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Friday, March 18, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: David Bowie Songs

My friend gave me a three-disc collection of David Bowie hits a few weeks ago, and it's pretty much all I've been listening to. In honor of that, here are five of my favorite Bowie songs.

"Space Oddity" - When I was in high school, my art teacher would sometimes put on music while we worked, but she played this song almost exclusively.

"Seven" - There's just something about songs about death, right?

"As the World Falls Down" - Labyrinth is so delightfully weird. How could I not love this one?

"Thursday's Child" - Because whose courage doesn't fall to their feet every once in a while?

"Heroes" - I've never seen Moulin Rouge, but I enjoy the soundtrack, and up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea this was an actual pre-MR song. "We could be heroes . . . "

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What I'm Listening To: March '16

In the car: Swords and Scoundrels, Julia Knight
Goodreads synopsis: Two siblings.
Outcasts for life.... together.
What could possibly go wrong?


Vocho and Kacha are champion duelists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be-until they were thrown out of the Duelist's Guild.

As a last resort, they turn reluctant highwaymen. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast.

After barely besting three armed men and a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. But the contents will bring them much more than they've bargained for when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power....


For fun: Atlas Year One, Sleeping At Last
Favorite track: "Light" and "Saturn"

Singing about the stars is a sure-fire way to get me to listen to your album.







While writing: Far From the Madding Crowd soundtrack, Craig Armstrong
Favorite track: All of them? But if I had to pick, probably the love theme.

Friday, March 11, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: YA Heroines

This edition of Friday Five brought to you by this week's celebration of International Women's Day as well as the current YA-reading kick I'm on. I tried not to repeat books I've put on other lists, but some I just love so much!

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
This one's obvious. What first attracted me to Katniss was her introversion. She never seeks to make a spectacle. She never wants to fight. What she does--volunteering in the Hunger Games on Prim's behalf, becoming the Mockingjay--she does out of necessity. A lot of YA I read tends to portray its heroines as brash and angry and vocal about it, which is understandable since YA's main target audience, teenage girls, so often doesn't have a voice. But Katniss's strength is quiet, and I've always loved that.



Vanessa Dahl, The Engelsfors Trilogy (The Circle, Fire, and The Key), Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg
Oh, Vanessa. She's one of six heroines in The Engelsfors Trilogy, and while I love them all, Vanessa shines the brightest. She struggles with normal teenage worries in addition to having one-sixth of the fate of the world on her shoulders, but she still finds time to love her two-year-old brother, Melvin, and to forge a deep connection with fellow witch Linnea.




Susan Caraway, Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
It's been so long since I've read this book, but it still sticks out in my mind as the one that made being different and feeling out of place less scary. Preferring to go by the name Stargirl, she marches to the beat of her own drum, one she's probably made herself. She loves flowers. She cheers for both teams at basketball games. She people watches in the mall and has a happy wagon she uses to keep track of good things that have happened throughout the day. Unencumbered by the normal social restrictions of high school, she doesn't really find a place there, but the point is that she doesn't feel she needs to.


Jo March, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Jo is the Lizzie Bennet of Little Women. Who doesn't want to be her? She lets her imagination run freely in order to entertain her sisters. She speaks her mind and goes after what she wants, even if that's moving away from the family she loves to pursue a career in writing. Although her healthy temper means lots of sisterly fights, she loves her sisters more than anything.





Sara Crew, A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
It's been a while since I've read this one, too, but the thing about Sara that stands out in my mind is her eternal optimism. When she gets word that her father's died, she loses everything. She loses the only family she has left and all the privileges that came with his position, which means she's no longer Miss Minchin's student and is now a servant. And yet, despite this, with her friends at her side, she never loses hope.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

HEROINE SPOTLIGHT: Jane Eyre


I first read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre when I was fourteen and found it dreadfully boring. There's a whole middle section where the characters are happy! How is that exciting? So I put it down for three years, and when I picked it up again at seventeen with a new viewpoint, I was enthralled. The love story between Jane and Rochester was fascinating in its own way, but it was Jane who captured my heart.

Jane, who loomed so large in Charlotte's eyes that the book is named after her. Jane, who grows up feeling unloved and still has tremendous amounts of love to give away. Jane, who decides to work as a governess in order to experience life outside of the one she knew for ten years. Jane, who chooses morality over love. Jane, who finds she can't compromise her ideals. Jane, who learns to love herself and finds love in the process.

She is a wonder and a treasure. To this day, she remains one of my favorite characters ever written. We all want to be more like Lizzie Bennet, who is quick-witted in the face of insult and sure of herself, but in reality, I know I'm closer to Jane. I am not outspoken and lively, but I take comfort in relating to characters who, like Jane, have a quiet strength and a determination of spirit.

