Friday, June 17, 2016

Hiatus / The End?

It's been quiet around here lately, and for the first time, on purpose. I guess I didn't want to say anything just in case I've changed my mind, but I'm taking a break from blogging. I don't know how long this is going to last - I'd like to think that it won't be forever, and that maybe once in a while I'll feel the need to post something amidst the hiatus (I'm looking at you, promised Epica masterpiece The Holographic Principle), but I really don't know.

I'm not a journalist - that much should be pretty obvious by now. This blog has been dedicated primarily to fangirling, and I've been okay with that. I still am. But the thing is, reviews take time, as does writing anything... and I don't have time.

I promised myself at the beginning of my summer break to do what's most important to me, especially since I'm working more than I have previously and have less free time. I have three goals for this summer, in no particular order:

1. Tackle the TBR, because my book buying has gotten out of control, and read whatever the hell I want when I want

2. Write more stories

3. Sell the book I've already written to a publisher

I know I don't talk about my life outside of fangirling much on here, but the truth is I'm more of a creative writer. That's my call, and finally, it feels like everything's falling into place.

As always, thanks for reading. Maybe I'll be back someday, even if it's not for very long, but for now, all I'm really using Blogger for is to read the blogs I follow.

In the meantime, take care, read everything you can, and do yourself a favor and listen to some metal now and then.

'Til we meet again. ♥

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sovran | Draconian

My experience with metal mostly lies in the symphonic realm, and I tend to just dabble in other metal subgenres. Hence, I haven't listened to much doom metal just yet. I've always known I must be bound to enjoy it since I love some of the doom influences in Tristania's older work, and I whole-heartedly adore Within Temptation's debut album Enter, which has often been thrown into the doom category. (In fact, Enter is what introduced me to grunts/growls in general, let alone "beauty and the beast" vocal contrasts.) Since Draconian is a female-fronted band that has appealed to symphonic fans, I heard a great deal about the release of their latest album Sovran, and I was intrigued. Doom metal with beauty and the beast vocal contrasts? Dark and complicated songs? A singer that sounds like Sharon den Adel? - Wait a minute, that's impossible: Only Sharon can sound like Sharon, right?

But, alas, I gave one of Sovran's singles a try and that led me to buying the album... Good Lord am I impressed - and I've been pretty nitpicky lately. Sovran is a masterpiece.

Let me give you the highlights of this musical discovery as it awaits your full attention. The first few times I heard the lead single single "Rivers Between Us," which features vocalist Daniel Änghede (Crippled Black Phoenix), I wasn't too impressed. I appreciated the band's overall sound but struggled to hear what was special about this collaboration at times, but it's grown on me quite a bit since those first few listens. The single (and gorgeous music video) that really grabbed my attention was "Stellar Tombs," with its wonderful chord progression in the chorus and intriguing lyrics. The final line, in which Heike is only accompanied by piano, always leaves me feeling a stange combination of hope and melancholy.

Since Sovran is my first and only Draconian experience, I cannot copmpare Heike to the band's previous singer. Heike Langhans does indeed sound similar to Sharon den Adel - apparently it's possible after all. When I heard the first track "Heavy Lies the Crown," as Heike sings "A haunted, starless sky, / Fragile and oh so deep / The dying softly wakes / And smiles in painless peace" I actually had to remind myself that I wasn't listening to Sharon. Her voice is so peaceful and light, but also haunting - a combination that usually only Sharon is the master of. Anders Jacobsson does all of the grunts/growls, and Heike's voice meshes so wonderfully with his deep voice. (Personally, I like hearing growls that are deeper than the higher-pitched scream/growl hybrid that some bands occasionally work into their music... Am I the only one who has this off-the-wall preference?) Perhpas the best example of their blend is about three quarters the way through "The Wretched Tide" (which has some of the most interesting riffs from Sovran), at the lines "So we're leaving today / As dust-ridden shutters close..." The section Heike sings that goes "Tired and cold / A tale since eons of old / So elusive this intemperance of escape..." is pure perfection - not only for her voice, the steady soaring top notes in the band's wonderful chaos, but the vocal line in general is genial.

Another highlight is "Pale Tortured Blue," my personal favorite. It's kind of ballad-like, for between the emotion in Heike's voice, the A+ chord progressions, and the somber violin section, it feels sadder than the other songs. The guitars at the end give me chills every time. I found a similar appeal in the middle eight of "Dishearten," and Jacobsson growls "we're too tired to sleep / and these bodies confound..." but towards the end, "Dishearten" ends up having one of the fastest tempos found on Sovran, and once again, Heike's voice steadily soars as the band jams on.

In truth, there isn't a single bad or boring song on this album. There isn't a bad lyric, either - all are so well-written, poetic, and thought-provoking. And structurally, each one is compelling and complex with chord progressions that are at once hair-raising and heart-melting. Even my least favorite, the album-closer "The Marraige of Attaris," has some seriously strong points in its solemn middle eight and its haunting ending: "So tired, so tired... / I need to feel the freezing blue / Leave me here! / Let the coming of spring / Carry me back to earth. / Leave me here!" After discovering the beauty of "Stellar Tombs" earlier this year, I knew this band was capable of making great music, but I never predicted loving Sovran this much. My mind is blown and my weave has been snatched.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Favorite Music Videos: Part 2

Click here for Part 1, which also serves as a little introduction to this series and gives y'all a heads up on what kind of videos I like best.


