The Last Door Stands Always Open

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Nothing compared. Not the wait for Breaking Bad’s final season. Nor the twenty miserable years before becoming a “man”. Hell, not even the two hours stuck in traffic while having to take a massive…you know. There has been nothing more excruciating in my life than the two year wait for Joe Abercrombie’s new novel, Half a King.

Abercrombie last published a book back in 2012, the fantastic fantasy/western Red Country. Financially it’s the best work he’s done so far (although I’ll always be partial to The Heroes. That book is a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned). After topping the New York Times bestseller list, Abercrombie seemed to be on top of the world. Fans were clamoring for the next installment in the world of The First Law. It was then that his collective fan base went into the spiraling depression that I have succumbed to these past two years. First he informed us he would be taking a well deserved breakRed Country had burned him out and he needed time to think, read, relax, etc. And then came the bombshell. Joe Abercrombie went soft. No more grit. Good riddance grim-dark, good afternoon….Young Adult? Joe freaking Abercrombie is writing a novel in the same category as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games? Say one thing for Mr. Abercrombie, say he’s full of surprises.

To be honest, I wasn’t as skeptical as many of his devoted fans. I think it’s incredibly exciting when an author takes a leap of faith, attempting something out of their comfort zone. After reading those blog posts he absolutely has a point. Six (pretty massive) books in seven years. Red Country lived up to every expectation, but I admit it felt a bit overdone. Now, is that because I read every single one of his books back to back? Perhaps. But I’m not going to deny I needed a break from Abercrombie after his western tale. This coming from someone who considers himself an Abercrombie super-fan, a borderline stalker really.

I was more depressed that I had to wait two years for his new project. Now I see how selfish this was. Especially considering what all my brethren over at the ASOIAF Fan Club have been going through all these years. Book depression was heavy, but after a few months I started to feel something. Excitement. Yeah it was two years away. But it was something new from Abercrombie, and I mean new. It’s like wondering how Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant would mesh. Or any weird combination in the sports world. Joe Abercrombie and Young Adult? Never in a million years would I expect to see those two in the same sentence. Well let me tell you folks. Bryant and Paul probably would have led to disastrous results, but the Abercrombie Young Adult child Half a King is championship caliber.

The book centers around Prince Yarvi, the crippled second son of King Uthrik. His left hand is mangled, useless, forcing him into a life with the monastery. Luckily this suits Yarvi just fine. He may not have the skills to be a great warrior, but his mind allows him to excel at this field of work. In Abercrombie’s world, and ours equally, life never sticks to your plan. King Uthrik and his first born are both tragically murdered leaving Yarvi as the King of Gettland. My day is ruined when my parents inform me we are going to my cousin’s birthday party at the last second. One can only imagine how hard Yarvi’s head was spinning after such news.

Not everyone is happy with Yarvi’s ascension to the Black Chair (eerily simliar to a certain popular fantasy seat…). The twists start sprouting right from the start, forcing Yarvi to grow up faster than he ever imagined possible. If you enjoyed Best Served Cold  you will take to his new book well. The revenge factor is heavy throughout, but it is able to separate itself from his previous revenge story as the book goes on. While I won’t add spoilers to this review, I will say, as in every Abercrombie book, the ending gives you a slap in the face. I even tried to see it coming but Joe was too good.

Is this book Young Adult? It is with reluctance that I say it is. Although I think there are deeper themes in this than you would see in most Young Adult literature. I can assure you there is no love triangle. Yet when you write in this genre the main focus will always be a coming of age story. I mean, that’s what we do at Yarvi’s age. We grow, we mature, we experience. None of us are the same as our teenage selves. As played out as that trend may be, it’s just a natural progression for young adult characters. We face hardships, big and small, and learn from them.

The biggest reason for holding Joe Abercrombie in such high regard is the way he paints his characters. He doesn’t always have the most captivating story ( the trilogy dragged at times), but it’s his characters that always suck me in. Now we don’t meet him until almost a hundred pages in, but Nothing is one of my new personal favorites. He’s no Whirrun of Bligh, or Glokta, but he’s like a Logen Ninefingers LIght. A Diet Bloody NIne if you will. And I’m fine with that. Characters like The Bloody Nine aren’t meant for young adult readers. Let’s have them work their way up to that monster.

And really, this book was just a light version of Joe Abercrombie. It had less pages. Less sex. Gore. Cursing. But it doesn’t make it worse. It’s also a leaner, faster read. Never once did I slog. We are always in Yarvi’s point of view, which I found refreshing after reading so many books, like A Song of Ice and Fire for example, that throw a million POV at you. Half a King is the perfect fantasy summer read. It’s light and fun, but with darkness etched in the corners. You won’t feel self conscious for reading a Young Adult novel because it won’t feel like one, even though it would fit the bill compared to The Heroes. In Yarvi’s world, Nothing boasts that steel is always the answer, and it seems that way. But I can tell you that in this world, for Joe Abercrombie, the decision to write this book was not only the right answer, but the only one.

Half a King (Amazon)

DISNEY DEATHMATCH!!!!!!! (sorta)

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I don’t want to freak you out, but I had three parents growing up. There was my father of course. He taught me the fatherly things in life (shaving, throwing baseballs, “men don’t cry” talks). My mother was there to comfort me when I did cry and dry my eyes before the old man found out. And finally there was my third parent. As you are probably assuming this “parent” did not come in the form of a human. Nay. Instead it came in the form of VHS tapes with cool packaging. One day it would come in the form of “The Lion King”. The next, “Oliver and Company”. Unlike my flesh creators, my third parent would actually sing to me. Oh the songs I would hear throughout my childhood.

Listen, I’m sure this isn’t news to any of you. I get it. You’ve all had that same third parent. But the thing that separates me (and also makes me much more pathetic) is that I still listen to all of these songs. Religiously. Check my Spotify. You would assume I was one of your friends from high school who had a kid too early and now had to make a Disney Spotify playlist for them. Sadly, no. I’m just a twenty five year old male who bought, BOUGHT, the Frozen soundtrack. I know how to pirate music. I’ve done it for at least the past eight years. This was me choosing to pay for music. The music happened to be on a soundtrack to a movie that was geared towards toddlers. There was a time when I was self conscious about it. But those days are long gone. This is who I am for better or worse. Mostly worse obviously. And I’m not trying to brag about this. Not at all. What I’m trying to do….is make a list. A list of the greatest Disney animated songs.

So there it is, out in the open. I’m going to attempt to make a list of the best songs that the Disney animated world has produced. Do I believe myself qualified to make this list? Absolutely not. But I’ve also seen so many bogus fucking lists floating around on the subject that I felt an urge to weigh in. There are so many hidden gems out there that nobody ever mentions. Don’t get me wrong, they usually put the best of the best out there. Every one knows that “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” will be around the top. I’m here to rank those smaller songs that I guarantee you’ve heard but have forgotten as the years passed by. In no way will I admit to getting the actual rankings correct. One hundred and twenty songs will make up my list. You heard me right, 120. That’s a shit ton of songs. And I had to make a butt ton of cuts, too. I did a lot of my picking and choosing on 4/20 of all days so…that should say something as well. All I know is that I owe it to my third parent to make this list. After all they’ve done for me. Oh, and that this will be fun. Really fucking fun. On to the rules then…

  • Must be an animated feature

I will only be ranking songs that are in a Disney movie that is animated. My apologies to “Mary Poppins”. So, so sorry “High School Musical” franchise. I wanted you in there “Muppets”, but it’s against the rules. This is also the case for songs that are popular because of rides at theme parks. Don’t want to point fingers.

  • Must be DISNEY

This should go without saying. But I have seen plenty of people claim “Anastasia” to be a Disney product. Anastasia is a god damn masterpiece of a movie (with one of the best soundtracks ever. Every Disney song dodged a bullet), but it’s not Disney. That’s all Fox. What’s that? You think I’m lying about how good the music is? Fine, you asked for it. Just remember YOU did this, not me.

 

  • Must be a theatrical release. No straight to DVD

This rule was a bit sketchy for me. I wasn’t always sure what went straight to theaters or which ones went to DVD/VHS. I’ll tell you what. To qualify you had to be on this list. Again, my apologies to Aladdin 2 and 3. The Return of Jafar and King of Thieves had some pretty catchy tunes. But none of them come close to this gem from The Lion King 2: SImba’s Pride

 

  • Must be an original song. Not a cover

Okay. This was a tricky one.  And I definitely broke this rule somewhere on the list. But what I’m trying to say is that the song can’t be an already popular song. Like “Life is a Highway” is one of “Cars” bigger hits. Sadly that song has been around before the Rascal Flats or whoever covered it. The same goes for “Shake Ya Tail feather” on the “Chicken Little” soundtrack. “Fantasia” is one of the most popular Disney films ever, mostly because of the music. Not a part of this list. The song could still be sung by a famous band/singer (Elton John anyone), it just has to be an original they produced for the film. Like I said…I may have broken this rule. And if I did, it was for a hell of a song. I hope.

  • Must be a movie. No television

Clearly this should be named the Phineas and Ferb rule. That show has some fantastic songs that probably should be on this list but can’t because it’s a TV show. They put out a movie? Well now…that’s interesting.

  • Pixar Allowed

Obviously this should be brought up. I don’t necessarily consider Pixar to be Disney. It’s like how some people don’t consider Arnold Schwarzennegger to be an American citizen. I mean he is. Those people are just idiots. Anyways, Disney bought Pixar so they are part of the family. And need to be considered. It would feel wrong not to have them in here.


 

It’ll certainly be tough when it comes to ranking. I will take into consideration how popular the movie is. If you are a great song carrying a great movie, you have a better chance than a great song that’s in a so/so flick. Also, songs that are in the film I hold in higher regard than covers of said songs. Example. ” A Whole New World” film version will always be better than ” A Whole New World” Peabo Bryson version. Don’t know who Peabo Bryson is? You will find out my friend.

Those are pretty much the only rules I could think of. The rest is fair game. One hundred and twenty of the best songs Disney has ever released. It’s all up to me to put them in the right order. There are plenty of story lines for this tournament (is it a tournament? I don’t know. Deathmatchlist?). Will a song from a major conference win (The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast)? Maybe some of the lesser known gems will step up. Will the old veterans (Snow White, Pinocchio, etc.) be able to hang around with the new hot shots (Frozen, Tangled, etc)? Who is the ultimate Disney singer, Elton John or Phil Collins (or Billy Joel)?!

This will most likely take up months of my life, so I hope readers other than myself take some joy in this. At least get angry about how terrible of a job I did. If anything, I hope this leads some of you to watch a few of these movies like you did in decades past. Or even some you decided not to watch (cough TANGLED cough). You don’t have to watch as many of them as I do (that’s weird), but just for nostalgia if nothing else. I’ll leave you with the same thing I told my parents years ago. “I’m not gay. I just really, really love Disney.”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With homosexuality. There’s plenty wrong with still liking Disney…

Next time – Songs 120-116