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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Scan by Walter Jury, Sarah Fine


Rating: WARTY!

This was another failed experiment in trying new audiobooks. It failed because the main character is a whiny, self-obsessed, foul-mouthed little jerk who lost my interest in the first few paragraphs. Why anyone would want to read about him, let alone root for him is a mystery to me. The book's narrator, Luke Daniels, was completely utterly wrong for the character. I don't care if he's won a dozen awards, his reading was atrociously wooden. If you've ever seen one of those old Chinese Boxer movies with the impossibly deep, gruff and mature voice in the English dub given to the graceful young male lead, or seen an anime with a little almost feminine male character given the deepest, most commanding voice, then you'll have an idea of how this sounded: WRONG! No, just no.

I don't know exactly what this authorial collaboration is all about but Jury is out. He's a Hollywood insider who seems more interested in writing a screenplay thinly-disguised as a novel than he is in writing an actual novel. Not so Fine is a psychologist who ought to know better. I have no interest in reading anything else from either of these authors. Be warned that Scan isn't a novel, it's an overture to a series which means it doesn't have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's all beginning and there's no end to it. None of this is apparent from the book cover.

It's your tired done-to-death story where the child is being trained up to be a special snowflake, but the idiotic and inevitably single parent(in this case dad plays Sarah Conner) is a clueless jerk, always on his son's case without offering a word of encouragement or rationale, so when he predictably and inevitably gets killed, Tait is completely in the dark.

The reader isn't, however because the author hammers us over the head with painfully obvious foreshadowing. The story is that aliens have been slowly integrating into human society and replacing us for four hundred years - and they still didn't get the job done. That's how incompetent they are. Tait is human, but his girlfriend is an alien. That's no spoiler because it is so obvious to the reader that it serves only to make Tait look like a complete moron that he hasn't figured it out despite all of his training. I guess dad failed.

I gave up on this about a third the way in because it was simply horribly written. Tait is foul-mouthed for no reason at all. I don't care about swearing in a novel if it feels like it's part of the character or the story in general, but in this case, it felt like it was tacked on as a poor place-holder for Tait being bad-ass. Tait couldn't find bad ass with both hands tied behind his back, and his cussing contributed nothing. It felt like it was done by a two-year-old who had heard a bad word, and was repeating it for shock value. It didn't work.

The thing that reveals Christina's alien heritage is a scanner devised by Tait's dad, who evidently has not heard of DNA testing. The story reads like this scanner is crucial because it can distinguish between human and alien, but who cares? Really? If you're going to have a MacGuffin, then please don't insult your readers' intelligence with it! Find one that makes sense and is actually critical.

And on that topic, No, just no to the bad science depicted here! The closest species on Earth to humans is the chimpanzee and the Bonobo, but neither of these can interbreed with humans. How in hell is an alien species from a different planet where it underwent a completely different origin and evolutionary path ever, I mean EVER, even if they look just like us, going to interbreed with humans?

It's fundamentally nonsensical and someone with scientific credentials like Fine, ought to know this, It's basic biology. If two organisms can interbreed, they are not human and alien, but the same species, period. I truly detest ignorant writers who think they can write science fiction, yet don't even have the most basic grasp of the sciences. So no, a huge NO to this novel.


The Astonishing Ant-Man Everybody Loves Team-Ups by Nick Spencer, Brent Schoonover, Ramon Rosanas, Jordan Boyd


Rating: WARTY!

This was the polar opposite of the previous volume I read. I know I'm more than likely reading these out of sequence, but I don't think that matters in this case since it was so disjointed!

Whilst the previous one at least held my interest, even if it did not inspire me to read more, when I moved on to this second volume (which I'd already checked out of the library), I found it was not at all to my taste. The artwork was of the same standard as the previous book I read, but the story here was nonsensical and choppy, and simply did not draw-in my interest let alone hold it.

Worse than this, I ran into the same comic book issues that I've seen in all-too-many comic books. These were muted somewhat in the previous volume but put out on full exhibition here. One major reason I do not favor reading very many comic books is the genderist portrayals of male heroes versus female heroes. The men are all wearing these simple or functional costumes. The women are not.

The Giant, for example wears an old-style Flash costume: one piece, skin-hugging, bright red and black, with a cowl incorporated into the costume. He how would even get into such a costume, let alone feel comfortable wearing, is a question I long ago gave up asking, but note one important thing: his junk is not on view! Indeed, he looks like a castrated angel because he has no bulge whatsoever in his crotch! Maybe Pym particles shrink the penis and testicles? So why don't those particles also shrink the secondary sex organs (so-called) of the female heroes instead of projecting them fantastically outwards?

Ant-man wears a similar red and black outfit with a utility belt and a helmet the purpose of which I have still to grasp. Its sole purpose seems to be to give his head a vague ant-like appearance. Whatever it is, he's evidently so enamored of it that he even wears it when he takes a woman to bed with him.... Captain America, who is the token black guy in this comic, has this bizarre high collar on his outfit, which comes up over his ears, and he wears goggles. Since the original Cap had none of that, I can only assume that its only purpose is to hide as much black skin as possible so's not to offend readers that an Africa American has been uppity enough to trespass upon their pristine WASP comic book.

Compare and contrast this with the female heroes, none of whom are black. They all wear high heels, even in costume, and they all have low-cut tops so that even if no flesh is actually exposed, it's suggestive of it. In a flashback, one of them commendably wears a costume which is an exact duplicate of her male counterpart (no high heels!), but then that's completely subsumed under a Thing costume, so she never gets to be herself.

The outfit that takes the cake though, is when a super villain named Beetle appears. Her costume, while exposing no flesh (she wears a black onesie) is topped with thigh-high boots (with the inevitable heels), and she also wears a bustier with thin straps over her shoulders and a sharp V-cut at her crotch to make it clear that's where her V-shaped pubic mound is for anyone who might have got lost as their eyes climbed those boots leading up to 'Heaven'. Seriously? Why?

'
This book is garbage and I dis-recommend it for anyone who has any integrity, decency, and self-respect.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Team Fugee by Dirk McLean


Rating: WARTY!

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

This was a short book aimed at middle grade readers, but I'm not sure how well it will be received. Obviously I'm not in that age group, but I can still appreciate a good novel and this one did not feel that way. It was too choppy, the story being told more in a series of cameos than in a flowing style. Problems in the plot seemed to arise from out of nowhere, and to be resolved with little difficulty.

The soccer descriptions were not very good. I got the impression that the author knew little about soccer and had done some reading, but still hadn’t quite grasped it. For example, at one point there's a description of a penalty kick, but what the author describes is not a penalty kick - it’s a free kick, with players standing by each of the goal posts and a wall of five boys in front of the goal. No! That's not a penalty kick! With a penalty, it's just the kicker and the goalkeeper! That's it! There's no one else. This as a big fail, and will be noticed by any kid who knows anything about soccer.

