Showing posts with label dumb-assery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dumb-assery. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook which I picked up because I'd very much enjoyed the last book I listened to by this author, and while the reading voice of Alison McGhee was quite a pleasure to listen to in this volume, the story was rather less than satisfying.

We're pretty much expected to believe that a young girl's sister dies by drowning, through her idiotic practice of running in the forest by a dangerous section of the river, but of course her body is never recovered. I found it hard to believe that there was no effort made to have divers find the body.

Apparently someone else had died here too, but there was no fencing and no signage that I heard of. That part was realistic because humans are morons when it comes to safeguarding lives, and in particular the lives of children. There have to be multiple deaths before preventive action is taken. It's the rule. Also, it's the rule in this book because everyone seems to be dying: people and animals alike! It's the Appelt Book of the Dead!

Anyway, sister one goes running off (for a ridiculous 'mission' she has to complete, which is later revealed for the stupid thing that it is), and is magically reincarnated as a fox. Why? Who knows? Maybe the author does, but she doesn't care to tell us - not in the part of this I could stand to listen to anyway, since this was a DNF for me.

A better question though is 'who cares?' because we're given no reason to invest in these people. The characters were uninteresting and uninspiring, and they did not draw me in. Adults are essentially non-existent and vacuous when they are. Children don't have childish thoughts.

The story was way too long and boring because it moved so slowly, which is ironic given that much is made of the speed of the running sister and of the fox she returns as. Given that the foxes have very human thoughts, leaving a ribbon for the sister to find as some sort of a message made no sense. Why not simply scratch the message in the dirt with a claw? Plus foxes are like dogs: they don't see green. An author writing about foxes ought to know this.

I was truly disappointed in this one. It was such a sorry contrast to The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp, and I cannot commend it.


Friday, June 1, 2018

The Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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


Queen of Kenosha by Howard Shapiro


Rating: WARTY!

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

This is the third - and last as far as I'm concerned! - in a loose collection of comics telling supposedly positive and life-affirming stories. I was not impressed by any of them and the artwork was a bit odd to say the least, particularly in this one. there really was a Queen of Kenosha - Dorothy J Queen, who died in 2012!

In previous comics this author had depicted male characters who looked quite feminine for no apparent reason, but in this one we get the opposite: the female characters look rather masculine. I don;t know if this is a deliberate gender-bending effort or simply accidental, but it didn't work. I don't mind feminine-looking men or masculine-looking women, but if you're going to put them into a graphic novel and you don't want your reader to be continually distracted by them, then there really ought to be some sort of reason for it. There was none here that I could see.

Nina Overstreet used to be in a duo with her cousin and now her cousin is no longer is part of it, for reasons which go unexplained, but is still Nina's 'manager'. One night, an odd event happens which brings Nina to the attention of a secret government agency and for no real reason whatsoever they recruit her, while still demeaning her as a female.

This is particularly odd because their idea is purportedly that a female can offer distraction and an intro into areas where a man might stand out, but the author drew Nina as very masculine-looking, so it begs the question as to why these guys are hiring her as a female distraction when she looks just like one of the guys! It made zero sense.

Add to this the fact that one of the two guys is a complete jerk, while the other is an obvious love interest, who also acts like a jerk at times, and you have a very predictable story at best and at worst, a disaster in the making. Nina is supposed to be a strong female character, but she really isn't. She wasn't impressive and the story was boring. It was set in 1963 and they're talking about Nazi sympathizers and a network of underground Nazi spies? If it had been Soviets instead of Nazis, I might have maybe bought that, but like this it was a joke and it read like a really bad fifties B movie. I cannot recommend it.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 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.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Invisibility by David Levithan, Andrea Cremer


Rating: WARTY!

I liked Levithan's Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist which he co-wrote with Rachel Cohn, but I did not like his Everyday, and now I find myself parting ways from him again with this crap.

Like in Nick & Nora, each author is writing a first person perspective, the one for the guy in the story, the other for the girl. It wasn't likable. I tend to really dislike first person voice with few exceptions, and I feel that when you multiply it, it just makes it worse, but that's not the worst problem for me with this story. The worst problem is how unrealistic it is, even if I grant that a boy can be literally invisible. The problem is that this boy shows absolutely no interest whatsoever in his world and doesn't even think of getting up to the adventures and mischief any red-blooded boy would think of if he were literally invisible as this boy is. He's so profoundly and irremediably boring.

The kick to the story is of course that this girl moves into an apartment just along the hall from his, and she can see him, but when they meet, it's set up like he tiptoes past her to go to his apartment. He claims he can't get in because he has to retrieve his key and he doesn't want her to see a key floating in the air apparently, but it's already been established that when he puts his clothes on, they also become invisible, and immediately after he puts food in his mouth, it also becomes invisible, so why wouldn't the key? For that matter, why wouldn't he simply carry the key with him? The boy's an idiot.

