Book Series Review: The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

I was really scared I wasn’t going to get this in this month because A) I procrastinated, B) school has started, and C) my Wifi was out for like 3 hours and I didn’t know what was wrong. (Note: this says it was published on September 1st but it was August 31st my time when I published it so it counts as my post for August not September).

If you haven’t heard of The Chronicles of Prydain, I’m not really surprised. If you’ve heard of these books only because of the Disney movie The Black Cauldron (1985), I feel just a little bad for you. Lloyd Alexander wrote a solid plot in these books, and Disney did not make a good adaptation (This is about as much as I will say on the movie). There’s probably spoilers ahead, so be warned.

The series follows Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper at Caer Dallben. There are 5 books, chronicling Taran’s growth from being a young upstart to a brave young man. There are five books: The Book of ThreeThe Black Cauldron (why Disney chose to name their movie after the second book I may never know), The Castle of Llyr (probably my favorite), Taran Wanderer, and The High King (warning: a lot of people die in this one).

Each book is between 200-300 pages, getting longer as the books continue (as happens with most series). I would recommend them for 6th graders and up, although I first read them when I was a junior in high school. There are some strange words (mostly character names), but they’re still quite easy to read.

I might eventually write a fleshed out review for each book, but in this post I am looking at the series as a whole. Overall, I like it. It doesn’t deserve the horrible adaptation Disney gave it. The plot is solid, although maybe a tad cliche at moments. There are a lot of coincidences that happen in the books, but you have to give the author a little slack: the books aren’t that long and he had to fit a whole plot in; who cares if they randomly come across this item they’ll need in two chapters?

When reading the series, I often have to pause to laugh at some character’s idiocy (usually Fflewdder) or obliviousness (usually Taran). There are also some really heartfelt moments, such as the end of The Castle of Llyr, and some moments that made me really angry. Lloyd Alexander really knows how to get a reaction out of someone, that’s for sure.

The characters are amazing. Throughout the series, I grew very attached to Taran. I could understand his motives and what made him tick. I loved Eilowny’s spunky attitude, and that you got to spend more time with her during The High King. Fflewdder and I are basically the same person. Anytime my mind supplied a comment, the next line was Fflewdder’s words saying practically the same thing. Gurgi is the sweetest, bravest, most loyal thing in the world. I love him to bits and get angry with anyone who doesn’t appreciate him. I feel about the same way with Prince Rhun, but not to such a great extent. I can honestly say the only character I don’t like (besides the villains; they’re not very redeemable or likable, although I do appreciate Achren kind of) is Glew. It’s a good thing he’s a rather minor character.

I love The Chronicles of Prydain. I don’t know why it took me until my junior year in high school to read them, although it also took me until junior year of high school to read The Chronicles of Narnia, so maybe that was just the year of reading old children’s books. I would definitely suggest reading The Chronicles of Prydain yourself!

Let me know if you’ve read them (or I suppose if you’ve seen that horrible excuse for a movie or know why it’s named after the second book) in the comments, or just let me know when you’ll read them!

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On Fidget Spinners

I recently got my hands on a fidget spinner, and I have a few things to say.

First of all, THEY ARE SO DUMB. You just spin them over and over. There’s no purpose! I have one of the ones that doesn’t light up, it’s just a black metal one, so maybe the lights add some more flair? Either way, it’s a small toy that you can do barely anything with. So dumb.

But, I have to admit they are fun. As dumb as they are, simply spinning something over and over is fascinating to watch. I love moving my hand slightly and feeling the momentum change as gravity affects it. At least, I think that’s what’s happening.

I’m not convinced that fidget spinners actually help with focus that much. When I’m watching movies or television, it does help me focus. I hate having nothing to do with my hands, so the small toy to spin is beneficial. However, when I’m listening to someone talk, my focus is on the toy, because its whirring noise is much more interesting than whatever someone is trying to tell me. However, I have not been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, and so although it doesn’t help me, perhaps it is beneficial to those who need it.

I recently taught a summer school, and my students had fidget spinners. I was not a fan. One of my children kept taking his apart and cleaning it while I was teaching, and so I knew he wasn’t paying attention and that the toy wasn’t helping him. The fidget spinners that my other students had lit up and were quite noisy when spun, so even if it was helping the student who had it, it was distracting the rest. My students would exchange fidget spinners quite often and would focus more on playing together than learning.

My overall opinion of fidget spinners is this: they are toys. Perhaps they are useful to those who actually need them, but I have found they are not useful in classrooms. They are too distracting for other students. But, they are incredibly fun when you’re not in a classroom. Unless you’re like me and you’ve accidentally flung yours across the room and nearly killed someone because you lost your grip.

On Deadlines

Alright, in honor of me being lazy and unproductive with no motivation to post anything, I have decided that I will write one post each month. This means I’ll probably write a post every 30th/31st since I’m a procrastinator, but maybe I’ll get struck by inspiration.

