Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why Do I Rate Books the Way I Do?

From Miss Dashwood's blog via a Google Search for your brain is boring
The other day I was explaining to my mom how I remembered the turn signals/placement of car pedals: The left turn signal is down because you slow DOWN and use the brake which is on the left. The right turn signal is up because you speed UP and use the gas which is on the right. She was like, "That goes on inside your head?" Yup, my brain is a crazy place that you may not want to go! Anywho, the whole point of that was to make a point that my head is weird. Now, to get into today's topic!

Sure Will Ferrell, sure

Why, oh why, do books I don't like get a 3 star rating and books I do like get a three star rating?! Why do I not give 5 star ratings to books I love?! But I give 5 stars to books that I didn't love as much as other 5 star books? I confuse myself sometimes!!! Let me try to logically define my rating system:

How a one-star book would make me feel

1 - I don't think I've given any books one star on Goodreads? I guess if I couldn't finish a book and I would never go back to it, I would give it a one. Also, if it was bad enough to stop and warn others about I'd give it a one. Or I probably wouldn't even rate it! (Because I think my heart of hearts believes that no book deserves a one-star rating)

2 - I've given two books a two-star-rating. Shades of Milk and Honey deserved it because it was a little boring and the writing was rough to get through, but I don't remember why I gave Rabbit Hill, which I read in like fifth grade, a two?? Maybe I should reread it! A two would be if I finished the book, but decided it was boring and ugly-written. You know what I mean by ugly-written right? Basically just go read the first draft of every paper I've ever written. Just incoherent and redundant and so on.

3 - Three stars is a weird rating. Goodreads says it means you like the book, but I rate books that I like and books that I don't like three stars. Out of the eleven three-star books I've read in the last two years, I probably "liked" five or six. The others I didn't, but they were in a series I loved (The First Four Years). Or maybe I felt like I had to be kind to it because it wasn't a bad book, but it didn't connect with me (The Scarlet Letter). It also seems to be for books that I remember liking years ago, but haven't read in a while. Three stars pretty much means "meh" or "that was pretty good". Which is weird and doesn't make sense WHAT SO EVER.

Notable three stars:
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Meh
Anne of Ingleside - I liked it but meh
Jane Eyre - I should probably reread this one...
Jo's Boys and How They Turned Out - not enough story in the story
Peter and the Starcatchers - I just didn't like this one. It was probably well-written, but it wasn't for me
The Scarlet Letter - See Peter and the Starcatchers. Although Nathaniel Hawthorne has moments of genius, a lot of his stuff is thick and hard to get through.
The First Four Years - I was kind because it was a first draft of Laura Ingalls Wilder

4 - Four stars is for a good book. I liked the book and I would probably read it again. Maybe there was just something about it that made me balk at the perfect rating! Last year, four-stars was my most rated rating if that makes sense? Looking back, some of them could have easily been fives! And some of them could have been threes but I was being kind for the sake of a series or something. Four stars is sort of my go-to rating...

Interesting four-stars:
Beyond the Heather Hills - Should have been three stars, but I love Martha so...
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Probably should reread because the back of my head is wondering why I didn't give this five
Some American Girl books - I don't even know. Maybe remembrance of the enjoyment I got out of them?
Wonderland Creek- Again, could have been a five!
To Kill A Mockingbird - Ya know, this deserved a five, but I just had a few issues with the content so yeah...

5 - I've rated approximately 33 out of 50ish books five stars this year. What even? Some of them could have been fours, but I remember all of them. I guess that's what makes a five-star book for me: it's well-written and memorable and I LOVE IT. I remember reading all of them and either immensely enjoying them, being touched by them, or just loving them to pieces for no reason!

A lot of people will argue that five stars should be reserved for only those very few books which are perfect. I used to do that, but I wouldn't  give five star books out because I was too intimidated by "You know what, maybe this book isn't written well enough to deserve five stars!" But I can tell my mindset has changed. Now I give five stars to books I love, no matter the quality! (With some caveats..)

