Showing posts with label WARTY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WARTY!. Show all posts

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hoodoo by Ronald L Smith


Rating: WARTY!

This was another failed audiobook experiment. It's aimed at middle-grade readers, so I am not the intended audience, but two things really bothered me about it and constitute my main reasons for rejecting it. I would not recommend this at all for young, easily scared, or overly sensitive children.

The story is about 12-year-old "Hoodoo" Hatcher who grows up in a very superstitious 1930s Alabama. A stranger comes to town who is evidently Satan himself, coming to collect a debt apparently owed by Hoodoo because it was incurred by his deceased father, but I don't know for sure because I didn't listen to all of it.

You know, I am really tired of reading stories about black kids growing up with their grandparents or other relatives. Less than ten percent of African American kids are raised this way, and while it is unfortunate, even tragic, and while it is over twice that of white kids, it's still less than ten percent. If you were to judge by how often it's portrayed in novels, movies, and on TV, you'd think it was all black kids.

It's inaccurate and it's particularly appalling in novels which children read and can be misled by; novels which often win idiotic Neuteredbery awards and such nonsensical crap. In fact I think that's a rule: that if your novel isn't about a dysfunctional family, you can't be nominated for a Newbery - but I may be wrong about that.... My point is that it's time for authors to tell it like it is, not tall tale it like it isn't.

The endlessly-repeated sleeping (and later, waking) dreams/nightmares in which this unintentionally comical Satannic figure threatens Hoodoo in his basso profundo voice were ridiculous, and were what turned me completely off it. It became tedious to listen to. The "Yes, Massah!" voice of reader Ron Butler was inappropriate and a turn-off to boot.

The other thing which bothered me were the many extended scary sequences which are going to be too much for young readers - and especially listeners. You do not want your child listening to this as a bedtime story! For me they were boring. The story seemed to be going round in circles instead of going somewhere interesting, and Hoodoo's obsessive-compulsion of doing this himself was laughable when there were others who could have helped him if the author hadn't been so rigidly dead-set against it.

It was an uninteresting and unimaginative story told badly and I do not recommend it.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger


Rating: WARTY!

I had to give up on this one. The story is of a newbie at a fashion magazine which has a spoiled bitch as a chief editor. The author actually is a Cornell graduate who for reasons which escape me actually did work at a fashion magazine, so I guess she knows of what she speaketh, but it was first person voice which is not my favorite by a long skirt, and it was fashion-obsessed (of course - I knew this going in!), and I have absolutely zero respect for models, fashion designers, and let's face it, the whole self-absorbed, mis-focused, self-obsessed, tragically shallow and utterly pointless fashion industry.

I've actually managed to enjoy some novels like this, and I don't recall being nauseated by the movie which I saw many fashion seasons ago (times four, one for each actual season here in the north), but this was simply too much, and when the insulting, trope, clichéd, gay fashion guy showed up at the end of chapter four, I said, "Check please, I'm outta here!"

It was way the hell too much, and this author should be ashamed of herself. I'm sorry to learn that she isn't, because she's written a sequel, I'm guessing because nothing else she's written is selling. I'm guessing the sequel won't cut it either, because she's just not fashionable any more, but I don't care if it does or it doesn't because I'm done with this author.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Red As Blue by Ji Strangeway, Juan Fleites


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I was very disappointed in this. I knew it was experimental going into it, but I did not realize it would be more mental than experi-. I don't know if the contributor's names are real or made up, but Strangeway definitely describes how this story is told, and the illustrations are minimal, so do not go into this thinking it's a graphic novel in any way; it isn't.

It has some some illustrated pages sprinkled through it, but they don't really tell a story in the way a graphic novel does, and they appear only about every half-dozen pages or so. That said they were, for me, the best part, since they were well done - black and white line drawings though they were. They were full page illustrations, some with panels in them, but the downside of these was that on my iPad in Bluefire Reader, they sometimes took seemingly forever to open up. Worse: they simply retell the story in pictures and tend to precede the text which tells us the same thing the illustration just did. It seemed superfluous if not also pretentious to include them.

As far as the writing went, it was literally like reading a play. No, not like, was - it was a play. I DNF'd this, but I also skimmed through a goodly portion of what I did not read, and the format was the same all the way through as far as I could see. On nearly every page there was a conversation which consisted of a character's name in block caps in the center of the page, their speech centered below it, then the next character's name the same way, rinse and repeat except the rinse was more like a gargle.

The descriptive prose was minimal, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but here it ran into jargon issues. So much of this is used that there's a glossary at the start of the novel to clue people in to what's obviously an unnatural system. This kind of thing doesn't work for me.

Even that might have been readable if the main character wasn't so unlikeable. She came across as a complete halfwit, constantly having to be told what relatively common, and fairly simple words mean. I can stand to read a good novel about someone who might uncharitably be described as a halfwit, but I can't read about someone who seems to have an unacknowledged learning impairment with which the author has saddled her for no apparent reason.

So for an experimental novel there was precious little experimentation, since it was pretty much a play with some pictures. It didn't strike me as being inventive or imaginative, but as lazy and pandering to a seriously niche audience rather than to a much larger audience of people who would genuinely like to enjoy a well-written LGBTQIA novel based on the author's own experiences.

Writing this my have been cathartic for an author who has grown up in a conservative small town with no role models and prejudice galore, but 270 pages is much to long of a novel to experiment with in this fashion. When I see a book like this, I have to wonder whether the author really just doesn't like trees.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

I Have the Right To by Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson


Rating: WARTY!

On May 30, 2014, at the venerable St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, eighteen-year-old athlete Owen Labrie went with fifteen year old Chessy Prout - who had been previously warned by her older sister about this very same boy and advised to steer clear of him - to the mechanical room in the attic of the math and science building on campus. The consequence of this excursion was three misdemeanor convictions: statutory rape penetration of his under-age victim with hands, tongue, and penis, and also of a felony: using a computer to lure a minor for sex. He was was acquitted on three counts of felony sexual assault, apparently because their age difference was less than four years, but on his conviction on the other offenses, he was sentenced to a year in jail, five years of probation, and he was required to register as a sex offender for life.

These are the legally established facts since that night. The accounts of each party in the events naturally differ, but that night and its aftermath is the subject of this book. Note that my review here is not of that night or of what happened, or of either party, although I do believe the author's account, not the defendant's except in where it coincides with the author's.

There are a paltry and pitiful handful of women who have concocted stories of assault, but they are negligible, especially when compared with the massive number of women who are assaulted in one way or another, but who fail to step forward for whatever reasons of their own. So this review is only of the book which describes these events. Not the events themselves.

