Mean Girls the Musical Songs RANKED

Reader, one of the ongoing tragedies of COVID-19 lockdowns is the absence of live theatre. You can listen to cast recordings and you can watch pro-shots, and if you’re really desperate you can watch movie adaptations, but there’s nothing quite like the magic of sitting in a theatre watching a musical. It’s my favourite form of entertainment and I miss it desperately. Even though I’ve never had a chance to see a show on Broadway, it makes me very sad that its currently shut down.

That brings me, in a roundabout way, to today’s topic. Last week, Mean Girls the Musical announced that it would not be returning to Broadway when COVID restrictions are lifted. Although I don’t have a huge emotional attachment to this show, I’m still upset at this news, because I always get upset when a show that I have even a passing interest in closes.

So, in honour of the Broadway show, today, I’m going to be ranking all of the songs from Mean Girls the Musical. I have never seen the show (and based on the news of its closure, it’s going to be a long time before I will get to to see it), so unlike some previous rankings, this is based entirely on what the songs sound like on the cast recording, and my knowledge of the plot of the movie.

So let’s dive right into the rankings!

21. More Is Better

When I went to do these rankings, I was a little surprised to find this song at the bottom. It’s not that I have anything against it. I think it’s a fairly sweet duet that highlights the relationship and differences between Cady and Aaron, I just…never listen to it. Like, at all. I haven’t listened to it since I bought the recording, so, sorry “More Is Better.” You are not better than any of the other songs.

20. Fearless

This is another one that I don’t have a strong negative feeling towards. It works…fine, I guess. But really, that’s all it is. It’s fine, and that’s not enough to compell me to listen to it on repeat.

19. I See Stars

This is another song that is basically fine. It probably works well onstage, as a close to the show, but just to listen to, it’s a touch generic. This is actually a problem with a lot of finales. Away from the emotions of the stage, they can be very similar and bland, especially if I listen to them too close together. Sorry, “I See Stars.” It’s not you, it’s me.

18. Where Do You Belong?

Damian is a great character, and I think both of his songs are really funny, but of the two, I listen to this one less. There are some great jokes about the various cliques in the high school and it’s a good introductory number, but all in all, it’s basically the same as the scene from the movie just put to music. I usually like a number with a bit more punch.

17, 16, & 15: What’s Wrong With Me? (Reprise), Someone Gets Hurt (Reprise), & Stupid With Love (Reprise)

I’m ranking these three reprises together, because none of them are really long enough to warrant its own entry, and I feel the same way about all of them. I like them all, but mainly because I like the original iterations of all three songs. These are more little blips of remembrance rather than radical reimaginings, and I like them, but I don’t love them.

14. What’s Wrong With Me?

I think this is an excellent character song for Gretchen. It gets right into her head and develops her character in a way I don’t think the movie really did. It’s funny and sad at the same time (“Mamma calls me beautiful/Don’t believe her anymore”-ouch, that’s a harsh line), and shines a well-deserved spotlight on the most overlooked Plastic. However, outside of all this context, just listening to, not my favourite.

13. Revenge Party

“Revenge Party” I like, to a point. It’s got a fun beat and it is depicting probably the most iconic part of the movie, but I also have two issues with it. One, there’s a lot of dialogue which makes it hard to jam out to it, and two, the line “It’s a revenge party/It’s a party with revenge is what it’s like” is just stupid. You couldn’t come up with a better descriptor than just reversing the word order? Come on.

12. Whose House Is This?

I know this is one of the most unpopular songs in the whole show, but I actually really like it. I have a weakness for big goofy party songs in musicals. This is basically the “Big Fun” of Mean Girls, and it works for me. It’s just silly.

11. A Cautionary Tale

The only reason this isn’t ranked higher is it’s too short. I think this is a fantastic opening to the show, I love the chemistry between Janice and Damian, and I love the opening instrumental that matches the opening of “Meet the Plastics.” Like I said, make this song a little longer and its easily in my top 10.

10. Stop

This is my favourite Damian song. It works well for his character, while also delivering really solid jokes that weren’t already in the movie. It’s also insanely catchy and gives Grey Henson a chance to shine in all his toe-tapping, jazz hands glory and that’s always a good thing.

9. Do This Thing

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this song that really works for me. It’s one of those empowering feminist songs that I love, but it’s also got some really funny lines (my personal favourite may be “Welcome to the IMCT State Final Math Championships, sponsored by no one” for the sheer randomness), and there’s a great beat to it as well. I’m also kind of obsessed with the audacity of rhyming “bitch” with “mission”, which does not work written out, but if you listen to Erika Henningsen’s delivery, you’ll see what I mean. It’s just kind of awesome.

8. I’d Rather Be Me

Speaking of kind of awesome, it’s time to show some love to Barrett Wilbert Weed, who is perfectly cast as Janice. This is another one of those awesome feminist empowerment songs, and it works partially because of the badass delivery by Wilbert Weed. It’s just that little bit more edgier and in-your-face than your typical girlpower song, which is what gets it this high up on the list.

7. It Roars

I think this is an excellent “I Want” song. It beautifully sets up both Cady and the jungle of contemporary high school, while also establishing the comedic tone for the rest of the show. Any “I Want” song that includes the line, “I try to confide in my lions/But they keep biting me,” tells you you’re in for a very funny evening with a slightly quirkier heroine than your typical Disney princess-type ingenue.

6. Stupid With Love

I just adore this song. It’s a perfectly giddy, giggly first-crush type of love song, that doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself too seriously. It’s crush at first sight in a very high school kind of way, and the goofiness of the song perfectly conveys that vibe. I’m also just really really amused by the line, “I’m astounded and nonplussed/I am filled with calcu-lust”, because I am easily entertained by puns, and it makes me chortle every time I listen to it.

5. Meet the Plastics

As introductory songs go, there aren’t many better than this one. Each Plastic gets a chance to introduce herself in her own unique style (Regina-slowly because she knows the music will wait for her, Gretchen-as fast as possible, because she hardly ever gets a chance to speak, and Karen-without a care or any amount of depth). It’s a fun way to get to know our central characters, and it gives their appearance all the drama it deserves.

4. Apex Predator

As good as “I’d Rather Be Me” is, “Apex Predator” is the better showcase for Wilbert Weed’s talents. I don’t have any insightful analysis to offer about this song, I’m just obsessed with the sound of Barrett Wilbert Weed and Erika Henningsen belting harmonies together. It sounds gorgeous, and I listen to the end of this song on constant repeat.

3. Sexy

Karen’s ode to sexy Halloween costumes is an absolute hoot, and gives another dimension to her character. She may be stupid, but she’s always surprisingly canny about certain things. This song is mostly silly, with a surprisingly sharp edge (the line, “This is modern feminism talking/I expect to run the world in shoes I cannot walk in” is perhaps the most obvious example), and much like Mean Girls itself, it shows that feminism can be found in the bubbliest and pinkest of places.

2. Someone Gets Hurt

Okay, I am just obsessed with Taylor Louderman and the amazing belting she brings to Regina. This song is a masterclass in manipulation, as Regina literally never touches the floor as she somehow convinces Aaron she was the victim. It shows Regina’s clever side and her evil side in equal measure, and sets her up perfectly as someone who won’t give up without a fight, letting us know that dislodging her from power won’t be as much of a party as Janice assures us it will.

1.World Burn

Okay, I love a good villain song, and this is a really good villain song. Regina finally just lets it all go, both story wise by releasing the Burn Book, but also vocally, by belting and riffing some insane notes. It’s pretty much the epitome of “If I go, you’ll go with me”, and Taylor Louderman absolutely nails it, making this, without a doubt, my number one song from Mean Girls the Musical.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. You guys should let me know in the comments your thoughts on Mean Girls the Musical or the show you most want to see live when that’s finally allowed again, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

New Year’s Resolution Tag: 2021 Edition

Reader, now that 2021 is in full swing, and all of the 2020 business has been wrapped up on this blog, it’s time to look to the future. And that means it’s time for the New Year’s Resolution Tag, the annual book tag where I resolve to read a whole bunch of books and inevitably ignore all of those resolutions. It’s a good time.

So let’s dive right in!

