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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ella Queen of Jazz by Helen Hancocks


Rating: WARTY!

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

This was a very short book - effectively only thirteen pages - aimed at a children's audience, to introduce them to a true diva, but for me it missed the mark. I don't lower my expectations for children's literature, but this book seemed to, and the ebook version - which as an amateur reviewer was the only one I had access to - was missing text on at least two pages as far as I could tell. Hopefully the print version is complete!

Ella Fitzgerald was known for her singing talent and in her earlier years for her love of dancing, but I didn't get any of that feeling for her out of this book which seemed more like it was interested in telling the tale of a struggling artist than telling that and the much more joyous success story - with a huge love of singing - that she became. Her career began when she wanted to enter amateur night at the Apollo theater, but was intimidated with regard to her dancing, so she chose to sing instead. She won first prize.

That pivotal moment was completely bypassed in this book, which began when she was already a mature performer. The first two pages which were, I assume, double-page spreads in the print version, simply showed her singing, with neither words nor descriptive text. The pages were not numbered, but the e-numbering at the bottom of the screen showed the first text appearing on page 'seven' where it began, "Before long, Ella was taking her music up and down the country" - so, story already in progress. It was a bit of a sour note for me.

While the illustrations were colorful if nothing extraordinary, and the text did tell her career story in brief, nowhere was there a song lyric. I know to quote whole lyrics demands all kinds of permissions, but to fail to quote even a line here and there, which is entirely permissible, was unconscionable for a story about someone of Fitzgerald's pedigree and contribution to music. We learned nothing of her childhood or influences, but first encounter her on the road, running from one gig to another.

There's a brief mention of how Marilyn Monroe helped her get a gig at a venue where 'coloreds' were typically not welcomed, and this boosted her career too, but then the story is pretty much over. On the 'Marilyn' page there were two speech balloons which contained no text. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but after the obviously missing text earlier in the book, it was irritating to be left in the dark about whether this was purposeful or not. Keeping Marilyn's name secret for a couple of pages previously seemed fatuous. I don't imagine for a minute than any child reading this has a clue who Marilyn Monroe was. Well, she was Norma Jean Baker! But kids today won't know that either so the reason that this section was written this way was obscure.

I felt this was a chance to really talk about a powerful and influential woman of color, and it was lost. I know for a book for young children, you can't go into huge amounts of detail and technical matters, but for a book for children, it helps to connect to them by showing that Ella was herself a young child at one point who came from poor circumstances, but who loved music and dance, and who overcame setbacks to reach success on her own merit. It could have been so inspirational, but to me it did neither her nor the young reader any favors. It essentially told a rather plodding story of how a white woman 'saved' a 'helpless' black woman, and it felt patronizing. Consequently I'm not able to commend this as a worthy read.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid


Rating: WARTY!

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

The blurb promised this to be "A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous breakup." It was not. Once again we see 'beauty' rear its ugly head in a novel about a woman, like beauty is all a woman has to offer. It's not.

I know we live in a shallow and very visual world, but beauty shouldn't even be on the table when you're considering someone's qualities, not even in a novel unless the novel is specifically about someone's looks. I don't care if a character calls someone 'beautiful' or focuses shallowly on looks because there are people like that in real life, but in the book blurb? It's not helping things in a #MeToo era - and from a female author too.

I know you can't hold an author responsible for the book blurb unless they self-publish, but seriously? The main character here was supposed to be a sensational star, but the word 'talented' failed to trump 'beauty'? 'Charismatic' never made it? Enigmatic? Anyone? Bueller?

I decided to overlook that because it was only the blurb and I'm intrigued by this subject, but inside the book was just as bad as the outside if for different reasons, and it was far from being gripping and well into boring territory. Neither of the two main characters, Daisy Jones or Billy Dunne, were remotely interesting to me.

The first problem as that all attempt at writing an actual novel was abandoned, thereby giving the lie to the qualifier 'A novel' on the cover. There was no descriptive prose here setting location or atmosphere, or anything for that matter. It's not even a script.

There were only character names and their spoken words, like we were getting one side of a very sparse interview, which made it more unrealistic. If those words had been compelling and entertaining, or had offered something revealing, or even new and original, that might have been something, but there was nothing here that hasn't been done before.

That she "... devoured Daisy Jones & The Six in a day, falling head over heels for it..." might speak volumes about Reese Witherspoon, but it leaves me completely unmoved. This is the actor who April 2013, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Atlanta after her husband, was pulled over and arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.

Witherspoon played the crass "Do you know who I am?" card, and was obnoxious to a police officer who was admirably and patiently doing his job in keeping the streets safe. I haven't liked her since. No recommendation from someone who has behaved so inexcusably badly under the influence is going to influence me. I think it was a poor and frankly a rather desperate choice to use a quote from her in a book blurb.

Anyway, what all this (in the novel) meant was that we knew nothing about these fictional characters at all, and what that meant for me was that I did not care about them or why they broke up, or what happened to them subsequently. Consequently I stopped reading this about a third of the way through and I did not miss it at all when I put it down. On the contrary, I felt relief that I didn't have to read any more and could move on to the next title which inevitably had to be better. Based on what I read and the overall style and format of this novel, I cannot commend it as a worthy read nor am I interested in reading anything else by this author when there are so many others out there worthy of reading.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo


Rating: WARTY!

I'm not normally given to reading this kind of fantasy, and I should have known better, but I picked this up because the blurb looked interesting. It began well, but took a rather downward turn once the main female character with the unfortunate name of Malora encountered the centaurs. I can't take centaurs seriously; they're asinine on the very face of it, but like I said, I let the publisher fool me with a blurb. Shame on me!

This girl had lost all her family to some large, bat-like predatory flying creatures, and was living alone with a growing herd of horses on the plains for three years until she was around fifteen, when she became a captive of the centaurs, the very people who apparently wiped out a lot of humans many years ago.

When her mother sent her from the village shortly before it was wiped out, she warned Malora to steer clear of these people, but the girl ran into a hunting party by accident. I had no idea if the author planned some sort of YA romance here between horse girl Malora and centaur prince Orion (seriously?!) which would not only be distinctly perverse, but would be insane given how cruel the centaurs have been.

I'm guessing there was some sort of back-story which would explain how humans persecuted centaurs and they fought back, thereby absolving them of genocide, but the premise still seemed thin to me and it failed to explain Malora's asinine and contrary behavior once she became their captive.

The author owns horses, so I'd tend to bow to her superior knowledge, but this one paragraph I read was nonsensical, especially if you're someone who knows horses. Malora has only been living with these horses for three years. She started out with just this stallion she was riding, but a wild mare took up with them shortly after Malora struck out on her own. The author tells us this pair (the stallion and the Mare, not Malora and the stallion!) produced six foals - in three years.

