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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Jem and The Holograms Dark Jem by Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, M Victoria Robado

Rating: WARTY!

Back in mid-September of 2015, I favorably reviewed the debut graphic novel in this series by the same author, Kelly Thompson who also wrote a Marvel Jessica Jones graphic novel that I favorably reviewed this very month, but I can't do the same for this one which was confusingly written and told a really scrappy story. The artwork, drawn by Campbell and brilliantly colored by Robado was fine, but the story let it all down.

The story was what attracted me - how can you not want to read one titled 'Dark Jem'? really? The basis of this goes back to when Jerrica's father programmed Synergy - a device which could project animated holograms onto people to disguise their features, and this gave the confidence-lacking Jerrica the courage to appear on stage and brought her this great success. The problem is - we learn here - that there was a flaw in that programming which their dad could not get out, and now that issue has come back to bug them as it were, as the program itself projects a new version of the holograms - a goth metal band which can infect listeners with some sort of ear-worm turning them into mindless zombies.

Jerrica and the crew figure this out of course, but they also have to figure out how to beat it. Unfortunately, the story fell apart at around this same point and never got it back together, not even having a real ending. There was an interesting transgender character who came to audition for the band early in the story when lead (and only!) singer "Pizz" (that sounded too much like 'piss' for my taste!) partially lost her voice after an accident, but she disappeared without any fanfare about two-thirds the way through the story and Mz Pizz magically reappeared with the same lack of fanfare, and story just fizzled out at that point. It was nowhere near a patch on the original I read and was very unsatisfactory. I can't commend this as a worthy read.

Scarlet Hood by Mark Evans, Isobel Lundie

Rating: WARTY!

No success with this graphic novel either. I don't have anything to say about Isobel Lundie's artwork except that it was gray-scale and scrappy. And the writing was simple, pedantic, and uninventive.

When I picked this up and glanced through it briefly, I thought maybe it was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but it was not. It looked superficially interesting, but it was not. Greta the Cruel sounded like a fun villain, but she was not. It was just a story of school bullying and a magical remedy and it was very, very short.

Scarlet treks through the forest to grandma's house, doesn't get eaten by a wolf; grandma isn't impersonated by a wolf, and all grandma does is give to Scarlett a red hoodie which she claims will help her granddaughter. She says nothing about it delivering the poor girl to a dragon! Thanks grandma.

But Scarlet ends up befriending the dragon as she ends up befriending the school bully, who never pays for her previous acts, and no-one in the entire school seems to have any issue with the bullying. The best thing I can say about this, is that it's short. I can't commend it in any way.

Shuri Volume 1 The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire

Rating: WARTY!

It's no wonder I'm reading that TV and movies have taken over the SDCC, because comics just aren't cutting it any more, es evidenced by this one, and many others I've read of late.

The only thing I'd previously read by Okorafor, the writer of this graphic novel, was Street Magicks which was a collection of short stories by assorted authors, and hers was one I did not like. So perhaps it's not surprising that in the end, I did not like this comic, with art by Romero, and colors by Bellaire. The story is ostensibly about Shuri, the younger sister of King T'Challa of Wakanda, aka the Black Panther. It started very strongly, but then sort of faded into mediocrity. I hate it when that happens.

When T'Challa, as the Black Panther, was out of commission in the past, his sister Shuri had stepped up and took over the role, but when he disappears this time (flying a warp spacecraft of Shuri's design!), she feels very reluctant to replace him again, and instead of exploring that, or showing her determined efforts to find out what happened to him, the novel goes off in two or three different tangents which have nothing to do with her ambivalence or her brother's disappearance. It's never even explained why T-Challa has to fly this craft. Evidently T'Challa is from the Star Trek world, where he can't delegate and has to go on every single mission himself, which is utterly nonsensical, but it seems to be the way things are done in fiction!

The story just felt way too dissipated and disingenuous to be an engaging one, and the artwork was not appealing to me. There was a huge gulf between the cover art and the occasional full page image of similarly striking quality, and the very angular and rather simplistic artwork in the actual story where Shuri looked nothing like she did in those individual images. I had a hard time reconciling the one with the other because those full-page pictures really showed-up the mediocrity of the regular and very utilitarian work in the panels.

But while the art is a large part of the graphic novel and can help to make or break it, for me the story is always the most important part and if the story sucks, no amount of brilliant art can save it. But unfortunately, here the art wasn't brilliant and the story sadly betrayed the agency of Shuri because it put her constantly in need of others helping her and thius robbed her of any power. It felt like a sellout - like she couldn't handle things on her own with her macho bro out of the picture, so she needed others to come rescue her including the white savor at the end, in the form of Tony Stark. I was disgusted by that.

To me there's a difference between an ensemble story like the Avengers, and an individual story about one of Marvel's characters, and I don't mind if there's some interaction between one super hero and another in an individual story, but it seems like every Marvel comic I've taken a look at recently insists upon dragging into the story the entire Marvel stable. Enough already! If you want to do that, then make it an Avengers (or whatever team) story. Don't proclaim on the front cover that this is a Shuri story and then proceed to portray her as a maiden in distress requiring periodic rescue by other characters. When these other Marvel heroes flock into the story for no apparent reason and worse, serve no useful purpose, then you have to really wonder if the writer knows what she's doing.

The first of these was another female 'goddess' (so we're told). I'd never heard of her, but then I'm not steeped in Wakandan lore. The problem is that this goddess disappears and contributes zero to the story. She could, were she actually a goddess, have helped Shuri on her mission, but no! Why do go that route? So Shuri is sent into space in spiritual form and completely flies by the place where she's supposed to go - her brother's spacecraft.

No reason is offered for that failure and it makes no sense since it's her brother she's focused on, not the two guys she ends up with! She then finds herself battling a ludicrous 'space insect' which is sucking power from Rocket and Groot's spacecraft. What? Why would she go there? No logical reason - except that the writer evidently decided to include those two in the story to serve no purpose whatsoever! Shuri inhabits Groot's body - again for no reason - and starts chanting "I am Shuri" in complete disregard of the fact that such a phrase would be meaningless in Groot's language since the phrase, 'I am Groot' is actually not Groot's way of introducing himself!

