Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Favorite Books of 2014!

I just wanted to do a quick little post on (obviously!) my favorite books of this year. :)

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

This is the first Dickens novel I've read, and I'm so glad I read it! I had always liked the story, because I as very familiar with the story from the miniseries. Dicken's writing is very witty and entertaining, and very biting at times. My favorite character was Mr. Jarndyce, and I was quite surprised by Sir Lester at the end. A very good read, if you've got the patience for 800 pages. :)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I read this one because I liked Bleak House so much, it is now one of my favorite books. A Tale of Two Cities is different from the usual Dickens style, the names of the characters are less goofy, it's much shorter, and the plot is a whole lot simpler. This book has a strong, likeable cast of characters and some plot twists that genuinely did surprise me. In short, it's a lovely story of redemption with one of my favorite fictional heroes. Ever.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

I read two Michael Crichton book this year, Jurassic Park and the Andromeda Strain, and dang does that man know how to write sciency-stuff and make it engaging and interesting. Usually when a book gets into technobabble I just groan and turn the pages until I find something good happening, but here it was so cool! This book gives you a lot to think about, which is always good. Plus, it was pretty dang scary at times! I stayed up until 4 am reading this one night, that's how suspenseful it was.
Emma by Jane Austen

This here is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I found it quite a wonderful read. Emma is sort of an anti-heroine at first, in that she is meddlesome and maybe a little bit spoiled. She gets better of course, but that's half the fun of the book. All the supporting cast is memorable and delightful, especially Emma's hypochondriac father. Jane Austen's writing is witty in a rather dry, snarky way, and it was an absolute joy to read.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Like Jurassic Park, this book provides a lot of things to think about. Ender's Game is one of those books that doesn't have a strict 'ending' where everything is 100% wrapped up. Rather, it ends when things are emotionally finished. I really like that kind of ending, and I almost cried at the end of this book. I'm so glad I gave it a chance, since Sci-Fi isn't a genre I really go nuts for usually. :)
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

So. Dang. Good. This book is suspenseful, creepy, and like a lot of books on this list, gives you something to think about! A lot of the characters don't really go in the direction you expect them to, and this is one of the book's best strengths. I like the atmosphere throughout the book, and I absolutely loved the ending, even though it wasn't the most complete or happy ending, I still think it was perfect.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Okay, I haven't finished this one yet. I've been working on it for a while though, and I only have 200 pages left. This book is AWESOME. I love it so much! It does require a bit more suspension of disbelief than normal for a book set in real-life France, but it is so amazing. There are prison escapes, poisoners, hidden fortunes, people in disguise, people faking their deaths, it's got everything that makes my heart go all aflutter. Not that it's all fun and games though. A lot of The Count's actions have repercussions that he wasn't prepared for, and he has to think about what he's done and if it was actually the right thing to do. So yeah. Awesome!
Momo by Michael Ende

This is such a lovely little book. The characters are terrific, and the plot is so original, I honestly haven't read anything like it! Even though it was written as a children's book, I think this is a book that everyone can read and enjoy. It has some deep themes, too, and one of the reasons it's a great children's book is because it doesn't think that kids are too stupid to catch onto the themes and such.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Storage Room: That's Not Encouraging

The art class I took when I was 9 traumatized me for life. Now I'll never appreciate fine art or try to improve my skills. See what a monster you've created, Missus Favoritism Teacher lady?!
Ahem. As you can see, I have issues with letting stuff go. ;)
Stop telling people this when they're down about their art. Seriously. Never. Think of something else, but for the love of all that is good and sacred, don't say this. :P

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Les Miserables: Paris Revival Cast Recording [1991]

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas. :)
So, to celebrate the end of my semester of French, I figured why not review a Les Miserables recording that is in French! I mean, it was recorded in flippin' Paris, what could be better? XD
Ahem. I like to start by rambling about the instrumentals.
Being from the 90's, the instrumentals are spiced up with those syntho instrumentals, so they're relatively the same as the English 3-Disc recording that we have. They don't bug me (they might bug some people, but they remind me of the early 2000's when I was a little kid :D), though sometimes they make me laugh because it sounds like Video Poker music! XD
Now the cast! Jean Valjean is always cool (I've never met a Jean Valjean I didn't like, haha!), and this guy was neato! He has a nice voice, and so far as I can tell his acting was good. His version of Bring Him Home ('Commme Un Homme') is lovely, his acting is just right here. That song doesn't usually elicit a huge reaction from me, but this one... really good. He was also really good in the Epilogue. :)
I liked Javert, he has a very dramatic, almost operatic voice at times. Cosette is usually the most hit and miss character in the whole shebang, but she was a very good singer! She has a sweet, clear voice that is really nice to listen to. All the talk of Cosette makes me think of 'Une Poupee dans la Vitrine', the French equivalent of Castle on a cloud. The French version of this song is so sad, it almost made me cry! The last verse is about how she wishes she knew how to write, because then she could write to Father Christmas for the doll she wishes for. And the middle verse is actually very interesting. Cosette talks about how when she has her doll (her 'daughter') she will dress her in the prettiest dresses, and how she wants her doll to be very proud of her as a mother. Sounds kind of like what Fantine wanted for Cosette, huh? It's such a tearjerker. :(
Ahem. This cast has a good Gavroche, he's got sass, but not in a forced or annoying way. This kid pulls off the role quite effortlessly. I also liked Enjolras on this recording. He's a little petulant, but that's fine by me, so long as it's not excessive. When I was reading the book, I got the impression that due to his privileged childhood he was still a little used to getting his way. XD
Aside from the really good Jean Valjean, my other favorite performer on this CD was Eponine. Her actress has a very normal-girl sounding voice, by which I mean she doesn't have an overly pop-ish sound to her vocals. I like her take on the character, too. She's got a bit of an edge to the character, and pulls off the sad bits without coming off as maudlin and pouty. I really like her On My Own ('Mon Histoire') and Attack on Rue Plumet.
Oh yeah, Mon Histoire. I love On My Own, but Mon Histoire (My Story) is really something. It's harder to adapt into a generic teenage girl 'I'm in the friendzone!' song, because there is more about Eponine's feelings about her situation in life as well as her feelings for Marius. She begins by thinking about how her childhood seemed so pleasant and fairy-tale like, which is pretty different from the English one. I really like the lyrics, I almost translated all of them, so huzzah for French class!

