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darkwingduckie

Towers of Books Come Tumbling Down!

I love all kinds of books! For all my friends, I am known on GR as Alicja. I don't stick with a genre, that's boring. Instead you'll get reviews from the most random assortment of fiction and non-fiction works. It's probably due to my interests being as eclectic as my book tastes.

 

I'm a girlfriend-loving bisexual, science fiction geek, PC gamer, historical fiction devourer, hiker, atheist, history buff, opera lover, vegetarian, kayaker, metal and hard rock concert goer, science nerd, politics debater, world traveler, M/M romance fan, and I have the ability to transform from an adult-like hard-working professional into a screaming fangirl in five seconds flat.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr

Rating: 2.5/5

Summary: The world of the faeries is invisible to the humans around them… mostly. Aislin is one of the few that can see them. She’d been taught her entire life to ignore them… don’t speak to them, don’t stare at them, don’t attract their attention. They are dangerous. And yet… the Summer King decided that Aislin will be his queen. Without the rules to protect her anymore she is thrown into the world of faeries with her freedom and life at stake.

Review: A quick and easy read, I think it is also considered Teen Lit. I picked it up because it advertized faerie folklore and that sounded fantastic. It is an enjoyable book and I spent a good weekend reading it; however, it is an average book. The plot is involving and kept me turning pages but lacked sophistication, the characters were as deep as high schoolers tend to be (even the faeries that should have had more depth and darkness). The characters were also at times a bit hard to connect with, including Aislin, the main character. The world of the faeries and our world were marvelously combined but it just didn’t seem like the author pushed hard enough to get the maximum emotional payout that she could have. It is almost as if she had written the plot for adults with all the darkness, grit, heartache, and loss enough to give it an edge but instead watered it down for teens and therefore made everything somehow less… engaging.

Overall, competent writing, an enjoyable romance, and an interesting enough plot filled with faerie lore. A decent by-the-pool summer (or year round if in Florida) read.

A Big Hand For The Doctor by Eoin Colfer

Doctor Who: A Big Hand For The Doctor: First Doctor - 50th Anniversary (Doctor Who Digital) - Eoin Colfer

Rating: 2/5

Summary: Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, and the children she’s trying to rescue get kidnapped by Soul Pirates. So of course it is up to the Doctor to mount a rescue.

Review: I was so excited when I first heard about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts, but when I read this one I couldn’t help but feel very disappointed. I feel like I’m repeating the reviews of a lot of others out there but… this is not the first Doctor. The Doctor here sounds too New Who-ish and not like the first Doctor presented in the old TV episodes (I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few of the them a couples of years ago at a convention-was surprised to hear him called Grandfather- and I am so glad I did because I enjoyed them immensely). As far as the story goes, it was just ok. It was too easy of a fix for it to really be interesting; I kept staring at my screen willing more chapters to appear since it seemed like there had to be more.

However, seeing as each Doctor Who short is written by a different author I’m not giving up on these yet. The next one is just sitting there in my Kindle taunting me but since I can only handle so much disappointment at a time it’ll have to wait for a bit.

Treasure by W.A. Hoffman

Treasure - W.A. Hoffman

Rating: 3/5

Summary: Will and Gaston continue face a new complication, Gaston's father arrives in Jamaica. Will he be a friend or foe? What other challenges and fights await our sexy buccaneers?

Review: This is the third of the four volumes following Will and Gaston as they raid, rove, and murder on the high seas while dealing with family issues and drama on land. This continuation of the m/m pirate buccaneer romance mostly takes place on land in Port Royal, Jamaica as Gaston's father makes an appearance and brings with him additional drama into our boys' lives.

The story and themes continue but unfortunately this volume is mostly filled with family drama and contains very little roving and raiding (which I enjoy a lot more). Also, unfortunately, the last few chapters that do include the roving and raiding seem rushed. I wish they'd spend more time at sea and doing violent, pirate-y buccaneer-y things.

