Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again. Or rather, the end of that year and the beginning of a new one. We stay up until midnight and then go to bed. We light fireworks and bang pots and pans. We watch the ball drop (just kidding - I've never done that and I bet you probably haven't either). We make resolutions.
We make resolutions that we completely forget about once February hits (if, indeed, our resolutions last until February). Then New Year's rolls around again and we make more resolutions we know we won't carry out. So what's the point?

My New Year's resolution for 2015 is to make only resolutions that I can in no way fulfill - even if I manage to remember them past February. For inspiration, I've drawn on my blog posts of 2014. I hope my list inspires you to make your own resolutions that you won't carry out. Good luck.

1. Go to Narnia.

2. Free the unicorns.

3. Persuade Tolkien to finish The Fall of Arthur.

4. Time travel to the age of the dinosaurs.

5. Find this landscape.

6. Overthrow the monarchy.

7. Figure out how to format these posts correctly.

Happy New Year. Here's to lots of happy reading in 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Your early Christmas present: Le Petit Prince

Happy December, everyone! I hope your plans for the Holidays are going well, and that you aren't drowning in finals and/or Christmas shopping. Now down to business.
If you haven't yet, watch this trailer NOW:

Premieres October 7th, 2015 in France.

Apparently they are also planning on making a version in English, but I'm kind of thinking I'd rather watch the French one. I don't know when the movie will be released in the U.S.

For (slightly) more info, head over to this article by the Verge:
The Little Prince could be one of the most beautiful animated films of 2015

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”   
  - Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mythopoeia: Tolkien's argument for the power of myth

Hi. Remember that post three ages of men ago about five semi-obscure works by Tolkien that are really cool? They were:

1. The Tolkien Reader
2. Smith of Wooton Major
3. Letters from Father Christmas
4. Mythopoeia
5. The Fall of Arthur

(Here is a link to that post, where I go into depth about The Tolkien Reader:

Anyway, I'd like to talk about another of the works on that list. This is the poem "Mythopoeia."

"Mythopoeia" (I spelled it right twice now, I should win something) was the product of an argument between Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis. Lewis argued that myths were ultimately "worthless" because they weren't true, but Tolkien argued that myths were valuable in their own right. Apparently he didn't manage to convince Lewis in conversation, but he went home and wrote a poem about it, which he dedicated to Lewis and then showed to him. The poem must have done the trick; it reportedly convinced Lewis that myths had value and weren't just a pack of worthless lies. The moral we learn from this little story is that, if in prose you don't succeed, try, try a poem. "Mythopoeia" also functions as a great defense of fantasy literature, especially taken along with Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories," which you can find in The Tolkien Reader.

Because "Mythopoeia" can be difficult to come across, I've reproduced it below, taken from this website. When you're done, you might want to listen to this analysis of the poem by Dr. Corey Olsen - but all, of course, at your own choosing.
To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless,
even though "breathed through silver"
You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are `trees', and growing is `to grow');
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star's a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, Inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.
At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o'erwitten without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
and endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain's contortions with a separate dint.
Yet trees and not `trees', until so named and seen -
and never were so named, till those had been
who speech's involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh,
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves,
and looking backward they beheld the Elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.
He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth.
The heart of man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
man, sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with elves and goblins, though we dared to build
gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sow the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made.
Yes! `wish-fulfilment dreams' we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem ?
All wishes are not idle, not in vain
fulfilment we devise - for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is dreadly certain: Evil is.
Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
through small and bare, upon a clumsy loom
weave rissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow's sway.
Blessed are the men of Noah's race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.
Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things nor found within record time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organised delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).
Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have turned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.
I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.
I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends -
if by God's mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker's art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.
In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day-illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see
that all is as it is, and yet may free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden not gardener, children not their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not been dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.
There you have it: Tolkien's "Mythopoeia." Are you convinced? 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musings on Thanksgiving (with special appearances by C.S. Lewis, Victor Hugo, Thorin Oakenshield, and William Shakespeare)

(Wouldn't it be cool if we could change the background of this blog to match the seasons? Yeah, I don't know how to do that. Then again, the Wood between the Worlds probably doesn't have seasons. Anyway, here is a picture that looks like it could have been taken in the Wood between the Worlds in autumn, you know, if the Wood had an autumn.)
The weather is turning colder, the trees losing their leaves, and the stores displaying Christmas merchandise - which must mean that Thanksgiving is upon us.

