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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The First Doctor Strange Trailer Is Here!

By now you guys already know I'm a huge Doctor Strange fan, have been since I was a wee little tyke. He's been my avatar on Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Disqus, Pinterest, and about every other social media website I've been a part of, even GetGlue.

I was a little worried when I heard Benedict Cumberbatch was going to be playing him in the movie, the movie I've been waiting for my whole life.  They released the first trailer on the 12th, and now that I've seen the trailer, it's not his casting that has my concerned.  I'm still not sure what I think of him, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt still.  Instead it's the casting choice of the Ancient One that I'm overly confused by.

I'm used to Marvel changing the race of classic characters in order to make a cast more diverse.  They cast Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, a character that was a traditionally a cigar chomping, grey streaked white guy.  Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall, the guardian of Asgard, and the movie version of Doctor Strange has another casting change, Chiwetel Ejiofo will be playing Baron Mordo, another traditionally white character.

What I'm puzzled by, is the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.  It's not the idea of this character becoming a woman that bothers me, though I do think it's a rather odd choice to begin with.  Rather, it's changing the character from a really old Asian guy, into a bald white woman, that I find to be perplexing.  I get changing the race of a character to make a movie more diverse, I don't get changing a minority character into a white character though.  I really don't get changing a character who is supposed to teach Doctor Strange the mysteries of Asian mysticism, to someone who isn't Asian. Makes no sense.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still super excited for this movie, and it will be one that I will see on opening day.  To put things in perspective, I have never felt that I HAVE to see a movie on opening day.  I'm just hoping the casting doesn't distract me from what I'm hoping will be a terrific origin story.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Della Street

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary app I have downloaded to my Nook, the definition of loyal is as follows;

having or showing complete and constant support for someone or something. 

That's the simple definition, their full definition uses concepts like allegiance, faithfulness, and fidelity to describe what it means to be a loyal person.

We all experience loyalty in our lives, whether is refers to other people, ideals, or our country.  It's one of those traits that I think we all cherish, and look for, in our friends and partners  And I think we have all experienced what it feels like when our loyalty is betrayed.

It's a trait I can respect in someone, even when I think their loyalties are misguided.  Loyalty, true loyalty, is something to be respected and celebrated, and it's the reason I picked Della Street for this week's Favorite Fictional Character post. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Della Street, I feel really bad for you.  For you see, that would mean you aren't familiar with the great Perry Mason, lawyer extraordinaire.  Perry is that lawyer, who almost never loses, is able to save his clients at the last minute, and is one of the most awe inspiring characters I've come across in life. A man like him, needs a secretary like Della Street.

Della, through countless books, radio programs, two TV series, and several TV movies, was the faithful sidekick to the hardest working defense attorney in town.  If he's working, she's working right beside him.  She doesn't questions his tactics, or his motives, and does what he asks, without hesitation.  She has put herself in compromising situations to help him, and the client, knowing he would be there to get her out of it.  She would never think of betraying his confidence, and over the years, she became his best friend.  Outside their work lives, we really don't know much about either character, but seeing them together is enough.

Now I know a lot of fans, and I think even the show creators, would from time to time try to hint at a romance between the two of them.  There would be an occasional kiss, a little light flirting, a dozen or so rejected marriage proposals, but this fan never took that stuff seriously.  It always felt like the banter between two people, who are deeply locked in the other's lives.  I think they were close, probably closer than most married couples, but doubt there was that much romantic love there.  I think it's loyalty that brought them together, and it's loyalty that kept them together through the years.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Old vampires, roused from deep slumber in the earth, are doing the bidding of a Voice commanding that they indiscriminately burn their kin in cities across the globe, from Paris to Mumbai, Hong Kong to San Francisco.  Left with little time to spare, a host of familiar characters, including Louis de Pointe du Lac, Armand, and even the vampire Lestat, must embark on a journey to discover who - or what - is driving his mysterious being. 