If Levithan had said the guy couldn't enter because he didn't want her to see a door open and close by itself, that would be one thing, but he didn't! Even that could have been written-off as someone looking out of their apartment and then closing the door, and I would have bought that. I can't buy the stupid and thoughtless scenario I was presented with here.

The girl is written just as dumbly, because she drops her keys and the boy doesn't offer to help because he doesn't think she can see him, but she can, and she chews him out for not helping her instead of doing what any self-possessed person would, which is put her bags down, get the keys, open the door, pick her bags up, and go inside! In short, she's also an idiot who would rather play the helpless maiden in distress than get on with things under her own steam. What she does is the precise equivalent of the old saw of a woman dropping a handkerchief to get a guy's attention! It was pathetic. She's precisely the opposite of a strong female character and I have no time for female characters like this one.

Do I want to read a story about two idiots and instadore? Hell no. The whole story struck me as short-sighted, artificial, and poorly thought-through. It was obviously a catastrophe waiting to happen, and not in a fun way. I couldn't stand to read any more of it!


North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley


Rating: WARTY!

This was a print book I picked up because the premise sounded like it might offer something different from your usual YA trash of the helpless beautiful maiden in distress rescued by a boy - as though women are utterly useless and need to be rescued all the time. In the end it turned out to be precisely that, and I had to DNF it because it was so badly written, and yet another first person voice fiasco.

Terra Cooper (yes, that's her idiotic name) has everything a YA girl could want: blond hair and an enviable body, also a jock boyfriend, but we're told she has a flawed face. Her family is, predictably in YA, also flawed. Her father refuses to pay for her to go to the small college of her choice, trying to force her to go to the overly large college which is only three hours away where he can still control her. Terra wants to be further from him than that but is apparently too stupid to understand that her father wouldn't agree, and instead, seek a student loan or a scholarship. In short, she's a moron. But none of this really matters because Terra's only real problem is her obsession with the 'port wine' stain on her face, which lasers don't seem to have been able to remove.

Naturally a woman as hopeless as this needs to be rescued by a "handsome but quirky Goth boy." Clearly the novel is supposed to teach lessons about skin-deep and self-determination, but the amount of obsessing over the port-wine in the few pages I could stand to read told me this was going nowhere interesting or good, and also that the novel was going to be completely untrue to its premise. And the cartographic references were way the hell overdone even in the short portion I read.

That wasn't even the worse part (and no, it's not that I actually paid for this with my own money, either!). The worst part was why a woman who'd had this stain on her face her whole life would be obsessed with it now rather than so used to it that she rarely gave it any thought. It was entirely unrealistic. If this obsession was indeed the case, then this girl has bigger problems than which college she goes to, or a control-freak father, and she needs serious psychiatric help. I doubt a handsome Goth boy is up to the task.

The novel was pedantic and boring, predictable and asinine. I do not recommend it.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce


Rating: WARTY!

This was a novel I bought thinking it might give an interesting take on the Snow Queen story, but while it started out great, it failed about halfway through when the main character stupidly left her car unlocked with valuables inside, stupidly chased after the men who stole from her, stupidly ran into their trap, and stupidly got captured by "gypsies" who of course were magical people and knew all about the Snow Queen and could help this totally ineffectual non-hero of a main female character. Stereotype Much Jackson Pearce?

The Snow Queen (aka Snedronningen) was originally written by Hans Christian Andersen and was first published, appropriately on or about the winter solstice of 1844. He gets absolutely zero mention or credit, not even in this author's acknowledgements. What an ingrate of a rip-off artist she is. Now I like her less than I liked the main character! She even steals the name of one of the main characters from Snow Queen - Kai, for the guy Ginny goes tumbling after like Jill down a hill. That's Ginny, because the author evidently wasn't interested in ripping off the name Gerda (the main girl in the story) even as she ripped-off pretty much the entire story!

The Snow Queen has no name in the original (not that Andersen chose to share, but she was modeled on actor Johanna Maria Lind, better known as Jenny Lind so why call her Mora? Why not Johanna? Did the author not know or care enough about the original story to think of this? Names are important in stories, but apparently not to this author who didn't care enough about her characters to think about what the names mean. If she didn't care, why should we? Just FYI, Kai is really form Kaj which means Earth.

Andersen apparently fell in love with Jenny, but she wasn't interested in him so he modeled the icy heart of the snow queen on this rejection. That's a far more interesting story than this author delivered. Wh not name her as an anagram of Snedronningen, for example, Rennin Songend? Gerda comes form a Norse word meaning protected, which makes sense when you think of the story. The best the author could come up with as a replacement was Ginny? Which means Virgin? The two are nothing alike! Alexia and Shamiria both mean pretty much the same thing as Gerda. Would not one of those have been better? Oh, but it has to be an all-American white girl, and it has to be set in the USA because it's YA! Never mind!

