Archive for February, 2011

Title: How To Train Your Dragon
Media Type: Feature Film Soundtrack
Composer: John Powell (co-wrote Shrek and The Road to El-Dorado soundtracks, wrote for the Bourne Trilogy)
Origins: Gift

My Review: In honor of an Oscar Nomination (in the only category I actually follow) I thought today would be the perfect time to review the soundtrack of How To Train Your Dragon. Aside from the fact that I want this film NOW because it is just that cute, the soundtrack is extremely well written and can stand on its own any day.

One of the first things that caught my ear on this one is the strong influence of folk music. I am always amazed at the amount of musical styles Film composers seem to be familiar with. This particular score shows strong influence of both Nordic and Celtic styles, which are both relevant to the culture Hiccup lives in (perhaps Nordic slightly more than Celtic). These styles are replicated so well that they seem to come from the setting instead of being just extra commentary – to the point that I could swear I’d played the tune at one of my local Irish sessions! At the same time, Powell adds in symphonic elements like timpani and brass that just do not belong in the style and somehow makes them work. Really, really well. Plus, I could swear I heard a Hardanger in there and I got kind of excited (think Rohan from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, it’s a Nordic violin type instrument). Oh and I had a bit of a squee at all the flute solos – the flutist in me would have loved to work this score!

The other thing that really spoke to me about this one was how well the soundtrack reflected the message of the film. It is a very uplifting soundtrack, full of epic horn lines with swirly flute and string parts all around them. The whole film is about being happy with who you are, and the soundtrack shows that through the absolute triumph in the tracks that play while Hiccup and Toothless are flying. At the same time, it does have it’s dark moments, as every soundtrack does. These contrast nicely with the “flying high” tracks giving the film a grounded-ness it needs.

The only track I won’t be listening to regularly is the credits track “Sticks & Stones,” and that is only because when I’m listening to a soundtrack, I want just the soundtrack. I’m weird like that. Favorite tracks include “See You Tomorrow,” “The Kill Ring,” and “Where is Hiccup?”

Those of you watching the Oscars will have to tell me how this one does – there’s some stiff competition, and while I’m supporting How to Train Your Dragon I don’t exactly want some of the others to lose. (Inception also has an amazing soundtrack, but I just didn’t feel strongly enough about it, because I’ve yet to see the movie.)

Book Review: Inkheart

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Inkheart Inkheart by
Series: Inkworld #1
Published by in 2005
Genres: ,
Pages: 548

One cruel night, Meggie's father reads aloud from Inkheart, and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of the book, landing in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie's in the middle of the kind of adventure she thought only took place in fairy tales. Somehow she must master the magic that has conjured up this nightmare. Can she change the course of the story that has changed her life forever?

My Review:

This book has been one of my favorites for what feels like forever – I was amazed to discover after looking through copyright dates on things like the cover etc. that I can’t have bought it any earlier than 2007. That’s way more recently than I thought it was…

Anyway! It’s always difficult for me to pinpoint why my favorite books make it onto a favorite list. There are always so many things to like about the favorites! Number one for this particular book is going to have to be the story, I think. I’ve talked about my love of The Neverending Story here before, and this book is rather similar, at least in my reasons for liking it. Who wouldn’t love the chance to meet their favorite characters, even if they do turn out to be nasty little idiots like some of the ones in Inkheart?

Usually for me writing style plays a part in liking a book. I feel bad talking about it in this instance, because in all likelihood the style is more up to the translator than the writer on a book written in a different language than I speak. But, on the other hand, the translator has to know what they’re doing to do a good job on it, and they do have to faithfully translate the story, so I’d like to think it’s a joint effort, and it is very pretty. The style really suits the novel – it’s not one of those that makes me want to read out loud (and isn’t the story warning enough against that?) but the language matches who the characters are really well. Most of us chronic readers have a pretty extensive vocabulary and aren’t afraid to use it, and that shows really well with Meggie, Mo and Elinor, while Capricorn’s men are completely illiterate and the sections about them show that, even when there’s no dialogue.

The only thing I will warn you about is these are large books. They’re fairly easy to read the first time around, but the size and lack of “gotta know what happens!” made it more difficult to get through this time. I carried it with me in case I needed a book, but given the choice of Inkheart or some other, newer book, I often chose the new book. On the other hand, if you haven’t read this series, you really are missing out. Go find yourself a copy!

