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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Alice in Virtuality by Norman Turrell

Rating: WARTY!

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

I got turned off this almost from the start, but pressed on because the topic interested me. In some ways it was reminiscent of the 1992 Al Pacino movie Simone, but whereas that was a simulation, Alice is a full AI. The book was still nowhere near as entertaining as the movie though. I skimmed bits and pieces and the more I read, the worse it got. A third of the way in I gave up on it completely.

Instead of focusing on the Alice character, which is what interested me, the author kept going off at tangents, playing virtual poker, playing a D&D type of game, launching an avatar into a virtual chat room, and all of that was tedious to me. The parts in which Alice was featured were more interesting but even those lacked something and felt repetitious at times. In the end I decided I have better things to do with my time than to pursue this when it was so consistently disappointing. I can't commend it based on what I read.

1996 by Kirsty McManus

Rating: WARTY!

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

This book was advertised in a daily book offer flyer I get, and it was free! The only problem was that the only outlet offering it was Amazon! I refuse to get even free books from Amazon anymore, so I emailed the author asking if there were other outlets, quite prepared to purchase it because the subject so intrigued me. I'm a sucker for a good time-travel novel! The author pointed me to a free copy for which I'm grateful, and we exchanged one or two emails, but that didn't affect my review of the book.

The premise of the novel is quirky, and this was what caught my attention. It's that this woman Anna Matthews, in her thirties and married, is a food blogger and she gets a trial dietary supplement from this business that she promotes. The literature with it says it 'rolls back the years' or something like that, so she tries it, and discovers that it's literally true: she ends up in her sixteen-year-old body in 1996. The effect lasts for 12 hours before she returns to the present in her regular mature body, and nothing she did on her trip back there seems to have affected her present, so she tries it a few more times.

I enjoyed this and read it quite avidly to begin with, but as the story went on, some issues arose. Anna is having some minor hiccups with her marriage, so on a whim, while her husband is off on a business trip, she decides to go back to see him as his 1996 self. He's apparently been a bit secretive about his past. He was eighteen back then and she finally tracks him down and goes to his house to meet him, but there's no answer when she knocks. Why she thought he'd be home on a weekday instead of in school is quietly glossed over. When she hears voices from the back yard, she walks back there to see if it's him, and she sees him sitting out in the sun with his then girlfriend, so she spies on him and she gets really jealous.

I don't want to give away spoilers, but it was necessary to tell you that much because the thing is that on her two previous trips she'd met this guy named Kurt and was warming to him. Given that, it felt really ingenuous of her to get jealous of husband several years before he ever met her, when she's already crushing like a 16-year-old on this guy Kurt, and she's actually a married woman! So now we have a triangle and she's behaving far more like she's sixteen than a mature married woman. This really bothered me because it took me out of suspension of disbelief.

I know this novel isn't aimed at a reader like me, but it all seemed off. It was made worse by this guy Kurt cropping-up improbably often. I know the author's likely plan was to get these two together, but he shows up with a disturbingly metronomic regularity. It felt more like he was stalking her than that these were happenstance encounters. It was too much too fast, and that spoiled the story for me. Anna's immature behavior didn't help. It was like she was already planning on breaking-up her marriage before she ever went back in time and Kurt just happened to be her manly savior. It was too YA for my taste.

On the other hand I have learned what a Queenslander is (it's a single-storey house with a wrap-around veranda), and what a City Cat is! I'd thought that was a bus, but it's a ferry. Also there really is a place called Shell Beach! I first heard that name in a movie called Dark City, but there's really a place called that in Brisbane. Probably lots of places called that, for that matter, but I'd never actually heard of a real place with that name until I read this novel. Since the author is Australian, she might give some thought to how non-Aussies will comprehend terms like 'Queenslander' and 'City Cat' and perhaps add a brief word or two by way of explanation.

So, there came a point where I had to put this down to read some other stuff that had a deadline attached to it, and so I did, but when it came time to resume reading it, I found I had could not raise sufficient interest to pursue it any further. It was the woman's rather juvenile behavior and Kurt's creepy stalking that turned me off, so I didn't pick it up again. Despite reading just over half of it, I really have no clue if my idea about Kurt actually took place or if she instead patched things up with her husband. If it was the former, then I have to say that she's far too shallow to be my kind of a character in a novel anyway, but frankly, by then I really didn't care enough to resume it. I wish the author all the best in her career, but based on what I read, I can't commend this as a worthy read.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Beijing: A Symmetrical City by Dawu Yu

Rating: WARTY!

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

I found this book to be highly dissatisfying. I imagine it was not designed as an ebook, but that's all a reviewer like me ever has to judge it by, and it was less than stellar. It was also quite confusing and left me in the dark much of the time. Some of the text was misleading. For example, at one point when discussing the front entrance to the Forbidden City, the text mentions the "U-shaped Noon Gate" but all of the gates in the illustration are rectangular! The previous illustration had U-shaped gates (or more accurately, n-shaped!), so i couldn't tell if the text was wrong, the illustration was wrong, or if I was simply misunderstanding what was being said, or what. I'd specify a page number, but there were no page numbers in the book, which was another problem, at least for reviewing purposes.

Note that the book was 'adapted' whatever that means (I assume because of the fact that Chinese and English texts flow in different ways, but I may be wrong about that), by Yan Liu, and translated by Crystal Tai, so it's entirely possible that something got lost long the way. The illustrations by the author are meticulous and colorful, but they're very busy and it's often hard to distinguish exactly what's being talked about. Plus I have no idea what gender the author is. It's irrelevant to the review, except in that I can't use 'he' or 'she' to I'll stick with 'they' or something equally neutral.

There was a guide in the back of the book which highlighted greyscale drawings with colors to indicate specific parts of earlier illustrations. If only those had been included along with the text, it would have been a big improvement! It didn't help to have them in the back - and especially not in an ebook because unlike with a print book, it's a nightmare trying to go back and forth in a ebook and keep your place readily.

Some of the illustrations were oddly chopped-up, too. For example, regarding the aforementioned Forbidden City issue, this was also where it looked like one image had become trapped behind another, so maybe the text was right, but the image it referred to had become hidden behind the next image or mangled or something. But there were other issues, and again the transition point seemed to be they Forbidden City page.

Initially (and I was reading this in Adobe Digital Editions on an iPad FYI) there was one page per screen, but in landscape mode, it was possible to slide the image across and see a seamless 'full-page spread' as it were, whereas other images had a vertical white line down the screen marking the page transition. Right after the Forbidden City page though, the layout changed so that double page spreads were included on one screen, making them much too small in portrait mode, and comfortably visible only in landscape.

