Book review: Ink by Damien Angelica Walters

Ink is a slow burn kind of horror story, where you know pretty much right from the start that something bad is going to happen, but the question of when that bad thing will come is drawn out to prolong the tension. This can end up failing because if nothing happens for too long, the story can lose the tension it’s invested. But Ink manages to dole out just enough of a sense of dread so that it never loses that building edge. When it finally peaks and starts to reveal the monsters, the tension is aided by a sense of real investment in the characters.

Ink is the story of Jason, a man whose wife has just left him. Worse, Shelley left him for her best friend Nicole, but with her departure, Jason is feeling relief more than anger. Their marriage had been all wrong long before the start of the story, making him feel trapped in a loveless relationship. Now that she’s left, he’s gone out to celebrate his freedom. This is how he meets “John S Iblis” in a bar, who Jason soon nicknames Sailor for his rolling walk. John talks Jason into getting a tattoo to celebrate his freedom. A pity then, that getting the tattoo is doing the exact opposite.

Soon after he gets the tattoo, Jason is having nightmares. Then he starts finding dead animal parts left on his doormat, and the next door neighbor’s kid is giving him funny looks. From these smaller disasters, larger ones blossom and explode, and through it all, Jason is left wondering if he’s going mad, He keeps insisting that his situation can’t be real, until finally he is unable to deny that his tattoo is alive, and it is hungry for fresh flesh.

There’s a lot to like in the story, with the details of the building John occupies described in an other worldly way that contrasts with the banal blandness of Jason’s home and neighborhood. The scenes with Jason and his family and coworkers are often capped with shorter scenes of John watching and waiting for his latest victim to snap and come begging for help. In between these are moments of new love found with Mitch, a fan of tattoos who seems to come out of nowhere and give Jason a new sense of purpose after his wife has walked out on him. And all of this combines to form a nicely woven tale that starts of in the most mundane was and slowly escalates into violence and insanity.

I give Ink 5 stars and recommend it to fans of horror and dark fantasy.

So now I’m gonna talk about puppies…

Way back in 2009, I made the list of Shorty nominations because I jokingly said, “I nominate me for the Shorty’s.” Enough people took me seriously that I made it far enough up the list to bound one spot over Laurell K. Hamilton for two days. It was without a doubt the two most glorious days I had experienced in writing up to that point. Of course I quickly plunged off the list of nominations because it was just a lark, and I don’t have a huge fan-base to appeal to to help me game the Shortys. I have since then never asked to be nominated for the Shorty awards because it’s not that big a deal to me. I’d love to win an award for something I wrote, but only if it was nominated legitimately by someone who liked my book. This makes it a pretty tall order, a nomination from someone who read and liked my book who also has membership standing in a voting body for a qualifying award. I really might have better odds of winning the lottery.

Which brings me to the puppies and the Hugo awards. It’s kind of funny how there’s this group of guys complaining that they’re in the minority while wielding the powers of a majority to screw everyone else over. Apparently to them, it’s unfair that authors who aren’t white, male, and conservative might get a chance winning an award. Because white conservative males are so underrepresented in the award winning world. They’re not voting based on a book that touched them. They’re voting for the candidate who most closely matches their ideals. They’re not even doing this to recognize talent that they feel has been held down for too long. No, they’re doing it to attack the idea of diverse voices infecting their pure white male awards. So they’ve gathered themselves into a little army, and they’re proving that as a voting bloc, they can nominate whoever they want, blocking any of those uppity minorities from getting on the final ballot.

You’d think this sort of thing might make me angry, but I find it to be a rather fascinating look into the mindset of a group of people who, while having the benefits of privilege in virtually every field of media, still want to claim that they’re being held down somehow. I can’t even recall when it wasn’t a topic of contention that awards were reflective of only one culture, race, and gender. The reading audience may be far more diverse, but the voting bodies trend toward white males, and the nominations tend to reflect that reality. I can’t attend Worldcon, so even if I wanted to nominate a book, I’m not part of the voting body. I can’t gather my friends to vote for me or another author because no one I know has or will attend Worldcon either. This means that the only people who can game the system are those people already inside it. And so this group, who already have a dominating presence in the club, are angry that anyone else might have a chance of being nominated, and they’re so angry about this possibility that they would push a few select authors to make sure no one else’s vote counts. Continue reading

Book review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I got Will Grayson, Will Grayson on my birthday because I saw the Italian version in an all-new LGBT section at the local bookstore, and I went, “Holy shit, John Green did a gay romance? This I gotta see.” Only, the English books section didn’t have it, so I had to buy the Kindle version on Amazon. Once I got home, my plans to read got derailed by a serious need to nap. (Hey, I’m 40. Old age does that to you. Funny how when I was five, I hated nap time, and now it’s like my fourth favorite activity after writing, reading, and eating.)

I read half the book the next day, frequently pausing to laugh out loud and back up to read the jokes to my hubby. Then the next day, I only got in one chapter because I also got Diablo III for my birthday, and I got distracted by the pretty colors and killing stuff. But today my hubby had his turn at Diablo III, and after a nap (see? A very popular activity for me now) I jumped into reading the other half.

And it turns out, it’s not really a gay romance. It’s not really a romance at all, even if there are some romantic bits to it. Instead, this is the story of two Will Graysons who meet in a moment of random serendipity, and how their lives change as a result of that meeting.

One Will Grayson is easily funnier than the other. They both alternate telling their stories in even and odd chapters, and the first Will is friends with a gay footballer named Tiny Cooper. Theirs is a long-term friendship, but one that is strained by Tiny’s preoccupation with producing a school musical about his life. The other Will is a lonely closeted gay who is suffering from depression and self-loathing, and so a lot of his chapters were hard to read. But not because depression is an alien thing. No, it’s because I’ve been where Will is, and those are the kinds of memories best left to lie and gather dust. Continue reading

How I’ve learned to love down-times…

Even before hubby’s return home, I was suffering from mental and physical fatigue. The daily commutes to visit him and still get housework done wore me down, and I chose to stop writing my current story until I’ve got more active brain cells to handle the task. I realize this runs counter to all that “write every day, no matter what” advice, but I haven’t been following most writing advice from the beginning and still manage to have a lot of books written. I think the advice must be meant for people who have trouble getting words down, and the idea is to write every day so that the brain is wired to produce on demand.

My brain really doesn’t work like that. For one thing, I’m never not writing upstairs. I can be out walking with friends, and one of them will invariably ask me, “what’s wrong?” because I’m frowning with a little knot in my brow. I’m not troubled by anything. I’m just working out dialogue in my head. When I do sit down to empty out the words that have gathered and crowded my head, I end up with several days worth of material.

There used to be a time when I felt great urgency to get ideas down now, now, NOW. I had a muse who would wake me up early in the morning with an idea, and if I slacked off, I’d get badgered by internal voices about dying and not finishing this series or that one. Those guilt trips were pretty effective for a long time, and I often had days where I wrote 10-15K. But the side effects of those twelve hour marathon sessions were that I also spent many days or weeks between projects too mentally drained to dress or feed myself. I called the condition brain drain, and I didn’t like not having the mental energy to do anything. So I began allowing myself some room to slack off. I can still have a random day where my output is over 9,000, leading to an easy meme joke on my social updates. But any day that I do write, I consider 1,000 to be my minimum limit for a good day, and anything above that is a great day.

There are still times when I get antsy because I’m not doing anything, but I quell that sentiment by thinking about my editing queue. I’ve got a lot of books done that are in various draft stages, and if I run out of stuff to write, I’ve still got editing work that can be done in shorter bursts. This leaves me free to play a video game or read a book, or just spend time with hubby and the animals. Continue reading

What I mean when I ask for diversity…

So my birthday was on Saturday, and I went downtown with hubby and my sister-in-law to check out a Feltrinelli bookstore that had been closed for renovations since January and just opened at the start of April. This has been a bad year for my book hunting habits, as the Mondadori that had a whole floor of English book closed down for good. The remaining stores only have a single shelf dedicated to English books, and their organization is aggravating, with porn stacked in right next to kids books because it’s all listed by author with no categories.

Feltrinelli at least had more than one shelf, but their English books selection had been kind of slim before they closed, so I was happy to see they’d expanded to a full wall of books, with the classics moved to their own shelf on the opposite wall.

Or I was happy until hubby pulled me over to the other side of the store and I saw this:
LGBTshelfIt’s an LGBT shelf. It should thrill me, but I still suck at reading Italian. All those books on that shelf were not to be found in the English language offerings. If I wanted any of them (and I did), I would have to find the books on Amazon. (And I did, and I bought one as soon as I was home.)

To be clear, it does make me happy that the store has begun to offer readers a whole shelf of LGBT books. This was not available before their renovations, and I am happy that they’ve made an effort to be more inclusive. But it also sucks because I can see what they’re offering to everyone else, and then I can go back to the English wall, and it’s almost all white straight people.
Continue reading

Book review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

Dead Beautiful is flawed right from the start, plagued by the problem that it’s imitating a lot of other books in most aspects, and also by its only original idea being unbelievably stupid. And that’s me being kind. It’s not just a bad story because it’s so obvious what books it was borrowing from. (Twilight, Harry Potter, Raven Boys, and Marked all came to mind frequently.) The main problem is that consistency and logic are apparently foreign words to the author. The main character Renée(sme) loses her parents right at the start in a double murder that’s obviously suspicious, and yet the police—on loan from the Powerpuff Girls’ Townsville—rule it as natural causes because they died of heart attacks…at the exact same time, with cloth stuffed in their mouths and surrounded by coins. (“Duh, does this…uh…look like a…uh a clue?”)

Renée is handed off to her ultra-rich dickhead grandfather who says, “I want to send you off to a private school. These public schools let you do whatever you want, and that’s no good.” He insults her constantly, and yet later suggests that she take up a class in forensic science and acts all concerned about her safety before sending her of to Hogwarts…sorry Gottfried. The grandfather is closely connected to this school and knew a student recently died in the exact same way her parents did, and he knows why. For that matter, he most certainly has to know the school isn’t safe, and yet, he tells her she can’t stay in her old school, and this new place is safer.

Yes, he could have actually told her the truth about why her parents died, but instead he lies, treats her like crap, and then abandons her in a place where she’s actually in more danger than she was at home. Even after she gets him to confess about lying to her, the bastard manages to ask “Aren’t you grateful that I sent you there?” And passive, pathetic Renée goes, “Um…yes, I guess.” URGH. Continue reading

Promoting some good stuff…

Today, I’ve decided to do something a little different from my usual post. I was just thinking how I spend a lot of time talking about what I don’t like, but I rarely talk about stuff I like, or that I’d recommend to others. On Twitter, it’s not so uncommon for me to jump on a request for a new book to list some of my favorite authors or stories, and I thought, why not do that on the blog with a set of lists? So today, for y’all, here are some things I’d highly recommend you give a try. I’ve divided them into four categories: authors, musicians, movies, and games. I may have reviewed some of these in the past, but I’ll also include a brief summary for why I like this stuff.

Also note, these are not my top six selections. I could never make a top list because there’s so much good stuff that I love. These are just some folks and products I think you might like if you give them a chance. Continue reading