Book Blogger Hop! Feb 25-27

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Book Blogger Hop

It’s time again! I missed last week’s blog hop (I left the house before the post was up Friday, and didn’t get back until very late, so I decided I was just too busy). This week’s question is:

Have you ever wished you would have named your blog something different?
Nope. Not once. Then again, it’s only been a few months. On the other hand, I feel the name describes perfectly what I want to do with my blog – talk about various creative works that I want to share with the world! For the most part that’s books, but I like being able to talk about films and soundtracks as well. 
Do you like your blog name?
Please comment if you’ve stopped by – to make up for being MIA for a few weeks, I want to visit lots of blogs today!

Book Review: City of Glass

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City of Glass City of Glass by
Series: The Mortal Instruments #3
Published by in 2009
Genres: , ,
Pages: 541

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters -- never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City -- whatever the cost?

My Review:

Wow! What an epic way to end an amazing series! As I read the first two before I started blogging, I’m going to use this as more of a review of the whole series,  mostly so I don’t spoil too badly (despite their hype on the blogosphere, many people IRL have yet to read these – a majority of my friends included!)

One of the things I really loved about this series is the way Clare mixes her fantasy genres. I mean, obviously this is a paranormal series, but it combines different genres of paranormal into a world that makes sense. She explains how all the paranormals came to be in the world, which I love, and then expects them to work together (which they don’t always, but such is the way of things, isn’t it?). Eventually they work it out though and she finally fixes all the things that just struck me as wrong in the end. (Actually, that’s the wrong way to put it. It’s not that there was anything wrong with her writing, it’s just there are a few things that she sets up to be “wrong” and she finally tells us how they can actually not be wrong… and I’m making it worse, aren’t I? Just go read it!)

Another thing I love about the series is how vivid Clare’s writing is when it comes to personality. When I read a book, I don’t much care what the characters look like. In fact, most likely I’ll have skipped over the character description without realizing it and fabricated the character’s looks in my head based on their personality. Before the first Harry Potter film came out I could have sworn Malfoy had black hair. Not even kidding. Character description just isn’t that important to the story for me (except when it is, of course. Nobody could miss that Harry’s eyes are Emerald Green). Clare gives the characters such vivid personalities that I not only had pictures of them in my head, I was casting them for a possible film. I see books that way anyways, and I’m always very excited when one of the most vivid ones ends up becoming a film! I’m so excited for this one, and while I’m a little sad they didn’t get Molly Quinn for Clary, I’m still holding out hope for Darren Criss as Magnus (OMG yes please!)

That’s probably it for me before the weekend (birthday tomorrow, Jury Friday, Opera Sat. night EEP! I’m too busy!) Thank you all for sticking with me through this dry spell. I promise to make it worth your while as soon as I can – keep an eye out!

Book Review: The Name of this Book is Secret

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The Name of this Book is Secret The Name of this Book is Secret by
Series: Secret #1
Published by in 2007
Genres: ,
Pages: 364

When adventurous detectives Cass, an ever-vigilant survivalist, and Max-Ernest, a boy driven by logic, discover the Symphony of Smells, a box filled with smelly vials of colorful ingredients, they accidentally stumble upon a mystery surrounding a dead magician's hidden diary and the hunt for immortality.

My Review:

I really, seriously, loved this book! I know, I’m a few years behind in reading it (it first came out in 2007), and my friends have been telling me to read it for years, but it wasn’t until I saw it on sale at my local Borders that I really decided to pick it up and actually do so. Why did I ever wait so long?!

I’m sure the comparison between this book and the Series of Unfortunate Events has been made many times over, but this book didn’t just remind me of that series (which I haven’t finished by the way, which is probably why that comparison isn’t as strong). No, the main thing this book reminded me of was the film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. It wasn’t a huge film – it came out around Christmas in 2007 and had Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jason Bateman in it, along with this really talented kid actor named Zach Mills. Reading this book has inspired me to go rewatch the film, which means there will probably be a review up soon, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. The important part for this review, is that between the illustrations and the tone of the narrator, I had a lot of fun imagining that this book was actually written by the bookbinder Bellini, who lives in the basement of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (which is a toy store). The resemblance pretty much ends there, but I had so much fun with imagining how he knew this story, and why he was telling it.

