Petra X

Sexo drogo y rock y rollo. Graffiti seen on a wall in the harbour of Oporto where the yacht I was on was tied up. I knew I was going to have fun then. Later, on the same cat I sailed the Atlantic and ended up, via the Amazon, on a small island where I had variously, an art shop,  a boutique, a bar and now a bookshop.  Books are no longer a viable business. What next?  Any ideas?

Passport2purity Project Kit

Passport2purity Project Kit - Dennis Rainey, Barbara Rainey I was looking at the reviews on Amazon of [b:Interviewing Your Daughter's Date|961931|Interviewing Your Daughter's Date|Dennis Rainey||946832] and being absolutely horrified at the idea of it and then I saw this book and thought well, Daddy could save all the expense of this book, cd and weekend away by just frightening off the boys.

But it turns out that the Raineys are quite even-handed. Not only are girls expected to be Untouched Virgins, but boys are not supposed to even kiss their girlfriends or fiancees until after the marriage ceremony. Why are some people so frightened of sex? Is it because it is animalistic and enjoyable on a completely different level than the achieving and cerebral ways that make up most of our daily levels? Is the sweaty, slippery grunting, fleshy bucking and drawn-out cries in the night if it's done well just so distressing to some parents that instead of being pragmatic and trying to ensure their offspring don't get HIV or make an unwanted baby they try to pretend to themselves that a talk will mean they don't have to deal with the realities of 21st century life and their kids will remain virgins until marriage? It's just so unlikely to happen these days.

And with this attitude of Virginity is purity and the loss of it means a used, soiled creature who will feel they have let their family and future husband down. It is just building up guilt, sadness, disappointment and perhaps even feeling that their family and perhaps their congregation now regards them as a slut who should never marry in white! Is this what these people want their daughters to feel (I don't think men are going to take it quite so hard, but what do I know?)? In this day and age most girls will have sex, will 'fall' and all the guilt in the world that Daddy and Mummy have laid on them isn't going to stop them.

A good friend of mine is a devout Church-going, choir-singing Christian. Her daughter, the same age as my son, went to a girls' boarding school in the UK. Despite the lack of potential love objects, at 14 she found one and phoned her mother about her crush. Her mother arranged a visit with an aunty to a family planning clinic where the ins and outs of getting the pill and condoms by herself when she was ready were explained. Innocence is not as good as protection and 'just say no' has never been a successful strategy for anything where young people have to deny themselves.

This isn't a review of the book, I was just horrified by the Amazon reviews, so it's a rant. What's new?

Interviewing Your Daughter's Date

Interviewing Your Daughter's Date - Dennis Rainey I was going to preview this book, but the Kindle sample consists of only one word, "Kid". Is the author trying to tell us something?

What got me interested in this book was actually another of the Raineys' books, [b:Passport2purity Project Kit|15894491|Passport2purity Project Kit|Dennis Rainey||21645279] I was 'reviewing' (ranting on about). This is where you take your preteen girl or boy, but we are talking about girls in this 'review' away for the weekend and totally and utterly brainwash her into thinking that the worst thing in the entire world, going to get you damned for all eternity, is having sex before marriage. Oh my, it's really a sin is it? Did God make girls and boys have rampant hormones just in order to laugh at them battling against them? Did he say these hormones are Satan in your body until marriage, then they are magically transformed into godly?

So since the Kindle sample was inadequate (!) I read the few reviews and this one struck me as a Good Way to Save Money,

"For a daughter to know her father loves her enough to really protect her and be involved with her social life and for a boy to understand the responsibility of manhood in relating to someone else's daughter is amazing."

Really? I can't think of anything worse. But of course this book makes [b:Passport2purity Project|15894491|Passport2purity Project Kit|Dennis Rainey||21645279] redundant. Just frighten the boys off with making sure they know that Daddy does not approve of even a Kiss Goodnight and that's that. "Pure and Innocent" girl, or rather, one whose opportunities have been curtailed by a father too interested in his daughter's moral, social and private life. Don't we all as teenagers want to make our own decisions?

I say 'boys' but what's the betting that once it gets around that is what the girlie's daddy does, there won't be many queuing up for a Saturday night out?

The Hair Of The Dog: And Other Scientific Surprises

The Hair Of The Dog: And Other Scientific Surprises - Karl Sabbagh I only have the abridged audio version of this book. (If I like it I will buy the hardback). This might be a good thing since some reviews say this book is mind-numbingly boring! On the other hand, I like quirky non-fiction like this. It's ok going by other people's reviews, but even if you are best friends who have tuna salad sandwiches in the office every day, come Friday night when you go out, one of you orders a beer, the other a pousse cafe!