Some of my five-star books:
Violins of Autumn - *flails* This was totally a five star book!
Unbroken - see above
The Twenty-One Balloons - my childhood and therefore awesome
A Tale of Two Cities - *more flailing*
Snow Treasure - My childhood again! (And my dad's which is cool)
Rilla of Ingleside - *even more flailing*

You know everyone asks for half stars on Goodreads. And now I am too. There are so many books that are in between ratings. For example, I loved TKAM but I put it at 4 stars because of some content things. But it was a great book! If we had half stars, I could just rate it 4.5!!! (But don't go to ten stars cuz that's too much work for my brain...)

So what about you? Why do you rate books the way you do? Do you base your ratings more on quality or how much you loved the book? What's your go-to rating? Do you prefer half stars? How 'bout 10 star ratings? Please answer me! I'm dying to know your thoughts!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tomorrow is Another Day!

Best cover floating round the webs
Well, I finished Gone With The Wind like a month ago, but I just had to let this review simmer for a while in order to get into the depth of the true meaning!

Just Kidding. I sort of forgot and was busy with other stuff (like sheet music and college applications) Anywho, I skipped into my drafts and prepare my mind to write this whole thing when lo and behold it's half done!!! PTL!!

I FINISHED IT!!! Finally, the behemoth that I have tried three times to conquer has been vanquished!!! Yes, I'm talking about Gone With The Wind. And I have mixed feelings about it like everyone else who has ever read it!!! I will definitely read it again!!! It was amazing, tear-jerking (I didn't cry, but it was tear-jerking), scary, joyful, frustrating, amazing, and EPIC!!! All in one, I might add. It was thought-provoking, which means I liked it more!! Cuz I can't say that enough even though it sound cliche :D

Look, everybody knows the plot, and this is more of a character-driven novel, so here's my thoughts on said characters.

Scarlett: I know everybody hates Scarlett. I even hate her sometimes. She's conniving and deceptive and selfish and so on. BUT, guess what, she survives. I know that the end doesn't justify the means and so on, but she was able to survive and thrive (at least economically) in a society that was set against her. And yes, most of the other people survived too (which is actually an interesting point...), but did they single-handedly run a farm and provide for 10 other people? (It's probably not exactly 10, but close enough) I just admire her for her determination, go-get-it attitude, and no excuses. No, she didn't make right choices like ever, and she couldn't master herself, but she was interesting to read about, and Margaret Mitchell actually made me root for her! I hated her parenting, and she was horrid to Suellen and so on, but at the end, I felt bad for her. She discovers both who she really loves and sort of what life is about, and both come crashing down! :( The book could have ended at the end of the second-to-last chapter and been A-OK with me. I mean both endings would have you imagining the future! So why not imagine a happy one!

Rhett: And like the majority of the population, I alternated between loving Rhett and hating him. He was a jerk, but at least he was polite and non-hypocritical. Which is something I like about him, he never pretended. One could argue that he pretended near the end for Bonnie's sake, but he did really want to go to church and donate, even if his motives were wrong. And I loved the bazaar scene near the beginning!! He was a better parent than Scarlett, but he spoiled Bonnie dreadfully. I also felt sorry for him at the end. He was just empty of love, life, and vitality.

Melanie: When I first started the book, I wasn't sure how I would like Melanie. I didn't like her that much in the movie, and I thought she would come across as a goody-two-shoes, but she didn't. I don't know how or why, but she didn't! She was kind and gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. However, I don't know if that's always a good thing. As I'm discovering, you can only make excuses for people for so long.... The end was sad, but I liked how Scarlett realized what Melanie did for Scarlett! Melanie was the true survivor in this book!

Will: I LOVE WILL SO MUCH!! And Carreen! I didn't particularly like her, but she should have gotten Will...  He was so capable and always where he needed to be and so helpful and the best thing to probably ever happen to Scarlett and I almost ship them. But I don't. Will is far too good of a person for Scarlett!

Winner of most unexpected cover
Ashley: Spineless, slithering fool. Get a hold of yourself!!! I didn't like him especially, but I did enjoy his talks on the Gotterdammerung. And I liked that he taught me that new word "Gotterdammerung." I will now try to throw it into a sentence daily: It is the Gotterdammerung of pre-Internet society. (Does that even make sense? I would love to hear your sentences with Gotterdammerung!) (Like don't even spell check this blogger! I know what I'm talking about!)