That struck me as too much too quickly, so I looked it up and it turns out that horse gestation is variable, but runs around 340 days - a lot longer than humans and very nearly a whole year. Twin foals tend to be rare in the horse community, so how they managed six foals in only three years is a mystery to me, especially given that foals in captivity tend to be weaned at a minimum of three months. In the wild I am guessing the weaning would take longer and that the mare is unlikely to be receptive to mating again while still feeding a foal.

It looked worse than that on first reading because it looked like they had produced twelve foals in that time period, but on re-reading the paragraph, I understood the latter six were over a longer time frame. Still, those first six are not credible in such a short time and an author who knows horses ought to have known this. Either that or should have written the paragraph more explicitly, if that's not what she meant.

When you create a world like this, it needs to hang together within its own framework. You have to consider how the population of living things in a world evolved together. You can't just put random things in there and have it make guaranteed sense. I had this same problem with James Cameron's Avatar. I loved the movie, but the world being so relentlessly hostile made no sense at all.

Neither does it make sense to have creatures prey on humans with such dedication. That's why the bat-creatures in this novel were too much. Any organism that overruns its food source inevitably becomes extinct. The same thing is going to happen to us if we're not careful.

If humans were all but wiped-out by the centaurs, then the bat creatures would have died out had their food source been humans. If they had survived by taking other prey, which we know was readily available, then why suddenly turn to scarce humans? It made no sense. Any author creating a fantasy world needs an understanding of science and of biology and evolution in particular. They would create much more engrossing worlds if they had such knowledge. This author does not, but it wasn't actually that which turned me off this story about a quarter the way through it.

What went wrong here was that yet another female author trashed her own female main character. This author turned her Malora from a reasonably tough and self-sufficient girl into a simpering fangirl in the space of a few paragraphs.

She was captured by the centaurs because they had run her (along with her horses) into a dead-end canyon which was then hit with a flash flood. A bunch of her beloved horses drowned. There's a paragraph where it describes her seeing all the corpses, yet instead of being intensely upset and in turn, angry with centaurs, she has no sadness and no anger at all. Instead she begins to idolize the centaurs. Barf. Totally unrealistic even for a fantasy novel.

Listen Kate Klimo and clones: if you'd wanted some horses dead and the main character to take up with the centaurs and make it realistic, why have the centaurs responsible for the death of the horses? Why not have Malora trapped by a flash flood which had nothing to do with the centaurs, her horses dying, and prince Orion swoop and rescue her? At least that would explain her selling out afterwards. If you wanted any tension between them, create that later from something else. This isn't rocket science! As it is, you wrote a sorry-assed simpering YA love story and it sucks.

That was it for me. And that's it for me reading anything else by this author who evidently has nothing to offer that a hundred other female writer clones don't have. if all you've got is poor writing, half-assed 'plotting', and pathetic female leads, get a clue. Do something the others are not doing: write well, make your female main character strong and at the very least street smart and don't have her do dumb-ass things - or at least let her learn fast from doing dumb things and become smart. And Good Lord don't have her start out strong and independent and then become a total wet rag as soon as a guy shows up. There are a lot of authors out there I haven't read. I see no point in going back to try something else from one who has proven to be a poor author when there are new voices to be heard. I'm done with this one.



Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


Rating: WARTY!

Again, what's with this nonsense with putting music on audiobooks? Did Anthony Burgess write music that he then sold along with this novel? No! So why does this audiobook publisher think it's required? I've seen this - or, more accurately - heard it, on many audiobooks and it's pointless and annoying. If the book was about music, then by all means blast away with examples of the music under discussion. I'd expect that as I'd expect an art book to include pictures of the art that was discussed.

Likewise, if it's a biography about a musician, or even a novel about one, and you, as the author, want to include some of that musician's music, then fine, but when it's about a dystopian future juvenile gang, what exactly is the rationale? The fact that one of the gang members likes classical music? He also likes violence and rape, so should that be included with the audiobook? I don't think so! If the main character in a novel is given to farting, should a little vial of fart smell be included? No thank you! If your main character loves to eat Spaghetti Bolognese, should a meal be included with the book? Good tuck with that! If the book was about Al Pacino's character in Scarface, should a machine gun be given away free with the book as a little friend for the reader? I hope not! Ditch the ridiculous music.

I saw the movie some time back and it was okay - nothing I felt a need to see again, but not a disaster. I never did get around to the book until now, and at last I know why! It was read decently by none other than Spider-Man, Tom Holland (not to be confused with the other English actor Tom Hollander!) who despite being in his twenties looks like he's the same age as the character he narrates, but the novel is really not very good, and notwithstanding its subject matter, is actually rather boring. Anthony Burgess himself has disowned it, and rightly so. It's nothing special. It's about this gang of four mid-teen ruffians, Alex, George, Pete, and Dim. It's tempting to think maybe the Pete and George names came from The Beatles, but this was written before they came to national prominence.

This gang likes to go out of an evening and beat-up those people they're not in the mood to bully or rob. They indulge liberally in robbery, burglary, home invasion, and rape. And they fight other gangs. When the leader, Alex, is caught, he is put into this experimental program aimed at 'reforming' violent offenders by forcing them to binge-watch violent video while being injected with nausea-inducing chemicals so that in a Pavlovian dog(fighter)'s fashion, they become nauseated whenever they even think about violence. It's an idea appropriated in a recent Doctor Who episode, Rosa where the so-called villain from Stormcage has been similarly treated so that he cannot harm others.

What got to me was the artificial lingo with which the story was Balkanized. It was too much. It wasn't unintelligible - in context, you got a good idea of what it meant even if it wasn't exactly clear. What bothered me was the endless use of it. Even if it had all been all in plain English it would still have been sickeningly repetitive to have kept on spouting these words over and over, so I have to congratulate Burgess in that he rendered me in the same nauseated state Alex endured, except mine was inculcated through the endless reuse of these words rather than from the violence, which was relatively mild by modern standards, although I imagine quite shocking for an early sixties story. A Clockwork Orange is the title of a typescript that appears in the novel, by the way!

I don't know why Russian was chosen - maybe Burgess spoke the language. It seems to me that the lingua franca of the future will be a mix of Chinese, English, and Spanish. The Russian words were used and repeated so often that it got in the way of telling the story and kicked me out of suspension of disbelief every time a word was reused ad nauseam. So I can't rate this positively.

