Saturday, September 19, 2020

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Rating: WARTY!

First published in a single novel in 1848, I listened to this - yet another of my forlorn attempts at the classics - as an apparently abridged audiobook, although I have to say Chirp did not give any indication that it was so shortened. But it was just as well it was otherwise I would have DNF'd it anyway. Curiously this book seemed quite reminiscent of another so-called classic I listened to recently by the title of The Age of Innocence, although the gender roles are reversed in this, as compered with that one.

The story is of a social climbing young girl, recently graduated from an academy, who goes by the name of Rebecca. She's not a nice person. Why Amelia - a fellow graduate - is friends with her is a mystery. Rebecca aims to find a permanent place in a rich family and sets about it at once, finding work with Sir Pitt Crawley, who is quite wealthy.

Unfortunately, Rebecca can't keep it in her pants and rather than wait for Sir Pitt's wife to expire so she can have the master of the house all to herself, she secretly marries his son Rawdon. This proves to be a tragic mistake because Sir Pitt's wife dies prematurely, and Sir Pitt is then peeved that Rebecca isn't available to him. She's screwed in a second way because Sir Pitt's half-sister, who is also wealthy and who was favoring Rawdon for an inheritance, is put out sufficiently by this ill-favored marriage of his, that she disowns him.

As if that isn't bad enough, Rawdon comes home early one evening and discovers Rebecca in the company of the wealthy Marquis of Steyne, who apparently has been giving her money and jewels. What he got in return isn't specified, but after Rawdon assaults him, the latter finds himself sent to Coventry as they say in Britain, but in this case quite literally: he's unexpectedly appointed governor of Coventry Island - a hell hole of a place that no one wants to visit. Rebecca ends up wandering Europe in a downward spiral before she manages to finagle a decent living of sorts, but it's nothing like the one she'd dreamed of.

If I've made my review sound boring, it merely reflects the work that's reviewed, but at least be happy you were not the one who had to listen to it! I can't commend it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Starlight Wishes by ME Montgomery


Rating: WARTY!

Continuing my look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which trust me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

This book starts out with a prologue which I naturally skipped, but the prologue apparently begins with a bunch of 12 year olds chanting the 'starlight star-bright' nonsense about wishes coming true and that pre-adolescent mentality pervades the whole story unfortunately. It's first person, too, which makes it ten times worse. Jen is sneaking out of the room after an apparently drunken encounter after a wedding reception, with your trope ripped, chiseled guy she doesn't feel she deserves because she's only a weak and worthless woman, you know, not fit to kiss his tight glutes and all.

The story then screeches to a halt as we backtrack 12 hours to the reception - like we don't already know what happened there, how she got tipsy and had no ride home so he very generously" offered to ride her...so to speak. Rather than just drop her off and see she gets safely indoors he perpetrates a home invasion, and next he's going through her drawers - and holding up her drawers (or in this case a thong) on his middle finger; wait, no it was his index finger because he was indexing her wardrobe, that was it. I quit reading right there.

Barf.


Coral Hearts by Avery Gale


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

This was a truly pathetic maiden in distress needing a strong guy to rescue her because as you know all women are useless without a studly man. The names in this book are utterly ridiculous. The girl is Coral. This is inevitably part of a series about the five Morgan brothers - because why come up with something original when you can continue draining an old teat? The Morgans are called Brandt, Colt, Kip, Phoenix, and Sage. Why not just go the whole hog and call 'em Sage, Basil, Rue, Tarragon and Dill? And have them come from Oregano?

These boys, we're assured, have vastly different interests - but they're all doms. I guess their interests aren't that different, huh? So Coral is already running from an ex and her car breaks down. Her car is probably named Herb-ie. So naturally, she "literally falls into" this guy's arms and he no doubt offers her some Sage advice....

Seriously the barf factor here is high and so too, probably, are the Morgan bros. I'll pass. Wind.


Monday, September 14, 2020

The Vanishing Statue by "Carolyn Keene"


Rating: WARTY!

Keene is the usual pseudonym for these books which are not doing well in their present incarnation as far as I can tell. Carolyn Keene never actually existed - not as an author of Nancy Drew anyways! Having listened to about half of this one, I can understand why. The books are tedious. Nancy is reduced to a fashionista talking about dresses and makeup and showing almost zero interest in the vanishing statue of the title even by halfway through the novel. I grew bored and gave up on it.


The Fix by Sylvie Stewart


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

This was multi-first person PoV, which is at least three times worse than single fp. It jumped around so much that it did nothing but confuse me as to who was doing what, and when, and to whom. I gave up on it before any romance even began. I didn't miss it. It definitely needs a fix. Or something.


Once Written Twice Shy by Carey Decevito


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

I skipped the prologue on this one. Chapter one begins "Just a short year later..." - that ellipsis doesn't end the sentence, which is therefore missing a period. If it's intended to be a sort of a cliffhanger sentence, then three dots is fine, but there ought to be spaces between the dots. But moving along, I skimmed chapter one which was about two people meeting at an airport after being in touch online for some time. They can't keep their hands off each other.

At first I had assumed that they had leapt into bed asap. I assumed in this case we're meant to understand they're already exchanged information about their sexual histories, so I granted the safe sex part here, but after, there was this weird issue of taking a shower, and there's quite some debate about who goes first and which shower. I'd thought, they want to jump each other's bones but now they won't shower together? It just felt unrealistic given the premises for the story, but when I back-tracked to see if it really happened as I thought, I realized the wording was a bit ambiguous and it looked like all they'd done was kiss, but he phrase "wrapped in each other like a pair of randy teenagers" had been used, so I was confused.

Do randy teenagers not start physically touching each other apart from locking lips? I guess not. Do randy teenagers not jump into the shower together? I guess not, because it got weird when the guy realizes he has no clothes to put on after his shower and she's showering in his room for reasons unknown. He goes in without knocking, and she's topless of course. Inexplicably, she freaks, and covers up her breasts. Even if they didn't just have sex - and I think they didn't, this felt way too coy to be realistic given their animal passion - and in public at the airport as well as in the kitchen at home.

Is it sad that this story was the best of the ones I'd read to this point, and it almost made a positive impression on me? It was far too coy for its own good though, making it sound unrealistic which is bad for a writer who claims she strives for realism. This lack of authenticity didn't work for me. Can't commend it, but at least I'd consider reading something else by this author.


