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review 2018-06-13 04:06
Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) (Audiobook)
Drums of Autumn - Geraldine James,Diana Gabaldon

As I mentioned in my review for Outlander, I started this series with the fourth book by accident. I was just out of high school, my mom was having health issues and I was the one who was driving her around to her various appointments and spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. So when I saw this book sitting on the new releases shelf in the bookstore, the only thing I cared about what that it looked interesting and it was thick. It would give me hours and hours and hours of reading time. So I got it, started reading, and got to around a quarter of the way through when I realized this was part of an ongoing series. I kept reading though and enjoyed it. It provided exactly what I needed at the time and even got me to go back and read the first three books.


Now, twenty plus years later ... this got annoying. It starts off really slow and rambling. All the books in this series ramble, but it gets worse the longer the series goes on. The first three books at least have obvious plots right off the bat. This one takes over 500 pages to get around to it's main conflict, and up till then it's basically just the four main characters doing stuff. I still really enjoy Claire and Jamie's relationship, but I couldn't give two figs about Briana and Roger's courtship, especially when Roger gets all caveman about it. 


I was never a fan of Briana, but wow. For someone so smart, she can be really stupid. Roger's kind of a jerk but he's tolerable. Neither one is prepared for 18th century living, despite both of them being history majors. They not only lie to each other about crucial things, but they make one reckless decision after another. How in the world they survived is beyond me. 


Actually, the main conflict isn't exactly what I would call contrived. Considering what Bree's been through and that she just barely met her father, her decisions make sense, even if they're illogical. Given what Lizzy thinks she knows, and what she tells Ian and Jamie, their actions also make sense. What doesn't make sense is

Claire not telling Jamie what Briana told her. She could've done that and kept Bonnet's name out of it.

Also, if you're looking for someone, a physical description usually helps.

Also, both Claire and Briana went by different last names when they went through the stones, so it makes zero sense they wouldn't consider Roger doing the same.

Also, Jamie would've killed Roger based on the info Lizzy told him. But of course he couldn't because the reader - and Bree - wouldn't be able to forgive him if he had.

(spoiler show)

The Big Misunderstanding required these characters who are usually extremely good with communication to be really bad at it.  


And it's just a little ridiculous that these characters are all encountering the same villain no matter where they are in the world. 


But once I got through all that nonsense and the characters all started to act like their intelligent, rational selves again, it got way better. The last third of the book is definitely the strongest.


Not enough Lord John though. 

I hate that he sleeps with one of the slaves. It's not on page, but it's implied. I guess I can have a smidgeon of consolation that John wouldn't have forced himself on anyone unwilling, and he's a pretty perceptive fellow, so he could probably tell if someone was just pretending to be willing. But still. Don't sleep with slaves, John.

(spoiler show)


Edit: Oh, and I forgot to mention the narration. Davina Porter does her usual stellar job, but she doesn't even attempt an American accent for Briana. I guess she's the UK's answer to Kevin Costner. ;) But since I'd rather listen to a pleasant British accent than a terrible American (much less Bostonian) one, I wasn't bothered by it too much.

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review 2018-02-15 04:22
Bridged (Callahan & McLane #2) (Audiobook)
Bridged - Kendra Elliot

CW (because I forgot for the first one): drug addiction of a side character (family member of an MC)


So as with the first book, this is dual narration, which is still not my favorite. But also as with the first one, each narrator does a great job with their individual parts. It's a catch-22 any time this situation comes up. *shrugs*


The author is also continuing with the villain POV, though I thought it was better integrated here and the reveals as to why he was doing what he was doing and how he was connected to the victims was handled better. Still don't really care for villain POV in mysteries like this, but she does it better than most.


There was one thought that kept niggling at the back of my mind while listening to this: how much time exactly had passed since the previous book. If they mentioned it, I didn't catch it, but it didn't seem like a whole heck of a lot of time had passed. Yet already Mason and Ava are practically living together and act like they've been a couple for years instead of still getting to know each other. I'm not sure I really buy that level of synchronicity so soon into a relationship. 


