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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-29 20:30
Wolf By Wolf
Wolf by Wolf - Christa Lewis,Ryan Graudin,Hachette Audio

***Note: this review assumes that you've read the book.***

 

One-sentence review: the hand of the author was too visible to allow me to fully immerse myself in this one.

 

My favorite part: Brava to Ms. Graudin for showing so subtly and clearly that, no matter how hard one tries, one can never inhabit another person's thoughts or fully understand that person. This was the subtlest theme of the novel, and one I truly enjoyed--watching Yael realize the tiny ways in which human relationships, even when public, are by their nature intensely private, and how another person's mind and life are impossible to grasp, despite intense research and investigation.

 

Premise. The most common praise I've heard for Wolf by Wolf is that it has a unique and fascinating premise. The alternate-history aspect, in which Germany and Japan have won the war, is not in itself unique. (See this Wikipedia article entitled "Hypothetical Axis Victory in World War II.") Even the element of an underground resistance movement that wants to kill Hitler has been done before in this same alternate-history context.

 

So the unique aspects in Wolf by Wolf are the facts that Yael is a shapeshifter, and that she has to win a cross-continent motorcycle race in order to get her shot at the Führer. Unique, perhaps, but these two features actually weaken the novel somewhat in my opinion: 

 

Road Race. For me--and this may not be true for other readers--a race is just not interesting enough to sustain the entire book. It very quickly felt like a series of hurdles: problem introduced, problem solved; another problem introduced, etc. Sometimes solving one problem created the other. Many times, Yael solved the problem simply by revealing her plan or identity to the person involved. (More on that below.)

 

Shapeshifter. Alternate history and historical fiction are a great pairing, but the fantasy element of Yael being able to shapeshift made the history less believable. In every other way, the world was like ours: unmagical. And other than the implied existence of other shapeshifters, nothing else is fantastical in this book. It made me wonder whether a) shapeshifting was necessary to accomplish what Ms. Graudin wanted to achieve, and b) if it was necessary, why this world didn't have more fantastical elements.

 

The science. Because let's face it, the science-fiction aspect was not convincing. When your plot device is medically based, I want some sort of plausible mechanism. You can make it up, but it should be based on something scientific or biological. What sort of injectable agent could possibly cause a person to be able to change their body, right down to bone shape and length, within minutes? The reader is meant to accept this as the premise and move on, but I got stuck in Untransported Land.

 

The hand of the author/author devices. When the author allows implausible things to happen just to keep the story moving, it becomes difficult to stay transported as well. How likely is it that in a concentration camp the gate guard would allow Yael to exit the camp when she tells him the doctor has requested to see her? Wouldn't he accompany her from the gate to the doctor's door? How likely is it that the nurse wouldn't accompany her from the clinic to the commandant's door? Ms. Graudin needed to develop a more sophisticated escape route, rather than ask us to believe these two impossible moments could occur.

 

Similarly, how likely is it that the race organizers have stocked fuel but not drinking water at the checkpoints? They've lugged spare motorcycles to each checkpoint, but no water? This was an author device to get Yael to approach Luka for a favor. And even that is unbelievable: why would Yael go to Luka, her nemesis, for a canteen, rather than to Adele's brother, who has said he wants to protect her? And why would Luka bargain the water for a mere favor, rather than demand that she partner with him, which is what he really wants?

 

Why does it take so long for Yael to ask Felix where he got his information about a "big event" happening at the race. Wouldn't Yael be suspicious of him?

 

How is it that the Russian partners in the resistance don't know Yael's code name, or that she's on this crucial mission, even though the race goes through their territory?

 

The Russian commander says that his life and the life of his men are forfeit if he lets her go, yet if she "happens" to escape "that's a different matter?" Really? He wouldn't be punished in the extreme for his incompetence in allowing an escape? 

 

Linearity. Although Ms. Graudin tries to break up the monotony of the motorcycle race by inserting flashbacks of Yael's origin story (which I did find interesting), it's hard to stop this book from feeling very...linear. There is a hurdle, then a solution, repeat. The solutions are often Yael skinshifting her way out of the problem, spilling her plan--to the soviets, to Felix--or provided by a deus ex machina (e.g. Felix fixes her bike for her).

 

The Soviet side-trip. Why is this in the novel? It achieves nothing in service of the plot. I can only think that Ms. Graudin thought the monotony of the race needed something to break it up. Everything that she achieved (getting the competitors to rely on each other) could have been done another way.

 

Research. There were some errors here:

 

Ms. Graudin painted a picture of Cairo with "carts full of pomegranates and figs." Well, this race begins in early spring (late March, early April) and Egypt's pomegranate season runs from early September to December. Figs are more complicated (they have two seasons, a big one and a small one), but since Ms. Graudin doesn't specify dried or fresh, we should probably cut her some slack by assuming the cart had dried figs.