Bleacke's Geek by Lesli Richardson


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

This one is a classic example of how cheap these stories are. It's a wolf shifter story which I avoid like the plague because even when the prime focus is the shifter aspect, it seems to be always about alpha males and sex. Granted that this one is marginally different in that the alpha is the female wolf, but ultimately it's really the same. She's an assassin supposed to be taking down a guy at this bar, yet she's so distracted by a human male she must have that she abandons her prime directive and all-but drags this guy back into the women's restroom to 'claim him' - which is wolf-speak for unsafe sex.

I guess shifters are immune to STIs, huh? But this is rape no matter how much the guy is in denial. He had no choice in what happened, nor does he when he's kidnapped and taken by her as a sex-slave after she finally shoots the guy she's after. That's when I ditched this travesty. As of this writing, the author claims on her website that it's not "forumlaic," and I believe her.


Maybe Mandy by Chris Genovese


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

This was yet another disaster - this time written by a guy. Amanda is out of a relationship and despite having a string of bad ones in a row isn't smart enough to realize the problem isn't the guys - it's her and the poor choices she makes. But that isn't going to stop her making yet one more. She now wants to dive into unsafe sex with her married friends, none of whom seem to have a problem not knowing each other's sexual history. This isn't love. It's not romance. It's not real. It's raunch and that's all it is. There's no relationship to see here. Move long.


Royal Protection by Amy Briggs


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust. No relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

This was the usual exercise in inappropriate so-called 'romance' writing. There's a fictional band called little Queens - supposedly giving new birth to rock and roll which rather dates the author a bit - which is comprised of sisters Miranda and Carmen. Their father - another in a long line of super controlling males in these stories - hires an ex-Army Ranger named Ryan King to go undercover as their 'protection' - posing as a journalist. The idiot girls just let this stranger saunter right on into their lives no questions asked, no vetting, nothing. This is after Miranda, the singer-song-writer of the duo has been receiving threatening letters. They're morons.

The guy's name is Ryan King, of course, because he's going to be ruling over them. Yawn. And Barf. Ryan has to fight 'his overwhelming attraction to" Miranda. Well, of course he does, poor soul! How horrible life must be for him. The book description asks, "Will one wrong move cause everything the Little Queens have worked for to come crashing down?" I dearly hope so because this top-heavy edifice is unsustainable. It sucked from the off.


Missing beats by KL Shandwick


Rating: WARTY!

Time to take a quick look at volume 2 of this trilogy of sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - of the kind I never read for good reason. Fortunately I was able to skip some authors in this one because I'd read their efforts in volume one and was not about to subject myself to more of their work. Each sample has only an opening chapter or two. Most of them seem to be first person and kinky. There is no romance here, only lust: no relationship that's greater than skin-depth.

As in the first volume, I review these based solely on these sample chapters, which believe me are more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own mind! It's all about studly guys and frustrated women, and unsafe-sex. Some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point big time.

I don't read prologues, but I couldn't help but notice as I was about to bypass it and swipe to the first chapter of this novel that the name of one of the main characters was Kane Exeter. That name is so bad that it's a joke right up front there and it almost made me quit reading at that point, four words in, which would be some sort of a record, but I pressed on. The idea is that these two childhood friends: Kane and Jo, go their separate ways, and one of them (I'll give you only one guess as to who it is), becomes a "wealthy playboy rock star." Who talks about rock stars anymore?

That ought to give you all you need to know about the mentality and age-mindset of the author right there. If it doesn't, this from her website bio will do it: "Her characters have flaws and she hopes this helps the connection between them and her readers." Because all her readers are like Kane Exeter: rich, successful, chiseled, tattooed, etc. Either that or they have flaws. What a thing to say about your readers! Maybe they do but it's not up to an author to throw them in your face. Ultimately this is yet another novel where an authority figure (Kane by dint of his wealth and success) preys on a subjugate woman who of course needs rescuing. Barf.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Jusr For You, Sir by Laylah Roberts


Rating: WARTY!

I got this freebie which offers sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - that sort of thing I never read, so I decided to take a look at this limited sample - each book had only an opening chapter or two - and to see if they were truly as bad as I think they are. It turns out - they are! Who knew? I decided to review these based solely on the sample chapters, which believe me is more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own head! It's all about guys and sex all the time and some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point - and by some serious margin, too. Actually it's not even a margin, it's more like a burgeon.

This was yet another dom book but disguised as a purportedly concerned family chasing after a stray young girl they'd adopted. The girl was weak and petite and the boys were all strutting turkey cocks. She had run away from them, but they tracked her down and dragged her back with threats, and she meekly went with them. Frankly this was sick and I condemn, not commend it.


The Playground by Phoebe Alexander


Rating: WARTY!

I got this freebie which offers sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - that sort of thing I never read, so I decided to take a look at this limited sample - each book had only an opening chapter or two - and to see if they were truly as bad as I think they are. It turns out - they are! Who knew? I decided to review these based solely on the sample chapters, which believe me is more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own head! It's all about guys and sex all the time and some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point - and by some serious margin, too. Actually it's not even a margin, it's more like a burgeon.

This one has a swinging schoolteacher. I quit reading when the writer wrote 'forte' with an accent on the 'e'. That's not a word. The word isn't from Italian, where the 'e' is sounded, but from the French where it's not, although both words mean 'strong'. It's pronounced 'fort' not 'fortay'. A writer should know this.

Though the 'e' is sounded in Italian, there's no accent on it. So even if the author was trying to claim it's from the Italian, what she actually wrote is a nonsense word. That and this business with the primary school-teacher swinger was just too much for me. The writing was boiler-plate boring anyway, so I saw no reason to continue. It's not that a teacher's private life - as long as it's kept separate from school (and isn't illegal!) - is anything to do with her professional life, but this felt like the author was just trying to damned hard. I can;t commend this one.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Bound by Earth by Quinn Loftis


Rating: WARTY!

My only other experience of this author was Dream of Me which I did not like at all, and while this one is better than that, it ultimately suffers from the same problems that one did. I at least made it to page 100 of this 286 page ebook. It was moderately entertaining for a while, but it was very slow-moving and there was that same problem of the main male character demanding ownership of the main female one, who becomes pretty much a wilting violet whenever she's in his presence. I guess his super-power is sucking out women's intellect and replacing it with a 'bitch-in-heat' mentality. I'm sorry, but it's pathetic, and it cheapens the female character inexcusably.