I have nothing against listening to Christmas music once November hits, but let's make sure we don't rush over Thanksgiving in our excitement for Christmas to come; this holiday deserves its own time in the spotlight.

What's Thanksgiving about? Pilgrims and Indians? The Mayflower? The founding of America? Maybe, but if we want to find the true heart of Thanksgiving, all we need to do is remember the name of this holiday. Giving thanks is a sweet, joyous, and plentiful harvest in and of itself. C. S. Lewis, in Reflections on the Psalms, wrote:

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

Are you ever struck by the incredible beauty of this world? Now is the time to express your delight, wonder, and gratitude for the glorious things around you. And our gratitude shouldn't be confined to the subject of the beauty of nature; there are so many things to be grateful for that it's staggering. Even in our darkest moments, there is something amazingly beautiful or wonderful or helpful for which we can express thanks. And this thanksgiving shouldn't be confined to Thanksgiving. We can express gratitude all year long. But this is the time to focus on our gratitude and reflect upon it. If you're unsure of how to express your gratitude and to whom, take a cue from the words of Victor Hugo:

"To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do."

Whether its in prayer to God, in conversation to your friends or family, or in complete solitude in your journal or private thoughts, find some time to give thanks this Thanksgiving.  

But also find some time to enjoy good food, because that too is an important part of this holiday, and, after all, as Thorin says to Bilbo in The Hobbit:

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

So from the depths of my heart I truly hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find both something to be thankful for and some food to enjoy. And I pray, with William Shakespeare:

"O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness."
(Henry VI, Part II)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The case for Christianity: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis


Title: Mere Christianity
Author: C. S. Lewis
Original Date of Publication: 1952
Original Publisher: Geoffrey Bles (UK); MacMillan Publishers (US)
Number of Pages: 190 - 227 (depending on edition)

What Goodreads has to say:

Mere Christianity is C.S. Lewis's forceful and accessible doctrine of Christian belief. First heard as informal radio broadcasts and then published as three separate books - The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality - Mere Christianity brings together what Lewis saw as the fundamental truths of the religion. Rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity's many denominations, C.S. Lewis finds a common ground on which all those who have Christian faith can stand together, proving that "at the centre of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks the same voice."

What I have to say:

Everyone is born with an innate sense of right and wrong. This sense is the thing that prompts us to help someone in need, apologize to someone we have wronged, treat others with courtesy, and so on. All humans share this sense; we may have different cultures and belief systems, but everyone agrees that it is wrong to do certain things (such as stealing, committing murder, double-crossing someone who has been good to you) and that it is right to do other things (such as telling the truth, keeping your promises, and thinking of others before yourself).

The fact that we all have this same sense of right and wrong shows that there must be something out there from which we received this sense - something or someone greater than us who wants us to behave in a certain way. But we have all failed to live up to this standard that has been set for us; we sometimes put ourselves before others, and we sometimes are dishonest or lose our patience with someone who loves us, and so we must be at odds with this greater something or someone who wanted us to behave in this way.

With this basic argument, C.S. Lewis opens Mere Christianity, a book adapted from the broadcast talks which he gave on the radio during WWII. Logical, straightforward, and convincing, Mere Christianity starts at the very beginning, neither assuming nor even suggesting the presence of a God, and gradually works its way up to Christianity through flawless reasoning mixed with scatterings of humor and wit. From the simple fact that all human beings share a sense of right and wrong, Lewis deduces that there must exist some greater power who has endowed us with this sense and wants us to act in a certain way. This power could be a presence who is beyond good and evil and constitutes the universe (this is the Pantheistic view) or a distinct being who loves good and hates evil (this is the Theistic view). However, the fact that this higher power has endowed us with a distinct sense of right and wrong tells us that he does believe in a right and wrong, and is therefore not "beyond" good and evil. From here, after some further reasoning, Lewis eventually reaches the God of Christianity. This God is a distinct entity who believes in right and wrong and has commanded men to act according to this system. But, because men have made themselves God's enemies through failing to live up to His standard, He has provided a way for us to be reconciled to him: namely, He has sent His son to atone for our sins. Christ, who is the son of God, has suffered and surrendered for us, so that we, by sharing in his sacrifice, can become forgiven and at one with God.

I've never read a book that made a more convincing case for Christianity. Lewis' argument is so methodical and logical - it's as if he reasons his way to Christianity. Reading this book, I realized for the first time just how much sense Christianity makes. The second half of the book lays out the teachings and values of Christianity, opening them up in new ways and making sense of things that many people (myself included) often have trouble understanding. However, there is a section where he talks about the Trinity and the Nature of God, and since Lewis was an Anglican, his beliefs on this subject differ from mine. But I still give him full credit for doing the best he could with what he had, and the rest of the book should align almost entirely with the beliefs of any Christian from any denomination.

I've also found that this book lays the groundwork for an understanding of all of Lewis' other writings: it's like a jumping off place where he articulates his ideas in detail, and then his other works connect to these ideas and play off of them in new ways. Many of the ideas he articulates elsewhere are given fuller form in this book, and I've found that it's a helpful starting place for tracing his ideas.

This book is probably Lewis' most quotable work; his single liners blew me away. Here are some of my favorites:

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."
"Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours."  
"Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods."  
"Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."
"We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it."
"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."  

If those didn't persuade you to read Mere Christianity, than nothing I can say will do so. I think the last one alone would persuade me. So if you want to be spiritually edified and enlightened, and if you want to spend some quality time with C.S. Lewis, pick up Mere Christianity and give it a try. You won't regret it.

If you still need convincing (and even if you don't) here's a picture of Jack (alias C. S. Lewis) for you:

He wants you to have a good day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lots of Craziness in the Amazon



Title: Mutation
Author: Roland Smith
Series: Marty and Grace / Cryptid Hunters
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 30 2014
Source: Netgalley
Purchase: pre-order only

Goodreads Summary:
Monsters of legend come to life! The final thrilling title in Roland Smith's popular series.

Marty and his best friend, Luther, have managed to rescue Marty's cousin Grace from the clutches of the nefarious pseudo-naturalist Noah Blackwood, but their most dangerous mission lies ahead of them. Marty's parents have been missing in Brazil for months and their trail has all but run cold. With time running out, Marty and the Cryptos Island crew race off for Brazil -- where they discover that Noah Blackwood has twisted the natural order of things beyond their wildest, most terrifying dreams.

My Thoughts:
This book was great. I loved every moment of it. It was fast paced and just fantastic. I loved the characters and the great twists that came up throughout the novel. I would expect no less from the conclusion to such a great series. The technology in this book was awesome, and it was highly suspenceful - and answered every question you could ave possibly had about the series. So, moving on to - 


So, dinosaurs. Also jungle men. Crazy cryptids, and of course all your favorite characters. This book as I have already said, was phenominal, but sometimes quite unbelievable. However, what's the point of reading fiction if you want it to be realistic? So I really loved all the technology and awesomeness that was related with Ted. Another thing I really liked was the boy trio - Marty, Luther, and Dylan - they were great. I thought they acted like real teenage boys - none of that sophisticated stuff. :) I thought the thing at the end with clones was very interesting - and it explained a lot. In fact the last few chapters pretty much explained every question I ever had about the story. 
So, I guess really that's all I have to say - it was a hilarious and wonderful journey, and I'm sad it's ended. Hats off to Smith.

 Recommendations: I would recommend this book to anyone who likes middle grade fiction, or adventure stories. This series was very unique and can appeal to every age - I'm 20 and I loved it, and I know women into their forties who loved it - basically it's a fantastic book and I recommend it to anyone who loves to read.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Such stuff as books are made on: Shakespeare-inspired literature

I recently finished The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary L. Blackwood. It was a fun read, with likeable characters, good historical detail, and plenty of suspense and plot twists, though there was one twist that went too far, in my opinion. This prompted me to think about some of the other Shakespearean-inspired books I've read, and I decided to compile a list of them for you. (Yay!) Brevity is the soul of wit, so I'll try to briefly outline each book and give my opinion on it, but, judging from my previous posts, I have a tendency to go the Polonius route and write way more than I thought I would.

