Monday, January 15, 2018

Karliene - YouTube Channel Review

Greetings Pups,

If you read my year end posts about music in 2017, you'll know that I was quite unenthusiastic about most of what I heard. So many of the songs I listened to were either bad or samey-sounding or both. Mostly both. All of that makes me sad because I've lived through years, even in my relatively short life, where artists were being very innovative and creative and original. I barely see that anymore. So, when I do come across someone who is unique and good where their music is concerned, I kind of hold onto them for dear life. Such is the case with the person whose YouTube Channel I am discussing today, Karliene.

Karliene is Karliene Reynolds. She is a wonderful singer and songwriter that I discovered a few years ago whilst I was looking for covers of the song "The Last Unicorn". Don't judge me. Anyway, she did a version of it with another great singer, Ashley Serena. The video was actually on Ashley's channel, but, through it, I made my way over to Karliene's channel and started exploring.

The first thing I noticed, of course, was her angelic voice. That may be an overused adjective in some cases, but with her, it's quite accurate. Her voice sounds like no one else I can think of and that is a very good thing. It's powerful yet soothing, strong yet ethereal, all at the same time. That is not easy to do. Another thing that immediately intrigued me was her style. Like many people, she does her share of cover songs, but she also has a lot of original songs. And with all of them, she makes them distinctly here own. They all have a feel to them that's either a bit Celtic or very much sounding like something you'd hear in a fantasy film score or maybe something Medieval. It's a bit hard for me to describe, but you'll understand when you hear it. My point is that she is doing something different. Yes, there may be a few other artists who are similar, but that style is not oversaturated to where I don't want to hear it. We have just enough of this beautiful music and she is making a significant contribution to it.

But I think the one thing that has drawn me into her world and kept me there for so long is the fact that she seems to be able to find inspiration in anything, particularly she finds it in the art of others. I love it when that happens. Actually, it's something that I do a lot myself and am often met with strange looks for it. In fact, when I dedicated a whole section of my first book to poems about a specific film, even I was hesitant about doing it. Karliene, however, has made me see that this is exactly what artists are supposed to do - inspire each other.

Speaking of which, this would be a good time for me to bring up my favorite thing that she has ever done (so far). Back in August of 2017, Karliene released an album of songs all which were inspired by the poem, The Highwayman, written by Alfred Noyes. Amazingly, she wrote seven songs that stemmed from the story of this one poem, and they are all so good. I may have to do a separate review for that. Anyway, there are three main reasons why I love this album so much. First, the music itself is just so incredible and moving, and it paints a beautiful picture of the story through the eyes of a different artist than the one who wrote it originally. Second, it clearly proves that she appreciates poetry, which is something that obviously I appreciate in return. Third, this whole project has inspired me to return to one of my own that I had seemingly abandoned, wherein I was writing songs inspired by my favorite book, The Last Sin Eater. After seeing what was done here, I have decided to get to work on that once again. So, thank you for that very much, Miss Karliene.

Honestly, there are so many reasons why I would tell you to go to this channel to check out this artist. As I said before, she is talented and unique and has a gift that I don't see often anymore. Best of all, she seems like a delight of a person, which makes me want to support her even more so. I want everyone to hear her music, and I wouldn't mind if she got noticed by some musical legends to do some collaborating. I certainly wouldn't mind hearing a duet with her and Tori Amos. I'd love to see that, too, since they both have the most gorgeous red hair. But, seriously, so many people should be lining up to sing alongside her.

In conclusion, if you are looking for some wonderful, creative music, something different from whatever in the world they are playing on the radio these days, I strongly suggest you check out Karliene.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Monday, January 8, 2018

A Few Words About Sue Grafton

Greetings Pups,

As many of you know, 2017 had its ups and downs. Unfortunately, it came to a close on a bit of a sad note, as on December 28, we lost one of the world's best writers and one of my personal favorites, Sue Grafton.

I know I'm a bit late talking about this, but I wanted it to sink in. And I'm not going to go into some long, biographical rundown on her life here. There are plenty of other places where you can read those. I just wanted to say a few, quick words about my own experience as one of her readers.

I discovered her books while I was in the library looking for some good mysteries. I picked up the first in her "Alphabet Series", "A" Is For Alibi, featuring her private investigator lead character, Kinsey Millhone. I immediately loved these books and especially Kinsey. She was everything that a strong, female lead should be. In other words, she was real. I see so much talk about people wanting those aforementioned "strong, female leads", but sometimes I think what they want is a Mary Sue type. I do not like those. I want a character who feels like an actual person. And Kinsey was exactly that. She was smart, but didn't get everything right. She could take care of herself, but also could ask for help. She was loved by some, not so much by others. She wasn't perfect and she wasn't a blank slate. She had actual flaws and an actual personality. Again, she was real. And I would tell anyone who wants to write a great and proper female lead for a book to go to this series for some lessons. Because Kinsey was something special.

And Sue Grafton was special, too. She had a way of pulling you into these stories, getting you involved with the world and caring a lot about the characters. Though many writers can pull that off, sometimes we can forget what a gift it is to be able to do it and do it for so long. Well, Sue could do it. She had that gift and she was a gift to us.

While the saddest thing about her death is just that, of course, many of us who have traveled through the alphabet with her and Kinsey are heartbroken to learn that her last book, "Y" Is For Yesterday, will be the last one, prompting many people to adopt the phrase, "The Alphabet Ends With 'Y'". I think she was planning to release the Z book in a couple of years, but she hadn't even started it yet, so there was no manuscript and her family will not hire a ghostwriter. At first I was sad about this, but I realized that, all things considered, it is for the best.

I had always been someone who hoped for a Kinsey movie or a TV series, and I didn't know that, apparently, Sue did not want anything like that. And she would not have wanted a ghostwriter either. I think she didn't want anyone writing about Kinsey but her. I agree. Sometimes characters and their writers become extremely connected, and this is certainly no exception. These two were practically one and the same. So, when I really think about it, I wouldn't want anyone else writing her anyway.

Still, I feel like, in a way, there is a final book. Not the "Z" Is For _____ book we had wanted, but something less tangible. I think Sue Grafton's final book, her final chapter, will come from everyone who knew and loved here. It will be filled with the stories about her told by her friends and family, the stories that we, the readers, will tell about our experiences with her as a writer. And every time one of us tells a new reader to pick up one of her books, another page will be added. That is how we will help her legacy to live on.

So, in closing, I will miss Sue Grafton and what she may have written, but I will hold on to all the stories she did give us. I will be entertained by them and learn from them, just as she wanted. Just as she succeeded in doing.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, January 1, 2018

Hopes For the New Year

Greetings Pups,

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all made it through New Year's Eve without incident. And if you got embarrassingly drunk, I hope it wasn't in front of a nationwide TV audience, because that is the job of famous people as we all know. I personally spent the night with an amazing man . . . named Rod Serling. Yes, as per usual, I rolled in the New Year with the Twilight Zone marathon. I can't imagine there being a better way to do so. Didn't hurt that the snow was keeping me inside.

Anyway, as I sat home, I had some moments to think about the things I want to accomplish in the next twelve months. I suppose I could just repeat what I said last year at this time, since most of those didn't come to fruition. I haven't finished the books I had intended to, at least not the entire process of preparing them for publication, and I haven't started my podcast yet, though I have someone interested in maybe helping me out with that. And sadly, I am still in my crumbling house. I guess it's an accomplishment to have survived another year in it, and I could have NO place to live, so I have to be grateful. Still, I am praying for some miracle that will allow me to have something a little better (and safer) to live in.

Now I hate to be the kind of person who makes excuses and I certainly don't want to blame anything or anybody for my failures, but I imagine that I could have done a lot more in the past year had I not had to deal with a few rather serious bouts of depression and some health issues, which most likely affected each other. You kinda don't wanna to much when you're in that place, so I didn't do much. But, thankfully, I didn't do nothing either.

Despite falling a bit short for 2017, I did manage to do some things. If you saw my post yesterday, you'll know I read 115 books in the year, which is something. I hear that reading makes you a better writer, so hopefully, some of that will sink in and help me. I won NaNoWriMo again, so I have yet another novel to edit and possibly publish. Despite how much I am not a fan of the editing process, I'll put this in the plus column. And I also started making videos for my YouTube, and formerly, VidMe (R.I.P.) channel. They're not exactly the fanciest things, just some poetry videos that I make in Windows Movie Maker and a few other ones peppered in there, but you never know who might find them, which could lead to more book sales, which could lead to my making some cash, which I desperately need at the moment. Ya know, it's quite frustrating to do all that work and then have to wait a very long time for a payday. And yet, I do it anyway, because I have to.