Right from the get-go, I'm going to say exactly what I thought of this one.  I'm not in love with the book itself, but I'm once again in love with Lestat.  I can't rightly remember the last time I picked up any of the Vampire Chronicles books, though I know it was before I started blogging, as I felt myself losing interest in them long ago.  For whatever reason, I picked this one up from the store, Target to be specific, and once I finally got started on it, I was hard pressed to put it down.

I found myself getting lost in the character of Lestat, a character I fell in love with at an early age.  There were a few books, Memnoch the Devil comes to mind, where while I didn't care for the plot all that much, the character kept me engaged and reading.  With Prince Lestat, a book I never though would even be written, that love came back tenfold, and the storytelling, while not on par with the first few books in the series, seems to have returned some of the luster to the series, at least for me. At times it felt a bit jumbled, and a ton of new characters were introduced, but none of it seemed to bog down the story.  It was nice to see the return of some of my favorite characters like Gabrielle and Daniel, and catch up on some of the smaller characters from the series, like Flavius and Bianca.

The author, who has always been good at characterization, has given me new character to love, though none will hold a place in my heart the way Lestat and Louis do.  A previously unnamed character, Antoine, may be up there for me now, but I would want to see more of him.

If another Vampire Chronicles book is forthcoming, I know I will be quicker to read it now that I'm back under Lestat's spell.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Pig-Pen

 You know those moments in your childhood that stick with you, no matter how old you get?  Well I have two of them that relate to why I have always had a soft spot for Pig-Pen.  I know I've mentioned this before, in different contexts of course, but I had a rather unusual childhood.  Because of various factors, I really never had a mom, at least not one that truly acted like one.  Instead I had, for all intents and purposes, an older sister who made sure I had a roof over my head, and that I didn't go hungry.  She never acted like a mom until I was about to graduate high school, so needless to say, my childhood was an odd one.

For whatever reason, for a brief time in fifth grade, I got it into my head to sleep in my school clothes.  My mom didn't make sure we were up, generally slept through that part of the morning, so I'm pretty sure she never even noticed I was doing it.  Well you can imagine the way a kid who is doing that ends up smelling like after a while, and kids being kids, I was quickly told of my odoriferous situation.  I'm going to assume that most of the kids just assumed it was because I was poor, which we were, though that had nothing to do with my strange notion of sleeping in my clothes, or that I didn't know what a shower was, when I took one daily.  Add on the fact I was a rather shy kid back then, and the rest of 5th grade kinda sucked. There were other issues going on then too, but this certainly did not help.   That's also the year I had to go on a field trip, to the lake my father died in.

A few years later, during the whole carnival years, the aroma problem reared it's ugly head once again.  This time, it wasn't because I was sleeping in my clothes, it was because where we were living for the winter, I wasn't able to take a shower every day.  It was probably the most humiliating thing to happen to me at that age, though not one of the other kids ever said a word to me, so for that, I will always be grateful.  It also didn't help that I had been changing schools so much, every two weeks, due to the carnival moving towns.  So I was never comfortable around kids my own age, since all the other kids on the road were either older or younger to me.  And moving every two weeks, it was pretty hard to make friends.  Instances like this, just made it worse.

So I get Pig-Pen.  His friends are nice to his face, though their teasing can be a bit harsh at times.  They talk about him behind his back, and his creator regretted the fact he ever drew him.  We never learn his real name, or his family situation.  Half the time, it appears that there is no one at home looking out for him, but other times, his mom is calling him home to take a bath.  Most of the time it appears that his dirtiness is by choice, but other strips you can see the emotional damage the teasing inflicts on him.  I really do think he's just a boy who likes to play, and doesn't care about the dirt.  But I can relate to those glimpses of pain, when other kids don't bite their tongues.  When the choices of an adult, has a negative impact on your self esteem, I get the ramrod straight back you end up putting up, in an attempt to show the world they aren't getting to you. Pig-Pen, and the real human kids like him, like me, deserve better than what's said to them.  He's always going to be a part of me, and despite it all, I'm grateful for it. 

