Sunday, March 27, 2011

"The Tourist" [B]

Well-shot, well-acted light meringue of a movie. Not quite action-thriller, not quite romantic-comedy, not quite enough of the absurd plot to really fill out an hour and three-quarters. Nevertheless, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie and Venice are captivating.

The Tourist (IMDb)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

read: Murder One

Murder OneMurder One by Robert Dugoni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robert Dugoni's latest David Sloane legal thriller is actually more of a mystery than a thriller. But that isn't a bad thing. The author is in top storytelling form, weaving a complex plot that has the reader turning pages and trying to guess whodunit right up to the very end.

In previous novels, Sloane has gone up against government and corporate conspiracies with long arms and deep pockets that threaten his life and the lives of the people he cares about. There seem to be dangers at every turn. Now, year after his wife was murdered by someone involved in one of those cases, he goes back to work and tries to get back to living.

Before he knows it, he's romantically involved with Barclay Reid, another lawyer and former adversary, she's accused of murdering the drug kingpin she blames for the tragic overdose of her daughter, and he's put in the position of defending a criminal case, something he's never done. As the investigation unfolds, all of the evidence indicates that Barclay is guilty. Sloane and his private investigator friend Charles Jenkins struggle to make the all the pieces fit and find the real killer. At least this time his adversaries are straight-shooting cops and the legal system and some uncooperative witnesses. Sloane's heart and integrity are on the line, even if his life isn't.

Murder One is a fine addition to the David Sloane series. Robert Dugoni has filled it with colorful characters and local details that add life and depth to what might otherwise have been a dry police procedural. Highly recommended.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chapter 3

Yes, I've started it. I wasn't even sure what I was going to do for it until I sat down. But I managed to find a way to transition from the two opening chapters I tacked on and slip back into my original outline. Not that I'll manage to stick to the outline from here on out. But you've got to start with something, don't you?

Anyway, 275 words, some research, and some reorganizing and we're still underway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is Through The Only Way Out?

I was trying to figure out why I don't seem to be very excited about working on my current writing project. I'm only a couple of chapters in on a Page 1 Rewrite (actually more like Page -100, since I decided it needed to start much earlier than the short first draft did). At this point I should still be enthusiastic about the new project and cranking away at it. Shouldn't I?

I think the problem is that I've spent almost three months on the outline and these first couple of chapters (and the chapters don't actually fit the outline, so it's out of date). When I work on something in NaNoWriMo, I get through an entire draft in 30 days. It's fun. It's exciting. It's nerve wracking. Without that pressure to be done with 50,000 words by a certain time, I've been doing my procrastination thing and stretching things out.

I need to just write. Today I did a skosh over 500 words and it feels a little better. But I still think I've been working on this one thing for far too long. Other projects are dancing around in my head. I've been writing them down as they come up, trying to stave them off. I'm tired of Winter and the project seems to be part of Winter, so I'm tired of it, too. It seems very appealing to take another break from the current project and start more in earnest on something new, something Spring-like.

But I'd also like to finish what I've already started. To date, since 2005, I've started a half-dozen novels and a few short stories. I've finished and submitted one short story (to a conference contest) and finished a decent draft of another short story. All of the novels are in draft-zero form, or less.

I think in order to finish something, however, I need to do it in a more compressed timeframe. Something more than 30 days, so I don't ruin my life. But certainly it must be less than four to six months. Simple math tells me that if I truly write 1,000 words a day, six days a week, I will have 72,000 words in 12 weeks, or 3 months. In that case, I would be well over half-way finished with a sizable first-draft before my week 6 malaise set in. Maybe.

Maybe it's worth a try. Then again, I think I'll see what chapter 3 of this work in progress holds for me tomorrow. I've heard that the "only way out is through."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

read: Bellwether

BellwetherBellwether by Connie Willis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wound up liking this slightly less than I thought I would based on the first several chapters. The tone is light, the factoids and social commentary are amusing, and the voice actress very talented. It was a lot of fun to listen to during my commute.

I thought the 'big' idea was intriguing, but it was slow to develop and got lost in the muddled love-story plot. Then it got wrapped up in a blur and a deus ex machina twist. Most annoying to me was the poor representation of how research is done and how computers are used. The research institute is used mostly as a means for critiquing institutional thinking and not for true advanced thinking.