1.An author you’d like to read (that you’ve never read before)

This is kind of a random choice, but Michelle Hodkin. The Mara Dyer series and its companions are one of the last really big YA series that all the book people seem to have read that I haven’t read (besides Twilight which I have no intention of reading), and I would like to have read all of these old-school YA staples. It’d make me feel accomplished.

2. A book you’d like to read

Once again, I am perturbed by the vagueness of this question. A book I’d like to read this month? This year? At some undefined point in the future? A new release? Something I already own? I need specifics. However, the current obvious answer (within the disturbing lack of parameters set out by this question) is A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas. I’ve been waiting for this book since high school and it’s so close I can taste it.

3. A classic you’d like to read

I’m determined to read all of Jane Austen’s novels, since I’ve read Sense and Sensibility twice but none of the other ones. I finished Pride and Prejudice in December, and Mansfield Park in early January, so I guess I would like to get through Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion by the end of the year. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is still high on my list, but I rather doubt I’ll get to all four of those books by the end of the year, and the Austens seem like more fun.

4. A book you’d like to re-read

I’d love to reread some Agatha Christie’s this year. I went through a phase in middle school where I read every single one I could get my hands on, so all the plots have blurred together and I can’t remember details from any specific book. So, it’d be almost like reading them for the first time.

5. A book you’ve had for ages and want to read

For the entire two and a half years I’ve been blogging, my answer to questions like this is always Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Well, I finally bit the bullet and read it in August, which means I need another book to vow to read and never actually do it. So, after a scan of my TBR, I think the current longest entry on it is Fragments by Dan Wells. I still had braces when I read the first book in the series. Yikes. I’ve been neglecting this one for a long time.

6. A big book you’d like to read

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Phillippa Gregory. It’s one of those big hefty historical fiction stuffed with facts and details that I love so much.

7. An author you’ve previously read and want to read more of

Liane Moriarty. Big Little Lies (book and show) was an entertainment highlight from 2020, and I know I have a few more books by her that I imagine are just as twisty and funny.

8. A book you got for Christmas and would like to read

I only got one book for Christmas (Things In Jars by Jess Kidd), which I read immediately like the dutiful sister I am, so I guess I can just check this one off the list.

9. A series you want to read (start and finish)

DCI Banks by Peter Robinson. I’ve been reading this series pretty sporadically since around the middle of high school, and I love it, but I’m constantly forgetting characters and relationship statuses, so one of my reading goals for 2021 is to read the whole thing from start to finish, which comes down to approximately two Banks books per month. I’ve already got one down, so, I’m doing pretty good.

10. A series you want to finish (that you’ve already started)

The major series’ I hope to wrap up in 2021 are the Starling trilogy by Lesley Livingston, The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, the Ash Princess trilogy by Laura Sebastian, and the Raven Cycle quartet by Maggie Stiefvater. I realize that’s kind of an ambitious list, but I’ve been doing really well at finishing series lately, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

11. Do you set reading goals? If so, how many books do you want to read in 2021?

Once again, I have upped my reading goal another book per month. The goal is 14 books per month, which is 168 books per year. I am solidly on track and already a little ahead, so I’m feeling positive.

12. Any other reading goals?

My big reading resolution this year is to read more non-fiction and to continue to try to educate myself about the areas where I have blindspots. When the summer of protests began, I attempted to educate myself about race relations in the States and how the country came to this point. I learned a lot and I want to keep that momentum going, rather than getting complacent.

That’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments what your New Year’s resolutions are (reading or otherwise), stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

December 2020 Wrap-Up: Movies and T.V.

Reader, it is time for the final wrapping up of 2020 with the movies and T.V. shows I watched in December. And boy howdy, did I watch a lot of stuff in December! I don’t even remembering watching this much, but it added up. I was on holiday, it’s fine. In December, I watched 5 seasons of T.V. shows and 15(!) movies, for a grand total of 20. That gives us ample stuff to talk about, so let’s dive right in!

1.The Tempest (1979)

The first movie I watched in December was for class, and I don’t have heaps to say about it, because I didn’t pay the closest attention (oops). What can I say, artsy 70’s movies just aren’t my thing. It was like Shakespeare, but dumb, and I think that’s about all I have to say about it.

Final Grade: C+

2. The Crown Season 2

While season 2 of The Crown had some better individual episodes than season 1, I would say overall, it’s a weaker season. There was just too much Philip, and not enough Elizabeth. As much as I love Matt Smith, the fact that he played the character was frequently Philip’s only redeeming quality, and that does not make a highly enjoyable season of television. It should come as no surprise than that the best episodes of the season were the ones focused on Elizabeth, namely “Vergangenheit” and “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” which are also probably the best episodes of the entire show. Shockingly though, “Paterfamilias” was also excellent. Focusing as it does on Philip and Charles, I did not have high hopes, but it ended up being absolutely heartbreaking and balances neatly on the line between sympathetic and critical, a line the show frequently falls too far on either side of. Additionally, everything Margaret does in this show is awesome, with “Beryl” being the better showcase of her talents than “Matrimonium” (that being said, the Queen Mother leading a congo line is a glorious sight). My biggest regret of the recasting in Season 3 is that we only got to enjoy one season with Matthew Goode as Anthony Armstrong-Jones. All in all though, this was still a really well-put together and fascinating historical drama with a superb group of actors I will really miss in Season 3.

Final Grade: A

3. Good Will Hunting

Ok, so, I know this is a really classic movie but it didn’t do tons for me. I did like it, it had great performances from Matt Damon, Robin Williams, and Minnie Driver (and mainly just those three, the others were fairly meh), it had a mostly nuanced understanding of therapy, and some really moving scenes. The central conflict and relationships were all believable. The main flaw is really that it is overlong. There are just way too many scenes of guys sitting around telling dirty jokes, which aren’t even that funny and do not tell us anything about the characters. As I write this, I can’t actually remember any of the character’s names besides Will Hunting. I think it goes Will Hunting, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Will Hunting’s girlfriend, the other guys, and the dude who was in Mamma Mia. That’s about an accurate assessment of their names right?

Final Grade: B

4. The Man Who Invented Christmas

I have actually watched this movie and wrapped it up for this blog already, so please enjoy that here:

This was such a lovely little movie. It was about writing, based around one of the most iconic writers of all time, writing the most iconic story of all time, and also, Dan Stevens played the accordion. It was like it was made specifically to appeal to me” (Check out the full wrap-up here).

Final Grade: A+

5. Community Season 2

There are few shows that have experienced a peak like season 2 of Community. For almost an entire season it was the greatest (and most underrated) show ever made. Any show that can feature a run of parodies that include space movies, zombie movies, bottle episodes, stop-motion animation, My Dinner With Andre, clip shows, spaghetti Westerns, and Star Wars, as well as finding time to write well-rounded and compelling characters, plus also feature a string of regular sitcom episodes that are 100% funnier than any other show on T.V. is a marvel to behold, and remains the most underrated thing to ever air on T.V.

Final Grade: A+

6. Lucifer Season 3

It has taken me four years to watch this season, which is kind of a depressingly long time, because I loved this season. It wasn’t quite as exceptional as Season 2, but it was plot-twisty and touched on some darker stuff, without ever getting too serious. It also features “Off the Record” which may be the single greatest episode of Lucifer, with the best episode ending twist of maybe any show ever. I don’t have lots of really specific stuff to say about it; it was all just generally good. Tom Ellis is obviously excellent, but the whole cast is solid all around, and I just loved it. I’m so glad Netflix picked it up, because what a cliffhanger ending! Can’t wait to start Season 4 in the New Year!

Final Grade: A+

7. The Crown Season 3

As I predicted, season 3 was a bit tough to get through in places. Not that there’s anything super wrong with the new cast, they’re all excellent performers, but I was rather attached to the old cast, and the lack of time jump between seasons makes it look like our characters just had a really, really rough 1964, as they’ve all aged about a decade in only a year’s time. Also, for a show about Queen Elizabeth, we sure don’t spend a lot of time with Queen Elizabeth. The underuse of Olivia Coleman and Helena Bonham Carter on this show is almost criminal. And frankly, Philip is not nearly an interesting enough character to justify the exorbitant amount of time we spend on him, especially now he’s no longer played by Matt Smith. That being said, “Bubbikins” was the best episode of the season, closely followed by “Tywysog Cymru.” I was surprised how much I enjoyed the sympathy extended to Charles this season, and his relationship with both Camilla and Anne (my new favourite character, now that Vanessa Kirby is no longer playing Margaret), although it did feel a little rushed, presumably to put all the pieces in place for the Diana drama coming next season. All in all, still high quality television, but a bit more repetitive than earlier seasons were.

Final Grade: A-

8. Legally Blonde the Musical

Yup, I watched this again. I love Legally Blonde the Musical, and I will watch it again and again and again. Here’s the original wrap-up:

I absolutely love this show. It is pink and frothy and just everything good. There is not an awful lot of depth there, but there doesn’t need to be. The whole just runs on feeling good, girl-power, and comedy. Also, Laura Bell Bundy belting out some high notes and an epic jump-rope dance scene. And Christian Borle being adorable. Let’s not forget about that. Personally, I enjoy the musical more than the movie (I generally do). I think that’s because the musical is a lot more tongue-in-cheek which allows the more ridiculous stuff to feel more natural, because they don’t even bother trying to pretend to be serious. Much like Elle, it is exuberant, joyous, pink fun all the way through, without pretending to be anything it’s not” (Check out the full wrap-up here).

Final Grade: A+

9. Harriet

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from this movie as Hollywood has a shall we say complicated history with their movies about race. But I was actually very impressed with this movie. First off, I want to applaud them for making a big budget, action-type biopic about a Black woman. It took them long enough, but good job. Second off, the movie focused entirely on its Black characters, without the usual token white saviour character, and it was way better for it. The focus was exactly where it needed to be, on Harriet Tubman and the other courageous Black men and women who suffered under slavery and persevered through the Underground Railroad to end it. Thirdly, this movie did a much better job at exploring the systemic causes of racism, rather than defeating the one racist, which made it feel more accurate (I have no idea if it is or not, but it felt more authentic in its portrayal than a lot of movies about this topic). And finally, a creative team composed mainly of women and people of colour is an awesome step. Well done, that’s what we like to see.

Final Grade: A

10. Who’s Holiday

This hour-long one-woman show was very funny, very raunchy, and the perfect showcase for Lesli Margherita. It follows the grown-up Cindy-Lou Who, who now lives in a trailer on Mount Crumpet, and, as she prepares for her Christmas Eve party, tells the audience about the faithful night she met the Grinch and what happened next. The entire thing is told in rhyme, and if you’re looking for a more adult holiday special, this will definitely fit the bill. I hope it streams every year.

Final Grade: A+

11. The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 1

This a show I watched mostly last Christmas, but I watched the last few episodes of the season this Christmas, so I’m counting it for this year. I love this sitcom because it makes a great study break during exams, because it’s super light entertainment that requires no thinking, but is also of a higher, more feminist calibre than most shows of its era. Mary Tyler Moore was a trailblazer, and so is her show. I love how nonchalant it is about her single, working woman status, I love her relationship with her boss, Lou Grant, I love the coworkers, Ted and Murray, and I really, really love Rhoda. The whole show is just really fun, along with containing hints of probably getting even better as it hits its stride. I can’t wait to see if that’s the case.

Final Grade: A

12. Kinky Boots

I didn’t have super high expectations for this show. It was streaming on The Shows Must Go On, and I thought, eh, it’ll probably be fun, I guess I’ll watch it. And I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. It wasn’t super deep, or anything like that, it was just big, sparkly, kindhearted entertainment, and it made me desperately miss live theatre. I will absolutely be watching this again if it’s available, and I’m very glad I watched it the first time.

Final Grade: A+

13. Judy

Just like with Harriet, I was a little leery going into this one, but unlike Harriet, I wasn’t overally impressed. It wasn’t a bad movie, by any means, but it focused more on “Renee Zellwegger does a mean Judy Garland impression, oscar bait!” than actually telling us anything unique about the life of Judy Garland. Additionally, its decision to focus on the end of Judy’s life made the movie both depressing and confusing, because it just sort of expected you to know how we got to this point. A story chronicling her entire rise and fall could have more fully tapped into the tragedy of abuse and lost potential and thus had a more gutpunch of an ending, then this movie delivered.

Final Grade: B+

14. Knives Out

This movie I absolutely loved. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie, and this film provided the perfect update on the Agatha Christie formula, with a quirky detective, horrible characters with motives for murder, a house that doubles as a giant Clue board, and just a smidge of satisfying social commentary (Agatha Christie definitely didn’t have that last one, she was very big on British superiority, but that’s where the updating comes in). It features an all-star cast (Chris Evans can believably play a jerk, what the heck?), and enough twists and turns to keep you interested, with enough comedy to make sure you don’t take it too seriously. It’s a total hoot that I cannot recommend strongly enough.

Final Grade: A+

15. Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School

This was a movie I adored as a child, and it 100% holds up to adult scrutiny. OK, that’s a bit of a fib, but I enjoyed it just as much as an adult, but in really different ways, so that’s got to count for something, right? It’s a little bit cheap, a little bit strange, but everyone in it is just so damn enthusiastic about what they’re doing I can’t help but love it. It’s Scooby Doo, man. Who can resist it?

Final Grade: A+

16. Black Panther

I’ve been putting off watching this, because I knew it would be painful to see for the first time after Chadwick Boseman’s death. And it was. He is just so charming, so sweet, so powerful, so compelling as T’Challa, it breaks my heart that we’ll never see him play the role again. That being said, if he was destined to only get one Black Panther movie, they probably could not have given him a better one. This was a shockingly nuanced and well-developed story with a compelling villain and rivetting performances. Though its lack of goofiness means it isn’t my favourite Marvel movie, I can easily see why it was nominated for Best Picture, and I’m sad it didn’t win. It deserved it.

Final Grade: A+

17. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Another obvious Best Picture contender right here! Alright, that’s also a fib. I enjoyed this movie very much, but it’s also incredibly stupid. Which is good, there’s no way this film works if any of the characters are actually intelligent. Basically, it’s just two dudes travelling through time in a phone booth kidnapping historical characters to write a history report. If you can’t get behind that description, you’re too cynical to enjoy this movie, and I feel bad for you.

Final Grade: A+

18. Avengers: Infinity War

This is such a big movie. Like, there are just so many characters and stuff in this movie, it is jampacked. Given the number of storylines it has to balance, though, there is an impressive clarity to the story. Thanos is the main character, and the number of Infinity Stones he has remaining determines the number of running storylines. Characters jump from storyline to storyline (the Hulk starts off with the Time Stone, then stays behind to help with the Mind Stone, the Guardians start off with the Reality Stone, then splinter off with some going for the Time Stone, and Gamora going with Thanos for the Soul stone, and so on and so forth). Everything is focused around Thanos, and that keeps it from going off the rails, instead ramping up the tension until the final devistating blow.

Final Grade: A+

19. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey

I don’t think I have much new to say about this one, it’s not radically different from the first one. Death’s a great character, it’s fun, it’s silly, it’s stupid. It is a bodaceious and most non-heinous experience, dude!

Final Grade: A+

20. Bill and Ted Face the Music

The third, and currently final Bill and Ted was the very last piece of media I consumed in 2020, which made for a very hopeful end for a frequently dark year. Despite being almost 30 years since Bogus Journey, this one still captured the same spirit without repeating every single old joke. It also made slightly better use of its budget, maintained a smoother flow and plot, and gave the female characters something to do with the addition of the daughters, who are extremely believable in costume and behaviour as members of Gen Z. My only main issue, with the entire series really, is how little the princesses get to do. Even in this movie, when they get their own time machine, their adventure happens entirely offscreen, and it bugs me. That’s a minor quibble, though, for such a kindhearted movie. Bill and Ted are shockingly kind, loyal, loving, non-toxic male leads that movie’s need more of. You could do a lot worse than to absorb the ethos of a film whose central message is, “Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!”

Final Grade: A+

And on that note, that is everything I watched in December, and the end of 2020 on this blog. Phew. Let’s hope 2021 is lighter.

You guys should let me know in the comments what you watched in December, stay safe, wear a mask, be excellent to each other, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

December 2020 Wrap-Up and January TBR

Reader, the New Year has properly begun now. Work and school are starting up again (albeit in uniquely locked down ways), resolutions have been set in place and are already being ignored, and 2021 has finally arrived. But on this blog, before 2021 completely takes hold, we have two more pieces of 2020 wrapping up to get to.

The first of those is December’s reading wrap-up. December can be a weird reading month, I either get tons read because of the holidays or I get nothing read because of the holidays. December 2020 was on the slimmer end of the scale, but I still finished out the month with a solid 12 books read.

So let’s talk about those right now!

1.Everyman by Unknown

I started the month with my very last textbook and piece of medieval literature, the morality play Everyman. This play follows the aptly named Everyman who is most unfortunately visited by Death, who tells him its time for him to die and present a reckoning of his life before God. The rest of it is pretty preachy, but in a bizarrely humorous yet incredibly dark way that perfectly sums up the medieval way of thinking about death and religion. I enjoyed it despite itself.

Final Grade: B+

2. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

I think I just constantly continuously have a book on the go by Sarah J Maas or Cassandra Clare at this point. I am perfectly all right with that. Regardless, here is my original wrap-up for City of Lost Souls:

Hoo boy. Just when you think Cassie is done writing about incest, Sebastian opens his mouth. Book five in The Mortal Instruments series, is very similar to book four in terms of quality. I don’t have much else to say about it, that I haven’t already said about this series. It was a little slower in places, especially the scenes with Clary, Jace, and Sebastian in the apartment where little happened, and Clary tended to repeat the same thoughts over and over again. But on the flip side, Cassie seems to have figured out how creepy the incest stuff is, and really tapped into it. Clary and Sebastian’s fight before they get to Burren is all kinds of messed up, and it’s surprisingly effective. All in all, a satisfying piece of the overall series, but not the most exceptional by any means” (Check out the original wrap-up here).

3. Lightbringer by Claire Legrand

This might be the only series that I have consistently kept up with new releases (granted, it’s only three books, so it’s pretty straightforward to stay on the bandwagon). I was very happy to read this finale, and I loved it loads. You can check out my full review here.

Final Grade: A+

4. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

As I mentioned in my best and worst post, this was a book I really wanted to like. It has extraordinarily high reviews on Goodreads, it sounded like a cool story…unfortunately, nothing about this book lived up to the hype. The biggest issue, overall, is how amateurish the writing was. A lot of this book felt more like a first draft then a finished manuscript and that’s a big problem for me. There was choppy narration and clunky exposition, and underdeveloped characters galore. The plot was predictable and everything felt very shallow, and not in a fun fluffy way. It was more in a way where I could read 50 pages really quickly because I wasn’t taking anything in and nothing went below the surface. There was no subtext or deeper themes or anything like that, which is the number one thing that can make a book really memorable to me. It just felt unfinished and then throw in a really irritating lead character with a huge tendency for telling rather than showing, and you do not have an enjoyable reading experience.

Final Grade: C+

5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I have been wanting to read this book for years, ever since I saw the movie. And, I know, you really shouldn’t watch movie adaptations before reading the books, but in this case it was kind of a bonus. Knowing all the plot twists enabled me to fully appreciate the foreshadowing Gillian Flynn put into this epic puzzle box of a book. Gone Girl is exactly the type of thriller I love. It’s full of horrible people doing the most awful things that makes you desperate to find out what happens next. It’s not exactly holiday appropriate, but its probably only a book you could read during a holiday, when you have time to never put it down until you’ve read all 500 pages.

Final Grade: A+

6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

It’s been, like, a whole year since I reread Harry Potter, and you know what that means! Here’s my original wrap-up for Chamber of Secrets:

“And I ended the month with the next Harry Potter installment. What’s most interesting to me about this book is the improvement in writing quality. It’s a huge leap forward (not quite up to the rest of the series yet, but it’s very close). The plot is probably better in this one. Certainly plot-holey, but what Harry Potter novel doesn’t? It’s great, basically. It’s just great” (Check out the full wrap-up here).

Final Grade: A-

7. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

This is a book that felt very similar to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (one of my favourite books ever), in that they are both elaborate heists being pulled off by a diverse found family. And just like Six of Crows, I absolutely adored it. Although this is urban fantasy, the world-building is no less elaborate, and just as fascinating for the additional history that goes into it. I learned a lot about 19th century Paris reading this, and I always love to learn new facts with my fantasy. The characters were all instantly loveable, with painful backstories and relatable struggles, and the banter was absolutely on point. Basically, if you like Six of Crows you will like this, and who doesn’t like Six of Crows?

Final Grade: A+

8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice may be one of the most hyped books of all time, so I was a little hesitant to dive into it, because I’ve been burned by the hype machine before. Fortunately, I needn’t of worried, as this book emphatically lives up to its hype. Jane Austen is brilliantly witty, and this book is frequently laugh out loud funny. The characters are all believable, either in a likeable or really unlikeable way, depending on which character. The developing romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is actually super well-done and balanced. Darcy’s early inability to deal with his emotions was super funny too. All in all, the perfect example of a rom-com from the best rom-com author who ever lived.

Final Grade: A+

9. Roar by Cora Carmack

I originally read this book back in 2019, but I finally tracked down its sequel, which meant a reread was in order. Here’s my original wrap-up:

“I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway in honour of the sequel coming out and I was super grateful because this book was a lot of fun. It follows the Aurora, heir to the throne who is supposed to possess storm magic so she can protect her kingdom. Only hitch in the plan, she doesn’t have any storm magic. To avoid an arranged marriage, so joins up with a group of storm hunters to steal some magic of her own. This book was a wild ride. Though a little bit cliche in places, there was a lot of enjoyment to be had. Aurora could be a deeply frustrating and non-communicative lead a lot of the time, but she was gutsy and fun to read about, which helped with that issue. Also deeply enjoyable was the multiple POVs, which I’ve always been a huge fan of. Aurora’s love interest’s POV was fine and all, but what I really loved was the POV of the prince whom she was intended to marry. He was more unique, more villainous, more layered, and more entertaining than all the other characters and I want more of him in the sequel. Even if I don’t get it, I’m excited to spend more time with this cast of characters and this magic system.”

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

And here’s the original HP wrap-up:

“Next up, I continued my annual Harry Potter reread with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban. This book really marks a turning point in terms of writing quality. In between this one and Chamber of Secrets, the writing suddenly becomes a lot more mature and sophisticated, and there’s suddenly a lot more depth to the secondary characters (I mean, not that J.K. Rowling’s ever written a flat character in her life, but they really start to stand out in this book). The only real issue here is the time-travel that’s never used again, and really opens up a can of worms in the realm of plot-holes, but that whole section of the book is so enjoyable I can’t bring myself to complain. I just really love these books, no matter how many plot holes I have to swallow” (Check out the full wrap-up here).

Final Grade: A

11. Rage by Cora Carmack

The sequel to Roar was an improvement in some ways, and worse in others. To start off on the worse side of things, the love interest. He was already creepy and weirdly possessive in book one, and those problems are even worse in this book. Its 2021, I think we can move on from the obsessive possessive Broody trope. We’re all over it. Unless we’re going to subvert things in book three, I don’t like where its headed. Aurora actually did stuff in this book, which was good, but that unfortunately started to veer her into Mary Sue territory, so, I’m keeping a skeptical eye on that. Really, the major saving graces of this book, and the reasons I’m going to read Reign, is Cassius and his complex relationship with his family, his kingdom, and now Aurora, and the sparks flying between Nova and Jinx. Those things alone are saving the series and making me interested in continued reading.

Final Grade: B+

12. Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

This was a Christmas gift from my sister, and it turned out to be the perfect book to finish out the year. It’s a Victorian mystery, centering around the kidnapped daughter of an earl, who is rumored to have mysterious powers, which brings the collectors of London out in full force. Hired to find her before the worst happened is lady detective, Bridie Devine. This had everything I love. It was a Victorian mystery with quirky compelling characters, hints of fantasy, and strong feminist themes that was alternatingly funny and terrifying. The writing was lyrical and gorgeous, summoning up poetic visions of everything from London to mermaids. I’m obsessed with Jess Kidd’s style and I fully intend to read more of her work in the New Year.

Final Grade: A+

And there you have it, those are all the books I read December. I have finally worked my way through my backlog of series on my physical TBR, so I am starting the new year totally fresh, with no immediate reading plans. Sort of. I totally intend to read The Cousins by Karen M McManus and Lore by Alexandra Bracken in January, and, depending on how I feel, In The Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce. I also intend to read the entire DCI Banks series by Peter Robinson in 2021, starting with Gallows View, and I have also already read The Other Widow by Susan H Crawford and Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner, so expect to see those in next month’s wrap-up. Additionally, there is always Cassandra Clare to reread and textbooks to procastinate, so I imagine January’s wrap-up will be extremely full.

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

Until the next time.

2020: The Best and the Worst

Reader, Happy New Year! We did it! We made it through 2020, the historically weirdest year in recent memory. And even though a lot of the things that made 2020 bad are still going to be around in 2021 (you know, the Trump presidency, COVID-19), the New Year dawns with the end of both of these things in sight. It’s a (fingers-crossed knock-on-wood)fresh start.

But before all the fresh-starting and singing of Auld Lang Syne begins, let’s look back at the whole of 2020 one last time. It’s time for one of my favourite posts of the year, the post where I go over the best and the worst books I read in 2020. This is the third year I’ve done this, so you can check out 2019 and 2018 as well, if you’re interested in that.

We’re going to go over the best and worst books of each month, as well as the best and worst of the year. I’ll link the original wrap-ups for each month, so you can check out all of the books I read this year if you so desire, and if you’ve been following this blog, you will be able to easily guess what the worst book of the year is. The best may be a surprise.

Just a disclaimer before we begin, I had an excellent reading year. I read a grand total 194 books this year (I couldn’t quite crack 200), and most of those I really enjoyed. Therefore, some of these worst books may have been the worst compared to the competition, but were still really good books.

So let’s get started!

January

The Worst: The Trial by Franz Kafka

Ah, the simpler times of January when my biggest concerns were how much I hated this book, not the surging global pandemic. However, I really did hate this book. If you’re a Kafka fan, I do not apologize, I simply do not understand you.

The Best: One Of Us Is Next by Karen M McManus

I was obsessing about the release of this book for a solid year before it actually came out, so it probably surprises no one that it was the best of the month. It lived up to my nearly-impossibly high expectations and surpassed them, as all of Karen M McManus’s books do (check out my full review here).

February

The Worst: And look at that we’ve already reached the worst of the year. We’ll swing back around to this one at the end.

The Best: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

This is actually a surprise to me, but when I looked back at the month of February, this book really stood out as being the best. It fully utilizes the tropes of its genre, without falling into cliches, and it presents two extremely likeable leads in Audrey Rose and Thomas. I fully intend to read the rest of the series in 2021, because it is delightful.

March

The Worst: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

This wasn’t a bad book, per se, it was just a thin one. There were interesting concepts and characters that could have used a lot more exploration to really pop off the page. As it was, it was fascinating in the moment, but not memorable in the long-run.

The Best: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas/Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

What’s this? A tie for the month of March? Well, when my two favourite authors both release books in the same month, what else can a girl do? It is not possible for me to choose between my two great loves, Sarah J Maas novels and Will Herondale, and since this is my blog and I make the rules, I’m not going to choose. These two are equally the best.

April

The Worst: The June Boys by Court Stephens

Just like The Marrow Thieves, this is a book that wasn’t bad, it just lacked that special something that makes a book stick in your memory. There was good stuff here, it was just too confusingly threaded together to make me really love it.

The Best: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

April was actually a very hard month to choose a best book for, because I don’t think I read a bad book in the entire month. In the end, The Hazel Wood wins by a hair for its creepy and feminist inversion of the world of fairy tales, and its dark imagery that has lingered with me all year.

May

The Worst: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

This book really disappointed me, as I’ve come to expect funny things from the great Mark Twain, and this book really was not that. There was a certain superiority that the narrator exhibited that really rubbed me the wrong way, and it was also just kind of dull.

The Best: The Power by Naomi Alderman

This book, on the other hand, I adored. I wrote a whole review gushing about how much I adored it. It was dark and twisted, but brilliant and fascinating at the same time, and I was in awe.

June

The Worst: I Am Morgan le Fay by Nancy Springer

Another book whose biggest crime was that it was basically kind of dull. In this book’s case, it never managed to live up to its thrilling prologue, or even how cool the premise was, leading to a lacklusture story for one of history’s coolest villains.

The Best: We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian

This was a story I was a little unsure of, because it was about sports, and I can’t tell a football from a soccer ball. However, the story of this team and its struggles drew me in, kept me rivetted, and had me cheering at the end. It wasn’t a dense read by any means, but it did cover some difficult topics in a timely and engaging manner, which is exactly what I like to see from my contemporaries.

July

The Worst: Roughin’ It by Mark Twain

Just like the previous Mark Twain entry on this list, this book was a real snoozer. But the real reason its on this list is the overt constant racism, which unlike in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not being interrogated in any way, it’s just presented as fact, and that alone is reason enough to give this book a pass.

The Best: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

And if you’re skipping Mark Twain and want to educate yourself more about racism in America, may I reccomend to you The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness? It is insightful and tragic and powerful and educational in equal measures. I read several books in July to educate myself on race relations in the U.S but none were as as superb as The New Jim Crow.

August

The Worst: The Alchemy of Murder by Carol McCleary

In a reverse from my usual reviews, I have a review for this book because I hated it so much. I encourage you to read that. I’m not going to go into it all again, it just makes me angry.

The Best: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

I am absolute trash for Jane Eyre retellings. And when they also come chock-full of pop culture references, sneaky subversive feminism, and laugh-out-loud hilarity? I am one very happy reader.

September

The Worst: Beowulf by Unknown

I know this is a classic, I know it’s an important part of English literature. I understand all that. That doesn’t mean I enjoy it. It’s just too full of confusing digressions to capture my attention.

The Best: You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson

This just might be the cutest book of all time. It’s an adorable romance and a coming-of-age story in the best possible way, and I smiled through every page of it.

October

The Worst: Caliban A Philosophical Drama by Ernest Renan

Another not bad story, but not all the way to good either. This was probably my least favourite of all the Tempest retellings I read this fall, as it got a little dense and dull in several places.

The Best: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The best thing to come out of 2020 is my discovery of Big Little Lies (and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but that started in 2018). Just like the show, this book is full of mysteries and plot twists, but also one-liners and sparkling wit that make all of these characters the kind you love to hate.

November

The Worst: The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle by Unknown

This is yet another book that I didn’t really dislike. It was just a smidge less enjoyable than Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and because I had to translate it out of Middle English to read, it was a lot of work for not a great return.

The Best: At long last, we’ve reached the best of the year, so we’ll save this one for the end.

December

The Worst: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

I really wanted to enjoy this book, and I tried so hard to get into it. It has such a high rating on Goodreads. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it. The writing was very amateurish and the characters and plot so thin, it was impossible to really love.

The Best: Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

This book is pretty much the reverse of that. It combines all of my favourite things (Victorian setting, strong believable women, magic, quirky characters) with a lyrical and rich writing style that I adored, and enabled me to end my 2020 reading in style.

And without further ado, it is time for the best and the worst books of 2020. Have you all guessed what the worst is?

The Worst Book of 2020: Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Is anyone surprised? I have not hated a book in recent memory more than I hated this one. I despise this book with a burning passionate loathing. I have been trying to lose it to no avail, so I’m probably going to go throw it out in the woods and let the bears use it as bedding during hibernation. But they’d probably hate it so much they’d attack me for inflicting it upon them. And I would rather have that occur than read this book again, that is how bad it is.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten the excessive hyperbole out of my system, let’s get to the best book.

The Best Book of 2020: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johanson

A recent read, this book surprised me with how excellent it was. It elevated the stakes higher than I thought possible, developed every single character, and ramped up the worldbuilding in shocking ways. I was unable to put it down, even though it I was reading it concurrent to the U.S. election, and it managed to distract me during one of the most stressful weeks I’ve ever experienced, and that is quality writing right there.

And there you have it, those are the best and worst books of 2020. Something tells me that A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas will be the best book of 2021, but who knows? With The Cousins by Karen M McManus, Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare, Te Black Volume of the Dead by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu, and Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo on my 2021 horizon, my reading list looks pretty bright.

That’s all I’ve got for you today, you guys should let me know in the comments the best and worst books you read in 2020, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

For the First Time In Forever Disney Watcher: Thor: The Dark World

Reader, since I am on Christmas break, I have had time to continue with my watch of The Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, since I am in a Marvel sort of headspace, I thought it was the perfect day to continue with our recaps of this watching adventure.

So today, this last blog post of 2020, we will be discussing Thor: The Dark World, which is not good. It is very much not good. In fact, aside from one glowing redeeming moment, this would be the worst of all the Marvel movies. But before we get into all that, a spoiler warning is in order. You are now warned of spoilers.

So, let’s dive right in!

Right off the bat, this movie commits the cardinal sin of any movie, but particularly a superhero movie. It’s boring. It’s incredibly, mindnumbingly dull, because the only character anyone cares about spends the first half of the movie locked in the basement (that’s Loki, BTW, in case you’re one of those weird people who like Thor more than Loki).

No one else in this movie is anywhere near as entertaining as the great Tom Hiddleston. Chris Hemsworth’s great talent is comedy, so why they decided to make him a brooding, serious hero is beyond me, because he is hopelessly lost trying to be dramatic. Natalie Portman is an exceptional, Oscar-winning actress, so why they decided to saddle her with the mopey love interest archetype and knock her unconscious for vast portions of the movie I have no idea. Also, Odin is still around. Odin is horrible, he is the worst Dad in the MCU, and some of the other Dads are the literal villains of their movies. That tells you how bad he is.

This movie also committed the other cardinal sin of movie making, which is, when you have access to the inhumanly perfect talent that is Christopher Eccelston, you make use of him. He is an impeccable actor of legendary talent and they decided to hide him behind thick layers of makeup and CGI, take away anything resembling a character arc, and prevent him from delivering anything resembling memorable dialogue? What is wrong with the production team of this movie? They had a chance to deliver a villain just as amazing as Loki, and they went, “Nah, I think we’ll pass on that.” I understand none of the decision-making that went into this movie.

Yeah, as you can tell, I did not like this movie. I can’t say much about the plot because I don’t even remember what it is, it was that dull. I guess all the could behind-the-scenes creatives were busy working on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so Marvel had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to produce this movie.

Still, there is one great redeeming feature of this movie, that pulls it above Thor as the worst movie in the MCU, and that is Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki, doing everything he can to save this movie (it’s not enough, but he really tries). He is delightfully snarky and no longer falls for Odin’s gaslighting (“As much as I enjoy our little talks, I…don’t enjoy them”-that’s putting him in his place, Loki). He also has extraordinary depth to his performance, building a believable brotherly vibe with Chris Hemsworth, and remaining the only member of the family who convincingly portrays grief after his mother’s death, in a way that actually further develops Loki and the relationship he had with his mother (which is more than either Thor or Odin gets). He does a killer Captain America impersonation. The escape from Asgard is the best scene of the entire movie (thumbs up for the excellent “Now they’re following us…now they’re firing at us” “Yes, thank you for the commentary, Loki, it’s not at all distracting!”) The only quibble I have with Loki in this movie is it was super obvious that it was him disguised at Odin at the end long before it was revealed. Why? Well, the real Odin would never be that nice and supportive to his son. He is the literal worst. At least Thanos is honest about his poor parenting skills!

And now that I’ve praised Tom Hiddleston as Loki, I don’t think there’s anything else to say about this movie. It’s not at all good, thankfully Captain America: The Winter Soldier is much better. But that’s a topic for a different day.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. You guys should let me know in the comments what your thoughts on Thor: The Dark World are, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

Top 5 Musical Finales

Reader, happy Boxing Day! I hope you all had very merry Christmases, despite the challenge of celebrating in these COVID-19 plagued times. As I promised on Wednesday, we’re spending this week talking about finales. We did books last time, so today, we’ll talk about my other obsession, musicals.

Now, a good musical finale can slot into a few categories. It can be a) a fun dance party to make you feel good, b) a hopeful and uplifting ode to equality, perserverance, or whatever the major theme of the show was, c) a cathartic moment of hope after a more tragic show, or d) the final movement in a symphony of pain that probably results in the deaths of one or more characters. Sometimes, these categories can get a bit muddled. I’ve never seen a show that manages to end with a song that fits into all four of these categories, but if you know of one, please let me know in the comments. That would be quite the feat.

So, now that we’ve got our definitions all straight, let’s dive right into the list!

Honourable Mention: “Tomorrow Is a Latter Day” from The Book of Mormon

Now, as fun as the dance party endings can be, I didn’t feel like I could include more than one on this list, because they all end up being kind of similar. So this honourable mention, while a good song in its own right, is also standing in for a lot of other numbers. This is the type of song that wraps everything up, leads to a fun dance break, makes everyone have a good time, and in the case of “Tomorrow Is a Latter Day” brings back the opening number in hysterical fashion. It’s the perfect ending to a funny show that will be stuck in your head as you leave the theater.

5. “Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plants)” from Little Shop of Horrors

I must admit Little Shop of Horrors is like my favourite underrated musical. And this finale must be the most underrated of all. Any show that ends with an evil alien plant eating not just the entire cast but also expanding into the audience to eat them too has got to be a good time. Seriously, though, this song has everything in it that made the rest of the show great. It has doo-wop harmonies, funny lyrics, and Audrey 2. That’s everything you need.

4. “Inevitable” from The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

This might be the creepiest finale on the list. It’s kind of the reverse of the fun dance party ending. It may be a dance party, but it’s more terrifying than it is fun. If you’ve never seen The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals, I won’t spoil the ending for you (the whole thing is on Youtube, I highly suggest you experience the hilarity that is Team Starkid). Suffice to say, this song is the perfect example of bringing back the rest of the score in a new way, and ending with a bang. It is the apotheosis of the show.

3. “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You” from The Last Five Years

Even among the gorgeous standard set by the score of The Last Five Years, this song stands out. One of only two duets Jaime and Cathy share over the course of the show, it pefectly encapsulates their diverging viewpoints and offers a final capstone to the story of why this marriage was always doomed. As they sing together, but apart, separated by five years, this song becomes both a visual and vocal reminder of the doomed starcross quality of the central couple’s romance, and it is stunning to listen to.

2. “Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer” from The Phantom of the Opera

This might qualify as one of those “final movements in a symphony of pain” songs. This is a solid fifteen minutes of epic, angsty melodrama, and I am mildly obsessed. Each part of the trio of the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul is well-thought out and builds on what came before it, leading to a final moment that is emotionally, satisfyingly complete. It’s a beautiful end for a beautiful show.

1.”Road To Hell (Reprise)” from Hadestown

Speaking of beautiful ends, there may be no more perfect finale than “Road to Hell (Reprise)”, a song that takes bringing the first song back in a new way to an entirely different level. After the inevitable tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hermes starts the show over again, and the audience suddenly sees the words “we’re gonna sing it again” in a whole new light. The circular nature gives the tragedy a dimension of hope and provides the audience with a bit of catharsis, as if, eventually, “it might turn out this time.” Its a quality that somehow comes through even on the cast recording, and is the astonishing power of such a simple notion that makes this song the top finale on this list.

And there you have it, those are my top 5 musical finales. You guys should let me know in the comments what your favourites are, stay safe, wear a mask, Merry Christmas again, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

Top 5 Series Finales

Reader, 2020 is almost over, and everyone is breathing a big sigh of relief. This has been one of the strangest years in recent memory, and so, in honour of its end, we’re going to spend this week talking about finales (how awesome was that seque?) Today, we’ll talk about book series finales, and on Saturday, musical finales. Yes, I realize this has nothing to do with Christmas, but it tenuously connects to New Year’s, so that’s why we’re doing it.

Now a really good series finale has a lot of stuff to do. It has to wrap-up all of the lingering threads from the previous books while also being a satisfying story in its own right, and be a story epic enough to end things with a bang while hopefully holding some pure fan service moments to justify their commitment to the tale. That is a lot of marks to hit, so let’s talk about some books that did their job really well.

An additional note before we start, a series can be a duology, a trilogy, a quartet, a quintet, literally anything longer than one book will be considered for this list.

So let’s jump into it!

Honourable Mention: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (The Shatter Me trilogy)

I have gushed multiple times on this blog about how much I love Ignite Me. It almost singlehandedly turned my feelings for this trilogy from “meh” to “wow, that was awesome!” (Unravel Me helped it a little bit). It is the perfect culmination of everyone’s character arcs, it has lots of fan service moments, and it’s a whole lot of fun. The only reason it’s only an honourable mention is that it suddenly ceased to be a series finale when Tahereh Mafi randomly added three books to the series. Nevertheless, as it was originally intended to wrap everything up, I think it’s worthy of its honourable mention.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (The Harry Potter series)

This is the book release that stopped the world, how could I not include it on this list? Harry Potter is a phenomenon that I don’t know will ever be repeated, and Deathly Hallows perfectly encapsulates that phenomeon. It calls back to plot threads and foreshadowing all the way back in book one, it escalates the stakes, it doesn’t shy away from tragedy, and it still somehow wraps up satisfactorily. And as I mentioned before, the entire world stopped so people could read it. Very few other series finales can boast that.

4. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series)

I was very into Rick Riordan’s books back in the day. I’ve mostly grown out of them now, as they are very definitely middle grade books, but I do still look back on (some of) them with fondness. And of all the many series that exist in the Percy Jackson world, none was better wrapped up than the original. The Last Olympian was and still is one of the best finales I’ve read. It’s incredibly epic, in a way few middle grade books are, and it also paid off plot threads and character arcs in totally unexpected ways. And the best part was, all of this character pay-off is so subtly interwoven that you can enjoy it on both a character level and an action level, both parts working together seamlessly.

3. Who Won the War? by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (The Boys. vs. Girls series)

This is a series with perhaps a bit less depth than the others on this list, but the finale works so perfectly I can’t deny it its spot on this list. It’s the perfect end for 12 books of back-and-forth tricks and squabbling, that manages to feel just as funny as the first 11 without being repetitive. It also plays with the audience’s perception of who is on which side of the war, and its final chapter is the perfect way to end the series. Very few books can boast a perfect final line, but this one emphetically can, and that alone makes it one of my top 5 finales.

2. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas (The Throne of Glass series)

I’m sure no one is surprised to see this book here, I am obsessed with Sarah J Maas, and this book in particular. As much as I enjoy A Court of Wings and Ruin this one completely blew it out of the water. At almost exactly 1000 pages, this book made room for everything, with satisfying arcs for all the 50 million characters running around, dramatic moments that make you gasp, appropriately challenging final battles, and fan service galore (looking at you, A Court of Thorns and Roses reference). It was everything I wanted and everything I love in the series, wrapped up into one ginormous finale.

1.Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices trilogy)

Ok, yeah, I had to end with Will Herondale. I am nothing if not predictable. But seriously though, any Cassandra Clare fan will tell you that her finales are always her strongest books, and no finale encapsulates that better than Clockwork Princess, this absolute masterpiece of a book. The emotions and ANGST in this book are so strong, it’s perfect. It makes me weep, it makes me laugh, it makes me hate the villain and cheer the heroes…this book is the ultimate finale, complete with a pitch-perfect epilogue that hurts as much as it heals.

And there you have it, those are my top 5 series finales. 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 next time.

If The Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album RANKED

Reader, just like last week, we’re doing another Christmas-themed post, as we’re now less than a week out from Christmas (six days, to be exact). I don’t have any Christmassy Top 5 lists planned this year, so to make up for that, we’re going to talk about Broadway and Christmas today.

On November 20th, the cast of Broadway’s Hadestown released its holiday album If The Fates Allow, featuring the Fates, Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzales-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad, with featured performances from the rest of the cast. As you may expect, this album is gorgeous. It has all of the sound and jazziness of Hadestown, but with a holiday twist. I’m obsessed with it, and I highly recommend listening to it if you haven’t already.

But, as with all music, there is a range of gorgeousness. So today, we’re going to rank all the songs on this album, from just pretty all the way up to sheer perfection.

So let’s jump into it!

14. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Now I will not deny that this song is very beautifully arranged. The trouble is I don’t really like this particular carol. And no matter how lovely the Fates sound singing it, or how unique the orchestration is, I still don’t like the carol, and nothing will change that.

13. Gift For an Angel

This is another one that sounds very pretty, I’m just not crazy about the song. It’s just a little bit too much on the earnest-emotional-cheesy side of Christmas songs for my taste. There’s nothing really wrong with this type of song, it’s just never been my favourite style.

12. Someday At Christmas

From this point on, it’s pretty hard to rank these songs because they’re all awesome. By that metric, “Someday At Christmas” has to go nearer the bottom simply because I don’t listen to it as much as the others. I love all the ensemble solos, and it has a great message, it’s just not one I really listen to if I’m not listening my way through the whole album.

11, 10, & 9: Purple Snowflakes, 8 Days (of Hanukkah) & Twas the Night

There’s not tons going on in any of these songs, and that’s okay. They’re like the fun fluffy part of this album. It’s a blast to listen to the harmonies, and I like to jam out to them. They are total bops that I can easily listen to while I do other stuff. I really don’t demand any more than that.

8. The Longest Winter

There’s a lot to like about this song. It’s super unique and Amber Gray is a literal goddess. It’s somehow both soothing and eerie at the same time. It gives me the same feeling as watching a snow storm in late evening. It’s beautiful but a little worrying at the same time, which is a different vibe for a holiday song, but one I love.

7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Now what’s not to like about this one? Everybody likes this song, it’s gorgeous. This is a beautiful cover, so great they named the album after it, and everything about works wonderfully. I have no complaints.

6. The Song of the Magi

This is a song that grows on me the more I listen to it. It has that haunting, minor key kind-of melancholy feel that the very best carols have. It doesn’t seem out of place among more traditional carols like “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” or probably its closest analogue “We Three Kings.” Besides beautifully capturing the tone of classic Christian songs, it also features possibly the most stunning harmonies on the whole album and that’s saying something, because this entire album is pretty much just stunning harmonies.

5. Winter Song

Okay, yes, I’m addicted to Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada’s duets. I’m only human. But seriously, how was this song not written for Orpheus and Eurydice? It fits so perfectly. It’s haunting and a little bit heartbreaking, and I’m totally in love with it.

4. Come Healing

Speaking of songs I’m totally in love with, we have this masterpiece. I admit to being just a wee bit obsessed with Patrick Page’s voice, and the contrast between his bass and the harmonies of the Fates is beyond masterful. It works wonderfully for the song, and elevates it above your typical Christmas hymn.

3. Thank God It’s Christmas

I’d never heard of this song before listening to this album, and it’s my loss because this song is amazing. The cover and arrangement works wonderfully, feeling like a deleted song from Hadestown, and the entire thing is the perfect Christmas song for 2020.

2. Sleigh Ride

I can’t deny I’m a sucker for songs with good beats, and that’s exactly what this song delivers. It’s a great showcase for the three Fates, and it’s a stellar jazzy jam that’s still recognizably the same song but also completely reimagines it into the Hadestown milieu.

1.Blue Christmas

If Andre De Shields is on your album, than his song is automatically number one. Those are just the rules, and I don’t make the rules (actually, I do). Even leaving that rule aside, this is genuinely one of my new favourite Christmas songs. Andre De Shields is just the perfect performer, he so effortlessly (or at least it sounds effortless) inhabits every song he sings and plays with every note, and its a joy to listen to him. He overshadows Elvis, which is not a feat just anybody could do, and this version is the definitive version of the song in my opinion.

There you have it those are my rankings of If The Fates Allow. You guys should let me know in the comments what your rankings are or let me know your favourite Christmas song, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

Until the next time.

Lightbringer by Claire Legrand Review

Reader, as I mentioned last month, I reread the first two books in the Empirium trilogy in preparation for Lightbringer, which came out in I think October, and which I loved very much. Now, some of you may have been wondering why I didn’t do a crackpot theories post for Lightbringer. I try to do one when there are new releases I’m excited for, I did one for Kingsbane, so why no crackpot theories? Well, honestly, October was kind of a busy blur of midterms and grad school applications, and by the time I realized Lightbringer was being released we were way past the point where crackpot theories would be appropriate.

So, to make up for that lapse, we’re going to do a full review of this epic and daunting finale. First, a spoiler warning for this book and the first two in the series, because we are going to be getting into some details. I’m going to dispense with the typical plot synopsis, because this is the third and final book, and let’s hop right into the review.

Rielle

Because there was a clarity to her mind that she had never before experienced, a singularity of purpose. She knew that she had been born in Celdaria, that she had married a man named Audric and killed a teacher named Tal, but when she turned her thoughts that way, trying to recall the details of their faces, what they had felt for her, what she had felt for them, she could remember very little. Only vague swaths of color and sensation. Every memory that had once tormented her had faded into the shadows of her mind.

Rielle has always been a super unique character, and I love that we stuck with that right through to the bitter end. There’s no attempt to sugarcoat her or pull any punches with the level her villainy stoops to, but the situation is also quite a bit more complicated than that. She’s not good but she’s not pure evil either, unlike Corien. She’s almost like the literal embodiment of power itself; she just exists, in her all-powerful glory, and human emotions like guilt, regret, or even love are beneath her. It’s rare enough that female characters are allowed power without it being “corrupting”, so the fact that Legrand is so unapologetic about Rielle’s darkness and force of nature status was amazing. I found Rielle’s sections the most interesting for this reason. It was unlike anything I’ve read in YA before.

Eliana

Ostia had been opened. Angry light crackled across its mouth. It had at last become what Eliana had hoped for from that first moment when she awoke in her white rooms and thought of carving a door in the sky. Her mother had opened the Gate. And she had opened Ostia. A hole in the Deep. A door leading out from the abyss. Through it, Elysium was clear as a spotless reflection.

Eliana was a little bit less overwhelmingly original. She falls into just a few too many tropes to be as wholly engrossing as Rielle is, but I did find her slow escape from Corien’s palace aided by the Prophet to be exactly the type of escape scene I love. The gradual outwitting of the presumed all-powerful male villain by two women he deemed beneath him is exactly the type of thing I am here for. That was super fun, although, ultimately, this side of things sort of fizzled the more epic Rielle’s world got, and I found the “and-they-all-died-but-we-rewrote-time” ending to be kind of disappointing for all of the characters that I loved in this time period, who never got a satisfying conclusion. And since I don’t want to make a whole section about Simon, who I don’t like, I’ll just briefly mention him here. The whole “he’s evil but he’s good but he’s evil but he’s good” back-and-forth started to give me whiplash by the middle of the book, and honestly made an already cliched character more inconsistent. And I don’t think I realized how big the age gap is between him and Eliana until you have 13-year old Simon seeming interested in 5-year old Eliana in the epilogue, and um, yeah. That’s pretty ew. I don’t even want to think about that anymore. Let’s move on to a much more appealing love interest.

Audric

He brought Illumenor down across Merovec’s torso, slicing clean through his armor, bone, and muscle. The two halves of his body dropped to the floor, the wounds steaming and clean, bloodless. Audrice stared at the carnage in Illumenor’s unforgiving light. He would never be able to burn from his mind the image of those glassy blue eyes, frozen in shock […] Audric knelt at his mother’s side, making sure no one else could see his face. He didn’t trust it not to show his horror, how he loathed the destructive potential of his power and the fact that he had been forced to use it in such a way.

Man, how much does it suck to be Audric in this book? Nothing is working out for him. He finds out his wife murdered his father on his wedding night and immediately afterwards has his throne stolen from him and is forced to go on the run, isn’t told his wife is pregnant until long after she’s gone on a murder spree, and is put in a situation where he must kill his wife and unborn child or she’ll destroy the world. That’s just a generally terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. And yet, through it all, he remains the same honourable, kind and loyal leader that we all fell in love with in Furyborn (or at least, I did). You really feel for all his struggles here, as he proves himself to be a wonderful leader with a heart of gold, whose refusal to ever lose faith in Rielle is actually kind of beautiful. More YA guys should be like him. Writers take note: less Simons, more Audrics.

Ludivine

But Ludivine was past anger now, had been past it for hundreds of years. She no longer knew grief or loneliness. She felt no regret, no shame, no lingering ache of lost love. All feeling had fused inside her, plating her insides with steel. The only thing left was the end. It had burned in her chest for centuries, an immovable blue flame that grew as she did, brightening as the pieces of her plan fell into the places she had made for them.

Ludivine was an interesting character because she may have been the literal definition of morally grey. She definitely wasn’t evil, she was on the side of good, but boy, did she do some questionable stuff in the name of good. One of my crackpot theories for Kingsbane was that Ludivine was still going to be around in Eliana’s timeline. I did not predict she was going to be the Prophet, but only because I had totally forgotten the Prophet was going to be a character when I made those theories. As soon as I saw in the plot synopsis that the Prophet would be revealed in this book, I was like, “oh, it’s Ludivine,” because seriously, who else could it have possibly been? No one else would live that long. So even knowing who the Prophet was, I thought future Ludivine was very interesting. I thought maybe she’d have learned the error of her ways in the 1000 years she’s been alive, but nope. She’s just as morally grey as before, she’s just more upfront about it. A odd character choice perhaps, but certainly one that felt genuine for someone as flawed as Ludivine was.

Navi

“Because you pity him?’ Navi’s voice was gentle. “Of course not. I admit I pity him myself. But I pity you far more, and I am glad that I nor any of my people have seen him today. He is wise to keep himself hidden away. I’m not sure I could have restrained Ysabet, and she’s never even met the man.”

This is basically an opportunity for me to mention how much I love Navi. She is a total badass and her and Eliana are like, friendship goals! I was half hoping they’d start dating for all three books, and I’m still a little bitter that ship didn’t sail. I wish Navi had gotten more page time, she’s the best.

Corien

Eliana found him at once-Corien, but not the one she knew. Pale-eyed and flummoxed, but there was no madness in him, and even his mind, probing hers, felt more settled. He stepped forward, mouth open to speak. Rielle jerked her head at him. He went flying back against the railing and slumped to the ground. Not pinned there like the others, but simply thrown. A warning.

Since he is the major villain in this book, I guess we’ve got to talk about Corien. I don’t like him (which I suppose is a good thing, as he is the villain, but still). I liked how twisted the relationship between him and Rielle got, as she got more powerful and more able to hold her own. He starts off as your typical controlling villain obsessee type character, but as Rielle’s power grows, he becomes more and more inconsequential to her, and that was fun. Arrogant villains being taken down a peg or two is always a good time.

Jessamyn/Remy

She needed to push Remy even harder throughout his training. Present him to the Five and to the Emperor, and then to Eliana. Jessamyn imagined watching the girl’s face fall as she realied what had been done to her brother-and with it, her will to fight.

I don’t have tons to say about this dynamic, but I do want to touch on it briefly. I thought Jessamyn was a pretty interesting character who could have used just a touch more development, but what I don’t understand is why they think for one second that they will be able to make Remy totally loyal to the Emperor. Is the plan basically to give him Stockholm Syndrome? Do I have that right? Why did they think that would work? I mean, clearly it didn’t so that’s a pretty clear indicator it was kind of a stupid plan all along.

Final Battle

The power in their blood would always hunger for more. And to be hungry, to want to consume, to desire might and power, to crave becoming more than simply a creature of flesh and bone-these longings would make them enemies of some, hated and feared and misunderstood, reviled and revered in the same breath. And others, those clever enough to see the true reach of their pain, their fear, their wants and hopes, would exploit them without remorse.

I actually loved this scene, the supposed fall of the Lighbringer turning into a mother/daughter duo battling the villain while Audric mostly just watched. I like that Audric was never afraid of Rielle, despite Corien trying to convince her this was the case, I loved the mother/daughter fighting pair, and I liked Rielle’s eventual death as there really did need to be consequences for her actions, even though I totally felt for Audric’s denial of that fact. The only thing I didn’t love was the whole changing time to reset everything thing. This was pretty well-established from Kingsbane that that’s where this was headed, but maybe because I just read Fate of the Tearling or I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who, but whatever the reason, I’m getting a little burned out on this particular trope and would appreciate some variety. So moral of the story is: don’t read two time travel fantasy series back to back next time. Lesson learned.

And there you have it, that is my review for Lightbringer by Claire Legrand. Aside from a few little quibbles here and there, it was a solid end to a mostly enjoyable series, that I would recomend to anyone who enjoys dark feminist fantasy. Just don’t read it close to The Tearling trilogy.

That’s all I’ve got for you today, you should let me know in the comments your thoughts on Lightbringer or the Empirium trilogy, stay safe, wear a mask, and I’ll see you on Saturday.

Until the next time.

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