The main male wasn't in it until close to page 100 which explains how I made it that far. Had he shown up earlier with his control freak ways and shitty attitude, I would have ditched this novel correspondingly earlier. What is it with YA authors, especially female ones, in their psychotic implication that the more special a woman is, the more abusive and possessive her 'soul partner' must be? There's something seriously wrong with that kind of thinking. Any self-respecting female character would want to kick someone like him in the balls.

The story is of a girl named Tara who is naturally in her last year of high-school, because why not? Since it's a YA special snowflake novel, obviously the unbreakable rule is that both of Tara's parents are dead. She lives with a foster mom who is essentially non-existent, because that's how it is in these books. Nothing new here. What was somewhat new was Tara's best friend, named Shelley, and I adored this character. It seems to be my fate in all-too-many YA novels to despise the main character and adore her BF. That was the case here. Shelley was a breath of fresh air and a badly-needed antidote to the anal and boring Tara.

It's tempting to say I would have loved a novel about Shelley, but perhaps it would have been too much to have that kind of no-filter intensity being front and center for a whole novel. Clearly Shelley is based on Aubrey Plaza. That said, her think-it-speak-it approach to life was far less annoying than was Tara's endless correction, contradiction, and commentary in relation to Shelley's straight forward habits. This is after they'd known each other for three years so you'd think there'd be some accommodation and adaptation, but no. Shelley has to be the best friend ever to put up with Tara, not the other way round, as the author would have it.

This novel buys into the trope that this YA girl has to have a love triangle because that's so original, so there are two guys, who really ought to simply have been named Nice and Nasty. Barf. It also has it that there are only four elements, and Tara is probably a master of all four since she's so perfect. That's just a guess. The 'good guys' of the earth element have been stalking her for years, spying on her without telling her a single word about who she is, without educating her in the least, or helping her along, or warning her that people will be after her. Jerks. Perhaps because Tara is, for reasons unexplained at the point where I quit, physically invulnerable to injury, they're dumb enough to think she can't be seduced to the dark side. I dunno.

They only make an attempt to recruit her at the school's job fair where this stalker dude Jax is dishonestly posing as a member of a geological exploration group, and he tries to get her interested in working for the company. He gives her no hint of who she is. This is also where we meet Elias Creed. Seriously? Elias Creed? I about barfed at that name and almost quit reading right there. The idiotically-named Elias is an assistant to Jax and he immediately becomes possessive and controlling of Tara. Since this is YA, she sees nothing at all wrong with this, gets no bad vibes about him, and has no fears for a potential future with a control freak of a partner. Quite the contrary. I lost all respect for Tara. Not that there was much to lose by this point.

Now about that sad little cover! It's tempting to think it was designed by a guy, but it was actually done by a woman with the tongue-twisting name of Kelsey Kukal-Keeton who from what I've seen seems to have made a career out of photographically rendering young woman as sex toys. I know authors don't really have a say in the cover, but the one on this novel is appallingly inaccurate and outright stupid. The girl - correction, woman - in it looks to be twice the main character's age, and she's dressed completely unlike how Tara dresses even when Tara dresses up! Appropriately though, this is a cover worthy of a brain-dead romance novel. Unless we're supposed to understand from the cover that this novel actually is merely a sad little romance story merely masquerading as fantasy? The cover was pathetic and both the author and photographer should be ashamed of it.

But page 100 is where I quit because the stupid was getting far too ripe for my sensitivities. I cannot commend an unoriginal and downright abusive novel like this that would have it that women are chattel for controlling guys and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm done with this author.


Indiscretion by DD Lorenzo


Rating: WARTY!

I got this freebie which offers sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - that sort of thing I never read, so I decided to take a look at this limited sample - each book had only an opening chapter or two - and to see if they were truly as bad as I think they are. It turns out - they are! Who knew? I decided to review these based solely on the sample chapters, which believe me is more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own head! It's all about guys and sex all the time and some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point - and by some serious margin, too. Actually it's not even a margin, it's more like a burgeon.

The first female mentioned is Corilla Delford! Seriously? That name sounds far too much like Gorilla. The story starts out with the main male character apparently having been punched in the face during the inevitable trope bullying (predictably jock versus intellectual) that's an irremovable fixture of YA stories that are set in high-schools. Immediately following the punch is a tedious first person introductory info-dump which made me yawn. Seriously, does this author think they can draw a reader immediately into the story with a punch and then keep them reading with a yawn-inducing info-dump? It looks like somebody went to creative-writing school. Or maybe not!

Info-dumps are second only to flashbacks when it comes to ways to turn me off reading your work. Too many authors don't seem to get that you can deftly interleave history with present action so it's not an info-dump. I guess this author didn't get the memo. That was enough to turn me off this story, but even so I gamely pressed-on, only to discover this was yet another dual first person voice story and I stopped right there. Barf. Seriously? Get a clue, get an imagination, try something original.


Off Duty by Lucas X Black and Ellie Masters


Rating: WARTY!

I got this freebie which offers sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - that sort of thing I never read, so I decided to take a look at this limited sample - each book had only an opening chapter or two - and to see if they were truly as bad as I think they are. It turns out - they are! Who knew? I decided to review these based solely on the sample chapters, which believe me is more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own head! It's all about guys and sex all the time and some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point - and by some serious margin, too. Actually it's not even a margin, it's more like a burgeon.

I'm sure they thought it would be cute, each writing their own alternating chapters in a dual first person voice story. The female is named Laura Peters and a peter is all she can think of. The leading male can't stand her and she sure as hell hates him, we're told. Yet they somehow overcome this hatred in their need to over...come. Laura is a trauma doctor and she's just had a very young child die after a fall which caused internal bleeding in the head. The kid is basically written-off and consigned to organ donation without even any attempt to save him.

Naturally an ER doctor never gets laid because they're always working in the ER with no time off! No, she's not an intern doing a rotation, she's a regular doctor, and still she has no free time. Even after a child dies right in front of her, or rather is given up on, the first thing the Peters thinks about is sex with the medic who brought the kid in - the one she hates but wants inexplicably wants to jump his bones. She doesn't think if there's anything she could have done differently, or what else might be done or might have been done to save the child. And this is despite chewing out one of her underlings earlier, specifically for not thinking everything through! She's a do as I say not as I do sort of a hypocrite.

As soon as chapter 2 came up and it was obvious it was going to be alternating dual first person, I wanted to quit, but I read a couple of paras just to see how this perspective went. It was no better. The transition from one paragraph where he's thinking about her to a second paragraph begins like this: "My thoughts returned again to Doctor Laura Peters." The thing is that they had never been anywhere else! This dude has an unhealthy and potentially dangerous obsession with her. Maybe they really are meant for each other. But not for me. This is trash and I quit right there.

