Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book log 18

by Maria Semple
I inadvertently let this slide by a while back, having gotten a reminder from the library that it was waiting for me. By the time I remembered it was there, it was gone, and I had to request it again. This time I remembered to pick it, and I got around to reading it.

Was it worth it? Only in that it was feted, and not just by Seattle, so it was good to find out what the Powers That Be are reading. (Seattle is constantly amazed and pleased when it gets Big-Name recognition. The author, Maria Semple, was a Hollywood writer (I guess she still is), and she has cred, but she lives in Seattle now, at least at the moment. The little things make me happy: I was relieved to see, at least in the digital copy, there's a comma in the title. I kept seeing it without, probably by those who never actually looked IN the book. Or are semiliterate. Either is a possibility.

Anyway, that's the problem with things that are feted: it's usually done so by people who want to be "in" and not by those who actually have any knowledge. So that's very Hollywood. Okay, now for the actual book. I found it incredibly annoying. Overprivileged, self-centered, entitled...and that's just to describe our protagonists. No, this is yet another work by the privileged about the privileged for the privileged, and I have no patience. Go back to being moneyed, you vapid richos. Hollywood fail. And this is why I tend to read genre fiction.

Next up: WASHINGTON'S SPIES by Alexander Rose, the story of America's first spy ring, on which the AMC series TURN was based. I understand our old friend Bob Greenberger assigned this book to his high school students last term, and I'm impressed. My high school wouldn't have dreamed of assigning something this challenging! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ghosts, ghosts, all around the world

Coming up in July (starting on July 7 to July 20, to be precise) is my and Jacquie Rogers's workshop on Ghost Myths and Legends Around the World (also known as "Ghosts Along the Silk Road and Beyond")! It's been in the researching and writing for two years and more! Check out what's up or transparent, and take the ghost quiz on the FF&P blog:

See you there!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book log 17

by Esri Allbritten

Straight upfront, I have to tell you that I’m not a Chihuahua person. I’ve worked with people who apparently take way too many cues for their lives from useless hotel heiresses and came into work with their little yappy dogs either firmly attached to their arms or tucked into their purses. I could go on, but it would be too much, and you can probably figure out what kind of people they are just by those descriptions. (And I could tell you more, but if you’re eating, you’d probably choke, so I don’t want that on my conscience. Needless to say that there was a lot of head-shaking around those two women…oops, I’ve said too much. I am embarrassed on behalf of my gender, I can tell you that. And someday I may have to work that into something I write, anyway.)

Back to the book. More of a short story or a novella, but whatever. I was looking for something to read in between projects, from editing gig back to finishing my own work, and I came upon this little jewel. I bought it around holiday time, but of course there was too much to do, and I put it off. And I should say right now that I’ve met the author, back when we were in a large online critique group, I picked this up because I remembered liking her style. (I’ve picked up a few books from that group over the years, so while it turned out not really workable for me, it did work out for me to find new authors, so it was still a win-win.) By this time Allbritten had already sold her debut novel Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, and I had no preconceived notions about her work or the series. As I said, not a Chihuahua person.

Gadzooks, it was cute. I didn’t even like yappy little dogs, but I liked the story anyway. I didn’t know anything about her setting, characters, or yappy dogs, but everything was clear without needing details.  I liked the descriptions of the town, I liked its holiday traditions, I liked the surly Russian dog trainer roped into playing a Santa Claus heavily influenced by the Russian version (Ded Moroz, and I appreciated how the reference made me remember what little Russian I took away from college), and the happy ending for the homeless little Chihuahua. This is a lovely story for Christmas.

Do you like Chihuahuas? You’ll like this. And probably Allbritten’s other books, too. Try ‘em.

Coming up: WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, and more! Haven’t chosen what to read next. There are so many choices!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Book log 16

by Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey

In retrospect it made perfect sense, to have a history of comic books in comic book form. But it took this long to have one. But then, the history of comic books isn’t that long, either (if we rightfully reckon its origins back in the 1930s). In any case, when it first came out I was eager to read this and of course I was too busy to deal with it back then (amazing how much being gainfully employed takes out of your everyday, nonworking life. No wonder how often people talk about doing all sorts of things when you retire! If you have time, that is, since I also hear that retiring makes the entire concept of time do funny things. But anyway). But now that I have time and I remembered this book, I hunted it down, and I was glad I did. Because it is a fun book, and that’s the way it should be!

Part of the marvel (sorry) about this history book is that it is a living history; comic books are still a young-enough medium that their origins are within memory of the living, even though the pioneers of the field are slipping away, sadly (but understandably). There is a certain odd feeling when you read a history book and you realize that you’ve met some of the historical figures and even actually worked for some of those historical figures, dined with some others. Dining with historical figures! They might as well have been George Washington! (Okay, maybe not ol’ George, but that would have been an interesting conversation, what with his bad teeth making my bad teeth look good, and language between now and then being different enough making for an interesting challenge, and his probably staring at me, possibly never having met a person of Asian persuasion, and trying to ask questions that don’t make sense to me because they come from an entirely different mindset.)

Anyway, back to the book, because that’s an interesting-enough topic without meandering into George Washington territory (as opposed to…never mind). One of the things I really appreciated about this book is that it didn’t gloss over some of the more unpleasant periods or controversies; and that makes it a better read than a lot of hagiographies out there. (But then, hagiographies aren’t usually good reads anyway. Entertaining, possibly, depending on the work.) The book finishes off at the dawn of the digital age and what it means for the industry, as far as we know. Because do we really know? Of course not. But it’s fun to speculate, and if there’s something that comics have at their heart, it’s the fun of speculating. What if we had a baby from outer space turn out to have powers beyond those of mortal man? (Besides being the world’s most popular illegal alien? My husband’s favorite joke.) What if a rich man whose parents are killed in front of him decides to dress up and go fight weirdly dressed killers in the middle of the night? What if? What if?

Coming up: WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, and more! Haven’t chosen what to read next. There are so many choices!