My Top Ten – Film Soundtracks by Adam Part II

Yesterday I outlined the bottom five of my top ten film soundtracks.  Here are the remaining five in the list, culminating with what I feel is the best film soundtrack of all time:

5.) Amelie

If there was an award for the best use of an accordion in a film, Amelie would clearly be the winner.  The story is unlike anything I’ve seen in a film; it’s very unique and quirky.  The character of Amelie is very curious about the world and sees things through rose-colored glasses.  She often sees things differently than other people, and takes it upon herself to better the lives of those around her.  The accordion is a perfect accompaniment to the idea of this film because the instrument itself is very upbeat.  While listening to this soundtrack you can’t help but find a smile forming on your face.  The music just takes you away to a small village in France and makes you think you’re eating at the café where Amelie works. This is what a good soundtrack should do; it should be able to transport you back to the film whether you’re watching it or not.

4.) Jurassic Park

This film is just awesome!  I remember when it came out in 1993 it terrified me, but at the same time enthralled me.  I had never seen special effects like the ones in this film paired with such beautifully eloquent music.  The main theme, composed so simplistically by John Williams is the type of music that dreams are made of.  The first time the scientists see the dinosaurs roaming free the music starts playing in the background and the viewer is taken to a special place.  This place is a place of wonder, amazement, and one with slight undertones of darkness.  Williams’ music encapsulated all of this.  The music, which is classically performed, is so stunning and epic; it goes perfectly with the film.

3.) The Lion King 

The Lion King is the perfect Disney film, score and all.  To take Elton John and Tim Rice’s lyrics and music, and combine that with a Hans Zimmer score was genius!  Zimmer took into account traditional African music, weaving it into the rest of the score.  In this soundtrack you can hear all different types of instruments, from the xylophone to all sorts of percussion instruments.  The songs are not just memorable, but part of my childhood.  I still remember the cassette in my mom’s car blasting “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” while we were going to the doctor.  Watching it as an adult I find that I can appreciate the musicality of the film.  I really appreciate the African music which was incorporated to songs such as “Circle of Life”.  The best song by far is “Be prepared”, which has such a dark tone and look to it that it, that can give the listener some bone-chilling feelings.

2.) Star Wars

Whenever you hear the first 3 notes of this score, you automatically know what film it is. You’re instantly taken back to the first time you saw the film.  John Williams was able to create a larger than life universe which contained epic wars and an evil force, a feat that seemed inconceivable until George Lucas created a canvas for him to work with.  Not only did Williams compose the epic opening music, which has been used in the rest of the Star Wars films, but he composed even the smaller musical numbers.  This really made them connect to each other and make the film more cohesive as a whole.  Many people consider this to be the greatest score of any film, but I feel there is still one more soundtrack that outshines it.

1.) Moulin Rouge

I wrestled with switching Star Wars and this film for the number one spot, but at the end of the day I felt that this was the perfect soundtrack.  Similar to Across the Universe, Moulin Rouge takes songs we all know and love and rearranges them musically to become brand new.  Hits from the late 1900’s are transformed and adapted to the fit the film period of the late 1800’s.   The highlights of this film include a tango version of “Roxanne” (made famous by the Police) and a French can-can version of  Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”.  Many other popular songs make an appearance in a way we’ve never heard them before.  Like any good musical, the music is so much a part of the film.  When a song begins in the film, it isn’t that the characters are randomly bursting into song, but that the music itself is helping aid the telling  of the story.  The music pushes the film along and truly entertains you.  Baz Luhrmann became, in my eyes, a visual and auditory genius with this soundtrack.

Hope you enjoyed my top ten list of the best movie soundtracks.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comment section below.  Happy viewing!

My Top Ten – Film Soundtracks by Adam Part I

In lieu of Kim doing a top ten list this month, I asked if I could take a crack at it and do my top ten favorite film soundtracks.  Since I’m the blog’s film reviewer, I thought it would be appropriate to do a film themed top ten!  In a well-done film, the soundtrack is almost as important as the acting or directing.  In scenes where there is no dialogue, the music helps tell the story and convey the emotions that words cannot.  Let me know what you think of my picks and what some of your most memorable soundtracks are.

10.) The Social Network

This score is incredibly powerful for such an amazing film. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross were able to create this soundtrack using many different musical styles and techniques that go against traditional musical scores. There were no big orchestral pieces where you could picture a room of old man playing their instruments for hours.  Instead, it was very technologically based, which worked for the tone and style in which the film was filmed.  Being a film that is so largely about technology, it made sense that it wasn’t violins, harps, flutes, and saxophones playing the highlights of the score.  A personal favorite would be the main theme, “Hand Cover Bruise”, which played in some of the most poignant scenes in the film.

9.) Inception

This list may look like the nominees from last year’s Academy Awards, but that’s only because the scores were so incredible. Hans Zimmer, the composer, was able to translate the feelings of the world that Christopher Nolan had visually created through music.  Zimmer creates these musical pieces that are so dramatic in style yet very traditional with the choice of  instruments. This score literally makes the dream sequences in the film come to life and jump off the screen.

