Saturday, October 12, 2019

Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss

Rating: WORTHY!

This book was set in 1487, which is the same year that the farcical witch-hunters' manual Malleus Maleficarum was published, and Leonardo da Vinci drew his 'Vitruvian Man'. It tells the story of Giulia Borromeo, the daughter of a Count and a seamstress in his employ.

When the count dies, it turns out that in his will, he has left provision for a dowry for Giulia so that she might marry decently, but her wicked stepmother decides that Giulia needs to be married to Christ, and gives her dowry to a convent, to which Giulia is promptly dispatched. She's not sent so promptly however that she doesn't have time to pay a quick visit to an astrologer who maps out her future with regard to whether or not she will ever meet her romantic match.

If she'd worded it precisely that way, she might have got a clearer answer, but in a desperate attempt to make sure she gets what she wants, she also pays a sorcerer to create an amulet containing a spirit which will guide her to her true love. I'm unconvinced of the value of incorporating this supernatural element into this story, because it seemed like an unnecessary distraction to me, and the story works perfectly well without it, but the amulet played only a small role, so I was willing to let that slide.

That amulet seems to Giulia like it burns when she meets a young man at the monastery who is there to renew a damaged fresco. Of course she's not supposed to be with him alone, but she's a bit of a rebel, and she doesn't want to be at the convent anyway. She has other plans. She's expecting to meet the love of her life and move on.

Later, she meets the same guy on a supervised trip from the convent. This trip came about because Giulia has some talent for drawing, and the convent she was sent to conveniently has a workshop of some renown, where nuns create works of art to adorn churches. It's quite a lucrative business, especially since one of the nuns - the maestra, has created a brilliant shade of blue known as passion blue - not from romantic passion but from the passion of Christ. Once Giulia's skill in art comes to light, she's is adopted by this maestra, and begins training as an artist under her wing. She attends the workshop each day instead of pursuing what the other nun novices are doing.

Despite being thrilled with her opportunities there, Giulia is still intent upon pursuing her romantic inclination, and she secretly arranges to meet her guy in the orchard behind the convent one night, where there's a breech in the wall and he can climb through. These meetings continue, but they don't end up where Giulia was expecting them to!

The book was quite surprisingly entertaining. It felt really nice for a change, to pick up a book like this on spec as it were and to discover that it's as good as you'd hoped it would be. We should all write books like that. I commend this fully as a worthy read.

Destruction by Justin Edison

Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I was interested in this novel despite it being not the sort of novel I tend to like: the idea of interstellar war I find rather laughable. I think aliens would have better things to do with their time and resources, so it's really hard to find a good novel, let alone a series of this genre, and by good I mean not only engaging, but also realistic. I was hoping this would be different, and what intrigued me was the idea of the female sniper, June Vereeth who is the main character. In the last analysis though, I didn't like it, and I'll tell you why.

Note first that this is volume 2 of a series - again something I am not much a fan of (both series and volume 2's!), but at least I went into this knowing it was a series and that this was not the first volume, since this one is billed as ' Woman at War Book II' (that's Roman two, not eleven or "Aye-aye, Captain." It's nice that a publisher announces this right there on the front cover. Far too many do not, and I find that intensely irritating.

Among the many problems with a series is that unless you're binge-reading them after the series has been released in its entirety, you discover that the author is stuck between info-dumping to bring you up to date with events over previous volume(s), or leaving you in the dark. It seems very few authors can find the happy path between those two extremes. This author went the 'in the dark' route, so I was clueless about what had been in the first 'book'. I also had no idea if this was set in Earth's future and these people were descended from people on Earth and intermixing with - and in some cases fighting against aliens, or if everyone was human or none of them were.

That wouldn't have been so bad had there been some rationale and consistency in the story-telling, but it seemed like a bit of a jumble to me. Terms were tossed around, including names for possible alien species, with zero actual detail revealed, as though the reader was expected to know all about them. Perhaps the expectation was that those who wanted to review this would have read volume 1, but this is an ARC and there was no option to try volume 1 before I reviewed volume 2. I don't recall ever seeing volume 1 of this series on Net Galley, and this one interested me, so I tried it. That said, some guidance interleaved with the action in this book would have been appreciated; not that there was really any action in the portion I managed to read before I gave up in dissatisfaction.

As an example, we got long distances given in miles, but then short distances given in 'legs'. I have no idea what a leg was. Weights were given in 'bars' - again - no clue what that was supposed to represent, and there was no guidance on how to translate it, so in the end it was quite meaningless. If every measure had been given in alien terms, that would have been one thing, but to mix it like that with terms that aren't even in use today was just annoying to me. Maybe if I'd read volume 1 it would all have been clear, but I guess I'll never know. Since I'm done with this series, it doesn't really matter at this point. And no, I didn't go looking in the back of the book in case there was a glossary - I shouldn't have to!

What really turned me off the story though was the tediousness of the opening sequence, where soldiers were climbing these giant rock pillars. The pillars (so it seemed, although it wasn't exactly clear) were a natural formation of individual and extremely high rock columns with flat tops. In a highly unlikely event, an allied spacecraft had crashed on top of one of the pillars and these soldiers had been sent in to recover something from it. The job was rendered all-but impossible because the rocks were shrouded in fog which inexplicably never dissipated or blew away, so visibility was down to very little. Definitely not more than a few 'legs' - or maybe not! Who knows? Is moving over a short distance called 'pulling legs'?! To make things worse, the rocks were magnetic, which prevented anything electronic from working in their vicinity.

I'm sure the author thought he'd done everything to render this climb and tedious exploration of the tops of hundreds of these pillars inevitable, but he's missed a few things. One of these things was a magnetic survey. Yes, the rocks were magnetic, but so was the spacecraft, presumably, so any distortion in the more or less regular pattern of the rock formation might be a place where the ship had ended up. Another option that went unexplored was sonar. Signals beamed down from up above and the rebound recorded would have been able to map the rocks in sufficient detail to identify the one which contained the crashed craft and magnetic interference was irrelevant.

Perhaps landing atop the pillars using was an option. if a spacecraft could accidentally crash-land on top of one, a glider could sure make a controlled landing! It would have been no more risky than the climbing they were doing! Another option would have been to explore the foot of the pillar formation for debris from the crashed ship. Not every last piece of it was on the top of that one pillar. There has to be debris. That would have at least narrowed the search down.

The author had mentioned some brush down at the bottom, interfering with access, but I don't imagine that would have been an insurmountable obstacle. Setting fire to the brush would have lifted the fog! A final solution would be to have bombed the crap out of that entire area, to destroy the ship so the alien enemy couldn't recover it. Just mentioning these as not feasible for whatever reasons would have been a good idea, but to pretend like scaling the pillars was the only option was a bit short-sighted.

But sometimes the military does make really dumb decisions and it costs lives, so I was willing to go with that, but the story was so ponderous, and so repetitive with the long climb of that first pillar and then the traversing from one to another by stringing lines across the tops and shimmying along them. It was frankly a boring read. Worse than this, Vereeth was a sniper. Why send her to a place where there's no visibility? It made zero sense.

