Dog Ear
Reviewing awful books (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 22:56

our out of you’re mind.”

That was about the worst sentence I ever read in a book purchased off a shelf, a little vanity press number I got from a local bookstore by a local author (perhaps “Author” is too strong a word here. “Typist” might be better).

I’ve read bad books before. Sometimes they come at you at times in your life (see, at least I know how to use “your”) when you are not in the mood for its mystery, its adventure, its craziness. But sometimes they are bad. And occasionally they are awful.

Yeah, I’ve read a couple of bad books that have come through agencies. Some have political agendas they play against straw men (which is like watching a child be victorious with toy soldiers). Some are too slow, too fast, their concepts preposterous. But sometimes they are just bad.

And as a reviewer, I have to be careful on this. Usually if I’m not happy with a book at all, I’ll gently point out why I didn’t like it and what my problem was. Of course, this once earned me a rebuke from an author angry that I did not get the point of his mercenaries chortling over a bone-chilling plan to allow a comrade to die – he claimed they were being “subtle”. But in the case of my opening line above, it was in a truly horrible book, one loaded with typos and grammatical errors. In the end, the hero enjoyed a stroke of luck so good I half-expected God Himself to take a bow. Let me put it this way, I HATED that book. I grimaced as I flipped every page, I watched it get worse and worse, but I stuck with it. In the end, I looked at it and decided I couldn’t review it. There was NOTHING good I could say about it. And I know that authors tend to find their books on my site – it’s happened several times in the past.

So I skipped it. Tossed the book in the trash and shuddered to think of it. But yes, there is nothing I can do about reviewing a truly awful book.

And seriously, anyone who ever read or watched Cloud Atlas might know why that was. And like I said, he was a local author. Or typist. Or whatever he was.

He wasn’t a writer, that’s for sure.


Best of 2017 (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 23:08

hat will be a new tradition here on Robert Raymond's Blogtorium is my best-of review. I tend to give a review a week, year after year, but with all the rubbish I read, nowhere do I list what I thought my favorites were for 2017. Note that these weren’t necessarily written in 2017; I’m just posting up what I thought were the most outstanding reads I had for the year. I’m not going to rank them – culling them from the mass of pulp I read was good enough. But all these books are strongly recommended by me.

He gave me Barn Cats – In a pseudo-autobiographical story, the author deals with nine deaths in her life in a short period of time, a series of calamities so intense that she begins to question her very faith. Perhaps I’m a sucker for this since I lost my dear Mookie but I actually had tears in my eyes in some of the passages. Worth it. Read it.

 This Census-Taker – I’ve always said I hate China Mielville – he’s a head-shaven, London-dwelling writer who proses beyond anything I am capable of. And in this short novella we have soul-aching settings: lonely mountains, wind-blown hovels, a city falling apart around itself. A boy tries to discover what happened between his helpless mother and abusive father (and why is she gone now). I’m still not sure what actually happened but I don’t feel cheated, any more than a person feels cheated when a chess master checkmates him quickly and efficiently. Bravo, you bastard. Worth it. Read it.

Cloud Atlas – The movie is good. The book is even better. A series of loosely-linked stories tell the grander arch of humanity, some funny, some sad, some horrific. They come at you in chronological order, then spool off in reverse order, making you pine for more about each character and circumstance as, like a human life, fade and end. Not to be missed. Worth it. Read it.

The Mirror – A body-switch story of a woman switching places with her grandmother. And no, it’s not Freaky Friday. It’s a book that shows the isolation people can feel when centered in situations with people and places outside of their experience. Look, I’ve written time-travel stories and I didn’t go a tenth as deep as this story went. Unlike most stories, there were no fixes. If you really want to know what you’d face and feel if you were ripped through time, this one is for you. Worth it. Read it.

A Bad Season for Necromancy – This one was an audio novella that will make you think about what you could do if you could bring the dead back. A career-criminal with a horrifically awful father deals with early London life (and death). The voice credit for this was top notice. JB and I listened to this so intently we almost ran out of gas on a long road trip. Worth it. Read it.

