Old Westerns and Half Naked Flying Part 1

By Carli, C. H., Jr. -- Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Carli, C. H., Jr. — Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m flying down the hard packed dirt floor, my feet barely making foot prints as the dust flies up behind me. The dust flying is not just due to my bare feet, but also the bullets. They are whizzing around me left and right, my own gun, of not unsubstantial weight, in my hand as I twist my torso, shooting behind me at my assailant. My hair flies out, floating around me as I turn, and the large men’s white button down shirt flaps around my thighs.

I look down for a second, but only a second, as I’m still running down the road past saloons and old timey tea shops, the bullets hitting close to my feet and flying past my face. The only time I’ve ever left the house without pants was during a fire alarm at college when I grabbed my blanket off my bed and ran outside on a cold November night. I stood in the cold shivering as the firemen came to assess the smoke filled lobby where someone had burnt a bag of popcorn. Wondering why I was so cold I jumped around a bit to warm myself up and realized my bare legs were rubbing against the blanket and not my pajama bottoms. But other than that I always leave the house with pants on. Then it clicks, I am dreaming and know I am dreaming.

Here is my chance to fly.

I drop my gun and jump up while running, hoping to take off flying like so many other people explained doing in their lucid dreams. But I just can’t take off, gravity keeps pulling me back to the dirt floor, the bullets still whizzing by (though I am no longer afraid of them hitting their mark.) Then, as dreams do, I am suddenly running on the tops of the buildings instead of next to them. I jump from building to building, soaring from one to the next.

Which gives me an idea.

I begin to run to the end of the building as fast as I can, determined to fly. As I run I pass a woman who looks eerily like myself, this version is dressed as a Plain Woman, pale green conservative dress with a head covering coming to her ears. She is in my way. But this is a dream, so I gleefully push her away from me, knowing with certainty she falls off the edge of building. That version of myself dies. I come to the end of the building and push off from the rough concrete ledge with my big toe, scraping against the roughness like the many times I jumped from the edge of a pool before diving in to the water.

And I leap, arms spread wide, the tails of the overly large white shirt flapping around me. A moment of pure freedom. Joy blossoming inside of me, and a huge grin spreads across my face. But then, I begin to fall, and fall, and fall. I hope this is a dream, I think. I hope, I hope, I hope. But I just keep falling. Wake up, Wake up, WAKE UP! I scream inside my mind, pulling it from falling down, pulling it up and up and up until I’m sitting up, awake, and breathing heavily, as though I just run a race. I lay my head back down among the pillows.

I may not have flown, but that pure moment of absolute freedom from thought, pain, gravity, replays in my head over and over. I smile.

 

Book Review: Embrace

My library has this little off shoot room called Teenscape. It’s full of wonderful YA books and shuffling teenagers. Chicago had a room like this in its library, but the room was huge and the one here in my local village could fit four times over in it. I hate going in those rooms. For one, it is usually full of teenagers. Secondly, I carry into the room with me the belief that people probably think I’m a teenager because I’m in the teenage section, and don’t realize that I have actually graduated high school, college, AND law school. Because in spite being a decade older, most people think I’m at most 22. In Chicago, I used to just put the teen books on hold and pick them up on my weekly trip to the library because the hold section was in the adult area. Here, I have no time excuse not to just pick out my own damn books and plus I wanted to browse. 

I walked by the room twice, double checking to see if there were any lumbering lurking teens hidden in between the three aisles. Seeing none, I held my head high and snuck inside. Then I got down to business and starting with the A’s and going through the entire alphabet I browsed to my hearts content, even when I was interrupted twice by shuffling feet and downward glances. There seems to be an unwritten rule of teenagers in the Teenscape land not to look anyone in the eye. It’s unnerving. 