The Goodreads blurb of the book begins, unsurprisingly, by saying, "A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching [sic] memoir." but I beg to disagree. There is no searing. There is no gut hyphen wrenching. There are over 360 pages of which the first eighty-some is pure fluff and irrelevant to what happened except in that it reveals what a sheltered and privileged existence the author led prior to returning to the US from Japan where she grew up.

In those 360+ pages I am not counting the prologue or the introduction; I never read those things. I assume the fluff is due to the publisher-assigned co-writer, Jenn Abelson of whom I've never heard. She's a newspaper reporter. From my reading of this, I was forced to conclude that those who can, write, while those who can't, co-write, and by co-writing, I mean add upholstery wherever they can. In my opinion, this was a serious mistake in this book.

The blurb repeatedly mentions sexual assault, but from the description given post page ninety, this was not assault; it was out-and-out rape. Why did the publisher's blurb writer not have the guts to describe it as it is? Perhaps because there was no conviction on the charge of rape? The victim (or survivor, but I do not play with words when it comes to something as serious as this) uses the word rape and that's what I will use. The problem is that the book itself is larded with so much fluff and stuffing that it diminishes what was a horrible attack on a naïve and culturally defenseless girl who quite simply did not know how to handle what happened to her and got precious little help.

I get that this was a series of confusing events and that she had nothing by which to get a handle on them, but in hindsight which was how this book was written, I think a little more hard-writing and a lot less "purdying-up" would have served the author - the real author - far better than what we got. She should not have been playing second-violin in her own story, and I find it as surprising as it is inexcusable that a professional journalist pussy-footed around so much.

The victim's worst enemy after the rape was herself, because she maintained a pleasant, jokey, even flirtatious relationship with her rapist for several days, exchanging humorous and polite texts before wising-up and ceasing contact with him. This is how thoroughly confused she was. An assault like this will do that and worse to a person, and sometimes juries simply don't get that, especially if they've never had anything like this happen to them - and the defense team, rest assured, will try to have dismissed any potential juror who has.

The author's sister was about the only one who seemed to treat the rape as what it was, and literally punched the guy. I'd like to read her story! As far as the author was concerned, her writing (or Jenn not-so-Abelson's writing) made it feel like this whole thing was just one more relatively minor event between finals and a pep rally.

Contrary to what the blurb implied, it was virtually robbed of any real impact because of the way it was written. And contradictory elements in it did not help. At one point, in the same paragraph, the author (one of them) bemoans being an anonymous victim (which given that she's a minor is required by law) and then a sentence or two later, rails at being outed on an Internet message board! She cannot have it both ways. As it was, she outed herself later to commendably speak up about sexual assault.

In another similar contradiction, she makes a big deal about praying to her god at one point, something which is a proven waste of time since this god did nothing whatsoever to help her, and then later rails at a rabbi for forgiving her attacker! Excuse me, isn't the author purportedly a Christian: an adherent of a teaching that explicitly instructs that we turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give our shirt? No Christians actually do that in reality because they're hypocrites, but this means that strictly speaking, according to her religion she should have forgiven her attacker too, and let this go. Let me make it clear that I do NOT advocate that at all. She did the right thing - eventually - by pursuing it through legal channels, but she cannot then rail at the rabbi or claim to be a true Christian.

The decision to let her go back to the school after these events was in my opinion ill-advised, and although I did not read on (I quit this book after chapter fourteen, around page 155), I do know it was doomed to failure because in that kind of culture, all that happens is that she becomes victimized even more. People were already dissing her, calling her foul names, and trying to trivialize what had happened. People whine about an athlete's life being ruined without stopping to think for a minute how much more the girl's life has been taken apart at the seams and more.

In this age of #MeToo, I live in hopes that this cluelessness about rape and sexual assault is changing, but the tendency in the past has been to favor the male version of the story rather than the female. This is par for the course in these situations, especially if the male in question has some sort of celebratory status, such as in the case where he is on a sports team, and especially if it's a successful sports team. And it's not just guys. I've seen cases where women have come down in support of the guy rather than the victim of an assault. More young girls need to be educated on this topic - seriously educated and quickly educated, and they need to be encouraged to come forward, because every time a guy gets away with this behavior, he's thereby encouraged to repeat it.

But the end of this attitude is the hope. The reality in this case is that I cannot recommend this book not because of the story it tells, but because of the ill-advised way in which it's told. It's so poorly-written and it constantly highlights what a privileged existence Chessy Prout led, which contrasts sharply with her convicted attacker who was far less privileged so I understand. Instead, it should have focused tightly on what happened, and investigated a real possibility, if this is to be judged by other such tragedies, that there might be a sorry litany of similar assaults when the truth comes out.

The book should have begun with the assault and then went on to discussing how often these thing happen on campuses like this one, and what could be done to prevent them. The New York Times has an article (or did at the time I posted this) about serious sexual misconduct at this same school. Maybe the second half of the book did investigate, but I lost all faith in it. After plowing gamely through the rich upholstery of the first half, I had zero interest in reading on and for that I apologize to the author. None of this was her fault.


Friday, May 4, 2018

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly


Rating: WARTY!

This was a waste of my time. There is no story here, just female nudity and random bloodletting. The inexplicably named Clover isn't in such. She's a vampire who demands blood. Her brother kept her confined for several years in order to protect her and humanity both, but Clover is hardly the sharpest canine in the dentition.

She breaks out and seeks fresh human blood. No excuse is given for why she simply doesn't drink her brother dry. She clearly has no morals, yet for reasons unknown, she leaves the man who has imprisoned her for years, untouched, and picks-off assorted, random innocent people she encounters. She's too stupid to know she must get out of the sunlight until she starts broiling herself. She's not remotely likable, and the ending makes no sense at all mostly because it's not really an ending in any meaningful sense. Story? What story? Art? What art? At least it was short.

Comic book writer Jaime Hernandez recommends this. I have no idea who he is so you'll have to remind me never to read anything by him if he thinks this is so great. He either hasn't read it and therefore is completely clueless, or he's just completely clueless. I don't get why idiot publishers think a recommendation by a writer most people have never heard of somehow carries any weight. I honestly do not give a damn what other writers think, even if they're writers I like. I want to make up my own mind, and I did. I certainly cannot recommend this waste of time.


The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare


Rating: WARTY!

This was probably written around 1611, and first published in 1623 in a folio which grouped it with the comedies! It's not a comedy, unless a comedy of error. Some have labeled it a romance, but it's not a romance. To me it's a tragedy in more ways than one because it's not well-written and it's an awful story in the sense of being completely unrealistic. In that regard, it's a typical Shakespeare play where he asks us to remove our brains before entering the theater, but then he does call it The Winter's tale - like it's the mother of all tall stories, told in this audiobook by a very average full cast.

