Showing posts with label adult fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adult fiction. Show all posts

Monday, September 2, 2019

Cinders by Cara Malone


Rating: WARTY!

Erratum
“She leaned against the hood and worried at a hangnail on her pointy finger”
Surely she means 'pointer finger'?! This is why I have a problem with that term. OTOH, maybe she does have a pointy finger....

Well I made it almost 60% of the way through this before I had to run from it gagging. It started out pretty decently - a female firefighter, an arsonist, a love interest who wasn't yet a love interest but was quietly in the wings. Even when Marigold and Cynthia aka Cinder, aka Cyn, start to hook up, it still made for an entertaining story, although from that point on it became much more of a YA love story than ever it was an investigation into an arsonist. That I could even handle.

The problem came for me when the story made its nod and a wink to the Cinderella story. Marigold, who always complains about the amount of work she has to do, but all she seems to do is be a socialite, invites Cyn to a social event and Cyn comes dressed up, but gets called away to a fire. She changes shoes while talking to Mari in the parking area (for no apparent reason!), and accidentally leaves one of her loafers behind, which Mari then returns to her at the station house.

That part was fine, but as soon as these two began making out and going into a full blown sex session right there in the bunk room of the station house that was too much for me. It just felt wrong and sordid, and juvenile. If the author had made the fire alarm go off so they were interrupted when they began to make out, that for me would have made for a much more entertaining story! But this author went obvious on me and rather gross and immature as well, and that was far too much for my taste. That's when the romance felt fake and forced, like the author was faking it rather than feeling it, and I lost all interest.

I can't commend this based on the 60% or so that I read.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Return to Cinder by Kristy Tate


Rating: WORTHY!

Having enjoyed Magic Beneath the Huckleberries by this author, I thought this might be a decent read too, and it was. It's very short - just thirty pages or so. It's a supernatural kind of a story about a life-changing event, but it's not a scary story.

Angela is heading home from a friend's wedding where her drive there took longer than the ceremony itself. On her way back through the Nevada desert, her car starts behaving erratically, but fortunately, a patrol car comes by and hooks her up with a tow truck. While she's awaiting the car being fixed, she heads across the street to a function and finds a bite to eat and some warm and friendly people. The thing is that when she finally does get back home, Angela can't find any trace of the hamlet where she'd stopped.

Spooky but not scary, this story was sweet, light, and an easy and fast read. I commend it.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey


Rating: WORTHY!

I thought maybe I'd read a McCaffrey before this one, but I guess not. I don't specifically remember one and my blog didn't have her name in it thus far. Plus, I'm not a fan of dragon stories, which comprise the bulk of her oeuvre, but here there be no dragons. Crystal Singer is exactly what it says: a woman, Killanshandra Ree, who was let go from her opera academy because of a 'burr' in her voice, and at a loss as to what to do next, discovers that she has an affinity with crystals, which are mined on this oddball planet known as Ballybran (what can I say - the author's Irish!). She happens upon a crystal singer in the spaceport departure lounge, and he tries to talk her out of it. The life is exacting at best, but the more she hears, the more interested she becomes, and she seems destined for the career since she flies through the induction and training.

If there's one thing Ballybran is known for aside from its crystals, it's its storms, which can be horrendous, and when a crystal cutter (aka singer) comes in late, his mining sled badly damaged by a storm which has also fatally battered his body, Killashandra has the smarts to track down the rough geographic area he was mining. Claims are guarded jealously and penalties for claim jumping are severe, but once a cutter dies, their claim is up for grabs, and Killashandra grabs his, which turns out to be a rich one because it has a nice vein of the most sought-after crystal there is: the black crystal, which is worth a small fortune.

With a nice haul in hand, Killashandra is set to sit out the highly dangerous annual storm season, but she's lucky enough to get off planet during it, because she's assigned to set-up and tune the crystals in the planetary system which has bought them to improve its communications. Now that might seem like a lot of spoilers, but it's really not. Plus the novel is almost four decades old, so hardly a new story.

Besides, there's a heck of a lot I haven't told you about this interesting, strong, and self-motivated female character and less about what happens to her during the course of the story. She proved to be completely engaging, and the story moved quickly, and it kept me fully on board, which is not something I can often say about a novel. It's also part of a trilogy, and I'm not a fan of those, but in this case, the first volume was so enjoyable and complete that I was definitely interested in moving onto the next one ASAP, which I could do since the trilogy is so old that all the volumes are out there already! I had problems with volume tow and this is why I am not much into series! More on that in my next review.

There were some minor issues here with plotting which are not explained, such as why there has been no effort to make synthetic crystals, the absence of which necessitates a somewhat dangerous and demanding (in ways I haven't revealed!) profession. Neither does the author explain why the bad weather has not been bypassed by mining for the crystals instead of working them in open-face pits. These I was willing to let go for the sake of a good story but they are examples of poor writing.

Anne McCaffrey has been writing literally for decades and so has a lot of experience, but there was a writing mistake in one section of the book where I read, "Lanzekci is generous, and I shall be installing the five interlocking segments I cut in the Trundimoux system." Nope! She didn't cut them in the Trundimoux system, which is what this sentence suggests. She's installing them there. McCaffrey ought to have written, "... I shall be installing in the Trundimoux system the five interlocking segments I cut ." That should make us all feel better that someone of McCaffrey's sterling reputation and long experience can get something wrong! Or maybe most people wouldn't notice - or care. Maybe it's just me.

