Saturday, September 28, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: A Tale of Two Cities {Charles Darnay}

Okay by now I'm sure you've noticed that I'm a Charles Darnay fan. Which is why you're about to get a good dose of fangirling. It's such an unpopular opinion, which is why this will also be a post in defense of Charles. Although it's mostly fangirling you will have to put up with.

When I hear the name Charles Darnay the first word that comes to mind is gentleman. This is the best word to describe Charles; he's a proper European gentleman. His manners are impeccable as he thanks Lucie for her testimony at his hearing, only showing concern for how the events have affected her. Falling in love much?
Next we find Charles defending Lucie's name and honor. He's already loyal to her despite the fact that there's still no relationship between the two of them. Think about it! This attribute is so rare to find in boys/men these days. I hardly ever come across a guy willing to stand-up against a crude joke or stand-up against someone who's being out of line. Usually I find them all in a group, laughing and acting like over all animals. Charles manages to do all this without even loosing his temper.

This is where a lot of people start pointing out that "yes, he's a great guy, but Sydney loves Lucie more." Of course Sydney loves Lucie (more on that in another post), but Charles and Lucie share a love that Sydney could never be a part of, Sydney himself admits it! Charles was willing to admit he was a French aristocrat to Doctor Manette because of his love for Lucie. During the French Revolution this was basically declaring your own death wish, even if he was living in England. Anything could have happened to take him back to France, as seen later on in the plot.
Now we've come to one of my favorite parts: his asking Lucie's father for permission to marry  and the proposal itself.
First off he goes to the father. Obviously that was a must for that day and time, but it still gets to me. Asking the fathers permission is becoming 'old fashioned'. To top it all off Charles is so respectful, honest, and soft spoken. Secondly, he's gone to Lucie's father before making any advances what-so-ever! He hasn't even spoken of his feelings with her. Yes, they both are deeply in love, but he's respected her so much so to the point he's willing to admit his feelings to her father first. Just look at his face as he waits for Doctor Manette's reply. It's as if he is in pain not knowing.
Then the proposal: *swoon*

They're so sweet together. I could never see Lucie actually marrying Sydney Carton, but Charles on the other hand....also note to my future husband...the above mentioned going to the father is a must, minus the singing of course. Daddy would probably say no if you on the other hand...well if the proposal was sang then I would most definitely say yes "before Miss Pross comes back"

ACK. Once again I must fangirl over this kiss. THIS KISS. It's got to be one of the best kisses ever to take center stage of musical theater. I'm sorry, but Cosette and Marius don't even compare to this. Not ever. The run-across-the-room-take-her-in-his-arms-lovingly-gaze-into-her-eyes kiss is just *swoons again* Okay, but back to why I love Darnay (I mean the kiss is great but...). When Miss Pross interrupts the kiss Charles instantly steps aside, asking for Miss Pross's forgiveness.
The wedding. Oh my goodness. You can just see how devoted Darnay would be as a husband. (would it be overly dramatic for me to swoon again....yes?....okay well I'll try and refrain from swooning.) There's no doubt about this love being fully consuming. This was clearly a match made in heaven. Of course its sad that Sydney is so pained, but these two are so happy. 

I swear I'm not trying to make Darnay out as perfect. He's obviously not, since he is after all human. But just look at this. He is in complete aw of this child they've brought into the world. Lucie and Little Lucie are clearly the center of his universe. Someone please find me a Charles please? He's a romantic, he's honorable, he's a family man, he's even brought Sydney into the family as a close friend. 

Look at how he's gazing on his daughter and how his wife gazes at him. Okay, so confession time...I'm a hopeless romantic. No, really I am. This scene brings me to tears. So much love between Lucie and Charles, and even more love between them and their child, then there's Sydney with little Lucie, and then Lucie and Sydney and ACK.

Charles arrested for coming to help a friend. He KNEW the risks of going to France with the title bestowed upon him. Still, he went because it was the honorable and right thing to do. On the other hand he was torn between  staying with his wife and child, but could he really stand by and do nothing while a fellow countryman was in need? 

At the trial he bravely accepts his fate in front of the Republic and his wife....but really his heart is being torn apart as he suffers the consequences of his honest actions. His taught's are not on his own life or death, but how they will change the lives of his wife and daughter...the two women that haunt his dreams.

Okay another confession. Men who cry break me, or at least they break my heart. That tear slowly rolling down Charles face as he sings of Little Lucie...just hand me a tissue please....

But then most of all Charles is willing to give his wife a happy life, one where she is loved. He basically tells Sydney that he knows Sydney loves his wife and that Sydney needs to take care of her. He's basically telling Sydney to love his wife, even though it breaks Charles heart. Yet, Sydney has other plans and proves his undying love for Lucie in a better way, giving Charles back the love of his life.

