Yard Work (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

Rico drums his hands on the steering wheel, impatient for the bus ahead of him to move again. Places to be, folks.

The bus farts and jolts ahead, and Rico’s eye is caught — that woman he’s had his eye on in his sociology class, Jane he thinks her name is, walking away up the crumbling sidewalk.

He presses on the gas slowly now, curious to see which way she’ll head. She doesn’t go far, just two houses up from the stop, a dead-looking house, slumping behind its overgrown yard. His eyebrows arch upward as she skips the front door and heads around the side, looking around perfunctorily without even seeing him, then nudges open a sagging gate and disappears into a wild tangle behind the house’s blank-windowed stare.

Arcaion
Photo: Arcaion

Every week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s cue was “yard.” Fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Enjoy!

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Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (Book Review)

Y is for Yesterday (Kinsey Millhone, #25)Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

SEXUAL ASSAULT TRIGGER WARNING: Repeated descriptions of sexual assault, with accompanying “she had it coming” mentality

Grafton crafted a dark story here, then threw away the opportunity to make it count.

My neck hairs first stood up when I read, “I couldn’t think why she’d try extorting money for a sex tape in which she starred front and center.” Um, what? You mean, in which she was being gang-banged and sodomized while passed out. Which is acknowledged a few pages earlier, opining that those making the tape would be facing rape and sexual assault charges. So, is the throw-away attitude toward this girl throughout the book casual victim-blaming on the part of the writer, or is it intentionally written to display the “Well, she shouldn’t have been drunk and naked and wasted with a bunch of guys, and I don’t care if she was only fourteen, she’s a dirty dirty sloot” attitude that everybody, including Kinsey, seemed to share? When a young man is released after serving a sentence for murder, and you feel bad for him because now he’s being blackmailed over a sexual assault he took part in and you don’t want to see him “go through” any more…say what? But of course. Don’t forget that he is rich and white and from a “good family.” Kinsey is so principled that she returns the entire retainer after she’s fired, without deducting for services already performed, but she’s not principled enough to turn down this dog turd of a case in the first place? Or take the tape straight to the D.A.?

Out-of-character characters. “I picked up the scent of the cigar he’d smoked, but the effect wasn’t unpleasant,” writes Kinsey, except that the Kinsey I’ve been reading about for 30 years hates smoking. Henry has always loved and babied his yard, but he’s suddenly torn it up and is letting a homeless couple pee in it? Kinsey’s being stalked by a serial killer, so she carefully cleans her beloved H&K, locks it in the trunk at the foot of her bed, and drifts peacefully off to sleep?

Anachronisms. In 1979, teenage kids use the word “homophobe” and have computer video editing equipment in their bedrooms. Most glaring was not being allowed past airport security without being a ticketed passenger–except this was in 1989, twelve years before 9/11, back when you could go to the airport and get a drink and sit and watch the planes take off and land, which I used to do. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about these novels is being stuck in the 80’s, Kinsey hauling her portable typewriter around and always being miles away from a pay phone when she needs one. In this installment, present-day intruded several times.

These books have never been perfect and I’ve loved them anyway, but this one set my teeth on edge. I only read to the end because I wanted to see if I was right about whodunit, which I was, and I’ve already forgotten it. I never thought I could give a Kinsey Millhone book only two stars, but Kinsey as a rape apologist, who’da thunk it.

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Spirit of New Orleans (Six Sentence Stories)

“I’d like to take a few days to make the trip, book a sleeper on the Spirit of ‘76.”

“You’re going to travel on President Nixon’s Air Force One?”

“Sorry, I meant the Spirit of St. Louis.”

“Lindy’s been gone a long time now, and I’m pretty sure his plane is in the Smithsonian, and anyway I thought you don’t like to fly.”

“Oh sheesh, I mean the Spirit of New Orleans, like the train in the song, you know, I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”

“I’ll book you on the City of New Orleans, if you’ll please stop singing.”

City of New Orleans
Photo: Robert Kaufman, from the FEMA Photo Library, Public Domain.

This flash is in response the Six Sentence Stories cue of the week: spirit. I know it’s weird, but it’s where the prompt led. All I did was follow. Follow the link for fun sixes from other writers.

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (Reading Challenge Book Review)

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was going to say it’s impossible for Neil Gaiman to write anything I wouldn’t like, but then I remembered Neverwhere, which I couldn’t get into, and I blame that mostly on the rats, which did not become a horror to me until I moved to Seattle in the midst of a seven-year stretch of chronic and heinous insomnia, and my rented-online-sight-unseen apartment turned out to be infested with the hideous creatures, and the job I moved here to take turned out to be the absolute worst employment experience of my life, leading to an almost complete psych breakdown and years of therapy. It became an association thing: I fucking hate rats. I also blame the character named Jessica. I’ve just always disliked that name. No real reason. No idea. But rats + Jessica = couldn’t read the book.

But any other Gaiman book, I’m totally down for.*

Norse Mythology is an absolute delight to read of an evening, wrapped up cozy in a warm blanket, with warm lamplight and a warm cuppa, perhaps rain on the window. The language is not childish but creates that “once upon a time” atmosphere that recalls being read to as a child. This book might be superb on audio.

The stories are wonderful, and this collection includes a nice tour of Yggdrasil and the basics of Norse belief (those interested may want to check out the spiritual path of the Asatru). Gaiman sources his tales straight from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, all with the unique flavor and rhythm that are Gaiman’s own. All of your favorite gods are here…Odin, Thor, Loki, Frigg, Tyr, Frey and Freya, Heimdall, Baldur…and some you may not have heard of.

My personal favorite was Thor in drag.

*Unless he chooses to name a character Tracy, every Tracy I’ve been intimately involved with having turned out to be a manipulative, backstabbing C U Next Tuesday. It’s a puzzle. I once worked and became sort-of friends with a woman in the screen-name environment of the Internet, and was dismayed when I learned her real name was Tracy. “Don’t be silly,” I told myself, “it’s just a name. Just because her name is Tracy doesn’t mean she’s going to suddenly turn into a skank.” Lesson learned, that I could not have been more wrong, as I pulled not one but two of her knives out of my back. I’m aware that there are probably a great many women named Tracy who are upstanding and moral people. Maybe it’s an alchemical thing, that happens when I become involved with the woman named Tracy. So if you are a Tracy, let’s just not meet, or at least don’t let me know, so all of these Tracy’s can continue being good people. Please, Neil, don’t ever name a character Tracy. Because I know you’re reading this.

This was #17 in my 2017 Reading Challenge, a book published in 2017.

Bookshelves: myth-and-legend, deities-behaving-badly, retelling-a-classic, literary-fiction, once-upon-a-time, religion-sort-of, reading-challenge, short-stories, humor

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Fluid (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories)

Becca stumbles at the entrance to her building, dropping her keys and shopping bag in her clumsy anxiety to get in out of the interminable Seattle rain, captivated by movement out of the corner of her eye.

Down the street, in the downpour that shimmers in the streetlights. A woman. Dancing in the street, alone, not caring if anyone is watching.

Poetry in motion.

The woman pirouettes around the corner and out of sight, leaving Becca to wonder yet again how other people learn how to get through life as a fluid.

Free-Photos street dance
Photo: Free-Photos

Every week, Ivy at Uncharted hosts the Six Sentence Stories flash fiction linkup and blog hop. This week’s six is a vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe; this week’s cue was “fluid.” Fun sixes from other writers are at the link. Join us!

Exodus by Leon Uris (Book Review)

 Exodus Exodus by Leon Uris

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the fictionalized story of the creation of the present-day nation of Israel as symbolized by the Exodus, a ship refit by the Mossad Aliyah Bet, carrying Jewish refugees from post-WWII internment camps on Cyprus to run the British blockade and settle in Palestine.

Bookshelves: well-i-tried, disappointment, world-war-ii, in-the-news, historical fiction, jewish-history, middle-east

So much potential, but I’ve been reading for a week and I’m not even halfway through. The story is interesting enough, but there is a lack of balance in writing about a many-faceted period in world history. The characters are without nuance, written in black-vs-white terms. Zionist activists and Jewish people are good; Arabs, Turks, the British, and Americans (sympathizers excepted) are bad. I understand and do not disagree with the basics of Zionism and the negation of the Diaspora, and the basis for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that’s enough to know it’s a helluva lot more complicated than Uris would have us believe. Even now, President Twitler creates some controversy by proposing to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, flying in the face of virtually every other country on the planet, most likely as another way of flipping the bird to the United Nations.* This book is 100% pro-Israeli, as far as I read, and I dislike that one-sidedness.

I could even deal with that. Just finish this book, then go read one sympathetic to the Palestinian viewpoint, but there are other things. The different characters’ backstories are visited as flashbacks that read more like infodumps, dry as unbuttered toast. Slog, slog, slog. There are a couple of romances in the offing, between the Brokenhearted Steadfast Warrior Heroes and the Beautiful and Plucky Women Who Melt Their Hearts, who come off formulaic and trite. And somebody really needed to curb Uris’s enthusiasm for the ! key.

The story is based in truth, which you can read about here and here, with a lot of poetic license that I truly have no issue with. The real Exodus sailed from Marseilles, not Cyprus, carrying far more people. I am given to understand that somebody saves the day at the end of the fictional voyage; the real life voyage did not end happily.

I was hoping for an epic I could fall in love with and gush over, but I’m more annoyed than anything, and I try to discontinue things that annoy me. I usually only give one star to a book I can’t finish, but I’m throwing in an extra for the scope, the fact that the book is dated (1958) and that’s not its fault, and that it inspired me to research the true story and learn something new.

*I hate, loathe, and despise #45 and will get my digs in where I can.

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Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (Book Review)

Mystic RiverMystic River by Dennis Lehane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“You ever think how the most minor decision can change the entire direction of your life? Like, say you miss your bus one morning, so you buy that second cup of coffee, buy a scratch ticket while you’re at it. The scratch ticket hits. Suddenly you don’t have to take the bus anymore. You drive to work in a Lincoln. But you get in a car crash and die. All because you missed your bus one day. I’m just saying there are threads, okay? Threads in our lives. You pull one, and everything else gets affected.”

I finally read this. Oh. My. God.

Even though I’d seen the movie years and years ago, and already knew whodunit and what happens, this is one of the top three mystery/detective/psych thrillers I have ever read. Ever. Even if I did keeping putting Sean Penn’s face instead of Kevin Bacon’s onto book-character Sean.

My first Dennis Lehane book, but it will not be my last.

And when I was texting my son Monster to tell him how good this book was and how he just has to read it right away, he texted me back that he happened to be in Barnes and Noble at that very moment and someone had just asked the clerk if George Orwell “had a new book out.”

This is why it’s important to talk about books.

And why Sean is a great name, because that’s Monster’s name, too.

So name your kid Sean, and read books, and talk about books, and go read this book.

Bookshelves: detective, grittiest-reality, police-procedural, psych-thriller, this-is-the-stuff-right-here, mystery

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