Monday, May 26, 2014

The Real Reason My Blog Was Ignored Last Year, And The Loss I'm Dealing With

I'm not even sure how to start explaining to you guys what's been going on over the last 10 months.  It's something I've tried my best to deal with on my own, it's not something I've discussed on Facebook, nor will I be discussing it there. Mainly because there are people in my life who agree with what is happening, and I don't feel like getting into a fight about it on FB.  So please, after reading this post, if we are friends on FB, don't address it there.  But now that the deadline for action is here, I feel like I need to let you guys know what's going on.

Early last summer I was served with papers suing for custody of Aidan.  For those of you who don't know what that is, I'll explain it a bit.  Ten years ago, when Aidan was two, he was dumped on my mother by my younger brother, who couldn't deal with him.  Before that, Aidan's mother had dumped him on my brother, as she was getting fed up with being a young, single mother.  In the beginning I took him for long weekends, to give my mom a break.  Shortly after, she started going through a divorce, and I agreed to take him full time.  I wish I had truly understood what I was getting myself in for, but even if I had, I would have made the same decision.  Taking him into my life was the best thing I have ever done with my life.  I have loved him, raised him, and cherished every moment of the last ten years.

Early last year, I started to hear rumors of the mother wanting him back.  It wasn't the first time I had heard it, and nothing ever came of it in the past.  I brushed it off, and chose to worry about it, if an when it ever became an issue.  In the summer, it became as issue.  In the last ten years, she has remarried and has two other children with her husband.  They decided, without ever contacting me, to sue for full custody of him.  Because neither her or my brother were willing to give up parental rights, I was never able to adopt Aidan.  I have only had "temporary" custody of him this entire time.  My lawyer put up a valiant fight, and I owe her more than I can ever repay, but early this year, I finally lost.  It was decide that living with his married, biological mother was a better for him, than living with his single, gay uncle.

I could drag it out in the courts even more, but I know the end result will stay the same, and Aidan will only be hurt even more.  It was agreed that he would finish the school year out here, and that within a week, I would have him on a plane to North Dakota, and his new family. He was required to spend Spring Break with them, so at least it will not be a complete shock to the system for him.  For now I'm going to be allowed one phone call a month, and any visitation will be negotiated after the first year.

I'm not going to go into all the pain that both of us, and those in our lives, have been dealing with over the last few months, but I'm sure it's worse than you can ever imagine.  There has been a lot of anger on his part, and lately excitement for something new.  I think he finally understand that this has nothing to do with me not wanting him anymore, that if I had my way, he would be under my roof for as long as he wanted to be there, even if he was 60 before he wanted to move out.

Tomorrow is the day I've been dreading, I have to have him at the airport by 9:30 in the morning.  Within an hour after that, I will not be able to see him for at least a year, and I have no idea how I'm going to deal with that.  I have to figure out what my life means now that I'm not a single father, and I have no idea on where to start.  I have to live my life without him in it for now, and it scares the hell out of me.  I always had it in the back of my mind that this day could come, I just never thought it really would.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

1 Song, 3 Ways

Sung correctly, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is a hauntingly beautiful song.  Given the right voice, the right emotional depth, and the song can move you.  So here I am, showing you three versions of the song, and I want you to tell me which one you prefer.

The first is the original by Procol Harum, which they released in 1967.  Of the three versions, it's my least favorite.  The second is by Annie Lennox, who has to have one of the best voices of her generation.  She covered the song in 1995 on her Medusa album, which consisted of her covering songs by male artists.  By the way, this is my favorite version.  And the third is by Matt Belsante, an American big band singer who covered the song on his 2008 album, Blame it on my Youth.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Princeton.  Good Friday, 1999.  One the eve of graduation, two students are a hairsbreadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a Renaissance text that has baffled scholars for centuries.  Famous for its hypnotic power over those who study it, the five-hundred-year-old Hypnerotomachia may finally reveal its secrets - to Tom Sullivan, whose father was obsessed with the book, and Paul Harris, whose futures depends on it.  But as the deadline looms, research has stalled - until an ancient diary surfaces  What Tom and Paul discover inside shocks even them:  proof that the location of a hidden crypt has been ciphered within the pages of the obscure Renaissance text.