The Ministry of Fear

The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene, Alan Furst This is wonderful. Element o Brighton-boardinghouse, noir, absurdist, amnesiac, crime and spy genres, leavened with (pre) echoes of The Prisoner and 1984 and written with Orwell's general satirical edge, even if only a slight one, this is definitely the most entertaining book I've read in ages. I'm so enjoying it.

I really love good writing for it's own sake and when that's married to plot and characterisation, it becomes a book you can't put down. And at the speed I read, that means the book is too short. Lucky for me that Greene was such a prolific writer.

Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats

Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats - Steve Ettlinger Update There is nothing now that I don't know about fortified flour. It's essentially a mix of an awful lot of chemicals with the real, milled, grain product and good for you. The sugar by contrast, is just a highly-refined, absolutely pure natural product and bad for you. LOL.

First thing was to look up exactly what a twinkie was. I know this book wasn't about young and sweet-looking submissive male porn stars, no it was about a 'cake'. I went to the supermarket and looked in the American food porn section cakes are forbidden porn to those of us permanently on diets and there they were, just like on the cover of a book. In the interests of research and veracity in any review I might write, if not in the interest of my figure which is lush enough as it is. One more pound and it will have left slim lush and be oh horrors, 'voluptuous'. Which is polite for 'you getting fat again Petra?'.

Anyway, I tried one, a sponge-tube filled with something white and creamy that sort of spurted out the end when I bit into it. I have to say it was truly disgusting. It wasn't any kind of cake. The creme filling was a sweetened, chemically version of something between shaving cream and the squirty cream that now passes for real double cream whipped to peaks. I've just realised that all this is sounding very porn-y. So perhaps before I criticise any more I should read the book (with an open mind, just because Twinkies are disgusting doesn't mean the book will be).

I'm actually reading [b:Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion|12576334|Religion for Atheists A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion |Alain de Botton||16644915] right now. Not sure which is the most depressing, ersatz cakes, Twinkies, or religion unseasoned by spirituality.

The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest

The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest - Anatoli Boukreev, G. Weston DeWalt Contrast this with Krakauer's [b:Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster|1898|Into Thin Air A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster|Jon Krakauer||1816662] I searched for Jon Krakauer and then Into Thin Air and finally on the 6th screen the book with a cover came up. What's with this crappy search engine? where he slags off Boukreev as a guide who put his own ambitions first and didn't do enough to save people in the disaster that was the 1996 climbing seaon on Everest. What respect I had for Krakauer (limited because he was very unpleasant about one of the women who had climbed with him after sucking up to her enough to chat to her on the phone for hours) has plummeted, Boukreev was a hero saving 3 people from certain death, and everything he says is corroborated by fact and sometimes by photograph.

Review to come.

It Couldn't Just Happen: Knowing the Truth About God's Awesome Creation

It Couldn't Just Happen: Knowing the Truth About God's Awesome Creation - Lawrence O. Richards I've just found this book for $2, so I've ordered it. Mad or what? LOL. It was the 'warmth' of the reviews that got me going.

Directions for reading the reviews on this book:

1. Find a long scarf.
2. Tie it around your jaw in a knot - or a bow - on top of your head.
3. Put down your coffee, but nowhere near your foot, knee or elbow.
4. Find the Goodreads reviews of this book.

Now you may read the reviews without danger of catching flies, spilling, snorking sniggering or laughing loudly in a vulgar and certainly incredulous fashion.

Ok, so maybe I overreacted what with snorking my Fresca and they aren't that funny after all. I do have an... odd sense of humour!

Kept in the Dark: A Novel (Trollope, Penguin)

Kept in the Dark: A Novel (Trollope, Penguin) - Anthony Trollope I've only read the first part and the beginning of what must be the second movement but already I'm deeply involved. He does that, does Trollope, hooks you. Or me anyway.

The Custom of the Country

The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton, Linda Wagner-Martin It was fashionable at one time to send rich American girls who had everything over to Europe in order to acquire a title from an impoverished aristocrat who was none too fussy about his bride so long as she came with a very generous papa. Some of them, like the extremely despicable Lady Rose Astor How else can one describe a racist, anti-semitic bff of Henry Ford and other Nazi sympathisers? really became part of their adoptive country and others, like our heroine, Undine Spragg didn't.

