Monthly Archives: June 2015

Review- The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

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The copy of this book I bought smelled INSANELY good. I ate half the pages while reading. JUST KIDDING! (…or am I?)

4.5 stars

Warning: the ‘things I really really liked’ section gets a tad spoilery, so read at your own risk ; )

Description from the back cover of the book:
“On a dark road in the middle of the night, a car plunges into a ravine. The driver survives the crash, but his injuries confine him to a hospital burn unit. There the mysterious Marianne Engel, a sculptress of grotesques, enters his life. She insists they were lover sin medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in the monastery of Engelthal. As she spins the story of their past lives together, the man’s disbelief falters; soon, even the impossible can no longer be dismissed.”

This book was addictive reading. I started it for a book club, and the description on the back cover drew me in, but I still didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The Providence Journal apparently said this “reads like the mad spawn of Anne Rice and Stephen King” and I am inclined to agree. Considering I love both Rice and King, this is a good, good thing. The way the narrator talks to himself internally and his personification of the ‘snake’ in his spine after the accident makes me think of King, and his experiences with Marianne Engel and her eccentricity and lifestyle make me think of Rice. Like, really, that was spot on. 😀 DERP. Anyway.

This book is graphic, especially in describing the narrator’s burns and the treatment thereof, but I didn’t think it was nearly so graphic as some reviews complain, and I actually enjoyed these details, as they taught me a lot about the subject that I didn’t know. Then again, I’m not a squeamish person, so…eh!

Things I really really liked:

  • The fact that the narrator is not named throughout the entirety of the book, even though much of his life story up until his accident is described, never once is his name mentioned. Also feel I should mention it’s so flawlessly and effectively done that I DIDN’T FREAKING NOTICE until I FINISHED THE FREAKING BOOK, and went back to look for his name. Ohhh boy.
  • you never quite get a “case closed” conclusion as to whether Marianne Engel is or is not schizophrenic or “crazy”, but by the end you do get the sense she was probably not and the narrator made the right decision by BLANK BLANK BLANKETY BLANK (spoilers, lol)
  • PAST LIVES. I love anything involving the concept of reincarnation. Yess.
  • The fact that the narrator starts out as an atheist and ends, not in the same place, but not on the complete other end of the spectrum. Because of his love for Marianne, and because of her hyper-religiousness, I felt sure there’d be some type of “And then he FINALLY believed the same way she did!” type thing near the end. I’m so glad that shit didn’t happen. I mean, he comes to believe certain aspects of everything he’s told, but it’s natural and he retains his own outlook to a large degree while still making a personal transformation. It makes the story more powerful that they were able to be on the same spiritual level anyway through their love alone.

Hopefully that last one’s not tooooo much  of a spoiler, I just wanted to make that known in case anyone started to read and stopped because they thought it might end up cliche. This story is really anything but cliche, can’t believe it’s a debut! Wow. Just, wow!

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book. The ending brought tears to my eyes. There were a few parts where there was more meat maybe than there needed to be, but it was such a surprisingly quick read because I got so entrenched in it every time I picked it up again. I found myself upset I couldn’t read more sooner due to other obligations, a sure sign of a good book!!

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it is a long, whistling walk in the corridors of time

those rose-tinted, slow motion memories
you can’t retrieve (there is a sadness
to the past, perhaps, because the you of
fifty years back, or even a day ago,
is more alive than the you doing the dreaming,
dying daily.

this is what I propose, you misty-eyed, fading
dreamer:
get up.
open to the soul of your dying.

hold nothing back.

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I survived Camp NaNoWriMo- April 2015

Okay so this post is a little late. And by a little I mean A LOT. I finished Camp Nanowrimo April 30th, and here we are on June 10th. But better late than never, eh?

For a long time now I’ve had some thoughts/reflections on my first experience with Camp NaNo I wanted to get down. So here goes.

Starting out, as I detailed in my week one post here, I was having a lot of anxiety about my story not being good. (I’m proud to report now at nearly 50,000 words, I’ve been able to tell my internal editor to bug off loudly enough where this isn’t the case anymore).  So that wasn’t so great. What was great about that first week was the fact that even despite my doubts, I was able to stay on track with my word count. Great! I thought, I’ll write a blog post for each week chronicling my journey! It will be stressful but epic!

Clearly this did not happen.

By week two, I was crashing and burning. I would get up to write and only get a few hundred words in some days, while others I would ignore my writing schedule altogether and distract myself with other things. This caused a good deal of mental anguish for me, considering I am the type of writer who likes to stick religiously to a routine- once I deviate, even once, I start to feel like I’m slipping, and it only becomes easier to deviate again in the future, and again and again.

Tie that to the fact that towards the end of May, I was going to a Harry Potter convention in New Hampshire- MISTI-Con 2015, which turned out to be one of the best times ever and which I’ll have to chronicle in a later post. But even mid-April, convention nerves were setting in. On top of that I kept thinking of how I would continue to write during the convention (I didn’t, nor did I for most of May). Basically, it was just another excuse to stall, to wallow in the fact that I’d lost control of my plot and didn’t know where things were going.

Just when I thought I might give up on Camp NaNo for good, I realized I could change the word-count goal for the month. I switched from aiming for 40K to 30K. Okay, I thought, I can do this, surely. I took a couple days to plot instead of write, and suddenly I had more than a good idea of where everything was going. Then I went to change my goal again, and realized I couldn’t anymore! Realistically I knew I could still finish, with just a little catch-up. And I did! I felt a wild flash of triumph as I went from feeling sure I could lose to stepping over the finish line the last day of April.

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Here are the pros and cons as I saw them after completing Camp NaNo:

Pro: It’s a well-needed kick in the pants, much like NaNo OG. Have a project you’ve been thinking about doing forever but never got around to? Now’s the time!

Pro: You can have whatever goal you want. This is especially helpful, I think, if you’re trying to finish a novel you’ve already started or edit one you’ve finished.

Pro: VALIDATION. It’s amazing just how typing in your wordcount and seeing that arrow creep closer to the bullseye in the target affects the mind 😉

Pro: The virtual write-ins were incredibly helpful near the end for me. I wish I’d done them all the way through. Something about writing with others present doing the same, even if it’s online, makes me more productive than I probably would have been alone nine times out of ten. Plus it’s just fun to hear what others are writing during the talking breaks 🙂

Con: I actually didn’t like the fact that you could edit your goals until a certain point (I think around the 20th?) I feel like knowing I could do this made me more lax about the whole thing.

Con: There was definitely less community. Granted, I didn’t take advantage of the forums, but there weren’t any official meetups like there are with NaNo proper. Also, my cabin this year around was a little dead so xD

As you can see, the pros are double the cons. NaNoWriMo in all its incarnations is really such a wonderful idea and I’m thankful to everyone who pitches in to make it possible each year.

Currently what was my April Camp novel is less than halfway done, and I can’t see finishing in June, though YES I will be working on it steadily. I am considering doing Camp NaNo in July and making my goal finishing whatever’s left of this book to finish by then. If anyone else did camp in April or is going to do it in July, let me know! What’re you working on?

{C}

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Review- There’s a Hula Girl on My Dashboard by Logospilgrim

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Five Stars

This little book is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read.

There’s a Hula Girl on My Dashboard is a deeply personal memoir of self-discovery, the quest for meaning and for belonging. The author goes from Evangelical Christianity to Secular Humanism, and explores several belief systems, illustrating succinctly yet powerfully the periods in her life where she tried these things on, all the time looking for a final Answer, for a resting place and for security.

This is a book that is ultimately about uncovering the pure spirituality of just being human, of being alive in the moment and reveling in all it has to offer, even-especially!- the simpler pleasures, and one person’s journey to overcome oppression, abuse, and self-doubt, and find peace in that simplicity. I found myself relating to a lot of what the author experienced: disagreeing with religion and feeling like an outcast because of it, the struggle with sexual & gender identity.  I related to the searching, the frustration of finding truth in everything but the inability to connect with any ‘method’…to the nihilistic period, and finally coming to embrace ambiguity.

Belief is a very organic thing. There’s no choice- you do or you don’t believe this or that, and both are okay. You can’t actually control what you believe, what you TRULY believe, and thinking you can or should is highly stressful. After all, beliefs about what we cannot truly know are only damaging if they’re poisonous to ourselves or others. A lot of belief systems teach that our very morals must be tied inextricably to some supernatural cause or entity, and if we don’t have the proper beliefs in that cause or entity, we can’t be decent people. Bullshit, really– no matter where you believe they come from, common decency and goodness are also more human (and honestly, more RATIONAL) than many people realize, and Hula Girl does a beautiful job of really illustrating this through various conversions and encounters with kindred spirits.

It is also worth mentioning that the author handles controversial topics in a way that is not at all hostile or condemning, a great feat considering some of her rough experiences. Every feeling with each experience in each chapter is described, the good and the bad, through a subjective lens that does not assume authority and is as unpretentious as it gets. It may sound weird since the author arrives at atheism by the end, but her experiences are told in such a way that it actually helped remind me to be more empathetic rather than judgmental of religion- it shed light on why some people gravitate towards it, a good boatload of them with the purest of intentions, simple desire for order and community, or determination to reform a system they feel a passion for- all beautifully human motives.  Throughout this memoir, you really feel what the author is feeling in her spiritual journey- you felt the darkness, you felt the hope, and near the end I was almost in tears (good, very good tears!). It’s at the very least a very feel-good read, that takes you back to the heart of what’s important and says you are enough and you are whole, just as you are.

Please don’t pass this up as a book *only* for atheists or for secular people! While I have never been religious, I do believe heavily in the existence of the supernatural and I (obviously by this point, lol) found this an absolutely worthwhile read! Logospilgrim’s journey through this book really embodies what it is to be human and on the search for self we’re all on, a search that can become tricky, pushing past other’s conceptions of who we should be to find our truth. Our personal truths may be different from person to person, but it’s the questing itself that’s really the heart of this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s ever felt torn apart both inside and out, anyone who’s ever felt isolated in their own personal quest. Anyone who’s ever struggled with religion or self-actualization or feeling shunned or ostracized for simply being true to who they are- which I’m willing to bet is most anyone with a pulse at some point or other. This book is poetic and inspiring and so heartfelt it hurts. Could not put it down from start to finish!!

To buy this book or check out some other reviews click here

Logospilgrim’s official site: link

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