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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Waking Land by Callie Bates


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher - and thank them for an ebook copy which was nicely formatted! Far too often the ebook is a second thought after the print version, and the formatting suffers, but that was not the case here.

That's where the joy ended though, because then I had to read it. You know you're in trouble with a novel when you're only ten percent in and you're asking yourself how much more you really have to read before you can DNF it and say you gave it a fair chance!
The novel started with a prologue, a thing which I never read. They're antiquated and contribute literally nothing to a story except to kill a few more trees in the print version. Maybe authors who write prologues and epilogues hate trees? The thing is that this whole business of Elanna being kidnapped and held hostage made zero sense, except in that it did herald a lot of other plot points which made no sense either! Maybe I should have read the prologue and then DNF'd it at that point?

The thing is that if I'd known going into this, that it was to be a first person YA trilogy full of cliché and trope, I would never have asked to read it, but Net Galley offered not a whisper. Such books ought to be required to carry a warning sticker. From the blurb, it had sounded like it would be an engrossing and entertaining read. Sic Transit Gloria Blurbi!

I'm very rarely a fan of first person, and unfortunately that voice is chronically over-used in YA stories. I cannot for the life of me understand why so many writers herd themselves like sheep into such a constricting voice, and one which simultaneously makes their character look so dysfunctionally self-important that it is, unless handled well, thoroughly nauseating to read.

Nor are YA trilogies any more welcome in my reading list. They're typically unimaginative, rambling, trope-filled, derivative, and bloated by their very nature. I long for a YA writer who is willing to step outside the trope and think outside the box, but they are a very rare and much-treasured commodity these days, as everyone else rushes-in like lambs to the dip, where more angelic bovines are far too wise to tread. It's all in pursuit of the almighty dollar, and it's sad; truly sad.

This novel initially had intrigued me because of the Earth magic. It's what attracted me most of all, but we were largely denied any exploration of that in the portion I read, and what we did get was accidental or incidental. This was one of the problems. Elanna has this magic, and has known of it since childhood, but she has suppressed it.

To be fair, there are reasons for this, but the fact that she's scared of it and never explores it (except for one too-brief incident we're shown right at the beginning of the novel) made me dislike her. What kind of a dullard do you have to be to have such delightful and powerful magic, and not want to at least tinker with it in private, and learn something about it? The fact that Elanna didn't, not only made her inauthentic, it also made her thoroughly boring and cowardly. There's a huge difference between teasing your readers, and denying them a story that feels real.

Elanna Valtai (often called Lady Elanna for reasons which are not clear - and which felt employed only to give her a cachet she has not earned) was taken hostage at gunpoint (pistol-point more accurately) at the tender age of five, by a conquering king who, over the last fourteen years, she has grown to love as a father. This made little sense, but Elanna is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She was more like a spork with blunted tines, and consequently neither one thing nor the other. She's fascinated by botany and so, when the king is poisoned, she becomes the prime suspect with improbable rapidity, and is forced to flee.

To me, this made zero sense. The one-dimensionally hateful and cardboard princess, who is now queen, has no reason whatsoever to fear Elanna. She considers her too low to even take seriously, so why bother framing her? We're offered no honest motivation for this at all. At this point the story was no different from the trope high-school story of the girl who is bullied.

Elanna is paradoxically presented as a charming and easy-going woman who everyone likes on the one hand, and on the other, a crudely rustic figure of fun who has no place in court and who is disliked by everyone, having no friends at all! Again, it made no sense that she would have literally no one. It felt like the author was following a rigid plot without actually giving any thought to how realistic or practical this world was that she was creating. If the king is so great, then why doesn't he put a stop to the bullying? The fact that Elanna never once questions this is yet another example of how stupid she truly is.

As I mentioned, despite being repeatedly given the appellation 'Lady', Elanna is never shown to be one. I have no problem with a character being portrayed as having emotions and sensitivity. I think we need more male characters like that in fact, but as usual in YA, the author overdoes this with their main character, so instead of showing her to be a reasonably empathetic young woman raised to be nobility, not a princess, but at least with some spine, she comes across as a weak, limp, and as a weepy, clueless little girl. It was pathetic to read about her.

Once she realizes she's going to be blamed for the king's death, and instead of taking control of her destiny and facing down the charges, which would have actually made for a much more engaging story, Elanna betrays her entire upbringing, and runs away like a scared little girl. Worse than this, she's manhandled by her love interest (and yes, it was ham-fistedly and loudly telegraphed as soon as he appeared in the story), so immediately, all control over her life is removed, and she becomes the toy and plaything of a complete oaf of a man named, inevitably "Lord", as in 'Lord and Master' no doubt as we see her weakly complying with his every demand.

Not only that, she takes the usual abusive and utterly sick YA route of falling for this patronizing and condescending dick like she's an air-headed thirteen-year-old. This is entirely the wrong message to send to young girls, and the fact that so many female YA authors do this so consistently is as scary as it is dangerous. People who talk about a rape culture seem ignorant of this facet of it, in which women are taught, in story after story, that's it's not only okay for a guy to take control over your life, but that you should go along with it mindlessly, and even fall in love with him no matter how he treats you; then we look askance at those women who end-up in abusive relationships.

The saddest thing about this is that all the hots she has for this man take place when she is quite literally fleeing for her life. What kind of a pathetic, misguided specimen do you have to be, to be having hot flashes for a guy when your very life in in peril? It made zero sense and cheapened the whole thing. It was so badly done that it ruined all hope of an intelligent or realistic romantic relationship.

For me, it did nothing but keep reminding me that I was reading a poorly written YA novel into which romance had been jammed for no other reason than that the author and/or publisher determined it was a requirement rather than that it might naturally and organically grow out of a realistic relationship. It suggests that the author either doesn't trust her characters, or she doesn't trust her writing skills, and it sends the wrong message yet again: that all women are Disney princesses who are useless without a man to be a father figure as well as (sickly!) a lover. It says that no young woman can stand on her own two feet - she always needs a studly guy to validate her and shore her up. I call horseshit on that one.

I've read this story so many times that it turns my stomach. The author might change character names, and set them in a new locale, and even give then magic, but it's the same story. They're exactly the same characters going through exactly the same empty motions over and over again. Can YA authors not come up with something new for once? Really? It's pathetic how unimaginative and uninventive YA authors are. Here's a choice quote: "Don’t they realize I’m a scholar as well as a lady of fashion?" What?! Where the hell did that come from?

There are a few, a precious few, a band of sisters, out there who honestly do get it, and who write great stories. They get that this isn't the Victorian era, and that weepy, lovelorn princesses are not only obnoxious, but they are antiquated and inappropriate. They do these stories right: making them fresh and original, but the rest of those authors are doing nothing short of writing cookie-cutter "Harlequin" romances for teens, chasing the easy buck, and that's all there is to it. This is one such story, it saddens me to report. And it could have been so much better.

So, while fleeing on horseback with a group of riders, the wind whistling through her hair, Elanna conducts a whispered conversation with her BFF, who is pretentiously named Victoire. It's described as a "whisper-shout", yet everyone seems able to hear it over the wind and the pounding horse's hooves! At one point they're told, like naughty children talking in the classroom: "That is enough, all of you! No more talk. Do you want to put us all in danger?" Seriously? They're racing through the dead of night on horses with hooves slamming into the ground, and this idiot is worried someone might overhear them talking? Who, exactly, is listening? This is another example of the story not being thought through.

The sad truth is that a lot of the writing leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. We get that Elanna is afflicted deeply with the wilts and the vapors over J-Han, We don't need to be gobsmacked every few paragraphs with yet another account of how she's is hanging on his every breath and touch, and the heat of his body. It's painfully obvious who the murderer is, so there's no mystery there. We know Elanna is going to win in the end and get jiggy with J-Han, so what's the point of reading this again?

Instadore how do I hate thee? Let me count the brays! Well, for one, she has to share a horse with him, yet there's not a word of his sweating or stinking of horses. Seriously? Just how pathetic do you want her to appear to us? Elanna doesn't notice any of his smells, which were rife in that era, even in a fantasy land, but she does notice mundane things like the color scheme in the house she visits - things which seem very odd to have been taken note of by a scared woman who has never paid attention to furniture before, and who is fleeing pursuers who want to put her through a sham trial and then kill her. At the same time, for a botanist, she notices almost nothing of nature! Again, it's not thought through.

Another oddity is that Elanna seems to have perfect, if selective, recall! Despite being gone since she was a very young child, she had no problem understanding her native language, which she last heard - and spoke - when she was merely five years old. We read, "Hugh has switched into speaking Caerisian, which the Count of Ganz evidently understands, and my ears are too tired to deny they know the words, as well." Now I won't try to argue that she would have forgotten her native tongue completely, but at the very least, she would have been extremely rusty in it, and not know many of the words spoken by adults, since she never learned those as a child, yet she appears to have a completely unencumbered grasp of it.

Again, this is not thought through. It's especially bad when it's compared with the time when Elanna goes back to her childhood home. She recalls nothing of that at all! So we're expected to believe that she has a perfect (and adult!) grasp of a language she has neither spoken nor heard in well over a decade since she was barely beyond being a toddler, yet she recalls literally nothing of her childhood home? It's simply not credible.

Her respite at the house is short, because they are quickly - and unaccountably - discovered by the palace guard. How the guards knew exactly where they were goes unexplained, but even that isn't as inexplicable as why Elanna, who was desperate to escape her initial captors with her friend, fails to take Victoire with her! She decides to find the "lay of the land" by herself, first. It's just a house! What's to know? They need to get out, get a couple of horses, and leave.

It's really that simple, yet this limp dishrag of a friend leaves Victoire behind, so that when the palace guard arrives, Victoire is abandoned upstairs. Elanna whines about getting her out, but instead of growing a pair and insisting on rescuing her best friend, which would have made for some great drama, and would have given Elanna some street cred, she's portrayed as spinelessly complying with Lord Almighty J-Han's dick-tates. Once again what we're shown is that she's his property now, not her own. Once again this is entirely the wrong message to send. I truly detested Elanna by this point in the story.

While fleeing for her life, Elanna observes, "I won't be made to use my magic - the magic that puts me in mortal danger" Excuse me? She's already in mortal danger! She's already been declared a witch and a murderer, and had that broadcast across the land. How could she be in any more danger? This is exactly what I mean about Elanna being a profoundly stupid woman, and the last thing I need to read is one more YA novel extolling the 'virtues' of stupidity, in a female main character.

The sad thing is that it never stops in this novel! At one point Elanna reveals that "I know how terrifying it is to walk into a room full of strangers." This is a woman who was raised in a position of nobility, taught to expect deference from everyone. Never before have we been given any indication that she suffers terrors at walking into a room, and now suddenly she knows? Again it makes no sense.

The root problem here is that this novel offers nothing new, which begs the question as to why it was even written! The romance is cliché, the bullying is cliché, the main character is a walking, YA female lead, cliché. At one point very early in the novel, shortly after the studly J-Han arrives to take Elanna into his possession, I read this: "He swings me around, making the world spin, and then we go inside together, my cold hand tucked into his big warm one" so immediately the process of infantilization has begun right there, and this main character is now no more than a weak child in the hands of a trope, strong, manly man. This is one of the biggest problems with YA - the girl becomes a toy for the boy, a plaything, a piece of property, to do with as he wishes, and the girl goes right along with it. Elanna is one of the most stupid, vacuous, compliantly empty characters I've ever encountered. The more I read about her the less I wanted to read about her.

So when did I quite reading exactly? It was right on the cusp of thirty percent in, when I read of a character's eyes that they were "flecked with gold." I cannot even number the times I've read this exact phrase in a YA novel. What the obsession is with gold-flecks in a character's eyes completely escape me, but it's been done ten trillion times if it's been done once, and if I'd read this any earlier, I probably would have quit right then. Admittedly, the phrase is usually employed to describe the male love interest of the female MC, and in this case it wasn't, but does that make it okay to copy? No! That description needs to be summarily banned from YA literature.

It should be needless to say at this point, but I will clarify it anyway: I cannot recommend this story, because it's really just a clone of far too many others that I have also been unable to recommend for the same reasons. I don't care if she gets better as the trilogy goes along. I really don't, because for me she's already a failure, and if it takes her three books to grow a pair, then that's two books too long. The problem with trilogies is that the first book typically only ever is a prologue, and I don't read prologues. Novels like this one have been steadily nudging me to the point where I'm ready to forsake reading YA stories altogether, which would be sad, because once in a while there's a real gem to be found among the base rock.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee


Rating: WARTY!

This is a debut novel by an author who really didn't seem able to get into the mind of an eleven-year-old smart girl. So naturally this book has been nominated for awards which in turn spawned a trilogy when one book was far more than this particular subject ever merited. The problem is that the author is confusing genius with autism, and 'child-genius' with 'humorless adult'. Consequently she makes Millicent look like a moron rather than a genius, or to put it more charitably, she makes a girl who in reality would need some professional psychological help, look like she was dropped on her head at birth.

This is why I have absolutely zero respect for literary awards, and normally (when I have advance warning!), avoid like the plague anything which has won awards. Once in a very rare while such a book is worth reading, but in my sorry experience those books are a lot harder to find than the lousy ones, and the ones we typically are unfortunate enough to run across are for the most part pretentious and clueless drivel. For the awards people to constantly rate this garbage as merit-worthy only leads me to believe that they too, were dropped on their collective head as a baby.

The author makes the idiotic assumption that a kid stops being a kid if they're an especially smart kid. That's utter nonsense. They may see life through a sharper lens than most kids do, but they're still children with childish (in a benign sense) - impulses and drives. They still enjoy children's games and toys. They are not, simply from the fact of being more intelligent than most (in academic terms at least) an adult or humorless, or superior in a mean sense.

One of the most glaring problems with this book is that the main character has Spock syndrome. The Vulcan from Star Trek (original or reboot, it doesn't make that much difference) is supposedly of very high intelligence, but is routinely made to look like a clown because he simply (and inexplicably, given how much exposure he's had) cannot grasp human idiosyncrasies. In the same way, this novel is constantly telling us how smart Millie is, but what it's routinely showing us is how dumb and clueless she is. Worse, it's rendering her as borderline autistic in her rigid and utterly inexplicable inability to cope with human interaction. If she is autistic, that's one thing, and might have made a great story - one worthy of an award, but this author never suggests that. What she does is inexcusable. She presents Millie as lacking completely in not only social skills, but in any sort of clue as to how to develop them, yet she offers no reason - other than how "intelligent" she is for this deficit.

Millie's parents are the worst parents ever, since they seem utterly clueless in diagnosing Millie's condition. Fortunately it's a condition which exist only in the author's limited imagination. Millie is just one in a parade of one-dimensional characters, each representing an extreme of one sort or another, and the novel is so trite and so completely predictable that it's not only fails to offer an intriguing read, it also isn't even remotely realistic. These people are robotic, as simple and limited as the mechanical arms on an assembly line, each going through pre-programmed motions, and not a one of them capable of exceeding their programming, and living and breathing.

Millie meets Emily at the same time as she is forced into tutoring a boy she hates. Desperate to keep Emily as a friend, Millie elects to lie about her intelligence and gets herself into a situation that is unrealistic and which is dragged on for far too long. Predictably, Emily blows up, even though given what we've been told about her, this blow-up is out of character and comes off as false. It was at this point that I gave up reading this book, because I could see exactly how inauthentically it would continue to play out, and I lost all interest in it offering anything new, fresh, or credible.

Millie's extreme intelligence, despite that fact that we've repeatedly been shown that she can diagnose problems with the facility of a particularly sensitive and empathetic adult, is betrayed time and time again by the author as she makes her character fail in such diagnoses where it suits her, so that she disastrously assumes her mother's obvious pregnancy is a disease. The writing is amateur, rigid, inconsistent, and poorly done. I cannot recommend this. The only purpose it served for me was to once again provide a convincing example of how comprehensively blinkered are those people who give out literary awards.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown


Rating: WARTY!

