Friday, December 28, 2012

Three of the Best Christmas Albums

Since it is getting a little late to do a Christmas album review, I decided that I would just do a general review of three of my favourite Christmas albums.

Casting Crowns - Peace on Earth

My favourite song from this album is the first track - "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". This song is just gorgeous. Another praiseworthy song is a Christmas version of their song "While You Were Sleeping". The only song I don't like is the one in which the woman in the band sings, "God is in us". For you Catholic readers, this is a heresy. (Note that I said Catholic, so I am not trying to be offensive or anything. All I mean is that it is against our teaching.) Besides this one song, this Christian album is definitely worth a listen!

Christina Perri - A Very Merry Perri Christmas EP

My mom wanted me to find her some more Christmas albums, so I searched up for Christmas albums released this year. One of the albums on this list was this album I am doing a mini review of right now. I thought, "Awesome! Christina Perri has a Christmas album!" So my mom and I listened to the iTunes previews, and since my mom thought it was acceptable, we asked my dad to purchase it for us. I have only listened to this EP once, but I already really like it. Christina Perri's voice seems to have a holiday warmth perfect for Christmas songs. Her cover of "Ave Maria" is really nice, and I really like the song that Christina wrote herself, "Something About December".

The Priests- Noel

Another Christmas CD I like is Noel by The Priests. As some of you have probably guessed from the types of genres of music I have reviewed so far, I'm not too big a fan of classical music - well, at least, so far. I have been delving more into classical music recently. However, there is something about this album that I like. Among my favourites on this CD are The Priests' two versions of Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.

All three of these albums are up there in the 10/10's range.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

W Pustyni i w Puszczy (In Desert & Wilderness) Movie Review

Cześć! (Hello in Polish)

As some of you may have guessed (or not), I am - in fact - Polish! Well, one-half Polish, at least. I do not know much of the language, but...sorry, I am getting really off track!

In Desert and Wilderness is one of my all-time movies. Maybe it's because I watched it when I was a child and it brings back good memories. Maybe it's because this movie is so great. Or perhaps it's a mix of the two.

The story: Staś Tarkowski and Nel Rawlison, who are around fourteen and eight, respectively (or, at least in the book...I would have placed Staś at sixteen in the movie) are friends, growing up with their families in Port Said, Egypt. Their fathers are British engineers. At the beginning of the movie, we see an anti-British rebellion taking place by Muslims. The chief bad guy (I don't know his name so give me some leave, okay?!) is mad because the British took his wife and children, and have told his servants that if the Muslims do not let go the British they have taken prisoner, the chief guy will not get his wife and children back. Of course, the Muslims don't want to let go of their prisoners. So, instead, they decide to kidnap two children in hopes that the British will let go of their prisoners.

Staś and Nel are taken by the Muslims, and the plan is to kill them soon. However, the two friends manage to escape their captors, along with two African slaves, Kali and Mea. However, now they are thousands of miles from home, and they don't even know where they are. And just to add to their problems, Nel is very sick with malaria.

This movie is both beautiful and captivating. It is based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz (which I will probably review once I get around to reading it again). As you've probably guessed from the title of the movie, the movie is Polish. But hold your horses! Remember that I just said that I myself don't know much Polish. So, yes, there is a way you can listen to the movie in English. In fact, the movie claims that there is the original version, Polish (dubbing), English (dubbing), and subtitles in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Russian.

The movie was released in 2001, and runs for 111 minutes (which almost makes me wonder if the director cut just enough material just so he would get that perfect number :P). It was directed by Gavin Hood, who is a South African filmmaker (yes, I checked that up), and is working on the movie Ender's Game at the moment. Staś is played by Adam Fidusiewicz, Nel by Karolina Sawka.

The only problem I have with this movie is because I watch the English dubbing, the voice and the picture don't always match up. However, there was only a couple of times that I noticed this. For the most part, I either was too caught up in the movie to notice, or there were mistakes.

And since I don't really have much more to say...

Alyianna's rating: 10 out 10

And now for some lovely pictures (and no, they're not in chronological order):

Staś carrying Nel when she gets her first bout of malaria. The guy in the black turban works for the chief "bad guy" I was speaking about. Though, in actuality, that chief guy is not actually the chief, but I'm just confusing myself and you so I'll be quiet.