Historical Shakespeare

Title: Loving Will Shakespeare
Author: Carolyn Meyer
Date of Publication: October 1st 2006
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
In all the stories told about William Shakespeare, there is usually one vitally important person who is either omitted or glossed over, and that is his wife, Anne Hathaway. Married to Will Shakespeare at an older age and because she was pregnant, Anne was left to raise their children in Stratford-upon-Avon while her husband went to London and became a famous playwright. How heartbreaking and lonely it must have been for her when their only son died and his father was absent. It's all but impossible for us to know what the relationship between Shakespeare and his wife was really like, but I like to think that the facts present a long-standing, long-suffering marriage with a passionate beginning and a serene ending, though there may have been some rocky patches in the middle. Loving Will Shakespeare tells Anne Hathaway's side of the story, focusing on her teenage and early-adult years up to the moment of her marriage with Will. It is a historically informative novel that tries to get at the heart of one of the most interesting and ambiguous romances in all of history. For Anne, Will is not the famous playwright; he is simply the kind, spirited childhood friend who makes her laugh. But to the rest of the world he is the famous playwright, and Anne will find that loving him is not always easy. I only have good things to say about this book. I enjoyed the characters, the story, and the setting, and I learned a lot about Shakespeare's childhood and his home, as well as about the girl who would eventually become his wife. Loving Will Shakespeare is a lively historical romance with a bittersweet ending.

Title: The Shakespeare Stealer
Author: Gary L. Blackwood
Series: The Shakespeare Stealer
Date of Publication: July 1st 2000
Publisher: Puffin
My review of Gary Blackwood's The Shakespeare Stealer is not quite as glowing as my review of Carolyn Meyer's novel. I felt that The Shakespeare Stealer had a very promising start; I was completely hooked for the first half of the book. When Widge, an orphan from the English countryside, is ordered by his owner to steal Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the stakes are high. His attempts continually foiled, he has to keep returning night after night to the Globe Theatre to try again, and if he fails, there's no knowing what his grim and violent owner will do to him. When Widge meets the members of Shakespeare's company and gets taken into their little "family," the stakes get even higher. If his owner finds him without the script of Hamlet in his possession, it could mean a beating or even death, but if his new-found friends find out that he's trying to steal their play, it will mean being cast out of the only family Widge has ever known. The stakes are indeed high, and Widge is caught squarely in the middle of two devastating decisions. But then, suddenly, somewhere around the middle leading into the second half of the book, a major plot twist threw me out of the action, and I just didn't care as much about the book after that. It may have been a twist in the story, but it was a cliché in the larger realm of Shakespearean retellings and similar stories, and it was an unreality in the historical Shakespeare's time period. So, while I appreciate the way that the author lead up to this particular twist and made the rest of the story consistent with it, I just found it so cliché and unrealistic that I couldn't get back into the story after it happened. However, it was still a fairly good story and it was definitely historically informative; I don't think I've read any other Shakespearean novel that dealt so much with the specific members of his acting company.

Title: The Fool's Girl
Author: Celia Rees
Date of Publication: July 20th 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

The Fool's Girl, by Celia Rees, is both a historical fiction about Shakespeare himself and a reimagining of one of his best-loved comedies, Twelfth Night. This novel picks up where the story of Twelfth Night leaves off, introducing Violetta, the daughter of Viola and Orsino, as the new heroine. When her home is destroyed, Violetta flees to London with her companion, Feste, and the two outcasts encounter William Shakespeare and his acting company, who agree to help the pair face off against their arch-nemesis, Malvolio. This book was doubly fun, because it gave me historical Shakespeare and a fantasy on one of his plays. The portrayal of Shakespeare in this novel is one of my favorite characterizations of the Bard; I found him likeable, clever, caring, and adventurous - in other words, everything that I like to think the real William Shakespeare actually was. And hey, Anne Hathaway was in this book! Not for very long, but still, I was excited! It's a fun adventure with sympathetic characters and plenty of historical detail.

More recent historical Shakespeare

Title: Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Author: Kathleen F. Leary and Amy E. Richard
Series: Images of America
Date of Publication: September 9th 2009
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)

It may just be because I really love the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but I really enjoyed reading this book. It's not a novel, but a nonfiction compilation of the origins, development, and subsequent history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival located in Ashland, Oregon. It's very informative and interesting, and it has great pictures, too.

