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review 2016-09-08 00:03
Zero stars.
Zero Day - David Baldacci

Poorly written.

This is a book. It is a book with a red cover. It is written in short sentences. Like this. That is supposed to make the reader feel like things are happening. I guess.

This book is about a man, John Puller. I will call him Puller. Always. Puller is in the Army. He's just a man. In the army. Where he belongs. He investigates things. Like a badass. Sometimes, he saves people's lives. Except when he fails. He remembers combat. Sleeps. Lightly. M11 in his hand. Three seconds to wake and shoot. He has many medals. Medals are not important to Puller but they impress people who are impressed by such things. Superficial people who are impressed by superficial things.

In West Virginia, things are polluted. Water. It's black. There are rich men. They get rich from mining things. They own everything, and they sleep with beautiful women. The people are poor. Sometimes they are desperate. They make drugs. In the basement. There is a bunker. This might be important.

Puller goes places. He goes there for one purpose. That purpose is not making friends. He gets there early for one purpose. To find people first. Before they find him. He doesn't like being found.

Seven dead bodies. They stink of death. Puller showers. He wants to wash away the stink of death. The stink of death sticks to him. Like glue. He cleans out the cat box and is suddenly hungry. Food will have to suffice. For now. Whatever that even means.

Puller is tough. He is the toughest guy of all the tough guys. This is his book. Fuck this book.



This is one of the worst books I have ever read. It is cliched, the writing is wooden, the plot is silly, John Puller is a Gary Stu, and the entire thing is a giant wish-fulfillment for men who think that if they only had a gun and some military training, they too would be invincible. If this is a serious representation of David Baldacci's writing, I have no idea how he ever got a Big 5 contract.

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review 2014-08-08 06:41
WTF. Srsly.
The Burglar on the Prowl - Lawrence Block

If you are willing to gloss over ethical and character problems in a significant character relationship, it might theoretically be an entertaining read.

Seriously, Block. What's the author of the finely tuned Matt Scudder mysteries thinking? Please tell me this was subbed out to a ghost writer, because your introduction of the Barbara Creely character is awful.

Burglar stared off promising, with a unique voice compared to Block's other works, and with a man who clearly enjoyed his illegal activities, even as he was aware of how problematic they were.


Bernie Rodenbarr is set up to be a somewhat loveable anti-hero, the classic criminal with ethics (he only steals from the rich, etc, etc), and it mostly works, until he's under the bed at a woman's house as she is about to get date-raped. And he just hides there and listens, because he's essentially afraid of harm from the rapist. Although I appreciate that Bernie is sharing an honest reason, it had a significant downgrading on my enjoyment level. After the rapist finishes, he further violates her by tossing the apartment looking for money and valuables. He threatens to degrade the unconscious woman further, but is luckily stopped by circumstance. Bernie feels sorry for the woman and makes an effort to "clean up" the mess the rapist/robber made by putting things back, replacing money in her wallet, flushing the condom, etc. Kind, I suppose. But how fucking obtuse: I know what will solve the problem! Let me erase it for you and we'll pretend it never happened!

Later, Bernie goes back to the neighborhood and hangs out at a bar that seems like the woman's type, hoping to run into her. To see if she's okay? Nice thought, but no. To try and warn her that her she needs to start playing it safer? Wow, you're kind of a Pollyanna, aren't you?

No, he meets her, they have a creepy conversation about how it seems they've been "emotionally intimate" before, he goes home with her that night, and spends the night having sex.

Oh, not so he's a stalker or anything--he's friendly and doesn't use roofies, which makes all the difference.

Then, within a week, he's telling her the truth about his occupation... and how he first met her. And you know what? She's okay with it.


The self-disclosure is literally taken care of in a couple of paragraphs. This is despite Bernie earlier reflecting on a conversation with his friend Carolyn about how merely feeling burgled felt like a violation. He tells Barbara she's been roofied and date-raped, along with being robbed. Her reaction? She swears for a minute and then focuses on which window Bernie was going to use to escape.

I will say it again:


Add in a shitload of coincidences, which Bernie self-references twenty times if he does it once, and the ridiculous Hercule Poirot denouement, and I'm left with the uncomfortable feeling that this is a spoof. In which rape is how you meet your next date.

Need I say it again?

