Top 5 Broadway Love Songs (Part Two)

Reader, this is the last romance-themed blog post of the month, so I thought we’d go out with a bang, and talk about some of the most popular songs in musical theatre, the love songs. Broadway love songs are great because they are full of big emotion, swoony lines, epic belts, and gorgeous harmonies. Although, that’s actually true of a lot of Broadway, but whatever. The point still stands.

Last February, I made a list of my top 5 Broadway love songs, narrowed down from a master list of over 50 songs. And with a list that big, 5 songs and an honourable mention just wasn’t enough to do all the songs I love justice, so it’s time for Part Two.

Let’s dive right into it!

Honourable Mention: “Heart of Stone” from Six: The Musical

Just because this is my least favourite song from Six, does not mean it’s not still one of my favourite songs overall. So I thought the honourable mentions would be a good space to show it the love it deserves. It’s pretty much the only actual love song in Six, and it’s a pretty gorgeous unrequited ballad with just enough honest bitterness to keep Jane Seymour from seeming like a doormat. She may not be the sassiest queen in Six, but she is one of the wisest.

5. “Champagne” from In the Heights

Since I talked about Nina and Benny from In the Heights last year, it seems only appropriate that I talk about Vanessa and Usnavi this year, who are the more traditional “will they-won’t they” couple. “Champagne” is an adorable culmination of their relationship, with Vanessa’s increasingly obvious flirtation attempts and Usnavi’s preoccupation with opening the champagne adding just enough humor to lighten up what has becoming an increasingly dark second act. However, the song still keeps the raw emotions, grief, and burgeoning love simmering right under the surface. It’s the perfect mixture of emotions.

4. “Helpless” from Hamilton

Yes, there are two Lin-Manuel Miranda songs on this list. I can’t help it, he just writes the best songs. I’ve mentioned before that “Helpless” often gets overshadowed by “Satisfied”, so I’m doing my part to rectify that by giving the spot on the list to “Helpless” which is definitely the superior love song. “Helpless” is like the highlight tour of Eliza and Hamilton’s early courtship and wedding, and it works beautifully because of Phillipa Soo’s gorgeous vocals, giggly swooning, and just general adorableness. It’s a genuinely sweet song that gives the couple a sturdy foundation and it has got a really sick beat too, so, there’s that as well.

3. “You And I” from Bare: A Pop Opera

I don’t think I’ve talked about Bare on this blog before, which is a shame because it is almost criminally excellent. And one of my favourite songs from this superb show is “You And I”, which manages to be really cute when you first hear it, and really sad when you’ve listened to the rest of the show. It works beautifully to set up both the show’s central relationship and the conflicts standing in the way of that relationship, both external and internal, and it does so in a way that is catchy, fun, and chock full of foreshadowing. And if there is one thing I like in romance songs, it’s foreshadowing.

2. “Stupid With Love” from Mean Girls: The Musical

I have mentioned before that I really like this song. It perfectly captures that giddy, giggly first-crush feeling, while also allowing for some absolutely inspired math puns (I’m a sucker for puns, math or otherwise), and some lovely belts for Cady. It’s a sweet and innocent song about first love, and in a world of show tunes that are often full of life-or-death passion, that’s a breath of fresh air.

1.”Wait For Me” from Hadestown

And just like last year, my top song is from Hadestown, with a song I love even more than I love “All I’ve Ever Known.” I feel like “Wait For Me” sums up everything Hadestown is in just one song (there’s a reason they perform it on all the talk shows). It’s a passionate plea to hold onto hope and faith in the midst of increasing darkness, illustrated through lush, sweeping strings and Reeve Carney’s falsetto. If that’s not what Hadestown is all about, I don’t know what is.

And those are my top 5 favourite Broadway love songs. You guys should let me know in the comments your favourites, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

Top 5 Enemies-To-Lovers Romances

Reader, as I’ve mentioned before, February is the month of romance, and I’ve been trying to theme my blog posts appropriately. However, over the almost three years I’ve been blogging, I have created no fewer than four top 5 lists about couples, three best and one worst. So, I really think it’s time I branch out a bit and talk about some romance tropes instead. And honestly, what romance trope is more popular than enemies-to-lovers (except maybe love triangles, but those are so early 2010s). So, I thought the time was ripe for me to throw in my two cents and talk about my top 5 enemies-to-lovers romances.

Now, full disclosure, I realized when I went to make this list I haven’t actually read a lot of enemies-to-lovers, so this is less top 5 than it is, the five books I have read with this trope.On the flip side though, it’s possible I’ve read others, didn’t like them, and thus, deleted them from my brain, in which case, my continued memories of these couples makes them the top 5 by default.

Whatever the correct answer is, let’s just dive into the list.

Honourable Mention: Cardan and Jude from The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Now I realize this series is technically a trilogy, but since I’ve only read the first book, I’m only listing the first book (that’s also why they’re only an honourable mention). This couple has not tecnically gotten together yet, but there are sparks flying all over the place in one of those angsty passionate, hatred-but-maybe-not-really-hatred pairings that create so much of the drama in YA. Cardan is a villain, who may or may not have a heroic side, and Jude is a hero, who may or may not have a villainous side. What a good (or possibly horrible) match! I don’t know which way it will go, but I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and find out!

5. Simon Snow and Baz from Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Another series in which I have only read the first book, Simon and Baz are your classic chosen one/archnemesis pairing, whose hatred of each other is definitely a disguise for far more affectionate feelings. And honestly, they are not fooling anyone except maybe themselves. Watching them gradually realize their true feelings is a treat, and it gives this otherwise goofy pretty-much fanfic a nice emotional core.

4. Nina and Matthias from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

Although only one of many couples in Six of Crows, Nina and Matthias are extremely memorable. Soldiers from rival nations on the verge of war, the pair soon discover they have far more in common than either would like to admit. Theirs is a bantery, opposites-attract delight of a romance that keeps the swoon quota in this duology consistently filled.

3. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Okay, yes, I put the most generic and famous enemies-to-lovers romance on this list. You want to know why? Because they are the best enemies-to-lovers romance in classic literature, that’s why (sorry, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, you’ve been demoted)! Elizabeth and Darcy are the best. They banter, they insult, they are incapable of understanding their own emotions, and they also eventually become possibly the most respectful and equal relationship in classic literature. If that’s not a happy ending, I don’t know what is.

2. Warner and Juliette from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

It’s been, like, a whole two weeks since I talked about the cheesy, angsty glory that is Warner and Juliette’s relationship, so I think it’s definitely time to do it again. From a pretty by-the-numbers dystopian couple, the pair grow into a mutually-respectful, badass power couple that transcend the rather silly and by-the-numbers dystopian they inhabit.

1.Feyre and Rhysand from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas

You probably all guessed this was going to be number one, I’ve made no secret about my love for Feysand (and if you didn’t know Feyre and Rhysand were endgame, what have you been doing with your life? A Court of Mist and Fury came out five years ago, you are missing out). Their relationship blossoms from a chemistry-filled Hades-and-Persephone beginning to a respectful, feminist, equal, heartwarming marriage that may be the most beautiful Sarah J Maas has ever written. I truly adore this couple, and I think they fully deserve their top spot on this list.

And there you have it, those are my top 5 enemies-to-lovers romances. You guys should let me know in the comments what your favourites are, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the nex time.

The Last Five Years Songs RANKED

Reader, I was scouting around for some more romance-themed posts to do, since A Court of Silver Flames, while sure to be full of epic and swoonworthy romance, is not exactly the first thing you think of when you think of a love story. So, how about we spend today talking about the destruction of a marriage? That’s romantic, right?

Kidding aside, The Last Five Years seems like a thematically appropriate show to talk about in the month of February. It’s sort of the anti-Valentine’s Day musical, if you will. It’s also one of my favourites, and I always want a chance to gush about it, so I’m seizing the opportunity.

Today, we are going to be ranking the songs from The Last Five Years (based on the movie with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan because that’s the version I listen to). We’ll put them in order from “averagely good” to “heartbreakingly beautiful” and gush about some of the awesome songwriting that went into this musical.

So let’s jump right into it!

14. Nobody Needs to Know

There was no doubt in my mind that this song was going to be bottom of the list. As well as Jeremy Jordan sings it, there’s just no getting around how unpleasant Jamie is in this song. He’s supposed to be convincing us he’s justified in cheating, and all I want to do is slap him. It does not make me at all sympathetic to Jamie’s perspective.

13. A Part of That

In some ways, Jamie’s unpleasantness colours this song as well. It’s actually fairly sweet, but given what we know about Jamie’s behaviour, it just makes me feel really sad for Cathy, because her husband just sucks so much. That kinds of upsets the balance of the show, putting my sympathies too heavily behind Cathy, and honestly, I blame these two songs for that.

12. The Next Ten Minutes

Now, this song is sweet and cute and fairly inoffensive, which is where the problem lies. Every other song in this show is brimming with powerful, sometimes painful, emotion and this one is just happy and in love like any other romantic duet. I love a good romantic duet, but the depth of emotion in the other songs means a song that’s only about romance ends up falling to the wayside a bit.

11. Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You

Jamie and Cathy’s other duet is so much deeper than the other one, and the fact that it’s this low down on the list really tells you how good the other songs in this show are. I absolutely love the whole conceit of singing together but five years apart, I think their voices sound beautiful together, and I think it’s a perfect cap to the show.

10. See, I’m Smiling

This song is great for a couple reasons. The first is the fact that it does an excellent job of showing Cathy’s personality, both the good and the bad, as she indicates a desire to do better but also passive aggressively attempts to get Jaime to tell her what she wants to hear. And the second reason is once Cathy snaps into just plain aggressive mode, it’s awesome. Her rant to Jaime pretty much hits the nail right on the head and it’s savage and awesome and really satisfying even given how early on in the show it comes.

9. A Miracle Would Happen

Much like “Nobody Needs to Know”, Jaime comes off like a terrible person in this song, but unlike “Nobody Needs to Know,” it’s so funny I can’t help ranking it higher. He’s sleasy, yes, but Jeremy Jordan is just so hilarious and talented he wins me over despite the words he’s singing. He’s got so much charisma, I can’t help myself.

8. I Can Do Better Than That

I was originally going to put this one ninth, but in the end, because it is not about cheating, it gets to be higher up on the list. Those are the rules. Just like “A Miracle Would Happen,” Cathy doesn’t come off like an amazing person in this song, but it’s so funny and bright and catchy, I can’t bring myself to care. So what if she’s a little smug? She’s got the pipes to make it a song worth listening to, so I’ll forgive her.

7. If I Didn’t Believe In You

Of Jamie’s post-marriage songs, this is by far the best. This is the only one where I can see where he’s coming from and genuinely sympathize with him. It’s harsh but it’s honest, and it’s the only one of Jamie’s songs that actually properly strikes that balance. Incidentally, it’s also the song that always makes me think how amazing a gender-swapped version of The Last Five Years would be, but that’s probably a topic for a different post.

6. Shiksa Goddess

I vastly prefer Jamie’s pre-marriage songs to his post-marriage songs. This one in particular is just fun. It’s got all the giddiness of beginning a relationship matched to, as I’ve mentioned before, Jeremy Jordan’s bottomless charisma and charm, so, it’s a really good time all around.

5. Moving Too Fast

And here’s another song that’s made excellent by Jeremy Jordan’s charm! Much like “I Can Do Better Than That,” this song falls a little bit on the smug side, but there’s just too much charm and enthusiasm oozing out of every syllable for me to hold that against it. And also, there’s some killer belting at the end, and I’m a total sucker for Jeremy Jordan belting. I’m only human.

4. Climbing Uphill

This might be the funniest song in the whole show. It’s a patter song, and nothing is funnier than a patter song. Cathy’s frantic inner monologue as she attempts to audition is hilarious and relatable, even for those of us who aren’t struggling actresses. The comedic heights make her final desperation more wrenching, and once again, it makes Cathy infinitely more sympathetic than Jamie.

3. The Schmuel Song

Oh look, another song made magical by the endlessly talented Jeremy Jordan! I mean, “The Schmuel Song” is charming enough on its own, as a means of cheering Cathy up, but throw in Jeremy Jordan’s comedic chops and golden voice and you have a recipe for just about the cutest love song ever written. It’s Jamie’s best moment in the entire show, and it’s also the only time either character is entirely and unselfishly supportive of the other one (which is probably a pretty good indicator about why this marriage failed).

2. A Summer In Ohio

This song toes an excellent line between sympathy and comedy. As Cathy recounts her adventures at summer community theatre, she’s funny and self-deprecating, with only a hint of her later bitterness and it’s the best version of the character by a long shot. It’s also insanely catchy, and just like “Climbing Uphill,” relatable, especially if you know anything about community theatre.

1.Still Hurting

There was no way I could put any other song at the top of the list. “Still Hurting” is a masterpiece in creating character and building sympathy, and it gives Cathy a huge advantage right off the bat, because this song tugs on your heartstrings so much, it’s well nigh impossible to forget it and start sympathizing with Jamie. It’s simple but powerful, one of the greatest opening numbers in a musical, and it’s just perfect.

And there you have it, those are my rankings for all the songs from The Last Five Years. You guys should let me know in the comments what you’re rankings are, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas Crackpot Theories

Reader, ring bells, bang drums, and rejoice to the Heavens, because there is a new Sarah J Maas book in the world! Could I be anymore excited (insert Chandler Bing impersonation here)? I don’t think I could be, because this is not just any new Sarah J Maas book. Oh, no. This is a continuation of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, the series that features one of my favourite books ever, A Court of Mist and Fury, which makes this a book I have been waiting for since before I graduated high school and I’m about to graduate university. That’s a long time, this is a highly anticipated book.

And since I have been waiting for this book for so long, today’s crackpot theories may be less crackpot than usual. I have had four years to refine, research, and calibrate these theories so a lot of care has gone into these. Then again, I haven’t read the book, so, maybe I’m hilariously off the mark. Who can tell? Regardless, allow me to put a spoiler warning in place for the original trilogy, and let’s start some theorizing!

