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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Little Joe Chickapig by Brian Calhoun, Pat Bradley

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Calhoun and illustrated by the author and Bradley, this book tells the quest of Little Joe, who is a chickapig: part chick, part pig, who lives on a farm and has ambitious dreams of going on quests, having adventures and even maybe fighting pirates. The pig part seems to be just his nose and ears, but that's not important. It takes a long and winding tale to set him straight about who inspires who to follow their dreams and the tale comes right back home at the end. I thought this was amusingly-illustrated, well-told (in rhyme yet!) and was a wonderful story. I commend it as a worthy read.

1996 by Kirsty McManus

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Search and Find Unicorns by Georgie Taylor, Maaike Boot

Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Taylor and illustrated by Boot, this book seems designed to endlessly entertain. The deal is that there's a hidden unicorn on each page that can only be discovered by 'painting' the page with water! Once the water dries, the magical unicorn disappears, and so it remains to be discovered again next time. Each illustration contains a clue as to what to look for.

It seems to me that a book like this will not only be magical to a child, but will encourage confidence and perhaps draw-out (so to speak!) a budding artist. Yes, I'm coloring up after such a bad pun. I commend this one as a worthy read.

French Fairy Tales by Jennifer Afron

Rating: WARTY!

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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Dark Queen by Faith Hunter

Rating: WARTY!

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Rhythm Section by Mark Burnell

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Last Single Girl by Bria Quinlan

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Small Town by Thomas Perry

Rating: WARTY!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

Rating: WARTY!

I used to be a big fan of McDevitt, but lately I haven't liked his new material. Maybe if I went back and re-read some of his older stuff, such as the Academy Series or the Alex Benedict stories, which I loved, I might not like them so well any more, but the last book of his that I read was not entertaining at all. When I saw this audiobook come up on special offer, I jumped at the chance to read something else of his, but I was disappointed in it, too.

Paul Boehmer's narration did not help one bit. I don't know what he was trying to do, but he was making everything seem so dramatic that nothing actually was dramatic, and he put weird inflections on things. He also doesn't seem to realize that coupon does not have the letter 'U' as the second letter, so it's really pronounced coo-pon, Kew-pon. Seriously. That was annoying because it was used often. More on this anon (can I just abbreviate that to moron?!).

Even had I read this as a print or ebook though, I think I would have lost interest in it, because the main protagonist is so profoundly stupid, and events are so predictable that I could barely stand to listen to portions of it. It sounded slow, forced, and pedantic. One of the problems is that McDevitt writes this novel, set in contemporary times (it was published in 2009 based on a novella from 1997), as though no one has ever heard of time travel - not even in fiction.

The main character is Adrian Shelborne, who absurdly goes by "Shel." His father, Michael, has disappeared from a locked house, and no one can figure it out. How they figure he disappeared from the locked house as opposed to just having gone out and locked the door behind him was somehow lost on me. Maybe I missed it because I listen to this while driving and when I need to completely focus on the road, maybe i miss bits, but anyway it's this big mystery.

Adrian's dad has left behind three electronic devices which he inexplcably refers to as 'coupons'. It's like a little Chromebook from what I gathered, and you open it up and set times, dates, and locations, and it whisks you away to whatever you set. There's also a return button, but Adrian is too stupid to figure that button out. His first trip takes him to rural Pennsylvania, which isn't far from his home, but his time-travel visit takes him to the next day and he has no phone or wallet with him. He does this without thinking about what he's doing, like he's booking a trip online. Instead of trying out the return button, he borrows a phone and calls a friend to come pick him up.

When they arrive back at his house later at night, he thinks he sees someone in an upstairs window, but rather than come in with him and check out the house, his friend leaves him there alone and he doesn't even check out the house himself! It was obvious to me that he had seen himself, and this is confirmed later. This is after he spends a totally stupid day at work, not once realizing that he's time-traveled and this explains everything he encounters at work. This man is profoundly stupid. The next thing he does is take a trip back to witness himself and his friend arriving home, thereby confirming my suspicion that he saw his own face in the window.

This read far more like a badly-written middle-grade book than ever it did a grown-up work, and I couldn't stand to listen to any more of it. I can't commend writing like this, and after many wonderful years together, I guess I'm finally realizing that it's time for me and Jack to part ways. I wish him all the best.

