Showing posts with label adult. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adult. Show all posts

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Fifth Beatle by Vivek J Tiwary, Andrew C Robinson, Kyle Baker


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a great graphic novel, beautifully drawn and colored, and with an intelligent text which never wandered far from the truth, about the life of Brian Epstein, the man who put the Beatles on the world map and one who was described by Paul McCartney in these terms: If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was manager Brian Epstein (but he also said that of George Martin!).

That said, it's really about Brian Epstein in relationship to the Beatles before his death (suicide or accidental remains an open question, I think) at the age of thirty-two in late August of 1967. We learn nothing of his childhood or early life. We meet him shortly before he meets them. Brian was gay in a time when it was literally illegal in Britain (the punishment for which was to be locked away with a bunch of guys. Was it really a punishment then? Yes it was. Neve underestimate how violently fearful people can become of others whom they consider different.

Brian Epstein had a problem with drugs which he used to overcome his tiredness and stress, and irresponsible doctors doled them out especially when he became wealthy and successful as the Beatles's manager. It was these which took him away, but before then, he found the Beatles playing in The Cavern, a hugely successful band on a local level but largely unknown outside of Liverpool and Hamburg. He fell in love with them and promoted them into superstardom.

The people closely associated with the band are almost as famous as the band themselves. The story of them being turned down by several record companies is legendary. Guitar playing bands are on their way out, the idiots at one record company told Brian Eventually a novelty record company, a small piece of a bigger corporation, and which was run by George Martin, and known for its comedy records, finally took them on and the rest is legend and history.

One the Beatles became uproariously, insanely popular and had stopped touring; there was not a lot for Brian Epstein to do, and perhaps it was this which pulled the last plank from under him. Gay in a item when hatred was even greater than it is now, lonely, feeling less than useful, perhaps he really did want it over with, or perhaps he just wanted his pain to go away. But he died and something in the Beatles died also. They broke up not so very long long afterwards.

I highly recommend this graphic novel It's as gorgeous as Brian Epstein was.

Scarlett by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a kick-ass novel from the off, with a good, intelligent story and beautiful artwork. It's a bit bloody here and there, and the eponymous main character (modeled on a woman named Iva) is inevitably sexualized, but it's not overly done thankfully. I favorably reviewed Bendis's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3: Guardians Disassembled back in June of 2016.

The story is set in Portland, Oregon, and is a bit controversial in its subject matter since it suggests that, contrary to the tale we were told in the TV series Grimm, some of the Portland PD isn't so much going after mythical creatures, as it is after drug money for personal use. Why Portland gets picked on, I don't know. Maybe these guys live there?! Maybe Portland has a drug problem? I dunno.

Scarlett is a young woman whose boyfriend is killed by corrupt police looking to notch-up another drug dealer taken out, but her boyfriend was never a dealer; he wasn't even into drugs other than maybe a little weed (this is blog spot, not blogs pot after all!), but he's dead, and Scarlett isn't going to stand for it. She starts taking out she corrupt cops herself and becomes an almost legendary figure.

She varies her MO. We first meet her in a dark alley being approached by a cop who evidently thinks she's a sex worker. When he tries to get a freebie from her, he gets a death sentence instead, and Scarlett finds six hundred bucks on him which she, despite some doubts, takes as evidence that he's dirty.

After this we get her backstory which for a change wasn't boring me (I normally dislike flashbacks), and then the story takes off, always moving somewhere. My only disappointment in it is that this is only book one, so now I have to find others in this series! I recommend this one.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell


Rating: WARTY!

Read beautifully by Jane Collingwood, this audiobook still failed to impress me. It began well enough, but it's one of those books which tells parallel stories, one in the present, the other in the past. Normally I do not go for this type of story but this one sounded like it might be interesting and after my first exposure to this author, I was eager for more and requested two more of her books on audio from the library. I was not excited by either one as it happened.

The story was interesting to begin with, but quickly moved from the main character's childhood to her adulthood, where it became significantly less interesting. There were one or two times when the historical portion was most interesting, and an occasion or two when it paled in comparison with the present, but in the end, both two stories became tedious and predictable, and were quite literally going nowhere.

I was also turned off by the amount of drinking and smoking going on in this book. It was disgusting and turned me off the characters. I sincerely hope that Britain isn't the chimney fire depicted here. It was gross. In the end my distaste applies to the whole book it was not entertaining, and it could have been. I felt it was a waste of my time and worse, a waste of a novel. It's a pity we can't bill the authors for the time we waste reading novels that don't truly transport us, isn't it? It would lead to a much better quality of novel than we all too often get, I assure you!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell


Rating: WARTY!

Another experimental audiobook, but this time slightly less experimental (at least that's what I hoped!), since I really liked the first novel I encountered from this author, The Girls in the Garden, which actually had been an experiment. While that novel was fresh and entertaining, with interesting characters and a plot that moved, this novel just bored the pants off me from the very start from its very tone. Part of the blame for that has to be laid at the door of Karina Fernandez, the reader, whose voice was rather annoying to listen to, but she couldn't have managed that without the author's contribution! I could have managed to cope with her voice had what she been reading been more interesting.

The book isn't even like a novel, it's like being trapped on a bus or on the subway by someone choosing you to sit next to, and who then insists upon you hearing their entire life story and doesn't care that you were trying to read something infinitely more interesting than anything they had to say to you!

Sometimes a character like that can be interesting, especially for a writer to listen to, but that wasn't the case here. It was an endless tedious rant about family and kids and who had how many and who was born first and who did what and thought what and none of it was remotely entertaining or intriguing. I cannot recommend this. Lisa Jewell has one more chance with me. I'll let you know how that goes; hopefully it will be later rather than sooner.


Lovers at the Chameleon Club by Francine Prose


Rating: WARTY!

This is the last thing by Francine Prose I will ever read. I think three audiobooks was enough to give her more than a fair shot at proving she knew what she was talking about in her Reading for Writers book of advice about how to write novels by combing the so-called classics for clues. I wasn't impressed with that, but I decided to try out some of her own fiction to see how well she follows her own advice. She actually doesn't. At all! She writes caricatures and stereotypes; she writes flat uninteresting characters in dreary prose; she writes boring, and tedious and depressing. The book - the parts I could stand to read - felt more like fluff than a story.

As usual the hyperbolic book blurb completely misrepresents the novel. It's actually not a story. Instead it's related through news items, diary entries, letters, and so on, which really turns me off a book. I detest the dear diary parts in particular because they're never, ever, ever written like a real person would write a diary entry. If you're not going to do it that way, then write the damned thing as a story because that's what you're doing anyway, moron, so why the pretentious pretense? This book was racist, celebrates white privilege, and favored the Nazi PoV, which is never a good thing. I have no idea what the writer thought she was doing, but whatever it is, it isn't anything I'm interested in reading, and I am now completely done with this author, permanently


Mister Monkey by Francine Prose


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of the most tedious and clueless books I've ever not read - by that I mean I listened to as much of the audiobook as I could stomach and ditched it pretty quickly. I got into this after reading a book written by this author and titled "Reading for Writers" which purported to teach a writer how to write by paying attention to the so-called classics as though all those authors literally agonized over every word they typed, so I decided to try out her own novels and see how well she does. I wasn't impressed. Not at all.

