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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Agent Colt Classified Pride by A Lynn Wright

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

Crossing the Empty Quarter by Carol Swain

Rating: WARTY!

I had no idea what this was about even having read about two-thirds of it and skimmed the rest. It looked gorgeous from the cover, but the interior was nothing like the cover, and the stories, some thirty of them, were meaningless, disjoined and unappealing. Bereft of entertainment value, even the artwork felt like a betrayal since it was black and white and of lower quality than the cover.

I'm used to seeing this in graphic novels - a sort of bait and switch with a stunning cover paired with an indifferent interior, but often that's made up for by the quality of the story, In this case, no. There was no story. Instead there was a jumble of stories, all equally uninteresting. It should have been called Bleak House, but empty quarter isn't exactly inaccurate. Empty to the back teeth would have been better. I refuse to commend it in any way.

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki

Rating: WORTHY!

After the disappointing Indoor Voice which made me want to scream, it was nice to read a real story, well-illustrated, and such a quirky tale, too. This tells several stories, beginning with the story of Jenny, who has broken up with her boyfriend and discovers that there is a mirror world - updates on which she can read in 1Facebook - the mirror image of this world's Facebook.

Personally, I have no time for F-book at all. It's a dangerous, highly insecure, and risky environment in which far too many people put far too much trust, a trust which has been abused time and time again. This idea of a mirror F-book amused the heck out of me, consequently. In 1F-Book, there is 1Jenny as our Jenny refers to her, and who is leading a rather different life than is Jenny of our side of the mirror. Jenny becomes obsessed with her counterpart to an unhealthy degree, and is rather miffed by the fact that 1Jenny seems to have her act together and to be leading a satisfying romantic life.

As if this isn't enough, in another story, a weird music file that isn't really music but isn't not music either, surfaces and obsesses people after one guy who discovers it renames it Sex Coven (even though it has nothing to do with sex or covens) and re-releases it onto the web. Listening to it the whole way through is supposed to be transformative.

In another tale communication with animals becomes possible presumably courtesy of the animals, because which humans would think of that?!

As if this isn't enough, Helen starts becoming smaller and less substantive, and eventually shrinks down to almost nothing and blows away in the wind. I don't know if this is intended as a commentary upon the diminishment and marginalization of women or the interchangeability of women in some blinkered perspectives as Katie White of the Ting Tings sang so eloquently, or the second class status of too many women, but it was certainly a fascinating journey and I commend this work highly.

Monday, October 1, 2018

She-Hulk. Vol. 1, Deconstructed by Mariko Tamaki, Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajić, Matt Milla, Andrew Crossley

Rating: WORTHY!

This is where my understandably one-sided love affair with Mariko Tamaki began! She wrote this and it was illustrated well by Nico Leon and Dalibor Talajić, and colored beautifully by Matt Milla and Andrew Crossley. This comic book was a worthy read. She-Hulk was problematical and a potential disaster when she was first conceived, apparently by Stan Lee during the TV run of The Hulk, so copyright would stay with Marvel and not with some TV production company in case they decided they wanted a female version!).

Lawyer Jennifer Walters (what is it with Marvel and super heroes who are lawyers?!) became a rather more subdued version of the original Hulk when she had a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (who was the original Hulk of course). By subdued, the effect in her is to become stronger and to turn green, but to retain her own personality and smarts, something which the Hulk isn't known for.

Despite it being named volume 1 (I wish they would not do that), this is not the original run of the comic; this version is well-along in the overall life of She-Hulk - post Civil War 2. With Bruce dead, his cousin trying to cope with that and find her place in the world. Her own original comic ran only for two years at the start of the eighties and after that she was reduced to guest appearances in other comics until more recently. It's nice to see her revived, and with a female writer who happens to be one I've grown fond of lately.

She-Hulk took a few pages out of Deadpool's book in one of her later incarnations, breaking the fourth wall, and mimicking cultural icons such as Demi Moore's bare-bodied, pregnant-and-in-the-magazine-cover pose. She-Hulk wasn't pregnant but held a beach-ball strategically! In this volume though, she's well-behaved and quite subdued. That doesn't mean it's all Jennifer all the time, by any means. The comic told an intelligent and believable story and I enjoyed it. I commend this one and will look for more of this series.

Kickback by Judith Arnold, Ariel Berk, Thea Frederick, Barbara Keiler

Rating: WARTY!

This was a major screw-up! I got this book under the cover of Still Kicking which is the first book in the Lainie Lovett mystery series (originally published as Dead Ball) which title is advertised in the back of this novel! LOL! There's a sample chapter of DropKick at the back also, which is the very novel I was reading, but the sample chapter was not the same as the chapter one in the book I was reading, Someone was very confused when they put all this together!

I am not a series person, so I was amused to discover that this book is in fact the third book in the series and it was sold under the wrong cover. The third book - the one I am actually reading, was called Kickback. The second book was Dropkick. I learned of these two other books from references in this third book. As if that isn't confusing enough, the author has the annoying, and to me inexplicable if not inexcusable habit of publishing under other names. Her real name is Barbara Keiler, but she publishes under three other names listed in the title

On a point of order, there's no such thing as a dropkick in soccer - or football as the rest of the world calls it - because Americans inexplicably call handball 'football' and handball itself is something else - and an offense in soccer! Maybe the American game should be call 'runball' or 'carryball'? Neither is there a term 'dead ball' in soccer for that matter. I think this gimmick of giving your amateur detective a gimmick and then using that as a seed for gimmicky book titles is insulting to the reader - like a reader couldn't remember which author she likes? Or what the book series is that she likes? Call me perverse, but I have more faith in readers than that, misplaced as it may be!

But on to the story. The story was as confused and confusing as selling the wrong novel under the title. And it's not well-written. If this is what a master's degree in creative writing from Brown University gets you, I'm happy to be degree-free. This is yet another in a too-long line of 'housewife' detective stories where a female with evidently too little to do with her time masterfully one-ups the inevitably inept police in solving a murder.

This kind of story tends to take place in a town too small to support the massive murder rate the series slowly reveals. Why would anyone live in a town like that? The amateur detective tends to be appallingly slow on the uptake and this means the story, which could have completed handily in 150 pages, ends up being, as this one was, 270-some pages long. It's way too long and the 'detective' looks stupid because of it. She repeatedly fails to share information with the police, which is actually a criminal offense, and she fails to act like a normal, rational human being in common-sense situations, and worse, consistently fails to add two and two. Instead she comes up with zero and takes her time doing it. As a teacher she should know she should show her work!

This school teacher, Lainie, learns that $150,000 has been stolen from the school's PTA account. It takes a while to get this information, and this is the first inkling I had that Lainie's dinghy has a few holes in it. Never once does anyone seem to ask if anyone is tracing the loss of funds. In fact, it's not even clear (through the fifty percent of this novel that I read before DNF-ing) that it's been reported to the police. They're certainly not investigating because if they were, they would have arrested Debbie the secretary because the trail clearly leads to her. Debbie's computer isn't even taken as evidence by the police - instead, it's still in use at the school, so anyone who might have impersonated Debbie and moved the funds has ample time to cover their tracks. There's actually no evidence of any police investigation whatsoever.

