Art · Reviews

The Phantom of the Opera Film (2004)

I have been swept into the magic of The Phantom of the Opera. It’s a tragic story of loneliness, unrequited love, obsession, and sacrifice. The story alone is beautiful and heartbreaking, but the addition of the musical score by Andrew Lloyd Webber heightens the drama and the emotion of the characters.

The phantom, forever alone and hardened by a lack of compassion from the world, wants nothing more than to be loved by the beautiful and charming Christine Daae, who he has helped to become a better singer. Christine is mesmerized by the phantom, but also fearful of the darkness that dwells within his soul. Where the phantom is darkness, Christine’s love is Raoul, her light and freedom. It’s a story of being trapped between two worlds and yearning for the light, and for love.

This film is magical. There are elegant costumes and breathtaking set designs – the scene when the phantom first takes Christine to his lair is dreamy and alluring with all of the gold and candlelight; it creates an enchanting atmosphere. The music of the film is incredibly rich and moving. The phantom’s powerful theme music perfectly fits his presence. With music like this, it is no surprise to me that the stage play has been so successful. The power of the score with the emotional lyrics creates an incredible combination.

And more than just the story, I think I also love this film because of the theatrical feel of it. I have an unrealistic dream of being a stage performer – I would love to dress in costumes and perform in musicals. This film has awakened that yearning inside me. Working on a film like this seems like such rewarding work. I am glad that Webber and the filmmakers brought this play to the big screen so more people could experience the wonderous world of The Phantom of the Opera.

Books · Reviews

The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

As someone who never reads poetry, this book was one I never gave much thought to – it just did not appeal to me. It was only recently that my interest was piqued thanks to a podcast. And while this book did not amaze me, the author did write many beautiful sentiments that gave me pause.

The author shares such personal thoughts, and I credit her for her bravery and vulnerability. She discusses heartbreak, grief, growth, and survival. There were many things I could not connect with, nor do I agree with her politics, however, the messages I did connect with were simple, but powerful. It was like she saw into my soul and knew how to perfectly form those feelings into words.

My favorite poem was this:

“what if there isn’t enough time to give her what she deserves do you think if i begged the sky hard enough my mother’s soul would return to me as my daughter so i can give her the comfort she gave me my whole life.”

I am glad I gave this book a chance, for I found a bit of magic in it.

Also, I did read her first poetry collection, Milk & Honey, and while I did appreciate her message behind it, I did not personally gain much from it.

Books · Discussions

Classics on my TBR for 2021

As mentioned in my post about my 2021 reading goals, I plan to read all of my unread books this year and get rid of the ones I don’t get to. Today I am sharing all of the classics that I own that I need to read before the end of the year:

Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – One is a physical book, one on kindle, and one on audio. Quite a variety here. I’d really like to read all of her novels – hopefully this will be the year I finally make progress.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I’ve never read from this author and I’ve never seen the show, but I’m very interested to see what all of the hype is about.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – I am very interested in this book. I had planned to read it in October, but I was in a bad reading slump at the time.

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – I have a vague memory of reading a Sherlock Holmes story a long time ago and I think I enjoyed it, though I don’t know if I finished it. I’ve always been interested in Holmes and this was free on kindle.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I have never read a Dickens novel and I’d really like to change that.

My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell – I really like the PBS show ‘The Durrells in Corfu’ and want to read at least the first book the series is based on. I’ve actually already started this and Gerald Durrell writes beautiful descriptions.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – I know nothing of this novel, but it has been on my TBR for years because an author recommended it. I got it on sale for the kindle in 2020. I’ve heard good things so I look forward to reading it.

Books · Discussions

Highest Priority Books for 2021

I decided to compile a list of the books I most want to read this year that I own. I have ten books listed, which was difficult to do; I started out with 15 and then got it down to 11 before I cut one more and had 10. These are my top priority at the moment, but it could change as times goes on. Any of the books I own that I do not read in 2021 will be gotten rid of at the end of the year, so here are my top ten books I do not want to get rid of before I read them:

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry – This is my TOP priority. I keep wanting to pick it up, but then never do. I really enjoyed Berry’s essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ and have been craving more of his writing. Berry writes about the environment and slow living.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – I was hoping to read this last October, but I was in a massive reading slump at the time. I am so interested in reading this author’s works. It’s a Gothic novel about a newly married woman who moves into her husband’s home where she feels the lingering shadow of his late wife.

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff – As someone who lives in the United States, I feel that I do not know enough about this day. I’ve been slightly afraid of listening to it because I just know it’s going to be gut-wrenching.

Lovely War by Julie Berry -I’ve intentionally avoided hearing too much about this book, but I do know it involves both world wars, Greek mythology, and romance. I look forward to diving into this one.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – This book follows two characters whose stories intertwine during WWII in France. It sounds like it’s going to be an emotional read.

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker – This book is set during WWII and sounds like a beautiful story about finding a family during dark times and the power of sacrifice.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold – I am so excited to read this. Often when people talk about Jack the Ripper and other serial killers, the focus is on the murderer. This book explores the lives of the victims and gives them the attention they deserve.

