Showing posts with label WARTY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WARTY!. Show all posts

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Onward the Search for the Phoenix Gem by Steve Behling

Rating: WARTY!

This book is rooted on the Disney animation (read 'barf fest') of a similar name. I was curious about it because I've paid zero attention to their animated fare of late, and I began reading it, but was turned off it so quickly all I have to say is that it was not for me. It held nothing of interest and really, I wasn't surprised, When has Disney, the most unoriginal animation studio ever to exist, who has bribed congress to extend copyright law to insane levels to protect its animated mouse, really offered anything of interest lately?

The last good thing they did was Frozen (take that however you want), and even that was still hog-tied to tradition in so many ways. They couldn't even leave that alone, going for a sequel to milk another billion out of the punters. That movie was almost a decade ago and ever since then, all they've done is remakes - live action versions of animated movies from their stable. Disney has never been less animated and this book was one more snooze in a blizzard of tired Disney yawns.

Bringing Stella Home by Joe Vasicek

Rating: WARTY!

This is a sci-fi story that started out boringly and never improved. It seemed to me to be more of a sort of weird authorial wish-fulfillment kind of a thing than ever it did a real story. It moved slowly, which is hardly surprising since it's book one of a series.

I've been actively removing all series books from my reading lists of late because I've been so universally disappointed in them. Series are not my thing for a variety of reasons, not least of which is this lethargy in pace, and also because the first book can only ever be a prologue - which holds no interest for me - and because all the other volumes are, are essentially a re-run of the first volume. It's lazy writing. Instead of coming up with something new, original, and entertaining, the author merely retreads the last volume and feeds it to the reader one more time. No thanks.

The plot here, is of the George-slaying-the-dragon kind of thing where mid-teens hero James goes on a jag to save his helpless older sister Stella, who is kidnapped by this ridiculously barbaric rag-tag conglomerate of pirate military outfits who have apparently been ignored by the authorities for long enough that they're all banded together into one big and devastating force, which no one seems to be able to stop. Except James. His plan is to hire a para-military outfit commanded by a woman, and have them rescue Stella for him. I felt like I could see where this story would go over time: James and the captain getting it on.

Meanwhile Stella is a sex slave on this other ship where the heartless leader of the rag-tag rebels is a cruel and despotic dictator and who, as soon as he finds out that seventeen-year-old Stella is a virgin, changes his entire attitude toward her and elevates her to the role of goddess or something. That was where I quit reading because the whole story at this point had turned me off. I could see where this story was going too: Beauty and the Beast anyone? It was tedious and unimaginative, unrealistic and stupid, and it was bouncing like a pinball between three perspectives, yet despite this, it seemed to be stuck in mud. I can't commend it based on what I read of it, which occupied more of my time than I ought to have expended on it. I'm done with this book and this author.

Unqualified by Anna Faris

Rating: WARTY!

I've long been a fan of Anna (pronounced Ahna) Faris as a comedy actor, so I thought this audiobook might be a riot as well as offer some interesting and amusing insights into the movie business, but it offered nothing that any woman of her age and similar experience could have written even had she nothing to do with the movie business, and I quit about halfway through it, in real disappointment and boredom.

Yes, she does mention a movie here and there in passing, but she never really talks about her experiences on them. Almost the entirety of the book (at least as far as I listened, which was about 75%), is about relationships and sex and body hair. The book description claims "A hilarious, honest memoir-combined with just the right amount of relationship advice." No, that's completely wrong. There's way-the-hell too much relationship advice and barely anything about movies, so I have no idea what this is supposed to be a memoir of.

Personally, I had no interest in who she had a crush on at school and I'm sure the guys she mentions will not appreciate the notoriety. I sure wouldn't, even if I were someone who'd been nice to her. And while she's listing these people by name, she complains about similar kinds of things happening to her, which seems hypocritical at best, but what I found truly sad is how much she seems to need to validate herself with a guy - right from the off and repeatedly throughout the book, she keeps harping back to guys again and again. The amount of times she validates herself through guys is disgusting, shameful and very sad.

She goes on and on about how great, wonderful, etc., her relationship is with Chris Pratt, but this book is two years old and she's divorced from him now, so it makes all these stories seem so shallow, short-sighted, or clueless. That's not to say she doenslt ahve a decent relationship with him now, for all I know, but really? If she'd stuck with her movie experiences, maybe mentioned a guy or a relationship in passing here and there, it would have been a much different book and she would not have forced me to repeatedly skip multiple fifteen second segments at a time to get past yet another sexual encounter or crush, or lusting, or discussion of guys.

