Sunday, August 31, 2014

Aftermath | Amy Lee

Evanescence vocalist Amy Lee has released a few solo covers over the years, including "Sally's Song" from the album Nightmare Revisited (a collection of covers of the music from The Nightmare Before Christmas) and "Halfway Down the Stairs" from Muppets: The Green Album. (Yes. Muppets.) Until now, we never had any other solo songs aside from those two. Now that Lee is free of a record label, she can basically do whatever she wants, and in this case, she decided to release her first solo album, Aftermath
Aftermath is not an Evanescence record in any sense; it contains music from and inspired by a film she recently scored with Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer, War Story. (Needless to say, if you haven't been keeping up with interviews of Lee over the course of the year, you've got a lot to catch up on.) Hence, Aftermath doesn't have a lot of Amy Lee's signature, strong vocals and instead has a lot of mood-setting instrumental tracks. Please be aware that this isn't a rock album; it's pieces of a cello and piano-oriented score with some electronic moments here and there. I couldn't have been happier to buy this album; I absolutely love music like this and wanted to see what Lee could do with music like this. As I expected, she definitely works well with this genre.
The first track is probably the one most likely to shock people that are unaware of Amy Lee's many electronic influences, but alas, she wrote a pop/electronic song! "Push the Button," which is used in a sex scene in War Story, definitely has sex appeal with its poetic lyrics and all the ethereal vocalizing. It's the album's fun song, and it's the only one on Aftermath that doesn't feature Dave Eggar or a guest vocalist. Later in the album, "Can't Stop What's Coming" also has more of an electronic vibe, not nearly in the same way as "Push the Button." "Can't Stop What's Coming" isn't as much of a proper song as it is a piece in the score, for even though Lee is singing in it, the structure is very different. It's softer, like trip-hop, and even though I don't oppose the style of the song, "Can't Stop What's Coming" is definitely my least favorite as it's a little too subtle for me to willingly listen to apart from listening to a score straight through.

There's still a couple more songs that including singing, but only one of them has Lee's voice. "Dark Water" features the vocalist Malika Zarra, and it has an exotic feel that isn't found anywhere else on the album. Lee sings on "Lockdown," which has the best chance of appealing to anyone who loves Evanescence regardless if they enjoy listening to film scores. This song is the most typical in song structure, but it certainly isn't ordinary. It has electronic elements that remind me of the album Origin, Lee's voice is gorgeous and soft in the verses, but then that chorus... The first time we hear it, it's like slow motion. Her voice takes over and the (still quite interesting) instrumentation dies down a bit. In the rest of the choruses, however, we even get to hear some electric guitars and prominent drums. It's a great song, and it's definitely a highlight from the album that everyone should check out.
But as I said before, this album has a lot of cello and piano-dominated instrumental tracks, and overall, they're what I love most about this album. "White Out" and "Remember to Breathe" are the first two of this style. While "White Out" seems to embody a state of wandering alone and gives us a subtle taste of what to expect throughout Aftermath, "Remember to Breathe" is stagnant, desolate. The way it describes emotion will tug on heart strings, for it doesn't try to be beautiful as much as it simply is in its emotional state. It reminds me a bit of the darker, quitter moments of Dario Marinelli's 2011 Jane Eyre score.
"Between Worlds" is an incredible cello piece; it's one of my favorites, without a doubt, and so "Voice in My Head." These songs are the two teasers that Lee showed us on her YouTube channel in the weeks before the album was released, and they're two of the three longest instrumental pieces. They do more than describe the feel of scenes; they show off a little more. "Voice in My Head" is primarily piano-led, but the cello intermingles and becomes more prominent about halfway through.

The other instrumental tracks include "Drifter," is a very subtle piece and overall doesn't do as much for me as the other instrumental tracks. "After" closes the album, and it's a lot like "Remember to Breathe." I'm sure it's a fantastic way to close a film (although I haven't seen War Story and cannot confirm if this is the last song or not, but I hope it is). There's such an ache, but also such resolution... I wasn't the craziest about it on the first listen, but then the beauty of it really set in.
And that's Aftermath. Oftentimes subtle but always full of passion in a dark haze... This album makes me want to write. It makes me want to sit and contemplate. Amy Lee, Dave Eggar, and Chuck Palmer have all done a wonderful job. Granted, there were a few songs that I didn't fall head over heels in love with, but Aftermath is undeniably a quality album. Considering that Amy Lee touched it, I'm not surprised; I expected nothing less, and I can't wait to hear what else she may have in store for us later on whether its film scores, Evanescence, or solo material in general.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shades of Earth | by: Beth Revis

