Thursday, September 21, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: Narnia Audio (Part 1)

This month's ThrowBook Thursday is a sequel of sorts to July's post. My reread/relisten of the Narnia series has continued (with quite an odd reading order, on which more in a moment), though I have dropped the BBC Radio adaptations after being thoroughly underwhelmed by their version of The Silver Chair. As I've gone through the audio books and Focus on the Family Radio Theatre versions of the books, I noticed that I was ranking each against the others, so I thought I'd offer my thoughts on them in that light.

First off, I am still only partway through the series. I have listened to (in this order): The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader*. In each case, I listen to the HarperCollins audio book and then the FotF radio version (with the BBC version thrown in for SC). Secondly, I'm ranking the audio books, but including any relevant thoughts on the FotF versions, as my biggest comments there tend to be how much David Suchet's Aslan bothered me (or not).
Of these four, here are my rankings:


4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader read by Derek Jacobi

I expected to love Derek Jacobi's reading, but it didn't hold up for me, especially following three such splendid narrators as he did. My main complaints are that his voices for Lucy and Reepicheep are just dreadful (his is the worst Reepicheep of the lot, being far less noble-sounding than Lynn Redgrave's and even squeakier than the radio version). His Aslan is also not as good as the other narrators' (this is typically the voice that can win or lose me on a Narnia reading).



3. Prince Caspian read by Lynn Redgrave

Usually one of my least favorite books, I was impressed with how much I loved this version this time (like my memory of Northam's Silver Chair, my memory of Lynn Redgrave's narration was worse than the actual experience). A friend remarked to me a while back that Redgrave's quiet reading fit perfectly with the narrative of Narnia waking again to life and magic, and listening to this book on the car sound system versus through headphones allowed me to enjoy that aspect more this time. Redgrave does remarkably well with the male voices in the book, and astounded me with the fact that hers is the Reepicheep I now love most. She captures the smallness of his size and the largeness of his courage and valor. Her Aslan is acceptable.



2. The Silver Chair read by Jeremy Northam

I covered this one two months back in another ThrowBook Thursday, but suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised this time to find that I actually enjoyed Northam's Puddleglum, which had been my chief complaint before. This may become one of the Narnia books I most want to listen to because of Northam's skillful narration all around. (His Aslan begins a bit iffy but finishes strong.)



1. The Horse and His Boy read by Alex Jennings

It may be no surprise that this is at the top of the list, but I really wasn't sure which of the two (this or Silver Chair) would win out in the end. The fact that this is my favorite Narnia book helps, but Jennings is an excellent reader and does a fine job of handling Aslan's scenes. (I loved his reading of Shasta's encounter with Aslan, my favorite scene in the book, and *almost* loved the FotF version of the scene; Suchet almost got it perfect, without his usual odd inflection on the words, and then threw some of that in at the last moment and brought me crashing out of the scene.)


If you have listened to any of the Narnia audio books or FotF radio adaptations, what did you think? Do your rankings match mine? Tell me all about it below!


* I will cover the last three books next month. You may be surprised to find that adding those three in will change where some of these four land on the list.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Musings: Learning from Your Art (and Your Mistakes)

I said last Wednesday that I didn't think I'd post my painting of the four sisters of the seasons because I'd ruined it. Then I wondered whether this was just me defending my wounded pride.

As I looked over the painting later that day, I decided that yes, I was defending my wounded pride, but I was also cutting myself off from fully admitting that I had made the mistake in the first place and needed to learn something from it.

Sometimes with art, no matter the medium, you will screw something up. But whether you do that or not, every piece -- every painting, every poem, story, novel, drawing, film, or song -- is going to teach you something about how to make your art. Maybe it will be something not to do next time (like add pen to your painting) or maybe it will be something you need to push further or play with more (like blending the colors in the autumn queen's dress). Whatever your art form, don't close yourself off to the lessons your art is trying to teach you.

Those lessons are there for a reason.

Now, go make some art.


The painting that never was

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Watercolor Wednesday: Sun, Moon, and Fan Art

Welcome to another edition of Watercolor Wednesday! I've been doing a lot of painting in the last couple of weeks, thanks to some inspiring reads and some inspiring posts from friends. On to the art!


