Friday, December 28, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Temple of the Winds - Terry Goodkind)

Book four of the Sword of Truth series.

On the red moon will come the firestorm...

Wielding the Sword of Truth, Richard Rahl has battled death itself and come to the defense of the D'Haran people. But now the power-mad Emperor Jagang confronts Richard with a swift and inexorable foe: a mystical plague cutting a deadly swath across the land and slaying thousands of innocent victims.

To quench the inferno, he must seek remedy in the wind...

To fight it Richard and his beloved Kahlan Amnell will risk everything to uncover the source of the terrible plague-the magic sealed away for three millennia in the Temple of the Winds.

Lightning will find him on that path...

But when prophecy throws the shadow of betrayal across their mission and threatens to destroy them, Richard must accept the Truth and find a way to pay the price the winds demand...or he and his world will perish.


The review:


I think I'll tackle this one with a few main points of discussion.
- I despise Terry Goodkind as a person.
- Either I'm a prophet, or this series has just gotten that predictable.
- I no longer care that much for Richard.

I think that will work for the time being. Here we go:
I despise Terry Goodkind as a person.
I've never met the man, and I'm not sure I want to. As others have pointed out before me, these books are all filled with the same graphic, horrendous acts of violence, namely rape and torture. I mean it, if the shock of it hadn't worn off clear back in Stone of Tears, then this would have made me physically sick just to read about how eight out of ten female characters were treated. As I've seen it put elsewhere, when the men are killed, they're cut in half and they die. When the women are killed, they're raped, mutilated, raped after being mutilated, mutilated and raped some more, then they die. I'll say it again, plot elements such as these are best used in moderation, and with good reason. For one, they wear out with use and lose whatever shock and horror value they possess. For another, if you repeatedly fill your books with this kind of misogyny and torture porn (hey, I'm just calling it like I see it), it's in disgusting taste and really makes your audience start to wonder about you...I'm just this point, though, it hardly registers as it should with me. I'm not so much outraged on behalf of the characters as I am annoyed that it's popped up AGAIN. It's like mildew, really.

And I just realized that I said I viewed the whole thing as an annoyance as opposed to the horror that it is. Now I really despise Terry Goodkind as a person. I hope he's gotten himself a better editor since this was published, as he still tends to ramble off on tangents that have little to nothing to do with whatever happens to be going on in the story and he manages his characters better this time around, but the best ones get even less screen time than ever. That's the REAL annoyance.

Either I'm a prophet, or this series has just gotten that predictable.
All right, now I'll admit that there were a few things that took me by surprise, but they were few and far between. I was surprised, for instance, that the big conflict was something as mundane as a plague instead of yet another bad guy intent on conquering the free world (but maybe that's because Richard hasn't offed Emperor Jagang yet). But from that point on, I could just about see everything coming, from who was going to get the plague to what was really going on with Shota to the identity of the Jack the Ripper-esque serial killer that sliced up half the prostitutes in Aydindril (did I spell it right this time?), you get the picture. Where are the surprises lurking in this mess of almost-bombshells? I can't see them! I can't see them!

I no longer care that much for Richard.
I liked him better when he was Richard Cypher the Seeker, the stereotypical young hero that still had a lot to learn and had something endearing about him. Now who is he? He's Richard Rahl, lord and master of the D'Haran empire! What he says, goes! He doesn't know everything there is to know about everything, but he's the final word on everything anyway! Obey or die! *raspberry* Really, he's not terribly likeable anymore. Kahlan hasn't slipped that bad, but she's getting less and less interesting. The best characters are the ones who don't get enough focus, such as Zedd, Ann, Verna, and the Mord-Sith. Granted, Cara, Berdine and Raina had a much bigger part to play here, but I fail to see why Goodkind even bothered including Zedd, Ann and Verna this time around, they did so little. Now, don't get me wrong, the little they did was important, and I wouldn't have missed Zedd and Ann acting like lunatics to avoid being sacrificed for the world, but so much more could have been done with them! Yet they go to waste! Travesty!

My closing statement after venting a lot of spleen...if there was so much for me to complain about while reading this book, why, then, will I bother with the series any longer? Because the good stuff was just that good, gosh darn it! When it's bad, it's bloody awful, but when it's good, it's pretty freaking great! For the sake of the great stuff, I'm willing to endure the other unpalatable stuff! Curse you, Terry Goodkind!