The disappointing part about her involvement was that she was supposed to be a trained soldier and yet she seemed appallingly weak, especially for this mission. Were there no other snipers available? Again this wasn't explored. The situation was exacerbated unacceptably once more by the story being told in the first person, so she came across as a chronic whiner, which turned me right off her. First person voice is worst person voice for precisely this reason (inter alia). For a number of very good reasons, it's typically a bad choice for telling a story - especially a young adult story, which this fortunately wasn't - and if I'd known beforehand that this was a first person voice novel, I would not have requested it for that reason alone.

So while I wish the author all the best with this series, for all of the reasons I've gone into, I cannot commend this as a worthy read.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Proto Project by Bryan R Johnson

Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

"We can't be a minute to soon or late." - should be 'too soon'

This book didn't sit well with me for an assortment of reasons. Opening it with the main character looking in a mirror is old hat, so when I read, "Jason Albert Pascal stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror" I was already starting-off on the wrong foot. Note that this novel isn't aimed at me; it's aimed at middle grade and I am far from that, but I've read many middle grade novels that have appealed to me. This wasn't one of them.

It's subtitled "A Sci-Fi Adventure of the Mind" and I'm honestly not sure what that meant because this was hard sci-fi, not fantasy or psychological, about two kids who come into possession of an advanced AI in the form of a tiny mechanical 'transformer' that can reshape itself from a walking pseudo-spider to a wristwatch look-alike and so on. It also changes color to exhibit mood. On top of that it's really dumb about some things and amazingly advanced about others. In short, it was too good to be true.

I've seen characters like this in movies and TV, such as Commander Data in Star Trek Next Generation, for example, who was quite simply absurd in his mix of complete naiveté about common situations, to his annoyingly trivial pursuit of others. It made no sense, and can only ens up making the AI look moronic.

Perhaps kids of the age-range this is aimed at will not see anything wrong with this, but for me, too cutesy pets and robots are nauseating. My own kids have grown beyond this age range, but I don't feel they would have been much into a story like this when they were younger. Not that I or they speak for anyone but ourselves, but on this matter of age range, another problem was that the kids seemed to express themselves way beyond their age and even beyond realism at times, employing terms like 'nefarious' for example, which struck me as inauthentic at best.

The biggest problem though was that once again the kids are doing all the investigating with little to authenticate it. Obviously in a story like this you don't want the kids calling the cops and then sitting around at home playing video games while the cops nab the bad guys! You have to get the kids out there and put them at some risk, but I don't think you can realistically do that any more without offering some sort of rationale as to why it is that they can't just call the police. We never did get such an explanation here; all we got was one kid's hunch about the FBI agent being a bit suspect, and then they were running with it.

I don't believe kids should be talked down to or written down to. Kids these days are more sophisticated than ever, having seen TV and movies about a whole variety of topics, including police investigations, science fiction, super heroes and on and on, where grown-up language and attitudes are expressed (and where nefarious isn't spoken even once!), so I think you have to give them a fair shot at a realistic story; however, this one had too many holes in it, with them being thrown into risky situations inorganically, and in one case where a parent actually puts them at risk.

That latter scenario came about when mom, the inventor of the AI, had built a second one in captivity, and used the communciation element to convey her whereabouts to her children. I had it ask why? Why risk putting them at risk? Why not use the communication opportunity to call in the police? If there had been a reason given why it must be this way, that would have been one thing, but it made no sense to have her put her kids any further at risk than they already were for no good reason.

A bit more social conscience wouldn't have been amiss either. For example, this AI must have had the most amazing battery ever invented, because it never recharged and it never ran low on energy! That kind of technology could revolutionize the world and free us from a lot of fossil fuel dependence, yet it was being used in what was little more at that point than a cute toy! Clearly no thought had been put into how this toy was supposed to function!

For one more example, I read early in the novel some speculation by the boy on what his mom was doing in her secret lab at work. He asked himself, "was she working on space tech to colonize another planet in the event of a global warming crisis?" Well, we're already in a global warming crisis, so no, it's not coming: it's here now, and kids need to be educated about this. But the way to fix it isn't to abandon Earth, it's to stop pumping CO2 and methane into the atmosphere and take urgent steps to scrub those gasses from the very air that we've ignorantly spent the last 200 years polluting with them! "In the event of" doesn't get it done. Not remotely.

I was disappointed in the educational opportunities that were missed here, and the flights of loose fancy that this novel indulged in. It was a sound basic plot, but for me nowhere near enough was done with it. I can't commend this as a worthy read based on the sixty percent of this I read before I decided to DNF it.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Princeless Vol 6 Make Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin, Brett Grunig

Rating: WORTHY!

This was billed as 'Part Two' and I was unaware of there being a part one. This is when I decided to quit reading this series because it's far too hard to try and keep track of which volume comes where. If there are two parts, isn't that two separate volumes? I mean all of this is the same story, so it's completely arbitrary as to where it's split! Just list them numerically in the order they should be read, and don't inexplicably branch off into a completely separate story that retains the same name. It's not rocket science.

Why publishers have such an issue with issues is beyond me. Do they not want people to have a good reading experience? It would be perfectly simple to label these quite clearly an unambiguously according to the order in which they should be read - but that would actually benefit people so why in the name of all that righteous would Big Publishing™ ever do such a thing? They're not interested in helping people. They're interested in profiting and that's it.

So this will be the last of this series I read, but it was not because this particular (half-)volume was a bad one. It was entertaining enough, but as I mentioned in a previous review, the sameness doesn't go away, and by this point this showing-up in an obscure local to rescue a sister, running into problems, then emerging victorious has become a ritual. It's not thatentertaining! It's certainly not original at this point. Plus for the first time I did not like the 'sister' (in this case endlessly-arguing twins) being rescued. So while I consider this a worthy read, I do not have the patience or time to continue with this when so much else begs to be read. Again writing was by Whitley, and art by Martin and Grunig.

Princeless Vol 4 Be Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin, Brett Grunig

Rating: WORTHY!

So on goes the story. These will be my last two of the Princeless/Pirate Queen mess of comics, not least because it's far too hard to keep track of what order one should read them in, but more importantly, this is a case of diminishing returns. The more of these that I read, the less entertained that I am, sorry to report.

Not that these last two were unentertaining by any means, but this is a problem with series. They're really the same story told over again with a different tweak each time, and that's not that entertaining to me. At some point I lose interest. This is why I shall never write a series myself. The last thing I need is to bore myself with my own writing!

So this episode it's off to rescue the middle sister of the Ashe family, Angoisse. Her sister Adrienne and her indefatigable colleague Bedelia plunge fearlessly into the swamp, lose their dragon, and confront zombies and a vampire who is intent upon capturing Adrienne and returning her to her royally-pissed King of a father for a reward.

As usual there are surprises awaiting Adrienne, and as usual she wins out. But her sister isn't the same as when Adrienne last knew her. Now if only they can beat the dread Grimorax, maybe they'll have a chance! This was amusing, and a little bit different, which is what kept me entertained, but even in this I could feel the same-ness creeping in. However, it is most definitely a worthy read: decent script by Whitley, and great art by Martin and Grunig

The Water Crown by James Suriano

Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Initially I was drawn into this story because it was about the world's supply of fresh, clean water, which is, along with climate change, and pollution, one of the real crises in the world right now. I was by no means convinced that bringing in magical abilities or Middle East jinn would lend adequate gravity to a story about a serious problem like this, but I was willing to give it a chance. The problem was that story got lost somewhere along the way. Largely abandoned were the jinn, and the story devolved into one that was delving far more into the day-to-day minutiae of the lives of the two main characters. It seemed to lose track of the fact that it was supposed to be telling an important story about a serious real-world problem.

