Monthly Archives: February 2014

Review of Find Big Fat Fanny Fast, by Joseph Bruno

Find Big Fat Fanny FastI picked Find Big Fat Fanny Fast, by Joseph Bruno off of the KDP free list.

Description from Goodreads:
Since the start of the 20th Century, the Italians and Chinese in the Little Italy/Chinatown area in New York City have endured an uneasy truce. In the first three quarters of the century, the Italians ruled the neighborhood with an iron fist. But starting in the 1970’s, the dynamics began to change, as more Italians moved out and droves of Chinese began flowing into Chinatown from China. This did not bode well for Italian mob boss Tony Bentimova (Tony B), so he enlisted the help of his most trusted killer, Big Fat Fanny Fanelli, all six foot six inches and six hundred and sixty pounds of her, to ensure the Italians maintained control of all the illegal rackets in Little Italy, which was slowly, but surely being transformed into Chinatown.

Review:
I’m not sure exactly what I just read. I suppose it was a satire of some sort. And I suppose as a spoof it was pretty funny. But I have to admit it left me scratching my head a bit. For example, though there is a character called Big Fat Fanny Faneli, she isn’t by any means a main character. She shows up in chapter one, then the book jumps back tree generations and the next 45% of the book is dedicated to history. Fanny shows up again in the latter 1/3 of the book, but is still on the sidelines. So, other than sounding snazzy, why is she the title character?

I’m not just being snippy here. It’s a legitimate question. I’m not entirely sure I was able to pick out the point of the events that occurred, i.e. the plot. I’m not claiming it didn’t have one. It did. But just like the title of the book is focused on an insignificant character, the events leading up to the culmination of the novel seemed less than focused. Amusing, worth reading, but scattered and a little too far reaching.

Again, I do have to admit the book is funny. There is a lot of irony in it and anyone who enjoys mob stories would recognise the themes here, purposefully exaggerated as they may be. So for a fun, fast read it’s worth picking up…as long as you aren’t easily offended. I don’t think there is a group or race that isn’t insulted here. At least it is equally spread, so at no point does it feel as if any one grouping is being targeting for racist commentary, but there is no shortage of it.

Lastly, it had a perfectly good ending in place. It had wrapped up nicely and everything. Then it had to ruin it by going and tagging on a cliffhanger for book two. Grr. Still, the few hours it took me to read the book weren’t wasted.

Review of Shattered Skies, by Heather Linn

Document2 copyI’ve had Shattered Skies, by Heather Linn on my TBR for a while now. I picked it up on the KDP free list

Description from Goodreads:
I was only three days old when the world, as my parents knew it, became the nightmare that I live in; the only place that I have ever known as home. In my world, the humans are no longer the hunters perched comfortably at the top of the food chain. Humans are now the hunted, the prey; vulnerable and scared, just waiting to be consumed. The stories of the creatures that go bump in the night are no longer fiction. The monsters are real and they do want to hurt you. I live in a world where ‘the something’ lurking in the shadow isn’t a figment of an over active imagination but a real nightmare waiting to attack; a world where I have to lie my way through every minute, just to stay alive.

Review:  **mildly spoilerish**
Not to be mean, but this is going on my ‘worst in a while’ pile. OK, I don’t really have such a stack, but I barely finished this one and I’m barely fending off the urge to rant here in this review. I’m so baffled by this book. Not because of the poor writing (that might have been passable with another few editing passes). Not even because there were too few contractions in the dialogue and names/endearments were used far too frequently, leaving everyone sounding forced and formal. No, I was completely stymied by the fact that it made no sense.

The basic premise is that Vampire-like aliens have invaded earth and COMPLETELY enslaved the human race. A generation later humans only exist as food, breeders and slaves. With the exception of our main character and her cohort, there are no other free humans, that we know of. So, please note the COMPLETE annihilation of human civilisation, but somehow the common currency is still the dollar, roses are still given as a romantic gesture, people (or more to the point, not people) still read paper bound, pre-invasion books, one would presume in English (as opposed to whichever method galaxy traversing aliens might possess), the main character still refers to jobs that have health insurance and days off, etc. The book seems to posit that humanity can be simultaneously overthrown and enslaved by an overpowering advanced species, but still be the dominant culture. Um…I’m gonna have to go with NO on that one. It makes no sense at all!

This was not believable dystopian future. It felt like Vampires/Dominion were just inserted into the current western world and expected to work. It doesn’t, not at all. Why would a conquering species decide to live a human lifestyle, use human technology instead of their superior tech, or adopt the mannerisms and habits of their slaves?

Similarly, the current sexist opinions of modern America were exaggerated and expected to make sense in a drastically different circumstance. With the few (15) remaining free humans, a breeding program was established, but women are still treated as less important than men because they don’t go out and fight (just as stay-at-home mothers are so often disparaged for not working outside the home in the real world). Excuse me, but when facing such imminent extinction is there ANYTHING more important than bearing the continuance of the species?

I obviously this is just my opinion, but it read as illogical to not value the importance of reproduction. The way Cat and all the other males treated the women as ‘barefoot pregnant’ simpletons with no valuable contribution to make was both infuriating and out of place. It felt artificial, or rather like no deep thought had been put into how near extinction would alter human perceptions of gender roles in a new and limited environment. They would surely change.

What’s more, there were 11 women and 5 men available to breed, but it was also suggested that assigned breeding partners were essentially marriages (and not polygynous marriages either, or at least this is notably not stated). This doesn’t seem to have addressed the basic math problem inherent in this. There are two women to every man.

