Book Reviews

Review: The Punishments by J.B. Winsor

The Punishments by J.B. WinsorAn Orwellian thriller – The heart-pounding story of a family after electing a demagogue and fundamentalists who adopt Biblical Law for moral punishments.

The economy sucks. Robots keep eliminating middle class jobs. Terrorism is a constant threat. The CIA and FBI can’t stop terrorists. The bureaucratic IRS needs to be shaken up.

Angry, fearful voters elect a narcissistic demagogue President and fundamentalist congress. The CIA, FBI and IRS are organized into a super-department, the Department of Virtue, with a mandate to bring the nation back to its Christian roots. Virtue’s director institutes Biblical Law punishments as an example to those who break the commandments. Only two US Senators — and one mysterious woman — can prevent a disaster.

 

I wanted to like this book. I really did. The plot—an America ruled by Christian fundamentalists and biblical law—was ripe with possibility. Unfortunately, The Punishments failed to live up to it. There is at least one scene that borrows heavily from a scene in George Orwell’s 1984 (if you’ve read it, you’ll recognize the similarities instantly). I found that a bit annoying as it threw me out of the story I was reading, but it happened very early on, so I was willing to overlook it.

What I couldn’t overlook was the predictable way the story advanced. The one twist that actually surprised me a little wasn’t enough to impact the way I felt about the story overall. Something else that bothered me was there was too little ‘show’, and far too much ‘tell’ in the writing. Towards the end, it felt like I was reading a lists of actions and reactions, rather than losing myself in a story.

I was greatly disappointed because I felt it could have been so much better.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Boulder Digital Publishing, LLC in exchange for an honest review.

Author: J.B. Winsor

Title: The Punishments

Published: 5/23/2016 by Boulder Digital Publishing, LLC

Rating: ★★

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Book Reviews

Review: Whitefern by V.C. Andrews

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It’s been nearly 30 years since I first read My Sweet Audrina. I loved the book, and read it many times over the years. I always wished a set of sequels had been written for this book, as there had been for the Dollanganger and Casteel series. When I heard a sequel had finally been written, I was very excited to read it. I was looking forward to finding out what came next for Audrina, and hoped the sequel would be a worthy follow-up to the story Virginia Andrews wrote so beautifully.

I was sadly disappointed, however.

Whitefern definitely had potential. Arden, once a loving husband, is now cruel to Audrina and obsessed with making money. Her father dies, leaving Audrina controlling interest in the family business, which surprises her and enrages Arden. Why did Arden change? And why did her father change his will? The answers to those questions were not nearly as shocking as I’d hoped they would be.

In fact, none of the major plot points delivered any shocking revelations. Every moment that was meant to leave the reader wide-eyed and thunderstruck fell flat, because I’d been anticipating it practically the entire time. There was only one thing that happened regarding a secondary character that actually surprised me, but given the explosive potential that could have played out involving multiple characters in the story, that one surprise didn’t pack much of a punch. The final conclusion was unimaginative, and boring in its predictability.

Whitefern is a pale imitation of the brilliant and hauntingly tragic My Sweet Audrina. As readers, we often crave to know what happens next with characters we’ve grown attached to… but —as the sequels to Gone with the Wind have proved— sometimes ‘what happens next’ is best left to the reader’s imagination.

I received an advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.

Author: V.C. Andrews

Title: Whitefern

Series: Audrina #2

Genre: Young Adult

Publication: July 26, 2016 by Gallery Books

Rating: ★★

Book Reviews

Review: The Hour Glass Witch by Alisha Paige

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The Hour Glass Witch is a Romantic Altered History Time Travel Tale with a splash of Greek Myth.

Travel back to the Salem Witch Hunt when a wicked glance could have you hanging from the gallows, convicted of lustful witchcraft! Accused of being a witch, Clio, the Muse of History is thrown in prison by a former lover from another life. To escape the gallows, she flees back in time, to the Italian Renaissance, where she becomes a courtesan for a famous Italian painter, living a life of luxury while pining for her lost love. Her favorite god and good friend, Dionysus, is living it up in Tuscany. He invites her to a wild party at his palace where she runs smack-dab into her destiny, only to be separated once more by the Queen of Gorgons. While the sands of time run out, she travels to Hades to face the hounds of Hell in search of her love. Can she salvage her one true love, please the gods and save the lost souls of Salem?


