Monthly Archives: April 2017

My Life as a Bench

When I have the hard copy of a book, of course I judge it by its cover.  I’m pretty darn petty that way.  But…when it’s the kindle version, I go by what I’ve heard.  And Jaq Hazell’s My Life As a Bench is one that I’ve been hearing about a lot lately.  So, when Netgalley let me have a copy for a review, I bumped that book to,the top of my list.

It quickly became obvious that I don’t download many books because, when it didn’t seem to be working correctly, I accidently ended up downloading it an additional seven times.  Whoops!  But…out of those eight downloads, I picked one and quickly read it.  And came away considerably impressed.

First, in case you haven’t heard of this one, here’s a quick description for you:

Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London.

Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.

Unique, haunting and compelling, this is a story about love, friendship, a passion for music and what, if anything, remains after we’ve gone

I’m a sucker for modern British writing.  And, of course I’m a huge music fan.  So there are a couple of things that just jump out to like right away.  As has been the case with a number of the books I’ve received – and read – lately, this one I guess fits in the ‘Young Adult’ category, but good writing is good writing.

My mother died when I was a a kid and there’s a bench that was put up in her honor near the lake in my old home town.  It was even in a picture used on the cover of one of the local phone books (remember those?) years later. So I can relate to that form of remembering someone.  Though the idea of someone’s consciousness residing there is a bit worrisome (a.k.a. creepy).  But it still ends up being a fairly light read without the darkness that could be there with a main character that has already died.

But the story is written so well, the pacing so smooth and timed out perfectly that it sucks you along and takes you away throughout.  The ending is fairly predictable and gets dragged out a bit over the final chapters, but I won’t take too much away from it for that.  It was entertaining, well constructed and completely worth the read.  So no complaints.  I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 and, though I may never read this novel again, I’m curious enough to check out the author’s other work to see what they’re like.

But for now, I probably need to get away from Young Adult reading to something else for a bit.  Maybe like watching some hockey…

Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory

When I receive a book in the mail with a blurb on the back stating “Practical Applications is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Red Dwarf.”, I’m curious.  Sure, I had doubts that anyone other than me had ever watched an episode of Red Dwarf, let alone remembered it, but that combination sounded like a good one and it led to me putting that book next on my list.  Even if the strange title didn’t say “novel” or even “interesting” to me, I was willing to overlook that.  Don’t judge a book by its cover and all, ya know…

But okay…first lets do our thing where I let you know what the overall premise of the book is…

Carson High School seniors Scott and Davey don’t have much common ground—that is, until all universes begin collapsing into their school. Soon, the avowed loner and the mean-girl cheerleader realize that something is very wrong, and they’re the only two who are aware of what’s happening. Demon versions of their teachers roam the halls, a cowboy sloth appears sporadically, and some students randomly burst into flames, while angry interdimensional counterparts of other students destroy everything in sight.

Now it’s up to two seniors from opposite sides of the social spectrum to defeat this scourge and save not only their high school but also the world. Armed with little more than school supplies and Scott’s trusty copy of The NEW Multiverse Theory, can these unlikely heroes put their differences aside and stop the total chaos? If they can’t, the end of the world may just be beginning.

Sure, that tells you that it’s a bit YA, but that can still be okay…

The first two things that really jumped out at me about this book were 1) there are two authors who wrote it, and 2) the chapters bounce back and forth between the perspectives of the two main characters.  I don’t know how the authors worked together – if they each had a main character they wrote, or if they worked on all of it together, but I have to say that the pattern was a bit distracting.  I’m okay with that overall approach to writing if it’s done right (Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down used multiple characters in this way and I thought that was an excellent book – and one that I’ve re-read multiple times).

However… Here in this book, as you bounce back and forth between Scott and Davey’s perspectives, it slows down the process and before you know it, you’re half way through the book, still waiting for the overall point to get going.  Sure, it’s not overly deep – even for a story involving multiple universes, the potential end of everything we know, and plenty of high school angst – but there’s still a majority of time when the proverbial tires of the story are stuck in the mud.

