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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Spring Skies Over Bluebell Castle by Sarah Bennett


Rating: WARTY!

This story sounded intriguing to me since I was born and raised in Derbyshire where it's set, but it fell short of the glory of a great story and it happened quickly. The language was far too flowery for my taste for one thing:

“As she stepped down onto the creamy marble floor of the imposing entrance hall, a blast of cold from the open front door sent a shiver through her, and she was glad for the thermal vest hidden beneath her silk blouse. A strip of Wedgwood blue sky showed over the rooftops of the buildings across the street.“
Creamy? Imposing? Silk? Wedgwood? At least she spelled Wedgwood right so credit where credit is due, but this was way too much, especially when most of it was all in one sentence.

And this is how we meet Lucie Kennington, who works for a high-end art gallery and is suspended in a most unrealistic way when an art piece she brought to the attention of the gallery is apparently stolen by being switched out for a fake. This made no sense to me since if she wanted to steal it, then why the hell would she ever bring it to the attention of the gallery in the first place? She found it hanging unsung on someone's wall and recognized it for what it was. If she were going to be dishonest about it, she would have offered the owner a few pounds for it and made out like gangbusters in the profit. If their beef is that it was stolen, not necessarily by her, then the problem is security, not the woman who found the piece.

So she gets suspended while an investigation takes place, and immediately this turns into one of those 'weak women fleeing back to her home town - or in this case to the countryside' which is precisely the kind of chick-lit story I detest. I foolishly picked this one up to read thinking it might be different and intrigued by the Derbyshire aspect. I had little to nothing of Derbyshire in the part I read which was admittedly limited.

All I really got was dumb-ass Lucie and an even more dumb-ass family of landed gentry named after characters from Arthurian mythology (which has nothing to do with Derbyshire, BTW) dealing with a financial crisis in their castle. It's patently obvious she's going to get it on with Arthur Ludworth who "might just be the most handsome man Lucie’s ever laid eyes on." Barf. Arthur has 'shaggy hair' of course which is probably why she can’t wait to shag him.

Of course, Arthur's salvation is once more a painting which Lucie recognizes and which is worth a fortune. I'm guessing the art gallery will find Lucie completely innocent and beg her to return, for her only to thumb her nose at them now she's King Arthur's trophy wife.

I didn't like Luci or Arthur; they were both as dumb as a bag of dumbbells, so maybe that makes them a perfect match, but that really put the brakes on this story for me. Girl with a secret past afraid of being embarrassed, and too stupid to tell all to the man she's supposedly falling in love with? I'm sorry but 'dumb broads' are not remotely interesting to me, nor is the 'billionaire falls for the poor girl' kind of a story - which is what this is, close enough, and you don't even get the eroticism! LOL! I ditched it and was glad I did. There's better to be had out there than this; much better.


Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood


Rating: WARTY!

Narrated by someone with the highly-appropriate name of Kate Reading, but who ought to be named Kate Droning since she does an unfortunately monotonous job of it, this audiobook, which I had initially (and mistakenly) thought was a biography, turned out to be a tedious and pretentious fiction that tells us nothing whatsoever since it's the purest invention of the author. It turns out that Kate Reading is actually a fake name which I'm sure she thinks is hilarious.

Naturally it's rooted in the reality of Hemingway being unable to commit to a woman and holding the misogynistic and highly abusive idea that he ought to be entitled to a wife and a mistress at the same time and under the same roof, regardless of their wishes, but for me, this book did nothing to tell the real story of the women involved. It was far more about Hemingway and his four wives than ever it was about four women who happened at one point or another to be married to Ernest Hemingway.

The book felt like one of those where the title is along the lines of "The __________'s Daughter" or in this case, "The Iceberg Author's Wives" - it renders the women an appendage of someone else: a guy, rather than their own autonomous selves. I don't like that. I'm recently read such a work by Kate Moss and it was boring. It's going to be the last such book I read because the title is problematic for me from the off, before you even get to the story. The thing is though, that when I got to the story in this case, the author did precisely the same thing to these four women that such titles do to the female subjects of such novels. It's not appreciated and female writers in particular should be ashamed of writing things like that.

But I digress! So the first story is Hadley Hemingway going on about her competitive position with regard to Pauline Pfeiffer, but we really learn far less about these two women than we do about Hemingway, and it was disappointing. At that point I skipped to the one which interested me most, which was Martha Gellhorn, and after that, I quit listening altogether, because she wasn't in the story at all except as a story told by Hadley which even further removed her as a subject than Hadley had been! Go figure. I decided to go directly to the author's mouth and have reviewed - positively! - a couple of books that Martha Gellhorn actually wrote herself. Meanwhile I am done with this author. This book is bad writing, period.


Motherhood by Sheila Heti


Rating: WARTY!

Author Sheila Heti is very reminiscent in her features of actor Cate Blanchett, but while I like the latter, I am not a fan of the former after listening to the opening portion of this. I really have very little to say about this one since I listened to so little of it, but the style really rubbed me up the wrong way from the off. The New Yorker has a review by Alexandra Schwartz which describes this as "sometimes exasperating." I beg to disagree. It was entirely exasperating.

It was first person to begin with which, with few exceptions, is nearly always a mistake as a voice, and while I commend authors who read their own work in the audiobook, I cannot commend this one in this case, because her voice wasn't easy on my ears. It was rather strident and domineering and felt like I was being lectured about something I'd done wrong! Well sorry, I'm a guy! Fatherhood is my thing. Motherhood isn't even possible for me! Do please forgive me!

This was one of the most egregious examples of the first person - what I'd call a #MeOnly style - and it was truly tedious to listen to. It was rambling and uninteresting, and I simply couldn't get into it. I gave up on it in short order and returned it to the library where hopefully someone, somewhere, somehow will find it to their taste.

The blurb claims that "Motherhood treats one of the most consequential decisions of early adulthood - whether or not to have children - with the intelligence, wit and originality" but this is patent bullshit - or perhaps in this case, baby shit. The blurb promised that the novel would follow her internal debate about whether to get pregnant "Over the course of several years, under the influence of her partner, body, family, friends, mysticism and chance" and I couldn't stand the thought of having to listen to this droning self-indulgence for that long.


I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas by Lewis Black


Rating: WARTY!

This was a comedian's take on Christmas and it was therefore supposed to be funny, but it was entirely the opposite: tedious, obvious, and not remotely funny. I skipped the middle completely and listened to a bit on the end while I was on the way back to the library to drop it off, and the guy seems to have majored in name-dropping in comedy school, because he was talking about a USO tour and he made no attempt at humor. All he did was drop names, so I dropped him - back into the library return box.

I love my library, but it recently lost yet another audiobook I dropped off in the box. As with the previous three occasions, I was the one who found it - for the fourth time on the library shelf, evidently put back there without being checked back in. Now I wish it had been this one they lost. I would not have gone looking for it!


Eye to I by Rolf Nelson


Rating: WARTY!

Rolf Nelson is a Professor of Psychology and Dorothy Reed Williams Professor in the Social Sciences at Wheaton College (the one in Massachusetts, not the idiotic creation-preaching one in Illinois), and the only thing I can say is that I pity anyone who has to sit through one of his lectures, unfortunately. These are a series of lectures which I thought might be interesting in view of the topic of the next book in my The Little Rattuses™ children's picture book series, but I'm sorry to report that there was little to nothing to see here, so I moved along.

The idea was to discuss how we see things and how our brain interprets what we see, but the lectures were dry, humorless, rambling and repetitive, and it was truly tedious to listen to them. I kept skipping tracks to move on to more interesting bits, but those were sadly very few and quite far between. I know it's a big academic thing to get a book out there on whatever topic it is that you teach, but I really think it's better not to put one out rather than publish one this bad. You'll learn more from reading Wikipedia on the topic of sight and color vision, even if it's tough-going, than you will from these lectures and stay awake in the process. This was awful.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

This is a short audiobook that I thought I would give a try. I am not much of a fan of Christie's writing, but I did enjoy the Hercule Poirot series on TV to the point where I even wrote a parody of Murder on the Orient Express. I have to really like something or really hate something to do a parody of it, and I'm not thinking of doing a Miss Marple parody, but I know nothing of those particular stories, so I decided to give this try since I found it on audiobook. My bad!

It's read by Joan Hickson, a Brit actor with whom I'm familiar (no, not that familiar!). She played the role of Miss Marple in a TV series of the same name (Marple, not Hickson!). There were twelve shows, and one of them was based on this particular novel. I may try to see that if I can get my hands on it, just out of curiosity, but this particular novel I found far too plodding and filled with too much extraneous detail to be entertaining. I think Hickson was the wrong choice too, because her voice, sorry to say, sounds a bit too mouth-filled-with-marbles for enjoyment. It reminded me of the voices the Monty Python crew used when they were impersonating women. I can see why the publisher hired her, but going the 'obvious' path isn't typically the best option and for me it didn't work well here.

Christie is the world's all-time best-selling author, even as of today, having sold some three billion books (that's not the same as saying almost half the planet's population have read her!), which ranks her behind only the Bible and Shakespeare, but I have to ask, if Christie had never lived, and some unknown writer today wrote her books and offered them for sale, would a publisher actually buy them or would that poor writer end up having to self-publish if they wanted to get anything out there?

Would these books sell even if they were picked up by a mainstream publisher? Would a publisher even pick up a typescript to read if its title was "4:40 from Paddington"?! I may be wrong of course, find it hard to believe that they would. Certainly not as well as they historically did. But guess what? Her books are now starting to come into the public domain, so who knows what new writers will do with them?

Anyway, this one, first published in 1957, has the interesting plot of a woman traveling on a train which happens to run in parallel for a short time, with another train traveling in the same direction. Through the windows, before the trains part company, the woman witnesses a man strangling a woman on the other train, and when she reports this to the train authorities (why them and not the police I have no idea) they dismiss her story, thinking she has dreamed it after reading a magazine story about someone who was strangled.

The woman is a friend of Miss Marple of course. I have a theory about this. People like this Marple and this Poirot (and far too many others) always seem to be around when murders are committed! It seems only logical to conclude that they somehow cause the murders. How else can you account for them being in such proximity to so many of them?

Anyway, when the woman reports this murder to Marple, she's believed, and the two of them then go to the police, where Maple knows the desk sergeant. They're taken more seriously, but when inquiries come up blank, Miss Marple recruits a small army of advisors to figure out where the body most likely was tossed from the train. She's working on the theory that this was a planned murder, the murderer throwing the body out at a convenient, but secluded location, and then afterwards coming back by car and picking it up to dispose of it.

The basic problem here is: why would he plan it on a train? If he could lure the victim onto a train ride with him, he could evidently lure her anywhere. The limp excuse given is that someone might see him with his victim and remember it if he tried the murder somewhere else, but this completely ignores the fact that everyone and their uncle would see him and this poor woman going onto the train together! So, not so well thought out.

What got to me though was the excessive detail which had nothing to do with the murder or the investigation: eating all the food at the table, clearing away the dishes, washing the dishes. Sorry, but no! There was too much of this, and the story felt perfunctory even with these details, like Christie wrote this as detailed notes, but never bothered to flesh them out before it was published. While the plot was a good starting point, the story itself felt poorly-written and was consequently unentertaining, and I gave up on it. Besides, everyone knows the Butler did it, right? Or the doctor.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen


Rating: WARTY!

I'm not opposed to chick lit and I've read a bit of it myself although it's not my first choice of genre, but quite honestly this was the worst kind of chick lit - arguably anti-#MeToo. I didn't read much of it, but to me it looked like the only connection it had to Cinderella was that the girl met her tediously predictably hunky guy when her stiletto heel got stuck in a crack between floorboards in this restaurant she frequents and in which this guy is part owner.

Her shoe comes off of course and he hands it back to her, but instead of leaving it to her to put it on, he puts his hand on her hip - not her arm or shoulder, or offers her his own arm for balance, but uninvited, he puts his hand on her hip 'to steady her', and she gets the wilts and the vapors. I'm immediately thinking, "I'm outta here. This is not my literature!" so I gave up on it. At only a few pages in.

Despite having a professional job in an office, this girl did not come off as very smart to me. She automatically assumed this guy was a liar when he told her he was part owner of the restaurant, like she was an expert on the place just because she eats there often. Neither is she the impoverished stepsister, so what this had to do with Cinderella, I have no idea. All I had actually needed to know is whether it was trespassing on my Cinderella territory or I on its, and the answer to that was a resounding 'no!' The story's nothing like what I'm writing so I fortunately don't need to be concerned with it at all, which is great, because I certainly didn't want to continue reading it.

I don't get why so many female authors so frequently subject their main characters to manhandling by strange men and then instead of becoming annoyed at it, turn to Jell-O. It sucks and it needs to stop. These two 'girls' were in the restaurant at the time of the shoe incident, so it probably wouldn't have been hard for the guy to quickly grab a chair from a nearby table. If they'd done that and she'd sat down and asked him to put the shoe on for her, that might have brought it a bit more in line with Cinderella and certainly been more socially acceptable and even romantic, but this author doesn't get it, and that's a problem. It might have been better yet if the guy had been part owner of a shoe store rather than a restaurant so he'd be naturally helping her to try-on shoes.

I didn't get how being a part owner fo a restaurant made him any kind of a prince either, unless the restaurant was Burger King! LOL! But as it happens, I really don't care because this story was trashy pap and not worth anyone's time. Readers need to demand better. Much better. More original, better written, more intelligent, and with real people instead of antique Barbie and Ken dolls.


A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey


Rating: WARTY!

Read rather oddly by Raphael Corkhill, this was another audiobook which started out really well and then Le Stupide set in big time. I had thought I was going to get through it unscathed, but it was not to be. About two-thirds the way in, it went south with the ducks - and normally I like ducks. Some of my best friends are...not ducks, but anyway, to see them in the southbound lane was still rather sad. Duck asses are not the most engaging of sights.

The initial premise was an interesting one and the story changed up periodically so it did not quickly become boring, but the more I listened, the less the story seemed to have a plan to go anywhere. It wasn't until later that I discovered why. The main character was so passive as to be tedious, as was his momma! Worse than this, I discovered by skipping to the end after I'd given up on it, that this novel is part of a series, of which there is zero indication whatsoever on the book cover, so the publisher is outright lying to readers and I will not countenance that.

This explains why this novel never was interested in going anywhere. The author gave up that motivation when he decided to thinly-stretch material sufficient for one book into a trilogy or more. Michael learns nothing - not even how to control his ability, and he never does learn a damned thing about his father because this is not a novel, it's a prologue.

By accident, this semi-orphan with the uninventive name of Michael Malone discovers that he has the ability to not so much change reality as to be able to switch between realities in a multiverse. He can only do this at first when under stress, which is how he does it the first time. His new reality is always very similar to the old one with some minor changes, but the important thing is that he's supposed to be able to switch to one which conforms to some idea he has of the kind of reality he wants to live in.

Michael is seventeen. A kid of that age ought to be at a point in life where he has some self-motivation and some idea of what he wants out of life, along with a few grown-up thoughts here and there, but none of this is true with Michael who acts more like he's thirteen. He has no excitement or curiosity whatsoever about his magical power and shows no inclination at all to investigate it or to try to use it to put himself into a reality where his father is back with the family, and the villains are out of his life. He'd evidently much rather attend his own self-pity party.

These villains arrive suddenly in the form of a young French woman and an older German man by the name of Klimt. We never learn how they latched on to Michael, but apparently it's through his missing father who evidently had some of the same abilities as Michael does. Klimt wants to use Michael for some purpose of his own and holds the carrot of finding Michael's father and the stick of changing Michael's reality into something horrible. These people are from the "Unicorne" society and Michael at one point discovers he's been inducted into it while he was unconscious after an bike accident. Now he has now has a black Unicorne tattoo, which covers a spot in his skin where he has, he's informed, been injected with a microchip for the purpose of tracking him not only in this reality, but in others, too.

Michael shows zero anger at this, zero curiosity about how he can disable the chip, and no amusement at how pathetic it is that this secret society blatantly advertises its existence with this unusual tattoo. This was my first adverse reaction to the story. If this had been a middle grade novel, then I could probably have countenanced this , but for a young adult novel it was pathetic at best. There are ways to write that do not make your characters look limp, or stupid, and your story amateur, but this author is apparently too lazy or unimaginative to think of them, hence his penchant for writing series with uninventive titles. That coupled with the laziness and lack of imagination inherent in writing a series is enough to avoid this author like the plague from now on. I expect a lot better from a university-educated writer. Or maybe that's the problem.

It got worse when the story began to drag with little-to-nothing happening. At one point Michael is hit by a car when riding his bicycle and ends up in a private hospital where the doctor is of course Klimt, and the nurse is this same French girl. On top of this there are two police detectives investigating the car accident, yet they are literally grilling Michael over matters that are totally irrelevant to what happened and neither Michael nor his mother objects to this line of questioning. That immediately said "Dumbasses" to me, and it's where I quit being interested in this purportedly young adult, but more like middle grade or younger story.

I skimmed to the end, and discovered that the book has no resolution whatsoever, and so is merely a prologue to volume two. I don't do prologues, and I do not accept books like this one. I would have rated this negatively for treating readers like mushrooms (keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit) if it hadn't already failed me. The book is poorly written and is a rip-off. I dis-recommend it.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Ella the Slayer by AW Exley


Rating: WARTY!

"Let me give you a leg up then" says the young Duke to Ella at one point after they have just met at the beginning of this story, as she is about to mount her horse. His hands are all over her and her legs are jelly. Hell no! FUCK NO! What the hell is wrong with AW Exley that she thinks this is anything more than pure YA weak protagonist garbage? After the disastrous Nefertiti's Heart, I should have learned my lesson and never picked up another Exley as long as I lived, but there I went and here it goes, into the garbage. I guess I can at least say I got what I paid for, since this was a free offering in a book flyer and I was interested because I've had my own focus on Cinderella recently.

The blurb didn't make this clear, but this book is nothing but a Zombie apocalypse, written in the mold (take that word either way) of books like Jane Slayre and others. Ella, of course, is the femme fatale, and the Duke is the guy whom she needs to validate her because she's nothing but a princess in desperate need of a prince. Barf. It's young adult trash and it's not even worth the free price. Warty to the max. Plus it's not even a novel, it's a prologue to a series. Double barf.


Goslings by JD Beresford


Rating: WARTY!

Read rather awkwardly by Matthew Brenher, this audiobook was a quick fail. I am not one for these end-of-the-world survivor stories, but this particular one seemed interesting from the blurb, which means only that the blurb did its job in luring me into picking up the thing.

Once I started listening to it though, it was boring. It was really nothing different from any other apocalypse story, and the characters were completely uninteresting to me. The story was too lethargic; I made it through less than ten percent before I ditched it back to the library in favor of something which wouldn't make me fall asleep listening, which would be disastrous when driving a car! I can't commend it based on my admittedly limited experience of it, but life is far too short to waste on books that don't do it for you right out of the gate.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite


Rating: WARTY!

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

I had looked forward to reading this, but in the end I was very disappointed. There were problems with this novel from the very start and not just with the writing. The most noticeable was that this was evidently created as a print book and no thought whatsoever was given to the conversion to ebook. Submitting it in Amazon Kindle format was the first mistake. Amazon is renowned for trashing books when running them through its crappy kindle conversion process, and this one was a disaster. I've said this many times before and I will never tire of saying it until Amazon fixes it: unless your book is essentially plain vanilla, Amazon will trash it.

