Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nothing to See Here Ladies, Move Along, Move Along.


Despite the marbles in his mouth, this guy had no trouble being understood.

After reading GONE GIRL I fully expected to write a review for my blog.  I will go ahead and say the book is good, really enjoyed it, well written, etc, but I’ve actually decided that there are more important issues to address than adding the two-millionth review of this wildly popular book to the internets.

It’s at this point in the post that I’d like to respectfully ask that all the ladies log off, power down, or, just generally, look the other way. 

Are they all gone?  Is it safe for us guys to talk now?

Good.

I have one big take away from this novel, and it’s this:

Women be trippin’. 

Guys, you don’t even know.  If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you do, if only for its value as a cautionary tale.  I’m not even sure how this thing got out into the mainstream.  It was clearly written as a how-to-manual for disgruntled wives, girlfriends, and long suffering fianc├ęs everywhere.  My wife (love you, honey) recommended this one to me, much in the same way I think the Corleone family put a horse’s head in Mr. Woltz’s bed to encourage different behavior from him.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I’m saying GONE GIRL is a severed horse’s head dropped into the bed of men all over the country. 

Without giving away too much plot, the married couple in the book, Amy and Nick, are hitting their five year anniversary and things are not good.  The story revolves around the two different approaches these characters take to addressing that problem.  Did I mention earlier, women be trippin’? 

All I can say is, men, regardless of whether you read this book or not, find out what your women are doing!  Don’t zone out, don’t tune out, and don’t just nod while you’re watching the game and their lips are moving.  They are constantly giving us clues, constantly dropping hints.  Eye rolls are not an ocular-stretching exercise, exasperated sighs are not just a release of excess air, and toe tapping is not an involuntary reaction to an amazing song they’re thinking about in their heads.  And if this book is any indication, by the time these not-so-subtle clues become secret bank accounts, secondary e-mail addresses, and an overly intense interest in infomercials about Ginsu knife sets, it’s too late!   

If you’re concerned that you may have already missed too many warning signs (and, yes, you have) here’s my advice.  Without getting stalker-ish, find out what your woman is doing during the day.  Is she out having lunch with girlfriends? Is she holding down a secret job?  Obsessively bleaching the kitchen floor?  You may need to know these things. 

The tagline for this book could be (and may actually be) this: Do you really know each other at all?  Apparently, there’s a price to not clearing up that question with some urgency.  So once you do take the time to get to know your better half again, don’t forget to let her know that.  She might be dealing with lip from the kids while letting you look like the white knight.  Maybe she’s starting the laundry on Thursday so you don’t have to worry about it during the weekend.  Did she whip up your favorite little dessert without asking?  Whatever it is, notice (see above), appreciate (thanks, babe), reciprocate (picked up the girls, caught the dog, cupcakes!).  Repeat.

Then follow these steps like your life depends on it.  Just in case.

Writing Contest

Check out this contest from Chuck Sambuchino at http://t.co/zMyasOaw

Entries have to be received by the end of the month.  Sci-fi and Young Adult entrants accepted.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Best Blog Post Since We Beat Hitler!

Is it me, or does she just not really look into it?

I’m noticing a new trend in our culture, and most prominently, with the talking heads that squeeze themselves into the rectangular shaped boxes in our living rooms, bedrooms, and above our keyboards (fine, on our ipods, ipads, ibooks, and idontcares as well).  I’m not sure how to describe it with nuance or subtlety, so I’ll just pull a page from one of their playbooks to tell you about it.

It’s the worst trend I’ve seen since Hitler started making an entire race of people wear armbands to identify themselves as genetically inferior across the face of Europe!

Ok, so did I overreach a little there?  I don’t care, because these commentators and faux-experts on misplaced rage and incorrectly identified injustice use scare tactics and propaganda to force their worldview on people the same way ….

Wow, it’s really easy to slip into that (slowly pulls off shiny black, goose stepping boots). 

I want to connect this to writing in some meaningful way, even though the issue is indicative of a problem that’s become pandemic throughout our entire society.

Let’s call it “The Hitler Conversation Ender”.

Now, imagine that in your book or story you were ready to introduce your villain, maybe in chapter three or so.  Let’s even make him a very straightforward villain, not a lot of shades of grey (one or two at most, but, please, not fifty).  Now let’s write an opening scene for him.