1.There’s going to be a Cassian/Nesta/Eris love triangle

I kind of hope I’m wrong about this one, but based on the snippets that SJM has been releasing it seems like Eris is going to rear his ugly head once again, and insert himself into the Cassian/Nesta romance. I’m not crazy about this idea, because it’s not like Eris is the most likeable of characters, but I do think it’s a possibility for a few reasons. First, Sarah J Maas doesn’t really do love triangles. The closest is probably Celeana/Dorian/Chaol but even that is two back-to-back relationships, not two simultaneous relationships It makes sense, then, that she may want to stretch her writing muscles a bit and change things up, and a love triangle would be a good way to do that, especially because everyone is so locked into the idea of Cassian and Nesta as a couple there aren’t a lot of inherent surprises in them just hooking up. Throwing in Eris shakes up their dynamics a lot, as it directs Cassian’s potential jealousy towards a worthy target and it enables Nesta to properly evaluate what she wants from a male. Also, Eris has the ability to shake up some dynamics in a different way, which brings me to my next theory.

2. Mor is going to come out to the rest of the Inner Circle

This is kind of a multi-part theory, so bear with me. The first part is that Eris knows Mor is gay, and that’s why he ended their betrothal. Specifically, in A Court of Wings and Ruin, he says to Mor, “I wouldn’t have touched you […] I knew why you did it […] So I gave you your freedom, ending the betrothal in no uncertain terms.” To me, that indicates he knew she was gay, which was why he wasn’t going to touch her, and he ended the betrothal, in some twisted way, to help her out. Which means that this deep secret Mor is keeping, that will greatly alter the structure of the Court is known by someone who, let’s just say, does not have a great track record with kindness. Which brings me to the next part of my theory, which is that Mor is going to come out to the Inner Circle either voluntarily or because Eris outs her (I really hope it’s the first one). I think this is a really important step for her to finally be happy, and can fundamentally alter the story enough to provide plenty of fodder for the next book (I’m operating under the assumption that the next book will be about Mor). Furthermore, Mor is a significant barrier to the Cassian/Nesta romance. Both her and Cassian are in this quasi-romantic relationship that insulates them from the pain of an actual romantic relationship, and Nesta threatens that, which is why Mor is such a bitch to her in ACOWAR. If Mor can be honest with her feelings and with Cassian, then he can be free to go be with Nesta. And no less importantly, so can Azriel. But that’s a different theory.

3. Azriel and Elain are endgame

Okay, time to talk about Azriel. As I started to say above, Azriel deserves to be free and to be with someone who loves him the way he deserves. That person is obviously not Mor, and the fact that she’s been deliberately stringing him along for 500 years does not make me like her very much. So if Mor comes out, Azriel will finally actually know it’s not going to happen, and can be with his actually perfect match, Elain. Because that would be adorable. For the record, I don’t know for sure if this will happen in this book, or if it’s a later book in the series type of thing. I just don’t think either Azriel or Elain are getting their own book, so at some point this will occur. Regardless, I don’t think Elain is a good match for Lucien, and I think SJM is going to use that relationship to play with the idea of soul-mates versus free-will, and come down on the side of free-will by pairing Azriel and Elain together.

4. Tamlin is going to cause trouble

Again, this may just be at some point in a future book, not necessarily in this book, but at some point, Tamlin is going to cause some trouble. That’s what he’s best at, after all. His storyline does not feel remotely resolved, he is desperate for some redemption or at least, personal acknowledgment of his wrong doings, but either way, he’s going to be back screwing things up like the tool he is.

5. Feyre is pregnant (and thus, out of the action)

Now, I like Feysand as much as the next fangirl, but even I have to concede, their storyline is over. It reached a perfect end, we’re done with them. But, since this is set in their world, we need a believable reason for them to stay out of the action. Which leads me to pregnancy. We know they want kids, we know Feyre is pregnant in the Kingdom of Ash cameo, it seems like it all adds up. If they’re busy either preparing for a birth or taking care of a baby, that believably keeps them away from this plot without making it seem weird that they’re not around.

6. Cassian and Nesta aren’t going to get together until she starts treating him better (and vice versa)

This is less of a theory than it is a desperate hope, because right now, Cassian/Nesta is pretty toxic. Neither one of them treat each other very well, with Nesta in particular being quite cruel. The spark is there, but right now, they would be a terrible relationship. That’s why I’m hoping this book takes them on a journey of healing that ends with them healthy, happy, and hopefully, kinder to each other. That would be a beautiful story, so fingers crossed for that.

That’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments your theories for A Court of Silver Flames, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

For the First Time in Forever Disney Watcher: Guardians of the Galaxy

Reader, it’s time to return to the Marvel universe for some first time in forever reaction/reviews. But, before we get to the topic at hand, I do want to take a brief moment to mention the exciting developments in the MCU, namely, the existence of a certain T.V. show known as WandaVision. This show is amazing, and I am highly enjoying it, and, in the interest of being topical for once, I am planning a special first time in forever review for it when the last episode airs. So next month we’ll talk about WandaVision, before diving into what we could call the origin story for that show, Avengers: Age of Ultron for the month after.

But, before all that, we’re heading back into the depths of Phase Two to talk about Guardians of the Galaxy, a film which was briefly in my top 5 Marvel films before it was supplanted by its sequel. This movie is so much fun. It’s silly, it’s quippy, it’s so enjoyable it might be hard to review because I won’t have anything to complain about and there’s only so many ways you can say “that was good.” But let’s put a spoiler warning in place, and give it a shot anyways!

So, first things first, you all know I am a sucker for a found-family narrative, and since this was pretty much a perfect one, I was predisposed to like this movie. It had all the elements of that trope that I really like. Each character is loveable in their own right, there’s lots of funny banter, and enough sweet moments to tug on your heartstrings without being sappy. This movie balances it all nicely, while finding room for a fun little adventure, that sort of hummed along in the background and neatly coincided with our found-family learning to lower their barriers, trust each other, and work together.

That final moment where they all hold the Power Stone and survive works because it is the emotional culmination of the arc these characters have been going on, not because it’s a logical way to wrap-up the movie. It’s basically the equivalent of the moment in Kinky Boots where all the factory workers put on the boots and walk the runway together. It makes sense emotionally, not intellectually, which is great. I really think Marvel could use more of these endings that make sense emotionally, since, let’s be honest, nothing about the Marvel movies make sense intellectually. Since they’re never going to have logic going for them, they might as well double-down on the emotions, and this is the first movie that really gets that. The Avengers does it a little bit, and Thor tries and fails, but Guardians of the Galaxy fully understands that the most important part of the movie is the character interactions, not the plot (Spiderman: Homecoming also does a really good job with this, but we’ll get to that).