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

This novel did not work for me. It had some real potential, but it felt far too dissipated - like it was trying to drive in so many different directions at once that it went nowhere - and it took its sweet time doing it, too! I had to give up reading it about eighty percent in because it had become such a chore to read. It was far too dismal and never even seemed like it was interested in going anywhere. In the end I really didn't care what had happened to the mother and wife of this family. I really didn't.

The novel starts at almost a year from the point where "Billie" Flanagan went hiking and was never seen again - unless you count one lone hiking boot as a sighting. Her daughter, Olive and her husband, Jonathan, are barely holding it together. Olive starts seeing visions of her mother and after the first of these is so convinced her mom is right there, that she runs into a wall trying to get to her, and all but knocks herself out. I started pretty quickly hoping she would do it again and end up in a coma so I didn't have to deal with her any more.

Jonathan was no better. He never saw his daughter when mom was alive because he worked all hours. This begs the question as to who was raising Olive since mom was evidently always gone as well. Once mom was gone for good, Jonathan quit his job to spend time with Olive, but then he had no money, so they were living hand to mouth.

He got an advance to write a memoir of Billie, but we were never given a single reason why anyone would want to read it or why any publishing company would be remotely interested in a memoir about a woman who was very effectively a non-entity. The advance has been spent, and there's no prospect of more until the memoir is finished, but he's never depicted as actually working on it. In short, he's a truly lousy dad.

The story chapters are interspersed with "excerpts" from this memoir, but I have zero interest in story-halting flashbacks, because well, they halt the story, so I read none of the excerpts. I can't say I ever felt like I needed to go back and read them, which begs the obvious question as to why they were even there in the first place.

Olive's visions were so unrevealing of anything of value that the point of them was a mystery to me. They were all so vague and useless that they became simply annoying in short order. Any sympathy I had for her over her lousy parents was quickly smothered by her endless needy self-importance and habit of constantly and tediously regurgitating her situation for everyone and anyone who would listen.

There's talk that she might have a brain lesion which could explain the visions; then there's talk that maybe that's not the case; then there's talk that the pills she's given are stopping the visions, so maybe they were caused by the lesion, but one of these visions came before she hit her head. Seriously? Which is it? It was never explained and I couldn't stand to keep reading this stuff in the hope that maybe some straight-talk would come out of this story in the last twenty percent when there's been zero evidence of it in the first eighty!

I honestly did not care about any of these people at all, and I really could not have cared less about what had happened to Billie. The blurb (and I know this isn't on the writer, but the publisher) says of Billie that she's "a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom" and I have to ask yet again, what the fuck her 'beauty' has to do with anything? Would it have been somehow less of a tragedy had she been plain or even ugly? Would this family's loss have been easier? "Yeah, mom's vanished without a trace, but she was an ugly bitch, so who cares? Let's move on!" No, I don't think so.

Seriously, I am so tired of women being reduced to 'a pretty skin', like they haven't a damned thing to offer other than their beauty or lack of it. That sexist blurb writer should be fired for that blurb. If the novel had been about a man who disappeared, would the blurb have harped on how handsome he was? No! You're damned right it wouldn't. 2017 and we're still mired in this swamp: that a woman better equal beauty or she equals nothing.

I left this observation until last because it has nothing to do with my judgment of this novel. Normally, I pay little attention to the covers because they have nothing to do with the writer, unless the writer self-publishes. It's what's between those covers which interests me, yet you can't ignore the blurb because this is our lead-in to whether a particular novel might be of interest.

That said, I also have to bring the writer to book on this same score, because she also reduces women - particularly Billie - to skin-depth on far too many occasions:

  • "Billie was beautiful..."
  • "...Billie's mother would have been beautiful too..."
  • ...her mom was the most beautiful, most creative, the most interesting..." - note how beauty is listed first since it's quite evidently the most important thing about her!
  • "...being beautiful and strong..." - being a beautiful woman is more important than being a strong woman!
  • "...being married to a beautiful woman is that other people are going to notice that she is beautiful..."
  • "And while Billie was more beautiful..."
  • "You're a beautiful woman."
  • "...His beautiful wife.."
  • "...Olive's beautiful mother..."
  • "Billie, tanned, glowing, and beautiful..."
  • "This beautiful girl from nowhere..."
So maybe the blurb writer took their cue from the interior after all? Not that they shouldn't have known better. What's just as bad though, is that Olive is compared with this ridiculous standard, and negatively so: "...she's not beautiful, like her mother...", and "She is not conventionally beautiful...." This is sick. I'm sorry, but it is.

If the novel had been about runway models or women competing for a role in a movie or a TV show, then I could see how beauty would play into it. It would still be wrong, but it's the way Hollywood is; however, that doesn't mean that writers have to buy into it so readily. It's diseased writing to keep harping on this for page after page. It's a form of abuse. People who do this have no idea how much damage they do to women the world over by repeating this insane mantra that all that's important is looks, and if you ain't got 'em you ain't got nothin' worth having. Bullshit.

This novel ought really to be condemned on that alone, but sick as this world is, negatively reviewing a book for that would fall on deaf ears. As it was, this novel condemned itself in too many other ways.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Girl Undone by Marla Madison


Rating: WARTY!

Not to be confused with A Girl Undone by Catherine Linka, or Girl, Undone by Kendall Aimee Kennedy, or JJ Girl Undone by the amazingly-named Nicole Crankfield-Hamilton, this is volume three in a series of which I have read neither of the previous volumes, but it seems you do not have to have read those in order to make take-up this one. I was going to phrase that as 'make sense of this one', but decided that was being too generous!

The main characters are TJ Peacock, a security consultant (read private eye wannabe), and Lisa Rayburn, a clinical psychologist. Didn't like the first. Not interested in the second. They're hired by a woman who has a shady mob-related past, and whose niece was kidnapped for three-days and then let go, but who has no recollection of what happened. The only clues are the fact that she was dating an older guy, who then dumped her for his wife, claiming that they were reconciling, and a shady roommate who subsequently disappears.

In addition to this, there is a blogger who is being threatened apparently by a serial killer. Since he's had bad things to say about police competence, the detective who is assigned to his case is not all that enthusiastic about it. This detective is married to TJ. This was a pleasant surprise because it's unusual for a PI (which is what TJ obviously is, despite her career title) to have a relationship worth the name, but other than that, I wasn't moved by this story, and saw no reason to pursue a whole series.

It didn't begin well, with a kidnap victim showing up in a shopping a mall, yet no one thinks to check the security video? She's discovered and identified by a security consultant, who is evidently too stupid to think of doing basic detective work to see if anyone can be tied to this girl. She was wearing a hospital gown, and someone must have seen something out of place somewhere!, but TJ is too stupid to follow up, so the story started off lacking any credibility as a professional work. The problem as that it never improved.

It did pick up for me when I learned that a possible motive for the kidnapping was harvesting eggs, but that wasn't sufficient to turn it around, because it started going downhill after that, and the harvesting rationale was mundane and didn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense. I really didn't like these characters, not TJ, not Lisa very much, and not TJ's husband, nor did I find myself really caring about Kelsey, the kidnapped girl.

One issue was the derisory tone of the writing. I read irksome things like, "Her posture carried her tall frame with nearly military precision although there was nothing remotely masculine about her." Excuse me? You can't be feminine and in the military? What an awful thing for a female author to say about her gender!

It got worse. Later I read, "The man's voice hinted at homosexuality, with a soft lisp that almost sounded deliberate." What? This kind of thing really dropped me out of the story and made me not want to read any more. Note there's a difference between an author's character saying things like those: people are dicks at times, after all. Some people make a full time job of it, but when it's the author including these comments in the narrative, as was done here, then it's highly unlikely I'm going to ever be much of a fan of that author's writing.

Another oddball one was "The inside of the house definitely lacked a woman's touch," which is on oddly genderist thing to say whichever way you look at it: every home needs a woman? Not necessarily! Every home that has a woman ought to evidence a distinctly feminine touch? Again, no!

Some of the police procedural behavior here was laughable, too. I don't mind that, if the author's intent is to show a bad or sloppy cop, but this is TJ's husband investigating this crime, and I assume we're not supposed to consider that he's inept, but he is, and appallingly so.

