Entries Tagged as 'books & writing'

books & writing

Lisa reads FaceOff, edited by David Baldacci

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Now, this is a book that had me hooked from the very first pitch!

Ever wonder who would win in a fight if the most popular thriller characters were paired against their most worthy opponents? Would you bet on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher or Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller, or even Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie over Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch?

Oh yeah! If you love your detectives the way I do, I know that you have daydreamed about pairing them up. FaceOff is less about these characters fighting it out, it’s more about them teaming up and working together. And that is worth the price of admission.

It certainly says something about the quality of work that Simon & Schuster puts out that they have so many great characters to pair up. And I will warn you, Readers: you are going to get hooked on new series. You might as well know that going in. Unless you have a lot more spare time than I do, there are going to be characters here that are unfamiliar to you, and I guarantee these stories are going to make you want to run right out and pick up a few of their adventures. (You know the great thing about a Kindle Fire? No matter how many books you put on it, it never gets any heavier.) Smart thinking, S&S.

Now, the stories! I don’t even know where to begin. The weirdest and creepiest of the bunch was Special Agent Pendergast (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) vs. Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy (R.L. Stine) – it sounds bizarre, but it works. Now, I am not a Pendergast fan – on paper, it seems like the sort of thing I should love, but I don’t) and I haven’t read any of Slappy’s…adventures, but that didn’t matter. The story is great and I can’t think of a better way to pair up this odd couple.

The first of my absolute favorites was Lincoln Rhyme (Jeffery Deaver) vs. Lucas Davenport (John Sanford). I have many of the Prey novels (several of them autographed, after meeting Sanford several years ago at a book signing) and I’ve read several of the Lincoln Rhyme novels, so I knew this was going to be good. The characters are so different and they butt heads ion such interesting ways. In addition, you’ve got their trusty sidekicks – Amelia Sachs and Lily Rothenburg – to spice things up. Really fabulous – I would love a full-length novel of this pairing!

But really: Nick Heller (Joseph Finder) and Jack Reacher (Lee Child). I can’t say “versus” there, because they really end up working together. I’m familiar with Jack Reacher, read a few of the books, and I’ve already ordered a couple of Heller novels. This one was so much fun – from the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, to the fact that some poor Boston accountant got more help, for free, than he could have possibly paid for and he didn’t even know it! Great, great story.

So, thanks to my friends at Simon & Schuster and Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for providing this free Advanced Reader Copy of FaceOff. The rest of you – hit your local bookstores and libraries for it. And start saving your pennies, because I guarantee this book will spawn a shopping spree!

faceoff

 

books & writing

Lisa reads “We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human”

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I am a huge Walking Dead fan and I was really looking to reading the essays in We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human. I have spent hours debating with friends, discussing the meaning of key points on the show, discussing what zombies have to say about our culture, what causes some supernatural entity – whether it’s zombies or vampires or werewolves – to become suddenly in vogue. Lots of great topics there and I was hoping for a great series of interesting essays. This is a dense bit of reading. It’s less like reading an essay and more like reading someone’s dissertation. I knew as soon as I started coming across passages like this one in the second essay, “Burying the Living with the Dead: Security, Survival and the Sanction of Violence” by Steven Pokornowski, that this would not be easy to plow through:

Second, I propose that a multidisciplinary perspective informed by biopolitical, posthumanist, and critical race theories can offer a way to resist this representational problematic at the levels of both consumption and production – can offer, in fact, a political and ethical critique that takes into account the role of the social constructions of humanity and race in maintaining sovereignty.

I don’t even know what that means, and it certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of fun and engaging discussion I was looking for.

There are a couple of high points. I particularly enjoyed P. Ivan Young’s essay, “Walking Tall or Walking Dead? The American Cowboy in the Zombie Apocalypse.” It goes into great detail comparing the tv show “The Walking Dead” to the 1953 film, Shane. I’ve never seen the film, but Young calls out instance after instance where the two Shanes (and Rick, as well) face similar circumstances and react in similar ways. There are too many similarities to be simple coincidence.

I also enjoyed “Zombie Time: Temporality and Living Death” by Gwyneth Peaty. It discusses the concept of time in the series – the ways in which time seems to have stopped, and just how important it is for civilized people to have a sense to time, to feel like they are moving forward. Various points in the series – Andrea planning to celebrate her sister’s birthday, the watch that Hershel gives to Glenn (and its later appearance in the opening montage), the big digital countdown clock at the CDC – all talk in their own way about the effect of time on the living characters. For the walkers, there is no time. Their death, which should mark the end of time for them, instead marks just a change of form. Although their time should be up, they keep on going, with no end in sight.

I have to say that overall, this was a disappointment. Someone with a more scholarly bent might appreciate it more, but I found most of the essays a real slog. There are many great ideas in this series to discuss and I have read some terrific articles on the various themes of the zombie apocalypse, but these are so weighted down with jargon and obscure references (do I think it is significant that Dale drove a Winnebago and Shane drove a Jeep Cherokee, both cars named after Indian tribes that are not native to the region? No, I do not) that I couldn’t really enjoy them.

My copy of We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human, edited by Dawn Keetley, was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

infected

 

books & writing

Lisa reads The Kill Call by Stephen Booth

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The Kill Call by Stephen Booth is the first book I’ve read in the Cooper and Fry series. I’m not sure this is a series I’ll keep reading, for reasons I’ll get to later, but it’s a pretty good mystery.  The story starts on a rainy moor – Sean has come up to one of his favorite quiet, deserted spot, where he goes when he needs to get away from everything. Today, something feels different. There’s a smell. And a corpse.

It’s an interesting mystery, with a couple of storylines to follow, and quite British, tied up in the odd world of fox hunting. The body was discovered during the annual Eden Valley Hunt, which is hotly protested by animal rights activists. The area was crowded with hunters and the folks who handle the horses, as well as the protesters (referred to as “sabs” or saboteurs by the police) and a host of police officers there to keep them from killing each other. The “kill call” of the title refers to the long, wavering notes on the horn that the hunters blow to call in the hounds to kill the fox. Only in this case, it wasn’t a fox.

Detective Constable Diane Fry is in charge of the case and totally out of her depth, although she would never admit it. She’s a city girl in a country police district and she has tremendous disdain for the citizens there. She quite clearly turns up her nose at the country life – from the quiet towns to the smell of horses in the barn. She’s supposed to be a great detective, but she can’t seem to see anything beyond her own nose. Even when she recognizes that she is putting people off, she can’t seem to change it. She clearly sees Detective Constable Ben Cooper as a rival, even though he not only helps with the case but tries to offer some personal support. She is so unlikable in this that I can’t see wanting to continue with the series. I may have missed some of her character’s development, and I know that some people enjoy a story with unlikable characters, but that really isn’t for me. If someone has read more of these, I would love to hear about them.

Even with those caveats, it was quite a good read. I enjoyed the various twists and turns of the story, I find Ben Cooper a very interesting character, and I am curious about what happens to Diane Fry – she seems to be at a turning point, trying to get her career back on track and resolve some personal issues. I’m just not sure that I am curious enough to put up with more of her abrasive behavior.

My copy of The Kill Call was a digital ARC provided free of charge.

kill call

 

books & writing

Lisa reads Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) by Ken Sharp

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I was a Kiss fan as a teenager, so I was really looking forward to reading Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975). Author Ken Sharpe has pulled together an amazing series of interviews with former band members, roadies, industry and media people. In addition, there are a host of more recognizable names: Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult), Neal Schon (Journey), Bob Seger, and Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny, Marky and Tommy Ramone. There are a lot of great quotes and interviews in the book – perhaps too many.

There are a number of things about this book that I loved. First, the interviews – it was fascinating to read the quotes from other musicians, people that liked Kiss and those who didn’t, bands who were more popular and those who were just starting out. Hearing what these bands had to say about Kiss, good and bad, gives you some context. Kiss was doing something very new and different, with the makeup and the theatrics. Some of their contemporaries embraced it, while others hated it; some were amused and others may have been a little jealous. But hearing them talk about the band – particularly those who said it was a gimmick and they would never make it – is definitely interesting.