"Stellar Tombs" - Draconian 
"Stellar Tombs" is still a pretty fresh single as this video was only released at the end of last January. This song, this video, can only be described as an epic. Everything about it. And it's so open-ended, so while I think I understand it, it's all a matter of interpretation. Creation imagery (the science kind), hunting imagery, and war imagery are all utilized respectively in the beginning, middle, and end, signifying a tumultuous or abrupt beginning, a search, and perhaps a final battle. Lead vocalist Heike Langhans is the one being searched for/hunted, that much is obvious, and altogether this video seems to represent a problematic relationship... Maybe even a problematic search for truth as well, or an example of natural selection - who knows? One day I might write a big post analyzing all this and put my literary theory skills to use. But the imagery is just gorgeous - if you skip everything else because this isn't your genre, look at 3:47. And that ending, when Heike runs away, breaks free... Gives me chills and damn near makes me cry every time. This video means so much to me personally, AND it's well-executed. Glorious.

"Oblivion" - Grimes
Grimes' single "Oblivion" is delightful, strange, and once one understands the overall meaning, a haunting testimony of what it's like to live in fear after surviving assault, as Grimes mentioned in an interview with Spin. Yet, the music itself almost sounds... happyish despite being kind of dark? So, naturally, the video would end up being something totally different from anything we typically encounter, and it actually looks like it was really fun to make. Grimes dances around and sings in a lot of stereotypical 'masculine' settings (a football game, some sort of dirtbike thing I don't understand) and plays on some of the sexist imagery we see on TV. Instead of a guy being in a locker room with a bunch of half-naked girls (ahem, I'm looking at you, cologne and men's hygiene advertisers), Grimes (fully-clothed) is hanging out with some half-naked guys. They even have a pillow fight. While Grimes could have made a video that deals more directly with women being sexually assaulted, she flipped the masculine hegemony upside down to make us pay more attention.

"Lithium" - Evanescence
Evanescence has made quite a few gorgeous music videos over the years, but none as beautiful as "Lithium," which is also one of their most gorgeous and emotional songs - and considering how many tear-jerking ballads Evanescence has, that's saying something. The band plays in a pretty snowy location (although sometimes petal-sized pieces of black soot falls on them, contrasting with the world of whiteness) as Amy wanders around forests and swims in chilly waters. She needs to 'let go' of past sadness and leave baggage behind; a relatable theme packed in an accessible metaphor.

"The Sound of Silence" - Disturbed 
Disturbed really impressed fans and non-fans alike with their perfect (yes, I dare use that word) cover of the Simon and Garfunkle classic "The Sound of Silence." (If I found this on time last year it would've been somewhere in the top five of my singles countdown.) This video had so much potential for cheesiness (and anyone who's seen Disturbed's video for "The Vengeful One" knows that a cheesy Disturbed video is not impossible), but I think this was handled very well. Some people write music, some people play music. But they have to meet one another and be willing to work together in order to make music happen... A nice metaphor for the lyrics. The people we need to hear are often unheard. "The Sound of Silence" is a truly epic cover that is well-represented in video form.

"The Mute" - Radical Face
Radical Face proves time and time again that you don't need to have loads of money/funding to make great music, and "The Mute" proves that you also don't need to have an enormous budget to make a music video. He made it with the help of friends and family, and frankly, it's better than most videos. A child who doesn't speak with words and dresses unusually finds refuge in the world of imagination... But that world might be more real than everyone else believed. It's a wonderful concept and the simplicity of the video matches this indie song perfectly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Blogging for SIX Years and Ramblings About Music, TV, and Miss Peregrine

This blog turned six years old today... I feel really old. I say that every year, but seriously: Time goes by so damn quickly!

Sorry the posts have been coming really slowly lately - I'm afraid it might take a little while before things really pick up again. University + an assortment of major personal problems = no time for bloggie. I haven't given up though, and I'm still always thinking about stuff I could post, but those ideas are stored for a less hectic day.

After all, so many exciting things are happening. In the indie music world, we got new albums from Daughter and Radical Face (I've only listened to portions so far), and later on we'll be getting new metal albums from Lacuna Coil and Epica - I'm really excited about those. The new Lacuna Coil album is going to be called Delirium, and I have a feeling it'll resonate with me considering the craziness of my life this year and the hints the band has given about the overall direction and concept.

In terms of television, the only show I have been able to keep up with, Mob Wives, came to an end. Everyone's favorite star from the show, Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, passed away after battling cancer, and that broke my heart. She was so sweet and full of energy - I cried when I heard the news.

Now I somehow got sucked into Family Therapy with Dr. Jen... how the hell did I jump onto the reality TV bandwagon?

Also... have y'all seen the trailer for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children? It seems like the rest of the Internet is pretty happy with it, so I imagine I might annoy some people, but... I'm not digging this at all. Like, nothing I enjoyed about the book in terms of feel/atmosphere looks like it'll be present. I think I might skip out on this one.

Well, that was nice catching up, but I'm going to do more homework now.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Anything But Typical | by: Nora Raleigh Baskin

Jason has autism. The world tends to overstimulate him and sometimes he can't control his movements. He doesn't say much, and that only seems to cause drama in a world that is constantly searching for a response. But that doesn't mean there's nothing in his head: Jason writes stories quite often, and he posts them to a website called Storyboard, where he meets a member named PhoenixBird. He thinks she might actually be his girlfriend... but in a world where even his mother struggles to understand him, how can he expect PhoenixBird to accept who he truly is? 

Anything But Typical is the second book I've read from someone on the autism spectrum's point of view (the first being Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, one of my favorite books of all time). Seeing the world through someone with this condition's perspective is of course intriguing and insightful, but simply as someone who enjoys writing and connecting with others through the Internet, I was immediately interested in this novel's premise. The idea itself is golden (as is this cover).

The execution? Not as much.

Don't get me wrong, Anything But Typical did not outright falter. I think Baskin did a pretty good job of showing readers what was going on in Jason's head as he interacts with the world and struggles to be the socially-superior person everyone wants him to be. I could feel his hopelessness and I often felt angry at how some of the adults around him would react - fictional adults who represent what happens all too often in real life. The teachers are not trained as well as they should be to work with him, his mother struggles to understand how her son can possibly feel anything when he is not very expressive, and his grandmother... Well, his grandmother doesn't understand much of anthing. I also thought it was good to see how Jason's stories reflect his views of himself in relation to the world around him, even if it does get borderline corny at some points.