There's a blogger in the story who is being harassed by someone who appears to be a serial killer. At one point, the killer breaks into the blogger's place when he's not home and steals a couple of his rare potted plants. The blogger discovers the killer left a note for him on his computer. It's never explained how the guy got past the blogger's password, but the problem here isn't so much that, as the fact that there's no talk whatsoever of the machine being fingerprinted! Yes, the intruder probably wore gloves, but here, with the keyboard, and elsewhere, with maybe a hair sample or something, was a chance to potentially get forensic evidence of a killer, and the cop is completely lackadaisical about it.

The killer was in that very room and may have left other evidence, but the cop doesn't care. Later, this same psycho sends the blogger an email, but nothing is done to follow up on it because, we're told, the email was sent from "... a big-box appliance store south of Milwaukee that sold electronics." This detective never once considers going to the store and looking at security video to see if they can identify the killer! Maybe there was no such video, but to not even consider pursuing the possibility is bad writing that makes cops look like idiots. Trust me, they're not. Well, okay, some are, but not a large number! This one, unfortunately, is, which makes him a joke that's not funny, and certainly not someone worth reading about.

The author is using this big-box store as an excuse to not be able to track the guy down via email, but stores don't simply let you use free email. The guy would have had to have accessed some email account in order to send the message, even if he was sending it from a random computer, yet there is no follow up on this, either! This struck me as appallingly bad writing, with the author so focused on pursuing this step-by-step plot she's worked out, that she either didn't care or never noticed that some of it made no logical sense.

All of this was by a only one third of the way through this, so it didn't feel at all promising, I pursued it a bit further, but finally lost patience and DNF'd it once I realized the egg harvest was no real mystery, the young girl was an idiot, and the identity of the serial killer was obvious to everyone except the people looking for the killer! Maybe I'm wrong on that score since I didn't finish the novel, but it seemed to me that for Bart, the blogger, the wolf was in the kitchen.

As I said, I'm usually bad about figuring these things out, so I probably am wrong, but the thing is at that point, I really didn't care who the killer was or what happened next. Life's too short for books that don't grab me by the entrails, and my reading list is long! I can't recommend this based on what I read.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui


Rating: WARTY!

I can't give you a full review of this one because I grew tired of it so quickly and simply didn't want to read on when I have so many other books calling to me. I read about a tenth of it and I simply couldn't get interested in it. It moved so slowly and was so self-obsessed that it was tedious to read.

The basic plot is that psychiatrists are using a new device to invade dreams to try to help people with mental issues, but are being overtaken by the dreams and driven insane. Well yeah, since dreams are essentially meaningless drivel, it would be a nightmare for even the dreamer to try to unravel them - assuming that's even possible - let alone some stranger try to figure out what it means, so the premise wasn't exactly a charmed one and in the end, it just didn't appeal to me at all.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reinventing Mona by Jennifer Coburn


Rating: WARTY!

I was thinking that after reviewing Becoming Zara back in July 2016, and now having read Reinventing Mona, all I need do is find a title like Uplifting Abigail, and I'll have the whole span of the alphabet pretty much covered; however, I think I'm going to retire from reading this kind of novel having struck-out twice. To coin a baseball metaphor, since I'm not having a ball, I'm going to take a walk! Frankly I haven't had a lot of success with novels which have a female name in the title. I'm beginning to think they're bad news bears all around.

This was unabashed chick lit and my inner chick wasn't impressed. I don't mind the genre if it has something positive and interesting to offer, but when it gets deep down in the dumb, I'm outta there. That's what spoiled this one for me. I was initially impressed and interested in Mona, who is an engineer undergoing an early midlife crisis. It's not often we have women portrayed as engineers in fiction, and it's something I welcomed.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a genre of chick lit where the main female character doesn't own a cupcake shop or a coffee shop, but instead is an engineering consultant or a mathematician, or a biochemist or something? Must we confine our females to trivial or clichéd occupations? Come on authors! Why take the easy route of wallowing in someone else's tired genre and way overused trope party when you can strike out on your own and create a compelling new genre that celebrates diversity in women's occupations instead of similarity, and which celebrates smart instead of dumb, imagination instead of rote, and energy in the form of something novel instead of same old story?

Unfortunately, the revelation that Mona was an engineer was all we got. It was all downhill from there. Offered a generous lay-off package in a downsizing, Mona jumps at it and decides she's going to change her life around. All well and good, but instead of say, starting her own engineering business, she reads a male chauvinistic column in a magazine and buys into macho guy Mike's bullshit, hiring him as a consultant in how to be a guy's ideal chick. I am not kidding you. This is how pathetic Mona is. She isn't a person. All she is, is a walking need for a guy. Not even walking. Limping.

She evidently doesn't have a mind of her own and notwithstanding her hard-earned engineering degree, she apparently has zero smarts. This is not merely my opinion - it's what Mona shows us through her every action. She ignores her friend (about whom I have some agenda suspicions, but also whom I would trust more than this guy), and she swallows everything the guy tells her while ignoring everything her best friend tells her.

The problem is that her goal isn't to win over Mike or anyone like him (although it's obvious from the start that this is where the story is going even if you didn't read the blurb). No, her goal is to win the love of an accountant (Adam) whom she's known forever, and who is Mike's polar opposite and Mona's inane girlhood crush. We're never given an reason why she hadn't pursued Adam before now if he's such an attraction, nor are we told why she feels she needs to turn her whole life around in order to get him. But he stupidity did give me a great idea for a novel (well, maybe not great but good enough!), so my time in this one wasn't all wasted.

For someone who has lived a subdued, even monastic life thus far, Mona really isn't going very far out of her comfort zone and someone is holding her hand the whole time. The truth is that she's failing to direct herself and make her own mind up, and instead, merely taking direction from someone else as she has done all her life evidently.

Instead of dating Adam and finding out what they have in common, she takes Mike's advice which is to take a short stripper course to learn how to tease and please, and to hire Mike's kid sister to go shopping and buy come-on outfits. She also goes jogging. The problem with all this is that it's all outward. She literally does nothing to change herself inwardly which is precisely where her problem lies. Her best friend even complains about this and Mona lies that she is changing herself inside and out, when all she's actually doing is to have herself conform to one guy's puerile image of what a woman should be and frankly, this was sickening to read.

When she finally feels like she's "good enough" to keep Adam's attention, she still doesn't let things happen naturally. Instead, she engineers (yes, I guess that schooling was good for something) fake situations in order to try and impress him. Without asking if he's interested in heavy metal music, she claims she has tickets for Ozzfest, and then has to pay a thousand dollars on eBay to buy some. Not content with that, she hires an actor to play a fictional ex heavy metal boyfriend without discussing with him how he will play the role. He overdoes it and she looks like a moron, and none of this is remotely funny.

Having learned nothing from this disaster, she then hires another actor to fake a heart attack at the zoo so she can step in and do "CPR" and impress Adam. Again, she comes off looking like a moron. Not surprisingly. It was at this point, where she was being ever more stupid, clueless and brain-dead, and the so-called humor was face-planting in its own ass that I quit reading. This novel sucked. If you're going to write a self-help novel can you not make it smart and uplifting instead of demeaning and pathetic like this one was?


Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman


Rating: WARTY!

This was a quick fail for me. I listened to the first part of the audiobook which was read averagely by Todd Haberkorn, and the last part, and neither was remotely appealing, so this one was a speedy return to the library. I really don't know how you can make a novel about necromancy boring, but this was dead boring and I make no excuse for the pun!

It also contains some bad language right up front, and while I have no problem with that normally in a novel, it really stood out here starkly and appeared to be employed for no good purpose, so it just felt like one more bad choice on the part of the author.

The plot sounded interesting, but the execution of it was the death of it. Andrew Blankenship is the necromancer who has "a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago" so we're told, now also has a monster (so-called) from Russian folklore is coming for him. The "monster" is Baba Yaga, and I'm sorry but I simply can not Baby Yack-up seriously. The whole idea of this wicked witch of the forest who lives in a house that sits on chicken legs is so pathetic that it inspires belly-aching laighter and not one iota of terror in me whatsoever, so this was a huge fail. Admittedly I listened to only about third of this, but it felt more like a turd, and that was more than enough to make me dis-recommend it.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Midworld by Alan Dean Foster


Rating: WARTY!

