Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending by India Desjardins, Marianne Ferrer


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a wonderfully well-illustrated (by Ferrer) and written (by Desjardins) short story about a fifteen-year-old girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. I was unable to discover if this is a true story or not, but in a more meta sense, it must be, because there are remarkable recovery stories, and this was one of them.

The story begins with the girl heading into the hospital with her parents to learn the verdict on her latest round of tests, and she is preparing herself to be told when she will die. As she walks the uninviting hallways of the building, she recalls episodes from her life that have taken place since she was first diagnosed.

She remembers her best friend, and her boyfriend, and her parents behavior and reactions. And of course, there's a happy ending! I thought it was beautifully done and gorgeously illustrated, and I commend it as a great story (even if not strictly true). It's honest and positive, and perhaps would make a sweet gift to a young someone who is going through a similar experience.


Dragons In Love by Alexandre Lacroix, Ronan Badel


Rating: WARTY!

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

I couldn't review this children's book, written by Lacroix, and illustrated by Badel, positively because of the strangely violent episode that occurs in it. I had initially thought that using a dragon as a symbol for the roaring feelings inside oneself, which being very fond of someone can engender, would be a great metaphor.

The book began well enough when, after a ballgame in the park, a girl kisses Drake the dragon, and his confusion made a lot of sense, as does his confused avoidance of the girl for a while, but finally he's reconciled with her when he discovers that she's being teased by a bully. That's all well and good, but Drake's response, seeking to help her by sending a roaring blast of flame from his mouth all over the bully was entirely inappropriate for a children's book. The child wasn't harmed other than being 'singed', but I simply cannot condone a children's book that itself condones such violence and brutality, and therefore I cannot commend this book as a worthy read.


Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve


Rating: WORTHY!

Back when the movie was out - a movie I enjoyed, but which failed at the box office in December 2018 (it made only 80% of its production budget) - you could not find this book at the library at all (they were all checked out), but recently when I went in there to look for the sequel to Philip Reeve's Railhead (which was not to be had!) Mortal Engines was sitting right there - a modest paperback, so I grabbed it. And I loved it despite its three-hundred-page reading length.

The movie follows the book closely to begin with, but then increasingly departs from it. I can see why it does, but it occurs to me that if it had followed the book more closely, it would have done better than it did. The book was beautifully done and doesn't shy away from depicting hard truth and gritty reality. Hollywood not so much, and so it's sad world when a movie makes eighty million dollars, and is still considered a failure, isn't it?!

So briefly, the story is of a future, but rather steampunk world, that when analyzed makes little sense. Cities are no longer places you go to, they're places that come after you in what's repeatedly referred to as Municipal Darwinism. It's a city-eat-city world, and this is how the cities are powered and grow: by traveling the land, hunting and wrecking other cities, absorbing their populations, and recycling their raw materials as fuel and building supplies.

The biggest problem for me was the energy requirement. I'm not saying you couldn't build something that huge and have it move, but the power required to move it would be exorbitant, and where would it come from?

This story isn't set a hundred years hence, but several thousand, after a disastrous global war. Even if society could rebuild itself and take its cities mobile, the fuel (you name it: natural gas, coal, oil) would have long run out by that time, so what are they running the cities on? It's never actually discussed, only vaguely alluded to!

We're running out of oil now, something the gas-guzzling USA, with its car manufacturers ditching decent-mileage passenger cars for poor mileage SUVs and trucks while the rest of the world wisely looks to renewables. This is touched on in the story, with the USA described as an abandoned wasteland.

The story focuses on Hester Shaw, a badly-scarred young woman (the movie beautifies her giving her only a scar. She is much more disfigured in the novel), and on Tom Natsworthy, a third class historian trainee who lives in London. Hester is in a smaller village and purposefully, it turns out.

The village is absorbed by London, bringing Hester into contact with her quarry - a man named Valentine, beloved in London, but who murdered her mother. She almost manages to kill him, and then escapes by jumping into the waste chute when pursued by Tom. Inexplicably, Valentine pushes Tom down there after her, because he thinks he knows too much. I did not get that part at all - in the movie or the novel.

