Friday, August 31, 2012

DarthxErik Reads!

The delightfully talented DarthxErik, artist and YouTuber, is going to be reading to you today from the Bair translation of Gaston Leroux's novel. Grab some tissues!

"Poor, Unhappy Erik" Monologue

And of course she's thrown in some of her artwork as well. Brava!

Your pal,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Randomness 15

I see an opportunity for another stupid joke....

Two nuns go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of whiskey. The cashier tells them, "Now, that's not right! You're nuns! You shouldn't be drinking!" One of the nuns explains, "It's for medicinal purposes. Mother Superior is constipated, and when she sees us drunk on this stuff, she'll shit!"

*ahem* Carry on.

Your pal,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Had to Share This 22

Not only is Michelle Gliottoni-Rodriguez an amazing writer, she's also a wonderful opera singer! Don't believe me? Just have a listen!

Die Fledermaus

Though Love Be a Day


I adore this woman. Can you tell?

Your pal,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Stone of Tears - Terry Goodkind)

I'm back, my pretties! Expect me to pop in sporadically until further notice!

Book two of the Sword of Truth series

In Wizard's First Rule, Richard Cypher's world was turned upside down. Once a simple woods guide, Richard was forced to become the Seeker of Truth, to save the world from the vile dominance of Darken Rahl, the most viciously savage and powerful wizard the world had ever seen. He was joined on this epic quest by his beloved Kahlan, the only survivor among the Confessors, who brought a powerful but benevolent justice to the land before Rahl's evil scourge. Aided by Zedd, the last of the wizards who opposed Rahl, they were able to cast him into the underworld, saving the world from the living hell of life under Rahl.

But the veil to the underworld has been torn, and Rahl, from beyond the veil, begins to summon a sinister power more dreadful than any he has wielded before. Horrifying creatures escape through the torn veil, wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting world above.

If Rahl isn't stopped, he will free the Keeper itself, an evil entity whose power is so vast and foul that once freed, it can never again be contained.

Richard and Kahlan must face Rahl and the Keeper's terrible minions. But first, Richard must endure the ministrations of the Sisters of the Light, or die from the pain of magic that is his birthright and his curse. While Richard undertakes the arduous journey to the forbidden city of the Sisters, Kahlan must embark upon a long and dangerous mission to Aydindril, citadel of the old wizards, where she hopes to find Zedd and the help only he can lend to their desperate cause.

War, suffering, torture, and deceit lie in their paths, and nothing will save them from a destiny of violent death, unless their courage and faith are joined with luck and they find the elusive...Stone of Tears.


I just realized I misspelled a name in my review, yet I don't really care to correct it. *cackle* Anyhoo, here's the review!

  I would probably give this one more like 3.5 stars if I had the option. Where it was good, it was great, but the only real trouble I had with it is that Goodkind spent way too much time wandering around before he finally remembered there is in fact such a thing as plot and he'd better get back to his in a hurry. All the crap I heard about there being so much more sadism and near-misogyny wasn't nearly what I'd been led to believe by a long shot.

So...Richard is a wizard and needs to follow Verna, a Sister of the Light, to the Palace of the Prophets to learn to control his magic before it kills him. Fine and dandy, but they have to cross all of creation to get there, and Goodkind drags us along for the entire trip. Only about a quarter of the book, if that, took place in the Palace of the Prophets. The Stone of Tears, the only thing holding the Keeper of the Dead in the underworld, is in the land of the living, and if it falls into the wrong hands, the usual hell will break loose. Sounds great, but the Stone itself was more of a minor detail until the very end of the book, so that fell flatter than crepes. Kahlan needs to get to Zedd in Adyndril, the city of wizards and Confessors, to see if he can help Richard escape from the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad Sisters of the Light. All right, but she gets sidetracked fighting wars with the army of the Imperial Order and spends more time killing renegade soldiers wearing nothing but warpaint than she does in Adyndril. Zedd himself is after Adie the bone woman for her knowledge of the underworld. Cool beans, but they were attacked by a skrin and need to visit these healing sorceresses or whoever they were to be cured from the taint on their magic.

