Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Discussions #3

*Pre-post disclaimer/apology: So, the books on this list are all books I read a while back. My intent with these was to get the post up ASAP but clearly, that didn't happen. Eventually, I just decided to go ahead and post it as-is. Not sure if I'm going to continue to do my written reviews this way. I might begin writing individual reviews instead. Anyway, enjoy the reviews!*

Hey, y'all! I'm back again for another Book Discussions post! In these posts, I do discussions for every single book I read. This was going to be just for stand-alones, but I realized that (even though I wish I could) I can't marathon every series that I read. So single books within series will be included within these as well. If I read 2+ books of a series back-to-back, they'll get their own posts. I plan on including 6-7 books per post, so new discussion posts will be up after every 6-7 books I read, give or take a few.  These discussions will be entirely spoiler-free and fairly short.

Also, I try to write these discussions within a day of finishing the book. so even if it's been a few months since I've read a book, the discussions were completed when the book was still fresh in my mind. So here we go!

Murder After Hours
(originally titled The Hollow)
by Agatha Christie

Read: January 4th, 2015

This is one of the books in Agatha Christie's Poirot series, a series centered around a brilliant detective named Hercule Poirot. In this book, a weekend in the country turns into the scene of the murder, and of course, Poirot is on the case.

I read somewhere that Agatha Christie said that her biggest mistake with this book was introducing Poirot into it. And I kinda agree. This had a very different feel for me than other Poirot novels. I almost didn't care about who committed the crime, which was very odd. Typically, with the Poirot novels, I don't really care too much about the characters except Poirot. However, that was exactly the opposite. Often, Poirot's presence or absence wasn't important, and I was more concerned with how the characters would end up once everything was said and done. And while I don't necessarily have a problem with this, it just all makes it not seem like a Poirot novel, which is what I set out to read. I chose to read this Poirot novel because it sounded like it would have a very Clue-esque vibe (dinner party at a mansion, person is murdered, everyone starts blaming everyone) and the book definitely didn't have that at all. Overall, it just didn't read like a Poirot novel, and that was its biggest problem for me.

Overall, I gave Murder After Hours 7 stars out of 10.

by Janine Carbone

Read: February 7th, 2015

*I received a free ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

I only had a couple complaints, so I'll talk about all of the positives before touching on those. First off, I really enjoyed the way that the flashbacks were mixed in with the main plot. I thought that it was really intriguing and it kept me guessing as to what had happened in Faith's past. I also really enjoyed Faith as a character. As a college student who spends most of my time in my apartment, there were several aspects of her personality that I really connected with.

I thought that the second half of the book was especially thrilling. I was constantly wondering what was about to happen or when something big would happen, and when crazy stuff did start happening, I couldn't put the book down. In fact, I found myself accidentally skipping entire lines because I was trying to read faster than my brain could actually comprehend, because I was just so curious about what was going to happen. That being said, however, I did think that there were a few predictable aspects. I figured out several things about the stalker long before they were revealed in the book

The only real problems that I had happened within the first 50 pages. I felt like there was a little too much telling vs. showing when it came to describing things. This ended up creating the only other real issue that I had with the book: the beginning of the romance. I thought that the beginning stages of the romance were very rushed. We see the very beginning and then jump forward in time twice in very quick succession. For me, this made the relationship seem slightly hard to believe at the beginning. Although it's made very clear that we have jumped forward a significant amount of time, it's hard to think of it as a serious relationship when they met ~20 pages earlier. I really wish that this portion of the romance was fleshed out a little bit more, because I think it would have added a little bit more to the book. I understand why this was a little rushed through, because all of the important events occur after this, but I think it could have been a little more fleshed out without ruining the pacing.

Overall, I thought that this was a really exciting, fast-paced read. If you're looking for a quick and exciting psychological thriller that's deeper than average, I would definitely recommend Wildflower!