Monday, December 23, 2019

See, Touch, Feel by Roger Priddy

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a highly colorful, fun book full of pictures of young children one one page and a texture to feel on the other, although the textures didn't always seem in sync with the image. You can get a good...feel...for the content here: Encouraging kids to use all of their sense is a wonderful thin and for those on a budget, finding textures around your own living space is a fair substitute.

The Not So Scary Hairy Spider by Rosie Greening, Stuart Lynch

Rating: WORTHY!

Another touch and feel with a different set of textures, including the very hairy spider! Most spiders are harmless and there's no reason why any child should grow up living in fear of them. Written by Greening, illustrated by Lynch this provides touch sensations galore, but these can also be provided by materials and fabrics around your own living space if you so wish and can invent stories to go with them.

This Little Piggy by Emily Bannister

Rating: WORTHY!

This book is part of a series of touch and trace nursery rhymes (Itsy Bitsy Spider is another one, but it seems to me that once you've done one you've done them all - one being very much like another). Children can use their fingers on each page to explore patterns, pathways, and textures. It's a fun and colorful book allowing kids to explore, and it's better than those which have things stuck on the page (like the one with ten ladybugs) because there's no risk here of having a piece fall off that a child can choke on.

Never Touch a Shark by Stuart Lynch

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a colorful touch book where various animals have an insert which children can touch and explore. It's fun and brings the senses alive. My parents couldn't afford books like this when I was a kid, but if you can, get this or something like it and let your kids have a sensathon! Or put together an inventive collection of materials from around the house, and let them explore with their eyes closed, guessing which animal it might be!

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems

Rating: WORTHY!

This is literally a book your kid can read in the bath without it becoming soggy. It comes in its own little plastic bag. The pigeon does not want a bath, but finds out it's bubbly fun when it finally gets in there. Not that my kids ever resisted bathing, but yours might and this might be a great temptation!

My First I See You by Eric Carle

Rating: WORTHY!

Designed by Hannah Frece, this is a cute young children's book which offers a safe mirror on every page of various shapes and styles for kids to discover that they have a face, they are a person just like everyone else they see, and not this blank faceless shell that must feel weird. every young kid should see something like this often.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae, Guy Parker Rees

Rating: WORTHY!

A cute little book for young kids, and an affirmation of do-ability for anything they want to try. The tall, ungainly giraffe wants to enter the jungle dance contest, but while other animals disport themselves famously, the poor giraffe can do a thing until it gets some advice from Jiminy Cricket - or some relative of his, and inspired by the full Moon, it finally finds its groove! This was a very colorful, silly and fun book that children will love.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Mozart Conspiracy by Susanne Dunlap

Rating: WARTY!

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

This is volume two in an amateur detective series. I did not read volume one, which is titled The Musician's Daughter. I don't recall ever seeing volume one, but if I had, I would have rejected it for the precise reason that I refuse to read any novel that subjugates a woman to the position of being someone else's "thing": musician's daughter, time-traveler's wife, and so on. It makes the woman a piece of property rather than an actor in her own right and I'm not in favor of such titles.

I'm not a fan of the amateur detective story in general, for that matter, but this title appealed to me because it was set in Austria and in the time of Mozart. I had hoped it would be different from the usual amateur detective story, but the problem with it is that in the end, it was not at all different. In fact, it was exactly the same: first person, featuring a detective with a quirk, and in trying to add that quirk to make her detective different from the hoard of amateur detective stories that now flood bookstores, the author made her detective precisely the same as all the others: first person voice with a quirk!

For me, first person is worst person because it makes the main protagonist so annoying. It's always about him or her. In the words of George Harrison, "I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine." It's tedious to read such a self-centered book like that, which is why I recently cleansed my print library of every such book. I'm in process of doing the same with my ebooks. It's very limiting to write this way because nothing can happen unless the main character is there to witness it. Everything else comes from hearsay and is therefore suspect. It's irritating. As it happens this particular one wasn't too bad to begin with, but over the time I read it, it became more annoying.

There was an element of racism in the story too. The racism existed in the time period (as it does today) against the Jewish people, and against the Romany people. This was a fact of history, but because the author harped on it so much, it distracted from the detective's story. In trying to make her seem completely accepting of all people, it made her stand out like a sore thumb, when in fact, the likelihood was that pretty much everyone back then was racist.

Not having read book one in this series, perhaps I missed where Theresa started out prejudiced and learned acceptance over the course of the first volume, or maybe she didn't, but it felt odd that she was so open. It was unrealistic. It would have felt more real to me had she harbored the same prejudices most everyone had back then, and was learning to work around them.