An interesting piece of trivia is that Burgess organized his book in three parts of seven chapters each, but when it was published in the USA, the limp American publisher refused to publish the last chapter so American versions were printed without this and Burgess limply went along with it. Dictatorships are not just reserved for leaders of nations. Thankfully, Big Publishing™ no longer has the power it once had to make or kill a career.


Code of Honor by Alan Gratz


Rating: WARTY!

Kamran Smith is American-born, but his mother is from Iran. He gets into trouble when his older brother, in the US Army, is suspected of carrying out a terrorist attack. The plot sounded interesting, but the writing was juvenile, so this was another failed audiobook experiment. I knew this was likely to go south when it began with music, devolved into first person (aka worst-person) voice, and then the main character turned out to be a violent, self-centered whiny little bitch. So three strikes against it to begin with.

Seriously, what's with putting this pointless music on audiobooks? Did the original author write the music? No! Does the music have anything - anything at all - to do with the story? No! So what's the purpose of it other than to annoy people who want to get right to the story? You buy an ebook, or a print book, you don't get music and you can skip straight to chapter one. But audiobooks want to lard you up with music, all manner of spoken introductions and prologues that you can't easily skip, and on and on, it's annoying. Publishers, stop it! Stop it now! I'm looking at you, not-so Brilliance Audio, and you, too Audible, and you, Harpy Audio, and many others. Quit irritating your readers!

Anyway, the blurb tells us that this boy can't wait to enlist in the army like his big brother, Darius, and this is no surprise given how belligerent he is. I didn't like the guy. I didn't like the voice and I quickly lost interest in what happened to him. I further lost interest when the story absurdly went into a raid on this kid's home because his brother was suspected of terrorism - his brother who'd been accepted into the US military and been away from home for some time. What? They don't even come and question the family or put them under surveillance, but launch straight into a raid their home and tip them off that they're suspects? I can see that happening under this administration which is the most racist administration we've ever had, but even given that, it was too absurd to take seriously. Based on the portion I could stand to listen to, I cannot commend this at all.


Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence


Rating: WARTY!

Subtitled Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, this audiobook sounded like fun, and I love librarians, so I felt I owed the profession a review of this or something like it, but in the end, I didn't love this book for several reasons. I had hoped for something much better.

The first and foremost of the problems I had with it was that despite being published only a year or so ago (as of this review) the book seemed obsessed with antiques and classics rather than addressing any of the newer material that's out there. I don't have a lot of reverence for the classics - certainly no more than for modern works and certainly not simply because they're so-called classics! Yes, it did cover some more recent material but very, very, little.

Another issue I had with it was that, for having been written by a librarian, it wasn't very good. There were some interesting 'letters' and some outright laugh-out-loud moments in it, but those were few and far between and the more I listened to this, the more I found myself skipping sections either because they were boring or because I had zero interest in the book being addressed. It felt like anyone could have written this, no librarianship required.

Worse than this was the vulgar language. I have no problem with that in a novel. People use foul language in real life so there's no reason at all it should not be depicted in a novel, but it felt completely out of place in this work, and it really grated when she used it.

For these reasons I cannot commend this as a worthy read. My apologies to librarians everywhere; I can;t speak for them, but I doubt this author speaks for very many of them!


Anderson Psi Division by Matt Smith, Carl Critchlow


Rating: WARTY!

I picked this up at the library and I'm glad I did that rather than pay for it, because it would not have been worth the money. The art by Critchlow wasn't bad at all actually, and it was mercifully restrained in terms of sexualizing the character, but the story was just boring. I'm assuming the writer was not the Matt Smith who played Doctor Who in the years between Peter Capaldi's captaincy and David Tennant's tenancy, because I think it would have been more entertaining if it had been!

The story is about the Psi Division of the Judge Dredd world. I've never been a fan of this world; nothing is more ridiculous than the absurdly ornate uniforms these people wear, which must weigh a ton, and which provide no practical benefit. Just the opposite in fact. No wonder they need such sturdy bikes to ride around on!

Anyway, this story is about a psychic officer whose name, in retrospect, isn't important, and who gets a sharp premonition that something bad will happen at the museum, but no one seems to believe her. Why would they not believe an officer of the law who is known for her psychic abilities? Well, maybe because she's a woman? But in the context of the story's world it made little sense, and frankly I am so tired of these psychic stories where the psychic clues are so very irritatingly vague.

Subsequently there came a romp which made even less sense and in which she ended up, for reasons I couldn't figure out - maybe I missed something? - in a jungle where she happened to make a highly conveniently, coincidentally, fortuitous discovery. By this time I was very much done with this, but I read on to the end and the story neither improved nor was resolved, so it was a prologue. I don't do prologs and I refuse to commend this. There was nothing to it to commend.


Polaris by Michael Northrop


Rating: WARTY!

This sounds like a sci-fi novel from the title, but it isn't. It's a middle-grade scare novel a la Goosebumps, but not. I picked it up because I thought it was sci-fi, but even when I realized it wasn't, it still sounded like an interesting premise when I first looked at it at the library: "The proud sailing ship Polaris is on a mission to explore new lands, and its crew is eager to bring their discoveries back home. But when half the landing party fails to return from the Amazon jungle, the tensions lead to a bloody mutiny. The remaining adults abandon ship, leaving behind a cabin boy, a botanist's assistant, and a handful of deckhands -- none of them older than twelve."

I think as a writer you need to bring your reader in pretty quickly (of course this rule doesn't apply to established writers how seem to think they can ramble on endlessly and still keep all their readers entranced. Stephen King I'm looking at you...). The problem is that for different readers this type of entrance means different things. It's hard to write a generic opening that will draw everyone in, and in this case, the writing just did not welcome me at all. Right from when I first started listening to it, I couldn't get into it at all and I DNF'd it pretty quickly.

I think the problem was the mesmerizingly rapid, if not rabid switch of viewpoints as the story opened so I wasn't ever quite sure where the hell I was. Maybe if I'd been sitting in a room listening to this it would have been different, but I listen to audiobooks pretty much exclusively when I'm driving, and when I am driving, I'm all about driving, and will ditch attention to a novel rapidly if something demands extra attention on the other side of the windshield. That's not to say I ignore traffic if a story is really engrossing, by any means, but I know that if my mind is wandering onto other matters - such as my own writing, then the audiobook just ain't cutting it. So, other than that, I don't have anything to add about this except that based on my experience I can't commend it.


Prophecy by SJ Parris


Rating: WARTY!