Tom loves London and is in denial. He forms a very uneasy relationship with Hester and each grows, over an extended time, to respect and then love the other. They have multiple adventures - more-so than in the movie - being captured twice, the second time by pirates.

The ending was very different from the movie and was amazing. I heartily commend this novel as a worthy read. There are three sequels, but I'm not sure I want to read those because I fear the first will be sullied by reading any more!

Why authors feel this need to squeeze the life out of their inventions by forcing them into ritualistic trope-filled sequels escapes me. I know it's very lucrative for publishers and authors if they can get a good pot of serial novels like this boiling, but to me it's lazy and avaricious - and abusive of readers, so I think I'll stop at this one. I had a different experience with Railhead, where I do plan on reading the next volume. Hopefully that will not become something I regret doing! LOL!


The Speed of Light by Amber Kizer


Rating: WARTY!

This is the third volume in the 'Meridian' trilogy which began with Meridian in 2009, and was followed by Wildcat Fireflies in 2011, and this one a year later. Despite liking the first, and not so much the second, both of which I read before I started blogging books, I could not get into this third volume at all. Maybe I left it too long before moving on to read this one? But that said it didn't ought to have affected my perception of it to this extent.

This is why I typically despise trilogies because far more often than not, the author takes a great idea and ruins it by dragging it out way past its natural life cycle. This is what happened here. Each volume was less than the previous, and this particular one was a bloated tome. One of the reasons for that was the appalling waste of trees involved in its production. There were massive margins, and the widely-spaced text did not start until halfway down the page on new chapters. How many trees could you have saved, Ms Kizer if you had formatted your book a little more wisely? Maybe she doesn't care. Maybe she hates trees. No one wants to see a book that's all text and no white space not even me(!), but come on! I think I'm going to start negatively-reviewing any print book that's so disrespectful of our environment.

Anyway I think I am done with this author after this experience. But briefly, the book is about Meridian Sozu, who is known as a Fenestra, that is, a human who has been, dare I say it, touched by an angel, and who is supposed to help transition souls into the next world. Why such a person would ever be needed goes unexplained. It implies that the resident god is incompetent and needs help shoring-up the defective system he created!

The author pairs her up with a guy, of course, who is naturally her soul-mate and protector. Why the author couldn't have changed this up a bit instead of taking the road most traveled, I do not know. She could have made the two antagonists, or made the protector a lesbian who wants Meridian, but whose love is not requited, or something else, but no, let's stick with traditional weak women who desperately needs a guy to validate her, young adult crap.

In volume one, this wasn't so bad as it happened, but it got worse. In this volume there's a battle to save this girl Julia who will do almost anything to find her parents, and who is siding with the idiotically named 'nocti' - the forces of dark who try to steal souls from people like Meridian. Plus there's a disaster awaiting at the Indianapolis 500, which some would argue is already a disaster, but still. Sorry, but no - not interested! The author has done insufficient work to create this world, and consequently it doesn't hang together at all well.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Cowl Vol 2 The Greater Good by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, Rod Reis


Rating: WARTY!

I didn’t like this. It was too much of a rip-off of Watchmen: set in earlier times in the 20th century, a death of a super hero, an investigation. That might have been fine, but the problem was that it did not have the characters that watchmen had. The super heroes here had no life to them. They were boring. If I had read volume 1, I might have found more investment in it, but I doubt it. The story by Higgins and Siegel was dragging, and there was nothing of interest (to me) happening, especially since the super heroes were out on strike(!) and so there was no super hero-ing going on to speak of. It seemed stuck in a rut, and the Reis‘s artwork was nothing special either. I cannot commend it based on this experience and I have no interest in pursuing this series at all.

And what a trite title! Cowl? Could they not have come up with something a bit better and more original?


Saturday, January 19, 2019

You Can Do It, Squirrel by Kate Breuer


Rating: WARTY!

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

This sounded like a fun picture book for young kids according to the blurb but unfortunately, Amazon's renowned crappy Kindle conversion process destroyed the book. I downloaded it twice, once to my phone and once to my iPad, and in both cases, the book delivered a cover and nothing else. Every one of the seventeen pages was a black screen, so there was on book to read. Not that I'm racist! I enjoy a mix - black text and white background, or vice versa. Either color on its own is a fail! We have to stand together on this!

This is therefore more a review of Amazon's pathetic process and its lousy, destructive, abusive Kindle conversion process than it is of this novel. It sucks. I urge all publishers and authors to abandon Amazon and their pathetic process altogether. We're just handing them more and more power and they do not deserve it. They haven't earned it and don't even try. Please use a process that works and that does not shred, spindle, and mutilate your book. Use something that works, such as PDF, Barnes's and Nobles's Nook system or something else. Anything but Kindle.

I can't commend a book that has quite literally been gutted by Amazon.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Unbalanced by Courtney Shepard


Rating: WARTY!

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

I gave up on this Net Galley novel called "Unbalanced," because frankly, it was. On the face of it, the plot was actually appealing: it was about these four women who are evidently sisters who were separated at birth, but I don't know why. They each have one of the four elemental powers: air, earth, fire, and water. Not that any of those are actual elements, but I was willing to let that slide for a fun, or entertaining story, even though the names of these characters are a bit improbable if not laughable.

The blurb tells us that each generation brings out four sisters to fight against a fanatical, secret faith, but all this really tells me is that the sisters are useless in that they've obviously - and repeatedly - shown they're incapable of truly defeating this faith! The blurb says the sisters are born to fight this battle, but are unaware of what awaits them? Maybe that's why they fail? LOL! Or maybe the blurb-writer is just clueless. It's been said that when you do the same thing over and over with the same result you should try something else - or just check yourself into an institution. Evidently these girls are too dumb to own that.

The main character is fire, and her name is Asha. The earth character is named Ivy. The water one is named Mere. I forget the fourth. These are names from a parody, not a serious novel, but I was even willing to let that go for a good story. The problem is that Asha is initially portrayed as this fierce warrior woman, yet when she was captured by this guy who was originally sent to kill her, this supposedly tough young woman became immediate putty in his hands.

I started having serious problems with it at that point, but the next chapter introduced Ivy, who was kick-ass - in this case literally - but just as I was starting to like the novel again, back comes Asha, who despite her power being fire, leaves me cold, and she was even more putty-er in this chapter than the previous one. No. Just no. That was just less than 25% in, but I couldn't stand to read any more of this.

Asha hadn't been this guy's captive anywhere near long enough to be suffering Helsinki syndrome, nor had she been in his company long enough, and even had she been, she's supposed to be this bad-ass girl, yet the story began reading like a cheap BDSM "romance." I could not both keep reading this and keep my stomach contents. I chose my stomach.

I am so, so tired of YA female authors who have quite obviously never heard of the #MeToo movement, creating these supposedly strong female characters and then turning them into wilting violets and objects of gratification at the first whiff of testosterone. I cannot support a novel with this dedicated level of disrespect for women. It's unacceptable and honestly? The author needs to get a clue - and a more original title.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Thaw by Elyse Springer


Rating: WARTY!

This is published under the 'Season of Love' collection, so I assume there is one for each season. Maybe the author changes her name, so the next one after this would be Elyse Summerer, the next, Elyse Faller, and finally, Elyse Winterer? But it's not a series; each can be read as a standalone - at least that's my judgment from having read a goodly portion of this one; however, it did not appeal to me sufficiently. I read about a half or maybe two-thirds of it, but it wasn't anything special and wasn't holding my attention so I gave up on it.

The story is of Abigail the librarian who ends up dancing with a high profile model at a charity ball, and for some obscure reason the model is so thrilled with Abigail that she invites her on a date, and so the two begin seeing each other, but the relationship has ups and downs and is platonic until one night when Abigail pleasures Gabrielle sexually, but even then there's no flinging of the sexual.

The two seem to be settling into an asexual relationship, but this felt so wishy-washy that I gave up on it. Not that two people cannot be asexually attracted to each other to the point where they want a partnership. I wrote of one myself in my novel Bass Metal, but somehow this particular story felt disingenuous and unrealistic, as though the author had wanted to write about a full-on lesbian relationship but didn't have the courage to do so.

The book blurb definitely doesn't help. It is so shallow when it says of Abigail that "she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she's ever met" as though that alone is the basis of the relationship. I felt this betrayed the author. Authors typically don't write their own blurbs unless they self-publish, so some idiot blurb writer for the publisher is likely responsible for that. The relationship in the book wasn't that shallow at all, but it still didn't engage me, so I can't commend this.


