S.G. Browne

Fiction Friday: Books, Books, Books

Having just finished up reading Big Machine by Victor Lavalle, which I’ll review next week, I now have the task of picking another book to read from my To-Be-Read pile, which is really more like two piles plus half of a shelf on one of my bookcases, which comes to a grand total of twenty books.  And that doesn’t include a couple of PDF books I have on my computer.

For the sake of fitting what I could into a single picture, here’s a sample of what I have to choose from:

The stack isn’t indicative of the order in which I plan to read all of these, but includes:

Ravens by George Dawes Green
Gator A-Go-Go by Tim Dorsey
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Spook by Mary Roach
Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby
I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis

It also includes my favorite title of the bunch, The Apocalypse and Satan’s Glory Hole by Timothy Long and Jonathan Moon, which has been on my stack for much too long. (Hangs head in shame.)

So what’s on your stack to read? And can you beat twenty books?

Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 10:51 am

The Writing Life: Ouch! When Reviews Go Bad

For the most part, it’s a bad idea to read your reviews. One, they’re just someone’s opinion and not necessarily indicative of the quality of the work, good or bad. Two, writing, like any art, is subjective. As a writer, you have to remember that and not take anything personally. And three, it’s much too easy to get caught up in what someone says, whether it’s positive or negative. But as any writer can attest, no matter how glowing the reviews, a negative review has a way of embedding itself in your DNA.

Not that I don’t read any reviews. I give a look to those from places like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post in hopes of a good review that yields a nice, juicy blurb.

Those are always fun. And I’ll read reviews on blogs that have requested a review copy or for which I’ve authored a guest post. As for the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and random blogs that show up in my Google alerts? I do my best to avoid them.

But sometimes, you can’t help it.

While checking online for local bookstore locations where I might be able to swing by and sign stock copy, I came across a reader review about Fated that gave it one star and included the following gems:

Could it be the worst book ever written?
Completely mindless.
Worst use of $$ I’ve ever spent.

Ouch. But at least they read the book to the end because they didn’t believe it could be that bad all the way through.

Aah, another satisfied customer.

And then there’s the blog that listed Breathers as one of the most disappointing books of 2010 (even though the book came out in 2009). For the most part, the blog explains in detail why Breathers failed to live up to expectations, then finishes with this:

As a result — and due to Browne’s at-best serviceable prose — Breathers fails to elicit either laughs or sympathy. It’s horrifying, but not, I suspect, in the way that Browne intended.

Can I have some salt with that knife wound?

These are just a couple of examples of the criticism that authors expose themselves to when they get something published. That doesn’t mean we have to believe it. Or take it personally, which isn’t an easy thing to do. The trick is to try to have a sense of humor about it and realize you can’t please everyone. But if you please yourself, then you’ve done your job.

And if that doesn’t help to make you feel better, you can always respond to your bad reviews like this:

Filed under: Breathers,Fated,The Writing Life — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 3:55 pm

Movie Review Monday: Oscar Edition

In light of the fact that both The Town and Ben Affleck were left off of the list of 2010 Oscar nominees for Best Picture and Best Director, I’m dedicating this week’s Movie Review Monday to some of the biggest snubs by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences over the past twenty years.

Feel free to agree or disagree…

1990 Best Picture (Goodfellas)
Scorsese had to wait until 2006 to finally get a Best Picture and Best Director win for The Departed, but it should have happened sixteen years earlier with Goodfellas. Instead, it lost out to the painfully long Dances With Wolves. This was probably the most disappointing end to an Academy Awards show I ever watched, second only to…

1997 Best Picture (L.A. Confidential)
When Titanic won for Best Picture, I threw up a little in my mouth. Two-dimensional characters, a predictable ending, and a forbidden romance apparently makes for an Oscar-winning combination. L.A. Confidential was a far superior film on all counts. It shouldn’t have even been close. But the Academy likes its grandiose, epic films with clear cut good guys and bad guys. This is me, giving them the finger.