I ended up giving Wildflower 7 stars out of 10.

by Gretchen McNeil

Read: February 24th, 2015

I had my eye on this one for a while, but didn't have very high hopes for it. Ten is basically a re-telling of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, which is my personal favorite stand-alone novel of all time... which is why I didn't have very high hopes for it.

Because I've read And Then There Were None, I did expect some things that I think would have been a surprise to anyone who hadn't read And Then There Were None. And I think that the changes made to the original story were cleverly done. Even though I wasn't surprised by any of the twists, I didn't figure out who the killer was until just a little bit before it was revealed. I was fairly convinced that it was someone else. So I applaud Gretchen McNeil for that.

Now on to the not-so-great. Until the deaths started happening, almost everything was really cringey. I know that a good chunk of it was purposeful to highlight how obnoxious many of the characters are, but there was definitely some dialogue that I thought was completely stupid. It reminded me why I don't usually read books that deal with teens who are actually in high school. I'll read about teenagers all day long, but when they get into a normal high school setting they just tend to get obnoxious. On top of this, the writing overall was just meh. I usually don't tend to notice how good or bad writing is, but I definitely noticed in this book. It wasn't down-right awful, but it definitely wasn't written amazingly. It was also pretty heavy on the foreshadowing. A little more subtlety would have helped tremendously.

Despite the cringey moments, Ten was very fast-paced, and I ended up finishing it in one day because I was just too curious to see what was going to happen. So, I ended up giving Ten 7.5 stars out of 10.

Evil Under The Sun
by Agatha Christie

Read: February 26th, 2015

Once again, this is a part of Agatha Christie's Poirot series. In this book, Hercule Poirot is vacationing on an island. And one morning, one of the guests, a beautiful actress, is found murdered.

I was surprisingly really disappointed in this book. I typically spend the entirety of a Poirot book just sitting and pointing the finger at everyone. I get really invested in trying to figure out who did it. But in this, I found myself just not caring. Sure, I had suspicions and hunches, but none that I particularly cared about or felt adamant about. I dunno, I just had an overwhelming sense of meh with this book. It gets slight bonus points for the fact that the mystery was intricately crafted, but that's usual of Poirot books, so it wasn't as if I wasn't expecting that.

I ended up giving Evil Under The Sun 5.5 stars out of 10. Like I said, that bonus .5 is for the intricacy of the mystery.

The Body Electric
by Beth Revis

Read: March 7th, 2015

Beth Revis has solidified her spot among my favorite authors with The Body Electric. I've talked a bit about how much I appreciate excellent world-building, and how important world-building is to my enjoyment of a book... and Beth Revis gives me pretty much everything I could ever want. The technology is super cool. I feel like this would be a good read for someone wanting to get into sci-fi, because the technology is explained in enough detail to make sense and be interesting, but Revis doesn't bore you with long explanations about how everything works... which wouldn't actually be boring to me, but I was happy with the explanations we got.

Also, it takes place within the same universe as Revis' Across The Universe trilogy. However, since this takes place in the future of the Across The Universe world, and is set on Earth rather than space, that doesn't really have a huge effect on this book because the technology and world are very different from the trilogy. There are, however, a couple Easter eggs that Across The Universe fans will appreciate.

However, there was one aspect that kept gnawing at me and slightly bothered me (not a spoiler-- promise!). So, right from the beginning, the Secessionary War is mentioned. There are a lot of things about the war that are discussed. We see how life is after the war, we learn about some events during the war, but it's never really explained how the war started or what was being fought for. Obviously, "secessionary" speaks for itself, but who was seceding? How did it start? This never got answered, and that really bothered me because it was the only hole in the world-build.

I do feel like the blurb about this slightly misconstrues some of the things in this book, namely the Reveries. The blurb makes it sound like reveries are something only Ella can do because she has special powers, but that's not the case. It's actually a technology that other people can and do use. However, special abilities do make an appearance in this book, so I'm not too bothered by it, because I don't think anyone would be put off by that difference. Just go into it expecting sci-fi/dystopian, not paranormal/dystopian.