What happened (we learn in the story's own sweet time) was that the money was transferred from the PTA account to another account, then that one was closed with the money having been withdrawn. You'd think the bank would have records of where the money went and you'd think a bank teller would remember someone who closed an account and picked up a check for $150,000, but none of this is mentioned. The husband would seem to be the obvious suspect - and he's feeding his wife fruit smoothies every day - into which the deadly drug - Viagra, which is potentially deadly for someone with heart problems, could easily have been slipped, yet Lainie never suspects this guy at all despite the fact that he was an accountant and would know exactly how to move money around.

Lainie is tunnel-focused on the head of the PTA, which in this novel is consistently referred to as the PTO - which to me is Paid Time Off, so that works! LOL! But she's so focused on her - the 'obvious' suspect - that she cannot see anyone else. Meanwhile I'm suspecting the husband, I'm suspecting the friendly nice teacher Lainie knows because he's too nice and there's no reason to suspect him. I'm suspecting Lainie's favorite suspect's daughter, who we're told more than once is a genius on the computer. I'm suspecting this couple, the husband of which was discovered to be cheating on the wife when she discovered Viagra - Viagra! - in his briefcase, several pills of which were missing. Lainie never even considers that, nor does she sneakily visit the bathroom in Debbie's house to check the medicine cabinet to see if there actually is Viagra there among the medicines that Debbie might have actually taken by accident. In short, Lainie's a moron who has no business interfering in a police investigation.

At one point, Lainie learns that the nice teacher, with the absurd name of Garth, had a very brief fling with the bitchy PTO woman Cynthia Frick and Lainie got all over him on that topic, which seemed to me to be none of her business. Yes, Cynthia has a daughter at the school, but that's no reason for Lainie to get on this teacher's case about being involved with her. If he'd had an affair with a student I could see her taking off like that, but with a parent? It just seemed like too much, so I wondered if this was to set up this teacher as a bad guy for later revelations that he was the perp?

The biggest problem with Lainie (apart from her lack of gray matter) is that she's so passive, and I think the writer is a bit lazy in letting some things go without offering some sort of valid reason or explanation for her behavior or for the way things happen. What made me quit the novel was that Lainie was quite obvious tailed by someone in another car, yet never once does she snap a picture of the car's license plate and of course she doesn't report it to the police. That was the final straw for me. Lainie is too stupid for words. I cannot commend this at all.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Rating: WARTY!

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

Usually on Net Galley, you request a book to read and review and you take your chance as to whether it will be approved. Sometimes books are listed as 'Read Now' which tends to mean the book isn't doing so well or is being undervalued, and the publisher wants it read more widely. Those books are great because I've found many gems among them. There is another option though, which is the 'wish for it' category.

This has also been kind to me because I've found some gems there, too, but since the ones I've wished for have all been granted (to my best recollection), I have to wonder if this category is used because the author or publisher is lacking somewhat in confidence in the book and wants to ensure that it's requested only by those who really want to read it? I don't know. Personally I've tended to enjoy the 'wished-for' books, but I can't say that of this particular one unfortunately.

The blurb for this book makes it all about Charles Hayden, which seems rather genderist since Hayden is only one half of a married couple who travel to Yorkshire in the UK, a place I know and from whence both my parents hailed, but we see very little of Yorkshire. We are confined to an ancient manor house surrounded by a castle-like wall, and it's Erin Hayden's family connections which have led to this inheritance: to this manor isolated in an even more ancient wood. Erin isn't even mentioned in the blurb! Charles may as well have been single.

That said, the story is told from Charles's perspective, thankfully not in first person, but this novel would have been a lot easier to like had either of these two people been themselves remotely likeable. As it was, they were chronic whiners and I was turned off both of them within a few paragraphs of starting to read this.

Both were endlessly wallowing in the loss of their daughter Lissa. A mention of this once in a while would have been perfectly understandable, but as it was, it felt like it was every other paragraph and it became a tedious annoyance, drawing me out of the story as I read again and again of how obsessed they were with their 'lost' daughter. A search for the daughter's name produced 156 hits in this novel. A search for 'daughter' produced another 56. It was too much, and it felt like a failure of writing. It's certainly possible to convey deep grief in a character without rabbiting on about it to a nauseating degree, so this felt like a really bad choice to me.

The fact that we're denied any real information about what happened to Lissa didn't help at all, and actually made things worse. Did she disappear? Was she killed? Did she become fatally ill? Who knows? The author doesn't care to share this information, at least not in the portion of this that I read before becoming so frustrated I didn't want to read any more; nor do we learn anything about the affair Charles had - just that he had one.

This affair is related to us as if it were no more important than his remembering he had once stubbed his toe, so even as big of a betrayal as that was, it carries little import because of the way it's so casually tossed out, yet this woman Syrah, is mentioned a further 34 times in the book. It's another thing that Charles is unaccountably obsessed with. No wonder he gets nothing done: his mind is always elsewhere! And this obsession is a continuing betrayal of his wife.

Frankly, these two, Charles and Erin, were so annoying I wanted to shake them and slap them. Not that I would, but the truth is that they were seriously in need of inpatient psychiatric attention and it showed badly, but no one seemed to care. The fact that we're told his wife has a boatload of medications she's taking and Charles doesn't even care made me dislike him even more intensely. He came across as shallow and selfish and quite frankly, a jerk. His wife was painted a little bit better, but neither of them remotely interested me as characters about whom I would ever want to learn anything more or about whose futures I cared.

At first I had thought the story would end with their daughter being returned to them, but then I learned of another child in the story and it seemed pretty obvious what would happen at that point. I don't know if that's what did happen, but if it did, that would have been way too trite and predictable for my taste. It's been done before.

Charles's other obsession, aside from his daughter, the woman he had an affair with, and the woman, Silva at the local historical society with whom he'd like to have an affair, was this book he stole as a child, and which was written by a Victorian relative of Erin's. He thinks he can write a biography of the author, Caedmon Hollow - yes that's the name of the guy, not the name of the mansion! - but it seems like he's much more interested in getting into Silva's panties than ever he is in writing anything. He's been into that book only once in his entire life, but he's into thinking about Silva at the drop of a hat.

The book and the mystery it was attached to should have been central to the story but there was so much stuff tossed in here (I think there was actually a kitchen sink at one point) that the book robbed that purported mystery of any currency it may have had. It became a secondary issue to everything else that was going on.

Since it was that very mystery which had drawn me to the novel in the first place, this felt like a betrayal if not an outright slap in the face and really contributed to my decision to quit reading. It felt like it was going nowhere and taking a heck of a long time to get there, and I had better things to do with my time. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot commend this book as a worthy read.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly deVos

Rating: WARTY!

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

I had to quit this novel at only 18% in because of the stark hypocrisy in the writing. The author's bio on her website says, "Kelly is also a passionate advocate for body positivity and fat acceptance" and I am one hundred percent onboard with that, yet the main character in the novel seems to engage in a high level of what might be termed 'skinny-shaming' and also 'fashion-shaming'. Worse than this though, is the objectification by this character of another character, as in when I read, "I glance at his biceps and quickly look away." Her "face heats up" no less than three times over him, and she decides it's not fair that he should look so good. Barf.