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In my browsing I found a really pretty cover and after reading the back decided to check out Embrace, by Jessica Shervington. I haven’t read a lot of the demon/angel subgenre, but what I’ve read has been entertaining, and so I thought I would broaden my knowledge of that area of YA fiction. Embrace is the story of Violet Eden who is turning 17. Every birthday is a reminder of her dead mother and absent father who ignores her in his continual grief and workaholism. Luckily, Violet has lots of money, big boobs, a quirky best friend, and a sparring partner to keep her busy. And …. some …. of this is about to change. Not the dead mother, or the absent father, but Violet’s seemingly normal rich teenage life is interrupted by the revelation that she must choose whether or not she will embrace (see what I did there?) her Grigori heritage. Grigori are half-human half-angel hybrid, and protect humans against the exiled angels wrecking havoc on earth. 

While and interesting and rather light reading that kept me page turning, Embrace had a few pitfalls that would land it in purgatory at least. Violet is yet another, “I don’t want to be what I clearly already am” character, and that is not the only YA trope to grace the pages. However, Violet at least reconciles this part of herself by the end of the book. For me this is passable. It’s when the warring within the self goes on for several books that I have an issue.

There is of course the triangle of good boy versus bad boy. Each male character is rather underdeveloped and of one note, there is always hope that further character development will happen in the rest of the series. But it would have been refreshing for the male leads to be fleshed out full characters the first time around. One non-YA trope was that Violet has sex in the book. Then yet another trope as unfortunately, as her sex life (or as much as someone who is 17 and UNDERAGE! has a sex life) becomes a thing of shame and gossip. In fact, her sexual advances mean that Violet is emotionally connected to someone who preys on that connection to the extreme. More disturbingly, Violet was sexually assaulted in the not too distance past by an adult figure in her life, which factors into why she is learning to spar, but is not brought up in the context of her sexual development as a woman.

Violet needs some counseling, in fact, a lot of fantasy characters do. Why is this a thing? Why can’t we have our favorite characters learning how to be emotionally healthy so that they can deal with all the weird stuff that happens in their lives? One review I read suggested that this series should have been given an older protagonist and I agree. If Violet was just a bit older both parents could be dead and Violet living on her own rather than a dead mother and absent, except when needed to further the plot, father. Furthermore, an older protagonist would have had some time to work through her sexual assault and be better ready for exploring her sexuality.  

Despite all the tropes, Embrace was an interesting read. Shirvington writes with a fresh and uncluttered voice. So while there is no real plot twist, and it is a trope filled story, I kept reading to see what would happen and how Violet would react. Embrace is simply (perhaps too simply) a coming of age story of Violet, a half-human half-angel girl. While, I’ve more than a few quibbles with the book, if you want a light consume the book in a day down by the pool read, it has enough going for it that you might not want to come inside right away for dinner. 

Read a review by The Book Smugglers, who points out a few more plot holes and also is a bit more spoilery than my own review. 

Day in Denton

Here in Texas, we believe bigger is better. This goes for antique malls and left over independent book stores. Dallas is surrounded by a bunch of cool towns with little fun shops in them, and we decided to take a trip to Denton this weekend to check it out. Upon arrival we entered into a humungo book resell shop that also had an impressive record collection.

Did I tell you about the 1970’s record player we bought a while back? It functions as our TV stand as well. Slowly Chris has been collecting records and occasionally we play them a little too loud at night and dance around our living room. 

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The only qualm I had with the bookstore was that there were no price listings anywhere, and only a few items had stickers on them. So, I went up to the counter not knowing exactly how much everything was going to cost. I try to live life in the now, with a sense of free spirit, but no price markings makes me a bit anxious. I got the books anyway. 

We also went into three antique malls all within two blocks of each other. Texans take their antiquing seriously! Well sorta. Each antique mall is divided into booths were various individuals display their wares. Or in some cases, their junk. 

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Some of the shops are well organized and hold cool items, gems, or hidden treasures that make me want to buy all the things!

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Chris really wanted to see inside the sarcophagus, but it was locked up tight.