Also, Ava was shot in the shoulder at the end of the previous book and she's still going to physical therapy for the injury - but she's already cleared for field duty? Um...if you say so. She should either still be on desk duty (and did she even do a psyche eval?) or there should have been a lot more time between books. There was really no need for this book to pick up so soon after the previous one.

And given all the injuries poor Ava sustains again at the end of this book, there really better be adequate time between books - and psyche evals better actually happen for both her and Mason. Jeez.


Really, is Ava going to be severely injured at the end of every book? Can she not? Surely it's Mason's turn next. :D

(spoiler show)


The mystery itself was interesting up to a point.

It kind of stretches believability that every single one of the victims still lived in the Seattle area after nearly two decades. The congressman and Derrick I can see staying put, and even Joe since he was a slacker. But the other two could have just as easily moved out of state and realistically probably would have given what happened all those years ago.


Also, it was rather convenient that Jane was date one of the potential victims. Because of course she was.

(spoiler show)

Still, it was better paced than the previous book, as I mentioned before, and it was odd enough to keep my attention even after I figured out what was going on. The lead up to the climax looked like we were headed toward Silly Town but the author was mostly able avoid it. And I like how Mason and Ava were able to remain professional (fancy that!) and keep their cool under pressure. 


I'm starting to get annoyed with Jane. Ava reminds me of those parents who constantly bail their kids out of trouble so they don't have to face the consequences of their actions and then are amazed when said kids have no moral compass or impulse control. Ava, you're doing sisterhood wrong. 

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review 2017-08-13 20:51
Eater of Souls (SEPCTR #4)
Eater of Lives - Jordan L. Hawk

Ugh! NOOO! Not the "MCs refuse to talk to each other so Big Misunderstandings" occur! And not the "ex comes back and causes trouble" trope. You're better than this, Ms. Hawk. So I could knock off half a star for that nonsense, but the rest of the relationship stuff was strong enough to overcome it. (And I guess when you fall in love in just a few weeks, before you really get to know the other person, it's not too far out of the realm of possibility for these things to occur.) 


Complicating things further is just the basic way that possession works in this world, and we get to "go inside" the head of another victim. It's a great way to counter what's happening with Caleb/Gray and seeing why anyone would be extremely concerned about John at this point, and why Caleb is worried about losing himself completely if the 40 days come up and they haven't succeeded in exorcizing Gray. How can he really trust what Gray tells him, that Gray won't take over his mind, especially when they're getting better at sharing his body. 


And then cliffhanger! Thank goodness this series is complete already. Onto the next!

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-03 00:31
Ghost Ship, or WTF You Talkin' 'Bout Ship? (Mahu #10)
Ghost Ship (Mahu Investigations Book 10) - Neil Plakcy



Trigger Warnings: genocide, nuclear warfare, terrorism, anti-humanitarianism, anti-environmentalism, anti-common sense, heroes advocating villain's agenda, terrible research into the after effects of nuclear contamination, epic logic fail, MC replaced by an evil android clone, etc.


In case you can't tell already, there's a rant coming, people. And I don't hold back on the spoilers when I rant, so from this point on, expect spoilers aplenty.


The basic premise of this book was interesting enough going into it: a boat washes ashore in O'ahu and is found to have nuclear materials onboard that leaked and killed the family on the ship. The FBI goes on the case to find out where it was coming from and where it was going to. The execution of said premise left much to be desired. Like, A LOT.


First, the four year time jump between this book and the last one was kind of shocking, as was finding out that 

Kimo's dad died between books

(spoiler show)

and that Dakota was now in college. Kimo and Mike's relationship is still going strong, however, but I didn't even get to enjoy that in this book because things happened.


Second, may I remind everyone that Kimo and Ray are still on loan to the FBI and still employed by the HPD and are still considered, for all intents and purposes, homicide detectives. They don't actually work FOR the FBI, they just liaise with them as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The way it was explained in the previous book made sense: they communicate between the FBI and local police for crimes of interest that take place in Hawaii. 