I'm sure some of those writers did agonize, and perhaps some modern writers still do, but agony doth not a great writer make. My gut feeling is that most of those antique writers simply wrote, correcting now and then of course, but otherwise never giving the writing process very much thought. The reason they did this is that they had a real story to tell about real (if fictional) people who genuinely moved these authors to write, so it required little agony to put it down on paper and little soul-searching. They were all about the story, not about analyzing it to death as we do today, and thereby destroying it in the process. And more than likely they did not dwell on it anally in hindsight like so-called professors of literature do. We could learn a lot from them, but it's not the education that this author thinks we should be getting in my opinion.

I'm not a huge fan of the classics. Do people care about the classics because they're really that great, or because we're force-fed these things in schools and colleges and by pretentious, bombastic critics until they can't think for themselves? There is a massive gulf between the writers who make money from their writing by producing novels which sell well, and the classic emulators who win awards, but about whom no one really cares that much unless they're forced to by college courses and school teachers, and by pretentious "must-read" or "Top 25" lists that try to brow-beat people into reading this book instead of that one for no other reason than that the creator of the list thinks their own opinion is akin to divine guidance.

If you're teaching people who actually want to write modern novels, then you need to read modern novels, not antique and obsolete ones, and you need to consider why it is that people buy this one and not that one. You need to ask why must we be forced to study the work of authors who made little to nothing on what they wrote and who are now being taken advantage of not because they were necessarily brilliant, but merely because they're no longer due any copyright fees, when each and every writer really does not want to be the next classic writer, but the first 'themselves'. They want to write. They need to write, and for my money what they should do is read lots and lots of the genre(s) in which they're interested, and then - in their own voice and using their own characters and plots - write something in that vein. Forget dusty professors who make a comfortable living not from their writing, but from a sinecure. They're not to be trusted.

For the sake of argument, let's pretend the classics do have miraculous things to teach us. This now begs the question: if that method is so great, why does the author of that how-to book not take her own advice? This novel was poorly-written, and it was filled with abusive stereotypes. This seems to be the author's MO, and it was insulting to everything from the chimpanzee (which it constantly and ignorantly referred to as a monkey) to the reader, whom it insults by this novel's very existence.

The author bewails the fact the game hunters shot the chimpanzee's parents, but she describes the locale as a paradoxically-named game preserve, not a wildlife conservation park! That doesn't make it right that the chimps were shot, but neither is it surprising when it's a game preserve that animals die unnecessarily. And no, chimps don't have cute little family units with mom, dad, and 2.2 children like humans do, so why did it matter that mom and dad ape were shot? Mom, yes! Dad? Not so much in a chimp's world. For all her blather about choosing your words, she completely failed here to choose her words wisely.

The title describes a play which is being put on by a bunch of appallingly cardboard and stereotypical actors. It's told from several rather confusing perspectives, and none of them were interesting to me. And blurb-writer? No, the narrative isn't madcap, it's boring. Get that much right, please. I cannot recommend this.



Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik


Rating: WARTY!

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

This novel is complete fiction. It may sound strange to describe a novel (which is by definition fiction) in that way, but this one, it turned out, was purporting to tell the life story of real life Persian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad (فروغ فرخزاد‎). Normally such a thing is done in a biography, and one does exist for this poet, but evidently the author thinks that wasn't quite good enough.

I read, "IT WAS HERE, IN A VILLAGE at the foot of Mount Damavand whose name in English means “closed gates,” that my story with Parviz and also with poetry truly began." This was at the beginning of chapter four! It immediately begged the question: if this is where the story began, why aren't we starting it there instead of wasting my time with three wholly-invented chapters that were meaningless and - by the author's own admission - irrelevant?

To write a novel about such a person you would have to know them intimately. And preferably have their permission. And be bereft of ideas for truly original work! Only two of these options would seem to hold in this case. Since Forugh died in a car accident two days after Revolution Day in 1967, she's not alive to object, and the author felt completely free to make up her own version of this poor woman's life, and not just the major events, but every minor event down to intimate conversations, putting words into her mouth, and thoughts in her head. If someone did this to me after I died and I learned of it from beyond the grave, I would feel violated and insulted. Of course it's not likely to happen to me, but if it does, I hope my estate will sue whoever did this to me!

I didn't realize, when I requested this for review, that this was about a real person otherwise I would not have wished to read it. I honestly thought it was pure fiction, and it sounded interesting, which only goes to prove that I'm not perfect - something I've been saying all along. No doubt my fictional post-mortem novelizer will fix that for me though! Personally I'd far rather read an actual biography where (we hope and assume) events are told as truthfully as possible without fictionalizing them, than a purely made-up story that brings nothing new to the table and doesn't even make for an interesting read.

Apparently this author decided Forough's life was far too mundane to make good reading, and her poetry of course just wasn't a good enough legacy, so she was in dire need of a make-over, and not even Persian style. Since this author hasn't been in Iran since she was five years old, we get it American style, where everything is jazzed-up, emotionalized, overcooked and dramatized way beyond reality - and second-hand. At least thats what it felt like, reading this.

There were also undercooked parts such as the crass description of the main character's appearance by means of having them look at themselves in a mirror: "I pulled the chador over my head and then stood studying my reflection. The girl in the mirror was thin, with pale skin and thick bangs that refused to lay flat under the veil." This amateur method is so overdone in novels that it ought to be banned. If that's the limitation of your ability to reveal your character, then you really need to do some deep thinking about your commitment to writing.

Even her death is made out to be heroic, and in this novel it's a complete lie. Forugh died swerving to avoid a school bus, not in a car chase. Whether she was going too fast or not paying attention, we don't know. No one speculates about that; they say only that she avoided a school bus, thereby making her into a hero, not an unsafe driver. No one is willing to let her alone. Everyone wants a piece of her body. Even this author who claims to admire her so much cannot resist exhuming her and trying to put her stamp on the cannon.

In real life a person's every action does not carry a forewarning about future events. Nothing hangs on a tiny thought. No big events are foreshadowed by trivial happenstance. Yet here everything was amateurishly highlighted in college-student blue and magnified as though it were a critical piece in a flawless edifice. Everything is more brutal and more tragic, like reality simply isn't enough. Maybe for American readers it isn't.

The novel is predictably in first person, and the 'author' of it even speaks to us from the grave - literally. This made me laugh, and that's entirely the wrong emotion to have over a woman like Forugh Farrokhzad, who was abused more than enough in her lifetime, but now has to suffer being a cheap fictional character. This novel is wrong in so many ways, you could write a novel about it.

I cannot in good faith recommend a novel like this which to me is at best parasitic. The poor woman is barely cold in her grave and already the buzzards have gathered. It surprised me not at all when I learned later that the author teaches a creative writing program, but how creative is it really, to pick over a corpse?


Saturday, February 3, 2018

'Til Death Do Us Part by "Amanda Quick"


Rating: WARTY!

Amanda Quick is the pen name of Jayne Ann Krentz, an American author who doesn't do too bad of a job on Victorian London, but there are one or two fails. In Victorian times there were no such things as Crime Lords for one thing! The reader doesn't do too bad of a job either. Her name is Louise Jane Underwood. Apart from not knowing that the British pronounce the word 'process' with a rounded 'O' like in 'hose', not with a short 'o'; like in 'ostracize', she doesn't do too bad of a job. The story was quite engaging to begin with, but began to pale after a while, and I ended up not happy with it at all. I think I'm done with "Amanda Quick" now. This is the second title under that name I've not liked.

