Friday, April 20, 2012

Music Update (2)

I still haven't thought of a name for my new music-related feature, an update on what I've been listening to for the past week. If you have any ideas or suggestions, leave a comment letting me know! I'm happy to have suggestions.

Although I've downloaded several songs since my last post, I've been predominantly listening to Mr. Brightside by The Killers off their album Hot Fuss. One of my friends listens to The Killers and has been recommending them to me for well over a year now, but I'll admit I was a little apprehensive about checking them out. Because, let's face it, when a band's name is The Killers, it's hard not to jump to conclusions about heavy metal rock and distorted guitars.

If I ever need an example to teach my children or grandchildren about why it's a bad idea to jump to conclusions, it will be this. I was completely wrong about The Killers. I discovered this when their song Human came up on my Pandora radio shuffle. I liked the song but didn't check out any of their other songs until this week, when I went to Pandora once again for background music while I did my homework. Mr. Brightside came up, and it was such an awesome song it made me completely forget my Geometry worksheet. I downloaded it from iTunes that night and have been abusing the repeat button ever since.

Here's the video if you want to listen for yourself. But be warned - it's every bit as addictive as Disloyal of the Water Buffaloes by Fall Out Boy.

While you're on YouTube, I have a couple of fun parodies for you to check out, all by WinterSpringPro. The "I Wanna Go" Hunger Games parody is probably the best, but "Slytherin Night" is pretty hilarious too, and I find their parody of "Pumped Up Kicks" hysterical for two reasons: I like Foster The People but dislike that song, and everything in their parody is so true. Plus, a lot of their parodies are available on iTunes.


Book Review: Why We Broke Up by David Handler

I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

I first came across this book while browsing on Barnes & Noble, and it immediately sounded interesting. Not only was it by David Handler - better known as Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I absolutely loved - but it was a unique title, and even if a story about breakup isn't new, the way it was told certainly was. I liked what I read of the preview and was planning to buy it on my Nook, but they got it into the school library and I immediately pounced on it and had it read within a few days.

It was fantastic. I loved it. The writing style was very different from A Series of Unfortunate Events, but the best elements were still there, and it was really amazing - every detail was so clear, every emotion perfectly captured.

The plot and the way it was told was also amazing. The pictures were such a unique idea and added so much to the story, and each one was beautifully done. The plot wasn't suspenseful, but it still made me want to keep reading - I was unable to put the book down because I was so caught up in Min and Ed's romance. The emotion in this book was definitely one of its strongest points - it was so real, almost tangible, and raw - I could feel everything the characters went through as if I was going through it with them, which is one of the things that made this book so incredible. Speaking of the characters - they were all awesome. I could definitely relate to Min and understand her, and I loved her and sympathized with her; I never questioned what she said, and telling the story from her point of view made it compelling without being overdramatic. Ed was also an incredible character - although he had plenty of faults, he was never unlikeable, not even at the end. The story told why they broke up without making me hate him, which is an incredible achievement. Al was another fantastic character who seemed to defy logic - everything about him easily could have become cliche, but somehow it never was. Even the minor characters were given attention and developed, with each one having a distinct and dynamic personality.

I think the most important thing about this book is that I just loved reading it - so much that I didn't want  it to end. Min and Ed's relationship was so real and seemingly perfect that I wanted to read more and more about them, and I was almost disappointed when they broke up - but not quite, because the way things worked out was also spectacular and perfect.

This book has convinced me that Daniel Handler is a writing genius, and I highly recommend this book to absolutely anyone. It's already become one of my favorite books of all time.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Song Wars (3)

Song Wars is where I compare two songs with similar titles, meanings, or lyrics, different versions of the same song, or an original song and the covers that have been made of it. I'll discuss what I like and dislike about both songs, and then decide overall which one I like better.

This Week
"A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton
 Original vs. Acoustic Version

This comparison was pretty inevitable. Vanessa Carlton is one of my favorite artists, and A Thousand Miles is one of my favorite songs by her. Because these are two different versions of the same song, I won't be comparing titles, lyrics, or meaning, but instead will be focusing on music and singing. I also won't be listing what they have in common, but I'll give you a bit of background information on both songs.

A Thousand Miles was originally released in 2002 on Vanessa's first album, Be Not Nobody. The acoustic version was released on her 2011 Christmas EP Hear The Bells, which also featured the song "Hear the Bells" from her album Rabbits on the Run and her version of the song "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Singing: Vanessa Carlton's voice is amazing in both versions of the song - the way she sings each one fits them perfectly. I'm pretty sure the acoustic version is a different key than the original version, and with the difference in tone it sounds really nice. Her voice seems warmer and richer in this version, but I love the way she sang it originally, too - the lightness of her singing fits in really well with the piano music and the overall tone of the song. The vocals on the acoustic version are more - complicated, maybe, is the word I'm looking for - the notes and dynamics of them are really interesting and it works really well. The original, however, is definitely more varied as far as getting soft and building to a crescendo. 

Music: There's so much that's so amazing about both versions of the song. I'll start with the original. I can't say it enough times: I LOVE the piano. I've adored it ever since the first time I heard the song, and it still remains one of the most beautiful instrumentals of any song I've ever heard. Besides the piano, I also love the violins/strings, which add so much to the song. Those are the only specific instruments that stand out, but everything blends together nicely to create this really complex, beautiful sound that I've always loved. 

Then there's the acoustic version. Like Vanessa's singing, the music has a warmer, softer sound. Just as much as the piano player in me is in love with the piano instrumental of the original, the guitar player swoons over the guitar chords in this song. It's not as fast or complicated as the piano, but the fact that there's still such an amazing song when it's far simpler just adds to it's beauty. Like the original, this one has violins, but they're more prominent and add a lot more to the song here because there's not as much going on, and the sound is more drawn out and not as sharp. I love that.