This boat may have washed up in Hawaii, but the crime did not take place there, and there was no homicide since the deaths were caused by exposure to radiation. They find out the boat started out from Japan and was making it's way to Seattle. The FBI does contact their liaison in Japan, but for some reason never think to contact Seattle to have someone sit at the docks on the off chance that some shifty looking character might be hanging out waiting for a ship with plutonium on it to cruise up. It's getting sloppy already. Director Salinas decides he wants eyes and ears in Japan, because for some reason he doesn't trust the liaison there to get much information because he's just a liaison. So he sends Kimo and Ray - who are just liaisons and aren't even federal employees, unlike the liaison who is already stationed there. And they have zero jurisdiction. And Kimo barely speaks Japanese and doesn't read kanji. They do find out there was a second boat, and they end up being sent to Seattle, which ends up being a good thing because apparently no one in the FBI office there thought to speak to the deckhands of the marina where the boat was supposed to sail.


Then they end up in Idaho, where one of the terrorists live, which turns out to be a good thing because Kimo's mom has been doing their genealogy and has found out they still have family living in Idaho, who just so happen to live in the same town as the terrorist they're tracking and who just so happen to know the guy and can set up a meeting for them! Isn't that a coinkydink! Now, it's one thing that Kimo has lived his entire life in O'ahu and knows everyone on the island through six degrees of separation. It's quite another when he goes somewhere he's never been before and just happens to find people he "knows" there too. That was just too ridiculous, y'all. I can buy the FBI deciding to send Kimo and Ray around on a wild goose chase for no reason - they're dispensable after all and Salinas is a bit of a control freak and they're not really in charge of anything, they're just providing grunt work for the various offices in each location. Even in my small corner of government employment, the general rule is, "If it doesn't make sense, you're doing it right," so I have no problems at all believing the FBI would waste tax payer dollars in this way even if (hopefully) that's not how they operate in the real world. (And where the frick was Homeland Security during all this?) But I can't suspend disbelief enough to think that Kimo's going to run into family who can help them out in Podunk, Idaho. Please.


Speaking of that six-degrees of separation, Kimo goes to a friend with the captain's log from the boat to help him make sense of all the nautical readings ... because apparently no one in the FBI could do this for him? He was just told that this job needs to be kept confidential and inside, and Kimo just waltzes off and shares info with a friend. Even if he was 1000% sure that his friend wouldn't share that info with anyone else, he's still disobeying orders.


But hold onto your horses. This stupid train is just getting started, because it turns out that Kimo is pro-atomic warfare.



I honestly have no idea what Plakcy was trying to accomplish here, folks, and I'm not going to attempt to theorize because I don't feel like taking crazy pills.


Backing up, early on in their investigation, they find out their terrorist is supposedly pro-animal conservation. Which is a good thing. We need to protect our wildlife and environment. So, how does a shipment of plutonium equal animal conservation, you may ask? Well, turns out, Ray and Kimo read an article claiming that wildlife was now thriving in Chernobyl thirty years after the nuclear accident that devastated the area. So maybe this guy actually has a point. You nuke a place, make it completely toxic, killing off everything or causing genetic mutations and cancers in whatever happens to survive and badda-bing badda-bang! You've got a wildlife preserve.



So first thing I had to do was see if any such article actually exists on the internet. I think this might be the one that inspired this nonsense:

Everyone, do yourselves a favor and do NOT read the comments. They could've easily been posted by the antagonists in this book. The article is so thin on anything resembling actual scientific research that it should be a joke to even publish it. Numbers are up, but that doesn't mean the animals are healthy, just that they've realized there are no people there and have moved into the area. There's also an article linked inside that one about some species of birds that have started to adapt to the radiation levels. And I think that's what Plakcy was trying to establish here, but it's handled really horribly. If it had only been the clearly-lunatic bad guy who thought this was a good idea, that would've been one thing. Kimo and Ray could've easily googled all the other research out there showing the extreme negative effects of the zone, not just ground zero but the various other zones around Chernobyl, on humans and wildlife to contradict the bad guy in just a matter of seconds, but they never do that. And apparently neither did the author. Seriously, it takes like five seconds to google this crap. 