But that's a paltry issue. I loved this novel and I commend it as a worthy read. I'm looking forward to the next volume, named after its main character.



Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Oracle Year by Charles Soule


Rating: WARTY!

Read okay if sometimes annoyingly by Charlie Thurston, this audiobook novel started out with an interesting premise, but got lost somewhere along the way and by about two-thirds the way through it, the author had lost me as a supporter by having the story ramble way too much. The blurb describes this debut novel as "clever and witty" but it's neither. And there's no "sharp-witted satire." In the end, what there was, was boredom and I DNF'd it. The writer is a comic book writer, but the novel doesn't read like a comic book; it reads more like a menu. A disjointed, rambling menu advertising yesterday's leftovers.

The premise is that a musician with the bizarre name of Will Dando (have prophecies, will dando?!) gets these predictions spoken to him in his sleep; over a hundred of them. With the usual computer geek friend, he sets up an anonymous website where be begins posting the predictions. The website is unimaginatively referred to as 'The Site' and the predictor is unimaginatively known as 'The Oracle'. There is a predictably ruthless jackass working for the government who wants to track him down and who hires a predictably tame on the surface, but dangerous underneath, older woman known as 'The Coach' to do the dirty. There is a predictably pissed-off religious leader with a predictably Biblical name who also wants him.

The predictions seems random, and will dandos around aimlessly, not knowing what to do with them except post them in batches on his website, but instead of posting them all and then severing all ties to the website, Will dandos on and on stupidly and gets tracked down, of course, because he's a moron. Monkey see, will dando. Yet despite being a whiny-assed moron, he has a "beautiful journalist" fall for him. Why it's important that she's beautiful according to the book blurb, is a mystery, except that only beautiful counts for anything in these novels, doesn't it? A smart woman doesn't work for this kind of story, neither does a capable one or one with loyalty, grit, determination, bravery, integrity, humor, or whatever. No, the only important thing to the misogynist of a book blurb writer is that she's beautiful because in his world, women have no other value, obviously.

Eventually even dandoing around as he does, Will figures out there's something going on here because the predictions, when combined and in hindsight, seemed aimed at orchestrating something. He's just too dumb to figure out what it is, and I simply didn't care what it was. I can't commend this.



Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Affliction by Beth Gutcheon


Rating: WARTY!

This audiobooks started out well enough, but it moved so slowly that I was truly tired of it by the time I was about forty percent the way through it. I gave up on it shortly after that. The narration by Hillary Huber wasn't bad, it was just a poor story.

It's apparently part of a series, but once again the publisher has failed to identify this on the cover. What are they afraid of? All it said was that it was by the author of Death at Breakfast a singularly uninspiring title which it turns out is the first in the series. This is the second, but it can be read as a standalone if you don't mind occasional references to a prior history between the two main protagonists, Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin.

Maggie is a retired school principal. How that qualifies her to solve murders is more of a mystery than the murder mystery itself is. Hope Babbin is a bon viveur as far as I can tell - wealthy and no clue what to do with herself. She's happy, in this story, to abandon her book club, which begs the question as to why she's in it in the first place. Maybe it's lazy author shorthand for her being smart? It doesn't work. It never does.

Maggie is supposed to be part of an assessment group that's inspecting a private and formerly elite, but now down-at-heel, girls school which is under threat of closure. None of this has anything to do with the murder, but it gets Maggie in the door. When one of the teachers is found in the swimming pool - on the bottom as opposed to swimming - Maggie is asked to stay on to help guide the relatively new and young current school principal through the crisis, but Maggie spends absolutely zero time advising the principal on anything, and instead immediately launches herself and her friend Hope whom she recruits for this purpose, into a serious investigation of the crime.

Never once does it cross her mind that she might screw things up for the police. Never once do the police advise her to keep out of the investigation. Never once do any of the people she interviews tell her to get lost and quit meddling, or that it's none of her business. Never once do they refuse to answer any of her questions - at least not in the part I listened to. Never once do these two share anything they have learned with the police, and never once do the police start suspecting them of being involved or covering-up anything. It's just too frigging perfect!

The whole thing was so inauthentic that it really made for an increasing lack of suspension of disbelief the more I listened to this. The feeling that grew on me was that here were two interfering busybodies who evidently had nothing better to do with their time than to get into other people's business with no concerns whatsoever for what they might mess-up. That's not my kind of story and this one wasn't even written well, so I can't commend it for anything other than wasting my time quite effectively.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo


Rating: WARTY!

This is evidently one in a series, although gods forbid the publisher would ever tell you that on the cover! I mean, why would they? It might actually be of use to someone! It would sure be a courtesy to those of us who are not into series so we don't pick it up off the shelf thinking it's a one-off novel, or if we are into series, so we don't pick it up off the shelf and end up randomly in the middle of a series that we'd prefer to start at the beginning - and all because the idiot publisher couldn't be bothered to say it was Book X of Series Y. This is why I do not have a lot of respect for Big Publishing™.

This book has a prologue which I normally avoid like the plague, but which I got stuck with since the audiobook doesn't always make it clear it's a prologue and even if it is, often makes it hard to skip because you can't tell where chapter one starts. What made it worse in this case was that the prologue should have been chapter one because that's where the accident occurs where an Amish buggy is crashed into by a hit & run driver. It's the start of the story - why would it be in a prologue? I blame this on the author. Prologues are antique. Quit it with the prologues already.

