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review 2017-11-05 10:15
Legitimate Form of Writing: "Little Misunderstandings of No Importance" by Antonio Tabucchi, Frances Frenaye (translator)
Little Misunderstandings of No Importance: Stories - Antonio Tabucchi
“Tell me, dear heart, dear chilled heart, what would you say to going to live in Lisbon? It’s surely warm there and you’d revive like a lizard under the sun. The city’s at the water’s edge and they say it’s built of marble. You see it is a country after my own heart; a landscape made up of light and stone, and water to reflect them! And so you walk slowly through this marble city, between 18th-century buildings and arcades that witnessed the days of colonial trade, sailing ships, the bustle and the foggy dawns of anchors being weighted."
 
In the short-story “Time is very strange” from the collection “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance” by Antonio Tabucchi, Frances Frenaye (translator) 
 
I am glad authors are challenging the homogenisation that is so demanded by many readers. Too much fiction does not reflect real dialogue; I know it can be harder to follow, but it is good that some writing is articulated in that way. Perhaps short-stories are best for this as readers might be able to tolerate for a shorter time than throughout a novel. However, online reviewing is effectively channelling so much writing into narrow parameters which squeeze out interesting and/or innovative approaches. I have also been pleased in recent years to see more short-story collections being physically published, even from obscure writers like Tabucchi (does anyone still read him in this and age?). Ironically short stories and episodic novels are ideal for reading the way most people use e-readers. Yet, the sense that they are an illegitimate form of writing with people saying they are waiting for the 'full' novel of the story or feeling that, as if by accident, the author has only published a 'fragment' of the 'proper' story, is too common. When you read a Tabucchi short-story we don’t have this feeling of incompleteness.
 
 
 
If you're into Lisbon, my city, read on.
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review 2017-09-14 03:12
You'll Be the Death of Me! by Stacia Wolf
You'll Be the Death of Me! - Stacia Wolf

You’ll Be the Death of Me! stars Allison Leavitt, a successful mystery author, and Jay Cantrall, a Los Angeles police detective who’s been temporarily transferred to Spokane after a scandal. They happen to be neighbors in the same apartment building, and although they’re both instantly attracted to each other, they also don’t entirely trust or like each other.

Allison is leery of men who only want to date her for her money, doesn’t really think that sex (aside from masturbation) is all that great, has body issues (due to some scars and, possibly, her curviness), and is still working through her feelings of guilt and terror over a past traumatic event. The only man who interests her anymore is fictional: Detective Ben Stark, one of the main characters in her mystery series. Shockingly, Jay looks like both Allison’s mental image of Ben and the image of Ben on the proposed cover art for Allison’s next book. She can’t decide whether she’s interested in Jay because he looks like Ben, or because she’s just interested in Jay.

Meanwhile, Jay is leery of women who are more interested in his celebrity twin brother than they are in him. To be honest, he has trust issues with women in general at the moment, since it was his ex-girlfriend’s lies that resulted in the scandal that got him sent to Spokane. But there’s something about Allison that keeps drawing him in. Allison, her best friend Paige, and a landlady with an annoying Chinese crested dog that she believes can do no wrong make it hard for Jay to keep to himself.

I spotted this in a used bookstore clearance section a while back and snatched it up primarily because it was a Samhain Publishing title. Some of those can be difficult to find or incredibly expensive now that the publisher has shut down operations. What if it turned out to be really good and I missed out on it? And if it wasn’t good, well, it only cost me $2.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’d picked up a stinker. Allison in particular seemed to have way more issues to deal with than could properly be handled in such a short book, and the whole thing about Jay’s twin seemed incredibly contrived. In general, these two characters needed to spend at least a few months getting to know and trust each other before I could believe in them as a couple. Instead, they were together for maybe a week or two, enough time to drool over each other and have sex, but not enough time to truly trust each other once the issues readers could see from a mile away started cropping up.

I hated them as a couple so much. Anytime Jay made any kind of small talk that touched on money or Allison’s job, Allison immediately assumed that he was just another guy hoping she’d pay his bills in exchange for sex. I was more forgiving of Jay’s blowup when he inevitably spotted Allison’s newest cover art, but their arguments after that made me dislike them both.

