Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Day in the Life (14)


So this is going to be a pretty short post because:

A. Nothing much of note has happened, and
B. I've just spent the past couple days frantically trying to get my moving stuff together since I found an apartment and will be gone for the next two weeks which pretty much only gives me a week to pack up my stuff and move across the country.

In an attempt to remain calm, let's talk about pretty things.  In last week's post comments, Shannon and I talked about some of the pieces out there that make our heart go sideways (and you should totally go check them out).  I was thinking of other songs that have that effect on me that I didn't mention, and this one is definitely in my top 5 classical pieces that make my heart go mushy.




We talked a lot about soundtracks (I LOVE soundtracks. I would kill to play in one! ...too bad I'm not in the LA Phil or a British oboist :-/) which made me think of one of my favourite dances off SYTYCD from the...3rd? 4th? season which was choreographed to a piece from the Memoirs of a Geisha soundtrack.


Wade Robson was probably my favourite choreographer on the show other Mia Michaels. I've pretty much loved every single dance they have choreographed, and I was pretty sad when he stopped showing up on the show.  Also thinking of SYTYCD...I accidentally left my youtube up at the family I nanny for and I think one of them accidentally deleted my playlist with all my favourite SYTYCD dances which makes me very sad.  Maybe I'll post them here while I rebuild the list...


In other news I'm going to be hard core working for the next two weeks in an area with no phone service and likely very poor internet service, so I might not be around the blogosphere for a while :-/.  We'll see if I'm able to do any posts while I'm working on my move - they might be a necessary destressing time for me haha. But I might be gone basically until the end of August because my life is just super crazy what with work, the move between three states, and my best friend's wedding. (I HAVE TO MAKE A SPEECH GUYS. I'm seriously freaking out about it.  I have a month to write it...but...speeches man. And when it's for your best friend on her wedding day....it needs to be good.)

In any case hopefully I'll be around, even if it is sporadic, and know that even if I'm not able to comment or respond to your comments, I'm appreciating each and every one of them (and I'm probably reading all your blog posts too!)


Bookish News

Books I Wish I Could Stop Reading - I'm not the only one!! Meg and I are clearly of one mind on Cassandra Clare. And Lost.
3 Things About Me As A Reader - Jamie talks about discovering how other people read after she started blogging
Diverse Books – What Can You Do? - All of these! But the last one especially can completely change how you view everything, and it is amazing!
Diverse Also Means Disabled - Margo has compiled a great list of YA and MG books featuring characters with disabilities!
Author Guest Post!: Mental Illness, Brain Disease, and Societal Pressures: My Top 5 Books on Brain Matters by Lisa Martens

Nonbookish News

Recaps From the Brightest Timeline: Community Season 6 Episode 1 “Intro to Friendship” - An imagining of what would happen in season 6, this is so freaking awesome!! I would totally watch this.
Meryl Streep on Beauty - This is just really beautiful. But then I also adore Meryl Streep (doesn't everyone?)
AsapSCIENCE Makes a Compelling Case for Why We Should All Eat Bugs - ....they really do make a good case for it. I feel really bad killing things though...And legs. I can't even eat shrimp with the head or legs on...
Things I Never Knew I Desperately Needed - Ummm yes. I never knew I need a horse with its hair shaved in the shape of its skeleton, but now I NEED IT.


And last but not least, I leave with a song by First Aid Kit. My roommate has had me totally hooked on them for the past few weeks. 


See you guys around!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monday Musings: Genres and Complacency

Ahh, my standard putting a post up not on the day that matches the title...in my defence I currently don't have internet. (And will probably not have internet for the first couple weeks of July, so we'll see...) I will also say, please excuse my English for the rest of my post because I wrote most of this late at night...and I've been binge watching a K-drama so...my English sounds a little unnative at the moment haha!


-->Until fairly recently I thought I read pretty much anything.  Over the past couple years, I've realized that I don't really love all genres. For example, I've known for a while that paranormal romance because just doesn't really work for me.  There are a few things that I think are on the border - Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' Kiesha'ra series technically is a shapeshifter series which makes one think paranormal, but it really feels like a fantasy novel, and Laini Taylor's Smoke and Bone series has angels, but again in a lot of ways feels more like fantasy.  I've also grown to know that perhaps I don't read all that much contemporary fiction and my consumption of historical fiction has greatly diminished (and I don't know why since that used to be a staple of my diet), but I at least was pretty well rounded when I came to science fiction and fantasy.  Right?   

Wrong.  

 
I read almost exclusively fantasy novels.  I only recently realized, after a conversation with one of my only IRL bookish friends, that I don't really read any science fiction.  Admittedly, I do read dystopias. But I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I read a science fiction novel that wasn't a dystopia.  And of the other genres I read, almost all of them border on fantasy in some way.  Yes, Anne McCaffrey is science-fiction...but she has dragons and a similar set-up to the feudal systems you find in fantasy.  So...it's still close enough to fantasy for me to feel like I'm not reading much in other genres.

