Friday, August 15, 2014

Southern Flavor

There's a big difference between going somewhere and reading about it. For example, I watched a superhero movie the other day in which Park Ave near Grand Central Terminal got totally destroyed. That hasn't happened ONCE since I got here. Monsters and storms are always wrecking this city, yet the only thing I have to complain about is being crushed by the mass of humanity that is 8+ million people on my daily commute (that's actually a big deal to me and I'll be leaving as soon as possible).

Memphis was almost the opposite. It was so boring there (nothing happening in the suburbs, nothing happening downtown -- unless you were a tourist who wanted to walk down the 2 blocks that is Beale Street) that I left when I was adult enough not to have my parents follow me. But when I write, I like to include Memphis as one of my settings (in The Silent Treatment I definitely did, and I've hinted at it in others). Why? Because Memphis is more interesting on paper, as any of my hair clients will mention when I tell them where I'm from.

Sleeping with the Crawfish* by Don J. Donaldson is set a little bit in Memphis. Not so much that I felt like I was sitting in morning rush hour traffic on I-40, but enough to make me glance away from the text occasionally and think, "Yeah. I miss it." And the author didn't only focus on the cliche touristy places (such as the aforementioned Beale Street), he takes the characters into a lived-in city.

The bulk of the book is set in New Orleans and surrounding areas. (Question: does everyone in New Orleans have a French last name?) While the author does write a bit in dialect (mostly in the form of leavin' a G off the ends of words), it doesn't distract from the story.

This book surprised me. The writing was fluid and nearly invisible. The story kept me going (in the whole "one more chapter... and one more..." vein) and kept me guessing.

For the squeamish, there's loads of information about how a body is cremated. I found this fascinating, but some might be weirded out. You know what, though? This is a murder mystery with shootings and cars in the bayou and foot chases (with guns) and people getting locked in giant freezers. Grizzly stuff is all part of the genre, and it's why I love mysteries so much.

While the plot did involve a web of deceit I kind of got confused with (especially with the lengthy "here's how it happened" at the end), the story was exciting and ended in a satisfying way.

Though this book appears late in the series, it wasn't difficult to get to know (and love) the characters. Hints at past plots make me want to go back and read the other books.

Don J. Donaldson, you have a new fan.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Unwritten

A lot of things I "didn't like" as a kid and young adult had a lot to do with my early influences. Mom doesn't like gold jewelry, so I don't like it either. Dad doesn't like opera, so I think it sucks too. Meeting people from the internet is dangerous folly, so I don't do that. And people who read comic books, well, they live in their mom's basement and fix their glasses with tape, don't they?

Well...

Having an opinion about something is all well and good, but what's good for one person (silver jewelry only) isn't necessarily good for me (a little gold is actually really pretty). So I delved into some of the things I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole earlier, and what do you know? Keeping yourself open to new ideas is good. Opera is unbearably beautiful sometimes. I married someone from the internet. And recently, I started reading comic books.

Hard to get over the stigma sometimes. The way these stories are set up sometimes is freakishly beautiful. Combine reading a book with watching a subtitled movie -- it's a little like that. But that doesn't really matter when I'm carrying one of these books around my house like someone might ask me to solve a calculus problem (that is to say, hoping I won't run into anyone). Hey, I'm a married adult! I work in the beauty industry! I read books without pictures in them! I can't just walk into a comic book store and have everyone stare at me.

Okay, but I did do it. I walked in. Not only did everyone not stare at me for being a woman amongst the nerds, there were loads of regular-looking women there. Women worked there. Not only that, at every turn, I'd see something and go, "Ooh!" So either the nerd stereotype is way overblown, or I am one and need to embrace that.

THE UNWRITTEN



When I read that this series was about a man who's father had written a book about a "boy wizard" (similar to Harry Potter), and that people thought the son was actually the character come to life, I was intrigued. As the story progresses, we flash back to Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, etc. The literary geek in me is squealing (and the "regular" part of me is hoping my husband isn't going to come in the room and laugh -- but screw it: he's reading Game of Thrones and talking to me in Olde Englishe).

While this series is more fanciful than Habibi or Daytripper, it is a lot of fun. And when I get my hands on the remaining 60something issues, you can bet I'm holing up that weekend to finish it in one gulp.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Broken Monsters

It's been a while since I've read a book I loved as much as Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. Unfortunately for all of you, it won't be released until September 16th. I got my copy at the mass of humanity that was BookCon. (Until July 16, you can enter to win at Goodreads.)


The story follows several seemingly disconnected people, and involves a serial killer in Detroit. I mean, it sounds a little interesting, but something violent happening in Detroit? Not exactly a shocker. However, the first victim is a boy who has been cut in half and fused with half a deer. (That isn't a spoiler; it happens in the first 2 pages -- and on the cover in some instances.)

It's hard to explain. This book wasn't great because of the plot or because of the characters ... maybe it was because of the way it was written. Reading made me jealous at best. Maybe I'm not supposed to compare myself to other writers, but I kept looking for something, some trick that made what she'd done possible ... but every time I tried to read objectively, I kept getting sucked into the story until the words melted into pictures in my head. Damn you, Lauren Beukes. I love you so much.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

9/11 Museum "Cross"


I came across this picture in my Facebook feed today. Instead of saying something there (where my Bible-Belt friends and family will likely see me as being argumentative), I've decided to take it here.

First of all, I like to do a Google search to find out if this is actually a thing or not. I searched 9/11 Museum Cross. Turns out, it's a thing. Atheists are trying to get the "cross" removed because it offends them.

Full disclosure: yes, I'm a Christian.

So let's look at what this actually is: it's a piece of the original twin towers that was found in the rubble. Just like pictures in the clouds, some people found meaning in its shape.

The cross, by nature, is an extremely simple symbol, unlike the Star of David
or the Om
or a crescent and star.

All easily recognizable, but more complicated than this:

My entire point is this: if workers intentionally sawed the artifact to look like a cross in order to be a comforting symbol for Christians, the Atheists would have something to yell about.


But if this is a part of the old building, just a random formation that looks a little like something else, then yes, this belongs in the museum. Everybody chill out.


I'd love to hear other opinions about this, for or against. Please leave your comments.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reading of the Picture Variety

This post will be all about books with pictures. Love me some pictures.

Paris Versus New York by Vahram Muratyan

We have this book at my salon because it's located in New York, and my boss is from Paris. On a particularly slow day, I cracked this baby open and read it cover-to-cover (which was easy,  because it's literally all illustrations).

Never once does the author try to say one city is better than the other, it's simply a comparison. He also has these illustrations on his blog (which is where my samples are from): http://parisvsnyc.blogspot.com


Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction

Got this (and the following comics) as a free issue at BookCon.

If you can stop time with the power of your ... sexiness(?)... what do you do? Rob a bank or something.

The artwork is beautiful, and the sex, while explicit, isn't uncomfortably graphic.





Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna

Not much in the way of story in the first issue, but we learn that Alex is living in the future (and there's some cool new technology around), and he's lonely. At the end, he gets a gift from his grandmother: a robot girlfriend. Creepy? Yeah, Grandma, it is. But thanks. I would like to see where this one goes.


Revival by Tim Seeley

Didn't capture my attention like the above 2 comics. Small town sherif and maybe some zombies. I enjoyed the artwork, but by the end, an old lady was pulling her own teeth out, and I just can't stomach stuff like that.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What Have I Been Reading?

Lots of catching up to do. Turns out, when a person is stressed about something in one's everyday life, one delves into the fantasy world to ease that burden.

Let's get started.

Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

I won this book in GoodReads' First Reads program (which I love).
The first thing that struck me about this book is its cover art. I could look at it all day. This is a YA book, which usually means dragons and dystopia what have you, but this one is realistic.

Clare's brother Luke has been in jail a lot for "being in the wrong place at the wrong time." Clare adores him, looks forward to his visits. As she gets older, she realizes (mostly through other people's reactions) that Luke might not be such a stand-up guy.

Wonderfully written. Kept me interested, and I never once felt the book was "too young" for me. Why have I not been reading more YA?