And so on and so on and zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

Yeah, it just drifted along for nearly all eternity, but there were some things I liked, like Richard's friendship with Gratch, for one thing. That was just adorable. And at first I was a little put off by Kahlan's one-eighty into a remorseless warrior queen since I thought the Mother Confessor was supposed to be the soul of compassion, but I guess she's also the guardian and protector of her people, so when they fell under threat, she only did what was necessary to defend them. Denna had also become my favorite character by the end of Wizard's First Rule so I was glad to see her again here, though I just wish I could have seen more of her. She's one of the more complex and intriguing villains I've seen recently, and I love her as much as I'm sickened by her. (Speaking of Mord-Sith, I spent the entire book looking for Cara! She was more important in the TV series, and nonexistent in the book! I kept thinking to myself as I read, "Where's Cara? Where's Cara?.................There's Cara!")

I was more than a little annoyed that the resolution of those infinite plot lines was rushed on all counts, and irritated that it took forever to learn what Wizard's Second Rule was only for it to turn out so trite and stale, and while it wasn't as graphic as I'd expected it to be based on the reviews I read, hearing about seventy-five percent of the female characters being raped every time you blinked got...old. Was Goodkind going for shock factor? He wore it out awful fast. Is he really some kind of perverted sexual sadist? He played it pretty safe, considering the subject matter. *shrug* There was some other seriously weird stuff going on, like bestiality with a creature from the underworld and more of that ritual sacrifice from the first book. It seems Goodkind can't decide whether he wants to tell a story or make people vomit!

And I liked Richard a lot in the first one but here, well, he just got on my nerves way too often.

I'd call this one about 60/40 so far as waste/valuables goes, but those good parts were worth it. I think...I'm almost positive...I'm putting this series on the low-priority section of my wish list.

There it is, take it or leave it!

Your humble book nerd,

Friday, August 24, 2012

O.G.! The First Publication!

Check this out! I was browsing the forums on (or as I usually think of it, my home within my home) and ran across a thread with this fascinating link to the original serial! It's just the first installment, and my French is nonexistent, so I can't read it, but still, isn't that amazing?

Look at it! (it's all the way down there at the bottom)


Your pal,

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Had to Share This 21

Trotting out an old favorite.

Gary Allan - Smoke Rings in the Dark

I always get goosebumps listening to this one. It's a combination of the lyrics and the instrumentals and that humming in the background.

Your pal,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Phantom Funnies 7

So...continuing my habit of killing waaaaaay too much time on YouTube...I found these about two months ago, and I'm still watching them. They're completely out there and make no sense whatsoever, but hilarious for all of that. Kinda like yours truly!

And, by the way, I'm posting all of them that are available. And no, I'm not going to apologize for it. They're too addicting, I tell you!

Random Editing - Phantom of the Opera

There you are. Have a party, and I'll see you next Friday. For more Phantom stuff, that is.

Your pal,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Witches' Brew - Terry Brooks)

Book five of the Magic Kingdom of Landover series.

Former Chicago lawyer Ben Holiday was proud and happy. And why not? The Magic Kingdom of Landover, which he ruled as High Lord, was finally at peace, and he and his wife, the sylph Willow, could watch their daughter Mistaya grow.

And grow she did - shooting through infancy in months, learning to walk and to swim in the same week. Mistaya had been born a seedling, nourished by soils from Landover, Earth, and the fairy mists, come into being in the dank, misty deadness of the Deep Fell. With dazzling green eyes that cut to the soul, she was as lovely as her mother, and Ben wanted nothing more than to enjoy his daughter's childhood and his peaceful kingdom forever. But his idyll was interrupted when Rydall, a king of lands beyond the fairy mist, assembled armies on Landover's border and threatened to invade unless Ben was able to defeat Rydall's seven champions.