It's also another one of Shakespeare's thefts. He was a monstrous plagiarist. This story is essentially the same as Pandosto by Robert Greene, published some two decades earlier, a story in which the King of Bohemia, Pandosto, accuses his wife of adultery with his childhood friend, the King of Sicilia. Greene in turn may have taken his version from The Canterbury Tales which may have in turn been lifted from earlier stories such as The Decameron And so it goes!

In Shakespeare's rip-off, we're supposed to believe that Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, has so little to do in his own country that he can waste nine months (a curious amount of time) swanning around in Sicilia with King Leontes, whom he hath known since childhood. When Polixenes refuseth, citing pressing business back home, Leontes unreasonably tries to require him to stay, and when he fails in that, he sends his wife to try to talk him into staying. Why he would send his wife who knows this guy less well than does her husband is a mystery, but she persuades him so quickly that Leontes immediately decides she's had sex with him in order to convince him not to go!

Note that Bohemia is part of the present-day Czech Republic, so there is no way in hell a name like Polixenes would be in play there, nor a name like Leontes in Sicilia for that matter, but that's Shakespeare for you. Nor is there any way these two were childhood friends when their countries of origin were so far apart given the vicissitudes of travel back then, but again, Shakespeare expects us to buy this old mystery meat pie. He also expects us to believe the king took his wife to court (not the same as courting his wife) in a complete farce of a trial rather than simply behead her as was the fashion at the time. The reason for the trial is that it's far more an exercise in linguistic strutting and puffery than ever it was a realistic trial.

The wife, of course, dieth after the trial, but isn't really dead, just like the unheroic Hero wasn't really dead in Much Ado About Noting. Shakespeare wasn't original by any means. He even plagiarized himself! In the end, the child he thought had been burned alive on his own orders was in fact raised away from his sight for sixteen years, and the wife he thought was dead was living with a neighbor and lo an behold, all is forgiven at the end.

Horseshit! This king is so clueless that he has no idea what's going on in his own court, let alone his own country! He's so selfish that he won't let his supposed friend go home, and he's so stupid and paranoid that he thinks his best friend and his wife had sex. The guy's an asshole and simply isn't worth reading about. I do not recommend this! If you must indulge in Shakespeare, he has better material to read or listen to than this.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, Hope Larson


Rating: WARTY!

This is my third attempt at getting into Madeleine L'Engle's work and I finally realized the problem: it's a Newbery award winner which more than adequately explains why I can't stand it. Why I even imagined continuing after I tried the actual novel in May of 2015 and did not like it, is a mystery, but I saw the movie recently and did not like that, and now even a graphic novel gets the thumbs down.

Hope Larson's adaptation I suppose is not bad, but her artwork leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. The real problem though, is the original story which tries so hard to be cute and ends up being a nonsensical pile of centaur crap. Or is it flying horseshit? I'm not sure there's any real difference. There's no point in going on about this because I already covered it in the original review, so I'll say this did not work for me but at least I made it all the way through! I cannot recommend it though. Just the opposite. It's a great pity that this didn't end with Tesseract One.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger


Rating: WARTY!

This is a short and essentially meaningless book aimed at young children. It purportedly champions women who were sold short, but persisted and became famous for something other than overcoming obstacles. Written by Chelsea Clinton (yes, that Chelsea Clinton!) and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger since Clinton can only draw a crowd and big bucks, it features a scant paragraph about each of the following: Virginia Apgar, Nellie Bly, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Claudette Colvin, Florence Griffith Joyner, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Sally Ride, Sonia Sotomayor, Maria Tallchief, Harriet Tubman, and Oprah Winfrey.

Chelsea Clinton and Penguin Random House were sued by Christopher Kimberley for copyright infringement. His assertion is that they 'cashed in on his hard work'. Last I heard Clinton's team of lawyers filed to dismiss the suit. I'm no lawyer and even if I were, my opinion would be irrelevant, but it seems to me that a suit like this particular one has little standing especially when launched against a millionaire celebrity.

As for the book, it became yet another celebrity best-seller, pushing out lesser-known writers once again. Big Publishing™ lavishes big bucks on big celebrities whilst turning down good books by unknowns. This is why I will never publish with Big Publishing. Every time one of us sells out to them, we walk all over others like us.

I hate for books to do well not because of their content, but because of their author, and in this case this is exactly what's happened because there really is very little content. The author is earning a six-figure sum on the backs of those who have gone before her, and if she had made an effort to put some content into the book, that would be one thing, but for someone who has grown up in a very privileged existence to then climb on the backs of those who were far less privileged and milk their hard work for tens of thousands of dollars is a bit much.

Actually, it's a lot much, and I cannot recommend this one or its sequel, wherein the author recognizes that while the USA isn't the only country in the world, it is the most important (by granting it the first publishing), and also on par with all other nations put together (they merit only one book of equivalent size). This book is far more about illustration than it is about illumination, so despite its superifcial good intentions, I really can't recommend it, and I have to wonder where all that money is going from the sales of the book. It's not like the author is exactly short of cash, but maybe it'll help pay-off that five million dollar mortgage, huh?


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter


Rating: WARTY!

If this novel had been written by an unknown and submitted as is, it would never have got published. The only reason it did get published is because it was written by a celebrity. The author is an actor who currently plays Jessica Jones in the Marvel TV series of the same name, and in that show I adore her, but a writer she's not. Not yet. She may become one if she can quit writing YA trope and cliché and find a topic that's not been done to death. And have an editor who's not afraid to say no to a celebrity.

This follows the done-to-death trope of the prodigal son (or in this case, daughter with the unimaginatively bland name of Abby Williams) returning home to confront "demons". Barf. Yawn. Barf some more. Yawn a bit. Ho-hum. So anyway, the main character returns to her even more unimaginatively named small town of Barrens, Indiana where she grew up (or maybe not) and where a conglomerate named Optimal Plastics appears to be responsible for polluting the water and causing people to get sick. We're told the town is now booming, but we're never told why a huge corporation would put its roots down in a lifeless hick town nowhere near major artery roads or airports in the first place. At least not in the part I listened to.

Abby is an environmental lawyer living in Chicago and apparently lives a life of drunkenness and debauchery there. You would think someone with that portfolio would be able to confront the girl who bullied her in high-school and now acts like they were old friends, but this character is such a limp rag that she doesn't say squat. Let me just make it clear that I would never want Abby Williams to represent me in court!

