Category Archives: Books

Tick Tock

It’s after 9pm and I’ve accomplished nothing tonight.

Well, that’s not precisely true. I spent time calling and emailing peeps in attempts to fix mistakes and figure out confuzzling stuff. But there’s so much more. I feel completely stressed out by all the things. I haven’t written any poetry lately, though I’ve scribbled down ideas when I’ve thought of them. That’s not the same though, a couple words here and there. You lose the mood, the feeling, the gestalt of the piece.

I didn’t do much over the long weekend because I didn’t feel well. But that’s not really true either. I cleaned a bunch, hung out with friends, watched fireworks, crossed a lot of items off my list. I keep adding stuff to the list though! I’ve been reading a good book (Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life), but I wasted some hours watching bad movies too. 😦

It seems as though all these electronic time-savers just gobble up more and more time. I long for the days of the checkbook and pencil ~ I am officially old now. So many of my hours are eaten up by “helpful” technology, a sparkly illusion of convenience. No, I’m not giving any of it up or asking for advice; I’m just complaining, right here on my laptop connected to the internet. It’s what I do.

I have a million tabs open up there… mostly poetry sites I want to check out, maybe to submit stuff, or to get ideas, or whatever. They’ve been open for days, maybe a week. But I’m not looking at them tonight ~ I’m too tired now. W10 wants to update again, but I can’t let it cuz I’d have to close the tabs. These tabs, and the whole North Korea problem… it’s all making me very anxious.

Happy belated 4th (USA readers), day late, dollar short.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Illusion

Fireworks

Since You’ve Been Gone

Stephen King has a short story in Bazaar of Bad Dreams called “Ur,” which is centered around the notion of an experimental Kindle with an extra menu feature that gives access to alternative literary realities. Forex, say you type in a random number… in this world of words Shakespeare lives five more years and writes a couple more plays. You get to buy, download, and read these plays on the new Kindle. It’s addictive, as you might imagine, for you could spend day after day checking random numbers and writers to see if your favorites appear in parallel universes with new works to read.

But it’s also comforting to know that the authors we love will continue writing in their familiar styles in the alternate realities. If we search for Ray Carver, we don’t want to find vampire romances. We want what we expect. Most of us anyway. That’s why when I go to a vegan restaurant and order a lush looking dish of macaroni & cheese I’m invariably disappointed ~ it appears so beautiful and cheesy, but it never tastes as expected. I’m always better off with a salad where the veggies taste the way they’re supposed to.

*

I dream about my mother frequently. This month is nine years since she was diagnosed; next April nine years since she’s been gone. In my dreams, she just goes on as she ever was ~ present, helpful, sometimes annoying. Nothing super dramatic. In the last one, we were at a table with a bunch of other people (I don’t remember who) discussing an arts & crafts project. At one point, I turned to my mother and complained that my pantyhose kept getting runs in them the first time I wore them, sometimes right out of the package. She commiserated. I don’t remember if she had any advice, but it’s almost certain she would have. Because Mom.

This was a comforting dream. Mom was being Mom.

*

In the King story, the protag next discovers that the experimental Kindle feature also has alternative reality newspapers. Some of these are funny, especially King’s election ideas. And then our protag finds his local future newspaper. ~ doo doo doo doo ~

I am highly enjoying Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

Doctor Sleep’s Fatal Flaws

spoiler

This is going to be a super duper major spoiler of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I mean, absolutely 100%. Ready? K.

I did enjoy the novel while I was reading it because the main character Dan Torrance (Danny from The Shining, all grown up) was very compelling and I wanted to find out what happened to him. But after a bit of rumination (moo!), I sadly discovered huge flaws in the story.

The evil undead True Knot creatures feast on essences aka “steam” of people who have “the shining.” They prefer young’uns, since the shining is shinier in children, but they’ll take anyone they can get, because food. They can go awhile without eating steam and in the meantime they nom on meatloaf and mac&cheese like regular polyester-clad retirees in motor homes. They aren’t exactly like vampires ~ real vampires nom only on blood, IIRC. King never fully explains how this Knot originated and endured in ye tyme of olde, what they did before they blopped around the U.S. in motorhomes and stayed connected via modern technology, but whatever. He vaguely hints at gypsy caravans, but that’s not satisfactory. They aren’t Roma peeps. They’re almost all Americans, doing American things. These are minor nits though.