The first time it's brought up, Ray and Kimo talk about it with almost a gallows-type humor. Because they read that absolutely appalling article. Much later on in the book, it's noted that the bad guy wrote an article like that too, and it would've been easy enough for the author to connect those two events as being the same article, that it was written by someone with skewered views who really just wants to get rid of humanity, and thus debunk the whole concept or at least call it into question. He doesn't quite go that extra half-step though. I guess readers can infer it from the text if they want to, but it really should've been spelled out.


I was uncomfortable with that, though honestly if not for a friend of mine who is from the area speaking on this subject before in conversations not related to this book, I doubt I would've batted an eye over it. What really struck me was Kimo actually advocating nuking Afghanistan and Iraq to get rid of the terrorists, despite the very real lose of innocent life that would result from it and despite the fact that nuclear waste wouldn't just effect the areas that are bombed but would spread out from there. He even supports this by saying it ended WWII. Like he forgot in just the span of two seconds that HE'S PART JAPANESE and those where his people who got nuked. Oh, and the war was already on its way to being over when they dropped those bombs. They were dropped to prove we'd do it, not because it was necessary. It's never EVER necessary to kill civilians, but Kimo's all for it so long it saves American lives and his family. 


There are thousands of better ways to include this debate in this book, how much is too much military intervention, how much is too little, is the government doing enough to counter terrorism and what can we do different. (And to be clear, the terrorists in this book are American patriots.) But instead, Plakcy puts Kimo on the side of KILL THEM ALL despite the loss of innocent life (and then ten pages later, he's "reminded" of this radical group's willingness to kill innocents when someone ends up killed by one of them) and puts Ray on the "You've got to be kidding me" side, and there's no nuance at all. In just the last book, we saw the lengths Kimo went to to prevent a home-grown radical cult from setting off a bomb in Hawaii, because innocent lives were at stake, but now he just doesn't care? Because if you live next to a terrorist, you should do something about it and if you don't, you're aiding and abetting them? WHAT?!!!! 



We also never find out what exactly happens with the plutonium or the compound that was raided, since once Ray and Kimo got their bad guy and hand him over to the local FBI agents, they were back on a plane to Honolulu. They didn't even wait for a debriefing or to write up or sign any statements. We never find out what happens to anyone on the Japan side of the investigation either. Everything just gets dropped.


On the personal front, while I said above that Kimo and Mike's relationship is still solid, it's apparently not solid enough for Mike to handle Kimo being gone for two weeks. And over Valentine's Day.



It's not like Kimo has a choice in it, but Mike goes and gets himself drunk one night. But he doesn't have a drinking problem. And every time they talk, he tries to make Kimo feel guilty. Screw you, Mike. Grow up.


And I still don't understand why Kimo thinks he had anything to feel guilty about that time he and Mike broke up. I only mention it here because it comes up in passing. Mike cheated on Kimo and had unprotected sex with a stranger and lied about it, and then put Kimo's health at risk by having unprotected sex with him. What about that required Kimo to give an explanation for breaking things off?


This is definitely a low point in the series. Plakcy got a bit ambitious with this one, probably trying to write the next Jason Bourne or something, and he proved himself incapable. Hopefully, evil!Kimo never makes another appearance. He was so OOC here that it was like I was reading about another character.


So why two stars? Well, the writing - aside from the logic fail and plot holes - was still good. There were some typos but nothing too drastic. I still mostly enjoyed all the characters, until Kimo gave into temptation and ate some Dark Side cookies. But mostly the stars are for Ray, who was a highlight in this book. Usually he just tags along with Kimo and plays the straight guy to Kimo's wild card, but here he gets to put on his world-traveler boots and show off his knowledge of how to get around in unfamiliar places, while Kimo was struggling with jet lag, time zone changes and general traveler grumpiness. And even though we only got a few glimpses of Dakota, it was great to see him grown up and in college and doing to so well.

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review 2016-11-20 21:03
Bitter Legacy
Bitter Legacy - Dal Maclean

Edit 12/27/16: After some much mulling over, I decided to drop this from 4.5 stars to an even 4 stars. There's an apologist angle to the plot that just rubs me the wrong way. As my man Jake once so eloquently said:



Stop making excuses for murderers, y'all. Just stop.


