Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Aloysius Snuffleupagus

Looking back on my childhood, you would think it would have been chock-full of imaginary friends.  Between the constant moving, and the lack of what most adults would call stability, I don't think anyone would have blamed me if I had a handful, or two, of made up playmates.  But looking back on it, I'm almost positive I didn't have a single one, at least not one I remember now.  If I did have one, and now can't remember them, I would like to take this time and apologize.  It would be a crappy, and an almost unforgivable, thing to do on my part.

No matter what, at least I wasn't in Big Bird's overly large shoes.  Who would want to have a real friend, only to be accused of having an imaginary friend instead?  It was years before any of the adults would start to believe that Big Bird's friend, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Snuffy for short, was a real friend.  I can't begin to imagine the frustration that both of them must have felt at times.

For those of you who don't know who Snuffy is, that's him above.  He rather looks like a woolly mammoth, sans tusks and ears, but he's not.  Snuffleupagus is not only his last name, but the name of his species as well. As a kid who loved Sesame Street, and what kid didn't, Snuffy was always one of the characters I looked forward to the most.  I knew that if he was on the screen, pre 1985, Big Bird was going to be getting in trouble pretty soon.  Snuffy, I think because of his size, always seemed to be getting into situations, and somehow those situations always fell back on Big Bird.  The adults never seemed to believe Big Bird, and though he was using his imaginary friend as a scapegoat.  It actually got pretty comical for a while, watching Snuffy disappear, seconds before the adults arrived on site.  Once the adults finally saw him, he was welcomed to Sesame Street, and became a regular denizen of the place.

I don't think the mischief the two of them found themselves in was my only draw to Snuffy, I think it was his size as well.   Despite his size, he's such a gentle soul.  Even now, I can imagine myself curling up against him for a nap, feeling safe and secure.  He looks like the best pillow imaginable, and to have a best friend as the perfect cuddler, would be perfection.  It's hard not to smile when I see a picture of him, or hear him say "Ohh, dear."  Snuffy is the perfect friend, imaginary or not. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Final Admission by Sue Brown

Synopsis From Publisher:

When Ethan Williams lands a job at Bingwell, Brock and Bacon, he realizes his coworkers aren't exaggerating about James Trenchard.  He really is a dick.  But after Ethan is forced to work closely with James, he realizes there's more to the lawyer than meets the eye. 

Vibrant Ethan is a desperate reason to live again as James endures silent guilt and abuse from his husband after an accident.  He calls Ethan for help after a beating, and stolen moments soon become the norm, but they can't hide forever. 

Ethan's coworkers think he got his promotion because James is sweet on him, James is still being beaten despite his family's concern, and the situation is swiftly becoming intolerable.  Ethan and James need to find a way out of the cycle that's hurting them both before their brand new loves suffers a well. 

I'll be the first to admit, that when I first started reading m/m romance novels a few years ago, I wasn't expecting much from them.  I had hoped I would be entertained by the stories, and at the least, be able to get lost in the romance unfolding on the page.  I wasn't even all that concerned about the hotness of the sex scenes, as most of the time, I tend to just skim through them.  I just wanted a few hours of mindless entertainment, and in a few cases, that's what I've gotten.  More often than not though, I have discovered some of the best written fiction out there, and it's not mindless.  So much of it explores themes I wasn't expecting in romance; abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, and a myriad of other subjects.  My eyes were first opened to what this genre can be when I first read The Tin Box by Kim Fielding.  As I've discovered additional authors, I've run across books that keeps opening my eyes, ones of those is Final Admission by Sue Brown

This isn't my first go around with this book, I've actually read it twice before, but because of some of the themes it explores, I was never ready to review it.  Truthfully, I'm still not sure my brain is fully on board, so I'm not totally sure if this is really going to be a review, as much as a rambling narrative of what this book made me think about, and how I reacted to it.  So I apologize if this post goes off on too many tangents, or ends up being incoherent.