Some counseled the High Lord to refuse Rydall's challenge, but Holiday could not, for Mistaya had been snatched from her guardians by foul magic. And Rydall held the key to her fate . . .


And my GoodReads review (sorry it's another short one):

I think I'm having a review burnout lately...

It took awhile for this one to get going, and I never really did warm up to Mistaya. She was too...precocious. She just knew everything, and she only went along with the grownups' wishes because it was her obligation, and she was just so special and *raspberry*. It was pretty predictable, even more so than the others in the series. I mean, I KNEW who Rydall of Marnhull was the first time he showed up at Sterling Silver! There was no point in dragging it out!

In the end, this one got three stars for three reasons. 1) There was plenty of Strabo, and I love Strabo. 2) Abernathy's dilemma of being transformed back into a man, only to have to face becoming a dog again to save everyone just made me love him even more. 3) Finally! We got rid of Nightshade! At last!

Your humble book nerd,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll)

I remembered that I'm supposed to be rubbing it in the BBC's face this year, and that the next book on the list that I've read is Alice. I'm fully aware that as far as my usual reviews go, this one is sub-par, but...*shrugs*

Weary of her storybook, one "without pictures or conversations," the young and imaginative Alice follows a hasty hare underground -- to come face-to-face with some of the strangest adventures and most fantastic characters in all of literature. The Ugly Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the weeping Mock Turtle, the diabolical Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat -- each more eccentric than the last -- could only have come from that master of sublime nonsense, Lewis Carroll. In penning this brilliant burlesque of children's literature, this farcical satire of rigid Victorian society, this arresting parody of the fears, anxieties, and complexities of growing up, Carroll was one of the few adult writers to enter successfully the children's world of make-believe, where the impossible becomes possible, the unreal, real, and where the heights of adventure are limited only by the depths of imagination.


And now for my pitiful review:

Adorable, but the twisted, eccentric bent in me prefers Tim Burton's adaptation. On its face, you'd think this was just a nonsense book, and to some degree you'd be right, but when you dig deeper there's more meaning than you realize. We can certainly sympathize with Alice, flung into a world she doesn't understand, but I particularly admire how she stays Alice throughout her adventure. Her encounters with all the strange and rather inhospitable inhabitants of Wonderland don't change her for the worse in the slightest (she was only dreaming about them, but that's not the point). The greatest wonder to me--no pun intended--is how Carroll wrote these books. Think of it; a grown man in the era he lived in not only possessing such a child-like imagination, but creating with it one of the most beloved children's books of all time. Bravo, sir!

Yeah, pitiful...I feel kinda ashamed of that one...

Your humble book nerd,

Friday, August 10, 2012

Broadway Meets West End

I was trolling YouTube as is my habit, and I found this little jewel. The best of the Majestic and Her Majesty's, all rolled into one! Can you believe it?

Hugh Panaro and Gina Beck - The Final Lair

Isn't that just awesome? I mean, isn't it?

Your pal,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Tangle Box - Terry Brooks)

Pardon me if I start slacking on posts again, but things are going crazy around here again.

Magic Kingdom of Landover, book four.

Everything should have been quiet and pleasant for Ben Holiday, the former Chicago lawyer who became sovereign of the Magic Kingdom of Landover. But it wasn't.

Horris Kew, conjurer, confidence-man, and trickster, had returned to Landover from Ben's own world. Alas, Horris had not returned of his own volition--he had been sent by the Gorse, a sorcerer of great evil, whom Horris had unwittingly freed from the magic Tangle Box, where it had long ago been imprisoned by the fairy folk. Now it had returned to enslave those who had once dared condemn it. But first, it would rid Landover of all who could stand in its way...

