Friday, June 29, 2012

For the E/R Shippers!

Yes, you read that correctly. Phantom meets Rocky Horror!

Phantom of the Opera - Sweet Transvestite

Something about that just....ain't right. Ain't right at all.

But admit it, you still laughed.

Your pal,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Randomness 14

Yeah, sorry, you're going to have to wait for a serious post. Enjoy.

Why Is the Rum Gone? remix

And if you listen carefully, it's edited to sync with the main theme! (Well, for the most part.)

Your pal,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Status Update and To-Do List

So, I've now spent the morning watching Notre Dame de Paris and almost watched It on YouTube (chickened out at the last second...I'll try again tomorrow.) What else is on the agenda? Well, I'm still working on that first chapter of the Gargantuan Novel Re-Write, I just finished the first draft of a short story that's been driving me nuts for nearly a month, and I'm editing the last book I was lucky enough to finish. I feel like I don't have time for it all, but I think if I didn't make time for it, I'd go crazy. Granted, there's so much I'm doing that I might go crazy trying to juggle it all, but that's not the point.

Oh, wait! I need to read some more of that book I started reading clear back in May! Sadly, this might be one of those I only finish because I was too stubborn to leave it until I read it all. Now I remember why I don't read dystopia that kinda freaks me out. But as soon as I finish this one, I can start reading one I've been dying to ever since it came out a few weeks ago! You can't see it, but I'm grinning!

Of course, those are only the ebooks. I also need to get a move on and read Inkspell so I can move onto Inkdeath at last (but that's an ebook as well. Go figure.) I've also got my own copy of Rebecca waiting on me when I treated myself to an early birthday present last week, and Water for Elephants is also staring at me. I'll save the "after that" thoughts until I'm through the list.

There's also some movie reviews coming up. So far, the list is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (original Swedish release with Noomi Rapace), Kate and Leopold, and of course Notre Dame de Paris. I'm YouTube's slave, so there may be more reviews coming if I happen to watch a few more movies. I'm also CD Warehouse's best customer, so I've got a whopping stack of Gerard Butler flicks I might get the time to treat myself to (but don't worry, I won't necessarily review all of them), and the thought of picking up Moulin Rouge! again has been nagging me for two weeks.

And I also have to sew...lemme think...thirteen more eyelets for that corset I've been making. Quite a bit going on in my free time!

Your pal,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm Back!

After a much-needed hiatus (a whole three days! Whoop-dee-doo!), I'm back, my dears! You're going to have to take it easy on me, though...Why? Well....

  • two new jobs (yikes!)
  • a new schedule around here (which might mean even less free time)
  • various writing commitments (trot on over to my FanFiction page if you're interested. I have a link listed under "Shameless Self-Promotion)
  • the official start of my Gargantuan Novel Re-Write (I just got started on the first chapter last night!)
Also, if you'd care to know, I'm doing a little more on deviantART and YouTube...again, there are links in the self-promotion page. There won't be new videos for awhile until I get camera batteries, but I'm going to be doing some bookshelf tours! How exciting!

Meanwhile, I leave you with a few snippets of advice:

There's so many good ones, but I didn't want to keep you too long. :)

Your pal,

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cape Action! *SQUEE*

Don't you judge me! I couldn't help myself! It's my birthday, damn it!

I agree...soooooooooo worth the twenty seconds....

What's that? You want more, you say? Got it!

Holy Lord...we need more gifs to communicate this chaos...

Yep, I think that covers it...

Your pal,

P.S. A quick shout-out to the gals who provided me with those righteous gifs. Who knew they would work so well together? :)

Reviews From an MMB (Love Never Dies)

Surprise! Third post of the day! The taped and re-imagined Melbourne production! I know this isn't technically a movie, but it still counts in my book. OK...this is dangerous water we're treading here...lots of controversy still rolling around in the phandom, though it's calmed down a bit since the London production closed...still, this could get hairy...especially since the UK tour was announced and the Denmark production...

Ten years after escaping the Paris Opera, the Phantom (played by Ben Lewis) has made his way to Coney Island and taken on the guise of "Mr. Y," the owner of Phantasma, a...well, "sideshow" doesn't quite feel like the right word, should fit, he's got freaks and everything! Anyway, he's still madly in love with Christine (Anna O'Byrne) and obsessed with hearing her sing just one more time. So, he gets her to Coney Island--with now-husband Raoul (Simon Gleeson) and son Gustave in tow. When you factor in that Madame and Meg Giry were the ones to smuggle him out of France and help him get his little theme park off the ground, it's no wonder that this continued obsession kinda gets their dander up, if you know what I mean.

So, that's the easy part. Do you want the good stuff or the bad stuff first?

OK, bad stuff it is! Spoilers ahead, and I don't just mean the show itself! (Kidding! There is in fact some good parts!)

WHAT IS UP WITH THIS PLOT?!?! Has the Phantom completely forgotten the incredibly tragic and moving lesson that was his entire character arc from the original play? Since when is Raoul a gambling alcoholic, and I mean outside the realms of fan fiction? And the Girys completely going off the deep end? And Gustave simply MUST be the Phantom's son because he's "musical," as if the opera singer mother couldn't have had a cotton-picking thing to do with it? WTF! You know what this is? It's a G-D, M-Fing, S-O-B-ing soap opera! I used to watch this crap on All My Children and One Life To Live with my grandmother! Webber, man, what happened? (Oh, wait, you collaborated with Freddy effing Forsyth to adapt his waste-of-toilet paper Phantom of Manhattan garbage. Pardon me, I forgot.) True story: my mother tried to watch this with me, fell asleep fifteen minutes into it, woke up during the last fifteen minutes, and could tell exactly what was going on, courtesy daytime TV plot twists. She's seen 'em all. I didn't realize quite how bad it was until she tried to tell my sister what happened (quote): "So, Christine slept with the Phantom before she married Raoul and ended up having his kid. Rachel, or Megan, or whatever the hell her name was, the page girl, turned out to be in love with the Phantom, but she wasn't going to get him, so she tried to drop their kid off a bridge. Raoul was an idiot, and the dancer girl's mother was a--" (end quote) At that point, Sis interrupted with a very loud "I DON'T CARE!" Which is pretty much how I could sum up my opinion of the story line.