Again, this is not a problem you would have with a print edition, but publishers insist on sending out only ebook version for review unless you happen to be a top tier reviewer. What this means is that books can get electronically-mangled and publishers all-too-often fail to make sure the book is readable. This clearly happened here, but even ignoring all of that, the book as still confusing and sometimes indecipherable, and frankly I disagreed with the premise that Beijing - even ancient Beijing - is symmetrical. At least if it is, the author failed to convince me! I found the book not acceptable, and I cannot commend it as a worthy read.

Friday, February 14, 2020

French Fairy Tales by Jennifer Afron

Rating: WARTY!

This book for young children was a bit bland and boring. Perhaps young children might find it interesting, but I prefer my fairytales with a bit more oomph than these four or so very short, but illustrated stories pretend to. Although very colorfully and entertainingly depicted, these stories didn't really seem to have much of an ending, to say nothing of teaching a moral. Aargh! I said to say nothing of it and then I went right ahead and said it! Oh well....

Monday, February 10, 2020

Dark Queen by Faith Hunter

Rating: WARTY!

If this has been Dairy Queen it would have had more appeal and more chills! This is one I got along with an earlier volume in the series because the blurb on this one interested me; then I discover it's in first person, the main character isn't Asian notwithstanding the book cover, and it's filled with trope. I made it about thirty pages and ditched it beofre I yawned myself to death. I can't commend uninventive, unoriginal, and unimaginative novels like this one, so I'm done with this series and with this author.

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Rating: WARTY!

The blurb for one of the books in this series caught my attention, and even though I'm series-averse and will never write one myself, I was curious about this one, so I got the one I was interested in, plus an earlier one in the series to read as an intro. The curiosity didn't survive reading this trope-filled book for very long, rest-assured.

Jane Yellowrock looks like she's Asian on the cover, especially with that stereotype of a cue, but she's apparently American Indian. I just got through a short and sassy discussion of book covers with a long time email friend and it was her opinion that covers are all important. It's my opinion that they're shallow and misleading depictions of the content of the book created all-too-often by someone who appears to have no clue what the book is about, let alone read it themselves.

These covers are a case in point. I know that IRL, people do go by book covers, but I think it's stupid and shallow for anyone to judge a book by its cover. Quite obviously, it's the content that matters. I'd far rather read a good book with a shitty cover than a lousy one with an artwork for a cover (although I might buy a used copy of the artwork one for display if not to read!)

A major character in a novel I'm working on as I write this review is an American Indian, so I sure have no problem with reading about one, but to lead a reader to believe it's about an Asian main character from the cover illustration, and then have someone of different ethnicity actually be in the novel is a piss-off at best. This is my beef about misleading book covers in a nutshell.

Add to that a bunch of info-dumping in the book, some of which seems to me to stereotype the main character, and I'm going to lose interest pretty fast, I promise you. This is the same kind of problem American Dirt has from what I've read about it. Blurbs can be misleading too, but I don't think they're quite as misleading as the wrong cover no matter how many squees that cover gets at the 'unveiling' party! Seriously? I mean how freaking shallow and pompous can we get?

The next problem was the first person voice, which is unrealistic at best, and which I detest unless it's really done well. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it isn't. This book features Jane traveling to New Orleans. She's recovered from a devastating fight with vampires (so we're told) and is looking to get back into her business of bringing down the rogues, in this Trublood rip-off of a fantasy world where vampires and other paranormals are out and accepted at least in principle.

So this story's been done (to death) before, but I thought this author might bring something new based on the book blurbs. Unfortunately, those can be as misleading (or as dishonest, however you view it) as the cover can, and I felt misled by this one. I know the author typically doesn't write the blurb or illustrate the cover unless they self-publish - and maybe not even then - but you'd think someone who's running a purportedly successful series would be able to police the appearance of her books a bit better. On the other hand, why offer discounted books if you're selling them handsomely already? Maybe the series is in trouble. I dunno.

Anyway, Yellowrock arrives in town and meets with the trope vampire monarch - in this case a queen. Before she even gets there some sleazy stalker jerk on a motorbike is already slavering and panting after Yellowrock like a dog in heat. While bugs (the spying kind, not the insect kind) on the premises of the house she's going to be staying in piss-off Yellowrock, this dick of a guy stalking her didn't bother her at all! This turned me off the whole book, so I ditched it about thirty pages in. It was too sickening to read.

I refuse to commend a book like this.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Rhythm Section by Mark Burnell

Rating: WARTY!

This was a novel about a woman, named Stephanie, a college student who was supposed to travel with her family on a flight. They changed their flight to accommodate her, but she still wriggled out of going, and that plane crashed killing all onboard. Stephanie went into a downward spiral, and ended-up a prostitute in London, spending her meagre earnings on her drinking and drug habits.

One day she's visited by a low-level journalist named Procter, who tells her he believes the plane was bombed and he wants to talk to her about it, but she has him thrown out and beaten-up by the bouncer. After nearly killing a john later, she goes on the run from her pimp and ends up staying with Procter. Later, he's killed, but not before he's helped her straighten herself out. She decides to take up his quest to find justice for the victims of the downed plane.

I'd seen a preview of the movie and decided it looked good, and then had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook of the novel, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try despite it being the first book in a series. Initially, it was okay, but it was a bit plodding. I stayed with it because this would mark the first time I'd been to see the movie of a book right in the middle of reading the book the move was taken from. Usually the one comes before or after the other, so I was curious as to how it would affect my perception of the book.

In the end it didn't make much difference. The movie was okay, but a bit flat and uninspiring, so I went back to the book, which seemed pretty much the same: taking a long time to get anywhere. I decided to give it one more day of listening, but on the drive home that same afternoon, the book went into this endless, tedious, boring exposition that seemed to go on forever. For literally miles, as it happened, because I was driving, and I decided the hell with this and ditched it. I was about halfway through it, but that was too far: it was not getting it done for me.

Stephanie was improbable as a protagonist, because she was never really believable as someone who could come back from the depth she had sunk to, and actually do the job she'd set herself. Experience if fact proved that she couldn't; she was screwing-up time after time. I think even the author himself realized what a poor job he'd done of the book because he also wrote the screenplay and made a whole bunch of changes to it for no obvious reason other than to fix problems with the novel, but he ended-up making it worse! The movie was a lot more insipid than it ought to have been, with these endless maudlin flashbacks to Stephanie's memories of her family which contributed nothing to moving the story forward. On the contrary: they tripped it up frequently.

