Showing posts with label no-action misadventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label no-action misadventure. Show all posts

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Ella the Slayer by AW Exley

Rating: WARTY!

"Let me give you a leg up then" says the young Duke to Ella at one point after they have just met at the beginning of this story, as she is about to mount her horse. His hands are all over her and her legs are jelly. Hell no! FUCK NO! What the hell is wrong with AW Exley that she thinks this is anything more than pure YA weak protagonist garbage? After the disastrous Nefertiti's Heart, I should have learned my lesson and never picked up another Exley as long as I lived, but there I went and here it goes, into the garbage. I guess I can at least say I got what I paid for, since this was a free offering in a book flyer and I was interested because I've had my own focus on Cinderella recently.

The blurb didn't make this clear, but this book is nothing but a Zombie apocalypse, written in the mold (take that word either way) of books like Jane Slayre and others. Ella, of course, is the femme fatale, and the Duke is the guy whom she needs to validate her because she's nothing but a princess in desperate need of a prince. Barf. It's young adult trash and it's not even worth the free price. Warty to the max. Plus it's not even a novel, it's a prologue to a series. Double barf.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Rating: WARTY!

Kamran Smith is American-born, but his mother is from Iran. He gets into trouble when his older brother, in the US Army, is suspected of carrying out a terrorist attack. The plot sounded interesting, but the writing was juvenile, so this was another failed audiobook experiment. I knew this was likely to go south when it began with music, devolved into first person (aka worst-person) voice, and then the main character turned out to be a violent, self-centered whiny little bitch. So three strikes against it to begin with.

Seriously, what's with putting this pointless music on audiobooks? Did the original author write the music? No! Does the music have anything - anything at all - to do with the story? No! So what's the purpose of it other than to annoy people who want to get right to the story? You buy an ebook, or a print book, you don't get music and you can skip straight to chapter one. But audiobooks want to lard you up with music, all manner of spoken introductions and prologues that you can't easily skip, and on and on, it's annoying. Publishers, stop it! Stop it now! I'm looking at you, not-so Brilliance Audio, and you, too Audible, and you, Harpy Audio, and many others. Quit irritating your readers!

Anyway, the blurb tells us that this boy can't wait to enlist in the army like his big brother, Darius, and this is no surprise given how belligerent he is. I didn't like the guy. I didn't like the voice and I quickly lost interest in what happened to him. I further lost interest when the story absurdly went into a raid on this kid's home because his brother was suspected of terrorism - his brother who'd been accepted into the US military and been away from home for some time. What? They don't even come and question the family or put them under surveillance, but launch straight into a raid their home and tip them off that they're suspects? I can see that happening under this administration which is the most racist administration we've ever had, but even given that, it was too absurd to take seriously. Based on the portion I could stand to listen to, I cannot commend this at all.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hal by Kate Cudahy

Rating: WARTY!

I was interested in reading this because in some ways it reminded me of my own novel Femarine, but in the end - or more accurately in the middle since I never reached the end, it was quite different. Hal is the abbreviated name of the main character - either that or some computer got a body for itself and is seriously going after Dave, because Hal is a duelist, so we're told. Really she's a prizefighter and gives most of her take to her slave overlord because she's too much of a wimp to go it alone.

She's also an idiot. And a lesbian. All of these preconditions come together to trip her up big time when the daughter of a rich and powerful merchant falls for her, and inexplicably so, because Hal is arrogant and selfish (as their 'love' scenes confirm). I have no idea why either falls for the other, so that wasn't really giving me an authentic story, and what story I got was made worse by Hal's appallingly dumb behavior.

Hall knows perfectly well she's walking on thin ice with this girl, and she also knows she's being spied on, and she's warned repeatedly by two different people that trouble is heading her way, but she stubbornly keeps her blinkers on and walks right into it. It was at this point that I decided I have better things to do with my time than to read any more of this, so I moved on.

The book needs a little work too. At one point, I read, "a large pair of double doors." Is that four large doors? I don't think so! So why write it like it is? 'A large pair of doors' or 'a large double door' is all that's needed. Later I read, "Someone tapped her on the shoulder and she span round" Nope! She spun round! So yeah, work. I can't commend this.

We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C Alexander London

Rating: WARTY!

This novel for middle-graders sounded like it might be interesting. It certainly seemed like it promised to be different. Instead of having children chomping at the bit for an adventure with their explorer parents, these children wanted nothing more than to be left alone to watch TV, but somehow end up on adventures anyway.

I discovered after starting reading this one that this isn't the first book in the series, but once again there's is absolutely nothing whatever on the cover to warn the reader that this is a story already in progress. It's like buying a book which has the first five chapters missing. This is why I do not have a lot of time for series or for Big Publishing who quite obviously simply do not care about the reader.

That I might have been willing to overlook had the story been worthwhile, but while it did have its moments, it had far too many boring sections to make it a worthwhile read, and I DNF'd it. The point I did this was when the father and his son and daughter, on an adventure trying to find their missing mother, were expelled from a plane in mid-air (without a single person on board objecting) over a snowy mountain range, and they ripped a page quite literally straight out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, by managing to escape with a life raft. Barf! Let's forget that at thirty thousand feet they would suffocate before they ever landed, so what they had to land in was irrelevant.

I cannot support a novel which when it's not boring is ridiculous and the ridicule is unleavened by plagiarizing a movie for an escape.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Kickback by Judith Arnold, Ariel Berk, Thea Frederick, Barbara Keiler

Rating: WARTY!

