Sunday, November 30, 2008

My holiday, sort of told in reading material

For Thanksgiving this year, I met my sisters and their kids and my mom in the Wisconsin Dells.

I felt that I would have a lot of time to read because I was taking the train there and also, there would be a waterpark, and I imagined sitting in a chair as my nieces and nephews frolicked. I chose my books carefully.

Dirty by Megan Hart
This is the book I had to leave at home, but I desperately wanted to bring it, because I'm halfway through and I cannot believe how good it is! Dirty will be one of my top books read of the year, possibly my very favorite. We'll see how it ends. As you see, though, the cover shows a couple having sex in a bathroom stall, and the content is highly x-rated at times--not the book you want to be reading around curious children.

What I brought:
Demon Bound by Meljean Brook, Playing with Fire by Katie MacAlister, plus a manuscript by a writerly pal.

Train ride there:
I sort of wanted to read the manuscript on the way there because my quality of attention for critiquing is really high on a train, however, a young farm boy who looked like a less cute version of Jensen Ackles sat next to me and tilted his chair back into look-over-your-shoulder position and opened up a Harper's.

I don't know, I just couldn't bring myself to go for the ms, because I happen to know it opens with a highly X-rated scene and I knew it would ruin my concentration to think he was looking. When I'm on trains and busses, it's not like I look over people's shoulders, but hell, I am interested in what people are reading, so I always check it out. The fact that he was reading Harper's, in my mind, made it seem more likely he'd be interested in what others were reading.

So I cracked open Demon Bound. So excellent! I got wrapped up in this story almost immediately: the heroine, a Guardian, has made some sort of deal with a demon where she has to kill the head Guardian, Michael, and she's trying desperately to get out of it.

What struck me most on the train was how much I enjoy Brook's narrative voice, especially her voice for the Alice parts. I don't know what it is, a kind of internal music to the sentences. Also, I really loved how distinct the characters' speech patterns were. She almost doesn't need dialogue tags. The characters in this one are fasinating, as usual. Slow reader that I am, I was only on page 70 when I arrived at my destination.

The Wisconsin Dells: OMG
How the Dells has changed. I went there when I was a kid, and it basically consisted things like a boat ride to see cool rock formations, cheap theme parks featuring plaster dinosaurs, Native Americans in doing traditional dances and touristy shops where you can get pens with things that float inside them.

Now apparently it has evolved into the "Las Vegas for kids." The condo we rented was in this complex that had THREE extravagant indoor waterparks. There must be like 50 waterparks in that little town, plus endless amusement parks, and a candy store on every block and when I say candy store, I mean, think Willy Wonka.

I got there at lunchtime. I had been told to pack a suit, which I did, and dutifully put on and wore to the waterpark, but my intention was to sit by a pool and read more of Demon Bound. I was thinking I might not even get in the water.

WRONG. My nieces and nephew are all really cute and great and at the fun ages of 6-12, and I was in the wave pool within ten minutes of my suiting up. This particular waterpark was based loosely on the theme of the gold rush. It was actually really fun, and soon Aunt Carolyn was begging people to go with her way up on the individual tube body-surf ride. Total thrill. There was also a ride called the hurricane where you whoosh/drop into this sort of funnel. I couldn't believe it! (See green and white pic. Except it's covered over in the winter.)

Thanksgiving dinner
We went out to a restaurant for Thanksgiving. It was actually very very sad. One thing, as some of you know, we lost my dad this past summer, so this was the first holiday he wasn't there for. I think that was a lot of the reason behind the Dells Thanksgiving, actually - nobody wanted to have the holiday meal at the regular table with Dad not there. But as my sister said, we're going to have to do it at some point.

Reading material before bed
I was so exhausted from all the stairs I ran up to get on rides, I just borrowed a businessy magazine from my bro-in-law and read an article about LinkedIn, a businessy network I'm on, and contemplated "pruning my network" as the article suggests. Will it piss people off if I want to disconnect from them?

Next day
Played cards with the kids, who made up some wacky variations of Uno. Checked out of the condo midday and went to a different waterpark, the DOME. I was determined not to go in, as I had a train ride that night and I didn't want to be wet, or post-wet. I thought I would read Demon Bound and watch kids and stuff.

