Showing posts with label supernatural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label supernatural. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Speed of Light by Amber Kizer

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Unhappy Medium by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Rating: WARTY!

Evidently part of a "Suddenly Supernatural" series, this audiobook was a disaster from my perspective. First of all it's number three in an ongoing series, which I couldn't tell from the book cover because Big Publishing™ seems to be in an orchestrated campaign to consistently deny this knowledge to readers. Why they would want this, I do not know, but it's yet another reason I have no time for Big Publishing™. Consequently it was a story in progress before I ever got there. This might have been manageable if other things hadn't tripped it up.

Worse than joining it in the middle as it were, it's worst-person voice, aka first-person voice. Worse than that even, the main character Kat Roberts appears to be a complete moron. Why female authors make their female main characters idiots so often remains a mystery to me. I don't mind if they start out somewhat dumb and wise up during the course of the story but to portray your female as an idiot doesn't do anyone any good. Women have enough to contend with from men without their own gender turning on them like this.

On top of that, the reader, Allyson Ryan, seemed like she wanted to make Kat's best friend as irritating as possible. Typically I find I like the side-kick better than I like the main character in far too many novels of this nature, but here the reader makes "Jac's" voice nauseatingly scratchy (she sounded like that clown from the Simpsons cartoons). She was so bad she almost made the main character seem worth my time. Almost. But I honestly couldn't stand to listen to it. This and the fact that the story was written so badly it was uninteresting to me, made me ditch this DNF. I can't commend it.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Rating: WARTY!

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

Usually on Net Galley, you request a book to read and review and you take your chance as to whether it will be approved. Sometimes books are listed as 'Read Now' which tends to mean the book isn't doing so well or is being undervalued, and the publisher wants it read more widely. Those books are great because I've found many gems among them. There is another option though, which is the 'wish for it' category.

This has also been kind to me because I've found some gems there, too, but since the ones I've wished for have all been granted (to my best recollection), I have to wonder if this category is used because the author or publisher is lacking somewhat in confidence in the book and wants to ensure that it's requested only by those who really want to read it? I don't know. Personally I've tended to enjoy the 'wished-for' books, but I can't say that of this particular one unfortunately.

The blurb for this book makes it all about Charles Hayden, which seems rather genderist since Hayden is only one half of a married couple who travel to Yorkshire in the UK, a place I know and from whence both my parents hailed, but we see very little of Yorkshire. We are confined to an ancient manor house surrounded by a castle-like wall, and it's Erin Hayden's family connections which have led to this inheritance: to this manor isolated in an even more ancient wood. Erin isn't even mentioned in the blurb! Charles may as well have been single.

That said, the story is told from Charles's perspective, thankfully not in first person, but this novel would have been a lot easier to like had either of these two people been themselves remotely likeable. As it was, they were chronic whiners and I was turned off both of them within a few paragraphs of starting to read this.

Both were endlessly wallowing in the loss of their daughter Lissa. A mention of this once in a while would have been perfectly understandable, but as it was, it felt like it was every other paragraph and it became a tedious annoyance, drawing me out of the story as I read again and again of how obsessed they were with their 'lost' daughter. A search for the daughter's name produced 156 hits in this novel. A search for 'daughter' produced another 56. It was too much, and it felt like a failure of writing. It's certainly possible to convey deep grief in a character without rabbiting on about it to a nauseating degree, so this felt like a really bad choice to me.

The fact that we're denied any real information about what happened to Lissa didn't help at all, and actually made things worse. Did she disappear? Was she killed? Did she become fatally ill? Who knows? The author doesn't care to share this information, at least not in the portion of this that I read before becoming so frustrated I didn't want to read any more; nor do we learn anything about the affair Charles had - just that he had one.

This affair is related to us as if it were no more important than his remembering he had once stubbed his toe, so even as big of a betrayal as that was, it carries little import because of the way it's so casually tossed out, yet this woman Syrah, is mentioned a further 34 times in the book. It's another thing that Charles is unaccountably obsessed with. No wonder he gets nothing done: his mind is always elsewhere! And this obsession is a continuing betrayal of his wife.

Frankly, these two, Charles and Erin, were so annoying I wanted to shake them and slap them. Not that I would, but the truth is that they were seriously in need of inpatient psychiatric attention and it showed badly, but no one seemed to care. The fact that we're told his wife has a boatload of medications she's taking and Charles doesn't even care made me dislike him even more intensely. He came across as shallow and selfish and quite frankly, a jerk. His wife was painted a little bit better, but neither of them remotely interested me as characters about whom I would ever want to learn anything more or about whose futures I cared.

At first I had thought the story would end with their daughter being returned to them, but then I learned of another child in the story and it seemed pretty obvious what would happen at that point. I don't know if that's what did happen, but if it did, that would have been way too trite and predictable for my taste. It's been done before.

Charles's other obsession, aside from his daughter, the woman he had an affair with, and the woman, Silva at the local historical society with whom he'd like to have an affair, was this book he stole as a child, and which was written by a Victorian relative of Erin's. He thinks he can write a biography of the author, Caedmon Hollow - yes that's the name of the guy, not the name of the mansion! - but it seems like he's much more interested in getting into Silva's panties than ever he is in writing anything. He's been into that book only once in his entire life, but he's into thinking about Silva at the drop of a hat.

The book and the mystery it was attached to should have been central to the story but there was so much stuff tossed in here (I think there was actually a kitchen sink at one point) that the book robbed that purported mystery of any currency it may have had. It became a secondary issue to everything else that was going on.

Since it was that very mystery which had drawn me to the novel in the first place, this felt like a betrayal if not an outright slap in the face and really contributed to my decision to quit reading. It felt like it was going nowhere and taking a heck of a long time to get there, and I had better things to do with my time. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot commend this book as a worthy read.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Threshold by Caitlin R Kiernan

Rating: WARTY!

It's appropriate that this was a penguin book because it plodded along exactly like a penguin taking forever to get nowhere. If only the author had let the penguin into the water it could have flown! Or at least flowed. If only the editor had known how to say 'no'.

If only the author had a better vocabulary and not felt the asinine need to run two words together when using the correct word would have worked. That would be vermillion, Kiernan, not orangered. That would be willowy, not skinnytall. That would be corn-colored, not dustyellow and "pollenyellow stalks of goldenrod" would be just "goldenrod." That's what the plant's called, and it's what the color is! Duhh! That would be rat's nest, not ratmaze. That would be mint green, not peppermintwhite. Rustrimmed would be just rusty. Unless of course you simply want to be a tedious and pretentious ass. I guess I'm done reading anything that's passed through the hands of that editor too, if I ever discover her name!

Worse than this, this is book one of a series and in my opinion such books ought to carry a warning along the lines of those on cigarette boxes, but with regard to mental health. This one didn't even have the honesty to so much as declare itself a prologue. Just as bad, it actually contained a prologue! I avoided that like the plague, but this book is pure bait and switch.