In the end I was skimming more than I was listening and I asked: why am I even continuing with this? I ditched it and moved on. I cannot commend it. The title is missing a word - something like 'Disaster' to appear after 'Unqualified' and maybe 'Unqualified' should be traded for 'Unmitigated'. It's not a good book. She may amuse me in the movies but she isn't the kind of person I would enjoy talking to in person so I think I am going to relegate her to position two in my esteem and elevate Aubrey Plaza to number one! She's much more entertaining.

Englishman in Blackpool by Jenny O'Brien

Rating: WARTY!

"You're name" should have read 'your name'
"...still had the evening to look forward." Should have had a preposition ('to') on the end.

This is a very short story that overall I did not really enjoy. Hopper (that's what he goes by) is a butler to the Earl of Cosgrave, who has taken some time off to help an old friend with a ballroom dancing class, after which he intends to go fishing. Beverley is one of the women in the class, and she has a stereotypical obnoxious partner who quits, of course leaving her partner-less and so Hopper steps in and they're magical together. The problem with this story is that it was so predictable and so unimaginative, with everything falling so easily into place, no hiccups, and St George saving his maiden. It was pretty pathetic and I can't commend it at all. Even the title made little sense but was chosen not to describe the book but to categorize it as part of a series of such books all with boringly similar titles. Barf.

Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

Rating: WARTY!

You know times have changed significantly when you read in an older novel (this was published in 1878), "...I don't care for gay weddings" and it has nothing whatsoever to do with same sex marriage. Unfortunately that was the only bright spot I could find in thirty pages of this. Despite it being Hardy's sixth and one of his most popular novels, it was such a tedious read for me that I gave it up at that point. There's no point in reading something that just doesn't do it for you when the next book you pick might enthrall you.

The native is apparently Clym Yeobright, who is coming back to Egdon Heath after time away in Paris. He can't marry the woman he wants, and so just takes up with someone else and unsurprisingly, the marriage doesn't work. Not really an exciting story. The only reason I started in on this was because the opening sentence of the novel was featured in a Monty Python sketch and it intrigued me. Well, color me intrigued no more, I cannot commend the plodding pace of this, based on the small portion I read, and I'm moving on to something which will, hopefully, grip me from the off.

The Crown of Thorns by Ian CP Irvine

Rating: WARTY!

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

You know when a book has 'Book One' on the front cover that it's not really a story - it's merely a prologue and I don't do prologues as such. This is why I don't do series because, and with very few exceptions, they're inevitably tedious. This one - about cloning the fictional Jesus from the equally fictional crown of thorns - sounded like it might be interesting if it were done right, but the story never began.

Instead of unfolding a story, it rambled interminably, incessantly, indeterminately all over the place, going everywhere except where it was supposedly going. It began with a prologue! Then chapter one was also a prologue, and chapter two wasn't far off being one. That ought to have warned me off it right there, but foolishly, I pressed on for a little while. This is the problem with a series.

I gave up reading somewhere shortly into part two (the author seems to have confused parts with chapters and chapters with sections). I took to skimming thereafter, to see if the story ever actually got started at any point. It did not - at least not up to around the halfway point. The main character seemed far more focused on having sex with his girlfriend than ever he was in cloning anything. I cannot commend this based on my experience of it. I reviewed another Irvine novel back in March and it was equally lacking in entertainment value, so I'm not only done with this novel but with this author, too.

She Represents by Caitlin Donohue

Rating: WARTY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. Strictly speaking we're not supposed to post reviews until 30 days before publication, but since this book has about 20 reviews up already on that execrable monopolizing review site-killing Amazon-owned Goodreads venue, I don't see that my modest one is going to make any difference.

Subtitled "44 Women Who Are Changing Politics . . . and the World" this book did not please me. The title suggested to me that these were women who are making a positive change, yet some of the women featured here have behaved reprehensibly and in my opinion they by no means merit the honor this book seems like it's aiming to bestow. There are other, more deserving women, as other entries in the book show, so why those women are demeaned by being included with some of the less praiseworthy women is a mystery to me and I cannot in good faith support a book which takes this tacky tack.

If the book had been titled "Notorious Women of Politics" that would have been a different matter in terms of including the more reprehensible ones, but then the better women featured here would have been slighted. While everyone has some less than savory traits, there is a limit to how unsavory a person can be before they lose my confidence, and I do not believe that you can include all these stripes in one supposedly uplifting book without abominably misrepresenting the one or outright insulting the other.