1999 Best Actor (Jim Carrey)
Being a Kevin Spacey fan, I can’t say I wasn’t happy he won for American Beauty or that he didn’t deserve the award. But the fact that Jim Carrey wasn’t even nominated for his portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon was just ridiculous. Even more so than his snub for The Truman Show the year before.

2001 Best Actor (Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce)
I didn’t think Denzel Washington’s portrayal of a villainous cop in Training Day was anything special. Of the five nominees, I felt Russell Crowe deserved to take home the gold for Best Actor in A Beautiful Mind. Considering he nabbed the Golden Globe and the SAG, I’m not the only one who thought Crowe was more deserving. But if you ask me, Guy Pearce should have won for Memento, but he didn’t even get nominated.

Those are just the top few that come to mind and are obviously just one writer’s opinion. What are some of your biggest Oscar snubs?

Filed under: Move Review Monday,Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 9:14 am

Fiction Friday: Bizarro Edition

If you haven’t read any Bizarro fiction or even heard of it, chances are you’re not alone, but it’s a genre that’s been gaining a solid foothold in the publishing world over the past decade.

I have to admit, I’ve only recently been indoctrinated, having read Cursed by Jeremy Shipp and Naked Metamorphosis by Eric Mays last year, both of which were fun, imaginative, and, well, bizarre.

To quote Wikipedia, which we all know is gospel, Bizarro fiction has been described as “literature’s equivalent to the cult section at the video store” and a genre that “strives not only to be strange, but fascinating, thought-provoking, and, above all, fun to read.”

And with titles like The Haunted Vagina, Shatner Quake, and Meat Puppet Cabaret, you know you’re in for a story that’s a little bit different than what you’re going to get in the literature section at Barnes & Noble.

Which brings us to Cameron Pierce’s Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island (Eraserhead Press), a most definite fractured fairy tale.  (And my favorite book title of all time.)

Gaston Glew, a young pickle living on the moribund Pickled Planet, is celebrating his sixteenth Sad Day – the sixteenth anniversary of the saddest day of his life. His birth. But his parents go and one up him by committing suicide, so he decides to build a rocket ship (using his dead parents as fuel) and leave the sadness of Pickled Planet behind to go in search of happiness.

Meanwhile on Pancake Island, which is inhabited by happy pancakes who have never known sadness, lives Fanny Fod, the most beautiful pancake girl in the universe and the epitome of happiness. But Fanny nurses a secret sadness as she guards the origin of all happiness: the mysterious Cuddlywumpus.

When Gaston crash lands on Pancake Island, he starts to spread his briny sadness around in his search for happiness until he meets Fanny Fod and they fall in love. I won’t give away any spoilers, but considering the title, you pretty much know it’s not going to have a happy ending.

If you’re interested in reading more about Bizarro fiction or discovering some additional titles, check out Wikipedia and Eraserhead Press.


Favorite Reads of 2010

This week on Wild Card Wednesday, I’ve decided to list the favorite books I read in 2010.  None of these books actually came out last year but that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I read ’em and I liked ’em.

In no particular order, here are my Five Favorite Reads of 2010 with a brief blurb about each:

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
A heartbreaking story about what it means to be human, both melancholy and affecting. Read the book, then watch the movie.

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
Sets the bar for mystery noir and detective novels. Rich and satisfying, both in the story and the prose.

Duma Key, Stephen King
King back to his tricks as a master of storytelling and supernatural chills. His best stand-alone novel since The Green Mile.

City of Thieves, David Benioff
Two unlikely comrades attempting to avoid execution during the siege of Leningrad. Wondrously funny and engaging from start to finish.

Skin Tight, Carl Hiaasen
A fun ride through the criminal world of Florida politics and plastic surgery, filled with great characters, social satire, and lots of laughs.

There you have it. That’s my list.  What were some of your favorite reads from 2010?