They both refused to listen to or believe each other. In fact, Allison somehow still

believed that Jay was after her money even after he blew up on her about the cover art. How did she think that was going to work? Did she think he was simultaneously going to snarl at her for being more interested in his brother or her fictional character than in him and convince her to pay his bills? Besides that, a true gold digger wouldn't have cared if she only liked him because he looked like her character or his twin brother. It should have only taken a second or two of thought to realize that her conclusions didn’t make any sense.

(spoiler show)


But logic wasn’t exactly the author’s strong suit and, unfortunately, the result was extremely inconsistent main characters. For example, after spending most of the book up to that point thinking that Allison knew full well the effect she had on men (or at least on him in particular), on page 79 Jay suddenly divined that Allison was uncomfortable with her body and reacted accordingly. Then there was Allison, who spent most of the book saying that she’d never orgasmed while having sex with a man and could only get off while thinking about her fictional detective. Despite that, on page 104 this thought suddenly popped into her head: “it had been way too long since she’d made love.” Huh?

I hated how the author wrote about Allison’s issues with sex. Jay couldn’t even fathom that someone might not enjoy sex and became fixated on the idea that Allison’s previous lovers just hadn’t done a good job. He, of course, would do better.

“What did Allison need? Love, passion, romance? Him. She needed him. She needed him to teach her the better side of sex.” (106)

I could imagine him saying that out loud and me laughing in his face.

Sometimes things happened just because the author wanted/needed them to happen, and not because they particularly made much sense. For example, at one point Jay and his partner, Pearce, were doing a stakeout and Pearce, for some unknown reason, decided that he absolutely had to make up with ex-girlfriend right then and there. So he asked her to come see him during the stakeout. Yeah, you read that right. And then when the suspect recognized him and the stakeout went bad, Ping (the Chinese crested) accidentally got loose and Jay injured himself trying to avoid him. Allison blamed herself for Jay’s injury because she hadn’t kept a tight enough hold on Ping’s leash, and so she felt obligated to help him out a bit while he recovered. Pearce told her she shouldn’t be so hard on herself...and failed to say anything about his part in the whole incident. In fact, not a single person blamed Pearce for Jay’s injury, and there were no consequences for his actions. The author literally orchestrated the entire thing just to force Allison and Jay to spend more time with each other.

The book had other issues, but I think I'll wrap things up here. You'll Be the Death of Me! was a quick read, and yet it still wasn't worth the small amount of time it took to get through it. Even the dog wasn't very appealing.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-01-22 21:25
Review of: Finding Your Way: Stepping Stones to God-Honouring Devotions by Kimberly David

Kimberly approached me recently, asking if I'd be willing to review her book.  Because my own focus tends to be devotional or spiritual-growth in nature, I gladly accepted and she sent a PDF version of the ebook to facilitate my review.

First off, I have to say I love the cover art!  Growing up near the ocean and always loving waterways of all types, this image totally appeals to me on so many levels.  The artwork would seem to indicate a drop-off near a few of the stepping stones in the water, suggesting a person with great balance would put one foot in front of the other while walking near this place where the water falls away.  The stones eventually veer away from this drop-off as they make their way toward the water's landing place a distance away.  This image is so true to life lived in the spiritual realm for the believer.  Some steps in life seem so close to falling over the edge, while others lead closer to safety.  But the stones leading to safety are not reached unless the traveller passes over the stones so close to peril and danger.  For the person looking at their devotional life and wondering how on earth they will ever get into a routine or be more biblical about it all with so much going on around them, they might be on the stones near the drop-off at this time.  

Kimberly's book will take such a reader from that perilous position, and walk them through a series of changes in mindset toward the whole concept of devotions, offering a foundation from which to move towards regular, active and rewarding personal quiet times spent between them and God in the Scriptures.

