Showing posts with label violence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label violence. Show all posts

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Rating: WARTY!

Again, what's with this nonsense with putting music on audiobooks? Did Anthony Burgess write music that he then sold along with this novel? No! So why does this audiobook publisher think it's required? I've seen this - or, more accurately - heard it, on many audiobooks and it's pointless and annoying. If the book was about music, then by all means blast away with examples of the music under discussion. I'd expect that as I'd expect an art book to include pictures of the art that was discussed.

Likewise, if it's a biography about a musician, or even a novel about one, and you, as the author, want to include some of that musician's music, then fine, but when it's about a dystopian future juvenile gang, what exactly is the rationale? The fact that one of the gang members likes classical music? He also likes violence and rape, so should that be included with the audiobook? I don't think so! If the main character in a novel is given to farting, should a little vial of fart smell be included? No thank you! If your main character loves to eat Spaghetti Bolognese, should a meal be included with the book? Good tuck with that! If the book was about Al Pacino's character in Scarface, should a machine gun be given away free with the book as a little friend for the reader? I hope not! Ditch the ridiculous music.

I saw the movie some time back and it was okay - nothing I felt a need to see again, but not a disaster. I never did get around to the book until now, and at last I know why! It was read decently by none other than Spider-Man, Tom Holland (not to be confused with the other English actor Tom Hollander!) who despite being in his twenties looks like he's the same age as the character he narrates, but the novel is really not very good, and notwithstanding its subject matter, is actually rather boring. Anthony Burgess himself has disowned it, and rightly so. It's nothing special. It's about this gang of four mid-teen ruffians, Alex, George, Pete, and Dim. It's tempting to think maybe the Pete and George names came from The Beatles, but this was written before they came to national prominence.

This gang likes to go out of an evening and beat-up those people they're not in the mood to bully or rob. They indulge liberally in robbery, burglary, home invasion, and rape. And they fight other gangs. When the leader, Alex, is caught, he is put into this experimental program aimed at 'reforming' violent offenders by forcing them to binge-watch violent video while being injected with nausea-inducing chemicals so that in a Pavlovian dog(fighter)'s fashion, they become nauseated whenever they even think about violence. It's an idea appropriated in a recent Doctor Who episode, Rosa where the so-called villain from Stormcage has been similarly treated so that he cannot harm others.

What got to me was the artificial lingo with which the story was Balkanized. It was too much. It wasn't unintelligible - in context, you got a good idea of what it meant even if it wasn't exactly clear. What bothered me was the endless use of it. Even if it had all been all in plain English it would still have been sickeningly repetitive to have kept on spouting these words over and over, so I have to congratulate Burgess in that he rendered me in the same nauseated state Alex endured, except mine was inculcated through the endless reuse of these words rather than from the violence, which was relatively mild by modern standards, although I imagine quite shocking for an early sixties story. A Clockwork Orange is the title of a typescript that appears in the novel, by the way!

I don't know why Russian was chosen - maybe Burgess spoke the language. It seems to me that the lingua franca of the future will be a mix of Chinese, English, and Spanish. The Russian words were used and repeated so often that it got in the way of telling the story and kicked me out of suspension of disbelief every time a word was reused ad nauseam. So I can't rate this positively.

An interesting piece of trivia is that Burgess organized his book in three parts of seven chapters each, but when it was published in the USA, the limp American publisher refused to publish the last chapter so American versions were printed without this and Burgess limply went along with it. Dictatorships are not just reserved for leaders of nations. Thankfully, Big Publishing™ no longer has the power it once had to make or kill a career.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Welcome Back by Christopher Sebela, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Claire Row

Rating: WORTHY!

This piqued my curiosity because it as about a character who kept reliving her life through the ages, and in assorted genders, carrying on a feud which went so far back in history that no one knew any longer why it was they were feuding.

People are reincarnated and the main character Mali, reappeared this time as a woman named Mali. She is living a quiet life because her father was a serial killer. It's only when she 'wakes' and recovers memories of her past lives that she realizes her father is a reincarnator too, and his serial killing was no more than him 'doing his job' which job Mali now inherits.

Her main foe is Tessa, a kick-ass, short-haired blonde girl who was quite impressive and who was relentlessly if not manically pursing Mali for their showdown, even as Mali backs away, tiring of this endless, pointless, ridiculous war.

I enjoyed this story but it was rather wordy with endless expositional internal monologue, so i will not pursue this series, but this one I can recommend because it had a great ending.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grand Passion by James Robinson, Tom Feister

Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written by James Robinson, this was an unusual and interesting graphic novel collecting several individual issues into one set. When you request a review copy from Net Galley in response to one of their 'Read Now' offers, you can never be sure if what you're getting is really bad and no one wants to read it, which is why it's being pushed, or if it's a gem which has been sadly overlooked. I've had both kinds and I'm happy to report that this one is most definitely in the latter category. It's a great read from James Robinson, with good art by Tom Feister, and a pair of interesting main characters.

James McNamara is a cop who's just joined a small police force in a small town. He feels very much an outsider since the rest of the force is a close-knit community which has been working together for some time, but as he continues to work there, he starts to get a bit suspicious of this insularity.

Meanwhile, Mabel is a thieving little devil with a high sex drive. She and her partner rob banks using a variety of MOs and disguises, and have so far been unpredictable enough that they've never been caught. They're careful and efficient, and they love to have sex lying on the money they just stole.

Life is great for them until they decide to rob the bank in Mac's town. Something goes slightly wrong, which leads to everything going seriously wrong and Mabel's partner kills Mac's partner, and he in turn shoots her partner. Mabel gets away, but she can't get far away because she had sworn a vow with her partner that if either of them is killed, then the other will seek revenge on the one who dunnit!

That's all well and good in theory, but the one who dunnit was Mac, and Mabel happened to be struck with love at the very sight of him! Yes, all of this story is improbable, so for me this added element wasn't a big deal. I liked it. The question is, why is there a mismatch between what Mabel thinks she took and what the bank says is missing? And what's going to happen when Mabel, intent upon fulfilling her vow to her dead partner, gets Mac handcuffed to his bed one night?

I really enjoyed this story. It was fun, interesting, different, and gorgeously illustrated. I recommend it. And I'll be a little more optimistic next time Net Galley has a 'read now' offer!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame by Liv Hadden

Rating: WORTHY!

“At least it seemed I’d peaked Cassie’s interest.” should be piqued, not peaked!
“I was just wearing black skinny jeans, white converse” Converse is a registered trade-mark, and while I don't think an author needs to add the little symbol (®) I do think Converse needs to be capitalized!

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

This book is evidently part of a series, and generally speaking, I'm not a fan of series. I know they can be lucrative for both publishers and authors if they take off, but for me series are boring; they're derivative and un-challenging for both author and reader, so I have less respect for them. I’d rather read three different books than three variations on a theme! I didn’t realize this was a series when I took it on, but I am going to treat it as a standalone for the purpose of this review.