This was a major screw-up! I got this book under the cover of Still Kicking which is the first book in the Lainie Lovett mystery series (originally published as Dead Ball) which title is advertised in the back of this novel! LOL! There's a sample chapter of DropKick at the back also, which is the very novel I was reading, but the sample chapter was not the same as the chapter one in the book I was reading, Someone was very confused when they put all this together!

I am not a series person, so I was amused to discover that this book is in fact the third book in the series and it was sold under the wrong cover. The third book - the one I am actually reading, was called Kickback. The second book was Dropkick. I learned of these two other books from references in this third book. As if that isn't confusing enough, the author has the annoying, and to me inexplicable if not inexcusable habit of publishing under other names. Her real name is Barbara Keiler, but she publishes under three other names listed in the title

On a point of order, there's no such thing as a dropkick in soccer - or football as the rest of the world calls it - because Americans inexplicably call handball 'football' and handball itself is something else - and an offense in soccer! Maybe the American game should be call 'runball' or 'carryball'? Neither is there a term 'dead ball' in soccer for that matter. I think this gimmick of giving your amateur detective a gimmick and then using that as a seed for gimmicky book titles is insulting to the reader - like a reader couldn't remember which author she likes? Or what the book series is that she likes? Call me perverse, but I have more faith in readers than that, misplaced as it may be!

But on to the story. The story was as confused and confusing as selling the wrong novel under the title. And it's not well-written. If this is what a master's degree in creative writing from Brown University gets you, I'm happy to be degree-free. This is yet another in a too-long line of 'housewife' detective stories where a female with evidently too little to do with her time masterfully one-ups the inevitably inept police in solving a murder.

This kind of story tends to take place in a town too small to support the massive murder rate the series slowly reveals. Why would anyone live in a town like that? The amateur detective tends to be appallingly slow on the uptake and this means the story, which could have completed handily in 150 pages, ends up being, as this one was, 270-some pages long. It's way too long and the 'detective' looks stupid because of it. She repeatedly fails to share information with the police, which is actually a criminal offense, and she fails to act like a normal, rational human being in common-sense situations, and worse, consistently fails to add two and two. Instead she comes up with zero and takes her time doing it. As a teacher she should know she should show her work!

This school teacher, Lainie, learns that $150,000 has been stolen from the school's PTA account. It takes a while to get this information, and this is the first inkling I had that Lainie's dinghy has a few holes in it. Never once does anyone seem to ask if anyone is tracing the loss of funds. In fact, it's not even clear (through the fifty percent of this novel that I read before DNF-ing) that it's been reported to the police. They're certainly not investigating because if they were, they would have arrested Debbie the secretary because the trail clearly leads to her. Debbie's computer isn't even taken as evidence by the police - instead, it's still in use at the school, so anyone who might have impersonated Debbie and moved the funds has ample time to cover their tracks. There's actually no evidence of any police investigation whatsoever.

What happened (we learn in the story's own sweet time) was that the money was transferred from the PTA account to another account, then that one was closed with the money having been withdrawn. You'd think the bank would have records of where the money went and you'd think a bank teller would remember someone who closed an account and picked up a check for $150,000, but none of this is mentioned. The husband would seem to be the obvious suspect - and he's feeding his wife fruit smoothies every day - into which the deadly drug - Viagra, which is potentially deadly for someone with heart problems, could easily have been slipped, yet Lainie never suspects this guy at all despite the fact that he was an accountant and would know exactly how to move money around.

Lainie is tunnel-focused on the head of the PTA, which in this novel is consistently referred to as the PTO - which to me is Paid Time Off, so that works! LOL! But she's so focused on her - the 'obvious' suspect - that she cannot see anyone else. Meanwhile I'm suspecting the husband, I'm suspecting the friendly nice teacher Lainie knows because he's too nice and there's no reason to suspect him. I'm suspecting Lainie's favorite suspect's daughter, who we're told more than once is a genius on the computer. I'm suspecting this couple, the husband of which was discovered to be cheating on the wife when she discovered Viagra - Viagra! - in his briefcase, several pills of which were missing. Lainie never even considers that, nor does she sneakily visit the bathroom in Debbie's house to check the medicine cabinet to see if there actually is Viagra there among the medicines that Debbie might have actually taken by accident. In short, Lainie's a moron who has no business interfering in a police investigation.

At one point, Lainie learns that the nice teacher, with the absurd name of Garth, had a very brief fling with the bitchy PTO woman Cynthia Frick and Lainie got all over him on that topic, which seemed to me to be none of her business. Yes, Cynthia has a daughter at the school, but that's no reason for Lainie to get on this teacher's case about being involved with her. If he'd had an affair with a student I could see her taking off like that, but with a parent? It just seemed like too much, so I wondered if this was to set up this teacher as a bad guy for later revelations that he was the perp?

The biggest problem with Lainie (apart from her lack of gray matter) is that she's so passive, and I think the writer is a bit lazy in letting some things go without offering some sort of valid reason or explanation for her behavior or for the way things happen. What made me quit the novel was that Lainie was quite obvious tailed by someone in another car, yet never once does she snap a picture of the car's license plate and of course she doesn't report it to the police. That was the final straw for me. Lainie is too stupid for words. I cannot commend this at all.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz

Rating: WARTY!

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

This author has more pen names than I have fingers on two hands: David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, KR Dwyer, John Hill, Dean Koontz, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West, and Aaron Wolfe. I honestly couldn't remember reading anything by him prior to this, but checking in my blog revealed two previous stories, neither of which I liked! One was an audiobook ( The Face of Fear) about a slasher serial killer going after women. This was recommended by a friend, but is quite simply not my cup of tea. My eyes glaze over when I see a serial killer novel in my daily book bargain flyer, because this genre has been so done to death. That particular novel was especially objectionable because it was in audiobook form and read by Patrick Lawler, who I honestly cannot stand as a book reader. The novel of this author's that I read was a graphic novel version of some Frankenstein-based story, and I did not like that one either.

