Opera is one facet of classical music in which I’ve never indulged. I’m a patient man, but I don’t have the endurance for a composer like Wagner, whose Ring Cycle lasts roughly eighteen hours (seriously). And then there are the over-the-top melodramatic beltings, the proverbial fat ladies singing, which seem ridiculous to me. That isn’t to say that opera is trivial; you’ll find many devotees. Like those freaks on NPR’s Opera Quiz who are able to identify an aria by hearing half a note. So, yes, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of opera.
I say “not exactly,” because behind those warblings, you’ll find some great classical music. Take for example, Verdi Without Words, an arrangement of his best-known themes by former Cincinnati Pops conductor Eric Kunzel. Even for the uninitiated, you are likely recognize the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, which is often parodied in popular culture (just think of Looney Tunes). And then there’s “La donna è mobile,” whose melody has become for many the epitome of Italian opera. My personal favorite piece is the “Egyptian March” from Aïda.
Put on your Viking helmet complete with horns for the Overtures and Preludes from the operas of Richard Wagner (pronounced vahhhg-ner, not wag-ner). Sure, the man’s legacy isn’t exactly without tarnish, but the music is brilliant and you won’t be subjected to eighteen hours of Germanic mythology in song form. Who can’t resist banging their head to The Ride of the Valkyries? A favorite from this album is the Prelude from Act III of Lohengrin, which puts me in the mood to be heroic.
Until next time–may your personal rite of spring not be riotous.
These books did not make the Best Seller list but they are still good reads!
The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
This is Priscille Sibley’s first novel. The novel opens on the aftermath of a tragic accident that leaves astronaut, Elle Beaulieu brain dead and the families at odds about life support once they learn that she is pregnant. The story is told from Matt’s point of view. Sibley does a good job of weaving their back story with the present scenes of medial and courtroom drama. A good read alike of fans of Jodi Picoult.
The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller
On a lighter note Marcia Muller has written a new series. Two former Pinkerton detective form forces and set up their own detective agency in San Francisco. This first novel in the series has the detectives trying to solve several burglaries with the help of “Sherlock Holmes”. Takes place in late 1880′s
The Good Dream </a>by Donna VanLiere
The setting is 1950 in a small Tennessee town, and Ivorie Walker finds herself lonely after the death of her elderly mother. When she discovers a boy stealing from her garden, she reaches out to uncover where he comes from and seeks to help him, only to face fierce resistance from the town who wants to keep certain secrets. This is a character driven novel with strong women, mystery and inspiration.
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
While dealing with her husband’s infidelity, Beth tries to recapture the independent, creative spirit she used to be through writing. What emerges is a startling new voice, one that will help her heal. Newly separated Olivia Donatelli is struggling to understand the unraveling of her marriage, and to make sense of her eight-year-old autistic son Anthony’s short life and accidental death. A chance encounter between these two women develops into an unexpected and meaningful friendship, giving one writer the opportunity to find her voice and a grieving mother a chance to finally understand her son. The characters are flat and the stories of the broken marriages really aren’t developed and didn’t need to be there. I only included this book because I thought the author’s portrayal of autism and its misunderstandings and effect on the family were well done.
In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin
Leisurely paced and intrically plotted this novel is about Harry, a Jewish special-ops WWII paratrooper (we learn all the throttling details in sustained flashbacks) who has just returned home from the front to find his family’s top-of-the-line leather goods company failing and his father dying. Harry is determined to rescue. When he spies a beautiful woman on the Staten Island Ferry he seeks to learn her identity and to marry her. Catherine turns out to be a level-headed, musical, blue-blooded heiress. With the backdrop of 1940s mobster rule and Harry’s business woes their love grows against all odds.
One of my favorite authors of historical fiction has created a series about the Houses of Lancaster and York of 15th century England. The story of the War of the Roses, told through the voices of four women of the time period, is the focus of The Cousins’ War series by Phillipa Gregory.