Disturbing Ground by Priscilla Masters


Rating: WARTY!

I love the Welsh accent, so this sounded like it might be a good listen for me, and while I could listen to Siriol Jenkins reading in those dulcet tones forever, I can't listen to them when she's reading something like this, which had gone quite literally nowhere by about fifty percent in, except in that this Doctor, Megan Banesto, who is the de facto investigator here in this little mining town of Llancloudy, seems far more interested in trying to make time with someone else's husband than ever she does in finding out who drowned Bianca - a schizophrenic patient of hers who was known to be terrified of water.

I'm sorry but I simply did not like this main character who seemed far more meddling than investigative and who was simply annoying. She walked out on a patient in the middle of a consultation to go meddling when she saw a crowd gathering up the street! What a piece of work she is! I DNF'd this and cannot commend it based on my experience of it.


Love Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles


Rating: WARTY!

Read obnoxiously by Judith Ivey, this book was a fail from the off.

This audiobook sounded like fun from the blurb: Ruby Lavender and Miss End User License Agreement, aka Miss Eula, rescue chickens which are destined for the slaughterhouse in Halleluia, Mississippi. We're informed that they (Ruby and Eula, not the chickens) live in a house painted pink, although I fail to see how that makes them special, and they "operate their own personal secret-letter post office." Ruby is depressed by Miss Eula's impeding visit to Hawaii to see her grand-baby.

I never made it that far because the entire first quarter or so of this novel was obsessively and endlessly going on about chickens laying eggs and it was read in such an awful, nausea-inducing southern voice that I honestly couldn't stand to listen to it - not the voice nor the tediously harping story, so I ditched it and felt great relief at doing so. Obviously it's not aimed at me, but I cannot commend it based on what I suffered through. I would definitely not want a child to have to relive this!


Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack


Rating: WORTHY!

I encountered this in my luscious local library, and I could hardly not pick it up after writing Cleoprankster! I was curious, since both Maihack's Cleo and mine are roughly the same age (middle grade) what he had done with her.

I'm happy to report that this graphic novel is entirely different from my chapter book. Whereas I tried to be historically accurate and make the book educational - both to an extent! - this one went the other way and made a complete fiction of it, but I enjoyed it and consider it a worthy read.

In this introduction story, Cleo is abducted from Egypt and transported to a futuristic school out in interplanetary space, where she learns combat and weapons inter aliens. Fortunately everyone speaks Greek (which was Cleo's native language, although she spoke many others - at least as an adult - including Egyptian, which none of her Ptolemic forebears ever took the trouble to learn) so there are no language difficulties. Or maybe there's a universal translator in the air. I don't know. It's been a while since I read this! Anyway, Cleo goes on a mission and performs exemplary work, and that's about it. But then this is volume 1, so presumably there's more to come. I don't feel any great urge to rush out and get volume 2, but I might at some point, assuming there's one to be had.

As it is, I commend this as a fun and breezy story, although it won't tell you a thing about Cleopatra. She never did, for example, have a Louise Brooks-style 1920's bob. More than likely she was bald! Because of the head lice which were rife in Egypt, everyone shaved their heads, and kids ran around butt-naked. Cleo would have worn, if anything at all at that age, a wig which she could happily take off and have cleaned and maybe a short skirt. But its fiction, so what the hell!


Belly Up by Eva Darrows


Rating: WARTY!

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

This book rather rubbed me up the wrong way right on page one, so it seems that I and this author must part ways since this is the second one of her novels that I have not liked. I negatively reviewed the previous one in December 2018. So I guess I'm done with this author and she's no doubt glad to be done with me!

Even before I began to read this, I could see by the white space that this author evidently really dislikes trees, to want to slaughter so many to make a print book! Each chapter starts halfway down the page, and the margins on every page - which I assume is mapped out for a print version - had glaring, massive, tree-rasing white spaces. I'm slowly getting to the point where I'm thinking about DNF-ing and negatively reviewing all print books which are so disrespectful of the environment.