Had I remembered either of those, then I would not have requested this one, which is not to be confused with The Crooked Staircase by Victor Gunn, so the lack of any lasting impression made by these other books had led me to think this was the first of his I'd read. I'm not sure why this one was more appealing to me initially. It's not like it was perfect, but there was intrigue and action, and nothing completely dumb to begin with, so that made a difference, but there were parts which were stretched a little too far in my opinion. I stayed with this as far as I could, but in the end it simply could not hold my interest, so I gave up on it about one third the way through. I couldn't face reading any more of it, the way it was going - or failing to go!

There's this Indian (not native American) brother and sister who live in a really nice house out in the boonies. One night when the sister is standing outside watching the rain, she sees an SUV drive up and three guys climb out, scale the gate to the property and head into the house. Knowing this can't be a good thing, she sneaks back into the house where her brother is, and she gets some hornet killer spray and disables the guys with it by spraying it into their faces. So far so good, but instead of calling the cops at that point, the two of them go on the run! There is no sensible explanation given for this behavior, so this was my first problem.

One of the guys in the trio invading the home was from the sheriff's department - the girl recognized him. If he was a police officer, then why sneak up? Why not simply go knock on the door (or ask for admittance through the gate in this case) like he was on official business, and then when the door was opened, force their way in? Anyway, the girl disables all three of them with the hornet spray, which was pretty cool, but instead of taking their guns and tying them up (or even handcuffing them, if the sheriff had cuffs on him), and calling the police, the brother and sister go on the lam! These characters are both authors and they have zero imagination, so this felt really inauthentic to me, not to say lame. This is a serious problem with Big Publishing™ and an author who garners a certain level fo success: the editors don't know when (or maybe how) to say no!

If these two feared the police might be compromised because of the sheriff's presence, they could have called the FBI or something. These two were not criminals and not dumb people. They had no idea why the sheriff had shown-up with some heavies and some chemical, and needles like maybe it was for an interrogation. All the siblings had had to do was call the cops. OTOH, if the author actually wanted them to run (and int his case it seems he didn't), then he needed to supply a more convincing reason than was on offer here. I was willing to let that slide, but the whole thing slid too far downhill for me in the end.

There's a second story running in parallel with this one, in which this woman, who is evidently scared of something given her exhaustive security precautions, arrives home to find a woman already in the house waiting for her. This visiting woman, who goes by Jane, isn't a threat and is apparently going after the first woman's ex-husband (a man who had treated her brutally to get what he wanted). The visiting woman is an ex-FBI agent who is living off the grid and has her own personal vendetta against this man.

It sounded like a great start to the story, but the problem was that the author rambles way too much for my taste and for an action story. There were too many asides, too many details, and too many wasted pages. At one point there are two guys trying to track the Indian pair down, and this goes on and on and endlessly on, and it became tedious to read, especially since it was obvious where it was going. I couldn't help but wonder why there was all this padding when the end result was the same. The same thing happened in the parallel story with the main character getting into a boring conversation with this young woman who she encountered in a house where she was trying to get to the house-owner.

In the end I was beaten by sheer boredom waiting for the real story to begin, This felt like one long prologue, and I don't do prologues. I wasn't about to spend any more time on a 340 page novel when it was this uninspiring in the first hundred pages, and especially with such an improbable plot. Based on what I read, I cannot recommend this.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart

Rating: WARTY!

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

I was thrilled to get a chance to read this because I've been a fan of this author (Emily Jenkins writing as E Lockhart) ever since I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks which I really loved. That bought her a lot of good grace from me, but my results with her after that haven't been wholly positive. I did not like The Boyfriend List, and I detested We were Liars so much that I was moved to write a parody song about it as part of my review. It was titled "Purple Prose" and was based on the Prince song, Purple Rain! On the other hand, I really liked Dramarama so she was batting a .500 going into this.

This novel started out great and had me really hooked on this intriguing young woman who was strong, wealthy, and evidently hiding out from someone. When she fears she's been discovered, she acts decisively and leaves town, ruthlessly dealing with a guy from the hotel who is trying to extort money from her. The problem is that then it went into what appeared to be terminal flashback mode which frankly pissed me off. I detest flashbacks because they bring the story to a screeching halt while we get an info-dump. Not a good writing plan.

All I was getting was this boring history, which seemed irrelevant to the story I'd been reading - like it was a completely different novel. It was intended to explicate the beginning of the novel, but all it did was spoil it, and it was really confusing to me until I read some other reviews of the story and then it became clear that the tale was being told backwards! Sorry, but no.

Not only was it backwards, it was tediously mundane, and it felt like the Chinese water torture: this story was determined to punish me and it was going to take a mind-numbingly long time to do it. If the flashback material had been as gripping a the first chapter, that would have at least been something but the canvas this author was painting here wasn't a picture - it was merely a coat of gesso aimed at priming the surface, and I was not prepared to watch this pallid coat of paint dry.

Worse, I thought I knew already what was going on. I'm usually hopeless at figuring that out in a mystery novel, but in this case it seemed so obvious even to me. The main character is this girl named Jule, and she had a friend named Imogen who appeared to have killed herself, but no body was found which as you know means that the person ain't dead - or someone switched places with the victim. I left it to other readers to figure out which case this was. As for me, I couldn't have cared less by this point, which was about 60% in. The story was very short, but I have better things to do with my time than put myself through this kind of writing.