The insect follows them back to Wakanda (of course, because why not?!) despite there being no reason at all why it would. It evidently feeds on electricity, and let's not even get started on how such a creature would even evolve in space before the advent of machines using electricity. This insect is evidently a direct rip-off of the Mynocks from Star Wars. Yawn. And since there's no air in space, why does it have wings? Again, no reason at all. It's possible to have fantasy and magic in a story and have it make sense within its own framework, but this author simply doesn't care, so then why should I? This was a poor story, indifferently illustrated and an outright insult to the Shuri character. I dis-commend it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis

Rating: WARTY!

Written by songwriter Meloy this ebook is very long and very slow-moving unfortunately. The 540-some page print version is illustrated by his wife, Ellis, but I saw none of that in the audio version, which was read by Amanda Plummer in such a sweet voice that I think I kept it going longer because of that. Had the voice been less pleasing, I would have ditched it a lot earlier than I did.

This book exemplifies one reason I don't like longer books: too many of them seem to take forever to get anywhere. When I was about a quarter the way through it, nothing had really happened other than that this girl saw her toddler brother carried away by crows into this wild wooded area, and she went into it to get the kid back and discovered that it was home to a bunch of weird characters including a regiment of military coyotes.

So it was a charming idea, but it was moving like a slug. It had moved along quite quickly to begin with, but once Prue, the main female character had got into the Wildwood area, everything seemed to have the brakes slammed on and it really started to drag. I kept going until about a third the way in and lost patience with it.

There was a battle described between the coyotes and the bandits in the forest, and it was so gory that I couldn't believe I was reading a book written for young children. While I get that children see this kind of thing more often in video games, movies, and on TV these days than their counterparts used to, this still struck me as a lot of unnecessary detail. It's possible in a children's book to describe death without going into into loving detail. Again this is a problem with an overly long book - too much time on the author's hands.

The only amusing thing, to me, about this is that it was at this point that I chose to skip to the last few tracks and despite the skip, I came back into it to discover equally gory detail! I couldn't believe it. We have enough violence in schools these days without needing to extoll it in literature. It was like I was still listening to the same part of the book. On top of this was a baby sacrifice, and I decided this book wasn't worth spending any more time on, and quit listening.

I can't commend something like this as a worthy read or a listen, not even with Amanda Plummer's voice.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saving the Team by Alex Morgan, Full Fathom Five

Rating: WARTY!

If I'd known beforehand that this was a Full Fathom Five product, I would never have picked it off the library shelf, but I didn't learn this until later. I expected better from someone of Alex Morgan's Stature.

Anyway, after enjoying this year's women's world cup I discovered that one of the US team's leading scorers, Alex Morgan, had written a middle-grade series about girls' soccer. At least I can only assume she wrote it. It is Full Fathom Five after all, so who knows? Since I'd written my own YA novel about a girl who gets to play soccer in the English men's professional league, I was curious as to how a professional player would write a soccer story, so I checked this out of the library.

I have to say I was disappointed in it in several ways, not just in the story telling. I can't speak for middle-grade girls, but this wasn't quite what I was expecting and the story was a bit too black and white, traditional, and safe for my taste: the inattentive adults, the evil bully girl, the oh-so-wonderful instant friends, the 'problems' that are not really problems. To me it felt a bit young and simplistic for today's middle graders.

The basic plot is that Devin moves from the west coast to the east coast meaning it's the trope 'new girl in school' garbage that's already been done to death. Could Morgan not have added a bit of an original twist here? Aren't strikers supposed to be inventive? I guess she really wasn't very inventive in the world cup. Yes, she admirably took the goals as the chances presented themselves, scoring five of hers in that first easy game, but she really didn't have to work for any of them, did she? She certainly didn't make them with inventive and incisive runs through the defense; for the most part she simply stood there and then took advantage of the opening when the ball came right to her. She's no Marta Vieira da Silva, that's for sure.

You know there's a lot been said about the US behavior in that first game - about scoring so many goals against Thailand, but I never had a problem with that. You get the chance, you score. It's almost a knee-jerk reaction, and no one can complain about the confidence-building and experience credits it brings to a player, especially in an opening game. No, my problem was that the US's extravagant celebration of each goal was way out of proportion to the effort it took to get it. They were humiliating poor Thailand and reveling in it. That's cold. That's callous. I expect better of a women's team. Morgan herself writes on p85 of this very novel, "There's a mercy rule in soccer, right?" as Devin's team is being roundly beaten. How hypocritical that was.

If they'd faced a tough, seasoned, team (as they did each game once they were into the knock-out rounds where their scoring dropped precipitously from that first game and came to rely more than once on penalty goals), then celebrating like that after a score is entirely appropriate, because it's hard work scoring against a team like those, and players deserve that kind of celebratory release, but shaming a poorer team which doesn't have the resources the US team had and which isn't going to get paid the third of a million dollars that each of the US players will end up with (and that excludes any endorsements they may get) is disgraceful in my opinion and far beneath the conduct I'd expect of a team which has the status and power that the US team enjoys. It was white players beating down the brown players and loving it, and that's never a good thing.

Equality isn't only about pay (which the US women's team definitely deserves having earned actually more than the US men's team has over the last few years). It's about everyone having an equal chance. The Thai team is new to the cup and had nowhere near the experience and resources the US team had. The Argentinian team had to fight bigotry and prejudice and a complete lack of support in their struggle to have a national women's team. The US deserves equal pay and no one in their right mind would argue otherwise, but that said, the US also enjoys privilege and status which many other women's teams are still fighting desperately for. We'd be fools to forget that this is bigger than the US team. Much bigger.

But I digress! As usual! So what's with this Alex Morgan obsession with California - like it's some exotic foreign country that Devin can't get over? Could it be that Morgan herself is from California and perhaps now has a thoroughly warped view about how super-human the soccer players are and how they dress far in advance of the rest of the country? Yeah, five of the US 23-member team were native Californians, but three hailed from Georgia and two each from Arizona, New Jersey, and New York state, so whence this outlandish praise for California soccer? Bias - again! Remember this is where players were born, not necessarily where they blossomed and learned how to became the world-class players they are today.

It's nice that the cover of this novel depicted such a diversity of people: Asian, Black, and white, but if you look at photos of the USWNT, it's almost entirely white. There were only three black players on the team of 23 - and not a single Asian or Latinx player. Yes, of course they have to pick the best players, but what does it say about us if we can find the best only among white players? Whence equality there? Where is our melting pot of diversity and opportunity?

