Tag Archives: civil war

Forevermore by Jim Musgrave

ForevermoreForevermore by Jim Musgrave

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As usual, I received this book because somebody gave it to me for free. In this case, the author approached me directly with a copy of the whole trilogy as one volume. Despite this kind consideration, I give my candid opinions below, as will quickly become self-evident.

Firstly, a few general comments and a readers recommendation. It is suggested that you read this book in the following manner: read the first chapter and allow the oddness of it to roll around in your head for a few moments. Then sally you forth unto Wikipedia and read the real events as recorded by history. Smirk bemusedly at yourself for a few seconds and then continue to read the rest of the novel. Anything less enigmatic than that is left as exercise to the reader.

On the positive side, our author has picked an fascinating episode of history for his target. Saying more than that will spoil the fun but it is my considered opinion that historical fiction is best when it starts out with some reality that is abundantly screwball in its own right and expands upon it in a realistic way. I won’t go so far as to say that this book is a potential truth of the matter, but the thread of the tale has a pleasant glow of vague plausibility to it that fits well with the genre. Furthermore, the book is easy and accessible but still endeavors to expand the reader’s knowledge of history (and vocabulary) without any significant missteps. The author has done his homework, despite what other reviewers may say to the contrary.

On the negative side, the novel does suffer from some fairly significant editorial woes. At times it’s difficult to tell who the narrator of a given passage is and transitions in time and place are sometimes hard to pick up on. The text is rife with historical references but at times so rife that they feel rather forced. I appreciate the author’s research but one doesn’t have to stuff everything he knows about 19th century life into one book. Lastly, during our dramatic climax the book reads more like an Abbott and Costello routine than a serious mystery novel. As a reader I’m happy to accept either but it is generally preferred if the author picks one or the other and sticks with it.

In summary, this is a very well conceived novel but it must be remembered that readers of the mystery genre especially are punctilious beasts that will pick apart every detail of every sentence you write. They have to because they must find the answer before the end arrives. That’s rather the point of reading a mystery novel. So while this novel is generally good, it’s not quite up to the standards of its chosen genre. As a first novel it’s a brilliant initial step though and I look forward to the next two in the series.

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The Bequest of Big Daddy by Jo-Ann Costa – My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bequest of Big DaddyThe Bequest of Big Daddy by Jo-Ann Costa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, I didn’t pay anything for this book but instead it arrived happily in my mail because of a GoodReads giveaway. Despite this very kind consideration I give my candid opinions below.

As the book begins we meet Big Daddy, an irascible and taciturn old man who would as soon tell someone to “F*** Off” as look at them. Big Daddy is a beast of a man with a huge progeny because of a life of casual infidelity to every woman he’s ever been with. The balance of the book explains this horrid man’s history and how he got to the man he turned out to be.

On the positive side, Costa gives us in Big Daddy a wonderfully disgusting and controversial character. His opportunism and disregard for anyone but himself is infuriating in many ways but as we are told more of his history we begin to understand why he became the insufferable brute that he is. Clearly Big Daddy was an ass of major proportions but given the situation he was put into by fate, one couldn’t really expect much better. The author gives us a great rendering of a rather hateful character and a delightfully dark history to boot. His supporting cast is also wonderfully vivid with unapologetic portrayals of former slaves in the post-war South.

On the negative, Costa’s writing does sometimes suffer from a few problems with continuity as I found myself flipping back to try to piece together some event that had taken place without any proper introduction. Also, bracketing the narrative of Big Daddy we have the story of Jo-Dee, one of his modern-day descendants who is looking back and getting to know her frightful long-lost ancestor. She makes an appearance narrating the end of Big Daddy’s life in the first chapter and appears again in the last chapter describing her unearthing of family history. Frankly, the beginning and ending chapters detract from the story that one really wants out of this book. They introduce a level of soft and gauzy mysticism and “magic” to the story that makes for a rather unpleasant non sequitur.

In summary, loved the bits of the book centering on Big Daddy but, like a cigar, the whole thing would have been more enjoyable with the end cut off. There’s a seed of a great story here if only one can remove the husk.

PS: It is my endeavor to provide reviews that are succinct, honest, balanced and above all help the potential reader to answer the simple question, “Do I want to read this or not?” Any feedback you can provide about how you feel I have accomplished those goals (or not) is immensely appreciated.

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