Tag Archives: DNF

Thrown Against the Wall ~ The Lords of Salem

This book was provided to me by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie with Brian Evenson

Cover via Goodreads

From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood…

THE LORDS OF SALEM

Heidi Hawthorne is a thirty-seven-year-old FM radio DJ and a recovering drug addict. Struggling with her newfound sobriety and creeping depression, Heidi suddenly receives an anonymous gift at the station-a mysteriously shaped wooden box branded with a strange symbol. Inside the box is a promotional record for a band that identifies themselves only as The Lords. There is no other information.

She decides to play it on the radio show as a joke, and the moment she does, horrible things begin to happen. The strange music awakens something evil in the town. Soon enough, terrifying murders begin to happen all around Heidi. Who are The Lords? What do they want?

As old bloodlines are awakened and the bodies start to pile up, only one thing seems certain: all hell is about to break loose.(via Goodreads)

Thrown Against the Wall badgeI did not finish this book. I don’t give up on books easily. I’m human; I’m vulnerable to hope and the sunk cost fallacy. I want to believe that every book will get better and that I haven’t been wasting my time. But while I am human, I’m not a monkey. Experience tells me that a writer will not improve over the course of a book and there are too many other books to be read to spend even more time reading one that is disappointing. After reading half of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, I couldn’t justify spending more time on it.

I will admit, I like Rob Zombie’s music. I own all his solo albums as well the better portion of White Zombie’s small discography. I intend to check out Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor when it’s released in April. I like that Zombie is a horror film fan and incorporates that into his work. I haven’t been super thrilled with the movies he’s written and/or directed. House of 1000 Corpses has some great moments. It’s shot with enough cinematic craft that those scenes can stand with many classic exploitation-horror flicks. The rest haven’t impressed me much. Still, I was interested in reading this book. I haven’t read a decent horror novel in ages.

The novel starts with the murder of a pregnant woman and her newly caesarean-ed baby during a summoning ritual in late 1600s Salem. This should be an absolutely horrifying scene. Instead, it wasn’t and *that* was the disturbing part for me. There are many gory scenes in the first 50% of this book, but all of them lacked tension.  The writing, whether by Zombie or Evenson, is full of “seem” and “almost” and “something.” Things are “strange” or “different” or “weird.” All of these are weak words that mean very little and suck all the intensity from a scene. It’s lazy writing. As a writer, this might be the most important half book I’ve read. Through its lack, it’s reminded me of what writing should be and where I may fall short.

I have the feeling that Zombie’s vision of what’s going on wasn’t quite getting on to the page in any subtle manner. For example, it could be easier to short-hand Heidi’s addiction and recovery on-screen, visually, than it is to show it in the novel without saying “recovering addict.” I won’t talk much about the plot since I didn’t get further than what’s mentioned in the cover blurb. By the half-way point, I was no longer interested in how the story was going to play out.

The Lords of Salem is set to be released today, March 12th 2013, by Grand Central Publishing.

Genre: Horror
Why did I choose to read this book? Hoped to read a decent horror novel.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) No. By page 160 I didn’t care about how the story was going to play out. Was tired of vague writing.
Craft Lessons: I kind of fear that my own writing is vague, bland sometimes. Don’t use the word “something” more than once in a manuscript.
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: NetGalley

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.

R.I.P. VII – Progress Post #1


The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I’m going to post my R.I.P. progress on Tuesdays during September and October and link them to the review site if they contain reviews of short stories, TV shows, or movies. Books will get their own posts.

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”

Arthur Conan Doyle

Steven Moffat has teased the three word for series 3 of Sherlock. They are rat, wedding, and bow. Of course, with the premiere a year away, speculation abounds. What canon stories could these words allude to? Which tales will be liberally adapted? Both “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”  and “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” have been bandied around for “wedding,” but don’t I think either are likely aside from maybe an allusions-in-passing.

Regarding “Noble Bachelor”: I forget how crisp and untagged Doyle’s dialogue sometimes is. This is one of Doyle’s one-set stories. While characters come and go from Baker Street, all the action occurs in the sitting room. Not the most exciting of Holmes stories, but probably responsible for many of my people-in-a-room-talking-and-eating scenes.

In contrast, “Solitary Cyclist” takes the show on the road. Doyle is as adept at describing the countryside as he is setting a meal a Baker Street. Tor has seemingly picked this story for “wedding” if wedding doesn’t refer to Watson’s wedding. The story is fairly sensational, but doesn’t really engage Holmes/Watson (apparently a criticism that the editor of The Strand had as well).

Murder Rooms

Murder Rooms is a BBC series. It is a *very* liberal dramatization of the mentorship/friendship between Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell. The first movie-length episode was listed as Dr Bell and Mr Doyle (2000) when I first rented it from Netflix. I didn’t know there were four other episodes (each 90 minutes in length and released in 2001) until recently.