Well here we are at the bottom of the page (finally!). Sorry, I just really love Charles Darnay...actually come to think of it I'm not sorry. Anyhow, who do you prefer better Charles (I can't be the only one to like him...can I?) or Sydney? 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: A Tale of Two Cities {Review}

So here we go, a  review (aka my ramblings about how awesome it is) of A Tale of Two Cities: Live in Concert (as seen on PBS), since I was unfortunate enough to miss actually seeing it life. Anyhow, let me first say this is one of the best musicals that's ever been on stage. It was much too short lived.
The story begins, being narrated my Michel York, and the timeless words of Dickens "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." First off let me say that I loved the narration, it helped keep the plot strait, and I just love how Michel was actually reading bits from the book. Secondly, the 'concert' is very much like the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts of Les Miserables. However, there is more acting in AToTC, which is a major deal breaker for me.

The concert's plot picks up in Paris, France with some of the most epic notes in the entire history of musicals. In those few measures you feel this spark lighting in your soul. This very spark is the very revolutionary ideas that the Defarges are kindling. Doctor Mannette has been rescued after 17 years in the Bastille, and Lucie Manette has just arrived to take her father home. Their reunion is one of the sweetest things I've ever listened to. The plot picks up rather quickly, moving through underhanded dealings, a trial, and of course the ever preset love 'triangle' that seems to be a must in good musicals like these. Let me just say the loves songs in AToTC are some of my most favorite love songs in the world.

"And while you're trying to forget her, she'll steal inside your head, and she'll be holding you so close
there'll be no place for you to hide"

"I can't recall, a night so clear, the heavens seem an inch away, not cold and empty like before a night as sweet as this...I can't recall"

"Lucie haunts my heart haunts my thoughts, my prayers, my dreams, my nights, nights, she is everywhere that I turn"    
"How she haunts my heart can she see the way I look at her I wonder if it shows can she read my thoughts I wonder if she we go again every time I think this endless dance is done he turns away...round and round and round we go, but no one every on earth can he not know...can she not know I love I love him.." 
"I can't believe you're really here, I can't believe you're really mine, and all I ever want is you, my dreams came true today....if dreams came true I might have been a better man, if dreams came true you might have set me free, but God is kind, for you he had a better plan and saved you from the pain of loving me." 

Okay, end of love song lyrics. There was a point to them, really there was, but now I can't remember. Oh, yes. It was the point that I wanted to make. AToTC is one of the greatest love stories to be told. The love of two men for the same woman and in turn the love of a woman for two different men. Charles loves Lucie with a pure heart, with an untainted soul and in turn Lucie loves Charles with every fiber of her being. On the other hand Sydney's dark and twisted heart is drawn to the light of Lucie. She is also drawn to him, but with a different love she feels for Charles. It is the love of friendship, and that love stays despite her marriage to Charles. Then the binding love of a parent and the innocent love of a child make their way to the stage. Towards the end of the musical you see all these different types of love coming together to create the greatest sacrifice of all, laying down one's life for a friend. Sydney knows he and Lucie will never hare the love she a Charles have. He knows if Charles is to die Little Lucie will loose the love her father showers down upon her. His selfless love drives him to give up his life for the very man who stole the love of his life. This is the greatest love of all. A Tale of Two Cities is story completely driven by love.

The cast is amazing. Which brings us to Charles Darnay. I know I've been saying how much I like him all week, but you have to realize how much I LOVE the guy. However, I will save the major fangirling for tomorrows post. For now I will just say that Simon Tomas was really amazing. He perfectly captured the idea of a gentleman in love. Not to mention that he and Brandi Burkhardt (Lucie Manette) fit together beautifully. James Barbour who plays Sydney Carton is probably one of the best fits for this character. The humor he brings out makes everyone laugh, but at the same time he is so consumed with this desire to be loved that your heart aches for him. One of my favorite moments with Sydney is when Lucie gives him this very short scarf and he's not sure of what it is. One of the best funny moments sprinkled throughout the musical of heartbreak to be sure. The Defarges played by Kevin Earley and Natalie Toro were also great choices. Their voices are so moving and powerful, something that's a must if you're leading the parts of Revolutionist! Out of all the rolls in the cast however, I think we can all agree that Catherine Missal, playing Little Lucie, was the sweetest and most darling thing ever.    

