Author Rating: A

Water For Elephants (read 2011) Recommended

Jacob Jankowski, a 90-year-old man, tells the story of what happened after his parents are killed in a car crash, he’s forced to leave veterinary school and accidentally joins the circus.


Author Rating: D

Otherland: The Happiest Dead Boy In The World (read 7/24/12) Don’t Bother

This novelette published as one of five by various authors in the Legends II anthology is so bad that I was only able to manage one page before I gave it up as a completely bad job.

Author Rating: D

Pegasus In Space (read 12/7/11) Avoid

I love science fiction, and bad science fiction makes me very irritable.  Anne McCaffrey has managed to irritate me very much indeed.  It is doubly irritating because she has been so highly recommended by so many for so long and there has been so much high praise written about her after her recent death, but, in my opinion, it is all completely undeserved.  Her writing is terrible, her plots are juvenile, her characters are childish and the internal consistency is nonexistent.

If you value good writing, well conceived story lines, do not bother with the writings of Anne McCaffrey.

Beyond Between (read 7/24/12) Don’t Bother

This novelette published as one of five by various authors in the Legends II anthology did nothing to redeem my bad opinion of Anne McCaffrey but only reinforced it. Awful, awful writing. I just do not understand how McCaffrey has managed to get published at all, much less attract the readership she apparently has.

Author Rating: D

Isle of Dogs (read 10/20/11) AVOID

Wow, does Patricia Cornwell have something really big she’s using to blackmail someone at Putnam to get them to publish her books? One reviewer at Amazon wonders whether “we have a case of an imperious, arrogant author who has cheesed off her publishers enough that they’re letting her readers see what she’s really like?”

This novel is supposed to have been a change for Cornwell from serial killer/suspense to what the San Francisco Examiner describes as “the world of black humor.” They were a little too generous in suggesting that she “nearly conquers it,” but Carl Hiaasen doesn’t need to move over because Cornwell won’t be keeping him company. Cornwell writes at about the level of a fifth-grader and wouldn’t recognize humor if it ran her over.

Let me give you an example:

“I thought we were doing our best to play down this pirate business,” the governor seemed to remember. [“Seemed to remember”? WTF?] “Didn’t I order Superintendent Hammer not to release any statements to the press about anything without our approving it first?” [Could dialogue be any more awkward?]

“You certainly did. And so far, we’re managing to keep the sensational details out of the media.”

“You don’t suppose Trooper Truth [give me a fucking break] intends to keep blabbing about our pirate problem on the Internet, do you?”

“Yes, sir, “Trader replied as if he knew this for a fact. “We can rest assured his website is going to open a can of worms, because by all appearances, it’s an inside job and I fear your administration could be blamed if things really get ugly.”

“You might be right. I get blamed for most things,” the governor confessed as his stomach rumbled and his intestines lurched into activity like worms suddenly exposed to daylight. He wished Trader had not mentioned a can of worms.

Cornwell received money for writing that crap. There truly is no justice.

Governor Crimm picked up his nineteenth-century magnifying glass, which was English and made of ivory. Peering through the lens, he made out enough of the essay’s contents to get interested and slightly offended.

Really, Putnam?

The only mystery here is how this crap got published.

Author Rating: D

The Roaring Boy (read 2/15/10) AVOID

Edward Marston is the author of numerous mysteries set in the Elizabethan period and featuring Nicholas Bracewell. Based on having read this one — an insult to the reader’s intelligence — I would recommend avoiding this author.

The story starts out reasonably enough but soon devolves into pure stupidity. The characters are neither true to the period nor to human nature in general. Given the number and nature of the typographical errors, it would seem that the editor and proofreader didn’t see any point in putting any effort to clean it up.

Author Rating: D

The Memoirs of Cleopatra (read 1/7/10) AVOID

What a huge disappointment! And when I say “huge,” I’m talking 957 pages. Earlier I had attempted Colin Falconer‘s appalling When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra. Wanting to find a better book about the Queen of the Nile, I looked at recommendations over at Amazon. This book was described as being well written and historically accurate.

How bad is this book? There were times that I feared my eyes would literally roll up into my head. I managed to force my way through two-thirds of turgid, often extremely boring prose before I finally gave it up as a serious waste of time.

George’s Cleopatra is certainly more intelligent than Falconer’s but only marginally so. Periods during which Caesar or Marc Anthony are absent go on and on and on with Cleopatra doing nothing but pine and whine about their absence. If these sections had been shortened, the book would be no more than 500 pages. If the sex scenes had been shortened, the book would be about 100 pages.

Reading this book is truly a waste of your time. You can learn more useful information about Cleopatra VII at Wikipedia than by submitting yourself to suffering through the truly excruciating writing of Margaret George.

Author Rating: C+

Deadfall (read 12/20/09) Meh

Reading this book was like examining an ancient record of a lost time — the early to mid 1980s. As I got ready to write this review, I did a search for any earlier post mentioning the author and discovered he was already on my banished list as a result of his short story in a very bad anthology of very bad mystery writers. This particular book wasn’t so awful that I stopped reading before the end, but it being relatively short was a significant factor in the decision to continue.

Apparently Pronzini wrote a series of “Nameless Detective” mysteries, this being number sixteen. Nameless is on a stakeout, waiting for some deadbeats to get home so he can repossess their car, when he hears two gunshots coming from a nearby home. He sees a figure running away and, upon entering the house, discovers the victim who he later learns is a gay man named Leonard whose wealthy brother had died falling from a cliff months earlier. Leonard’s “house mate,” who believes the two deaths are related, hires him to find the killer.

Pronzini treats homosexuals as if they are another species. He has no understanding of human sexuality. “Confirmed homosexuals couldn’t be seduced by a woman, of course.”

He is equally clueless about women, ascribing to Nameless’ girlfriend the kind of stupid responses to things that one expects from a man who sees women as a separate species as well.

What also becomes clear in reading this is how much Pronzini disapproves of pot smoking and is one of those misinformed people who insist that it is a “gateway” to heroin.

I’m giving Pronzini a C+ because, if you can ignore the cluelessness and can tolerate caricatures instead of characters, the story itself is plausible.

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