This is one of those bloated historical novels which place important people at the author's beck and call, and which consists of name-dropping and the most sluggish pace imaginable. I was hoping for better. Once again it's a series - the Giordano Bruno mysteries, in which this Catholic monk becomes a detective. Seriously? He's also helping the Elizabethan government stave off encroachment by the Catholic church? No! He was a devout Catholic himself. Why would he help a fight against it? All that crap alone should have warned me off it. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

So, he's in England - which he was at the time this story is set - and a ritualistic murder is committed inside the palace grounds. Sir Francis Walsingham is seeking to solve it and calls on Bruno to help him. No! Someone of Walsingham's ability needs outside help? Not going to happen.

I don't hold authors responsible for book blurbs, which they typically have nothing to do with unless they self-publish, but this one claims "It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another." This is patent horseshit. The last such conjunction was in May, 2000, and the next will be around Christmas or New Year's of 2020. My math sucks, but even I can distinguish between 5x22 and 5x200! Elizabeth was queen for some forty years so her lifetime would have seen at least two of these conjunctions.

So it really didn't get me interested which is the first mistake a book can make, but worse than that, it didn't evoke Elizabethan times at all. The author made the common mistake of putting it into first person voice from Bruno's perspective. I typically do not like 1PoV, and in this case it was glaring because Bruno's thought processes were entirely modern. It kept kicking me out of suspension of disbelief pretty much every time he thought something.

When Bruno was in England, he was writing a bunch of stuff that he couldn't get done in Europe for persecution by the idiot church. All he was trying to do was tell the truth, but brain-dead church dogma wouldn't let him. This is why we must never let blind faith control our lives again; it is universally disastrous. But the point here is that given how busy he was, he would hardly have had the time to swan around solving murders and spying for the protestants, so the very basis of this novel is nonsensical prima facie, and the author never gave me writing of sufficient quality to make me willing to overlook these shortcomings for the sake of the story. For these reasons, I can't commend it.


The Ark by Patrick S Tomlinson


Rating: WARTY!

This is purportedly a sci-fi novel, but it’s really just a detective story which takes place on a generation ship carrying the last fifty thousand humans to some planet out Tau Ceti way. Why there in particular goes unexplained. How they even knew there were habitable planets there is a mystery, but maybe they figured it out from the extra-solar planetary search. Tau Ceti is the closest single G class star to our own sun (which is G class), and it does have two planets in the 'habitable zone', but there's nothing known yet to indicate they might be anything like Earth or habitable at all. The bigger problem though is that the system is young and is awash with debris, so impacts of meteors on those planets would be huge. It would be an extremely dangerous place to live.

Two weeks out from the planet, a research lab operative goes missing, which is highly unusual since everyone has an implant which allows them to be tracked. There is a 'cop' on board who is assigned to investigate the disappearance, but the guy isn’t actually a police officer. He used to be a zero gravity sports star. How this remotely qualifies him to investigate crime in his retirement years is a mystery. Was he the only applicant when the position became vacant? Why did he even retire? The game was played in zero G so there's no major physical requirement like there would be on Earth for a sport. You need to be agile of body and mind, but how can you get too old for a sport like that when you’re still young isn’t explained here.

That I could live with, but when the guy ends up being a complete moron, I can’t read about him. The obvious place to get rid of a body in space is to flush it out the airlock, but that's the last place this brilliant detective thinks to look. The fact that they discover the body out there is complete luck. No alarm sounded when someone opened an airlock in space? Instead of sending a robot out to get the body, the detective, who has zero experience in space, demands to go get it himself. The spacecraft is inexplicably a single-seater, so he's literally by himself. He fouls up completely (turning off the com is his first arrogant and stupid mistake). He almost loses the body and he almost dies. Despite being in trouble, the crew explicably did not send out another spacecraft to rescue him despite having many of them on hand.

The thing is that when you flush something out of an airlock, the object is catapulted with some force because of the escaping air. It’s rather like firing a BB gun. The body would move away from the spacecraft with some significant speed, and if it were gone for a couple of days, it would be so far out and so dark, that it wouldn't be visible. Given how dirty space was this close to the planet, it would more than likely be undetectable by any means from the spacecraft, being yet one more cold, dark object among many. Yet they find it close to the craft and largely undamaged.

In the hospital, his female doctor is inappropriate with him, but that's just fine because he's being inappropriate with a subordinate colleague so everything balances out, right? No. When he wants to leave, he asks the doctor where his clothes were and she says, “We had to cut them off.” Why? If he'd been injured in a serious accident, then yeah - swelling and the need to get to him quickly and fix wounds would necessitate cutting off clothes, but all he did was pass out. What, they had to remove his clothes to put an oxygen mask on his face? No! They didn't have to strip him at all, yet this doctor did. I assume because the author is male. And that wasn't the only way she was inappropriate. Who knows, maybe his doctor used to be a car mechanic before her current gig. For them it’s routine to strip things down so they can charge you more for labor....

It was after the incident with the doctor that I quit reading this garbage. The story was poor and amateurish before then, but this was nonsense, and I had no intention of reading on at that point, much less of reading any more volumes in the lame series that this was intended to become. I can’t commend it at all.


Unhappy Medium by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel


Rating: WARTY!

Evidently part of a "Suddenly Supernatural" series, this audiobook was a disaster from my perspective. First of all it's number three in an ongoing series, which I couldn't tell from the book cover because Big Publishing™ seems to be in an orchestrated campaign to consistently deny this knowledge to readers. Why they would want this, I do not know, but it's yet another reason I have no time for Big Publishing™. Consequently it was a story in progress before I ever got there. This might have been manageable if other things hadn't tripped it up.

Worse than joining it in the middle as it were, it's worst-person voice, aka first-person voice. Worse than that even, the main character Kat Roberts appears to be a complete moron. Why female authors make their female main characters idiots so often remains a mystery to me. I don't mind if they start out somewhat dumb and wise up during the course of the story but to portray your female as an idiot doesn't do anyone any good. Women have enough to contend with from men without their own gender turning on them like this.

On top of that, the reader, Allyson Ryan, seemed like she wanted to make Kat's best friend as irritating as possible. Typically I find I like the side-kick better than I like the main character in far too many novels of this nature, but here the reader makes "Jac's" voice nauseatingly scratchy (she sounded like that clown from the Simpsons cartoons). She was so bad she almost made the main character seem worth my time. Almost. But I honestly couldn't stand to listen to it. This and the fact that the story was written so badly it was uninteresting to me, made me ditch this DNF. I can't commend it.


Swimming With Horses by Oakland Ross


Rating: WARTY!

