Saturday, December 28, 2013

End of 2013 Book Survey

I'm participating in the Perpetual Page-Turner's end-of-year survey once again! I've filled out her annual survey each year; it's a lot of fun! If you want to join in, click on the previous link to get to Jamie's original post and link up there.

1. Best book you read in 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

Click here to view my list.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

I loved the first two books in this trilogy (Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate), but this one was really lackluster.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Destined by Aprilynne Pike - I wasn't expecting Destined to be so dark and bittersweet. It was significantly more action-packed than the previous books of the series while keeping elements of the previous books in the spotlight, and I loved it.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Like I mentioned in my classics review, I didn't expect to like this book because it's always referred to as some epitome of the American Dream, which made me think of The Grapes of Wrath. Fortunately, The Great Gatsby was fantastic and painted a much better picture than my initial expectations.
4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

None, really. I think I have the potential to really love F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it's too early to tell since I haven't read anything else except The Great Gatsby, his most popular novel.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Well, I read El Cid by Marcel Charles Andrade, and it's a tiny little Spanish book. I'm a native English speaker, and reading something in a language that isn't your first is always a little out of the comfort bubble.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Sailor Moon 6-12 by: Naoko Takeuchi

9. Book you read in 2013 that you are most likely to re-read next year?

Sailor Moon 12 and Sailor Moon 6-8 by: Naoko Takeuchi
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

Across the Universe by: Beth Revis
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

11. Most memorable character in 2013?

Hotaru Tomoe (Sailor Saturn) from the Sailor Moon series by Naoko Takeuchi.

Pi from Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It's hard to forget a character so innocently devoted to religion.
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte... I initially felt really bad for him, but my gosh, he became mean with age.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2013?

"...we accept the love we think we deserve." - Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

"I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth." - Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

"All right, then, I'll go to hell." - Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2013?

Shortest - El Cid by Marcel Charles Andrade
Longest - Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!


Not to mention the end of The Perks of Being a Wallflower! Talk about a slap in the face!

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Friendship: Huck Finn and Jim from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hotaru Tomeo and Chibiusa from Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon series.

19. Favorite book you read in 2013 from an author you’ve read previously.

Destined by Aprilynne Pike

And, of course, the rest of the Sailor Moon manga.

20. Best book you read in 2013 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else:

I only read one book I picked up due to recommendations, and I wasn't a fan, so I don't have a pick for this category.

21. Genre you read the most from in 2013?

Manga and YA (although I don't consider either a genre as much as a classification).

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

None, actually. How unexciting.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

I didn't read any. WTH?

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Destined by Aprilynne Pike: Avalon
Life of Pi by Yann Martel: The Pacific Ocean
Sailor Moon 12 by Noako Takeuchi: Travelling through space and the Galaxy Cauldron

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2013?

Destined by Aprilynne Pike
Hidden by: P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Sailor Moon 6-12 by: Naoko Takeuchi

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2013?

Life of Pi and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. RIVER OF TEARS.

27. Book you read in 2013 that you think got overlooked this year or when it came out?

Destined. Why did people give up on this series?


I'm only going to do a portion of the Book Blogging/Reading Life and Looking Ahead sections.

Best discussion you had on your blog?

There haven't really been a lot of discussion posts on this blog this year, just a lot of unabashed fangirling.

Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?

I really enjoy Jamie's reviews and discussions at her blog, The Perpetual Page-Turner (the blog that hosts these cool surveys).

Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Out of my 40-ish posts this year, here are the top (five) most viewed this year:

1. The Great Gatsby (movie review)

2. Classics: Wuthering Heights

3. Hallelujah! Floor Jansen is Staying in Nightwish

4. Top Ten Series I'd Like to Start but Haven't Yet

5. Requiem for the Indifferent | Epica

The results surprised me! My movie reviews usually never get any attention!

Post you wished got a little more love?

My Favorite Television Shows... It took forever for me to put this together, and then no one looked at it.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Well, I finished the rereleased Sailor Moon series, and I guess that was a goal.

One book you didn’t get to in 2013 but will be your number 1 priority in 2014?

A Million Suns by Beth Revis and The Dark and Hallow Places by Carrie Ryan... you know what? Hold the phone. I have a feeling that I said something very similar last year on the 2012 survey...

Yep, I did. I said The Dark and Hallow Places would be a priority for this past year along with Across the Universe... And I said that Across the Universe would be my number one priority back in the 2011 survey too.

