Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prophecy of the Sisters | by: Michelle Zink

After a tragedy strikes the family, Lia Milthorpe discovers a peculiar mark on her wrist. Even so, that is not the only strange thing happening within her wealthy home. Her twin sister, Alice, has already grown distant, but the discovery of a mysterious book may explain it all as well as raise more questions.

Odd as it seems, she and her sister are part of an ancient prophecy. Though the parts they are to play within it are quite potent, it seems that their sisterhood will be torn apart as their individual free will turns them against another. Their opposing desires will have them working in opposition of the other as Lia begins to find allies she can trust in this unique and eerie Victorian-based story.

Though this is the second time I've read Prophecy of the Sisters, I may have actually enjoyed it more than the first, which is quite a compliment since I already really loved it.

One of the first things that caught my attention while reading this book was Michelle Zink's writing. It's fantastic! And the characters she created were so natural. Oftentimes, different characters of a novel tend to have rather extreme characteristics that make them stick out in a more forced way, but Michelle Zink is better than this. Prophecy of the Sisters had characters that were well-defined without extreme qualities. Because of this, I loved reading about these characters - even Alice, who creeped me out at times.

Since this is a Victorian novel, I would have expected it to fall under a certain mental catagory I have made when reading books that take place in older periods of history. It's not that I have anything against books that take place further back in time, because I actually love that - especiallly the Victorian era in which Prophecy of the Sisters was written for. My problem is the way that some authors handle it. They really want to make sure that the reader gets the correct feel of the time period by babbling nonstop about the time period. It comes to a certain point where I don't want to read about wagons anymore; I want plot. Michelle Zink did not do this. The 1800's felt so natural in this book, and I praise Michelle Zink for this in addition to her other great writing skills.

Prophecy of the Sisters has a generally creepy/mysterious vibe to it, but it isn't generally gloomy either. It's actually quite adventurous and fun as it is evenly paced. That's not to say that there are no dark matters in this book, because their are plenty. The paranormal elements are hair-rising and the times of tragedy are filled with sorrow. Throughout the entire reading experience, something is always happening as Lia tries to solve the mysteries of the prophecy. But, the climax is still ever-present despite the consistent pace.

I was really intrigued by the general concept of this book, with twin sisters battling against the other as well as the prophecy being a mythological version of the Bible's apocalypse. The times of darkness readers will encounter within the plot is kind of scary, and I liked that. Besides, the bits of magic, like all magic, made me happy. But more than anything, I loved the eerie elements, especially the freaky medallion. I can't say much about this without spoiling anything; I'll just tell you it's cool.

Really... there's not much left to say. No complaints whatsoever. Prophecy of the Sisters is an impeccable novel and I will definitely read the next two books in this trilogy, as this first novel has proved to be greatly written and one-of-a-kind.

4.5/5 Stars

Zink, Michelle. Prophecy of the Sisters
New York: Little, Brown and Company

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dark Adrenaline | Lacuna Coil

Last January, Lacuna Coil released their sixth studio album, Dark Adrenaline. Though I adore many bands associated with this band, Lacuna Coil's work has been a bit hit-and-miss for me, but I was still curious to see what they had in store (especially considering how cool the album's title sounds).

"Trip the Darkness" is the first track as well as the first single, and I loved it. Though it starts out almost electronically, the sound doesn't take long to explode into your ears. Both of their singers take important parts within the song. In this track, Andrea takes the verses but Cristina takes the chorus, nearly chanting, "Follow me, follow me..." At this point, I like the direction the band has taken.

The second song is called "Against Me," and the eerie intro leads into heavy guitar riffs. Cristina's voice is colder in the verses, reminding me a bit of Aya from the band Unsun. Unlike the last track, Andrea sings the chorus, and he's at his best. Though the verses are dark, the chorus feels lighter, like rocking out in the summer. For this reason, this part of the song feels nostalgic to me. But, it's followed by an epic bridge that features a cool guitar solo; completely fresh to my ears. Despite the guitars start to lead the song to a strong end, the song includes a string part in its last seconds. A very worthy listen.

Next comes "Kill the Light," a song that's sure to get a live crowd jumping as it is both relatively catchy and heavy. It's not what I would consider a masterpiece or anything, but it's not bad. "Give Me Something More" follows, and it's much more mellow than the rest of the album at first, but the guitars and memorable drums kick in once the chorus comes and don't go away. Cristina's vowels are a bit wide in the bridge, but, it still isn't a bad song since that's my only complaint.

"Upsidedown" begins with guitar bits that will shuffle from one speaker to the other - an effect I've always loved. Andrea's vocals in the verses aren't the best sounding since they're completely frantic, and they're blown away by Cristina's amazing chorus. The bridge has a guitar solo before it leads into the final section, where Andrea and Cristina seem to unite. I liked this one much more than the previous two.

Just when you think the tempo slows down in "End of Time," guitars come pounding shortly before Cristina's first verse. Still, it's practically a ballad in comparison to the other songs, with sweeter melodies and lyrics that are most raw. This being said, it's probably the most powerful of the album, even as the strings fade at the very end. The seventh track is "I Don't Believe in Tomorrow," and once again the guitars shuffle in and out of each speaker, making my ears more than happy. Though the verses are catchy, the chorus doens't do the most for me. The best part of the song is the bridge, where the guitar riffs explode into something unexpectedly heavier for this song. Again, this song isn't bad, but it's not a masterpiece.

"Intoxicated," on the other hand, is one of the few songs on this album that is an immediate standout, primarily because of Cristina's vocals (especially in the chorus as it overlays the guitars yet blends all the same). However, I must mention that Andrea did his part very well, too, and together they made for a very awesome and memorable track. It isn't as jumpy as a lot of the other songs on this album, but it's still something you can bob your head to since it's a far cry from a slow song. But, the next track, entitled "The Army Inside" brings the return of the norm for this album. It's more upbeat but still meaningful, yet not a standout track.

Like many, I discovered Lacuna Coil from their cover of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" on their 2006 album, Karmacode. Though Lacuna Coil's original songs are hit-and-miss for me and tend to blurr together, their covers are exactly the opposite. The tenth song on Dark Adrenaline is "Losing My Religion," originally by REM. I loved REM's original of this fantastic love song, but I may actually like Lacuna Coil's version better. Both Andrea and Cristina convey each lyric so well, but Cristina really sounds like she's believing what she's singing as I hear the emotion in her voice. Plus, I love the instrumentation of this revamped classic. Honestly, I think this is my favorite from the album.

"Fire" comes next, and the guitar riffs remind me a lot of "I Won't Tell You," a song from their previous album, Shallow Life. This short song is possibly my least favorite from Dark Adrenaline. But the opening riffs of the final song, "My Spirit," grabbed my attention. Andrea's verses definitely aren't the best part of the song, and Cristina steals the show again in the chorus. The bridge is most unique with its narration in a language I do not know (it's probably Itallian, considering Lacuna Coil is from Italy). After that point, the song began to give me chills with its dark harmonies. The album closes with a final guitar solo, finally leaving us with a choral synth that's bound to leave an impact.

Dark Adrenaline is a pretty decent album. None of these songs bother me in any way, and there were a few excellent tracks that came from it, such as "Trip the Darkness," "Against You," "Upsidedown," "End of Time," "Intoxicated," "Losing My Religion," and "My Spirit." But, my only problem with it has been my only complaint with this band in general: Some songs will leave an impact on me, but many do not. As I mentioned, too many of their songs often blurr together and remain unmemorable to my taste.

Fans that loved Karmacode and Shallow Life entirely will likely enjoy this new release, too. As for me, I liked this album better than those previous two releases; I think Lacuna Coil is headed in a positive direction. This album is dark but it'll get you pumped, and though some tracks may blurr together in your memory, the ones that stick out will be in your head for a long time.

3.5/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Classics: Dracula by Bram Stoker

As a fan of nearly all variations of vampires in fiction, I definitely wanted to read Bram Stoker's Dracula, which was the spark of it all. This novel has had a major impact on the world, even on those who do not dwell within the fictional realm. When people hear the name Dracula, they do not think of Vlad the Impaler. Instead, they think of this intriguing, dark vampire who's story has been alive for over a century.

When one of my friends got a copy of Dracula before me, she said that the writing was "too old-fashioned" and she gave up. I think I laughed a little on the inside due to her ridiculous complaint. Since I usually love older works due to their general style, I knew I'd love this book... But I didn't. Not because it is "old" or anything like that (if I had a problem with that sort of thing, I wouldn't have created a meme where I talk about classic novels), but because it was poorly written. Even for the time period it was wirtten in, it wasn't very good. Edgar Allan Poe's time came before Dracula (though within the same centruy) so Stoker had no excuse. Really, Bram Stoker seemed to set himself up by writing a novel full of diary entries and friendly letters, for they made the story so passive. Rarely did anything exciting ever happen in these entries, but when something did occur, it felt more like a distant dream, as if none of it was happening.

However, the very beginning was sort of interesting. I actually enjoyed hearing about Jonathon Harker's story at first because of the eerie events that took place, but that writing style just can't pull off an entire book. After a while, I just didn't care about Miss Lucy's letters and the headache became too sharp.

Fellow readers, I have a confession to make: I simply could not finish this book. The fact that I couldn't do it angered me, so I tried reading it again. Still, the second time proved no better than the first. For the second time, I gave up. Maybe someday I'll get around to reading the entire thing, but I highly doubt it. This book just didn't work for me.

Though I did not get an enjoyable reading experience from Dracula, I know that many did. I even wish I could have found some way to appreciate it; that's why I tried reading it again. After all, this story has had such an influence. People wouldn't think of vampires the same way without it, and they wouldn't have their favorite nightmarish tale. Obviously, this book is far from my favorite, but I know a lot of the movies and books I like probably wouldn't exist without it.

I don't have to cherish what I don't like, but I'll try to see the good in it, especially considering it's an unforgettable classic of its time.