8.) Across the Universe

Across the Universe took a big gamble with its soundtrack.  To take Beatles songs that we all know and love and change them was an incredible risk because they are such well-loved classics.  So many people relate to these songs, and to do these songs an injustice would be considered a crime.  Even so, they took the risk, changed the songs enough to make them true to both the film and their original roots, and fans still loved the music.  The composers used many different styles of music to rework the original compositions, from gospel all the way to a slowed down, acid-tripped feeling melody.  Any Beatles fans be it new or old will be singing these songs days after seeing the film; they’re so original that you can’t help but have them stick with you.

7.) Psycho

Hitchcock was and is the master of suspense films.  All of his films are perfection, from the screenplay to the acting to the twist endings that he was so known for.  Music was a huge reason why his films were so successful.  The man who composed the score for Psycho, Bernard Herman, (he also did Vertigo, North by Northwest, and the Trouble with Harry), was able to encapsulate the fear that comes with watching a film like this.  The way he was able to create the element of suspense without even showing you anything visually was incredible.  The main theme to this film is something that haunts the viewer.  Even if you aren’t looking at the screen, you’re still scared somebody or something might pop out behind you.  The most terrifying part is the screeching (which was actually done with violin strings) when Norman Bates attacked.

6.) West Side Story

West Side Story is my favorite soundtrack for a traditional musical.  The story of the Jets vs. Sharks comes to life with this music, which was composed by the infamous Leonard Bernstein.  This musical has everything: comedic songs, love songs, fighting songs, and death songs.  The songs are each musically different and distinct, which is one of the reasons why they’re so good.  The funny songs are upbeat and played in a fast pace with loud instruments, whereas the love songs are delicate and played with very light instruments like strings and flutes.  West Side Story is a perfect date night film, where you can close your eyes and let the music tell you this sad tale.

 I hope you liked my first five picks for the best film soundtracks! Come back tomorrow and see what my top five picks are.

Until then, happy listening!

My Top Ten…Villains (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here are my top five villains!!!

5.) Aunt Reed from Jane Eyre

Aunt Reed makes the list for being cruel and cold-hearted to young Jane Eyre.  For those unfamiliar with Jane Eyre, Jane is orphaned at a young age and is adopted by her Aunt and Uncle Reed.  Uncle Reed dies shortly after and makes Aunt Reed promise him that she will take care of Jane and raise her as one of their own children.   Once he’s dead she does the exact opposite, allowing her son to physically beat Jane, locking her in “haunted” rooms in their home, and eventually sending her off to a school that has horrible conditions.  Aunt Reed also makes sure Jane will live a meager life by telling a rich uncle of hers that she’s dead.  She’s a horrible woman made worse by the fact that kind-hearted Jane forgives her before her death for all her misgivings.  (I don’t think she deserved to be forgiven after everything that happened, but it just goes to show you how kind a person Jane truly was).

(You can find my review here)

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4.) President Snow from The Hunger Games Series

President Snow is the leader of the Capitol and ruler of Panem in The Hunger Games series.  We get to see what a truly horrible man he is in Catching Fire and Mockingjay as his interaction with Katniss grows.  You come to learn that Snow is a truly evil person, poisoning those that got in his way during his rise to political glory.  He tricks Katniss and the rest of the districts into believing that District 13 was destroyed and that they need to continue the hunger games as punishment.  He is a master at deception and is always playing a game with the people around him, using them as pawns.  He gets what he deserves in the end, but it still doesn’t make up for all that he’s done during his ruling years.   

(You can find my reviews for here for Book One, Two, and Three)

3.) Silas – The DaVinci Code

Ah, religious fanaticism.  A member of the Catholic organization known as Opus Dei, Silas is an albino who practices corporal mortification (flogging one’s self) while repenting for one’s sins.  Depicted in Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code, Silas is driven by a desire to atone for his past and discover the secrets protected by the Priory of Scion.  Driven to live on the streets after murdering his father (who had murdered his mother out of shame for having an albino child), Silas is given a second chance at life after an earthquake frees him from prison.  Driven to devout religious belief, Silas is especially villanous because of the rhetoric he believes in.  He justifies his murders and attacks by believing that it is the will of Opus Dei for him to commit these atrocities.  His blind faith in this organization makes him especially dangerous in the novel, and he is a constant threat to Robert Langdon, the protagonist.  All in all, Silas has nothing to lose as he is fully indoctrinated to commit evil acts and will stop at nothing to please those who are superior to him in Opus Dei.

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2.) Mr. Burroughs – A Wolf at the Table

Augusten Burroughs is famous for writing heartbreakingly honest memoirs.  A Wolf at the Table mainly focused on his childhood and the relationship he had with his father.  Mr. Burroughs is the only actual “person” on my list, and for good reason.  The man was an alcoholic, beat his animals, and definitely partook in abusing his sons.  Augusten had a dog that would physically sleep on top of him to protect him from Mr. Burroughs while he slept at night.  His older brother John taught him how to shoot a gun just in case he needed it one day.  After reading this book it made me see how truly malicious some people can be in the world.  Mr. Burroughs shot straight to nearly the top of my list of villains because he preyed on his young sons and helpless wife.  To be that type of man you have to be truly evil.