Overall, I liked the story. The majority of it was pretty fast-paced, and full of twists and turns. With about 100 pages in, I had been considering it a 9 star book. I was really loving it, and there were definitely some twists and turns that I didn't see coming, but there were a couple things that were unsurprising. However, those last 100 pages... WHOA. So many plot twists. So much craziness. Mind blown. I could not put the book down. It was just utter craziness and I loved it.

I decided to give The Body Electric 9.5 stars out of 10. Not quite perfection, but so amazing.

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get invested in the story. Right from the start, the writing was beautiful, but I wasn't quite sure what was going on yet, and there hadn't yet been any excitement, so until we got into Kvothe's story, I wasn't incredibly invested. However, once his story began, I was hooked. 

I will warn everyone going into this that it's not exactly a fast-paced book, because it is a story of Kvothe's life, rather than just a small snippet of an exciting part of his life. However, I typically enjoy slower novels more than most people. I appreciate, pay attention to, and care about world building more than the average reader, which is probably why I have such a deep love of high fantasy and dystopian novels. And in this book, we get incredible world building. One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me was learning about the system of magic within this world. It, just like everything else in this world, is really well fleshed out and just so incredibly detailed.

I also really like Kvothe as a character. He's really strong and determined. He knows what he wants, and he'll do whatever he has to in order to reach his goal. Although he does have the character flaw of being somewhat arrogant, that just makes him a bit more endearing to me, because although I don't express it like he does, I definitely have an arrogant streak.

Even though this is a large book, and it did take me a while to read it, and it was a slower book, it never felt like a task. There was a section that was a little slower, but it wasn't a huge section (I'll discuss further in the spoilers) and so it really didn't bother me, especially since the following section was my favorite part of the book.

So, overall, I just absolutely loved this book. I can absolutely understand why it has a 4.5 average on Goodreads. The writing was amazing, as was everything else about this book. 10 stars out of 10. I'm officially obsessed.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

All Time Low- Future Hearts

Hey, y'all! It's time for me to talk about another CD on my shelf! As always, I put my iTunes on shuffle, and the CD containing the first song that played is the one I'll be talking about!

NOPE. This is a very special CDs On My Shelf, where I discuss the CD that I've been eagerly anticipating for quite a while. AKA: Y'ALL, MY FAVORITE BAND'S NEW CD CAME OUT TODAY!!!!!!!!!

Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Genre: Pop punk, Alternative

When I bought the CD: Pre-ordered it! (But heard all of the songs about a week before its official release)

Track Listing
  1. Satellite
  2. Kicking & Screaming
  3. Something's Gotta Give
  4. Kids in the Dark
  5. Runaways
  6. Missing You
  7. Cinderblock Garden
  8. Tidal Waves (Feat. Mark Hoppus)
  9. Don't You Go
  10. Bail Me Out (Feat. Joel Madden)
  11. Dancing With a Wolf
  12. The Edge of Tonight
  13. Old Scars/ Future Hearts

All Time Low is:
Alex Gaskarth- vocals, guitar
Jack Barakat- guitar
Zack Merrick- bass
Rian Dawson- drums/percussion

L-R: Rian, Alex, Jack, Zack

About All Time Low: 
[Stolen from my posts on their other CDs]
All Time Low was formed in 2003 when all four guys were still in high school. One day, they were all just jamming together and decided to form a band. Their "first" CD, The Party Scene, came out in 2005, but it's not really considered most of the time when discussing All Time Low's discography. They then released Put Up or Shut Up, an EP, in 2006. They have released 4 more CDs: So Wrong, It's Right in 2007, Nothing Personal in 2009, Dirty Work in 2011, and Don't Panic in 2012. All four members of the band have been in the band from the beginning, which I think is pretty significant for a band that's already 11 years old.

