Doug Lewars's Blog

June 2, 2021

The Grim Pig

The Grim Pig The Grim Pig by Charles Gordon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

If you like literature with lots of angst and human suffering, forget this book. This book is for those who like a bit of satire and a lot of pure fluff. I found it absolutely delightful. The author is on a par with Tom Sharpe in terms of wit. The story takes place in a newspaper office but there, any relationship to reality pretty much ends. The chief editor believes in aliens are among us and wants stories corroborating his belief. It helps the owner also is convinced of their existence. All the writers and editors are caricatures with idiosyncrasies magnified to the extreme. The protagonist is a cynical editor and former reporter who doesn't much like working and tries to find projects leading nowhere he can work on.

The pacing is excellent and the plot twists and turn unexpectedly. People looking for character arcs and a deeper insight into the human condition won't like this one. I'm not looking for either and loved it.



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Published on June 02, 2021 16:07

May 9, 2021

The Subtweet

The Subtweet The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

I enjoyed this book which came as a surprise since I thought I'd hate it. I read this in e-format on Overdrive and it was one of the TPL librarians' recommendations. In the past, what they've recommended and my taste in books are mutually exclusive, and, yes, I can see why they recommended it; however, the author was not heavy handed with her ideology. I don't mind authors including their beliefs and opinions in their works. Heaven knows I do it myself. What I resent is when an author confuses writing with sermonizing. This one didn't.

If you're looking for a book with fast pacing and a complex plot, this one isn't for you. It's about relationships and the subtle nuances which can occur between two people sometimes leading to misunderstandings. Such things can be magnified when people communicate via texts or social media.

The book wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I was initially hooked by the title and then the blurb suggested a social media backlash was involved. I wanted to figure out the technical details for including that sort of thing in a book. Yes there was a backlash but it was muted, not the sort of dogpiling I was looking for; nevertheless, I learned a few things. Indenting tweets seems to work as does changing fonts when writing texts. On the other hand, I'm still not sure how one might write a flame war and make it readable. On the other hand, if you're not a writer, this part is irrelevant.

The weakest part of the book was the ending. It seemed as if Vivek Shraya just gave up as some point and stopped writing. Still, some, (many?) readers like ambiguity in endings so this will appeal to them, just not me.

The book was well written and very well edited. I wouldn't describe it as a page-turner but if you like relationships and aren't looking for a complex plot I think you might enjoy it.



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Published on May 09, 2021 17:03

May 4, 2021

Hokum

Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor by Paul Beatty

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


*** Possible spoilers ***

About half this book was poetry and since I don't care for it, I skipped that part.

This book is classified as humor. Of the prose, I'd estimate 10% was humorous and 90% wasn't. If you want to give this book a try, you can fairly accurately judge whether an individual story will be funny or not by reading the first couple of pages. If you don't like it, move on to the next one.

I read this as an e-book and the formatting was awful. The end of one story might well appear in the middle of the next. Spacing was bad in some places. I don't think anyone checked the format after uploading it.

There is one extract which made the effort worthwhile for me. It was a satire titled 'Black No More', written by George Schuyler in 1931 and was possibly the best satire I've ever read - certainly among the top ten. If you've read Tom Sharpe, this was satire on a par with his work. Even if you don't read another word in the book, I highly recommend this one extract. It's brilliant. The premise is someone discovers a drug which causes a black person to become white. This is not mere skin lightening. Someone pays some money, walks into a private medical facility and, six weeks later, walks out as a Caucasian. Not surprisingly, a number of people and groups react poorly to the idea. If you feel like having a chuckle, give this one a try.



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Published on May 04, 2021 16:38

April 17, 2021

Olive, Mabel and Me

Olive, Mabel and Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs Olive, Mabel and Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs by Andrew Cotter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping for. I came to it after watching the Olive and Mabel videos and was expecting more dog anecdotes. Although titled Olive, Mabel and Me, there was a bit too much ‘Me’ and not enough of Olive and Mabel. In fact, a substantial part of the book is a treatise on mountain climbing, something in which I have no interest so I found myself having to wade through Ben this and Ben that while wanting to read more about the dogs. Likewise, the author is a freelance sports broadcaster and frequently has to travel so some of the book read like a travelogue. Being more of a stay-at-home person unless there's an opportunity to go somewhere and fish, I wasn't too interested in flying or distant destinations.

There were some amusing parts but the book isn’t on par with the videos. There are some pretty good photographs and the dog anecdotes stand out so even though some of it is tedious I can recommend the book. After all, one of my friends has two labs and I figure anything with such dogs making even walk-on bits between the covers is worth reading.




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Published on April 17, 2021 13:25

April 14, 2021

Balls

Balls Balls by Nanci Kincaid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

This wasn't a bad book but it wasn't as advertised. I selected it from the library where it was classified as 'humour'. Admittedly, everyone has a different idea as to what constitutes humour but I think this one was stretching it a bit. In any event, the book deals with sports as an obsession. The author attempts to understand the men and women involved in college football. Since I'm far from an expert on anything athletic, I can't say whether she was successful but I found the story interesting. There were a few places where it dragged a bit but mostly I wanted to keep reading.