Soon Ben found himself imprisoned within the gloom of the Tangle Box, lost in its mists and its labyrinthine ways. The only one who could free Ben from the Tangle Box was the lady Willow. But she had disappeared, was gone from Landover on a mysterious mission of her own....


My review:

I'm glad Terry Brooks took that time from the series before coming back to it, because this one feels much better than Wizard At Large. There's more depth of character and more care in the whole kit and kaboodle, and thank God he's broken away from his usual patterns!

Horris Kew, an exile returned to Landover through the magic of an evil being called the Gorse, manages to trap Ben Holiday, along with Strabo and Nightshade (will that old witch EVER clear out of here?!) in the mysterious Tangle Box, a prison of sorts filled with fairy mists where imagination is reality and your worst fears come to life. Willow can't help him, as she's off on a mission to prepare for the fairy birth of her and Ben's child. And Questor Thews and Abernathy can't help either, as they've got their hands full trying to keep Landover from falling apart in the King's absence. There's quite a bit going on, but each plot line remains distinct while still keeping in time with the others.

Abernathy is once again my favorite character, but I'm also growing fonder of Strabo. Stripped of his identity (as everyone is in the Tangle Box), we get to understand him more. And I was also happy to see Edgewood Dirk, the prism cat, make an appearance again, though he wasn't around long enough, in my opinion. What pleased me most with this one was that even though Ben lost himself--yet again--he had companions for the ride that added new complications and food for thought as I watched them interact with each other. And three cheers for someone other than the goshdarned Paladin saving the day!

The only thing that annoyed me was the way Willow's story was handled. For being such an important event, she felt like an afterthought between everything else, and in the end it felt too anticlimactic for me. Oh well, can't have everything.

Your humble book nerd,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Had to Share This 20

Oh, look, we've made it to twenty of these!

Anyways, I was grooving to this about ten seconds ago and realized I needed a post for today, so ta da!

Though I have to tell you, my introduction to this song was Bigfoot dancing with headphones on in A Goofy Movie...

Staying Alive - the Bee Gees

Your pal,

Monday, August 6, 2012

Who Did It Better? ("Shameless")

I realized it's been awhile since I did one of these, and listening to this song earlier today put me in the mood for it. As it happens, I'm really stuck on this decision!

Billy Joel original

How do I want to describe this? It's a brilliant song, and the execution is definitely in Billy Joel's style. What really attaches me to this version are the fond memories I have associated with it...such fond memories. There's more a sense of spirit present, especially when it rips loose towards the end. Am I the only one who feels like the whole thing is about to take off and fly? Probably the only negative thing I have to say about it is how the tempo slows down periodically and it seems to stomp its way through back to when it picks up again. No, wait, that is the only negative thing I have to say about it.

Garth Brooks cover

First off, those lyrics aren't accurate, but it's a pain in the neck to find a Garth Brooks song on YouTube that's actually sung by Garth Brooks. Too many covers! Anyway, it's a known fact that you can recognize a Garth song by the steel guitar. *wink* I'm quite attached to that, really. And the noted electric guitarist Chris Leuzinger, of course. But that's not the only thing I love about this version. I love the simplicity and power of it. There's just a piano, a couple guitars, some drums, and a background vocalist, and that's it. I think it's all in Garth's delivery that really hits me. He's clearly feeling it, and that in turn makes me feel it. The only negative thing I have to say about this one is that dratted echo! I can tune it out, but I still don't care for it.

Here's another one of those where I can't possibly choose a favorite, simply because I love both contenders so darn much. But then I stop and think, and I notice there's only one version I put on repeat, and that's we have a winner after all!

What do you think?

Your pal,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (Wizard At Large - Terry Brooks)

Book three of the Magic Kingdom of Landover series.

It all began when the half-able wizard Questor Thews announced that finally he could restore the Court Scribe Abernathy to human form. All went well until the wizard breathed the magic dust of his spell and suddenly sneezed. Then, where Abernathy had stood, there was only a bottle containing a particularly evil imp, who soon escapes.


My review as posted on GoodReads, etc.

It's good to see that this series has remained consistent so far. I can think of a few that have gotten more and more disappointing as they carried on, but that's not the case with this one. If anything, it gets to be even more fun.

That's the good news...the bad news is, this thing is starting to feel formulaic. Uh oh! Ben has somehow lost the medallion again! We have to get it back! There's an evil creature on the loose in Landover! We have to stop it! Nightshade is making trouble again! Something must be done about this! We must call... *moment of breathless suspense* the Paladin!

What kept this from dragging down for me was the focus on Questor and Abernathy. When the attempt to turn the scribe back into a man backfires catastrophically, the wizard tries to set things right, and it's HIS turn for some self-discovery (which is good, because if I had to sit through Ben trying to figure himself out again, it wouldn't have ended well. It's getting old.) And we finally learn a little more about Abernathy, and that information just popped him up to the status of my favorite character so far. He's only in this mess because a long time ago, he tried to do the right thing. Now he's stuck as a talking dog on Earth in the company of his worst enemy. Not good!

Strabo made another appearance, and while I like the dragon's sarcasm and irritability, I could see that surprise coming just by reading the summary. I'll admit, I was cheering Questor on in his attempt to persuade Strabo to help him save Ben and the others, and frankly that scene was the highlight of the whole book for me. It was just too funny! The other bit that stuck out was the climactic battle in which we may or may not have seen the last of Nightshade. Really, it's too soon to tell. Anyway, how she was defeated was pure genius.

Can I just say that I might have predicted by the end of the book that Questor would suggest trying to change Abernathy back again? I think I'm too attached to him as a dog to want him changed back

Your humble book nerd,

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gimme A Sledgehammer!

Depending on whether or not you stalk me on Facebook and Twitter, you might be aware that I'm up to my eyeballs in a new story. (Yes, I'm avoiding the Gargantuan Novel Re-Write for another Phantom fic! Sue me, OK?) I take a sick pleasure in putting the characters in situations I've never seen other writers put them in, and indeed the only incentive I need to go for it is the fact that other writers won't do it. So far, I've stuck Erik in therapy, beaten him to death, had Raoul shoot him, made him kill Raoul and Christine, made Christine kill herself, and took a trip into Christine's head to examine her motives. But I have NEVER seen the story that takes this turn I'm about to. NEVER. I've seen one that comes pretty damn close to it, but never really went after it. So...cue the incentive.

My problem? It's a hell of a lot harder than you'd think to take a character you love so much and make them go completely berserk, and when it's a character millions of other people know and love it makes it that much harder. The temptation is to draw back and shy away from the intended goal, if not to just drop the whole thing like a hot potato. There's only one way I'm going to get away with this one, and that's if the writing itself totally effing delivers.

Here's where it gets really hard. To create your best work, you have to dig in deep, then go even deeper. I think the way Ernest Hemingway put it was "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit at the typewriter and bleed." Well, that's putting it rather mildly, but that's the sum of it. To move someone else, you have to get to what moves you first. This piece calls for a LOT of rage and fear and resentment and despair and agony and a whole lot of other things no sane person wants to get within shouting distance of. And I have to go there. I have to reach back into the dark corners of my mind and haul those monsters out into the light of day.

What's my point, you ask? I have to tear down the walls around what I've kept locked up for years and shed some light on those dark corners. It's a terrifying prospect, and in the two weeks I've been working on this story I've felt close to the worst I've ever felt in my life, dwelling on things I've nearly driven myself crazy trying to forget. I'm not just doing this for the sake of the story, though. The story was only the catalyst. The driving motive now is the need to overcome the fears and memories that have given me hell.

But of course, it's not easy. Thank God for an amazing beta reader who put me back on track when she saw me starting to flinch! After having my eyes opened, I spent some time with my mental drill sergeant going over the rules of engagement and there was a whole lot of attitude flying around. If you've ever taken a look at Chuck Wendig's blog before, you'll see what I mean. I put on the appropriate music to get into the mood, yelled at myself a bit more to get all fired up, then went for it. It was draining to the extreme, but purifying.

