Posted in Female Author, YA Novel

Book #37 ~ What We Saw At Night

This book was provided to me by Soho Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Cover via Goodreads

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT is the story of three outsiders, teens with a deadly allergy to sunlight that forces them to live a life opposite of everyone in their small hospital town. When they discover the extreme sport Parkour, it seems that they’ve finally found something uniquely theirs—even if leaping from buildings in the dark feels somewhat suicidal. But the stakes go far higher when they witness a horrible crime while practicing on an allegedly empty building. Worse: what they see, sees them, too. (via Soho Press)

I decided to read this despite it being YA because the premise sounded fairly interesting. I want to read more mysteries and thrillers, and this seemed to fit an interesting niche. Mitchard avoids some of the things that particularly annoy me about YA. The “does he/doesn’t he” love story is pretty much “he does” and the passages about fashion are minimal. As a teen with xeroderma pigmentosum, Allie’s musings about the her future (according to Wikipedia: “Fewer than 40% of individuals with the disease survive beyond the age of 20. Some XP victims with less severe cases do manage to live well into their 40s.”) are much less maudlin than many other teen heroines’ might be. Additionally, Mitchard has a nice way with prose. The writing is crisp and clear and sprinkled with enough slang and new grammar to make the characters sound young, but smart. The passages about XP and Parkour slowed the plot down, but were interesting none-the-less. Not needed was the recounting of Allie’s research into serial killers. I can see where her interest in forensics sets up future books, but it felt a little tacked on.

As most books are, this one isn’t quite what the blurb says it is. The conflict isn’t just between these teens and a murderous villain, but between the members of the group. Information is kept from each other…and parents…and police. It becomes a little too necessary to the plot that Allie not pass on information. As a genre, mysteries  are all about the gaining and passing of information, whether from character to character or author to audience. Situations may confound the flow of facts, but there were a few moments in this book that I thought, “There’s no reason not to go to the police now…” Allie’s justifications for not doing so didn’t seemed compelling. (The 1986 film River’s Edge handles teens witnessing a murder in a more real-feeling way.)

What We Saw At Night also included a somewhat muddled meditation on abusive relationships. Interestingly, I read the Sherlock Holmes story “The Illustrious Client” this past week which also includes a charismatic man with a collection of women.

Finally, I would not have read What We Saw At Night if I had known it was the first in a series. I’m not interested in involving myself with series, especially ones that have little stand-alone qualities. The ending is extremely open-ended and unsatisfying. An interesting question for me as a writer is why some books in a series are satisfying on their own and why some are not.

What We Saw At Night is set for publication on January 8, 2013.

Genre: YA Mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? The blurb sounded interesting.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Finished it.
Craft Lessons: (or rather craft questions) What is an acceptable (to me) flow of information in mysteries? Are there rules? Also, what make a book in a series satisfying on its own?
Format: Kindle ARC – Not terribly well formatted.
Procurement: NetGalley

Posted in History

2012 Moratorium

shelfoverflowSometimes, I get blocked as a reader. I find myself stressed about finishing books instead of being excited or enjoying them. And then I don’t get any reading done at all. Last year, I called a moratorium on books that I wasn’t going to finish. Time to do that again, but with bloggery in mind too.

Christmas reading – I had good intention of reading more Christmas/winter holiday books, but I’m a magpie. Other shinies have taken my attention. Never did get into The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. The humor wasn’t quite sly enough for my taste.

Moscow But Dreaming by Ekaterina Sedia – I read over 60% of this book. Sedia is a very talented writer and I wouldn’t say that these stories aren’t good, I’m just not quite in the mood for her style of magical realism. Honestly, I haven’t read much magical realism and I’m not sure if it’s a genre/sub-genre that I’ll ever take a liking to. I like at least a hint system in whatever magic is being presented. I can deal with a flight of fancy, but not a prolonged one. That said, “Tin Cans” is a haunting piece of work. I might revisit Sedia in the future, but right now I need more solid stories.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson – I’ll get back to this book, but probably not in the near future.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? – I am just not a fast enough reader to make this meme work for me. Most Mondays, I’m still reading the book I was reading last Monday. Unless I’d added one to my stack. That happens a little too often too.

Also, the TBR list is cleared…mostly. I’m down for 12 books I already own for Mnt. TBR, but the list is in no way set.

Posted in History

Best Reads 2012

John Wiswell @ The Bathroom Monologues is hosting #BestReads2012.  Hop on over to check out other lists of the best of the best in 2012!

When I was listing my favorite reads from 2012, there seemed to be some natural pairings.

The Westerns: Gunsights (Book #3) & Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories (Book #20) by Elmore Leonard – While this year didn’t mark the first time I’d read Elmore Leonard, it did mark the first time I’d read a proper Western. Despite being maybe a little too theatrical with character dialogue, I really enjoy how Leonard structures stories and writes action scenes. He makes it look so very easy.

The Memoirs: Chocolate & Vicodin by Jannette Fulda (Book #6) &  Bad Luck Officer by Suzie Ivy (Book #9) – Memoir is a tricky thing. While everyone has a story, not everyone has a compelling story. Jannette Fulda’s book is the story of her headache. What would do you do if you woke up with a headache that didn’t go away? How would you handle it? The best part of Chocolate & Vicodin is that Fulda is very human in the way she deals with it and that’s comforting. In the land of stories of strong women, I’d like to offer Suzie Ivy’s Bad Luck Officer (and Bad Luck Cadet). At “middle age” and after breaking a hip, Ivy decided to change what she was doing with her life. She applied to the police academy and became an officer with Smalltown, AZ PD. Again, I like how human Ivy’s stories are. Things aren’t always bright and shiny. Pushing through hard times are their own reward, not the end of the story.

The New (to me) Guy: Glen Hirshberg – I didn’t realized when I picked up an anthology of speculative fiction by Jewish writers that I’d find one of the best horror writers I’d read in a long while. After reading “The Muldoon” in People of the Book, I needed to read more Glen Hirshberg and picked up The Two Sams (Book #10) and The Snowman’s Children (Book #14). Hirshberg provides an enviable sense of place in his writings. It’s another thing that, as a writer, I need to take a good long look at, because he does it so seamlessly. And his stories are down-right creepy. I look forward to reading more of his work.

The Ones That Will Stick With Me: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Book #32) & Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers (Book #33) – After a bit of a lull in previous years, it’s been a good year for horror fiction for me. Lindqvist and Rogers are on opposite ends of the spectrum stylistically. Let the Right One In is a tapestry of characters inhabiting a grimy and sometimes very mundane world. Often, the mundane is more disturbing than the supernatural. On the other hand, Rogers stories are short and fantastical. Every House is Haunted has Twilight Zone/Outer Limits feel. Reality is just a tad skewed, in the best circumstances. Both authors and both books have become lodged in my mind. I don’t think a writer can ask for more.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Fall Into Reading Wrap Up

Fall into Reading 2012

Katrina @ Callapidder Days hosted Fall Into Reading

It was only three months ago, but the beginning of Fall Into Reading seems so far in the past. I wasn’t able to participate in the end of the FrightFall Readathon or Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, which put a dent in my plans. I also decided to do NaNoWriMo. A month of writing more than usual is not conducive to reading.I won a Kindle in November and I haven’t gotten much chance to use it! Regrettably, there are only so many hours in a day.

Books finished between Sept. 22nd and Dec. 21st:

Fall Into Reading 2012 Summary: Finished 6 books and 16 short stories. (Which is more than last year by a book and 11 stories.)

Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not? Nope. Not even close. That’s pretty normal for me.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along? My lists always change, but in this case, life around me gave me problems.

What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why? Let the Right One In was my favorite of the fall. I really enjoyed the tapestry of characters and events. This might be a “vampire” story, but it’s definitely more about the mortal characters. Least? Shelf Life. I was looking forward to speculative fiction stories involving bookstores and the book didn’t quite deliver.

Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? Did you love them? Not love them? Discovered Ian Rogers. Every House is Haunted had strong competition for my favorite book. I’ll be checking out more of his writings in the future.

Other observations: Didn’t get much past my Hallowe’en reading. Not only have I been embroiled with my writing, I’ve been in a lull with my reading. I think it might be time to call a moratorium on some of my in-progress books that I’m not enjoying very much.

Posted in Anthology, Mixed Anthology

Book #36

Hanukkah Lights: Stories of the Season from NPR’s Annual Holiday Special

Technology ate a previous draft of this entry and, unfortunately, I haven’t been keen on reproducing it. The attitude does not do this anthology justice.

