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

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins


Rating: WARTY!

This is an educational book about animals and the senses that they have at their command, which tend to put out own to shame, but I can't recommend it because it was so annoying to use unless all you ever want to do is to swipe from page one to the last page and back again. The page-swiping was a bit 'sticky' and slow, and there is no slide bar to rapidly move to different portions of the book.

The images are drawings which are in color but are nothing spectacular. No photographs here. There is a small paragraph of text to accompany each illustration. The book covers a bunch of different senses, fro example revealing that an octopus can taste you through its suckers! Yuk!

Other than that, it's not that great and I'd recommend looking at other options before considering this one, at least in ebook format.


Calling My Name by Liara Tamani


Rating: WARTY!

This book sounded interesting from the blurb, but turned out to be boring and I gave up on it after about a third of it. It was really a sort of journal or diary of disjointed days in the life of this ordinary, everyday girl and some of it was kind of interesting, but most of it was just routine events from which I learned nothing and was not even entertained because the happenings detailed here were so commonplace.

If you're going to tell us about mundane events, then your character had better be extraordinary in some way either in herself or in how she reacts to these events. If she's ordinary, then the events had better be extraordinary, otherwise why would we care about this story that's the same as anyone's story that we might meet or know in our own day-to-day life? If I'd been give a reason to care about this character, that would have been something, but I wasn't given any reason at all. She wasn't awful but neither was she outstanding in any way, so my feelings for her and her story were as flat as the story was. I felt no compulsion to keep turning that many pages.

I could not take the character's name seriously! In Britain, tadger is a nickname for penis. It sounds like Taja, depending on how you pronounce Taja - with a hard 'j' or a soft one. But a tadger can be hard or soft too! LOL! I'm sorry, but the name really amused me and the book failed to distract me from it. It's not my fault, honest! Seriously though, Taja is supposed to be pronounced with a soft 'j' which isn't a common use of that letter in English.

In Hindi though, the name means 'crown' or 'jewel' and while Jewel works as a girl's name, Crown really doesn't, so Taja is better. In Arabic and in Urdu, it means Mention or Name! A name that means name! Mention is actually an interesting name for a character in a novel, I think. But I'm weird. Moving right along, from the Greek - where it derives from the harder sounding 'Tadja' (see, I was right!) - it means beautiful or divine, so it's really quite a good name. Just don't use it in Britain!

That said, and as you may have gathered by now, I can't recommend this because of the monotony. It's supposedly a coming-of-age story but it takes forever to get there and it covers so many years with such brief cameo looks into her life that it really doesn't tell us anything. It's like trying to get a person's life story from merely looking at a few snapshots. This was the same but used a few words instead of a few photographs.


The Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian


Rating: WARTY!

Sixteen year old Theodosia, yet another in a long line of dumb, boring, derivative and pointless YA princesses has convinced me that YA princesses are now officially overtaking Disney princesses as the most interchangeable, generic, blandest princesses of all. Disney is showing some improvement, YA writers in general are not.

I now am honestly and seriously wondering what is wrong in particular with female YA writers that they cannot get out of both this princess rut and this asinine and tedious trilogy rut they are in. I guess money is more important to them than writing a good story. They so desperately want that book contract, don't they? And Big Publishing™ so desperately wants a story it can milk no matter how many times it's been done before, doesn't it? I'd rather never be published than play that game or get stuck in that rut.

So here we have Princess Dumbass, who saw her mother the Fire Queen killed on the order of the evil invading king, and now we're conveniently ten years on so we can have a princess in her mid-teens so we can have a moronic love-triangle, we find the princess is best friends with the daughter of the man who literally killed her mother, and falling in love with the son of the evil invading king. Barf. Is it even possible to have a dumber princess than this? Is it even possible to have a story that is more mix-and-match than this, with every single element taken from other YA stories?