Okay, well that's it for today...sorry it wasn't much of a review. I tend to ramble on and on when it comes to my favorite musicals I forget about the 'reviewing' part. Anyhow, I highly recommend the PBS version of AToTC. You can watch it on Youtube by clicking the link. Just be prepared to fall in love.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebration of Musicals Week: {Song Highlights}

Well here's is a post with highlights of the top twelve songs in AToTC. I considered doing the entire musical, but then I realized that it would be quite a long post. Also today is a pretty busy day for me, and I didn't get in on the blog part early enough to have posts written and scheduled. Anyhow here we are with my 'favorite' songs. Apologizes for all the Les Miserables references. They make their way into everything.  
  • Prologue: The Shadows of the Night – Dr. Alexandre Manette and Lucie Manette 
        Okay although there might not be too much singing in this song the instrumentals are phenomenal! We're talking about an amazing orcastra. It definitly helps build the tension that runs through the entire show. 
  • The Way It Ought to Be – Madame Therese Defarge, Ernest Defarge and Ensemble/Sydney Carton (Reprise) 
    This reminds me a lot about 'Look Down' the beggars version of Les Miserables. This is probably one of the most epic songs of AToTC. It starts off with Madame Defarge talking about the pictures she knits, which of course is a huge plot twist in the book. Ernest Defarge's "You've always known this world is black and cold and human life is cheap. You've always known most men are out for blood...." Are just about the most epic lryics of the song. The reprise to this song is also your epic introduction to Sydney Carton. He's just amazing. If this were Les Miserables then this would be Grantaire's theme song.   
  • Reflection — Sydney Carton
    Mr Carton's reflection of his actions. *cries* You can see into his soul and how torn of a man he is. A part of him is attracted to Lucie Mannette, but he tries pushing her aside. At first you almost want to dislike him, just because he's a bit rude. Then he starts talking about his dreams and *cries*. He wants so much, he wants to be a better person, and those very dreams are what torment him. 
  • I Can't Recall — Sydney Carton
    Lucie has just gave Sydney a goodbye kiss on the cheek, only as a friend of course. However, this kiss turns Sydney's world upside down. The words to the song talk about how he can't recall the days of his past. Lucie's kiss has made them all disapear. It gives him a hope that the dreams tormenting him might actually come true. This song has some of my favorite lyrics..."I can't recall a night so clear, the heavens seem an inch away, not cold and empty like before, a night as sweets as this tonight I can't recall." Its so pure and one of my absolute favorite songs. 
  • Now at Last — Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette
    A Heart Full of Love used to be my favorite love song. This song however has completely taken its place. I'm working on learning it on the piano. This is just one of those songs you pour your entire heart and soul into. To top it all off the kiss that happens in this song....*swoon*...I know most people prefer Sydney over Charles, but Charles is so in love with Lucie and yet still to kind to Sydney that it actually makes me prefer him more.  
  • If Dreams Came True — Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton
    Ack, my heart. The emotions are too much in this song. Charles is so in love with Lucie. In a few lines you can tell he loves her with all his heart and soul. Sydney's "But God is kind for you he had a better plan and saved you from the pain of loving me." brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. It just show's just how much he loves Lucie. He was willing to give up the fight so Lucie could be with the better man.  
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind — Madame Therese Defarge
    Another Ack moment. The instrumentals to this song is spectacular. I could just listen to the orcastra for hours. It's such a pain and anger driven song, but the undertones of the lyrics are so full of this bitter love. If a you could write a history book using songs then this song would fully portray the suffering of the people prior to the French Revolution. When the tempo of the song speads up you feel this surging hatred for the Marquis. 
  • Little One — Gaspard, Little Lucie, Sydney Carton, Ernest Defarge and Men
    Little Lucie is just about the dearest little girl in all of the musical productions. Her concern for Sydney's soul is so touching. Her innocents protects her from the worries of the current Revolution. When Ernest Defarge and the Men join in on "little one" I typically burst into tears. The "little one" killed in the street by the Marquis carriage lays limp in the arms of his father, the worries and pains of the world killed him, finally to give him release. *sobs* 
  • Until Tomorrow — Ernest Defarge, Madame Therese Defarge, Sydney Carton and Ensemble
    THIS SONG. It screams Enjolras and the barricade boys. It's such an epic song that I'm just going to post a link so you can just listen to the epicness. This is the BEST song from AToTC. This is another one of those 'needs to be in a history book' song. The message of the song is a mirror to One Day More. Litterally. It's almost the same exact song. Which is probably why I love this song so much.  
  • If Dreams Came True (Reprise) — Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay
    Sydney has just taken Lucie away and has tried to comfort her. Charles is lamenting his coming to France because of the price Lucie and his daughter will have to pay...his death. He sings of how Lucie haunts his dreams while in prison. 
  • Never Say Goodbye Lucie Manette 
    The movement from If Dreams Came True to this song is absolutely flawless. I wish I could write music like this. What makes this song so emotional is that it mirrors Charles thought's of Lucie. Her lines start with "How you haunt my dreams..." as the musical swells to accompany "Never say goodbye!" is completly sung from the heart. It's very much like Eponine's "I love him, but only on my own." Only Lucie's speaking   
  • Finale: I Can't Recall — Seamstress, Sydney Carton and EnsembleThe finale is so bittersweet. Sydney meets a seamstress that is being executed for working with a Marquis. The young woman is terrified and draws on Sydney's fearlessness. Something between the two of them clicks and you almost get this faint impression that his previous dreams have come true through this woman. Then it is this sudden slap in the face when Sydney speaks "It is a far,far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." The Guillotine falls with the curtain.   

