Favorites Friday: Romantic Couples (Biannual Event)

Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and I have a (loose) tradition of posting about favorite fictional romantic couples around this holiday…  I’ve covered a number of favorites in the past (2012 and 2014), but have met some new ones since last time, and noticed one I’m surprised I didn’t have before…

1) Cress and Thorne, The Lunar Chronicles Series – This series is just full of wonderful romances, and I could put Scarlet and Wolf or Winter and Jacin on this list too…but Cress and Thorne are my favorites, each one a little unsure, each trying to become more than what they fear they are.  And they’re just adorable, separately and together.

2) Percy and Annabeth, Heroes of Olympus Series – I met these characters in the Percy Jackson series, but the romance doesn’t come in until Heroes of Olympus…and it’s wonderful.  I love that they are such equals with so much respect for each other; they’re comrades in arms who are also in love, who literally go through Hell (Tartarus) leaning on each other.  In Book Two Percy forgets all of his memories except the name Annabeth; in Book Three there’s a lovely moment when Percy reassures Annabeth by saying, “It’s okay, we’re together” and she reflects on how he knows that’s what will most make her feel better.  It’s just beautiful.

3) Daniel and Sophia/Lucy, My Name Is Memory – This is less about who they are and more about the nature of their story (unusual for me).  A story of reincarnation across 1,500 years, Daniel always remembers and recognizes “Sophia” – but she never knows him, until finally in the 21st century, as Lucy, she begins to pull some glimmers together.  I just love the way they’re connected to each other in different ways in different lifetimes.  So fascinating.

4) Faolan and Eile, The Well of Shades – Two incredible characters with hideous amounts of pain and darkness in their pasts, who help each other heal…so beautiful!  The one and only time Juliet Marillier has left me dissatisfied with an ending was the book preceding this one, because I was sad for Faolan–and this book made it all come out right after all!

5) Beatrice and Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing – I can’t believe these two never made it onto my lists before!  My favorite Shakespearean couple, the sparring Beatrice and Benedick who are clearly obsessed with each other and fall right into love with just a little pushing.  Maybe I love them because they’re such intellectual equals–and for a story written in 1598(ish), that’s remarkable!

Do you have any favorite fictional couples?  And happy Valentine’s Day!

13 Reads for Friday the 13th

I’m not superstitious, but somehow Friday the 13th always feels like an appropriate day to post about something a little dark, a little creepy.  Even though, as a rule, I don’t read creepy books!  But I did find it surprisingly easy to rustle up a list of 13 books I’ve read in the last few years that are a little spooky, or a bit gothic, or just on the ghostly, shadowy side of things.  Here’s my list, in no particular order except to note that the top seven are particular favorites…

  1. Phantom by Susan Kay
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  5. Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
  6. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
  7. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
  8. Midnight Riot/Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  9. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  10. Austenland at Midnight by Shannon Hale
  11. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
  12. Doll Bones by Holly Black
  13. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Do you have a favorite spooky, gothic, shadowy read to recommend? 🙂

Classic Review(s): Christmas Movies

After my very non-traditional Christmas book review on Monday, it seems only fitting to go back to the classics for Christmas Eve.  My Christmas traditions are somehow much more centered around movies than books–I’ve reviewed A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, and here are some brief reviews from a few years back of several other favorites!

White Christmas – This is a fun story about two army buddies who make it big in show business after World War II.  One Christmas, they have to use their musical talents to help their former commanding officer–while wooing two beautiful sisters.  Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, this is full of musical numbers, including Bing’s signature song.  And I love the end scene with the reunited troops singing “We’ll Follow the Old Man” to the General.

Holiday Inn – Bing Crosby seems to be the king of Christmas movies.  In this one, he’s in show business with Fred Astaire, until he decides to start Holiday Inn: an inn only open on holidays.  The movie actually covers the entire year, and Fred and Bing do musical numbers for every major holiday, in between vying for the same girl.  This movie has worked its way into my brain, and I find myself quoting the most random lines.  If you ever hear me say something will be as easy as peeling a turtle, I don’t know what it means either, but Bing Crosby said it.

You Can’t Take It With You – As far as I know, no one but me has ever connected this movie to Christmas.  And Christmas actually isn’t in it at all, but the feeling is right.  Lately I’ve been watching this while I wrap Christmas presents.  Like It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s directed by Frank Capra, and repeats half the cast.  Lionel Barrymore stars in a role so different from Mr. Potter, I didn’t recognize him the first time I watched the movie.  He presides as the kindly patriarch of a blissfully cheery and decidedly kooky family where everyone does just as they like–writing plays, dancing ballet, or designing fireworks.  Barrymore’s granddaughter falls in love with Jimmy Stewart, who comes from an uptight, big business-type family, and when the families come together, lifestyles clash with funny results.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The old, animated Grinch is so fun with the rhymes and the song and the familiar animation.  I won’t claim it’s a work of great art, but it’s one of those cozily familiar Christmas movies.