It’s unique, it’s fairly interesting, it’s pretty well-written, and it was a quick read.  So I’d give it a positive review.  I don’t know if I’ll read it again, but that can be the case with a lot of books.  I just need to find room for it on the bookshelf.  Somewhere.  Somehow…  Or maybe in the closet.  The man cave is getting cluttered…

The Music of the Neighborhood

I love music.  I do.  And I like all kinds of styles and listen to all types, depending on my mood at the time.  So my complaint this afternoon isn’t really about music, but being forced to listen to something when you don’t want it.  That’s what got me today…

So…here’s the story.  My neighbor across the street is retired and is outside almost constantly.  Based on his daily routines, I think his wife locks him out of the house at 8:00am and doesn’t let him back in until at least 4:00.  If he’s doing yard work (which he does at some point every day) you have to listen to his riding lawnmower, his gas powered weed wackier, his leaf blower, etc.  Those, you can pretty much tone out.  But, when he washes his car, you have to listen to his car radio cranked up as loud as it will go.  Seriously loud.  Loud enough where you think the speakers will blow out at any second.  I seriously think the guy is mostly deaf since it’s loud enough to be practically painful from 200 yards away.  And…it’s always (always) classic rock.

Seriously, when you’re hearing “I’ve been driving all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel”, and the bass is causing the ground of your yard to bounce?  Whew, that’s too much.  And Hotel California just doesn’t seem like a sunny, afternoon kind of song, let alone one to share with the neighborhood at that time.  And when The Who yells out that they’ll “take a bow for the new resolution” loud enough that Graham won’t even go outside and all the birds have flown away for a day trip to the other side of the county?  That’s just too much…

I was incredibly tempted to start washing my car (which it honestly needs, even if I would have been washing it for all the wrong – and petty – reasons) and cranking up some music myself to get his attention.  I’ve been addicted to Halestorm’s Here’s to Us lately and probably would have played that one at 10 (or 11) on the volume meter but that song has a few choice words sprinkled through it and the neighbor on the other side has a baby who I’m sure wouldn’t have appreciated it.  So…my good hearted nature won out (though Graham and I listened to the song inside at least a few times while waiting for the neighbor to finish waxing his 1970-something multi-colored pickup truck (it’s grey, green and red with some rust thrown in.  Definitely a thing of beauty, can you just picture it?).

But, things can change quickly, old men move on to,other (quieter) projects, and here we are (Graham and I), sitting outside, listening to the newly returned birds and watching minivans occasional pass down our now quiet street, wondering how many dandelions have sprouted (and wondering how they might taste – Graham not me).  All while I softly hum Here’s to Us because it just won’t get out of my head…

I Keep Going Back For More…

Sure, sometimes it snows in April.  Not often, but it happens…  But how many times do you have it snow all day long on a spring day in April day and then you find yourself going to Sam’s Club and Walmart?!?  That was my Friday to start the weekend,  Well…those and Target too if you’re counting, but Target’s not as bad as the first two locations.  And…when I got home from all those trips…?  There wasn’t a single drop of alcohol in the house.  That’s just not right.

I’m thinking of starting a video blog “Drew goes to Walmart” documenting each and every one of my Fayette County Walmart experiences, but I don’t know how I’d be able to sneak the camera in and shoot that classic footage without getting caught.  Though, when I think about it, who would notice when everyone is lost in their own world around there?

When I was in Sam’s Club this time, I thought I kept seeing the same guy in multiple aisles throughout the store.  But later, I finally realized that it was four different guys, who just happens to all be wearing the exact same camouflage cap and jacket, the same dirty brown beard, the same carpenter jeans and muddy boots.  Each time he had a different wife though, so I probably should have noticed quicker.  And there I was, wearing dress pants at the time.  I so didn’t fit in.

Then in Walmart, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every woman in there was wearing yoga pants.  Sure, that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But…  If they’re too big, you look like you’re wearing a diaper.  And, if you’re too big…?  Well…I’ll let you figure that one out yourself,  And there I was clicking my way down the aisles in dress shoes.  So completely not fitting in.

And I get it.  Sometimes when you’re not feeling well, you still have to go to the store.  It happens.  But…if you’re going to cough or sneeze, why can’t you do it well before or well after passing me in the aisle?  Three times, I had someone do that in the exact moment that they passed me by.  Like in that actual moment when they’re within two feet of my personal space (or even closer).  Sure, two of the three people coughed or sneezed into their hand, but two out of the three also turned toward me rather than away when they did it too.  I think I need to look into teaching etiquette lessons at the local ‘Y’ or something.  Sheesh…

I actually do consider myself to be a people person, but Walmart (or Walmart-owned) places do scare me off of people for a while.  Maybe that’s why I’m writing this outside, just keeping company with Graham the cat as he watches dozens of birds scavenge in the yard.  It’s so much more quiet and peaceful, especially when that freak snow has melted and all of the dandelions are no longer hidden beneath it.  I guess that means that I need to do yard work tomorrow.  But that’s still better than even a five minute trip to Walmart…

 

Phoenix Rising

Okay, so I haven’t yet picked up the huge horror/suspense novel that’s sitting on my bed stand.  Probably because it’s not 700 pages but is actually 1,100!  And it’s not going to be a relaxing read before going to sleep when it’s a two-pound hardcover.  Well…that’s my excuse anyway.