My problem with it came right there, with the police chief in Amish country arriving right on the tail of the accident, when a witness was still alive and yet not asking him a word about whether he saw or can recall anything that might help track down the murdering driver. I decided this cop is a moron and after listening on a little further, I decided I did not like the way this book was written at all. There was too little police and far too much whiny drama, and it wasn't engaging me, so I DNF'd it.

The blurb tells more, like the discovery human bones in an abandoned grain elevator which have a connection to Katie's past, Katie being the chief of police, and I am surprised I missed that when I looked at this, but I guess I was too distracted by the idea of an Amish murder mystery! I am so tired of these series where everything ties to the investigator's past be it a PI or a police officer. It is tedious and it has been done to death. Get a new shtick! Good lord what kind of a person was this anyway, to have so much death and misery following them around everywhere?! LOL! Give me something fresh and new for goodness sake.


Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Madame Cat #1 by Nancy Peña


Rating: WARTY!

I went into this not really knowing what it was, but it had seemed appealing. In truth, it wasn't. What it was, was one of the most boring graphic novels I've ever read. Some authors, particularly those of the newspaper cartoon variety seem to think people will find hilarious nothing more than a drawing of an everyday activity. I don't. And that's what this was - the lifeless recounting of the mundane day-to-day experiences of a woman and her cat.

The author's illustrations were simplistic, but not bad, although her two main human charcters (the woman and her boyfriend) seem to have only one expression ever on their faces. It was the dumb stories which were tedious. This cat talks to its owner, and seems hell bent on total destruction of the owner's home, but there are never consequences, and some of the antics are just plain stupid. The biggest problem was that there was nothing funny here: nothing original, nothing new. This was, essentially, a waste of a good tree. I do not comend it and I resent the time I wasted reading it. This book makes a great case for ruthless DNF-ing.


Artemis by Andy Weir


Rating: WORTHY!

This audiobook, written by the author of The Martian and of a short story called The Egg that I read and enjoyed back in March of 2015, turned out to be quite entertaining, but I still feel no compulsion to read The Martian especially not after having seen the movie.

This story, read beautifully by Rosario Dawson, and written quite well until the ending which sort of fizzled a bit for me, still managed to squeak in as a worthy read. It's about Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara who is a smuggler on the eponymous Moon colony. She's hired by billionaire Trond Landvik, who lives on the Moon with his crippled daughter because it's the only place she can be mobile on crutches. Given his billions, this made no sense to me but I let it slide. Landvik, wants Jazz to destroy beyond repair the four moon harvesters used by the corrupt Sanchez Corporation to mine aluminum, the processing of which creates oxygen which is consumed in the city. This will allow him to take over the mining operation.

Why the four huge harvesters are all conveniently in exactly the same place goes unexplained, as does why it is that a constant resupply of O2 is needed. They don't recycle the CO2? Anyway, Jazz manages to cripple only three of them and now she's being hunted by a hitman from O Palacio, the Brazilian crime syndicate which runs Sanchez, and by Rudy, the Artemis 'police chief'. She discovers there's something else going on here and as body count rises, she sets out to solve it, almost wiping out Artemis as she does so.

Throughout this story I had mixed feelings about Jazz who alternately annoyed and amused me. She managed to avoid pissing me off so much that I wanted to ditch the story, although the ending was far too convenient given the major crime that Jazz is responsible for. I can't imagine the movie company that is supposedly turning this book into a movie will actually let the plot stand as is, but I guess we'll see if it ever comes to fruition.

That said I did enjoy this for the most part, so I recommend it as a worthy read, although you are advised that it's best to check parts of your brain at the door before going into it. I think a better story would have been about Landvik's daughter taking over his company when he dies, but that's just me not wanting always to go for the lowest common denominator as too many authors seem to do these days.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Evolution's Shore by Ian McDonald


Rating: WARTY!

Published originally in Britain as Chaga, this novel has too many pages and too little happening in them, and this rang the death knell for it for me. To make it worse, it's merely book one in a dilogy, which means it's a prologue. I so don't do prologues.

The story is supposed to be about an alien invasion after a fashion, whereby the aliens send a conversion process to planets they want to colonize, which spreads unstoppably and converts local organic material to reprocessed organic material. In short, these aliens are evil no matter how benign their aim might seem.

So this meteorite hits Africa and starts changing everything it touches and becoming ever more widespread. Never once do people think of nuking it for reasons which went unexplained in the portion I read - which admittedly wasn't much. If they didn't want to nuke it there are other ways, such as chemical treatments or burning. None of this seems to have been considered, although I did not read far beyond the point where this begins spreading.

From the reviews of others I've read, apparently even the author thought this story was too boring to pursue, so he felt compelled to turn this into a love story. Evidently he needed to validate his female lead, Gaby McAslin, with a man, and so he had her taken in hand by someone with the highly appropriate name of Shepherd! From that point onward, so I understand it became a love story and the spreading contagion was nothing but backstory. Go figure. I'm glad I quit when I did.