Over the past couple years I've also almost entirely cut adult fiction from my reading. It used to comprise of probably 40% of what I read.  In this whole year, I've read only 4 books that are clearly adult fiction books (Things like Locke Lamora can be classified as both I feel) that weren't for review.  None of these things in and of themselves is bad - young adult vs. adult is simply an audience change. But again - I think getting stuck in one audience is just as limiting as reading one genre.

Yes, it's good to streamline your books so you are reading books that interest you.  But by being so selective with my books, I've also boxed myself into a very specific genre with very specific messages.  And that means that I'm not pushing myself.  At what point does the balance between not wasting your time on books you might not like start to encroach on reading book that push you to  new ideas and experiences? Is that something you worry about, or is it better to consume as many enjoyable books as possible?  I'm of the mind that I want books that push me, because it just opens you up to so many new thoughts and experiences, but I also feel like my patience for books outside my comfort zone has greatly diminished as I have started to blog.  The last book I can remember challenging my way of thinking or putting things in a new way for me was Just Like Fate - a contemporary novel (with a twist. Could potentially be seen as a contemporary with sci-fi undertones?)   I think it is noteworthy that while I've found some of the best fantasy novels I've ever read in the past six months, none of them have made me have that "Aha! I never thought of it that way" moment.  

So here is where YOU come in!  Over the next few months I want to start reading some books that aren't fantasy.  Any genre (even paranormal romance), any audience - picture books, mg, ya, na, adult! I'll try them all!  It may take me a while to get to them - I'm going to be moving and it's going to be totally hectic basically until September, but I will hopefully get to at least one of the recommendations/person...by the end of the year? (I'm terrible at challenges, so I make no promises as this is a bit like a challenge...but I think I have it in me!)  Some of you have already recommended me some books that I am putting in a new goodreads shelf that will be just for book recommendations from you guys!  Feel free to browse my favourites shelf and the books I really, really, REALLY plan on reading (instead of my 1000 book tbr pile haha) to help with the recommendations or to vote them higher on my tbr list.  I can't wait to see what you guys come up with!





Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Day in the Life (13)



I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 and OH MY GOD GUYS.




 I was basically on the verge of tears the whole time because it was so bloody cute...and then I was on the verge of tears because it was sad.  And then cute again.  I seriously would watch a whole movie of just the opening scene where it's like a weird hybrid quidditch/dragon thing. So awesome!!!  I don't want to give any spoilers away, but let me just say that I was impressed with a part of the movie that I didn't think they were really going to commit to - and then they did.  Spoiler: When was the last time you saw a parental character die during the movie - not before? And a main character - after all Stoick was a main character for an entire movie before he died in this one - and he plays no insignificant role in this one as well. End spoiler.

It also had a pretty good soundtrack - there's a scene in the opening that totally reminds me of a Vaughan Williams symphony. I can't remember exactly which one, but here's an excerpt of one of my favourite symphonies.  Vaughan Williams writes just really gorgeous pieces with these intricate textures and....just listen to it.



I also loved how clearly affectionate Astrid and Hiccup were - not too mushy and over done, but a clear physical familiarity with each other.  That sounds kind of weird, but if you've seen it you'll understand.  And there are so many other reasons why I love this series - having main characters with disabilities, but not dismissing them or making their character meaning and development rotate around the disability.  And this movie has a serious case of female gaze (aka the opposite of male gaze), which is awesome.  Anyway go watch it. Now. For any reason at all. (But mostly because I WANT TOOTHLESS.)





I'm currently on the east coast looking for apartments.  I'm really sad to leave Chicago - it's by far my favourite city, and my apartment is basically my dream apartment in my dream city.  But being back on the east coast has been a lot of fun - and getting to see my boyfriend and friends has been SO much fun.  I went shoe shopping for my maid of honor outfit...and...things ensued:


I have never had so much fun at a Goodwill in my life hahahah.  (...we'll probably never be allowed to go back...)  And I totally bought that hat.  Best $4 spent. LOOK AT ME I'M A LADY.  I also got all three LotR on dvd which I'm super excited about, since I only have the first one.  And it's a bootleg, so sometimes the movie is suddenly in really high pitched Chinese.  Which is hilarious. They totally used a girl voice actress for Frodo hahahahaha.  

My friend (pictured above) also took me to my very first comedy showing!  Apparently that's a thing everyone but me has done? In any case I had a ton of fun!


 Some of you might recognize Hal Sparks - he played a role on the American version of Queer As Folk (which was quite good, but I never finished it because I found out the show got cancelled without everything wrapping out).  He was hilarious, and ended up talking about a lot of different subjects - everything from the bible to technology to...just everything!  So he was interesting and smart (*cough* and cute *cough*) as well as funny.  All in all it's been a great visit so far even if I haven't managed to look at a single apartment yet.  Flying up right before the weekend was cheap...but I didn't think through the logistics of when apartments are shown.  

 In the meantime, I've been watching loads of k-dramas - I'm in the middle of Heartstrings which features my favourite couple from You're Beautiful.  I don't love it quite as much as I loved You're Beautiful, but it's still a really fun drama so far.  Plus it's got plenty of good music to make me happy since the drama is about a traditional instrumentalist and a guy from a rock band - the leading man is the lead singer of the band CNBlue (who I LOVE. They're a rock band with some funk influence and some of their songs have kind of an indie vibe to them too), so a lot of the soundtrack comes from that.  I've recently become obsessed with this song:


That's a live version Minhyuk - the drummer from CNBlue singing while he's accompanied by one of the guys from SHINee (another Korean band).  Isn't this song so adorable and catchy?!  And that's it for my week!  Anything fun happening in yours? 


Bookish Links

Kick FeedBurner to the Curb! - Oh my god this was so useful!! I never would have finally gone to change all my feedburner info if Hannah hadn't put step by step directions for EVERYTHING you could ever need. Go read this and fix all the things!
Jacqueline Carey Says Game of Thrones Opens the Doors for a Kushiel’s Legacy TV Show - I would SO pay for HBO if this ever happened! Can this please happen? For real? PLEASE?!
Blog Tour + Giveaway: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo - Leigh Bardugo talks about her female characters in the book
Books For A Cause: A Win-Win For All - More details on the page, but it's a way to raise money for a good cause!
YA Authors Read Snarky Reviews - Inspired by Celebrities Read Mean Tweets
What are the best LGBT books for children, teenagers and YAs? - This is a pretty long list of SO many books I now want to add to my TBR pile :)
Rainbow Books Galore - Hans was kind enough to feature a post I wrote earlier this week about finding LGBT in books.  He searches the web and posts all sorts of interesting links about LGBT in fiction, so this is definitely a site to have on hand!


Nonbookish Links

We All Benefit From Better Representation - A look at diversity in media and why we continue to primarily have straight white male characters
Unnecessarily Recasting Star Wars: Han Solo - Umm. Obviously. Nathan Fillion. But if I could have anything in the world, it's the whole situation outlined underneath Neil Patrick Harris - read it, and dream.

Disney's Into The Woods Cuts The Best Song From The Whole Damn Show - Wait. WHAT?! I literally yelled that out loud when I read this article!!! Angry angry angry argghhhhhh. It completely changes the WHOLE POINT of the musical!  And this is possibly my favourite musical. It's between this and Aida. So I care a lot.  But even if I didn't....how can you change a moment that literally effects the ENTIRE ENDING. Just sayin.
A Brief History of Fandom, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Fan - As part of the YA community, I'd say it's safe to say all of us are part of at least one fandom. This takes a look at what that means, how it happens, and fandoms through history!
The Lion King Turns 20 Today… and It Was the Most Unlikely Success Story You Will Ever Hear
We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome - I'm not sure I agree with everything in the article, but the author certainly makes plenty of valid points.
Personal Care Products with Microbeads are Polluting Water, Illinois Becomes First to Ban - Yay Illinois!! And if you use microbeads...check out this article. You might rethink it!



I'll leave you with this video of guys dancing to Beyonce. In heels.  And holy crap these guys are freaking amazing! They totally kill it!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Feature and Follow #4: My favourite mugs (and the best books of this year)

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow


I haven't done one of these in ages!  Luckily it's right up my alley - all I want to do these days is drink coffee and wine (yay no school!  Boo loving drinks that cause dehydration...)  So with no further ado...voila!

 


The mug on the left was actually a present I got for my dad...probably for Father's Day?  ...but I liked it so much that I nabbed it when I moved out haha.  It just fits so perfectly in my hand and it's fun and bendy :)  The other mug I've had...as long as I can remember.  I originally had four - one for each season, but sadly over the years all the others have broken, and all that's left is winter.  The scene is from the chapter where Winnie the Pooh is building Eeyore's house (...accidentally using sticks from the house Eeyore had built himself haha).  Yes I have read the books that many times lol!








And last but not least is a mug with a quote from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice""You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure therefore you need not conceal your age."  My mom gave it to me for my twentieth birthday because she always knows just what to get me :)

Now I want to see all your favourite mugs!  Leave me a link in the comments!

(P.s. In case you were wondering, that's Haven on the tv in the background. I've been watching it nonstop thanks to Kirsty and my lack of self control.  Soooo addicting!)

Edit: So apparently Alison and Parajunkee had different questions, so to answer Parajunkee's, I will direct you to my Top Ten Tuesday post from last week.  The post has pictures, links, and why I like them (and why you should read them).  Here's the quick list:

 1. The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
2. The Drowned Citiies by Paolo Bacigalupi
3. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
6. The Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
7. The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch
8. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
9. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)



Summary

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?



Thoughts

It's rare that I'll begin a book and have a ton of red flags raised in the beginning...and then end up loving loving the book.  In the beginning I was beginning to think that the blogging world had gone mad!  I mean you've got your stereotypical mean girl (which admittedly, was still one one of my least favourite bits), there's a set up that's guaranteed to pit friends against each other - even worse all over a boy, all the friendships all seem focused on said boy...needless to say I was pretty skeptical. And then I got to page 69 (I swear it's just chance it's that number!). And it all changed for me.