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Celebrating Musicals Week: {Dream Cast}

So I've heard normal people play fantasy football (or whatever it is they do) where they get to choose their favorite players to be on a dream team. Obviously I'm not a football fan, but I am a huge fan of theater performers. All day yesterday I thought about who my favorite voices are, who played in my favorite productions, and who should play who in my own dream cast of A Tale of Two Cities. Here is my cast:

Aaron Tveit as: Charles Darnay 

Unlike a lot of people, Charles Darnay is my favorite. Most people tend to prefer Sydney, very much like most people prefer Eponine over Cosette. Anyhow, after Aaron's roll as Enjolras in Les Miserables I have been a loyal fan. His voice *swoon* is so passionate and he has the ability to completely consume the roll of his character. He captivates his audience and adds depth to the story. That's why I think his passion and emotion would make a perfect Charles.

Samantha Dorsey as: Lucie Mannet 

Samantha's voice is so beautiful, but I was torn between she and Samantha Barks. That's more or less because I ship Enjolras and Eponine, which led to shipping Aaron and Sam Barks, and this would be such a great way to keep that ship alive. However, I did manage to put away my ships and choose Samantha Dorsey.  She's done a wonderful job in all the parts she's played in theater, so I'd love to see her in ATOTC.

Hadley Fraser as: Sydney Carton

Hadley. *sigh* I just absolutely love the guy. His performance as Gantaire in the 25th Anniversary LM concert is when I first heard his voice. Then in the Phantom of the Opera he was the best Raoul in the world. Meaning mix the drunken and dark man with the love struck and slightly driven mad boy and you have the BEST Sydney Carton ever.

Ramin Karimaloo as: Mr. Manette

  Okay, Ramin made me fall in love will all the 'gown up' musicals. He was my transition from Disney to musical theater. To top it all off he is flawless and has made his way into every one of my dream casts. I chose him as Lucie's father because I'd love to hear the contrast between his and Aaron's voice in 'The Promise'.

Catherine Missal as Little Lucie: 

Catherine played Little Lucie in the PBS Concert. I couldn't think of anyone else to play the roll. She's so darling and adds depth to such a small roll. The first time she laughs you fall in love with the little girl.

Michael Maguire as: Ernest Defarge

I've just got this thing for guys who have played Enjolras. Michael's voice however is so strong with this insane depth of emotion. He adds this whole driving force to a revolutionary, which is exactly why I chose him a Defarge.

Samantha Barks as: Madame Therese Defarge

Sam is probably my favorite actor within musical theater. I've loyally followed all her rolls and was never disappointed. After he performance at the 25th Anniversary Concert she's made her way into everyone of my dream rolls. Earlier I admitted to first casting her as Lucie, but we have to carry on Sam's tradition of dying on stage. Even Sam said dying on stage seemed to be her "thing" for the moment. Her voice is also one of the few voices strong enough to fully carry across the message of Out of Sight Out of Mind.

George Bladen as: the Marquis St. Evrmonde

This is what I imagine every time I think of the Marquis. Of course George would need to be older with some graying hair, but he just pulls of being nonchalant so well. You would have to be able to do this if you run over a small child in a street then mock the beggars moments afterward. Don't get me wrong. I love George, but he would be so good at this.

Daniel Huttlestone and Fra Fee as: the French father and son
I know the boy who dies in the Paris street and the father who kills the Marquis don't have names and are barely seen but for a few moments. However I've still placed them with my people to cast.
*sobs* I just can't get over this scene from the Les Miserables movie. It was so heart-wrenching, so I think having these two play the roll of father and son would add so much more meaning to the story. *cries some more*

Well there it is, my A Tale of Two Cities 'dream cast'. I know there are still some parts that weren't mentioned above, but that's because I was 100% indecisive on the rolls which actor could play. I still had to fit Micheal Ball, Killian Donnelly, and so many others into the show. Basically I just really love musical actors. Who do you think should be added to the dream cast?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: {Kick-off Tag}

Okay, so confession time...I love musicals. Actually, the best word to describe my relationship with musicals would be 'obsession' and it is a major one at that. So when I heard that Amy over at her blog was going to be hosting a Celebrate Musicals Blog Party, I just couldn't resist. For the rest of the week I've scheduled several posts focused on my musical of choice, but for today I'm just going to stick to the Kick-Off Tag.

1.  What musical did you pick to "spotlight" this week and why?  
My "spotlight" musical for this week is.... A Tale of Two Cities. *gasps* Sierra isn't writing about Les Miserables? Nope, I even shocked myself. Yes, I'm going to write about A Tale of Two Cities-the Musical. *gasps again* There is A Tale of Two Cities musical? Yes, yes there is and it is one of the most underrated musicals of all time. Although I might point out that I haven't strayed too far from Les Miserables, I just can't leave the French alone.  

