Book Review – The Shadow Constant by AJ Scudiere

The Shadow Constant
AJ Scudiere
2013, Paperback

So, AJ happened to like my last review of one of her novels so much that she keeps giving me stuff to review.  I was going to review something else but she really wanted this one done before the end of the year.  The things we do for people.  *giggles*

Anyway.  Shadow Constant is about four people who are renovating a plantation and find a few things in a wall, one of them being the plans for a machine created by Eli Whitney.  Plans that people are willing to kill for.
As the book progresses, we see the length that people are willing to go to get the plans and the determination of these four in saving them.

I have a few issues with the book.  I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but you’ve been warned.

  • Kayla has Asperger’s, and we know this because every two pages, somebody in the book makes sure to tell us.  There are a lot of [character] wasn’t sure if the problem was Kayla’s Asperger’s or something else… going on in the story.
  • Guns happen in this story and the terminology is wrong in a few places.  The author and I disagree over this.  She said she did it on purpose since the characters in the book don’t really know guns.  But the book is 3rd person narrated, and even though it’s limited to just a couple main perspectives, it’s still a 3rd person narrator.  And if they know what they’re smelling after a gun went off (and no, I don’t mean gunpowder), they know the difference between a clip and a mag because somewhere along the line, someone tried to up sell them or corrected them when they asked a seemingly-stupid question.  Trust me, even if they went to a show vs. a shop or whatever, they heard the right words at some point.
  • Kayla’s kiss.  I saw it coming, I groaned.  That whole relationship wasn’t needed.

Aside from that, the last third or so of the book felt a little off for some reason, but I don’t know why.

With that said. I had issues from the beginning with this review because I kept comparing it in my head to Phoenix, which is a silly thing to do since the two books are totally unrelated [AJ’s first five novels were written to stand alone], but still.  Phoenix was one of those books that I can’t get out of my head.
Right from the start, I thought it was weird that there is seemingly nothing that I can point to and say “There.  That’s AJ.”  I mean, yeah, she’s good at things, but there’s nothing here that I point out and say “OMG, This is totally an AJ book” if I didn’t otherwise know it.  It’s not good or bad, it just is.  But while I was still comparing the books in my head, it was weird to me.  And it took a while to get that comparison to stop.  Because, seriously, the books feel like they’re written by two different people.  It’s probably a product of the POV – even though it’s third limited, the books feel like their main characters, and these are vastly different main characters – and like I said, not good or bad, it just is.
And even though I was a little disappointed that this book didn’t feel like the other one did, I found myself thinking about it at weird times.  It’d just pop in my head.  So there is that.

Still, I’m going to have to apologize to AJ here.  I know she wanted a five star review, because she told me so.  But as I said, there were a few issues in the last third of the book and a couple ongoing things that drove me nuts.  I think the story is totally worth reading, but I just couldn’t find that extra something that elevates a four-star rating (read this) to a five star (buy this).

I really have agonized over this review, but in the end, I think I have to give this a four-page rating.

Book Review – The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club by Lynda Stephenson

The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club
A Frankilee Baxter Story
Lynda Stephenson

Okay. Reviewer Bloggers like myself have several options to obtain books, and this came from one of those. I requested it, because I thought it sounded really interesting. From the back cover:
The year is 1958 and the schools in the south are reeling against the 1954 decision of Brown V. Board of Education. In the beginning Frankilee Baxter, a freshman at Athena College, is not concerned with racial issues. Instead, she is determined to improve her looks, pledge a sorority, find a steady boyfriend, and make her name as a journalist at the college newspaper…
I’ll spare you the rest of the back cover. In other words, the world is changing and Frankilee just wants to be a regular gal until she finds herself in the thick of things. I expected a bit of southern chick lit, one of those happy-go books that you read with a cup of tea (even though I don’t drink tea).
By the second page, I was so over the southernisms that I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be ill or throw the book across the room. They were so obnoxiously over the top that I actually flipped to the author bio to see if she was making this shit up or if she thought she lived it. And I was seriously surprised to see that it was an older woman who had spent her life in Texas and Oklahoma. Because for every cottin’ pickin’ Mercy Maude still butterin’ a biscuit, I groaned a little louder. (For the record, I just flipped to a random page and all three of those were on the same page…)
The book progressed, and nothing really happened. There was one hazing incident where Frankilee’s beanie is stolen (be still my heart!), a dance, and of course pledge week. We meet her roommates, and we hear that one of them *gasp* swears because she says FRACK. Maybe Texas in 1958 was different, but where I grew up, frack would have been a totally acceptable word because it’s meaningless. Oh, and as a cuss word, it’s kinda nothing. Nevermind that Frankilee says several low-grade words of her own all the time. And if the suitemate is really saying something other than frack, well, the author is pretty much doing all she can to make her MC sound like the stupid, frail, southern thing that everyone pictures in steryotype.
The biggest thing that happens in 80 pages is that Frankilee’s roommate Pickles (*ahem*) doesn’t make a sorority and Frankilee goes to the Dean to complain. Wait, what? Just… *facepalm*
The leap to start the Big Girls Panty Club (BGPC) is a shallow, stupid moment, of not getting into a sorority and the dean getting all up in Frankilee’s face because she said “hell” in her office. It was at this point that I wanted to slam my head against the wall a few times.

So… I wrote the review somewhere around chapter 8, because I was at the point where, honestly, I was so put off by the main character that I didn’t care about her story at all.
The sentences are technically perfect. But the writing feels like a young adult book circa the early 80s where young adult just meant that the characters were older than 10, not the adult series that it’s supposed to be a part of (this is apparently book two, according to the author bio). I forced myself to get as far as I did, and yeah, I could force myself further, but I have absolutely no desire to do so.
In the end, I only give the book a 2.
And I know somebody’s going to say “but you didn’t even finish it!” which is true. And had the subject matter not engaged me, that would have been one thing. But since the author’s style was what disappointed me in the story, I think that deserves a rating. I think this book had potential, but since stuff that was presented as no big deal was the catalyst for the next 300-ish pages, well, that’s a bit telling, don’t you think?
In the end: the book is technically written well, but that’s the only thing going for it. If you have it laying around and it’s a rainy day, read a chapter or two for mindless entertainment, but I’m pretty sure you won’t be upset if you never finish it. I’ve had the book sitting *in* my bed for two weeks now that I haven’t had any urge to read further.

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