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Words and Such

I’m going to run out of titles like that at some point and have to get creative.

So, I missed last week’s review. That wasn’t on purpose, I just sort of had a rough week and fell off existence. Can’t say it won’t happen again, so I’m not even gonna try. I am working on a short run fix for it though, so there’s that.

Got some really cool reviews coming up. Some stuff that I’m behind on, some stuff that’s current, and some comics like I’ve been mentioning for years.

Beyond that, I don’t really have much to say. I’m tempted to run my mouth off about the stuff that’s coming up, but that would spoil the fun a bit. At some point I know I want to finish up the Kitty Norville series, but that’s a little ways off and I’d need to reread the penultimate book. I also want to do some structured stuff on tropes and writing habits that bug me, why they do, and what might work instead. Not sure how I’d have that labeled or how it would work in the long run.

Just general me throwing stuff at the walls.

Guest Post Tarrah Anders

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Tarrah Anders, the author of Frozen Over. Enjoy!

Hi! I’m Tarrah. A little background on me if we aren’t already acquainted:

I am a born and raised California girl, constant daydreamer, yet also a doer. My day job consists of managing subsidies for the homeless, and wrangling my toddler, step-daughter and husband into working together without utter chaos. Whereas my moonlighting gig is that writing some steamy words late into the night or randomly during the day.
I have a thing for monkeys, Scott Eastwood and guys with tattoos.

I’ve been writing since I was in middle school and throughout college. While it was a passion, I kept it under wraps and never vocalized or followed through with my desire to be a writer, until I read a horrible book and thought: ‘I could do better than that!’ And so I did.

I start out by writing the first chapter or few pages; I get my hook in there and then branch out from there. I’m an in-betweener – not a full on pantser or outliner – but I operate on the edge of both. Sometimes, I will sit and write for an entire day or sometimes I will go days without writing, those days drive me insane.

My writing style is that I try to keep on earth. I try my best to not be too unrealistic with my characters, what they do and how they live. I want my books to be relatable and not to create too many eye rolls, like when a character starts calling his love interest baby after knowing her for 5 minutes.  I mean c’mon – I’ve been married for almost six years and I still never call my husband “baby”!

I kept my writing romance from my husband for nearly two years, but finally told him because… royalties and taxes. He immediately tried to skip forward to any steamy scenes, then referred to the moment as in Lethal Weapon 4. My husband and I have a fun relationship, we’re both very sarcastic people and well, I was nervous to tell him that I moonlight in the romance author area purely due to him teasing me for reading the books in the first place. He now sporadically asks questions, but still manages to poke fun at me.

I’ve written and self-published 4 books and one novella (coming March 14th). They’re all dual point of view aside from the novella. Thematically, the novels are friends to lovers, random hook-ups and office romances mixed with a whole lot of fun in the middle.

So this brings me to my current book that is out. It’s titled: Frozen Over. It’s storyline is about a normal girl, who struggles to make ends meet with two jobs, and catching the attention of the owner of a modeling job she’s working on. While he struggles with his past, she makes his gooey warm center ooze and turns him from playboy to devoted boyfriend. There are of course obstacles and things trying to tear them apart, but they do reach their Happily Ever After. Tyson is your standard cocky playboy who doesn’t care for anyone’s feelings aside his own or those close to him, who is the CEO of a once dying fashion company. Allison is your standard girl, who works two jobs to take care of herself and have a roof over her head. She enters Tyson’s world and everything gets turned around.
I set out with the intention of making Frozen Over as a standalone, yet due to several requests I’m creating a spin off to go into two other characters stories.  I’m currently in the process of getting my fingers to work magic on the keyboard and make sense on the screen, with the hopes of having it out by the end of the summer.

It’s now in print right? So I have to get my butt moving!