Meh. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. The story started in the middle, rather than the beginning, a far as I was concerned. Had it begun at the actual beginning (Pierus meeting and falling in love with Clio, rather than Aphrodite, who wanted him for herself), going forward from there, it would have made for a far richer story, one the reader could become emotionally invested in. The short memory sequences that gave glimpses into Clio and Pierus’ past weren’t enough. I wanted to know all of their history, not be given tiny peeks of it! I wanted to see the event that later angered Aphrodite so greatly… the things that led up to that moment, as well as the thing itself… so that I could easily picture and understand her fury (perhaps even sympathize with it, to a certain degree?) which wouldn’t make the cursing of Clio seem like such an arbitrary thing. It would have meaning behind it, and not seemed a convenient, one-dimensional plot point.

What was there, was enjoyable to read, don’t get me wrong. I just wish I’d been able to read the whole story that was available to be told, rather than the middle of it. That complete story, I’m sure, would have earned a five star rating from me.

Author: Alisha Paige

Title: The Hour Glass Witch

Published: February 17, 2011

Rating: ★★

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This review was originally published on Goodreads on March 18, 2015.

 

Book Reviews

Review: Long Blue Line by E. McNew

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Taking place in the idyllic town of South Lake Tahoe, CA, Long Blue Line is the coming of age of Elizabeth Jeter. It candidly reveals the provocative and secret world of a planned teen pregnancy and the brutal consequences that follow. The girl next door – popular and driven.

Once upon a time a beautiful teenager looked forward to school letting out and the warm, carefree days to come. But in the summer of her fifteenth year, things would drastically change. After reading a romance book sensationalizing a young woman’s perfect life following the hookup with a wealthy prince charming, Elizabeth set out to create her own fairy tale ending. This would become the beginning of the darkest hours in her life: pregnancy, bridesmaids, drugs and jail.

Long Blue Line is Elizabeth’s true story about her descent into addiction. Her obsession with pregnancy, social issues, independence, and, ultimately drugs is chronicled in brutally honest prose that will leave you spellbound. Her journey isn’t over – far from it. She still has nightmares, but today she is wiser and lives in reality.

If you are this girl, you will take a deep breath and nod your head knowingly. If you knew this girl, you will rethink your assumptions. If this girl is your daughter, you will finally get an insider’s look at what she can’t put into words.

Above all, you will be moved – moved to tears, to unity, to action. Elizabeth is one of the lucky ones. She survived. Sadly, many young women and their children are unable to escape the madness and become another one of too many true crime stories. Not everyone gets a second chance, and she hopes to inspire others with her straightforward honesty.


I got this book as a free Kindle download. I wish I could say I enjoyed it, but the truth is, I didn’t. I’m usually able to finish a book this size in a couple days, but I had a hard time reading it. Not because of the content, but because of the never-ending errors in spelling, grammar, and words that were either misused or left out completely. (Granted, the missing word issue didn’t happen often, and only towards the end of the book… but still, it was annoying.)

Other eyesores include:

** The names of the brothers (Derrick and Donnie) being swapped several times in the last quarter of the book. I’m guessing this may have happened because their real names weren’t used in the book, and the author mistakenly used the wrong aliases.

** Conversations taking place in the same loooooong paragraph rather than using the standard dialogue rule of starting a new paragraph each time a different person speaks, which made conversations hard to follow. Not to mention, it’s a strain on the eyes reading paragraphs that aren’t broken up properly.

** Being taken out the ‘present’ of the book, to events (or hinted-at events, at least) that take place in the near and/or distant future. Done properly, in a way that makes clear that it is an aside, or glimpse of things to come, it wouldn’t have bothered me. But done within the same paragraph, with no hint that what is being said refers to a later time, is a bit jarring. It happens repeatedly throughout the book, and it always shoved me right out of the story.

As I’ve often found myself saying in reviews of Kindle freebies, this book desperately needed better editing. I also felt, at times, the story didn’t have a natural flow to it. I’m not saying the book as a whole needed to be written in precise, chronological orders of events, but it did need some smoothing out, somehow. Perhaps a good editor could have helped in that regard, as well.

And personally, I’d have preferred to read the entire story in one book. This story is (so far) broken up into three separate books*, and so many details are repeated in books two and three before you finally reach the new details… it’s a little tedious going back over stuff you already know, when you just want to find out what happens next.

And yeah… I still want to find out what happens next. I’m just not sure I want to re-read chunks of books 1-3 in book four in order to find out.

*Fifteen &…What?! and Testing the Waters: The Unplanned Pregnancy of a Fifteen-Year-Old are the first two books written by Ms. McNew, but it’s not necessary to read these books, as The Long Blue Line includes the happenings in those books and continues the story.

Author: E. McNew

Title: Long Blue Line: Based On A True Story

Published: September 29, 2014

Rating: ★★

goodreads-badge-add-plusThis review was originally published on Goodreads on August 30, 2015.