This is...kind of spoilerish?  Maybe? Light spoilers, in any case.  Throughout the book Anna proves that's she's really interested in Etienne for who he is as a person and as a friend, and she is really doing her best to not fall in love with him, because she doesn't want to be interested .  It's not like in a lot of books where the character just says it over and over - Anna shows it. And by page 69 I was completely convinced with their relationship.  And their love story evolves so slowly, with a solid foundation in friendship, which is everything I could ever want in a book centered around a love story.  It's totally swoon-worthy, but it's also slow burning and messy and imperfect.  And despite being centered around a love story, that's not all there is to this book.  It's also about finding yourself, navigating foreign waters both literally and emotionally, messy relationships - family, friends, and romantic.  It's basically just a story about life, and it's pretty much beautiful.  Was it perfect? No.  I wanted more show and less tell in her female friendships, and particularly just more Bridget in general.  But otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed it and as a debut novel it means everything is going to get even better in her other books.


TL;DR

If you're like me and were skeptical with the premise, and the opening of the book is totally not your thing...trust me. Just trust me and keep reading.  Contemporary lovers should read this for sure, anyone who's a sucker for romance, and if it influences you at all, this was on my top ten books I've read this year!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Musings: LGBT in Books


https://www.goodreads.com/series/40408-the-kiesha-raNote: Some of what I'm going to talk about relates to this series, since it's what provoked the response in the first place. But a lot is relevant to views on LGBT in general, and I've marked spoilers for the series where relevant.  But I will warn you, that while I do my best to mark things, if you are determined to read Wolfcry, you might want to read it before this, just in case.  Onwards!


During my month long hiatus, I spent a lot of time rereading books because that's what I do when I get stressed out.  In fact if you look at the list of books I've read in 2014, May's length is pretty much triple all the others, and almost all those books are rereads haha! During this reread I decided to tackle Amelia Atwater-Rhodes Kiesha'ra books, since I remembered really enjoying them in high school and had recommended them to someone fairly recently. If you don't know about them, they're a collection of really unique shapeshifter books - these aren't your typical werewolf ones (although the later ones do feature wolves). There's snake shifters and hawk shifters and tiger shifters and dragon shifters (ok aWyvern, but they're basically mini dragons).  The world building is amazing, especially considering how short all the books are.  I mean she not only has a full culture built in with social norms, religion, mythology, and history...she has that for multiple cultures. At least 3 fully fleshed out in the series, but another two that she's clearly mapped out as well.  But as I said, the books are short.  They could all stand to have at least another 100 pages to flesh things out a bit more.  In fact that's really my only complaint, otherwise they're a really fun, quick read.


Once I'd reread the books, I decided to go onto Goodreads and update my ratings if needed, and just generally browse reviews.  When I got to Wolfcry...I was shocked.  And with each review I could slowly feel my anger build, and build, and build...until I was about ready to explode. 


 Clearly I need to go on a Goodreads review ban again.

I ended up writing a review more as a rebuttal to what other people had written, rather than a review of the book itself.  It's not the most well thought out thing I've ever written since it was very much done in anger. This review is much better written and is well worth reading and really nails down everything great (and not great) about this book.  (But there's spoilers, be warned).  In any case, it's the other reviews I want to talk about - the ones that made me absolutely seethe inside.


Next comes a small spoilery bit, just so you know.

There was a reviewer who actually thought she was going to end up with the wolf who TRIED TO RAPE HER before Betia could be considered as a love interest, and thought that would have been a better choice.  There are people who would rather have a woman raped than have them end up with another woman. Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute.  I don't know why I was surprised by that sentiment...but I was.  Everyone seemed shocked by the ending choice. I wasn't. Admittedly, I'd read the book before, but it has been OVER A DECADE, so I couldn't remember the ending. You could argue that might put me subcionsciously more likely to understand the ending and pick up clues, but that's beside the point.  There are all sorts of hints that happen with Oliza's travels with Betia.  Things that if it had been a male and female character would undoubtedly have caused people to ship them, but because they were same sex characters, the thought didn't occur to them.  That in and of itself is not a problem - that simply says to me that there need to be more books out there like this.  We need more exposure.  It's the reaction after the surprise that makes me angry.   

END SPOILERS


What concerns me the most is not the people who were outspoken about their belief that lesbian relationships are unholy.  They will always be there. For all of time. There is nothing we can do to change that.  There are still people who believe interracial couples should be condemned to death and that women shouldn't be leaders.  I like to think they are in the minority and that mostly they're just kind of crazy. But the people who pretend they are ok with LGBT relationships? They're what's scary. They know it's not socially acceptable, so they think they are ok with it.  And I honestly think that most of them really believe it of themselves, because most of us think of ourselves as good.  But when these people are actually confronted with said relationship, they rebel against it and are disgusted. They don't want to hear about relationships that are different from theirs. They don't want to read about anything "other".  In some ways - very minor and very different ways - I understand the kind of invasive questions and disgust that gays get.  I don't want to make it seem like what I have experienced is anywhere near what the LGBT community goes through.  But I often encounter the same sort of people (the ones who don't think they're being offensive).

