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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a largely well-written and highly amusing take on Pride and Prejudice. In a modern version of this novel, and to stay true to the repressive, controlling atmosphere and public censure women were forced to endure in Austen's time, you would have to set the story in a religiously-strict locale, and in this case it’s Pakistan that was chosen. The story is set in 2000 and 2001, and with a lot of character name changes, largely follows the outline of Austen's story. I found it entertaining, but I have some observations to make on the 'translation' into modern times and exotic locales.

I think in general the novel was very well done, with some good decisions made about how to translate various characters and situations into modern times. If I had one initial complaint that popped out at me during the reading, it would be the rather annoying self-awareness the novel seems to exhibit with regard to it being a riff on an Austen Novel.

Austen's works are mentioned frequently enough that it was bordering on becoming a parody at times, and the pretension in name-dropping of what are too-often considered 'the classics' in novels was irritating to me. There is an endless stream of novel references which, whenever I'm reading a novel that does this, typically feels to me like a tool used amateurishly as a lazy substitute for actually doing the work of showing that your character is intelligent and educated, and I'm never impressed by it.

That this was set in a non-English-speaking country. Believe it or not, there are very many such countries, and American writers seem scared to death of choosing any as a setting for their work, so kudos to this author for being as fearless as she is inventive, but given this I found it somewhat annoying in its frequent use of foreign terms and phrases.

I don't mind the phrases in moderation; it’s a pleasant change. What I do mind is the ritualistic compulsion on the part of the author to immediately stick a translation after the foreign phrase. This really trips up the story for me because rather than adding some atmosphere and a bit of color and verisimilitude, it merely suggests to me that the author is trying to sound clever.

Personally, I find it far better to include such words and phrases infrequently, and give them without a translation, allowing the context and your reader's smarts provide an understanding for them. Have a little faith in your readers! As it was, it could have been used less and as such would have been less irritating to me, and less disturbing of my suspension of disbelief.

Maybe it's just me, but a good example of this is where I read (and before you read on, be warned there is some bad language in this novel!), “How many times should I tell you not to not say behen chod, sisterfucker. It’s so insulting to women. Use your own gender and say bhai chod, brotherfucker.” To me it’s insulting that the author would think I cannot extrapolate from this context that the second phrase is masculine, so that she feels she needs to spell it out to me. She really doesn't! There were many instances of a similar nature.

An issue I've seen often with writers is when they're so focused on the text they're producing that they forget that this isn't supposed to be simply words on a page. It’s supposed to be a story of people living their lives, interacting, speaking...and hearing! So unless the main character's mom was routinely reading English newspapers (she may have been but there is nothing in the novel to indicate that she understood a word of English much less could read it), then only way she would know any given English word is from hearing it used, perhaps on TV.

The thing is that if you hear it used, you do not routinely mispronounce it as though you had read it somewhere! Even if you do misunderstand it, the whole process is different when it runs through an auditory process than when it runs through a visual one! So from the nervous nelly of a mom here we got a lot of mispronunciation-cum-malapropism such as "Pinkie, say ‘Tetley’ again. What did I tell you, Goga, ‘Tut-lee!’." We also got, for example, "Prince Chaarless and Lady Dayna." I don't see how you can get that unless you understand English reasonably well and are also dyslexic in English, neither of which applied to Mrs Binat! So, suspension of disbelief issue here!

Another example of this was where one particular character's name was deliberately mispronounced by one of the siblings in this story's equivalent of the Bennet family, so that it became "Fart Bhai." Fart is an English word, not a Pakistani one, so that name would not have sounded insulting or like a young boy's bathroom joke in any Pakistani language. Pakistan doesn't have one main language, but several. There are five which are spoken commonly. In Pashto fart is 'goez', in Urdu it’s 'puskee', and in Punjabi, in which district I assume this action is set, fart is 'garama', as far as I can determine using online resources. None of these sound like the English version of the word, so this joke made little sense.

A similar situation arose when the author had Wikaam (Wickham) set his price for marrying Lady (Lydia). In the Austen original, he doesn't actually set a price, but an amount is bandied around as a minimum, and this is £10,000. In today's money, that would be about £300,000, or almost $400,000 (depending on current exchange rate). So Lady is highly undervalued here! The amount stated in this novel $100,000 which is only about £76,000.

I found this most curious because Pakistani currency isn't dollars; it's rupees, one hundred of which are worth (at the exchange rate when I wrote this), only seventy-five cents. So very, very roughly one rupee equals one cent. An equivalent evaluation for Wickaam, in Pakistani coinage, of taking on Lady would be something like fifty three million rupees!

Perhaps the author thought that sounded far too high to western ears? I don't know. As the author it is of course her choice, but it seemed odd to me to use dollars instead of rupees or pounds (given how often Britain is referenced in the story). This was obviously written for an American audience! I just pass this on to highlight how complex it can be to try 'translating' an old story for modern ears, especially if the setting changes.

And now a writing issue! The author chose the interesting solution of adjusting the character's names to fit what I must assume are Pakistani naming conventions. The De Bourgh family for example became 'dey Bagh', and George Wikham became Jeorgeullah Wikaam. Elizabeth Bennet was Alysba Binat, and Darcy became Darsee. Curiously this rule was not applied to the location in which the story was set!

The original story takes place in and around Meryton, but the story in this book is set in Dilipabad, which is a fictional Pakistani location as far as I know. Dileep is a boy's name meaning 'King of the solar Race', and 'abad' means these days, very roughly, 'city of' so it would translate as the City of the King of the Solar race, but I have no idea what that's supposed to mean! In the Punjab district of Pakistan, there is a town called Multan, a name which sounds similar to Meryton, and which is not far from Lahore. I don't know why the author didn't simply use that, but again, it’s her choice.

The author's technique with names though, had the advantage of helping to keep everyone's straight, although I confess I got lost from time to time. I think if I'd done this, I'd have been tempted to go a different way, but maybe this worked better. I’d have been more inclined to look at what the English name meant and use the local translation of that, so that Lydia, which means 'beautiful one' would translate to Sudara (close enough!), which is actually a pretty cool name, but that means Elizabeth (oath of god) translates to Paramēśura dī sahu which really doesn't work! So maybe this author's choice was the wiser one?!

But enough with the writing issues and criticism. As I said at the beginning, I found this story engrossing and entertaining, and it kept me swiping the screen and tempting me away from my own writing projects too often, so this was definitely a worthy read. It even helped, indirectly, by reminding me of the original story, to clarify and gel some ideas of my own in connection with my upcoming redux of Pride and Prejudice - which I haven't even started yet but which I have now decided is up next after the current project, and which I promise is not set in modern times, nor is it set in Pakistan!

So I am greatful to have read this for that alone, but it was much more than that to me. It offered more than a literary stimulant; it was a good sotry, well told, and made more interesting to me for the very fact that it was so different from the traditional retellings of this which have become multifarious as well as nefarious and are typically boring and uninventive at best, or badly done at worst. I am grateful this wasn't such a story and I fully commend it - and look forward to this author's next offering.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Luisa Now and Then by Carole Maurel


Rating: WORTHY!

Published in French originally as Luisa: Ici et là (strictly speaking, Luisa Here and there), with this English version adapted by Mariko Tamaki and translated by Nanette McGuinness, this oddball time-travel fantasy brings a younger Luisa to the future to meet her older self, and neither is well-pleased with the other.

Teenager Luisa sets off on a bus trip and ends up falling asleep. When she awakes she's at the end of the line and gets out to discover she's nowhere near where she thought she was, not in space or time. A young, but mature woman to whom Luisa is loosely attracted helps her and slowly it dawns upon Luisa that this woman lives across the hallway from her own older self, so to the outside world, the younger Luisa feigns being a cousin of the older until they can sort out what happened and how to put it right. It's a learning experience, and not a pleasant one, given how prickly and persnickety the two of them are. Or should that be 'the one of them is'?

The young Luisa refuses to believe that she ends up as this 'spinsterish' older woman whose life is unadventurous and downright boring. Yeah, she lives in Paris, but whoa, is this second-rate job the one young Luisa dreamed of getting? No! Older Luisa has tried to make her life pain-free, and appears to be in serious disagreement with Socrates that 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. In arranging her life thus, she's failed to realize that she's attracted to females and in particular, the very one across the hall that younger Luisa finds so appealing.

So far so good, but the longer they spend together, the more alike the two of them become and they realize that it's urgent that they split up before they become indistinguishable from one another. Young Luisa must return to her original time and place. This book is done as a fine art piece, with entrancing line work and watercolor painting, and it was a pleasure to read: fun, engaging, and overall a worthy read. I commend it.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

One Day So Many Ways by Laura Hall, Loris Lora


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written descriptively by Hall and illustrated well by Lora, this book is definitely needed. As a reader who tires of so many novels by American authors set in the US, as though nothing ever happens elsewhere in the world, I welcome books which amplify how important the rest of the world is, and illustrate how critical it is to have an awareness and understanding of other nations, especially at a time when we have a president who seems determined to wear blinkers.

Children need to grasp how big this world is and how different and alike other children are. It never hurts to be wise to the ways of the world and this book represents a sterling start, taking us through a typical day across Earth, but looked at through many facets: those of children of over forty other nations.

It begins with the kids waking up to a new day, breakfasting, traveling to school, learning, playing, making friends, having quiet time, enjoying sports and games, traveling home and completing chores, homework and going to bed! It discusses how different each country can be, or how similar, by illustrating each new page with many vignettes of life elsewhere and at home.

Do the Venetians in Italy enjoy the same food as us? How about children in Burkina Faso? In Jining? In Kathmandu? Do they play the same games? Dream the same dreams? Hope for the same things? The stories come from literally across the entire globe, from two-score nations, from Australia to Alaska, Mali to Mexico, Ecuador to England, Ireland to India, Patagonia to Poland and more.

If I had one complaint it would be that the ebook comes as a double-page spread which makes it rather small, even on a tablet computer. It would have been easier to read had these double-spreads been split into individual pages, and I saw no reason why they could not have been. Evidently this was planned as a print book with little thought given to ebook versions which is rather sad. Other than that, I fully recommend this book as a worthy and educational read for all children everywhere!


Monday, October 1, 2018

Invincible Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Kate Niemczyk, Taki Soma, Kiichi Mizushima, Marte Gracia, Israel Silva


Rating: WORTHY!

So I read the second volume of the Ironheart graphic novel - this is the one featuring a female (a young female - she's only fifteen, but already a brilliant student at MIT). I had some minor issues with this volume. It's supposed to be about this girl who is replacing Ironman, so I was disappointed to discover that the title made no mention whatsoever of Ironheart!

The first volume at least had the title as "Invincible Iron Man Ironheart" which was bad enough (it made no sense for one thing), but volume two excludes the Ironheart bit altogether, like the comic isn't even about her! WTF, Marvel? There really is no point in promoting a female super hero if all you're going to do with her is render her as an appendage of the previous male hero to hold that title. It defeats the purpose, you know? For goodness sake let her fly solo. And don't treat your readers like idiots who would have no clue that Ironheart is a female incarnation of Iron Man without you spelling it out on the cover - because clearly you have no faith in the cover illustrations accomplishing that aim! LOL!

That aside, the overall story wasn't too bad, although it lapsed a bit here and there. Tony Stark's AI presence is nothing but an annoyance to me. If it was amusing, that would be something, but it isn't, and having so many types of speech balloon (one for Riri suited-up, one for her out of suit, one for Tony, one for Friday?) means it's a mess. Clean it up!

At one point I actually wondered if I'd be able to give this a favorable rating, but then it picked up and it saved itself enough that I'm willing to pursue this at least as far as volume three. One of my problems with it, and this applies to more than this one comic, is Marvel's lack of imagination in creating new villains. DC is just as bad. Let's resurrect the Joker again why don't we? Never mind how many times we killed him off, let's really keep digging back into the ancient past and bring out the same villains over and over instead of going to the trouble of using our imagination and creativity. Barf. The Joker is a joke. The Riddler is ridiculous. Catwoman is a pussy and the Penguin is for the birds. Find a new shtick!

This volume did change it up a bit in that the two main villains were females, but they were female versions (in effect) of male villains. Instead of the endlessly returning Doctor Doom, we got a female clone: a psychotic despot who was queen of Latveria of all places. Seriously? Get a new shtick, Marvel. At least, as temporary queen of Latveria, after defeating this idiot non-entity of a villain, Ironheart shone. Later Ironheart went up against Lady Octopus (and to her credit made fun of her title - this was one of the things which amused me and brought the novel back into my favor.

I'm happy to say that despite the lack of any female writing input, the art wasn't appallingly genderist, perhaps due to the presence of Kate Niemczyk and Taki Soma on the team, but it's still not enough. I am still hoping for better, but for now this isn't too bad.


Invincible Iron Man Ironheart by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia


Rating: WORTHY!

I tend not to read many super hero comics because they often rub me up the wrong way and the poses the artists put the characters into all-too-often seem utterly unnatural when they're not uninventive, and the sexualization, particularly of females is not acceptable to me. Plus the dialog is a bit lame - especially when the heroes are exchanging smart-ass remarks in the middle of a fight. It's thoroughly unrealistic - even given the premise that superheroes exist - so it's not my cup of gamma ray-infused kryptonite, but once in a while I do read one for better or for worse. This one was for better as it happens, although there is still much to be done here.

This one threatened to annoy me from the cover alone because despite it being about Iron Man's replacement (in this comic world Iron Man is dead - at least as much as any super hero or villain is ever dead in these things), the female who is taking over still doesn't get top billing, although her 'real' name curiously appears on the cover at the bottom of the page. Normally I pay little attention to covers because the author has little or nothing to do with them and the artist typically hasn't even read the novel, as judged by how irrelevant or clueless the cover art is, but in graphic novels it's different: the cover does matter.

J Scott Campbell's risible (if it were not so serious) 2016 cover that caused such a controversy when it was revealed is almost as inexcusable as his being in total brain-dead denial about what an inappropriate cover it was. Marvel seems to have learned a lesson from that, but there are more they still need to learn - like hiring an artist who is a black woman maybe to draw Ironheart instead of yet another white dude? Was Nilah Magruder not available? Yona Harvey? Anyone? Ferrous Jewels?! There have to be scores of young black female artists who would love a shot at this. Afua Richardson? Taneka Stotts? It's important - it just needs to become important to the comic book corporations: not important to say, but important to actually do!

And what's with the name Ironheart? It was the name of a Japanese soft-porn knock-off of Iron Man and the content was certainly not appropriate to link to a fifteen-year-old black woman who's set to become a hero. What was wrong with Iron Girl? Was it ever considered? Tony Stark is cleared to be an Iron Man, but Riri isn't cleared to be a girl? Well, I guess not according to J Scott Campbell she isn't!

The story shows Riri - who is purportedly a genius, creating her own suit and starting out as a self-made woman, finally being mentored by Tony Stark's AI, and befriending Pepper Potts who is also a super hero now. The story was upbeat, fun and enjoyable, but there's much more to this incarnation of the Iron Hero. I enjoyed this comic and felt that Riri had a voice worth hearing, but maybe others will disagree. Pre-orders for this comic series slowly fell after issue one. I can't help but wonder if this was because the female wasn't quite so sexualized after that outcry or maybe it was something else. Maybe the writing isn't there. Maybe the plotting isn't, but I intend to read more of this story and see where it goes. I commend this issue at least.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Summit Vol 1: The Long Way Home by Amy Chu, Jan Duursema


Rating: WORTHY!

Errata:
Aeropsace on p13 Misspelled.

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

There was an event in which an asteroid nearly hit Earth. The planet was supposedly saved by Lorena Payan, which no doubt is pronounced 'pain'. Some people developed superpowers from this event, but curiously, the event seemed to have a preference mostly for white American adults.

The stories of these mutants are covered in various editions by various writers and artists. This one is the story of one of those white Americans who happened to be actually on the mission: Valentina "Val" Resnick-Baker who rescues and protects a young kid. Can anyone say Aliens 2 Redux?

Frankly this story it was a bit bland, repetitive, and disjointed, but overall it was better than the other two I read in this batch of stories. While I am happy to rate this one as a worthy read, I think I'm done with this whole series which really isn't moving, shaking, or breaking new ground. It's petty much broken and crumbled like the asteroid was at this point.


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


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Showrunner by Kim Moritsugu


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I read one review of this novel which said the author (who has a totally cool name!) "...has the uncanny knack of creating stories you can't put down, featuring characters you'd love to be, who say things you wish you could say," but I definitely would not want to be one of these characters or say the things they say. Only one of them is not potentially psychotic! That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it however. The author did create three strong and well-defined characters, although one of them (Ann) seemed rather over the top to me.

I would have preferred a straight-forward story rather than interspersing the Stacey (main protagonist) story with entries from the journal of another (Ann). Those did not work for me because they seemed not only inauthentic, but also not something this particular character would do. It took me out of suspension of disbelief. I really dislike first person voice because it is so inauthentic, and I also dislike diary and journal entries, so this was a double negative for me. The other two perspectives, Stacey's and Jenna's, were much more realistic and readable. While I wouldn't describe it as 'un-put-downable' it definitely did make me want to keep reading.

Another joy was that, just when I feared it would go all chick-lit when Stacey started zeroing in on a guy, the author was smart enough to keep that low-key and focus on the main drama, which I appreciated, as indeed I did the fact that (apart from Ann's journal) this was not first person voice. Finally - an author who gets how weak and annoying that voice is! U shakll build a Moritsugu Shrine! yes! That's what I shall do! Mwahaha!

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the story is about a TV production company called Two Women Walking, the two women being veteran Ann Dalloni, and up-and-comer Stacey McCreedy, who was the creator of this new show that has become such a success and for which Ann has usurped the credit. The story repeatedly describes the two women as partners and the company as a partnership, but the story is told consistently as though Ann in the boss and Stacey her employee, which made little sense to me, but starting from this resentment, there builds a festering and smoldering mutual antagonism between the aging Ann and the vibrant Stacey which mounts towards what seems to be an inevitable butting-of-heads if not worse.

Each is trying to undermine the other, and it does not help that Ann, without consulting Stacey, has brought on board a young actor, Jenna, who is currently in a slump, and who is happy to work with a veteran like Ann to learn the producing ropes and maybe get back into the acting game through a back door. The story doesn't explain why Ann did not already have an assistant like Stacey does, which was a bit of a plot hole, but no big deal. Jenna finds herself playing piggy-in-the-middle and running thankless and trivial errands for Ann, but she swallows it all down because she has her own agenda.

Frankly I didn't like any of these three woman and would certainly not want to know them in real life (much less be them!), but they made for fascinating characters and a very readable story. The ending was in some ways predictable and in others a surprise, but I can't go into it without giving away spoilers!

The book wasn't all joy though; there were some issues, one of which is a common one in my experience. At one point I read, "...the bottom half of his left bicep was visible..." Unless his skin and muscle is torn and one of the ligaments is hanging out, I doubt that his bicep was visible. I don't doubt that his biceps was if he's quite muscular. 'Bicep' relates to one or other of the muscle attachments to the humerus, and isn't very impressive. The actual bulge in the upper arm is the biceps.

Another issue wasn't a writing problem, but a formatting problem caused by Amazon's crappy Kindle app. I really am not a fan of it (or Amazon in general for that matter), because unlike B&N's Nook app or a PDF file, it will mangle anything that's not plain vanilla text. In this case, the novel was clearly formatted for print, with page headers (book title and author name on alternating pages) which to me is pointless if not pretentious, but it's what publishers do.

Unfortunately, when Amazon gets it hands on this stuff, it can't handle it, and it incorporates the page headers directly into the text! Consequently, I read at one point, "And have KIM MORITSUGU nerves of steel." Hey, I want 'Kim Moritsugu nerves of steel'! Where can I buy them?! This happened quite often and was annoying, I hope it's fixed before the final ebook version becomes available.

There were other issues of improper formatting or poorly written sentences, but not too many, fortunately. At one point I read, "What had Stacey called her when she strolled up to the entrance, looking stylish..." here it wasn't immediately clear who's being stylish, but this is a minor issue. In another section, I read, "...and I know you're in an difficult position" 'An' needs to drop the 'n'. At a different point there was, "Which made feel Jenna victorious." Jenna and feel need to switch places. Also, in a slightly different issue, several weeks pass between chapters 18 and 24 without any real indication of such a huge time, which was a bit confusing!

Finally for me, there was a bit of a problem with how things were resolved at the end. I can't detail it without giving spoilers, but it seemed like the participants were indulging in unnecessary overkill when they could have simply told the truth about what happened, which was all they needed to do. I didn't get why they had to cook up a story. It felt to me like maybe the ending had been changed from what it originally was, an ending that might have needed such a story, but having made the change, the author either didn't realize there was a problem or couldn't think of an easy way out of it, when there actually was really a simple one: tell the unvarnished truth!

But these were relatively minor issues in what was overall a worthy and engrossing story, which I recommend.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook I came at from having seen the excellent TV series starring Jason Isaacs (of Star Trek Discovery - not that I watch that sorry excuse for a Star Trek show - and Harry Potter), Amanda Abbington (late of Sherlock), Zawe Ashton (late of Doctor Who: Into the Dalek), and the charming young Millie Innes - who is a true Scot! The TV show was titled Case Histories after the first novel in a series of (so far) four.

I love my library, but oddly enough they didn't have the first novel on CD; they had two others, which were the ones I got. This one is the last of the four. After I started listening to the droning audiobook, I regretted my impulsiveness in requesting two books at once. I listened to half of the first disk and skimmed the last disk on my way back to the library to drop it off! They were both tedious and mindlessly rambling, and nauseatingly droning (the reader was Graeme Malcolm and he was awful and served only to exacerbate the problem with the mindlessly meandering material). I hope the other one I got is better. It can hardly be worse!

This is a Stephen King style novel where the author thinks it's more important to go into endless, pointless minutiae instead of actually getting on with the story. The story is purportedly about a retired detective named Tracy Waterhouse. Her sole memory, it seems, is her encounter as a newly-minted police constable in Edinburgh, Scotland. She and her partner found a strangled woman who was very ripe, having been dead for many days, and also locked in a flat (apartment) with a young child. After that we're back in the present, but by then I'd already lost interest. Jackson Brodie is the hero of these novels, but he's focused on an abused dog. This one has not yet made it to a TV version.

The thing I loved about the TV show is how each story sowed three different seeds at the start, and by the end all three had grown into the same plant. The thing I found weird about the TV show is how few Scots actually live in Edinburgh - if it's judged by the casting! All the main characters were almost always English, not Scots! That may not be cultural appropriation, but it's certainly inappropriate. Othher than that I loved the show and would advise everyone to watch that rather than read these sashaying shambles of stories (assuming the others are as bad as this one was).


School for Psychics by KC Archer


Rating: WARTY!

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

Not to be confused with The School for Psychics by Carolyn Jourdan, this School for Psychics is volume one is a series which seems to have as its aim to be an adult version of Harry Potter, but don't let that fool you. It's really a YA novel with non-YA characters, and this made for an inauthentic, if not laughable story. I did not like it. I didn't like the main character, which was the first problem I had with this. She started out fine, but went rapidly downhill.

24-year-old Teddy Cannon owes a lot of money (like low six figures) to a Serbian crook by the name of Sergei. Her plan is to use her psychic ability (which she doesn't know she has) to win big at poker and repay the loan. How she ever got into such debt when she can win so easily at poker is a mystery. Though she doesn't realize it, she's psychic and knows exactly what the other players have in their hands.

In her ignorance of her true calling, she puts this skill down to her ability to detect their 'tells' - little peccadilloes and mannerisms which reveal what they're holding in their hands. As it happens when we meet her on her big gamble, she fails and is contacted by a mysterious man who invites her to come to the school for Psychics on an island off the coast of California. If she does, he says, all her debts will be paid. Does that sound like entrapment? It did to me, but Teddy isn't smart enough to be the least bit suspicious of how all this magically came together. I wondered if she was set up for this right from the off, but if she had been, it really would have made no sense anyway.

I also have to wonder, since she's been specially recruited - having been watched for some time - why her recruiter waited so long, and if he's so sure about her, why she has to undergo these entrance tests. As another reviewer suggested, it would have been better to test potential recruits before they arrive at this secret school, not afterwards, but none of this is gone into in the novel. It speaks very poorly of the recruiters skills that so many new entrants were kicked out so quickly. Up to the point of Teddy's arrival at the school, the story wasn't too bad at all and it held my interest, but it went downhill quickly once school began. The author needed to think this through much more than she evidently did, is what it felt like to me. It simply wasn't realistic, even within its own framework.

Teddy thought she was epileptic. She had no idea she was psychic, although how that happened went unexplained in the 25% or so of this that I could stand to read. You would think that someone introduced to a whole new world as Teddy was, would revel in it, but she acted like she didn't care much about anything - she behaved as though it was simply another day in the life, which again felt inauthentic.