It was when Abby discovers that the house she's renting has a neigh-bore who is a single dad with a precocious young daughter that my nausea rose far too high to continue. It didn't help that Abby had lost all interest in pursuing the chemical company even by this point, and had become instead obsessed with tracking down this girl, Kaycee Mitchell, she knew in high-school who had since gone off the grid. Abby was not a likable character, and I honestly didn't give a damn about her or anything else in this story. I could not care less what happened to the missing girl, because I've been given no reason to care more.

From reading other reviews out there I understand that the author knows nothing about Indiana, thinking it a football state when it's a basketball state (even I, who has almost zero interest in fatuous and ultimately pointless sporting events, knew that!), and she misnames the state university and invents a toll road where none exists. It's so easy these days to research a place on the Internet, in Wikipedia, and even go look at it on Google maps, that there's no excuse for getting things like this wrong. It's sloppy and lazy.

The asinine blurb (for which I don't blame the author) promised "tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense," but the only word in that whole phrase which applies here is 'slow'. I pulled this off the library shelf solely because it was written by Krysten Ritter. I thought it would be well worth reading, or rather listening to but it wasn't, even though reader Karissa Vacker did a decent job.

The best thing that can be said about this novel is that it's short, but apparently, according to some reviews I read, it could have been shorter still if the endless repetition had been cut out, and I believe them far more than ever I'd believe a blurb writer! I cannot recommend this based on the part I could stand to listen to. A bonfire is a great place for a novel like this.


One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson


Rating: WARTY!

This was my third voyage into the world of Kate Atkinson. As I mentioned twice before(!), I came to her via the TV series Case Histories, and I hoped her novels would be as good as the TV show, but they were not. I could not get Case Histories on audiobook and didn't want to go with the library print book. I have too many print books on my shelf and actively try to avoid procuring any more until I've read-down some of this pile! I live in fear that they will fall off the shelf onto my head when I'm sleeping and I wish to bypass such a rude awakening.

This was the second-in-line in the series, but the problem with it was that it was too rambling. The interesting thing is that in the first novel, Jackson Brodie, the ex-soldier now turned PI inherits a lot of money, but in the TV series he did not have this money. I'm not sure how they will reconcile it if they continue the TV show. I liked how there were several plot threads seemingly unconnected, and which in the end all became woven together, but that was TV. The audiobook was far too sluggish.

I could not get started on the novel. One of the characters was such a limp rag of a man that he was repulsive, yet the author seemed determined to follow him into the most mundane of activities including a writing class he attends (which I think was a flashback but I'm not sure. It's easy to miss bits in an audiobook when driving. At least it is if your focus is on the road where it should be!). The writing class wasn't even interesting, and it seemed like the author was maybe using it to insult people perhaps she had known in a similar writing class which she attended. I don't know. It just felt a bit like that.

The story begins with this limp rag man breaking up a road rage incident, and then it just rambles on and on. Jackson Brodie is nowhere in it and did not show up right up to the point where I couldn't stand to listen any more. It was read pretty decently by Steven Crossley, but that couldn't make up for the material (or lack thereof). I felt bad for him having to read this. Just in case it isn't clear: I cannot recommend this one!


Hell Gate by Linda Fairstein


Rating: WARTY!

If I'd known that this author was once the prosecutor who railroaded the Central Park Five black kids into jail for a crime they never committed, I would have spit on the novel rather than picked it up. But I didn’t know that until after I’d read enough of it to know it was a lousy novel written by an author who is so far out of touch with things as to be very effectively retired even as she continues to write. It was only after I gave up on it and looked her up in Wikipedia that I discovered this and other interesting facts about her.

If I’d known this novel was merely wish-fullfilment - this author basically putting herself into her own fiction as a prosecutor of sex crimes - I would never have picked it up. I am not a fan of first person stories because they are irritating at best and completely unrealistic. Few authors - and even fewer stories - can carry that amount of weight, but far too many authors aren't smart enough to realize it. The woman who read for this audiobook story, Barbara Rosenblat, had entirely the wrong voice for the story and the character, so that didn’t help. That wasn't the worst part though.

The hypocrisy in this novel was astounding. For an ex prosecutor of sex crimes to write a novel about human trafficking and then lard it up with sexist material is mind boggling. If I’d know this novel - published in 2010 - would read like it was written in the fifties with all the unaddressed genderism it contains, I’d never have picked it up. But until I listened to it, I didn't know that there would be repeated remarks made to the main character of an inappropriate nature, and never once does she address them. Guys can say pretty much whatever they want to her and she doesn’t even react. In short, she's part of the problem and the author ought to be thoroughly ashamed of writing material like this.

I don't have a problem with reading a novel by an older writer (this author is now in her seventies). The problem isn’t that. The problem is when the older writer fails to move with the times and instead, writes a modern story with an antique mindset, which is evidently what happened here. That's not even the whole problem. The author seems so obsessed with describing old buildings that she forgets what story she's telling. This story could have been about architectural design. I quickly tired of hearing yet more building history, and yet more descriptions of arches, columns, and windows. This was as much a DNR as it was a DNF. You have my word that I will never read another novel by this author. I'm tempted to say that I'm glad I never paid for this one, but in a sense, I did pay for it by merely listening to it.


Ocean of Secrets Vol2 by Sophie-chan


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. Note that I have not read volume one of this series. This is volume two and starts at chapter five. And no, I really don't think my view would of this volume would have improved had I read volume one first. I'm quite sure I would never have read this had that happened!

This sounded like an interesting story from the blurb, but then don't they all? (Not really!). The problem was that the blurb didn't remotely match the story. I have to wonder if it matched volume one, because it bore no relationship whatsoever to volume two, so I felt like I was drawn into this under false pretenses.

The blurb claims that "Lia, a 17-year old orphan living by the Atlantic is swept away by the ocean currents during a ruthless storm. She is then saved by Moria and Albert, a duo of illegal runaways on their magical ship!" No! Instead, try a guy flying home from a trip who espies a landmass floating in the sky very reminiscent of Asgard from the original Marvel Thor movie. That's what happened in this novel.
No orphan. No storm. No sweeping away. No magical ship.

When he lands, the guy who is evidently a geology student, reports this experience to his professor who, instead of calling in a psychiatrist, inexplicably allows the guy to take a solo flight in a light aircraft to go find this floating island. He does, and non-adventure ensues.

I'm sorry but this story was awful and the black and white line-drawing artwork indifferent. I was sorely disappointed. It was so juvenile and the plot so thin and childish that it honestly felt like I was reading something a child had written. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot recommend it at all.

