Neighbors, tires and trash

•August 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I wrote this little meandering half nonfiction/half fiction thing yesterday after finishing reading Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen. I guess I got a little infected with her sort of flatly stated but descriptive and fanciful, almost stream-of-consciousness (not like Ulysses, but sort of “this thought leads into this thought that may not follow the point exactly”) style. Unlike her stuff, there’s no surrealism or magic-realism in this. It’s not that fanciful either. I was playing around with the repetition thing that Chuck Palahniuk talks about a lot, and the periodic focusing on small details in a slice-of-life little story mainly about nails in tires, garbage, people doing things half-assed and people just not caring about how what they do affects others. I’m not quite satisfied with the title or the ending (I didn’t really know how to end it), and I guess plotwise it doesn’t go much of anywhere, but it was fun to write and fun to take paragraphs and rearrange them like puzzle pieces until it felt more or less right. It’s always interesting to take something or at least a few details from my actual life and make them somewhat interesting. I haven’t posted anything in ages (and haven’t really written much new aside from journal entries in ages) so I figured I’d stick it up here in case anyone was bored.

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All this time

•June 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I feel like the peak of my writing, not the peak of skill or outcome, but the peak of when I was writing the most, must have been middle school. I had a lot of enthusiasm, a decent sense of confidence in my abilities fed by various English teachers, a wealth of inspiration from all the books I was reading, and not much of an inner editor yet. I didn’t have much in the way of friends, never mind a social life, and a lot of bullies, and writing was the perfect escape. The Internet existed but it wasn’t ubiquitous, and most of the current sharing mechanisms and social networking stuff didn’t exist yet, so I wrote it for myself and didn’t even think of anyone else seeing it. I was basically telling myself stories, transcribing my daydreams.

Even in high school when my social life took off a bit, it was probably because I was still living at home and didn’t have much in the way of responsibilities. Even though I had a job after 16, it’s not like I had to come home, take care of a house, spend time with my family (I did, but it’s different when you’re a kid and it’s your parents. Not much you have to do to maintain that relationship, as opposed to a spouse).

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Amber’s Goodreads review of The Dark Tower by Stephen King

•April 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I haven’t posted anything on here in maybe a year, huh (and wow, WordPress has changed a little, at last in the “making a post” format). Well, I haven’t been doing much writing, and though I’ve been posting my usual casual reading reviews on Goodreads, I haven’t been posting them here. I may post some of that backlog, we’ll see. Anyway, I’m sorry there hasn’t been much activity. I miss writing, and I really need to make some time for it. I’ve been busy finishing my A.S. in Baking and Pastry (got my diploma!) and working as a pastry chef in a small restaurant. Other projects have consumed my downtime. I know the bug will sweep me under again eventually, though. :) It always does.

And without further ado, my latest thing I’ve read lately:

The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, #7)The Dark Tower by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Browsing the reviews, this seems like a “love it or hate it” installment. I still found it compelling and readable, even though the author self-insertion could be seen as a bit self-indulgent. Kind of a mind-f*ck ending, though I could’ve done without the “are you sure you want to know what he finds?” teasing. I couldn’t decide if it was King’s way of trying to spare us or his “screw you” to people who would’ve bitched about him ending it earlier (it seemed kind of like both, at least in how the narrative voice presents it).

And now, some SPOILERS:
-Eddie was my favorite, so I was super disappointed when he died. And poor Jake! How many times does that kid have to get run over?
-I do like how Susannah got the eff out into an alternate world with Eddie and Jake in it, to live out somewhat of a normal life rather than allow herself to be sacrificed in Roland’s quest – especially within spitting distance of accomplishing it. Poor gal’s gone through enough.
-I actually took a sort of wry pleasure in there not being a bigger showdown with Mordred. If King had just killed off spider boy with dysentery or whatever he was ailing from, before he even got to attack Roland, I would’ve taken pleasure in that subverting of expectations too (though the “constant readers” might’ve howled and called it a cop-out).
-As deus ex machina as “The Artist” was, good solution, man.

And now I want to read all the books in bold in the list at the front of the book that are related somehow to The Dark Tower series. Considering I couldn’t force myself into Salem’s Lot years ago, I’m not sure of my chances. Aside from this series, the only King book I really enjoyed is Carrie. Everyone also says that his writing in this series is very different from his usual, so if I like it, I may not like the rest as much. Still, very glad I read it and I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. What an imagination.

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Amber’s Goodreads review of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

•March 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The Last Unicorn (The Last Unicorn, #1)The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this ebook, which I got in a Humble Bundle (I don’t think I’ve gotten a book so far through that avenue that I haven’t enjoyed). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it had great imagination, some humor, whimsy, and emotion. I really cared about the characters. I can see where a couple of other authors may have been inspired (I would bet Terry Pratchett got at least a little of Discworld’s Rincewind from fellow inept wizard Schmendrick, and the whole tone of the story reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust). I also wonder if the makers of Red Bull have any idea about the Red Bull in this book.

In any case, it’s a fun read, and I’d like to read it to a kid someday. It was bundled with a sort of short story sequel, Two Hearts, which was a great little addition. It isn’t kiddie fairytale but neither is it really mature, grown-up sword-and-sorcery. I think all ages would enjoy it.

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Amber’s Goodreads review of The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

•March 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga, #2)The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I’m hooked. Yes, I liked Cordelia’s arc a little more, but Miles is a riot. Just as fun to read as his mother, really. He’s a genius. I saw another review complaining of a lot of deus ex machina, but as a writer I know you’re building a series of events and of course they’re going to form to where the story needs to go. Maybe I can just suspend my disbelief more easily or I was thrilled enough by the lucky turns and didn’t notice. Anyway, yes Miles always lands on his feet somehow, but not without a lot of flailing around on the way, and that makes him human enough to appeal to me. The kid has some charisma, but I guess it’s from having to rely on smarts and charm instead of physical ability and good looks (I think Cordelia said in the epilogue of Barrayar that he honed his charm during the time he spent before being able to actually walk).

As to the unrequited romance, it’s actually kind of refreshing to not see the hero “get the girl” (even if it’d have more meaning if he was a traditionally handsome lead instead of “scrawny deformed guy” more likely to be “friend-zoned”) and how he deals with it (with some minor jealous slip-ups) pretty maturely impressed me. Elena’s growth was also great to see.

In any case, I’ll keep on with the series until it gets annoying or stops being good or whatever, but I’m curious to read the further adventures of Miles. In the meantime, I want to reread Shards of Honor now from the perspective of someone who knows how it turns out for Cordelia and Aral. Some characters that seemed incidental at the time are ones I’ve now gotten to know, so I’d like to see them “for the first time” again.

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Amber’s Goodreads review of The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

•March 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The Dark and Hollow Places (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #3)The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I haven’t quite finished this yet, and I will, but as far as reviews go I’m calling it now.

The first two books rode on Ryan’s suspenseful storytelling. In this one, I stopped caring. Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since I read the first two, but I just didn’t care about the characters. I find Annah pretty unlikable. I don’t care about her, Catcher, Gabry/Abigail/whatever her name is or Elias. I get angry with the abuses of the Recruiters but that’s about it.

My main problems:
-The whole first-person-present-tense with a completely inauthentic, overly poetical voice. No one would “think” like this. First person past tense would do a lot to improve it (someone with an artistic soul thinking back on events would be authentic enough) but this first-person-present trend is huge now, much to my annoyance. It makes it really hard to suspend my disbelief and it really really slows down the action AND takes me out of the story, whether something is happening or people are just talking. No one is that goddamn actively mentally aware of how their body is feeling and what they’re thinking in the middle of a conversation or when something exciting is going on, at least not in such detail.

-The repetition, the constant circling around of coming together, pushing away, philosophizing about is surviving really living, should we envy the undead? It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure which character holds which opinion anymore. I went from one chapter where Annah is telling Catcher pretty much “live today for tomorrow we may die” to the very next, she’s going on to Elias about how maybe dying/undying would be easier. I can see mood swings but two adjacent chapters of just talk talk talk (and I’m not averse to talk, or character development… if only we could get some!) is wearisome.

-Again, with the do I love this person, does he love me, I want you/I can’t be with you, all taking place in the middle of post-zombie-apocalypse hell… Okay, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been a teenager and these kids have grown up with the world like this (over a century, apparently, since the Return? I’m amazed anyone’s still alive). It still strikes me as really bizarre that the romance drama would be anyone’s primary concern right now. It was ridiculous enough when they were actively running from zombies.

I pretty much picked this one up just to finish the series (and if there’s another book after this one, forget it, it ends with a trilogy for me). If Ryan is trying to simulate the tense boredom of the main character’s daily existence, she’s succeeded, bravo. Maybe I’m just getting too old for teenage love quadrangles.

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Amber’s Goodreads review of Little Brother by Cody Doctorow

•March 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Little Brother (Little Brother, #1)Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a must-read. There’s a quote in one of the afterwords that explains why, about how America is suffering from an autoimmune disease in regards to combating terrorism: we’re oversensitive and only hurting our own “cells.” The anti-terrorism measures are only serving to keep us afraid, infringe on our freedoms, and are easily sidestepped by determined adversaries.

This book actually really pissed me off, not because it was bad or boring or I disagreed with the message, but because I believe this really could happen, that our country could turn into a place where innocent citizens are presumed guilty and tortured and imprisoned indefinitely under the umbrella of “fighting terrorism.” I do not believe in trading privacy for an illusion of security.

Read this book and imagine yourself, or someone you love, in the main character’s position. It’ll scare you too.

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