The Mummy by Max Allan Collins – Yes, this is in fact a novelization of the 1999 film starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. It’s one of my favorite films and when I found out it was novelized I just had to get it.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I really do not know what this book is about except for space travel – and really, that’s enough for me.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar – This sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. It follows a young girl who boards a pirate ship crewed by women and then goes on an adventure that includes creatures and magic.

Books · Discussions

2021 Reading Goals

Happy New Year! I just have a few reading goals this year, but thought I’d post them anyway. I really like setting my goals for each new year, though I rarely seem to achieve them. I don’t put too much pressure on myself with goals, I like to create them for fun. Without further ado, here are my 2021 reading goals:

Read at least 50 books – I had thought about setting my reading goal this year at 100 books, but I decided to instead set it at the amount of unread books I own instead. I also don’t know what to expect this year and don’t know how much reading I will be doing.

Read all of my unread books – I currently own 50 unread books which consists of physical books, kindle, and audiobooks. I always go through phases where I decide to read all my unread books before I allow myself to borrow from the library, but I always fail. This year I am allowing myself to borrow from the library, but at the end of 2021 I am getting rid of any unread books that I didn’t get to. I am hoping this is incentive enough to get myself to actually pick up my unread books.

Don’t buy myself a single book – In 2020 I had a bit of a problem with buying kindle books, especially when I was home for about 2 months, which always leads to later regret. This year I am not allowing myself to buy a single book. This shouldn’t be too difficult because I’ve been good about not buying books for a few months now.

Read at least one book by Matt Haig – This is a bit of a random goal, but I’ve heard some good things about this author, and there are a couple of books of his that sound really interesting. My top picks are The Midnight Library and A Boy Called Christmas.

Happy reading!

Books · Reviews

Forever Wild by K.A. Tucker

With the stress of school, life, and world events, I haven’t been reading much at all. I’ve started a couple books here and there, but nothing has been able to keep my attention. However, Forever Wild was released on December 1st (a book I’ve have been eagerly waiting for) and I was instantly hooked as soon as I read the first line.

If you are unfamiliar with the Simple Wild series by K.A. Tucker, this is a novella following the second book. The series takes place in Alaska and the first book, The Simple Wild, follows a woman named Calla who reconnects with her estranged father and meets a man named Jonah. It’s a story about family, second chances, and falling in love. I’d never read a book that took place in Alaska until this series, and for me that just adds extra magic to the story.

Forever Wild picks up after the second book. It’s almost Christmas and Jonah and Calla are expecting their family to come stay with them. As can be expected, the holidays + family = a lot of tension, especially since Jonah does not get along with his stepdad. Even with the tension, I would say there is minor conflict in this book, which I really liked. Readers get to catch up with characters and see how they are doing. Roy plays a major role in this book, which made me glad. I really like getting to know him better.

I am not going to go into more detail on the plot, but just know that this addition has the same charm as the other books in the series. It made me laugh numerous times, I cried, and the ending left me smiling. It was so nice to be back with these characters.

The next book in the series will follow Dr. Marie. I’m sad not to be focused on Jonah and Calla anymore, but I am excited about learning more about Marie, and getting updates on Jonah and Calla, too.

Books · Discussions · Reviews

A Must Read | Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

Contrary to what you might believe, if you’ve even heard of this book, this is not transphobic.

Actually, it is important.

I want everyone to read this book so everyone will be aware of what is actually happening with the transgender movement. It is dark.

The book focuses on the uptick in the number of girls identifying as transgender when historically gender dysphoria affected mostly boys and men. While there is a rise in trans boys there seems to be a decline in girls and women identifying as lesbian. Seem suspicious? The author explores possible reasons for this rise in trans identified girls.

The biggest takeaway for me as to why this is happening is because young people are being pushed into this identity from medical professionals, peers, and society. Instead of exploring why someone feels depressed, anxious, or gender dysphoric, the automatic response is to not question it and begin to affirm their identity and write a prescription for hormones. How did we get here? How is it okay to just right away begin medically changing a child’s body without any thought?

Worse still, parents are largely being left out of the conversation. Not only can students leave school to receive hormones without parental permission or even the parents’ knowledge, teens are encouraged to cut ties with parents who even question their new identity. To make matters worse, detransitioners and transgender individuals who oppose this movement are also silenced.

This book left a heaviness on my heart. It’s sad and horrifying. We are failing our children. We are failing them. They deserve better than this. Please read this book. This review does not do this book justice, but I had a hard time putting my feelings into words without rambling and I just really wanted to share it.

Books

Audiobook Recommendations for Newbies

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I have always been a bit lukewarm about audiobooks. I would listen to them here and there, but they generally needed to be really good for me to finish any. However, in the months of March and April I began to become obsessed with audiobooks. This is funny because I have the luxury of being able to listen to audiobooks at work, but could never really get into them. And then lo and behold I don’t work for two months because of the pandemic and that is when I get hooked. I can’t explain why.

