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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a huge fan of this author, but this short, amusing, and colorful pasteboard book for young children was a worthy read I thought, and the art by Mark Teague was great.

I think Dinosaurs are overdone these days, but this was a different take: working on the assumption of something which never happened in real life - that humans and dinosaurs existed together. This book amusingly takes that farce one step further by turning dinos into fellow citizens, who have lives and like to go out to eat - which seems to be true based on fossil evidence. Their al fresco dining habits are well documented.

Unfortunately their manners leave a lot to be desired and this is not so well-attested by fossil evidence, which is why this book is important! I found it entertaining, especially for the intended audience, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Hair by Leslie Patricelli


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusingly written and colorfully illustrated young children's pasteboard-style book about hair, which I found amusing. I can't speak to whether young kids will find it the same, but my best guess is they will enjoy it. It's the perfect read when you're readying to take them to the hairdresser for the first time. It was actually in a hairdresser's that I found this in a rack for the very purpose of entertaining young visitors. It covers several aspects of haircare and hair interests and I thought it was fun and a worthy read for the intended audience.


Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart


Rating: WARTY!

I picked up this audiobook because it was based on a true story which I found fascinating. The title comes straight from a newspaper headline about the very character this novel is based on. I didn't realize it was the start of a series since there was absolutely nothing on the audiobook cover to indicate any such thing. Thanks Big Publishing™! We do understand that you don't give a shit about readers, but could you at least show a modicum of kindness by not making your disdain quite so painfully obvious?

The novel interested me to begin with, but the story took so drearily long to go anywhere at all that I became bored and ended up DNF-ing it about halfway through. I honestly couldn't believe that such a fascinating true story could be rendered so horribly boring. Way to go Amy Stewart.

It was read by Christina Moore and I still can't make up my mind whether I found her reading acceptable or not; it was right on the cusp of okay and annoying! What bothered me most though was that the main character, with the highly amusing - but real - name of Constance Kopp, seemed so lackadaisical and retiring. I am guessing she was not at all like that in real life, so it felt like an insult. I don't mind so much if a characters starts out less than prepossessing, but when they show little or no sign of improving, growing, or changing in any way, it irritates me.

The Kopp sisters lived together in an old farmhouse and in this story are constantly quibbling with each other. Sometimes this was annoying, other times amusing, so that was a mixed bag. Just how realistic this was is anyone's guess, but there really were three sisters.

The author encountered their story when researching a different novel. She discovered an article from 1915 which talked about a man named Henry Kaufman who ran his automobile into a buggy being driven by these sisters: Constance, Norma and Fleurette Kopp. He refused to pay and when they pursued him for damages, he began a concerted campaign of harassment against them. Kaufman's family was wealthy and he was privileged and thought he could get away with intimidating them. He couldn't.

A local sheriff armed the three sisters and eventually Kaufman was fined $1,000 (about $24,000 today) and warned-off interfering with the sisters ever again. Constance, who was six feet tall - very tall for 1915, even for a man - then worked as an undersheriff for two years and afterwards disappeared into obscurity. It seems to me the real story of this woman would be far more engrossing than this rather bloated fictionalized version, which I cannot commend.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Bump in the Night by Edward Hemingway


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of my local library's commendable "Banned Books" which are on display right in the entrance - books that have been banned or challenged in the US. I've reviewed several of them over the last few weeks.

This is one aimed at children and dealing with the fear of the dark and monsters under the bed. I don't know if this author is related to Ernest Hemingway, but with a name like E Hemingway on the cover, I expected more, even though I'm not remotely a fan of Hemingway. I did a parody of his hilarious Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber in my Poem y Granite book of poetry and short stories, the e-version of which is going to be available for free at Barnes and Noble, but other than that I have no interest in him.

As far as this book is concerned, I didn't like it. That's no reason to ban it of course, but for the life of me I could see no reason why anyone would challenge a book like this. Because it's wrong-headed maybe?! I dunno! I can't commend it because I think it took entirely the wrong approach. Rather than let kids know there's no reason to fear the dark (and explaining why people fear the dark), and assuring that there are no monsters under the bed, this book embraces them and pretends that yes, there really are monsters, but some of them are friendly...?

So I really didn't get what it hoped to achieve. It's obvious that a fear like this is irrational (even though in our evolutionary history it was perfectly rational!), but there are rational ways of dealing with such fears, and I think this book took the wrong approach is all.


Crossing the Empty Quarter by Carol Swain


Rating: WARTY!