That said, the book cover doesn't remotely reflect the characters in the novel - and pink boots? Really? And the art is by a female artist who once again evidently never read the novel. The only pink mentioned in the novel is of a headband and a top. Never boots. How about a picture of real live girls - real soccer players on the cover - not models, not cartoon characters? Is that too much to ask? I guess it is from what's been roundly touted as a book mill, but more on that later.

Morgan has Devin stupidly following along with these Californians like a bleating lamb. "Mom, I must have flip-flops!" (or words to that effect) she cries after their team tryout! (Disclosure - I am biased against flip-flops. I think they're stupid, cheap, and nasty, but then I'm not the one writing a novel advocating about them! Although now, I think maybe I'll put in a couple of words about them in this novel I'm currently working on! LOL!). My point here is that once again Morgan could have made Devin stand out by making her an individual instead of a lamb, but no. She doesn't want that. Maybe she thinks individuals have no place in team sports, but if that's so I'd have to ask her "Did Megan Rapinoe get to be the figure she is today by blending in?" Hell no! Learn something from your teammates, Morgan!

There was at least one grammar issue that I recall, where Morgan apparently doesn't understand the difference between criteria and criterion (p8). The former is plural, the latter singular, and Morgan uses the wrong one. Now you can argue that this was written in first person by a twelve-year-old, so maybe it was the youngster who got it wrong and not the university-educated author who is more than twice her age, but this comes back to how you want your main character to appear, doesn't it?

Do do you want her to sound illiterate and dumb? I guess that's the choice the author of this novel leaned into. It's one of many problems with first person voice stories which is why I rail against them. Do you really want to write the novel in a way that makes it as dumb as your character might be? Because that doesn't make for great reading in my book. On the other hand, if you have a dumb character and write her in first person, but write literately, then do you betray that character and your entire story? This is why third person is nearly always the wisest choice. First person doesn't bring immediacy, it brings a complete lack of realism and dearth of suspense which overwhelms your rather desperate substitution of first person for immediacy.

So by now you must know that I did not like this story. It felt wrong, too fluffy, inauthentic, too easy, and far too predictable. Yes, they do beat their bedeviling team at the end, and it's no spoiler to say that, but that victory comes out of nothing - no sweat, no tears and certainly no blood (which is probably a good thing!). Maybe middle-grade girls will like this story, but if they do, I feel sorry for them that they settle for so little when they could have so much more. Surely this, right now, in the midst of the afterglow from the US women's victory on a world stage, is when we ought to be strongly-pushing for more and better for our girls?

All of that aside, the biggest reason for avoiding this series like the plague is that it's copyright not to Alex Morgan, but to Alex Morgan and "Full Fathom Five" which is the book mill run by businessman James Frey, which begs the question as to whether Morgan even wrote it at all. In January 2006, The Smoking Gun published an article online titled: "A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey's Fiction Addiction" alleging that James Frey simply made up large parts of his memoirs. The next month, Frey apologized for these fabrications. Full Fathom Five was the subject of an article in New York magazine: "James Frey's Fiction Factory" (November 2010) which is still available online as of this posting date. You should read it: For me, I would advise avoiding this series like the plague. I feel it does a disservice to women's soccer and women in general for that matter.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade, Don Yeager

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an audiobook that was written evidently for a much younger audience than I represent. The book was read by Kilmeade, and he did it in such a strident and breathless voice that I couldn't stand to listen to it. Worse than this though, the facts were presented in such a biased and fanciful fashion that I found myself having a hard time swallowing everything he said. It felt much more like listening to florid fiction than to historical fact.

The secret six were actually known as the Culpeper ring, named after a Virginia County. They were spies who fed information out of New York City to Washington about the activities, movements, and plans of British troops in NYC. The main two members were Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend. The best information they got was when they laid hands on a British naval Code handbook. That was less through spying than from luck, but it served the French Navy well.

While these guys (including women) did provide other valuable information, the value of some of their activities was debatable. It's arguable that the defeat of the Brits and surrender at Yorktown did more than any spies did, and this victory was brought about as much by the French and Spanish as it was by the US, if not more so. Cornwallis could well have withdrawn rather than surrendered had the port not been very effectively blockaded by the French.

The secret six were spies for the revolution forces, which side was consistently presented as upstanding, brilliant, heroic, and fine, whereas, of course, the British were evil villains. This was exploited most obviously in the report of the British prison ship HMS jersey, which was pretty brutal, but this was war and it was in the early 1780s, when people were hardly the most civilized and no Geneva convention existed. Additionally, the revolutionaries were considered traitors, so the Brits were not very much disposed to treating them kindly. Not that Washington had many prisoners to exchange anyway, since the British captured far more US forces than the other way around. That doesn't make what happened palatable, but it does provide some context that this helter-skelter account fails to do.

Another thing this story doesn't make clear was that Washington, who could have exchanged prisoners, was disinclined to do so because he didn't want to exchange professional British soldiers for civilian volunteers and conscripts! He didn't consider it a fair exchange. How brutal was that? Remember these were the guys who were fighting for the rich folk who didn't want to pay taxes. That's what today, we call Republicans.

The rich were the guys who claimed they wanted the vote, but none of the guys fighting on the front line ever had the vote! Only about 6% of the population were eligible to vote in 1789! In short, the pretext of the revolution was bullshit, yet those who were wealthy were not the ones dying en masse on the front lines or being interned (and interred) in the HMS Jersey! How long did it take for American Indians to get the vote? For African Americans? For women? This wasn't a fight for freedom - it was a fight for the rich, and the poor paid the price on both sides. When that emancipation was truly sought, it started a civil (read not-at-all-civil) war a century later.

So my take on this is that if you're looking for an historical account, don't look here. If you're looking for an hysterical account, then this is the audiobook for you!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sali and the Five Kingdoms by Oumar Dieng

Rating: WARTY!

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

I made it a third of the way through this before giving up due to the story moving too slowly, paradoxically jumping abruptly from one thing to another, and trying to be far too mysterious. It didn't feel very well-written to me. There was little descriptive writing, and none of the characters seemed inclined to use contractions: it was all "I am" and "you are" - nobody seemed able to say "I'm" and "you're" which gave a very stilted tone to the novel. I quit reading this when a 'mineral which isn't on the periodic table' was mentioned.

