Category Archives: netgalley

Treet yourself to something sweet

Sweet bliss

by

Helena Rac

A very sweet (strawberry icing with chocolate) cupcake but sizzling hot hot story. Often quite graphically sizzling…

Funny that we still get a lot of cupcake stories as here in London they are not doing so well now – and the sugar treat has lost its appeal.  And so it has in the USA as well it seems, with the largest chain cupcake makers – Crumb – closing up in 2014. Or has it?

In 2015, Crumbs was bought and began again with different cupcakes. No longer simple chocolate, now they are flavoured rather differently with peanut butter or carrots or hazelnut Frangelico, pink Champagne, spiced pumpkin, vegan, gluten free, and with less colouring, and fresher baking and ingredients – some will even bake to order in front of you – if you have time to wait of course..

But in the UK we have seen a rise in national specialities – the Portuguese egg custard tart is very popular as are French patisseries – we now have several French chain bakeries – themed cakes and those with more unusual ingredients especially vegetable or fruit eg a lime drizzle cake with courgette; and of course the cannoli has made it here big. The cannoli comes with many different flavoured fillings including pistachio and there is even a cannoli cupcake with ricotta cheese filling/cream.

The Italians are now in London in force again especially the Sicilians and their delicatessens are springing up all over, and then of course there are the doughnuts with fillings such as rhubarb, peach, and salted caramel custard.

And no, I haven’t sampled them all! I just look and drool…

So in London there is no real trend setter unlike the cupcake. Is there a reason why cupcakes are not quite as popular? Is it the calories? Are we becoming more weight conscious? Certainly the latest report from our Chief Medical Officer says that some 75% of middle-aged women are obese or overweight – but for me it is the frosting. The frosting just got piled higher and higher and higher. More and more bright and yet brighter colours and much much too sweet. In fact strawberry with chocolate sounds like my least favourite combination. So if you remove the icing, you are back, as she says in the book, to a muffin and a very plain muffin at that.

Would I read more by this author? Probably not. It was, for me, a sweet treat (pun intended) away from crime and thrillers and fantasy and science fiction my more usual fare.

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Winter is icumen in

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ram

And Winter is the Winter Sisters, Victory, Payton and Willow. Each with their own special gift and ability and each falling in love with a different soldier in the elite squad of Army, Navy and Airforce. Author Joanne Jaytanie.

The series I am reviewing contains 3 novels, the latest published being Willow’s Discovery, published this October, which I read first through NetGalley.

This series is far from finished as far as I am concerned, as although each sister now has a mate – there is so much more that can happen to other characters and in the story-line.

So yes, I started with Willow’s Discovery and was only a quarter of the way through when I realised I wanted to read the first 2 books as well. I could read the 3rd book first but it would have been better to read them in the correct order.

Now the story line of all 3 concerns DNA being manipulated to give us extra fierce soldiers –this isn’t a new idea. The concept of the formidable soldier is common in fantasy but for me what was new was that the characters were splicing wolf genes into the soldiers to make them bigger, stronger, and fiercer.

And two of the alpha males – yes they are all alpha males in this story as they are members of the elite squad mentioned above – have been experimented on with these wolf genes with very different results. But many of the males and females in this series have extra abilities and they haven’t had wolf genes added, and the question never answered (but it was raised) in the books is – was there some gene manipulation going on in utero?

Interestingly, I am now reading another series of books where again canine DNA is inserted into soldiers to make them fiercer – the fantasy series of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter and Fairest.

Having come across this idea by two authors I thought I would look into what was happening with canine DNA and why this idea had come to these authors. And to my surprise found that canine DNA was being used for disease studies in humans [see the articles from the dmm.biologists organisation; National Geographic; Genome Research].

It appears that dogs get similar diseases to humans with the same genetic and environmental factors involved. These genes relate to diet and digestion, and neurological processes and disease which have evolved parallel in both species due to living in the same shared environment. These shared diseases include obesity, OCD, epilepsy, and cancers especially breast cancer (cancer is twice as common in dogs as in humans), and retinal diseases including cataracts.