I skimmed here and there beyond the point where I quit reading properly and saw nothing about any change to the woman. The book cover artist appears to be as utterly clueless here as book cover artists typically are everywhere, which I why I pay little heed to book covers. There is no transformation which involved a woman growing butterfly wings so why the artist chose that remains a mystery. I saw two different book covers and both featured a female rear elevation. I can only guess this artist (or these artists) love painting women's asses. In each case though, her hair is entirely wrong since the novel informs us it's long: down to the small of her back. So this is yet another case where the artist hasn't even read the book, a situation which is otherwise known as bait and switch for those idiots who buy books to read based purely on their cover.

I cannot recommend this based on the sorry portion of it I read.


Skinny Me by Charlene Carr


Rating: WARTY!

For a novel which is centered on body image, this one sure objectified and dissed other types of body. It’s not just fat-shaming that's a problem, it’s also male objectification which was rife in this novel as it is in far too many books I've read, too many of which are YA stories that have proved as laughable as they are shameful, and I find it hypocritical in the extreme. How can an author write a novel that features a person resolved to take charge of her life - which is this case she conflates with her body, and perhaps understandably so - and so was focused on body image, while abusing the bodies of others?

At one point I read, "She’s plump, but not fat, still attractive. She’s one of those girls who is clearly somewhat overweight" - like there is some point on a sliding scale of weight gain where a woman becomes downright ugly. The fact that this sliding scale is purely skin deep is evidently irrelevant to this character (or this author who is writing the character). That was one of the problems with Jennifer Carpenter, the main character who tells this story. She's so shallow herself and it seems the more weight she loses, the more ugliness in her it reveals, which is quite the contrary to what she thinks she's achieving.

The book had snide comments like that quite often and they seemed to get worse the more weight Jennifer lost. This includes what might be termed thin-shaming, which is just as nasty as fat-shaming, but which gets nowhere near the same attention. There was also appearance shaming, such as when Jennifer refers to an older man's hair: "though his hair is thinning it’s a full head of hair." like losing one's hair is something debilitating and ugly, or something that diminishes a person. Men have far less control over hair loss than women do over weight loss, and yet this is seen as a fair target? It's somehow fine to make bald jokes, but fat jokes are off limits? I don't think you can have this goose and eat the gander too. Hair is seen as a sign of youth and virility, but the truth is that it’s testosterone which contributes to male pattern baldness!

The novel also indulges in precisely the opposite - what might be called Glute Glorification? Beauty Blinging? The number of times Jennifer objectifies her personal trainer, Matt, is laughable. I read things like: "Matt greets me in a black tank that accentuates his perfectly sculpted arms and hints at the pecs." Jennifer's best friend is named Autumn, and she's dating Matt, yet Jennifer has no problem with ogling him and considering him fair game. I read, "I look up at him, he smiles at me and I wonder how happy he and Autumn really are. He seems pretty glad to see me and Autumn doesn’t usually take her relationships very seriously." So her best friend's boyfriend is fair game?

This is made even worse by the fact that Jennifer never tells Autumn that she's training with her boyfriend. This was sad because the author apparently expects us to believe that Matt never mentioned to Autumn that "Hey, guess who I'm training now? Your friend Jennifer!" This was beyond credibility. Neither of them had taken any sort of vow of secrecy to keep this from Autumn (why would they?!), so why expect us to believe Matt never mentioned it?

This is a sign that a writer wants to set a certain train in motion in her story, but is too lazy or thoughtless to do the work to make it seem natural - or at least natural enough that a reader would be ready and willing to let it go. This was the first time this story really pulled me up and told me: hey, you’re reading a story! It was amateurish and unnecessary.

I’d thought it a bit odd that Autumn, as her best friend and also a fitness trainer, wasn't giving Jennifer tips and encouragement in getting fit and losing weight, but maybe Jennifer simply wouldn’t listen? On the other hand, Autumn, even knowing how inexcusably mean Jennifer's brother has been to her, felt no compunction about dictating to Jennifer how she should live her life: "I know you and Billy never got along but he’s still your brother, Jenn. I shouldn’t be the one to tell you this stuff" No, Autumn, you shouldn't! It’s none of your damned business, and you weren't the one her brother shamed and denied and insulted in front of his friends!

I don’t buy into this happy ending and family has to come together horseshit that is so pervasive in novels, movies and TV shows. Families are not always like that and it’s dishonest to pretend otherwise. The author tries to win our sympathy for Billy by having him suffering some malady which goes unspecified for the longest time. It didn't win mine. Billy's behavior was inexcusable and he deserved what he got, whatever it was, for being such a jerk. I’ll bet Autumn never dictated to him that he should reconcile with his sister. Jennifer hasn’t done anything wrong there, yet Autumn is putting it all on her like it’s her fault! Perhaps she deserves Jennifer trying to steal her boyfriend? That doesn't make Jennifer a nice person though.

Most of the writing was technically pretty good, even thought it was worst person voice, but there were some lapses. At one point, after repeatedly hitting the reader with the sixty-two pounds Jennifer had lost, the author refers to the last time Jennifer met these people when she was "almost sixty pounds heavier.” What happened to the sixty-two pounds? Isn’t that over sixty pounds heavier?! But the worst part about it is that Jennifer, who began as an interesting story-teller, seems to be on a downward spiral.

She met this guy Rajeev, who is clearly interested in her - as a friend if nothing else, but when Jennifer goes to a party and meets him for only the second time, he comes over to greet her and she rudely dismisses him as soon as she sees Matt come through the door. At this point I really did not like her at all, which was a one-eighty from how I began this novel in some admiration of her willpower and work ethic in losing weight. It didn’t help that she now, if not before, saw herself only in terms of her worth to a man: "I’ll be worth a guy like him." What a moron!