These are some of many examples of fashion blogger Cookie Vonn objectifying fashion designer Gareth Miller, who she's supposed to be objectively interviewing. In her author's note, I read, "We are more than just our bodies," yet her main character is ogling this man's body. Body image is not a just two-way street, it's a rat's nest of streets and footpaths and bike trails and overpasses, and for me this author failed to grasp that crucial fact in her writing.

Cookie works for a fashion blog, and I should say right up front that I have no time whatsoever for the fashion world or for Hollywood for that matter. As this author admirably makes clear, fashion is about discrimination, but she doesn't go far enough. It discriminates in favor of the well-off, the young, and the thin, so the problems go way beyond simply fat-shaming. Again, none of this was made clear at least in the early part of this novel, and I was saddened by that because the whole reason I picked it to read was that I thought it would be in interesting take on the industry.

The main character seems to grasp none of this. She comes off very much as an insider: as one of 'them,' not as one of 'us', by which I mean those of us who are not slaves to how a person 'should' look or dress according to the dictates of the shamefully well-off. This did not service the book's PoV well and did not make her look like an outsider by any means. On the one hand it's admirable that this character thinks she can change it from the inside, but on the other hand, she never seems to be cognizant of how self-indulgent, fatuous, and pointless the whole farcical, shallow and abusive edifice of fashion truly is, so I felt like she was doomed to fail before she got started.

I especially wouldn't read a blog where I would see something like this: "Sportswear is where fashion meets Feminism." Really? Has this author never seen a female athlete? Depending on the sport, they don't typically dress in a manner similar to the male athletes. They quite often dress in a manner that too many men would like to see female athletes dress. In track, men typically wear regular running shorts and tank tops. Women wear what are, let's face it, bikinis. That's feminism? Really? If the bikini makes an athlete more streamlined, why don't men wear them? This dichotomy on what male versus female athletes wear is very odd in sports. Female basketball players, for example, wear pretty much what the men do, yet female soccer players wear their shorts distinctly shorter than their male counterparts. Why? Is it really feminism? I think that's a question worth asking in place of tossing out a bon mot like I read here.

Cookie is the daughter of a well-known model of yesteryear (or given that this is the fleeting world of modeling and fashion, perhaps yester-week would be more accurate), and looks like her mom facially, but not bodily. This wasn't explained in the admittedly limited portion I could stand to read. Was her father big bodied? If not, and her mother was a model, then how did Cookie end up with her body? Maybe it was explained in the course of the tennis-match of past and present being knocked back and confusingly forth later in the novel, but it would have been nice if there had been an explanation up front for this.

I'm evidently not the only reviewer who found this see-sawing between 'fat' Cookie and relatively thin Cookie serving to undermine the author's stated purpose. And if that is cookie on the cover of the book, she's not what I'd describe as fat by any means. But then my perspective on a women's body isn't informed by unhealthily-thin fashion models and Hollywood celebrities. It's informed by real, everyday people which is the only sane perspective in my opinion.

The other thing that was missing for me was any talk about health. There is abusive fat-shaming, which is to be fought tooth and nail, but there is also a health factor here for a certain portion of the population (overweight or not), and it's not a shaming, but a caring. It doesn't matter (objectively) if people consider you overweight as long as you're healthily and getting some exercise, yet this wasn't touched on. Again, I quit this novel early, so maybe this was addressed later, but even so, it would have been nice had there been a statement right up front about this, because it's important. People can go to hell with their fat remarks and abuses, but if a person is healthy, it's not even a concern, so maybe they should go further to hell?

The author is a graduate of a creative writing program, which frankly tends to put me off reading a novel, because I've read too many such novels which have turned out to be so bland as to be indistinguishable from one another, and all-too-often pretentious to a sickening degree. This author had some moments of excellence and some appreciated humor, but what got to me, and this is what caused me to finally quit the book, was that it was so disgustingly trope YA that it was almost literally nauseating. Take this as an example:

"It's your eyes," he decides. "They're blue."
"Wow. They're not wrong when they say how observant you are."
Gareth chuckles. "The gold flecks. They make all the difference."

Gold flecks make her eyes pretty? I feel bad for the millions of women who have no gold flecks! How awfully ugly they must be with those fleckless eyes! Body positivity? I have read this 'gold flecks' quote so many times in so many YA books that it is way beyond a joke at this point. If this is all you get when you graduate from a creative writing course more than likely taught by someone who can't make a living from their own writing then it's a self-evident waste of time. Do they not teach originality? Do they not teach participants to read a lot so they can learn both what to do and what not to do? No self-respecting YA author who wants to be taken seriously should use the words 'gold flecks' or even 'biceps' in a novel ever again, but at least this author wrote 'biceps' rather than 'bicep' so I should credit her that much!

On one technical matter, I have to give this ebook file an 'f':

Piper f lips open
I f lop back onto
In the space of a couple of sentences and in many other places too, we see words which begin with an 'f' having a space after them. Amazon's Kindle process mangles files. It's an all-too-common feature of the ebook review copies I see. It does not well-handle files that are anything other than plain vanilla with regard to formatting. I suspect that's what happened here. Additionally, there was a confused mix up of notes and text:
There's nothing wrong with being the fat girl on the plane. soScottsdale [[New Post>Title: We're SoReady for an Early Look at GM Creator: Cookie Vonn [contributor] Okay Scottsdale,
"remember Fairy Falls?" FAT GIRL ON A PLANE 31 I snort. Of course I do."
The book title and page number from the page header is embedded in the text there. The impression I had was that this book was designed for a print version without a thought being given to how the ebook looked. I know ebooks often sell at rock-bottom prices thanks to Amazon, which seems to share the public's view that books ought to be valued by weight, not quality, and ebooks, being the lightest of all should be also the cheapest of all. It evidently also likes its overseas contract workers to get rock-bottom pay, but that doesn't mean readers want rock-bottom quality! Another example is that conversations which should have been separated by a line feed and a carriage return are run together on one line: "What kind of questions?" he says, his eyes narrowing. "I plan to have them ready for you on Sunday at 2:00 p.m."
Hopefully those issues will be resolved before this book hits final publication.

Final there's the cover and the book blurb. These are not on the author (unless they self-publish and design their own covers), but they don't help a book when they're profoundly dumb. The blurb is predictably idiotic, as far too many of them are. I have no time for book blurbs that end with a question so numbingly dumb that only a complete, utter, and lifelong dedicated moron could not get the right answer: "Will she realize that she's always had the power to make her own dreams come true?"

Now just what, I wonder, is the answer to that question? Do book publishers want us to think they believe readers are idiots? Because that's what they do when they ask brain-dead questions like that in the blurb and far too many books, especially ones aimed at female readers it would seem, do this. Do publishers think female readers are dumber than male readers? I sure don't, but maybe the only way to prove that would be for women to boycott all books where the blurb asks a dumb question at the end?!