My Opinion about All Time Low:
[Once again, stolen from my posts about their CDs]
I talk a lot about how McFly is my favorite band... but I've failed to mention that I have two favorite bands... and clearly, All Time Low is the other one. If forced to choose between the two, I would choose McFly, but All Time Low definitely also holds the title of my favorite band. I've been listening to them since junior high, and they're the only band that has consistently been one of my top 3 bands since then. Even McFly can't say that. Alex Gaskarth is absolutely hilarious, and a total Harry Potter nerd, which I think is super awesome. He's definitely my favorite in the band just for that. And of course, everyone loves Jack. He's the crazy goofball, and no one can get enough of his hilarious antics. And the skunk hair. It will never die! Also, Rian Dawson and Cassadee Pope are actually the cutest couple ever. I approved immediately when I heard they were together. Adorable.

About the CD:  
As you will notice, this CD came out today! I've been listening to it non-stop and decided that it would be fun to actually choose a CD to talk about for once rather than choosing randomly. This CD is a really interesting one. I feel like there are a lot of different things going on with it. I have a hard time categorizing this within All Time Low's discography of music. There are moments when I feel like songs are very familiar, but others when I feel like this is a totally different sound for them. 

I was beginning to get really worried about this CD. They released Something's Gotta Give, Kids in the Dark, Runaways, and Tidal Waves and I was very underwhelmed. None of them were bad, but they were all very expected. They definitely had ATL's normal sound, but without the excitement that usually accompanies one of their songs. Of the four of them, they're generally each perfectly good songs on their own, but when they were all released one after the other, I started worrying that the entire CD would sound the same. Fortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm not going to go into a comparison to other All Time Low CDs, because I do plan on doing a ranking of all of them soon, but I do really like this CD overall.

As always, I'm going to give each song a rating out of 10 and then give a brief explanation of why it got that rating. 

*Disclaimer: I've only been listening to most of these songs for about a week. I usually don't post on CDs this soon after their release because it typically takes me a while to solidify my opinions on songs. So I was a little generous on this, and my opinions will probably continue varying for a while until I settle into my long-term feelings. *

Satellite- 9/10.
This one is really interesting because it features distorted guitar and vocals, which is really unusual for All Time Low. It's a little bit more gritty of a sound, which I feel is one of the new sounds that ATL introduces on this CD. And it features brief screaming. Not hardcore by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely rougher than the usual All Time Low song. 
Kicking & Screaming- 9.5/10. 
This has a sound that is fairly "Don't Panic" but with a good mix of the grittier Future Hearts sound. That's probably why I enjoy this song so much, because the Don't Panic sound is my favorite, and I really love this new, grittier sound.
Something's Gotta Give- 8.5/10.
I tried to categorize this song within the All Time Low discography, but found myself grasping at straws. Maybe it just sounds so familiar now because I've played it a lot, but it feels very All Time Low. I feel that the sound on this one is also a new sound that they introduced on this CD, and it's the exact opposite of the other one. That's all grit while this one is really smooth.
Kids in the Dark- 9/10. 
This song makes me think of Time Bomb and some other songs on Dirty Work. Fortunately, it's the good songs on Dirty Work. Even though it was released amidst some underwhelming songs, this one is really fun and I enjoy it.
Runaways- 8.5/10.
This one, I feel, has the same sound as Something's Gotta Give. It's very... glossy. I'm not sure that's the right word, but the vocals are very smooth and it's got a much softer sound than the grittier songs on the CD. There are a few electronic sounds thrown in and even the bass sounds softer. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this yet. I don't dislike it, but it's not my favorite All Time Low sound ever.
Missing You- 8.5/10.
Once again, I get the Something's Gotta Give vibe from this one. It's obviously very different from Something's Gotta Give, but it has the same, softer, poppier sound. Even though it's fairly out of place in ATL's discography, it doesn't really sound out of place. It's got a kinda folk-pop vibe that I actually kinda like.
Cinderblock Garden- 9.5/10.
This song sounds very All Time Low. That probably sounds odd to say, since these are all obviously songs by All Time Low, but I feel like there are so many elements in this song that are so essential to All Time Low as a band.
Tidal Waves (Feat. Mark Hoppus)- 7.5/10.
This is another one with the softer sound. It's also my least favorite. It has some Nothing Personal elements because of the electronic sound to the chorus, but it's nowhere near as exciting as Nothing Personal. I just feel like the song never really builds to something. It just kinda flat-lines.
Don't You Go- 10/10.
I love this one. It sounded very familiar but not because it was similar to All Time Low songs. It is a little, but Alex's vocal style reminds me a little of Billie Joe. This definitely has more of the grittier Future Hearts sound, and I love it. It has a splash of Dirty Work, but in a good way.
Bail Me Out (Feat. Joel Madden)- 9/10. 
This song just makes me think of Good Charlotte. And not just because Joel is on it. I feel like the music is also very Good Charlotte as well. It definitely has some of the softer sound to it, but the fact that it's mixed with a Good Charlotte-esque sound elevates it above the other songs with that vibe.
Dancing With a Wolf- 10/10.
This. Song. Hands down, my absolute favorite song on the CD. It's got the grittier sound to it and it's just so great. It's got just the slightest tinge of an electronic sound to it, which is actually super cool. It's just so fun and such a jam song.
The Edge of Tonight- 8.5/10.
I had to give this one a little time. Initially, I was like "Nope, too much pop. Don't want to listen kbye." But the chorus is really great. Overall, the song definitely has that softer sound, but the chorus almost makes up for the overly poppy verses.
Old Scars/ Future Hearts- 10/10.
The sound on this one is extremely similar to the one on Satellite. They're the most gritty songs on the CD and I love it. Also, I keep feeling like Alex's vocals have a Billie Joe-esque sound on this CD. I'm not sure why. But yeah, this one is really great. I think ATL should explore this grittier sound a bit more. I'm a big fan.