The other fun thing about this book is that the author doesn’t tell you everything. In fact, he points out that he hasn’t told you things, and makes it very clear that the names and faces of the characters have all been changed so anything he told you could be a lie. My imagination always goes wild at that point. The writer in me absolutely loves it when an author gives it express permission to participate in the story. There’s even a chapter at the end where he gives you all the facts and then a ton of blank lines for you to write in your own ending! Though, of course, the reader in me won’t let me deface a book by writing directly in it. Maybe eventually I’ll fold up a few pages with my version and just stick them in without attaching them to anything.

I would definitely recommend this book to a friend, because it is such a fun read. But the people I would love to recommend it to are the younger, perhaps more reluctant readers. This is an easy, engaging read that is perfect for kindling (or re-kindling) a love of reading!

Book Review: Across the Universe

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Across the Universe Across the Universe by
Series: Across the Univers #1
Published by in 2011
Pages: 398

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Review:

One of the main things that impressed me with this novel is the originality of the setting. Many people in science fiction have played with the idea of cryogenic freezing to get to a new planet that is several centuries of travel away, but most only mention that it happened. They don’t tend to go into detail of how it works and what happens. They almost never talk about what happens on the ship while the majority of its occupants are frozen. Revis builds a whole society in this gap, one that is necessary and extremely interesting in the conundrums it creates.

When I first started reading this one, I spent the majority of the time thinking of Doctor Who (and I wonder if she took any inspiration from the show, though I doubt it, as it was probably finished way before the most recent series started). Between a main character with long red hair called Amy and the cryo floor (which will always have a fog at ground level for me) it almost could have been a Doctor Who remake (without the Doctor, of course, which helped when I had to force myself to stop thinking in those terms).

Once I got past the Doctor Who similarities, though, it was a very enjoyable read. The book is part mystery, which adds another fun layer to the story. The thing I really enjoy about mysteries is trying to figure out who did it before the book tells you. I will say, I had “who” figured out by about halfway through, but I had to keep reading, because I had no idea about motive. Plus, the mystery was not the only storyline in the book, and there were other interesting things that deserved my attention!

Even having figured out the “whodunit” part of the book early on, there were some very good twists in the story right at the end that I didn’t see coming. They were the of the sort that I said afterwards “Why the heck didn’t I see that one coming?!” which is, of course, the best kind. I was glad to find that I could still be on the same side after the twist though – sometimes twists make me go “I hated you, but now I feel really awful for it,” and that can be good in some novels, but in this one I really didn’t want to feel sorry for Eldest. He is just too much of a jerk!




My only complaint (and it’s not really a complaint at all) is that the ending seemed to happen really fast. Elder tells Amy the truth, and then she’s mad for all of two pages, and then the story is over. I know if it were me, I would stay mad way longer than that! No matter what his intentions were, he screwed up her life MAJORLY. He can be sorry all he likes, but sorry won’t change that. It seems really weird that she’s only mad at him for a few seconds. On the other hand, I can understand why she did it – it’s not a really relevant plot point, and it happens after the main climax of the book, so it could have the potential of making the book seem to go on forever.  I think if it were me (and what do I know about writing? She’s published, not me) I would have shown that time passed in some way – just a short line that said something like “One week later” or something like that. But that’s just me.



Overall assessment? A really fun read, with a fresh take on the Science Fiction quest, and a little bit of every genre for whatever strikes your fancy! Go read it!



Book Review: Blameless

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Blameless Blameless by
Series: Parasol Protectorate #3
Published by in 2010
Genres: ,
Pages: 374
Source: ,

Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto.

My Review:

I always find it so hard to find things to say about a sequel without spoiling the first (or second) of the series. For those of you who have been living under a rock, the Parasol Protectorate is an epic steampunk series, set in a Victorian England where the supernatural is every day. I don’t think I ended up reviewing the first two last fall, so first I’m just going to say, I love this world. Carriger has really done her research on this time period, and thought long and hard about how the society would have been different in this situation. The world is vividly described and makes me wish I lived during that time – to me that’s the best indicator of good world building. If I want to live there (no matter how awful the situations in the story are) you’ve done a really good job.

