Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Thinning Years by Jon Derek Croteau

Synopsis From Back Cover:

As a child, Jon Derek Croteau tried desperately to be his father's version of the all-American boy, denying his gayness in a futile attempt to earn the love and respect of an abusive man.  With this he built a deep, internalized homophobia that made him want to disappear rather than live with the truth about himself.  That denial played out in the form of anorexia, bulimia, and obsessive running, which consumed his as an adolescent and young adult.

It wasn't until a grueling yet transformative Outward Bound experience that Jon began to face his sexual identity. This exploration continued during college, and he started the serious work of sorting through years of repressed anger to separate from his father's control and condemnation.

My Thinning Years is an inspiring story of courage, creativity, and the will to live - and of recreating the definition of family to include friends, relatives, and teachers who support you in realizing your true self.

Going into it, I knew this was going to be a hard book for me to read.  I think I even said no a few times, before finally agreeing to review the book.  And now that I'm sitting down, in front of my computer, typing up my review, part of me is wishing that I had gone ahead with my first instinct.  This was a hard book to read, it brought a lot of long buried emotions to the forefront, and it's left me feeling a little drained.  At the end of the day though, I'm glad I took the time to read it. It was a hard journey, but at the end of it all, like all stories of it's kind, it's as life affirming as anything else you will come across.

I didn't face the same issues Jon did, my father wasn't around and I never looked down on myself for being gay, but that doesn't mean I had it easy.  I think like many GBLT kids, I had a hard time dealing with what I was feeling, and couldn't understand all the thoughts running through my head.  For years I would pray before I went to bed, that if my being gay was wrong, I would rather die in my sleep.  I didn't want to be gay, I didn't understand why I was gay, but I knew I was from a young age, and over time, I grew to accept it.  I still wrestled with depression and contemplated suicide a few times.  I even went as far as making some half-hearted attempts at cutting my wrist with a pair of scissors.  But in the end, through some early acceptance of a few trusted people, I grew to realize that the only choice I had was in accepting my sexuality, or living a miserable life denying it.

Reading, or hearing, another's story, tends to bring all those long buried emotions back to the surface.  It's the reason why I initially turned down the invitation to read this book, those aren't pleasant memories, and I don't particularly like remembering them.  But I think what Jon did, what any of us do when we share our stories, is reaffirm an essential truth; that our lives are worth something, that regardless of the journey that was forced upon us, that the end result it worth all the pain, regardless of it was self inflicted or imposed on us by others.  By sharing his story, Jon has reaffirmed that an honest life is worth living, being true to yourself is the worthiest life goal there is.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children.  Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, and was drawn to his fiery passion.  But now he's lashing out at her during one of his periodic verbal furies.  She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids - which works to keep a fragile peace - until one rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

August 2nd, 2010, was the day I reviewed The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers.  It was the day I was finally able to wax profusely on how much I loved the book, and how deeply I had fallen in love with the author's narrative voice.  That book is the whole reason I agreed to review Accidents of Marriage, which is not a book I would normally read.  But since I'm just about willing to read anything written by her, even if she had decided to publish her own phone book, there was no way I was going to pass this one up.

To be perfectly frank, if this book had been written by anyone else, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked it at all.  It's not the type of subject matter I normally get caught up in, especially since I always feel as if the husband is being given the short end of the stick in these types of stories.  And to be even more frank about it, while I think this book is written in the same narrative flow that The Murderer's Daughters was written in, I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much.

The difference for me is that I was able to relate to the subject matter in the first book.  It reflected some of my own past, so I got lost in the characters and their stories.  In Accidents of Marriage, I couldn't relate to most of what was going on, and to be even more honest, I found myself siding, if that is even a fair word to use, with Ben most of time.  I think the book was beautifully written, as is anything Randy Susan Meyers chooses to write, but I couldn't find that personal connection to it.

