Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

In the Field of Merrilor the rulers of the nations gather to join behind Rand al'Thor, or to stop his plan to break the seals on the Dark One's prison - which may be a sign of his madness, or the last hope of humankind.  Egwene, the Amyrlin Seat, leans toward the former.

In Andor, the Trollocs seize Caemlyn.

In the wolf dream, Perrin Aybara battles Slayer.

Approaching Ebou Dar, Mat Cauthon plans to visit his wife, Tuon, now Fortuona, Empress of the Seanchan.

All humanity in peril - and the outcome will be decided in Shayol Ghul itself.  The Wheel is turning, and the Age is coming to its end.  The Last Battle will determine the fate of the world.

When I turned the last page of A Memory of Light, a journey I started back in 1994, came to an end.  Part of me was relieved that I finally finished the series, the larger part of me was devastated that it was over.  I had dedicated almost 20 years of my life to getting to know these characters.  I fell in and out of love with many of them, some I never liked, but they all meant something to me.  Many of the first ten books, I've read over and over again.  It's impossible to have this much exposure to them, without getting a little attached.

A Memory of Light wasn't the perfect final book for me, but I'm almost positive that I wouldn't have been completely happy no matter what happened in the book.  I wish that there hadn't been such a huge body count of reoccurring characters, over 50 when I stopped counting.  Many of them were major characters, and while I know some of their deaths were necessary, I'm also sure some of them could have been spared.  The major sacrifice, made by a central character and her warder, though horrific, was necessary, so I'm okay with that one.  But some of the other deaths, even now, stick in my craw.  Adding insult to injury, some of them were done off page, robbing the characters of a dignified death.  They deserved better.

I also wished and prayed for at least one more scene of the three boys together, and that never happened.  I would have loved for Rand, Perrin, and Mat to have connected one last time.  For that matter, I would have loved to see the original group that left Emond's Field, have one more moment together, and that was dashed as well.  I'm not sure, given the action in the book, that such a reunion could have been possible, but it would have been nice to see.  It would have been a nice emotional closure point for me, I just have to wish for it after the book was over.  Obviously there are major issues with such a wish, given the events in the book, but a reunion of those left would be nice to see.

And that brings us to the way the book ended, or didn't end.  The Age, and the story up to that point, are over.  There is nothing else that could prolong that particular story, but it's the aftermath that is still begging to be told.  I want to know what happens after a certain character rides away, from what everyone but a few thinks is the end.  I want to see that character explore who they are after all the events that have shaped their life, and the world, over such a long period of time.  I want to see who they chose to reveal the truth too, who is brought back into the fold, and who is left out in the cold, never knowing the truth.  I want to see certain relationships grow, others healed, and some come to an end.  I want to see who the twins grow up to be, and who Olver becomes.  I want to see how the young couple rule a kingdom they weren't expecting, and how another couple rebuild a kingdom once thought gone.  I want to see how the world heals itself, and read Loial's book.  Which means Loial has to know the truth, at some point int time, otherwise the tale will never be accurate.  I want so much more, but that's because I can't really let go.  I will be reading these books over and over again still, and I'll be praying for an epilogue at some point in time.  I could even handle 14 of them.

And I still want the Tuon and the Seanchan destroyed.

The Rest Of The Series:

The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven 
Lord of  Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Winter's Heart
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams
The Gathering Storm 
Towers of Midnight 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Oswald, The Lucky Rabbit

With Easter right around the corner, I had the idea of featuring a rabbit stuck in my head.  I went through the obvious choices; Bugs, Roger, Peter Cottontail, the crew from Watership Down, and Trixx, but none of them felt right to me. Everybody knows them, and I'm not even sure I like some of them.  Inspiration struck though as I was getting a glass of water, I looked at the wall in front of the sink, and it hit me.  Right in front of me was the answer, staring at me, with a big grin on his face, was Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit.  When our local Disney Store closed a few years ago, I happened to pick up this wonderful canvas of Oswald for a few bucks.  It's done in muted tans, grays, and blacks, a color scheme that suits my style perfectly.  I really didn't know much about him, but over the years I've done some reading, watched a few early cartoons, and promptly fell in love.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Oswald, let's just say he predates Mickey, and is just as fun to watch.  For various legal and creative reasons, Oswald was regulated to the waste bin of history for decades.  After Disney was able to repurchase the rights to the character, Oswald has slowly had a rebirth of sorts.  I won't got into all the details of why this poor guy was abandoned, but it is a rather sad story.  And It was totally not his fault, the guy was hilarious.  He could detach limbs and use them as props, he was funnier than any rabbit had the right to be, and he brought smiles and laughter to everyone he met.