The interviews with friends and industry people are a real look at what goes into launching a band. How difficult it is to get a label’s attention and then, once you have it, how to keep it. Getting signed certainly doesn’t guarantee success, and it is clear from each section of the book that if Kiss hadn’t had a few people who really believed in them, they’d have been doomed. Neil Bogart (Casablanca Records) and Bill Aucoin (their manager) did everything from manage, produce and promote the band to paying for their tours on their personal credit cards. Considering that they didn’t get a lot of radio airplay and they often had difficulty getting signed on as an opening act, they would never have gotten off the ground without their unflagging support.

It’s also clear that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons shared a dream for their band and were willing to work very hard to make it  reality. There is a sort of single-minded devotion to the band and a refusal to believe that they would be anything other than huge stars that is, by turns, endearing and annoying.

For me, the downside of Nothin’ to Lose is that it sometimes got a little tedious. There is a definite “us against the world” vibe to the book, and it can get a little tiresome. Perhaps it’s accurate – perhaps there really were almost no supporters for the band in the early days – but it is reiterated so often that it seems like overkill.

I was also disappointed that the book really glosses over the departures of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. I was interested in reading about that, perhaps even getting some of the story right from the departed band members (a timely topic, considering the controversy surrounding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions). Unfortunately, their departures are covered only briefly on the last two pages of the book. Still, the book is an amazing look at a young band, on its way to stardom and all the ups and downs of that journey. There are some great stories here for anyone who was a member of the Kiss Army, and anyone interested in a slice of rock and roll history.

My copy of Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

kiss

books & writing

Lisa reads Live By Night by Dennis Lehane

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There’s a bit of a story behind my reading of Live by Night: I picked up the audiobook from the library months ago – probably closer to a year ago. I sped through the first 9 cds and then…lost it. I brought it in from the car, set it aside, and it disappeared. I was furious! Ransacked the house, went through all my suitcases, the car, called the hotel I’d stayed at. No luck. Cut to this past week: I spent my vacation doing a thorough cleaning and decluttering of my spare bedroom, and guess what I found? Yep. I was finally able to finish!

Live by Night tells the story of Joe Coughlin, and it is a big story. [Read more →]

books & writingThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees there will be no more dream sequences in novels

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 10PM: Dream sequences in novels must stop. We get it. We really do. Authors think they are, by giving us a glimpse into the character’s subconscious, increasing the depth of said character. But consider real life, writers. (More authors should, by the way.) Did you ever listen to someone recounting a dream? Did you LIKE it? Consider:

Oh, so I was in the mall but it was really my house and everyone behind the counters was a giant chicken with a PhD in Metaphysics (not sure how I knew that but, you know, in a dream you just know stuff)), but, this one chicken was actually my uncle, Fred, even though he looked like a chicken and he looked at me like he was disappointed when I told him I wanted a cheeseburger with no pickles and the next thing you know I was in a harem (but full of guys instead of women) somewhere in the Middle East, back in the 1800’s, but I was dressed in a baseball uniform except no one noticed and I, for some reason, really wanted to kill this blue camel that was tied to a palm tree next to a cobblestone road, except the cobblestones were actually hot dogs, but when I stabbed him my knife turned into a shoe and for some reason I was really mad — not because it wasn’t working to kill  the camel but because the laces were untied — isn’t that weird? — and….and…

So, no, you really don’t give us “character depth” with dream sequences. At best, you manage to bruise our brains with the mallet of heavy-handed symbolism while we try to scan the pages for where the actual story starts up again.

The Punishment: Those who ignore this decree will only be released from the Imperial Dungeons after writing a complete novel  with a quill; with water for ink and with old-fashioned “overhead projector” transparencies for paper.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

Book Review: Retroworld (plus, why I hate Star Trek)

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I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan. It’s not because I don’t like Science Fiction-Star Wars and alien invasion B-movies were a big part of my childhood, I grew up reading the British comic 2000AD, and I wrote my thesis on Philip K. Dick before it was fashionable to do such things. No, I hate Star Trek because it’s so utterly dishonest about human nature and the universe we live in.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is especially egregious. It’s essentially a soap opera about UN diplomats in space, only instead of standing by impotently while alien races are massacred by enemy species, or dispatching squads of blue space-helmeted peacekeepers on alien rape missions, the dull inhabitants of the Starship Enterprise  [Read more →]

books & writingThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that tripping and falling can no longer be used to enhance a story’s plot

