Showing posts with label audio book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audio book. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles


Rating: WARTY!

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

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


And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

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

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


Shirley by Charlotte Brontë


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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


Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Every Tool's a Hammer by Adam Savage


Rating: WARTY!

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

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


Chaos in Death by Nora Roberts aka JD Robb


Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

So this story and me? No way in hell!


Monday, September 2, 2019

Troublemaker by Andrew Clements


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a really short audiobook aimed at middle-graders and read pretty decently by Keith Nobbs.

Young Clayton Hensley was known for the rather mean gags he pulls at school and he was getting sent to the office a couple of times each month, but when his older brother gets out of jail, he lays it on the line that he wants Clay to reform and not end up like him. On Halloween though, someone eggs the school principal's house and spray paints a graffiti sketch on the door. The picture is of something that Clayton had drawn at school in art class, so now he's the prime suspect, especially since he supposedly spent that entire evening in his ground-floor bedroom in a huff. He could have easily slipped out of the window. But did he?

The story was a bit predictable and trite at times. I mean, it seems to me it would have been difficult for someone to do all of that to a house and not been seen by trick-or-treaters for one thing. For another having the school cut-up being also artsy was a bit much, but overall it wasn't too bad and it sends a message, so I feel I can commend this as a worthy read for the intended audience.


The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall


Rating: WARTY!

After really enjoying The Penderwicks at Point Mouette I made the mistake of trying another one! It was just the opposite: boring, no humor, silly, unimaginative, unrealistic, and thoroughly-lacking in entertainment value. If it had been written in the fifties then it might have made for a cute tale, but as it was, I was truly disappointed in it. On the upside, this does support my contention about series: you can't maintain that rush of the first volume! Not that the previous volume was the first, but....

From volume two onward, you're inevitably going into territory that's already a beaten path, so what can you bring to it that's truly new? A precious few authors have good answers to that question, but far too many do not. I blame publishers for selectively seeking-out authors who promise, for better or for worse, to bring them a lucrative series. I blame readers too, for reading on in quiet desperation despite the poor quality of the sequels, thereby propping up a failed regime.

Like the previous volume I listened to, I had no idea which volume this was in the series when I listened to it, since once again the idiot publisher failed to even so much as mention that it was a series on the cover, let alone identify which in the series this volume is. With these stories I guess it really doesn't matter at all, since it appears of little importance in what order they're read - at least as judged from my sample of two. The reading by Susan Denaker was again very good, but not good enough to make up for trite and uninteresting material as the four Penderwick sisters interfere with their father's dating experience which is initiated by an aunt.

Obviously these children, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and the unfortunately-named Batty, know better than the grown-ups. Not! While in a well-written story, these fictional kids might know their father better than he knows himself, the problem here is that the author fails to do the work to convince the reader that this same case holds here. Worse than this though, the author seems to fail to grasp that there's technology in our modern world! Despite all of these stories being written since 2005, there is no computer, television, or phone anywhere to be found in this story, which it turns out was the second in the series, written in 2008. Unbelievable! It's like the author set it in 1955, but forgot to change the scenery to match.

I can't commend this at all.


Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie


Rating: WORTHY!

After this I have about four more Agatha Christie novels I'm interested in reading because they had mentions that interested or intrigued me in the biographies I read, and then I'm done with her. I think I've done enough! LOL! This one was another attempt to listen to one of her stories, an effort which hasn't been going well lately, but I can hope that if they're read by David Suchet as this one was, they might engage more. He does a masterful job of reading this particular novel - really quite engaging. That may be why I enjoyed this story, although the story is one of her better ones, I think.

The mystery is of the death of Marlene Tucker, a young girl who is ironically playing the victim in a murder mystery enactment put on as a sort of treasure hunt for attendees at a fête held at Nasse House in Devon. I recently saw a novel advertised which essentially steals this plot for its own. The treasure hunt is being staged by Ariadne Oliver, a well-known writer of murder mysteries, who has contacted Poirot because she has become suspicious of an assortment of changes to her plot which have been requested by various people. Something feels wrong to her and she hopes Poirot can figure out what's up, but before he can do so, Marlene is dead, and Lady Stubbs, wife of Sir George Stubbs, the newish owner of Nasse House, is missing.

The murder investigation drags on over several weeks with neither the police nor Poirot making progress, until Poirot has an insight and finally solves it. I find it ridiculous that Poirot is never charged with obstructing justice since he frequently withholds so much information from the police, even when he has strong suspicions, if not a strong conviction of the murderer's identity! But that aside, this story was well-written and entertaining, and beautifully-read, so I commend it as a worthy listen.


Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

This one was not well read by Anna Massey, and the story wasn't engaging me at all so I DNF'd it. I had already seen this on TV but I couldn't recall the finale, so I thought it might make for an entertaining read, but in the end it was just annoying. Holmes once said to his companion, "Watson, you know my methods!" which was his polite way of saying 'figure it out for yourself' and so it's time, I think, to read a biography about Christie, and see if I can learn anything from that about what made her tick.

On the upside, this story is mercifully-free of that moron Captain Hastings who makes John Watson look like a scintillating paragon of incisiveness. On the other, it was a bit much to swallow. It features Amy Leatheran (a name to conjure with!) who is a nurse taking up her charge in the Iraq desert at an archaeological dig, caring for the ailing wife of the man in charge of the dig. This woman - the patient, not the nurse - seems to have experienced terrifying hallucinations, and in the end dies, and Hercule Poirot finds himself trying to unearth clues as to the perp. I can't commend this audiobook version based on the portion to which I listened.


By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

This was my first - and last - experience of Agatha Christie's Tuppence and Tommy Beresford stories. Tuppence, seriously? Does she have a sister half her age named Penny? Actually her name is prudence. I have no idea how she got labeled Tuppence. The plot was quite an engaging one: a painting goes missing and it turns out the painting reveals something really rather critical about a criminal enterprise. T&T begin an investigation and showing a complete lack of prudence, Tuppence goes off alone and disappears. Rather than call the police, Tommy takes up her disappearance as his primary investigation, and he ends up knocking on the door of this woman whose name I forget, but who inadvertently became my hero!

Instead of him grilling her in the hope of finding a lead to his wife's disappearance, she ends up interrogating him and he lets her take complete control! This went on, and on and on, and on, and...on. I'm serious. It went around in circles forever and I got so irritated with it that I quit listening to this summarily. You know it's bad when you'd rather listen to rubber on asphalt than to the actual audiobook you ahve in your car, especially during a somewhat tense long-distance drive where a mild distraction would have been very welcome.

I swear I don't give tuppence about this investigating team and I never will. In fact rather than shilling out for another such story I would pound on their heads so severely that they'd be left only half a crown....


Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour


Rating: WARTY!

I did not get far with this at all. It sounded interesting from the blurb, but it was worst person voice and I usually find that annoying. I find it particularly annoying when it's happening in real time and the narrator's voice doesn't remotely reflect the terror of enduring a life-or-death experience, as this one failed dismally when Nadya fell from the airship and went plummeting down through the clouds - and her narrating voice remained unchanged! Worse, her description of it was boring!

The most serious problem here was not that Nadya actually had a sky-lung and was stupidly named after it, but that there's no suspense here whatsoever. By definition, there cannot be in first person stories because this girl is narrating the story - what, are they going to stop it 15% in because she died unexpectedly? No! I stopped it at 15% in though, because I couldn't take it seriously. I wasn't openly laughing at it, but it was a close-run thing. Gone is your immediacy. It was sad because the world the author had been building was moderately interesting, but the voice was just not getting me to suspend my disbelief, so I suspended my listening to it instead. I can't commend it based on this experience.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

Here's an example of Christie reusing old material. One the characters is named Bella like the one in her Dumb Witness story, and also we have an instance here of Poirot being summoned to help out someone whose life is on the line and he arrives too late - again, like in the Dumb Witness story. It's also in some ways a case of mistaken identity as in Dumb Witness. The story takes place in Merlinville-sur-Mer in France where Poirot arrives with all Hastings at the Villa Genevieve to discover that mister Renauld was stabbed in the back with a letter opener the previous night, and left in a newly-dug grave by the local golf course.

The worst part of this story for me was the appalling reading by Charles Armstrong, who has no idea how to pronounce French words and repeatedly mangles ones such as Sûreté and Genevieve. When he tries to imitate a female voice his own voice sounds like he's being strangled. It was horrible to listen to and I couldn't stand to hear any more after the first 15 percent or so. I DNF'd this and consider it a warty "read".

I got hold of the DVD for Murder on the Links as well as Dumb Witness. Of the two, the latter departed from the book the most - and by quite a considerable margin, but I enjoyed that filmed story. It was cute and amusing, but Miss Peabody was totally absent, which annoyed me to no end. Murder on the Links, by contrast, was a lousy story which made no sense and in which Hastings was a complete dumb-ass (even more than he usually is) who got rewarded rather than getting his just deserts for actively perverting with the course of justice.