So, when it comes to this New Year, I just want to get my life together. Maybe I won't make any long term goals. Maybe it's better to go day by day and accomplish what you can. It's less overwhelming and handling things one at a time can, I think, make you get to more of them. Eventually, it will all build up to something big. All I can hope for is to make it through another year, but if I can get some things done, possibly even some great things, it can be even better.

God bless you all in 2018 and beyond.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of the Year Book Survey 2017

Greetings Pups,

I wasn't really planning on posting anything today, but I found this really fun book survey and I thought I could post my answers to all these questions. I certainly read a lot of books this year, 115 to be exact. I even did a couple of videos about that, which I will link below, if you want to check them out. I'll also link my GoodReads page, if you wanna follow me, and this very survey, if you'd like to do it yourself. That was a lot of "if"s. Anyway, what with reading that many books, I have a lot of opinions about them. And as always, these are just my opinions. You can love or hate whatever books you want. So, anyway, let's get this thing started. Settle in. It's gonna be a long one.

1. Best Book You Read in 2017? - Well I reread my favorite book, The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers, this year, so technically, I guess that would be considered the best. But that one aside, I would say House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It was just so different and fascinating and engaging. It was an experience and one that I'm very glad I had.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? - I'm not sure if I thought I was going to love it, necessarily, but I did expect more from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It wasn't bad, but I just feel like it might be over-hyped. Just my opinion. Calm down.

3. Most Surprising (in a good way or bad way) Book You Read? - I was pleasantly surprised by The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. By the synopsis, I was expecting something very . . . "fanficcy", and to be fair, it kind of was. At least, in the general idea of it. But the writing was so stellar, that it went above and beyond that, and I got a very entertaining reading experience out of it.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)? - None that I know. Honestly, I don't know a lot of people who read very much. I reviewed some books on this blog, wherein I would recommend a few of them, so there is a possibility that someone read a book due to that.

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017? - I started quite a few series this year, so I had a lot to sift through. I started the Fox and O'Hare series by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg and read quite a few of the books therein. I actually reviewed the first one, The Heist, recently, and that was the series I was most entertained by. For a sequel, I loved Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle, which was #5 in the Coffeehouse Mystery series. And the only ender I read, as far as I know, was The End of Oz by Danielle Paige, so that one wins. It was very good, though, so it probably would have won anyway. Still, I don't know if it even is the last book in the series. I had heard that, but I wouldn't be against more.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017? - I would probably have to say Michael Robertson who writes the Baker Street Letters series, which I read all five of this year. I don't know what it is, but I really get drawn into the world he creates and I love the characters, as flawed as they are. I'm hoping to read more from him.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? - I don't read a lot of YA, but this year I did read of few. And I think the best was Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Is that YA? I don't know.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? - I'm gonna go with In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about and felt the end was predictable. To be fair, it was a little, but as far as the journey of the story goes, I was quite enthralled.

9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? - Have you seen my TBR pile? There will be no rereads! But if I must choose something, what the heck, I guess I'll just reread my favorite again.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017? - I audiobooked my way through High Rise by J.G Ballard and according to GoodReads, said audiobook has Tom Hiddleston on the cover. So, yeah, that one.

11. Most memorable character of 2017? - Well, I read some H.P. Lovecraft this year, so who else but Cthulhu!

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017? - I thought The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was written very beautifully, especially considering the subject matter. But maybe that's exactly why it came out that way.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017? - I reread The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and the first time I read this book it made me think and changed my life. It kinda did the same thing on repeat. And, of course, I was reminded of how it inspired one of my favorite songwriters of all time, Rich Mullins.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? - The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. And I love Batman, so what in the heck took me so long?

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017? - I don't really pay attention to specific quotes from books, but thanks to GoodReads I managed to find some from a book I mentioned just a couple of questions ago. It's from The Ragamuffin Gospel and the quote is “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.” I find this one rather topical.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017? - Again, according to GoodReads, the shortest book was Pros and Cons at only 28 pages, but it was a short story prequel to the aforementioned Fox and O'Hare series. Still, it was counted as an actual book, so there you go. The longest was Les Miserables at 1,463 pages. And it felt 1,463 pages long.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most? - I guess Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn would have shocked me if I hadn't seen the movie.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!) - OTP is One True Pairing, in case you don't know. And how can I not say Chip and Joanna Gaines from The Magnolia Story! Yes, I know it's a non-fiction, but no one said it couldn't be.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year - I do love the Heath brothers, Reggie and Nigel, from The Baker Street Letters series. They're very different from one another and their relationship can be rocky at times, but when you put them together, it really works for me.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously - Sister Mine by Tawni O'Dell. I've read a few of her books before and she is one of my favorite authors. I actually got to meet her at a book festival a couple of years ago. She was very nice and she even bought one of my books.