This author is a veteran of sci-fi. He's written scores of novels, and done many novelizations of movies (such as the rebooted Star Trek, the Alien movies, the Transformers movies, and so on). This makes it intriguing that I found poor writing and errors in this novel, such as his use of the term 'googolplex' which he renders as 'googaplex'!

Midworld is a 1975 novel set in a Foster-created universe and is a part of a series comprised of almost a dozen standalone novels. Why Foster never launched a lawsuit against James Cameron and others associated with the 2009 movie Avatar is a bit of a mystery, because the similarities between this novel and that movie are quite startling.

The borrowing (to put it politely) from Foster's book is extensive, including six-legged native species, an intensely harsh jungle environment with luminescent plants, arboreal living quarters which are actually named Hometree, interloping humans intent upon exploiting the planet, the planet's living things all connected in a web of life, and so on. The differences are also notable. In this case, the natives that the interlopers encounter are actually humans from a colony ship who were stranded on this planet centuries before. They have quickly evolved somehow to be smaller, although they still speak English. There is also a second species on the planet which is both native and sentient (and six-legged), and which seems to have partnered-up with the humans who have now become native.

That said, I adored the Avatar movie. I discovered recently there is now a planned four sequels to it, running through 2023 for release dates, and I'm really looking forward to them. The first Avatar earned almost three billion dollars. My guess is that they're going to re-release it when the sequel comes out, so it could top three billion when it's done. I'd certainly like to see it in 3D again in the movie theater. It's the best exponent of 3D in a movie that I've ever seen.

But I digress! This story is of a tribe of diminutive humans (not hobbits!) living in a hellish hostile jungle, where the ground is deemed too dangerous to inhabit, so the humans live in the trees, hence the name 'Midworld": there are several levels in the canopy from ground to sky, and this one has proved the safest, despite it still being a nightmare. Here's where problems may arise for some readers because although Foster evidently understands evolution, which is a refreshing change from a disturbing number of other authors, particularly YA ones, he still had inexplicable organisms which make little sense even in context.

Just as it is in Avatar, although less extreme there, this earlier work has nature so hostile that it exists at war zone levels. You can argue that it's dangerous on Earth, for example in a jungle where plants, insects, and predators make life highly risky, but here in Midworld, it's like every single step risks an encounter with a virulently deadly organism of one sort or another, each of which seems to have highly-developed poison or predatory traits.

I found it hard to believe that anything could survive on a planet like this except for the apex predators, who would quickly be forced into cannibalism as their hapless prey became extinct. Normally organisms only evolve to a level at which they can survive (or they become extinct because they fail to adapt). There is no impetus to evolve beyond that because evolution involves no intelligence whatsoever, regardless of the clueless claims of the brain-dead creationist community, and no planning for the future.

You can argue that snakes have no need for their venom to be so potent, and this is a good argument if your 'science' background consists of the book of Genesis, but in the real world, this view actually ignores evolution. For example, snakes did not evolve with mammals, which are a big component of their prey today. Snakes evolved with other reptiles whose metabolism was much slower than that of mammals, and so the toxins needed to be overwhelming and fast-acting. Snakes which had such toxins survived better than those without them.

When mammals came along later, these poisons worked even better on the hyped metabolism of this new prey. This is why you cannot ignore evolution when world-building in a story like this. For me it was more of an annoyance than it was a fail initially, because some of it was interesting and inventive. It was the extension of this into sheer idiocy which turned me off the story eventually. The real problem though, was that the author seemed to have become quite carried away with his own creation and like a parent obsessed with their young child, expended far too much time telling us stories about it, writing pages on the locals' battle with flora and fauna, at the neglect of getting on with the larger story.

Another issue I had was with the names given to the local life. Historically, when humans have expanded into new areas, they have carried with them the baggage of their previous life, and this would have been the case with the colonists who landed on the planet all those centuries ago, so it made no sense that the local life was not named after life on Earth. I can see some new names coming along for things which had no good counterpart on Earth, but when we're introduced to a creature described as reminiscent of a pig, which lives in the trees, why was it called a Brya instead of a Tree-pig? From a writing perspective, it bears thinking about, and evidently this author didn't think enough.

The way Foster would have it is that pretty much everything in this world is an apex predator and that's impossible. You can't have organisms this deadly without having a completely different ecosystem than the one that's presented here. Predators must necessarily be fewer than their prey otherwise they would die out from lack of same, yet here we see only predators, they're always hungry, and there's virtually no prey save the small group of indigent humans! It makes no sense. It was done only for "drama" but it was way the hell too dramatic to be either realistic or entertaining.

Additionally, Foster seems to forget that you not only have to give a serious nod (and no winking!) to evolution, but you also have to stay within the bounds of physics, unless you're positing an entirely different universe than the one Foster created here. One example of this is the ridiculous height of the 'trees'. The tallest known tree on Earth is close to the maximum limit. It's around 115 meters, and the limit is about 122, so it's pretty much there already. Taller than this, the trees cannot suck up water to the top, but Foster is claiming the trees on this world are half a kilometer, or over four times as tall as is practical and realistic. That's not gonna happen!

Here's a poor writing example from about sixty percent through the novel: "The Silverslith was moving slowly, deliberately, playing with its intended prey." The intended prey were the humans who were sleeping and unaware of the predator, so how, in any sense, was this playing with them?! And what's with the Silverslith name? Was this a snake of some sort? The description is too vague to determine properly what it was, but whatever it was, why was it called a slith instead of a snake or whatever?! Worse than this is that this is yet another example of the dangerous wildlife hijacking the story, and some of the wildlife, such as this and the ant-like (in behavior but not in size) Akadi hoard are far too improbable to exist in any reality.

Of course, the Silverslith is only a poor excuse to make the humans travel to a lower level of the forest so Foster can exhibit even more insane predators than the ones which exist in the upper canopy. It was so transparent and amateurish that I began to dislike the story at this point. Even when the danger of the Silverslith was over, these people stayed down there! I'd had it repeatedly drilled into me, during the entire first half of the story that it was far, far, far too dangerous to travel down to the lower levels, yet this group of travelers stayed down there for several hours for no reason! I'm sorry, but this was not only unnecessary, this amateurish approach rendered all the previous talk into pure bullshit! If a first time writer had submitted this story, it would have been rejected, but because Foster was established by then, he could get away with it.

One amusing part was when one of the visiting humans felt death was near. The panicked statement came out, "Not like this...not this way" which was very reminiscent of what Belinda McClory's character Switch's last words from The Matrix said, right before she died! But that kind of humor was unintentional and very rare. Unlike in Avatar there was no humor here, and the story suffered for it.

Part-way through chapter ten, or around 65% in, I'd had enough of this endless onslaught of absurd and improbably predatory creatures and lack of a direction to the story, so I quit reading this as a waste of my time. I can't recommend it. It's #4 in the so-called 'humanx' commonwealth series, but I will not be reading any more. I recommend watching Avatar instead. It's more realistic (for its framework) and inventive, and it tells an amusing and much more engaging story.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Evelyn After by Victoria Helen Stone


Rating: WARTY!

Errata:
"She smile sheepishly" (smiled, not smile)
"Evelyn dug hem out of her drawer and put them on" (them, not hem)
In chapter 22, third paragraph beginning "Evelyn found herself strangely disappointed..." is repeated as the fourth paragraph.

I had mixed feelings about this book, which started out strongly, but seemed to come unraveled rather quickly. In the end it was a disaster. Around sixty percent in I really wasn't feeling it at all, and I kept hoping it would turn around, but it went further south by eighty percent. I should have quit but I foolishly didn't and the ending was the worst part of all. It read more like bad fan-fiction than a professional novel.