My biggest confusion revolved around the timeline though. I understood that Dr. Walker locked himself and the babies away the day of the invasion because the Vampires were killing all the children, aged or infirm people. He then raised the children to mimic Dominion (Vampire/Human hybrids). But, if he was locked away during the subsequent years, how did he know what behaviours to teach the children. Also, it was AFTER invading that the Vampires bred Dominion. This means that the oldest Dominion can’t be any older, and probably younger (since the children were already born at the time of the initial invasion) than the babies Dr. Walker raised. So, the very behaviors he was teaching the children hadn’t even occurred yet, or at best were just developing. It makes no sense! I thought that this might clear up when the big reveal about Dr. Walker occurred, but no, it just created more questions. Such as, if there were already Vampires on the planet, how was Akia the first Dominion?

Then there are all the silly little rules that pop up. If a person is given Dominion blood 6 times they become immortal, how random. Dominion having sex with humans will kill them. I can kind of follow this for female Dominion, but why would male Dominion die? There is no deposit to eat away at their insides. Is it magic of some sort? And how exactly was this little quirk bred into their DNA in the first place? I’m not just complaining about the illogical aspect of some of these, but also the way they just kept appearing unexpectedly.

Even if I hadn’t been completely cross-eyed trying to follow the plot, I still probably wouldn’t have liked the book. I simply hated the main character. Cat was selfish, mouthy, mean, and just about too stupid to live. As an example, what was she doing at the ball in the first place? If she could’t hunt that night, attendance requires mandatory inebriation of all women (just one more example of how women are devalued and disempowered in this book), and there’s a good chance she could be discovered as a mole, why attend? It seemed to be an opportunity to party, but who does that when it endangers everyone you love? Beyond showing enough of her personality to dislike her, there was almost no character development. Well, almost none for Cat. There was none for the other characters, none at all. Most of the remaining humans didn’t even get names!

So, by this point it’s probably redundant to say I didn’t like the book. A lot of people do…to each their own. I have the sequel that I picked up free at some point, but I can’t imagine I’ll be reading it.

Review of Beyond The Veil (The Veil Series, #1), by Pippa Dacosta

Beyond the VeilAuthor, Pippa Dacosta sent me a paperback copy of her newest novel, Beyond the Veil.

Description from Goodreads:
“They say I’m half demon, but I like to think of myself as half human, especially as the demons want me dead.” 

Charlie Henderson is living a lie. Her real name is Muse and her attempt at a normal life is about to go up in smoke. 

When a half-demon assassin walks into her life, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Muse must return to the one man she hoped never to see again and ask for help. The Prince of Greed isn’t known for his charity. The price is high, but the cost could tear her apart. 

Trapped between the malevolent intentions of a Prince of Hell, an assassin with ulterior motives, and all of demon-kind, Muse must embrace the lure of chaos at her core; the demon inside her, in order to survive.

When your ex is the Prince of Greed, you’d better be ready to raise hell.

Review:
If I was inclined to use stars on this blog, I would call this a solid 3, maybe a 3.5. It was a pleasant distraction. I enjoyed reading it, but it left me wanting in a lot of aspects.

First, there is very little character development. The book jumps right into the action. While this is fun, it didn’t give me any time to get to know Muse or anyone else. Plus, a lot of Muse’s history is referenced as the book progresses. I mean, like, a whole book’s worth is hinted at—major drama. This left me feeling like I couldn’t possibly be reading the first book in the series or that this is actually the first in a spin off series. It isn’t, as far as I know, but it sure felt like it. So much is skimmed over or the reader is just told it happened. I was duly informed that Muse had a tragic past, but that wasn’t enough to make me feel for her or that history. 

This was all complicated by her tendency to have whiplash changes of opinion with no evidence of an impetus of change. As an example, she spent much of the beginning of the book telling herself she can’t/won’t go back to Akil, that he’s dangerous and she has to keep her distance because he can get under skin easily. She’s very adamant about this. Then he shows up and says, ‘come to a party with me’ and she not only goes, she tells herself she deserves to have fun and relax. It was a very abrupt change of attitude toward him and nothing seemed to have happened to give her a reason to suddenly be less wary around him.

The same tendency toward thinness could be claimed for the world building. There isn’t much. We’re told demon’s exist and live on the other side of a ‘veil,’ that’s about it. I’m assuming the universe is otherwise the same as ours, but I don’t know. Nor do I know the time frame. It could be years in the future or today. I’m not sure. 

I also thought the sex was out of place. It wasn’t at all graphic. It just popped up regularly, at inopportune moments. It left me feeling like Muse had no control over herself. It didn’t matter whom she was with, she was lusting after him. As she’s a woman with a history of slavery, including sexual slavery, I developed the, surely erroneous, impression that her body responded to any powerful man available with no regard for her own wishes. I’m afraid she felt a little like a whore in this respect (and I’ve purposefully used the more inflammatory word here), as if she was so accustomed to servicing men that she did it without conscious effort or even apparent knowledge that she was following an established pattern. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t the author’s intent, but it’s still the impression I garnered. 

Lastly, it had a bit of a deus ex machina ending (pet peeve, grrr) and a lot of important information was skipped over between the final chapter and the epilogue. I needed more details to believe it…actually that’s true of the whole book, but especially the ending. 

All-in-all, the author has a really interesting idea here. A lot could be made out of Muse’s slavery, subsequent strengths and appreciation of the mundane. But I think the book felt rushed. Too much was only sketched out or simply leapt over. I was never able to get enough of a feel for the characters to understand their motives and actions, leaving everything feeling random and unpredictable. 

It is well written and, other than a few missing words, well edited. Plus, (and I know this is a strange thing to mention) I like the size of the book. At 8×5 inches it’s bigger than a mass market paperback, but not as big as the ~9×6 I’ve come to associate with self-published books. While it wasn’t a faultless read it’s worth picking up. As I said, I had complaints but I also enjoyed the ride.