Friday, February 12, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Romantic Movies

I'm not a particularly romantic person, but I can appreciate romance in fiction, and in honor of the upcoming holiday, here are five of my favorite romantic films.

The Young Victoria
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just romances. Written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes, this historical drama focuses on the early life of Queen Victoria, most notably her romance with her husband, Albert. Though the relationship starts out rather rocky, it soon blossoms into something lovely.





The Decoy Bride
My sister and I used to watch a ton of rom-coms in the late '90s and early '00s. Revisiting those can be hit or miss, so when I found this gem on Netflix a couple years ago, I was utterly delighted. When writer James Arber and his actress fiancee Lara Tyler venture to the remote Scottish island of Hegg to get married away from the prying eyes of paparazzi, James winds up accidentally marrying Hegg native Katie, who longs for a more exciting life than the island can offer. It's on the quirky side of rom-coms, but definitely worth the watch.


She's the Man
Is there anything greater than modern adaptations of Shakespeare (or Jane Austen)? Probably not. This is a high-school update of Twelfth Night, in which Viola's high school cuts the girls' soccer program, so she decides to impersonate her brother at his new private school just long enough to kick her ex-boyfriend's butt in their rival soccer match. And because this is Shakespeare, complications ensue. Viola falls for her roommate, Duke, who is in love with Olivia, who is crushing on Viola-as-Sebastian. It's kooky at times, but ultimately charming.


Sweet Land
This movie is so underrated. It's the story of Olaf, a Norwegian immigrant farmer in post-WWII America whose parents send him a bride named Inge. The only problem is she's German and hardly speaks any English. When there are complications in getting a marriage certificate, tension arises in the community over Inge's background. Like its title, this is a sweet story about love overcoming barriers.




North and South
What list of romantic movies would be complete without a Victorian novel? When Margaret Hale's minister father faces a crisis of conscience, he moves the family north to the industrial town of Milton. There, Margaret meets John Thornton, a mill owner. The two clash over their different ways of life, but it's soon apparent that they bring out the best in each other. It has shades of the central conflict in Pride and Prejudice, but Elizabeth Gaskell takes time to focus on the secondary conflict between mill owners and workers, lending a larger scope to the story.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I'm Listening To: February '16

In the car: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
Goodreads Synopsis: In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

For fun: Confident, Demi Lovato
Favorite track: "Lionheart"

What can I say? I'm a sucker for catchy pop songs.







While writing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
Favorite track: "Rey's Theme"

I've loved John Williams for about as long as I've loved Star Wars, so it's always a pleasure when he releases a new score.

Friday, February 5, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Pick-Me-Ups

Writing can be a lonely business. You spend a lot of time in your own head, and sometimes it's hard to climb back out. And if you zoom in too close on your story, stepping away can help you see the entire forest again so you can find your way out. With that in mind, here are a few things I like to do when I don't seem to be making any progress and need a break from writing.

Build Something
I like model rockets a lot. I usually lose them, which is why I have to build so many, They have easy snap-together models or more time-consuming ones that require a little wood glue and patience. I've also recently discovered Metal Earth models, which are DIY steel sheet models. Everything's pre-cut, but you have to put it all together. I'm working on a steam locomotive model, and I have a TIE fighter waiting in the wings.

Take Myself on a Date
The solitude of writing isn't a problem for me. It's that I need to get out of the chair so I can let ideas percolate or just open my mind to new things. Some of my favorite places to take myself are: the local cafe, the park, the museum, or the movies. Getting out of the house is nice, but it also provides an opportunity to people watch for character traits or story ideas.

Revisit an Old Favorite
I usually watch TV while doing something else: making dinner, writing letters, knitting. So sometimes it's nice to be able to give my full attention to a movie or show I know I love. Or I take thirty minutes out of the day to reread one of my favorite books, just enough to remind myself why I love storytelling.

Go For a Long Walk
Any sort of exercise is helpful because it gets my blood and my creative juices pumping, but this is my favorite method. Not only does my dog get exercise, but it gives me an hour or two of freedom to think about the kinks in my story. Or to not think about my story at all. Sometimes the best ideaspop up when I'm focusing on something else entirely.

Find My Calm Center
Adult coloring books are all the rage now. I got a few for Christmas, and I have some "children's" coloring books, too. It really does calm me for the same reason building models does--my hands can be occupied without a ton of stress on my mind. Yoga, too, is a good way for me to de-stress, although I should practice it more often.