Dogs only share 84% of our DNA  as compared to chimpanzees – 98.8%, monkeys – 93% and mice 90%, but we share some 360 genetic disorders with them, even though some of these only occur in 40% of dog breeds such as the Doberman Pinchers with inherited narcolepsy which has enable scientists to understand the molecular mechanisms of regulating sleep. And the last item explains something about why these stories include Dobermans as they were clearly being used in the genetic research of the organisation.

And I also looked into Tollers as they were a new breed of dog to me. Not that that’s saying a lot as there are so many new breeds appearing at the moment…nova-scotia-duck-tolling-retriever

So the basic stories were about criminal behaviour, kidnapping, torture and unusual experiments and general mayhem and brave deeds by the alpha males with feisty females assisting using their special powers. A good mix of fantasy and war stories, with some organised fraud and crime thrown in for good measure.

I really enjoyed all 3 of these books and am inclined to give them all 5 stars.

Enter the nosy artist and lots of guns!

The Body in the Landscape

By

Larissa Reinhart

A Netgalley Review

Just who is this all so nosy artist who just keeps encountering crimes including murder? And why is her brother in jail? And who is Tod? Luke? Max? And what are her relationships with them? How did Max hurt his knee?

For me, whilst this was a light-hearted romp through crime and murder, it was clearly not at all aimed at people who had not read the previous books in the series. There were a lot of complicated relationships. Family rivalries and past incidents that affected how people behaved that remained sketchily explained and then not as one first encountered them. Whilst I don’t mind this in a series, it does make it more difficult to give a critical review of a book when many of the links and much of the background is not explained.

That said, by 30% of the way through, enough was explained about some of the characters to encourage me to read on. I had considered giving up because I had been only peripherally drawn into the scenes and storyline.

But by 50% in I was irritated by the gun and hunting culture that permeated the story. And was not sufficiently concerned about the outcome to continue.

I agree with the reviewers of the author’s previous books that the style of writing  has amusing elements, but I was never inclined to smile let alone laugh – mainly I think due to the hunting and guns!

Simulate and activate your alternate

Simulation (Bk 2 in series): see PoP Travel

by

Tara Tyler

 

Would you really want life eternal? Just as when asked would I want to go to heaven, I think, hmm –might it not get boring after a while? Once you have done everything and been everywhere, what is there left to do? ‘Course if you are a megalomaniac you can always find some mischief – or can you?

This is really a story about cloning brains and robots and as I have been watching ‘Humans’ on TV, I can see the appeal of all the nice bodies you could have – imagine if you could sculpt away all your bad parts and improve all your good parts. I would be six foot tall, red-haired, slim and very athletic. I would have long slim legs with a nice thigh gap and my breasts would support themselves, I would definitely have a bikini ready body… oh well. I can but imagine what I would look like. But would I want to live that long? No, actually I wouldn’t. If you believe that every day could be your last, then you act as your best person. You do good rather than bad/evil. You assume that you may well die today/tomorrow and thus there will be no time to address your bad bits, no time to right those wrongs. Life eternal could definitely lead to selfish, self-absorbed, moralistically challenged people. You could use your clone (if you were still alive) to do your work, and to do all the things you don’t want to/ couldn’t/ wouldn’t normally, do. And this has got to be bad.

I sort of see why people might want to clone a beloved pet and this is actually now done – there is Britain’s first cloned dog – would normally cost £60,000 (!) but she won a competition for her.Britain_s_first_clone_dog

I found this book amusingly written but not as exciting or innovative as Pop Travel. I am giving this 3.5 stars – .5 for the humour.

 

 

Enter the Queendom of the Red Academy

The Rise of the Red Queen

By

Bourne Morris

An interesting title for this novel, as reading  it you might assume the book was fantasy or YA in genre. But no such thing. It is a crime novel set in a university.

The Red Queen of the title is an academic whose rise is chronicled through the faculty management structure to being Assistant Dean in this university set high above Lake Tahoe in the Nevada Hills, and who has red hair.

