Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review - Married by Mistake

This review is so late I basically missed a review, and for that I apologize.  I've actually been caught up doing Camp Nanowrimo, that is to say, I've been writing a new book and realized that there was a Nano event going on a few days after I started.  So I've been writing like a maniac and unfortunately that means that all of my other projects have suffered.  But this blog has been the first thing to go since always, so at least I'm predictable, if nothing else.

This review is of Married by Mistake, by Abby Gaines.  In all fairness I read the book last week and should have written a review then, but since I use reading these books as a way of procrastination from writing my own and writing my own as procrastination from writing reviews, some of the details have slipped my mind.

So there's there's this woman, right?

Just kidding.

Casey signs up for a reality show where women put their potential grooms on the spot to propose on live TV, which actually sounds like it could be a reality show in real life.  I'm a little surprised it's not.  She gets dumped, the guy who owns the station has to do something, so he marries her, they don't know that the marriage is real, and they're stuck pretending to be a happy couple for a month until they can get an anullment.  Female lead grows and learns to be selfish (in a good way?), male lead grows and learns to have emotions and they're both happy and still married at the end of the book.

The chick starts out as a pushover and her man teaches her that it's necessary to think about yourself every once in a while, and while I think that's an excellent lesson and one I myself can relate to intimitely, it took me years to change and this woman completely changes everything about her personality in about a week and a half.  I just made that up, it could have been two weeks.  Less than a month.  I like the lesson that you can change, I resent it being presented as happening so easily.  Casey gets everything that she wants from the beginning to the end, including a wonderful romance (where the male lead adores her, even though at the beginning he tells her that it's a teenage fairy tale to want to be loved that way, and I agree with him) and even a little side blurb that she's writing a young adult novel and it's finished, edited, and sold in the month that they're living together.  I think that was particularly unnecessary, and even maybe a little bit of author insertion.  Nothing happens so easily.  Not change, not love, not selling books.

I guess the male lead is also so rich that he gets reporters and paparazzi surrounding his house and writing about how their marriage might not be real, and even lying to get jobs as maids.  The legality of that seems a little fishy, but since the whole thing about their marriage being real and them being unable to easily get an anullment also strikes me so it's just par for the course of the book.  There's just so much about this book that screams 'fake!' to me.  How easily she forgets about a man she's been with since high school.  How much of a sham their relationship was in the first place in order to make her relationship with male lead seem so much richer and fuller.

The book is fluff, and I know I shouldn't expect too much of it, but when I went to amazon and found it still the top book after a week of me not checking I'm a little disappointed.  It's just another book where a perfect woman gets everything she wants from a rich man who falls madly in love with her and everything's perfect.  I didn't like the side romances, either.  Sam and what's-her-face didn't have anything in common before, and there was only the beginnings of an attaction there because she finally notices that he's handsome.  Gag me with a spoon!  That's not the basis of a relationship!  Then she's a bitch and he grows a spine and everything is happy ever after.  Wait, what?

If you can't tell, I thought this book was dumb.  The problems weren't really problems, the drama was fake, and the people were faker.  Is that a word?  More fake?  Anyways.  The only thing that I did actually like about it was the relationship between Casey and her mother in law.  They actually had a good thing going and I liked how they became actual friends over the course of the book.  Otherwise, it was pretty awful.  Three stars, because the writing wasn't that bad, not really, I just expect more from a story.

Because this is still the top selling book I'm going to have to go with the second choice, which is actually not a romance, thank God.  But it is religious, and we'll see how that goes.  I hope it's good.  The book in question is The Apostle: The Life of Paul, by John Pollock.  That should be up by tomorrow because this one is running so late, I'll try to get myself back on my self imposed schedule.  See you then, thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review - In the Blood

I read this book yesterday but didn't quite get around to reviewing it until today.  Don't drink and read, kids! So this is the review of In the Blood, by Steve Robinson.  I've never read a genealogical crime mystery before... didn't even know they existed.  But I guess geneology is a big thing?  Big enough to get this book on the bestseller list, that's for sure.

First things first.  I don't know anything about the genre but it seemed like a fairly straight forward thriller with the mystery coming solely from the fact that the characters had some secrets dating back hundreds of years.  The hero of the book was a geneologist, Mister Jefferson Tayte, who seemed a rather lackluster hero for this kind of story but also a very honest one, which both won and lost points, breaking this book pretty even on that front.  The author is honest about the protagonist's less than stellar appearance, his fears, his unstoppable urges in eating every sweet thing that enters the pages of the book.  It's this honesty, however, that makes his later transformation into an action hero so unlikely.

The writing was fine but not stellar, par for the course for a commercial novel.  Nothing really stood out about the writing or the settings except a couple of typos in the latter third of the book.  A wrong 'their' and unclosed quotation marks really make it seem like a less than polished, even unfinished work.  Even one typo in a published book makes me feel like there was some sloppy editing going on.  It might be unfair to judge so critically but I do expect published works to be as finely crafted and impeccably polished as possible.

The characters were, after the fact, dull and not very interesting.  JT himself seemed, more than anything, to be a shallow and ungrateful person who was not as good as his job as the author was trying to portray.  At one point a colleague mentions a newspaper article about the family they're trying to find and he knows nothing about it, only to easily find it later on what he claims is his favorite website for antiquated newspaper headlines.  If he really was as thorough as he is claimed to be, shouldn't he have already found it?  He doesn't appreciate help when it is given even if it comes from a source that annoys him (and that annoyance is based off of nothing more than the other being just as good at the job as he is) and feels very little of either guilt or... or anything, really, when that annoyance is later killed.

The author introduces a love interest who compares JT's eyes to the eyes of a former pet and their attachment strikes me as either the author feeling the need to give the hero some kind of happily ever after or just further proof that JT isn't the kind of person who should be the hero anyway.  That reminds me of the first thing I didn't like about the book, and that's when Tayte falls asleep for most of an eight hour flight, including the landing, when he supposedly has this incredible fear of flying.  I don't mind flying and I still can't sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time, especially while flying over oceans.  

The thriller parts of the book seemed forced and every interation with the police left me wanting to scream at the book for not locking Tatye up instead of letting him continue to interfere.  There are explosions, guns, a woman being chained to a rock and waiting for the tide to come in... all of the makings of a cheesy adventure story, and with the geneology having taken a far second place at this point, it becomes such.  My favorite line in the book is, "I'm a geneologist, for Christ's sakes!" and that's only because it was so silly that it made me laugh out loud.  Because when push comes to shove it seems that everyone in the book- the police and the hero included - forgets that Tayte is an unqualified fat American and falls over themselves getting out of the way so that he can be the hero and save the day.  It's not just silly, it's stupid.

And that seems to be my final thought.  It's not just silly, it's stupid.  The motivations are questionable to the point of breaking my tenuous hold on my suspension of disbelief.  The mystery would be a good one if there wasn't so much crap between each clue... to be quite honest by the time the next piece of the puzzle is found I had completely forgotten to care about the last one.  Too long for the little tension employed.