The animal metaphors are starting to get to me a bit as well. It started with wolves and sheep and it was great but now we've got every animal on the planet in metaphorical form; however, there is still some philosophy to draw from it and I've always enjoyed that, plus the ridiculously hilarious dialogue and plot. And... the sexiness has definitely gotten more D/s over time, which actually works with the psychologically fucked up Will and Gaston and their psychotically sexy (uh?) relationship.

Although I enjoyed the first two volumes better, I'll still read the last one in the series because I at this point I need, require, demand a conclusion, a proper ending this wonderful, horrible mess because there is still at least one foe pulling strings from far-off England.

Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two by Allan Bérubé

Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II - Allan Bérubé, Estelle B. Freedman, John D'Emilio

Rating: 5.5/5

Summary: The history of gays and lesbians in the American military during WWII.

Review: This is just a quick and short review for a book that deserves one with an in-depth analysis worthy of the complexities presented within it. I'm working on that but in the meantime, please, let me enjoy gushing a little about how amazing nonfiction read it was.

This nonfiction history work presents a complex analysis of the intersection of homosexuality and society, culture, military rules and regulations, and soldiers (drafted and volunteered alike) during World War II. It doesn't paint gays and lesbians as victims but delves deep into history to find the battles fought outside of the battlefields; battles between culture and military need during wartime, imprisonment and need for practicality, vice squads and soldiers, military hierarchy and psychiatrists, soldiers within their ranks, young men and women and themselves/their identity, sub-culture formation and finding a place within the mainstream culture, freedom to be oneself and service/self-sacrifice, fear and courage, enemies and allies, culture wars, etc.

It is an extraordinary history hidden deep within official documents and personal stories. The author interviewed dozens of soldiers, using their words to describe their experiences. He also searched for letters lost in attics; letters between lovers, friends, comrades. He allowed us to enter this fascinating and previously little known secret world, a mere few years in history that had profound impact on gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals for decades after the war that created ripples which can be still felt today.

Jackdaws by Ken Follett

Jackdaws - Ken Follett

Rating: 3/5

Summary: Days before D-Day there is a high priority Nazi target on French soil that needs to be destroyed. However, there is a catch, only an all-female team can gain access to it. Flick is put in charge of this quickly formed, ragtag team as they attempt to fulfill their dangerous mission.

Review: Loved the action, the plot, and the kick-ass female protagonist. The POV mostly alternated between Flick, the British agent on French soil, and Dieter, a Nazi commander. I had chills from viewing through a window into Dieter's head, especially during the torture scenes which left me feeling uncomfortable; he seemed to be the best developed and most complex character in the entire novel.

Most action occurred as Flick commanded a female unit in an attack on a Nazi target while Dieter pursued them. The plot revolved around a topic I've never read about before, British agents working with the French resistance during WWII. The plot was exciting, quick, fun to read, and kept me turning the page.

It's a great fast-paced action book; however, the character development mostly just wasn't there. There is a huge supporting cast of secondary characters but they are all two-dimensional (with two characters behaving in such an idiotic way that just didn't seem believable). Some of the characters are LGBT, they are badly written and stereotypical, but the straight characters seemed like they were taken from a stereotype encyclopedia so I didn't take offense. I couldn't connect with any of them.

Additionally, the romance element seemed like something lifted from a Harlequin novel. The sex scene was the most awful thing I've ever read and completely unnecessary. And the ending was too neat, wrapping up everything just oh so perfectly.

If you are looking for a non-cognitively involving but fast-paced action-y quick read, then this is the novel to pick up.

Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead

Hood  - Stephen R. Lawhead

Rating: 4/5

Summary: King Brychan of Elfael rides with his army to pledge loyalty to King William the Red. His army is slaughtered on the way there, with one exception who makes his way back to report the events to Bran, the king's son. This sets off a chain of events inspired by the legends of Robin Hood.

Review: A very different view of the Robin Hood tale taking place in the Wales (so is it a surprise that I imagined Gareth David-Lloyd as Bran?) during the time of William II instead of England. Lawhead makes his case on why he chose Wales but since I am completely lacking in knowledge regarding Welsh history (which I will make a point to remedy at some point), I just decided to enjoy the story without analysis.

Bran ap Brychan is a Welsh prince raised by a distant father after his mother's death. Initially he is the opposite of what one would consider the iconic hero; he is selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, careless, and a coward. The character development is slow, which is great, it avoids the popular my-father-was-killed-so-now-I'm-a-kick-ass-hero-set-on-vengence-and-fighting-for-righteousness-in-60-seconds-flat troupe. The people in Bran's life are important as he learns through his interactions with them; it make him stronger, more confident, and shapes him into the outlaw of legends.

And I absolutely loved the ending! And Bran's way of fighting back! But I won't spoil it for ya...

Due to the plot's predictability and simplicity as well as the straightforward language it read more like a YA novel (which is how I classified it in the end). And unfortunately it also lacks profanity, illicit sex, and excessive violence but every novel's got to have some flaws.

Overall, it was an enjoyable story despite its predictable nature with flawed and relatable characters and a story that sucks you in. I'll be moving on to the next novel in the trilogy soon...

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: This is the story of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States and… vampire hunter. Abe’s life has been affected by Vampires since childhood. After someone he loves is killed by a vampire, he sets out to hunt them all down. But when a vampire saves his life, he realizes that things are a lot more complicated and sets out on a path that will eventually move him in into the White House.

Review: The book appears to be from “historical accounts” such as archives and newspaper clippings, Abraham Lincoln’s “diary”, pictures, and information taken from other sources and put together as if a historian had done the research. But it is complete fabrication (well, duh, vampires). The format is innovative (at least to an amateur reader such as me) and well written but I couldn’t help but feel that it also caused an emotional disconnect between me and the characters, I just couldn’t get myself 100% into it. And I really wanted to love this book, history (especially US political history) and vampires are two of my favorites.

The plot was interesting and it was ingenious how smoothly Grahame-Smith integrated Lincoln the politician with Abe the vampire hunter. But the ending was sadly very predictable. I hadn’t gotten through half the book before I guessed it. My first reaction was that there was no way he’d go that way, it was too obvious. And then as I read the last few chapters I kept yelling out, “No way! No, no, no, please tell me he has something better planned!” He didn’t. I was disappointed. However, despite the hard time I had emotionally connecting with the characters and the predictable ending, the book held my attention; it was actually a page turner. The plot alone is worth to read and his presentation will make anyone question, if only for a second, whether vampires are real and if ‘ole honest Abe actually hunted them in the night.

Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

Almost Like Being in Love - Steve Kluger

Rating: 3/5

Summary: Travis and Craig fall in love in boarding school. Once they leave for universities on two different coasts, they lose touch with each other. Twenty years later Travis realizes that he’s still in love with Craig so he puts his life on hold and hitchhikes from California to New York to surprise Craig, who has no idea that a blast from his past is about to appear on his (and his boyfriend’s) doorstep.

Review: Have you ever watched a romantic comedy that was witty and funny and sarcastic, it made you laugh and you enjoyed the time spent watching it but afterwards it really didn’t have an impact one way or another on your life? This is exactly that type of book. The story has sweet and dramatic moments but the emotional content seemed shallow, the love between Travis and Craig never seemed to move on past a teenage infatuation stage. Instead of deep character development, the author chose to use a plethora of cultural references and quotes that seemed overbearing and confusing at times. The presentation of the story also occurred in the form of diary entries, e-mails, texts, legal documents, newspaper articles, letters, checklists, etc. The success of this technique wasn’t consistent, at times it worked beautifully but at other times it served as a distraction from the story, sometimes even supplying superfluous information that got a bit tedious. The story also touched on some social issues pertinent to homosexuals like AIDS, gay marriage, discrimination, etc. but only addressed them on a very superficial level.


However, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad book, just… average. The story was enjoyable (if cliché) and there were times I couldn’t stop laughing (the wit and sarcasm was entertaining as well). It was an easy read that could be finished in a few hours and the ending made me feel good and fuzzy on the inside.

Matelots by W.A. Hoffman

Matelots - W.A. Hoffman

Rating: 4/5

Summary: This is a second novel in the Raised by Wolves series, following right after Brethren. More pirates buccaneers roving and roaming the high seas, drinking and romping around ports, killing and maiming, and having lots of gay sex.

Review: I have no idea exactly what has me so addicted to this story. There are some grammatical mistakes and even though the writing is good, it isn't brilliant or unique. The same criticisms as with the first part are still relevant. The story seems to be turning more complex as it moves along (although soap opera-ish) and in my estimation this second part doesn't have nearly enough pirating and has too much talking about emotions (eesh, they are pirates, male pirates and this has easily surpassed my too-much-talking, not-enough-fucking rule for an m/m romance).

However, somehow I'm still addicted. Will/Marsdale's view on the world is ridiculously hilarious and so are the scenarios they get into. The philosophy is a bit confusing (and uses to much animal metaphors) but makes me want to ruminate on it long after reading. Will and Gaston's relationship is destructive, violent, co-dependent, and possibly even psychotic (with D/s elements). Their romance is ridiculous, and yet entertaining and endearing to watch. The best way I can explain my attraction to this story is that it is like watching a terrible accident, it is horrible yet so fascinating that you can't take your eyes off it. And yes, I will be reading more.

Brethren - W.A. Hoffman
"If you’re destined for each other, the world can end – but at least you’re not alone. It’s better to drown together than to burn alone."

Brethren by W.A. Hoffman

Brethren - W.A. Hoffman

Rating: 4.5/5

Summary:

The place: West Indies

The time: 1660s

The plot: Male pirates buccaneers roving and looting as they travel the seas, fucking their pirate buccaneer life mates during the boring down times on ships. Yup, that's right, life committed, monogamous pirates! And as a cherry on top, we have Marsdale/Will, the outspoken, rude, atheistic libertine and an emotionally wounded English Lord fall in love with Gaston, the insane (literally), straight (although pretty much asexual), damaged by trauma, emotionally volatile, lonely, and exiled French buccaneer. Who also falls in love with Marsdale/Will.

Review: This is probably the best terrible novel I've ever read. Let me explain...

This novel is ridiculous, historically inaccurate (I can't speak for the accuracy of the buccaneer culture but I am assuming it wasn't comprised of hot guys having public gay sex while at sea nor considering matelots-pirate m/m pairings- marriages but it did have science concepts beyond its time period), the characters are insane and emotionally damaged, there are a few minor grammar issues, etc. And yet... and yet... it is hilarious! And exciting! And just completely over the top wonderful. I love that it doesn't seem to take itself seriously and the cheap, cliché romance is just too endearing (and completely fucked up and dark) to ignore. I am ashamed to say that I just couldn't put this book down.

The plot is so ridiculous that I just couldn't not like it. It is a complex and fast-paced romp through Europe and then onto the West Indies (aka Caribbean). Mixed in we have philosophy, murder, religion, duels, absolution, responsibility, love, social commentary, revenge, and general pirating activities such as roving and raiding. Oh, and did I mention gay, bi, and straight pirates buccaneers sexing it up on the high seas?

anoxic zone by John G. Rees

anoxic zone - John G. Rees

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: Received this book for free for an honest review.

Summary: In a society where corporations own people, Megacorp has created the perfect workers, pharmaceutically-created immortals who they have the ability to send into the harshest conditions on the planet. Jake is a diver who on a dive discovers an ancient secret, one that Megacorp wishes to own and control. But the secret is violent and erratic, and Jake is sucked into a dangerous game he never intended to enter.

Review: Vampires in a dystopian future... what a tremendously awesome premise!  The idea and plot are very original and exciting. The dystopian future could use a little refining but I am hoping more details will be included in the sequels. The tone of voice of the characters is very distinct. It is a little odd that the first section of the book is in first person POV while the second section switches between characters but I can see how it is convenient for the purposes of storytelling and after having to make a minor mental adjustment I didn't mind the switch at all. The diving aspect is very original and interesting, and so is bringing in the ultimate historical vampire into the story. I can't stress how enjoyable it was to read something so different and un-cliché as this.

I relished the novel greatly even though it had some editing problems: grammar, punctuation (mostly with commas/periods around quotations), and a little bit of a continuity issue. The continuity issue had to do with the journals, a journal was read early on in the book before the mentioning of journals to the character who read the journal beforehand. It really is a minor issue but a few years back it was my job to be picky with text so it kind of stuck. However, these issues weren't so bad that they detracted much from the enjoyment of the story (although the author should consider editing before printing the next edition).

That said, the story kept me turning the pages; it was certainly an exciting and unique read.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

Empress of the World - Sara Ryan

Rating: 3/5

Summary: Students at an academic summer camp spend the summer figuring out their futures and themselves. This is where Nicola meets Battle and a friendship develops that leads her to question her sexuality and her life.

Review: Nicola is funny and witty as we enter her mind and navigate through finding her academic interests and romantic feelings for Battle. The story is short and easy to read. It is composed of an interesting mix of first person POV and journal entries. It is well written but the ending leaves a lot to be desired, it is abrupt and doesn't seem, uh, realistic.

The relationship with battle develops slowly as Nicola learns who she is. However, the plot is composed of typical teenage girl drama and is very simplistic, even for a YA novel, and so is the character development. I couldn't connect emotionally with the characters.

At the same time, I would recommend this to younger teens looking for a lesbian romance or struggling with their sexual orientation. My review is biased from an adult reader perspective and I'd never know how I would have felt had I read this 15 years ago.

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
"Perhaps it is the greatest grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone."
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
"I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world."

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: It is a retelling of parts from the Iliad from the point of view of Patroclus, a minor character in Homer’s epic. Patroclus, an exiled prince, was shipped to live and train as a soldier under another king. There he met prince Achilles; they become friends and fall in love. They train and grow up together before setting out on an adventure that will lead them to their epic tragic end at the walls of Troy.

Review:  I would describe this novel as a guilty pleasure (and this is why this review was so difficult).

Some aspects of this novel were very simplistic, like the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Their interactions seemed shallow and, even after ten years being with each other every day at the walls of Troy, they didn’t seem to know each other better than when they were youths. There were also moments where it seemed like Miller was placing 21st century sexual standards on the ancient Greek society. Come on, the boys waiting until they were 16 to do more than just kiss once but yet all their friends the same age have been bedding girls for years? The reason given for their relationship not progressing quicker once they moved into the mountains wasn’t satisfactory. The characters seem like a shallow reflection of what they could have been. Patroclus couldn’t stop gushing about how perfect Achilles was, instead I would have expected him better than anyone to know his flaws but be forgiving. At least that was how I’ve viewed their relationship prior to reading this novel. Odysseus and other characters also seem without depths.

The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is sweet; their devotion to each other is astonishing and makes the pain of loss the more painful. And this is also why it is a guilty pleasure. I liked this sweetness between them where most their complications came from the outside. This isn’t what I usually like but I still couldn’t help myself, their romance was just so adorable (and I will from now on deny ever writing those words even as they remain for eternity floating through the internet).

Miller is an amazing storyteller, great descriptions of battle scenes and political intrigue. However, there didn’t seem to be enough of those. Patroclus didn’t fight much and even when on the battlefield, he spent the majority of his time protected by Achilles (meaning he ended up watching Achilles fighting only).

Overall, this novel misses the mark to be regarded as the next Mary Renault (as some reviewers have heralded). Her words lack Renault’s poetry and story lacks the depth of characters and complexity. Renault build myth and relationships into an indistinguishable whole while Miller’s was a bit choppy, almost like two parallel stories instead of an interwoven one. But please don’t get me wrong, the story was beautiful, heart wrenching, and bittersweet (I cried even though I knew how it was going to end); the disagreements and politics between the kings presented beautifully. I will surely read anything else she writes gladly. It just lacked so much that made Renault phenomenal. A good book in its own right but please, no comparison to the greats.