It’s Monday, What Are You… (6/5)

…Reading?

Believe Me The Lost World

Light load of recreational reading this week. I move from one celebrity memoir to the next: I might have a review for Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist on Thursday and am starting Eddie Izzard’s Believe Me: a memoir of love, dead and jazz chickens. He got me with the jazz chickens. Should finish The Lost World this week.

I realized that I have a lot of weighty fiction and nonfiction on my 10-ish Books of Summer list. Hope that won’t be a problem…

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Doing?

I’m away from home this week. I’m visiting my parents in Chino Valley, and then on Tuesday, we’re going to Santa Clarita, California to visit my sister Tess. Should be back in AZ by Thursday, but then Eric and I will be house-sitting/teenager-monitoring our nieces. Busy week! I’m planning to still get reading and blogging done, but we’ll see.

Deal Me In, Week 22 ~ “Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 9
From: The Lottery and Other Stories

The Story
It’s fleet week in San Francisco and our narrator and her friend Dot have been warned about sailors.

My mother told us about the kinds of girls who followed sailors, and my grandmother told us about the kind of sailors who followed girls.

Even when nowhere near the Bay, the girls feel the heavy weight of the possible vague danger that the sailors represent. Despite that, Dot, the narrator, the narrator’s mother and grandmother, and the narrator’s Uncle Ollie (former sailor himself who served as a radio operator in ’17) have a day out to go coat shopping and attend the launching of the fleet, which includes a tour of a battleship.

During the tour, our narrator becomes lost and is helped by an officer that she assumes is a captain. But to the horror of her grandmother, she learns that he is a marine!!! To recover from the trauma of being politely helped by a sailor, the women stop for dinner and a movie. Alas, the movie theater is over booked and the girls take two seats separate from Mother and Grandmother. Eventually, the seats next to Dot open up, but before the elders can take them, two sailors sit down!!! And, you know, proceed to watch the movie. Dot, especially, freaks out and the girls and their guardians cut the evening short.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a male friend about the amount of vigilance that being female sometimes entails. He was very dismayed that women go around being scared in many situations that are (sometimes literally) a walk in the park for him. But sometimes, I do think that women let fear get the better of them. It’s a fine line between being safe and making every molehill into a mountain.

Featured

⭐️ 10-ish Books of Summer 2017


Hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

The 20 Books of Summer runs from June 1st to September 3rd. During this period of time, I have two trips to California, possibly a trip to Colorado, and WesterCon scheduled. Eric is planning on (re)launching the PHYSIC series in Sept/Oct, which means a lot of reading/editing/formatting in the next three months. How much reading will I be able to get done? I don’t know.

I do know that I’ve had a good time with #20BooksOfSummer in the past and, as Brona pointed out, half the fun is making the TBR stack. I am going to cheat, just a little. I have a couple of in-progress books on my list, some of which I doubled up as “Double Features.” All the remaining percentages add up to ~4 books. I’m also going to shoot for finishing 10 books from a list of 15. Current: 2/10

Continue reading “⭐️ 10-ish Books of Summer 2017”

Review ~ The Last Train

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

The Last Train by Michael Pronko

Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. He’s lost his girlfriend and still dreams of his time studying in America, but with a stable job, his own office and a half-empty apartment, he’s settled in.

When an American businessman turns up dead, his mentor Takamatsu calls him out to the site of a grisly murder. A glimpse from a security camera video suggests the killer was a woman, but in Japan, that seems unlikely. Hiroshi quickly learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step—or a push—away. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
About two years back, I reviewed Michael Pronko’s Beauty and Chaos, his first collection of essays about Tokyo. A few months back, via a fellow blogger, I saw that Pronko was planning to release a series of Tokyo-based mysteries. I was definitely interest and excited when offered The Last Train to review.

What Worked
The big thing for me: The Last Train has a great sense of place. Considering Beauty and Chaos I expected no less. There are aspects of Tokyo that I was unfamiliar with, like hostess clubs, that got me Googling.

Hiroshi is solid character. Pronko has lived and taught in Tokyo for 20 years, but I was a little concerned about his main character being Japanese. Would a Western guy be able to pull that off? (And can I, not being Japanese myself, even be able to judge that?) From my point of view, Hiroshi’s education and background give him reason to look at the culture around him from a point slightly removed. It’s a little like when I go back to Nebraska after living in Arizona for 17 years—I suddenly remember that college football is a *very big deal* and that the afternoon news includes the prices for hogs and corn.