Once again there is a Big Publishing™ fail here. The cover for the audiobook shows a woman in a Victorian-style, bright yellow dress running away from the viewer across a meadow. This cover bears no relationship whatsoever to anything that happens in the story! LOL! This is one of the perils of letting Big Publishing™. My advice is to take charge of your novel. Why do book cover illustrators/photographers/designers never, ever, ever read the books they are creating the cover for? Why does the author not set them straight? I guess the publisher doesn't give the author much of a choice, and if an established author like Krentz has no such pull, then what hope is there for the rest of us? This is why I self-publish. I refuse to let an old-school publisher ruin anything I write.

This is one of the author's stand-alone novels. Maybe the name Amanda Quick is related to quick turn-out? She has a bunch of these stories. Starting in 1990 she churned out about two a year for half-a-dozen years or so. The titles should tell you all you need to know about the subject matter: Seduction, Surrender, Scandal, Rendezvous, Ravished, Reckless, Dangerous, Deception, Desire, Mistress, Mystique, Mischief, Affair. I got these titles out of Wikipedia and I wish I had read that before I picked up this novel! I have not seen the covers for those novels, but I imagine the covers are of some buxom woman in a bosom-baring pose, probably wearing a Victorian outfit with some dominant, self-absorbed, narcissistic, manly man ravishing her. He's probably bare-chested. The covers will be in pastel colors. Yuk!

The story, published a couple of years ago, was fortunately not one of those sickly things. In general was quite engaging to begin with, but it went downhill as soon as romance reared its ugly head. The romance was ham-fisted and so dominated by the male side of it that it was nauseating. I think the novel could have done with omitting it altogether or certainly muting it, but that would not have fixed everything that was wrong with this novel. The problem with it their 'romantic' encounters for me was the violent terms used to describe it, and the callousness of Trent's approach to Calista. It was sickening to listen to, and sounded not remotely Victorian at any point.

Calista Langley is in her late twenties and she runs an introduction service to enable wealthy Victorians to meet people who might be like them in that they seek companionship and perhaps romance. She vets her clients to keep out the riff-raff and fortune hunters. I think this was actually a pretty good idea for something to build a novel around: take something modern and set it in the past. Unfortunately the author didn't stick with that. Instead there came murder and dominating males, and it went to hell in a hansom cab.

Lately Calista's life has been upset by the fact that someone has been sending her memento mori: objects associated with death and funerals, and which have been engraved with her initials. She has no idea where they're coming from though the answer seems obvious to the reader. All we;re told is that they're from a stalker who at one point makes use of a kind of dumb-waiter that was installed in Calista's house, and of which she seems to be ignorant. It was a bit far-fetched that someone could sneak into the house unobserved, use this contraption unheard, and leave something in Calista's bedroom. It made her look stupid - and how would the intruder even know about the dumb waiter? It was dumb!

Into her sphere comes Nestor - a dick with whom she was involved some time before, but who left her for a more wealthy conquest with whom he is now displeased and who he wants bumped-off so he can get her fortune for himself. After a year, and out of the blue, he now wants Calista back in his life as his mistress, but she rejects him. What she ever saw in him goes unexplained, and iot makes her look even more stupid than she already did. Also arriving is author Trent Hastings who is at first predictably antagonistic to Calista, and then who predictably 'magically' falls in love with her and she with him. That part of the story was genuinely puke-worthy. He "heroically" helps her with the investigation, but essentially takes over her life. he has a sister whom he dominates and infantilizes in the same way that Calista's brother, predictably named Andrew for his excessive androgen level dominates her.

In Britain, and evidently unbeknownst to this author, there is a river named Trent. No one named their child Trent. It's not even in in the top 200 names, and neither are Calista nor Eudora, although Andrew is. Eudora is like the one thousandth most popular name for 1890. Please, a little more thought for your character names! There are lots of names to chose from that are unusual now, but which were popular back then.

The blurb says, "Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels" but the reticence about involving the police made zero sense. Of course from the perspective of writing the novel it left everything to be done by Calista and her author acquaintance, but it stood out as being poorly addressed to me.

If you don't want the police to be a part of your story, fine, but please do better than a wheedling excuse as to why they cannot be involved! At least go to them and have them reject your position for some reason or come up with an intelligent reason why going to them at all will not work. Don't simply refuse to resort to them citing a lack of evidence when the evidence is steadily mounting in your favor. It made little sense, especially when Calista's home is being broken into and the two of them are being attacked by a murderer. It made no sense to avoid reporting these things and made Calista and Trent look dumb and clueless.

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Although I started out liking this novel, it is for these reasons that i decided it was in the end, not a worthy read. I cannot recommend this one, and I am done with this author!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The World Inside by Robert Silverberg


Rating: WARTY!

The cover image says it all: the exploitation of women in a novel only a male author could have got so wrong.

Silverberg was in his mid-thirties when he wrote this 1971 novel, two years before the World Trade Center was opened. It's interesting to speculate about whether those massive towers influenced his writing at all. The novel is set in 2381, and it posits a dystopian future where, in order to accommodate Earth's burgeoning population and provide food for everyone, massively tall towers have been erected, each containing a thousand floors, thereby leaving the land free for cultivation. The logic behind this rather escapes me, and the fact that everyone seems to be in complete compliance with it simply isn't credible. You'd think someone writing immediately after the close of the rebellious sixties might have thought about that!

Within these absurd accommodations, there is a set of "Urbmons" consisting of 25 self-contained "cities" of 40 floors each. People, we're supposed to believe, live in this confinement without ever leaving their 'city', much less leaving the building. I found that hard to credit, people being who they are. Everyone was supposed to be contented, but clearly they were not. I don't see how they could be, given that they were essentially being treated like cattle.

The other main characteristic was the complete lack of exclusive relationships. People got married at an early age (mid-teens!), but all the marriages were open, which begged the question as to what was the point of marriage in this society? I suppose it gave a stable platform for raising kids, but people were not allowed to have kids willy-nilly. Well, maybe nilly, but certainly not willy: they had to be approved, but having large families was paradoxically encouraged in this crowded world! And no one saw a contradiction in this!

Once the kids were there, it seemed like it was the female job to stay at home and take care of them. Guys were out working, so there was a real fifties vibe to this, rather than a 23rd century vibe. Guys would routinely wander the halls and floors at night, and stroll into any apartment they chose (doors had no locks on them), whereupon the woman was expected to accommodate them sexually even if her own husband was lying in the bed right next to them. The women didn't ever seem to roam, although it seems that they were technically allowed to do so.

Everyone seemed fine with this arrangement and it was, we're told, fostered to relieve tensions and avoid violence in this world. I found it hard to believe that there were no couples who wanted to enjoy an exclusive relationship, and who resented that any guy could bed any woman whenever he wanted. It sounded to me more like a male writer's fantasy world than ever it did a realistic projection of human society into the future. The problem was that anyone who exhibited any sort of rebellion or dissension from these arrangements was tossed down a chute to become generator fuel - and no one seemed to have a problem with that either!