The book description makes it plain what the intention supposedly was: "...this book celebrates feminism and female contributions to politics, activism, and communities..." and "Each...has demonstrated her capabilities and strengths in political and community leadership and activism..." And "...rounded out by beautiful color portraits..." was a bit of a stretch. I don't believe this book can achieve the stated goal of inspiring when such poor examples have been set by some of those featured in the book and I cannot in good conscience commend it. There are scores of inspirational, stronger, better, wiser, and more competent and considerate women who would have made fine examples. Why aren't they featured here?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Sheffield Shorts by Various Authors

Rating: WARTY!

I grew up next door to Sheffield so I wondered if I might find something of interest here, but I grew quickly bored with it, especially when I read in one story of a character named "Patrick O’Kane" who was later consistently referred to as "O'Kaney" without any indication if this was a sort of nickname, so I was left wondering if the O'Kane was right and the rest wrong or if the person's name actually was Patrick O’Kaney and the first instance of it was wrong.

The second 'short' story was interminably long and uninteresting, and it took me forever to page past it to get the the next one. The stories had no way to click from the start to the story or back again so if you don't like one story, there's no easy way to find where the next one begins. This ebook was poorly conceived. I can't commend it based on my experience. I find it rather sad that I had so little joy in the book selections lately, Hopefully next month will bring some improvement, but I'm done blogging books for this month, Time to be writing more than reading!

Mindtouch by MCA Hogarth

Rating: WARTY!

Given that this was the first in the "The Dream healers" series, I should have known better, but I was stupid. I admit it. At least it wasn't first person, but neither was it remotely original.

The story was about this university on this planet which is open to a variety of aliens all of which are based heavily on humans and/or human mythology and/or Earth animal life. There was nothing remotely new or inventive here. It was all lowest common denominator sort of stuff. naturally you have to make your aliens relatable (or do you?!), but you can't just put an animal skin on a human and pretend it's an alien, and that's all that was attempted here.

The aliens even favor Earth foods - specifically what's commonly found in North America - and they have human foibles and motives and behaviors. The novel centers around (or should i say centaurs around) the relationship between this centaur being and this animal being, but if no one told you what their species was, you woudl assume human from the outset - that's how un-alien they were.

Centaurs make zero sense and are absurd from the off, and it's especially absurd when this one - a rarity, shows up on this planet with stronger gravity than it's used to apparently without any acclimitization, and comes promptly a cropper because of it. this tells me either the individual is stupid or the people who sent it are morons. Either way it doesn't bode well for the story especially when the centaur seems to be completely awed by any technology it encounters.

Maybe its problem is that people don't take it seriously. At one point, and I am not making this up, the centaur's course advisor says to it, without a shade of humor or irony, “so you don’t have an indefinite period to horse around.” If the story had been a comedy or a parody that would have been funny, but it isn't. It's supposed to be serious. Clearly the author is writing this without putting a shred of thought into it. Why would I want to read a whole series like this? I wouldn't. I don't even want to read this one. Done with book and with author.

Whisper Falls by Elizabeth Langston

Rating: WARTY!

This novel is the first in the inevitable trilogy and that was the first strike against it. The second strike was the almost inevitable worst person voice - times two. Barf. I should have quit right then, but even so I tried to read it (this was before I developed my allergy to first person novels), but it was written rather amateurishly and entirely unrealistically, and worst of all, it dragged.

The plot is that Mark, while out riding his mountain bike, encounters a girl who appears to be out of time - because she is. Susanna is an indentured servant from 1796, yet never once does she think mark is a demon or a witch or something along those lines. It makes no sense that a person from that era would not at least have thoughts like that cross her mind.

So eventually it becomes the masculine rescue of the helpless maiden, and I wasn't about to read this kind of a story that far. I sure as hell wasn't going to read a frigging trilogy of this stuff. I'd had enough and I gave up on it about a fifth of the way in. I can't commend this based on the sorry portion that I endured.

Celestial Music by Tai Sheridan

Rating: WARTY!

While we're on the celestial plane so to speak, here;s a pile of stinking horseshit festering rancid, wishing it was in the sun.

This is an English translation of Buddhist sutras freely translated by the author. Thus we have vacuous lines like: "The earth s[lits open, everything springs forth, let the lamp blow out, welcome infinite happiness" And "Countless truth seekers, sincere and fearless, clarify the diamond body, wishing benefit for all beings" and "The wisdom of spaciousness is the truthful incomparable mysterious light of existence." You would have exactly the same success by writing a computer program to randomly jam dictionary words together or by writing them on a slip of paper and blindly pulling them from a hat.