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure - Everyone told me to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, or anything by Donna Tartt, so I did. And she is a darn good writer.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017? - I have to bring up the Fox and O'Hare series again, because . . . Nick Fox. Dang! Yes, I know he's a criminal, but we like our bad boys. For some reason. And he makes me laugh, which counts for a lot, especially these days.

23. Best 2017 debut you read? - If this means a book that was published in 2017, I only read two of those and I already mentioned one of them, so I'll say the other one which was Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Hmmm . . . I read a lot of Loki related things this year. Why?

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? - I suppose I'll say Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. He did have to create pictures with words and words with pictures, all at the same time. And he did a fantastic job.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? - I read a book by Jim Gaffigan called Dad is Fat. Which book do YOU think was the most fun for me to read?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017? - Broken Harbour by Tana French. I LOVE Tana French. She writes about the Dublin Murder Squad, so obviously, there was a murder in this book. No spoilers, but when you find out what actually happened, it is heartbreaking. I didn't full on cry, because I'm not really a book crier, but she almost got me there.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year? - I haven't heard a ton of people talking about The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, but I found it just delightful. I liked the characters and the journey that they went on. I love books and bookshops, and I once loved Paris, so there a feeling of nostalgia for me. I had a good time with this one and I hope more people read it.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? - I found it very difficult to read the book Reed's Beach by Bret Lott. Don't get me wrong. It was a great book, and I love Bret Lott as a writer. But due to the subject matter, it was tough one to get through.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017? - There's no way I can't not say House of Leaves again. Seriously? Have you seen the thing? Yeah, unique is an understatement. Actually, there's a great YouTuber named Austin McConnell. He did a really good video giving a bit of a quick look at it if you're interested. I'll link it below along with the House of Leaves episode of a bookish podcast called Overdue. They gave some decent insight on the book as well.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? - Gotta say The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers. Mostly because there were a couple of characters that were very slap-worthy in there. I know violence is bad, but they're fake, so it's okay.

Okay, then there were a few questions about book blogging, and I'm going to skip that part. Technically, I'm not a book blogger. I'm a whatever the heck I feel like blogging about blogger, and not a very popular one at that. So, I passed on those. No offense,

And then, there was a Looking Ahead section, wherein there are questions about what is going to be read in 2018. Off we go.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018? - I have so many books in my TBR pile that I'm excited about. I do really wanna get to the next Tana French book, The Secret Place, but I also have a Betty White biography in the mix, so I guess we'll see who wins. You just never know what kind of reading mood you'll be in.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)? - Well, I have TWO books coming out in 2018, another poetry collection called After the Ashes Cool and a novel called Beyond Starlight, so I'm be a shameless self-promoter and say those!

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? - Sadly, I don't really know about any debut authors who will be releasing their books in 2018, but God bless them, I wish them much success and if I see one of their books, I'll have to check them out. Literally, because I go to the library a lot.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018? - I don't know if there is going to be another book in "many times mentioned in this post" The Baker Street Letters series released in 2018, but if there is, I am SO there. And I'm sure that Janet Evanovich will have something new in one of her series coming out. She usually does.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018? - I hope to review a lot more books on this blog. I've done quite a few this year, but I really want people to be excited about reading. And if I can help them by recommending good books, it is certainly my pleasure.

6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable) - I have no idea. I don't get ARCs. I am not that special . . . yet.

So, that was fun, and I had a lot of fun reading this year. I hope to finish a lot of books in 2018, maybe even more than I did this year, but we'll see. Either way, as long as I keep seeking out good books and good writers, first and foremost, I'll be helping to keep what is important about literature alive and well.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Friday, December 29, 2017

Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2017

Greetings Pups,

And now for the "fun" list. Well, not fun for me, because I had to suffer through listening to all of these songs. But Worst lists tend to get more views, which makes me think that people enjoy them. And I guess if I put ads on this site, yeah, it would be fun for me, too. Also, if you like any of these songs, fine. I'm not saying you can't. You do you. I'm just saying that I personally don't like them. Anyway, let's get this over with.