However, the last quarter of the book just felt clunky, which is odd because I would have expected that issue to arise when Jason is flashing back to past times as the present story continues. But that element was done well enough. There is so much build up to the climax, but once we get there, it's a bit underwhelming and doesn't have a very good flow to it. Keep in mind I totally understand the need to have a 'realistic' ending that is not totally happy or totally miserable - I like that aspect of the book. (And really, that's what's accomplished in the book I mentioned earlier, Marcelo in the Real World.) But the pace was weird and one of the moments where he was daydreaming wasn't written in the clearest way.

Since I was so excited to read this book based on the premise, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in how this one turned out. Genius idea, rocky execution. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | by: Neil Gaiman

So, you might have heard of Neil Gaiman. Dude's done pretty well for himself as a writer; basically everyone has heard he's great. Unfortunately, I have not read any of his books since Coraline when I was twelve despite the fact that I really enjoyed it. But when I had to read a couple of his short stories for a class about two years ago and The Ocean at the End of the Lane was released, I became quite curious. I had a feeling that it would be a good book.

Even though this is technically an adult book with an adult-aged protagonist, as the narrator returns to the lane he grew up on, he relives memories from his childhood, and those memories take precedence in this small novel. He returns to his neighbors, the Hempstocks and their farm, where he experienced mind-boggling, near-death experiences with his friend Lettie, who protected him from the monsters of other dimensions as they entered the world as us ordinary people know it. Memories fade with time, and some are simply unreliable, but going back to the place where such beautiful and horrible things occurred makes it all come back to the narrator.

To be honest, in the first half of this book I was a little unsure of how I felt about it. Even though the writing impressed me right off the bat and the general uniqueness of the monsters intrigued me, I felt it might be a little too far in left field for me to truly love. After all, some of these monsters are hard to fathom. I mean... A canvas? Really? And Ursula is the kind of antagonist bound to make readers' skin crawl. She bugged me. But I rolled with it all and was determined to give it a fair chance. It all had to be leading up to something, but I couldn't quite tell what it could be. 

I think the last 25% of the book is when I realized that I was completely in love with it despite any initial thoughts, because it certainly did lead up to something, and my God was it beautiful. I wasn't expecting something that seemed so creepy and quirky to end up being so gorgeous. If these are the types of feeling all of Gaiman's work leaves people with, then I need to buy the rest of his books ASAP. I can't stop thinking about it. The Hempstocks are so intriguing, as are the revelations our narrator had as a child. Childhood is important to our understanding of the world, even if we can't make sense of what we see.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is full of imagination and beautiful passages that I just want to reread forever.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Wonder | by: R.J. Palacio

People have been raving about R.J. Palacio's contemporary novel Wonder for a few years now. Sometimes it's categorized as young adult, but sometimes it's categorized as middle grade since the main character is in the fifth grade. It's enjoyed across either age group, and I'm sure even beyond because Wonder is a bit of a wonder.

August (Auggie) has a face that's very different than everyone else's. He's had correctional surgeries to improve upon his genetic misfortunes, but he's still what many would call "deformed." Since he's had so many complicated health issues between surgeries for most of his life, he's been home schooled - until now. He knows that fifth grade will be a struggle looking so different than everyone else, that not everyone will treat him well. But fortunately, he's in for some pleasant surprises amid some periods of strife.

It would be easy to anticipate Wonder being a little depressing, but as I said with Francisco X. Stork's Marcelo in the Real World, it ends up being quite lighthearted and serious all at once - hence, any age group will love it. Several moments made me smile, but quite a few had me damn near crying in public as I read. 

I became quite attached to the characters and plowed through the pages quickly, no matter who was narrating. I actually didn't expect multiple narrators at first; I just assumed that Wonder would only be Auggie's story. But Palacio shows us how he affected other people as well, including his protective older sister, his sister's boyfriend, and his friends. There are multiple sides to every story, everyone feels something different, and all these feelings seem so real and valid. Palacio didn't really make any of them perfect or evil - rather, she showed how complicated situations can be. Even though he only gets one section, I really loved the way Justin's section was written. It seems to show that there's moe than what meets the eye: At a quick glance, Justin apparently doesn't understand punctuation, but the words themselves are gorgeous.

As for the other characters? Of course, our protagonist Auggie is quite loveable and easy to sympathize with as he discovers the large spectrum of humanity in his fifth grade year. Summer always put a smile on my face as she consistently decides to choose her friendship with Auggie over all pressures, and Olivia is always sticking up for Auggie - oftentimes in rather blunt ways, which I found touching. These characters really care about one another; they warmed my heart.

I suppose that's Wonder in a nuthsell: Heartwarming. Sure, some moments will put a smile on readers' faces, others will spark sympathy, but altogether, I found this book rather touching. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Songs I Wish Were Books

Time for Top Ten Tuesday, an awesome meme held at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, the music-lover portion of the book blogging community is in for a treat as this Tuesday is reserved for books and music!

Top Ten Songs I Wish Were Books

"World Princess Part II" - Grimes
This song is like a modern epic. It's my personal favorite from Grimes' latest album Art Angels. The whole thing sounds like a cute yet serious video game, so that aspect in itself would be interesting to see translated into words. But a large part of the reason I love this song is that it's so empowering - I want to see our kickass World Princess in action in story format. I want to be further inspired by her and further moved by her demise at the end of the song: "My eyes are feeling heavy, my feet are moving slow..."

"Mountains" - Radical Face
This song would be contemporary beauty. Well, let me rephrase: It would technically be historical beauty because all the songs on this album are part of Radical Face's Family Tree series of albums, and "Mountains" is from the first one, The Roots. This song sounds so perfect, and the lyrics are so moving: It's about a boy who's lost his mother and believes she is still watching him. It'd be a tear-jerker; it'd be delicate and gritty all at the same time.