So.  It looks like the next book on my list to be reviewed on Sunday is Married by Mistake, by Abby Gaines.  I look forward to reading the next piece of garbage being passed off as commercial literature these days, and I hope you do too.  'Til Sunday!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review - The Inconvenient Duchess

For some, inexplicable reason, Love Will Find A Way by Barbara Freethy has been at the top of the free bestseller list since Wednesday, so instead of choosing the top book I went with the second book, which at the time was The Inconvenient Duchess, by Christine Merrill.
I just finished reading, and I must say that for starters I am very disappointed that this book doesn't answer the one burning question that I had before I even cracked open the (digital) cover.
Why is this duchess inconvenient?  Is she, I dunno, calling at a bad time?  Right in the middle of dinner, maybe, duchessing around?  The world may never know, because I sure as hell didn't find out, and I read the whole thing.
Anyway.  I was going to start out the same way I always do, when I say that a book wasn't that bad and was actually very readable and then go into detail about everything that seperates a book of this caliber from actual good literature, but one of my biggest pet peeves about these books comes from their formulas, and if there's one thing I don't want to do it's get stuck in a rut.  You know it's formulaic as well as I do - it's commercial romance.  That's the reason these things get read, because it's mostly like reading the same book over and over again except the words are different every time.
It's magic!
So what I'm going to do instead is this: I'm just going to say that I liked the protagonists.
Crazy, huh?  Tell me about it.
I liked that she seemed rational.  I liked the fact that she and her husband actually discussed their issues (mostly) instead of sidestepping them and creating false drama when if they just took thirty seconds to explain things the whole relationship could be salvaged.  I liked that she wasn't a perfect, wonderful human being, either.  There were a couple of moments when she's shown to maybe be artificially propped up (she gets grudging respect from the maids because she knows about cleaning solutions, she's worried about a ball when everyone loves her anyway), but not many, and I understand that the formula prohibits too much deviation from the mean, so in this case I'll let it slide because I'm in a good mood tonight.
The husband, too, was a rational character.  Instead of leaving the mystery of her origins to languish in the backs of our minds until the dramatic reveal, he finds them out as soon as humanly possible, and by the time the blackmail of the younger brother that in a lesser novel would tear them apart comes to fruition, he not only already knows about the issues but has solved them.  Their relationship is a good one, and a solid one, and I liked it.
There are other issues, there always are in any novel, but I won't touch on them here, not tonight.  Read any other review that I've written about a romance novel and I'm sure you'll find echoes of everything I dislike about the genre.  They're always just a bit too surreal for me, too happy go lucky.  But then again, I'm just a bitter old woman.  Not really.  What am I talking about?
Oh, the book.  Right.  Not a bad one, and one that I probably enjoyed more than a lot of the other free bestsellers I've read so far on Amazon.  Not, you know, wonderful, and the sex scenes were pretty bleh (I like 'em hot) but not a bad book, overall.  In fact I would even go so far as to say that it was remarkably decent.  How's that for an backhanded compliment?

Oh!  The next book.  The next book that I'm going to be reading is, as of this writing, In The Blood: A Geneological Crime Mystery #1, by Jefferson Tayte.  Oh, geneology.  Is that a genre now, too?  What the heck and under what rock have I been living?  See you on Wednesday for the review!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Okay, so I'm back.  This should be the last big gap for a while, and I had a really decent excuse for this one.  I went to Japan!  For my honeymoon!  And then we moved out of state and I'm going back to school and everything is wonderful.  But that means no big vacations or plans for a while (YEARS), so I'm stuck writing.
Getting back into the reviewing aspect of the game by posting a review of a book I picked out last night, the top free seller on Amazon, which happened to be (drumroll please) LOVE WILL FIND A WAY, by Barbara Freethy.  I was going to post it tomorrow but I ended up reading the whole thing today, and I wanted to write about it while the details were still fresh, and also avoid doing any real work on my novel and still pretend to be productive.

The book wasn't bad.  It wasn't inspired, or particularly special, and it was one of those books that makes me want to forget that I read it as soon as I put it down, but it still wasn't bad.  I read it all in one sitting, so that's saying something.  I also read incredibly quickly, so it's not saying much.  And I feel all the worse about it because I read it so all of the questions I had would be answered, but I was even more disappointed when those questions were answered by uninspired, boring answers.
To start - the book features a single, widowed mother (the single parent thing being a running gag I only realized when I read the chapters at the end of the book featuring other works... is that really a romance genre? single parent romance?) who is trying to find the answers about her husband's death while trying to resist the only other man she's ever loved.  The insurance company has ruled his death a suicide, leaving her no options but to try and prove otherwise, which strikes me to the quick about the legality of that all, but who ever said fiction needs to follow the rules?  I personally hate it when things don't make sense, but seeing as this was the top selling book last night I'm obviously in the minority.
So she goes to her husband's best friend, Dylan, a bigshot... what, architect?  No... he just builds things.  Reads blueprints.  I dunno what those are called but he's good at it and it only matters so that he can build the house that his love interest - Rachel? - has always wanted.  I'm getting ahead of myself; I have been drinking.
Books like these make me need a drink.
So the whole thing is about did he cheat or didn't he cheat, Rachel's younger sister being terrified about being found out to be an artist like she's secretly working for Al Qaida, her underwear being in the husband's apartment but secretly being totally innocent, and a lot of thrown in drama to make the story interesting.
Let me be the first to tell you, it didn't really work.
There were a lot of interesting questions, from the get go.  I enjoyed the drama and the tension of did he cheat or didn't he, who is this mystery woman, and how far down does the rabbit hole go.  But it really felt that the author could have done something truly shocking, something to really make us think, and then just went with the safe, commercial ending.  OH, he wasn't cheating.  He just had a daughter sixteen years ago and was trying to do the right thing.  Of course... how family friendly.  And Rachel immediately accepts this other child into her life, because she's also wonderful and perfect.
What's the deal, Barbara Freethy?  Why shy away from a bit of a tougher issue?  Why make everything happy and rainbows at the end, why aren't some of these characters left with a bit of pain?
Happy endings are perfectly boring, and so was this book.  I was interested until I actually found out what the secrets were, and then I felt like my time had been wasted.  There's way too much old drama being brought up, when I'm getting old enough now myself to look back and see how much of a moron I was when I was a teenager.  But to these characters, there's enough from eighteen to call up an ex and do the "if you ever loved me," bit.  If an ex did that to me I'd probably laugh in his face and hang up, if I even remembered his name.
It's a silly premise, silly, flat characters, and a boring, safe story.  Commercial, sure.  But not at all artistic, and too commercial to spend money on, because it's all too clear how it's going to end and even the mystery, which had so much promise, disappoints in the end.  But not to be too critical, at least it's readable.  The words themselves aren't too bad, it's just the plot that suffers.  Sorry, Barbara.  It was so very, very clear from reading those last twenty pages of first chapters that you have a formula, and it's not that good of one.  Challenge yourself a little... you'll enjoy it more.

Otherwise, I'm going to pick another book to review, which should be going live on Sunday.  I'm going to try to hold myself to two reviews a week, now that I don't have school for another six weeks and I haven't found a job yet.  Haven't been looking too hard, either, but don't tell anyone.  Top seller on Amazon is still... God damn it, it's the same book.  Okay, I'll check again tomorrow.  The same book?  Really?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Caiaphas, ch 4