#10. "Thunder" Imagine Dragons - Hey, guys, you made the best AND worst list this year. Congratulations? This song . . . this song is weird. And not in a good way. The real reason why I put this on the bad list is because I can hear something in it that makes me think it could have been good. But overproduction and just not so great decision making turned it into whatever the heck it is. I just hate wasted potential.

#9. "Praying" Kesha - Oh, look. She dropped the dollar sign from her name, because marketing ploy. And she's doing this "personal" power pop ballad, because marketing ploy. And you're not allowed to say that her music is crap anymore, even retroactively, because . . . reasons. I know a lot of critics are praising this, but it just feels contrived to me. Maybe it's not. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. I hope she's being sincere, but I'm feeling the opposite and that makes me feel nothing . . . but bored.

#8. "Bad Things" Machine Gun Kelly and Camilla Cabello - I have heard some bizarre instances of sampling in my day, but this might be the weirdest. Plus, I really don't know who these people are. I mean, I saw the guy on an episode of Ridiculousness and I think the girl is formerly one fifth of Fifth Harmony. Either way, not impressed

#7. "Attention" Charlie Puth/ "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back" Shawn Mendes - I'm tying these songs because, frankly, I am about 97% convinced that the guys who made them are the same person. But I'm 100% convinced that both songs are awful.

#6. "Body Like a Back Road" Sam Hunt - I've heard people intentionally give backhanded compliments, but, clearly, this guy is doing it without knowing. I think he legit believes that this is a nice thing to say. It's not. It's weird. But congrats on pushing a metaphor so far that it slingshots back and smacks you right in the face.

#5. "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" ZAYN and Taylor Swift - Yeah, apparently this hack has an all caps name. Give me a massive break. Oh, and this song is a great example as to why, if I see anyone seeking out advice through example on how to do a falsetto, I point them in the direction of either Frankie Valli or every album that the Bee Gees made after 1975. A man doing falsetto is supposed to be impressive, not headache inducing. And don't even get me started on her. Mostly because we'll be discussing her later. Stick around.

#4. "Sorry, Not Sorry" Demi Lovato - Sorry, not sorry, but didn't you already record this song years ago and called it "I Really Don't Care"? And isn't the video you made for this song the same as the one for "Cool For the Summer"? If you're gonna be repetitive with something, at least, choose something good.

#3. "Side to Side" Ariana Grande - Ya know, I try not to let how people are IRL affect how I judge their "art", but it's so difficult with this woman. Don't get me wrong. I can't stand this song, but I also can't listen to her music without thinking of some of the . . . I'll be kind and say foolish things she has said and done. Funny how things change. I put her at the top of my Best Of list a mere four years ago. Crap! We've been dealing with her for that long. Yeesh. Look, Ariana, I know you look perpetually 15, but it is time to grow up.

#2. "Chained To The Rhythm" Katy Perry - Hey, remember that thing I said two seconds ago about not judging someone's work based on who they are? Well, yeah, I try and fail to do that with this person, too. That's why I hate the media these days. People used to just make their music and you might inadvertantly find out something about their personal lives, but now that is ALL we know anymore. That's how I know that the message of this song compared to how Katy Perry behaves makes her look like a total hypocrite.

#1. "Look What You Made Me Do" Taylor Swift - Believe it or not, there was a time when I would come to the defense of young Miss Swift. Anytime people criticized her for writing about her boyfriends, I would say, "Hey, she's young, she's dating, and she's writing about that. That's what writers do. They write about their lives. No problem putting that life drama to music". And, at the time, I think I was right. HOWEVER, whilst there is no shame in writing about your drama, I do have a big problem with people seeking out said drama so they'll have something to write about. Or getting into a "relationship" so contrived a two year old could see that. Something about her current process strikes me as a bit inauthentic. Look, I used to think Taylor Swift was an artist. Now I think she's a product. And her biggest marketing tool to sell herself is her own fabricated victimhood. Still, I have hope that she will return to some place of sincerity someday.

And there are the songs I consider the worst of the year. As I said, I was not too impressed with anything this year. I certainly wish that 2018 will be better, but my hopes aren't remarkably high. But, miracles happen.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2017

Greetings Pups,

Here we are again. Talking about music that I don't listen to until the end of the year when I make these lists. I actually contemplated not doing this at all for 2017, for a few reasons. First of all, as I've mentioned, I am currently not too keen to associate myself with anything having to do with the entertainment industry, and that would include the music part of it. Second, and to be honest, I haven't listened to the radio at all this year. So, I really didn't know many of these songs at all. What I have heard, though, I have not been overwhelmingly impressed by. Of course, a few things were passable, and this is a tradition, thus, I powered and did it.

Same rules as always. Every song I mention has to have appeared on Billboard's Year End Hot 100 chart and it can't have appeared on any of my previous lists. And since I found music so "meh" this year, this best list mostly consists of things that didn't bore me or anger me or make me sad because I know we can do so much as a society. So, don't expect me to be too enthused about much of it. Off we go.

#10. "Believer" Imagine Dragons - I don't really know why I like this song. It rather defies logic. But I always stop and listen. Plus, Dolph Lundgren is in the video, so . . . yeah, if for no other reason than that, they get a spot on the list.

#9. "I Feel It Coming" The Weeknd Featuring Daft Punk - So, I put one of his songs on my list last year, and yet I still don't really consider myself a fan of The Weeknd, but every now and then I hear one of his songs and I like it. This one, for example, I kind of enjoy because it's got a very nostalgic sound to it. Sounds a bit 80's but I think that's his thing.

#8. "Despacito" Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber - I don't know a lot of different languages, but sometimes I like to listen to songs in those languages that I can't speak. Some of them just sound beautiful to me. That doesn't change when you put a dance beat behind it. Or even if you put Bieber in there.

#7."Love On the Brain" Rihanna - I've got issues with Rihanna. I think we all do. But she's not untalented and sometimes she gets it right. I like she sounds on this song and I like the sound of this song in general. Very old school with the melody and done correctly. So, good on you for this one, Rihanna.

#6. "Stay" Zedd & Alessia Cara - There's something kind of interesting about the chorus of this song. I can't put mu finger on it, but it's there and it's not terrible. And that's enough to put it on the list. Also, I really like Alessia Cara's voice.

#5. "Sign of the Times" Harry Styles - Let me make this abundantly clear. I absolutely loathed One Direction. Still, I can't act like this song isn't pretty good. I do like the melody, and to be fair to Harry, this is much better than anything that's been getting released by his former . . . possibly current . . . inevitably future group members. So, there you go.

#4. "24 Karat Magic" Bruno Mars - Again, wouldn't really consider myself a huge fan of Bruno Mars. He's done some songs that I really, REALLY hate, after all. However, most of the time, his stuff is just fun to listen to. This is no exception.

#3. "Scars to Your Beautiful" Alessia Cara - Oh. Hi, again, Alessia. Ya know, I don't how much I'm a fan of these self-empowerment songs. They run the risk of sounding incredibly contrived. (See tomorrow's list for specifics). But there is something about this young singer that gives her work a good amount of sincerity and I think she feels genuinely about the message she wants to share. We could use some of that.

#2. "Castle On the Hill" Ed Sheeran - Okay, Mr. Sheeran is seriously hit or miss for me and he has been for quite a while. I know everyone, including me, enjoyed what he did on that X album with the more pop, dance-y type, but sometimes I just like the more acoustic, guy with his guitar stuff. And this one is decent.

#1. "Water Under the Bridge" Adele - Well, this is just unprecedented. For the third year in a row, Miss Adele is Number One. I can't say that I'm not surprised. She's about one of the only artists that I think are worth listening to these days. There's always something very genuine about the songs she writes. I like that.

And those are what I consider the best hit songs of the year. Tune in tomorrow for the Worst.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Straight From The Theater Review - The Greatest Showman

Greetings Pups,

Well, I wasn't planning on going to the movies at all this year. As I've mentioned, I'm a bit disillusioned with Hollywood at the moment. I mean, I haven't been to the movies in well over a year. But I was invited to go on Christmas Day, so I figured what the heck? So, I spent the holiday watching The Greatest Showman. Because the person who invited me picked it.

