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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: Annabeth's War

With King Harold away at war Lord Raburn has his eye on the throne. Those who dare to stand in his way fall beneath his power. All but one. A girl named Annabeth. Can a common, ordinary girl, with love for king, country, and her father, achieve the impossible? 

Trained by her father, a master swordsman, outlawed Annabeth has only her sword, her wits, and her disguises to keep Belterra from falling entirely into Lord Raburn's clutches. Can she rescue her captured father and Prince Alfred? Will one girl keep the kingdom from falling?

I usually don't like reviewing books and movies (although I've reviewed every period drama I've ever watched and I have a couple more book/movie reviews in the works) because I can rarely get my thoughts together to say what I want to.  However, after having read this book in almost one sitting and shedding not a few tears over it, I knew I had to review it.

Characters are usually what make or break a story and Annabeth's War has a host of amazing characters.  There's Annabeth, of course.  For some strange reason I tend not to like MCs very much but Annabeth was an exception - I loved her!  I think my favorite character was a toss-up between Eliot or Ransom (gotta love strong heroes!).  I liked Alf too :)  And Annabeth's father.

The medieval time period has always been my favorite era (even more than Georgian/Regency/Victorian) so I knew I'd love AW just because it was set in those times.  Add to that a stellar cast, powerful and descriptive writing and a great plot - needless to say it's one of my new favorite books :)  About the crying bit...honestly, it seemed like the last few chapters brought on fresh tears with every turn of the page - and the scene where SPOILER her father dies END OF SPOILER was the finishing touch.  Thank you, Jessica - that truly made my day.

This is true

Overall I would say that Annabeth's War is a wonderful read that I highly recommend to anyone interested in medieval times and/or a good adventure story.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Les Misérables 2012 Soundtrack Review

Les Miserables - Highlights from the Film Soundtrack  Price : £13.99

Ugh.  My last post went live on December 14th.  Which means I've been away from this blog for over two weeks.  Not. good.  However, a few of my blogging friends (and my mom) encouraged me to start posting again and I finally have several ideas brewing in my mind for blog posts so I think I'll be getting them out at a steady clip again :)  Now on to the review...

I got the soundtrack in the mail a few days ago and although I had listened to some bits and pieces on Youtube and Grooveshark, I mostly waited until I could listen to the full thing - and it was well worth the wait.  With the exception of one song (actually two since I skipped Master Of The House - or MOTH as I prefer to call it) this soundtrack was pretty much everything I had hoped for and more.  To begin with, the cover art is gorgeous and the picture on the back is from L'marque's funeral, I believe.  Inside there was a little booklet with a message from Cameron Mackintosh and another from Alan Boubil.  And almost all the promo pictures we've seen were also scattered throughout.  Here are my thoughts on the tracks...