The fact is that there can't be anything that's not on the periodic table, which contains every element (some of which, such as manganese, for example are called minerals). Even elements we have not yet discovered are on the table with a holding space for their proper place when they're officially discovered and labeled. That's why it's called periodic, because it's predictable. We know where the undiscovered elements will appear on the table, and what their properties are likely to be. Most of the undiscovered ones are so unstable they don't exist in nature except for split fractions of a second in, for example, nuclear reactions. They're highly radioactive and would do no living thing any good. There's a potential 'island of stability' where there is thought to be a spot for a very heavy stable element around 184 neutrons in size. These have not yet been discovered or created in the lab, but they're not complete mysteries, so I don't buy this 'not on the table' nonsense and I don't approve of misleading young people on this score either.

In addition to this, Sali seems to live in complete isolation from the world, having zero friends despite being part of a Tae Kwon Do dojang (that's the Korean version of a dojo) and she seemed very moody and hair-trigger, even more so than you might imagine given what she's been through. The basic story is that Sali saw her mother quite literally disappear before her eyes when she was young, and thirteen years later, no sign of her mother has been found. Sali is a graduate (I guess from college - the story jumped so fast into it that it was hard to tell, which was another problem), and is starting an internship. Younger readers may enjoy it, but it's hard to tell who the book is aimed at because the main character, who unfortunately tells the story in first person, is (apparently) a college grad starting work, whereas the tone of the book is much more middle grade.

Additionally, the setting of the book is futuristic, but there's nothing in the opening chapter which reveals this, so when Sali gets into her car and uses this way-advanced heads-up display to navigate to a rendezvous, it really stood out starkly against the low-tech background the story had been residing in up to that point. It was quite a jolt. I let that slide, but as these minor hiccups kept coming, they became collectively too big of a hiccup to enjoy the story after quite a short time, and like I said, I gave up about a third the way in due to lack of interest in pursuing this. I'm not a fan of first person to begin with since it nearly always seems so very unrealistic, but that wasn't really the issue here, so that was a pleasant surprise!

But there were many problems. At one point there was this seemingly random information tossed into story about the discovery of a hive of wild bees - this supposedly 39 years after bees had become extinct. Note that 39 years is a heavy foreshadowing of three times thirteen - the number of years since Sali's mom disappeared, but that wasn't the problem. The problem here is that there's absolutely no talk of the issues it would cause if bees actually did disappear. Bees pollinate 70% of the crops that feed 90% of the world! You can't have bees disappear for almost forty years and there be no impact on society, yet this is how this story read. Again, unrealistic - serving further to isolate Sali and her story from the real world (that is, the real world as depicted in this story).

One problem for me was the disjointed writing style - with large jumps between one event and another with little or no indication of the time elapsed. When this happens between chapters, it's not so bad, but when it happens between one paragraph and the next with no effort to clue the reader in to the passage of time, it's confusing or worse, annoying, and this happened after Sali had foolishly gone to a rendezvous after some guy left a note on her car. Fortunately the rendezvous is in a public place and Sali has some martial arts skills, but it's not a good idea to let young readers think it's okay to meet a stranger, especially not when, as I write this, a young woman's body was found in a canyon after she met someone in Utah who evidently did not have her best interests at heart. Sali should have at the very least told someone what she was up to.

There were two problems with her meeting this guy. The first is that while the guy she meets actually does have information about her mother, as usual, it's very vague. He palms her off with advice to ask her father, and despite his having a folder with some extensive documentation in it, he never shares that with her, which begs the question as to why he's carrying it around in the first place. I'm not a fan at all of a writing style which creates an artificial 'mystery' by withholding information from the reader (and the main character) for no good reason at all. It makes the story seem amateur and fake, like bad fanfic.

The second problem is that Sali seems far too lax in pursuing this new information with her father. The story tells us it's several days after she met this guy Simon before she calls her father about it, which seemed unrealistic given how much she still suffers from her mother's abrupt and dramatic disappearance. You'd think she'd want to pursue it immediately and we're given no reason why she doesn't. More realistically, she would have called her dad the same night and the hell with waking him up, but this isn't the only weird jump in time. The very next sentence after she hangs up the call with dad begins, "It had been a few weeks since I had met with Simon Freitz". Just like that! There's no new chapter, no section symbol to indicate a gap.

Instead, there's one short paragraph where she relates that she's still angry with her dad, and then in the very next paragraph after that, her dad is arriving with her grandpa in his truck! He's back from London and there's no preamble or heads up, which could have been related in that previous paragraph. It's just so disjointed! This kind of thing turned me off this story pretty quickly.

Oumar Dieng motivational speaker, storyteller, author and life coach, and while I wish him all the best in his career, I can't commend this one as a worthy read.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Parable of the Sower A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E Butler by John Jennings, Damian Duffy

Rating: WARTY!

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

Having enjoyed a biography on Octavia Butler about three years ago, I've been intending to look up some of her work ever since, but for one reason or another never got around to it, so when this one came up for consideration on Net Galley, I jumped at the chance. It's a graphic novel, so I figured it would be a relatively quick read, and the fact that this version is 276 pages long didn't daunt me, even though the print book itself is only about 75 pages longer! Unfortunately, it didn't work for me.

The first and most obvious problem was the unfinished nature graphics. An understandably huge part of a graphic novel is the graphics, but these looked like the artist had rough-sketched the images and then forgot to complete them, and no colorist ever came along to notice, The result is that every page is rough-sketched - as in, for example, there are no faces on many of the characters, or the face has the cross marking showing where the face center line and the eyes will be, or the entire panel has several overlaid outlines for characters and scenery, like it was rough-sketched out and then never cleaned up!

Initially, I had no idea if this was intentional, or if the comic is still a work in progress. Usually, if that's the case, there's something to indicate that, and at least a few of the panels are done to completion. After a search I did find a small note on one page indicating that it was a work in progress and that it's a combination of sketches, inks, and final art, but all of the art was in exactly the same state with no finished color panels anywhere to be seen. This isn't intended to be published until next January, so why not simply wait until more of it is done and send it out for review later - when we can see what the finished product will be like?! I've never seen a comic book sent out for review in this state. Never.