The Sitter

Hey, guess who’s reviewing a fourteen year old book! This gal! So, yeah, there might be some spoilers here. I tried to avoid them, but this was surprisingly hard to talk about without getting into what, specifically, made my reactions happen. I got really hung up on one thing, guess what it was. That’s pretty well it though. I’ll have another post up probably tomorrow or Friday. For now, enjoy!

the-sitter-cover

Ellie Saks is at the end of her lease, the end of her temp job, and the end of her patience with her mother and her ex-boyfriend turned stalker Clay. So, she jumps at the opportunity to leave the city behind for a trip to the Hamptons for a summer of fun away from it all. A stroke of luck even lands her a babysitting job and place to stay. That luck turns sour though when someone starts sending her threatening notes and disturbing gifts. With a disturbed child to care for, a stalker on the loose, and a ghost story unfolding with her in the middle of it can Ellie figure out what’s going on or even survive her summer as the sitter?

Not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy The Sitter. This is one of those books that feels so, so like a lot of the books I have tremendous nostalgia for but with all the nostalgia stripped away and a painful attempt at retargeting its readership. See, R. L. Stine does a great job with teen horror, particularly cheesy teen horror. His books can be very formula and very like a B horror movie, but they tend to be fun and quick and you know what you’re getting in to when you pick one up. That’s sort of the case here and with a few changes this could have been a pretty standard Fear Street book. That’s part of the problem though, with The Sitter Stine tries too hard to make his book “adult” and it feels very forced. There’s a fair amount of profanity, some drinking, a really gross sex scene, drug use is mentioned, but it all feels like someone reminded Stine that he was writing for grownups after the book was already finished, so he just threw that all in.

So, that said, what made me dislike this book other than the audience related weirdness? There are a lot of things that get a pass in teen novels that shouldn’t and don’t in adult novels, this book for example had terrible foreshadowing. Early on, we find out about Ellie’s cat, he’s sweet and trusting and she misses him so because she couldn’t have him in her apartment. Yeah, he didn’t make it to the end of the book. The problem with that is twofold. Stine’s used killing the beloved family pet to gain a quick cheep hit to the feels before, several times actually, so as soon as the cat gets mentioned you know what’s going to happen. It’s a similar thing with the big twist at the end. It also ties into my next big issue.

A ton of terrible stuff happens between Lucky’s introduction and Lucky’s plot appointed death, but Ellie doesn’t seem to take that into account. The book’s plot was almost entirely reliant on the protagonist making stupid choices. Again, a lot of those choices would have made more sense in a book with a teenaged protagonist rather than one in her twenties both because relative youth and because a teen protagonist could be stuck being the sitter rather than it being a summer job. This bit is really hard to go into without spoilers, but our protagonist gets death threats and vile stuff mailed to her. She stays, doesn’t even talk to the police after like the second thing. Not for the threats, or her cat getting killed, or her stalker ex showing up and threatening her. Most of the tension in the book relies on the reader having never read R. L. Stine before and Ellie being an idiot.

Add to that, The Sitter has a ton of stuff going on that doesn’t seem to go anywhere until the end. There are chapters from the antagonist’s view point. They could have been cut entirely. There was a side plot about some curse on the guest house. That could have been cut. Clay probably should have been cut, he doesn’t really add much to the story and is basically made of cringe. The cat could have been cut, he was a completely pointless inclusion. Any of that could have been removed to tighten up the main plot and work the twist in better.

Those are my big issues with the book, everything else kind of spins off of those. It had a twist ending, but that was completely unsupported by the rest of the book. The only reason I didn’t see it coming was that it was so completely out of left field it came from another game entirely. It’s silly in the grand scheme of things, but this book made me angry. There were so many places where Stine could have done better, could have not done the blatantly obvious thing, could have shored up the writing instead of going into another side plot. This book gets a one, as much for what it could have been as for what it is.

Not posted on a Wednesday, but hey, I didn’t skip this week. Quick reminder that the giveaway for The People’s Police Giveaway is still going until midnight Sunday the 19th. This book’s one that I bought rather than being send to review. So, enjoy!

your-favorite-band-cannot-save-you-cover

Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band. You couldn’t say why if asked. You couldn’t even really say anything about the lyrics. But their music does something for you. To you. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard, and their singer, Airee MacPherson. She’s fantastic, completely out of this world.  Strange things keep happening with each new track they release. Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band, and your favorite band cannot save you.