The book was first person because the law requires that every YA novel to be first person, or the author will end up in the cooler, right? Wrong! It especially has to be worst person voice if it has a main female character, right? No! This author admitted what a juvenile mistake she'd made when she had to add chapters (and a prologue, which I skipped as usual...yawn) in third person from the perspective of Mora, the name of the Snow Queen in this novel. Mora is Gaelic and means 'star of the sea' so it has nothing whatsoever to do with ice, snow or cold! This author is pretty dumb when it comes to names. Those third person chapters could easily have been left out. It was very amateurish to include them and it spoiled the book even more than the author was already managing to do.

Like I said, I got about halfway through and asked, "why am I even reading this?" I had no good answer and dropped it like a melting icicle. Unlike such an icicle, it was going nowhere and the main character was too limp to care about. I cannot recommend this. It'll be a cold day in Georgia (USA) before I read anything else by this author. If her next work is anything like this novel, then it's a waste of a perfectly good tree. I'd rather look at the the tree.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall


Rating: WARTY!

Errata:
This novel was as bad as it was illiterate:
p75: "She's the youngest of six boys."? She is the youngest of six boys? How about "She's the youngest of seven; the other six are boys"?
"Fifty frames a minute and the shudder speed’s unbelievable" p174 Shudder speed? Maybe fifty frames a minute is what makes the shutter shudder?
P180 use of ‘you’re’ where ‘your’ should have been employed. This author teaches writing? No, she relies on auto-correct. Creative auto-correct!
P232 “His bicep bulges” That last 's' is in the wrong place! Once again YA authors the word is biceps Unless you are specifically referring to a single one of the attachments to the upper arm, one of which is the short head, the other of which is the long head, then what you're talking about - what we normally called the muscle that bulges when the arm is flexed as in strong-man posing - is the friggin' biceps, you ill-educated morons. But maybe she was writing creatively?
"Su rounding" p243 As in Su rounded by idiots? Okay I've given up on the author, but did this book not have any editors? Bueller? Anyone? There were enough people mentioned in the acknowledgements. What the hell did any of them do? Did none of them read it? Were they all so gushing that it was a LGBTQIA story that might have a chance of selling that no one cared if it was any good or even spelled correctly? Even a piece of lard like Microsoft Word will catch many of these things. Or was it creatively-written by hand and typeset ye olde fashioned way? It's leaden enough that it could be such a piece of fool's cap sheet.
The author can't do math. We learn that the team is averaging 2 games per week, but after three weeks they’re 10-0? Does the author teach creative writing or creative math! Creative writing! LOL! All writing is creative if it's done right!

This was, thankfully a book I did not pay money for, but borrowed from my excellent library. It began well enough, but at the time I didn't realize how bad it would become because I did not know that the author taught (guffaw) creative writing. Anyone who teaches creative writing or who has passed through a college creative writing course is guaranteed to write god-awful novels in my experience.

The first cliché was the bullying. Barf. I skipped that. Notice that I didn't say 'inexcusable cliché' because bullying of LGBTQIAs is rife, and that's what's inexcusable and needs to be stamped-out ruthlessly along with all other forms of bullying. But turning it into a trope high-school bullying story is not going to help because it cheapens the problem by making it blatantly, painfully (I'm talking about the reader, not the character) obvious. Like there's no other kind. Ever. And as if once were insufficient, our main character gets bullied twice, in two different states! Two for the price of one! Limited Offal! Buy into it now! Yawn. Barf.

Next up is the inexcusably clichéd fiery green-eyed (JEALOUS, get it?) redhead. Yawn. Barf squared. Wait, what is it you teach, Bridget Birdsall? I forget - was it clichéd writing or creative writing? There is a difference, you know.

Taught writing isn't taut writing; it's trope writing, which brings me to the trope boyfriend being telegraphed from twenty-thousand light years away. Barf. Yawn. Clichéd or creative? Clichéd or creative? Anyone?

Next up is the sport, because your student has to be sports or arts. You know there's nothing else in the entire school curriculum worth writing about, in "creative" writing, right? Sports includes the clichéd dancer, and arts includes the clichéd image maker. Oh, wait, we have both! The main character is a basketball player and her love interest is a photographer! But all Alyx wants to do is be a girl.

But wait - how can she be a girl? Yeah she's quite literally intersex, having one testicle and one ovary, and one penis and one vulva, but that's not the issue here. The issue is that, never having been a girl before - always living as a boy, despite feeling like a girl, Alyx, who happens to have a magically unisex name complete with totally weird spelling (this in a family which boasts an 'uncle grizzly'), magically transforms into perfectly ordinary girl in the short space of time it takes to travel from California to Milwaukee!

I-80 sure is educational isn't it? God Bless President Eisenhowitzer! Ike 80 provided her with a cute feminine wardrobe too, so she felt completely at ease among girls from day one at her new high-school! She has no issues or problems learning to be a girl among girls. She has only issues with PTSD from the bullying in her old school. Hmm!

