Monday, March 30, 2020

Music Monday (109): Raven Symone, Grace Jones, Mary J Blige, Mike Yung, and Doctor Elvis


   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 

Breana: My pick this week is Raven Symone’s new song called Spacetruck. I like this song. It has a jazz sound and a chill vibe. It also fits with the kind of music I’ve been listening to in recent weeks.




Adri: Since I've been catching up on some projects, I've stayed on the same few playlists. But recently, I decided to check out some of Grace Jones' other work. I came across her 1979 album Muse, and I can't get enough. Thats why my pick for today is On Your Knees.


Andrea: One of the songs I've been listening to this week is Reminisce by Mary J. Blige.



I also came across Doctor Elvis on Instagram. I love his cover of Mike Yung's song Alright. I admire what he does for a living and think he has an amazing voice. So if you are curious, click on the link above to hear his cover of Alright. After listening to Doctor Elvis, I sought out Mike Yung's Video on YouTube. It's such an uplifting song that I had to share it this week. Mike Yung appeared on season 12 of America's Got Talent. You can find more information about Yung on Wikipedia. Have an amazing week!



What are you listening to this week?


Friday, March 27, 2020

I Listened to Where Are You? by Abi Ocia

I’m stepping outside of my usual playlist in my quest to find new music and artists to follow and listen to. One of my finds and new go-to artists is Abi Ocia. I found her music by randomly listening to a playlist, and her song, Running, happened to be on it. It’s such a gloriously elegant and stylish track, and the black and white music video is one of my favorites to date. From there, I gave her debut EP a listen. I have to say that, as of late, I’m really enjoying smooth R&B sounds with a side of guitar riffs. Where Are You? by Abi Ocia ticked all the boxes in that regard. At just five songs long, Where Are You? packs quite a punch, with its catchy rhythms and Ocia’s powerful and distinctive vocals. 
Beside the guitar riffs, there were other sounds on Where Are You? as well. Such as some synth pop influences, which were more evident on the track called Easy to Love. The feel and creativeness of the EP reminded me a little of Saturn by NAO—who is another artists I have mentioned on the blog before. They’re intrinsically different artists, and when I’m making the comparison, I’m talking about the way they mix and match influences from different genres/subgenres of music. Yet, the songs always feel and sound like one cohesive piece of music. In that way, Easy to Love reminded me of Orbit from NAO’s album, Saturn—which essentially does the same thing.

Abi Ocia has already shown a lot of promise as an artist. If this is what she can do with an EP, then I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do with a full-length album.
Have you listened to any music by Abi Ocia? If so, what are some of your favorite songs?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Review:The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

34275232. sy475 Title: The Hazel Wood
Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Author: Melissa Albert
Source/Format: Won in a giveaway; Paperback
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Flatiron Books; January 30, 2018

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” 
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
This is the second time I’ve picked up The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. The first time around, I wasn’t feeling it. However, I was in the mood for something with a fairy-tale atmosphere to it, and I decided to give this book another try.

The Hazel Wood was good. I liked it. I still encountered some of the same issues I had the first time around. Like the opening chapters, while interesting, weren’t my favorite part of the story—Alice Proserpine’s characterization and interactions with the characters around her somewhat contributed to that. That being said, once I got past the point that I originally stopped at, the story picked up some pace with the introduction of more of the fantastical elements. The “Tales from the Hinterland” and everything to do with it were among my favorite portions of The Hazel Wood. They were where the fairy-tale atmosphere and Alice shined the most—and the aspects about Alice that were sort of meh, made sense when put into context with the rest of the story. The Hazel Wood is, by no means, a light book. It deals with some of the darker aspects of fairy-tales, and that was true for most—if not all—of the Hinterland stories.

In general, the characters were interesting. Finch was probably my favorite character from The Hazel Wood, because I enjoyed his backstory and character arc the most.

Overall, I liked The Hazel Wood. The ending definitely left room for more possibilities, and since the sequel, The Night Country, is already out, I don’t have to wait to read it. Have you read The Hazel Wood? If so, what did you think about it?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Music Monday (108): Rachel Chinouriri, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey


   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 

Breana: My pick this week is Adrenaline by Rachel Chinouriri. I love this song, and I need to listen to more music by this artist.


