Thoughts on DEAD AS A DOOR KNOCKER

Howdy, howdy!  Since I missed last month’s book review, I figured I would go ahead and do it this week.  After all, I’m only a week late.  That’s not too bad, right?  For January, I picked up an advanced reader copy (ARC) of the first book in a new cozy mystery series.  Dead as a Door Knocker is the the first book in Diane Kelly’s House Flipper Mysteries.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, we might as well get to the review!

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Cover is relevant to the book, but the knocker is all wrong.  It’s supposed to be the Green Man.

Dead as a Door Knocker introduces us to Whitney Whitaker, a 28-year-old who enjoys helping her cousins remodel houses and harbors dreams of becoming a real estate guru.  She lives with her parents and her cat, Sawdust, in Nashville and works at a small mom-and-pop property management firm.  When the firm’s biggest client offers her a deal on a property that’s too good to be true, she jumps on it.  However, the guy is murdered on the site and everything goes haywire from there.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I didn’t like this book.  The story was the same as every other cozy, which could have been fine.  Combine it with the fact that the main character is extremely unlikable and not even the parts from the cat’s point of view could save it.  Why is Whitney unlikable?  First off, she’s 28 and acts like she’s 15.  If she doesn’t get her way, she pouts or throws a fit.  Second, she’s a bully.  She runs around questioning people like she’s a cop or something, ambushing people and even forcing her foot in doorways so people can’t close the door, then has the gall the get upset when she gets a glass of iced tea thrown in her face.  I had zero respect for her.

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My thoughts exactly.

The background characters were flat and only served to enable Whitney’s antics.  She dragged her cousin and her best friend around as bodyguards, neither of whom ever bothered pointing out when she was crossing boundaries.  The detective let her go based on weak arguments and tantrums.  I get that it’s a story and all, but it still needs to be believable.  None of these characters came across as actual people, especially the police.

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Basically.

As far as the writing goes, it was a tight, quick read.  Every other sentence seemed like a well-worn cliché or at least a play on one.  If the author was aiming to make Whitney sound like a 15-year-old, she was spot on.  But don’t go into it hoping for the 28-year-old we’re supposed to be getting.

Ultimately, I was super disappointed in this story.  I just couldn’t get past the characters.  It’s not a series I’ll be following.

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Overall, I gave Dead as a Door Knocker one star out of five.  Pretty sure this is a first for me.  I honestly feel bad.  I really wanted to like it, but nope.  If you’re okay with childish characters and unrealistic police officers, try it.  Otherwise, you’re not missing anything.

Books Vs. eBooks

Hello, hello!  It’s October already, so I wanted to give you a quick update on my September goals before I get into this week’s ramblings.  I wrote about 19,000 words (huzzah!), finished reading two books and am working on a third (which is where this post is coming from), queried my 100th agent (the waiting continues), submitted a flash piece to my critique group, and messaged some different people (the conversations didn’t last long, but at least I tried).  In other words, September was super productive and I hope October will be as well!

Now, onto what this post is really about: books.  Pretty much everyone I know has strong opinions on whether regular old books or ebooks (Kindle, Nook, etc.) are better.  Here are my thoughts.

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Book 1, eBook 0

First up are books.  Personally, I adore them.  The smell of an old book is basically the best thing ever.  The feel of a page against your hand is lovely.  And going into a library or bookstore (or our back bedroom) to peruse titles is one of the funnest activities in the world.  Or maybe it’s just a nice activity because it doesn’t usually have to involve other people (unless you’re me), which is a plus for introverts.  There’s also something about seeing book covers outside of a screen that’s awesome.  I bought one book online and had no idea its cover was shiny and metallic until it got here, which only made it cooler.  So yes, I love books.

On the other hand, books are a pain in the ass for me.  If they aren’t in a couple of very particular places, I can’t grab them by myself when I’m in the mood to read.  I know asking someone (read: Dad) to hand me a book isn’t a big deal, but it requires them to stop whatever they’re doing just for that.  It’s weird.  Plus, I sometimes have trouble opening/keeping a book open (especially when they’re new).  If you’ve ever had a book close itself and forgot what page you were on, you know how annoying it is.

Books-are-a-uniquely-portable-magic.