(You can find my review here)

1.) Voldemort – The Harry Potter Series

While the rest of the characters on this list have aspirations to conquer those around them and bring evil into their lives, none have grander plans than Voldemort.  Not content to just conquer the magical world around him, Voldemort set his sights higher, aiming to control the human (aka Muggle) world as well.  In hiding for years after a failed attack on Harry Potter that left him on the cusp of death, he slowly rebuilds his strength until he makes a triumphant return and power grab to control the ruling body of the magical world.  As if this wasn’t enough, consider his name.  Anyone who is referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named” because he/she is so evil that their name can’t be spoken must be #1 in my book.  All in all, Voldemort deserves the top spot in this top ten countdown because of the encompassing nature of his power and ambition.  He won’t let anything, including death, get in his way to kill Harry Potter and rule all.  Now that’s villanous!

Well my fellow readers, who makes your list?  Leave your comments below.

Until next time, happy reading!!

My Top Ten…Villains (Part I)

Many apologies for the delay in my top ten list this month!  Everyone loves a good villain.  Well maybe not everyone, but this blogger does.  I love a villain whose characterizations sometimes beat out the protagonists. My top ten list this week is composed of my top ten most memorable villains! Enjoy!

10.) The Volturi from The Twilight Series

Dark and foreboding, the Volturi are the major ruling family of the vampire world in the Twilight series.  Originally appearing disinterested and detached from those whom they rule in the beginning of the series, they soon show their might and anger when finding out that Bella knows the inner workings of the vampire world.  Ruthless and efficient, these villans are especially dangerous because they employ humans to go out into the world and bring additional humans back to the Volturi as a food source.  Now that’s blood chilling!

File:Cronos armé de la faucille (harpè) contre son père et divers médaillons pierre gravée crop.jpg9.) Kronos from The Percy Jackson Series

According to Greek Mythology Kronos was the leader of the first group of twelve Titans that overthrew their parents: the leaders of the Golden Age of mythology.  Kronos and the other Titans were then overthrown by Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades and locked away in Tartarus.  He is usually pictured with a scythe, which he used to kill his father Uranus!  In the Percy Jackson series Kronos is responsible for coordinating plans to take down Zeus and the Gods on Mount Olympus.  It’s up to Percy to figure out the plans and keep Kronos in his prison in Tartarus.   This villan has it all: a classic tale, lofty ambitions, and mythic tales.  You could call him the father of all villans!

8.) The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland

Any character whose motto is “off with their heads” deserves to be on this list in my eyes.  The Queen of Hearts is an absolute crazy bitch!  She orders everyone around, forces people to do her bidding, and abuses animals so that she can play croquet!!  Her dominance over the kingdom is absolute, and her evil cunning is unmatched.  However, her dark sense of humor provides some respite from her cold heart and makes her all the more memorable as a top villan.

7.) Wickham from Pride and Prejudice

Wickham is an absolutely horrid person.  He is a gambler, cheat, womanizer, liar, and so much more.  He leaves debt behind him  and sullies women’s reputations wherever he goes.  In Pride and Prejudice, he lies about the type of person Darcy truly is to make the residents of Meryton like him and give them his sympathy.  He is one of the worst types of villans, one who hides his true identity behind a face of compassion that changes at the last moment possible.  The fact that Wickham got most everyone to trust him except for Darcy shows how sly this fox really is!

6.) Grendel from Beowulf

For those of you who have never read Beowulf do it! Grendel is an enormous monster beast that has been terrifying and destroying the kingdom of He0r0t.  He eats soldiers, destroys buildings, and is just a royal pain in the butt.  Although his motives aren’t explicitly stated, a general need for revenge and greed drive Grendel to be the angry monster that he is.  Eventually killed by Beowulf, Grendel puts up quite a fight and is just a generally disagreeable monster.  His mom is also a pretty worthy adversary for Beowulf a well, but you have to read the book to find out about her!

Join me tomorrow for my top five villains!! Until then, happy reading!

My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here is the second half of my top ten books that will become (I hope) modern classics!

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5.) A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Published in 1959)

While on the surface this story seems like just a coming of age tale, it’s actually much  more.  A Separate Peace is credited with helping further the naturalism literary movement, which basically stated that one’s environment, family, and social conditions all come into play in shaping who you are and what you do.  The main character of the novel, Gene, treads down an enormous introspective path of trying to figure out who he is and why he’s led the life he has.  The story is told via flashback as he dwells on events from his teen years at Devon, a prep school.   The story seems to be solely a journey of self discovery, yet deep within the writing are thoughts on war and youth.