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Published on April 14, 2021 12:28

April 4, 2021

Bloody Genius

Bloody Genius (Virgil Flowers, #12) Bloody Genius by John Sandford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

I quite enjoyed this novel although I encountered a few rough spots which might have benefited from a bit more editing. Still, they were few and far between so I think it quite well written. It works well as a mystery novel with plenty of false trails to follow, suspicious characters who turn out not to have done it and an interesting detective. In addition, the author provided an excellent climax which was extremely well paced.

Having said that there are a few incongruities. The female cop is presented as being a very tough individual yet in the end she is upset over having to shoot the villain even though she doesn't kill him. Further to that point, police are trained to shoot to kill should they find themselves at risk. Likewise, the author periodically deviates from his main story to narrate the home live of his principle detective. I found those scenes a bit boring although I suppose they're supposed to develop character.

Overall I enjoyed the book but still found it a trifle disappointing, possibly because I misread the blurb. I knew it was a mystery but I thought the author just planned to use the genre in order to have a plot on which comedic scenes could be laid. It wasn't that way at all. He played it straight all the way.

A very astute aficionado of the mystery genre might guess the villain but I didn't. I would be surprised if even the most dedicated sleuth of mystery novels would guess the motive.





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Published on April 04, 2021 15:35

March 23, 2021

Equal Rites

Equal Rites (Discworld, #3; Witches, #1) Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

I've never met a Terry Pratchett book I didn't like and this is no exception. The story is interesting, the pacing perfect, and the characters off-beat and humorous. I highly recommend it.

If you happen to be a writer I recommend reading this book a second time. The first time just read it for pleasure but when you go through it for the second, stop whenever you find something intriguing or humorous. Note his technique. There are a lot of good ideas which can be worked into your own stories.



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Published on March 23, 2021 16:17

March 4, 2021

The End of Policing

The End of Policing The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

If your ideology is left-wing, you will enjoy this book. If you're on the right, you won't. However even if you know going in, you won't like it - and I did - I consider it worth reading. With respect to the rating I gave it 4 stars not because I enjoyed it but because the writing is smooth and the author articulate.

What I wanted was to understand the worldview of those individuals who are on the extreme left of the political spectrum. How do they view the world? What do they consider 'normal'? It seems to me, the polarization in North America today runs deeper than politics. It seems not only cultural but psychological as well. There are fundamental differences in how individuals see the world.

As I said, I didn't like the book. This author and I disagree on just about everything. In fact the only thing we agreed on was the idea police should be removed from schools. Even then, I think they should be replaced by restoring disciplinary powers to teachers thereby removing the need for officers. If teachers could mete out corporal punishment without parental repercussions, children would behave better, respect authority, learn a sense of decorum, and focus on learning. As a result, society would be better off. This isn't going to happen of course and we will continue to see massive polarization and the rise of violence. Mr. Vitale on the other hand thinks police should be removed because in his eyes, chaos, disruption, and a complete breakdown of discipline within the school setting is totally acceptable.

I think the following is a good example of where his values and mine are utterly incompatible. In discussing protests he argues, "The right to protest cannot be abridged because of the threat of illegal activity or even the commission of violence nearby." In short, anarchy supersedes the law.
This is a crystal clear line between left and right which cannot be bridged.

As I suggested at the beginning, even if your politics are on the right it's worthwhile reading this book. It's important to know your enemy.



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Published on March 04, 2021 13:01

February 14, 2021

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


*** Possible Spoilers ***

This was not a page turner. The story takes place in two locations, Bath and Northanger Abbey which pretty much divide the book into two parts. In the first part next to nothing happens. In the second, very little happens but a bit more than in the first part. I had to make myself sit down and finish the last hundred and fifty pages. It took me close to six weeks to read the book.

This was Jane Austen's first book and definitely not her best. She is attempting to satirize both the literary fashion and styles of the time. She may have succeeded but the humour falls a little flat when the literature and life styles of today bear no resemblance to a bygone era. There was one scene which made me laugh out loud so the book wasn't a total loss but by and large it was pretty tough going.

I did learn something however. At one point the heroine travels 70 miles by horse and cart. It takes her 11 hours which seemed rather long. I would have guessed a horse could maintain a comfortable pace of about 10 miles per hour so if I ever write about travel by horse and cart I'll have to adjust my timings accordingly.

While I cannot say I enjoyed the book, I'll concede it was well-written in terms of flow. The author was an excellent wordsmith. I think if one is a rabid Jane Austen fan this work, while not her best, would still be enjoyable. Likewise it provided some insight into the life of a certain social set during the late 1700s so individuals who like history might also enjoy it.




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Published on February 14, 2021 16:19

December 5, 2020

7 Ways

7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week 7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week by Jamie Oliver

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I bought this for a friend and she reports it's absolute garbage and you shouldn't waste your money on it.



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Published on December 05, 2020 08:13