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Friday Fun! (June: Vacation at the Races)

The motorcycle race track has many turns and elevation changes to be more interesting for the racers.

The motorcycle race track has many turns and elevation changes to be more interesting for the racers.

Hello my lovely readers!

After the busyness of May, I was incredibly grateful to have a whole week off in the month of June!  My bf only had half the week off, so at the start of the week I spring cleaned (umm….in June), made my favorite pie (strawberry-rhubarb), and got ready for our camping trip at the races.  My bf’s hobby is racing motorcycles, and when he goes to the track, he camps there.  Since I had the time off, I was able to go with him.  I’m not able to go every time, unfortunately.  I was so excited to get to be there! I love getting to see him race!  It’s so exciting, and I love that his hobby is so unique and requires such a complex skill set, from actually riding to maintaining the bike.  I also love camping and camping at the track is a wonderful different kind of camping.  The excitement of being at the track and hanging out with the racers and their families and pit crews around the campfire at night is so much fun.  My dad bought us a grill, so I was finally able to cook most of our foods at the track.  I took to pinterest and discovered lots of fun things you can grill.  I made us grilled tofu tacos, grilled quesadillas, breakfast of course, and, our favorite, zucchini parmesan.  I loved getting to spend so much time on one of my hobbies while supporting my boyfriend’s.

With my vacation in there, I’m pleased with how many book reviews I managed to write this month (eight).  I had dubbed June the month of reading ARCs, and I managed to get through four of them this month, taking my total number of TBR ARCs down to 16.  I finished designing a new cross-stitch pattern, but I have yet to post it since it is a present, and the recipient has yet to receive it!  This month I’ll be working on my first commission.  I’m excited to show it to you guys when I’m finished.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Gone by Bryan Alaspa

November 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Image of a yellow tent in blackness.Summary:
A newly formed company’s owners decide that what the small group of employees need is a bonding camping trip.  Bear isn’t a fan of camping, but he agrees to go along anyway.  When the site is more rural than he was anticipating, he starts to question his decision.  When they wake up the first morning and find one member of the party missing, he’s sure he made a mistake coming camping.  On each successive morning, another camper is gone.  Who is taking them and why?

Review:
I picked this up, along with seven other books, during Smashwords’ 2012 Summer/Winter Sale.  I’ve always enjoyed the classic horror trope of we-all-go-to-the-woods-and-shit-gets-real, so I was intrigued to see what Alaspa did with it.  There’s enough different in the plot to keep you reading, in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing.

People disappearing from their tents and leaving their clothes behind, one per night, is a nice subtle change to what one generally sees in the everyone in the woods story.  Usually people get eaten by zombies or axe murdered or something obvious.  A simple disappearance was different enough that I was genuinely curious as to what was causing these odd disappearances.  Added into this are the methods used by whoever is doing the abducting to keep the campers in their campsite.  They try to paddle away but the currents mysteriously change.  They try to walk away through the woods but the trees attack them, etc…  These methods worked within the context of the supernatural seeming disappearances.  I also liked that their supernatural experimenters make it impossible for them to get hurt, so they are forced to wait their turn.  It all felt a bit like a subtly done allegory for animals in a slaughterhouse, and it kept me reading and engaged.

The only element of the plot that didn’t work for me is that the first person to disappear from the group is also the only person of color in the group.  Having the Latino guy be the first one to disappear is so stereotypical and B-movie that I actually cringed.  Let poor Carlos be at least the second one to disappear. Or, heck, make him be one of the last ones standing.  Getting to play with the regular tropes of whatever genre you write in is one of the benefits of indie writing, so use that to your advantage.

Unfortunately, some of the writing style on the sentence level isn’t up to the same level as the intricate plot.  There is quite a bit of telling instead of showing.  Not enough trusting the reader to get it.  There are some awkward and puzzling sentences in the book as well:

The ground was wet and my hands were damp when I put my hands on it. (loc 616)
The hand turned into fingers and slammed the lids of my eyes closed. (loc 2809)

Additionally, I started counting the number of errors that were clearly not typos, and I got over 30.  I fully expect some errors to get through, they tend to even in traditionally published works, but I find anything over 5 to 10 to be excessive and feel more like a first draft than a fully done, ready to publish work.

On the other hand, there are portions of the sentence-level writing that are eloquent and beautiful to read.  Particularly, any instance where characters are having sex is quite well-written, and I would be interested to read work from Alaspa focused more on romance or erotica.

When she touched the part of me that was hard and eager I nearly exploded. (loc 1828)

Overall, this book contains a strong horror/thriller plot that will keep the reader engaged in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing and a few too many textual errors.  I recommend it to horror readers who are intrigued by the plot and don’t mind these short-comings.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Smashwords

Buy It

Friday Fun! (June: Let’s Talk About Motorcycle Racing Because That Was the Best Part of June)

Motard burning out for the crowd on his cool-down lap.

Motard burning out for the crowd on his cool-down lap.

Hello my lovely readers!

Well, July just snuck right up on me.  I even accidentally tried to use my old monthly pass on the T.  June was so busy, it just flew right by!

The most exciting thing I got to do this month was I got to take an extra long weekend and go see my boyfriend race in the 90th annual Loudon Classic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway!  Of course, I got to see all the other races too, but the best part was finally getting to see him race and be his umbrella girl and pit crew. 🙂  The racers generally camp at the track, and when we got there, they let me in as family of a racer, which made all of my insides squee, since that was the first time we were called family.  I helped him set up the camp and met his racer friends.  It’s incredible. Everyone is so competitive on the track but the direct opposite in the camp.  Our neighbors gave us coffee every morning, and we shot the shit around the campfire every night.  When our neighbor had a crash (very common in motorcycle racing), my bf immediately gave him tools and various other things to help fix it, and I knew that everyone would do the same for him.