From some of those reviews I read, I also discovered that this was essentially the same story as Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. I haven't read that novel, so i can;t comment, and it's not relevant to me because I was judging this on its own merits - or in this case lack of same, but other reviewers seemed pretty adamant that if you've read Highsmith's novel, you really don't need to read this one.

What's relevant to me is whether a story moves me and keeps me interested, and this one failed. Like I said, I loved the opening chapter but after that, as soon as we began exploring the past, I lost interest because there was nothing in it to interest me that could remotely compare with the quality of the writing in that first chapter.

If the past had been at all revelatory or exciting, it might have been different, but it really was not. It was so predictable that it was tedious to read. There were no surprises. Worse, I went from liking the main character and admiring her smarts and pluck to detesting her as a complete idiot. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot recommend this one.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond

Rating: WARTY!

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

This book has been around for a while and when it was offered on Net Galley I read the blurb and thought it might make for an interesting read, but I was wrong in my assessment. It was not. There were several problems, not least of which was the bait-and-switch wherein the blurb led me to believe this was to be about fighting those who murder elephants for their ivory, when it was really just a sad story about some obsessive old dude who can't get out of his head this woman with whom he had a one night stand decades before, and now is unaccountably obsessed with for no good reason (not that there is ever a good reason for obsession!). Worse, this guy is married and this told me that he was a sleaze. Why would I root for him?

Add to this the delight the author takes in describing scene after scene of blood, gore, and slaughter, including for the entire opening segment of this novel, and it turned me right off, because when there was no gore, there was unending tedium and mind-numbing introspection which turned me off further. I'm not a fan of Kirkus reviews. I routinely avoid them because they never met a novel they didn't like, which means their reviews are utterly worthless. It's reached a point where if I see that a book has been reviewed by Kirkus, I walk the other way. This is ironic because if I'd happened to have seen their review, I would have known to avoid this novel like the plague! They said it "Will make readers sweat with its relentless pace and blistering descriptions of the African sun." I would have known for sure from that mindless garbage, that it was precisely the opposite.

Dorothy and Ian MacAdam have lived on a ranch in Kenya for a long time, yet despite their supposed love of Africa, neither is happy, and Dorothy wants out of there, whereas Ian is just a jerk who cares nothing for anyone but himself. At the drop of a hat, he abandons his wife purportedly to go hunting poachers even though neither he nor we have been offered a solid reason for him to go. As it happens, his 'obsession chick' is, by amazing coincidence, kidnapped for ransom for no good reason, by some itinerant and laughably brutal caricatures of Somalis, and suddenly Ian is galvanized to chase them. The hell with the elephants. From that point on, no one cares about poachers. The bait-and-switch made it about kidnappers. The novel should have been titled "Like Women for Elephants."

You know if the Africans were serious about stopping the elephant and rhino slaughter, they would track down and tranquilize every last one of them and remove their horns and tusks, and they would keep doing this until all the lowlife scum poachers have been forced to give up their evil and brutal trade for lack of bounty, and have found something else to do. Problem solved. There's no reason to kill the animals if there's nothing for the poachers to benefit from, yet this slaughter goes on and endlessly with these animals being slowly wiped-out because no-one evidently has the good sense or the guts to step-up and remove the incentive.

This would have been a much better story had it been about someone doing precisely that: sneaking around under the governments' noses, and avoiding poachers, and getting it done, but instead of something new and different we got precisely the same and that was precisely the problem with this story: it offered nothing new or original.

It did not help that the story-telling, particularly the violence, was so overly-dramatized that it became a joke, with people being shot and flying backwards in the air from the impact of the bullets which simply doesn't happen except in asinine Hollywood depictions. Bullets are so small and dense, and move so fast that they're through you before you even notice the impact and they sure as hell don't kick you backwards like you're a circus acrobat, not even if they break a bone. And there is no way they're going to kick a huge elephant's head around from the impact either. Puleeze! These descriptions were a joke and constantly kicked me out of suspension of disbelief and helped to ruin this story.

I stopped caring about any of this about a quarter of the way through, and I skimmed and skipped to about half way through, and I realized I was wasting my life reading this, when I could be reading something more engrossing, more entertaining, and more authentic. Life's too short. I cannot recommend this based on what I read.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka

Rating: WARTY!

"A girl was dead, a beautiful girl and there was tragedy in that" was the phrase in this novel which first turned me off it. I have read this same wrong-headed phrasing, written by so many female writers, so often that it makes me sick. Even in this day and age I can see it coming from some insensitive male writers, but for a woman to write this of another woman is a disgrace. Is this all the value a girl has: the shallow depth of her subjective beauty? Is that her only worth? Is there nothing more that can be said about her?

Apparently this author with an amazing name and in her debut novel doesn't think so, because while she could have written, " A girl was dead, a strong girl, but that didn't save her..." or " A girl was dead, a smart girl, who evidently wasn't smart enough.." or "A girl was dead, a sensitive girl and there was tragedy in that..." she didn't. She wrote only that the tragedy was that this was a beautiful girl. Meaning what? That if it had been an "ugly" girl, then it wouldn't have been a tragedy? If she had been plain and homely, it would not have been so awful that she died?

I can't rate a novel positively when the author abuses and cheapens women like this, callously reducing them to their looks, as if they have no other worth. I expect it from those trashy magazines that line the checkout shelves at the supermarket, where fattening junk food populates one side of the aisle while the other is replete with magazines telling women that they are ugly, sexually incompetent, and overweight. For a female author to willingly side with that kind of chronic abuse is shameful.

That alone was bad enough, but it was not the only problem with this novel which superficially purports to be about the death of a young girl, but which seemed more like the author was going for a pretentious piece of art than ever she was interested in telling an engaging and sensitive story about the kind of death we see all-too-often in real life.

Even on merit as a work of literature, there were issues, such as awkward phrasing and purple prose. I read on one occasion: "He hated to imagine his sadness inside her" which struck me as a peculiar thing to say or think. His sadness inside her? It sounds almost sexual, like he's considering penetrating her with something. It just felt wrong. Certainly it could have been phrased better. Another one which sounded peculiar was this: "When Cameron first heard about Andrea Yates, he ran a bath."

On the other hand, maybe this was perfect, because the character who entertained these thoughts was an out-and-out creep: a peeping tom and a stalker. I did not like him, and I sure-as-hell had no sympathy for him. It was so plainly obvious that he was not the perp that it was no more than an exercise in masturbation to pursue his story, which was boring, but this was true of all three characters this novel followed. Not a one of them had anything of interest in them to engage the reader.

If you're going to have characters that have unpleasant qualities, then you need to give them something to balance it unless you really don't want us to like them, and the ability to sketch portraits of the girl being stalked is not an endearing quality. It's just not.

Aside from the shallowness of the 'beauty' comment, the problem with this novel was that the layout was a confused mess. Instead of starting with the crime - the finding of the body, the novel opened with Cameron the Stalker in third person voice, then switched to Jade the Obnoxious in first person, like it was a nondescript YA novel (and like I cared about her story). It seemed like an afterthought when we once again switched to third person and met Russ, the cop who realistically should have had no involvement with the investigation, but who did anyway! So here we had our priorities laid out and none of them were the victim of a brutal assault. She was tacked on as an afterthought; a prop whose life was immaterial to the anguished and utterly self-centered existential chatter of the three main characters.

Jade gave me the impression that she was only in the novel so it could have the rebel female trope requisite in YA stories. Russ had even less reason to be in the cast. Why he was involved at all is the only real mystery here. They woke him early in the morning after the body had been found. He was not a detective, and he was not the first on the scene, nor was he instrumental in any matters regarding the victim, so I was at a complete loss as to why they called him out there. It made no sense at all.

The body was apparently discovered by the school "night janitor." I am far from an expert in school administration, but it seemed like an odd if not a rare occupation, especially given than this was not a massive urban high-school, but a small school in a small town, so I didn't get his reason for existence in this story at all unless he was the perp. Not that I'm saying he was. I never found out who the perp was and I really didn't care.

The story was laid out peculiarly, too: it was told backwards, with two characters being introduced who were at opposite ends of a stark black and white spectrum of feeling towards the victim. The victim trotted along after them a poor third, like an unloved dog, which resentfully has to be walked, and even then she didn't take center stage because her section was instead about the selfsame police officer who should never have been involved in the first place!

If he had been on night patrol and had found the victim, then it would have made sense for him to be involved, but it never did. Calling him out of bed to see the corpse represented nothing if not sick voyeurism, os this was really poor writing. Even during questioning, this officer was uninvolved, his mind constantly and tediously going back to his own past instead of focusing on the questioning of the suspect or the pursuit of the investigation! he was a lousy cop. I felt like he needed to have Yoda come along and give him his speech about "Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing," and whack him over the head with his little knobby walking stick.

The chapters were named after the person from whose perspective the story was told. This is typically a portent of imminent tedium to me. I've rarely (if ever!) enjoyed a novel written in this way, and the chronic voice-switching was jarring, making for a disjointed work which did nothing save remind me I was reading a YA story.

It felt like the author could not make up her mind about which voice she wanted to tell this story in and the hesitation showed uncomfortably. First person is almost never a good choice and mixing it with third is a no-no. The only effect that method has on me is to remind me repeatedly, with each change of voice, that I'm reading a story that's more interested in being artsy and pretentious than ever it is in actually telling an engaging story.

Despite all of this, I might have enjoyed it if it had been written well, but it was not. The author seemed far too in love with turning a phrase than ever she was addressing the very real problems children in school face when a death occurs. It's like the author had no respect not only for the victim, but also for the grieving process. It felt more like a sensationalist piece of writing than an exploration of death and grief, or even a detective story, and this approach cheapened the death of a young girl. But hey, she died beautiful, so what's to worry about, right?

I think at this point I am ready to quit reading not only novels which have a woman's name in the title, but also those which actually use the world "Girl" in the title, such as "Girl, interrupted" and "Girl on a Train" because they are inevitably poor efforts at telling an engrossing story.

This was an advance review copy and I have to apologize for making it only a third the way through this one before I had to quit reading, but life is short and reading list long, and frankly it's a waste to expend any of it on something like this when there are far more appealing and fulfilling efforts out there begging for attention.

I did not care about any of the characters, not even the victim because I was never given reason to, and I sure didn't care who the perp was because the author evidently didn't either! I do wish the author all the best. I think she has stories to tell, especially if she can get an editor who is on the ball, but this particular novel is not one I can recommend.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Quantum by Dean De Servienti

Rating: WARTY!

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

The first problem I encountered with this was that it's the first of a trilogy, which means it's really not a novel, but a prologue. The funny thing about that was that there is an author's note, an introduction, AND a prologue in this volume. Now that is serious and hilarious overkill. I do not read introductions, prefaces, prologues, author's notes, or any of that stuff. If you want me to read it, put it in the main text. Anything else is as antique as it is pretentious.

Despite this being a trilogy overture, I decided to take a chance on it anyway because it sounded interesting, but in keeping with its tripartite roots, it moved too slowly for me and didn't offer me much reward no matter how much I let slide. This is why I so rarely find series of any value. The first volume was boring - at least the fifty percent of it that I read - and it should not have been. I can't see myself being remotely interested in reading three volumes if they're anything like the portion I read of this one.

The second problem is that there are far too many characters introduced far too quickly. All this means is that we never get to know a single one of them in any depth, and so we have no one with whom to identify or for whom to root. This is another problem for me. I am not a fan of novels which jump around like this, especially when it's after as little as a single paragraph as often happens here. It moves so rapidly from one person to another, and one locale to another that it's likely to induce whiplash in many readers! It also pretentiously announces each paragraph with a dateline, like this is somehow crucial information. It's not, so why the pretension? Who reads datelines anyway?

This is translated from the Italian (as far as I know), so I readily admit something may have been lost in translation, but I doubt so much could have been lost that a brilliant novel in the native language would have been rendered so uninteresting in English. What bugged me most about this though, is that it was set in the USA. Italy has so much to offer - why betray that and set your novel in the US? Was it to avariciously pander to an insular US audience which evidently can't stand to read a novel unless it's native? And I don't mean Native American! I felt it would have been more interesting had it been set elsewhere, and Italy would have been a fine place to set this.

The most amusing thing was that Kindle's crappy app on my phone, which is the medium I read most of this in (and the formatting was, for once, fine) told me on page one that there were six minutes left in the book! Right, Amazon! Seriously, you still need to do some work on your crappy Kindle app. You're pulling down enough profit from your massive global conglomerate, so I know it's not that you can't afford to hire top line programmers; is it just that you're too cheap to hire them? Or are you purposefully trying to force people to buy a Kindle device?

The story opened amusingly: "Rome was beautiful in spite of the annoying wind that had been buffeting the city for the past couple of days." How might wind make it unattractive? Was Rome farting?! I liked Rome when I visited, but felt it was rather dirty - more-so than London is typically asserted to be, but that was a while ago. I don't know what it's like now, but I promise you the wind cannot make it ugly, so this struck me as a truly odd way of expressing a sentiment. Another translation problem? I can't say.

There were other such issues. One of them was that the artifact they found was six inches in diameter, yet it's referred to as a cane and a walking stick?! Again, this might have been a problem with translation, but with that repetition, it didn't seem so. I think it's funny that the artifact is described as sparkling, yet one guy assumes it's made from gold. Again, a problem with the translation? I don't know.

The truly bizarre thing is that I read, "Whatever metal it's made of isn't known to us." I'm sorry, but this is bullshit. We know all the metals in the universe. They're in the periodic table, and scientists can reliably project what others may be found. There are almost none beyond Uranium that are remotely stable. They can be created in the lab, but are so loosely wrapped that they exist for only minuscule fractions of a second, so this 'unknown metal' which often appears in sci-fi, is nonsensical.

The author would have made more sense and impressed me more if he'd talked about an unknown alloy instead of an unknown metal. I would have been more impressed still if he'd gone for one of the unstable metals and reported that it had somehow been rendered stable in this artifact (but then it might still have been radioactive), or if he had gone with one of the projected stable metals which are way off the end of the current periodic table. There's supposed to be one somewhere in the vicinity of Unbinilium. It hasn't been found yet and may not exist, but something like that would have been sweet to read about instead of this amateurish 'unknown metal'.

The story itself made no sense. The idea is that medical volunteers in the Sudan find a metallic cylinder, which was evidently embedded in rocks a quarter billion years old. Instead of asking permission from the powers-that-be in the country, they simply assert white man's privilege and steal the thing, transporting it to the west like the Sudanese have no business with it at all, and no say in the matter. They're black and African so why would any white scientists care at all? That can and has happened, but the fact that there isn't one single voice of dissension recording how utterly wrong that is bothered me intensely, and spoiled this right from the beginning.

The next absurdity is that the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) cease all disputes and come together as one, Israel sending the Mossad after this object. why? There is no reason whatsoever given for this intense religious interest, and for why it is only those three, like there are no other important religions on the planet! Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Falun Gong, and Sikhism are all larger than Judaism, so this seemed like an utterly arbitrary choice.

Anyway, all of the scientists contact their families and tell them not to try to contact them (!), and then they disappear. They're accompanied by and protected by a guy named Yoshi, who has a really interesting and overly intimate (but not sexual) relationship with his sister. Those two intrigued me more than anything else in this story, though they 'skeeved out' at least one reviewer I read, but they were switched-out with other characters almost interchangeably, so we never even got to learn why those two were like they were, although this may have been revealed in the second half of this first volume which I did not read. Life is too short!

So overall, based on the half of the volume I read, I cannot recommend this. It's too dissipated: all over the place and completely unrealistic, and it offered nothing to hold my interest.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Rating: WARTY!

Not to be confused with any of the Zero Day's from Bobby Adair, David Baldacci, Mark Russinovich, or A Meredith Walters, all of which are series, this uninventively-named book one of yet another unwelcome YA series was a waste of my time. That said, I'd listen to a different book - by a different author - which is read by the same audiobook reader, because Andi Arndt actually did a decent job. It's a pity she didn't have better material to work with.