Look Down - Russell Crowe has low, menacing tones which are very good (considering the character of Javert) - I was impressed.  I was disappointed that almost all of the opening chorus has been cut from the track - just one little bit and then it goes to "Now bring me prisoner 24601..."  
The Bishop - I knew this was going to be phenomenal no matter what because the one and only Valjean Colm Wilkinson is playing the Bishop :)  And I was right.  It was neat (and sort of weird) to hear him singing the Bishop's part :)
Valjean's Soliloquy - I was actually surprised by how good Hugh Jackman was as Valjean (at least in this song)...there was one part where it seemed as though he was just managing to whine out the lines but other than that he had a good strong voice and the last note was held out long and strong.
At The End Of The Day - Wow.  I watched a clip of this on Youtube and Anne blew me away with her Fantine.  The way she runs up the stairs shouting "Monsieur le maire!" so frantically...back to the actual track - a lot of the song was skipped but I didn't really notice it so it'll probably work in the film as well.
I Dreamed A Dream - My favorite version of 'Dream'.  Hands down.  Although I will always love Lea Salonga's version, Anne was spectacular...she is such a great actress.
The Confrontation - At first I wasn't sure if I liked this or didn't seem as powerful as the other versions I've watched.  However, I did think that being able to hear bits of their 'sword fight' was cool.  My biggest complaint was that the 'And this I swear to you tonight...there is no place for you to hide...' was left out since that's my favorite part of the 'Confrontation'.
Castle On A Cloud - Awwww.  Little Cosette is so sweet in the film (as well as both concerts...) and I loved her rendition of 'Castle'.  It was very well done (although this isn't exactly the hardest song to sing).
Suddenly - Can we get a round of applause for this adorable song?  *cascading round of applause goes around the blogosphere*  Thank you.  This is a new song, written specifically for the film.  It's one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack and I believe adds a whole new dynamic to Valjean and Cosette's relationship. :)
Stars - I wasn't sure about Russell Crowe's Javert.  Compared to other Javerts, his voice was quite weak and he seemed to lack emotion.  But, thanks to Petie's enthusiastic defense of his Javert and the conclusions I drew after listening to his version of 'Stars' I was won over.  I am very particular about how it's sung.  In my mind, this is the best version and nothing will ever change that but I am open to other renditions.  The biggest thing in favor of this version is that he holds out the last note strong and true.  Which is the most important thing.
Red & Black - This is one of my favorite songs in the entire musical so I was very eager to see how Aaron's Tveit would fare as Enjolras.  He started out somewhat weak but he did the line "His death is the sign we awaaaaiiiiittttt!" very, very well.  And of course I loved the song because it has Marius' first appearance (in the soundtrack, that is)
In My Life/A Heart Full Of Love - Cuteness alert!  Marius and Cosette are so adorable together in this film (they even sound adorable).  They cut out all of Cosette's part in 'In My Life' and although her voice is somewhat weak in AHFOL, I still enjoy her singing.  But the prize for best singer goes to Eddie Redmayne (aka The Young Pretender, aka Marius) with Samantha Barks (aka Queen of the Friend Zone, aka Éponine) as a close second.  His excitement and overall heart-full-of-loveness is so evident.  And Éponine's brokenheartedness is clear as well :(
On My Own - I literally squeeeed when a trailer featuring OMO came out (check it out - it's tragically beautiful).  This is my favorite version of OMO (sorry Lea Salonga - you're a very close contender though).  Samantha did a calmer, quieter rendition this time and it is gorgeous.  And sad.  But mostly gorgeous.
One Day More - I wanted to love this.  And I did enjoy it but that's not the same.  It just lacks the epic feeling that the concerts gave.  Although Enjo, Éponine and Marius were all very good (and Javert) the song just lacked some oomph.  I must say though that 'My place is here, I fight with youuuuuuu!' was excellent (my siblings and I think that that is the definitive Marius line - if he doesn't do that one good, he's not really all that great).
Drink With Me - THEY CUT OUT GRANTIERE'S PART!  How could they do that?!  Again, it's one of my favorite parts...and they CUT IT OUT!  Although I did like the little bit of Enjo at the beginning and Marius at the end.
Bring Him Home - Hoo boy.  Where do I start?  I probably not even qualified to review this track because I've never even finished it.  Valjean yells out the song (at least as much as I've heard) and his voice sounds terrifically strained.  I seriously could not finish listening to it.  The only real disappointment on the soundtrack (and in the film - and Petie can back me up on that)
The Final Battle - This is the only instrumental piece on the soundtrack.  And there's still some talking...a terrified voice shouting "There's more men!  There's more men, Enjolras!" and someone calling Marius' name twice.  This track tears me up inside - and it'll probably be worse actually watching it...
Javert's Suicide - Though this could have had more feeling put into it, I still like this track.  I really felt Javert's confusion over Valjean letting him go (and he in turn letting Valjean go).
Empty Chairs At Empty Tables - Phenomenal.  The emotions pouring out of Marius' voice - this is one of the finest pieces of acting on the soundtrack (and I suspect in the film as well).  As he sings about his friends that are dead and gone, you can feel his pain and sorrow. :'(
Epilogue -  I cannot wait to see this on the screen.  It sounds amazing...and I'm sure it will look even better. My only complaint is that Éponine isn't with Fantine as she sings.  But she makes an appearance during the "Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night..." which makes it all worth it.

Well, there you have it - my opinions on the different tracks.  What do you think?

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