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Bad Books of the Week for 3/26/2016

This week’s batch of bad books is truly a waste of internet.
51kWXv--HjL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Best Damn Sex Jokes Ever!: Jokes Free, Jokes for Adults, Jokes 2016, Funny Jokes (Jokes, Jokes for Adults, best jokes 2016, best jokes, jokes 2016) Kindle Edition
by Johnathon Jacobs (Author)

I’ve never encountered a book of any sort that’s quite in this format. It looks huge in the reader but the real contents are pretty small.

The jokes are translated into languages ranging from Afrikaans to Zulu. However there are only 30 different jokes all of which I could find on the internet. Further, the translation is pretty poorly done. For example, if you look at Latin the language is very clearly not Latin. So I assume that a machine translation service was used.

On the whole, the jokes aren’t bad, it’s just that there’s precious little content for any one reader when compared to the size of the file and the price asked. Fairly strong avoid.

51zfHSRITVL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_I Like to Read Books (Adventures in Everyday Life Book 1) Kindle Edition
by Jason Anderson (Author)

The figure you see on the front cover appears on every page. In fact, that exact same image appears on all 15 pages, unchanged, unmoved but with different backgrounds except that he changes his shirt color from red to green and back again. In the last frame he adopts a slightly different pose as he plays a guitar.

Backgrounds are all clearly inspired by The Simpsons but the only recognizable character which appears is Moe.

I’d be exceptionally disappointed if I had paid money for this little bit of literature.

51KevlBb8IL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Life These Days: With Family And Friends Kindle Edition
by Ronald McClure (Author)

* First off, the concept seems…. well, only interesting to a VERY select group of people. Maybe the author and a few people around him, but let’s give it a fair shot.

* Page 1: A photo of fixing a door. And all the comments from family/friends about said photo. It’s not transcribed mind you, it’s just screen captures of the Facebook posts glued into each page.

* Page 2: “We woke up WHITE! Just thought you’d like to know!” – yeah well, everyone in this book is pretty white, let me tell you.

* Page 3: Photo of an unidentified interior of a building. Can’t tell if it’s a bar or a house. Photos are all black and white and VERY small so even if this was interesting, it wouldn’t be.

* Page 4/5: Merry Christmas greetings, the author and wife in Christmas hats. Lots of one-liner Christmas greetings exchanged.

* A few pages on we get an album of apparent vacation photos. No indication of where they are though. Grand Canyon maybe? Seems like something better posted on Flickr or some sort of… oh, I dunno, photo service?

* Couple pages further… picture of a relative holding a cup of soda in some unidentified diner.

* A few more pages further we are treated to a sampling of a Facebook messenger chat with someone else who is unidentified and his importance is entirely unknown.

OK, enough of that. While I appreciate what a pain in the butt it must have been to put this together, I fail to see the need for this there is in the world. The only people who could be remotely interested in this are already Facebook friends with the author. So while by all means I applaud the desire to capture and document the past, I see absolutely no reason to try to sell copies of it online.

51K5ustjXML._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Memes: Badass Memes Humor Unlimited (Funny Memes) Kindle Edition
by Memes (Author)

Pages and pages of memes that we’ve all seen before.

One picture per page, nothing terribly entertaining though a couple are slightly more entertaining than staring directly into the sun.

41z-pehbUZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Billionaire Romance: Marrying a Billionaire: (New Adult Romance) Kindle Edition
by jvr publishing (Author)

Wow. Writing is SO poor. I don’t even have to turn from the first page to find a dozen textual issues. Verbatim quotes below:

“Ellie was so desperate to get married a rich man…”

“Joe is her closest friend who secretly in love with her…”

“Is marrying a billionaire man is the only chance for a woman who is desperate…”

“Angry clouds roared in the form of lightening…”

“After waiting for half an hour and no hard to find a ride…”

It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is; if the writing is THIS poor then all bets are off as far as I’m concerned.

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Move or Die: Paranormal Ghost Stories

51ikOIWfyYL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As usual I didn’t pay anything for this book but I’ll still be abundantly blunt below.

The nutshell on this one is that it’s a collection of four short stories (about 25 minutes total reading time) that focus on the rather grizzly paranormal. You’ve got some zombies, a poltergeist and an impish carnivorous spirit.

To the positive, the author covers a wide range of villains and portrays them very well. The book is solidly written and the stories move along at an extremely rapid pace.