And for the record, both situations have stayed in my head.  It's part of the reason I take two showers a day, and have used cologne since high school.  I will never put myself in that situation again. That's a promise I made in TX after I was called to the principal's office that last time, being offered the use of the locker room showers before school.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Calvin's Cowboy by Drew Hunt

Synopsis From Publisher:

Calvin Hamilton reluctantly returns to his home town of Parrish Creek, Texas, to sell his parents house.  Finding the place in need of repair he hires John "Brock" Brockwell to renovate the house before putting it on the market.  Brock bares a passing resemblance to Gary Cooper, especially as he often wears western clothing.  Calvin has always had a weakness for cowboys. 

Time has reversed the two men's fortunes.  In high school Brock was the big man on campus, his popularity allowing him to hide his true nature.  Calvin was a nerd, bullied by most of the jocks for being perceived as gay. Now Calvin is a successful New York advertising executive, and Brock is a divorced father with a teenage son who faces financial ruin, unable to pay his late father's hospital bills. 

Can Calvin put past bitterness behind him and help the cowboy with who he is rapidly falling in love?  Will the deeply closeted Brock be able to admit he has feelings for Calvin?  Or will pride, fear, distance, and the past prevent them from building a future together? 

A few days ago there seemed to be another twitter storm brewing over HEAs in romance novels, for any of you who doesn't get the acronym, it stand for Happily Ever After.  I'm not sure what prompted the kerfuffle, but it's a ridiculous argument.  Apparently there are some who think a HEA is not needed in a romance novel.  Granted, I'm fairly new to the whole romance game, but I don't get the idea of romance without a HEA.   Why else would I allow myself to get suckered into the story, if it wasn't to see the main characters, after all the strife they've gone though, grab the brass ring at the end.  They need the HEA.  Hell, for that matter, I need them to have a HEA.  How else will I ever believe that there is one out there for me someday?

Everything I just wrote, was to allow me to comment on the last paragraph of the synopsis.  And it's just not a comment on this synopsis, but on the whole concept of publisher synopses to begin with.  The language, in general, is so hyperbolic.  I get that they are trying to grab a readers attention, to make them buy a book in order to figure out the outcome, but give me a break.  This is a romance novel, of course they work it out in the end.   And speaking of this synopsis, Brock is not deeply in the closet.  Is he out to the general public, no, but both his ex-wife and son are in the know.

This was one of the first romance novels I read, and one of the first to get me hooked on the whole cowboy theme in romance novels.  I don't think I really had a thing for cowboys before, but after almost two years into my romance education, I'm hooked.  There is something about a hot guy in tight denim, carrying himself with honor, and taking care of his loved ones before all else.  And Brock is one of the best of them.  He doesn't live on a ranch, he doesn't ride a horse, but he is all cowboy.  He has sacrificed himself, and his needs, in order to be what he needed to be for his dad, and for his son.  He's taken a beating for it, and when we meet him, he has some deep wounds, but like all cowboys, he refuses to give up, and he does what needs to be done to take care of his responsibilities.  He's that guy you are rooting for as soon as you meet him.  He's also the guy you want to take home to meet your family.

When he meets Calvin, and Calvin is a whirlwind, he isn't quite sure what to make of it.  Here is this guy, that he's quickly falling for, offering him a way out.  But in Brock's mind, he's the cowboy, he's the one that is supposed to come riding to the rescue, not be the one getting pulled up onto the horse, thus avoiding the stampeding buffalo.  So it takes a while, just a little bit of time, for him to trust that Calvin will be there to catch him, to trust Calvin enough that being vulnerable in front of him, admitting that he needs help, won't emasculate him.  But once he does, once he excepts what's being offered, not only for himself, but for his son, he claims what's his.  It's a perfect HEA, and only an idiot would think it should have worked out any other way.