Book Review: Bad Monkey

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Ah, Carl Hiaasen, I’m pretty sure I could read your books every day of the year and then hit repeat and start all over. He’s one of the few authors that I follow on Facebook and genuinely get excited about when a new book comes out.

Unfortunately, I  read Star Island last year, one of his newer releases, and felt a little let down. It was… blah. I liked the idea behind it, and the return of the favorite hate-to-love Chemo warmed my heart, but Star Island fell flat for me. I had to convince myself to pick it up instead of sinking into it and losing myself for hours.

All that was running through my mind when I picked up Bad Monkey, published in 2013. I even let it sit, unopened, on my bookshelf for more than a month before starting it  for fear that Hiaasen had lost his touch.

But I wasn’t disappointed a second time. The complete oddness of Hiassen’s characters make them all to real to ignore. Who comes up with this shit? ran through my mind over and over during the course of the book.

The plot centers around Andrew Yancy, a former detective who has been demoted to being a restaurant inspector. But when an unlikely arm (just the arm, not the whole body) comes into his possession, he starts investigating it as a murder despite the emphatic discouragement of those around him. And then there’s the monkey. And the morgue. And the hurricane. And some bees. Hilarity ensues, as does a continued fight against corruption and pollution.

Verdict: Read it. Then pick up Skinny Dip, Lucky You, Sick Puppy, Basket Case and Nature Girl. Read in any delightful order, although there are a few returning characters, so maybe read in order of publishing date.

On A Side Note: I’m doing this super fun book bingo thing this year, and so far I’ve filled it in with Biking Across America (based on a true story), Charlotte’s Web (non human characters), The Circle (more than 500 pages) and now Bad Monkey (mystery). Currently I’m reading The Magician’s Assistant, but I haven’t decided where it will go on my card.

Happy reading!


Book Review: The Circle

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

When I picked up The Circle by Dave Eggers from the library, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I had read a few reviews when it first came out last year, and it was on my list of books to read, but I had a feeling it would be an… uncomfortable read.

After staring at it on my kitchen counter for several days while I finished the book I had been reading, I finally dove in.

And oh my goodness did I dive in. It’s rare anymore that I get so intrigued by a book that I want to stay up all night reading, but this was one. It was also more terrifying and uncomfortable than anything I’ve read in a long time, but in the way that really good books are. I couldn’t put it down because it was so relevant to so many things I think and feel on a daily basis. Continue reading

I Didn’t Finish My Novel (Duh)

After claiming I was going to track my month of insanity doing NaNoWriMo and… well, EVERYTHING ELSE, I figure it’s only fair to give a wrap-up of my novel experience this year.

Obviously, I didn’t finish it. I didn’t even close to finish it. After the first few days of great progress, I stopped dead and wrote barely another word.

The Good:

  • I really, really like my characters. They are super cool, and I want to spend more time with them in the future.
  • It helped me get my mind unfocused from another project I’m working on, which I’m now more excited about revisiting.
  • The plot was so different from my normal that I got a giant kick out of playing around with the way it wall worked. My inner conspiracy theorist came out in force!

The Bad:

  • I don’t think I planned far enough in advance for the plot. I had no idea how it was all going to come together, so it was a bit directionless at the end. I need more practice as plotting out that kind of story.
  • I had virtually no time to work on it once the World Show started, and that burnt me out. So once I had a bit more time at the end, I had absolutely no desire or inspiration to work on it.

Will I do this again next year? The jury’s still out. I wonder if NaNoWriMo has run it’s course in my life and development as a writer. I’m so used to doing it that it seems odd not to, but it’s also such a crazy month (not that any other month is really any better).

My Characters Are Driving Me Insane

When I logged into NaNoWriMo today, I was informed that in order to finish on time, I need to write 3,280 words per day.

I was also told that at my current rate, I will finish my novel on January 1, 2014.

I don’t want to give up hope because I really, really like my characters. I feel bad for them. They’re really fun in a quirky, slightly demented way. I identify with both of my main characters so much.