Armed with this final clue, the two friends delve into the bizarre world of the Hypnerotomachia - a world of the forgotten erudition, strange sexual appetites, and terrible violence.  But just as they begin to realize the magnitude of their discovery, Princeton's snowy campus is rocked: a longtime student of the book is murdered, shot dead in the hushed halls of the history department. 

So begins a cycle of deaths and revelations that will force Tom and Paul, with their two roommates, into a fiery drama spun from a book whose power and meaning have long been misunderstood.

I first read this book right after it came out, back in 2004.  It was a year after Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and it was a time in publishing where it seemed as if every other book that came out, was trying to go for the literary/intellectual thriller. I don't think they were possible to get away from that year, if you read books, you probably read at least one of them.  The Rule of Four was one of the few that grabbed my attention when I was pursuing the new release shelf at the library.  I checked it out, and had it read all in the same day.

I'm not going to decry The Da Vinci Code, because of all of Dan Brown's books, that one is my favorite, but lets face it, Dan Brown is great at one thing, writing fluffy, cotton candy books.  There is nothing wrong with that, sometimes you need something that is just pure entertainment, and he is great at it.  What I respect about Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, is that they wrote an entertaining book, but didn't populate it with one dimensional characters who don't evolve and have almost no true relationships with each other.  Their characters are fully functioning, three dimensional constructs, they could be any of us, if we were obsessed with obscure texts and had men being killed around us.

This is a smarter book than anything Dan Brown has written, and it has a lot more personality to it.  Instead of trying to write a clever book, that showed off their research skills, the author's chose to write a book that gave us an interesting mystery, but actually told a story.  The Rule of Four is not just about the search to unearth the truth about the Hypnerotomachia, it's the life story of the men who have devoted their lives to it.  It's the story of how obsession can quickly turn into something so dark and twisted, that it robs men of their sanity, and their lives.  It's the story of the interpersonal relationships and how fragile, or strong, they can be in the face of adversity and love.  At it's core, it's a story of friendship, and the ties that bind us together, even when we may not want to be tied to that person.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Woody Woodpecker

You know those characters that annoy the hell out of you, but for some damn reason you still love them?  The annoyance factor can be anything; it can be how they handle a certain situation, the way they dress, some odd emotional tick that they have, or even something as simple as a laugh.  With this week's character, it's that last one that grates on my nerves.  Oddly enough, it's also the one characteristic that he is most know for, and the something I can find endearing at times.  I'm sure you all know the famous Woody Woodpecker laugh.  I'm not sure you could have grown up with television and not know it, but if for some bizarre reason you don't, I feel just a tad bit sorry for you.

Born in 1940, Woody Woodpecker has been entertaining folks for almost 75 years now.  He is one of those characters that almost everyone knows by sight, even if they have never sat through a cartoon, or heard him laugh.  He's in the league with Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Bugs Bunny, and Mickey Mouse in that regard.  

He's not as popular as he once one, and I'm at a loss as to the reasons why.  First of all, he's hilarious.  He is one of those zany characters that can completely lose all composure at the drop of a dime.  He can be happy go lucky one moment, and insanely crazy the next.  He's the kind of guy that has popping eyeballs, manic body movement, and that left field laugh that creeps you out, and makes you smile at the same time.  He's also one of those characters that has no problem jumping into the middle of a zany situation.  He's ready for adventure at all times, and doesn't know how to say no to anything.  He's pure escapist fun, and if these times needs anything, it's that.

So I'm hoping that his 75th birthday next year will somehow bring a resurgence of the guy.  He's more than deserving, and I think the American public is ready to hear that laugh once again.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Random Animal Picture: Kodkod

Smallest of the cats in the Americas.  Only lives in central and southern Chile, and an adjoining snip of Argentina.

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey

Synopsis From Publisher:

He's searching for a story but finds so much more.