Your humble book nerd,

Reading Challenge 2013 - Book to Movie

So, I wouldn't call the BBC's six or more (hosted by Alex @ The Blethering Bookworm) a bust, as I completed the challenge, I passed with less-than-flying colors. This year, though, I'm confident that I've found a challenge I can excel at!

hosted by: Doing Dewey
The Challenge:
Review books and the movies based on them.
You can change challenge levels at any time and the challenge levels are as follows:
Movie Fan - read 3 books and watch their movies
Movie Devotee - read 6 books and watch their movies
Movie Lover - read 9 books and watch their movies
Movie Aficionado - read 12 books and watch their movies
For more information, see the challenge page here: Book to Movie Challenge 2013

I think I can nail this one! I mean it! Movie Fan, that'll be a cinch! For the time being, I'll shoot for Movie Devotee, but if I move on past that one, I'll be even happier! I've got a few more days before the challenge starts, and then we'll see how it goes. This is going to be fun!

Your pal,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins)

As usual, I'm slow on the uptake, but I'm definitely jumping on the Hunger Games band wagon. Not because it's popular, but because it really is that freaking awesome.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before...and surprising readers at every turn.


Review time (but if anyone has read this and wants to talk it over with me, I'm more than eager!):

Gotta bite the bullet and review this thing, even though there are few things more intimidating than writing a review for a book this popular, or as irritating as reviewing a book you enjoyed. What can you say that someone else hasn't? How do you keep the enthusiasm reined in? Is a puzzlement!

Forget comparing this series to Twilight. I'm comparing the experience of reading it to Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. I got sucked in quickly, ended up rooting for a bad ass female lead capable of ruthless acts all in the name of a very specific moral code (that doesn't quite tally with what most would call "moral"), found myself mentally screaming as I read WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!, and still have one book left to read! Fortunately, this series is easier to talk about than Millennium...which is why I'm going to quit rambling about the one and focus on the other.

I didn't say anything about Haymitch and Cinna in my review for The Hunger Games, and I have no idea why. Both of them are great characters! Matter of fact, I'm hard pressed to find a boring character in these books so far. Even the expendable ones like Madge and Greasy Sae aren't what I'd call boring, but Haymitch and Cinna both work as interesting father figures for Katniss. Ms. Collins also seems to have given them greater dimension, and development! Yay! I liked learning about Haymitch's experience in the Games in particular; it shows how cunning and calculating a person he really is, which is important later on.

I read most of this in a day because 1) I was sitting at home with nothing else to do (translation: nothing else I felt like doing) and 2) I couldn't for the life of me walk away from it. When I finally got the chance to just sit and read, that was it. It was intense and just so darn easy to read in the first place, and had I stopped to consider possible plot twists I might have seen a few of them coming, but that's just it! I COULDN'T stop! It had me by the throat, and there was no thinking to it! I actually felt like I hit a brick wall a few times, like President Snow dropping a bomb on everyone, and Peeta dropping a bomb on everyone, and Haymitch dropping several bombs on Katniss.

Katniss, by the way, I still consider emotionally retarded (Hello! Peeta, woman! Gale can go fly a kite in a lightning storm for all I care!), but she's still as awesome as ever. I rank her up with Lisbeth Salander and Jacky Faber as the coolest heroines I've read lately, if not ever. She may not always have a clue and she might shuffle her feet, but when she finally gets on course she commits and doesn't look back. Well, she doesn't look back in time...

Which brings me to one of the cruelest cliff hangers ever written. I've seen a few doozies, but that one had me nearly throwing the book across the room and beating my sister over the head for the next book until I remembered I have Mockingjay on ebook and could, in fact, read it before her. *insert evil laugh* What's going to kill me, if this series doesn't finish me off first, is waiting for the next movie to come out.

It might be premature, but I think Suzanne Collins might have earned a spot on my list of favorites. She's definitely earned my respect and admiration. 'Nuff said.

Your humble book nerd,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jumping Out

Well, my initial plan was to knock that list of the BBC's out of the freaking park by reading at least a quarter of the books on it, but...*shrug* If it didn't work out that way, I'm at least satisfied with reading more than the required six. But what did I read?

Recap time!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The sad part of it is, I have even more off the list sitting on my shelf at this very moment, but I haven't gotten around to reading, much less reviewing, any of them lately. Darn.