I had no idea what this was about even having read about two-thirds of it and skimmed the rest. It looked gorgeous from the cover, but the interior was nothing like the cover, and the stories, some thirty of them, were meaningless, disjoined and unappealing. Bereft of entertainment value, even the artwork felt like a betrayal since it was black and white and of lower quality than the cover.

I'm used to seeing this in graphic novels - a sort of bait and switch with a stunning cover paired with an indifferent interior, but often that's made up for by the quality of the story, In this case, no. There was no story. Instead there was a jumble of stories, all equally uninteresting. It should have been called Bleak House, but empty quarter isn't exactly inaccurate. Empty to the back teeth would have been better. I refuse to commend it in any way.


Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package by Kate DiCamillo


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook I picked up after enjoying an advance review copy of Dicamillo's Louisiana's Way Home. I loved that novel, but this audiobook was a disaster for me. It was read by a woman with the amazing name of Lorna Raver, but I wasn't much impressed by her reading. It was the story itself that was the worst part, though. The story is very short, so it has that going for it, but it simply wasn't interesting or sensible to me. Maybe it wasn't intended to be sensible, but if that was the case, it wasn't goofy enough to be silly, either.

The story is that Eugenia Lincoln, a staid mature woman who lives with a younger, less-staid sister, is the recipient of this package, which I suspected her sister sent, but I gave up on the story before I ever found out who was the benefactor. The package contains a piano accordion and it incenses Eugenia - who never ordered it. She calls the supplier and demands they pick it up, but they claim they have a no return policy, so Eugenia decides to throw the thing away. As you might guess, that doesn't happen and she ends up liking it.

I honestly didn't see the point of this particular story. It wasn't funny, or entertaining, or educational. It was simply irritating to me, and the main problem was that there were so many interfering busy-bodies in Eugenia's life, all of whom she detested, yet not one of whom she had the wherewithal to dismiss from her premises, let alone her life. If these people had been amusing or downright weird, it might have been entertaining, but it's evidently one of those stories which the blurb typically advertises as 'quirky' and which has 'zany characters' and I normally avoid such stories like the proverbial plague. If you've ever been infected by Proverbialis pestis, you will know exactly what I mean. I can't commend this.


Monday, October 1, 2018

She-Hulk. Vol. 1, Deconstructed by Mariko Tamaki, Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajić, Matt Milla, Andrew Crossley


Rating: WORTHY!

This is where my understandably one-sided love affair with Mariko Tamaki began! She wrote this and it was illustrated well by Nico Leon and Dalibor Talajić, and colored beautifully by Matt Milla and Andrew Crossley. This comic book was a worthy read. She-Hulk was problematical and a potential disaster when she was first conceived, apparently by Stan Lee during the TV run of The Hulk, so copyright would stay with Marvel and not with some TV production company in case they decided they wanted a female version!).

Lawyer Jennifer Walters (what is it with Marvel and super heroes who are lawyers?!) became a rather more subdued version of the original Hulk when she had a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (who was the original Hulk of course). By subdued, the effect in her is to become stronger and to turn green, but to retain her own personality and smarts, something which the Hulk isn't known for.

Despite it being named volume 1 (I wish they would not do that), this is not the original run of the comic; this version is well-along in the overall life of She-Hulk - post Civil War 2. With Bruce dead, his cousin trying to cope with that and find her place in the world. Her own original comic ran only for two years at the start of the eighties and after that she was reduced to guest appearances in other comics until more recently. It's nice to see her revived, and with a female writer who happens to be one I've grown fond of lately.

She-Hulk took a few pages out of Deadpool's book in one of her later incarnations, breaking the fourth wall, and mimicking cultural icons such as Demi Moore's bare-bodied, pregnant-and-in-the-magazine-cover pose. She-Hulk wasn't pregnant but held a beach-ball strategically! In this volume though, she's well-behaved and quite subdued. That doesn't mean it's all Jennifer all the time, by any means. The comic told an intelligent and believable story and I enjoyed it. I commend this one and will look for more of this series.


Kickback by Judith Arnold, Ariel Berk, Thea Frederick, Barbara Keiler


Rating: WARTY!

This was a major screw-up! I got this book under the cover of Still Kicking which is the first book in the Lainie Lovett mystery series (originally published as Dead Ball) which title is advertised in the back of this novel! LOL! There's a sample chapter of DropKick at the back also, which is the very novel I was reading, but the sample chapter was not the same as the chapter one in the book I was reading, Someone was very confused when they put all this together!

I am not a series person, so I was amused to discover that this book is in fact the third book in the series and it was sold under the wrong cover. The third book - the one I am actually reading, was called Kickback. The second book was Dropkick. I learned of these two other books from references in this third book. As if that isn't confusing enough, the author has the annoying, and to me inexplicable if not inexcusable habit of publishing under other names. Her real name is Barbara Keiler, but she publishes under three other names listed in the title

On a point of order, there's no such thing as a dropkick in soccer - or football as the rest of the world calls it - because Americans inexplicably call handball 'football' and handball itself is something else - and an offense in soccer! Maybe the American game should be call 'runball' or 'carryball'? Neither is there a term 'dead ball' in soccer for that matter. I think this gimmick of giving your amateur detective a gimmick and then using that as a seed for gimmicky book titles is insulting to the reader - like a reader couldn't remember which author she likes? Or what the book series is that she likes? Call me perverse, but I have more faith in readers than that, misplaced as it may be!

But on to the story. The story was as confused and confusing as selling the wrong novel under the title. And it's not well-written. If this is what a master's degree in creative writing from Brown University gets you, I'm happy to be degree-free. This is yet another in a too-long line of 'housewife' detective stories where a female with evidently too little to do with her time masterfully one-ups the inevitably inept police in solving a murder.

This kind of story tends to take place in a town too small to support the massive murder rate the series slowly reveals. Why would anyone live in a town like that? The amateur detective tends to be appallingly slow on the uptake and this means the story, which could have completed handily in 150 pages, ends up being, as this one was, 270-some pages long. It's way too long and the 'detective' looks stupid because of it. She repeatedly fails to share information with the police, which is actually a criminal offense, and she fails to act like a normal, rational human being in common-sense situations, and worse, consistently fails to add two and two. Instead she comes up with zero and takes her time doing it. As a teacher she should know she should show her work!

This school teacher, Lainie, learns that $150,000 has been stolen from the school's PTA account. It takes a while to get this information, and this is the first inkling I had that Lainie's dinghy has a few holes in it. Never once does anyone seem to ask if anyone is tracing the loss of funds. In fact, it's not even clear (through the fifty percent of this novel that I read before DNF-ing) that it's been reported to the police. They're certainly not investigating because if they were, they would have arrested Debbie the secretary because the trail clearly leads to her. Debbie's computer isn't even taken as evidence by the police - instead, it's still in use at the school, so anyone who might have impersonated Debbie and moved the funds has ample time to cover their tracks. There's actually no evidence of any police investigation whatsoever.

What happened (we learn in the story's own sweet time) was that the money was transferred from the PTA account to another account, then that one was closed with the money having been withdrawn. You'd think the bank would have records of where the money went and you'd think a bank teller would remember someone who closed an account and picked up a check for $150,000, but none of this is mentioned. The husband would seem to be the obvious suspect - and he's feeding his wife fruit smoothies every day - into which the deadly drug - Viagra, which is potentially deadly for someone with heart problems, could easily have been slipped, yet Lainie never suspects this guy at all despite the fact that he was an accountant and would know exactly how to move money around.

Lainie is tunnel-focused on the head of the PTA, which in this novel is consistently referred to as the PTO - which to me is Paid Time Off, so that works! LOL! But she's so focused on her - the 'obvious' suspect - that she cannot see anyone else. Meanwhile I'm suspecting the husband, I'm suspecting the friendly nice teacher Lainie knows because he's too nice and there's no reason to suspect him. I'm suspecting Lainie's favorite suspect's daughter, who we're told more than once is a genius on the computer. I'm suspecting this couple, the husband of which was discovered to be cheating on the wife when she discovered Viagra - Viagra! - in his briefcase, several pills of which were missing. Lainie never even considers that, nor does she sneakily visit the bathroom in Debbie's house to check the medicine cabinet to see if there actually is Viagra there among the medicines that Debbie might have actually taken by accident. In short, Lainie's a moron who has no business interfering in a police investigation.

At one point, Lainie learns that the nice teacher, with the absurd name of Garth, had a very brief fling with the bitchy PTO woman Cynthia Frick and Lainie got all over him on that topic, which seemed to me to be none of her business. Yes, Cynthia has a daughter at the school, but that's no reason for Lainie to get on this teacher's case about being involved with her. If he'd had an affair with a student I could see her taking off like that, but with a parent? It just seemed like too much, so I wondered if this was to set up this teacher as a bad guy for later revelations that he was the perp?

The biggest problem with Lainie (apart from her lack of gray matter) is that she's so passive, and I think the writer is a bit lazy in letting some things go without offering some sort of valid reason or explanation for her behavior or for the way things happen. What made me quit the novel was that Lainie was quite obvious tailed by someone in another car, yet never once does she snap a picture of the car's license plate and of course she doesn't report it to the police. That was the final straw for me. Lainie is too stupid for words. I cannot commend this at all.


Quantum Mechanics by Jeff Weigel


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was one of the most entertaining graphic novels I've read in a while. Free-wheeling, fast moving, full of heart and invention, and original story, engrossing, and not a human in sight! I don't know if it's aimed at younger readers, but I found it perfectly fine and I'm definitely not a younger reader, but it will serve them too, especially girls who already really know they can do anything, but perhaps need an occasional bit of encouragement to keep them reminded so they don't get remaindered! I'm always an advocate of US writers getting away from the idea that the 'US is the only country worth writing about'. It;s such a trope and this story isn't only outside the US, it's quite literally out of this world.

It's about these two alien girls, one of whom is orphaned. The other lives close by with her mom and dad. Dad is a mechanic and they live on an asteroid surrounded by a mess of defunct spacecraft. The two girls are always trying to fix up something they can fly and all-too-often lack the pristine parts they need to do the work properly, leaving them with less than desirable results, but they're optimistic and inventive, and they never give up.

Into this sweet life comes an old acquaintance of their dad's asking for help in repairing his spacecraft - the Quasar Torrent - a request dad flatly refuses. His daughter decides this is a nifty way to make some cash and buy new parts for their own projects, so Rox and Zam offer to fix the problem only to discover, when the work is done, that they're no longer on the asteroid and are now part of a pirate crew in space - kidnapped!

As their tenure aboard as resident mechanics continues, and they fix all sorts of problems and befriend the easy-going crew, they realize there's more to this pirate life than they'd thought, and they also realize their captain isn't a nice guy at all. Plus, there are stowaways aboard!

Zam and Rox manage to juggle all these issues while keeping their sense of humor and upping their skill set, and a great story with a sweet ending is the result. The story is intelligent and fun, and the artwork is wonderful. I fully commend this as a worthy read (with a great title!)


Monday, September 3, 2018

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Nathan Fairbairn


Rating: WORTHY!

Last volume! A worthy read. Scott finally confronts Gideon, who is much less of a mystery figure in the book than he is in the movie. Ramona has vanished and Scott is so stupid that he thinks she has gone to Gideon despite clear indications to the contrary. Unlike in the movie, she never does go off with Gideon and is entrapped by him only in her mind. Also unlike the movie, and I'm sorry for this, Knives Chau never does become a ninja maiden and fight against Gideon alongside Scott. I think the movie makers made a wise choice in that departure because that scene was awesome.

The character interactions were much warmer and more realistic (and still amusing) in this volume and in volume five, and it made for a deeper and better story. Again, Kim Pine was outstanding. Again Ramona wasn't quite and scintillating as she was in the movie. It felt like some things were not wrapped up here, but that didn't really spoil it. Anyway, after moping over Ramona for the first half of the book, Scott decides to confront Gideon at the opening of his new club and the inevitable battle begins. Scott is killed, but he has gained for himself another life during his previous episodes, and comes back to life, better than ever.

Ramona and Scott don't go off into the sunset at the end, but they do go off into the subspace world which works even better. I commend this as a worthy read.


Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Nathan Fairbairn


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the penultimate volume of the Scott Pilgrim hexalogy and after having not really liked the middle two so much, I'm happy to report that the trailing bookend pair were pretty good. They were a little bit different and had more soul to them, and they were more entertaining. The artwork as usual was as usual.

In volume five, he faces off against the Japanese twins, who keep sending robots to attack him. This is completely different from the movie, and is actually more entertaining. The movie was a bit repetitive itself in this regard because the battle with the twins was really nothing more than an amplified version of his battle with Todd Ingram, whereas in the book, it's necessarily more extended and more inventive.

Also, the intriguing Kim really starts coming into her own, not least of which is for noticing - and photographing - the fact that Ramona has a glow, which I was sorry to learn never actually was explained. Anyway, that aside, I commend volume five as a worthy read.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Tib & Tumtum by Flora Grimaldi, Nicolas Bannister


Rating: WARTY!

This is a Calvin and Hobbes wannabe and it fails. It also has elements of Minecraft in it in that this area looked like a series of giant stacked flower boxes straight out of Minecraft's lack of design workshop. I learned later that it was supposed to be a cliff! The art other than that, by Bannister, wasn't bad. The stories by Grimaldi were boring and uninventive.

The story is of Neanderthal kid Tib, who has a birthmark in the form of a red splash around his left eye. Other kids constantly make fun of him because of this. He's friends with a dinosaur (the Hobbes of the duo) named Tumtum, which animal his mother detests because she thinks it's dangerous. Well, it is to bird chicks, because this one poor nestling who fell out of the tree was swallowed whole and eaten by the dinosaur without a second thought.

The entire graphic novel is a series of one page cartoons retelling the same stories of cruelty and stupidity and bullying and loneliness over and over. The kid is bullied by his peers, or he plays with the dinosaur. His parents are largely absent and don't seem to care how miserable the other kids make him. The story is a disgrace and therefore warty.

Anyone who thinks humans and dinosaurs ever lived at the same time in history is a moron, period. I'm not going to recommend a book that panders to that while at the same time offering nothing to ameliorate it and make it worthwhile suffering this fictional lie. If it had been a sabertooth cat for example, in place of the dinosaur, it would have made more sense, but I'm guessing that the authors didn't do that because it would have shown exactly how much of a cheap rip-off of Calvin and Hobbes this book truly is.

The book doesn't even attempt to teach any history with all of the people having a modern mindset and using a modern vocabulary. All the author did was to take the laziest way out possible: put modern people into stone-age times, add an anachronistic dinosaur and hope people will (literally) buy it, without making any attempt to offer anything original, educational, inventive, fresh or new. Why not rip off the kids? It's pathetic.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hild by Nicola Griffith


Rating: WARTY!

This is a tome! A five-hundred page novel which I normally avoid like the plague for the very reasons which led me to DNF-ing this one.

I normally do not trust a book by its cover, because covers are so misleading. Experience has taught me that they're all too often created by someone who has no idea what's in the book, and so the cover has nothing to do either with the author or the novel. This is why I laugh out loud when I learn of some idiot author hosting a big "cover reveal" like it's some spectacular event. I ahve no time for that. I'm much more interested in what you wrote, not how pretty your cover is.

The cover of this novel shows a young woman in armor à la Jeanne d'Arc, and it;s entirely misleading. The woman in the novel - at least as far as I read - is no warrior woman; she's a mystic. Even that would have been fine by me if the novel had gone anywhere, but it never did - not through the first thirds or so of it, which is when I gave up on it because it was becoming tedious to read and literally nothing was happening.

If I had wanted to learn about the dark ages, I would have read a scholarly book about it instead of this one. I don't mind some atmospheric scene setting, but when it hampers the story, it's too much. I don't want to spend my reading time learning how much research the author did! I want to spend it seeing the characters do interesting things, have meaningful interactions, and go to fascinating places. There was none of that here. This character, Hild, was one of the most passive and tedious characters I've ever read of in a book. I'm sorry but no!


Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Nathan Fairbairn


Rating: WARTY!

On to volume four, which was just as much of a disappointment as volume three, and for the same reasons: one note story, nothing fresh on the table, repetition of the motifs from previous stories.

Thee was a mild improvement which came from this short section where Knives's dad comes after Scott with a sword and ends up killing off one of the exes which is left entirely out of the movie, but that was about it. Everything else was humdrum. Even Ramona! Even that section was a bit stereotyping in that her Asian father is portrayed as a sword-weilding vengeance seeker.

I was thinking about this Ramona issue, too, and I think one of my problems with this was that Ramona was portrayed so perfectly by Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the movie that the graphic novel version of her looks rather threadbare in comparison. She has her moments but she cannot hold any sort of decent candle to the movie Ramona.

Another problem I had with this was that it was more exploitative than previous volumes: a lot of female characters were drawn seemingly for purely carnal purposes than I recall from the earlier outings, including Knives, whom we're told is still seventeen. It's like on the one hand the author wants to represent her as an innocent child in need of protection, but on the other he has no problem depicting her in a bikini on a beach for no purpose other than to show her ass (which appears more than once in this volume).

So, I was not impressed with this one either, and I cannot commend it.


Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Nathan Fairbirn


Rating: WARTY!

Now it's my sad duty to report on two failures by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Volumes three and four of this series. Starting with volume three. This is one reason why I dislike series as a general rule because they are frequently so derivative and lazy and it's hard to be genuinely creative when all you;re really doing is telling the same old story over and over again which is all too often what series end up doing.

I came to this by way of the movie which I'd been in two minds about watching for some time, but I discussed it with myself and we came to an agreement: I wouldn't spoil the movie if I agreed to give it a fair shot. I watched the movie with my kids and it was hilarious, so then I decided to go to the source and read the graphic novels.

There are six and I didn't realize that the movie encompassed all of them. Given what had happened with the first volume, it quickly became evident that some serious departures from the books must have occurred over the remaining five volumes and sure enough, this was the case. I was hoping this meant more fun, but starting with volume two, the graphic novels and the movie parted ways increasingly while still telling the same overall story.

The problem was that while the movie told a cogent and succinct story, the graphic novels were all over the place and I could see why much of it had been cut out of the movie. I could also see that if you really liked the graphic novels, and then moved on to the movie, you might not like it so well, or vice-versa.

I positively reviewed the first two volumes. Volume one was like watching the movie - which had been taken almost frame for frame and word for word from the comic. Volume two departed somewhat but was still a worthy read. After that it has gone downhill, based on my experience of volumes three and four, I'm sorry to report. It would seem like there's not a lot new that can be added given that the author has locked Scott into fighting every one of Ramona's evil exes.

Volume three is entirely about Scott's run in with Ted Ingram, Envy's band-mate and boyfriend, aka The Vegan. There's also a lot of fluff tossed in which did not entertain me. The story continues with the flags added to characters, like telling us that Knives Chau is seventeen, or tallying up how much Scott won for beating an opponent, or what kind of an outfit he's wearing, or telling Ramona he loves her. These are things we already know and it was simply irritating to read those this time around. It wasn't inventive any more, and it brought nothing fresh to the table.

So the hot potato of volumes one and two was now a wrinkled, drying, sprouting and slightly smelly potato that cannot be improved, no even by frying, and overall I can't commend this as a worthy read. If you're addicted to the series or if you haven't seen the movie and want to find out how it play out, then go ahead by all means, but it left me disappointed.


Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun graphic novel in nicely-drawn grayscale, about this girl, Anya Borzakovskaya, a Russian émigré who lives with her kid brother and her mother, and is trying not to feel like the odd one out at this private school she attends, trying to play down her origins, losing her accent, trying to fit in. She even refuses her mother's сырники (syrniki, a sweet cheese fritter. I had to look that up after first translating the Russian!) because she thinks she's overweight. She really isn’t, but shamefully slick advertising has brainwashed far too many girls into thinking they are.

I couldn’t quite follow how she ended-up going home in the dark though a deserted field, but she did. And she fell into a well. Fortunately, all was well, because despite the depth of it, she landed at the bottom without breaking or spraining anything. The problem is that it’s a deserted area and there's no one around except these bones, which bring forth the ghost of the girl, Emily, who once owned the bones. This is Anya's ghost.

When Anya finally is discovered and gets out, Emily, whose ghost has been tied to her bones for ninety years, somehow manages to follow her. At first this freaks out Anya, but after she discovers that Emily is useful, she becomes somewhat less fraught with misgivings. Emily can’t be seen by anyone else, and so is able to crib answers from other students during a test and relay them to Anya, for example. Having spent a lot of her free time reading fashion magazines in Anya's bedroom, Emily is also able to advise Anya on how to dress to kill, and put on make-up for a party she wouldn’t normally have attended.

It would seem that all was well with this new relationship in Anya's life, but when Anya starts talking about putting the ghost to rest, Emily deflects the matter repeatedly. Anya is a strong female character though and pursues the quest unbeknownst to Emily, co-opting the aid of another Russian émigré, a boy whom Anya had had little time for until now. What she learns from her investigation is disturbing, leading to a disturbing confrontation with Emily.

I really enjoyed this story. It was in some ways reminiscent of others I've read or seen in movies, but nonetheless fresh and very entertaining. The artwork was sweet, sand the main character, Anya, was admirable and very cute. I definitely would read something else by this author, and especially if it featuring this same character.


Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Jason Fischer, Nathan Fairbairn


Rating: WORTHY!

I've slowly become a fan of this author, and this was no exception despite a new team coming on board, with Jason Fischer co-illustrating and Nathan Fairbairn coloring.

Katie Clay (as in 'subject to being molded') is a chef who is the founder and co-owner of a restaurant called Seconds, but she longs to start her own place, and has been putting money into this derelict place she plans on naming 'Katie's'. How she is the founding owner but also co-owner of this restaurant isn't explained.

She has an ex, Max, who seems to want to get back with her, but the reason why they're no longer together isn't given and Katie seems rather resentful of him. She's having a very casual affair with the cook instead, and trying to figure out the deal with this tall dark waitress, Hazel, who has been working the tables at the restaurant for a while, but who is an enigma to Katie, not least because she draws curious pictures of this odd-looking girl in her spare time.

Katie has two encounters, one with some magic mushrooms (no, not that kind!) growing under the floorboards, and the other with Lis, who is apparently the house spirit of the Seconds establishment, which is housed in a venerable building. Katie lives in the attic room of this building. One night, Lis appears and introduces Katie to the mushroom before Katie finds out where they grow. Katie gets a do-over and can fix problems from the past by writing her wish in a notebook which Lis also gives her, and then eating the mushroom while on the premises. In the do-over, Katie is the only one who knows that this is an alternate reality.

Katie's told she gets only one do-over, but she's not happy with it, and when she discovers the mushroom trove, she steals twelve of them. Despite Lis's angry admonishment, and she begins doing-over her do-over multiple times. In her do-vers, Katie becomes closer to Hazel and discovers that Hazel is drawing Lis, but cannot see her. Hazel is also the one who placates Lis by leaving clothing and bread for her in the rafters.

This story is in some ways reminiscent of the movie The Butterfly Effect in that her do-overs seem to progressively make things worse rather than better, and with Lis's help, Katie realizes that there's a third influence working against her wishes. In the end she manages to get what she thinks she wants - and certainly what she can live with.

The drawings are simplistic and offer limited coloring, but are nonetheless well done and charming. They tell as much of the story as the text does. While I wasn't sure about Katie's feelings for Max or why she had them, or why she misbehaved, I did enjoy the story. It's easy to get through and entertaining. I commend this graphic novel as a worthy read.


Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves


Rating: WARTY!

After reading about a third of this I came to the conclusion that while librarians may be experts on the concept and management of books, this doesn't necessarily translate to the content of a book. For a novel written by a librarian, this book was lacking far too much. It made no sense, was poorly written, and was larded with cliché.

The story is your usual teen trope: a new girl in a new town having acceptance problems. The author throws in the supernatural, but instead of this making the story better, it made it far worse. It didn't help that said teen, Hanna, wasn't remotely likeable. She was living with her aunt, but decided to hit her aunt over the head with a bottle, and leave, thinking her aunt was more than likely dead, to move to small town Texas, where her mother lives. This was a good move since both of these women were quite evidently sociopaths at best, and belonged together.

Hanna hears her dead father talking to her until she starts back on her meds, having negotiated with her mom a two week stay of eviction to prove she can make friends in her new school. Thus far there had been nothing remotely plausible in this story, but that was about to improve. Soon there would be nothing conceivably plausible.

Despite the school being possessed by some parasite that resides in the windows and can turn a living being into glass while sucking the life force and all organic tissue from them, not one single person: not her mother, not her teachers, nor her classmates, tell her a single thing about what's going on, nor do they offer a single warning to her, or a single piece of advice on how to protect herself. I'm sorry but no. The author has made the typical YA writer's blinkered assumption that every single person is exactly the same, has the same feelings and motives and will treat a newcomer to the school in exactly the same cruel manner. I've come to expect this from your average female YA writer; I made the mistake of expecting more from a librarian.

Worse than this, this supernatural crap has been going on at this school for months, yet not a single alarm has been raised about kids dying or going missing. No one from out of town has any idea there's something seriously wrong with this town?

There's also something seriously wrong with the majority of YA authors. A few of them are brilliant, but far too many of them seem to be incapable of creativity or imagination and end up taking the road of least effort, cloning everything everyone else has already written, and applying the same brain-dead ham-fisted techniques of authorship to it. YA is the most blundering, dead-end, mindless, derivative, festering swamp of unoriginality and cluelessness, rivalled only by chick-lit café and/or bakery 'sleuthing' genre (I flatly refuse to read any novel that carries the word 'sleuth' on the cover), and by the chick-lit 'poor spineless rejected girl flees back to her home town and meets Mr Ri-ight like that's going to happen, and he'll save her because he's a manly man and she's just a poor weak woman' garbage genre.