Undine wasn't top-drawer wealthy to begin with, only middling, and she had a past, but that didn't stop her pursuit of wealth, haute couture, a sparkling social life and compliments. She came from Apex and you might think reached her apex on marrying a French Marquis and gaining a title and a historic palace, but no, he wasn't rich enough for her. And so displaying all the worst characteristics of an American (as described by the Marquis - shallow, no feeling for history or art, everything is valued according to its monetary worth and has to be new) she tries to sell, or persuade the Marquis to sell, tapestries given by Louis IXV to his family. In doing so she meets her first husband again, now a billionaire, and so a quickie divorce at midnight is arranged with a wedding minutes later, and she is happy as happy could be. All that money!

Her husband, provider of this unlimited largesse, lives if not to regret it, at least to make the best of it, which is more than can be said for her second husband, father of her only child. He shot himself. The husband pals up to this child, whom Undine scarcely knows and cares even less about. The husband knows that if he had no money, he too would not bask in her affections but be subject to the same cold, brittle light Undine regards her son with and determines to do his best for the boy.

It's quite a brilliant book, related closely to the French genre of beautiful women and the machinations they get up to in pursuit of wealth. But the French are moralistic and the woman always gets her comeuppance, whether it be the pox, age, or the mirror on the wall keeps telling her there are younger beauties that men will pay top dollar for, not old whores past their sell-by date. Edith Wharton being an American does not feel the need for this sort of ending. Her heroine, nasty as she is has achieved the American dream of social-climbing and wealth - anyone can get to the top. And there she leaves her narcissistic billionairess.

Well-written, and very enjoyable. The only flaw for me was the headlong drive for money and social domination was not tempered by any softness or virtues in the heroine. She lacked humanity. You couldn't identify with her as you could with, say, [b:Madame Bovary|2175|Madame Bovary|Gustave Flaubert||2766347]

Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper's Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity

Keep the Change: A Clueless Tipper's Quest to Become the Guru of the Gratuity - Steve Dublanica Update: So far, it seems that if you don't tip a lot of people from waiters, to car wash people, to hairdressers, to pizza delivery boys, they will have their revenge on you. Also if you are a bad tipper. The only people who come out of it looking good are the sex workers who will give you a good time anyway!

How much objectivity about tipping can one expect from an author whose first book was [b:Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter|2187270|Waiter Rant Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter|Steve Dublanica||2192977]?

In the islands, local people rarely tip, but they are loudly rude to people who give bad service, so they get reasonable service. Local whites (like me) get treated like rubbish because we only tip when we feel we have had good service. Which isn't often since we are being treated like rubbish. Americans are fawned over to the point the wait staff are standing in puddles of dripping syrup, but they leave 20%. I hate that.

It was explained to me once by a waitress at a notoriously crap place for service, that she wasn't going out of her way to serve people who didn't tip well. She didn't understand that good service would bring the tip. She said that these people were locals and they should tip first and then next time they would get better service. Arrogant? Much!

Once in a while I go to a resort on a private island where the day, say lunch and drinks is going to cost us $150+. For dinner we are talking $250+ easily. I am seriously not tipping someone $30 for bringing me a menu, my food and drinks. 10% because that's what the standard was before Americans. The waitresses on this island are paid quite well and they get a share of the service charge, but 15 and 20% is what is "suggested" on the check. You are joking.

Why I especially dislike giving these people even a dime (although I do give 10% usually) is because it is a half-hour sail home on the private ferry, and if you get the last one back to the island, you share it with the staff. They sit up top, shouting to each other, "mudderfucker", "cunt", "stupid fucking bitch" and worse, they will criticise the people they just served. I really heard that. The woman was on the boat too. you will hear shouted around. They have their regular seats and like to spread themselves and their gear out, they don't care if the tourists and diners trip or can't get seats together. They just seriously love to show their contempt of these people they were oiling up only half an hour before. And when you go back, they will ooze charm when working and it's the same thing back on the late boat.

So why go? Because it is a beautiful island with fabulous beaches, the food is beyond excellent and it is fun to be with these super-wealthy helicoptered in 'we expect only the best' people sometimes.

I hate to see a tip jar next to a cashier in newsagent or a fast food joint. In Miami recently the free bus that takes potential customers to Dolphin Mall had a sign about tips being welcome. The driver doesn't even help you with your bags. And on and on... What am I tipping for?

