Showing posts with label tedious. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tedious. Show all posts

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Madame Cat #1 by Nancy Peña


Rating: WARTY!

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

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


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Rating: WARTY!

This was a wildly optimistic audio book experiment given that I'd already tried Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and DNF'd it because it was an unmitigated disaster. I found myself forced to adopt the same approach here because this was simply not getting it done. Essentially it's a bit of a rip-off of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan which was published in 2006 and is a much better read.

Rowell seems to be an uninventive writer who loves to tell rather than show, and who seems to think that stereotypes are daring. No, they're really not, but they do win awards evidently, which is probably why I'll never win one. The first problem is that the basic story is antique: a boy and a girl hate each other, but fall in love? Been there done that to death.

The second problem with this is that it's written as dual narratives which suck. The only kind thing I can say about that was that at least it wasn't in first person. The third problem is that the author doesn't even pretend she can write such a novel about modern youth, so she sets this in the eighties so she can write it about her own youth. Yawn.

The chapters are all called either 'Eleanor' or 'Park' and each is read by one of the two readers: Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, and they lay out the perspective from the PoV of each main character so the author can tell you rather than show you what's happening. They meet on a school bus which is populated with stereotypes: jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, and so on. It's painfully tedious; there's nothing new, and I cannot commend it. I'm permanently off reading anything further by this author.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Crossing the Empty Quarter by Carol Swain


Rating: WARTY!

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

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


Monday, October 1, 2018

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


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore


Rating: WARTY!

After, Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue, I was a fan of Kristin Cashore, but that didn’t help with this novel, which bored the pants off me. Fortunately not literally. This is her first novel since the end of the Graceling Realm trilogy, and I have to say that, given the time it evidently took to write it, it wasn't worth waiting for. Evidently, it was planned as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story, and then morphed into a regular novel with five parallel universes that are Jane's potential directions, but I was turned off this long before that point. And how she's unlimited when there are only five options, I do not know.

Jane's parents are dead and her only living relative, her absurdly named Aunt Magnolia is also apparently dead after she went missing in Antarctica. One thing her aunt bequeathed her niece was the extracted promise that, if ever she received an invitation to visit the mansion named Tu Reviens (French for 'you come back'), she must accept it. Personally, that would persuade me to avoid it like the plague, but not Jane. When her erstwhile school friend, the absurdly-named Kiran Thrash, a bored, rich bitch, reconnects and invites Jane to visit, Jane accepts.

At that point - her arrival and first day at the mansion, this audiobook had become so utterly boring that I quit listening to it, which is unusual in a case like this, because as the blurb informs us, "the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life." Actually it offers her a choice between five options, but let’s not quibble about that! Normally something like that is really attractive to me - a story about someone's opportunity to change what’s happened - but I never read that far. I was pretty much bored to tears at this point and Rebecca Soler's reading of the audiobook would have made me want to quit even if I had been enjoying the story, so I gave up on it.

Based on the small portion I listened to, I cannot commend this effort. Hopefully Cashore will be back on form with her next effort, but the gods alone know when that will come out.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

His Own Way Out by Taylor Saracen


Rating: WARTY!

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

I could not get into this book at all and DNF'd it at around a third of the way through. The characters - three or four kids in high school - were such utter dicks that there wasn't a single one of them that was even likeable, let alone relatable. I read in some other reviews that it's apparently a fictionalized version of a true story. I did not realize that going in, but now I do know it, I have to wonder what the purpose of this treatment of it was supposed to be.

Thinking it was fiction, I was pulled in by the fact that the main character was bisexual. This is rare in a book and the only other such book I've read that immediately comes to mind, I didn't like very much. I'd hoped for a lot more for this one, especially given the positive nature of the title, but it was a fail for me because although the main character was presented as bi, he had no real interest in women at all, aside from his ex-girlfriend. His entire focus seemed to be on men, so while he was technically bi, this story really offered nothing that your typical gay high school story offers, so what was the point?

