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review 2017-08-24 02:53
Greenwode (The Wode #1) (Audiobook)
Greenwode - J. Tullos Hennig

I have mixed feelings on this one. 


First off, I've never read any of the Robin Hood legends, and the only movies I've seen are Prince of Thieves and Men in Tights, so I can't in anyway compare this to the source material aside from the obvious - Marion is Robin's sister, and Rob's gay. I remember John and Will from the PoT movie, but I pretty much don't know who anyone else is. So I'm just going to review this like any other book.


As a fantasy adventure historical, this is great. Very imaginative and takes place in roughly the same time frame as the original RH stories. The pagans are still very much a presence but slowly being squeezed out and pushed to the sidelines by the Christians. There's a lot of world-building here but none of it feels overwhelming. The social and religious strife between the two sides in this conflict is realistic and rooted in our actual history, while adding in elements of fantasy. It's a good meld of the two. 


As a romance, you could pretty much pull it out of this book, and plop into any other YA/teen in-the-closet/coming-out story and it would be exactly the same as all of those, along with way too much sex. Except, you know, actual lives are in danger and not just teen angst making it feel like that's the case. Rob's especially pig-headed, and I wanted to smack him a few times, especially at the end, but the book does that well enough when he decides listening to his dick is more important than being stealthy, so I'll refrain. ;) Gamelyn's struggles to accept himself despite his upbringing were interesting though, and I liked that we get to see both accepting and fire-and-brimstone views on sodomy by the two prominent religious figures.


The narrator does an excellent job bringing the story to life and voicing all the characters. He's easy to understand and is able to do a full range of vocalizations for both the male and female characters, and he's pretty great with the accents too. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-11 05:32
The Unsung Hero (Troubleshooters #1) (Audiobook)
The Unsung Hero - Suzanne Brockmann

This audiobook is brought to you by Patrick Lawlor and Siri. Ok, Melanie Ewbanks reads the female POVs (I googled it - she is not Siri), but true story: I was driving to a meeting at a building I hadn't been to before when I first started listening to this audiobook, so I had my GPS turned on. The first time Ms. Ewbanks took over the narration, I seriously thought that my GPS lady got bored and started to randomly narrate the book. (I googled the GPS lady too - not Ms. Ewbanks.) She improves a little as the story goes on - or I just got used to her - but if you want to know what sex scenes sound like when read to you by a Siri-esque voice, now's your chance! (I didn't, so I skipped over them. Even when Lawlor was reading them. Narrators reading sex scenes are just painful.) Patrick Lawlor did a much better job of getting into the material and bringing life and warmth to the story. Unfortunately - as happens too often with dual narrators - the narrators are clearly not in the studio together when they recorded their parts, so Lawlor still has to do female voices and Siri still has to do male voices and I have no idea why you would pay for two narrators and then split up the reading this way. Stop doing this to your listeners!


Sadly, even the best narrators couldn't have saved this book. This has three - count them - one, two, THREE - romances crammed into one long-ass boring romance novel with an attempt at an intriguing suspense subplot to thread it all together. It just doesn't work. Rating them from blandest to most promising, the romances are these:


3 - Charles, Cybelle, Joe - Love triangle. Bored now. Love triangle set during WW II? UGHHHH! At least it's not set in Pearl Harbor? Seriously, it's WW II and that's the best the author could think to do with these characters? STAHP. The only good thing about this part of the story is that Charles and Joe stay friends.


2 - Kelly and Tom - The old "girl kisses boy, boy freaks out and enlists in the Navy, boy and girl don't see each other for 16 years and in all that time they clearly barely even change since they're right back where they left off as soon as they're in the same room again" story. Yeah, nothing new here either. I did like Tom's struggles with his head injury and wondering if he's still capable of leading. I'm just not sure this story actually answers that question. I also liked Kelly's struggles with understanding her father, Charles, and getting closer to him as his health is failing.


1 - Mallory and David - The old "geek boy who's really a nice guy (but not a Nice Guy) stalks beautiful girl and gets her" story. Ok, stalking is a little strong. He just makes himself visible, and he's a lot more confident and self-assured than geek boys tend to be in these stories. Mallory's change of heart toward him is gradual, and while it occasionally threatens to veer into boring romance cliche territory, it mostly avoids it.


The terrorist stalker subplot is one I've read before also, so again, nothing new here. This was published pre-9/11, so maybe the regulations were a wee bit more relaxed then, but I doubt it. If a bomb threat gets called in, it has to be investigated. End of story. If a building needs to be evacuated in a hurry, pull the fire alarm. The ending was convoluted and eye roll worthy, and the negligence on display here by literally everyone except our protags defies logic. 


This series is not off to a good start, but I've seen other reviews mention the books get better after this one, so I'm going to at least give the next one a try.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-07 04:42
The Monet Murders (The Art of Murder #2)
The Monet Murders: The Art of Murder Book 2 - Josh Lanyon




After I recently reread The Mermaid Murders and realized it didn't quite live up to my original impression, I dialed down my expectations for this book. I really only wanted two things: an explanation of why Kennedy is the way he is, and a reason for me to root for this couple. It delivered on the first - eventually. It did not deliver on the second. I can’t be invested in a "relationship" that was barely lukewarm in the first book and then "developed" in between books, started the second book with them split up and kept them apart until the 60% mark. I had no reason to care about Jason's moping - and boy did he ever mope, often while processing crime scenes. He really needs to learn to compartmentalize. Jason and Sam had no chemistry and I really didn't care if they got an HEA or even an HFN. The sex scene was just that - a sex scene. 