This book was some three hundred pages long and could have been quite literally half that size if the author hadn't gone all Stephen King on it - and I mean that in a bad way. Stephen King cannot write a novel without including the entire life history of every character who appears in it, which is why I quit reading Stephen King a long time ago. This author spends the first half of the book telling us the entire life history of the four main characters and it's soooo boring.

The blurb made the book sound interesting - but then it was just doing its job - which in this case was evidently lying about the book. I read the first chapter and found it nothing much, but not awful. The problem was that it really didn't move the story much.

The second chapter was more interesting, but again the story didn't take off; then the third chapter went off into lala-land. I read on to the fourth chapter hoping the novel would get back on track, only to be dragged kicking and screaming even further into lala-land!! I skimmed the next two chapters and still, nothing interesting happened. By this time the book was half over and the actual story hadn't even begun, so that was it for me.

I cannot commend a book which fails to actually tell the story it purports to tell - or at least fails to so much as begin the story in the first fifty percent of the novel! This author must really - and I mean really - hate trees. This also means that I'm not only done reading this author's work, I'm also done trusting any book recommendations from Booklist, Cemetery Dance, Publisher's Weekly, SF Site, or Booklist, and from authors like Clive Barker, Charles de Lint, and Peter Straub, all of whom seem to find this author brilliant and all of whom I am now forced to conclude are gaga (and not Lady, either!). The only comment which actually represented this book came from Neil Gaiman, not my favorite author, but he commented, "Caitlin R. Kiernan is the poet and bard of the wasted and the lost," and I couldn't agree more..

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The 53rd Card by Virginia Weiss

Rating: WARTY!

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

I hate to end the year on a down note, but while this novel of good and evil, and of the supernatural, had some things to recommend it, after reading more than 400 pages I expected a much bigger reward than ever was delivered. At the end I felt relief that I was finally through it, but also resentment that the author had taken a portion of my life that I would never get back; I felt I'd wasted it reading this when I could have been enjoying something else in my reading list.

The novel was way too long. It needed some serious editing. I usually avoid books this long for precisely this reason: that it's not such a chunk of your valuable time to give up if the novel is short and it's bad, but when it's both bad and long, it's really irritating. It's even worse when it keeps teasing the reader with the promise of better things to come and never delivers. There was a phrase used in the novel which with some irony I think applied to the book as whole: ponderously clanking links! That's how it felt: like a series of short stories loosely connected rather than a coherent novel.

If the book feels like it's awful right from the off, I DNF it without even a pang of conscience because life is too short to waste on bad literature. The problem with this book was that it kept on promising something good was coming, yet in the end, nothing arrived. The ending itself was a horrible disappointment. It simply fizzled, like even the author herself had tired of this story and wanted over with just as much as I did. Some anally-retentive people will doubtlessly try to argue that it’s disingenuous to dump a book as unworthy without giving it a fair chance, but whenever I do give an “iffy” novel a fair chance, as I did here, I’m inevitably disappointed, so yes, I think you can ditch a novel guilt-free if it is not thrilling you. What’s the point of reading it otherwise? I think its a reader’s duty to DNF a bad read.

Some parts of the book were a joy, but as soon as I started to think maybe I would read a little more, it drifted back into tedium, and then I'd start to think about ditching it, but it would offer a promise of improvement. That's how the whole book went! I found myself skimming parts and thinking it was time to ditch the book; then I would find another interesting piece to read and it brought my hopes up again only to find them dashed again as the story dragged on without - quite literally - going anywhere except in circles. It was as bad as that book where you read through it only to find out at the end, that it was all a dream. And if you found the foregoing tedious to read through, then I achieved my aim and made you feel like I felt while I was reading this novel!

The story is of Emma Susanne Addison. She's close to being a shut-in, but not quite. This itself made little sense, because when she wanted to go somewhere, she had no real problem going there even if it was quite a way from her home, yet she was constantly whining about being scared of big open spaces, even as she lived right in the middle of the city.

This pseudo-phobia went back to a tragic incident with an unsavory uncle which took place not in the city, but in the woods by a river in winter. It would have made sense to me if she were afraid of older men, or afraid of the woods, or afraid of the winter, or afraid of the river, or afraid of ice, but she wasn't. She was inexplicably afraid of open spaces. In her case, this phobia made no sense. People's knee-jerk reaction when you say that is that phobias almost by definition don't make sense precisely because they are irrational, but even the most irrational phobia has rational roots. In this case it did not, and so I could never take it seriously.

Emma's life is beset by tragedy, but in the end you cannot help but feel she brings a lot of things on herself. I did not like her as a character. We're told in the blurb that Emma summons the devil one Christmas, but that portion was written so poorly that I missed it. I went on to the next section of the novel and started reading it like it was an entirely new story. I was thinking, “Wait, when did this happen?" and the truth was that it did not happen - not in the way the author thinks she told us it did. I went back and checked! It was like a whole section of the book was missing.

It was written so hazily that what the author thought she was telling us happened didn't actually feel like it happened at all from the reader's perspective; at least not to this reader. But the offshoot from this is that Emma is now somehow in some sort of preliminary bargaining with the devil - not actually a contract but at least a verbal agreement, yet this goes nowhere. And when I say the devil, I mean the big guy himself. We're constantly told that Emma is a special snowflake which is why he comes personally, but nowhere in the rest of the novel is there anything to explain why she is special or even to suggest that she is! She felt more like a spacial snowflake, and the personal attention made no sense.

What made even less sense is that there was another supernatural being involved - and this one was from Chinese mythology. I never did figure out what her purpose was because it was never explained, and this lack of clarity became even further muddied at the end especially when we had characters from other mythologies appear and disappear without rhyme or reason. It was like the author had some great ideas, but could never settle on a good set to include, and worse, tried to include them all, but could never quite figure out how to successfully integrate them.

The offshoot is that Emma develops super powers (yep, and there was a kitchen sink tossed in there, too)! Emma doesn’t go flying around with a cape, but she can choose outcomes and see them appear in the real world. Or can she? Maybe she was dreaming that too! I can’t tell you, because the author never told me! I kept reading on hoping it would l make sense, but it never did. I do not read prologues and epilogues. They’re antiquated affectations. Put the first in chapter one, the last in the last chapter, and be done with it for goodness sake! Quit with the self-importance and pretension. I skipped the prologue here as I always do, and I did not miss it as I never do. Thinking I had missed something at the end of the story I actually did skim the epilogue, but it contributed nothing. Hence my resentment.

There were other oddities such as the public library being open the day after Christmas. This seemed highly unlikely to me. I don't know. I don’t live in same city as Emma did, so maybe it is, but it sounded unlikely to me and it struck me more like the the author wasn’t properly thinking through what she was writing. This feeling was further enhanced when I read, ”Her hair is glorious, so black it’s almost blue….” That phrase has always struck me as utterly nonsensical. I expect it of typically clueless YA authors, but not of one who can actually write. I can see what an author is trying to say when they write an asinine phrase like this, but tripping yourself up in writing bad prose isn’t a good idea. Black with a sheen of blue or a hint of blue or a blue highlight works, but when something is really black? It’s black, period.

So, in short, I was truly disappointed in a book that initially sounded so promising. I wish the author all the best; she can write if she can learn to curb the meandering, and I think she has some great novels inside her, but this was not one of them, and I cannot in good faith recommend it.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Goodnight Swampy the Little Monster by Ellie J Woods

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book for young children about the problems Swampy's mom has getting him ready for bed. I liked the twist in the tale (not in Swampy's tail!) in that it's Swampy's older brother who steers him right in this story, not his mom. I didn't like that neither dad nor a second mom were in sight, but there are families in that situation, so I guess it worked on that level intentional or not.

The book is clearly intended as a print book, but it worked well on a tablet, and was even legible on a smart phone, so you can get your child set-up to read (or at least look at the pictures) no matter what. I say its aimed at print because on the tablet, the double pages were all separated into singles thereby losing the impact of the double spread. Sad but true.

That said, I liked the story and I think children will too. I recommend it.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Rating: WARTY!

This is the last Neil Gaiman that I'm going to read. Ive tried several of his mostly with little success. The way this started, I was unsure; then I thought I was going to like it, but in the end it became bogged down with extraneous detail. Props to Gaiman for reading his own work. He didn't do brilliantly for me, but he did okay to begin with.

More authors need to do this, but in the end, even this proved a negative influence in this novel because Gaiman sounded to me rather like a soft version of Professor Snape. His voice has tones of Alan Rickman in it, and in the end I could neither take it seriously, nor enjoy listening to it even as am amusement since, Like Rickman, but far less captivating, his voice had odd pauses in it and strange inflections (and not because it was British!). It certainly did not help that it was in first person, the weakest and least credible voice for a writer to choose.

It didn't help, either, that the story is one long flashback, another tedious conceit for me. Set in the county of Sussex in England, an older man revisits his childhood home and recalls a supernatural incident from when he was much younger. In short, it's an old fashioned wicked witch story, but it was boring when it should most certainly not have been. The problem begins right there, because no one has that kind of verbatim recollection, so credibility for me was lost from the off.

The story is of the guy crossing into another world holding the hand of his childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock, and I don't thing Gaiman ever uses her name without using it in full like that, which was another source of tedium. She has this in common with the villain of the piece, the melodramatic Ursula Monckton, a wicked witch which the boy brings back accidentally from this other land. i was rooting for Ursula.

We're supposed to believe that this man who is recalling every vivid detail of this event from almost a half century before accurately and relating entire conversations word for word, hasn't thought of this girl with whom he shared this adventure "in decades!" It makes no sense, and neither did this story. I cannot recommend it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ghost Pяojekt by Joe Harris, Steve Rolston

Rating: WARTY!

I began thinking I was not going to like this graphic novel which I picked up at my local library, but it turned out OK. Not great, but at least a worthy read. The cover was very cool: I found out by accident that it glowed in the dark! Yes, it was gimmicky, but still fun. Joe Harris's writing was okay, btu nothing to write (home) about. Steve Rolston's art was average. Dean Trippe's coloring was entertaining, but again nothing spectacular. And who cares who lettered it? Seriously? Print the damn thing. Letterers need to retire.

This made me more disappointed when I began reading the story because it offered too much disjointed mystery to start with and was confusing. It was set in Russia though, which I approve of because it's tiresome to read story after story set in the USA as though this is the only country in the world - or at least the only country which has stories worth telling or people worth learning about.

The problem with setting the story in a non-English speaking country is how to convey that it's non-English being spoken. I've seen several tricks employed to achieve this, none of which is 100% successful, but some work better than others depending on how you employ the technique. I personally think you need to establish the setting and then trust the reader to fill in the blanks - but don't lard it with too many blanks!

Some writers do it by using foreign words followed immediately by their English translation. No-one talks like this and it's really annoying to me. I prefer an occasional foreign word where the context makes the word intelligible even when you don't know what it means. A better alternative is to simply make your setting convincing enough that you can use plain English with no foreign words.

Here they made a bad choice because they did the annoying repetitive thing, but hen when it came to measurements and weights, they used American values: pounds, instead of kilos for example, which was a glaring faux pas. Sometimes writers simply do not think their story through. They also used stupid Russian interpolations, such as calling one of the characters 'Operativnyk so-and-so' instead of simple calling them 'Operative'. Every time I read this I thought 'amateur'.

Once the story got into its swing though, it took off and became quite entertaining as long as I let slide the aforementioned annoyances. The story seemed to be about biological warfare agents, and there was an American on Russian soil trying to track these down and dispose of them. He had some internal problem sustained form a previous unsafe encounter with a bio-weapon, but as soon as the supernatural element started to come into play, it became obvious he'd find a cure for his condition, and he did.

That was trite, but the story was unusual and I appreciated that. I like the girl ghost even though her behavior sometimes made no sense, and the story moving quickly and changing scenes lots of times. The characters were occasionally dumb and overall, not exactly overwhelming, but were okay for a graphic novel. The female Russian agent was average in her characteristics, so nothing special there, but not awful, and in general, it was an engaging story once it hit its pace, and I consider it a worthy read.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Taproot by Keezy Young

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a nicely-colored, well-illustrated and richly-created story about a guy who is into gardening, Hamal, and a ghost, Blue, who haunts him, but in a benign way! Blue and Hamal are friends, and I have to say it took me a while to realize that Blue was a guy and not a girl. I have never read a Keezy Young comic before and did not know she was into queer story-telling! But isn't that what we're after in a truly equal world - where gender doesn't matter, only the story?!

That faux pas aside, the story was great, and the gender was immaterial in the end because it still would have told the same charming story! The only fly in the ointment is that Hamal's boss thinks he's talking to himself and that he's scaring customers, so he has to watch his behavior, and Blue doesn't help, constantly making comments which Hamal has to ignore or respond to only in private.

When customer Chloe show sup and show interest and Hamal doesn't respond as any red-blooded (so the phrase goes) cis guy might, you know the story can get only more interesting from here on in. And Blue isn't the only ghost hanging out in Hamal's corner of the word. Fortunately the ghosts aren't mischievous - much - and things are going pretty well until death appears on the scene, concerned that there's a necromancer talking to ghosts, and Blue himself ends up switching scenery unexpectedly, and increasingly entering an eerie, dead world. Whats going on here - and worse, what; sacrifice is going to be required to fix it?