Dual first person is twice as bad as single first person which is worst person, and this story was just stupid, unoriginal and unrealistic. There are no shades of gray here - not that that novel would have been any better. I can't commend garbage like this. I'm definitely done with Ellie Masters.


Changing Roles by Ellie Masters


Rating: WARTY!

I got this freebie which offers sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - that sort of thing I never read, so I decided to take a look at this limited sample - each book had only an opening chapter or two - and to see if they were truly as bad as I think they are. It turns out - they are! Who knew? I decided to review these based solely on the sample chapters, which believe me is more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own head! It's all about guys and sex all the time and some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point - and by some serious margin, too. Actually it's not even a margin, it's more like a burgeon.

Kate Summers is a privates investigator with a tragic past (which PI doesn't have one?!). She's also a dom who is - surprise! - forced to go undercover as a submissive - and she likes it. Ri-ight. Not only is her story suspect, her dom is her suspect. In other works the whole thing is messed up.

Another problem here is this author's antiquity - and I'm not talking about her chronological age, which is irrelevant, I'm talking about her antique view of life. She starts out her story in the inevitable first person because god forbid there should ever be a private dick story in third person. The world would end! So she's rambling on about hunting men during the day - like women never commit crimes. She insists that she delivers "men to justice one criminal at a time". Sexist pap.

As if that's not bad enough she gets a couple coming into her office with a crime to solve, and these are the same people who got her fired from the police force. So they're villains, get it? How do we know they're villains? Well, they're overweight! Yep! Jewels encircled "her fat neck" and "His fat jowls shifted to and fro". Fat=villainy. That's when I quit reading this trash. I didn't even need a whole sample chapter. WARTY. Case closed.


Double Down & Dirty by Samantha A Cole


Rating: WARTY!

I got this freebie which offers sample chapters of a bunch of "romance" novels - that sort of thing I never read, so I decided to take a look at this limited sample - each book had only an opening chapter or two - and to see if they were truly as bad as I think they are. It turns out - they are! Who knew? I decided to review these based solely on the sample chapters, which believe me is more than enough to judge this trash. None of these books would remotely pass the Bechdel-Wallace test because they can't even pass it within one female character's own head! It's all about guys and sex all the time and some might argue that this is okay because that's the whole purpose of the book, but I'd argue that people who say that sort of thing are missing the point - and by some serious margin, too. Actually it's not even a margin, it's more like a burgeon.

This novel is about this mousey secretary (yes, 'secretary' is how she's described) who works for fraternal twins (frat boys works too) named Grayson and Remington Mann, who are the joint CEOs of Black Diamond Records. They are renowned for dating the same woman at the same time in a ménage à twat - and it's always high-flying artist types, never the 'lowly secretary'. Nonetheless, apparently they've "been craving the woman they see every day at the office, but their strict policy of not dating employees puts a huge crimp in things." I guess they're not so dominant after all, huh?! LOL! But of course they over..come this and the description goes on to assure us that they "set out to show her how they can both love her and she can love them in return."

The thing is that there's no love here, only pure carnal lust, which is fine if that's what they're all into, but let's not pretend there's any romance here or that the woman has any integrity or agency. She's a sex toy and that's it. Worse, they're authority figures taking advantage of a woman in an inferior position with regard to who has the power here. I refuse to even remotely commend trash like this. WARTY!


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Sky Noise by Ernie Lindsey


Rating: WARTY!

I made it almost 40% through this before giving up. The stupid is great with this one. There was no time travel at all in the portion I read so I didn't get the fixation with it on the book cover. There was increasing talk about it when I quit, but nothing happening at all.

It seems to me if you're going to emblazon your book cover with something, then you really need to deliver on it somewhere quite early on in the novel even if only a tease. If it's all tease and no delivery, then you're just blue-balling your reader. So, if there's one type of story above all others I hate, and it's not the one that has an endless lead-in with little or no payoff, then it's the one where there's a stupid female main character. It's worse if she's given to piercing bouts of screaming, so I was glad at least, that this was not a problem here.

Usually the stupid women are found in YA novels, but not exclusively so. A disturbing number of those are written by women too, but in this story, the main protagonist is a writer who is in her late thirties - hardly YA. Her ridiculous name is Helen Weils. The equally ridiculous name of her co-protagonist is Chip Sledd. The book should have been titled "Kitchen Sink" because the author tries to jam every ridiculous conspiracy theory into his purported time-travel nonsense, whether it fits or not, and let's face it, which conspiracy theory isn't ridiculous in the extreme?

The problem was that it was boring, hence my DNF-ing it. You could make a story like this one work - the conspiracy guy and the skeptical woman (it's X-Files rip-off after all) - but you'd have to do a lot better job than this author did. It would help immensely if you didn't make both of these characters dumb and unappealing.

The problem is that they are profoundly stupid and have no saving graces. Sledd claims he's been avoiding the Men in Black (yes, they're in it, too) for years, yet for the first forty percent of the book I listened to, these two are quite literally constantly on the run from those guys, unable to avoid them because Sledd led them right to his meeting with Weils! It's moronic, and tedious rather than smart and gripping.

Weils is a writer of fiction, which is what attracted Sledd to her, because she'd been researching a book on the Roanoke colonists who disappeared. Yes, they're in it too. Could the author not find a new original mystery to go with? He has to drag out every trope and cliché he can find? For someone who is supposed to be an author who researches and writes great stories, Weils is appallingly slow to grasp what she's being told and worse, she's completely passive - at least in that numbing forty percent I experienced. She's acted on, She is not an actor. It's annoying.

The sad frosting on the sunken cake of this novel is that the plot behaves like there's no Internet and no media, such that these guys could go and blab the whole story and end the problem! Of course that would end the novel, but for an author to fail to even address that as an option purely for the purpose of somehow ruling it out is just poor writing.

He seems to think that just because his characters can't go to the police (the Men in Black would simply extract them on some farcical pretense, presumably) then there are literally no options available to them other than to keep running. So Sledd is responsible for dragging Weils into all this, yet not once is she pissed-off with him for upending her life. It's completely inauthentic. And he doesn't even really apologize for what he's done to her, but the problem here is that he somehow thinks she can help him expose the conspiracy! Why her? Why not the Internet or a well-known investigative reporter in the media? It makes no sense.

The other question is what, precisely, do the Men in Black want with Weils and Sledd? What, exactly, would they do with them if they caught them? If the men in Black have the smarts and technology they're purported to have, they would know that she knows nothing, so why are they remotely interested in her? Why push her into Sledd's camp by clamping down on him right then? It makes no sense, and I call bullshit on these amateur theatrics. I ditched the book and cannot commend it.


Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a nicely-drawn and -colored graphic novel which I read in ebook format. It tells briefly the stories of "Stagecoach" Mary Fields, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons. Prior to this book I'd heard of only one of these three.

The first story is of Mary Fields, a slave who gains her freedom after the civil war, and works hard to make her own way in life - and it is very much her own way. When she was in her early fifties, she traveled from Toledo, Ohio to Montana Territory where she helped found a convent school for Native American girls, but she was ordered to leave the convent after getting into a gunfight - or a near gunfight at least.

She didn't go postal then. That happened in her sixties, when she was hired as the first African American woman to work for the US Postal Service as a mail carrier because she was faster at hitching a team of horses than any other applicant. Her story makes for an inspiring read - she makes John Henry look like an under-achiever.

Bass Reeves was equally trailblazing. He was the first African-American deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi. He was recruited because he knew Indian Territory and spoke more than one Indian language. He worked three decades as a peace officer in Indian territory. Just like Fields, he was still working well into his sixties. There's no rest for the wicked good!

Last but not least was Bob Lemmons, who was apparently the first horse whisperer, so good was he at bringing wild horses into the ranch for domestication. He would effectively become part of the wild herd, showing almost infinite patience and taking his sweet time, he would bring himself and his own horse closer and closer to the herd until he became a part of it, and then he would start slowly maneuvering into a leadership position, until he could lead it right into a corral!

This made for a fascinating and entertaining set of stories - all too brief, but enough to satisfy - and I commend it as a worthy read.


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Lightwave Clocker by AM Scott


Rating: WARTY!

Erratum:
“None of his questions did anything bur raise more questions” - 'but raise'

This is one of those dumb-ass sci-fi slash fantasy novels where every other character has an apostrophe in their name. Well it's not quite that bad, but near enough! That was the first problem with it. The second was that it moved too slowly, and the third that Saree, the main character, immediately fell for the ship's captain (cliché much?) who was the usual trope chiseled bad boy. Barf.

That was enough to turn me off this. I sure as hell have no intention of reading a series where the main character weakly fan-girls the chiseled dude ad nauseam. It's such an overdone trope I'm surprised his name wasn't Jack. Jack Hoff. That and the annoying computer "Hal" who insisted on using Saree's name every. Single. Time. It. Spoke. To. Her. That's how annoying it was. In a way I could understand her using its name so the computer knew she was addressing it rather than simply talking to herself, but it really didn't need to use hers when responding. Yawn.

Saree is a clocker. Somehow - it's not made clear how, at least not in the portion I read - she has an ability that a secretive alien race has to keep exact time. This race is responsible for maintaining the 'fold clocks' which allow everyone to sync to the same time when 'folding' or warp traveling. Why that's important isn't made clear, or if it is, I missed it. She maintains some of the clocks on behalf of this race with which she grew up (again no idea how or why). This makes her somehow a savior to trillions, but also a target for kidnappers, although why anyone woudl want to disrupt what she does is again unclear.

So not too-well thought out and far too vague for me. The most interesting character was Loreli, but she gets only a walk on part here and there. Given how vague and slow-moving this story was, and how pathetic the main character was, I can't commend this, I guess it was slow because it's a series and the author and publisher want to drag it out so they can keep suckers hooked for as long as possible, but it doesn't work on me and is one of the several reasons why I'm not much of a fan of series.


Arsenal by Jeffery H Haskell


Rating: WARTY!

Amelia Lockheart (Earhart much?) is the Arsenal of the title, but the shorter version, Arse would have worked perfectly. The book is first person present tense which is awful. Even after I gave it a chance and let it play on it failed for me because it wasn't believable It was an audio book and the reader's voice (Emily Beresford) seemed completely wrong for the character and way immature for her age, which is 20 or so.

Amelia has only two claims to fame: she's supposedly an inventor genius, and her legs are paralyzed. She's also supposed to be on a quest to find out what happened to her parents, although she never actually pursues this despite her supposed genius. The thing is that she's a direct rip-off of Ironheart of the Marvel superhero universe with a solid dash of Iron Man. Wears a super-duper alloy mechanical suit that's highly weaponized? Check. She can modify the suit to do anything? Check! Parents not on the scene after car accident? Check (except in Ironheart, only daddy is out of the picture). She carries a nuke into the upper atmosphere to save an American city? Check. Yawn. Move along. There's nothing new to see here.

There is of course a plot against her by super-mega-hyper-corp which is what the author no doubt believes will carry this turkey through several volumes. Count me out. The problems are multiple. First person voice is too ridiculous to read unless it's done really well, and for an action story like this, the idea that the main character is narrating this through all kinds of deathly situations made it feel completely inauthentic to me. It made even less sense to start the story in the middle of a battle without any sort of a lead-in whatsoever. Were it not in first person that might have worked, but you can't have both and have me as an avid reader.

So I was turned off right from the start, but stayed with it for a while and started getting into it a bit, but the main character really wasn't interesting and was a consistent disappointment. The one thing I detested about Tony Stark was how selfish he was. Even on his best day he failed to be all he could be. I mean you heard talk about the 'Stark Foundation' or whatever it was called, but whatever it did, and however much he may have donated to it, still Tony Stark led a selfish, self-indulgent multi-billionnaire life, buying whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and squandering so much money.

That's not a quality I can admire in anyone. He had all this technology but never shared any of it. He never used his genius and technology, for example, to help people who had handicaps. Amelia has the same problem and it;s worse with her because she has one herself and knows directly what it;s like. In the story, she's often told that she could sell her technology and become rich, but with twenty million in the bank she ain't hurting. The thing is that she could have donated at ;east some of her technology to enable others to have the same mobility she enjoyed - and not to fly around bombing and sonic lancing villains, but just to be able to move and walk, and yet it never crosses her mind. How selfish is that? A real hero would have helped.

Worse, we really got nothing about the handicap she had to deal with - it was like it didn't exist except to get a mention in passing, because the suit nullified it and she was so rarely out of the suit. The worst part of this though was when she started swooning over another superhero type named Luke. He was your trope chiselled muscular type which really turned me off because it's such a cliché. Why not go the whole hog and name him Jack?!