A larger nit is the early reference to dogs. The True Knot doesn’t like dogs and dogs don’t like them. Got it. This is a gun placed on a table. And King forgot he put it there. If it was important enough to mention, which it is because normally motorhome peeps have some pooches traveling around with them, then it has to be used later. I’m surprised at King! There should have been a dog in the story later on. Bummer.

But the hugest plot hole of all is as follows. The Knot kills Bradley the baseball boy in 2011. Bradley, age 11, was feeling poorly that day because he was coming down with the measles. A few years later, the Knot begins getting the measles and dying. An half-baked idea is tossed out that maybe the Knot used to have immunity from “rube” diseases and now they don’t, sort of like genes turning off. OH COME ON!  This is totally insulting to the reader. Obviously the only reason this “measles device” is flung into the story two years after the Knot consumed Bradley’s measles steam, is to provide a reason why the Knot has to go after Abra right now. Otherwise, there’d be no compulsion to get going immediately.

Rose, the Knot leader, is already aware of super-shining steamgirl Abra (Danny’s niece) and definitely wants to eat her essence, but has been holding off. Now, as the Knot gets sicker and their steam reserves grow low, it becomes imperative to get Abra now. Abra’s super duper shiny steam will boost them all to fab youth and vigor, plus she’s most likely been vaccinated, so she’ll have the double-effect of protecting any Knots who haven’t caught the measles yet from any measles germies circulating in their systems from lil Bradley. Logical, yah?

Dan used this logic to destroy a big tangle of the Knot in the penultimate battle of the story as he unleashed his dead mother-in-law’s cancerous essence into the room where they were assembled. The creatures were forced to inhale her poisonous steam, at which point they shriveled up and disappeared. Ooh, so clever and satisfying! And the reader was gratified to know that Dan himself wasn’t dying of a weird mysterious stomach ailment that had been plaguing him during the trip to the Overlook (yes, of The Shining), but had simply been transporting Momo. Yay!

But but but…

HOLD ON A MINUET. Let’s back up here. In 2001, the Knot sensed something big was going down at the WTC and lumbered into NJ to watch the disaster. They fed off the “steam” of the terrified and dying people from the Twin Towers. Some of those essences naturally contained souls who had a little bit of the shining, so it was a “good feed” for the evil creatures. That’s all fine so far. (Sorta. Seemed like later on they had to be physically closer to their victims.) BUT BUT BUT. Doesn’t it also stand to reason that some of those doomed WTC souls also had cancer, heart disease, flu, measles, whatever?

HELLOOOO?!?!?! The poor peeps from the Towers couldn’t have all been perfectly healthy and disease-free with pure, clean steam. Why weren’t the Knot getting sick from all kinds of stuff between 2001 and Bradley-time?

And what about the years and decades and centuries prior to that? The Knot never killed a kid who was sick before? They never inhaled “bad” steam? Bradley was the only one? Not believable! All the reader has to go on is this throwaway non-explanation that maybe the Knot’s scyfy genes turned off their protective immunity mechanisms the same way normal humans are programmed to age and die at some point. Meh.

I submit that King’s premise of the Knot staying healthy until Bradley’s measles is a fatal flaw of Doctor Sleep.

I am totally disappointed in him for this.

PS: I’ve searched for anyone else picking up on the fatal flaw I found, and so far have not found any discussion whatever. Am I off-base? No. People are not willing to see it because they are too busy praising King or else they’re criticizing the book for not being “scary” enough, which is just silly. Horror is like porn. If this doesn’t get you going, you’re too immersed in the genre. Take a looooong break.