Well, you;re going to have to read this to find out, and I promise you will not be disappointed. This is yet another example of a writer stepping of the beaten track and making her own story instead of shamelessly cloning someone else's work, and that alone would be a reason to recommend it, but add to that authentic dialog, and the sweet and realistic (within the environment and ethos of a graphic novel!) illustrations, and you have a winner which I recommend.

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Dead Girlfriend: Vol 1 by Eric Wight

Rating: WORTHY!

Another graphic novel with a weird-ass title! How could I not?!

In this one, Finney Bleak's outlook on life is...well...bleak. All of his relatives died unusual deaths and usually early ones, so he feels he has nothing to look forward to, especially when he's abandoned by mom in a cemetery of all places. He's raised by ghosts who already have ghost daughters named April, May, and June, and of course he attends high-ghoul. While surviving Salamander Mugwart (one of the local witches named Glindas), and growing healthily with the aid of ghost mom & dad, Finney eventually falls for a girl named Jenny Wraith, but she fails to show up for their second date!

Finney thinks she didn't like him. He doesn't learn that she was on her way to see him when she fell down a well and died. He discovers this much later when ghost Jenny shows up at his cemetery, announcing she has been his guardian angel for some time. Now wants to resume their relationship rather than see him take off with another girl!

Initially, he thinks there can be nothing between a body and his incorporeal love, but when she leads him in (cor!) real love, he gets with the program! Great story, interesting graphics, and a fun read. I recommend it. Note that despite being titled Volume 1 A Tryst of Fate, there are no other volumes - kind of like Mel Brooks's History of the World, Pt 1.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding A Fiendish Arrangement by Alexandra Bracken

Rating: WARTY!

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

I wavered on this book from liking parts to disliking other parts, and back and forth, and in the end, it was the end which decided me, because it was there that the novel hit the sourest note, because there is no ending! In the final analysis, all this book is, is the prologue for a series. I can't abide that and I cannot support it. "Dreadful Tale" is an appropriate title for this, it turns out.

I know that series are lucrative for publishers and writers if they can lure a reading public into becoming OCD over one, but I do not play that game. It's one of the reasons I detest series as a general rule, and for an author to cynically say "Here's an entire book," and then to end it on a cliffhanger so you "have" to buy the next to find out what happens is inexcusable. Do not read this in the belief that you will get a complete and full story here. You will not.

This is book one of a "The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding" series, and if I'd known that, I would never have requested to review this one, but there was no hint whatsoever on net Galley that it was not a self-contained story. Shame on you Net Galley and on Disney Hyperion for not being honest and up front with readers and for demanding nigh on eleven dollars for an incomplete story. And what's with the ebook costing exactly the same as the print version?! What trees are worth nothing these days? That's a truly sad and sorry way to look at Earth.

For me series are too easy, unimaginative, derivative, and abusive of the reader. I'd rather follow a road less traveled than feel like I'm covering the same ground I already visited.

The other thing this author got away with is first person. I'm even less of a fan of first person than I am of series, if for no other reasons than that it's such a selfish, self-absorbed, self-obsessed voice, and it's so limiting in that nothing can happen in the story unless the narrator is present, which often results in absurdly artificial, unlikely, and clunky events occurring in order to get the narrator on the scene.

I don't know why authors are so obsessed with limiting themselves in this fashion. It was not such a nauseating voice here, so I appreciated the author for that, but even she admits she made the wrong choice of voice because she has to devote several chapters to third person voice to detail activities where Prosper is not the main actor, and they clunked down jarringly. They were so bad that I skimmed and skipped those. They contributed nothing to an overly long story and would have made for a more intelligent read had they been omitted altogether.

The story is of Prosperity Redding, your usual trope boy raised in ignorance of his true value to the story, and without parents (he has parents, they're just not on the scene), and raised by apparently cruel relatives, although I have to grant that those clichéd cruel relatives don't usually want to stab the main character with an iron knife as they do here!

"Uncle" Barnabas comes to the rescue, spiriting Prosper, as he prefers to be called, away just before that iron knife strikes, to hide out in a haunted house. Yes, it's haunted both for real, and as a funhouse - a scary one, for tourists - and it's here that Prosper learns the truth - or part of it at least.

It turns out that Prosper has a demon inside him and if it cannot be got out before his thirteenth birthday, two weeks hence, it will ruin his entire family. This demon is the price his family paid for the prosperity (yes!) it has enjoyed over the years - centuries even, and all would have been well had some great grandpa not reneged on the deal. Now Prosper's relatives (all except Barnabas, and "cousin" Nell who predictably happens to be Prosper's age and equally predictably doesn't like him), believe the only way to fix - or at least defer - the disaster, is to kill Prosper before he turns thirteen, so he believes. Meanwhile, Alastor the demon (not his real name, hint hint) is inside Prosper and growing stronger by the day.

There were one or two writing issues (other than cliffhangers and first person!) which took away some of the little joy of this I did have. These are very possibly things the intended age range might not notice (unless they're my kids, of course! I think they would notice these things, but then they grew up with me, and they're also edging out of middle-grade at this point).

"Told whom?" was the first clunker I read. Writers seem to think they have to inject correct English into their stories and 'whom' is such a big offender that it's become a pet peeve of mine. This is what Prosper says to correct Nell when she says, "For who?" Quite frankly I think this word is antiquated and pretentious, and needs to be dropped from the language altogether, but that's just me.

The truth is though, that no one actually uses it in conversation, especially not kids, so in the context of this story, this bit clanged like the liberty bell. It's highly unlikely any middle-grade kid, even one from a rich family, would correct someone on the use of 'whom', especially when that kid has not been set up a priori as an English language fanatic, so this was a fail: an example of an author lecturing her readers through her character instead of letting the character be themselves.

Here's another: "Her skin was a warm bronze, a shade or two lighter than her black hair." This made for an odd read. I think I see what the author is trying to say here, but strictly speaking, a shade or two lighter than black would mean that she has gray skin! Shade relates to how much black in is a color I think this could have been worded better - maybe describing the skin as a dark bronze or something like that, but I don't think you can describe hair in terms of skin color or vice-versa when one is black and the other is bronze, which is a distinctly brown color. If she'd had brown hair that would be a different thing.

Another one was: "Uncle Barnabas's face with pink around the edges at that." This sounds like it should read "...went pink around the edges." The last one I can recall noting was: "The spines were all shades of leather, brown, black, blue, and soft from being handled so much" this felt like it needed a colon after 'shades of leather'.

The demon is introduced as being evil and bent upon revenge, yet he behaves like a naughty friend to Prosper, chiding him on one hand and then rather benignly helping him to do something on the other. This was a complete contradiction given that the demon feeds on Prosper's discomfort and sadness. Why would he help prosper to do something that would make him feel better? It made no sense to me! It seemed obvious that eventually Alastor and Prosper would become friends, or at least partners, although given that this is merely a prologue, I can't say for sure if that's what will happen.