I realized how much of a complete retread of every other YA s0-called "thriller" it was as soon as I read the description of the main character's love interest: he has rippling muscles, soft curls in his nape, and gold flecks in his eyes. I had to apologize the local library for barfing all over the audiobook. Why are there so lamentably few YA writers with the intelligence and inventiveness to go off the beaten track instead of beating us over the head with the same worn-out track every other YA writer has worn down into blandness?

Adele Webster was kidnapped at the age of eight, right out of the house where the governor, her father, was meeting with his chief of staff, and no one seems to think this is an inside job? Now, eight years later, she comes back as the daughter of a president.

The obvious question is why now, when the president is dealing with home-grown terrorism in the form of a group of potentially violent hackers calling themselves Cerberus, which everyone pronounces Sir Berrus. The original Greek is Kerberos, and it struck me that hackers of this sophistication would have been much more likely to have adopted the original name rather than the modern one. I'm guessing the author has no idea of the original Greek, mainly because she seems to have so little idea of anything else.

Addie, as she's consistently known, is accepted into the president's inner domain unbelievably quickly. She gives the Secret service a story and they pretty much swallow it, but why is she telling them when the search for her would be the FBI's domain? On the other hand, who would kidnap a governor's daughter in the blind belief that this same governor would inevitably become president just four years later, and his daughter would inevitably become a shill for the terrorists when they release her four years later still? The author clearly believes this isn't too far into fantasy land....

Addie describes the family which kidnapped her (she says!) as living 'off the grid'. This phrase has been in use since the mid-nineties or so, but this struck me as a phrase an eight-year-old girl would not use, and so as a sixteen-year-old who has not been exposed to any popular culture, is this a phrase Addie would have known? It's not even remarked upon, but I think the FBI would have caught this, and at least considered the unlikelihood of her use of it if the story she's telling is supposed to be true. But the author is blinkered to this as she is to too many things. Addie's rapid reinstatement and unsupervised and unmonitored entry into the White House is simply not credible.

Addie's childhood friend - the boy who was the last to see her before she was snatched - is Darrow Fergusson, the now grown son of the woman who is still chief of staff. He's asked by the National Security Advisor to spy on Addie. I'm sorry but no. The last person the NSA would ask to spy, much less tip-off that there is spying in the offing, is this girl's best friend from childhood, and whether they did or not, Darrow would have to be a complete moron not to report Addie's unexplained departure from her White House bedroom, via a window, down into the grounds on the first night he gets to meet her after her return. His character simply isn't credible.

The story was so poorly written and badly plotted that I DNF'd it right at those asinine gold flecks. I did listen tot he last disk on the way home though,m and it;s as poorly written as the rest of the novel. The entire last ten percent is utterly unbelievable, with a cliff-hanger ending, which I abhor, because it means that what I just wasted my time on something that was nothing more than a 368-page prologue, and I don't even read 368 word prologues. This book is objectionable, nasty, and detestable and I actively disrecommend it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Agent Carter Operation SIN by Kathryn Immonen, Richard Ellis, Ramón Pérez

Rating: WARTY!

So I read through this entire comic book and I couldn't find a story anywhere! Weird. The image on the cover was of Hayley Atwell from the TV series Peggy Carter, but she bore no resemblance whatsoever to the blond in the story, who has no class, no presence, and no appeal. The story was lost in the wilderness of Russia in the fifties. It rambled and meandered and wandered, and went quite literally nowhere. It was nonsensical.

There was an interaction with Vanko père who is mentioned in Iron Man 2 movie, but it went nowhere, either. On top of that there was this weird bearded guy who behaved like a wild bear, and who was essentially a dick, and this pencil dick of a kid who transformed into a bear, which was a huge Whisky Tango Foxtrot moment for me. The art by Richard Ellis for the main story and Ramón Pérez for the nonsensical Captain America story at the end was only so-so. That last little story was a captastrophe and made the titular figure look like an overbearing jerk.

Kathryn Immonen's writing was sub-par. I cannot recommend this series at all. The TV series is far more realistic and entertaining, has action, humor, and smarts. None of that was evident in this comic. In my opinion, you should go watch the TV series and forget about this juvenile effort.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Seal Team 666 by Weston Ochse

Rating: WARTY!

This was a DNF for me and it seemed like a real waste of a great title. I think the first problem was that the novel had no good idea what it wanted to be: a fantasy/horror story, or a "procedural" special forces novel. I think it tripped up going back and forth between the two. I made it only 64 pages in, which I think was a fair shot, especially when nothing really happened in that time except the highly improbable - and I'm not even talking about the supernatural! I think I can add some observations and commentary here that I've not seen in other reviews, too.

Actually the first problem was with the main character's name. Do we honestly need yet another in a tediously long line of action adventure novels featuring a main character named Jack? Seriously? Are authors so lacking in imagination that they go to trope as soon as the starting pistol cracks? I am so sick of this clichéd name that I swore off reading any more novels which feature such a character. Somehow I managed to miss that with this one, but it self-corrected! A Navy Seal would not have made that dangerous mistake! Anyway, Jack is training to be a Seal (a contraction of SEa, Air Land). He's four weeks from finishing his SCUBA training (which is only one step in a long training schedule), yet he's pulled out of it by a redheaded woman (who was so obviously destined to be his 'squeeze' that it was pathetic) to join Seal Team 666. How four weeks from the end of a twenty-four week course counts as "half way" through is a mystery, especially when there was more to come, but I let that go since there were worse problems!

This is the worse problem: Jack's specialty is as a sniper. Seal teams count not only on toughness and skill, but also on extensive mission practice leading to working together as a finely-tuned machine. You do not throw a new guy in there right as a mission is setting out! I am not militarily trained, so this is a pure guess on my part, but my guess is that a team like this would rather go one man short than bring in a brand new guy they never even met before, let alone trained with for this specific mission. I think this is especially true when that guy's specialty is sniping and no sniper is needed for this! It wasn't like he had something critical to bring, so this made absolutely no sense at all to me, because it presented such a ripe opportunity to get one or more of the team killed because of some misstep or miscue. I cannot see how this would have been countenanced.

They were operating on US soil, too, which seemed even more odd. The author justified it by saying that there is no police SWAT team trained to deal with the supernatural, but they really were not dealing with the supernatural - they were simply gathering intelligence from some Chinese guys who they knew were in this building. It was at this point in the story where the author wrote: "Walker had been watching the Chinaman's eyes." Does that sound a bit racist to you?

I talked with a couple of people (neither of whom is Chinese!) about this, and they didn't think it was any big deal, but to me it sounded off at best, and racist at worst. If this was someone's speech in the story, I can see how he might say something like that. Even the narrator might say it if the novel was told in first person PoV, but for a writer to put that in the narration when it's third person and not part of some character's speech, seems off to me. This guy who writes this used to be army intelligence which might explain a lot. He's now, apparently, defense intelligence, which also might explain a lot. It just seemed strange.

Aside from that, the story was just not interesting. The author seemed far more attached to spewing Tom Clancy-style technical descriptions than ever he was in telling a cool story about military men facing off against the supernatural. He couldn't simply say, for example, "he cleaned his gun" or "he fired his pistol" without providing a mini-description of the weapon every time. It had to be, "he cleaned his Super 90" or "he fired his MP5", which quickly became tedious in short order and irritating right afterwards. Here's one example of a partial paragraph so you get the boring idea:

And also like the M16 and the AR15, the Stoner used a gas-impingement system to automatically move the bolt back and forth, enabling semiautomatic fire down the twenty-inch barrel. Rather than the regular floating barrel, the Stoner was reworked to incorporate the URX 11 Picatiny-Weaver Rail System, allowing for better application of any mounted hardware such as laser sights, telescopic sights, reflexive sights, tactical lights and forward grips.

Now I don't doubt that there are readers out there who like stories larded with this techno-jargon, but I really don't care about it and it gets annoying when it looks like the author is more interested in showing off how much research he did, than in moving the story along nicely. It failed to grab me and I decided after a very short debate, that there were far too many other books out there begging to be read, for me to waste any more of my time on one which doesn't thrill me from the outset. This is the start of a series, and I sure didn't want to read any more of this one volume let alone another one like it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

Rating: WARTY!

This audio book was about Vanessa 'Michael' Munroe, a young and tomboyish investigator, who is called an informationist because it sounds much more cool even though it's nonsensical. Some reviewers have drawn a parallel between this characters and Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, but Munroe is no Salander, despite the penchant for both to ride a motorbike. Salander would never bring harm on the downtrodden.

To me, Munroe is more like James Bond than ever she is like Salander. She has guys fawning over her as women fawn over Bond. She travels the world as Bond does, and has very convenient contacts wherever she goes. She's always potentially in danger but can fist-fight with the best of them. In contrast to Bond, however, Munroe's story moves at the pace of an arthritic snail (if that wasn't a contradiction in terms), and she isn't an agent of any government. What she does is dig up information on developing countries allowing capitalists to exploit them. While she doesn't do this exploitation herself, it can be argued that she facilitates it, and is therefore not a very nice person since she evidently has no qualms at all about what will happen to the people of those countries once western big money starts pouring in.

But then Munroe is very much a capitalist herself. Recruited by a rich Houston oil baron to find his missing adopted daughter, Munroe is offered two point five million, but demands that it be doubled before she will dirty her hands looking for the lost 18 year old. So she gets five million and a year to search and she keeps the money even if she uncovers nothing which has not already been uncovered by other investigators, official and otherwise. This is not even her field of endeavor, but she doesn't mind raking it in, exploiting a grieving father.

My feeling in beginning was that this story of Emily's disappearance would end up tied to the fact that she's adopted, or it would have to do with so-called white slavery, or perhaps to do with some secret related to her adoptive father's oil business interests in Africa. Taylor Stevens is evidently an escapee from a religious cult, for which I heartily congratulate her (for the escape, not the membership!). She anchors Munroe in Texas because that's where the author lives, so maybe there's some wish fulfilment going on here. Apparently Stevens began writing because her children bored her? I don't know how anyone can find children boring, but that's what I read. Maybe the interviewer misunderstood her? Anyway, Munroe zooms off to Africa to begin her investigation with your usual hottie ex-special forces guy by her side - someone assigned to her against her will be her employer. She has no respect for him and crudely rufies him one day after they arrive in Africa so she can go off on her own and do her job without him tagging along that day. Like I said, she's not a nice person and I neither liked nor admired her.

The wonderful thing about audio books is that you can listen to them while driving and get through a lot of books if you have any sort of commute worth the name. The downside of them is that you have to put up with whatever reader is doing the job. Hillary Hoben was the reader here, and her voice was so mind-numbingly monotonous that I was ready to buy Amway products form her. In short, I really disliked it after an hour or so. There is no inflection in her reading and while she makes passable attempts to modulate her voice to the characters, it's still flat as a pancake. Worse than this, the story stubbornly refused to move. It was less of an action adventure than a no-action misadventure. It went along at a leisurely pace when I was wanting it to get going already. It was at this point that I realized Vanessa and I were destined to part ways. I can't recommend this novel based on the portion (about 30% ) to which I listened, which discounted for skimming, was quite substantial.