Having DNF's this, I can't comment on whether the book was as bad, but the TV show in regard to this particular episode simply isn't worth watching. Worse than this though was that despite the story taking place almost entirely in France, every single person spoke with a perfect English accent with no trace of actual French marring it whatsoever! Even French words like Genevieve and Sûreté were mangled. It was almost as though it was filmed entirely in England with a complete English cast! Whoah! Trust me, it sucked. I think it's by far the worst Poirot episode I ever saw and I've seen most of them so this one is double-warty!


Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie


Rating: WARTY!

This started out rather well, and was quite well read by Hugh Fraser, who played Poirot's companion Captain Hastings in the David Suchet TV series which covered very nearly all of Poirot's stories. The problem for me was that it descended into predictability and tedium in the last third or so, and the brilliant detective Poirot failed to see clues that even I could see, which tells me this story was badly-written.

I'm not a fna of detective stories which begin by telling us information the detective doesn't have. I much prefer the ones where we come in blind to the crime, just as the detective arrives. This one was not one of the latter, but the former, so we got an overly-lengthy introduction to the crime which to me was uninteresting and removed any suspense and excitement.

That said it wasn't too bad once the story began to move and Poirot arrived, but Hastings was a complete asshat with his endless whining along the lines of 'There's nothing to see here! Let's go home'. I'm truly surprised Poirot didn't slap him or kick him in the balls. I know this business of having a dumb-ass companion was set in stone by Arthur Doyle, but it's really too much.

The story is of the death of Emily Arundell, and aging and somewhat sickly woman of some modest wealth, at whom her relatives are pecking for crumbs before ever she's dead. After a fall down the stairs which she survives, Emily passes away at a later date, and after this, Poirot gets a letter form her which was somehow delayed in posting. It seems rather incoherent, but it does suggest she fears greatly for something. Poirot arrives to discover she died, and rather than turn around and go home, he poses as an interested buyer for a property that belonged to Emily so he can snoop around and ask questions. This part went on too long, too, for my taste.

Eventually Poirot's deception is exposed by Miss Peabody who for me was one of the two most interesting characters, and hands down the most amusing in the book. I really liked her. My other favorite was Theresa Arundell, whose initials, you will note, are TA, which have mirror symmetry. It's this that Poirot fails to grasp for the longest time after he learns that a person was identified by initials on a broach which was glimpsed in a mirror.

The problem though is that Christie fails to give us vital information that would have clearly identified the killer for anyone sharp enough to have picked up on this mirror image, so we're cruelly-robbed of the chance to nail down the actual killer, although some of the red herrings are disposed of with relative ease.

The final insult is Poirot's gathering of all the suspects together for the dénouement, and this is ridiculous for me. I know it's a big thing in these mysteries, but really it's laughable and spoils the story. It's so unrealistic and farcical especially since everyone, including the murderer, blithely agrees to gather for this exposure. How absurd! If the murderer had any sense, he or she would off Poirot before he had chance to expose the culprit, and thereby they would get off scot-free since Poirot is such an arrogant and persnickety old cove that he never reveals to anyone who the murder is until that last minute, thereby giving them ample opportunity to scarper!

I got hold of the DVD for this story from the library and watched it. I also watched Murder on the Links. Of the two, the former departed from the book the most - and by quite a considerable margin, but I enjoyed that filmed story. It was cute and amusing, but Miss Peabody was totally absent, which annoyed me to no end. Murder on the Links, by contrast, was a lousy story which made no sense and in which Hastings was a complete dumb-ass (even more than he usually is) who got rewarded rather than getting his just deserts for actively perverting with the course of justice. I can't comment on whether the book was as bad since I DNF'd it, but the TV show in regard to this particular episode simply isn't worth watching. Worse than all I've mentioned though was that despite the story taking place almost entirely in France, every single person spoke with a perfect English accent with no trace of actual French marring it whatsoever! Even French words like Genevieve and Sûreté were mangled. It was almost as though it was filmed entirely in England with a complete English cast! Whoah! Trust me, it sucked. I think it's by far the worst Poirot episode I ever saw and I've seen most of them.

So while there were some interesting and even fun bits to this audiobook, overall it was tedious, and I cannot commend it as a worthy listen.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty by Polly Horvath


Rating: WORTHY!

This audiobook was laugh-out-loud hilarious, and while there were some tame bits, for the most part it amused me highly. I'm not sure who it was aimed at. It seems a bit too mature for a middle-grade or earlier audience, and a bit too 'bunny' for older audiences, but none of that bothered someone like me who is completely insane.

It's read in fine style by the author, and she does a great job. She seems to take an unhealthy delight, it must be noted, in pronouncing bunny with an explosive beginning and a whimper of an ending. That word appears in almost every other sentence. 'Rabbit' not so much.

This is a sequel to Mr and Mrs Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! which I have neither read nor heard, but which deficit I intend to rectify at an early opportunity. Fortunately this one worked as a stand-alone so I didn't feel robbed at not having encountered the initial volume first. Once again it's a case of the publisher not having the decency to put something on the cover indicating it's a part of a series. This is why I self-publish. I do not trust Big Publishing™ one bit.

In this story the bunnies, Mr & Mrs, travel by ship to England to inherit a sweet shop, and hopefully a title - like Queen - along the way, and the story is about their travel across the ocean, their struggle to get to the shop, and get it up and running profitably, and endure assorted mishaps along the way including an unprovoked assault with acorns by squirrels along the way. I tell you, those squirrels. If I had an acorn for every time....never mind. I do.

I commend this as a funny bunny story and a worthy wabbit wead. Or wisten! Be advised: Do not let it get anywhere near marmots.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne la Fleur


Rating: WARTY!

Read indifferently by Christy Carlson Romano, this short novel started out slowly, but with intrigue, and it made me interested in what would happen, but then it seemed to hit a roadblock with the story-telling and it quickly backslid into boring.

Mathilde is a young girl who lives with her mother and father, and younger sister, and who attends school with her super-smart best friend Meg. The country, named Sofirende (spelling might be off, because audio!) is at war. I have to say I had a problem with the names of places in this novel.

I don't know how the name of the enemy country is spelled, but it was read like it was "Tease Ya" which sounded like a poor choice of name for a violent enemy, but even that wasn't as bad as the name of the city where Mathilde lives. The audiobook reader had about three different pronunciations for the city, and one of these sounded as though she were saying "Like a lick." The other pronunciation sounded like "Lick a Leg" neither of which was particularly appealing, especially not for a book for younger children.

When you bring children into an adventure, you need a legit reason to have them there - why they're exposed to this rather than grown-ups or trained professionals, and this author never did the work. There was a test, which was entirely predictable, because I knew as soon as I heard about the test that Mathilde and Megs would take it and the 'smarter' Megs would fail and the 'dumber' Mathilde would pass because this was never going to be a regular school test.

So off waltzes Mathilde (this is starting to sound like an Australian bush song, isn't it?) and finally we get to the worst part of the novel which is that when Mathilde arrives at this military intelligence place, From day one, she's never once given any orientation to what they're doing or how she can help. This place is the most lackadaisical, haphazard place you can possibly imagine with the kids just running wild and doing whatever they want whenever. Some of the kids seem to have a regular job trying to predict where ships are moving or where enemy planes will bomb next, but they're really not very good at it, and ultimately what they're doing is a waste of time, but some adult direction and some hints and tips would sure have helped, yet there were none. It was pure bullshit.

Worse, it failed to rationalize the kids being there. There was quite literally nothing that they were doing that an adult could not have done better - or a computer. But there's the rub! Were there even computers in this world? We have no idea because it was completely fictitious with no guide as to in what period of parallel Earth history this was taking place. There were airplanes, trains, phones, but that merely places it anywhere between somewhere around World War Two and the present.

There were other random elements in the story, too. At some point a prisoner is brought into the compound and Mathilde is tasked with talking to him, but she's told nothing about him or given any idea of how to approach this or what they want from him, and even had she been given this information it would have been worthless because this guy was almost as young as Mathilde - clearly a very low-level soldier who had no more clue what was going on in the "Tease Ya" military than Mathilde did herself. Maybe tease ya was right after all.

Continuing with the randomness theme, suddenly Meg shows up out of the blue without warning and with no apparent reason, and shortly after, and without whispering a word of early warning to the residents, the order to evacuate the camp is given and Mathilde is heading out to catch a train with the others, gets separated, and misses the train. Best friend Megs is nowhere to be seen and doesn't even wait for Mathilde. I guess that friendship's blown!

Mathilde manages to make it to the port and depart for safer shores - but not once does she think about her family whom she's supposedly been missing the entire time she's been in the intelligence compound! Never once does she have a thought for how they're doing or what will happen to them if Tease Ya wins this war. So in the end the Intelligence gathering was a joke because there was zero intelligence in this story! It sucked. I dis-commend it fiercely. It was garbage.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall


Rating: WORTHY!