If that was the only problem, that would be one thing, but for me the story itself wasn't entertaining and wasn't very smart in places either. Set in the mid 2020's, the story focuses on a community in which resides Lauren Oya Olamina (Loo? Being originally from Britain, I couldn't take her seriously with those initials, but I let that slide). Lauren starts her own religion which sounds more like a real cult in that it advocates that humans - with no resources and no plan - leave Earth and settle on some other planet. Why that would make more sense than simply using the exorbitant cost of such a space flight to fix Earth seems to have been ignored, but since I haven't read that far (and Butler never did write that third part of what was intended to be a trilogy), it's hard to say. At this point I have no plans to read any further than the fifty percent of this that I made it through!

I couldn't tell from the rough drawings (which went all the way through the book - I skimmed to check) if this was an entirely African American or a mixed community. I assume it was mixed because there seems to have been an issue later with outside people they encounter not deeming mixed-race couples to be kosher, although again how that back-sliding occurred, I can't say. Nor can I tell who the people were who were breaking in - they were just outsiders, described vaguely as homeless, which begs the question as to why this community had so little charity. I know they didn't have much for themselves, but they did all right, yet never once did they seem to feel the need to try and help any of the outsiders who were clearly desperate enough to break in.

The biggest problem for me was how idiotic these people seemed to be inside the community. Despite continually harping on the danger posed by outsiders, it's only after people start breaking in and stealing that this ever-present threat of people breaking-in and stealing becomes an action item on their agenda! They start minimal patrols of two people, and even then these patrols don't use the guns they're issued. What's the point of the guns and all the target practice exactly, if you're never going to fire them, not even in warning?!

So yes, this community struck me as being exceedingly dumb. Apparently they have several keys to the gate, but they seem as lax in keeping an eye on the keys as Star Trek crews typically are in keeping an eye on the shuttle bay, leading to shuttles being routinely purloined. So no one keeps an eye on those keys either, and it really doesn't matter anyway because people can clearly get in without them. What happens eventually (so I understand, although I didn't read that far) is that the community predictably fails, and a hoard of refugees start a trek to the north, where conditions are apparently better. Why it took so long, I do not know!

This novel was written in the nineties and while Butler got climate change correct, she somehow seemed to think that everything: not just the environment, but the government, the military, the police, and whatever, would fail catastrophically within a quarter century. The military and government are never mentioned - not in the fifty percent of this that I could stand to read. The police are mentioned as a private organization which it's not worth the time and cost to call on anyway. For me the author failed to show how all of this could remotely come about in so short a time. We're just left with the unsupported claim that it did, and this is how things are now in this story. I need a little bit more depth for my fiction than this offered.

Consequently I cannot commend this as a worthy read, and especially not with such scrappy graphics and without even a page or two of samples of the finished product. This really ought to have been held back a month or two longer so that some pages at least could have been finished.

Giant Days Not on the Test Edition by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin, Whitney Cogar

Rating: WARTY!

I 'graduated' to this from the Bad Machinery graphic novels which I loved, but I was very disappointed in this one. Part of the problem is that Allison has sold out to American audiences, I think. I have to say that I can't get with a comic that has the same rhythm as a pop song. The format of this one mirrored US sitcoms which are lousy at best: one-liner, canned laugh, one liner, canned laugh, two one liners, extended canned laugh, repeat without rinsing.

The premise is that of three female friends at college (just like the three female friends at high school): Daisy Wooten, Esther de Groot, and Susan Ptolemy. I thought Esther was going to be like Charlotte Grote (especially given the name!) in the Bad Machinery comics but she wasn't a patch on Lottie. None of these characters was as interesting as the other girls, and the situations were so predictable, and not very inventive.

The worst part about it though was that pretty much the entire focus of this was not on the girls as it had been in Bad Machinery, but on the girls in relation to boys, which made them far less self-motivated and interesting, and turned the whole thing into a YA novel. I have precious little respect for most YA output. So in short, this was a fail for me and I have no intention of reading any more of this series. It's time to find something completely new.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Rating: WARTY!

The short answer to the question (despite it missing a question mark), posed in the title of this audiobook is 'Nowhere'! Seriously. Read okay by Kathleen Wilhoite, the book began as a series of Oh-so-cutting-edge emails and so on. In short, lazy story-telling. I don't like epistolary novels and I wasn't liking this one. It just annoyed me.

It's sad because I came to this from seeing a teaser-trailer of an upcoming movie starring Cate Blanchett, of whom I'm a fan. As it happened, the trailer didn't tease me, but after seeing it twice in front of different movies Ild gone to see, I decided I'd give the book a listen if I could find it on audiobook at the library and I did, so I did, but I wish now that I hadn't. So I'm done with this story, and with this author notwithstanding her dedication to the Global Amphibian Assessment. For anyone interested, the story starts out with a girl, Bee Branch, looking through old emails to try and figure out whence her irresponsible mother disappeared.

I don't know what the movie is like - at this point I've seen only the teaser and I won't see the movie (especially not now!) unless maybe I catch it at some point on TV, but from what I've heard of the novel, Bernadette is hardly the best person in the world. In fact she's a bit of a jerk, and the teaser revealed none of this, although it did reveal how irresponsible she was. I really don't care if someone has good reason to be a dick. If they're a dick, they're a dick, and I'm not about to make a hero out of such a person. The story sounded scatterbrained and stupid and I want nothing to do with it.

Birds of Prey Vol 5 Soul crisis by Christy Marx

Rating: WARTY!

After failing the previous volume in October 2016, I don't know why I went into this one. It was on close-out sale at the library, so it was cheap and it helps the library, and I'd forgotten how I disliked the previous one, and there's a movie of the same name due out in 2020 (which would be a great year to release a Vision movie wouldn't it? LOL!) that is about these same characters. It's directed by Cathy Yan, written by Christina Hodson, and stars Margot Robbie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as well as being produced by Robbie who originally pitched the idea to the studio, so I'm definitely interested in a strongly female-influenced movie about female super heroes. Anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it! But I didn't like this graphic novel any better than the previous one.

The story is the usual tired retreading of the Batman world where Assh'le Gul tries to take over the world. Why they cannot find a new villain is a mystery to me, but this constant bringing back of antiquated garbage is tedious. Why Assh'le even wants this has zero rational, and why there has to be a balance of light and dark is unexplained as usual. His opponent is this old chick who periodically renews and returns to a childishly youthful appearance which is a bit warped to say the least, given that she's several thousand years old, purportedly. Maybe her age is messing with her mind and this explains why she speaks in riddles. Who knows? Who cares, honestly?

