Saturday, July 30, 2011

Moving Day

Due to the expiration of my website ( domain, I'm setting up a new home base at a new blog, This will be the last post on this blog. If you'd still like to follow me, please subscribe at my new blog.

Hope to see you there!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Go Ahead...Give Up!

I often lend and recommend books to my friends and family; I’m the go-to girl for them for finding new series and authors. And more often than not, they agree with my taste. What I find interesting, though, is what happens when they don’t.

They apologize.

“I’m sorry,” they say as they hand the book back. “I just couldn’t get into it. It was too wordy/too slow/the main character was annoying/the premise was silly…” You get the idea.

I’m not mocking them, though; I’m commenting on the phenomenon, which affects me as well. And probably you. When you pick up a book, especially if it comes recommended by a friend, and you realize you hate it—why is it so hard to put down? And why do you feel so terrible when you do?

My personal reasons are usually twofold—I’m afraid I’m going to miss something good, simply because I didn’t push on far enough, and I’m a cheapskate. If I paid money for this thing, well, dang it, I’m determined to enjoy it, even if the resulting headache from forcing myself to read it takes 3 ibuprofen and 2 Gatorades to kick. (Side note: don’t knock the Gatorade thing. Excellent headache cure. Snapple iced tea does in a pinch, too.)

A few years ago, an author wrote an article about the phenomenon. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who it was; I wish I could, since it was excellent advice and they deserve credit for it. What it boiled down to was this: life’s too short to spend reading books you don’t like. The time you’re spending grinding brain cells together on something you’re not feeling could be spent reading something you actually enjoy.

So lay down some ground rules for yourself, to make sure you’re giving the book a fair chance. Give it, say, 25% to impress you, to prove it has something more to offer. Some books start slow, and often these are the best ones. If you feel this isn’t enough, give it forty, or even fifty. But set a goal and stick to it, so when you reach it unfulfilled, you can set it aside with no regrets. You gave it a fair chance. Books are like clothes; they don’t fit everyone.

The incident that sparked this blog was my recent purchase of the eighth book in a series I’ve been following for two years. And as hard as I tried, I could not get into it. So now you add character attachment to book abandonment remorse, and…I forgot my rules. Briefly. But after my fifth unsuccessful attempt to be carried away by the story, I gave myself a stern talking to and set the book aside in favor of something else.

Which, by the way, I’m enjoying very much.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Political Candidates Are Like Diet Pills

Raise your hand if you can’t wait till Wednesday, and the cessation of political advertisements. The only thing that’s kept me going through Stumptober is the small, private giggle I get every now and then, when I remember we had our home phone shut off a few months ago. My husband is a registered Republican, and I’m a registered Democrat, which means double-trouble from the tele-activists. Now, all those perky little volunteers who want to tell me who to vote for and why are getting a robotic message telling them they won’t be speaking to the Sylvans anytime soon. Muah ha ha.

Obviously, I’m not a fan of the political advertisements, either, whether it’s the radio ads or the mailbox flyers or the mudslinging tv spots. And it occurred to me, as I listened to the fiftieth one to air on the radio today, that their ads are very similar to those pushing diet pills.

First of all, no matter how much factual or scientific evidence they may seem to have backing up their claims, the results will never match the promises. If I take that diet pill, I will not lose twenty pounds in two weeks. Neither will I see a decrease in my taxes and government spending, less crime in my neighborhood, and an increase in my property value in the next 4 years if I elect Mr. Patriotic Tie to Congress. Not that I would mind either happening, but…hey, I write fiction. I recognize it when it’s coming at me.

Which brings me to the second part of my diet pill/political candidate metaphor. If you’ve ever watched those diet pill commercials closely, you’ll notice a little smudge of fine print at the bottom of the screen, which usually reads “*when combined with diet and exercise.” In other words, one can’t take the magic pill, sit down on the couch with a bag of Doritos, and expect speedy and massive weight loss. Salad-eating and cardio are still required. Same goes for voting. One can’t just vote and then expect miracles to occur. You need to let your candidate know which of his platform issues is the most important to you, through email or phone calls. is a great site which does most of the work for you; they even have handy form letters for a lot of issues, and they’ll email you with calls to action when an issue that’s important to you is coming up for a vote. Hey, the candidates nag you for two months straight; fling it back at them for the next four years.

Happy Voting Day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So Passes Paul, A Psychic Octopus

Paul, the octopus who famously predicted the World Cup results, went out on a high note in his career at the ripe age of 2 ½.

The former Briton’s (he was hatched in an English aquarium) success as a soccer soothsayer made him friends and enemies worldwide. Paul received several death threats, some of simple outright violence, and some more subtle and veiled, such as recipes for calamari. On the other hand, “El Pulpo Paul,” as he was called in Spain, was named an official friend to the Spanish town of O Carballino, and the Spanish fought unsuccessfully to bring him to their country, where he would have been treated as a national hero.

But Paul stayed in his quiet tank in Oberhausen, Germany, where his talent and fame benefited his aquarium and sea life worldwide. His name will grace a sea turtle rescue center in Greece, which was partially funded by donations made on his behalf.