Liv Hadden is a fellow Austinite - kind of, since neither of us technically lives in Austin! - but I've never met her. I didn’t know she was a local when I was asked if I’d like to review this, so it's all above-board! I said yes, because it sounded interesting and fun, but I confess that initially I had the impression that this was maybe a graphic novel or a children's story because of the mention of Mo Malone as Illustrator, and it turned out not to be neither! Since there were absolutely no illustrating whatsoever going on in my copy of this book (excluding the cover), I can't speak to what Mo The Illustrator brought to the table! Maybe the print version has the illustrations. We amateur reviewers only get an ebook!

The book also turned out to be a bit of a confusing read for me to begin with, because it felt like I was reading a middle grade story, and then it got all serious, with blood and bullets. I also thought I was reading a story told by a young woman about her friendship with another young woman only to quickly realize that neither was a female!

So, it was quite a mind-trip going from the one perception to the other, times two! It took me a while to really get into the story because I had no idea what was going on. For many pages, I was wondering if it was a play these kids were in and suddenly we’d be back in the schoolroom, but no! Was it a bad dream? No! It took me a while to understand that this was for real and not a trick or some sort of illusion. I don’t know if that's what the author intended.

The lingo was distracting at first, because I was wondering if it was authentic, and if so, how the author knew it so well. I'm not one of these people who thinks authors should "write what they know" If we confined ourselves to that, it would be a very dull reading world, wouldn't it now?! No doubt John Grisham has been inside a courtroom, but I promise you Stephen King never was in a parallel world, and I guarantee you Suzanne Collins never fought for her life in a sudden death tournament. So I have no problem with authors writing what they don’t know as long as they make it believable. This author did.

I warmed to this as I read on, though! It’s a very short sixty-nine pages, but a lot happens. Li Nguyen, the guy who narrates the story, is known as Juice Box. His best friend is known as Shame. Juice narrates the story in first person which is not my favorite voice or anywhere near. It's far too limiting a voice to write in for one thing, and it gives only one perspective, and one which means that he narrator has got to be present no matter in what kind of a contrived manner, in order to tell the story! I think the voice contributed to my being slow to get into this, because I did not warm to Juice for the longest time, but eventually he got my interest.

I felt the story was a bit too short to explain some of the things in it: such as why Juice felt he was so tight with Shame, and why Shame was in so much trouble, and why Juice stood by him so sterlingly! There was a lot of conversation (and Converse Asians! LOL!), but very little world-building, although I did learn it was set in Baltimore!

On the other hand, it was really refreshing in many ways, which is one of the reasons I liked it. it was new and fresh and it was really nice to read about a Vietnamese crew instead of the usual African Americans we get stuck with in stories like these - like African Americans universally do nothing with their lives other than run in gangs!

So overall I recommend this for a different kind of a read and for a fresh voice. It's nice to know there are still writers out there who take the path less trodden! And especially that they're from the Austin area! Yes, now it can be told! We're going to outdo the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and become a major group in the Creative Writer's and Author's Paradise of the South! Or a bunch of CWAP for short....

Links for author an illustrator:
Liv Hadden:
Official Website:
Virtual Tour Page:

Mo Malone:

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Body Reader by Anne Frasier

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an novel with a really interesting set-up, which was well-written, and which actually made good on the promise of the premise!

A woman who was a police detective was abducted and held in an underground cell, abused for three years, then suddenly she got a chance to escape and ran with it - literally. Now she's back in the world and trying to cope with three missing years of her life while the world, including her boyfriend, moved on. One thing she learned in those three years, apart from resilience, was how to expertly read even the minutest of body language. The problem is, her troubles are far from over.

Jude Fontaine's take on, and reintegration into everyday life was what made this story engaging from the start for me. She wasn't up for taking the usual trajectory. She wanted to take charge of her life again in her own way, and most of all, she wanted her job back. Eventually she gets it, but on day one there's a murder of a young girl which is ham-fistedly set up to look like a suicide, and something is off about this whole thing.

The investigation doesn't go well. No one seems to want to trust that Jude is really ready for the job despite her evaluations coming back fine. She's dumped on a new partner who doesn't trust her and doesn't think she can handle it. Their best hope for a lead doesn't want to talk (or does she?), and someone is trailing Jude as she rides home on her new motorbike one night. What the heck was going on here had me making some wild guesses. Did she not kill her captor when she escaped? Was he working alone? Is there some sort of conspiracy or trafficking going on here? Are the cops involved? What happened between Jude and her father all those years ago before she emancipated herself, and ditched him and her brother for years?

This novel was told well from the off. Even the prologue was actually chapter one, which is perfect for me because I've been arguing that's how it should be for a long time! Finally an author who shows everyone how it's done! Put your prologue in chapter one and I'll read it, otherwise, no!

It wasn't all plan sailing though. It became pretty obvious who the villain was quite early in the story, and if I can figure that out, you know it has to be quite glaring, because I'm usually hopeless at that. That aside, there were only a couple of places where the writing fell on its face. One was in Jude's interaction with her boyfriend. In some ways, he ended-up ironically being treated like a kidnapped girl who had reached her expiration date. It felt like the author included him and then didn't know what to do with him, so decided to write him out and really didn't care how it looked. It really showed badly in the writing of that scene. Why even involve him? If she'd left it how it ended after their first encounter it would have been fine. That second bite really bites and was embarrassing!

The novel was also one chapter too long! If it had ended with the helicopter taking off it would have been just about perfect. That last chapter rather spoiled things I felt. I was thrilled that the author realized that Jude (the un-obscure!) - of all female main characters - didn't need a guy to validate her. That was a smart move. I liked Jude, despite her off-the rails behavior here and there, and she was well-worth reading about, so I was happy! I was glad to have read this, and I recommend this novel as a worthy read.

Iron Goddess by Dharma Kelleher

Rating: WARTY!

This completes my trilogy of ladies of Lesbos literature (how about that for alliteration?!), all advance review copies. I read about eighty percent of Iron Goddess which is an awesome title and sounded like a really entertaining idea for a story, but it consistently failed me. Let this be an advisory to anyone who's ever tackled me when I've quit reading a novel at twenty or twenty-five percent and urged me to read on because it turns around. I'm sorry, but if you're taking more than twenty-five percent of your novel to get a reader interested, or to kick it into gear, then you're doing it wrong and I don't feel bad about ditching it when there is so much more out there to read, including stories which will engage me from page one and will keep me entertained. Life is too short to waste it on the faint hope that at thirty or forty percent things will dramatically improve. They don't. Not in my experience. This one didn't, although, as always, I was grateful to the author and publisher for a chance to read it. It was not for me for multiple reasons.

I was having serious doubts about this around twenty percent, but I pressed on and on hoping it would turn around and improve, but by eighty percent it had not changed one whit. It had shown itself to be exactly the same improbable and un-engaging novel as it had been at twenty percent. It has proved to me once again that it has never been worth my time to press on however hopefully, so no more of this. I quit it because the protagonist was just as dumb, headstrong, thoughtless, selfish, and foolish as she had been at twenty percent. She had learned nothing, had grown not a millimeter, and was still taking ridiculously improbable risks and putting everyone she supposedly cared about in mortal danger.

Shealene had ditched her sister and her father, who was head of a motorbike gang, at an early age, and moved on. Now she had somehow wangled a partnership in a motorbike customization shop catering to women. The shop was a haven for ex-cons who were trying to go straight. They had just about finished-up a rich contract with a girl band for three customized bikes, when the shop was robbed and the bikes and a host of other stuff had been taken. Instead of letting the police handle it - and making some discrete inquiries on the side id she wanted to - Shea gets in the face of a drug gang member and pisses him off to no end, putting everyone in her shop at risk. Then she pisses off the bike gang, but reconnects with her sister - the abused wife of the new gang leader.

Never once does she think of who she might hurt with her knee-jerk behavior. Delivering her sister to the family friend who is babysitting her sister's eight year old daughter (a child she has never met), Shea discovers the house has been broken into, the friend murdered, and her niece abducted. Despite the fact that Shea could not possibly have abducted this girl - and had multiple lines of evidence supporting that fact (she was driving her sister over there at the time, neighbors had already heard gunshots long before Shea arrived, the gun she foolishly failed to get rid of when the cops arrived was not the one used to kill the family friend), she's arrested for abducting the girl! She's still on the scene of the crime when the cops arrive - she's clearly not gone anywhere with anyone, yet she's arrested? It made absolutely no sense.

This was where I seriously doubted this novel would work for me, and further reading only confirmed this fact. Event after event was highly improbable, Shea squandered chance after chance to take care of business and get herself out of danger, and her failure to take those opportunities, put people at risk further down the line. Despite getting injured and being all but incapacitated by it at one point, she becomes ever more active after the injury - like it never occurred! This one was a bit too improbable for my taste, and the girl was far too mindless and headstrong, flying off the handle and acting completely ridiculously causing more problems than she solved. This business with the niece made zero sense, either. This child has never met Shea, yet at one point she's clinging to her like Shea is the kid's own mom! This was simply not credible.

The novel presents itself as a LGBTQIA story since Shea has a girlfriend (that she treats like dirt), and there's also a transgender character in it, but the relationship Shea has with Jennifer has no impact whatsoever on the story. Jennifer isn't even really an independent character. She's a minor appendage of Shea's, so her presence and her and Shea's preference really contributed nothing to the story. It's great that gender queer characters are becoming more and more common in novels (and TV, and movies), but this story would have been exactly the same had Shea been straight.

The reason I cannot recommend this, though, has nothing to do with that. The whole story was far too improbable, and Shea's hatred of the police force was ridiculous to an extreme. Her stupidity and stubborn insularity got people killed and a child injured. If she'd let the police help then things would have had a better outcome, and she never seems to get this. I really didn't like her at all. I liked her sister a lot more despite (or perhaps because of) Shea's poor attitude towards her. A story about Wendy might have been worth reading. This was not. A story about Shea, her girlfriend, and the bike shop without the theft and the gang war might have actually made for some really entertaining reading.

I wish the author all the best because she has talent if she can corral it and focus on what's important and what makes a main character appealing to a reader, and what makes a story believable, but I have no desire to read any more about an immature hothead like Shealene. She's just not interesting.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Truth Lies Buried by Lesley Welsh

Rating: WORTHY!

This was an advance review copy and I was very grateful to the author and publisher for the chance to review it.

I loved the title of this - which can be read in two ways - but that's just me. I love the English language and I love playing with it. I wish more authors did! Anyway...Alice Samantha Riley spent her twenties in the British army and now in her mid-thirties, she's a bodyguard to Monica Cohen and her son Brando. Mr Benny Cohen, the seedy underworld boss, isn't around any more because Sam bumped him off and buried his body out in the woods, but now that it's been unearthed, the cops are trying to discover who did it. Sam is all about protecting her lover - Mrs Cohen - until she can settle up her late husband's criminal business affairs, and the two of them can move to Spain and retire together. At least she thinks that's the plan. She thinks wrong.

When other London mobsters start showing great interest in carving up dead Cohen's turf - and anyone who gets in the way of their plans - and Monica seems to have a male lover stashed away somewhere, Sam realizes that she has less of a sunny outlook than she does a murky pout-look (see I warned you!). Now a tall red-headed cop is on Sam's tail (and not in a good way), Monica has become vindictive, and Sam finds herself appointed temporary legal guardian of Brando, Benny's young, spoiled son. What else can jump the tracks? In this novel? Plenty!

The novel was written in first person PoV, which I detest, but some authors can carry it, and this one can. However, the tragic weakness of 1PoV was made crystal clear as the author found herself forced into jumping back and forth between voices and it made for really, truly clunky reading at times. If all of the third person sections had been excised, the story would have been much improved, but realistically the whole thing should have been in third person. That said, I liked the story overall, but if the artificial 'romance' had been omitted, it would have improved it greatly.

Frankly, I didn't get why a romance was needed at all in this story. The male interest (in whom I had a total lack of) had so little of a part in the novel, it was painfully obvious that his only purpose was to serve as the 'necessary male' in the female main character's life, and it was completely irrelevant and totally a waste of time. This is evidently deemed to be a requirement by far too many authors - this blind, headlong rush to 'validate' their female character with a male love interest - and quite honestly it's a bit sickening.

This story would have been excellent had this one character been eliminated (and of course he almost was, but purely for dramatic purposes), but having this man swoop-in to carry off the female felt like a complete betrayal of Sam, who was independent, strong and determined, and pretty awesome despite her shady behavior and poor decision-making skills, and who started out in a lesbian relationship. At one stage in the story, the male love (dis)interest pointedly tells us that a boy needs a dad. Well, he's entitled to his opinion, but I call a big BS on that one.

Having two parents is good idea because it's always smart to have more than one perspective to play into raising a child and to share the stress and work, but scores of single parents both male and female do sterling jobs, as do gay couples both male and female, so this felt like a betrayal of Sam. If she had to have a love interest, why couldn't it have been the female cop who was also in the story, and a lesbian? To be fair, Sam was bisexual, so her future partner was in no way cut-and-dried, but the trope "happy ending" was a misstep, I felt. Sam was fine on her own.

There was one other minor item, too, which is that at one point, a stolen laptop is offered in evidence. I doubt that this would be of any utility whatsoever except in furthering investigation. As evidence in itself, it seems to me that it was useless, because the chain of evidence was broken the minute it was stolen. The defense would have a field day with something like that, using it to cast doubt on every other piece of evidence, so I seriously doubt the police would be interested in it as evidence per se (not per say!).

That aside, the story was great, and if I ignore the "nomance", I have no problem rating this very positively. The story was engaging, interesting, and kept the reader off balance like it was a fairground cakewalk, because you never knew exactly what was coming next (except for the love interest where you knew exactly how it would play out). I recommend it as a worthy read.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Starve Vol 1 by Brian Wood, Danijel Žeželj, Dave Stewart

Rating: WORTHY!