Skimming the Surface

I like working. I like jumping into an all-consuming project where the hours just fly by and I forget about lunch, forget to check my phone for messages, and 5:30 comes before I even realize it. I’m not one of those Monday haters. In fact, work saved me, not just financially, but emotionally when I went through all my crises of the past 15 years. It’s been my rock. But I didn’t realize I missed working full-time until I began again. When I stayed home with the kids and la-la’d around, skimming the surface of the days, I thought I liked my life that way. But I prefer working, having a place to go every day, and a reason to get up and get ready in the mornings. Several years ago, when I was first divorced, I met a man online who lived far away. For whatever reason, he fell for me and offered the possibility of a future where I could be with him and no longer had to work. That held no appeal. It seemed a regression to a superficial life, where I sit at the table and see what’s on the surface, but am not allowed to look beneath… and who knows what lurks under there. Despite everything, I’m happy now. That may seem a surprise, since I complain a lot, but that’s what bloggery is for. I can’t very well go on and on about hey it’s a nice day and nothing went wrong, the sky’s blue, and I don’t have a headache. I’d lose my 12 fans!

This isn’t what I meant to write. I was thinking to say something about how I’ve been skimming the surface of a lot of books lately and not finishing them, which is why new ones aren’t appearing as fast on the sidebar there (unless I get halfway I don’t think it’s fair to say I read it/star it). I have no idea what happened, but I guess we’ll go with this. My 15 year workaversary is coming up at the end of the month, so it feels appropriate.

~*~

Via The Daily Prompt: Surface

Two for Tuesday ~ Cold Hearts

1. Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag. I read 8 chapters (117 pages) of this suspense novel before giving up. I think that’s a fair shot. And the thing is, I don’t really have anything bad to say about the book. It’s well-written, very suspenseful, gory, and exciting. I could have easily continued on to watch poor messed up Dana emerge from her confused mental state following her horrific ordeal at the hands of a madman. I could have hung on for the ride as Dana figured out exactly what the hell went on 7 years ago with her best friend Casey and that handsome tormented soldier turned pizza guy who of course will turn out to be some kinda hero there in the small town in Indiana. Dana has to return to said ‘burb as she recovers from the madman attack in order to be cared for by her sweet mom and her creepy rich politician stepdad, who just has to be some kind of nogoodnik, right?

But I just don’t care. That’s the thing, I guess. In those 117 pages Hoag has not made me care about Dana enough to plow on through her physical therapy and nightmares and stuff. That’s all a lot of work for me, the reader, and I suppose I’m a bit lazy these days. You gotta make me care about the protag if I’m gonna slog to her doctor’s appointments and deal with her anxiety attacks. Hoag has Dana freaking out at every shadow and that gets tiring really fast. See, Dana was this super pretty blonde high school girl who hung around with this super pretty brunette Casey yada yada and then … something happened to Casey, we don’t know what yet, maybe she’s dead, we’re not sure, but Dana went on to college and began her perky journalism career in Minnesota until the madman attack. But so? Why should I care? What about Dana is compelling here? Why should I hold her hand as she struggles for words and freaks out at every little trigger? Some of it is so gory that it’s triggering for me and I am not invested emotionally enough in the protagonist to bear with the story.

That’s what a writer needs to do. Make us care. If this were a movie, I might stick with it because it would be filmed dramatically with voices, expressions, music, etc., and it would engage me in a more visceral way. But reading is a different experience. Scenes play in my mind, with some input from me to fill out the descriptions, and the writer needs to engage me emotionally by making me identify with the protag, in order for me to want to turn those pages. I probably would have cared more about Dana if she’d been an ordinary high school girl instead of a popular perfect girl who never struggled. I’m supposed to relate to a cheerleader? Meh. And Dana does nothing remarkable during her career to make me root for her during her recovery. There was a hint she may have done a heartwarming story about an animal shelter… now that could have grabbed me. Make Dana an animal rescuer, yeah! But… nothin’. Just a pretty pretty princess. Feh.

(Obviously I’m in the minority here because this book has racked up loads of fab reviews.)

2. Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas. Ah, now this one I loved! This was a traditional hot old-fashioned romance novel, set in London in… idk, whenever they were messing up the tenant farmers’ way of life by ripping up the land with railroads (1850s?). Our hero Devon inherits an earl’s title and some lands plus a decrepit castle, and before he sees any of it has already decided to sell off the lot because he doesn’t want to be bothered with any earlish nonsense. His younger drunken brother agrees with this plan and both gents are totes hilarious, as one would expect from well-educated snotty Brits. Lisa doesn’t make me care about these two at the start ~ they’re obnoxious after all ~ but I’m drawn in regardless because they’re so funny and I want to see what happens.

