Thursday, August 27, 2009

Club Dead” Charlaine Harris

Why I read it: To keep the boy reading book four, so he could stay ahead of me. He told me he didn’t have a clue who they were talking about in Book 1 with Elvis, and it only became clear to him in book 3, because book 1 never named him directly. I was thinking that would be a problem. Teens are not the target audience of this series, and he’s had little exposure to Elvis culture.

Bookmark: White Birch Books, North Conway, New Hampshire.

Tastes Like Chicken: “Tea With the Black Dragon”, but maybe only because there was time spent in a car trunk. Also, Sookie took a lot of damage in this one, lost a lot of blood.

What I Liked: The thread of her having no money and Bill being kind of oblivious, while everyone else noticed, was good. He’s not a really good mate.

Not so Much: This is the second one in a row that has gone to a different city for its middle, and I find myself hungering for the small town.

Lesson: Once again the mystery thing. I see how it simplifies plotting to have such an obvious goal. The multiple threads are cool. I think I’m trying to do that in my novel, not sure if it’s entirely successful yet. Something to work on. Also, while the voice works, I wish there was more depth. These are like candy. A few references to the “word-a-day” calendar and paperbacks as a source of education aren’t enough. Maybe this is what happens when you write like three books per year? I am hungering for something richer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

“Living Dead in Dallas” by Charlaine Harris

Why I read it: So I could converse about it with the boy.

Bookmark: Still with the bill for the brakes.

Tastes Like Chicken: “Sarah”

What I Liked: The dinner conversation with the boy about the orgy scene was pretty funny. That was a depressing orgy. I think Charlaine prefers her sex fairly conventional.

Not so Much: I don’t find it terribly believable that all these creatures have just been sitting around for years and years, and now they’re suddenly out in the open.

Lesson: It’s interesting to read these and watch the world-building go on. The plot is good, very standard mystery fare I suppose. The hook is the weres and vamps. Neat to see how they’re put together.

“Burmese Days” by George Orwell

Why I read it: It was lying around. In an interview I read a while back with a former coworker who was running for public office, she’d said her favorite author was George. That made me curious. I may look for some of his essays next.

Bookmark: That bill for car brakes again. I don’t seem to want to forget I paid that.

Tastes Like Chicken: “An Icecream War”, probably because they were both about the collapse of the British empire.

What I Liked: The introduction (there were two – this was the first one – said that I would find it hard to believe that the British behaved like that in the 20th Century, and that is true. The characters and place were very believable.

Not so Much: I found it a vaguely distressing read, and had to put it down frequently. I think that’s because the characters were very believable and I didn’t want to see Flory get hurt. Also, the ending wrapped everything up nicely, but I wasn’t happy with Flory’s outcome. I was quite satisfied with Elizabeth’s, though.

Lesson: This was nothing at all like “Animal Farm” or “1984”, which proves one doesn’t have to stick to a genre.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris

Why I read it: I bought the boxed set because I’m curious about urban fantasy, since I claim to have written one. The boy had already read the first two.

Bookmark: Bill for car brakes – front and back rotors and pads, $722.

Tastes Like Chicken: Laurel K. Hamilton.

What I Liked: The idea of telepathy as a disability, and how it has limited Sookie’s relationship and education, seem well thought-out. The small town atmosphere was well-created, and the voice was natural (first person).

Not so Much: Got confused occasionally. There were a lot of named characters.

Lesson: This isn’t urban fantasy. It takes place in rural Louisiana. Genre names are meaningless.

“Troll’s Eye View” Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling

Why I read it: There was a review on Salon, and I like many of the authors.

Bookmark: Library receipt

Tastes Like Chicken: Stuff by the same authors

What I Liked: What I thought I would – familiar stories turned on their heads. I particularly liked the Holly Black werewolf story, the Kelly Link mashup, Nancy Farmer’s blend of Othello and Bluebeard (I always like bluebeard) and James Cadnum’s Rumplestiltskin. Of thosefour, the only one I’m not familiar with is Cadnum, so I guess I’ll have to look him up.

Not so Much: references to iPods and the like will, I think, date some of these stories quickly.

Lesson: Particularly liked how Othello worked, because it blended two stories. He had two strikes against him, and he still won, which was nice. Not so much for children, that one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"City of Glass" by Cassandra Clare

Why I read it: Wanted to know what happened next, and the boy will probably ask me why I hadn't, if I didn't read it.