This was one of those advance review copies Net Galley offers as a 'read now', evidently because it isn't getting much attention. Unfortunately most of those are not very good, which is why they get little attention, but once in a while you can find one that is a worthy read, and I struck lucky on this occasion, because out of four such graphic novels I requested, three turned out to be pretty darned good, and this was one of them.

I was attracted to this one because of the unusual subject matter. This was a graphic novel about a chef, and it did not disappoint! Gavion Cruickshank was a TV chef, the owner and show-runner of the ironically-named Starve!, a TV ratings sensation, but he up and quit the show and disappeared for years. Eventually he was found hiding-out in Asia, and all-but blackmailed into coming back onto the show, where he finds himself now a competitor, under the direction of an old rival, and competing in a reckless, crazy, and sometimes literally brutal competition for top chef.

I'm a vegetarian, so I didn't appreciate the brutality of the show, but there really are things like that done in real life, and this was pure fiction, so I didn't let that get in the way of enjoying the inventiveness and break-neck pace of this story. I'm no relation to Brian Wood (to the best of my knowledge!), but I wouldn't mind being related to someone as creative as this.

While trying to reconnect with his grown-up daughter, and fend off his vicious ex-wife, Gavin has to create gourmet dishes from scratch which will charm the taste buds of the show's judges. And he has to do this in each of eight episodes. He manages to keep on top of things for the first three, depicted here, but the novel ends in a modest cliff-hanger. This ain't any TV chef you've seen!

The art work was sharply angular and darkly colored, and suited the story perfectly. it;s not the kind of artwork that is normally to my taste, but here it works and I appreciated that. I liked this one. I recommend it as a worthy read and wish the creative team the best of success with this series.

Renée by Ludovic Debeurme

Rating: WARTY!

This was one of those advance review copies Net Galley offers as a 'read now', evidently because it isn't getting much attention. Unfortunately most of those are not very good, which is why they get little attention, but once in a while you can find one that is a worthy read. This wasn't one of them, I'm sorry to report. On the contrary, it was one of the most flaccid graphic novels I've read in a long time. it was disordered and confusing, offered little content, was wasteful of trees if it ever went to a long print run, which I don't forgive easily, and equally as bad, did not even tell a very engaging story. On top of that, the art work was average to poor, and the themes employed were tediously repetitive. The lettering was ridiculously small, too, for that matter, and for no good reason.

The story is one of relationships, which I tend to find boring unless the author really has something original to say, or something old to relate in a new way, but this story offered neither. Worse, it was told non-linearly, which is usually just annoying. Once in a rare while there's a valid reason to employ this technique (although off-hand I can't think of a story I've read which was actually better for it!), but most of the time author do this, it's because they have a poor story to tell, or they're simply being pretentious.

I read some 370 pages out of some 460, and I still didn't feel like I had a good handle on what was supposed to be going on here. I was ready to quit quite early, but I kept pushing on for two reasons. The first was that I was hoping this would lead somewhere interesting. It never did. The fact that I had decided early on that this probably wasn't going to do it for me, and plowed on for scores more pages with no change in my outlook, proves my case to my complete satisfaction.

The second reason is that sometimes when I quit a novel early because it's bad, and I review it negatively, there are those who whine that it's not possible to review a novel fairly unless you finish it. I'm so sorry but you people are completely wrong. I invite you to look up 'sunk cost fallacy' in wikipedia.

The short answer is that it doesn't matter how beautiful your back yard is if if you can't get people to stomach passing through your front door to come see it. Life is far too short to waste on uninteresting stories when there are scores out there that promise more and that we will never get to read if we waste our lives on those which do not thrill us from the off. The same applies to relationships, BTW, but if you fail to persuade your reader to keep reading, then that's a review right there - a resoundingly negative one.

The essence of this story is that there's this one guy, who was, to me, thoroughly unlikable, who was in prison, and one girl was supposedly waiting for him. This girl had no life whatsoever, which is why I didn't like her either. The tow did probably deserve each other, but that doesn't mean there was any sort of romance here, neither in the old-fashioned sense or the modern sense. The two had met through music, and he had started an affair with her even though he was married. This did not endear me to either of them

It turned particularly nauseating as she became predictably demanding that he leave his wife, and he was predictably reluctant to do so, and when he did, she was still not happy. it was all downhill all the way. The artwork was as lackluster as the story, and both dragged on and on going nowhere. It was the polar opposite of cinéma vérité: cinéma mensonge and not even amusing for that.

I can't recommend this as a worthy read. It wasn't.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dead Man's Party by Jeff Marsick

Rating: WORTHY!

With remarkable art work from Barnett Scott, and a great story from Jeff Marsick, this graphic novel, volume one of a series, tells an engaging tale which I enjoyed from start to finish (the finish of volume one, that is!). Yes, there is some gore and violence in it, but not over much, especially given the subject matter. I felt like I'd read this story before, but I can't actually recall one with this plot, so maybe it just reminded me of stories I've read or movies I've seen.

There are elements of the first of the Bourne movies here, but this is neither a Jason Bourne clone, nor is it a rip-off. It also has elements of the Dennis Quaid movie D.O.A.. The world's most successful assassin, known as Ghost, returns after his last successful hit, and gets his usual medical check up. He discovers he has cancer and maybe only two months to live. A second opinion confirms the diagnosis. Rather than be taken down by his own traitorous cells, he decides to throw a dead Man's Party, whereby five fellow assassins are to compete to take him down, the successful executioner to inherit all his worldly goods, and more importantly, his mantle.

The problem is, as Ghost discovers, that he's been had for a sucker. There's nothing wrong with him. Someone just wants him taken out. He can't renege on the contract now it's out there, so now he has to take down those five assassins before they take him down. How is he going to do that, when they seem to be able to find him no matter what he does? Is there anyone he can trust?

Tightly told, beautifully drawn, and excitingly laid out, I really enjoyed this novel and I recommend it.

Sons of the Devil Vol 2 by Brian Brucellato

Rating: WARTY!

This story borrows heavily from the TV show Hannibal, exhibiting all of the gore, and none of the finesse. The bad psycho guy (as opposed to the “good” psycho guy) sees himself with horns when he looks into the mirror. I read volume one and didn’t like it, but I’d already committed to the first two volumes. I was sorry to see that volume two was no better. Volume one had ended with what looked like it might be an interesting turn, but that went nowhere in this volume, which was simply more of the same mindless violence, confused and plodding story, pointless flashbacks, and indifferent artwork. I quit reading it at 60% in when the psycho guy came home to find his live-in girlfriend packing an overnight bag for a trip, and he got into a fight with her brother. This guy has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Why would I want to read a story that glories in violence and has not a thing else to offer? Short answer: I wouldn’t. I cannot recommend this series at all.

Sons of the Devil Vol 1 by Brian Brucellato

Rating: WARTY!

