Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Red: May's Book of the Month

Last August or early September, shortly after my birthday, I started Black, the first book in the Circle Trilogy, which I received as a birthday present. I finished it, and then I started Red, the second book in the Circle Trilogy, which I borrowed from Jason and Shannon, and after reading about thirteen or so chapters in it, I lost interest. From the beginning, I was skeptical about it. I'm not sure why. Probably partly because I had just read a whole Dekker book...hardly without letting myself stop to breathe. If you start one, you'll know what I mean. I guess I burned myself out of him...but anyway I stopped reading it, despite the fact that Brian urged me to finish it. He was surprised when I told him I didn't like it. He told me to finish it and give it a chance.

Earlier this week, I gave it that chance.
It was amazing.
Besides being rich with characters and an amazing plot, Dekker does in an entirely different style what Tolkien and Lewis did...what I hope someday to be able to do. Just earlier today Andy and I were talking about whether or not Lewis and Tolkien had an agenda behind their books.
I insisted that they didn't, and Andy said that he wasn't going to readily believe it. I see his point. I probably started the argument before I had enough information to defend my 'opinion' fairly.
I have read that neither Tolkien nor Lewis had an agenda behind their novels; that they meant them for entertainment.
After having a friendly discussion with Andy about it, reading some old notes of Brian's in an e-mail and finishing Red, I realized that it isn't quite that simple.
I'm not sure how much either of them meant for their books to be allegorical, or parallel, or whatever, but I do know that both wanted their books to be entertaining. Lewis was more deliberate about his books being Christianized that Tolkien was, but I still don't know how deliberate either of them were.
You're probably wondering what any of that has to do with Red....but as I was reading, and as I was suffering with Thomas and Rachelle (obviously on a much smaller basis) and as I was breathing deliberately, hungrily awaiting to see what would happen next, a whole lot clicked together.
What Tolkien and Lewis mean with their little pieces of wisdom found in their much more there was to it than I thought there was....and how a novel can still be incredibly entertaining and meaningful with an 'agenda.' I'm not sure if Dekker had an agenda, but I think he did.
Sometimes Fairy-Stories May Say What is Best To Be Said.
That's a direct C.S. Lewis quote. There is so much that suddenly dumped itself on me, that there is no way that I can explain it all here, or take the time to, or even try to make whoever is reading understand, but let's just say that now I know why The Circle Trilogy are listed as some of Brian's favorite books in his profile.
While reading it tonight, my understanding of both love and Christ deepened.
The story is engaging, full of great twists and turns, and wonderful characters, with a wonderful wonderful ending.
I don't think I'm ever going to be another Lewis or Tolkien. I don't know if my books or my mythology will ever measure up to them, or any other great writers of the past. But maybe, someday, I can be one of those people that writes a good book in the tradition of Tolkien and Lewis, like Ted Dekker or Donita K. Paul.
There are dozens of others who were influenced by Tolkien or Lewis in one way or another, but I don't know all of them.
The great thing about all of these fantasy stories...the ones that I have grown to so admire, adore, love, to a certain extent, and prefer over any other novel, is that the ones written within a Christian world-view can bring us so much closer to The Greatest Story of All....the one that really happened.
I think that's what Elyon and Aslan and even Gandalf are meant to do, even in a small way. And then there's Lucy, and Edmund, and Thomas and Rachelle and Frodo and Sam.....parallels.
I can't express how much clicked together when I finished Red, but I highly recommend it. Red is May's Book of the Month, because I was captivated, moved, touched, I started to cry at the end and it's the kind of great book that I hope to write someday.
If you haven't read the Circle Trilogy yet, you should. Start with Black.
To Buy Red or White, click on their links.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How to Grow a Woman from the Ground

This is the second Chris Thile CD that I've listened to.

I thought it was a good CD, but I think it could have been a lot better. For one thing, the CD was mixed terribly. Half the time I can't even hear what Thile is saying, because the instruments are so loud.
Most of the songs were mediocre as well; they were good songs, but they just didn't capture my interest as well as his songs from Nickel Creek do.
I thought that the cover art and whole layout of the album was cool, though. I thought this album had a sort of nature theme to it...paisley and purple, bees, dirt and blood kind of give you that impression. The best song on the album was definitely its namesake, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which was written by Tom Brosseau. I got to see him live when I went to see Nickel Creek (he opened for them) and I have to say that I wasn't impressed. He actually sang How to Grow a Woman there, but at the time I was so bored with him that I didn't listen very closely. He sounds like a woman when he sings, and he didn't have a very good stage presence. Sad, but true.
I think that his song is great, though, so I decided to post a few verses of the song below.