To the negative, the whole thing lacks depth. Considering the reading time the price on Amazon is outrageously high. These are less stories than the are very small vignettes into particularly gruesome situations. It’s as if they were dashed off in a day and sent to publication. They’re so short that there’s no time for any real tension to build for the reader.

In summary, there’s potential for this author but this particular collection seems a bit small to be sold on its own.

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Reviews: Smartbrain (Penchant Series Book 1) by G. F. Smith

51a-zv-JbCL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As is often the case, I received this book for the purposes of review. Despite that immense kindness, I give my candid thoughts below.

The summary on this one is tough because it evolves quite a bit as it goes on. It starts out mildly creepy techno thriller and ends somewhere completely different with all manner of action bits. I won’t give you much more detail than that to avoid spoilers.

So to the positive, our author is a reasonably good writer. His prose is measured, well constructed and easily consumed. His characters are real and vividly described and you do begin to feel for them. Mr. Smith’s creativity is also obvious as he puts his characters through a dizzying gauntlet of situations and one is left with a sort of whiplash once all is revealed.

The negatives, however, left me gasping in annoyance at the end. This book is exceptionally long and not because of the complexity of what’s going on. His description of events and situations is almost Dickensian in scope but with none of the quaintness of the old classics. One eventually has to skim in self-defense and at the end of a couple pages finds that nothing much has really been missed. Further, the book changes gears dramatically at 37% through (based on my Kindle’s reckoning) and it takes a long time to figure out what’s real and what’s not. This is, I suspect, part of the author’s intent, to keep us a bit confused as readers, but it’s a major distraction in a book that has a lot of difficulty holding the attention of its reader.

Further, some of the book’s most obvious points are in need of a close examination. The cover alone made me fear for the quality of the book and it took considerable reading time to assuage those fears. Unfortunately, the author’s choice of proper nouns is overly simplistic and almost young adult so they add a major distraction. The name of the device, for example: Smartbrain seems like something from a 60s B-movie. Add to that names like Vectren, Athena and ‘Brain Computer Interface’ and the tone of the whole book seems to be in a bit of conflict about whether it’s trying to be mid-20th century or more modern.

In summary, I think the author has a solid foundation for this story but it just tries to go too many places at once and takes far too long to get there. I packaged away my incredulity during the first third of book only to have it all spill out repeatedly in the last two-thirds and have to be packed away again. As much story as actually resides between these pages it could be half the length and cause me much less impulse to sigh, “What? You mean there’s MORE!?!??!” and consider hurling my Kindle across the room and taking a belt of whiskey. To quote Emperor Joseph II, there are simply too many notes… or something along those lines.

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Narita Express by Mimi Wong

29423887I picked this little splat of a book up because it was lonely and unreviewed on Kindle Unlimited. Despite the joy of a free book, I’m candid below.

The snapshot on this one is that it’s the story of a pair of star-crossed lovers as they meet for a long weekend together. The action only covers a few days and is about a 20-minute read if you’re leisurely about it.

To the positive side, the author paints a good picture of how these two characters are feeling and the situation that brought them to these straits. The man meets the woman with great anticipation and frankly, lust, and the story unfolds as they both realize the price they’ll have to pay for this time together. I wouldn’t call it emotional but it is a very emotionally deep piece.

The only real negative, and it’s a negative which depends to great extent what it is you’re looking for in a 20-minute read, is that anything which can be called is action is entirely internal. There’s no excitement or dramatic event, it’s just a rather slow dawning of realization.

In summary, this is a solid bit of writing but you have to be in the right mindset for it. It’s the sort of tidbit you might suggest to your mate as a “let’s read and then discuss” piece on a quiet night staying in when the kids are away at grandmas.

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Books: How To Be Happy: My Child – My Friend by Helena Angel

As is often the case, I received this book free for the purposes of review. This time because it’s on offer from Amazon for exactly nothing until March 24th of 2016.

The nutshell on this book is pretty simple. It’s a brief (20 minute) parenting book that boils down pretty easily to the idea that parenting should be about letting your children, within bounds, be free to figure out who they are and what they should become as adults.

To the positive, at a high level the book is reasonably correct in its assertions. It cautions strongly against the twin parenting issues of trying to live your child’s life for them and that overly passive parenting style in which the TV does most of the child rearing. The intentions of the book are positive and strong and would benefit some of society’s most extreme parents.

