Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Interesting Read:

Last night I finished Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. My non-reading friends were impressed at its length (529 pages) and couldn't imagine devoting the time to something so long. Then again, they don't read (I can't imagine a life without books!). I was drawn to this book because of the hints given on reincarnation, that the main character dies and is reborn again and again. In the strictest sense this is exactly what happens, but my take isn't that it's reincarnation, rather, it's an exploration into parallel universes.

To my mind, reincarnation is when a person lives a life as, say, a man who works in a machine shop, gets married and has three kids. He dies at the ripe old age of 81 and then, at his next incarnation, he experiences a life where he's an accountant with a gambling addiction, or a woman at the turn of the century. Different family, different circumstances, different body. What happens in Life After Life, though, is that we see how Ursula Todd's life would've turned out if B had happened instead of A, if G and H happen instead of A, etc. We see how all the different choices play out; if one were to take the path on the right instead of the path on the left. It's a very interesting experiment.

I did have some trouble getting into the narrative, though, and almost bailed not once but twice. It was around the 100 page mark before I really felt engaged - a long time to expect the reader to hang on. Part of this, for me, might be that I don't usually go for historical fiction. But some of the most interesting story lines and character experiences occurred during the bombings of WWII, both from the perspective of London and Germany. The other part was that seemingly all the rules were broken: multiple POVs within the same chapter and sometimes within the same paragraph. This, in particular, was hard for me to get past. I'm glad I stuck with it... I found that it grew on me, that I came to really know Ursula Todd and all her many sides/lives.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I'm thrilled to share the news that my story "Curves" has been accepted for publication by Hawai'i Pacific Review. It went live today; you can view it here. I'm honored to be included.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Summer Concerts

It seems that summertime and music go hand in hand. Witness the plethora of outdoor venues for bands to strut their stuff. A few drinks, some rock 'n roll... what could be better? As wonderful as summer concerts are, the last one I attended was 11 years ago. For some reason, concerts just weren't on my radar. Until this year. I've been to 3 concerts this summer. Three! I go 11 years without seeing a concert and - bam! - I hit three of them this year. What gives? I don't have a clue... all I can say is I've had a blast.

First up: The Eagles at Summerfest on July 7th. We had grass seats, which is the perfect way to ease into the concert scene after a long absence. My favorite Eagles song: Take It to the Limit

Next: Sir Paul McCartney at Miller stadium on July 16th. We had great seats, but it was hot as blazes, with high humidity. Only thing to do was to lean into the sweat running down my back and enjoy the show. My favorite McCartney song: Band on the Run.

Last, but by no means least: Aerosmith at the Marcus Amphitheater on August 30th. What a FABULOUS concert. Full disclosure: I LOVE Aerosmith. I've loved Aerosmith ever since their 1975 Toys In The Attic album. I know each and every one of these songs intimately. I was just barely a teenager and vividly remember lying, many a night, on the floor of our living room, my head close to my parents' console stereo, listening to this album. These songs saw me through scads of teenage angst. And then some. And, after Steven Tyler's stint on American Idol, I feel like I know him, somehow. Watching him week after week afforded me an opportunity to see that he's a regular schmo with a flair for the quirky and over-the-top and a wry sense of humor. Seeing him in concert (in fantastically close seats no less) felt personal to me, and when they played Sweet Emotion (my all-time favorite song), I swear they were playing it just for me.

As great as the iPhone is, it sucks when it comes to taking pictures at concerts. It took me three concerts to figure out that the best results come if you wait until the lights shine DIRECTLY at you and then snap the picture. Contrary to the mechanics of everything I've learned as a photographer, it somehow works. Here are some of my memories:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Great read:

I read a couple of terrific stories in the latest issue (Volume 13, Spring 2013) of The Los Angeles Review:

* "Landfall" by Robert P. Kaye - This is wonderfully understated so that it sneaks up on you, grabs hold in a powerful way. I admire the ability to take a world news event and make it relatable.

* "Losing the Title" by David Elliot - This is told in a second person POV, and I, as a rule, don't care for this POV. But, holy cow, this is magnificently rendered. Powerful. Mesmerizing.

