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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amish Country Treasure by Ruth Price


Rating: WARTY!

You can't put a price on good Amish stories - not when the price is this author. Chapter one begins with these words: "If you are reading this without having read the others in the series, please be aware that this series is complete and there is a boxed collection HERE. This will help keep a few more Sheckles in your pocket..."

Stop right there!

The author starts chapter one by advertising her 'boxed' collection? And she doesn't know how to spell Shekels? This is hilarious given that the author's name is Price! Well I got this for free just out of curiosity, and I'm not about to go shelling out for a series where the story begins with an author's pitch for me to buy a whole series when I haven't even been allowed the chance to read this first one before she gets in my face with her 'series'?

I dislike the term 'boxed set' which is meaningless drivel in the first place when it comes to ebooks. The only boxing required is that to the ears of the idiot who decided this was a good term to use in the electronic book world! This is one more reason to detest series and authors who are so addicted to them, so congratulations, you just talked me right out of even reading your 61 page episode. I'm not interested.

Could you not even let me read sixty pages before you start your pitch? I'm sorry, and I know it's a competitive world out there, but this is unacceptable. If your only interest is money and you're so obsessed with it that you're right up there in my face with it on page one, then you are definitely not the author for me. I will not recommend this book - and yes it's based solely on this, and I am done with this author, and that's entirely based on this attitude she flaunts. Amish? Pish.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Relic of Perilous Falls by Raymond Arroyo


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook I experimented with. It's read by the author, who sounds a bit like Phil Hartman, the American comedy actor who was shot by his mentally-ill girlfriend in 1998 while he was sleeping, and I can't say that the author does an absolutely disastrous job, but after listening to about an hour of this I soon found myself being irritated by his voice, particularly when he was doing this young female character, and making her sound like she was mentally deficient rather than just young. In principle, it's nice to have an author read their own work. That's the only way you can really tell how they meant it to sound, but in this case it was eventually annoying and not pleasant.

Will Wilder is a 12-year-old boy who deserves his last name. He's irresponsible and has way too much energy. In his defense, he's gifted, or plagued, with the ability to see otherworldly 'shade' creatures, and his stupidity ends up unleashing them. No wonder the town is called Perilous Falls. Now it's Will's job to fix things. So far so good, but this novel carried a quite heavy religious agenda - so it seemed to me, and I disliked the preachy tone. It's tied to the remains of the Saint Thomas, who supposedly had so little faith that he didn't believe Jesus had risen.

If you ask me he was the smartest of the twelve! The burial place is supposedly one of only three of the apostles: the Basilica in Rome, of Peter, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, of James, and the National Shrine of Thomas in Chennai, India, yet not a one of these can offer evidence that what they contain really is what they claim to contain. Will Wilder's village, though, supposedly has the very finger (among other body parts) that was plunged into the wound! This is what keeps the evil away. The skeleton came from Italy in World War Two. How it got there as opposed to being in India remains a mystery.

Not only does Will screw up and break his kid brother's arm, he also screws up further and steals the relic from the church, thereby removing the town's protection, and unleashing evil. Why all the evil is there, waiting to be loosed is yet another unanswered question. I never did get this demon thingy. And what's the deal with demons? There are none in the Bible - just angels, of which Lucifer is one.

Given that Thomas is supposedly buried in India, how this GI brought the relic home from Italy is a mystery which goes unexplained, but then I DNF'd this so maybe I missed something. Obviously the book isn't aimed at me, but I've enjoyed many such books which were not. I have no interest in pursuing a series like this, though, and I can't recommend it based on what I heard of it.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Dante's Divine Comedy by Seymour Chwast


Rating: WARTY!

In which I play the back nine with Dante Alighieri!

I almost picked up a copy of the Divine comedy in audio book form, but I declined it in favor of this graphic novel, Wise decision! The book seemed like too much to take for me, and the graphic novel confirmed it. Much simplified - indeed to a degree greater than I would have liked - the book depicts pretty much the Cliff's Notes version of the story, with lots of low grade illustration (in the form of monochrome line drawings and very little text. There's a mild sense of humor running through it, but overall I was neither impressed by the graphic novel version, nor by the primitive and idiotic original story, steeped as it was in the most asinine superstition and bullshit imaginable. I was so glad I didn't plump for the audio book which would have been a nightmare to listen to if it was as tedious as this version.

This is where the nine circles of hell originated, at least in popular consciousness, and which in turn evidently owes a lot to the seven deadly sins. It's also very confusing. The first seven circles are each dismissed with barely a page of illustration and text, and having been through that, I have to question the mental health of Dante, although having said that, I do fully realize that this was how people in general and the church in particular really viewed life and death back then. Or at least tried to sell it, in the case of the church.

The first circle of hell is Limbo, which is apparently simply hanging out solely with, it would appear, celebrities. It left me not knowing quite what to do, because for me that would be hell. I imagine it wouldn't seem remotely like hell for all-too-many people, and especially for those who live in a celebrity culture like the population of the USA seems to do!

The second circle of hell is the naked truth. We're told that it's inhabited by "Lustful creatures who committed sins of the flesh who are tossed about carelessly in the dark by the most furious winds." Now they spend eternity locked in carnal embrace. I can't imagine all that many people actually going beyond this level. They would be happy here - probably most guys, and more women than you might initially imagine. It would be like going back to the sixties. For eternity. How is this hell? LOL!

The third circle (or the turd circle as it happens) is to punish the gluttons, and this one is the first level which actually does punish. Evidently the fate of gluttons is to float around in the very excrement which has resulted from their own gluttony. Ick! You gluttons better get your shit together or you're actually going to get your shit - together!

I really wanted to get my hands on the fourth circle, which is devoted to avarice. It's also where apparently Rolling Rock beer got its name, because rolling rocks is what these people do - around a circle until they crash into the other team coming the other way, then they turn and roll the rocks back in the opposite direction. This sounds like a rip-off of the Sisyphus myth, but not really much of a hell as compared with the previous level, at least!

The fifth Circle is a joke, apparently. It's naked mud wrestling! It's not exactly my cup of mud - although I guess that would depend upon who it is I was scheduled to wrestle! LOL! There's a kind of a break here, where we see out traveler and his guide traveling the River Acheron (take that, Percy Jackson and your river Styx lowest common denominator!) Evidently these three rivers, The Acheron, the Phlegethon, and the Styx, flow from the mouth of a statue. I never knew that! Nor can I figure out how Greek mythology took over this story about Christian punishment! Rip-Off!

As the two travel (Virgil and Dante) with Phlegyas across the Styx now, they pass sinner Filippo, who is killed by other sinners. Wait, what? Wasn't he dead already?! We are in the afterlife (written as two words in this version!) are we not? It's no wonder that three furies appear and call upon Medusa. I felt like doing the same at this point. The sixth circle consists of heretics and Epicureans, sitting in coffins surrounded by fire. They look bored, but I would imagine they would have some great debates and discussions going if this weren't fiction.

The seventh circle is devoted to violence to begin with, but this is where the neat nine circles goes to hell - as it were, because there are now sub-divisions, and anyone who has lived in a badly-designed subdivision will know exactly what kind of hell it is. On level two, a minotaur guards a ravine of broken rocks across which Dante rides on a centaur, because those broken rocks are hellish, don't you know? Dante seems to have a particular obsession with naked bodies and broken rocks. You have to wonder what state his own rocks were in when he was naked. Possibly New Jersey, but more likely Arizona. Oh, and centaurs prevent the violent folk from escaping the boiling blood river! I imagine they would become trapped when the blood congealed from being boiled. Have I ever boiled blood, you ask? Well this ridiculous theology makes my blood boil. Does that count?