Next up are ebooks.  In my opinion, they aren’t nearly as magical as regular books.  No one can see the cool cover as you read or how far along you are, so they can’t really strike up a conversation about the book (but who really wants that when they’re reading?).  They don’t smell, they don’t have weird stains on the pages, they don’t have the right feel.  BUT!  They’re easier for me to use.  I can pull a book up on my phone or computer whenever I want.  I can browse for titles online without any help.  They’re just really convenient for people with a limited range of motion.  And that makes them awesome in their own special way.

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It’s true.

Ultimately, for me, both books and ebooks have their pluses (neither of the plurals for that word look right) and minuses.  If I love an author and can be reasonably sure I’ll like the book, I’ll automatically opt for a hardcopy.  If I don’t know the author or have doubts about whether I’ll enjoy a book, I automatically go the ebook route.  For everything in between, my choice usually boils down to how fast I want/need the book.

What about you?  Do you prefer one over the other?  Why or why not?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Changing Tastes

Hello once again!  This week, we return to the randomness of unplanned blog topics.  Joy!  Though, I guess technically this one was kind of planned.  A few weeks ago, my friend, Roxanne, asked me if my tastes in manga (Japanese comic books) had changed over the years and, if so, how.  We were talking mostly about shoujo (manga aimed specifically at a female audience).  My answer was a resounding “yes, my tastes have definitely changed and grown over the years.”  Here, I think I’ll expand the topic to books in general, which is a little more hazy on just how much I’ve changed.

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Then there’s Sailor Moon.  Nothing will ever change my love of this series.

 First, I suppose I should explain how my taste in manga has grown.  The thing is, I’m not entirely sure things have changed as much as I’ve just become more willing to admit when I don’t like things.  I spent years reading all of the things my friends suggested and I admit the stories were usually fun, but I never really identified with the characters.  I wasn’t the type of girl who idealized males and gave out free passes for inappropriate behavior just because the guy was hot (both super common tropes in shoujo manga), so the whole concept of “romance” (this applies to both manga and the genre of romance) never really appealed to me.  Now, I basically avoid stories like that.  I guess I’ve become more selective over the years.

As far as books go, I’ve grown in the opposite direction.  Used to, I’d only read horror and fantasy.  Up until Stonecoast, I had only read the Twilight series (hated it, but read it anyway) and whatever I had to read for school outside of my preferred genres.  Now, I have friends and mentors who write across all genres, so I don’t really have the luxury of being picky.  I’m not going to tell someone I won’t read something just because I don’t usually care for their genre.  Not only is that rude, it’s also limiting yourself.  You’ll never know if you like something if you’re not even willing to try it.

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Blood Rose by Danielle Rose.  Paranormal romance, but still a quick, fun read.

For instance, I normally never would’ve read the book pictured above if it hadn’t been written by a friend of mine.  It’s one of those things where I simply wouldn’t have even thought to look for it, but now I have people to recommend books outside of my comfort zone.  I guess that’s the reason my tastes have changed in such different ways between manga and books.  I always had different people recommending manga across all genres that I eventually had to stop and whittle away the stuff I didn’t like, but with books, I’ve always had such narrow interests that it was time to expand.

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Pretty much.

 So, what does all of this mean?  Basically, tastes are strange things indeed.  If they’re not narrowing, they’re expanding.  Either way, they’re always changing.  What about your tastes in reading materials?  Have you noticed any changes over the last few years?

Until next week!

Can’t Get Through The Portal

Hi there!  Today, a friend asked me what I had read lately and suggested blogging about that, but then I realized that I haven’t read anything since late November.  Not even manga.  It was actually a strange revelation.  I haven’t read anything since I started getting disgusted with the whole writing/feedback process.  The more I think about it, the more I notice a strange correlation between my writing productivity and how much I read (when one goes up, so does the other).  Is this a common thing?  Do reading slumps exist?  Apparently they do, so allow me to ramble for a bit.

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It’s kind of like that.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve tried reading things off and on, especially when I wasn’t writing anything, but no matter how excited I was for a book, a few pages in and I was ready to quit.  It was like watching a movie or a tv show (both of which can be great), instead of stepping through a portal and living in another world (what reading usually does for me).  In other words, I’m seeing what’s happening, but I just can’t bring myself to care or participate.  And I can’t even blame the books.  It’s not like when I was an undergrad and had to slog my way through the “classics.”  These are books by my favorite authors, things I’ve been looking forward to.  I find it really weird.