Your pal,

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Had to Share This 27

Well, it's the 22nd, and according to the Mayan calendar, we should be up to our eyeballs in the apocalypse right now, so I say we celebrate that we made it!

Drink the Night Away - Gaelic Storm

Your pal,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory)

I know I've been absent for awhile, but blame it on a bad internet connection. The good news is, I've gotten caught up with my Philippa Gregory collection, at least until a new one surfaces at Goodwill!

Three Women Who Share One Fate: The Boleyn Inheritance  
Anne of Cleves
She runs from her tiny country, her hateful mother, and her abusive brother to a throne whose last three occupants are dead. King Henry VIII, her new husband, instantly dislikes her. Without friends, family, or even an understanding of the language being spoken around her, she must literally save her neck in a court ruled by a deadly game of politics and the terror of an unpredictable and vengeful king. Her Boleyn Inheritance: accusations and false witnesses.

Katherine Howard
She catches the king's eye within moments of arriving at court, setting in motion the dreadful machine of politics, intrigue, and treason that she does not understand. She only knows that she is beautiful, that men desire her, that she is young and in love -- but not with the diseased old man who made her queen, beds her night after night, and killed her cousin Anne. Her Boleyn Inheritance: the threat of the axe.

Jane Rochford
She is the Boleyn girl whose testimony sent her husband and sister-in-law to their deaths. She is the trusted friend of two threatened queens, the perfectly loyal spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and a canny survivor in the murderous court of a most dangerous king. Throughout Europe, her name is a byword for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust. Her Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune and a title, in exchange for her soul.

The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration, and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror. Once again, Philippa Gregory has brought a vanished world to life -- the whisper of a silk skirt on a stone stair, the yellow glow of candlelight illuminating a hastily written note, the murmurs of the crowd gathering on Tower Green below the newly built scaffold. In The Boleyn Inheritance Gregory is at her intelligent and page-turning best.


Onto the review:

OK, let's start with a confession: Philippa Gregory is my new guilty pleasure. She disregards historical fact when invention suits her better and reading her books is hardly a step above watching a soap, but still, I like her work. There's something different to each of the books I've read so far, and I enjoy them all for different reasons.

I did not, however, fully appreciate the gimmick of three different perspectives. They each had their own voice, but they all managed to say the exact same thing with only slightly different words. I feel like I can get farther if I break it down by characters, so I'll go with that approach. (By the way, I don't feel like I can call these spoilers, as it's literally history, for the most part, so if you don't know much about the Tudor dynasty, you might be in for some surprises.)

I liked Anne of Cleves as much as I liked Katherine of Aragon. I've always liked Anne of Cleves, though. Her marriage to Henry was the shortest of the six, but she came out of it with quite the divorce settlement, and she was only one of two wives to survive being married to the man. I'd call that an accomplishment! Not much else to say about Anne, so moving on.

I see in the author's note that Gregory wanted to portray Katherine Howard as something other than a stupid girl. Boy, she sure missed the mark enough...I've only read one other fictional account of Katherine (The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby...a good one!), and the two seem to tally with each other, so I'm going to say that either both authors read the same sheep-spit histories, or this is how it really was for Kitty. Here, she struck me as vapid, idiotic for even a teenager, selfish, naive, and ultimately sympathetic. The poor girl was fifteen! Fifteen! She had no choice in becoming Henry's trophy wife, the "rose without a thorn," and it cost her her life! I thought I was going to lose it when she asked for the executioner's block to be brought to her cell so she could practice kneeling at it, and the way Gregory handled the execution itself was gut-wrenching. I mean, SHE WAS FIFTEEN! Put to death because a horny old man lusted after her and she happened to fall in love with someone else! That's always been a hard one to swallow for me. Henry, you sick bastard!

And then there's Jane Boleyn. At first I thought I was going to puke, I was so disgusted with the whole "Oh, how I loved dear George and dear Anne and I testified against them to save them and I can't believe they were killed after all" crap. Then I found out Gregory was playing up the insanity angle so far as Lady Jane was concerned, and it made a little more sense. But it still annoyed me. As a matter of fact, Jane herself annoyed me. I mean, really? I hope "no writer would dream up a horror like that," because this character sucks! She can't decide if she's jealous or in love, whether she's loyal to Uncle Howard or the many queens she serves (all of whom happen to end up in some kind of disgrace, thanks to her), whether she's really crazy or only pretending to be, and blah blah blah. I had to work to get through her parts, hoping that Anne and Kitty would come back around soon. I'll admit, though, her scene with Uncle Howard where he gives her a slap of reality gave me chills. Big time. I'm getting chills just thinking about how it gave me chills, it was that good.