At another point the author describes some kids "struggling to pump their ball." This confused me at first until I realized they were trying to inflate the ball, with a pump that didn't work properly. I'm not Canadian and for all I know maybe Canadians describe inflating the ball like that, but it seemed odd and won't play well to an international audience. It’s a minor thing, but these things count, especially when there are lots of them.

The story involved two soccer teams which formed of their own accord at the school, one comprised of Syrian refugees, the other Nigerian refugees. That's where the title of the novel comes from: reFUGEE. I didn't realize that the title should be pronounced with a soft G, so the title made no sense at all until I read the novel. Because of this, the story was in a sense rather racist. Essentially the only people who were depicted as important here were the Syrians and the Nigerians. No Canadians (or anyone else) need apply. I found that insulting and counterproductive, because the essence of the story was supposed to be about cooperation and collaboration. How could this be if the team was exclusively Nigerian and Syrian?

So while I wish the author all the best, I cannot recommend this as a worthy read. The story didn't feel like a story. it felt like notes for a story or at best a rough draft.


The Red Word by Sarah Henstra


Rating: WARTY!

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

I wanted to like this novel and I began by doing so, for about forty percent of it, but then things changed and I really began to dislike it. By seventy-five percent the main character had become so profoundly stupid that I could not bear to read any more about her, so this review is of the first seventy-five percent.

The first problem was first person, or worst person voice as I call it because it's almost never the best choice. Some plots can support it. This one did not because the only thing it achieves here is to trivialize what is a serious problem: rape (aka, in this novel, the red word).

All that the choice of first person did here was to subjugate rape to the personal and often trivial and asinine peccadilloes of what turned out to be a clueless and ineffectual protagonist. Some writers can carry-off first person, but this writer did not. This failure cheapened the topic and did more far more harm than good. I can't forgive that when it's a topic as important as this.

The main character is a college student named Karen Huls. Karen is given certain attributes, but many of them seemed inappropriate and counter-productive to the story. First of all, she's a sophomore. The first part of that word comes (unsurprisingly) from the Greek and refers to wisdom. Karen displayed precious little of that, but on the other hand, the second part of that word comes from the Greek moros which pretty much means moron. That part I could see in her.

I don't mind a main character who starts out dumb and grows, but in this novel Karen showed no sign of ever wanting to leave dumb behind her, at least not up to the point where I quit reading in disgust. Dumb seemed to be her security blanket and she clung to it avidly. Middle-grade girls are more clued in than Karen was.

Karen is a photographer, but her photography played very little part in the story, so I'm not sure why she was tagged with this interest except that, once again, it played into the artsy pretension that was so heavy-handed in this novel that that it effectively trivialized the purported topic, rape. Rape is one of many symptoms of a privileged, patriarchal mindset, and the author did nothing to change this or to even fight against it. On the contrary. The Greek system was shown to be a jolly little institution notwithstanding the fatal flaws depicted here.

I thought there was a great potential to juxtapose the lofty ideals of the ancient Greeks (at least as far as academics goes) with the base culture of the rather more Spartan-like collegiate fraternity system, but there was none of this to be found. The academic discourses on mythology had little or nothing to do with events on campus and felt more like the author was just showing-off.

The problem was that, because of the way it was written, the story seemed designed to whitewash and even exonerate the Greek system and frat boy mentality at the expense of those who have been raped and those who would advocate for them, and I found that quite frankly as nauseating as it was inexcusable.

One oddity about this novel, and this comes from the academic pretension with which it's larded, is the use of Greek words to head each chapter. Given that we start from this ostensibly elevated perch, I found it incomprehensible that the boy's fraternity depicted here is repeatedly referred to as GBC, since that fails to represent the actual Greek. Perhaps had the author been a professor of Greek instead of a professor of English, she would have understood that the Greek is Gamma Beta Chi: ΓΒΧ so TBX would be closer to the name for pure appearance. GBK would be closer to the sound as long as we keep in mind that the K is produced at the back of the tongue, a little bit like clearing the throat. 'GBC' is therefore completely inaccurate, so I didn't get the point of this representation at all, except that it conveniently lends itself as an acronym for taking a cheap shot at the fraternity initials.

The novel deals with the so-called 'rape culture' in society, or in this case on campus at a college which supports fraternities and sororities. The story, for some reason, is set in the nineties rather than in the present day, and worse than this, it's all a flashback. I didn't get this either. And I shall skip over the fact that a college professor doesn't know that it's 'biceps' and not 'bicep' as so many YA writers like to have it. Yes, the biceps brachii does split into two at the top, each a bicep, but the part that we typically refer to: the bulge that it seems, so fascinates YA writers, is the conjoining of the two, and is, therefore the biceps.

Normally the choice of first person seems to be made by authors in an effort to provide immediacy for those writers who are unable to evoke that in third person, but to choose first person and then remove it from any semblance of immediacy by not only setting this in the past, but also by throwing it under the bus of a book-long flashback was a startlingly ill-conceived approach. This method was a failure because it reduced what is a current and ongoing crisis to essentially nothing more than an historical footnote. That's entirely the wrong approach to take when it comes to the university (read universal) sexual assault crisis.

The story begins with Karen, who is pretty much an alcoholic. She wakes up lying on the ground after a night of binge-drinking, near a house occupied by some rather radical feminists, and Karen ends up rooming with them. Initially, these other students interested me far more than ever Karen did, but as the story went on, it became ever more clear that they were all really just placeholders - nothing more than 2-D cardboard stand-in characters, too shallow, caricatured and radical to be real.

I felt the portrayal of these students betrayed both feminism and those students in the real world who are struggling to expose the prevalence and casual attitude towards rape, sexual assault, and harassment across the country in colleges, universities and (particularly as we've seen lately) throughout society, in entertainment and in the very heart of Washington DC.

The whole hands-off tone of this novel is set right from the beginning in how it treats a girl (her name is Susannah) who has undergone a traumatic experience. It's not so much that this girl disappears from the story as it is that she was never really in it. She was just a name to be thrown out in conversation - another placeholder for something real, but which actually never materializes. For me, she was a metaphor for the whole novel.

Her dismissal sets the tone for the rest of this neglectful story's 'remote-viewing' of rape. Karen is supposed to be our proxy for exploring this, but the story is so obsessed with strutting its stuff regarding Greek mythology, and Karen is so very unmotivated, and tediously passive and clueless that the story goes nowhere near the raw exposed nerves of what it purports to address.

Karen is never an actor, she is the audience watching others act and failing to take home anything from their actions. If this had been written as a metaphor for the way many men all-too-often view women: as utilities and entertainment, then it might have made some sense, but that's not what happened here. What we got was indifferent writing which had the effect of rendering Karen into nothing more than a peeping tom, stealing glances at life's more seedy side-shows, and even then she does nothing with what she sees. She simply imbibes it mindlessly, and moves on, evidently not satiated, to the next spectacle.

