Thursday, July 26, 2012

Something That Bothers Me: A Companion Post to 'Artist Evolution'

'Pop' is a genre. It describes a specific type of music. Pop music. I also understand that it is often used as an abbreviation for 'popular.' Popular music. But I must say, one's opinion (because no one can seem to agree on the science of what makes popular music so... popular) of general popular music can also be called 'mainstream.' Mainstream music.

Perhaps, boys and girls, we should start using the term 'mainstream' instead of 'pop' since 'pop' is often taken in two different ways but the term 'mainstream' is not.

Why am I talking about this? Well, those who listen to metal music have often run into erratic people on the internet crying about the evolution of a particular artist. (I have discussed this more thoroughly in my Artist Evolution post.) Their biggest complaint? Now, it's apparently 'pop' music. Then people get confused, and the answer is always 'I meant pop as in popular.'

And the best part about all this is, the band hasn't even evolved into a radio-friendly band nor have they strayed from metal.

Or, sometimes a band is 'poppy' because they are a rock band. Not a metal band.

I know by ranting about this doesn't change people on the internet, but I feel as though this is something that needed to be said.

I don't intent to sound mean and bratty, nor do I intend to sound like a know-it-all, but I have had enough.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dead-Tossed Waves | by: Carrie Ryan

Carrie Ryan had proven herself to be an amazing author with her first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. With a novel like that, I was sure that The Dead-Tossed Waves would attain a certain level of greatness, but I wasn't sure if it would be quite as amazing as her first book. I knew that it wasn't going to be about Mary (the protagonist of The Forest of Hands and Teeth) and thought that the new setting probably wouldn't be as creepy.

But, The Dead-Tossed Waves certainly filled with awe-shocking moments that left me gulping down this novel all at once. I'm not sure if one is better than the other.

Gabry lives in Vista, though her mother is from the Forest. For her entire life, she's known nothing but to stay within the Barrier, for death awaits anyone who goes past it. The Mudo are out there, just waiting in their hunger, in their desire to infect.

After a night of hellish terror, Gabry finds herself in a compromising new life. A new life that has not only affected herself, but her friends and mother. One where she is forced to leave Vista and enter the outside world, where the Mudo are a threat beyond the Barrier. While she is in flight from Vista, she yearns to go back in time and fix her mistakes in order to reclaim her old life. In her struggle to survive, will her fear and sorrow swallow her up? Or is she more like her mother, as she had always hoped?

It's been too long since I've read a book so good. Where should I start?

Well, first of all, Gabry is a very different character than Mary of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. She's much more fearful and less adventurous. While Mary had always valued exploration and escape from her village, Gabry has no desire to leave Vista. She often wants to go back and change things, and reality leaves her broken. The pain cuts especially deep since before she had to leave, before her world was shattered by a terrible encounter with the Mudo, her life had just seemed to be coming together. Things were going right with the boy she's grown up with, Catcher.

That being said, while she and the small company of friends that go with her fight to stay alive and try to outrun both the Mudo and the government's Recruiters, Gabry has a couple of love interests. But, I stress that this isn't a gushy paranormal romance ordeal, this is an eerie dystopian novel. Seriously, it takes her until the last fifty pages to make a decision between Catcher, who's from her village and has known her forever, or Elias, the guy she meets in the ruins of a village just outside of Vista. (Don't worry, I won't tell you who it is.) Though I have always preferred Elias, I knew that the outcome could very well go either way. This scared me, and Gabry taking her dear sweet time to figure it out drove me crazy.

But that's one of the important elements of Gabry's character. She grows so much from the beginning! I loved seeing her transformation from a scared girl who doesn't know what she wants to a strong, experienced, and determined character.

And let's face it, she goes through a lot throughout the pages of this book. Trying to figure out who she was led to many twists that I didn't expect, and really, this whole book had twists I didn't expect. There were a few times where my jaw dropped in surprise, if that says anything about the intensity of this novel.

Fans of Mary from the previous book in this series should be excited to see her appearance in the novel. Although this book may not be about her, she's definitely important within the plot. It's so interesting to see where she ended up and how she's doing. In some way, I guess it sort of is an indirect continuation of her story as well, though one doesn't need to read The Forest of Hands and Teeth before The Dead-Tossed Waves. However, I certainly reccommend it; both are outstanding despite their distinguishing differences.

One thing I loved about Carrie Ryan's first book was her wonderful writing. This is still evident in this novel, making this already fantastic plot even better. As long as she continues to write like this, I will read her books forever.

Another element from The Forest of Hands and Teeth that remained for this novel? Both are so, so bleak. However, I wouldn't say that this is a bad thing; it just makes the ending all the more hopeful. And believe me, the ray of hope is worth it all.

I can't even begin to say how excited I am to read the next book in this gripping series, The Dark and Hollow Places. Again, we get to read about a new (though mentioned) character's struggles - and I do love that. But, I can't help but hope to hear more about Gabry, if her story intwines with this character's story, especially since it's clear that Gabry still has a journey ahead of her at the end of this book.

With that, The Dead-Tossed Waves was an adventurous and dark read, and you don't even have to like zombies to enjoy it. It's one of those things that are just too good not to read. I loved it.

5/5 Stars

Ryan, Carrie. The Dead-Tossed Waves
New York: Delacorte Press

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Living Things | Linkin Park

As many are aware, Linkin Park is a band of evolution. In other words, their sound has changed a bit over time, and sometimes that can cause dispute amongst listeners. Living Things is Linkin Park's latest album to date, and I was quite excited to hear it since their last album, A Thousand Suns, left me vastly impressed.

The opening track is called "Lost in the Echo," and it begins with a rather quiet electronic melody which quickly explodes into a huge sound. Mike Shinoda raps in the verses while Chester Bennington sings the chorus, creating a sound that is what I'd like to think of as signature Linkin Park.

"In My Remains" comes next, sounding even more electronically brilliant at first before the guitars come in, creating a very lush sound, and blow the listener away. The verses are mellow, creating a great contrast between them and the chorus. By the time the song ends, it has watered down to a slower pace and slowly fades out to silence. Even lyrically, I especially liked this track.

Following "In My Remains" comes the exceptional lead single of Living Things, entitled "Burn it Down." Like nearly all Linkin Park songs, this song has a great blend of rock and sonic elements - all of which mesh with Chester's voice perfectly. Shinoda raps a bit in the bridge but that's all we hear of him in this song. All in all, I liked this track as much as the previous two.

Though the first three tracks give a very similar vibe, "Lies Greed Misery" is a bit different musically. Mike Shinoda has the verses while Chester sings/yells/screams the chorus and the bridge. It all gets quite rash sounding by the end, as it is an angry song. However, despite its differences from the other songs so far, it's not a favorite of mine.

The fifth track is called "I'll Be Gone," and the beginning sounds extra awesome to me for whatever reason. When Chester begins to sing the first verse, he sounds a bit different, almost slightly nasally. However, this doesn't continue throughout the entire song; his voice sounds as expected in the chorus. My favorite part of the whole thing was the bridge, both musically and lyrically. Those lyrics are relatable and great, and the music continues from the chorus in perhaps the smoothest possible transition. I suppose one could say the song ended with a bang with the way Chester sang the last "I'll be gone," for it was so powerful.

One of my favorites from the album is called "Castle of Glass." The entire song is sung by Mike Shinoda, for a change. Though I do love Chester's voice, Mike does a fine job as well. His voice flowed with the music perfectly as the song gradually crescendos. But, that's not all the song has to offer. The lyrics are absolutely beautiful, a seamless match with the music, which sounds almost adventurous to me. Really, this song kind of makes me think of dreams, of movies and books that are set up in otherworldly places. "Castle of Glass" is a wonderful track.

In case you fell asleep during that song's slow tempo, Linkin Park will make sure you wake up to hear "Victimized" with the opening guitars. Mike quietly sings the first verse (and sounds absolutely great), but Chester comes in and screams the chorus. Out of his singing phase, Mike also raps in the second verse. Don't walk out of the room to get a sandwich when listening to this song, because you might miss it. Seriously, it's not even two minutes long. Personally, I only enjoyed the first verse, but it doesn't matter because the song itself is so short. At least the lyrics have a nice determined, vengeful message ("never again victimized!")

Completely unlike the last song, the beginning effects remind me a little of "Crystalline" by Bjork. Soon enough, the piano comes in and Mike starts singing, and it is clearly a Linkin Park song. This track, "Roads Untraveled," is another of my favorite tracks. The harmonies of this song are chill-worthy, just like the lyrics. Unfortunately, the song ends sort of abruptly... I wish I could have more of this amazing song.

The next song, "Skin to Bone," nearly gives me a mad-scientist feel musically (don't ask; it was the best way to describe it, okay?), and yet again, Mike Shinoda is singing some awesome lyrics. Right away, I can tell that this song is a electric masterpiece. Is the song repetitive? Yes, but do I really care when it's something as cool as this? No.

"Until it Breaks" is a break from any norm the band has created in this album. Though the electronic vibe is still there, it's the closest thing on Living Things to actual rap/hip-hop (though it isn't the first time he's rapped on the album). Chester sings in the chorus, which is broken down beautifully - just Chester and piano. The ending sector demands the listener to sing along and reminds me a bit of indie music - but only a little.