Neither did it make any sense as to why none of this family knew that to control a demon, you need its real name! That's so out there in folklore that everyone knows it, even in the real world where demons are pure fiction, so people who have been dealing with a demonic threat all their lives, and who have libraries of books about demons, had no excuse for not knowing it.

But Alastor was a fail. He was such a pompous and prolix punk that that he was far more of a joke than ever he was a demonic presence. To me, Alastor never came across as being anywhere near as evil and vengeful as he was supposed to be. This was a problem with the plotting. Maybe middle graders won't concern themselves with it, but I know my kids would find him as much of a joke as I did.

There was also the issue in any magic story which is: why are there any restrictions and rules? We're told that in order to get the demon out, certain materials need to be gathered, yet despite Nell being a quite accomplished witch she isn't able to magic up the ingredients?

Admittedly, one requirement is a bit out of the ordinary. She needs toes; real human toes, but it's never clear until the end if it's the actual toe, or just the toe bone. This apparently needed to be ordered abroad? That made no sense. Why not just magic them out of a grave - or go dig them up?

I've encountered this problem repeatedly in books where magic is part of the world: there's either no explanation offered as to why something can't be 'magicked', or there's some arbitrary rule "explaining" why the magic won't work. At least in this story we got a cute explanation as to why the spells always rhymed: they were easier to remember that way! That was a bit of a cheat since they were so simple that you'd have to be a moron not to remember them, but it was a cute idea, and I liked the cheekiness of it even though it evoked the schlockiness of the Charmed TV series which I actually couldn't stand.

I really liked Nell as a character. I find I often do this: prefer the side-kick or the friend to the main character. Nell would be worth reading about, but I wasn't keen at all on Prosper or Alastor. maybe middle-graders will like this, but I can't rate it positively when there were so many problems with it.

Note that there were some formatting issues with the ebook, with the text not filling the whole screen in some parts - like there were hard carriage returns in it, but this was an ARC, co perhaps those issues have been resolved in the actual published version

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die by Colin Cotterill

Rating: WARTY!

Here's yet another in a long line of experimental audiobooks - experimental for me that is since I tend to spread my wings (such as they are) more with audio than with other media, and once in a while it works and I find a gem, but more often, sorry to report, I'm disappointed. This falls into that latter category. It sounded good on paper (LOL), and started out quite strongly, but the middle third fell to pieces and I DNF'd it. Life's too short.

This one is set in Laos, refreshingly, yet it began by being annoying not because of the writing, but because the guy who reads it, with the appropriate name of Clive Chafer, ends every clause and every sentence by putting emphasis on the last word. It was really, really, really irritating and was the first and last nail in the coffin. The middle nails were all the author's fault, but I have to say that I can't for the life of me understand why any sane author would voluntarily give up control of their novel like this and allow some random person with a duff reading voice to have at it for the audio book.

You have to wonder how authors feel when they learn that their novel is going to be read by someone else. They have little control over this - I'm guessing - when they go with Big Publishing™ because it's really out of their hands. Of course, if you try and do it yourself, you get oddball noise in the background: traffic passing, someone coming in, your kids banging around the house, music from next door! LOL! You can't win!

But Chafer's voice chafed. Honestly. Listening to a metronome would actually have offered more variety and been more entertaining than this Chinese (or Laotian) voice torture. When he was doing the spoken word, he far less pedantic, but there he found a different way to foul out. Why the hell he thought it appropriate, when reading of people in Laos, to do some of them with a Scots accent or with a south-west England accent is a complete mystery to me, but he did. And his portrayal of the guy with Down's Syndrome was positively abusive. The audiobook should be rejected for that alone.

As for the story itself it has some great moments of humor. Some of the names were entertaining, intentionally or not. There was a Madame Ho and a Major Ly, for example, but the humor was too thin on the ground to make a difference. The novel was supposed to be about ghosts and missing army majors and psychics, and I cannot explain how an author can make such a story boring, but this one achieved it. It fell into a rut in the middle third, and it never looked like it was interested in getting out. It was tedious and I have much better things to do with my time.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Touched by Cyn Balog

Rating: WARTY!

This is the last Cyn Balog I'm ever going to read because it was sad - not a sad story, but because it was badly written and as I've lately come to expect from this author, predictable throughout. I knew on page 124 exactly how this three-hundred page novel would end, so what was the point of reading any further when the novel consisted, very much like the author's Starstruck story, of nothing more than a first person character constantly whining, whining, whining. It was nauseating.

It wouldn't have been so bad, had it been written in third person, although it would still have been obnoxious, but evidently this author cannot write in any other voice, either that or she's operating under the same absurd delusion that the majority of female YA write under: that it's illegal to write a YA novel in third person.

The main character, whose name honestly escapes me, so forgettable was he, has been 'touched' - and not in a Catholic priest way, but in a magical way. He can see the future, but predictably only in dribs and drabs. His mother has the gift (and in true YA novel and Cyn Balog novel fashion, only one parent is extant), and so does he.

In a sad and direct rip-off of the Nicolas Cage movie Next, he says he can only see a couple of minutes ahead unless he 'gets on script' when, if he follows his path to the letter, he can see a bright future far ahead. He can change his future, but if he slips from the predictive script, things can go very badly awry, as they do when the novel begins.

He's a lifeguard and a child drowns, but for some absurd reason he takes all the blame on his self, and for me this is where the novel started seriously going downhill. It was the beginning of a two-hundred page pity party, and one long, boring, endless whine of a story, as as I said, predictable as all hell. I did not like it and I do not recommend it. If this has been written by a new, first time writer, it would have rightly been rejected out of hand, but of course once you get your foot in the door with Big Publishing™ you can shovel out any trash you want it and it gets published. Yes, it's unfair but it's what we have to deal with, so deal! Keep writing, and keep indie publishing. It's the only choice we have!

As for this author, I'm done reading her oeuvre.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wraithborn Redux by Marcia Chen, Joe Benitez, Joe Weems, Victor Llamas, Studio F, Mike Garcia

Rating: WARTY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I should have paid more attention to the 'redux' portion of this title! It makes me wonder what went wrong with the first one that necessitated this one. For me, this one failed also, and there were multiple reasons for it. One was that it offered nothing new, and brought nothing original to this genre's table. Worse than this, we have a supposedly heroic female main character who is always in need of rescue. It was pretty sad.

Add to that the absurd over-sexualization of every single female character who appeared in this story - except of course the designated "Fat One" who actually only looked 'fat' because all other females in the story were anorexic everywhere except for their breasts. There was school-bullying running rife with no teachers in sight. There were trope cliques and not a single thing that was fresh or refreshing to read. Overall, it was a decidedly pathetic effort at redux-ing trope and cliché. And that was just the school. The demons and those which controlled them were no better and no more inventive.