Kimberly begins with the smashing of a whole list of misconceptions many believers have regarding the concept of personal devotions.  With that out of the way, she then asks the reader to assess their priorities and take steps to eliminate distractions.  After that, she offers some very good tools and focus options when considering where to begin and how to continue.  I have to give her a huge slap on the back for encouraging the reader to steer clear of following their emotions or "their heart" as the world puts it, and instead, put action into place regardless of how they feel.  Scripture, in various words and ways, teaches through principle that when we do what is right even when we don't feel like it, the feelings will eventually follow.  Kimberly draws this out very well.  This is extremely important when developing a consistent personal devotional life.

She mentions one common statistic that tends to change depending on what study you look at or from whom it came, but she mentions how long it typically takes to build a new habit.  Her sources suggested 90 days or three months.  Other sources suggest 30 days or 40 days.  Depending on your personality and how quickly you latch onto new routines, any of these three time frames could be what you need to develop a new habit.  I had to darkly chuckle at the 90 day suggestion, because my own life seems to change routine every three to six months.  As a single mother, that has made a consistent time frame for personal devotions almost non-existent at various times in my life.  Sometimes life will throw curveballs that throw your current routine out the window.  When that happens, I'd encourage you to look for a different time slot, place, or routine that can help you stay in God's Word on a regular basis.

Kimberly's book is undergoing further preparations for eventual debut on the printed page.  The ebook does have some overlooked edits that will hopefully be caught enroute to becoming a physical book you will enjoy holding in your hands.  But overall, I give this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  If the concept of personal devotions seems daunting to you, make sure you buy a copy of this book!

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review 2014-12-15 00:00
Misunderstandings
Misunderstandings - Iyana Jenna Declan and Parker are lovers who have insecurity and trust issues. Parker believes Declan is cheating on him with Declan's costar, Ryan. Nothing Declan says can change what Peter believes is going on. Ryan isn't helping matters when he is intentionally trying to steal Declan away. Unable to get Parker to stay Declan begins to fall apart. It takes Ryan to sort out the mess.

It was an okay read. Like most of this authors stories it's kind of told in a disjointed way. By the end the story all comes together.
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review 2014-09-23 19:19
Hell & High Water by Charlie Cochet
Hell & High Water (THIRDS Book 1) - Charlie Cochet

(Note: I received this book for free as a prize in the MMR yearly event.)

 

Sigh.  I had to add a new tag for this one - "sucks at his job".  It is a particular dislike of mine when main characters are incompetent, and especially when they are incompetent at their own jobs.  If I can't respect them, I can't like them, and if I can't like them, much of the enjoyment of the book is lost for me.

 

There was some fun world building in this one - I like the Therians and the tensions between them and the human populace that simmer beneath the surface.  The way the THIRDS teams divide up their roles is cool.  The bad guy is creepy and has lots of nasty surprises waiting for our heroes.  He would have been easily spotted, if not for the lamentable investigative techniques of the THIRDS, but he does have an escape planned.

 

But then there are our heroes.

 

Dex Daley is a detective when the story starts and extremely good at his job with the human police. He took the entrance exams for the THIRDS and passed with flying colors.  According to the story he is an excellent fighter and very good at reading people and figuring out where a group dynamic has gone wrong.  Too bad then, that

he gets beaten up by everyone and his brother and doesn't spot that his boyfriend is unhappy and has one foot out the door and his original partner is casual murderer.

(spoiler show)

 

Sloane Brodie is a powerful Therian, leader of his team, best fighter in the THIRDS, and an excellent leader. Alas,

he is also blind to the tensions and disfunction within his team, leads them into a situation that he knows from experience  is always dangerous with no apparent plan or backup, and then takes and eats food from a suspect who hates him.

(spoiler show)

I couldn't really get onboard with the budding romance either.  It is unprofessional, and Sloane is clearly not ready for a relationship.  

 

I also felt that the set up for the rest of the series was a little too in my face.  One character in denial about his attraction to another (both on Sloane's THIRDS team) because he isn't gay!  Ew!  A third and fourth character (THIRDS partners) having some kind of issue in between them that causes them to act like idiots. A mysterious background for Sloane that is constantly hinted at.

 

I wanted this book to be better than it was.  I hope the rest of the series is better than this one was.

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