Original review:


I started this one with lukewarm feelings, as my previous updates showed. It had a somewhat shaky start, for one. For another, all my friends loved this, which seems like a strange reason to be cautious going into a book but I'm more often than not the odd one out, the who hates what everybody else loves. And while the nitpicking I did at the beginning was justified, this proved itself capable of rising above its shaky first impression to blow my mind.


So let's get the things that bugged me out of the way to focus on the good stuff.


~Abuse of adverbs, in the first few chapters especially. Seriously, I'm still trying to figure out how gloves can be "violently lilac" or how a lounge can be "expensively scented." Overall, there were just too many descriptors crammed into single sentences. Thankfully, once everything and everyone was set up and described, this issue more or less went away. 

~There were some continuity errors, like James putting on a full-body containment suit then worrying about accidentally leaving his DNA, like hair, on the crime scene. A good content editor should've picked up on those things.

~Editing throughout isn't too bad, but there are extra words, missing words, misused words (though that could be an American vs British English thing), and misplaced words all throughout the book. Not enough to make me throw my hands up or anything, but enough that I decided it was worthy of a mention. 

~James conveniently noticed important evidence for no reason whatsoever except for Plot. 

Seriously, how did he notice that first bag of stones that were hiding in the shadows against the wall of the house? He was walking by and not even looking in that direction. It's written that "something" caught his eye but the way that scene is written there was nothing to catch his eye. It's in the shadows! There were plenty of other, more believable ways for him to discover that bag.

(spoiler show)

Thankfully though, this is also an issue of setting up the initial crime scene and the talents of our DS Henderson, and this sort of clunky exposition also improves as the story progresses.

~The very ending - I'm just not sure I buy it the way it's written. And that's all I can really say about it without giving too much away.

I would've been fine if this hadn't been a "romance" per se - because really for much of the book it's not a romance at all. Really, a bittersweet split would've been far more believable, or at least some time for these guys to get to know their real selves on page so the ending didn't seem so out of left field. 

(spoiler show)


Now onto the good stuff:


I don't really know how to talk about this book without giving too much away. I'll do my best.


First and foremost, this is a police procedural. On that end, it could've been paced better. We're left hanging on the investigation for large sections of the book while James deals with his personal life, and what we do get comes in heaps. When we do get it though, it's generally well-plotted and everything is given to us to figure it out. I actually had the correct perp pegged at one point,

from the very first time James interviewed him,

(spoiler show)

but there was sufficient enough evidence for others to be the perp that it got muddled and forgotten. Just as James forgot his own instincts and theories about the murders being more than just random happenstance. When the pieces finally do start falling into place, it's a race to the finish line and you better make sure you don't have to get up early for work the next morning. I had to put the book down at close to midnight last night because my Kindle was telling me I still had four and-a-half more hours of reading time ahead of me. I wasn't remotely sleepy, and I can't tell you the last time that's happened to me with a book. 


There's a love interest and a "love story" of sorts, but this is far from the typical M/M romance, enough so that I would caution anyone going into this looking for romance to leave your expectations at the door. If you're looking for sweet nothings and warm fuzzies, look elsewhere. It gets grim, folks. There are insecurities on both sides, emotional abuse and manipulation and even gaslighting to an extent. And while I would usually be completely annoyed with the sort of behavior James displays here, it was written so well and so intimately that I could fully understand why he was putting himself through it, even as I began to fear for him and his emotional stability - among other things - more and more as the story progressed. I couldn't even be too pissed off at Ben because James knew the score and decided to stay anyway. Really, I think this is Maclean's strongest writing here. She captures emotion and inner turmoil better than most authors I've read, and she drapes it over the story and the reader like a stifling, comfy blanket. 


The secondary characters are well-written and even those with a few scenes and lines are fully realized. They're just as real as the main characters and while we may not get to know them as well, they're just as important to the plot and the pacing. They help balance out all the forlorn density that would otherwise overtake the story. Scrivenor especially is a breath of fresh air every time he's in a scene. He's probably the least complicated character in this story.


And that's really all I can say without giving away too much. Just read the book. 


This is a fabulous debut novel and I'm going to be on the lookout for anything Ms. McLean offers up in the future. 

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