Next we meet Kathleen, the late earl’s widow, who’s a total icy bitch. Now, CHR gets a lot of bad reviews because readers dislike how Devon treats Kathleen at the start, but hello he is a COLD-HEARTED RAKE, remember? And he’s not treating some sweet little miss to his cold-hearted rakishness and causing her to have an anxiety attack ~ he’s being rakish to someone who can take it, freeze it over, and fling it right back in his snarky face. A match made in heaven! I enjoyed their witty banter so much. I loved the supporting cast too: brother Weston, as mentioned, the late earl’s sisters, the servants, the tenants, etc. Lisa took great care to give all her characters distinct and interesting traits. I know there will be more novels coming with some of the other characters in starring roles and I hope to read those as well.

Lisa drew me in by first creating interesting characters, though they certainly didn’t seem like nice people. That’s not necessarily important (many of us were riveted to Tony Soprano’s antics week after week and he was an asshole). Devon and Kathleen were complex. I wanted to figure out what made them tick; I wanted to see what they’d do next. And the story itself was interesting ~ it seemed impossible that the castle and lands could be saved. How would they get the money? As D&K worked on the estate, their personal relationship deepened, and they changed. They began to care more about each other, and then about things beyond themselves. I know, I know, some of you think romance novels are soooo shallow. But the good ones are not.

This was one of the good ones.

Jenga Stack of Pain

Jenga

I’ve just finished Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt. It’s a fabulous book, so beautifully written, and I highly recommend it. More and more I enjoy stories that aren’t told “straight.” I want to figure things out with the protag, knowing that what s/he tells me might not be correct at all. Facts get mangled, dialog is misremembered, perceptions fade over time. That’s the way we live our lives, isn’t it? We try to interpret the shadows best we can, and sometimes we hold onto ideas that are terribly wrong.

Last night I fell asleep while reading the book and dreamt I’d finished it. I woke up unable to remember the ending and became a bit upset. Had my memory become that bad? But no. I had about 20% left to read. Whew! The story is so engrossing that I got tangled up in the mommy emotions to the point where I thought I couldn’t bear it. There are some thoughts I simply can’t entertain. But I did finish, for real.

When I began this poast, I wanted to use the Jenga quote for my title, but I couldn’t search for it, since this was a real book. I took my best shot… and it turned out to be incorrect. The quote (found the old-fashioned way) is as follows:

I need him to be strong–not for me, for himself–because I was able to cope, have been coping, but I just can’t add any more weight to my Jenga stack of agony. (p. 396)

This is pure awesomeness.

I was going to blather on about my own life and how I discovered strength when I thought I had none, after people told me I was incapable of doing anything on my own, bla bla bla, how I piled everything on very carefully and it’s holding steady, which is why I can’t deal with any new drama whatsoever, etc., but who cares? Read the book. It’s so good.

South on Highland

I read Liana Maeby’s book South on Highland a few days ago. It’s hard to explain how I felt about it ~ basically, loved the writing and disliked the story. How does that make any sense? Idk, but it’s the best I can do.

Maeby’s writing is fresh and interesting. She really knows how to develop a story. Pacing, metaphors, style… all that. Wonderful!

But I simply did not like the story she told. This may be the first time I could so clearly separate writing from story in this direction. Many times, I’ve started to enjoy a story but didn’t finish the book because the writing was so awful. I’m sure you’ve been there too. The plot/characters were interesting, but there were so many errors in spelling/tense/grammar that I couldn’t focus. Not the case with Maeby ~ her writing is perfect.

It’s not that Maeby’s protag was merely unlikeable ~ I actively despised her. I knew I couldn’t hope she would die because it was in first person, but still… ughhh. Spoiled princess abuses substances to the extreme, squanders her talent, goes to rehab. Loads of promiscuous and stupid sex. Creepy and despicable supporting cast. Etc. We’ve all read a story like this before and seen one on TV. Yet… yet… the writing was so damn good. I had to finish the book.

And finally… the ending. A semi-redemption. Not going to say a word about it because I think you should read this book for the writing and I hope the ending blows you away too. It didn’t cause me to like the protag any better but goddamn was that a surprise and… it made me envious that someone could write like that. When I start to feel those green claws scratching at me, I know I’ve discovered a good writer.