Her diet doesn't seem to have educated her about food, either. In Chapter nine, I read that she'll "load up my plate with celery, carrots, tomatoes (but only a few—they’re loaded with sugar". Carrots actually have more sugar than tomatoes, if only by a smidgeon. Celery does have very little, but Jennifer is missing the point: these are sugars in whole foods - not like the mounds of sugar added to a cola or to yogurt (which is more sugary in organic form than in other form, believe it or not!).

The point about eating sugar in whole food - like a fresh fruit or a vegetable - is that it’s an integral part of the whole food and your body processes it rather differently from the added mass sugar in all the appallingly bad foods which people eat. It’s not the same threat in other words, so her concern is misplaced at best. You'd think with all the reading she's supposedly done thus far, she'd be a bit better informed. Or the author would be! It took me five minutes to 'research' this. You’d think Jennifer would have bought a good book on the topic and or watched a few documentaries about diet and health, rather than simply rely on Internet sources which can be dubious, but she doesn’t. Neither did the author apparently.

It may well have been that Jennifer improved her outlook later in the story but she was taking so long to wise up that I was sick of her by this point. I couldn't face reading any more about her, and I DNF'd the entire book, glad to be rid of it and have the opportunity to move on to something else. From what I read, the book was awful and I cannot commend it.


Jamilti by Rutu Modan


Rating: WORTHY!

Jamilti was a curious collection of short stories in graphic novel form - sometimes very graphically. Overall I consider this a worthy read, but it's quite patchy, be warned.

The art leaves something to be desired to my taste, but the perspective in the story-telling is interesting. It opens with a violent story of a suicide bomber, and follows with a wide-assortment of tales, including one about an OCD cosmetic surgeon, one about a fortune-teller supposedly blessed with real power, one about a Disney-themed hotel, and one about an Israeli musician who travels abroad hoping for a big break only to discover the whole thing was set up by an obsessive fan.

So like I said, a mixed and very odd bag, but enough to retain my interest. It just squeaked under the wire, and so I commend it as a worthy read.


How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis


Rating: WARTY!

This volume actually made me sad because I was hoping for so much more and got so much less. Not that I was expecting a recipe for happiness; that's not what the book is about as the author herself readily admits, which begs the title, but I thought it might be at least entertaining. It wasn't. Maybe the title is pure sarcasm?

All of the stories felt unfinished and the artwork wasn't great, but I don't demand that, as long as the story is engrossing, so this was a serious fail for me: that the stories were so bad. The stories are short and seemingly unrelated to one another - at least I saw no link between them other than their British authorship. I thought I might find some connection here; it's been a long time since I've lived in Britain, and maybe I'm missing things because of that, but the stories never seemed to go anywhere or even have anywhere to go.

I had the impression that the author was really doing nothing more than revealing her own odd view of her life and environs, which is fine, but if there's nothing for the reader to relate to, it remains obscure personal anecdotage with no appeal to a wider readership. This was a lot of work to convey so little, but others may find more to hook into than I did. As for me I cannot commend this.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Mister Miracle by Tom King, Mitch Gerads


Rating: WARTY!

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

I was truly disappointed in this. I tried to overlook the juvenile naming conventions which were put in place long before this volume was created: the 'super hero' being named Scott Free, and the abysmally brain-dead 'Apokolips', and focused on the story which was supposedly about escape artist 'Mister Miracle' being able to escape anything. The story began with an interview about how he had escaped death and this, despite telling us nothing, was the most coherent part of the story. After that it became a two-hundred page nonsensical drag.

The artwork and coloring was a mixed bag and the story boring, meandering, and directionless. The blurb informed me that there would be no ending (THIS IS AN INCOMPLETE PROOF OF THE BOOK ONLY CONTAINING CHAPTERS 1-10). I'm not sure why they would put it out there with no ending, but I was willing to accept that. I'd never read anything about Mister Miracle or his wife 'Big Barda' before, so I thought it would be interesting to me, but it really wasn't. Other than the fact that the hero is married, there was nothing new or different here. There was oddity which I speculated was explained by his purportedly cheating death, but the artwork which I think was supposed to convey this really wasn't pleasant to look at.

There were parts of it that were blurry with the colors not registering correctly and after a short while I realized this was deliberate, but it wasn't appreciated, and was nauseating to look at. I do not know what sort of effect the creators were going for here but it was a fail with me. There were also panels which appeared to be from a TV transmission, and far from giving us "a new take" here, we got the same ridiculous representation with scan lines on the image - like this was a low-res cathode ray TV and not a modern one. I've never found that appealing, not remotely. It's not even intelligent and it certainly isn't new. Instead, it's trope and it's tired.

I can't tell you what the story was about because despite reading all of it, I couldn't tell myself. I can tell you it was disjointedly all over the place, and it made no sense. There was endless talk of raging battles and frequent scenes of massed people fighting, but these were interspersed with laughably domestic scenes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Big Barda is so pregnant that the baby is due, and then we got endless pages of the delivery which was tiresome. I have no idea where that came from since there was no lead-in to it.