This was a graphic novel about a psychopath who was a baby when his parents were killed, and now he has issues galore, the worst of which is that he leads with his fists for no good reason. The guy is a complete jerk and totally uninteresting, not even from the tired trope of having heterochromia iridum. The story isn’t helped by numerous flashbacks. Half of the time I had no idea what was going on. The real problem though, was that the other half of the time, I really didn’t care.

The basic plot line is that the main character is a baby in a crib when both his parents have their skulls smashed by some psycho wielding a small mallet. The baby is spared because he is the chosen one. Then we jump to the present where he’s a grown-up who loves his dog, but hates people to the point where he’d rather put his fist in their face than shake their hand. Mallet-Man comes back into the guy’s life and kills again.

The guy is supposed to be in therapy, but it isn’t helping. There are several (apparently - it was too hard to keep track of them all) others like this guy – with the mismatched eyes, but what roles they played, other than two of them helping him cheat justice, was a mystery to me. I didn’t like the story, but I was committed to reading two volumes of this unfortunately. The art work wasn’t bad but it was too scratchy and angular for my taste. I cannot recommend the series based on this volume.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Girl Who Played With Fire Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso, and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill, and Lee Loughridge.
Letters by Steve Wands.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

The graphic novel again relates Steig Larsson's original story faithfully and while there's just as much violence in this volume, there's no sex at all worth the mention. I don't know why, but the art work here didn't grab me like it did in the first two volumes. I was nowhere near as fond of the rendering of Lisbeth here as I was in the previous outing, but the art was very workman-like and got a complex job done. It just didn't leave quite the same pleasant taste the previous material did. One notable exception (illustrated on my blog) was the full page rendition of Lisbeth's dragon tattoo, which I thought was really good.

The lettering felt better in this one than in the previous volumes, and it seemed a better reading experience to me for that. Maybe I was just more used to it this time after reading two previous volumes? On this topic, I was amused where we saw one frame of a report which was actually information about a software license, but imaged with the lettering backwards! Later we get a news report, but if you look at it. It consists of the same paragraph repeated over and over again.

We do get to meet a member of the Evil Fingers punk band which is mentioned in the book, and which is now a group of female friends who are close - as close, that is, as Lisbeth would ever let anyone get. Lisbeth was never in the band since she's tone deaf, but she was part of the post-band gatherings. It doesn't specify the name of the band member who is interviewed. We know it's not lead singer Cilla Norén, unless she's changed her hair completely and lost a lot of weight, yet that's the band member whom officer Faste interviewed in the novel.

So, to sum up, I didn't like this quite as much as I liked the first book (which was in two parts), but I still think it's a worthy contribution to the canon. I am looking forward to, and hoping for, the third volume to be completed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 2 Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 2
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill.
Letters by Steve Wands and Lee Bermejo.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

Again, as with volume one, I was impressed with this. Denise Mina's writing covered everything of import, but also kept the pace tight. Steve Wands's and Lee Bermejo's lettering was nothing spectacular, and a bit on the small side. Obviously you can't hide the image under large blocks of text, but for me, and especially in this era of e-comics, lettering is nearly always a too small. I was glad I read this in print form as opposed to on an e-pad. What impressed me were Giulia Brusco's and Patricia Mulvihill's colors and Andrea Mutti's and Leonardo Manco's art work which continued the same standard set in volume one. The covers were excellent in quality, but as I mentioned in the review of volume 1 thought that the cover for part 2 didn't capture Lisbeth Salander. The face was wrong, somehow. The interior artwork captured her magically.

The hilariously squeamish depictions of nudity continued. I found it curious that there were no-holds-barred when it came to violence, but that genitalia were deemed too horrific to show! One of the most important scenes - the rape of Lisbeth Salander, was glossed over a little too conveniently. We get the full gloory of the headless cat, with its bloody entrails all over, yet a central event of the brutal rape of a woman is deemed inappropriate?

Nothing overt was depicted except blood and strongly implied violence. A sheet strategically covered her butt crack afterwards. Seriously? If you're going to show the violence, then show it, don't blow it. If all you feel you can show is blood spatter, then don't show anything. This part made no sense because it robbed Lisbeth of the full horror of her torture. I didn't get the point of a graphic novel that's inconsistently graphic! Why the artist would baulk at that, and not at blood spray and cat entrails is weird to me.

That gripe aside, I really liked this overall, and I recommend it. I'm certainly going to buy it if I get a chance.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 1 Adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Part 1
Author: Denise Mina
Publisher: DC Comics (Warner Bros)
Rating: WORTHY!

Art by Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco.
Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill.
Letters by Steve Wands and Lee Bermejo.

I already reviewed this novel so what's up here? Well I originally read this in print book form. Later, I listened to it in audio book form, so now it's only right that I check out the graphic novel too, right?! That's why this review is shorter than I normally write. I'm not going into any details of the plot since I've been there and done that, and you can get those from my original review. This review is all about the graphic side of things.

So I was very impressed with this work. It's been somewhat updated from the original novel to include smart phones, for example, but otherwise is faithful to it. Denise Mina's adaptation was sparse but covered everything that was important, and kept the story moving at a clip. Steve Wands's and Lee Bermejo's lettering was pretty much boiler-plate comic book, so there was nothing there to praise. On the downside, lettering is nearly always a little too small for my taste, especially if you're trying to read it on a screen, such as an iPad. I'm glad I read this in actual print form. It would have been annoying on a pad. What impressed me were Giulia Brusco's and Patricia Mulvihill's colors and Andrea Mutti's and Leonardo Manco's art work. Both were excellent for my taste and really brought the story to life. The covers were excellent in quality, but I thought that the part 2 cover really didn't capture Lisbeth Salander. The face was wrong, somehow. The interior artwork captured her magically.

I was amused by the depictions of nudity (and almost every eligible female gets nude in this graphic novel, even young Harriet, whereas only one guy does). The amusement came from the apparent squeamishness of the artists to depict genitals and butt cracks! I've never understood this, especially when violence is depicted without a single thought to covering it up! Are we to understand from this that our society believes that looking at something sensuous and beautiful is verboten, whereas violence is cool?>/p>

To me breasts are far more out there, provocative and 3D, than ever female genitals are, so what's with the shyness? We got mammaries a-go-go, but whenever there was any danger of a vulva heaving into view, there was always something in the way: panties, or a judiciously draped sheet reminiscent of the wispy gauze which inexplicably floated around in classical paintings of nudes. The same applies to male genitalia.

So, overall, I highly recommend this - especially if you haven't read the original. It's a great introduction to the first novel of the trilogy, but the cost, I have to say is pretty steep. It's forty dollars for both of the volumes which make up the first novel, so you might want to get this from your library before you decide to buy, or look for it used. I would definitely like to buy these two.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Sham by Ellen Allen

Title: The Sham
Author: Ellen Allen
Publisher: BookBaby
Rating: WORTHY!

p122 "...Mary Poppins Stylie..." should be "...Mary Poppins Style..."
p172 "-Whose 'they', Jack?" should be "-Who's 'they', Jack?" or better, "-Who're 'they', Jack?"

