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review 2017-05-14 01:25
Infected: Bloodlines (Infected #2)
Infected: Bloodlines - Andrea Speed

If you read the first book, none of this should be a spoiler, but if you haven't, then proceed with caution.

 

Let me get my one gripe out of the way first. Paris is pretty. Like, really super duper fantabuloso everyone-with-eyes-wants-to-bang-him sexy hot. I know this because the author reminds the reader of this repeatedly. If I cut and paste all those passages together, it would probably take up five pages minimum. I vaguely remember being annoyed by this in the first book, but in this book, we're told that Paris's tiger virus has reached critical, that he's lost 50 pounds and is only 150-something, pale, always cold - he's sick, chronically so. So I don't need to hear about how super duper mega hot sex-on-legs he is every other page. One, I actually remember that from the previous book. Two, he's SICK! And at over six feet and only 150 pounds, he's not broad-chested. He's a toothpick. I just found the constant fascination with his sex appeal to be really shallow and misplaced in this book, and I could've done without it. Especially since the author could've gotten the same point across by showing and not telling...and telling...and telling...and telling...

 

Moving on to the actual story:

 

On the mystery front, I give this one three stars. The mystery wasn't really that involved here, and the revelation of the whodunit comes almost by accident. Almost. And since Roan's in an emotionally unstable place, that outcome isn't what you'd expect it to be - and that's all I'm saying about that. 

 

On the personal story front, I give this five stars. Read this with a box of tissues close at hand, because you're going to need it! In only two books, or two and a half if you read the novella "Infected: Paris" before this one, Ms. Speed created a beautiful couple in Roan and Paris. They're flawed, they're sometimes stupid, they're occasionally too sweet to bare, and they're real. And in this book, they're raw. They both know what's coming, and while Paris is preparing for the inevitable, Roan's living as close to denial as he can get for as long as he can, because to face reality would be the end for him as well. The supporting cast is all back. Dee is a saint of an ex-boyfriend, and Kevin's still a mess. Matt's much more prominent here. We don't see as much of the coppers, but when we do we get to see their concern and support. 

 

There are a couple of things that are brought up and then dropped, and some things are mentioned that happened between books that I would've liked to see on page. The editing is better than the first book but could still use work on making the "he's" and "his" more clear on who is being talked about. Still, the editing here is better than many. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-25 05:03
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit - Jaye Robin Brown

Word of Caution: If you hate the Big Misunderstanding trope, then avoid this book, because the entire thing hinges on it. Not only is it a "big misunderstanding" but it's perpetuated by one character consistently lying to everyone, and not even for a very good reason. Well, she thinks it's a good reason. Me? Not so much.

 

This is the second F/F book in a row with a punk lesbian. I guess this is a common enough thing to already be a recognizable trope? Aren't there country-loving lesbians? Or jazz-loving lesbians? Or hip-hop loving lesbians? WHERE ARE MY HIP-HOP LESBIANS?

 

But seriously, this book is both complicated and simple. It's told in a simple, rather straightforward way that rarely delves into the depths that this book could easy delve into given the subject matter, mainly how do LGBTQ+ individuals who need faith in their lives deal with the hurtful messages that too many churches STILL put out there because they're stuck in medieval times. I was looking forward to that aspect of it, because too often the one sole religious person in M/M books often acts like he or she could be an offshoot of the Westboro Church family tree. I know many people of faith, some who are close-minded in that way, but others who really embrace Jesus's teachings about acceptance and loving each other without judgment. So let's look at both sides of the spectrum and everything else in between here, right?! Except it never really happens. *sigh*

 

Jo's dad, who runs his own evangelical radio show, accepted his daughter without hesitation when she came out to him. And now that he's remarried and his new MIL has a stick up her butt about EVERYTHING, and because they've moved to a more conservative, smaller town, he asks Jo to lay low. That is, go back in the closet. And she agrees. So she can get her own radio show that she unironically calls "Keep It Real." I say unironically because she's completely unaware of the irony of the title while she's lying about herself to everyone around her. 

 

Except one boy she meets and befriends. She tells him immediately. Which pretty much pulls the rug out from under her every other time she tries to explain to herself why she can't tell the truth to her girlfriend she's so super in love with. Oh, no! Can't do that! And it leads to one ridiculous, cliched "twist" after another until I just wanted to smack her Cher-style.