The White Queen is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen consort of King Edward IV of the House of York.
The Red Queen tells of Lady Margaret Beaufort and her driving ambition to see her son, Henry Tudor, from the House of Lancaster, on the throne of England.
The Lady of the Rivers is the story of Jaquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville.
The Kingmaker’s Daughter tells the story of Anne Neville, daughter of the “Kingmaker”, the 16th Earl of Warwick, who becomes Queen Consort to Richard III.
The White Princess will be the fifth book in the “Cousin’s War” Series, and is due to be released in August 2013.
As a master of bringing the Tudor Family and their stories to life, Philippa Gregory writes equally well about the Houses of Lancaster and York.
I also recently read her first Young Adult book, The Changling. I really enjoyed this first book in the “Order of Darkness” series. It combined history with fantasy and was a really fun read.
In the new book from Ned Vizzini, The Other Normals, we discover the world of Creatures and Caverns, an RPG (roll playing game, for those of you not in the know) with magical beings who carry out adventures set throughout Earth’s history. Perry Eckert is a geeky 15 year old who is obsessed with C&C. Suffice it to say, he doesn’t exactly have a social life and he’s interacted with girls about as much as he has with his divorced parents. Finally, Perry’s parents decide to take matters into their own hands and send him to summer camp to force him to interact with other people. Perry is prepared to spend the summer in misery when he spots a creature running into the woods, a creature that looks eerily familiar.
Perry is plunged into the world of C&C in ways he could never have imagined and forced to socialize in ways his parents could never have imagined. He must decide if he is going to become the hero and save the girl or continue to play his game alone.
This book is amazing. The language is a bit strong, but it’s funny, its engaging, it grabs you and will not let go. The chapters are short and the action is furious. A great read for anyone who likes D&D or RPGs or just a good adventure.
With all the hubbub about all things London (they had some kind of sporting event somewhere in that area or something), I thought it appropriate to share a little London music. The band Mumford and Sons may not be known by everyone but they are slowly gaining international notoriety, including here in the states. Their debut album, Sigh No More, even garnered a couple of Grammys. So, in what may be a ploy to gain more fans, the band has decided to release another album called Babel. Both are available or soon to be available at CCPL. Their rootsy approach to music can certainly be compared to Americana even though they are British.
Meanwhile, if you are waiting for the new Justin Bieber CD, Believe, to become available to check out or that other Canadian Carly Rae Jepson and her catchy song “Call Me Maybe” to finally arrive at you local library or heck that Josh Turner guy that sings country music, try Mumford and Sons. They may not be in a constant rotation on your favorite radio station but you may find you just might like them.
If you find yourself liking the awesomeness of Marcus Mumford (that’s the Mumford in Mumford and Sons, but the other guys are not really his sons) and his merry friends, then there may be some other bands you may enjoy that might be at the library. For instance, The Black Keys, who are from Akron, Ohio, which is not England. Maybe try Band of Horses, who are also American. Or something new and not British like the Lumineers. One more non-Brit, you may like who is absolutely fantastic is Ray Lamontagne. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to check out new music at the library; it’s free (as long as you return it on time), so why not try it?
We all like different music and we all have different tastes. There are a ton of different musicians and music you may have never heard before but may come to like. Those were just a few suggestions; go to the library and find your own new favorite artist.
Matt knows deep down that he’s supposed to be a drummer. He NEEDS to drum, but The Man keeps putting him down. First his parents make him figure out a way to pay for the drum set himself, then The Man steals half of his paycheck from his crap job for TAXES and then his band teacher schedules a mandatory performance on the day of the big Battle of the Bands. Will Matt figure out a way to defy The Man and win the girl, or will The Man keep him down?
This book, Matthew Meets the Man, is hilarious. I have never laughed so hard in my life. Travis Nichols writes 14 perfectly. The illustrations (in true Diary of a Wimpy Kid style) keep the story light and moving, it is fast-paced and written perfectly. This is a must read for 14 year-olds or just 14 year-olds at heart!
