Monthly Archives: August 2012

Tiger Lily

Every so often a book will tug on my heartstrings and make me reflect. I will usually find reasons to fall in love with whatever I am reading, but some books I don’t even have to look for the reasons. I will fall head first in love with them without apprehension or regard. These books have something to them, some sort of magical quality that makes me feel invested into the story and it takes me some time to let it go once I am done reading it. When I finish a book that has captured me, I will turn that last page, stroke the back cover, sigh, put it in my lap and just hold it. Sometimes I may reread the last few pages, putting myself into a denial of actually completing it. All of the elements need to be aligned for this to happen; it can’t just have a great beginning, a good middle and a mediocre ending. It is a hard thing to happen, in my opinion, because books are so personal. There are many situations that I have come across where I thought a book was horrible and millions upon millions of people may disagree with me.

It’s been a while since I have come across a book that has not only just been a good book, but has made me fall in love with it. I have been lucky to date with having three books recommended to me that has captured me and before I knew it, I was in love. I want to talk about one of them today.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson was a recommendation from Alyssa over from Books Take You Places. Go read her blog. Really; but before you do though, finish this first. This was a book that broke my heart in places, like really broke it all over the floor. I am going to attempt to speak about it without spoiling it for anyone as well as say some other positive things so one would actually want to read it. I have a feeling not everyone loves the sad feels like I do!

Most people are familiar with Peter Pan and Wendy and the many, many, variations there are concerning them. Most people, but not all, may remember Tiger Lily. She was the native girl who in most variations is jealous of Wendy and Peter, but for the most part that is all we know. In this story we are able to learn about Tiger Lily, her beginnings and her life; we learn this through the narration of Tinker Bell. Tink as she is later known, has been with Tiger Lily for a while, watching her grow and shares a unique relationship with her. She was raised in a village by the village shaman, who is really a woman trapped in a man’s body. He cherishes his hair, wears womens clothing, and is all around a gentle spirit. She has two close friends in the village, although most of the residents are apprehensive of her.

There are so many things I can write about this novel, but I don’t want to give anything away. As Tink says early on, “Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you’ve heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn’t win. In some places, there is something ultimately good about endings. In Neverland, that is not the case.”

I would rather focus on the love story than anything else. I am a sucker for a good love story. I am even more of a sucker for a good love story that doesn’t neccesarily have the ending I would want. This fulfilled both requirements. Tiger Lily was so used to being surrounded by people, but being alone. Peter was used to being in charge, but not knowing what to do with the responsibility. They both needed something from each other and their story of falling in love is full of bittersweet moments. The sweetness, innocence, and the reprecussions of their actions are all told through Tink. She is able to put the words to their feelings, even when they themselves don’t know how. Their love was consuming, like a wildfire in a windstorm. Tiger Lily puts it best when she tells Peter, “Sometimes I can’t see myself when I’m with you. I can only just see you.”

I didn’t expect to like Tiger Lily, as a character, as much as I did; I was always a fan of the Wendy/Peter pairing. I loved her. I loved her spirit, I loved her determination, and her willingness to do what she felt was right no matter the cost to her own self. I thought as a female lead, she was a wonderful character, not entirely good and not at all bad. She made some poor choices, but who hasn’t growing up? Even in Neverland, a place where people don’t generally grow up, we can watch her grow through her experiences.

The ending wasn’t all sad, and I would say it really did end as it should. Sometimes the ones we love the most may not be the ones that we are supposed to be with. I would say the ending was bittersweet. Everyone likes a love story where Boy meets Girl, Girl falls in love with Boy, they live happily ever after. I personally sometimes find that some of the best stories remind you that love is sometimes something you hold onto as a memory, tucked away in a dark corner to be brought out when we are alone.

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My Opinion of the Death and Rebirth of RPGs

So, before I begin, I am going to throw out a disclaimer that these opinions are my own, and do not reflect everyone’s.  That being said, I can also state that since these are my opinions, there are no facts behind my statements other then how I feel.  These opinions are also based solely on console gaming and my own experiences. 

Back in my earlier years, video gaming took up a lot of my time.  My last post told the story of how I had wanted to venture into the world of tabletop gaming, but was not able to find a group of people that shared my interests and this one will talk about what I ended up doing instead. 