Opened up my almanac
And in my mind I read

"Cut your wrists on the fins of the fish and drain all you can"

So I rolled up my sleeves and then began to draw

Lines just as deep as days are long

I sewed up my wrists and soaked the ground with my blood

Stained up my clothes pretty good and
I turned that dirt to mud

I could not help but close my eyes and lay my body down
Cause I heard it takes forever to grow a woman from the ground

And I bleed for you now and I'm skinny as a rail

I'll be so obliged to keep you nice and warm and safe
h, and won't you be so proud of me

Mmm, hmm, hmm
Mmm, hmm, hmm

Isn't that a cool song? That's the last few verses. The rest of the album was good....but just not all that impressive. It was kind of forgettable. It also didn't import well to my laptop, so I only have the first six songs on my iPod. I listened to it in the car, and I'll probably listen to it a few more times before turning it back over to Andy and deleting the first six off my pod.

Wayside was good, The Beekeeper was good, and a few of the slow songs were good. I just think he could have done so much better than this.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

I finished Pride and Prejudice last night on our way home.

I'm glad I took the time to read it. It was almost exactly like the movie, so it was hardly worth reading, but now I can say that I read it. My favorite part was the last couple of chapters, because it was close to the end and because those were the most interesting to me.

I'm sorry I haven't much to say about it, but everybody already knows everything about Pride and Prejudice, because everybody (or at least most of everybody) has seen the movie. Andy and Alissa haven't, but....:)

It was a good book. It would have been a lot better, though, if I didn't have the movie memorized.
So if you haven't seen the movie, don't see it until you have read the book. I'm looking forward to Sense and Sensibility, because I've only seen the movie once, so hopefully I can read the book next month and then watch the movie again. I remember really enjoying the movie.
So here it is: Pride and Prejudice. I've watched the movie twice in the past month, and I'm on the verge of watching it again, because Dad wants to see it over. The new one that is. I like the new one better than the old one, because I like the new Elizabeth better, and the new Mr. Bennet better, and the new Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy better, and the new Mr. Collins better, and I like the new Jane better, and the new Lydia as well as the old one. The new Mrs. Bennet isn't quite as good as the old one. I like the new Charlotte Lucas better. Oh wait, I take it back, I like both Mr. Darcys.

I don't know that I like the Gardeners better, but I do like Mr. Darcy's sister better than the old one. The music to both is good....although I would rather listen to the new one. The music to the old one is just part of the experience.
I think that both Mary's were good, although I didn't much like the new Kitty.
I think both Caroline Bingley's are good. They're both so despicable.
This isn't actually the copy of the book that I have, but I don't know that I like the idea of somebody trying to paint Jane and Lizzy. The movie got them right, but I don't like the way they are both portrayed here. Hmm. But it is a nice cover, anyway.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book of the Month: April

I feel guilty for taking this long!

Okay, here it is...The Return of the King is April Book of the Month.
Even though it was book of the month in March, I decided that it didn't count since I hadn't finished it yet. It counts this month because I have finished the Novel Part, but I still haven't gotten to the Appendices.
So there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yet another note to spammers...

Hello again to you annoying people that post links to anti-virus sites on my blog.

I am letting you know for the second time that I am not posting those kinds of comments unless I know what the link is and/or who it is from. You are totally wasting your time if you leave comments with links on my blog. I will reject and delete the comment. Just letting you know. It would save both me and you time if you would stop.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nim's Island

I knew it would be good as soon as I saw the trailer. How could it not be? Abigail Breslin was the little girl and Jodie Foster played an obsessive compulsive writer. Add a wise-cracking character that's only in her head, and it would be worth seeing, right?

