Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Lassie

I don't think there is a boy my age, or a girl for that matter, who wasn't envious of Timmy Martin.  Growing up, I was a sucker for dogs.  There was rarely at time when we didn't have at least one dog, and I loved them all.  I won't say I didn't have favorites, cause I did, but I'm a true dog lover, so they were all awesome to me.  Maybe one day I'll tell you guys about a few of them, but for now, I need to tell you about a particular fictional dog.  And she's one that almost all of us loved, as much as we did our household dogs.

Like most dog lovers, I'm a sucker for a story that features a dog as the hero.  In the past I've done Favorite Fictional Character posts about some of my favorite dogs, including Benji, but this about a certain Collie who will always be a household name.

The star of 11 feature films, 12 TV shows and made for TV movies, 2 radio programs, and over 50 books, Lassie is the Collie with a heart of gold and the courage of lion.  She has saved kids from danger, park rangers from being killed, and other animals from harm.  She is a guardian angel on four legs, and I prayed that someday I would have a dog just like her.

I've always thought that a large reason humans and dogs have formed such deep bonds over our history on this planet, is that dogs are such loyal creatures.  It's that loyalty and devotion, between both parties, that makes our existence on this planet tolerable.  And not matter how strong a bond exists between a dog and it's human, the bond is always stronger when their human is a child.  For me, Lassie embodies all that is right in that connection.

Regardless of who the kid was; Jeff, Timmy, Joe, or the countless others, Lassie was at her best when she was with them. She cared for them, protected them, and gave them the kind of companionship that kids everywhere yearned for.  She was the perfect dog, and turned millions of kids into dog lovers.  Even though I've ended up with my own Lassie a time or two, and I treasure those memories for all they are worth, I will always have a special place in my heart for Lassie herself, and all she represents. 


Monday, March 2, 2015

If Only They Weren't Dead

My brain hasn't been able to let go of a post that Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books did the the other day. She posted about the authors she would automatically buy from when they release new books, and how her list has changed over they years.  And like any good post will do, it got me thinking of who would be on my list, and it was fairly short.

Other than a few of the m/m romance writers I've become addicted to, there was only one author, Daryl Gregory.  I could name a few other authors I enjoy, but I only buy the books that fit into a certain series, not everything they write.  That list was a little longer and included Mercedes Lackey, Simon R. Green, S.M. Stirling, Guy Gavriel Kay, and a few others, but that doesn't really answer the original question.

My brain took this question one step further though.  I started to think of all the dead authors I enjoy, and how badly I wish they still had new books coming out. So that is the list I'm going to share with you guys.  So please, if you have an in with a really good medium, could you please get the word out and let these authors know that they still have a willing audience for their work.

Agatha Christie - I don't think it's possible to know me, and not know that I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan.  I don't think she has ever steered me wrong, and even when I don't particularly love one of her books, I know they are better than half the stuff that's being written today. I would love for her to be able to give them lessons on how to write a good mystery.

Mary Roberts Rinehart - If there is a mystery writer I love as much as Agatha Christie, it's Mary Roberts Rinehart.  She was called the American Agatha Christie at one point in time, and her writing more than lived up to that honor.  I have yet to read one of her book that I didn't like, and I'm running out of them to read.  I just wish she was still around to feed my addiction.

Erle Stanley Gardner - I got hooked on his books because of his most famous creation, Perry Mason.  For that reason alone, I love him.  But even his none Mason books have been good and well worth the read.  I would pay good money to have him still writing Perry Mason books, I'd even be willing to kill for it. 

Robert Jordan - This is a man who saved the fantasy genre for me.  Other than one or two other authors, I had given up on it, then I discovered his Wheel of Time series.   He wrote epic fantasy in a way that made it come to life in my head, and in my heart.  He is what all these other authors should be trying to be.  I just wish he was around to give me more Rand, Perrin, and Mat. 

Frank Herbert - If there is a saving grace for science fiction, it's the writing of Frank Herbert.  I think most of you guys know by now, that I am not a science fiction fan.  When I first discovered Dune, my entire outlook shifted, and I've never looked back.  I could have read about that world until the day I die.  I know his son tried to continue the books, but they just weren't the same. 

Shirley Jackson - There was nobody better at taking the ordinary, everyday occurrences of life, and making them feel disjointed and unnatural. She could twist a story like nobody else, and make your entire foundation shift and crumble.  The Haunting of Hill House and "The Lottery" are probably her two works that almost everyone knows, but I've never read anything by her that wasn't up to that same standard.  

Flannery O'Connor - I'm not even sure what to say about Flannery O'Connor, except to say she was a gifted novelist, and an even better short story author.  She was able to pack so much into a short story, a talent that not many have.  Like Shirley Jackson, I've never read her work, and not fallen in love with it.  She was Queen of the Southern Gothic, and how I wish she was still around.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Meet My First Literary Crush

Becca at Book Bloggers International asked bloggers to describe their first time.  So I thought I would share the first time I fell in love with a fictional character.  So go on over, and meet my first literary crush.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Scavenger Hunt by Christopher Pike

Synopsis From Back Cover:

School was almost over.  A secretive club on campus had organized a scavenger hunt for the entire senior class.  In small groups, and with the help of cleverly planted clues, the kids are led throughout the city, and then deep into the nighttime desert.  The sponsoring club has promised a wonderful prize for the first group to reach the goal of the hunt.

But for Carl Timmons, a troubled young man who has recently lost his best friend, the hunt will become a nightmare. Led astray by his love for a strangely beautiful girl, he will wander far from the other, and back into a haunted past, where the line between the living and the dead is blurred and broken.

The other day I was wanting something easy, quick, and fun to read, but I didn't feel like hunting something down in a bookstore or browsing through the NOOK store.  So I went to the greatest resource every bibliophile has, my own bookcases.  To tell you the truth, I almost forgot I owned this book, especially since I was never a huge Christopher Pike fan.  I think this is the only book of his I've owned, let along kept all these years later.

It's probably been at least ten years since I've picked it up, and it was exactly what I was needing at the time.  It had been long enough that I forgot some of pertinent details of the plot and found myself engaged from the get go.  I still really enjoyed Carl and his friends, and the journey they were forced to undertake was suspenseful enough to keep me interested.

If you are familiar with Christopher Pike's books, and a lot of you should be, you know he was good at plotting, and was decent at character development.  I think Scavenger Hunt is one of his best, and I know I'll be picking it up again sometime in the far future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Perrin Aybara

There are quite a few characters I could single out from The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  I could probably do an entire year on the main characters alone, but since I think that would not only bore you, but myself as well, I think I'll pass on that idea for now.

I started reading The Wheel of Time series back in my Freshman year of college, which would make it 1994, and didn't finish reading it until last year, 2014.  I loved these characters for twenty years, waiting patiently for each new book, rereading them several times in between release dates.  When I finally turned the last page of the final book, it felt as if I was leaving behind my family, and that even if I visited them again, it would never be the same.   Not only had they changed over a period of twenty years, but my feelings and perspectives on them changed along the way.  There are characters I started off loving, and by the end I really didn't care that much about them.  There were others, like Perrin Aybara, that I may not have paid all that much attention to in the beginning, but by the end, I was in love with them as much as I was with Rand al'Thor, the main protagonist.

I was going to use a tired cliches and say that Perrin was the one character that changed the most over the years, but none of them stayed the same.  Over the period of 14 books, 9,839 pages, and 4,287,886 words, even with a huge cast, it's impossible for the characters to stay stagnant.  But of all of them, I think Perrin came into his own the most, and in a funny way, changed the least.  I get that he started off as a blacksmith apprentice, and ended up Lord of The Two Rivers, trusted general for the Lord Dragon, husband to a Queen, and King of the Wolves.  But who he was as a person; solid, dependable, quiet, thoughtful, methodical, loyal, loving, and the solid bedrock of the group, remained the same.  Perrin loves with all his being, he gives himself totally to those who he holds close, and there is nothing he wouldn't do for them.  None of those qualities changed, they just grew in scope.

Where Mat was the comic relief of the series, the one who kept everyone from being bogged down in seriousness, Perrin was the heart.  He grounds the rest of the characters and keeps them from forgetting themselves and where they came from.  I'm not going to go into all the ways he grows into himself, because I really do think everyone should read this series for themselves.  If I got too much into his character development, it would ruin some of the journey for those of you who haven't ventured into this world.  So needless to say, you are going to have to trust me on this.  I will say this, I would die to have his abilities with the wolves, and everything that entails.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are Male Protagonists a Dying Breed?

I'm not sure if it's because of the book blogging world, which is dominated by women, a world where most of the books being reviewed are general fiction, romance, and YA; all of which seem to have been taken over by female characters.  Or maybe I'm just buying my books in the wrong stores.  It seems every time I stop and look at the new fiction tables, or the best selling racks, they are almost all about female protagonists.  Even in genres that used to be heavily dominated by men; mystery, fantasy, and science fiction, it seems as if the male hero is a dying breed.  Now I know there are a lot of exceptions to my observations, and that you can all give examples of great fiction featuring male protagonists, but it seems as if they are in the small minority, that the female hero has risen up to smite the men.  So please do not list all the male lead books, or the male heroes of your favorite series.  I promise you that I'm already familiar with them, I just think they are becoming harder to find.

Now I'm not saying I've done a scientific study or anything, but going through all the blogs on my blog roll, over 70% of the currently reviewed books (the books on the first page of their blog) featured female protagonists, and the majority of the male protagonists were regulated to the espionage or action genres, or they were in older books.  A quick glance at the New York Times Best Seller List shows the majority of them feature female heroes, and the same goes for a lot of the other best seller lists I took a look at.  And a quick glance through the books that have been made into movies the last few years, it seems as if the majority of them, especially the YA movies, are again featuring female protagonists.

Before you guys start yelling at me, and screaming words like sexist and misogynistic, I'm not trying to say there is anything wrong with this trend, assuming this isn't all in the my head.  Nor am I really trying to engage in an educated sociological discussion on the merits of this phenomenon.  To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure I have a serious point to make, or a profound observation to share.

By this point in time you are probably wondering, even if this is really what's going on, what is your point of all this?  I'm so glad you asked.  Other than the fact that I've not bought books I've liked the sound of, but didn't care for the sound of the protagonist, I'm afraid that it pigeonholes boys into reading certain types of books, or keeping them from reading all together.  I totally understand the reason for strong female protagonists, as it gives girls and women someone to emulate or relate to.  But don't boys, teens, and adult men need the same thing.  Is there a reason why men should be forced to read two or three genres in order to find male heroes they can relate to?  I could be over thinking it, and working myself into a tizzy for no reason, but I'm not so sure I'm wrong here.  If this trend is stopping me, someone who already loves to read and has always been pretty open in what I do read, from reading entire genres or avoid certain plots lines, how would I not assume it's doing it to those who don't read that much or haven't found a love for reading yet.

So am I out on a limb here?  Is this something that really doesn't exist, and that it's pure coincidence in the books I'm noticing in the stores and on blogs?  And if it is real, what's causing it.  Do women make up the majority of the American reading public?  Are most of the new authors being published now women?  And, assuming this is a real phenomenon, is it the problem I seem to think it is, or is it benign and not worthy of notice?  I'm not sure about any of the questions I just asked, but I'm curious to see what you guys have to say about it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The colonies on Altair were frontier settlements whose raw materials fed the factories of Earth.  It was no surprise after torrential rains thundered across Altair that the small Rowan Mining camp was totally destroyed in a mudslide. What was surprising was the psychic wail of agony that went up, so loud and clear that it pierced the mind of every halfway sensitive telepath on the planet - and more surprising still, the discovery that this strong new psychic voice belonged to a three-year-old child, the lone survivor of the disaster.

The named her "the Rowan," not knowing any more about her than that, and she grew into a beautiful, magical-looking woman. She was also the most important Talent on the planet, using her enormous mental powers to help move cargo loads to all of the other inhabited worlds. 

But it was a lonely life - an especially lonely life for a lovely woman who had been deprived of her childhood.  The men who loved her were beneath her, and she loved no one - until Jeff Raven entered her life.  His voice appeared in her mind one day: the strong call of a fellow telepath in distress, Jeff was a wild Talent, his latent abilities called forth by an alien attack that threatened to destroy his planet.  With the Rowan's help, he rove back the invaders; now he wants only to find out more about he strong and fascinating woman who helped save his world.  

Their tumultuous love affair means the end of loneliness for the Rowan, and the union of their Talents makes them the most powerful team in all the inhabited worlds - ready for the challenges they expect may await them, as the rest of the universe begins to notice the expansion of human settlements in space. 

The Rowan, and it's sequels, are comfort reading for me.  I'm not a huge science fiction fan, nor am I really a fan of Anne McCaffrey.  I've tired to read the Dragonriders of Pern books, but really can't get into them at all.  But there is something about this series, these particular characters, that I can't seem to ever let go of, and choose to revisit every once in a while.

I'm sure part of it's because the Rowan, whose real name ends up being Angharad Gwyn, and her sense of isolation and loneliness that tugs at those same feelings in my own life. Because of all the moving and traveling we did as a kid, I never really had the opportunity to stay around kids my own age, which means I really never learned how to develop lasting friendships.  I couldn't relate to them, so loneliness was a very real thing for me growing up.  Add in the feelings of growing up a gay kid, and you can imagine that it wasn't a ton of fun for me.  Like the Rowan, I grew up, and while that loneliness never goes away all the way, I've learned to deal with it, and have come out of my shell quite a bit.  She is an amazing character, one that changes so much through this books, and it's sequels, but like a lot of my favorite characters, she is more than that for me.  She's like a sister I never knew I had, or a long lost cousin, one I get to reconnect with every year or so.

What really sets this book apart from the rest of what I've read from McCaffrey, are the secondary and supporting characters.  There really isn't a weak or unnecessary one in the whole bunch, and I'm in love with them about as much.  I adore Jeff Raven, and his mother for that matter.  He's such a quietly confident individual, and he is the perfect match for the Rowan.  They compliment each other in ways, I can only hope of finding in my own life.  I've always pictured them this way; take the relationship that Nick and Nora Charles have, take away the alcohol, give them monstrous telepathic/telekinetic abilities, and put them in space.  They are one of those couples that just fits, and nothing could ever force them apart.  There's also Afra Lyon, who I love just about as much, and a whole host of equally compelling characters.  When you put them together, it's the perfect family portrait, just mixed in with telepathy and invading aliens.