A Case of Literary ADHD

Rose Christo’s Gives Light Review

I’ve been itching for something light to read, so when I realised I’d bought a book titled “Gives Light” it seemed a no-brainer. I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I had bought it,  which I absolutely loved because I had no idea what to expect.

In the beginning, the book was capable of smoothing out the wrinkles of a shitty day.

Halfway through, it became apparent that I will not enjoy the book. Rose seemed to have had a bunch of various ideas which are perfectly OK, but she really should not have put them all in one book. It’s just too much, and the book ends up being about nothing and everything and about no one and everybody. It’s all over the place and no character is given proper attention due to this literary ADHD.

I will list all the things that were not given proper attention in Gives Light. And no, I do not care that it is the first book of a series because a series is a series, and a book is a whole in its own right.

  1. Skylar St. Clair is a mute teenager who got his throat slashed by a man who had killed his mother
  2. His father has disappeared without a word and Skylar is put in a custody of his paternal grandmother who lives on the Nettlebush Reserve
  3. Skylar’s mother was murdered on the Nettlebush Reserve by a member of the tribal council
  4. He was in fact a serial killer who had murdered several women
  5. The son of the murderer, Rafael Gives Light, lives on the reservation
  6. Native American customs and history are interspersed throughout the book
  7. For the first time Skylar becomes a true member of a community and makes friends
  8. Skylar’s new friend Annie has to take care of her two siblings because her mother is in the Army and her father is useless (it is mentioned somewhere that he had a stroke)
  9. Rafael Gives Light becomes one of his best friends
  10. Skylar’s father turns out to be a criminal who brings illegal immigrants into the country
  11. FBI and social services regularly visit the reserve and threaten the fragile stability of Skylar’s new life
  12. Skylar slowly falls in love with Rafael and Rafael returns his feelings
  13. Skylar is briefly conflicted about his feelings for Rafael – briefly because there’s so much shit going on in the book he has no time to deal with it for a longer period of time.

Imagine all this (and more – I avoided spoilers) crammed onto 285 pages, and do not forget to include descriptions, internal monologue and musings of a teenage boy who uses words such as “vociferous“.

Let’s go general and explore topics.

  1. Dealing with severe loss and monumental change
  2. Facing painful past experiences and achieving personal growth through adversity
  3. The treatment of Native Americans in modern society
  4. The importance of preserving the culturally and spiritually rich Native American customs and way of life
  5. Dealing with the fact that you are different and learning that “normalcy” is a matter of perspective/upbringing
  6. Treatment of crime and punishment in different cultures

I’m sure I could come up with more but I think this is enough to illustrate my point.

It’s a shame, really, because the book is well written. If the first list was cut down and one or two of the topics given proper prominence, I believe it would have been a really good book and I would have probably been half way through the second part of the series.

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Raw Liver & Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

The decision to delve once again into the American Gods was only a matter of proper incentive. The premiere of the TV show seemed like a good one, and, boy, were my reading buddy and me right about rereading this one.

I’m not sure who’d read American Gods in 2013, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. I have been taken aback by every major turn of events. The review itself is, however, in line with what I feel about the book, although I think it was too vague, so let’s list the three things I loved the most about American Gods.

1. Coercive Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of disbelief and the type of willing suspension the author requests from me is the most important part of the book. It’s the deal breaker. Halfway through American Gods, I’ve realised that, for me, Gaiman’s quality as a writer comes firstly from the fact that I haven’t even realised that I was suspending disbelief. You simply have no choice in the matter. It comes as easy as breathing and it’s not willing – it’s compulsory. I think this is achieved by presenting the impossible as mundane, and mundane as extraordinary; snow is something to write home about – talking to your dead spouse is an afterthought.

2. Intelligent Design

Nothing in this book is accidental. Every adjective and every metaphor is carefully placed. It’s all so deliberate; far from being effortlessly beautiful. Even though I’m a big fan of effortless beauty, it is impossible not to appreciate the way Gaiman structured and planned everything to make you believe.

3. Raw Liver and Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

When Neil puts in an effort to put that beauty onto the page, he does so magnificently. The thing I really liked is the way he treats the colours. I might forget some of the characters (I already did),  but I will not forget Mr Wednesday’s suit which was the colour of melted vanilla ice cream, nor will I forget the room which has walls the colour of raw liver. I’ll take the colours with me.

“He perceived the pain in colours: the red of a neon bar-sign, the green of a traffic light on a wet night, the blue of an empty video screen.”

Five to Four

However, there is something of a downside to rereading. First time around, I gave American Gods a five. This time around – it’s a four. The ending was anticlimactic this time and the Laura-Shadow relationship was not something I felt was as game-changing as it was meant to be. I needed a bit more convincing.

