Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Remember that breakup you weren't sure you could recover from? The one where your partner just brutally dumped you? You almost teetered off the edge, withdrawing from your friends and your job, and drinking more than you should have. But then you said to yourself, "If I don't stop this, I will become someone I can't bear to look at it in the mirror." And you dusted yourself off, called your sister or your friend, and you got on with your life. If you had not done so, Rachel, the titular girl on the train, is what you would have become.

This was a fantastically written book, yet very hard to read. The plot is not at all like Gone Girl (all the reviews compare it to Gillian Flynn's book). But it is similar in that all of the characters—I repeat, ALL of them—are hideously unlikeable. From the pathetic boozehound stalker, Rachel, and the cheating, lying Megan Hipwell and sad-sack enabler Anna, there is no one to root for in this book. They are all the type of women you would do well to immediately excommunicate from your circle of friends. So why did I like this book? What took me through to the end even though it was supremely painful at times?

Hawkins is a master at realistic narration, dialogue, and motivations in damaged women. Both beautiful and terrible, her words inspired both self-reflection and objective admiration of how she wields her craft. I firmly believe likable characters are not a necessity for good literature, and this is a prime example. I recommend this book. But fair warning, my lady friends... if you're fresh off a divorce or infertility, you might want to keep it on your 'to-read' list for a little while before you start on this one.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Daredevil Review (Spoilers)


Last April, Season 1 of Netflix's Daredevil landed on the scene with almost enough force to scrub the memory of that rancid Ben Affleck movie from our collective consciousness. The series was awesome, from top to bottom. Season 1 gave us Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil, an actor who delivered both physically and emotionally. He captures Dadredevil perfectly, right down to the Catholic guilt that drives him and the Jeremy Irons-like sadness that permanently haunts his face. He is balanced by his law partner and best friend, Foggy Nelson, played by Elden Henson (Fulton Reed from the Mighty Ducks), and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Wohl, Jessic from True Blood) as the classic damsel in distress. The trio make up the heart of the series, but I would be lying if I said they were the most entertaining part of the show.

Like all good fiction, the conflict is derived from the villains. Season 1 gave  us Wilson Fisk AKA Kingpin, played by my imaginary boyfriend, Vincent D'Onofrio. Vinny D has played some truly frightening people (Pooh Bear on The Salton Sea, Carl Stargher on The Cell). But Wilson Fisk is my second favorite, as nothing can replace Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He was both frightening and sympathetic, with the writers showing the audience exactly who he is and why. He played the type of villain who you were almost kind of sad to watch go down in the season finale, even though you knew he would rise again.

Season 2 brought a whole new patch of villains, first in the form of Frank Castle, AKA the Punisher (John Bernthal). I never read the Punisher comics growing up, as he was too dark and too solitary for me to relate to him or root for him. The previews lead us to believe the Punisher would be our "big bad" for the season, which made it confusing when he was jailed not even midway through the season. Then we realized Frank would not be our terror in the dark. I'll admit it caught me by surprise. When the screen lingers on an old Japanese man looking down at his accountant and says, "Who said I was Yakuza?", the comic book fans all sucked in their breath. Holy shit. It's The Hand.

The Hand has made appearances across the Marvel World, including the X-men and Deadpool, which is why I know about them. They are truly frightening people. And unlike Frank Castle, they do not have the human foibles that make them relatable or sympathetic. They are just terrifying and impossible to stop. They can be shooed away with sufficient effort, but they're never completely gone, as poor Matt will find out.

It speaks to the quality of Daredevil and the trust I have in its creators that I did not immediately stop watching it when they revealed the actress playing Elektra. That is, Elektra Natchios, a Greek woman—played by an Asian lady. Such an unforgivable casting decision might otherwise have resulted in a rage spiral, but in this case I simply waited, having full faith this choice would be explained. And you know what, I was right. Instead of insulting the audience, specifically the portion of the audience that read the comics, the writers acknowledged what they did and why, cementing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will always in some ways be different that the comic book universe. Just like last season's shocking death of Ben Urich at the hands of Kingpin, we the viewers are invited to be patient and trust there is a reason for all of it. In the case of Elektra, it was done to tie her childhood to Stick (and it was probably hard to find a Greek chick who excelled at Martial arts). In the case of Ben, his death paved the way for Jessica—Sorry, Karen. Her name is Karen in Daredevil—to become the reporter, cementing her growing character arc through the rest of the series.

One of the major criticisms of the more recent Marvel movies is that they have no soul, but rather exist solely to set up the next movie in the franchise. Does Marvel think the movie audience won't notice and/or protest? Clearly not, because they are not repeating this mistake with their tv series. Both in the outstanding Jessica Jones and in Daredevil, it is clear the writers not only trust their audience, but respect our intelligence as well. It's that trust in its audience that makes the series so great.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sunder—En Espanol

After several months of working with my wonderful translator, Cesar Reta, Sunder has been rechristened El Sabotaje for Spanish-speaking audiences. This was a goal of mine starting from when I first wrote it. After all, it is the story of an America colonized by the Spanish instead of the British, an America with much different borders. It didn't seem right to write Sunder without making it available in Spanish, the primary language of Isabella's America.

It takes a lot of trust to turn over your work to someone else, especially when you have no way of verifying its quality for yourself. I had to trust Cesar, and then I had to trust my husband's Spanish-speaking cousin to tell me Cesar had done a good job. I am so happy to have this version of the book available and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of reception it gets when I sell it at Comic Con in May and at the other Comic Con in August.

Sunder's sequel, Fissure, is still in the works, and it is much more of an adventure to write. Unlike my process for writing Sunder, I do not have all the scenes pre-planned. Rather, I am trying out the "pantsing" method for the first time in my writing career, and I have to say I'm enjoying it. Allowing the characters to lead you instead of the other way around goes against my methodical nature, but I have a good feeling about the outcome. I'm hoping to have the book ready for release by next summer, but given my reputation for procrastination, I would not advise holding your breath for that deadline.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: A History of Loneliness

A History of Loneliness A History of Loneliness by John Boyne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This had to be one of the more infuriating books I have ever read. Is it possible such a clueless person could ever have existed? Odran is written so well by John Boyne that I ended up hating the book . Some other reviewers have speculated that Boyne's creation of the willfully ignorant Odran was due to his underestimating the intelligence of his reader. But I don't think that's true. I think he did it on purpose and it's illustrated by Odran's father that last day at the breakfast table. If Odran really were as stupid as he made himself out to be as an adult, then he never would have grown to an adult in the first place. He would have gone with his father to the beach and died with him there. But he didn't. He sensed the danger. He saw it just as clearly as I did. His father intended to murder him. It was obvious in every word, every action, even to a child. Perhaps it was survivor's guilt that caused Odran to then suppress every subsequent warning instict. Oh, your nephew hates you and started acting out whenever you brought up Tom Cardle... hmmmm. Weird, right? Are you kidding me? It says something for Boyne's talent that he was able to whip me up into such a rage. But then it likely also speaks to the still-stinging betrayal I felt when I realized that priests were just men, no different than the ones who didn't wear collars. And Bishops were just lying politicians, no different than the assholes in Washington—just with less oversight. Like the movie The Magdalene Sisters, I found myself angry to the point of distraction, and I think I may have to avoid fictional works that involve the Irish Catholic church. It clouds rather than clears my mind.

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