The book was replete with routine flashbacks (chapters were labeled 'Before' or 'After', but I didn't always notice that on the Kindle version on my phone, and so sometimes the text was a bit confusing, although I admit in those cases it was my fault). The problem with flashbacks in general though, is that they bring the story to a screeching halt and I am always immensely resentful of that. Sometimes a flashback can serve a useful purpose, but usually to me they merely indicate laziness or incompetence on the part of the writer. In this case the flashbacks were unnecessary and should have been dispensed with. What little they revealed that was not about stalking and that was not boring could have been woven into the story

My biggest problem however, was with the main character Evelyn (a name apparently is pronounced the British way, as three syllables as in Evelyn Waugh). I really did not like her at all. She was far too self-serving and whiny. I don't think it's impossible to enjoy a novel whose main character you don't like, but I do assert that it's much harder to do so, and Evelyn kept making things worse by behaving stupidly, or irrationally, or obnoxiously. She isn't someone I would want to know. She's two-faced at best and a low-life at worst.

The story begins with her discovery that her husband Gary has been having an affair. I don't blame Evelyn for this but there are things she could have done, but failed to do, which would have improved her lot. She's whining that the baby fat she has from the birth of her son is a problem, yet it's been seventeen years. She could have shed it if she'd put her mind to it. She whines that she gave up on her art, when the fact is that she has never needed to work. Her husband is a highly paid psychiatrist, and she could have worked on her art projects all day long, but she chose not to. She dug this hole for herself and didn't even realize she was in one until things went sour in her marriage.

There is another much more serious issue which I don't want to get into for fear of giving too many spoilers, but this issue is worse and Evelyn's reaction to it really turned me off her. When she confronts Gary over the affair, he claims it's over and that he wants to put this behind them and get on with their life together, but while Evelyn claims she forgives him, it's clear she does not. she claims she still loves him, but it's clear from her behavior that there is no love there, and there hasn't been for a while.

This kind of thing made her dishonest at best and a liar at worst. She refuses to let Gary back into her life even though they continue to share the same house. Her motive is ostensibly that she cares too much about their son Cameron to break-up her marriage, but her behavior isn't conducive to a reconciliation - it's quite the opposite - so her behavior and her stated aim were completely at odds. She claims she doesn't trust him, but she believes everything he tells her, and never once questions his account of the more serious event. Not too smart!

I don't get why her husband stays with her. He has no reason to want to be with her whatsoever, yet he hangs around putting up with her crap like he's totally dependent upon her. His character made no sense whatsoever, and the "big twist" at the end, about about what really happened came as no surprise even to me, because it was so patently obvious. Once again, Evelyn ain't too smart.

Worse than this, she turns into a stalker, both of Juliette Whitman, the sylph-like diminutive blonde her husband was unfaithful with, and that woman's husband, Noah, with whom Evelyn herself has an affair. This isn't just cyber-stalking either; she literally spies on these two people, and harbors the most abusive attitude towards Juliette, referring to her repeatedly as a whore, yet she never describes herself in those terms no matter how many times she goes at it with Noah. The sex scenes were quite well done, but the joy of those is tarnished by the fact that I really was starting to dislike Evelyn before they began, and they were juvenile.

Abandon' scarcely begins to describe this couple's approach to getting it on. At one point I read, when Noah offered to get a condom: Evelyn shook her head. "I have an IUD.", but no IUD is going to protect against venereal diseases, and neither of them stops for a second to think about this. She knows who Noah is, and evidently assumes he is clean because he's been married to the same woman for many years, but she has no idea if he's been faithful, and she knows for a fact that his wife has had at least one affair, so she has no idea what Noah's sexual health is, and he hasn't the faintest clue about hers, yet they go at it like rabbits without a hint of discussion regarding health. The only concern is that she might become pregnant (which is possible. She's only forty-one after all).

I never did get the back and forth over going to see a therapist about fixing their marriage. Evelyn mutely chides her husband over dithering on it, but when he pursues her about it, she reveals (to the reader, not to him) that she has no intention of going to one because she considers the marriage to be over! But the author herself forgets what the status is of their therapy plans. At one point in chapter eleven, and later in chapter nineteen, then again in chapter 24, Evelyn discusses with her husband the prospect of choosing a therapist from a list she's prepared and given to him. He says he likes the first one on the list, but then in the next chapter, he's saying he got her list, like they've never discussed it before. Later still, in chapter thirty, they're still harping on this. It made no sense at all!

When Noah abruptly breaks it off with Evelyn purportedly out of guilt, after their weekend "retreat" - or more like a weekend advance - she coldly dismisses him from the hotel room with every overtone of finality, but then she frets over why he's not calling her or sending her a birthday greeting? She's a moron. he feels so little guilt, evidently, that he goes at it agian with her as soon as she calls him to remind this guy whom she threw out of the hotel, that he forgot her birthday! No, I'm sorry, but no. Why should I want to read about a callous and selfish bitch like this, let alone empathize with her?

I'm sorry, but that's exactly what she was. Over the course of the story She turns into a creepy stalker, which is really where she's being going this whole novel. That's her only growth. She's vindictive and selfish, and gives precious little thought to this son she's supposed to be protecting. She helps cover up a serious crime and feels no guilt whatsoever about it. In the end she gets away scot-free with her behavior and is in fact rewarded for it. No. This novel is not worth reading, and I felt resentful of the time I wasted on it hoping it would improve or that there was some big moral lesson coming. Neither option happened.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Memory Maze by Gordon Korman


Rating: WARTY!

Audiobooks are hit and miss with me since I experiment with them more. This was a miss. I got to 20% in and gave up on it. The story was ludicrous, which might have made it an unintentionally funny read, but it was far too boring for that, and the boredom was in no way helped by Ramón de Ocampo's reading, which turned me right off. I would have had a hard time listening to it even if the novel had been thoroughly engrossing. It was far too John Green for my taste and the voices were not rendered well.

The story, which is number two (and felt like it) in a series, is about Jackson Opus, who is a master hypnotist. This was a refreshingly original super power to have, but then the author had to ascribe every single historical event to the use of hypnotism and it became laughable - and not in a fun way. Even Abe Lincoln was dragged into it at one point, and I remember thinking, it didn't help save his life, did it? I don't mind stories like this being woven into history, but when the author starts to tie literally every important event into it, it smacks of sheer amateurism and becomes far too stupid to take seriously, or even jokingly for that matter.

I flatly refuse to read any novel which has a main character named Jack, which is the most tedious go-to action adventure name ever to be over-used in literature. Even if the blurb makes the novel sound interesting, it goes right back on the shelf if one of the main characters is named Jack. I think I'm gong to have to add Jax and Jackson to that banned list now. Rather than take action, these people would much prefer to let others bear the brunt and pay the price while they hide out. They're far happier scratching their heads and whining about how Jax needs to become more powerful, but never have him practice anything. They would rather let the bad guy do whatever he wants without taking any steps to out him, and expose him. They're idiots.

This story had "Jax" and his family hiding out a hundred miles from home, living like paupers just to stay safe from the evil villain. Some hero huh?! He's using the cheesiest name imaginable as a non-disguise. His old name was Opus, so his new name is Magnus? Really? No one is ever going to think it's him. He's supposed to be keeping a low profile, but he enters a chess tournament and wins. This kid is a moron. I don't want to read about morons, not even if it's supposed to be funny. Because it's not! That's for parodies, not for original fiction!

The leader of the good guys has abandoned all his followers to support Jax, and his followers are being bumped-off. All they had to do here was to get on a rooftop with an AK 47 and take out this guy, but of course they can't do the realistic and intelligent thing (in the context of this fictional story in order to save the world from this ruthlessly evil guy). No instead, they have to play fair and it makes the story stilted and artificial and just plain ridiculous.

The big problem here is hypnotism of course, because it can make victims do anything, and then forget they've done it, yet nowhere did I hear of either Jax or his powerful hypnotist guru (who is also hiding) talking or even thinking about how to nullify the hypnotic effect. Jax never gives an ounce of thought to how to beat the guy. Of course as soon as the guy is beaten, that's the end of a cash cow for this author and this publisher, so where's the incentive to tell a realistic story and bring it to a satisfying conclusion? It's far easier to drag this same story out than to come up with something new, original, and inventive. This is another reason why I typically, and with few exceptions, detest series. They're far too derivative, repetitive, vacuous and vapid.

I have better things to read!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Teenage Mermaid by Ellen Schreiber


Rating: WARTY!