Rewriting Shakespeare

Title: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Author: Tom Stoppard
Date of Publication: January 21st 1994
Publisher: Grove Press
Premiered: 24th August 1966, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland

Tom Stoppard's tragicomic play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is the author's rewriting, from a slightly different viewpoint and in a different literary style, of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Stoppard uses the two tangential characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to raise questions about language, literature, intertextuality, and the secret lives of an author's characters. Goodreads says this about it: "Hamlet told from the worm's-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end." (Wait, did that make sense to you? Because it didn't to me.) Stoppard's play is witty, hilarious, dark, deep, and uncomfortable. And yes, they die at the end. Now don't you want to go read it?

Reimagining Shakespeare 

Title: Magic Street
Author: Orson Scott Card
Date of Publication: June 27th 2006
Publisher: Del Rey
Who ever thought that Shakespeare's classic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream would be retold someday by a famous science-fiction writer who would set the story in a modern African American neighborhood in Los Angeles, California? I never would have thought it up. But it's great! The book is a lot of fun, and the story and characters interact with Shakespeare's original play in fun and interesting ways. It's a gripping story, well-told, with spunky, loveable characters. If you've ever wondered what a Shakespeare play told by Orson Scott Card would be like, here you go. A word of caution, though, there is a scene that's PG-13. You have been warned. If you end up liking Magic Street, you might want to check out Card's similar (but I think better) foray into the world of fantasy, Enchantment. It is also PG-13.

Random Fun Shakespeare

Title: To Be or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure
Author: Ryan North & William Shakespeare (and, apparently, YOU)
Date of Publication: September 10th 2013
Publisher: Breadpig (who the heck are they?)
I have not read this book, but it looks awesome. Apparently it's a cross between Hamlet and Choose Your Own Adventure. The title alone is the greatest thing ever.

Title: The Shakespeare Encyclopedia
Author: A.D. Cousins (Editor)
Date of Publication: September 17th 2009
Publisher: Firefly Books

This volume contains information about Shakespeare's life, each of his plays, and his poetry. It has beautiful full-color illustrations on just about every page. Basically it is the be-all and end-all of everything Shakespeare related.

If none of these works piqued your interest, there's a whole world of Shakespearean-related books that I haven't even touched on, because I haven't read them. Whether you want a non-fiction biography, a collection of Shakespeare's own writings, or a fantasy on some of his themes, there's something out there for you. Because, for William Shakespeare, all the world's a stage.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Snow White - Woman of the Night

Tear You Apart 


Title: Tear You Apart
Author: Sarah Cross
Series: Beau Rivage
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: January 27 2015
Source: Netgalley
Purchase: Pre-order only

Goodreads Summary: Faced with a possible loophole to her "Snow White" curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who's fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrificing the love that might kill her? 

My Thoughts:
  I had some major problems with this book. First of all I found it really hard to like the main character Viv. She was awful and a complete mess. She didn't know what she wanted, and she didn't want to find out what she wanted, it seemed to me like she was using her excuse as a way to put major life decisions on a permanent hold. She blamed everything on her curse. I guess I can understand some of that, but enough is enough. She needed to learn that the world didn't revolve around her, and that other people also have lives. It really bugged me that she was so quick to ruin other people's lives just to help her own. Viv had real trust issues, insane jealousy issues, and was suspicious of everyone who crossed her path.