I have no problem with viewing the planet as a single entity in which we all have a part, but Buddhism seems like cowardice to me. Searching for inner enlightenment while there are people starving, people homeless, people suffering? No amount of chanting is going to fix that. They don't have the option to contemplate their navel. It's sucked back so close to their spine that they can't even see it. They need helping, not chanting.

I guess the hungry at least they have that empty belly in common with Lord Gautama who, let's not forget, abandoned his wife and child. That's not a recommendation to me. It's neither harmony, nor peace and it sure as hell isn't commingling. There's this belief out there, and blind belief is all it is, that if one million children meditate together it can help to change the world, and they do, yet here we are, in an ongoing global racism crisis and a deadly and devastating plague swarming the globe. Thanks meditators! Let's not fool ourselves. What these people do, they do for themselves. It's not selfless; it's selfish, period.

It's appropriate that this book focuses on sutras of emptiness, because that's what it offers: nothing. I can't commend this wisp of a book or the vacuous poetry it contains.

Celestial by Various Authors

Rating: WARTY!

This is one of those books that a publisher puts out as a sampler of its author stable. For some reason they seem to do this more with sci-fi authors than with any other genre. Why I don't know. Maybe it's just my perception.

In this case, the contributors numbered ten, and I was grateful because now I have at least eight authors I can eliminate from my list of potential reads! All of those eight wrote in worst person voice, so I dismissed those stories out of hand. The only two I read were The Greenhouse Gas by Ariel Sieling, about two juvenile survivors of a space massacre who were trying to avoid an enemy and find their family, and Moon Warrior by Katie Hayoz about one juvenile survivor of a dragon massacre who was trying to avoid an enemy and find her family.

Both stories were okay, but not especially good, and were pretty much the same story when you get down to it. Overall I can't commend this because of the slavish addiction to first person voice which increases my detestation for it the more I encounter it, and the two stories that were readable were not particularly good.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett

Rating: WARTY!

This is your standard English country murder story and it baldly states it right there in the title. I'm not a fan of this kind of story, especially not when it's in first person. I read this one only to try and see what was going on in a 'cozy mystery' story just out of sheer curiosity, and I had some issues with it pretty much from the start.

The author seems unable to write anything other than a series and I am no fan of series. At some point, you have to wonder why it is that so many murders occur around the "sleuth" who investigates them! Is she really the guilty party?!. This novel didn't have the word 'sleuth' in the book description, otherwise I would have dismissed it out of hand. I guess now I also have to dismiss it when it has the word 'cozy' in it or when the author is this one.

Talking of whom, she has four of these series out there because one is never far more than enough, and I'll bet every one is really the same and has a weak woman protagonist (and is probably in first person voice). But look on the bright side: if someone who writes so poorly and predictably can get onto a best seller list, then there's hope for all of us! For some three hundred bucks, you can take her "How to Outline a Cozy Mystery" course wherein, as judged by this outing, you can learn how to create a limp and clueless female leads who need manly validation by a studly English country guy, and who likes to meddle where she should leave things to the police. You can learn the same thing for free by reading well-plotted and well-written murder mysteries.

Her relationship with Alex (said manly man) in this story was cringe-worthy. She's supposedly a mature business woman yet she behaves like she's thirteen and just as clueless as your average thirteen-year-old, unable to process any of the sensations she gets around Alex. It was amateur, pathetic, and nauseating to read. Oh, and Alex has a bicep. Not biceps, but a bicep. I'm not kidding! You can feel it if you want; one of the female characters did. I guess he had an accident or something and lost the other bicep in that arm.

So this woman - with the highly inappropriate name of Kate Sharp (she's not remotely sharp) - works for a company that scouts locations for movies. Why a US company is being asked to scout English locations is one of the few the real mysteries in this novel. I guess the author, being American herself, has to have that American connection because god forbid a novel should be set elsewhere, or if it is, it should have no Americans in it! Maybe she shares the trump philosophy wherein only US citizens are worth anything and they sure as hell can show those bumbling British cops a few things.

Kate's boss, Kevin originally does the scouting, which constitutes another mystery since the movie he's seeking locations for is yet another remake of a Jane Austen novel (because we sure as hell don't have too many of those now), and Kate is the resident Austen buff, yet Kevin is the one who goes. Anyway, he disappears without word or trace, and Kate is dispatched to find him. He has a history of alcohol abuse so the suspicion is that he's on a bender. Kate is unable to find him until he shows up dead in the river, along with his rental car.