The predictable detective's quirk in this series is that she loves to play the violin, but we're told that she could not play in orchestras because women were not allowed in that era, so she had to disguise herself as a man to play. The thing is that although women were not allowed in men's orchestras (the first woman in a male orchestra was not recorded until the early twentieth century), they were allowed to play in all-female orchestras, but this gets no mention in this novel. So in a sense this was an artificial problem.

Ironically, it became a real problem for this story because then the story became about her problems rather than about solving a murder, which to me was the whole point of the story. The murder became secondary to the soap opera of Theresa's activities, and it was boring because her activities were always the same: dress as a guy, sneak around, play in an orchestra, risk being discovered, sneak back home, change back to female attire. This was repeated over and over and it became tedious to read so often.

Worse than this though was the problem of Theresa's failure to honestly report the crime. Yes, she reported that she had witnessed a man being murdered, but she didn't tell the whole story, and then the body disappeared. Repeatedly she refused to give details to those who wished to help her when she had no valid reason for refusing to share her information, and she continued to investigate the murder, without us being offered any real motive for her to do so.

She did not know the murdered man; indeed, for a while she had no idea even of his name, but when she discovered his name she didn't report this back to the police to whom she'd made her initial report. In short, as is often the case in amateur detective stories, the detective actively withholds information from the police for no good reason, and in doing so is hampering a police inquiry and perverting the curse of justice! It makes no sense, but it does explain why amateur detectives in these stories so routinely beat the police in solving the mysteries! This author isn't the only one who does this; even luminaries like Agatha Christie had their detectives, like Poirot, actively conceal things from the police. I'd dearly love to read a realistic detective story where the detective is arrested and thrown into jail for hampering the police investigation! LOL!

But I digress! Anyways, she'd spoken to the murdered guy before he died (of course!), but instead of trying to recover information from him about who had done this to him, or what motive there might have been, or even ask the guy's name, she just crouched there with him, and all she got was one word, 'Mozart' - or at least something that sounded like Mozart. This was unrealistic and far too invented to sound real.

Experience available to us all these days via news stories, has shown that overwhelmingly, when people are dying or expecting to die, they're going to say something about a loved one: "Tell my wife I love her" or something along those lines. We do not routinely hear of dying people uttering mysterious words or phrases. It's not realistic and in this case the mystery word was so artlessly injected into the story that it sounded quite ridiculous. It took me out of the suspension of disbelief because it felt like such an artificially-created mystery where there was no realistic reason for one, instead of having the mystery develop organically.

The novel is set in Austria, the land of Mozart, but we get no German (or Bavarian) words interjected into the story to create atmosphere. Bizarrely, the word 'madame' is used frequently instead of frau or fräulein. It made zero sense. There's nothing more tedious in a story than putting in a foreign word or phrase and immediately pedantically following it with the English translation, even where such translation isn't at all necessary, but in this case, it would not have hurt, once in a while, to use a German word to describe something where it's obvious what the thing is.

Instead, we got puns that made sense in English, but would not have made any sense in German, such as when a woman is talking of finding a treat for a young girl and she says, "...let's see if I can find some sweets here for the sweet." In English that makes sense, but the Austrian word meaning 'sweets' is 'nachtisch' which sounds nothing like 'süß' (pronounced rather like Zeus and meaning sweet as in 'nice' or 'sweetheart'). In German, the pun doesn't work the way it works in English. It's like the author forgot where the story was set.

So, for these reasons and similar ones I've not mentioned, I quit reading this around the forty-percent mark. It was doing nothing for me and the story appeared to have stagnated, so I lost all interest in it and in the main character, who had started coming off as rather clueless to me. I wish the author all the best in her career, but I cannot commend this novel based on my experience of it.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Lilac Princess by Wanda Luthman

Rating: WARTY!

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

I realize this book isn't aimed at me, but from my perspective, even taking into account the audience it's intended for, this book was wrong from the very start. For a book supposedly about values, this story places entirely the wrong value on a child when, on only the second line, we learn that the princess is "young and beautiful," as though nothing else matters in a woman: not smarts, not integrity, not loyalty, not good behavior, not helpfulness, not friendliness, not the ability to listen and learn, not hard work, not thoughtfulness, but beauty. I'm sorry, but no. I cannot support a book this shallow, even a very short one aimed at young children, and for that very reason that this is the wrong message to give to young children or any children.