Deadlines are annoying. In many cases, I have 99 things to do on one day, and none on the rest. I spend my time complaining about all that I have to do and that it all needs to be done by that one day instead of actually doing what needs to be done so I’m not overworked on one day when I try to do it all.

Deadlines are threatening. As the date draws nearer and nearer, my nerves get worse and worse. Every time I think about whatever I need to do, dread fills me to the core and I have to go scream in a pillow or cry in a public bathroom. My creativity and my imagination leave me, and I am left a blank being who can only eat, sleep, and say “Yes” or “No,” which doesn’t help when I’m trying to get stuff done.

Deadlines are necessary. Without them, nothing would get done, and if it did, it would take forever. If I only ever do things when I want to, then none of my homework, actual work, stories, or blog posts would be completed or even started. Motivation comes to me at two different times: when I only have a short amount of time, and when I am so inspired that if I don’t find a way to channel it I will explode or set a building on fire.

One would think that I would learn from my past mistakes when handling deadlines, but one would be wrong. By now, these mistakes have become habits. Every single time I am given a deadline, I think: “Oh that’s a month away. I’ll worry about it when it’s two weeks.” Two weeks comes along, and I think: “Netflix is really calling me right now. I’ll do it all next weekend.” Said weekend comes along, and Netflix is still incredibly enticing (I am not blaming Netflix for my problems; I am blaming my poor prioritizing). Suddenly, it’s two days before the deadline and I have 1500+ words to write or something equally overwhelming. In such a time crunch, I drop everything else that exists in my life and do only the bare minimum.. Once the project is done, I tell myself: “Never again.”

But that’s a lie. This cycle continues, and I keep saying: “Once you’re a full adult, you’ll have time management perfect and everything will be easier.” But that’s not true. Time management is something you learn and practice, not a magical trait that shows up once you hit age 22 or whatever you classify a “full adult” as. 40, maybe?

And perhaps it’s better that I procrastinate so badly. My best work is done when I’m crunched for time, even though I never have time for proofreading. But maybe that’s just the excuse my brain provides so I can keep being lazy and not change my ways.

My Science Has Exploded

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter! I decided to post a poem I wrote in seventh grade. I recently found it on my computer and thought it was funny. This will be the start of my collection of original writing I have done. Enjoy!

My science has exploded,

And now we’re doomed to die,

Or maybe we’ll be lucky,

And just our skin will fry.

My teacher made me do it,

So please don’t ask me, “Why?”

He said to be creative,

And all I did was try.

I really liked the chemistry

We learned about in class,

And history is interesting:

World War II, and all that jazz.

If I mixed the two together,

I’d surely have to pass.

My chemicals were solid,

But they ended up a gas.

I remembered I had thirty

Other classmates in my room,

So I tried to make things smaller,

But the atoms went “KABOOM!”

So, my science has exploded,

And now we face our doom.

Atomic bombs mean danger

And fill science fairs with gloom.

My science has exploded,

And now we’re doomed to die.

My project spelled disaster,

But all I did was try.

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

It’s time for everyone to hear my thoughts on the recently released remake of Beauty and the Beast!

The short of it is that I loved the movie. There are three main areas that I want to talk about: the costumes, the songs, and the characters (well, at least some of them). Then I’ll talk a short bit about a problem I had with the plot. Fair warning: there are probably spoilers.

The costumes were amazing. As a lover of history, it was amazing to see the outfits based on the Rococo period. As a person whose childhood was overrun by the thought of princesses, the dresses were breathtaking and dream-worthy. A slight problem I had was when Belle’s peasant dress was pinned up at her side. I suppose it did make her look a little quirky and different from the townspeople though, so that might have been the point.

The songs were cool. I have to say I liked the new ones better than the old ones (the ones that were in the 1991 cartoon). I think this is because I grew up with the cartoon, and so the remade versions of the old ones had a lot to live up to, and they just didn’t do it for me. My personal favorites in the 2017 movie are Evermore and Days in the Sun.

Now for the characters. The main ones I want to talk about are Gaston, LeFou, and the enchantress.

Gaston was well portrayed. I could easily see how he had control of the town (he almost swayed me too, but then he had his horse kick mud onto those poor girls’ beautiful dresses), and it was nice that he didn’t set up his wedding to Belle without asking first (it’s a funny scenario in a cartoon, but not so much in a live action movie). It was amazing to see his descent into madness. He changed from being just egotistical to being almost insane.

In much the same way, I enjoyed LeFou. I loved that although he and Gaston were best friends, in the end LeFou acknowledges that “There’s a beast running wild there’s no question, but I fear the wrong monster’s released.” Then he went on to save Mrs. Potts and join the servants in fighting the invaders (what can I say I’m a sucker for character development).