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4.) The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (Published in 2008-2010)

I’ve only recently read these books (literally I just read them over the course of 24hrs this past weekend) but I’m still reeling from their amazing-ness.  The three books in the series are PACKED with heavy themes that while directed at teens, sure do hit at home.  The ideas of governmental control, survival of the fittest, independence, unrequited love, power, sacrifice, interdependence, etc are all present here.  It’s stunning how much is jam-packed into these three novels without seeming overwhelming.  The plot is incredibly gripping, due in large part to the hauntingly realistic and relatable characters.  As we watch our own country fight multiple wars and deal with political infighting, this series hits close to home.

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 3.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Published in 2006)

It seems like the most simplistic plot: a man and his son walking down a road in a post-apocalyptic world.  However, it’s much deeper than that.  The Road is truly a character driven novel, with little detail and no tangents to get in the way.  It is a story about relationships: with family, with emotion, with strangers, with our environment, and with ourselves.  McCarthy creates a frightening land where cannibalism is commonplace and hope is scarce, yet the man and his son persevere.  The themes of survivorship and family shine throughout, and the reader is given new hope for a better tomorrow despite the despair of the present.

2.) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (Published in 1996)Cover Image 

Frank McCourt’s autobiographical memoir is a rough read in terms of subject matter, but is written so beautifully and elegantly that you look past all the depressing pieces and just see hope.  Telling the story of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, McCourt sadly but humorously covers every detail of the poor streets of Limerick, from the row of dilapidated houses that he and his siblings were forced to live in, to the various odd jobs he took to earn money for his mother.  This book will always be relevent because even though McCourt and his family faced hardship after hardship, he never lost sight of his hopes and dreams, making this a must-read for adolescents of today and in the future.

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1.) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Published in 1958)

This novel easily makes it into the top five books I’ve ever read.  Set in Africa during times of colonization and religious missionary influence, a local village leader named Okonkwo experiences a fall from power as he refuses to accept any of the influence of the colonials.  An important lesson I learned from this novel is one of perspective.  Just because one thinks what he/she is doing is correct doesn’t always correlate to what is correct for the other party.  This also plays into the theme of the power of change.  Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, and change for the sake of one set of ideals to match your own is often narrow-minded and intractable.  There is a reason why the world is full of individuals with different ideas, personalities, and beliefs.  It is when we begin changing this to make everyone the same that we become some form of a real life dystopian society.

Well readers, what are your thoughts?  What books do you think I’ve missed??  Let me know in the comments below!  Until next time…happy reading!

My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part I)

I was having a conversation with Todd and Adam the other day about books published in the last 50 years and which ones might be considered classics in 50 years.  Before I go into which books I chose I first had to think about what makes a classic a classic:

  • The ability to draw people in whether through the story or characters.  Classics are classics because we reread them over and over again.  Take Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc; we re-read them continuously even though we know the outcome.
  • Teaching a lesson about life or society.  If a book can teach us a lesson and we learn from it, then that book and lesson will stick with us forever.
  • Relevance in changing times.  A classic is always relevent, despite changing social mores, technology advances, and even changes in language.  A classic continues to tell universal tales and life lessons that always hold true, no matter the circumstances.

Keeping some of those things in mind, here are the top ten books I think will become modern classics

 
Cover Image10.) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams (Published in 1955)

Williams offers the reader of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tons in terms of themes and lessons to be learned.  He shows what greed and secrets can do to a family that has no trust in each other.  The play is filled with the theme of nihilism and mendacity, questioning whether or not life really does have meaning, and if it does have meaning what is it?  One of the main characters in the play, Big Daddy, is the representation of all of these themes and one more, that of facing death.  The dialogue and events make you really question what life is all about and how we should spend the time we’ve been given.  The above barely touches on the themes, motifs, and symbolism in the play.  It’s a play I’ve read over and over and over and one that I definitely see as a contender for being a modern classic.

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9.) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Published 1986-1987)

Surprised to see a graphic novel on the list?  Don’t be.  A lot of people think that graphic novels have nothing to offer due to small dialogue boxes and lots of illustrations, they’re wrong. Taking place during a time period spanning the 1940’s through the 1960’s, Watchmen offers us a glimpse into an alternate universe, one where superheros help us win wars, develop high-tech science experiments, and help keep the general peace.  The graphic novel has a lot of complex ideas about the deconstruction of the superhero and the existentialist movement.  It attacks the notion of putting all our faith in people we believe are going to save us, without knowing who they really are or what they are really capable of.  It attacks the notion of superheros and why we’re so enthralled by them. 
 
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8.) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Published in 1958)

 
Capote totally changed the world for women with his explosive novella about a woman who was an upscale classy prostitute.  Holly Golightly forever changed how women were looked at and what they were capable.  This novella shows that women could be just as free as men were sexually and that in some cases it actually empowered them.  It also showcased women’s independence from men.  They could have parties, male friends, drink, smoke, and have sex.  Gone was the idea of the stereotypical 1950’s housewife that greeted her husband at the door with a kiss and a cocktail.  Golightly was the epitome of what every women felt she COULD be.  With Capote’s help women everywhere were liberated and on came the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. 
 