Nothing is labeled in this novel - no chapter numbering, and so on. It's highly unconventional - which just goes to show that it can be done! I skipped what appeared to be the prologue because I don't ever do prologues, and I began at what appeared to be chapter one, which was titled, 'The argument or how "muzzling a sparrow" can kill a friendship'.

I didn't know this when I chose to read this for review, but the novel is set in Britain, which soon became apparent from certain word choices. Since I was raised in Britain, this was a bonus for me. It was really nice to read a YA story which was not set in the USA. There actually are other nations on this planet and I fear for American youth that some of them, fed a constant diet of US based children's and YA stories, may not actually realize this!

This is a first person PoV novel which I normally detest, but in this case it wasn't written obnoxiously, so the author escaped another one of my traps! Well done! Rebecca Pearce, Becky, Catherine Emms, and Kitty Jelfs are evidently the school bullies, but the twist is that one of them and the main protagonist, Emily Heath, are indirectly related. It's one of the rules in novels that no two characters ever have the same name, so it was nice to see that trope being given the finger here, but I have to say it was slightly confusing in the opening chapter because it was not at all clear to me initially that Becky and Rebecca were not the same person.

Nor was it clear which one was Emily's step-relation. It's explained later. It was obviously not Cath or Kitty, but I honestly got to wondering if Rebecca and Becky actually were the same person, yet perceived as two people by Emily for some reason. It actually also occurred to me that Emily might also be Rebecca and Becky, suffering from a weird personality disorder, but that seemed to be stretching things a bit too far! I later learned that all of them are in fact separate people.

I love the way the author enjoys the English language as exemplified by the dichotomy between the two meanings of 'cleave' which she defines for us (with an end note referencing yet!). This - not the reference, but the delight the author took in the contrary definitions of the same word - was one of several things which initially lent me confidence that here might be a worthy tale for me. I love authors who share the same relish for the language that I do.

The four girls are not only the school bullies, but also the out-of-school bullies, and the story begins with them bullying a ten-year-old boy whom they apparently abducted from a supermarket, and who's scared to death of them. This takes place on Xmas eve, in a children's play area, where Emily happens to be pushing her young sister Lily, on the swings.

It's cold and wet, already a miserable evening, and Emily is scared of these girls, but she finds the guts to at least confront their antics, if not their actual behavior pattern. Someone needs to, because their bullying is vicious and calculated. These girls behave as if they have nothing to lose, but fortunately Jack shows up to save the day. Rebecca and Becky are quite well-drawn; Cath and Kitty not so much. I have to say that it was really creepy the way Rebecca's every statement was phrased as a question, and no one remarked upon it. Actually this is a creepy story, and perfectly titled as you'll see when you reach the end...and all becomes clear.

I was warned by the author and in some reviews I read, that this is a pretty graphic novel for a novel that's actually not a graphic novel, and I phrase it that way purposefully, because although the abuse depicted in this first chapter is nasty and beyond what we normally find in YA books, it was tame compared with what I'd expected after all those warnings I received! Indeed it was tame as compared with what we see in many actual graphic novels.

Make no mistake - it's mean and evil, but it's not as bad as I'd been led to believe it would be. For me, the interesting issue here was why these warnings were even felt necessary. The age range for young adult literature is typically given as 14 - 24, which to me is too big of a range given the changes which occur to children as they mature from one age to the other, and end up as adults, but the upper end of that range should not have to be warned that there's a novel out there which depicts real life! Are our young adults so sheltered and coddled that this is a requirement? That's truly sad.

PG 13 movies typically show activities of the kind depicted here, so I don't really get what the issue is. Do people think YA novels should be fairy-tale like? Because we get way too many of those, and too many of those are awful. Clearly people who had issues with this writing have never seen a movie like To Sir, with Love which actually featured one incident reminiscent of one featured during this episode. I don't know what that movie was rated, but it's an ancient movie and I don't know of any scandal that was associated with it even back then, regarding inappropriateness of subject matter. Young adult readers need to tighten their sphincter.

There were some glitches in the writing (I'll give some examples), but in general this novel is very well written. No huge grammatical faux pas or spelling mistakes (unless you think British spelling is a mistake lol! - but the Brits had it first, remember?!). So here's the first: judgment was spelled as judgement on page 116, but I don't recall if that's acceptable in Britain.

There were one or two instances where I wondered if the wording sounded right, such as, on page 28: "...grabbed my hand. I took it willingly...". If a person grabs your hand, you're not in a position to take their hand, so this sounded odd to me. If it had read "...and I accepted it willingly..." or "...and I let him..." it would have sounded better.

I realize, of course, that these might be purely picky and persnickety personal preferences (great alliteration, huh?), but I would question the use of "sites" versus "sights" on page 42 (and again on page 123 and 126). There was also the use of 'eking it out' (page 151). I would have chosen 'sticking it out' since the phrase which is used just doesn't seem right to me. Another example is "He took the keys out of the engine" (page 159). Unless car design has dramatically changed in Britain since I lived there, the keys aren't in the engine but in the steering column! One last example that struck me: on pages 168-9 we read: "…Piggy wasn't on his way back in, pulling on his sweats." Emily was the one pulling on the sweats, but this made it seem like Piggy might be on his way back in pulling on his sweats!

I must confess to serious misgivings over Emily's treatment of her young sister - who is at one point in a pram (perambulator - a rather elaborate stroller) covered with blankets. So far so good, but it's dark, it's cold, we're told it's "pelting" with rain, yet instead of getting Lily home, Emily is romping around with Jack (yes, I'll get to him in a minute). Fortunately for poor Lily, the rain seems to disturbingly quickly morph to sleet and then snow. We are told at one point that Lily is toasty warm, but I found that hard to credit because we're not told that she has any waterproof cover tacked across the pram to keep the rain out, so we're left to assume that this cold shower is seeping into the blankets and percolating through to the child, yet this doesn't appear to concern Emily.

At one point Emily leaves Lily completely unattended - just for a short time, but nonetheless unattended - on the dark tow path by a river, while she goes off into the bushes with Jack to look at something he's obsessed with: a sign that's been appearing all over town "Igertay" in red letters. This is no excuse to leave a toddler unattended on a dark path in the pouring rain. It's irresponsible behavior for both of them. OTOH, people do behave irresponsibly, especially teenagers, so this isn't a problem with how the character is represented, but it was a serious impediment to me as a reader, actually liking that character. I didn't like Emily.

Now about "Jack". Yes. I have what almost amounts to an allergy over the use of the name 'Jack' for characters in YA stories. It's the most over-used and clichéd name ever, and it's frankly nauseating to read it any more. Can we not have a hero who isn't named Jack? Is every adventurous scallywag forced to have this name? Can we not have a sullen, deep, hair-in-his-eyes bad boy named something other than Jack? Please?

In the interest of full disclosure, I had vowed never to read another YA novel which boasts a main character named jack and I knew, going into this particular novel, that there was such a character. I did warn the author that this was a problem for me, but I promised that I would endeavor to overcome this almost insurmountable set-back.... I will try and deal with these characters, every man-jack of them! The truth is that I relented because I love the author's symmetrical name - with only one vowel difference between the two halves! (Really?!).