* "Confounding Variables" by Rachael Warecki - This is smart and clever and well-crafted.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An okay read:

I found Kathleen Goonan's Crescent City Rhapsody by perusing the science fiction section at my local library. Finding a good book using this method is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. I don't recommend this approach. I'd come prepared with a list of books to check out, but most of them were unavailable and so I could only place holds on them. Still hungry for something good to read, I was on my way out when I walked through the science fiction aisles. I plucked book after book, skimmed the opening pages, returned them to the shelf and kept moving. My first requirement: no gimmicky, cheesy, genre-prone writing. My second requirement: a plausible subject. No human-eating aliens, please. My dream book? A sci-fi tale written in a literary style.

Crescent City Rhapsody seemed to fit the bill.

I wanted to like this more than I did. There are some very interesting characters and story lines (Zeb and his brilliance-tinged-with-mental-illness; the strange and amazing abilities of the children in utero during the initial Pulse), and these are what kept me from shelving this mid-book. But, ultimately, there were too many different threads and too much time spent on the ones that didn't interest me. The author tries to tie them all together by the book's end, but it wasn't enough for me to overlook all the time and effort spent on the plot lines that were less engaging for me (the nanotech angle, the biocities). I was much more drawn to what happens in the opening chapter: a pulse of some sort washes over the earth and silences everything electrical, and Zeb, a radio astronomer, has a dipole antenna set up that records incoming information during the silence. Had the book opened with one of the other story lines, I probably would have put it down.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Picture Window

Received my contributor's copies last week of Santa Fe Literary Review. My story "Picture Window" appears in the latest issue. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Great read:

I've just finished Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and, holy cow, did I love it. I was humbled, awed, shaken, absorbed, and spellbound as I traveled this journey with her. There's a section when she's with her mother's horse where I flat out balled, experiencing and imagining the torturous feelings she endured. I couldn't put the book down. She cracks open her soul and out pours confusion and self-doubt and anger and yearning; it was painful at times to bear witness to this. But it was equally satisfying to watch the internal growth that occurs during her months-long hike, to observe the understanding and letting go and acceptance that she undergoes while on this extraordinary expedition, to experience how profoundly she changes.

This was a soul-satisfying read for me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Great read:

I finished When She Woke yesterday, the 2nd novel by Hillary Jordan, and I LOVED it. It falls under the fantasy genre though, to my mind, it's a perfect blend of literary and fantasy - the kind of novel I aspire to write. The night before last afforded me the rarest of occasions: the opportunity to read uninterrupted. No chores to be done, no meals to be made, no one to talk to. I had the house to myself and so I plucked When She Woke from its spot among the stacks of books on my nightstand and picked up where I'd left off. I had barely gotten into it the night before, just 50 pages or so, enough to be thoroughly intrigued. So I read. And read. The hours slipped by unnoticed as I tumbled into the world of Hannah, a woman who lived in a society where crimes were punished via the injection of a virus that turned your skin yellow or orange or green or red. She was a Red. When my husband came home at 1 AM, I was still up, reading. When he insisted that the bedside lamp be extinguished so he could sleep, I retreated to the kitchen and made some toast with jam, and continued reading. I read at the kitchen counter, my eyes burning, until 3 AM. The next morning, yesterday, I woke and tried to go about my morning, but my mind was on the story. So I succumbed. After my shower, I slipped back into bed, my hair wrapped in a towel, and read. Less than an hour later I was finished.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.... it was excellent on every level. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Great read:

I've just finished Kristin Cashore's Graceling and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very Game-of-Thrones-esque, which is probably why it appealed to me. Don't let the YA label fool you or dissuade you from picking up this book - I didn't find it simplistic or too vanilla at all. In fact, on this lazy day in April, with raindrops splattering against the windows, and a fuzzy throw snugged around my legs to ward off the stubborn hold of winter, it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

I haven't updated my reading list, here, but I've been busy reading nonetheless. Unfortunately, most of my forays into the genre world were more ho-hum than not:

* Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell
* The Drop by Michael Connelly
* The Litigators by John Grisham
* The First Prophet by Kay Hooper

Of these, the only one I really enjoyed was The Drop.