On level three of the seventh circle, you can catch the direct line to Buckingham palace. Oh, wait, wrong hell! No, here, harpies feed on the suicide trees, which are like the ones in the Wizard of Oz movie - living beings. They have it better than those who were violent against god, though! Those villains have to lie on hot sand and have ashes rain upon them. Seriously? Dante's god is so petty that he punishes people for eternity with abusive and nasty pettiness because they were violent against him? I know some parents are harsh on their children, but for the most part, a truly loving parent forgives their kids and loves them unconditionally, continually striving to help them all they can. God evidently gives up after four score and ten. For all our faults, when it comes to looking after our loved ones, for the most part, we humans put all gods to shame.

In the second zone the sodomites are punished under fiery rain! The thing is that flames evidently burn-off the features of the sodomites, so not a one of them is ugly! Yeay! Next up, eighth circle, which is yet another sub-divided mess: the fraudulent, the pimps and seducers, oh, and astrologers, magicians and diviners! Hypocrites. Serpents attack thieves and the two merge. Sowers of discord have to walk in a circle where they're repeatedly stabbed, heal, and are stabbed again. Falsifiers of metals get scabs. Now scabs merely cross picket lines. The ninth circle is pretty much more of the same. It's all about betrayal and usury - which is a sin! Bankers of the Earth beware! You have nothing to lose but your bottom line....

Curiously, Dante has an out. Giants lower him to the bottom of hell where he can use the devil's own tunnel to climb out and escape! He makes his way to purgatory where he's required to wash his hands of hell, because he's not a spirit. He notices that he casts a shadow, but Virgil, his companion does not. Spirits, we're told, cannot cast a shadow but can feel pain. How does that work?

The dead are begging Dante to tell their loved ones to pray for them. Why is this? Are we to understand from this that two spirits, both equally stained with sin, will have different outcomes if one has people begging for him whereas the other does not? This is the same thing as saying that it's not your own sin which condemns you, but the level of groveling you can command from your followers! Honestly? Why would the prayers of the living matter? Why not the prayers of those already dead, who have gone on to heaven? Wouldn't their evaluation be more accurate? And why would a perfect god need to be told anything? Or asked for anything? Doesn't he already know? So the purpose of this is for people to debase themselves with no guarantee of an outcome, evidently. It has nothing to do with actually affecting, much less effecting, an outcome. Indeed, how can a perfect god's mind be changed by prayer? To suggest it can be changed indicates the divine mind is in an imperfect state!

Of course, the value of Dante's insights is rather lessened when we learn of his cosmology, which has Earth at the center and the sun out in a "sphere" between Venus and Mars.... Comedy is definitely the word for this. It's a joke. Not only is the original story complete trash, as well as being both juvenile and vindictive, this graphic rendition of it felt to me like it was tossed together on the cheap. It was lackluster and minimalist to an extreme degree, and I can't recommend it.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Superyogi Scenario by James Conner


Title: The Superyogi Scenario
Author: James Conner
Publisher: Sky Grove
Rating: WARTY!

Errata:
"...Captain Davis' wiry main mechanic..." should be "...Captain Davis's wiry main mechanic..." (similarly used on pps 52, 53, & 94). Davis is singular, so adding the letter 's' after the apostrophe is appropriate.
"That pulled more g forces of the most aggressive roller coaster" (p118) makes no sense as it's written. Try 'than' instead of 'of', and 'g force' (singular)?
"...entitled Dangerous Yogis..." should be "...titled Dangerous Yogis..." (p13) but so many authors conflate these two words that this point it's pretty much a waste of time objecting with a language as dynamical as English.
"I'm not saying there is any eminent danger of this mountain collapsing..." (p239) should be "I'm not saying there is any imminent danger of this mountain collapsing..." The author uses it correctly on p275.
"...I put the dresses in your closest personally" (p245) should be "...I put the dresses in your closet personally"

So, this was yet another Adobe Digital Editions book that started on page minus five. Way to give a negative impression! I don't know what does this. It isn't the author's fault. Something evidently got lost in translation between the typescript and the ADE. It's not an insurmountable problem - just annoying, but I never saw this problem until recently, and now I've seen it three times in three different books. Authors and publishers beware!

There were too many flaws in this story. On the one hand, this made it very little worse than your average super hero story, all of which are flawed in some way - notably how the hero got their powers and how those powers work. The biggest flaw was that there were pictures - in a book that's supposed to be about denying self - demonstrating how good-looking and hot these cool super-heroes were. In the ADE edition, the very first picture, of Physique, the villain, was cut off. Only the top portion of the image was visible (in the iPad edition it was all visible), so we didn't even see her face (see image on my blog). I was sorry it wasn't showing only the bottom, with the top cut off. At least then I could have maybe garnered some hits for my blog by telling everyone she appeared topless! LOL!

This story at least had the advantage of taking the road less traveled and for the most part, it's well-written apart from some rather glaring gaffs listed on my blog. I liked the way we're told that it's "A novel" on the cover - like we might mistake it for fact! In the end though, for me, it collapsed under its own weight. At times it read far more like a yoga training manual than an exciting novel, which was tedious at best, but this wasn't even the worst problem. I go into detail on my blog.

The grotesque sexual objectification of the female characters was what killed it for me. There are no everyday real females here and it was - even for a super hero story - completely unrealistic. I had initially thought that going with the yoga scenario would either be a joke or refreshingly different. The latter possibility was what made me look forward to reading it, but in the end it was just another trope super-hero story with nothing essentially different at all except for the yoga lectures.

I didn't like the genderism one bit, and adding brainy after beautiful, and mentioning (as opposed to showing) it just the once, does nothing to redress what is clearly and blatantly objectification. When we meet Agent Rollins, a guy, all we get is that he's tall, wiry, skin as black as midnight (which actually isn't very black when you're in times Square). No mention of handsome - or ugly for that matter, but this author cannot introduce a single female character (and they're all single) without larding her up with buxom, beautiful, voluptuous, or otherwise waxing gratuitously as to how thoroughly all-around hawt she is.

First we meet Physique, aka Tina Hinsdale - the villain. She seems to be the only one who doesn't come swaddled in a super-costume of sexist superlatives, although even she is described as "athletic". After that, though, all restraint fails:

  • "...Surat Banal, the beautiful and brainy assistant..." (pc)
  • "...instantly found her attractive..." (pc)
  • "...no woman so attractive had ever..." (pc)
  • "To Detective Brennan - an attractive but hardened woman..." (pc)
  • "...blonde and buxom..." (p78)
  • "...an attractive woman in an olive green flight suit..." (p83)
  • "Samantha simply enjoyed being the beautiful translator..." (p137)
  • "...accenting her voluptuous chest..." (p137)
  • "...if she's going to become a beautiful slugger..." (p186)
  • "Samantha looked at her beautiful, glowing body..." (p189)
  • "...on the dramatic cover, a buxom brunette..." (p198)
  • "...she was glowing and attractive..." - attractive to moths maybe? (201)
  • "...her voluptuous figure..." (p204)
  • "...a beautiful blonde woman..." (p235)
  • "...their sponsor's attractive niece seemed..." (p239)
  • "...spirits looked like beautiful angels..." (p261)
  • And my personal favorite:
  • Arial Davis, "...a beautiful woman who smelled like roses..." (p112)
  • Seriously, roses? Roses don't actually smell of much any more - not like they did in Shakespeare's time. These days, they're all about looks, just like these descriptions.

So for example, when we meet female Surat Banal, the very first thing after her name is "the beautiful" with a side order of "and brainy" as a sop to try and weaken the fact that the most important thing about her is her looks. We get no indication of what Rollins is wearing, but a complete description of Banal's attire down to her pearl necklace, lustrous hair, and Bollywood smile. I am so tired of this, and was pretty much ready to ditch this novel at that point, only five pages in. I had hoped for better, but reading on and on, I quickly learned it wasn't coming. This novel doesn't take the less traveled path after all.

I know this is traditional in super-hero stories, but does that mean it's required? Does that mean we can never try a different kind of super-hero story and break this mold? The truly, truly hypocritical thing here is that Diamond Mind, aka Eric the super yogi, is constantly banging on about how important it is to shed the 'me' and broaden our 'self' to become selfless, and yet every single page, near enough, is larded with how firmly attached to the me and to the material these people truly are.

The 'enlightened one' himself tosses his hair out of his eyes with metronomic regularity. Can he not get it cut so it isn't a constant distraction to him? Do his super yogic powers not extend to holding his hair in place? This endless parade of references to physical appearance completely betrayed and obliterated everything the author was saying about higher consciousness, detachment, and all that drivel!

But on to the story. The idea here is that there are super-powered yogis. They have such control over their bodies that they can overcome the laws of physics (yeah, good luck with that!) and as we learn in the very first chapter, change their body density and crash an airplane, this we need good super yogis to beat them at their own game.

One major problem for me is that the novel had almost no humor except that which was supplied unintentionally, such as when Physique observes at one point, "One side of a mountain moved six feet, sixty years ago...this isn't earth-shattering stuff". Actually, it is! Here's another: the author describes Physique and Agnite clinging to the rail of a boat out on the ocean, fearful that if they fell into the water, no one would ever find them out there, but Physique can float and in the air, too! Why would she be scared? It makes no sense. The only intentionally amusing highlight I noticed was the use of the term "un-dynamic duo" to describe agents Rollins and Kirby investigating this truck that physique damaged. That was it for humor.

While I think it's great that an author has come up with something new to bring to the super hero story genre, taking this particular tack also brings problems along with it. The most obvious one is of course, why set it in the USA? There are shamefully obvious reasons for that of course, but it would have made a lot more sense if this had been set in a place where yoga has been practiced for centuries. The USA is hardly known for its spiritual enlightenment! But if it's super-hero, it has to be USA, right?! And USDA - certified pure beef, too!

Whole chapters of the novel are devoted to teaching yoga, which I routinely skipped because they were boring new age woo. Other readers may find this appealing, but I have no interest at all in reading a bunch of unsubstantiated religious claptrap, especially in a work of fiction. If I did, I'd get a book about the topic and read that. And no, I'm not interested in hearing arguments to the effect that the brain waves of meditating people have been measured and the brain structure of these people has been studied, and I'll tell you why.

Such claims are meaningless without controls. We don't know if those brain changes were there long before the path to meditation began. Neither have there been control studies testing other people doing other things for comparison, such as measuring the brain waves of an athlete when they're in the zone, or of a concert pianist or violinist performing, for example, or of a video-gamer, or of a fighter-jet pilot doing maneuvers.

Without a real honest-to-goodness scientific study, claims are meaningless and out of place in a work of fiction which certainly doesn't require minutiae to be highlighted, and detailed explanations provided for every little thing! Besides, even if all of this were proven, it still provides no evidence for other claims, such as yogis having super powers, or that there is any such thing as reincarnation. These things are fine for fiction. They're fun to play with, and can make for a really good story if handled well, but I can do without the lectures and training manuals in a novel.

A belief in past lives and migrating souls is nonsensical. Consider this: at a point in the not-so-distant past, there were only maybe 2,000 humans living on Earth. We almost became extinct. Now there are billions. Where did all those extra souls come from? If they already existed, what were they doing in the literal billions upon billions of years before Earth formed and life began, and finally, within the last few million years, humans appeared on the stage? Reincarnation ignores the facts of life and this is why it's nonsensical.

The author seems to know that it's the Medal of Honor and not the Congressional Medal of honor (perhaps people confuse it with the Congressional Gold Medal) on one page, but later he refers to it as Congressional Medal of Honor. He's wrong in claiming it was issued to one civilian. It's not issued to civilians per se, but it has been issued to at least seven civilians who were in the employ of the US military at the time it was earned.

"He's gonna have to learn how to lighten up. Having a sense of humor is a big part in making any spiritual progress" - this from Eric the yogi who has been telling these two women that they need to let go of the "me" and focus on others, and now they're being kitted out for super hero costumes by comic book artists - who evidently don't use pencil, ink, or paint any more but all use $2,000 Wacom graphics tablets! Neither Arial (now "Airspeed") nor Samantha (now "Samsa") raise a single objection to their being objectified. This is the point I quit feeling positive about this novel. After that I just completed it for the sake of it since I was so close to the end and hadn't yet finished counting the incidence of "beautiful," but I knew i could not rate it positively.

In a humorous book, calling in comic book artists to design the superheroes' wardrobes would have been a hilarious touch, but this was not that kind of story and it sounded completely ridiculous here. Why not get he movie costume designers? They're the real exerts, and they have been there and done that!

The genderism worked negatively in two ways with the costuming, too. The guys get full-body covering. In fact, the one who actually is impervious to bullets gets a full body suit of Kevlar. The two "girls" (as they're now referred to), are not only forced into the ignominy of wearing what is, let's face it, skimpy swim suits and thoroughly ridiculous mini-skirts, they're also the ones who have no protection against bullets, being forced to expose acres of vulnerable skin. Where is their protection?

The worst part is that neither of these women has sufficient integrity, professionalism or self-respect to raise any objections. Instead they're portrayed as lapping it up, and this wasn't the only dumb in play here. I was especially disappointed in Arial Davis, as a military officer, going along with this. It seemed completely out of character for her, but then the military isn't portrayed in a very positive light here.

At one point, after discussing a new threat from Physique, the commander of the Marine Corps supposedly says, "Then madam, it's time to deploy the Marines with some heavy weapons to defend the Capital," but the Posse Comitatus Act prevents just this kind of deployment, as a Marine commander ought to know. That's what the police forces and the National Guard are for.

So no, I cannot in good faith recommend this novel. All of this leaves only one unanswered question: If there was a naked Yogi living in Yosemite National Park - would that be a Yogi Bare? I'll let you know when I visit.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman


Title: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Canongate
Rating: WARTY!

Having read of the religiously-motivated controversy surrounding Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, when I came across this audio book, I was curious to find out what he had to say. Pullman reads it himself, and it makes for entertaining listening, although I confess I'm not sure what his motivation was in writing it or what he hoped to achieve in doing so.

I'm not religious and I do not believe there ever was a Messianic son of god roaming around what is now Israel some 2,000 years ago. Certainly there never was a "Jesus Christ" - which is all Greek to me! Yes, there were people named Yeshu, or Yeshua or Yehoshua - it was a common name as was Miri (Mary) and Yusef (Joseph). There may even have been one or more rabbis going by the name of Yeshu, one or more of whom may have been crucified. That doesn’t make the contradictory stories in the New Testament true. There's no evidence that any of those poor victims of Roman barbarity ever rose from the dead.

Pullman tells it like it's true, but he puts a spin on it which is unique to my knowledge: that Jesus Christ wasn't one man, but two: Jesus, and Christ, brothers, both of whom could perform miracles, but only one of whom, Jesus, took on the mantle of Messiah. Directed by a creepy anonymous benefactor, Christ remained in the shadows recording and documenting Jesus's words and activities.

Pullman tells the story very much like it’s told in the NT, including some little known tales from New Testament era apocrypha, but on some occasions he puts a slightly different spin on the stories, heightening the interest and drama, while all the time, Jesus is becoming more well-known and popular, and the authorities increasingly taking an interest in his activities.

