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review 2018-02-04 13:57
Wallace at Bay
Wallace at Bay (Wallace of the Secret Service) - Alexander Wilson

Wallace at Bay was my first encounter with Wallace, chief of the Secret Service, and it was not great. Maybe I should have started at the beginning of the series, but I somehow doubt that this would have changed anything because my issues with the book are not about the lack of background or setting, my issues are simply that the overtones of xenophobia and nationalism spoiled the book to an extent that I would even prefer a James Bond romp to this one. 

"Of course I don't know the district very well," Carter told her, "but it has struck me whenever I've been round this way, that the first house on this side - the one next door to the school - is about the most decayed of the lot. I suppose it is owned by the same landlord, isn't it?"

"Lord bless you, no! There's umpteen landlords own these houses and, if you ask me, they're all as bad as one another. Letting the places go to rack and ruin, that's what they're doing, but I don't suppose they care as long as they get their rent."

"Still," persisted Carter, "tidy tenants can improve even dilapidated houses by growing flowers in the front, banging up clean curtains and that sort of thing. The people in the house of which I am speaking don't seem to have any of what you might describe as home pride."

"Home pride!" snorted the lady behind the bar. "I should think not indeed. Do you know who live in that house?"

He smiled. "No, I'm afraid I don't."

"Foreigners, all the blesses lot of them. And what can you expect from foreigners?"

This is not the only instance - when the officials raid the house to arrest a bunch of "anarchists", the flat is described as a filthy hovel, but what else could one expect? 

 

There are other issues, too:

 

The "anarchists". This book was written in 1938. It does not seem to make sense to have "anarchists" as villains. To me this plot would have made more sense if it had been set pre-WWI, but it clearly isn't because the Cenotaph features in the plot.
In the second half of the book, Wilson seems to equate "anarchism" with "Bolshevism", which is not strictly true either. It would make more sense if he had focused on "Bolshies", but then why would their efforts be limited to the assassination of royalty? 

Of course, all of the villains, all of the "anarchists", are "foreigners" and the general description of the generalised "foreigners" is pretty harsh, and just ...stupid, including the made up accents, which seem to be all the same.

 

Wallace of the Secret Service is a pretentious snob, who is portrayed as the adored hero of all his underlings and the personal enemy of all villains everywhere. This is again ... ill-conceived.

Wallace does lead the operation but the actual story follows Carter, an agent who is at the forefront of all the action. Wallace hardly does anything in this book. It makes no sense for Carter or anyone else to focus on the amazing Wallace, when they're the ones solving all the puzzles. Holy sycophantic hero worship, Batman!

 

It all read like a boy's own adventure story - which it was. Literally. Apart from the two women discussing foreigners with Carter, there is only one mention of another. She doesn't even feature in the story, she is only mentioned! And in that mention, Carter, Wallace and the boys question her ... morals? ... for having a child by the evil chief villain ... who is a dwarf. 

 

I originally gave this story 2* but that was generous. It may been motivated by a sense of curiosity of whether Ian Fleming was aware of this series, because he also loved to display his villains as ugly, degenerate, perverted, or otherwise ... different.

 

In all earnest, tho, I cannot wait to remove the book from my shelves.

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review 2015-11-23 01:10
Out of Africa
Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass - Karen Blixen,Isak Dinesen

"There is something strangely determinate and fatal about a single shot in the night. It is as if someone had cried a message to you in one word, and would not repeat it. I stood for some time wondering what it had meant. Nobody could aim at anything at this hour, and, to scare away something, a person would fire two shots or more."

 

There is some truly beautiful writing in this book.

 

When describing the land and the wildlife of Africa, Dinesen (i.e. Karen Blixen) truly shines as a writer and I can only believe that it is this aspect of her book that resonates with so many who rate this book, Out of Africa, highly. I mean, the film of the same title is not really based on and has little to do with this book, so clearly readers must see something else in the book that appeals to them - and I'm guessing it is the lyrical description of the African landscape. If the book contained itself to her impressions of the land, I would have loved this book, too.