So since the most important part of this is the characters, let’s talk about them now. I liked all of our core Guardians, though of course, there were some I liked more than others. Peter Quill/Star-Lord is funny, although he definitely has a lot of room for growth. Like, a lot of room. He really needs some growth before I’m completely comfortable rooting for the whole Quill/Gamora romance thing. The writing in this movie pretty much made me like Chris Pratt, who was previously my least favourite of the four Chrises (he still is, but now it’s because I’ve never seen him sing any Sondheim, as opposed to not really liking him). Gamora is a lot of fun too, although she suffers a bit from the film not fully delving into her backstory (the sequel really fixes this). Groot is obviously adorable, but my two favourite Guardians have got to be Rocket Raccoon and Drax. I love both of them, they are hilarious and well-developed and a bit tragic, and they’re just great. Much as I love Karen Gillan, Nebula isn’t given enough to do in this film to give me anything to say about her, and Ronan is such a boring and unremarkable villain I didn’t even know who they were talking about when they mentioned him in Endgame. And controversial opinion time, but, I don’t care about Yondu. Like, at all. When he was onscreen I thought he was kind of meh, and when he wasn’t onscreen, I forgot he existed. Sorry, not sorry. Yondu just doesn’t interest me.

Other than that, I don’t think I have much else to say. As I mentioned, the plot is basically an excuse to get these characters together. It feels more like a framing device than something that would hold up the movie on its own. I love the use of the music, it really gives these films a unique feel and its a fun juxtaposition to have action scenes scored with The Runaways or whatever.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. Like I said, I enjoyed it and I don’t really have another unique of way of saying it. You guys should let me know in the comments your thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

The Book Courtship Tag

Reader, February is traditionally considered the romantic month, because of the existence of Valentine’s Day and for no other reason, because they’re is really nothing romantic about February besides Valentine’s Day. Regardless, we have collectively decided that February is romance month and so, over the past couple of years, I try to theme my blog posts appropriately.

So, when I was searching for Valentine’s Day-like book tags, I stumbled across The Book Courtship Tag, and it fit the bill perfectly.

So let’s get right into it!

Phase 1: Initial Attraction-A book you bought because of the cover?

The entire Caraval series by Stephanie Garber. I bought those books entirely for their aesthetic appeal, and I will never get rid of them for the exact same reason.

Phase 2: First Impressions-A book you got because of its summary?

I mean, every book? That’s usually why I buy books, for their plots, but, I guess, if we’re going just for summary and no other reason, like cover design, well-known author or required reading for some reason, I’d say We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix. It’s way outside of my normal genre, but the plot was so interesting I bought it anyway.

Phase 3: Sweet Talk-A book with sweet writing?

The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. It’s unbelievably cheesy, but the actual style and word choice for the writing is top-notch.

Phase 4: First Date-The first book of a series that makes you want to pick up the rest of the series?

I mean, I just did, like, an entire blog post on this, but the most recent first book I read that makes me want to read the rest of the series was The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Talk about an emotional cliffhanger, my God! I desperately want to know what will happen to those characters next.

Phase 5: Late Night Phone Calls-A book that kept you up all night?

The only book I’ve come close to staying up all night to finish was Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas, and I do not regret it. How could I have slept without knowing the fate of those precious characters? It’s impossible.

Phase 6: Always On My Mind-A book you could not stop thinking about?

Honestly, Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. Once I had finished it, I could not stop thinking about my poor baby Will Herondale, and I desperately had to read Clockwork Princess. And once I had read it, I still couldn’t stop thinking about Clockwork Prince, that’s how good it was.

Phase 7: Meeting the Parents-A book you would recommend to your family and friends?

I have two: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus,, because it’s my favourite book ever, and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, because it’s an actually important book everyone should read.

Phase 8: Thinking About the Future-A book or series you know you will reread many times in the future?

There are so many, but a more recent (or at least, less gushed about by me) addition to the list is the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. It’s a twisty, fun heist with engaging characters that improves with each reread, so, I’m going to be rereading them a lot.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments your answers to these questions, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

January 2021 Wrap-Up: Movies and T.V.

Reader, just like with my reading, January was a very productive watching month, both in terms of quantity (of movies) and quality (of T.V. shows). I watched 8 movies and 5 series of T.V. shows, for a grand total of 13, and I have a lot to say about all of them.

So let’s go ahead and dive right in, shall we?

1.Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated

This is only in January on a technicality, as I have been working my way through this show with my brothers since it came out (so, like, 8 years ago), and we, finally, finally, finished, I think on New Year’s Day, so here it is. And what a gloriously enjoyable hot mess this show is. It is both brilliant in its self-awareness and ambition, and idiotic, in pretty much everything that happens. Honestly though, if you can suspend your disbelief enough to still be into Scooby-Doo as an adult, you will get a real kick of this show. I certainly don’t regret the eight years (yikes) it took me to watch it. It was an absolute blast.

Final Grade: A+

2. Avengers: Endgame

Boy was this one overstuffed movie. Like, so overstuffed it’s kind of insane it wasn’t longer than three hours (though I’m very glad it wasn’t. Three hours is more than long enough to be forced to sit in one spot). This movie does it all. It provides a satisfying end point for the Infinity Saga, it sets up Stage Four minimally so as to not overshadow the finale, it has meaty character arcs for its six original Avengers, and it has heaps and heaps of fan service. It’s emotional and action-packed and funny, and just wow. I regret not seeing this in theaters because that would have been an insanely awesome experience.

Final Grade: A+

3. Scooby Doo! Pirates Ahoy!

Just like with Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School this is a movie I adored as a child. And you know what? I still adore it as an adult, this was a delight. Sure, the animation is a little clunkier than I remember it being, and the plan a little more, er, flawed. But who cares? It’s still a lighthearted romp about ghost pirates, hypnotism, and the Bermuda Triangle, with a totally awesome score. Once again, if you can suspend your disbelief enough to enjoy Scooby Doo as an adult, you will enjoy this.

Final Grade: A

4. Cats (1998)

I always specify the date when I watch a movie that’s been remade, but with this one I think it is doubly important that I make very clear that I watched 1998 filmed version of the stage show. The 1998 version, as in, not the 2019 monstrosity that fails both on a visually and a musical level. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about 1998, which is good, I guess. I’ve never been a rapid Cats fan, and I think that this show, more so than probably any other show, needs to be seen live to really appreciate the spectacle. Film, even a filmed show, can’t capture it, and certain things just fall a little flat without being in the room to experience them. Since this has no plot, I guess I’ll just briefly touch on the musical numbers. Obviously, “The Rum Tum Tugger” as played by John Partridge is the best part of the entire show (I guess that means it peaks rather early). I know, I know, “Memory” is the big song, and sure, “Memory” is fine, but “Memory” does not involve a sexy cat doing pelvic thrusts and singing about how he gets stuck in drawers, now does it? What can top that? Besides that, the opening song is quite good and so is “Macavity the Mystery Cat.” I really like the harmonies on that song. “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” has awesome dance moves, although I’m not sure I like the song just to listen to, and “Mr. Mistoffelees” grew on me the longer I listened to it (those split jumps are top-notch). “The Old Gumbie Cat” and “Shimbleshanks the Railway Cat” were fine in the show, but not ones I’d listen to again, and “Gus the Theatre Cat” bored me almost to sleep. Other than that, it’s just a weird blur of ballet and spandex.