Staś and Nel on a train

From left to right: Staś, Nel, Kali, Mea

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that Nel makes a pet out of an elephant. :P

You can buy the movie at Amazon

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Knew You Were Trouble Music Video Review


"I think...I think when it's all over, it just comes back in flashes, you know. It's like a kaleidoscope of memories. But it all just comes back...but he never does. I think part of me knew the second I saw him that this would happen. It's not really anything he said...or anything he was the feeling that came along with it. And...the crazy thing is I don't know if I'm ever going to feel that way again....but I don't know if I should. I knew his world moved too fast and burned too bright...but I just can the devil be pulling you towards someone who looks so much like an angel when he smiles at you? Maybe he knew that when he saw me. I guess I just lost my balance. I think that the worst part of it all wasn't losing was losing me." - Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"

Taylor wakes up in an abandoned party site. As she views the wreckage, she remembers the party the night before, when she discovered the terrible truth about her boyfriend. Creepy-ish music plays, creating that eerie atmosphere. That and the dye in Taylor's hair really makes me remember about Taylor's cameo in CSI when she was stabbed by scissors (okay, maybe that wasn't needed there...). Then Taylor begins to speak about here memories of him as all the memories come spilling back. The first two minutes of this music video are AMAZING. All that backstory - and suddenly, BAM! this song that I hadn't cared for because of the dubstep has meaning.

But then we get all that extra stuff - the stuff this music video could have done well without. The stuff that made this music video inappropriate. Flashbacks of him topless. Flashbacks of passionate kissing. Flashbacks of Taylor and him in bed.

So, yeah, this music video would be one of the best I had ever seen, with all the crazy, terrible elements to make this music video so emotional and passionate...and awesome - if it hadn't been for those parts.
I remember how Taylor always says that she keeps her music appropriate so that parents can trust her, that her music will always be appropriate for her children to listen to. So I don't think the worst part was the inappropriate parts...the worst part was that now my favourite artist of all time has lost my trust.

Should I have known that this music video would only be trouble?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Take Me Home Album Review (One Direction)

The first song on One Direction's new album starts with a small guitar riff, already showing that this album's music is not going to be same as their last one. Yes, the music is still pop, but I would call this style of music more of a pop/rock crossover. I, for one, definitely like this new One Direction better than the one we saw on the last album, and this is not only for the overall sound. As one my fellow directioners said, "This album is actually One Direction, not Liam, Harry, and Zayn ft. Niall and Louis like the last one." And "the boys" even wrote some of the songs on the album!

However (and this is a big however), the good stuff ends once we start digging into the lyrics. Don't get me wrong, I love One Direction, but I need to be critical here. So let the sarcastic humour begin!

The first track, "Live While We're Young", a song about heddonistic abandonment, is all fine and good, until we come to the ending of the chorus: "Tonight let's get some, and live while we're young." Some what? Perhaps I'm just being overly critical, but other friends of mine think the same thing. In fact, one friend from my school changes the line to "Tonight let's have fun". It may not be very creative, but at least it's clean.

Then we come to the next track, "Kiss You". I'd have been put off by the name if I hadn't first listened to this track without knowing the name, fell in love with it, and thought the name was "Take Me Home". The chorus can be considered innocent enough as long as you don't go looking for meaning: "If you don't wanna take this slow, and you just wanna take me home." Well, who WOULDN'T want to take them home? And no, I didn't mean it THAT way.

Next song - "Little Things". This song was written by Ed Sheeran, and the music certainly shows it. The theme of the song is the same as the boy band's hit single "What Makes You Beautiful"...except for the fact, that it again, goes deeper. The song would be perfectly fine, but one line strikes me as being unecessary and creepy in the first part of the song. "I know you've never loved the crinkles by your eyes when you smile/You've never loved your stomach or your thighs,/The dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine/But I'll love them endlessly" Uh...I'll let that pass without further comment.

Fourth song, "C'mon C'mon". The title could definitely be more creative. Zayn starts the song with: "The one that I came with, she had to go/But you look amazing, standing alone". I like this song, upbeat like a teen party, may just be me, but it seems to me as if the boy, the "main character", of this song, is cheating on his girlfriend. I am very tempted to answer, "Don't look at me, you've got a girl at home and everybody knows that" (Taylor Swift from her new album).

#5: "Last First Kiss". This song is beautiful and long as you look at it in the way I do.

"I wanna be last yeah
Baby let me be your, let me be your last first kiss
I wanna be first yeah
Wanna be the first to take it all the way like this
And if you only knew I wanna be last yeah
Baby let me be your last, your last first kiss"

Well, all I can say is that nobody is going to "take it all the way" unless they're married to me FIRST. If that's what you meant, very good. If not...then "my daddy's going to straighten you out like a piece of wire" (The Band Perry).

