Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stalagmites of Snot and other book notes

I just finished M.T. Anderson's The Game of Sunken Places. Stalagmites of snot is the best phrase in the book, which did not have much to offer besides that. Now, I know M.T. Anderson is a great writer. I loved FEED. LOVED IT. That's why I bought this book. I had reasonably high hopes and high expectations. But...I guess it's proof that not everyone makes a hit every time up to bat.

The basic premise of this novel is two friends, Brian and Gregory, who visit an ancient uncle "Max" at his mysterious Gothic home. The adventure ensues. The problem is, the reader can never really be sure what the adventure is. We don't know who the enemy is, whether the seemingly life-threatening moments really are life-threatening (they aren't, which is actually quite disappointing, because you soon realize none of them will be, which deadens any suspense for the rest of the book), or indeed, what the exact point of the 'game' is.

And then, it's as if Anderson decided that he would break all the normal rules of good writing. We get long, boring, hard to follow descriptions of the sort of alternate world the boys explore. Readers tend to hate that. A nice map or view of the gameboard would have sufficed. We get virtually no insight into the boys' persona's: Brian spends most of the book in a funk and we have no idea why. Gregory gets a nasty cold at one point, which takes him out of the game for a day, but then he's right back into the mix with nary a mention of his horrible illness again. What? The prologue is completely unnecessary and not illuminating at all. Extraneous. Should have been cut. Anderson throws in the adverbs liberally (pun intended), and many events happen "abruptly." He also uses auxiliary verbs often, as in "there was." It's as if he turned in his first draft and they published it as is. Ick.

There are some fun moments and characters. The troll is the best of the bunch. Then there is this little funny man who made all these machine creatures. He's hilarious. Anderson could have made far more use of them.

The main problem I had with this mysterious adventure is that the reader is not given enough clues to have a hope of figuring things out before the characters do. In fact, the deux ex machina ending is completely unsatisfying. There never was a threat or a real danger at all. Cousin Prudence, who seemed throughout the book to be all fluff and ditz, turns out to be the mastermind of it all. If she had been more of a presence throughout, that would have been more interesting.

I've read the reviews on, which all give the book glowing reports and thought it was fabulous, so obviously someone liked it. I won't say I hated this book, because if that were the case I never would have kept reading. I did keep reading mostly because I kept hoping some clues and suspense would develop. They didn't, and by that time I was at the end. I'm sorry I wasted my money on this lackluster non-adventure. Sigh.

Feel free to disagree with me.

On another note: I read Alane Ferguson's The Dying Breath. Now there's a book with suspense. Alane knows how to write a mystery, that's for sure. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, always suspicious of the deputy that she falls in love with. At one point I had a sneaky suspicion that the killer, Kyle, was going to turn out to be a vampire, and I was prepared to be really mad at Alane for that. Fortunately, he did not, and she gets big kudos in my book for keeping it real. (Not a big fan of the vampire trend.)


Monday, February 1, 2010

Random Thoughts

My daughters don't seem in the posting mood lately, but I will keep going. Here are some random things based on my current state of mind. It is currently 11:40 p.m., so please keep that in mind.

For starters, my son Peter decided this week NOT to play baseball this spring. He has been playing baseball since he was 6 years old, so this is weird. He's always loved baseball. To the point where he did not play sports at school because baseball was 'his sport.' So I have mixed feelings on this. I'm glad for him that he understands what he wants to do. He wants more time to focus on Boy Scouts and chess and jazz band. On the other hand, I actually really like to watch baseball. On the other hand, I don't like sitting out in freezing April rain huddled up in blankets and sleeping bags for three hours to watch his games. But I will miss watching him play ball. He is thinking about being an umpire, so he'll still get to be involved. I think there comes a time in each kid's life where they realize what things they're good at and not so good at, and they tend to go with what they're good at. Sigh. But I think there's a plot idea there.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if politicians could see themselves as they really are? I mean, from where I sit, most of Washington D.C. is focused on self-preservation and winning the next election. It's crazy. They get virtually nothing done, they talk and talk and talk, but they don't actually seem to be working for the common good. They don't seem to care that there are real people out here suffering, trying to make ends meet, choking on life. Stupid politicians. Can we have a new revolution?

And the Idaho legislature is no better. The governor is cutting everything left and right in order to avoid raising taxes, because God forbid we actually ask the people to pay for programs. Geez. So let's cut education budgets, eliminate agencies for the most vulnerable folks, and hope the people are willing to pay out of pocket for the stuff the state won't. Oh, and the legislators think they will be here until May, and even then might not get everything done. Yikes. We have to pay for that. I have an idea. Let's make them pay out of pocket for their own presence in Boise, and then we can use the money the state saves to bolster up the budget. Take that stupid fools.

I think one reason our family stays mostly pretty healthy throughout the year is the vast quantities of garlic we use. Even just breathing the fumes probably helps. Almost every day the smell of garlic in oil starts out the dinner preparations. I can't prove it, and probably as soon as I post this, we'll all come down with something horrible. But I think the garlic does help.

I wrote a new opening to my latest WIP tonight, and the thrill of being in the revision phase is so nice. Maybe now we can really get somewhere with that.

Spend Valentine's Day with your loved one(s) helping the earthquake victims in Haiti by attending a concert at Cathedral of the Rockies at 2:00 p.m. Every dollar collected at the concert will go directly to Haiti relief. I'll be performing on flute. So come and enjoy.

Okay, I've just emptied my brain. So there you go. The random thoughts of an average American mom and author. Late at night. Listening to Broadway show tunes on Sirius radio.