The next thing was in those first few lines where I read:

There's a first time for everything.
First time playing quarters.
First time spinning the bottle.
First totally hot consensual truck hookup with a superhot boy whose digits I forgot to get.
First time getting pregnant.
Surprised you with that one, didn't I?
Actually, no you didn't, because it's all in the back-cover book blurb! I know authors typically don't write their own blurbs unless they self-publish, but this author's blurb is word for word the opening lines of chapter one! The unexpected expectancy is central to the plot, so in what way was it even remotely a surprise? Not a lot of thought went into those opening lines! Fortunately, the book turned around somewhat after that, and it managed to draw me in, but the relationship 'tween author and reader was stretched even so, and by a quarter the way through, I could not stand to go on. This was a stillbirth.

So serendipity (yeah, why a mom only one generation away from her Swedish extraction would choose such a name goes unexplained), aka Sara-for-short, had a truly foolish hook-up with a guy she had never met before, knew nothing about, but nevertheless had unprotected sex with him - in his pickup truck (they're named pickups for a reason, and you should have no truck with them!).

I have to say that this girl comes off as profoundly stupid and so very easily manipulated by everyone. She never even went to get a morning after pill, and had no interest in getting checked up for STDs. Then of course she got pregnant and while the author wants us to believe she has some conflict in deciding what to do about it, the writing makes it clear she's already made her decision, so all the dithering and uncertainty felt completely fake in such a tell and no show novel.

The best example of this - and the one which made me give up on it - pops up about a quarter the way through the book, where Sara's mom is packing boxes into the car for transportation to her mom's house. The two of them are moving to live with Sara's grandmother to save on bills, This has nothing to do with the pregnancy, but when Sara offers to help, her mom ignorantly bans her from lifting, as though she's an invalid.

No! Pregnancy does not automatically make a woman an invalid! Women are not fragile. They're not delicate! They can lift things! They can open their own doors! They can even close car doors - Megan Markle proved it! What a shock! They do not need to be bubble-wrapped and set in a corner where they will not be interacting with anything dangerous! So why do authors, and even more shamefully, female authors, treat their own gender like its weak and delicate?

Yes, if there are medical reasons why she needs to take it easy, that's one thing, but in Sara's case she's a strong, healthy young woman with no medical issues and no pregnancy problems. She's just been given a clean bill of health by her doctor with no restrictions, she's only 11 weeks in, and yet her mom thinks it will be a disaster if she lifts a box or two of household items?

The problem with this is two-fold in that first, Sara hasn't decided if she's keeping the baby, so this concern seems a bit overdone given her ambivalence. If it miscarried, while that itself would be traumatic for her whether she wanted the child or not, it would solve her problem of not wanting to be saddled with a pregnancy in her circumstances, yet while every other remote and absurd eventuality seems to have crossed her overly fertile mind, this particular one never enters, not even in passing? It rather belies the ambivalence she's supposed to be feeling - hence the tell and not show problem.

But even if she was dead set on keeping it (she is, but the author thinks we haven't noticed), let's consider some real women. Jocelyn Benson, at 38, completed the Boston marathon in 6 hours while very pregnant. 35-year-old Amy Keil did the same thing at 34 weeks in 2015. Meghan Leatherman set personal records in Crossfit at 40 weeks, including weight-lifting. Lea-Ann Ellison did the same sort of thing.

At the 2009 Grammy awards, MIA, aka Mathangi Arulpragasam, got up and sang Swagger Like Us, danced in a bikini, and delivered her healthy child three days later. These women may be exceptional in more ways than one, and I am not suggesting that every woman carrying a baby immediately follow their example, but their example proves that pregnancy does not cripple a woman! It does not equate with being an invalid. It does not demand every woman for every pregnancy be coddled like fine bone china! Yet this author seems to think it does.

It would have been nice had the author shown that this young healthy woman could carry a box or two without having to call her friend to come over and help. Actually, given Sara's sorry ignorance, if her friend Devi, whom she'd inconvenienced by calling to come over and help had lectured her about what a pregnant woman could do, that would have made for some good reading.

As it is, it's a double problem in that Sara's mom thinks Sara is utterly helpless now she's pregnant, and Sara thinks her mom is inadequate in that she can't carry a few boxes out to the car by herself and desperately needs help. So we have a female author espousing 'weak women', and two female characters all but dismissing each other as a whole person. It was sad, and brought me that final step to DNF-ing this novel.