And so it goes, but in the end I can't recommend this as a worthy read because it really didn't offer anything new or startling - apart from the aforementioned and rather schizophrenic aspect of it. Kudos to Pullman for reading his own stories in the audio versions, but this isn't something I really enjoyed or would want to read again, unlike the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, which I adore.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Adventures of Basil and Moebius by Ryan Schifrin and Larry Hama


Title: The Adventures of Basil and Moebius
Author: Ryan Schifrin
Author: Larry Hama
Publisher: Magnetic Press
Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated by Rey Villegas, Lizzy John, Novo Malgapo, and Adam Archer.
Lettered Dave Sharpe and Ed Dukeshire


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 for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Alaric Moebius and Basil Fox (a take on Basil Brush maybe?!) are two adventurers. Moebius is, by his own admission, a cat burglar (no, he doesn't steal cats, he climbs around buildings like a cat and steals valuables). Fox is supposedly a British soldier from the Special Air Services (SAS), although in the second of the three stories combined in this volume he's shown as a Grenadier Guard, guarding Buckingham palace. This seems highly unlikely. He's either one or the other, not both. Either one of which isn't going to give him laissez faire to sneak out at night and gallivant around London. This was one of a number of errors in authenticity in this fiction.

No one in Britain calls cops 'Peelers'. And they don't routinely carry guns (now if this had been set in Northern Ireland that might have been a different matter, but Scotland? No!). 'Peelers' is really an Irish name coined after Sir Robert Peel formed the Metropolitan Police Force in London in 1829. The more common name in use (again from Peel's name) was 'Bobbies', but they're more likely called simply 'cops' these days.

The cops are drawn authentically, but the cars they use are not. Metro cars are highly colorful, not plain white. This kind of thing tends to be a problem when Americans try to write a Brit story. We get odd conjugations of slang, way-the-hell too much supposedly 'Cockney rhyming slang', and oddball mash-up phrases joining Americanisms with Brit-isms. In this particular case, we got interesting statements like: "So what's the heist, Guv?" and "...beat the ever-lovin' shite...". Maybe non-Brit readers will love this, but Brits will likely be irritated by it at best.

There was a notable number of these things, including some really weird ones. For example, at one point, one of the characters, in process of shutting-up Alaric before he can expose this guy, says, "...I know just the place to keep him until the gendarmerie arrives." I have no idea whatsoever where that out-of-left-field comment came from! The guy is supposedly Israeli, not French, so why an Israeli would talk about French police in Scotland is a complete mystery - unless, of course he actually was French and this is a ham-fisted way to out him to the reader, but he'd have to be pretty stupid to make a gaff like that - and this wasn't the case anyway.

There's also some gun-play going on here, which is not unknown even in Britain, but which is also relatively rare there. The point here isn't that it was depicted, but that no one was at all shocked by it when one character shot another - and in the back, too. No one batted an eyelid. I found that beyond belief. Even in the US, something like this would have been remarked upon, or there would have been expressions of shock or dismay, yet in Scotland - nothing! It didn't feel authentic to me. On the positive side, the writers/artists did know what a portcullis and an oubliette were, so it's not all negative (just to be fair!).

I have to say at one point that I enlarged the image in Adobe Digital Editions to verify the spelling of a mis-used word (the writers apparently used "blimmin' " when it actually should have been 'blooming' or that rendered as "blummin' ". That wasn't the real problem. When I returned the page to normal 1:1 size, it lost all page integrity, so that when I clicked the down bar or pressed 'page down', instead of moving down one entire page, it moved only partial pages, making for a really annoying reading experience. Closing the ebook and re-opening didn't fix it; neither did opening the app to full-screen and then returning it to regular size, and neither did closing the entire application before re-opening it and then re-opening the book. The only way to work it from that point on was to sequentially type in the novel's page numbers to move to the next whole page, which was annoying! I think this is an issue with ADE though, not with this particular graphic novel.

The most off-putting thing about the novel, and the real reason why I'm not rating it as a worthy read, is that neither Alaric nor Basil were at all appealing. I didn't even like, much less admire or envy either of them. I didn't appreciate their attitude or their behavior, and they did nothing to endear me to them. They were essentially a pair of louts who had no interests in life other than thievery and blowing their ill-gotten gains on drink and partying. To some people that might represent entertainment, but it doesn't to me. Why would I want to read about a pair of thugs like these guys? I gave up after the second of the three stories in this volume. I have no interest in following these low-lifes any more. Your mileage may differ.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Pentecost by JF Penn


Title: Pentecost
Author: JF Penn
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Rating: WARTY!

You'd think a novel with 'Pen' in the title penned by a writer whose last name is Penn would be a novel made in heaven, especially if it's about religious nut-jobs, but it wasn't to be. More like 4F.

This novel is about Morgan Sierra who is a psychologist resident in Oxford, England. She was, at one time, a soldier in the IDF - the Israeli Defence Force. When a stone is stolen from a nun who is murdered in Varanasi (aka Benares or Kashi) in India (I am not making this up!), this somehow connects to Morgan, and she becomes the target of Thanatos - a cult of the deludedly religious (OTOH, what religion isn't?!) who are evidently chasing after the 'stones of power'. Her involvement also brings in her sister and niece, who are kidnapped. Fortunately, this weak woman is saved by a trope macho military guy who happens to be a member of a secret society named 'ARKANE', especially not when his name is, absurdly, Jake Timber! Really?

I can't even remember how I got hold of this novel and it sat there for ages without me feeling any great urge to pick it up. I started it more than once, but I absolutely could not get into it. I don't like stories where the main female character is presented as tough and independent, but immediately needs a guy to rescue and validate her. I didn't read all of this by any means, so I can't speak for how it all panned out. Maybe things turned around, but I simply could not get into the novel at all, so I can't offer any sort of recommendation.

I don't see how a huge secret of 'power stones' (seriously?) would lay dormant for 2,000 years, so the underlying plot was farcical to me to begin with. Worse than that, there seemed to me to be nothing here but trope - the tough female, but motivated solely by 'female motivations' - her sister, her niece - her mothering instincts.

Not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but why is it that when a male hero is in play, his motivation is typically patriotism, duty, military loyalty, training, and bromance, but when a female becomes the main character, the criteria change completely? Can a woman not be patriotic? Can she not feel comradeship with her fellow men/women? Can she not be motivated by duty? Does it always have to be rescuing her mom/sister/niece/nephew/child? And vice-versa for the guy.

I think this is one of the strongest reasons why this was so tedious to me, and why it didn't pull me in or invest me with any interest in these people. They were, essentially, non-entities. It seems like the plot had a life of its own, and any random characters could have been plugged in to fill the character slots, so there was nothing special about the characters who happened to be attached. There really was nothing really new or notably original in the part that I read, and since the characters were unappealing, I found no point in continuing to read this and certainly no need to pursue an entire series about such pointless and uninteresting people.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Unilateral by Chris Katsaropoulos


Title: Unilateral
Author: Chris Katsaropoulos
Publisher: Waterside Productions
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 for this review. The chance to read a new book is often reward aplenty!

This is an odd little story, only some ninety pages and written in a quite large and double-spaced font, so it’s more like 45 pages. The front cover describes it as "a novel" but it's actually closer to a novelette.

The story features two main characters: Amel, a young Palestinian girl who lives in the beleaguered Gaza strip, and Ra'anan Cohen, a fighter-bomber pilot who lives in Israel and who is filled with disgust with - and hatred for - the Arabs.

Amel's only dream is getting out of her tiny wreck of a village where's she's perennially hidden under a burqa, and is a victim of the lustful gazes of men wherever she goes. She wants to be her own "master" and free to live a better life.

Ra'anan dreams of the cease-fire being over so he can get back to bombing terrorists. Finally it is, but as he slows his speed and levels off his jet for his smart bomb run, targeting a tunnel system which Amel's brother is secretively helping to build, something changes dramatically.

It's not what I was considering might happen: that Amel and Ra'anan would somehow end up together wondering at how they could have been such 'enemies'. It’s more of a rationalization - some might argue a spiritual awakening - that brings about a change in Ra'anan's thinking.

I wasn't a huge fan of the ending. It seemed too much to arise from what little had come before, but it’s really not that significantly different from the kind of ending I wrote for an entirely different short story I published in Poem y Granite, so it would be hypocritical of me to down-grade it for that! Hah! Hoist by my own petard!/p>

Seriously, what impressed me in this story wasn't the ending, but the writing. It was really well done, very evocative, with really excellent world-building from so few words. The writing takes you right to the location, and has you walking by the side of the characters, hearing what they heard, seeing what they saw, feeling what they felt. It was all of that which made me consider this to be a worthy read.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Bond & Benevolence: Good Samaritan by JC Johnston


Title: Bond & Benevolence: Good Samaritan
Author/Editor: JC Johnstonn
Publisher: Delegate Publishing
Rating: WARTY!


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 for this review. The chance to read a new book is reward aplenty!

This is an utterly bizarre story that's like a weird fairytale. It’s also told in first person omniscient, which is totally out there. It’s even more off-the-wall in that the story is all about Sam, not about the 1PoV narrator, who is telling Sam's story and relating events in detail for which she was never present! It’s actually not a novel at all in any meaningful sense, but a Bible tract telling you how to live your life, with no attempt made to even try to disguise its nature, but it's far more out in left field than that because it has some extreme violence and some bad language in it, too.

The tale is almost all conversation. There's no descriptive writing, no setting of place or atmosphere, except in the briefest and sketchiest of manners. The story is seemingly aimed at relatively mature young-adult readers, but it’s written in a voice that seems more appropriately aimed at very young children. This makes the violent themes more inexplicable. It begins with the story of Sam Raider's dad, who likes to give away a lot of stuff, and some of this stuff is Sam's: things she had when younger but now no longer uses.

At first she doesn't want to part with her things, but slowly she adopts her dad's attitude. One of these things is a violin, and Sam decides to give it away for free, and then volunteers to give lessons to the impoverished young girl of color who gets it. This entails traveling to a really bad neighborhood, with her dad, who is rightly nervous for her safety, and won't let her go alone. Why he doesn't insist that they simply pick up the girl for tutoring is left unaddressed.

Next Samantha visits the somewhat oddball Mrs Doyle. This is the Mrs Doyle of whom Sam later decides she going to un-clutter her house and get her mind right, because clearly Sam is the only person on the planet who knows what’s good for anyone and everyone. After she leaves Mrs Doyle's house, a boy she knows runs out of a nearby house to marvel that she visited the weird Mrs Doyle.

He thinks Mrs Doyle poisoned his dog because it was known to soil her lawn, but Sam's view is that Justin's girlfriend poisoned his dog after he arranged to go to the prom with her and then turned up with a different girl. Sam's vicious and nasty retort is that she, too, would have poisoned his dog if he had done that to her.

WHAT?

Is this supposed to endear me to Sam? Make me think what a wonderful, generous person she is? It doesn't. It makes me think she's a psycho and a jerk. The narrator goes on about how having his dog poisoned had made Justin a better person (but it didn’t). She says nothing whatsoever about how evil someone would have to be to poison a dog because she was jilted for another girl by its owner. That just slides right on by! How sick is that? These people are sick and warped.

When she's not sitting in front of the mirror reflecting upon how truly beautiful she is, Sam's full-time job is messing in the affairs of her acquaintances, and lecturing them on how to live their lives. For example, when Justin dropped out of school, Sam, interfering busy-body that she is, felt compelled to visit him and read him the riot-act about not living off his parents! She says nothing about how much she enjoys living off the largess of her own very wealthy father. Sam is a hypocrite. When Justin reveals to her that his girlfriend, Molly, is pregnant, Sam starts interfering in her life, too, declaring what a huge sin it is to even think about an abortion! She starts ordering Molly around and telling her what she must do.

I find it odd that Sam, supposedly so religious, never ever goes to church or prays. Weird. Perhaps it’s because Sam is the biggest jerk, know-it-all, and interfering busy-body I've ever encountered in a story. I have no idea what color, race or ethnicity Sam is, but all of her advice seems to be doled out to persons of color, like she's the big white empress coming to tell the "colored folks" how to live their lives better! What arrogance!

One particularly striking example of interference, and strutting around over the less fortunate, occurs when they visit Ophelia again to teach her some more violin. Mr Raider suggests they all go out to eat, but Ophelia's mom demurs, saying that her family has nothing decent to wear (yep, that's how impoverished they are!), so Mr Raider takes them all to the store to buy clothes for them! Is this what Jesus would do?! Subsequently he lavishes them with presents and starts hitting on Ophelia's mom.

The next time they visit Mrs Doyle, Sam orders her to go take a shower! Lol! What a rude, interfering little jack-ass Sam truly is. Sam then went to work exfoliating Mrs Doyle! I am not making this up. Sam clearly has learned nothing from the Bible - assuming she ever read it. Under any other circumstances, I’d say was a positive thing, but this girl is supposed to be religious. She's all about pretty, about skin-deep, not about being who you are.

By chapter nine, "Sam felt she could do no wrong". Isn't that how all religious fanatics feel? It’s hilarious that all these things for which they're thanking a god are actually coming not from any gods, but directly from Mr Raider's fat wallet. There would be nothing were it not for that, including the $30,000 he wires to Ophelia's grandmother for the wedding. It’s easy to be grateful to a god when you have boundless wealth, isn’t it?

The story takes an utterly bizarre Kill Bill turn at the wedding of Sam's dad and Ophelia's mom. Evidently her father had a secret past which catches violently up with him, and Sam ends up showing her true colors: refusing to forgive him, refusing to help him, and instead, burning down his house in retribution! That's what a fine Christian she is. What a charmer. I'm sorry, but this novel is total trash and it sucked beyond anything I've read in a long, long time.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood


Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Rating: WARTY!

Audio book sadly read by Betty Harris.

This is, according to Atwood, speculative fiction, but I don't think she knows the difference between dystopian, speculative, and sci-fi. Either that or I don't! It's about a future USA where life has changed dramatically after a terrorist attack which kills the president and congress. The attack is carried out by a group of religious nut-jobs which then allows another group of religious nut-jobs, calling themselves 'the Sons of Jacob' to take over. This of course would never happen, not even in the USA, but that's the premise we're dealing with here.

The SoJ quickly takes over, suspending the constitution, and removing all women's rights by confiscating their financial records. This is the part that couldn't happen. Most women would never let this happen, and neither would most men.

The biggest problem I had was with how very quickly this occurs. The narrator, the main character, is a woman in her early thirties, and she remembers very well what things were like before, which means she must have been in high school (or older), which in turn means that this all not only took place, but became solidly cemented in place, in twenty years or less, which isn't feasible.

Yes, Atwood does represent life as an ongoing war between the Republic of Gilead (how did that name change ever come about and why?) and 'the rebels', but we're never really told anything about the rebels, nor is the complete absence of Islamic forces addressed. If the Islamic terrorists conducted this hugely successful attack in the first place, then why are there not insurgents flocking to the USA as they did to Iraq? Why aren't they flocking there anyway? The secret is that this novel was written and published thirty years ago, so a lot gets lost in the translation of the years.

So the premise of the story is weak, but if you're willing to let that go, it becomes a bit more interesting, and some of the things she writes are prescient. She doesn't include anything that isn't happening, or that hasn't happened as a result of ridiculous religion.

That said, I felt that Atwood rambled far too much about unimportant details at the beginning, larding the novel with a rather amateurish info-dump, which keeps on giving. There is far too much tedious detail. I read this some time back and decided to give it another try for a review, but I simply could not stay with it the second time around, and the mediocre reading of Betty Harris didn't help at all.

On top of that, I've never been a fan of first-person PoV novels, as this one is. Some are enjoyable, but most of them, for me, kick me right out of suspension of disbelief because it's far too absurd to me to credit that a narrator can tell a story in such detail, especially if they're supposedly telling it as it happens. It's ridiculous and unnatural. It's also extraordinarily limiting on the writer, but that's not even the worst problem here.

The conceit of this novel is that this story was recovered from audio tape after the Republic of Gilead had been overturned. What better opportunity could there have been than to make this dramatic as though it was really and truly the actual audio tape we were listening to? But no - it was wasted, which I think is a crying shame and a huge black mark against this audio version for me.

The main character is Offred (Of Fred - meaning owned by Fred). While I thought this was a cool name, I did wonder, if the commander had two such handmaidens, what the second one would be called. Perhaps they're permitted only one at a time. She's kept only for two years, and solely for reproductive purposes, and as such is in some ways privileged, but in other ways is disparaged as little more than a prostitute.

Offred is in the unenviable position of wishing that she will become impregnated by her rapist quickly because this will in effect maintain her 'market price' by demonstrating that she's fertile. If she fails, she could lose her 'privileged' position. I mean: what use could a woman possibly be, if she cannot have children, we're asked to accept here, and indeed, this has been a fundamental motivation of fundamentalism ever since religion began. This is one of those cases where humanity is supposedly largely sterile - in this case due to pollution and STDs, which is not really credible either, but that's what we have.

This is Offred's third such two-year 'assignment'. If she fails to become pregnant this time, then she will be classed as an 'unwoman' and be forced to the colonies to clean up nuclear pollution and die an early death. This time, her experience is different in that while The Commander is supposed only to have sex with her during The Ceremony (with his own wife present as a witness (lying underneath the handmaiden as the commander labors over her to try and bring on labor nine months hence), he wants Offred much more than this, and bribes her with illicit materials such as magazines, cosmetics, and the chance to read.

The bizarre thing is that The Commander's wife, Serena Joy, is also plying Offred with inducements to get pregnant by encouraging her to have sex with The Commander's driver, Nick - so yes, it's quite literally a cluster-fuck, especially when The Commander's wife discovers Offred's extended relationship with The Commander, and Nick tells Offred that he can facilitate her escape - if she trusts him.

So it could have been a really great novel, but it failed because there was too much tedium between the interesting bits (and limited bits they were). Atwood is a great fan of telling; not so much with the showing. I can't recommend this. Go read Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman if you want a truly feminist PoV.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Contemporary Passion by RM Romarney


Title: Contemporary Passion
Author: RM Romarney
Publisher: Vivid Publishing
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 for this review.

I don't usually review poetry because I tend to find very little that speaks to me or impresses me in any relatable way, but I have to admit that this one has what it takes and turned out to be entertaining. It's a 38-page poem (in my ebook ARC) set in modern times, but played out as religious passion play. Actually, to me, it seemed more like a musical, or like that old Queen song, Bohemian Rhapsody, and I enjoyed it a lot despite its religious theme.

It features a group of young, passionate, and virile artists in process of recording an album of music, and having some serious relationship issues along the way - and I mean serious! And for once, I get a book with a truly appropriate cover! Yeay!

I think this poem made an impression on me because in some ways it reminds me of some of my own, such as published in Poem y Granite, but I've never written one as long as his! To reference my own work might seem self-serving or self-absorbed, but isn't that how we all are with poetry? It has to reach us, doesn't it? It has to say something to each of us personally, and speak in a voice we understand - one to which we can easily relate, otherwise it's meaningless, obscure, pointless, and boring. Contemporary Passion was none of the above, which is why it appealed to me. It was joyful and passionate, and had a life of its own, and I salute the author of it.


Monday, August 4, 2014

The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra


Title: The Secret Supper
Author: Javier Sierra
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: WARTY!

Originally published as La Cena Secreta, I read the English translation of this novel some time ago, before I began blogging. I came across the audio book version of it in the library, so I decided to give it a listen so I could blog it here. The problem was that once I started listening, I also started wondering how in hell I'd managed to not only read this book, but also think it was worth retaining the book in my collection with a view to possibly re-reading it at some point down the road.

Clearly I'd found something in it the first time around that was just as clearly absent this time. Has my perspective on novels changed so much? It wasn't that long ago that I read this - maybe two years? Have I become so much more critical - so much less forgiving? I guess!

The novel is set around 1520 when Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper fresco. The conceit here is that it's the recorded words of Agostino Leyre, a chief inquisitor in the Catholic church. He's supposed to be putting this story on paper (or parchment or whatever) in his old age while living as a hermit, but no one actually writes like that in those circumstances! That struck me as false.

If you are writing a diary, you might record a conversation, but even then you wouldn't record it like you do in a novel. If your conversation went like this, for example:

Jane entered the room with an aura of frustrated anger covering her imposing form.

"That's it!" she said with an explosion of air that had evidently been tightly constrained by her lungs for far too long.

Mesmerized slightly by the rain of dust motes caught in the brilliant afternoon sunshine filtered by the trees outside and by the dirty windows of her apartment, it took me a minute to register the full force of her presence and her declaration, let alone figure out what was upsetting her.

Is something wrong?" I asked superfluously, trying to gain myself some time and perhaps elicit further information before I was forced to commit to a response and perhaps to yet another exercise in frustration with her.

"Have you not been listening?" she asked in sheer disbelief.

This engendered in me a sour feeling of further reduced assurance than I was already harboring. What was I, some sort of NSA operation that I listened in on her every communication?! "I try not to listen to people on the phone," I said, slightly nervously. The truth was that I'd tuned her out completely, and dissolved into a rather soporific day-dream, the memory of lunch still heavy on my stomach as it was.

Jane gave me one of her 'what do I have to do with you' looks and took a deep breath. "Dick no longer wants to run with me. He says I'm too slow for his pace and he's found a new partner. This is the guy I got back on his feet, and now I'm back to running alone. In these streets." She paused and I suddenly got the feeling that this was all about to come back on me. It always does. I hadn't even begun to get my head-shake in motion before her face took on a look like it was the dawn of a new age and she asked, "Why the hell don't you go running?"

Seeing that look on her face, I must admit I suddenly felt like it.

©Ian Wood 2014

Now let's consider that same event as written in the 'victim's' diary:

So I had lunch with Jane this afternoon, and we ended up back at her place, which is still a mess, and Dick the dick calls her out of the blue to say he's ditching her as a running partner. Now she expects me to saddle up. That ain't gonna happen. OTOH, I'm not about to let her start running these streets again on her own.
©Ian Wood 2014

See the difference? Obviously no one writes a diary the same way as everyone else, so your idea of a diary entry will differ from mine, but I guarantee you no one writes a diary like the first example, either; that's how it's written when it's not actually a diary but is actually a novel outright lying that it's a diary. In the same vein, no one writing a real reminiscence writes like Agostino Leyre is supposed to be doing here, so from the off, this thing shouted fake to me (but this kind of falsehood will win you medals and 'literary' prizes!). How did I get past that last time? I honestly don't know.

One thing I became really tired of hearing was multiple repetitions of "Santa Maria delle Grazie". This is simply a church name: Holy Mary of Grace. What I didn't get is why these names are never translated in novels? Why is everything else translated (for example, we might get Rome, not Roma in a novel or Florence in place of Firenze), but then we get Santa Maria delle Grazie? It makes no sense. Nor did it make sense to keep repeating this instead of simply referring to it as "the church" or "the cathedral" or some other variation. Just a pet peeve!

So the story is about Da Vinci hiding secrets in his paintings, and an anonymous "Soothsayer" making prophecies, and Leyre's investigation into this. I honestly don't recall the ending (or most of the plot). I just remember that I once liked this, but now apparently don't! So I can't recommend it!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

H2O by Austin Boyd and Brannon Hollingsworth






Title: H2O
Author: Austin Boyd and Brannon Hollingsworth
Publisher: AMG Publishers
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of my reviews so far, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley, and is available now.

I am not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, I don't feel comfortable going into anywhere near as much detail over it as I have with the older books I've been reviewing! I cannot rob the authors of their story, so this is shorter, but most probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!


It's funny I should start reviewing this tonight when it's pouring down with rain outside as a humongous and adorable thunderstorm comes rolling through!

After reading only only a couple of sentences of H2O I thought I would dislike it. The florid language just turned my stomach, but I pressed on and was rewarded with a story which grew more fascinating as I progressed, but as I progressed it became obvious this was Christian fiction and there was no mystery over what the protagonist was experiencing. I was interested to note that it takes two guys to write a novel from the female perspective! lol! I'm an atheist, but I have no objection to religious fiction as long as the author(s) don't try to make too much sense out of it or take it too seriously, so I began in a state of curiosity as to where they would take this.

The main protagonist is Kate Pepper, a senior (rank, not age!) employee of an aerospace software corporation who is flying high in her world. She's also well-known for her sashimi and for the charity affairs she puts on with her boyrfriend Xavier. I love Kate Pepper. I know someone whom I really respect and whose maiden name is Pepper, and I used to date someone whose nickname was Pepper, and I love the Pepper Potts character in Ironman, so this effect hardly comes as a surprise to me, but the character is written well, even though she's sometimes infuriating to me. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to pan out too well!

I don’t know what it is about women with a soft belly, but Kate has one, amd I would take one of those over one with a washboard stomach - all other things being equal - any time, anywhere! OTOH, I'd take the washboard if she had a mind behind it, and the soft belly didn’t (and I had a choice!). But that's just me. Where this soft spot for a soft spot came from, I have no idea, but it’s a part of me and I don’t care to discard or abuse it.

Kate Pepper is an over-achiever, which didn’t win any points with me. Much worse than that, though, is that she's in an abusive relationship - of the mental, not the physical kind, but the physical kind is more than taken care of by Kate herself! She slices her hand making sashimi. She flies off her motorbike and is hospitalized because she's going way-the-hell too fast in the rain. She passes out in the shower, and goes temporarily blind making rice balls!

The one thing all of these events have in common, which Kate is evidently too slow to figure out, is water. There is something about water on her skin which transports her - and as the story progresses evidently does so quite literally - to another world - or more accurately to another time: Biblical times. This world is hard to understand and very scary and hallucinatory as far as Kate is concerned. I'm bothered by the fact that if water has so dramtatic an effect on her, then why doesn't the water - which is some 70% of her body! - have a huge effect? Why doesn't the water in the coffee in which she over-indulges, have an effect? There is a lame attmept to explain this away by saying the water needs to be in a pure form to have this effect on her, but that's just nonsense! No water is truly pure - even fresh water from your faucet or from a store bought bottle has some contaminants in it; that is not necessarily to say these contaminants are harmful, just to say that there's really no such thing as pure H2O.

When I got to a point which was some 30 pages shy of finishing this novel, I was seriously done with it! If this is Christian religious fiction, it falls far short of the glory of god! H2O has gone downhill fast and I find that hard to believe given how interested I was in it at the start, but I've read children's stories that are more intelligent, sophisticated, and believable than this one is. It’s painfully obvious what this is all about and has been since the first couple of visions which Kate has had. The only mystery in this novel is why Kate is so retarded in figuring out what’s going on. She was raised a Catholic and yet is completely brain-dead as to the religious nature of the visions!

I'm sorry, but I don’t want to read stories about people who are that irremediably and unrepentantly (yes, I use that word advisedly!) stupid. This Kate, the dumb as a brick Kate, is not the Kate I was led to believe this story was about in the beginning. That Kate - the one I loved, has left the building. I don’t know this substitute Kate and I don’t want to. This Kate is a weak woman who needs a guy to rescue her. But then the church has never been very kind to women, has it? Not since Eve at any rate! But that's not the worst sin in which Boyd and Hollingsworth indulge themselves!

Her "savior" has the initials JC. Why isn't that a surprise? But get this: his name is John Connor. Yes, he's the guy who fights the terminator machines! Not really, but did Boyd and Hollingsworth not see a Terminator movie? That's actually not the great sin; the great sin is that these visions appear to be nothing more than Jesus trying ineffectually to get Kate back into the fold. Jesus evidently is learning nothing from his consistent failures, but like an idiot, he continues repeating these same actions over and over again regardless of the cost to Kate, in the absurd hope of a different outcome! Seriously? Isn't that the definition of insanity?! He's putting her through this endless torment in order to say "Hi!"? I thought that was supposed to be Satan's job?!

Let me make this comparison: If someone you hadn't seen in a long while wanted to renew your acquaintanceship, but instead of simply coming right up to you and saying "Hi!", deliberately avoided meeting you face to face, and instead tried to force you back into a relationship by slipping you a drug which caused you to have bizarre and scary hallucinations, and caused you to injure yourself because of those hallucinations, making you think you were ill, delusional, and mentally deranged, would that be someone you actually wanted to be acquainted with? Excuse me, but you are a bona fides nut-job if your answer to that question is "Yes."

We're talking here about a character which I consider to be fictional, but which 90% of the US population accepts as real. He's claimed to be not only the most powerful being there is, but also supposed to be love itself, and yet the only way he can think of to get you to pay attention to him is quite literally to hit you upside the head? No! No one who loves you does that to you, not even when that person is human. For a god of love to do that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This is an abusive relationship!

The irony here is that we’re shown Kate in an abusive relationship at the start of this story and she's back in one at the end! Just when we see her start to drag herself out of the previous one, we see her being told by more than one person that she needs to get into another one, where an even more powerful alpha-male figure wants to literally take over her life and do it not with love, but with violence, abuse, and threats? The biggest one of those threats is of course, that she either bows to him and quite literally worships him for eternity (how boring is that?), or she must literally rot in hell? How is this a step up for her?

I'm sorry but I can't read any more of this story! It's simplistic, juvenile opiate for the masses, and it makes zero sense even within its own religious framework. This story began great, and I was willing to go with it despite my misgivings that it would go exactly where in fact it actually did go, but though it started so well, it rapidly went to hell in a hand-basket. I cannot recommend this story to anyone who has any integrity and self-respect, and I especially cannot recommend it to women.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pretty Dark Nothing by Heather L Reid





Title: Pretty Dark Nothing
Author: Heather L Reid
Publisher: Month 9 Books
Rating: Worthy

Released: 4/24/2013 ISBN-13: 9780985327811

DISCLOSURE: Unlike all the other reviews prior to this one, I have neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a pre-release "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley! I will be reviewing others of this nature in future and will note which ones those are in the review.

This is a new venture for me, but note that I am not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a brand new novel, I don't feel comfortable going into anywhere near as much detail over it as I have with the older books I've been reviewing! I cannot rob the author of her story, so this is shorter, but most probably still be more detailed than you'll usually find elsewhere!


I have to say up front that I had a few issues with this story. It's a very dark tale and there's a lot of dark with very little leavening. I found this acceptable given what else it had to offer, but I have to admit there were times when I wondered if I was going to want to finish the book! I did finish it and didn't regret the reading, although the ending didn't go where I thought it might, and seemed like it might well have been the ending for a different book altogether!