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7.) The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling (Published in 1997-2007)

 
What can I say about a book that inspired thousands of new readers across the globe?  J. K. Rowling’s story of a young boy who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a magical world in which he is a celebrity.  This boy, Harry Potter, lives in a world that is endless: full of dragons, spells, mystery, and the epic battle between good and evil.  Imagination has no limit, as this work showed everyone around the world that they could escape their own worlds if just for a few hours as they explored Hogwarts and lived vicariously through Harry as he soared through the air on his broomstick.  Rowling’s work is so universal and its themes are so basic at the core of her writing that it truly can be applied to and understood by all.  The spark and uptick in reading that this book created is testament to its status as a stalwart classic novels that will stand the test of time.
 
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6.) Night by Elie Wiesel (Published in 1960)

 
Although the horrors of the Holocaust are now widely known and reflected on in modern media, Wiesel’s gritty retelling of the grueling abuses he endured as a prisoner of Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps was an initial raw and clear look into the horrors of that time.  He is angry, hopeless, insightful, introverted, caring, and many other emotions as he struggles to survive physically and mentally in his tormented state.  Night is written simplistically, with little allegory or metaphor.  The reader simply draws conclusions from Wiesel’s writing, and in its stark state it tells a powerful story of the struggle of the human will to live and overcome obstacles.  Changing the way we learned about the Holocaust, Night paved the way for an outpouring of emotion that had remained unseen as the world struggled to right itself after the horrors Hitler performed.  Not just dry facts in a history book, Wiesel made the pain real because of his memoir.  Like Anne Frank, one could now associate a names and faces with the destruction of the Holocaust.  His work will always be remembered for making the Holocaust personable.
 
Join me tomorrow for my top five choices!!  Until then share your comments below and happy reading!!

My Top Ten….Books I Wish I Was A Character From (Part II)

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are my top five books I wish I was a character from!!

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5.) Robert Langdon – The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon has to be one of the most brilliant characters ever created.  The amount of knowledge the man has is insane.  The best part about him is that he is completely normal!  He swims every morning, is a teacher, and lectures amongst other things.  His knowledge of symbols and their deeper meanings are astounding.  His abilities to put together puzzle after puzzle is admirable.  Of all the books that Dan Brown has written with Langdon as a character, Da Vinci Code is the one I chose to want to be from.  I’d love to be taken all through Europe on a quest for the holy grail.  Being a puzzle lover myself, I can only imagine what it would be like to get to take a crack at the codes that he gets to solve.  How cool would that be?

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4.) Elizabeth Bennet – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

With Pride and Prejudice being my all time favorite book is it really that shocking that I’d want to be Elizabeth Bennet??  Elizabeth is a woman after my own heart. She’s witty, passionate, fiercely loyal to those around her and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  She is a bit of a modern woman stuck in old times.  Now, the real reason I want to be her?  Mr. Darcy of course!!! Is there any woman who has read Pride and Prejudice and NOT fallen in love with Mr. Darcy??  Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth for who she really is and falls in love with her.  He sees that she’s not a cookie cutter woman who throws herself at a man simply so that she can have a house and income to survive on.  She turns down two marriage proposals, wanting to rather be penniless than to marry for anything but the strongest of true loves.  She gets just that in the end, and it’s for that reason I’d love to be her. 

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3.) Percy Jackson – The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson has quite an interesting family tree.  On a school trip to a museum he finds that not only is he the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, but that he is under attack by evil forces which wish to destroy him and all the other children of Greek gods and goddesses.  Apart from the whole defending your life portion of being Percy Jackson, it would be incredibly awesome to wield his powers.  The ability to control water as if it was a living object under your command is incredible, and Percy finds that his powers don’t stop there.  He has a natural ability to lead and defend his friends, and he becomes a great warrior.  Who wouldn’t want to be this guy?  Additional perks would include having a bunch of other Greek god and goddess children as friends and spending Christmas with uncle Zeus.  Not too shabby, huh?

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2.) Charlie – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

I challenge you to find a child that grew up in America that does not know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  From Gobstoppers to Three-Course dinner chewing gum, Dahl created a world of crazy candies and impossible sights and sounds.  Being Charlie would be like being a kid in a candy store, literally.  Imagine turning into a blueberry or being shrunken down to miniature size, driving a rootbeer-powered car, flying because of fizzy drink, or being able to lick wallpaper that tastes like candy.  These are all things Charlie got to see and do in the pages of one of my favorite children’s books.  The chocolate river, the oompa loompas, the candy that grows on trees: these are all things that I wish could be real.  Being Charlie, just even for a day, would allow me to indulge in that childhood dream, and would allow me to forget all my worries and cares.

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1.) Harry Potter – The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Magic?  Check.  Flying?  Check.  Witches and wizards?  Check.  A hidden world of adventure, danger, and unbelievable sights and sounds that can’t be explained?  Of course.  This is the world of a wizard known as Harry Potter.  Ever since I’ve read the first novel in the series, I’ve had a serious itching to play Quidditch.  I would also love to be able to change an inanimate object into an animal, and to send letters via my owl.  As Harry Potter, I would have the ability to do all of this and more.  Often people dream of magical worlds, but the world that Rowling creates is beyond anything I could imagine.  I honestly would love to be able to go to Hogwarts and get lost in the magical world.  It seems so honest and removed from the stress and trials of ordinary life.  To escape to this world would be the ultimate experience, and out of all the books that I wish I was a character from, this is my top one!