WARNING: As this is the final book of a trilogy, this review will inevitably contain spoilers for those who have not read the previous two books, Across the Universe and A Million Suns.
Ever since Amy has been awakened early, chaos has rippled through Godspeed, leaving her and Elder to make groundbreaking decisions and discoveries. But now the time has finally come to land on a new planet, no matter what new struggles may await them. And there will be struggles; they know that much already. What they'll have to face will be utterly alien to them, even to Amy, who has known what it's like to live outside of a spaceship. In a time that requires good leadership and a strong will to survive, there's already a lot to deal with, but they also are unsure of who they can trust.
It's certainly no secret that I have adored the first two books in Beth Revis' Across the Universe trilogy, and I already knew ahead of time that Shades of Earth was going to be really different from the first two books based on the new setting alone. I must admit, even though I was excited to read the story's continuation in a new setting, I was also a bit nervous that I wouldn't enjoy it as much. However, this change turned out to be fantastic. I love reading about Centauri-Earth. I suppose that before I began reading this installment, I thought that there'd be less mystery on Centauri-Earth, but c'mon... It's Beth Revis - why would I ever expect that? There's plenty of mystery! As with the first two books of the trilogy, just when you think you understand the situation at hand, Revis throws a couple curveballs. This is unquestionably one of the best aspects of these books.
Furthermore, everything about the plot is just so cool! I'm about to jump up and down in a fangirling craze as I type. I loved the new species; the new revelations concerning the past, present, and future; the new characters. The FRX isn't what I expected at all, and to an extent, neither is Centauri-Earth. I'm almost always proven wrong (I did guess one major thing right this time though) and that makes it more fun. 
But as far as the characters are concerned, Amy and Elder have had so much on their plates for the past couple of books, and all of that seems to climax in Shades of Earth. They're pushed to their limits. Elder cares so much for his people yet he is still underestimated by those who don't know the whole truth of what he's been through, and all of the bad things that happen to Amy make her a stronger person. There are definitely more sad moments in this final installment, but even more hope. There are still softer moments here and there; just because there are more dreary moments doesn't make it a dreary book in any sense. There's no questioning when it comes to Amy and Elder's relationship, and even though it's more out in the open than ever, this is still far from a romance novel. Shades of Earth is full of action, as per usual with this trilogy. I couldn't put it down.
Needless to say, I loved this book. I loved all three books, and hence, Beth Revis' Across the Universe trilogy is one of my favorites EVER, and I definitely recommend it to science fiction fans. I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

I know it's been a little dead around here lately (which is so sad because this year I've actually been able to post on a regular basis without awkward breaks until now), but alas, I've compiled a Top Ten Tuesday list for today! Top Ten Tuesday is a cool book-related meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week bloggers are talking about book uncertainties, and I'll bluntly admit that I have quite a few of them. In a world of so many books, it's easy to become indecisive. But these books have always been a subject of debate... In fact, most of these have been for a matter of years.
Top Ten Book I'm Not Sure I Want to Read
The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare
I have been trying to decide whether or not I should read this trilogy for a while. I haven't read the Mortal Instruments series (okay, okay, I read one chapter of City of Bones but stopped reading because I became preoccupied with other books), but I just think The Infernal Devices looks better. From what I've heard, it's possible for one to read this prequel trilogy without having read The Mortal Instruments, so really... Why not?
 Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
 Zombies are not my favorite subject. I don't watch The Walking Dead and haven't read any zombie books other than Carrie Ryan's wonderful Forest of Hands and Teeth series simply because I don't care much about zombies... But Warm Bodies has always sounded interesting to me. I've never really heard of a zombie love story before and I think this book could have some really cool themes incorporated.
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
 This book sounds really good. A girl writes letters to celebrities who have passed away
 as a way of helping her cope with her own life - that's deep. It reminds me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in some ways. So what's the problem? What's making me unsure if I should prioritize this book highly? Well, it sounds like it's going to make me cry. And I don't want to cry. And I'm just afraid it won't live up to the hype.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
 To be honest, I have absolutely no idea why I wanted to read this. None. I was just thinking one day that I think I'll skip this one but then I saw I marked it as "to-read" in my Goodreads. I think I read a really promising review of it at one point that convinced me to give it a shot, but I can't really remember why I was ever attracted to it despite hearing great things about it. Feel free to give me a run-down of why its good if you want.
Gravity by Melissa West
I think we all know what drew me to this one initially: The beautiful cover! But the sci-fi storyline is just as cool. I've just been trying to gauge how highly I should prioritize this one, or if it sounds unique enough to prioritize it at all. The descriptions I've read have been pretty vague. But on the plus side, the heroine sounds like she'll be strong and badass, so that in itself gives Gravity some brownie points.
Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I love werewolves. Always have, always will, and even though I like vampires, I tend to prefer werewolf stories. However, that all depends on the depiction of the werewolves, the backstories, the general execution of werewolf lore. So one question separates me from this book: Is this one worth it?
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
 I read Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy a while back, and while I liked it, it just wasn't one of my favorites and didn't seem to strike me as much as it did with other readers. But The Raven Boys sounds like it could potentially be better than The Wolves of Mercy Falls, or about the same. I can't decide what I should do.
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
 I've wanted to read this ever since it came out. Texas Gothic just sounds like fun, but fun doesn't always equate to good. It's about witches and ghosts, so naturally, I'm attracted to that aspect. However, I'm weary of ghost stories and stories about mediums at times because a lot of stories like that tend to blend together and do a lot of the same things, and from what I've heard about the second book in this series, Spirit and Dust, the concentration of the medium/ghost aspects increases. Did you guys like this one? Does the storyline stand out?
Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox
 I really REALLY wanted to read this right when it came out... But then the Italian courts decided that they still think Amanda committed a crime and even though she hasn't gone back to Italy or anything, it feels like her story isn't over, and the subject just makes me angry since this ordeal is STILL GOING ON. I imagine I'll read it once this all finally comes to an absolute conclusion because then there won't be a current situation for me to be angry about.
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
 This book has always seemed really intriguing even aside from the gorgeous cover, but as I mentioned in another Top Ten Tuesday list, I've heard that there are a lot of Shakespeare references and that makes me somewhat weary because even though I've read some Shakespeare, I wouldn't call myself an expert. It sounds unique enough, but I've always been debating how to prioritize this book on my TBR and it somehow never ends up being highly prioritized. Do you guys recommend it?

Honestly, now that I've made this list, I think I've reminded myself of what drew me to a few of these books and I think I officially want to read some of them! If there are any books on this list you'd like to recommend or if there are any that you think I should skip, let me know. Put a link to your list in the comments and I'll come visit! Have a great day!