First up, there's a postcard of a beach scene that was primarily a chance to try getting the salt texture right. I finally realized with this one that I wasn't getting enough water on the page for the salt to properly absorb the water and paint and leave this lovely texture behind.




I call this piece "Freckles in the Sun" and I have to admit I loved playing with the spatter look. I used a lot of wet on dry with this one (something I've been advised I might do too much of) but I mixed in some wet on wet as well (which is where the softer colors of the hair, dress, and face come in). Aside from the "freckles", my favorite part of this painting is the way the facial details came through. I might come back to this character at some point.





This was one of my failed attempts with the salt texture. (In fact, I'm not sure you can even see the small spots of texture at all.) I did get a nice midnight blue mixed here though.




This painting is a fan art attempt at the painting from the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I'm fairly pleased with the way it turned out, but I think I'll try it again with more wet on wet technique.




Is it still fan art if the characters are your own? I liked the idea of seeing some of the Albion Apparent characters as playing cards, so here are Bryn, Mortimer, Merlin, and Robin in some basic playing card styles.





A moonlit beachscape postcard, I tried some more grassy texture here. I didn't do much with salt texture, but I did play with white splatter for stars again.





Possibly my favorite moon-themed piece of late, this is a Hunter's Moon in a cloudy night sky. I didn't go as dark with the background this time, and I think the moon would have come out better if I'd let the sky layer dry more completely before adding the moon. (The color was much more orange before I painted it, and it looks a little too brown now.) Even so, I'm happy with this one, and I got to play with salt texture and the effect of dropping water into drying paint a little.





This is a fan art piece of Pryrates, the red priest and secondary villain of Tad William's original Osten Ard trilogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. I still suck at trying to get arms to look natural in perspective like this, but I like the effect of the eyes and nose being so densely painted compared to the paleness of the face.



There's another piece that I realize I failed to take a photograph of that features four sisters inspired by the fairy tale "The Snow Queen". I will probably not share that one just yet because I really, really want to redo it. The summer and autumn ladies turned out very well, but spring and winter were flawed at best and I foolishly attempted to add some definition and detail to the autumn queen with an ink pen and instead of helping the painting, it kind of . . . ruined it. So yeah. A repaint is definitely in order.

So that's what I've been up to with my art lately. Have you tried anything new with art recently? Share it in the comments. I'd love to see what you're doing!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Musings: N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards

I recently borrowed N.D. Wilson's novel 100 Cupboards from the library after a group of folks at NarniaWeb read through the series. It had been on my radar for some time, but the recent surge of interest in my circle of friends gave me a push to finally check it out.




100 Cupboards is the story of Henry York, sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousins in Kansas after his parents are kidnapped on an anthropological trip out of the country (an event which serves as mere background and doesn't figure into the story beyond getting Henry to Kansas). While living in the attic bedroom, he discovers a series of cupboards built into the wall that lead to other places -- many of them not of this world. Together, he and his cousin Henrietta try to solve the mystery of the cupboards -- and get into more than a little trouble along the way.

The premise of the story makes it sound very exciting, but for about half the book it's anything but. There's a lot of atmospheric Kansas flavor in the first few chapters that makes it feel as though Wilson is setting the stage and preparing the reader for what's coming; the problem is that the "setting up" stage keeps going. Henry and Henrietta, despite the latter's innate sense of magic and excitement, take far too long to dig into the cupboards, spending whole chapters doing anything but ponder the immense mystery filling Henry's bedroom wall.

However, once the action gets going (about halfway through the book), the action keeps up and the story really shines. Wilson has a good eye for human nature and a good ear for words. He does a fine job of allowing his readers to infer backstory and motive without leaving things too thin for the story to hold. There are even a few moments of true terror and creeping horror in the book that lend the book's somewhat happy ending a bit of unease that teases the reader about what's to come.

I recommend trying 100 Cupboards if you like books that don't feel the need to spell out all the details in print or if you just like middle grade fantasy.

Has anyone out there read this series? What did you think?

(Note: The remnants of Hurricane Irma are set to come through our area tonight, so there's a chance Watercolor Wednesday will be delayed by a power outage, but ideally it will be here on schedule.)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Top 10 Tuesday: Books to Read in Autumn

September brings autumn with it, and though that may not be official for another three weeks, I want to jump-start the season with a run down of some favorite books to read in the fall.