P.S. Still haven’t delved into the TV show. But I love the idea of Ian McShane as Wednesday. But then again, I love the idea of Ian McShane as pretty much anyone anywhere.

GotG Vol. 2 – or let’s talk about plot, baby

Three things that saved GotG Vol. 2 from total bust:

  1. The characters and their relationships – namely, the first movie;
  2. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac;
  3. Nebula and Yondu.

I also have to give them credit for avoiding a giant hole in the sky and opting for a subterranean climax.

Twice as many things due to which it sucked:

  1. The unbearable pointlessness of the Sovereign;
  2. Forced humour;
  3. Yes, we get it. Little Groot is cute.
  4. Angst overload;
  5. Drax as a comic relief character;
  6. The James Bondian “let’s pause so I can explain my evil plan to you”.

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Let’s Talk About Plot

Recently, there has been an influx of “big” movies without plot. This post was in my head after the remake of the Fantastic Four. It was there after Dr Strange. Suicide Squad, anyone? I’m really really sorry that it was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that has prompted me to finally write it.

We really do not need to refer to Aristotle to know that every story needs to have three parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. Logic entails that the beginning serves as an introduction to the story and its characters, the middle is in fact plot development which introduces the conflict and where the story reaches its climax, while the end gives us resolution and conclusion (we should be so lucky).

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Boys and girls who are writing superhero movies as of recently have decided to forgo introduction and plot development for something I will call a reminder. For approximately one hour (if we’re lucky, it’s just one hour) we are reminded about how cool the characters are, how familiar we are with them and the “universe” and how much we love it all. The reminder is also full of WHAM! BAM! KAPOW!

And then WHAM! BAM! KAPOW! – the climax of the movie. The end.

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Pretty much like the structure of this post.

So, what is wrong with Ghost in the Shell…

….aside from all the painfully obvious things such as:

  1. Not enough ghost, a lot of shell;
  2. Two-dimensional characters;
  3. Explaining of things that are obvious to a 2-year old;
  4. Non-existent villain;
  5. 1995 view of the future
  6. Pathetic attempt at exploring the discorporation of consciousness?

All those things fade in the wake of the fact that 21st century has no fucking imagination whatsoever.

Cyberpunk is not a novel concept, but still it is a concept (or genre if you will) that can be perfectly set into modern society because we are in fact living it.

  1. Mega-corporations rule the world (and control our lives)? Check.
  2. Seamless merging of life with information technology? Check.
  3. Unbelievable technological and informational advancement? Check.
  4. Artificial intelligence? Check (more or less).
  5. The lines between real life and online life blurred? Check.
  6. Big Brother’s watching us? Check.

And what does Hollywood do? It takes a 1995 classic Japanese anime and makes a live action movie without adding absolutely nothing to it. I don’t think any of us here, in 2017, perceive that in the future we will be driving our own cars (made in the 80s, from what I could tell).

Mind you, I did enjoy the movie at several points, most of which included Michael Pitt and Takeshi Kitano. It is not total bullshit. There were  moments in the movie which made my time (and money) worth the while.

However, the movie has left me with two very important questions:

1. If I were to make a cybernetic soldier, would I make it/she/him 160 cm tall?

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2. Can we somehow stop them from ruining Akira?

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A Feeling to Remember

Have you ever sat by the river, watching the endless flow of placid water, listening to the rustle of leaves on the summer breeze? Have you ever sat in silence feeling the warmth of sun rays filtered through the branches on your face? Have you ever closed your eyes to better hear that moment of serenity? If you have, than you have an idea of what it felt like to read A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh.

I did not fall in love with Kit, the male protagonist, nor did I wonder what it would be like to experience the things Lauren has experienced. I did not feel compelled to rush through the pages, inadvertently skipping whole sentences to see what happens next. I was not frustrated by the “unnecessary” events and descriptions which did not deal with the two protagonists.

I did not grin excitedly.  I smiled contentedly.

Normally, only the books that fall into the Personal Edification category can arouse anything similar. The fact that I enjoyed a book intended for the Guilty Pleasure section this much is surprising. Novel. Strangely exciting.

There is nothing guilty about the pleasure I’ve had reading it. A Summer to Remember is a beautiful, unassuming book. I absolutely loved it and have enjoyed the writing style, the dialogue and the many characters it manages to portray wonderfully. I respect the way it reflects the period (Regency) in which it takes place in every aspect – even when norms and propriety are toyed with.

It’s not really easy to write about this book, but where words fail, I’m sure that the fourth panel of the little comic below will best explain what reading A Summer to Remember felt like. I do wonder whether the new category “maximum coze” will have additional entries.