2.  How did you discover the musical you picked (hereinafter referred to as "your musical")?

It was in 2011 that I first found my musical. I had just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities for the second time, and was doing a bit of research about the book on the internet, which was when I came across some song lyrics. That led me strait to you-tube where I found songs from the musical. However, it wasn't until last year that I got to watch the whole musical in one video.

3.  If you had to pick three favorite songs from your musical, which ones would they be?
Ugh, I hate having to choose 'top' songs. It's like having to choose a favorite book...never going to happen. But after narrowing down the list, Now at Last, If Dreams Came True, and Until Tomorrow would have to be my top three.

4.  What's your least favorite song from your musical?
It would probably be 'Round and Round'.

5.  Who are your favorite characters (choose up to three)?
Charles Darnay, Sydney Carton, and Mem Therese Defarge.

6.  Which versions of your musical have you seen/listened to, and which is your favorite?
I've listened to the Broadway and watched the PBS Concert. The Concert would be my favorite, just since I can watch it. It's very much like the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert, but not blocked quite so much. The acting and vocals are superb.

7.   Is this your favorite musical of all time?  If not, what is?
Oh no, no, no. Les Miserables will forever and always be my favorite. A Tale of Two Cities is a close second.

8.   Which cast album/musical soundtrack in your collection do you listen to the most?

For A Tale of Two Cities? The PBS recording. For musicals in general? The 10th Anniversary Les Miserables Concert is played at least once every day.

9.   What is your favorite costume from your musical?My favorite costume is Lucie Manette's gown in the PBS Concert. The color is stunning on her. The close fit makes it feminine without it being over the top frilly. 

         This Kiss! *swoons*


10.  If you could change anything about your musical, what would you change? The only thing I would change about this musical would be make it more popular. It didn't run near as long as it should have. Other than that this musical is flawless.

11.  Which role(s) would you most like to play in 
any musical, if you had the opportunity to do so on stage?
Eponine from Les Miserables is my dream roll. If I couldn't have Eponine I could totally do Enjolras. Yes, yes it is a guys roll, but he's just EPIC. I've also always dreamed of playing Liesl from The Sound of Music. 

12.  If you could choose one performer to play any part in your musical, who would you choose and which part would you have them play?
I think Aaron Tivet would make a gorgeous Charles Darnay! His voice is so strong, and his ability to put so much emotion into his rolls would make for a phenomenal performance.

13.  Do you consider yourself a musical theatre fan in general or do you just like a few musicals?
Change 'fan' to 'obsessed fan' and that is me. Actually, musicals have always been a huge part of who I am. Disney's Robin Hood is to blame. From the time I was two-years-old I have been in love with that musical. My mom actually took the video and hid it because I would play it over and over again. She said that 'Little John and Robin Hood running through the forest..." would play over and over in her head at night. Then came the Princess Musicals and then musical theater. I could name countless theater performers, but ask me to name Hollywood actors and I could maybe name eight. I don't follow the big block-buster movies, but the newest performance on Broadway or West End. 

14.  Are you tired of the word "musical" yet?Never!

15.  Turn your music playing device on shuffle (or utilize Pandora if you don't have one) and tell us the names of the first three show tunes that come up-- no cheating!  How do these rank on your favorites/most-listened-to list?
-Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. *cries* Yes, this song is actually in my top five favorites. Especially if it is being sang by Michel Ball. 
-One Day More. Favorite. Song. EVER. I swear I didn't rig my music player. This song gets listened to at least three times everyday. I have some of the lyrics painted out on my wall, actually.  
-Sixteen Going on Seventeen. Okay, not one of my top five, but it lands in my top ten. Last year when I turned sixteen this was my favorite song in the world. Then turning seventeen sort of ruined the novelty of it. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A book addiction...?

Take a deep breath when you walk into a library or bookstore. What do you smell? Ink and crisp white pages? Warmth and beauty? Ah, books. New books, old books, used books-they're all special because they all have a story to tell.

For me I love the combination of used and old books. There's nothing like opening up a book of poetry from the early 1900's to find someones notes scrawled across the margins. Its like getting an extra story within the story. Which is why I love going to used book-sales.

However, I'm a poor 'almost' college student so walking into a bookstore of any kind and indulging in my book-buying-habit doesn't happen often. When you're a book addict the titles really start to appear out of nowhere. I'll go book shopping and comeback with one or two mystery books. "How did this end up in my book bag again?" Its like sending a normal teenage girl out to buy a pair of shoes. She plans on getting one pair and comes back with three. Same goes for books. Which is why I love (literally I count down the days) until my library's book-sale. They have it three times a year and special members of the library have a special night where they get in early. Clearly I'm one of the first at the door. You run down (or well not run cause there are a lot of people, but in a perfect world I would run) the stairs until you reach a basement full of books. Books everywhere. Unlimited books. Old books, used books, new books. All you pay is $5 per bag, and considering I typically fit twenty or so books in a bag that's a great deal.