The Verdict: A+
Weee, this font is pretty big and makes the review look super big. Ahem.
I really enjoyed listening to this and being able to understand almost half of it. It's a cool experience to have any kind of automatic understanding of a foreign language. I like the lyrics that I understood, they are so good ("Marius, get off your cloud!") the cast was really solid! I know I didn't talk about everybody, but there was nobody who was weak, or bad. The acting was good, the singing was good, an all-around great cast.
Favorite Song: Mon Histoire
Runners Up: Sous Les Etoiles, Le Grand Jour, Souviens-Toi Les Jours Passes?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Storage Room: Another Ruined Christmas Party

Ah, the week before Christmas. The last Advent Candle is lit, all the presents are stuffed in the closet and wrapped, and all your friends are inviting you to Christmas parties!

Merry Christmas, tout le monde!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas and Such

Yeah, today is normally the day where I would post the 55 Songs from Musicals dealio, but it's Christmas week, so I wanted to take a break from our normal programming and wish you all a Merry Christmas in advance. Just in case I don't have time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. :)

Unto us a Child is born
Unto us a Son is given
And the government shall be upon His shoulder
And His name shall be called
Wonderful Councilor
All mighty God
The Ever-Lasting Father
The Prince of Peace

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A New Blog Look!

Hee hee, I copied you Ice Cream, and changed my blog look. You guys should go check out what her blog looks like now, it's really pretty!
Ahem. Diversion!!
Hi guys! Finals are over, it's almost Christmas, and I've finally gotten the hang of my orchestra music. I'd feel just perfect if my French teacher would only get our grades up on the college student accounts!
Anyway, re-doing the blog look really made me feel ridonkulously happy, but I want to make sure that it's easy to read. The font for the blog title is called Calligraffiti, and the body of the posts and such is called Indie Flower. I really like the look, but I can make the font bigger if it's hard to read. :)
So if you feel like it, tell me what you think!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Momo Chibis!

Hi guys! Yesterday was my Piano and French finals, and I so can't believe that it's over! I already miss my friend I was going to school with (even though we'll totally see each other again in January when school starts up again, at the very latest). But it was nice, I think I aced my Piano final (though at the end of my song, there were three notes to be played at once, and accidentally only played one. Derp!)
So anyway, I have some chibi comic ideas, but I forgot to write them down, what with my Finals and such. XD So here, enjoy these chibis of the cast of Momo! Momo is a wonderful German book (my Michael Ende) about a mysterious orphan girl who has the unique ability to help people just by listening to them talk about their problems. Once people listen to Momo, they are suddenly able to go and fix their problems. Then one day, strange and creepy gray men start appearing all over town and begin to steal people's time. It's a really good book, and I highly recommend it. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

[A rant on] The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Has this book got me frustrated or what? I'm not saying that it's good or bad, all I'm saying is that it has me really confused and a little irritated.
Confused, because I know that there is a point in there somewhere (Monica's going to take a magical journey to the land of Sparknotes!), but I can't seem to figure it out. That's what has me irritated.
For a good portion of the book, I couldn't really figure out for myself what was going on under the surface. And sometimes I couldn't even figure out what was going on in the plot. I guess I have a basic enough understanding of the plot to have a vague idea of what the point of the story was, but this book still makes me feel like I'm the idiot for not understanding all the weird symbolism and motifs and stuff. Argh.
And there was the rather sudden ending, well, I guess it wasn't really that sudden or ambiguous. The dealio is, that Prince (who is a really sweet, kind man) has spend the whole book torn between two women. The adventurous and feisty Aglaya, and the tortured, guilt-ridden Nastasia (who feels that way because she was somebody's mistress, I think. Wouldn't swear to it). Prince Muishkin truly loves Aglaya, but his love for Nastasia is more of elevated pity.
By the climax of the story, Aglaya dumps him because she realizes that his epilepsy will have him sickly forever, so after some time he and Nastasia grow closer and become engaged.  However, on their wedding day, Nastasia runs away with another man who loves her, Rogojin, because she feels like a rough, mean man like Rogojin is the only kind of man she deserves. In a few days, a worried Muishkin locates Rogojin and makes the horrifying discovery that Rogojin has murdered Nastasia.  This, along with the realization that every good thing he tries to do just leads to more trouble, drive Muishkin to madness, and at the end of the book he can't recognize any of his friends, or even speak. Rogojin is shipped off to Siberia, and Aglaya gets married to some loser who lied about his big fortune.
The end.
And you know what, I had some issues with the ending of The Man Who Laughs, but that was sort of made up for by the ending line.

When Ursus recovered consciousness, he no longer saw Gwynplaine, and he beheld Homo near the edge, howling into the gloom as he gazed out at the sea.

I know, I know, it makes no sense in context, but I don't want to give away spoilers for a book that the post isn't about. Now, I find the last scene of the Idiot just plain anti-climatic.

So spoke the good old lady, almost angrily, as she took leave of Evgenie Pavlovich.

Um, no offence or anything book, but if I were you, I would have ended on a scene relevant to the main characters and themes of the novel. Eugh.

I guess no letter grade for this one, because I don't feel clever today. :P I guess I'll read it again someday, because it did have it's very strong moments where I really liked it. I feel like the execution could have been better, though.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Favorite Songs from Musicals #15: The Final Battle

I'm a horrible, horrible, person. But for all the death and destruction and loud explosions (well, the explosions were really loud in the performance we saw!), this song is also pretty dang cool. I mean sure, they all die ten seconds after the singing stops, but dang! Those lyrics! They manage to be all inspiring and depressing at the same time.

P.S: The guy who plays Enjolras on this recording is awesome. ;)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card [1985]

Earth was the constant noise of crickets and winds and birds. And the voice of one girl, who spoke to him out of his far-off childhood.

Wow! I read a Sci-Fi novel, and I actually loved it! Not just liked, but loved. This book isn't perfect. There are a few things that I don't like about it, but it is certainly a worthwhile read. Let me just throw it out here that this book does have language and a little crass talk. Just because I really liked the book does not mean that I approve of all that.
This review will have spoilers, but it's been out for ages, so I'm not pulling out the angry red font.
So. I really liked the writing in the book. The author is really good at really making you feel the way the character does. A lot of people say that Ender is a boring, static character, but I really liked his character arc. All through the book, Ender is afraid that he is like his psychopathic brother, Peter.
It's true, when Ender is confronted by an enemy (like bullies, or the weird giant thing in those computer games) he doesn't pull punches, he practically eliminates the threats so they can't hurt him anymore.
Then at the end of the book, his worst fears are practically confirmed when he is tricked into destroying the bugger's homeworld. But then, he finds that last egg or something from the last queen bugger, and sets out on a mission to find a place where the egg an hatch and thrive. The book ends with the line "He searched for a long time."
 I'm doing a poor job explaining this, but I'm trying to lead up to my point. I have a friend at college (one of the two people who recommended the book to me!) who thinks that the ending was setting up the sequels, but I actually think that it was a really good ending for the story.
There are a lot of books that just kind end, with absolutely nothing resolved. These kinds of books are very unsatisfying to read, and kind of wreck the book even if you feel like the rest of it was well plotted and such.
Then there are book that end with some of the plotlines still dangling, but emotionally, philosophically, and thematically, the story is over. Are you guys picking up what I'm putting down? I'm thinking about books like The Brothers Karamazov or The Road. Books where yes, there are still things that are unknown, and maybe you don't know if everything will be okay, but the characters have found- I hate to say this because it sounds really stupid- inner peace. You know, emotionally, the story is resolved and you maybe don't need to know what happens next.
Maybe I'm just silly or something, Je ne sais pas.
Anyhoo, something I really liked about this book was that the hero's most important female relationship is with his sister, Valentine (who is also a really interesting character!). Not with some half-baked love interest, but with his sister. Their dynamic is very well-written.

The Verdict: A
I didn't expect this book to make me cry, but I almost did at the ending. This book is well written and well plotted, and it kept my attention very well all throughout. This book is quite deep, and pondered some interesting questions, and I can't wait to read it again sometime next year. ;) I don't know if I'll be reading the other books because the ending of this one just seemed so 'right' to me.

Age Appropriateness: 14+
There's some cussing and crass talk, and a few borderline-disturbing scenes.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Favorite Songs From Musicals #14: The Farmer and the Cowman

Okay. This song is a MASSIVE earworm. Like, I couldn't get it out of my head after listening to it just once. Despite the fact that it tortures me by buzzing around in my head during French Class, I really like it. The tune is fun and energetic, and it totally wants you to clap along with the rhythm.