So what did I do as pit crew?  Mostly I helped him put the tire warmers on the motorcycle and helped him get the bike on and off the stand.  Also I was the pep talk and cheerleader, obviously.  Tire warmers are these blanket like things that you put on the wheels of the motorcycle to keep the rubber warm.  Warmer rubber makes for better traction.  You have to pull them off right before going to the pit to grid up.  (Frankly, I thought they looked like wheel condoms.  Yeah, I said it).  Also, track bikes don’t have kickstands, so you have to put the bike on this lever-like stand separate from it (see one here), and it’s much easier for the racer to be on the bike already and have someone else release it from the stand.  Someone else would have helped him if I wasn’t there, but it was fun to get to do it for him.  I also got to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams and be his umbrella girl.  When the bikes are waiting in the pit to enter the track, it can be really hot, since they are in full gear in direct sun.  So some racers have “umbrella girls” (who can be either gender, actually) to hold an umbrella over them to keep them cool until it’s time to enter the track.  So I got to meet up with him in the pit grid and do that, and it was really fun to be that close to the actual track and talk to him right before his race.

Since this was the 90th annual Loudon Classic, there were a couple of special events.  There were sidecar racers, mini cars that ran on motorcycle engines, and a motard race.  The sidecar race is incredible.  In order to go at track speeds with a sidecar, the person in the sidecar, called a monkey, has to throw their body weight around from left to right to help with the corners.  It is incredibly difficult to explain, so just watch this video if you want to understand why it’s so badass.  Motards are dirt bikes outfitted with street tires.  The motard racers got to go off the track onto the grass, through the trees, and use a jump.  You can see one of the racers burning out in the photo above.  A lot of racers will do tricks during the cool-down lap at the portions of the track where there are spectators.

I learned so much by going to the track. I learned that crashes on the track are usually not that big of a deal because the racers are wearing full gear.  Our neighbor was in two crashes, one was a 5-bike pile-up, and all he had wrong with him was a cut on his pinky and a pulled shoulder.  I also learned that racing isn’t the crazy, testosterone-filled sport it’s thought to be.  It’s a fun, low-key, supportive environment.  Although, that doesn’t take away from its sexiness.  If anything the camaraderie of the racers makes the whole thing sexier.  It’s all the sexiness of motorcycles mixed with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  Kind of the direct opposite of your typical Harley crew.

Oh, I also learned that partners of racers are called “racer chasers,” and I am deeply amused by the fact that you can now call me that.  Amanda. Writer. Blogger. Racer Chaser.

Also, I’ve officially told my bf that I want to learn to sidecar race, and we’re planning on building a mock practice sidecar to practice on this winter in the garage. So hopefully one day you can add sidecar monkey to that list. 😛

Friday Fun! (Camping and Where I Have Been!)

September 15, 2012 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

Yes, I realize it’s technically Saturday, but things have been rather quiet around here the last couple of weeks, and I didn’t want to leave you hanging any longer!  So why have things been so quiet?

Well, first, it was Labor Day weekend here in the States, and I actually for once went on vacation for it. Shocking, I know.  I went camping in the Green Mountains.  This was the view from my tent:

Gorgeous, eh?  And it was such a great break!  Zero technology. My cell phone didn’t even have reception.  I got disgustingly filthy, and I loved it.  I went for a swim in the pond and for a hike and cooked over a campfire.

Oh, yes, and the boy I’ve been dating asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes. 😀 He’s an awesome boyfriend, and I love him.

Beyond the vacation and personal development, it’s the start of the semester at work, so I’ve been incredibly busy with beginning of the semester library classes, orientations, and just general helping out the new students.  Also, the audiobook I’m currently reading while completely *awesome* (Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi), is also super-long.  The other book I was reading on my kindle that will be reviewed next week was kind of dullsville, so had trouble holding my interest.  All of these things came together to make for a bit of silence, BUT!  Never fear. I will always return! With bells on. 😀

Happy weekends all!

 

Friday Fun! (Camping and Biking)

July 16, 2010 4 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Thank you for being patient with my hiatus last week, and I hope you enjoyed the posts this week.

Last weekend I went camping in Vermont with my friends Nina and E.  I love so many things about camping–the fires, the food, the technology free time to talk, sleeping outside, the justification for using a hatchet.  We rocked out in the car on the way up, and they also got a chance to meet my family.  My brother taught them how to shoot rifles and pistols, and my dad made us dinner one night.  They continued on to Canada, and I took a bus back to Boston after visiting a bit more.  Unfortunately, the bus was around an hour late, so I wound up arriving at work exhausted the next day.

Yesterday it was finally cool enough to start biking again.  My legs only  lost a little bit of their strength, so that’s good.  My bike fell off its chain for the first time yesterday, and of course I had no idea how simple that is to fix.  I spent a few minutes grappling with the chain and getting covered with grease before discovering this lever you can push on to raise and loosen the chain and set it back on.  At least I knew enough to put it on the second circle since it was on the second gear.  So then I got to arrive on my bus connection covered with grease and got weird looks from the bus driver. It was awesome.   I took a risk biking this morning.  It’s cool now but is supposed to get up into the low 90s by this evening.  We shall see.

Happy weekends, all! How were your weekends?  Any good weekend plans?