Unfortunately, there’s much to be said to the negative. Firstly, the title is misleading and starts things out on a poor footing. Children should not be looked upon as friends. The active and sometimes corrective relationship that defines good parenting is not compatible with the concept of friendship as commonly used in America. Also, while the book is well intentioned, I’m not sure that the majority of parents are going to glean anything new from it. Those on the edges will find something new to them but most parents already know what do to be at least this good at parenting. They just choose not to do it.

From a technical and writing perspective, the book is a bit of a shambles. It’s littered with typographical and grammar issues and the formatting is wobbly at best. The author has invested in some stock photos that do serve to break things up a bit but it falls pretty short of professional. If I had paid money for this book (anything over a buck) then I’d be fairly cranky about it.

In summary, there’s some good, but basic, parenting information in this little guide and it’s not a complete waste of time but it could use some tidying up and doesn’t go much into depth. It merely skims across the surface of this very important topic.

 


Rob Slaven

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An Amazon Reviewer’s Advice to Self Published Authors

Last night I was harangued by an author who vehemently disliked the fact that I gave him a negative review on his book.  Let’s go over the basics of how Amazon reviewing works in the publishing world, shall we?

 

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Book Reviews for the week ending 6/7….

Rather a light week this week, it seems. Do you have a book you’d like reviewed? Email me at slavenrm@gmail.com and let me know what you’ve got.


MORE DROPPINGS FROM THE DRAGON: A Hitchhiker's Guide To SalesMORE DROPPINGS FROM THE DRAGON: A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Sales by Richard Plinke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The nutshell view on this book is that essentially, it is a disconnected series of random conceptual tidbits about the process of being a salesman. No, scratch that, more generally it is about being a human who interacts with other humans and how to do that in such a way that people both respect you and know that they’re being respected in return. It should be noted that your reviewer this evening is a software developer by trade so if there’s one thing we know how to do it’s look down on puny humans. This book completely contradicts all of my time-worn strategies for putting humans in their places and making sure they know exactly how worthless they are to me!

To the positive, this book really does have a great sense of “person.” What do I mean by that? Well, as the reader one can really sense the author’s personality lurking behind the printed page. Mr. Plinke is just the sort of person who #1: would hate being called Mr. Plinke and #2: would be a delight to sit down and have a conversation with. He’s witty, easy-going and filled with lots of introspective insights that would make an evening fly by like a flatulent dragon on a updraft. The book isn’t really all that much about sales; it’s not about ‘closing strategies’ and all that specific rot but really strikes me more as a simple guide to being a professional in human society.

To the negative, I’m not terribly sure that every reader will necessarily fall in line behind my opinion on this topic. The author appealed to me at least somewhat because he unceasingly decided to quote my favorite songs and movies over and over and over again until I was dizzy with the ambrosia of nostalgia. Those who have less of a visceral relationship with Douglas Adams and every Beatles song ever might be left rather wondering who in the heck he’s talking about.

In summary, Plinke has endeavored successfully to both amuse and teach something at the same time. While he’s not going to have any crowd rolling uncontrollably with rather a different color of underwear than they came in with, he does manage quite nicely to give one something to think about as well as keeping things light and entertaining. If the world lived by Plinke’s guidance we’d all be quite a bit happier. And get along a whole lot better as well.


Fortune SmilesFortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is comprised of six very dark but very different stories. The protagonists range from child pornographer to North Korean defector to cancer patients. In each case, the characters are facing some key turning point in their lives, for better or worse.

Years ago Johnson’s previous novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son” son, showed up on my doorstep as an ARC for review
and after reading it I kept the book around when I usually give away my ARCs to other readers. Similarly with “Fortune Smiles” I felt like this book was one to keep on the shelf forever. Johnson’s first three stories are breathtaking and kept me up late to finish them. His characters are so bold and candidly portrayed that you can’t peel your eyes off of them wondering what they’re going to do next. The stories are solid, gripping and original as well as potent and unforgiving in their honesty to the darkness they portray.

To the negative, the last half of the book, while still entertaining, does tend to flag a bit. The stories of North Korean defectors and an ex-warden in an East German political prison camp were certainly timely but failed to hold my attention as keenly. Perhaps I had become accustomed to Johnson’s style again but I didn’t feel quite as pulled along as I did with the first three stories.

In summary, at least in part this series of stories is a masterpiece. It is brutal and deals with people at their absolute basest level. It unapologetically paints portraits that make the reader cringe and yet also nod with some element of recognition.