I don't normally talk about book covers, except on occasion to point out how, as is the case here, the cover designer clearly has no clue what's in the novel - or is simply clueless period. The silhouetted girl on the cover isn't remotely fat. She's not even what might be uncharitably called "big boned" - she's normal and ordinary - that is, she looks at first glance to be a healthy height and weight (healthy that is by realistic standards not by asinine anorexic standards of Hollywood and the fashion industry). So is this supposed to be Cookie after she lost weight, and why do we see only that rather than both, or just the Cookie of the past? Doesn't this make the book's very cover a form of fat-shaming?

I wish the author all the best with her writing career, but it's for the reasons outlined that I cannot recommend this book.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

Rating: WARTY!

I was unaware of how controversial a book this had been in the autistic spectrum community when I saw it in a bookstore and learned that it was also at my local library. I am glad I didn't buy it not because of what the spectrum community is railing against, but because the book is bait and switch and I do not appreciate book blurbs which outright lie to draw-in potential readers. I know that's a blurb's job, but usually a blurb bears some vague relationship to the book it represents. This one didn't.

The blurb begins with the following two paragraphs:

It began when Judith Newman's thirteen-year-old autistic son noticed that there was someone who not only would find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, escalators, and anything related to the weather) but also would actually semi-discuss them with him tirelessly. Her name was Siri and she lived in his mother's iPhone.
Newman's story of her son and his bond with Siri is an unusual tribute to technology. While many worry that our electronic gadgets are dumbing us down, she reveals how they can give voice to others, including children with autism...

This is an outright lie. I came at this hoping to learn more about a fascinating technology, particularly if it's one that can really help people who most need that help. The problem is that there is one chapter and one chapter only on the relationship with Siri. This chapter begins on page 131 of a book which, not counting the introduction (I never read introductions), runs to 216 pages, and it ends ten pages later. That's it. I quit reading the book when I realized that the next chapter was on a different topic and those scant ten pages appeared to be the entirety of the Siri/"electronic gadgets" discussion.

I'm sorry, but if you're going to try to sell (in the broad sense) a book that not only features this topic prominently but also titles the book after that topic, I actually expect to find that topic throughout the book, fool that I am. You lie about it like this book did, you get a 'warty' rating on my blog. The problem for me was that as I went through chapter after chapter with nary a word about the Siri and Gus 'relationship' I began to tire of the endless rambling and I began to skip and skim, dipping into a section here and there that was of interest, until when I actually did reach the section that discussed what the whole book was supposed to be about, it was far too little, and far too late.

While I cannot for the life of me understand why any parent would want to name a child 'Gus', I can understand why a mom would want to ramble on and on about her child. I think some of the harshest criticism was as rambling as this book though, with the authors of it continuing to shoot arrow after angry arrow into a threadbare target. They simply didn't get the author's sense of humor, but that's not to say their criticism was unfounded.

I think reasonable people can agree to disagree on those details so I'm not going to get into that here except to comment briefly that I think that some readers, in particular those who think the author doesn't think Gus has emotions or thinks Gus doesn't think, have flown off the handle at a throw-away comment the author made without realizing it was a 'first impression' kind of a comment that she later actually did throw-away as she and Gus matured together in their relationship and in her education.

Those critics seem to be forgetting that the author began telling this story chronologically when she was completely in the dark about Gus's status for some time after he was born, and got no help in understanding what was going on from anyone, least of all from the very community, some members of which are so virulently criticizing her now! And yes, criticizing her, not the book!

That said, I have to allow that if the very person the book's author praises highly in this book mounts a campaign against the book, then clearly something is fundamentally wrong somewhere, but the way to fix that is to reach out, not to punch out. I think what disturbed me most of all is that autism is a spectrum and not a narrow rut, yet all of the negative reviews were talking as though there is only one kind of autistic person who has only one kind of perception and feeling, which is nonsense, so I think some of the negative perspectives were a little blinkered to say the least.

Regardless of what other failings it may or may not have, this book failed for me because it quite simply did not remotely deliver on what it promised, period, and so I cannot recommend it. There are books which the autism spectrum community recommends. I recommend reading one of those instead.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Keep Austin Weird by Mary Jane

Title: Keep Austin Weird
Author: Mary Jane (no website found)
Publisher: Smashwords
Rating: WORTHY!

"He then flawless recited..." should be "He then flawlessly recited..." (note I read this on a smartphone which means that page numbers are useless and locations are pretty much worthless when we can simple do a search).
"when I picked up you backpack" should be "when I picked up your backpack..."
"...once or twice.”“Really, just one our twice..." should be "...once or twice.”“Really, just once or twice..."
"Texas’ capitol building" should be "Texas’s capitol building". Texas isn't a plural so it's apporpriate to add apostrophe 's'.
"...if she was like that when they first meet..." should be "...if she was like that when they first met...".
"knew each other at UT.”They shake hands and exchange pleasantries, Kim mentally trying to place the term, 'know each other..." should be ”They shake hands and exchange pleasantries, Kim mentally trying to place the term, 'knew each other..." (Tense is changed).
"You’re Bitchy Barista reputation" should be "Your Bitchy Barista reputation"
"I’m violating the only philosophical tenant..." should be "I’m violating the only philosophical tenet..."

Mary Jane may be male or female (I am by no means convinced by the Goodreads blurb for this author! Is "Mary Jane" really comedian Lindsay Rousseau? Who knows?) and it doesn't matter, except that this author treasures anonymity so highly that I can't give you an author's website, although you can try here to get a sampling of this author's writing which sports titles such as, "Like Water for Macaroni". The title of this novel is unfortunate because if you enter it as a search term on the web, you're going to get everything but this novel showing up, including an ungodly number of tie-dyed T-shirts! That and a few too many typos aside, it was a fun read.

The story is about Eleanor Cooprider and Kim Park, who are people I would definitely like to know. Having said that I wouldn't want to go to one of their soirées, which I confess struck me as slightly tedious. These two are at their best when it's just these two, and they're talking about any topic. They're playful, smart, interesting, eclectic, off-beat, irreverent, supportive, and very warm people who dearly love each other no matter what.

This story begins at the beginning - they day they met, but then it jumps around a lot, be warned - perhaps a bit too much for some readers, but for me it wasn't too annoying, just a little confusing here and there. The chapters have a sub-heading giving time and place, full of pseudo-self-importance which is always a bad sign, and which assumes that the reader actually remembers the time and place from the previous chapter, which is neither a wise nor is it a safe assumption given how engrossing their story is when it's really good. It's not very flowing either, in addition to being rather non-linear.

I had some issues with the story in general. For example, Kim is 23 but she references Larry Bird. Bird was a Boston Celtics player who had a distinguished career, but he retired in 1992, before Kim was born. It’s not really very likely she would recall him or esteem him as a player. It's possible, but a much more recent reference would have made more sense here. The problem was that the author was so locked into the name that she evidently forgot to check for appropriateness.

The Christmas play they put on as the story gets going is one about Charlie Brown and Christmas. We read, "...actually entitled 'Linus and Lucy'...", but entitled is used wrongly. It should be 'titled'. 'Entitled means something different, although I see more and more authors using it wrongly like this.