On the literary front, I read a fantastic story published in One Story: E. B. Lyndon's "Goodbye, Bear."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Good read:

I've just finished Malcolm R. Campbell's The Sun Singer and I really enjoyed it. It's the story of Robert Adams, a high school-aged boy, and his gift of precognitive dreams. Although he foresees the tragic death of his best friend's sister, he's unable to prevent it and so he shoves his ability aside, refusing to engage it. When his grandfather dies unexpectedly, Robert resurrects his gifts in order to complete a task left undone by his beloved grandfather. The story has parallel universes, portals, synchronicity, and magic -- all deliciously woven together.

The book's back cover contains this label: Contemporary Mythic Adventure. I quite agree.

Although I really enjoyed the story, I feel like I have to say a few words about the beginning chapter. I found it awkward, choppy, amateurish, filled with grammatical errors, and full of one-dimensional characters (of which only two get filled out by story's end). There's also this weird script/layout that occurs on page one and shows up periodically throughout the book, where the prose divides into two columns and the text on the left continues in the standard typeface while the text in the right column is italicized. The intent, I believe, is to showcase, simultaneously, two opposing thoughts/reactions of/by one character to a given situation. The result, in my opinion, is so confusing and odd that it does more harm than good. The whole of this chapter was so off-putting that had the story not gotten pretty quickly to the good stuff, i.e., parallel universe, I would've abandoned the read. And speaking of the "good stuff," I found that although the lack of proof reading was still evident (thought instead of though, then instead of than, etc.), there wasn't any of the awkwardness in phrasing or abrupt switching from one speaker to the next that characterized much of the opening chapter. It was very smooth and very engaging, which makes me think Mr. Campbell was really in his element while composing this part of the story. The downside is that it highlights just how disintegrated the opening chapter is with the rest of the book; it makes it feel like an afterthought.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Great read:

I've just finished Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind and I really, really enjoyed it.

First, though, I feel like I ought to get some credit toward my Goodreads 2013 reading challenge for reading a 722 page novel (yes! 722 pages!), that instead of 1 book, it should count as at least 2, maybe even 3. I'm kidding. Sort of.

The 722 pages go by quickly. This is fantasy, and the fact that I enjoy fantasy is only a recent revelation to me (see my discovery, here). The world Mr. Rothfuss creates is amazing -- rich and believable and all encompassing. The likeability of the protagonist Kvothe (pronounced "Quothe") is astounding as well: we root for him and believe in him. And the scene where he ends up on his own is one of the best I've had to pleasure to read. It was haunting; utterly surprising and shocking, it and its immediate aftermath has stayed with me.

I have only 2 small quibbles with this story. The first is when it switches from the present time and assumes a "let me tell you what happened" tone. This is how the entire story is told, actually, where Kvothe recounts his life's events to Chronicler, who is busy copying the oral into written form. And, really, Rothfuss does such a marvelous job in drawing us into young Kvothe's world that we very quickly switch gears and are absorbed into the unfolding scene and story. My reaction stems from the intrigue that surrounds the older Kvothe and his situation at the book's beginning, that I didn't want to leave it to start over as it were. My slight irritation was short-lived, though.

My other quibble has to do with the ending. It feels like it just sort of ends. On the one hand, the story was already 722 pages long, so, really, it was time! On the other hand, I wanted a bit more of something... resolution, closure. Instead, it feels very open-ended, very much like a pause, and I'm guessing that the 2nd in the series, The Wise Man's Fear will pick up seamlessly where this one leaves off. But this just stopping, if you will, left me slightly unsatisfied and is only a very small notch against a fantastically fabulous read.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Great read:

I finished Anne Leigh Parrish's collection All The Roads That Lead From Home at the end of December, right before the new year started. And what a way to end the year. I loved these stories. Quiet, honest, powerful. They all have a low key sort of quality to them that is deceptive... the characters and their stories wind their way around your heart and through your mind, staying with you long after you've put the book down. Immensely satisfying.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Counting Proper

My short story Counting Proper is live at Blue Lake Review. It appeared originally in the May 2009 issue of Bryant Literary Review.

Happy New Year!