I am not a fan of the manga format. I get why it is the way it is, I do, but when this is translated to the west, just as the language is translated, so too could the pages be reversed, especially in an ebook. It's just laziness and hide-bound, blinkered obstinacy that prevents it. For some stories which are worth my time to read, I can put up with this even as I do not like it, but it was just another irritant in this case. It's 2018. No, publishers, it really is! Less than two years from now we shall all require 2020 vision. You read it here first. We do not have to follow method X because that's the way it's always been done, y' know?


The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This author has more pen names than I have fingers on two hands: David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, KR Dwyer, John Hill, Dean Koontz, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West, and Aaron Wolfe. I honestly couldn't remember reading anything by him prior to this, but checking in my blog revealed two previous stories, neither of which I liked! One was an audiobook ( The Face of Fear) about a slasher serial killer going after women. This was recommended by a friend, but is quite simply not my cup of tea. My eyes glaze over when I see a serial killer novel in my daily book bargain flyer, because this genre has been so done to death. That particular novel was especially objectionable because it was in audiobook form and read by Patrick Lawler, who I honestly cannot stand as a book reader. The novel of this author's that I read was a graphic novel version of some Frankenstein-based story, and I did not like that one either.

Had I remembered either of those, then I would not have requested this one, which is not to be confused with The Crooked Staircase by Victor Gunn, so the lack of any lasting impression made by these other books had led me to think this was the first of his I'd read. I'm not sure why this one was more appealing to me initially. It's not like it was perfect, but there was intrigue and action, and nothing completely dumb to begin with, so that made a difference, but there were parts which were stretched a little too far in my opinion. I stayed with this as far as I could, but in the end it simply could not hold my interest, so I gave up on it about one third the way through. I couldn't face reading any more of it, the way it was going - or failing to go!

There's this Indian (not native American) brother and sister who live in a really nice house out in the boonies. One night when the sister is standing outside watching the rain, she sees an SUV drive up and three guys climb out, scale the gate to the property and head into the house. Knowing this can't be a good thing, she sneaks back into the house where her brother is, and she gets some hornet killer spray and disables the guys with it by spraying it into their faces. So far so good, but instead of calling the cops at that point, the two of them go on the run! There is no sensible explanation given for this behavior, so this was my first problem.

One of the guys in the trio invading the home was from the sheriff's department - the girl recognized him. If he was a police officer, then why sneak up? Why not simply go knock on the door (or ask for admittance through the gate in this case) like he was on official business, and then when the door was opened, force their way in? Anyway, the girl disables all three of them with the hornet spray, which was pretty cool, but instead of taking their guns and tying them up (or even handcuffing them, if the sheriff had cuffs on him), and calling the police, the brother and sister go on the lam! These characters are both authors and they have zero imagination, so this felt really inauthentic to me, not to say lame. This is a serious problem with Big Publishing™ and an author who garners a certain level fo success: the editors don't know when (or maybe how) to say no!

If these two feared the police might be compromised because of the sheriff's presence, they could have called the FBI or something. These two were not criminals and not dumb people. They had no idea why the sheriff had shown-up with some heavies and some chemical, and needles like maybe it was for an interrogation. All the siblings had had to do was call the cops. OTOH, if the author actually wanted them to run (and int his case it seems he didn't), then he needed to supply a more convincing reason than was on offer here. I was willing to let that slide, but the whole thing slid too far downhill for me in the end.

There's a second story running in parallel with this one, in which this woman, who is evidently scared of something given her exhaustive security precautions, arrives home to find a woman already in the house waiting for her. This visiting woman, who goes by Jane, isn't a threat and is apparently going after the first woman's ex-husband (a man who had treated her brutally to get what he wanted). The visiting woman is an ex-FBI agent who is living off the grid and has her own personal vendetta against this man.

It sounded like a great start to the story, but the problem was that the author rambles way too much for my taste and for an action story. There were too many asides, too many details, and too many wasted pages. At one point there are two guys trying to track the Indian pair down, and this goes on and on and endlessly on, and it became tedious to read, especially since it was obvious where it was going. I couldn't help but wonder why there was all this padding when the end result was the same. The same thing happened in the parallel story with the main character getting into a boring conversation with this young woman who she encountered in a house where she was trying to get to the house-owner.

In the end I was beaten by sheer boredom waiting for the real story to begin, This felt like one long prologue, and I don't do prologues. I wasn't about to spend any more time on a 340 page novel when it was this uninspiring in the first hundred pages, and especially with such an improbable plot. Based on what I read, I cannot recommend this.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Lost Path by Amélie Fléchais


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I have to say, up front, that I was disappointed in this story, which is depressing because back in August of 2017, I reviewed this author's The Little Red Wolf and loved it. This was a different kettle of comic though, because I'm not even sure what happened in it, despite reading it all the way through.

It felt unfinished for one thing, and on top of that it was disjointed and confusing. I had a hard time following it, which was fine, because it seemed to be going nowhere anyway. The story is supposed to be of these three kids who remain nameless, and who get lost in the forest and encounter strange and magical creatures, but while I found nothing magical in the story, I'm sorry to say I found a lot of strange, and not in a good way. I ended-up being glad these kids were lost and hoping they were never found, thereby decreasing the surplus boredom - as Ebenezer Scrooge might have wished!

The weirdest thing about the graphic novel was that it started out in full color - and quite well done as it happened, but then inexplicably switched to black and white line drawings. I thought at first that maybe this was to indicate that it was nighttime, but it wasn't! Later the color came back - again for no apparent reason, and then went away once more.

Was there a reason for this? Who can say? It was a gray area, but I could see no purpose in it! There was at least one image which had a splash of color, like the artist had begun to color it, but hadn't finished. The only conclusion I could draw by then was that this was unfinished because it was an advance review copy. Alternately if the author/artist was trying to say something with the absence/return of color, it was lost on me, as was the bulk of this non-story.

I was truly disappointed in it, and I cannot recommend this at all.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Life After Life By Kate Atkinson


Rating: WARTY!

This was another attempt at Kate Atkinson via audiobook. It failed.

I came to her as an author via Case Histories on TV, which I really enjoyed, but my foray into her novel about the same characters was boring. I had the same experience here, but I confess it did take me longer to get bored! Normally when an author has failed me I don't go back to that same author. I had the same policy on dating when I was single! LOL! I don't see the point in revisiting a disappointment so I've never done it with dating and very rarely with authors. I only went back to this author because I got three of her novels from the library at the same time and wanted to at least give them all a try as long as I had them.

This one had sounded really interesting. In some ways it was reminiscent of my own Tears in Time, although that was sci-fi and didn't involve the character dying. This novel was a bit more like the movie Groundhog Day except that instead of the main character falling asleep and reliving the same day over, the main character here dies and then somehow continues on as though nothing has happened. There's no information as to how this works: whether it actually is a redux or whether this is a trip through parallel universes. Perhaps by the end of the novel this is made clear, but I only made it to just under halfway through.