If you can handle this however, you're in for a treat. This story follows the two from their first meeting at the school where they teach, until Eleanor retires - and it's quite a short book. Kim is convinced that Eleanor is a super hero because she can detect which career is best for her young school charges, but even super heroes make mistakes. The question is, what will happen to their relationship if Eleanor's "high flying" days come crashing down around the two of them?

I loved this story (mostly!) and recommend it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ms Conception by Jen Cumming

Title: Ms Conception
Author: Jen Cumming
Publisher: Colborne Communications
Rating: WARTY!

This novel is not to be confused with Ms Conception by Pamela Power, which I have not read, although that name, wonderful as it is, I think is beaten by 'Jen Cumming', as the author of a novel about pregnancy! This story details (and I do mean details) a woman's desperate (and I do mean desperate) effort to get pregnant.

You would think, with all we hear from our religious overlords, that pregnancy is something that happens as soon as two people from complementary genders look at each other, and especially so if they're teenagers, but the truth is that even a fertile couple has only about a one in five chance of conceiving during any given month (assuming average sexual activity).

Infertility affects about one in ten couples, and it has been rising of late, but this may be due to the fact that more and more couples are choosing to have children later in life, whereas peak fertility occurs between about eighteen and twenty-five. Women over forty have about a one in ten chance of becoming pregnant even with assisted fertility treatments, whereas men are the scalawags who can successfully father children much later in life, but, as Woody Allen remarked, they're too old and frail by then to pick them up....

It turns out that about 40% of cases of infertility are due the male partner and the same for the female, with the final 20% due to both partners equally. It can be devastating, even marriage-wrecking, but that very much depends upon the individuals. The author evidently underwent these treatments, which in turn no doubt provided the raw material for this story, but this doesn't tell us how much of the story she tells is personal to her and her partner as opposed to being completely made-up from scratch.

I hope it wasn't too personal, because I have to say that I neither liked nor warmed-up to either main character in this novel - or to any of the other characters for that matter. I did not like Abigail Nichols or Jack, her husband (yes, another tedious novel with a main character named Jack!). The two of them bordered dangerously on alcoholism and were so one-dimensional that I almost couldn't see them at all. The entire novel is focused on getting pregnant and then being pregnant. It's like this is the only raison d'être for either of these people, and particularly for Abigail. Jack was notably neglectful and even dysfunctional at times. They literally had no life beyond conception, which makes them completely uninteresting as characters or people and rather scary as potential parents.

As I said, I don't know how autobiographical this novel was, if at all, so this may or may not have been what life was like, but it if was at all autobiographical, it's very sad. I don't doubt that there actually are people where the "need" to get pregnant overrides everything else in their life, but this doesn't mean it makes for either an engrossing or an edifying story.

What this actually felt like was the Bill Murray movie Groundhog day, where we kept going through the same things over and over again, with only minor changes, but unlike the movie, this was not amusing, it was simply boring. Instead of being moving or empathy-inducing, Abigail was merely irritating. I kept wanting someone to grab her by the shoulders, look her in the eye and say, "Abby, grow a pair before you fizzle out like a balloon farting around the room until it collapses, shriveled and flat."

It was pretty obvious that pregnancy was going to result sooner or later, so it's no spoiler to say it, but it means that this novel really had nothing new or different to offer, and the fact that Abigail was a chronic whiner was off-putting. I know that people in her position are entitled to some self-pity, but it seemed endless with Abigail, and it didn't help that it was told from her first person PoV, which magnified and amplified this and made it far worse than it could have been.

The book blurb assures us: "One thing she knows for sure: a healthy sense of humor (and the occasional glass of red wine) is the best coping strategy," but this was not true at all. There was nothing healthy about Abigail, and there certainly wasn't "the occasional glass of red wine." There was copious amounts of drink, and times when she and her husband got outright drunk. What is this couple, nineteen years old?The sense of humor was almost completely absent. Once in a while there would be a remark or observation that was actually funny, but for the most part any attempt at humor was washed out by the endless and tedious whining and self-pity. The funniest thing about it was, as another reviewer has pointed out, that the clichéd image on the front cover looks more like someone's butt than ever it does a pregnant abdomen! But random covers are what you get when you don't self publish.

One of the saddest things is that Abigail seriously needed some psychiatric treatment or therapy, and she wasn't getting it, and no one - not even the many medical personnel she encountered - noticed how bad her condition was. Her mental state and her drinking problem were not normal and not healthy. Her work was being affected, although god only knows why she persisted in working in such a hostile and genderist environment. Her place of employment was as politically incorrect and inappropriate as you can get, yet never once was it ever hinted that there was anything wrong here, or that serious change was called for.

In many ways Abigail was her own worst enemy. She never told her employers what she was up to, and so was seen as taking endless, 'frivolous' time off work. Her obsession with getting pregnant was actually interfering with her work because of her repeated absences, and then she has the hypocrisy to complain that the new hire is stealing all her resources? The new hire actually had all the hallmarks of a corporate spy, but since I didn't finish this novel, I can't say if she actually was.

The thing is that Abigail never actually seemed to work. She was all about delegation and the writing made it seem like she spent the bulk of her time doing activities related to getting pregnant and the hell with her work beyond a sporadic catch-up blitz. She tells us how much time she spends waiting around in medical clinics, but instead of taking her laptop and working from where-ever she was, she sat around doing nothing, or she took a book to read. Great work ethic, Abigail. This woman is neither smart nor organized, nor is she a responsible employee.

This wasn't even the worst part of Abigail's behavior. Before she even considered approaching reliable and scientifically-proven medical treatment, she ran around trying all manner of bullshit woo 'remedies', which of course failed. When she did return to reality, she didn't like the medical doctor she had - or at least not his abusive time-keeping, yet she was evidently too timid or lacking in motivation to change and find a better one.

She whined constantly about her mother in law, who was, I confess and royal pain in the ass, but then she also whined about her sister who accidentally became pregnant, and her husband's ex-girlfriend who also became pregnant. I don't know who raised Abigail to think it's all about Abigail, and that there's something wrong with other people having a life independently of hers, but it was really quite sickening to repeatedly read of the lavish pity parties to which she treated herself on these occasions. Abigail was not remotely likable at all.

Another issue was money. We were told so many things in this novel and shown very little, and one of the worst things was the money question. We were told time and time again how expensive these treatments would be, and how it would have to be put-off because of the cost, and yet suddenly we're doing all these supposedly expensive things and money isn't an object. Her husband magically gets yet another bonus whenever they need cash for something. It was farcical. Never once was any thought spared for the more than forty million Americans who live in poverty, some of whom are no doubt infertile and who have no access to the resources which Abigail did, and no resources to raise a child even if they had one.

Abigail and Jack were both high-end professionals, evidently paid handsomely for their "work" and yet they appeared to appreciate none of it. They had everything they wanted, never went asking for food or clothes (or anything), and yet Abigail still selfishly wallowed in how badly-done-to she was. Anyone is entitled to feel bad about their circumstances once in a while, but Abigail made an art-form out of it. Like I said, she was not a likable person.

Likewise there was hardly a word spoken about adoption. I don't recall seeing where this story was set, but I may have missed that. I assume it was Canada since the author is Canadian, and Canada has some 45,000 orphaned children. The US has over twice that number and a further 400,000 living without permanent families, yet adoption was barely mentioned in this novel. A really good educational opportunity as squandered there.