Many of you guys know that I grew up in a rather abusive home.  I've hinted at it in different reviews and in explanations for different Favorite Fictional Character posts.  I've even let you guys in on the ongoing, internal conversation I have with myself as I try to figure out a way to let go of the pain of not only what my father did, but in the way I lost him.  Physically abusive relationships have always been a trigger for me in my reading, and viewing for that matter.  What I've never let you guys in on, is that for a brief moment in time, I found myself in an abusive relationship as well.

Much like James in Final Admission, I'm not a small guy, nor am I a pushover.  I'm pretty determined in what I want, and normally have no issue standing up for myself, at least that's the adult version of who I am.  Between 2000 and 2002, I was dating and living with a guy, that while I was never truly in love with him, I was never truly unhappy either.  He was actually a lot of fun when we first started dating, but once we moved in together it changed. He would disappear for hours at time, sometimes until 5 or 6 in the morning.  It was always, he was with a cousin, or in the prayer chapel at church, and I was dumb for not believing him.  Needless to say, after almost a year of that, I went out with friends, and met a hot guy in the Air Force.  Stupidly, I went home with him.  In my mind, I was ending the relationship I was in, and I was ready for it.

When I got home that morning, I was met with a fist.  Growing up in the home I was in, I always told myself I would never let that happen to me, but when you are confronted with it yourself, it's a different story altogether.  This was not the first time I had a guy hit, or try and choke me, but that first time, I didn't feel as if I deserved it, so I got rid of him quick, and never looked back. But this time I froze, and while I won't drag you through all the details, it continued in this fashion for six months. A part of me felt as if I deserved it, as if I brought it on myself, and in that regard, I can understand some of what James was going through.  Where James was feeling guilty for coming through the accident unscathed, when his husband not only had physical trauma, but brain damage as well, I blamed my actions for the way I was being treated.  I brought it on myself for going home with someone else, even though my relationship had been dead for a while.  What I didn't realize is that the emotional neglect, and I can say the emotional abuse, I had been living with for the prior year, conditioned me for the physical abuse that came later.

I never had to deal with the level of abuse James, or even my mom went through, so I know it could have been worse.  And I did eventually start fighting back, something James never felt he could do, as the guilt was too thick.  Where I'm a bit jealous of James, is in his relationship with Ethan. When he meets Ethan, a small part of him grabs the hope he represents. In Ethan, James, who has given up on being happy, and living to a degree, realizes that there is something else out there, another path to chose.  It's not smooth sailing for them by any stretch of the imagination, and I can't imagine what Ethan was mentally going through, but the hope they instill in each other is beautiful to see unfold on the page.

It's actually something I have yet to allow myself to have.  I have been completely single since 2002. I always want to blame my lack of time, my work schedule, or lack of interest, but it's really more about fear.  It's not just a fear of putting myself out there again, it's a fear of what's behind the veneer, once it's wiped away.  Everyone James works with, except for his cousin and his boss, thinks he has the perfect relationship with his husband.  Yes he's a flirt, who enjoys the attention he gets from others, though he normally keeps it's to the girls, but everyone thinks he's truly happy in his marriage. I don't know if his husband was a controlling dick before the relationship, and the brain damage took it to a whole other, horrible level, or if the accident completely changed his personality.  When your husband is trying to kill you, does it even matter.  I'm not sure, given my family and personal history, when I'm going to be ready to take that risk again.  I'm not sure you can ever truly know what another person is capable of, or of who they truly are.  It's that uncertainty I have to let go of, and I have James as a role model to follow.  And yes I know this is fiction, that James and Ethan aren't real people, but seeing a path forward, even a fictional one, is enough to give me hope that I'll be ready someday.

On the short review side of things, please don't think this is a dark or depressing book, because it's not. Yes, it does have some darker moments, but remember, this is a romance novel.  In Ethan and James, you have two men who are drawn together, who truly do end up loving each other.  I won't get into all the details, because I want you guys to read the story for yourselves, but it's a gorgeously written love story.  There are a few hiccups along the way, other than those dealing with James' husband, and while I don't think I would have handled the separation in the way Ethan did, I get the reasons behind it.  The nature of an office romance is well fleshed out, and the ending scene is brilliantly staged.  This is a love story with hope at it's core, and it's one I know I'll end up reading a few more times.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Out Sick

Sorry I haven't posted anything since Saturday, but I've been fighting a severe cold since Monday.  I didn't leave bed the first two days, and I've used up all my energy since then to get through work.  I'm starting to feel a bit better, so I'm hoping I'll have the energy to get some posts written soon.  I have a few reviews ready to be written, and a few other posts planned for next week, so I'll see you guys then.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shakespeare Turned 400 Today! Let's Celebrate With A Giveaway of Worlds Elsewhere by Andrew Dickson!