I gave up on it because it was becoming tedious and repetitive. It wasn't so much that it went over the same story again and again, although it did to begin with. In this story we did slowly move forward and the character did progressively grow older as the story went on, from infant-hood to childhood to teen years and older, and even into a marriage which didn't work out. I lost interest because the tedium of her life remained the same, the relationships remained the same, and the kind of events that befell her remained the same. Nothing really different happened, so while she was growing, the story was not!

On top of that, Ursula, the main character, simply wasn't that interesting. She was so passive and she didn't do anything! Instead, things happened to her, and this never changed. She was far too passive: even a rape and a subsequent botched abortion did not impinge upon her significantly. You'd think that repeatedly dying and then finding out they had survived the death and had a second (and a third, fourth, etc) opportunity, would actually change a person and have a profound effect on them, and that this effect would become increasingly powerful as it was repeated, but this wasn't the case here at all. Ursula was Teflon™ coated! Nothing affected her. Nothing left a mark! It was entirely unrealistic, and this story simply wasn't for me. I do not recommend it. I'd much rather have read about Ursula's aunt Isabella, who sounded far more interesting than ever Ursula could be.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Feros by Wesley King


Rating: WARTY!

Here's yet another from my overblown collection of print books that I've picked up from all over the place. This one was bad, folks. Really bad! It's yet another middle-grade (or maybe young adult but it read like middle-grade) story of kids with super powers. I believe it's book two of a series but this wasn't apparent from the book cover. I guess they're trying to hide that secret!

I could not make it past the start of chapter two which began: "Lana sprinted down the long hallway, her legs pumping beneath her." Her legs were beneath her? Whoah! What a mid-blowing concept. I guess that's her super power - having her legs are beneath her. Hey author, why not simply, "Lana sprinted down the long hallway"?

That was bad enough, but there was another gem to come just one more sentence later: "When she approached the opening, she burst through." Not when she reached the opening, not when she arrived at the opening, not even simply, "She burst through the opening," but when she approached the opening she burst through! That's her superpower! She can burst through something before she actually gets there! She only has to approach it!

I've written like that - when I'm parodying stories like this (Baker Street comes to mind), but I don't expect to actually read that in a purportedly seriously-written book. I stopped right there because I know when I have this much of an issue with a novel and I'm barely started on chapter two, that me and the novel are not going to work out.

It's better to make a clean break so both sides know it's over, so I said "Let's part as strangers," and I walked away. I'm going to apologize up front for inflicting this book as a donation to this little village library near where I live, but maybe someone who hopes for less in the writing than I do, will like it. Maybe someone, somewhere, somehow, will approach it and burst through it. I know I can't.


John Grimes: Rim Runner by A Bertram Chandler


Rating: WARTY!

This is not by The Bertram Chandler but by A Bertram Chandler, so beware of false authorship of sci-fi! Initially when I first saw this I thought the author's name was John Grimes. You know how those publishers and maybe authors like to promote the author as though she or he is the story? Well they're not. The story is the story, so I tend to be skeptical of novels which have a hugely-emblazoned author's name at the top and a tiny title at the bottom. This was not the case here, but in the end it made no difference.

Unfortunately, the novel was so trashy as to be awful. It felt like it was written in the fifties, whereas it was actually written a whole decade later! This is actually a collection of four stories written from '64 through '71. I didn't get past page 28 of the first of these, when John Grimes, rim runner (and that tediously overused sci-fi phrase is not meant in a sexual sense), having set his spacecraft on course, sat down with his senior officers and started smoking a pipe. I should never have read that far.

The warning signs were already in place. All the senior jobs were held by men, all the junior jobs by women. The only woman who wasn't in an inferior position was the female main character who was defined solely by her looks and so sexualized as to be unreal. In fact, I should have never got past the cover, but I don't hold authors accountable for their covers unless they self-publish. The cover in this case featured a tough-looking, rugged male in your usual overblown and impractical space cowboy outfit. He was, of course, holding the bigger gun; in fact, he had two guns! And hilariously, he's posed rigidly like a GI Joe doll. The frosty-faced woman was wearing the tight scarlet outfit with the scoop neck, the better to expose her cleavage. In yet another case of the cover artist having no clue whatsoever what's in the novel she was depicted as a brunette whereas the actual character is blond (of course).

This book is not to be missed; it's to be avoided like the plague. There are those who would say that you cannot hold a book written half a century ago to modern standards, but actually, yes, you can! And even if you can't, I will. I give it a hulk-sized thumbs-down.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Running is my Therapy by Scott Douglas


Rating: WARTY!

This from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This author runs to help relieve symptoms of depression, and this book is intended to support and disseminate that idea. I think that's a good idea in principle, and I wanted to like and recommend this book, but the more I read of it, the less I liked it. It came across as being way too pushy and preachy, and even strident in its premise that running and only running (as opposed to other forms of aerobic exercise) can bring salvation. I know the author is very enthusiastic in his convictions, but this felt too much like evangelism, propaganda, and elitism for my taste.

The author does quote some studies to support his thesis, but when I looked up some studies myself, they didn't specify running! They specified aerobic exercise. For example, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110 says quite clearly, "We don't know exactly which exercise is best. Almost all of the research has looked at walking, including the latest study." It adds a quote from a Dr McGinnis who says, "It's likely that other forms of aerobic exercise that get your heart pumping might yield similar benefits." In addition to quoting a study which talks only of aerobic exercise and then immediately translating 'aerobic' into 'running', the author tends most often to quote people he knows, but anecdotes are not studies, and most of the people he knows seem to be professionals - lawyers, accountants. and so on. I saw no quotes from people in less ethereal professional jobs, such as teachers, and none from your everyday people who work in anonymous office cubes and on factory floors, who may not enjoy the freedom other people have to be running. This smacked strongly of elitism to me.

The author does say that aerobic exercise works differently for different people so your results may not be as advertised. In my amateur opinion, no one should consider it to be an alternative to medical treatment without discussing it with qualified medical personnel. Maybe it can replace your meds, maybe it can reduce your dependence on them, or maybe it will not help at all; only a qualified medical practitioner can advise you on that score and on the advisability of running for any individual in view of whatever their health status may be, but as long as you're physically capable, no harm will come from talking a little exercise of one sort or another, and it can bring much good.

