Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Hands Were Clean by Tom Bradley


My Hands Were Clean
My Hands Were Clean
Price: $5.00
2 used & new from $5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars It's just ephing insanely brilliant
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
You will either love this slim psycho-memoir-prose-poem-mind-trip or you will hate it. I can't imagine any reader falling in the middle. This is evocative, provocative, balls-out writing, and in all the love and hate to come, I want to cast the weight of one overwhelmingly normal, middle-aged literary warhorse on the love side.

MY HANDS WERE CLEAN goes down like Hunter S. Thompson, Salvador Dali, or the intricate work of that lady who tatted stories into lace during her tenure at a Victorian insane asylum. There are uncomfortable moments when you wonder if the author is pranking you and exhilarating moments when you feel like you're partying with Iggy Pop.

I salute any reader brave enough to take it on. Quoting from the opening pages: "The eating of some medium-strength acid might be in order."

Monday, October 29, 2012

BEAUTIFUL SOON ENOUGH by Margo Berdeshevsky



5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, gorgeous writing

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Beautiful Soon Enough (Paperback)
I loved this book for the same reasons I love Paris. It's rich in emotional history. The architecture of it treats beauty and art as necessities. Sensuality and sense memory are everything.

Lovely, lovely prose by a fearless, magnificently talented writer.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas

  In keeping with my longstanding "read it before you see the movie" rule, I'm using my post-op downtime to inhale David Mitchell's amazing novel. Before I go, I'll also revisit Omer Mozaffar's "Six Keys to Cloud Atlas."


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

LAST MAN OUT OF EDEN by Dan Holloway



5.0 out of 5 stars gotta love a good kick in the head

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm addicted to little poetry books on Kindle, and this is an excellent one. It's gut-wrenching and neck-tightening in turns, hard to expose oneself to - which is often the case with truth. I just love this writer. I've met him only once in person, but he radiated an amazing energy, which made me go out and buy his books. Sure enough, he turns out to be an incredibly talented wordsmith. This book of poems brings that word to mind because it's exactly that sort of molten, pounding, clanging craftwork.

My favorite moment, from "Her Body":
She is not the sum of all who went before.
Her body's not a metaphor.
Her unkissed lips are not a funeral pyre,
Her gaping wrists are not the mouths of liars,
Her clitoris is not the primal fire
(the truth of it is infinitely higher.)

Yeah. It's like that pretty much throughout. I would love to hear Holloway perform some of these in person.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Now That We Found Love

Adrian White's DANCING TO THE END OF LOVE


5.0 out of 5 starsunexpected, chilling and beautifully written

DANCING TO THE END OF LOVE has been on my TBR list since I read - and loved - Adrian White's novel An Accident Waiting to Happen. This one's kept me up until after 2 AM. I couldn't stop reading until the surprising and beautifully wrought end.

This story winds like a spiral staircase around a fatally flawed protagonist who plainly says about himself, "I'm not the right man for anyone in her right mind." With a chilling frankness, he lays out both his ugliest intentions and his heartbroken regrets. There's something very Camus about this solitary man as he roams the world, intersecting the lives of various women, manipulating people he encounters in a casual - almost sporting - way, until he's grabbed and brutalized by authorities who suspect him of terrorist activities. The ordeal is described with the same detached sorrow as his manipulative sexual encounters, but we begin to see a depth in him that gives us hope as the story winds back to where it began.

Adrian White is a masterful writer. Readers who are smart enough and open-minded enough to trust him for the duration of the telling will be rewarded with a story that's rich in imagery and moral complication and ultimately brings redemption in a most unexpected way.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Neal Pollack's JEWBALL

5.0 out of 5 starsTwo words: Neal. Pollack. (Or Read. Jewball.)