You can get away with bold fonts and italicized text, but the moment you start putting page headers in there, and drop caps, text box inserts, or any sort of special layout or formatting, and Amazon will destroy it, guaranteed. Never put images in it. Despite this being a given, no one evidently ever thinks to check if the resulting ebook is ready for Amazon Prime time. This one was not. I get that this was an advance review copy, but there is no excuse for the shoddy condition it was in. Evidently no one bothered to check it. This is on the authors and the publisher. I'm at the point now where I'm about ready to fail a book in review for something like this regardless of what else it has right or wrong about it, because I'm so very tired of seeing books in this condition having been mauled in the Amazon jungle.

It's not just a matter of the odd bit here and there having an issue. As writers, we all have to suck that up, but when a book is appallingly mashed-up by the conversion process (which is Amazon's forte as judged by the repeated problems with books I read in Kindle format), someone needs to check it and fix it before it goes out. Given that this was an ARC, there is plenty of time to fix it before it's published in September, but this is really no excuse for putting out a book for review that evidently hasn't even been so much as grammar- and spell-checked:

Here's an example: "...Twitter account I reserve for ratchetness and told them where they could shove keep their opinions." There is a spelling error and a grammatical error right there. Right after this there was a whole section turned red - that is to say a red font as opposed to black. I often see red sections in Kindle format books, usually in the end papers at the beginning - which would be the beginning papers, right? These things make me see red because there's no excuse for them. In this book though, there were random red paragraphs all over the book. I have no idea what it is in Amazon's evidently sloppy and substandard conversion process which causes these, but it would have taken only a cursory glance through the book to see that there was a serious quality problem.

Here's a grammar problem that was evidently caused by a sentence being written one way, changed to sound a little different, and then never re-read to make sure it made sense: "I said she could just show up and show out be herself." Say what? Whether this was caused or contributed to by the fact that this novel had two writers, I do not know. I have often thought it would be nice to have a co-writer, because in addition to spurring on your partner, each of you could catch the other's mistakes, but from the evidence here, it doesn't work that way!

Another example is "...they replavced her presentation with a chat about resolving disputes..." which ostensibly is an attempt to mash two words (repaved and replaced) into one! Inventive, but not good English! I rather suspect though that it was a typo, 'V' and 'C' being next-door-neighbors on the keyboard. This is why I believe a final spellcheck/grammar check was never done on this novel before it was submitted to Net Galley for us poor reviewers who merit only the ebook!

Following are a couple of examples of the poor formatting created by Kindle conversion process; in both of them, the page header and number has been meshed with the text of the novel:

The guests included the usual round
DEAR HAITI, LOVE ALAINE 21
table setup plus a congressperson or two.
This next one had both the header mesh and a red section:
"[pause]
BEAUPARLANT: Exactly. So, when the public hears rumors of expensive dinners at Zuma and court
DEAR HAITI, LOVE ALAINE 45
side Miami Heat seats on their dime..."
The portion beginning 'BEAUPARLANT' and ending with 'court' was all in blood red! And these were all in the first fifth of the novel.

In this example, the page header cuts right into the middle of the word!

in my hands, shak
102 MAIKA MOULITE & MARITZA MOULITE
ing my head
Clearly something is wrong here.

When I got to around twenty percent, this red paragraph issue had become more than an aberration; it was so bad that I chose not to continue wrestling with a book that I wasn't even enjoying in the first place. I'm not a fan of experimental fiction and this felt like it. I'm not a fan of stories which are largely texting messages, or chat room exchanges or which incorporate large portions of such. I don't think it's edgy, I think it's tired and lazy writing. This book didn't go in for that so much as it went in for including the full text of emails, school event programs, transcripts, and that kind of thing. I quickly took to skipping these sections entirely and you know, it made no difference to my understanding of what was going on! So why include them? To me it's just lazy writing.

Because, I suspect, of these attempts to be cutting edge, the story became somewhat incoherent in places, and here I'm talking about what took place in the narrative flow of the text, not the parts where there were disruptive intrusions by emails and newspaper articles and so on. Skipping those parts actually made the story more coherent to me, but maybe that's just me.

The plot is about this one high-school girl, Alaine Beauparlant, a name which I thought was a bit much given she wants to be a journalist and her mother is a TV talk show host. Handsome-speaking? Really? Anyway, having been dissed in school by another girl in a very public way, Alaine reacts in kind, and gets punished for her misdemeanor while the other girl gets off scot-free. The other girl's behavior was without question outright bullying, yet she had no disciplinary action imposed on her while Alaine is suspended?! It's not authentic. Either that or Alaine attends a really, really bad school which didn't seem that way from what I read of it.

I never made it as far as Alaine's suspension. This was yet another novel set in a high-school where bullying is rampant and there is no accountability. I don't doubt that there is bullying in schools unfortunately, but reading about it in yet another YA story is getting very old, and it was only one of many tired tropes employed here. I'm also tired of stories where the girl needs to have the handsome beau, like no woman is sufficient on her own; she has to have her prince charming to validate her. This book could have done quite well without "Tati's distractingly cute intern." We need to have a #MeNeither movement to encourage writers to write about women who don't need men to get what they want out of life and get where they want to go. Maybe it should be tagged #MenOptional.

