Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RTW: Changing the Bloodlight

Too punny? Let's pretend it isn't.

Over at YAHighway, this week's Road Trip Wednesday prompt is What supporting character from a YA book would you most like to see star in their own novel?

And since I am devoting October to scary reads, my first thought was resident Queen Bee Carmel Jones, from ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD.

What I liked most about Carmel was exactly what Cas does: she's smart. She's smart and put-together and fiercely determined to do the right thing, even if the right thing means confronting, with absolutely none of the requisite skills, a murderous ghost in order to give some peace to the memory of her jackass ex-boyfriend.
Carmel's status as Queen Bee is one that's obviously been earned, one she deserves, not one she tricked her way into. And watching her doggedly follow Cas through his hunt, and come out swinging when she shouldn't have a snowman's chance of surviving, is impressive.

Seeing the story from her point of view—or another, different, ghost hunting story, since [SPOILER] she makes it through book one—would be fascinating.

* that image being as artsy a bee as I could get the internet to give me. I don't abide sexy animal costumes, but I think Carmel would know just how to rock this to maintain her position.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Anna Dressed in BloodAnna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

"I'm staring up at Anna's House again. The logical part of my brain tells me that it's just a house. That it's what's inside that makes it horrifying, that makes it dangerous, that it can't possibly be tilting toward me like it's hunting me through the overgrowth of weeds. It can't possibly be trying to jerk free of its foundation and swallow me whole. But that's what it looks like it's doing." (ch. 10)

So, first: the cover. When I first saw this cover reveal earlier this year, I was impressed and thoroughly spooked out. When I finally got it in my hot little hands, I was even happier with it. When I turned the last page of the book, all I could think was, I wish there was more blood. So book two? Please bring me more blood front and center. Thank you.

I loved this book. I loved this book to bits and pieces and shreds. I loved Anna; I loved Thunder Bay; I loved the improbable addition of Queen Bee Carmel to the ghostfighting squad. I loved the freshness of the writing, which was clear and honest, and filled with enough unexpected turns of phrase and thought that I burst out laughing repeatedly (in the best way). The violence and gore, too, was pitch perfect—not gratuitous, always interesting, always moving the story forward in the best, most gruesome, way.

And Cas. I adored Cas. That he rationalizes his interest in Anna as being kind of perfect, even if it is more than a bit wrong, is realistic (well, as far as ghosts go); that he can't think about how the relationship would play out after five or ten years is even more so. He was just mature and pragmatic enough to make the effects of his job seem real, while at the same time jussssst enough self-focused and shortsighted to be a believable teenager.

The story, too, was strong and well-paced, and ended up feeling like a very satisfying television miniseries rather than a fleshed out single episode. It was comfortable territory, coming in as a rabid fan of Supernatural, but the similarities served as a framework, a safety blanket, rather than as a reminder of a different mythology rehashed.

Also: can we talk about the deep maroon font? Bloody (pun intended) fantastic.

The sequel can't come soon enough. But, you know, with more blood.

View all my reviews

It's October! Let's review some scary sh*t.

Look: I never thought this would be me. I was always that girl literally welling up with tears of fright at the intimation of the realness of ghosts. I was that toddler who, before I should have had the logical capacity for such a construction, paused in the middle of a game played in my Grandma's basement to peer around the dark corners beyond the room, and to tell my uncle, "I'm not scared now, but I think I will be soon."

So, yeah. I never thought I would be the one curling up in the dark, happily watching the Winchester boys get thrown from here to hell and back in darker and darker ways; I never thought I would put an album like Dead Man's Bones—complete with children's choir and eerie clapping—on loop every day, every October, even IF Ryan Gosling is the mastermind; I never thought I'd be devouring, and easily, spooktastic books like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and THE REPLACEMENT, books which give heft to the fears of the dark I grew up with.

But apparently that is me. So, in honor of my bloody, mercurial heart, and in anticipation of Neil Gaiman's All Hallow's Read, let's do October right. I haven't used this blog for reviews before, but this month that is the name of the game: Creepy, spooky, chilling reviews.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Maybe the Cover WANTS to Be Judged (Or, Reading out of Context)

Last week, on NPR's Monkey See blog, Linda Holmes began a discussion about the value of watching films out of context; that is, without the social and emotional coding that goes along with knowing something about the director, about the actors, about the production or genre or story.

This is, as she rightly points out, a very rare circumstance to find yourself in these days, in this country, where what is mainstream and domestic is almost always familiar, and what is indie or foreign is specially curated and marketed.

It's good now and then, though, to see something where, for you, there's absolutely no coding in it at all. Obviously, the marketing of a movie often sends unmistakable signals about where it's going and who the good and bad guys are before you ever get there. A story of a good and a bad brother, for instance, will tell you who's who in the commercials. Even if you don't get it from the commercials, there's a decent chance you'll get it from the casting. You'll get it from the way the two are shot from the opening sequence forward. You'll get it from the score.
When you don't know anything – what tradition the film is in, what its genre is, how it would be marketed, or who the target audience is – not only do you see that film differently, but you see other films differently, too. The lack of signals is palpable and initially unsettling because the experience is so rare, but like any negative space, it draws a kind of attention to itself.
However, to find a book that lacks coding, for you, is not nearly so difficult—at least for the general public. Going to the library, where shelves are loaded not according to inventory and best-seller lists and sales goals, with recent titles rubbing covers with those years, decades, more old, offers the average reader the opportunity to pick up books almost in a vacuum. It looks good, check it out; it doesn't, put it back.

Good for a cover, isn't it?
As a writer, though—and as a member of the thrumming online book community—this becomes much more difficult. I think the last book I picked up just because it looked interesting, even though I hadn't heard a thing about it, was Mike Wilks' MIRRORSCAPE, and that was over a year ago.
Since, my entire TBR list has consisted of titles I've read up on on Goodreads, or on blogs, or heard about from other writer friends.

These are titles I need to read to stay current in my category or genre, or to stay current with cultural literacy (though, please, no Franzen for this girl). I have three library memberships, one for digital titles (thanks, Oregon, for still letting me play), one for paper books (thanks, Dad, for letting me cling to your account), and one to keep me tethered to home (thanks, Wyoming, for being the best library system ever), and all of them have hold lists that I couldn't manage to finish by Christmas—without taking into account books I buy.

Why wouldn't I pick this up?
So context, for me, has become everything. I found a book in Fort Collins' Old Firehouse Books a couple weeks back—Scarlett Thomas' OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE—that looked like just the kind of thing you'd want on your shelf, and it was only $8, but I couldn't bring myself to buy it because I didn't know anything about it. Well, that, and I'm an unemployed recent graduate student with loans.

But that has haunted me, that decision. I am independent-minded! I am my own person! I am…well, under-funded and wary of spending money almost anywhere, but. I buy books! Why in the world couldn't I bear to buy this book—with its black-edged pages, its shiny, metallic cover, its odd, long proportions—out of context?

I should know well enough to embrace that negative space, that lack of coding, and find value in it. I SHOULD KNOW BETTER.

So that is my middle of the year, forget ceremony and pomp and champagne, real and true resolution: to get back to reading out of context. To pull books from the shelf I know nothing about, authors I know nothing about.

And thanks for all the fish, internet.

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