The two main characters are a Bedouin boy named Zyan, who is living in Morocco, and Jade St John who splits her time between South Africa and Israel. She has the ability to bypass normal space by latching onto a strange system which allows her to travel great distances - on a global level - in relatively short times. She can also push people's minds in the direction she wants them to go rather than where they might have gone otherwise, and she can communicate on some level with animals. She has an assistant, for example, which is a pangolin, but which works for her as a sort of housekeeper, which I thought was rather cute. Jade works for a mysterious organization and gets her instructions from 'Mother' rather like John Steed used to in the old British TV series called The Avengers.

Zyan lives - as befits his ethnicity - in the desert and has a pets like chickens and a goat which he foolishly ties to a post outside a library, only to have it stolen. He tracks it down, but fails to act before the boy who stole it slits its throat. This is important for my attitude toward this novel later, if you'll bear with me. He has the ability to see Jade on occasion, but he thinks she's some sort of jinn. He becomes involved with the Moroccan royal family because they think he can talk with jinn and thereby help them with their fresh water shortage. Therein lies a problem.

Morocco is on the coast. It has a long coastline. It also has oodles of sunlight. It wouldn't take much to set up a desalination plant - or a series of them - running on solar energy which could supply Morocco with all the freshwater it could ever want. If this had been addressed in the story, and some sort of 'reason' (however weak or invalid!) had been put in place to 'explain' why their water problem couldn't be solved by this means, that would have been something, but for the author to dismiss all that, and make this sound like it was a crisis in need of jinn magic when there are technological solutions seemed like cheating to me.

The people of Morocco don't call their nation Morocco. It's known in Arabic as 'The Western Kingdom', and while politics are discussed in the novel, we learn very little about how Morocco truly is. It is a very repressive kingdom where free speech is highly circumscribed and homosexuality is illegal. Lack of water isn't a problem; lack of sanitation and access to flowing water in every household is a problem, so it seemed to me like this was a poor choice of a country to set this water issue.

Worse than this, over half a million Moroccans are addicted to drugs. Eighty percent of cannabis in Europe comes from Moroccan plantations. For me, that's no worse that growing tobacco, but Morocco is also a shipping route for South American cocaine. Drug addiction is particularly prevalent among Moroccan youth. These are not things to be proud of. Why Hollywood is so intent upon favoring Morocco for so many movie shoots is beyond me.

Morocco is also an islamic nation, but you would not have guessed that from this novel. There is no talk of Islam and none of the people depicted are ever shown following any of the tenets of that religion, which lent the story an air of high fantasy and inauthenticity. Indeed, at one point the Moroccan queen is depicted as flouncing around in a bikini in front of a stranger! Even for a western nation that might seem a problem (recall the sensation in Britain when Princess Diana was photographed with the sun behind her shining through her skirts. For an Islamic nation it was positively ridiculous.

While Morocco is more enlightened than many Islamic countries with regard to dress code (westerners can wear a bikini on the beach, for example), Moroccan women are expected to dress conservatively to one degree or another depending on which part of the country they are in. Some areas are more conservative than others, and even western women would be frowned on or worse were they to try wearing a bikini or even a bikini top at any place other than the beach. Moroccan women do have some rights, but they are far from equal as compared with western women - who even now still bear a greater load of grief than ever men do with regard to dress and comportment. In 2015 two women were publicly abused and arrested for dressing 'indecently'. That same year, three teenagers were arrested because one of them, a boy, took a picture of his friend, another boy, kissing a girl and posted it on Facebook. So no, they're a long way from equality and freedom in Morocco and I'm sorry this author skated blithely over all that.

This brings me to another problem, which was that I couldn't tell if this story was supposed to be set in the near future or in some sort of alternate reality. Britain's queen for example, was given as Queen Agatha, which is nonsensical since that name isn't remotely close to the name of any of the queens Britain has actually had, so again this undermined suspension of disbelief. Maybe in an alternate reality there would be a Queen Agatha and the Moroccan royal family would not have an issue with the queen disporting herself in a bikini, but without having any guidance from the book blurb or from the novel, it was hard to tell what was supposed to be going on here.

That wasn't why I DNF'd the novel though. The problem for me was, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that the author seemed to forget that there was supposed to be a story going on here, and instead spent so much time in minutiae which didn't really do anything for the story at all. I began to grow bored, but didn't really lose my interest until Zyan started rambling on about his dead goat. If he'd mentioned it in passing, that would be one thing, but he told a story about it that went on, and on...and on! It was so tedious that I quit reading right there.

That rambling wasn't interesting. It revealed nothing we did not know already, and neither did it do a thing to move the story (or me for that matter given Zyan's complete lack of effort to save the goat in the first place, and his stupidity in leaving it tied up where he couldn't keep an eye on it to start with). This had already been covered earlier in the story so this revisit was annoying at best. My patience had been waning with Jade's mindless and pointless puttering around by this point, so the endless story of Zyan's tragic loss of his nanny really got my goat - and I'm not kidding. I can't commend this as a worthy read, not based on the fifty percent of it I did read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Princeless Book 2 Get Over Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin, Kelly Lawrence

Rating: WORTHY!

I came across these books purely by accident in my local library and pretty much have started falling in love. The writing (by Whitley) is good and amusing, and M-ART-in takes fine care of the ART. Colors by Lawrence are also excellent. Naturally when you're relying on your local library to get this new stuff (new to me anyway) you can't always be sure you get it in the right order - or read it in that order either, for that matter.

This is book 2, and I should have read it after the other volume I got, so that's on me. What's not on me though is the confusion by the author starting a series within a series. Some of the books are subtitled 'Raven the Pirate Princess', and those are intermingled in the library listing, so it was a real pain to sort out not only in what order these should be read, but also which were of one series and which of another. Life ought to be a lot simpler than this. No wonder people end-up takine automatic weapons into crowds when life is like this - and this sure as hell isn't the most egregious example of life's frustrations; it's just one of many minor ones, but many a mickle maks a muckle dontcha know?

That pet frustration aside, I really enjoyed this volume in which Adrienne and Bedelia take their dragon Sparky on a road-trip (road? Air-trip) in search of Angelica, who ain't so angelic, but who is Adrienne's sister, and who bills herself as fantasy land's most beautiful.

Unfortuantely, it appears that Angelica is in no need of rescue and probably would prefer to be left alone with her swelling crowd of admirers, but that's not the only problem since the King has hired a group of poseurs, aka knights(? Maybe?) to track down and kill the knight he believes is responsible for Adrienne's death. The problem is that the night who "killed" Adrienne is actually Adrienne herself, as part of a dastardly escape plan. The plot quickens. Loved it. Commend it. Haven't had this much fun since Bad Machinery and Rat Queens which is hardly surprising since this appears to be a cross between both those series. Now I'm on my own quest to find more.