2011 survey: Across the Universe

2012 survey: Across the Universe and The Dark and Hallow Places

2013 survey: A Million Suns and The Dark and Hallow Places

Apparently I can't get my priorities straight; the books I prioritize the most are the ones that take me two years to get to. I'm so logical.

Series ending you are most anticipating in 2014?

Redeemed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. I know a lot of people are 'excited' for this series to end simply for the sake of it being finished, but I actually really love this series. I wasn't the biggest fan of the first three books (and then Hunted and Tempted weren't exactly the best), so I'd understand why people wouldn't like it if the series was still going in that direction, but it isn't. The series has really improved, in my opinion. It's taken a long time for it to end, but it's been a lot of fun for me.

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2014?

I didn't post nearly as many book reviews as I wanted to this year. It's not that I wasn't reading, it's that a lot of the books I read weren't really review-able. A lot of them have been out for a while, so I didn't see the point. However, I don't want to read books simply to review them. I don't want to stop delving into thicker books or books that have been out for a while. And I also don't want to refrain from rereading. There are so many books I'd like to reread... The Harry Potter series, The Host, Jane Eyre... But there are just too many books in the world that I need to read. Hopefully I find equilibrium in 2014.

I also plan to put up an About Me page instead of having that little paragraph in my sidebar. (Obviously the page would be a bit more elaborate than the paragraph I've had for about the entire time this blog has existed.) Maybe I'll even put up a cute selfie. I don't know yet.


...Pretty long survey, eh? These are always a ton of fun to fill out and reflect upon the past year in books. I didn't read as much as I wanted to, but that's alright. My TBR is humungous for 2014, but I guess that isn't surprising. When you want to read everything, the TBR tends to be ridiculous. I hope you all have a great new year... I can't believe it's 2014 already...

And, as always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

It's Tuesday, everybody! Time for Top Ten Tuesday, a lovely meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today we were given a Christmas topic:

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing
House of Leaves by: Mark Z. Danielewski
I just discovered the existence of House of Leaves this past month. One of my friends got a copy and let me look at how unusual it is. The text is organized in all sorts of ways, whether there's one word on a page, one sentence scattered on a page, the text forms a geometric shape, the text is vertical, the text changes sizes, the text changes colors, random words are capitalized... It's so cool! And from what I read about this book online, it sounds like a complete clusterfuck... I have to read this.

A Million Suns by: Beth Revis
I need more of this wonderful trilogy! The first book, Across the Universe, had a very satisfying ending despite letting readers know that there'd be more to look forward to, so I'm not entirely sure which direction this sequel will take. All I know is that I must see how Amy and Elder manage more time on Godspeed after all that has happened. It'll also be interesting to see how their relationship develops since Beth Revis is taking that element steadily. I can't wait!
The Killing Moon by: N.K. Jemisin 
No, this isn't just on my list because of the beautiful cover... The beautiful cover is just what made me want to read the description on Goodreads. The Killing Moon is the first book in the Dreamblood series, and the fantasy setting is what's really drawing me in. It's been too long since I've read a good fantasy, and I have high expectations for this one.
Revealed by: P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
This is the second-to-last book in the House of Night series, which I can never have too much of. I won't bore you all with reasons why I love this series; I will have brought it up at least twice this month before the end of the year anyway. Even aside from me wanting to know what happens next to our loveable characters, I must admit, I also think this one will look quite fabulous on my bookshelf. This is the best House of Night book cover in a while, in my opinion.
Cloud Atlas by: David Mitchell
It's called Cloud Atlas; it has to be good with a cool title like that. I've always been intrigued by the pretty cover and the synopsis, but lately I've been drawn to Cloud Atlas because everyone seems to think it's confusing. I want to see what all the craze is over and why people have been so baffled by it.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by: Stephen King 
Just about everybody is saying that every writer should read this book from legendary horror story master Stephen King, and I'm definitely going to heed the advice. While I certainly haven't loved every aspect of Stephen King's writing (or stories in general), the guy is pretty good, and he's written about a million books by now. He's basically an expert. And I've never read any books like this before; I really should start.
Fangirl by: Rainbow Rowell
This looks like a relatively cute contemporary. After hearing so many good things about Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, I'm determined to read one of her books. I figured I'd start out with Fangirl since it, well, deals with some fangirling. A lot of the contemporary novels I read are extremely depressing, so I'm expecting that this one will have a lighter atmosphere.
My Life Next Door by: Huntley Fitzpatrick 
 Another contemporary! I've been really curious about this one for a while. I guess in some ways, it sees like a fluffy romantic contemporary, but I'm also really interested in the family aspect of the novel and how it will be handled. It just looks so good!
The Book Thief by: Markus Zusak
This book looks like it's right up my alley, though I must admit I'm intimidated by it. I just know I'll cry. And people keep going on about how Death is the narrator or something. I'm not sure how this exactly plays into the story, but it sounds really deep. I really need to read this once I think I can muster up the emotional stability... Or just save all the sad books for vacations so I can cry and think about it all I want.
Clockwork Angel by: Cassandra Clare
Even though I haven't read the Mortal Instruments series, I'm quite interested in the Infernal Devices trilogy. It just looks very appealing and I've heard that it isn't necessary to read the Mortal Instruments books prior. But, I'm also becoming sort of interested in the Mortal Instruments. Sort of. I tried reading it a few years ago, but I was distracted with other books and wasn't feeling the first chapter (which is no way to judge a book). I'm not entirely sure why I'm gravitating toward this trilogy, but it just looks so intriguing.
A very fine looking bunch, if I may say so myself. Let me know what you think of my wish list and show me yours! In the meantime, I hope you all have a fantastic holiday, and hopefully we get some of the books we're asking for.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Best Books I Read: 2013