As a longtime Neal Pollack fan, I've been waiting patiently for this release since the sample chapter zinged my interest a few months ago. Finally got to read JEWBALL on a flight back from NYC tonight, and it did not disappoint. It's a smart, funny, thought-provoking mover/shaker of a novel. (You know you're into a good book when you hear yourself say, "Dang! We're landing already?")

This high caliber of indie published fiction gives me hope for the future of American lit. Here's an author in the full presence of his craft, taking creative control and (sorry to mix sports metaphors) hitting it out of the park

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Illustrated Gaff (my favorite binder memes)

Last night in the presidential debate, Mitt Romney's handlers must had experienced a collective palm-to-forehead gasp when he said that his request for women candidates for his cabinet yielded "binders full of women." First of all, is it really such an ordeal to come up with qualified women for those positions? He gets special credit for the afterthought that it would look good to have some women on his staff? It would be easy to get serious about the subtext of the gaff. But it's a lot more fun to just hold it up to ridicule.

A few of the greatest hits:








GLASS GUARDIAN by Linda Gillard


THE GLASS GUARDIAN
THE GLASS GUARDIAN
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quickly becoming one of my favorite authors

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Linda Gillard keeps making me read books that I wouldn't normally read, and I love that. I'm willing to open my mind because her writing is just so very, very good. I suppose this book would be labeled as a "paranormal romance" in the world that feels a need to label things, but (as with other Linda Gillard books I've read) the standard labels don't prepare you for the beautiful character development, wit, depth and insight within. This is a terrific book: an engaging love story in an evocative setting with rich characters and real insights about love, life, solitude and connection.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bald Ambition: Lisa Hamilton takes her show to NYC

Here's the Kickstarter video for Lisa Hamilton's workshop performance of the one-woman show based on my memoir. I love the poster! Gorgeous.

I wish I could take any credit here, but when Lisa first approached me a few years ago, I was so won over, all I did was step back and say, "Run with it girl!" I've seen the show twice. Lisa blew the doors off the place and remained very true to the original text. It's thrilling to see this book that means so much to me experience this amazing reincarnation. Go, girl, go!

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Tao of Mac

Gary sprained his hand last night at work, and it's swollen up like one of those old fashioned baseball mitts. For years I've kept bags of frozen peas on hand for the purpose of icing my aching wrists and hands after hours of typing. I got one out, and it was frosted solid. I realized I haven't had to ice my hands since Gary gave me this MacBook Air for Christmas.

I'm not one of those Apple heads. (I haven't been thrilled with my decision to switch from a Droid to iPhone - especially since a recent update left it navigating like a drunken sailor.) But I have to give credit where it's due. I love my MacBook.

Please understand, this was a profound improvement in my quality of life. There are times when my ghostwriting schedule forces me to crank out 3K words a day (and if you're a writer, you know that 3K good words means also typing 5K off-the-mark words that end up cut or reworked.) Many was the midnight hour that found me lying on the floor fighting tears of agony, my forearms decked with frosty delights from the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.

The realization that it's been 10+ months since I had to plan for and facilitate that pain - it just blew me away. How did I not notice that? How was I not celebrating it every day?

I suppose it's because the MacBook allows me to focus on (and celebrate) what I'm writing. The presence of pain is impossible to ignore; the absence of pain is something we take (if we're lucky) completely for granted.

A hallmark of great technology: it disappears into its own functionality. Instead of cluttering and upstaging life, it provides a vehicle for it. Like a really good bass player (or a really good ghostwriter), it provides structure and soul without calling attention to itself.


This is your brain on storytelling

A fascinating little video about the astonishing physical effects of storytelling on our blood chemistry, heart rate and brain function. Makes me wonder if there's such a thing as extreme readers. Like there are extreme tasters.

Because I might be one...


.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Character Actor Stephen Tobolowsky on Characterization

Unfortunately for my writing workday, yesterday was errand day. But it wasn't a total washout because it gave me an excuse to listen to veteran character actor Stephen Tobolowski's interview on the wonderful NPR show Fresh Air. Tobolowski was there hawking what sounds like an entertaining new book, The Dangerous Animals Club, which I plan to pick up, since I found this "everyman" actor so engaging. But what impressed me most was this bit about creating "small roles," which struck me as so analogous to the novelist's job in creating minor characters.