The reaction he recieved when he first gave his name to the man standing guard outside of the array of tents was neither the expected nor the desired one.
He gave it again, a little slower, just in case the man was addled.
The man scratched his head with fingernails, he noted, that were already filthy.  "I'll tell him, but don't expect much.  I've never heard of you."
He was almost nervous, waiting alone at the gate - if he could have ever admitted permitting himself such an emotion.  He was not used to being alone, and he was not used to being unknown.  It was disconcerting.
But those fragile doubts vanished as soon as the man came back with a look of sheepish chagrin.  "He welcomes you, and asks that you follow me."  The guard nodded to someone behind him, and thus the watch was continued and the man that would have been emperor followed his guide to a childlike construction, a tent made solely of matresses and sheets.  But seated inside, frowning copiously and looking anything but childlike, sat the only person who could help him.
"Have a seat," said Hugh Vaughn.
"Thank you," Servilius Osanthos replied, and took his own seat on a matress.
Hugh made a sign, and the men standing at the corners of the room silently took their leave.  Servilius was so used to this that he made no sign of even caring to speak until the men were long gone from the room.
"Thank you for welcoming me here," he said.  "I was beginning to think I was alone in this place."
"You're not welcome," Hugh said shortly.  "I just like you better where I can see you, and don't even dare to hope otherwise.  Why are you here, Servilius?"
"I just told you, I didn't have anywhere else to go."
The other man was instantly on his feet, eyes blazing with a rage that Servilius hadn't even seen a glimmer of.  "Not here, in this miserable excuse for a camp.  On the ship!  What are you doing on the Caiaphas?  Last I Heard of you you were making the colonists of Tala VI quake under their beds for fear you would be invading."
"That was the plan.  It just got a little... sidetracked."
Hugh looked at him for a long moment, then laughed, all signs of anger gone.  The emotion was still there, Servilius reminded himself.  Still there, always.  Just hidden.
"The Blood Emperor himself, sitting right in front of me in my lovely home.  I'm sure we could go on for hours about nothing worth mentioning, so let's cut to the chase, shall we?"
He grimaced at the title, but nodded.  "You know why I'm here, and that's the reason I chose to came to you.  You're by far the smartest man on this ship, and it's not idle flattery.  I need you."
Hugh smiled, little more than a thinning of his already razor sharp lips.  "Honesty.  What a refreshing change of pace!  You couldn't believe how many times I've been lied to already in this hideous waste of space."
"You requested that I cut to the chase."
"Yes, and you need me.  I'm quite willing to hear anything else you might have to say."
"I shouldn't have to say anything.  You already know why I'm here."
Hugh leaned forward, the bright gleam in his eyes and the deeper signs of the anger that he had already seen once the only telltale signs of his madness.  Servilius hated that he was here, that it had already come to this.  But what choice did he really have?
"I want to hear it," Hugh said, and the man who would be emperor shuddered at the longing in his voice.
"I desire a partnership," Servilius said flatly.  "Nothing more, nothing less.  I've already seen firsthand how little I'll be able to accomplish on my own, and there's too great of a possibility that I'll fail before I even begin."
"I see.  You have lost Coda, haven't you?"  Servilius knew that he gave no sign of the question meaning anything to him, but Hugh was keen enough to know his answer anyway.
He leaned back, giving a satisfied sigh as he did so.  "I may be the only man in the known universe who has heard you admit that you can do nothing on your own.  What a blissful moment of my life."
"I'm so happy for you.  Are you going to help me or not?"
"Help you?  God no.  What am I, crazy?"  The madness sparkled again in his eyes.  "I know what you can do, even if you don't, and I refuse to have any of that on my pure white conscience."
"You'll do nothing to aid me?  Or are you going to destroy me yourself?"
"Now there's a possibility.  I just might be doing the world the greatest favor since Pilate ordered Jesus crucified."
Servilius licked suddenly dry lips.  "You couldn't."
"I could do it myself with my bare hands and enjoy it.  I'm in here for a damned good reason."
"I have too much to offer you.  You didn't think I could come to you empty handed, did you?"
At that the elder of the Vaughn brothers sat back on his matress and laughed so hard that one of the guards stuck his head in, alarmed.  When Hugh came to his senses he wiped the moisture from his eyes with a low chuckle.
"You," he said to the guard, still laughing a little.  "You'd better be out of this camp before I'm done with this gentleman or I'll kill you.  I ordered us not to be disturbed."  The criminal, youngish and with only a blue shadow of stubble on his face to give him any other kind of identity, paled and closed the sheet behind him hurridly.
"I offer you the same deal," he said to Servilius, after they were once again alone.  "Just do me a favor and get out of my camp, and I won't have to destroy you."
"You aren't going to hear me out?"
"I don't have to.  You have nothing to offer me, and I refuse to even be seen pretending to consider the possibility of anything otherwise.  Get out."
It was now or never.  Servilius made a last, desperate bet.  "Hugh, listen to me.  You know who I am.  You know what I've done.  I was two days from being Emperor, Hugh, and if you've heard otherwise they're liars.  I got arrested less than twenty four hours ago.  My people... Hugh, you cannot understand what my people will do to find me, once they know that I've been taken.  They didn't even send me to trial.  I was packaged up and brought aboard this ship as soon as they got me abck to homeworld."
Hugh was listening with a small grin on his face.  It wasn't the most encouraging of replies, but at least he wasn't trying to kill anyone at the moment.
"I'm not done yet.  Not yet, Hugh!  I was too close for it to be all gone, and that's not just wishful thinking.  My armies span the stars... with me gone, they'll want me back.  You know they will.  All I want from you is an alliance, and your name will be remembered along with mine until the end of the universe.  I'm not asking for anything from you except a chance."
There was silence between them for a while.  Then Hugh stretched his neck and stood up, looking down at him.
"I want you out of my place," he said, and Servilius stood up as well.
"Is that your answer, then?" he asked.
"No.  This is: you keep your life, you slimy bastard.  I know in my deepest of hearts that we're going to die out here, but if there's even the slightest chance otherwise... after my fool of a brother fails to kill me, I might even have a chance to go back.  No, I won't kill you."
"But you won't help me?"
"I am helping you.  Now get out."

Servilius was escorted, gently, out of the meagre complex of frail tents, suddenly even more aware of an alternate meaning of Hugh's last words.  Hugh had some people here already, some loyal friends, prehaps people he knew when he was in prison on homeworld.  His younger brother, Charlie, would also have people who knew him and had served him before.  But right now, they were still all spread out.  Scattered, all over the ship, masterless.  And even if they had wanted to reuinte with their old masters, word would be traveling frightfully slow until more connections were made.
Which meant that if he played his cards right, and was himself as he had known he was in the glory days of his early campaigns, he still had a chance.  Only if he didn't sleep, maybe for the next week or so, but wouldn't that be worth it?
Only once he was surrounded by loyal people again would he feel comfortable.  Guards, real ones - not these pathetic boys playing at being soldiers.  Murderers all, but still weak of mind and spirit.  He needed his own men around him.
But wouldn't there be any here?  He had lost loyalists before, and there was a good chance some of them would be aboard this very ship, if they had been actually tried for murder instead of being summarily executed.  All he would have to do is find those places with high concentrations of men, and make himself heard.  It went against everything he had learned in the intervening years of trying not to stand out and get himself killed, but if he couldn't be strong enough to draft some men into his service even here, of all places, then maybe it meant that he shouldn't be the emperor at all.
Bolstered, he walked forward with even greater purpose.  It was just too bad that, of all the old comrades in arms he might find on this ship, not one of them would be able to take the place of Coda.
Hugh had been correct in his assumption that he had been lost, and a damnable loss it was at that.  Coda was the perfect second in command, his right hand in all things.  In another time and place, he might even have called the man his best friend.  But in these times and in this place, he was nothing less than a stellar officer.  And they had been seperated.
Servilius had to wonder where the man had been taken, or if he had been taken at all.
Surely they would know better than to put him on this ship.  Of course they wouldn't, not even if they knew that the two of them were going to die in the thing.  Would they?
Would they?
His feet on the metal floor beat out a flurried tattoo as he tried not to run through the halls.  There was a chance.  And if there was a chance, he would win.
He always had.

Book Review - Black Diamond Death

Today, I’m reading BLACK DIAMOND DEATH by Cheryl Bradshaw, featuring Sloane Monroe, a female PI in the town of Somewhere, Utah.

It started out pretty well, really.  I was even playing around with the idea of giving it three stars. But then it all went downhill (pun partially intended). First, the idea of a woman being murdered on the slopes of this new ski resort is a joke to everyone involved.  The police laugh our hardboiled female detective right out the door, and her client (the victim’s sister) is ridiculed.  But the author goes to great lengths to tell us that the victim is a world class skier, the tree she supposedly crashes into is unmarked, and she doesn’t even have the kinds of injuries that crashing into a tree would give you.  It might be petty, but this is the whole premise of the book, and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.  Those kinds of plots really pull me out of the story.  

Aside aside from some comma issues (think, “it’s nice to see you again Mr. Surname” over and over again... my brain just halts when I see that, but again, petty) the writing is fine.  Then, somehow and for no good reason, everything goes to crap.  Maybe it just took me too long to notice it, but the author often chooses the longest word where a shorter one would be better.  That’s a rule of writing that I particularly like... use the shortest word possible to say what you mean, or else you get lines like, “after some time my stomach indicated its discontent” and “he picked his drink back up and ingurgitated all of it”.  Sloppy writing.  Say what you mean, say what you’re trying to say.  Don’t beat around the bush.  The characters are one dimensional, and the current suspect (the cheating, lying, manipulative rapist ex-fiance) hasn’t shown one iota of positive attribute.  Sloane, the detective who doesn’t like to tell people why she’s asking them questions, and her client actually have a nice, bonding laugh over Sloane breaking his fingers.  I don’t know the law too well myself, but I just spent way too much time looking it up so I don’t have to be worried about calling this book bullshit.  It seems like most of the detective work has so far been illegal... too bad Sloane’s police detective boyfriend doesn’t set her right about trespassing, defamation of character and wiretapping.

Hours later, I finally finish it.  The writing improved again, inexplicably, and I got to pay more attention to the story.  I almost quit once, and that’s when Sloane’s pink suited feminine friend tags along to speak to a suspect (or whatever she is at this point... a loose end?).  I almost put the book down right then and there thinking about whatever kind of self respecting professional would let a friend come along just because they wanted to.  I admire even the barest attempt at realism, and this just kicked me right out of my suspension of disbelief.  I persevered, though.  The friend gets lost pretty quickly, but we’re not out of danger yet.  The first suspect is killed (spoilers!), no surprises there, and we get to see our main character derisively mocking the police for even daring to think that they could keep her away from the evidence, despite her prints being all over the murder site.  I couldn’t quite believe the audacity, and lost a lot of respect for her.  These men are the only ones in the book doing their jobs.

Then we find the killer, yadda yadda yadda, we’re left with a cliffhanger, and the book is abruptly over.  Like, really abruptly.  I turned the page trying to find the epilogue and there wasn’t one.  So I went back and checked again.  I toyed with the idea of starting the next book for approximately zero seconds.  

Final thoughts?  No really likeable characters, and all of them flat and predictable.  I knew who the killer was because she was one of about two suspects, and the other one had the good fortune to die off.  The writing... shifted.  It was really strange.  The beginning and ending were decent, no really big gaffes or goofs, but the middle was just chock full of them.  The examples I gave above were only a few of the many I saw that made me smile or even laugh out loud, and I feel like I shouldn’t be finding those things in a book that was the top of Amazon’s charts last week.  It was fine, sure.  But it was a little worse than mediocre... it was boring.

Next week, it looks like this weeks' winner is THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, by Karleen Koen. Huh... this one actually sounds interesting. See you next Sunday!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Caiaphas, ch 3

When a woman like that tells you to run, you don't argue with her.  Without as much as a by your leave, no matter how civil of a conversation we had been having, i broke into a sprint from a standstill and was panting for air and gaining speed soon afterwards.
Senide.  Senide.  Dripping blood and asking to make my aquaintance.  I had survived an encounter that few other people in the known universe had made it out of alive, including more than a few of the other inhabitants of Carron, prisoner and guard alike.  She had no scruples, no morals to speak of.  Inuman and deadly.  and I had survived.  my heart was beating too hard, hurting, and still I ran, my passage loud and probably gathering the attention of anyone or anything that happened to be listening.
sleeping alone on the darkened floor was no longer an option.  it would not be a safe haven, and i doubted that i would ever again feel completely safe while i was alone.  Senide had killed hundreds, with her bare hands, her cold reptilian morality giving her powers i could only dream of.  there was a pull to her, too.  i hadn't felt it until i had been right on top of her, but there was a pull.  but not to join, to serve... it was to succumb.
I was only lucky that she was full.  that she had warned me.  because that pull... it was deep.  the call of the void, and if i had stood there any longer i just might have taken the plunge.
Finally, I had to stop.  Not because i was tired - i would have run until utter exhaustion if i had to.  I had run out of ship.  ahead of me, looming in the semi-darkness, was a pit.  and i could see, barely, the edges of what could only be the hole continuing to the floors above me.  there were voices, dim and far away, and the pull which I had felt since entering the ship was much stronger here.
I walked forward, aware that the light was much stronger here and staying out of it.  the hole was large - thirty feet across, at least.  I crept as close as I could to the edge, looking up for enemy eyes and seeing none, and saw at the bottom of the hole a dark, open space.  the ship was wider than i had given it credit for.  what small fraction of the place had I seen in my explorations?
then I crept back, out of sight.  there were other hallways - i could see chunks of them that hadn't been destroyed to make way for the hole through the ship.  there was a hallway right next to me, with an easily traversable part of the floor still intact.  But how to get there from where I was without being seen?  the walls were thick, and the closest point of entry was close to six or seven feet away, but even from where I was i could see holes in the side of the pit, like footholds.
Then I decided that it didn't matter if i was seen or not.  it's not like any of them could do anything about it, not this early in the game.  they were probably looking for the same thing i was.
No one hailed me as I walked to the edge, and i passed unremarked as i hoisted myself over the edge and found the indentations with my toes.  i didn't allow myself to look down.  i had already met Senide, and something in my gut told me that others like her would slowly be moving down.  if i fell, i would put myself squarely in their grasp.
I didn't fall.
I made it to the other hallway, and started to walk.  This one was also well lit, with cells on either side, empty and lifeless.  I checked each one as I passed, just to be sure.  I had been surprised once, and that was more than enough.  They were all empty.
There was a doorway at the end of this hall, just as I knew there would be.  Stairs went up and down, and this time I chose to go up.  I didn't care to meet anyone else who wanted to kill me on sight.
I skipped two floors, meeting no one, the quiet comforting.  Then I opened the third floor, the one above the one I had first been on, and closed the door again quickly.  A hallway.  Cells.  Not what I was looking for.  I knew there was something else, something bigger.  Somewhere i belonged more than in the dark hallways that now stood empty.
The next door was locked, and i made a mental note to look and see what was going on the next time I was close to the pit.  The next door held what i was looking for.
I cracked the door open, pressing my eye to the gap and hearing voices.  I did not delude myself that i was the only person who yet knew about the stairways, but i had yet to see another living person on them and the fewer people who knew that they existed the better.  but how else were people traveling between floors?  what was i missing?
there were two men, standing in front of a door that was mere feet away from where i was crouching.  too obviously guards.  their hands were empty, but what else could you expect?  we had no weapons.  Even had i wanted to storm the place, it was two against one.
they were still talking, and I quieted my breathing to listen to what they were saying.
"... just leaving us here like this.  What are we supposed to do if someone comes and tries to take it from us?  claw them to death?"
"'s prolly what he expects.  I'm not going to die for him, are you?"
"Hell no.  Not for him, not for no one.  But..."
"Yeah, I hear you.  Not like we really have much of a choice."
The speakers were two men, one tall and gangly and the other of average height and decidedly ugly features.  they could be anyone, wearing those uniforms.  the same prison blues that i still wore, that we were all issued and that constituted the entirety of our worldly posessions.  i didn't recognize either, but the man furthest from me had that bland look afforded only to the incredibly boring - one of those faces.
what would it possibly be worth to guard, but with only two men who seemed only barely competent?  i was unarmed, but so were they.  and i had just heard them saying that they weren't too thrilled with the idea of dying for whatever boss they had attached to.  there was only one way to get the answers i wanted, and that meant to break out of this secretive, skulking persona i was still considering adopting.
I opened the door fully, noting and appreciating that it opened silently, without a squeak.  The two continued to bicker, and only after I had completely walked into the hallway and stood mere feet from them did they seem to notice my presence.
"Oh, fuck!"
"The fuck did you come from?"
I looked at the wall, but the door had already closed and there was no visible sign of it from this side.  Another thing to keep in mind.
"What's behind that door?" I asked.
Both adopted carefully blank looks.  The tall one was better at it.
"Listen to me, you punks," I said.  "I know you're unarmed, and I'm a lot meaner than you.  What were you in, Cottonwood?  I can tell.  I know you think this boss of yours is the meanest boss you've ever had, but he's peanuts compared to what some of these guys'll do to you.  are you sure, really sure, that this is the one you want to die for?  Because I'd give it some more thought."
The shorter one glared at me and spat on the floor.  "I haven't seen anything better."
"Why anything at all?  Don't have to serve no boss.  Especially not these ones."
The taller one eyed me with those sharp eyes of his.  "Why do you say that?"
I shrugged.  "It just feels like there's a lot of power in one place, is all.  Like we're all going to get torn up in it.  I say we let them fight their own battles.  Why kill each other?  Let the psychos do that!"
"Yeah, but that's all talk," the ugly one said, sullen.  "I'd like to see you try and keep out of it.  I don't know how they do it."
"It doesn't matter how they do it.  What does matter is that you're your own man, and you don't have to listen to a crazy bully.  Tell me what you're guarding."
The smaller one looked like he was about to argue again, but the taller one stopped him.  "Dunno.  Crates.  Boss looked real excited when he found it, and is probably on his way back here right now with some more men.  He found this room and wants to hold it.  Me, personally?  I think it's a food cache.  Probably dozens of them, all over the ship."
"What are you doing?" the other man hissed.  "He's coming right back!"
"Yes, and I'm not going to be here.  He's right.  I've only been here for a few hours, and I don't have any ties to nobody.  Screw him, he can guard the door himself if he wants something."
"Yeah, but..."  He looked around nervously.  "Aren't you going to take anything with you?"
The tall man laughed.  "I may be disloyal, but I ain't stupid.  There's no fucking way I'm going to be here when he comes back.  I advise you to do the same."  He looked at me.  "And I advise you to do the same.  Sure, he doesn't have any weapons, but he sure is... scary."
"All right, quit your teasing!  Who is he?  Who are you working for?"
"Vaughn," he said.
My breath caught.  "Which one?" I whispered.
I could breathe again.  Charlie was ruthless, but at least he acted like a beast.  His brother, on the other hand, was even more inhuman, and didn't even have the good grace to lack civility.
"I'll hurry, then."
"Yes, I believe that would be best."  The man dipped his head and walked briskly away, following his friend who had not waited for him, and the moment he had turned his head his features were dim and blurry in my memory.  He didn't feel any different, at least not like one of them.  And yet there was something about him, including the feeling that I might have met him somewhere before.  I was always so good about faces.
But that was a thought for another time.  If Charlie Vaughn was on his way here, now, I wanted to be out and away before he got anywhere near here.  That meant getting in and out five minutes ago.
The door that the two men had been standing in front of seemed simple enough, and the round door slid easily when I grabbed the handle.  I slipped inside and closed it behind me.  The room was filled with boxes, and it was unlikely that I could have enough forewarning to make a quick getaway - so hiding it would have to be.
If it came down to it.
The room was large but not enormous, which made me agree with the theory put down by the skinny man.  There would have to be more storerooms.  I would have to keep an eye out for them.
Slipping behind the front row of boxes was easy enough, and when i crouched down i was all but hidden from the door.  My knees started to shake a bit earlier than i had hoped for, damn them. I knew i wasn't getting any younger, but this wasn't the time for the whole thing to just give up.
The boxes were vaguely labeled, and were too large for me to take one with me.  they were all sealed with clear tape, and even if i wanted to open one it would have to be louder than I wanted.  I glanced at the door, but it was hidden by a stack of boxes.  quickly, then.  Quickly!
The closest box to me was wooden, spraypainted green.  cheap.  not the kind of box that would keep anything from spoiling, which told me that the food inside was going to be of even lesser quality than i had enjoyed in actual prison.  nothing fresh, for two years?  sure, maybe we had all killed a few people.  Maybe we all did deserve to die, but not like THIS.  Right?  There was some faded picture on the side of the box, yellow and black.  Nothing informative - they could have even been letters in a language i didn't recognize.  not that it mattered now.
One quick slam with the palm of my hand to the side of the box yeilded results.  the wood splintered and a couple of handheld packages spilled out on to the floor.  I immediately reached down and tore one open.  It didn't matter what it was - I was starving.  and it was a good thing, because it tasted disgusting.
i frantically gnawed the object, making some small progress with my back teeth as I scooped as many as i could into the pockets of my pants, in my arms.  i couldn't help but make a sign of my forced entry, but with any luck charlie would blame the vanished guards.
i would have felt some small amount of guilt if it didn't work out so perfectly in my favor.
I left a trail of bars behind me, clattering to the ground as they slipped against each other and out of my grasp.  It didn't matter.  I still had so many that I should be set for days - more than a lot of other people had, i would tell you that.  after a couple of days without finding a boss to take care of you, a lot of these folks would be getting real hungry.  and i wasn't above buying a few alliances.
Food, food, glorius food.  i hummed happily into the processed meal I was holding between my teeth, already feeling the nutrients working their way into my system.  I felt great, and now that i knew that to look for I should have a fantastic advantage in my struggle for my life.
It was all going so well, too well, that I should have known that something was wrong as soon as I opened the door.  But i didn't.  Still humming, having learned that the food was much easier to ingest if you first covered it in lots of saliva, I walked into that hallway like i didn't have a care in the world.
That's when I realized that I wasn't alone in the hallway.
"That's him," said a familiar voice.  To my left were two people, backed by more guards than I could count at first sight.  my right looked much the same, except just the mooks.
I recognized both men. One was the taller of the two I had just told to shove off so I could raid their supplies.  The other was charlie vaughn.
"Hey, stranger," charlie said, grinning a little.  "You seem to match a description of a man who tried to fool a couple of my guards.  There wouldn't be any truth to that, would there?"


I know I'm doing book reviews at the same time I'm posting chapters of my own book, so I wanted to make a little note.

I'm doing this for me.  I'm scared shitless of sharing my work, and I figure this is the best way for me to do it.  I'm not nice about the work of other authors, and I don't want anyone else to be nice to me.  If you think I'm being unfair, I've given you plenty of ammunition to fire back at me, and I welcome your doing so.  Teach me something.  I realize that I don't often capitalize in these chapters, and that there are quite a few misspellings.  I have left them there on purpose.  They are raw words, and they're here to illustrate my belief that even my frenzied rough drafts are better writing than the crap I've been reading lately.  "I can do better than this" is the reason I became a writer in the first place.

Anyway.  Here's chapter three.

Book Review - The Beauty Bride

I read this a couple of days ago and I didn't make any notes while reading, which I now regret.  Oh well.  Sorry!

I remember enough of it anyway.  This book (THE BEAUTY BRIDE - by Claire Delacroix) wasn't nearly as outwardly ludicrous as the one previous, the title and main characters of whom I've already forgotten.  It was so formulaic that you probably needn't bother reading much past the first few chapters, where all of the characters are introduced, but I did anyway.

Sure, it was entertaining.  I read the whole book, didn't I?  But I'm blessed with fast reading speed, and I believe I read the whole thing in one or two sittings.  Even with the entertainment factor, the book was uninspired and the writing tepid, at best.

The narrative follows Madeline and Rhys, one either Irish or Scottish and the other Welsh.  I never could figure out exactly what she was supposed to be, but it didn't really matter too much.  Her hand is auctioned off by her brother, who needs the money for something, and this... Welshman?  Is that a word?  Well, he buys it.  We have an escape from her terrible fate, a near rape, a fairy, her old beloved betrothed coming back, some lies and deception, a near death, a journey by sea, and even a daring rescue from a dungeon.

Thrown in with all of this rollicking adventure are some incredible cliches and plain bad writing.  This woman must have taken an English class sometime in the past, what ever happened to that old rule of using 'said'?  What's wrong with a good old 'said'?  On pages where more then two characters were speaking I was pulled out of the story with all of the instances where a word was used (asked, suggested, queried, etc) that would have been invisible as 'said'.  Another of my largest pet peeves was the usage of the word 'spouse' where she must have meant 'husband', or 'wife', or another other romantic word.  Because honestly, I never refer to my husband as my spouse.  How formal that sounds!  I would write it that way on government forms, not in a romance novel.  She does it so often that it feels stiff and unnatural.

But even if I didn't have these (petty, to be sure, but I am a writer myself so I notice these things) complaints my largest disappointment would have been the plot.  The old betrothed, the one that Madeline remembers so fondly (James), is portrayed in the worst light possible.  Lazy, uncaring, and not even good at his chosen profession.  This is because the new husband (Rhys) really has no chance against any serious competition... he's a traitor, a liar, a coward (running away from her family!  To what end?), almost kills her and even tells her flat out that he'll cheat on her if she can't give him sons (which never really gets resolved, except for her fervent desire to have sons).  I kept expecting each of these revelations to be much more serious than they ended up being.  Relationship ending, huge arguments.  But they both just kinda roll with it, James is dispatched without even a last scene to cushion the blow (he is simply banished from the plot), they dispatch the final bad guy, who is thrown in without warning in the last chapter, and live happily ever after.

Was it worth it?  I would have to say no.  It was confusing, nonsensical, and poorly executed.  Sorry, Claire.  You get good reviews anyway, somehow.

The next book I'm reviewing is going to be... huh.  Well I guess the top selling free book on Amazon right now is a boxed set.  The Sloane Monroe Series Boxed Set, by Cheryl Bradshaw.  Mysteries!  Hardened female investigator!  Join me next Sunday when I'll at least have a review of the first book, BLACK DIAMOND DEATH, by Cheryl Bradshaw.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Caiaphas, ch 2

Like any animal, I had few real desires.  Food, would be the first.  A hole to crawl in and to feel safe in.  A woman, if it was possible.  But unlike any other animal, I had one more need that would be unfulfilled by the puny anmal brain that drove me now.  I needed information.  There were things going on that I didn't know, and that needed to be rectified.  Imminently.
The doors opened with a low rattling, all at once, my cellmates and I freed simultaneously and without a guard over our shoulders for the first time in years.
Most of the men I had served time with on C. had been respectable men.  Liars cheats and theives, sure.  But still men.  The rest of them... weren't really what I would even call men anymore.  Blood did something to you.  I would be the last person in the world to tell you otherwise.  And for some... well, let me just say that I wasn't too anxious to go into that hallway first and find out who some of my cellmates had been.
But I had to.  certain death if I stayed - I knew that, didn't I know that?
So I moved.  My legs screamed at the movement but their protest couldn't hold a flame to my desire to get the hell out of there.  Outside the cell was a hallway, mostly empty but quickly filling with men, and I looked left, right, trying to figure out where to run, where would be the best way for me to discover safety.  where would the food be?
Right.  Every instinct told me to turn right.  The place I hadn't been, the unknown.  My muscles started to twicth as my brain told them to move my body in that direction, but then I felt it.  A pull.  Incredibly strong.  Of course!  I was near the front of the line... everyone who was anybody was behind me.  I needed to avoid the center of the ship at all costs until things settled themselves.  I wasn't about to be pulled into a war that had nothing to do with me.
More and more bodies were piling into the hallway, some standing there stunned, some moving lazily in the direction of the pull.  All of them were in my way.
"Move!" I shouted, and to my surprise the stunned faces registered recogniton.  I started to move, pushing through still bodies, until they began to move away from me.  I felt trapped, claustrophobic.  But no one stopped me, no one challenged me.
I'm sure, that from their point of view, I was the crazy one.  Going back toward where they had put us in, like they had maybe left the door unlocked.
That worked for me.  I added a maniacal grin for emphasis and pushed harder.  "Move, I said!"
They moved.
Once they had parted I could run, and I did so.  Running against the pull.  Running for some reason I had forgotten.  To get away from the masses, to find a hole somewhere.  No one would explore here, because there should be nothing here to see.  But I needed to know for certain.
Soon i had passed them all, and my heavy footsteps sounded heavily against the gleaming walls and the burnished silver floor.  If I really needed to, if I had found nothing else, I could hide myself in one of the empty cells close to the airlock.  I'd rather pry off a plate on the bulkhead with my bare hands to hide behind, first, but I would take what could get in these all too short hours.
Then the cells stopped.  I stopped, too, slowing to a walk.  I had only been running for ahout a minute, not long enough to have covered any real distance, but the pull was less, here, and I heard no sound from those I had just left behind.  It felt almost safe, for the time being.  Almost.
After the cells there was nothing.  The walls of the hallway were unblemished and shining just as brightly as the floors, and I feared that my diversion had been quite useless.  I could easily have made it the other way, I could have!  I would just have had to be careful, that was all.  But now it was too late.  Were they already forming, the factions, the rivalries?  were allegiances being pledged?  it made me sick, all of this posturing.  I knew my place, and I intended to keep it as far away from theirs as possible.
I walked slowly, looking at the walls, the ceiling.  Looking for things hidden.  Things that they could have put right in plain view, knowing that we would be too blinded to see any of it.
At the end of the hallway, where I could see the dead end of a circle cut into the bulkhead, where you could barely see that there was an airlock on the other side, there was an indentation to the left.  An entrance.  I walked toward it as if i was in a dream.
There was no door.  it was just an open doorway, a space that showed a dimly lit staircase, the stairs going both up and down.
My heart pounded in my chest so hard that it was some time before I realized that the ship had long since ceased her convulsions.  I only stared at the steps leading away into darkness, and then looked back the way I had just come.  No one followed me.  No one would be coming this way for some time.  They had felt the pull just as I had, even though they might not have had the sense to avoid it.
There were stairs both up and down.  That could mean anything - where was the storage most likely to be held?  My gut told me down, so down I went.  The moment of my first footfall upon the top stair ignited a light that had been set into the wall, and as I moved slowly downwards the ones ahead of me shone and the ones behind me dimmed.  and it wasn't even hidden!
The next landing had a door that was locked, and no amout of coersion could open it.  I could have used more force, but didn't know what was on the other side.  the last thing i wanted to do was attract attention.  let the Vaughns do that.  Cenide.  The ones that had done those terrible, terrible things that were the only reasons we all knew their names.  There were darker names, too.  The ones I was too afraid even to think, in this darkness.  we were all guilty, here.  there was not an innocent man to be found, not on this ship.  not on the caiaphas.  but some regretted their crimes, and others... others embraced them.  once the factions had begun to form, i might be afraid to walk these dark places of the ship alone.
the next landing opened, but when i stepped into the hallway no lights came on to welcome me.  I could have done it, but i decided to wait.  if i had explored all other options and still hadn't found what i was looking for, i would return.  i knew, rationally, that the floor was probably empty, and it would be a safe place to hide until everything blew over.  if i was afraid to enter it, so should be any person who entered after me.
but there were things on this ship who weren't afraid of the dark.
I closed the door quietly behind me and shuddered.
The next floor, however, was both silent and well lit.  I left the door open a crack and started walking the hallway, this one with no mark on the wall at the end of the hallway.  Just seamless silver wall.  There were no other doorways in the immediate vicinity, so after a few minutes of walking I stopped paying so much attention.  just wall, wall, more wall, cells, nothing.  nothing in the cells, same as the one i had been chained in.  i rubbed my wrists at the thought, feeling their rawness under my fingers.  wasn't it enough that i was still inside of a cell?  why did they have to chain me to the wall?
i would never know.
i knew that there were at least a thousand of us, on this ship.  that had to mean that either the ship was long enough that they only had to use one floor of cells to hold that many prisoners or that the men that had been in these cells were already gone.  i doubted the second - the whole floor had this feeling of emptiness, of disuse, like no living being had inhabited this place lately.  and the first meant that there would be so much space that there would be little need for exploration after the food and the women had been found.  i should be able to find a hiding place easier than i had expected.

it took me a full hour to reach the other side of the ship.  i walked the whole thing, knowing already what i would find and knowing myself unable to resist the call of certain knowlege.  when push came to shove, and the factions had been created and were meeting each other in these very hallways, i wanted to know everything around me.  i would not trust my life to chance, even if there was monotony in making sure.  it took me an hour, but at the end of that time i knew that there was only a staircase on one side of the ship.  the other was a clean metal wall, nothing that could help me in any way.  just cells.
The whole thing was fishy.  i still felt the pull as strongly as I had when I had been in my cell.  I was getting very hungry, and i hadn't seen another human being since i pushed through that wall of humanity to find the staircase.  someone was here, somewhere.  the food would be somewhere.  just nothing was making any amount of sense.  
so i started to walk back.  i'd probably go down another level, just to see what was happening, and then go back up to the level where I had been deposited.  see what was going on and where we were in terms of destroying each other.
walking through the hallway was eerie, by myself.  but i preferred being alone to any other option.  and just as the thought occured, it happened.  the only noise i had heard for hours were my own solitary footsteps and the abnormally loud sound of my breathing, so the instant there was another noise i was on full alert.  breathing, soft but intense.  coming from nearby.  very close.
i slowed, but continued forward.  another person, by themself, could be promising.  a kindred spirit, perhaps, seeking to escape the carnage of adjacent floors.  i wondered if my decision to leave had been the prudent one - i hoped so.
the figure was in one of the cells, to my left.  on the ground, kneeling over, everything obscured except their back and cleanly shaved head, just like my own.  the figure was slender, almost effeminate, and i felt myself respond just in thinking that this person could be a woman.  it had been a long time.  too long, but that didn't give me an excuse to turn my brain off whenever i thought about getting lucky.
i didn't say a word, but i didn't have to.  i wasn't fooling anyone about sneaking around - i was too careless.  the figure was breathing so quietly, so controlled, that my own breathing sounded like i was gasping for air in comparison.  then she stood up.
for once in my life, and certainly since my incarceration, the confirmation that it was a female that i was dealing with came secondary.  the first thing i noticed was that the entire front of her prison uniform, the only thing we would ever own in our two years on the ship, was drenched in blood.  it was dripping off of her, onto the floor, making a dark puddle that reeked of copper and death.  what i had seen as slender looked more like emaciation from this angle, and her eyes were fever bright from the darkness into which they had sunk.  her cheekbones popped out of her face like billboards and her lips and face were dark with drying blood.
she looked at me and my body responded like it had been electrocuted.  i was frozen - if she had desired my death in that moment it would have been hers.  but instead she only looked at me, interested, curious.
"All the way down in the depths by yourself?" she asked me, and my veins filled with ice.
"I was looking..."
"For?" she prompted politely, smiling.
"For food," i said.
she laughed, a pleasant, tinkling sound that would have been enjoyable if it wasn't filled with madness.  "I see!  I just ate."
More blood dripped from her clothes, the droplets landing on the metal with the repititive sound of water on tin.  she seemed to enjoy it.
"I'm... ah, still looking."  I knew her.  I knew her, and i was going to die.
She didn't answer.  the look in her eyes was openly appraising, and my skin crawled where her gaze touched it.
"You're Senide," I blurted, and her eyes crawled lazily back to mine.
"You have the advantage, then."  it could have been a civil introduction, but for the incredible surreality of it all.  should i put out my hand, or would she bite it off if i tried?
"Jack," i said.
she nodded slowly, savoring the information i had just given her.  "Well then, Jack," she said, and her voice caressed my name, "I think you had better run."

Book Review - Prize of my Heart

Okay, so maybe when I said Sunday I meant Tuesday.  Oh well.  But!  I did actually force myself to sit down and read the book (PRIZE OF MY HEART, by Lisa Norato).  What follows is a brief sampling of my thoughts for the first four or so chapters, when I got tired of nitpicking and started to relax into the writing a bit more.

First thoughts: oh, this is a Christian book.  Or at least, the author is.  Not that it's a bad thing, not at all, it's just not my thing.  Anyways.
This man, the main character, is an emotional rollercoaster bordering on the schizophrenic.  He's tortured, he's annoyed, he's admiring and captivated, all within the first few pages.  A completely unreasonable assumption is made that the mysterious maiden in the shipyard is working for the man who's been revealed to be the kidnapper of his only son (Drama!  Intrigue! Soap opera!) and off we go.
She's a pious girl, no surprises there.  I have a long way to go, so I'll spare you the details, but the next chapter ends with the words "like Elijah fleeing the wrath of Queen Jezebel".  The kid has been renamed Drew because it has a D in it, just like David.  Had enough religious references shoved down your throat yet?  I have.
Pistachio Waistcoat.  Just keep that one in mind.  Okay, this actually made laugh out loud - they've been talking about this George character the whole bok up to this point.  No last name, just George.  And then we just got this line, from the male else's POV, "He did not know this George, though the name did ring familiar ".  Really?  Something strikes you familiar about George?  And later, when he wonders if that George is the same one as the man his lady was talking about.  Oh, that George?  You know, I get them all so confused.
The first half of the next section was about the dining room, and the food, and it's all very delicious sounding . Then we are without warning thrust into the point of view of the five year old who speaks about himself in the third person.

I managed to read the whole thing, I really did.  It's not that it's a bad book, really it isn't.  It's formulaic, sure, but what book that I'm going to find at the top spot on Amazon isn't going to be?  It's entertaining.  Too preachy, and I'm not even going to pretend that I read the majority of the last chapter (the one right after the male lead and female lead realize that they want to be together forever) because it was all about the main male character reaffirming his relationship with God.  And like I said, I'm not really into that.
So.  Lame?  Yeah, it was.  Easy to read?  You betcha.  It was kinda like meditation.  Just move your eyes and try not to think too much.  Can I remember the names of the main characters, two days later?  Not in the slightest.  Brody?  Lauren?  Something like that.  Sounds like a success to me.  I read it, didn't I?  If I had paid money for it I would be exceptionally disappointed.  But, I didn't.  So I'm only marginally disappointed.  It just wasn't that good.  It wasn't awful, but why would I give points for being only slightly better than crap?

All right, enough of this nonsense.  The next book I'm reading seems to be...  The Beauty Bride, by Claire Delacroix.  We'll see how that one goes next week, I guess.

Also, next chapter of my own book in progress, coming atcha right after I post this.  Calling it The Caiaphas for now, work in progress.  Blah blah blah, see you some other time that isn't right now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Caiaphas Chapter One

The first hours are vital.  I know that, everyone knows that.  Everything after these first short hours, I will either live or die based off the decisions made now.  And I am not planning on dying, not now and not anytime soon.  I'm smart, smarter than anyone else here.  I can think on my feet, sound more clever than I am and ingratiate myself to the coldest bastards that ever flew.  I'm going to live.
The cuffs on my wrists drag me down.  My ankles are shackled, and the whole corridor rings with the sound of many chained men.  The Cassius, the damned hellhole that's been my home for these past six years, whose walls are more familiar to me than my childhood shack, bids me farewell in a hallway I've never seen before.  Someone sighs, and the sound rings for a moment within the cold walls.
I'm near the front of the line, thank God, and we stop at yet another bulkhead, the masses shambling to a stop behind me.  When they open this one the sudden light blinds me.  I stop dead, my hands outstretched and feeling nothing.  Someone beside me tells me to move, you idiot, and I stumble forward with my eyes frozen shut, knowing that this is designed to put me off my guard and powerless to stop it.  I barely have time to let the heat sink into the skin of my upturned face when more cold darkness swallows me whole.
I open my eyes, knowing that it's already too late.  We're in the Caiaphas, and precious moments of my first few hours are slipping through my fingers while I frantically try to blink the neon streaks from my vision.
To see the sun after so long, and with no time to enjoy it or even realize what was happening until it was too late…  it was a torture.  An exquisite one.  I resolved to myself that I would try and remember it later, when I have time to worry about something other then my life.
My vision slowly returned to me, revealing silver walls and mottled fleurescents.  No time to wonder what I had missed, what signs had been on the doors we had passed.  What now?  What could I see?
A corridor.  Then a door, coming up ahead, and beyond it a large space.  A giant room, one of many.  Not the cells, not yet, not so soon!  I didn't know where we were, or what part of the ship we were on.  Nothing vital at all!
I quieted my disappointment immediately.  The Caiaphas had been a prison ship for centuries - of course they wouldn't lead us past anything important, and I had been a fool to hope for something that obvious.  Patience and calm would win me the day, as they always had in the past.  Ha, they thought this ship would kill me?  I searched my mouth for enough moisture to darken the metal upon which we walked, but held it as a guard walked by me.
"Don't do anything you'll regret, Jack," he said, and I spat a grin at him instead.
Damn fool.  The place was ours, soon.  Could they stop me then from defacing her?  Why try and assert authority now, when I was so ready to be free again?  They were asking for an open revolt.
The tension in the air was thick.  We outnumbered them, and we all knew that this moment was the last that seperated us from the homewold right outside and a life sentence.  But no one dared to make the first move.  The Caiaphas had been away now for ten years, and many of us had been waiting for her return for much of that time - we were old hands at prison.  We were alive now, still, because we were cautious.
I watched my fellows being unchained and led to their cells, single rooms with transparent doors, where they were rechained and locked in.  I waited my turn, and until the last possible second, to wait if anything broke out.  But there wasn't a sound, not a single whisper of rebellion.  So I was locked in, the door closed behind me, and the line continued to move forward.
The chains on my wrists held strongly when I tested them, so I relaxed.  No point now but to wait, and think, and plan.  No one had ever gotten to this point and come back to tell others, except for the guards, and they told us nothing.  Never would.  There wasn't a hint of corruption on the Caiaphas, and there never had been.  This time, when I went to spit there was no one to stop me.  The liquid landed on the metal floor, and I hated myself for my lack of restraint.  When I would I get water again?  What a waste.
Prisoners shuffled past me, excruciatingly slowly as they were walked one by one into cells.  My arms tired from being held up, and my feet ached from standing.  I became aware of thirst, and of hunger, and of the slow passage of time.  When did the line end?  How far were the cells that men were entering now?  A hundred yards away, a mile?  The ship was huge, but I had never been aboard a thing that had the sheer numbers of this one.  Anything I thought I knew about her was suspect.
Hours passed this way.  Black thirst crawled at my throat, and hunger clawed my belly.  It became readily apparent that, with their only weapon being time itself, they had subdued us.  Rebellion?  Ha!  All I wanted now was for this foul loading to be done with.
I had hoped to know more.  I had hoped to have a plan.  Hell - it's not over yet.  What's stopping me?  My lack of knowledge?  Of course, but that's never stopped me before.  The layout of the ship was ancient.  Three hundred years, before commercial space travel, before the dissolution of the SSA.  What did I know about ships back in that era?  Close to nothing.  But she was meant to be a prison ship, so she must have been built as a prison.  Except this one would be in space, and by the time she got back to Earth everyone on board would be dead.  That didn't help me either.
If I came in one way, where would the food stores be?  Where were we in relation to the bridge, the engines?  There would be rations for us, enough for all hands aboard for ten years.  But they wouldn't help me at all unless I was one of those to get to them first.  Did I have an advantage, here closer to the hull of the ship?  Or was I a casuality, simply because I happened to be one of the first in line?
I knew what would happen, the moment we got underway.  These cells, with their chains and their clear doors, would open, and we would be released.  Those first few hours, after being released, while we were free to run through the ship, would see the formation of gangs.  Dynasties would be formed and toppled and formed again, until equalibrium was found.  Whoever found the food would have the power.  Whoever found the women would gain followers, power, and prestige.
And probably lose their souls in the process.  If any of us still had any to speak of.
The line kept shambling forward, until finally out of sight.  That's when the screams started.  Cries, impotent rage and suffering.  The cells were impertinent but eternal.  The doors would open after launch but we were still prisoners and always would be.  Oh, why find't these fools find this courage before they were locked up?  My arms ache like theirs, but I spend my time deep in thought, not hollering and howling like a beast.
if I could join them... I would.  If I could just, let go like that.  But I can't.  Stay focused, stay strong.  Stay strong, stay alive!
the sounds of chained feet had either ended or were beyond my hearing, and I waited, restless.. Finally, after what felt like years of waiting, an alarm sounded.. It was low and ominous, and ended after three long bursts of sound.  I felt nothing - no movement, no power, nothing being turned off or on.  Since the caravan had moved past us, no-one had walked past a second time.  Maybe they had just gotten to the end?  The last prisoner had been strapped in, and the alarm sounding an all clear?
no.  What a fool I was!  There was a door on the other side.  Two access points!  At least, into ship!  We were alone in the ship, I was sure of that now.  That meant that in a matter of minutes, moments, perhaps already, the course had been plotted.  The ship would take off, assume orbit, and at a predetermined time the Catalans would rocket off, and her randomized course would be set for the next ten years.
That was the extent of the briefing that they had given us.  The pattern was random, so that nobody alive knew where she was at any given moment.  You couldn't be rescued, or saved, because even if someone did care to look for you you were on a loop that was going to take ten years to return to the point of origin.  And in a ship like the Caiaphas... you were never going to find her.  Ever.  You are lost.
Someone started to scream, and I almost followed suit.  An alarm started, insistent, loud, piercing.  Something was happening.  But what?  The bulkhead under my feet began to rumble, slightly, so slightly I wasn't sure if it was really happening or if i was imagining it, and my mind went blank.  I thought I would have a plan by now.  I thought that I would know something.
Think, Jack!  Think!
The food, first.  I would need to find the food.  To know where it was, and to make sure that I carved out a stake of my own before bosses were created from nothing, and the rest of us nothings again.
Then the women.  But we had no idea of where they were, not a whisper.  We were sure they were on board, but where in a massive place like this could they hide a few dozen women?  Anywhere.  If they wanted to stay hidden, and I had a good feeling that the women would want to stay hidden, they would have infinite places to hide.  I could accept that, but only for now.  Just knowing that there existed not one but many females on the same boat stirred my loins, but I knew I needed to quash that particular desire until it didn't interfere directly with my immediate survival.
The food, then feel the air.  Make myself useful.  Find a boss, work for him a while until I got myself a good position.  An honored seat.  Worked inside, should work here too.  I just didn't know who was here yet.
And that threw a spanner in the works, didn't it!  More to my invisible right and left started to scream in tandem with the rolling pitch of the warming engines, but I began to laugh.  I didn't know who was here, but I could guess pretty well.  Only the most vicious criminals ever to roam the galaxy, at least for the past ten years or so.  Only the worst got Caiaphas.  Only because for some, unknown reason, she always came back missing all hands.
Caiaphas was a killer.  Went into deep space with a full complement of the most ruthless scum to captain a tugboat and they always came back dead.  They'd deemed her humane, gave us plenty of food, and water, and even mixing us with women again, like we were decent men, but even so, they wanted us dead by the time she came back around.  The women, too.  All of us, to the last man.
There were three main prisons on Homeworld, Etrention, Corren, and Danovar, and each was separated into precincts.  A man might be in the same prison as a renowned capture but never catch a glimpse of him.  I had been in Corren, myself.  The worst of the three.  But out of the five precincts that the prison had I had only been in the second of five.  I thus knew only a few names of who else I could expect on this voyage, and I doubted that those around me could tell me much more.
 Charles Vaughn, was one.  His brother would be on the ship somewhere, then.  Hugh.  They hadn't been in the same prison, thank the Christ... but there was nothing holding them back, here.  I hoped not too many would get between them and revenge this time around.  Or maybe we all would.  Who else?  Names, nothing but names.  Toofer One, Senide, a man named Vaillant who I had seen only once but whose image had chilled me to the very bone... legends in their own rights.  Too many legends, on such a ship.  I expected nothing more and nothing less than complete and utter chaos.
I could feel them even now.  The weight of them, all of those to whom the rest of us were mere mortals.  But I couldn't entrust my fate to another man to matter who that man was or what kind of legends he bore behind him.
The metal against my wrists clicked once, lightly, and I dropped down to the ground, my dead legs almost completely failing to hold me.  I stood up only by sheer effort, looking across from me and seeing my cellmate writhing on the ground, and I grinned.  It would take more than that to dissuade me.  I knew my course - let me follow it!
With one last, metallic squeal and what felt like the hand of God himself shaking the ship apart, the doors opened.  We were free.