Her placid acceptance of some quite horrific events which she witnesses, without making any effort to set things right or to report them to someone who can set things right, is shameful. Karen isn't part of the solution, she's part of the problem. Instead of despising the frat boys, she becomes an honorary member of fraternity, dating one of them, flirting foolishly with another whom she ogles and idolizes in ways which would be disgraceful had this same behavior been indulged in by a man towards a woman.

If Karen is anything, it's a hypocrite. She sees nothing wrong in any of the fraternity attitudes towards women, or with their drug abuse, since she indulges dangerously herself, or with their lackadaisical work ethic (or lack of any ethic), or with their endless drinking binges and demeaning, objectifying co-ed parties.

This is curious because when a woman is raped, Karen keeps nudging her to report it, but the woman feels she cannot since she was rufied, she remembers nothing of it. The hypocrisy comes in when Karen herself is assaulted twice, the second time badly, although much less than the other girl suffered, and yet despite her advocacy to the other girl, she does nothing about her own assault!

Instead, she just moves on once again, and thereby continues to be a part of the problem. The girl who was gang-raped was given the unfortunate name of Sheri Asselin. How the author could give a rape victim a name which incorporates 'ass' as in 'piece of ass' is a complete mystery. Was it supposed to be some sort of a joke? It wasn't funny.

One really bizarre thing is the author's blog. When I went there to take a look at it, I found it was protected - you cannot get into it unless you both register with Word Press and get the blog owner's permission to access it! I found this to be peculiar. Maybe she has good reasons for it, but if you're an author trying to promote your work, this seems like a completely ineffectual approach to take. That said, it is in keeping with the ineffectual tone of the novel.

So overall, I was really saddened by this novel, not because of what it depicted but because of where it kept failing. It could have been so much more than it was, and as it was, it wasn't anywhere near enough. Now you can argue, if you wish, that I didn't read it to the end and maybe everything turned around in that last 25%, but even if it did, for me it would have been far too little and far too late. Even if it had turned around, it still would not have made me like the main character, who never showed any sign of turning anything around, not even her head to look at what was actually going on right in her presence.

Both she and the novel were a big disappointment and I cannot recommend this as a worthy read. As a great alternative, I recommend viewing the documentary The Hunting Ground, which is available for free on Netflix, and probably in other locations. It's also available on disk. A good reference for help is End Rape on Campus.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Counter-Clock World by Philip K Dick


Rating: WARTY!

I've decided I like Phillip Dick better when his works are translated to the screen than I do in the original. I don't think I've read one of his books that entertained me, so this is the last of his that I'll be reading. It didn't help that it was read by Patrick Lawlor, one of my least favorite readers.

We're told that "the world has entered the Hobart Phase–a vast sidereal process in which time moves in reverse. As a result, libraries are busy eradicating books, copulation signifies the end of pregnancy, people greet with, 'Good-bye,' and part with, 'Hello,' and underneath the world’s tombstones, the dead are coming back to life." This is a lie.

If time were truly reversed, then people wouldn't come back to life in their grave, not unless they'd been buried alive. Nope. The grave would un-fill, a service would be held, the coffin would be un-lowered from the grave and carried (with cars driving in reverse) to the funeral home where it would lie in state until the body was carried back to the hospital where it would come back to life (assuming it died of old age or of some accident). There it would improve its condition until it was able to return home, or maybe back to a motor vehicle accident which would un-happen. People wouldn't greet each other with "Good-bye," but with "olleh" and they'd part with, "eybdoog." But at least climate change would have a viable solution to look forward to, as would pollution.

Actually I was quite willing to let Dick get away with that for an interesting story, but there the problem lay: it wasn't interesting. In the end he has some good ideas, but as a writer he's really rather poor. It turns out Dick is just another of these pedantic authors who comes up with a wacky idea that might just work, and then spoils it completely by weighing it down with leaden philosophy and juvenile religious claptrap. Yawn. Check please, I'm done here.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Daughter of Winter by Pat Lowery Collins


Rating: WARTY!

This book might appeal to the intended age range, but for me it was poorly done, and makes American Indians look like antiquated idiots. That said, it was set in 1849, when everyone by today's standards seems antiquated, but the story itself simply made no sense.

Addie is twelve, and lives in Essex, Massachusetts, where shipbuilding is the line of work every boy wants to get into. Girls have no choice about their lives, and this never changes for Addie. Her father took off to join the California gold rush and almost as soon as he's gone, her mother and infant brother take sick with "the flux" and both die. This is where we join the story.

With Anna fearful of being sent into servitude, she conceals her family's death and steals a coffin for burying them, from the local undertaker. This is the first problem because this is not an insubstantial theft, and had it been investigated, which it undoubtedly would have been, it would have led directly to the girl who dragged the pine box to her home, yet she gets away with it!

Unfortunately, her continued rejection of the town's people's offers to come visit her mother eventually reveals the truth. Rather than stick around, Addie flees into the woods, looking for 'Nokummus' (the Wampanoag word for grandmother, aka Nokomes), an American Indian woman who offered to help Addie, but who singularly fails to do so.

As it turns out, Nokummus is quite literally Addie's grandmother, but we have to wade through countless tedious pages as Addie flees home in mid-winter, camps out in a lean-to near a shipyard, and all but freezes and starves despite her supposedly having experience of camping with her father. I can't help but ask, since Nokummus was known in Essex and several people knew she was Addie's grandmother, what the hell was the whole story about? Why did this woman not come and live with Addie when her father left town, so everything was okay?

Rather than help her granddaughter, this clueless, selfish, dangerous woman left Addie to her own devices until she was almost dead, then "rescued" her and took her off to a deserted island just off shore, apparently for no other reason than to have Addie find her daughter's grave. Nokummus had thirteen years to find that grave! What the hell was she doing in all that time? Sitting on her idle ass, doubtlessly.

She takes Addie in (and I mean that in every conceivable sense), and poisons her by feeding her some bark gruel so Addie vomits profusely, then hallucinates, and finally and wakes up after a two-day bender, deludedly thinking she's communed with the spirits. After this, Nokummus finally lets Addie return home, and moves in with her! The selfish bitch couldn't have done this in the first place and gone on this grave-search next summer? What a bunch of pinto dung!

Nothing is resolved. Addie never moves to the Wampanoag tribal lands to become their powwaw. Her father doesn't even return by the end of the novel so all the 'waiting, hoping. crying' for him is a complete red herring. Her best friend John proves himself as big of a jackass as the school bully who picks on Addie because she's a 'halfbreed'. Justice is never served on that dick, but John is just as bad save for being more subtle in his prejudices and dickishness, and he gets no comeuppance either so I guess that's fair. The story is a mess and not even a hot mess since it's set in winter. I think it stunk and I think it's insulting to and belittling of American Indians, and I cannot recommend it.


Life of Pi by Yann Martel


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook experimental fail! In this case, it began as though it was going to be a fun listen, but like too many other such audiobooks, it ended-up becoming too boring for me to continue with. A certain previous US president is a moron if he really thinks this novel is "an elegant proof of God." It's proof of nothing more than how a writer can ramble pretentiously if neither he nor his editor curbs it.

