Tag Archives: review

So There’s a Book I Really Enjoyed

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If you’re into great writing, flawless pacing, and horrifying subject matter that may or may not destroy your faith in humanity, you’ll probably like it, too. It’s called “The Wish Doctor“, written by the most likely pseudononymous G.R. Sabian.

 

The book follows the exploits of a crazily rich and seemingly soulless man who, for no discernible reason (other than a near-supernatural compulsion that I suspect is rooted in a traumatic past) randomly grants violent wishes to miserable people – regardless of whether the misery is warranted, the person is good, or the wishes are deserved. As an example, he burns one family alive to satisfy the wishes of a disgruntled young scion.

 

On to other things.

 

Somehow, he crosses paths with a child prostitute named Jamie. (Can you guess where this is going?) Her deepest wish, naturally, is that the pimps and offenders all die. Our hero, Harry, accomplishes this and assumes his work is done.

 

Only it’s not.

 

First off, the child refuses to let him leave. Second, she (understandably) has many issues that make her a danger to herself and others. By necessity, she is a master manipulator and basically, they end up in a twisted, if mostly sincere, approximation of a parent/child relationship. On top of that, the two have some kind of weird, understated psychic connection.

 

I’ll be honest. First, this is most definitely not a book I wish I’d written. Second, I definitely did not write it (just want to throw it out there – I am a professional writer, but I do things like ad copy, product descriptions, and blog posts for small/midsize businesses. I want to be a novelist, but I’m too chicken as of now to put my work out there).

 

Third, the entire novel is extremely disturbing on several levels. Think graphic violence and a lot of implied abuse and memories. It isn’t for everyone. In fact, the entire book is basically one giant trigger. As good as it most certainly is, as fantastic as the writer him/herself is, I can sort of understand why it’s retailing for $1 USD.

 

That said, I’ve been trying to talk people into reading it since I first read it in July of 2014, but my efforts have been in vain (and I can sort of see why, after reading the above endorsement). So, after this, I’m honestly giving up. I just couldn’t let it go without a cursory post on my very own blog. G.R. Sabian, whoever she/he is, is a stunningly fantastic writer. Think the pacing and spare, impactful sentences of Dean Koontz with the eerie lyricism of Cormac McCarthy wrapped around Tarantino-level violence (without the absurdity) and the true-to-life, hard-to-stomach grit of “Taxi Driver”. It’s cinematic and oddly literary at once.

 

If you can tolerate this, please read it – mostly because it’s supposedly part of a series and I want to make sure it continues.

 

In case you missed the link the first time, here it is: The Wish Doctor by G.R. Sabian.

 

It’s just $1, folks. Pleeeeeeeease do this. For me.

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Romy Inc., WHAT do I Have to DO to You to Make Your Clothes Last MORE Than Four Days?

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I am a naive person. Not incurably, intolerably, dangerously so. I just have this tendency to assume that whenever something is unsatisfactory, or disappointing, or otherwise unpleasant—say, Modcloth.com’s selection of incredibly adorable, hideously overpriced, ridiculously flimsy clothes–that it’s bad, and when it’s unusually bad, like Modcloth, there’s just not going to be much else that is as bad. (For the record, color me stupid but I’m a frequent buyer on Modcloth. I can’t stay away.) How many stores carrying incredibly adorable, hideously overpriced, ridiculously flimsy merchandise can one floundering economy support?

As it turns out, at least two.

I have the same sort of disgusted adoration for Romy (http://www.romystyle.com) that, until recently, I reserved for Modcloth.  It makes sense. Browsing their online showroom, or popping in at one of their boutiques, is enough to give anyone the sneaking suspicion that they probably source clothes from the same places as Modcloth.  (If this is true, though, Romy gets the unbranded merchandise, while Modcloth has the go-ahead to use labels.)

Moving on.

It’s pretty easy to see through Romy’s gimmicks. The first time I saw a store, I was thrilled with the screaming red and yellow signs that read, “Everything 50% off!” Very cool, yeah?

Well, not passing any judgment here, but a year later, everything, in every store, is still 50% off. This kind of reminds me of a bit in some movie (I think it was “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan”, but I’m probably wrong) where the owner of some electronics shop has big “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS, EVERYTHING ON SALE….” and has had these same signs up more or less since he took up shop. Anyway, I’m digressing majorly here.