When he was abandoned though, he life took a horrible turn.  With Mickey on the rise, and himself in decline, I'm afraid he became a little bitter and angry.  By the time Disney got him back, and started to put him back to work, he wasn't the same happy go lucky rabbit anymore.  He resented Mickey.  He couldn't understand why the mouse got the life he was supposed to have, and quite frankly, I don't blame him.  If I was thrown out like old bath water, I'd be pretty damned pissed off myself.  But Oswald is not a bad guy, at his core, he wants to be loved and make people laugh.  I'm not saying he still doesn't have his issues, but he is getting through them, and he is slowly being given his due.  He is evening making appearances at the Disney theme park in Tokyo now, and his image is starting to pop up in the other parks as well.  He has his own line of merchandise, and he even has had a new cartoon, where he is the lead.  His star is back on an ascending path, and I can't wait to see where it takes him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wordsmithonia Radio: R&B That's Never Been Played By Our Local Stations

It's not very often that the majority of the R&B music I like gets played on the radio stations here in Wichita, KS.  I'm not sure why that's the case, but the stations around here tend to play the same 30-40 songs over, and over again, with rarely an aberration.  Don't get me wrong, I like Beyonce as much as the next fan, but there is so much more to the world of music then the couple of artists everyone seems to know about.  I know a lot of it has to do with where I live, but it doesn't change the frustration I feel when I turn on a local radio station.  So when I want to listen to what I like, I have to buy the albums or listen on Youtube.  I'm going to share with you some of the songs I rarely get tired of listening to, no matter how old some of them are.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Little Squirrels Can Climb Tall Trees by Michael Murphy

Synopsis From Publisher:

Kyle Miller is a rare breed.  Though born to conservative parents and raised in small-town Oklahoma, Kyle realized young that he had to escape rural America.  Now he's living in New York City, working as an ER doctor, and paying off his massive student loans.  He's never been on a plane and never seen a movie, but he is worldly enough to recognize attraction when it smacks him in the forehead.  Not that he knows how he managed to crack heads with Joseph, who's a good foot shorter than Kyle's six and a half feet.

Joseph is Kyle's polar opposite in other ways too, well-off where Kyle is poor, and self-assured while Kyle is insecure.  He's also determined to show Kyle what a great guy he is and bring the confidence Kyle shows in the ER out in her everyday life.  But Kyle's hectic work schedule and inexperience with relationships won't make for an easy romance.

I really don't know what my problem is, but I'm ridiculously addicted to romance right now.  I can't seem to get enough of it.  I'm not sure if my brain is trying to tell me to get my toes back into the dating game, after years and years of purposefully being single.  Maybe I just like reading about sex, which is something I'm not all that familiar with anymore.  And truthfully, I end up skimming through most of the sex scenes, so I'm all most positive that it's not the second explanation.  I'm not even all that sure about the first, while I have thought about it, and maybe even talking again with someone I dated 19 years ago, I'm not sure that explains it either.  I do know that, to a small or even large degree, it's the fact that I'm discovering so many new to me authors, some of whom are pretty frickin good.  I'm not familiar with the ebook publishing world to know what portion of these authors also get paper books published as well, but I do think a lot of them would be if they were writing in another genre.  So many of them are brilliant, that it's their writing I'm addicted to, not necessarily the romance aspect.  Though I'm not skimming through ALL the sex scenes.

When it comes to Kyle and Joseph, they were adorable.  They were the typical odd couple, a couple that on paper, does not belong together, but they click.  Kyle, in all his innocence, gives Joseph a new lease on life.  Allowing him to dive back into a relationship with someone who isn't jaded or bitter by past relationships.  Kyle on the other hand, allows himself to really explore life and all it has to offer with Joseph, something he's never done before.  The relationships also allows both of them to truly trust in each other, an idea that's foreign to both of them.

Kyle is the surprise standout for me.  He is the character that grows the most, and truly comes into his own person. He comes out to his very fundamentalist mother, something he thought he would never do, in front of an entire room full of religiously conservative women.  When the guest speaker starts rallying against the evils of "the gays", he eventually breaks down and confronts the man.  He isn't afraid, he isn't hesitant, he's amazing in that moment, and if he was real, I would have proposed to the man.  From that moment on, he is a man who is fully comfortable in his own skin, which allows him to be completely comfortable with Joseph.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Random Animal Picture: Dik-dik

Small species of antelope found in south and east Africa.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Florence Johnston

The Jeffersons was one of those of shows that I grew up watching, but really didn't appreciate until I was a bit older.  The show was full racially tinged humor, something I really wasn't able to understand as a wee little lad.  There are moments that, even now, where I'm uncomfortable with some of what's being said, and I'm almost positive a show like this couldn't exist in today's environment.  Despite all that, I can't help but watch it when I'm channeling surfing.  It's on about three different stations right now, and much like a lot of the sitcoms from it's era, it's still relevant.  Many of the issues bandied up then, are still problems now.  And since comedy and laughter gives us a different way to look at things, I hope shows like The Jeffersons will always have a home on the silver screen.

In my not so humble opinion, Florence Johnston was the highlight of the show.  As a maid she sucks.  She's lazy, mouthy, can cook about as well as the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show, and probably doesn't know the difference between a mop and a card table.  But what she lacks in cleaning skills, are more than made up in her mouth.

The woman is a champion of snark, a queen of sarcasm, and the hand down favorite in any put down contest.  I don't know if there is a character, before or since, that is as good at putting someone down as she was. It wasn't just what she said that made her so good, it was the timing and the delivery.  She could do it with a straight face, just when you least expect it.  But she could also do it with humor and love, and smile the entire time.  While Florence may have meant everything she ever said to poor George, you knew there was real love behind the relationship.

And boy was the woman fearless with her wit.  Whether she was facing down a burglar, kidnapper, or simply poor mouthy George, she never let the opponent daunt her for long.  She gave as good as she got, and always came out on top.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Synopsis From Back Cover:

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate a woman's murder, it doesn't take long for him to realize that no love was lost on the victim.  But even if everyone hated her - her husband, lover, and daughter among them - how is it that no one saw her get electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake in the center of town?

Gamache digs beneath the surface of Three Pines to find where the real secrets are buried.  But other troubles lie ahead for the detective.  It seems he has some enemies of his own... and with the coming of the bitter Northern winter winds, something far more chilling is in store.

Can someone please build a real life Three Pines village somewhere.  I'm thinking that I want to move, and I can't think of any place that I would want to move to more.  It's almost unbelievable, how much this town seems to take over these books.  For me, the setting is almost, if not a little bit more, as important as the characters and the plot devices used to progress the story forward.  Don't get me wrong, I love Gamache.  I love his men, and I love the villagers, but I love the village more.  There is so much character and vitality in that little blip on a map, and I want some of it for my own.

Now that I've bent your ear over how much I love the setting, I want to make sure I point out how much I loved the story itself.  There is something so intoxicating about Louise Penny's storytelling.  She is able to weave murder and eccentric characters into this wonderfully quirky tale, that keeps me enchanted the entire way through.  Sometimes it's hard to pay attention to a story when the characters are so strong and vibrant, which they all are.  You either hate them or love them.  I love them all, including the murder victim, who deserved everything that happened to her.  Truthfully, she probably deserved a little bit more.  The woman was a bitch, not sure there is any other word for her.  Her murderer had every right to kill her, and I'm not sure I would have done anything else in their shoes.  But she was so fleshed out, and had such a distinct personality, that I loved her anyway.  Or maybe I didn't love her, but I loved the characterization that Louise Penny gave her.

Even more though, I loved the story she gave them to play in.  The interactions between the characters, the way they relate to each other, gives so much depth to the underlying mystery.  It allows the reader, myself included to get lost and almost forget that this is a fictional account of a fictional murder.  She breathes so much life into every word, that it all feels real, concrete.  Even better, she never allows the story to get to heavy.  There is a playfulness to everything, even with the horrendous crimes that occur.  It keeps the story enjoyable, and allows the reader to feel comfortable in the face of violent death.

Now I just need to get my hands on the third book, and I'll be a very happy boy indeed.