Brad Torrence is next on the chopping block at the newspaper where he works.  Hungry for any source he can find, he runs across an as in the classifieds: For Sale: Nursery Items, Never Used.  It's the lead he's been looking for.  Thinking a piece about the loss of a child will give him the edge he needs to keep his job, Brad follows up.  He doesn't expect a single man to answer. 

Rather than being offended, Cory Wolfe finds sharing the story of his grief and pain liberating.  He's even surprised by the spark that strikes, and one story leads to another. 

Brad Digs into his stories and Cory's life, eager to know everything about the man who's caught his attention.  But when a lead points him to the hospital where Cory works, he unearths a mystery that might have been safer left buried.  Brad's search for a story could prove deadly...

So I'm up to 423 electronic books on my Nook, and that's just since December.  And yes I've read them all, and yes all but 9 of them are gay romance novels.  I think it's going to take me a few years to review them all, and that's only if I stop reading new ones.  I have slowed down lately, so maybe by the time 2019 gets here, I will have all the reviews caught up and current.  I haven't counted the number of authors yet, but I'm pretty damn positive it's less than 100.  I've found myself gravitating towards certain authors, and one of those is Andrew Grey.  I can honestly say that he is my favorite author in this genre, I have read all his full length books, and I tend to buy the new ones within a few days of it coming out.

In Search of a Story was one of the first books of his that I read, and I have reread it since then, mainly to refresh my memory of the narrative flow.  I ended up liking it more the second time around, which is no small feat since I loved it the first time.  Andrew Grey has a gift when it comes to building his characters.  They are always well rounded, fully fleshed out constructs.  They aren't cookie cutter, so you couldn't take a couple out of one book, plop them in another, and have the story work.  Brad and Cory are two of the best examples of that talent.  They have fully formed personalities, with all the emotional complexity you expect from a talented writer.

But more than that, he has a way of taking completely ridiculous plot twists, and making them believable.  One of the aspects of romance that I've had such a hard time getting my head around, is how preposterous the plots can be.  There is always so much death and danger surrounding these couples that it's almost miraculous they can relax enough to fall in love, let alone have sex.  Andrew Grey doesn't seem to have that problem.  Sure there are plot twists that may not happen in real life, at least not in such a sequential manner, but since the characters are so strong, the plot works.

By the way, and I know I never talk enough about the actual book in these reviews, I loved the book.  Brad and Cory are adorable together.  Even when they are dealing with outside influences upon their relationship, you know they belong together.  I just need to go find a Brad or Cory for myself.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- Chilly Willy

So sue me, I'm a cartoon addict.  I always have been, always will be,and I'm not ashamed of it.  But just because I'm an addict, doesn't mean I don't have standards.  The crap that passes as cartoons on TV these days sucks.  It's not worth my time, hell they haven't been worth my time since the mid 1990s.  Most of them are animated by computers, with the brains of 2 a two year old.  They are horrible, why can't they be like they were in the 1980s, or better yet, the cartoons I grew up with that were even older than that.  That's what the next few weeks will be dedicated to, the cartoons I loved as a kid, but were really the ones my mom grew up with.

To get the party started, we start off with Chilly Willy, the only penguin to make his home in Alaska.  I'm really not sure how he got that far away from home, or what possessed him to move there, but I'm glad he took the risk.  He wouldn't be as much fun had he stayed home, surrounded by a bazillion other little penguins.  What I really never understood is why he chose Alaska.  The poor guy is always cold, and is always trying to stay warm.  Why didn't he move to the Cayman Islands or San Diego?  It would have been warmer there, and he probably would have had an easier time finding the pancakes he loved so much.

But no matter where Chilly Willy chose to live, he was frickin adorable and could never do any wrong in my book.  I wanted to hang out with him as a kid, he just seemed like he would be cool to chill out with, puns intended.  I would've even put up with Smedley, it if meant hanging with Chilly.  Since the cartoon gods never answered that particular wish, I guess I'll have to satisfy myself with watching him on Youtube.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Farm Dies Once A Year by Arlo Crawford

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The summer he was thirty-one, Arlo Crawford returned home for the season at New Morning Farm - ninety-five acres tucked into a hollow in south-central Pennsylvania where his parents had been growing organic vegetables for almost forty years.  Unlike other summers from year before, this time he was there to change direction, as his father had years ago.

