Sunday, May 5, 2013

Post a Line From Your NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo happened long enough ago that we can look back on our works and say "Oh those crazy kids." So I challenge you to select your strangest, funniest, most raw, or favorite line (or two, or heckit, a whole a paragraph) from your slapdash NaNo-Novel and post it in the comments.

I'll start off the festivities from some pretty nutty lines from my NaNo (attempts) past:

2007: I could tell by their pained expressions that they wanted to start an argument about how illogical the situation was, but no one asked the obvious question: why did Mr. Bow have a can of copper paint perched precariously on a door that would have to be moved?

[I honestly cannot remember why Mr. Bow had a can of copper paint perched precariously above that door. And this was back when my NaNoWriMos had a coherent if recklessly-executed plot.]

2008: The last line was the most chilling of all: “You have great friends who will always be there for you no matter what else happens.”

[This is kind of hilarious out of context because normally, that would be a very sweet thing to say.]

2009: For some reason, this person was the one I wanted to ask about the Gushers. I couldn’t explain it. He was called away, though, so when I turned around, I found myself absent-mindedly wandering the aisles until I finally found the Gushers. After I found them I had about three different kinds to choose from. I chose one that advertised a mystery flavor. I thought, “Just what I need, another mystery,” at first, but then I picked it up when I realized that at least this one I might be able to solve. (The answer is always Blue Raspberry. Always.)

[It really is.]

2010: “We can’t have you losing your head,” he said with a sigh.
            “I—I won’t,” Marla responded. “I’m not. I didn’t.”
            “I’m cut out for this,” Phil said. A statement.
            “I know,” said Marla.

[Haha, what was that 'statement,' Phil? Way to make this heart-to-heart about you. Awkward.]

2012: Byanca is cursing brightly because the whole thing with the pie was that it was supposed “TO BE A SUH- PRIIIIIIISE” but I’m still wondering how on earth I managed to make a situation so awkward so fast.

[That's actually one of the most sane lines in the whole thing. This novel is basically a blur to me. I can't really imagine letting anyone read it because it would be hard to convince them that no, I have never done drugs, honest.]

Alright, I've put mine out in the open - let's hear yours!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE by Sara Shepard

WHY I PICKED IT UP: This is the third in Shepard's The Lying Games series. (I read the last two last summer - and apparently I didn't review them, though I'm not sure because I didn't start labeling my posts until now because I'm a dork.) While mysterious elements are resolved in each novel, the over-arching premise -- Who killed Emma's twin sister Sutton Mercer? -- keeps me coming back for more.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The series focuses on former-foster-kid Emma, who is solving her estranged twin sister's murder by pretending to be her, because no one else knows Sutton Mercer is dead. This installment focuses on Thayer Vega, soccer star, brother to Sutton's best friend Madeline, Sutton's secret tryst buddy, and runaway. After he breaks into the Mercers' home, he gets tossed in jail. But as the clues pile up against him as Sutton's real killer, the threat of Thayer getting free becomes stronger.


*I have been waiting since the first book to find out what the deal with Thayer is, and the whole book is about Thayer. Finally, he gets the attention he's been owed since The Lying Game.

*As usual, Shepard makes the book feel contemporary and relevant through specific details such as brand names (Banana Republic, Abercrombie) and current culture references ("a Bruno Mars song," techno songs, housing foreclosures).

*The holes set up in the Thayer story were filled in, leaving plausible explanations for mysterious happenings


*It felt like I was waiting for something to happen this whole book, with most of the story being Emma mulling over the same set of possibilities in her head.

*The luster of the first two novels, especially The Lying Game, has dimmed significantly. The fun of the pranks was only sprinkled in there a little bit, and the character interactions were often dull and two-dimensional.

OVERALL: With only three novels left in the series, I definitely plan on finishing it up. But getting through this installment felt like more of a chore (and a disappointment, given my initial excitement at the topic) than the last two, so I certainly hope the pacing gets better or I might have some skimming in store for the future.