Final Grade: B+

5. Mulan (2020)

This movie. Oh boy this movie. I was expecting to heartily dislike this movie, and it somehow didn’t even rise up to those low expectations. This is especially disappointing because the original Mulan is one of my three favourite Disney movies (it’s Mulan, Hercules, and Moana). But this movie just failed in every area the original succeeded, and also failed in some areas that were entirely its own. In the original, Mulan excels because she trains, works hard, and is clever enough to spot solutions that others miss. In the remake, she’s got superpowers and so is automatically good at things. In the original, Mulan is caught but they decide not to kill her because she saved Li Shang’s life. In the remake, Mulan reveals herself for no reason whatsoever, but they decide not to kill her, also for no reason whatsoever. In the original, Mulan makes a mess of things with the matchmaker. In the remake, the matchmaker flips the table over herself and blames Mulan, who hasn’t done anything, because the only thing this version of Mulan is incapable of doing is making mistakes. The film also removes Mushu, the dumbest decision ever. Sure, we can have a magical witch who turns into a bird and a spirit phoenix to guide Mulan, but a talking dragon is too unrealistic? Or maybe the dumbest decision was to remove the music (the best part of Mulan), yet still have characters speak lines from the songs. Or maybe the dumbest decision was the aforementioned witch who is all-powerful yet is under the control of a man because reasons? Or maybe the dumbest decision was removing Li Shing because of the implications that he may be bisexual, and replacing him with a new love interest who takes nude baths by moonlight with his male friends, which definitely does not dispell the notion that he is bisexual. Whatever. The whole thing sucks, and I’ll probably have to do a whole review to fully capture why.

Final Grade: F

6. Mansfield Park (1999)

Yet another major disappointment, this movie is an excellent example of someone not understanding Jane Austen’s brilliance. As I said in my review of the book, the character of Fanny Price is shy, soft-spoken, and humble, but also possesses a strong moral compass and inner strength that is no less impressive just because it is not particularly glamorous. This movie captures exactly zero of that. This version of Fanny is pretty much your hallmark of 90’s feminism. She wants to be a writer and she will marry for love, and she rides horses and she runs down hallways and she’s the Regency-England era version of a tomboy. You know the one thing she isn’t though? Fanny Price. This version of the character bears so little a resemblance to her book counterpart she is pretty much in-name-only. The same goes for the rest of the movie. Any good traits a character has have been stripped away and replaced by nasty caricatures that bear only a passing resemblance to who they were in the book. The movie also decides it wants to talk about slavery, which is good in theory, as Jane Austen, writing in the early 1800s, was obviously not the most woke person around when it comes to race relations, but the movie totally fails in developing this plot at all besides some throwaway drawings that go nowhere and are never dealt with. And also, a small thing that drove me nuts, but why is there no furniture in this house? They are supposed to be rich, why do they live in a hollow shell of a home? They are wealthy, why would they want to be so uncomfortable? This was a major, major disappointment for a genuinely interesting and funny story.

Final Grade: F

7. The Crown (Season 4)

This, on the other hand, may be the best series of the entire show, helped by the fact that they finally get to play their trump card when it comes to royal family drama. That’s right, it’s time for Princess Diana. Also Margaret Thatcher, but mainly, Princess Diana. So let’s start with her. I have to say, right off, what everyone else has been saying, which is that Emma Corrin is phenomeonal in this role. She perfectly inhabits Diana in looks and in demeanor, and she fills her performance with layers of meaning and motivation keeping her character a living, breathing person rather than a symbol. But now that I’ve got that obligatory gush out of the way I actually want to talk about what an amazing job Josh O’Connor does as Prince Charles (he was just nominated for a well-deserved Golden Globe, and I sincerely hope he wins). He is exceptional in this role. He effortlessly transforms from truly sympathetic to truly despicable over the course of ten episodes, and does so in a way that feels authentic and understandable, never losing sight of the fact that Charles believes he is in the right. It’s masterful, and it’s a highlight of the season, and I will really, really miss him in season 5. And, to give a shout out to the other point on this triangle, Emerald Fennell is also very good, but she doesn’t get nearly as much screentime in which to show it. That’s not to say that the other actors in this show aren’t pulling their weight though. Olivia Coleman is pefect in everything she does, and despite how much I enjoyed the Charles/Diana drama, “Fagan” may have been my favourite episode of the season. And that leads me nicely to Gillian Anderson, who leads a nicely nuanced look at Margaret Thatcher that doesn’t ignore her deeply troubling policies and internalized misogyny but doesn’t downplay her accomplishments either. Despite all the positives, Helena Bonham Carter remains tragically underused, as does Erin Doherty, and Philip mainly takes a backseat this season (probably good, Philip kind of sucks). Still, all in all, a hugely enjoyable and well-performed season that makes me eagerly anticipate the fifth.

Final Grade: A+

8. Aladdin (2019)

I actually have a full review for this movie, which you can check out here.

9. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

From a terrible Jane Austen adaptation to an amazing one, this version of Pride and Prejudice was everything I wanted it to be. It perfectly captured the dynamics of the original, filled itself with a cast that sparkled on the screen, and was just all around delightful. I don’t really have anything else to say, it was just wonderful, perfectly balanced between romance and comedy the way Jane Austen always is, but the way so few romcom films are.

Final Grade: A+

10. The Queen’s Gambit (Limited Series)

This was a solid and fun escapist fantasy about a female chess player in the 1960s who makes it all the way to play against the Soviets, and I enjoyed it a lot. Like I said, it was an escapist fantasy, so it was fun to get invested in and cheer on Beth, even as I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t realistic. But so what? I was having too much fun to care. Ana Taylor-Joy is excellent as Beth, and she’s surrounded by equally compelling supporting actors (although it is a little unnerving that Thomas Brody-Sangster hasn’t aged at all since he was in Love Actually. When he was thirteen). It’s a quick watch that’s both an engrossing character study and a light sort of feminist fun.

Final Grade: A

11. Sharp Objects (Limited Series)

This series, on the other hand, was in no way light, fun, or escapist. But that did not make it any less compelling. A dark murder mystery about missing teenaged girls in small-town Missouri and a psychologically and physically scarred reporter returning home to make sense of it all, this show is twisted. It’s also clever, creepy, and a little bit confusing. But hey, what’s a bit of confusion when the show is so hard to stop watching? The ending may be a bit jarring (and I’m hoping the book can clear this up for me), but the journey was so good, I almost don’t care.

Final Grade: A

12. Onward

I had no idea what to expect from this movie beyond Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good this was. It’s Pixar, so, I shouldn’t have been. This is a sweet coming-of-age story about two brothers on a quest, and it was cute and funny and basically just centred around Tom Holland and Chris Pratt rather than unique characters, but that’s okay. They had great chemistry together, the jokes were off-beat and witty, and it was just a really good time, that didn’t make me cry, which I’m always happy about. It’s a minor miracle if I get through a Pixar movie without crying, and I don’t enjoy crying. The lack of tears was to this movie’s benefit.