The leader of the fighting forces for which Mister Miracle and Big Barda fought was a psychotic and the fact the Miracle and wife (who was very much secondary to him) failed to see this, told me they were profoundly stupid; far too stupid to successfully raise a child. The kindest thing I can say about this is that maybe it represents one long dream sequence somehow induced by Miracle's supposedly escaping death (or while he's in process of escaping it), but that trope is so tired it's pathetic, if that's what it was. Even if that's what it was, it lacked any kind of a pretense at coherence and so made for tedious reading.

We're told in the blurb that Mister Miracle "even caught the attention of the Justice League, who has counted him among its ranks." That's not only poor grammar, it's irrelevant to this story in which (or should I say in who?!) I saw no redeeming feature at all. Miracle's costume makes him look reminiscent of Iron Man, and since the latter precedes the former by almost a decade, some serious thought ought to be devoted to giving Mister Miracle a makeover. That would have made this story at least a little bit different. As it was, all it was, was more of the same and that's not good enough. I can't rate this positively.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li


Rating: WARTY!

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

This sounded quite interesting from the blurb, but the actual book turned out to be a real disappointment, the main problem being that there was no one to root for and the story wasn't particularly interesting. I made it to halfway through with an ever-increasing drumbeat telling me that I could be reading something else - something that intrigued, or engaged, or fulfilled, or delighted me. This novel did none of those things. The characters were unlikeable, with no redeeming virtues. They were not even deliciously evil - just mean-spirited, argumentative, unsavory and uninteresting. I had no compelling reason to read on at all.

The writing itself wasn't awful, but there were oddities in it here and there, such as when I read “not even the vein in her forehead seemed to pulse.” There really isn't a vein in the forehead that might pulse noticeably. There are veins between the eyebrows, but these are usually rather hidden by the musculature. The only place around the forehead where you might normally see a vein pulsing would be at the temples where there are noticeable veins and the skin is thin enough to see them pulse, but this 'throbbing vein' motif is overdone in books these days, even for calling attention to its absence.

At another point I read, “He could not discern if she was beautiful. He knew her too well” Once again we have the emphasis on beauty, and put there by a female writer, like if a woman doesn't have that, she has nothing. Why do women do this to themselves? Are we really so shallow? This especially doesn't work in this context, because a person who has feelings for someone, even of "mere" friendship, would more than likely see them as more appealing than others did, even to their looks, so this writing was doubly problematical. Fortunately most of the book was not like that. Unfortunately, it was not well-written for other reasons, most notably, that it was a huge tell with little show, and it felt like I was being lectured to a lot of the time.

There were large paragraphs of telling us of people's feelings and actions, and those felt heavy and sluggish. They made for unattractive reading. Worse than this though were the endless flashbacks. I am not a fan of flashbacks at all; they bring a story to a screeching halt, and all moment and compulsion on the part of the reader is lost. I took to skipping these rather quickly, but it was hard to do so because it was hard to tell where a flashback was starting, so this was annoying.

The plot is about a bunch of old farts who have grown old together in a Chinese restaurant. Where the 'number one' came in I have no idea unless there was a reveal in the second half of the novel. There was no allusion to it in the first half that I saw. I had to wonder if it was an attempt to borrow some cachet from Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency which I read and was not impressed with either. But anyway, these employees ought to constitute some sort of a family, and as such, family members might argue and not always get along, but it was way overdone here and left a sorry taste in the mouth. I did not want to read a whole novel about these people, especially given that the plot wasn't really very interesting either.

I wish this author all the best in her career, but I cannot recommend this novel as a worthy read unless you want to have that dangerous mutant vein pulse in your forehead until it bursts!


Friday, May 18, 2018

Black Panther Doomwar by Jonathan Maberry


Rating: WARTY!

Drawn and colored by an assortment of evidently uninspired and certainly unimaginative artists, this was several volumes in one compendium and I wasn't impressed. I picked it up at the library because I'd loved the Black Panther movie and the wealth of strong female characters. When I saw that this book was about Shuri - the Black Panther's kid sister, who was now filling the role of the Panther after her brother had been injured, I thought it would be well-worth reading, but written and drawn by largely, if perhaps not exclusively male writers and artists, it turned out to be yet another disturbing and lackluster venture into boring objectification of female super heroes.

The villain is Doctor Doom. How utterly tedious! Can they not find a new villain? If not, then could they not at least find a villain from Black Panther's own history to resurrect? One of the biggest problems with comic books and a good reason why we see them tailing off is the total inability of their creators to bring something truly new to the table. They keep resurrecting - often literally - vanquished villains from ancient history, and it would be laughable were it not so tiresome.

Worse than this (and don't even get me started on the kitchen sink cameos from other 'heroes' of the Marvel stable), Shuri's form-fitting black costume makes her - a black woman - look like she's naked, and her unnatural postures in far too many frames seemed drawn by adolescent boys for no other purpose than to titillate rather than inform or impress.

It is truly and honestly tiresome to see this kind of unhip-dysplasic and scoliosis-ridden posing from female characters affecting stances that would be downright painful to strike were a real person to attempt them, with hips and asses thrust out unnaturally, and deliberately provocatively. When we see nothing remotely like those poses from the male super heroes, you know this is pure objectification. It's outright genderist and it's to be shunned and boycotted in my opinion. I dis-recommend this entire series.


Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer


Rating: WARTY!

This was a short audiobook that I did not enjoy at all because it made no sense, and the narrator, Carolyn McCormick, reading in a first person voice which I typically do not like anyway, did not help the book's case, because her reading felt false, stilted, and ultimately unrealistic.