I hope this book is going to tell me.

People Come Here to Cry

People Come Here to Cry - Char March When people want to do working-class gritty they do northern: Leeds, Bradford, Manchester (Birmin'm is too comic). If it's a monologue this is going to be a mistake because [a:Alan Bennett|11781|Alan Bennett|] has the writing all sewn up and his favourite actress, the late Thora Hird, could hardly, arguably, be bettered for putting life to his words.

Char March isn't an Alan Bennett. But they come from the same place: a small part of life closely examined and played out that both entertains and illuminates in an unexpected way, with with characters you could really feel for. Or at least that's the idea I would think. But Char March falls short.

She wanted to write about a working class woman's experience of therapy. Of course I wanted to know what the crisis was that took her to the 'experimental therapy centre' but that is never even hinted at. It's all about the centre and the distant if not exactly cold therapist and how she relates to that and her experience of going every week. It isn't about the therapy except being asked the same stock questions week after week, "How do you feel about that?" that are like scalpels to a surgeon for a therapist. The woman - the author - has no insight into the therapist, she's just a cypher. The woman dislikes the therapist's objectivity, not wanting to give anything of herself way, 'she says it's all about me'. And that was exactly the fault of the play, it was all about her and there was nothing remotely interesting about her.

The play was almost like a writing piece set by an advanced class. Something with strict parameters, "Write about the woman's experience of therapy, not the therapist, not her problems, and no more about her life than would give character and context to the woman". So she did.

I've written far too much on this boring, hackneyed little piece that contains not one original situation, person or thought. One and a half stars, rounded up to two, because one is reserved for *hatred*. On a brighter note, the author is obviously talented so I would't hold this debut play against her.

The Book

The Book - M. Clifford Does anyone know of any other books in this genre - particularly dealing with the death of paper and the misuse of ebooks?

This book looks like it fits with [b:Fahrenheit 451|17470674|Fahrenheit 451|Ray Bradbury||1272463], the [b:The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|11|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)|Douglas Adams||3078186] and Kindle's rented books with the clause that they can change anything. All we need is a [b:1984|5470|1984|George Orwell||153313] or [b:Brave New World|5129|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley||3204877] government and history will be writ according to how Amazon and the government see fit.

It won't be long now. Or is it happening already by degrees?

What can we do to forstall this 'Utopian' world where everything will be written for our good? We can ensure that all books are printed on paper and put into national libraries that stand separate from governments. Additionally, we can insist that all books and newspapers have a microfiche record. But what happens when the last book has been printed and we are a paperless society and the no one hear's the leaves rustling in the abandoned woods except the animals that have reclaimed it?Every cloud has a silver lining. We will see.

I want to read this book.

No One Else Can Have You

No One Else Can Have You - Kathleen  Hale Review and Rant
I read the Kindle sample.
I read the Guardian article.
I think I'd better end the review here.

ps. I do use a screenname, I'm not really Petra Xtra Crunchy. Sorry for lying to you all ;-) I'm really Petra SockieP, you all know that.

Rant. Nothing to do with the book, the author, the newspaper. Just a rant.

I was on Amazon criticising an electric knife and a blender I bought, contrasting it with the ones I'd had before. Among other things I was saying what I thought of the two manufacturers of the items. I can say that Moulinex products last a lot longer than Hamilton Beach and when something is shiny and silver it is real metal, unlike HB's shiny silver plastic that only looks like metal. I can say these things. I can say that I wouldn't buy Krups because they used slave labour from the concentration camps during WWII and they never made reparations. Is that relevant to the blender? No. Is it relevant to me purchasing from those companies, yes?

Why can't I say what I think of authors? Why can't I say why I will not buy books from some of them. Why am I restricted in ways I'm not with other products?

On the other hand, I wouldn't expect a Hamilton Beach employee to track me down and stalk me because I wrote a review they didn't like and even if one of the nuttier ones did, I would know for sure that Hamilton Beach executives would certainly not condone such appalling behaviour. Apparently this doesn't apply to publishers.

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection - Michael Ruhlman This book was written before the Food Network invented Masterchef and Chopped. Except they didn't invent them at all. "Masterchef" was a qualification offered by the Culinary Institute of America. It involved 10 days of cooking tests to chefs of the level that some owned restaurants. Some of the tests involved mystery baskets.

This is just the first chapter and I'm loving it. This is great.


Pandemic - John Dryden, Ben Daniels, Emily Beecham, Michael Maloney Always blame the bird.