The series is much closer to a Sherlock Holmes pastiche than a historical drama. That’s certainly not a bad thing. Doyle, played by Robin Laing in the first movie and Charles Edwards in the further episodes, is a more intellectual Watson and Ian Richardson is more of a tough-love grandfather figure than a Holmes. In fact, Dr. Bell reminds me of THE Doctor; humorous and eccentric.

As with Sherlock, the stories are not adaptations of canon, but allusions to canon. For example, “The Patient’s Eyes,” the episode I watched this past week, heavily relies on “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist.”

Movies

The Toybox (2005) – I think I vaguely remember Mondo Movies or Mark Kermode talking about this movie as one of numerous English horror movies that involve children/youth culture vs. adults. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the best of the lot. It wasn’t particularly scary, but the hand-held camera was occasionally nauseating. (Watch on Hulu)

The House on Haunted Hill (1959) – I rewatch this William Castle classic every couple of years. Despite the schlock, it’s so earnest. Vincent Price’s character is a bit loathsome. His wife, played Carol Ohmart, is chilly and queenly, and Carolyn Craig completely sells her mounting hysteria. It’s a Scooby-Doo of a horror movie, fun and contrived. I watched the colorized version and had to wonder whether there were production notes to follow during the process. Everyone was so drab aside from Annabelle Loren (Ohmart). Her wardrobe is purple, maroon, and baby blue. (Watch on Hulu)

I read 13% of 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz before setting it aside. It wasn’t creepy enough. The characters weren’t interesting enough. I thought about continuing to see if anything good was going to happen plot-wise, but honestly, that doesn’t happen often. I have too many other things to read.

Thrown Against the Wall: A Grumpy Review of Beautiful Disaster

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

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match. (via Goodreads)

This isn’t normally the type of book I might read, but I’m not afraid to cross genre lines. I’d seen this book around and  read its positive blurbs. Since NetGalley was offering it as a “Read Now” in advance of its August 14th Simon & Schuster release, I figured I’d give it a look.

I read the first two chapters, not quite 50 pages, before I threw in the towel. It felt like so much more than 50 pages without covering any story at all. According to the chapter headings, the bet mentioned in the summary, which would seem to be the crux of the story, isn’t for another 20 pages. While I realize that the summary of a book should be an enticing distillation of the story, this book’s plot and characterization seem very watered down. I get no sense in these first couple chapters that Abby is a particularly “good girl” or that she’s trying very hard to avoid being “bad.” Instead, she seems pretty ordinary with an unhappy family situation.

Our bad boy, Travis, is in awesome shape without working out, very smart but engages in bare knuckle boxing because of his abusive past, and is so good looking that girls will sleep with him because he exists. And apparently because no women can resist the opportunity to try and change a bad boy. Except Abby and her best friend who is dating Travis’ best friend. When Abby sees Travis for the first time at one of his fights, she is attracted and repulsed. Since she’s the impenetrable good girl, he wants her. Thus begins a tiresome, to me, cycle of “I want him, but he’s still a womanizing putz” and “she doesn’t want me, so I’ll just continue to be a womanizing putz.” A story like this relies on Travis being, on some level, appealing even at the beginning of the book before any bad-boy redemption occurs. I don’t find him so and an given no reason to stick with this story.

Maybe I’m just too old, too removed from my college days. Or maybe my college days were thankfully free of bad-decision-men and dormitories with broken boilers.

On a personal experience level, the setting weirdly seems more like high school than college. Everyone meets for lunch, despite dinner being more likely due to variable class schedules. Travis and America’s boyfriend live off-campus, but eat at the cafeteria. Everyone seems to be taking the same low-level courses. Why aren’t Abby and America roommates? Most universities are pretty good about letting friends room together. Unless its winter, a cold shower isn’t the end of the world and any university with a budget would have the boiler fixed quickly. The girls would probably spend 1-2 nights off campus at most, if they couldn’t stand a cold shower. I realize that my experience at a large state university might be different from that of a student at a small college, but I found these things distracting.

Also, I’m really tired of male characters giving female characters diminutive nicknames within the first five minutes of meeting them.  The nickname Pidge, short for the nickname Pigeon, isn’t cute (or even neutral) enough to be amusing and doesn’t have the intimacy behind it to be endearing. It just…grates.

Format: Adobe Digital Edition of the  Simon & Schuster edition.
Procurement: NetGalley

Didn’t Finish #2

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn

The title is huge and overly verbose. So is the book.

I made it to page 163 or so before putting it aside.

In 1992, a shipping container filled with plastic bath toys went overboard during a storm in the northern Pacific Ocean. In the years that followed, the toys washed up on beaches in Alaska, Australia, and the United Kingdom.  How does this happen? Are plastic tub buddies even that durable? “Ocean currents” and “apparently so” seem to be the answers.