The author says it was inspired by Max and the Cats, a novella published in 1991 by Moacyr Scliar, and Martel almost got sued for it, but you can't copyright an idea, only a written work, and I understand that the two stories are rather different, although the basic premise of each is essentially the same. Having listened to this one, I suspect the other story will be better, but I have not read it.

The entire book is a flashback, which I do not like at all, and it's in first person, which is another reason not to like it. As it happened, it began entertainingly, the most fun part of the story being in the beginning, when Pi (whose full name is Piscine Molitor Patel) lived as a child in Pondicherry, a city in southeast India, south of Chennai. His family owns a zoo, and that story was interesting and amusing, but then Pi's father suddenly decides to move the family to Canada, and a few days out of the port, the ship sinks.

Nearly everyone dies, and Pi finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a zebra, and an orangutan. The hyena eats everything except the tiger; then the tiger eats the hyena. Pi and the tiger seem to agree to avoid each other from then on, but a sailor shows up and apparently has the intention of eating Pi. Fortunately for Pi, the interloper is summarily dispatched by the tiger.

The boat reaches an island which is inhospitable, so Pi and the tiger set sail once more, finally beaching in Mexico, whereupon the tiger takes off for the wilds leaving Pi feeling bereft. Pi is interviewed about the shipwreck, and tells the truth, but the interviewers don't believe him so he makes up a lie involving no animal activity, and he offers that as an alternative, whereupon they choose the believe the animal story rather than the alternative. everyone seems to be an idiot in this story.

The take-home text from the novel appears to be that anything can be reality, which is plain stupid. It's been repeatedly shown that humans are the most unreliable witnesses imaginable, routinely mis-remembering and misinterpreting things, and augmenting their 'reality' with pure fiction, and changing their stories to match those which others are spouting, so the asinine pretense that an internal 'religious' experience can be a valid reality is as nonsensical as it is hysterical.

Yes, it may make your blinkered life different, but it's meaningless to everyone else. Science is the only sure way to find out about reality. Religion might be fine on a personal level, but in the big picture, it creates monsters like David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite and Jim Jones. Just because such people say it's so doesn't mean they have any better handle on 'reality' than your typical hallucinating or delusional inmate confined in a psychiatric hospital.

I can't rate this as a worthy read.


The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook experiment. It sounded interesting from the blurb: a girl who idolizes Ingrid Bergman growing up in the era of McCarthyism, and from a cloying Catholic background, discovers, hey, guess what? No body is perfect!

Things start coming apart in her perfect life when her idiot parents decide she's subject to bad influences at her prestigious Hollywood school and hypocritically send her to a Catholic girl's school where she's going to be brainwashed that there's a loving, long-suffering god who quite cheerfully condemns people who piss him off to hellish suffering for all eternity. Yep.

Her father is a Hollywood publicist who happens to be in charge of Bergman's account, so when it comes to light that she's having an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and later is having a child by him, the witch-hunt starts, aided and abetted by this same Catholic church which on the one had teaches people to love their neighbor and turn the other cheek, but on the other slaps people it dislikes in the face with a tirade of abuse, recrimination, and rejection. They still do this today. Hypocrites.

The truth is that this 'scandal' lasted only four years before Bergman was working for Hollywood studios again. Just four years after that she was presenting an academy award in Hollywood, so this 'end of the world' scenario in which Jessica - the first person narrator - is wallowing is a bit overdone.

Worse than that, it makes Jessica look like a moron that she is so slow to see consequences of actions and how things will play out, despite spending some considerable time with her new best friend at the Catholic school, who knows precisely how things will pan out and spends their friendship trying to educate Jessica, who never seems to learn to shed her blinkers.

I started out not being sure, then starting to like it, then going off it, then warming to it, then completely going off it at about the halfway point when it became clear that Jessica was an idiot and showed no sign of improvement. It's yet another first person fail, and worse than this, the story is framed as a flashback so the entire story is a flashback apart from current day (that is current day in the story) bookends. I do not like first person, and I do not like flashbacks, so this was a double fail for me, although Erin Spencer did a decent job reading it.

There were some serious writing issues for a seasoned author or a professional editor to let slip by. I read at one point that Jessica was perusing an "Article entitled..." No! There was no entitlement here. The article was titled not entitled! At another point she wrote: "verdant green lawn." Since 'verdant' means green grass, it's tautologous and a good author should know this. 'Verdant lawn' works, as does 'green lawn', but not both! The part of the story where Jessica is required to see Sister Theresa, the head of her school, is larded with heavy-handed foreshadowing. I expect better from an experienced writer.

Jessica wasn't really a likeable person. I read at one point: "he was a year younger and an inch shorter" which made her sound arrogant, elitist, and bigoted. How appalling is it that she should think like this? Too appalling for me. I didn't want to read any more about her, because I didn't care how her life turned out.


The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories by Ambrose Bierce


Rating: WARTY!

This was a very slim and very uninteresting volume. I am sure it would have been quite the ticket in the later eighteen hundreds, when Bierce was at his most prolific (not that these particular stories were published in Bierce's lifetime, but by today's standards, they leave a lot to be desired and I cannot recommend them.

I didn't read them all because they were not interesting to me, but the ones I did read all seemed to be the same story re-dressed with a few changed details and trotted out as something new. One trick pony describes it well, I think.

There were too many of them which were rooted in darkness and icy chills blowing hither and thither, and on purportedly scary footsteps, strange marital discord, vague descriptions of bad things happening, and one line conclusions. It really became too tedious to read them after the first three or so.

I found myself skimming a couple more and gave up on it as a bad job about half way through. Maybe other readers will have a different experience, but this was definitely not for me, despite my liking An Occurrence at Owl Creek, which was why I picked this up in the first place. Ambrose Bierce disappeared in Mexico in 1914 whilst covering the revolution there, and was never seen or heard from again. I think his own story told as fiction would be a lot more interesting than this collection was!


Sayonara, Gangsters by Genichiro Takahashi


Rating: WARTY!

The original Japanese of this book was translated into English by Michael Emmerich, but frankly and honestly, for all the sense it made to me, I may as well have gone with the original language because I got nothing out of it that I could not have got from simply staring at the (to me) incomprehensible Japanese symbols. Actually, I would have been better off! At least the Japanese characters would have been beautiful to look at!

The book provided absolutely no hook, door, access, or invitation whatsoever to get into this story and I'm guessing that's because there was no story. It's like walking through an art gallery which displays only bad paintings, all by different artists, on different subjects and in different styles and periods, and trying to make a coherent story out of them (and by that I mean something other than a history of bad art!).

The paintings have no connection whatsoever other than that they're all paintings. Well this was all sentences, but the words had no connection. It was pretentious nonsensical garbage and I ditched it in short order. If this review clues others into the way the wind is blowing, and helps you avoid mining something so unseemly, then the warning from the weather vane to avoid this vein will not have been in vain!


