Saturday, August 27, 2016

I'm Not Even That Caffeinated Today.

I'm taking a break from the book to blog, because what's better for a writing break than...more writing? I don't know how to explain that it IS different. So, while my bloodthirsty eagle soars over the steppe and considers human snacks (in my head, people, in my head), here are some random items of note, none of which are enough for a real post:

  • Someone found my blog by googling "pithy snake" which I find both disturbing and intriguing. 
  • I put out mouse traps because fall = the critters in the crawlspace attempting to invade. Baited with peanut butter. 
  • Fucking ants ate ALL the goddamned peanut butter off both traps in such an efficient and interesting manner (seriously, it's like they had their own tiny highway or fire brigade bucket line) I just let them have it all. 
  • So...Dear Lowes: I need rodent poison for the crawlspace, peanut butter for the traps in my house, and ant killer.
  • The AC guy told me all about his divorce last week while he was waiting for his counterpart to come help him fix the compressor. AC guy is a new one - taxi drivers, plane passengers, library patrons, and all manner of random acquaintances are all on the list of "strangers who tell me all their personal stuff". I am amused. 
  • AC guy totally paid for his listening session by going into the crawlspace to turn the outside water back on, despite having an expressed fear of spiders. He couldn't find the spigot, but did confirm creatures of the furry AND arachnid variety in abundance in the fucking crawlspace. 
  • Dear Lowes: please add a shop vac (for mouse poop and spiderwebs), some sort of Shelob killer, and perhaps a person braver than I am to venture down there. 
  • A couple people have asked in the past why I don't just go get a counseling degree and open a practice. I actually have an answer because I've considered it. Were I to get a degree it would be in trauma counseling, not relationship/marriage counseling. And in general, while I'll give advice if asked I try really hard to ONLY be an ear and let people figure out their shit on their own. I seem to be found when I'm needed by those who need an ear (let's be clear that in the cases to which I'm referring, it's not ME they're looking for, it's a sympathetic and/or non-judgmental human willing to listen), and fuck making a living off that - I'd be exhausted all the time. 
  • In Spam mail I read the subject line too fast and could've sworn the email said "Dental Breast Implants", which I found to be a heartily disturbing mental image, and a seriously funny ad. Sadly, it was really for normal dental implants, no boobs involved. 
  • In all honesty, I took a break from both the book AND the blog to watch this week's episode of Killjoys on SyFy. If you aren't watching this show, what the fuck is WRONG with you? You're missing absolute gold. And OH LOOKY THERE, the whole first season is streaming on Syfy's website. 
I have another couple thousand words to go today, so this is the end of my not-post. There is another goddamned cellar spider in the corner of the ceiling at the top of my stairs. Last time one of those dudes hung out there, a wolf spider the size of my palm came to eat him. No, thank you, 8 legged wonders of horror. I appreciate your function OUTSIDE the house. 

Vacuum, then write. 

PS: It's 5:30pm in August, and it's 66 degrees out. YES YES YES!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Book Review: The Babylon Rite (Tom Knox)

One of the dangers of spending so much time writing in the B&N coffee shop is the lurid attraction of all those unread pages.

Lo they do call to me... *ahem*

And so in the middle of writing the Prometheus book I was sidetracked by The Babylon Rite, a fascinating mash-up of Templar mystery and disturbing ancient Peruvian archaeology. Yes, I was also intrigued at the idea, and therefore got sucked into Knox's fast paced story of an unemployed journalist, a young archaeological grad student, and a couple of dead professors.

Adam Blackwood is writing a puff piece on a famous historian and his connection to Rosslyn Chapel. THE Rosslyn Chapel of The Davinci Code fame: a subject of both scorn and deprecation by the main character, as he makes a snarky comment or two regarding the influx of tourism in the area since Dan Brown's story became popular.

The professor in question, famous for debunking Templar myths, whispers only that it's all real and it's all here before running off and, surprisingly, driving his car into a stone wall in a mad suicide. And thus Blackwood is sucked into an odd mystery by the professor's daughter, a woman convinced her father had been involved in something bigger and scarier and was most decidedly NOT suicidal. Worse, his "suicide" seems to be similar to a string of truly horrific deaths popping up around London.

Did I mention seriously disturbing archaeology? That too. While all the drama is occurring in the UK, Jessica Silverton is in Peru with her (rather stereotypical) lover and boss, the head of an archaeological excavation of the Moche. Her story, seemingly separate from Blackwood's, follows what happens to a person who discovers the "mythological significance" of ancient paintings depicting people severing their own limbs or having sex with sacrifices (that would be during said sacrifice and immediately after) and/or animals was not mythologically significant at all. They weren't allegorical images: they were accurate recordings of real events.

The way their plots eventually intertwine with each other is really well done: the idea that Moche civilization is in any way connected to the secret Templar initiation rite is pretty inventive and not at all implausible when the mystery is revealed. However, I personally found the big twist that actually tied them together fairly disappointing. To be completely fair, that's likely because I rather enjoy the whole ancient conspiracy theme, and so I had an expectation I perhaps should not have entertained.

Also, while Knox has an excellent knack for writing really creepy violence, he doesn't do a lot to develop the characters themselves. I think the torturous villains would've been more effective if I gave a hoot about any of the main characters, but really none of them were much more than cardboard cutouts. I actually got the impression that there was development behind them, but that it had been edited out of the story to try to make it more fast-paced, because Knox's writing is truly evocative. I was disappointed to find myself ambivalent in places I wouldn't have been if I'd been vested in the character's worlds. Interestingly the back cover blurbs include something about this being a tale "peppered with sex" which is horrendously incorrect. There is a truly awful rape scene (yes, dear author, rape is still rape even if the victim's body responds...a comment which made me want to hit something), and there's a myriad of inventive violence. Decidedly not a story for weak stomachs.

All in all it wasn't a book that left me thinking hard about the world, the characters, or even the awful things that happened after I put it down. But I'd read another of his works for an afternoon escape anytime I'm feeling like an alternative to an action movie.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Review: The Bourbon Thief (Tiffany Reisz)

I'll admit it. I wasn't sure about this one.

Despite having read all of the Original Sinners series and most of the short stories/novellas set in that universe, The Bourbon Thief back cover copy didn't catch me. And so, foolishly, I started it at 10pm the night I got it.

DUMB DUMB DUMB. You'd think, after reading and rereading eight prior books, I'd learn that Ms. Reisz keeps me up until the damn thing is finished and I'd think about it for days afterward.

The Bourbon Thief is a richly written sordid labyrinth of secrets revealed in slow, savored sips. Ridiculously wealthy Cooper McQueen takes a hot, mysterious woman home for the night and, of course, she steals his million dollar bottle of bourbon. Except, Paris says the bottle is rightfully hers, and promises by the end of her sad story he'll not only let her keep the bottle, he'll apologize for having it in the first place.

The book jumps between today and the late 1970's as Paris doles out the details of the Maddox family legacy to Cooper. She takes her time telling him the story of Tamara Maddox, teenage heiress to the Maddox fortune, built on a post Civil War slave's sale which funded the beginning of Red Thread bourbon distillery in Kentucky. Cooper is fascinated by both the woman and her attempt to keep him from pressing charges for theft.

In 1978, sixteen year old Tamara loses her spoiled attitude along with her innocence while navigating the family's terrible secrets. Every scheming plot, every horrid fight between her and her mother, every action taken in revenge twists and turns her life in unexpected directions. The love story that threads its way through the book is just as unconventional and intense as her other works, just in different ways. Plots I can predict bore the crap out of me, and The Bourbon Thief is a maze that takes the reader down completely different (and often disturbing) paths as Paris weaves her tale to convince Cooper the bottle of 150 year old bourbon belongs to her.

I found both Cooper and Paris to be less developed characters than the rest, cutouts there purely to move the story along with narration. Cooper never develops beyond the horny rich dude who doesn't really have much on the line here (after all, what is a $1m bottle of booze to a billionaire in the grand scheme of things?), but Paris's background becomes clearer as the book progresses, giving her a measure of humanity that makes her less of a narrator and more of human character with complex motivations. Those in Tamara's story, however, are the fully developed people spanning human strengths and frailties I've come to expect from Ms. Reisz. They have measures of both good and evil: not one person in Tamara's world is without their own motivations for their actions, however vile or excellent.

As with Ms. Reisz's other works, this is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for kids. Period. If you're looking for an intense read that will keep you up 'til 2am because you can't possibly put it down until it's over, pick up The Bourbon Thief immediately.