Perhaps my biggest beef is that the main characters behave all-too-often like they're thirteen years old instead of seventeen. Not that seventeen year olds and adults cannot behave like juveniles, but a break from that would have been nice: a few shades of gray here and there instead of the endlessly stark black and white!

Since this was an uncorrected galley, I don't want to be overly critical of the state of the text. For the most part the actual writing was very well done; Reid can write write! But there were some items bordering on obscurity which caught my eye. For example, at one point, the male protagonist Aaron chases after the female protagonist Quinn, on his motorbike and he arrives breathless! I'm not sure why - unless he was wrasslin' the handlebars all the way! Perhaps he forget his helmet and couldn't breathe on the journey? Was he pushing the bike the whole way?! That just seemed weird. There were one or two other bits like that, but fortunately not very many.

There were some spelling or word-use errors, like 'alter' when it should have been altar (p130). 'stripped' when it seems she meant striped (p137). Then there was the use of this phrase: 'display of PDA' (p143), which decompressed would read, display of public display of affection' which is awkward at best. People seem to readily forget, once a common phrase becomes an acronym, what the original phrase was, so we have people talking about the ATM machine, and the PIN number. That's irritating to me, but it's the way people are!

I frowned slightly when Reid used the phrase 'Texas to Canada' (p246) - as though Mexico isn't a country but Texas is! Texas was a country but it ain't no more, and Reid should know this because she lives here! OTOH, maybe it's because she's a native Texan that she thinks of it this way?!

I also had a cringe-worthy moment with a passionate kiss between Quinn and Aaron right after she's vomited (p159). No, very briefly chewing some gum isn't going to get rid of that awful stench no matter how passionate you are for your loved one! Another such moment was when they had scores of lit candles during a rock concert when the night was 'cloaking the audience in dusk (p192). Seriously, candles at a concert? have we learned nothing form the fires which have killed people when pyrotechnics got out of control? I blogged about this not long ago

This was all made up for with a really weird moment I had on the way to work this morning, I listened unexpectedly to a portion of Carl Sagan's Cosmos which appeared out of the blue when I was scanning stations, and then disappeared - I guess after I got out of range or the thunderstorm messed with the atmospherics or something, and then on break at work I read this novel and the main characters mention Cosmos (p166)! That was a moment! I highly recommend Cosmos.

So onto the novel! Quinn Tailor is haunted by the darkest of dreams: shapeless shadows touch her, teasing and grasping at her with vaporous tendrils, seeking to suck her into something unspeakable. It doesn't help that her boyfriend has dumped her for the school's most vindictive cheerleader, who delights in tormenting and punishing Quinn at every opportunity, and who certainly isn't above seeking revenge for perceived slights - even for seeing nothing more than Quinn talking to her ex, Jeff, whom Kerstin is now dating.

It helps even less that Quinn's father left both her and her mother, that he's used the short time since then to start a new family with someone else, and that he now wants Quinn back in his life, like she's some sort of bronze medal. Quinn is even off the cheerleading squad because her outstanding grades are falling - and who's filling in, in her absence if not Kerstin?

She's no longer "Quinn Perfect", but at least the shadows only come to claim her at night, which is why she's a living wreck, unable to sleep, walking around like a zombie, seeing shadows move and hearing whispers. Yes, they only come at night; until they don’t, that is - until they start showing up in broad daylight, and calling her on her phone. Is this something real or is she going over the darkest edge? She's starting to lose the will to even try to fight them off, succumbing to despair, thinking self-destructive thoughts, fighting with her mother, cutting off her hair....

Aaron collier has his own set of problems. One of them is his apparently unrequited attraction to Quinn (but you and I know better, don't we?!), but that's the least of them. His father is a drunk, still unable to overcome his loss of his young daughter and his wife in a tragic car accident which left Aaron with no memories for several months, and with an unnatural fear of water. And Aaron has a brother who apparently blames him for what happened.

But perhaps the greatest of Aaron's problems is his need to make physical contact with Quinn; but not for the reason you might think: Aaron has an ability to enter another person's thoughts just by touching them. He's pondering how sick his need to touch is, with regard to Quinn, when she faints by the lockers just a few feet from him, overcome by voices and shadows.

While others stand around and stare, Aaron catches her and lowers her to the floor. Of necessity he touches her, and is instantly flooded almost overwhelmingly with her despair and fear. It’s so powerful that even after he has disciplined himself to control this, he has a hard time shutting it out. He's had this psychic ability since his near-death experience in the accident, but he's never felt it like this, and now he's even more concerned about Quinn than he was before.

One evening, he's suddenly overcome by a mental contact with Quinn - when she's not even within a mile of him, much less in physical contact! He can see her despairing, list, in a lake, but he realizes that this is a dream, not a real lake, and despite his hydrophobia, a result of the accident, he plunges in and leads her out. Neither of them is prepared for the massive burst of light and heat and which envelopes them as they hug each other

Aaron has never been able to enter someone's mind before without being in physical contact. Quinn has not had, in months, such a good night's sleep as she did after her encounter with Aaron. But why does she never overtly thank him for his aid? Is she so numbed by the bad taste of that diseased relationship with Jeff that she can't taste the tang of something healthy?

When Aaron calls her the next day, they begin very hesitantly talking about that dream, but they're cut off, and Quinn's phone starts filling with texts telling her Aaron can’t help her. She's on her own. They're coming for her.

Not to give too much away, Quinn starts spiraling down, she and Aaron are on-again-off-again, and Jeff comes back into the picture at a very inopportune time. There's a dramatic chase and a showdown by a raging river. I found it worth the read, although I spent a lot of it confused - thinking it was going one way and finding it going another only to wander back to where I thought it was going. And vice-versa! It's a confused novel, but it still held my attention because I was honestly really curious as to where Reid was going to take this - and she didn't take it where I thought it would go even after she came down on one side of the fence. Color me intrigued! Others may not find her so fascinating. Now whether what happened here is going to be explained in a future sequel, I can't say. I can say that it really does need a sequel because there are too many unanswered questions here.

It bothers me that there is no such thing as moderation in this novel - everything is black or white, everyone is always flying off the handle, everything is maximum intensity, all or nothing, turned up to 11. There's too much drama at times.

It bothers me that Quinn is so obsessed with cheerleading, especially at age 17! I would have preferred her to have a less stereotypical interest in life. It bothers me that coach White didn’t have a thing to say about Quinn's condition after the incident in the locker room where a mirror is smashed and Quinn has visible (although minor) injuries. It bothers me that no one has anything to say about the trashed up locker room! It bothers me that Quinn's father is mentioned briefly in a seemingly important way and then pretty much written completely out of the novel. maybe this is fodder for a sequel?

Quinn is too self-absorbed, although she has way more reason to be so than does Luce in the 'Fallen' disaster. Aaron nowhere near understanding enough given what he knows, and especially in the light of revelations about who he really is towards the end, revelations (I use the word advisedly!) which pop up out of nowhere. The problem is that both of them are seriously damaged people, and in such circumstances, were this reality, the chance that they would do each other far more harm than good is overwhelming. But this is fiction, so we can believe it will go the other way and be the best thing for them.

And that ending is definitely not expected! So I am going to recommend this one because it is so intriguing and offered a roller-coaster ride which I don't normally appreciate in a novel of this nature, but which in this case I was willing to ride. I'm not sure why! I can't say I'm waiting with baited breath for a sequel, but this particular volume I judge to be worth my time. Heather Reid is a writer with an interesting voice and she deserves our support to encourage her to voice some more novels our way.