Just how many warmed-over tropes were there here? Almost too many to count. We have the designated hero raised and trained by eastern monks. There was a twist to this: that the untrained unsuspecting girl gets the power he was trained for, and this is what attracted me to this story, but even that twist was a fail in the final analysis because this girl was so clueless and so helpless. Even when she began to warm up to her role, she was still completely lackluster and unappealing.

In her we had the semi-orphaned nondescript girl who's a nervous wreck, and who's bullied by cheerleaders! Seriously? Who can't kick a cheerleader's ass?! This girl, Melanie, has your standard quirky, supportive friend. There's a red under the bed (literally red-haired here), and demon dogs which came straight out of the Alien movie series. They were not the only movie rip-off. Kalin, the guy who was supposed to be the wraithborn dude, is a rip-off of Kylo Ren, right down to the first initial, the sword, the black robes, and the ridiculous and totally unnecessary face mask. Seriously?

These morons fight with swords when a machine gun would have done a better job on the Alien dogs in a tenth of the time. What the hell is wrong with these writers and artists? Sword-fighting dudes and pneumatic females? Please! Get a life! Get a clue. Come up with something truly original. Then you won't have to wonder why your comic isn't selling. This one was crap and I certainly do not recommend it. In fact it's comic books like this that make me think it's worth petitioning not for a maturity rating aimed at those who read the comic, but a maturity rating for those who write and illustrate the thing so I get some advance warning of what I'm getting into.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

Rating: WARTY!

There's something like nine volumes of this series and that's nine too many in my opinion after listening to this first one. I could not make it through this book. This is another book which proves my point that if the things start going south in your read, there's no point whatsoever in gamely reading on in hope that it will get better.

It began with the tired premise that a person who has "died" and recovers (! - which actually means that they never died at all) comes back equipped with psychic powers. When is someone going to subvert that trope? So Harper Blane (I should have quit reading as soon as I read that this was the private detective's name - it sounds like a foot disease!) has this experience and finds she can enter the grey zone (seriously this is the best name you can come up with?) which is the zone between life and death, where ghosts and vampires live. Yes, and werewolves Everything was in here including the kitchen sink, which was more of an off-white zone with rust stains than grey, to be perfectly honest.

Harper is given two cases: one to track down a woman's college-student son, who has apparently disappeared, and the other to locate a pipe organ that was sold and went missing some years ago. Mia Barron doesn't do too bad of a job reading this, but her Irish accent was annoying and her voice for the missing student, Cameron, made him sound like Ash Ketchum from the Pokémon anime cartoons. Ash's real name was actually Satoshi, but why would we in the west respect that?!

I never was a fan of the cartoons. I thought the only purpose Pokémon served was to legitimize cruelty to animals, with these unlicensed and unsupervised jerks capturing critters and making them fight each other for their jailer's personal glory. Ash was supposed to be becoming the best trainer in the world, but he never trained anyone! He just made them fight all the time, and he wouldn't even let them fight in their own particular...(sigh) Concorde, "Idiom, sir?" Yes! That's it! Idiom!

In the real world, dog fighting will get you jail time, but in this world, it makes you famous. I have seen some episodes and for me the duo of Jessie and James were heroically amusing, and Misty was a feisty one, but Ash made me nauseous. I understand that team rocket retired in later episodes and were replaced by a limp facsimile, but to me the whole show was a limp facsimile of the real relationship one can have with a pet. To get back to the review, I found Cameron way more hilarious than I ever found him sad or pitiful precisely because he sounded just like Ash.

Event that I could have contended with, but the story just dragged on and on and on, with the author too frequently giving in to an obsessive details which were simply not interesting. I don't require a writer of sci-fi or fantasy to legitimize their story. they don't have to dome up with convincing explanations for why something works or why this is the way it is. Just tell your story and I'll go along with it. Unless of course, you bog it down in endless ruminations about The Grey as this one did. I was bored witless listening to that mindless drivel, and I took to skipping any tracks that dealt with the minutiae of The Grey, and any tracks that featured the Irish Witch. In the end I decided to skip all the rest of it because it was simply not getting ti done. I can't recommend this one.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

Rating: WARTY!

I was completely misled by the book blurb here. I know that's what book blurbs do: it's their job, and you can't blame the author for them unless the author self-publishes, but a blurb usually has something to do with the story it's purportedly describing. This one really did not - at least not as judged by the first fifty percent of this novel, which is all I could stand to read.

I thought I was getting an advance review copy of a supernatural story: the Devil and all His Works kind of thing - but it turned out to be nothing more than a slasher book, worthy of the Halloween and Friday the 13th movies. I gave up on it at fifty percent because of this. I was thoroughly disgusted with it and completely turned off by it.

The blurb tells it like it's all about Siobhan, the young daughter of a nun who committed suicide, but the first half of the book is not about Siobhan at all, except in the most cursory sense. It consists of long, tedious excerpts from her mom's secret diary, which are told in first person voice - the very voice I most detest.

One major reason I detest it is because of the utter lack of credibility in first person accounts which are unbelievably detailed and far too precise to actually be a first person account. Any cop listening to a story like that from a witness would immediately dismiss it as made-up at best, and outright lies at worst. No one tells a story of something that happened to them in this manner except in novels and it's so unrealistic that I cannot stand to read it. It's very rare to find a 1PoV novel that's worthy of reading. This one didn't even come close.

The worst part was the account of the rape. I've never been raped and I can't pretend for a second I can speak for anyone who has, but speaking from my own PoV and from what I have read about this topic, including people who had been forced to suffer it, this account by Siobhan's mom was ridiculous in the extreme. To me, it was insulting to those who have been violated like this and cheapened the real horror and brutality of it. I recommend that the author read some of those accounts, and completely rewrite this section of the novel, and then he might avoid clunky dialog like, "As my body was violated I felt defiled." Seriously?

Even if this had happened to Siobhan's mom the way she said, I honestly could not believe for a minute that she would write the account of it the way she did in, so much lurid detail with word-for-word conversations - not in an account intended for her own daughter. It felt like she was telling a story rather than recounting something horrific which had actually happened to her. And why would she? Why not just say "I was raped and made a pact with the Devil, and I took my revenge on those who attacked me"? It made no sense whatsoever that she would write it like this for page after page, after page, and it made me fully aware throughout the entire time that I was reading a sensationalized and revoltingly-misguided attempt to stir up sexual emotion rather then tell a realistic story.

This is the problem with 1PoV. Siobhan's mom could not have been present for some of this story, so there is no way she could recount what happened, and there's no way that someone who had been traumatized like that - broken and injured, and put into a coma - could (or would even want to) recall so much detail of what happened. Even if she did, I cannot believe for a minute than any mom would share all this to her daughter in so much gory and sordid detail. It was like the author thought that rape alone wasn't bad enough, and unless he went into immense detail about it, there really was no crime to "justify" her behavior afterwards - like this woman hadn't really been raped unless she was further violated with all the nasty fine points.