The Helmet of Horror by Viktor Pelevin


Rating: WARTY!

Having listened to, and enjoyed, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by this same author, I turned to this short story and was severely disappointed, It was trite, boring, poorly read by a cast, and tedious. I have now been turned off looking for anything else by this author.

While I appreciated this unusual take on the myth of Theseus, where people are locked in rooms and have access to the outside only via computer screen and a device which translates their spoken words into texts on screen that others in a 'chat room' can see (call it 'Theseus and the Monitor'), it was simply uninteresting.

These people were able to talk and see their speech and see responses in real time on screen, but the system X'd out any personal details they gave. Their screen names were preassigned and seemed to make no sense, but the story wasn't remotely engaging. I had no interest in their Internet or in any of the characters, and I simply didn't care who they were, why they were there, or what would happen to them. The parts were so poorly read that I gave up on it despite it being so short, because life is also short! Far too short to waste on something which doesn't grab and hold you from the off. I can't recommend this based on the half to two-thirds that I struggled to get through.


Apes and Angels by Ben Bova


Rating: WARTY!

This is the second disappointing novel from this author for me, so I am quite done with him as a source of entertaining reading from this point onward. This is described as the second in a trilogy, but the first in the 'trilogy' is also described as a sequel to a previous novel so how this works as a trilogy rather than a quadrilogy or even a series is a mystery.

I made it almost half-way through, and while I was initially interested in how the story would pan out, the writing was so bad that it felt like I was reading some middle-grade school essay. Add to that the fact that it was read by Stefan Rudnicki (again), a reader whose voice just grates on me and it was not an appealing listen.

In my review of Bova's Transhuman I said that Stefan Rudnicki reminded me of the kid in the Home Alone trilogy, who in one movie records his own voice on a tape recorder, then slows the tape down to make it sound adult. Stefan Rudnicki sounds exactly like that, and it was really hard to ignore that and focus on the story. Nothing's changed in this outing.

Had this novel been written in the forties or fifties, I can see how it ended up as it did, containing genderism and racism and other isms, but it was released in 2016, so there's no excuse for this kind of juvenile, clueless writing, especially not from a supposedly seasoned and respected name in the genre. Note that there is a difference between this and in having a racist or genderist character in a story who makes inappropriate comments. There are people like that, so it's fair game to portray them in novels, but for the writer himself in his narrative to do the same thing is unacceptable.

Women were routinely reduced to eye-candy in this story, with not a one of them having an important role to play, and the senior female crew are portrayed as shrill harridans. One of the main characters was an Australian aborigine, and Bova never let us forget how short, round and black he was despite the fact that the average height of such people is about five foot six, which is not exactly pygmy-sized. The only amusing thing in this was that the reader, in trying to pull off an Australian accent, made this guy (whose name, believe it or not, was Littlejohn) sound like he was South African.

Those issues were enough to can this novel, but the problems did not stop there. This novel was purportedly hard science fiction, but the science failed, being completely fictional. According to the inane blurb, "A wave of death is spreading through the Milky Way galaxy, an expanding sphere of lethal gamma radiation that erupted from the galaxy's core twenty-eight thousand years ago." Humans are supposed to be spreading-out to aid other planets with intelligent life to avoid being wiped out. Given that our planet is only 25,000 light years from the galactic center, the radiation has already passed Earth, so how humans hoped to get ahead of it when it's moving at the speed of light is a mystery. I assume they have some sort of faster-than-light travel available to them, but very little was said about that.

They are apparently putting up some sort of shield which will save the planets. There's no reason they could not simply do this and move on, but instead, they've spend a year 'studying' the Mithra system and its three life-supporting planets. There's no explanation given for this lollygagging. three planets here support life, but it's significantly below the human level of advancement, and one species lives entirely underwater, so it would not have been hard to have installed the protective devices and gone unnoticed, without any contact with the inhabitants, yet here they are dicking around! It makes no sense. Since about 14 feet of water can stop gamma radiation, the underwater inhabitants are perfectly safe, so what gives?

More damningly, this radiation has been expanding in a sphere for almost thirty thousand years. According to the inverse square law, the density of the radiation, and therefore the danger it represents, has to be so low now that its impact on planets would be considerably reduced, if not negligible at this point. Bova never tackles this. Neither does he seem to understand the difference between philology, the study of written language, of which there is none to be found in this solar system, and linguistics, which is the study of language. Nor does he grasp the distinction between anthropology and sociology.

Worse yet, the main character, Brad, is such a special snowflake as to be thoroughly nauseating. He's credited with coming up with 'brilliant' ideas which are in practice nothing more than common sense and certainly something many others would have thought of, yet he's portrayed as being almost magical to think these things up! There's this dumb-ass computer which has all manner of useful information but which apparently was never programmed to volunteer information - although it actually does do so all the time. It's the dumbest AI ever, and the humans around it even dumber in not knowing what questions to ask it. Except for Brilliant Brad, of course.

Additionally, two of the planets in this system they're studying are in eccentric orbits and this author expects me to believe that they pass so close to each other that their atmospheres mix, yet while he talks about storms and tidal waves, he says not a word about the inevitable cataclysmic, life-destroying earthquakes which would occur if they were really that close! In short, Bova is in way over his head here and needs some serious schooling in physics, biology, evolution, linguistics and sociology before he ever writes another sci-fi story along these lines. I'm done with him.


The Girl With Brazil-Nut Eyes by Richard Levine


Rating: WARTY!

Erratum: It's not Kerr Dullea! The actor's name is Keir Dullea.

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

This was offered on Net Galley as a 'read now' and I've found those to be a mixed bag. Some are gems, but often those books are ones which people have not been interested in because they are not very interesting; others are interesting to a few but not to all because they specialize in some niche which may or may not have very wide appeal. For me this book was not a worthy read because it just struck me as odd, in the writing, in the subject matter, and in the ending.

There are two main characters are a fourteen-year-old boy named Josh, and a girl of similar age named Ashleigh. The story is told as one long flashback by Josh in his fifties, who is recalling events (down to verbatim conversations, yet!). This means it's in first person and a flashback, both of which I tend to truly detest. This did not help me to like this novel. If people are relating a story about something that happened years ago, or even days ago for that matter, they do not do it verbatim and go into every detail - most of which they cannot remember, and those of which they do remember having been inevitably modified (sometimes stupendously) from the reality.

I think first person novels need to have some sort of warning on the front cover akin to the one on cigarette packs so those of us who like realistic stories can avoid them as though they were Madagascar (which currently has the plague FYI). No one can remember verbatim conversations from fifty years ago, so this was a constant reminder that I was reading a novel, and that the narrator was an unreliable one. I did not trust his recollection.

Om top of this, the story was disjointed and as manic as Ashleigh was supposed to be (although she showed little evidence of it - that part was all tell and no show). The novel jumped around too much, especially in his reminiscence of that one summer, which was less of a story than it was a list of events, and it swung from high to low like the novel itself was bipolar.

As a character, Ashleigh made no sense to me at all. I know that people who have depression and phobias and those kinds of problems cannot always logically argue themselves out of it because the very fears are irrational and in depression, your own mind is betraying you, but it can be done to an extent; yet here we have Ashleigh, described in the blurb and in the book as 'beautiful' and 'brilliant' (notice the beauty always comes first as though that's the most important quality a woman can have, nothing else being quite that crucial) being portrayed as completely helpless before her own issues. Instead of making her looks strong and heroic, this rendered her weak and dumb.

That doesn't mean she could have magically cured herself, but it does mean she ought to have been a somewhat different character than she was. That said, since she never exhibited any illness - we are always told about it, never shown it as it happens, I guess she had no need to try to figure ways to fight it! That is, of course, a huge problem with first person: nothing can happen unless Josh witnesses it personally or is told about it in long expository paragraphs. Rather than bring her to the fore and make her stand out, this pushed Ashleigh into the background, turning her role into a walk on part instead of making it a starring one in Josh's self-obsessed home movie of his life.

The idea here is that Josh is called 'Bugboy' because he has some sort of hip problem which means he cannot walk normally, walking instead with his legs splayed to the side somewhat. This is described cruelly by fellow students as walking like an insect, hence his nickname. It's painful for him to walk very far we're told, but we're never told anything about what medical treatment he's getting, if any, or advice he's been given about exercise or therapy aimed at working to improve his condition (if any).

I know this was set some thirty years or more prior to the guy telling us about it, but medicine was not exactly in the dark ages in the late eighties, and this lack of attention to treatment of his condition makes it look almost like he's faking it for attention. He's not, of course, but that's one impression this writing can give.

The 'Brazil-nut-eyed' part of the title comes from the fact that Ashleigh has large eyes but Brazil nuts speak more of color than of size and of hardness, which doesn't describe her eyes at all, so the title made no sense. The misheard lyrics to Madonna's La Isla Bonita describing a girl with 'eyes like potatoes' is much more evocative (if not what she actually sang!). Even calling her pecan-eyes or better yet, walnut-eyes would have sounded better to my mind.

Ashleigh comes one day unannounced to sit at the 'defectives' table in the school cafeteria. The occupants of this table describe themselves as defectives because they all have one issue or another and they found themselves drawn together not because they necessarily wanted to hang out with all the others, but because they were rejected by everyone else.

This was a bit hard to believe, but possible, I guess. It's really been overdone though in teen exploitation movies and comedies. 'Bags' has bags under his eyes and was asthmatic (or something like it - their various conditions were left startlingly vague). Stuttsman (eye-roll) had a stutter. Veronica had a bright red "birthmark" on one cheek. Samantha had a limp. The real defect here though, was that all of these purported defectives were sweet, friendly, smart, thoughtful people who all became successful in later life, while everyone else was a cruel tyrant and ultimately a loser. So were were expected to believe. It was not realistic.

What was truly hard to believe was why Ashleigh joined them. It was never really explained. Yes, we were told (not shown) that she felt defective because of her mental insecurities, but this was never convincing and unlike the others, we never heard stories about her being rejected by anyone. She seemed perfectly capable of latching on to anyone and befriending them, so this failed for me.

it was equally a fail that none of the school bullies got any sort of comeuppance, but the story ended rather hurriedly and rather haphazardly, so I guess this was just let go like too many other things. The story never felt wrapped up for me. For example, while we learn a bit about the other 'defectives' in later life, we hear almost nothing about Josh. it felt odd, like it has been vacuumed ans scrubbed clean of anything interesting. even his career choice was predictable and unsurprising.

I am not a fan of baseball, so the endless detailed references to baseball including whole paragraphs and groups of paragraphs made me numb, and I skipped them unread. Some to the text which didn't even mention baseball was like this too, so the story became even more disjointed than it already was with jumping so many boring paragraphs. Maybe baseball fans will love this, but many others will not.

If you think this is a love story it isn't. Maybe you think then, that it's a story about friendship, but if that's what it was, then the friendship itself was decidedly odd and one-sided. It could have been the kind of story where the friendship grew naturally into a romance, but it never went there; quite the opposite in fact.

The two of them never kissed, never really held hands, never had any sort of real intimate moments, and never talked about their feelings for one another even as a friendship. The whole relationship came off as cold and clinical at best, and as Ashleigh cynically using Josh at worst. It felt like the two were hanging out together not because of any attraction to each other for whatever reason, but because of a repulsion from everyone else, or because both of them had fallen down a well, and were stuck together until one or both of them could get out somehow.

There was neither love nor romance, which is fine for me because that is so overdone in books like this that it's tedious to read, but that said, the friendship didn't really go anywhere and it was, I felt, betrayed by Ashleigh towards the end when she started keeping secrets from Josh, her (we're told, not shown) best friend.

In short this story did not work in my opinion. It felt a bit like the 1991 movie My Girl with the genders reversed, and it did not impress me any more than that did, so I cannot recommend it as a worthy read. The Newbery people might like it, but from me that's not a recommendation.


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.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys The Big Lie by Anthony Del Col, Werther Dell'Edera


Rating: WARTY!

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

Well, this was certainly not what I expected! I thought this was a modern take on a couple of series which date back to 1927 (The Hardy Boys) and 1930 (Nancy Drew). In the late seventies, there was a brief and disastrous run on TV featuring both story lines intertwined, but I thought this would be truer to the roots. It was far from that.

I recently reviewed a book about Edward Stratemeyer and his daughters Harriet and Edna, how these series came to be, and who wrote them. It made for an entertaining read, but apart from seeing a TV movie about Nancy drew, I have very little exposure to the actual stories themselves. That's why I thought this might be interesting. I'm sorry to say it wasn't.

the first hint that something was off here was when the Hardy Boys get arrested (apparently out of the blue) for questioning over the death of their father - and the police officer was slapping one of them around. This just felt completely off kilter. It's not to say you can't have a story where a kid is slapped around by a rogue police officer, and it's not to say you can't update an antique story that's badly in need of a make-over and get a better one, but in this case, it felt so out of place and so lacking in rationale and motivation that it kicked the story right out of suspension of disbelief.

It didn't work either, to have this on the one hand and a really old-fashioned style of illustrating the comic book on the other. The two simply didn't work together, especially since the art was lackluster and poorly rendered. I don't know if this was merely in the ebook, which is all we amateur reviewers usually get to see, or if it would have been just as bad in the print version, but the art was poorly delineated, scrappy, sketchy, muddy, and drab. Overall, the the experience was a poor one, and I could not stand to read past the half-way point in this story. Based on what I read, I cannot recommend it.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Percy Jerkson and the Ovolactovegetarians by Margo Kinney-Petrucha, Stefan Petrucha, Rick Parker


Rating: WARTY!

I'm not sure why I picked this up. The title should have warned me it would be awful, but I did not go with my gut instinct ('get out of here while the going's gut'). It was awful. This is one of a series of parodies by this same team. The titles of other entries are equally bad: Harry Potty, The Hunger Pains, Breaking Down (although I admit that last one - for Breaking Dawn, is amusing to me.

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Rick Parker's artwork was average, but the story-telling was pathetic. It was neither entertaining nor engaging and didn't really tell a story. It felt like a series of set pieces riffing off parts of the original story. The jokes were bad, and worse, they were made about a story which is poor to average to begin with, so I didn't see the point.

I mean what could be more dumb than a story about Greek gods entirely set in the USA? The very premise is asinine and one more example of the Americanization of the entire world, like this is the only country, and we have the only stories, and if other nations have stories to tell, we'll simply move them to the USA instead of having the courage, decency, and smarts to relate them in their original setting. I spit on such cowardly and unimaginative writing. Such stories have no need of a parody.

This wasn't even funny and I won't recommend it. Diagnosis: too dumb to live.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame: A Life of Louise Arner Boyd by Joanna Kafarowski


Rating: WARTY!

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

I requested this thinking it would be engrossing and entertaining, as well as educational, but I had too many issues with it to classify it as a worthy read. Some of the problems were with the formatting, but most were in the writing.

While on the one hand I can appreciate a story of a woman who flouted the accepted conventions of her day and organized her own voyages, this book didn't really focus on anything she discovered or opened up so much as it told a story of a spoiled rich girl spending her money on personal interests. It made her sound completely unappealing to me, and the science was not really well-represented. Indeed, it was well described by one observation about a passenger on one of Boyd's voyages, and one which was quoted without comment from the author: "I'll wager she will see more than any of your scientists with their noses to the ground." This rather sums up the scientific perspective of this entire book.

Yes, she collected botanical specimens, but she apparently did a poor job of that, at least to begin with, and yes, she photographed her travels extensively and also filmed some of it, which was new for the time period, but I did not get any sense from this book of Louise Boyd really achieving anything significant (other than being a woman doing things women were not well-known for back then - and there's a caveat to that, as I shall discuss shortly). On top of this she did things which to me personally were obnoxious, such as mass slaughtering of polar bears, which are a vulnerable species at high risk of becoming endangered today, as well as wantonly killing other animals. I know mind-sets were different back then, and I know that explorers were known for hunting to replenish rations, but the delight this author seems to take in describing the endless slaughter of Polar bears frankly made me sick.

I read at one point, "The Ribadavias were amazed by the courage Louise had displayed and the vigour with which she participated in hunting the polar bear. She may have been a sophisticated socialite, but she was no shrinking violet." Seriously? There really was no hunting. They would see some wild bear roaming the ice or swimming in the ocean, and stand there and shoot it. There was nothing difficult about it. Nothing heroic, nothing brave. It was cruel. The first bear she shot took three bullets to kill (assuming it actually was killed at that point) and then it was dragged back to the boat and hung up with a rope around its neck so this brave and intrepid explorer could have her picture taken next to the bear, its tongue lolling out of its slack mouth. It was disgusting. There was nothing heroic here, only that which was cowardly and shameful.

The relish with which these 'hunts' were described, and described repeatedly by this author, was honestly sickening. I read, "hunting parties were a favourite pastime" and "Louise and the Count and Countess were enlivened by the prospect of sport and more mighty polar bears fell to their guns" and "Miss Boyd returned with the pelts of twenty-nine polar bears, six of which she shot in one day." This is something to be proud of? Wantonly slaughtering 29 bears when one was far more than enough?

The only suffering the author describes is that of the people. I read at one point, "Every year, seal hunters ... get trapped in the ice. Some are able to free themselves, but many are lost. If the crew is able to free the ship, it is only after great effort and much terrible suffering." Yeah? Well you know, that's what they get for hunting seals! I have no sympathy for them. The animals suffered too.

Some of the writing seemed amateurish, such as when I read, "After the tragic death of her husband." All deaths are tragic! Even someone who dies on death row was a child at one point who might have had a different life (and death) from the one they ended with. It's tragic that they didn't, but it's also asinine to describe it as a 'tragic death'. 'Death' by itself is sufficient, or at least come up with a new adjective, instead of parroting the one every media outlet trots out mindlessly when describing a death.

Another thing which detracted strongly from Boyd's achievements, such as they were, was when it came to hiring people for the voyages. Everyone she hired was a man! The only women who came along - and those were few and far between - were the wives of the men who came along!

I understand that there were few women back then in the kinds of professions which were sought-after for these expeditions, but even when Boyd had a chance to hire one (a female botanist who wrote to Boyd and said she would be thrilled to join her on a future expedition), she went for a man instead. This hardly recommends her as a champion of female emancipation. Indeed, it makes her a hypocrite. I understand that the author had no influence over Boyd's choices by any means, but the fact that this author never even raised this as an issue is inexcusable.

The formatting of the book was as expected in Amazon's crappy Kindle app. In addition to text not being formatted as well as it ought, which I expect from Amazon, their crappy Kindle app literally shredded the pictures. I saw this on my phone, where I read most of this book, but I also checked it out on an iPad, and it was just as bad there, too, with the images fractured in the same way. The larger ones were sliced into several pieces and in some very odd shapes.

I have no idea what algorithm Amazon uses to do this but it needs to fix it. At least on the iPad I could enlarge the pictures. The same app on my phone, where the ability to enlarge pictures would have been far more useful, did not permit it. The picture captions were so poorly done that it was hard to separate them from the text of the book. I highly recommend not issuing books in Kindle format if you want the integrity of the book to be preserved.

Amazon is rolling in money and has had years to fix these issues,yet we still get garbage. The chapter index did not work: for example, you could not tap on a chapter in the contents, and go to the chapter, which made a contents list thoroughly pointless. The funny thing is that the link to the prologue worked. I tapped on it and it went to an index in the back of the book! LOL! it was a good thing too - I never read prologues! They're antiquated.

Why it should be the case in an ebook that links are non-existent or do not work, I don't know. I had the impression that this was written as a print book and no one really cared about the e-version of it, although as I said, this was an advance review copy so maybe these issues will all be fixed by the time it's published....

Overall, I cannot recommend this book as a worthy read. There were too many problems with it of one sort or another and it did the subject few favors. But then perhaps she deserves few.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Future War by Robert H Latiff


Rating: WARTY!

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

I have to say right up front that I was disappointed in this. It seemed disorganized and rushed, and the text was so dense that it was hard to read, while at the same time so lacking in any breath that it felt like I was skimming the text even as I read every word!

I know this may sound strange coming from a fanatic like me who is always railing on authors and publishers to consider how many trees are being killed-off when setting up the formatting of their books, but I never expected to be advocating for a book to use more space than it did! This one went too far in compacting the text. The lines were so closely-spaced that it was hard to read, and then there was the usual 'academic-style' one-inch margin around the text! It felt so contradictory that it actually amused me. Smaller margins and slightly more widely-spaced text would have made it more appealing and a lot easier on the eye.

Even so, the way the book was put together was not appealing to me at all. Subtitled "Preparing for the New Global Battlefield," I felt it was so rushed and so shallow that it left me with very little useful information about how things might really be whether actually on a battlefield or in cyberspace. There are parts that were eye-opening and interesting, but the majority of this felt more like a largely-speculative work, rather than something which derived its prognostications from existing technology and predictable future directions.

On top of all this, the coverage of any one topic was so cursory that it really didn't get covered at all. One of the organizational problems was that there was very little in the way of hierarchical structure to the text, or by way of labeling subsections to make reading easier and to serve clarity. Consequently, it felt more like a stream-of-consciousness approach, and this didn't serve the subject matter well at all. The book was paradoxically only a step or two away from an outline list, yet nowhere did it actually have an outline list to make comprehension easier either in regard to what you had just read or were about to read in the upcoming chapter.

This book is very short and is a fast read, and if you want the vague 'ten-thousand foot' view or the whirlwind tour of future battlefield trends and technology, then this will give you a start, but it was really lacking far too much in depth and detail for me. It left me notably dissatisfied, and I cannot recommend it.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins


Rating: WARTY!

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

This started out great, but slowly fell apart the further I got into it. The blurb announced that it's "Told in alternating teen voices across three generations," but I did not expect from this that we would actually fast-forward through all three generations, and eventually be moving so rapidly that it was all-but impossible to keep track of who was who.

I'd thought it would be about the interactions between three generations all existing together! I did not expect to be flung summarily and unexpectedly into the future as those new generations arrived on the scene. The story lost so much in those jumps that it was ruined for me.

The huge, unbridged chasms between different parts of the novel were destructive, and really spoiled the story which had begun at a really good pace and allowed the reader to honestly get to know this family. I would have been quite content to follow the first two girls, Sonia and Tara, through the whole book, and see how their lives panned out. Unfortunately, I was robbed of that in this author's hell-bent, breakneck sprint to get to the grandchildren.

I felt Sonia and Tara were torn from me and diminished into becoming distant and vague memories as the new generation swept in. We learned nothing of their adult lives except what we were told in summary. It was like riding an elevator, and the car coming down at a comfortable pace, then something goes wrong and suddenly you're plunging the last few floors in free-fall. There was no warning; nothing to indicate that the comfortable pace of the early story was suddenly going to change to a rough ride.

Even that might have worked, but the story moved far too fast and spent so little time on the youngest generation that we never got to know them. They were brought in so quickly, and were danced around so capriciously that they were never more than two-dimensional shadow puppets, and not real people at all. I could not connect with them.

I was left not caring about them because they were strangers. I was left wondering why I had read that far instead of DNF-ing this novel as soon as Sonia and Tara were forced to take a back seat. It felt like the author had lost interest in the story and wanted to get it over with as soon as she could, so that she might move on to another project, and so she just summarized, or maybe simply published her outline instead of turning it into an actual story.

Perhaps I should have figured out how it would end when we met the first two girls with their story already in progress. After the briefest flash-in-the-pan memory of life in Ghana, which I had thought might be relevant later, but which was not, we meet the girls already on a plane from London to New York, so London is not even a memory in the author's desperation to get these teens onto American soil - like no other soil really matters, not even for Indian girls.

We did get a very brief time in India, which was delightful, but that was quickly over, and then the future was already banging on the door, demanding entrance, and people were married and having children before any courtship had seriously begun. It was too fast, too furious, to borrow the name of a movie, and like the movie, it was all fumes and madcap rushing from that point onwards. It was very unsatisfying.

This had the potential to be a great story and I wish the author had had enough faith in her two girls to let their story shine, but she evidently didn't, and it obviously didn't, and I felt robbed. I cannot recommend this as a worthy read.


A Dangerous Woman from Nowhere by Kris Radish


Rating: WARTY!

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

I was very disappointed in this book. A 'dangerous woman' Briar Logan was not, unless you count being in danger of putting me to sleep with endless flashbacks and rambling descriptions. She always sounded like she might be going to be dangerous, but she never was. Right at the point where she could prove herself to be dangerous, she gets hit on the head by one of the bad guys, and is invalided for some considerable time after that, so where exactly was the danger she posed? Maybe it popped up at the very end, but I gave up all hope of it and never made it that far.

Plus one of the main characters was named Jack. That's a huge no-no for me. I detest novels in which one of the main characters is named using the most over-used 'go-to-guy' name in the history of literature. If I'd known there was going to be a Jack in this novel I would honestly never have requested to read it on that basis alone, so tired am I of seeing the trope 'Jack' in any sort of action-adventure story.

The rambling parts would not have been bad had the story been a rambling kind of story. Had the woman been on a road trip or was 'finding herself' or something along those lines, the diversionary descriptions would have maybe felt more appropriate, but when the story starts out with a sense of urgency - Briar Logan's desperate need to follow her husband who's been kidnapped by desperadoes - and yet the entire tale lapses into a sedentary, drifting, teetering, slow-paced meander, it fails for me because the main character seemed more like she was out on a nature ramble than ever she was interested in pursuing her husband. I simply could not get into this story no matter how far I read, and the author didn't offer any help.

The wandering sentences were of the nature of: "Even with the seriousness of the mission, it is impossible to watch the dew slip from the tops of the trees and cascade through the canopy of leaves that are on the brink of turning into the bold colors of fall without thinking how beautiful it is this time of day and year."

And you know, even in those circumstances, had the descriptions been related to the pursuer's state of mind, they might have worked, but they felt like they had been lifted from a travelogue rather than from a story where this woman's mind should have been, if we were to believe her attachment to her husband, worried sick about him and providing her only with a tunnel vision getting to him as fast as she could. I did not feel form her any sense of worry or fear, or of losing hope or losing heart, or of desperation, or of anger, or anything associated with what she ought to have been feeling! Consequently, it rang false throughout.

There were also oddly contradictory passages. For instance, at one point, and during a section which I initially thought was a flashback because it seemed so out of place, Briar is talking about gleefully strangling chickens, and then right after that, I read, "...been determined to treat him, and all the animals on the ranch, with a kindness she has come to realize is deserved by every living creature."

This was so completely contradictory of what had gone only just before that it brought me right out of suspension of disbelief. That's not to say that people can't have conflicting views, but this one came totally out of left field and for no reason at all. There was nothing to trigger it, and it was one of many passages I read that that made me think the author was more focused on turning a phrase than ever she was in actually telling a realistic story.

It wasn't only rambling, florid descriptions which tripped up this tale; it seemed like everyone and their uncle had a flashback, and if they had one, then they had a dozen. Every time one popped-up, it robbed the story of momentum and immediacy. I soon began thinking that if this woman really doesn't care about reaching her husband any time soon, why should I care if she reaches him at all? I gave up on it about eighty percent in because it simply held no interest for me at all. I cannot recommend this one.