Mom and Dad and I went to see Nim's Island on Tuesday. Okay; the movie was a bit forced, and a little corny in some places. It wasn't as good as I thought it would be, but it was still good. It might be a better one to rent, just because I can't say with a good conscience that it was great. Some of the animals they used looked fake. But maybe it was real. I don't know.
On the good side, the movie was cute, funny, and even though the plot was forced, it was a good idea. I think I had my mind made up to like it when we went to see it. For one thing, how could you get a more creative name than Nim?
And then, the relationship between Nim and her scientist Dad was really sweet. Gerard Butler played two parts: Nim's Dad, Jack, and Alex Rover, the adventurer that talks to Jodie Foster all the time, and he was funny. (Even though in reality, Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster) is the real Alex Rover and the writer of all of the Alex Rover books.)
That's one reason that I wanted to see the movie so bad. I think that most writers can relate to how their characters talk to them some times, right? I'm not so unsure of myself that Dwalyn or Jack has to pull me out the door to get me to go somewhere, but sometimes I have a conversation with them in my head.
Nim also had a great imagination (like me, of course.. :D ) and there were some parts that were pretty cool when she was imagining stuff, like being in the middle of Alex Rover fighting a bunch of guys blindfolded, or when she was dancing with Indians. That was a good part. There were lots of good parts like that.
The guys from the Buccaneer ship were incredibly corny, but they were kind of funny. They looked like they were trying to be pirates.
I do recommend Nim's Island, but because of the corny moments and forced plot, rent it, don't buy a movie ticket. I thought it was really cute. Plus, I also just really like Abigail Breslin. She's a good actress. I think that its scary that she can do all of that stuff in front of a camera (like crying) and she's two or three years younger than I am. Just goes to show that everybody has a different gift, right?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Raising Sand

I had high expectations for this CD...Andy and Alissa were singing its praises, and from what I had already heard, I had liked it a lot.

I was INCREDIBLY impressed. The CD is mellow and dusky. It has a kind of melancholy sound in the notes; even though it isn't a CD that makes me sad. It has a content sound.
Krauss has a very unique voice...for that matter both of them do. Even though it's an odd pair of voices, they sound really good together.

Each song is unique, both with lyrics and tune, but all of them sound like something you would play on a rainy day.
My favorite was Please Read the Letter, which was about a plea from one lover to another (I'm guessing) to read the Letter that he had written. It was really beautiful with very interesting lyrics.....actually kind of weird, but very interesting.

Your Long Journey, which, while not exactly my very favorite, I liked a lot. It sounds kind of like a hymn or an old folk song.

Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us sounded like a gypsy ballad.

Nothin' was closer to a rock song than any of the others, I thought.

In short, I liked nearly every song. Fortune Teller was really fun, and kind of funny.....

the whole CD was just so unique....a combination of gypsy ballads, musical cries of woe, and images of places called the deep and rings and pretty birds.

Caught out running - just a little too much to hide
Baby baby, everything's gonna work out fine
Please read the letter - I nailed it to your door
It's crazy how it all turned out - you needed so much more
Too late to play - the fool can read the signs
Baby baby, you better check between the lines
Please read the letter I wrote in my sleep
With the help and consultation of the angels of the deep

Once I stood beside the well of many words
My house was full of rings and charms and pretty birds
Please understand me - my walls came falling down
There's nothing here that's left for you
But check with Lost and Found

Please read the letter that I wrote
Please read the letter that I wrote

One more song, just before we go
Remember, baby, the things we used to know
Please read my letter and promise me you'll keep
The secrets and the memory to cherish in the deep
Please read the letter that I wrote
Please read the letter that I wrote
Please read the letter that I wrote

This CD was so good! Definitely on my list of CDs to get......and if you like good music, you should check it out. A CD that was so good it would even raise sand. :D

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

I now have one Chris Thile CD (one of the guys from Nickel Creek) that a friend gave to me.
I absolutely LOVE it. There is only one song that I don't like much on it....all of them are really pretty with catchy tunes, every song with a twist. Some of them are slow, some of them soothing, and some how he seems to be able to convey ideas through the notes.
The CD is named after a line from a poem of Tolkien's.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.

There is also a song called Riddles in the Dark....the infamous chapter in which we first meet Gollum. I think Arwen chants the last four lines in The Return of the King movie as they renew the blade that was broken.

Really great cover art too. I like to draw, and I think that it was a really creative idea to use a graphite drawing for the CD cover. Each song has its own sound and its own melody. Thile's mandolin notes are quick and clear, like rain. Absolutely beautiful, and very relaxing. Several of the songs have segments where other stringed instruments like cellos join in. This is a melodious CD with amazing songs and Thile's genius talent for composing tunes and melodies. Wow. I highly recommend it!
PS this is the best picture I could find. I don't like the white frame, but you still get to see cover, and that's the whole point, right?

Why Should the Fire Die?