Princeless The Pirate Princess Girls Who Fight Boys by Jeremy Whitley, Rosy Higgins, Ted Brandt

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Whitley, with art by Higgins and Brandt, this began as a Rapunzel rip-off about the rescuing of a purported princess (she'd deny it) from a tower. Her hair, unfortunately, was nowhere near long enough, but the escape was affected anyway, and they were on their merry way. The 'pirate princess' was desperate to take over the nearest pirate ship, especially since it was being run by her brother (although he was not on board). I was sorry one of the trio dropped out and spent the rest of this volume napping, but that's dwarves for you.

Most fun sentence: "We kept company for a few moments before she continued eastward while I ate and watered my horse." I've heard the phrase "I could eat a horse," but the way this was worded, she actually did eat a horse. And then watered it. That takes some doing....

Loved it though. A fun romp. Commend it. Looking for more.

Hellcat Careless Whiskers by Kate Leth, Brittney L Williams, Rachelle Rosenberg

Rating: WARTY!

I have to say of this that I found the title far more entertaining than the content. I'm sorry to have to say that, but there it is. The story didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and there really wasn't much happening. This is the only one about this character that I've read and it isn't the first one in the series, so maybe it loses something for that, but to me it wasn't appealing at all. I liked the Hellcat played by Rachael Taylor in the Netflix series Jessica Jones far more than ever I liked this one, who was rather lacking in substance.

That was the entire problem: it was nothing but a ping-pong game between Hellcat and her rival who was chewing up the scenery and not in any entertaining fashion at that. Hellcat's followers were being subsumed by her rival (whose name I completely forget) and as soon as hellcat would manage to liberate one, another would get sucked in due to some magical ability inherent in her rival's claws. I actually was liking her rival better than the hero quite frankly, but that's a relative liking. Nothing of interest was happening, and overall I didn't like this at all or find it entertaining or engaging. I can't commend it. At least I can say it got a negative OC rating (i.e. there were no open crotch shots in this comic) - but then it was a female vehicle so that didn't surprise me).

Zatanna's Search by arrested-adolescence writers and artists

Rating: WARTY!

Zatanna the female magician starts out right on the front cover in fishnet hose, so though it's technically not an open crotch shot, I didn't need to go any further into this comic book to fail it. The crotch shot is completely obviated by the cover itself. FAIL. Her legs are entirely out of proportion to the rest of her body as well. Just sayin'. Art or porn?

She Hulk Vol 2 Disorderly Conduct by assorted adolescent lechers

Rating: WARTY!

I give this an OC rating of 12 because it took only until page twelve before we got the gratuitous female open crotch shot that perennially adolescent comic book writers can't help themselves from drawing. This is a FAIL and that's all there is to it. It failed right at that page and was DNF'd.

Spider-Gwen Radioactive apparently written by adolescents

Rating: WARTY!

I was impressed by Spider-Gwen in the hugely successful animated move Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which made over four times its budget and will, so I've read, spawn at least two sequels/spin-offs. This comic unfortunately, is a FAIL because the OC rating for this graphic novel was 46. That means that it took only until page 46 for a gratuitous open crotch shot, which admittedly is better than many I've looked at recently, but still unacceptable. The art crew? Unsurprisingly, it was almost entirely male.

Cable and X-Force Onslaught Rising by various adolescents

Rating: WARTY!

This comic gets an OC rating of 19. That's the page number I quit reading at because that's where the first illustration of a female appeared with her legs wide open for no reason at all except that the artists of this trash are quite evidently perennially adolescents. Open Crotch on page 19 says it all.

Almost as bad was the artwork in general, which was so scratchy it made me itch - for less. There was nothing attractive, elegant, or anything about it at all. It had bared, gnashing teeth and fighting on every other page. The only chops it had were drooling, and it's not remotely entertaining at all.

X-Force Under the Gun by assorted adolescents

Rating: WARTY!

This is a fail not only for really bad scratchy art, but for an OC rating of only 23 - half that of Spider-Gwen. That means that it took only 23 pages before a gratuitous open crotch shot of a female was drawn in. FAIL. The art looked like it was taken into an art app and 'sharpened' way-the-hell too many times. It was ugly. This book isn't worth slaughtering so many innocent trees for that's verdammt sure.

X-Force a Force to be Reckoned With by assorted delayed-adolescence writers and artists

Rating: WARTY!

This has an OC rating of 26 - that is, it took only until page 26 for a female to be portrayed with her legs wide open to the viewer. Hilariously, the one thing the woman is saying in that same panel is "Never!". Any OC (open crotch) rating is a fail for comic book and graphic novels, and the lower the number, the greater the failure. This book is a fail regardless of whetever else it thinks it has to offer.

The entire creative cast for this book was evidently high testosterone, adolescent males so this surprises me not a whit, but the interesting thing is that if this was rated on male open crotch shots instead of female, it would have an even higher rating of 1, meaning the very first page had an open crotch shot of a male. That's the lowest rating you can get nrxt to a zero for such an image on the cover. In 1998, a study at the University of Central Florida of 33 video games found that half of them depicted violence against women or sexually-objectified them. Do we really want comics going down that stinking, testosterone-laced alley? No wonder female comic book buyers are in the minority.

So the novel is a fail, but I also have to say that the drawing was poor for my taste. It was too 'scratchy' - like if you load an image into a computer art app and sharpen it up too much? That's what the artwork looked like in this book. I didn't like it. I didn't like the characters, either, especially not cable, and the story was boring. These characters were fighting every other page. What the hell is wrong with these morons who write these books? Do they think endless fighting equals a story? More to the point, what the hell is wrong with the morons who read trash like this? WARTY, period.

Domino Killer instinct by Gail Simone, David Baldeón, Michael Shelfer, Jesus Aburton

Rating: WARTY!

Given that, apart from the writer (Simone) who apparently has little influence or simply doesn't care, this is entirely the work of evidently adolescent males (drawn by Baldeón and Shelfer, colored by Aburton), this graphic novel didn't surprise me at all to see that its rating in my new system was a very poor 22 (the lower the number the worse the comic book). What this means is that the book only made it to page 22 before it showed a female character (in this case the main one, and in her underwear) in an image with her leg legs wide open facing the viewer. It took her fewer pages than that to get her into the frilly underwear she apparently favors when working.

From now on regardless of the story, any graphic novel/comic book that gratuitously shows that kind of an image (and I can't off-hand think of an instance where it wouldn't be gratuitous), it's an immediate WARTY rating on my blog. The story wasn't that great anyway. I skimmed through it from p22 onward and it was the same kind of crap we normally get in Marvel comics - and probably in DC comics too. It's supposed to be about the main character Domino, but every step of the way, every known character in the entire Marvel universe puts in an appearance to help the poor helpless girl out, so the story really isn't about her at all when you get right down to it, it's about how many Marvel characters we can fit into her story and how helpless, disempowered, and devalued can we make her on the way through it.

I expected better from a female writer. I got exactly what I expected from a male art crew. In short, this graphic novel sucked.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Rating: WORTHY!

Eliz is counting the days until her graduation when she can head off to college and leave her little town behind. She's tired of being the odd one out at school and has no interest in anyone there. What neither the school nor anyone else but her immediate family realizes is that Eliza Mirk is the creator of a web comic called Monstrous Sea, which is highly popular. Why it is, I don't know.

There are a few (and far between) illustrations in the print book along with some text about which I had no particular feelings one way or the other excepting to say that it didn't seem to me the type of thing that would inspire and rabid readership and a thriving paraphernalia store which nets Eliza a comfortable income such that she can already pay her way through college.

