Saturday, January 01, 2011

book comments 33 and my book count for 2010

Welcome to 2011, everybody! I intended to write this post before the new year was upon us -- but instead, I spent the last week of 2010 in bed with the flu. So here are my very brief comments on the books I've read since August:

"Lord Prestimion" by Robert Silverberg
--had high hopes for this one because I've loved Silverberg's "Kingdoms of the Wall" for years
--broke my own rule of not reading a book from a series without having read the rest of the series first
--shouldn't have broken my rule
--cutting unnecessary description would cut 50% of the novel; sorry, but I simply don't care what the jungle looks like
--skimmed the 2nd half of novel, read the end and found out guy gets girl, didn't finish
--don't recommend

"Sybil" by Flora Rheta Schreiber
I wrote more extensively about this book here.
--totally fascinating story of a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka multiple personalities)
--Schreiber's style is a bit dry and academic at times, but Sybil's story still kept my attention.

"The Inferno" by Dante Alighieri
--kept having to remind myself that Dante was writing from a 15th-century mindset --
'cause I had a real problem with the dude's worldview
--I mean, really...children in hell?
--And don't even get me started on the physicality of Dante's "hell."
--Oh. And his view of the nature of God. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
--I can't figure out if Dante was informed by Catholic thought of his time, or if his work has informed Catholic thought since his time. Or both. I kinda think he messes with Catholic minds the same way Milton ("Paradise Lost") messes with Protestant minds.
--interesting read, though only in small chunks at a time (took me 6 months)

"His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik
--Napoleonic Wars + dragons = awesome history/fantasy mashup
--There are sequels. I will be reading.
--highly recommend

"Protector of the Flight" by Robin D. Owens
--had high hopes for this modern fantasy, too
--Sadly, the protagonist didn't interest me by the end of Chapter 1, so I gave up.
--might be a good read for teen girls with keen interest in horses and fantasy
--don't recommend to adults

"The Dragons of Babel" by Michael Swanwick
--had high hopes for this, my first real steampunk read
--sadly, no go on this one either
--both story arc and protagonist's main goal get lost in oodles of (albeit cool) action sequences
--beginning of the story really grabbed me -- but after he killed off the dragon (almost immediately), it just wasn't exciting anymore
--don't recommend

"Necroscope" by Brian Lumley
--really interesting take on the vampire legend, plus all sorts of paranormal goings-on
--a few very gritty scenes, so let the reader beware
--recommend only to horror fans

"World War Z" by Max Brooks
--of all my zombie reads thus far, this is probably the best yet
--premise is post-zombie-apocalypse, world is recovering and cleaning up, people are telling their stories of how it all went down
--This novel, more than anything else, showed me how the zombie genre is really all about the survivors
--highly recommend to genre fans

"Serpent" by Clive Cussler
--my first Cussler read, and enjoyable
--vivid descriptions and extremely clear characterization
--gotta admit, I didn't care for the details of all the boats, diving gear, digging equipment, etc.
--Cussler got me into the head of the main female character early on, then didn't spend much time with her after that --> disappointing
--but kept a good pace throughout, which kept me reading
--recommend to adventure genre fans

"The Walking Dead, Vols. 9-11" by Robert Kirkman et al.
--continuing graphic novel adventures of Rick & co., trying to survive in a world filled with the living dead
--still enjoying this series immensely
--highly recommend to graphic novel and/or zombie genre fans

Courtney's Total Count of Read Books for 2010: 58.5

2009's book count was 46 (or 49, if you look at the plumped count), so: In 2010, I achieved my goal of reading more books than in 2009! Yay me. I hope somebody gives me cookies.

Or at least more books to read. ;o)

Friday, November 26, 2010

late night thoughts

We're not born blind, none of us. But at some point in our lives, we choose to cover our eyes. We cover our eyes with something thick and clinging. It adheres to us and melds with our skin. It makes us blind, and so we live our lives without truth or reality.

