A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King (Book Review)

A Grave Talent: A NovelA Grave Talent: A Novel by Laurie R. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, for those who don’t want the “gay PC” or “gay agenda” “shoved in your faces,” not because you’re “not haters” but because “it doesn’t matter to the story”: I call bullshit. Would you complain and say Kate’s romantic relationship doesn’t matter to the story if her lover were a man? Of course not. A character’s love is part of who the character is. Characters drive a good story. It does matter.

You’re not fooling anybody.

That said, I enjoyed this book. Good police procedural, nicely plotted and paced, likable and realistic characters. Good flavor of the City by the Bay. I’ll definitely read the rest of the series.



In Their Shoes (Flash Fiction)

Congress of Rough Writers January 27 Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words, no more and no less, write about a community outreach:

People saw the shoes. Many signed the petition, most just kept walking. But hundreds, thousands, saw.


In Westlake Square, more than 3,000 pairs of shoes, to make it real, how many people are without shelter in this city. How many kids’ shoes.

Jane Doe is here, too. She signed the petition. Mostly she’s here for the free hot dog and coke.

Demonstration over, the organizers give the shoes away to those who need them. Jane shakes her head no, thank you, she has shoes. She has a home too, so to speak. Unheated and illegal, but it’s shelter.

Photo: RealChange.org


Author note: This flash isn’t strictly fiction. It is based on the Real Change demonstration in May 2014, where they laid out 3,123 pairs of shoes in Westlake Square, Seattle, to make it visible how many people are without shelter in King County, Washington. It was part of a petition to make things happen to lower the One Night Count, an annual head count performed by volunteers to determine how many people are sleeping outside.

The count did not go down. In January 2015 was 3,772, and in 2016 it was 4,505.

I have previously ranted about our society’s neglect and cruelty to its own here.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (Book Review)

CryptonomiconCryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading this for the second time. It’s STILL probably the best historical, cryptanalytical, mathematical, technological, warfare, nerd-heaven, looking-for-buried-treasure tale ever. It’s a doorstop at 900+ pages so if that intimidates you, turn back now. If you love complex plots and intertwining timelines and a good long read to lose yourself in for days, this is the one. And…it’s got Alan Turing in it!

Can, or Can Not (Six Sentence Stories, Installment 2)

I don’t know if I can do it.

She’d been sitting here in the coffee house for fifteen minutes now, thinking she was just a little dizzy, all she needed was a cup of tea and she’d be fine. She’d drunk the tea, she’d sat quietly, but she didn’t feel better in the slightest. Everything still had that just-off-of-normal look, and her heart was still thumping right along.

If she could just make it out the door, up the elevator and back to her desk, she’d be safe, but here she sat, too frightened to move.

Why can’t I do this?

This is a Six Sentence Stories Installment, #2. The cue was “can.”

Click here for Installment 1.

Click here for Installment 3.

Click here for the link-up to read Six Sentence Stories from other writers.

A Boy and His Dog (Flash Fiction)

Congress of Rough Writers January 20 flash fiction challenge: In 99 words, no more and no less, write a story about a boy and his dog.

ciadefoto: Flickr/CC Attribution 4.0 License
Jane watches Troubles run around the dog park. A soft voice speaks. She hadn’t felt anyone sit down on her bench.

“I like your dog. I had a dog but he ran away.”

She glances at the boy beside her. “I like him too.”

“Where’d you get him?”

She doesn’t want to say she found him, abandoned along with the house she broke into and squats in. She inspects the boy surreptitiously: healthy, expensive clothes, could afford to feed Troubles better than she can. Sadness limns his face.

This boy needs this dog as much as she does. Almost.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Book Review)

Night FilmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Next time I’m stuck with nothing but a Marisha Pessl book to read, I’ll kill the hours by picking my toes instead.

“…the territory between two people who were once soul mates but were no longer was akin to…”


“I noticed the wicks were still smoldering orange, three orange pinpricks in the dark.”


“I swore I heard a man’s dull, prolonged moan.”


“…grabbed the black iron grating over the arched window and began to climb. ..hoisted himself higher, dangling there. ..”

By page 27, the way this writer italicizes everything for no apparent reason had become very annoying. For me putting up with that, the book owed me phenomenal.

It did not put out.

“ ..his shoulders were rising and falling, as if he was out of breath. “

Is that so I know what I need to pay attention to? I don’t need the help. I can read. And if I’m not bright enough to figure it out for myself, well, that’s what the denouement is for.

“A human shadow had just moved directly behind it, though, as if sensing we’d spotted it, it froze.”

Reading this is what I imagine it would be like to listen to a narrator read all 600 pages in a singsong tone. Is it for want of an editor who knows what italics are for? Or is it some artsy-fartsy thing I don’t get because I’m a philistine? Don’t care. Annoying as hell.

And purple prose? It doesn’t get much more purple than this. “[Men] melted and sweated and went weak in front of her like a bunch of idiot iced teas.” Just awful.

So while the story is badly over-written with its endless italics and clumsy metaphors, it manages to be under-written at the same time. There was a lot of potential for surrealistic creepiness but it never got there. There is no tension. We just traipse from here to there, find out this, find out that, oh, look, another clue conveniently lands in our laps so now we’ll go over here, but there is no sense of urgency. It could have been pruned of 200 pages and not lost a thing. By around page 350 I was weary of the whole tedious mess, but was stuck with nothing else to read, which is admittedly no one’s fault but mine. Long before I made it through the acid-trip-hexagon-coffin scene, which should have been wonderfully Kafkaesque but was merely another slog, I was anticipating those fucking italics even where there weren’t any, but at that point, I’ve got 100 pages left, might as well finish the thing and find out the unrealized premise behind it all. Right?


I’m around 60 pages into the denouement – seriously, another 25,000 words to tidy everything up and finish it off, that’s how tiresome this book is – and I’m still not sure I’ll finish it. I just don’t care.

Trippy (Six Sentence Stories, Installment 1)

The world lurches, the floor trying to escape from under her feet. The world seems to be melting around her, like that time she dropped acid in high school.

She gets a grip on the table’s edge and lowers herself back to her chair, reaches for her tea to see her hand trembling violently. Now she notices, through the whirling fog that seems to have descended over her mind, that her breath is short and her heart is pounding.

“Are you all right?” a voice asks.

Embarrassed, feeling herself flushing, she tosses back, “Fine, just took a little trip without leaving the farm.”

70023venus2009, Flickr/Creative Commons

This is the first installment in a series for Six Sentence Stories. The cue was “trip.” I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Click here for Installment 2.