Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: The Hypnotist's Love Story

The Hypnotist's Love Story The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As with all other books by Liane Moriarty, I loved The Hypnotist's Love Story. She has such a skill to allow you to reflect on who you are while you get to know the characters she created. Unlike her other books, I did not really relate to any of the characters here. Ellen is lovely and very much like a friend of mine, but not at all like me. And Saskia, who Moriarty tried so hard to make sympathetic, should be taken out and shot to death. Seriously, if Ellen and Patrick were real people and asked for my help in killing Saskia, I would do it. Remember how I said Moriarty invites you to look at yourself?

Unlike Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Saskia is written as a real, complete, complicated person... one who shows very clearly how a normal person can turn into a creepy stalker. She was not violent, as we expect most stalkers to be. So why did I hate her so virulently? Because of who I am and what I fear, of course. As a gun owner and veteran, I almost fear the threat of violence less than I fear what Saskia did... for years. Because if she came into your house to hurt you, you could shoot her. Legally. In the back, if you wanted (I live in a state with some very extreme home protection laws). But without that threat of violence, you are completely owned by this woman. Everywhere you go, there she is. She sends texts, emails, and voicemails constantly. Follows you on dates. Then follows your dates around in their own life. She goes in your house while you're not there. Shows up to your kid's soccer games. But she's not touching you. She's not threatening you. And you can't prove she was ever in your house. Stalking laws have improved over the years, but still there's only so much you can do. That level of helplessness to legally extricate a stalker from your life is maddening.

So even though this book was not a thriller, it set my teeth on edge more often than you would expect from chick lit. It was wonderfully written, but I finished the book feeling not at all like I did with Moriarty's other books. Here, there was no jubilant happiness for the characters and their outlook for the future. Just a general contentedness that Ellen and Patrick would build a lovely life together, and the hope that Saskia would one day soon be hit by a bus.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: The Obsession

The Obsession The Obsession by Nora Roberts
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a case study in genre mixing—one that does not have a positive outcome. The Obsession begins with a heart rending thriller in which young Naomi discovers her father is a serial rapist and murderer. She rescues his latest victim, then we follow her shattered family as they try to pick up the pieces. But then we jump to adult Naomi, and all the magic gets thrown off a cliff. We are treated to chapters and chapters of interior design description and nonsensical chattering about beveled glass for the cabinets and dishes made from recycled glass. We meet the love interest, who is nice, sexy, and very open about his interest in Naomi. She holds off because, given her past, she shies away from complications or attachments. It has the ingredients, and lord knows Nora Roberts has been doing this long enough to know how to make a good story. But it didn't come together this time. It felt like two entirely different books, with a crappy sequel to the first book tacked on to the end. Not Roberts' fault, but the audio book narrator was also not as good as she might have been, so that did not help.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Review of Independence Day: Resurgence

This is not so much a review as an examination of flaws. Normally I would warn of spoilers, but as I stated on my post-movie Facebook post, you're better off just rewatching the original than sitting through this tripe, so I am not spoiling anything; I am saving you.

Like many people, the first Independence Day was an emotional experience for me. I was 14 and saw the movie twice n the theaters; the first time in opening weekend in San Antonio, the second at the theater in Tinker Air Force base. Both times, the audience was made of military families and veterans, which made it all the better. There was laughter, there were tears, there was raucous cheering at several points. The cheers were so loud, in fact, that my father's non-American friend actually asked him if the audience understood that the action onscreen was not real (European audiences are much more subdued). But here's the thing—in a way, Independence Day was real to us. It was real not just because of the awesome special effects or the tightly written plot, but because of the characters. So before I deconstruct what made the sequel awful, let's reflect on what made the original great.

Captain Steven Hiller — Will Smith brought Steve Hiller to life as a great pilot and a great American. He was funny, he was loyal, and he was a strong friend, father, and soon-to-be husband. He was engaged to a stripper, something heavily frowned upon by the conservative military culture, particularly for officers with NASA aspirations. But Steve didn't care. He loved Jasmine. And based on her quick thinking in the face of absolute disaster combined with her kind heart and protectiveness of total strangers, we can see why. We were rooting for the Hiller family from 'kick the tires and light the fires' to his 'fat lady sings' cigar. He promised us fireworks, and he did not disappoint.