Joyeux Noel – By far the most modern movie on my list, this is about soldiers in WWI.  In opposite trenches one Christmas, the Scottish and French troops begin talking to the German troops, and the end up spending the day together.  When Christmas is over and everything is supposed to be normal, they can’t bring themselves to fight each other.  My favorite part is shortly after Christmas–the Germans get the word that the opposite trench will be shelled, so they go over to warn them, and invite them to stay in their trench for a while.  After it’s over, the French point out that their artillery will probably retaliate, so the Germans had better come over to their trench.  It’s so ridiculous and so beautiful!

I know there’s lots of other Christmas movies–what should I add to the list?

Favorites Friday: TV Themes

A great TV show is one thing–a great TV opening theme song is something else entirely, and today I thought I’d make the nod to a few of my favorites…

Firefly: With its Western air and refrain, “You can’t take the sky from me,” this opening song perfectly encapsulates both the style and the theme of the show, in the way that the best openings should.  I just wish there were more verses (and episodes…but never mind that).

Big Bang Theory: This song crams the entire history of the universe into 20 seconds, and it’s fun and fast and a little bit frantic.  Again–kind of encapsulates the show!  Plus it’s really fun when you get a group of people who can spontaneously go through it in unison at high speed.  It sounds very impressive to people who don’t know the song!

Star Trek: Enterprise, “Where My Heart Will Take Me: I’m actually not sure this one is really in the right style for Star Trek, but on the other hand–I think it captures the “I can reach any star” theme at the heart of Trek better than the series’ episodes do.

Psych, “I Know You Know: This is a fun, bouncy opening song, that fits a fun, bouncy show…but what I really love is whenever the show changes the opening to reflect a particular episode.  Like sleigh bells for the holiday episodes, or Spanish lyrics when the plot involved a telenovela…(and I found a video with the different versions!)

And even though they’re not songs, honorable mentions to the openings of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone.  It doesn’t get more classic than to boldly go, and Rod Serling is our perfect guide through the land of both shadow and substance, whose boundaries are that of imagination…

Your turn!  What are you favorite television theme songs?

Favorites Friday: Movies from Books

In certain circles, movie adaptations of beloved books are a highly controversial subject!  My expectations are usually low for movie versions of books, because I’ve been disappointed too many times.  But…sometimes the movies do justice to their books–or, dare I say it, even do better!

I visited this topic once before, but I must have been watching (and reading) some good things in the last few years, because I find myself with a few more to add to my own list of great movie adaptations.  In no particular order, and with links to reviews…

sherlock1BBC’s Sherlock

Well, no particular order except for this one!  Something amazing happens here because it’s a huge departure from Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes (like being in a different century) and yet it’s so true to the original too.  I think the key is that the window-dressing (gas lamps and horse-drawn carriages) has changed, but the characters still feel the same…just told through modern story-telling.  Besides, I went on a Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour in London, and the guide pointed out that at the time of writing, Holmes was set in the present-day–and it was actually several decades before retellers stopped modernizing, and started placing him in his original decade.

Catching FireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I liked the first movie in this trilogy too, but it was the second that really impressed me.  With some very careful character tweaks, the movie stayed true to the book but made me like Katniss so much better.  What had felt like a girl flailing helplessly became a girl trying her best, and that’s a character I can enjoy much more.

Return of the KingThe Lord of the Rings

I made a conscious decision when I finally read the books to rewatch the movies at the same time (each movie just before the book, in fact).  I enjoyed every book and movie, but I have to give the edge to the movies.  Sorry, Tolkien.  Actually, he might not mind–the movies brought the characters to life for me much more, but since Tolkien’s focus seems to have been on the lore and the history anyway, he might not see that as an issue.

Northanger AbbeyNorthanger Abbey (Masterpiece Theatre)

This is my favorite Austen novel, and the movie is delightfully frothy and fun.  Colin Firth makes us wait six hours for a smile, but Mr. Tilney grins throughout this whole movie.  It also features the wonderful Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe, not to mention one of moviedom’s most adorable first kisses.

Princess BridePrincess Bride

I’m not sure I can think of any other book/movie combination where they feel so completely like they’re exactly the same thing.  It may help that William Goldman wrote the book and the screenplay.  There are some extra details in the book–but the movie has the adorable frame story–and really, everything that’s most important is in both!

Stardust

Neil Gaiman was being complex and innovative and subverting expectations with some aspects of this story.  The movie decided to be funny and romantic and, yes, more traditional in its pay-offs.  I respect Gaiman, but the movie makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and happy!

Your turn!  What movies do justice to their books?