Bites

Published: August 1, 1997
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

On an overcast night in Washington D.C. a group of highly trained killers embark on a mission of shattering brutality. A shocked country awakens to the devastating news that three of their most powerful and unscrupulous politicians have been brutally murdered. In the political firestorm and media frenzy that follow, the assassins release their demands: either the country’s leaders set aside their petty, partisan politics and restore power to the people, or be held to deadly account. TERM LIMITS is a tour de force of authenticity and suspense, an utterly compelling vision in which the ultimate democratic ideal – a government of the people – is taken to a devastating extreme. (goodreads.com)

This was a freebie through BookShout and a few people whose opinions I trust really like Vince Flynn so I figured why not. TERM LIMITS is his first book and it’s not a Mitch Rapp book. If I’m not mistaken this is the title that Flynn self-published that basically rocketed him to author stardom.

Initially I was a little skeptical. It started out with the killings which is, of course, exciting and edge of your seat type of stuff. But that quickly flashed to budget conversations among the president and his people and it had me going uhhhh. But between the writing style (that was a little mediocre and over-telling at times, but largely engaging) and the shitbaggy characters I didn’t have a problem staying with it.

Luckily it didn’t take much more than that before the action really started and even more people started dying and I couldn’t stop flipping through the pages. I think what really did it for me, though, was how relevant the story is. Like eerily relevant. This is a twenty year old book. Yet considering what’s in office and the current political climate I couldn’t help but make the connections. Sometimes elements were so relevant they gave me goosebumps. I’d love to @ the president with my review, but considering the number of dead people and the blackmailing and everything that happened with the plot I don’t want to have the secret service knocking on my door because of some implied threat. Besides, it’s not like Trump reads anything other than tweets and the scrolling marquee on Fox anyway.

I did like how a lot of the intrigue and the tension wasn’t action-packed. Yes, there were a few deaths and toward the end there were certainly moments. But the majority of the book was focused on the dynamics of individuals, the mounting tension between people, and the secrets everyone was keeping from each other. Definitely a political thriller. And probably my first. The thrillers I read are usually more action-based, but the way Flynn writes certainly makes all of this intriguing.

As for his writing I did say it was mediocre at times. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s almost like Flynn has trouble trying to describe something or transition a character so he resorted to very basic writing, outlining in the most basic way what was going on. It would be like “this character moved over here. he picked up x. he walked back over to the other person.” Almost stilted, but just rather . . . stereo instructions. Not all the time. But when a moment got slow is when I noticed this. Granted I’d prefer this to flowery prose considering the source, but it’s description that the reader didn’t need. Lighting cigarettes and all of that.

Overall I liked TERM LIMITS. Definitely enough to dive into the actual Mitch Rapp series. There was a snippet from one of the post-humous titles at the end of this book and there are a couple of characters who were introduced here who have stayed on for the long haul. I’d like to see how they all grew up. Now I can add political thriller to my repertoire.

4

Published: November 19, 2014
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In the spirit of Snoopy and Charlie Brown, or Calvin and Hobbes, please welcome Sophie and Doug.

Dog Eat Doug is the cartooning creation of Brian Anderson that follows the daily exploits of Sophie, a cheese-loving chocolate Lab with a nose for the nuances of sarcasm and irony, and baby Doug, a healthy, happy newborn with no concept of jealousy and a limitless curiosity.

Together, this dynamic duo adjusts to sharing the spotlight, the toys, and the affections of Mom and Dad, while exploring nature and its majesty, the couch and its cushions, and the cookie jar and its contents. (goodreads.com)

What a cute collection of comics. I found IT CAME FROM THE DIAPER PAIL through either a Kobo email or BookBub and I think it was free. I’m all for comics so I scooped it up and ended up reading it on a train traveling from Philadelphia to New York City.

I love the way they’re drawn and the adorable hijinks the characters get into. Sophie is a cross between Garfield and Hobbes, leaning more toward Hobbes on the lovable side, but still with a hint of Garfield cynicism. Doug doesn’t say a whole lot, but he and Sophie have their own language and communicate just fine.

There isn’t a story here; just a collection of comic strips a la Calvin and Hobbes or Garfield (can you tell what I used to read as a kid/still read???). If you’re looking for cute, quirky, fun, and greatly drawn, IT CAME FROM THE DIAPER PAIL will give you an hour or two of entertainment. For sure.

4

Published: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

After his deployment in Afghanistan, Dan Caddy began swapping great drill sergeant stories by e-mail with other combat veterans—an exchange with friends that would grow into the dedicated Facebook page, “Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said.” But what began as a comedic outlet has evolved into a robust online community and support network that conducts fundraisers for and donates to military charities, has helped veterans struggling with PTSD and other issues, and on numerous occasions, literally saved lives.

Now, Caddy shares more great DS stories—most never before seen—in this humorous collection. Often profane, sometimes profound, yet always entertaining, these rants from real life soldiers are interspersed with lively sidebars, Top 10 lists, stories from fans, one-liners, and more. (goodreads.com)

There really isn’t much to this book except drill sergeant stories, which are hilarious. But there isn’t much to critique. I’ve never been in the military, but I’ve had people around me grace me with a number of hilarious-in-hindsight stories about basic training (among other things) that certainly fall in line with what’s in this book. It’s a super fast read; I read it in about an hour on a train from Philadelphia to New York. And I was laughing my ass off doing it. Don’t know if people were giving me weird looks or not and I don’t really care. A lot of this is absolutely hilarious and I couldn’t hold it in.

This is a good stocking stuffer little book that, unless you’re a corpse or just entirely without a sense of humor you’re going to find AWESOME SH*T MY DRILL SERGEANT SAID funny.

4.5

Published: July 7, 2015
Publisher: NAL
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn… (goodreads.com)

INK AND BONE is a fun, exciting book if you’re not familiar with Alexandria’s, or Egypt’s, history and don’t think about the world-building too much. Otherwise it’s an alternative history where A LOT has been set aside and not even touched or expounded upon for the sake of telling a story. So I’m torn on this one.

On the one hand I did enjoy the story. I thought the development of Caine’s library as this outwardly sentient being being run by corrupted men from behind the curtain was interesting and unique and wholly refreshing in a market of broken dystopias or supernatural worlds. It offers something different, where literacy and knowledge have gone to an extreme so much so that’s it’s reversed back over itself and knowledge is, once again, fully controlled for the sake of “protecting” the population.

I enjoyed the characters, each and every one of them, especially Jess’s teacher there, whose name escapes me at the moment. All were incredibly lifelike and jumped off the page and held their own. While some were less appealing than others, they all brought their own special brand of life to the table that was hard to ignore, especially as the story progressed and everyone was thrown into battle and forced to protect each other.

The world itself is incredibly intriguing if considered on its own, mutually exclusive to anything even remotely historically accurate. If you view it from within a bubble and don’t associate it to anything, it’s spectacular and imaginative and compelling.

However, taking the story into historical context it completely falls apart. There’s no why or how answered at all. In fact everything is pretty much brushed aside except for the concept of “the library at Alexandria never burns.” The implications of that are massive yet the world we get is vaguely Victorian. It’s set in the future, but our current technological path never happened and everything’s a bit more steampunky with elements of magic if we’re talking about the people who run the library. And then there’s some random war between Wales and England that felt really contrived and set entirely for the sake of creating a hardship for the characters. Not sure what was going on there.

To call INK AND BONE alternate history is kind of a misnomer. It assumes that historical context is even considered. It’s not. Literally it’s just the concept of “the library at Alexandria never burns.” It ignores literally everything else and aside from a couple of poignant known historical inserts like Gutenberg, it skips ahead a couple thousand years to give us the current story.

I liken this book to the Red Dawn remake. If you take it on its own, not related to anything else, it’s a good movie. But the second you relate it to its predecessor it just goes up in smoke. INK AND BONE does the same thing. Taken as its own self-contained story in a world that’s entirely made up except for the library at Alexandria and it’s a good book. But the second you actually try to relate it to its real thing it turns to sand and blows away. Look, I liked the book enough that I want to read the next one. But this is not alternate history. There was not nearly enough care taken to make this an alternate history. It’s a futuristic steampunk dystopia with an ancient library at its core. The name merely makes it relatable. It could have been named something entirely fictitious and it still would have worked. And I wouldn’t have bugged out about the world nearly as much, if at all.

3

Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Square Fish
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city’s most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.’s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she’s to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight–at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family. (goodreads.com)

I’m . . . underwhelmed by ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. I was expecting more. More tension, more drama, higher stakes. Instead I got a vague world that doesn’t really carry any relevance to its own existence, characters that are a bit stilted, and a ho-hum plot that left me wondering when something was going to happen.

This felt like Zevin wanted to write about someone associated with organized crime without having to do any research for it, which would have been required if writing about something inspired by a current or past crime family. Instead she fasts forwards the timeline a few dozen years, makes chocolate illegal, and builds a “crime family” around a rather lazy idea spawned from watching The Godfather. Except a really light version of The Godfather. It’s very superficial and just skims the surface of organized crime which, I’m sure, would be excused away because it’s told from Anya’s perspective, who really wasn’t involved in much.

But then you have the world. There isn’t any real reason why the world is the way it is. Just that it got bad. Chocolate is illegal because it’s a stimulant? Maybe? Coffee is illegal too because I guess it hops kids up and people do crazy things when on coffee? It’s all very . . . nice try, but no. It’s all just very weak, a poorly developed futuristic New York that felt less like any kind of New York I know and more like this blurry watercolor painting of New York painted by someone who only has some vague idea of what New York, and world building, is actually like. I was disappointed.

And then you have Anya, who isn’t much her own character because she lives her life based on quotes her Daddy gave her. And it always annoys me when an author doesn’t use contractions, whether in dialogue or within a character’s head. I don’t know too many people who don’t use them and to have characters that constantly use words like ‘it is’ instead of ‘it’s’ really bugs me. It just comes off very stilted and unnatural and makes the characters seem stiff.

At the same time I can appreciate Anya’s logical approach to life. It’s a very emotionless approach, and doesn’t necessarily translate well onto the page, but I can appreciate it and I can definitely relate. She also had good interactions with people like Scarlet and Win and even Gable. The way she felt for her brother Leo and how she watched out for Natty were endearing. Her interactions with other characters were good, but her emotionless approach to comprehension and problem-solving proved to be a barrier.

The world was the biggest disappointment for me with ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. Because of that everything else just crumpled around it. It was just fuel for a lazy fire and it’s all underwhelming, at best. I won’t be reading on in the series as a result.

3