"What the Water Gave Me" - Florence + the Machine
"What the Water Gave Me" sounds like a lazy summer day that progresses into something bigger and crazier. Once again, we might have a contemporary - or not, because for one thing, it references Virginia Woolf's death, and for another thing, Florence's connection is borderline mystical and fairylike. Maybe historical fiction about Virginia Woolf's death... plus mystical water stuff? Sounds like an A+ novel to me.

"Design Your Universe" - Epica
Now this one is EPIC. (And I honestly didn't even mean for that pun to happen.) "Design Your Universe" is a nine-minute symphonic metal masterpiece that reminds me of magic and battle scenes. Since the song itself is about quantum physics and how humans have more control over our world and universe than we realize, this could easily be a science fiction novel about the power of the human mind.

"Brooklyn Baby" - Lana Del Rey
This one would be a great summer-time contemporary with a sassy protagonist. I mean, look at these lyrics: "Yeah my boyfriend's pretty cool / But he's not as cool as me / 'Cause I'm a Brooklyn baby." I want to read about this hipster and her boyfriend, and I want to be sucked into story that mimics the chill feel of this song.

"Army of Dolls" - Delain
"Army of Dolls" could go a couple different ways. This awesome symphonic metal track deals with body issues and the pressure women face to look perfect in a world that only glamorizes the thin: "Army of dolls stole your reflection / Army of dolls stole all your perfect imperfections." But, if someone really wanted to, this story could become very Twilight Zone-ish (and let's be real, some of the truest and most genius statements about beauty and perception have come from Twilight Zone episodes).

"Turn Loose the Mermaids" - Nightwish
To be honest, a lot of Nightwish songs could have made this list, but "Turn Loose the Mermaids" is easily one of my favorite Nightwish songs of all time because of its folky feel. More than any of the other tracks, I want to be stuck in a story-world that feels like this one. Nostalgia with a bit of fantasy? Yes, please.

"The Dance" - Within Temptation
The creepiest of creepy songs! A work of genius that lends itself so well to being a novel as it actually does tell a story in a more traditional way than most songs. This book would be about awakening the dead - it could be a bunch of them. And it would be from one dead person's point of view, of course, with lyrics like this: "I hear a laugh / It awoke my soul." The beauty and the beast vocal contrast can be epitomized in a beauty and the beast-type story. Good God, it would be beautiful.

"The Cross" - Within Temptation
The story this song tells has always intrigued me, and while I cannot for the life of me find the source (as I read this shortly after the album "The Cross" comes from - The Heart of Everything - was released in 2007) I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that the song was written about conflicts with the band. I'm not necessarily sure if I'd like to see the exact story in a book, but I'm definitely interested in seeing this deep conflict show through in some story or another: "I'm still wondering why I'm still calling your name, my dear."

"Imaginary" - Evanescence
I realize that this song's premise isn't exactly one of those novelty ideas - drifting into a dreamworld to escape reality has been done in different forms before. But I want to experience this specific song in a specific book form. The overall feel is quite epic, and a writer could easily create a world of paper flowers and candy clouds that only really exists in the protagonist's head. Sounds like a good plan to me.

As always, let me know what you think of my selections if you know any of them and feel free to leave your Top Ten Tuesday link in the comments!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Winter | by: Marissa Meyer

*It's probably not a good idea to read this review if you have not read Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress just in case of spoilers.

The end of 2015 was both exciting and sad in the bookish world since Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series reached its conclusion. This action-packed science fiction spin on Sailor Moon and fairytales is easily one of my favorite series of all time; I adored and devoured each book, and I expected this new installation to have a similar effect. So, did Winter meet those high expectations?

HECK YES IT DID. Even though it's over 800 pages, I couldn't put Winter down! The plot reached an all-time enormity and complexity as Cinder and her allies attempt to dethrone the malicious Lunar Queen Levana. Everyone is putting their lives at risk as they sneak onto the Moon and tell Lunar citizens of their plan. It's full of some intense moments - even more intense than the previous books in the series!

And of course, these characters are perfect. The girls are so badass! They all feel so real, and they're so funny as they interact - some are basically polar opposites in some senses, so that always makes things interesting. In my reviews of the previous books of the series, I've fangirled over basically all of the characters as they were followed more closely, and I still love all of them. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Iko, Kai, Wolf, Thorne... and of course the ships are just so cute in their own unique ways! Where all the characters end up by the final pages could not have been more satisfying.

But even though Winter is the last book in the series, we get to spend time with some characters who weren't as prominent before. Now Princess Winter is on their revolutionary team, and her love interest Jacin takes on a more prominent role as he strives to protect her from both Queen Levana and herself. I love them just as much as the rest of the allies. Winter embodies the idea of Snow White being pure and innocent in both old forms (her connection to animals, her indisputable beauty) and new forms (she isn't white - her skin is actually quite dark - and she refuses to use her Lunar gift because she values the truth over her own health). I love that Marissa Meyer created a character whose flaws enhance her beauty: Winter may be crazy, but she's harmless and sweet, and she may have scars on her face, but not even scars could make such a lovely person less pretty. Even though Winter's mental health is suffering, she makes herself quite useful as a revolutionary. She's not weak.

One ongoing theme in this series is that it's not so much about beauty or lack thereof, it's about how you use what you've got, it's about the heart and its intentions, and Meyer really drives this point home in Winter. Overall, I think this conclusion is basically perfect. Everything is wrapped up quite nicely... It's difficult not to spoil anything, and I feel like I'm not saying much in this review, but honestly, what more can I say? It was fantastic. I had so much fun reading each and every Lunar Chronicles book, so even though Winter wraps things up nicely, I'm a little sad to say goodbye. Someday, I'll have to reread these lovely books.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Classics: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

When I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall at the end of 2014 it became quite clear to me that even though Anne Brontë is often the least-remembered of the well-known literary family, she's a wonderful writer with important things to say. Agnes Grey, the first of her two novels, left me with the same opinion. While it certainly provides a hefty dose of social commentary, Agnes Grey was not nearly as controversial as Tenant and is the least dark out of all the Brontë novels I've read (which is all of them except Charlotte's Shirley and The Professor). That is not to say, however, that this novel does not touch on any emotional turmoil - it does, but it's not as intense.

This book depicts what life was like for governesses in the Victorian era. They had troubles within their work, they were in an awkward place on the social pyramid, and let's not forget the financial circumstances that led them to such work. It wasn't the easiest of situations to endure; it would have been no fun at all and my bigass mouth would have been fired. Agnes' employers were idiots; my jaw actually dropped at some of the illogical statements they were spewing. However... I have to admit there were some funny moments to read about while they would have been nightmarish to live. Some of the children she had to work with made the novel feel like a Victorian-era Supernanny episode full of screaming and  unruliness, although there were some downright disturbing moments of animal cruelty that were certainly not amusing in any sense. It seems Anne was not only advocating to improve human circumstances - she also deeply cared for animals. I like how Agnes is able to accurately judge a man's character based on how he treats nonhumans, from birds to dogs.

As Agnes was trying to teach teenagers, she didn't have to deal with such unruliness, but she had to deal with other forms of BS nonetheless. I always say that the Brontë sisters are good at making me feel feelings, and I must say I felt Agnes' loneliness in these parts. I felt her love for Mr. Weston... Funny how a book written about a hundred and fifty years ago can depict a  heavy crush better than most contemporary work. Her relationship with Mr. Weston warmed my heart despite there only being brief moments with him.

In a way, Agnes Grey is the most Austen-like out of all the Brontë novels I've encountered as it is not so controversial and crazy, but of course, it is mixed with the wilder style of Brontë writing, so full of emotions and more critical statements made of society. In fact, I'd recommend this to anyone who is a beginner in the world of Victorian literature as the plot moves along more quickly than other books of this era, plus it's somewhat short.

Of course, Anne is more of a realist than any of the Brontë family members while her sisters romanticized their stories, but she is not without charms by any means. Her stories are enjoyable, no matter how large- or small-scale the plot. I love that she's always making a statement in both Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: In Agnes Grey, she makes a firm statement that never really caused drama, but in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall she scared the Victorians out of their wits. Her purposes for writing are clear, and her execution is always on-point, like that of her siblings. I read in the appendix that accompanies all of Anne's work (which was written by her older sister Charlotte after her death) that Anne was apparently profoundly affected by the wrongs she saw in her life, and hence she wrote about them. She dared to say things even Charlotte was afraid to say... for that alone, she will always have my respect.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Actors I Envisioned Playing Specific Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun bookish meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, bloggers were given the opportunity to choose our own topics, and I started thinking about the way I envision characters. Oftentimes the people in my head look like combinations of people I've seen to fit an author's description, but there have been some occasions where I envision specific actors playing characters in my head. I decided I'd list those this week.

Top Ten Actors I Envisioned Playing Specific Characters

Emma Watson as Lucy Snowe | Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Clare Brown as Cress | Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

Ian Somerhalder as Wolf | Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

Logan Lerman as Jacob | Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs

Adam DeVine as The Colonel | Looking for Alaska by John Green

Chelsea Brummet as Antoinetta | Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Nikki Reed as Catherine | Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Chloe Grace Mortez as Amy | Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis

Drew Fuller as Stark | House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Shane Brolly as Kalona | House of  Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

What do you think of these actor-character pairings? Do you tend to envision specific actors as characters as you read?

Feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fairest | by: Marissa Meyer

Between the third and fourth novels of the fairytale- and Sailor Moon-based Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer treated fans to a prequel about the series' villain, Queen Levana: Fairest. This short novel begins with the assassination of Levana's parents and shows the evolution of her character in the events following that particular episode. It provides a great deal of insight not only about Levana, but her family in general - especially her sister Channary. It even answers the question all Lunar Chronicles fans have been asking - what does Levana really look like under the glamour, under the veil?

I must admit that despite being a huge fan of the Lunar Chronicles series, I wasn't excited for Fairest. Why? Well, it seems like most villains' stories follow the same structure: The started out (mostly) normal, something bad happened that isn't entirely uncommon in the grand scheme of terrible things that can happen even in the real world, and they were so affected by what happened that they turn into a bit of a psychopath even if you can't quite understand their rationales.

I suppose I forgot for a hot minute that Marissa Meyer knows what she's doing and underestimated her ability to paint this character's picture. Fairest is actually really good and it breaks the pattern I mentioned before. If Levana's pattern of development could be labeled, it be something like this: She started out crazy as her whole family was batshit crazy to begin with, and in baby steps she just got crazier and crazier. Furthermore, the ONE THING that happened to her (I refuse to spoil) just does not generally happen to people. This girl's circumstances are just... Messed up. She's messed up. And her sister Channary? She is absolutely insane. I feel like I have a whole new understanding of this family after reading Fairest. Levana's deep attachment to Sybil is also explained.

This prequel also provides a bit of insight on exactly who Winter is and what her upbringing was like. It was fun to see cameo appearances of the heroes we've read about in the series as children. Winter, Jacin, and Cinder playing together - isn't that adorable? Well, until that thing that happens that we all know about from the first novel, Cinder. Plus, I really liked Evret and Solstice... The way that Levana treated Evret really enforced how Levana is such a psycho that she doesn't even realize it. From her perspective, she's not quite as manipulative as she actually is.