Scotto Moore’s Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You: a tale in ten tracks is a quick fun read that’ll pull you along right to the end. The first two thirds of the book is solid genre fiction, but then it gets to a certain point and everything starts to feel kind of rushed. Think of it a little bit like a love letter to the Cthulhu mythos through the lens of modern internet culture.

There are a few bits that needed more attention throughout the book. Without that, the end isn’t a total big lipped alligator moment, but it does still feel under supported. I’d have liked more exposition on Aimee’s plan or the music itself, though the narrator’s limited knowledge goes a ways towards explaining that away.

My other big issue is with the characters. I legitimately cannot remember the narrator’s name or much of anything about him. The same goes for most of the characters that aren’t Airee, they sort of get lost in her or the music and just don’t come up again. I could easily say that this was a purposeful thing and that a big part of the point was a collective nothingness for humanity. It still doesn’t really work for me in the long run though, at the end of the day I’m still very much invested in character over plot.

More than anything, Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You reminds me of a B movie. Despite its faults, the story is aggressively readable and fast paced. It’s eyes off the action to build tension, which works well in a lot of ways. This is a book that could have been a lot better with a little work, but it doesn’t need it to be a fun book. If that makes sense at all. It’s fun, it’s fast, and at the end of the day I still really enjoyed it.

So, where does that leave us? While Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You has some issues, I still had a ton of fun with it. So, from me at least, it gets a four out of five.

Admitting a Thing

Sometimes I hate my writing. It feels repetitive and clunky and always always always like I’m using the wrong words to get my point across. I’ll get lost in trying to make a point without spoiling things or being aggressively negative, and then reread it and feel like I’m saying nothing. Sometimes I feel like I’m stalling out and the words scatter, or I get it in my head that I’m not a very interesting writer and I want to give up.

Sometimes I hate my writing, and that extends to the fictional stuff too. I’ll look at my dialogue and feel like it’s too stilted and faux formal. My action scenes fall flat. Sometimes it just feels like I’ve spent so much time with it on the back burner that it’s congealed and will never work quite right.

Sometimes I don’t hate my writing though. Those times are getting fewer and farther between lately, which sucks massively. But they still exist. Sometimes it feels like I might can make this whole thing work out and actually get somewhere with it. Sometimes I can even hold onto that when I hate my writing. I can hold it up to myself.

Sometimes I get tired of doubting myself and have to vomit words into the void. It’s a little weird like that, telling no one and everyone this one tiny huge secret so I can go back to calling myself the best thing ever.

I’m starting to sound like a pop song here. Someone set this to the four chords, let’s see what happens.

the-peoples-police-cover

As mentioned yesterday, I’ve got a giveaway for you all. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor I’ve got two copies of Norman Spinrad’s new novel, The People’s Police, that means two winners.

The giveaway will run from today until next Sunday the 19th at midnight central time and will be open to entries from the United States and Canada.

Standard rules apply: you’ll need to be following this blog to enter, the winners will be selected using a random number generator, and you’ll need to answer a question for your entry here.

So, question time readers, The People’s Police deals with the issues of those in charge caring more about the interests of the richest among us than the people at large. How do you react when it seems like the deck’s been stacked against you and how do you try and make it better?

Hey all, I’ve got something awesome for you tonight. The awesome folks at Tor have given me a sneak peek excerpt of Norman Spinrad’s new novel, The People’s Police, to share with y’all. I’ll also be hosting a giveaway for this novel, details will go live tomorrow. Enjoy!

the-peoples-police-cover

Chapter 1
Some folks are still bitching that the Eternal Mardi Gras is a Disney version, what with the traditional Krewes’ parading limited to the traditional lead-up to Fat Tuesday while the big budget corporate floats from Hollywood, Bollywood, and Pornywood parade all year, all long, all over New Orleans, which is sort of true, given that it was Disney I brought in first.