So, third Philippa Gregory book, and another one I don't regret buying. Like I said, it's novelized daytime TV, but still, it's enjoyable.


You know, it really is more fun to discuss a book than to review it...if anyone reading this blog has read any of the books I've talked about here, feel free to have a nice chat with me about them! Please?

Your humble book nerd,

Saturday, December 8, 2012

NaNo...Oh, Whatever...

From now until it's finished, this will be called the Great Novel Edit! Anyways, I was thinking that a new title deserves a new summary! The Phantom's Phoenix needs something with a little more mystery and more of the atmosphere of the story itself, with less dime-store romance. A thank you to the gal who helped work this one out!

"Two torturous years after the disastrous premier of Don Juan Triumphant, the Phantom wallows beneath the rubble and ruin from the flames he brought upon all. Setting Christine free after finally coming to understand love and sacrifice has cost him what was left of his soul. His opera house now destroyed and desolate in his own madness, even his beloved music has lost its power, and Erik merely waits for the end, to become the ghost he was long believed to be.

Yet in the oppressing silence a small ember hides within the ashes. Vivienne, a former ballerina now forced to become a street musician to earn what she can, seeks shelter in Erik’s domain after tragedy strikes her. However, she is an unwelcome guest, and is soon to learn that the hushed tales whispered behind the curtain about the Opera Ghost are true and she is not alone."


Your pal,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Mr Darcy, Vampyre - Amanda Grange)

I'm nowhere close to catching up with my reading, but I can at least catch up on reviewing!

A married man in possession of a dark fortune must be in want of an eternal wife...

My hand is trembling as I write this letter. My nerves are in tatters and I am so altered that I believe you would not recognize me. The past two months have been a nightmarish whirl of strange and disturbing circumstances, and the future...

I am afraid.

If anything happens to me, remember that I love you and that my spirit will always be with you, though we may never see each other again. The world is a cold and frightening place where nothing is as it seems.


That's the summary and rating, and this is the review:

I like my chances at getting a novel of my own published by a major company, because it looks like they'll print anything these days...

I'd be really pissed off that I spent money to buy this if I hadn't gotten it dirt cheap at a thrift store. Two dollars buys a book worth only two stars, who'da thunk it? In the end, I went with two because I couldn't even muster the energy to out and out dislike this book. The most it got out of me was a "meh." As a vampire novel, it failed. The word didn't even appear until halfway through the whole thing, not counting the title. As a Pride and Prejudice sequel, it failed. Darcy was stiff and boring, and Lizzy was never this slow, insipid and needy. As a Jane Austen retelling, it really failed. Grange completely lacked the wit, humor and charm of Miss Austen and can barely stand on her own merit without trying to cash in on someone else's.

I'm not saying that a P&P-with-vamps story can't be done. As a matter of fact, I'm tempted to try it myself. I'm saying that this ain't that story. This is more like a rip-off of Twilight than P&P (and I paid for this crap?!). Darcy may not sparkle, but he turns transparent at dawn, so that's close enough for me. And hell, even Bella freaking Swan figured out about Edward Cullen before Lizzy found out about Darcy!

That's not what ticked me off the most. It was the constant, direct quotes from the original that did that. Always verbatim, and always at least three in a chapter. What was the purpose of this, exactly? To prove that Grange read the original? Not very well, it seems, as both hero and heroine are so far out of character to the point of assassination. Was she trying to separate it from Twilight by throwing as much of Jane as she could in there? Was she trying to be clever, in putting such a spin on a classic? In this, she also failed.

The atmosphere threw me off as well. P&P is bright, cheery and playful. This is not. Decent vampire stories are dark, full of mystery, and occasionally scary. This is not. I have no idea what this is, but I can only call it bad fan fiction. Not the worst, as I've read some pretty nauseating garbage, but bad enough to be getting along with. It was dull and uninteresting, and I only finished it because it was so short and I literally had nothing else to do. This thing only serves to prove that if you pander to the folks in charge at the publishing houses and give them what sells--in this case, vampires and retellings of classics--then regardless of talent or worth, you too can see your name in print!