But I'm sure I'll update you as I make my way through the series. :]


The pacing was off.
But still, I have to admit:
I just have to know.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Find Your Spirit State

Ha. "Spirit State" sounds like a deep transcendental experience that involves floral oils and lots of loom-woven rubs. But no...

So, I didn't do my bi-weekly review as scheduled because I moved! Well, moved back. I've been living in the New York City area for 3/4 of a year, and now I'm back in Ohio.

"Oh, I'm sorry."

But you know, I love Ohio. And if any of my career prospects were centralized here, I'd consider looking for a permanent job in this state. In fact, in many ways, I feel like Ohio is the state I'd be if I were a bordered geographical mass within a nation because:

-It has a pretty pleasant disposition but is also kinda weird and bizarre if you know it well enough
-I'm politically moderate (and Ohio is a swing state)
-And... something about its dual industrialization and rural landscapes? Um... I guess I don't have an analogy for that yet.

Okay, so perhaps my idea of your "Spirit State" needs to be worked out a little, but maybe you can help! Have you ever been somewhere that feels like it's you? Was it where you were born? Where you went to school? A vacation spot?

I'd love to hear it!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Developing Sideways in a Linear Timeline

You remember that show "Lost"? Remember when they started doing "Flash-sideways" instead of "Flashbacks"? I don't. I stopped watching it by then. But I heard it was pretty cool.

Facebook just changed their layout A.GAIN. Suddenly, Notes came back. You know - those things that you were always tagged in if you had Facebook[-obsessed-friends] 5 years ago.

I kinda thought they went away, or were buried in the internet's gaping blackhole belly, retrievable only via virtual-bungee-cord-apparatus, and it just wasn't worth the effort to find out what "My Life in Beatles Songs" was at age 19.

Then suddenly, BAM! There are my old Notes, hanging out on my sidebar. And my first one up there is from 2 years ago. It's one of those questionnaires, those "100 Truths" things that you copy-paste and then answer, tagging all your friends whose answers you want to see (and who are about to see yours).

I just reread my answers. It's weird. But not because I've changed in the way I might have expected. If I filled it out today, 95+ answers would be the same, or along the same lines. But would I say it the same way?

There's something self-awarely-clever about some of the answers, like I'm totally relaxed, despite having (apparently) just spent the night in a hotel after a canceled flight. A flippancy that now feels foreign and makes me feel exhausted by contrast.

Here are my honest-to-goodness copy-and-pasted answers for 95-100. Ladies and Gentlemen, 2010 Me:

94. Had more than 1 girlfriend/boyfriend at a time: Noooo

95. Did you sing today: Yeah… well I was singing 20 Dollar Nosebleed and I thought it was New Perspective.

96. Do you miss anyone: Yeah but it’s always lower when I know I’ll see people I miss really soon, and a lot of them I will.

97. If you could go back in time, how far would you go: Depends when I would be able to do this, and if I’d change anything.

98. The moment you would choose to re-live: Hm something indescribable so I can describe it.

99. Are you afraid of falling in love: Not too much…I’m not afraid of something I doubt will happen anytime soon.

100. Are you afraid of posting this as 100 truths: NO! I’M THRILLED I’M DONE WITH THIS! 

I mean, yeah. That sounds like me. It sounds like me when I'm at my best during the summer, when I don't have to think about anything for months. It sounds like me joking around with my best friends (many of whom I have not seen in a year now).

I guess I just have a lot more to worry about now.

And the truth is, the difference between then and now is this: Then, I would fill out one of these questionnaires. Now, I wouldn't.


I guess it's hard to say for sure. Maybe I would fill one out if all my friends were doing it, and maybe I would be snarky as ever. Anyone want to ask me 100 poorly-written "questions"? :P

How about you? Did you fill out these things? Have you rediscovered some old "notes" or things you've written that you thought were buried far away?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: PICTURE PERFECT by Alessandra Thomas

WHY I PICKED IT UP: A few reasons: there was a lot of buzz about it on Twitter, I'm trying to become more familiar with New Adult titles out there, I'd love to support more indie authors, and hey, it was 99 cents!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Cat used to model and have no problem with the boys. But while recovering from an accident, she gains 60 pounds. When she returns to school, where she's studying fashion, her boyfriend drops her like a hot potato, and she becomes obsessed with feeling fat. Cat seeks counseling and receives unusual advice: to be comfortable in your body again, model nude for a drawing class.