This author doesn't seem to have a good handle on pregnancy either, or needs to clarify her writing better. At one point she's talking of the baby being fully-formed, and later talking of it being a bean. Maybe she means the size of the fetus when she refers to a bean, but she's not being very clear what she means.

At eleven weeks a fetus might be described as the size of a large butter bean, but it is also recognizably humanoid. Despite looking human though (and ignoring the outsized head which is half the body's length at that stage) the baby still doesn't even have red blood cells, let alone be remotely viable in any other way. It's incapable of breathing before the second trimester, for example, because the neurological system isn't properly there, so despite looking humanoid, it has less going for it than your average caterpillar! So please do not take your what to expect when you're expecting lessons from this novel! Take 'em from a competent, experienced, and fully-qualified medical doctor!

In short, I cannot commend this as a worthy read. It was far too loosely-wrapped, and while I was certainly not expecting a medical manual, I did expect authenticity and realism and got neither.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Parfois by Emma Dodd


Rating: WORTHY!

Definitely the last review for 2018!

The author studied Graphic Design and Illustration at the famous Saint Martin's in London. This was a delightful novel which was perfectly intelligible even though written entirely in French (translated from the original English by Albin Michel Jeunesse). Why my local library had a book written entirely in French, I do not know, but since my French is very rusty and never was fluent, rest assured you would have an easy time too, no matter what state your lingo is in.

This colorful and short book is aimed at very young children, and depicts a naughty baby elephant getting up to antics as such offspring do. It was elphantastic. I predict that this young elephant is going to become very big.


Newsprints by Ru Xu


Rating: WARTY!

Despite her name, author Ru Xu grew up in Indianapolis. This graphic novel depicts a newsie - a newspaper delivery 'boy' named Blue, who is really a girl in disguise. She dresses as a boy so she can be involved in the preferentially male newspaper industry. As you might guess, this is not a modern tale. These days she would start her own blog. Blue is an orphan, and despite the push to have her, as a girl, do girly things to help the war effort, Blue has managed to escape all that and push equality to the fore, but she pushes a little too hard and a rival newspaper delivery gang resents her poaching on their turf. In process of escaping their pursuit, she discovers an old factory, which has a resident. In the course of interactions with this older man, Blue also meets crow, another person with something to hide, and a friendship develops.

I'd like to be able to commend this in some ways, but it really didn't have much of a story to tell. I wasn't appalled by it, but neither was I enthralled, so I can't say this was a worthy read I'm sorry to report.


The Last Conception by Eva Darrows


Rating: WARTY!

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

This was a novel that started out great, but then seems like it jumped the tracks and went off into a completely different territory and got lost. That - around sixty-six percent in, at the end of chapter eighteen - is where I quit reading it because it had become too boring and silly to pursue for me. Was it an LGBTQIA romance? Was it religious fiction? Was it a mystery? Was it supernatural? It couldn't decide.

I had really been invested in it because not only do I love reading about Indian characters I was also engaged in this particular character's lesbian relationship(s), but I lost interest when it lost its way and was no longer engaging. Part of the problem as that the main character, Savarna, was diminished and her role seemed to be taken over by minor characters such as her sister Chitra, who had barely been in the novel at all, and also in part by Savarna's girlfriend (one of two she had!) who had been in it more than Chitra, but was also largely a minor character until about the fifty percent mark.

It was very confusing and didn't make for a satisfactory read to have these people coming out of nowhere with no real past. Just as 'Charley' started becoming more interesting, Savarna rather cruelly abandoned her for a trip to India which was such a tedious whistle-stop tour that it was meaningless instead of being the pivotal event it ought to have been.

Savarna is an embryologist in a bit of a YA love triangle with the trope 'bad girl' as well as with 'sweet girl' Charlemagne, obviously the good softer, gentler partner. The bad girl completely disappeared from the novel without any explanation while Charlemagne, typically referred to as Charley, was also listed as Charlie on occasion. Savarna also appears twice in as Saverna.