While both versions of the song are outstanding, for my final verdict I'm going to have to go with the original version for two reasons: The first is that I felt like it had a more intense buildup to the end and handled the places where it should be louder or softer better than the acoustic version - the acoustic version didn't need such drastic variation, so it still worked, but I personally prefer the original. The other reason is purely sentimental: this song has always meant a lot to me, ever since I was younger, and almost ten years later it's still one of my favorite songs. Because of this I'm more attached to the original version, which is the main reason it came out on top. 

Which version do you like better?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Reading Room (15)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read. It was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

My reading list has grown pretty significantly over the past week; first off, one of my friends let me borrow her copy of Fever, the second book in the Chemical Garden series by Lauren DeStefano. If you were reading my blog back in December, you may remember my internal conflict over Wither, the first book in the series - I told myself I wasn't going to read it because dystopian novels are becoming such a trend, but couldn't resist when I saw it at the school library. So I checked it out and read it, and have been glad that I did ever since. It was a great book, and I can't wait to start the second one. Hopefully it'll be just as amazing.                      

Then my grandmother - who is one of the most awesome people I know - gave me a card for Easter that contained a $25 gift card to Barnes&Noble. I didn't waste any time downloading three new books to my Nook. The first was The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy. I came across this one quite awhile ago, and although I'd never read any books about other books before, I decided to take a look. The free sample was really interesting, and I can't wait to read the rest of the book.

The second book was The Thief, by Meghan Whalen Turner. Not only had I looked at it online awhile ago and thought the plot sounded very unique and intriguing, but it's also on the list of books at the library for Reading Competition, and there's still time to squeeze in another book or two before our competition on the 19th.

Finally, I bought The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. Like The Girl Who Was On Fire, I'd downloaded the free sample of it shortly after I got my Nook, and after reading it added it to my list of books to buy. It's slightly outside of my usual genre, but I liked what I read in the sample and it's gotten good reviews, so I have a good feeling. I'll be sure to post what I thought once I've finished it.

So that's my reading list for this week. In other news, I'm planning on posting a review of Firebirds Soaring and another book-related post in the next few days.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Inspire (7)

Inspire is a weekly writing prompt or exercise, posted on Mondays. Anyone who's interested can participate, and you're more than welcome to share what you've written by posting a link in the comments. 

This week's prompt is to write about a moment when you were completely in awe of something - you just couldn't believe it. If you can't think of an awestruck moment of your own, use someone else's, or feel free to invent. Be as descriptive as you can and try to capture the feeling completely. If you're having trouble, don't worry - it's a hard feeling to describe. Good luck!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! He is risen! I hope everyone's having a wonderful day. This is one of the most amazing holidays of the year - a day to celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. Of course, the chocolate rabbits are a nice bonus. Today I want to talk about something I was thinking about when I was reading my Bible last night. 

To me, one of the most powerful passages in the Bible is Luke 23:39 - 43. 

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God?" he said, "Since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

These verses have stuck with me since the very first time I heard them, and every time I hear or read them I'm a little awed. It's amazing to think that this criminal was able to see that the crowds were wrong and that Jesus really was the Son of God, that he would stick up for Jesus in the situation, and that this one action would allow him to go to heaven. 

I think one reason this passage is so powerful is that it shows us how easy it is for us to accept Jesus as our savior and ensure that we will join Him in heaven when we die. This criminal sentenced to death did exactly what we need to do. He believed that Jesus was the Son of God. ("Don't you fear God?" and "This man has done nothing wrong."), admitted that he had sinned ("We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.") and accepted Jesus as his savior. And that was all it took. His past deeds - which were horrible enough for him to be killed for - were forgiven, and Jesus told him, "Today you will be with me in paradise." 

It's that easy for us, too. If we admit that we are sinners and that we can't get to heaven without Jesus's sacrifice for us on the cross, believe that he was the Son of God and sent to save us, and accept him into our heart, we'll be saved, and we'll be able to spend eternity in paradise with Him. 

It's a pretty good deal, isn't it?


Friday, April 6, 2012

New Music-Related Feature

First of all, I want to apologize for the fact that lately my posts haven't been as regular or on-schedule as they should be. I had a terrible sinus infection and then got completely swamped with homework the next week, but things have calmed down now and we have a six-day vacation, so everything should be back to normal.

I'm also adding a new feature to the blog! I'm not sure if I mentioned the idea when I introduced Inspire and Song Wars, but it's similar to The Reading Room, but for music, and will be posted on Fridays. Instead of discussing books I'm reading or have acquired, it's talking about what songs I've been listening too lately. As you can tell by the fact that the image above doesn't have any words, I haven't thought of a name for the feature, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.

Other than The Hunger Game soundtrack (which is fantastic by the way - and so was the movie), the song I've been obsessed with the past week or two is Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes by Fall Out Boy. I know it sounds like a weird title - okay, it is a weird title which has nothing to do with the lyrics, and it's kind of an odd song, but it's meant to be. A friend of mine posted a quote from it on Facebook, so I headed to YouTube to check it out, and once I heard it, I couldn't stop listening. I love the lyrics, especially the chorus and the line "What a match, I'm half-doomed and you're semisweet."

Here's one of the lyrics videos from YouTube, if you haven't heard the song and want to check it out. I highly recommend it.

The other day I also took a look the album My Head Is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men, which was just released on April 3rd. Of Monsters and Men is an alternative/rock band from Iceland (Iceland is apparently a great place for alternative music), and the album definitely sounds interesting, though I haven't listened to the songs enough to know if I want to download any.

Let me know what you think of this new feature, and if you have any suggestions for a name for it!