 

But whining that the Mouse has gone and done to the French Quarter what it did to Times Square, and oozed out into the rest of New Orleans like the annual dose of mud during the Hurricane Season, and calling yours truly, Jean-Baptiste Lafitte, a swamp rat traitor to the true soul of the city is going a tad too far, seeing as how the Quarter had fallen far off its fabled glory days even before Katrina.
You expect me to apologize for saving the city from drowning to death?
Oh yes, I did!
Everyone knows New Orleans had been on its economic ass for decades, barely able to pay the cops to keep the Swamp Alligators down in their lowlands swamps and out of the New Orleans Proper high grounds.

 

And the Hurricane Season wasn’t going away, now was it, and what the Dutch were demanding in order to save what was left of the Big Easy from finally going under would’ve been about the total budget of the city government for the next decade or two. No high-priced, high-tech Hans Brinker seawalls and solar windmill pumping stations back then, need I remind you?

 

I guess I do.

 

Amazing what short memories ingrates have.

 

New Orleans featured itself as the Big Easy since before Mickey Mouse was even a gleam in Uncle Walt’s evil eye, but just because the truth wouldn’t look so good in the tourist guides doesn’t mean we don’t all know that it’s always really been the Big Sleazy, now does it?

 

This city was making its living as a haven for pirates and slavers and the riverboat gamblers, saloon keepers and whorehouse impresarios like yours more or less truly, rollers high, low, and medium, who serviced their trade since before the Louisiana Purchase.
The Big Easy was born as the Big Sleazy. Easy?

 

Yeah, sure.

 

Born between a bend in the mighty and mighty ornery Mississip and a briny marsh presumed to call itself Lake Pontchartrain serving as an overflowing catch-basin for tidal surges when the major hurricanes hit and a giant mud puddle in-between.

 

Easy?

 

First built precariously on the natural levees of the Mississippi, expanding greedily and stupidly into the back swamps. Tossed around like a beachball between the French and the Spanish. Finally sold to the Americans by Napoleon on the cheap because he knows he’s gonna lose it to the British anyway if he doesn’t. Flooded every few decades even before Katrina, before there even was an annual Hurricane Season, squeezing what remained onto what high ground was left to it after the sea level rose. The population cut almost in half, forced to live off the tourist and entertainment trade alone when the Gulf oil dried up, just about surrounded by the Alligator Swamp and what crawled up out of it if its back was turned.

 

You call that Easy?

 

Those who adapt survive, like the Cajuns from icy Quebec said when they found themselves in the steamin’ bayous of the Delta, like the Alligator Swamp nutria hunters turning a plague into protein. Those who don’t ain’t been heard from lately. So making legal what the Big Easy always was to pull our terminal condition from the mud is not “selling out the soul of the city” or “whoring ourselves to the mavens of show business.”
Because the Big Easy has always been a whore, a charming, sleazy, free-wheeling, good-natured hooker with a heart of gold and an eye for the main chance, which is what makes her easy, and bein’ easy is the name of the game in this business, which has always been the main game in town. And let an old bordello impresario tell you, who would ever hire a hooker who wasn’t all of the above, and good-lookin’ too?

 

In case you’re forgetting, the Big Easy wasn’t exactly looking as appetizing as a platter of Oysters Bienville back in the day before Mama Legba and Her Supernatural Krewe. She’s all spiffed up and lit up and giving herself the star treatment now, to the point where ingrates and ignoramuses and Creole romantics looking back over their shoulders can afford to complain about how New Orleans is peddling her previously jazzy derrière to less than the genteel bohemian trade of their absinthe fantasies.

 

Whoever wrote that song about there being no business like show business sure got it wrong. As things stand now, there’s no business but show business and we all are in it. Not that we haven’t always been. The only difference now is that it’s making the good times roll again after all those years in the deep dark shit, and that’s good enough for me, and if it’s not good enough for you, this ain’t your town, you’d best leave and go somewhere more to your tight-assholed liking.