Plus Ryan Reynolds's wife Blake Lively did not live up to her name. She wasn't lively at all, not even after she'd recovered her health and was actively pursuing her targets. It just didn't work well. There was little humor, and some attempts at humor failed dismally. For example when she ran her vehicle off the road during a training exercise and Boyd, the trainer, was lecturing her. She pulled the parking brake on his transport and set it in reverse so that it ran backwards off the road into some trees. The thing is that both vehicles were four-wheel drive and so wouldn't have been stuck as they purportedly were.

But this is a review of the book, not the movie, and the book took far too long to deliver 'rewards' that were in the end too miserly to make up for the extended overture which preceded them. I can't commend it, and so it becomes another series, and another author, I shall not be revisiting.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce

Rating: WARTY!

This authors seems to skip the article (definite or indefinite, it doesn't matter!) from time to time:
“He was only one The Panel would approve in the area.” (the only)
“Admittedly, it had required opening up to man who had killed almost twenty people;” (to a man)
“Whatever the reason, she’d had to go to other” (the other)
“He still didn’t know she’s told Mel about seeing Teddy with the hostess” (she'd told)

This novel needs to be retitled "The Perfect Ass-Wipe." The book is a poor cross between Silence of the Lambs and The Stepford Wives with some Sex and the City tossed in for rude measure. The interactions with the serial killer are pretty much a direct rip-off of Silence of the Lambs ("Quid pro quo, Clarice!"), but it felt like the author couldn't figure out what kind of a novel he wanted to write.

This woman, for an FBI profiler wannabe and supposedly a promising candidate, seems remarkably stupid, and her husband is a jerk, but she can't see it. So on the one hand we're supposed to believe she's really sharp as a profiler, but on the other we're expected to swallow that she's completely dumb when it comes to profiling the motives of her friends and her husband - and his best friend.

She and hubby move to a new elite neighborhood when he's assigned to an office there, where he manages people's financial investments - so they're really well-off. He insists they join this ridiculous elite marina club (which she ought to have flatly-refused as soon as she learned that men (known as Oath Minders) often meet separately from women (known as Hearth Keepers). Seriously? She sure as hell ought to have quit when she learned that one of the activities enjoyed there is free love for husbands. I don't know of any self-respecting woman who would who doesn't vote Republican who would put up with any of that horseshit, but as with everything else, this Jessie girl mutely goes along with every single thing her husband Kyle, dumps on her. And he dumps a lot.

Things slowly deteriorate and come to a head when she catches him snorting cocaine with his friend Ted, and kicks him out. He comes back all contrite the next day promising reform, and she pretty much instantly forgives him. That night, they go to a party down at the marina. She's just learned she's pregnant, but she decides to drink some champagne anyway. My guess is that her sleaze of a husband put something in her drink, because after a couple of sips she began to feel woozy. Rather than have her husband take her home, she let him put her to bed in the cabin on the boat that belongs to Ted! Someone needs to give her a Ted talk! LOL! She has to be a moron to do that, given what she knows at this point.

I thought she'd wake up and find she'd been raped by Ted, but instead she wakes up next to the dead body of this woman she'd had an argument with earlier over flirting with her husband, and she has blood and skin under her fingernails. Instead of calling the police, this imbecile lets her husband talk her into disposing of the body, so now she's completely trapped.

She didn't agree to it outright because she felt so woozy, which ought to have told her she'd been drugged, but she was alert enough to have stopped him and she didn't. For her to even consider doing something like that given what career she was supposed to be following, is completely ridiculous, and I lost all interest in reading anything more about this bozo right then.

It was pretty obvious her husband was the murderer, and he'd bene having an affair with this woman who was going to expose him. It was obvious from the writing, but also from the fact that an author like this one is never going to let his favorite profiler get tied down with a husband and a baby at the start of a series, not when he can follow the safe road most traveled! I don't mind if a book starts out with a stupid character who wises up later, but to have an author depict a woman who he claims on the one hand is sharp and smart, yet who he depicts consistently choosing the dumbest option in any situation which faces her, is misogyny, period.

I resented the time I spent reading even half of this and will never read another novel by this author. If she'd been remotely as smart and sharp as was claimed, Jessie (the name says it all in this case!) would have refused to dispose of the body, called the police, and had herself drug-tested - and especially done all this given her career choice! She did the exact opposite and doesn't merit having a story told about her. Warty to the max on this one.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

I Came From The Water by Vanita Oelschlager

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is an odd book because it comes from a personal account by the author of meeting the young boy who is the subject of this story. Told to her through a translator, it makes a great tale of survival during the Hurricane, named Jeanne, which hit Haiti in September 2004 causing serious flooding and other issues in the city of Gonaïves, which is tucked under the south coast of the northern promontory of Haiti.

The problem is that I have no way of telling if this is true, and neither does the boy. This is the story he told, but there's no way of learning now how well he remembers it, or even whether it may have been augmented by suggestion or by his own imagination over the years. While I have a good opinion of this author and have positively reviewed many of her books, I have to express doubts here. She makes no mention of interviewing anyone who might have recalled finding this boy, which to me calls the reliability of the story into question.

Everyone loves an inspirational story, but all I can say in this case is that it sounds highly improbable, and while it may be true, presenting it as a modern Moses story based on a child's hearsay alone is taking things too far for my taste. Children's minds and memory being as malleable as they are, I have to doubt this and frankly wonder about the motive of a writer who presents a story like this. Because of all these doubts and misgivings, I cannot rate this as a worthy read.

Mission ot the Bottom of the Sea by Jan Leyssens, Joachim Sneyers

Rating: WARTY!

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

I have to express disappointment in this book. While on the one hand it does have colorful illustrations by Sneyers and it does tell a true story of underwater exploration in the newly-invented 'bathysphere ('bathy' meaning deep - something the book fails to educate on), the sins of omission are too great to let them go.

The exploration depicted here makes it look like it was all men all the time. There is brief mention of Else Bostelmann as an artist, but it makes no mention that she actually went underwater herself at one point - not in the bathysphere - but with a helmet on to make an oil painting, sitting on a chair on the bottom! I think that's at least worth a mention, but worse than this was the complete omission of any mention of Gloria Hollister, which was part of the expedition and who also took some trips down in the bathysphere herself, setting records for deepest dive by a woman.