Why, if the land of Theodocile was so powerful with the force (magical gems or air, earth, fire, and water barf) was it even possible for the invading king and his people - who have no magic - to win this war? And having won it, why would the invading king even leave anyone alive who was remotely connected to the ruling family? IT. MAKES. NO. SENSE. But it's a YA story written by a female author featuring a cloned princess, so why would it make any sense? There are, thank goodness, female YA writers who get it, but there are so many more of them who simply do not get it and never will. This author is one of them. She has drunk the YA Kool-Aid™ and the princess Flavor Aid™

From the first chapter I could see exactly how this would all pan out. I could tell, even though the book itself gave no indication of it on the cover, that this was going to be a trilogy with a love triangle. It was so painfully obvious that this book could well be a parody of itself. Having decided this was not for me, I read a few reviews on it, and the negative ones all agreed with my assessment. Don't even think of saying you can't review a book after reading so little of it. Yes, you can, when it's patently obvious that this is a cookie-cutter, YA, troll-ogy, female lead, female-written, love-triangle, uninventive, unimaginative, paint-by-the-numbers-of-dollars-you're-aiming-at, piece of tree-wasting garbage.


Heartthrob Vol 1 Never Going Back Again by Christopher Sebela, Robert Wilson 4, Nick Filardi


Rating: WARTY!

This one looked interesting from first glance but was tedious to read. It had the engaging premise that a sickly woman who got a heart transplant was now haunted and sometimes possessed by the man whose heart she gained, but she also gained his heart in a figurative sense, and she can experience him as a real person and have a physical relationship with him. The two become inseparable - so to speak.

While this was an intriguing idea and a slightly new take on this kind of story, the problem was that she talked to him regularly in the company of others and never once was she picked up by those people in white coats and carted off someplace for medical attention, so it was a bit unbelievable.

The problem for her in the story was that the man was a smooth criminal, and he wanted to continue his thievery using her as his host - and she agreed and developed a real taste for robbing banks and pulling other heists. That's pretty much the story right there, believe it or not and it really wasn't that great. It was tedious how they kept on robbing places and all that really changed was the venue, so...boring! The dialog was poor and the artwork equally bad, and I really have no desire to read any more of this and I cannot recommend this volume.


The Ophelia Cut by John Lescroart


Rating: WARTY!

I thing I'm going to quit reading any novel that has a Shakespeare quote or reference in the title. I didn't realize this at the time, otherwise I would have left this on the library shelf, but it's book fourteen in a series featuring a protagonist defense attorney with the ridiculous name of Dismas Hardy. If the only thing you can characterize with is a bizarre name, then you're not doing your characters right and you're certainly not doing them justice.

Worse than this though, the story was boring as all hell and moved at a sluggish pace. Worse even than that, most of it had nothing to do with the promised story, This is why I DNF'd this. And yes, you can review a novel without finishing it if it's as appallingly bad as this one was.

I should have paid more attention to the blurb which begins, " Brittany McGuire is the beautiful..." Anything that rates a woman by her looks and nothing else is to be disparaged and junked. I know the author isn't responsible for the blurb, but still! We need to move away from this objectification, and yes, authors and blurb writers, I'm talking to all of you.

The problem with an established author, especially one with a series, is that Big Publishing™ is so avaricious that they don't want to criticize any of their golden geese, so editing the novel is out of the question. That's why these novels get so bad and why I will never write a series. It's lazy and derivative and it leads to sad-sack novels like this one. I cannot recommend it and will not read anything else by such a lazy author as this.


Celine by Peter Heller


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook experiment and I was initially quite intrigued by what it offered. Although this wasn't clear from the blurb, the protagonist was an older PI - much older than is typical for these stories and, always looking for the road less traveled as I am, this appealed to me. Celine is sort of semi-retired from PI-ing, and is working on art projects when she feels called back into the field by a woman whose husband has disappeared. Tracking down lost people is Celine's specialty.

So far so good, but for me, the problem with this was the, if you'll forgive the bad pun, arthritic pace at which the story moved. It was glacial, and when I was over a fifth of the way into it and quite literally nothing had happened, I'd had quite enough. The entire first twenty percent was family history and flashbacks and it was so boring. I wanted to see how this woman tackled this job, but I was so tired of listening to pointless, time-wasting reminiscences which did nothing to move the story or even address the plot, that I couldn't stand to listen anymore.