The premise is that four women are entering 'area X' (great imagination used in the description there huh?! I'm surprised it wasn't designated Unobtania'...) to investigate a bizarre locale in which humans do not seem to have fared well and nature seems 'off'. A dozen previous teams have disappeared or gone insane, or had other negative outcomes, yet these four female volunteers are sent in alone, with small arms, but with no armed escort, to try to find out what's going on in there, and not a one of them is allowed to carry any communications or electronics? There are no drones or robots to help out? This made zero sense and wasn't explained in the 30% or so of this story I could stand to listen to. How the hell are they going to learn anything on the outside if those on the inside cannot pass word out as to what is happening? It's stupid from the outset.

The girls find what the narrator stubbornly insists upon calling a tower even though it's buried in the ground just like an underground silo. It has the weird fungus growing on the wall which spells words, and the narrator naturally gets 'infected' with spores while examining it. That's as far as I listened because the narration was annoying, the story nonsensical, and my reasons for pursuing it beyond this point non-existent.

None of these women had a name, merely a profession, so one was the biologist, one the psychologist, one the linguist, and so on. This was asinine! Even if they'd been issued some sort of instruction not to use names they inevitably would have, because who on the outside would even know? This felt completely inauthentic and felt like what it was: a guy writing about women without really understanding how they think or work together. It was merely one more reason not to take this seriously. Based on what I heard, I cannot recommend this at all.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Life After Life By Kate Atkinson


Rating: WARTY!

This was another attempt at Kate Atkinson via audiobook. It failed.

I came to her as an author via Case Histories on TV, which I really enjoyed, but my foray into her novel about the same characters was boring. I had the same experience here, but I confess it did take me longer to get bored! Normally when an author has failed me I don't go back to that same author. I had the same policy on dating when I was single! LOL! I don't see the point in revisiting a disappointment so I've never done it with dating and very rarely with authors. I only went back to this author because I got three of her novels from the library at the same time and wanted to at least give them all a try as long as I had them.

This one had sounded really interesting. In some ways it was reminiscent of my own Tears in Time, although that was sci-fi and didn't involve the character dying. This novel was a bit more like the movie Groundhog Day except that instead of the main character falling asleep and reliving the same day over, the main character here dies and then somehow continues on as though nothing has happened. There's no information as to how this works: whether it actually is a redux or whether this is a trip through parallel universes. Perhaps by the end of the novel this is made clear, but I only made it to just under halfway through.

I gave up on it because it was becoming tedious and repetitive. It wasn't so much that it went over the same story again and again, although it did to begin with. In this story we did slowly move forward and the character did progressively grow older as the story went on, from infant-hood to childhood to teen years and older, and even into a marriage which didn't work out. I lost interest because the tedium of her life remained the same, the relationships remained the same, and the kind of events that befell her remained the same. Nothing really different happened, so while she was growing, the story was not!

On top of that, Ursula, the main character, simply wasn't that interesting. She was so passive and she didn't do anything! Instead, things happened to her, and this never changed. She was far too passive: even a rape and a subsequent botched abortion did not impinge upon her significantly. You'd think that repeatedly dying and then finding out they had survived the death and had a second (and a third, fourth, etc) opportunity, would actually change a person and have a profound effect on them, and that this effect would become increasingly powerful as it was repeated, but this wasn't the case here at all. Ursula was Teflon™ coated! Nothing affected her. Nothing left a mark! It was entirely unrealistic, and this story simply wasn't for me. I do not recommend it. I'd much rather have read about Ursula's aunt Isabella, who sounded far more interesting than ever Ursula could be.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Moby-Dick graphic novel by Herman Melville


Title: Moby-Dick graphic novel
Author: Herman Melville
Publisher: Marvel
Rating: WORTHY!

Adapted by Roy Thomas.

I can't imagine myself sitting down and reading Moby-Dick (yes the title had a hyphen, but curiously not the text!) in the original six hundred page novel, although I confess that I am tempted now to try the audio book version just out of curiosity, but this graphic novel version was pretty darned good and I'm rating it positively. The text is largely faithful to the original as far as is possible, so I understand, but obviously they had to excise a significant amount of that tome to fit it into a graphic format. Evidently the original novel is larded-up with long chapters taken from the author's own experiences at sea, and from his own extensive reading about whaling. He never was a whaler, but he had seen service in the navy. The novel bombed during his own lifetime. Now it's considered a classic. Go figure.

Everyone thinks they know this story, which Melville dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, a one-time neighbor and friend who lured him into writing as a career, but I found it quite eye-opening to read even the graphic novel. I was struck by how similar it is to the Steven Spielberg movie Jaws - or more accurately by how similar Jaws is to this. I think I watched the Moby-Dick movie once - the one with Gregory Peck, where he sails off lashed to the whale, his arm waving as though he's beckoning others to follow him in his fruitless quest, but that's not what happens in the novel.

The story famously begins "Call me Ishmael", and this character is the one who tells the story as the only survivor of the ill-fated expedition, but it isn't an irritating first person story at all, refreshingly enough. Ishmael befriends Queequeg, evidently a Polynesian prince. Queequeg, along with Tashtego, a native American, and Daggoo, from somewhere unspecified in Africa, are the three harpoon exerts who sail on this voyage almost around the world wailing on whales. The crew of the boat is refreshingly cosmopolitan. The final showdown takes place not in the North Atlantic, but on the equator out in the Pacific.