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Pick a portal, any portal.

Part of me wonders if maybe it’s some crazy delayed post-MFA depression or something.  You know, the kind everyone warns you not to slip into?  The kind where you stop writing and reading and doing all the things you planned on doing because what’s the point without having that community to help you along?  I avoided it for about a year.  I wrote steadily and read regularly.  Is it even possible that it’s kicking in this far out from graduation?  Maybe it is.  But it needs to stop.  I’m done with wallowing.  Really.  I swear.

Was I convincing?  Didn’t think so.  I am, however, getting slowly back on the writing horse.  I admit that I’m not back to my usual schedule yet, but I’m getting there.  Hopefully this means that I’ll be able to step through a portal into a good book soon.  I haven’t had any trouble getting into the stories I’ve been critiquing, which I’m taking as another good sign.  I don’t know what else to do except to keep trying until I find that book capable of yanking me inside.

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It’s a portal… of books.  Get it?

 

What about you?   Have you ever hit a reading slump?  What book was the one that finally pulled you out of it?  If it wasn’t a book, then what helped you?  I’d love to hear your harrowing stories of breaking through the blocked portal!  Also, if you have any recommendations for books that I should be reading, please feel free to send some titles or author names my way.

A Month of Giving Thanks (Part Four)

Hello hello!  Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers who celebrate!  The month of thanks is drawing to a close, which means I will have no idea what to post about again starting next week.  Ah well.  I’ll worry about that then.  For now, let’s get back into a thankful mood.  As always, feel free to join in!  Here are my last five choices for this year:

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This.  So much this.

1. Books!  I feel like any good writer would have mentioned this weeks ago, but whatever.  Books are awesome covered in awesome sauce.  Not only do they teach us things, the really good ones do so without us even realizing it until it’s too late.  And they provide us with escapes to other realities.  We get to experience a lot of things we would never otherwise experience.  Not only that, but we get to see life through the perspective of someone else.  So yeah, books are great.

2. Pets.  I mentioned stuffed animals, but never real ones.  Shame on me!  I actually adore most animals (until we start talking bugs anyway), but this section is reserved for furbabies and the like.  Some people I know are hesitant about getting a pet because of the pain of losing them, but I’m not one of them.  Yeah, it hurts when they die (they’re family, so of course it does), but there’s nothing like the unconditional love of an animal.

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Chewy (unknown-…), Dame Julia (2001-2014), Toto (unknown-2011)
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Speedy (1993-2010)

 3. A dad who can cook.  He spoils me with smoked meats (including homemade pastrami), pasta, breakfast, and basically everything he makes.  I see all these Thanksgiving specials where the women are in the kitchen, but it was always Dad who did most of the holiday cooking.  Mom cooked most of the rest of the time when she was alive, so Dad’s cooking was always a treat.  Now, he wonders why I’d rather he make something instead of going out.  Because you make it better, that’s why.  And yes, the rest of you should be jealous.

4. Anime and manga.  On top of providing all of the goodness of books, these also have pictures.  If you’ve read through earlier posts, you know that many of my favorite heroes and heroines come from anime and manga.  Like many, it was also my gateway into Japanese culture, so you can blame it for a lot of my weirdness.  My writing has also been majorly influenced by the stuff.  I mean, one wouldn’t expect too much of a difference in character archetypes and plot development and the like, but there’s actually SO much to learn from anime and manga as a writer.  It’s mind blowing.  Really.

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From Neon Genesis Evangelion (aka my first experience with a series where I despised the main character but loved the story and the other characters, which wasn’t an abnormal reaction at all).

 5. Deadlines.  I know the good majority of creative types are supposed to hate the pressure of a due date, but not me.  I’d never get anything done without some kind of time constraint.  Whether it’s my self-imposed word count or someone else telling me I need to get something done, deadlines and goals are my friend.  It’s okay to admit it.

I think that’s it.  Time to prepare to eat myself into a food coma, then eat some more!  Have a safe and wonderful holiday!  See you next time.