 

Luka says, "Not such a great bullet point on your curriculum vitae." And the narrator says, "No number of bullet points and biography facts could pin the soul behind her eyes." Unfortunately the term "bullet point" is from 1983, and the advent of wordprocessors.

 

Miriam reassures Yael that Babushka and Mama, both deceased, will be "watching" her escape from beyond. This implies a Christian view of heaven, doesn't it?

 

The writing. The language is meant to be evocative, but sometimes it simply doesn't make sense: "Act like you belong, not a hollow stuffed girl."

 

Sometimes the descriptions are so unspecific as to not be helpful, visually:

 

[To reach the knife in her boot,] she had to bend her body at awkward angles (which might have been impossible if Yael hadn't used her skin shifting to lengthen Adele's arms a few centimeters)...

Tell us how her body is bending, please.

 

Ms. Graudin also likes to serially pair nouns and/or adjectives, which might be fine in moderation, but there's a little too much of it of it. For instance, in describing Luka's lips:

Moving and melding. Soft and strength, velvet and iron. Opposite elements that tugged and tore Yael from the inside. Feelings bloomed, hot and warm. Deep and dark.

And speaking of "soft and strength," she has an interesting habit of using nouns for adjectives (strength instead of strong) and adjectives for nouns ("the tight of his fist"). Pretty, or distracting? I truly couldn't decide.

 

I had questions:

 

Why was the Japanese racer crying, only to be murdered without our finding out why? 

 

What the heck are the rules of the motorcycle race, and how is it timed? We're given some information, but if I had to reconstruct it to hold an actual race, I couldn't.

 

In sum: This was refreshing YA fantasy for not being yet another Beauty and the Beast retelling, and for choosing an alternate history for its "dystopia." I was totally happy to keep reading it, but now that it's done I find I'm enjoying watching The Man in the High Castle more.

 

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review 2017-02-10 06:55
Great Story and Characters
Wolf Unbound (Cascadia Wolves) by Lauren Dane (2009-01-01) - Lauren Dane

Teagan had lost her mate 4 years ago. She was a werewolf and the usually mate for life. Luckily there had been an anchor in the tri bond so Teagan didn’t also doe but her anchor Abe had already found his mate so he could not step in for Teagan’s husband and mate Lucas. Lucas had been everything to Teagan her best friend. Partner, her mate. Teagan had three dreams in the last month of Lucas the dream two weeks ago  made it clear he wanted her to let go of him and start to live again and find a new love and mate. There was something big coming. Teagan had been living with her brother Lex and her sister in law Mia. Lex was The enforcer of the pack and her other brother Cade was the Alpha of the Cascadia pack. Teagan was ready to go home it was only twenty miles from Lex’s home. Mia tells Lex to let her go. Pellini  is in an enemy who is looking for any way he can hurt one of them. Teagan is a guard on lex’s Enforcer team. Teagan is closest to Layla even though she has a twin Megan. Layla is the one that got her through the death of Lucas and the hard horrific time after. Lucas had been an Army Ranger something he had always wanted to do. Layla was glad to see Teagan start to come back to life after so long. Lucas had been killed in Afghanistan. Teagan went to Club De Sade - a BDSM club. Teagan was looking for someone who would use a flogger and knew how to use it right. Teagan was a submissive is this aspect of her life only. There was a human looking for a regular sub but Teagan wasn’t ready to commit but Ben agreed to spend that evening with Teagan but he wanted her blindfolded before she came into the room with him. But her friend Ryan was going to observe through a window to make sure Teagan was ok while she was with Ben. After their session Teagan was surprised how strongly she reacted to Ben. Ben asked Teagan if he could buy her a drink teagan suggested coffee as she still had to go to work. Ben was a cop but had been doing a lot of work on Pellini and with the werewolf packs. Templeton Mancini was the Alpha of the National Pack which was the ruling pack of all the packs. Warren Pellini believed Templeton and the National’s pack enforcer Jack Meyers were in his pocket. But in reality they were working with the FBI and some of the other packs to try to bring down Pellini. Pellini pretty much taken over Sargasso and Quinta- they were packs on the border which made sense as he could move drugs and guns a lot easier now. Pellini was working on on Michigan and maple for the same reasons. They have to find out if Pellini has the virus before they make a move.otherwise human and wolves would be in terrible danger. There had been a lycanthropy virus had been stolen and it was a big threat. Ben had been a good cop for fifteen years. Then Teagan and Ben kissed Teagan but stopped at that. Cade warned Ben not to hurt his sister. When Teagan went out to patrol she scented two wolves she didn't recognize and gun oil. Teagan was a woman who went by her gut it had served her well. Something in Ben called to Teagan and made her respond in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Teagan didn’t want to ignore that. Ben and Teagan had sex and then Ben passed out which meant they had mated. Ben was completely stunned and was backing off and Teagan cried as he was leaving. Being mated was like being married in the human world only more intense. The next morning when she went to her brothers everyone could smell Ben and Teagan had mated. Teagan threatened Cade with a gun to his head if he didn’t leave her mate alone. Mia went to talk to Ben as she had been human when her and Lex mated and all she had went through might help Ben accept things a little easier. Ben was ready for a girlfriend but not a wife.