Donovan Hohn heard the story and became obsessed by it. Unfortunately, Moby-Duck is about Hohn’s obsession not the ducks, beavers, turtles, and frogs. His tale meanders, touching on science peripherally as he travels to Alaska and Hawaii (and other places that I didn’t get to). The narrative is awash in minutia, not of a scientific sort, but of the literary sort. Many of the reviews I read complained about the dense science material, but maybe I just didn’t get there. Instead, Hohn goes on about the boats and the landscapes, and blithely categorizes the people he interacts with. While I did learn a few things*, Hohn never goes into enough depth to keep my interest.

Abstruse Goose had a strip a week or so ago that seems applicable.

All in all, there was too much fluff and not enough crunch.

*For instance, cargo is lost overboard all the time. If shipping companies would actually cop to it, we could devise a very interesting portrait of ocean currents. The accident in 1992 was more well documented than most.

2012, Week One in Reading

Started the year off with “required” reading. Two chapters of A Clash of Kings, a short story, and a poem.

I set up a Google Doc for my short fiction reading. It’s embedded on my short story/poetry page. My aim is to read one each per week in addition to anything I might come across. “Geddarien” by Rose Lemberg was my intentional short story read. Lovely story. We authors often talk of using setting as an additional character, but how often does your setting dance?

The prologue to “The Golden Journey to Samarakand” (by James Elroy Flecker), the first selection from T.E. Lawrence’s Minorities book, was very apt for the beginning of a new year. “We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage/And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die,/…/What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales…”

Then I moved on to chipping away at my TBR list.

First up was Black Light by by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, & Stephen Romano. I won this book during the October read-a-thon. It was a book of my choosing, one of the few horror titles available. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good horror novel. It will be a while longer.

Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are the screenwriters behind the last bunch of Saw movies. Personally, I like the Saw franchise. I find the movies to be clever and actually quite well written on a macro plot level. Stephen Romano is also a horror writer and screenwriter of some note. The main character of this book is billed as a private eye/exorcist, which intrigued me. Alas, I don’t think screenwriting translates to novel writing. Strike one was using first person present POV. Truly, I wish writers would move on from this gimmick. It’s exceedingly hard to do well. There are other ways to create forward drive in narrative. The second strike was a sort of vagueness of detail. There are a lot of  “it”s and “he”s. Bones pop. Which bones? Just the fingers that were being bent backward? An urn is put in a backpack, but is later retrieved from the ground.  During a conversation between two men in a bar,  I lost track, numerous times, of who was speaking. Thoughts and details were really non-intuitively dispersed. (I haven’t decided whether that’s a fault of the first, present POV. I’ll have to see how The Hunger Games does.) Strike three was the cliches. “The last time I went out there, I got somebody killed. Somebody innocent.” Such quotes were not unique in the 30 pages of Black Light that I read. I have too many books and too little time to put up with shenanigans.

Onward to the next thing on my TRB list, right? Not so much.

The BBC’s Sherlock premiered series two with “A Scandal in Belgravia” which led me to dig up Carole Nelson Douglas’s Good Night, Mr. Holmes, the first of her Irene Adler novels, and re-read “A Scandal in Bohemia.” I had acquired the novel back in 2010 during my Holmes-a-thon. If there is a book that is the near polar opposite in style to Black Light, it’s Good Night, Mr. Holmes. The POV is first person, but it’s a ruminating, describing first person (somewhat alternating between Watson and a young companion of Adler’s). Occasionally, I’ve wished that this book would just get on with it. I’m also a little wary about Douglas bringing Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker into this book, not to mention Charles Lewis Tiffany (as in “diamonds by”) and the Pinkertons*. Mixing real people and fictional characters leaves me uneasy.

*I keep meaning to read more about the Pinkertons. And maybe, incongruously, write about the Pinkertons.

Farthing by Jo Walton

Farthing is another book that was part of the Women in Science Fiction book club and, uh, the third from that club that I didn’t make it through. I decided to call it quits at page 264. Why then and not before? I wanted to give it, one of the few alternative histories I’ve tried, a fair shot.

I’m not sure I really understand alternative histories. Historical fiction, sure.  Historical fiction are simply stories set in a “historic” setting and might involve a famous personage. Alternative history? That’s tricky. There are so many factors that go into and result from events that I’m not convinced that alternative history can be done convincingly. I suppose, in a way, it’s the same as science fiction. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone does science fiction really well either when it relies on prognostication. On the other hand, history is so rich and *it’s already there.* Why not use that instead of changing it? Weirdly, when all is said and done, I might be more of a history buff than a science fiction fan.

On the writing end, I didn’t find anything particularly compelling about the story or the writing. I understand that much of a mystery/investigation ends up being related instead of shown, but the telling was boring. At pg. 264, I had long since stopped caring about the characters and the book had become a chore.