Chris really wanted to see inside the sarcophagus, but it was locked up tight.

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Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Star Wars collectibles in these antique malls. 

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One fun thing about antique malls is all the weird and random, sometimes scary, items that we find. I’ve seen a baby doll head on a lamp, a white fake Christmas tree with blue feathers springing from it, and a lamp stand that looked like a porcelain bottom with a rose tattoo. In Denton we found scary clowns and dolls that come apart at the seams. 

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His head, arms, and legs came off. Yes, he is eating another doll and the pin on his lapel says, "I'm the Boss!"

His head, arms, and legs come off. Yes, he is eating another doll and the pin on his lapel says, “I’m the Boss!”

One booth that is in almost any antique mall, and usually my favorite spot ever, is the hidden book corner. So many books! So little time to look around and see what treasures may be hidden and waiting to be read. 

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Book Review: Hunted by the Others

Last week as I was walking into work with a book under my arm, a client stopped me and asked me, all excitedly, if it was a Harry Potter book. I stopped and held it up so he could see it, “No, it’s another YA fiction series. But often scifi/ fantasy series use the same font and similar cover art, so it can be confusing!” In fact, font often plays a big part in why I will pick up a new series as I’ve come to recognize certain ones that invoke memories of other series that I love. Font is one of the reasons I picked up Hunted by the Others, by Jess Haines, when I was at the library the other week.

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Summary from Amazon

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm – if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires. As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend – a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing – and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil – whether she likes it or not…

Shiarra is an interesting urban fantasy heroine. Her parents and brothers are still around and supportive, she works with her best friend doing what they both love, and money problems are her biggest concern. Often urban fantasy heroines come from broken homes, bad backgrounds, and find their only support network is the vampires and werewolves in their lives. But not Shia, and I think that is what makes this series interesting. Yes, she has more to loose, and that can be played against her, but she also has a reason to live and to find a way around the maneuverings of the mages and vampires. However, one of Shia’s flaws is her bigoted thinking of Others, influenced by her family’s phobia, so having a strong family network does not always help. While she does learn to set aside some of her prejudices as the book develops, the process was a bit clunky. While I’m all for the badass huntress thing, Shia’s is more window dressing than anything real substantial as she grapples with her new place in the world. But, seeing as this is the first book in the series, I will give some latitude to her learning curve and save final judgment on her character for a couple more books. 

I quite enjoyed the cast of characters in this book from the sexy vampire to the geeky mage. Some of their characteristics were predictable, especially Alex the mysterious and overbearing vampire and Chaz, the ex-boyfriend, with a puppy-dog like desire to follow her around. But despite the sexy vampire being a dark brooding vampire and the hot werewolf being all hairy and manly, nerdy Arnold the mage is my favorite secondary character. He is intelligent, sneaky, and willing to help when it suits his purpose. While he has ulterior motives up the wazoo, none of them include sleeping with Shia which was refreshing. I mean the whole triangle thing is obviously going on with the werewolf and vampire, but if the mage was after her too, I was going to be a bit – le sigh all the boys want Shiarra. I found Shia’s partner and best friend, Sara, interesting and the brief look into her unusual past only whetted my appetite to learn more. I’ll admit by nerdy and law interests bias me in favor of these characters, because I like how they think and act. I especially like that though nerdy, Arnold gets into the thick of things. Sara wants to use her brain for good and struggles with moral gray areas. What? A lawyer portrayed with ethics? Yes, and thank you. 

Speaking of lawyers.. after the reveal of the Others in the wake of 9/11, legislature became very important to try and stop the Others from committing atrocities toward the poor humans (no wonder Shia has some biases). One way is through the requirement of a Contract between the Other and the Human stating that the Human has willingly given over to the Other and that if the Human is killed, the Other is not legally responsibly. This plays into Shia’s first case with Alec because he insists she sign a Contract with him. How she handles this is the most surprising part of the book, and one of the reasons I kept reading the book and want to continue with the series.