She is thus commonly known as ‘Red’ and many of her colleagues see her as their born leader and that they are members of the court of her faculty.

However, not all members of the university appreciate her qualities and there is still a significant misogynistic element  amongst them. Especially in the higher management echelons.

Prejudices and academic rivalry abound and are very intense and even lead here to murder and criminal behaviour.

And then there is the warped mind of one of the community who abducts a young girl. So within this story, other stories intertwine here there are mysteries and suspicious behaviours and suspicions that leave you guessing.

A note here on academic tenure in American universities (generalised).

Tenure in American universities is extremely hard to achieve.

It requires not only a PhD but a significant body of publications, grants, and conference appearances achieved; and then you have to be liked by all the members of the faculty committee that will review your record and award you tenure – or not.

Tenure, is effectively for the rest of your life. It is almost impossible to be fired, and it is very much your choice as to when you retire. Only about 2% of tenured Professors are fired each year – and then it has to be for ‘due cause’.

And: “As a tenured Professor, you are free to do your own work, your own way” (quoted in the book).

The probationary period averages three years for community colleges and seven years at four-year colleges. This is a period of employment insecurity almost unique among U.S. professions. People denied tenure at the end of this time lose their jobs; tenure is an “up-or-out” process.

During the probationary period, almost all colleges can choose not to renew faculty contracts and terminate faculty without any reason or cause. Throughout this time, senior professors and administrators evaluate the work of new faculty-teaching, research and service before deciding whether or not to recommend tenure. The most recent survey of American faculty shows that, in a typical year, about one in five probationary faculty members was denied tenure and lost his or her job.

No more than one-third of all college and university faculty members are tenured. The reason? More and more colleges are relying on part-time or temporary nontenure-track faculty to teach undergraduates — part-timers constituted about 38 percent of the professoriate in 1987 and grew to 43 percent in 1992.

http://www.nea.org/home/33067.htm

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

Can you Fix a Psychopath?

Fixed in Fear

By T.E. Woods

Review for

NetGalley and Alibi

Now this book set me wondering – psychopaths – are they born or are they made? Can PTSD cause a person to become a psychopath?

And then there is the whole issue of revenge killing. Do we really believe in an eye for an eye? And you kill one of mine and I’ll kill one of yours? If so, then we can expect far more of the scenes such as recently in Paris and the US and even in the London where the cry comes – ‘This is for what you have done in Syria’. With France declaring that they were at war with so-called ISIS as a result of the Paris bombings and shootings.

So I read with great relief and empathy the article by Caitlin Moran in The Times Magazine. She muses on what you tell your children about the terrorist attacks. How you explain what is happening and why. And why we should, here in London at any rate, and in most if not all of the Western World, not be afraid. And why? Because we have lived through worse.

She lived through the IRA bombings as did I in the UK. Where they bombed busy shopping centres, where they bombed Regent’s Street and where there were no waste bins in case they hid a bomb, and where your briefcase or sports bag or even shopping carrier, if left unattended in a train station, was blown up by a nifty robot. As was your car if left in a route of importance –  I remember watching out of our office window as the police did just that when we were expecting the Queen to pass by our block. Even now, we get plenty of warnings about not leaving our baggage unattended or telling staff of a ‘suspicious package’, and even when they regularly stopped trains as someone had done just that – usually a shopping bag someone had forgotten. I remember this on one train when the American tourists in our carriage were having kittens and we were very blasé as it happened so often to us.

This doesn’t change anything. You are far more likely to die on the loo than being killed by a bomb or a bullet even in a country where there are 88.8 guns per 100 people such as in the US. See the table on the most common cause of death.

causes of death

As Caitlin Moran says, there are certain things that cause psychopaths (back t that word) who want to kill: an unhappy combination of humiliation, bereavement, and fear. She believes that terrorists are psychopaths who simply want to kill and their purpose in life is to find a reason that they can use to justify that want.

Fear can be weaponised, she said, some people want us to be afraid and scared and angry and that can turn us into terrorists too.  And so the war continues.