In the end, my biggest problem with this was that I wanted to read "School for Psychics" not a heated Harlequin romance, but that was what I got instead. I wanted to read about a main character who was strong and independent and who relished the chance to learn to use her abilities. I did not want to read about clichéd 'bitch in heat' who really had no great interest in anything save the "hot guy" she sees on the first day, and with whom she can't wait to have unsafe sex. I don't do covers because my blog is about writing, and author's have little control over their cover unless they self-publish, but this novel's cover was actually pretty cool. Unfortunately it was wrong for the book, which ought to have had the stereotypical naked, shaven-chested guy on the front cover, standing behind a swooning Teddy.

So it's not really about psychics at all, it's about this woman's obsession with this guy and which turns into a clichéd YA triangle in short order. Yawn. I wanted something original and instead we got a boring version of X-Men crossed with Harry Potter, and this had the worst elements of both those and a poor YA novel into the bargain. There's even an guy unoriginally named Pyro. Barf. It's all adults, but it reads like a high-school romance. Sorry, not interested!

I wanted to read about the psychics, not how hot this woman thinks this guy is. If she'd just mentioned it a couple of times, that would be fine, but it's every other page and it's boring. I don't want to read about women like that. Women do not need a man to validate them and it's sad that so many female authors think they need not one, but two, including your standard trope bad-boy, to make a woman whole. I cannot recommend a novel that's as bad as this one, and is so insulting to women.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Poorcraft by C Spike Trotman, Diana Nock


Rating: WORTHY!

This book was awesome! It tells you how to survive economically with scores of practical ideas and a host of references, and it covers a huge variety of topics, and will be of particular interest to college students, but also to anyone who is living on very limited means. It's also humorous and beautifully drawn in very bold black and white line images by Diana Nock.

It covers housing, food, fashion, health, transportation, entertainment, education and emergencies, and it has an appendix of links and resources. It offers advice on how to take out a loan, how to avoid taking out a loan, and how to pay back loans even if you feel you're sinking rather than swimming. It offers tips on how to save on groceries, how to find a place to live, how to make sure your housemates are good ones, how to find cheap or free furniture, how to put together a collection of tools for do-it-yourself projects and fixing-up places. In short, it covers pretty much everything you need to know to live cheaply and successfully. I fully recommend this one as an entertaining read and a useful tool to have around in itself!


The Angry Chef's Guide to Spotting Bullsh*t in the World of Food by Anthony Warner


Rating: WORTHY!

Erratum:
“...repelling into your body...” I believe the author meant 'rappelling'.

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

What better way to start out All Fool's Day than to review a book about idiotic diet fads? In a world where women in particular and especially in the west, are made to feel ugly and worthless if they do not conform to the fashion magazine, television, and Hollywood 'standard' of beauty (i.e. thin as a rake and endowed with hourglass curves and unnaturally flawless skin), you can't blame people for wanting to trim themselves a little, but there are far too many immoral rip-off artists willing to step up and offer snake-oil and quakery to women who have, their entire lives, been primed and weakened to buy into anything which will get them into conformity with the idiotic heights that society seeks to impose upon them.

While it does no-one harm to exercise appropriately and eat wisely, the diet business is a sixty billion dollar industry in the USA alone and yet people are fatter now than they've ever been. That should tell you how fraudulent the whole thing is. However heavy or light your body is, it has a natural weight that it likes to stay close to and it will fight you with some very effective hormones if you try to force it out of that zone. That's not to say it can't be done, but the road to that end is paved with misery, failure, and a constant struggle.

You know things are bad if even Walmart voluntarily steps-up and decides to remove one if its beauty and fashion magazines from the check-out aisle because it's been deemed too obsessed with women being sexualized. If you take a look at those magazines, they rarely have a cover which doesn't mention diet, looks, and/or sex. These magazines are known for air-brushing flaws out of women's skin and Photoshopping them to make them look even thinner than they may already be. Children are bombarded with these images every time they pass through the checkout. On the one side are the magazines essentially telling women how ugly and fat they are, and on the other side of the same aisle are the calorie-laden candy bars and potato chips. That ought to tell you something about how schizophrenic we are in this world of body image which we created for ourselves.

When I requested this from Net Galley I had never heard of the Angry Chef, but the idea of it amused me. I was really pleased to learn that not only does the Author have BSc degree in biochemistry from Manchester University, he's also very much a scientist in his approach to analyzing fad diets, and he gives no quarter in tackling them one after another in this volume, pointing out in no uncertain terms how idiotic and baseless they are.

In Part One 'Gateway Pseuodscience', he covers an important topic: the difference between causation and correlation. Just because something occurs at the same time as something else doesn't automatically mean one was caused by the other. He attacks so-called 'detox' diets and alkaline diets, and he covers the topics of regression to the mean, and 'the remembering self'.

In Part Two we learn about 'when science goes wrong' and meet Science Columbo, coconut oil, the paleo diet, antioxidants, and...sugar! (Its not as bad as you think!). Part Three brings 'the influence of pseudoscience', featuring a history of quacks, the power of ancient wisdom, processed foods, clean eating, and eating disorders. Part Four takes us into 'the dark heart of pseudoscience' and educates us on relative risk, the GAPS diet, and cancer. Not ethat some of his titles and opening paragraphs are laden with sarcasm, so beware that you may think you're having your bias confirmed as you seem to be led in one direction, only to discover that your destination is elsewhere.

If I had three complaints, the first would be that the print version is a tree-slaughtering device if it goes to a long print run, because it has unnecessarily wide margins and generous text-spacing, No-one wants to see a page that's literally black with text, but a wiser publisher - one which actually cared about trees and climate change, could have narrowed the margins and shorted the book considerably by doing so.

My second complaint - be warned - is that the language is a little on the blue side and unnecessarily so in my opinion. There are four-letter words distributed throughout the text, not commonly, but often enough. I thought that was entirely unnecessary. I have no problem with such words in say, a novel, but in a non-fiction book of this nature, I think that language can be dispensed with and thereby reach a wider audience in doing so. It amused me that the cover was so prim and proper that it included an asterisk in the title - like that really disguises what the word is? Seriously? I know an author has no control over the cover when they turn over their book to a regular publisher (which to me is a travesty), but they do have a lot of say over what's inside that cover.

The third issue was that the book was a little long-winded for my taste (336 pages, of which - if you exclude the prologue and the epilogue which I always do), runs to some 286 pages of main text. The extra pages include end notes and two appendices, but the rest of the book was a bit rambling at times. Overall though, I enjoyed it. I loved the exposure of fads and quackery (Gwyneth Paltrow comes in for a well-deserved hammering) as well as a host of less well-known figures in the world of food faddism. The book contains a solid introduction to the scientific approach in which far too many of us are lacking, especially in the USA, land of fundamentalism, conspiracy and fad. The principles learned here can be applied outside the narrow field of diet and food, and I recommend this one as a worthy read.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra


Rating: WARTY!

I literally could not get beyond the first couple of chapters of this. It entirely rubbed me the wrong way from the start and the prospect of reading the rest of it after that just turned me off. As if the writing wasn't bad enough, the story is told in first person. Apparently it draws heavily on her experience with Hunter Thompson, and I have no respect for him either. If that is the case, then one has to wonder why she wrote this fictional account rather than a real one.

The story is of this fresh college grad Alley Russo (yes, spelled like blind alley!), a girl who wants a chance to work as an assistant to a purportedly renowned writer who is really an arrogant and a self-absorbed dick. This guy was so hard-edged that he was unbelievable as a character - hard-living, hard smoking, hard-drinking, hard to take seriously in fact. He began by humiliating this girl, who has so little self respect that she takes everything that's dished to her.

I picked this up because I thought it would be about the writing, but it really isn't at all; it's about this weak sop of a girl subjugating herself to an immoral slave-driver with the ridiculous name of Walker Reade, and foolishly thinking this is going to help her writing career. The sad fact is that she's willing to do literally anything to further her writing aspirations - except actually sit down and write! I have no respect whatsoever for her and none for this novel.

I was especially turned off it when I read a Kirkus quote. The quote merely said, "Fascinating" which could have meant anything! The Kirkus review could have said "It's fascinating how stupid this story is", but my guess is that it didn't. The problem is that Kirkus never has a bad word to say about a novel so their reviews are completely meaningless. Anyone who quotes them in support of a book is a moron, period.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scarlett by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev


Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Mister Monkey by Francine Prose


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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


Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Science for Sale by Daniel S Greenberg


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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


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


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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