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review 2014-07-07 03:47
Ick! Yuck! Eew!
Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History - Lois Miner Huey

Most kids will find this an interesting way to learn about history and just how far we've come as a nation with regards to hygiene and such. With fabulous graphics and layout, this will keep the youngsters interested. There's a great deal to look at and learn about our "gross" history!

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text 2014-03-18 04:24

find it here




There are two more Nebula-nominated novellas. One I can't access, and one I dislike a lot. The Weight of the Sunrise is an alternate history of an Inca Empire that didn't fall, meeting an America that's British. I found it clunky, awkward, and unpleasant.


It lacked every gracenote writing can offer, and troweled on the info without any noticeable attempts to disguise the dump.

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review 2014-02-01 02:03
Go bird-watching instead.
Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig

This is a tough one to review. Not because my reaction to the read wasn’t particularly clear –it was– but because my good friends over at Shelf Inflicted and I differ significantly in our opinions.


No doubt, most of the issue is simply motivations and taste; why we read and what our preferable types are.  I tend to love both complexity and subtlety, and my diversionary reads need to come with straight-up happy endings. As the child of police officers, I find violence all too common in real life. As a person in the medical field, I get more than my share of orifices, body fluids and death. As a female, I find domestic violence, emotional manipulation and rape horrifically common. So I prefer escapism when I read, not wallowing in evil and desperation.


Let me begin:


Blackbirds is Pulp Fiction without the dancing, No Country for Old Men without fine acting, and Transporter Three without Jason Stratham or a European setting. Written more like an action movie script, it is one of the least subtle books I’ve read in awhile. About the only redeeming aspect for me was the concept of being able to foresee someone’s moment of death.


Miriam is a young woman who sees people’s death moments. She uses her knowledge to steal basic necessities and fuel her life on the road. We meet her in a dirty hotel room as she rolls a dying epileptic for his wallet (yeah, Chuck, you can’t really swallow your tongue, but way to go for the dramatic image). But don’t worry–he’s a pig who picks up whores and beats on them, so it’s all okay. Back on the road, she’s harassed by two frat boys, then runs into a trucker who offers to help. Once she sees herself connected to the trucker’s death, she decides to run from Destiny. Or will she try to change it? 


Writing style is simplistic, direct and non-complicated. Wendig relies on sentence fragments, emphasizing the script-like feel.  Mood is grim, all dark imagery, full of grime, with a preoccupation of body orifices and fluids common in teens and college movies:


She clicks the lamp by the bed. Piss-yellow light illumines the ratty room. 
A roach sits paralyzed in the middle of the floor. 
‘Shoo,’ she says. ‘Fuck off. You’re free to go.’ 
The roach does as it’s told. It boogies under the pull-down bed, relieved.


“Inside, the bar is like the unholy child of a lumberjack and a biker wriggling free from some wretched womb. Dark wood. Animal heads. Chrome rims. Concrete floor.


There is little subtlety here, and the story line is movie blockbuster with loads of excessive violence, simplistic plotting and character stereotypes. Just how stereotypical? Well, although the main character is a woman, it clearly fails the Bechdel test.

The characters: Sex ruined someone’s life. There’s a sociopath who plays with bones. Frat boys who want to beat on women. Machismo bar flies. A woman who is made into a sociopath through devotion to a man. A woman refusing sex who then has an amazing orgasm (second most common rape mythever). An “overly religious mother” who mentally abuses her child. A thug with a change of heart. A widower who regrets a spouse’s death. Yawners: Wendig doesn’t have to do much with characterization because he lets the reader fill in the blanks themselves. 


Narrative structure was interesting; there’s a current timeline interspersed with timeline from an interviewer.  Using an interviewer is a clever way to get background into a character that doesn’t particularly like to spend a lot of time either in introspection or getting to know other people. On the other side, the narrative also includes a couple of “stories” from other characters and other scenes away from Miriam. That choice had mixed results for me; the choice of whose story was shared was odd, and really didn’t add dimension or tension to the overall plot, although it did allow a chance to ratchet up the violence level.


Wendig had a kernel of a good idea, demonstrated in his moving images of people’s instance of death. But he lost those small moments of compassion and transcendence in the movie-violence extremism of the plotting, the shallowness of the characterization, the vague setting and the bleakness of the book. It’s a definite pass in my book. 


For excellent reviews, check out Tatiana”s discussion of Miriam’s voice and Esin’s overall analysis of the general -isms of the book.

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