This all begins to unravel when a studly guy arrives at her school as a transfer, and immediately he and Eliza start becoming an item. At first it's very awkward, but when they both reveal their shared interest in Monstrous Sea (he as a fan fiction writer, she as a fan fiction artist - so she tells him) they begin hanging out together and eventually really are dating. This is where I began to have problems with this novel because it started feeling too trope to live. The girl who thinks she's unattractive and has no interest in guys. The stud of a guy - a jock, with chiseled features and a buff bod - is attracted to her. Seriously? That is so YA. This could have been about a couple of regular nerds with no special physical qualities and it would ahve read a lot better, so why'd the author go the trad route instead of making her own path? Selling out to Big publishing™ maybe? Far too many YA authors do.

For the longest time it seems as though Eliza was truly going to be different, because the writing suggested she was perhaps overweight and typically dressed way down, but in the end she's the good-looking girl who only needs to take her eyeglasses off to be a runway model. Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but it came close at times. That started to turn me off the novel, but the writing continued to be good, original, and interesting and the relationship didn't suddenly balloon out of nothing. That sure helped. The thing is that it could have been that same way with the nerds. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

I read on anyway, and found myself being drawn into the story and wanting to know what happened next even when, at the end, it became predictable. Eliza had a counterpart who had started a series of books and then when it came to the last volume - never produced one. She left her fans hanging and dropped out of the world. You knew at this point that Eliza would contact her when she ran into the same issues, which in Eliza's case were precipitated by her idiot parents who have zero understanding of Eliza, and who constantly demean and belittle her interests concerning Monstrous Sea; they consider it to be just some passing fad which didn't deserve to be taken seriously. They had no interest in even reading the web comic.

I wondered at times how autobiographical this novel was. I don't know. I hope it wasn't, but it could well be for all I know. She writes like maybe it is, or like maybe she knows someone like this. I can understand it from my own experiences. But loved ones aren't by any means required to love what we love. We can only hope for understanding, and be miserable if we don't get it! Writing can be a very lonely profession, even for an amateur.

The problem other than the trope high-school couple was that the ending was very predictable. You know she's going to be outed before she tells her studly boyfriend her big secret and that he's going to react very negatively, but in the end everything is going to be hunky dory, and she's even going to be reconciled with her family that she's spent the entire novel all-but despising until that last few pages. That was too sickly for me, but despite that, the overall the novel was worth reading. Besides I'm tired of wishing for novels that don't necessarily wrap-up neatly in the end like a pathetic TV sitcom tying off all the loose ends in a half-hour or forty minutes. I got so tired of waiting for such novels to come that I started writing them myself!

I read somewhere that this author is John Greene's new favorite. I wonder what happened to the previous one? How are they faring? Whenever I read one author recommend another like that I wonder how much they were paid to review the book. She's fortunate that I read that commendation after I read her novel, because if I'd read it beforehand I would never have picked this book up! I can't say she's my favorite author, but then I'm not paid for my reviews! I can say I would read something else by her - except maybe not if it was as long as this was.

Nightmare City by Jack Conner

Rating: WARTY!

"You're 'friend'?" should be "Your 'friend'"
"Kat ducked under it, hurt a splash, and smelled something foul." Heard a splash?

This book had a few typos which is not big deal for me. The ones I noticed are listed above. The story started out great. Set in an alien world (or maybe Earth of the future, but gone real bad!), Kat is a petty thief operating on the edges of major crime boss territories.

One blurb has it that "In the dystopian, steampunkish city of Lavorga, the young and beautiful thief Katya has stumbled upon a plot that may spell the end of the world . . . and only she can stop it." Why beautiful has to be spelled out I do not know. I don't recall reading that when I found this book on offer. If I had, I would have rejected it out of hand. What makes her special if her only qualities are young a beautiful? That's pathetic. When she grows old is she going to be worthless? That is what Hollywood seems to think, so maybe this author - or the blurb writer - has bought that kettle of rotting fish. The young are often beautiful; youth is often the mistaken for beauty. They're two sides of the same coin and tell us nothing.

The thing is I started out liking it, but once the big crime boss she goes on a spying mission for welcomes her back and is uninvitedly manhandling her, and she offers no objection to it, I lost all interest in it and ditched it right there.

The story hadn't been making a lot of sense, but it was engaging, as was the character (but not for her youth and 'beauty'). The problem was that life ran a little too smoothly for her, and I could see exactly where this was going as, returning from her mission, the waifish girl was subsumed by the big muscular man. I had no desire to go there with it. Grab a barf bag if you plan on reading further than I did. You'll need it. I can't commend this based on the sizeable portion I read.

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

Rating: WARTY!

I wasn't thrilled with this audiobook, which had sounded like it might be a fun story. This young girl, Vanessa, is thrilled to discover that a black woman has, for the first time, won the Miss America contest. Since she shares a name with the winner, Vanessa Williams, she decides anything is possible and ends up entering a beauty pageant herself.

My hope was that this book, set in the early eighties, would quickly start teaching the very lessons it claims it will teach - about beauty being only skin deep and what's below that is far more important, but it took way too long to get there for my taste, and it was rather tedious and unsatisfactory on the journey. I DNF'd it, and I cannot commend it based on what I heard of the story.

History Dudes Ancient Egypt by Laura Buller, Rich Cando

Rating: WORTHY!

I liked this book. It was fun, full of detail, not remotely boring, and amusingly-illustrated by Cando (which I confess sounds suspiciously like a made-up name!). From my own researches into ancient Egypt for various projects I've been involved with such as Tears in Time and Cleoprankster, I could tell it was accurate, too.

It tells a young reader everything they might want to know about ancient Egypt and author Buller pulls no punches, beware. It discusses pulling out brains during mummification, and stuffing body organs into canopic jars. But it explains everything about everyday life as well as everyday death along with food, religion, habits, games, and so on. It talks about clothing, wigs, and shoes, about building pyramids, and everything else a young kid might want to know about an ancient and fascinating civilization. It's the perfect introduction to ancient Egypt for young children and I commend it wholeheartedly.

A Girl Walks Into a Book by Miranda K Pennington

Rating: WORTHY!

This was really more of a memoir about the author's life and her bad relationships than it was about the Brontë books, but there was nonetheless enough in it pertaining to the books, and it was interesting and amusing enough in parts that I decided I would rate it favorably. I picked it up to read the blurb initially because I found the title amusing.

This author is clearly in love with the Brontës, something I confess I am not. I tried Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and did not like it at all. I tried Shirley by Charlotte Brontë and found it boring in the extreme, so I DNF'd it in short order. Agnes Grey destroyed my little grey cells. The only place I erred from that poor history was Jane Eyre, which I liked.

Given this dismal track record I was curious as to what new light this author might shed, and there wasn't a lot except in where it applied to her own love life - or lack of one, or failure in one. It became a bit annoying in parts, because it seemed like every Brontë she read pertained to whatever was happening in her life at that moment and I wonder if her attachment to the book might have been less were she to have had a more accommodating social life.

The most infuriating part - and the part where I wondered if I might have to ditch this book - was where she became involved with a colleague at work in a wretched co-dependent relationship and this went on, and dragged on and on forever. It bothered me that she stayed in this relationship with this guy who was half-assed about it for the longest time and just when I thought she was going to ditch him permanently she reported getting back with him and then peremptorily marrying him! Now I'm wondering how long that marriage will last. But it's her life; I'm not going to judge this book on the poor choices she might have made living it! Especially not since the book made a point of comparing her poor choices in other relationships with the relationships the various Brontë books detailed.