Your humble book nerd,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory)

I seem to be in a bit of a Tudor-ish mood lately...

"I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known...and I will be Queen of England."

Thus, bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to marry Prince Arthur of England. When they meet and are married, the match becomes as passionate as it is politically expedient. The young lovers revel in each other's company and plan the England they will make together. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his brother, Henry; become Queen; and fulfill their dreams and her destiny.

"They tell me nothing but lies here and they think they can break my spirit. I believe what I choose and say nothing. I am not as simple as I seem."

Widowed and alone in the avaricious world of the Tudor court, Katherine has to sidestep her father-in-law's desire for her and convince him, and an incredulous Europe, that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, that there is no obstacle to marriage with Henry. For seven years, she endures the treachery of spies, the humiliation of poverty, and intense loneliness and despair while she waits for the inevitable moment when she will step into the role she has prepared for all her life. Then, like her warrior mother, Katherine must take to the battlefield and save England when its old enemies the Scots come over the border and there is no one to stand against them but the new Queen.

"It was my dying husband's hope, my mother's wish, and God's will that I should be Queen of England; and for them and for the country, I will be Queen of England until I die."

Raised on the battlefield and in the most beautiful Moorish palace in the world, sent to England alone at the age of sixteen to take her place in a court where she couldn't speak the language, and abandoned and forced to endure poverty after the death of her husband, Katherine remained a woman of indomitable spirit, unwavering faith, and extraordinary strength. Philippa Gregory brings to life one of history's most inspiring women and creates one of the most compelling characters in historical fiction.

Whew, what a summary! Is there even any room for my review in all of that?


My knowledge of Katherine of Aragon is limited to five facts: 1) she was the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, king and queen of Spain, 2) she was first married to Arthur Tudor, Henry VIII's older brother, 3) she was Henry's first wife, 4) she was a devout Catholic, 5) she was Princess Mary's mother. For all I know, her life story is as Philippa Gregory wrote it, but after the misinformation of The Other Boleyn Girl, I highly doubt it.

Yet it bears repeating that Ms. Gregory is a good storyteller, in the sense that she made me finish reading what might as well be a novelized soap opera. My liking for Katherine carried over from TOBG and grew as she was portrayed with greater detail. She transformed from an obedient daughter to an independent, if troubled widow, and from there into a victorious queen. I grew so attached to the love story with Arthur that it fairly broke my heart when it ended, and my initial ambivalence towards Henry was cemented once again into dislike. Arrogant, selfish, demanding, and with the power to have you put to death if you annoyed him--yikes!

But back to Katherine, or Catalina, as she's called here. Her initial motive was to fulfill her destiny to please her parents, and that made for a dull start (one of the books problems, but I liked it as a whole, anyway). Her love and passion for Arthur, once it took off, got me caught up in no time, hopeless romantic that I am. It was her vow to become Queen of England no matter what that set things rolling. Was it really her determination to keep her promise that drove her, or did the promise just give her an excuse for her ambition? Did her pledge to Arthur really inspire her to cast him off and publicly denounce him, or was she serving her own purposes? And even after denying they were ever truly husband and wife, she still loved him heart and soul, and remained constant to him even as she was married to Henry. See? See what I did there?

No, really, "constant" could refer to many things about Catalina. Constant determination, patience, perseverance, deception, pride, and constant devotion to her dead husband and lover. The next time I read TOBG, my view of Queen Katherine will have changed quite a bit...

About the shifts from third to first person--I didn't mind in the slightest. The reader has the omnipresence to see what's going on everywhere else in the story, and the intimate, personal account of the heroine herself. I'm partial to alternating POV, myself, so I was already slanted in Ms. Gregory's favor on that part. I would have liked to split the time mostly between Catalina's marriages without the long portion focusing on her widowhood, as that's when things lost a lot of steam, but other than that, I enjoyed this more than TOBG. *gasp* I really did.

The closing with Katherine ready to defend her marriage to Henry with her--paraphrasing here--having the courage to lie again knowing he would never be brave enough to tell the truth, and fighting for her daughter's rights as a legitimate princess, her queenship, and (truly, this time) the promise she made Arthur...brava. Highest point of the whole book, seeing she was all but defeated and yet anything but. My favorite scene by far, and that, if nothing else, makes this one worth it.