None of this made any sense at all, not even with the flood of exposition and characters from all parts DC, indifferent artwork (which to give fair due at least didn't obsess on sexualizing every female it came into contact with, although it definitely wandered too far into that territory and without any need to), and a poor story by Christy Marx (who may or may not know that she shares a name if not a spelling, with a porn actress).

So I did learn there's actually a guy in the Birds of Prey which I had thought was all female. There was an intriguing character named Strix, who was described as a "Talon" but about whom nothing was explained. Presumably anyone invested in this world would know who she was, but with all the other stuff being painstakingly and overly detailed, there wasn't a word about her? Bizarre. It turns out that a Talon is a member of the Court of Owls, which explains nothing to me except that I don't thinks it's a court of ordinary wizarding levels. Even when I'm told they're reanimated assassins, it still explains nothing. I guess it's on a strixly need to know basis?

So endless fighting. No one uses guns even though the fate of the world is at stake and this would be a simple way to solve the problem? That tells me these people are morons. They agree to terms of battle with the Assh'le? Sorry, no. Check please, I'm done. It's bad enough that two people are considering screwing over one or more other people within the team. Not for me. The weird-ass thing about the Birds of Prey is the obsession with color, birds, and cattiness. The bird kind of makes sense, except that a canary isn't a raptor, and "Jade Canary" is really just as much a contradiction in terms as Black Canary is! LOL! But I can see Black Alice and Blue Beetle given how obsessed the team is with beating people those colors.

There was this odd 'dream world' story tacked onto the end of the main feature, like they were embarrassed by it and wanted to get rid of it there rather than try to sell it on its own merit. It was really the final straw - literally, and not a paper straw either, but a plastic one that's enough to choke a turtle. I can't commend this at all. Christy Marx needs to take an originality class or step aside and let some new talent have a chance at this.

What You Don't Know by JoAnn Chaney

Rating: WARTY!

What you don't know is how bad this book is! This audiobook was so hard-bitten it turned me right off. It made me think of eating soft tacos that were encased in in heavy-duty aluminum foil instead of a soft tortilla. The reader was Christina Delaine, who pretty much growled her way through it and I couldn't stand the tone, nor did I like the story, so I gave up on it and consider this a truly warty read/listen.

The basic story sounded interesting from the blurb, but the execution as poor. The story is that of two people, one, a police detective who was involved in bringing down a serial killer, and the other, a newspaper reporter who covered the story. Now both have fallen on hard times, him stuck on resolving cold cases, and she selling make-up in a mall. How that happened I don't know because I didn't listen to this for very long, but when a new series of murders begins, both of these people see this, rather sickly, I have to say, as a chance to get their lives back. Why that would be, again I don't know, but it smacks of that old sawhorse of the retired police detective being pulled back in to solve a new case because evidently the entire police force is utterly incompetent and only he can save them. The same thing applies to the reporter in a different way. I don't like that kind of story, so I guess I should never have picked this one up. My bad!

The blurb mentions that the wife of the serial killer didn't suspect a thing, so she claimed. Now I'm wondering if she's the real killer and her husband was innocent, or at least whether they were working together, and that's how these murders have started up again, but I didn't like how this story was told, or the narrator, so I wasn't about to listen to it anymore just to satisfy that curiosity. The author spells her first name with a capital A, but because of the idiot cover designer, you'd never know this since her name is block caps. Another publisher fail! Long live self-publishing.

Hunting for Hidden Gold by Leslie McFarlane

Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook read reasonably well by Bill Irwin. My problem with it was not only the antiquated story (this was written almost a century ago by Leslie McFarlane, writing as Franklin Dixon), but mostly the tinny accompanying music.

Leslie McFarlane was a journalist, not a musician, and while I have yet to confirm this officially, I remain pretty much sure that he never wrote any accompanying music for the story. Neither did Edward Stratemeyer who was the mover and shaker behind these books. So whence the impetus for the sad and annoying music in the audiobook edition? Is Bill Irwin not good enough to listen to without accompaniment? It really irritates me when audiobooks do this and I've had to listen to two or three lately which all have had music at least at the very beginning of the book. Why? Get a clue, publishers!

The Hardy brothers are evidently frequently put at risk of their lives by their thoroughly irresponsible father, by being tasked with helping him to solve mysteries. In this book, their own stupidity gets them into trouble, They're required to fly to Montana, to track down missing gold, and they have a three-hour layover en route. As soon as they reach the airport, they're accosted by a stranger who informs them that he has important papers from their father, but he has...wait for it...forgotten them, they're so important! He asks if the boys will accompany him to his home to get the papers. Rather than insist they have a flight to catch and cannot leave the airport, and request he brings the papers to them as he was tasked to do, they blindly go with him and end up tied up on a house! The Hardy Boys are morons. That's when I quit listening to this.

I get that the whole idea of the story is to bring the kids in because it's a kid's story, but the mark of competent writers is that they do this without having the kids look stupid or have them needlessly endangered by idiotic adults. Their involvement needs to be organic, and not blatantly incompetent or dumb. Leslie McFarlane simply wasn't up to it. And yeah, I know this story is antique and that sensibilities were different back then, but that doesn't mean I have to give it a bye today. Instead I give it a bye-bye. This story was garbage and it's warty, period.

The Body Snatchers by Robert Louis Stephenson

Rating: WARTY!

This was a very short audiobook story rooted no doubt in the true events of William Burke and William Hare, notorious for their not only laying their hands on dead bodies which they sold on for medical research, but also laying hands on a few of the living and changing their status so they could sell those bodies on too. Hare turned on Burke for immunity, and Burke was hanged. His skeleton lives on today in the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh Medical School.

In this story, a man named Fettes, who works in a facility where bodies are made available to medical students for research, recognizes a body they have just bought as a woman he saw alive and well only the previous day. Naturally he becomes suspicious as to how this happened, but he's such a wuss that he does nothing about it, simply falling in line with his superiors regarding not asking questions as to where these corpses come from. This is actually realistic. People tend to be sheep-like rather than rock the boat even when skullduggery is involved.