It was because of reading this that I decided to try Shirley and Agnes Grey. I do not thank her for that! She ends the book with a report about traveling to London and then to Haworth in Yorkshire which is where the Brontës lived. It's a bit of a honeymoon for her and her husband. Of course the first morning they're in Haworth, he gets sick and she has to hike a mile in the Yorkshire fog down to the nearest pharmacy. Which is called a chemist in Britain.

It turns out he had this thing called quinsy which I'd never heard of before, despite having grown up in Britain. I realized what it was when I discovered the scientific name for it is peritonsillar abscess. From what I've read of it, that's hardly so debilitating that he couldn't have got out of bed and gone to the pharmacy himself, so to me this spoke poorly of this ongoing relationship between these two, but then I've never had it, so maybe it's worse in person than a text can convey. I dunno.

After reading so much about this relationship this felt to me like just one more burden it had put on her. But surgeons took my tonsils when I was little so I don't have any issues with those. They still haven't paid me for them. Maybe if they had, I'd feel differently!

Like I said, this book can be annoying in parts, but it is educational and entertaining, and even insightful in others, so overall, I commend this as a worthy read.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Rating: WARTY!

I'm saddened to report that this novel, published in 1939, and which has had at least four titles, "Ten Little Indians" not being even the most offensive of them, has sold over 100 million copies. The ten victims were comprised of eight visitors to this remote island, along Ethel and Thomas Rogers, who are the housekeeper and butler respectively. Slowly these people start being killed off, and apparently no one is safe.

The residents and visitors alike are all evidently morons, and all guilty of some misbehavior or one kind or another in their past. Apparently someone has found out about their sins and retribution is on its way. Anthony Marston dies first from cyanide poisoning, Mrs Rogers is found dead in her bed the next morning, and general MacArthur (no, not that one, this other one) dies from being bludgeoned. Mr Rogers is found dead shortly afterward not having a beautiful day in his neighborhood. Later, Emily Brent is found dead in the kitchen, again from cyanide poising. All that these people had to do was to lock themselves in a room and stay there eating nothing, until the boat came from the mainland, but apparently that never occurred to them.

And how convenient that the bad weather prevented the daily boat from coming over to the island and rescuing them that next morning! This book was too much and once the stupidity became not only evident, but also positively rampant, I DNF'd it. I can't commend it at all - and I'm now done with Agatha Christie.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Rating: WARTY!

Boring! That was my conclusion on my very first attempt to meet Miss Marple, another in Agatha Christie's stable of amateur detectives.

This audiobook began with a long, tedious, semeingly endless history of everyone who was remotely connected to anything. At first I thought I was listening a Stephen King novel, but no, there's Miss Marple being summoned. Naturally when you find the body of a complete stranger on your library, the first thing is to dismiss the word of the maid who has been terrorized by finding it. Obviously she's la-la. The next thing to do when it's actually confirmed is to say, 'the hell with the police, I'm calling in an amateur sleuth'. Well, I don't do 'sleuths', amateur or otherwise. If a book has the word 'sleuth' anywhere in the blurb, I don't even consider reading any further.

This one didn't have 'sleuth' anywhere to be seen, and that wasn't the reason I DNF'd it. The reason was that it took forever to get going and I lost patience with it. Miss Marple may or may not be doddering, I never got far enough to find out. My problem was that the entire book was doddering long before she ever came on the scene, so no. Just no.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Rating: WARTY!

This was an offshoot of my reading of the biographies of Agatha Christie recently. There were about four of her books I had never read which were mentioned and caught my interest for one reason or another. I may as well have not bothered!

This is a Hercule Poirot story full of suicide, surprise engagements, dramatic activity, secret engagements, unknown offspring, and finally the murder of Ackroyd. Evidently there’s trouble at t’ mill, lads! Of course Poirot solves it because when has he ever failed? There was far too much going on in this story, but I did not make it very far because the opening portion of it was so dreadfully boring dahlings! I gave up in it. It had intrigued me earlier when I was reading the biographies, but not so much that I’m willing to be bored to death! Not when there are other books out there which I know will grab my interest from the start. I can’t commend it based on the dire portion I heard.

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

Rating: WARTY!

In this novel there's trouble at t' mill. Robert, the mill owner is forced to lay-off some employees, and there are threats against him. Meanwhile, little orphan Caroline comes to live with her uncle the Reverend Helstone - if you can believe that. Sounds like a cuss word. She falls for Robert greatly and gets sick when she thinks he's for someone else. She also becomes great friends with a fellow orphan, now wealthy girl about town, Shirley. Note that this was in an era when Shirley was a man's name. I know what you're thinking: Surely, you're Joe King? I jest ye not.

Anyway, Shirley tries to help the laid-off mill workers both out of charity and out of fear for Robert's life. Caroline thus imagines Shirley and Robert ending-up together in a tryst and it's too much for her poor fluttering heart to bear. Thus are the comings and goings which ramble on forever, but of course Caroline weds Robert in the end.

It's really a redux of Jane Eyre, with a few details changed, and nowhere near as entertaining. Robert ain't Rochester. He's more like Gravesend, which is northeast of Rochester, but still in the same county of Kent. I grew utterly bored with Bob the Blunderer in the first twenty percent and ditched it. Caroline is no Jane. I can't commend it based on the tedious portion I mistakenly subjected myself to.

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Rating: WARTY!

This audiobook made little sense from the title onward, but I did start to get into it initially. Unfortunately, it failed to hold my interest with too much rambling, and seemingly endless interviews covering the same ground. It was very flat and static, and it became boring for me. Maurice Disher, who was a reviewer in The Times Literary Supplement back in 1943, claimed, according to Wikipedia: "No crime enthusiast will object that the story of how the painter died has to be told many times, for this, even if it creates an interest which is more problem than plot, demonstrates the author's uncanny skill. The answer to the riddle is brilliant." I beg to differ. The suspect was - in retrospect, I have to admit since I'm usually hopeless at guessing who it is - pretty obvious, and it was clearly not the wife despite the endless damning evidence stacking up against her. I favored a different suspect which I thought would have made for a better story, but that might have been obvious too had she gone that route.

One problem was that I started in on this around the same time as I also started in on another Christie by the name of And Then There Were None which is not the original title, but it is a more acceptable title than the original ever was. The problem with hearing these two volumes so closely together was that in many ways they felt very much alike, the biggest difference being that this story focused only on five people whereas the other focused on ten!

The story begins with the daughter of a woman who was, some thirteen years before, convicted of murdering her husband and who herself died within a year of being imprisoned. Now her daughter is seeking to marry a guy and for some reason the jerk seems to be insisting that that conviction all those years ago is an impediment to marriage. My feeling this that this woman should ditch the guy, but instead she comes to Hercule Poirot, convinced of her mother's innocence, and asking that he investigate, so off he goes.