Favorite Songs: Dancing With a Wolf, Don't You Go, Old Scars/ Future Hearts

Least Favorite Songs: Tidal Waves.


Kids in the Dark music video

Something's Gotta Give music video

Rating: 8.5/10. I know that this isn't exactly the average of all of the ratings, but it's certainly the most common rating. I like this CD, but I have some mixed feelings about it. I'm definitely going to be jamming to it and blasting it for quite a while, because I do genuinely like it, but I really wish that they had explored the grittier sounds more because those were really great.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hey, y'all!

Hey, y'all!

So... it's been a while.

And by a while, I mean approximately a month, so it's nothing crazy, but it is definitely my longest absence from this blog. And before the long absence, I was... scarce, to say the least.

So, what's my explanation for this long break from blogging?

Laziness. Laziness is my explanation.

I know you're probably wanting some actual explanation, but that's the long and short of it. Pure laziness. And I've been focusing on vlogging and writing.

See, I have all of these things that I enjoy doing in my free time: reading, writing, vlogging, blogging, watching YouTube videos, etc. And there are typically only so many that I can focus on at a time. Lately, it's been vlogging, writing, and watching YouTube videos (which is a constant regardless of the other things that I choose to focus on). But, I want to try to prioritize blogging more. At the beginning of the semester, I made this crazy schedule where I was going to be blogging or vlogging literally every single day. And while I technically have time to do that, I didn't factor in the fact that I need to have down time where I'm just lazing around and that I get distracted really easily. So I never seem to be able to fit everything in.

Anyway, I will be resuming the Project Runway rankings series. Also, a new CDs On My Shelf post will be up on Tuesday, April 7th. And this is a special post, because it's not a randomly chosen CD. It's been specifically chosen because it's being released on April 7th. If you know anything about my taste in music and favorite bands, you probably know what this is, so that's all the info I'm giving you.

Also, I'm not sure what I'm doing about book posts, because I have been making book videos on my YouTube channel. So I might not be making very many book posts aside from reviews. But we'll have to see.

I'm going to be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, so maybe I'll post some updates on here? IDK for sure. We'll have to see...

So, there you go, a brief update! See you in a couple days!

Check out my links below!

And no, this isn't an April Fools Day prank. I just thought it would be better to post it on the first day of the month. I'd come up with something actually funny if I was kidding.