Even if I'd been willing to accept all of this at face value, which I really was not, there was still the problem of the story being boring. There were several stories told, each about a guy, but these guys were (and predictably so in a society like this) indistinguishable from one another. One story even featured a woman, but she was also indistinguishable from the guys! Even when one of the guys snuck out of the building into the agricultural world outside, the story didn't improve any. It was at that point that I DNF'd this. I cannot recommend it. It was an exercise in adolescent fantasy as pointless as it was fatuous far as I could see.


Invisible life by E Lynn Harris


Rating: WARTY!

Read very averagely by Mirron Willis, this was another audiobook fail and it was arguably a book about, in part, homophobia, written by a gay man, which was itself rather homophbic!

Written in the early nineties, this is a story of Raymond Tyler, who can't seem to make up his mind. Ray is a confirmed hetero until he's not. He's not exactly raped, but he is pushed into a sexual relationship with the appropriately named Kelvin (since he's so hot, get it?) who is a rather formidable-looking athlete, and then he willingly continues it, but very quietly. He's really a jerk because he's dating a woman named Sela at the time and he doesn't have the decency to break-up with her or tell her he's having sex with someone else. This is an incontrovertibly dick move, especially since he's now putting his partner at risk of picking up an STD. What bothered me is how easily they fell into bed without a second thought for possible consequences.

That said, I DNF'd this because it was boring, especially since Ray does exactly the same thing again, but to his new girlfriend, Nicole. There was this huge jump in time that came right out of left field, and then he magically meets this guy again, which is when Nicole is kicked into the back seat. What is wrong with this guy? I know there really are people like this, but I don't care to read about people being jerks especially when the story is boring, predictable, badly-written and appears to be going nowhere interesting. I can't recommend this.


Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir by Jake Shears


Rating: WARTY!

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

Jake Shears, aka Jason Sellards, is a founding member of Scissor Sisters and while I'm not a huge fan of the band, I do like some of their music, in particular, I Can't Decide (the third track on their second album, Ta-Dah), which I think is brilliant, and deliciously bitchy. I'm rather interested in how people go from an everyday life to a stage performer in a band, so I was initially interested to read this, but I found it to be a real disappointment. I read it to fifty percent, and then skimmed to about 70% and gave up on it after that.

The band part of this memoir doesn't appear until the halfway mark and it's very thin. That part of the story doesn't truly get underway until about 70% and even then it's not as interesting as I'd hoped. The first half is taken up with the author's childhood and his college days. This part was slightly depressing. He went through a lot and had a lot to put up with, but that said, there really was nothing here that scores of other men and women haven't had to face, particularly if they're in the LGBTQIA community, so this didn't bring anything new to the table.

What bothered me about this, apart from the author never really seeming to want for money!) was that he appeared to have learned nothing from these events, or if he did, he sure wasn't interested in sharing his insights and thoughts on the topic. This was one problem with the book - it read less like a diary even, than it did a daily planner, with a litany of events and people trotted out, yet none of it had any depth, resonance, introspection or observation.

I never felt like I really got to know the author. We were kept largely at arm's length (as indeed was his "best friend" Mary, it would seem), and learned of him only through what he obsessed on or what seemed important as measured by how much space and repetition he gave to it. Judged by that latter criterion, casual sex and partying are his greatest loves. This second-hand perspective delivered an impression of shallowness and inconstancy, as though we were reading about the natural history of a gadfly rather than a person's life. As the New York City portion of the story ever unfurled, things only deteriorated. It felt like the story became even more shallow.

He was there to pursue a degree, but even when he got it, he did nothing with it. Admittedly the job market wasn't great, but what was the point fo the college education? From what we're told here, he was far more interested in dressing up, dancing, partying, and picking up guys than ever he was in a career.

His musical forays happened pretty much by accident and in a very desultory way to begin with, like he couldn't be bothered unless it fell into his lap, as it actually did in effect - at least that's the impression he left. I know the author has no control over the blurb their book gets, but this blurb mentions "...a confusing and confining time in high school as his classmates bullied him and teachers showed little sympathy." That kind of thing is entirely inappropriate and all-too-common, but what the blurb doesn't mention is what the author tells us, about how he liked to dress out even though he hadn't yet come out. This must have attracted entirely the wrong kind of attention.

And if you think a person ought to be able to dress how they wish, then I completely agree with you, but we don't live in a perfect world. In the world we do inhabit, one populated with ignorant jackasses and moronic dicks, this freedom brings a price and that price is exactly what the author suffered: bullying and little sympathy. A bit more attention to the wisdom of certain modes of dress and certain behaviors might have saved him a lot of this hassle. But the real problem here is that he doesn't talk about this in any detail, or offer any thoughts or insights here any more than he does on any other such topic. Maybe how he behaved and dressed would have made no difference, but we'll never know because it's one more important discussion we don't get from the author; one more cogent observation we're denied.

The casual sex was rife and disturbing. At first we're told it was oral only, which isn't exactly safe sex, but then we're not told anything about it other than it happens - frequently, and with a variety of one night stands and some dating in between. There is nary a mention of safe sex even though AIDS is mentioned. Even here though, the topic is dealt with so cursorily that it was like the ongoing AIDs problem never really happened or if it did, it impinged very little on his life or on the life of anyone he knew. I didn't expect the author to keep harping on it (or on any other topics for that matter), but I did expect to feel something of the impact of it and how it was dealt with, and how he felt about it all, but again we;re denied that.

There's really no mention of disease concerns or risks from casual sex, and there ought to have been, even if the author never had any such problems himself. As it is, it looks like not only the author, but no one he knew ever had any issues. Maybe that was the case, but it's hard to believe. As it is, the author plays right into homophobic stereotypes of the gay community and that's never a good course to follow, especially from the pen of someone who liked to plow his own furrow, so to speak.

One issue with memoirs for me is: how can someone recall events and conversations with such clarity from years before? I know some people can, and I know some people conflate several events into one for the sake of brevity and moving the story along, and this is fine, but nowhere are we told whether these particular recollections are amalgamations, or if they happened word for word (or close enough), or if they're simply impressions with some dramatic license taken. It would have been nice had a word been said about that. There are some events which feel like they would leave an indelible impression such that recall, even if a bit vague, would be authentic, but most of what we're told here wasn't of that nature, so I have to wonder how reliable some of this is, and I guess I found out. More on this later.

Starting with New York, the name-dropping became so rife in this book that the din from it was a distraction from the actual story, and it seems to serve little purpose except for the author to say, "Hey, look at all these people I know!" It felt so pretentious, and there were so many repeated mentions of going to parties and spending the night with guys he just met that the whole thing quickly began to feel sickeningly self-indulgent, shallow, thoughtless, tedious, and even dangerous.

This shallowness really came to the fore when the events of 9/11 were related. He was in New York City when the planes hit the towers, but none of that seemed to make any impact on him, because all we got was a brief paragraph sandwiched in between a night he spent with three other guys and a complaint that because of the fall of the towers, it was hard to party in the city and parties had to move out to the suburbs! The author didn't specifically say that himself; someone else did, but his lack of any sort of commentary on that attitude appalled me.

