Archive for April, 2019

23
Apr
19

“When creative people do their best work, they’re hardly ever in charge, they’re just sort of rolling along with their eyes shut yelling wheee.” CBR11 Review 17.

Unknown-1I have had this beaten-up paperback copy of Everything’s Eventual in my backpack for at least a year, reading a few pages here, a short story there. I was enjoying it, but kept forgetting it was there, usually opting to listen to Audible or read on my kindle when I had some free time. And finally, I went for a walk at lunch today, found a cute table outside a sandwich shop, and sat down to finish it.

I’m pretty sure that this was only my second time through this specific collection of stories from Uncle Stevie. Kind of strange to have spent so little time with this book, seeing how many times I’ve read Skeleton Crew (seriously, I’ve read The Mist at least 10 times) and Just After Sunset. Some of these stories I’ve only read once before, but you know how it is as a Constant Reader… some of these – The Little Sisters of Eluria and The Death of Jack Hamilton – I’ve definitely read numerous times in various places (I can remember my dad sending me some of these that he cut out of his copy of The New Yorker, along with some of the cartoons that he thought would make me laugh and a few crossword puzzles).

What I love about King’s short stories (and the same mostly goes for Joe Hill’s short stories) is his ability to make the reader become invested in characters and situations in such a short period of time. Some are just a few pages. Some are really novellas. But they move quickly and pull you in immediately. Sometimes you want the story to move faster, maybe its scaring the crap out of you and you just need it to be over (The Road Virus Heads North), and sometimes you wish there was a little bit more (seriously, how did Dinky make his final journey over to Algul Siento?).

My favorite thing about this book is how King provides either a little blurb at the beginning or the end, explaining why he wrote it, what inspired him, how it came about. I’m fascinated by the way that he can turn a very simple idea into a fully-fleshed out story, almost immediately. For one of the stories (Luckey Quarter), he said that he had an idea in a hotel room, sat down, and wrote the whole thing out on the hotel stationary in pencil. I can’t possibly imagine ever being that inspired creatively, and it is truly amazing. I can barely write out a list of things I need at Trader Joe’s this week.

For my money, the scariest stories are The Man in the Black Suit (old time HORROR) and The Road Virus Heads North. Did you ever see that bizarre miniseries that TNT made about 15 years ago, taking some of King’s short stories and attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to translate them into one-hour blocks of tv? I remember watching all of them and thinking some were great (The End of the Whole Mess with Ron Livingston and Henry Thomas), some were crap (Hi, Steven Weber, I’m talking to you and the bizarre You Know They Got a Hell of a Band episode), and some were riveting simply because the actor involved really got what King was saying. Tom Berenger played horror writer Richard Kinnell in that episode, and I remember the terror on his face when he realized just what was going on with the creepy-ass painting in the trunk of his car. Re-reading the story, I pictured Tom Berenger, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I still tore through the story breathlessly.

Everything’s Eventual has something for everyone. Dark Tower stories. An award-winning homage to Nathanial Hawthorne. Historical fiction. Inspiration for a lackluster John Cusack movie. A few are genuinely frightening (The Man in the Black Suit, Autopsy Room Four, The Road Virus Heads North). A few are unsettling (Lunch at the Gotham Café and That Feeling, You Can Only Say What it is in French). And two are must-reads for fans of Roland and his ka-tet (The Little Sisters of Eluria and Everything’s Eventual).

Flipping through a list of my previous King reviews, it looks like I’ve rediscovered old favorites like Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. I’ve been underwhelmed by bulk of the stories presented in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and content with the collection in Just After Sunset. I think its time for me to dig up an old copy of Nightmares & Dreamscapes or pull out the most dog-earred book I own – my original copy of The Bachman Books…watch this space.

13
Apr
19

“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody. End of fucking story.”CBR11 Review 16.

UnknownDaisy Jones and the Six is another recent Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, and so far, my track record has been pretty decent with Reese’s picks.

Imagine if all of the members of Fleetwood Mac – as well as their producers, spouses, accountants, and friends — sat down and talked to a journalist, providing an oral history of everything that had ever happened to them. Imagine the amount of drugs and sex and backstabbing and inter-band politics that would be mixed in with brilliant songwriting and raw talent and love and hatred and jealousy. That’s what we have with Daisy Jones and The Six. According to Wikipedia, the time between the records Fleetwood Mac and Tusk were very similar to the fictional time that this book covers:

“In 1976 the band was suffering from severe stress. With success came the end of John and Christine McVie’s marriage, as well as Buckingham and Nicks’ long-term romantic relationship. Fleetwood, meanwhile, was in the midst of divorce proceedings from his wife, Jenny. The pressure on Fleetwood Mac to release a successful follow-up album, combined with their new-found wealth, led to creative and personal tensions which were allegedly fuelled by high consumption of drugs and alcohol.[39]

The band’s eleventh studio album, Rumours (the band’s first release on the main Warner label after Reprise was retired and all of its acts were reassigned to the parent label), was released in the spring of 1977. In this album, the band members laid bare the emotional turmoil they were experiencing at the time. Rumours was critically acclaimed and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1977.”