 

 

Oh, Cher. Where are you when we need you most?

 

I do like the various different characters. There's a weird subplot with Dana. It was nice to see how Joanna and Elizabeth eventually work out their issues. When Joanna does finally stand up for herself, that's pretty great too but comes a bit too late in the story, so that everything after that is rushed. Joanna overall is a passive character and except for that one moment of backbone, she never really stops being passive. Barnum was great, as were George and Gemma. The pastor of the other church, the not-friendly-to-gays one, has this weird quasi-transformation, maybe? It doesn't really go anywhere. 

 

So I guess there's a hopeful message in here. And I guess this is eventually about being true to yourself, even when that self isn't who you originally thought it was. But for each thing I found to like, there was another thing that annoyed me in equal measure.

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review 2017-02-04 02:43
A Plague of Zombies (Lord John Grey #3.5, Audiobook)
A Plague of Zombies: An Outlander Novella - Recorded Books LLC,Diana Gabaldon,Jeff Woodman

Look, I don't like zombies. I always thought the whole concept was rather silly and could never take them seriously. Even Buffy couldn't make zombies work, though that episode is responsible for the single greatest Giles quote ever:

 

 

Supernatural did a good zombie episode in season two, and Grimm did a great season finale cliffhanger that I still remember as being uber creepy, but that's about it for me and satisfying zombie stories. (Oh, if only these two shows had stayed good. *sigh*)

 

But Gabaldon, while she deals with the mystical and timey whimey stuff in Outlander, keeps Lord John firmly set in reality, which means the zombies he encounters are the legit thing. And it's creepy as hell. Like, I didn't even know this was a for real thing until I read this because I never bothered to research it or pay any attention to it, and the idea that someone can just zombify you and you'll spend the rest of your days an animated vegetable is just disturbing, to say the least. Yes, it's super cliche, tropey and stereotypical of Jamaica and I don't care. It works. Mostly because Gabaldon is so great at writing fully realized three-dimensional characters.

 

John has his work cut out for him in Jamaica trying to squash a slave rebellion. (Let them rebel. Damn you, white oppressors!) Tom's mostly worried about the giant cockroaches and snakes. John has to deal with figuring out what started the supposed rebellion and why. It's not all as it seems, of course, because that would make John's life too easy. 

 

I somehow remembered this being longer, so the abrupt ending was kind of jarring, and I wanted to see more of Gellie. I'll just have to await her appearance in Voyager for that. It did however jog my memory about the connections between Gellie and Dr. Abernathy though, which I had also forgotten.

 

It was fun rereading/listening to these in chronological order along with Voyager. If anyone else feels compelled to do the same, the order is:

 

Voyager Ch 1-14

LJ & The Hellfire Club

LJ & The Private Matter

LJ & The Succubus

Voyager Ch 15

LJ & The Brotherhood of the Blade

LJ & The Haunted Soldier

A Custom of the Army

The Scottish Prisoner

A Plague of Zombies

Voyager Ch 16-end

 

It does make some minor continuity errors between Voyager and the LJ series (which were written much later) pretty glaring, but overall, it was fun to make all these side trips to see what John was up to during that time. (And I was totally right in my review of Custom of the Army. In the afterward to this book, Gabaldon wrote that she just looked up events going on in any given year and sent John off to them to write these stories. Vindication!)

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review 2017-02-03 03:21
The Scottish Prisoner
The Scottish Prisoner - Rick Holmes,Diana Gabaldon,Jeff Woodman

This is the third and last novel-length Lord John book (at least for now; I'm always hoping and eager for more) and concerns a possible Jacobite plot to overthrown the English crown and reclaim Scotland. Again. Those Jacobites just don't give up, do they? ;)

 

John starts off just trying to clear his friend, Caruthers, of charges from an unjust court martial and ends up way over his head in matters he simply can never understand. Except he's English, so of course his superior intellect will figure out everything, right? Yeah, not so much. :P John is forced to work alongside Jamie Fraser - or rather, Jamie is forced to work with the Greys - in uncovering the plot and bringing Siverly to justice.

