Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reading recommendations: Underrated or little-known books

It's a new year and I'm sure we're all on the lookout for some good books to read in the coming months. And if you're not sure what should be next on your reading list, may I recommend some books that are underrated or not as well known as they should be? You'll see some familiar author names here, but you may not know the titles.

Boys and Girls Together - William Goldman
Years before he brought us the story of Wesley and Buttercup, and before he made us all a little bit nervous about going to the dentist, William Goldman gave us a fantastic story of five ordinary young people brought to their fates - and in some cases their dooms - by the city of New York. It's sprawling yet intimate, often heartbreaking, and occasionally funny.

Cavedweller - Dorothy Allison
Dorothy Allison's second (and to this date, last) novel hasn't the raw power of her debut Bastard Out of Carolina, and it loses its narrative focus halfway through, but it is still a remarkable tale of sisterhood, family, and healing the heart. When her rock star ex-husband dies in a motorcycle crash, singer Delia Byrd takes her daughter Cissy back to Delia's small hometown in Georgia, to reunite with Delia's two other daughters from her abusive first marriage. Though not without its dark moments, it's a much more optimistic book than Bastard Out of Carolina.

Til We Have Faces - C. S. Lewis
Though not nearly as well known as the Narnia books or The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis' retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth is fascinating. Told from the viewpoint of Psyche's sister Orual, it deftly addresses the question of faith and where the line is between loyalty to the divine and to the earthly.

Fevre Dream - George R. R. Martin
If you're waiting oh so patiently for the next book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, you could do worse than to read this intriguing mix of 19th-century riverboats and vampires. Yes, you read that correctly. Martin not only makes this unlikely combination work, but he does so while skewering the tropes of vampire fiction and ending things in a way you don't quite expect. It doesn't have the sprawl, scope, or grandeur of the Westeros books, but is still a fine read.

The Getaway - Jim Thompson
I'm cheating a bit, as The Getaway isn't really that unknown of a Thompson book. But The Grifters and The Killer Inside Me get all the press, so I want to stump for The Getaway. Married criminals Doc and Carol pull off the proverbial last big score without much of a hitch - it's escaping to safety (a South American town that's a semi-legendary haven for criminals) that's the hard part. Bad luck, miscalculations, and distrust escalate into a grim, almost existential final chapter that's unlike anything else I've read in crime fiction.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

More reviews for Undertow!

This year my Christmas was particularly merry, as bloggers reviewed my new mystery, Undertow.

The Reading Cafe says, "[Kelly Cozy] blew me away again." Read full review.

The Book Bag says, "it kept me on the edge of my seat." Read full review.

Book Bag Lady says, "It was suspenseful and exhilarating all at the same time." Read full review.

Ciska's Book Chest says, "Cozy knows how to create characters and set atmosphere." Read full review.

I am very grateful to all of these bloggers for reading my book and sharing their thoughts on it with their readers.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Author Panel: The Joys and Trials of Self-Publishing

Save the date: Saturday, December 13 at 3 p.m., I'll be on the panel of The Joys and Trials of Self-Publishing (along with fellow authors Sam Culotta and Bradley Kim). We'll be talking about the importance of self-promotion, our writing processes, the role of ebooks, and much more.

Join us at the Charter Oak Library in Covina, CA (20540 "K" Arrow Highway). Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Update: A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema

For those of you who know me more for my movie reviews, there's good news. My book of reviews, titled A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema, will hit the shelves in early 2015. I'll post the release date here as soon as that's nailed down.

The book will have reviews of 200 cult classics, interesting failures, and overlooked gems. And to get your appetite whetted, here's a sample of some of the movies reviewed:

  • All That Jazz
  • The Big Red One
  • Caligula
  • The Devils
  • Excalibur
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet
  • Gymkata
  • Henry and June
  • Ice Castles
  • Jaws
  • King of New York
  • The Last Wave
  • Miami Connection
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Omen
  • Phantom of the Paradise
  • The Reflecting Skin
  • Sideways
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  • Under the Skin
  • Valhalla Rising
  • Watership Down
  • Xtro
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Zabriskie Point

The full list will be posted here closer to publication date. I'm hoping to have a cover reveal before the end of this year. Keep on the lookout!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Undertow paperback now on sale!

Good news for the print loyalists! The paperback edition of Undertow is now available (ebook readers need to wait til Tuesday). Take a look and buy yourself a copy if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One from the vaults: Reflections on Pink Floyd's The Final Cut

My favorite band, Pink Floyd, have just released The Endless River, their first album since 1994. I won't be hearing it until most likely Christmas (big hint: it's on my Amazon wish list). But the combination of overcast weather and Veterans' Day created the appropriate mood for one of their unjustly overlooked albums: The Final Cut.

