Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo


Rating: WARTY!

I'm not normally given to reading this kind of fantasy, and I should have known better, but I picked this up because the blurb looked interesting. It began well, but took a rather downward turn once the main female character with the unfortunate name of Malora encountered the centaurs. I can't take centaurs seriously; they're asinine on the very face of it, but like I said, I let the publisher fool me with a blurb. Shame on me!

This girl had lost all her family to some large, bat-like predatory flying creatures, and was living alone with a growing herd of horses on the plains for three years until she was around fifteen, when she became a captive of the centaurs, the very people who apparently wiped out a lot of humans many years ago.

When her mother sent her from the village shortly before it was wiped out, she warned Malora to steer clear of these people, but the girl ran into a hunting party by accident. I had no idea if the author planned some sort of YA romance here between horse girl Malora and centaur prince Orion (seriously?!) which would not only be distinctly perverse, but would be insane given how cruel the centaurs have been.

I'm guessing there was some sort of back-story which would explain how humans persecuted centaurs and they fought back, thereby absolving them of genocide, but the premise still seemed thin to me and it failed to explain Malora's asinine and contrary behavior once she became their captive.

The author owns horses, so I'd tend to bow to her superior knowledge, but this one paragraph I read was nonsensical, especially if you're someone who knows horses. Malora has only been living with these horses for three years. She started out with just this stallion she was riding, but a wild mare took up with them shortly after Malora struck out on her own. The author tells us this pair (the stallion and the Mare, not Malora and the stallion!) produced six foals - in three years.

That struck me as too much too quickly, so I looked it up and it turns out that horse gestation is variable, but runs around 340 days - a lot longer than humans and very nearly a whole year. Twin foals tend to be rare in the horse community, so how they managed six foals in only three years is a mystery to me, especially given that foals in captivity tend to be weaned at a minimum of three months. In the wild I am guessing the weaning would take longer and that the mare is unlikely to be receptive to mating again while still feeding a foal.

It looked worse than that on first reading because it looked like they had produced twelve foals in that time period, but on re-reading the paragraph, I understood the latter six were over a longer time frame. Still, those first six are not credible in such a short time and an author who knows horses ought to have known this. Either that or should have written the paragraph more explicitly, if that's not what she meant.

When you create a world like this, it needs to hang together within its own framework. You have to consider how the population of living things in a world evolved together. You can't just put random things in there and have it make guaranteed sense. I had this same problem with James Cameron's Avatar. I loved the movie, but the world being so relentlessly hostile made no sense at all.

Neither does it make sense to have creatures prey on humans with such dedication. That's why the bat-creatures in this novel were too much. Any organism that overruns its food source inevitably becomes extinct. The same thing is going to happen to us if we're not careful.

If humans were all but wiped-out by the centaurs, then the bat creatures would have died out had their food source been humans. If they had survived by taking other prey, which we know was readily available, then why suddenly turn to scarce humans? It made no sense. Any author creating a fantasy world needs an understanding of science and of biology and evolution in particular. They would create much more engrossing worlds if they had such knowledge. This author does not, but it wasn't actually that which turned me off this story about a quarter the way through it.

What went wrong here was that yet another female author trashed her own female main character. This author turned her Malora from a reasonably tough and self-sufficient girl into a simpering fangirl in the space of a few paragraphs.

She was captured by the centaurs because they had run her (along with her horses) into a dead-end canyon which was then hit with a flash flood. A bunch of her beloved horses drowned. There's a paragraph where it describes her seeing all the corpses, yet instead of being intensely upset and in turn, angry with centaurs, she has no sadness and no anger at all. Instead she begins to idolize the centaurs. Barf. Totally unrealistic even for a fantasy novel.

Listen Kate Klimo and clones: if you'd wanted some horses dead and the main character to take up with the centaurs and make it realistic, why have the centaurs responsible for the death of the horses? Why not have Malora trapped by a flash flood which had nothing to do with the centaurs, her horses dying, and prince Orion swoop and rescue her? At least that would explain her selling out afterwards. If you wanted any tension between them, create that later from something else. This isn't rocket science! As it is, you wrote a sorry-assed simpering YA love story and it sucks.

That was it for me. And that's it for me reading anything else by this author who evidently has nothing to offer that a hundred other female writer clones don't have. if all you've got is poor writing, half-assed 'plotting', and pathetic female leads, get a clue. Do something the others are not doing: write well, make your female main character strong and at the very least street smart and don't have her do dumb-ass things - or at least let her learn fast from doing dumb things and become smart. And Good Lord don't have her start out strong and independent and then become a total wet rag as soon as a guy shows up. There are a lot of authors out there I haven't read. I see no point in going back to try something else from one who has proven to be a poor author when there are new voices to be heard. I'm done with this one.



Saturday, December 1, 2018

Faces From the Past by James M Deem


Rating: WORTHY!

There are few places where science and art intersect more masterfully than in forensic face reconstruction. Most people who have heard of this might associate it with a modern murder investigation, but it is often used to see how someone looked who lived long ago. This book describes some North American cases, which seem disproportionately to favor the Albany, New York area, for some reason, but which cover other skeletal remains, too.

The reconstructions cover a long time period, from the ten thousand year old man from Spirit Cave, to much more recent skeletal remains, such as 'Buffalo' soldiers of the "Indian wars" (which were really white folk wars, let's face it!). The first chapter is about Spirit Cave, and other chapters cover a sailor who died apparently of dehydration during the disastrous La Salle exploration of America's gulf coast during the late seventeenth century, the forgotten slave burials at Schuyler Flatts, a Mexican soldier from San Jacinto, and six Chinese miners from Wyoming, among others. Each chapter gives background history of events and habits and customs, and provides copious photographs and illustrations, while discussing the discovery of the remains, the decision to create a likeness, and the process, and the artist who did the job.

Reconstructions literally put a face on our past, and examining remains can inform us about the lifestyle of the person whose body has been found - including how brutal it was for slaves. This book is one of a number which cover this kind of work, and it is particularly good in how it tells these stories. It's also eminently suitable for younger readers, some of whom may well end-up making a career in this line of work. I commend it as a worthy read.


Prophecy by SJ Parris


Rating: WARTY!

This is one of those bloated historical novels which place important people at the author's beck and call, and which consists of name-dropping and the most sluggish pace imaginable. I was hoping for better. Once again it's a series - the Giordano Bruno mysteries, in which this Catholic monk becomes a detective. Seriously? He's also helping the Elizabethan government stave off encroachment by the Catholic church? No! He was a devout Catholic himself. Why would he help a fight against it? All that crap alone should have warned me off it. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

So, he's in England - which he was at the time this story is set - and a ritualistic murder is committed inside the palace grounds. Sir Francis Walsingham is seeking to solve it and calls on Bruno to help him. No! Someone of Walsingham's ability needs outside help? Not going to happen.

I don't hold authors responsible for book blurbs, which they typically have nothing to do with unless they self-publish, but this one claims "It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another." This is patent horseshit. The last such conjunction was in May, 2000, and the next will be around Christmas or New Year's of 2020. My math sucks, but even I can distinguish between 5x22 and 5x200! Elizabeth was queen for some forty years so her lifetime would have seen at least two of these conjunctions.

So it really didn't get me interested which is the first mistake a book can make, but worse than that, it didn't evoke Elizabethan times at all. The author made the common mistake of putting it into first person voice from Bruno's perspective. I typically do not like 1PoV, and in this case it was glaring because Bruno's thought processes were entirely modern. It kept kicking me out of suspension of disbelief pretty much every time he thought something.

When Bruno was in England, he was writing a bunch of stuff that he couldn't get done in Europe for persecution by the idiot church. All he was trying to do was tell the truth, but brain-dead church dogma wouldn't let him. This is why we must never let blind faith control our lives again; it is universally disastrous. But the point here is that given how busy he was, he would hardly have had the time to swan around solving murders and spying for the protestants, so the very basis of this novel is nonsensical prima facie, and the author never gave me writing of sufficient quality to make me willing to overlook these shortcomings for the sake of the story. For these reasons, I can't commend it.


Friday, November 2, 2018

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan


Rating: WORTHY!

I got this book from the library, and I'm glad I did because now I just consider it a waste of my time and not a waste of my money! It's about King Midas's daughter. Initially it had sounded interesting to me, but when I began reading it, I wasn't impressed with it and didn't see any point in continuing. The first problem is that it was first person which is far from my favorite and nearly always a grave mistake by an author. The tone was completely off-putting.

The story is based on the Greek legend of King Midas, who supposedly was granted a wish by the god Dionysius, that whatever he touched would turn to gold. The wish was granted, but Midas quickly realized it was a curse. He could not eat food or drink because whatever he touched turned to gold. Midas is said to have had a son, and in some versions of the story a daughter instead, but the old legend says nothing of having a daughter whom he turned to gold or of his being cured.

That part of the story comes from Nathaniel Hawthorne who published it in his A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys in 1852 which included this legend and which Hawthorne augmented by having the King turn his daughter to gold. The King then begged Dionysius to remove this 'gift' and was told to wash in the Pactolus river, which would reverse the curse. This book feeds on that and has the curse be only partially removed from the daughter, leaving her human and of flesh, but having her skin colored gold à La Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson in Goldfinger. In the part I read, there is little description of her so it's not clear if every bit of her is gold or just her skin and hair (I mean, are her eyes gold? Her tongue?).

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The girl is supposedly considered ugly by suitors, except for the one who meets her at the start of the story, whose title is listed as Duke. I'm sorry? This is ancient Greece and they have Dukes, archdukes and Lords? Where did that come from? Is it merely so there can be an equivalent of Lord Voldemort or Lord Vader? What's this Greek Lord called? Lord V-something no doubt. It was this asinine story-telling which completely spoiled the story for me and I had no desire to read past this point, my opinion of this author rock bottom, as in the bottom of the deepest gold mine in South Africa.

In fact it was at this point that I discovered that the author teaches creative writing, and it all became clear. I have never seen a good story come from someone who teaches creative writing or who has graduated from such a program. I don't know what the problem is with that, but it very effectively kills good story-telling. It was worse than this, though. On the author's web page (at least at the time of writing this review), the author asks the reader why they should preorder her book! The five largely selfish answers she gives are very nearly all about making her money:

  1. Publishers often make decisions about an author getting a second book deal based on preorder numbers.
  2. The more preorders, the more copies of the book they'll typically print, which means they'll then usually increase marketing budgets to sell all those books.
  3. All preorder sales hit on the same day, meaning an author could potentially make lists like the New York Times bestseller list because all those sales count for the same week.
  4. You'll usually get a cheaper price. Preorders are usually discounted the earlier you order.
  5. You'll make an author's day! I can't tell you how happy I was when a friend told me she'd preordered 10 copies of my book!

Could this be any more avaricious and self-serving? Don't buy my book because it's any good: buy it because I'll get richer from increased sales? No thanks! I actively dis-commend this novel and I have less-then-zero respect for this author.


Peter & Ernesto a Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable


Rating: WORTHY!

I can see why the publisher didn’t want to let a reviewer like me at this story when I requested it from Net Galley: it wasn’t very good. But they can only delay my review – they can’t silence it! The story, I’m guessing, is aimed at a very young mindset, but even so it really fails to tell any kind of a story. Peter and Ernesto are sloths, and curiously-hued sloths too, given how drab and alike their cookie-cutter compatriots are.

One of them - and I forget which - decides he wants to head on out and see the sky – like he can’t see it from the top of his tree. He wants to see the sky from other parts of the world – for a certain highly constricted values of ‘world’ - so he sets off walking - on two legs - to see what he can see. Curiously everyone he meets is nice and seeks to help him.

He makes a short and seemingly pointless journey - not really looking at the sky or noting how or even if it changes, and then he abruptly turns around and heads back, meeting his pal on the way. That’s it! That’s the entire pointless story. It’s neither entertaining nor educational, and the artwork is childish - perhaps deliberately so, but I see no redeeming value in this story and cannot commend it.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Peep by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This is another in what appears to be a series of confidence-building books by this author. I have no idea how many there are in the series. I know there are at least three and this author, who is Dutch by birth, has published over a dozen children's books on various empowering themes. I just happened on them by accident in my local library while checking out a display of kid's books the librarians had set up. Unlike the Goodreads 'librarians' for example, who don't appear to do a damned thing, the librarians in my local libraries are fun and inventive and hard-working, and their efforts pay off.

This one concerns a young chicken name Peep, who is following her brothers and sisters, who are in turn following mom, line-astern, on an outing, but when they reach the curb it seems to be so very high for a little Peep who wouldn't say Bo to a sheep. Mom and the siblings seem to have no trouble with it, but Peep can't handle this at all. However, with encouragement, pluck and determination, Peep makes the leap and does not regret it - that is until she reaches the other curb and has to figure out what to do next - which is delightfully where this tale ends.

I really liked this story. Just like the previous volume I read by this author, this one is also colorful, simply but competently drawn, amusing, and playful. I liked the humor and the lesson, and I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Splash by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This playful and amusing little book for young children tells the story of a seal who can't seem to do much and feels very disappointed in itself until one day the sun falls into the ocean and it's up to the seal to replace it. The seal discovers that it can do things when those things are very important to it, and this leads to reconnecting with its friends. Fortunately for small and delicate flippers, the sun is only the size of a small beach ball and not too hot (it was cooled off by the ocean no doubt!), so this task isn't too arduous.

This is a colorful book (not all the seals are navy, for example...) and proved inventive and quite entertaining. The author appears to have a series of these, and I shall be reviewing one other like it by the same author. I commend this one as a worthy read.


Pelé the King of Soccer by Eddy Simon, Vincent Brascaglia, Joe Johnson


Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Eddy Simon and translated by Joe Johnson, with illustrations by Vincent Brascaglia, this was an enjoyable graphic novel about the remarkable career of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known to the world as Pelé, who was an outstanding Brazilian professional soccer player.

He played for a club team at the tender age of fifteen and for his national team at the age of sixteen; at seventeen, he put in a sterling performance at the 1958 World Cup, the first of three in which Brazil won with him on the team. He's the only player to have been on three world cup winning teams, and he scored 77 goals in 92 games during those competitions. He averaged almost a goal a game throughout his career, scoring some 650 in 694 professional club appearances.

There was a less stellar side to his life in his multiple marriages and multiple affairs outside of those marriages, some of which brought offspring. The story doesn't delve very much into those or his son's conviction for money laundering. It keeps the focus mostly on soccer, recounting his career almost game by game.

This graphic novel tells the story well, with lively, colorful, and well-crafted illustrations, from his barefoot, ball-made-of-rags street soccer days of his early age, to this triumphs as a professional (in soccer boots and with a real ball!). His hero was his father who was also a professional player until he got a bad leg injury and could play no more, but he encouraged his son to excel and Pelé did not let him down. I commend this novel as a worthy read and a piece of sports history that's well-worth learning.


Madame Cat #1 by Nancy Peña


Rating: WARTY!

I went into this not really knowing what it was, but it had seemed appealing. In truth, it wasn't. What it was, was one of the most boring graphic novels I've ever read. Some authors, particularly those of the newspaper cartoon variety seem to think people will find hilarious nothing more than a drawing of an everyday activity. I don't. And that's what this was - the lifeless recounting of the mundane day-to-day experiences of a woman and her cat.

The author's illustrations were simplistic, but not bad, although her two main human charcters (the woman and her boyfriend) seem to have only one expression ever on their faces. It was the dumb stories which were tedious. This cat talks to its owner, and seems hell bent on total destruction of the owner's home, but there are never consequences, and some of the antics are just plain stupid. The biggest problem was that there was nothing funny here: nothing original, nothing new. This was, essentially, a waste of a good tree. I do not comend it and I resent the time I wasted reading it. This book makes a great case for ruthless DNF-ing.


My Amazing Dinosaur by Grimaldi


Rating: WARTY!

Translated by Carol Klio Burrell, this was a kids comic about a cave family's child named Tib and his absurd and anachronistic dinosaur playmate, Tumtum. Playing into the idiotic creationists hands by allowing that humans and dinosaurs co-existed (they did not, by some sixty million years or more) is only acceptable if the story-telling makes it worthwhile by being informative, and/or educational, and/or entertaining, and these stories were none of the preceding.

If I'd known Kirkus had praised this I would have avoided it and thereby saved myself the time it took to read it! The stories were trite, predictable and of the Sunday not-so-funnies quality, which is dismal at best and even more dismal at worst. I'd recommend steering clear of this Tyrannosaurus wreck.


Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey


Rating: WARTY!

This tells of the envy of the Moon wanting to have a chance to be the Sun for one day. The sun is harsh though and will only agree to swap if the Moon agrees to make the swap permanent. The Moon has one night to make the decision. Paying extra attention to everything that takes place in the night, the Moon of course realizes that nighttime has many charms, and in the end decides not to swap.

Normally I cut children's books some slack, and let them get away with more than I would a book written for older children or adult audiences, but this one didn't impress me at all. The first problem is that the Moon was a 'he' when the Moon has typically and traditionally been associated with femininity and goddesses. The sun's gender wasn't made clear, so conceivably it could have been female, but I couldn't help but wonder why the Moon was masculinized here.

On top of that, the story suggests how stupid the Moon is - having failed to notice all that beauty which 'he' notices on that one night; the observations lead to the Moon resolving to stay. What bothered me about this was that it suggests that a person should be content to 'stay in one's station in life' and never strive or hope for more. I don't think this is good advice to pass on to children.

Admittedly, this would have been worse had the Moon been given a female gender which would then suggest that the masculine sun was dictating what the feminine Moon should do: stay below that glass ceiling as it were, because it couldn't handle a tough day job. I don't have any idea if the author saw it that way, but it still doesn't change the point about ambition. Too much ambition, or ruthless or blind ambition is a bad thing, but healthy ambition - a desire to improve one's station and an aim be the best one can be at something is a good thing, and this book seemed intent upon slapping that down.

I think this same story could have been much better written: for example as a joint decision by the two to swap for a day/night, and then by mutual agreement decide to return to their original stations, having learned they are both happier where they were. I just did not like the way it was handled here. For this reason, I cannot commend this one as a worthy read.


The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant


Rating: WARTY!

Set during the Renaissance, this book was a pretty much a non-starter for me. I did start reading it, but quickly lost interest because the main protagonist is writing in first person voice and it seemed so utterly inauthentic that I couldn't take it seriously. I quickly took to skimming, hoping things would become more interesting once the author had got the period info-dumping out of her system, but she never did and they never did and all I could think was "Well, I never!"

The novel ought to have been interesting because initially I had thought it was - as far as I could make out (which was nowhere near as far as this woman could make out) - about main character Alessandra Cecchi being the model who posed for Sandro Botticelli's famous Nascita di Venere (Birth of Venus) painting from the mid 1480's, which I parodied in my children's book The Very Fine-Art Rattuses and which is a part of the only series I shall ever write, rest assured. It turns out that it has nothing to do with Botticelli or Venus as far as I could see, which begs the title. It's entirely possible I missed something, but I really didn't miss it in any meaningful sense!

Alessandra is married-off to a much older man who turns out to be the lover of her brother. She has an affair with this nameless young painter her father hires to paint murals and inevitably becomes pregnant, moron that she is and irresponsible jerk that he is. She was lucky a baby was all she caught from him.

The story is supposed to be set against the backdrop of the Savonarola-Medici struggle, the one side supposed to represent scuro, the other, chiaro, with the rest left to canvas for themselves, but Savonarola really wasn't very active for that many years and he was burned at the stake in 1498, so that felt a bit like it was stuck in there precisely because the rest of the story was so boring. However, since I didn't read the rest of the story, I escaped this pitfall.

While I cannot commend this, I do suggest that the author keeps taking the Medici and calls no one in the morning.


Verdi by Janell Cannon


Rating: WORTHY!

This young children's book was hilarious. A hardback with glossy colorful pages and limited text, it tells the story of a young snake by the name of Verdi, who loves his yellow coloring and doesn't want to mature to the usual green scales. He tries to fight this, but in the end he loses and realizes that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As far as I can tell, Verdi is Indonesian - supposed to be a green tree python (Morelia viridis) based on his coloring, his life in the trees, and his residence on an island. These pythons are actually under threat because of smuggling to feed the pet market, and pythons like these do not travel well - many die before they ever reach the pet store.

What impressed me about this book was the beautiful artwork which manages to be colorful and realistic without looking like it belonged in a biology book. What amused me was the text and the snake commentaries from various other members of the local Pythonidae family. Verdi isn't impressed with these adults and decides to strike his own course, but no matter what he does he doesn't seem to be able to stop the spreading o' the green! He is determined, but nature beats cherchez.

His antics are amusing, especially the way he catapults himself off the top of a tree by holding a branch in his mouth and tightening his coils until he lets go and springs into the air. I laughed out loud at that. His 'spa treatment' with the mud was also amusing. I liked this book very much and commend it as a worthy read for young children - and even a few adults!


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.


The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a story first published in 1958 and was recommended to me by a friend and while it wasn't the most original or entertaining story, it was one that was engrossing enough and made for a worthy read, although it's not one I would have picked up had it not been recommended. It is commendable that the author chose to set this in a different country than the USA where lamentably, far too many authors seem to think is the only place any story can be set!

It takes place in Paris, France, and is of this single-mom family which is on its uppers, as they say, and is homeless. The family is befriended by a somewhat cantankerous homeless guy who knows his way around the system, and though he's initially resentful of the family invading his turf, he starts to take them under his wing and is instrumental in helping them get back on their feet again.

So, it's a bit trite and simplistic, and somewhat overly optimistic, but it does tell a short and meaningful tale that can be used to educate young children about how bad luck can strike at any time through no fault of the family concerned, and that homelessness does not involve only those 'strange adults' who live on the streets in the seedier parts of town.

I commend this as a worthy read for young children.


All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga


Rating: WARTY!

The story was supposed to be about this woman, Yukiko, who lives with her mother, who frankly is a bitch, but when her mother marries a guy who is younger than her mature daughter, Yukiko decides to move out. The problem was that while the first chapter laid all that out perfectly well, when I started on the second and third chapters, they seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the first chapter!

Then the fourth chapter seemed to pick up with this daughter moving in with a friend, but the next chapter was again way off in left field, so I gave up on this in grave disappointment. I couldn't tell if the odd chapters were supposed to a continuation of a different part of the story or what. It quite literally made no sense to me because nothing in the next two chapters seemed to be remotely related to the first one!

It was one of these deals that you have to read backwards, which is always annoying to me, but with which I can at least cope if the story makes sense. I began to think if I'd read it the usual way around it might actually have made more sense! It also had indifferent artwork. The cover illustration was wonderful, and while you know for a fact that you're not going to get that level of art inside, you do hope it's harbinger of something good. It wasn't.

The art inside felt like it was by a different artist and sometimes it was hard to tell one character from another, especially when it switched in chapter two. If they were they simply acquaintances of the main characters as the blurb suggests, then what the hell did they have to do with the main story? I had no idea whatsoever and no interest in doing the author's work for her. I rate this a fail.


We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C Alexander London


Rating: WARTY!

This novel for middle-graders sounded like it might be interesting. It certainly seemed like it promised to be different. Instead of having children chomping at the bit for an adventure with their explorer parents, these children wanted nothing more than to be left alone to watch TV, but somehow end up on adventures anyway.

I discovered after starting reading this one that this isn't the first book in the series, but once again there's is absolutely nothing whatever on the cover to warn the reader that this is a story already in progress. It's like buying a book which has the first five chapters missing. This is why I do not have a lot of time for series or for Big Publishing who quite obviously simply do not care about the reader.

That I might have been willing to overlook had the story been worthwhile, but while it did have its moments, it had far too many boring sections to make it a worthwhile read, and I DNF'd it. The point I did this was when the father and his son and daughter, on an adventure trying to find their missing mother, were expelled from a plane in mid-air (without a single person on board objecting) over a snowy mountain range, and they ripped a page quite literally straight out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, by managing to escape with a life raft. Barf! Let's forget that at thirty thousand feet they would suffocate before they ever landed, so what they had to land in was irrelevant.

I cannot support a novel which when it's not boring is ridiculous and the ridicule is unleavened by plagiarizing a movie for an escape.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Luisa Now and Then by Carole Maurel


Rating: WORTHY!

Published in French originally as Luisa: Ici et là (strictly speaking, Luisa Here and there), with this English version adapted by Mariko Tamaki and translated by Nanette McGuinness, this oddball time-travel fantasy brings a younger Luisa to the future to meet her older self, and neither is well-pleased with the other.

Teenager Luisa sets off on a bus trip and ends up falling asleep. When she awakes she's at the end of the line and gets out to discover she's nowhere near where she thought she was, not in space or time. A young, but mature woman to whom Luisa is loosely attracted helps her and slowly it dawns upon Luisa that this woman lives across the hallway from her own older self, so to the outside world, the younger Luisa feigns being a cousin of the older until they can sort out what happened and how to put it right. It's a learning experience, and not a pleasant one, given how prickly and persnickety the two of them are. Or should that be 'the one of them is'?

The young Luisa refuses to believe that she ends up as this 'spinsterish' older woman whose life is unadventurous and downright boring. Yeah, she lives in Paris, but whoa, is this second-rate job the one young Luisa dreamed of getting? No! Older Luisa has tried to make her life pain-free, and appears to be in serious disagreement with Socrates that 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. In arranging her life thus, she's failed to realize that she's attracted to females and in particular, the very one across the hall that younger Luisa finds so appealing.

So far so good, but the longer they spend together, the more alike the two of them become and they realize that it's urgent that they split up before they become indistinguishable from one another. Young Luisa must return to her original time and place. This book is done as a fine art piece, with entrancing line work and watercolor painting, and it was a pleasure to read: fun, engaging, and overall a worthy read. I commend it.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a passable story of Rose, a girl beginning to venture into womanhood, told in graphic novel form by the Tamaki cousins.

Rose has been vacationing in a rented seaside cottage with her parents every summer since childhood, and each year she hangs out with her friend, Windy, who also vacations there. The two of them have fun, chat idly about all kinds of things, begin to notice boys, and realize they're much more observant of adult drama now than ever they were before, and much less able to discern any sort of role model in those grown-ups they see. And there seems to be a lot of drama in this particular vacation spot.

I've become a bit of a fan of the Tamakis lately, but their work can be very patchy. This was a cut above the patchwork and while the artwork was nothing spectacular, it was perfectly serviceable. The story wasn't exactly glittering, but it was enjoyable for a one-time read, and so I commend this as a worthy read.