The diary goes on to describe not just the rape in excruciating detail, but also how her mom took bloody revenge on those who had abused her, killing them in brutal fashion worthy only of cheap B movies. It was too ridiculous and at this point was so far from what the blurb had told me I'd be reading, that I quit in disgust. I cannot recommend this book based on the misleading blurb and the fifty percent I read which treats rape so lightly. If you're into splatter-punk, then this might be for you, but if you wanted a supernatural thriller, you're in the wrong book.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris, Royal McGraw, Ilias Kyriazis, Tamra Bonvillain

Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a fan of Charlaine Harris. After enjoying True Blood on TV, I started in on the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but had a poor experience with them, so I gave up. A graphic novel about a different subject altogether OTOH, sounded like it might be a good idea, and this one certainly started well. The best part of it was that it continued well and turned out to be a great read. I really liked Ilias Kiryazis's art work, and the colors done by Tamra Bonvillain were exemplary. But it's not just lines and color, it's the story, too. In this case, that came through for me as well, despite being a bit improbable here and there!

Harper Connelly is an interesting and intriguing character with her pierced lip and lobe rings in her ears. The story is that she was struck by lightning and found afterwards that she can discover how a person died by simply standing close by where they are buried - or their body was dumped. She cannot identify the killer, but she can give quite a detailed description of how they died.

How she gets this information is a mystery since sometimes it supposedly comes from young from children who could hardly so much as know, let alone understand, how they died. I don't believe in gods or the occult, but I do enjoy a good story about the supernatural. The thing is that if you're going to tell a story like this, you really need to work out your mythology beforehand, otherwise anything goes and there are no rules, and your story fails for lack of intelligent structure. But I'm willing to let a small amount of this slide as long as it doesn't start ripping up the story or credibility for me. In this case it wasn't an obstacle.

Tolliver is Harper's step brother. They're very close, and he acts as her manager and companion. During an exercise to demonstrate that Harper's power is real, she makes a disturbing discovery - a grave contains two bodies, one much more recent than the other. The newer body is that of a young girl who was abducted from outside her home, and later killed. Harper had been called in by the girl's parents to see if she could find Tabitha Morgenstern's body and had failed - evidently because the body had been buried far from the girl's home town. Now Harper has discovered it, the spotlight is on her and the awkwardness of dealing with Tabitha's parents, whom she had failed two years before.

I found the use of the Latin word 'alumna' at one point to be interesting. This is the technically correct use when describing one female graduate. The plural is alumnae. In this male-dominated and very pretentious society, most people talk and think only of 'alumnus' which is the singular for a male graduate, and alumni (for a group of male or mixed male/female graduates). While it's commendable that the authors got this right in a technical sense, I personally feel that this deliberate distinction between male and female in such titles (along with actor/actress, author/authoress, and so on, isn't productive and is divisive, so 'alumnus' would have been fine with me, but the less pretentious graduate is better!

But I digress! The story was fun, and interesting, although the villain became obvious to me before it occurred to Harper! I'm usually not very good at these things which is why I enjoy them so much, os the fact that i figured it out suggests that others may well do so long before I did. That aside though, I loved the story and the art, and I really liked the concept. I would enjoy reading more about this interesting couple.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Teenage Mermaid by Ellen Schreiber

Rating: WARTY!

This is one of those novels where an older writer writes for a younger age group without changing any of her personal preferences or prejudices! Thus she sounds dumb at best and stupid at worst. This is written in worst person voice, which is first person voice, a voice I detest, but it's actually twice as bad here, because we have two alternating stories and the first one, where the guy is rescued by the mermaid, is straight out of the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah movie Splash which preceded this novel by some two decades. It was juvenile even for the intended age range, and frankly I expect better from an author whose very name in German, means writer! I managed two chapters of this before I DNF'd this DNR.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor (or KM Montemayor!)

Rating: WARTY!

No! I'm sorry, but no. I had read about one third the way into this novel when I encountered this paragraph (below) and immediately quit it on principle. Note that this scene follows right behind one where Casey, the woman depicted here, has quit her job because she's been betrayed by Austin. She storms off to her office, pissed as all hell, and starts packing to leave. The guy follows her and manhandles her as described below.

He strode over to her, grabbed her by her shoulders, and spun her around. Her bag fell to the floor as he pushed her against the wall and planted his lips firmly on hers. Her eyes widened in surprise. Da-amn. He has strong lips. So strong, she could feel her toes curling. Casey was too stunned to protest. He took that as a green light and weaved his fingers through her hair without releasing any pressure from her lips. Not once did he try to stick his tongue down her throat, but that didn't stop it from being one of the most powerful kisses Casey had ever experienced.

You don't get to describe a guy in process of raping a woman and have the woman fall in love with him because of it, and then expect me to rate your fiction as anything other than trash. No, you don't. And this from a female author? Her toes curled? Seriously? I half-way expect this kind of garbage in the young adult world, but not in a mature novel for adult readers which is otherwise written reasonably well.

Austin has manhandled her before, and the appropriate response from Casey here would be to knee him in the groin, or punch his face, or at the very least wrench away from him or start yelling for help. This is a guy who has already proven himself to be a complete jerk and a dick, to have had no qualms about abusing her mentally, and for whom she has no love at all. Yet suddenly when he becomes brutal with her, she melts and succumbs to his "charms"? No! The bottom line here is that I don't care how well you write, you put this abusive trash in your story and you get an automatic fail from me. This kind of writing is a disgrace. It's worse than pornography in how it inexcusably disrespects women.

I'd already had several issues with this novel before this point, and this is the second of this author's novels I've read and been thoroughly unimpressed. It will be the last. Despite the problems though, I was still plugging away at it hoping for something better while fearing that Casey was too stupid to be worth reading about and that she and Austin, despite his appalling behavior, were sadly going to be paired off. I'd overlooked a couple of grammatical errors, such as "You're going to want you're fantastic job back" (where the second one should have been 'your', of course), because this was an advance review copy. While I appreciate the chance to review it, I don't appreciate this kind of abusive writing, which essentially instructs us that all any woman needs is some rough-handling and she'll fall for the guy who is abusing her. No!

The basic story sounded good. I'm not a believer in spirits or ghosts or demons, but I love a good story about that kind of thing, and there are not that many honestly good stories out there on these topics. This one is the first I've elected to read in a long time because of this, and it seemed like it might be a worthwhile read. The story is that Casey is hired as the resident psychic on a successful TV show, Spirit Chaser Investigations, wherein a team of people visits and films haunted houses.