The Final Cut was doomed to be a failure (though most artists should be so lucky as to have such a failure on their resumes). To understand why, a little history is in order: It was originally intended to be an add-on to the film adaptation of The Wall, giving a vinyl home to songs that were either substantially revised for or entirely new to the film. In fact, the 45 release of "When the Tigers Broke Free" shows stills from The Wall movie and says it's from the upcoming album The Final Cut. But chief songwriter Roger Waters, angered by the Falkland Islands War and what he saw as a betrayal of what World War II soldiers (including his father) fought and died for, created an entirely new album. This turn of events was complicated by the fact that the band itself was in nearly complete disarray, with its internal power struggles and personality conflicts having reached their peak. The result is a somewhat awkward and uneven but emotionally powerful song cycle about the price of war and what happens when we fail to honor the sacrifices of the fallen.

The album gets off to an uneven start with "The Post-War Dream" and "Your Possible Pasts." The former opens with some classic use of sound effects: passing cars, news radio reports, and the strangely ominous sound of someone slowly counting out coins. The lyrics are less successful than they might be, when Waters' impassioned plea to know if the current state of affairs in England is really what soldiers fought and died for is marred by a bizarre tangent about shipbuilding getting outsourced to Japan. The issues with the second song, "Your Possible Pasts," are different - the lyrics are interesting and point toward squandered opportunities, but the muddled imagery muffles the effect. Fortunately, the song features some excellent Hammond organ work (its "church-y" sound is perfect for the album's elegiac tone) and the first of several scorching guitar solos by Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

The album hits a powerful stride with its next few songs. "One of the Few" presents us with the character of an unnamed World War II veteran who, traumatized by his war experience, finds a living as a teacher and starts shaping the next generation. This, of course, is a take on the famous abusive schoolteacher from The Wall, and in the next few songs Waters gives a surprising amount of characterization and empathy to the character. "The Hero's Return" takes us back into Wall territory not only in its study of the veteran/teacher but in its driving, angry music; in "The Gunner's Dream" we learn one reason for the veteran/teacher's trauma - hearing a soldier's dying words, said words being a wish for his death not to have been in vain, and for a better society to have come from this war.Of course, this wish hasn't come true.

If the album's first half ends on a somewhat anticlimactic note with "Paranoid Eyes" - a nice study of isolation but nothing too essential - the second half literally starts with a bang. Featuring one of the band's most memorable song titles (no mean feat from a group that gave us "Careful With that Axe, Eugene" and "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave and Grooving With a Pict"), "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert" opens with a very distant voice screeching the title words. The screecher's only answer is a disinterested "What'd he say?" followed by the whoosh and explosion of a missile. A deliciously satirical violin section leads us into a vignette about the present-day (of 1983) conflicts, taking to task current world leaders. This theme continues into the next song, "The Fletcher Memorial Home." Furious yet elegiac, the song proposes that bloodthirsty politicians and leaders be put in a special home (named for Waters' father) "for incurable wasters of life and limb." Past sacrifice and present futility are present in "Southampton Dock," which juxtaposes soldiers' return from World War II with a pledge "to sheathe the sacrificial knives" with Margaret Thatcher sending a new generation to die in the Falklands, not out of necessity but to hold on to the "slippery reins" of power.

It's a curious contradiction of the album that its next song, "The Final Cut," is something of a misstep, yet it's not just my favorite song on the album, it's one of my favorite Floyd songs of all time. The song doesn't really fit in with the overall themes of the album, and it's here (and with the next song, "Not Now John") that the album's origins as an add-on to The Wall become apparent. The music for the song "The Final Cut" is a direct ripoff of/homage to The Wall's "Comfortably Numb," complete with string section and achingly beautiful guitar solo; its lyrics tell of depression, isolation, and a desperate need for love (not so much for its own sake but to keep the demons at bay). The album then takes a sharp right turn into the raucous, belligerent "Not Now John," which dismisses all the issues raised by the album so far with a curt "Fuck all that." After all, there's no time for worrying about the failure of the post-war dream when there's the need to "bring the Russian bear to his knees...Make us feel tough and wouldn't Maggie be pleased." There's something curiously cathartic about the song, not so much for its own merits (it's a bit of a muddle and Gilmour, in his sole vocal role on the album, doesn't sound very enthusiastic) but for its sheer aggression and volume. 

But reflections and rage alike may well mean nothing, if the album's last song holds true. "Two Suns in the Sunset" is one of the more mellow takes on nuclear apocalypse, painting it with the simple yet horrifying imagery of a "sun" appearing where no sun has any right to be. Perhaps the song's quiet take on Armageddon is one of resignation, a "can't stop what's coming" tone that perfectly captures the mood of that era - the feeling that we were all just one international crisis away from world destruction. Waters seems to reflect this also in returning to the same sounds of news reports and passing cars that opened the album - not only a typical Floydian "isn't this where we came in" moment but also a reflection of the (at the time) feeling that such an end was inevitable. 

