Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quickfire challenge - from Top Chef

My quickfire challenge... to give a rapid response review for a few books:

Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy.
Beautiful violence, didn't make me urp up as much as The Road, descriptions and details that all authors/writers aspire to, may be best to take in small doses.

4.0 out of 5.0 Cowboy Cocksucker.

I Never Saw Paris: A Tale of the Afterlife, by Harry I. Freund.
Typical Judeo-Christian view of the afterlife with a dash of humor, a couple very annoying characters, strange end, quick read, quickly forgotten.

2.0 out of 5.0 Screamin' Gulches.

Angels of a Lower Flight: One Woman's Mission to Save a Country ... One Child at a Time, by Susan Scott Krabacher.
Former Playboy centerfold loses God, finds Him again in her work for children in Haiti, does amazing things like builds schools and orphanages, good book for God's lambs who need to find a cause.

2.75 out of 5.0 Blonde Bombs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

77. "The Other Mother" - Gwendolyn Gross


The simmering anger of stay-at-home moms and working moms could torch the wood chips at playgrounds. I've experienced both sides, as well as the snooty sniffs over breastfeeding, babysitters, and homeschooling.

While I let go of that a long time ago ("you'll make a swell bartender someday, kid"), it seems to be as prevalent an issue. At least it is for Thea and Amanda, two neighbors who silently battle out their disapproval for each other's choices.

Add in some dead animals on the doorsteps and it could be a psychological thriller.

But it never achieves that pitch. Thea, the perfect SAH mom who makes cookies and never raises her voice, just wants a break, while Amanda, nanny in tow, just wants to survive the guilt. The reason for the dead animals has the dull ping as the last nail drops into the well.

2.0 out of 5.0 Sour Patch Kids Bombs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"I never said I'd lie and wait forever." - My Chemical Romance

So, you may have noticed some neglect, some dust across your title, even a dog licking at your pages. I've been busy, and, well, I don't think this is going to work out right now. No, no, it's not you. It's me. I've just... made other choices.

No, no, don't be like that. You're great. I mean, you've gotten critical acclaim and quotes from awesome authors and maybe even some awards. It's just not there. I'm not saying that we may not end up together, some blurry-cold evening, cuddled together with Aveda candles and Ciroc vodka. But, right now... it's just. You know.

Back to the library or shelves:

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Dingley Falls
Welcome to the Monkey House
The Sword and the Circle
Free Food for Millionaires
The Adventures of Augie March


Forgive me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

76. "Tree of Smoke" - Denis Johnson


*Sidenote* - the "D" on my library copy was a bit covered up, so my youngest son thought it read, "Penis Johnson." Which of course brought up that johnson is another word for penis, how this would be repetitive, and just how damn funny this is for young pre-teen boys.

Multiple characters carry this story, the first full-length novel by Johnson in almost 10 years. Sectioned year by year, right before the Vietnam War through its declining months, it follows the characters like a benevolent god as they muck through physical and psychological hell.

Skip Sands seems to be the nucleus, though his duties are lame and his purpose unclear. Eventually, I didn't care about his story and was relieved by the others who filled his place, whose more interesting lives were full of vivacious vitality only Johnson can wrangle into words.

Until page 480-ish. Then, I slipped down the rope until it turned to dental floss and snapped. The plot wouldn't hold me. Even the most beautifully assembled sentences tasted like the grit after a dental cleaning. So close.

3.5 out of 5.0 Vodka Paralyzers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

75. "The Last King of Scotland" - Giles Foden


Journalist Giles Foden, while not old enough to remember this conflict, writes about the rise of Ugandan president Idi Amin, and his reign of terror from 1971-1979.

A fictional Scottish doctor serving in the poorest regions of Uganda is chosen to serve as Amin's personal doctor. Garrigan's fascination overwhelms his repulsion of the dictator, and he finds himself slowly sucked into the world of manic madness.

Authentic historical events support the fictional memoir, which I typically love and find essential to the depth of the story. However, who is Garrigan? We are reading his faux memoirs, but I never find myself caring about his safety or his sanity. I would not go so far as to say he is a dislikable character, but worse, he is bland. It's like when the server asks if you want parmesan on that. Meh. Whatever.

Add a romance that seems based on boredom, yet influences Garrigan's choices. 2+2=5. There are some elementary problems with this storytelling. Perhaps a visit to characterization 101.

Is the movie better? I've followed my edict of book before flick, so I haven't seen it yet.

1.75 out of 5.0 Throw me to the floors.

"I am the man of constant sorrow," - Soggy Bottom Boys

Strep throat plus a kidney infection? Ahaha, yes. I am a representative of health for the masses.

Wait, no alcohol? For ten days? Whew, you're pushing it, Mr. doctor.

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Negotiations for one of my screenplays... wish me luck. Or evil. I'll take anything.

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I will take a step back from the banned books to read a plethora of new material. Someone put me on a reviewer's list (finally), so I have about 8 brand spankin' new books within my grasp. One step closer to my dream of reading for a living.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

74. "The Secret Life of Houdini" - William Kalush and Larry Sloman



Once upon a time, I spent hours in the grade school library studying Houdini and the Hindenburg. Not related, but next to each other in the non-fiction section.

Houdini fascinated me with his cool, steadfast eyes. Third grade was a time of secrets and, being the geekiest kid on the playground, I was left out of a lot. I vividly remember a circle of girls chanting, "Don't know homo!" I didn't. And it wasn't in the card catalogue, either.

So, when picking up my weekly allotment of reading material, I saw this new book. What more could be said?

A lot... everything from his work for different governments to his battle against mediums and seances. It is a biography for breakfast, filling and delicious, with enough mysteries left to render Houdini one of the most enamoring figures in history.

4.0 out of 5.0 Black Magics.

"She has received little attention in recent years and has been criticized as strident and eccentric."

- NPR reporter about Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Literature Prize, which was announced yesterday.

Strident and eccentric? Well, yes. We writers have other people talking to us that nobody else can hear. Der.

The Golden Notebook is now on my TBR list ASAP. UGT? PO.

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Vodka Saves Lives! See, I am doing you a service.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote."

- Emo Phillips

My little self-important blog was mentioned alongside such greats as Bookslut at Pete Anderson's mess of politics, writing, and books - Petelit.com. Too sweet, really. Especially his concern for my kids. Snicker. Or should I hiccup?

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2007 National Book Awards announced. Collective sigh of "meh?" And did Farrar, Straus & Giroux slip a couple bills between the books' pages or what?

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I'm losing my pace. Banned books have slipped under tomes from 2007. Those books hide beneath sheets of student work and character notes. As I said earlier this year, I'm writing again. It's the greatest piece of fiction that you will never read... or know that I've written. After a pissy time with my first book, I vowed to never publish under my name. Is this my name? Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

Even though I've slowed down, I will still meet this year's goal. Lucky readers... that means more cocktails for you.

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Now playing: Safety Scissors - I Am the Cheese
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

73. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" - Khaled Hosseini


Like The Hours, this book combines two separate stories in a three part novel, giving intimate looks at two Afghani women's lives, then putting the two together for the last "book."

Following the modern news of the Taliban and Kabul history, it is an interesting peek into the lives of these characters. However, the cliched turns of the women (familial pain, detachment from parents due to childish anger, surprise pregnancies after one chance with sex) make me wonder - not for the first time - why men feel as if they know enough about women to write stories about them. Sexist much? I don't think that's my issue. I'm tired of the cliches and unbelievable behavior. In this novel, for example, there is even the tired (but Kabul-icized) scene of the pillow fight that brings the women together in giggles and brick-solid comaradarie.

To say that I'm grossly disappointed is an understatement.

1.0 out of 5.0 Fire Bridgewater.

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Now playing: Kurt Masur; New York Philharmonic Orchestra - Beethoven: Symphony #5 In C Minor, Op. 67 - Allegro
via FoxyTunes