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.

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!