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree 4815162342: We’ll have no more of it. Figure something else out. Life’s suspense and life’s problems come from myriad places. Tripping and twisting one’s ankle is not the only way find oneself in danger. It is not the only way for the pursuing ax-murderer to gain ground. Mine the depths, writers.  Oh, and while we are at it, no more using “cuts like knife” and “what is this place?” How about “cuts like a father’s disappointment” or a simple but much more effective: “where the hell are we?” We can’t take it anymore. It will cease, or there will be no more writing. You hear us? Don’t ruin it for the rest of the minions.

The Punishment: Anyone guilty of these writing infractions will be placed on a treadmill and forced to run at 7 miles per hour. The Imperial Exercise Minister will sit with a remote control and he will press the DEAD STOP button, again and again, while the offender is running at speed.  When the runner can no longer calculate simple addition  problems, he or she will be released.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning, unless he decides not to, because, after all, he is the Emperor and can do whatever he wants.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingliving poetry

Top ten favorite lines for a Valentine’s Day poem

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10. I pray your Valentine’s Day is the best.

9. I know mine will be, if I am with you.

8. Since first we met, I know that I’ve been blessed!

7. And all the Love I felt then only grew

6. Up through today, when it is all-consuming!

5. So great, I sense that we are on the verge

4. Of something “wholly new” suddenly blooming!

3. As we two merge in an electric surge!

2. We’ll fire up, and burst on through the roof!

1. And as for Heaven, we’ll be living proof!
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

books & writingcreative writing

Cartilage and Skin: An Interview With Michael James Rizza

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Michael James Rizza’s debut novel Cartilage and Skin won the ninth annual Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction. It’s a fascinating, fast-paced narrative that also offers its share of ambiguity, and I knew I wanted to interview him as soon as I put the book down. Here are my questions along with the author’s responses.

AK: How did you write the book? Did you outline first or write a substantial draft and allow a plot to come to you? How much writing did you have before you “saw” the plot of the entire book? Are there any twists of plot or turns of phrase that came up remarkably late in the process? [Read more →]

all workbooks & writing

Of Time and the Park

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Today was a singularly beautiful day in New York – a sparkling October day in mid-November, sunny, warm, a light breeze – and perfect for a two-hour walk  around the Drive in Central Park. (I used to run it in under an hour, but what the hell.) [Read more →]

art & entertainmentbooks & writing

The secret rituals of history’s most creative minds

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On a recent flight from Texas to London I sat behind a woman who was editing a manuscript. Being very nosy I strained to read the title, and this is what I saw:

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Wow, I thought. What a load of crap. Clearly the primary “presentation secrets” of Steve Jobs were 1) his conviction that he was totally awesome and 2) his understanding that people are always interested in what highly successful people have to say.

This manuscript was obviously a snake oil salesman’s pitch, yet another example of that tiresome but popular  genre in which some not especially successful person reveals [Read more →]
books & writingtravel & foreign lands

Vasily Grossman: from Stalingrad to toilet trouble

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In 1998 I stumbled upon a Russian novel called “Life and Fate.” I was surprised because I had never heard of it or its author Vasily Grossman, yet by its size, Tolstoy-echoing title and subject matter (the book was about Stalingrad) it was obviously supposed to be important.

I bought it and was soon drawn into Grossman’s world; I remember standing on crowded trams, unable to put down this imposing brick of a book. “Life and Fate” was excellent, a profound meditation on war, Stalin, and much else – and yet it was also totally obscure. This was bizarre. Was I wrong? Was it actually rubbish? [Read more →]
living poetry

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Seurat)

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Jatte

#91

Look long enough and Seurat’s pointillism
Seems letters and punctuation, not dots,
Becomes a narrative, a verbal prism,
Written in a language that can’t be taught.
The hook of cane, umbrella, monkey’s tail,
A stone with a white and orange bonnet,
The pinch of waists and a billowing sail,
All forestall the waning of the day.
Only a running girl, a blown trumpet,
A leaping pup, having anything to say.
The rest is stillness, and while the shadows
Avoid the giantess, elsewhere they grow.
Emotion is atoms frozen and bound,
Letters to paper, and can’t make a sound.

