Monday, June 30, 2014

Tangled [2010]

My sister's birthday just happened recently, and since this is her absolute favorite movie, I think now's a good time to review it. :)
Tangled is a very sweet movie, and it might actually be my favorite Disney movie, but the jury is still out on that one. It has a solid, fast paced plot, great characters, gorgeous music, and eyepopping animation. I mean really, this movie is a treat to look at. Rapunzel's 70 foot-long hair especially is where the animator's work really shows. It looks so life-like!
I think that the visual highlight of the film is the I See the Light scene, it's amazing.
Anyhoo, despite the fact that this movie ends in a slight Deus ex Machina, I think that the plot is actually well written. It's fast paced, and evenly balances action with character development, which is hard to do.
The characters are one of the movie's major strong points. I know that Frozen is supposed to be the feminist Disney movie, but I think that Rapunzel is actually a fairly independent heroine. Rapunzel just wanted to see the flying lanterns and escape from the confines of the tower. Meeting a guy didn't factor into her plans at all until she actually met someone (who she originally just needed to show her the way) and they grew to love each other. Rapunzel's goal as stated in her solo is to go and see the lights. She just wants to live her life, and in the end that's what she gets. Eugene was the bonus prize. Not to belittle Eugene, because he's a good character! I don't want to spoil the ending, but his development is real nice and I like what they did with him.
And Mother Gothel... probably one of the freakiest and interesting villains I've seen. The reason I find Mother Gothel so creepy is that she's so good at emotional manipulation that she's got Rapunzel under her thumb- not with scare tactics, but with maternal 'love'.
Oh, and the music in Tangled is definitely something to write home about. I mean, it's not the absolute best soundtrack I've ever heard, but the music is really pretty. First off, the sung songs. When Will My Life Begin is a lovely little song, Mother Knows Best is a terrific villain song, and I See the Light is very sweet. And the orchestral score! I could ramble about it all night, but I'll just say that it's wonderful. Campfire, Kingdom Dance, Waiting for the Lights, and The Tear Heals are highlights. I love how prominent acoustic guitar is in the soundtrack, it lends it a certain tone that I really enjoyed.

The Verdict: A-
So! I should mention that there are a few instances of sloppy writing, but it's not that bad. Some people might be really bugged by the Deus ex Machina at the ending (Though if you read the original Fairy Tale, there is a similar incident in the finale), but aside from that, this is a pretty good movie! It's got heart and depth, but it's also very funny. All in all, a perfect movie for family viewing. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien [1954]

...Well! Wasn't this book so awesome? Dialogue, Prose, Characters, Plot, practically everything about this book is terrific. :)
I know the stories inside out, or at least I thought I did. Random little things are different, so there were still surprises and what not around every corner! Uh, page turn! Like Frodo singing on a table at the Prancing Pony to distract the bar attendees from Pippin blabbing about their quest! Or Frodo actually having a sense of humor... Reading this book totally ruined Movie Frodo for me. XD
Anyway, I'm not sure where to start. I suppose the writing would be a good place to start. Tolkien's writing is descriptive (especially the landscapes) and so poetic. There are a lot of songs and poems, and they're very pretty. Especially the one about Luthien Tinuviel. It's a writing style I hadn't really had experience with before, and it kind of cast a spell on me. ;)
I really liked the characters, especially Gandalf! He's a little quick-tempered and maybe a little mean, but never in a serious way. Sure, he yells at poor little Pippin, but it's not like he really did want him to throw himself into that well. Or did he? I think this verse from a song the elves sang about him sums up Gandalf the Gray quite well.

A lord of wisdom throned he sat,
Swift in anger, quick to laugh;
An old man in a battered hat
Who leaned upon a throny staff.
Sam Gamgee too, is a terrific character. He's brave, loyal, and emotional but not excessively so. And Gimli. Such a sweetheart. A very gruff one. ;)
A lot of people talk about the allegorical qualities of this book, but because I'm not perceptive at all, I wasn't able to isolate a whole lot of examples. Maybe when I'm finished with the whole series I'll be able to ramble at length about the Christian imagery. I did really like this bit that's in the first half, where Gandalf and Frodo are talking about Gollum (in the movie this scene takes place in Moria). I think that the whole Gollum storyline is tragic and at the same time a little mysterious, I don't know how to explain it. It's like one of those things that you think is really unfortunate, but turns out to be exactly how things were meant to be. How many times do we ask God to lift some misfortune from us, only to find that this 'misfortune' is exactly what helped us along the right path. As Gandalf said, that is an encouraging thought! Man, I did not do a good job at all of explaining that, but I'm sure its a very obvious reflection that you noticed already. :)
I'm trying to find something to nitpick so that I don't sound like a starry-eyed fangirl (though I kind of am one. Sorry. Okay, no I'm not.), so um... well, the pacing might be a little slow to readers used to modern fiction. The last book I read before starting this was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which is very fast paced, so for a little while it felt a tad slow.
There are some books that you read fast, in one day. And there are other books that you read slowly and savor, and I think that LOTR is one of those kinds of books. :)