While I can get with the idea of a book which educates about exploration like this, I can neither commend nor even condone one that seems dedicated to relegating the female contributors to mere support roles. Young girls need to be allowed to understand that they can do anything the men can do and this books fails disastrously in that regard. It also fails in the publisher's seeming lack of understanding that making it clear that women were involved is a selling-point for female audiences. This books seems like it's a boys-only-club edition, marginalizing the female contributions.

The Last Single Girl by Bria Quinlan

Rating: WARTY!

This is one of those 'Desperately Seeking Validation' kind of stories, where a woman has a deadline before which she absolutely must find a guy, or her life will be in ruins. If done right, it can be entertaining. The Norwegians demonstrated this in a Christmas TV series called Hjem til jul (Home for Christmas - English dubbed on Netflix) which was hilarious and enigmatic at the end, but in the USA land of the trope, there are far too many of these stories that make women look desperate, or stupid, or pathetic, or all three. While I am quite sure there are women (and men) like that, I don't subscribed to the cliché that a woman must have a man (or vice versa, or any mix of the idea).

It can be fun to read one if it's well done, but those are few and far between. This one started out in the fast lane on the freeway to Tropeville; then it seemed to be turning itself around a bit and rather than ditch it, I became interested. Unfortunately, it all-too-quickly took a U-Turn and continued right back to Tropeville, so I did ditch it. I am not a fan of reading novels about stupid women or patently ridiculous situations.

Sarah was purportedly hitting the point in life where all her friends were becoming involved with guys. What? Every one of them had been dedicatedly single to this point and she'd never head to deal with this before? Stupid and unrealistic. The trigger here though was that their New Year's Eve 'girls night out' was being sabotaged because the stereotypical queen bee of their group had decided everyone should bring their man on New Year's Eve, and hang those who didn't have one. Rather than ditch the bitch and find a group of female friends who were more akin to her own situation, or simply go alone and maybe meet a guy there, Sarah buys into this incarceration of a relationship, and in order to recruit a guy, she signs up to this online dating service. This is where Le Stupide began to kick in big time.

She sets up five guys to meet, and makes two dates with the first two at the same location and within a couple of hours of each other. Rather than be honest and tell the first guy that she only has an hour or so because she's meeting someone else, she lets their conversation run on and on until the second guy shows up. He happens to be best friends with the first guy and both of them ditch Sarah because they have some idiot pact never to fight over a girl. What fight? There was no fight here! Neither of them had any claim, much less 'ownership' of the woman they had both literally just met. Yet off they go! Morons.

The guy who Sarah meets in the café, the owner, starts commiserating with her about her fate. It's obvious at this point that he's going to be the one she ends up with, but Sarah is too stupid, no matter how long this goes on, to see that he's interested in her and instead keeps pursuing these rugged guys she thinks will match her. Guy number three is a single dad who forgot to mention this in his profile and shows up with three badly-behaving kids because his babysitter canceled on him. Guy number four is married and his wife shows up and blames Sarah for her own stupidity in sticking with this jerk of a guy. Actually I think that guy was the one who wrote the book blurb, because he sure can't spell 'frenemy'!

So, in short, no. Just no! This was badly-written and larded with trope and cliché, and it makes women look like losers and idiots. Why a female writer would do this kind of thing to her own gender, I do not know, but it's more insuting to woman than is porn, and it's nowhere near good enough for a 2020 vision.

A Small Town by Thomas Perry

Rating: WARTY!

After a prison break in a small town, during which masses of convicts get loose and ransack the place, literally raping and pillaging, two years pass and not a single one of the dirty dozen escape planners has been caught. Abusing grant money aimed at rebuilding the town, local police detective Leah Hawkins, with the sanction of several town leaders. is commissioned to go after those men, not to bring them in, but to execute them. Therein lies the problem. Since those idiots at Kirkus called this book 'superior', I should have avoided it like the plague, but I didn't know their opinion at the time, so I gave it the old escapee try, and it fell short. There was too much luck and too many improbable in it. The more I read, the more it took my suspension of disbelieve and mangled it.

I'd been hoping for better, since the main character seemed like she might be interesting. She wasn't. Worse, she was boring. The biggest problem she had was that there was no problem that she had. Everything went her way all the time and never was she in any real danger or any kind of jeopardy. Despite the apparent dismal failure of the FBI to get a handle on even a single one of these dozen escapees in two years, Leah was able to track the first one down in no time at all - living in his mom's old house. Seriously? The FBI didn't watch the place? The same thing happened with escapees 2 and 3. They were found hanging out with friends or relatives who were known to the police. No one checked these places? The FBI didn't watch them?

One of these friends operated a fake ID factory, and Leah was lucky enough to discover a trash bin that apparently had not been emptied in two years and therefore had new names with old faces on driver's licenses and so on, leading Leah to a California location where she was able to get three of them in one fell swoop. Seriously? An illegal operation not once emptied-out incriminating trash in two years? Bullshit. Never did this executor Leah call out to these guys and offer them a chance to surrender. Never did she alert other cops or the FBI to their location si they could be brought to justice. Never once was she drawn-on first, and forced to shoot to defend herself. Time after time, she simply and cold-bloodedly murdered them, despite there being nothing in her history to suggest she would be that kind of person, nor was there any real triggering event which set her on the road to becoming a serial killer. And in the end she paid no price for her own crimes.

It was too much to take seriously. I can't commend this book at all.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Gifting By KE Ganshert

Rating: WARTY!

This is a supernatural story about a world where science rules and supernatural belief is frowned upon, but where, of course, this one girl has inherited from her grandmother the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. Naturally no one told her she has this power, and she thinks she's going crazy. Because this is YA, she is of course completely and unrealistically ostracized because of this one freak-out she has when she and some fellow teens are playing with a Ouija board.

I don't normally read stuff like this, but it's been a while and this one seemed quite interesting; unfortunately, it immediately seemed to be going down the same road to Tropeville that YA writers all-too-often follow like a bunch of blind sheep. This author appears no different, sporting the usual YA fear of being different, and thereby ironically becoming in a real way, the very character she writes about!

The book was a free loss-leader for a series, but I can't generate interest in a series that's written this poorly and with so many clichés in it. It's YA, and in my extensive experience is already a mark against it. Worse, it's in first person, a voice which often irritates me far more than it entertains me in stories.