Andrea: Since I have to spend more time at home, I have made a greater effort to have a regular exercise routine. As such, I have been listening to music from my workout playlist. Two of the songs from yesterday's workout are Whitney Houston's I have Nothing and Mariah Carey's Fantasy. I've also been listening to songs that remind us to wash our hands. I won't post video's of those songs, but you can click on the links if you haven't heard Neil Diamond's “Hands.. washing hands” and Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive.




Have you added any new music to your playlist this week? If so, leave your recommendations down in the comments below.



Friday, March 20, 2020

The Friday 56 (173) & Book Beginnings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


34275232. sy475 Synopsis from Goodreads...
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” 
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


Beginning: "Althea Proserpine is raising her daughter on fairy tales. Once upon a time she was a girl named Anna Parks, one of the legion of midcentury dreamers who came to Manhattan with their hopes tucked into a suitcase."

56: "I paced in a tight circles around the lobby, keeping one eye on the street."


Comments: I picked up The Hazel Wood again, because I was in the mood for a book with a fairy tale like atmosphere. I liked the story. What are you reading this week? 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown:

40110093. sy475 Title: The Forgotten Girl
Series: n/a
Author: India Hill Brown
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Scholastic; November 5, 2019

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
"Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?" 
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel - only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her. Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing... Obsessed with figuring out what's going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery's grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life - and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town's past, they become determined to restore Avery's grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there. But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that's not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever - no matter what the cost. The Forgotten Girl is both a spooky original ghost story and a timely and important storyline about reclaiming an abandoned segregated cemetery....
The Forgotten Girl is another one of the 2019 books I was looking forward to the most, and I have finally read it.

“Iris’s nightmares terrified her. Especially the ones when she couldn’t tell if she was dreaming or not.”—pg.1

The Forgotten Girl is a ghost story, a serious one that had just the right amount of horror (the ghost) where it was needed. It took the otherwise ordinary wintery setting and added a heightened sense of tension to the story. The supernatural elements were suitably creepy, and Iris’s fear was paramount in the later part of the story. Brown excels at writing compelling characters who would appeal to a wide audience. In that way, it reminded me of the Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden. In both stories, the issues in the plot felt local—especially how personal it was to the respective casts of characters. It was literally close-to-home. Plus the ghosts were written in such a vivid way that there were a number of truly terrifying instances.

The Forgotten Girl also drew upon the real history of segregated cemeteries, which is something I haven’t seen very often in a fictional story. So I liked the fact that it was incorporated into the story—there’s also an author’s note in the back of the book that further explains the inspiration behind The Forgotten Girl.

Overall, The Forgotten Girl was a quick read and an excellent ghost story. On a side note: I would definitely take a story about Iris’s mother, because that one offhanded comment got my interest.

Have you read The Forgotten Girl? Or what are some of your favorite ghost stories?

Monday, March 16, 2020

Music Monday (107): PVRIS


   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I didn’t listen to any new artists last week. Instead, I went back to some of my favorite music from 2014. One of the albums I listened to was White Noise by PVRIS. I used to listen to their music all the time, especially around 2014 and 2015. I recently learned that they’re going to release a new album later this year: Use Me (May 1, 2020). So my pick is their latest single: Dead Weight. I like this song, and the music video would have been perfect for October. So I’m excited to see what the rest of the album has to offer.



What are you listening to this week?


Friday, March 13, 2020

The Friday 54 (174) & Book Beginnings: The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


40110093. sy475 Synopsis from Goodreads...
"Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?" 
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel - only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her. Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing... Obsessed with figuring out what's going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery's grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life - and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town's past, they become determined to restore Avery's grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there. But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that's not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever - no matter what the cost. The Forgotten Girl is both a spooky original ghost story and a timely and important storyline about reclaiming an abandoned segregated cemetery....


Beginning: "Iris's nightmares terrified her."

56: "Everything seemed sharper around the edges. Stark. The branches of the trees pointier at the ends, the twigs on the ground like worms."


Comments: I have finally read The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown. It was a good ghost story that also touched on the history of segregated cemeteries. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I Listened to Treat Myself by Meghan Trainor...