I absolutely loved this paranormal story it was excellent. I loved when Teagan put a gun to her brother and alpha’s head in defense of Ben even though he had hurt her Ben was Teagan’s mate and her first loyalty was to him. I had to laugh. I loved how Ben got possessive when he seen another man in Teagan’s home when he went to talk to her. I also love how protective the wolves were with each other and touchy feely. Also how Ben immediately agreed to be bitten and turned so he could go find Teagan and rescue her. Also how Ben pulled Teagan back from death. Just will say loved the whole story and is one of my new favorites. I really couldn’t find anything to complain about. I loved the plot and the characters and all the ins and outs of this story and i highly recommend.

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review 2017-02-09 17:26
Bound by the Wolf - DiscontentedWinter

3.5 Stars.

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review 2017-01-01 02:46
Awesome!
The Big Blind (Nadia Wolf) (Volume 1) by... The Big Blind (Nadia Wolf) (Volume 1) by Nicolette Pierce (2014-03-29) - Nicolette Pierce

The Big Blind by Nicolette Pierce is a fantastic read. Ms Pierce has given us a well-written book, her writing style reminds me a little of Janet Evanovich. The characters and phenomenal. Nadia and Greyson's story was loaded with drama, sizzle and hilarity. I enjoyed reading Big Blind and look forward to reading more from Nicolette Pierce in the future. Big Blind is book 1 of the Nadia Wolf Series but can be read as a standalone.

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review 2016-07-04 17:40
The Sea-Wolf
THE SEA WOLF By JACK LONDON - Jack London

“Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course overestimated, for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself? Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. The supply is too large.”

 

I remember watching the tv adaptation of Jack London's The Sea-Wolf with my gran, but all I remember are images of sails and the ocean. I don't remember anything of the story from that time. So, when The Sea-Wolf came up as a buddy read, I jumped right on it.

 

The story is told by Humphrey van Weyden, a wannabe author and self-professed gentleman, who is shipwrecked and picked up by the crew of The Ghost and their Captain - Wolf Larsen. Contrary to Humphrey's (Hump's) expectations, he is not set ashore but is Shanghaied by Larsen, who is short of crew and short of time.

 

While on board, Hump transforms from a man of thought into a man of action, while witnessing the brutality of life at sea and especially the brutality of The Sea-Wolf, Captain Larsen.

 

“Wolf - tis what he is. He's not blackhearted like some men. 'Tis no heart he has at all.”

 

It's an interesting book in which London explores human motivation and philosophises about the meaning of life and the value that society attaches to one profession over another. It is not always easy to follow, London's train of thought, however, and it is not at all clear whether some of the views are the author's own.

In some ways, I was reminded of Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, with its anti-hero Captain Nemo, whose disdain for human society somewhat parallels that of Larsen - except that Nemo had reason that are more relatable than those of Larsen.

The Sea-Wolf remains a mystery until the end.

 

Despite this, tho, the story works - even as just a simple story of adventure.

 

The only aspect that really grated on me was that London felt it necessary to add an element of romance into the adventure and side Hump with a lady journalist, who he falls in love with. This is not the grating bit. The grating bit is that she's a pretty strong character and her falling for Hump - who is a patronising wimp - is pretty unlikely. It's Hump's interaction with the lady journalist and his description of her as feeble and weak, even though she does more than her fair share of manual labour on the ship, that really made me want to kick him over-board.

 

“You are one with a crowd of men who have made what they call a government, who are masters of all the other men, and who eat the food the other men get and would like to eat themselves. You wear the warm clothes. They made the clothes, but they shiver in rags and ask you, the lawyer, or business agent who handles your money, for a job.

'But that is beside the matter,' I cried.

Not at all. It is piggishness and it is life. Of what use or sense is an immortality of piggishness? What is the end? What is it all about? You have made no food. Yet the food you have eaten or wasted might have saved the lives of a score of wretches who made the food but did not eat it. What immortal end did you serve? Or did they?”

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