 

The best thing about this book, other than the complex and ever-evolving plot, is the complex and ever-evolving relationship between John and Jamie. They started off in Voyager as warden and prisoner and forged a tentative friendship that gets tested, destroyed and rebuilt throughout the Lord John Grey series. It's in this book where they finally find some sort of understanding about each other and can finally start to put some of their past hurts and regrets behind them. Of course, John's still hopelessly in love with Jamie, who can never return those feelings. But you know who can? Stephan von Namtzen, baby! He was not in this nearly enough, but for the few scenes we got, they were very sweet indeed. Ah, UST done right is so hard to find. *sigh*

 

Each time I thought this story was over, there was more yet to go. That's not really a complaint, as it's all relevant and helps to get these two where they need to be for when we catch up with John in Jamaica in the second half of Voyager. But it was still kind of like the end of ROTK all over again. :P

 

And now, the narrators. Yes, that's plural, because for some reason that I just cannot fathom they decided this book needed two narrators instead of just one. Jeff Woodman returns, reading the sections from John's POV, which he does brilliantly as always. The second narrator is Rick Holmes, who reads Jamie's POV and honestly? It's just not needed. Now, I don't want to put down Rick Holmes's performance at all, and if I see his name on something else I want to listen to, I certainly won't hesitate to get it. I think the main detractor here is the James Marsters effect.* Holmes sounds like a younger version of Roy Dotrice, except that he actually enunciates, and he really does do a bang up job of it. His Scottish and Irish accents are perhaps slightly more Scottish and Irish than Woodman's, and he naturally has a deeper voice like I would expect Jamie to have. But... he's not Jeff Woodman and I don't understand why he's here. It's distracting to go back and forth between two different narrators. They obviously were not in the studio together when they recorded this, and having two different voices for the same characters was pretty pointless. It was especially annoying in the dueling chapter, which has quick and short cuts back and forth to ramp up the tension - which works brilliantly when reading it yourself but not so much when switching between two different narrators - who again were not in the studio at the same time they were recording their parts. If they had been, I imagine they could've really made this part of the book exceptional. But they're not, so you get pauses at the cuts when you should be getting rapid back and forths. It can't be the length of the novel, which is just over 15 hours and not much longer than Brotherhood of the Blade. Not to mention that Davina Porter is recording the Outlander books solo and the shortest of those is over 30 hours. So why do we need two narrators for this one? WHY?!

 

Just one more Lord John novella to go (and my fave of the novellas), and then it's back to Voyager to the end!

 

* - James Marsters, for those of you who don't know, records The Dresden Files audiobooks and he's a big part of the reason for that series' success. When Cold Days was originally released, Marsters wasn't available, so instead of waiting for him Penguin decided to throw some poor unsuspecting narrator to the wolves to record it in Marsters' place. While reviewers all agreed that the narrator did a fine job, he just wasn't James Marsters and there was a lot of backlash by the fans. Glad to say, by the time I got around to Cold Days, Penguin had wisely rereleased it with Marsters as the narrator, saving me the trouble of having to decide between reading it or suffering through a very well-read narration by some random guy who wasn't James Marsters. :D

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review 2017-01-29 16:47
The Custom of the Army
The Custom of the Army - Diana Gabaldon

Third time's a charm? Let's see if it actually posts this time.

 

Reread dates 1/28/17-1/29/17:
I didn't do a full reread as I skipped the bulk of the battle sequences. I didn't like this one when I originally read it in 2012, but felt I should at least give a go-over on this reread of the Lord John series. When placed in chronological order, it still doesn't make much sense. I think Gabaldon just really wanted an excuse to write about the British capturing Quebec and so found a way to send John there. It's still very scattered and doesn't have much of a point in and of itself.

 

Original review (2014, read Oct 2012):
I always enjoy spending time with John, but this is a gap-filler that doesn't really provide much of any substance. It starts with an eel party in England, then John gets whisked away to Canada to avoid potential trouble with the law until charges can either be cleared or swept under the rug. His purpose for coming to Canada is quickly put on the back burner and John ends up spending most of his time on random adventures. Then John returns to England accomplishing nothing. So it was good to see John again, but I don't really see the point in this short story other than to provide a few more details on things we've been told about already in other stories.

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