Note: This is one of more than 125 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

books & writingtrusted media & news

Why Guantanamo Bay inmates are totally hot for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

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File:Dyson.cleaner.dc07.arp.jpg

When not reading about boy wizards and bondage, some berserk jihadis like to relax by thinking about how they can improve on the work of James Dyson. Pic: Wikipedia.

Yesterday I learned an interesting fact: When it comes to books, the bearded inmates of Guantanamo Bay are totally hot for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first novel of a popular trilogy about the erotic adventures of a young female graduate named Anastasia Steele and an international businessman named Christian Grey. No, really – a US congressman said it, so it must be true.

Indeed, Representative Jim Moran of Virginia told The Huffington Post: “Rather than the Quran, the book that is requested most by the [detainees] is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ They’ve read the entire series.” [Read more →]
living poetry

Hyde Mill (Sandy Ellarson)

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hyde

#111

They moved the river to build the water wheel,
Then built a wooden race to divert the current.
Sluice opened, stones ground raw grain into meal
For a hundred years, until the old mill was spent.
River turning wheel turning gears turning stone,
A devolution of mechanics all to crush a seed.
The sun burns for years to dry an animal’s bones,
And countless gallons of water won’t break a reed.
I’m reluctant to approach the mill too closely
(Its ancient timbers are desiccated, ghostly),
Hear its stoppage rasped by the river’s relentless
Passage over the shattered race’s detritus.
Away from the wreck, a little waterfall churns
Spray, wrack, and spume, and, like time, it burns.

Note: This is one of more than 125 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

living poetry

Hands and Feet (Alice Bea Guerin)

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hands and feet

#40

I am not the amalgam of my parts.
Not the knuckles, the joints, the palms.
These are merely the hands of my heart.
I am always hot. I’ve never been calm.
Sometimes I am nothing but an eye.
Seen through the circle of sight,
The darkness is all I need to know why.
My grinning makes my knuckles white.
My thoughts are like wiggling fingers
And my emotions are clenched fists.
I am my own twisted harbinger.
Look at me. You can’t resist.
But we’re all skin, sinew and bone,
Running from each other, alone.

Note: This is one of more than 125 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

living poetry

Cafe Terrace at Night (Van Gogh)

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cafe

#48

For Ruth

Is there just one universe?
There the stars and here the cafe.
Hidden lights illuminate the tables.
The various darknesses immerse
Men and stars in dissolving clay.
Are both god and science fables?
The universes are infinite,
They say, and time does not exist.
But here we are and there the stars.
The air is full of perfume and wit,
And a wine too ancient to resist.
All else is beyond, late and far.
Let’s nibble galaxies and swallow suns.
I’ll count my hours with you by ones.

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

 

 

living poetry

Winter Landscape (Sesshu)

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sesshu

#9
Black and white, foreground,

Background, horizon and sky—
There is nothing to describe.
No word for it has been found.
Fingers pinch bits of glass,
Mouths blow rings of gas.
Stone spires, numberless grass,
Poise like celebrants at mass.
This is but approximation,
Sounds approaching shape,
Silhouetted imagination,
Not a poem, but its ape.
Inked paper, here, in your hand—
This is what you understand.

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.
living poetry

The Sea Monster (Durer)

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sea monster

#113

Each moon the damned gray sea monster abducts our wives,
Then releases them to us as speechless as fish.
Not one has revealed what happens beneath the waves;
So we wonder, do they endure terrors or bliss?
He has antlers and a merman’s scales, and a shield
Of tortuga shell, and eyes that say, “Ye shall yield.”
Only Annalee, my perfect wife, fought the beast,
Calling to me as I stood helpless on the beach.
After she slapped his bearded face and yanked his mane,
He ripped off her dress and drowned her in shame.
Of all the women taken, only she has not returned,
Those taken since scoff at the possibility
(Each petulant and stiff, like a woman scorned)
That Annalee’s alive, with him, beneath the sea.

Note: This is one of more than 120 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

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