Kennedy's reasons for treating Jason in the passive-aggressive, jerkass way that he does certainly did explain a lot - but it's not what I expect from a 46-year old top-notch FBI investigator-now-supervisor known for his directness. His behavior was very wishy-washy, and his excuses were more suited to a man half his age and a fraction of his supposed maturity. 

The mystery was good once it got going. There were a lot of layers to it, but it's not overstuffed. There are some TSTL moments from both Jason and Sam, and I actually have a hard time believing these guys have been in the FBI as long as they have - or never seen or read a mystery book to know basic murder mystery tropes. The climax was rushed and would never have gone that way. There's this thing called mobilization. And not running off solo to chase down something hinky when you've got an entire task force at your beck and call. Also, Lanyon needs to research basic physics on how bullets work. I was not at all in suspense when Jason was being shot at while underwater. I was scratching my head why the bad guy was wasting his ammo.


I had a vague feeling while reading the first book that Jason and Sam were lightweight versions of Adrien and Jake, and that impression was solidified here. Jason's not as interesting a POV character, and Sam's not as complex or compelling as Jake, so the comparisons just make these characters feel flatter as a result. That whole sidestep with Shipka had shades of Bruce Green to it too (minus him being a homicidal maniac). Lanyon often reuses themes in her stories, but this is the first time I felt like she was reusing characterizations. On top of that was the constant pimping of Winter Kill, another just-okay book with likable characters that I never got invested in, during the last half of the book. It worked my last nerve. Lanyon's crossovers used to be a lot more subtle. Not anymore. I didn't want to read about Winter Kill; I wanted to read this book.

To try to figure out a rating for this book, I'm going to split it up:


Romance - 1 star. It's pretty much non-existent until the last 75% of the book and that's just too late for me to get invested. 


Mystery - 3 stars. The various branches of the mystery were interesting and seeing Jason's determination to solve them was great. The resolution for Jason's case wasn't the usual, but I actually liked that. The climax was good until I started thinking about it and all the TSTL crap that went on. 


Characters - 3 stars. I did like what we learned about these two, but the side characters were just filling in spots, with maybe the exception of George. Kennedy's reasons for treating Jason like crap were pretty big - but something he should've worked out with a therapist early in his career before his obsession could become a potential liability to his investigations.


Editing - 4 stars. Above the average for this genre, but there are a lot more typos than Lanyon usually has in her works. 


Writing - 4 stars. Masterful as always, and really the saving grace here. She has a way of describing imagery and settings that put you in the location. She gets a little purple in the sex scene. I really wish she'd tame down the purple metaphors and similes. It's not as bad here as in some of her other works, but it still pulls me out of the scene.


Will I read the next one? I don't know. Maybe eventually, but it won't be a pre-order. 

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review 2017-02-17 02:29
Crazy Like a Foxe (Skyler Foxe Mysteries #6) (Audiobook)
Crazy Like A Foxe (Skyler Foxe Mysteries Book 6) - Haley Walsh

Maybe I wasn't quite in the right mood for this one after all, or maybe Skyler was being too OTT and TSTL for my tolerance levels. Skyler's always been reckless but this is the first time I remember fearing for the future since, as a teacher, he's responsible for molding young minds. He really should not be responsible for teenagers. :P


Summer's coming to a close and Skyler's summer job at the local museum is coming to its end as well. Everything's hunky dory until valuable items start going missing. A mysterious death soon follows, and Skyler's on the case (and frankly, I thought it took him too long to cotton on to what was going on, at least in one respect). There's also Keith's old boyfriend back in town, and the ex is up to no good. On top of all that, Skyler's still trying to wrap his head around his parents getting back together, and his various trust issues with his father.


Actually those same trust issues could explain a lot about Skyler's behavior in general - why he's such a control freak and needs to know everything NOW instead of when people are ready to tell him, and why he always assumes the worst case scenarios. That doesn't explain the various members of the SFC going along with his harebrained antics, especially when it involves

breaking into a storage facility and busting their way into a storage locker. If I were Sydney, I'd let them all sit in the tank for a night instead of finding ways to get them off the hook all the time. That's not even mentioning hacking into Keith's phone, which is a far worse offense on a personal level.

(spoiler show)

But then they wouldn't be the SFC we know and love if they didn't 100% support Skyler. At least Phillip has some sense.


We don't spend as much time with the kids in this book as in previous ones, and there's a lot of focus on the football team when we do, due to Keith signing up a girl to play on the team, and not as a kicker. We also get to learn a bit more about Keith's background, which leads to some in depth discussions about where Skyler and Keith envision their relationship going.


Joel Leslie usually does a decent job on the various accents, but in this book we meet a female football player name Eleigh (sp?). The first time she spoke, based on the accent Leslie was using, I figured she'd be Australian. Nope. Turns out she's Samoan, and I don't think she grew up in Australia. That's just the complete wrong accent to use. I've lived around Samoans my whole life and never once heard any of them use any accent even close to Australian. Just...WTF was that? It was terrible and it grated more and more each time she spoke. Everyone else, he does well and Joel and Rodolfo have always been my standout favorite characters that he voices. They all continue to shine here. 


This was still funny and fun, and hopefully some of the growth we see in Skyler in this book will stick.

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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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