This is another audiobook, read sweetly by Susan Denaker, but once again I learned after I picked it up at the library that it's volume three in a series of five, which is an annoyance. It ticks me off that publishers do this without offering any indication on the cover that this is part of a series or what number it is in that series. I'm not a fan of series because they tend to be filled with fluff and matters of little or no consequence; however, going blind into this one, before I discovered it was one of several, it didn't feel like a sequel, so I was hearing it like it was a stand-alone and it sounded just fine to me. The novel has a charming old world style to it, although at that point I had no idea when it was supposed to have been set. It turns out it's contemporary.

The author didn't publish the first book in the series until she was 54, which might account for why the book seems a little 'out of time', but that holds out hope for us all doesn't it, that her first novel came relatively late in her life despite her apparently deciding she wanted to be a novelist at the age of ten? Never give up! Lesson learned! The book is quite short, so I quickly decided that if this one panned out, I'd see if I could get the audiobook version of the earlier - and later - volumes. I seem to have been doing this lately in the case of Courtney Crumrin, and Bad Machinery graphic novel series so it's almost a habit by now.

The series is about the Penderwick sisters, of whom there are four, and the OAP - which in Britain used to mean Old Age Pensioner, although there's probably a more politically correct term for it now - stands for Oldest Available Penderwick. Since the actual oldest sister Rosalind, is going to spend two weeks with a friend, the OAP role falls to Skye, the next oldest, who has to look after her younger sister Jane and youngest, who has the unfortunate name of Batty. Their parents are out of the country and the bulk of the Penderwicks are staying with an aunt who's unfortunately been disabled by an ankle injury and is hobbling around on crutched, so the Penderwicks are pretty much left to their own devices.

Skye is nervous about being in charge and trying to corral her wayward sisters, each of whom has her own distinct personality. Batyt is the cute and slightly crazy one who fedeveops fads for colelcitgn beach rocks, shells, and stray golf balls from the nearby gold course, which she then sells on the street, like with a lemonade stand but for these tiny dimpled and expensive balls that cause golfers so much unnecessary grief (when no one is looking, just throw the damned ball for goodness sakes. The hell with the club). Before all these events kick off, the sisters hold one of their secret councils, known as Mops, so Rosalind can pass down the last few nuggets of her wisdom and experience, although it's really not necessary since Skye appears to have it covered already despite her misgivings about performing her new role.

Mishaps and adventures ensue. Batty makes a friend. Jane - the aspiring novelist - falls into deeply romantic love with the older brother of Batty's new friend and tastes cold rejection after penning him an ode. Skye becomes possessed of a cleaning frenzy at one point. But the story is laugh out loud hilarious so often that I couldn't help but love it. There were parts that were less than enthralling for me, but for the most part the novel was highly entertaining. The author's incisive and witty observations make for a joyful read. I imagine she would be a charm to have a conversation with, and I'm definitely interested in pursuing the series, which is a novelty for me. I commend this as a worthy read.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis


Rating: WARTY!

Written by songwriter Meloy this ebook is very long and very slow-moving unfortunately. The 540-some page print version is illustrated by his wife, Ellis, but I saw none of that in the audio version, which was read by Amanda Plummer in such a sweet voice that I think I kept it going longer because of that. Had the voice been less pleasing, I would have ditched it a lot earlier than I did.

This book exemplifies one reason I don't like longer books: too many of them seem to take forever to get anywhere. When I was about a quarter the way through it, nothing had really happened other than that this girl saw her toddler brother carried away by crows into this wild wooded area, and she went into it to get the kid back and discovered that it was home to a bunch of weird characters including a regiment of military coyotes.

So it was a charming idea, but it was moving like a slug. It had moved along quite quickly to begin with, but once Prue, the main female character had got into the Wildwood area, everything seemed to have the brakes slammed on and it really started to drag. I kept going until about a third the way in and lost patience with it.

There was a battle described between the coyotes and the bandits in the forest, and it was so gory that I couldn't believe I was reading a book written for young children. While I get that children see this kind of thing more often in video games, movies, and on TV these days than their counterparts used to, this still struck me as a lot of unnecessary detail. It's possible in a children's book to describe death without going into into loving detail. Again this is a problem with an overly long book - too much time on the author's hands.

The only amusing thing, to me, about this is that it was at this point that I chose to skip to the last few tracks and despite the skip, I came back into it to discover equally gory detail! I couldn't believe it. We have enough violence in schools these days without needing to extoll it in literature. It was like I was still listening to the same part of the book. On top of this was a baby sacrifice, and I decided this book wasn't worth spending any more time on, and quit listening.

I can't commend something like this as a worthy read or a listen, not even with Amanda Plummer's voice.