There's no spoiler there - it's a murder mystery after all! It is amusing how the author makes much of how rainy and cold it is in the UK, when it actually really isn't. Of course that's dependent upon when you travel there, but it has cold spells; it has warm spells. It has rainy spells; it has dry spells. It's not foggy all the time either! Has the ever been there?

I have to wonder at the value of the course the author offers. It's not a writing course; it's a plotting course, but when the author doesn't know it's 'downright' and not 'down right' and employs redundant phrases like "see if he'd reply back" one has to wonder. These were not the only issues in this style of writing. I read, "I couldn't remember the last time a man had held open a door for me." What does Kate want? To be a wilting violet? Does she want equality or pampering? We no longer live in an era where men are required to open doors for woman; even Prince William's wife doesn't expect that! Maybe instead of Kate Sharp she should be Kate Uppity?

As to her smarts, I read this: "My fingers itched to get my camera and record the quiet beauty of it, but I'd left it in my room at the inn. Apparently Ms Sharp has never heard of a cell phone camera.... Equally pertinent is this one:

“Hmm, I should have emphasized that,” Alex murmured. “Where is that business card?”
“I left the one Quimby gave me in my room. Come on, I’ll get it for you.”
Kate has Quimby's number in her phone since she called him. She could have just got it from there, but of course she has to get Alex to her room so she can sit with their thighs touching on the bed. Pathetic.

A woman who truly worked in the scouting location business would live on her phone. It would be second-nature to go to it without a moment's thought, yet Kate is completely inept at using her phone. It's just not authentic. And this is written by someone who would charge you good money to teach you how to plot?! It's obvious from halfway through the novel who the guilty party is (chercher la femme p├ętulante) - and I'm typically not that good at spotting the perp. The red herring is obvious too, and not remotely convincing.

This book was sad and silly, and I cannot commend it as a worthy read.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Odyssey by Homer

Rating: WARTY!

Another classic bites the dist. This is one of the most stupid, tedious, repetitive, and pointless stories I've ever listened to. I listened to the audiobook version since originally, this was meant to be listened to, not read, but the version I had is not in poetic meter. It's told as a prose story by a narrator who was tedious to listen to, which made things worse. Despite this prose approach, the story still retains the repetitiveness of the poetry, which does not a thing to improve the situation. I grew to honestly and truly detest the phrase 'child of morn, rosy-fingered Dawn' with a passion.

Odysseus is one of the most puffed-up, self-aggrandizing, boorish braggarts I've ever encountered in literature. His son is useless and his wife Penelope is a complete jackass. Odysseus is always the best, the most virile, the strongest, the most upright, the toughest, the most skilled, etc., etc. He never loses, except in his ridiculously haphazard return from Troy after the ten year war.

It takes him another ten years to get home and all this time we're supposed to believe his wife is faithful. Odysseus is nearly always plied with riches by his hosts no matter whose island he fetches up on after another disastrous voyage in which he loses the previous treasure he was given. His various crews are always weeping, or lily-livered, or dishonest, or incompetent, or untrustworthy, while he himself is a paragon.

The thing is that it's really not that far from Troy to Ithaca! This admittedly assumes that the present day Ithaca is remotely close to where the ancient one was, but even if it wasn't, we know it was in Greece, where nowhere is very far from anywhere else. The point is that it's possible to travel the entire distance by land pretty much. He could have almost literally walked the entire distance in a couple of years, so why he repeatedly embarks on voyages given that he knows Poseidon, the fricking god of the ocean, is out to get him, is as much of a mystery as it is a testimony to one thing and one thing only: how profoundly dumb Odysseus truly is. He's a callous jerk, too! Despite his losing crew after crew, Odysseus never mourns a single one of those he traveled with or left behind.

Meanwhile back at home, we have the comedy duo of Telemachus, Odysseus's 20-year-old son, and Odysseus's wife, Penelope. His son is purportedly the head of the household, yet he has not an iota of wherewithal to throw out these suitors to his mom who number about a hundred or so. I know there was a tradition of hospitality in that era, but they're the worst guests imaginable, eating him out of house and home and he can't dispatch even one of them? How Odysseus was even supposed to have anything left of his holdings after ten years of this is a joke. Penelope, were she not such a limp rag and a waste of skin, could simply have told any number of these suitors she wasn't interested, but she keeps them hanging on: all five score of them, while making cheap excuses as to why she can't make up her mind. She's an asshole, period.