My mainest main character, Eva, is severely… oh… distracted. But in a very, very focused way. She forgets to buy cat food, buries herself in her work and avoids human contact whenever possible. She’s funny, but only in her own head. Not that she has a bad sense of humor, but more that her internal dialogue is much more verbose than her external. (She was sitting in her therapist’s office wondering if there is a higher-than-normal percentage of serial killers in Alaska.)

Her internal struggles were what really drew me to her. She is a reminder that you never know what’s going on in someone’s head; she has demons that make her scared to get up in the morning and stop her from living a normal life. While she’s okay at battling the demons, she’s not very good at winning against them. But she’s great at winning everything else she tries. She’s not very nice, sweet or happy. She’s not kind, but she cares very deeply. When people don’t live up to her expectations, she shuts down. She has a hard time interacting with people on a friend basis—there has to be a purpose, a goal.

On the other hand, my slightly less main character, Darren, is extroverted, enthusiastic and intuitive. He’s also nosy, opinionated and determined. Once he gets an idea in his head, it’s really hard for him to let it go. He cares about Eva because he feels like she needs him, and he doesn’t like it when she pushes him away.

I’m still figuring him out, mostly because Eva is still figuring him out and the story is written from her perspective.

That’s the problem with characters. They wiggle deep into my subconscious, and suddenly I’m a little more like them without even realizing it. I’ll be in the grocery store and think that Eva really needs to go grocery shopping because her fridge is empty except some expired mustard and a lone carrot. Or I’ll buy a coffee and realize that Darren would order the same thing. When I’m driving, I think about the scenes where they interact and how each of them would feel and respond and look at that particular moment.

But for the past few days, Eva has receded from my subconscious a little. I can’t hear her thoughts quite as clearly. And I’m not sure if she’s losing her voice, or if I’m losing mine.

Basically: I need Darren to tell me to buck up and get to work and Eva to look up from her computer and say something to let me know she’s still there.

Today’s Not The Day

I recently read a blog about working out (I’d find the link, but today’s not the day), and how some days, it’s just not the day. Some days, it’s okay to say that tomorrow will be a better day.

Of course, you can’t do this all the time, or life would not progress as it should.

But this morning, I woke up and thought, today is not the day that I’m going to the gym. It’s not the day I’m going to work on my NaNoWriMo novel. It’s not the day I’m going to run errands, clean out my closets or tackle my extensive shopping list. (Who needs orange juice, hand soap or laundry detergent anyway?) I’m not going to start my latest freelance assignment either.

Today, my goal is to go to work and tackle as many projects as I can. Then I’m going to go home, drink a glass of wine, put on pajamas and watch a movie.

Tomorrow, I can do all those other things, but not today. Today’s not the day. Today is a different day, a day of relative rest.

All of those things I’m not doing will go on a neat and tidy list to be tackled slowly and methodically. Tomorrow.

Not today.

Because, remember, today’s not the day.

What’s The Day Again?

According to the NaNoWriMo website, I’m supposed to reach 25,000 words today. I am still safely at 17,208, the same I was on day three.

Here’s the problem: I get up, shower, experience mild road rage, work for hours and hours and hours, fight stronger road rage, and collapse into bed. I’ve been doing this for 10 days. It’s great.

But it’s not conducive to successfully writing a novel. It’s better suited for coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

I had such good plans to wax poetic in this blog about character development, the daily struggles of a writer, balancing work and novel creation. But sleep is oh-so-important to functioning during the APHA World Championship Show (I don’t even want to know how many times I’ve typed that over the past two weeks).

I’m not giving up. But I concede that while Novembers continue to be this insane (they will be for as long as I’m at this job), NaNoWriMo might not be for me. <gasp>

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go fight road rage, work for a very long time, then collapse into bed and not think again today about NaNoWriMo.

Observations From NaNo Land

Keys to NaNoWriMo: a comfy place to work and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Keys to NaNoWriMo: a comfy place to work and coffee. Lots of coffee.

NaNoWriMo 2013: best idea ever, or worst mistake of my life? The jury’s still out.

However, in my quest to have it all this month, I wanted to share a few observations for the land of NaNo-ers.

On the NaNoWriMo Forums, the threads for people in distress are much more active than the ones for people whose noveles are progressing nicely.

What does that say about society? Does it mean that misery loves company, but those who have success are afraid if they talk about it, it will be jinxed? Continue reading