  She was totally willing to take advantage of anyone and everyone, including the dude at her dad's party, and the Prince of the underworld. I hated the scene where Henley, who she previously broke up with, comes to rescue her when her step-mother's car gets a flat. He drops what he's doing and immediately comes to her aid because he loves her. And what does she do? She gets mad at him for sitting next to Regina, when he didn't have a choice. And then she leaves the car in a huff and ignores him for the rest of the party. She even goes so far as to hit on one of the guys there in order to make Henley jealous. But she doesn't just flirt with the guy, no, she kisses him and whispers something dirty in his ear. WHAT? WHO DOES THAT? SHE'S TERRIBLE! Then, Henley smashes the guy's car in because the idiot was kissed by Viv. Man the people in this story remind me of Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. 
  I didn't like the swearing or sexual scenes. Viv was just SO trashy that I found it hard to believe that she had any friends and that she still had a reputation. I also can't believe that the prince would ever want to marry her. 
  Also, can we talk about the fact that this book was horribly graphic????? Way too many crude jokes - but that wasn't even the worst of it. The wedding scene was the worst - seriously, it made me want to vomit. Who in their right mind would make a woman dance in red hot iron shoes??? Okay - I get that fairytales are dark and grimm (see what I did there?) but they are never that graphic. This was graphic - Cross depicted the scene in all its' grossness and horror. She described the way Regina's feet actually melted down to the bone. She made sure the reader understood the pain it was causing the "wicked queen" and the complete horror and repulsion that Viv felt. I was disgusted. No one needs that much detail.
 One thing I will say however is that Cross does know how to connect the reader with her book. When the old huntsman sliced his knife down Viv's chest, I could almost feel the pain, and it made me completely squirmish. Yuck. 
 I really hope that by the end of the book Viv had learned her lesson. I think she may have - and living away from people in the forest with cute fuzzy animals will definitely help her bitterness drain away. If she appears in any of the other Beau Rivage books I hope she is a changed person. And I hope she appreciates her friends for who they are. For how kind they were to her when she's only ever been awful. And above all, I hope that she and Henley have their Happily Ever After - because he deserves it.


Disclaimer: My review of this book seems really negative, but I did enjoy reading the book and was completely hooked. I did like the way the fairytales were portrayed and how Cross integrated them into modern society. I also really like Kill Me Softly - and I hope that the next book in the series won't be quite so crass. But what can a blogger do?

Les Miserables: The Original French Concept Album

Most people don't know that the musical Les Misérables was originally going to be in French. In fact, the writers, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (both of whom are French) created an entire concept album in French before the producer Cameron Mackintosh asked them to turn it into a musical in the English language. And the product of that conversation is the musical we know today as Les Misérables, one of the most popular and longest running musicals in the history of theatre.

But the original French concept album still exists, and is very interesting as a prototype; many of the melodies from the current musical can be found in the concept album, though often attached to different lyrics and occurring at different moments in the plot. Some of the lyrics are also the same (though of course, in French rather than English). But there is also much that is different. The story itself varies in places from the current musical, with some parts left out and others added or changed. In many ways, the concept album follows the book more closely than the current musical does, but there are a few places where it deviates more from the book than does the current musical. There are moments in the concept album that send chills down your spine, but there are also moments that disappoint.

For example, the song that takes the place of "Castle on a Cloud," entitled "My Prince is on the Way," is absolutely beautiful and in some ways preferable to the current one, and the song that introduces us to M. Thenardier, "The Inkeeper's Motto," is, unlike "Master of the House," entirely appropriate. "À la Volonté du Peuple" (translated as "To the Will of the People"), replaces "Do You Hear the People Sing" with the same melody and more poetic lyrics. One scene in the concept album that I definitely prefer to the parallel scene in the current musical is Gavroche's death. But the song that takes the place of the current "Red and Black" is rather disappointing (it's just Marius soloing), and while the song that Eponine sings instead of "On My Own" is lovely, it doesn't hold a candle to the current showstopper.

I would like to do a little analysis of the concept album, because, while I still prefer the current version of Les Misérables, the concept album is very thoughtful and well-crafted. At the end of this post I'll share a link to the full text of the concept album (in French with a pretty spot-on English translation beside it) and another link to the music. Alors.

The second track in the concept album is titled, "L'Air de la Misére," or "The Air of Misery," and is sung by Fantine to the tune of "Come to Me" and "On My Own":

La misère n’est mere de personne
la misère est pourtant soeur des hommes
mais personne sur terre n’en veux pour fille
comme bâtarde née dans un cachot de la Bastille
La misère enfante la détresse
bien des vices et toutes les faiblesses
la misére lâche la bête en l’homme
et la mésange alors en chienne errante se tranforme

Then, in the final scene of the musical, entitled "Epilogue: La Lumière," or "Epilogue: The Light," Jean Valjean sings a different set of lyrics to the same tune (this tune is also utilized in the final scene of the current musical, by the way).