My library haul. 

My one and only problem is that I always come back with more books than planned. This time I said we would only get three bags of books. We walked out of the library with ten. Some were my parents of course, but that's still a lot more than three! In my defense most of my books are books I'll use for my English Lit classes (or at least that's what I tell myself...). Now my book shelves are over flowing...and that isn't a figure of speech.

A complete wall of books...
When I got home from the library book-sale I realized that all those books were not going to fit on my bookshelves. I opted out for the floor until my dad can build me my bookshelf/window-seat combo. A window seat made out of books is good enough, right? The first bookshelf starts with all my new and used Christian romance novels, which moves on to the second bookshelf.

My favorites above my desk. 
Then of course we have my used and old books. Which of course are my favorite. The classics are amazing. Someone told me recently that the classics are 'stupid' because you can't learn anything from them and basically that they were written by a bunch of old dead men. Well duh, they're old for a reason and they're called classics for a reason. If you can't learn anything from them you must be reading wrong.

The 1000 Years of Irish Poetry and Tennyson are my newest, used, old editions. I'm just going to say that Irish poets are way underrated. The Tennyson one is also my third oldest book to own. Its a Cambridge Edition printed in 1898. It has an honorary location on my shelf.

And the rest of the classics, including poetry, and the critics. Now I've managed to rearrange and fit all the other old books I bought onto this shelf....still not quite sure how I managed that. Somehow I'm going to fit another bookshelf in my room if its the last thing I do! There's another library book-sale coming up in December and its only $3 a bag. Maybe I can manage to keep it under ten bags this time. Maybe.

Are you a book addict? If so what's your favorite way to buy books? Which is your favorite, crisp and new or tattered and used? Well, now I'm off, those books need to be read.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lady of Milkweed Manor {Book Review}

As Charlotte drew closer to the looming gray edifice that was to become her temporary home, she could not help but notice the secretive shuttered windows. Then she noticed the milkweeds...

 Even a proper vicar's daughter can make a mistake...and now Charlotte lamb must pay a high price for her fall. To avoid the prying eyes of all who know her, she hides herself away in London's forbidding "Milkweed Manor" , a place of mystery and lore of old secrets and new birth. 

But once there, she comes face-to-face with a suitor from her past-a man who now hides a secret of his own. Both are determined, with God's help, to protect those they love. But neither can imagine the depth of sacrifice that will be required.

 Lady of Milkweed Manor ~ Julie Klassen   

        Charlotte Lamb's story begins with her being sent away in shame. Her heart is broken and her childhood loves are gone. She finds herself in the care of Milkweed Manor, a home for women pregnant out of wedlock. There she makes friends and learns how to care for children, but when Doctor Daniel Taylor- a suitor from her past- arrives Charlotte fears he will tell everyone of her secret. Only he has secrets of his own and will do anything in his power to keep those secrets safe.
        While their paths cross at the Manor, Daniel and Charlotte's friendship is renewed, assuring Charlotte that God and others can be forgiving. But as strange cries in the night echo through the cold stone corridors and shadows of Charlotte's past creep their way into the Manor she finds herself caught up in a mystery. A mystery of lost love, a mystery of a mothers love, and a mystery of the love God has for his children.

        Okay, I'm going to be the first to admit I'm a helpless romantic. What's more romantic than the elegant dresses and dashing young suitors we read about in Jane Austen's regency era novels? But one thing I've always found myself wishing was that there was more of a focus on God. Julie Klassen does exactly that by mixing together faith, romance, and regency era England to create the perfect book. Which means this definitely isn't a Jane Austen remake or even a spin off. Klassen brings to life her own colorful cast of characters and sheds light on a more shocking of society during the early 1800's. (and I do mean shocking!)

        What I loved most about this book were the plot twists that started the moment I read the first page. Instantly questions were flooding my mind and I was constantly tempted to skip ahead (I only did a few time!). It seemed that on every page something new was being brought to the story, so by the final chapter I was dying to know how everything fit together.

         The romance was also perfectly balanced with faith. It wasn't a 'love-at-first-sight' story, but one where the love built up gradually, which is how I think things should be. The characters were easy to relate with and very easy to love. From Daniels struggle to uphold honor to the hardships Charlotte endured, you watch as they learn to rely on God to carry them through. That's the beauty of the story. Klassen took sad events that happen in life and turned them around to create a beautiful picture of Christ's never ending love and salvation.