Sometimes, we decide to pull that cover off. And it's a struggle, a fight, a battle. If we succeed in tearing that blinding cover away, it takes skin off with it. We cry. We bleed. And then we have to heal. That takes time. And there are scars.

That's why learning to trust hurts so much.

We struggle all our lives to see.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

well, it's nanowrimo...

...and pretty much everything I feel is important about it, I'm talking about on Twitter, Facebook, and Unstressed Syllables (search for nanowrimo to find my articles). But, to update in briefest fashion: I'm having a blast, I'm ahead of schedule, my demon zombies are being just as hideous as they should be, my main character is being perfectly snarky, and my first villain is on-scene and in fine fettle.

I'll be blogging NaNoWriMo periodically throughout the month, so keep tuning in -- but check FB, Twitter, and UnSyl for everything current. In the meantime, I leave you with the following quotes I noted at the NaNoWriMo 2010 Kickoff Party:

"It’s funny, because I think I’m eating cheese, but I’m really drinking coffee."

"I don’t consider myself a squeamish housewife."

"That won’t make your readers want to stab you in the face."

"I’m actually a bard. They don’t have a level for me yet."

"There are penises in this book."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gods Tomorrow by Aaron Pogue

Privacy is dead. The world has traded secrecy for Hathor: a surveillance database that offers the public convenience and pleasure, as well as a drastic reduction in crime. Hathor's all-seeing eye quickly finds those who dare to break the law, watching them every step of the way.

But...what if Hathor doesn't see all? What if there's someone out there who knows how to hide and walk unseen? What if there are lots of someones?

Katie Pratt works for the Ghost Targets division of the FBI -- tasked with tracking down these elusive "ghosts" in the system. On her first case, she finds a mote in Hathor's eye: a blacked-out murder, a killer who has gotten away without a trace. A ghost for her to track.

But as she goes deeper, Katie finds something even more alarming. A single unresolved murder is bad enough...but the blackout is spreading. Hathor's blindness is getting worse. If Katie can't find the murderer and stop the blackout, her elusive ghost might destroy the system...and all of modern society with it.

Aaron's novel Gods Tomorrow grabbed me with the first sentence and didn't let me go until the last one. You've heard me talk about this before, how Aaron is a born storyteller who knows exactly how to hook a reader. Not only that, he has spent decades sharpening that natural talent through practice, practice, practice, education, trial and error, more practice, and an admirable ability to accept constructive critique with humility and grace.

What I'm trying to say is, the guy knows what he's doing -- and it shines in the story.

His main character, Katie Pratt, is strong, engaging, and sometimes endearingly unsure of herself. In Chapter One, she takes an elevator ride up to the floor of her new job, and by the time she steps out of the elevator, the reader knows her fears. But in spite of them, she keeps at her task from start to finish and doesn't flinch when all you-know-what breaks loose. Like her creator, the girl knows her stuff -- and she's gonna use it to do her job, no matter what the consequences.

The novel's concept -- privacy rotting in its grave, all human action and interaction recorded by Hathor's all-seeing eye -- provides an almost scary marker pointing toward a very believable possible future. Think about where cell phones, smartphones, GPSs, and satellite tracking are headed. The future is almost *now*.

Aaron's envisioned, not-so-distant future is somewhat Orwellian (Big Egyptian Sister is watching you?), but far more accessible, if that makes any sense. Without disparaging his own story, the author himself calls it a "beach read," and I agree: You could read this for fun in your free time and just enjoy it for the sheer, non-stop adventure of it all...or, so choosing, you could let your mind consider the deeper implications -- both for the world at large and for yourself personally.

Glowing recommendation? Ha! I give it a supernova. The movie is gonna be CRAMAZING.

Congratulations, Aaron!!!

Gods Tomorrow is available for purchase in paperback as well as digital format. There's a paperback at Amazon, and an e-Book for the Kindle. There are copies available for the Barnes & Noble Nook, and for the iPad through Lulu.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

this post is probably going to get me into trouble...