Off the top of my head, I can name about 50 people I know who would love this book, and would be able to connect wit the subject material.  I'm willing to admit that the issue here was me, and my inability to connect, which can not be blamed on the book.  I knew going into it that it probably wouldn't be the book for me, and I was right.  At the same time, I'm glad I read the book, and I would make the same decision over again.  Randy Susan Meyers is a fantastically gifted writer, and she is one that I will always choose to read, regardless of whether or not I end loving it as much as I did The Murderer's Daughters.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Favorite Fictional Character --- Mighty Mouse

I can't believe this will be the last post of my superhero month.  I was racking my brain trying to figure out who I wanted to end with, and I had so many running through my brain.  It was really hard for me to select one, but I ended up going with one that I've loved since I started watching cartoons.  I was so fascinated with this guy, and I loved the idea that he didn't have some complicated back story.  He was Mighty Mouse, no other identity or story was needed.  That's it.  He was a hero all the time.  He was the coolest mouse, and I knew he could kick Mickey Mouses's ass.

If I was being completely honest, I still think Mighty Mouse was way cooler than Superman.  He could do the same things Superman could, but he was so much smaller.  So in my head, that meant Mighty Mouse was stronger, and could kick Superman's butt as well.  Now I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be the case, but I would love to see it happen.  Truth be told, I've never been a huge Superman fan.

The other thing I loved about the cartoons was the way that Mighty Mouse, and most of the characters for that matter, was the way that they sang the entire time. It was this little operatic adventure story, that could enthrall me for long periods of time.  I didn't care about his love interests, mainly because I was too damn young to care,   I didn't even care that much for the villains, most of them were stock cats who were interchangeable.   But the singing, that grabbed, and kept my attention.  

Occasionally I will find an old Mighty Mouse cartoon on TV or as part of a old time cartoon DVD collection, and I'm just as entranced now as I was then.  I wish they still made cartoons like this, instead of the crap that is produced now.  I'm pretty sure cartoons will never be this good again, but the inner child in me, will always wish for it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Synopsis From Back Cover:

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back form sleeping barrow kings.  I burned down the town of Trebon.  I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life.  I was expelled form the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in.  I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day.  I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

I'll be the first to admit that I suck at reviewing fantasy books.  I can't even begin to tell you why that is.  I'm not sure if it's because, and this is accurate of pretty much all the fantasy I read, of the sheer scope of what most fantasy authors are able to do.  It's just not a story they are telling, they are creating a whole other world.  They have to, to the smallest details, figure out what this world is like.  They have to be able to come up with whole new religions, nations, races, languages, lineages, histories, animals, currencies, and the list could go on forever.  It's the sheer size of what is being created, that makes me cave under pressure.  I'm never comfortable in my ability to review, or even simply talk about what I thought of everything involved.

What I can say about The Name of the Wind, is that while I know a lot of work went into building the world Kvothe inhabits, I have to admit that I couldn't see it.  I couldn't see where the author had to struggle and strive towards creating this place.  I couldn't see the blood, sweat, and tears involved in creating an entire world from scratch.  The narrative is so smooth, you forget that everything you are reading is made up.  Kvothe tells his story in such a way, that I forgot it wasn't a real autobiography.  I bought into the whole thing. I willing suspended my disbelief after the first few pages, which was when this emotionally powerful narrative took over.

I'm not not normally enthralled in a fantasy world.  Even when I really enjoy the world an author has created, I'm always aware that this is a make believe place.  Before Kvothe, the only other fantasy character that I had fallen this in love with was Vanyel Ashkevron, the title character in Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage trilogy.  They are the only two examples, of when I was able to forget I was reading a fantasy story.  I've gotten to see Vanyel's story through the end, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Kvothe's.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio Goes Eurodancing

Not sure why I'm wanting to listen to Eurodance right now, but it's what's on my mind.  I think because I've been in such a crappy mood today, that I needed something to get my mind off of it.  For those of you who weren't paying attention to the music scene in the 90s, Eurodance was everywhere.  It was on the radio and in the clubs, and it was a ton of fun to dance too.  I find myself turning to it when I'm needing a pick me up, so I thought I would share some of what I've been listening too for the last few hours.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Covenant - 2006

Synopsis From Back Cover:

To the students of the Spenser Academy, the Sons of Ipswich are the baddest boys on campus.  But that's not all they share.  The four friends also share a 300-year-old secret: they're warlocks, the teenage descendants of a 17th century coven of witches.  So when the long-banished fifth son suddenly appears and threatens to kill their loved one, they realize they must face their enemy in order to prevent him from stealing their powers and shattering the covenant forever.