         Lady of Milkweed Manor was most definitely the best book I've read in 2013 and it's definitely made it to my favorites 'list'. I highly recommend the book along with the author. Klassen also has several other Regency Era novels and I can't wait to read them all.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pre-NaNo Prep


          We have around 360 hours until the start of NaNoWriMo...that is if I did my math right.  Chances are that I didn't.  With all those hours between now and our month of insanity how should you be getting prepared?  Even if you are a panster (or is it pantser? Hum...) getting ready for NaNo will payoff in the long run.  Its like training for a cross-country race, you might not exactly know what the terrain will be like, but you can at least be physically fit.  So I've complied a list of my top five ways of 'training' for NaNoWriMo. 

              But first let me give a brief run-through of what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is for those who don't yet know and for those getting ready for their very first intense literary journey.  Every night (or would that be morning?) at 12:01 AM November 1st a countdown clock strikes 00:00:00:00 

            For the extremely enthusiastic writers (including myself) this is the signal to start frantically typing out those first precious words of a new novel.  A novel that will have hopefully reached 50,000 words in 30 days.  During the rest of the next month we enter what I like to refer to as coffee induced a coma.  Sugar rushes, emotionally charged heart-wrentching scenes, pots of strong coffee (not decaf), and an overall zombie like state of mind are commonly seen sights.   
              Beware this quest isn't for the faint of heart. You will often face fire-breathing dragons and charming princes to distract you.  These are also known as the allurements of procrastination. 

Rules to Live By

 1.  Eat.  Eat real food.  Protein is essential to not passing-out.  Keep a jar of peanuts close to your writing space, they're a great source of protein. Vitamins and all that other good stuff will keep you healthy.  Carrots are also known to boost creativity.  Even if you have to type with one hand consume at least two good meals a day.

2.  Water.  Water is the most important source of life...unless you live in a fantasy world where water hasn't existed for hundreds of years.  Cokes don't count and they actually swell the brain and greatly reduce your ability to function.  Eight glasses a day (of water not coke) is the recommended amount. If you don't like water then flavor it. 

3.  Sleep.  Even if you become nocturnal taking a 10 minuet cat nap (maybe even with a cat?) can help hold you over at least three hours.  At least get four hours of uninterrupted sleep.  That is the bare minimum.

4.  Human interaction.  Our eyes might be bloodshot, but we are NOT zombies despite the possible resemblance.  Besides we need people to inspire us, right? 

5.  Don't skip school.  If you don't have an education you will never grow as a writer.  If your writing time at home doesn't allow homework then try to finish it all at school.  

Disclaimer: failure to follow these rules my cause serious injury or even death. 

Okay, now that I've got my dramatic introduction for the newbies out of the way lets get down to business.  Here are my top five recommendations for NaNoWriMo prepping. 


      If you don't already write everyday then you need to start.  Start now.  Actually stop reading this, breakout a notebook and pen, and write something.  The key to NaNoWriMo isn't 20k weekends (even if they are helpful!).  If you're going to win you will need to write at least 1667 words every. single. day.  To someone who doesn't write much that seems like s lot to ask.  I'm going to change that.  From now on until October write 1,000 words a day.  From October until November write 2,000 words every day.  After these two months of consistent writing NaNoing won't seem like such a struggle.  If you do write everyday then bravo.  Just make sure you're writing 2,000 words or more a day.  To be a writer one must write. 


          At least get an idea of your novels plot a theme.  Yes, pansters this goes for you too!  Even if you don't have an elaborate spreadsheet and detailed timeline you should at least have a sequence of main events.  Get a notebook and sketch them out.  Use whatever system works best for you.  An outline, a web chart, a picture diagram, sticky-notes.  Be creative.  Everyone should be able to sum up the theme in one-two sentences.  It could be 'Civil war hero turns forty-niner, but soon realizes true love is more valuable than gold.'  or 'A boy sets out to sail around the world, facing pirates, tropic storms, and mysterious stranded princesses on his epic journey.' 

Character sketch

       I don't care if you just write 'tall, brown hair, brown eyes, moody, soldier'.  You're still getting a feel for your characters.  Even if you only have a vague sense of your characters physical appearance, personality, and background it will jumpstart your story.  You won't be in chapter six asking yourself 'now who is this character?'.  


       Devour other novels in the genre you plan to write.  Introduce yourself to new authors and take note of how the action develops and the plot unfolds.  Inspiration comes from seeing new things.   If something on the page jumps out at you or makes you ask questions write it down.  How did the author reveal the lie?  Has the main character grown or changed any from the start of the story?  Was it good or bad?  Asking these questions and in turn answering them will help make you more aware of the same questions in your own work. 