After a very brief analysis, he concludes conveniently that there are only five suspects (other than this woman's mother), and he goes off to interview them, hence the five little pigs. Every single one of them is gracious and loquacious. The problem was that of how would Hercule Poirot know this rhyme? It's been around since the mid-18th century, but why on Earth would Hercule Poirot know it? He didn't grow up in the UK, being Belgian and was therefore never exposed to British nursery rhymes. He moved to Britain only during World War One, when he was (as initially conceived) an elderly man, having retired 1905. Of course after his immense success, Christie rather had to retcon him some youth as it were, but still he was very mature.

None of this automatically precludes him from ever having heard the nursery rhyme, but the fact is that he never married, Never had any interest in women, and certainly never had children nor was interested in them, Quite the opposite in fact, so whence would he ever have heard the nursery rhyme? I think this is a problem of writing which Christie never thought through. Clearly, having long been a mother herself by then, she was aware of it, but she never considered the unlikelihood that Poirot would have been. She could have resolved this by having someone mention the rhyme to him in passing or have him accidentally hear it, thereby putting it in his head and having him adopt it as a framework for his enquiries, but this literary great never thought of that, I suspect because she evidently considered her character to be as English as she was despite the thin veneer of his foreign origin.

Yet this nursery rhyme forms the foundation of his battle plan and he refers to it quite often as he moves from one suspect to another. That may be a minor issue, but what wasn't was the endless repetitive retelling of the murder, which unlike Mr Disher, I found to be tedious. I found my mind wandering from the story often because it was the same story over and over, and I tired of it. I cannot commend this as a worthy read.

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Rating: WARTY!

I guess I'm not an Asimov fan and this is the last of his I will review. I've tried his work before and never got along with it. This one sounded interesting, if a little dumb, premise-wise: "In the twenty-second century Earth obtains limitless, free energy from a source science little understands: an exchange between Earth and a parallel universe, using a process devised by the aliens. But even free energy has a price. The transference process itself will eventually lead to the destruction of the Earth's Sun-and of Earth itself."

The thing is that we already get free energy from the sun without any destruction of anything - if we were only smart enough to understand that and avail ourselves of it. Asimov offers no rationale for a need to try alternate energy sources. That wasn't the biggest problem here though, and I was willing to overlook his gross error for a good story, but that's not what he offered. The story starts with chapter six for no reason I could discern. At first I thought I'd missed something but no - he even has a footnote on that same page explaining that it will make sense, but it didn't!

Instead of counting down from there or whatever, he starts counting up from chapter one and then reverting back to 'chapter 6 continued' periodically. Even that I could have coped with, but the story was nonsensical and utterly boring and I gave up on it in short order. Maybe there's a good story in there somewhere, but I lost patience with it and couldn't be bothered trying to search for one when other books were calling and willing to share their story without requiring a contortionist reading position. I can't commend this one and I'm done with Asimov.

Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly, Molly Park

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Ly and illustrated by Park, this book was a regular-sized comic book, but with hard covers and it was quite a fat tome to boot. I really enjoyed it. Both the writing and the artwork were excellent. Suee is a strange, but engaging and rather fearless child, unless you count her fear of making friends. Because she's at a new school and so reticent about socializing, she begins rationalizing her behavior by telling herself that she doesn't need friends and anyway these people (pretty much all other humans) are not right for her.

That's not really her problem though. She's a very independent young woman and doesn't pine for the company of others. No, her problem latches onto her right after she visits this one rather scrappy and dark room in the school, and she hears someone calling in there and ventures inside. From that point on, it seems, she finds herself the host of a rather different shadow from the one she normally sports in bright light. This shadow has a will and agency of its own and seems to appear most-readily when she's annoyed.

After some negotiation, the two seem to get along, but there's something not right, not only with the weird shadow, but with other kids in the school - particularly the ones who are bullied. After a while they seem to turn into rather zombie-like people. Not the brain-eating variety, but the shambling, lifeless variety. And like Damien Mocata in Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out, they have no shadow.

At first, Suee pretends she has no interest in these events, but as her own shadow bothers her more and more, she finally snaps and determines that she will figure out what's going on here and fix it! Unless her shadow companion takes her over first, just like other children seem to become taken. By this time she has two recruits who will help her and the three of them eventually do overcome these problems and in doing so learn something about bullying and friendship. I loved this story - particularly the shadow - both the drawing of it and the repartee - and I fully commend this graphic novel as a worthy read.

Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling

Rating: WARTY!

I've enjoyed more than one book by Kipling, but not this one I'm sorry to report. The first problem is with the title, because the book barely features Puck. It uses him instead as an introduction to history, and each chapter gives a concocted history lesson about a period in British history. The first two or three chapters cover the aftermath of the Norman invasion when William the Conqueror beat King Harald at Hastings, and the Normans took over Britain. Yes, everyone was called Norman. No, I'm kidding, of course.

The story covers one fictional character named Sir Richard, who takes over a manor as his spoils and fortunately happens to be a moderate and just lord. But that's all the story is. There isn't anything special about it, and while it may well have entertained children - or more accurately, the boys at which it's aimed - in Kipling's time, it really doesn't have anything to say to modern children because it's not even a good history lesson. I suspect the book tells us more about the history of Kipling's boyhood passions than ever it would about British history in general.

The next section goes even further and is about gorilla warfare - literally. It takes us back into Viking times and relates something about the endless Viking incursions into British coastal villages, raping and pillaging as they were wont to do. They somehow get blown off course and end up skirting the coast of Africa and encountering gorillas, who they view as hairy people.

Kipling appallingly and shamefully misrepresents gorillas. This was no more or less than people thought at a time when gorillas were kept in brutally disgraceful conditions in Edwardian zoos, but I expected something better and different from him. It wasn't forthcoming. The story dragged on and was boring, and it was at this point that I gave up on this book. I can't commend it as a worthy read.

America Fast and Fuertona by Gabby Rivera and assorted artists

Rating: WARTY!

Presumably because the writer is Latinx, there's the occasional Spanish phrase or word in here which isn't translated, and that's the way it should be, because the contest gives it all you need. Fuertona though, means forceful or strong, in case you wondered. I got this because I thought it was about a female Captain America and in a sense it is, because I understand from some back-reading that America Chavez - in that endless asinine merry-go-round of every Marvel hero subbing for every other Marvel hero, She does don his mantle at some point, but that didn't happen here.

Given the strong Latin influence, I don't get why she's American. Why not simply make her Mexican or have her hail from some South American country? It made no sense to me, but that's the way comic books all-too-often are. She has to be an American hero because god forbid we should ever have a hero come from some other country! And if we did, the insular American media consumers would have about the same interest in this as they did in the MIB International movie!

So anyway, she's attending a school for super heroes, which again made no sense, especially since she was always sneaking off to do her heroics without so much as a by-your-achieve. To be fair, in this case, she does have some cause since the new head of the school is a villain - they went out of their way to make that painfully obvious. I'm surprised they didn't name her Adolfa.

What bothered me wasn't so much the story which was pretty much par-for-the-course for a comic book, but that the artists, several of whom were female, went out of their way to portray America and the chief spandexed villain ("Exterminatrix" seriously?) in as tightly-clad, bare-skinned, and pneumatic a manner as inhumanly possible. That's a fail for me. So was this comic book which gets a wart-rating of five per square inch. What's the point in introducing a diversity of super heroes if all you're going to do with them is make them exact clones of all the previous heroes??? Look for my up-coming OC rating for graphic novels starring female characters!

Every Tool's a Hammer by Adam Savage

Rating: WARTY!

I like Adam Savage on TV. He's interesting, and funny and entertaining, but in this memoir, I wasn't impressed with him at all. I was hoping he'd talk about the projects he'd worked on and the engineering and technical challenges, and he did mention those things in passing, but he was more about rambling and waffling over the philosophy of what he did, working intelligently, and planning, and making list, and he seems to contradict himself from time to time.

The problem is that he's talking about this stuff as though it's some divine revelation. Really, it's stuff most people who have even half a functional brain already know, so I didn't get the point of it. I guess if you're an idiot who wants to follow the same trail he blazed, which really began when he was working for one of George Lucas's companies making models for movies, then this is the book for you. It wasn't the book for me. I can't commend it and skipped most of it. There were some interesting bits, but nowhere near enough for me.

Chaos in Death by Nora Roberts aka JD Robb

Rating: WARTY!

I should have guessed from the absurd title that this audiobook wasn't for me, but I started listening to it anyway, so I have only myself to blame. Also it's by Nora Roberts. The JD Robb author name is a lie. I don't honestly know why authors lie about their authorship, but that's the way it is unfortunately. If I'd known this was part of a fifty book series all titles ending with " death" I would never have picked it up, but not only is the author lying, the publisher is too! There was nothing whatsoever on the cover of this book to indicate it was a part of a series. This one, absurdly, was volume 33.5!

The story is a bit bizarre. The reader, Susan Ericksen, is way too melodramatic, but I can't hold her completely at fault for that because the material is so poorly-written. The story starts with this guy - I assume it's a guy - who is putting the finishing touches to a triple murder he's committed and he's talking so ridiculously that I expect him to don a top hat and a cape when he was finished, and twirl his mustaches fiendishly.

Even when the cops show up the dialog is inane, and there's the trope of the one cop about ready to barf at the crime scene. I know that some people actually are very sensitive, but it's such a trope, especially in this day and age where blood and gore are in every other movie and cops are very often used to violence. We are largely inured to it now, and while I concede that movie gore and violence isn't like experiencing the real thing, this farcical trope of the barfing cop is long past its sell-by date, and it's just irritating to me. I quit it right there.

So this story and me? No way in hell!

Haiku World by Vanessa, Kuo Kenih

Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I wasn't impressed by this book at all. I don't know who wrote it. Net Galley lists the author as "Vanessa" whereas clearly on the book cover, where the author's name is to be expected, there was 'Kuo Kenih'. I have no idea what that means. Worse than this, there was nothing to it. Naturally with poetry, the tendency is to go into it expecting less, but hoping for more. This was less and less.

There was no actual copyright notice, just this phrase: Posting of any material from this book with appropriate credit is forbidden. I guess that means a long as it's posted without credit, you're fine? That's why I did not credit the quote I just listed in this paragraph. I don't know if this was translated from Japanese. Perhaps it was, but there is no translator credit, unless it was written by Kuo Kenih and translated by Vanessa. or vice-versa.

I wondered about the translation because the triplets here aren't even haiku in the traditional sense. They're based on syllables whereas haiku are not, which tends to negate the translation hypothesis. Haiku are based on sounds, which people equate to syllables in other languages, but that's not strictly accurate. Haiku are also supposed to be about nature, which some of these actually are. Traditions change though, and modern haiku have strayed from the original style. This is to be expected, but if there is one thing from which it ought not to stray, it's elegance and meaning.

For me that's where the problem lay in this book, and in very nearly every haiku I read. I gave up about fifty percent in. They felt flat and meaningless. There was nothing deep about them and very little of elegance. There was nothing offered up; nothing sacrificed. There was no 'cut' between the overture and the finale, to perk up the mind. I was almost universally disappointed, and I can't quote to you the one which I did like, because it's forbidden now that I've attributed this work to its author. Or its other author. Sorry! I cannot commend this as a worthy read.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Rating: WARTY!

This novella is a fail on two counts, the main one being that whoever published it hates trees and the author apparently sees nothing wrong with this! In order to make a slim-to-nothing volume look worth the price, the publishers have made this disingenuous book have huge margins all around and widely-spaced lines such that the actual text doesn't even cover fifty percent of the page! I seriously doubt this is made even partially form recycled peper,, hence the publishers hate trees.

Naturally you don't want a page to be completely covered with text, but to allow this much white space is killing trees for vanity. Trees are one of the precious few entities on planet Earth which are actually combatting climate change. Not talking about it, but doing it! And these publishers want to slaughter trees for this book and not even respect that sacrifice by actually using the page? Screw them and screw author who allow this, and yes, screw people who buy these books.

And mermaids underwater having normal conversation in American English? Have you ever tried talking underwater? This author hasn't so let me save her the trouble: It. Doesn't. Work. Maybe they were communicating telepathically, but the author never says that. But it gets worse! This is an African slave who went overboard. She spoke no English, American or otherwise. I don't expect it to be written in some West African dialect, but neither did I expect it to be modern American English! The slaves didn't go overboard yesterday so even if they spoke English, it wouldn't be modern! I expected something to convey how alien these mermaids are even though they're purportedly descended from us. This book is ill-conceived and environmentally braindead. Warts all over. I'm done with this author. I tell you the more acclaim an author has, the more awards and honors, the less worth reading they are. Truly.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Vegan Vamp by Cate Lawley

Rating: WORTHY!

This was another freebie from a book flyer I get via email. I downloaded it some time ago, and I forgot about it until I saw it offered again in that same flyer, so I dug it out of my collection and read it. It's nice not to be beholden to Net Galley for a change, so I can pick and choose whatever I feel like reading at the time, and take my time with it rather than feel compelled by deadlines and archive dates!

The story is very short, and clearly it's aimed to be a loss-leader to lure potential addicts into a series. I'm not a series fan, nor am I a first person voice fan, nor am I a vampire story fan, so this one had three strikes against it to begin with, but it was so different, or at least it promised to be, and I am a big fan of not taking the road most traveled. I was pleased that the blurb did not lie and that this novel actually worked its way under my skin. I ended up enjoying it.

That said, series? I'm not sure I want to get back into this in another story even though I enjoyed the first one, because that way lies madness. It takes a person into that insanity territory where you're doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This applies to you whether you are writing a series or reading one. So maybe I'll be back, but while that decision remains to be made, let's look at this one volume.

Mallory is not liked by her fellow office colleagues, except when she buys drinks. On this night, after doing that very thing and resenting it, she leaves the bar early and wakes up several days later with no memory of what happened in between. Plus she's lost many pounds in weight. Eventually she gets to a doctor who realizes that she's been bitten by a vampire. Mallory is referred to an underground vampire society that the doctor feels can help her. The problem is that she's not your usual vampire. The thought of blood, let alone drinking it, turns her stomach, as does much of the usual food she had liked to eat. She finds through trial and error that a vegan diet works for her.

That immediate issue settled, she takes up a commission from the vamp society to track down her attacker, who will be giving the underworld a bad name if he (or she) continues unchecked in this apparently random assaulting behavior. So the story goes and it was entertaining, amusing, and quite interesting although the mystery was a bit of a mess-tery. That aside though, I enjoyed the story and the voice, and the fact that the novel is set in Austin even though the author isn't. I will definitely consider reading another volume of this.