The Dome turned out to be a highly humid, overheated-by-the-sun environment of nonstop screaming from various water slides and a wild wave pool, and bad rock music and I couldn't even read a sentence of Demon Bound. I just sort of laid there in a stupor watching the kids, who were starting to fray off the overstimulation and frankly, after a couple hours of this, Aunt Carolyn was starting to fray, too. The picture makes it look semi-relaxing, doesn't it? The picture lies.

People went in all different directions--arcade, other pools, food. I went out in search of some quiet...the lobby maybe? As I noted, we'd long ago checked out of the room. It was here I realized there was no quiet place to read in the ENTIRE MEGA COMPLEX. Even the lobby, the coffee shop, the hallway, it's all lights and music and screaming, because of course, it is a place designed for kids, but not bookish aunts. In keeping with the wilderness theme, there are dead moose and deer heads around on the walls. Everything else is plastic and loud and bright, but the dead animals are real.

My mood darkens
I went back to the hot, bright, deafening dome, because that's where everyone was based, feeling like I was entering the sixth circle of hell--the heat, the screams! I sat with my mom. She was reading The Last Lecture, a book that seems to be about a dying professor offering words of wisdom. It is a book I would never ever read, even with a gun to my head.** Why do people read these books when there are fun and exciting books out there like Dirty and Demon Bound? 

When I walked around, I saw there was another person in the Dome reading that same book. How were they reading The Last Lecture in that environment? I have a strong suspicion that books like that are more books 'to have read' than to read and enjoy, and that people expect them to be a bore, and therefore don't give them quality attention.

I tried again with Demon Bound, but then I gave up, because you want some concentration with that one. I didn't want to squander my full pleasure of it.

I opened up Playing with Fire, which I felt would be the simpler read and immediately got annoyed. I know it was partly my mood, but there was this Gilligan type sidekick (goofy, accident prone, messes everything up) and I HATE Gilligan sidekicks in my stories. Nothing puts me in a worse mood than a Gilligan sidekick. Even in Kresely Cole, who I love, Nyx would at times push it for me. But she has foresight, so she sort of makes up for it.

Candy Store
We took my cute niece to Goody Goody Gumdrop, one of many dazzling mega candy shops the Dells has to offer. This place had every candy known to mankind. My bro-in-law told her she could pick out seven things, and a small bag of little things could count as one thing. Picking out seven things would have paralyzed me as a child, but my niece did an excellent job. I was so impressed. We had a conversation about sweet vs. sour candy, and she was in a sweet candy mood. The funniest thing she picked were these blue and white dolphin Gummi Bears. And she offered to share with us afterwards in the car. What a good sharer!!

Train ride home
My train ride was BLISSFUL. I got a seat all to myself and settled in to read my pal's ms, which was SO fabulous and exciting. It is such a risk when you say you'll CP (critique partner) with somebody, because what if you hate their writing? I have two regular CPs, though, and they are both so excellent, and also very helpful to me.

**Note: Oops, I am now repenting my glib assessment of this book. See comments.

17 comments:

lisabea said...

You kept saying 'water park' to me..and I was all: water park in Wisconsin in November? WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?

Uh. I know of what you speak. Day one? Fun fun fun!!! Day two? Just add alcohol. JUST KIDDING. (not)

samantha.1020 said...

I think that it sounds like you had a fun and crazy trip. LOL! I'm going to check out Dirty and add it to my neverending TBR list. Thanks!

Carolyn Jean said...

LB: NOT is right. I could've used a bottle of everclear. Or a sledgehammer to the head.

Sam: Add it! Dirty is absolutely stunning. It is dirty indeed, but so so compelling.

Renee said...

Hmmm... I listened to the audiobook of MH's Tempted, with mixed feelings about the story's resolution. But, I liked her writing style. May just have to check out Dirty.

I still haven't read Meljean's series, tho' it's been on my list for ages. Gotta move it up the list.

The waterpark sounds like a perfect place for an iPod with an audiobook -and a stiff drink. ;-)

RfP said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your father. Somehow I missed that.

"apparently it has evolved into the 'Las Vegas for kids.'"

Next year you should all meet in Branson, MO... Las Vegas for oldsters.

"The Last Lecture, a book that seems to be about a dying professor offering words of wisdom. It is a book I would never ever read, even with a gun to my head."