Small and TallSmall and Tall by Uri Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book strikes me as a simple melding of two books I read to my kids when they were younger. It’s the old Muppets big/tall story plus Green Eggs and Ham. I’ll quote one page as illustration:

“I do not need
to be here and there.
I can be
anywhere.
I do not need
to jump on the wall.
I do not need
to do it at all.”

So I suppose that’s potentially interesting to kids but it’s nothing terribly new or original.

Moving on, the illustrations are simple line art and reasonably entertaining but don’t be thinking there’s anything more complex than the cover hiding on the pages in between. Also worth noting, perhaps, that the villain’s face is a dead ringer for Snidely Whiplash

The story illustrates the differences between adults and children. The two characters banter back and forth for 30 pages about which one is best. The man says he’s best because he’s bigger and gets to do things. The child argues that he’s best because he gets to just sit around and play all day. Again, nothing terribly original about that and the characters don’t come to any agreement so much as they agree to disagree.

So all in all, I’m not sure my kids would have been terribly interested but maybe yours would be. The book is free of misspellings and grammar problems so that alone puts it head and shoulders above a lot of free children’s books out there.


Turning BlueTurning Blue by Stuart Canterbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The nutshell on this book is, essentially, exactly what you’d expect from the blurb. It’s the day to day grind (no pun intended) of shooting X-rated films. It dives into depths (no pun intended) that you wouldn’t expect and isn’t afraid to expose (ok, pun intended) all the behind the scenes rigmarole that goes into them. It is at times mundane but that’s one thing that makes it so obviously realistic. It’s not all about the Money Shot.

So to the positive, as I’ve noted, it does feel exceptionally real. I’m no fan of this particular genre so I’m not terribly well qualified to say it, but no author would include so much detail that can’t be construed as particularly interesting unless it added quite a bit to the realism of the story. One wonders at times if Canterbury wrote a book or if he just transcribed a series of recordings. Also, the book styles itself as ‘hilarious’ but I’d put it more in the category of ‘quirky.’ At no point did I laugh during the reading of this book but it was filled with quite unusual characters that represented their archetypes very well. It’s quite a varied cast of characters from the oleaginous producer to the high-maintenance stars themselves.

To the negative, for all the realism it’s almost too real. Sure, events transpire in the book but they’re all fairly low-key. Even when the cops bust in or people die it’s somehow a non-event and things just move on rather unaffected. There’s a very non-emotional vibe to the whole thing. It’s as if characters are doing things which should be very charged emotionally and should be important but they’re somehow carried off as irrelevant and no big deal. Come to think of it, that sort of sums up the entire x-rated industry, doesn’t it?

So to summarize, this is a solidly written book with some potential to entertain those who have an interest in this particular segment of the movie industry. Personally I found it a tad flat but if you’re into this sort of thing I can see how you’d really love the behind-the-scenes view on this genre.


Fraternity HouseFraternity House by Arthur Jay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book free for review from the author in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.

The nutshell view on this book is that it’s entirely what it claims to be. It covers, in three highly amusing parts, the life of a college Frat brother in the late 70s/early 80s (I’m not sure we’re ever told specifically but this is based on the choice of music in the book). The general structure and organization of the house is laid bare for all to see along with life as a fully-formed brother and as a pledge (or poop).

To the positive side, this book really is entertaining, if you have any interest in such debauchery. It puts forth the good and the bad in somewhat equal measure and doesn’t hold back. It’s candid about alcohol and drug use and hazing and all the sordid details of life in the fraternity. We also get a cringe worthy view of house discipline and initiation rites. The book is broken up into numerous sections of less than 10 pages so you can easily read a bit and come back to it without difficulty. It’s a well-organized book even for someone who’s not an avid reader. It’s very easily digested.

The only real negatives are fairly trivial. Firstly the writing does wobble at times. The text suffers from a few typographical errors and misused words. It’s nothing a fairly gentle editing couldn’t rectify. Secondly, the book ends rather abruptly. I won’t make any attempt to spoil the ending but I did find myself expecting a final reflection on life in a Frat house. Perhaps something with a philosophical bent or some words of advice to future poops. After turning the last page I felt that I’d been pushed off a cliff about 10 pages too early.

In summary, this is a vastly entertaining book and an honest one. There’s no huge crescendo of action but it just very consistently lays down the events as they transpired for all to see. It probably helps that the statute of limitations is long expired on all these shenanigans. A recommended read but you’ll want to ignore some of the textual issues and take it for what it is.

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