This is one of those novels where an older writer writes for a younger age group without changing any of her personal preferences or prejudices! Thus she sounds dumb at best and stupid at worst. This is written in worst person voice, which is first person voice, a voice I detest, but it's actually twice as bad here, because we have two alternating stories and the first one, where the guy is rescued by the mermaid, is straight out of the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah movie Splash which preceded this novel by some two decades. It was juvenile even for the intended age range, and frankly I expect better from an author whose very name in German, means writer! I managed two chapters of this before I DNF'd this DNR.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase


Rating: WARTY!

This novel sucked. It's about Jade Calhoun (I should have quit reading right there!) who is an "empath" in a world where everyone, without question, completely accepts all the new-age mumbo-jumbo. Jade moves into a new apartment in New Orleans for no good reason (she's from out of state), and encounters a ghost which apparently doesn't have a pleasant agenda. She immediately calls in a guy recommended by a friend who uses scientific equipment to try and record and measure the ghost. Why the empath can't do this for herself is a mystery. She's a friggin' empath! What use is she?

I'm guessing the real reason is to make sure she has lots of encounters with Kane (I should have quit reading right there, too!) who runs the strip club under her apartment. From the moment of their first encounter, Jade turns into a bitch in heat whenever Kane is around and it was so tedious, it was pathetic. Get a room already. Oh wait, she has one! But it's haunted! Oh god how will they ever make it through this???? Who the hell cares? And do I want to read more of this crap in a series? "NO!"

The thing is, despite Jade calling for help and being unaccountably terrified of this ghost, the blurb tells us, "...it's up to Jade to use her unique ability to save" her friend Pyper (yeah, I should have quit reading right there, too). I'm really sorry, and I apologize to all women named Piper (or variants thereof), but I simply cannot take that name seriously, not at all. I just can't. But there you have it. If it's up to her, why did she bring in the science boys? Filler? Or fill her?

The blurb stupidly asks, as do all blurbs beginning with 'When' ask, "...she'll need Kane's help to do it...Can she find a way to trust him and herself before Pyper is lost?" I'm guessing the answer to that question is "Yes!" but it ought to be "NO!" and all of these characters ought to die horribly in a ghostly holocaust.

That would have unarguably been the best ending for this, and if it had happened that way, I would have rated this five stars. As it is, it honestly gets no stars. The one I gave it is only for the fact that "no stars" is not an option (Goodreads can't average it!); it just looks like the reviewer forgot to check how many stars it earned, and it doesn't count for squat. That's why I don't do stars as such. Either the novel is worth reading or it's not. It gets five stars or one, and to cut to the (Deanna) Chase, this one is definitely not worth reading.

I did love that if you write out the title and the author's name you get: Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase - like it's the author who's doing the haunting. That was the best part about this novel.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff


Rating: WARTY!

If I'd wanted to read a John Green novel which I don't, ever, I would have picked one up. I picked this one up mistakenly, but utterly convinced it was not a John Green novel. Was I ever wrong! It was awful. Even the guy reading it sounded exactly like the kind of voice that I've heard in a John Green audiobook when I made the unforgivable mistake of trying one. Gräf is a German word meaning Count, as in Graf Zeppelin, meaning Count Zeppelin who founded the Zeppelin airship company. It doesn't mean 'green', so what the heck was going on here?!

The story is that this young guy killed another young guy by means of accidentally hitting him in the chest with a hockey puck. The victim has a weak heart and dies. Now this guy is all-but irremediably morose, until this girl swoops in and rescues him. Almost inevitably, the girl is named Fallon, because god forbid she would have a given-name name that wasn't someone's surname, or any sort of ordinary name in a John Green, er Lisa Graff novel.

The only thing that Lisa forgot to do was include the girl's name in the title. She should have called it Looking for Fallon, since Lost in the Fallon sounds very odd. I guess it could have been titled Gone Guy. That would have worked, but it's really better if you have the girl's name in the title. That's only going to work though, if the girl has an unusual name, like Alaska. Looking for Myrtle, charming as that sounds, isn't going to cut it despite it having a play on words. But with an exotic, pretentious, or unusual name, you can have Half-Baked Alaska, if Alaska is a bit stupid or crazy, or Alaska is Like, Totally Husky, Dude!, if Alaska is a bit of a dog, or Melting Alaska if she's cold, and which also has the other element which you really: the implication in the title that she's lost or in need of saving. So you might have Performing Open-Heart Surgery on Alaska in the back of a old VW Bug which works because it makes a play on the term 'open-heart'.

Playing on words, especially if you can play on the girl's name, is wonderful. So you can have, for example, The Color of Jade, which is perfect, because then you get an exotic name and a play on words. Or you could have April, Come She Will which has the added advantage of a salacious play on words. So on that theme, maybe Lisa should have titled this, Fallon, Falloff which not only gets the unusual girl's name into the title, but makes a play on words and evokes The Karate Kid. OTOH, why would anyone want to evoke The Karate Kid?" Okay, strike that.

Fallon derives from Gaelic name meaning leadership or supremacy, or something along those lines. I'd hazard a guess that this is something which never crossed the author's mind, and she chose it merely because it struck her fancy, but maybe she did know what she was doing (she's emulating John Green after all, perhaps hoping to get a second wind from his sales/sails), but playing on that theme would give us Following Fallon which has the added advantage of an alliterative appellation. Another such title would be Rise and Fallon. But I think we've explored this motif quite enough for now, so I'll just go with Lost in its Own Pretensions, and leave it at that!

So, in short, the prologue sucked as much as the novel. Neither Fallon nor the main guy, whose name I completely forget, were worth my reading time. In fact, the guy was a vindictive and obnoxious little prick in the part I listened to, so I cared neither about him nor about the girl in shining armor. I don't normally read prologues, but it's hard to avoid them in audiobooks where you have no idea what's coming next, especially if they don't announce it.

The prologue was a truly crappy story about a crappy rip-off which the author calls a 'claw machine' - one of those things which takes your money based on your deluded belief that it's fair and equitable and the claw really is strong enough, if you get it just right, to pull up one of those tightly-packed plush toys. No, it's not, and even if you did get one, the toys are so crappy and cheap that they will fall apart in short order.

It's better to have your kids save the money and actually buy a decent plush toy. The habit of saving and reaping rewards will teach them much more useful tactics in the long run, than any amount of plays on a gambling machine ever will. Of course, then the kids don't get to play with the claw and have some excitement, but there are better ways to let them have fun than this. This prologue was pedantic, and as usual it contributed nothing to the story. Nothing. You can skip it completely and be no worse off. I rest my case against prologues, prefaces, introductions and authors notes. Boycott them with the same ardor you'd boycott one of those fraudulent claw machines! And give this novel a miss, because it's amiss. It will deliver to you the same emptiness that the claw machine does, and it's so John Green it will never ripen.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes


Rating: WARTY!

I made it twenty percent of the way through this before giving up in disgust. The reason I was interested in reading it was that it seemed like it might have preempted an idea I had for a different take on Oliver Twist, but this story had nothing whatsoever to do with Charles Dickens's novel except in that it purloined the names of some of his characters. My idea is quite safe! Other than that it was set in contemporary times in a high school featuring a bunch of young hackers who were one-dimensional cookie-cutter characters, and was consequently and unsurprisingly boring.

There was the trope new kid in school, the trope obnoxious classmate (in this case Tyson who was solely interested in meat LOL!), the trope hot guy, in this case "Z", which turned me off immediately. What really killed this for me apart from the boredom was that it was twice as bad as the worst person voice, which is first person voice. Twice as bad because, having made the mistake of choosing that choice to tell this story, the author then split it between the two main tropes (Z and Liv) and told their stories both from first person in an open admission that she had chosen the wrong voice and was far too stubborn and stuck in a YA rut to change it.

Frankly, this story sucked and after reading the first fifty tedious pages of these character's "Liv"es, I had "Z"ero interest in learning anything more about these wastes of skin. I'm sorry, but there is honestly something wrong with you if you find this kind of writing entertaining.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge


Rating: WARTY!