While I think this book has some great ideas and suggestions, the feeling I got was that this author was so enamored of running that he rather forgot that there are other ways to get exercise and 'generate those endorphins'. It seemed to me that he was taking a rather narrow view of exercise. Running does get your blood flowing, but it is also quite high impact exercise and can carry with it potential for injury and for damage to joints and bones, so any program of exercise should be undertaken with care, and unless you're reasonably physically fit to begin with, it's always wise to consult your doctor before embarking on anything that's unusually strenuous as compared with your normal habits.

At one point the author discusses evolution and how humans evolved to chase down prey, but this is a truly dim view of our history. Humans did not run five or ten miles every day. They doubtlessly walked a heck of a lot more than most of us ever do nowadays, and they ran if they had to, but they never went jogging except as a means to get from A to B. They spent their time trapping and foraging. There's was no way they could run down a four-legged animal. They could stampede an animal into a trap, or kill it by employing subterfuge, but to equate them to modern runners and claim this is what we evolved to do is patently nonsensical. We gave up our claim to being any kind of running paragons when we stood up on two feet.

On top of this, there may be issues with running - your neighborhood may not be a safe one for running in, and it's also known that running can be hard on legs, feet, and joints, yet by the time I pretty much quit this book - over half way through - I had read not one single negative assessment of running or even caution from this author. Everything was positive and hunky-dory. Anything from ankle sprain, to Achilles tendinitis, illiotibial band problems, ligament tears, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis are all on the menu for runners, but not a single one of those terms appears anywhere in this book. We hear a lot about runner's high, but not a word about runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome). I have to wonder just how rose-tinted those eyeglasses are that this author evidently wears. Note that if you run with correct form and good (read expensive!) shoes, you can stave-off the worst injuries, but any runner might be subject to any one of these problems at any time.

On the topic of endorphins, there needs to be clarification. Endorphins are generated by the body as a result of physical stress and injury (in other words, as we were just discussing, running damages your body!), and while exercise does increase endorphin levels in the blood, they don't tend to pass through the blood-brain barrier, which means they don't affect your brain much. They do affect your body and this in turn can lead to a good feeling about yourself because you're essentially running your own internal morphone factory - duhh! Also, note that endorphins affect different physiologies in different ways and you may well have to run for an hour before you generate significant endorphins, so a short run isn't necessarily going to work for you. Note though that there are other chemicals that are active in the brain, and this is what might help mental faculties and relieve symptoms of depression.

These chemicals are actually a result of the body experiencing stress or pain, which might explain why walking doesn't work as well in generating the chemicals, but any aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up ought to do the same trick - such as riding a bike - either stationary or outdoors - or dancing, or weight-lifting (kettle bells, for example), or playing a sport, or having sex - or even eating chocolate, although that's hardly an exercise! The advantage of running is that it doesn't need special equipment as long as you have suitable clothes and a decent pair of running shoes, but you can lift weights using anything around the house that's easy to pick up, (but also heavy enough!), or swing kettle bells or a safe, home-made equivalent, such as those larger paint cans with handles (pad the handles first!). You can cycle without a bike by holding your legs up and moving them in a cycling motion, and mixing that with flutter kicks, so running isn't the only option, and other options do less damage!

In terms of negative effects of running, which you really won't read about here, https://www.active.com/health/articles/why-too-much-running-is-bad-for-your-health">Active.com reports:

In another observational study, researchers tracked over 52,000 people for 30 years. Overall, runners had a 19 percent lower death risk than non-runners. However, the health benefits of exercise seemed to diminish among people who ran more than 20 miles a week, more than six days a week, or faster than eight miles an hour. The sweet spot appears to be five to 19 miles per week at a pace of six to seven miles per hour, spread throughout three or four sessions per week. Runners who followed these guidelines reaped the greatest health benefits: their risk of death dropped by 25 percent, according to results published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
so, as in all things, moderation! Forget about enduring the pain and being tougher - run smartly if you run, but not too smartly! Think about that! The tortoise beats the hare even though it doesn't look as pretty.

Mental acuity can improve even from simple exercise. An article in Britain's The Guardian from June 18th, 2016 reported that "German researchers showed that walking or cycling during, but not before, learning helped new foreign language vocabulary to stick" and "Just 10 minutes of playful coordination skills, like bouncing two balls at the same time, improved the attention of a large group of German teenagers." It also reported:

The runner's high - that feeling of elation that follows intense exercise - is real. Even mice get it. It may not be due to an "endorphin rush", though. Levels of the body's homemade opiate do rise in the bloodstream, but it's not clear how much endorphin actually gets into the brain. Instead, recent evidence points to a pleasurable and pain-killing firing of the endocannabinoid system: the psychoactive receptor of cannabis."
The author does mention this endocannabinoid system, and it's really quite interesting, but as always it was from the biased angle of running that he addresses things, not from 'walking or cycling'.

That same article also reported that:

Yoga teaches the deliberate command of movement and breathing, with the aim of turning on the body’s “relaxation response”. Science increasingly backs this claim. For example, a 2010 study put participants through eight weeks of daily yoga and meditation practice. In parallel with self-reported stress-reduction, brain scans showed shrinkage of part of their amygdala, a deep-brain structure strongly implicated in processing stress, fear and anxiety.
so quite clearly it's not just running which can have beneficial effects, and yoga is about as far from aerobic as you can get!

While running works - and if its your thing, then go for it, it's not the only thing that works well and I felt it misleading of this author to push running almost as though there's no real alternative. This was one of my biggest problems with this book. According to https://www.livestrong.com/article/490163-negative-effects-of-running-on-the-body/:

As many as 40 to 50 percent of runners experience an injury on an annual basis, reports a 2010 paper from researchers at the Moses Cone Family Medicine Center in North Carolina in "Current Sports Medicine Reports."
That's worth thinking about if you choose to run as opposed to undertaking some other aerobic exercise.

When I quit this book (apart from skimming a few of the later pages), it was at a point where the author has a section titled Runners Really Are Tougher. His thesis here is that runners are better at managing and holding up to pain and I have to ask, why is that important? Depression carries its own kind of pain, but it's not of the physical variety this author is discussing, such as would be experienced from an injury say, so I have to ask how is proving how tough you are relevant either to the author's aim in writing this book or to anyone in general?

Yeah, if you're planning on signing up for the Navy Seals, then by all means revel in your toughness, but there's no need to "man-up" and withstand pain when we have abundant medical remedies for combatting it. Nor is there any call to subject yourself to self-induced pain from running (or any other source) if another alternative works, or if running less gets you your healthy high without running your body into the ground - which is going to leave you low. For me, this section was the last straw and it struck me as one more absurdist foray in a book that bothered me by the very fact that it was so determinedly blinkered in its approach.