 Keep a Record

         Create a way to track your pre-NaNo, NaNo, and post-NaNo experiences.  This can be done through social media or a personal journal.  If you don't care for the media route start with a journal.  Splurge and go find yourself one with a cover that inspires you and pick up your pens of choice.  Map out your NaNo game plan (gel pens make this really fun), paste pictures of your characters, and fill those pages with tales of your NaNo adventures.  Make that journal special. 
      If you want a visible outlet start/use your blog, tumblr, pinterest board, or twitter account.  Keep others up-to-date on your NaNo accomplishments and spread the excitement.  Maybe you could instal a word-count badge for your blog, or start tweeting #NaNoProblems.  Vent your anger about a characters stupid mistake on Facebook, mourn the death of your beloved character with a blog post, pin character quotes and inspiration on pinterest.  If people become interested in your month of literary abandonment then you will have the support you need when the going gets tough.  After NaNo host a celebration of sorts.  Win or loose you've still dared to do something most people would never consider.  

How will you prepare for NaNo? 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do Hard Things

              Lately I've been struggling with what God wanted me to do with my life.  I'd fallen into that pit where everything seemed frozen in place and no matter how hard you tried nothing changed.  I'd become too comfortable in my life as a Christian, nothing really pushed me forward, but nothing was holding me back.  I wasn't rebelling against God, but I wasn't putting out an effort either. 
            The other day my mom and I went to the our local christian book store where I came across a book by the Harris brothers called Do Hard Things, which is the inspiration of this post. If you're not already aware of the movement they started dubbed the Rebelution you can check their blog out here: The Rebelution

The Don't Attitude 
            I've been aware of the Rebelution since my later middle school years.  The concept was one I agreed with.  A revolution to 'Do Hard Things' and rebellion against the low expectations our world has set for teenagers seemed like the ideal way to stand up for Christ.  I became what you would call a silent revolutionary, the type that doesn't follow what the world deems as normal behavior, but also the type that doesn't try to counter that bad behavior.  My attitude became one of "well they do that and I don't".   My thought process was trying to justify my own actions, or lack thereof by comparing myself to what some might call 'gross' sins.  I didn't drink, smoke, or party.  I was still (and still will be until I'm married) a virgin, unlike most girls my age.  I didn't cuss or lash out at my parents.  

          Just because I wasn't doing these things didn't mean I was following God's will for my life.  If you're chasing after God with all your heart then you're going to have a desire to serve him in every aspect of your life.  The problem was that desire had been pushed aside, neglected, and all but forgotten a long time ago.  No I didn't drink or go to parties, but was I trying to reach out to the ones who did?  I was still a virgin, but was I trying to keep my heart and mind equally pure?  My teenage years have been accepting of what my parents said was right and wrong, but was I taking those truths to heart?  Life was moving around me at a fast pace and I was stuck in a rut. I was tired of standing around doing nothing, but how could I do things for Christ when the great things I wanted to do seemed so far and distant?  Something had to change before I could move. 

Attitude Check 

     Back to the Rebelution and the Harris brothers.  All these years of being stuck in a rut I still considered myself to be a rebelitionary, because like I said following the world wasn't something I did.  But I'd never read their book or really followed what the Rebelution was all about.  Maybe if I had my attitude would have changed sooner.  I knew God had big plans for me, but the greatness of them seemed to hard.  Then we came across the Do Hard Things book.  Maybe this would show me what I was doing wrong, maybe it would show me how to do big things for Christ.  But instead of telling me how to fix things or do something grand it kept throwing everything back on God.  I had to trust God to get me out of that rut and not my own strength.  I had to let God guide my feet instead of trying map out a path of my own.  My first question was, "but when do I start getting to do big things? Aren't you going to tell me how to do them?" In my blind stubbornness I was skipping over the key points. They had already shown me how to get out of the rut and how to start living a life according to God's plan!  All I had to do was be willing to follow.  Finally the light turned on and I was ashamed.  I was ashamed that I'd already wasted valuable years of my life which could have been used to serve the Lord.  Instead I had spent those years trying to rely on my own strength to accomplish the things laid on my heart.  But my strength is imperfect and I needed help. The attitude change was so simple, but I'd made it hard. 

Doing Hard Things 

           Giving my life back over to God didn't have to be a hard thing.  I'd just been so focused on other things that they got in the way.  I finally stopped looking around at all the things I wanted to do and looked toward God.  I'd been at a cross roads, confused between where to turn, but once my eyes were opened the right path was pointed out.  That desire to love Jesus, to really love him with all my heart come back to me.  That's when I realized I didn't need to do something 'great' to follow Jesus.  I just needed to follow Him and he would do the great and amazing.  The things I did for Him didn't need to be extravagant.  It was the small things that counted.  In my own struggle to serve Christ I had confused 'hard' with 'great'.  The  simple things were the hardest.  Doing them in Jesus' name with the right attitude was what made them important.  Now I'm ready to start doing hard things with the right attitude- with the 'do' attitude.  I want to let Christ do these things through me.  Not through my own strength but through His.  How about you? Have you fallen into the rut of life? Are you confusing 'hard' things and standing up for Christ with 'big' and 'great' things? Are you struggling with your own desires? If so pray. Ask God to renew the desire to follow His will, ask Him to lead a guide you.  Give up the struggle and give your whole life over to God.