This one is first person which I detest, and which made the story read like a parody from the start because it was combined with such overly dramatic language that it would have turned me off right away had it not made me laugh so hard. In the first few screens I got, "Hot, acidic bile burns my throat." Bile is actually alkaline. Stomach acid is acidic. "Hot stomach acid burns my throat" would have been perfect. The bile quote made me think that this author was so desperate to make this gripping that she simply went way over the top without any idea where she was going or what she was doing to her little melodrama. It doesn't work. She does it again shortly afterwards with, "heartbeat thumps wildly". No, a heart may thump wildly. Or a heart may beat wildly, but a heartbeat is already a beat. It's already a thump.

This kind of melodrama continued with lines like, "I fight the urge to vomit again. I gulp in deep breaths of stale air. In. Out. Come on; breathe. In. Out. Don't panic. Think!" and "I cram a fist in my mouth to stop from yelling out. Hot tears slide down my cheeks. I have to get out of here. Somehow. But my head . . . oh, my head", and "Fingers of dread squeeze my insides. Fear slices through me." Seriously, I was about ready to quit but then the girl escapes her confinement so I decided to stay with it a bit longer. I made it to forty percent before the bad writing and the painfully obvious plotting nauseated me so much I couldn't stand to read any more.

Check this out:

'I was kidnapped.' My eyes water as the full realization of everything that's happened sinks in.
Her mouth falls open. 'Kidnapped?'
I can only nod, tears streaming down my face. Even to my ears, I know how it sounds. Crazy. Ridiculous. Who would want to kidnap a suburban wife and teacher?
'Right. Well, I'd better add calling the police to my list then, too....'
Seriously? A bedraggled woman obviously in trouble, is picked up on the roadside by a driver - a female driver at that - and no one calls the police? Bullshit! This story was quite simply not credible, and the woman was portrayed as stupid to the core. Everything is clear to the reader before the character ever grasps it. She is pathetically dumb and slow. I'm tired of reading stupid stories written by female authors who seem intent upon making their main female characters dumb as they can. Stop it! Stop it now or quit writing, for goodness sakes! I actively dis-recommend this novel.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Deviants by Maureen McGowan


Rating: WARTY!

Another throw-away outreach attempt at another YA dystopian writer with the same result: uninventive, derivative, boring trash. This is the first of a series of course, because why bilk your readers for one inadequate volume when you can pad a short story out into a trilogy or better? God bless Big Publishing™ for without their avarice there would be no crappy YA troll-ogies.

The predictable first person female has predictable hots for a predictably potential bad guy, but is predictably distracted by her BIG SECRET™. These people - all mysteriously YA age (at least the only ones we really hear about), and they're predictably living in a dome in a predictably trashed world, and predictably have to escape. Predictably, I quickly grew to hate it and predictably the main character, a female created by a female author is a dumb-ass. Why women do this to their main characters is actually less of a mystery to me than why so many readers enable and facilitate them, but I don't have to support this crap.

So, what is no more than a bloated prologue is fluffed-up with inanity into the first volume of the predictable YA trilogy. Yawn.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Agenda 21 by Harriet Parke


Rating: WARTY!

Glenn Beck is probably glad he's not the author of this novel. Harriet Parke wrote this, and this audiobook was like listening to bad fan fiction. Seriously. It's set in a ridiculously biased future which is presented to us without any attempt whatsoever being made to justify or rationalize it. It's based on UN resolution known as Agenda 21 (they definitely should have been smarter in how they named it!). The '21' means 21st century, BTW. In mid 1992, 178 governments embraced the philosophy behind it. That was a quarter century ago, and have you seen anything change? I sure haven't. So those morons and imbeciles who are touting this as some sort of totalitarian takeover agenda are quite simply liars, as dishonest as the book cover loudly yelling that this is a work by Glenn Beck, and that's all there is to it.

The US is a very selfish nation in many ways, and I couldn't see any way in which this fictional future could actually happen in this country. No one would be willing to give up their home and their land - or their guns. I couldn't see how everyone even could be herded around as they were depicted here, or for what purpose it was being done, and that was the fundamental problem with this novel. It was a farce.

But the US's main problem is ignorance. No One knows what the heck this policy is aimed at, or at least they didn't in 2012, when a poll of 1,300 US voters found that 9% supported it, 6% opposed it, and 85% didn't have enough information on which to arrive at an opinion. So this novel isn't a fictional account of a dystopian future, it's a political agenda based on radically alarmist lies about guidelines set out by the UN, which are designed to actually help the environment. This is all too typical of the tsunami of propaganda put out by an increasingly radicalized and fundamentalist right wing who seem to have no agenda of their own other than pandering to panic. it;s interesting to note that Agenda 21, the novel, was published that same year, so the author could actually claim ignorance, too: ignorance of reality.

The story makes zero sense, has no world-building, and essentially abandons all of the technological advances we've made in terms of recycling and renewable energy since 1992. For example, electricity has evidently gone, including solar power, in this world, and people physically work to haul other people around in carts or ride energy-creating bicycles or walk treadmills to generate power. Why all this power is needed went unexplained in the small portion of this I could stand to listen to.

The biggest issue with the story other than how profoundly stupid it is, is that it's so poorly written that it's almost a parody of itself, and it's bone-numbingly boring. Instead of inventiveness and foresight, we got asinine nineteen-fifties sci-fi garbage phrases like "nutrition cube" instead of food, and "living space" instead of home. The entire first half-dozen chapters of the novel was one long, biased, brain-dead info-dump which made for truly tedious listening. The author describes someone riding an "energy bicycle" and does a really lousy writing job of it. No one would call it that in the future, they'd simply call it a bike, or call it by whatever abbreviated name it was most popularly known as. The author had no clue how to write, and I have no intention of listening to anything else by this author or by Glenn Beck.

You can see for yourself what Agenda 21 says here, and decide for yourself if it's a sound environmental hope and Glenn beck is inexcusably ignorant and alarmist. Here's the same thing at MIT. Here's wikipedia's article on it.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Wynonna Earp Vol 1 Homecoming by Beau Smith


Rating: WARTY!

This sounded like it might be interesting, or it might be a disaster, and it pains me to report that it was the second of these two options. I counted twenty-seven panels containing blood in the first thirty-two pages. That's almost one per page, which is way too many for a story which makes little sense, appears to be going nowhere, and doesn't even have decent dialog or some humor to leaven it. Essentially it's just another Walking Dead style story with nothing new to offer. Even the art was pretty much Walking Dead. The only "improvement" it had was that it was in color. Don't let the misrepresentative front cover image fool you. the art is nothing like that quality inside.

The main Character, Wynonna Earp is, we're told, descended from Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, presumably with his second wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus, but the couple had no children, and neither did Wyatt with his first wife. I was prepared to overlook that if the story had turned out to be good, but it didn't.

The basis of it is that the United States Marshals Service 'Black Badge' division was set up to fight paranormal creatures. The only ones we see here - at least in the part I read - were 'chupacabra' critters, aka goat eaters. Why, in these stories, the goat eaters never eat goats but always humans is a complete mystery, but the only reason to avoid Wynonna Earp at all cost is that she's boring. I can't recommend this based on the the portion of it that I read, which is more than enough for my taste.

You know, it makes no difference in stories like this if the para-abnormals are zombies, or vampires, or were-wolves, or whatever, the story is always the same. I like my characters and my stories to have something more going for them than endless skulls split with bullets or cleavers, and this failed dismally. It's long past time that writers of this genre came up with something new to say.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov


Rating: WARTY!

This was an awful novel, badly written and in the audiobook format, badly read. I've been forced to conclude that not only is Isaac Asimov irrelevant, he is antique and I need read nothing further by him. His prose is pedantic and far too absorbed with irrelevant details, and his characters were anachronistic even for Asimov's own time. I don't believe any ever exclaimed "Jehoshaphat" not even when Asimov was alive. It's tedious.

On that score, it seems like everyone but the robots in his world are named after Biblical characters (the leading non-robotic character is Elijah, and his son is Benjamin, for goodness sakes! Why this novel written by an atheist, and set in the future is so obsessed with an antique work of poor history and copious fiction would make for a more interesting book. Supposedly set a thousand years from now, the novel evinces nothing significantly different from Asimov's own time despite the passage of a millennium. People still smoke pipes for goodness sakes! There is nothing inventive here, and the robot is more tedious and brain-dead than Commander Data in the Star Trek Universe. I expected better. Now I know better.