David Levinson — Not all heroes are soldiers. David is the nerd in all of us, the good man who works hard and does right. He is smart, he is driven, and he will not allow lesser minds to bully him into silence. He is divorced from a woman he loves, and who loves him, because she simply didn't understand what was in his head. We can all relate to that moment when his ex-wife asks him, "Didn't you ever want to be a part of something special?" He slams down his bottle and quietly responds, "I was doing something special." And we, the audience, know that. We know it was David who saved the president and his daughter from death and who knows how many other people. And now his ex-wife knows it too. She finally sees what was there all along.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Selling Books at Planet Comicon - Lessons Learned

Saturday at Comicon
On May 20-21, I participated in my very first Comicon as a vendor rather than a guest. It was an extremely valuable learning experience and I am so glad I went.

You will notice I called it a learning experience rather than "the best f-ing day of my life." There is a reason for this. I only sold three books over two days. You'll recall I sold five books when I did Books on the Bottoms. And that was for two hours. So five books in two hours at an antiques venue vs. three books in a combined 24 hours at a venue that specializes in sci-fi, fantasy, and nerd culture. So what in the world happened? Well I can break the cause down pretty easily. So for other book sellers planning on hawking your stories at an event like this, I thought I would share my wisdom.

1. Comicon is Big. Like, so big. And I don't just mean the 30,000 people who attended. I mean there were so many booths filling up Bartle Hall: Artists, Cosplayers, knick-knack vendors, graphic novels, regular novels, random weirdos, stretching farther than the human eye can see. Unless you're way up high. There is no way any person could get through all that. And even if they could...
Look at all the nerds

2. Comicon is Expensive. It costs $35 per person just to get into Comicon. So what you do with your remaining money once inside has to be targeted. Likely, you went there to get the autograph of a celebrity (costs vary depending on the celebrity). Maybe you want to take a picture with that celebrity (also varying costs, but always more expensive than the autograph). After that, you have to buy food, cuz you're starving from all that waiting in line and smiling at Kevin Smith. Enjoy paying $8 for a soda and another $10 for a hot dog. You wanted pizza, but they ran out of pizza after an hour. If you're lucky, you have about $20 left to spend. So what do you want to do with it? Buy a novel? Specifically a novel by an unknown writer that may or may not be good? Probably not. You want that Kylo Ren Lightsaber that actually lights up.

3. Introverts are Terrible at Selling. When I am a customer, I hate to be pestered by people. I want to read the back of the book and make an informed decision. I hate when book store personnel people come and talk to me. Or really when any person talks to me. Because I am a super-duper introvert. For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I am an ISTJ. So the idea of hollering at random passersby to come and buy my book is a thoroughly nauseating idea. How vulgar. Passivity is not exactly a great sales tactic, but it's the only one I have. There was also the problem of the many people actually saying they didn't read books. What... what do you even say to that? I can't be sure, but I probably gave those people a disgusted sneer. Also not a good selling tactic.

ISTJ: We always look confused

4. Bigger is not Better. Watching so many people walk past your booth is very disheartening. The man at the booth next to us makes his whole living off his writing, so he goes to every Con he can. He offered no words of encouragement, just that it never gets easier to feel dismissed by a perspective reader. Likewise, the joy at making a sale never gets old.

I made three sales. One was to my senior drill instructor from Parris Island (1999). Who in the world could have predicted running into her? She was so proud that one of her girls went on to write a book that of course she had to buy one. The second book sale was to a friend of a friend. And the third sale was to a young woman I did not know. She was dressed as super girl and was the most magical person I have ever met. Her love of books was palpable. She bought my book. Then she bought all five of Dennis' books. Then she bought the book of the man at the table next to us. She did this because she loved discovering new worlds, and we were all new to her. She came to Comicon for books. All the books. And her visit to our table on Sunday evening was the best way possible to end my first Con experience.

Two Marines among the civilians

I can say with some certainty I will not be selling at next year's Planet Comicon. I will instead go as a customer. Dressed as Lady Kylo Ren. But I will be selling at KC Comicon this August. It is a smaller venue that focuses on creators. The celebrities who come are not actors; they are writers and artists and behind-the-scenes creators. I have no way to predict how many sales I will make, but I think it will be more in line with my personality, and I think the people who come will be more inclined to stop to read the back cover of Sunder. Preferably without me having to actually talk to them.