In closing: historical inaccuracies likely, reminiscent of daytime TV, less opulent than TOBG but with more...spirit, shall I say? This one has less grandeur, but more of something else that I can't quite put my finger on. Either way, I liked it, plain and simple, flaws and all.


Your humble book nerd,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Randomness 18

I needed something funny, so...I bring you jokes!

A pregnant woman gets into a car accident and goes into a coma.

After nearly six months, she wakes up to find that she is no longer pregnant.

Frantically, she asks the doctor about her baby.

The doctor replies, "Ma'am, you had twins! A boy and a girl. The babies are fine. Your brother came in and named them, if you don't mind me saying he does seem a bit of a redneck!"

The woman thinks to herself, "Oh no, not my brother!" Expecting the worst, she asks the doctor, "Well, what's the girl's name?"

"Denise," the doctor says.

The new mother thinks, "Wow, that's not such a bad name! I like Denise!"

Then she asks the doctor, "What's the boy's name?"

The doctor replies, "DeNephew."
 Stumpy and his wife Martha went to the State Fair every year. Every year Stumpy would say, "Martha, I'd like to ride in that airplane." And every year Martha would say, "I know, Stumpy, but that airplane ride costs ten dollars, and ten dollars is ten dollars."

This one year Stumpy and Martha went to the fair and Stumpy said, "Martha, I'm 71 years old. If I don't ride that airplane this year I may never get another chance."

Martha replied, "Stumpy, that airplane ride costs ten dollars, and ten dollars is ten dollars."

The pilot overheard them and said, "Folks, I'll make you a deal. I'll take you both up for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say one word, I won't charge you, but if you say one word it's ten dollars."

Stumpy and Martha agreed and up they go. The pilot does all kinds of twists and turns, rolls and dives, but not a word is heard. He does all his tricks over again, but still not a word.

They land and the pilot turns to Stumpy, "By golly, I did everything I could think of to get you to yell out, but you didn't."

Stumpy replied, "Well, I was gonna say something when Martha fell out, but ten dollars is ten dollars."
During a ride in a taxicab, the rider touched the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question.

Upon the touch, the cab driver flinched, screamed, then went into a panic and almost wrecked the cab.
Finally the driver got control and pulled to side of road.

Still shaking, he turned to his rider and apologized.
He said, "Sorry about that.
This is my first day as a cab driver.
For the past 20 years I have driven a hearse".
Your pal,

Monday, December 3, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update: Eureka!

New title! New title! All thanks to my brilliant, devoted, biggest-fan-of-this-story-ever friend! It's no longer From the Ashes! What do you guys think of The Phantom's Phoenix?

I love it!

Your pal,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update: Excerpt #3

I realize at this point that it's no longer NaNoWriMo, but this is still my NaNo project, so I'll keep calling it that in these posts. Just because.

Anyhoo, I think it's time for another snippet, what do you think? This one is coming to you from The Phantom of the Chagnys, and is one of many scenes between Erik and Christine that I dove into. It's their first meeting in three years, and of course the talk turns to music. As usually happens in my Phantom stories, there's an enormous Leroux influence with some Webber to add some sparkle and romance. I just love music scenes!