 

But y’all come back on vacation from the salt mines, y’hear! Whatever your pleasure, we got it, and if we don’t, don’t worry, no matter how pervo it may seem to your sweaty vestigial morality, we’ll get it for you. Here in the Eternal Mardi Gras of the Big Easy, we make no such judgments, we’re impossible to scandalize, de gustibus non est disputandum.
What pays here, stays here, and never fear, we do still want your money.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Norman Spinrad

Hey look! It’s that review I’ve been talking about for months. It’s here before Christmas even. For real though, sorry about falling off the world like that. Enjoy!

arcanum-unbounded

I’m kind of skipping the blurb this time, since this is a collection of short stories.

So, Brandon Sanderson’s The Arcanum Unbounded is an interesting book both as it is written and for what it is. Unfortunately it also relies pretty heavily on the reader not only being a fan of Sanderson’s work but also having read all of his previous works. That more than kind of cools me on the book, though it is more or less exactly what’s on the label. This is going to be a bit of a weird one.

There are two big issues that I have with Arcanum Unbounded. The reliance on the reader having read everything in Sanderson’s Cosmere is the lesser of the two. The more major issue I have is his habit of including an afterword on the stories, on its own it wouldn’t be too bad but as part of this particular book it clashes terribly with the framing device introduced at the beginning and make the book very easy to put down. A pretty easy fix for this would have been removing either the framing device, which ties the book together as a concept, or the afterwords, which feel a little like reading the author’s blog rather than a book. I’m much more interested in the framing device, that someone has collected these story bits from all over the Cosmere, because it ties in. But I’m also a “death of the author” kind of reader and feel like if the author has to explain something outside of the story itself, then it isn’t written well enough. Obvious biases are, in fact, obvious.

The issue of it feeling like everything else prior to this is required reading bounces around a bit. The first story is by far my favorite and feels like a whole entity unto itself, I don’t feel lost for details and could enjoy myself freely. It’s immediately followed by a short story set towards the end of Elantris that, having not read that novel, I was completely lost on which made it feel super long and just draining to get through. It’s not bad in most of the stories but, combined with the afterwords, can feel tiresome.

That said, the stylistic choices made were interesting and in several stories it felt like the author was having fun with the writing. The novella about the Survivor was great once I got into it and it started feeling like its own thing instead of a spin on something else. So this is ultimately a pretty mixed bag for me. The writing is solid throughout, but then the plotting is overly referential. The stories that stand alone are a ton of fun, but then others feel like fragments of something bigger.

At the end of the day, I give Arcanum Unbounded a three out of five. If you’re a big fan of Sanderson’s you’ll probably enjoy it immensely. If not, maybe check it out from the library first or give one of his other books a shot.

Trapped in Wonderland

So this is late by a couple hours. Better than days or weeks, but still. I was sent a copy of Trapped in Wonderland by the author, Dani Hoots, for an honest review as part of a blog tour. She’s been great to work with and I hope you all enjoyed her guest post earlier today. Enjoy!

The first time Alice visited Wonderland she had been shoved in a locker. The second time she had to be rescued from the White Rabbit. Now she’s trapped in a world like a dream with four boys from her school who are, it turns out, characters from the story. But dreams are dying and it will be up to Alice to save both Wonderland and her own world from the Cirque de Reves and their mysterious leader.

Dani Hoots’ Trapped in Wonderland is something of a new spin on an old classic. The Alice here is not the original Alice who told her story to Lewis Carroll. Wonderland is different, being ruled by the Kingdom of Dreams and sectioned into Zones. Also the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Doormouse, and March Hare are all cute boys. It’s different from the original, but still feels very familiar on a lot of levels.

I admit, this book frustrates me and I think a lot of that comes down to it feeling very like young. It has a lot of new writer problems like stilted dialogue and a lot of unnecessary details that could have been removed to improve the pacing. Most of the little details, like what manga Alice was reading, could have gone while keeping bigger things, like her getting up early to fix her own lunch because she wants to have a bento box. The book sort of waffles between things that build Alice’s character and things that just fill space on the page. There’s also a lot of repetitiveness and contradiction when it comes to certain things. The reader keeps being reminded both that Alice does ballet but is still super clumsy, or that she’s pretty sure that Wonderland is just a dream. It leads to the book feeling like it was originally posted as each chapter was finished rather than as a whole.

