Wednesday, February 12, 2014

January 2013 Book Reviews AND writing stuff

I use Grammarly's plagiarism detector because it sucks to be an accidental dirty thief.

Just a plug for my list of helps for writers and artists. Grammarly is on there, along with several other online resources. It's good to learn the rules for everything in writing, but sometimes we need a little help. And now it's easier than ever. Because internet.

Book reviews for January 2013

I didn't read a lot last year. I was kinda busy. Graduating, moving, signing art contracts, writing and producing two short story anthologies. And now I have this series of Apocalyptic Nursery Rhymes that are starting to attract some attention. Hopefully the kind of attention that ends up in a book deal. But I'll just keep churning them out. Because they're fun.


On to the books:


 Annabel Scheme by Robin Sloan

Those of you who follow the book reviews will recognize this name. Remember Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Books Store? Remember that freaking genius Robin Sloan? Yeah, here's another creation of his that is mind-blowing.

Annabel is a Sherlock Holmes character. Hu is her AI Watson. It's set in a wild future that is strangely believable. Like Penumbra's. And it's this brilliant mashup of sci-fi, supernatural, sleuthing awesomeness.

And it's only $2.99 for Kindle (or Kindle enabled devices - that's ALL devices) on Amazon. What a deal.

I don't know if I talked about this, but I found Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Penumbra's, and Karen Russell's Swamplandia on the same table at the bookstore. I put the three stacks of books together and wrote a note on a Post-It and left it on top: READ THESE THREE BOOKS. I'M NOT KIDDING.
Seriously, people. I'm not kidding.



 The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

So I like fiction about time travel. Also movies. But they have to be done right. I am not a fan of chick flicks though. But this movie had time travel, so it had to be more awesome than your average chick flick, right? Like Happy Accidents. Right? Wrong. I didn't like the movie. But I saw it several years ago, and I saw this book at a library book sale for $1.00. Seriously who can resist that? Especially for a book that I've heard so many people rave about. And there have been plenty of good books that have failed movie interpretations. So I thought I would try it.

Here's what I liked about it: as a writer, I found the fractured chronology fascinating. How did Niffenegger possibly keep everything straight? I'm picturing 27,000 Post-Its in an ever-shifting grid.  What an accomplishment, narratively speaking.

Here's what I didn't like about it: I guess I just have trouble caring about whether they can be together or not. It's not enough meat for me, JUST the relationship being the driving conflict. This is what I don't like about chick flicks. I kept reading because I wanted to see how she tied the narrative together, through the time jumps. Also, the relationship between the two characters felt inappropriate enough to make me uncomfortable, when she was a child and he was visiting her as an adult, already in love with her. I can understand the author wanting to challenge our ideas about love, etc., but it just rubbed me the wrong way. Also there was some explicit sex. I can see why so many women love this book though. It says on the cover, "A soaring celebration of the victory of love over time." A lot of people would see it that way.

Warnings on: language, sex.



The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I love Laurie. I've never met her, so it's presumptuous for me to call her by her first name. But I do the same with Ray and Neil, so I suppose she couldn't complain, being in such esteemed company as those two men. My favorite books of Laurie's are Speak and Wintergirls, both incredibly insightful and gorgeously written. I adore Laurie's prose. She writes masterfully about difficult topics, including rape, eating disorders, teenage pregnancy, mental illness, and family dysfunction.

This book is no different, taking on PTSD in veterans in an intimate and heart-searing way. It tells the story of a teenage girl and her father, who is haunted by his time on active duty in the military. Having a father with his own ghosts, and being personally acquainted with several veterans and their challenges, I found this book to be a beautiful, poignant tribute to soldiers and their families everywhere.

Warnings on: language, violence


I still haven't finished Cloud Atlas, or Shift, or Rags & Bones. But I keep starting new books, like Pure by Julianna Baggott; which is brilliantly disturbing.

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