The key to a good mystery is how well information is revealed to the characters and readers as the story unfolds. It’s no spoiler to mention that Michiko, an ex-hostess, is the antagonist of The Last Train. Chapters are written from her point of view. Doing that and not revealing all of the character’s motivations is a tricky thing to do. Pronko handles it well. The ending of The Last Train felt a little abrupt, but it wasn’t unsatisfying.

What Didn’t Work
A minor thing: Hiroshi’s position within the police force was a little muddled. Though he works white-collar fraud cases, he’s currently under the umbrella of homicide. That is explained by it being a reorganization happenstance, but I think I would have like to have seen Hiroshi even more settled as a pencil-pusher. The circumstances of the case could have brought him in even without the homicide division (mis)connection.

Overall
It looks like there are at least two more Hiroshi thrillers on the way and I’m up for ’em. All the pieces are in place: Hiroshi, his sometimes partner and ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, already put-upon assistant Akiko, and Tokyo as the backdrop. Bring on the next case!

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle mobi, Raked Gravel Press, May 31, 2017
Genre: mystery, thriller

Writing Update, 5/30

Progress
I’ll cop to not a lot of progress in the two weeks since I last updated. I was facing down writing new content for Ch. 10, the main change from my first half-draft. But with an attitude of “Just write 250 words…,” I’m through Ch. 10 and moving on to Ch. 11. All that after only a four day streak of writing. My inertia is possibly my worst enemy.

What is This?
Wicked Witch, Retired is my current writing project. It is the sort-of sequel to a flash story I wrote, “Wicked Witch for Hire,” which is currently available in the anthology Bounded in a Nutshell.

#TerraTues is a Twitter event hosted by @LeighMLorentz and @summerhwrites. Every Tuesday writers share a line of their current work-in-progress based on a theme.

It’s Monday, What Are You… 5/29

…Reading?

The Last Train The Lost World The Princess Diarist

Should finish Michael Pronko’s The Last Train today or tomorrow with a review on Wednesday. Picked up The Princess Diarist on a whim at some point last week. Slowly working through The Lost World. At the 33% mark, no dinosaurs yet. Glad I didn’t read this as dino-obsessed kid.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) – The best of the recent movies I’ve watched, and I’m saying this as someone who has never read or watched any of the rest of the Harry Potter franchise. I know, I know. Recover from your shock. Harry Potter has never interested me. But, a story set in a magic-and-gangster-infused 1926 New York? That sounded good. Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell don’t hurt matters either.

…Listening To?

Been on an OK Go kick.

One of their lesser videos, but it made me laugh this morning.

…Doing?

I’ll be trying to get a ton of stuff done this week before my trip to California next week.

Deal Me In, Week 21 ~ “Buffalo”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Buffalo” by John Kessel

Card picked: 4
From: Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 57 (Feb. 2015)

The Story
I picked stories from this issue of Lightspeed Magazine for Deal Me In back in October/November-ish of last year. It was an issue I had downloaded at some point in the past and I added the short stories to my list without knowing anything about them other than Lightspeed is a pretty solid mag. Around Thanksgiving I joined a read-through of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which started me on my current scientific romance kick. So it’s a bit of Deal Me In coincidence magic that brought me to “Buffalo,” a story about a fictional meeting in 1934 between H. G. Wells and Jack Kessel, the author’s father.

Jack Kessel is the son of a Polish immigrant, an itinerant family until they finally settled in Buffalo, NY. When we meet Kessel, he’s working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, clearing trees from the road that will become George Washington Memorial Parkway. On the cusp of age thirty, Kessel has worked half a dozen jobs and lived as many places. He considers himself a step above his blue-collar peers. Kessel is an artist and a reader, fond of fantastic literature, especially the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. G. Wells. His one vow is to never return to Buffalo. For Kessel the city and its culture are a limiter to what he might be able to achieve.

In 1934, H. G. Wells is in the twilight of his career. He’s spent a lifetime attempting to imbue his literature with social consciousness, but he fears that it is for nought. Despite FDR’s New Deal, Wells is concerned that it is the common man who will get in the way of those who know better and can do better. He is also dismayed by the hollow entertainments of those small men, especially the sensational but bankrupt fictions of someone like Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Obviously, when these two men meet, things don’t go well. Each is left disappointed: Wells in that Kessel sees Wells’ writings at the same level as Burroughs; Kessel in that Wells ultimately sees him as just another Polack.

Wells’s weariness has dropped down onto his shoulders again like an iron cloak. “Young man—go away,” he says. “You don’t know what you’re saying. Go back to Buffalo.”

Never meet your idols, they say.

Kessel, the author, doesn’t leave us with entirely without hope. He stages this meeting at a jazz club where these two very different men have incongruously ended up. The headliner is Duke Ellington, and Kessel asks us to ponder: What is art? What is it worth? What can it change?