There was a female character who got a lot of description about her looks - because as you know looks are the only important thing in the world. The way Amelia kept describing her made it sound like there was going to be a lesbian relationship in the offing and that would have been more palatable than Mr Steely Jaws, but Amelia doesn't lean that way or even question her obsession with Domino's looks, which begs the question as to why she's crushing so badly on this other character. Maybe because the author's male? It woudl be really interesting to see what a female author would have done with this story.

The worst part though was when Luke encounters Amelia out of her chair and immediately assumes she's had an accident and is helpless, which rightly pisses Amelia off, but just a few paragraphs beyond that, Luke has to carry her somewhere and she's all swooning and wilting over how strong he is. I about barfed right there and then and quit listening because it was so pathetic and hypocritical and a complete about-turn from where we;d been just a few words before. Yuk. Way to diminish your main character. I'm done with this story and this author and I will not commend it. This is about as warty as they get.


The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton


Rating: WARTY!

My evidently ill-fated quest to read some of the classics continues! For the life of me I cannot see how this won a Pulitzer Prize. Set in the late nineteenth century, the novel was published in 1920, and was about an era during which the author grew up, so at least it has an authenticity which modern historical novels of this era cannot pretend to. That said, the main characters were two of the most stupid people I've read about, so for me, while the novel wasn't exactly awful, it ended-up being thoroughly unsatisfying.

The idiots are Newland Archer and Countess Elena Olenska, who used to be one of the locals - a Mingott, who married a Polish count and then realized it was a mistake. Evidently having learned nothing from that, she screws up any hope of a love with Newland because she's an idiot, I guess, aka a hopeless romantic. Had the novel been about her and she not rendered quite so idiotically, the story might have been worth reading.

Newland, meanwhile is a lawyer, so it's rather nice to see him get done over! He's engaged to May Welland, and it seems to be a perfect match, but obviously it isn't that way from his perspective because he wants out of it! Failing to find the courage to withdraw, he spends his life in smoldering resentment it when he could so easily have called it off. May even accepted the possibility that he might and encouraged him to do so if he could not bear to marry her, but he refused. Moron. The manipulative May then decides she will spend the rest of the novel denying him any opportunity to renege on his choice and she succeeds admirably, so despite how little she appears in the novel she's also an interesting character.

Character names are important to me and I choose the names of my own main characters with some thought. I have no idea how Wharton chose her character names, but 'new land' for a guy who is too chicken-shit or stupid to explore the terra nova of an unconventional woman is a joke, although it does pair with May's name, 'well land' quite comfortably, I suppose. May Safeland would have been a better name! Archer is certainly a major fail for someone who is so comprehensively unable to make himself the target of Cupid's aim. I don't know what Olenski means in Polish, but in Bulgarian it means reindeer! Maybe instead of 'Age of Innocence' the novel ought to have been titled "Reindeer Games?!

So Newland leads his boring life, has children with May and gets old, until May dies. Instead of pursuing the countess at that point, when he was free to do so, he deliberately walks away from her without even offering her a choice in the matter, thereby proving his love was hollow, or he's a complete imbecile. Either one made this book a severe disappointment. I can't commend this particular novel as a worthy read, but I would consider reading other material by this author.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Pete the Cat Checks Out the Library by James Dean


Rating: WORTHY!

Pete the Cat. What can we say about him? Hmm. This was a fun little book encouraging children to use the library. Pete is evidently done with his cattin' around days, and wants to pursue some scholarly...er pursuits, so off he sidles to the library and spends a tail-flicking day really getting into some books, imagining he's having the very adventures the books describe, escaping danger by a whisker and leaving the library feline fine.

This was a fun book for young kids with lots of color and cute pictures and I commend it as a worthy read.


Ten Twinkly Stars by Russell Julian


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a counting book - or a countdown book for young children, teaching them the numbers from one to ten. Or rather, from ten to one which are coincidentally the odds of your child staying awake until the end, as you read this to them. It has little cut-outs for the stars, which diminish by one with each turn of the page and which are made for little fingers to explore - although the paper isn't exactly tough, so be mindful of the per page potential for a stellar holocaust!

The art is well done, especially the camel which is completely dun, and each page consists of pictures of animals from around the globe, so there's lots of color and interest - as well as counting - going on, and I commend this as a worthy read. If only the last page had a squeeze pack of knockout gas in the event that the child failed to fall asleep by then it would be perfect, but one can't have everything, can one? Where would one keep it?!

Note that this is another of those corporate books where the illustrator, Russell Julian, gets credited, but no writing credit is offered. Just FYI. It seems we authors can't count on Caterpillar Books..../p>

Mermaid Adventure by Neville Astley, Mark Baker


Rating: WORTHY!

I have no idea what the deal is with Peppa Pig, but lest anyone accuse me of impugning her porkritude, let me trot this one out as well. While I consider the Family Trip volume to be pork scratching the bottom of the barrel, this one wasn't sexist and told a decent story for young children, so I consider this to be a worthy read. I consider it paints a decent porktrait or pigture of this cartoon animal, but that's all I have to say about Peppa, salty as it is.

Note that Astley and Baker are the creators of the Peppa, but whether they had anything to do with this book is unclear to me!


Family Trip by Neville Astley, Mark Baker


Rating: WARTY!

I have no idea what the deal is with Peppa Pig. It seems like poor art and flat stories. This volume was sexist to the max with all the traditional female roles filled by...females! And vice-versa. Not that there was any vice here let it be said. Perish the thought. Peppa wasn't particularly interesting, educational, or amusing, or in any other way any different from any other critter in animation, so why the fuss? What's the point? You got me. I can't commend this one.

Note that Astley and Baker are the creators of the Peppa, but whether they had anything to do with this book is unclear to me!


Uni's First Sleepover by Amy Crouse Rosenthal, Brigette Barrager


Rating: WARTY!

This My Pony (or whatever that show is called!) rip-off is really not worthy. It consists of four unicorns going to a sleepover (as if!), and playing games, and everyone but Uni is good at something. When it comes to bedtime, it turns out that Uni is really good at sleeping. No - kidding! It turns out - surprise! - that Uni is good at telling calming stories. Seriously? That's all you got? Can't Uni at least fart rainbows?

The art, the book cover says, is "based on art by Brigette Barrager." I don't know what that means. If Barringer didn't draw it, then who did, and why not use her name (or his)? Something smells here and it's not Unicorn farts. As if! Can't commend this.