This particular example of all that's wrong with YA has the 'girl hating the guy that you know for a fact she's going to be swooning over in short order' trope. It has the 'no one tells her shit' trope; it has the 'throw the girl together with the guy she supposedly hates' trope. Frankly, it would be easier to list the tropes it doesn't have so I'll stop there. The thing which finally made me throw this book out before it made me throw my breakfast out of my stomach was when the girl and the guy were thrown together after she encountered the evil thing in the glass.

So this guy invites himself to her home afterwards, and she tells him he can't come in, but he pushes his way in anyway and she has no problem with that. At least now they both have the chance to sit down and finally discuss everything that's been going on, right? Nope. Not a word. He explains nothing and she's far too brain-dead to ask any intelligent questions. This novel SUCKED, period.


Fishtale by Hans Bauer, Catherine Masciola


Rating: WARTY!

Read acceptably by Adam Verner, this turned out to be a boring audiobook that had initially sounded interesting. The story is of this oddball family whose mother loses her wedding ring to a particularly hungry fish, which has bitten her finger and won't let go. Before it could be caught and made to barf up the ring, the little fish is eaten by a cormorant which in turn, while chasing another fish, is eaten by a much larger catfish in the shady water. It's rather like a nesting doll or maybe like the layers of an onion, but this doesn't mean the missing valuable is an onion ring!

The main character (maybe - I really couldn't tell from the story) is Sawyer Brown, whose Mississippi family has a catfish farm. After his mom is bitten by this ring-hungry fish, she gets sick, and sawyer decides that this is connected with her ruing the ring. Naturally he has to go on a quest to get it back. It was at this point that I lost interest in the story. It may well appeal to a younger audience, but I've read many stories aimed and younger audiences and enjoyed them. This one just piscined me off. There really wasn't anything in it to pull me in (the big fish notwithstanding!), even when I tried to see it through younger eyes than mine.

I can't therefore recommend it based on the 25% or so I listened to. One problem I had was keeping all the characters clearly defined in my mind. This may have been because I was driving while listening, and when I drive my primary focus is on the road, but the morning drive is usually quiet and uneventful and I don't usually have this problem, so I can't help but think this was because my mind was wandering for no other reason than that the story simply wasn't engaging it.


Matt the Green Cat by Jenny Mitchell, Abira Das


Rating: WARTY!

I wasn't impressed with this. The story, written by Jenny Mitchell, and illustrated colorfully but lazily by Abira Das, is supposed to be about accepting differences, but the cat really isn't different: it's just paint-stained, so that it's green instead of ginger. Perhaps this isn't going to be noticed by young children, but it bothered me.

Matt the cat is green. His mom was repainting the wall in one of the rooms in their house (so kudos for allowing that a woman can paint rather than defaulting to the dad!), and Matt got splashed. Rather than put him in the tub and wash him off, everyone seems to suddenly accept that Matt is now green and is stuck with it.

This struck me as weird also! The rest of the story is then about Matt parading aimlessly around and being accepted by everyone he meets with no issues. I don't think that quite gets to the core of the matter! Unless the author's intention as something quite different from what I thought it was (color-prejudice), which is quite possible.

I had a problem with Matt in that every picture of him was pretty much the same - like the artist could paint only one perspective. I swear his head was reused several times and never once does he look at the reader. This gave him an air of arrogance and superiority which mitigated strongly against the air of affability with which the author seemed to want to imbue him. Again, it's for young kids ands maybe they won't notice, but why take that chance?

The worst problem with this book though is that the image wouldn't shrink to fit the iPhone I first read this on unless the iPhone was in portrait position in which case it was way small. it was way small anyway, so I looked at this book on my iPad and had the very same issue! It's not just the iPhone, it's Amazon's crappy failure of a Kindle app - yet again!

It was really annoying too, because picture was always larger than the screen which meant that often, the text wasn't visible. You either had to pinch the picture to reduce it and hold it to read the text, otherwise it would spring right back to oversized, or you'd have to slide the picture up and down (the width was fine, it was just the height that was off screen since my phone isn't square but rectangular!) until you found the text to read it.

Amazon doesn't care. They're so big, they don't have to care! Why waste effort on improving a free app when they can frustrate you through their incompetence to buy a device instead? This is one more reason why I thoroughly detest Amazon.

So, in short, I cannot recommend this, and I wouldn't advise selecting this book to read at all unless you do have some sort of tablet computer to read it on that's bigger than a phone.