A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Rating: 5 of 5

A Game of ThronesLoved times infinity!! The characters and fantasy elements hooked me from the start. I was amazed at how quickly I picked favorites and took sides. I also enjoyed the gray characters; the few I’m not quite sure if I like them, if I trust them, or what, just yet. I don’t know why I put off starting this series for so long, but it was worth the wait. On to the next in a hurry.

There was a lot more sex, violence, and animal death than I expected, though.

Read and/or listen to an excerpt on the author’s official website.

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (The Dark Tower, Book I)

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Book One in the Dark Tower epic offers fast-paced fantasy with moderate action and few answers. Its focus, though, is on the introduction of the story’s hero, his initial quest, and his world.

Paperback cover The GunslingerThe Gunslinger by Stephen King follows Roland, the last gunslinger, on his quest across the desert of a ruined world to find the Man in Black. Along the way Roland meets Alice, a lonely but tough broad, and Jake, a frightened Earth boy, both of whom play an important role in his finding that which he seeks. Ultimately, Roland must decide whether he’s willing to sacrifice everything (and everyone) in order to satisfy his vengeance.

Few first lines are as compelling:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Once I started this book, I could not put it down. The sad thing is, I’ve owned the book for over 20 years. Why did I take so long to finally pick it up and give it a read?!? When I finished, all the seedlings – the quest for revenge, the dying world, magic, fantastical beings, a prophecy, and the Tower – sprouted into my overwhelming need to know more.

Roland’s world was quite similar to our own with subtle (and not so subtle) differences. His language, at times, was confusing; a mix between “High Speech” and 70s – 80s American lingo. I wasn’t sure if that was to demonstrate Roland’s lifespan of hundreds of years, the similarities between his world and ours, or simply to make him relatable.

The novel’s structure maintained the balance between pace, forward motion, and backstory. Throughout the story, there were flashbacks to Roland’s childhood and training as a gunslinger, which illustrate who he is (or was intended to be) and hints at potential motives for his relentless search for the Man in Black. At no time did I feel like King needed to hurry up and get on with the story.

There were many unanswered questions that I’m sure King will explore, if not all-out answer, in the rest of the series. But I still felt satisfied with this book’s story and resolution. Overall I’m quite pleased with Book One and cannot wait to start Book Two in October for the Dark Tower read-a-long.

Interesting tidbit: The series was inspired by a ream of green paper, silence on a winter’s day, and the poem, “Childe Roland,” by Robert Browning. (That’s what Stephen King wrote in the “Afterword,” anyway.) The story’s evolution as well as where King intended to take readers in the Dark Tower series were also explored in the “Afterword.”

The Wizard of Oz: 71 and Wrinkle-Free

Google doodle celebrating the Wizard of Oz anniversaryIt seems only right that I pay my [long overdue] respects to The Wizard of Oz (1939); after all, my blog title was inspired by certain characters in the movie. Bet you’ll never guess which ones? So what better time than the film’s 71st anniversary?
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Note to Self: Homebody by Orson Scott Card

I finished Homebody by Orson Scott Card on February 10, 2010. How I found this book at the library, I couldn’t tell you. It was possibly on a list of must-reads. Or, maybe, it found me.

Insert spooky music here.

The jacket’s summary was slightly misleading, though, as it described events out of order, which I assume was in an effort to make the story appear more suspenseful or certain events more critical. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good story. But I think the blurb could’ve been more concise and less scattered.

Don Lark was easy to empathize with, and his grief and anger were justified. …continue reading

Note to Self: The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

I finished Charles de Lint’s The Onion Girl on January 28, 2010. It took me several weeks to start reading the book, but only because I wasn’t making the time to do so each night. Funny thing, I had it checked out from the library for six weeks longer than they typically allow. I kept telling them, “But I haven’t been able to read it yet,” in the most pathetic and desperate voice possible. Not whiny though. I loathe being whiny. My gut just knew it was a book I would love.