So, even though I originally thought that Levana's history wouldn't be as exiting to read about, I liked Fairest a lot. I plowed through this quick read in one day, curious to discover more about this villain's past and how it formed her future. Now that I know Levana's whole story, I am prepared for the series' monstrous 800-page conclusion, Winter... but I still don't want the Lunar Chronicles to end!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to My TBR

This is the first Top Ten Tuesday (hosted at The Broke and the Bookish) I'm participating in this year: Top Ten  Eight Books I've Recently Added to My TBR. For this one, I went into my Goodreads to-read list and picked out the recent ones I was most interested in. My TBR is always growing; I always have a nice big list to choose from when wondering what I should read next. However, I don't get to most of them, and if I do it might take a few years... so I didn't bother trying to make this recent TBR list ten items long. Instead, I picked the ones I've added that I'm most likely to actually read someday.

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
The Animal Gospels by Brian Barker
Memories by Lang Leav

 Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim

As always, feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday and let me know what you think of my selections!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Art Angels | Grimes

I love Grimes. Need I say more?

Yeah, I should probably say more. I fell in love with Grimes' dreamy electronic music just last summer (specifically her album Visions), and this fall she released her fourth album, Art Angels. This new piece of art is a departure from Grimes' older material in a number of ways. While the production of her previous albums did not bother me, Art Angels is so much cleaner. Claire Boucher (that's Grimes' real name) likes to make her albums by herself - not only the writing, but also the artwork, production... she just kind of does everything, and while that was always admirable, seeing her improve so much in only a few years is even more exciting. We can make direct comparisons with the fan-favorite song "REALiTi," which was released as a demo earlier last year and re-worked for Art Angels. I may still prefer listening to the demo simply because it's more mellow, while the new, crisp version has more energy in it. Still, the production quality has improved - that is indisputable.

In an article by Emilie Friedlander at The Fader, it was noted that Grimes performed all of the instruments - and she uses real ones in addition to synths now, and that has changed the flow a bit and allowed for more diversity among the tracks. There are actually a number of guitar-led songs on this album. The other big change we see on Art Angels... Well, the songs simply have a different feel than her earlier work. In that same Fader article I mentioned earlier, Grimes explained that much of her music sounded "sad," before but "this time it’s more happy and angry." That seems to sum up the change perfectly. In fact, there are some tracks that sound both happy and angry at the same time. I listen to her previous albums when I embrace weakness, but I listen to Art Angels when I want to be strong. Hence, while it's a little easier for me to appreciate the darker tones of Visions, Art Angels is a very special album to me. 

Grimes has made some really relaxing music all across her discography, and this album is no different. Songs like "California," "Belly of the Beat," "Easily," and "Butterfly" sound like a sunny, laid-back summer day. This certainly isn't sad Grimes - this is a carefree Grimes that uses guitars and a piano in addition to her synths to give us more of a raw feel (but less so with "Butterfly," which I feel will appeal to fans of "Genesis"). Carefree Grimes can still make some jabs at haters, but anyone who has heard the lead single "Flesh without Blood" would know that with lyrics like "After all, I just don't like you." Perhaps on the first listen it might sound happy and fluffy, but I think empowering is the better word. Hearing the line "If you don't need me, just let me go" is like a therapy session.

However, as Grimes promised, we get to feel the rage too - the angrier songs are the most energetic of her entire discography. The most aggressive track (and one of the most experimental) must be "SCREAM," which features the Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes. As I mentioned in my 2015 singles countdown, this song is CRAZY. Grimes screams her head off as Aristphanes makes growly noises... It's kind of scary, and the electric guitar instrumental sounds appropriate for an Underworld film. But the other two more energetic tracks, "Kill V. Maim" and "Venus Fly" (which features Janelle Monae), are more electronic-based and, well, not scary. Grimes is basically cheering in the pre-chorus and chorus of "Kill V. Maim," and I especially enjoy the spacey intro and outro of this one. However, the Janelle Monae collaboration, "Venus Fly," may win the trophy for the most energetic track of the bunch. The high-pitched electronic breakdowns are flawless and easy to jump around/dance crazily to. Janelle and Grimes are sassy and confrontational as all get out, and I love it.

My favorite track is different than much of the other songs - "World Princess Part II." I recommend every fan of Grimes' previous albums that might be hesitant to embrace her new material to start with this one. It has everything I love about both Visions and Art Angels. Instrumentally, it sounds almost like a video game - it's that perfect combination of darkness and lightheartedness that only Grimes can create. It's an epic of sorts. The accompanying lyrics are bound to make any listener feel powerful, especially as she repeatedly declares "It's mine." However, the outro seems to lead the World Princess' tale of strength to the end of her reign, recalling the feel of Grimes' older material. The music dwindles as Grimes'  haunting backing vocals come to the forefront: "I stare into the darkness / I don't know where I am / I haven't seen the daylight since I thought of giving in / My eyes are feeling heavy, my feet are moving slow..." The only other blatantly sad moment on this album comes in the form of "Life in the Vivid Dream," which quite memorable despite being only a minute and a  half long. This song is the most acoustic of Grimes' material and may be one of the easiest for fans of most genres to like, not only because it is simple, but because it's emotional and easy to relate to.

Out of all the albums released in 2015 that I listened to in full, Art Angels is probably my favorite. I love every song - even the ones that didn't originally stand out to me on the first listen would be put on repeat later. Art Angels is definitely the most 'normal' sounding album by Grimes and is more accessible to mainstream-loving listeners, but it's still experimental, it's still genuine... It's Grimes. It's brilliant.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hollow City | by: Ransom Riggs

*This review will likely contain spoilers for those who have not read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Hollow City is the second installment in Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children trilogy, which fuses strange vintage photographs into the reading experience. Jacob and his peculiar new friends are on an urgent and dangerous mission: They must find a way to help Miss Peregrine return to her human form, and quickly - but that isn't the easiest things to do in 1940s Britain. The Nazi army keeps dropping bombs as monstrous hollow and wights chase after the children. As they move along their journey, they have to make decisions concerning their ethical standards, and ultimately, what they are willing to fight for.