It seems to be a rule of YA writing that everything is black and white: there can be no room for gray areas or nuance in these stories. Consequently, Tess is so ostracized that her family leaves the area and moves to Northern California where, her parents say, there's an institute that can help her. Her parents must be rolling in money because this whole transition takes only three weeks from Tess's incident to abandoning their old house and moving into a new one! Wow! Privilege much?

The author describes the move: "we jettisoned across the country." That makes zero sense. 'Jetted across the country' would have made sense or even, "we jettisoned ourselves across the country." Earlier she'd written something about 'Judo chopping' her brother for some remark he'd made, but Judo is not a 'chopping' sport. If she'd said 'karate chopping' that would have meant something, but not with Judo, which is a throwing sport a little bit like wrestling. It's not hard to get these things right, and you have to wonder about a writer's dedication when simple mistakes like this are so readily made.

The author makes no secret of the fact that she's something of a born-again believer and her bizarre detestation of science comes through in her writing and spoils the story which felt a bit like she was preaching a sermon rather than relating an entertaining tale of the supernatural. It's so strident at times that it's off-putting and it ruins her writing.

It wouldn't have been so bad if she wasn't so very wrong! Those who believe in these things, talk about having faith because it's not something science can measure, but this is bullshit. If the supernatural world (which I do not believe in, by the way) purportedly has any impact on the real world, then in order to do so it must cause change in the real world in order for it to act or to be detected, and that's something science can measure, quantify and study. There never has been any such evidence.

The believers themselves admit this by repeatedly - and throughout history - making excuses for their god's total absenteeism and inaction! They talk all the time about how we must act. "God helps those who help themselves," they cry, which sounds truly selfish to me, to say nothing of utterly lacking the very faith believers profess they have, but this small part is true: because we help ourselves, no god ever has to do anything! LOL!

That conveniently explains away why no god ever shows! And how we browbeat ourselves: if we succeed, then it's a god's success! If we fail, then it's our failure! How pathetic is that? The Old Testament is full of stories of the ancient Hebrews fighting foes. No god ever helped them to win. This for a supposedly peace-loving religion, but whenever the Hebrews won a victory, it was because they were the chosen people blessed by a god. Whenever they got their ass kicked it was because they were unworthy sinners and direly needed to repent. I call horse-shit on such self-serving and deluded lies.

The fact is that Bible and other religious literature throughout the world is rife with stories describing how people did the work that the god really ought to have done! They did this precisely because there was no god to do it, and this same 'epiphany' runs rampant today! If there were such a thing as gods, we would never find ourselves in the position of always having to do the work! This and the complete lack of any positive evidence for a god or an afterlife is why I do not believe. I'm sorry that writers like this one do not have a sounder scientific education; if they did, they would not make the mistakes this author has made.

But this isn't a review of the author, it's a review of the book and that is sadly lacking. As I mentioned, it's far too full of trope and follows far too many other writers telling pretty much the same story with a tweak-tweak here and a twerk-twerk there. What I long for is the story that steps off that worn-out path and dares to tread where no author has gone before. This novel wasn't anywhere close, and I could not continue reading it. I can't commend it based on the portion I did read which was a recipe for disaster: one more half-baked than well-done.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Au Bonheur des Dames by Émile Zola

Rating: WARTY!

This novel was mentioned in a biography I am reading, and which will be reviewed in the near future. I found it interesting, because it's an historical novel that was written at the time, so to speak, and therefore had a lot of authenticity even though it's fiction.

The only problem is that it was written in French and I had a modern English translation, so it lost something in that, and there was some confusion about what to translate. Naturally, the names of people and places remain in French, but while on the one hand they maintained the French currency: sous, centimes, and francs, they translated measurements into imperial. I didn't get that! Did the translator think American audiences are so dumb they can't figure out what a metre is?

The story started out interestingly enough, with 20-year-old Denise Baudu arriving in Paris from the country, and finding herself with impoverished relatives. She is quickly forced to find work, and ends up as a sales assistant at a huge department store named Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Paradise). Here she is subject to such persistent cruelty from the existing assistants who seem to universally torture her, and deride her that the reading became tedious. It felt like reading a modern YA novel!

My ebook reader told me there were over a thousand screens, and I had made it barely to the halfway point when she got rather unjustly fired from her job. Maybe the story picked up after that, but by that point I was so uninterested in pursuing it that I had not the heart to keep reading. I really didn't care what became of Denise.

On the one hand she was cruelly abused, but on the other she was a profoundly stupid woman who let her profligate brother walk all over her, and she simply isn't the kind of character I'm interested in reading about. Seeing no sign of any real change in circumstances by the half-way point, I quit and decided to try something else that might entertain me better. Life is too short to put up with dissatisfying literature!

So I'm done with Émile Zola, and I cannot commend this novel based on what I read of it.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Rating: WARTY!

This novel is one of several l've seen come out recently picking over the bleached bones of The Wizard of Oz. Rather than re-write that story, this one comes in as a prequel, detailing The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It's also not aimed at children by any means: it's very much an adult novel. The witch is named Elfaba from LFB (Lyman Frank Baum) and is born, after her mother was raped, with green skin and is much despised. Way to make a pregnant woman who was raped feel like her child might be worth keeping, Maguire. She meets Glinda when they both go off to college and Glinda is presented much more as an evil witch there than is Elfaba.

But I tired of this quickly. The writing did not interest me and I gave up on it before getting very far. Life is far too short to stick with a novel that doesn't grab you from the off, so I let go and moved on. I can't commend this based on what I read of it. It was slow and uninteresting and offered nothing to engross me.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

Rating: WARTY!

I came to this via a movie called Ghost World, which I really enjoyed. Once I discovered that had been derived from a graphic novel, I requested that from the library along with one other work by this same author. I am sorry to report I was disappointed in both. The sad truth is that I often am disappointed by the written version of something I first encountered via TV or movies. I'm always hopeful but the hopes are too often dashed!

Ghost World, the movie, told an amusing and entertaining story about two disaffected high school grads who seemed to have neither volition nor ambition. These girls were drifting through life without goal or direction. One of them, Rebecca, was the more motivated of the two and was slowly moving toward living in her own apartment. These girls had been friends forever and the apparent aim was that they would share the apartment, but the other girl, Enid, was a complete slacker and rather unpleasant at times. The thing is though, that the movie made them seem like friends - even like sisters in that they were always there for each other even as sometimes, they fought or even screwed each other over.

The graphic novel wasn't like that at all. The artwork was unpleasant, and the meanness of Enid, the main character of the two leading characters, was a turn-off. She wasn't likeable at all and the ending was perfect in that she disappeared. In the movie the ending was amusing in that she disappeared. She was prickly in the movie, but you could at least see where she was coming from, and feel some sympathy for her. The comic made no mention of the two having any idea of moving into an apartment together.

