Tuesday, February 2, 2016


     Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

     Homeland is the first book in R.A. Salvatore's first trilogy, "The Dark Elf Trilogy."  I'm reviewing this book for a number of reasons.

     First of all, I love R.A. Salvatore's works.  His books are what I'm looking for when I say that I read Fantasy.  Salvatore is creative, descriptive, concise, and when you read his works a picture of his world is painted clearly in your mind's eye.  Most of the legends/myths/folklore of dark elves is solidified in Salvatore's works.  J.R.R. Tolkien created the idea of elves being more than mischievous, ankle-high, fairy creatures, but Salvatore took that idea, mixed it with Norse mythology, and created the first real Dark Elf world.  D&D (namely Gary Gygax) created the evil spider goddess Lolth, and Salvatore built a Dark Elf religion around the imagined dark-goddess.  He took ideas that were at their birth, and built on them to create a cohesive world of imagination.

     Secondly, Drizzt Do'Urden is a bad-guy who turned against his upbringing.  This concept is amazing.  There are probably earlier books which have done this, but this fantasy world creates a perfect environment to teach this lesson without offending anyone.  Drizzt is part of an evil society.  I don't think anyone can read about the Dark Elf society without thinking that they are pure evil.  Drizzt starts to realize this, but the doctrines of his upbringing make him afraid to even venture to leave.  If you were to try to do this with any real-life religion, nationality, political party, or even radical movement groups, you'd end up offending somebody.  I think even Nazis still have sympathizers out there somewhere.  The Dark Elf world is a sterile field which can exemplify evil without pointing fingers.  And Salvatore humanizes Drizzt by showing his inner turmoil about abandoning his people.  Even when he's fully convinced they are wrong.  Anyone who has had to leave a family, religion, political group, etc. must feel these same emotions.  No matter how bad they were, they were all that person knew.  Home is hard to leave.

     Lastly, life is not all gumdrops and kittens when Drizzts leaves.  Being alone is hard.  Salvatore shows this beautifully.  Drizzts is an amazing, adept warrior, and his life is a near-nightmare out on his own.  Just because you make the right decisions in life, doesn't mean life will be easy.  In most cases, the right decisions are the hardest.  

     These morals aren't jammed down your throat.  Most of the more modern novelists I've been reading are too quick to shove their point down your gullet.  Tell a good story, and let the moral show in your work.  I may be guilty of this because I'm a fairly new and inexperienced author, but I sure do admire Salvatore because of his ability to easily teach without preaching.

     Okay, now the synopsis:

     Drizzt Do'Urden (Our protagonist) is a male Dark Elf in a Matriarchal society which values him little more than a slave, despite being born into a prestigious family.  The Dark Elves are evil.  They strive only for power and position, at any cost.  The only way Drizzt can ingratiate himself with his mother and sisters is by destroying families in higher standing.  Even the Spider Queen, Lolth, goddess to the Dark Elves, demands blood and betrayal.  

     Drizzt recognizes that his family is brutal, but is largely protected from the depth of their wickedness by his weapons-master and trainer Zaknafein.  Male Dark Elves aren't blessed by Lolth, so they must rely on their physical prowess to fight, whereas the Females can wield dark magic from the Spider Queen.  The males can perform small spells, but nothing compared to the females.  Drizzt is more than gifted when it comes to the sword, mainly because he is being trained by the best weapon master in the realm, but this is considered a lesser talent even among the male Dark Elves.

     The more Drizzt studies, the more he becomes disillusioned with his people.  His only friend is a spirit animal which doesn't even belong to him; Guenhwyvar, a panther from the astral plain.  Guenhwyvar belongs to Masoj, a male wizard, but the panther bonds with Drizzt causing problems for the already doomed, innocent Dark Elf.

     The book leads to the shattering of his child-like perception of his people, and his eventual choice between his people and what he believes to be right.

     This is true literature.  I'm sure a lot of people in the literary world will quickly dismiss it as silly Fantasy/Fiction, but the lessons and emotions are more real than most great works of literature I was required to read throughout school.

     Salvatore is a close second for my favorite author because of the incredible world he created.  Most of modern Dark Elf lore in video games, movies, and books are derived from the Forgotten Realms world Salvatore created.  I was surprised a few weeks ago when I reviewed a book and the author didn't even know who Salvatore was.  The author patterned his Dark Elf world directly after Salvatore's, and didn't even know it because Salvatore's concepts have been expanded so much through the Fantasy world that most just accept them as the way Dark Elves are.

     Of course, I give this book


Monday, February 1, 2016

We Bought a Zoo

     Benjamin Mee (Damon) is a widower trying to raise two kids on his own.  He was an adventure seeker who found a way to make a living chasing adventure and writing for the paper.  When his wife passes away from cancer (I assume, the film never comes out and says what she was sick with), his life falls to pieces.  His son (Dylan) becomes disillusioned with him, and life in general, and Benjamin is doing everything he can to keep the same thing from happening to his seven-year-old daughter, Rosie.

     Dylan gets his third strike at school from stealing a cash box from the lunchroom, and is expelled.  Rosie can't sleep because the neighbors are being, "happy too loud", Benjamin quits his job because his boss is patronizing him, and everything in town reminds him of his recently deceased wife.  He decides it's time for a change, and the family goes looking for a new house.

     The only place that seems to fit their need to get away is a large, 18 acre, property, in the middle of nowhere.  Benjamin and Rosie fall in love with the place, but the dream house comes with a heavy addendum to the purchase contract; it's a Zoo.  They can only buy the place if they put forth the effort to keep up the Zoo, care for the animals, and reopen the business, otherwise the endangered animals will be put to sleep.

     The staff had all quit, save a few die-hard animal lovers.  The current Zoo Keeper is Kelly Foster (Johansson), who is under-qualified, but hopeful.  The two make a go at getting the Zoo back to its former glory.

     We watched this with the kids, and everybody liked it.  It's a heartwarming story, without getting too sappy.  Watching Benjamin struggle through his feelings over the loss of his wife was beautifully done by Mr. Damon.  To me, he's an action film guy aka Jason Bourne, but he transitioned very well into this role.  

     The story is true.  Though, the actual events were far different from the film, the family still runs the zoo (or did at the end of the filming of the movie).

     I'd give the film

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dealing With a Chronic Illness

     I haven't posted for a few days because I've been dealing with a number of things. I've been ill, mostly with head stuff, and it's been difficult to even look at my laptop because of migraines.  I think I may be having problems with my polycythemia again, but I really don't want to go into the doctor's right now.  I know it sounds weird, but you get to the point that you just don't want to see them anymore. At any rate, this quote really hit me because it's so true.  Even the people closest to you who truly see what you are going through become numb or desensitized to your daily struggle, and the end result is a lack of understanding.  People's expectations can become crushing weights that mire your soul in a pit of despair, depression, and a general sense of self-worthlessness.  If you know somebody with a chronic illness, no matter how well they seem to be doing, tell them you love them, and you're proud of how much they do.  It can mean the world of difference to a person who is suffering in their private world of purgatory, all alone.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Last 5 Years

     This is a musical... with Anna Kendrick... so I was thinking, "Awsome!"  I love her voice, and she's a great actress, and a fun person, so I came into this with really high expectations.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as I was hoping for.  I also went into it completely blind.  I didn't even read reviews before I watched it, so the timeline mix-up (which was really cool, but confusing at first) messed me up, a lot.

     Cathy (Kendrick) is an up and coming actress.  She falls in love with an up an coming, Jewish novelist named Jamie (Jordan).  Her songs start at the end of their relationship and work backward.  His start at the beginning and work forward.  The whole thing ends in the middle when he proposes.  The deconstructed timeline made the movie, once you figure it out. 

     They are two dreamy artists, so the love is fast and intense, but loses its substance when things get tough, and Jamie cheats on her, ending their marriage.  It's a bit of a cliche, but probably happens more often than not.  They are both so frustrated with their struggles in trying to make it in their perspective careers, that they lose touch with each other.  

     The music was good.  Mr. Jordan is in the new Supergirl series, so it was fun to watch him sing.  I was impressed.  Mrs. Kendrick's voice was beautiful, as expected.  However, none of the songs really stood out for me.  I love musicals because singing is a talent I truly wish I had, but truly don't.  I did theater all through high school, and my drama teacher would always make a spectacle of how horribly I sing.  So, when I watch a show like this, with talent like this one had, I want something that will stick with me.  Sadly, the repeating melody is mundanely present throughout.  There weren't any ups and downs.

     There is quite a bit of language throughout, and they even belt out the "F" word.  I'm sad that Hollywood is doing that in every PG-13 movie now.

     In all, I'd give it