Ryan's Pizza Party


Rating: WARTY!

This is a corporate book from a TV show maybe? Which evidently doesn't believe in giving credit to the actual writers and artists. Shame on them. Although it occurred to me that since the book kinda sucked, maybe the author and artist didn't wish their name associated with it?

Yeah, Pizza is fun, but this book made no attempt to talk about healthy eating - no salad with pizza was on this menu, nor did it care about gluten sensitivity or vegetarians. It was all about stuffing pizza down kids' throats and that's all she ate. There wasn't even a word about clean-up after the pizza fest. I can't commend a book like this when around two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, including our president, and those precedents are set during childhood WARTY!


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Hair Love by Matthew A Cherry, Vashti Harrison


Rating: WORTHY!

I loved this book about a young girl and her wild hair, and I loved how she was helped by her father, not by the usual go-to mother in these stories, so this one had everything going for it, including great art by Harrison. The book comes from a film of the same name which won Best Animated Short Film in last February's Oscars. You can find the film on You Tube. The book omits certain aspects of it.

Depending on how she has her hair done, Zuri can transport herself into one adventure or another, but her hair is so willful that she can't always tame it, so her dad helps and they finally win through. The story was sweet and fun, and offered some mind-stimulating ideas, and I commend it fully as a worthy read.


The Story of Rap by Caterpillar Books, Lindsey Sagar


Rating: WORTHY!

This book made it under the wire despite being slightly inauthentic - presenting everything as beautiful in the world of rap when, for example, the rivalry between some rap performers is at best antagonistic, but given that we don't really want to get into that in a children's book, I let that slide! I have to say I'm not a fan of this musical genre, but this book told a worthy tale about it and deserves acknowledgement.

Rap's generally considered to be about fifty years old, but it has distant roots going way back to West African performance art, so it's got serious game. The book though focuses mostly on rappers of recent history and says a word or two about some of the best know while telling a little bit of history and a finely illustrated story, so I commend it as a worthy read.


Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs, Shane W Evans


Rating: WORTHY!

There's another book about racism written by a Hollywood celebrity, and which I felt was a much better approach than the one taken in Sulwe, and that's this book which is less well-presented and arguably aimed at a younger age range, but which offers a more genuine message, although this business of describing people of color in terms of edibles (chocolate, café-au-lait, brown sugar,etc.) is getting old.

Despite that, this book felt more authentic and felt maybe somewhat autobiographical. It's told with a heartbeat to it, hitting on the word chocolate routinely as this poor kid goes through some humiliations, but in the end he comes bouncing back and the story felt good, alive, and realistic. I commend it as a worthy read.


Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o, Vashti Harrison


Rating: WARTY!

I'm a fan of Nyong'o's acting, but for me this story about racism - a darker black kid being less accepted/acceptable than a lighter black kid - while not an inauthentic story of how cruel life can be - went astray. While it does make the point that racism between certain people of color and people of another color is a fact of life (it's not just whites hating on blacks), and while the artwork is wonderful in the book, for me the focus was far too much on looks and not on personality or what a person can contribute.

I can never forget all the fuss that was made when the four major beauty titles were all held by women of color: Ms America, Ms Teen USA, Ms Universe, Ms USA, but no one said a word about the two biggest problems with taking satisfaction from this: it's all about skin-depth looks, and all of these women of color arguably looked little different from your typical white 'beauty queen' who'd got herself a decent tan.

The huge diversity of people of color - not just in their color, but in how they look as well - wasn't even remotely represented in this keyhole view selection of these cookie-cutter winners. This, for me, is where this book lost some of its footing, too. It could have gone deep with a message, but instead it seemed to tiptoe around it, staying at skin-depth as though Sulwe was the only dark person and everyone else was a bland generic "coffee" color. No. Just no.

We're obsessed by looks, especially in Nyongo's world of Hollywood, and I was disappointed we got none of that coming through here. The book seemed much too willing to dwell on outward façades, deal with black and white, forget shades of gray, and ignore what's inside a person. But arguably worse than this, is the fact that family seemed to play little role here. Sulwe is the darkest member of her family, her sister being much lighter, but never do we see her sister coming to her aid or trying to ensure Sulwe is included. It's like the two were strangers and it sent a bad message.

Even that might have played a part in the story had Sulwe been shown as developing inner strength, but this opportunity wasn't made use of. Sulwe made no effort - everything was done for her or two her. She was as passive as you can get. Nyong'o didn't even scratch the surface - but that's not something you want to do when it's all about looks now is it? I can't commend this book at all.


Macca the Alpaca by Matt Cosgrove


Rating: WORTHY!

So it's once again time to look at some more children's books before this month gets too serious. Here are a few, and it's a mixed bag, starting with this one which was amusingly titled and tells the tale of Macca - the alpaca - who is a friendly sort of a guy, but then he meets Harmer the Llama, who isn't a charmer and the contest begins, Macca seeming always to come out ahead.

I like the way Macca uses his brains (when he could easily have used Brian's...) and how brawn doesn't count for much in this contest. The illustrations were amusing and nicely-drawn and colored and the story was a warm one, so I commend this as a worthy read although it occurs to me that the author might have chosen less potentially controversial colors than white and brown for his animals.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Victory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the final volume of this five-book series known as the Vatta Wars or Vatta's War, and which consists of Trading In Danger, Marque And Reprisal, Engaging The Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. The main character is Kylara Vatta, who in volume one parlayed a shit-assignment of delivering an old spacecraft to a breaker's yard into having her own ship. Kylara is a disgraced military recruit, who uses her military training to keep on step ahead of rivals and out of trouble - with varying degrees of success.

It's taken Kylara three volumes to finally get her defense force up to a decent size where she can take on the pirates. Her first port of call is a shipyard where vessels are being built that the pirates intend to pirate and bring into their own fleet, Kylara meets them head on and denies them the success they expected, but loses her own spacecraft in the process. This defeat though enables her to sneak around while she'd believed dead and in the end, as you know would happen, defeat the pirates.

There were parts of this series that I didn't particularly enjoy: for example, Kylara's love interest did not inspire me at all. There were also some lengthy and tedious boring bits, but overall I consider this series to be a worthy read, and I commend it as such.


Command Decision by Elizabeth Moon


Rating: WORTHY!