Music--good and bad. Again, bad stuff first. It started to piss me off to hear so many reprisals from the original, mainly for two reasons. 1.) I'd hoped Andrew Lloyd Webber could come up with enough music not to have to resort to plagiarizing himself, for Pete's sake! 2.) By injecting so much from the extremely-beloved original into his nowhere-near-as-popular sequel, it felt like he was trying to use the success of one to validate the other in the minds of the audience and/or use some of Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe's lyrics so he could credit them and thus get their names on the project, and I didn't care for that at all. "Twisted Every Way" in particular irritated the snot out of me. THAT one really felt jammed in there for the hell of it. I was actually impressed to learn that the orchestra was so small for this production, because it sounded much larger and much more "there" there, in fact, that it nearly drowned out the singers. About ninety-five percent of this was sung, which wouldn't have bothered me if it felt like there was more of a break between songs. As it was, bleeding from one straight into the next was exhausting. The lyrics for some of the songs are halfway decent, and some are ridiculous, if I may call it like I see it. I'd say the best stuff here is on par with the average stuff from the original. Again, Webber, man, what happened? The bad ones were...oh dear Lord, how did I get through them? The Phantom doesn't write opera anymore; he writes cheesy vaudeville for Meg's new burlesque show! And Meg, by the way, is reduced to a stripper the Phantom's own universe! *gags* WHAT HAPPENED?!?! The average ones felt Disney-esque, so...*shrugs* The best ones were "Beneath A Moonless Sky" and "Love Never Dies." BAMS was trying to fill the shoes of "The Point of No Return" but, while one hides the message of the song brilliantly with sensual poetry, this one's just out and out "Hey, remember when we did it?" Listening to it, it sounds exactly like it is: a one-night stand. I was only really impressed with it when I could actually see what was happening in the scene at the same time, but I tip my hat to the original cast for bringing this one to my ears in the first place. LND was the one part of the show that nearly brought tears to my eyes. It's full of cliches and seems written mainly to showcase the actress's highest notes, but it was still terribly beautiful and it's still stuck in my head (too bad it's out of my range!). I'm slightly disappointed that the Phantom's solo this time around was a little...disappointing. "Til I Hear You Sing," while plenty nice, doesn't come close to "The Music of the Night," but then, few songs do, period. That's not to say it's a bad song, doesn't feel too Phantom-y to me. Or I should say that it does, but only if the Phantom is reduced to an emo, please-give-me-what-I-want sissy as opposed to the dangerous by-God-I'll-just-take-what-I-want Phantom of the original. A nice solo, but not for the Phantom. Speaking of solos, Raoul finally gets one, but I'm not such a fan of it. It's too much of a pity party. Not such a fan of Raoul in this whole bizarro-land freak show, period.

Always important, the performer taking on the role of the Phantom. Ben Lewis is nowhere close to being my favorite in the role. Don't get me wrong, the man can sing. He reminded me a little of Colm Wilkinson, with that super-deep voice and that resonance, but he shouted a LOT less. Actually, he made me think more of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein than the Phantom...that might be because of the wide-eyed, ooh-I'm-scary stares he kept giving and all those other strange expressions...don't really have too much else to say about him, other than I think I preferred Ramin Karimloo.

As is still the case with anything Phantom related, it's gorgeous to look at. (Boy, that's a weird stroke of irony for the story about the disfigured genius!) The sets are weird and wonderful, the costumes jump out at you, and even the lighting was superb! You don't really think of lighting as being superb, but this was just amazing. It sounds obvious, but it brought on an atmosphere of the bizarre and unusual, which earns this thing some points from me (for lighting? Good God, fishing around here, aren't we?)  It's not as good as the original, but then sequels never are, are they? I can't lie, though, I was staring at it and thinking, "Wow!" The entire sequence for "The Beauty Underneath" was eerie and strange and mesmerizing (that was a pretty b*tching song, but was also a little...creepy, especially with Gustave's frequent interjections of "Yes!" I'm just saying), and the peacock set was a tad overwhelming, but still very cool, as Mom put it.

I feel like I gotta say something about how the Girys were handled here. Madame is all of a sudden venting her spleen and hating Christine's guts, when she was something of a mother figure to her in the original. She's also a greedy old hag, but I guess if I'd been busting my backside for a decade and found out it was all for nothing, I'd be pretty ticked too. What made my head spin was Meg's massive character assassination. She was the pretty, best friend that barely got any stage time! Now here she is seething with jealousy that the Phantom is still in love with Christine! I was actually a bit sympathetic towards her, and I didn't see that coming after listening to the London cast recording (but then, they dialed down the crazy before moving the show down under). I mean it, I really felt sorry for her!

Nitpicking here: while "Devil Take the Hindmost" wasn't a bad scene, it cheapened everything about the original for me...well, it summed up the cheapness. They're betting, literally betting, for "prime Christine-banging privileges," as I've read it elsewhere! What horsesh*t! I wouldn't put something that low past the Phantom, or Raoul, at this point, but I repeat: it's cheap! On the bright side, for once in the show, the Phantom is acting like, well, the Phantom! He's one scary, manipulative, sarcastic dude! But again, I preferred Ramin Karimloo to Ben Lewis.

Favorite element of the show? Anna O'Byrne. I've heard some criticism towards her, but I absolutely loved her. The moment she stepped onto the stage, my first thought was "My God, she's gorgeous." And her singing lived up to that sentiment as well. I LOVE Sierra Boggess's original take on the title song, but Anna's was just...holy sheets and linens. Watching her interact with Gustave, you can see where she's at least matured into a mother. She's no longer a damsel in distress, but she's still too easily manipulated and for once, I'd like to see a stage/screen Christine with some backbone! And the boy playing Gustave was, in summary, adorable. An angelic little voice, I swear on a stack of Bibles! But...everyone kept losing him, and that got old pretty darn fast, too. You know who's winning the Parent of the Year awards? Well, it's none of these jokers, and that's the truth! *raspberry*

What annoys me most about the sequel isn't the sequel itself. I'm pretty much neutral on that. What annoys me is Webber's attitude about it. If The Phantom of the Opera was his own creation to start with, then it wouldn't be so terrible to see the way he goes on about his little continuation. Too bad it's not. This just seems like spitting on Gaston Leroux's grave to commandeer his story like that, not to mention to insist he had no idea what he was doing with his own ***ing story to start with! ARGH! Pisses me off! The truth of the matter is, this is only one out of many possibilities for how the story could have gone on, and Webber has no more control over what should happen than anyone else on earth. If he wants to call this his take on it, great. But it's not the be-all end-all, and for it to be publicized as if it were burns me up SO BAD!

I'm not hating on the show. In fact, it was a decent show. I liked it a lot more when I stopped thinking of it as a Phantom of the Opera sequel and took it as something completely different. What I liked about it, I liked enough to watch the whole thing again. Sold on the whole scheme, though? I think not. I'm indifferent. I neither love it nor hate it. If it dropped out of existence tomorrow, I'd be all right, but if it became a huge success on its own merit it wouldn't kill me. KEYWORDS: ITS OWN MERIT. This thing is riding mainly on the legacy of the original as far as I'm concerned...which is something of a shame. It could have been amazing, but methinks Webber has grown lazy and indolent where his cash cow is concerned. ;)

But hey, it could have been worse! It could have stuck to the letter of The Phantom of Manhattan, at which point I think millions of angry phans would have gone past burning Webber in effigy and actually tried to assassinate the fool! So...score?

Your modest movie buff,

Reviews From an MMB (The Phantom of the Opera - 2004)

So, I'm well aware I've already got that whopping music post up today, but hey, it's my birthday, and I felt like double dipping. Besides, I finally get to review this one! :D

Is it absolutely necessary that I tell you what this is about anymore? Is it really? This is the film adaptation of the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which happens to be my favorite version, period, along with Gaston Leroux's novel and Phantom by Susan Kay. This version focuses more on the romantic angle of the story and plays up the love triangle between the Phantom (here played by Gerard Butler), Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum), and Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson). 

I swear on my mother's life this will not turn into a tirade about how Gerard and director Joel Schumacher both make me want to bash my head against a wall but for astronomically different reasons.

Where shall we start? How about...the actors themselves?

I for one freaking LOVE Gerry's performance here. Not in the "OMG, he's so hawt" kind of way, but seriously, the man rocks it. Literally, rocks it. Webber wanted a singer with more of an edge to him, and he got one, all right. Yet while there's still that rock element present to his vocals, he's also tender and heart-breaking in turns. Heck, that almost sums him up entirely! In my humble opinion, he nails the Phantom's range of emotions best out of all the other actors I've seen/heard (courtesy of YouTube, that is). As most phans will admit, he's no Angel of Music, but he still captures the essence of the character, again, in my humble opinion. This is quite a complex character to take on in the first place, then when you factor in the singing it's downright terrifying! You've got the passion of "The Music of the Night," the rage and sorrow of "Stranger Than You Dreamt It," the heartbreak of "All I Ask Of You (Reprise)," the danger of "Why So Silent," the mega-intense seduction of "The Point of No Return," and nearly all of the above with "Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer." A very tall order, friends! And he turned the trademark Cape Twirl of Doom into an art form, he really did...Someone stop me before I keep ranting, please...ah, just a little more...I'm taking the time to make my opinion known, and saying that while there are actors who are technically better singers, I fell in love with the sound of Gerry's voice the second I heard it, and while I agree that a "sexy" Phantom kinda defeats the purpose, I'm sure as hell not complaining. Phangirl double standards. Get over it.

Emmy Rossum...I go back and forth. It depends on what mood I'm in, really. I think considering she was only sixteen at the time, she did rather well, but she still could have done better (especially under a competent director--no, wait! Joel-ranting not allowed! Move on!). Her voice, while lovely and innocent and light as can be, is a tad shaky in some of the higher notes and that does turn into an issue after awhile (remember, Christine is supposed to be a soprano). Her acting wasn't quite top-notch, either. There were times when she was fantastic (I refer you to "The Point of No Return." She totally went for it--but then, hell, I would have too! *wink*) and times when she was just kind of, well, standing there with her mouth open and working that deer-in-the-headlights look at least as good as Sarah Brightman herself. Under a better director, who knows what might have happened? Had she been just a little older, there's no telling what kind of marvel we might have witnessed! She's not the best, but I won't call her the worst or the weakest in the role, and that's the most objective I can be at the moment; I still have jealousy issues to wrestle with.

Bonus points to Patrick Wilson for making me not only respect Raoul as a character, but actually LIKE him! I used to be an unapologetic Raoul-basher, but not anymore! Who'da thunk it, eh? I'm a die-hard phangirl, but his "All I Ask Of You" gets me that close to switching teams. He's already got a background in musical theater and quite a few award nominations to his name, so it's no surprise he's the best singer of the cast. (I say "best," not "fave," just to clarify!...Don't judge me, I can't stay impartial here!) There's something so soothing in listening to him sing, like if he started in on a lullaby, you'd start snoring in record time. He's that good. Easily my favorite actor to play Raoul, hands down (but Hadley Fraser is right up there with him!). He's not the emotional, weepy-eyed nancy boy of the novel, and he's not just part of the scenery as the stage version makes him out to be. By God, he's an actual living, breathing, fully-functioning character! There's nothing he won't do to protect Christine! He's a sweet, gentle, caring guy! Love him in spite of yourself, or because you honestly prefer him, but love him you must.

So...onto other aspects. Once again, the movie is gorgeous to look at. Lavish sets, mostly brilliant costumes, just a general feel of opulence, a good deal of romantic elegance, and occasional garishness. Good stuff? The Phantom's lakeside lair. It...doesn't really make a whole lot of sense when you put in under a microscope, but you wouldn't mind being spirited away down there for a music lesson or two. At all. Also, Don Juan Triumphant. It's simplistic in its setup, but it really pops on screen. Bad stuff? Il Muto. Tacky, tacky, tacky! Like Sherwin Williams went into business with Willy Wonka and the factory exploded. Too much bright pastel! The rest is all a mixed bag. There's stuff to like and stuff to ignore with all your might...such as the backup dancers that kept popping up...and the fellow in the oddball puffy clown costume in "Masquerade"...and the midget...don't know why there's always a midget in the film adaptations...

We don't need to get into the music. There's a darn good reason why the show celebrated its 25th anniversary last October. The music is effing amazing. The orchestrations were adapted and tweaked here, and I think I prefer them, to be honest. There's a larger, grander sound that has more impact as compared to the stage recordings. Of course, you're meant to hear the stage stuff live, so it's not entirely fair to pick a winner on that one. "The Music of the Night" in particular has more umph behind it, with that 120-piece orchestra on those soaring lines, and it's always guaranteed to give me goosebumps and drive me crazy with some kind of yearning. I think this was where the electric guitars started to get greater emphasis with the title track, as I haven't heard them in earlier versions and seem to be hearing them everywhere lately. There's more of an explosive feel to the Overture, but I dunno...the danger you get off the stage versions just isn't there. Some songs were cut ("Notes II", the Don Juan rehearsal, "Bravo, Monsieur"), but Webber wrote another fifteen minutes of music specifically for the movie, and it fits in well. There's also the song played during the credits, "Learn to Be Lonely" sung by Minnie Driver--who plays Carlotta the diva. It's a pretty sad one, but it's still pretty.

So much for not getting into the music...

Allow me one paragraph of complaining, please? Joel Schumacher, you should not have been allowed anywhere near this with a ten foot pole! Why oh why did you have to sex everything up? Does Christine always have to be caught in states of undress? Do the Phantom and Raoul really need to be strutting their stuff in all those open shirts? Does there have to be so much cleavage as far as the eye can see, be it low-cut costumes or nude statues? You COMPLETELY missed the point here! The Phantom is sexy, yes, but because of his voice, his music, and his genius! My views on Gerard Butler in tight pants aside, the Phantom just doesn't go around dressed like that! You see, that implies self-confidence, and the Phantom lacks that spectacularly. I'll give you this one, you managed to give us some good cinematography, but some of those camera angles were no good at all. And while you tried to pay homage to Leroux with the water trap and the mirrored room, why did you even bother with such half-baked attempts as they turned out to be? Why, Joel? Why? WHY???

Anyway...yes, this thing has issues. It's problematic to the extreme. There's so many holes in it, it looks like Swiss cheese. But what there is to love about it, you damn well love it. I overlook the bad stuff in favor of the good stuff, and I can still say it's one of my favorite movies, if not THE favorite, with no shame whatsoever. I'll go a step further and say I still cry my eyes out watching it. You might like it, you might loathe it, but this is where I stand, and I'm not budging! No, sirree! And as another reviewer has put it, I guarantee you will never look at a single red rose the same way again! Some in the phandom like to hate on this version, but come on, tell me what exactly is so damn intolerable about someone else loving it? Do you have to bash it and the ones who think it's great? Jesus, Mary and Joseph! There's room for all kinds in the lair, isn't there? If you absolutely MUST have something to bitch about, then go whine about the Dario Argento version!

Ah, what the hey, have a video!

Learn to Be Lonely

Your modest movie buff,

Really Long and Really Loud B-Day Post

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! *throws confetti*

Don't fret, my dears. I'll act my age eventually, but I'm not telling you what that age is. ;) Thought I'd celebrate by hashing out some of my favorite music to start the party!

The Music of the Night - Gerard Butler

Break On Through (To the Other Side) - The Doors

Can You Feel the Love Tonight - Elton John

Thunderstruck - AC/DC

Please Forgive Me - Bryan Adams

Broken - Seether featuring Amy Lee

If I Never Knew You - John Secada and Shanice

Stupid Boy - Keith Urban

Lucky in Love - Sherrie Austin

Her Name is Alice - Shinedown

Stop and Stare - OneRepublic

A Real Fine Place to Start - Sara Evans

Moonlight Sonata - Ludwig van Beethoven

Pour Some Sugar On Me - Def Leppard


Storybook Love - Willie DeVille

Carry On Wayward Son - Kansas

Truly, Madly, Deeply - Savage Garden

Clair de Lune - Claude Debussy

Burn It To the Ground - Nickelback

Immortality - Celine Dion

Bye, peeps! Time to eat cake, and I'd share it if I could!

Your pal,

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Hey, guys! I was stumped (again) for a good post, as there seems to be a short circuit somewhere in my brain, but I realized I had another YouTube video I could share with you...if you don't mind my vicious assaulting of your ears...

To Make You Feel My Love

So...yeah. Pay no attention to that strange view of the back door. That was before I realized I could put the lens cap back on the camera and still record (but I'm not sure why I do that either...) I dunno. Not looking for a Grammy, just trying to entertain myself. *shrug*

Your pal,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wish Me Luck!

I feel the need to vent some excitement and anxiety today.

I've been job hunting for the past few months, and I finally got one yesterday! Orientation is on Sunday! My first job!!! And if all works out, I might have another one on the side to go along with the first!

Your pal,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (If You Ask Me - Betty White)

See? What did I tell you?

It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between.

Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White's wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty's candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out") to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.

Featuring all-new material, with a focus on the past fifteen years of her life, If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and to the point-just like Betty White.


My review as posted on GoodReads:

Mom happened to bring this one home with her one day, and I couldn't wait to read it. I honestly expected it to take longer to read, but the short chapters and Betty's easy, conversational tone made it go much faster. This is probably the next best thing to actually sitting down and talking to Betty White (ah, if only!). She tells her stories in her typical fashion: funny, direct, and sweet as can be. Her personality just oozes off the pages! I think my favorite bits were her talking about her various exploits with animals, such as beluga whales, several of her own pets, a gorilla named Koko, and a room full of stuffed animals. And her Robert Redford anecdote was adorable. And anytime she talked about late night TV, from hosting Saturday Night Live to guest appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (and I don't think I've missed any of those!). Actually, I don't think I really had a favorite was all charming and cheery and rather Betty!

It's so hard to write decent reviews for nonfiction! This really is worth reading, though. It's not a memoir, more like a conversation between friends. And I loved it!

Your humble book nerd,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Had to Share This 16

This is one of my favorite poems of all time, and I really love this version. But then, it doesn't really matter what Eva Cassidy sings, it's going to be amazing.

My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose - Eva Cassidy

So in peace, Eva.

Your pal,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Randomness 13

I'm in the middle of Betty White's If You Ask Me at the moment (and enjoying every second of it. Expect a review!), and she's mentioned her Snickers Super Bowl commercial a few times. So A.) because I thought the commercial itself was funny, B.) it's 1:30 AM and my brain is fried for a more thought-out post, and C.) I can't get it out of my head now, here we go!

What is it about the wee hours of the morning that inspire the really lame posts? And what is it about Betty, really? You can't help but love her.

Your pal,

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (It - Stephen King)

I did it! I came, I saw, I conquered!

So, there's this nasty thing living in the sewers of Derry, Maine. It can take on any shape (werewolf, leper, and giant spider, for instance), but its most recognizable form is Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Every twenty-seven years (wonder where they got that detail for Jeepers Creepers, right?) it awakens from its sleep to feed, usually on children. Seven kids join up to get rid of it, and make a promise to each other to return and finish the job if it ever comes back. Well, twenty-seven years later, guess what happens?


My review as posted on GoodReads:

Let me start with the story here. I watched enough of the movie to get in a few good scares when I was ten, and Pennywise the clown has been nagging me ever since, the creep. Things shifted around, and I thought the time was right to pop those damn balloons, so to speak. And I'm left asking myself, "What the hell was I so scared of?!"

As a horror novel, this blows, to use the slang term. Bigger than Mount St. Helens. There was nothing remotely scary or even creepy about this thing! The worst I got was goosebumps at the very beginning when George Denbrough was killed, and THAT'S ALL. There were some good parts, some downright bizarre (as in what-the-heck-is-going-on) parts, and quite a big huge chunk of boring. Not to say that this didn't have its moments of being interesting and occasionally good, but this was over a thousand pages long, and I was expecting something terrible! Just goes to show, it's never as bad when you meet it head-on.

You know, I think I'm learning how to read Stephen King...expect a lot more depth than first anticipated, and a whole lot less scary stuff. Go figure.

I ended up giving this only three stars because, while it did have some good stuff in it, there wasn't enough of it for a book this long. Mr. King makes some valid points with his assertion that children, more vulnerable to danger than adults, are better equipped to face it because of their abilities to accept the strange and unknown, then move past it. The connection between communication and salvation especially hit home for me due to some struggles with selective mutism, and I really think finally getting the courage to read this might have finally helped me overcome some personal difficulties. Therefore, Mr. King, while I say you have still failed to knock my socks off with some good old-fashioned horror, you still ultimately have my respect and I take my hat off to you.

One more observation before leaving: it wasn't It itself that really creeped me out. Heck, I figured it was more like a boggart out of Harry Potter, and that was the end of it! It was what the people of Derry did to each other, even without Its influence, that got me. It was Richie Tozier who said monsters are cheap, and I'll see him and raise him. Monsters are cheap, but it's people that are scary!

So that's it at last. I've done away with an old fear, discovered what may be the Stephen King formula (dark, evil forces exploiting the darkness and evil in mankind and using it for nefarious purposes), and made note of the score. Gemma-2. King-0.

Think I'll give "Carrie" a shot next...third time's the charm, eh?

Join me and Snoopy in a victory dance! We made it!

Your humble book nerd,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Phantom Funnies 5

Double dipping today. Couldn't help myself.

Starring Hadley Fraser (Raoul, Grantaire), Ramin Karimloo (the Phantom, Enjolras) and Emmy Rossum (Christine, herself). I thought it was pretty funny.

And look at that! We have time for another one! (BTW, this stuff is from the '04 movie, if you were wondering and/or not sure.)

Poor Erik can't catch a break.

Your pal,

Now Presenting: Gina Beck!

Let me bring this back to your attention:

Gina Beck

I don't even have words for this. I really don't. No, wait! Do "heart-wrenching" and "painfully beautiful" count? And you should hear her rendition of "Think Of Me!"

Remember that? Now take a look at this!

Think Of Me

Now did I tell you, or did I tell you? There's so many good versions, but I love this one the best! Can't you just hear the joy in her voice? And what did you think of that last cadenza? I don't consider myself a shabby singer, but I hear that and I know that I'm inferior. One of my favorites, for sure!

And as a special treat...

Love Never Dies

She's not in the show, but I had to include this. I New favorite rendition right here! *tear*

Your pal,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A-P: Shutterbug

Felt like showing off some photos. I didn't get all of these, but between me, Mom, and Bro, we have a snazzy collection.

Goldie, one of our dogs. She's a mix, but we're pretty sure she's got quite a bit of blue heeler in her. She's usually camera shy, so when she does hold still for a picture, we take that darn picture!

Just a random duck we saw in the park.

My favorite in the collection. We have a hummingbird feeder on the back porch beside the peach tree, but trying to get a picture of one of these little fellows took ages. We got lucky one day!

Extra lucky! We got another one!

Random geese. I've always loved watching geese...

That's all for today!

Your pal,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Yeah, yeah, I know. Deal with it.

All right, that's enough.

Your pal,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reviews From an MMB (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life)

OK, time for another movie...and I still can't believe I'm actually reviewing this one...ah well, at least I get to discuss it without frequent interruptions from Dearest Little Bro.
All right, so, this time around, Lara (Angelia Jolie, but you probably already knew that) is on a mission to recover Pandora's Box before the typical evil genius bad guy can lay hands on it and destroy the world as we know it. Along the way, she enlists the help of government prisoner and enemy of the state Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler *wink*), the charming and not entirely trustworthy traitor. Which may or may not be a humongous mistake.

I enjoyed the first movie (though I do wonder what the heck happened to Daniel Craig's character Alex that he doesn't show up here. Not that I'm complaining about his replacement, but still...unless things have been flip-flopped around here. 'Stead of Bond girls, we get Croft boys!), though it had its moments of eye-rolling ridiculousness. That's only to be expected in a movie with origins in a video game, I suppose, but this one was dang-near stupidity personified. What is up with all the archaeological treasure hunts that have been chugged out in the last decade? Leave that stuff to Indiana Jones!

I'll give them this, there were some pretty cool actions sequences in here and you can tell where a LOT of effort went into them. I especially have to give points to Angelina for doing her own stunts apart from the base jumping (though apparently she was game for that, too). They hired professional flying squirrels for that. Now if they could have put half the effort into coming up with a story worth the price of a movie ticket--or even the DVD--they'd be in much better shape. I was braced for the usual cheesy dialogue abounding in wisecracks and Lara's oh-so-sassiness, but sheesh! There was even more in the sequel! Some of the fight scenes stank of obvious choreography and of course, it had to be stylized, but the bit off the cliff and Lara's horseback segment were cool enough to make it worth it.

If someone could tell me what the shadow troll things were at Kilimanjaro, I'd greatly appreciate it. Just thought I'd mention it.

Lara is...well, that's a tough one. On one hand, she is rather ladylike. On the other, she is very much the "strong female character" that's been bugging me so badly lately. You know, the kind that's supposed to embody the "empowered" woman but really only serves to provide the male viewing audience with one more hot chick to fantasize over. Anyway, that aside...I don't usually get into action heroes, and this was no exception. Everything she did, she did it with style and attitude. And I have no idea why I find that so annoying. It might have something to do with the fact that every action hero does everything with style and attitude and I'm in a mood to lament the lack of originality. Angelina has a pretty posh accent, though.

Onto the other characters. Terry is a piece of work, no questions asked. I dig the charm, the sarcasm, the deviousness, the bad-boy attitude, the banter, the--OK, I'll stop now. But...when it really comes down to it, Terry is out for himself before anyone else, and there's not enough charm in the world for me to let that slide. I wish it weren't the case, but it's not like he didn't deserve what he got. Damn it, man, see the bigger picture and quit being an idiot! Jeez! Jonathan Reiss, the evil genius bad guy, is just that--the evil genius bad guy. There's no point in dragging that out. Old mates Bryce and Hillary are here again (yay!) but don't get enough screen time in my opinion (darn!).

There's plenty I feel like I could whine about, the aforementioned lack of originality one of them, but I guess this does serve at least one purpose: whenever I'm up for an action movie that doesn't make me want to puke in annoyance, I can at least watch this one. It's tolerable. And while Lara's character is stereotypical, I can't really complain about how Jolie pulled her off (what I do complain about are those two kiss scenes. DAMMIT! *headdesk*) Return to seriousness...the locations are really nice, especially Greece...ah, just listen to me, trying to come up with reasons to explain away why I bought this thing after complaining that I thought it was that darn crappy when I saw it on TV! There's one reason and one reason only why I paid money for this hogwash, and my hormones do crazy things every time he pops up on the screen!

Now here comes the part where I leave and hope I still have some shred of dignity and at least an ounce of my readers' respect left...and before I turn this into a rant...

Your pal,

Monday, June 11, 2012

Randomness 12

Heard a new joke today!

A preacher buys a house on a riverbank, and the river floods one year. He's sitting on his front porch watching the water rise when two men in a boat come floating past. "Hey preacher!" they yell. "It's getting bad out here, you gotta come with us!" "No way," the preacher replies. "If the Lord wants to save me, He'll save me." The boat leaves, and two hours later the waterline has risen and the preacher has moved to the roof of his house. Another boat comes by and the men inside yell, "We mean it, preacher, it's pretty serious! You'd better come with us!" The preacher yells back, "If the Lord wants to save me, He'll save me." The second boat leaves, and an hour later the water has risen so high the preacher has to sit on his chimney. A helicopter hovers over and the men inside yell, "This is your last chance, preacher! Come with us, or you'll drown!" The preacher still doesn't move, saying, "If the Lord wants to save me, He'll save me." The helicopter leaves, and the preacher eventually drowns. Next thing he knows, he's standing at the golden gates and looking St. Peter in the eye. Peter checks his list and says, "What are you doing here, preacher? You're not supposed to be here yet." The preacher tells him, "There was a flood, and I figured if the Lord wanted to save me, He would save me." "Well, shucks, preacher," Peter says. "We sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

Your pal,

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Inkheart - Cornelia Funke)

Here we go, one of my fave re-reads coming right up in preparation for FINALLY reading the third book in the series!

Meggie lives a quiet life alone with her father, a book-binder. But her father has a deep secret-- he possesses an extraordinary magical power. One day a mysterious stranger arrives who seems linked to her father's past. Who is this sinister character and what does he want? Suddenly Meggie is involved in a breathless game of escape and intrigue as her father's life is put in danger. Will she be able to save him in time?


My review as posted on GoodReads:

I've read this book enough times since the first time to see where it has problems. It drags on where there might have been shortcuts Ms. Funke could have taken. Most of the characters are a bit two-dimensional with your typical evil-for-the-sake-of-it villains and hardly-any-flaws-to-speak-of heroes. If you don't know your classics, you're going to be blindsided by a slew of vague references to countless other books you've hardly heard of. And maybe it's something to do with it being a translation from the original German, but I feel like the grammar strays a bit in some places...

Anyway, put all that aside, and I still love this book. The premise is more original than what I've come across before and since my first time reading this. It's plenty sinister and still gives me the creeps every now and then. (I mean, Basta is one nasty fellow!) And Ms. Funke's style is dark without being heavy, intriguing without being demanding, and genuinely humorous when the plot could use some cheer. The idea of bringing the characters in a book out into reality kind of makes you question reality itself, if you start thinking about it too much. It'll at least change the way you think of reading aloud. The whole "what if" it brings up is really pretty cool.

Onto the characters! Mo...standard hero, but sparked my interest in book binding (but that's another story). Meggie...meh, neutral. She only stands out for me anymore because the reader spends most of the book riding on her shoulder. She doesn't really act like any twelve-year-olds I've ever met. I'm plenty bookish myself and have always been, and it might have given me a bit of a precocious, smart-aleck turn a time or two, but I was never this full of myself. To be fair, she's not always like that. There's times when she's just an ordinary little girl, and I prefer her in those times. of my favorite characters. It takes awhile to warm up to her, but she's kind of like Betsy Trotwood. Once she decides to love you, that's the end of it, and there's nothing she won't do for you. She's quite an imposing, formidable lady when we first meet her, but she's funny and tenacious. Dustfinger...favorite, hands down. Whatever he was doing, you could be sure was interesting. He's neither hero nor villain, so he pretty much escapes the typecast of both. He goes his own way and double-deals Mo and Meggie, but he's essentially a good guy, and one of the more fascinating characters I keep coming back to in any book. Basta...scary. He's got a knife (when Dustfinger isn't stealing it) and he loves to use it. Honestly the nastiest character of the book. Capricorn...bland. We've already got an invulnerable villain with no personality, thank you very much. His name is Lord Sauron, and he doesn't need a personality to start with, since he's evil personified, but unfortunately, Capricorn isn't. He's human. I'd like to have seen some more human traits in him, but that's me.

Back to the style of the writing. It's...fragmented in thoughts sometimes, but it still has an impact on the imagination. Before every chapter there's a neat little quote from some poem or another book that sets the tone of the coming chapter; I only bring this up because it helped me FINALLY track down The Princess Bride after years and years of searching for it (I still believed the Morgenstern gimmick up to that point). And I try not to make this an issue with any book, but the cover is just beautiful.

I didn't expect a sequel, but I was more than ready to read it! No, wait! That's for the next review!

Your humble book nerd,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Who Did It Better? ("Best I Ever Had")

I honestly didn't plan on doing another one of these so soon, but I honestly couldn't come up with anything else at the moment. Anyway, another great song for you!

Vertical Horizon original

Actually, I didn't even know this was the original. Up until two years ago, I was under the impression that the Gary Allan version I'd been listening to was the original! Now, I think I prefer this one...there's more to enjoy in the vocals even though there's barely a difference between the two of them. Let me demonstrate!

Gary Allan cover

I like the steel and acoustic guitars, the violin, and the video, but I've been listening to Allan's twang for too long not to appreciate a change every now and then. I don't think it's a coincidence this song came out when it did, which gives it some eerie significance when you listen to this version. That in itself still gives me goosebumps.

What do you think? Which one?

Your pal,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Character of the Month - June 2012

Here we go again! We made it into the second edition, so that counts for something! :) And this month's showcased character is--drum roll, please...

*drum roll*

Erik (The Phantom of the Opera)

 Come on, does it surprise you at this point? Besides, it's Friday!

Erik is just...a mess. Born a disfigured genius, he lived his whole life unloved and hated until being forced to hide in an underground home beneath the Paris Opera. It was there that he first set eyes on Christine, and I think you guys know how that turned out by now.

Can't you imagine how terrible that must be, to be denied something as simple as a kiss from your own mother because she can't stand to look at you? To have value only as a freak of nature put on display for others to stare at? To want so badly to be loved but having no idea of how to love in return, because you've never known it yourself? There's some similarities between the character of Erik and Quasimodo, with one major difference: Quasimodo remains pure, while Erik learns to be cruel and comes to despise other people. First as an assassin in Persia, then as the Opera Ghost, he returns all of his own pain to others in strange and terrifying ways...yet in Erik's own words (this is one of the most quotable books I've ever read!) "You are afraid of me! And yet I am not really wicked. Love me and you shall see! All I wanted was to be loved for myself."

The complexity of the character is mind-boggling. Erik is a genius, yet he is every bit as mature as your average child. He's capable of horrible things such as murder, kidnapping, extortion and torture, but in the end he's also capable of change for the better. He considers himself outside of humanity, but there's such depth of feeling in him. He's one you'd walk on eggshells around if he were real, that's for sure, but you'd also want to protect him from any further suffering. This is what's referred to as the big double standard among the Phantom fan community! Any other man like this, any real-life psychopathic serial killer, and you'd be running as fast as you could in the opposite direction; knowing Erik's history and understanding why he is the way he is inspired pity and compassion. 

I think the sum of Erik's wonderful self (and yes, you must use the word "wonderful" to describe him) can be found in Gaston Leroux's novel, which is only fitting: “Poor, unhappy Erik! Shall we pity him? Shall we curse him? He asked only to be 'some one,' like everybody else. But he was too ugly! And he had to hide his genius or use it to play tricks with, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the most distinguished of mankind! He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar. Ah, yes, we must need pity the Opera ghost...” Yes, pity. All he wanted was to be loved, and in the end he came to learn that love means sacrificing one's own happiness for someone else.

Ah, one more quote, then I'll leave you alone. This has got to be the most heart-breaking scene I've ever read in any book on earth, and it always always always leaves me bawling like a baby: “I tore off my mask so as not to lose one of her tears... and she did not run away!...and she did not die!... She remained alive, weeping over me, weeping with me. We cried together! I have tasted all the happiness the world can offer.”

I'll be posting a review of the book in the future, which means more ranting on my part, so I'll turn you loose now. See you next time!

Your pal,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Ten Things I Wish I'd Known--Before I Went Out into the Real World - Maria Shriver)

Gotta bump back a scheduled post to squeeze this one in here! I don't generally read self-help books, but my mother made me do it. LOL

Award-winning broadcast journalist and NBC anchor-woman Maria Shriver reveals the lessons she has learned that have guided her journey as a career woman, wife and mother.


My review as posted on GoodReads:

 My mom suggested to me that I read this...and as it turns out, she had an ulterior motive. Ms. Shriver's list, expanded from her commencement speech at the College of the Holy Cross (but you've probably heard that little detail before), is built up of everything both Mom and Dad have been trying to drum into my head for several years now. Let me pause to reflect on the perversity of the situation when you're more apt to listen to anyone but your parents, even if they're all saying the same thing...

This was short, direct, bright, and at times rather funny. Ms. Shriver shares her own anecdotes along with her advice throughout the chapters--in fact, she spends quite a bit of time talking about herself. But she does it in such a cheery, almost sardonic way that you appreciate how she's laughing at herself to drive her point home. This might originally have been a speech aimed at graduates, but I think everyone could benefit from reading it at least once. I for one plan on rereading it in the future.

Short review? Well, heck! It was a short book!

Your humble book nerd,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien)

It's been a long time since I read this one, so forgive me if this isn't up to my usual standards of thoughtful, thorough reviews *slight sarcasm*

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.


Alas, I don't seem to have given this one a GoodReads review, and sitting here now trying to write one, I remember why that was in the first place. How does the humble reader review a classic? The obvious answer is, "Well, you just sit down and say what you think of the book! Duh!" Too bad it's a tad more complicated than that. The truth is, sometimes a review just doesn't do justice to a good book. It takes an equally wonderful author to critique a wonderful book and sadly, I am not one of those.

So how about we just forget about a masterpiece of a review, and I'll just ramble around talking about this one? Sound good? You sure? Fantastic.

Bilbo Baggins, elder relative of Frodo, is off on his own adventure when Gandalf the Grey shows up at his hobbit-hole one night with twelve dwarves in tow. These dwarves are looking to reclaim some treasure the dragon Smaug stole from them, and it's going to be a long, dangerous journey. The Baggins in him tells Bilbo to stay at home like a sensible hobbit, but the Took blood from the other side of the family becomes very Tookish indeed, and away he goes!

This one has more charm than The Lord of the Rings, and it's a lot easier to read. Don't get me wrong, there's still the immensity of Middle-earth to delve into, but there's not so much of it this time around. For those who don't know, this is the prequel for LOTR, telling how dear Bilbo discovered the One Ring of Power to start with (an adventure in itself). But there's more to it than that. Bilbo has to outwit trolls, evade marauding orcs, play dangerous games with Gollum,  escape angry elves, face off with Smaug (all on his lonesome, too!), and finally go to battle to defeat the dragon. There's all the majesty of the trilogy present here, but it's much more light-hearted and not nearly so long-winded.

Bilbo himself is a bit more appealing a character than Frodo, to be perfectly honest. Not that there's anything wrong with Frodo; your heart breaks for him as you watch him struggle on. But Bilbo is just so darn lovable! And I mean lovable! Maybe it's something to do with the less weighty task of recovering treasure as opposed to saving the world from supreme evil, but something inspires a little more cheery, cockles-of-your-heart kind of affection for this hobbit. (And I'm not entirely sure that made any sense whatsoever...)

So now that I've made a fool of myself again, let's tally up the count from the BBC's list...oh, lookie here! We're on seven! What's next on the list? Alice in Wonderland, you say? *sigh* If you say so...

'Til then, my friends!

Your humble book nerd,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Away With Roadmaps! Why I Don't Use Outlines

I've had it thrown at me from every direction that a writer must always outline at the very least the basic plot before going to work on the novel itself. How can you possibly get where you're going if you don't even know where you're headed? You can't get from Point A to Point B if there's no clear Point B to start with!

And here's what I say to that...

Get it? *wink*

I'm not saying jump in on a full-scale magnum opus with no idea what you plan on doing. I'm saying, don't worry about the road ahead, and just keep your eyes on what's in front of you.

Lemme share a few anecdotes from my "personal experiences" file. For the novel that I'm now re-writing, I spent a solid month picturing in my head exactly what was going to happen. I wrote every last detail down in a notebook, tore out the pages and carried them in my pocket, and stuck to that outline, not deviating from it in the slightest degree. Not once. Now, X amount of years later, I can read that first draft and see how stiff, forced, and unlikely it is (insofar as a fantasy novel can be "likely" in the first place). This is one of the reasons I'm now taking a second shot at it.

With the last three novels I've finished, there was no game plan. I had the bare framework of the story, the characters that would be populating it, a few ideas for some good scenes, and eventually a theme, and I ran with them. It's a given that there were roadblocks and times when I had no idea where the whole thing was going or what I was going to do next...also known as ruts in the road. Those times turned out to be the best ones, because that's when I had to really dig deep into my modest ingenuity and figure out how to save the situation and make the story better for it. And I think I succeeded in that, or so my trusty betas tell me. And because I just stood back and let things go as they would, there's no plot holes, the flow is smooth, and everything works in harmony...or so my betas tell me (can't judge my own performance, after all). The details worked out for themselves, with me only performing the task of actually writing them down and occasionally keeping them in line.

Put another way, think of plot as shrubbery. No, seriously. Outlines can turn out like topiary: The finished product may look interesting and pretty, but it's still tacky and unnatural. The end result should be more like a rose bush. It spreads, it roams, it ranges at will, and while you maintain it to keep it in check when you must, it has the freedom to grow. It's controlled chaos. That sounds bad, but "chaos" only means unpredictable--which is always a good thing when it comes to books.

Back to my original analogy. Which trips are the most memorable: the ones with the rigid schedules, where every minute is accounted for and allotted, or the ones with no schedule at all and you just follow where the road takes you because it just feels right? In my opinion, the process of writing a book should be every bit as enjoyable as reading one, if not more so. It's hard work, sure, but you also learn something as you go along, quite often about yourself. Corny as it sounds, it really is a journey of self-discovery. Why would you want to make a timeline for that?

Bottom line is, just don't sweat what's going to happen later and focus on where you are now. Let the next chapter take care of itself and, heck, if you can avoid it, don't even think about your big finish! Chances are, the story will take its own turn in another direction anyway. That's a good thing, though. It means its walking on its own legs!

Hope this helps! If not, disregard it as more hot air and hogwash!

Your pal,