From the show's transcript (with thanks to NPR!):

DAVIES (Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies):Is it harder to get a script where you've got a small part and figure out the character? TOBOLOWSKY: Oh, it's one of the real challenges. It's what people don't expect as a difficulty of being a character actor. When you go back to the roles that have two names - Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, those guys - everything they do is in the script, their entire day. You see them drinking coffee, you see them taking a shower sometimes. Their entire throughline is in the script. If you play their buddy, or worse the plumber of their buddy, you have a day, too, and you have a throughline to your day, too, but you have to do that work outside of the script. If - I know a lot of actors listen to this show, and I want to bring this up. One of the quick ways I use as a character actor to get into any part is I ask two questions: What is my greatest hope? What is my greatest fear? And usually you don't have a lot of time as an actor to study your part, but if you can answer those two questions, they will form a tightrope upon which almost any other question in the script can be answered, and those are the two I go for. Yeah, that is the work of being a character actor, doing that work off-camera.

I've added italics to show the spot that particularly struck me. Have you asked these two important questions of every character in your story? If not, give it a try and bring your manuscript's secondary characters to life!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Max Brooks' WORLD WAR Z: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE ZOMBIE WAR


5.0 out of 5 stars Erudite, engrossing, and surprisingly literate

I dodged this book for months after my 19-yr-old son told me to read it. I have zero interest in zombie mythos. To my surprise, WORLD WAR Z turned out to be one of the best books I read this year.

Funny and appalling in the right balance, engrossing, well-written, thought-provoking, even educational. I was beyond impressed with Brooks' erudite social and political commentary. And I found it nonpartisan. Brooks skewers all sides on an equal opportunity basis. As a writer, I was astounded by the amount of research that obviously went into this work, and as a reader, I appreciated the excellent quality of the storytelling.

The only thing that keeps me from giving a full five stars: maybe there could have been a little more variety in the voices of those who share their stories. Some really searing moments - particularly the memories of a girl with "the mind of a 4-yr-old," the unscrupulous rationale of the pharmaceutical exec, and a former soccer mom's dispassionate view of her old lifestyle - stand out because they depart from the hard-boiled tone, and I wished there was more of that.

It could be argued, however, that the unanimously shell-shocked feel is more powerful than any oovy-groovy character-driven melodrama would have been. And even though it leaves some characters less textured than others, that documentary "just the facts, ma'am" tone works fantastically well throughout the book to keep up a relentlessly engaging pace.

So what the hell, I'll give it five stars after all. And I'll be interested to see what Max Brooks writes next.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Michael Gruber's THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS


5.0 out of 5 stars Better get two

My husband (a Grisham-Clancy-Elmore Leonard type) and I (a Dante-Hesse-Didion-head) wrestled this book back and forth between our nightstands unmarking each other's places until I went and bought a second copy. That's how engrossing, broadly appealing, and wonderfully well-written it is. I laughed out loud, marveled at a few Proulx-caliber metaphors, and was entirely sucked into the intricately woven story. My dad (Zane Grey-Crichton-AARP Magazine) will be getting a copy for Father's Day

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Margaret Cezair-Thompson's THE PIRATE'S DAUGHTER


5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely writing, delicious book

This beautifully crafted book completely kidnapped me for the day. I've been talking it up to my circle of writerly and readerly friends, and everyone who's read it agrees with me. A transporting, absorbing, decadent read.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Gary Shteyngart's ABSURDISTAN: A NOVEL


