Friday, November 16, 2018

Thoughts: The Woman Left Behind

The Woman Left Behind

by Linda Howard
Book 2 of GO-Team

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it.  She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC.  She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room.

But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit.  The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun... or else be out of a job.

Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina--who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice--making it through the rigors of training.  The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation.  In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates.  What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them.

Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria.  While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives.  Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country.

But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for.  He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.


The truth is that this book probably doesn't deserve more than 3 Stars.  It isn't the best outlined, and would even come across as fairly boring to anyone looking for an action-packed story where our heroine gets left behind, and needs to fend for herself until her team comes back for her.  But the summary blurb is a little bit misleading, frankly, and the action-packed part of the book really doesn't take place until well into the last half of the book.

The Woman Left Behind had tons of potential to be a great book, but it fell short of that by maybe spending too much time on Jina's day-to-day training life with the GO-Team she's been re-assigned to work with.  This part of the book, in itself, is already a little unbelievable, and requires a very high willingness to suspend disbelief.

By narrative, Jina ends up spending six months on physical training and drone training.  In the book, there are times where you want to get on with the story.  On the other hand, I can't find myself just blowing off that first half of the book she spends challenging herself and pushing herself to physical limits she never knew she had.  And I honestly loved the camaraderie built between her and a team of macho super paramilitary men who didn't think she was going to make it in the first place.

Color me contradictory--those six months she spends getting to know her knew teammates was truly loads of fun.  I love a character driven story, and I love great character interaction, and this book certainly had that in spades.  To others, it might come off dragged out and too banal for a romantic suspense, or military romance thriller.  And once again, the entire ordeal requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief anyway--because who in their right mind actually thinks its a great idea to take a bunch of chair-bound tech geeks and force them through high impact military precision training so that they can join these elite GO-Teams in dangerous operations?

I have a hard time believing that the higher ups couldn't have just transferred in some military personnel, already trained for battle, who also have great tech skills.

But moving along, because something about that entire training sequence sort of appealed to me anyway.

Yeah, I'm kind of wishy-washy in my opinions.

And speaking of the romance, for romance lovers, this book might also kind of fall to the wayside.

While we DO have a lovely couple to focus on, we unfortunately don't get to see much of the chemistry, or the romantic bond building between Jina and Levi.  And also, Levi sort of runs hot and cold, which helps him get categorized squarely on my asshole list.  I don't care that he also had some very good personality traits, he crossed a couple lines he shouldn't have crossed and that makes him an asshole.  The way that the romance was resolved made me a bit pissy.

On the other hand, I like how Jina's own self-revelation journey/conflict was concluded.  Somehow, it seems appropriate for her.

So without a whole lot of suspense and without a whole lot of romance, and without even a focal conflict, this book, instead, ends up becoming a sort of self-journey book for Jina, as an individual.  And it's a fairly thought-provoking journey that I thoroughly enjoyed.

And we'll just kindly side-step that strange, background villain subplot that lurked along the entire book, and took up precious book space every few chapters.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Rambling, Rambling Thoughts: Midnight Blue-Light Special

Midnight Blue-Light Special

by Seanan McGuire
Book 2 of InCryptid

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity--and humanity from them.  Enter Verity Price.  Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest.  It didn't quite work out that way...

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge.  With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done.  It's a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit...and carnage.


Midnight Blue-Light Special was, in a weird way, a bit tamer than Discount Armageddon--and when I say tamer, I really just mean that it didn't have as many scattered story lines buzzing around the main conflict.  While Discount Armageddon was a somewhat slow-paced, banal following of Verity's daily life in New York, finally focusing on a main conflict about halfway through the book, Midnight Blue-Light Special had a more focused plot driving the story and the characters from the beginning.

By all rights, the way in which Midnight was outlined and executed should have made me love the book much more than it's predecessor.  But for some strange reason, I didn't detect that giddiness I'd had from reading Discount Armageddon--I attribute that to the fact that my squee-ness from finding a shiny new series to obsess on kind of faded.

That isn't to say that I didn't immensely love Midnight.  It just means that I'm now aware that there may have been some glaring foibles in Discount that I purposefully ignored because I was enjoying it so much.  In truth, Midnight is, indeed the better book, although I would have loved to see more of a presence from our main love interest, Dominic De Luca, who seemed to sort of fade into the background for a certain period of time.

On the other hand, you get to see more from the cast of cryptids whom Verity is always around, and I love how quickly they all band together to help Verity when she gets into a jam.  As the resident cryptozoologist cum cryptid hunter in Manhattan, you always saw a wariness coming from some of these humanoid cryptids, all wondering if Verity will suddenly change her credo and start slashing away at every non-human she comes across.  So I loved that that wariness sort of slips away as soon as the city is threatened by a purging from the Covenant, and Verity has now got a group of cryptids ready to defend their community as well as their cryptozoologist.

I liked seeing more of the cryptids as more than just background decoration in Verity's world.  In fact, from the beginning of this series, the cryptids were always a close second set of main characters through Verity's eyes.  I liked that Kitty comes more to the forefront, and you can see how conniving she can be, even if for her own bogeyman-like, moralistic reasons--she certainly wasn't like her jackass of an uncle from the first book.  I like that Sarah, and even Istas, was given a bigger role in this book than just sidekick to Verity's missions.

Sarah wasn't really a personal favorite of mine, but she certainly had much more depth than we are likely to give her credit for when she goes to work trying to help Verity out of trouble.  She's got an inner struggle that is quite illuminating considering her line of cryptid species--she's a Cuckoo, described as a telepathic bug-like creature who looks human, but is far from being human.  Cuckoos are also described as being sociopaths from birth, wherein their seemingly one and only goal in life is to use their telepathic abilities to manipulate others (specifically humans) into giving them everything they own, and then leaving said human in ruination, especially financially.  Cuckoos don't eat human flesh, but they DO ruin human lives.

So it's kind of interesting to watch Sarah continuously be embarrassed of her own species, showing a very distinct exception as a member of her kind.  At the same time, she doesn't necessarily restrict the use of her Cuckoo abilities just because she could potentially be a dangerous creature.  Her pleasures in life are quite harmless if you overlook the fact that she still has the innate ability to make fancy hotels let her stay in their nicest, grandest suites for free.  Otherwise, she enjoys reading comic books, spending time with Verity, going to college math classes, and chatting with her long-time crush, Artie, online almost every evening.

Meanwhile, we also get a quick glimpse, if superficial, at Istas, the waheela--a bear-dog therianthrope with a tendency towards violence and lacy Goth-Lolita costumes.  It's both cute and strangely creepy at the same time, especially when Istas lets out her various one-liners, often involving the approval of violent carnage being involved.  It's fascinating following her line of logic as well, because in spite of her carnage-happy declarations, a lot of what she says has a simplistic logic to it, especially when concerning who to rip the head off of, or who NOT to rip the head off of.

And now I'm rambling again, so it's entirely possible I was lying about not being giddy about this book.  I absolutely loved it, and I'm guessing that getting a chance to give it a quick analytic write-up is doing much more to make me want to read more.

I would absolutely love to come back to this world anytime!  And sort of lament the fact that the next two books will be more focused on Alex Price, Verity's older brother.  I mean, I love the little tidbits we get about her family every so often, and I've been wanting a family reunion since she first mentioned her grandmother's spelunking through Hell, or other dimensions and worlds in search of her missing grandfather.  I mean, how often do you get to call home and be told that Mom is spelunking Hell with Grandma?

But I have nothing against Alex Price, despite the fact that I would have liked to have had more interaction between him and Verity before being dropped in his realm.  I guess, being that I've fallen quite in love with Verity and her world (and her colony of Aeslin mice), I just want to hang out for a bit longer with her and the Manhattan community of cryptids.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

24 Festive Tasks | Door 5: Armistice / Veterans' Day



(November 11)


Updates


11/13/2018:  Completed Tasks 1 and 3.  Updated Book Task for possible books to read.


Task 1


Using book covers (real or virtual), create a close approximation of your country’s flag (either of residence or birth), OR a close approximation of a poppy.  Take a pic of your efforts and post.
-- COMPLETED 11/13/2018 --

"Hi!  I'm the Penni Book Cover Poppy!"

I think I got it right...  And Monkey's trying to help as well... somehow...


Task 2


Make an offer of peace (letter, gift, whatever) to a book character who has particularly annoyed you this year.
-- SKIPPING this one --


Task 3


Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?
-- COMPLETED 11/13/2018 --



I don't know if I'd consider myself a veteran of any author's books, but according to my reading lists and shelves, it seems like Jayne Ann Krentz (including her historical and futuristic alter egos, Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle, respectively) is the author of whom I've read the most works.  I give a lot of this accomplishment to the previous two years when my main mission was to finish reading the Arcane Society and Harmony series, which both series together have a total of 23 books combined.  On the side, I've been happily inhaling Amanda Quick books.  And this year, I had made a goal to read at least 12 Jayne Ann Krentz books--a number I actually ended up doubling during that time frame when I was trying to climb out of my reading slump.

A close second (though not all that close) is Jill Shalvis--according to my lists, I've read about 32 of her works, including novellas and short stories as well.

I'm also going to give a quick shout out to Laura Griffin and Cindy Gerard, both of whom I've been devouring books by since I first discovered them.  I've probably read all of Cindy Gerard's romantic suspense books, and I've read all but a couple of Laura Griffin's work.


Task 4


Treat yourself to a slice of poppy seed cake and post a photo. If you want to make it yourself, try out this recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/poppy-seed-cake/ … or this one: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1629633/lemon-and-poppy-seed-cake
-- Also SKIPPING this one --

I'm not feeling up for poppy seed cake.


Book Task


Read any book involving wars, battles, where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover.


These are the books I'm considering.