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The Best Productivity App

This post will be about the best productivity app ever – Any.do. People I work with know just how much I love this app. I think they might know it all too well. Note, only one of my co-workers actually installed it and is using it, which I consider my personal (and professional) failure. I have tried out pretty much every to-do app there is, and this is the only one which met all of my finicky requirements – basically when it comes to any app, I can tolerate only one thing that bugs me. Any.do has zero.

Why do I like it?

General app observations

  1. No ads

I hate ads. Hate them (if they don’t serve an actual purpose, which they rarely do). I don’t care if the app if free. I want those ads to fuck off and leave me alone. That’s why the “no ads” feature of the app is no. 1. Sometimes (veeeeery rarely) you’ll be offered an option to buy the full app for a discount or something, but it does not interfere with the reason why this app exist – and that’s productivity. The “buy the premium version” is not constantly visible – you have to search for it in the section of the app you (I) never use.

  1. It’s pretty

Superficial, you say? Irrelevant? No, I say. It’s no.2 thing among general requirements the app needs to fulfil in order to stay on my smartphone. Come on, if I’m going to use it every day and look at it, the least it can do is look good, right? Right.

  1. No “I could buy the premium version” thoughts

I’ve never considered buying the full version. Yeah, it has some cool shiny features, but I do not need them (see no.1 and no.2 on the list).

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I’ve discovered (after finding a victim who responded positively to: You really should install Any.Do) that the option to share tasks is limited in the free version . Now, the support.any.do says:

  • Regular users can share one task while Premium users can share an unlimited amount of tasks.

However I currently have two shared tasks, and I have previously shared some tasks, so I’m not sure about the limit. Btw, is it really correct to say “amount of tasks” shouldn’t it be “number of tasks”?

(I’m currently exploring the “share list” option.)

  1. Works on my computer and tablet perfectly

A perfectly functional and good looking extension for chrome is available, which makes it much easier to follow your tasks. The app available at the Windows Store (I think that’s its name) is also usable.

  1. It’s simple stupid

There is no useless feature in this app. None. It doesn’t offer a million of useless options which make the app which makes you feel like using the app is a task in itself.

  1. Widget in the Today View

For an app to fall into the “productivity” category, in my book it has to have a widget available for the Today View. I start my day by opening the Today View, checking out the weather, seeing what’s next on my calendar and seeing if there’s any interesting words of the day on Merriam Webster and The Free Dictionary. Of course, this includes seeing which tasks I have to complete that day and which ones I might postpone. Because a good productivity app has to also allow you to procrastinate.

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Functionality

Any.do gives you everything you need; nothing more and nothing less.

  1. do@any.do

The number of shit e-mails I get is immeasurable, those e-mails with minor tasks which I can do with my eyes closed, using only my left thumb. Those bitches are the worst because it’s so easy to forget about them. That’s why I forward them to do@any.do, I edit the subject and they appear on my to-do list. The text of the e-mail is available in the notes section of the task, so I don’t have to dig through my inbox once the task is on my immediate agenda. Awesome feature. Love it. Thinking about marrying it.

  1. No proliferation

If you have a task which requires you to do several additional things, you can add subtasks and notes to it. I like to keep my to-do list clean and unencumbered because I don’t want to see my to-do list in the morning and decide to off myself rather than going to work. Of course, you organise your tasks in lists – I have a separate list for each of my clients and for bigger projects and campaigns. There’s an option of adding photos and files and what not to individual tasks, but I have rarely used this.

  1. Procrastination

Any.do allows you to procrastinate, which is a very important thing in my book. You can schedule your tasks and you can nicely push them back if you they don’t require your immediate attention. The fact that there is a desktop version of the app helps fine tuning the art of procrastination.

  1. Badge

This is the only app on which I tolerate badges because they remind me that I tasks to complete and it tells me how many there are for the day. Yeah, sometimes it freaks me out, but it also helps me to say on my toes. The “No proliferation” part is what allows me to stay reasonably sane.

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What about Android?

I use Any.do mostly on my iPhone, so I’ve decided to give it a go on Android, just to see how it compares. It’s pretty much identical. I like the fact that the Android version separates subtasks from notes and you can follow how many subtasks you have left. As much as I can remember, most Android phones don offer badges, which is a big minus for me in this case. I’m sure there are more differences, however I will not find out before publishing this post because Googling it would be like cheating.

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Everything at the same time

Stranger Things should have been a jumbled mess of everything. It’s an homage to a time long dead; it’s a teen show; it’s a horror show; it’s a drama; it’s a children’s show, it’s a paranormal show.

By all intents and purposes, it should have been shit. Because it’s been more than I care to remember since a show or a movie actually managed to balance more than one idea throughout its duration.