While this series is not as dark as some of the other urban fantasy I’ve ready, as it does have its lighter moments, it was not a light-hearted romp, by any means. If you like police procedural urban fantasy with a dose of chuckles check out Hunted by the Others

Read a review by Love Vampires, The Happy Logofile, and check out the author’s site for a list of more reviews and the other books in the series. 

Television Review: Witches of East End

After the bar I needed something to help me decompress from an extremely stressful summer and keep me occupied as I made boutonnieres, glued burlap and lace to jars, and created bridesmaids bouquets for my upcoming nuptials. Netflix kept recommending I watch Witches of East End and sometimes Netflix is right, so I decided to give it a chance and I’m really glad I did. 

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Julie Ormond (First Knight, Legends of the Fall, and Sabrina) stars in this show as a powerful witch who is keeping a secret from her two daughters, that they too are witches. Joanna has many secrets from her grown daughters, Freya and Ingrid. But when the girls start exhibiting powers, she can no longer act dismissively and must begin to reveal to them their heritage. Then her sister shows up at her doorstep as a cat, and Joanna’s life becomes even more complicated. 

I really enjoy this series. I think it is an incredible cast of characters and as the season goes on they become more of an ensemble cast than it just being about Joanna. Plus, the series pulls in some serious acting power! Each of the girls characters takes shape and they each have their own story lines that are interwoven with the family and magic. Ingrid is a librarian and her geeky side really helps her understand the Latin spells, plus the library she works in is just amazingly beautiful! Freya is  a free spirited bartender who is engaged to one man, but starts to fall in love with his brother who shows up in her premonitions. Everything gets wonderfully complicated in a this-would-never-happen-in-real-life-i-hope kind of way. And Joanna’s sister, Wendy, sticks around for the season and her character beautifully complements Joanna’s. Where one has a weakness the other has a strength. They don’t just blindly follow each other, but discuss and disagree with respect. Most of the time. 

Witches of East End reminds me of Charmed in that it is a female ensemble cast with their own problems that comes together and help each other out. Often women on television are shown as katty and unhelpful toward each other, so it is quite refreshing to see a cast of women actively and sincerely involved in each others lives. However, unlike Charmed, this show is less campy and more on the dark side. For example, Ingrid brings someone back to life and there are some really serious consequences I thought the show would gloss over, but did not. Some of the choices the women must make are heartbreaking. 

If you like magic, ensemble shows, and empowering female characters who are multidimensional with their own vices and problems, check out Witches of East End. 

Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum

Some time last fall I went with my sister to Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was an experience all its own. It is all very touristy, but also on the decline.  It is weird to watch history fade from a place, and sad. We went to the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. What once was a casino and supper club in the 60’s, now houses various scenes in wax. The escalator was not working and at some point many of the wax figures had been replaced due to a fire. While a lot of the figures resembled the people they were supposed to, I must say I was expecting them to be more realistic, and I did quite enjoy the characters from the stories, which need not look like anyone in particular. The scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was probably my favorite.

The lighting in this place was terrible, I honestly think it was because they didn’t want you to notice that most of the figures did not look like the people they were representing. Plus, my phone does not have the best camera. But I got a couple of interesting photos.

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In My Element

This weekend Chris and I went to an estate sale on a whim since we both had the day off. While there the car overheated, which waylaid our plans and so we found a shady spot and walked around for a bit. Once we finally got back on the road it was really bad traffic so when we saw the Forth Worth Montgomery Antique Mall we pulled over and spent some time wandering the aisles. It is MASSIVE! I’ve been to many antique malls over the years and this was by far the biggest store I have been to. I would guess it was the size of a football field. But my favorite little shop (the mall is divided into several shops) was a book corner I found. The book I’m holding was worth $40. Unfortunately, I forget the title.

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