To me, if you're going to go outside the genre norm, which I salute in principle, and in this case, have an older PI, then you have to bring something to the table other than the fact that she (or he) is an older PI! That can't be all there is. And you really need to get rid of the inevitable detective tick, idiosyncrasy, or quirk. It is so tedious to read of a PI or a detective who has a quirk, because everyone is doing it. Find something new: something different. If you're going off-road in your story, at least find an interesting trail to follow or you'll just end up in a rut. I cannot recommend this one.


Othello by William Shakespeare


Rating: WARTY!

This is the third of these short audiobooks. I liked Rome and Juliet, disliked The Winter's Tale, and now I have to say I did not like Othello, so I am done with following this Shakespeare series. One of the things that saddens me about our lack of time travel capability(!) is that I will never see these performed in Shakespeare's time or see Shakespeare act one of his own roles. I am really curious as to how it would work and whether it would look amateur or be brilliant. Would it be fake and stilted like some of the asinine, stentorian over-acting of yesteryear, or would it be as natural as can be?

My fear is that, judged from some of the overblown writing we find too often in Shakespeare, it would appear false and perhaps even risible, so mayhap 'tis for the better that we may not time travel. Certainly this version felt overdone and inauthentic to me. I could not focus on it. It failed completely to draw me in and did not capture my attention or love.

Known officially as The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, the story is of a general in the Venetian army, who has secretly married Desdemona. Once again Shakespeare ripped this off, this time from an Italian by the name of Cinthio, who wrote A Moorish Captain. Shakespeare's story changes details as usual, but the overall arc is pretty much the same. This play may have originated in a true story wherein Christophal Moro, a military man who in 1508, strangled his wife, whom he thought had been unfaithful.

In Shakespeare's version, Desdemona's father Brabantio, having been informed of the marriage by Iago, whose feathers Othello has ruffled when he overlooked him for a promotion, seeks to kill Othello, accusing him of witchcraft in seducing his daughter, but military needs prevent this assassination. Meanwhile, Iago continues to stir things up at every opportunity, getting Cassio fired and then suggesting to Othello that there is something going on between Cassio and Desdemona. This eventually leads to Othello suffocating her in her bed, but even so, she still manages to talk! Ridiculous! From then on it's all downhill, with people dying stage left, right and center. The whole story is stupid, but I can see how Elizabethan audiences would lap it up. Modern audiences still do lap up that crap, especially if it's a real life event rather than a show.

This play is dumb, and this version is so poorly acted that I cannot recommend it.


Accell Volume 2: Pop Quiz by Joe Casey, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella


Rating: WARTY!

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

I read the first volume of Accell and quite enjoyed it, but this volume simply did not resonate. It was all over the place, and the artwork was indifferent, so there nothing that special to look at or to read. Accell himself isn't a very impressive character. He's very self-absorbed and self-important, and he objectifies women (maybe it should have been titled Pop tart given the female character who's introduced?). On the other hand, given his jackass of a girlfriend, maybe some of this is understandable.

She was an unrelenting nag, and yet he had no spine to ask her to back-off or to lay it on the line that if she doesn't quit this endless complaining, he was going to be getting out of this relationship; then we get this other girl who's presented as stereotypically evil, but she's not really. It appeared to be a ham-fisted change of wind in relationships, but even that went nowhere. Overall the story was like a day in the life of a superhero, but it was a derivative and boring day.

This character borrows too much from DC's The Flash, and brings nothing new. The guy is supposed to be faster than sound, but there's never a sonic boom when he takes off, and never any complaints about one! And where are the other heroes in this world? Do none of them ever show up to help out a fellow hero when a bad guy turns up? I guess not. I wasn't at all impressed by this outing and I cannot recommend it. I'm done with this graphic novel world.


KINO Vol. 1: Escape from the Abyss by Joe Casey, Jefte Paolo


Rating: WARTY!

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

KINO stands for Kinetic Impulse Neoterrestrial Operative which is one of the most bland and meaningless phrases I've ever read, but it was appropriate for a story that made no sense whatsoever. I've been following this X-Men knock-off world for some time and initially I was enjoying it, but lately I've become more and more disappointed in it with every new volume I read, and I feel like I'm about ready to drop it after this one. Nothing happens and nothing moves the story, and by that measure, this book is looking like a microcosm for the entire series at this point.