Bookmark: Chapters Love of reading fund

Tastes like Chicken: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the series. I tried to turn the boy onto Buffy after finishing this book, but he wouldn't even put season 1 in the DVD player. Wimp!

What I liked: Jace's conflict was good.

Not so much: The boy told me one of the key plot points (maybe I should have waited until I forgot before I read the book, so it wouldn't have been ruined) so I spent a lot of time knowing something I shouldn't have known, and therefore guessing something about another character that should have come as a complete surprise.

Lesson: I can read a series from start to finish. Sometimes I wonder.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"City of Ashes" by Cassandra Clare

Why I read it: The boy was nagging me to. I finished book one what, three weeks ago?

Bookmark: Chapters love of reading fund (this one is getting a lot of use)

Tastes like chicken: Book one? That's pretty uninspired, I know.

What I liked: The story was really fast-paced and had plenty of surprises -- Simon, for one. And it was good, because it was so well planted, what wound up happening to Simon, and yet I didn't expect it, because there was so much else going on. I guess that's the trick -- have lots of stuff going on.

Not so much: Just one quibble: on page 70, Simon says he's kosher. He is so not kosher. People are treyf. Surely a good jewish boy would know that. Also, the introduction of a new character to set up book three on the second-last page of the book, to set up book 3? WTF? This seems like an example of editorial interference to me...

Lesson: Seeding the story -- different than foreshadowing, and yet similar.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oh and another thing

When I was at my local McNally Robinson store the other day, I happened by the Horror wall. OMG, what has happened to horror? There was one measly wall (maybe 5 feet wide) of this genre, and it included True Blood HBO tie-in books. Are we beyond fear?

Someone could make a living at this

There's this blog I read called Techdirt. It's full of stories about the new economy and copyright and patent and trademark law, and it also has tales of new media success. Most of the media success seems to be musicians making a living by harnessing the power of social media. They manage to sell t-shirts (I've been hearing since I started being interested in music that bands make their money not from CD sales, or concert tickets, but t-shirt sales).

I read a while back, I forget where on the internet, that unlike music fans, fiction readers don't buy t-shirts. It was probably something to with romance writers, probably linked to by booksquare. So anyway, the argument is that publishers need to keep charging huge sums for ebooks and stuff, because there are NO synergies (I know, 90s weasel-word) for novels, like there are for music.

And maybe I'm extremely rare, but I do not believe this to be true. Back long ago when I was reading that George R.R. Martin stuff, I desperately wanted a Winter is Coming t-shirt, probably grey with a wolf on it. In fact, I still do. Before I even realized that authors had websites, I had found a place to buy it. Or so I thought. After six months or so, Paypal returned my money to me, because the website could never get it together to send me a shirt.

There are other places on the web to get a Winter is Coming t-shirt. But I suspect that George R.R. Martin would not get my money if I bought from one of those places, and that makes me feel bad.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Finally after probably a year of saying I was going to, I joined the Online Writers Workshop. I've got two goals here.

1. I've read on a whole bunch of different blogs that writing crits is what really improved people's ability to review their own work.

2. I need to learn to receive feedback. I can sense myself doing that thing that I do, so I won't be too thin-skinned about stuff. I've been not looking at the stuff that I sent to VP (which is really hard, actually) and just trying to make the rest of the work more closely resemble the synopsis I wrote.

The boy made us see the latest Harry Potter movie last night. It really brought home for me how much book 6 was only really there to set things up for book 7.

On Sunday, we went to the local McNally Robinson. I went around looking for books by my future instructors. They had five different Scalzi books, and three Bear books. In fact, on the YA Feature wall (the theme was summer reads for older teens, maybe even boys (!) I believe), there was a stack of "Zoe's Tale", which I thought was nice. If they hadn't been trying to close shop around us, I might have bought something.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

"Greenwar" by Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon

Why I read it: Another VP instructor book. Also, some of the story takes place in Melbourne, Florida, which I have a personal connection to.

Bookmark: Library receipt.

Tastes like chicken: Those submarine thrillers Ed likes so much (I'm only guessing, as I've read only one of those, and he didn't think it was the best one ever). And a manual on how to scuba dive or build a deep ocean research station.

What I liked: Strong female character.

Not so much: Too much detail.

Lesson learned: Writing present or near-future is tough, because the detail you put in gets stale really fast. There were references to Internet email and Eudora and stuff like that, and those sorts of detail don't age well.