Again from what I read in other's reviews after I decided to ditch this as a waste of my reading time, the 'way out' is for the main character to go into the porn industry which, while it's entirely his choice to make, is hardly the kind of way out that the high-flying title suggested to me. It's hardly an heroic option, and it's not inventive, or unique or original. I was hoping for a lot more and was sadly disappointed when I learned that this was his 'way out'. After reading those other reviews, I was glad I did not try to read further than I did.

As for my own take on it, I found nothing here to inspire or interest me. The guy was a jerk, unlikeable and with nothing to offer the reader. It was a tedious read. He just bounced around between parties, doing drugs and drinking, with no ideas in mind for any sort of a future. The limited and boxed-in mindset was simply depressing and uninteresting. The guy behaved like a loser and showed no sign of improving. He was boorish and one-track-minded, and I saw no saving graces in him and nothing educational or even original in his thought processes. Whether the reality upon which this was apparently based is different, I can't say, but I can only believe that a biography would have been far more fulfilling than this fiction ever can be. I cannot commend this as a worthy read based on what I experienced of it.


Chemically Coated Personalities by Justin Rawdon Lipscomb


Rating: WARTY!

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

I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but I have a volume of it out there myself, so I'd be a churl were I not to take a look at the works of others once in a while and commend ones I found appealing. Unfortunately I cannot do that with this volume. I read it through and did not feel a single connection to anything in it. The biggest problem was that I could not for the life of me figure out what the poems were really about, what they meant, what the author was trying to say, despite the titles, which often seemed at odds with the content to me.

Poetry is, it would seem, a dying art form, at least in English-speaking countries. As the Washington Post reported in April of 2015 (which was national poetry month), the number of Americans who read a work of poetry in the previous year had declined by more than half from a decade or two before, and it had been only sixteen percent to begin with. It was less popular than going to a museum; than going to a jazz concert; than crocheting. A survey in Australia at roughly the same time evidenced a similar lack of interest. It's a tough sell, and while some might decry that as a 'bad thing' it's no more than a reflection of people's tastes, which change, of course.

This is why the content of a poem matters and why it needs to appeal. This doesn't mean we should all start writing Hallmark verse by any means, but the more personal and obscure a poem is, the harder it's going to be to find an audience. Another problem is the current era's lack of attention span. We've been trained to eat in sound bites and that's an unsound philosophy because it inevitably comes back to bite us. Poetry can lend itself to this, but it often refuses to yield.

My issues with this one were two-fold: firstly that it felt really pretentious - like the author was playing at being poetic rather than actually being poetic; like it came far more from the mind than the heart, and secondly that the poems were consistently whiny and maudlin. There was nothing uplifting here, and it was a depressing read. This was not helped by the fact that most of the time I had no idea what this author was waxing on about. I really didn't. Nor did I see a connection between the poem's title and the content of the poem, not that this seemed important to me but it was one more thing.

If the purpose of poetry is to invoke feeling in another and lure them into seeing the world through the poet's eye, then this was a fail for me, because it didn't evoke anything but confusion. I felt this from poem one, and throughout the book. It never changed and so it never improved. After about two-thirds of the volume, I gave up because I had got nothing from this at all save irritation with what too often seemed to me to be a litany of self-pity.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this book was that the poems varied very little - similar length, similar meter, similar cadence, similar topic! It very quickly became very routine and very monotonous to read, and every one of the poems seemed to exude an aura of malcontent: dissatisfaction with people and with life. It was an irritating read where it wasn't rather depressing, and I didn't feel remotely elevated by this art; quite the contrary. I could not connect with it or even understand what the author was trying to say most of the time.

As an example, the very first poem, titled "Addiction, but No Quarter" began this process with the first line "The wood placed in my hand makes me different" but then the rest of the poem never came back to this so I had no idea what this meant. What was the wood? What was happening? Was it a baseball bat? Was it a stake designed to be driven through a vampires heart? Was it a cross? A golf club? Was it a metaphor for a forest? Or an erection? None of the above? I have no idea because the rest of the poem failed to offer any illumination whatsoever! In fact it only made things more obscure with lines like "Silence is too loud to hold the sound of nothing" and "Veins carry the liquid pain that holds us in an unworthy dominion of ourselves".