So, it might’ve taken me close to two months to finally open it up, but it only took me five days to read all of its 508 pages. And color me impressed by my first experience with de Lint’s work. Characters too real to be merely a figment of the author’s imagination, the multiple points of view, the in-depth worldbuilding minus the huge info dumps of which I’m not a fan, a seamless weaving of plot and subplot — man, that’s how I want to write some of my stories. …continue reading

Note to Self: Broken by Kelley Armstrong

Broken by Kelley Armstrong was recommended by someone from the Think Sideways forums. After reading 200 pages of the 480-page novel, I had to put it down for good. Why?

I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

Elena seemed like an interesting woman, being a pregnant werewolf and all, but I wasn’t able to connect with her. It felt like something was missing or that I missed something. Her relationships, all new to me, were written as if they’d been around for 15 years or more. Secondary characters were, again, brand new to me, but written as long-time acquaintances of Elena and the Pack. “Mutts” were never defined so I was forced to draw my own conclusion.

After doing a little research on the book, …continue reading

Alice (2009) – TV Mini-Series

Were you ever curious about what happened to Wonderland after Alice left? Did you ever imagine Alice as an adult?

SyFy* presented some entertaining ideas with its December 2009 premiere of Alice and warned “[e]verything you know will be turned on its head.” They weren’t fibbin’ and I loved (almost) every minute of it.

4 stars out of 5

I watched the two-part mini-series via my DVR the day after each episode aired on SyFy and twice more between December 2009 and January 2010.

Alice, written and directed by Nick Willing (director, Tin Man, 2007), tells the story of Alice Hamilton, an independent, outspoken woman with daddy issues. When her boyfriend, Jack Chase, asks her to go away with him to meet his parents then presents her with a mysterious ring, Alice freaks out and asks Jack to leave. She definitely has trust and commitment issues, and they stem from her father’s disappearance when she was 10 years old.

After Jack leaves Alice’s apartment, she discovers he slipped the ring into her coat before he left. So she goes after him, only to find he’s being thrown in the back of a van, and a man in white running away from the scene. In her zeal to catch the man in white, she follows him through a magical mirror to a parallel universe. And that is where the adventure to rescue Jack, and escape the depraved world of Wonderland with her life – and hopefully her head – begins. …continue reading

Attention: Inner Critic

I will no longer allow you to dictate my writing behavior. I will break the barriers and conquer my personal battle with perfectionism. I’ve taken the leap and enrolled in Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways writing course. Thus far, I’m finding it rather challenging to fit in the homework between my day job and my daughter.

I thought it might be easier to work through Holly’s exercises by trying out my first blog. Yay! It’s official: I’m up-to-date with the times; a cell phone in my purse and blog on the Net. This’ll be sort of an initiation into the possibility that strangers will inevitably read and reject my writing. I have yet to show anyone other than writing instructors (and one ex-boyfriend) my completed stories. The instructors were very encouraging; the boyfriend, not so much. That’s a long story better saved for a different post.

I named this blog, Unleash the Flying Monkeys! because I love fairy tales and fantasy type stories, and truly appreciate the imagination it takes to invent and write about such outlandish characters as flying monkeys. I want to embrace all my creative potential instead of stuffing myself into what I assume is my destined “genre”–horror.

Don’t get me wrong, I love horror stories, movies, photography, etc.. I am drawn to the dark and depressing aspects of the human mind and soul. However, I want to explore the many avenues of fairy tales, fantasy, supernatural and crime thrillers as well. I have idea after idea, many of which I lose forever simply because I’m too apathetic to grab a piece of paper and jot it down before it’s trashed by short-term memory overload.

I hope to master clustering and finish up my Sweet Spot Map very soon. Or, at least make more progress than a few doodles with the main thought just floating in the center, seemingly drowning in the empty white space, crying out for me to tie it to something, a single syllable word, anything besides the little black butterflies that look more like lumpy hearts, really. I’m a couple weeks behind many of my classmates, but writing is a very personal experience so I suppose the process of improving one’s writing is also quite personal.

Does your inner critic ever stand in the way of your creative progress?

I’ll end this post with one of my favorite writing quotes:

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” – Gloria Steinem