I borrowed Nickel Creek's last CD from Andy the other day so I could listen to it again....I listened to it last year before we went to the Nickel Creek concert (which, again, was AWESOME...).

I think my favorite songs are When in Rome, Somebody More Like You, Can't Complain, Anthony, Doubting Thomas, and Helena. (So what if it is half of the CD?)
At the moment, Why Should the Fire Die? is my favorite Nickel Creek CD. That's probably because I haven't heard it as much as the other two. I think each of their CDs has a style. The first one, just titled Nickel Creek, is the most folksy. It kind of has an earthy tone to it or something. More primitive. The second one I always pictured as being 'the malt shop CD.' I think it's because of the cover art. The girl on it looks malt-shoppish. Why Should the Fire Die is the boldest. I would say that it is kind of like their rock CD, but it isn't rock and roll. Itunes classifies it as Country, but I classify them as Bluegrass, or at least Bluegrass style. WSTFD is their darker CD, with a darker and more mellow sound than the others. Sort of melancholy, almost. Their first CD is content, the second happy, and this one sad. Or something like that. I think they have some others that are out of print, and one that they did when they were kids, which I haven't listened to. WSTFD was not produced by Alison Krauss, although the other two were.

This is definitely one of my favorite CDs.

A Note to Virus Links:

I have been getting lots of comments on the blog that say: See here and here, or See Please here.

This is a note to the people who try to post those comments. Call it a policy if you like: but I'm not going to publish links unless I know the blog and the person who posted them. If these comments continue to pop up, I will merely reject them. No luck for the people that post them. EVER.
Thank you very much.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Signs: Movie of the Month

Signs is the April Movie of the Month. Cool huh? To find out why I chose Signs, you can read my review here.

Signs is AWESOME!!!!!! Totally my favorite M. Night Shyamalan movie.
Like Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, I am now quoting from this movie, which I now need to put on my list of movies I want for my birthday. Or maybe I should just buy it......

The Return of the King

So I have finally reached the end of the final part of Tolkien's epic trilogy. I feel like I've really accomplished something some how.....I was very proud when I finished The Fellowship and Two Towers for the first time. And the second time! Now I've finished The Return of the King for the first time. :D
I still haven't read the Appendices, but I probably will start those soon and read them gradually....I may even review each of the stories and pieces of history there separately. It seemed like the first several chapters of the book I read rather slowly, and I remember being bored part of the time, although I did really enjoy the parts with Beregond and his son and Pippin. I've come to the conclusion that I prefer reading narratives that concern Pippin and Merry and Aragorn than Frodo and Sam by themselves. I'm not sure why....but I enjoyed the first half of the Two Towers better than the second half. And I love Gandalf! I always enjoy parts with him in it. Gandalf is such an elaborate character, but when I think of writing a character similar, it sounds like it would be easy. In some ways I expect that it would be hard, though.

I remember particularly enjoying the chapter in which Merry and the Rohirrim encounter Wild Men. I loved that part! It's really sad that they left that out of the would have been a great scene!

The Houses of Healing was also a great chapter. I think it reveals more about Aragorn's character and a lot of cool stuff about Middle-Earth's herb lore. I thought The Scourging of the Shire was a bit of a sad chapter.....and it's really annoying to find out that the movies changed so much! So Saruman didn't die until Wormtongue killed him on the doorstep of Bag End. Hmm.
I deeply enjoyed Return of the King, and I'm looking forward to starting the Appendices and The Silmarillion, although I plan on taking a break from Tolkien at least until I finish several books that I've started. Again, I'm not sure to say about Return of the King....there is so much I could cover.....but I'll probably do some Upperground Notes at some point, or maybe I'll do a huge study later this year. There is such a difference between Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter isn't as epic-like as LOTR is, and in The Lord of the Rings, I can sometimes distinctly imagine a place without name that was never mentioned in the book that I know for certain to be some place in Middle-Earth, whether the movie showed it or no. It's almost creepy....but the books and movies are so vivid that I feel like I know Middle-Earth well enough to know of some of the dark places that Gollum has been to, and to know of things that were never mentioned. I think Tolkien would probably have told me that my mind was playing around in his region of Faerie, a place where these sorts of stories hide until someone like a writer discovers them. A bit poetic, I know, but that was based on Tolkien's essay, On Fairy Stories.

...And then all the host of Rohan, burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible and it came even to the City.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, Book V, The Ride of the Rohirrim.