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

I was disappointed in this story. From the misleading blurb I'd assumed it was about a mysterious black woman named Hilary Anson from apartheid-riven South Africa who moved to Canada and later disappeared, leaving a murder behind her. Sam Mitchell, who Hilary helped with his learning to ride a horse, later sets out for South Africa to solve the 'mystery' of her disappearance like it's any of his business.

I went into this under the impression that this would all take place when Sam was an adult, but after reading a third of the story and seeing it go literally nowhere, I DNF'd it. It was boring. The characters are uninteresting, and literally nothing was happening. Even by a third the way through, it had not even remotely progressed to the point where, as an older man, he decided to investigate her disappearance. I have better things to do with my time than read ponderous, pedantic, and sluggish novels like this which seem to promise one thing and deliver quite another.

Hilary wasn't black, she was white, which for this particular story framework reduced my interest significantly. The entire first third of the story switch-backed between her time in South Africa - the easily-manipulated, spineless and wayward daughter of a wealthy rancher, and her time teaching Sam how to ride his horse during her 'exile' in Canada. Throughout this entire time there was no mystery to solve and nothing whatsoever that was new, original, engaging, or even appealing. We never actually got to know Hilary at all. Everything we read about her was vague allusion, with nothing really happening and no information as to why Canada had been her destination; Canada being nothing like South Africa.

From what little I learned of her, I developed no interest at all in getting to know this foolish and clueless girl better, so it was of no consequence to me that she later disappeared. I honestly didn't care. Sam was a complete non-entity, and what I read of him in that first third offered no reason at all why he should go off to South Africa looking for her or why I should care if he did. Maybe things happened later, but an entire third of a novel to read through without anything of interest occurring was way too much of my time wasted and I frankly did not care what came next. In short, there was nothing about either of these characters that appealed to me or invited me to continue reading and I had no idea what the title had to do with the novel! I normally avoid books with this kind of a pretentious John Green-style title, so I guess I learned my lesson!

Frankly I had wanted to quit this long before I did, but I kept reading on in the hope it might improve. In the end it was a classic example of the sunk cost fallacy where people believe that if they have invested a certain amount in something, they need to stick with it. Well, I don't subscribe to that delusion and while I was willing to go a little further since this is an ARC, I didn't sign up to be bored to death. This just goes to show that you should go with your first instinct. If a novel starts out unappealingly, it's highly unlikely to turn around no matter how much more you read. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot recommend this based on what I read.


Friday, November 16, 2018

More Than Bones by Craig David Singer


Rating: WARTY!

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

Emily is a med school graduate embarking on her internship. She was lured into working at a Catholic hospital in Baltimore to be near her fiancée, and manages to find a room in a nicely-appointed house run by a usually sweet, but very temperamental guy whose first name, Norton, is the same as Emily's last name. On day one Emily is given a gift by an old man named Frank who lives next door to Norton. Emily tries to refuse it, but he's so insistent that she accepts just to be nice, and she hangs it on this skeleton - a real skeleton that Norton put in her room as a weird sort of housewarming gift for the surgeon intern.

The amulet is supposed to bring her good luck, and Frank is insistent that she wear it, but she doesn't and sure enough, a host of bad luck comes her way. She's late on her first day because of car trouble; later, her fiancée dumps her; Norton becomes seriously pissed-off with her over a remark she makes about him being gay - which he either isn't or is in serious denial of; a fellow female doctor, Mondra, with whom Emily was bonding also becomes angry with her, and an important guy from the local community files a formal complaint against her over her medical conduct when she treated his son - a patient she was tricked into taking by two other senior doctors who didn't want to deal with this kid's abusive dick of a father! After Frank dies unexpectedly and fails to impart some last words to Emily, a private detective shows up asking about his will, which seems to be missing.

The author has an interesting style, repeatedly tricking the reader into thinking one thing while revealing later how wrong you were to think as you did, but that grew rather old after a while as did the story-telling. Emily is neither an interesting nor a likable character and reading this story from her PoV was neither pleasant not engaging. First person voice is rarely the best one for telling a story, especially one like this, and did the main character no fav ors.

I made it only two-thirds the way through this novel before I quit because I could not stand to read about this whiny little self-absorbed ditz any more. At one point, for example, Mondra approaches Emily in the parking lot asking for help, and Emily just leaves her there and coldly drives away. I already didn't like Emily prior to this point, but that killed-off any hope of me growing to like her. At that point I was thinking Mondra's story would have been far more interesting than Emily's was - but not if it was written the same way this one was!

In the end I could not stand to read any more about her, so I DNF'd this. The mystery was boring and taking far too long to go anywhere for my taste. I cannot commend this as a worthy read.


Blamed and Broken by Curt Petrovich


Rating: WARTY!

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

As the subtitle "The Mounties and the Death of Robert Dziekanski" might suggest, this was a curiously-biased report of a fatal Taser™ incident which took place in October 2007 at the Vancouver International Airport in Canada, where four Royal Canadian Mounted Police confronted a Polish immigrant named Robert Dziekański, who spoke no English, and who was obviously frustrated and angry, but who had not hurt anyone and was threatening no one.

According to Goodreads (and this may be in error since Goodreads librarians are listed under 'useless' in the dictionary) the book is also titled Twenty-Six Seconds: A Fateful Decision. A Dead Man. A Decade of Cover-Up, so that ought to tell you something about how sensationalist the book is. Talking of Goodreads librarians, the book is listed as" Blamaed and Broken" so Goodreads' crappy search engine will never find this. You have to search by author name to get to it. This is one good reason why I quit posting reviews to Goodreads. It's about what I expect from something that has been stained by Amazon.

Let me say up front that it's far easier to make judgments on the sidelines and after the fact than it is when you're directly involved and in the middle of something as it happens, but from all I've read and seen, including the poorly-shot and misinformed video available on You Tube, Dziekański was far more defensively postured than ever he was aggressively so. He didn't offer anything like aggression until he was tasered, and even then he was not trying to harm anyone. He was clearly reacting in pain. The trigger for the tasering was after he turned around on the mounties with a stapler in his hand, and it all went sideways.

At this point he was repeatedly tasered, and when handcuffed and on the ground Dziekanski became increasingly physiologically distressed. He was denied airport medical treatment and got none until external medical services arrived. The RCMP officers initially refused to remove handcuffs when requested to do so by the EMTs, and when the cuffs were removed and the EMTs began working on the guy, he was found to be already dead. The video is misleading because there is a male voice on it repeatedly offering misinformation - such as declaring that the guy speaks Russian when he was speaking Polish. Clearly the commentator did not know this, but that's my point: don't declare something to be so out of ignorance. The voice asks, "How is he still fighting them off" when the guy is clearly lying subdued on the floor, and barely moving.

After Dziekański's death, the entire RCMP organization retreated behind a wall of 'we followed procedures' and 'we were just doing our job,' but it seemed obvious that they mishandled this situation and over-reacted, and presented a very poor face to the public afterwards, despite a phenomenal outcry that demanded contrition and an explanation.

No one in their right mind can deny that any law-enforcement officer has a difficult job to do and it's rarely in ideal conditions, but in these circumstances where the guy was not armed (unless you class a small stapler as a weapon, which they did), and was not attacking anyone, and with whom they could not communicate effectively, and given there were four trained RCMP officers present who had the guy confined if not restrained, the mismanagement was appalling in my opinion. They had time, for example, to call in an EMT to be on standby if they had already considered use of a taser - which they had, yet they delayed calling EMT help despite obvious signs of distress from the subdued Dziekański and initially denied them clear access to the guy even after they showed up.

Despite all of this, the author is writing from the outset as though he has already decided to come down on the side of the police regardless of the facts, and everything he's doing is biasing the story that way. Instead of reporting dispassionately, he uses loaded language repeatedly, for example, at one point he wrote of the pressure on the four officers in the aftermath, "Each moment is a separate car in a freight train bearing down on them." Seriously? I about barfed when I read that line. Yes, they were under stress and doubtlessly felt bad about what happened, but let's not get carried away. Not one of them felt as bad as Dziekanski's mother did, who was initially told that her son was nowhere to be found in the airport, and then was called back later to be told he was dead?

The endless and rather repetitive details quickly became tedious, removing any sort of satisfaction in the reading, but I also found some interesting omissions. It's an oddity for example, that the incident with Robert Dziekanski which took place in October, 2007 was kept in complete isolation by the author. In November that year there were two more deaths in Canada from Taser incidents with police, and there was yet another one in December. Halfway through the book, when he was well into the inquest on these events several months after the fact, the author hadn't mentioned even one of these other incidents. Out of curiosity, I searched the entire book for the three names of the people involved, and not one of them is mentioned. I wonder why? For the record they are: Howard Hyde, who was hit with a Taser up to five times about 30 hours before he died, Robert Knipstrom, and the exotically-named Quilem Registre; all tasered by law-enforcement, all dead.

One of the officers in the Dziekański case was later involved in a drunk-driving incident in which he deliberately tried to hide the fact of his drinking. He turned left in front of an oncoming motorcycle which he apparently did not see. The author describes the collision as occurring at "as much as ninety-six kilometres (sixty miles) an hour," but it may also have been as low as 66 KPH (40 miles per hour) which is still a deadly speed, especially on a motorcycle. Robinson was neither charged with drunk driving, nor with causing a fatal accident, and got away with barely more than a slap on the wrist. The news reports of this incident say that the officer took his two children away from the scene to his mother's house nearby, before returning to the scene having apparently had one or two shots of vodka, but this book seems to suggest he left the twelve-year-old girl and the nine-year-old boy home alone after they had been traumatized by being in the vehicle at the time of the accident. I don't know which version is more accurate.

At one point the author writes, "Dziekanski's actual habits when it came to alcohol and cigarettes are relevant." but earlier he had reported on the autopsy: "no drugs or alcohol were found in Dziekanski's blood." Case closed! Oh, you can argue that if he was addicted to tobacco and/or alcohol and could not get any, then he might experience some sort of withdrawal, and react badly to that, but these things could be established from his autopsy (did his body show signs of alcohol or tobacco abuse?) and from his behavior at the time which was documented on a video shot by a bystander. I saw nothing written about that. The impression I got was that this author was simply knee-jerk reacting to news reports and going off on one tangent after another like a ball ricocheting off bumpers in a pinball game. By some fifty percent of the way through, he is so all-over-the-place that I completely lost interest in the book and couldn't stand to read any more.

I can't commend this as a worthy read. In my opinion it needs some real editing and trimming. It also needs better organizing, the book is back and forth so much. At one point I read, "Underneath his deliberately cool exterior he is one part angry, one part nervous, and ninety-nine parts certain his time in the witness chair is not going to end well." That adds up to 101 parts. That's one part too many to make rational sense, and is emblematic of this book.


Monday, November 5, 2018

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi


Rating: WARTY!

Errata:
"The guard held open the door. Enrique walks inside. Tristan was waiting for him" - seems to be a mix of verb tenses.
"clove of tins" - that's the round way wrong!
"A man from the Italian faction raised his fan. "500,000 to Monsieur Monserro." The Italian faction has a Monsieur?! Not a Signor?
"Enrique pulled a Forged spherical detection device -one of her own inventions -from his pocket. His or hers? Whose invention?
"...there are ways for the Sia formulation to act like a honing mechanism." Homing?
"a triplicate bee goddesses" wrong article.
"Am I pronouncing that correctly, Laila?" "It's Bruh-mah-ree" - these two lines are run together without a carriage return.

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

There was nothing on Net Galley from whence this came, nor appended to the novel itself to indicate this was volume one in a series. Had there been, I wouldn't have request it. I'm not a series person because I don't buy into the popular idea that the only thing better than one novel is three novels all telling the same bloated story. Publishers buy into it because it makes them money and it's getting to the point these days where it seems that you can't sell a novel - particularly if it's a young adult novel - to a publisher unless you can promise them a tree-slaughtering trilogy. This is why I personally have no truck with Big Publishing™ in terms of selling my own work.

I read this authors A Crown of Wishes over a year ago and had the same problem with that that I ended up having with this - a strong start followed by a slow decline into boredom as the story rambled on too long instead of staying on topic and getting to the point. If I'd known that Kirkus had reviewed this positively, it would have saved me some time. They never met a book they didn't like so their reviews are meaningless. Any time I see them gush about a book, I avoid that book like the plague on principle.

Set in 1889 Paris in an alternative universe where magic exists, and only two of the original four powerful magical houses of France remain, the novel follows the story of wannabe house leader Séverin Montagnet-Alarie and his ragtag band consisting of renowned stage performer Laila, artificer and socially-inept Sofia, botanist Tristan, and pretty boy, the Latin Enrique.

The group are thieves, and Séverin seems to think this will lead him back to greatness, especially when he's approached by Hypnos, an alienated childhood friend, and the enigmatic leader of one of the two remaining houses, who offers Séverin a way back to heading his own house for his help in acquiring something for Hypnos. This kind of story has been done before, but here it was given a glaze of bright paint that was fresh enough to initially render it quite appealing, but the more I read, the more translucent that glaze became, and the underlying mess bled through.

I was truly disappointed, but not altogether surprised, therefore by the ending which wasn't an ending. It was dissipated and rambling all over the place when it should have long before come to a satisfactory conclusion. It never did because this wasn't a novel - it was a book-length prologue and I don't do prologues. It never explained the title, either - or if it did, it went by so fast that I missed it. Yes, the crew wore wolf masks on occasion, but why? I have no idea!

I was truly disappointed in the author, and felt robbed of a good story by her. What we got in place of an ending was a cliffhanger, so this and the rambling story-telling turned the whole book around for me in a very negative way. While I'd liked the beginning, the book was way too wordy and draggy and started losing me in the second half, and that ending was the last straw. This is why I don't like to invest my time I reading long novels! This was nearly four hundred pages and only about half of it was worth the reading. The only thing it was missing was a good editor. I cannot commend it as a worthy read.


Friday, November 2, 2018

I Don't Want to Eat Bugs by Rachel Branton


Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated rather oddly by Tim Peterson, this book for young children didn't impress me. The story is supposed to be about a young girl curiously-named Lisbon. Maybe she should have been named Lisbon-bon since she's so hungry! Reporting to her mother, the poor child finds no solace there.

Her mother informs her that dinner is almost finished (by which I assume she means it's almost ready), but instead of offering her a small snack though, or advising her to wash her hands and take a seat at the table, and having her maybe eat a little salad or fruit, mom sends Lisbon out to play?

The oddity about this image is that Lisbon looks pregnant, despite being little more than a toddler. I found that a curious illustrative style. Maybe it's part of the eccentricity of the depictions, because Lisbon also looks like she shares a condition of macrocephaly with Joseph Merrick.

When she goes outdoors, Lisbon is offered a bug by a bird and she declines. The illustration of the bird makes it look like it has a trunk. it took me a minute to see that the bird is extending a wing to offer the bug. Next her cat offers her a mouse it has caught. The dog recommends catching a hedgehog, but failing that, offers her some of its dry food. Finally she decides on ice cream which her mom promises her after she eats dinner, which is now, of course, ready. Lisbon doesn't wash her hands.

This book could have been a great opportunity to educate readers. It offers no reason for Lisbon to reject the food other than the mouse is cute, for example, but neither does it explain that there are cultures which do eat bugs, and hedgehogs, and mice, but it was wasted. It didn't really tell a story, and certainly it wasn't educational, to say nothing of unhygienic, so I can't commend this at all.


Agent Colt Classified Pride by A Lynn Wright


Rating: WARTY!

This was an awful, awful, awful CIA operative novel. Latesse Colt (because she's a closet lesbian filly, get it?) is a super-agent for no apparent reason. She blabs secrets to a stranger on a plane only to discover the woman, 'Vaneesa' is to be a partner, replacing sexist pig Isaiah, who is openly inappropriate to Latesse (sounds like latex, doesn't it?), but never once called on it not by Latesse herself, and not even by Latesse's supposedly no-nonsense female boss when he does this stuff right in front of said boss!

That was when I quit this asinine and amateur story. Even the writing was amateur as attested to by this run-on sentence I encountered very early in the novel: "Texas wasn't a bad place to be everyone was just so nice." The author needs to change her name to B Lynn Wright because she's not going to be A list writing like this.

Talking of inappropriate, it doesn't extend just to the absurdly caricatured male partner. It also extends to female characters. Latesse's female boss is described thus: "She had given everything for her career. No marriage, no kids, just work." So this female author is evidently convinced that a woman is missing something if she doesn't marry or have kids. Excuse me? How is this author any better than jackass dick Isaiah-the-pig-partner? Far from being apologetic, she doubles down on it soon after by having this character say, "Don't end up like me, close to retirement and no kids or grandkids to spend it with."

So clearly, a woman is useless when she has no kids. Forget about satisfaction with her career; forget about speaking engagements or writing a biography; forget about friends; forget about leading a life of solitude after all she's done, if she so chooses; forget about outside interests she might have, forget about even developing a satisfying romance later in life. Forget all that and a score of other reasons. Just focus on this one thing: if a woman doesn't have kids she's a complete failure. Screw you A Lynn Wright, who evidently doesn't get it right. I'm done with this author permanently.


The Losers Club by Andrew Clements


Rating: WARTY!

Read quite well by Christopher Gebauer, this audiobook was a story about these young kids who are in an after-school book-reading club. The guy who started the club deliberately called it the Loser's Club because he figured few people would want to join such a club, and it would give him the opportunity to sit and read uninterrupted by others, which is all he ever wanted to do. In fact, he'd been getting into trouble for reading and day-dreaming in class, and this was his last chance to show he could apply himself and not screw-up.

This sounds like it ought to be a good idea - a novel about reading, but for me it fell short. Admittedly it's not aimed at me, but not being a twelve-year-old I can't judge it from that perspective. I can reference my own youth, but that's a while ago and probably had little to do with youth today who have so many more distractions than I had. Plus I didn't get into reading seriously until I was around fourteen. This leaves me with my current perspective and I have no problem with that!

I gave up on this because of three things. The first of these was the bullying. The kid - whose name is Alec - has to recruit at least one more person to his club, so his first choice is old friend Dave, who is talked out of it by bully Kent, who used to be a close friend of Alec's way back. Now he's a complete jerk. Here's the thing. This novel was published in 2017. That year, the author was in his late sixties and I am by no means convinced he understands the school system any more, nor did he seem interested in doing any research, apparently. I mean, did bullies in 2017 really call a kid who likes to read 'a bookworm'? I doubt it.

Since this author was in middle school at the beginning of the sixties, there have been great strides taken to eject bullying from schools by means of zero tolerance policies. Schools are not the same as they were when he was in school! This doesn't mean that the policies always work, or that bullying is totally absent by any means, but the type of unrestrained, uncontrolled, rife and overt bullying going on here is completely ridiculous and made the story unbelievable. It was like everything that Bully Kent did was unconstrained and went without notice, much less censure, but everything Alec did, though it wasn't remotely connected with bullying, the teachers came down on him like a ton of mortar. It was too absurd.

The second thing was about the books. Alec is passionately into reading, but the only books he's ever heard of are what are considered (for reasons which all-too-often escape me) as classics. There was nary a truly modern novel mentioned in the entire book. It's like the author considered only his own preferences - either that or he blindly pulled up a list of classics and used that. The name-dropping of the same tired-old titles in novels like this is nauseating - even for a book which is about reading. It's worth noting that none of these books was read on any electronic device - it's like those hadn't been invented in this author's world.

Connected with this was another nauseating habit: that of referencing Star Wars - and not the new garbage, but the old garbage! I grew out of Star Wars a long time ago, and I look upon those tediously uninventive and repetitive movies with distaste these days. I can understand others' enjoyment of it, yet for all the references to it here, Alec had read not a single Star Wars novel (at least as measured by a complete lack of reference to them in this book). Instead Alec was all classics all the time. It made no sense and was entirely unrealistic.

This leads me to the third issue with this so-called reading passion of his: he actually had no reading passion. At least not as would be determined from his devouring of books. Instead, it seemed he re-read the same limited selection over and over and over again. This rather convinced me that he was not a book lover. He merely had a fixation on certain books and he showed no interest in moving on to other stories or in advancing to more mature material. Instead he was stuck inside a reading time-loop of juvenile 'classics'.

Now if Kent had taunted Alec on that, it would have made sense. It would still have been bullying, but not anything a teacher could have really called him on. He would have got away with it and called out Alec realistically. Why the author never thought of that is a mystery to me. I guess his imagination is lacking.

That's not the worst part. Alec can't start his club until he has at least one other person signed on, and he manages to get a girl by the name of Nina. Later another younger girl by the name of Layla joins, but despite his supposed passion for books, Alec quickly abandons all interest in books and begins focusing solely on Nina. What she's thinking, is she attracted to Kent, what's she doing, and on and on. It felt like a complete betrayal of everything the book had supposedly been about up to that point, and there was no lead-in to this at all; it just happened out of the blue.

So overall I consider this book a very amateur attempt to tell a story which could have been written in much better way. I can't commend it for these reasons.


The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris


Rating: WARTY!

Neil Patrick Harris is an actor known for Doogie Howser, MD and How I Met Your Mother neither of which show I ever watched. He's also supposedly a magician, but I've never seen him perform. Maybe that latter interest is what made him write this novel aimed at middle-graders, but for me it wasn't very good. Read by the author, it was full of clichéd stereotypes and average writing as well as nonsensical events - that is, they made no sense even within the context of the novel.

The basic plot is about the adventures of a group of misfit kids who have various talents - like one girl is an escape artist and lock picker, and the main kid is a magician. So while I must give kudos to having a handicapped kid as a main character and having prominent, self-motivated female characters (I particularly liked Ridley), the story never rose above its poor to average roots. The villains, for example, including the main kid's uncle (I forget the names of these characters, but make no apology for that - they were very forgettable) were made villainous not through any real villainy, but by having 'greasy hair' or bad breath, or by being overweight. No. I'm sorry, but no.

The story was unrealistic in that there were opportunities for the kids to get the police involved, yet they never did. Obviously in a story like this you want the kids to resolve things without calling in the adult cavalry to the rescue, but if you're going to do that, you need to do the work to make it happen. You can't just lazily have it happen contrary to all logic and sense. For example, the main scheme in this story was this one guy's attempt to steal this huge diamond which for inexplicable reasons was going to be exhibited at this villain's funfair. There he would replace it with a well-crafted fake and Robert's your aunt's husband.

These kids had two golden opportunities to derail this scheme and they ignored both of them. The first came when they broke into the villain's hotel room and discovered the fake diamond. If they had stolen that, right then and there, his scheme would have been thwarted, but they don't even consider it. This tells me they're profoundly stupid.

The guy's bathtub was full of stolen property - wallets and jewelry, etc. They could have called the police on him there, got him arrested, and thereby saved the diamond, but they failed to do so. This tells me they're profoundly stupid. Later, at the show where the switch is to take place, they were all in attendance and could have called out that the guy had surreptitiously switched the diamond since, as budding magicians, they knew exactly how he'd done it. There were police right there, but never once did they utter a word. This tells me they're profoundly stupid.

The main character is an orphan who runs away from his evil uncle, and he knows hardship and hunger, yet later in the story, these misfits douse the main villain in breakfasts - lots of eggs, syrup and pancakes, I don't know where they got this from, (I guess I tuned-out on that part), but the fact that not one of these kids thought of what a waste this was when there were hungry kids who could have eaten it, turned me off the whole story. If they'd used food that was spoiled and tossed out by some restaurant, that would have fixed this issue, but the author was too thoughtless or careless to make that happen, evidently thinking solely of slapstick instead of how real kids in this situation would have thought or felt.

In short it was really poor, amateur writing, and because of this, I can't commend this one. It's also, I have to say, really annoying that celebrities get a free pass with Big Publishing™ for no other reason than that they're celebrities, even though as writers, they suck. Meanwhile there are perfectly good, well-written, original, inventive, novels from unknowns which are routinely rejected by these same publishers. Clearly they aren't interested in good books, only in fast bucks. That's why I will have no truck with Big Publishing™.


The Circle by Dave Eggers


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook I picked up after seeing the movie of the same name based on this book, and which starred Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. The movie was rather improbable, but close enough to reality to be entertaining. The book, read by Dion Graham, was less than thrilling. It was far too wordy. People often claim the movie isn't as good as the novel for a given story, but I frequently find the opposite: that the novel is sometimes too rambling and the movie script writers have seen this and cut through the author's self-indulgent crap to create a much better story that flows and moves, and doesn't get lost in itself.

This getting lost was the problem here as the author went rambling on and on about things which contributed nothing to the story and which failed to move it, which in turn failed to move me. I DNF'd this in short order. You might argue that if I'd picked this up before the movie, I might have enjoyed it better and disliked the movie, but I really don't think so. A boring novel is objectively a boring novel, and the proof of that pudding lies in the fact that even though I listened this quite recently, I can barely remember any of it now. It made that little of an impression on me. Consequently my advice is to skip this novel and watch the movie instead.

It's not a great movie and I doubt I'll want to watch it again, but watching it once graphically illustrates the dangers of putting too much personal information out there. The Circle is both the book title and the name of the social media organization that this young woman, Mae Holland, believes is a career high. It's quite clearly F-book - a forum that lets members put out endless personal crap for the world to see, whether it wants to see it or not.

This business of publicizing oneself, which I've never bought into, is taken to extremes here, with The Circle being more of a cult than anything else, and with the advent of this miniature camera system, called See-Change, which can be stuck anywhere, and which transmits sound and picture by some unspecified means (using an unspecified energy source!) in real time to your device would have some positive benefits, but it's also rife for abuse and no one seems to call that out.

The movie diverts from the novel in some places while following it in others, and I think it's to the good that it diverts. I liked the representation of the Annie character in the movie better than the novel, and Mae was a jerk in the novel from what I could tell - not so in the movie, but since I DNF'd this I can't comment more on it than what's here. That said, I didn't like what I heard and cannot commend this based on my experience of it.