The sixth track ("Heart Attack") is clean, but it could use some originality. It feels like a copy of a few of the songs from their last album, but that could be because none of the boys wrote the song: "Baby now that you’re gone/I can’t stand dumb love songs". Fan girls will giggle over the cute "OW"s, I expect. Or they could give you a heart attack.

"Rock Me" is...a rock song (wow, I would have never guessed). The song is clean, but it is begging for originality even more than the last song did. The title is repeated over again...and again...and again. "Oh my my" thank you for blessing us with your creativity, Lukasz Gottwald, Henry Walter, Peter Svensson, Allan Grigg, and Sam Hollander.

I've only heard "Change My Mind" once or twice because I seemed to have missed it (on the track list on Wikipedia) when I was listening to the songs on YouTube. But it doesn't really matter, as the song is about a boy who is at a girl's house for a party, and after everyone leaves he thinks that if she wants him to "stay for the night", he will.

"I Would" like this, I actually do. But it does seem to be a repition of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me", except without the amazing lyrics that Taylor always writes. However, the song is fun. It shows the boys back in high school days, painting this image with "He drives to school every morning while I walk alone in the rain" and "With a sign on my back saying 'kick me'". The boys don't seem to be very popular, do they? But, of course, they're in L.O.V.E. and that's all that matters, I guess.

Song #10 is my absolute favourite on this album, so I won't be able to pick at it too much. This song was, again, written by the amazing Ed Sheeran, and paints the picture of a young couple struggling in their relationship. The boy is willing to give his girlfriend everything he has, and to start it all "Over Again". In other words, the song is beautiful. But one line sticks out of the blue at me, first because it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the lines with it, second because it is...well, awkward. Judge it for yourself: "Body's intertwined with her lips."

"Back For You", the eleventh track on this album, is obviously geared towards One Direction's girlfriends: "I’m watching you from the stage yeah/Your smile is on every face now". But the song also hints at something with the next two lines: "But every time you wake up you’re hearing me say/Goodbye". So, he's there when you wake up, aye? No, I don't want to know anything more.

We're getting close to the end! Number twelve, "They Don't Know About Us" is a sweet song. It makes me think a little about Romeo and Juliet. "People say we shouldn’t be together/We're too young to know about forever". Oh, and it's clean.

"Summer Love", the last song is okay, I guess. It isn't my favourite, either for music or lyrics. And by the way, the song is about a boy and girl who were together all summer, but now she has to go and she's PACKING HER BAGS. Of course, they didn't say she was packing her bags at HIS house, but I would expect so.

Clean songs (5 out of 13)
#4. C'mon C'mon
#6 Heart Attack
#7 Rock Me
#9 I Would
#12 They Don't Know About Us

My Favourite Songs
#2 Kiss You (It's catchy, okay? And notice how I said that the song is harmless if you don't look for meaning...which I don't, at least with this song)
#5 Last First Kiss
#9 I Would (Okay, I admit it...the L.O.V.E. line is catchy.)
#10 Over Again
#12 They Don't Know About Us

I'm not going to give this one a rating because I really don't know how to rate it. As I've said many a time, it's more how you decide to look at lyrics because they can have a double meaning. Or, like my mom, you don't even hear the lyrics. ;)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sierra Jensen book series

Hello all! For the last few months, I have been reading snatches of the Sierra Jensen books I own whenever I have a chance to read (which is not often). Now that I am finishing the last of the books I own (which I have already read at least once), I thought it was time that I do a book review on this series.

In the world of YA fiction today, there are a lot of books that have inappropriate material in them, so I always love to come across a YA book or series where this is not the case.

I have to admit that I'm the type of person, who dislikes the absolutely wholesome books. As a little girl, I always shunned the stories where "the good little girl goes with Mummy to grocery store". That's why I prefer reading something YA to a classic (but don't get me wrong, I do like classics...but I am probably confusing y'all, so I'll be quiet). On the other hand, I don't want something pornographic or main characters who are kissing every few paragraphs.

The Sierra Jensen series by Robin Jones Gunn is a good example of the series I like - YA, with a slight touch of romance, Christian, enjoyable to read, and appropriate. It is a companion series to the Christy Miller series, written by the same author.

Sierra is about my age (sixteen) and I find a lot to relate with her, which makes me like her stories so much. For one thing, she is young and doesn't know much about love, but she learns more as she matures throughout the series. She also has a quick temper and doesn't think before she acts, yet she is sorry when she makes mistakes and loves God.

I have read Books #1-6, and #10 of the twelve books in this series. Here is a link to a website where you can read a mini summary of each book:

Alyianna's Rating: 9 out 10