There was no relationship in the graphic novel with the character played by Steve Buscemi in the movie. There was no ongoing relationship with the guy who sat at the bus stop on the route that had long since been closed. All of these things made the movie human and enjoyable, but all were glaringly absent from the graphic novel. In short, the movie was almost a different story, only tangentially connected with the novel. The move was the better for it. I'm done with Daniel Clowes.

Witch by Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa

Rating: WARTY!

Written by Gnone, with art by Barbucci and Canepa, this series is about a group of girls who find out they're the guardians of the tediously trope elements of Air, Earth, Energy, Fire, and Water. Had I realized this was a Disney series and that the creators had been denied ownership by the Disney Dictatorship, I would never have picked it up. As it goes, I was pleased that I had paid nowhere near full price for this. This volume was misleading, because although it says Volume 1 on the cover, reading more closely, which like an idiot I did not do, this volume 1 is part two! Then why not call it volume 2? Or episode 2 or something?

Well, it turns out that would breech the comic code whereby you're not allowed to know where the fuck you are in a series if you come into it as an ongoing concern. For some reason publishers are determined to make it as hard as possible to figure out exactly where you should start and in what order you should proceed. Endless rebooting of a series, reinventing it, retconning it, rebooting previously dead characters, endless returns of long-beaten villains, and all that crap are some of the reasons why I'm seriously losing interest graphic novels unless they really are one-off, stand-alone stories.

Nevertheless, this one did look interesting and was on close out, so I figured I had little to lose beyond a couple of bucks. I started in on it hopefully, but now I wish I'd spent the money on ice cream instead! So I was misled by seeing 'Volume 1' and overlooking 'Part 2 of Nerissa's Revenge'. That was my bad, and so this was not the first volume, but somewhere in the series. Despite that it wasn't hard to get into; it's just that it wasn't interesting. Instead of getting into the main story about the magic and all that, this volume wandered off into girlish drama, moodiness, and bitchiness, and it was tedious to read. I can see that crap in real life if I want to. I don't need to read about it in a graphic novel.

I have to add a note here about how disappointed I am with Canepa's art. Not in this book, but I've seen other examples and for a female artist to draw sexualized and exploitative images of young females like she does in some of her work is inexcusable.

But back to this book. I should have guessed with Disney that it would not be anything worth taking seriously, but you live and learn and the more I learn about Disney the less I like about Disney. Obviously this novel isn't aimed at me, but I don't think this kind of thing shoudl be aimed at anyone. It's possible to write a story that, while directed at a certain segment, is interesting enough to appeal to a wider audience, and also plays tot he strengths of the core audience, not to it's weakness, tropes, and clichés.

Authors who don't recognize this, risk becoming a niche item. Not that Disney cares. They can spit authors out and bring in new ones on a whim, and they have the legal power to kill lawsuits brought by those same authors without even losing their stride toward another ten billion dollar year, so why on Earth would they care? This graphic novel sucked.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Van Life by Nicolette Dane

Rating: WARTY!

"So we're effectively on the lamb?" Should be lam without the B! They're not actually riding a baby sheep!
"Off near the hollow and it's vast decline," No, not 'it is vast decline', but 'its vast decline' the vast decline belonging to it.

I saw this author listed in a daily book flyer I get and the title she had on offer was interesting, but it was only listed as being available at Amazon. Why authors limit themselves and sell their soul to Amazon like this I cannot for the life of me begin to grasp, but I won't do business with Amazon, not even if the book is free, so I looked on B&N for it and that one wasn't there, but this one was, so I decided to try it instead.

I was disappointed, so I guess I won't go and read the other book even if it becomes available through an acceptable outlet. The writing felt simplistic and amateurish and the descriptions of sexual encounters were laughable, the author squeamishly refusing to use real words for body parts and instead inventing absurd terms, such as "pink pellet" for clitoris. No, not 'terms', 'turds'! I'm sorry but I can't take any writer seriously who does that.

The story is about this woman named Julia who gave up her corporate life to travel around the country (USA of course, because everyone knows that there cannot possibly be any story worth telling that occurs outside these jealously-guarded borders). She drives an old van which she's slowly fitting-out with amenities such as a table, a solar panel so she can have fridge, a shower, and so on. She picks up temp jobs from time to time to finance her travels, but occasional part-time jobs such as a couple of afternoons a week in a bar hardly seem like they would earn her enough money to finance this kind of lifestyle! It would barely pay for gas, let alone food and any kind of other needs; however, I was willing to let that go for the sake of a good story.

At one stop in a town she's visited before, temping in a bar, Julia encounters a woman named Robyn who is upset because she just got laid off from her job. They sit and commiserate and get slightly drunk and Robyn goes back to Julia's place (she's housesitting on this occasion, as well as the bar job), and they end-up in bed together having unprotected sex. In short, they're idiots. You know it wouldn't hurt a writer, the story, or the readership, to put in a brief line about sexual histories there, or at least offer some sort of a nod and a wink to the fact that having sex with a stranger is potentially dangerous and even life-threatening!

More fool me, but I even let that go. This was made a lot easier by the fact that the descriptions of their intimate encounters I took to skipping because they were so boring. As you have to realize, the two of them end up traveling together. Robyn's justification is that she has to go to North Carolina to come out to her parents, because she never admitted to herself that she was a lesbian until she met Julia. I'd say she was bi since she had a fiancé prior to meeting Julia, but you know it's illegal to have a bi character in a novel like this. It has to be all or nothing, right?

Anyway, they set off on the journey and after encountering a seedy guy in Wal-Mart while shopping before turning in for the night, someone tries to break into their van, and Julia shoots him with this .22 gun she carries. So the assumption is that it was this guy they met. I began wondering if it was in fact Robyn's surprisingly placid, accepting, and compliant ex-fiancé who was the troublemaker here, but I could not be bothered to read this story long enough to actually find out.

So these idiots, instead of reporting this incident to the police, take off for the mountains, which again, shows how stupid they are. They end up camping in some national forest area. The next morning, Robyn walks down from their camp site to sit and watch the sun come up, but the description of this makes no sense. In order to get there to see that sunrise, she would have had to have walked downhill on a narrow trail in pitch darkness. Maybe she took a flashlight, but it doesn't say so. The author gives no indication that it was dark at all! Neither does it say it was still dark when Julia goes down there slightly later, to meet her. Despite the sun not yet having come up, there's no hint that Julia had to find her way in darkness or semi-darkness either!