In the 1970s, Arlo's father, Jim, left behind law school and Vietnam to try his hand at farming.  What began as a tentative experiment in a new, more authentic way of living is now a family's fragile livelihood.  Years of farming has resulted in a familiar pattern: long days, uncertain weather, and busy markets, all set against the wild beauty of the Appalachian ridges. The cycle of these days will be endlessly repeated as the land is born and dies once each year:  the anticipation and optimism of spring planting, the long march through the summer harvest and into fall, followed by the inevitable quiet of winter.  As Arlo bends, picks, sorts, and sweats his way through the farm's rhythms, he begins to appreciate the depth of his parent's commitments to the acres where they've made their lives.  His return also prompts a reexamination of the murder of a neighboring farmer twenty years before, a tragedy that underscores just how much a farm can ask of those who tend it.

Imagine yourself sitting down at a desk, keyboard in front of you, and writing a love letter to your parents.  You want to tell them how much you love them, how appreciative you are of the way they raised you, how much you admire their strength, and how you will never truly feel as if you have lived up to their example.  You want them to understand how much they mean to you, how truly magnificent they are in your eyes.  You want to thank them for allowing you to have your own life, to follow your own path, even though it's not the one they themselves had chosen.  But most of all, you just want to say I love you.  A Farm Dies Once a Year, is that letter.  It's not in the words you would have used, but that's only because it's not your story, it's Arlo Crawford's.

With this book, he opened up this part of his story for the rest of us to experience.  The love and devotion his feels towards his parents, and towards their lives, wafts from each page.  He set the example on what it means to connect back to you roots, to really explore your childhood through mature eyes, and to allow yourself to say thank you.  He gives us all permission to go back home, to reconnect with our families and with our pasts.  But most of all, he makes it cool for us adults to tell our parents thank you, that we love them, cherish them, and that they will be missed when they are gone.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Favorite Fictional Character --- He-Man

What is it about cartoons that seems to capture your entire childhood?  It's impossible for me to think of being a kid, without thinking of all the cartoons that I used to love.  I'm highlighted a ton of them over the years, and for some odd reason, I've never managed to do He-Man.  How that happened, I have no frickin clue.  I mean, He-Man, was the man.  Whether he was Adam in all his clothes, or the muscle bound sex god in a fur loincloth, He-Man was all prime beef.

Okay, so maybe one of my first crushes was on a cartoon character, don't judge me.  My other first celebrity crush was on Rick Astley, that I can be judged for.  What cracks me up about the whole thing, he's so not the type I find attractive as an adult.  I rarely find a blond attractive, and while an overly hard muscle body may be nice to look at, I'm not overly fond of cuddling with it.  

But I'm digressing here, I'm supposed to being telling you what a great character He-Man was.  For those of you not in the know, He-Man was the super powered version of the mild mannered Prince Adam of Eternia.  The son of the Eternian King, and his human queen, Prince Adam is a rather boyish young man, not know for his bravery.  Because of the evil plaguing his home, by the devious Skeletor, Prince Adam is able to transform himself into a golden warrior, easily the strongest man in the universe.  Given to him by the Sorceress of Greyskull, Prince Adam uses the Sword of Power to facilitate his transformation.

He is surrounded by a whole planet full of heroes, all of whom help him to thwart Skeletor's evil schemes.  Only a few of them know that the two very different men, are in fact the same.  Though I never could understand why nobody ever figured out that they were never seen together.  At least he is aided by Battle Cat, the steroid version of Cringer, his faithful companion.  I could have done without Orko though, he still gives me shivers.

I loved this show so much, I even own the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas special on DVD.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dead or Alive by Patricia Wentworth

Robin O'Hara never deserved his wife, Meg.  He was unfaithful and involved in work that was just a little bit dangerous.  When Meg reaches her limits and wants a divorce, Robin disappears and is presumed dead.  Shortly after, Meg starts receiving messages that gives her the idea that Robin may not be dead after all.  When former beau, Bill Coverdale, comes back to London he is intent on winning Meg for himself.  He just has to deal with her fears about her missing husband, a crazy group of kidnappers, and save her from having her body dumped into a remote lake, never to be seen again.

For some odd reason, it took me forever to read this book.  I would pick it up, read a few pages, then put it down again.  I'm not sure if it was the book, or if it was I wasn't in the mood to read it.  Actually I'm not sure if I was in the mood to read anything other than gay romance, when I picked this book up.  I was convinced I would like it, so I kept slogging through, never giving up on Bill and Meg.

About half way through, I started to get into the rhythm of the book.  I was able to to relax and allow myself to truly enjoy the author's writing and her characterization.  It wasn't the most complex of mysteries, and a astute reader can figure it out midway through, but it was still engaging and interesting.  And maybe if I hand't halfway fallen in love with Bill, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did, but he is one of the most interesting characters to come along in Golden Age mysteries.

Not even sure I could fully explain my affection for him, at least not to the extent he deserves.  He's a man's man; masculine, self assure, reliable, and sexy as can be.  But he is still what I would consider a man of today, not the typical man of the era.  He is vulnerable, in touch with his emotional side, and isn't afraid to put a woman's needs before his own.

This was only the second Patricia Wentworth mystery that I had read, the first being Miss Silver Comes to Stay.  When I picked this one up, I wasn't aware that it wasn't going to be a Miss Silver mystery, and it was nice to see another side of her writing.  I think I have one or tow more of her books waiting around to be read, and I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Neon Court by Kate Griffin

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A daimyo of the Neon Court is dead and all fingers point towards their ancient enemy - The Tribe.  And when magicians go to war, everyone loses.

But Mathew Swift has his own concerns.  Has has been summoned abruptly, body and soul, to a burning tower and to the dead body of Oda, warrior of The Order and known associate of Swift.  There's a hole in her heart and the symbol of the Midnight Mayor drawn in her own blood.  Except, she is still walking and talking and has a nasty habit of saying "we" when she means "I."

Now Swift faces the longest night of his life.  Lady Neon herself is coming to London and The Tribe is ready to fight.  Strange things stalk this night: a rumored "chosen one," a monster that burns out the eyes of its enemies, and a walking dead woman.  Swift must top a war, protect his city, and save his friend - if she'll stop trying to kill him long enough for him to try.

When I reviewed The Midnight Mayor, the previous book in the series, I promised myself that I would wait too long before I read this one.  Instead of keeping that promise, I think I waited even longer for this one.  Almost two years has passed since I wrote that review, and I wish I could say the wait was worth it.

I still love Matthew and the London of his world.  His is a London full of magic, but not the magic of nature and pixie dust.  His London is made up of a magical world that inhabits the cities, the grit and grim of urban life.  In his London, a weary traveler down on her luck, with sore feet and a broken heel, may find herself catching a bus that caters to those who have given up on getting to their destination.  It's a world were beggars and bag ladies have their own gods, and where neon light breathes out life to those that need it.  It's a world of old trying to keep up with the new, and failing most of the time.  It's city teeming with the magical undercurrents found in phone conversations, spray paint, and plastic bags.  It's a version of London I would love to live in, hell, give me and city like that and I would be happy.

My problem with the book, and I mean problem as in, I didn't love it as much as I did the first two books, but I still enjoyed it, was the pacing.  At times it moved at such a snail's pace, I found myself getting bored.  I don't think you would be surprised if I told you that I'm not used to being bored in Mathew's company.  But I'm not sure if that wasn't on purpose.  The entire book takes place over a really extended day, as in someone is not allowing the day to end, time is stopped.  And that's what most of the book feels like.  So ti's either a genius move on the author's part, or it was just slow paced all on it's own.

I'm still looking forward to the next book in the series, I just hope it doesn't take another two years before I get to it.