And the end!!! Maybe it would have worked out!!! I just feel so bad for both of them!! Just try it again!! Please!! Please!!! Please!! Ahhhhhh!!

I loved the overarching themes and the multitude of issues that were explored. Cuz that's what makes good literature! I'm a sucker for extra stuff that a story teaches you about life, psychology, society, and history. That's probably why I enjoy Ballantyne, when I read him (which is like rarely ever) I enjoyed the parts about survival, even though I don't agree with all of MM's ideas. I enjoyed the challenging of gender stereotypes. (I'm not a feminist, I'm just saying it was interesting to read!!!) I loved the comparison/contrast between Rhett and Ashley. And the commentary on slavery and the Confederate mindset was amazing! And the history of the Reconstruction! I never knew it was like that!!! (Of course, she's probably biased, but still!!!)

Guys, this book was amazing! And I'm so glad I read it! And go for the more expensive version cuz then you won't be embarrassed to take it in public cuz the cover is Rhett and Scarlett kissing...

I sort of feel the need to read this again, like right now, but sadly, it probably won't happen again for a while! I guess I should re-watch the movie, but it doesn't even come close to the book! So that's my very unconclusiony conclusion to Gone With The Wind. Tomorrow is another day!
Totally necessary picture although I'm not sure why he's reading in the driver's seat?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Finally Started a YouTube Channel!

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter/Google+/read the title, you will know that I finally started a YouTube channel. But, if you don't, I did :D It's sort of to show my friends/family my pieces and also for networking and portfolio stuff. So you should subscribe :D Here's my first video, Goodbye World Goodbye (BTW, today's supposed to be the end of the world sooo... Goodbye World Goodbye!)

Every Southern Gospel pianist has an arrangement of this song. And they all sort of play it the same way: first verse and chorus regular, improvising over the second verse and chorus. But it's a great way to play it, so I went mainstream and played it sort of that way :D

I love this arrangement. (Which I arranged myself...) It's currently my "showy" arrangement. At least in person. You see, I never play songs perfectly. I've only played one song perfectly in my life. (I was like 10) But I can cover mistakes well. That's the fun of performing live, you never know what it will sound like this time. But you can't cover mistakes on recordings... And everyone else never seems to mess up on YouTube. (I'm insecure, I know..) But I finally got a good take after school yesterday!

Also, I made sheet music for this guys! FREE SHEET MUSIC! That's almost as compelling as free food or free t-shirts or free WiFi. So HERE it is. It's a little advanced, I think. But you could probably find a way to simplify it. If you need help or anything, feel free to contact me!

Cuz why not!
And since we're discussing music anyway, let's just give a quick rundown of my piano history:

-Because my mom was a piano teacher when I was little, I've been around piano all of my life. The first "official" lessons I remember were in first grade.

-From second grade to ninth grade I took from a lady in my church. Guys, she was amazing! She could play anything by ear, sightread like nobody's business, and she accompanied a quartet of her husband and brother-in-laws! I still want to be like her! Anywho, she taught me most of what I know about church music. I use stuff she taught me every single stinkin' day!

-In tenth grade, I started taking from Mr. Greg Howlett. He lives in Atlanta (across the country), but he had a music school that you could livestream. I took from him for the past two years. I use stuff from him almost every day too!

-Right now, I don't really have a piano teacher. My flute teacher is helping me with some classical music, but other than that I'm on my own. So I'm trying to get better at everything right now (look, I know I can't master everything but I can try!), so I have a pretty diverse practice schedule. It keeps me on my toes!

-I have so many pianists I look up to (hmm that would make a good blog post!) I would love to be a Southern Gospel pianist when I grow up (along with a journalist/referee/blogger) So that's my piano story!

Do you play any instruments? What arrangements would you be interested in? Even if you don't play piano, would you like blog posts about my piano heroes/arrangements/other stuff? (That's an awkward question, I know. But seriously if you don't really care, just say "I'm sure other people would!" or "I like your book/movie/whatever posts best!" or go fill out my Improvement Questionnaire (link in sidebar) :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Little House: The Laura Years

You couldn't have used one of your 70 drafts, you had to start a whooole new post! Wow Ashley wow.... (Yeah, I have 70 drafts, some are just small lists, some are fleshed out, none are completely ready...)
Left to Right: Carrie, Mary, Laura
Laura looks exactly like my cousin Breanna!
Anywho, yes, I finished the Laura series this summer!! Yay!! Only one girl more to go, and hopefully my library has them all!

I gave all the Laura books five stars except for The First Four Years, but guys, that was a rough draft so it doesn't count. (Yes, I am fully aware that like only one guy reads this, but I can say what I want.) Overall, I loved it. Some were better than I remembered, some were worse. Some I read for the first time, although I had skimmed them soooo many times. Some were a multiple-times reread. Let's get started! And yes, I read the books with the fabric covers, and I love them, but everyone has seen them, so here's some different ones!
First edition cover!
Little House in the Big WoodsI sort of have this book memorized, but it's cool to find little gems I've missed in past readings! I enjoyed coming into this knowing more of Caroline's background. I recognized lots of names of the aunts and uncles! I really enjoyed finding those throughout the series and thinking "Aunt Docia, that's Charles's sister and didn't she marry Caroline's brother?" Also, the descriptions are amazing! And the pictures ARE what make Little House! So yeah, still a classic!

Also, the obedience of Laura and Mary really stuck out to me this time around! At least one time, it may have saved their life! And Pa spanked the girls!! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Why doesn't everybody do that! (That's the rant of a Jr. Church worker who has spent a lot of classroom time disciplining kids because parents don't...)

First edition cover!
Little House on the Prairie: I enjoyed seeing the neighborly spirit prevalent on the prairie. And watching Mary and Laura grow up is enchanting! (Yes, enchanting!) You could really see how much the Ingalls loved their daughters and wanted to do what was best for them. 

The Indian drums and war cry were still as terrifying as when I was little! Wow! That will make your hair stand on end! 

But the ending! I'm not sure if I ever read it. I never knew exactly why they had to move on! It's so sad! They were 3 miles over the border! And those last pages where the girls look out of the wagon at the house! It makes me sad just thinking about it!

Farmer Boy: I've read this book a lot, but it never seems to lose its charm. There's always new facets to the story each time I read it! I especially noticed this time how kind and loving Father is! For some reason, I had this evil step-father image in my head, but he's not! He doesn't "spare the rod", but he isn't unnecessarily harsh. I also noticed the fact that at the end, Mother didn't want Almanzo to choose his own career. But Father was knew that it was Almanzo's life and his choice! I don't really know what I think about Mrs. Wilder. Especially knowing about her in These Happy Golden Years. 

I love how LIW takes us through one whole year on the farm, showing what was done every season! And Eliza Jane gets on my nerves, but at least she fixed the wall!

On the Banks of Plum Creek: I'm pretty sure that I read this when I was younger, but some parts of it were a little foggy. 

This is sort of an idyllic childhood book. Laura and Mary grow up by Plum Creek in Minnesota. They do fun things like go swimming and go to church. And the Christmas tree! These books are making me realize the generosity of the settlers!

 I found it interesting that it didn't snow that much during the grasshopper weather. I always thought Minnesota was called Minnesnowta!  for a reason!

Parts of this book are depressing, such as the grasshoppers and Pa's leaving, but I loved Ma and Pa's attitude. Pa keeps looking ahead and does anything he has to do to keep the family fed. Ma, no matter what her inward thoughts might be, still supports Pa, even in the hard times! Although I see where Ma is coming from in wanting her children to be in a civilized place, I empathize with Pa and Laura in wanting to move on. Not that I want to move on constantly, but I think that would be fun for them. 

By the Shores of Silver Lake: Why oh why do we skip like three years?! *sigh* The timing is the biggest problem with the end of this series. (Not that there's lots of problems!)

I love that Laura finds a friend in her cousin. Up until now, there's not really any mention of good friendships she has. And I love the descriptions of the prairie! It's amazing how fast it springs up! And Mr. Edwards comes back! I love how he helps Pa get the claim! 

And the night they go sliding on the ice!!! Obviously, I love LIW's descriptions of big open spaces.

Fun fact: I first heard about whatnots in this book. I was so excited when I realized that my gradmother has one! (Well, the shelves aren't graduated, but close enough!)

The Long Winter: Wow! LIW makes you feel in this book! You feel the cold, the hardness, the sameness, and the pain that she felt! It's amazing! I would hate to have to live through a winter like that! And Pa! He did so much to help the family! He's a great example of what a man should be! I also liked the look at schooling that we get in this and the next two books. That's something that has always interested me. 

And Almanzo and Cap!!! Bravo! You did what needed to be done! They make me so happy! And then when Pa comes in and takes Almanzo's wheat. Hahahaha! Smart Pa! 

Little Town on the Prairie: I love how we get to see the "normal" things the Ingalls do. I have a little bit of a problem with how fast the book moves. I was confused about Laura's age most of the time. But overall, I just love it to pieces! 

And then when Almanzo just appears at the revival!! Speaking of the revival, this reminded me of the revival in the Caroline books that scared Caroline so badly. I also loved the literaries and socials and all the events! I sympathized with Laura both in her being bored of studying and in feeling guilty for not spending enough time studying! It's such a hard balance... 

And Nellie is horrible and I want to slap her for most of the book and just no. And sure, Ma's right, you shouldn't be mean. But sometimes people don't understand any other language but mean! ARGHHH! 

But to end this review on a positive note, I loved the part when the two drunk guys were walking and kicking the screen doors. It made me laugh! *feels Ma's disapproving stare* And I love that Laura has friends like Mary, Minnie, and Ida! They're all so nice!

And I think this is the book where Laura has her revelation about liberty and the constitution and all! It's great guys!
This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. "Our father's God, author of liberty--" The laws of Nature and of Nature's God endow you with a right to life and libertyy. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you the right to be free.

These Happy Golden Years: This may have been my favorite book in the series. I went into it with low expectations (I think it bored 9-year-old me) but, man, was it great! Almanzo is such a gentleman! He comes to get her even when there's nothing in it for him! And the sleigh rides and buggy rides!! *happy squeal* And that buggy ride with Nellie :D Sometimes their courtship seemed awkward, especially because of the age difference, but overall it was sweet and they were such great friends! 

I love how Laura is earning money to help her family!! Although, I'm pretty sure even if I hadn't complained about the meanness of Mrs. Brewster, her attempting to kill her husband would have gotten me out of there reaaal quick! 

I also loved the horses! No one could handle them except Manly and then Laura comes along and just yessss!

I don't think this one was published like the others...

The First Four Years: So it was okay. Definitely not up to par with the other books. But I'm not complaining because the prologue said it was the first draft, and it was waaaay better than any first draft of mine! But it was sad and sort of depressing. I did like how she threw in happy things like Peter (I was actually really confused about him) and Rose and the pantry! I felt soooo bad for them! And then the end!!!! But she did end it on a positive note, so that was nice. I probably won't read this again. Ever. I like the other ones too much to let this one affect my opinion of the series as a whole. Plus some people don't even consider this a part of the series! So that's why I gave it three stars. If Laura had revised it and such, it probably would have been right up there at 5 with the others! BTW, I loved the prologue and the look it gave at Rose!

Overall, I loved this series oh so much! I've loved Laura since I was in first grade. In fact, my first grade teacher and I got the same present for Christmas: a treasure of the first three stories. (I actually donated it to my school because I have the first three separate books now) I remember loving it! And I have a Little House rag doll kit somewhere in the garage, and probably little kids books of it! Coming into the Classics Club, I wasn't too thrilled about rereading these, but I'm oh so glad I did! And I highly, highly, highly recommend them!!

Below, you can see the Crafts Sack and a creepy rag doll I made. I'm almost positive that a book came with the set, but I didn't see it :( Do you have any "extra" Little House stuff? What's your favorite Little House book?