It would have been bad enough if that was the only faux pas, but it got worse. This is your traditional - read: antiquated - story of a damsel in distress who needs a manly man to rescue her. Maybe for this particular princess, beauty is the only thing she actually does have going for her, because she certainly exhibited none of the qualities I listed above. She talks to strangers and doesn't even get kidnapped by one, but voluntarily goes off with him, whereupon of course, she's held prisoner until a boy rescues her. She can't do a this for herself as you know, because she's 'only a poor helpless girl'.

For a moment or two I wondered if this book had been published in 1919 rather than the 21st century, but no, it was originally published in 2014. How it got published I do not know, but I cannot commend a story so far out of touch with modern womanhood.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Arsenic in the Azaleas by Dale Mayer

Rating: WARTY!

I despise what are laughably called 'cozy mysteries' and I particularly despise any novel which has a dog or a cat as a main character. Not that I dislike dogs or cats; I just find their use in detective stories abhorrent. Since I'm interested for my own purposes in this genre, and this one was at loss leader, I decided to give it a try and it fully met my exceedingly low expectations - and then some!

The main character is of course the "recently divorced Doreen," (recently divorced so she can have a love interest because a woman without a man is begging for a handicapped sticker according to the majority of authors of this and other genres such as YA). She's accompanied by one of the few dogs I do dislike, because it is an unhealthily-bred Basset hound and anyone who supports this so-called pedigree breeding cult needs to read up something about Nazi "doctors" like Eduard Wirths, Aribert Heim, and Josef Mengele. The dog breeders are no better, really.

The antique-named Doreen is starting over (of course!) in a house owned by grandmother, but the dog finds a body in the back yard. We're laughably asked, "Can Doreen prove her grandmother's innocence?' No, of course not. Her grandmother is going to be found guilty as sin and given a lethal injection. Seriously?

Of course she'll prove her innocence, and then she'll inevitably go on to prove the innocence of endless others in a tedious series wherein this little community she just moved to proves to be have a higher body-count than cartel-infested regions in Mexico, with victims falling like flies, all of them suspiciously connected with Doreen the Exploiter and her interests and activities. Why more of these amateur "sleuths" aren't arrested for causing all these murders is the real mystery here. And no, I don't read any book with 'sleuth' anywhere on the cover. I'm allergic to them.

This one started out badly. After a road trip ending at grandma's house - and bringing the wolf with her (or at least a descendent of one), Doreen's very last thought is to get the poor dog set up in the house with food and water. No wonder it's out digging in the back yard for bones. I can't remember exactly where I gave up reading this, but rest assured it wasn't far into it. I can't commend this garbage based on what little I could stomach of it.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill) by John Cleland

Rating: WARTY!

Written while in prison by an evidently horny inmate, this is a first person voice novel, purporting to be a memoir by a woman, now of means, who is recollecting her earlier, less secure and well-off years. Frances Hill's nickname, some claim, recalls the Latin mons Veneris, the mound of Venus. In Latin, that is actually Veneris montem. Mons Veneris refers to Kunlun. Mons pubis is a wiser choice term. Veneris was the Roman word for Friday: dies Veneris because Venus was associated with pagan god Frija. Note that Fanny, in the UK, does not reference the posterior as it does in the US, but precisely the opposite.

I have to report that this novel is complete bullshit, notwithstanding the pretentious literary garbage that's been written about it by clueless so-called scholars. If this had been written today, it would have gone nowhere and no actual literary scholar would have been caught dead analyzing it, so that tells us all we kneed to know about it.

It's nothing more than authorial wish-fulfillment, and the way it's written shows no understanding of women at all. It's entirely a man's book form a male PoV, doing nothing more than your typical porn movie does - having some purportedly innocent woman be accosted by an erect male and instead of being horrified, turned off, or angered by his presumption and shunning him, she immediately leaps on him and has unprotected sex. She's not concerned one whit about her own satisfaction, not even remotely, but only about getting him off as quickly and in as many positions as she can possible accommodate!

This lame excuse for a novel, which is right up there with every modern derivative of it, is exactly that: it's pornography, not-so-pure and decidedly simple, with zero pretension to literature. It delights in describing, in first (or is it forced?) person recall, how awed and overwhelmed Fanny is at every sight of an erect penis which is invariably described in aggressive masculine terms as an arrow, or a weapon, for example. It's not very inventive. Let's face it: it's poorly-conceived and badly-written garbage. 'Scholars' who claim it's anything else are morons. I can't commend it based on the portion of it that I could stand to read.