Well readers, what books do you want to jump in the pages of?  Why?  Do you agree with my choices? Disagree?  Let me know in the comments section below!

My Top Ten….Books I Wish I Was A Character From (Part I)

My top ten list topic this week is courtesy of my friend Greg!  I’ll be choosing my top ten books I wish I could be a character from!  It was so difficult to pick just ten characters, I’ve read enough books for this to be a big challenge.  Without further ado, here they are!

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10.) Laura Ingalls Wilder – These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve always thought it would be super interesting to have lived during prairie times.  The lack of indoor plumbing and rough manual labor would be enough to turn some people down, but I find the way of life back then to be fascinating.  People worked hard for the things they had and it created strong constitutions and strong work ethics.  People were protective of their family and friends and helped each other in rough times.  For me, being a true romantic at heart, it’s the courtship that occurred back then that makes me want to be Laura the most.  When Laura is 16 she gets her teaching certification and moves away from her family to try to help earn money for her sister Mary’s schooling.  The stress of her new job and the distance from her family causes her to become very melancholy and homesick.  At the end of her first week as a teacher her crush, Almanzo Wilder, shows up to take her back home to see her family.  This happily begins a tradition as he takes her to and from school each weekend.  The two, much to Laura’s delight, begin courting and after three years become engaged.  It’s this book that I would most like to be Laura from.  To be courted in the old ways would be so exciting to me!  Men like Almanzo are incredibly hard to find these days.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy that would have waited three years for his first kiss with the girl he loved.  It was a different time back then, than it is today, so I guess had I grown up back then it wouldn’t have been so hard to believe. But I digress, I think the biggest reason I would have loved living back then was that fact that life was so much simpler then. 

9.) Hercule Poirot – Agatha Christie’s Mystery Series

How awesome would it be to be a world-renowned genius at solving mysteries?  How awesome would it be to be a world-renowned genius at solving mysteries and have an AWESOME mustache on top of it?? Pretty damn awesome if you ask me.  I’ve always been a huge fan of mysteries and always wished I could solve mysteries like Hercule.  Poirot is smart, observant, witty, personable, has saved lives, and put criminals in jail.  Poirot is so so smart and I really wish I could make my brain put puzzles together like his so that I could do some good!

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8.) Mary Boleyn – The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

I find the life of a royal court to be completely interesting.  The dinners, parties, dances, and courtly love are all completely fascinating to me.  To be able to live such an opulent life would be incredibly interesting.  The downfall to being Mary Boleyn of course would be the loss of independence as a female.  Woman didn’t have much power to choose anything about the path of their lives – there were no careers – woman were just used as sexual objects to garner titles, land, and wealth for their families.  The reason I want to be Mary is because she refused to just be a pawn in her family’s game.  She went against them, marrying a nobody and deciding that court life was not for her.  She became a strong, independent woman in a time where there weren’t strong, independent women.  That garners my respect, and my wish to step into her shoes. 

7.)  Alice – Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’ve often wondered how many people wish they could have taken a trip down the rabbit hole and seen the things Alice saw.  The once in a lifetime experiences of playing croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs, having tea with the mad hatter, being surprised by the Cheshire cat, and meeting a high, knowledgable caterpillar are all experiences I wish I myself could have had.  I’m a cautious person by nature, so I’m not sure that I would have followed the “eat me” and “drink me” signs that Alice encountered, but I definitely would have played croquet with the queen (as long as she avoided saying “off with her head!).  

6.) The Pevensie Children – The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter have probably the coolest “oops” life ever.  Whilst playing hide and seek, Lucy decides to hide in an old wardrobe and finds herself in a mystical land named Narnia.  She convinces her siblings to go with her back through the wardrobe to Narnia, where after a major battle for control of the land they become the Kings and Queens spoken of in a famous prophecy.  The rule Narnia for many years until one day they find the entrance back out through the wardrobe and return to the life they left behind.  I forgot to mention that they return to this life exactly how they left it, not having aged a day.  I think it’s awesome that they were able to experience and live two whole lifetimes that were completely different from one another.  Lewis does a great job creating Narnia, and weaves childhood fantasies of faraway lands and talking animals in with relatable characters to create the ultimate exciting dream for anyone, child or adult.

Join me tomorrow for the conclusion of my top ten books I wish I could be a character from!! Make sure to leave me some comments on who you’d want to be!

My Top 10….Literary Couples (Part II)

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are my top five literary couples!