So…instead I grabbed another new arrival, a steam-punk novel (a genre that I’d never tried before) that looked fairly interesting from the cover.  I know…judging by the cover and all…  But sometimes it works.  Maybe not so much this time, but usually…

But let’s start with the standard description to let you know what Phoenix Rising is about:

In a future world where fossil fuels have run out and democracy has collapsed, an outlawed pirate crew fight for survival on their ship, the Phoenix, kept afloat by whatever they can salvage or scavenge on the debris-filled seas. Toby has never known anything other than life onboard the Phoenix and he’s desperate for adventure. But when trouble comes hunting the Phoenix down, Toby realizes that what you wish for isn’t always what you want.

So there I went with the futuristic, dystopian pirate story and found myself finishing it in just a couple of days.  I guess I didn’t expect it to be a YA kind of book, but that’s really what it is.  Toby turns out to be a naive kid, the pirate crew is completely forgettable (toward the end of the book Toby mentions that there are about 40 crew members but, based on the story I hadn’t thought there were more than a dozen), and there’s not really a story that sucks you in.

i guess I just expected more.  It’s definitely a set up for a series (so much so that the book just kind of ended.  When I reached the end, I turned the page and was surprised to find the Acknowledgments rather than another chapter.  So I can’t say that I’d recommend it to anyone.  It’s okay enough that I finished it, but I wouldn’t search for the next one in the series.  And I think it’s motivated me to read something I’ve already read before and know will be great (again).  Just to get some strong writing back into my system.  I need the inspiration and motivation.  Especially since I just came up with another idea for a novel I need to write.  This means that I’ve fallen behind by five now and have a lot of writing to do to catch up with the ideas…

And not one of those ideas are steam-punk or YA.  Hmmm…

Let it Fly…

I don’t remember the last time that it wasn’t spring here in Fayette County.  We didn’t have a winter at all (seriously, I didn’t pick up a snow shovel once this winter and I don’t even know where that thing might be hidden in the garage right now…).  So we basically went right from fall to spring and I’ve even been weeding out dandelions since January.

One drawback to this is that we’ve had a lot of the spring-type storms all year long.  And that has included strong winds that have really done a number on the area.  The light on the lamppost out front blew completely off (glass, metal housing and all) and, since I’ve never been able to figure out what light switch – or breaker switch – in the house controls that lamppost, I haven’t been willing to touch it and deal with the wiring involved.

Then, out behind the house, the slats of the fence that divides my place from the neighbor’s keep blowing out, no matter how many times I force them back in place.  And, because each time the wind has blown them in the direction of my yard, the neighbor never notices and never takes the initiative to fix it himself.  Oh well…  I can pretend like it’s complicated and that I’m being handy in fixing it.  Over and over again…

But now, after this last windstorm, my neighbor across the street has a new sign that has entered his yard, advertising Yuengling beer, $17.99 a case.  This sign blew over from the liquor store located a block up and a half mile down the road.  And that’s some incredibly impressive traveling if you ask me.  For some reason, this neighbor either hasn’t noticed the sign, or has managed to just ignore it for now.  And I guess I could have walked over and thrown it out for him but I find it kind of humorous whenever I go out and see it, having completely forgotten about it from the day before.

It’s actually working out to be some good advertising.  Most days I never drive by the liquor store because I turn the other way.  But now here I am, thinking that I need to go buy a case each day when I see that sign.  It’s just starting to sound good.  But now that I think about it, I wonder how “accidental” it is that it arrived there…  Because, when you think about it…was that wind really that strong?  And what are the odds it would end up right there where I would see it every day?

I think when I go in to that store to buy a case of Yuengling ($17.99 plus tax), I’ll ask them if I can get paid to put a sign up in my yard.  Maybe for something a little more expensive.  And right where my neighbor can see it each and every day…