Split by Swati Avasthi

Another YA, from the audiobook version. First a word about the narrator: He reminded me of David Sedaris*, but not in a good way. The reading was slow and emotionless (?). I thought about stopping the audio and going to the library to get a paper version, but then I realized I can speed up this guy's reading on my iPod, so I did.

*Don't get me wrong, I love David Sedaris. I won't read one of his books anymore unless it's him reading to me. My favorite is when he does the middle-aged woman's smoking voice ("Doll babies" anyone?), or when he sings like Billie Holliday in "The Santaland Diaries".

But that's way, way off subject.
This book (Split) is about 2 brothers who have been abused by their father. One escapes before the other, and they end up living together and trying to rescue their mother. As anyone who knows anything about abuse can tell you, sometimes it's harder than you might imagine to leave. She still loves him, the good times are really good, he gives me so much, etc. This book does a great job at showing all sides of the story without painting any one person as a big ol' baddie.

I felt the story ran long, though (especially the detailed descriptions of the soccer games -- can we, as a rule, cut sports scenes from books? Or do some people really like that stuff?), and I was happy to start something else.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Wow. This book was told mostly from the prospective of a child, and I felt like the title of the book describes that kid's personality. Always talking right up in your face. But instead of wanting to get far, far away from him, he was interesting and just on paper.

I didn't realize this book would be a mystery, but it kind of was. Oskar's dad died in one of the twin towers, leaving behind a key in his closet. Oskar finds the key and makes it his life's mission to find out what it opens.

The story also follows his grandmother and grandfather through letters, which is confusing at first, but then works really well.

Foer also uses pictures within the text, which isn't usual, but also fit right in with the story. Oskar finds and keeps strange pictures and puts them in a folder, and occasionally flips through them. It's so much like Oskar is talking to us, and then takes a breather, and it's so quiet.

Very nicely done. Touching story.

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre

I got this book as a free ARC at BookCon. Mostly, I was grabbing anything there that looked vaguely interesting -- and look at this cover! How can you not pick this up? The woman at the table said it was "like 50 Shades of Dexter."

Jessica (or Deanna) is a webcam girl who charges $6.99/minute. (Use your imagination.) She's also a self-imposed shut-in because she may or may not brutally murder the next person she sees.

As I've discovered with books like The Shining, stories about a limited number of characters can work really well. This one does too.

Jessica stays shut in until she figures out one of her clients might be about to kidnap and rape a young girl, and she can't very well not leave her apartment and try to stop this. "Let's put my murder-y powers to good use!" she says (paraphrased).

This book was just enough sexy and just enough scary. I loved every minute.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

BookCon 2014


Grumpy Cat kind of nailed it. She was there, yes. And I got a tiny glimpse (although I didn't stand in the 2+ hr long line to get a picture -- although the one I would have taken would be me standing next to her with my purse wide open with the appearance that I'm coaxing her inside, while she's got a "get this b**** away from me" expression).

I got 2 tote bags, filled one of them with free books (including Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes) and "swag". Excited to read some of it (a few books, once I read their descriptions, discreetly abandoned them at the convention so as not to weigh my bag down more than it was).




Stood in line for one (1) autograph: Adi Alsaid. 2 reasons: I want to read his book (Let's Get Lost), and I could see the end of the line. Unfortunately, by the time I got to him, all he had left were sample books. No big deal. He also had a car decked out like the book cover, and I thought about how cool that would be if a car was decorated like one of my books ... maybe I should try and work with Harlequin.

Even he displayed a certain "I'm exhausted" quality.
Did I enjoy BookCon? Mostly. But it was small, cramped, crowded, and there were lines everywhere. I accidentally stood in several lines just because I wanted to get down an aisle and got stuck. People around me were complaining about every little thing -- almost nobody seemed excited (some downright angry), which brought down the whole spirit of being there. Also, NYC knows when you're trapped and need to have lunch. I spent 8 g****d***n dollars on a small fries and cup of water. Also the line to the one, single ladies room was like an attraction in itself.


So, because I didn't stand in any huge lines to see authors I really wanted to see (which would have taken all my time), I was able to comb the exhibits several times (because they put out new free stuff every hour or so). Maybe next year the space will be better organized (dare I hope: a little more spread out??), or I'll figure out how to go to Book Expo America instead.