The shallowness he displayed over this entire thing was sickening. He was living within a few blocks of the event and saw part of it happen from the roof of his apartment block, and this one short paragraph and a couple of mentions later was it. I didn't expect him to agonize over it and put ashes in his hair and rend his clothes or anything like that, but his mention of it was so fleeting and cursory that it seemed like it was just another party in a long line of parties he attended - or perhaps more accurately another hangover after one such party. It's almost like he said, "Oh well, that's that, let's get dressed for the next fancy dress party!" This really turned me off the author. Another such incident was the New York blackout. That turned out to be just another opportunity to party, pick up a guy he didn't even really like for a one-night-stand, and that was it. Even then we got more about that than we did about 9/11!

I was ready to quit reading this memoir at the halfway point, but I still had read nothing about the band as such, so I pressed on. It was right around this point that it looked like the forming of the band was about to get going, but even then the story about it was awfully thin and sketchy, lacking any depth or insights, and it was still riven with never-ending tales of casual sex and partying. The monotony of it all made me uncomfortably numb, and I started skipping everything that didn't touch directly on the band from then onward. It was this that I was interested in, and I honestly felt cheated out of it by this point.

In the end I simply gave up on it. I honestly did not care about this shallow life I was seeing stretch-out meaninglessly across screen after screen. I cared about the music and the band and the dynamic and the energy, and we got so little of that, and almost nothing about the other band members. In the end it was a Scissor Sister, in the singular, and it was disappointing because it seemed to suggest that the very thing he had been heading towards since page one meant so little to the author that he could barely bring himself to write about it.

It was around this time that I read, "I hadn't had a boyfriend since Dominick" and this was just a screen or two after he'd told us he was dating a guy named Mark. Was Mark a girlfriend then, or is dating someone not the same as having a boyfriend?! What this confirmed for me was how unreliable this book was: something I touched on earlier in this review. One of the many names dropped in the book was Amanda Lepore, and I read her memoir some time ago and found it to be just as shallow as this one was. I'm now really soured on celebrity memoirs! Maybe if Ana Matronic wrote one I might be tempted to read it, but other than that, I'm done with this kind of thing. I wish the Scissor Sisters all the best in their career, but I cannot in good faith recommend a book like this.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Terminally Illin' by Kaylin Andres, Jon Mojeski


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a beautifully drawn and colored, and very amusingly-written bittersweet story about Kaylin Marie Andres who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in 2008 at only 23. Instead of succumbing to paralysis and mute acceptance, she chose to fight it tooth and nail with determination and humor, and not only went on with her fashion career, but also created a graphic novel to illustrate her fight with an amusing graphic story.

The book begins with her going for her first treatment and ends with the promise of a visit to a fantasy-land cancer fun park. There never was a sequel because Kaylin had to endure four major surgeries and attendant radiation treatments to four different areas of her body. And she died a year ago last November at the age of 31.

This book is probably one of the best memorials she could have because it was an awesome read and I highly recommend it. The last entry in her blog was five days before she died - on the day before she was due to fly back home for the last time. Hopefully this graphic novel will serve as a lasting inspiration to others.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook follow-up to my listening to this author's This Perfect Day which I heard recently and felt was worth the time. I did not like this one at all. I'd read it before, I think, but it was a long time ago that I did not remember it well. This listening began okay, but I soon started feeling that Rosemary Woodhouse, the main female character, was such a limp person, lacking in any sort of self-motivation, that I really began to dislike her. She was manipulated all the way and was far too stupid to see it or to take charge of her life. That;s not acceptable to me.

The story is so old and so obvious now that it's no spoiler to reveal that she's lured (with the contrivance of her duplicitous husband) into having sex with the Devil and giving birth to his baby. It's a complete farce to begin with, but a better writer would have made a better job of it. If you want to see how bad this is, take a look at the original trailer for the movie which was made from the novel. That trailer is one of the worse movie trailers ever made and it will give you a decent idea of how unexciting and unengaging this novel is! I cannot recommend it.

Ira Levin wrote seven novels: A Kiss Before Dying (1953), Rosemary's Baby (1967), This Perfect Day (1970), The Stepford Wives (1972), The Boys from Brazil (1976), Sliver (1991), Son of Rosemary (1997), Five of the first six of these have all been turned into movies which is quite a feat for a writer to achieve. It is, I imagine, what many writers would wish for a novel: for the publicity and associated dream of increased sales if nothing else, so it's remarkable to have so much of your oeuvre turned into movies, but that doesn't mean the novel which underlies each movie is any good. I've read his first four novels and liked three of them - at least when I originally read them, but I can't give this one a pass.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller


Rating: WARTY!

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

I was taken by surprise by this book because for a good portion of it, I was feeling quite positive about it. it was no in first person, which was wonderful, and I was able to skip the boldly-marked prologue, so that was fine, but the last section really went downhill fast and spoiled the whole novel for me. I can't reward a novel that just goes from A to B. For me it must go from A to Z, and this one fell short of that, but it's not the destination alone; it's also how we get there. In the end, I felt this one went nowhere good even though there were some pretty sights on the way downhill.

I was particularly disappointed because the novel engaged me from the start and it presented a world which, while familiar in many respects, in others it was pleasantly different. It raised hopes only to dash them at the finish line. Set in 1917 in the US, it's a world where magic is real, but everything else is very much the same as we remember it historically. except that women are the standouts and leaders in one field of endeavor: a magical one. This unfortunately was misleading, as I shall get to in a moment.

Before I start though, I find myself once again having to say a word for our poor trees. If this novel went to a large print run with its three-quarter-inch margins all around, it would kill a lot more trees than it would were the margins more conservative. I continue to find it astounding in this day and age how many authors and publishers seem to truly hate trees, but I seem to be in a minority position, which is depressing quite frankly.

Moving on. The magic is called sigilry, because it's done by writing sigils, which are magical signs that provide the user with some sort of an ability to overcome nature. The most common of the supernatural powers is that of flying, and rather fast, too. Some sigilrists have been clocked at over 500 mph. One thing the magic cannot do is tell you how the word is pronounced! I always say it with a hard G, but it's also pronounced with a soft G. Google translate doesn't help, because the English version is pronounced hard, but the Latin version from which it derives is pronounced soft! I guess it doesn't matter. The Latin is sigillum, meaning a seal - as in seal of office, not in the bewhiskered, flipper toting, dog-like mammal that lives in the ocean.

Robert Weekes is an eighteen year old who lives with his mom, Major Emmaline Weekes, who is a renowned sigilrist who acts like a medic: going to the aid of people - and animals - helping them out, but Boober's mom is getting old, Robert is known in his family as Boober, which is unfortunate, not only in how it sounds but in why the author chose such a name. It seemed pointless to me since it's barely used.

Anyway, Robert wants to join the US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service, which is also unfortunate because men are at best frowned upon in this world of magic. At worst, they're reviled. I found this gender reversal to be interesting because it mirrored the bias against women in the real world, which has eased somewhat of late, but which is still a big problem, and especially so in what have been traditionally regarded as male preserves.

Robert ends up being one of only three students at Radcliffe college - yes, that Radcliffe, the one of Jennifer Cavilleri. It's quite a change since he comes from a very rural part of Montana, but he has two sisters and his father died when he was young so he isn't unused to being surrounded by women. The interesting thing then, is not the fish-out-of-water you might expect, but the reaction to these men from the women, which mirrors what you might have expected from men towards women in the same circumstance.