(Please be warned, there could be some spoilers in my blurbs on each couple)

5.) Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff (From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

                Catherine and Heathcliff to me is one of those love stories where the love the characters have for each other is their vindicating trait.  Catherine and Heathcliff grow up in the same house together, she as the master’s daughter and Heathcliff as the family’s adopted son.  As Heathcliff and Catherine grow they become closer and closer.  The two sneak over to an estate close to their own to see a lavish party and what wealth can give them.  While there Cathy gets attacked by one of the dogs and is taken inside the house where she stays for several weeks.  When she returns home she has become a lady and claims that she is marrying Edgar, the master of the wealthy estate she stayed at.  Heathcliff over hears her telling a housemaid that while she really loves Heathcliff she has to marry Edgar to get the wealth and social prominence she so desires.  Heathcliff leaves to go get educated and become wealthy, hoping that he can win Cathy back.  Heathcliff is gone for three years and in that time Cathy gets married.  When Heathcliff returns and sees that Cathy and Edgar are married he vows to get vengeance on Edgar for by marrying Edgar’s sister Isabella.  Heathcliff turns into a cruel man and literally drives Isabella mad.  Now if you’re thinking Cathy is selfish and Heathcliff is cruel, angry, bitter, and heartbroken you’d be absolutely right.  It’s who they are in the end of the novel that shows how vindicating love can be.  If you’ve never read this novel I heartily encourage you to give it a whirl.  It’s rough reading through the first time, as you want to just shake the characters and say “wake up!”, but it’s one of those stories that you have to read to understand what I mean. 

4.) Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder (From the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

                For those that have never read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder let me give you a brief breakdown.  Laura’s books chronicled her childhood moving from place to place with her family as they tried to survive as a farming family.  Laura meets Almanzo in her teen years and falls in love with him despite there being a ten-year age gap between them.  Their courtship is one of a time long-lost and forgotten in today’s society.  Almanzo courts Laura for three years before he proposes to her and gives her first kiss.  It’s relationships like this of a bygone era that make my heart truly flutter.  Those of you that know me know that I’m a hopeless romantic and wish that life could be like it was in simpler times like these.  People weren’t fluttering from person to person; they met one person who they knew they could share their life with and did just that.  Another reason I absolutely love Laura and Almanzo is because their story is real!! It gives hope to the reader that they too can find a love as pure and consistent as theirs.

3.) Romeo and Juliet (From Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

                Romeo and Juliet are THE quintessential couple when it comes to ranking literary couples.  The two loved each other so much that they refused to live without the other, literally.  Any list ranking great love stories has to have theirs!  While their love is certainly tragic, it is true, wholesome, honest, and deep.  Those that find love like Romeo and Juliet’s are incredibly lucky.

2.) Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth (From Persuasion by Jane Austen)

                Anne and Frederick….A pairing that finds me at a loss for words.  Anne in her youth becomes head over heels in love with Wentworth and accepts a proposal of marriage to him.  She is persuaded by a close family friend that the marriage would be imprudent due to what is expected of a woman of her social standing.  Wentworth has no money, no connections, and would in essence bring down the family name.  Believing everyone to know what is best for her, Anne breaks the engagement, and in doing so breaks Wentworth’s heart.  Years later the tables have turned; Anne’s father has spent the family into a debt and Wentworth has become a rich Captain in the Navy.  Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law rent out Anne’s family estate, thus thrusting Wentworth and Anne back into each others company.  Having been separated for over 7 years Wentworth believes himself to be completely over his love for Anne.  Anne on the other hand threatens to be as in love with him as ever.  Knowing that it is her fault for their broken engagement she keeps silent while in his company.  Tragedy strikes however and Wentworth turns to Anne for her help, thus opening his eyes to this majestic creature he used to love.  They must figure out if their love is enough to overcome the years and experiences they’ve had apart.  Anne and Wentworth are truly the crème de la crème of Austen literature.  Even though they’ve been separated for several years they both know deep down that they’ve only ever truly loved each other.  That consistency is both admirable and breathtaking to a heartless romantic.

1.) Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy (From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

                Where do I even begin for these guys?? Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy have a love story that is not all that hard to believe.  It is rife with misunderstanding, pride, shyness, arrogance, prejudice, understanding, forgiveness, passion, and trust.  Their relationship starts off badly with an ill begotten statement made by Darcy at a ball.  Lizzie bases her feelings for Darcy on this statement she overhears and refuses to change her opinion of him until much later in the novel.  Darcy quickly realizes the mistake in his comment when he sees her beauty and wit. He begins seeking out her company during her stay at his friend’s estate and the balls at which they are both in attendance.  Lizzie refuses to believe that he has a non-arrogant bone in his body and continues with the verbal assault on him both to his face and to her friends.  Darcy and Lizzie have a DISASTAROUS first proposal where she tells him that he is that last man in the world that she would ever marry.  Darcy realizes that she is right in her assessment of him in certain areas and writes her a letter refuting the other points.  This broken proposal makes Darcy realize he needs to change and stop being prejudiced to those below his social standing.  Lizzie, after reading Darcy’s letter, realizes that she is all wrong about him and is mortified that she was so blinded by pride.  They meet again several months later and both are completely changed in the other’s eyes.  Seeing a chance to start again they embark on a friendship that threatens to be ended when Lizzie’s sister runs away with Darcy’s enemy.  I won’t bore you with any more of the plot, (although I don’t think anyone could ever be bored by Pride and Prejudice) and get straight into why I love them.  There is such a lesson to be learned here.  While first impressions are important, don’t let them be the end all be all of shaping a person’s character.  Lizzie and Darcy find true love and companionship in each other once they let their egos out-of-the-way.  I love reading their story because they are both full of faults (as we all are) and it’s the admission of their faults to each other that paves the way for a love to blossom between them.