We follow The Six from their days as a wedding band, to their climb to fame adding ingénue Daisy Jones as a co-lead singer, up until their shocking breakup when they were the most popular band in the world.

And here’s the deal. While I found the story itself quite interesting and entertaining, I really disliked almost every single character**. But hey, I guess that’s just Rock and Roll.

**I kind of liked Eddie and Pete the best. Eddie complained constantly, but his complaints were almost always valid. He seemed like he was the only guy in the band who stayed true to himself. And his brother, Pete? He only had one line of dialogue in the entire story. He’s happy with his life now and content to let the past stay behind him.

Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones were so selfish and hung up on themselves, I didn’t really care what happened between them. Their lack of awareness and their annoyance with the rest of the band attempting to contribute to the artistic process was so grating. Billy loves Camilla but also loves Daisy. Billy also loves drugs and sex and tequila. Camilla trusts Billy, because she’s a manic pixie dream wife. And Daisy hates everyone – including Billy – but she loves Billy so much she can’t stay off drugs and DOES ANYONE UNDERSTAND HOW ALONE SHE IS?

At least Daisy had Simone. Everyone should have a friend like Simone. Someone who will fly around the world to make sure you are ok if you don’t sound right on the phone. Someone who will make you know that she is always thinking of you, even if you aren’t thinking about her. Someone that will pack your suitcase and physically remove you from a toxic situation. That’s a great friend. And I never quite got what Daisy did to deserve that sort of devotion from Simone, but the author told us that she did, so she did. By the way, as a disco queen, in my mind, Simone totally looked like this, but a brunette:

I was way more interested in the background members of the band than in the two leads. Billy’s brother, Graham, and the keyboardist Karen had a secret affair that lasted for years, and only ended after they realized they didn’t both want the same things for their futures. As mentioned above, Pete and Eddie were interesting brothers – one who complained about everything and one who didn’t see the point in complaining about anything. Warren the drummer seemed sensible as well. He knew fame was fleeting, and tried to have as much fun as possible while he could. He even married a movie star, and stayed married to her, which says a lot about his character. Warren talked a lot about his mustache.

But even though I didn’t like Billy or Daisy, I still enjoyed reading (or, in this case, listening to) their story, their ups and downs, and mostly about the world of rock and roll in the 1970s.

I listened to the audiobook for this, and it was presented with a full cast of voice actors. Benjamin Bratt and Judy Greer were terrific as Graham and Karen, and made them so relatable and real. Pablo “Pornstache” Schriber was pretty good as Billy, and Jennifer Beals brought a rough edge to Daisy. At times while listening I found myself reaching for my Spotify account, ready to look up some of the songs they talk about in the book. The narrators were so convincing I had forgotten that this was fiction. So instead, I listened to some old Fleetwood Mac, the records that I knew were simmering with lust and hatred and love and anger for Stevie and Lyndsey.

 

 

11
Apr
19

Thank you, next. CBR11 Review 15.

Unknown-1I always keep a running list on my phone of authors and book titles that other Cannonballers have loved, just in case I find myself at a library or a book sale and have some free time on my hands. I recently picked up two books by Christina Lauren, My Favorite Half-Night Stand, and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. I enjoyed both – they were cute and fun and enjoyable.

So I figured this book would be more of the same.

But. Ugh.

I really, really disliked this one.

A quick and annoying overview:
Present day Macy is a pediatric resident at a hospital somewhere in San Francisco, not far from the house where she grew up. She’s engaged to Sean, but doesn’t seem all that interested in planning a wedding or being his wife. She just likes things to be easy, and her relationship with Sean is easy enough.

Flashback to the past!

Teenage Macy and her dad (her mom died a few years ago) buy a vacation house somewhere in wine country and Macy meets Elliott, her new neighbor. They quickly become BFFs. They both love reading and spend all of their time in Macy’s closet-library. Over the next few years, they become inseparable and they fall in love.

BUT THEN SOMETHING HAPPENS!

Present day Macy runs into Elliott in a coffee shop and freaks out. She hasn’t seen him since THAT NIGHT eleven years ago and doesn’t know what to do. Her friend can’t believe its ELLIOTT. He’s handsome and grown up and when they finally talk to each other its like they are teenagers again. Elliott immediately breaks up with his girlfriend and Macy considers breaking her engagement. Because Elliott is just that special and their love is unique and whatever.