It's like the people who have seen me with my boyfriend. He's Korean.  I know I'm not getting as much flack as I would if he were black, but I've still had encounters - from people who probably don't even believe they are racist.  I've had people ask me if I have something against white men.  I've have people tell me to look them up when I'm interested in a real man. I've had people make assumptions about my boyfriend's genitalia that I really don't find entertaining.  And honestly? What right do you, as a stranger (or even as my friends and family), to talk to something like that with me, simply because of my boyfriend's race?  It's also just feels invasive. 


If I was dating a white man not a single one of those conversations would have happened.  Not. One. Ever.  I feel like I'm in a relationship that is probably one of the most accepted as far as dating outside race goes, and certainly more accepted than LGBT relationships are.  (Although I've noticed it seems to make a big difference - towards the negative - that I am a white woman and he is an Asian man, and not the reverse. I have my own theories regarding that, but this post isn't supposed to be about this, so I won't get into that now).

A lot of the same situations happen with LGBT relationships (and I'm not speculating on this - I have friends who experience this all the time).  They want to know who the "girl/guy" in the relationship is.  Or they feel uncomfortable if you show any physical affection in front of them - but they're totally ok with your relationship, really.  And some of them actually do mean well and are just curious.  We need books out there that make these relationships seem normal so that people don't end up being treated like they're at the zoo.  Books like these are the books we need for world views to change.  I've mentioned before, particularly about Tamora Pierce, that although I don't think I ever would have had a problem with the LGBT community (because my family is awesome and raised me well), I also think being raised on books like these have ingrained in me that people are just people no matter what they look like or who they love.  Books can have that power, especially when kids get to read them. 


We're getting spoilery again:

I think it's also important to have books specifically like this one, where you aren't set up from the beginning to know that the main characters are going to be gay.  I feel like I've seen fewer poor reviews of books that were either set up from the beginning to have an LGBT relationship or if it is a side character, because people going in already know that's what they're getting.  I feel like people think it's "ok" to have books about gay characters...but they don't want to read about them.  Not if it's a main character and not if the character can be seen as straight at any point in time.  Not if there's a potential love interest of the opposite gender.  Then it's suddenly not ok.  And that's what scares me.  Because put in those terms, it's letting people who think they are allies show that they still believe LGBT relationships are inferior to straight ones.  That it is preferable to have a man stalk you and attempt to rape you than choose to love another woman.  And that's unacceptable.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Day in the Life (12)


I'm done with school forever!!!!  I am officially a Master of Music. That's right. A MASTER. I'm one badass pro musician.  (Haha jk, totally going to have to eat ramen noodles as a staple diet food)  I can't believe it's finally all over! ...ok mostly I just haven't really let it sink in yet.  Then it will sink in and I will realize how much it's going to suck not having government loans to help out anymore haha!  But I'm enjoying myself for the moment...lots of tv, pokemon, and books in the park. (And by books I mean fanfic because for some reason I have no interest in reading. I haven't read a book in two weeks!)  Other than spending all last night playing Pathfinder and Galaxy Trucker with friends, I have done nothing of note this week haha.  But the good news is that I finally got my videos all uploaded to youtube!  So for your viewing pleasure....some Bach!

First I've just uploaded a little explanation of my program (I'll post the whole program below).  It also gives a little explanation of what I had to think about for the arrangement I did myself (the Bach).  It's just me awkwardly talking so feel free to skip it haha!





And here's my arrangement of the first movement of the Bach. This piece is completely solo, but if you want to hear something really pretty with piano accompaniment, I direct you to the Ravel.  If you're looking for something really flashy, then check out the Bozza!



Program

Three Folk Songs From Country Csìk by Bela Bartók - This was originally written for recorder and piano, and is a collection of three songs Bartók heard in Czech Republic.
Fantaisie Italienne by Eugéne Bozza - This was originally written for clarinet and piano, and is supposed to be Italian...ish. If you're looking to listen to something flashy, this is definitely the piece to check out.
Escales by Jacques Ibert - One of the only pieces that isn't an arrangement from another instrument, but it is originally supposed to be performed with orchestra. I've posted it in the original form before, but here's a link to a different recording!
Violin Partita No. 1 in b minor by J.S. Bach (posted below) - Obviously this was originally written for violin! I arranged the piece myself to fit the range and ability of the oboe (although it very closely follows the original). I performed 5 movements of the piece, so if you want to hear the rest of them, just check out my youtube channel!
Sonatine by Maurice Ravel - This was originally written for piano, and is just a really beautiful piece. Ravel is one of my favourite composers, and this genre of Classical music is definitely my favourite! I actually considered using this video instead of the Bach, but I figured everyone loves Bach. But if you check out another video, I'd recommend this because it's just so pretty!  Again, there are three movements, so the link is only to the first one.
Phantasy Quartet by Benjamin Britten - Can you believe this is only the second piece he wrote?! He wrote this when he was 19! Makes me feel like such an underachiever haha. This is one of the coolest chamber pieces that I know of (and chamber music is my thing so I know a lot of chamber music). I wish I had another recording of this because the recording really didn't pick up the cello sound, and as this was the last piece on my recital I had a ton of slip ups that have never happened before. But we didn't record our other performance, so such is life :-/