I was raised Lutheran in Omaha, NE but I seem to have a particular fondness for the writings of Jewish authors.  A few weeks ago, my husband asked me what the attraction is. The thing that I formulated is that Jewish authors seem to bring a certain weight to their tales. It may sound cheesy, but it’s as though Judaism has grounded them with history that is inescapable. Even if you leave the religion out of it, I have the feeling that storytelling is more a part of Jewish culture than Christian culture. All the details of all those tales end up woven into new stories. That’s my take, anyway.

I started this year reading People of the Book; it seems appropriate that one of the last that I’ll probably finish this year is an anthology of Hanukkah stories. I know about Hanukkah in the same manner that I know Norse myths: Not having been exposed to it as a kid, it’s in the back of my brain, details jumbled, until I look them up again. I picked up this anthology due to the inclusion of two of my favorite authors, Harlan Ellison and Peter S. Beagle. In fact, I think I had read the Ellison story before and it was my previous baseline for Hanukkah facts. This book gave me a better understanding of the holiday without being particularly didactic. There wasn’t a weak piece in the volume and, despite my favorite authors, I think my favorite story was Max Apple’s “Stabbing the Elephant.” Stories and people can be flexible, and need to be sometimes.  It’s a good thing to remember during a season that should be marked with caring and merriment.

This book also left me with a craving for potato pancakes. You have been warned.

Format: Hardback
Procurement: PaperbackSwap
Bookmark: Note from the sender. Didn’t much need it since I read it in a morning.

Posted in Uncategorized

Musing Mondays (12/17/12)


Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B @ Should be Reading.

This week’s question is: Is there a particular book that is your nemesis–the book you’re determined to one day finish?

Dune by Frank Herbert is a novel that I enjoyed and has influenced the way I think about things. The next two novels in the series zip along famously. Slim, sleek novels. And then… God Emperor of Dune. Not quite a brick, but a fat book. It’s now 3500 years in the future of the world readers experienced in the first three books. Nothing is quite familiar. I hadn’t thought of it this way before, but it’s like starting a whole new science fiction series.

I’m not the only reader who has gotten mired in GEoD though I think it generally happens later than the first 50 pages. I want to read the rest of this series; it’s one of the greats of science fiction literature. It was on my TRB list last year, and I’m going to add it to this Mount TBR this year.

I’m going to do it, I swear. 2013 is the year I finish God Emperor of Dune.

Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Christmas Spirit Update #3

I meant for this to be a longer entry, posted on Tuesday. December got in the way. I should have a review of Hanukkah Lights next week. In the meantime…

Short Stories

Harnessing the brane-deer by Robert Billing

The headlights picked out something
scarlet in the distance. Something with
runners. Something piled with sacks full
of parcels. Beside it stood a rotund man in
red, his fur-trimmed hood thrown back to
reveal one of those big, greenish headsets
that airline pilots wear, the microphone
boom just in front of his snowy beard.

I’ll admit it, as a kid,  one of my biggest problems with Santa Claus was, how a guy with a sleigh and reindeer managed to visit every house everywhere in only 24 hours. (My other problem was how he’d get into my house since we had a furnace and no fireplace.  Flying reindeer, strangely, weren’t a blip on my radar.) If I’d been given this sci-fi tale, I might have been a believer a little longer.

“Upon a Midnight Clear” by Ian Thomas Healey

“Would you like some music? It’s Christmas back on Earth.”

“Christmas?” repeated Stabler doubtfully. He wasn’t much for holidays. They were wasted on someone like him with no family or friends outside of the cubic meter of Mona’s processor in its armored case just aft of the airlock; but he did like music, and Mona had some five hundred years’ worth of it to draw upon. “Sure, play some Christmas carols or something. Merry Christmas, Mona.”

It’s the night of Christmas, what’s stirring in the asteroid belt?

“Christmas” by Washington Irving

Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality, and lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment.

This story led to me realize what I hate about nostalgia. I don’t have anything against looking at the past fondly. I do it. I enjoy reading other’s memories of the past. My problem comes when the person doing the remembering insists that the past is absolutely, positively, without question better than the present. Further, the present utterly lacks, the past is ruined, and the future is utterly dark. That’s the attitude that rubs wrong the futurist in me. In this piece, Irving is too interested  in slamming his present. How, oh how, have we managed to exist in the 200 years since you wrote these pieces, Mr. Irving?