Well readers, there you have my top ten literary couples.  Let me know who your favorites are (whether they are in my list or have been omitted!)

Until next time, Happy Reading!

My Top 10….Literary Couples (Part I)

Happy Valentines Day!! I thought it would be interesting if I sat myself down and forced myself to think about my favorite literary couples.  So, without further adieu here is part one of my list! 

(Please be warned, there could be some spoilers in my blurbs on each couple)

10.) Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman (From the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris)

                For those of you who have read the series, you know that Sookie and Eric have had a very tumultuous relationship over the 10 books that have so far been published.  Sookie is a telepath who is thrust into the world of the supernatural when she begins dating a vampire named Bill Compton.  (The books take place in a world where vampires have come out into the open to admit their existence) Sookie and Bill break up once his true reasons for being with her are revealed.  Eric, another vampire, is over 1,000 years old and un-phased by humans.  Until meeting Sookie he thinks that humans are useless for anything beyond feeding from.   In the fourth book, Dead to the World, Sookie and Eric finally get together, much to the pleasure of Sookie readers everywhere.  Eric is normally cocky, cool, and all about himself, but his love for Sookie changes him in small ways here and there.  He is constantly trying to take care of her and protect her from the evils of the supernatural world.  He tries to hide from Sookie how deep his feelings are for her because he knows she is still wounded from her relationship with Bill.  When they are together and free from the supernatural drama there is a sweetness to their relationship that is wonderful to read.  Their relationship has its ups and downs, just as real ones do, and it’s this honesty and realness that I like so much. 

9.) Beauty and the Beast (From the fairytale)

                Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies as a child and subsequently it’s my favorite fairytale.  The fairytale is fairly different from the movie version, but the idea of Belle falling in love with the beast is still existent.  The idea that love can transcend the physical appearances of people is what draws me to Belle and the Beast.  I feel that so many people focus on the physical appearances of their partners rather than what’s on the inside.  Beauty and the Beast pushes a message that I personally wish more people would try out in their own lives.

8.) Odysseus and Penelope (From The Odyssey by Homer)

                The Trojan War is at an end and Odysseus begins his long journey back to Ithaca to his wife Penelope and their son Telemachus.  Odysseus has been gone for ten years, and in that ten-year span Penelope and Telemachus have kept a large group of suitors at bay.  Odysseus’ journey is filled with many obstacles, each one threatening to end his quest to return home.  He must deal with a Cyclops, the Sirens, and countless other obstacles.  His love for his family, his kingdom, and his people all keep his spirits up.  He knows that the relationship he has with his wife is strong enough to withstand anything.  The strength and courage they have in their marriage is admirable.  I had to have them on this list because of how much faith they have in each other and their relationship. 

7.) Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson (From The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks)

                The Notebook is a romantic novel that chronicles Noah and Allie’s love story told through the pages of a notebook.  Stricken with dementia Allie doesn’t remember anything about her life.  Noah fills the pages of a notebook and reads it to her on a daily basis, hoping that it will bring her back to him.  He tells her about Noah, a poor southern boy, and Allie, a rich socialite, who meet one summer while in their late teens and have an unforgettable summer romance.  Circumstances arise tearing them apart from each other, but it doesn’t last.  They make their way back to each other eventually and get married.  Their relationship is indicative that even in the face of tragedy love can overcome it all.

6.)  Mary Boleyn and William Stafford (From The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory)

                Everyone knows who Anne Boleyn is, but few know of her younger sister Mary.  Before Anne was with King Henry VIII, Mary was.  It is said that Mary had two children by the king before he began courting Anne.  When Henry was done with Mary she began spending as much time as possible with her children at the family home in the country.  Mary is chaperoned out to the country by a group of her uncle’s men.  Leading these men was William Stafford.  Stafford begins interacting with Mary and her children on each trip out to the country.  Mary becomes interested in him and when she’s at court begins to secretly seek out his company.  William, knowing that Mary is too high for him socially, leaves court to begin making a life for himself as a farmer.  After a short separation Mary realizes that she has found true love in William Stafford.  Leaving court suddenly she rushes to William’s farm to tell him that she will leave everything of her former life behind if he will have her.  I absolutely love Mary and William.  Mary is willing to leave her wealth, family, social status, and position completely behind for a man who literally has nothing but a piece of land with which to grow a farm on.  If that’s not love what is?!? (For Todd’s review of The Other Boleyn Girl click here)

So there you have it folks! The first half of my top ten literary couples!  Do you agree with the first half of my choices?? Who are some of your favorite literary couples?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Check back in tomorrow for the top 5!  I hope you all have a fantastic Valentine’s Day filled with love!