Soccer fans impatient to learn the results of the Cup not despair, though. Paul inspired several other animals worldwide to discover their own hidden psychic talent, most notably Dirty Harry, a saltwater crocodile who has branched out to predicting election results.

Rest in peace, Paul.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Real-World Ending

We all knew what we wanted before we opened Mockingjay. We all had our perfect ending plotted out, the one with the official 'happily ever after' seal stamped all over the final pages.

That's not what happened.

I emerged from a one-sitting cover-to-cover reading of this book in a state of almost physical shock. In that first hour after finishing, I probably would have described the book as 'depraved.' Because how could Collins do this to the characters she made us love? How could she?

Then I sat back down and re-read the last thirty or so pages, and went online to look at reviews and see how others had responded to the book. There are a fair few people who are absolutely furious over the ending, saying it would have been easy to fix, to give her a happier ending. But when I tried to imagine those sorts of endings, instead of the one Collins gave us, I felt like a liar.

The problem with successful series like these is that we make the characters ours. They're our friends, our family, and because we know them so well, we're outraged when the hand which created them guides the characters somewhere other than the beautiful place we had built for them at the finish line.

Stephen King wrote something both simple and powerfully deep in his book, “On Writing.” Paraphrased, it goes something like, “Write what you want—but write the truth.” And Collins’s ending is the truth. The uncompromising, unapologetic, cruel, cold truth. If you’re honest with yourself, and let the fairy tale fall away, you’ll see that, as one reviewer on Amazon said quite well, Katniss’s story isn’t one of choosing between two loves. It’s a story of war.

I hope, when you open Mockingjay, if you haven’t already, that you’ll give the book the fair read it deserves, and not write it off just because the story doesn’t add up to your vision, as I almost did. Give the truth a chance.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Passage, by Justin Cronin

I first heard about this book on Good Morning America last week. The author, Justin Cronin, is being touted as the next Stephen King. This wouldn't be the first time I've heard this, and I'm sure it won't be the last, but when Mr. King himself chimed in on a telephone interview, my mind was made up. I ordered it from Amazon that night.

The Passage is not just one story, it's several, looped together and knitted in to give you a three-dimensional view of a whole new world. It follows the end of civilization as we know it, due to government development of a recently discovered South American virus. Those infected with the virus heal within hours, regain their youth, and become virtually immortal. There's only that pesky bloodlust thing to deal with.

The government collects people with no ties, no family, no one who will miss them to test their virus on; mainly death row inmates, but they include a little girl abandoned at a convent by her mother. And then, of course, the monsters escape.

Fast-forward one hundred years, to the remains of civilization, hanging on by mere threads, at the mercy of the vampires which surround them after dark, when a man named Peter makes a discovery which could be the last hope of humanity.

What I Liked:
If I hadn't heard Stephen King on the phone with Mr. Cronin during GMA, I would swear he'd died and this new author was channeling his spirit, the style is that similar. And just when I thought there weren't any new ways to twist vampires, Justin Cronin gave us a whole new perspective. It's probably the most believeable vamp world I've read yet. The characters are realistic and engaging, and I was very impressed by Mr. Cronin's research. The guy did his homework, and it shows.

What I Didn't:
It's ssssllllllloooooowww. The action really didn't start until page 250, and it was page 400 until it really started to take off (the book is 784 pages long). But once it did take off, Dale Earnhart couldn't have caught up with it. And in defense of the slow pace, there are two more books planned for this series, and it's a richly detailed book with an ensemble cast. A lot of groundwork needed to be laid.

This is a great book for a mature, patient reader with an appreciation for well-developed worlds and characters. Kind of like a good lasagna or shepherd's pie; a lot of work went into that careful layering, and a true aficionado will appreciate every detail and know it's for their benefit. This is a series I will certainly be sticking with, and an author who will certainly be getting return business from me.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I was feeling a little under the weather this past Friday, and decided to take a rare sick day from work. Later in the day, I took my book out on the porch to read (check back later this week for my review of The Passage, by Justin Cronin) and noticed an abnormal amount of blue jay activity in the trees around my yard. I also noticed a certain fixation in my dogs' eyes on something outside the gate. A baby bluejay was sitting in my alley, looking a little perplexed. He wasn't injured, just fresh out of the nest, and hadn't quite gotten his wings under him.

I live in a neighborhood full of stray cats and evil children, so I decided the alley was not the best place for Junior. My yard reeks of dogs, and the neighborhood cats usually avoid it like the plague, so I hustled my dogs inside, grabbed a dishtowel, and went about herding Junior into my yard.

Junior did not at all appreciate being herded by a giant pink bird with one white, flapping wing. In fact, he seemed to believe I was going to eat him, and screamed his little tufty head off while I struggled to keep him out of the road. Momma Bird was convinced by his charades, and launched an accurate airstrike on the back of my head.


Eventually, after nearly losing an eye in a second airstrike by Momma Bird, I managed to get Junior safely inside my fence. Above is a picture of him, giving me the hairy eyeball from under one of my patio chairs. After about half an hour, he managed to make it up into the trees, and his parents stopped shrieking at me, so I could get back to my book and nurse my wounded skull.

The bird theme continued through the day with the discovery of a robin's nest in our little dogwood tree. The eggs haven't yet hatched, but I'll post pics when they do.

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