...but you know what? I don't care. ;o)

"The kingdom of God is the rule of God. ...The kingdom doesn't set out to destroy human authority in this age (John 18:36). Instead, it destroys the powers and principalities in the spiritual realm through God's authority.

"The kingdom doesn't seek to change the political order of things through fleshly effort. It rather makes changes in the spiritual order that affect the lives of men and women at a deeper current. As citizens of the kingdom, our allegiance is not to the political parties of this earth, but to the politics of Jesus. For He alone is our Lord and our King.

"Therefore, the kingdom works quietly and secretly among men and women (Matt. 4:26-28). It's not a religious, political, or military power that cannot be resisted. It abhors violence, hatred, and injustice."

--Frank Viola
"From Eternity To Here"

Earthly citizenship means nothing. Possessing a passport from a certain country does, indeed, make a person part of that country's rich history. It might even make that person part of a lineage of sacrifice and courage. But in the grand scheme of God's eternity, earthly citizenship means nothing more than a set of certain conveniences (or inconveniences, as it were). And God does not favor one human kingdom over another, because every human kingdom is composed of the same thing: humans, every one of whom is of equal value to God.

Spiritual citizenship is the only citizenship that matters.

Allegiance means utmost loyalty and devotion. When I think of pledging allegiance to something, I picture a vassal kneeling before his liegelord, swearing fealty and giving his oath to sacrifice possessions, lifeblood, and very self for that liegelord. Pledging allegiance is an oath that binds the heart and the soul. It is neither given nor received lightly.

For this reason, I pledge my allegiance to Jesus Christ and to no one and nothing else. He is my only Lord, and I want no citizenship but the one he offers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

drug-induced mumblings

I need to blog more.

The truth of that statement shines with appalling clarity.

Which sounds like a line from a poem containing bad philosophy.

It might have originated with the Benadryl I took about an hour ago because I'm having some kind of bizarre allergy attack that manifests itself in tiny, stinging blisters all over my face. This has happened several times already this year, and it's driving me insane. At first, I thought it was an allergy to blueberries--but I haven't had those in six months. I have yet to identify a common denominator in these blistering (hahaha) attacks. In the meantime, I'm eating Benadryl for the first time in about eleven years.

So far, it's served only to make me slightly loopy. The itching and stinging and blistering continue.

In other news, NaNoWriMo approacheth apace. It's 7 weeks and 1 day away, and I am already crazy excited. I'll be working on the third book in what I'm calling my "demons trilogy." The first two novels are Colors of Deception and Shadows After Midnight, each written from the point-of-view of a different character. For this third novel, I already know who the POV character will be, and I've already written the first scene in my head. I want sooooooooo badly just to type it all out already...but if I do, it won't count toward the requisite 50k. And I want it to count.

I also want it to be November 1st ***NOW***.


To continue the stream of Benadrylled consciousness:

Aaron wants me to paint the cover art for his fantasy novel.

Bryan wants me to paint a mashup of Firefly and Star Wars.

I painted the first of three self-portraits not for public consumption.

Over the last few months, I've written some incredibly bad poetry and one really good poem.

Over the last 8 months, I have completely changed what I once wbelieved about publishing and copyright.

Over the last 9 months, I have changed much of what I once believed about "church" and "worship," and it has been incredibly liberating.

I almost typed "liverating" instead, which would have been unfortunate, because I loathe liver.

I like my own liver, though. It serves me well. But I love -- I really love -- my pancreas.

I'm glad Weird Al wrote a song about his pancreas instead of his prostate, because that would just be awkward.

I just decided that Bendaryl is my friend. You hear that, Benadryl people? I totally endorse your product. You read it here first!

I have a lot of really cramazing friends and family. They all restore my faith in the inherent worth of humanity, and the mere fact of their existence bolsters my faith in God.

I have become a Tweeter.

I talk to people in movies as though they could hear me.

There are a lot of really kooky people on the Internet; I like to think I'm not one of them

I think the Benadryl is winning. More later.