There was another disturbing issue here and this is a small spoiler, so be warned. Alaine's mother starts acting strangely very early in the story and this is apparently due to Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's usually hits late in life. Only about five percent of cases are early-onset, and sufferers don't typically become violent until late stage, and then only in extremis. While there is always room for aberrations, this story felt unrealistic in its approach to Alzheimer's, which didn't help its case with me. Just saying!

I wish the authors all the best with their career, but I could not get with, and cannot commend, this novel. It wasn't where it needed to be for my taste. If it had started with Alaine arriving in Haiti, cutting out all the high school BS that came before, it might have been be an improvement, but for me it wasn't working at all, and I chose to move on to something more engaging and more realistic.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Enchanted Moments by the Disney Product Marketing Team


Rating: WARTY!

This seemed to me to be a cynical offering from Disney. I have mixed feelings about this mega-corporation. They're way too big for one thing. Worse than that, they insist on churning out Star Bores movies that are so derivative as to be pathetic, and turned me permanently off the whole space opera.

But I do like what their Marvel unit puts out. The problem with Marvel is the same as it is with the 'princess' movies: it's all about the guys even though those princess movies superficially appear to be dedicated to their respective princesses! Most of the time, the stage is occupied by the male characters at least as far as speaking roles go. Apparently the princesses have little to contribute according to Disney. This weekend Marvel makes a major move to redress its deficit. What's its parent going to do?

This book, however, was just too much. It's nothing more than an advertisement for their Disney princess product line which is a part of the three billion dollar Disney product marketing machine. I have zero respect for the princesses despite Disney's limp efforts to retcon these girls into feminine powerhouses.

These days, if not always, Disney is all about retconning, taking public domain properties and turning them into movies and products, and then incestuously and endlessly feeding off of those same products by nothing more inventive or imaginative than repackaging. There's no originality here at all. Just how many times have they remade Cinderella? And now it seems they're embarking on a massive remake of everything. The only fresh thing they've had for years is Frozen, which I had a sneak preview of and enjoyed, but now they're essentially remaking that by adding a limp sequel.

This particular book consists of five thick cardboard pages, each starring a 'princess':

  • Cinderella, not really a princess, but certainly the girl with the smallest shoe size on the planet, yet whose movie stands alone in the Disney canon by actually giving her close parity with the male characters in terms of exposure, but the truth is that Cinderella really did nothing for herself. She had it all handed to her by her fairy godmother and her animal slaves.
  • Ariel was disobedient from the start, putting herself first and foremost in everything, and completely disregarding her father and the rest of her family in pursuit of her own selfish ambition.
  • Belle's actual name was Beauty in the original (contrary to Lady Gaga's dilemma, early Disney movies were all about the Shallow). Again, she wasn't a princess, and she curiously seemed to favor the beast in his animal form, but her worst trait is that she despises everyone else in her village!
  • Snow White was demoted from princess by the queen, and I've heard that she was Hitler's favorite Disney character. Perhaps the limpest of all princesses, she needed not one guy, but seven to validate her. And all she had ambition to do was clean house.
  • Aurora slept (and didn't even walk) her way through life until some dude kissed her without her permission - which admittedly would have been hard to give. She has the least to say of any major Disney character.

I find none of these inspiring and cannot rate this as a worthy read. It's really just a marketing tool


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook that didn't start out well. It was first person which is typically not a good idea, but I would have been willing to put up with that had the story engaged me. It did not. It clearly had no intention of entering into an engagement, and was evidently just leading me on! Again, it wasn't aimed at me, but I've read many middle-grade stories that entertained. My current print book is one aimed at young middle grade and it's completely engaging.

The problem with this book was the complete disconnect between events and the main character's relation of them. Willow Chance (yes, that's her name) is returning from some sort of school trip when she sees a police car in her drive. It transpires that her parents have expired. You would think there would be some sort of an emotional reaction, but if you're expecting one from Willow, you're barking up the wrong tree. She barely reacts.

Instead, she starts rambling mindlessly and tediously about her life history. I had to DNF this book at about ten percent in due to projectile vomiting. Yes, I was vomiting actual projectiles in the form of uncouth language. Robin Miles's reading of the novel didn't help. It wasn't appallingly bad, but it did nothing to contribute to easing the discomfort, either. I cannot commend this based on my experience of the opening few chapters.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

I See a Bear, But... by KA Morgan


Rating: WARTY!

I tend to apply a different - but not a lower - standard to children's books in my reviews. I don't think they should offer less than books for grown-ups, but I cut them more slack in how they tell stories, in artwork, and sometimes in quality if the story is nevertheless good. I especially favor them if they're amusing, instructive, clever, or downright off the wall, which is probably why I love my own The Little Rattuses™ series so much. I couldn't do it with this one though.