The problem as that the story was very rigid and uninteresting. This isn't surprising given that it was written long ago, and in a way you have to expect this, but you also hope that the story will be interesting enough that it makes up for the antiquated story-telling style. In this case it did not, so no commendation from me for this one, only condemnation.

The Chimes by Charles Dickens

Rating: WARTY!

I have heard the chimes, but not at midnight, and they were shallow in this audiobook! This was a short story by Dickens and it sounded vaguely interesting from the blurb, since the story is about how this character gets advice from goblins on the plight of the impoverished in Dickens's London, but in practice it quickly became tiresome.

The main character was not interesting to me and was tedious to listen to, and I lost all interest in it about a third of the way through. Rather than use a 'bell' motif to divide up the story, here Dickens used a clock motif, dividing it into 'quarters' as in quarter hours. It was really more like reading an essay than a novel. Can't commend.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an audiobook which started out great, got a little lost in the middle section, but came out entertainingly enough at the end for me to rate it a worthy read for the middle-grade audience it's aimed at. It's in the 'Rick Riordan Presents' series, which apparently meant he offered some advice during her writing of it, but what that would have been, I do not know since shortening the middle section was what was required, and he either never suggested that, or she didn't listen if he did! I guess it's good of him to give a boost to other writers (depending on the motive behind it!), but I am not a fan of his writing at all, so seeing his name on something is more likely to turn me away from a book than onto it! Fortunately in this case I read the blurb before I ever saw the Riordan name on it, and I was interested enough not to put it back on the shelf.

I think the character names might have been better chosen! I'm sure that pandering to a western audience wasn't Lee's first thought in writing this, Indeed, in some ways the novel is bigoted in that it presents a sci-fi scenario where everything is Chinese which is just as bigoted as a writer who presents the future as American or any other nationality.

I'm sure the author felt the names were great, and objectively they probably were, but looked at from the point of view of a person listening, who may not be used to Chinese names, hearing something like 'Yune Me', especially while distracted by driving to one extent or another, made the name sound rather like 'You and Me', and so it went! One character was named Min, but it was pronounced like it read 'mean', so that didn't work too well for western ears. The final amusement was a character named Inspector Suk (not sure about the spellings since this was audiobook).

But maybe that's just me who loves playing with words. The story itself was quite interesting, being a blend of sci-fi and fantasy. The main character is Min, who is described as a 'fox spirit' who is also a shape-shifter, but she never changes into a fox (not that I recall, although I did skip some parts during the boring bits!). Her brother Joon, is in the military as a cadet on a spacecraft, but he has disappeared. When a government official arrives in Min's insignificant little village on an insignificant little half-terra-formed planet, Min's trouble-making ways are highlighted, and she's threatened with being shipped-off to stay with an auntie. She is not pleased by this.

Rather than let that happen she runs away, and eventually winds up - in a bit too much of a coincidence - on the same ship her brother was on. Since she can shape-shift and see ghosts, she makes a deal with the ghost of another cadet who had died during an encounter with pirates, to impersonate him. I somehow missed how it was that his body never gave her away. The idea was that in impersonating him, she could help him move on to the spirit world, and for herself, learn what happened to Joon. The ghost really is of no help to her, so I was at a loss as to why he was even included as a character in the story at all.

The biggest problem was that for me, this is where the story ground to a halt. Min spent far, far too much time dicking around on the ship learning how to be a cadet and learning nothing of what happened to Joon. Recall that this is a girl who can shape-shift and is good at it, so she could have impersonated anyone, gone anywhere and discovered anything, yet it was all cadet all the time, and it was boring.

I began skimming the story at that point until she finally got off the ship and went unsurprisingly to what was called a Lost Colony not because they didn't know where it was, but because they couldn't use the planet due to the prevalence of unfriendly ghosts there. That's where Min found the Dragon Pearl and became a hero.

That part was also much better and was highly amusing in parts, so this is why I gave this book a worthy rating, although it had problems. Those problems did nothing to win me back to thinking that Rick Riordan knows how to write! All he's ever done is steal Greek mythology, inexplicably move it to the USA and put a white savior in charge. That's not my kind of writing, but for this audiobook: a worthy read with the above caveats.

Spring Skies Over Bluebell Castle by Sarah Bennett

Rating: WARTY!

This story sounded intriguing to me since I was born and raised in Derbyshire where it's set, but it fell short of the glory of a great story and it happened quickly. The language was far too flowery for my taste for one thing:

“As she stepped down onto the creamy marble floor of the imposing entrance hall, a blast of cold from the open front door sent a shiver through her, and she was glad for the thermal vest hidden beneath her silk blouse. A strip of Wedgwood blue sky showed over the rooftops of the buildings across the street.“
Creamy? Imposing? Silk? Wedgwood? At least she spelled Wedgwood right so credit where credit is due, but this was way too much, especially when most of it was all in one sentence.

And this is how we meet Lucie Kennington, who works for a high-end art gallery and is suspended in a most unrealistic way when an art piece she brought to the attention of the gallery is apparently stolen by being switched out for a fake. This made no sense to me since if she wanted to steal it, then why the hell would she ever bring it to the attention of the gallery in the first place? She found it hanging unsung on someone's wall and recognized it for what it was. If she were going to be dishonest about it, she would have offered the owner a few pounds for it and made out like gangbusters in the profit. If their beef is that it was stolen, not necessarily by her, then the problem is security, not the woman who found the piece.

So she gets suspended while an investigation takes place, and immediately this turns into one of those 'weak women fleeing back to her home town - or in this case to the countryside' which is precisely the kind of chick-lit story I detest. I foolishly picked this one up to read thinking it might be different and intrigued by the Derbyshire aspect. I had little to nothing of Derbyshire in the part I read which was admittedly limited.

All I really got was dumb-ass Lucie and an even more dumb-ass family of landed gentry named after characters from Arthurian mythology (which has nothing to do with Derbyshire, BTW) dealing with a financial crisis in their castle. It's patently obvious she's going to get it on with Arthur Ludworth who "might just be the most handsome man Lucie’s ever laid eyes on." Barf. Arthur has 'shaggy hair' of course which is probably why she can’t wait to shag him.

Of course, Arthur's salvation is once more a painting which Lucie recognizes and which is worth a fortune. I'm guessing the art gallery will find Lucie completely innocent and beg her to return, for her only to thumb her nose at them now she's King Arthur's trophy wife.