Despite the fact that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children really impressed me when I read it years ago as well as when I reread it earlier this year,  Hollow City wasn't as easy to appreciate. I read the beginning and ending rather quickly, but the middle took a while for a few different reasons. To be completely honest... I guess I just didn't expect this entire book to deal with trying to save Miss Peregrine. I guess I thought that would take one third of the book and then the plot would get bigger. So there's one issue. And I will freely admit that by the time I reached the halfway mark I was at an exciting time in my personal life that made this novel seem a little dull by comparison (and I think this is the first time in my whole life I can say this lovely phenomena has happened). But perhaps the most prevailing issue is that despite the singular plot goal, I just didn't feel like all the obstacles the children faced truly tied together. It felt less like plotting and more like 'let's put in obstacles to make the book longer' at times. Placing so many moments where Jacob reflects on how everything is so crazy compared to his old life also gave me this vibe.

However, I did not dislike the book overall - my feelings are generally mixed. It certainly had some good qualities. Once again I appreciated the use of old photographs to enhance the story and the fact that it takes place in the dark WWII-era Britain, and even though Jacob and Emma's romance was underplayed in many respects, I liked that Riggs kept it innocent and fluffy. Plus, I think all the abilities are really cool - especially the ones that Emma, Althea, and Olive have. Even aside from their peculiar abilities, some of the characters warm my heart... Olive is just the sweetest thing and I love how motherly Bronwyn is with her friends!

But what truly made me like this book better by the time I reached the end are the twists. A few things are either discovered or occur that I never saw coming - I gasped at a couple moments. And the cliffhanger! It was a bit of a frustrating place to leave us hanging, but I thing Riggs built a solid foundation for the trilogy's conclusion, Library of Souls, which just came out this year. I anticipate that it will be the most action-packed of the series if this is going where I think it's going.

Hollow City, in short, has some prominent good points and prominent not-so-good points. I wish I could have liked it as much as the first installment of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, but I'm hopeful for the next book, Library of Souls.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Complete List of Songs I Fell in Love With: 2015

Right before 2015 began, I decided to do something I'd never done before as a year-long project. Since I'm constantly searching for more music to love that fits my weird, eclectic taste, I decided to record each and every song I totally fell in love with in 2015 in the order that I became obsessed with them (not necessarily the order of discovery). I thought it would be fun to see how many songs I fall in love with on average in a year and how many different genres are included, but I also knew that when I looked at different sections of the list, I'd see different sections of the year, of my life. Additionally, I made myself a little survey to highlight the best of the best, which I listed before the list of 145 wonderful songs I became addicted to this year.

Nightwish and Grimes
(for those who have not discovered their respective works of genius)

*I cannot repeat any songs in these categories*
Best Artist: Grimes
Best Album: Visions by Grimes, Art Angels by Grimes
Best Song: “The Greatest Show on Earth” - Nightwish & “Genesis” - Grimes

Coincidentally, the two best songs I discovered out of all 145 happen to be the best representation of what I listen to. These two songs are completely opposite. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is a massive symphonic metal track - it's twenty-four minutes long, the instrumentation is enormous and bombastic, it's complicated. "Genesis," on the other hand is a four-minute electronic track that's more ballad-like than anything. While "The Greatest Show on Earth" is much darker and describes the gorgeous planet we live on, "Genesis" describes the lightness your heart experiences during perfect happiness. While Floor's voice has a darker tone, Grimes has a girly tone.

Best Symphonic Metal: “Shudder Before the Beautiful” – Nightwish
Best Metal (Non-Symphonic): “While We Sleep” – Insomnium
Best Classical or Film Score: “Mea Culpa” – After Forever
Best Rock: “Moaning Lisa Smile” – Wolf Alice
Best Indie: “Blue Pool” – Vanessa Carlton
Best Alternative: “What Kind of Man” – Florence and the Machine
Best Electronic: “Nightmusic” – Grimes
Best Trip-Hop: “Bullet Boy” – Massive Attack
Best Rap/Hip-Hop: “Bad Girls” – MIA
Best Pop: “Flesh Without Blood” – Grimes
Best Ballad: “My Sister Says the Saddest Things by Grimes
Best Throwback Discovery: “He Loves You Not” – Dream
Best Cover: “Skinny Love” – Birdy (originally performed by Bon Iver)
Best Song from an Artist I Don’t Usually Listen to: “Perfect Life” – Steven Wilson
Song That Depresses Me: “Only in Dreams” – Weezer
Song That Somehow Sounds Substantially Better When Played VERY LOUDLY: “Superstition” by The Birthday Massacre
Most Impressive Vocals: “In Remembrance” – Xandria