I fell in love with rpgs at an early age.  Final Fantasy came out on the 8bit Nintendo and was easily the most influential game that I played, with The Legend of Zelda following a close second.  It had a story!  You could level up!  There were stores!  It was pretty mind blowing to me, given that most of my gaming at that time was Super Mario Bros, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and Rygar.  It put me on a life long love/hate with Square (Squaresoft, Square Enix) and I am sure pissed off many a friend who had asked me if I was going to be ready to head out only to show up at my house and find me still sitting in my room playing because I hadn’t found a save point. 

I played many rpgs growing up and into my adult years and have watched the subtle changes along the way.  Games became more cinematic, voice acting started to take a role, character names were unable to be changed, and through the most part these were positive changes.  It could be a little frustrating at times when you would finally get that anticipated game, sit down, watch the opening cinematic, walk three steps, watch another cinematic, talk to one person, get yet another cinematic (I’m looking at you Final Fantasy X), however, in the end you realize that it really does add an element to the game that was not able to be done before. 

At it’s core, rpg games are playable stories.  Like most stories, there are some good, some bad, and some very, very, bad that you wish you can unread (oh, The Bouncer).  They have the same fundamentals – leveling, experience, some sort of epic world story that you can easily get sucked into; I would spend hours and hours leveling my characters to max level and attempt a 100% completion.  Most of the games I played would be replayed soon after, not that there were usually different choices to make, but mostly because I wanted to re-experience the story. 

Over the past few years I am noticing a new kind of rpg to come out.  They don’t quite follow the formula, though you still level and gain experience.  They also have some of the most amazing stories I have come across, whether dealing with worlds ending, post-apocalyptic landscapes, an Arch demon.  Yet, something feels different about them.  There is no real farming, no just zoning out and just fighting things to fight things.  You are on a set path; there are no random encounters.  Games like Skyrim, Fallout, Mass Effect, Dragon Age – these are rpgs, but not like the ones I played growing up.  It is interesting to see the genre evolve, and to see people who wouldn’t play the traditional old school games pick up the control to face the Illusive Man. 

I am sure there are still the games out there that follow the old formula.  I am currently playing Star Ocean 4, and it is bringing me back to those days of curling up on the couch and just getting into random encounters for hours.  I like it very much so far, and it makes me want to replay some of my old favorites: Final Fantasy 6, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, maybe even Faxanadu.  It’s nice to be able to curl up every once in a while and feel like a kid again.

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Why Reread?

I have an update planned for tomorrow on more video gaming, but I wanted to do a quick update tonight any ways.  I’ll still post the other one tomorrow, but I figured if the mood hits (and I am waiting for the WoW patch to download and need something to do other than the dishes) I may as well take advantage of it.  Plus, I covered a post about baking and gaming, so it’s time for books to make an appearance.

The question was posed to me on why do I re-read books.  Mostly this comes from people who have trouble getting through one book (and is often followed by the question of why do you read books?) and they cannot fathom why one would read a book and then choose to read it again.  I can explain it in a few easy paragraphs.

Reading for me is not just about getting the story, filing it away in my mind, and then moving on to the next book.  It’s about taking in the characters, the story, the environment.  I end up caring about the people in the books, and at times will laugh with them, be angry with them, cry with them.  One of my favorite memories is when I was around 8 years old (maybe 7, somewhere around there) and I had been sent to bed for the evening.  I was almost at the end of Charlotte’s Web, and I didn’t want to fall asleep until I had finished it.  So I kept my light on and decided to keep reading until I had completed the book.  I had never read a story with a sad ending; I couldn’t even fathom the idea of something NOT having a happy ending.  Well, spoiler alert, the book doesn’t have a happy ending.  I was crushed, I mean really crushed.  I started to cry and all I wanted was to be comforted because I felt betrayed.  How could it have happened?  I wandered out, it must have been around 11, and my mom saw me crying hysterically.  She kept asking me what was wrong, but I just couldn’t answer her.  Finally, I was able to come out with (SPOILER ALERT!) “The spider died!”.  This was a traumatizing experience, I tell you.  My mom was less than pleased that I had stayed awake reading and sent me back to bed.  I care about the people/things/animals I read about and have real feels.  I like to revisit this at times, go back to somewhere that made me have such emotions from a story, and experience it again.  I liken it to watching a favorite movie more than once and who hasn’t done that?