Through the class, she meets Nate, a boy who claims she is perfect the way she is. Though Cat starts loving her own skin, she isn't sure if it's just Nate's love for her or her own self-image adjustment. Although she doesn't care either way at first, the question resurfaces when she stumbles on a troubling secret from Nate's past.


*Totally relevant subject material. I'm personally a huge supporter of the New Adult genre, and body image issues really do permeate one's identity throughout college -- not just in high school. Cat's struggle is believable.
*Even though Nate is a crutch for Cat for a while, the novel does stress the importance of finding it within yourself to be comfortable with your body, not just relying on the words of others.
*Because Cat is a design student and Nate is an architecture student, Thomas weaves those two fields together into the story in an interesting and fresh manner.
*It flowed well throughout, making it a fast and light read.


*I was not prepared for the three and a half instances of, uh, erotica in the novel. And though not everyone would consider that a negative aspect, those sections did make me wonder when we'd get back to the plot, and why the rest of the novel did not have the careful crafting and attention to detail that those spots did. Disclaimer, though: I have yet to not be bored by a sex scene in a book. Unless it includes murder somehow? This did not include murder. (Um spoiler? Haha.) *shrugs*
*For a New Adult novel, it felt more like YA writing + Adult content, instead of a blend.
*Many of the metaphors played off of old cliches (i.e, instances where something felt like "a knife in the stomach").
*Most of the novel, I felt like I was waiting for the bass to drop, and when it finally did, the conflict/resolution was predictable in general, but parts of it tested my suspension of disbelief.

OVERALL RATING: Not really my type of novel and I felt unimpressed. I can see a market for it, though; perhaps I'm just not in the proper demographic. And it is definitely important that novels address this kind of subject matter, so I'm glad Thomas did so.

Review Haiku:
Relevant subject.
The writing did not wow me.
Detailed sex scenes though.


Monday, March 11, 2013


WHY I PICKED IT UP: I was browsing Comics and Graphic Novels in NetGalley when I came upon this title. I'm a practicing Catholic, so I was interested in how modern Christians are trying to appeal to the youth and pass on the tradition of a religion that is sometimes dismissed as being old-fashioned.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The premise of the book is that a modern-day sixth grader named "Nerdy Ned" is really into Christianity and wants to be a comic book artist when he grows up, so he's telling Bible stories in his own way. He selects stories from the Old and New testaments, and all stories are accompanied by illustrations and commentary by Nerdy Ned. Often, he relates these stories to events and people in his life.


*The author achieves a fun, kid-like tone throughout, so it feels like Nerdy Ned is actually talking to you.

*The stories relating to Ned's life were great ways to make the Biblical tales more understandable. I liked that he had recurring characters such as his sister Pen, his friend Big A, and the bully Howie.

*I was impressed by how many strong female characters he included in the Old Testament section. You don't always hear about Deborah among the more popular role models from the OT, but she's pretty awesome and deserves to be lauded. It's nice to see the author represent both genders this way.

*The comedy was really tame and not exactly directed at people my age, but I could totally see it working for the target crowd. And I did find myself laughing at a few jokes.

*The whole New Testament, I was wondering how he would handle two sections: The Crucifixion and Revelations. They seemed awkward for a light and airy children's book. But the author handles them well. He takes the Crucifixion head-on, preluding it by basically saying Hey, this is going to be sad. We're going to take a break from the laughs. But it's important, so hang in there and read on. It was tactful. And Revelations was explained simply - which isn't an easy feat, so was kind of a relief.


*The illustrations were simple, which is fine, but they were pretty bizarre. Like, the perspective was unusual. This made on drawing of a donkey and other animals pretty adorable and hilarious, but most of the time the people kinda freaked me out. Even so, that could just be stylistic, except I felt that the illustrations did not contribute much to the story. Often, they had less voice and character than Nerdy Ned himself, and they reiterated what had already been added instead of supplementing the tale with visual humor.