It might not have been so bad had Alyx been likeable, but she was so self-obsessed and so selfish that she simply wasn't likeable. She was annoying at best. At one point, at a party, her fellow newbie and possibly best friend Roslyn is so out of it that it scares Alyx, but rather than watch over her friend or take her home to make sure she's not abused, Alyx is quite ready to abandon her and run home? Friends don't let friends get friendly drunk.

At Christmas, Alyx gets gets a brand new smartphone replacing the one which was damaged when she was beaten up in Cali-floor-ya. Almost immediately, she purposefully kicks it off her bed onto the floor because she doesn't have any friends! That's what a shrewish ingrate she is. Likeable she is not. This is called creative unfriending, in case you wondered.

I don't mind a weak female character who learns to be strong, but Alyx never does. She's a weak-assed wuss to the very end, caving again even in the last few pages to make a magical ending in which her mortal enemy who treated her like shit for the entire novel, and screwed her over every chance she got, is forgiven by means of Alyx rolling over one more time for a certifiably Disney-esque ending. And I do mean certifiable. Was the author embarrassed by this ending? Is that why it was flash-Frozen-over?

I'm sorry, but this story SUCKED. It was awful and was exactly what I would expect from a creative writing pogrom. Some might argue that this is better than nothing, but the intersex community deserves so much better than this creative nothing.


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, March 10, 2018

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler


Rating: WARTY!

I watched a couple of Chelsea Handler's TV shows and while they were mildly entertaining, they were not enough to make me want to keep on watching. I picked up this book out of curiosity since it was on close-out, but when I read it, I was far less impressed with this than with the TV show. I now have absolutely zero interest in this woman!

The biographical stories were boring and juvenile and presented like she was the only one that anything remotely like this had ever happened to. I had no interest in what she wrote and took quickly to skimming and finding less and less to engage me the further I went into it. In short order, I gave up on it entirely.

Does anyone really want to read about her OCD with masturbation at the age of eight? Do we really find it funny that someone pulled a prank on her that she'd killed a dog? I have zero interest in any of this juvenile stupid behavior and I cannot recommend this, not remotely, not even if you're actually a dog-handler from Chelsea in London.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My New American Life by Francine Prose


Rating: WARTY!

Having read (or more accurately, listened to) as much as I could bear of Francine Prose's "Reading for Writers" which purports to teach people to write through fawning over the so-called classic writers, I decided to try some of this author's own fiction and see how she stacked-up against her own advice, and she was so far from it that I found it amusing. I got three of her audiobooks from the library and found all three to be let me say, less than satisfying. I tried to come into the first one neutrally, intending to give it a fair shot (maybe this author writes a lot better than she teaches?), but she quickly disabused me of any such notion.

This author seems like she cannot write about everyday lives and make them interesting. It's like she lacks confidence in her own writing and so has to call on the melodramatic fringe to perk it up a bit. The problem is that she seems able only to trade in stereotypes and caricatures and even about those, it seems she can tell only the most uninteresting stories in the most boring prose. Her writing style is that of poor fan fiction: he said, she said, he said, she said, ad nauseam. It's like that for paragraph after paragraph, unvaried. It is horrible writing.

That an author like this gets to be a professor who purports to teach others to write is a travesty. She doesn't seem to realize there are words other than 'said' which can be employed when ascribing speech to someone, or better yet, that there are many times when you don't actually have to specify who is speaking! Or you can indicate who is speaking by adding an action here and there. Has she not even learned that much from the classics? I mean, I wouldn't abuse this non-ascription as much as Jane Austen did because it can be confusing, but please, no endless 'he said, she said' tedium! Change it up a bit for pity's sake!

This story purports to relate "what it means to be American" but it has nothing to do with being American. Instead, like too many other such stories about the 'huddled masses', this one is all about creating insulting ethnic stereotypes, in this case aimed at the Albanians. This is a derogatory and condescending view of what it means to be an Albanian. According to this author all Albanians are the same: they think the same, dress the same, eat the same, behave the same, and a good many of them are gangsters, if we're to believe this Prose.

A disturbing number of these stories, and this one is no different, seem to be about illegal immigrants. Lula is one such person. She's a mid-twenties Albanian who is involved with gangsters she calls her brothers or cousins, but who aren't related to her. She tries to help one of them who is an out-and-out jerk, and she's too stupid to see how wrong this is and how much she could jeopardize her own future by dishonestly misrepresenting him. In the end she gets rewards she has not earned. Immigrants like Lula, no country needs.

This story was boring, and had no redeeming features. The cast was unlikable and tedious to read about. I cannot recommend this story, and I cannot understand how anyone who writes like this can profess to be a teacher of how to write novels or even someone who can tell good literature from trash.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Invisible life by E Lynn Harris


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Scan by Walter Jury, Sarah Fine


Rating: WARTY!