Emily lives with her family over a grocery shop that they run. Jack shows up much later that same day at the shop, which is open after midnight on Xmas eve. This seemed highly improbable to me, but not completely impossible, I guess. This is really where the story starts, because shortly after this, bodies start turning up - and they all seem to be part of that fearsome foursome with which Emily tangled on Xmas Eve. The main suspect is Jack!

The ending, I felt, would have been better had it the explanation been organically arrived at by someone, rather than being revealed in the way it was. The revelation scene didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. The police did not behave, it seemed to me, as they would have in real life, but then we'd had it made quite clear prior to this, that they were incompetent, so maybe this did work!

Both Emily and Jack needed serious hospital treatment, which both of them seemed to brush off. This wasn't realistic to me. Personally I felt that if each of them had truly cared for the other, then they would have been far more concerned about each other's health and welfare than they were, particularly given Jack's condition.

Anyway, enough rambling and meandering asides. I don't do stars (as I like to make quite clear) because to me a novel is either worth reading or isn't. I can't rate a novel half worth reading, so every novel I read is either a five star or a one star (since zero stars isn't an option!). This one, to me, was a worthy read despite the issues I had, because overall it was inventive, it was original, it was strongly written, it had decent characters (if behaving improbably at times), and it had something intelligent to say and an intelligent way to say it, so I recommend it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Title: You Against Me
Author: Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling
Rating: WORTHY!

Despite being proffered as young-adult fiction, this novel contains very mature themes, language, references to violence, smoking, alcohol, drugs, rape and sex. Having said that, it's a real rip-snorter! Yes, you heard me right and I'll bet no other review has dared to say that about this novel!

I was half-way sold after seeing the title; then came the back-cover blurb, and that first line. There was no hope for me after that. I read some 140 pages the first day, and that's with working full time and running the kids around. Or they were giving me the run-around, one or t'other.

The book is set in England and written by an English author (who has also had some acting experience), so I was right at home from page one. Actually from page nine. Downham (or her publisher) chose to number the pages right from the start, so chapter one appears on page nine.

I've posted a glossary of English terms for anyone who needs a reference.

This book is kick-A. There's Mikey, who we meet on line one page one (or nine) with the very first sentence: "Mikey couldn't believe his life". Yes, his life is a sentence. At least, that's how he feels, and he does feel, and strongly, too.

Mikey's 18 and lives with his absentee mother - that is she lives there but she's always got her abs on the settee. Or in bed. Her real problem is alcohol. Mikey appears to be the only person bringing home the bacon. Not that there's ever any bacon or any other kind of food in the 'flat' in the projects where the family lives. Dad's never mentioned. Mikey has a younger sister, Holly, who's 8 and who is missing school big time, and another sister Karyn, who's 15 and therein lies the main problem: we learn that Karyn was raped and now daren't leave the house.

Mikey is so angry that he heads over to Tom Parker's house to ding him with a 'spanner' in revenge for his assault on Karyn. He fails to meet Tom. Instead, he meets Eleanor (Ellie), Tom's disaffected sister who is dealing with the rape charge filed against her brother as effectively as Mikey is dealing with the rape charge his sister leveled. Ellie has no idea who Mikey is. She's also supposedly the only witness to what happened that night, and has declared that she saw nothing.

They meet again later at a welcome-home party when Tom gets out on bail, and they start to bond (bail bond, get it?! Forget it!). Mikey's plan is to try and get some information on her brother, so he and his pal can plan on how to ding him effectively with that thar spanner. Ellie is intrigued that Mikey isn't behaving towards her like other 'blokes' she's known.

On the day Ellie goes back to school bad things happen, and she detests all the attention. She gets into a fight and leaves early, and she calls Mikey, and they go down to the river together and swim despite the freezing water and lack of swim suits. And they kiss.

Mikey breaks up with his girlfriend Sienna about whom he cared little. In fact he's never really cared for any girl he's known (other than his sisters and his mum) until he met Ellie.

Meanwhile Ellie blows off school one day and heads out to the coast (they live in a coastal town) with her brother. She's becoming something of a rebel against convention after that school fight, and so she shares his cigarette sprinkled with some cannabis resin, something she's never done before. Wanting to express her fears and doubts about the upcoming rape trial, Ellie says (what is to Tom) the wrong thing and he essentially kicks her out of the car to find her own way home. Perhaps we should learn something about his attitude towards women from this.

Ellie recalls that Mikey had told her he worked at a pub on the sea front and so she wanders around and eventually finds her way into the pub where he is, but before she meets him, she runs into his boss who informs her of his name - something she hasn't known until now. She suddenly realizes that he is the brother of the girl her own brother allegedly raped!

She wants to storm off, but eventually they end up sitting on a bench looking at the sea. Ellie arrives at a plan: she will trap Mikey in the same way she thinks her brother was trapped, so she agrees to go on a picnic with him. When he shows up at her house, she invites him in, informing him that she's home alone, and that she still has to make sandwiches. Mikey ends up making them, and he's all ready to leave, but Ellie insists upon showing him around her home, and they find themselves in her bedroom, where she takes her top off, in the pretense that she's changing clothes. But Mikey doesn't behave in the ungentlemanly way she half-expected he would.

Suddenly Ellie's brother Tom is home unexpectedly, and he and Mikey get into a big fight which causes bruises and draws blood. Ellie breaks it up with the garden hose and Mikey leaves, feeling wretched, and neither wanting nor expecting to see Ellie again. But of course they have to see each other in court for the pre-trial hearing. Tom pleads not guilty. Ellie feels like rubbish warmed over. Mikey can't stop glancing at her.

Mikey and his friend Jacko (where did Downham come up with these names, seriously? Are these guys circus clowns or pre-schoolers?!) are out driving and Jacko tries to pick up two hikers they see by the roadside. His aggressive approach makes Mikey feel really uncomfortable, what with everything else that's been going on. Jacko can't understand his attitude. By this time, he's feeling as alienated from his supposed support network as Ellie is from hers. They have only each other they can talk to about this, it seems.

Ellie now has decided that she thinks Tom isn't as innocent as he claims. She agonizes over what Karyn is going through and she tries to talk with her family about it all, but is effectively pushed away whenever she raises these topics. Her brother and father treat her and her mother like servants. Maybe there's another lesson there? Like father like son?

Tom's solicitor talks with Ellie and advises her that they will not now be calling her as a witness since she's obviously compromised. He suggests that she might be wise to find her own solicitor.

A word or two about the British situation between barristers and solicitorsmight be in order, although I'm about as far from an expert as you can get. The rough breakdown is that the solicitor offers legal counsel, but the barrister represents the client's interests in the courtroom, although there have been changes to this system, I understand, so that things are a lot more muddy than they used to be. Why this system arose in the first place is a mystery to me. Doubtlessly it has its roots back in ancient British history, so I'd recommend you pop over to wikipedia if you're interested in learning anything about it.