I realized as I read that poem, that no line was really connected with any other line. It was merely a series of disjointed statements which were so obscure that all meaning (I assume there was meaning, at least for the author) was lost for me. There may well have been a connection in the writer's mind, but if it fails to reach the reader, then what's the point? This is a problem inherent in writing poetry in that it is so very personal that there's a very real, grave, and sad risk that no one else will get it. Certainly, and especially if the author denies the reader some sort of 'in', it will mean far less to others than it meant to the author, and that was the problem I had with this entire collection of poems.

I'm sure they're very personal and have real meaning to the author, but that doesn't necessarily migrate to the reader, so while I wish the author all the best in his poetical and musical career, I cannot commend this volume 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..


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach


Rating: WARTY!

I came to this by way of the Netflix TV show of the same name which derived from it, and I have to say the TV show is significantly better in my opinion. I honestly could not for the life of me figure out why 11 publishers would bid for this novel (which is what The Guardian says happened).

I know it's very likely a debut author's dream to have that kind of demand for her work, but I'd be embarrassed to have anyone bid for this novel had I written it. I'd be more likely to post it for free on my website or in some fan fiction site. On the other hand I would never have written this. If that means I'll never have a bidding war, or a TV show made from one of my books, or a best-seller, it's fine with me. I don't work that way. I want to be proud of what I've written, not embarrassed by it a few years hence.

The problem was that the book simply wasn't interesting and was poorly written. Main character Leila discovers a chat board (how quaintly antique!) called Red Pill - named after the pill scene from The Matrix. She is groomed by the site's owner, Adrian, and then offered a job of impersonating Tess, who evidently wants to kill herself, but also to have her life continued by another person for a while before being slowly faded to black so that no one knows what happened to her.

None of this makes any sense given Tess's spastic, manic, random, scatterbrained personality. I assume it's because of that very personality that she cannot do this for herself, but to be told that someone with that same personality is planning this happening, stretched credibility too far. When did she ever plan anything? Why would she care if her life ended suddenly or was faded out? From what we learn of her, she wouldn't! The TV show scenario made far more sense.

Leila pretty much immediately volunteers for this role, and starts interacting with Tess for the purpose of learning her life. Never once does dumb-ass Leila think for a second that Adrian might be setting her up. Again the TV show did it better, and certainly better than the idiotic back-cover blurb writer who makes the brain-dead claim that this is an "ingeniously plotted novel of stolen identity."

Now admittedly I ditched this halfway through and had some suspicions of my own about what was happening, but up to the point where I quit reading, there was nothing stolen here! Tess voluntarily gave up her identity to Leila because she wanted this. The blurb outright lies as blurbs all-too-often do. Shame on blurb writers!

It occurred to me that Adrian might be behind this whole thing: that Tess had no intention of dying, and that Adrian planned on killing her, and while the exchange was confined to email and IM chat, this would have worked, because he could have readily impersonated her, but then Leila was having face-to-face skypes with Tess, so unless Adrian had access to some really good emulation software, this impersonation idea seemed a stretch, but maybe that's how it went.

Or perhaps Tess didn't plan on dying, just on disappearing, and had no idea Adrian planned on killing her, so this is why this seemed to work. Either way there was no identity stolen! I don't know what the plan was or how it actually played out, or even if Tess was dead at all, but by halfway through I wasn't even remotely interested, because the story had become such a drudge to read that I couldn't have cared less, and not one of the characters appealed to me.

The story actually wasn't too bad until Leila went to Spain trying to track Tess down. At that point, the entire thing came to a screeching halt and boredom set in like chilled molasses. The story was all over the place to begin with - not linear at all - so it was at times hard to follow. Here it was easy to follow but completely lacking in anything remotely interesting. The story literally did not move a millimeter. Leila constantly complained about the heat in Spain (which stays mainly in the plain), but when she had a chance to go to town and could spend some money, did she buy a cola, or ice water, or lemonade? Nope. She bought a bag of salty potato chips. Not realistic - unless of course my theory that Leila is a moron is correct.