I didn't like Luci or Arthur; they were both as dumb as a bag of dumbbells, so maybe that makes them a perfect match, but that really put the brakes on this story for me. Girl with a secret past afraid of being embarrassed, and too stupid to tell all to the man she's supposedly falling in love with? I'm sorry but 'dumb broads' are not remotely interesting to me, nor is the 'billionaire falls for the poor girl' kind of a story - which is what this is, close enough, and you don't even get the eroticism! LOL! I ditched it and was glad I did. There's better to be had out there than this; much better.

Oracles of Delphi Keep by Victoria Laurie

Rating: WARTY!

This audiobook was read decently by Susan Duerden, with whom I've had largely a good experience over three audiobooks now, but the novel was overly long and rambling, and in the end this insistence on going endlessly on about things which were uninteresting to me and worse, which contributed little to moving the story along, was what lost me. I started skipping parts, which is never a good sign, and then I skipped the whole second half or so of the story, moving to the closing section to see if anything interesting had happened by then, and the answer to that was a short, sharp, "No!"

I share a first name with the main character, Ian Wigby, who is an orphan newly-moved in to Delphi Keep in the 1930s - literally a castle keep which has been given over by its owner, an Earl (this is set in Britain) for use as an orphanage. Ian is punished for a transgression by being put in charge of a new addition to the orphanage - a very young child who gets named Theo, and who becomes essentially a younger sister to Ian as the two grow up together. She's not his actual sister as the idiot blurb misleading asserts. I thought this was a really interesting premise and ought to have been put to better use in a story than this one had it.

Time passes in the story, and despite having matured somewhat, Ian still shows no sign of growing! He recklessly takes his "sister" exploring the chalk caves on the coast near the orphanage - a place he knows that the residents of the orphanage are expressly banned from visiting. The trip almost ends tragically as some supernatural and ferocious animal tries to kill them. They escape by squeezing through tunnels too narrow for the animal to follow, but it tracks them back to the orphanage and breaks in, putting everyone at risk. Meanwhile Ian gets into more trouble starting a fight with the clich├ęd school bully over ownership of a little casket he found while in the tunnels.

Ian consistently struck me as a jerk and a dickhead, with poor impulse control and a dishonest streak. He's hardly an exemplar I'd want children to read about, and yet this book was the first in a series (not that, once again, the publisher will ever tell you this on the book cover, which is again, dishonest). For me the book was boring and it seems like it would be quite horrific for some of the intended age group who might read this, but I can't commend it primarily because of the poor, rambling writing.

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

Rating: WARTY!

This audiobook, read a bit like a chant by by Erin Bennet, started out well, but quickly became bogged down with pedantic definitions of saints and their purported achievements (which, based on the one I looked up, were somewhat fancifully rendered here, to say the least), and with hum-drum uninteresting activities which had already been described earlier in the story, instead of getting on with the story. I ended up becoming annoyed with it. It didn't help that it was one long flashback told in perfect recollection by one of the girls as an older woman, who can apparently recall minute details and conversation verbatim.

Set in the years of World War One (or so I believe - it was never specified), the story is of four girls named Guinevere, but who all very conveniently go by completely different nicknames, not one of them electing to go by her full name, so we have: Ginny, Gwen, Vere, and Win. They are also the same age, give or take, and all arrive at the Catholic school within a relatively short time period, and naturally gravitate together. This felt a bit unlikely not to say unnatural, but I was willing to allow that for a good story. It started out well, with the four planning a breakout from the convent, but getting caught. They were sentenced to work in the 'hospital' which is where the next thing came up.

Several severely-wounded soldiers are brought in, all of whom are not much given to doing anything other than laying there. After seeing a more senior student 'escape' the convent by being sent out along with the soldier she was caring for, to continue his care at his home, the four Guineveres all adopt one of the remaining four, and start spending time with them, praying for them and talking to them in the hope of getting the same break. It doesn't work and things start to go south.

There were some moments of hilarity, and I always felt like "The Guineveres" might do anything to entertain me at any given time. I loved the collective name for these girls and kept hoping for good things, but the problem is they almost never were delivered. The story was slow and pedantic, and The Guineveres failed to live up to my hopes, much less my expectations. I ended up skipping the parts whenever a saint was mentioned because they quickly became tedious, and then this led to skipping the boring parts and finally I realized I was skipping and skipping, and not for joy(!), and I gave up on it altogether. The book had a lot more potential than it ever delivered and left me sorely disappointed.

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

Rating: WARTY!

Narrated by someone with the highly-appropriate name of Kate Reading, but who ought to be named Kate Droning since she does an unfortunately monotonous job of it, this audiobook, which I had initially (and mistakenly) thought was a biography, turned out to be a tedious and pretentious fiction that tells us nothing whatsoever since it's the purest invention of the author. It turns out that Kate Reading is actually a fake name which I'm sure she thinks is hilarious.

Naturally it's rooted in the reality of Hemingway being unable to commit to a woman and holding the misogynistic and highly abusive idea that he ought to be entitled to a wife and a mistress at the same time and under the same roof, regardless of their wishes, but for me, this book did nothing to tell the real story of the women involved. It was far more about Hemingway and his four wives than ever it was about four women who happened at one point or another to be married to Ernest Hemingway.

The book felt like one of those where the title is along the lines of "The __________'s Daughter" or in this case, "The Iceberg Author's Wives" - it renders the women an appendage of someone else: a guy, rather than their own autonomous selves. I don't like that. I'm recently read such a work by Kate Moss and it was boring. It's going to be the last such book I read because the title is problematic for me from the off, before you even get to the story. The thing is though, that when I got to the story in this case, the author did precisely the same thing to these four women that such titles do to the female subjects of such novels. It's not appreciated and female writers in particular should be ashamed of writing things like that.

But I digress! So the first story is Hadley Hemingway going on about her competitive position with regard to Pauline Pfeiffer, but we really learn far less about these two women than we do about Hemingway, and it was disappointing. At that point I skipped to the one which interested me most, which was Martha Gellhorn, and after that, I quit listening altogether, because she wasn't in the story at all except as a story told by Hadley which even further removed her as a subject than Hadley had been! Go figure. I decided to go directly to the author's mouth and have reviewed - positively! - a couple of books that Martha Gellhorn actually wrote herself. Meanwhile I am done with this author. This book is bad writing, period.