This was another failed experiment in trying new audiobooks. It failed because the main character is a whiny, self-obsessed, foul-mouthed little jerk who lost my interest in the first few paragraphs. Why anyone would want to read about him, let alone root for him is a mystery to me. The book's narrator, Luke Daniels, was completely utterly wrong for the character. I don't care if he's won a dozen awards, his reading was atrociously wooden. If you've ever seen one of those old Chinese Boxer movies with the impossibly deep, gruff and mature voice in the English dub given to the graceful young male lead, or seen an anime with a little almost feminine male character given the deepest, most commanding voice, then you'll have an idea of how this sounded: WRONG! No, just no.

I don't know exactly what this authorial collaboration is all about but Jury is out. He's a Hollywood insider who seems more interested in writing a screenplay thinly-disguised as a novel than he is in writing an actual novel. Not so Fine is a psychologist who ought to know better. I have no interest in reading anything else from either of these authors. Be warned that Scan isn't a novel, it's an overture to a series which means it doesn't have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's all beginning and there's no end to it. None of this is apparent from the book cover.

It's your tired done-to-death story where the child is being trained up to be a special snowflake, but the idiotic and inevitably single parent(in this case dad plays Sarah Conner) is a clueless jerk, always on his son's case without offering a word of encouragement or rationale, so when he predictably and inevitably gets killed, Tait is completely in the dark.

The reader isn't, however because the author hammers us over the head with painfully obvious foreshadowing. The story is that aliens have been slowly integrating into human society and replacing us for four hundred years - and they still didn't get the job done. That's how incompetent they are. Tait is human, but his girlfriend is an alien. That's no spoiler because it is so obvious to the reader that it serves only to make Tait look like a complete moron that he hasn't figured it out despite all of his training. I guess dad failed.

I gave up on this about a third the way in because it was simply horribly written. Tait is foul-mouthed for no reason at all. I don't care about swearing in a novel if it feels like it's part of the character or the story in general, but in this case, it felt like it was tacked on as a poor place-holder for Tait being bad-ass. Tait couldn't find bad ass with both hands tied behind his back, and his cussing contributed nothing. It felt like it was done by a two-year-old who had heard a bad word, and was repeating it for shock value. It didn't work.

The thing that reveals Christina's alien heritage is a scanner devised by Tait's dad, who evidently has not heard of DNA testing. The story reads like this scanner is crucial because it can distinguish between human and alien, but who cares? Really? If you're going to have a MacGuffin, then please don't insult your readers' intelligence with it! Find one that makes sense and is actually critical.

And on that topic, No, just no to the bad science depicted here! The closest species on Earth to humans is the chimpanzee and the Bonobo, but neither of these can interbreed with humans. How in hell is an alien species from a different planet where it underwent a completely different origin and evolutionary path ever, I mean EVER, even if they look just like us, going to interbreed with humans?

It's fundamentally nonsensical and someone with scientific credentials like Fine, ought to know this, It's basic biology. If two organisms can interbreed, they are not human and alien, but the same species, period. I truly detest ignorant writers who think they can write science fiction, yet don't even have the most basic grasp of the sciences. So no, a huge NO to this novel.


Monday, November 6, 2017

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken


Rating: WARTY!

Another audiobook experiment that failed. I get a lot of these because I tend to experiment more with audiobooks, but I was a bit surprised to find so many in the last batch I tried from the local library! Hopefully the next lot I pull out of there will have more winners than losers.

The story is that this plague of some kind attacks children and kills many of them, but those who are left find they have some sort of psychic power. The story was supposed to lead to a bunch of these kids being on the run with these powers, chased by the authorities, which sounded interesting to me, but I couldn't stand to listen to it any more and I never got that far.

The problem was that the writing was so awfully bad that I wasn't inclined to listen to any more of this, or anything else by this author for that matter! On top of that, it was in worst person voice - that is first person, which is typically nothing save an irritation to me. In this case the reader, Amy McFadden, wasn't so bad, and I would have been happy to listen to her even in first person if I had to, but not with a novel as poorly thought-out as this one was.

I can get with the plague and the deaths, and the arrival of these psychic powers. That's fine by me. What made zero sense though, was that suddenly, without any preamble or lead-in whatsoever, young children are being hauled off to concentration camps and they're being treated brutally. One young boy gets a rifle butt in his teeth, twice, for complaining he's hungry! This was way out of left field because there was nothing to preface this at all!

I'm like, wait, how did this deteriorate so quickly that this is considered to be the way things are now? Of course, in first person, you can't tell a good story because you can only tell what happens directly to the narrator - either that or you have to lard-up your story with info-dumps from other people, or you have to admit you made a stupid and limiting choice of voice and start trashing the story with other first person voices or with a third person which is what you should have used in the first place!

It was so pathetic and ridiculous that it told me the author was trying to set this vicious conflict in place without wanting to do any of the work to get it up and running sensibly. It's one thing for an author to slowly ramp-up to this kind of a situation, but to have it just precipitate out of nothing without any kind of rationale or overture made no sense at all to me and this is when I gave up caring about this novel.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sayonara, Gangsters by Genichiro Takahashi


Rating: WARTY!