It was here that I began to find weaknesses in the story. It was tempting to ponder how a female author might have written this, but given how many ham-fisted stories I've read, I'm not convinced they would have done better. Yes female YA authors, I'm looking at you. The girls here seemed far too hostile. That's not to say women cannot be feisty, hostile, and even violent, but it seemed a little out of character for these students to exhibit such flagrant disrespect and such a violent attitude. Women are not men in reverse and this story seemed to behave as though they were. I found that very sad.

Another weakness was that even though this is a story about a man trying to make it in a women's world as it were, the story is largely about the men, and the world at large is still very much a world of men: men in charge, men making decisions, men being called to fight in the 1914-18 war in Europe, men of violence opposed to the sigilrists. Having read through the early chapters, I quickly began to feel that it was a mistake to have it set up the way it was. The impact of the female sigilry was really undermined by the rest of the world being a male preserve. A female trying to make it in this world would have made a much more rational story, but I kept hoping something would happen that would make all this make sense. Unfortunately it did not; quite the opposite, in fact.

Robert gets a girlfriend, and a sterling one in my opinion (and not the one you might think he will become involved with), but despite her accomplishments she seems very much like a secondary character and that saddened me. Why make her such a great and nuanced character and then under-use her? The book is about Robert, admittedly, but it started to feel like even he was as bad as the rest of the men in excluding women, what with his little male clique. I as hoping he would grow and learn, but he did not, and nowhere was this more stark than in that last ten percent. And worse, why make him a man if he's not going to react as many men do when provoked? It made no sense.

I don't want to give away too many details, but the fact is that he quite simply turned his back on someone who had been a loyal and trustworthy friend, who had stood by him through thick and thin, encouraged him and had his back, and he callously betrayed all of that out of pure selfishness. This completely changed my opinion of him and made me dislike him immense. I don't know if the author thought he was creating some sort of Hemingway-eque figure in Robert's unflinching manliness; all it did for me was to convince me that Robert was a complete dick.

In addition to this rather unrealistic conflict between the men and women at Radcliffe, there's a larger, more deadly conflict out in the rest of the country and I'm not referring to World War One. Many people, men and women, but mostly men, are opposed to women having this kind of power. They conflate it with witchcraft and militate against it, in some cases violently, and sometimes the sigilrists fight back with the same deadly aim., although that part of the story went nowhere and just fizzled out. Even here, we hear only of the conflict in the US though and while in a sense, this does match the reality of the isolationist stance of the US prior to both world wars, it means also that we learn nothing of this world outside the US borders (aside from references to the war).

In the case of one sigilrist, we learn of her outstanding exploits in that war, but I think this is another weak spot. It's common to many novels written by US authors - no matter how wild and supernatural the story is. We never get a perspective on the world at large. It's like the author is boxed in and can see only the US. It's a very provincial view which cannot see consequences or reverberations that might pass beyond the US borders, nor can it detect any influences or feedback from outside. I find that to be a sad and blinkered position, but like I said, it tends to be all we get in too many novels written by US authors.

So for me the novel was uneven, but even so, I was prepared to follow it to the end. The ironical thing is that had I DNF'd it, I might have given it a positive rating just as I give negative ones to bad novels which I DNF, but no one DNFs a novel they're deriving some sort of entertainment value from (and a from many reviews I've read, a disturbingly large number of readers punish themselves by actually finishing novels they didn't like!). I kept reading because I was curious where the author was going to take this when he seemed to have no endgame in sight. Was this merely the first in a series? The ending brought the whole edifice crashing down, and it was this collapse which made it easier to see fault-lines that I might have chosen to overlook had the ending made sense.

I think this author is a good writer and has a few tales to tell, but in this one case, to see the 'hero' of the story turn his back on people who have helped him, break promises, and leave loved ones in grave danger to pursue his own selfish interests just turned me right off the entire story. Worse, for a novel so centered on a female art form, there really are no strong female characters in this story, We read of past exploits speaking of female strength and heroism, but nowhere is it really apparent during the course of the actual story. This was sad to begin with, but it was exacerbated criminally in the end, through seeing one of the strongest of these devolve into a simpering, wheedling jellyfish, creeping back to a man who had callously spurned her. She deserved a far better ending than she got. Because of these reasons, I cannot in good faith rate this positively.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino


Rating: WARTY!

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

I am very skeptical of self-help books which is why I do not read them. I have read one or two in the past, and this one seemed like it might offer something different, but in the end what it offered was no different form a hundred other such books: at best it was simple common sense and at worst, misleading distractions. You cannot be creative if you're spending your time reading books like this when you should be creating things yourself instead of frittering time away on things others have created.

There's an apocryphal story about a writer who was giving a lecture, and many would be writers were present. The story may have happened or it may not. The author in question may have been Sinclair Lewis or they may not. The lecturer may have been drunk or not, but the story I heard is that he came out onto the stage and the first thing he asked was for a show of hands from anyone present who wanted to be a writer. Everyone raised their hand of course. The guy responded with, "Then why the hell aren't you writing?" And he wandered off the stage.

Like I said, this may be a true event or it may not, but there is a truth here, and it's in the message: you can't be writing that best-seller if you're off attending lectures on how to write best sellers, or if you're reading self-help books all the time when you could be working on your own project. For example, reading novels of the kind you might be interested in writing will be of much more help, but if all you're doing is reading and not writing your own, then you're wasting your valuable time.

The common theme of books of this nature is that the author is typically someone you've never heard of or read about. You don't get best-selling authors like David Baldacci, and John Grisham, or Dan Brown writing books about how to write best sellers, and the reason why they don't is because while they may well be able to write best sellers, they don't know how to teach others to write them. Plus they're too busy turning their ideas into finished novels!

It's not a magical power that can be passed on. You can take courses to learn how to write well, but you cannot be taught how to write a best-seller. You can only write one or fail to write one, and you can't even fail if you never write one. The same with musicians and artists, actors and movie-makers, and technology innovators and engineers. They know how to do it, but they cannot pass on their talent, or industry, or inspiration to others and have it magically work the same way for them. It doesn't work that way, sorry to say!

The only way to find out if you have it, is to do it! I know it's a big-business purveying self-help books, but you know what? I've never read a single one which has helped me, and more damningly, I've never read of any of these people who've had big success stories praising a self-help book for their success! They don't read these books because they're too busy pursuing their dream! What they do consistently emphasize is how hard they worked to achieve their aim and how diligently they kept chasing it.

Granted, this book does urge that, but it really doesn't offer a lot in the way of helping other than, as I mentioned, simply passing-on common sense. The problem is that if you're so lacking in common sense that you need to get tips on it from a book, then you're already in serious trouble. In the end, the only help you can count on is your own industry. It may be a cliché, but it's inspiration and perspiration that will get you there if it's going to happen for you, and there are no guarantees.

We always hear about the success stories: the ones where people have worked for their dream and got it, but we so rarely hear about those who worked just as hard pursing their dream, but who failed for whatever reason. If this books motivates people to motivate themselves, then that's a good thing, but I think it's wise to ask who really benefits most from books like these? Is it the people who write them or the people who read them?

One piece of advice offered for writers was: "Keeping score of the amount of words written or the time you spend writing will create an internal contest with yourself." This may work for some, but not for all. It doesn't work for me because it impedes my work and makes it seem like work. I don't want that! I'd rather just enjoy writing than become bogged down in, or worse, become disheartened or disillusioned by a scoring system. Scoring is boring! Worse, demanding 'x' amount of words or pages per day is not only soul-destroying, it's actually counter-productive to the very creativity this author is supposedly promoting!

There are some odd observations in the book. The first of these I noticed was when I read, "...usually we have to wait for months if not years before seeing our work published" but this completely overlooks this era of self-publishing through outlets such as Barnes and Noble's Nook press, Kobo, Lulu, Google Play, iBooks and others which has been going on for years. How the author could overlook such a roaring industry is a mystery and speaks of poor preparation.

I read in this book a lot of observations by and on people I've never heard of, including assorted quotes from these people. I am not one to take hints and tips from people I have no reason to trust when it comes to advice, especially when it's in the form of bon mots and pithy phrases which are more designed to show-off their originator than to offer concrete help. One of these asides was: "Peter Shankman flies more than 250,000 miles a year and does most of his writing in transit." I've never heard of this author, but whoever he is, that travel rate is getting on for 700 miles per day, so he really has no choice but to write in transit! Duhh!

This was in a section devoted to choosing the location for your creativity. It seemed focused on whether your desk was cluttered or clear, but you know what? Who cares? If you're working as a writer, then your focus needs to be on your writing, most typically on a computer screen, not on whether your desk is cluttered or clear! This seemed to me to be adding a distraction rather than helping to remove it. Ignore your environment focus on your work. If your environment intrudes, then include it in your work! I'm all for getting out and doing and seeing new things and meeting new people. You never know where your next idea will come from, but in the end a writer is someone who writes, an artist someone who paints, and so on, and it really shouldn't matter where you are or what surrounds you! Get focused on your art because in the end, it's all that matters when it comes to creativity.

There were some really oddball references too. One which particularly struck me was: "Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald who worked from cafes at the turn of the 20th century." I have to wonder why these two are mentioned in this context, but not Jo Rowling. I have no idea where those two antique authors wrote, but it's legendary that Rowling, impoverished, wrote in a café in Edinburgh because it was warmer than her apartment. She did not let a cluttered table or a noisy street get in her way. Did this author not know that much about an author who is more successful and arguably better-known these days than either of the two she mentioned?

That wasn't the only such item. I read, "The times when an artist worked in solitude on his creations," His creations? Seriously?! She continued: "revealing them for the first time during a launch, have passed. Now the audience wants to be co-creators, co-actively giving input throughout the process." This could not be more wrong or more misleading. Unless you really are looking to share your work - and the credit and rewards, this is appallingly bad advice. Yes, there are people who put materials out there and work collaboratively, but this isn't the norm. Perhaps it will be in some distant future, but we are not there yet and personally I doubt we ever will be. I can't see a bunch of stage actors welcoming advice and interruptions for the audience! Steve Jobs certainly did not want people telling him how to do what he did!

I also read: ""Experiencing the creative process live, while it’s happening, is now the norm." I'm sorry but this is bullshit. Maybe in the narrow, blinkered world in which this author operates it is, but seriously, I doubt even that. You don't find fashion designers posting their work online! They're more secretive than ever the Soviet Union was during the cold war!

Writers I know, are not given to doing this although some do this experimentally. For most, writing is a solitary profession and for good reason. You start posting your ideas online and someone is going to steal them and race you to publication, so they can accuse you of stealing their idea when you finally publish! Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), ideas for stories are not copyright, only the finished work.

I'm not a fan of Stephen King, but he is one of the few really successful authors who have actually written a book about writing books (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)! I never read that, but when he experimentally started publishing his novel The Plant online that same year, in installments downloaded on the honor system (you voluntarily paid a dollar per chapter downloaded), the story quickly folded. Sales fell-off and he lost interest in it. He never did ask for fan input!

There's a difference between seeking crowd-sourced funding for a project say, or in getting some feedback on some generalized ideas on the one hand, and on the other, in quite literally sharing your work before it's ever properly established as your own, and thereby risking losing ownership and a chance at copyright. I think talk like this is dangerously misleading and risky, and if misunderstood or misapplied, is going to lead only to loss and misery as your stock of creativity is frittered and dissipated without you getting any reward: not even so much as recognition for it.

It was at this point that I gave up reading this as a bad job The title is Your Creative Career, but it felt to me like there was precious little emphasis on the creative (a trilogy of chapters at the start), and far too much on avarice and maximizing profits. There's nothing wrong with making money and being financially rewarded for your creativity, but first you have to have that creative resource up and running. You have to be credited with it before you can look for credit from backers. You can't make money on vaporware, empty promises and unfulfilled dreams.

I cannot recommend this book, because for me it failed to accomplish what it promised in its title, replacing an offer of creativity advice with nothing more than simple common-sense observations that anyone worth their salt already knows, and worse: wrong-headed advice and flashy, but ultimately empty quotes and catch-phrases from obscure people who may have been successful in their sphere or not, but even if they were, this doesn't mean their advice is worth the paper it's printed on.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a free (as opposed to fee!) short story published as a filler between this author's Steelheart, and book two in The Reckoners series, called Firefight. The story features David, aka Steelslayer, one of The Reckoners - the people who fight against the Epics, which are the super-non-heroes. The problem with gaining super-powers in this world is that once you use them, you go bad. No one knows why. The only way to use them and stay good is to gift them to others who can use them in your name.

In this story there is a brief introduction with David and another reckoner buying hotdogs, which is rather boring. I don't get this obsession with hotdogs, so it was meaningless to me. The author should have put it in a prolog so I would have known to ignore it! LOL! David and his friend are heading to the city gates where people are screened as they come into the city. The main reason is to catch people who simply want to start a life of crime in the clunkily-named Newcago, but also so The Reckoners can catch Epics and Epic sympathizers who might be trying to sneak in. Why the Epics wouldn't simply come over the walls goes unexplained.

Anyway, David is suspicious of this one guy who comes in, and he soon discovers this guy can split himself just like 'Multiple Man' in X-Men: The Last Stand, but like Michael Keaton's character in Multiplicity, the more he clones himself, the dumber he becomes. This made no sense. Why would the cloning affect only his brain? Why would it not make his body weaker too? Or his heart? Fortunately for this rating, this was addressed.

Once the guy has split into many clones, he starts yelling the same message from different parts of the city - that he will shoot some passer-by if David doesn't show up. We're told the clones have to rejoin in order for their independent memories of what they did to be re-united, but when David shoots the first of these, all the others immediately come running. How did they know?

It turned out that David's information on the Mitosis - the cloning guy - was partly misinformation and in the end it was due to that, that he was saved. Like I said, short story, but not bad! I consider it a worthy read - and it's free, so what do you have to lose?! I'm currently reading book 2. I'll report on it when I'm done.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Superb by David F Walker, Sheena C Howard, Ray Anthony Height, Alitha Martinez, Eric Battle


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I didn't like the first one I read in this series. Normally that would be the end of it, but I read a second one without realizing until the end that it was part of the same series, and I liked it. I also liked this one, probably more than any of the previous ones. The artwork was really good, the characters realistic (as comic book super heroes go!), interesting, motivated, and believable, and the writing was very good. I noted a strong female influence not only in the writing, but also in the art, and this can make a big difference to the overall look and feel of a comic.