5.0 out of 5 stars Prose that pushes buttons

After I read (and loved) this book, I bugged several writer pals to read it. No one's on the fence. It's love it or hate it, which is a sign that the author did it right. Some of my friends found it off-putting for the same reasons mentioned in other reviews here, but I was completely fished in. The writing is a balls-out blast, plenty good enough for me to willingly suspend disbelief and laugh my head off.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Dashiell Hammett's DASHIELL HAMMETT COMPLETE NOVELS


5.0 out of 5 stars Just the right Hammett

This was the perfect vol for the survey of hard-boiled detective fiction I've been doing. A nicely formatted hardcover (nothing's sexier than a hardcover book) with good info on Hammett's life and times.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Carol de Giere's DEFYING GRAVITY: THE CREATIVE CAREER OF STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, FROM GODSPELL TO WICKED


5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful journey with an amazing artist

While I was working with Kristin Chenoweth on her memoir,A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages, I read "Defying Gravity" as part of my research, and I absolutely loved it. The creative genius of Stephen Schwartz is a force of nature and helped make Kristin a Broadway icon.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Dr. Wendy Schlessel Harpham's ONLY 10 SECONDS TO CARE: HELP AND HOPE FOR BUSY CLINICIANS


5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, insightful, and compassionate

With gentle humor and tough love, Dr. Wendy Harpham takes doctors and patients by the hand and teaches us how to build a potentially life-saving bridge between the human being in the white coat and the human being in the paper smock. I'll be recommending this book to every survivor I know and handing a copy to my oncologist at our next visit.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Colleen Thompson's TOUCH OF EVIL

5.0 out of 5 stars A great read -- and more Justine!

If ever a character deserved to jump the turnstile and take off with her own book, it's smart, funny, compassionate Justine Wofford, who first showed up in Colleen Thompson's "Beneath Bone Lake." As always, Thompson delivers the goods with engaging characters, zingy dialogue, great atmosphere, and plot that makes like a freight train.

Don't let the cheesy clinch cover fool you. (Or do!) This book has a lot more grit than the average romance. Or romance novel.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Monday, October 01, 2012

Authors: Post Your Book Here!

It's not possible for me to read a fraction of the books folks ask me to read and review, so...
Authors: You're invited to post a brief but enticing description of your book in the comment section below.
Readers: These are books I haven't had time to read, but hey, check out this list and give a new author a try! You might just find your next favorite book.
    Thanks for sharing! 

    PS ~ If you're interested in reading about how I got started in the biz, here's a link to my mini-memoir: First You Write: The Worst Way to Become an Almost Famous Author & the Best Advice I Got While Doing It.

    Kate Michelman's WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL: A LIFE SPENT PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE


    5.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call some won't want to hear

    In a timely and important book, Kate Michelman lays out exactly why we must come together and defend our rights to privacy and choice. There's no melodrama, no moralizing, no preaching. This dispassionate history of a passionate life is nothing less than a wake up call. I hope and pray people will open their eyes.

    Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

    THANK YOU

    To subscribe to BtO, click "Subcribe to: Posts" at the bottom of the page and then "Subscribe to this feed."

    Want to borrow a cup of content? Feel free to share our link or a brief quote with your friends. But please e-mail for permission to reprint or repost our work elsewhere, and always add an attribution and a link back to our site.

    We welcome your feedback. Feel free to post comments. PR and outreach from publishers and published authors should be sent to: boxocto@gmail.com.

    Boxing the Octopus: all content copyright 2008 Colleen Thompson and Joni Rodgers all rights reserved.

    We welcome payola in the form of pies, cakes, neatly folded laundry and free books!

    In accordance with FTC regulations, we're required to inform readers that we receive books from publishers, authors, and PR folk for review. We'd like to receive money via an offshore bank account, but that hasn't happened yet. When my dad was in radio back in the '50s, a local baker used to sneak over in the dead of night and fill the back seat of his car with bread and pastries. We would NOT object to this. Please review our review policy here. And let us know if we should leave the car outside the garage tonight.

    Peace, love, and statutory compliance ~
    Joni