Another year has come and gone. For each year that I've had this blog, I've posted a list of the best books I read within the year. I've succumbed to a sort of end-of-year-blogging schedule. This year, the meme I began to participate in earlier in the year, Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish, is using this topic for Tuesday, December 31, so I will link this list there when the time comes.

Across the Universe
by: Beth Revis

This is one of those books that I've wanted to read for years but just never got ahold of in a timely manner, but better late than never. This dually-narrated novel blew me away! I absolutely couldn't be parted from it; my continual anxiety for Amy and Elder just kept skyrocketing as I read. The general scenario of a community on a spaceship in itself intrigued me, and the dystopia woven into it made it so intense, especially with such frightening enemies. Beth Revis' mere ideas for Across the Universe were a perfect recipe for a novel. I will definitely make reading the rest of the books in this trilogy a priority for 2014.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by: Stephen Chbosky

I guess I didn't really believe everybody when they said that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was similar to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. I just didn't think it was possible. Still, both books are different from another nonetheless, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower certainly has a profound effect of its own. It made me so depressed the entire time, but my gosh it's good. Even when I didn't catch the revelation at the end, it cut me deeply... But of course, when I found a discussion of what went over my head... What I found out that I didn't pick up on while reading really overwhelmed me with grief - not just for Charlie, but for anyone else who has been wronged like that.

If you haven't read this book yet, read it. Every quote you've seen on the internet from this book will come alive and mean something so much more.

Life of Pi
by: Yann Martel

It almost feels odd to include Life of Pi on this list considering that even now as I think of it, my stomach hurts from feeling so much, but that was really the point anyway. I analyzed this book in my head for days after finishing it; I thought I was losing my marbles for sure. Let it be known that I am strongly opposed to stories that involve being a castaway, but Life of Pi was different. Pi was an interesting person in terms of his knowledge of animals and his ability to be a Hindu/Christian/Muslim, and putting a tiger on a lifeboat is definitely an interesting toss-up. I felt emotional for Pi and the animals in the Pacific Ocean with him. But then the infamous second story is introduced... If the ending of the movie The Sixth Sense is a slap in the face, Life of Pi's is like a shot in the head. I bawled even before it all was told because like anyone else at the beginning of that part, I knew exactly how unbearable it would be. In the initial story it was already really difficult to read, but this was nearly impossible. I was so racked up that I could hardly continue... I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. But again, that was the point.


Sailor Moon Volumes 6-12
by: Naoko Takeuchi
This year, I read my way through the Infinity, Dream, and Stars story arcs of the renewal Sailor Moon books. I thoroughly loved all three. Infinity (books 6-8) was just as awesome as I expected with the appearance of Sailor Saturn, a character that always intrigued me when I watched the anime. There were more differences than I expected between the show and the books, but I really appreciated the differences in both. (However, I do wish that Dr. Tomoe could have a happier ending like he did in the anime.) I wasn't sure what to expect from the Dream story arc (books 8-10), but I ended up really liking it. The whole fanbase seems to really love Stars (books 11-12), so I was really excited to begin that story arc with book eleven. I must admit I wasn't the biggest fan of the eleventh book, but it really set the stage for the series' epic conclusion in the twelfth. It was so unique compared to the rest of the series. As always, friendship was a huge theme, but it also gave us insight on forgiveness, redemption, and the largeness of the universe. A very powerful ending to an inspiring series.