Though the album overall is slightly confused in its themes (one gets the feeling that it was written in a great burst of emotional catharsis), and hampered by the music not quite jelling at times (due no doubt to the extremely fractured state of the band - at times it's practically a Waters solo album), there's no denying the raw emotional power it often wields. Surprisingly, one of its strongest points is Waters' vocals; if you're on board with his vocal style (and you'd be well forgiven if you weren't as they're definitely an acquired taste) you'll find he's at his peak, with his obvious sincerity and passion for the material outweighing his limitations as a singer. I'm particularly fond of his enunciation: No one can work every syllable of a word like Waters when he's on a roll, as in the way he says the word "hallucination."  Likewise the lyrics, for the most part, are quite good. The political insights won't be much beyond what you can find in the Sunday editorial page, but there's excellent imagery throughout, and a depth of characterization that hadn't been seen in Waters' lyrics since his portrayal of the ruthless businessman in "Dogs" from the Animals album. And though the music does have its issues, the album is blessed with some lovely keyboard and piano work, and several great guitar solos, one of which (the one for the title track) is a personal all-time favorite.

It's a flawed album, without question. Yet it captures a moment in time that's worth revisiting, and it taps into powerful feelings of loss and of earning the sacrifice that those who've protected us have offered. It's not an album I revisit often, as it is quite possibly the most depressing album in the Floyd canon (which is saying quite a bit). But when the circumstances are right, it offers an emotional experience unlike any other album in the band's repertoire.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Interview at The Cult of Me blog

Care to know a little bit more about me and my books? No? Well, there is an interview with me over at The Cult Of Me, for your reading enjoyment.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Literary pet peeves

I was thinking the other day of some things that annoy me in fiction. In general, I'm a pretty forgiving reader. Plot coincidences? Sure, as long as they work within the context of the story. Occasionally clunky writing? As long as the storytelling is sincere and I'm engaged with the characters, I'll allow it. But there are a few things that really bug me.

"Because I Said So" Relationships: Character interactions are important to me. As a reader, I need to have an understanding of why characters are friends, enemies, lovers, etc. It doesn't have to be spelled out for me in letters three feet high. All I need is for the character relationships to feel believable and organic. But sometimes there will be interactions that just don't seem to work. For example, one character is deeply fascinated with another and wants to learn more about that person, but the reader doesn't see what makes the person so fascinating. This is the peeve I'm most lenient on — heck, there are people in my own family whose relationships leave me scratching my head.

"Eye of the Hurricane" Characters: Often found in "Because I Said So" Relationships, these characters have interesting things happen around them, and to them. Yet the characters themselves are not interesting. Oftentimes these characters are not so much people in their own right, but catalysts for the other characters' growth and actions. It's especially unfortunate when this not-to-interesting character is the main character — it gives the book a hollow feel.

The Character Arc Loop-De-Loop: This is the peeve I cannot let slide. Few things irritate me more than when a character, who's been established as behaving a certain way, decides to behave a radically different way just to keep the plot moving. This is not to say that characters can't change. They can, and should, but the change has to be organic, and dictated by what has happened to them over the course of the novel. A previously taciturn character should not suddenly become talkative and sassy just because a talkative-and-sassy character would have livened things up. A character who's been established as having strong views on a certain topic should not suddenly change those views in order to take the plot in a given direction. There are some books that I used to enjoy a great deal until on a re-read I realized they had the Character Arc Loop-De-Loop, and my affection for those books has waned a great deal.

Readers, what are some of your literary pet peeves?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

One week left! Enter the giveaway over at The Book Bag

The Book Bag blog is celebrating 1000 posts with a big giveaway. There's a week left to enter for the chance to win a variety of books. What are you waiting for?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ashes ebook on sale for 99 cents!

Looking for a good read at a great price? Ashes, book 1 in my two-book suspense series, is on sale for 99 cents through October 12. It's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords. Why not get yourself a copy, or gift it to a friend?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

1000th post celebration and giveaway at The Book Bag

The ever-awesome Susan at The Book Bag is celebrating her 1000th blog post with a massive giveaway. Be sure to take a look at all the books available (including a copy of The Day After Yesterday) and enter to win!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kindle edition of Undertow available for pre-order

My mystery Undertow will be released on November 18, but if you're a Kindle reader you can pre-order your copy!

There will also be a print edition, and it will be available at release time for Nook, iBook, and Kobo e-readers. More details to come!