*It's nit-picky, sure, but it bothered me that the science teacher was named Sarah Bellum because of the obvious pun (and one that the Power Puff Girls already did in the 90s). People in real life rarely have pun names like that, and none of the other characters did, so this made a believable cast a little less believable.

*Perhaps it's a difference in translation, but some of the stories had me fact-checking. They were certainly a little different than the Bible versions I have (for example, the Garden of Eden retelling).

*Okay, you know how kids can become embarrassed when their parents try to use the vernacular of the everyday high-schooler, like saying "Epic" at inappropriate times? This book, every once in a while, veers into that territory. One too many "totally"s or "awesome"s (i.e, the title). It's a valiant effort, but every once in a while it doesn't feel casual, and might provoke eye-rolling.

OVERALL RATING: An excellent introduction to Bible stories-- well, for a certain age-group. I could see this book being acted out at a Vacation Bible School or handed out as gifts at the end of Parish School Religion class. I don't think it will have much appeal to kids older than middle-school, and I can definitely see girls latching onto the book more than boys (who, as middle-schoolers, are likely not yet at the age where being a nerd is cool). But I'm glad this is out there. It's a fresh expression and explanation of these sometimes tired stories (particularly the Old Testament, which can easily come off as violent and confusing). And, best of all, it doesn't seem to put anyone who thinks a little differently down. It promotes loving your neighbor in everyday life. That's probably its best accomplishment a book like this could hope for.

Review Haiku:
Stories were well told,
Drawings didn't hit the mark.
Valiant effort.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Castor Gray

Hey, wanna learn some new vocabulary words? Check out Jeffrey Hollar's Monday Mixer Challenge! Every week, you have to incorporate a place, a thing, and an adjective (from a list of 3 each) into a precisely 150-word story. The thing is, I don't know a lot of the words in the challenge (Etymology class was years ago...) so it's a great learning experience, too. And who doesn't need practice being concise?

Here is my entry in this week's challenge, titled "Castor Gray."

Verry and Rutherd, upon returning from the metroplex, stopped at my home before going their respective ways. I assumed their vacation involved some profligate, non-stop series of “bonding” events, as the twins were now identical in genes only. Verry had thinner flesh on his face than the undead; Rutherd was a fresh battery, glowing and electric.

“Rough night, Verry?”

Verry sighed.

I brought out chardonnay and crostini. When I flicked on a light, Verry’s dark circles bled over his face. He didn’t touch the food, but Rutherd gorged himself. Verry clutched his stomach.

“So, what’d you do in the city?” I asked.

Rutherd laughed wildly and choked on a cracker. In an instant, he recovered. Verry twisted on the floor, gasping. He hadn’t taken a bite.

I stammered, “V-Verry—”

Rutherd grabbed Verry’s hand as Verry turned blue. Both twins were in tears.

“My brother, my brother, I’m… so sorry…”

[-@SareeseFeet, 150 words]

Monday, February 18, 2013

HECK YES The Liebster Award!

Guys I got this cool badge! Out of the blue! It was given to me by the fantastic Michaele Stoughton (@MLStoughton), apparently for my sidebar-writing skills. Yesssssss.

On her blog, she states that the Liebster Award is for "blogs with fewer than 200 followers" and apparently has a running theme of 11.

The rules? Answer Michaele's 11 questions, nominate 11 bloggers, and then write up 11 new questions for those 11 nominees to answer on their blog. Like a pyramid scheme except wait no not like that at all.

(Go check out Michaele's answers to her 11 questions - they are great. And they're pretty much guaranteed to be more well-put and insightful than mine, eheheh.)

So onto answering Michaele's 11 questions!

1. What inspired you to start writing?

Tough question because I honestly don't know. Like, in kindergarten, we were supposed to write about our spring break, and then our stories would be published by the in-school "Publishing Shop" (meaning, our pages would be bound with plastic or cardboard covers. I wrote so much that I had to make 2 books. I was also an illustrator back then, haha.

I guess it's easier to say why I wanted to keep writing.