After she does a walk-through of a purportedly haunted house and declares it a non-starter - there's nothing there - a dissatisfied Austin, the show runner with a deadline to meet, brings in another psychic for a second opinion, and shuffles Casey off for the day so she doesn't even know he's done this. He doesn't tell her until the last minute, right before the team watches the rough-cut of the episode they plan on airing, and Casey gets to see this other woman making up stories about bad events in the house, and going on about a civil war soldier, pretty much feeding Austin a total bunch of rot.

This is what happens when you let your dick think for you and bring in your old girlfriend to piss all over your current psychic. Casey naturally feels betrayed and storms off, leading to the sickening paragraph above. Evidently, she doesn't feel betrayed enough, because all Austin has to do is slam her up against a wall, force a kiss on her, and she's his BFF forever. I'll let you figure out what that middle 'F' means.

The issues I'd had with the novel before this were annoying but not automatic cancellations. There was too much trope, for one thing - purloined ideas from movies, such as that one of the haunted houses was built over a 'Native American' (that would be American Indian) sacred site, and the rocking chair which started moving by itself, and the house which has a façade that looks like an evil face: "The shadows cast a grinning humanoid visage against the façade, and the two upstairs bedroom windows looked like sinister eyes." I like my stories to be a bit more original than that, but I was willing to put up with it for a while at least.

I was even putting up with author foibles such as when Casey describes someone as her "New BBF" How can you have a new best friend forever?! It's a minor thing, but a lot of minor things add up over the length of a novel, such as the author's obsession with "granite countertops in the kitchen." Some parts were well written. I particularly liked this bit: "she spotted his most shameful secret. It was in the corner of his mind wrapped in the brown paper of guilt and tied with strings of self-loathing," taken from when Casey reads someone's mind (at their invitation). But there was nowhere near enough of that to overcome the deficits.

Other parts, for example, made no sense: "Her third eye showed her the dark mist overlying the upper floor." This was on a photograph she was looking at. I found myself taken out of suspension of disbelief to wonder how this worked exactly! She's not looking directly at the house, she's looking at an image of it, yet she still sees this misty aura around it? Is the photograph haunted?! Or is it that idea from the Doctor Who episode where the image of a weeping angel becomes an angel itself?

Given that there was a total lack of world-building here, the reader is offered no additional information at all about how any of this was supposed to work. Casey was evidently far too stupid to figure it out or even be curious about it, so we got zilch from her. After reading a few items like this, it felt to me like the author was simply randomly pulling trope ideas from the history of horror fiction, without doing anything to weld it into a coherent whole. She had some eastern mystic guy on the team, a Catholic priest, and an American Indian shaman (we never did learn what tribal affiliation he had, not in the portion I read). The whole thing was a pot-pourri of random elements, and the predictable result was that it stunk.

Some parts were just plain dumb and made the main character, Casey, seem tragically stupid - such as where Austin once again forces himself on her and overrides her own wish for lunch with his own plan. I was really starting to dislike him at this point. He whisks her off in his fancy car and she's having the wilts and the vapors over his driving! "For some reason, she'd always found it strangely powerful and sexy to watch a man drive a stick shift." I know the reason: she's simply that shallow! Maybe she does have these bizarre fantasies, but right after that came, "Austin downshifted as he approached a red light. Casey studied his movements. They were automatic. He didn't have to think about it. His right hand just knew what to do." Like this is some magical super power? No! Everyone who drives stick shift drives like this! That's what competent driving is all about.

I detest stick shift, but even I drive like this when I'm forced to drive such a vehicle, so this observation just made Casey look like a juvenile moron - or at best, someone who had led an extraordinarily sheltered life (which she had not). Another example of her lack of smarts is when she observes of Austin, "you should be the biggest skeptic in the world." Yet this is said to the guy who is running a show wherein he repeatedly reports on inexplicable supernatural phenomena! Just how stupid is Casey? Too stupid for me to want to read any more about her, rest assured.

I've never understood why it is that we have to literally get on our knees and beg for aid from a god which is supposed to be infinitely loving. Check this out: "Would you allow me to say a prayer of protection with you and give you a blessing?" This is not a problem with the writing per se because people really believe this stuff, but it gets worse. At one point the priest says, "The more people we have praying the better." Why is that? Does this god only pay attention if more than one person begs? Does he need a crowd begging on their knees before he will act? We learn, "If God had not restrained the enemy, you would still be trapped." but we don't learn why he let these people suffer before he so kindly stepped in and helped out. If he cares that much why isn't he smiting the demons instead of letting them punish people? Is this god a sadist? It was just one more example of how poorly the story hung together.

I quickly tired of the appalling abuse of vegetarians and vegans in this novel, too. Here's just one example of how they were repeatedly dissed: "Liv can make vegan cuisine and a few other Austin-approved dishes that don't taste like baked dog turds." Examples of such thoughtless writing were not uncommon, such as this one, on a different topic: "...he thought about placing the cool, metallic barrel against his tongue. He shoved it down his throat and pulled the trigger." I've never heard of anyone considering committing suicide by pushing a barrel down their throat. Aiming it up at the roof of the mouth, yes, but down the throat? Not so much! But maybe this tied in with Austin's perverse attitude towards sexuality. Who Knows. Maybe this novel should have been titled Fifty Shades of Spirit.

Out of curiosity (about this mixture of Eastern religion, Catholicism, and American Indian tradition, I looked up what kind of monsters and demons the American Indians have, and they're so pathetic as to be laughable. One of them, Aniwye was an Ojibwe legend of a large man-eating skunk monster which kills people by breaking wind at them, causing them to become sick and die! The 'demon' names are pathetic by themselves: Basket Woman? Perverted Merman? How about the 'Cannibal Dwarves'? Not much fodder there for your standard Catholic-based possession story which is, I assume, why we saw no such demons in the part of the story I read. Graham Masterton had the right idea in his 1977 novel, The Manitou, but ideas seemed very limited here.

So no, this novel is not worth reading, and I actively dis-recommend it. I do recommend sensitivity training for the author so we don't get any more novels of women being abused and the reader being expected to believe this is how romances really ought to be.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

21 Down Volume 12 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Title: 21 Down Volume 12
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Well this was a real disappointment to me but only because I thought this series finished with this volume and discovered that it doesn't! Instead, it really stirs things up. First, Mickey and Preston are stalked by two new psychos who want to kill both them and Jack Lahana, so they can go home.

As if that isn't enough violence, Mickey's daughter Alex, now with powers of her own, is staging a mass breakout from the imprisoning facility in which she's been kept for some considerable time.

And what's with Mickey's death? And can Jack Lahana really turn time back? So why didn't he save his girlfriend?

Finally, Mickey and Preston and Jack all sit down for a good long talk - and a few questions are answered.

Series so far: Good. Entertaining. Great art work. Cool story, and some awesome action. A bit of confusion here and there (more there than here, actually), some dull spots, but overall, still worthy of reading.