The Verdict: A+
I um... not sure what exactly to say here. I mean, this wasn't really a review so much as a rant. I really enjoyed this book, and it's definitely one of my favorites. :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jack, Hurley, and the Real Hero of Lost

 Lost is an interesting show. It's not a story that gives away all it's secrets at once, heck. Some of it's secrets aren't even explained at the end.
One place where it's surprising though, is the hero.

The beginning of the show, we have Jack Shephard.
Jack is obviously the hero. He's a doctor with daddy issues, he's the de facto leader of the survivors, and he's vaguely good-looking to boot, ladies! You think that you know exactly who Jack is, and where his story-arc is going. You know, because he's the designated hero.
But as the series goes, you (or at least I did) start to get really irritated with Jack. His actions are selfish, haphazard, and ultimately self-serving. Gradually, the squeaky voice and compulsive head-bob that you initially found funny start to get grating. And eventually, you just want to smack Jack for his bottomless stupidity.
I think that Rose put it best when she chewed Jack out in Season 5.

It's been this long, and you people [Jack, Kate, Sawyer, The Others, etc...] are still trying to find ways to kill each other!

What makes it worse is that, for all his guilt issues and sorrow, there's about a hundred more pounds of Hero Complex.
You don't even have to think about it that long to realize that Jack is not the hero we thought he would be in the beginning. So if Jack isn't the hero, then who is?
In our main cast we have, among many others Kate (a convict on the run for blowing up her abusive step-dad), Sawyer (a jerk who nobody likes, and he's cool with that), Charlie (a rock star with a drug problem), and 'Hurley'.

Like Jack, at the beginning, you think you know exactly who Hurley, or Hugo Reyes, is. He's the funny fat guy who arranges golf tournaments and faints at the sight of blood. And you know, for a while he is. Then as you learn more about Hurley, you see that there is WAY more to him than what meets the eye, and that's what makes him such an awesome character. One of the first things you learn about Hurley is that when he makes up his mind- he is a force to be reckoned with. There is absolutely no stopping him once he's set his mind to something. He's a total determinator.
I mean look at that smile. Who could resist that?

Hurley's also one of the few characters who hasn't done anything really horrible or sinful in his past. Kate had understandable and sympathetic motivation, but she still committed murder. Charlie has a lovely redemptive ending to his story arc, but he was still a drug-addled rock star. And Jack spent most of his time arguing with his Ex-Wife. I won't even get started with Sawyer or Ana Lucia.

Aside from Rose and Bernard Nadler and probably Claire, Hurley is the only character who led a relatively good life. By 'good life' I don't mean he was always happy or had a perfect family life (he wasn't and didn't), but I mean he was a good person doing his best. He's very normal, and very relatable.

Because Hurley is normal when compared to the rest of the cast, you're tricked into thinking that there isn't anything special about him, and that he won't be that important in the long run. As it turns out though, Hugo Reyes is one of the most important characters in the entire story.

I mean, there's a reason you look forward to Hurley Episodes like Everybody Hates Hugo, and dread Jack episodes like Stranger in a Strange Land.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens [1859]

Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder a sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight upon him, and signing himself to let it eat him away.
- Book Two: The Golden Thread, Chapter 5: The Jackal

Sometimes I get nervous before I review one of my favorite books. Partly because I'm not smart enough to really understand the book in a deeper way, and partly because I'm afraid people will think I'm overselling my point.
But I've made the decision (yes, sometimes you have to decide these things) that I don't mind if people on the internet think I'm stupid or silly, so I'm going to charge ahead on with it. Oh, and there WILL be spoilers in this review. But seriously, if you don't know how it ends, I'll be really surprised.
A Tale of Two Cities is a relatively short book, but it packs quite a punch, at least for me it did. Before I get to why it packed such a big punch, let me get the flaws out of the way first. Because even awesome books have flaws.
For starters, the first chunk of the book drags a bit. Don't get me wrong, it's not exactly boring or turgid, but you start to wonder when this famous Sydney you've heard so much about is going to show up... I also got slightly annoyed with Lucie. I mean, she's practically perfect in every way, and has the required golden hair to boot. As the book went on, some of her deeper qualities showed through (fortitude and patience, for starters.), so it's not like she's a total china doll of a character. But still. Dickens could have made her a little less typical. So yes, there were a few little issues, but when this book is good, it is good. I didn't even mind the heavy-handed foreshadowing.
Something I love about this book is that the action and plot are relatively tight. There's always something of interest going on, and pretty much all the characters serve a purpose to the plot. The characters are pretty good. Not the most developed or whatever but sue me, I like them. Especially Sydney Carton, Mr. Lorry, Charles Darnay, Miss Pross- aw the heck with it, I pretty much liked everyone! Except for the Marquis, of course. I kind of feel a little sorry for the Marquis though. He strikes me as what you get when a spoiled child grows up. With nothing to hinder him or show him the error of his ways, he just got worse and worse. In terms of antagonists though, Madame Defarge is both more sympathetic and terrifying. At the same time.
 And then there's Sydney. I could ramble about Sydney for ages. Don't get me wrong, Charles is awesome. If given the choice between the two, I would probably rather hang out with Charles than Sydney (cuz' you know, sobriety), but Sydney's a more interesting character. His heart is very sensitive, but his mind is cynical and pessimistic, and that stifles any optimistic thoughts that he might dare to think. At least at first, anyway. His development is really good, and Sydney is one of my favorite fictional heroes. And while we're still on the topic of characters... Mr. Lorry is such a sweet man. He goes on and on about how he's nothing more than a 'man of business', but it's quite clear that he's much more than that.
Now, unfortunately for me, I knew of the ending before I was even halfway through it. Long story short, I was sitting in a library, waiting around to die, and I had forgotten to bring the kindle with me. I saw a copy of Tale of Two Cities on the shelf, and I decided I could find my spot in the book and make some progress. Out of habit, I looked at the back cover, and saw the following... "A Tale of Two Cities is the sweeping drama of Sydney Carton- who dies in the place of  Charles Darnay, the husband of the woman he loves."
Yeah. It was awful. I was like this:
And this at the same time:
Now that's a man...
Then I thought about it for a while and...
So children, this is a cautionary tale. Don't ever read the backs of books you haven't finished. Ever. EVER.
But knowing how the book ended offered a new perspective on Sydney's character as I read. I knew what was going to happen, but even so it was interesting to see all the pieces falling into place.

The Verdict: A+
I think it's quite clear that I liked this book in a big way, so at this point the verdict is just a formality. ;) It's been a while since I've read a book that made me simultaneously teary-eyed and uplifted. I feel a little silly maybe, since this 100+ year old book is to me what The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars is to other teenagers. Aw well! Tis the curse of the isolated homeschooler. ;)
Just kidding, we're not isolated, I've actually been outside once or twice this  year! >:D
Oh, and in autumn... heh, heh. That is when the awesomeness begins. Mwhahahahaha. AUTUMN IS COMING!!
And no, I don't watch Game of Thrones. I just like referencing the 'Winter is Coming' thing. Ha.
I'll uh, go now, this tiny text is getting really awkward. D:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Fair Lady [1964]

Whew, where do I start?
Fun Fact: Rex Harrison was actually a tiny pygmy-man,
and everyone towered over him. To solve this problem during filming,
the director used force-perspective effects not unlike those used to
create the illusion of shortness on the actors who played hobbits
in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Well, My Fair Lady is the film version of a stage musical that's based on a play that's based on a Greek myth. It stars Audrey Hepburn, who is delightful and classy as always. It's um, also very long, and I didn't take kindly to it when at the two hour mark Mom told me that there was still an hour left to go.
You're joking, right?
The thing is, I like my musicals to be fast-paced, somewhat serious, and lacking in age-long song and dance numbers (Okay, so The Music Man is none of that, but hey, there's always got to be the exception to the rule). My Fair Lady isn't the most enthralling movie I've ever seen, and I feel like some scenes didn't even have to be in there at all! Was it really necessary to have a five minute song and dance number about Mr. Doolittle's wedding? Was it? Because we never see that bloke again for the whole rest of the movie! Why did we need a whole song on the topic?!
But inbetween the deserts of tedium and shrieking, there actually were a lot of funny scenes! My favorite scene was when Higgins took Eliza to the Ascot Horse Races to 'try her out', and she ends up talking about un-ladylike topics, and yelling and swearing for her chosen horse to go faster. It was hysterical! Also the part where they were trying to get Eliza to take a bath (Which my little brother walked in on... and then immediately left.). So I didn't really mind the fact that the movie was longer than an age of Middle Earth. I did mind Rex Harrison's singing, though.
Seriously, he totally talked through all his songs. Not good... you'd think that for a musical they'd cast a guy who actually sings. The lady who voiced over for Eliza was pretty good, though. Nice tone, nice vibrato, etc.
Aside from the inconsequential wedding song, my biggest issue with this movie was it's ending. It was kind of a cop-out ending. In the original play, Eliza ends up marrying the awkward, constantly-hounded-by-his-mother-and-sister, Freddie. The movie however, ends with Eliza coming back to Henry Higgin's house and then I suppose they ran out of film. Because then the movie just stopped. Wha?! I know that the filmmakers really wanted Eliza and Henry to work out, but why? I suppose it's just as well. Freddie's pretty flat and insignificant anyway. I don't care what people say, though. In my mind, Eliza just came back to Henry's place so she could kick him one last time for being a misogynistic git. So there. ;)

The Verdict: B-
So I think that I mostly thought it was pretty good. My sister is much more forgiving towards super-long musicals, so if you want a less biased opinion... yeah. I think this movie could have been so much more awesome if instead of having a five-minute song about something that has no bearing on the plot, maybe they could have made Freddie's character less of a cardboard cutout. Then they could have ended it right. Mwahaha, because I'm so much smarter than professional filmmakers!
But hey! If you like old-fashioned musicals that are hilarious and filled with yummy costumes, have I got the movie for you!
What I'm saying is that even if I don't personally like this movie that much, I still understand why it's a much-loved classic. :)
Oh, and it's my 100th Post! :D

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Coraline by Neil Gaiman [2002]

Okay, so I'm not going in order with this reading list. I started LotR, but my copy has all three books in one, and as a result it's really heavy and hard to carry around so I decided to keep that one on the backburner. ... not like you were lying awake at night wondering what I'm reading, but I'm the president of this blog, so I call the shots. :P
So! Coraline then, yeah?
Well, despite the fact that I shrieked when I encountered my first Creeper in Minecraft, and cower behind pillows when my Dad and I watch The X Files, I wasn't actually that scared by this book. Creeped out and perhaps a little disturbed, but not terrified out of my wits. But before I start the review I should warn that this book is full of nightmare fuel. Chock full of it. I mean, just look at that cover. Yeeeks.
This book is about a girl (presumably somewhere between the ages of 10-12) who moves into a duplex. In an empty storage room she finds a mysterious door that leads to her 'other' house. It's where her Other Mother lives, with Other Father, and they've apparently been waiting for Coraline's arrival so that she can live with them and be their little girl. Of course, it doesn't take long for Coraline to realize that something is horribly, horribly amiss, yadayada.
I already reviewed the movie, and I just now got around to reading the book again. I had forgotten some of the things that happen, which is always nice when you're re-reading a book. Neil Gaiman's writing is nice and descriptive (though maybe a little too hung up on food. Seriously. Every meal gets described in great detail.) and paints a really good mental picture. Which is mostly a good thing, until you reach the part where Coraline gets sent into the cellar.
Allright, the last bit about the cellar makes things sound a little clichéd, but Coraline is actually one of the most original books I've ever read. As a writer I find it simultaneously inspiring and... not inspiring. Inspiring because it's possible to still write something with much originality. Not inspiring because well in all honesty, I don't think I'll ever write like Neil Gaiman. Saaaad...
Unlike the snotty reviewers on Amazon, I thought that this book did have something of a moral message. In the beginning of the story, Coraline was kind of a brat. Not going to lie. She was interesting, but she wasn't endearing. As the story goes on though, she learns to appreciate what she formerly thought was boring and normal. I thought it was a good message. I mean, sure. It's not Aesop, but why you would go hunting for morals in a horror novel is a mystery to me.

The Verdict: A-
I always have a hard time reviewing books that I really, really like, because I just kind of mindlessly ramble and never reach a point. In short, I like this book because it's quirky, scary, and an all-around enthralling book. It's also short, and you can read it in less than a day. ;)
I for one really like this book, but there are some distressing thematic elements that warrant discretion. If I had a kid, I would definitely screen this book before them and decide whether or not s/he could handle it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Interview with Ice Cream

Hey guys, recently my dear amiga Ice Cream (see our collaboration here) started her own blog, and this post is so you can all sort of get to know her, fun yeah? Let's get down to business. :)
Ice Cream's Blog

1. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging, Ice Cream! Why don't you tell all the nice people what made you want to start one?
 I was jealous of you!  I wanted a cool blog like you had, with tons of people visiting and commenting!  Just kidding :)  I really just felt like I needed a way to be able to practice my writing skills, talk about stuff that bugs me and rant about stuff that I love!  And of course, blogs are just neat and fun to have  :)

2. We know that first and foremost you are a Catholic, so let's have a serious question here. What is a way that being Catholic influences your daily life? What do you think it would be like if you weren't Catholic?
Hmmmmm, well, I suppose that being Catholic influences just about everything in my life.  It definitely does make life better though.  Being Catholic helps me see the higher, nobler, more beautiful side of everything.  I've imagined how my life would be different without Catholicism, and trust me, it would not be pretty.  I would probably have some serious disorders, spiritually and mentally.

3. What are some of your most favorite books ever? Besides Lord of the Rings, that is. ;)
Monica, how could you!!!  How could you make me put aside my love of Lord of the Rings for even an instant!  That's like asking me to chop off a limb!!!!  But if I must pick something else......  This is a toss up between Regina Doman's Fairy Tales Retold Series and The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale.  Both really good series, but I think if you held me at gunpoint and forced me to choose, I would choose Regina Doman's series, totally awesome and very Catholic!

4. How 'bout movies? Again, aside from Lord of the Rings?
 Again with no Lord of the Rings!!  I really like the X-Men movies (Ignoring all the immoral sex scenes and the bad language), and I like the Hobbit movies too ;)  Got you there didn't I?  I like Frozen, but it's not my favorite.  Like the Lego Movie too, but again, not my fav.  I'm not sure I have a favorite besides Lord of the Rings!  This question does not compute!

5. Go ahead and rant about what you like about Lord of the Rings. :)
 YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!!  Thank you!  I've been dying this whole time!!!!!!!  Okay, first off, I really love the allegorical aspect of the Lord of the Rings!  It's amazing how every time I read through the books, I find some new way that the Lord of the Rings reflects Catholicism and the life of Christ.  I also really love the awesome characters (especially Gandalf, Frodo, and Legolas, in that order).  I also really like Tolkien's way of telling the story, it's something that you can't find in a lot of writers anywhere, anytime.  I feel like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings mirrors it in 'The Yearling', but compared to Tolkien, it's like a candle is to the sun!  Wait, we're talking about the books right?  I'll talk a little about the movies, just so they don't feel left out.  I loooooooooooooooove the visual aspect of the movies, it's amazing!!!!!!  I also really like the soundtrack, it's so dramatic, quiet, and sad, in all the right parts!  I also like how in the movies Gandalf has some pretty awesome quotes that weren't in the books, but sound like they should be.  I remember reading the books after watching the movies (I know, how awful right, I watched the movies and then read the books!  I'm trying to encourage my younger siblings to stay away from that mistake), and thinking "What?!  What Gandalf (or some other character) said really sounded like it was straight from the book!"  Wow, that was the longest answer yet!  Moving on!

6. You're in a Homeschool Drama group, tell us, what's a play/musical you'd just love to do? And what part would you want to play?
 I would really love to do 'Oklahoma', mostly because that's where I was born :)  I would probably want to play Laurey, 'cause she's pretty cool.  She is really wishy washy though, at least when it comes to marriage.  Ado Annie is the exact same way..... wait a minute.  Why is it that for the first time I'm noticing a pattern here?  All the girls are wishy washy and can't decide who they want to marry!  I need to watch the movie version again, it's been too long.

7. What would you rather have as a pet? A talking dog who criticises your every move, or a giant ape who ignores you?
 A giant ape that ignores me.  At least I can pretend that nothing's different!  The talking dog would just be annoying and I might be tempted to, uh, dispose of it.

8. What's some random little thing that just bugs the heck out of you?
Talking dogs that criticize my every move.  No, actually, it's when I'm babysitting my younger siblings and they won't listen to me.  I suppose that's not little, but it does bug the heck out of me.  Also, when people watch over my shoulders as I surf around on the social media stuff.

9. If you had to pick one, would you rather stay isolated in your home forever, or be exiled from your home forever?
If I was exiled from my home forever, would I still be around people?  Could my family visit me?  If the answer was yes to either of these questions, then I would rather be exiled.  Solitude is not my thing.  And if the answer was no, then I would still rather be exiled.

10. Enough of the ennui filled questions! Howabout you give us one of your favorite quotes, Bible verses, or literary passages before you go. :)
Okay, there's this really cool quote from 'The Fellowship of the Ring' movie (this is one of the quotes that sounds like it should be in the book).  Gandalf is talking to Frodo about the Ring, and Frodo says "I wish It had never come to me."  And Gandalf says (and this is paraphrasing, it's been a few months since I've seen the movies), "So do all say who live to see such times.  But that is not their choice.  Their choice is what to do with the time they have been given."  Love that quote so much!!  One of the best ever!

Thanks again, for answering the questions, Ice Cream! It was very nice reading your answers, and on an unrelated note, I can't wait to visit you fellows again. :D
God Bless, and g'bye!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Defense of Marius

... Yeah, that's a weird post title. The fact is, I'm not a huge Marius fan, but I think he's a good character who doesn't deserve quite all the flack he gets. So let's get started, shall we? And for added fun, let's see if I can refrain from dissing Marius in the post that's supposed to be defending him. ;)

There was no good reason for Cosette and Eponine to fall in love with him.
Well, there actually are good reasons, you just have to read the book to find them. Cosette and Marius were both secluded people, and for that reason they unconsciously identified with each other. Plus, Marius also wrote her a very sweet and romantic letter, and you know how much Cosette loves stuff like that. :) Eponine is a little more complicated. She fell in love with him because he was the first man who had treated her with basic respect and courtesy in a really long time. It didn't matter that he barely even knew her and vice versa, because he was kind to her. So Eponine clung to that like a lifeline.
Marius is a jerk!
Marius does not have the most appealing personality. He's maybe a little self-centered, but name me the perfect Les Miserables character. At his heart, Marius is a decent man. Yeah, he kicked Jean Valjean out of his house because he thought he had murdered a guy. But when Marius learned of his mistake, he hurried to make amends as fast as he could. I'd say that Marius' redeeming quality is his gallantry. Even when he doesn't like a person, he's relatively courteous to them, and that's something that's really hard, and at least a little admirable.
Marius is a dork.
What? Is it because he's indecisive? Because he's socially awkward? Because he doesn't look like some archangel who fell from heaven? I suppose by those standards Marius is kind of a dork, but he's also relatable, and don't we love characters who are 'relatable'? Please tell me I'm not the only who relates to Marius.
Yes. Marius is stubborn, tactless, and short-tempered, but he's a decent person, and he can break his curse on his own! Oops, slipped into Howl's Moving Castle mode again. That'll happen. But you get my drift.
Something I really liked about Les Miserables is that you have characters all over the map when it comes to morality status. You can have 'good guys' who are unpleasant and a little rude (Like Marius), and you can have sympathetic 'bad guys' with understandable motivation (Like Javert). Then there's some characters you can't even classify (Like Eponine or Enjolras). It's very realistic, and definitely one of the book's strong points.
Stay frosty, my friends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Silas Marner by George Eliot [1861]

Hmph. The snobby introduction to my copy of Pride and Prejudice was wrong. I actually did like George Eliot's writing, rather than "grudgingly respect[ing]" it.
Anyhoo, Silas Marner is a redemption story of sorts, about a man who was basically kicked out of his hometown, and now lives in a village where he weaves to make a living. Over time, Silas accumulates a lot of money and hordes it like a miser. Then one night, his gold is stolen. Then on another night, his 'treasure' returns, but in the form of a little girl who he adopts.
This book is very short (the kindle said 190 pages), and the plot is simple. But the writing is rich in imagery, and the characters (for the most part) are well-written. Silas was of course, my favorite, and his development is lovely. It's very sad to see this caring and loving man slowly turn his heart to stone, and it's satisfying when the love that was there all along starts to shine through the cracks. Okay, that was mushy and sentimental, but in all fairness, the book was kind of like that too. Not at all in a bad way though.
Little Eppie (the toddler that literally wanders into Silas' life) on the other hand, well, I've got a little beef with her. For starters, she's totally perfect. Even as a toddler, when she gets into scrapes it's cute and adorable. Seriously? Back in Late April/Early May, when we were visiting friends, I watched over a gang of little girls. Most of the time they were precious and darling, but you know what? Toddlers have tantrums. No matter how virtuous they grow up to be, toddlers will have fits. And you know, when that happens, sometimes they have to be [gasp] punished. And yet the book states that Eppie was raised without needing punishment. Wha?!?
But I did like how at the end, Eppie's real (and rich) father shows up to try and get her to come with him and be an upper-class gentleman's daughter (Her real father isn't bad, he just wanted to do something for his daughter). However, Eppie loves Silas as the only parent she's ever known, and chooses to stay with him. That was lovely, and really, I'm kind of a sucker for Silas and Eppie's relationship. I know how sentimental that makes me, but hey. It's not like my heart is totally made of stone.

The Verdict: B+
I deducted points for the rather rushed ending, and the miracle tot.
But the writing was lovely, and Silas was a great character, and I definitely feel like reading it again sometime. :)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen [1813]

I was kind of cheating when I put this on my book list. When I wrote that I was kind of less than 40 pages from the end, but decided to put it on the list anyway. :P
Anyhoo, this is Jane Austen's most popular books, and is frequently hailed as her best work. I totally see why that is. The dialogue is witty, the characters are interesting and easy to identify with, and the plot is easy-going and refreshingly free of death and destruction.
I found this book a little frustrating actually, because sometimes I really liked it, and other times I wanted to toss it aside and pick up something else. To help sort out my feelings on this book, I think I'll pull out the bullet points. As usual, what I didn't like first. That way we can end on a positive note. :D

What I Didn't Like
-The pacing. Pacing is largely relative. One person's break-neck thriller is another person's yawn-inducer. For this one, I'd feel hard pressed if you asked me to give you a detailed recap of the book. Not a whole lot seemed to really happen aside from traipsing around from house to house and town to town. Stuff goes on during said traipsing around, but I just didn't feel that enthralled in the general plot.
-I wasn't that enthralled with the characters, either. Don't get me wrong, they were written and developed just fine, but for some reason none of the characters really 'clicked' with me. I think that if a book is going to become a favorite, you have to be able to connect with the characters, and unfortunately, that wasn't the case for this one.
-For whatever reason, I could not get myself to like Mr. Darcy. I know. He was in kind of a foul mood when he first met Elizabeth, and he's just not that sociable. But even when he was figuratively defrosting I just wasn't that thrilled with him.

What I Did Like
-The subplot with Mr. Bingley and Jane. Despite the fact that Mr. Bingley is kind of an airhead, I found his character quite endearing. And really, the reason he can't make his own decisions is because he doesn't even trust his own judgment, which for some reason I thought was funny and adorkable at the same time. (Shush, blogger spell check. 'Adorkable' is a word. By my standards, anyway.)
-The witty writing. One of the things I liked about Emma was that Jane Austen's writing is so incredibly snarky, but in a rather subtle (well, sometimes not that subtle at all) way.

The Verdict: B [?]
For the first time (IN FOREEEEVEEERRRR!!) I actually can't decide on the verdict. XD Some parts of it make me want to bust it down to C+ or so, but then I remember all the times Miss Austen's wit made me snicker, and yeah. I can't make my mind up with this book. But the essential question when reviewing a book is "Would I read it again?". With Pride and Prejudice, I the answer is yes, but not for a while. I'll at least wait until I've read all the other Jane Austen books before I re-read this one.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I know, two posts within hours of each other, lame, right?
But it's D-Day, and that deserved some note. Yeah, I know that a blog post is a dopey way to pay tribute to the men who died 70 years ago today, but a lot of people in these times don't remember or care about D-Day, WWII, or much of anything in our history. That's sad, but it's also a little scary because if you don't know history, you can't learn from it.
Our brave men fighting on Normandy Beach had a sense of identity and a duty towards their country, which isn't something you could say about most young people today. If we're going to continue being a strong country- a defender and upholder of what is right- we need to remember days of history like D-Day, and take back our senses of morality and love of country.
Well, those are just my thoughts, and I apologize if they were exceedingly dumb and/or heavy.
Take a look at this neat picture of an Army Priest saying Mass for soldiers on D-Day. Pretty cool, huh?