So, in short, I did not like this novel. I found it obnoxious at times and pitiful (in the wrong way) at other times. There was nothing to get me interested, let alone keep my interest, and it quickly became too tedious to read when there are other authors with better conceptions awaiting. Life's too short and too pregnant with opportunity to live there with your legs in the air waiting for the story to finish anesthetizing you.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cinderella Fables Are Forever Volume Two by Chris Robertson

Title: Cinderella Fables Are Forever Volume Two
Author: Chris Robertson
Publisher: Warner Bros (DC Comics)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art work: Shawn McManus.
Coloring: Lee Loughridge.
Lettering: Todd Klein.

Writer Chris Robertson has apparently been fired from DC comics after he made some comments about their treatment of story creators! This is what happens when you go with Big Publishing™ This is why self-publishing is the only way to go these days. Maintain complete control over your work. Own it. Do not let it be diluted. The time when you work for the company which also owns the house you live in and the company store where you have to buy all your food and goods are long, LONG gone. So is it time to boycott DC? I think maybe it is.

That said, this comic (which I got from the library, I hasten to add!) was worth a read, but I think it's going to be the last one in this series that I do read. It bordered on being annoyingly repetitive because it was the continuing story of the battle between Cinderella and Dorothy Gale (yes, that Dorothy, who sure as heck is hell isn't in Kansas anymore), but it actually fell short of being annoying.

Evidently Cindy and Dottie have a long a checkered history, all of which is violent. Now Dottie has a powerful grudge against Cindy, and she also has those slippers - not the ruby ones, but the silver ones - which give her some rather startling powers, one of which surprised me delightfully, although when I thought about it at the end of this story, it made no sense!

So this is a story of repeated battles between the two, most of which are in flashback, but it was done well and not irritatingly, and the art work - which is old-style comic book for the nostalgic fans among us - is good and covers the page. Artist Shawn McManus evidently loves trees as much as I do. Note that there's continued violence and exploitative depictions of females throughout - in short, it's a standard comic.

The lettering once again was small, so you really need to read this in print form. In ebook form it would be illegible unless you have a really big screen, or you don't mind enlarging it and then fondling the screen repetitively to see the various blurbs. In short I recommend this, I just don't recommend the publisher which is Vertigo, which is owned by DC, which is owned by Warner Bros. Borrow it from the library like I did!

Batgirl Volume 4 Wanted by Gail Simone and Marguerite Bennett

Title: Batgirl Volume 4 Wanted
Author: Gail Simone and Marguerite Bennett
Publisher: Warner Bros (DC Comics)
Rating: WARTY!

Penciling: Fernando Pasarin.
Inking: Jonathan Glapion.
Coloring: Blond and Brett Smith.

This and the other graphic novel I'm reviewing today are probably the last DC comics I'll be reading and also coincidentally constitute the last of the graphics which I was denied a chance to read in advance review copy form. The publishers can deny you an early look, but they can't prevent you completely from reading and reviewing a book you've set your mind on!

This one beautifully presented and colored, in hardback with glossy pages and really great art work, but that's only a part of a graphic novel. The other part is story, and this one made little sense. Note that in saying that, I'm coming into this at volume four, having not read the previous three, but although this story proceeds out of the previous three volumes, it's not so obscure that you can't get into it and figure out what's been going on. While there are some notable exceptions, comic books after all, are not known for being deep!

Whenever you're reading a super hero story you have to let some things slide by or give up. Obviously there are no "meta-humans" in real life, and no vigilantes in the sense intended here, so you have to take that as a given going in. The problem isn't that per se, it's what's done with that premise which makes or breaks a good graphic story. It's for this reason that I've never been a fan of either Batman or Superman. I give the links in my blog because I think it's hilarious that the two characters are illustrated in wikipedia (as of this writing) in images showing almost exactly the same macho pose, but facing in opposite directions, like they're book-ends or like they're in confrontation depending on how you juxtapose them!

For me, these two characters make little sense at their very root, and while that lack of sense may have managed a passing grade in 1933 and 1939 respectively, it's not nearly adequate in 2015. I loved the Christopher Nolan movie trilogy, which rose above any routine issues I might have with the concept for Batman, but Superman has always failed with me, and comics have consistently failed to dig them out of their holes too.

Coming into this, and having enjoyed the Birds of Prey TV show, which features two of my favorite actors in lead roles, I was hoping for something good and cool - and different from the Batman world - especially given that the writers are female (which itself is something that's scarce in the comic book world). What I got was pretty much standard boilerplate comic book which any guy might have come up with. I was disappointed.

The story begins with The Ventriloquist, which was mildly amusing since I only just got through watching a Hercule Poirot TV show yesterday which featured a ventriloquist as the villain! There is no back-story (in this edition) for this character, and I'm not familiar with her, so while she was intriguing and interesting, she lacked substance, especially since she rapidly disappeared from the story never to be heard from again. Plus her weirdly morphing powers were rather weird to me.

That was like a prologue, I'm not a fan of prologues, but after this, the main body of the story took off with a vengeance, focusing on the angst Batgirl was facing after having taken action to save her mother which resulted in the death of her brother. Note that both Barbara Gordon and her brother are the children of the venerable police commissioner Gordon, but what Gordon doesn't know is that Barbara is Batgirl. She even tries to unveil herself to him, but Gordon, who wants Batgirl dead, turns his back, refusing to learn who she really is.

This is one of the things which made no absolutely no sense, but what makes less sense is that Gordon, who is obviously intimately familiar with his daughter's face, and who is very familiar with Batgirl's face having seen it numerous times, has failed to figure it out for himself. Barbara Gordon has long red hair and so does Batgirl, and her cowl fails to hide her eyes and the lower part of her face. How could he not figure it out?!

This is on par with no one grasping that Superman and Clark Kent are the same when the only "difference" between then is a pair of eyeglasses and a comma of hair. It's utterly nonsensical. But that's not as nonsensical as the flat refusal on the part of both Batman and Superman, to actually help the police. Both these guys, and particularly Batman, have access to technology and methods which could really aid police investigations and crime prevention if the so-called heroes were willing to share the technology and train the police, but neither of them ever does. instead they selfishly keep it to themselves, arrogantly assuming that they're the only ones fit to use it! This could be viewed as obstruction of justice!

Obviously other heroes do this same thing - for example, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four comes readily to mind - and if they did this they'd be a lot less special in many regards - particularly Batman whose entire existence is predicated upon his superior training and technology, since he has no super powers. Again this is one of the things you must let slide if you want to enjoy the comic.

There were issues with this issue, such as the stereotypical hooligans in the mall who harass Barbara when she's out shopping (for shoes), because clearly all guys who wear spiked hair are closet rapists! There's a lot of gore and blood splatter. There's way too much angst, but that's stock-in-trade for comics books. In one instance this is hilarious because it looks like Barbara is crying ink - her tears are black! At first I thought this was some horrible seepage from her eyes caused by something which some super-villain had done to her, but it was just tears and artistic license.