 

Unfortunately, no amount of lyrical prose was able to outweigh the aspects of the book that really drove me nuts, none more so than the way author writes about the people of Kenya and, by doing so, what we learn about the author herself.

 

After reading only a couple of chapter I was utterly conflicted whether the author's constant racism was a result of her genuine believe that white Europeans were supreme to the primitive natives or whether her offensive descriptions of "the Natives" was a result of some sort of mistake in articulating what she really meant.

Seeing the she continued to generalise about African people and compare them to animals throughout the book, it leaves little argument against the assumption that Dinesen really believed in the superiority of the white "Immigrants". 

 

So the next question that occurred (and as one fellow reader pointed out also) is, how much of the casual racism was a result of the time that Dinesen lived in?

 

Well, seeing that she lived in Africa between 1915 and 1931 (Out of Africa was published in 1937), it is of course to be expected that her views are reflecting the mores of a less enlightened time, which is somewhat ironic as she fills the book with literary and philosophical references in an attempt to show off her worldliness and pretends to present herself as an enlightened, witty and intellectual woman. This in particular made me want to smack her with a copy Markham's West with the Night. Markham may have had her shortcomings but she did not need to fuel her self-confidence by patronising anyone, least her African neighbours.

 

As much as Dinesen's racism may have been a reflection of her time, it became clear when reading the first story in Shadows on the Grass, that Dinesen's believe of superiority must have been ingrained in her more deeply than just as an expression of a sentiment that was popular within her social circles.

 

Shadows on the Grass was published in 1960. So, at that time Dinesen had not only returned to Europe, but had also widely travelled, was at home in the artistic and literary circles of Europe and the US, and as any enlightened intellectual of the time would have been exposed to current affairs of the world such as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the US, the demise of the colonial systems as a result of the moral issues raised with supremacist theories after WWII, etc. Yet, the first story in Shadows on the Grass contains the same racist bullshit as Out of Africa including the following:

 

"The dark nations of Africa, strikingly precocious as young children, seemed to come to a standstill in their mental growth at different ages. The Kikuyu, Kawirondo and Wakamba, the people who worked for me at the farm, in early childhood were far ahead of the white children of the same age, but they stopped quite suddenly at a stage corresponding to that of a European child of nine."

 

She even goes on to say that she found some pseudo-scientific theory to support her musings on the qualities of different races. Of course, this only takes up one paragraph in the book and she does not present any arguments that may contradict her opinions.

 

How is this supportable by the justification that she was a writer of her time? Had she been "of her time" I would have expected her to move on, but no.

 

What the book also told me about Dinesen is that she had more appreciation and compassion for animals than for human beings. She was against killing animals for sport - except lions (lions were fair game, apparently), which was quite unusual for a member of the society she lived in, and also considering that the love of her life, Denys Finch-Hatton, organised safaris for wealthy big game hunters.  And yet, when confronted with the victim of a shooting accident, a child who had been shot accidentally, all she can say is the following:

 

"When you are brought suddenly within the presence of such disaster, there seems to be but one advice, it is the remedy of the shooting-field and the farmyard: that you should kill quickly and at any cost. And yet you know that you cannot kill, and your brain turns with fear. I put my hands to the child's head and pressed it in my despair, and, as if I had really killed him, he at the same moment stopped screaming, and sat erect with his arms hanging down, as if he was made of wood. So now I know what it feels like to heal by imposition."

 

So, her first instinct is to shoot the child? The second insight she gains is that she deludes herself into thinking she could heal by laying on hands?

 

Actually, there is more about her delusional exploits as a medic when deciding to become the primary medical care giver to the Natives on her farm. Granted, any first aid may have been better than none, but at no time does she pretend to want to find out if what she's doing is of any medical help, and it looks like failures didn't make her stop to think, either:

 

"I knew very little of doctoring, just what you learn at a first aid course. But my renown as a doctor had been spread by a few chance lucky cures, and had not been decreased the catastrophic mistakes that I had made."