I'm a great fan of puns and do not understand why something that was so beloved by Shakespeare has become such an object of derision these days, so I was amused by the title of this book and I had hoped the interior would deliver more of the same, but not exactly the same! The problem with this book was that all it did was essentially repeat the same butt joke eight times over, and the story didn't even deliver anything educational about the animals except the cliched general "knowledge" that everyone has about bears, moose, wolves, squirrels, rabbits, deer (even though a moose is in fact a deer!), raccoons, and skinks. And yes, moose is the plural of moose - not mooses, and certainly not meese.

The author has apparently made a rather extensive career out of this same shtick, because she has titles like "I See a Cat, But...", "I See a Chicken, But...", and "I See a Reindeer, But...", but it's the same thing endlessly repeated. There's nothing new or educational here and I cannot commend something as unimaginative and uninventive as this.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo


Rating: WARTY!

This is evidently one in a series, although gods forbid the publisher would ever tell you that on the cover! I mean, why would they? It might actually be of use to someone! It would sure be a courtesy to those of us who are not into series so we don't pick it up off the shelf thinking it's a one-off novel, or if we are into series, so we don't pick it up off the shelf and end up randomly in the middle of a series that we'd prefer to start at the beginning - and all because the idiot publisher couldn't be bothered to say it was Book X of Series Y. This is why I do not have a lot of respect for Big Publishing™.

This book has a prologue which I normally avoid like the plague, but which I got stuck with since the audiobook doesn't always make it clear it's a prologue and even if it is, often makes it hard to skip because you can't tell where chapter one starts. What made it worse in this case was that the prologue should have been chapter one because that's where the accident occurs where an Amish buggy is crashed into by a hit & run driver. It's the start of the story - why would it be in a prologue? I blame this on the author. Prologues are antique. Quit it with the prologues already.

My problem with it came right there, with the police chief in Amish country arriving right on the tail of the accident, when a witness was still alive and yet not asking him a word about whether he saw or can recall anything that might help track down the murdering driver. I decided this cop is a moron and after listening on a little further, I decided I did not like the way this book was written at all. There was too little police and far too much whiny drama, and it wasn't engaging me, so I DNF'd it.

The blurb tells more, like the discovery human bones in an abandoned grain elevator which have a connection to Katie's past, Katie being the chief of police, and I am surprised I missed that when I looked at this, but I guess I was too distracted by the idea of an Amish murder mystery! I am so tired of these series where everything ties to the investigator's past be it a PI or a police officer. It is tedious and it has been done to death. Get a new shtick! Good lord what kind of a person was this anyway, to have so much death and misery following them around everywhere?! LOL! Give me something fresh and new for goodness sake.


Love Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles


Rating: WARTY!

Read obnoxiously by Judith Ivey, this book was a fail from the off.

This audiobook sounded like fun from the blurb: Ruby Lavender and Miss End User License Agreement, aka Miss Eula, rescue chickens which are destined for the slaughterhouse in Halleluia, Mississippi. We're informed that they (Ruby and Eula, not the chickens) live in a house painted pink, although I fail to see how that makes them special, and they "operate their own personal secret-letter post office." Ruby is depressed by Miss Eula's impeding visit to Hawaii to see her grand-baby.

I never made it that far because the entire first quarter or so of this novel was obsessively and endlessly going on about chickens laying eggs and it was read in such an awful, nausea-inducing southern voice that I honestly couldn't stand to listen to it - not the voice nor the tediously harping story, so I ditched it and felt great relief at doing so. Obviously it's not aimed at me, but I cannot commend it based on what I suffered through. I would definitely not want a child to have to relive this!


Monday, December 31, 2018

The Last Conception by Eva Darrows


Rating: WARTY!

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

This was a novel that started out great, but then seems like it jumped the tracks and went off into a completely different territory and got lost. That - around sixty-six percent in, at the end of chapter eighteen - is where I quit reading it because it had become too boring and silly to pursue for me. Was it an LGBTQIA romance? Was it religious fiction? Was it a mystery? Was it supernatural? It couldn't decide.

I had really been invested in it because not only do I love reading about Indian characters I was also engaged in this particular character's lesbian relationship(s), but I lost interest when it lost its way and was no longer engaging. Part of the problem as that the main character, Savarna, was diminished and her role seemed to be taken over by minor characters such as her sister Chitra, who had barely been in the novel at all, and also in part by Savarna's girlfriend (one of two she had!) who had been in it more than Chitra, but was also largely a minor character until about the fifty percent mark.

It was very confusing and didn't make for a satisfactory read to have these people coming out of nowhere with no real past. Just as 'Charley' started becoming more interesting, Savarna rather cruelly abandoned her for a trip to India which was such a tedious whistle-stop tour that it was meaningless instead of being the pivotal event it ought to have been.

Savarna is an embryologist in a bit of a YA love triangle with the trope 'bad girl' as well as with 'sweet girl' Charlemagne, obviously the good softer, gentler partner. The bad girl completely disappeared from the novel without any explanation while Charlemagne, typically referred to as Charley, was also listed as Charlie on occasion. Savarna also appears twice in as Saverna.