13. The Prom

And finally this month, I watched The Prom on Netflix, which was much better than I thought it would be. I hadn’t heard good things about it, but it was basically fine. Meryl Streep was great, Andrew Rannells was iconic, it was bouncy, it was silly, and it had a big heart it wore unabashedly on its sleeve. I wasn’t crazy about the actress who played Emma. She never stopped smiling, and it got kind of unnerving after awhile. Nobody smiles that much who isn’t secretly a serial killer. James Corden was surprisingly good, but with way too much screentime, so much so that the resolution of his subplot overshadowed the main plot which is never a great sign. Overall though, the flaws of this adaption seemed to be the flaws of the source material, and given a world where the 2019 monstrosity of Cats exists, that’s probably better than we could have hoped for.

Final Grade: A-

And there you have it, those are all the shows and movies I watched in January. You guys should let me know in the comments what you watched, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

January 2021 Wrap-Up and February TBR

Reader, 2021 is off to a really good start when it comes to reading. I am ahead on my reading challenge, I’m right on track with one of my major reading goals, and I read a grand total of 17 books this month. Of course, my immediate TBR is already getting out of hand, but hey! You can’t have everything. So let’s dive right into the wrap-up!

1.The Other Widow by Susan H. Crawford

I started off 2021 strong with this thriller! It follows three women: one, a widow whose husband has just died in a tragic car crash, one, the man’s mistress who was there when the car crashed, and one, the insurance investigator trying to make it all make sense. All three of these characters were interesting and well-written, and trying to weave their various threads together to find out who was lying kept the momentum of the story moving. Maggie, the insurance investigator, was perhaps my favourite. She was the right mixture of clever and strong, with her backstory as a veteran and then a cop really adding a lot of depth to her sections. The mystery itself was maybe a little underbaked, but the characters were so fascinating and the final twist so surprising it really made up for the occasionally lagging plot. All in all, a good start to the year.

Final Grade: A-

2. Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

I immediately stepped it up a notch though with what is currently my best book of the year. This book follows Cameron, a high school senior desperate to become a fashion designer, who is working on building up her portfolio through her cosplay designs. Unfortunately, to get inspiration for those designs, she needs to go to the local comic book store, which is staffed by a major dudebro who is unwilling to accept a girl may be interested in comics. So, Cameron decides the logical next step is to disguise herself as a boy and do her shopping in peace. Which works fine until suddenly she’s roped into a game of Dungeons and Dragons, along with the dudebro, a very handsome dragon master, an overeager clerk, and her reluctant twin brother for good measure. And, as you’ve probably guessed, shenanigans ensue. Now you all know I am a big fan of plots where shenanigans ensue, so I was sold on this book from the beginning. It was mainly a lighthearted romantic comedy with lots of nerdy references and a Shakespearian plot, but it also had a nuanced and depressingly accurate take on the more toxic and sexist sides of nerd culture, from gatekeeping, online harassment, and doxing. It was all there, and it was all powerful. And if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that anything that combines romcoms, nerd culture, Shakespeare, and feminist commentary is pretty much tailer-made for me, so yeah. I adored this book and I highly recommend it.

Final Grade: A+

3. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Continuing my journey into the world of Jane Austen, I spent pretty much all of my holidays reading Mansfield Park. I have heard this is one of Austen’s less-popular novels, but I quite enjoyed it. It’s just as funny as her first two stories, with slightly more variety to the romances than she previously offered. It’s a bit darker and more grown-up than the other two, and I think that’s only to its benefit. I also think that Jane Austen excels at creating well-developed unique female characters, and Fanny Price is no exception to that rule. She’s a bit like Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) crossed with Jane Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), but she’s her own unique character, whose shyness and lack of self-worth should not fool you into thinking she’s weak. She’s a girl who knows her own mind and knows what’s right, and quietly goes about doing exactly that right under everyone’s noses. Despite a slightly rushed ending, this is a solid addition to Austen’s canon and one I am delighted I read.

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

You all know I have read the Harry Potter series over and over, so here is my original wrap-up:

“This is by far my favourite of the Harry Potter books. This is the moment when J.K. Rowling’s writing really hits that exceptional level she maintains for the rest of the series, and it also marks a turning point into the darker, more mature later books with our first death of an innocent at Hogwarts. I think the plot is the best in this book, with a nice balance between hijinks at Hogwarts and the Triwizard Tournament, I think the mystery is developed best in this book over the others, I think the wizarding community has gained that lived-in quality that makes these books so compelling, and there’s also the Yule Ball, which is one of my favourite Ron/Hermione couple moments. So, basically everything to love and nothing to quibble with. The best of the best” (Check out the full wrap-up here).

Final Grade: A+

5. The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

I really don’t have much to say about this book. This is a fun, middle-grade romp that you’ll probably enjoy more if you are closer to middle-grade age. I am not, so while I enjoyed it, it neither stuck in my mind or convinced me to read further in the series. I mainly read it to clear it off my shelf, because I have had it forever. Basically, fun, fluffy, forgetable sums it up nicely.

Final Grade: B

6. Gallows View by Peter Robinson

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Resolution tag, I plan on reading all of the Peter Robinson DCI Banks books in 2021. This is the first book in that series, and honestly, I can tell. That’s not to say it’s bad or anything like that, it’s just that the nuance of the mystery and the characters is not quite at the level they eventually get to. Regardless, this is an interesting and snappy novel that, even if it ends up a tad predictable, it’s in a way that proves you satisfyingly right as opposed to boring you. Banks is an immediately likeable character, and it made me eager to keep rereading, and that’s really what you want from a series opener, isn’t it?

Final Grade: A-

7. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

And this book has the rather dubious honour of being the first textbook of my final semester of undergrad (that’s a scary and slightly confusingly worded sentence)! Fortunately, it was an excellent book. I talk a lot on this blog about how much I love Miriam Toews, so we probably don’t need to go into all that again, plus I have to write an essay about this book, so I want to conserve my strength. In brief, Miriam Toews has a gift with prose that is astonishingly honest and profound. She shakes up your worldview, she takes you into the nitty gritty of being human, and she makes you laugh/cry at the same time while she’s doing it. This particular book is more bittersweet than it is tragic or comedic, but it remains a masterful book by a masterful author. I could say more, but you’re going to be hearing a lot about Miriam Toews over the next four months, so, I will desist for the moment.

Final Grade: A+

8. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Another book for class, but surprisingly, another highly enjoyable one. After my less than enthusiastic review of Great Expectations, you may be surprised to learn that I adored A Christmas Carol. I don’t know if it was the fact that this was a novella, or it’s just such a sweet story, or a better lecture from the prof (yeah, I said it), but I heartily enjoyed this book. It was cute and Christmassy, and just beautiful, with just enough sly wit to keep it from becoming sacchrine. There is a reason this book became a classic, and unlike with Great Expectations, I heartily agree with that classification.