The chapters jump from the present to the past, working up to what exactly happened that caused them to go their separate ways and how present day Macy and Elliott will deal with the fallout.

Reader, I was infuriated by this plot.

Sure, I get that Macy and Elliott were in love. But I don’t accept any of the nonsense about either of them not being able to live their lives like human beings for 11 freaking years without the other. And I can’t believe that everyone around them was all OOOH, THIS IS YOUR FAMOUS HIGH SCHOOL LOVE HOW EXCITING OF COURSE YOU NEED TO BREAK OFF YOUR ENGAGEMENT AND RUN OFF WITH HIM. These two people are both so dysfunctional and everyone around them pretty much thinks its cute. Every single person in their lives knows their amazing story.

Honest question: wouldn’t you think it was weird if two semi-successful people you knew, who were both almost 30, couldn’t get past their first high school love? For Macy, I almost get that her problems were wrapped up in guilt and grief, but the rest was just weird and creepy.

I hated that Elliott immediately broke up with his long-term girlfriend as soon as he saw Macy. That was awfully presumptuous of him.

I hated the ending with the fire of 1,000 suns. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen ON THAT NIGHT but the truth was so weird and annoying that it all just pissed me off. I have so many questions. Wouldn’t the neighbors have been aware of a massive tragedy taking place in their teeny tiny small town? AAARGH.

And the least plausible thing – out of many implausible plot points – was that (SPOILER) after Macy and Elliott decide to be in love and move in together, they just randomly find an affordable apartment IN THE WORST RENTAL CITY IN THE COUNTRY. No problem!

Oh, Christina Lauren, I know you can be fun and entertaining. Just not this time. Thank you, next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

02
Apr
19

“In my humble opinion, pride is a fairly common sin, because everyone thinks very highly of themselves.” review 14.

UnknownAs anyone who has been part of the Cannonball Read for a while knows, I simply do not have the power to resist a Jane Austen retelling. Even if I’ve heard terrible things about it, I’m probably still going to read it. Unofficial sequels, modernizations, books told from alternate points of view? I am ALL IN.

I recently saw an article talking about how Jane Austen is all the rage right now with Southeast Asian writers and readers, and how there were a slew of upcoming books that were Jane-adjacent but told from the perspective of a young woman from India, Pakistan, or Indonesia. I made a note of a few of the titles, checked with my library, and waited.

The first one that I got access to was Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, a modern retelling,  advertised as “Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan.” From the Amazon blurb:

Alys Binat has sworn never to marry—until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider.

A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.

When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Told with wry wit and colorful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood.

There was a lot to like here (and a little bit that I had some issues with). Lets get the bad out of the way first.

Alys (our Lizzie Bennet stand in) is a very intelligent English teacher, who specializes in literature, and Jane Austen in particular. The book starts with her asking her class (of all girls) to come up with a more contemporary opening sentence for Pride and Prejudice, replacing “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” with something that describes their current lifestyles and situations. Alys is ALWAYS talking about Jane Austen, and P&P in particular. She even talks about Colin Firth coming out of the lake at Pemberly.

AND YET.

She never ever stops to think about the fact that literally everything in her life is following the plot of P&P. I wouldn’t have had a problem with the plot if they hadn’t been so adamant about Alys worshipping at the altar of Austen, but this just made her seem like a bit stupid, quite frankly.

The other thing I didn’t love was the whole Lydia/Wickham subplot. Alys’ sister “Lady” is just about the worst human being I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. She has all of Lydia Bennett’s worst qualities, but MORE and WORSE. I honestly couldn’t blame “Darsee” for being ashamed of Alys’ family, simply because of Lady. She is abhorrent.

Other than that, I think the Pakistani originality really brought some freshness to the story, in particular, to the Bingla family, the Sherry Looclus (aka Charlotte Lucas) plots, and Darsee’s sister.

The Bingla family are self-made millionaires and celebrities, famous for having created a company that provides access to affordable and accessible feminine hygiene supplies. And Sherry never saw herself getting married, because she was almost 40 and unable to have children. She worried that her brothers wouldn’t want to have to provide for her when she got older, so when the widow Farhat Kaleen comes to town, she jumps at the chance to be his second wife. And Kaleen himself has some interesting things to say. He announces that he should be revered for having shown restraint when Alys rejected his proposal, because he could have been justified in throwing acid at her. SPOILER:  And Darsee’s sister (I can’t remember her name) had gotten an abortion after her ill-advised affair with Wickham, and the details regarding how difficult that was in modern-day Pakistan made me really feel for her.

Yes, I had some issues with Alys’ lack of self-awareness, but the rest outshone the problems, leaving me with a book that I enjoyed. I’m embarrassed by how few Pakistani writers I can even name, so I’m glad that I took a chance on Soniah Kamal, and have already requested her debut novel, An Isolated Incident, from my libary.




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