Review by: Stacy Palm
When I first started this book it felt like it was going to be impossible for all these characters, who were so drastically different, to pull together. However, I'm so very glad that I stuck with it because about 40 pages in everything was working great! This was a very good novel dealing with a horrible crime that is so prevalent these days. I was very happy to find that the writer did not glorify these crimes further by providing graphic content, but neither did she gloss over the violence of trafficking.
I really appreciated the moral tone of the book, and how we treat each other is so important in this life. I was a bit taken back by the author's note at the end, which spoke to me in ways I cannot express here. I hope you will give this book a try and if at first you struggle a bit do yourself the favor of pushing through; it's so worth it.
Review by: Mark Palm
If you cast a wide net, and you read enough you will eventually find something new under the sun. He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe is just such a book for me at least. This book is part of a series, the Eddie LaCrosse novels featuring, not surprisingly, a character named Eddie LaCrosse. The rest of it is surprising however because Eddie is a private detective or at least as much of a private detective that can exist in a medieval fantasy world complete with wizards, dragons, and half of the male populace clanking about in armor. Conceptually the two genres would seem far apart, but some of the works of Fritz Leiber's in particular, have given the sword and sorcery world the requisite touch or criminal decadence that makes gumshoes believable.
What takes some getting used to in this book is the dialogue. Its pure twentieth century, replete with "dudes" and "pals", and most of the main characters, as befitting the hard-broiled genre, come across as full-time smart-alecks who are boning up on their Chandlerisms; Eddie in particular is quick with the snappy repartee. It works to ground the events of the book and give everyone a "just folks" kind of feel, and certainly beats the flowery and stiff "thees", thous" and "varlets" that sinks a lot of this kind of stuff, but George R.R. Martin in the Books of Fire and Ice does a good job of making his dialogue earthy without seeming as jarring as Mr. Bledsoe's sometimes does. So that part of the book is a kind of a mixed bag, but I give the author credit for at least trying something different that succeeds here and there.
The plot is pretty solid with Eddie rescuing a mysterious baby girl from a hideous fate, and finding a family that will take her in, as he is just a wandering mercenary, or "sword-jockey" as the book has it. Sixteen years later Eddie and his girlfriend Liz just happen to be travelling through the same area when a series of events stirs Eddie's memory, and prompts him to seek out the girl and the family that took her in. That's when the story starts to take off as incognito princes, tricky blackguards and under-cover kings start to interact with our protagonists, and the farm-folk who are trying to enjoy a seasonal festival. Most of the characters are well-drawn if not stunningly original, and Liz stands out in particular, funny and feisty. There is a notable lack of swordplay, explained by the fact that most of the characters smartly realize the deadly seriousness of it, but the action that does take place is solid, and well-written. A lot of classic hard-boiled clichés are touched upon in interesting ways, including the inevitable scene where Eddie gets slipped a Mickey. There is also another hilarious one where Eddie and another hard guy end up thumb-wrestling to prove their toughness. Mr. Bledsoe excels at such scenes, and has a nice touch with making his characters humans (even the monsters), and not black or white tokens.
The end of the book feels a bit rushed, and when the action shifts from the farms and small villages that are the books centerpiece, to a castle with dungeons, an unstable king and a sorceress advisor the book seemed to lose some of the heart and immediacy that made is read so well earlier on. As Eddie tries to smooth over the happy ending he comes across as a little too much of the therapist and not enough of the cynical world-weary PI he was early on, but in the end the magical princess gets a decent prince, war is averted, and what more could you really want? Oh, and just for your information the title refers to a fable mentioned a few times in the book, which seems kind of arbitrary, but the title certainly grabs one's attention.
Review by: Mark Palm
I wasn't far in to Found by Stacey Wallace Benefiel when I got the feeling that I was reading the literary equivalent of a paint-by-numbers portrait, or like someone who had read a treatise on how-to-write-a-hit-YA- novel and was gamely checking off the essentials. First of all was the setting, vaguely futuristic, but unrigerous and the jargon,("ret-tech" is a retinal use cell-phone, using "tech" as a catch- all verb meaning to call or text, "bueno" as a substitute for "cool") were flabby. The narration was first person present the trendiest, and full of arch commentary: "asshat" "like Ah, Yeeeeeeeeeah", and even "OM-to-the-muthaeffin'-G." If that wasn't bad enough the dialogue of every single character sounded exactly like this. I needed a scorecard to keep track of who was currently narrating what or saying what.
Then there are the characters. I said that they all sound alike. That's because they basically are alike. Well maybe I am being a bit fatuous. There are probably three types. Wyatt, the male lead is nerdy, self-deprecating, but as we get to know him, just surprisingly competent enough to not be a surprise at all. The rest of the characters seem to gain confidence in him as the book proceeds, but by my count his decisions just kept getting worse and worse. I wouldn't trust him watching junior high students swim in an inflatable backyard pool. His extended family and their friends are all hip, non-judgmental and uniformly bland. Then there is Penny Black, the main character. She is from a broken home, a runaway and ex-junkie street kid who refers to herself as a freak and a mess. She has rainbow hair, four facial piercings and is a retroact, a person who has the ability to reverse time, and change events on a grand scale. She is tragic, yet caring, and also somehow bland. As the book starts she is found by The New Society, a group of Berkley-style super-powered hippies who try and find and help other people with superpowers. Wyatt is to be her guide as they teach her how to use her powers, and protect her from the baddies, a group called the Crusaders.
I wish that I could give you a better synopsis of the plot, but I was hopelessly foundered rather quickly. It has something to do with the lead singer of a band called Squirrelish Figure, a genius scientist who is his double, and Penny's ex-boyfriend who are all entangled with the Crusaders. Well, the heroes make bad decision after bad decision, and then make up some ground by performing heroic feats of derring-do, and Penny keeps saving the day by re-winding time. Unfortunately every time she does she enters a fugue state and usually ends up cracking her ribs. But no biggie, because like Wolverine, it turns out that she can heal those in a day or so. Well after a handful of abductions and escapes and near-misses, and near-hits, Penny solves the whole enchilada but rewinding about a third of the book, and starting the whole thing over again, until everything turns out all right. Her and Wyatt fall into the sack together, and the future looks bright, because Psychics and their Lookouts, (which Wyatt appears to be), are bound for life. But oh no! Penny starts having death dreams about another of the hippies, and unpleasant punk named Kai. (Sounds like something you yell during a martial arts class.) And as everyone knows, all bound couples have death-dreams about each other. He's a dick, but also, a stud. So it's good-bye for now, to our happy ending, but hello to a sequel, or two, because Penny and Wyatt have to get together.
I have said before that I get no thrill from writing this kind of review, and I don't. Reading bad books is hard, and writing the review isn't much better. I just wish I was a Retroact so I could rewind this experience.
Review by: Stacy Palm
This was a book with a beautiful message that is very relevant to our society today. This novel is based off the biblical story of Martha and Mary, Lazarus' sisters. Most everyone knows the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, but not so many people know the story of his sisters. The story puts emphases on defining ones self worth, whether it be the beauty we possess, the skills we excel at, or the position we hold in society; do any of these things matter to our spiritual well being?
This book was well written and refers to scripture. I enjoyed this book, as it flowed easily and the characters were brought to life in a wonderful way. I would encourage (especially young teens) to read this book even if they are not familiar with the scripture. I think a lot of people, Christian and non-Christian alike, can gain insight from this tale.