The closing scenes when she and Daddy Gordon are running from super-villains (does Batman ever run from villains? I'm not in a position to comment, but it seemed odd), were simply not credible given what had come before. The interactions between them made both characters look like idiots and the whole failed "Hey dad, it's me, Barbara!" dénouement made Batgirl look weak, clueless and totally ineffectual. So overall, I can't recommend this. Aside from the art work, which was remarkable, there really was nothing heroic about this story. Marguerite Bennett's contribution was a really odd story at the end which had nothing to do with anything that had gone before. It wasn't entertaining to me.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Egg by Andy Weir

Title: The Egg
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Audible Studios
Rating: WORTHY!

This is a really short story available free on-line, and also in audio form. I recommend it. It's rather hard to review though, without telling the whole story, because it is so short.

I'm not even remotely religious, so I have no skin in the game of who has the best religion; they're all clueless, and that's the joy of this story because it makes more sense than any of the other religions out there! Not that that makes it true. It's fiction after all.

The basic plot is that a guy dies and meets god, and gets an education as to how life and death really works! Of course, ultimately the story still makes no sense, but it's original and fun, and it's a quick easy read, so what's not to like?

I think those who reviewed this negatively either have a religious axe to grind or they're taking fiction way too seriously! It's just a story and a short one at that. I recommend it. Even if you hate it, you've lost only five minutes of your life and you have something new to think about to boot. If you don't like it, go ahead and write a parody of it and have some fun!

The Australian by Lesley Young

Title: The Australian
Author: Lesley Young
Publisher: LAY Books (no website found)
Rating: WARTY!

Not to be confused with The Australian by Diana Palmer (BN has 494 pages of books with 'Australian' in the title!), this is one of a series titled "The ". Another one is "The Frenchman" and appears to feature the same guy in the cover! It's a romance novel and I need to warn you right up front that I was hoping for more than merely a romance novel because romance novels to me are unappealing. They really have nothing to do with romance and everything to do with some wiltingly weak female with little self control (or self respect for that matter) being overpowered by Mr Macho. To me, that's not a story, it's author wish-fulfillment and/or pure fantasy. I can neither like nor respect any novel which depicts women as nothing more than men's toys.

I thought and hoped that this one would be different because of the undercover (and not under those covers!) aspects of it, but in the end it turned out to be precisely what I feared it would be. In the story, Charlie Sykes is a young American woman who flees Florida in the wake of her mother's death from drugs, and heads to Australia on a whim. She seems to have had an inexplicably easy time in moving there and finding herself eligible for work. In the European Union you can jump from one country to another job-hunting as though you never left your home nation, but moving from one nation to another where there are no such international ties is not usually as easy as it's depicted here!

Charlie is looking for work and unexpectedly finds a $50,000 (Australian dollars = approximately $37,000 US) job dropped into her lap. She accepts this job despite being ogled and inappropriately treated by the boss, a international hotelier who is grossly misnamed as Mr Knight. His behavior is far from chivalrous, which makes me question Charlie's mentality when she accepts. Yes, she's desperate for a job, but seriously? She does lay down the law, but the very fact that she has to, ought to tell any self-respecting woman who has any integrity at all that this is not the place she needs to be working. It certainly isn't a romantic first meeting. But I was willing, for the sake of a good story, to let that one slide.

I love reading novels set in Australia. I've read some bad ones, but mostly my experience with Australian writers/stories has been positive. Unfortunately I was also a bit dissuaded from this novel by the fact that it was first person PoV, which is the worst voice for a novel, and by the trope romantic male depicted in Jace Knight. Yes, Jace. He was tall, manly, chiseled, etc, etc. Yawn. At least he didn't have blue eyes with gold flecks in them, but that was about the only trope button which wasn't pressed here.

I found myself asking, once again, why romance writers seem so utterly and irremediably incapable of breaking away from the herd and coming up with something new, and out of the ordinary? Do they really think so little of their female readership that they believe those readers are sheep, incapable of traversing new terrain, unable to follow that road less traveled? I hope the readers aren't like that. I hope the writers do not view their readers with such disdain.

What initially kept me reading was that I was intrigued by Charlie. She's not your usual romantic female in one regard at least. She's slightly dysfunctional and socially inept - borderline Asperger’s or something, so I warmed to her quickly, but my empathy for her which had been built-up in the first chapter began to wane significantly when Charlie started in on the wilting violet routine as soon as she was in Jace's presence. This did not augur well for a really good story. It did augur well if you like uninventive clichéd romances.

I had been hoping for something better this time. I had dared to hope for a real story. Would I get one? Only reading-on would tell. I don't have a problem with romance, but when the entire story consists of nothing more than blushing, and attacks of the wilts and the vapors, there is no story. There is only one more limp female character and they are of no interest whatsoever to me. I like strong female characters: women who are smart, self-motivated, independent, and who can take men or leave them. Such women rarely appear in romance novels. It amazes me that they're still of interest to anyone in 2015. This isn't an historical romance, which would make antiquated 'rules' a little bit more acceptable; it's a modern story in a modern country, and my feeling is that we deserve better.

I don't have a problem with attraction between people, with a heart-beat speeding up, and bit of fluster here, and a blush there once in a while, with a few furtive glances. What I do have a problem with is when women are consistently represented as being the ones to whom this happens while the male characters are all macho and studly, and apparently feel nothing like that in return. I have a problem with women being depicted as inferior, lesser, and weaker.

I have a problem with stories which indicate that it's fine for women to be attracted to men who clearly have no respect for them, or who neglect, abuse or otherwise ill-treat them. I have a problem with novels depicting men as consistently strong and alpha, and women as weak and slavish. We all of us - men and women - deserve a whole hell of a lot better than that in 2015 and I hoped, by the time chapter three began, that this wouldn't be a novel like that. I wanted to like it, not despise it.

That said, there were also other issues. For instance, I don't get Charlie's obsession with how hot it was. She's from New York state which has a comparable temperature range with Sydney in the summer. Obviously they are in the opposite end of the year from we in the northern hemisphere, so if the transition took place in a New York winter it would be noticeable, but unless Sydney was suffering a major heat wave, it wouldn't be anything dramatically outside of the range Charlie was used to.

One thing which became annoying was Charlie's inability to employ contractions. For example, she would say "I hope you are right" Instead of saying, "I hope you're right". This seemed odd at first and became annoying quite quickly. She reminded me of Commander Data from the Star Trek: Next Generation TV series, and it made her seem far more robotic than ever it did human-but-dysfunctional. I would have liked her better without that.

At the point right before Charlie learns of the true identity of the improbably-named Sullivan Blaise, she panics over his behavior, thinking he's a psycho killer or something, and tries to flee her apartment, but he manhandles her to the bed, and the way this is described isn't done horrifically, which is how it would have been, but rather sexually. I didn't think that this was appropriate at all and I didn't appreciate the way it was described. I am not a fan of sanitizing violence in this way, much less of trying to make it titillating.

Obviously, I can't speak for women (I don't even play one on TV!), but my best guess is that most of them would not at all appreciate being grabbed, their mouth covered, and thrown face down on the bed under the weight of an attacker who towers a foot over their head. Even if they'd been role-playing it would be scary, but that's not what was going on here. It was at this point I really started to wonder if this author would win me back over to enjoying this novel and how, exactly, she planned on doing it.