The backstory is that a "meteor" was heading towards Earth, and this powerful Latin woman orchestrated an assault on it by a half-dozen international astronauts all of whom supposedly died. It turns out she was more sinisterly involved than anyone knows, but now she's a celebrity because she "saved" Earth. The offshoot of this near-miss heavenly body was that some people garnered for themselves super powers. How that worked isn't explained, but whatever explanation it turns out to be has to be better than a dumb-ass "X gene" for sure.

This story (one of many told by different authors and illustrated by different artists) focuses on Major Alistair Meath of the Royal Airforce, so kudos for at least acknowledging - unlike DC and Marvel - that there are places outside the USA. It's believed Major Meath, aka KINO, is dead, but in fact he's been kept in some sort of suspended animation by the Latin girl. The British somehow find out about this and send in a covert team to extract the major's body, but they themselves are hijacked and the body ends up in the lab of Aturo Assante, a stereotypical mad scientist. So far so good.

This is where the story goes seriously downhill because from then on the story itself goes into suspended animation. Assante seems to think that by programming the Major's mind with various challenges - fighting-off super powered bad guys - he can turn KINO into precisely the super hero he requires (for what purpose goes unexplained). So they have Meath suspended from wires, an idea taken directly from Robin Cook's novel Coma. The purpose of this in Cook's novel is so that the patient doesn't get bedsores from lying in one position on a bed, but as I recall Cook doesn't really address the various medical issues raised by this system, the first of which is infection.

The suspension wires go right through the skin into the bone, so unless there is fastidious sterility in the environment which even in a hospital there never is, then the patient is going to get all manner of infections. Just as important is the lack of exercise. Muscles atrophy when not used, as astronauts know only too well, so there's no point in mentally creating a super hero (even if it were possible) if the body isn't also brought up speed. This is why competent nurses turn their coma patients in the bed, and stretch and bend limbs to keep muscles active.

The story consists of repeated rounds of the Brit agent searching for Meath, the Latinx woman searching for Meath, Assante issuing bullshit demands of his programming team, and Meath having a rough and tumble inner life. It's boring. For example, at one point Assante (or someone in his lab, I forget) talks about "cortextual" - there's no such word. He's confusing the 'tex' in 'cortex' with 'text' and getting 'textual' from that, presumably. The correct term is 'cortical'. A real doctor (and a real spellchecker!) would know that.

But the problem is that if these guys have the technology to program scenarios into a living person's mind, then they can also read out of that mind what's going on, but they repeatedly claim that they have no idea what's going on in this guy's brain, yet even so, they know it's bad? Even without feedback they keep feeding things in? It makes no sense. Add to that indifferent and oddly angular artwork by Jefte Paolo and the story doesn't even make up in eye-candy for what it loses in the 'textual' aspects! I didn't like this, and I cannot recommend it.


The Hockey Saint by Howard Shapiro


Rating: WARTY!

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

This is the second in a kind of series or collection aimed at telling a buoyant, life-affirming story and I'm afraid I was no more impressed with this than I was the first one. This story is about a relationship which develops between an established major hockey star and a college hockey player.

One major problem reported by other reviewers is that the college player, Tom Leonard, looks more like a girl than a guy for some reason, and while I agree with this perception, I don't see how it would be a problem, except in that Tom looks way too young to be a 21-year-old college student, so while it's entirely conceivable that a very young-looking, feminine-looking person could well play hockey in college, it's a bit distracting from the story.

A second, similar complaint was about the Jesus-clone of a hockey player who some people complained appeared to be too old for the character he was supposed to be. I disagree with that. While the long hair did seem a bit much, I didn't have any other problem with his appearance. It was his behavior and attitude which bothered me. He lived a hugely secret life and this would have been fine, except that no reason was offered for it except some half-hearted and rather mealy-mouthed comments the guy makes about being misunderstood. It seemed inauthentic and irrelevant to the story. One of the secrets was that he was married to the woman he was, in public, passing off as his cousin! That was just weird.