Here is my book secret – I read fast, like really fast.  I always have, ever since I can remember.  There are times I may not take it all in with one shot, and need to reread to get more pieces.  It’s usually the smaller details that I miss, not anything major.  “Why don’t you read slower?” is usually the question that comes after that to which I respond, “I can’t”.  I really just can’t.  I read at the pace I read at, and even when I try to slow down it doesn’t work out.  I think it is similar to when you see an episode of a show that maybe you have already seen and you pick something up from it that maybe you didn’t catch the first time.  If I were to use this logic I can state that reading it a second, third, fourth time is going to give me a different experience each time!

Currently I am rereading the Harry Potter series and I am almost done with book 2.  I love these books very much; watching Harry and everyone grow up over the course of 7 books is very rewarding to me.  There are books I haven’t yet read on my bookshelf and I will get to them in due time; sometimes you just want to call that friend you haven’t talked to in a while, catch up for a bit before you go on your merry ways.  So come sit with me while I wait for my game to patch up and tell me – Are you a re-reader of books?  Do you pick them up again from time to time or do you read once, file away, and go onto new adventures?  There is no right or wrong answer because at it’s core reading is a personal journey in which we all have our own thoughts and feelings.

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  ~Charles W. Eliot

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Adventures in Tabletop Role Playing Gaming!

As games for computers and consoles get more and more advanced, it is easy to forget our roots.  I remember playing pixilated games on the Atari (and yes, I did have the ever so famous ET game that was buried out in a desert somewhere), moving up to the 8bit Nintendo, and upgrading every few years as the new systems came out.  Today’s post, however, is not about that.  It is more about bringing us back, before consoles, before graphics, to our imaginations.

Dungeons & Dragons is usually known to be the Granddaddy of the tabletop role playing game (henceforth known as rpg).  First published in the 70’s it started with a trio of booklets and that was pretty much it.  You can make maps out of pretty much anything to help with the visuals, and pieces for players and/or encounters can also be pretty much anything (we used bottle caps yesterday to fill in for our pieces).  The premise is simple, as a group of adventurers you shall wander about and encounter countless adversaries while embarking on dangerous quests.  You can wander into villages, help townsfolk before moving onto your final destination, relax in a local tavern waiting to be hired.  The possibilities are only as limited as your own mind (and your GM!).

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You shall not pass?  Egads!

Within the last couple of months I have ventured with Girl 1 and Boy into the realm of Dungeons & Dragons (henceforth known as D&D).  It’s something I have always wanted to play, however, I was always unable to find people that were able to play or run a game.  I would look at the books, try to find things online, but you really can’t have much of an adventure when you are the only one playing.  A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a hole in the wall gaming store in Massachusetts.  I felt after wandering around in there that I had to purchase something, so I picked up the red beginners box for D&D.  I tried to play with the kids, but I really didn’t know what I was doing and having no background in tabletop rpgs, it was a bit daunting.  The red box and it’s two adventurers ended up in a corner of the dark closet, never to be seen again.

One of my good friends has been playing D&D for quite some time and graciously offered to help us on our way to fame, fortune, and another notch in the geek belt.  She asked us some basic questions before our first adventure, built our character sheets prior to coming (which was a smart move with a 13 and 11 year old.  We can go over full character creation at another time), and took care of all the preparations for our journey.  She came over and we got to name our characters, come up with back stories (Boy really has quite the imagination) and physical descriptions.  Once that was all set we were able to begin and I finally got to experience tabletop rpg’ing. 

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Fancy meeting you here!

I have to say, there is something to be said about sitting around a table, looking at grid or gaming paper, bottle caps or miniatures and just listening to a story.  For a little bit, Girl 1, Boy and I didn’t have to be just parent and children, we were travelers thrown together to solve the troubles of a small town.  We worked together, planned out strategies, guarded each other if someone fell.  We hung out in a tavern and drank some ale (which had the same taste and coloring as Mountain Dew).  It is a few hours for each session and we get together twice a month with our lovely GM.  I really look forward to these sessions, and it makes me quite happy that the kids are as excited as I am.  It’s a pretty big gift to me that I can do something with my teenage and almost teenage children, that they want to spend time with me, even if it is killing imaginary dragons, or solving riddles for cursed ettins. 

