Can I Get an Amen? *Fangirl Squee*

Yep.  It was an awesome Game of Thrones season finale.  Indeed, we viewed both cringe-worthy and cheer-worthy scenes.  I even needed a tissue at one point to blot tears.  Teeny tiny ones.  But a girl threw her fist in the air with a triumphant, “YES!” as Sam Tarly walked into the Citadel library.giphy

I felt an urge to be standing RIGHT THERE, inhaling the scents of parchment, leather, and polished rosewood (or the Westerosi/Essos equivalent).  All the books.  All the parchment.  Pfft.  Never mind that women aren’t admitted into the inner sanctum.  A homegirl could make it work.

And then they panned across the ceiling and I got to see the light fixtures…

*crickets chirping*

What?  Am I the only person out of the many GoT fans on my friends list on Facebook who did not catch them?

armillary-spheres-game-of-thrones-citadel-library-opening-credits (1)

They are the spinny metal engraved discs that spin and illuminate and transition through the opening sequence of the show!  THOSE THINGS.  They are hanging from the ceiling in the Citadel.

We’ve been watching them burn their images into our greedy little retinas for years now.

BaratheonGoTDisc

THOSE discs.  Right.  Got it.  HOW FREAKING COOL!!  They’ve been there all this time, and they show up in the LIBRARY!

What a library, though. *love*

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Florida, Fairly Wet-Land, and Home of Dangerous Things (Including Animals)

I’ve been a Florida resident for around 45 years.  I grew up during a time when you could drive on the beach and actually see water instead of condos from A1A.  A lot’s changed, obviously, but while the inevitability of the Urban Sprawl is an unfortunate expectation, it comes with a price: people who move here and say silly things like, “What is an alligator doing living near people?”Florida

And then I acquire a new set of bruises on my forehead from banging my head on the desk.

It seems that there’s a large chunk of the continental US and a pretty large number of Floridians (I’m going to assume urban-dwelling residents who don’t get out much or live near water… which is something of a feat living here) who haven’t yet heard the “news”: Florida is a very wet state, covered by large bodies of water, full of huge expanses of grassland, swampland, forested areas, and everything in between. Crazy, right?  Who’d have thought!?  But, wait — there’s MORE.

IMG_1919

An example of the very cute and mostly harmless native wildlife frolicking near the water.

We have lots of things living here (including people, alas) that are fully capable of causing you serious illness or injury. Many of these things evolved over millions of years to become the ultimate predator in this environment. People did not. We’re fairly recent to their scene, and are making our homes and building theme parks and malls right in the middle of their homes.

Is it really necessary for people to be informed of this upon flying or driving across state lines? Consider this a PSA, then.

LOL

See all of that blue?  Water.  Where there isn’t water… is suburbs.  Where there IS water?  Dangerous things, pretty things, things that mostly just want to go about the business of making noise and making babies.  Many of them bite.

This is an example of what you DON’T see. It’s roughly where I live. There’s a LOT of blue on this map slice. The blue is water, and that doesn’t include what pools up in ditches after a good soaking rain. Man-made or natural, if there’s a body of water deeper than spit on a sidewalk, there’s a fair chance you’ll have snapping turtles, alligators, and/or snakes nearby. Just assume they are better at hiding than you are at spotting them and you should be okay.

But you also get Experts assuming they speak with the voice of authority, who get it wrong, and make lots of noise about it.  Invariably, there will be someone who goes completely mental about our critters (in a “we must do something about this public menace that lives around our subdivision formerly-known-as-a-swamp” manner), someone who thinks it’s cute (never mind that it’s stupid and illegal) to feed them, and someone who thinks the State of Florida should hand out brochures at every interstate exit letting the Unwary know about the risks lurking just under the waterline, because DANGER!!

Frankly, you’re in more danger of getting hit by lightning on a golf course or being involved in a horrible accident due to impaired drivers getting behind the wheel.

IMG_3881

This little cutie frequents one of the many retention ponds near our house.  We’ve also seen snapping turtles and the odd alligator in these ponds.

Tragedies happen, sometimes heartbreaking losses, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely preventable. Still, it astounds me when people are shocked that their dogs get eaten while they’re barking at ducks around a pond, or a guy gets attacked while hiding from police by wading into a swamp. If there is a gutter, sewer, storm drain or canal, Florida’s own resident hunters will find a way through them.

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Game of Thrones: Where I Think It’s Headed, and Why

GameofThronesI haven’t looked around the internet, because I don’t want to be spoiled (you just never know!) and there are plenty of clever bloggers and GoT fans who have worked out goodly chunks of the plot through HBO’s hugely successful adapted-to-screen series by Sadist, Brilliant Writer and Master of Many Deaths, George R. R. Martin.

I’m not a very clever blogger, but I’m putting down my thoughts on record so I can “neener, neener, neener” my way to bragging rights RIGHT NOW, so as the loooong wait until the next (hopefully not final, but I have my suspicions) season crawls slowly forward, I can say to my husband/mom/brother/friends, “I called it!”  In the likely event that I get something wrong… well, hope springs eternal, even for fans of THIS show.  We’re used to disappointment.

Everyone else who’s read the books and/or watches the show has an Opinion.  Here are mine.

Daenerys Targaryen

A few things here… Dragon Girl is going to take the throne.  We all know this is going to happen.  But she won’t do it alone, and I don’t think her reign will be a lonely one.  More than that, I think she’ll be more than the figurehead beloved of the downtrodden, killer of Khals, mother of dragons, and breaker of chains.

Let’s start with that damnable curse/prophecy laid on her by the midwife and witch Mirri Maz Duur.  Tricky, self-fulfilling things, aren’t they?  Let’s review.

“When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” said Mirri Maz Duur. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then [Drogo] will return, and not before.”

I’m leaning toward prophecy, rather than curse.  Daenerys  seems to have accepted infertility as a foregone conclusion.  She lost her son, Rhaego, with the death of his father, Khal Drogo, due to shock, the effect of the dark magic ritual she completed at Duur’s urging, or as a result of her lineage.  Perhaps it’s because she was young at the time of her pregnancy, endured hardships for which she was not mentally or physically prepared, was herself a child born of an incestuous marriage (and her parents, also the product of an incestuous marriage), and may very well have a genetic predisposition to infertility and/or birth defects… or whether the loss of her child was, as she believes, caused by a curse, Daenerys believes herself infertile.

If viewed as a prophecy, Daenerys could very well still bear a child after years of infertility.  Perhaps it would take the right conditions, and the right man… say, Jon Snow. Or, perhaps not.  And if their child was named Drogo… he, Drogo, will have, in a sense, returned.

So what about the sun rising in the west?  Sounds impossible, right?  So does walking through a fire.  Weirder things have happened. Right now, I’m looking through the invaluable (and addictive) appendix in A Dance With Dragons.  Go ahead… grab your copy.

Notice the section for House Martell of Dorne?   Yes, those Martells… the ones who are on the warpath for mostly justifiable reasons too numerous to count?

Then young Prince Quentyn of Martell shows up, pledging  to the Mother of Dragons “fifty thousand spears and swords” — and Daenarys asks Ser Barristan to identify the arms of House Martell.  He replies, “A sun in splendor, transfixed by a spear.”

Instead of the witch’s curse, though, she’s reminded of  Quaithe’s “prophecy” (also eerily similar):

What else had Quaithe said?  The pale mare and the sun’s son.  There was a lion in it, too, and a dragon.

We know Quentyn, a potential candidate, engages in a highly stupid attempt to master the resident dragons, and dies a fiery, dragon-induced death.  The sun falls in the east.

The children of “Sunspear” daughter Elia Martell and Rhaegar Targaryen were thought to have been murdered by Gregor Clegaine, but in this book, Varys claims to have switched infants to protect Aegon, and another child was murdered instead.  We really can’t be sure, because even at the gory scene, the child’s face was unrecognizable.  Nonetheless, Tywin Lannister proclaimed the body to be that of the child Aegon, and despite false trails and misdirection (of which Varys is highly skilled), we honestly don’t know if this is true, or who this heir might be.  So the sun/son would be a Martell and a Targaryen, and could “rise” in Westeros as a power.

Stay with me.

Gregor Clegaine (Or, She’s Making Mountains out of Mole Hills)

The huge and horrible Gregor Clegane is called “The Mountain” — and while the books and TV series are not entirely in synch, that much, at least, is consistent. In Season Six, we see Clegane alive-ish, despite Martell’s best efforts to kill him.  He’s still a monster, but one without initiative.  The Mountain has fallen.  He’s not blowing “in the wind like leaves” but he’s certainly not what he was.  His brother Sandor, however, also a huge mountain of a man, has also experienced a radical transformation of sorts, as we see in “The Broken Man”.  He’s fallen, been discovered in the dirt and at death’s door by a stranger, and found himself in possession of hours he doesn’t feel he deserves, in a life  he counted all but over.  He’s experiencing a shift in thinking at the moment.  He’s in the process of becoming something new.  Both he and his brother have been instrumental in the change that’s taking place in Westeros.  Both men have taken and traded lives, and paid for it.

But while both of them have fallen, Gregor has become nothing more than an instrument of death.  Anything he was has been reduced to raw materials in a sense.  Sandor is on the cusp of something…more.

But the prophecy mentions mountains… plural.  Maybe there’s more than one way to work through this.

I’m not sure about the sea reference.  I think it goes back to the Smoking Sea, the cursed land and waters near Old Valyria which were rocked hundreds of years prior by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  The Stone Men are all that seem to inhabit these waters.  If it’s still geologically active, it’s possible that this could cause a mountain to collapse, ash to fly, and the sea to dry (with earthquakes and the tidal waves that could follow, this could be a very real consequence).

So the mountain and the sun are mentioned in the prophecy/curse, and the Mountain/Sunspears have a direct connection to a possible legitimate Targaryan heir.

Who might this heir be?  Well, this would have been fifteen years before the events in A Song of Fire and Ice.

That would be right around the time Jon Snow was born.  Right around the time Ned Stark brought home a kid he inexplicably raises as his own, but never formally legitimizes and recognizes as a Stark.

Jon Snow

Not only do I not think Jon is Ned Stark’s bastard son, but I’m kind of conflicted about the guy’s parentage.

On the one hand, I do think he could be the missing Targaryen heir.   I think it’s entirely possible he’s the child of Rhaegar and Elia.  In A Dance With Dragons, a man identified as Aegon VI takes advantage of the infighting in Westeros to try to claim a foothold.  He might have purple eyes and act the part, but I’m not entirely sold.  At this point, everyone and his half-cousin has made a claim on the throne, so why not a Targaryen who was presumed and declared deceased?  I believe he’d be Danaerys’ nephew, but that’s not a deal breaker with the biggest families in the Seven Kindgoms.  Ick.

Then again, he could also be the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar, who very publicly acknowledged her beauty, kidnapped her, and raped her.  This attack not only instigated a massive war, but Jon could very well have been conceived in this violence.

In Season Six, we see Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven exploring history in a “visit” back through time to the tower where Lyanna is held captive.  We see Ned Stark as a young man, fighting to save his sister, along with his brothers and a young Howland Reed.  Lyanna (presumably) can be heard screaming, but we never see exactly why.  Is she being attacked?  Or is she suffering the agony of childbirth?

If the latter is the case, it goes a long way to explaining why Ned Stark comes home from the war with a baby, one he never explains to Catelyn’s satisfaction, and a constant cause of jealousy and hatred from her.  Poor Jon.

And, while no one ever hinted that Robert Baratheon and Lyanna were ever more than betrothed (although Robert carried a torch for her well after her death and his marriage to Cersei Lannister), it’s possible that Jon could be Baratheon’s son.  I’m not sure about this one, though.  Lyanna was by all accounts headstrong and not easily pushed around, and I can’t imagine Ned would have remained friends if Robert had taken advantage of the arrangement in any way.  I get the sense that while Robert was a skirt chaser, he respected Lyanna enough to not have violated that trust… at least, not before they were married.  But, men… you just never know.  If Jon was their child, though, it would make him a legitimate heir to the throne.  He’d also make a reasonable match for Daenerys, since she wouldn’t be marrying into family.  A Baratheon would have the throne… and so would a Targaryen.  Tidy, that.

If Catelyn Stark and Jon Snow never heard the full story about his parentage, it’s likely we’re only going to hear it from Bran and his uncle Benjen… who would have the inside scoop as much as anyone left alive could, assuming anyone believed them.

Tyrion Lannister

We know he’s always been enchanted with dragons.  Even if you haven’t read the books, the HBO series established this early on.  And in Season Six, Tyrion becomes something of a dragon charmer in Daenery’s absence.  Why did the dragons not eat him?

I’m pretty certain that Tyrion’s a Lannister, and he isn’t.  Ser Barristan is asked by Daenarys to share what he knows about her father and mother, and who they would have chosen if they’d been “free to follow their own hearts.”  Barristan  tells her about a woman her father had his eye on, a “certain lady of Casterly Rock” who married her cousin, Tywin Lannister.

Tywin Lannister, who always hated Tyrion, who maintained until his death that Tyrion wasn’t his son.  Perhaps it wasn’t figurative language, or the petulance of a judgmental, horrid, self-absorbed man.  Barristan reveals that Prince Aerys drank too much at the wedding and expressed his views on the sexual liberties once granted as “the lord’s right” — and that Lannister never forgot those words or the “liberties [Aerys] took during the bedding.”

The only monkey wrench here is that I believe Tyrion’s siblings are older than he is — Cersei and Jaime might also be complications.  Possibly, Aerys is Tyrion’s father from a union that occurred after their birth.

So, it’s entirely possible that Tyrion is Daenarys’ half-brother.  I’d say it’s even likely.

Back to prophecies, curses and dreams. We’re looking at the pale mare, the sun’s son, the lion, the dragon, a mountain, and a sea running dry.

Still looking for clues.

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On Paranormal Fantasy… and Being Real

I’ve been a fan of Faith Hunter’s books for a long time.  She’s a prolific writer, which means I’ve been able to sink my teeth into her books, particularly her Jane Yellowrock novels, with delightful regularity.  It’s good to have a hobby that’s good for me, too.

As she’s currently promoting and enjoying the successful release of Shadow Rites (the series’ tenth installment), you won’t have any trouble finding lots of positive reviews, all well-deserved.  The book delivers the best of the genre, and continues to build on the rich history of her characters and the familiar sights and sounds of the South I know.

I’m not going to echo those reviews.  They’re right, naturally, in calling tShadowRiteshis book a success, and a highly gratifying read.  But what I’m compelled to share is what sets Faith Hunter’s writing apart from so many others in the urban fantasy and romantic urban fantasy genre.

And here’s why:  I appreciate artistry and subtlety.  I love complications.  I love imperfections in a character.  I love cleverness without pretension.

To be honest, if I read one more paranormal fantasy in which the protagonist is a suuuuper-powerful beautiful gem who enchants everyone, craps vanilla, attracts sexy paranormal admirers like deer to a salt lick, and saves the day with a toss of her perfect hair and snappy comebacks, I will be violently ill.

Because, let’s be honest… they’re a dime a dozen in this genre.

Gag.  There I go.

No worries here.

Jane Yellowrock is corny, flawed, awkward, imperfect, silly, impertinent, irreverent, and, quite often, blind to her own shortcomings.  She is brutally honest, sincere, and real.  She feels betrayal and hurts deeply.  She lives a genuine life, if one steeped in myth, legend, and impossible, fantastic elements.

This is why Shadow Rites works for me, why Faith Hunter connects on a level other authors don’t, or can’t.

In short, her heroine is someone with whom, despite her history (deep, wide and tall), many readers will identify.  She has bad hair days.  She has difficulty picking out clothes.  She’s comfortable in her own skin, but aware that she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  She’s discovering herself, even as she’s a child in many ways, and, ironically, is also rather an old soul.

She’s sexy without meaning to be.  She fights, loves, and feels life deeply and with abandon.  When she hurts, you ache with the pain of the depth of it.

She’s in touch with herself and honest, even about the ugly parts.  And she’s okay with that.

It works.

Jane wouldn’t relax enough to sit down for coffee with me, but if she did, we’d be okay just sitting, not talking.  She’s a hero I wish I could be.  She’s honorable, brave, and intensely, immensely protective of those she loves.  She hurts and heals.  She cries inside for things she can’t change.  She feels guilt for things she can’t control.

She’s multi-natured, many-layered.  She’s what women are, and try to hide, and that’s ironic, as Jane Yellowrock isn’t human.

She’s a badass, but not for glory’s sake.   She soldiers on when it’s hardest because she’s who she is, and she lives a life full of purpose and meaning, even if no one else understands her journey.  Even when it’s lonely.

I’m delighted every time I dive into Jane Yellowrock’s latest adventures, and love that she’s in the hands of Faith Hunter, who understands that the best things in life come with a bit of wear on them.

Find Shadow Rites here.  For an extra-special treat, grab it on Audible, too, because Kristine Hvam does a wonderful job with this series, and you’re worth it.

It’s nice, in this day of polished edges and edited photos and ridiculously artificial Instagram “slices of life” (which are anything but real) to get something close to honest, even in a fantasy novel.

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On Anything-ism in Fiction, and Hypocrites

It cracks me up when people criticize fiction because it doesn’t present modern Western ideas about social matters in what’s considered a forward-thinking way. It is fiction. If you want to write fiction that seeks to reform someone’s thinking, do that. If you want to read fiction that changes and transforms the world, go, you. But to criticize the product of someone’s work and imagination because you disapprove of the theme is laughable to me, and small-minded. It’s saying, “Of course, you should be creative. Just don’t do it THAT way because it’s backward and icky and you’re horrible. Also, it hurts my feelings.”

Rrrright. So, see, criticizing George R. R. Martin because Game of Thrones is violent and sadistic, and, at times, sexist, is kind of stupid. Anyone who doesn’t like those thinOneOfThoseDaysgs ought to be forewarned and not read the books, unless you enjoy the inner turmoil that results from reading graphic everything vile, but you’d be missing out on so
me killer intrigue and world building (which I always admire in a plot, but the latter
is not in academic vogue at the moment). The same goes for any other matters addre
ssed in the books. They aren’t about changing society, and if the series makes you think, yay. But it’s fantasy, which kind of means anything goes, and often does.

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But don’t insist that artists/musicians/authors change what they do because it grates on your sense of social outrage. I saw someone attack Emilia Clarke because she defended GoT against critics who call it sexist. Ironically, some of the comments coming from detractors were, frankly, sexist. Can’t have it both ways.

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Coloring Books For Grownups, (AKA The Best Therapy EVER)

Three things you should know:

1.  I really like to play with art supplies.  It doesn’t matter what kind.  I love them, and never really need an excuse to obtain more.
2.  It’s stressful being an adult.  One of the best things about it, however, is remembering that the only person making rules about when it is and isn’t okay to play is ME.
3.  Therapy is expensive.  Crayons and colored pencils are not.  Arts and crafts therapy is a thing… a real thing.  A good thing, too.  More on that in a minute.

Oh, and one more thing:

4.  I have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.  It’s relevant to this post… just hang with me.

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved to color.  Every year at Christmas, I break out four or five coloring books that contain many, many years’ worth of pages that I’ve filled in, or that my mom completed on Christmas Eve in my kitchen, or that my children colored with me, or with one another, or by themselves.  The pictures are dated and usually signed — and, of course, the ones with the wonderful, spidery kid scrawls are my favorites, and are precious to me.  There’s something about going from a black-and-white page to something alive and imbued with colors, and the emotion that helped shape it, that’s almost mystical.

Sounds corny, I know.  But it’s true.

So…  Art.  Stress.  There’s a relationship here, in the sense that when I’m stressed, art makes me feel better.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s difficult to go from a closet full of art supplies to an art journal page, or a painting, or a beautifully-drawn bit of Zendoodletanglescribble fun.  However, there’s a wonderful product that’s been around forever, and it’s been revived and re-branded and reinvented for grownups.  Behold:  the adult coloring book.

Kaleidioscope Wonders Color Art for Everyone, by Leisure Arts

Kaleidioscope Wonders Color Art for Everyone, by Leisure Arts

What I’ve discovered, through the use of adult coloring books, is that I can recapture that same feeling — the joy and the wonder of something so simple as the choosing of one color over another, because it feels right, and the delight in seeing the finished page, a one-of-a-kind creation.

The stress evaporates in an almost tangible way.  With each tiny segment filled in, these complex drawings and doodles have the power to siphon the very noisy excess ick in my brain and channel it into something almost medicinal, and certainly therapeutic.

This is doubly true in my case, as there are days I can barely hold a fork.

“At the Concert” by Renoir

I’ve been instructed to stay busy, and I know that keeping active and my joints flexible is a way to prevent the swelling and stiffening that are hallmarks of rheumatoid arthritis.  It’s been a challenge, partly because I’m so frustrated at my inability to do the simplest things, and partly because the disease appeared to have really kicked me when I was down.  But then, I learned something fascinating:  famous Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir suffered from RA, too.  He is quoted as having said, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

It struck a chord with me.

I may not be able to do things the same way that I used to… but adult coloring books have made something amazing possible.  I can physically exercise my hands in a way that helps maintain my range of motion, and I can exorcise the demons in my head that tell me I am stuck, or limited, or unable to make beautiful things.

It's such a simple thing, but it has the power to heal, in more than one sense.

It’s such a simple thing, but art has the power to heal, in more than one sense.

This is what this Leisure Arts publication allowed me to do: make something lovely using little more than a colored pencil and the limits of my own imagination.  The book contains a variety of designs and patterns — everything from mandalas to paisleys (similar to the shapes you might see in Mehndi or henna body art), and floral designs, to which I’m especially drawn (no pun intended).

And that’s not all — the book contains tips on shading, an explanation of the color wheel and color combinations, and comparisons of different media you might want to use in your art.  I used colored pencils, but the paper is heavy enough that markers or watercolor pencils could just as easily work.

The pages are perforated, and the art continues on past the perforations, which means you get a nice sharp edge to your work if you decide to remove it from the book to frame or scan in, or if you simply prefer to work on individual, unbound pages.  I like that the option is there and that you don’t have to risk destroying the whole book for the sake of a single beautiful piece.

One common thread to the book as a whole is that the pieces do seem to all have a kaleidoscope effect.  The artwork is mostly abstract, which is a wonderful thing to me.  It allows me to not be constrained by pre-conceived ideas of what colors to use, or the way things “ought” to look.  It truly makes for a therapeutic, relaxing experience.  While I received this book for review purposes, I have to tell you, the price is so reasonable as to make it a must-have for anyone who loves art, deserves a break, and needs to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from making something beautiful — you can purchase it at Leisure Arts for about the same price as a latte from your favorite coffee shop.

And if you do happen to have arthritis, or you’re interested in the merits of art as a form of physical therapy, ask your doctor(s) what they have to say about it.  All I can tell you is that, for me, this little book has given me something incredible.

Pick up a pencil, or a pen, or a crayon, or a paintbrush today.  Create something, in some way.  See if you don’t feel years younger, happier, and healthier — in body and mind — as a result.

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Barnie’s Santa’s White Christmas Coffee… 365 Days a Year

Back in the early 90s, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I was a newly-minted college student, I used to buy coffee a the mall from Barnie’s Coffee and Tea.  They sold hot coffee and tea, and also bulk coffee and fifty bazillion varieties of both loose and bagged tea.  They also brewed iced coffee and a killer hot toddy, which had no alcohol in it (I didn’t drink, so it wasn’t an issue).  I dated a guy who worked there, which provided additional incentive to browse.

But more than the silly boyfriend or delicious smell that drew me in, they offered a seasonal coffee variety that used to knock my socks off:  Santa’s White Christmas, which not only tastes like heaven, but makes the whole kitchen smell amazing when it’s brewed.

And, because life is wonderful, and lousy boyfriends cannot destroy the happiest memories of my misspent youth, I can tell you that this delightful Elixir of Ultimate Happiness is now sold year-round.  In fact, at our local Publix supermarket, they sell it ground and in K-cup varieties.

And it is on sale, right now, for about half-price.  Oh, Publix, how I love thee.

The Precioussss

It’s like crack, only awesome and street-legal. And, unlike crack, you can serve it to your mother without, you know, going to hell.

Okay, so, it’s got the words “Santa” and “Christmas” in it.  Just, let that go if your knickers twist up into a wad over that.  I happen to be one of those folks who firmly believes that Christmas and Halloween are the two main reason for calendars, and I’d gladly fly my holiday freak flag (literally – both house- and garden-sized varieties in abundance for both holidays, and for the seasons in general) for months before the Big Days themselves, just on principle.  But I digress.

Santa’s White Christmas coffee is like crack in a cup, only better.  For one, it’s street legal, and, while I cannot tell you it won’t become an addiction, I’m way more likely to snort the coffee grounds than use crack.  Seriously, it’s that good.  And crack is, well, decidedly not.

I think I had two cups before I even went grocery shopping.  I left with four bags of coffee and six boxes of K-cups, because you just never know when the Zombie Apocalypse may happen and it’s best to be prepared.

Going to kick back now with my brew.  It’s beginning to look a lot like, well not Christmas, certainly, since Central Florida in August is kind of like an enormous sauna with lightning… but it is suddenly feeling a lot more cozy in here.  In a good way.

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Review: Anne Bishop’s “Vision in Silver” Shines

There’s nothing ho-hum about the characters, the world in which they live, or the premise of this book. Of the three books in the series to date, I enjoyed Vision in Silver the most. Here, you see how the progressive social project initiated by the Courtyard has long-reaching effects on humans (“a two-legged kudzu”) and others (Named’s creAnneBishopVision in Silverations) alike, and encounter the first results of the conflicts between them when it goes very wrong elsewhere.

I cannot say that there’s another series in the urban fantasy genre that’s remotely like this one.  That, in a genre that sometimes borders on — dare I say it? — dull, trite and cliché, owing to everyone and her third cousin dipping a toe into the supernatural pool, is a rare treat.

This isn’t a cop-out, but there hasn’t been another book outside the series that leaps to mind that has a similar premise. This is good, but it makes comparisons difficult. If you’re looking for a human-supernatural bodice ripper, this isn’t it. It’s also not a human-versus supernatural element the way the genre usually presents it; in this series, humans are the “clever meat” — how the dominant species (the Others) describes them.

Some scenes stood out and made me a bit teary-eyed.  It happens, but not as often as it should.  I became downright sniffly as I read scenes where human children and young Terra Indigene (earth natives that are the equivalent of supernatural shape shifters) interact… absolutely adorable.

I want to play with wolf puppies now.

Other notable moments:  “Words can be a weapon as devastating as a gun”
— this quote from the book applies to a number of situations in the book, a few of which made me a little angry. As for scenes that made my heart ache, the struggles of the relocated cassandra sangue endure qualify. To give further details would spoil a truly entertaining and engaging read.

I’ll tell you this: I enjoyed this series so much, I introduced my 70-year old mother to it. She enjoys it so much, she ordered her own shelf copies of the books, and has shared them with her friends. They loved them.

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Robin Hobb Has Outdone Herself:

I’m absolutely thunderstruck. I’ve been completely spellbound from the moment the words began spilling over to me. From the very first page, Fool’s Quest completely took me in, and, despite the fact that I’m a huge fan and I’ve read the entire
series with voracious abandon, this is in every sense, the best of the entire series to date.

First of all, yRobin Hobb Fools Questou should know that it will pull new readers back to events from earlier novels. If it seems a lot, it’s because the Farseer books and their companion series, while connected, are distinct in their stand-alone ability. They are incredibly rich and worth the time to explore on their own. Yes, you can still follow along through the masterful retelling of those events throughout the story arc… but having read the others, you will find yourself rewarded with an honestly amazing read.

I have cried twice already, damn it.

This series takes the best of it all and revisits Fitzchivalry Farseer at precisely the moment where the first book in the Fitz and the Fool series left off. This is our reward for being left gasping, “What on earth just happened?” at the conclusion of Fool’s Assassin.

You will barely have time to catch your breath.

It’s that good, and that incredible.

More than that, Hobb makes the transitions between the chapters incredible — those delicious, tantalizing “excerpts” from old ballads, letters, texts and observations from histories and characters both unknown and well-known to those who follow Hobb’s work. They are beautiful and quotable and they will leave you in delighted amazement. Hobb is a poet every bit as much as she is a spinner of epic fantasy, and her sense of humor and dramatic irony are an added bonus.

Her character building is among the best of any book series I’ve ever read… and I’ve read widely and continue to be amazed at the quality and breadth of writing she produces.

In terms of narration, it may be a bit of a jar initially if you’re used to the different narrators between the series. However, Elliot Hill delivers fantastically. He seems to flawlessly transition between characters — both human and non-human — and has a depth of storytelling ability that truly enhances an already wonderful book.

If you have credits to use, do not hesitate to use them on this book. My only regret is that, once I’ve devoured it, I have to soldier through the long wait until the third book’s release!

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Jim Butcher’s “Aeronaut’s Windlass” — Review, and The Shaking of Fists

Wow. Just… wow.  I received an ARC of The Aeronaut’s Windlass from the publisher and I’m still reeling from the effect this book has had on me.

Let me first note that I’m a huge Butcher fan. As much as I love the Dresden Files books, and the Codex Alera books even moreso, I initially balked at the news of the Cinder Spires project. Why? I resented any distractions that might redirect his efforts elsewhere. And, steampunk? Was it really necessary for Jim Butcher to go that route? No, I said. Absolutely not interested, I said.

How stupid of me. I should have known better.jim-butcher-aeronauts-windlass

Let’s forget it’s Jim Butcher we’re talking about here. Forget that The Cinder Spires series is not The Dresden Files or Codex Alera. It does not matter one damn bit. The book is amazing. The characters are compelling (I’ve a hard time trying to choose a favorite — how he managed to develop so many imaginative and varied characters in a single book blows me away — some of them aren’t even human; then again, this shouldn’t surprise me, considering how fond I am of some of his other non-human characters). Admittedly, I cringed a bit at the first few pages, and then forgot why, because I got sucked into this wonderful adventure against my will.

It’s so, so good. And I really did not expect it to be, and part of me didn’t want it to be.

It’s not fair, and it’s not right. Now I have to wait for him to write sequels to TWO COMPLETELY DISTINCT BOOK SERIES, and there are only so many hours in the day. I almost don’t care, except that I really, really do, and I hate the fact that I’m dying to read the next installment (and THIS BOOK isn’t even due to be released for a few months yet, which means he probably hasn’t even started the next book!). Ugh. Just, not what I needed in my life, Mr. Butcher. So not right.

This book is what might happen if Joss Whedon handed Jim Butcher the reins and said, “Dude. The people want more. Pretend Firefly had a half-sibling. Now author a new book series and blow them away.”

Now stop imagining it. Buy the book.

Back to “wow”.  This book not only holds its own against the best in the genre, but it’s going to displace some of the heavy hitters on many a bookshelf. You will not regret one minute of all the sleepless hours you’ll spend devouring it.

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