The Publishing Shop must have been a lot of it. There was something I loved about seeing my work bound more officially than by staples along the side, probably because I always loved reading, so seeing my work be closer to real books was inspiring. In third grade, I wrote my first book with chapters, and I received positive feedback from my classmates. Even then, I felt like I was bursting with ideas. This was encouraged when I figured out how to use my dad's typewriter.

My cousin Allie was also an adversary in gradeschool writing-like-mad-but-mostly-in-secret, so it was neat to have someone to talk to about it. She was even more prolific, and she showed me some of her techniques that I still use to this day (like writing by hand in composition books and how to notate passages you want to insert when using that method).

So I guess I was inspired by reading, and then encouraged by a lot of different things.

Oh gosh that was long. My other answers will be shorter, sorry.

2. What are your all-time favorite books?

Single books: The Sound and the Fury, Paper Towns, As I Lay Dying, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Book series: The Harry Potter series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Hunger Games. I should also mention The Bailey School Kids because I first became an avid reader because of them.

3. What would be the best thing about being published?

It's not guaranteed for any published work, but if a fandom came out of my work, that would be the best thing. Like, fanart, fan theories, fan interactions and just... knowing that I make people happy and give them a sense of community. I've seen fandoms save lives and that's so awesome. That's what I love about this era. It's never been easier to find connections over common interests.

But besides that, I guess just knowing that my work can make others happy, or at the very least, escape.

4. What is your greatest achievement in life so far, and why?

I feel like I've climbed a lot of hills but not a lot of mountains. Nothing stands out as a "greatest achievment." Nothing concrete, anyway. Maybe "maintaining a stable support system of family and friends" but that's more like "Okay so far so good" as opposed to something I've overcome or stretched to get when there was a deep lack. Erm. Sorry.

I'm pretty proud of my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, though.

5. Tell me about an embarrassing moment.

Freshman year of college, I auditioned for a musical theatre workshop, and we had to audition in front of our peers. I watched a bunch of excellent singers audition to great applause. When I sang, the director cut me off before I was done with my audition selection, which not only made it very clear that I was not going to be in, but it meant I'd just been pretty bad in front of a lot of cool students.

6. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I really love where I grew up, which is in suburban Ohio. I don't know where my career will carry me, but I could see myself back there for good someday.

7. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

Last summer, my cousins and siblings and I took a limo to Chuck E. Cheese's. I've done other stuff that maybe should be more exciting but that's still something that makes me think, "Wow. That happened."

Oh and a year ago, my college's independent theatre association produced the musical I wrote. Whoops, maybe that should have been my first thing. But I mean... limo. Chuck E. Cheese.

8. Who would you be most excited to meet in person?

(I took this to mean "still alive.") Ah ha, I'm a dork. Andrew Hussie, Barack Obama, and JK Rowling top my list.

They say never meet your heroes, but whatever. I'd be happy to just shake their hands and thank them. Besides, AWOLNATION wrote a really great song about how disillusionment can set you free. At least, I think that's what it's about.

9. Fur, feathers, or scales. Pick one and tell me why.

Feathers. In middle school, I got really into bird-watching. There aren't many bird species in my old neighborhood, but it was still fun. I found out blue-jays like peanuts.

10. What are your biggest pet peeves?

Advertisements that use excessive or flat-out incorrect punctuation. It sets me on edge and makes me want to avoid their product.

Also, spitting. I am at my most mysophobic about saliva, including sneezing/coughing. It's not a fear of getting sick, it's just this thing about others' bodily fluids invading my personal space. Gross, right?

11. What are your hopes for 2013?

Oh man. Many, but I'll keep this one writing-focused. I really want to make progress on my WIP's stagnant condition. I've finally edited it to a point where I feel like I've worked out the kinks, but I'm so bad at queries and pitches. So even if I could steadily get requests for partials or fulls, that would be progress. 13 is my lucky number, so maybe this is even my year for an agent.

Woo, you made it through to the end of my answers, or managed to accurately scroll to this next section! Now, for my 11 nominees:

1. MJ Perry - MJ is one of my followers and has such an interesting blog that blends life + writing/book feedback and the writing style is smooth to read.

