Cormac McCarthy~

I got set next to this woman… She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well ma’am I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin’ I don’t have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin’ to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

One of my favorite authors. Reading All the Pretty Horses carried me about as close to heaven as one can get.

Don’t go down that dark road.

Writer Beware! Resist the temptation.

orphan black
Sarah, Helena, Alison, Cosima.

Those of you who know me know that I’ve been obsessed with the BBC America show, Orphan Black since the very first episode. (You know, back when it was scraping the bottom of the barrel for advertisers.)

I held my breath, my baited breath, waiting for this season.

I’m so sorry I did. What a waste of good air.

While the show has always been dark, the writers have decided to take the show in a dark’er’ direction, down an, in fact, unrelentingly dark road. Oh, they’ve made minimal attempts at comedy, but they are nothing like the off the wall hilariously funny ironic deeply disturbed comedic moments of the last three seasons.

Of all the story lines from which the writers had to choose, choosing to feature the Neolutian psychos and sycophants was the worst possible choice- IMO. It’s the story I least want to see, find the least interesting and, unfortunately, most disturbing in a stomach churning makes me want to vomit sort of way. Of course the other issue this  season is the increasing number of clones, which, in turn, causes the writers to give short shrift to the clones about whom I actually care.

***Note to writers: Never a good idea to add a clone with a terrible awful weird-ass no-good-reason haircut, who sounds like a garbled version of one of my favorite clones, Helena, but who speaks in such a low whisper I, the viewer, can’t understand a word she says.

Even the best authors sometimes make the same mistake. Get the reader invested, really really really invested in your characters, then backlist said characters and try to get readers invested in new characters. Rarely works. Or rather, it takes a rare talent to make it work. Not. Happening. Here.

The only character worth watching thus far? Ferdinand. Orphan Black fans know who and what I’m talking about.

Ferdinand

I realized after this most recent episode that Orphan Black is no longer entertaining. It’s depressing. With a capital D. As in, Depressing. I’m done with the show for now.

Ah well. Orphan Black had a moment. Now it’s gone. Happens to the best of ’em.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with Vikings and Game of Thrones. Oh, and when it returns next season~ Lucifer! (Such a guilty pleasure!)

Lucifer

 

Been reading. Recommends.

Thanks to my friend, author Anny Cook, I read my first official Regency. LOL! Seriously – LOL! The book was off-beat, atypical, laugh out loud funny and no – there was essentially zero sex, which I very much appreciated in my current nonpron mood. Rake’s Ransom by Barbara Metzger.

Rake's Ransom
Entertaining as all get out.

My dear friend, author Penny Watson, introduced me to Cecelia London, author of The Bellator Saga. I read the first book, Dissident. Cecelia brings her characters to serious life. They are no holds barred, alive. I can see and hear her protagonists speak. They speak to me. If you hate a series, well, all I can say is don’t read it– the book ends in a big old cliffhanger. If you love a series, go for it. I’m on my way to Book Two.

Dissident
Pretty cover!

If you want to be all sad and inspired and, well, simply feel, read When Breath Becomes Air, by (the late) Paul Kalanithi with an introduction by Abraham Verghese. It will make you cry. I’m not sorry for that- there’s no avoiding tears.

When Breath
A beautiful book.

So now you got some good recs. Go! Read!

 

To Review Or Not To Review, That Is The Question.

I’ve been busy reading nonfiction. Recently I finished (couldn’t stop reading) an engrossing work of nonfiction. I was so enthralled with both the quality of the story-telling and the writing that I ran over to Amazon and left a five-star review.

The next morning my sister recommended a book on the same subject. She hadn’t read it but a friend of hers had recommended it to her. This was a much shorter work, 71 pages to be exact. A little pricey at $2.99, but I figured, eh, 71 pages. I can read that in an hour or so. I did. Yeah, same subject matter, awful treatment of said subject matter. I found the author’s voice offensive and disingenuous, and her sloppy unedited style off-putting to say the least. In fact, the quality of the book was so poor, especially in comparison to the beautiful book I’d just finished, that I headed over to Amazon in a huff, prepared to write a one-star review so other potential readers would beware.

I stopped myself- for two reasons. First, regardless of how bad the book was, I decided that writing a one-star review was a waste of my time. Second, I noticed that every reader/reviewer who had given the book less than four stars had been deluged by mean-spirited, nasty, snarky, insulting comments regardless of how well-written the review. Even if I hadn’t already decided to skip the review, boy, those bullies would have stopped me in my tracks.

You know, it’s ironic that the subject of both books is, get this… unconditional love. Seriously. So book A is actually about unconditional love. Book B, which is supposed to be about unconditional love, comes complete with a posse of conditional bullies.

Sheesh!

Herein lies the problem… I appreciate a solid review, regardless of whether the review is positive or negative. A review written by a screaming fangirl is of no help when determining whether or not I might enjoy the work. So those of us who are inclined to write legit reviews are discouraged, nay, terrorized, into not writing a review by roving gangs of bullies.

I’m not telling Amazon what to do. But I am saying there are consequences.

The consequences?

A. I’ve heard from other real readers that they no longer leave reviews.

B. I no longer trust any four or five star review on Amazon.

Just sayin’…

The Dark Night of the Soul, or…

Why I didn’t much care for The Martian. (Even knowing I should care.)

the martian

I’m not a movie reviewer. I’m a movie watcher. Sometimes I like stupid obvious movies like Paul Blart- Mall Cop, and The Shooter, and Quigley Down Under, and Dodge Ball, and Galaxy Quest, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Yeah. I do. So sue me.

But my favorite movie of all time is, wait… I have two favorite movies- The Terminator, which is the most perfect science fiction movie EVER MADE, and Die Hard, (I’ll pause here to pay tribute to Alan Rickman, may he rest in peace), which is even better than the book upon which it is based – which is a damn good book – Nothing Lasts Forever. (Loved that book and I’m saying ‘which‘ an awful lot.) Die Hard is by far and away my favorite Christmas movie. Right up there with White Christmas. I’m a sucker for White Christmas. It’s the Danny Kaye/Vera Ellen dance scenes. Damn she’s a great dancer.

But anywhooo, back to The Martian. B.O.R.I.N.G. It wasn’t a movie, it was a survival manual. A superficial treatment of a step by step How To book. How to survive on Mars when you’ve been left for dead, you have no way to contact anyone, and you have no hope.

There’s the rub, the no hope part. If there is one thing… Remember Curly from the Billy Crystal movie, City Slickers? It’s one thing that keeps us watching movies. And it was that one thing The Martian lacked– a dark night of the soul. The protagonist, Mark Watney, never gave in to despair. He was never tempted to call it quits or lie down in the Martian sand or punch a hole in his suit or just plain old kill himself by any means at his disposal.

The movie-maker chose to provide a superficial treatment of the most existential of dilemmas- I am stranded a minimum of 225 million kilometers from earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. No one is coming for me. I am alone in this universe.

There was no suicidal despair like there was in Castaway. There was no Jenny in high heels perched on the ledge of a hotel balcony high above traffic, no Lieutenant Dan filled with bitterness and rage, battling God, like in Forrest Gump. There was no starving Elsa like in Born Free. No desperate and hopeless John Morgan like there was in A Man Called Horse.

Death’s shadow did not fall over Mark Watney as it did the astronauts in Apollo 13, a movie I felt The Martian tried and failed to emulate. (There were so many parallels, too many to mention here.) Because Mark Watney was a genius’ genius. There were no obstacles that could not be surmounted, no failure that could not be overcome. Mark could always find a way to beat the odds. The movie gave us only a single moment when Mark was moved to tears. One, near the end when he was close to rescue. And that was the one moment that resonated with me. (No, it wasn’t the moment when the airlock blew because even then I knew Mark would find a way to fix it.)

Sometimes you lose. I guess that’s what I wanted to see. Sometimes you lose and you must fight and claw your way back from the brink. And that is the dark night of the soul, and that is what makes for a gripping story.

I know my husband loved the book because of the sciency stuff. My daughter, who is a scientist, had a tough time relating to the character, although she said she did finally begin to care about him near the end of the book. I suppose I’ll read the book and see for myself.

Oh, by the way, if there is one thing we learned from The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, (the book, not the television series), one thing I learned growing up in rural Iowa, it is this– When you must go out into a hellacious blizzard, or into a Martian version of a blizzard, i.e., sandstorm, for crying out loud, tether yourself to something. You do not hike back to your space ship in high winds, through blowing debris, when there is near zero visibility, without a tether. Sorry. Someone has to say it. The minute the crew stepped out of the habitat into that storm I said to my husband, “That’s pretty stupid. Why aren’t they tethered to something? That’s the first rule of blizzard safety in Iowa when walking from the house to the barn.” Right there the movie lost me. Hmmm. Now I’m wondering whether I’ll like the book…

P.S. If you really want to read about the dark night of the soul, read Beck Weathers’ story in My Journey Home: Left for Dead on Everest, or Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer.