I'm not a fan of Jane Austen. Archaic courtship rituals and Regency attire just don't butter my skillet, and aside from Northanger Abbey (a delightful send-up of Gothic novels), I haven't enjoyed any of her work. Frankly, I read P.D. James's Death Comes to Pemberley solely because homicide and Jane Austen seemed like a damn good combination.
Wandering Coyote has already written an excellent review of this book, so I'll restrict myself to the main beef I had with this "mystery" novel. Yes, the characters are about as interesting as lettuce, and the pace is sluggish, and you have to suffer through a rehash of Pride and Prejudice. But the real problem is this...
The key questions:
Who slaughtered a man in the forest near Pemberley? How did they do it? And why?
The questions that are actually asked:
Whatever will the neighbours think?
Are there enough savoury tarts to satisfy Sir So-and-so and Viscount Such-and-such?
Shall we take the the coach, the carriage, the barouche, or perhaps a hackney chaise?
It's time to pack away the winter blahs, 'cause I'm back to school tomorrow for winter term. Aaaand... we have a new addition to the household! Her name is Becky, though she already has quite a few nicknames. She's a 3-year-old who isn't crazy about other cats, but loves teh hoomins.
Hoping this year will be one full of cat cuddles, doodles, good grades, new opportunities, and new friends. Happy 2014, everyone!
I decided to lift my personal ban on Dean Koontz novels when this list told me his 77 Shadow Street is a quality read. Every neuron in my brain started screaming as I slid the book off a shelf at Coles. I'm not sure exactly what they were trying to say, because neurons can't talk, but it was probably something like
Struggling not to twitch, I paid for the book and took it home, handling it much like one should deal with plutonium. I was really fighting my body on this one. My sick, deluded brain was reassuring me, "It will be better this time! This is totally not Phantoms! Koontz just gets better and better with age! He's practically Peter Straub these days!" But my physical instinct was still to carry this thing to the nearest high bridge (in a tightly sealed container, of course) and lob it into the river with my all my strength.
This conflict made for an interesting reading experience. I may have looked calm as I sat in my chair, reading the first nine chapters, but on the inside my internal organs were threatening to mutiny.
So, what's wrong with 77 Shadow Street? Well, what's wrong with every other Dean Koontz novel? Let's review:
1. There's absolutely nothing new here. A dreamhouse built on cursed ground? The Shining, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist. Mysterious deaths among the construction crew that built it? Rose Red. The house drives people crazy? The Shining and Amityville again. Not one original thought exists in the pages of this book. 2. Characters? What characters? Koontz's characters are the flattest, least memorable people in the realm of pop fiction. To call them stock characters would be an insult to stock characters. We have an elderly man who pieces together the grim history of the mansion (*cough*Mary Sue*cough*). We have a divorced country songwriter who is - not even joking here - a coalminer's daughter. Then there's a somewhat traumatized Iraq vet, an investment banker, and...oh, who cares? By the third or fourth chapter, I wanted them all to get eaten by the elevator, like the drunk ex-politician was in the first chapter. Just die already. 3. Not scary. Good horror fiction is about subtlety. The masters start out slow and build up to a sustained eeriness that explodes into terror. Koontz starts out with explosions, so the rest of the book is just some fizzing and spluttering. It's like watching an action movie backwards.
To make matters worse, Koontz's publisher decided to get all gimmicky with this book, and they created a ridiculous "immersive experience" that is basically just a hidden-objects game. In other words, Koontz is so certain you won't feel his story that he has to show you pictures of it.
Nine chapters in, my body finally defeated my brain. I couldn't handle the nausea, the twitching, or the continuous yawning for one more minute, and I stopped reading. I haven't pitched the book into a body of water yet, but I will be marching it down to the used bookstore at the earliest opportunity. In a sealed container, of course.
As some of you know from Facebook, I'm preparing to go back to school soon. Hence, not much time for blogging. But right now it's full-on winter, and I think it's about time to dip into the massive stack of fiction I've been hoarding for blizzardy days. Yesterday I snagged the second-to-newest House of Night book and A Lion Among Men at a secondhand bookstore. I also have the Gormenghast trilogy, a pile of Peter Straub novels, Mockingjay, and the new reprint of John Crowley's Little, Big.
On the nonfiction front, there's Errol Morris's book about the MacDonald murder case, and two books about the Meredith Kircher case.
Needless to say, there won't be any turkey or bacon 'round here. So, what do vegetarians eat on holidays?
Well, the ever-popular Tofurkey kit seems like an obvious choice, but we tried that a few Christmases ago and found it about as tough and tasty as charbroiled boot leather. Werner Herzog has nothing on us.
Luckily, we live close to Chinatown, where wacky Buddhist foodstuffs are plentiful. For the past five years, we've been enjoying seitan chicken that even (sorta) looks like chicken. Or like the Play-Doh version of chicken. Don't let the goofy appearance fool you, though - this stuff tastes like tender, white-meat chicken!
A year or two ago, my fave Chinese grocery stopped carrying seitan chicken. Since then, we've been eating a soy-based "chicken ham" product every holiday. Its pasty, tubular appearance wasn't too promising, but I was relieved to find it tastes almost exactly like the chicken-shaped stuff. As for why it's called "chicken ham" or "ham chicken", I still don't know. My brother once pointed out, "That's way too many animals for something that has no animals in it."
This is today's "chicken ham", nicely defrosted and waiting to be cooked for about 45 minutes. That's one lovely thing about being veg: Holiday dinners are not day-long ordeals involving arcane equipment, gigantic knives and rubber gloves.
"I'm not a ham, I'm a chicken ham!"
Side dishes will be old-school: My own traditional stovetop stuffing made with veggie broth, mashed taters, wild mushroom gravy, scalloped corn, and mixed greens.
"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom." - Albert Einstein