To be honest, I didn't know much about this movie at all. I knew it was coming out, that it was about P.T. Barnum, that Hugh Jackman was involved and I suspected it was going to be a musical of some kind. Spoilers! It is. Now the last time I went to see a Hugh Jackman musical on Christmas it was was Les Miserables, and . . . yeah, no. So was this experience any better? Let's find out.

I'll start with the good things. Hugh Jackman. Yes, Hugh Jackman was great in this, but he usually is. I've always thought he was the epitome of an entertainer, so, obviously, this part was perfect for him. He has such a commanding presence and he steals every scene he's in. He also just seems like a nice guy, which is saying a lot considering how other celebrities carry themselves. And most importantly, he hasn't been accused of any untoward behavior. Let's keep it that way.

There are also a few familiar face in the supporting cast. Michelle Williams is there and she's . . . she is there, alright. Look, I've made it no secret that I am not a fan of Michelle Williams. I think she is very overrated as an actress, but as a singer? Well, as a singer, she should stick to acting, even in my opinion. Okay, she wasn't horrible, but she's not a singer. Then, we have Zac Efron, who was really good and worked incredibly with Hugh Jackman. It's nice to see him break free from that teen idol status he had years ago and become a skilled actor. And it's nice to see him singing and dancing again. Unless I missed something, I think this is the first he has done of that since "high school". In fact, if he stays on this trajectory, I could see him someday being as respected as Hugh Jackman in the triple threat department, and never seen again as just some kid who did a Disney Channel thing a few times.

And whilst we are on the subject of kids who do Disney Channel things, Zendaya is in this as well. Admittedly, I know very little about her. Obviously, I know about her Disney Channel career and I think she was on Dancing With the Stars. That's about it. She was okay in this. She's an okay actress and an okay singer, but as she gets older and gains more experience, I think she may get a lot better. She did shine with her dancing abilities, and some of the choreography was super intricate, so hats off for that. And speaking of young actors, who are always a gamble, the kids in this did a great job. Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely, who played Barnum's daughters really managed to hold their own against a lot of seasoned professionals. I wouldn't mind seeing either of them in some more movies.

Aside from people we recognize, this film had a lot of secondary characters who were members of the show. They all did great, no matter how big or small their parts were, but there were two that really stood out. First was Sam Humphrey as Charles Stratton, a dwarf who was one of the first to join Barnum's show and the first to be convinced that his "flaws" could be something that would make him endearing to people and very special. Second was Keala Settle as Lettie Lutz, the bearded lady. And dang, this woman has a crazy amazing voice. She was mesmerizing every time she sang, and I hope she gets a lot more work out of this. Overall, every one of these actors portrayed these people who were always considered outcasts with a lot of heart and they made you want to embrace them.

Now let's discuss the music, because it's a musical. When I heard the opening notes of the first song, it sounded a bit like a Fall Out Boy song, so I thought maybe this was gonna be like Moulin Rouge. But no, these were all originals written by the team of Pasek and Paul, whose work I am not super familiar with, but they did write a few good songs from the second season of Smash. I'm happy to say I really enjoyed all the songs in this. They weren't just story points with music behind them, but they were actually well-written and memorable songs. Big thumbs up on that.

So, did I have any other problems with the film? Yes. I admit I know very little about the life of P.T. Barnum and I think whoever wrote this was in the same boat. I mean, as far as historical accuracy goes, it would seem that what they got right was that Barnum existed and he did a show and that's about it. I think they also may have made Barnum look like a much better person than he actually was. Whilst this version was a flawed man and made big mistakes, especially when it comes to the question of whether or not he was exploiting the people he hired, the real one may have been even worse in that department. I just wish they would have gone deeper into that and made it more precise. Sadly, I think the idea of getting facts straight may have been tossed aside in favor of pandering. Now I understand that this is a musical that is merely based on a real person and his life, so things are going to be made fantastical, with possibly some magical realism, so I can look passed this problem a bit. Considering what the subject of a lot of the story is and that Hollywood is still running the show, said pandering could have been much, much worse. Still, I think if you're going to do something that is based on a certain time in history but you want to mix it up a bit, doing things in this stylized manner is the perfect time to do it.

In conclusion, I had an enjoyable time at this movie. I don't think it's going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into musicals and if it looks like something you'd like, it might be worth a watch. It's one of those films where you just kinda know if you're going to like it or not, just by seeing what it is. Personally, I like musicals, I like Hugh Jackman, so I give this a thumbs up at, like, a 45 degree angle.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer