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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bookgum: Follow Her Home

Hello my monsters!  I haven’t had anything resembling homework for about a million years, so I apologize in advance if I’m a bit rusty.  Now you know I love you all equally, but today we’re here to honor the amazing work of our very own Steph Cha for her book “Follow Her Home”.  First wow, what a masterful use of the Thesaurus!  (It’s probably now? Or the Thesaurus app?)  Steph has created a very visual work with her use of adjectives.  I could see it in my mind like a film as I read.  In fact I think it would make a powerful film. Though now that I have my own idea of what everything looks like I would no doubt be one of those annoying people who, after seeing the movie, complains very loudly that “the book was much better” and “Galifianakis is NOT who I would have picked for that role”.
Anyway, one of my favorite lines was “…middle aged married men don’t have ‘friendly’ relationships with attractive young girls.  Not if their wives can grow fingernails.”  Ha!  In fact I was about at this point in the book while in the spa waiting room when I was actually annoyed by the massage lady calling my name!  Now there’s a good book jacket quote. “Too good to put down for a massage” –Monster Kate
Juniper Song as our protagonist (how ‘bout me with the fancy word from English class) is one of those risk taking characters I found myself yelling at in my head “DON’T GO IN THERE” and “CALL THE POLICE” or just plain “NOOOOOOO”.  She’s great.  Nothing like a “superhero strong” female lead.  I enjoyed flipping between her two story lines, present and past, though my brain had to be torn away from each reluctantly.  Get over it brain!
So there you have it.  Great job Steph.  Keep me in the loop for the next book.
Hugs and Kisses everyone!
One of the oddest and most common suspensions of disbelief we make as readers of fiction is that the characters we follow struggle in a world where fiction—the stories, movies, and books that help us understand our shared experience—rarely exists. If writers do admit it, say, for example, Lev Grossman’s use of the Narnia-like Fillory in The Magicians, the work itself is an invention. There are good reasons for this; for one, an invented fiction is more malleable to the writer’s purposes. But some of this also has to do with the writer’s ego; he or she would rather produce a work that would someday be explicitly referenced than the one doing the referencing.

It becomes fresh and a demonstration of bravery, then, when Steph Cha allows the existence of Raymond Chandler’s detective fiction to weave throughout Follow Her Home. It becomes a template by which we as readers can judge her work, and one in which her own protagonist judges herself. Early on, Juniper Song, Cha’s narrator and a fan of Chandler, exits a party accompanying the woman who sets her on her dangerous path: “I had entered with Marlowe on my mind and left with a case and a femme fatale wearing four months’ rent in accessories.” In one deft sentence, Cha both echoes Chandler’s wry prose and demonstrates its believable impact on the way Song thinks.

The reader is not the only witness to this impact, though. Song constantly checks herself against Chandler’s fiction—the best way to tail a subject, how Marlowe would react at discovering a body in his trunk, how stoically he faces the prospect of his own death—and regularly believes she may not be up to the task. Song regularly remembers that Chandler’s novels for all their beautiful and mysterious characters stalking through rain-soaked L.A. streets is still a world of fiction. It becomes a neat trick then that Cha is able to convince us of the “realness” of her Los Angeles.

This book becomes more than homage to Chandler. Yes, she preserves some of the formula—the femme fatale, the sharp-edged diction, the chapter cliffhangers with our hero fading into unconsciousness, secrets kept by confidantes—but the novel explores issues that Chandler would never have been able to touch. He could never shine this kind of light on the Asian-immigrant experience or dig at what is so creepy and racist about some white men’s obsession with Asian girls. For all his wit and bravado, Marlowe’s inner turmoil was often at a low simmer, and with minimal emotional connection to the cases he ran down.

Not so for Song. Cha moves efficiently back and forth in time peeling back the layers of Song’s past to believably reveal why she pursues this case with such doggedness instead of just turning it over to the police. And, as the reader learns the horrifying details in her past, the stakes of Song’s current predicament ratchet up. Song isn’t just fighting to stay alive, she’s fighting to find something to live for. I’m not sure that question ever occurred to her hard-boiled hero. But in this novel, the answer to that mystery is more satisfying than the whodunit.
Hello there, Monsters! It's been awhile since I have contributed to our lovely site, and I am very excited to be discussing Monster Steph Cha's Follow Her Home. Although this is not "I'd Hit That," I still have some things to say about this book's alluring features. Let's get to it, shall we? Our hero Juniper Song loves a good mystery especially any of the Marlowe tales written by Raymond Chandler. Although I have not read any of the Marlowe books, I could still appreciate the neo-noir quality. There was dark and dodgy feel to the narrative, but there were still parts that made me chuckle to myself too. That being said, Steph Cha has a knack for fancy words and figurative language. I would highly recommend that anyone preparing for the ACT or SAT use this book as a supplemental study guide. The style was enjoyable, but for me the real treat was the flashback dealing with Song's sister Iris. I am sucker for a good flashback--WE HAVE TO GO BACK!--or flash forward for that matter. Anywho, Song feels as though she has failed Iris, and the invitation to investigate Lucas' dad is her chance for redemption. And redeemed she was! From the moment Song begins her investigation to the conclusion of the terrifying weekend, it was like riding the Tower of Terror on a loop. Once my stomach settled back into place, there would be another surprise just waiting to finish me off. These twists and turns kept me turning the page. Another refreshing thing is that the story has a level of complexity due to the gender, ethnicity, and sexual abuse issues that are weaved into plot. Despite Song getting into so many dangerous situations, she kept her cool and ended up kicking some butt. I mean, c'mon. Using a stiletto to nail a dude in the junk and cause a car accident? That is bad ass, you guys. I applaud our leading lady! Steph Cha, you should be proud.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Monster Games--Part One

The first installment in THE MONSTER GAMES, a harrowing tale of survival. (If you don't show up in this installment it's because you live in the Capitol or District 13. Be patient.)



Part One: The Drunks

“Hey guys,” Teech said in his best business casual voice, as he tied his third of four ties around his neck. He always liked to look his best on Reaping Day. “You going to the Reaping?”

“We don’t have a motherfucking choice, do we, motherfucker?” Danarr replied cheerfully. He was in a great mood despite the Reaping, as his wife, Dismyni, had yet to cheat on him that day.

“Yeah, a-doy,” Teech’s wife, Freideigh said with a roll of her eyes. “I mean, obviously.” She could be a real bitch sometimes.

Dismyni cried, “Oh, my God you guys, it’s almost FUCKING time to go to the Reaping! I hope the male tribute is hot this year.”

“Me too,” said Freideigh, as the men exchanged knowing but defeated looks. Sex addiction was the cross so many had to bear in District 11, the producer of alcohol for Twitternem. Twitternem was the society that had risen out of the ashes of the Videogum’s comment sections—once a prosperous civilization that, due to the ravages of several civil wars, had been abandoned by all but the most resistant to reading The Hunger Games book series, even though they know good and goddamned well those books are awesome.

Anyway. Teech, Freideigh, Danarr and Dismyni lived in District 11, where sadly more of the alcohol produced was consumed than exported to the other districts or the Blogitol. This was partly because the District 11 citizens were a bunch of full-time lushes who weren’t above stealing booze, and partly because the evil President Gabe had banned fun from the Blogitol. Either way, it meant the four of them were shitfaced as they made their way to the Reaping.

“Say,” said Freideigh as they walked to the town square, “I’m not thinking about anyone in particular, but have you guys noticed the lack of hot underage bakers in this district?”

“What?” asked Teech.

“Hmm? Nothing,” replied Freideigh, then high-fived herself for her smoothness.

“You guys, sometimes I wish we lived in fucking District 6,” Dismyni complained, so loudly that a couple of parents walking with their kids shot her nasty looks. “Oh my God, what is their FUCKING problem?”

“Shhh,” said Freideigh nervously. “Why do you wish we lived in 6?”

“Because that’s the karaoke district! I bet they have fun all the time.”

“I’ve heard it’s a pretty bleak place,” Teech interjected drunkenly. “They have a 22% annual suicide rate due to crappy ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ covers alone.”

The other three shook their heads sadly as they entered the town square, where they separated into two groups, boys on one side, girls on the other. They watched as highlights from the other Reapings in Twitternem that day played on the screen. They saw some familiar faces, some new; when Huckamitch from District 12 made his appearance, Freideigh and Dismyni both screamed “I’D HIT THAT” as loudly as they could manage. Upon seeing the male tribute from 12, Freideigh cried out, “I AM NOT THINKING ABOUT DOING ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR TO THAT UNDERAGE BAKER, PERHAPS AT MOST BEFRIENDING HIM!”, and everyone definitely believed her. The tributes from District 4, the main exporter of hot people, were a blindingly attractive male and female librarian. A little girl with an overlarge bow on her head bravely volunteered to “party” in District 3, the hair dye district, causing many an eye in 11 to mist over. They watched as a professional badass was chosen from District 6. He immediately tried to quit, then rejoin, then quit again, then, at last, he rejoined the Games for good. Then they watched the usual replay of the tragic events of District 13, just snippets of the tragedy—a woman winking at her medicine bottle, a mudskipper looking defiant, Scott Baio holding out his suspenders proudly, and, of course, Donald Sutherland pointing and screaming at the horror.

When the footage had finished it was District 11’s turn. Inchmin, the Blogitol citizen responsible for transferring the District 11 tributes to the Arena for the Monster Games, stepped up to the microphone.

“SMDH if you don’t love the Monster Games!” Inchmin laughed. “All right, let’s get those tributes chosen so we can go to the games.” He reached into a giant novelty martini glass to draw out a slip of paper, but instead grabbed two stuck together. “Oh, well, no time to separate them. We’ll send two female tributes this year. It’ll be great.

“And your female tributes are…’Dismyni Temare’ and… “Freideigh Baybee’!”

“Oh no!”

“How terrible!”

“Those poor girls!”

“Won’t someone save them?”

Dismyni and Freideigh’s voices overlapped as they protested their fates, but everyone else just sort of looked away and pretended not to hear them. Royally pissed off, they climbed the stairs to stand by Inchmin’s side.

“And now, our male tri—oops, grabbed two again. Oh, well! Accidents happen…to…’Teech Urman’ and ‘Danarr Aetor’!”

The raucous laughter of Dismyni and Freideigh’s voices were the only sounds carried on a haunting breeze through the town square. As the men reluctantly ascended to the stage, the two women began to plan.

“Oh, I am going to hook up with, just, like, ALL the male tributes in the Arena,” Freideigh declared.

“All of them?” Teech asked hopefully.

“Well…we’ll see. I'm just thinking...maybe the cute baker is hurt, and he needs someone to comfort him, and I put my arm around him and...we share a moment. That's all.”

“I heard Ryan Gosling lives in the Capitol, I’m going to totally stalk him,” Dismyni slurred.

“Oh, this is just fucking GREAT,” said Danarr. “I got chosen in the Reaping, and now my wife is going to slut it up in the Capitol.” He popped the top off of his beer and downed it in one gulp.

Teech opened a bottle of bourbon and began swilling. “I don’t know, man,” he countered. “Funniest motherfucker in the Arena wins, right? Well, we’ve got booze on our side. And NOTHING is funnier than drunk people.”

The girls nodded and downed their glasses of wine. The four of them looked at each other, grinned, then cried, “Freeze frame high-five!”

Next week—Part Two: Meeting the Other Tributes in the Blogitol

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We are moving

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This will stay up, but all new material will be there, as well as the archives. Also, if you are an author, please register so we can credit your posts faster.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Foodin' With Lawblog: Dear Lawblog

Hi guys! I've gotten many requests for a general cooking advice column, so I'm totally swaggerjacking mtnsbeyondmtns. Does anyone have any specific problems with cooking that they would like me to answer? Stuff like "I ran out of vinegar? What can I use?" or "How do I keep my steak from drying out?" or even more general like, "How do I plan to cook for 8 people?" Whatever you want to know, I will do my best to answer. You can ask in the comments below or send me an email at thereallawblog (at) gmail (dot) com. Anonymous or otherwise is welcome!

Taking One for the TV: 90210 S3E18

Just like all of you, I love great TV shows like Lost, Breaking Bad, 30 Rock, etc., but I also love some really bad shit. In this column, I am going to recap some of the best of the worst. I watch bad TV so you don't have to!

You guys may have seen me profess my love for the original Beverly Hills, 90210 series on Videogum. No shame, I love that show. I own all the seasons on DVD, and they bring me great joy. Shout out, Season 1-4, you guys were the best! Anyway, the reason I started watching 90210 on CW was because of my love for the original series. You may or may not know, but some of the original cast appeared in the first season of the new series, including Kelly, Brenda and Donna. I came for the old cast and stayed for the cheesy drama.

Let me lay this out for you guys. I am going to recap the episodes, and I will give you background on storylines and characters when necessary. We are currently jumping into this end of season, so just deal with it ok?!

Insomniac with The Narrator: Portal

Insomniac with The Narrator now with the Lawblog stamp of approval.

Who is excited for Portal 2’s release? You could say I’m losing sleep over it, but let’s be honest, I lose sleep no matter what. The game looks like it will be awesome. So I thought it would be a perfect time for me to play some Portal to get a refresher of the mechanics and simply enjoy the game.

Not sure Portal is the right game for you…….take this quick test.

Do you like cake? (The dessert, not the American alternative rock band from Sacramento, California.)

Do you find homicidal robots to be entertaining?

Do you like euthanizing inanimate objects?

If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, then boy do I have a game for you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monster Fit Club: Week 16

Welcome Back! I want to start off by reminding participants and also Monsters who are contemplating joining MFC that you don't have to have a weight loss goal to join. The majority of us are trying to lose pounds, but if you just want to lose inches that's fine too. If you just have a fitness goal you want to reach, jump right on in! If you do want to lose pounds, there is no need to share your actual weight. Just tell us how many pounds you are down and how close you are to your goal. MFC is whatever you want it to be...Let's do this!

We are getting super close to bikini season, so let's report on our progress.

Twin Peaks S01E04: Rest in Pain

“Break the code, solve the crime.”

After taking his sweet time to get to it, Agent Cooper describes his dream to Sheriff Truman: the midget and Laura in the red room, one-armed Mike and killer Bob. And while it seemed clear that Bob admitted to the killing (or at least a killing) in the dream, Cooper says that Laura whispered her killer's name in his ear...but he forgot it. Was the name different from Bob?