Final Grade: A+

9. The Betrayal by Laura Elliot

This was a thriller where I really liked the writing style, but didn’t care so much for the plot, which is not really how that usually works out. The story follows Jake and Nadine, a couple who married as teenagers when Nadine got pregnant. Now that their kids are grown up, they are considering separating and revisiting the dreams they put on hold, at which point, Nadine’s old high school bestie turned archrival re-enters the picture and begins an affair with Jake. This seemed like an intriquing setup, and I was really looking foward to seeing how this author would twist these tropes and surprise me. But then she didn’t. She kept not twisting them. Everything happened pretty much exactly as you would expect with no really big surprises after like the 35% mark, and that was really disappointing, as there were some kind of outdated tropes in here that I really would have liked to see subverted. I would read more from this author, as she really did do a good job with the atmosphere and the suspense, but this particular mystery was not one I would ever reread.

Final Grade: B-

10. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

This is another book with an intriquing premise that really faltered when it came to execution. It follows Mina Holmes, the niece of Sherlock and daughter of Mycroft, and Evaline Stoker, the sister of Bram, who are summoned by Irene Adler to solve the mysterious disappearances of a string of debutantes. Throw in three mysterious gentlemen, and you’ve got a recipe for some steampunk, feminism-infused fun, right? Wrong! Our two leads spent their entire time catfighting and making stupid decisions while simultaneously praising themselves for their own brilliance, brilliance they never managed to display to the audience. By the end, nothing was resolved, and I had ceased to be enchanted by an admittedly cool premise. It was fun, I guess, but not worth spending money on the sequel.

Final Grade: C+

11. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

I have also read this book numerous times, so here is the original wrap-up:

“And I ended the month as I began it, with the final book in The Mortal Instruments series. As Cassie proved with City of Glass, she is really good at sticking the landing. She just threw everything at this book, every character, every plot thread, every fight scene…anything that could be crammed in there was featured yet somehow, it all worked. It was epic, it was fast (which at 700+ pages is no small feat), and it wove together threads from the other two series in a way that didn’t feel forced. Given my feelings on City of Bones, I’m astonished by how far she’s come in her writing. Bravo” (Check out the original wrap-up here).

12. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

I don’t know what else there is to say about this one. It’s all right up there, you can scroll back up and see my thoughts. I read this book twice, so I counted it twice, because rereading counts as two books. My Dad said so.

Final Grade: A+

13. Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews

Look see, more Miriam Toews. Like I said, you’ll be hearing about her a lot. This text is unique, as it is a work of creative non-fiction from the perspective of Toews’ father, who has committed suicide, which leads to an emotional read, to say the least. The story has a softer style than some of Toews’ other works, as Mel has a less blunt way of looking at the world than Miriam does, and its ultimately a deeply tragic love story. And I mean, all types of love not just romantic. It’s beautiful and its sad, and I cried. Boy, did I cry a lot.

Final Grade: A+

14. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Ah, more Cassandra Clare, so here are some more old wrap-ups:

Now that I have reread all the Sarah J Maas books, and engaged in my yearly Harry Potter reread, it is time to turn to the author I was reading when I first started this blog. That’s right, I’m ending my year with an epic Cassandra Clareathon, as preparation for the release of Chain of Gold in March. This time, I am reading in chronological order, which means I started off with Clockwork Angel, which is by and the large the best introductory book Cassie’s written. Tessa is an excellent heroine, intelligent and curious, which means she finds things out and participates in action much faster than Clary does in City of Bones. She’s easy to root for, and there’s a sense of humour in these books, that isn’t quite as developed in The Mortal Instruments. All of the secondary characters are well-developed and instrumental to the plot, and the plot itself has some great action sequences, though the final twist is not quite as shocking as it could be. Oh, and also Will Herondale is in this book, and if you’re new here, I LOVE WILL HERONDALE” (Check out the original wrap-up here).

Final Grade: A+

15. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is my favourite historical fiction writer by a long shot, so I was really excited to dive into another one of her Plantagenet and the Tudors novels. Of the three I’ve read, I think this one is probably my least favourite, with both The Other Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl ranking higher (especially The Other Boleyn Girl. I love The Other Boleyn Girl.) This is probably because Mary, Queen of Scots and Anne Boleyn are two of my favourite historical figures, and I’d never heard of Margaret Beaufort before picking this book up, and what I learned, I did not like. Gregory creates a compelling portrait of a deeply unpleasant and self-righteous woman, with a disturbing lack of self-knowledge or moral compass, who despite, or maybe because of, her odiousness succeeds. It takes guts to make your hero someone who would easily be the villain in another narrative, and I applaud Gregory for doing so, and doing so so well. I may not have liked the character, but I sure did love the book.

Final Grade: A

16. A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson

Continuing on with my DCI Banks reread, here is a mystery I hadn’t actually read before. Much like Gallows View, this was a short and snappy mystery that breezed by, with likeable (and sometimes unlikeable) characters to keep things interesting. Unlike Gallows View, though, this one had a twist at the end I did not see coming, and which I loved. Already, the level of mystery is picking up, and I can’t wait to get to book three to see what new twists are in store.

Final Grade: A

17. Death Comes to the Rectory by Catherine Llloyd

And I ended my month with the annual installment in the Kurland St. Mary mystery series, which is always a highlight of my winter. I’m pretty sure the seventh book in this series was the 17th book I read in January 2020, so how’s that for some symmetry? I’m not sure what to say about this 8th book in the series that I haven’t said already. These are excellent cozy mysteries with predictable character interactions and structure but unpredictable murderers and mysteries. I love them, and I hope they keep going for as long as possible, because I will read them all.

Final Grade: A+

And there you have it, those are all the books I read in January. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I already have quite a hefty TBR. I plan to read The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce this winter, starting with a reread of Alanna: The First Adventure. I have a whole stack of standalones I want to read as well, which includes The Cousins by Karen M McManus, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison, Lore by Alexandra Bracken, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and This Is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey. I will also be continuing my DCI Banks read, my Cassandra Clare reread, my Miriam Toews read, and of course, A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas will be released in a very short thirteen days, which will necessitate putting my entire life on hold until it’s finished. I’m very excited.

That’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments what you read in January, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

Top 5 Opening Numbers

Reader, some of you probably already guessed that this would be my top 5 Broadway-themed post this month. I did my top 5 first books in series on Wednesday, and I am nothing if not predictable in my desire to inflict symmetry on my blog posts. And since we talked about finales last month, we are overdue to talk about opening numbers.

Opening numbers are an important part of any musical. They are instrumental in establishing the world and the characters, expositing in a catchy way, and setting up the tone of the show (both in terms of comedy vs drama vs tragedy vs whatever, and the musical style). It might also function as a character’s “I wish” song, which makes it doubly important, because then it’s telling us the driving motivation of the whole story. It’s a big deal, is what I’m saying, and some shows do this better than others.

A final note before we get started here, this is going to be a list solely of opening numbers, not overtures, because those are kind of different things, and overtures are deserving of their own list one day (and that list would probably just be the Overture from The Phantom of the Opera five times in a row. I LOVE the Overture from The Phantom of the Opera).

So let’s get right into the list!

Honourable Mention: “In” from Carrie the Musical

I surprised myself putting this one on the list, because I don’t have a super high opinion of Carrie the Musical (it’s just a really, really terrible idea for a musical). But despite my mixed feelings for the show, I can’t deny I really enjoy this song. It’s perfectly unsettlingly creepy, and the lack of solos and soaring harmonies create the sound of a combined student body all with the same desperation to be perceived as normal, and that’s a good effect. That’s clever, I’ll give them that one. I still don’t have a high opinion of the show though.

5. “A Rumor In St. Petersburg” from Anastasia

This is a really good example of a song that exposits catchily. This song covers an awful lot of material in 5 minutes. It establishes the world of post-revolution Russia, it introduces us to the personalities and opening situations of Dmitri, Vlad, Anya, and Gleb, it explains the mystery of Anastasia, hatches Dmitri and Vlad’s plot to find an impersonator, and foreshadows (rather clunkily, admittedly) the genuine Romanov music box. And somehow it does all that succintly in a neatly wrapped catchy tune that gets stuck in your head. You learn character dynamics and you have fun doing it! Not bad for 5 minutes.

4. “Hello” from The Book of Mormon

Now this song is just funny, and I make an effort to include it in every list I can (you just can’t beat “Hello, would you like to change religions, I have a free book written by Jesus” for humor). This perfectly establishes the tone of the show (irreverantly hilarious but a little sweet at the same time), while also remaining a fun and silly song that’s developed a life of its own away from the show. It establishes right off that whatever else it is, The Book of Mormon is funny, and that’s really all it needs to do.

3. “Omigod You Guys” from Legally Blonde the Musical

Just like “Hello”, this song establishes tone immediately. However, it does “Hello” one better, and also establishes character. This song is everything Elle Woods (and Legally Blonde) is. It’s bubbly, giggly, pink, girly, fun, silly, and surprisingly self-aware all wrapped in a bundle of bubblegum pop that establishes the rest of the show neatly. If you were unclear what you were getting into with Legally Blonde the Musical, this song makes it abundantly clear in about the most delightful fashion possible.

2. “Ex-Wives” from Six the Musical

I’ve talked about how much I love this song several times now. It’s like the pop version of Cell Block Tango. Once again, this song establishes tone right off, with the fun, funny, feministly subversive pop number telling you what the rest of the show will be like, while also giving you a brief snapshot of each of the six queens and their personalities. It’s fun in its own right, and also whets your appetite for more in a manner that is as instantly iconic as you would expect from a group of queens.

1.”In the Heights” from In the Heights

That’s right, we are ending this list not with Hamilton, but with In the Heights! Are you surprised? This was a tough decision but in the end, I had to give it to In the Heights. It starts off right away with the rap, hip-hop style that Lin Manuel-Miranda is famous for, while also introducing every single important character succinctly and interestingly, all in one song. “Alexander Hamilton” only introduces one. In sheer volume of introductions, “In the Heights” wins, and I also think it’s a little bit catchier and a little bit more fun. Sorry Hamilton. Better luck next time.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments what your favourite opening numbers are, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

Top 5 First Books In Series

Reader, back in December I talked about my top 5 series finales, because December is the final month of the year. So, since January is the first month of the year, today we’re going to talk about first books in series. I realize this is a little bit backwards, but I prefer thematic relevance over logical cohesion, so just go with it.

This list will focus on those first books that hook you immediately, that make you fall in love with the characters and the world, and perhaps most importantly, make you want to keep reading the series. These are the type of books that make you excited when you realize there are more stories in this world coming. Some of these books I have read the rest of the series and some I haven’t, so I’m not going to be judging these books based on the way they set up future books, but more on the way they work on their own to make me fall in the love with the story.

So let’s get right into the list!

Honourable Mention: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

I feel like I’m already breaking the rules a bit for this one, because, as I mentioned in my review, it is the sequel to a prequel (I know, it’s confusing), so it has the added benefit of being about already established characters. But, it is still the first book in The Last Hours trilogy, so it counts for this list, and I am strongly of the opinion that it is the best first book in Cassandra Clare’s canon. She’s helped because Will Herondale is in it, and Will Herondale makes everything better. But besides that, this book has everything that makes Cassandra Clare so awesome. It’s got fun and funny characters, romantic ANGST, fascinating villains, and a enjoyable mystery at its centre. It doesn’t get much better than that.

5. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m including this one on the list because, even though I haven’t read the rest of the series beyond The Dream Thieves, this first book does a masterful job of establishing both character and style. Every character in this book is well-developed by their first appearance, freeing Stiefvater up to just play with their dynamics, and mix and match different interactions to see what’s the most fun. The other great thing about this book is the way it establishes the style that (I assume) the whole series will use. The world of The Raven Boys has a certain mystical sense of heightened reality, a sort of magical realism by way of the Gothic, and Stiefvater does a great job of getting that tone right immediately, so that the whole book has the feeling of taking place in an already established world, rather than one that’s just been invented.

4. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Speaking of established world, there are few authors who have a gift of worldbuilding quite like Cornelia Funke’s. In a few sentences, she can conjure up a whole character, a country, a universe. It’s extraordinary. The world of Inkheart is rich and visceral, full of brave protagonists, quirky side characters, and genuinely scary villains. It’s a world and book I’ve revisited over and over and over, because it’s the type of story that hooks you from the very first page and never lets you go.

3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Another book that hooks you right from the very beginning, you could probably all guess that this one was going to be on the list. Suzanne Collins does a superb job creating a horrifying, yet all-too-close-to-reality dystopia, that shocks just as much as it entertains. There are so many layers of allegory and nuance to this world that I’ve had upwards of 5 hours of university lectures on it and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s a reason this book got as big as it did, and the reason is, it’s brilliant. It’s the rare story that genuinely lives up to the hype.

2. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Since this book was my best of the year in 2019, there’s no way I couldn’t include it on this list. It does a fascinating job of both utilizing and subverting many common fantasy tropes, so you’re never quite sure where things are going to end up, leading to a gallery of heartstopping moments and intense cliffhangers. It does excellent dual duty of being both an engaging story in its own right, and making you desperate to find out what will come next, which is exactly what I want from my first books.

1.House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

Although this may not be my very favourite Sarah J Maas book, I will willingly concede that it is her most ambitious. It has pretty much all of the things I praised the other books on this list for in spades. It’s got incredibly well-developed and fascinatingly damaged characters you can’t help but root for. It has a complex but understandable world that jumps right off the page. It’s jam-packed with details that need second, third, and fourth readings to fully appreciate. It’s got plot-twists and action galore. Basically, it’s got everything you could possibly hope for, plus finds room to be both an action-heavy mystery and a psychological deep-dive on processing grief. That’s a lot for one book, but it’s Sarah J Maas, so of course, she pulls it off wonderfully.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments what your favourite first books are, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

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