I was really glad that the enchantress actually stuck around. It was a little corny that she continued pretending to be a beggar, but I mean it is a children’s movie. I don’t approve of her decision to turn the servants into actual objects after the rose fully wilt. Seriously. I understand he had a lesson to learn, but why take away the only people he can talk to and make him wallow in misery forever if he fails her test? Also, why put a time limit on falling in love anyway? It’s cruel.

My only problem with the plot was the weird scene with the book. I thought it was unnecessary. I mean, I guess yay? We now know how Belle’s mother died? I don’t really see how it was important to the plot of the story though. Sometimes, backstory isn’t needed. Let people speculate a little.

As I said in the beginning, overall I liked the movie. It had its flaws, but nothing is perfect. It’s a very enjoyable movie and Dan Stevens has a beautiful face.

Book Review: Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen by Joyce Tyldesley

This is the first in another series I’m going to do: Book/Movie/Music Reviews. I’m not really an expert, but it’ll be fun.

            Joyce Tyldesley’s book, Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen is an excellent book to read. Tyldesley had a great understanding of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, and she was able to distinguish her opinions from the facts. Her explanations of Egyptian customs and philosophy were easy to comprehend, and she also made sure her audience understood her style of writing.

Tyldesley took a chronological approach to her book, but when many things were happening at once, she switched to thematic. This made the story easy to follow and kept readers from becoming confused by all the odd names that they hadn’t seen before.

As expected, Tyldesley cited many sources and used archaeological data to support her arguments. When discussing any theory, she stressed that there was no clear answer, but she gave solid evidence against those she thought improbable and for those she found the most likely. The main purpose that Tyldesley had in mind was to show that in order to fully understand Nefertiti and her life, one had to learn about the time she lived and the man she had married. A second, minor purpose she had was to clear away the assumptions of archaeologists who had initially placed speculations on Nefertiti before any real evidence was found.

There aren’t that many books on Nefertiti (that I know of), and Joyce Tyldesley has written many other books concerning figures of Egypt. Her knowledge about ancient Egyptians makes her a valuable and trustworthy source on anything Egyptian, and the fact that she has written so much shows her dedication to the topic.

Joyce Tyldesley began each chapter of the book with firsthand account from ancient Egypt, usually a proclamation. This sets the scene and mood of the chapter so that she can simply write information without having to lead into it too much. Her writing is witty, which keeps the reader from feeling like he is being lectured on the topic.

In conclusion, if you’re a history nut like me and enjoy reading biographies, I would recommend this book.

On Friendship

This is the first in a series I’m going to be writing every once in a while. It’s the ‘On __________’ series, where I write about my feelings on a certain subject. It might seem kinda melodramatic, but whatever. I listen to epic music a lot when I write, and it really affects it.

Friendship is amazing. Although sometimes I like to be by myself, it is nice to be able to think about how I am never alone: I always have someone I can have fun with or be comforted by. Friends are a great blessing, and I hope that everyone has at least one friend that is as supportive and kind as all of mine.

Friendship is improbable. What are the chances that two strangers grow to care about each other, or regard each other as someone they couldn’t imagine their lives without? It seems almost overnight. One day, you’ve had a simple conversation with a new person, and the next you’re making plans to spend the whole day talking or playing board games.

Friends are supportive. You can be yourself around them, and you don’t have to worry that they think less of you. They encourage you to be the best version of yourself, and many times, they know what you need more than you yourself know. For example, a friend told me on Monday: ‘You should blog. I think it would be cathartic.’ Now here I am five days later, with my brand new blog (and boy is she proving to be right).

Friends are inspirational. Once I shared my blog with my friend, she sent a message: ‘I’m so proud of you!’ Such a simple message, and yet it filled my heart with such happiness and joy that I got the idea for this On _______ series and decided that my first one would be on the glories of friendship.

Friends are caring. Even if you don’t tell them everything, friends can determine what you need from what you say and how you act. Trying to keep something that bothers you hidden? Your friends are going to notice, no matter how much you pretend that they don’t care.

Friends are unique. Regardless of the number of friends you have, no two of them will be exactly alike, and none of them will be the same as you either. That’s why there are so many stereotypes about friends: the crazy one, the smart one, the quiet one, the artsy one, the mom friend, and many more I can’t name. The stereotypes never completely fit each friend though, which is why the list continues to grow. Sometimes something about a friend that makes them unique is something that bugs you, but you love them nonetheless.

Friendship is very often a mutual relationship. Never forget that the way you feel about your friends is pretty close to the same way they feel about you. You support them, you inspire them, they know you care about them, and they love you despite your imperfections as well.

Friendship rarely ends. Even if you no longer talk to someone you once spent every day with, you still consider them a friend. Their memory brings all the good times you spent together into your head, and you wonder how they’re doing and wish them well. A friendship only ends with a loss of regard, not with a loss of contact.