2. Cherstin - Self-proclaimed hipster and has laid down some cold hard facts about the point of Facebook. Takes guts, man.

3. Lisa McCourt Hollar - OK I'm shocked she's only at 174. She runs an awesome 55-Word-Challenge that everyone should check out. Plus, zombies.

4. Jeffrey Hollar - Runs the Monday Mixer challenges, which have, on multiple occasions, caused me to learn new vocabulary words. (For the record, that should encourage you to visit his site.)

5. Lily Tequila - Strong employer of imagery - and impressively consistent.

6. Jo - SHE NEEDS MORE FOLLOWERS because she runs an excellent blog. Seriously, I dunno how people like her aren't flooded with memberships. Also that thing she mentions about needing to come up with a written abbreviation for "usually"? YES WE NEED THAT thank you- I've wondered in the past about the same thing. (I think it'd be "uzh" but... yeah.)

7. Kai - Teen blogger and dedicated to the writing craft.

I've spent way too long looking up followers numbers and stuff so... I think I'm going to leave it at 7? Sorry! BUT oh yeah - I nominate anyone who follows this blog and meets the requirements! I couldn't find all of your blogsites (if you have them). But yeah please do this and send me the link to your response post!

Nominees, your questions!

1. What is the best piece of writing advice you've heard?

2. What is your most irrational fear?

3. Have you ever obsessed over some form of entertainment, like a book or a TV show? If so, what? (And how deep into the fandom did you go? If you drew fanart, I expect to see some fanart. :P)

4. What's your favorite way to beat writer's block?

5. Quick: pitch me a new TV show that's going to save my network!

6. The site had this neat contest where you had to write a 6-word autobiography. So, taking a leaf from their book, what's your micro-fic bio? (You can use 5-10 words.)

7. Name something peculiar or weird that you just don't understand.

8. What's your favorite genre to read? To write? (Are they different?)

9. What are you reading now, or what was the last thing you read?

10. Is there a project you're excited about/anticipating, whether yours or someone else's? Care to share a bit about it?

11. [INSERT SHAMELESS PLUG HERE!] <--Go on, now's your chance! Talk about your blog, your WIP, or just post your Twitter handle. Anything you want. It's promotion that you don't have to feel weird about!

And here's the badge again so you can stick it on your blog!

Awesome, thanks guys. I really hope all the nominees consider accepting, and thanks again to Michaele for nominating me!


Dirty Drinks

[This story was written for Monday Mixer, a weekly Flash Fiction contest.]

Let’s play Spot My Murderer.

Anyone in this taproom could have a knife in their garter or a gun on their hip. A sea of black fedoras and slick hair welcomes me. Some here know my business. Too many.

I sit with my back to the wall.

The bartender cocks a derisive eyebrow. I order a Scotch on the rocks; I’ve been watching the bottle. If the bartender poisoned me, he poisoned at least three other hard-knocks.

A microphone leans against the wall. It looks like a cosh. A bass case lies on the floor— a coffin. My hand shakes. I swig the scotch. My mouth burns but the liquor calms my nerves.

Or… it should.

The burning spreads throughout my whole body, the shakes give way to convulsions. From the floor, I see the face of victory.

It was him after all. His weapon: a stash of tainted ice.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


WHY I PICKED IT UP: I requested this title through NetGalley because the description intrigued me. Also, though I usually read and review YA, I like to touch base with what's new and available for adults.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: First of all, it's been fun seeing what other sites have tried to say about this book in summary. Often the synopses are misleading, but I can sort of see why. So I'll do my best to put it in my own words - ones that are meant to paint an honest picture rather than a purposefully enticing one.

This is the story of Egon Loeser. It's the story of a man who conveniently escapes WWII-era Germany because he chases a woman around the world. It's the story of a man consumed by his need to get laid, who manages to lose dear possessions on a regular basis, who is so self-absorbed that he stumbles into others' games with each other until he stumbles out of them. It's the story of a man whose existence is like a prolonged sigh in a world that's always a little tilted to the side.

And then sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's about an ex-pat "confidence man" or a professor's life as a boy. The ties are still to Loeser, but the focus is elsewhere. The running thread through it all is the "Teleportation Device" by an artist named Lavicini, which is said to have killed a dozen people in a theatre accident.

Eventually -- as in, 57% of the way through the novel -- there are murders.


I can't break it down into these categories like I usually do. The author consistently uses devices that are interesting - some worked, some didn't, but most were both at the same time. His bizarre humor throughout? Worked. The sudden breaking away into characters that weren't Egon Loeser? Sort of worked. His first sentence? ... ... ...

I have much to say on the first sentence.

The first sentence of this novel is a rambling metaphor - or rather, a series of metaphors, acknowledged as metaphors. It hooked me. But it also established an air of pretentiousness that persisted like a smog. Suddenly the pages were inundated with characters, historical references, and so much telling going on that I couldn't get more than 2% through the novel. It felt like reading a 1930's hipster's journal as he observed these events, were a contemporary hipster to use the titular device to actual travel to that era.

But after I did get past that initial part, the other 98% flew by.

Sure, there were other rambling metaphors. There were philosophical tangents. Twice (before the ending, which breaks the book to pieces in an alternate way), the chapters suddenly become about some other minor, impossibly interesting character who crosses paths with Loeser, as though the author got bored with the dichotomous personality that is his quirky-yet-gloomy protagonist. But this book had me laughing out loud. It kept introducing fascinating, disparate characters -- one of my favorite being Colonel Gorge, whose hosting abilities are reminiscent of the Mad Hatter. I wouldn't want to befriend Loeser, but he was interesting and human enough that I liked following him around. And the writing style feels fresh, despite its historical placement.

It's the kind of novel where you're not sure what its trajectory is. There's a basic goal - find Adele, the subject of Loeser's lust - but he's so sidetracked ("derailed," more like) that this storyline becomes a mere subplot. But honestly, I enjoyed the novel most when it wasn't about Loeser's sex life.

Know what surprised me about this book? It wasn't romantic or moralistic but it managed to have some really touching, genuine moments. It made comments without being preachy and it showed an interesting perspective of World War II that was unsentimental yet tasteful -- until it takes a somber, quiet turn that arrives in the form of a nostalgic conversation, which was still woven into the story with grace.

And I must say, the very last paragraph still has me laughing. Which means the final sentence more than made up for the faults of the first.

OVERALL RATING: Well gosh. I want a hard copy of this book now and it comes out THIS MONTH on the 26th (my birthday, it so happens - coincidence? yes. yes it is). Its target audience is really 18+, but I strongly recommend this novel for anyone who likes a nice blend of quirky humor, mystery, and historical fiction-- as long as you can get past the minor segments of mechanical and redundant eroticism (or descriptions of the lack-thereof). But seriously, give it a shot. Just... make sure you read all of Part 1 before you give it up, if you're tempted to. I'm sure glad I stuck with it.

Review in Haiku
Sure: it's pretentious.
But it's complex and unique,
And it made me laugh.


Thank you to Ned Beauman, Bloomsbury Publishing, and the admins at NetGalley for lending this title to me for review.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Something is Wrong with the Ellsly Brothers

[This is a flash fiction piece written for Monday Mixer.]

Rumor had it that something was strange about the new Ellsly Brothers Mortuary. A bold widow wrote a letter to the Raintown Gazette stating that her husband’s funeral was missing something. But she couldn’t say what.

The paper sent a reporter, Maggie Underworth, to write about the Ellsly Borthers’ process of preparing the dead. When she arrived, Rick Ellsly was removing the cloche from a new fern and Humbert Ellsly was stitching up a coffin’s satin lining with crisp, sedulous movements. They greeted her. They were perfectly nice. Something was off.

Maggie observed their preparation methods. She spent four days with them. On the fourth day, a vacuum cleaner caused a power surge. The brothers exchanged stoic glances.

Rumors aside, Maggie published a factual article. She left out her scruples, since she could not place them.

After all, the brothers had not been anything other than perfectly, precisely, robotically nice.