"Tinfoil" is an electronic instrumental track with bits of piano layered in. It's a very small instrumental, in both length and sound, but that doesn't mean it isn't powerful - which is kind of punny since it leads into the final track, "Powerless." Right away, "Powerless" impressed me. The piano is potent in this song, and Chester's vocals are spectacular. Even if he wasn't singing, the melodies of this song would be wonderful, but his voice makes it even better. By the time the second verse comes, the electronic element begins to shine along with the piano. Even so, the song crescendos more and more as it goes on before fading out a bit and ending almost abruptly. As far as an album-closer, "Powerless" was a good choice, not to mention one of my three favorites from this album.

Although Linkin Park has evolved with time, they definitely remained the same band. Honestly, between this album and A Thousand Suns, I think their changes have been for the better. They have evolved into a better band, their music has matured into something bigger than they've been before.

That being said, Living Things is a great album. After listening to it, I am insured that Linkin Park has a lot to offer listeners with their general musicianship, wonderful lyrics, and genre variation.

4/5 Stars

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sailor Moon: The Effects Last Forever

Sailor Moon is one of the most famous faces in manga and anime. Years ago, the anime used to be aired on Cartoon Network. Like many, I watched it dubbed in English, for it was originally in Japanese and that was the only way I ever knew to watch it at the time. Unfortunately, the final season wasn't aired for English-speaking countries for a few different reasons you can read about here. In my opinion, Sailor Moon's time on English television was cut too short. Even now, I miss it, and I know I'm not the only one.

As many fans of Sailor Moon already know, the manga is finally being reprinted. Years ago, I started looking for the manga and found that it could get expensive as it was out of print, and at the time even finding them used was a bit difficult. Oftentimes, I ran into Japanese editions (I don't speak Japanese, so this was a problem). But, with it being reprinted, my love for the series has awakened once again. Well, I should say it resurfaced; I never stopped loving it.

One thing I've always been aware of is that every single thing we experience, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will leave a mark in some way or another. Everything. The books we read, the shows we watch, the music we listen to... These things affect us. They influence us in some way or another. Even before now, before this love for Sailor Moon has resurfaced, I knew that Sailor Moon influenced me in more ways than one.

First of all, Sailor Moon sparked my interst in astronomy. Obviously, this series uses astronomy in fictional ways, but how could it not catch a child's interest? Soon, I grabbed my dad's books on the subject (he loves astronomy as well, which is probably another factor that contributed to my love of the universe and its mysteries) from the shelves. At age four, I didn't understand many of the words used in these books, but that was never my concern. I just liked the pictures; I thought they were beautiful. In fact, I still think they're beautiful. Ever since I could work a remote, I'd go to the Science Channel to watch documentaries dealing with astronomy. I still do.
And let's face it, without Sailor Moon, would I get emotional at the fact that Pluto is no longer considered a planet? No, I wouldn't. But I watched Sailor Moon as a kid, and as I watched, Sailor Pluto became one of my favorite characters. If I could be her, Sailor Moon, or Sailor Mars for a day, I'd be happy. So in my world, Pluto is a planet and always will be.

Though I tend to favor some over others, the Sailor senshi in general are a group of badasses. Pretty Guardian badasses at that! You gotta love the girl power in this series. But more specifically, I can relate to a lot of the Senshis' defining idiosyncrasies. I can see myself in all but three of them and admire them all. Sailor Pluto is one I wish I could say I had something in common with, but I'm not sure I can. I've always felt some sort of connection to this character... However, this may be the leftover effect her character left from when I was a kid, when I wanted to be her. But throughout my life, I've been able to relate to the general characteristics of Usagi (Sailor Moon), Rei (Sailor Mars), Ami (Sailor Mercury), Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), and Hotaru (Sailor Saturn).

Speaking of Hotaru Tomoe, her story is one of my favorite parts of the manga and anime. When I used to watch the anime on TV, I typically ended up watching the third season, Sailor Moon S, and had a couple of tapes of episodes from that season. I had always been mystified by Hotaru's story of becoming Sailor Saturn, I watched the tape over and over again. But I never saw the ending. I never knew what happened until a few years ago, when I looked it up. I didn't know about Mistress 9 or Pharaoh 90, or that she would be part of the Outer Senshi... and I don't know why that strikes me so. For whatever reason, this became so important to me, to find out what happened to such a beloved character. As I could relate to her shyness, maybe I thought that I needed to find that last piece for myself. As if her story had become part of mine, had affected me forever. It may sound ridiculous... But that's the way it is.

Though I loved the Inner Senshi, I was always so intrigued by the Outer Senshi. They were darker people dealing with darker situations, and I loved that aspect. Their contrast with the lighter energy shown by the Inner Senshi made me appreciate both types of characters: the serioius and the humorous, the dark and the light.

Of course, though the Senshi had much to worry about, there was still room for love interests. Sailor Moon's love interest, Tuxedo Mask, definitely caught my attention. Some may think this odd, but he was my cartoon crush. Just look at his picture. Doesn't the word 'dreamy' come to mind? Anyway, his character also had a strong influence on me. Ironically, he somewhat resembles the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, which would later become my favorite musical. Even as I've grown, I like characters with his mistique and characters that remind me of him and his relationship with Sailor Moon.

By the way... Why does the English dub say that Uranus and Neptune are cousins when they are obviously lesbians? Why? It would have answered so many questions I had as a kid.

Anway, even the Moon Cats had an adorable relationship! Artemis and Luna were so cute together. One day when I was five, a black cat appeared on my porch, and I knew I'd have to name this cat Luna. I still said that when I found out the cat was a boy. Since Sailor Moon led me to love astronomy, I knew that 'luna' referred to the moon. In my five-year-old mind, the moon was a big rock in the sky and had no gender, therefore it was okay to name a boy Luna.

I don't regret that odd decision, strangely.

As I ramble about my life as a Sailor Moon fan and talk about Moon Cats and badass Sailor Senshi, one may wonder what the actual purpose of this show is. It's about the strength of love and frienship, individuality, the beauty of the universe, and liberation. Those are pretty good influences to have at such a young age, aren't they? Because obviously, the effects last forever. Years later, I am looking up information on the parts of the story I didn't see as I kid, that last season that was never aired in English-speaking countries. I am buying the new manga and looking into buying the DVDs of the anime I loved so dearly when I was little.

If this love for the series hasn't faded with time already, I doubt it ever will. And that makes me happy.

This image is from

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Forever | by: Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy has been an interesting ride for me, as each book seems to give me a completely different opinion from the others. I wasn't quite sure what to expect of Forever, but I prepared for the worst.

Well, I prepared wrongly.

Sam and Grace's relationship has become utterly complicated. The tables have turned as everything they've been fighting for is at greater risk than ever. Now, they have to worry about even more than their relationship and life together being possible. They also have to worry about the entire pack staying alive in this great climax of their story, which brings an entirely new intensity to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.

That's right, I said intensity. If you read my reviews of the previous books in this series, Shiver and Linger, you'd know that I've had issues with the corny/gushy feel of the characters in these books. In Forever, this isn't really a problem. Sure, it's still a bit gushy to begin with, but I think all the good of this book outweighs any corny moment there might have been.

Once again, Cole and Isabel narrate as well as Sam and Grace. But, a fifth narrator has a small chapter. The first chapter. And I'm not going to say who it is, but I will say that this first impression left me rolling my eyes. I said to myself, "Well, I know where this is going." But I didn't. I was expecting the corniest, but I didn't need to. Thank goodness.

Anyway, I still loved the multiple narrations. In other words, I still loved Cole and Isabel's story. Each character had his/her own voice, and Cole's made me giggle at times. For whatever reason, I just enjoyed his idiosyncrasies. Isabel, on the other hand, made me feel incredibly sympathetic. After all this time, these past events have really taken a toll on her. She's still uniquely Isabel, and that's why it hurt to see her hurt.

I must say that I enjoyed reading about Sam and Grace much more in this book since everything became so serious all of a sudden. The sweetness of their relationship is still there, but their struggles have increased, giving them more to worry about. Plus, Grace's friendship with Rachel really shined, which I didn't expect (especially now, of all times, amid all the chaos in the world of wolves). It made me happy to see this.

While reading Forever, Sam was the turning point. There was a part in this book where I immediately knew I would like it much more than the past two of this trilogy. A flashback of a grieving boy and Beck. I've mentioned in the other reviews that part of the reason I'm so drawn to Sam is because of his awful past. Who wouldn't feel terrible for the guy? And people seem to define him by that constantly. With Sam, there's always thoughts of Beck, and even their father-son relationship is tested in this novel, which really grabbed me emotionally.

Even so, what stood out the most about Forever was the climax. Seriously, this is one of the best climaxes I've read about in a long time. The action jumped off the page, and the grief jumped into my heart. A couple of twists made my jaw drop as I read. Really, readers will have a sense of what the characters will have to do to reach some sort of resolution, but I know I never imagined it would turn out like this.

So, Forever surprised me. It was SO much better than the other two books in the series, and I was completely shocked by how much I liked it, even how much I liked the ending. There's still room for imagination, which some readers may despise, but I have hope in my heart for all of these characters because of it.

To be entirely honest, I always thought this trilogy was overrated. With an ending novel like this... I reconsider. I can forgive what I didn't like in Linger, because this was so worth the read.

4.5/5 Stars

Stiefvater, Maggie. Forever
New York: Scholastic Press