The original Japanese of this book was translated into English by Michael Emmerich, but frankly and honestly, for all the sense it made to me, I may as well have gone with the original language because I got nothing out of it that I could not have got from simply staring at the (to me) incomprehensible Japanese symbols. Actually, I would have been better off! At least the Japanese characters would have been beautiful to look at!

The book provided absolutely no hook, door, access, or invitation whatsoever to get into this story and I'm guessing that's because there was no story. It's like walking through an art gallery which displays only bad paintings, all by different artists, on different subjects and in different styles and periods, and trying to make a coherent story out of them (and by that I mean something other than a history of bad art!).

The paintings have no connection whatsoever other than that they're all paintings. Well this was all sentences, but the words had no connection. It was pretentious nonsensical garbage and I ditched it in short order. If this review clues others into the way the wind is blowing, and helps you avoid mining something so unseemly, then the warning from the weather vane to avoid this vein will not have been in vain!


Apes and Angels by Ben Bova


Rating: WARTY!

This is the second disappointing novel from this author for me, so I am quite done with him as a source of entertaining reading from this point onward. This is described as the second in a trilogy, but the first in the 'trilogy' is also described as a sequel to a previous novel so how this works as a trilogy rather than a quadrilogy or even a series is a mystery.

I made it almost half-way through, and while I was initially interested in how the story would pan out, the writing was so bad that it felt like I was reading some middle-grade school essay. Add to that the fact that it was read by Stefan Rudnicki (again), a reader whose voice just grates on me and it was not an appealing listen.

In my review of Bova's Transhuman I said that Stefan Rudnicki reminded me of the kid in the Home Alone trilogy, who in one movie records his own voice on a tape recorder, then slows the tape down to make it sound adult. Stefan Rudnicki sounds exactly like that, and it was really hard to ignore that and focus on the story. Nothing's changed in this outing.

Had this novel been written in the forties or fifties, I can see how it ended up as it did, containing genderism and racism and other isms, but it was released in 2016, so there's no excuse for this kind of juvenile, clueless writing, especially not from a supposedly seasoned and respected name in the genre. Note that there is a difference between this and in having a racist or genderist character in a story who makes inappropriate comments. There are people like that, so it's fair game to portray them in novels, but for the writer himself in his narrative to do the same thing is unacceptable.

Women were routinely reduced to eye-candy in this story, with not a one of them having an important role to play, and the senior female crew are portrayed as shrill harridans. One of the main characters was an Australian aborigine, and Bova never let us forget how short, round and black he was despite the fact that the average height of such people is about five foot six, which is not exactly pygmy-sized. The only amusing thing in this was that the reader, in trying to pull off an Australian accent, made this guy (whose name, believe it or not, was Littlejohn) sound like he was South African.

Those issues were enough to can this novel, but the problems did not stop there. This novel was purportedly hard science fiction, but the science failed, being completely fictional. According to the inane blurb, "A wave of death is spreading through the Milky Way galaxy, an expanding sphere of lethal gamma radiation that erupted from the galaxy's core twenty-eight thousand years ago." Humans are supposed to be spreading-out to aid other planets with intelligent life to avoid being wiped out. Given that our planet is only 25,000 light years from the galactic center, the radiation has already passed Earth, so how humans hoped to get ahead of it when it's moving at the speed of light is a mystery. I assume they have some sort of faster-than-light travel available to them, but very little was said about that.

They are apparently putting up some sort of shield which will save the planets. There's no reason they could not simply do this and move on, but instead, they've spend a year 'studying' the Mithra system and its three life-supporting planets. There's no explanation given for this lollygagging. three planets here support life, but it's significantly below the human level of advancement, and one species lives entirely underwater, so it would not have been hard to have installed the protective devices and gone unnoticed, without any contact with the inhabitants, yet here they are dicking around! It makes no sense. Since about 14 feet of water can stop gamma radiation, the underwater inhabitants are perfectly safe, so what gives?

More damningly, this radiation has been expanding in a sphere for almost thirty thousand years. According to the inverse square law, the density of the radiation, and therefore the danger it represents, has to be so low now that its impact on planets would be considerably reduced, if not negligible at this point. Bova never tackles this. Neither does he seem to understand the difference between philology, the study of written language, of which there is none to be found in this solar system, and linguistics, which is the study of language. Nor does he grasp the distinction between anthropology and sociology.

Worse yet, the main character, Brad, is such a special snowflake as to be thoroughly nauseating. He's credited with coming up with 'brilliant' ideas which are in practice nothing more than common sense and certainly something many others would have thought of, yet he's portrayed as being almost magical to think these things up! There's this dumb-ass computer which has all manner of useful information but which apparently was never programmed to volunteer information - although it actually does do so all the time. It's the dumbest AI ever, and the humans around it even dumber in not knowing what questions to ask it. Except for Brilliant Brad, of course.