I would usually avoid anything described that way--and by avoid, I mean haul ass as if a demented monster were chasing me with a meat cleaver, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Terminally Boring, one of The Secret, and one of Stop Being a Loser, For Dummies. But Randy Pausch is actually something special. I can't imagine reading a book about it all, but the video of the lecture itself is not what you'd expect.

ellen said...

Firstly: Would it kill these resort designers to put a little lounge somewhere? It wouldn't take much. A fireplace, maybe. Comfy chairs. A coffeepot. Sound-dampening wallboard.

Secondly: Saw Randy Pausch's lecture online this summer. I loved it--but I wouldn't want to read it.

Lastly: Mmmmm...gummi dolphins.....

Carolyn Jean said...

Renee: I've heard people really gripe about the ending to Tempted.

RfP: Branson! I never heard of going there. That would be fitting if they made a faux Vegas somewhere. Okay, also, between you and Ellen below, I feel somewhat chastened for my glibness toward the Last Lecture. Maybe I will take a look at the link you so thoughtfully provided. I sort of just put it with Tuesdays with Morrie, yes, the Secret and also that dog wisdom book, all books I know nothing about, but sneer at.

Ellen: See above re: Last Lecture! I should learn not to publicly ridicule books I never read. Yet, it is oddly satisfying. Yes, a lounge for aunts would be very much in order. Honestly, I felt like a bit of an alien.

Liza said...

I think on the second day I would have tried to block out the noise with my ipod so I could read. I've never been to an indoor waterpark, but I can only imagine how loud it would be since the outdoor ones are crazy loud.

Sounds like overall y'all had a great Thanksgiving.

RfP said...

"Branson! I never heard of going there."

I gather it's pretty much a perpetual Lawrence Welk show. Are the Captain and Tennille still alive? If so, they must surely live in Branson.

"I should learn not to publicly ridicule books I never read. Yet, it is oddly satisfying."

Nothing odd about it. Untrammeled ridicule is way fun :)

Jessica said...

So glad you are loving Dirty! Can't wait to hear what you think when you are finished.

Tumperkin said...

I love the way you describe your little pleasures in life.

How was leetle teeny ceejay when you were away?

Angela James said...

"The Last Lecture, a book that seems to be about a dying professor offering words of wisdom. It is a book I would never ever read, even with a gun to my head."

I would usually avoid anything described that way--and by avoid, I mean haul ass as if a demented monster were chasing me with a meat cleaver, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Terminally Boring, one of The Secret, and one of Stop Being a Loser, For Dummies. But Randy Pausch is actually something special. I can't imagine reading a book about it all, but the video of the lecture itself is not what you'd expect.


I have to (kind of) ditto this. He's an amazing man and normally I wouldn't touch this kind of book either, but I have it on my Kindle now. His video lecture was just that inspiring, as was his story, up to his death.

Carolyn Jean said...

Liza: Yes, I wish I'd had an ipod!

Rfp: Now I am totally regretting that comment. I may put a retraction. Or something. Or move to Branson!

Jessica: I thought of your post on that other book as I read it, you know, the unsuccessful erotica. You liked Dirty, right?

Tump: Little CJ up in the slides! Little CJ has not been out lately!!!

Angela: Ooops! I totally picked the wrong book to sneer at! RFP has provided a link: maybe I will watch the video as penance.

little alys said...

LOL, your trip sound wonderfuly hectic. :)
You open with a hot scene, do ya. Hehehehe. There's only one Jenson hotness. Lesser shall not be accepted. ^_~

Meljean books do require concentration.

I avoid depressing books. Avoid at all cost.

Happy books, happy books, happy books. Happy romance books. :D

Branson Hotels said...

I went to Branson on a family vacation and there were a little something for everyone! My grandparents loved the place, even the at one of the Branson hotels
we stayed at.

Andrew said...

I would usually avoid anything described that way--and by avoid, I mean haul ass as if a demented monster were chasing me with a meat cleaver, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Terminally Boring, one of The Secret, and one of Stop Being a Loser, For Dummies.

Sachin said...

I have to (kind of) ditto this. He's an amazing man and normally I wouldn't touch this kind of book either, but I have it on my Kindle now. His video lecture was just that inspiring, as was his story, up to his death.