An American classic, and rightfully so. I was a bit surprised by how much I ended up liking this 20s-based book. Fitzgerald's writing was very flowy despite the lack of commas, and generally just very pretty. Nick Carraway's perspective showed us a melancholy chaos that surrounded everyone in this big city life, and in terms of plot, I don't think the explosion of drama could've been any bigger. These poor characters dismantled their own dreams within their attempts to live the cliché 'American Dream,' and I felt a sense of sorrow for them (except Tom Buchanan; he was a jerk). The Great Gatsby also had a lot of powerful symbolism; I actually teared up at the "beautiful shirts" part. A fantastic novel even by today's standards.
Destined is the fourth and final book in Aprilynne Pike's Wings series, which I have been quite fond of. While the entire series has had a generally lighthearted feel with its focus on friendship, Destined still honors this characteristic, but it's much darker. There's a lot of action and more is at stake than ever, and I loved it. Plus, the love triangle was pushed way out of focus (I mean, between all the chaos and the simple fact that Laurel would have to choose between Tamani and David at some point), and that made me quite happy; that particular element probably bugged me out of the middle two books of this series... I'm quite picky when it comes to love triangles. I don't like them easily. Anyway, I became quite emotional at the bittersweet, all-too-realistic ending. Destined took a turn I never expected from this series. Aprilynne Pike did a fabulous job!

by: P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

I can hear you. "SHE'S GOT TO BE KIDDING!" you exclaimed. But I'm not.  Everyone loves to hate the House of Night series; I realize this fact - but I don't get it (well, I'm theorizing that people want to finish the series despite not liking it that much and are just exasperated considering that Hidden is the tenth book), and I don't care. I freaking love these books. I wasn't the craziest about them at first, but after a while they just kept getting better and better. They're just so much fun! I love how magical and elemental they are, I love how the characters have grown, I love the theme of forgiveness... Hidden was such a cool installment. Quit judging me!

So, those were the highlights of my year in reading. I think it's a pretty interesting bunch, if I may say so myself. I didn't get to read nearly as much as I wanted this year since some of these masterpieces (particularly Life of Pi and The Perks of Being a Wallflower) required post-reading recovery time, so my reading list for next year is a bit large. Anyway, I hope you're all enjoying the holiday season and all the end-of-year blogging wrap-ups that many of us are reading and writing. There's more to come from my end! And make sure you guys share your lists with me too and let me know what you thought of mine. Yay!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 13 Singles of 2013 Countdown

Today marks the beginning of my craze of lists for the end of the year, starting with music. Fun, fun, fun! Last year, I put up a few different posts of my favorite singles from the year because I was just experiencing too much difficulty in compiling them in an organized manner, but be proud: This year I did it countdown style. I definitely got some new favorite songs in 2013, a combination of the meaningful and the playful. I hope you did too.
For those reading this list later, please keep in mind that this list was compiled before "Dangerous" by Within Temptation and Howard Jones was officially released. We got to hear a snippet when Sharon den Adel visited Rock Antenne, and from what we could hear, it definitely sounds like that song would've been on this list, and likely within the top five.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
"I Love It" - Icona Pop ft. Charli XCX
I don't care. I love it.

'Nuff said. A catchy, freaking awesome pop song that makes me hyper. Sure, it's repetitive and has a lot of sing-yelling, but it works. "I Love It" comes on the radio, and suddenly, zero craps are given.

"Out of Sight" - The Bloody Beetroots ft. Paul McCartney and Youth
If you haven't seen the Bloody Beetroots before, you're probably looking at this YouTube thingy wondering "Is this Spiderman? Why is Paul McCartney hanging out with Spiderman?" This song is just as different as you may expect, combining elements of rock with modern pop with grungy vocals, bluesy piano, and a cool synth line with prominent drums. Sound like a clustersnub? Well, there's also a children's choir contributing, which may be one of the song's best elements. I took only a short time to grow on me after seeing this video on VH1. Really, what's not to like?

"My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'em Up)" - Fall Out Boy
I didn't realize how much I missed Fall Out Boy's music until they came back with "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'em Up)," which found a spot on both rock radio and pop radio in typical Fall Out Boy fashion. The sound has more electronic elements than I'm used to hearing from Fall Out Boy, but the change certainly doesn't make the band unrecognizable.


"Get Lucky" - Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams
If you would've told me that this song would be on my best-of countdown when it first came out, I would've called you an idiot. I saw absolutely nothing special about "Get Lucky," just like I never saw anything special about Daft Punk's earlier work (other than their intriguing image). I didn't understand the hype at all. But one day, it just clicked, and now I think of it as one of the catchiest songs of the year - especially that awesome middle eight.

"Do What U Want" - Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly
"Do What U Want" pop song that went in an atypical direction. For one thing, the driving instrumental reminds me quite a bit of Depeche Mode, and I love it. While it may lyrically seem like a regular sexed-up pop song at times, most Gaga fans would know that Gaga is actually taking a swing at the haters writing negative things about her. At least she got a good collaboration with R. Kelly out of her irritation. Haters gonna hate... But maybe not after hearing this song.

"Adrenalize" - In This Moment
In This Moment has been putting out heavy albums since 2007, but they've just now been getting the recognition they deserve. "Adrenalize" was always bound to catch the attention of American metal fans, but the general badass intensity of it is what sets it apart along with Maria Brink's edgy and unique vocals. This single was made to get people pumped.

I put up the official lyric video because I simply do not like the direction of this band's music videos in this era of their last album, Blood.

"Trying to be Cool" - Phoenix
I must say, I feel pretty cool when I hear this single. It definitely helped theme my summer with its chilled-out alternative feel. For whatever reason, "Trying to be Cool" brings back a wave of nostalgia. I listen to this, and I am somehow transported to about 2007.


"There Goes Our Love Again" - White Lies
So incredibly infectious! "There Goes Our Love Again" gets stuck in my head and makes me want to burst into song and dance (like the girl in the cute music video). I'm just so happy when I listen to it! I've gushed over White Lies quite a bit in a couple of reviews, the most recent being the review of their album Big TV, which featured this particular single. These guys just know how to make really good music, and "There Goes Our Love Again" is exemplary. Anybody could like this song.


"Venus" - Lady Gaga
Gaga has always been a smidge spacey, but now we get to love her spaciness in a more literal way with "Venus." I know I mentioned feeling a Depeche Mode vibe from the instrumentation of "Do What U Want," but I can feel it a little bit here too. If I'm comparing Lady Gaga to Depeche Mode, I think we can all agree that she's doing something right. "Venus" is a fantastic explosion of electronic music with a killer chorus... OMG THE CHORUS.

"Come a Little Closer" - Cage the Elephant
"Come a Little Closer" is one of the last singles I heard this year that I really loved. While I've heard Cage the Elephant before, it must not have been too memorable in my opinion because I was very surprised that they made this song. It has such a throwback feel, and it's kind of deep in its own way. Very relaxing and cool. So, "Come a Little Closer" is definitely a favorite of mine.

"And the World was Gone" - Snow Ghosts
I heard this song on a Teen Wolf episode last summer and fell in love. "And the World was Gone" is beautiful and eerie; that guitar line is bound to leave a lasting impression along with the hovering, soothing vocals. In a way, "And the World Was Gone" is the opposite of "There Goes Our Love Again." While White Lies captured the essence of a great summer day, Snow Ghosts depicted a haunting summer night, even with a bit of thunder at the end.

"Youth" - Daughter
"Youth" is a melancholy indie song, just the way I like them. It isn't too drawn out as some indie music can be, so if that's a turn-off for someone, I don't think this would be a problem. The music has spots that pick up in a great blend of guitar and piano that makes me think of travel in some way, shape, or form. I absolutely love this song.

It totally didn't take me five months to figure out there was a music video for this song. That didn't happen at all.

"Paradise (What About Us?)" - Within Temptation ft. Tarja
It's no secret that Within Temptation is one of my top two favorite bands (along with Evanescence), and "Paradise (What About Us?)" is a pretty decent demonstration of why I rank them so highly. Normally, singles aren't really my favorite songs, but this collaboration with former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen is amazing. The string line creates a sense of urgency throughout the song as Within Temptation's lead singer Sharon den Adel merge in one of the coolest duets ever. Even the video is a masterpiece. If this is how good their singles are going to sound like, I can't even begin to imagine what the rest of their upcoming album, Hydra, will be like.

If I were to post every non-single of 2013 I loved, we'd be here for another full year watching YouTube videos. I tend to love non-singles way more than singles; there's no way I'd be able to choose. But, there's another song that I absolutely fell in love with that isn't a single and I really feel the need to share it. This is a beautiful, perfect song from the Catching Fire film score: "Arena Crumbles" by James Newton Howard. (This was a breathtaking scene as well, perhaps one of my favorite scenes of all time.)

Hopefully you found something likeable from this list. These songs helped define my year in many ways; I really love them all... But now that the year is said and done and I look back through this list, I must say that I'm quite partial to "Paradise (What About Us?)" and "Arena Crumbles."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Show: A Potential Cure for Holiday Music Haters

There are a lot of people out there that hate Christmas music, and I've never been able to agree with them. But, as I grow older and wiser, I think I'm starting to get it. You see, there are two types of Christmas music out there: The awesome stuff and the Wal-mart/radio stuff. I really feel as though many people just aren't hearing the right Christmas music and are just going off of the typical Holiday Wal-mart scene.
Allow me to paint a mental picture to demonstrate: You're in Wal-mart. It's December. You've got a lot of stuff to buy and you want to "get your shit and get out," which is the style recommended by Jeff Dunham's dummy, Walter. You've got to buy groceries. You have to buy some wrapping paper and some holiday décor. You have to buy presents. The people at Wal-mart are insane. This lady thinks she owns the lane and won't get out of your way. Amid this chaos, all you're hearing is a man on a loudspeaker half singing, half yawning, "IIII'M DREAMIIIIIIIING OF A WHIIIIIIIIIIIITE CHRISTMAAAAAAS."
So there's a lot of bad Christmas music out there, and unfortunately, we have the displeasure of hearing it quite a bit when the holiday season comes around. But, Holiday Music Haters, there's a lot of amazing Christmas music out there. Thankfully, I've been engulfed by the lovely music of Vince Guaraldi, Manheim Steamroller, and perhaps the most popular: Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's musical style functions in a similar manner of symphonic metal bands since they religiously combine heavy rock with classical music, but anybody can appreciate their modern twists on Christmas classics - especially live.

I guess I'm kind of an expert on their annual Christmas tour... I've seen them four times. For the first three times, I saw their show Christmas Eve and Other Stories (named after their very first album), but last time I saw The Lost Christmas Eve (their last full-length Christmas album). Keep in mind that they don't just play songs from the particular album's show, but the first half will primarily consist of those tracks as their fantastic narrator recites the story seen in the album booklet. (Each album has a story... Pretty cool, huh?) Let it be known that the narrator has a huge booming voice, so I imagine that could potentially irk some audience members. The same can go for their vocalists. They have strong voices, and they're really, really bold. They may not appeal to everybody.

Out of the different shows I've seen, I'm not really sure which show I like best; they're both so good, and even if you see the same show a few years in a row, you still get something different in the setlist. I'm a bit partial to the music of Christmas Eve and Other Stories simply because it's so nostalgic to me, but I was a smidge happy to know that performing The Lost Christmas Eve would equate to the "Old City Bar" segment being omitted from the show. (It vocally wasn't pleasing to the ears.)

But after this first story part, we face a small intermission in which we're introduced to the whole band, which is always fun. The second half of the show is more miscellaneous in terms of musical choices, even including music from non-Christmas albums such as Beethoven's Last Night and Night Castle. Throughout both halves, the light show is absolutely spectacular. Not just light as in artificial lighting, but a good amount of pyro as well. Your eyes will be just as happy as your ears, and it just gets better and better every year. Last year, when I saw The Lost Christmas Eve show, improvement was evident right off the bat. A big pendulum was swinging from one side of the stage to the other. It was on fire. The freaking pendulum was ON FIRE. How awesome is that? Plus, all the lights were going in circular motions last year, which created a hectic, almost dizzying effect. I loved it.

Plus, the group just performs well. It doesn't matter where your seats are; with all the crazy lights, you're bound to get a good show from just about any angle. However, I personally like being on the floor just so I can get more of a connection with the energetic band members. It's not like I can get much enthusiasm out of other audience members; the crowd varies greatly in age. Someone's grandpa won't be out of his seat fist-pumping like people in my generation, and I get that. But... I just get really hyper at concerts. Everyone sits down for the most part (except when the band asks the floor to stand up on occasion), and I'm practically dancing in my seat the whole time.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is pretty awesome off stage as well. They donate a portion of money from each concert ticket sold to local charities, and they usually tell the audience how much money is going to which charity before the show starts. They all seem like really down-to-Earth, Christmas-loving, music-loving people that appreciate the good things in life like snow and headbanging. (Hehe!)

Anyway, the point is that they put on a great show. Even those who aren't into Christmas music will be able to appreciate something out of all they do. I've seen them four years in a row for a reason; now its time for you to give them a try.