I have to say a word about wasted space in this book. Once again we have a book where whitespace rules, and if only the publisher had been wise enough to use smaller margins and fewer blank pages, the book would have been significantly shorter and thereby saved the lives of a few trees if it went to a long print run. Even if you avoid the dead tree version and go for the ebook - a longer book uses more energy to travel the Internet, so you don't get to win that way. I think it's time that traditional publishing ideologies gave way to reality. Trees right now are the only things doing anything to combat greenhouse gasses, and to slaughter them so wantonly is irresponsible.

There was an odd story at the end of this book which nevertheless shows how debilitating depression can be. The author talks about reusing plastic bags for groceries, and for whatever reason, he washes them, and one time he simply stopped because he saw no point in it. I have to wonder why he uses plastic at all when sturdy reusable canvas shopping bags will work just the same and not employ oil byproducts in their manufacture. That's what I use.

But the point is that the anecdote is exemplary in showing how irrational and unpredictable depression can be, so if a regime of regular aerobic exercise works for you, then go for it! If that involves running, then this book may or may not be of help, but from my perspective, and while I wish the author all the best, I cannot in good faith recommend this.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Invisibility by David Levithan, Andrea Cremer


Rating: WARTY!

I liked Levithan's Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist which he co-wrote with Rachel Cohn, but I did not like his Everyday, and now I find myself parting ways from him again with this crap.

Like in Nick & Nora, each author is writing a first person perspective, the one for the guy in the story, the other for the girl. It wasn't likable. I tend to really dislike first person voice with few exceptions, and I feel that when you multiply it, it just makes it worse, but that's not the worst problem for me with this story. The worst problem is how unrealistic it is, even if I grant that a boy can be literally invisible. The problem is that this boy shows absolutely no interest whatsoever in his world and doesn't even think of getting up to the adventures and mischief any red-blooded boy would think of if he were literally invisible as this boy is. He's so profoundly and irremediably boring.

The kick to the story is of course that this girl moves into an apartment just along the hall from his, and she can see him, but when they meet, it's set up like he tiptoes past her to go to his apartment. He claims he can't get in because he has to retrieve his key and he doesn't want her to see a key floating in the air apparently, but it's already been established that when he puts his clothes on, they also become invisible, and immediately after he puts food in his mouth, it also becomes invisible, so why wouldn't the key? For that matter, why wouldn't he simply carry the key with him? The boy's an idiot.

If Levithan had said the guy couldn't enter because he didn't want her to see a door open and close by itself, that would be one thing, but he didn't! Even that could have been written-off as someone looking out of their apartment and then closing the door, and I would have bought that. I can't buy the stupid and thoughtless scenario I was presented with here.

The girl is written just as dumbly, because she drops her keys and the boy doesn't offer to help because he doesn't think she can see him, but she can, and she chews him out for not helping her instead of doing what any self-possessed person would, which is put her bags down, get the keys, open the door, pick her bags up, and go inside! In short, she's also an idiot who would rather play the helpless maiden in distress than get on with things under her own steam. What she does is the precise equivalent of the old saw of a woman dropping a handkerchief to get a guy's attention! It was pathetic. She's precisely the opposite of a strong female character and I have no time for female characters like this one.

Do I want to read a story about two idiots and instadore? Hell no. The whole story struck me as short-sighted, artificial, and poorly thought-through. It was obviously a catastrophe waiting to happen, and not in a fun way. I couldn't stand to read any more of it!


The Boy on the Bridge by MR Carey


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I'd read two novels by this author prior to starting this one, and he was batting a .500. I really liked The Girl With All The Gifts which I reviewed back in May of 2014, but I really didn't like Fellside which I reviewed in November of 2016. This one, I'm afraid, fell on the same side and delivered no gifts despite evidently being the second volume in The Girl With All The Gifts series. This is why I don't like series, generally speaking. Instead of plowing a new furrow, a series typically sticks in the same rut that's already been plowed.

I think writers choose this fallow ground because it's easy to navigate - just write between the lines! It's a lot simpler and less work to warm-over existing characters than to set forth against a sea of plots and by embracing, write them. I certainly wasn't expecting a zombie apocalypse novel and if I had been, I wouldn't have requested to review this. Zombie apocalypse stories are low-hanging fruit appealing to the lowest common denominator and they make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The blurb, which writers admittedly tend to have little to do with unless they self-publish, delivered nothing on the topic: "Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived." That doesn't say zombie apocalypse to me! It really doesn't say much at all.

The author never actually uses the word 'zombie'; instead, he calls them 'hungries', which is a cheat, because the name wasn't natural. Even people who can't stand zombie stories, such as me, for example, are familiar with the basis of them, and if this really did happen as it's told here, no one would ever call these things 'hungries'. They would call them zombies. Or flesh-eaters, or cannibals, or something more commonly known. 'Hungries' simply isn't a natural word that would have come into common use, so suspension of disbelief was challenged early and lost quickly.

Even so I might have got into it had the story not been so slow and pedantic, and made so little sense. Despite it being an apocalyptic story of disease run rampant through the population, largely turning it into mindless flesh-eating 'monsters', it was far too plodding and it failed to convey any sense of adventure or danger, or even offer any thrills. The main character was flat and uninteresting and the story plodded painfully and simply did not draw me in at all. The 'science' they were supposedly doing made no sense.

It began with a handful of scientists and a handful of soldiers on an expedition in the zombie wilds, picking up test materials that had been left out there by a previous expedition. The method of making this journey - in a vehicle rather than a helicopter - made no sense either and was apparently designed merely to put these people into conflict with the zombies. What the hell this trip was even supposed to do wasn't really ever made clear, and whatever it was quickly became lost anyway in the endless detailing of people's activities and mindsets including the tediously irritating politics between members of the expedition. The painful, story-halting sorties into each character's psyche was totally uninteresting and did nothing to move the story along. It was like the author was much more interested in holding the reader's hand and spelling everything out instead of relating the kind of story where we would see what was going on without having to be told, and want to read more.

This was yet another apocalyptic story which took place in complete isolation from the rest of the world. When Americans write these stories, only America matters. The rest of the world not only doesn't matter, it also doesn't exist. It's the same thing in this story except that this writer is British, so only Britain exists - this septic isle, the only nation on planet Earth - which again destroyed suspension of disbelief.

I had thought this was a new or relatively new novel, so imagine my surprise when I saw this in audiobook form on the shelf of the library! I picked that version so I could listen to it instead of reading it, and the voice of the reader, Finty Williams (aka Tara Cressida Frances Williams!), made the story almost bearable, but in the end, even her determined and earnest reading couldn't hold my interest, so I DNF'd this novel. Life is too short to have to read books like this one, and I cannot recommend it. It's nowhere near the standard of The Girl With All The Gifts.