Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Unbelievable by Katy Tur

Rating: WARTY!

"Unbelievable" was a great title for this book because I could not believe how self-obsessed the author was. It was ostensibly about Trump's 2016 campaign for the White House, but the author (who read this audiobook herself, to her credit) was reporting more about herself than ever she was about Trump. I listened to about 20% of it before I lost patience with her.

She was one of, if not the, first to interview Trump before he ever became a serious candidate in the eyes of the media, and from that point on he took a dislike to her and would occasionally mention her name during his campaign speeches, knowing she would be there in the crowd somewhere, covering him. She felt at risk for her safety on at least one occasion after he'd called her out, and for no good reason other than that he carries a grudge to childish levels and doesn't care who he puts at risk in doing so.

So she pointed out a few of his inconsistencies and some of his dishonesty, double-speak, and disgraceful behavior, but because she made this account personal in a way that in some ways mirrored Trump's absurd habit of making it personal, we never got the objective and devastating coverage of his campaign of misinformation and disinformation that we would have, had more a more disinterested reporter written this. Like I said, I lost patience with her style of coverage, and I cannot commend this as a worthy read.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Missing Activist by Louise Burfitt-Dons

Rating: WARTY!

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

This story had sounded interesting from the book blurb, but it turned out to be just the opposite in practice, and it moved so slowly that I gave up on it after about twenty-five percent. It didn’t engage me, and it felt a bit like it couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be a mystery or a romance, or something else, and tripping itself up in indecision.

The characters were not really very interesting to me either. I didn't meet anyone I particularly liked, much less someone I’d want to root for. The book switched between characters every chapter so it felt very disjointed and fragmented, and we never really got to know anyone. The activist of the title never was properly introduced to the reader, so the fact that he went missing was not an impactful event. I didn't miss him at all, and apparently neither did anyone else, since there was no real concern evident from anyone over his whereabouts - at least not in the portion I read. It seems to me that there would be political points to be scored here over an episode like this, but it was a non-event.

The book had an overall feel like it was not quite ready for prime time. The writing technically wasn't bad in general terms, but there were a lot of instances where I felt the author had written one thing, then later changed it, but never re-read it for coherence, so there were many instances of writing like this “...when she own heaps..” where the author clearly ought to have written "...when she owned heaps...." There was another such instance where I read, “But they also agreed start somewhere just in case" which needed to have read, "to starting somewhere" or "agreed: start somewhere" or something like that.

At another point I read, "When Hailey’s flatmate there, Karen assumed Hailey would be somewhere behind him." Clearly something is missing from the first clause - like maybe a verb? Another instance was "He tried Miller’ number." Clearly there's an 's' missing after the apostrophe. Another instance was where a sentence had evidently been re-arranged but some words were not deleted and ended up repeated; “Karen had even discovered there’d been a woman, wearing a full burka, sighted around the Cardiff Hotel the night Alesha Parkhurst died wearing the full burka.” I don't think we're meant to understand that Alesha Parkhurst died wearing the full burka! Or maybe we are?

Sometimes the wrong word was used, such as where I read, “But soon they were both woofing it down...” where the author ought to have written, "wolfing it down." Occasionally there was an unfortunate juxtaposition, such as in “Karen clenched teeth until she finally had the chance to put her bit in.” Was Karen a horse No! She didn’t actually want to put a bit in her mouth; she wanted to, as Americans would say, put her two cents in. I'm not sure what the Brit equivalent of that is these days. It’s been a long time since I lived there!

On other occasions the description of something was off, such as when I read, "A recent story in Google..." when the situation is that Google doesn't publish news stories - it merely facilitates you finding them, so a better turn of phrase would have been, "A recent story on the Daily Mail's site" or "a recent BBC news article said..." or something like that. What really made me decide to quit this though, was reading a sentence like this: “...Bea, the second wife of James Harrington MP was petite, lively and still pretty for fifty-eight.”

Now if a character in this story had said that, I would have no problem with it, because people really can be that shallow, judgmental, and determinedly pigeon-holing of women, making them both skin-depth and the appendage of their husband, but when the actual narrative of the story says something like that, I have to take issue once again with a female author reducing a female character to nothing but shallow looks and diminished status. If this had been a novel about a beauty pageant or something like that, then looks would certainly enter into it, rightly or wrongly, but this is someone who is for no narrative reason, not only reduced to a male appendage, but to skin depth only. Her role in this novel has nothing to do with beauty or looks, so why is whether she's pretty or not even remotely relevant?

Instead of how she, surprisingly, wasn't a wrinkled crone at fifty eight(!), could we not have her described as a "respected activist" or "an intellectual powerhouse" or "a stalwart campaigner for women's rights"? Something - anything but reducing her to a pretty appendage. You know, I have no problem with a radio station playing "Baby, it’s Cold Outside" and especially not when that same station plays songs far more abusive to women than that old and misunderstood song ever could be. I do have a problem with female authors routinely reducing women to their looks.

I understand this author has an admirable life working against abuses of children and doing good work in other endeavors too, but this review is not about the author, it’s about what was authored, and while I wish the author all the best in her writing, I cannot commend this novel for the reasons I've listed.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Demagoguery and Democracy by Patricia Roberts-Miller

Rating: WORTHY!

Having battled a few young-Earth creationists in my time online, I can't say there was anything new in this book for me, but I still considered that it was worth the reading. It refreshed my mind, and reminded me of a few things that I might be getting rusty on. The saddest thing about it is that the people who most need to read this are the very ones who are least likely to want to read it, but I hope I'm wrong on that score, because everyone who is registered to vote needs to read this book, especially after the last few elections in the USA, and there is no excuse not to, since it's very concise, very clear, and pulls no punches.

From the blurb, we learn that a demagogue is someone who turns "complicated political situations into polarized identity politics," but as the author points out, it's more complicated and more nuanced than that, and it's all-too-often difficult to spot when the demagogue wool is being pulled over your eyes precisely because we're so used to it. In fact you could make a decent argument that American politics is composed entirely of demagoguery on both sides of the aisle these days. Those who bravely seek to do an end-run around it and stand as independents, are mauled to death by the sound-bites of the two front-runners. The media - which is supposed to be impartial and be wise to these tricks - simply plays along with them.

We can learn from this book what these shameless, grandstanding people say and do to gain and hold power, and what we can do to restore deliberative democracy, because that's the antidote to this poison. The first step is to recognize it, and the next step is to focus on the best way to deal with any given instances of it. This book will help you with both of these issues, because this author knows her stuff and displays it to advantage here. I recommend this book and I sincerely hope more people read it than I fear actually will!

I'm surprised the author didn't use references to creationism or climate change, because demagoguery is rife in the shallow dialog over those contentious issues, too, but if I had a complaint about the book, it's not about the content or the writer's style, but about the presentation, which is in what I call academic minimalism - and it's a style which is wasteful and may even turn-off some readers.

For an ebook, it really doesn't matter that much, but even there, a bulkier book requires more energy to transmit over the internet. From the point of view of a print run, a book like this is far harsher on trees than it ought to be. The pages have wide margins and widely spaced lines. Were the margins smaller and the lines closer, the book could have been probably a third smaller and saved a proportionate number of trees (and perhaps encourage more people to read it since it looks shorter!) I realize my voice is one of a paltry few crying in the wilderness, but at this rate that wilderness ain't gonna be with us much longer and all that will be left is the crying.

Other than that I recommend it unreservedly. Trish Roberts-Miller is a Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley, and teaches in the Liberal Arts department. Though UT is only a few miles from where I live, I don't know this author, but I do know never to get into an argument with her! I wish her all the best with this book.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Broken Beauty by Lizzy Ford

Title: Broken Beauty
Author: Lizzy Ford
Publisher: Indie Inked
Rating: worthy

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is less detailed so as not to rob the writer of their story, but even so, it will probably still be more in-depth than you'll typically find elsewhere!

Broken Beauty was a bad choice for the title of this novel. There are at least two other books with precisely that title, at least seven novels titled "Beautifully Broken" and one called "The Beauty of Broken...", as well as one called "A Broken Kind of Beautiful...", and so on! Let this be a lesson to authors to research not only your subject, but also your title! I have to question why the "Beauty" part was even relevant. Would this be less of a horrifying story if the woman to whom it happened had been a "plain jane"? I don't think so. The other bad news is that this isn't a complete novel. It's "Broken Beauty Novellas #1", and so is short, but not en suite. Wikipedia defines a novella as at least 17,500 words:

Novel over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500
Short story under 7,500

I don't have a word count to see where this technically falls on that scale, but I'm fine with taking the author's word for it! This time!

This series is in a way an emulation of Stephen King's The Green Mile which was published in six installments in 1996. For me personally, I'd rather get the whole thing at once, but who knows, maybe Ford is onto something here? I mean, who knows what ebooks are going to do in the long-run? I think it's far too early to call. Maybe going backwards to go forwards is where it will lead, and we'll see more novels published like this, ultimately emulating serials like Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories which were published in installments in The Strand magazine.

There's something weird going on with the text in this egalley. There are sections of the text where it changes randomly from black to grey. I have no idea what's causing that. That is to say, it's not like it's flashing or changing as I read it, it's just that some paragraphs are dark and some not, some screens have it, some don't, and it nearly always starts at the commencement of a paragraph, very rarely in the middle of one, but it doesn't appear to be tied to anything like an internal monologue, or to where maybe there should have been italics. Weird! It's a bit annoying, but this is a short novel, so it's not a big deal. My Kindle says I have a little over 90 minutes of reading in total.

The title page and cover both list this as written by 'Lizzy Ford writing as Chloe Adams'. I do not get this 'writing as' crap. This was written by Lizzy Ford as far as I'm concerned. There's a limit to how far I'm willing to allow the fiction to extend beyond the boundaries of chapter one (going towards the front cover), and the last chapter (going towards the back)! I think it's an insult to readers for a writer to change their name in order to sell other books or write in other genres. I don't want to be a party to that, but that's not going to influence my review of the story itself.

This novel is about the aftermath of the rape of Mia Abbot-Renou, the young-adult daughter of a Southern US politician - the self-same politician who has claimed that pregnancy cannot result from rape because the woman's body shuts it down. A similar asinine and clueless claim was actually made in real life by Republican congressman Todd Akin, so kudos to Ford for slipping that in. Akin asserted "...If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down..." - implying that anyone who gets pregnant from rape really wasn't raped since they consented, even if they think they didn't! The pregnancy proves it! What an asshole. If he'd said that in front of me, he'd likely end up with a name-change to Tod Akin-Balls...!

The story begins with Mia being picked up by the cops and taken to a hospital where the relevant examinations are carried out. Mia is scared and only feels safe if she can see one of the two cops, Keisha and Dom, who initially responded to the crime report. Just in passing, do you know there apparently isn't a police 10-xx code for rape - or for assault or GBH?! Go figure. OTOH, they have at least four codes for motor vehicle issues - just in case you're not crystally clear on where our priorities lie as a society in the USA. But then car dealerships are always better lit than are residential neighborhoods, so why am I even surprised by this?! In a really disturbing WTF moment, neither Mia's mother, who is in rehab, nor her father, who is at a fundraiser, can be bothered to visit their daughter in the hospital - and her father is bothered about spinning this event?!

We learn from internal monologue that Mia was a virgin, and from her examination that she was injured rather badly physically (as well as mentally), as a result of this assault, and she's really confused, her mind wandering, flashes of the attack mingling with non-sequitur memories (triggered by the resemblance - in small ways - of one of the cops to her grandfather). Why the virginity issue is raised I do not know. Does Ford want me to believe that the rape was worse solely because the victim was a virgin as opposed to her being a hooker or a "housewife", for example? Bullshit! Rape is rape. It doesn't get any worse.

The opening sequence was in some ways annoying because it was so discontinuous, so if Ford was trying to make me uncomfortable, she succeeded, but I'm not sure she succeeded in making me discomfited about the right things or in the right way! However, it is, in general, well written and it drew me in, so despite some nit-picking issues, one of which I'm about to launch into, that was a good start.

Once Mia has had all her medical attention, it's the next day before the two cops get to sit down with her and she eventually identifies one Robert Connor and his friend as her two rapists. There's a suggestion of the possible use of Flunitrazepam or a similar substance employed in her drink to help perpetrate this rape, but before their investigation can get very far, the family lawyer (who is also Mia's uncle) and a PR guy show up trying to spin this "event" (they really don't seem to want to call it a rape, much less identify the son of one of their leading financial contributors as the rapist). They also plan to whisk her out of the hospital and put her under the care of another family friend who is a therapist. This is horrible, but it's a disturbingly fascinating story.

I had my biggest issue with this "whisking-out" of Mia. We're told she has to be sneaked out of the hospital via a side-door because the press is flocking to the front entrance. Why? Not why is she sneaked out, why is the press there? This happened just the night before, so unless the police have deliberately and purposefully broadcast the gut-churning details of this rape, including the victim's name, and also the crime-scene and hospital photographs of her battered body, how in hell did anyone find out about it? I was jerked bodily out of suspension of disbelief by that because I cannot find it even remotely plausible that this information would get out so fast, much less be deliberately released by the police or the hospital. There would be serious lawsuits flying in formation if information like this was released.

I suspect that Ford did this to further put Mia on the hot-spot, but I could not see that happening realistically. What happened was horrific enough without piling on events which stretch credibility beyond breaking point. But given that clunker, the story improves from there on out. It does lead to Mia being isolated from the police while her father's people try to spin this, which in turn leads to Mia having to read "her" prepared statement to the press where she's passing on not her own words but those of her father's lawyer.

Mia becomes completely isolated from real life as she's forced repeatedly to retreat to her bedroom closet to escape panic attacks and flashbacks as everyone tries to manage, contain, and control this "unfortunate event". Even her therapist is a distant relative. Her best friend comes over to support her and pretty much moves in. Somehow Mia is prosecuted for her unknowing use of a stolen ID, and via a plea-bargain she conveniently gets to do 100 hours of community service in a women's shelter helpfully run by the sister of the cop who, I'm guessing, is going to be the trope love interest, as disgusting as that seems at this point. It's at the shelter that Mia learns that she's pregnant (her father had denied her the morning-after pill because, you know, rape victims cannot possibly become pregnant...).

So it looks like I'm going to rate this warty, doesn't it? Actually I'm not. I had some real issues with it, but those parts which were not issue-ridden were actually engrossing, and did keep my interest. Like I said, I would prefer it if this were just one complete novel instead of installments, but that's the author's choice. Maybe I'll wait to read the rest when it all comes between one pair of covers, though? I rate this one worthy because people need to read about this, and they need to be made so uncomfortable by stories like these that something is done about this unconscionable crime and the even more horrific frequency of it.