She has Indian heritage - that is from India, not American Indian, but she has she no interest in her heritage or her parents' religion. Her parents have been urging her to find a nice boy and settle down, but neither of them know that Savarna is gay - not to begin with. Something suddenly changes (there are a lot of sudden changes in this novel) and her parents start urging her to have a child, because Savarna is supposedly the last of this ancient lineage from some mystical teacher in the past, and since her sister is 'barren'. It's all on Savarna, but no explanation is offered as to why this has so suddenly become an issue.

It's patent nonsense, because by the time Savarna was born her so-called 'blood line' would have been so genetically diluted as to be completely meaningless in terms of carrying on anything, and Savarna would have known this if she was the scientist she was supposed to be, yet her parents put this appalling pressure on their daughter, and nothing is said about that either? Savarna is supposed to be rooted in science, yet she never once questions any of this, and neither does her 'devoted' girlfriend Charley.

Eventually Savarna bows right down to the pressure for no apparent reason, and desperately starts trying to get pregnant using sperm supplied by a completely unquestioning coworker, who himself has a partner who never seems to question his involvement at all - in fact, she's barely mentioned.

None of this made any sense to me, and it seemed so utterly unrealistic that I couldn't take it seriously. No one talked about how stupid this blood line idea was, and no one talked about how inappropriate it was to put that kind of pressure on a woman to have a child. Neither was there any reason supplied as to why it was so critical that they have this child. So what if the line died out? We don't know because it was never discussed. This whole mess is where the novel lost me as a fan.

Note to author: You can't carbon-date something if it doesn't have carbon in it, so gold? No! Maybe the old robe if it was made of natural materials, which I assume it was, but even then, you can't nail it to an actual year, only to a range of years, so you could prove the robe is roughly X years old, but not to whom it belonged. But none of this mattered really because no significance was ever attached to the existence of the robe and the ring - what did it matter? So what if they were old and really had belonged to a guru? What difference did that make to anyone?

No-one was questioning that this sect existed and had been around for many years, so the robe and ring seemed pointless. I assume they were brought in to convince Savarna, but nowhere was that change of opinion really predicated on the evidence. In short, it had no influence on her precipitously diving into this conception binge, so what was the point? She'd already begin trying to get pregnant before she ever went to India so what was the point of that? These things never had any real import or relevance. By this time the novel was a complete mess. It was like utterly random stuff had been tossed in for no good reason, and I gave up on it.

I had thought I would be reading a complex novel about a strong lesbian woman and difficult choice, but none of that was in this novel. Savarna was not remotely strong except in her stubborn determination not to have a baby, which rapidly crumbled for no good reason. She was stringing along two lesbian partners and did not have the intellectual wherewithal to choose the one who was best for her, so she came off like an idiot at best and a cruel player at worst.

She more or less fell into the relationship with Charley/Charlie and then began talking of raising a family with this same woman she was unable to honestly commit to for half the novel? To me, Sarvarna was simply a jerk. If it had been Savarna who was obsessing on continuing her family lineage (for whatever reason) that would have at least been something concrete, but for her not to really care that much and then suddenly obsess on it made her look weak, stupid, and childishly impulsive.

Her girlfriend Charley/Charlie could have been a really strong character, but she was essentially reduced to the job of nursemaid with benefits, having vague sex with Savarna at random times, and titillating her after she's been injected with her coworker's semen. Those scenes felt a bit creepy , but was Charley/Charlie really supporting her? Not so much. Savarna was already resenting her presence. Did Charley/Charlie fight to travel with her to India? Nope. Did Charley/Charlie question this whole thing, including Savarna's psychotic parental pressure? Nope. The only thing Charley/Charlie did was to railroad through the 'carbon-dating' of the artefacts, and she did this in such an underhand fashion, going behind Savarna's back that it actually made her look like a meddling troublemaker.

The book felt like it really wasn't ready for prime time. In general the writing was not bad, but there were some issues such as the variant name spellings I mentioned above, and also minor instances such as where I read, "And what, per se, where you asking?", which clearly should read 'were you asking'. The biggest technical problem though, was the same issue I've encountered repeatedly when Amazon gets its hands on your book and mangles out a kindle version of it. This novel was obviously written as a print book with (what to me are pointless) page headers and so on, but Amazon mangles these things with glee, so there were page headers appearing in the middle of the text.