The room was very large and spacious, but it looked smaller than it was due to the organ that took up the whole of the far wall. It was so impressive and unexpected a sight in such a nondescript building that for a moment Christine couldn’t look away from it, and when she did she saw music everywhere. The Dies Irae met her gaze several times, though indeed she could as easily have imagined Erik without that requiem as a non-singing Erik. But mostly she saw books covered in red ink, more of the music Erik had written himself. Among the scattered papers was a beautiful, well-cared-for violin.
Out in the alley the air had felt malevolent; in here there was a sense of dormancy, as though it were sleeping and waiting for that Angel of Music to bring it to life again. Christine could almost feel it on her skin, a divinity that was of both Heaven and Hell.
Erik gestured to the room at large. “No sound whatsoever permeates these walls,” he said. “I filled them in myself. It’s merely a question of adding an extra thickness. In here I could call down fire from Heaven and the outside world would be none the wiser.”
Christine was speechless. It was always an affecting experience to be in the heart of Erik’s lair, but to find herself once again at the center of his creative genius after never expecting to see him again was just as surreal as being with him again in the first place.
He sat down at the organ and began to play. She didn’t recognize the music, but she knew its quality well. It was of Erik’s own composition; it filled her, captivated her, and entranced her. It awakened the sleeping divinity on the air and in her spirit, stirring her senses into life. She could feel it in her blood, and as she breathed it in it elevated her very soul.
The song within her rose, filling her mind and body with the need to set it free at last. It had slept for too long, and now Erik had invoked it with his music. He had allowed her, even compelled her, to give in to the need. Powerless to resist any longer, she heeded the call.
She sang, as she’d only ever sung with him before. She’d never improvised before in her life, but his music and her voice seemed to blend seamlessly until there was no dividing one from the other. He played on with ever-increasing passion, and she sang until it felt as though her soul had left her body, reaching out for the music and soaring away in rapture when she touched it.
Time lost all meaning, and she didn’t know whether they’d been at it for hours or only a few minutes before their song drew to a close. Her voice faded to a whisper and the final notes of the organ died away, and Erik said without looking at her, “Now you see, Christine. I am quite safe in my music here. There’s no need to hold it back, it can be free and fly as it’s meant to.”
Christine didn’t answer. She had closed her eyes and she stood still, her mind serene and her body tingling. The music was gone, but she didn’t despair as before. When she spoke, she said, “I have to leave now, Erik.”
His voice was heavy with sorrow as he replied, “Of course, Christine. But you’ll come back.”
“Yes,” she promised. “I will.” She would, and as soon as she could. She couldn’t remain without that music for long, the music that had once again claimed her for its own.


And now back to work!

Your pal,

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Artist of the Month - December 2012

A return to regular posts! Isn't it marvelous! Well, regular features, at least, with some NaNo still rolling...anyway, it's been too long! Drum roll, please!

*drum roll*

Bon Jovi

Crap, now I gotta give the know, on the chance someone around here hasn't heard of them. All right, basically a rock band from New Jersey formed in the 80's that hit it big with their third album Slippery When Wet (which is a really good one, BTW). The 2000 single "It's My Life" brought more attention from the younger generations, as every kid growing up in those days has heard that song at least half a dozen times. The track record thus far is eleven studio albums, three compilation albums, one live album, and over 130 albums sold worldwide. They were given the Award of Merit at the American Music Awards in 2004 (I know! I watched it!) and in 2009, members Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

Livin' On a Prayer

Ick, don't ask me to pick just one favorite song, but this one is my anthem lately, so rock on!

It's My Life - another little anthem of mine...
You Give Love a Bad Name
Have a Nice Day  - this video introduced what became their trademark smirk logo
Wanted Dead or Alive - this one gained recent popularity after its inclusion in an (awesome) episode of Supernatural. You know, just a little fun fact...
Blaze of Glory
Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore (featuring LeAnn Rimes)

I think I picked a good one to get back on track with! Happy listening!

Your pal,

Friday, November 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update: *crash*

Grrrr.....I hate my own standards. What to do when you keep changing titles? What to do? Thinking it over, I'm not sure From the Ashes is the best I can do! *sniff* What now?

Your pal,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update: Excerpt #2

Here we go again! Here's a little something from the newly-revised (well, almost) From the Ashes. It seems I have a knack for dialogue; my readers seem to think so, at least. And this was so much fun to write, as it was full of dialogue between Erik, always a treat to interpret and quite the smooth talker here, and Vivienne, my own creation and my greatest writing achievement so far. The secret to dialogue is flow: it has to sound like natural conversation. With that in mind, have I succeeded?


I sat on the sofa after our lesson one day, watching him in his chair, his eyes riveted on the book he was reading. What I could see of his face was still and focused, those yellow eyes sliding back and forth as he read. One of his hands left its place supporting the book and turned the page. It was an odd thing, but I'd never realized just how beautiful a man's hands could be until I'd begun to study Erik's.
He sensed my scrutiny and looked up from the book. "What is it, Vivienne?" he asked.
"Nothing in particular," I replied. "I just like watching you. It's still strange to me, after knowing of you as the Phantom for so long, to actually know you as a human. Has anyone ever told you that you are a mesmerizing man?"
He laughed. "Never," he said. "And I never thought about it before, but now that you bring it up, I'm curious. Just how exactly am I mesmerizing?"
"The way you move, for one thing," I told him. "You have such grace in your movements that it's hard not to stare at you. I for one fail dismally at it. And your voice, Erik! Your voice was the very first thing that drew me to you, the very first time you ever spoke to me! And you just have this…aura around you, this elegance and mystery that's so magnetic. I couldn't imagine a more captivating man."
His smile was compelling and seductive, but his voice was kind and sweet. "Do you know what drew me to you?" he asked. "It was that fire in your soul. I noticed it that first morning you spent here. What binds you to me are the shadows around me; what binds me to you is your light."
"So in that sense, we complement each other," I said.
"You could say that," he replied. "Or you could say that's why we're always at odds with each other, you dear child."
"Child?" I repeated. "I'll have you know, monsieur, that I am a grown woman of the world and a former member of the ballet, and the Opera Garnier doesn't allow children in the chorus."
"A grown woman, you say?" he asked. "Just how old are you, mademoiselle?"
"Nineteen?" he said, laughing again. "My, my, you're quite ancient, aren't you? Why, you must have been there the day God created fire."
"Don't tease!"
"No, it makes sense. You were there when He created fire, and you took some of it into your spirit to keep with you forever. That's what makes you so ageless, my dear."
"Well then, just how old are you? You must have been there when God created night, to be so dark and mysterious all the time. Come on, monsieur, how old are you?"
"I'm old enough that I don't have to answer that question," he replied smugly. "That's my secret, little girl."
I got to my feet and stood before him with my hands on my hips. "Little girl?" I said. "Whatever happened to how ageless I am? I may be smaller than most women, monsieur, but I'm still a woman!"
"I have no doubt of that," he replied. "As I said, that fire within you is ageless."
That voice…was it so necessary for it to be so hypnotic? He leaned back in the chair, the book lying open on his knee, and his gaze held something akin to cockiness as he looked at me. His half-smile intrigued me, probably more than it should have. I paused momentarily in thought. Was he actually flirting with me?


Ah, I love these two! Is it wrong for me to be so biased? I created Vivienne, after all...

Your pal,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update: Excerpt #1

I've accepted that this project isn't going to get finished within the last few days of November, but if I can get it all done by New Year's, I'll have put in a valiant effort and I'll be satisfied.

First little tidbit for you! Just a short scene from chapter four of Maid of Iron and told in Constantine's point of view. You remember him, right? This chapter was one of my favorites, and made me realize just how much Jane Austen has served as an influence.


Well, lovers quarrel, I thought as I trudged back to Rosarian. I had decided to try again tomorrow, not because of the weather that had turned foul—it was pouring out enough rain to make another Lake of St. Francis—but because she probably wouldn’t even come to the door if I knocked again.
          We all gathered in the library after supper. Father was reading an old epic, Mother was working on her embroidery, and I was staring into the fire with Brennan snoring quietly at my feet.
          “Now, son, what have I told you about brooding?”
          I looked up. Father was ignoring his epic and watching me as intently as I had been watching the flames. “Did you go back to the smith’s today?” he asked.
          “Yes, I did,” I answered. “He said he would take the commission.”
          “That’s more like it,” he said. “But that’s not what’s on your mind. What are you thinking about?”
          “Anna,” I said dully.
          “Ah, your lass,” he replied.
          Mother looked up interestedly. “What lass?”
          “She’s not my lass,” I corrected. “But I’m trying to change that.”
          “Our boy’s in love, Winifred,” Father told her.
          “Why wasn’t I informed?” she asked.
          Father waved his hand carelessly. “Oh, you know young people,” he said airily. “They like to keep their secrets, at least for a while. Then the problem is getting them to talk about anything else.”
          “I actually do have a problem,” I confessed. “We’ve had an argument, and I’m trying to get back in her good graces, but nothing’s worked.”
          “And how many times have you tried to talk to her?” Father asked.
          “Twice!” he exclaimed. “You try twice and say nothing’s worked! Oh, son, you really should have studied battle strategy!”
          “It had occurred to me,” I muttered.
          Mother shook her head dismissively. “You men,” she said. “This isn’t warfare, it’s courtship.”
          “They seemed the same to me,” Father told her with a smile.
          “Really, Darius,” she chastised. “Constantine, try flowers. Young girls adore flowers.”
          “Flowers, eh?” I asked. I settled back into my chair and buried myself in my thoughts once more.

And now back to work we go!

Your pal,