Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

17
Feb
15

Not Like Other Girls?

HELL TO THE YES.

Fat Heffalump

Comic strip by Kate Beaton aka @Beatonna Comic strip by Kate Beaton aka @Beatonna

Once upon a time, I was the young woman in this cartoon.  I was the one that professed to be “not like other girls”.  I told anyone who would listen that I preferred men as friends, that I found “other chicks” shallow and boring.  My guy friends always told me I was “Cool, not like other chicks.”  They said they could hang around me because I didn’t “cause drama” like other women, and that I didn’t take things “so seriously”.

That was partly because I’d been taught that fat women weren’t the same as “normal” women.  I believed that I wasn’t included in womanhood, so I figured the best bet was to just join the boys and to turn my nose up at “other chicks”.

Another part was self preservation.  As long as the guys liked me, they weren’t calling me a “crazy…

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17
Sep
13

CBR5 #5: Constable for Life: Chronicles of a Canadian Mountie by Chuck Bertrand

This is a charming little book that The Boyfriend picked up for me while on a business trip to Vancouver. He apparently stumbled upon the author doing a signing, and managed to get a signed copy with a nice dedication for me.

Chuck Bertrand’s voice is pleasant, and he tells stories from his career in the RCMP that vary from humorous to heartbreaking. I really enjoyed this, and felt that Bertrand seems to be the kind of law enforcement officer that everyone hopes for–dedicated to protecting and serving, but with a healthy of dose of humor and common sense.

Although not to everyone’s taste, I found this a quick and sweet read.

20
Mar
13

CBR5 #4: The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Aaaaand we’re back to horror stories.

 Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh?

The House Next Door is the tale of Colquitt Kennedy and her husband Walter, a very WASPy, fairly average couple. They live in an upscale neighborhood in the South, the kind of place where everyone knows each other, and most know one another’s business, though they’re usually too polite to mention it. One day, someone buys the long-empty lot next to the Kennedys and begins to build a new house. As you may have inferred from the title of the book, the house has some issues.

 This isn’t really a gory tale–there are no madmen with chainsaws or bleeding walls or be-tentacled monstrosities. Saw IV it is not. This is a story of anticipation, anxiety, fear, and destruction. Colquitt figures out pretty quickly that something isn’t right, then must struggle for the length of the book to decide what she might be able to do about it, if anything.

 I’m a little torn about this book. On one hand, there is a lot of great description, the main character’s voice is really likable, and there are some genuinely spooky bits–I was annoyed every time I had to put the book down. On the other hand, there were also a few things that I really didn’t like. First, there was a bit too much resistance from the secondary characters. It’s a common flaw in horror books–the scientist insisting that zombies can’t possibly exist as one shambles up behind her, the man is telling the curiously pale fellow who never shows his teeth when he smiles that vampires are an old wives’ tale–but there comes a point where you just want the supporting characters to GET ON BOARD ALREADY AND LET’S MOVE ON! The other thing I didn’t really like was that although there was some vague hint at the end of the book about the source of the trouble, it wasn’t really explained. Some people like that vagueness, since it allows them to fill in their own explanations. I don’t. One of my favorite parts of horror books is when the characters do the research and figure out exactly what’s happening, and that didn’t really occur here.

 On the whole, this book was still more good than bad, and it’s a great atmospheric horror story.

13
Feb
13

CBR5 #3: Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

I wanted to like this book. I really did. In my attempts to read things that are not all dripping gore and supernatural monsters, I picked out a nice little selection from Oprah’s book club. I figured that the story sounded slightly intriguing, and the reviews seemed pretty good.

 By the time I got half-way through, I was praying that a zombie horde would crash through town, eating nearly all the characters and laying waste to the country-side. Sadly, that did not happen.

 Novalee Nation is seventeen years old and seven months pregnant when the novel opens, traveling west with her boyfriend Willy-Jack. They stop at a Wal-Mart in a small town in Oklahoma, and while Novalee is in the bathroom, Willy-Jack drives away. So what does Novalee decide to do? The only thing she can do–move into the Wal-Mart! She meets some quirkly, lovable small-town residents who eventually become her friends. The book covers several years of her life, and all the wonderful, valuable lessons she learns about friendship and love and strength and independence. A few serious and/or sad things happen, but mostly they flash by quickly and are basically forgotten shortly after they’re revealed. Then the book has the audacity not to tie everything together in a neat bow at the end. Really, you’re going to lead me prancing through every cliche in the chick-lit genre, and then not bother to at least satisfy me with the traditional happy-ever-after cliche? That just seems mean and unnecessary.

 Novalee has a voice very similar to that of Sookie Stackhouse, though Sookie (while not especially bright) seems like a Fulbright scholar compared to Novalee. I get the whole “simple southern girl” thing, but there are several occasions when Novalee is just plain stupid. Poor and southern does not equal stupid, dammit. I did like a few of the supporting characters, though most of them were basically animated caricatures. Friend who is always dieting, and always getting knocked up and then abandoned! Noble elderly black man who points Novalee on the path to her future! Feisty grandma figure! I actually would have liked to a see a lot more of those characters, and find out what made them tick, instead of focusing on how they served Novalee’s life. But no! And periodically,without warning, we drop in on Willy-Jack (a character I could happily have left in chapter one, never to be seen again) just to see how life is gut-punching him as a karmic punishment for the way he treated Novalee.

I hope Wal-Mart paid the author a nice chunk of change for all the favorable product placement. The Wal-Mart in my home town would not be nearly as friendly as this fictional one (also, it’d be hard to live in because where I’m from, Wal-Mart doesn’t close at night.)

 And the damn woman names her daughter Americus. Americus Nation. I almost through the book across the bus at that point, but I didn’t because those other bus passengers didn’t deserve to be punished for a fictional character’s poor decisions.

 Once again, I wish I could like this. It’s not an offensive book. It’s just good-heartedly dumb. I’ll probably watch the movie if I see it available on Netflix Streaming or OnDemand because I am a glutton for punishment.

13
Dec
12

CBR4 #44: The Road to Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

This book was my first experience with Lovecraft, and I’m not sure I’m all that thrilled with him. It consists of a number of short stories, spanning the length of his career. They’re all supposed to be dark and spooky, though some are more successful than others.

 There were a few stories I liked. “Herbert West: Reanimator” was pretty good–it’s a tale of an experimental scientist gone made–but it was clearly originally published as a serial, since at the beginning of each section the author goes back and recaps everything that JUST HAPPENED which gets a little annoying. However, a lot of the stories were either unnecessarily long (“At the Mountains of Madness”) or not very interesting. He also, earlier in his career, had a tendency to pull the “Up the tension, up the tension, up the tension…AND THEN IT TURNED OUT HIS MOTHER WAS AN ALBINO GORILLA THE WHOLE TIME! The End” bit more than was acceptable. I mean, I like a good twist ending, but it’s a trick that can be easily overused.

 On the whole, I was not wildly impressed with this collection. Although it definitely had some cool moments, I think this is a genre that was done better before by Poe. Also, I didn’t feel that any of the stories contained any real character development. The characters were put into situations mostly because that was where the author wanted them. I didn’t find myself particularly interested in or sympathetic toward any of them (with the possible exception of the narrator of the “Herbert West” story.) I know you might say there isn’t room in short stories for character development, but maybe if he’d spent less time endlessly describing echoing chambers and tentacled monsters he might have been able to create some more interesting characters.

 Anyway, it’s one of those books you should read as an introduction to help recognize the influence on other authors, but I don’t feel the need to rush out and find any more of Lovecraft’s work.

12
Dec
12

CBR4 #43: Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Remember what I was saying about how I love Stephen King, but I sometimes wonder why I bother?

 Stories like The Wind Through the Keyhole are why I keep coming back, no matter how many times old SK burns with with terrible endings or ass weasels or giant spiders. This is a good, solid fantasy novel. There are no tricks, no nonsense. Just a really great story.

 This book takes place during the events of the Dark Tower series, in between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. It’s not really tied in to the plot of the series–it’s more like an interlude within it. Roland the Gunslinger and his ka-tet find themselves trapped in a building, waiting out a very bad storm. While they wait, Roland tells Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy a tale of his youth. Then, within that story, he tells a scared young boy another story, the tale of Tim Stoutheart. All the stories are reflections of the larger through-lines of the series, but this is also probably the only one that could be read as a stand-alone (with the help of a little explanation in the author’s introduction.) However, reading it within the context of the Dark Tower brings a lot of insight about Roland’s character.

 On the whole, I’d heartily recommend this one. It’s full of the storytelling magic that I look for from Stephen King, and I think that fans of his work (particularly fans of the Gunslinger) will like it quite a bit.

10
Dec
12

CBR4 #40: Coffin County by Gary Braunbeck

The town of Cedar Hill is one of those places. It’s a place like Derry, Maine or Bon Temps, Louisiana or Sunnydale, California; it’s a place where things are not quite right, nor have they ever been. The town–since its founding–seems to draw tragedy and death like a magnet. From a massacre of the early settlers right up until the explosion and fire at the coffin factory that destroyed an entire neighborhood a few years ago, the people of Cedar Hill have become accustomed to bloody surprises.

Police detective Ben Littlejohn finds himself chasing another one of Cedar Hill’s deadly mysteries when he’s called to the scene of a mass murder in a diner. The murderer has left his fingerprints all over the scene, and Ben hopes it will be an open-and-shut case. Of course, that’s not how it works out. The fingerprints are but the first of many indications that things have gone wildly askew. Soon, Ben is confronted by inexplicable new tombstones appearing in the cemetery, and a video tape that shows something that simply cannot be.

The book also has two shorter stories included–one is about an out-of-this-world showdown that occurs at a rural bar one night, and the other involves the life of some of Cedar Hill’s factory workers.

All three tales are great–spooky and well-written. The first is a little longer than it really needed to be–I think it should have been the same length as the other two–but still absolutely readable. I like the way the stories’ locations and characters tie in to one another, as well as to Braunbeck’s other works (including Keepers and Mr. Hands). I like his work, and plan to read more of his Cedar Hill stories.