The Dark Tower

I was not one of the lucky ones who saw the leak of the Dark Tower trailer on October 10th.  I am still waiting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the official release and hoping – praying – it does homage to the original series.

It’s a difficult thing, separating book and film.  On one hand, I appreciate the creative team warning us that this film is not going to be the books, but a sequel to them.  It allows expectations to be adapted.  On the other hand… this means we won’t see the Calla, or Susan Delgado (most likely, rumors abound of a TV spinoff if the film is a hit… but honestly who are we kidding?), or possible Eddie or Susannah.  I hate knowing those things, knowing that even if the film is successful, the writers and others involved can do anything they want and all we get is Roland, Walter, Jake, and the Tower.

I’ve been listening to the audiobooks lately and thinking about how I love Eddie’s accent, and Susannah’s spitfire, and how I’m going to miss them in the film.

And Oy.

Sharing Books

It is an interesting experience to be sharing the books I grew up loving with my husband, who has never been a reader.  Since we both work in the same office and our commute is 87 glorious miles each way, I’ve adopted an Audible subscription without regrets.  Audio books are wonderful for long car rides, because the best audiobooks are performed.  This brings a level of interest to the stories that some have difficulty replicating when they read books… which is why so many people flock to films and skip novelizations altogether.

The first book I entrapped my husband with was Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  He listened through the entire series, then went looking for more.  I was thrilled.  I tossed him Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and he loved that too.  Enjoying Wil Wheaton’s reading, he sought out Fuzzy Nation all by himself.  After that, things started to get rocky.

I tried out a personal favorite, The Amulet of Samarkand on him, and while he liked it, he couldn’t get through The Golem’s Eye.  I wanted him to listen to the Artemis Fowl series because I knew he’d love it, but he couldn’t get past the delightful Irish accent of the narrator.  We tried The Gunslinger and The Queen of the Tearling (which he liked, but he gave up on the second book).  Feed was a success, once he got a hang on the lingo.  American Gods he liked (and now that it’s becoming a TV series, he’s very excited)… but when I turned on The Golden Compass he was firmly against it.

“No,” he said, arrogance or ignorance or something else infuriating resonating from his tone.  “I can’t understand what’s he’s saying.”

Phillip Pullman narrates his own novels.  He has a very slight British accent.

For whatever reason, I was in no mood to humor him that day. “Listen harder,” I suggested.  He rolled his eyes and did that thing which I assumed meant he was going to tune it out.

A few weeks later, as we were walking in from the car, he announced, “I like Iorek Byrnison.”

It was like hearing that ding-ding-ding that goes off on old game shows when you’ve won.  I suddenly realized that I could overcome his objections to the stories simply by leaving them on.  All sorts of new doors were opened to me!

Right now, we’re a little over halfway through The Amber Spyglass together, and he’s listening to Lireal by Garth Nix on his own. … I think we’ll try Menagerie by Rachel Vincent next….

A Story of Another Time

One of my favorite books in the world is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

I read it first in fifth grade.  It was a mountain to climb at that age, because it was one of the thickest books I had ever seen.  The copy I borrowed from the public library had a faded yellow cover with red and black typeset, all wrapped a clear protective shield.  The pages were browned and musty, as though the book had not been checked out for quite some time.  I remember spending hours during a lonely summer sitting at the little desk in the bedroom my brother and I shared, knees up against the desk, the book settled on my lap.  At the time, I understood very little of it.  Nonetheless, the novel held a special place in my heart because of the journey I took through it, every page a new challenge of complicated adult literature.

I did not revisit the novel (the film, yes.  Vivian Leigh is perfection in her role!) until 2014, nearly 15 years after my initial exposure.  It was around that time I adopted an Audible subscription, a welcome distraction when you sit at a desk all day.  The Recorded Books audio book version of this story is one of the best readings I’ve heard of any book.  The narrator brings the characters to life… but none more than Scarlett O’Hara.

The complicated, multi-layered characters found in classic novels are very different than the heroes and heroines you find in recently published stories.  There are so many layers to Scarlett, Rhett, and Melanie.  They are motivated by different things at different times and constantly react differently than you would expect.  The surprises behind these rich characters animates them in a way that seems to have been lost over time.

I think that the vibrancy of these characters is due to the shift in primary entertainment.  Gone With the Wind was written in 1936.  These days, even watching television seems old school – no we’re all about the streaming media on our portable devices.  Back when Gone With the Wind was written, literature was one of the primary sources of distraction and both a story as well as its featured players needed to be intricate and intriguing.  These days, a novelist is fortunate to hold anyone’s attention, and much of what graces bookstore shelves is “fluff”.

This is not to say that “fluff” doesn’t have its time and place – I daresay more than half my personal library can be qualified as such.  But for those with the time and patience to absorb the beautiful language of writers from fifty, one hundred years ago… it does not hold a candle.

I completed my latest journey from Tara to Atlanta and back again recently, and it felt utterly like being tugged through a window to come back to this humdrum world.  That is how beautifully these tales from long ago are written.

And that is just one of the reasons why I love them.

The Triangular Tragedy of YA Fiction

Any reader will be hardpressed to find a novel with a female protagonist whose romantic relationship doesn’t overflow the entire plot.  Authors embrace this formula for heartbreak and success in a variety of ways:  Anita Blake author Laurell K. Hamilton overthrew her supernatural plot of necromancy and sleuthing to highlight Anita’s relations as the only plot; The Selection‘s Kiera Cass made the plot a season of popular television show, The Bachelor.  In the case of Katniss Everdeen, author Suzanne Collins writes her protagonist as a person who both calculates the potential relationships as well as pushing them aside as momentarily distracting and unimportant.  Collins gets kudos from me on that one, because it’s nice to imagine Katniss rolling her eyes.  Still, no matter how you look at it, love triangles have taken over fiction.

Where did this trend begin?  While it’s easy to look back and point fingers at Twilight‘s Edward-Bella-Jacob or Harry’s Potter‘s Harry-Hermione-Ron, a love triangle as a plot device has been around for much longer than that.  Although much more interpretive and subtle, love traingles can be identified in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo  and The Three Musketeers and even in the classic love story, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  Love triangles even fall into the oral tradition, most famous of which must be King Arthur, Queen Gweniviere, and Sir Lancelot.  It is true that with the popular successes of J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, and Suzanne Collins, this plot device has come into the spotlight, but it should be understood that the romantic tension of a love triangle is an old tradition.

I recently came across an article written in 2013 by Lauren Slavin for arguing that these overblown love triangle are hurting teen readers, stating that it isn’t the love triangles that are the problem, but the men in them are, and they’re creating a negative expectation for young women and their sexuality, as well as their expectations of their youthful relationships.  Specifically, she says, “reading book after book where competition over affections is seen as romantic could create a generation of young women who aspire for a tug-of-war relationship, which ends in the “friend-zoming” of one potential paramour,” and goes on to add, “Feminists cringe over the concept that a woman owes someone sex if that someone has romantic feelings for them– even romantic feelings that aren’t returned.”  She speaks about how these written relationships create a social view which leads to bullying and slut-shaming of real, feeling young women.  Her article, although a little wandering, makes some interesting points about the way teenagers take stories very much to heart, and a repeated message of the internalizing of literature and our human habit of attempting to replay it in our real lives.

I don’t want to take a feminist stance about the way these stories affect young women.  I don’t want to defend the writers and characters in their handling of these tricky situations of the heart.  I do, however think it is important to acknowledge how quickly the Love Triangle is becoming a required feature in the world of YA Fiction and the reasons why it is there….

Do we do it for the angst?  For the popularity?  I know that many young girls – wish that they might – do not have two debonair suitors at their beck and call.  Seeing these things reflected as normal in literature, but not appearing in their real lives could certainly be detrimental to self-esteem.

However, there is also the possibility that we are simply making a mountain out of a molehill.

Book Review: Vector Prime

1Twenty-one years have passed since the heroes of the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, breaking the power of the Emperor. Since then, the New Republic has valiantly struggled to maintain peace and prosperity among the peoples of the galaxy. But unrest has begun to spread and threatens to destroy the Republic’s tenuous reign.

Into this volatile atmosphere comes Nom Anor, a charismatic firebrand who heats passions to the boiling point, sowing seeds of dissent for his own dark motives. And as the Jedi and the Republic focus on internal struggles, a new threat surfaces from beyond the farthest reaches of the Outer Rim–an enemy bearing weapons and technology unlike anything New Republic scientists have ever seen.

Suddenly, Luke Skywalker; his wife, Mara; Han Solo; Leia Organa Solo; and Chewbacca–along with the Solo children–are thrust again into battle, to defend the freedom so many have fought and died for. But this time, the power of the Force itself may not be enough . . .


A bit flat, but fun filler if you need a little more Star Wars.

The absolute first thing one needs to know when approaching The New Jedi Order series is that these books have been written over the course of the last ten-or-so years, and in now way reflect The Force Awakens or any of the modern generation of Star Wars.  Think of it, if you will, as a parallel universe.

Once that is out of the way, each book of The New Jedi Order series must be approached as its own entity, because with any fandom-based storyline, each story is written by a different author.  Vector Prime, written by R.A. Salvatore, falls short of his usual lyrical storytelling.  It is, more or less, what you might expect from a sequel in print written by someone other than the author of the original story. There are, however, a few intrigues within the individual characters.

For me, the character that stands out is Jaina Solo (one of the three Solo children).  She is a strong character written into the story at a time when Star Wars didn’t have many strong female characters and she quickly outshines (in my opinion) her mother, the renown Leia Skywalker-Solo.  She also stands head-to-head with her aunt Mara Jade, and characters like these make the story an interesting read, if not particularly exciting.  Jana is certainly a breath of fresh air after going between her two brothers, each with their own interpretations about the Force that they’d really, really like to share.  Over and over.

The plot, unfortunate, has been overused in science fiction and the story itself is flat, with too many characters doing too many things I simply cannot bring myself to care about.

I would recommend this story to science-fiction fans with an open mind (as these books are no longer considered canon) and a taste for Star Wars.  I would also advise readers that if Vector Prime does not suit your fancy, other books in the series written by other authors settle a little better.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Audible.
Available on Kindle, Nook, & iBooks.