According to the blurb, Tom is supposed to be sorting through issues that are "both very real and seemingly insurmountable," but I saw no such issues on his plate. He did cause problems for himself, such as being trusted with the responsible position of assistant captain of his team, and promising the coach he won't let him down, and then blowing off the first chance he has to keep his word. This made me view him as a dick and a slacker, and that perception never improved.

One of the things the blurb mentions is that Tom's perception of his hockey hero is a bit too golden, but after all the sports and celebrity scandals we've had, Tom would have to be a blind and deaf choir-boy to imagine someone was flawless or some sort of paragon, which would make him a complete idiot.

I did not like anything about this story, and it made little sense to me. It was far from being inspiring as I'm sure was intended. I cannot recommend it.


The Stereotypical Freaks by Howard Shapiro, Joe Pekar


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. It was another 'read now' offering from Net Galley, and while some of those really are gems that ought to be more widely read, too many of them are like this one unfortunately was - not really that interesting.

This seems to be the start of a series which features different characters in life-affirming stories, full of bon-mots and optimism. That's fine, but along with that, there really needs to be a story that draws a reader in and in this case, there was not. Set in high-school, in the senior year, this is the story of four guys who get together in a band. The problem was that there didn't seem to be any real reason why these guys would get together.

The worst part of this though for me, was that once again we had a story of young guys whose taste in music is curiously exactly the same as the older author's taste! I've seen this time and time again in novels and it really kicks the reader out of suspension of disbelief because there's no reason that we're offered for why these kids would like music which is so far from their peers.

Much of the music (at least those songs I looked up) was from decades ago, and it wasn't what I would describe as 'rock 'n' roll, although some of it was. If you want your young character to like it, fine, but you really need to supply a good reason as to why they stray so far from the norms for their age group.

There may well have been more recent music that I didn't take note of, and there are, without a doubt, kids who like music from earlier periods, but usually there's a good reason for that. Maybe there was in this story, too, but none was offered to the reader, so why these kids were together and why they all seemed to like this same 'antique' music was a complete mystery, the only explanation for which is that the author was writing what he knows and including his favorite music without giving any thought or regard to whether it would really be the music of choice for these particular high-school kids.

I didn't really like any of the characters. The author, who I understand does a lot of work raising money for hockey charities, a sport he's evidently very such into, did not flesh out any of them. They seemed, ironically, very much like Joe Pekar's artwork - sketchy and unfinished. The art was black and white line drawings, and some of it was so faint in my ARC electronic copy that it looked like it was only partially done: an initial sketch which never got fleshed out. Like I said, it was an ARC, so it may well have been unfinished, but I can only judge on what I see, not on some future promise, so I can't recommend this graphic novel for the artwork, either! The drawings were OK, but nothing special.

Although the author says, in an interview I read, that he doesn't like to write predictable stories, this one was very much predictable all the way down the line, including the ending. I didn't like the way the characters were pigeon-holed. We're told that the name of the band came from the characters being stereotyped by their peers in school, but this didn't have a ring of truth to it. For example, the 'smart kid's did not appear particularly smart. And how would he be stereotyped as a 'smart kid'? I don't think 'smart kid' is the term anyone abusing him would choose!

By that same token, the 'geek' was not particularly a geek and would more likely have been pigeon-holed for his weight or appearance than for being a geek. The 'star athlete' was a dick who let one of his jock friends - a stereotypical bigot - be truly mean and abusive to his bandmates without offering a word in their support or their defense. And what's with naming a sick kid a weirdo? He wasn't weird at all - just quiet. High-school being what it is, he would more likely have been abused for his ethnicity, which was Inuit, than for being weird or quiet. So in short, all of this seemed fake and false, like it was no more than an attempt to cover all demographics.

Overall I did not like this story. It felt inauthentic throughout, and it was stuck in a very traditional rut, so it did not appeal to me at all. I wish the author every success in his endeavors, particularly in his charity ventures, but I cannot in good faith recommend this effort.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hoodoo by Ronald L Smith


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Red As Blue by Ji Strangeway, Juan Fleites


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, May 6, 2018

I Have the Right To by Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, May 4, 2018

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 3, 2018

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


Rating: WARTY!

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

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


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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