Additionally, two of the planets in this system they're studying are in eccentric orbits and this author expects me to believe that they pass so close to each other that their atmospheres mix, yet while he talks about storms and tidal waves, he says not a word about the inevitable cataclysmic, life-destroying earthquakes which would occur if they were really that close! In short, Bova is in way over his head here and needs some serious schooling in physics, biology, evolution, linguistics and sociology before he ever writes another sci-fi story along these lines. I'm done with him.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler


Rating: WARTY!

I gave up on this one because first of all it was not remotely connected to Sense and Sensibility. I got the impression that the author had only promoted this 'stretcher' (as Samuel Langhorne Clemens might have couched it), to garner for herself some of Jane Austen's cachet. If the book had been put out honestly, it would likely have sold far fewer copies than however many it did sell by dishonestly using Jane Austen to promote it.

Secondly, the story itself sucked. Daphne (15) and Gabby (17) Rivera live in Texas and get along about as well as the Aggies do with the Longhorns. Actually they get along worse, which is to say not at all. So far we have two sisters, but neither of them is remotely like Marianne and Elinor. The author completely misunderstood where Austen was coming from when she characterized her leading ladies in this travesty.

Daphne is obsessed not with romance as Marianne was, but with marriage. Gabby is not the long-suffering and wiser older sister, but a bitch, period. Neither is remotely interesting nor do either of them have the depth or appeal that Austen's leading characters so reliably do.

These girls are supposed to be Hispanic from their father and Caucasian from their mother, and not the pasty girls the cover artist moronically depicted. Normally I don't talk about covers because unless they self-publish, authors have little to no say in the cover they get stuck with, and once again this was predictably a complete fail from Big Publishing™ with the cover artist not having the first clue of the content of the book as usual. All we got was the girls legs - like there was nothing of any more interest much above that - and the legs looked like they belonged to nine-year-olds, not mid-teens. And they were white enough to be a pair of Swedish girls (au pair?!). They were definitely not Hispanic, not remotely. And why were the girls Hispanic anyway?

I can see the point of it, if they were then presented as sheltered young women, from a traditional Catholic family, thereby mimicking Austen's characters in that they were not very worldly and subject to being taken advantage of, but other than their last name, there was nothing Hispanic about them and they were certainly not remotely sheltered. On the contrary, In the long, sad tradition of YA "literature" these girls were so generic as to be bland to the point of disappearing into their background. I got a third of the way through this, and even that was being way too generous to the author of this insipid pile of crap. I'm done with both this novel and with Ziegler as an author of any interest at all.


Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld


Rating: WORTHY!

I gave up on this Austen rip-off audiobook set in modern Cincinnati, because it was so far removed from Austen that you couldn't even see her from there. The story tracked Pride and Prejudice closely, but the characterizations were completely wrong, so I didn't see the point.

Apparently there's this thing called the Austen Project, where writers create a novel rooted in one of Austen's works. This one was one of these efforts and it wasn't good enough. I get the feeling that if someone had written this who was not an established writer, they would never have found a publisher and rightly so.

The story went off at a tangent very early, about Lizzie's relationship with this guy named Jared who would not commit to a relationship, so even as he and Lizzie were seeing each other as friends (and not even with benefits), he and she were desultorily dating other people.

Original Lizzie of Austen was way too smart and cynical to put up with that, so this felt like a betrayal, and this Lizzie seemed like a wet rag in comparison with the original. And this non-diversion just went on and on. And on. It was tedious. Additionally, a lot of the story was endless exposition, which isn't Austen at all. Gone were the engrossing conversations which are an Austen staple. Not a good read.

It was competently read by Cassandra Campbell, but even her voice could not save the lackluster material. It honestly felt like the author was desperate to include everything modern in her story, to distance it from Austen's, so we had a transgender character (Wickham, and I don't care if it's a spoiler because it's so pathetic), an interracial relationship, artificial insemination (I guess that's the only way this author could get a semen airy into the work), and adultery. I'm sure there's a kitchen sink in there somewhere with "all mod cons," but I must have missed it since I DNF'd this one in short order.

'Eligible' is the name of a TV reality (so-called) show, on which Chip Bingley has appeared, looking for a bride. Why any sane person would even remotely consider doing this mystifies me, but I have to admit that it's in character for this character. I was never a fan of Bingley. In the end Bingley refused to choose either one of the two finalists. Now he's moving to Cincinnati and renting a house there. Why? I guess because the author is writing what she knows, which isn't much it would appear when it comes to emulating Austen. Resident in Cincinnati is the Bennet family of course: husband, wife, and five daughters.

I confess I am not sure why authors want to keep repeating Jane Austen's stories, much less why they choose to move them to a modern era and/or shift them out of England. The last one of these I tried was a YA novel which did not at all impress me. Neither did the PD James 'sequel'. This particular one is aimed at an adult audience, and initially I had mixed feelings about it.