She has Indian heritage - that is from India, not American Indian, but she has she no interest in her heritage or her parents' religion. Her parents have been urging her to find a nice boy and settle down, but neither of them know that Savarna is gay - not to begin with. Something suddenly changes (there are a lot of sudden changes in this novel) and her parents start urging her to have a child, because Savarna is supposedly the last of this ancient lineage from some mystical teacher in the past, and since her sister is 'barren'. It's all on Savarna, but no explanation is offered as to why this has so suddenly become an issue.

It's patent nonsense, because by the time Savarna was born her so-called 'blood line' would have been so genetically diluted as to be completely meaningless in terms of carrying on anything, and Savarna would have known this if she was the scientist she was supposed to be, yet her parents put this appalling pressure on their daughter, and nothing is said about that either? Savarna is supposed to be rooted in science, yet she never once questions any of this, and neither does her 'devoted' girlfriend Charley.

Eventually Savarna bows right down to the pressure for no apparent reason, and desperately starts trying to get pregnant using sperm supplied by a completely unquestioning coworker, who himself has a partner who never seems to question his involvement at all - in fact, she's barely mentioned.

None of this made any sense to me, and it seemed so utterly unrealistic that I couldn't take it seriously. No one talked about how stupid this blood line idea was, and no one talked about how inappropriate it was to put that kind of pressure on a woman to have a child. Neither was there any reason supplied as to why it was so critical that they have this child. So what if the line died out? We don't know because it was never discussed. This whole mess is where the novel lost me as a fan.

Note to author: You can't carbon-date something if it doesn't have carbon in it, so gold? No! Maybe the old robe if it was made of natural materials, which I assume it was, but even then, you can't nail it to an actual year, only to a range of years, so you could prove the robe is roughly X years old, but not to whom it belonged. But none of this mattered really because no significance was ever attached to the existence of the robe and the ring - what did it matter? So what if they were old and really had belonged to a guru? What difference did that make to anyone?

No-one was questioning that this sect existed and had been around for many years, so the robe and ring seemed pointless. I assume they were brought in to convince Savarna, but nowhere was that change of opinion really predicated on the evidence. In short, it had no influence on her precipitously diving into this conception binge, so what was the point? She'd already begin trying to get pregnant before she ever went to India so what was the point of that? These things never had any real import or relevance. By this time the novel was a complete mess. It was like utterly random stuff had been tossed in for no good reason, and I gave up on it.

I had thought I would be reading a complex novel about a strong lesbian woman and difficult choice, but none of that was in this novel. Savarna was not remotely strong except in her stubborn determination not to have a baby, which rapidly crumbled for no good reason. She was stringing along two lesbian partners and did not have the intellectual wherewithal to choose the one who was best for her, so she came off like an idiot at best and a cruel player at worst.

She more or less fell into the relationship with Charley/Charlie and then began talking of raising a family with this same woman she was unable to honestly commit to for half the novel? To me, Sarvarna was simply a jerk. If it had been Savarna who was obsessing on continuing her family lineage (for whatever reason) that would have at least been something concrete, but for her not to really care that much and then suddenly obsess on it made her look weak, stupid, and childishly impulsive.

Her girlfriend Charley/Charlie could have been a really strong character, but she was essentially reduced to the job of nursemaid with benefits, having vague sex with Savarna at random times, and titillating her after she's been injected with her coworker's semen. Those scenes felt a bit creepy , but was Charley/Charlie really supporting her? Not so much. Savarna was already resenting her presence. Did Charley/Charlie fight to travel with her to India? Nope. Did Charley/Charlie question this whole thing, including Savarna's psychotic parental pressure? Nope. The only thing Charley/Charlie did was to railroad through the 'carbon-dating' of the artefacts, and she did this in such an underhand fashion, going behind Savarna's back that it actually made her look like a meddling troublemaker.

The book felt like it really wasn't ready for prime time. In general the writing was not bad, but there were some issues such as the variant name spellings I mentioned above, and also minor instances such as where I read, "And what, per se, where you asking?", which clearly should read 'were you asking'. The biggest technical problem though, was the same issue I've encountered repeatedly when Amazon gets its hands on your book and mangles out a kindle version of it. This novel was obviously written as a print book with (what to me are pointless) page headers and so on, but Amazon mangles these things with glee, so there were page headers appearing in the middle of the text.

That's not all! Most of the first two paragraphs in chapter thirteen were in red - presumably because of Amazon's crappy Kindle conversion process. As if that wasn't enough, random sets of those red words were tied together with no space between them such as: haveGrandma'sthingscheckedout,but. There were many other examples. In chapter eighteen there were nine screens of badly-formatted text. The justification was lost, so the text had ragged right margins, and again, headers were mixed with text, so the Kindle version is definitely not fit to sell, and that fact that this wasn't;t checked is on both publisher and author. It should never have been offered for review in this state.

But the formatting is something that can be fixed relatively easily. A tedious story that makes no sense and demeans its main character cannot be fixed without a rewrite. Consequently I cannot commend this as a worthy read.


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.