That's not all! Most of the first two paragraphs in chapter thirteen were in red - presumably because of Amazon's crappy Kindle conversion process. As if that wasn't enough, random sets of those red words were tied together with no space between them such as: haveGrandma'sthingscheckedout,but. There were many other examples. In chapter eighteen there were nine screens of badly-formatted text. The justification was lost, so the text had ragged right margins, and again, headers were mixed with text, so the Kindle version is definitely not fit to sell, and that fact that this wasn't;t checked is on both publisher and author. It should never have been offered for review in this state.

But the formatting is something that can be fixed relatively easily. A tedious story that makes no sense and demeans its main character cannot be fixed without a rewrite. Consequently I cannot commend this as a worthy read.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson


Rating: WORTHY!

OK, so I'm willing to admit that I may have overdone it with the graphic novels lately! Anyway, here’s another one, this time aimed at a younger audience, but which entertained me despite that! It was amusing, decently-written, and contained some fun antics. I think kids will love reading or better yet being read to about the escape plans of these classroom pets, especially if you sit ‘em on your knee and activate the story by jogging the kid around a bit to match the pets’ escape activities. I commend it as a short, but colorful and fun story.


Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert, Fabien Vehlmann Kerascoët


Rating: WORTHY!

Set in 1930s Paris, this was a fun "naughty" (but not too naughty) novel about a young girl Blanche, who sees her sister Agatha murdered by the 'Butcher of the Dances'. No one will believe her, and Agatha is written-off as a suicide. Losing her job as a maid, Blanche seeks work at the Pompadour, an elite brothel, and the only place which might take her in. She's almost laughed out of even there, but once taken in, quickly establishes herself as a mistress of untouchability and the virgin dominatrix.

But she hasn't forgotten her sister and slowly begins to unravel the brutal crime, while fending off assaults from patrons, unwelcome attempts at relieving her of her prized virginity, and shifting allegiances among the call-girls. This made for a different and fun read and I commend it.


Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook experiment which looked superficially good but which turned out to be just another idiot romance in the telling. It’s been only a short while, but the novel is already a vague memory to me. So this woman on Hawaii at the outbreak of WW2, which for the US began on December 7th, two years after everyone else signed up!

This woman whose name I happily have forgot, is supposedly widowed - her husband was at the dock, blood was found, but no body - which typically means he’s still alive, is evidently not that caring about him because she easily falls for a smooth-talking soldier who is stationed on the island and becomes way too familiar with her way too fast. That’s when I ditched this as a waste of my time. I'm guessing the husband is alive and having an affair with some other woman, which gives the main character the freedom to carry on with the soldier. There are better-written and even badly-written yet still more entertaining stories out there which I’m not going to get to if I waste more time than is necessary on one’s like this. Based on about a third of this that I could stand to listen to, I can’t commend it.


Sky Doll by Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa


Rating: WARTY!

Written and illustrated by both Barbucci and Canepa, this story tells of Noa, a life-like female android, otherwise known as a sky doll, and as such, having no rights. She serves the state, but gets other ideas after encountering two people who aid in her escape after which she begins to learn that there is more to her than meets the thigh.

I was unimpressed by this story and I believe (it was a while back since I read it), that I ditched it DNF. I can't commend it. It had so much potential, but that seemed to be lost under cheap genderist superficiality. You'd think the female contributor would have done a better job.


Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki


Rating: WORTHY!

Also known as Toshiyuki Araki, this author's oddball graphic novel tells of a young man's arrival at a boarding house where he encounters a mysterious divorcée, with whom he has an oddball but platonic relationship. Rohan himself wants to be a manganeer of course, dreaming of creating his own comic book. It is this, rather than Rohan himself which attracts the attention of the divorcée, despite her violent treatment of his first effort - because he drew her as a part of it. In a moment they have together, she reveals to him the story of the most evil painting ever put on canvas, and which is kept locked-away in the darkest corner of the Louvre.

A decade later, Rohan discovers that the painting this woman told him of actually exists, and is everything she claimed for it! Beautifully illustrated and artfully told, this was an enjoyable and wistful fantasy tale in more than one way. I commend it as a worthy read.