1. “Shake it Out” – Florence + the Machine
2. “Only If For a Night” – Florence + the Machine
3. “Big Eyes” – Lana Del Rey
4. “West Coast” – Lana Del Rey
5. “Brooklyn Baby” – Lana Del Rey
6. “Fair Game” – Sia
7. “Fire Meet Gasoline” – Sia
8. “Cellophane” – Sia
9. “Bones” – In This Moment
10. “Everytime” – Broods
11. “Andare” – Ludovico Einaudi
12. “Girl I Love You” – Massive Attack
13. “Amaranthine” – Amaranthe
14. “Black Lake” – Bjork
15. “Farewell to Dobby” – Alexandre Desplat
16. “Stardust” – Xandria
17. “Stonemilker” – Bjork
18. “Sagan” – Nightwish
19. “Arcadia” – Leah
20. “Zero Gravity” – Of Verona
21. “Outside” – Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding
22. “Élan” – Nightwish
23. “Buddy Holly” – Weezer
24. “Cruel World” – Lana Del Rey
25. “Pretty When You Cry” – Lana Del Rey
26. “Burning For You” – Shiny Toy Guns
27. “Shudder Before the Beautiful” – Nightwish
28. “Perfect Life” – Steven Wilson
29. “What Kind of Man” – Florence + the Machine
30. “Uma Thurman” – Fall Out Boy
31. “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula” – Nightwish
32. “The Greatest Show On Earth” – Nightwish
33. “Yours is An Empty Hope” – Nightwish
34. “Failure” – Breaking Benjamin
35. “My Walden” – Nightwish
36. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” – Nightwish
37. “Weak Fantasy” – Nightwish
38. “Mea Culpa” – After Forever
39. “Our Decades in the Sun” – Nightwish
40. “Alepenglow” – Nightwish
41. “Get the Devil Out of Me” – Delain
42. “Jenny” – Nothing More
43. “Army of Dolls” – Delain
44. “Mother Machine” – Delain
45. “Scarlet” – Delain
46. “Electricity” – Delain
47. “I Want You to Know” – Zedd ft. Selena Gomez
48. “American Beauty/American Psycho” – Fall Out Boy
49. “Black Beauty” – Lana Del Rey
50. “Moaning Lisa Smile” – Wolf Alice
51. “Here Come the Vultures” – Delain
52. “I’m a Disaster” – Wolf Alice
53. “American Oxygen” – Rhianna
54. “He Loves You Not” – Dream
55. “Supermodel” – Jill Sobule
56. “Tell Me, Mechanist” – Delain
57. “Tragedy of the Commons” – Delain ft. Alissa White-Gluz
58. “White Leather” – Wolf Alice
59. “Giant Peach” – Wolf Alice
60. “California Dreaming” – Sia
61. “Go Away” – Delain
62. “Nightmusic” – Grimes ft. Majical Cloudz
63. “Circumambient” – Grimes
64. “Go” – Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds
65. “Genesis” – Grimes
66. “REALiTi” – Grimes
67. “Oblivion” – Grimes
68. “Etude Op. 25 No. 12 (Ocean)” – Frederic Chopin
69. “Black Sun” – Death Cab For Cutie
70. “AM 180” – Grandaddy
71. “With(Out)” – Cheyenne Mize
72. “Dark” – Breaking Benjamin
73. “Save the World” – Leah
74. “Scorn” – Portishead
75. “Good for You” – Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky
76. “Leave Everything Behind” – Amaranthe
77. “1,000,000 Lightyears” – Amaranthe
78. “Various Storms and Saints” – Florence + the Machine
79. “Queen of Peace” – Florence + the Machine
80. “Which Witch” – Florence + the Machine
81. “Only in Dreams” – Weezer
82. “Silk” – Wolf Alice
83. “Enter the Highlands” – Leah
84. “Saturday Come Slow” – Massive Attack
85. “Renegades” – X Ambassadors
86. “Remnant” – Leah
87. “In Remembrance” – Xandria
88. “Unembraced” – Xandria
89. “Don’t Say a Word” – Xandria (Sonata Artica cover)
90. “Man Next Door” – Massive Attack
91. “Superstition” – The Birthday Massacre
92. “High by the Beach” – Lana Del Rey
93. “Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)” – Grimes ft. Doldrums
94. “Visiting Statue” – Grimes
95. “Be a Body (侘寂)” – Grimes
96. “Blue Pool” – Vanessa Carlton
97. “Jekyll and Hyde” – Five Finger Death Punch
98. “Bad Girls” – MIA
99. “Siúil a Rún (Acoustic)” – Leah (traditional Irish cover)
100. “Operator” – Vanessa Carlton
101. “Nothing Where Something Used to Be” – Vanessa Carlton
102. “Bullet Boy” – Massive Attack
103. “Danny the Dog” – Massive Attack
104. “Skin” – Grimes
105. “Theme from To Kill a Dead Man” – Portishead
106. “Origins” – Eluveitie
107. “Carousel” – Melanie Martinez
108. “God Knows I Tried” – Lana Del Rey
109. “Art Deco” – Lana Del Rey
110. “David” – Grimes
111. “Vowels = Time and Space” – Grimes
112. “My Sister Says the Saddest Things” – Grimes
113. “I Fail” – Scala and Kolacny Brothers
114. “Vanessa” – Grimes
115. “Hollow” – Breaking Benjamin
116. “All of the Stars” – Jackie Evancho (Ed Sheeran cover)
117. “Wings” – Birdy
118. “Doing the Right Thing” – Daughter
119. “Skinny Love” – Birdy (Bon Iver cover)
120. “Blinded by Hatred” – UnSun
121. “Flesh Without Blood” – Grimes
122. “Life in the Vivid Dream” – Grimes
123. “It’s a Fire” – Amy Lee (Portishead cover)
124. “Laughing and Not Being Normal” – Grimes
125. “Kill V. Maim” – Grimes
126. “Belly of the Beat” - Grimes
127. “Venus Fly” – Grimes ft. Janelle Monáe
128. “World Princess, Part II” – Grimes
129. “California” – Grimes
130. “Sparks” – Hilary Duff
131. “With or Without You” – Amy Lee (U2 cover)
132. “Talia’s Theme” – Two Steps from Hell
133. “Intro” – Ellie Goulding
134. “Soap” – Melanie Martinez
135. “Pin” – Grimes
136. “While We Sleep” – Insomnium
137. “Could’ve Been” – Two Steps from Hell
138. “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” – Amy Lee (Chris Isaak cover)
139. “Artangels” – Grimes
140. “Butterfly” – Grimes
141. “What the Water Gave Me” – Florence + the Machine
142. “Thriller” – Within Temptation (Michael Jackson cover, only performed live at Black Christmas concerts)
143. “There Are Worse Games to Play/Deep in the Meadow” – James Newton Howard ft. Jennifer Lawrence
144. “Science/Visions” – Chvrches
145. “Ship to Wreck” – Florence + the Machine

I hope 2015 brought you all a multitude of favorite songs as well. Cheers to 2016!