The other thing I loved, especially about this specific novel in the series, is that when I finished, I wanted to go get out my WIP and write. I wanted to build my world because I was so inspired by Carriger’s world building. I can’t write right now because of school, but it was a near thing. It is a very rare thing for me to feel that after reading a novel – usually I just want to read more – and I would like to thank Gail Carriger for giving me that inspiration. 

I had a feeling that this novel is really setting up the next book. We finally get some interesting facts about Alexia’s condition that seem to be setting up something bigger, and I can’t wait until the next one comes out to find out how she is going to resolve this. At the same time, I don’t want it to end, because being without new stories for this world will be very upsetting. I might even have to write my own new stories once it’s finished!

If you haven’t read this series, you must, must, must find yourself a copy of Soulless NOW!

Sometimes life gets crazy

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For those of you that don’t know, during the day I am a musician (or at least studying to be one). I’m near the end of my degree and that means I have to do a really big recital this semester. While I love performing and normally this wouldn’t be a problem, at my university you have to pass a recital jury about a month beforehand. For me, that’s in just under 2 weeks now. This is a big deal, because if I don’t pass, I won’t be able to graduate. So in order to force myself to practice more, I am restricting myself to two hours of internet a day. At this point, I don’t know what that will mean for my blogging – if I can finish a review in 15 minutes, then no problem! But I probably won’t be responding to comments or commenting on other people’s content quite as much. On the other hand, I’m going to give myself an entire day without practice the day after my jury, so I will definitely get to all comments and such then, so don’t stop commenting!

I love you all, dear followers, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s (or Single’s Awareness) Day, and I’ll see you in two weeks. Wish me luck!

Book Review: Nightshade

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Nightshade Nightshade by
Series: Nightshade #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: , ,
Pages: 452

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

My Review:

OK first, can I have a moment to squee over the cover? The color they picked is absolutely gorgeous, plus it shimmers! I would almost buy the book just to be able to look at the cover regularly!

Twilight fans rejoice! This book is exactly the kind of book you are looking for! It has all the elements of the Twilight romance – two hunky guys, each with his faults and a few merits, and a girl who has to choose between them. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of Twilight as literature, but it is a pretty good piece of fluff!

It occurs to me that I often use the term fluff to describe a book, and I haven’t really defined it yet. It would be easy to think that I’m being derogatory – I’m not. Fluff is a necessary part of the reading experience. For me, fluff is a book that I fly through twice as fast as most books and most importantly read simply for the pleasure of reading a story. I don’t go looking for a second, third, or fourth deeper meaning in these books, because I’m having too much fun just taking in a story. I don’t care what the deeper implications are, essentially. Now don’t get me wrong, you may have gotten some deep, wonderful message from Twilight (though looking back I’m having trouble seeing where you found it). But that’s the point – what counts for fluff is different for everyone. For me, fluff tends to be mostly romance (though not always) and has little or no bearing on my own life. And I love fluff for the simple, toe-curling pleasure of the experience of reading a story!

The thing with Nightshade is that while it was a fluff novel for me, it did have some issues in it that are good to think about – there are lots of arguments about individualism and oppression that have good points to make. I can see how feminists might not like the book (I saw some really negative reviews wandering around GoodReads) but if you can make it to the end of the book, it does get better, and I’m hopeful for the rest of the series. (I would argue this makes an even better point – if the heroine is able to get herself out of the anti-feminist situations and fight back then that makes a stronger point about feminism than if the book was all “GIRL POWER” the whole way. She just hasn’t got herself to that point yet – dealing with double oppression takes some working up to!)

OK, back to reading, I have so many books that I’m excited about in my TBR pile right now!

Book Blogger Hop! Feb 11-14

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Book Blogger Hop
It’s that time of week again! This week’s question is easy – Link to a post you wrote this week so that we can comment on that. I think it’s a great idea! There’s always that one post you thought was awesome but nobody seems to comment. 
This week, I posted two reviews (and an apology for not reviewing anything last week, but that doesn’t count). I think for today I’ll pick the review of XVI by Julia Karr. The book is very thought provoking and whether you like it or not, I really think everyone should read it. I mean, some people hate The Giver but it still gets taught – this is kind of like that.
What did you post this week?

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