My Reading List for the Summer

Let's see if I can finish a reading list. :)

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

As opposed to Pride and Prejudice by Mark Twain. ;)
Anyway, this one's a re-read, because the first time I read this book I was reading it for school, and barely paid attention. So to give it a fair chance, I'm reading it again, and even though I'm not really crazy about it, I definitely like it better than last time.
Silas Marner by George Eliot
I don't remember much about the plot for this one. I watched the mini-series a few years back, and I remember that I liked it. So I figured, what the hey! Might as well give it a shot.
The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
I feel so illiterate... the truth is, I have read most of LOTR... just never in the right order. But I figured now was the time to read all the way through the trilogy, that way I can consider myself a proper homeschooled teenager. ;)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
A while back, my sister and I took the Jane Austen heroine quiz, and Libby came out as Catherine Morland. We did some research on Miss Morland, and Libby decided that she liked her very much. So it has fallen upon me to read the book and see if it's anything my sister could read. Should be fun!
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
... It's on the kindle, and the premise sounds interesting. Oh, and some friends of mine have a cat called Dorian. That's about it. XD
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Another re-read. But it's been ages since the last time I read this one, and I've just read Babe The Gallant Pig, and I want to see how the two measure up against each other. ;)
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Yet another re-read. But I wanted some nice, short books to read in between the really long hauls. I really resent the fact that the back of this book says Ages 7-10. It's an amazingly deep story, and I think it can be enjoyed by all ages. Except apparently, for all those adults on Amazon reviews who think it's too dark.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
My mom read this one to me and my siblings a really long time ago, and I figured it was time to read it myself. My sister's also read the abridged version, and is very attached to the character Hector.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This book is amazing. It's a little weird and scary, but I like stories that make me afraid of the dark hallway. XD

So there it is! I hope to be able to finish these by the end of summer, or at least the end of the year. I also have school reading to do, so that might slow down the progress a bit, but hey! What's bedtime for besides staying up for hours reading?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Good Sister Movies

In case you couldn't tell from the obvious post title, this is about movies that are about sisters, and are therefore, fun to watch with your sister. Soooo, listed in no particular order...

My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is an anime film made by Studio Ghibi, and is about two sisters. Mei (4) and Satsuki (11) move to the country side with their Father (their mother is suffering from a non-specific disease, and lives in the hospital). While exploring the forest, Mei discovers a giant forest creature who she calls 'Totoro'. This movie is kind of aimed at a younger audience, but one of Studio Ghibi's major strengths is that even their more little-kid movies are perfectly enjoyable for teenagers and adults alike.
I'd actually be a little cautious showing this movie to kids younger than 5 or 6, because there is a scene where Mei, Satsuki, and their Dad go to a temple and pray to the Shinto gods. It's a very short scene, and I definitely wouldn't not see this movie just because of that scene. Because if you do, then you're missing out on a lot of good stuff. Mei and Satsuki have good relationships with both their parents, the animation is very pretty and detailed, and even though is a happy little movie about two sisters, My Neighbor Totoro is very deep and touching. [A-]

Ramona and Beezus

This one is based on the Ramona books by Beverley Cleary. Not as good as the books, but it's very funny, and the actresses who play Ramona and Beezus are great together. There's also some cool day dreaming sequences (you know, were it goes into Ramona's imagination). This is one of those movies that goes in kind of an episodic plotline, though there is a main thing going on under all the random mishaps and shenanigans. And hey! It ends with a wedding reception! And wedding receptions make me feel so happy... [B+]

Lilo and Stitch

Lilo and Stitch is about a lonely Hawaiian girl who's legal guardian is her (apparently over 18) sister, Nani, ever since their parents died in a car crash the year before. Lilo's relationship with Nani is just as important to the story as her friendship with the alien fugitive Stitch, and their story arc is very satisfying. Even though Lilo and Nani get into constant arguments, they love each other very much, and their interactions (when they're not fighting) lend the movie a lot of heart.
There's also a lot of awesome Hawaiian stuff. :D [A-]

I know, why didn't I put this one first, yeah? I'm going to ignore all the little things that bugged me about this movie, and focus on one of the many things I liked. Unlike the sisters in the aforementioned movies, Elsa and Anna don't actually interact that much. But their relationship (I'm a little tired of that word...) is the whole point of the story. I found it very sweet of Anna to go charging after her sister in devilish weather, and totally throw herself under the bus for causing Elsa's freak out. Elsa's character was interesting without being annoying, and it's nice to see an anxious, easily strained character presented as something other than just the load. Oh, and ANIMATION WOW.