La lumière est dans le coeur des hommes 
mais s’épuise de brûler pour personne 
aimez-vous pour vaincre les ténèbres 
tant qu’il y aura partout 
orgueil, ignorance et misère
La lumière, au matin de justice, 
puisse enfin décapiter nos vices 
dans un monde où Dieu pourrait se plaire 
s’il décidait un jour de redescendre sur la terre.

OK, so I know you probably don't speak French (unless you do), but even so, you can probably tell that the two songs are echoing each other significantly. Both songs have the same melody and the same structure, and they use many of the same words and sentence structures. Let me give you an English translation so you can see the similarities more clearly. Here is Fantine's "Air of Misery":

Misery is the mother of no one
Misery is nevertheless sister of men
But no one on earth wants for a daughter
A bastard born in a dungeon of the Bastille 
Misery begets distress [or misery]
Plenty of vices and all weaknesses
Misery looses the beast in man
And the little bird then into a stray dog transforms.

Pretty bleak. But here is Jean Valjean's rewriting of Fantine's ballad:

The light is in the heart of men
But it will stop burning for no one 
Love each other to vanquish the shadows
As long as there is everywhere
Pride, ignorance and misery
The light, on the morning of justice,
Can finally decapitate our vices 
In a world where God could be pleased
If He decided one day to redescend to the earth.

You can see the echoes of Fantine's ballad in the first two lines of Valjean's song: "The light is in the heart of men / But it will stop burning for no one," echoes Fantine's "Misery is the mother of no one / Misery is nevertheless sister of men." Both singers take a subject - Misery or Light - and assign it to the human race, using the words "men" ("les hommes"), or "no one" ("personne"), at the end of each sentence. Moreover, both Fantine and Valjean refer to the vices of men, but while Fantine speaks only of their birth and existence in the world, Valjean reveals that love will one day destroy the vices created by misery. Fantine ends her song by lamenting man's transformation into a beast, but Valjean ends his song with the hope that man can someday transform into a more perfect and God-like being. Fantine's song reflects the uttermost depths of squalor and misery, but Valjean's song comes at the end of his life reflecting love, peace, and transcendence. As I read and listened to Valjean's final revelation, I couldn't help but think of my favorite quote from the novel Les Misérables: "To love or to have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. To love is a consummation" (Hugo 1382). I find this quote echoed nicely in Valjean's song about "The Light."

If you're still here and haven't yet revolted over the length of this post and all the French text in it, I'd like to share one more song from the concept album with you. Here is (slightly shortened) the French text of "To the Will of the People," sung to the tune of "Do You Hear the People Sing" - side by side with an English translation:
À la volonté du peuple
Et à la santé du progrès
Remplis ton coeur d’un vin rebelle
Et à demain, ami fidèle
Nous voulons faire la lumière
Malgrè le masque de la nuit
Pour illuminer notre terre
Et changer la vie.  
À la volonté du people Je fais don de ma volonté
S’il faut mourir pour elle
Moi, je veux être le premier
Le premier nom gravé au marbre du monument d’espoir. 
À la volonté du peuple
Et à la santé du progrès
Remplis ton coeur d’un vin rebelle
Et à demain, ami fidèle
Nous voulons faire la lumière
Malgré le masque de la nuit
Pour illuminer notre terre
Et changer la vie.
To the will of the people
And to the health of progress
Refill your heart with a rebellious wine
And tomorrow, faithful friend
We want to make a light
Despite the mask of the night
To illuminate our land
And to change our lives.
To the will of the people I volunteer myself.
If it is necessary to die for her,
Me, I want to be the first
The first name carved on the marble of the monument of hope.
To the will of the people
And to the health of progress
Refill your heart with a rebellious wine
And tomorrow, faithful friend
We want to make a light
Despite the mask of the night
To illuminate our land
And to change our lives.

Well, I don't really have anything to say after that. If you want to check out the full text of the French concept album (plus an English translation) you can go to this website:

Then, if you'd like to hear the full French concept album, you can head over to this playlist on YouTube:

If you'd like to read more of my thoughts on Les Misérables and you haven't yet read my review of the novel by Victor Hugo, you can check that out here:

Until tomorrow. Adieu.