SO I did my research and it seems that there is some conflict as to how you can become psychopath and just what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. psychopathhttp://hubpages.com/education/The-Four-Basic-Pillars-of-A-SociopathPsychopath

diffs psycho

The four Pillars are:

1.People with Anti-social Personality disorder whether psychopath or sociopath have a great deal of pride. They demand respect and they will ensure that they get it, whatever it may take. They believe that they are better than anyone else, and others should treat them as such. Rules of society and norms are not for them to respect. They are above them.

  1. They are spiteful. They have low tolerance and this can lead to outbursts of aggression or violence. They find a little irritation a major nuisance.
  2. These are sex addicts with high levels of testosterone – which also increases aggression. They need the sexual experiences even if they receive little satisfaction from them and cannot have relationships without sexual intimacy.
  3. They are self-centred, self-absorbed, and very selfish. Everything they do has a benefit to them. They lack emotional sensitivity or empathy and always bored and seeking stimulation though risk or excitement. They don’t care about others or what others need.

For a Psychopath all these attributes are very high but pride and lust are the highest with insensitivity to others coming next and anger being the least prevalent in them.

So we come to the book. Is the Fixer either a psychopath or a sociopath?

I noted a number of interesting points in this book and the first the one about body memory. The concept that trauma is retained in muscle memory. The body of an abuse victim will remember to cower or protect itself when triggering circumstances occur. Interesting as I have just started watching Bone and flesh on Amazon and the girl, who is clearly a victim of familial sexual abuse immediately turns and hits a man with a bottle when he touches her without her seeing. An instinctive behaviour or a muscle memory? More likely the latter I should think.  According to http://www.survivormanual.com/ we do indeed have a ‘mind’ in our muscle that retains moves – in my own case I often move into Tai Chi poses because I learnt it for so many hears when undertaking a gym workout. My legs remember this shaping. And n addition we have the idea that instinct tells us to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances. The Police Chief says a running animal always turns right when trying to escape. This is muscle memory. However, it can also be conditioned in by past experience so here I am not sure of the accuracy of this statement. But it is an interesting thought. Turning left requires the instinct to be over-ridden and thus the brain has to come into action was her theory.

I also looked up the village/town that the murders took place – and yes, it is a real place in the States. Enumclaw is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 10,669 at the 2010 census.

The Enumclaw Plateau, on which the city resides, was formed by a volcanic mudflow (lahar) from Mount Rainier approximately 5,700 years ago.

The name Enumclaw is derived from a Salish Native American term that translates as “place of evil spirits”, apparently referring to Enumclaw Mountain, located about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north, and referring either to some evil incident that occurred there or to the frequent powerful windstorms that affect the region. Native American mythology tells the story of two Pacific Northwest Native American brothers – Enumclaw and Kapoonis – whose father turned them into thunder and lightning respectively. The City of Enumclaw says the name means “thundering noise” [Wikipedia]

I was also interested in the idea of each religion have a ritual for forgiveness and the Professor having drawn up a grid. This is just the sort of thing that I would do… as a Jew I like the idea that you only confess sins that have offended God, and that if you have offended a person you confess that to them. This makes society operate well I think. What is also interesting of course, is that the 3 Abrahamic religions have such similarities in their rituals about forgiveness and other religious practices. Which of course, brings us back to why are we fighting each other? Perhaps it is that very similarity that we fight in order to define ourselves as different?

So these are some of the very interesting points that I picked up from the book regardless of the story. The Fixer has come out of her ‘retirement’ and tries to over-ride her innate instinct to act as a psychopath and give an eye for an eye but her instinct to help in circumstance where something unjust has happened still operate.

Is this book as good as the previous ones in the series? I think by a hair margin not quite. It is getting difficult to find a scenario under which she will operate in her role as a Fixer. And so I needed to find interest in elements that were not perhaps as key to the story-line. I will still give it 4 stars though, as I do intend to read the series as it continues. I am not yet bored by her, and the story-telling is good stylistically and contains a lot of interesting ideas.