The suitors are utter morons. They're dumb-asses for hanging around for ten years when they're clearly getting clearly nowhere with Penelope. They're imbeciles in that they cannot see through her ridiculous ruse of un-weaving Laertes's burial shroud each night so she can re-weave it the next day. Despite all this, Telemachus can't seem to handle them and it takes Odysseus's heroic return of course, before they're summarily dispatched. Here's the last ridiculous thing: he arrives in disguise instead of striding proudly up to his home. Why? No good reason at all. Yet we're supposed to believe he has littered his way home with rejected lovers because he loved his wife so much? Bullshit.

This story is awful and not worth the time to read or listen to it.

The Game by Cosimo Yap

Rating: WARTY!

You know, you may be passionate about playing trading-card games or about video games, but unless you can turn that passion into a story that will appeal to those who have no interest in your cards or your gaming, then you're not going to sell many books. This was the problem here.

First off, the plot made no sense and secondly, there was far too much technical crap going on and too little story-telling. On top of that, and given that the book was subtitled "Opening Moves" it portended the predictable series to milk as much out of readers as could be got, and worse even than this, there was a clear but unengaging attempt at a love interest right from the start which was as predictable as it fell flat.

The plot is supposed to be that Earth was invaded by aliens who brought, among other things, "A fully immersive virtual reality called the Game." The problem is that the game is so 'Earth' that there's nothing alien about it. It doesn't remotely suggest alien. It suggests a young author thinking solely in Earth terms about his own interests and trying to project this onto aliens.

The game is all about garnering inventory and adding points to your stamina and so on, just like any game that's out there. There's nothing new or different in it and it makes no sense. Worse, we're offered no reason whatsoever why anyone should be so interested in playing it (other than those who play these things anyway). I mean why would people voluntarily support an alien construction like this? They're not forced to play, so why wouldn't they simply boycott it as a small rebellion against alien rule?

Alan is supposed to be this college student (read 'the author') who can't wait to join the game. We're told next to nothing about him or his studies or why he is so desperate to be in the game, in the same way we're told nothing about the aliens or how they managed to overpower Earth. The story got so technical in terms of game-play from that point on that I lost all interest in it, because: no story! It offered nothing to pique my curiosity or stir my interest, and it was so boring. The characters were uninteresting and the only good thing I can say about this novel is that it wasn't in first person, so there is that. But I can't commend this based on the introductory portion of it that I read.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes

Rating: WARTY!

I was disappointed in this. It's like listening to an old relative drone on about an ancient past in which you as the listener have no interest whatsoever. Fortunately your;e not stuck with this until you can politely leave! This should not be thought of as a novel though. It's really much more a memoir of the author's time at a public school in Rugby in the 1830's, and while I am quite convinced he had fond memories of his time there, he imbues the reader with none of it - not if the reader is anything like me, anyway.

Note that public in Britain means private - it was technically open to the public, but in fact required a hefty fee. Rugby has the distinction, when it was originally founded in 1567, of actually being a free public school, but when the 'great' schools of Britain were set in stone in the late 1860's, they started to become renowned for being upper class and elitist. Rugby school is also where the actual game of rugby football was codified in the 1840's. In Tom Brown's era, running with the ball first became a thing. None of this history is told in Hughes's book because most of it wasn't in place in his time.

The first few chapters have nothing to do with school, but instead detail life before he went to Rugby. This part was tedious and I was ready to give up on the entire book, but the time finally came for him to go to school so I stayed with it, and I made it about halfway through the book before I truly tired of it and really began resenting spending so much time on it.

Tom becomes fast friends with Harry East and has run-ins with the resident school bully named Flashman. He plays "foot-ball" and the author inadvertently reveals to us the origin of the term willy-nilly, which was about the only thing I found interesting in the whole book! There are tales of fagging (not what you think!), and other trivia, and that's really about it. I'm not kidding.

I mean it's useful if you want to get the inside story on the minutiae of a school kid's life from that period, but I found no other value in it, and even the utility of that information is soiled by how much crap you have to read through to find anything you might be able to use in your own writing. For me the conclusion was that it wasn't worth it. It's set in roughly the same period as Oliver Twist, so there is some possible interest in the contrast between the lives of these two fictional boys, but even so it's not really worth reading either of them.