The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien


Aside from the fact that this book begins in the fall, it just has such an autumnal feel to me throughout. It has forests and traveling and longing for both home and adventure, which encapsulates the spirit of the season for me.



Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury


I'll try not to overload this list with Halloween-ish stories, but Something Wicked is such an autumn-infused story. Will's father even calls the carnival's denizens "The Autumn People". Bradbury and this book may be partly responsible for my own love of autumn.



The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis


Really, Narnia in general can feel autumnal, but The Horse and His Boy is the most autumnal, with its arid atmosphere and the Hermit of the Southern March wearing his cloak the color of autumn leaves. It also has a long journey perfect for autumn. (Have I mentioned my wanderlust kicks in during the fall?)



Dracula by Bram Stoker


Mostly because it's one of my favorite horror stories, this story lands on my list. It spans summer and fall, but the fog and the horror feel more at home in the autumn months, when the world is cycling into the death of winter.



'Salem's Lot by Stephen King


King's Americanized Dracula story, 'Salem's Lot is also a very autumnal story in my mind. The creepiness of the story, the haunted house, and the vampires all make it feel perfect in the chilly hours of an autumn night.



A Very Scary Jack-O'-Lantern by Joanne Barkan


This is an illustrated book from my childhood with glow-in-the-dark pictures. I can remember many afternoons at my grandparents' house where we closed up the curtains and kept only a single lamp on to "charge" the glow-in-the-dark illustrations so we could see every. Last. Jack-o-lantern.



The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling


Every book starts in late summer and fall, and there's usually plenty of autumn ambiance in the books (Philosopher's Stone even has a whole chapter set during Halloween). The journeys, the food, and the magical setting earn this series as a whole a place on the list.



The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin


Another story that features Halloween as part of its story, but this time not as a central element, The Westing Game is a classic middle-grade mystery. It never ceases to surprise and delight me when I read it.



Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint


The inaugural Newford collection, this book features plenty of Faerie lore and city smarts alongside some typical autumnal trappings like a Frankenstein's monster and fallen leaves.



Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag



Simply put, it's an interplanetary journey with lots of longing, wanderlust, magic, and foxes. Read it now!


Are there any books you love to read in the fall?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday Musings: Why the DuckTales Reboot has Me Saying "Woo-oo!"


Disney has continued their recent spate of reboots with a new series based on the Uncle Scrooge comics and the '80s DuckTales cartoon. I've been looking forward to the show with initially skeptical optimism that has only grown and grown until, having seen the pilot episode, I am fully behind this new series. Here are just a few of the reasons why I'm loving this show so far:



Image via EW.com

Scrooge is Played by David Tennant

While big name actors are not required for me to enjoy a show, Tennant was an excellent choice to follow the footsteps of the late Alan Young, who originally voiced Scrooge from Mickey's Christmas Carol to DuckTales and beyond. I expect we'll get at least a passing Doctor Who reference, what with one of the preview clips showing that Scrooge owns a clock-shaped time machine. In any case, Tennant gives Scrooge a pleasant mix of crochety old man, adventurous explorer, and intelligent businessman that makes him more than an animalistic parody of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Nephews (and Webby) have Personalities

While there has been an attempt to differentiate the nephews before (see the TV show Quack Pack), this show seems to be heading in a stronger, more character-driven direction. Each nephew is given a baseline personality (Huey is the planner, Dewey is the explorer, and Louie is the laid back but "evil" triplet) from which to grow, and if the pilot is any indication, they will each have character arcs detailing how Scrooge can teach them something about life (and how they can reinvigorate his life and maybe teach him something, too). In addition, Webby is upgraded from token female character to a complex child in her own right, sharing the exploratory nature of the nephews and their uncles (Donald is a famous explorer in this version, too) along with some trials of her own (such as being desperate for deep relationships with others).

The Art Style is Amazing

The animation is modeled after the comic books that started the franchise, and it works well, giving the stories a pulp magazine feel while keeping the storytelling updated. We can visit Atlantis in a modern sub while learning about how to relate to our family members because it's an adventure story. And it works.

If you haven't had a chance to check out the show, Disney XD has put the pilot on their YouTube channel:



Have you watched the pilot? What did you think? What sorts of stories do you hope they will explore this season?