Showing posts with label audio book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audio book. Show all posts

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook I requested after becoming interested in the author from my reading of World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The problem is that unlike the graphic novel, which I loved, this book was self-obsessed and boring.

Let's get one thing clarified right up front: it has nothing whatsoever to do with any brand of feminism, good, bad, or indifferent (and however you might foolishly try to define those!), so the title is completely wrong and disgustingly bait and switch. This is evidently one of those books where the author puts together a collection of essays and takes the title of the collection from one of its constituents. I always have a problem with that precisely because it is too often misleading.

In this case it was especially misleading because this is far more 'Bad Memoir' (assuming there are really good ones, which I confess I sometimes doubt) than ever it is anything else. The essays are just god-awfully rambling, self-serving recollections from her life, and not even ones that offer anything new, or insightful, or any great wisdom. I'm neither black nor gay and this book revealed nothing to me about either quality which told me anything I had not heard or read before, or thought of myself. So what was the point?

After listening to some essays and skimming some others, I quit this and went to look at some reviews to see if it was just me who felt this way about it, and no, it wasn't. Others had come independently to the same conclusion, and this is where I discovered that there's barely a thing in here about feminism. So maybe after all, the title is right and it's bad feminist because it contains so little about the topic in the title? Maybe? LGBTQED?

Anyway after reading those reviews, I felt no compulsion whatsoever to go back in here and listen to any more. All I can say is that I'm disappointed, sadly disappointed, and I cannot recommend this, especially since I'm unwilling to commend it in the first place!


Saturday, July 7, 2018

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sánchez


Rating: WARTY!

This was another disappointing audiobook experiment! First of all it was first person, which is nearly always a bad idea. That in itself can sometimes be bearable, but when your novel title contains the word 'Mexican' and the novel's author is named Sánchez (with the emphasis accent yet!), then you expect a Latin lilt in your narrator, especially if she's named Garcia! At least I'd hoped for one. I was disappointed.

If I had read this myself, I could have at least imagined an accent to enjoy, but Kyla Garcia has no Latin lilt whatsoever to her voice, so there wasn't even that to mellow the delivery and contribute to the listening experience. She didn't do a particularly good job of reading, so I have to wonder why was she even picked for this job? Was it because her name sounds Mexican? That's not a valid reason to pick a narrator!

Maybe that's not relevant, because even if it had been read by a richly-accented Mexican voice, for me the story would still have failed. The reason is that the main character telling this story was obnoxious. She;s racist, bigoted, obnoxiously opinionated, perennially annoying, and I honestly couldn't stand to listen to this. She was incessantly carping about things, and what was supposed to be a tragedy was turned into a joke for me. She was attending her older sister's funeral and it occurred to me that her sister probably committed suicide so she wouldn't have to listen to this whining bitch of a kid sister anymore. Seriously. The title definitely applied to the narrator, but I think it would have been much more a propósito had it been titled "I Am Irremediably Removed From a Perfect Anything."

I started playing the book as I set out on Friday morning to get some chores done and reward myself with a movie, but after about ten minutes I decided silence was better than listening to any more of this crap. I was on my way to the library and ended up dropping this off as well as the book I was returning. I cannot recommend this at all and have no desire to listen to or read anything more by this author.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

City of Saints &Thieves by Natalie C Anderson


Rating: WORTHY!

This was another audiobook experiment and it's the one I wait for while wading through all the others! The story was really good, very engrossing, and it kept moving. I felt there were bits here and there that dragged, but for the most part it was exceptional. More importantly, it's based on real truths about what happens to people, especially to young woman, in this volatile part of the world.

Pascale Armand's reading of it was flawless and remarkable. It was so good and it definitely contributed to my attachment to and appreciation of the novel.

The story is of young Tina, who runs with the Goondas, a street gang in Sangui, Kenya. Having fled with her mother from the Congo, Tina is an orphan; her mother was shot while working at the home of the wealthy Greyhill family, and Tina just knows Mr Greyhill did it. She's planning on revenge, breaking into his home and exposing him for all the dirt she's convinced he has on him - that is until she's captured in flagrante delicto by Greyhill's young son, and held prisoner. But why doesn't the just turn her in?

Being pressured on one side by her gang leader to come up with the goods - the secrets to where Greyhill's wealth is hoarded - and by her captor on the other, who is equally convinced his father is innocent, these two young people forge an uneasy alliance and develop a plan to determine the truth no matter what it is, but that involves traveling on a banana lorry right back into the Congo where it all began.

I loved this story, and I recommend it highly.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

When Friendship Followed me Home by Paul Griffin


Rating: WARTY!

Read by the author - who actually doesn't do too bad of a job - this was another failed audiobook trial. The subject matter! Oh the subject matter. It's aimed at middle-grade boys, and is supposed to be your typical "I survived middle school" story for boys, but what it felt like to me was that the author seemed like he really wanted to tell a Star Wars story without paying a licensing fee to do so.

The first chapter opened with a quote from a Star Wars movie which didn't augur well, and if that had been all there was, it would have been fine, but then there were several more references to Star Wars in that same chapter. That's when I quit it. In the first chapter. It seriously rubbed me up the wrong way. I have devoutly gone off Star Wars - not that I was ever a huge dedicated fan or anything, but while I'm not quite anti-Star Wars, I'm also definitely not remotely interested in it anymore, after episode seven turned out to be nothing more than a remake of episode four. The whole series is uninventive and derivative and it's not entertaining or even interesting to me. So this book was a derivative of a derivative movie series! LOL!

The story is supposedly about this disaffected kid who is adopted by an older woman, and who knows when she retires in three years she's going to move with him to a different locale, so he decides it's not worth making friends? What a moron! Then of course he befriends this dog. Barf. I love dogs, but I hate stories about them. They've been overdone. I'm not even sure why I picked this up at the library, because the whole idea seems way too sugary now I think about it! I can only explain it by positing that I picked up a book, thought it looked okay but not that great, then changing my mind after putting it back, I pulled the wrong book back off the shelf! LOL!

I honestly cannot face listening to any more of that, especially when I have other audiobooks to go at. I'm sure there are middle-graders who will enjoy a story such as this one but that doesn't mean I have to rate it a worthy read! It's schlock and of the lowest form (unless it magically changed after the point at which I quit - which I seriously doubt). It's unimaginative and uninventive, and I can't recommend it.


Unwanted Quests Dragon Captives by Lisa McCann


Rating: WORTHY!

I didn't realize, when I picked this up, that it was part of a larger world, and maybe even a series. The publisher/author all-too-often doesn't tell you on the book cover, "Hey dummy, this is volume 2 - go read volume 1 first!" This is one reason I am not a fan of series.

However, this book can be read as a standalone which was my inadvertent approach, and it was an enjoyable read - the one gem in a pile of dross that is my experience of selecting audiobooks off the library shelves. Although I have to say up front that this was a gem which lost a little of its luster before the story was over.

This world appears to me to be a bit like the floating "Hallelujah Mountains" of Pandora from the movie Avatar, excepting that here they're more like worlds - or at least large islands in space. It may be that previous books in this world have defined those other islands since each is named "The Island of..." but I can't speak to that. There is apparently no way to get from one island to another except by magical means, and it so happens that the world in which sisters Phifer and Thisbe (spellings may be off since this was an audiobook) exist, there is magic. Predictably for a book of this nature, the child in question either doesn't have it, or they're not yet fully mature in it.

The latter is the case with the sisters, and their unreasonable older brother Alex happens to be head magician of their world. but he will not let them learn magic until they show responsibility. The problem is that they cannot control their magic very well, and often cause harm and do damage with it. Why idiot Alex thinks denying them lessons will improve things is a mystery, but this is his position, so they sneak around picking up whatever magic they can from wherever they can.

In a rip-off of Harry Potter, there is a dark and dangerous forest where they're not supposed to go, so of course they go and get into trouble, and this in turn leads to their decision to go help the dragons on a different island after their bother refuses to do so. This is where they end up in trouble, and I'm sorry to say this novel ends in a cliffhanger and so isn't really a novel, but episode one, which to me is a downright cheat. That said, I enjoyed this book as far as it went, and I recommend it as a worthy read, especially for people who enjoy series with cliffhangers!

One of the reason I enjoyed it so much was the spirited reading by Fiona Hardingham. I don't know if she's British or not; I'd never heard of her, but she inflected these charming British accents for the two girls and quite won me over. Her only misstep in my opinion was in one of the animal characters. In this world, there are animated stone statues, and this really what makes the forest dangerous, Why wizards didn't go in there and re-freeze all the harmful statues is an unexplained mystery, but not all of them are evilly-intentioned. One of these is a cheetah. This species comes from Africa and India, but for inexplicable reasons, the reader gave it an American drawl! It made zero sense and took me out of suspension of disbelief every time it spoke.

The story went downhill somewhat towards the end and the abrupt non-ending was annoying, but the early part of the story and Hardingham's reading had won me over enough by then for me to let that slide. I recommend this, but I do not feel so excited by it that I want to read more. For those who do, there are many other volumes set in this world as far as I can tell.


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


Rating: WARTY!

I read and enjoyed Daughter of Smoke & Bone but not so much the sequel and I never did finish the trilogy because I cannot drum up the enthusiasm to start on book three after book two turned out to be, though readable, rather disappointing. My verdict on this book has nothing to do with the fact that the title shares its initials with Sexually Transmitted Disease, I assure you!

Since this was a different story (I had not realized it was a trilogy when I picked it up on audio) I decided to give this a try and maybe work my way back to finishing the other trilogy, but it wasn't to be and now I'm done with Laini Taylor. As I've said before of books, it was more like 4F so it was definitely not 2B! The story was boring. That was the biggest problem.

It began well enough but it took forever to get anywhere, and I only made it to ten percent in when I decided to quit because it was dragging and dragging and dragging. The reader, Steve West did not help at all. He pronounced each sentence like it was...well, a sentence! Sonorous, monotonous, tedious. As pronounced by him, everything carried so much import that it made it not only meaningless, but tiresome to listen to.

The story perked up slightly and I thought maybe I could get back into it, but then it went totally off the rails and into a completely different story which I did not appreciate because I liked that one even less. I am sure the two stories join up at some point, but I had no interest whatsoever in this other intrusive story so it was no incentive whatsoever to carry on, and I decided this book was too long to read on faith. Might it turn out to be a worthy read? I really didn't care. I have better things to do with my time than indulge in what was increasingly looking like a sunk cost fallacy.

The story is about (supposedly!) orphan Lazlo Strange, long-obsessed with the now mythical lost city by the absurd name of Weep. It's miles across the desert, so though he longs to go find it, he has no resources, until people from that selfsame city arrive in his own city asking for help. Apparently 200 years ago some disaster befell them, and now they need the expertise of outsiders to recover their civilization, so they're asking for people from Lazlo's city to join them, help them, and reap the rich rewards. Lazlo signs on and it was then, when I sincerely hoped things would actually get moving, that the story ground to a juddering halt and morphed into this thing which seemed like a completely different story. It was then that I resolved to give up on Laini Taylor and return this to the library so someone else can suffer instead of me! I'm sure there are others who will enjoy it, but I cannot recommend this based on my experience of it.


Panda-monium by Stuart Gibbs


Rating: WARTY!

Read slightly annoyingly by Gibson Frazier, this audiobook started out interestingly enough. It's part of a series where the middle-grade boy solves mysteries. Frankly, if this is to be the basis of my judgment (I have no other!) then Teddy Fitzroy really doesn't do very much and worse, his life really isn't very interesting! This is, I believe, the fourth in this series, all set in a zoo-cum-theme park named FunJungle - evidently based on SeaWorld® in San Antonio, Texas.

The panda disappeared apparently from a moving truck on a highway, such that when the truck left, the panda was on board, and when the truck arrived, it was no longer there. I thought a cool way to do this for a kids' book would be to have a false panel at the far end of the trailer, so that the panda could be hid behind it and the truck looked empty, but given that the FBI were involved in this investigation (pandas are considered to be the property of China), I doubt such a ruse would fool them!

I never did find out how the theft was done because I DNF'd this one after about a third of it. Judging the rest of the book from what I did read though, it seems to me that there would have been a perfectly mundane explanation - nothing special or daring. As it was, the part of this book that I could bear to listen to was simply too boring, too slowly moving, and had nothing entertaining to offer me. Appropriately aged readers may disagree, but for me, I can’t recommend this and I will not be reading any more in this series. The characters held nothing for me, being a bunch of spoiled, privileged brats, and the story was too light and lacking in substance.

Some other reviewers have mentioned that this author was or is a writer for Disney and that this book had some Disney-ish aspects to it and I can see that in retrospect, but that wasn't on my mind when I was listening to it. I just didn't find it engaging at all. The characters were unappealing and I cannot recommend it as a worthy read.


The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt


Rating: WORTHY!

Read by Lyle Lovett of all people, and pretty decently too, this audiobook turned out to be a worthy listen despite some annoyances, which may well not be so annoying for the middle grade reader this is evidently aimed at.

The true blue scouts are raccoons Bingo and J'miah, who are newly recruited to report on events in the swamp to their overlord, the Sugar Man, who I suspected from the off was a bear of some sort, but in the end I had no idea what he was! Meanwhile in the human world there are machinations going on! A developer wants to take over the swamp and turn it into some sort of theme park, and he has the support of the admirably-named Yeager Stitch (spelling - this was an audiobook after all!) who wrestles alligators for a living. You know how this is going to end, so the fun is the journey there and the author keeps it fun for the most part, especially in detailing the antics of the raccoons, and a band of unruly hogs.

My problems with it were two-fold. The first of these was the sound effects which I assume were written into the text, such as the attack of a rattler being described as snip-snap, zip-zap, which was annoying (as well as inaccurate) the first time I heard it, let alone the tenth. Also the idea of drawing out the letter 's' in words spoken by snakes is so far overdone these days that it's just irritating and not even mildly imaginative. Let's cut that out shall we? I could have done without those sound effects, but maybe younger kids will like them. The other issue was more serious because it relates to the overall theme, which seemed to be environmental - in that more than one party was working to protect the swamp from being plowed under and cemented over.

That's all well and good. No problem there, but one of the parties expressing astonishment that someone was planning on destroying the swamp was also the same one which was running a café that served sugar pie, which was made by pillaging the sugar cane that grew near the café. No one said a word about replanting this cane, to keep it replenished, All I ever heard was the clear-cutting of it to get the sugar. That sends a poor message right there and a hypocritical one too. You can't protect the environment by raping it. That's like cola company saying they're replacing every drop of water they suck up from the environment to feed us diabetes-inducing drinks, and then carefully arranging their accounting so they're really doing no such thing, but it looks like they are from a certain perspective.

That aside this story was entertaining and amusing, so I'm going to let the environmental snafu slide in this case and rate this a worthy read.


The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock


Rating: WARTY!

I don't know if Peter Rock is the author's real name or not. If it is, his parents evidently didn't know that Peter and Rock mean the same thing. It would be like naming him Rocky Rock! Or more a propos, naming me Woody Wood. And yes, I know where you're going with that, but I'm not going there with you!

I did not like this audiobook. Amy Rubinate's reading was flat and uninspiring, and the story itself was boring and so far out there on the edge as to be lost in the haze. The story is of Francine, who used to be friends with Colville fifteen years before, when they were children and a part of a religious cult (full disclosure: to me all religions are cults!), but they haven't seen each other since the religious prophecies predictably failed, as they always do, and the cult broke apart under its own unsustainable weight as all religions do in one way or another.

Now Francine is married to Wells and they're expecting a child. Perhaps at this point, you see why I opened this by talking about the author's name. I couldn't help but wonder if he had been somehow marked for life by his name, and this is why his characters (male ones at least) have such unusual names like Colville and Wells. But Anyway, Colville shows up out of the blue having tracked Francine down. He claims he is there to help find this young girl who has disappeared from the village, but he really doesn't help in the search and seems much more interested in reconnecting with Francine than in anything else, and perhaps connecting with her as yet unborn child from what I've read in reviews of others. I wisely DNF'd it.

Colville is so creepy as to be stomach-turning, yet neither Wells nor Francine really view him that way, although Wells is predictably more inclined to do so than is his wife ever is. She voluntarily meets with her childhood friend in his motel room at one point because he asked her to. It was at this point that I quit listening because the story was a drag. It was taking forever, going nowhere, and everyone seemed so passive that I imagined the author manipulating them like clay animation figures when he wrote this: people who had to be meticulously positioned over lengthy periods of time before the next vignette in the series could be snapped. Yawn. They felt to me to be the very antithesis of dynamic, and it when I realized that it was never actually going to be animated, that I quit listening.

The author should have dedicated this: For Mica, it was so thin. I cannot recommend a pile of schist like this. I would have preferred a stony silence. I have no desire to read anything else by this author.


Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook I did not like. I liked Shutter Island and the graphic novel based on it, and even the movie. I don't recall disliking Mystic River, although I read that before I started blogging reviews, so I can't go back and check on exactly what I thought about it. This one, however, was a disaster and a DNF and left me with a bad taste in my mouth and no immediate desire to read any more Lehane. Julia Whelan's reading (or performance as it's pretentiously described on the cover) wasn't very good either, so that didn't help.

It started out perfectly fine, but about a tenth of the way through it started getting bogged down in asides that seemed irrelevant to the original thrust of the story, which was this woman's search for her father. From what I read of other negative reviews, it doesn't even stop doing a one eighty there, either, but instead of a normal geometry one-eighty bringing it back around, it goes off into some parallel universe. In view of that, I'm so relieved I quit it when I did, and simultaneously quit wasting my life on this drivel.

The story is about Rachel, an up and coming journalist, whose mother dies unexpectedly, leaving her completely in the dark about who her father was. She has very few clues and a PI suggests she not pursue it because it would be a waste of her money. When she finds a better lead, he takes the case and they finally narrow it down to a guy who turns out to be the one she was looking for, but in a twist, it also turns out he's not her biological father and the secrecy over keeping Rachel in the dark is what caused him to leave her mother. Now he's happily married with children of his own, but is still a father figure to Rachel.

With his help she tracks down the most likely candidate for fatherhood, but he's dead! From that point on we jump many years to where she's an important TV news anchor and the story becomes obsessed with Haiti for an inordinately long time. Yes, it was a awful tragedy of the kind that should never have happened in the first place, much less be repeated, but which will, you know, be repeated, humans being what they are, but it was nothing to do with her father and from what I've read in other reviews, nothing to do with what happens in the rest of the book which also has nothing to do with her father.

More than one reviewer suggested that the author had bits and pieces of several stories lying around with no idea where to take them, and so he decided to fit them all into one! When you're Lennon and McCartney, mashing two different songs into one actually works, such as with A Day in the Life for example, but Lehane doesn't seem to be blessed with that skill. So based on what I read, and regardless of others' reviews, I can't recommend this, but remember that I listened to only ten percent before I skipped out on it. So, a confused and boring mess is what this sounded like to me and I can't recommend it based on what I listened to.


Friday, June 1, 2018

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly


Rating: WORTHY!

Read delightfully by the amazingly-named Lulu Lam, this is the story of two girls who came with their father to Louisiana, only to have him abandon them and return to the Philippines, leaving them at the mercy of their somewhat sadistic stepmother. Soledad and Dominga, aka Sol and the unfortunate abbreviation of 'Ming' which makes her sound Chinese, lost their other sister, Amelia when they were much younger, and Sol feels she is responsible in some way. As if that wasn't bad enough, their mother died not long afterwards. Now their dad has ditched them so they're stuck with stepmother for the last two years or so.

Their stepmother Vee (?spelling since this was an audiobook) works, and feeds and houses them, but in many ways she resents them and demands strict adherence to her rules. Sol quietly and not so quietly rebels and often retreats into fantasy, particularly when she's punished. Some of those occasions, like when she's locked in a closet in her bedroom, are paradoxically quite amusing because she pretends she's in a spaceship traveling through space. When Ming opens the door later and asks why she isn't coming out, there ensues a conversation which made me laugh out loud. Sol asks, "What's your planet like?" and Ming looks around their bedroom and answers, "It's kind of messy."

Sol's behavior is highly questionable. She and her best friend Manny regularly steal from a convenience store where the popsicles are wonderful and out of the line of sight of the person minding the checkout. She and Manny regularly bully the kids from the snotty school not far from the convenience store. At one point, Sol throws a pine cone and hits the albino girl on her head, cutting her so badly that blood runs down her face. This girl is nicknamed Casper after the white ghost, but her name is Caroline. She's a particular favorite to mock, but Sol later seeks her out at her home and apologizes and the two become friends, and Ming befriends Christine, Caroline's younger sister.

Somehow, because of Sol's constant story-telling, Ming begins to focus on their non-existent Aunt Jove, and claims she writes to her and gets letters back. She refuses to show these replies to Sol, but maintains Jove will come and get them - which of course never happens. Meanwhile, Sol is regularly seeing Amelia's ghost and asking advice of a ghost which appears to be the same age now as Sol is. Fortunately for their welfare and sanity, they befriend a Chinese woman down the hall, Mrs Young (Yung? Again, audiobook) who seems to enjoy their company as much as the enjoy hers.

I felt that this book had some unresolved issues, but in other regards, I liked it. I liked the inventive stories and the humor, and I consider it a worthy read, although the morality is a bit off, be warned.


Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell


Rating: WORTHY!

The initial of this title spell 'woo', and that's exactly what this is! Magical woo where the warrior princess appears to have magic and the magician prince appears to have warrior skills, and ne'er the twain shall meet - so the rule says, but you know that's not going to happen. This is a new series by the author of the How to Train Your Dragon. I am not a series fan and do not plan on pursuing this since it's for a younger age group than mine, but just this one story was a worthy read as far as it went.

Wizard children come into their magic at thirteen, give or take, but the wizard lord's son Xar hasn't got his. He decides to help things along by capturing a witch and stealing hers. In this book witches are horrid hybrids of birds and people and you do not want to mess with them. The story is that all witches are extinct, but Xar doesn't believe it - and he's right not to. He takes some of his friends and magical creatures out into the Badwoods which are, like in Harry Potter, off limits, along with, like in Harry Potter, a magical sword with special powers, to build a trap to catch a witch, and he ends up meeting the princess warrior of course.

The princess warrior is named Wish and she is on a mission to return her pet magic spoon to the Badwoods and set it free. Here's where the book blurb is clueless. The 'Evil Queen' is wish's mom, and she's not actually evil. There is evil in the castle, but no one is aware of it until Wish and Xar find themselves face to face with it and try to defeat it.This was an audiobook experiment that paid off. David Tenant did an able reading of this novel, although his voice characterizations were sometimes a bit much for my taste. That said, some of them were really amusing. Overall, I found it entertaining enough for a single story; just not for an entire series though. I am not a fan of series! They're boring and derivative, with few exceptions. So I shall recommend this here, and leave that there.


The Ophelia Cut by John Lescroart


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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


Celine by Peter Heller


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Othello by William Shakespeare


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hoodoo by Ronald L Smith


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley


Rating: WORTHY!

Read sweetly by Bahni Turpin, this was another successful audiobook! See? it does happen! To be perfectly honest, it was a bit lacking in credibility: the usual middle-grade story where adults never help, and kids never go to them for help, which frankly annoys me, but that aside, it was an interesting and credible story (for the most part!), decently plotted and which involved adventuring and detective work as three kids-of-color from disparate backgrounds strove to track down some historic paintings by a black artist from Harlem, and overcome the machinations of an unscrupulous property developer. I recommend it.


Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - Audiobook


Rating: WORTHY!

This was one I picked up from the library at the same time as The Winter's Tale which I recently reviewed. I'm happy to report that this was much better than the other one. The cast was better for a start, and included David Tennant of Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, and Broadchurch fame) and (if you like him) Joseph Fiennes (of Shakespeare in Love fame in which he starred with Gwyneth Paltrow).

Frankly it would be nice to see a production of R&J which featured actors the actual ages of the principals in the play (Romeo's age remains unspecified, but Juliet, curiously, was thirteen!). I guess modern day sensibilities are far too squeamish for that, and in any case women - even those form wealthy families, did not marry at so tender an age in Elizabethan times, which is why her dad suggests she wait two more years. Childbirth at a later age was safer, but even marriage was unsafe for Juliet given what happened!

The question is though: are there not fine young actors aching for a chance to strut their stuff in this play? So why choose actors in their thirties? Joseph Fiennes who was 33 when this was published, and Maria Miles (who played Elfine Starkadder in 1995's Cold Comfort Farm) was probably around that same age, although little is known about her!

That said, and apart from some sorry over-acting on Fiennes part, this was not a bad full cast production and I enjoyed it.


Friday, May 4, 2018

The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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