"Every tragedy has a silver lining. I got my job at the Home Office. Actually I applied before the outbreak, but there was so much competition. So that was a blessing. You must admit, although the outbreak was a terrible thing, of course it was, the world is a better place for it. It was so cutthroat before. Everyone rushing around like headless chickens, no one having the time to be part of anything. There was no space. There were traffic jams. The pressure to buy and consume. Let's face it, there were too many people in the world. Maybe Al Qaeda did us all a favour."

Not just bird flu, but running round like headless chickens. Too much I say. Also that quote was too much as well.

I'm not good with thrillers, either I guess the clues or I lose interest. I stayed with this one though but it didn't thrill me.

The book is built around the premise that if global warming was really bad, people would be getting poorer and hungrier, but they aren't, they're getting richer and healthier. You might disagree with that. Some people in the book did, very much so. Some didn't. Some used it as an excuse. There are always excuses in crimes against humanity.

From the outset it was either a hackneyed terrorist-driven plot or that being too obvious a conspiracy-theory set-up. It was the latter. Dystopian novels often rely on the depopulation of the earth and how everybody loses their common decency and comes over all loutish afterwords. This one differs not but the louts all speak properly and have good manners, but they are the same.

There's always a spy, or someone who changes camps, or gives away the central conspiracy secret. In this case it's the Father, the Christian priest. The decent, upright, well-spoken son of the Church supports the unbelievably wicked actions of the British Government (it wasn't Al Qaeda, they were just a tool. Makes you think doesn't it? But not hard. Unless you are a conspiracy theorist yourself) because he had lost his wife and son to the pandemic, so he turned Queen's Evidence, decided his Sunday preaching didn't apply to himsel, and shopped his friends.

Pandemic is nothing out of the ordinary. Kill half the people and we will all have more space and less stress. It is as the character above says, For the best. And like him, if you manage to survive, you might get that plum job you just weren't good enough for before.

It strikes me that this review is just about as average as the book. 3 stars?

Unwanted Visitor

Unwanted Visitor - Marjelene A. Watts Marjelene A. Watts (author) and Marti Tucker (alternate member profile) talked about this book on about 24 different groups so I couldn't help but notice it. And I couldn't help but notice that she was promoting a sample FREE on Amazon. I have to say I am keen, mad keen, on words like FREE. Free sample, free book. You hooked me there.

The best bit about the book was the quick wank at the beginning of chapter three (paragraph four here). Just nuts.

So since I had the link (saw it so often I almost memorised it), I headed over to Amazon and read it. I read the Foreword. A voice (small v) talks to her. She has gone through a lot of pain with no one to talk to in her life. I'm sorry. I could identify with that. Then I read the Prologue to the book (fiction). Then for some strange reason came the Acknowledgements. You would have thought that Prologue belonged with the book proper, but I'm not the editor (I don't think there was one).

So, chapter one. Trish (our heroine) had an unhappy childhood and a father who left. She also has a voice (small v) that talks to her. Later on the voice will get a bit more personal be capitalised V. I am getting lost, but the author and the heroine hear voices? Is this really a fictionalised memoir? Chapter two is remarkably uninteresting, but chapter three starts with a bang or at least a quick wank and an orgasm, "a soft bed of clouds". For some reason Trish is surprised there is no man there. Really? Is she nuts?

Onward. A married man who tells her he is not going to leave his wife puts the moves on her and she is flattered but ashamed because she is really a tall, fat girl who was bullied for her looks. She feels a relationship with this man would be wrong, but hey... The book is losing me. I was finding it hard to stay focused, but all this misery, this shame, this inventing demon lovers and now a potential affair with a married man. Oh please you are the source of your own misery. You can't go on blaming your unhappy childhood forever I do sometimes. Childhood abuse and misery is common and all we can do is make sure we grow from it and don't visit it on our own children. If you talk or write about it too much it becomes a real downer and people don't want to associate with you. Or read your books.

I perserved some more, quite a bit more. I really gave up the very long sample because it was too confusing to read. I couldn't follow half of it and didn't have the interest to make myself perserve in the hope of becoming involved.

The writing is amateurish but it isn't bad in essence. The author needs a brutal best friend and a good editor, and to listen rather than just filter everything through her emotions. She also needs to do read up on book marketing. Introducing it to the world through 24 different groups under two different names isn't a way to win fans or $$. Maybe she should try Fiverr? Just joking.