There’s this weird sort of conflict of character with regard to Alice and her family as well. It’s sort of a tie in to the plot itself. Her older sisters are both smart and successful, one is a med student and the other is studying physics. Her parents are both CPAs. None of them care about Alice’s art or her dancing or her interests. These things are, according to Alice at least, treated as pointless hobbies or something to be taken away from her if her grades drop. They want her to give up her dreams and become like them, but then these same parents who don’t seem to care about any of her interests also seem to be paying for all those interests. She’s going to ballet classes, has adequate supplies for her art, and has the food around to make her bento boxes. It feels like something written by a fairly young writer venting about their own life. It could be a really good real world tie in to the main plot if more was done with it or if her family was written more sympathetically, but as is it doesn’t work.

My feelings on this book ultimately wind up being fairly meta. The writing itself does feel very fan fic-ish or, again, like it was written by someone either very young or just not used to writing. There are a ton of references to pop culture, particularly anime and manga, that can get really distracting and make the book feel weirdly dated. There’s some issues with the editing that could have used a second going over. There’s a lot of potential here and, with Mrs. Hoots having written several other books, I’d definitely give one of her other books a go. Plus a couple of the characters were a lot of fun if a little stock and I completely love a couple of the concepts used.

So, where does that leave me? While I’ve had a lot of issues with the book it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d wasted the time reading it. It isn’t good, but it shows a lot of potential and leaves me hoping it’s an older project that’s just not getting its turn or a genre the author isn’t entirely comfortable with. That all taken into consideration, I’m giving Trapped in Wonderland a two out of five with the note that it could be a solid three with more editing and some cuts.

Guest Post Dani Hoots

Alright everyone, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Dani Hoots, author of Trapped in Wonderland. Review for that will be up a little later today. Enjoy!

Thank you Lauren for letting me write a post about what drew me to the theme of Wonderland. I am very grateful to be here and hope that you and your followers enjoy my post.

 

I decided to write a piece based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because of my love for everything “mad”. Wonderland, to me, is a place where the misfits, the outcasts in society, those who are deemed “crazy” can be themselves. I grew up being bullied for being different and loving nerdy things, strange things, and I found myself always escaping to a different world in my mind. To me, Wonderland is a place just like that, so I found myself quoting and loving everything Wonderland.

 

Not only is it somewhere for us “mad” people, it is also a place where we aren’t expect to know where we are going. A lot of people don’t know what the future holds, and as the Cheshire Cat says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. I think this is a great quote to think about if you find yourself stuck. Just keep moving, keep pushing forward no matter where you are going. Sometimes we start to lose confidence and that is okay. Just keep fighting to fight that is life and you can find your way. 

 

These two themes that are present in Wonderland and are the main reasons I am so drawn to it. I also fell in love with the manga “Alice in the Country of Hearts”, which is based off of a Japanese love sim game (I’m a sucker for love sims, go ahead and judge me). A lot of ideas were inspired by that series and I definitely recommend it if you like manga or anything Wonderland-themed.

 

My favorite characters in Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland are the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter, which when you read the novel you will definitely see. The ironic and interesting thing is I found out after marrying my husband and started doing research of his ancestry, that his original name from Germany wasn’t “Hoots” but was in fact “Huth” which means “hat” in German. Their coat of arms is a white background with a black top hat and a big red heart on top of it. I literally married the Mad Hatter and I think that is wonderful.

 

I also think that all of us have a little Alice in us. I love adventure, and love to question everything. We just need to remember to keep our curiosity as we grow older. I think it is hard in today’s society, but it is really important. Curiosity definitely drives me to research and write, so I hope you all keep a little curiosity in whatever you do throughout life. 

 

So I hope you all enjoy my post and my novel Trapped in Wonderland. If you have any questions of comments, feel free to visit me on my Facebook page or my website.