sex parties. I don’t know why, except so that we could put in sex scenes or make it seem more despicable. But the more we learned about the treatment of Dociles, the more I thought “you have told me nothing about debtor’s prison, but in pretty much any world it’s better than spending multiple years being raped……”

Dociles have rights…sort of. They have the right to request or refuse to use the drug Dociline (which makes them forget their memories while under its influence), they have the right to not tell anyone their real name, they have a right to medical care…and a few other things that really don’t matter. But here’s the rub. Everyone chooses to take Dociline (except Elisha it seems). Dociline makes that person agree to anything. So what is the point of insisting that there are rights they have if they have no capacity to realize that their rights may have been violated? It seemed utterly pointless. We spent a LOT of time being reminded of a Docile’s rights, but they are entirely unaware of themselves and unable to say no to anything. So they really don’t have those rights if no one is actually around to enforce them.

I knew that Alex would change course and suddenly have a change of heart about the company and Dociline, and would see Elisha as a human being and be horrified by his treatment of him. But it was also made clear to me through the writing that I was supposed to feel sorry for him. He just didn’t realize that what he was doing was wrong. Except that isn’t true. He knew it was wrong. He told us it was wrong over and over again. But he did it anyway. He spent 200 pages torturing and dehumanizing Elisha but then suddenly has so much regret and “loves” him. The fact that the two of them end up in a relationship at the end of the book was such bad judgment. It’s like the abused woman leaving the shelter to go back to the husband who’s been beating the crap out of her for years. That is literally what happened here. Elisha got a month or two of making his own choices and then went back to his abuser. I don’t give a damn if his abuser “changed” or was a better person, that was disgusting and cheap.

Now we come to my biggest problem with this book. It makes no sense. Literally zero sense. At first I thought this was the new debt system of the entire United States. But at the end we find out it’s only Maryland. So…..the entire federal government and 49 other states were totally okay with Maryland pretending that the Constitution doesn’t exist and that the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil War and Civil Rights Movement never happened? They just allow an entire state to reinstate slavery? No one took that decision to the Supreme Court as a gross violation of the Constitution? Really? I am expected to believe this? No sense. If it was the whole country then I could get there if you gave me an explanation. But one singular state that is allowed to do all these outlandish things with no interference or intrusion from other states or the federal government? I have a really hard time believing that is even remotely plausible.

This book is nothing more than an erotica with a snazzy tagline and a half backed premise. Which is disappointing because the writing is wonderful.

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.