Meghan Trainor’s long-awaited album, Treat Myself, is finally out, and I gave it a listen. 
I have been waiting for Treat Myself since I heard about it from one of my co-bloggers sometime last year. It was one of my most anticipated albums of 2020, and it's finally here. It was as good as I hoped it would be, and it was also nothing like I expected—and I mean that in a good way too. Meghan Trainor outdid herself. Treat Myself is a light, fun, and creative foray into the pop genre. It's probably my favorite body-of-work by Meghan Trainor to date. 
Treat Myself had a strong “love yourself"/self-empowerment message throughout the full track list. The lyrics, the sound, and the energy of the tracks complimented Trainor’s vocals. The collaborations are particularly good like Nice to Meet Ya featuring Nicki Minaj, Genetics featuring The Pussycat Dolls, and After You featuring AJ Mitchell, etc.. The solo songs are just as good on their own, and some of my favorites include Babygirl, Evil Twin, and Blink. 
Treat Myself is definitely a new favorite. I enjoyed the whole album, and I'm looking forward to Trainor's next project.
Have you listened to Treat Myself? If so, what did you think about it?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Music Monday (106): Chicago, Kerli, and Cleo Sol


   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 

Breana: Another artist I recently added to my playlist is Cleo Sol. One is now one of my favorite songs.


Adri: Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Kerli. I have a lot of songs that I like from her album Shadow Works, but I decided to narrow it down to two. My first pick is Mimicry.


And my second pick is Giving Up the Ghost, which I find, for the lack of better words, hauntingly beautiful.


Andrea: Last week when I was watching The Talk, Chicago performed. This reminded me of how much I used to and still do love their music. Will You Still Love Me is one of my all time favorite songs by this group. You can watch the music video below. I can't wait to discover what you're listening to. And as always, have a wonderful week!



Have you found any new music this week? If so, leave your recommendations in the comments down below.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 2 by Jun Mochizuki

32856005. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #2
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Manga; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; May 23, 2017

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Now installed at a hotel in Paris with the help of Count Orlok, NoƩ and Vanitas take their awkward partnership on the road...to a vampire masquerade ball! The order of the evening may be small talk and hobnobbing with fellow guests, but the mystery of the curse-bearers is never too far behind. The intrigue swirls as quickly as the dancers twirl, a blue moon ascends upon the guests...and all hell breaks loose!
Well…that escalated quickly. If you know anything about Pandora’s Hearts, there was tragedy all over the place in that series. Now, some of the darker themes of The Case Study of Vanitas are starting to show through. While the first volume was already exciting enough, it was more of an introduction to the story, characters, and world. While volume two, on the other hand, starts the next arc of the story. It also ramps up the action and world building as Noe and Vanitas take on more curse-bearers set against the dazzling backdrop of a masquerade ball.

So far, Mochizuki’s take on vampires is proving to be one of my favorites. They have some of the usual traits—super strength, immortality—but they don’t need to drink blood to live (it seems like more of an indulgence, so far) and they live in another world entirely. The artwork for Altus Paris was gorgeous. I loved the style of the city, and how different it was from the steampunk Paris the story began in—just by changing one aspect about the sky. I also liked the details about names. Names have meaning and importance. It comes up all the time in fiction, in particular fairy tales or stories based on them (think Spinning Silver, The Cruel Prince, and most stories involving fairies). Names, true names, have power in this story, and I was surprised at how closely linked it was to curse-bearers. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops later on.

I also enjoyed how quickly volume 2 delved into talking more about the world, and mentioned some occurrence called Babel. I found this quote—“Babel really was an astounding incident, wasn’t it? Rewriting the principles of the world like that…”—pretty interesting since the magic-type system in this world is related to world formula revisions.

As for the events in this volume, it presented some interesting questions as to the source of curse-bearers themselves. It also fleshed-out the dynamic between the dual protagonist, and it directly showcased more of the vampire society/politics that were hinted about in the last volume. That also included the introduction of a few new characters.

With the way the twists keep coming, The Case Study of Vanitas is shaping up to be one of my favorite series. The current arc of the story isn’t over quite yet, and now more than ever I’m excited to read volume 3.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Music Monday (105): Tinashe, Moods, Sister Sledge


   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 

Breana: I know I talked about Save Room For Us by Tinashe featuring MAKJ on a different music Monday post (here). But I wanted to mention it again, because it now has a music video. The choreography is great, and it fits the song so well.  




Adri: I've been listening to music with a chill/low-fi vibe. So my pick today is Where I Met You by Moods. 


Andrea: Flashback to the oldies! I'm currently listening to We Are Family by Sister Sledge.



What are you listening to this week?


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