Which goes to show, writing is therapy!

My summary for this little lecture is as follows.

  • Sometimes you have to take risks no one else will, no matter how scary
  • When you're willing to take that risk, it's even more important to go into it with colors flying
  • Before you can even think of making a reader feel something, you have to feel it yourself. If you can't handle that, you have no business writing.
  • The hardest part, but also the most rewarding, is the struggle to face your demons and bring life to the page, conquering that part of yourself in the process.
  • When in doubt, call in the A-Team. Get a beta! Pick yourself up off the floor and get back in the game! Whatever you gotta do, do it!
Assuming, of course, you don't mind being lectured by a stranger over the internet, and are willing to take the advice of a well-meaning, obsessive-compulsive amateur...

Your pal,

Friday, August 3, 2012

This Should Keep You Busy

Ah, gotta love YouTube! Lookit, someone's uploaded a ton of Compare-the-Phantom compilations! Come on, let's go pick a favorite!

Music of the Night

Why So Silent?

All I Ask of You (Reprise)

The Final Lair

Masquerade reprise

I won't bore you with my list at the moment. If you hang around here long enough, you could probably work it out for yourself anyway. Hope you had fun!

Your pal,

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Black Unicorn - Terry Brooks)

Book two of the Magic Kingdom of Landover series.

A year had passed since Ben Holiday bought the Magic Kingdom from the wizard, Meeks. But unbeknownst to him, he has been the victim of a trap by Meeks, who has succeeded in stealing the Paladin and appropriating his face. Suddenly none of Ben's friends know him, but all of his enemies do. He must win it all back again--only this time on his own!


And as usual, my review as posted on GoodReads:

Even better than the first one!

See? I TOLD you we hadn't seen the last of Nightshade! And I knew there would be more with Strabo and Meeks! I knew it!

It might be a bit premature to say this, but it's good to know that Ben Holiday is still on a character arc. Even after all the lessons he learned in his efforts to secure his throne in the original, he still has that much more to discover about Landover and especially himself. The fairies might have sent him Edgewood Dirk, the prism cat, to help him out a bit, but Dirk's not about to just give him the answers. That was the best part for me, for Ben, once-lawyer and now exiled king, to have to work out the truth of the magic Meeks had used on him.

Was it just me, or did there seem to be even more magic in this one? Missing unicorns, spells of deception, dancing wood nymphs and a strange cat from the fairy mists? I liked it! Right up my alley! All that's missing are a few mermaids, but I think the River Master and his ilk still fill that void.

Well shucks, what else is there I can say? It was just as much fun as the first one, and again, I liked it even more. Now onto the next one!

Your humble book nerd,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Artist of the Month - August 2012

 I've realized how bored I am with introductions, so I'll do away with them this time. August's featured artist is, drum roll, please!

*drum roll*

Hadley Fraser

Oh dear Lord have mercy, this man is incredible! He's a musical theater actor with such roles under his belt as Raoul (The Phantom of the Opera), Marius and Javert (Les Miserables), and El Gallo (The Fantasticks), and he's also a talented singer/songwriter. Some of my audience might know this, but he and Ramin Karimloo formed a group known as Sheytoons, playing a mix of folk and bluegrass. He's releasing an album year, I think...and that's yet another one I'll have to add to my wish list.

How Many Times

This is one of those he wrote himself, and the performance was Sheytoons' recent concert in Ontario. What I would have given to be there for that!

The Best Is Yet to Come
On Constellation Street 
I'll Be There (from The Pirate Queen)
Born to the Battle (from The Far Pavilions)
Try to Remember (from The Fantasticks)

I had to cut myself off, or I'd be posting videos all day long. Happy listening!

Your pal,