Feeling completely cast to the wind, Ellie runs over to Mikey's place and texts him to meet her. At first he's a bit resentful and he tries to push her away, but they end up talking and then they take a bus out to her grandmother's empty cottage on the coast and there, they enter into a very hesitant tryst. Yes, tryst is the only word for it. It reminds me of a chapter I wrote in Saurus. It's Ellie's very first time, and it's Mikey's first time where he actually had his heart in what he was doing.

Both of them run into trouble when they get home and perversely, it has nothing to do with their intimacy! The secret is out at Mikey's place. Jacko has blabbed it all. Karyn is very angry at Mikey's 'defection to the enemy'. Ellie's family (at least the male contingent) are incensed at her defection. Curiously, her mother is the only one who 'mans' up and supports her.

Ellie goes to the police the next day to change her statement The police come down hard on her whilst telling her that it's for her own good because the defense (or in this case, since it's England, the defence) will try to argue that Mikey has put pressure on her to change her story. Curiously no one talks about the fight that between Tom and Mikey; it's like it never happened!

Ellie's father snipes at her relentlessly as he helps Tom to move out (he has to stay with a friend because he can't have any contact with Ellie now she's changed her story). They're taking out pretty much everything that belongs to Tom, like he died or is permanently moving out of the home.

Ellie feels wretched. When Mikey shows up at her home, bravely and shamelessly, since her mum and dad are home, tossing little rocks at her window, her mother appears at the door and tries to turn him away, threatening him with her husband and the police, but Ellie comes down in her pjs and they talk, and eventually (after she changes clothes) they take a walk together, out into the fields near the house. And that's how it ends, with the two of them realizing that the future is going to be rough and bumpy, but neither one of them is willing to give up on the other, nor turn from the path they're taking with each other and the future they will build together.

This is pretty much the perfect story. Downham nails it completely. Seriously. Sometimes the ways in which these people act is frustrating and annoying but they're not acting out of character. Yes, we never learn what the outcome of the trial is, but I don't think that's relevant. In reality it would be, of course, but this isn't about Tom and Karyn, it's about Ellie and Mikey, and Downham gives it everything.

One thing in particular to love about this novel is that Downham actually never takes sides. She never depicts Tom as being thoroughly evil, or Karyn as being loose or righteous, or dishonest. She tells it like it is - a complete mess, through which it's hard to see clearly and really hard to get a handle on what actually happened. Of course, Ellie clears up that part towards the end, but I don't doubt that this is what it's like when this kind of appalling interaction happens for real.

There are many people who take the attitude that all men are all closet rapists (and others who believe that women who dress in a certain way deserve what they get) and that all rapes are power plays, but I don't think it's quite that simple and people who try to paint this kind of thing in such simple black and white strokes are doing a disservice to the men and women involved in these tragedies.

Let's be clear: it's is never right to assume you have a claim on something belonging to someone with whom you're intimately involved or with whom, for whatever reason, you wish to be so involved. What your partner may offer you is a privilege for which you should be appreciative and thankful, even after it's withdrawn. It's not a title deed which you can claim at any time regardless of your partner's wishes, even if you're married to your partner.

The other side of that coin is that partners need to talk out problems they perceive, and not let them fester and turn into disasters. That's what partnership means. And they need to try to accommodate each other's wishes as far as is reasonable rather than simply turn their backs on each other's need for intimacy and thereby provoke resentment and potential problems down the road.

That said, one party or the other at any time has the absolute right to say no, no further, this stops here, and to be respected for that choice no matter what has happened beforehand. I'm sure that in the bulk of cases of rape, it is a sick aggressor who does not respect boundaries and who can't take no for an answer, but I'm not sold on the aggressive claim that it's 100% about dominance and subjectivity; that it's always a power play and I think it harms women and men alike to insist upon framing it always in such a pitiless black and white perspective

I think anyone who assumes that is missing things which could prove important in resolving and addressing case like this. Imagine, for example, that you have a couple of college kids who meet, go to a party, get drunk, but not helplessly so, have sex, and then in the morning one of them decides that was not what they'd intended, and files charges? How do we resolve something like that?

Clearly they should neither of them have acted under the influence of alcohol, but such a case is not the same as a case where someone forces their self upon another at knife-point. It's not that black and white. In that case, the one with the knife is entirely in the wrong and the other did nothing wrong although they will undoubtedly blame themselves, but in the hypothetical case I outlined above, who is really at fault there? One? The other? Both? It's a lot tougher to resolve that, which is why the smart thing to do is never to get yourself into a situation like that!

Karyn and Tom both should have realized that what they were doing was entirely inappropriate, but given Karyn's age and her inebriation, Tom ought to have been a lot more mature. Here's a conundrum: Suppose nothing had happened but Karyn had woken up convinced that something had? How would this story have run from there?

But in the end, in this case, the story really isn't about Karyn and Tom. It's about Ellie and Mikey, and it was told so well, with such great language and in such an engaging way. For as sad and frustrating as parts of the story are, and for as confusing as the issues can be, this is a great story.

Here's something to make you think. Doubtlessly, this will sound sick to some, but there's a potential for a sequel here about Tom and Karyn, which would be even more controversial: how they go from this appalling rift and detestation of each other, to falling in love and getting married. Yes, it would be an extremely tough novel to write, even more so than You Against Me, and many people probably wouldn't appreciate it, but if anyone could bring off a novel like that, it's Downham. How about You and me Against the World for the title?!

Here's something I came across today, Tanya Gold taking Joanna Lumley to task for her supposed blaming of girls for getting themselves raped! No, that's not what Lumley is saying at all, as far as I can tell. Lumley is telling girls how to protect themselves. That's not the same as saying it's the girl's fault. Of course it's the rapist's fault. But what Gold is saying is the equivalent of telling the fireman who advises you to get a smoke alarm and a fire extinguisher that it's not necessary because it's 'the fire's fault' if your home burns down, not yours! lol! Seriously? If someone told you that you that, since it's the burglar's fault, you don't have to bother locking up your house or your car when you're away from it, would you think that advice smart? I wouldn't.

Yes it's the rapist who is entirely to blame for the rape, but there's a big difference between looking like a victim and actually becoming a victim. Taking intelligent precautions to keep yourself safe from burglary, robbery, fire and from attacks is not the same as taking blame for an attack if it happens, although all-too-many women do it pains me to say. All Lumley is saying, as is, I think, evident from the context, is that it's always smart to be proactive when it comes to protecting your person and your property. There are things you can to do to avoid even looking like a potential victim, let alone actually being one. So does Gold want girls to be victims just because she can then rightly blame the rapist? Can't we have both: people taking care to safeguard themselves and their family, and placing the blame squarely on the perp when those safeguards fail? It doesn't have to be either/or, Ms Gold.

Rape continues to be a news item, of course, both in the US miltiary of late and at shocking levels, and in Egypt. Evidently Islam is no respector of women, and religious military doesn't appear to offer women any security there either.