Sir Balin The Ill-Fated. On the day he was christened, a prophecy was made concerning him. “He shall be known as the noblest knight in England. But Wait! I see destruction and calamity.” It was seen that he would bring down two kingdoms in one day, that he would strike the Dolorous Stroke (whatever that is) and that in the end, he would destroy the one he loves most. His entire life, Sir Balin has been ruled by that prophecy. He is afraid to stay in King Arthur’s kingdom in case his should be one of the kingdoms he takes down, he is afraid to stay near his brother because he is the one he loves the most. For his entire life, Sir Balin is afraid. Finally, one day, he decides ill-fate does not have to be his destiny and he will take his future into his own hands. This is his story.
This is a delightfully funny book. The author does an amazing job introducing new vocabulary in a rather sneaky way and teaching kids a little about Arthurian England without them knowing about it. The illustrations are wonderful and help the story along magnificently. I really liked this book!
Perhaps your idea of a vibrant start to the day is the ”Sunrise” movement from Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite. If you are rather pensive or just confused, perhaps you think there’s no better accompaniment to your brown study than Elgar’s Enigma Variations. But you need not despair! After the profusion of postmodern work and worry, there’s always Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to round out your day and return equilibrium to your soul.
Sure, classical music isn’t all about tranquility, but the library provides resources for the afficionado in whatever mood they might be in. And if you happen to be both an aficionado and a couch potato, the library offers a new collection of classical music performances on dvd!
Philip Koro, the adult reference librarian at Union Township and I, your humble author, will be reviewing some of our favorite classical works from our collection. Since Philip is the more sedentary of us two, he chose these following gems:
Mozart and the Dolomites- A “beautifully rendered” version of Mozart’s Requiem that uses time-lapse film to match the mood of Philip’s favorite vocal work.
Homage to Claude Debussy- Aldo Ciccolini’s performance for Italian Television, although obviously dated, has both a great interpreter and excellent sound quality. Includes such well known works as Sarabande, Claire de Lune and selections from Children’s Corner.
Ode to Freedom- A historic performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Berlin after the fall of the Wall. Most notable is the replacement of the word ”freude” (“joy”) with “freiheit” (“freedom”) in the final movement.
Join us soon as we take a look at some of your humble author’s picks. Until then, we hope you’ll find the time for a fugue, but not of the sort where you lose your memory.
You’ve read The Road and devoured The Passage? Take a ride on The White Horse! Working at an animal testing laboratory to pay her way through college, Zoe discovers that she is pregnant at the same time the world is shattered by an apocalyptic viral outbreak that wipes out everyone she loves and genetically mutates humanity’s survivors. The story has several plot twists and Zoe is constantly forced to decide who she can trust. Sometimes she even wonders if she can trust her own perceptions.
This is not a zombie book – just an intriguing reflection on what can happen when mankind opens up a modern-day version of Pandora’s box.
What ever happened to “chick” lit? It seems to have gone out of favor lately, but I would like to recommend three recent titles that are just right for a light summer read with a dash of romance and a serving of self-discovery for the main female characters:
Wallflower in Bloom – The story of a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself voted on as a last-minute replacement on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Wife 22 – Baring her soul in an anonymous survey for a marital happiness study, Alice catalogs her stale marriage, unsatisfying job, and unfavorable prospects and begins to question virtually every aspect of her life.
The Next Best Thing – Believing she is realizing her dreams when her sitcom is bought, television writer Ruth Saunders finds her happiness threatened by demanding actors and executives as well as an unrequited crush on her boss and her septuagenarian grandmother’s upcoming wedding.
The main female characters are likeable, but far from perfect and you will enjoy learning what happens behind the scenes on DWTS, the launch of a new TV series and supposedly anonymous internet surveys. Quick reads for a summer that is already passing by too fast!