Trevor Gluth was sitting in the dermatologist’s waiting room, flipping lazily through a fourteen-month-old copy of Field and Stream.  His eyes skimmed across the surface of the pages, never causing a ripple, never picking up a word.  With every turn of an unread page, Trevor stole a glance across the room and absorbed a piece of Whitney Moon.  The color of the stitching running along the hem of her skirt, the way stray hairs fell over her ears even though the rest of her hair was pulled taut behind her head, the way the carotid artery on the left side of her neck rose and fell with the twist of her head.  Trevor looked back down and savored that last detail like a burst of crepe filling in his mouth as he skimmed the next glossy page.  Just like Hitler would have.

So, were you starting to get creeped out?  At least a little?  Hopefully you wanted to know the connection, if any, between Trevor and Whitney.  Maybe you wanted to know why he was obsessing over her circulatory system.  If you’re a guy reading this, maybe you were curious about those Field and Stream articles going unread.  Whatever your interest in the passage and the character, I’d bet my last Deutschmark I lost you as soon as I jumped to Hitler.  There’s a simple reason for that.  Wait, there’s actually an even more simple reason for that.  Nobody’s like Hitler. 

Thank God. 

I’m willing to concede there may be people in the world today with minds as dark, as twisted as Hitler’s was, but the world is a different place, filled with people determined never to let someone like that commit global-scale atrocities again.  Now, I’m sure this basic argument could be countered by people with more social awareness than I have, citing genocide in dark corners of the globe that the mainstream media is uninterested in shining much light on, but I think for the purposes of this analysis, there is no one like Hitler.

Again, pretty glad about that.

So what does it do to your argument, or your writing, when you jump straight from a double dare to a triple dog dare in the form of a Fuhrer comparison?  In my opinion, it completely invalidates the most important character reference for the validity of a person’s perspective: their judgment.  I just don’t believe what anybody has to say after they throw Hitler into the mix.  Here’s my logic:  Comparing someone with whom you have a difference of opinion with to Hitler is crazy.  I don’t listen to cray-cray, ergo, I don’t listen to you.

Lumping someone in with Hitler seems to be the go-to argument ender these days.  “If you agree with this other person, you agree with Hitler, so now you have the blood of innocent millions on your hands.  So who’s right now?”

Well, no one can argue with that logic, and if you try to, I’m sure there’s a nice camp somewhere you can be sent until you see things the right way.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Goodreads Review - Pandemonium

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I guess I’ll start with a recap before I begin my review. I’m a huge Lauren Oliver fan. Not because I’ve read all of her books, (actually, maybe I have), but because of the incredible impact reading just one of her books had on me. I loved her debut novel BEFORE I FALL. That led me to read the first installment in a series called DELIRIUM. I enjoyed the book, the writing was strong as expected, but it didn’t knock my socks off, and that’s ok. It was good enough to warrant reading its sequel, which is more than I do for most series. I had a feeling things were just getting warmed up, and I was correct.
PANDEMONIUM is a fantastic sequel. Lena, who escaped from a dystopian society where teens have love lobotomized out of their brains, is living in the Wilds and adapting to her new life. The Invalid, or ‘Uncured’ boy whom she’d fallen in love with and convinced her to escape died at the end of DELIRIUM, or so we were led to believe. In books, I always require a Ferris Bueller level of evidence that a character is dead before I believe it. Just roll dead grandma’s old bones into Ed Rooney’s office and I’ll give you an excused absence for going to the funeral. So, my belief that Alex was really dead quickly became fear that he might not be, because he was the part of the first book I liked least. Once his death, or body as it were, appeared to be pretty much in the bag, I relaxed and realized we were going to need another love interest. Enter Julian Fineman, a fine man indeed, and a wonderful opposites-attract-challenge for our Lena. I was more interested in Julian in the first few lines than I ever was in Alex.

So the story of Lena adapting to the Wilds was wonderful then we start into a ‘now’ and ‘then’ chapter progression, which usually causes me to want to skip ahead to one or the other; however, the stories in both timelines were equally compelling and kept me riveted until they merged into now.

There were great twists, fantastic action sequences, and a great progression of the romance. Some of the dystopian series can start to feel a little familiar, and this one has shades of HUNGER GAMES in it, but at it’s heart is the fascinating question of ‘How important is love and your freedom to love?’ Those are pretty big stakes and help to elevate this series above some of the others. The book ends in a satisfying way, even if the last word did confirm my fears from the beginning of the novel. By the time I got to that point, though, I knew that’s how it had to be. Lauren held my hand through three hundred and seventy-four pages and didn’t drop the bomb on me until I was ready.


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