This is volume four of a five-book series known as the Vatta Wars or Vatta's War, and which consists of Trading In Danger, Marque And Reprisal, Engaging The Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. The main character is Kylara Vatta, who in volume one parlayed a shit-assignment of delivering an old spacecraft to a breaker's yard into having her own ship. Kylara is a disgraced military recruit, who uses her military training to keep on step ahead of rivals and out of trouble - with varying degrees of success.

Kylara Vatta started out as military, fell into disgrace, went limping back to her family's interstellar commerce, was successful, but was gradually forced back into military mode by piracy. This volume was a bit of a pause and a breath before the finale, since not a whole heck of a lot new happens. The villains who have taken down the purported galaxy-wide communications system have acted with speed and decision, and seem to be winning the battle. Everyone else has been wrong-footed and there seems to be little orchestrated effort to take on the pirates or to fix the damage they've done. This is the gap that Kylara is aiming to fill.

This to me is the biggest weakness with these space operas. You can't write about space in the same way you can, for example write about piracy on the high seas, yet far too many blinkered and short-sighted sci-fi writers (David Weber I'm looking at you) think you can translate 2-D Earth issues and events into outer space with very little thought or change. They simply do not get the massive size of space, and the fact that it's 3D. It results in stories which sound stupid and fake.

I for one have never been convinced that there would be a huge traffic in interstellar commerce and nothing I've read in a host of sci-fi stories has convinced me otherwise - not yet. They simply don't get the massive costs involved in interstellar travel even if warp vessels were invented, nor do they seem to appreciate the vast distances involved and the pointlessness of buying items from one planet that could far more easily and cheaply be manufactured on the planet where they're needed.

Yes, maybe a planet has something special that is found nowhere else, but would people truly want to pay the billions involved in having someone go there and bring that particular thing home? Often the thing is some sort of mineral or alloy, but the same elements found on Earth or in asteroids around the solar system exist throughout the universe. There's nothing out there that can't be found or manufactured here. There are no magical undiscovered elements, and any alloys or minerals can be recreated far more cheaply on Earth than the cost of flying interstellar distances to retrieved them. In short, it makes no sense.

That said, Moon tells a decent story and if you're willing to overlook some of the more incredible parts of the novel, an entertaining tale is to be had here.


Engaging The Enemy by Elizabeth Moon


Rating: WORTHY!

This is volume three of a five-book series known as the Vatta Wars or Vatta's War, and which consists of Trading In Danger, Marque And Reprisal, Engaging The Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. The main character is Kylara Vatta, who in volume one parlayed a shit-assignment of delivering an old spacecraft to a breaker's yard into having her own ship. Kylara is a disgraced military recruit, who uses her military training to keep on step ahead of rivals and out of trouble - with varying degrees of success.

Despite the title, this particular volume has Kylara running more than engaging. She is intent upon taking on the pirates who were partly responsible for her family's woes thus far, but she makes little progress and worse, has a falling out with a cousin who's annoyed that Kylara seems more focused on fighting pirates than ever she is on conducting business, which is an odd change for Kylara, since she was hitherto all about profit and trade; however, they come to an agreement where Stella is to run the business while Kylara is to focus on protecting trade routes. It turns out that Kylara (unsurprising trope!) isn't who she thought she was.

Engaging the enemy is a bit of a misleading title because while she does engage in some mild ways, she really doesn't in the way you might think - as in having a space battle - not until the end, and even then she ends up fleeing and licking wounds. That said, the story was still exciting and engaging, so I enjoyed it and wanted to continue reading the series.


Marque And Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon


Rating: WORTHY!

Also known as Moving Target in some markets, this is volume two of a five-book series known as the Vatta Wars or Vatta's War, and which consists of Trading In Danger, Marque And Reprisal, Engaging The Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. The main character is Kylara Vatta, who in volume one parlayed a shit-assignment of delivering an old spacecraft to a breaker's yard into having her own ship. Kylara is a disgraced military recruit, who uses her military training to keep one step ahead of rivals and out of trouble - with varying degrees of success.

In this volume, Kylara has delivered a shipment to a planet and is waiting on a return cargo when she almost becomes the victim of assassins who bomb her spacecraft. She soon learns that she's not the only target: Vatta ships and berths have been attacked elsewhere resulting in many deaths in her family. As Kylara arms herself and her ship she learns of a cranial implant she needs to get which will give her the control codes for, and complete access to, the family business.

She's forced into forming interesting and unlikely alliances and hiring a paramilitary outfit for security as she tracks down the person responsible for the attacks, who turns out to be someone very close to home. Again, another fun and engaging adventure which I commend, although I confess I didn't much like Kylara's love interest who was brought back for an encore appearance in this volume and who is the trope bad boy from a wealthy or important family. Yawn.


Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon


Rating: WORTHY!

Here's another series, this one a part of a five-book set known as the Vatta Wars or Vatta's War, and which consists of Trading In Danger, Marque And Reprisal (aka Moving Target), Engaging The Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. The main character is Kylara Vatta, the lone girl in a large family of sons, who is trying to make her way in the world.

She has chosen to join the military rather than go into her family's business. The problem is that she runs into a situation where she's betrayed by a fellow cadet, and it results in her being expelled from the military academy and heading home with her tail between her legs. In that regard (female soldier screwed over by male colleague) it's very much along the lines of David Weber's main character in On Basilisk Station which also kicks off a series, although this is much more of a rebel sort of a story than a ramrod up the ass senseless military procedural like Weber's books are.

Despite this setback, Kylara finds herself with a chance to start back on the road to redemption, as she gets the opportunity to captain a Vatta vessel. It isn't much, but it's better than nothing and she can maybe build on this over time. Her lowly assignment is to pilot an aging ship to the knackers yard, and her father is taking no chances since he crews the vessel with old hands as much to keep a weather eye on his daughter as to make sure nothing goes wrong.

The thing about Kylara is that she may be a girl and she may be lowest on the totem pole at that, but she's a Vatta, and when the lure of 'Trade and Profit' pops up, she sees an opportunity to pick up a shipping contract that's let lapse by another company. She undertakes to meet the challenge, seeing the chance of making some money along the way to dropping off this clunker of a ship at the breakers - unless of course, she can upgrade the ship and maybe make it her own into the bargain. She soon discovers that it's not all plain sailing and Kylara's military instincts and training come into full prominence as a simple delivery of agricultural equipment turns into a chore of becoming a prison ship, and enduring a sort of a mutiny among the prisoners.

I enjoyed this book. Despite it being a part of a series, it held my interest and made me want to read on. It was different, off-beat, entertaining, and featured a strong and smart female character. I commend this and the series.