And that's it! That's my entire very long program. It was a ton of fun, but I am so very glad it is over now haha.  And with that, I'm going to devote my full attention to the Avatar: The Last Airbender Marathon that's on right now.  Babysitting for people with tv is just fantastic :)




Bookish news

The Tough Guide to (Writing) Fantasyland - An entertaining look at inconsistencies in fantasy 
Anish Majumdar for MHAM - A (heartbreaking) discussion with authour Anish Majumdar about dealing with mental health in family
An Almost-Angry-But-Decidedly-Positive Post on YA Lit, Fantasy, and Comics! - Both a rebuttal to the Slate article and a look at some awesome comics (And why you might like them)
Crazy-awesome THRONE OF GLASS News & Some Updates! - OH MY GOD TAMORA PIERCE SARAH J. MAAS a;sldkfja;lskdjf *flails**turns into a blubbering fangirl*
The Thief Lord, Childhood, and Adults - It's been a long time since I'ver read this, and you don't need to have read The Thief Lord to understand this post. Thought provoking - well worth checking out!
The Story Behind "Love You Forever" Is Probably Not What You Thought - Oh man. You're right - this is WAY sadder than I thought it was!
As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish - I am horrified by this and apprehensive as to what it means for the future on a lot of fronts (granted, this is a couple weeks old so I'm not sure how much has changed since this was published).  Amazon has been worrying me for a while, but now it's really moved into my territory. I'm doing my very best to stop buying anything from Amazon.  Boo cat food prices in my future :(
If Pop Songs Were Works Of Fiction - Ahahah these are great! The Rebecca Black "Friday" song one is suuuuuper creepy. And R. Kelly's "Ignition Remix" is just beautiful.

Slate Article

The Slate Article: A Rebuttal - The girls at The Book Wars discuss their views on the article (and if you've read anything by them, you know just how well thought their writing is)
I Defy People to Not Be Impressed by Books for Young Readers - Christina knows the Slate article is both nothing new and an uneducated view of YA Lit. Want some books to convince the nonbelievers? She's got examples from all genres and age groups!
Thoughts on "Yes, Adults Should Be Embarrassed to Read Young Adult Books" - Some really interesting thoughts on the matter

Nonbookish news

Why Geeks Do What Geeks Do - This is a really exceptional article, I highly recommend it. It discusses recent tragedies and explores what it means to be human. 
Fictional Symbols on Political Stages: Thailand Protestors Adopt Hunger Games Salute - Thailand and other movements who have adapted fictional symbols 
Which YA Fantasy Heroine Archetype Are You? - I'm The Political/Religious Pawn!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker #2) - Paolo Bacigalupi

The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker, #2)

Summary

Goodreads: Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.
 
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.
This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker
is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.



Thoughts

Ok, so I'm cheating. I have totally been slacking and not really reading much and I'm too lazy to go get my kindle and do the mini reviews I meant to do. So I'm posting a review I posted to Goodreads during my hiatus last month.

I just finished this book (well ok, I had when I originally posted this) and I am still reeling in the aftermath of emotions a book can give you when it's that good. This book is so powerful. I really, really enjoyed Ship Breaker, but it didn't speak to me quite the way this one did.   I think part of that comes from my absolute favourite character from Ship Breaker (Tool) becoming a main character in this story. I just connected with these characters, and particularly the ethics vs. survival situations our characters are put in time and time again. I'm not entirely sure of the timeline here, whether it was set directly after or ages after Ship Breaker, which is honestly my only complaint.  So if you're looking for a connection to our lovely MC's from Ship Breaker, and Tool isn't your idea of the best character ever...you might be disappointed.

Just like in Ship Breaker, the world that this is set in is terrifying - and so easy to see in countries around the world right now. It's much bleaker than the dystopias we've come to see in YA fiction these days with Diveregent and Delirium, and to some extent The Hunger Games (and no, I'm not knocking these books. I loved most of them and they have completely different messages and purposes. I'm simply using them as a comparative device to this one). In part this is because of the lack of romantic interest here, which would have felt out of place, and to be honest was one of the things I didn't love about Ship Breaker. What I take from this setting, and what makes it so terrifying, and the messages so powerful...is that it's real. This isn't an imagination of a distant future - it's an imagination of a distant American future. Which is to say that it is a real, current event in many places, most notably Africa. It's clear that Bacigalupi did lots of research on child soldiers, and it is brutal and effective.

There are just so many great things about this series that I think are eye opening about our world today - race, politics, environment on a larger scale, and on a closer scale, loyalty, greed, and power. I think these books really explore how humans operate - both good and bad - and immerses you in a world that feels like a dangerously real possibility.



Why you should read this

1. You loved Ship Breaker
2. Dystopias are totally your thing
3. You love your dystopias without an ounce of romance
4. Diversity, world building, awesome characters, thought provoking

(In other words read this. Unless you need romance, which I'm sure many of you do, in which case this might not be your thing. But I think it might be a little life changing if you do read this).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year


This week is surprisingly easy since I've taken a page out of a few other bloggers book and kept an excel workbook page thingie with a list of books ranked.  And even more awesome - my friend has been asking me for books I'd recommend for her, so what's better than my favourite books of the year!  So Lydia, this list is dedicated to you!


10. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)

Why you should read it:  Paris, France. Studying abroad. The most perfectly imperfect dream boy ever. Pushing comfort zones, great friendships, complicated family relationships - this contemporary romance has it all. (And even if you're a doubter after the first few chapters like I was, TRUST ME. This relationship develops in the most real, amazing way.)



9.  The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice 

 Why you should read it:  This book is powerful.  It deals with slut shaming from many different points of view (and if I recall, none of them were by Alice, the focus of the story). It's amazing how much of myself I saw in all of the characters. Mathieu doesn't take the easy way out - all of her characters are complicated, and as their stories unravel, you discover why they make the choices they do, and how this sort of situation snowballs so easily in real life.




The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Why you should read this: This cover. Magic realism. Some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read. I could get lost in Walton's prose.  I was pretty much speechless when writing my review. That's how beautiful and indescribable everything about this story is.



7.  The Gentleman Bastards series - Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)

Why you should read this: Ocean's Eleven meets epic fantasy. Rogues meet Sherlock Holmes.  Clever trickery, elaborate plans, a whole cast of rogue characters, diversity, amazing bonds of friendship. And the third book? AMAZING SWOONERY. Best. Love. Confession. Ever.



6. The Harper Hall Trilogy - Anne McCaffrey

Dragonsong (Harper Hall, #1) 
Why you should read this: Dragons. Anne McCaffrey. Do you need another reason? Most of you don't know this, but I'm a pretty big Anne McCaffrey fan. I will say that you should probably read at least her first book of the Dragonrider Trilogy for this to make sense, but these can stand alone. (Also I pretend the third book isn't in the trilogy. But the first two are great!!)



5. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl 

Why you should read this:  Freshman year - the awkwardness, the terror, breaking out of your comfort zone, leaving your family, finding new boys, balancing life and classes.  Adorable boys, snarky but loving roomies, finding your own independence.  If you haven't hopped on the Rainbow Rowell craze...what are you waiting for?!




Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Why you should read this: Fantasy set outside of the Western world (Prague! Marrakesh!), diversity, world building, mythology, best secondary characters EVER (I love them all. But Zusanna and Brimstone have special places in my heart). This is right up there with Leslye Walton's book for most beautifully written. There's just a way that the words are put together that's so magical!  And the way some of the characters are described is just so vivid (and I can picture them in a Clive Barker Abarat painting. But more purple and less orange.)



3. The Lumatere Chronicles - Melissa Marr

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1)

Why you should read this: OH MY GOD HOW HAVE I WAITED SO LONG TO READ THIS?!?!!?!  Finnickin of the Rock was fantastic - but Froi? And Quintana? OH MY GOD THESE BOOKS.  (I may have read these two weeks ago, so my obsessive love hasn't had time to chill out yet.) Actual reasons why you should read this? Yeah. Um. Any? All? If you like fantasy at all (and even if you don't but are thinking of trying it out), you need to read this.



2. The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker #2) - Paolo Bacigalupi

Drowned Cities

Why you should read this: Scarily realistic (as in I can see us here in 50 years) dystopia, no romance (although that might not be a selling point for you), diversity, features my favourite character from the first book.  Although this is the second book, each book can be read as a stand alone, and both of them are powerful. I personally fell in love with this one, but the first one I think is a little less intense and features a bit of romance. 



1. The Newsflesh Trilogy - Mira Grant

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy, #1)

Why you should read this: Zombies, government conspiracies, assassinations, bloggers, scientific background behind zombie virus, twists you'll never see coming, a CRAZY ending to the first book that I didn't think the author was really going to commit to, so when she did my great respect for her multiplied a thousandfold. I mean this series as it all.  It's so good that I've been craving a reread for MONTHS despite the fact that I read the series for the very first time in January. I don't crave rereads of things unless at least a year has past.  This is one of the first things I read this year and despite the other fantastic books on this list - nothing has topped this.  And I honestly don't think anything else will (maybe Heir of Fire?).  It's that good.  So read it.



And Lydia, forget everything on this list and go read The Handmaid's Tale if you are going to read ONE book I recommend you. (But really read all of these). And for everyone else, what made the cut for you? Leave me a link in the comments!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Day in the Life (11)

 




I'm back!!! Let the super long what-has-Elizabeth-been-doing-for-a-month post commence!

I actually didn't think I'd be able to start blogging until JULY because my computer broke, but luck is with me this week!  The past year has been very...anti-Elizabeth's bank account.  Have a car you completely own 100%?  HAHA JK NOW YOU DON'T.  Need a cell phone?  Better get a new one! (Admittedly that one was completely my fault.  There's only so many times you can drop a phone before it explodse haha).  Need a computer for all your papers?  Too bad!  Apparently I have water damage? But I am positive I didn't spill anything on it because of what happened to my last computer (...I'll do a post on that one day. It was pretty notable experience lol).  The only thing I can think of is that maybe my cat knocked something on it in the middle of the night?  In any case it didn't work and I need a new computer.  But it's working now...so...maybe not? I'll be manically backing everything up just in case though!  So that's basically a long way of saying...I'm back yay! But if another computer tragedy hits, I might disappear for a while again.