Maybe balance is a poor choice of word, because it sounds like the show is teetering on the edge of losing it. Stranger Things is everything at the same time. Most importantly, it has soul – that something that is only theoretical, inexplicable and all-encompassing, summing up character, feeling and essence of the world. The something that cannot be created by sheer force of will.

It has been far too long since we were given something with a soul – something that’s more than a sum of its parts.

Stranger Things has a life of its own because someone loved it long before it ever came to be.

Also this.

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Jason Bourne or David Webb?

Driving in a car.
Matt Damon without a shirt.
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Fight. Anguished Matt Damon/flashback.
JESUS CHRIST IT’S JULIA STILES.
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Computer mumbo jumbo.
Fight. Fast walking.
Some conversation. Driving in a car.
Fight. Fast walking. Flashback.
The Greek love Molotov cocktails.
Computer mumbo jumbo.
Fight.
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Matt Damon without a shirt.
High speed chase.
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Fight.
CIA is useless. It’s not even clear how they keep on existing.
High speed chase.
Tommy Lee Jones looking old and bored.
Fight.
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Attempt at raising the issue of privacy vs security. Failing.
Creative use of weaponry.

A boring, never-ending high speed chase which finally gives you an opportunity to think about the movie and realise Jason Bourne is not much of a movie. It really isn’t. The plot, non-existent as it is, is flimsy, unnecessarily sappy and very convenient. They invested minimum effort in the story.

Jason Bourne is a wild ride (no pun intended, but still – that’s what she said). Until the very end, It doesn’t let you think about the plot and about what’s actually happening. Until that car chase which seems even worse than the one in the Dawn of Justice (yaaaaaaaaawn).

Still, if you expect nothing more than a movie with Matt Damon in it, you’re not gonna be disappointed.

I Cannot Bitch

Expect the unexpected is not exactly what comes to mind when you’re looking for a frivolous summer read. It most certainly is not something you expect to be applicable to a book titled Lord of Scoundrels with such a cover (urgh).

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And yet… Mind. Blown. My mind is also blown by the fact that my mind was blown. So, Mind Blown Squared.

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Lord of Scoundrels (praise the Lord, it’s not Lord of Rakes!) is 171 pages long (short?) and on each page shit happened which I did not see coming. I’ve never read a romance which felt like a thriller – the suspense was killing me because I just could not foresee how things would unfold.

I’m still shocked by this book. It’s fun, intelligent and witty, well-written with awesome protagonists who just go around doing stuff protagonists in a book of this sort are not supposed to do.

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I have nothing to bitch about. I cannot bitch about Jessica Trent’s ineptness. I cannot bitch about idiotic and unnecessary sex scenes. I can hardly bitch about long-winded descriptions of characters’ appearance and/or attire. I cannot bitch about dimwitted dialogue nor rudimentary language skills. I could try to bitch about the presence of an actual plot, but in truth the only thing I can bitch about it the fact there is nothing to bitch about.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go and find out if this book is an aberration of cosmic proportions or something Loretta Chase does as a matter of course.

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Carry On, nothing to see here

Rainbow Rowell – Carry On (2016)

You can tell Rainbow adores Simon, Baz, Penelope, Agatha… she truly loves them all. Makes you love them. The kink is, she doesn’t really love the plot. Rainbow just wanted to have some reason to put her beloved characters together, and she was forced to come up with a plot.

The plot is introduced somewhere mid-book. Occasionally she completely forgets the plot-thingy, goes on a binge with character development, subtle comments about life and reality, with her subtle style which has underlying respect for readers’ capability to get a hint.

Oh. SHIT. She forgot the plot.

And then the plot comes back again, and it is supposed to explode. It is supposed to go overboard and overwhelm. But it doesn’t. It somehow flickers pathetically, and you can feel that Rainbow just couldn’t let it die, so she poked it every now and then with a stick.

Maybe the biggest fault of Carry On is the fact that it’s supposed to be fantasy. There be dragons, but dragons don’t make a fantasy book. They make a book with dragons in it. Not many authors are capable of migrating through genres seamlessly, and a fanfiction-ish, fantasy-ish book doesn’t really seem to be Rainbow’s cup of tea (yet?). I respect her for doing it, but for me this is what she does best (excuse my being a bit self-referential):

Well, Rainbow Rowell summarily executes willing suspension of disbelief by making you the protagonist of her books. She makes you feel like a hero, makes your life seem worthy of a book of its own. Because, most of us can find some portion of our lives, as small as it may be, that a little imagination and some wordplay can make into a good, maybe even a great book. And that’s what Rainbow tells you, what she reminds you of – your life is interesting, you have great friends, there is excitement behind that very corner, you just need to see it.