Fortunately, that's not why I read it. I read it out of genuine interest in what all the fuss was about in this book and now I can say it's a waste of time. Another 'classic' I've read that's fallen far short of its reputation. I cannot commend this as a worthy read. You'll have much more fun watching an episode of Michael Palin's Ripping Yarns called Tomkinson's Schooldays which is a loose parody of this book and was the pilot episode for the Ripping Yarns series.

Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas

Rating: WARTY!

I'm sure this sounded like a great idea for a story when it first hit the author, but the idea far outstripped her execution of it. The so-called warrior wench, who does far more wenching than warring, is Vas, who manages to get herself drugged, and when she finally comes out of it, a month has gone by and her spacecraft has been parted out and sold. She sets off on a quest to get it back.

I started reading this, got about a third of the way through it, set it down to read some more pressing books where i had a deadline for reviewing them, and then when I finally got back to it, I couldn't recall a single thing about this novel at all. After a brief refresher, I began reading it again and found that this supposedly tough woman is just another wilting violet with hots for this new guy onboard. Why female authors do this to their characters is a mystery to me. Maybe there are readers who like this sort of thing, but I can't subscribe to it.

I have no objection to a love story if it's done right, but this young-adult horseshit featuring instadore makes no sense and is poor writing. It only gets worse from there because there are, apparently, "unmarked ships blowing apart entire planets and the Commonwealth government can't, or won't, stop them." Blowing up entire planets? This is what happens when an author has no clue about physics and specifically, here, the amount of energy required to actually blow up an entire planet.

To totally disintegrate Earth, for example, you'd need something like sixty quadrillion one megaton nuclear bombs - all strategically placed and exploding simultaneously. It's hard to cost out a single nuclear weapon, but a very rough estimate is two million US dollars. Multiply that by sixty quadrillion, and you see the problem. Who has that kind of money? Even if you had some other means of destruction, it would still cost to build the weapon, and to generate the requisite amount of energy to power it, so what would be the point of doing that? What would be the value of it to the ones doing it?

If the aim is merely to wipe out the population, then why not simply drop a virus?

So the whole foundation of this book was clueless to begin with and the romance really didn't help at all. I can't commend this based on what I managed to read of it.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Find Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

Rating: WARTY!

"But even big kids don't need to rude words." - to use rude words
"friends with her just because some in girls think she's different" in-girls? It has a double meaning the other way!

This is the second - and the last! - novel by this author I will ever read. The previous one I read was reviewed in December of 2016, and titled 'A Yorkshire Christmas. I'd forgotten I'd read that because if I'd remembered, I probably wouldn't have read this one. This kind of story isn't my style, but I was curious about this genre - the wussy girl running away from a bad relationship back to her home town (or someplace different anyway) and finding the love of her life. There is a tedious number of 'weak woman' books like this, and it fascinates me as to why - and who reads these.

What this novel had going for it - or what I thought it had, was that it was a bit different. This is an older woman, Harriet, with three kids, whose husband lost his high-flying financial job and failed to tell his wife for six months. Was it purely accidental that his name was Dick?!

Harriet the spy discovers he's talking on the phone at all hours of the night with his secretary - the youthful and sexy Meghan. So a Meghan beats a Harriet, evidently! There is no excuse for his behavior and now he and his wife are in such dire financial straits that Harriet has to give up their luxury home and designer furniture and sell it all off to go live in a rental cottage some ways away. Her husband lives separately in a small apartment in London, still looking for work.

How they get by financially is a mystery because despite not even looking for a job for the longest time, Harriet still seems to be able to keep her head above water and buy whatever she needs whenever she needs it, even as she whines endlessly about her impoverished circumstances. The whining got old real fast.

Her husband is in the same position: both are supposedly looking for work, yet neither of them seems to get that they can - at least for the short term - take any job they can get just to have some income. To me they both came off as privileged and spoiled, and stupid. It was also hard to stomach the incongruity of Harriet prattling on about organic this and that while driving gas guzzling Land Rover Discovery which gets an environmentally tragic 20 mpg.

It didn't help that she said clich├ęd things like "Does this dress make me look fat?" at times. The message coming through loud and clear is that the only thing she thinks of is herself - eleven years of being spoiled rotten and having every single thing she ever wanted will do that to a woman, I guess. It did not make me like her at all. It helped no more that the writing was a bit lax here and there so I'd read things like: "Harriet blinked hard, but it was too late. Two slipped down and with a muttered curse she grabbed a napkin and started dabbing." The idea was that two tears slipped down, but he author had written it so poorly that the 'two slipped down' had no real connection to tears. It was just weird to read.