I finished my comps (approximately 24 pages of research) right on time, and my recital was a few days after comps were due (which was stressful because you DO NOT take time off the week before your recital!!) But that ended up going fairly well, so it's all good. I meant to have a clip of my recital up for you guys, but I haven't been able to meet up with my friend who so kindly recorded it for me. (And I didn't want my first post back to be a TTT post, so I figured it was better to sacrifice the video).  I should have everything up for my next Sunday post though.  For now a picture of my recital dress will have to suffice!



My mom and brother came up for the performance, so the next day we went through all the touristy things.  I took them down to the beach, introduced my brother to the wonder of avocado bubble tea smoothies, and we went to the Nature Museum which has a butterfly haven which is SO AWESOME. I mean there's basically thousands of butterflies flying all around you (and also there's quail which are so adorable! They huddle together and then walk all over each other and gahhh so cute!)  I had a butterfly land on my back for the better half of our visit.  My family was super creeped out because it apparently thought I was a flower and kept licking me hahahahaha.  Then we went downtown and saw the bean and went up to the skydeck of the Willis/Sears Tower.  They went out on the Skydeck Ledge, which I refused to get on.  I had done this a couple months ago with my friend Sage, (I'm going to be her maid of honor in August!!!), and it about did me in.  Once is more than enough!  

After that, my mom left to go home, and my brother and I went out to this AWESOME bar I'd gone to last year with my boyfriend. (I sent him pictures which made him grumpy since he was supposed to see me this month and he'd been looking forward to going back all year haha) The bar itself is kind of like a chemistry lab - they do all these crazy things, and I'm sure some of them are more for impressive appearance than for tastes sake, but I don't care.  It's impressive either way.  We had drinks served basically like a three course meal.  We got a complimentary champagne/rum/lime/mint slushy to start with, and then for our first course we both chose the drink that had champagne and orange liquour and paprika (and some other stuff, but mostly...paprika!)  For the second course Thomas had some sort of fruity fizzy thing that was delicious.  His may have been delicious, but mine was delicious...and EPIC. 


This photo of The Aviary is courtesy of TripAdvisor


I mean with a name like Infernal Imagery, what could you expect?  It must have been pirate themed because it came in a small wooden treasure chest haha!  When they opened it up a ton of smoke came out.  And I'm not talking dry ice - I mean actual cedarwood smoke! No idea how they did it. I had picked it because when I asked the server to explain what was in it since I didn't recognize any of the words (I'm such a plebe) he said the words smoky rum which pretty much sold me haha.  For our desert drinks I got a Thai Iced Coffee which was by far my favourite drink of the night (Although all of them were amazing).  It had coffee liquor and maybe some condensed milk?  On top was some cotton candy dusted with cinnamon, anise, and cardamom which they melted into the drink with some coffee liquor (I think?).  Basically it was amazing.  And tasty.  And almost as epic to watch as my pirate one (but really, what's more epic than a smoking wooden chest? ...cue weird thoughts about hot Pinnochio...) Sadly no pictures turned out well on my brother's phone nor are there any online :( So here's a picture of his tasty fizzy drink!


The next day my brother had to leave, so I took him out for a Chicago dog (I owed him $5 anyway for betting there wasn't really a huge trend of putting butter in your coffee.  God I should have known. The things LA people come up with are the weirdest. Also if you don't know what's on a Chicago dog look it up now and GO GET ONE.) and sent him on his way.  And since then other than a few rehearsals for some gigs this weekend, I've mostly been watching tv and staring forlornly at my (not) broken computer (anymore). 

Hardison and Parker - hardison-and-parker PhotoI finally finished Leverage, which I'm feeling pretty indifferent towards, except for this -->

Aren't they adorable?!?!  Parker/Hardison are my new favourite characters ever.  And their relationship is so adorable and sweet!!

I even managed to convince myself to watch an episode of Merlin.  Only one though, I have a great aversion to finishing this series.  I keep getting more and more tense because I know I'm getting closer and closer to lots of angsty episodes and....and...THE END.  I think it's also tough because the series as a whole is pretty humorous, and I'm pretty sure there's not much in the funny department this season.  I CAN'T HANDLE IT. Have also tried the first few episodes of Vampire Diaries...and I'm unconvinced? Should I remain so or keep trying?




And to wrap it up, here's my music obsessions of the month!


Most of you have probably heard this song ages ago, but it was in a...Dior perfume commercial? And I can't stop listening to it.  The chorus is especially catchy!


This is one of my favourite pieces of music of all time.  I heard the Baltimore Symphony play this life and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life (and this was by far their best concert I've heard).  It's possible some of you may recognize this theme - it's actually his Fanfare for the Common Man which the whole symphony is based on.

And that's it for my past week month.  Next week we'll have my recital stuff up and in the meantime catch me up on everything I've missed in the pass month!