Sometimes I wonder if Austen is turning in her grave at this modern plethora of rip-offs of her work. This author repeatedly betrayed the character of Lizzie Bennet, including her career, by having her work for a fashion magazine. Her sister Jane is a yoga instructor! This turned me off the story. I confess I can see Jane as a yoga instructor. She was not one of my favorite characters either, but to fritter away Lizzie's amazing character on fashion is an outright travesty. This is not Austen's Lizzie, not remotely.

It may seem hypocritical for me to criticize others' ripping-off of Austen when I plan on doing the selfsame thing myself, but anyone who has read the kind of stories I write has to know that I plan on doing something completely different with it - and not even a parody! Hah! And they said it couldn't be done! My whole motivation for writing this, as it was with Femarine is to take the story completely off the beaten track. Call me arrogant (I don't care!), but I have to write this if only as a commentary, after a fashion, on what others are so determinedly and so dedicatedly failing to do.

I'd have a lot more respect for a writer who did not rip-off Austen, but who instead chose to emulate her by writing a story set in period, and written with the same grace and skill as Austen herself naturally employed. I cannot respect writers who merely usurp her cachet and apply it as a cheap veneer to cover a trashy, ill-conceived story that could never stand on its own without co-opting Austen's unwilling support. It's pathetic and I think I am done reading such stories now. Time to go back to the one and only originals!


Shopgirl by Steve Martin


Rating: WARTY!

Steve Martin used to work for a living, but now he gets by writing short, very amateur excuses for stories in semi-retirement evidently. Read by the author, this novella was my second disappointment from him. I've liked him in a couple of his movies, but I think he's best in small doses, and I really think he needs to find someone else to read his books on audio, unless of course you might enjoy a book read with all the charm, poise, elegance and monotony of Navin R Johnson.

Normally if I have not liked a novel by an author I tend not to sample them again, but I'd heard good things about this one, which was made into a movie in which Martin inappropriately starred, so I requested it from my library. Mistake! It felt far more like listening a detailed synopsis for a movie than ever it did reading a novel.

Consequently, the best thing about it is that it's very short. I began listening to it on the way home in the car, but after less than fifteen minutes, I was so revolted by it that I preferred the sound of the car's wheels on the asphalt to listening to any more of Steve Martin read Steve Martin.

If it had been written in the fifties, I could understand the attitudes expressed in it, but this was published in 2000. The movie from it evidently died the death too, making only 11 million in the theaters. I might take a look at that out of pure curiosity, but I hold out little hope for it...or for Martin as a writer of novels from here on out.

The writing was all tell and a no-show in terms of intelligence. If it had been penned by an unknown it would never have got published because Martin's amateur writing is awful, as in, "Mirabelle is smart because she reads books." Seriously? This from a professional? The one thing he does actually show is her complete lack of intelligence, evidenced by the very fact that she gloms onto rich man Ray when he's clearly the bigger loser of the two men in her life, neither of which she should have become involved with in the first place!

Or perhaps, if she had decided to check out Jeremy, she might have offered him a few tips towards improving their interactions, instead of taking Martin's antiquated and genderist advice that the guy must know, do, and pay for, everything, and the girl just needs to simper on his arm and look pretty in designer clothes to fulfill her entire life's worth and function.

It irked me that the author (through his character Mirabelle) seems to have some sort of antique delusion that when a couple go on a date, then the guy pays for everything (no doubt opening doors and pulling out seats and so on). I guess females were never emancipated in his world. I can see if the girl is poor and the guy rich, then this is the way it would sensibly work, and vice-versa, but when both of them are not well off, and the girl is apparently better off than the guy, it's entirely wrong, and even immoral, for her to expect him to pay for everything. Martin doesn't get this because he's not remotely strapped for cash, and if he ever has been, he's quite clearly forgotten what it's like.

Porter is supposed to be middle-aged so why they had sixty-year-old Martin play him in the movie is a mystery, especially since it quite obviously didn't do a thing to help the box office! Clare Danes was only in her mid-twenties which would have been, I think, the right age for her character.

Martin definitely needs to find someone to read his books for the audio version, because his reading voice is terrible. It is flat, unentertaining, and it evidences no feel for pace or tone. I felt like I was a young kid in school being read to by a very inexpert teacher. The novel was bad, but his voice made it much worse. The ending, from what others have said, sounds like even the author got bored with himself and just dropped it. I happily grant that on a good day he can (or was able to) write a decent amusing movie, but he cannot write books.

What was so bad about the novel? Well, the plodding, amateur, elitist, pretentious writing to begin with, but then we got onto the part where the narrator talks about Mirabelle Buttersfield who works at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills and it deteriorated.

She works the glove counter which seems like an exaggeration to me, but I don't shop at that kind of store, so I can't comment beyond this point. She leads a very dull life and her only two diversions (apart from her cats) are millionaire Ray Porter, and impoverished Jeremy. She derides Jeremy because of his lack of ambition, but she's exactly the same as he is!

This book was godawful trash, and I refuse to even remotely recommend it. I'm done reading Steve Martin's efforts.