All in all it was enjoyable and almost thought-provoking story.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Rango" [B+]

A wild, Spaghetti-Western fever-dream of a movie. 8 of 10 stars for anyone that loves Westerns, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Johnny Depp. The writing is edgy and crazy (and definitely PG+ in a few spots). The voice acting and animation are crazy good. Sags a little in the middle, but the rest is worth repeated viewings. A new classic.

Rango (IMDb)

read: A Game of You (The Sandman #5)

The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of YouThe Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume didn't click for me quite like the previous two did. Perhaps I had difficulty identifying with the characters. Maybe it was the confusion about what was dream and what was magic and how they related. Even so, the ideas and imagery were intriguing and the story pulled me along through to the end.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

read: Bloodshot

Bloodshot (The Cheshire Red Reports, #1)Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a few misgivings when I learned that the latest book by one of my new favorite writers was going to be an urban fantasy vampire story. Not my thing. I didn't make it even half-way through a crazy popular novel about sparkly vampires that's been made into crazy popular series of films. I finished, barely, a literary classic that had been paranormalized with vampires and zombies. But based on my delightful experiences with Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, Clementine, and Dreadnought, I had to give Bloodshot a try.

It worked for me. It kept me awake past my bedtime turning pages (which is more than I can say for the classic science fiction book I set aside). I'll tell you why. You can read the cover blurb for yourself.

Action. This book has plenty of action. One thing you must say about being a vampire master thief on the run from every police department including Interpol is that you don't lead a dull life. When Raylene isn't breaking into somebody else's warehouse or office, somebody is breaking into hers. This tends to lead to either a fight or a chase or both. The author does a great job with them all.

Adventure. This comes from being on the run and being a vampire. Raylene inhabits the night. She has to keep moving. Her latest job has her tracking down and stealing government documents about a secret project. This forces her to travel the country to follow clues and break into the aforementioned warehouses and offices and the reader gets to follow along.

Suspense. There are some good twists and turns here. I did see a couple of them coming, but not all. Secret government projects and mysterious men-in-black are not unfamiliar territory. But the author does a good job of weaving them into a fairly believable story (once you get past the bit about vampires existing).

Snark. I wasn't sure I would be able to tolerate Raylene's first-person narrative for the entire 359 pages. It grew on me. I mostly enjoyed it. I didn't find the humor to be laugh-out-loud funny. But the note of bemusement kept the tone of the story light.

I have a few complaints. There is at least one killing in the book that does not seem justified, even by Raylene's apparent moral code. Then again, she's a vampire, and a thief, and a killer. On at least one, maybe two, occasions I felt a little cheated by the ease and convenience of Raylene's escape from an impossible situation. This wasn't due to her skill or power, just a break that went her way.

But overall I was happy with my reading experience. I give it 4 stars out of 5. I'll be looking forward to the next Cheshire Red book, along with the next Clockwork Century book, and anything else that Cherie Priest writes.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" [C]

This is basically an incomprehensible mess. The mythology is both inexplicable and insupportable. The writing and acting is insufferable. Why do I keep watching these? Perhaps attempt to understand this corner of pop culture. I was hoping this was the last one. But I see there are at least two more in the works. Stop me before I watch another one.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (IMDb)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

read: How Fiction Works

How Fiction WorksHow Fiction Works by James Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this book. On the one hand I can't remember what recommendation caused me to read it. And if all I'd had was the second half of the book as an example, I probably wouldn't have bothered. It rambles and jumps around so much.

On the other hand, the first sections, covering narrative and viewpoint, illuminated perspectives on writing that came as revelations to me as from on high. I simply have not previously approached fiction from that philosophical direction.

The author seems to be of two minds as well, trying to have his cake and eat it, too, philosophically. He seems to be simultaneously trying to appeal to the common reader and to the highly educated sophisticate. At times he succeeds. At others, he seems simply irksome. Like one of those know-it-all semi-intellectuals that are impossible to shut up once they commence to educate you about some subject.

Then again, perhaps it was just me, the reader, becoming impatient. If I decide I have a need to make time for this book again, perhaps I will revisit it and see if it is even more illuminating (or more irksome) the second time.

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