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That’s some mighty fine ale!

So now, I bid you adieu until we next meet.  May your purses be full, your cups always filled with ale, and your hearths be warm! 

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Baking and Why I Haven’t Gone Gluten Free

So, as part of my blog title explains, I kind of like baking.  I haven’t liked it for as long as I have liked books, or video games, but I have found lately that it is calling to me again.

I say again because at least once a year the baking bug will bite me.  It is always around the same time, the end of summer right before fall comes in.  That is when the fruit I enjoy is everywhere – berries, apples, pumpkins starting to poke its head around.  There is something calming to me about the act of baking.  I find something I want to attempt, gather all the ingredients, get all my bowls in order, and get to work.  There is nothing that beats the smell and warmth of a kitchen that is producing muffins or breads.  I will try to get Girl 1 and 2 involved, Boy usually likes to be somewhere else.  If friends or family are over, they will sometimes get involved and it invokes the spirit of pre-technology and pre-mass production.  Sure, I can throw a can of croissant rolls in the oven from a can I popped open, but it is worth so much more to me to see my family and friends eating the dinner rolls that came from my hands and out of my oven.

In the beginning of the year (or slightly before) I found out that I was carrying the Celiac.  It was a rough blow for me because I love bread, and other things that usually involve gluten.  No one else in my family has this and for a while it was rough going to places and having everyone sort of tiptoe around the stove, not sure if things contained gluten or not.  I can’t say I didn’t get bitter, or jealous, or any other maybe negative emotion that may have lived in me during those first few months, but now I just accept.  I can’t lie, I have a list of things where gluten or not, I may still end up eating them and suffer through it because yes, it is just that good.

On my first post, a friend had asked if I am baking gluten free and I pondered it for a moment and realized I have not yet attempted to go gluten free with baking.  I have had some baked goods that were gluten free (and some of them I would like to forget about).  One of my friends very successfully made a chocolate mint gluten free cookie that I enjoyed, but the kids were not as thrilled with it.  I realized that for me, when it comes to the things that I like to make, gluten free just wouldn’t work.  I am sure there may be some very good gluten free recipes out there, maybe even some that doesn’t make me feel like I am eating grass, but I am not ready for that yet.  I gave up bread completely.  I don’t want to try any gluten free bread out of respect for the bread I have loved and consumed all my life; some things just have no substitute.

I spent some time thinking about why I haven’t really ventured gluten free and then the answer dawned on me.  I don’t bake for myself.  I like the process of baking, of putting it all together, messy aprons, kids with flour all over them and all over the floor.  I like watching Girl 2 pour measured ingredients into a bowl, Girl 1 stirring, making sure not to overwork the batter.  I like getting to know people better in the confines of my kitchen, drinking warm coffee and just talking.  Most of all, though, I love the faces of everyone as they sneak in and grab a warm muffin, break open a roll, or stand around in a circle while someone is distributing the baked item so everyone can have a piece.  Simply put, it is just love.

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It Begins

So, finally, I have succumbed and started a blog for all things I decide I want to discuss.  It will most likely be a blog concerning the things I love, like books, gaming, and more recently, baking.   I wanted to have an exclusive book blog, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to be active enough on just books alone (though goodness knows I read enough of them).  I was thinking of moving some of my ramblings concerning books on FB here, but I would rather start fresh with new adventures.

I should introduce myself.  I’m Jaime, a book enthusiast for as long as I can remember, a video game enthusiast since I had my Atari at the tender age of 4, and not so much a baking enthusiast but more of a careful baking interloper.  It’s still a bit new and luckily I have people around who get to taste test my products (which I personally cannot do thanks to Celiac).  Baking warms my soul though; it’s almost like I can pour a little bit of my soul into what I make and spread it to others.

I have three children whom I am sure you will hear about from time to time.  Girl 1 is soon to be 14, Boy is going to be 12 and Girl 2 is 4.  It’s rarely ever quiet, usually quite chaotic, and things never seem to be put back where they belong, but I do think I am lucky to have them in my life.  They are usually amusing and always very loud.

I look forward to this new endeavour and to the places it may take me.  Come with me and stay for a bit.  I’ll always have some coffee ready for you, maybe some muffins in the oven, and conversation on the lips.

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