Charlie requests more than once that Blaise leave, but he refuses. When she threatens to call the police he claims he owns the police. When she stands up he orders her to sit down. This guy is a complete jerk. Then he asks this woman (who has worked for Jace for a day or so) what she knows about him! You know, if he wanted her to spy, all he had to do was to meet with her professionally. This business of lying to her to get into her apartment and then physically restraining her is hardly the best way to go about recruiting someone who is inexplicably, but evidently vital to your operation, so he's not only a jerk, he's also an idiot!

She does have the presence of mind to demand he prove his identity to her, but all he does is show her a business card. That's hardly proof given that anyone can have a business card printed up showing anything they want on it. This jerk tells her: "Here's the thing, Charlie. I don't need your buy-in. And I don't give a shit about Interpol. You just need to do what I ask, when I ask. This is my show." Seriously? From the minute he man-handled Charlie I took a dislike to this guy. He then proceeds to blackmail her, threatening to throw her out of the country if she refuses to help.

The Charlie that I met in chapter one would have gone right ahead and said, "Go ahead and throw me out, and see if I care!", but this one cowers under the threat and gives in. I don't know this Charlie, and I don't like her either. Obviously she has to give in, in order for the story to proceed, but it seems to me the author might have gone about this in a better way - one which doesn't leave her main character looking weak and easily manipulated.

So without checking-up on Blaise to independently verify his story, Charlie takes him completely at face value, and agrees to do this spying job. She concludes, "It was fairly evident that Sullivan was who he said he was...." That's not a smart conclusion and again it seemed out of character given what we'd been told of Charlie so far.

The inevitable trope of getting any two of our three main characters undressed occurs when Jace offers Charlie an opportunity to learn how to swim. Apparently her school never taught this activity, but it does require a state of semi undress and physical proximity, so it will do. I figured that this was also where the requisite trope 'accidental' falling of female into male's arms would take place. And it did, exactly as I predicted.

Charlie gives us a detailed description of Jace's penis, ensconced as it was inside his swim trunks. She also describes herself. Again. Not only does she have an hourglass figure, she also has unusually smooth skin, lean legs, a flat stomach, and above average sized breasts. At this point I realized that Charlie really ought to have been named Mary Sue and asked myself yet again why it appears not even remotely possible to get a good story about regular people? Must they all be outstandingly beautiful, or studly, or curvaceous, or chiseled? Seriously? This is when despair set in.

Er no, Virginia - sorry, Charlie - hot water doesn't freeze more quickly than cold (not in that bald and simply-stated fashion at least). This is called the Mpemba effect. Water that has been boiled may well freeze quicker than un-boiled water (which has more air in it), but consider this: in order to reach freezing point, the hot water has to first cool down to the same temperature as the cooler water before it can then further cool down to freeze. How is it going to freeze more quickly when it first has to catch up? In some circumstances, it can, but there's a lot of issues and disagreements here so the bald claim is wrong. And no, water has neither memory nor consciousness. Now I not only dislike Charlie, I have zero respect for her intellect. I guess that just leaves the body, which is fine isn't it, because the body on the cover will match that perfectly? I mean, who needs a head (with a mind) when you can have any body?

The swimming lesson puts Charlie in her place finally - the subservient, submissive woman. Which man wouldn't want one of these toys in the closet, so they can pull it (not her) out, and play with it whenever they choose? It's said that men do not play with dolls, but they do. Those dolls are women like Charlie. Chapter six ends with the telling phrase, "...and his word was my command." It was at this point that I quit reading this novel. I cannot stand to read another novel which turns women into slaves and toys and dolls. I expected better from this and it was not delivering. I cannot in good faith recommend this novel. The liberation of women evidently still has a heck of a long way to go, I'm sorry to report.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Girl Who Played With Fire Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso, and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill, and Lee Loughridge.
Letters by Steve Wands.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

The graphic novel again relates Steig Larsson's original story faithfully and while there's just as much violence in this volume, there's no sex at all worth the mention. I don't know why, but the art work here didn't grab me like it did in the first two volumes. I was nowhere near as fond of the rendering of Lisbeth here as I was in the previous outing, but the art was very workman-like and got a complex job done. It just didn't leave quite the same pleasant taste the previous material did. One notable exception (illustrated on my blog) was the full page rendition of Lisbeth's dragon tattoo, which I thought was really good.

The lettering felt better in this one than in the previous volumes, and it seemed a better reading experience to me for that. Maybe I was just more used to it this time after reading two previous volumes? On this topic, I was amused where we saw one frame of a report which was actually information about a software license, but imaged with the lettering backwards! Later we get a news report, but if you look at it. It consists of the same paragraph repeated over and over again.

We do get to meet a member of the Evil Fingers punk band which is mentioned in the book, and which is now a group of female friends who are close - as close, that is, as Lisbeth would ever let anyone get. Lisbeth was never in the band since she's tone deaf, but she was part of the post-band gatherings. It doesn't specify the name of the band member who is interviewed. We know it's not lead singer Cilla Norén, unless she's changed her hair completely and lost a lot of weight, yet that's the band member whom officer Faste interviewed in the novel.

So, to sum up, I didn't like this quite as much as I liked the first book (which was in two parts), but I still think it's a worthy contribution to the canon. I am looking forward to, and hoping for, the third volume to be completed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 2 Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 2
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill.
Letters by Steve Wands and Lee Bermejo.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

Again, as with volume one, I was impressed with this. Denise Mina's writing covered everything of import, but also kept the pace tight. Steve Wands's and Lee Bermejo's lettering was nothing spectacular, and a bit on the small side. Obviously you can't hide the image under large blocks of text, but for me, and especially in this era of e-comics, lettering is nearly always a too small. I was glad I read this in print form as opposed to on an e-pad. What impressed me were Giulia Brusco's and Patricia Mulvihill's colors and Andrea Mutti's and Leonardo Manco's art work which continued the same standard set in volume one. The covers were excellent in quality, but as I mentioned in the review of volume 1 thought that the cover for part 2 didn't capture Lisbeth Salander. The face was wrong, somehow. The interior artwork captured her magically.

The hilariously squeamish depictions of nudity continued. I found it curious that there were no-holds-barred when it came to violence, but that genitalia were deemed too horrific to show! One of the most important scenes - the rape of Lisbeth Salander, was glossed over a little too conveniently. We get the full gloory of the headless cat, with its bloody entrails all over, yet a central event of the brutal rape of a woman is deemed inappropriate?

Nothing overt was depicted except blood and strongly implied violence. A sheet strategically covered her butt crack afterwards. Seriously? If you're going to show the violence, then show it, don't blow it. If all you feel you can show is blood spatter, then don't show anything. This part made no sense because it robbed Lisbeth of the full horror of her torture. I didn't get the point of a graphic novel that's inconsistently graphic! Why the artist would baulk at that, and not at blood spray and cat entrails is weird to me.

That gripe aside, I really liked this overall, and I recommend it. I'm certainly going to buy it if I get a chance.