Every time I walk through Romy, or even just past a window display, I fall in love. About every four times I fall in love, I buy. And given the wider availability and more immediate gratification of Romy, I end up buying from them a lot more often than I buy from Modcloth.

With one exception, I’m disappointed every time. (The exception is a black skirt that I’ve since skinnied myself out of. Shame, actually. It’s a really nice skirt. Also, it came off the clearance rack. Miss Bean for the win times two….minus the twenty or so losses she’s sustained meanwhile, leaving her with a rough score of -18. Whoops.) Romy carries some of the prettiest, girliest, most feminine, modest pieces. So many of them are gorgeous. Florals, pastels, flowing skirts, lace, ribbons, sashes, and on and on and on and on. They are so PRETTY and they ACTUALLY LOOK GOOD ON YOU! I’ve never actually bought anything at Romy that looked bad on me. Even the camisole that I accidentally bought in the wrong size (like, four sizes too small size) looked decent. The only problem I’ve ever had with the fit is, inexplicably, on one gorgeous little blouse, the arm-holes were like…miniscule. Insanely small. To the point where they don’t even look like they match the rest of the shirt.

Yes…they are so pretty. And even though they’re not dirt-cheap in terms of pricing, I bought a skirt, two undershirts, a sweater, and two blouses for around $68.  It all sounds so good…

Til the loose threads start to cascade.

I don’t know. I don’t get it. They are SO flimsy. SO poorly-made. SO cheap.

But—

With florals and lace and ribbons and sashes and pastels and flowing skirts…what are we supposed to do? Well, okay, most of you will probably (rightly) turn your noses up and seek your wardrobe elsewhere. So I’ll rephrase:

What am I supposed to do?!?

Even when the clothes fall apart in four days. Even when they forget to give me my $10 gift card no matter how much money I spend. Even when their sale is a hoax. Even when the dressing room is partitioned off from the store by a frigging curtain. Even when the website is riddled with grammatical errors.

I’m hopeless. It’s kind of sad. But I like to think it’s kind of funny, too.

“Embassytown?” Hard Sci-Fi Emphasizing the Power of Language? Yes, Please!

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I’m not actually a China Mieville fan. The entire “New Weird” genre just sort of confuses me, and I’m rarely impressed (to be fair, he’s a fantastic writer). “Un Lun Dun” and “Kraken”, particularly, didn’t really leave favorable impressions. Still, I did love “King Rat” and “Perdido Street Station”, and his other books were enjoyable. Also, it’s stupid to not read anything else by a prolific author simply because two books weren’t your thing. Add to that the fact that “Embassytown” is, at least superficially, hard-core science fiction…well, it was enough for me to take the plunge.

“Embassytown” is told through the eyes of Immerser Avice Ben Cho. She first chronicles her childhood on the planet Ariekei, giving us glimpses of Mieville’s multi-layered world: most children don’t grow up with their birth parents. They live in communal homes with multiple parents (much like counselors.) Humans share their world with “extos”–aliens. But this isn’t some two-dimensional Star Wars or silly Futurama-type melting pot. Extos are screened. With one important exception, extos can only settle on Ariekei if their sociologic and, to an extent, genetic makeup (they must have language, move comfortably in a human-run world, have similar thought processes, et cetera) is similar enough to allow integration with humans.

Humans do not own Ariekei, however. We are settlers, only living on the planet because beings known only as Hosts permit us to.

The Hosts protect themselves. While benevolent, especially toward children, they have a part of the planet only they can enter; humans can’t breathe in their area. They circumvent the human similarity, as well (it’s their planet, after all.) They speak a language only genetically engineered linguists can comprehend (these people are called Ambassadors.) They are not at all humanoid in appearance; they do not communicate like humans; and their sociologic match-up is questionable at the very best.

However, the human and exto population of Ariekei long struck a balance. They are always problems, but Embassytown is an almost diturbingly cordial society. The Hosts do their best for Ariekei, and the Ambassadors keep the peace and essentially run the society.

But when a new Ambassador arrives, the entire balance is thrown into jeopardy.

Now, the writing in “Embassytown” is fantastic. It does start slowly. There are pages and pages of childhood memories, but that serves two purposes: extensive, and subtle, world-building; and an understanding of a narrator who often takes a back seat to the story to follow.

The writing is lyrical and descriptive. During its leaner moments, Mieville recalls Ray Bradbury (which is only a plus as far as I’m concerned.) Some readers will probably describe it as “long-winded”, but I think it matches the story perfectly. The narrative doesn’t stop or bog itself down. There is simply a lot to tell, and Mieville tells it all.