After both of them are together down there, the author writes: "all while the sun moved up in the sky and began ushering the early dawn into the blue morning." I'm not sure exactly what she means by 'early dawn' coupled with 'blue morning', but to me, 'early dawn' means that Robyn went down there in complete darkness and at best Julia went in twilight, yet neither had a flashlight? This was really thoughtlessly-written. Clearly the author wanted to evoke a feeling, but she failed because she didn't actually put herself there and think through exactly what it would have been like. Either that or she conveyed it really badly! It was at this point that I said enough is enough.

I had let so much slip by that it became the straw that finally broke this camel's back. Based on these observations and negative feelings, I cannot commend this one as a worthy read. I've read some really good LGBTQIA books, but this was nowhere near good and I'm not even clear as to what kind of an audience a novel like this could be aimed at. Hopefully not one as stupid as the main characters in it!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

How to Outline My Novel by Sussi Leclerc

Rating: WARTY!

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

"Lie to his teeth" - should be lie through his teeth!
"Some characters live double lives like Peter Parker doubling as Spiderman, Bruce Waine and Batman, Buffy Summers the vampire slayer, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde..." Couple of spelling errors in there (Wayne, Jekyll)

That's a great name to have: Sussi Leclerc, who I assume is a French author who did her own translation or maybe wrote it directly in English. It's good English for the most part, a hell of a lot better than (pardon) my French, but I have to say I found this book wanting in several areas. The thing is that while I was intrigued by the premise of the book (which curiously the disclaimer depicts as a work of fiction!), I've never heard of her. I'm far from an encyclopedia of author names, but I've reviewed well over three thousand books on my website and I'd never encountered this name even tangentially. When I looked her up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I could find literally nothing she had written except a couple of books on how to write novels!

I have to wonder about a person who has no literary track record (unless all her work is in French and not available through two of the major outlets in the English speaking world), yet who promises to tell how to write a novel or, in this case, how to outline one. This seems to be par for the course for this kind of book though: they're always written by people you never heard of. It's very rare to have someone who is well-known - like Stephen King, for example - write a book about writing novels. Not that I'd read his, not being a fan!

If you go online and search for similar topics, such as 'how to write chapter one' for example, you will find the web is also populated with authors you may never have heard of offering advice (replete with cussing and foul language in one case, I'm sorry to report!). Maybe I just have it backwards and maybe those who write novels that become beloved are the worst teachers, and those who have apparently sold none are the best at explaining how to write something. That seems off to me, but what do I know?! I do know I shall never write a 'How To' book, rest assured!

But this is why I was intrigued and decided to review this particular one. Who knows? Maybe I can learn something. I'm always ready, but I should say up front that I'm not a fan of such books, because while you're reading endless books or attending lectures, seminars, and taking courses about writing, you're not actually writing anything yourself!

I'm a fan of reading, in great variety, what others have written and hoping, by a process of osmosis or something, that I can absorb into myself something of what made their book work, and maybe bring it out of me when writing something of my own. This has the same problem I mentioned above though: while you're reading, you're not writing! The thggn is that reading, these days, can be done anywhere, even on a ten-minute visit to the bathroom, or while waiting for a doctor's appointment, or on your lunch-break at work, if you have ebooks on your phone.

You can listen to books while driving, while cooking, while gardening, while exercising, and so on. You don't even need audiobooks to accomplish this these days since your phone will read an ebook to you; not ideally, but it works! At least on an iPhone. It's called VoiceOver and it's a pain, but once you learn to work with it, it does a decent job. The thing is though, you really need to spend at least as much time writing as you do reading.

The other problem with my technique is that one's own work risks becoming nothing more than a sorry clone of what others have written, and that's the most boring writing of all. I mean how many competition-based dystopian trilogies did Suzanne Collins inadvertently spawn when The Hunger Games became a thing? How many tedious vampire vs werewolf novels were tragically spewed-out in the wake of the twilight abomination, which for me signaled the imminent twilight of original novel writing? Such novels are tedious, and the thing is that neither Collins nor the woman who wrote that other novel and who shall remain nameless for her crimes, were copying anyone else (although you can argue that Collins was channeling Koushun Takami's Battle Royale, and the other story was in many ways a rip-off of Stoker's Dracula, but I'm not going to take that detour here.

So the real problem in reading lots of books is that you may fail distill something original from what you've been reading, and end up copying rather than learning the ropes. There is nothing worse than the tired parade of cloned YA novels we've seen over the last decade or two, and I feel that this is a weakness with this particular book, because it seems almost entirely focused on YA material, and in trying to set out rules for writing your own work, it's still playing into that same trope - rather like writing by numbers. That said, you can't simply write any old thing and expect people to embrace it as a literary masterpiece no matter how well it may be structured, because the sad truth is that far too many readers are like sheep in mindlessly buying into the clone publishing industry which rests entirely on woolly thinking.

I was right about this book teaching me something though! I quickly learned this startling revelation: "The main point is the antagonist wants the same thing as the hero, the exact same thing, only he means to get it the wrong way." I'm sorry. I don't have a degree in literature, but didn't Voldemort want to crush non-magicals whereas Harry Potter wanted to support them? Didn't the shark in Jaws want to eat people and the sheriff wanted to save them? Same for the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park...and Hannibal Lecter for that matter. And is it so obvious that McMurphy wanted exactly the same thing as Nurse Ratched? Not! I'm sorry, but this struck me as completely off.

The book quickly launches into a series of chapters explaining what needs to happen in the matching chapters of your novel: chapter one should do this, chapter two that, and so on. The author does warn earlier in the book that your mileage may differ, and that in consequence, you may want to change things up a bit to match whatever it is that you're writing, but this 'by rote' (or in this case 'by wrote', maybe?!) approach seems to me to be problematical if people follow it too closely. I felt it was the wrong approach, and risked the reader writing far too rigid a novel in trying to follow this plan, at the potential cost of spoiling what otherwise might have been a free-flowing work of art.

For me this was a weakness. What if your chapters are shorter or longer? If your book has fifty short chapters then surely you can't accomplish the same thing in chapter one that the author advocates here. In such a case, you'd need to calculate the ratio of chapters and try to figure out what proportion of the book you need to get to before you can apply the specific chapter rules listed here. Percentages of the distance through your book would have been a wiser choice. The author did employ these a couple of times, but why not more often, I could not figure out; it would have been less rigid and made a lot more sense.

