Last weekend, I was feeling anxious and no wonder. Between everything from schools to Disneyland being shut down, the stock market crashing, and grocery stores with whole sections gutted, it felt like the end of the world. I didn't know what to do, so I started re-watching my favorite Star Wars movie. I remembered how much I loved epic fantasy. Earlier, I'd dealt with the stress of moving by getting lost in a fantasy romance book. I was reminded just why I fell in love with fantasy. For me at least, there is something about fantasy that gives me hope when times are tough.
I don't think I'm alone in feeling anxious, and I wanted to do something to help. Since fantasy stories help me cope with stress and since it seems like many people have a lot of free time on their hands, I thought I'd offer the three fantasy books I wrote for free on Amazon. You can download them without leaving the house, kill a day or two reading, and hopefully emerge refreshed. I know in the grand scheme of things it may not be much, but I want to help people feel better during these troubled times.
Click on Picture Below to Get Free Book on Amazon Kindle
Free from Thursday, March 19 to Monday, March 23
My books will be free for five days, from Thursday, March 19 to Monday, March 23, 2020, which is the maximum amount of time that Amazon will allow me. So if you think you might at all be interested in these books, get them quickly. At $0, what do you have to lose. Get one or all three. And if you think anyone else might be interested, please share this link with them.
If reading's not your thing, what does help to ease your anxiety in times of stress? Are there any fantasy books, free or not, you recommend reading? Let me know in the comments. And please, take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Stay safe.
Title: The Guardian: A Dream-Hunter Novel
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
After thousands of years of being tortured in hell, demigod Seth has one chance to escape his misery. His master, the primal god Noir, has captured Solin, god of dreams, who has information about a key that can grant great power or cause great destruction. Seth is put in charge of interrogating the Solin. Little does he know that Solin’s daughter, Lydia, has come to free him. Lydia is an immortal were-jackal with the power to walk into another person’s dreams. But she is no match for Seth, who quickly captures Lydia and offers Solin a trade--the missing key for Lydia’s life. Solin agrees, and Seth keeps Lydia as collateral. But when Seth gets to know Lydia, he finds himself drawn to her. And though Lydia would like nothing more than to hate the man who tortured her father, the more she learns the horrors of Seth’s past, the harder it is to keep her own creeping feelings at bay.
A friend recommended Sherrilyn Kenyon to me a while ago, but I hadn't really gotten around to checking her out. So when I spotted one of her books at the La Habra Library bookstore for the low, low cost of ten cents, I quickly jumped on the chance. I was not disappointed. I finished the book the same day I bought it. The Guardian was that addicting.
The Guardian is a romance book first, a fantasy book second. It has a kind of Beauty and the Beast vibe going, which I really like. If it were a film, it would be a hard R for cursing, sex, and, most prevalent, scenes of violent torture. (More on that later.)
Title: The Buried Giant
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fantasy
King Arthur is dead. Ogres roam the land, but the people are accustomed to them. More disturbing is a fog that clouds memories. Axl, an old man who lives a modest life with his wife Beatrice, occasionally has glimmers of people long forgotten: a woman with red hair, a missing child, and his estranged son. When Axl and Beatrice embark on a journey to visit their son, they run into a slew of strange traveling companions: a warrior on a solemn quest, a boy marked by evil, and the last remaining knight of King Arthur’s court. As memories are revealed and the secrets of the past are peeled back, Axl and Beatrice learn of a way to restore what was once forgotten--but at a startling cost.
I bought The Buried Giant because its author, Kazuo Ishiguro, also wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Remains of the Day. As such, I wanted to wait for the perfect time to read The Buried Giant and slowly savor it. Initially, I was captivated by the simple beauty of the prose and filled with a sense of romance. But lurking under the quests and magic was a startlingly realistic look at the nature of war, hatred, and vengeance. These dark undertones slowly crept up on me and left me shaken and disturbed by the end of the book.
This doesn’t mean that The Buried Giant contains explicit material. It doesn’t. There are no graphic or gory depictions of violence, no sex, and no profanity--nothing that is typically labeled as “shocking.” I think what disturbed me, on a personal level, was the contrast between the high ideals of the characters and the horrific atrocities they were still capable of inflicting. It seemed very… realistic… for a fantasy world.
I had been wanting to see 1917 since the fall of 2019, when a critic compared it to The Lord of the Rings. That was all the sell I needed. I had to wait until after Christmas for it to expand into theatres. But the holidays brought chaos to my personal life, with moving on the one hand and sinus infections on the other. The Oscars came and went, and my life still didn’t calm down. Finally I said, “To hell with it,” and bought a matinee ticket for a Tuesday showing in the middle of February.
1917 is World War I drama done in (seemingly) a single shot. Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and his friend Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are sent across no man’s land to deliver a message. Colonel MacKenzie is leading two battalions into a trap, and Blake’s brother is among those at risk. Although the territory they must cross seems, on paper, to be deserted by the German army, it is fraught with many perils, as they encounter boobytraps, snipers, and challenging terrain.
1917 struck me as a mash-up between an action-adventure video game and a “best of” compilations of the horrors of World War I, with moments of poignant human drama thrown in. This sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it to be. I liked the movie. However, I was ambivalent about the use of the single shot gimmick.
On the one hand, I marveled at how they managed to make this movie. They couldn’t have just built several miles of trenches, a village, a river, and a patch of woods in a studio somewhere. Could they? Even if they did, can you imagine coordinating all the actors, all the extras, all the stunt doubles, all the props, and all the cameras? If everyone didn’t hit their mark exactly right, the whole thing would fall apart. I left 1917 wanting to watch a documentary about the making of the movie, just to see how it was done.
On the other hand, constantly thinking about how the movie was made distracted me from the story being told. In most movies, I don’t think about where the camera is positioned or what it's doing, but here it was all I could think about. It almost felt like the camera was its own character, like a first-person video game avatar or maybe a documentary crew recording this incident. But the cinematography was so beautiful, so smooth, so perfectly able to capture excitement and emotion, it made it very clear that everything was staged. No matter how realistic the details, the world of 1917 is inherently artificial.
I know nothing about cars or racing. However, I noted the positive reviews and Oscar nominations for Ford v Ferrari, so when the movie popped up in the dollar theatre, I was willing to give it a shot. I went to see it with my dad, who also has no interest in racing, but trusts my taste in movies. It turned out to be a pleasant Sunday matinee.
After Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) gets his ego gets bruised by Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), the American industrialist decides to build a car to win the famous Le Mans race. He enlists Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), who agrees to build a winning car if he can have Ken Miles (Christian Bale) as his driver. However, when Ken Miles rubs the advertising department the wrong way, the vice president tries to have him removed. Battling both technical problems and bureaucratic impediment, the two men work together to try to win the Le Mans ’66.
If Ford v Ferrari did nothing else, it taught me an appreciation of racing. I had thought that the race car builder and the race car driver were separate jobs, but the two overlapped quite a bit. For example, Carroll Shelby, the builder of the car, did actually drive the Le Mans race--it’s what drew Ford Company to him. Ken Miles worked a day job as a mechanic and offered valuable feedback and suggestions for the design of the car.
The movie also gave me a new perspective of why races might be popular, necessary even. The Le Mans race was, in this case, a test of the engineering of the car and the skill of the driver. Such a test means pushing the boundaries. Every setback, every problem, every solution that brought up a brand new problem, all led to that glorious moment where all that hard work came together to show off something new.
(Warning: While there are no explicit spoilers, I am going to discuss some of the themes that occur throughout the movie. Some spoilers may be implied, if you read between the lines.)
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.