I found this interview of Maeby and was happy to see that SoH was less of a memoir than I had assumed. It made me like the author more to read that she spent three years writing this book, sober, and the story began as a satire of the recovery culture, but morphed into something serious. Cool. I can totally see the seeds of satire now that she said this. It really is over the top. OK. So, I’ve followed Maeby on Amazon and Twitter (she’s fucking funny, yo), and I’ll read her next book, hoping for a story that appeals to me.

Disclosure: I gave SoH only 3 stars on Goodreads, but I don’t think of that as a “bad” rating. Three stars means you liked the book. That was my compromise between loving the writing and hating the story. Two stars means it was okay, and I wanted to give more than that. But 4 is really liked it and 5 is amazing, so those would not have been accurate. (One is did not like.) I think Amazon has a better 5-star system: hate, dislike, okay, like, love. On that system, SoH gets a 4-star rating.

Bombs Away!

I finished The Slow Burn of Silence by Loreth Anne White the other day and have some things to say.

First, I’m more disappointed when a book I like annoys me than when I give up by page 10 or so. I stuck with TSBOS all the way through because I really dug the storyline and characters, but dammit why…

(Second) Why why WHY would White choose to write in “normal” third person past tense for most scenes yet inexplicably switch to first person present for the heroine’s POV? There was absolutely no reason for this. Rachel’s POV sections could easily have been written the same as the rest. It was maddening when the shifts occurred (despite being in separate scenes). Totally distracting.

(Third) Too many coinkydinks, especially those happening all at once. Just as the SHTF in one area, someone else’s wife just happens to stumble upon a pile of clues in his workshop though they’d been there for years. And the entire violent past incident/evidence/conviction that caused the whole mess was a series of flimsy coinkydinks piled atop a turtle and just… ugh. Yet, I suppose it illustrates how a person can be framed for a crime he didn’t commit if everyone involved manages to keep silent for years. Irritating regardless.

(Fourth) I was gonna say that the sex scenes were totally unrealistic, but I have been schooled on Facebook that some men are indeed capable of performing after getting beaten with a tire iron and left to burn in a fire, so nevermind.

(Fifth) BOMBING. Omg. Bombing. Early on, White uses the phrase “bombing down the mountain” to describe fast, reckless driving and I liked it. A cool, fresh usage. Wonderful! But then she used it again. And again. And again. For driving and bike riding and rain and whatever. It drove me insane. I would have given TSBOS four stars on Goodreads, but this knocked it down to three.

So here’s my rule: when you create a clever new turn of phrase, you get to use it once per story. ONCE. No exceptions. One bomb per book. That’s it.

Bombs

Romance, Realistic and Otterwise

So, I went to B&N the other day and checked out the romance novel section. As usual, the emphasis was on cowboys, dukes, and vampires. Just look at these guys ~ aren’t they to die for?

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I think I’ve made it clear how I feel about vampire romances (puke) and I have similar sentiments toward the cowboy subgenre.

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I remember a time when it was a thing to feature a Native American hero, but I don’t see much of that anymore. Often he’d be half-white, so he could float back into society and pass as an English gentleman or wotever. Probably that’s all way too racist now, so writers stay away from it.

However the duke will always be with us! Not a fat, gouty, nasty old man, but a young handsome studmuffin. Often, he’ll pose as a pirate or highwayman for some convoluted reason and end up kidnapping our heroine by mistake. But it’ll get sorted out after loads of misunderstandings, no worries. I confess that I am partial to the ducal romances.

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Hey, how’d that viscount sneak in there?

Here’s a new thing ~ the Realistic Romance section. What could that possibly mean? Well, let’s check it out…

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Ah, these would be the firemen, bikers, and billionaires. Much more realistic. I mean, vampires don’t even exist, ffs, but firemen sure do. And also 30 year old billionaires, natch. Who wouldn’t want to nab one of those ruthless dudes and his Lamborghini too? And motorcycle gang members, yummy. Just like on Sons of Anarchy, except with a happy ending.

For whatever reason, I’ve been gravitating more to mysteries lately. And poetry. But it was fun to cruise the romance aisle for old time’s sake.

Depth Perception

DP-cover

Please consider buying and reading my new book of pomes. Free on Kindle Unlimited!

It would be great to get reviews.

Thank you. 🙂