I really like the way so called minorities are front and center. Minorities are actually the majority of people on the planet, yet they're so poorly served in comics, TV and movies that it's criminal. It was nice to see that balance being redressed without going overboard. It was also nice to see a character with Down Syndrome (aka trisomy 21) included as a major player. The relationship between him (Jonah, aka "Cosmosis"!) and Kayla (aka Amina). and the awesome Abbie, was choice. It really made the story shine for me.

Each individual graphic novel in this set is a sort of origin story, but its not your usual origin tale; it's more of a development story, which to me is more interesting, especially this one. All of the graphic novels I've read so far run in parallel, but there is no repetition. Each story advances the whole, and the only tiresome bit was the last bit which is the same in each comic. Of course you can skip this once you've read it the first time, and it does mean you can start with any comic in the group without having to worry that you missed something because you didn't start with the 'right one'.

In this story Kayla, already aware of her powers and that she's not the only one with them, is trying to keep a low profile, especially since her parents work for the corporation which is trying to capture, intern, and experiment upon those with such powers. Jonah is less retiring. He breaks into the corporate facility to finds out what they're up to, and he barely escapes with his life. Kayla protects him and this is how the two of them team up with Abbie, who is Jonah's friend. Unfortunately, Kayla's desire to live a normal life is seriously compromised, and that's all I'm going to say!

On the negative side, I have to say that this shtick with the powers-that-be coming down hard on the mutants is really reaching saturation point. Marvel has repeatedly done it with X-Men, Inhumans, and Gifted, and it's been done in other graphic novels unrelated to the DC and Marvel stables, including one I reviewed negatively recently. Frankly, it's starting to be boring. It would be nice to see something different.

In terms of this comic, it's hard at this point, despite having read several of them, to see how the foresight corporation got so much power that it can openly act as a paramilitary force and hunt down these people. That felt a little bit much, but maybe it will be explained. Or maybe I missed it in that first volume I read because I was so disappointed in it!

That quibble aside though, I really liked this graphic novel and I recommend it as a worthy read.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Science for Sale by Daniel S Greenberg


Rating: WARTY!

I got this book from the library thinking it might be interesting, but it was as dry as week-old bread that has been overly-toasted and then freeze-dried. That's how dry it was. I expect academic-style tomes to be dry, but I don't usually have the issues with them that I had with this, with its uninspired cover and its academic margins. What's with that?

By academic margins I mean they are unnecessarily wide. I know this is traditional, but do not these bozos in colleges and universities care about trees? It's still possible to format it decently and have it look good, while using more of the page and saving a few trees, but none of them seem to get that. I think from this point on I'm going to automatically rate a book negatively if it looks like they're wantonly slaughtering trees, regardless of the quality of the book.

The margins in this book were an inch at the outside and on the bottom, and three-quarters of an inch at the top and in the gutter. The page was six by nine. That means the print area, even as admirably dense (yet readable) as it was, was occupying only roughly 60% of the paper. With less generous overly-margins, it could have occupied more, and thereby used fewer pages.

There were indented quotes, too, which were identified not only by a slightly smaller font, but also by huge indentations. These could have been adjusted too, so that instead of being a three-quarter inch shift further into the page than even the text was, they could have been a half or even a quarter inch. Whoever designed this book would appear to be either a moron or a tree-hater.

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I cannot recommend this at all unless you're in dire (and I do mean dire) need of something to put you to sleep. If you're an insomniac, this will likely cure you, but in terms of helping a reader to understand what's going on with college finance, it's of no help at all.


POS: Piece of Sh*t by Pierre Paquet, Jesús Alonso


Rating: WARTY!

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

I have a tendency to like graphic novels from Europe, but in this case I did not because the main character was completely unlikable. He was such a complete jerk that you desperately wanted to see the light to come on in his brain, and to see him change, but after I'd read 230 of 256 pages and discovered there wasn't even evidence of a glimmer of this, I asked myself, why am I continuing to read about this piece of shit - because that's exactly what he was, and determinedly and perennially so.

I did not care a whit about him and felt whatever he got, assuming it was bad, he thoroughly deserved. I quit reading on page 230 because I realized I had wasted a small part of my life reading this that I would never get back.

The artwork is so-so, very much like an old Tintin comic in some regards. The coloring was pretty good, but whoever did the lettering needs to get a clue. It was really hard to read (full disclosure: I am not a fan of letters at all!). The art would have been fine if the writing had had something to recommend it, but it was tedious. It kept teasing the reader with the potential to go somewhere but it never actually did. Not unless you class going around in repetitive circles as 'going somewhere'. All this story ever did was go around until you found yourself back where you started, with the same things happening over and over again.

At one point there was a court case and it went on for several pages There was never any resolution offered to it, and all the time I was reading that section, I had no good idea why this guy was in court! here were flashbacks appearing out of nowhere and sometimes it was easy tot ell they were flashbacks. other times it was not clear if it was a flashback or the next scene in his current life. He was an alcoholic, too, and this did not help, because he sometimes had alcoholic delusions, so in short it was a mess, and I cannot recommend it


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Faith and the Future Force by Jody Houser, Stephen Segovia, Barry Kitson, Ulises Arreola


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Now this is the kind of super-hero story I can really get with. I was thrilled by the first one in this series, so I was equally thrilled to have a chance to review another one and see how Faith is doing. She's doing fine and I'm keeping the Faith!

Once again, it's written by Jody Houser, who continues to sprinkle promos for Doctor Who (how can you not love a writer like that?!) as well as toss in other Sci-fi references. As I write this I am patiently counting down the days to the Doctor Who Christmas special, and the change over from the current Doctor who was not my favorite, to a new one who will, for the first time, be female! Squee!

On an unrelated topic, is it just me, or is anyone else amused by the superficial similarity between areola (the ring of color around a nipple, and the name of the colorist? Of course his name apparently derives from the Spanish for horse tack (or a part of horse tack, anyway!) not from coloration, but still! I love words!

This is a time-travel story featuring a time-traveling robot which is intent upon destroying the fabric of time itself. Consequently, we have with Faith being sought by some strange woman who is costumed like a super hero, but who evidently needs Faith's help (and that of a charming assortment of her super friends) to stop this machine. In that regard, it borrows a bit from Pixar's The Incredibles

What I liked about this is that it conveniently side-steps one objection I often find to time-travel stories, especially Doctor Who, who always seems to arrive in media res, which is: why not go back earlier and fix the problem before it starts? In which case there would be no show, so the Doctor always tosses out some patent nonsense about crossing his own time stream which of course he does time after time, especially in New York City where it's supposed to be all but impossible to visit. Hah! How many times has he been there now?

This story solves that problem because the robot is eating time, so they can't go back earlier - it doesn't exist! Double-hah! Faith aka Zephyr, is recruited by Timewalker (not Time Lord!) Neela Sethi several times, each time unaware that she's already been recruited and failed! Why does this keep-on getting repeated? Read it and find out! I recommend this one as a fun, sweet, entertaining, Segovially and Kitsonorously drawn, and areolistically-colored(!) story which is a very worthy read! Keep 'em coming you guys and I'll keep reading 'em!