 

So, again while some of the writing is great, I just cannot muster any sympathy or liking for the author, who, to me, came across as an ignorant, utterly delusional, racist, ever pretending to be something she was not.

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review 2015-07-28 19:26
Ghostly Tales: Poltergeists, Haunted Houses, and Messages from Beyond - Billy Roberts

Meh...I'm saying meh because Honesty when i brought this book i was over the moon when it came. But as soon as i starting reading i just wasn't impressed at all. There's noway some of these tales are True. I'm not in the line of paranormal work. But i really think this Billy Roberts is taking people for a ride. It's a shame because people have paid good money for his book i personally think He's one of "Those medium's" who give others the real one's a bad name. In this book he seems like he pissed off the team of Most haunted.

Then made a big scene in a new York Hotel to get an other Room. He just screams total issues to me. I know most real mediums have issue's So do sensitives too. But i dunno as i read the book i just got this vibe the author's not the real deal. He probably believes he is, but Yea... Don't buy this book cause you'll just be helping him and his wife live a deluded life... 

 

The two stars are for the ghost's in this book that might be real and got sadly pulled into this book lol!

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review 2014-01-22 13:38
Big Fat Disaster - Beth Fehlbaum

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Well where to start. Let's say this book was a mess. I came for the whole overweight/eating disorder story, but I got a whole lot more than that. Embezzlement, adultery, bullying, family problems, rape, violence, suicide and various other things.

 

I really had to drag myself through the book. I am sorry to say, but all the other stuff was just too much. I felt like I was watching one of those tv drama/soap opera things, that I only watched a few times and hated. It wasn't even real any more. I only got confused, since every time we had gone through one thing, POP there was another problem. Dear Lord, I can imagine why Colby just kept eating and eating. Everyone was just bitching about her fatness, but no one actually tried to help her.

 

The family, the teachers, everyone was seriously messed up in their heads. Not willing to listen to each other, blaming each other for things, even just bluntly ignoring things even when proof is stuffed in their eyeballs. Rape??? Ah I am sure it was the girl's fault. After all she was drunk and she should have watched out with that. And hey, who says it wasn't consensual??? *rolls eyes* Sorry but that just pissed me off. Sure, the girl is stupid for drinking so much, that she is practically unconscious, but that doesn't mean you can just do what the hell you want with her.

 

And then we also got Drew. God I wanted to smack that kid. I can imagine, she is a little kid, so much is changing. But come on, that kid never understood anything, was just whining, begging, crying, acting like a spoilt brat.

 

Then you also have Ryan, aka the sad misunderstood and pissed off teenager who just does everything to make Colby’s life a fricking hell. Seriously bro, maybe you should be angry at the adults and not shove the blame on the kids as well.  Luckily it seems he isn’t a total prick since he saves Colby around 2/3 in the book. But still, if he didn’t do all those things, he wouldn’t have needed to save Colby.

 

In short, I didn’t like the book. I felt it would have been better if it only handed one or two topics, not like 10 or more in one go. So hereby: 1 star out of 5 for this book.

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review 2013-10-05 16:29
Messed up but riveting
Dangerous Girls - Abigail Haas,Abby McDonald

Tink's a Disney whore!  What the hell did I just read?  If you like reading stories about despicable characters doing despicable things all rolled up in a mystery suspense then open wide and take a bite out of this triple decker fuckery sandwich.  This book was inspired by the Natalie Holloway and Amanda Knox cases, which I didn't follow, and after reading this book, made me glad I didn't.

 

 

This was one messed up story about some messed characters, but it was absolutely riveting in the delving deep into the character of the main character(s), their friendships, and a murder trial.  The writing of this mystery was very well done.  The author was incredibly calculated in her portrayal and timely revealings of certain events that leave you coming to the correct conclusion a few times, but ultimately incorrect.  Whether you like it or not when the truth is revealed, this is one of those books that will keep you thinking even if you were as disgusted about it as me.  

 

Oh, I hate yet love when an author can make me feel like this 2 days after finishing the book.  I still feel the need for brain bleach though.  I need some lighthearted funnies too.

 

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