This pointless bumbling around at this 'hippie' commune camp in Spain was a major turn-off. It went on endlessly and it was tedious in the extreme. I mourn the trees which were sacrificed because of this author's evident inability to self-edit or to know when enough is enough. It should be needless to say that I lost all interest and I quit reading. I cannot commend this book.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Once a King by Erin Summerill


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

There was nothing in the Net Galley page for this book to indicate it was part of a series. If I had known it was I would not have requested to review it. It does not stand alone well. I am not a fan of Sarah J Maas who recommends this. I should have taken her recommendation as a bad omen and steered clear. My bad!

I think books in a series, especially in a trilogy, and especially if it's a YA trilogy should carry a warning sign like on cigarettes. In general terms, and while there are exceptions, series are not known for being inventive. The whole existence is predicated upon derivation and cloning and that's what this felt like, even not having read the first two volumes. The earth, fire, water, and wind motif is overdone in books, and the way it’s depicted here is far too reminiscent of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series for it to be truly original.

I was really disappointed in this because it offered so little that was new. It's like the author read a dozen popular YA love stories and appropriated the most clichéd parts of each of them. I was still waiting for the king - the male interest - to be revealed to have gold flecks in his eyes when I DNF'd this out of disgust at twenty percent in. Out of sheer devilment I did a search to see if 'gold flecks' or 'gold flecked' appeared in the book, but it doesn't; however, in conducting this search I discovered that the king's other golden traits: hair, skin, eyelashes, are trotted out a sickening number of times, so in my book that counts just as badly as the gold-flecked eyes!

So this is your standard tired story of a man and a woman who hate each other and then fall in love, so there's nothing new there at all. I can't even give any credit for the author making him a king rather than a prince because really? If it had been the other way around and she was the queen and he the 'maiden-in-distress' character that would have made at least a bit of a difference, but as it was, I saw nothing here that I haven't read two dozen times too many in female-penned YA novels.

Why so many female authors pen themselves up this way is a mystery to me, but then I like to read something new when I pick up a new book - not the same tired old thing I've read a score of times before. Far too many YA authors seem not to care about that in their desperation to sell their trilogy, and neither do publishers, evidently. I think it's because, for too many writers, it's not about the writing, it's all about the Benjamins isn't it? They seem like they want play it safe by cloning trilogies of other writers, and recovering old ground endlessly, rather than take the road less traveled and bring us something truly sterling, and it's a crying shame. Rest assured I will never go down that path. It's too boring.

Funnily enough, that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was that once again the author of a YA story goes for the first person voice and then doubles-down on her error by making it dual first person. I read the first chapter (in the female's voice) and then went on into the second chapter not realizing it had changed to the king's voice. For a screen or two the story made less and less sense than it already had until I realized the author was using worst person times two. That's enough to turn me off a story even if the story is interesting, which I honestly can’t say about this one. Maybe if I’d read the first two volumes it might have made a difference - at least in that I would not have had to read this one?

The main female character, whose name I already forgot, is not an actor, she is a thing which is acted upon: just a girl who can't say "No!" The blurb even tells us that "...when he asks for help to discover the truth behind the rumors, she can’t say no" and maybe it’s a bit cruel to quote that, especially since authors have nothing to do with their blurbs unless they self-publish, but this is actually an accurate portrayal of her weakness. She is controlled and buffeted like an insect in a bathtub drain, and if she'd shown some sign that she was rebelling against this and taking arms against this drain of troubles instead of being the tool of men (take that how you will), I would have at least had the temptation to continue, but she offered me nothing. I wish the author all the best in her career, but I cannot recommend this novel based on the thoroughly unoriginal and uninventive part I could stand to read.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani


Rating: WARTY!

This book sounded interesting from the blurb, but turned out to be boring and I gave up on it after about a third of it. It was really a sort of journal or diary of disjointed days in the life of this ordinary, everyday girl and some of it was kind of interesting, but most of it was just routine events from which I learned nothing and was not even entertained because the happenings detailed here were so commonplace.

If you're going to tell us about mundane events, then your character had better be extraordinary in some way either in herself or in how she reacts to these events. If she's ordinary, then the events had better be extraordinary, otherwise why would we care about this story that's the same as anyone's story that we might meet or know in our own day-to-day life? If I'd been give a reason to care about this character, that would have been something, but I wasn't given any reason at all. She wasn't awful but neither was she outstanding in any way, so my feelings for her and her story were as flat as the story was. I felt no compulsion to keep turning that many pages.

I could not take the character's name seriously! In Britain, tadger is a nickname for penis. It sounds like Taja, depending on how you pronounce Taja - with a hard 'j' or a soft one. But a tadger can be hard or soft too! LOL! I'm sorry, but the name really amused me and the book failed to distract me from it. It's not my fault, honest! Seriously though, Taja is supposed to be pronounced with a soft 'j' which isn't a common use of that letter in English.

In Hindi though, the name means 'crown' or 'jewel' and while Jewel works as a girl's name, Crown really doesn't, so Taja is better. In Arabic and in Urdu, it means Mention or Name! A name that means name! Mention is actually an interesting name for a character in a novel, I think. But I'm weird. Moving right along, from the Greek - where it derives from the harder sounding 'Tadja' (see, I was right!) - it means beautiful or divine, so it's really quite a good name. Just don't use it in Britain!

That said, and as you may have gathered by now, I can't recommend this because of the monotony. It's supposedly a coming-of-age story but it takes forever to get there and it covers so many years with such brief cameo looks into her life that it really doesn't tell us anything. It's like trying to get a person's life story from merely looking at a few snapshots. This was the same but used a few words instead of a few photographs.


The Ophelia Cut by John Lescroart


Rating: WARTY!

I thing I'm going to quit reading any novel that has a Shakespeare quote or reference in the title. I didn't realize this at the time, otherwise I would have left this on the library shelf, but it's book fourteen in a series featuring a protagonist defense attorney with the ridiculous name of Dismas Hardy. If the only thing you can characterize with is a bizarre name, then you're not doing your characters right and you're certainly not doing them justice.

Worse than this though, the story was boring as all hell and moved at a sluggish pace. Worse even than that, most of it had nothing to do with the promised story, This is why I DNF'd this. And yes, you can review a novel without finishing it if it's as appallingly bad as this one was.

I should have paid more attention to the blurb which begins, " Brittany McGuire is the beautiful..." Anything that rates a woman by her looks and nothing else is to be disparaged and junked. I know the author isn't responsible for the blurb, but still! We need to move away from this objectification, and yes, authors and blurb writers, I'm talking to all of you.

The problem with an established author, especially one with a series, is that Big Publishing™ is so avaricious that they don't want to criticize any of their golden geese, so editing the novel is out of the question. That's why these novels get so bad and why I will never write a series. It's lazy and derivative and it leads to sad-sack novels like this one. I cannot recommend it and will not read anything else by such a lazy author as this.


Celine by Peter Heller


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook experiment and I was initially quite intrigued by what it offered. Although this wasn't clear from the blurb, the protagonist was an older PI - much older than is typical for these stories and, always looking for the road less traveled as I am, this appealed to me. Celine is sort of semi-retired from PI-ing, and is working on art projects when she feels called back into the field by a woman whose husband has disappeared. Tracking down lost people is Celine's specialty.

So far so good, but for me, the problem with this was the, if you'll forgive the bad pun, arthritic pace at which the story moved. It was glacial, and when I was over a fifth of the way into it and quite literally nothing had happened, I'd had quite enough. The entire first twenty percent was family history and flashbacks and it was so boring. I wanted to see how this woman tackled this job, but I was so tired of listening to pointless, time-wasting reminiscences which did nothing to move the story or even address the plot, that I couldn't stand to listen anymore.

To me, if you're going to go outside the genre norm, which I salute in principle, and in this case, have an older PI, then you have to bring something to the table other than the fact that she (or he) is an older PI! That can't be all there is. And you really need to get rid of the inevitable detective tick, idiosyncrasy, or quirk. It is so tedious to read of a PI or a detective who has a quirk, because everyone is doing it. Find something new: something different. If you're going off-road in your story, at least find an interesting trail to follow or you'll just end up in a rut. I cannot recommend this one.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook which I did not like. It looked superficially interesting, but when I began listening to it, it turned out to be nonsensical, poorly thought-out, badly-written, and not entertaining at all, so I DNF'd it. There's no point in plowing on gamely through a novel which doesn't do it for you. if I were being paid for reviews that would be one thing, but this is entirely another, and I quit whenever I want! Being a writer myself, my own writing takes priority over reviewing, so I don't see the point in trying to force myself to read on through someone else's material that isn't entertaining me at all, when I can write my own which I typically find much more engrossing and fulfilling.

My biggest problem was the epistolary nature of this story which is told as a series of asinine interviews and purportedly official records. Typically whenever a novel is written like this - using diaries, journal entries, documents, or whatever, the entries are entirely unrealistic and therefore keep kicking me out of the story for lack of credibility. Most writers don't think about what they're doing when they adopt this method and make these 'documents' far too detailed, like a novel (duhh!), quoting verbatim conversation and so on. No one keeps written records like that. Very few audio or video records are of that nature either.

Worse than this, the story is supposed to be gripping, but when you remove it from the reader like this by making it sound like the proceedings of an official enquiry, all immediacy and therefore any hope for excitement, is gone. The stupid attempt at having a boy-girl love-hate relationship (at least I assume that's where it would end up) is not only tediously overdone, it was in this case ridiculous and turned me off. I cannot recommend this because of how poorly thought out it was (assuming thought entered into it), and how scrappily thrown together it was based on the portion I listened to, which was not very much.


Black Panther Doomwar by Jonathan Maberry


Rating: WARTY!

Drawn and colored by an assortment of evidently uninspired and certainly unimaginative artists, this was several volumes in one compendium and I wasn't impressed. I picked it up at the library because I'd loved the Black Panther movie and the wealth of strong female characters. When I saw that this book was about Shuri - the Black Panther's kid sister, who was now filling the role of the Panther after her brother had been injured, I thought it would be well-worth reading, but written and drawn by largely, if perhaps not exclusively male writers and artists, it turned out to be yet another disturbing and lackluster venture into boring objectification of female super heroes.

The villain is Doctor Doom. How utterly tedious! Can they not find a new villain? If not, then could they not at least find a villain from Black Panther's own history to resurrect? One of the biggest problems with comic books and a good reason why we see them tailing off is the total inability of their creators to bring something truly new to the table. They keep resurrecting - often literally - vanquished villains from ancient history, and it would be laughable were it not so tiresome.

Worse than this (and don't even get me started on the kitchen sink cameos from other 'heroes' of the Marvel stable), Shuri's form-fitting black costume makes her - a black woman - look like she's naked, and her unnatural postures in far too many frames seemed drawn by adolescent boys for no other purpose than to titillate rather than inform or impress.

It is truly and honestly tiresome to see this kind of unhip-dysplasic and scoliosis-ridden posing from female characters affecting stances that would be downright painful to strike were a real person to attempt them, with hips and asses thrust out unnaturally, and deliberately provocatively. When we see nothing remotely like those poses from the male super heroes, you know this is pure objectification. It's outright genderist and it's to be shunned and boycotted in my opinion. I dis-recommend this entire series.


Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer


Rating: WARTY!

This was a short audiobook that I did not enjoy at all because it made no sense, and the narrator, Carolyn McCormick, reading in a first person voice which I typically do not like anyway, did not help the book's case, because her reading felt false, stilted, and ultimately unrealistic.

The premise is that four women are entering 'area X' (great imagination used in the description there huh?! I'm surprised it wasn't designated Unobtania'...) to investigate a bizarre locale in which humans do not seem to have fared well and nature seems 'off'. A dozen previous teams have disappeared or gone insane, or had other negative outcomes, yet these four female volunteers are sent in alone, with small arms, but with no armed escort, to try to find out what's going on in there, and not a one of them is allowed to carry any communications or electronics? There are no drones or robots to help out? This made zero sense and wasn't explained in the 30% or so of this story I could stand to listen to. How the hell are they going to learn anything on the outside if those on the inside cannot pass word out as to what is happening? It's stupid from the outset.

The girls find what the narrator stubbornly insists upon calling a tower even though it's buried in the ground just like an underground silo. It has the weird fungus growing on the wall which spells words, and the narrator naturally gets 'infected' with spores while examining it. That's as far as I listened because the narration was annoying, the story nonsensical, and my reasons for pursuing it beyond this point non-existent.

None of these women had a name, merely a profession, so one was the biologist, one the psychologist, one the linguist, and so on. This was asinine! Even if they'd been issued some sort of instruction not to use names they inevitably would have, because who on the outside would even know? This felt completely inauthentic and felt like what it was: a guy writing about women without really understanding how they think or work together. It was merely one more reason not to take this seriously. Based on what I heard, I cannot recommend this at all.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Red As Blue by Ji Strangeway, Juan Fleites


Rating: WARTY!

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

I was very disappointed in this. I knew it was experimental going into it, but I did not realize it would be more mental than experi-. I don't know if the contributor's names are real or made up, but Strangeway definitely describes how this story is told, and the illustrations are minimal, so do not go into this thinking it's a graphic novel in any way; it isn't.

It has some some illustrated pages sprinkled through it, but they don't really tell a story in the way a graphic novel does, and they appear only about every half-dozen pages or so. That said they were, for me, the best part, since they were well done - black and white line drawings though they were. They were full page illustrations, some with panels in them, but the downside of these was that on my iPad in Bluefire Reader, they sometimes took seemingly forever to open up. Worse: they simply retell the story in pictures and tend to precede the text which tells us the same thing the illustration just did. It seemed superfluous if not also pretentious to include them.

As far as the writing went, it was literally like reading a play. No, not like, was - it was a play. I DNF'd this, but I also skimmed through a goodly portion of what I did not read, and the format was the same all the way through as far as I could see. On nearly every page there was a conversation which consisted of a character's name in block caps in the center of the page, their speech centered below it, then the next character's name the same way, rinse and repeat except the rinse was more like a gargle.

The descriptive prose was minimal, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but here it ran into jargon issues. So much of this is used that there's a glossary at the start of the novel to clue people in to what's obviously an unnatural system. This kind of thing doesn't work for me.

Even that might have been readable if the main character wasn't so unlikeable. She came across as a complete halfwit, constantly having to be told what relatively common, and fairly simple words mean. I can stand to read a good novel about someone who might uncharitably be described as a halfwit, but I can't read about someone who seems to have an unacknowledged learning impairment with which the author has saddled her for no apparent reason.

So for an experimental novel there was precious little experimentation, since it was pretty much a play with some pictures. It didn't strike me as being inventive or imaginative, but as lazy and pandering to a seriously niche audience rather than to a much larger audience of people who would genuinely like to enjoy a well-written LGBTQIA novel based on the author's own experiences.

Writing this my have been cathartic for an author who has grown up in a conservative small town with no role models and prejudice galore, but 270 pages is much to long of a novel to experiment with in this fashion. When I see a book like this, I have to wonder whether the author really just doesn't like trees.


Friday, May 4, 2018

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly


Rating: WARTY!

This was a waste of my time. There is no story here, just female nudity and random bloodletting. The inexplicably named Clover isn't in such. She's a vampire who demands blood. Her brother kept her confined for several years in order to protect her and humanity both, but Clover is hardly the sharpest canine in the dentition.

She breaks out and seeks fresh human blood. No excuse is given for why she simply doesn't drink her brother dry. She clearly has no morals, yet for reasons unknown, she leaves the man who has imprisoned her for years, untouched, and picks-off assorted, random innocent people she encounters. She's too stupid to know she must get out of the sunlight until she starts broiling herself. She's not remotely likable, and the ending makes no sense at all mostly because it's not really an ending in any meaningful sense. Story? What story? Art? What art? At least it was short.

Comic book writer Jaime Hernandez recommends this. I have no idea who he is so you'll have to remind me never to read anything by him if he thinks this is so great. He either hasn't read it and therefore is completely clueless, or he's just completely clueless. I don't get why idiot publishers think a recommendation by a writer most people have never heard of somehow carries any weight. I honestly do not give a damn what other writers think, even if they're writers I like. I want to make up my own mind, and I did. I certainly cannot recommend this waste of time.


The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare


Rating: WARTY!

This was probably written around 1611, and first published in 1623 in a folio which grouped it with the comedies! It's not a comedy, unless a comedy of error. Some have labeled it a romance, but it's not a romance. To me it's a tragedy in more ways than one because it's not well-written and it's an awful story in the sense of being completely unrealistic. In that regard, it's a typical Shakespeare play where he asks us to remove our brains before entering the theater, but then he does call it The Winter's tale - like it's the mother of all tall stories, told in this audiobook by a very average full cast.

It's also another one of Shakespeare's thefts. He was a monstrous plagiarist. This story is essentially the same as Pandosto by Robert Greene, published some two decades earlier, a story in which the King of Bohemia, Pandosto, accuses his wife of adultery with his childhood friend, the King of Sicilia. Greene in turn may have taken his version from The Canterbury Tales which may have in turn been lifted from earlier stories such as The Decameron And so it goes!

In Shakespeare's rip-off, we're supposed to believe that Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, has so little to do in his own country that he can waste nine months (a curious amount of time) swanning around in Sicilia with King Leontes, whom he hath known since childhood. When Polixenes refuseth, citing pressing business back home, Leontes unreasonably tries to require him to stay, and when he fails in that, he sends his wife to try to talk him into staying. Why he would send his wife who knows this guy less well than does her husband is a mystery, but she persuades him so quickly that Leontes immediately decides she's had sex with him in order to convince him not to go!

Note that Bohemia is part of the present-day Czech Republic, so there is no way in hell a name like Polixenes would be in play there, nor a name like Leontes in Sicilia for that matter, but that's Shakespeare for you. Nor is there any way these two were childhood friends when their countries of origin were so far apart given the vicissitudes of travel back then, but again, Shakespeare expects us to buy this old mystery meat pie. He also expects us to believe the king took his wife to court (not the same as courting his wife) in a complete farce of a trial rather than simply behead her as was the fashion at the time. The reason for the trial is that it's far more an exercise in linguistic strutting and puffery than ever it was a realistic trial.

The wife, of course, dieth after the trial, but isn't really dead, just like the unheroic Hero wasn't really dead in Much Ado About Noting. Shakespeare wasn't original by any means. He even plagiarized himself! In the end, the child he thought had been burned alive on his own orders was in fact raised away from his sight for sixteen years, and the wife he thought was dead was living with a neighbor and lo an behold, all is forgiven at the end.

Horseshit! This king is so clueless that he has no idea what's going on in his own court, let alone his own country! He's so selfish that he won't let his supposed friend go home, and he's so stupid and paranoid that he thinks his best friend and his wife had sex. The guy's an asshole and simply isn't worth reading about. I do not recommend this! If you must indulge in Shakespeare, he has better material to read or listen to than this.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Lost Path by Amélie Fléchais


Rating: WARTY!

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

I have to say, up front, that I was disappointed in this story, which is depressing because back in August of 2017, I reviewed this author's The Little Red Wolf and loved it. This was a different kettle of comic though, because I'm not even sure what happened in it, despite reading it all the way through.

It felt unfinished for one thing, and on top of that it was disjointed and confusing. I had a hard time following it, which was fine, because it seemed to be going nowhere anyway. The story is supposed to be of these three kids who remain nameless, and who get lost in the forest and encounter strange and magical creatures, but while I found nothing magical in the story, I'm sorry to say I found a lot of strange, and not in a good way. I ended-up being glad these kids were lost and hoping they were never found, thereby decreasing the surplus boredom - as Ebenezer Scrooge might have wished!

The weirdest thing about the graphic novel was that it started out in full color - and quite well done as it happened, but then inexplicably switched to black and white line drawings. I thought at first that maybe this was to indicate that it was nighttime, but it wasn't! Later the color came back - again for no apparent reason, and then went away once more.

Was there a reason for this? Who can say? It was a gray area, but I could see no purpose in it! There was at least one image which had a splash of color, like the artist had begun to color it, but hadn't finished. The only conclusion I could draw by then was that this was unfinished because it was an advance review copy. Alternately if the author/artist was trying to say something with the absence/return of color, it was lost on me, as was the bulk of this non-story.

I was truly disappointed in it, and I cannot recommend this at all.