An amusing instance of this laxity was when I read, "Harriet sank into the armchair by the gas fire that was still in the atrocious pattern Harriet remembered of large pink cabbage roses." This implies that the gas fire had a cabbage rose pattern! I'm guessing it was actually the armchair though. The author might have re-thought that sentence.

What did genuinely impress me was how fast it's possible to get a pizza in London! While Harriet visits her husband to pick the kids up, their father orders pizza via his phone, immediately goes to get it, and very quickly returns with it, all in the brief time that Harriet is having this quite short conversation with her kids. Well, we've all been there - trying to account realistically for time passing in our writing. I didn't want to mark her down for that. But many of us might want to find out which pizza place can prepare two pizzas that fast!

Where I did draw the line though was the tired, tedious, and way overdone YA trope of "the gold flecks in his hazel eyes." That about made me throw up. I've read it far too many times and it sucks. It needs to be banned from every author's description toolbox. It was shortly after that at around 65% that I gave up because the book just kept rambling on.

The next thing up was this designer dog - actually a pedigree dog, an order for which had been placed some months before. Dogs don't arrive as fast as pizzas, but finally it was ready. Harriet had to come up with five hundred pounds for it and barely blinked at that. Then she seemed utterly clueless that the dog would be peeing and pooping everywhere if it wasn't properly trained from the outset.

I felt bad for the dog having to live with this family as well as for the vet bills they'd have to pay for a purebred (read inbred) dog. Since a single vet (named Tom of all pathetic names for manly characters) had been introduced not long before in the story, it seemed quite obvious at this point where the story would be going: new puppy > requires shots etc > nice vet with gold flecks that Harriet knows > new romance. Boring much?

I can't say if that's where it went because I didn't read on and I honestly didn't care about any of these characters. I decided enough was enough. I'd put up with this kind of rambling delivery for far too long, wasting my time when I could have been reading something truly engrossing, so I quit reading and moved on. I can't commend this book at all. Or this author. If this is even remotely representative of this genre, then it speaks volumes about those sorry volumes.

Hook by Melissa Snark

Rating: WARTY!

This was yet another attempt to wring some value from the antique and ridiculous Peter Pan story. About the only one I've read so far that was worth reading was Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson which I reviewed several years ago.

This one is in first person which is an irritating voice to read and it makes little sense in a novel like this one. And who is she telling this tedious story to anyway? It takes forever to get going and in the end, never really does. The captain is informed that Peter Pan's ship Ariel is spied on the horizon - a ship that's faster than the Revenge, and so they have to sneak up on it over several chapters to liberate the children Pan is abducting with the aid of Tinker Bell. I smelled a trap, but apparently it was just the writing that had gone off.

The plot sounded interesting on the surface, but it never seemed to have any depth in the bits that I read. The captain seems to debate her plans and commands with the crew in town hall meetings rather than actually captain the ship so I couldn't take her seriously from the outset. And she rambles interminably. I managed about fifty pages before I tired of this, and then I skimmed to about a third of the way through and found no reason to read any more of it, so I ditched it, neither knowing nor caring what would happen next. I cannot commend this at all.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Live to See Tomorrow by Iris Johansen

Rating: WARTY!

I made very little progress into this book before I gave it up as a bad job. The main female character is Catherine Ling, ridiculously recruited by the CIA at the age of 14, we're told. And no, this is not a YA novel believe it or not.

The story itself begins years along from that time, and Ling has a son who is, for reasons I never learned, under the protection of a friend of hers, Hu Chang. Threatened with 'it's either you or him who takes this mission' Ling elects to neglect her child and go herself to try to rescue a journalist from Tibet. Why this wasn't dealt with through diplomatic channels isn't mentioned in the part of the novel I managed to stomach. Why the CIA has no other agents who can do this is equally an unaddressed mystery.

I dropped it the minute this supposedly strong woman has her job "complicated" by meeting Richard Cameron. I began skimming, and these two complete strangers have unprotected sex early in the story. She's so dumb, she hadn't known people could do "that" - evidently some magical fingering technique he has that this evidently dumb broad never encountered before. or maybe there's some authorial wish-fulfilment going on here.

Later, I read, "...she had been on the defensive since the moment she had seen him and felt that first explosive bolt of sexual attraction," I knew exactly what kind of unfulfilling trashy and female-demeaning story this would be, and I was glad I was out of there. I can't commend dumb-assery like this. I'm done with this author, too.