I wanted to create this post to highlight some great audiobooks for beginner listeners from when I first started dipping my toes in to now actively seeking them out.

Murder Mystery

The Amory Ames Mysteries Series by Ashley Weaver – This is a light and fun murder mystery series following Amory Ames and her husband Milo. We first meet Amory and Milo in Murder at the Brightwell where we quickly learn that their marriage is in shambles. Solving a murder causes them to become closer once again and they continue to build their marriage throughout the series. The audiobooks are fantastic. Alison Larkin is the narrator and she does a great job creating a distinct voice for each character. It is very easy to follow along, even if you zone out for a minute. They aren’t terribly long either, which is another great bonus.

Classic/Children’s

Winnie- the-Pooh: Volume 1 by A.A. Milne – This is a topnotch audiobook. It is the best produced audiobook I have listened to thus far. Peter Dennis is the narrator and he brings the stories alive. There are also sound effects so it sounds like you are standing in the forest with the characters. The different stories are sweet and funny – I laughed multiple times throughout.

Non-Fiction

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt by Kara Rooney – I love learning about ancient Egypt and Rooney’s books are really easy to get into. Rooney also narrates this book herself – I love when authors narrate their own books. This book centers around 6 women who ruled in Egypt over time despite female power being unwelcome.

Odd Birds by Ian Harding – I was surprised by how much I loved this book. Ian Harding starred in the TV series Pretty Little Liars, and this book chronicles his life and his love of birds. I really liked listening to Harding narrate the book because his voice is relaxing. There are a lot of amusing stories – I especially love the one about the jellyfish costume.

Young Adult

Geek Girl by Holly Smale – I listened to this a few years ago, so my memory of it isn’t great, but I do remember liking it a lot and loving the narrator. It was a very entertaining young adult book to listen to while working. It follows a nerdy girl who ventures into the world of modeling.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella – It has been years since I listened to it, but I remember LOVING this audiobook. I knew I probably wouldn’t have liked the story as much if I had physically read the book. This would be a great option for someone just starting to try out audiobooks.

Reviews

Queen of Tomorrow by Sherry D. Ficklin

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Queen of Tomorrow is the second book in the Stolen Empire series by Sherry D. Ficklin. The series follows a young Catherine the Great on her journey to the throne of Russia. This is a series meant for fun and not for historical accuracy, so don’t pick this up if that bothers you because the author takes A LOT of liberties.

Since this is the second book in a series this review will be vague to avoid spoilers.

I went into the first book – Queen of Someday – with a lot of excitement because I want to read more books set in Russia, and I was expecting a really great forbidden romance. The romance was a major disappointment in the first book and it was still not my favorite thing in the second. The biggest problem for me has been that the romance happens too quickly and there is no tension or buildup. I want a Celaena/Chaol romance from Throne of Glass a.k.a. a super slow burn with a lot of sexual tension.

However, I did like the second book more because I liked the plot better, and I think Catherine had good development in this one. She goes through terrible stuff, but she doesn’t give up. She remains strong even when she feels about to break.

I would recommend this series because it’s short, fast-paced, and addicting. I am looking forward to book 3!

Reviews

Review: Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

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The Queen of Someday is a fictionalized account of Catherine the Great. I knew nothing about Catherine prior to reading this, but I have done some research since and think she is fascinating. The summary of the book says it is perfect for fans of the TV shows Reign, which I love and would have to agree with.

This book is not perfect, but I do think it is a good setup for what I am hoping is a great series.

The story follows Sophie – who later becomes known as Catherine – who is the princess of Prussia. She travels to Russia in the hopes of winning the heart of Empress Elizabeth and her nephew Peter who is to become the next king of Russia. She does not count on falling in love with someone else.

The book started out strong and I was hooked. Sophie is so cool and courageous in the first chapter. I knew I was going to like her. I found the first few chapters really compelling as I waited to see who the love interest was going to be, though I already had my choice picked out. However, things went downhill quickly.

The story went in an unexpected direction and the romance was not what I was expecting or wanted. The romance was not believable because it happened too quickly and did not have much development at all. The two characters suddenly loved each other and I did not really understand why.

Also, there were interactions between two characters that confused me and seemed unrealistic for the times. However, I am not familiar with the societal norms of Russia during that time, or it could have just been the author taking liberties. I often didn’t understand Sophie’s mind or motivations during these interactions.

The book is short, which might be why it didn’t work that well for me since there wasn’t much time for a relationship to fully develop. I do think the book could have worked, despite its size, if the story had gone in a different direction.

My opinion might change after I read the second book, which I am very excited about! The ending of book one did bring my opinion back up and I am hoping book two brings more drama and a better romance.

There are so many specific things I want to say about this book, but I don’t want to give spoilers so I am going to leave it at that.

I would recommend this book if you like: forbidden & royal romances, the TV show Reign, and fictionalized accounts of historical figures.

I would not recommend this book if you dislike: insta-love, love triangles/squares, historical inaccuracies.