Believe it or not, the story is evidently rooted in some real life events. Mocha Dick is clearly the source for Moby-Dick. A ship, the Essex out of Nantucket was sunk in 1820 after being head-butted by a so-called sperm whale. A second mate from a ship named Nantucket was drowned in the same way as Ahab is depicted as dying in the novel.

So in short, I highly recommend this particular graphic novel version of Herman Melville's best known work. I can't speak for any other such versions, but this is definitely worth your time if you're at all interested in this story, and it will serve you better than a dry Cliff's or Spark- notes précis. The artwork is really wonderfully done, and the story is told impeccably, and dramatically whilst adhering to the author's original work as far as is reasonably possible.

I don't normally read prologues, introductions, prefaces and so on, but in this case it was worth it to discover what had been done to the original (and the glossary at the end is useful to). The final showdown with the whale is only three chapters long in Melville's original, but it occupies a third of the graphic novel, and I think that was a smart decision. Go read it, and see what you think. The library probably has a copy if you don't want to immediately lay out cash for it. The original is available free on-line from Gutenberg.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Off and Running by Philip Reed


Title: Off and Running
Author: Philip Reed
Publisher: Brash books
Rating: WORTHY!
Erratum:
"...heart trouble run in the family." should be "...heart trouble runs in the family."

Set towards the end of 1999 (for reasons unclear to me), this novel began with a very short prologue which I skipped as I always do. The first problem I ran into was that there was a character named Jack - the most clichéd of all character names. I took a vow a while back never to read another novel which has a main character named Jack (in this case, Jack Dillon, can you believe?!) and that vow is the most pathetic one I ever made, because I have somehow managed to saddle myself with several such novels since then. This one looked interesting from the blurb, so once again I swallowed my pride, integrity, and commitment, and decided to try it out. I sincerely hoped that this author wouldn't make me regret it! He didn't.

Jack is undertaking (I may be employing that term advisedly given Walt's age!) to write a bio for a renowned comedian of yester-year, Walt Stuckey. Nobody does this kind of show any more, but Walt had a well-regarded TV comedy and variety show running from 1967 to 1973, when it was abruptly and mysteriously canceled.

Jack begins meeting with Walt regularly, and the two of them get along like pants on fire until Walt is stricken by a stroke and his eldest son Garrett (which in this story is evidently an acronym for Gloating, Arrogant, Ridiculously Retarded, Expletive-Terminated Twat), muscles in and takes over. He's a officious little jerk who happens to be the executor of Walt's will, and who rapidly pisses everyone off, including Walt's girlfriend, Mary, who has no power in this situation because Walt never married her, so she would inherit nothing if Walt dies. He also fires Walt's nurse.

It's at this point that Jack starts drawing close to Mary, which is rather a surprise, because up to this point we've been given no idea whatsoever that anything is wrong with Jack's marriage, and now it seems like there are issues galore with it. That seemed way too jarring because no hint had been given of this to begin with.

What this felt like to me was that Mary was manipulating Jack somehow for some purpose of her own, or perhaps in collaboration with Garret. I certainly didn't trust her, but jack throws his lot in with Mary after Garret fires him from the book-writing project and they end up kidnapping Walt! That's all the story I'm going to give you.

One thing which seemed a bit anachronistic, even for 1999, was the use of tapes by Jack to record his interviews with Walt. Maybe he was old fashioned, but even in 1999 it was becoming hard to find recording tape, which was antiquated by then, even in digital form! There were several issues of this nature which others may or may not notice let alone find irksome, but fortunately, the overall story was compelling enough that I decided to overlook them as reasons to reject he story.

It was a bit of a kick in the pants to see Garret muscling in on Jack's turf as soon as Walt was disabled, but Jack's agent evidently screwed him. This is why we self publish, folks! It would have been nice to have had a few more details earlier so we understood this when it happened, but when Jack fully grasps how poor of a grasp on this biography he really has, and that he doesn't even have ownership of his own tapes, this certainly gives him (he believes) a good reason to kidnap Walt so they can finish the book, although given that Walt is largely incoherent at that point, I don't see what advantage this gives him.

So Jack, Mary, and Walt head off to Mount Whitney. Let's hope Whitney's up for it.. That was a Walt Stuckey style joke. One thing the local police do not understand is the California Penal Code section 207(a)! The police chief claims it depends on how far the victim is taken, but it really doesn't:

Every person who forcibly, or by any other means of instilling fear, steals or takes, or holds, detains, or arrests any person in this state, and carries the person into another country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county, is guilty of kidnapping.

You'd think a police chief would be more up on the codes than that, but this is a small town. That said, the chief actually doesn't know whether Walt consented to go or not, so he's a bit limited in what he can do without more information, and he is a lot sharper than that idiot Garret credits him for.

The story dragged a bit - it ought to have been shorter I felt, and for a while I went back and forth on whether this was a worthy read, because some of it made little sense (for example, where did Slade manage to find himself a camper trailer on the mountain - in a national park?! He didn't have one earlier), and some of the motivation seemed off, but overall I liked the story and the characters. It made me want to read to the end even as I skipped a bit here and there, so it was really that which made me decide this was indeed a worthy read, and I'd recommend it with the above-mentioned caveats in mind.