Sometimes all a movie needs to be good, at least good enough for me to watch a few times, are a few pretty faces.  The Covenant is full of them, even if only two of them really caught my eye.

Steven Strait plays Caleb Danvers, the hero of this little story.  Caleb, who is the oldest of the friends, is about to come into his full powers, but they come with a price.  Once they reach the right age, every time they use their powers, it's ages them.  He is the most reluctant of the friends to use them, and it seems all he wants to do is swim and meet a nice girl and settle down.  He is constantly reminded of the price of his powers, as it has turned his father into a old man, forced to hide in their ancestral home, deep in the woods.

Sebastian Stan plays Chase Collins, the black sheep who seems to have come home.  Chase grew up without the benefit of knowing his history, and seems to be a little power hungry.  He killed his adoptive parents when he came into his powers, and it seems he has become a little addicted to the rush.  He comes across as Mr. Nice Guy at first, but it doesn't take long before his true colors start to shine through.  Pretty soon he is kidnapping Caleb's blond girlfriend, and trying to force Caleb to give him his powers.

Who the other characters are is really not important, they are pretty much pawns that get moves around the screen.  They are there for the other two characters to interact with, fall in love with (not very believably), and use.  Sure they are pretty and look good on screen, but the other two have them beat hands down.

The movie itself is pretty fun, as long as you don't try to take it too seriously, or over think the plot points.  There are holes in it of course, but I don't know of a pretty boy horror movie that doesn't.  The acting is better than is the norm in this type of movie, and the special affects are as good as you expect from a movie made in 2006.  The fight scene at the end is a lot of fun to watch, and not only because the two guys are drenched.  It's well choreographed, and has just enough tension in it, to keep it from being repetitive.

This is probably only the third time I've seen the movie.  I saw it once at the theater. and once when I first bought it on DVD.  I can't foresee myself watching this one all the time, but it's a fun way to spend 97 minutes of my time, especially when I want to watch a couple of hot guys fight it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Space Ghost

I was a cartoon addict as a kid, and one of my favorite channels was USA.  Does anyone else remember Cartoon Express?  If I'm remembering right, they had a weekday version, and a weekend version.  I watched it every change I got, and it's the reason I'm so in love with cartoons that really were before my time.  Give me The Herculoids over Ren & Stimpy, any day.  I still have a lot of fond memories over the days I spent on my grandmother's living room floor, switching the dial to USA, and getting lost in cartoon worlds.

On of the shows I loved featured Space Ghost and his teenage sidekicks, Jan & Jace.  And you can't forget that damn monkey, Blip.  I'm so not a fan of inhuman sidekicks, and Blip is a large part of the reason why.  He was so frickin annoying.  I could handle Jan & Jace, especially since they seemed to keep the stoic Space Ghost from becoming to full himself.

And he was a little full of himself.  I'm not talking about that horrible talk show parody they stuck him in, I couldn't handle it.  I can never watch one of my favorite childhood characters, turned into a joke.  I much prefered him when he was racing across space, protecting planets form destruction, and beating his regular cast of bad guys.

I even liked his bad guys.  They were different, and while they seem kind of hokey to me now, they were really cool when I was a kid.  Moltar, Zorak, Black Widow, Metallus, and Brak, how I love you guys.  I used to pretend I was along for the ride, when Space Ghost would kick your asses.  The adventures were something I could get lost in, and let me imagine a world where right always wins, and the bad guys always lose.  That false sense of rightness is why I love cartoons, and why I love superheroes so much.  Even if the good guys suffer a defeat, you always know that they will some how land on top.