And there is my wrap up for 2017. Overall, it was a pretty good year for books. I gained a lot of pleasure, empathy and insight  from the forty-eight I read. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this year in review and look forward to another fun year on the Blogatorium.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 23:08
Hiatus (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 20 December 2017 22:04

ome of you might have noticed that the site has gone largely dark over the last few weeks. No updates. No opinions. No grousing about the sorry state of entertainment, media and literature lately.

Most of you haven’t, of course.

I’m keeping track of names, just like Santa.

Anyway, the reason for this wasn’t a failure of courage or and onset of writers block. Nope. Carpel Tunnel. I have it in my left hand, not because of typing or anything, just hard use. So the bone and cartilage in my left wrist tightened up around the nerves and suddenly I couldn’t feel my left index finger tip – just the end and the nail. Strange sensation, especially when playing Go left handed (I don’t remember why I was doing that – the board placement, I think). I’d pick up a stone and feel most of it, not all of it. Crazy weird.

Saw the hand doctor and he told me, yeah, he could fix it right up. The implication was that I’d be inconvenienced by all this for a day or so. Scheduled the surgery, went in, conked out, and the next thing I knew I was smooth-talking the recovery nurse in finest continental style (my wife said I was a babbling idiot). But besides that, I found my wrist in a splint from mid-forearm down to the wrist. Worse, on my palm there was a convex piece of hard plastic. This mean when I put my wrist on a table, you’d hear a clunk.

The worst part of all this was using a keyboard. The first two days (with my fingers swollen like ball-park franks) I had to type right-handed (friends on Facebook might remember that low-cap phase I went through). But even after the swelling was down and the sling off, I still had problems. When I typed, my left palm-splint would bump against the lower-left keys – shift, caps lock, alt, control and the windows launcher. So I’d be trying to type in two or three simultaneous IM sessions and update excel and a dozen other things all while windows were popping up, the text was centering, the font was changing. In the evenings, I’d catch the bus to the train station and stand reflecting about things on the platform. And I’d look at my left hand and think, Fuck you.

Writing was no fun. That short story I was working on, shelved. That game my friend and I were developing, stalled.

But now the splint is off. Now I can type (though my thumb is tired from long disuse). But I’m writing again and I can feel all the tension and stress drain out as I do.

So yes, I’m back.

With caps and everything.


Clearing the slate Again! (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 30 November 2017 20:13

t’s hard to covey just how bad my work day was – this is the middle of three days of Program Increment meetings, the hardest one for me. Today my team has to figure out what it needs to do. We have a limited time to task up our board. Management is forcing work on us (regardless of the principles of non-intervention in Agile). And as a scrummaster, I’m running from room to room, up and down stairs, trying to pull everything and everyone together in this shambles of effort over four hours without lunch (well, cold Olive Garden spaghetti) while people keep changing their minds, other people won’t give timely information, and some people are as hostile as junkyard bitch-dogs (yeah, if you know me and my workplace, you know who I’m talking about). Ugh.

So after a long day, 8am to 5pm nonstop, I was dead. People saw me and asked if I was alright. I could only shake my head. But guess what – I’d cycled in today and now I’d have to do it going home. I wasn’t looking forward to this at all.

Decided I’d “Amsterdam-Cycle” home, i.e. take it easy. And that didn’t last long. Within a quarter mile I was pumping along, smiling up at the moon in its darkening sky, just refreshed and enjoying myself. And all along every major road, people honked and fumed and made the world a worse place.

I thought about it in the ride, of this difference. And maybe it’s something like reading books vs reading Twitter or Facebook updates. One of them provides a deep and moving satisfaction, a satisfaction of completion, the general feeling of well-being. And the other is quicker, more convenient  but certainly more frustrating and irritating. Yes, you might get a lot read quickly but in the end, you are jittery and on-edge.

So, you need to determine what sort of life will be yours. The bike or the car. The book or social media. Which makes you a deeper, happier person as opposed to someone who is no better off (if not worse) at the end of his “session”?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go finish my book In the City of Bikes. Watch for the review!



Page 8 of 80