Today, April 23rd, 2016, marks William Shakespeare's 400th birthday! Incidentally, it's also the anniversary of his death.  In celebration, I have a copy of Worlds Elsewhere: Journeys Around Shakespeare's Globe by Andrew Dickinson, provided by Henry Holt, to give away.

If you ever wanted to know how Shakespeare's fascination with travel, though he never went anywhere, influenced his work, this is the book for you.  But it's more than that, it's also a journey through time as the world has embraced him and his works, of how different cultures have interpreted and assimilated his work into their societies.  It's a fascinating book, and one that I'm still digging into.  I will have a review coming up shortly, but for now, I'm hoping you guys are ready to find out how to get your own copy. 

All you have to do is leave a comment, telling me a personal tidbit about your relationship with Shakespeare.  It's open to interpretation, so I'm looking forward to reading your comments.  Please leave an email address that I can contact you with, if you are the winner.  Sadly, this is only open to U.S. Residents.  The giveaway will run until 11:59 pm CST, on 5/7/2016.  The winner will be selected by random draw, and I will contact the winner by email. The winner will then have 4 days to get in touch with me, before I draw a new winner.  

So good luck, and if you want to read more about the book, please visit the website at: 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R.I.P. Prince, 1958-2016

It's not often that a cultural icon, beloved by millions around the world, comes around.  As a kid, growing up in the 80s, there was a ton of great music to get lost in. Pop music was at it's most diverse, and I think at it's most creative.  It was the decade that launched Michael Jackson into super stardom, and gave rise to Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Prince.  As of today, only one of those icons is still with us.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the artist who would become a one word household name, started off in life with nothing, but has left behind one of the largest and most diverse music legacies of the modern era.

This was an artist who wrote, produced, and performed every hit he ever had.  He not only wrote music for himself, but wrote and produced hundreds of hit songs for other artists, including Chaka Khan and Patti Labelle.  There wasn't an instrument he couldn't play to perfection, including the guitar, just as Eric Clapton what he thought of his playing.

For myself, I have a love/hate relationship with him.  I adore his music from the 80s and early 90s.  If he had a hit during that time, I loved it; "Little Red Corvette", "Raspberry Beret", "Kiss", "When Doves Cry", "Get Off", "Batdance", "Erotic City", the list could go on forever.  I respected and appreciated the way he bent the norms of masculinity and sexuality, pushing the envelope further with every release.  That's the love side of me when it comes to him.

The hate side, or strongly dislike side, is how his views changed later on in life.  In 2008, years after he became a Jehovah's Witness, he came out against gay men, using God as a reason.  He stopped playing the hits, at least the sexually suggestive ones that catapulted him to stardom, and he re-released songs, with the naughtier lyrics taken out. Those last two points, other than turning his back on his own legacy, don't bother me all to much.  It's that first one that's a sticking point to me.  It's not so much that he had his own religious views, we are all entitled to them, it's the way he condemned a large section of his fan base, a fan base that helped him become the cultural icon he was.  There is no way you can argue that Prince would have risen to the heights he did, without his gay fans. To take our money for years, to use lyrics validating the feelings that many of us grew up feeling, only to slap us in the face all those years later, it's a little jarring.

I'm still a fan, I still appreciate his early music, and I freely acknowledge the impact he had on other artists, and society in general, but I'm a jaded fan now.  I mourn his passing, and I think the world has lost one of it's most talented men, but I'm not heartbroken by it.  I cried when Whitney and Michael died, I will cry when Madonna dies, but Prince doesn't get a tear from me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Endora

I have no idea if I'm ever going to have a mother-in-law.  I'm turning forty this year, and I've been single for over 12 years now.  I'm not willing to say the marriage train has completely left the station at this point, but it definitely wants to get the hell out of town.  For whatever reason, I've always pictured myself getting along with a future mother-in-law, but not in best friends, or even a motherly sort of way.  I've always been more inclined to the idea that any future mother-in-law, would be a little more feisty.  She would be a little out there, have a wicked tongue on her, be able to throw down with the best of them, but still be able to support and love when it's needed.  Sort of like Darrin Stephen's mother-in-law, Endora, in one of the best television comedies of all time, Bewitched.  Hopefully, my version of Endora would actually like me a little bit better.

I always wondered if Darrin knew who his mother-in-law was going to be, if he still would have proposed to Samantha.  The hopeless romantic in me, would assume that he'd have no problems popping the question, but the pragmatic side of me, knows he would have had his doubts.  Endora is the ultimate overbearing and disdainful mother-in-law.  She decries her daughter marrying the man, doesn't think much of him, but can give him a begrudged compliment every once in a while.  She has an acid tongue on her, and refuses to call him by his real name, Durwood being one of her favorites. It can't have been easy for Darrin, and often times, he would lose his temper, though that never got him very far.  Throw in the whole immortal witch thing, and it's amazing that he never had to commit himself.

Despite all that, I think Endora had a heart of gold when it came to her family.  She would have done anything for her daughter, and once Tabitha was born, she was snared all over again.  She could even be counted on to help Darrin out, even if it was with more vinegar than honey.  I'm not even sure I really bought the whole, I don't like him shtick to begin with.  I think it was in her nature to be contradictory, and after a while, the disdainful attitude, could be mistaken for fondness, albeit an odd form of affection.  She was a woman all her own, and even if her portrayer, Agnes Moorehead, never really warmed to her, I absolutely adored her.

I'm still holding onto the idea of having a mother-in-law someday, I'm just hoping that she is able to get my name right. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

Ten year old Harvey Swick is as bored as only a kid can get.  The dullness of February is eating at him, and he doesn't know what to do. Whether it's school or home, Harvey is bored beyond belief and nothing anyone can do, can make it better. Or so he though.

When a strange looking man, going by the name of Rictus, appears at his window, promising to fulfill his wish for fun, he jumps at the chance.  Rictus takes him to Holiday House, where all four seasons take place in a day; and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all happen within 24 hours.  It's a place where dreams come true, every gift is available, and everyone is just a tad bit creepy.

If Harvey was just a little older, and wiser for that matter, he may have realized that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn't, and that everything has a price.  The question is, will Harvey be able to figure that out before it's too late. 

I've talked about this before, but one of the worst aspects of book blogging has been my inability to go back, and reread some of my favorite books. Preblogging days, there were books I would read at least once a year, never getting tired of them.  The characters were long term friends, and getting another chance to delve into their worlds, was like a homecoming for me.  The Thief of Always by Clive Barker has been one of those books for me for a very long time, and it's one that I've sadly neglected since I've started blogging.

Don't get me wrong, it's not one I've forgotten about.  It's actually appeared on the blog twice now. The first time was in 2012, when I chose to examine the main villain of the piece, Mr. Hood, as part of my Favorite Fictional Characters feature.  One day, young Harvey Swick will be joining him in that feature.  The second time was in a post I did last year, where I looked at how some of my ex-boyfriends have influenced my reading.

When I decided to come back to blogging, I made a promise to myself, that I was gong to start rereading some of my favorites.  And this was the first one I felt I needed to pick back up.  Being able to escape along with Harvey to Holiday House once gain, was so much fun.  I reveled in his playing, lazing in the hot summer sun, dressing up for Halloween, gorging on all his favorite foods, and opening his Christmas presents.  I felt his desire to get lost and embrace the culture that Holiday House seemed to offer.  I shared in his growing sense of distrust, as he realized that things weren't quite as good as they seemed.  My heart broke, along with his, when he realized the full price he has to pay for his freedom.  And I cheered for him as he fought back against Mr. Hood, to reclaim his life, and the lives of so many others.