The characters weren’t as deep as I prefer. But again, this matches the story. While a very bleak, hard-core science fiction novel, the crux of “Embassytown” is the beauty and power of language. It wasn’t a parable, but the theme overtook the plot. At the same time, it doesn’t wham you over the head. You’re not having “language is a beautiful thing” screamed at you from every page. It is subtle. The story doesn’t have a weak spot, and it doesn’t stop. I think one of Mieville’s greatest achievements is this flawless weaving of a theme and moral into the fabric of a novel.

This novel is also very bleak. While it starts off comfortably as Avice describes her childhood, “Embassytown” swiftly darkens.

I’ll be honest. This is my favorite of China Mieville’s books. It is traditional science fiction infused with enough originality to make it unqiue. It carries a theme that is actually very dear to my heart. The writing is Mieville at his best, and the story itself is very different. I can already tell it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I adored it, and eagerly suggest you give it a try.

Best. Vampire Story. Ever.

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About the time I was finally quitting Pokemon for good for the first time, my cousin gave me a battered paperback called “Companions of the Night.” This was in the summer of 2005. “Twilight” hadn’t yet hit. Those were great days. Really, really, really great days. Vampires were still kind of an underground deal, particularly among teenage girls. They just weren’t in yet. So I shrugged, feeling absolutely no disgust at myself for reading about vampires, and started reading.

“Companions of the Night” is not Vivian Vande Velde’s first novel, but I think it’s her best. (And yes, I’ve read “Heir Apparent.”) It was original (still is) and, as far as teenage vampire fiction goes, reasonable. The vampire, Ethan Brynne, is ridiculously good-looking, and our heroine Kerry notices, but she doesn’t fall in love with him. By the end, arguably, she loves him, and really wants him. But they aren’t in love.  In fact, for most of the book, Kerry’s primary feeling toward Ethan is fury. Call me what you will, think what you want, but I liked that.  Anyway, here’s my wordy rundown:

16-year-old Kerry is a nice, responsible, normal teenager. She takes care of her brother, gets along with her dad, and though she isn’t insanely popular, she’s got good friends. Perhaps a little melancholy, she’s a cheerful, likeable person.

One night, her baby brother starts crying; he’s left his beloved stuffed animal at the laundromat. Attached as she is to him, Kerry can’t refuse him. Figuring she’ll be back in a couple of minutes, she takes off, enters the laundromat…

And walks in on a ritual murder.

The victim is named Ethan Bryne. The killers believe he is a vampire; that is why they want to destroy him. Terrified and furious, Kerry manages to save his life, and hers; they take off to safety.

Strangely, given what has happened, Ethan won’t let her call the police.

Stunned, Kerry has no choice but to let him go.

She’s a little glum over the next few days, but she slowly returns to normal. A couple of days later, something odd does happen: unable to drive, Kerry relies on her father, neighbors, and friends to get to and from work. When her father doesn’t show up to pick her up, she thinks she’s screwed–until, lo and behold, she runs into Ethan, who obligingly drives her home.

But nobody is home.

Her brother and father are gone; a threatening message is painted on the wall. Knowing exactly what this means, Ethan spirits her away. This time, they’re both on the run.

It turns out Ethan IS a vampire. Kerry is initially scared and disgusted, but as Ethan bares facets of his weird personality, she slowly warms up to him, and he to her. As they run from their pursuers, seeking Kerry’s family all the while, a strange relationship develops between them. It isn’t love–that’s part of what I love about this story, they don’t fall instantly in love, and they don’t become each other’s sole reason for living, as in most other vampire books– but it is a bond. Also, Kerry is a surprisingly strong heroine; she doesn’t let him beguile her. She remains who she is, is confident that she can definitely live without him, and even though she’s sad–even though he’s sad–they do what’s best for both of them in the end.

“Companions of the Night” is a brisk, gripping story. Even you’re not into vampires or paranormal stories, it’s good. It’s not great; the writing, while lean and skillful, is a bit juvenile at times, and we never get to hear all of Ethan’s motives for doing what he does, which is disappointing. However, both characters are likeable–even if Ethan is cause for wariness– the plot is tight, there are no gaping holes, and it moves steadily toward an an exciting, but believable, climax. “Companions of the Night” is definitely recommended.

At any rate, it beats “Twilight” any moment of the year.