For me personally, the book advice was made worse by the steady diet of quotes from YA novels. I'm not a huge fan of YA although I've found many books in that category that I've enjoyed. The problem is that I've found far too many more that are precisely what this author appears to be advocating: pedantic cloning of what everyone else has done, and that makes for the most tedious reading material because your novel will sound exactly like every other YA novel in the genre, and what's to differentiate it then? This is not good writing and it sure as hell isn't going to lead to great literature (in the loosest sense of that word).

The author seemed to rotate around The Hunger Games (which I liked), Divergent (which I personally detest), Hex Hall, which I rather liked, but which isn't well known, The Coldest Girl in Cold Town which I've never heard of, a novel by a male author who I shall not identify by novel title or by name because I detest pretension in writing, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone which I liked.

There were others which I'm not listing here because they were mentioned less, but they suffered precisely the same problem: nearly all of them were YA! You will note that the bulk of these I listed are trilogies or series. Even though I liked the beginning volumes of Hex Hall and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I never actually finished the series in each case because I grew bored; so despite liking some of them, it was annoying to have them constantly brought up.

Worse than this though was that these were all used in a positive sense. There were no negatives in this book! There were no examples of how not to outline your story or how to outline it in a non-standard way and still achieve the same effect. It was like this arbitrarily-structured pattern was the only way to go and I disagree. So do many other authors as judged from the huge variety of stories that are out there.

In this 'How To' book, there was no adjustment for example for short stories, novelettes, or novellas, nor was there any overarching view that could be taken if your novel is written as part of an arc - a trilogy (god forbid), for example. Naturally, you should write each volume with the same basic rules in mind, some of which are espoused here, but if your story is to stretch over three or (god forbid) more novels, then doesn't your overall outlining need to encompass those volumes too? That's a major reason why I found this so strange, to talk of only one volume and then use volume one of a trilogy as an example! It made no sense to me because volume one of any series is nothing more than a prologue. None of that was addressed here.

On a technical note I have to say that the copious quotations from the works listed (and others) and which I quickly took to skipping, were all done in an odd way. Instead of having the text inset to signify it was a block quote, the quotes appeared to be set in shaded squares. Maybe this would look fine in a print book, but in an ebook they didn't work so well. It was exacerbated on my phone because I always set my ebook readers to be a black page with light text rather than the other way around - a white screen with black print.

I do this because it conserves the battery, but it can produce very odd effects in books which try to go any way other than plain vanilla in their layout. What my mode of viewing did to the quotes from these various books was to set the background to little squares of pale gray, and the text to white, making the quotes pretty much illegible. As it happened in this case, this suited me: it made it easier to skip them! Note that these quotes gave major spoilers, so you might want to skip them too if you haven't read the book in question and plan on doing so.

In general the book felt like it had far too many persnickety rules and regulations, and it was far too 'busy' in appearance, making for an unpleasant read. I didn't like the approach it took, and I found it to be too set in its ways. So, while I wish the author all the best in her career, for these and other reasons listed, I have to say I was disappointed in the book, and I cannot commend it as a worthy read.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Thornfruit by Felicia Davin

Rating: WARTY!

The cover if this book is misleading because it shows the title as two words whereas in the book itself it's a single word. Shame on the cover designer. I loved the title just like I loved the idea of the book - a fantasy LGBTQIA story. Not common, and the uncommon is what often attracts me even when it's a magical fantasy, which normally doesn't attract me. I have to say I was disappointed with it though, particularly with the non-ending. I knew going into this that it was the first of a series, and me and series do not get along. There have been very few series that have made sense to me or kept my interest, but I do live in hopes of finding another that I will enjoy.

Alas it was not this one. It's depressing to be so often disappointed. The main problem is that the story really went nowhere and took its sweet time doing it, so all we got was a prologue, not a real story in and of itself. It ended on a sort of a cliffhanger and I can't forgive an author for that. Not when they say, "Hey! Pay for another book and I'll tell you the story I promised to give you in this volume. Screw that! It's too mercenary for my taste and I despise authors who do that. There was also far too many characters popping in and out of the story to try and keep track of, and they began to run into one another and become indistinguishable after a while.

Although the series name, "The Gardener's Hand" did not register at all because (it seemed to me) that it zero whatsoever to do with this volume from what I could see, I liked the title because it perfectly encapsulated the story of these two girls who meet in the fantasy land. They were an interesting couple to begin with, and for a while I was falling in love with them, but the more the story dragged on with nothing really happening, and it seemingly going nowhere, the more disillusioned I became, and in the end I honestly didn't care any more what happened to these two girls.

Despite intriguing me and leading me to read this novel, the book blurb, I have to say, lied! It begins by claiming that main charcter Alizhan can't see faces, but that's not true. She sees perfectly well, but she can't make sense of people's emotions from their faces. There is a real medical condition similar to this, called Prosopagnosia, but Alizhan doesn't quite suffer that. Her problem is that a face is simply a blank arrangement of eyes, nose and mouth, and she can read nothing from it. She can read minds though, so the blurb did get that right. Evreyet Umarsad aka 'Ev', is the other main character. She has no special talent and no friends because she's part Adappi - meaning her father is from Adappyr, and her kind are not well-liked. She lives with mom and dad in her mother's homeland close to the large port city of Laalvur.

Alizhan works as a professional thief and mind-reader for a city leading "family" headed by Iriyat who seems to have a soft spot for Alizhan, who has no idea of friends either until she begins to connect with Ev, and the two are drawn to each other. I liked that their relationship was a slow burn to begin with, but the more I read of the story the more I realized that this burn was so slow that it was nothing more than a fizzle. It goes nowhere in this volume, and I was truly disappointed that they failed to make a better connection than they did. I expected more and resented that the reader was denied this. That, the slowness of the pace, and the non-ending, are why I cannot rate this as a worthy read.

This is a problem with series. What ought to be said in one volume is puffed and padded, and spread out over three volumes and it becomes a tedious read. That's exactly what has happened here. The whole plot is of Iriyat's experiments on kids who are just like Alizhan despite her apparent attachment to Alizhan herself. It should not have taken a whole novel to get there and it really dragged at times. Just when I thought something was going to happen, or change, or move, we got served more of the same, and the story went into the doldrums again, becalmed with no wind in the sails. It was annoying and was certainly a case where 'rock the boat' ought to have been the watchword. I can't commend this and I'm done with this series and this author.