Monthly Archives: November 2014

“Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater Review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve pretty much hated the first two books in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series – I’m sure my review of book two, The Dream Thieves, makes my feelings pretty clear. I’ve also made it clear that, due to my loathing of them, but also my inability to leave a series unfinished, I wouldn’t be buying the third book until it was either on offer or very cheap. Yet, for whatever reason, when I was in Waterstone’s the other day, I decided to buy it. At £7.99. Full price! Why?! I blame it on the Christmas Shopping High; I just had to buy things, even if I didn’t particularly want them, such as this book. But I bought it – and I read it in a day and a half. It took me forever to get through the first two books because every time I put them down (which was often), I just didn’t want to pick them back up again. However, whenever I had to put down Blue Lily, Lily Blue, it was grudgingly and because I had to start work, never because I wanted to. And I always wanted to pick it up again. It’s safe to say that Blue Lily… has been the best book in the series so far.

Now, you may be thinking “Well, that’s not really saying much considering your thoughts on the previous books, is it?”, and that’s fair enough – I asked myself the same thing. And although I really didn’t like the first two, Blue Lily… has just about redeemed the whole series – that’s how good it was. For once, I don’t think that I have a bad thing to say about any of the characters; instead I actually found them almost likeable. Not only that, but I even felt that Blue was, at times, quite a relatable characters – especially when she was talking about being back at school. Perhaps I interpreted this as being more cynical than it was intended, but this passage here seems to really accurately describe how I was feeling at school last year, particularly towards the end:

“This was not Blue’s real life.

As she leaned against the wall outside the guidance counsellor’s office, she wondered when she would start to think of school as an important thing again. After an extraordinary summer full of chasing kings and disappearing mothers, it was hard to really, truly picture herself going to class every day. What would any of this matter in two years? Nobody here would remember her, or vice versa.”

Well, it’s accurate apart from the chasing kings/disappearing mothers, but the realisation that nobody will remember her really hit home with me, probably as I finished school back in March and have only seen about half a dozen of my classmates since then. And saying that school “felt like more of a dream than Cabeswater” is also very much how I felt at school (again, just without Cabeswater!), and reading this section of the book definitely made Blue seem a lot more real to me. And in a book which is constantly questioning dreams and reality, that’s certainly something.

I think this book was supposed to be more “Adam’s book” , but I found that it’s more equally distributed between them all; it didn’t focus on Adam as much as The Dream Thieves did on Ronan, which I believe is why I enjoyed this a lot more. It’s not so much that I really hate Adam, I’m just indifferent to him. It doesn’t matter much to me if he’s there or not, so this book could have been a huge disappointment to me if he had been more focal – that said, I did begin to kind of like him in this one. And I’m pretty confident that the reason for that is… Ronan. Blue Lily… has made me ship them so much (they’re more canon to me than Gansey and Blue), and I just really want them to get together or something – they just seem to work. There’s something about the pair of them that I love and I hope it’s developed in the next book. Speaking of romance and development, I much preferred Blue and Gansey’s relationship in this one than I have in the previous books. It didn’t seem quite as in your face as it has, and at times I actually thought they were quite sweet – so if we can hold onto that in the next one, I’ll be one happy person!

There seemed to be a lot more going on in this book, including a few moments which stunned me and left me wishing events had turned out differently (if you’ve read this, I’m sure you’ll know what in particular I’m referring to). There were slightly darker moments, there were sad moments, and there were most definitely humorous moments – in particular when Jesse Dittley was around! One of the quotes from Blue is going onto my bookcase of quotes, as it made me laugh: I mean, how often are you going to read “Are you trying to say I’m a better sort of ant?”?! It reminded me of myself; that’s probably the kind of thing I would say! Of course, it wasn’t just the funny quotes that I liked, it’s the serious ones too – the most notable one to me surprisingly comes from Adam, although it’s really only the last line I like, I’ll give the whole paragraph to provide a little more context:

“Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation. Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all. Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.”

I find that last line to be beautiful, but almost haunting too. There’s something about it which really resonates and makes me think. I’m glad that the book isn’t all about throwing in little humorous remarks, or all about the sweet moments – that statement from Adam really rings true.

To round it all up, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m really glad that I’ve read it – and that’s not something I thought I’d say about any of these books! Even though I do still find Stiefvater’s writing a little pretentious at times, it wasn’t as obviously so as it has been in her other books, which I appreciated. I’m finding myself looking forward to the next book, but I think the reason I enjoyed Blue Lily, Lily Blue is because I didn’t have high expectations for it – perhaps I should keep it that way for the next one!

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“The Maze Runner” Film Review (Spoilers)

The Maze Runner

I’m a terrible person – I went to see The Maze Runner today. And I’ve never read the books. I own them, but I don’t think they’ve ever been taken out the box, mostly because a friend recommended them to me, I bought them, then he said they weren’t very good (no, I don’t know how it works either) so I didn’t ever get round to reading them. I saw the trailer and thought it looked  alright, but decided I was unlikely to see it in cinemas because I don’t like seeing films if I’ve not read the books beforehand – and that’s why I’m a terrible person, because that’s exactly what I did. To justify my actions slightly, it was a last minute decision. I met up with a friend, and as we were playing darts we decided to go to the cinema, and The Maze Runner was the only decent–sounding film showing anywhere. She wanted to see it because she thought some of the guys in it were cute (namely Newt and Thomas), whereas I wanted to see it because it was based on a book. Priorities, huh?

I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as I had no real idea what it was about and although I thought the trailer was alright, I didn’t think it looked all that great. I knew it would either be a hit or a miss (and honestly, I was going with miss!), but as it turns out I was pleasantly surprised. It was a pretty good story and the acting was quite good too – there were predictable moments, as there are in all films, one of the main ones being towards the end where Chuck jumped in front of Thomas when Gally went to shoot him. But that didn’t bother me too much, as the film was overall very good.

The attention to detail and basically just common sense was something I was very impressed by – these kids were covered in dirt and scrapes, and they stayed covered in dirt and scrapes. They weren’t beautifully presented all the time, which some films like to do, and one of my favourite things was just Teresa’s hair. It was visibly tangled and wasn’t perfectly kept – she really looked the part. I may have got a huge grin on my face when I first saw her, played by Kaya Scodelario, on the screen – she played Effy Stonem in the TV show Skins and I kind of love her. Her presence really bumped up the film for me! I know she was the only girl there, and I’m assuming the reasoning behind that is mentioned later in the series, but I was somewhat surprised that nobody seemed to notice the lack of female figures? I was half–expecting Thomas to notice or bring it up at some point, because surely if you find yourself surrounded in a strange place surrounded only by guys, you might think there’s something strange about that? I was hoping someone might cotton onto it when Teresa arrived, even Teresa herself, but apparently not…

I also loved that there was no romantic subplot! At least, not yet… I’ll need to read the series and find that out. I find it’s quite uncommon to find a film aimed at teens and based on a Young Adult book that doesn’t have at least the underlying romance, and even if it does begin to surface in later books/films, I don’t think I’ll mind too much because it wasn’t forced in our faces from the beginning. This didn’t need romance, and I’m glad the author didn’t think it was necessary to add it in just for the sake of it – though if we end up with a bloody love triangle, I’ll be pretty annoyed because that’s even less necessary!

The music in the film was also really fitting, and I’ve been listening to it non–stop since I got home. I really love soundtracks, and often find they can make or break a film – I’m pretty sure that the main reason I love The King’s Speech so much is because of the music in it. And the music in this film is just great; I’ve never heard of the composer before, but I think he’s done a great job of making music that fits the film. There was one part in particular which just took my breath away, but unfortunately all I can remember of the scene it was played during is that they were running through (I think) a tunnel – I guess that means I’ll have to get the DVD when it’s out so that I can hear and see it again!

One of the things I was really unsure about was the maze itself. In all the posters I’ve seen advertising it and in the trailer, I couldn’t help but think that it looked a bit too made–up, almost out of place. However, the more I saw it in the film, the more I started to like it – and the vines hanging from it really added something and looked so good. I never knew that the maze moved, so that was a bit of a surprise to me. I did wonder why nobody thought to jam the doors though, especially in the scene where Minho is trying to drag Alby towards them – they had huge, thick sticks lying next to them, why not jam them in the mechanics and try and buy the guys some time?! And why Thomas left it to the last minute to run through to them I do not know, what did he think was going to happen?!

That aside, I found The Maze Runner to be an overall very enjoyable film and it was far better than I expected it to be. In fact, it’s now tempted me to start the book, which I’m hoping is going to prove to be worthwhile!

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Black Veil Brides by Black Veil Brides Album Review

Black Veil Brides
Hearing that Black Veil Brides had a new album coming was possibly the best bit of news I had this year, especially with the hints that it was to be their “heaviest” and “darkest” album yet. As much as I like 2013’s Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, it was no We Stitch These Wounds (possibly my favourite Black Veil Brides album), and I was hoping for a return to that. When they released the first single, Faithless, I at first wasn’t keen, but it quickly grew on me and I thought that if the whole album was going to be like that, it would be pretty good. Then the next single, Heart of Fire, was released, and my expectations for this album just shot sky–high. That’s where the problem starts really: my expectations were too high. But do you blame me? I went to see them on the 16th of October, and as well as playing the two aforementioned tracks, they played one more new song which had yet to be released: Last Rites. When CC opened up with that drum line, my friend and I just looked at each other with the biggest grins on our faces – it genuinely made me think “this could actually be their heaviest album yet!” Needless to say, I was very excited for the 27th of October.

I woke up that Monday morning and raced right downstairs so I could listen to all the previews on amazon and iTunes – my plan was to wait for the post and listen to the full album, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I listened to all the previews that I could, and I was still excited – but I felt there was something missing. Every time I tried to reply the songs in my head, they all sounded so…generic, almost pop-y. I was hoping the full album would prove me wrong, and it did. Kind of.

The album opens with Heart of Fire, which is by far my favourite song of the album and so is a good starting point. It’s a really good song, and very catchy – I always get a stupid grin when I hear Andy sing “Not living for this anymore, you want a fight – I’ll bring the war”. I think it’s the lyrics combined with the melody, you have to smile! It’s definitely a strong opening song, and I don’t have anything against this one (although I hate that “fire” is pronounced “fiy-yuh” rather than how it should be…), which certainly makes a change!

Faithless is the second song on the album, and again is another strong one – I really love the opening, although I’m not keen on the moments where the sound goes almost muted. When I’m listening to it through headphones, the sound is great and all around me, then suddenly and briefly it’s like it’s only in one ear, which isn’t something I like. At all. But otherwise, it’s quite frankly a brilliant introduction to a really good song. I’d like to take a moment to note down my favourite lyric, which comes from the chorus: “Even when I fall down to my knees, I’ll never say a prayer I don’t believe”. The reason I love it is because of how ambiguous it is – while one person may take it as them saying they’ll never say a prayer because they don’t believe in a religion or the likes, another person may interpret it as them saying they won’t say a prayer that they don’t believe in. That’s not the only time I’ve loved the ambiguity of a Black Veil Brides lyric; although the only example I can think of at the moment is from the song Set the World on Fire from the album of the same name: “[…] children crying when all they knew was dying”. I like that one, as it makes me wonder if the children are crying because all they’ve known is death and dying, or if it’s because everything they know is just dying around them – there’s not much better than a song that makes you  think!

The next song, Devil in the Mirror, is another one with a good beginning, and it retains that throughout. The tune is catchy, and when I listen to it I find myself nodding along and tapping my foot – it’s that kind of song. I quite like the chorus too; it’s just as catchy as the rest of the song, but there’s just something about it that really makes me want to sing. Which I usually do, I’m pleased to say! The only thing I’m a bit iffy on is, strangely enough, the chorus – at points it seems like the kind of thing you might find in a more “pop” song than in something I associate with Black Veil Brides. I can’t really put it into words what I think of it, there’s just something there (that wasn’t there before) which doesn’t quite fit in. Regardless, it’s a very good song, and one that I look forward to getting to hear live one day!

Goodbye Agony is, for me, a song that, for the most part, is just…there. There’s nothing spectacular about it, nothing that really stands out to me. It’s a good song (when I remember it exists), but I don’t have anything of note to say about it, so to flesh out this paragraph a little I’m going straight on to song number five, World of Sacrifice. I think that fact that I was listening to this and thought I was still on the previous song says a hell of a lot for this one… I’m not saying it sounds exactly the same, it’s just pretty similar – and that’s something I’ve felt about a few of the songs on this album. There’s just nothing different and exciting! Oh well, at least they’re catchy I suppose, I’m sure that’s got to count for something?

Ah, now here we are at my most anticipated song of the album, Last Rites! Two words: what happened. It sounded so good when they played it, there were screams, it had an utterly FANTASTIC start, and it was just an altogether amazing song. But this? This just wasn’t what I was looking for. For one thing, no screams – that’s practically heart-breaking for someone who loves the screams! Even the introduction was lacking something that was there in the concert; I don’t want to go so far as to say it was lacking energy, but it definitely didn’t give off the “heavy” vibes that it did live. Again, it’s still an enjoyable song… unfortunately it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

But do you know what, that’s okay. Because the next song, Stolen Omen, really brings this album back up. And not just because there’s screaming (but that helps!), but because it’s overall great. I actually think this is the first song on the album that I’ve heard just the beginning and thought “this sounds pretty heavy!”, which being the seventh song in on an album claiming to be the heaviest yet probably isn’t great. This song though, it’s just so good. Words fail me, to be honest, but I do love it. That’s another one that would be amazing to hear live – so I’m looking forward to the next time they tour the UK!

Of course, no Black Veil Brides album would be complete without a nice, ballad-style song. On their first album, we had The Mortician’s Daughter (my favourite BVB song ever), on the second album we had Saviour, and on last year’s album we had Done For You. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t put a slower/softer song on this album, but Walk Away pretty much fits the bill! Admittedly it’s not as good as the aforementioned slow songs, and there’s too much “woah”-ing for my liking, but I’m so glad it’s there – I think I would have been pretty upset if they hadn’t put in the almost obligatory (in my mind) slow song, so hurray!

Ugh, again with the woah-ing?! That’s practically the first thing you hear in Drag Me to the Grave, other than, oddly enough, the cry of “Drag me to the grave!”, but luckily it doesn’t last long… until the chorus, it turns out. What is with the woahs? I don’t like them; they’re just not right for these songs. Frankly, they almost ruin them for me – they’re so off-putting! Ignoring that (I wish I could), it’s yet another addictive song with a catchy tune, and I always, always find myself singing along to the chorus. Even when I’m not singing, my foot’s tapping or I’m nodding my head, which I’m sure mildly concerns the people who share my buses.

Only two songs left, and then I’m done – I promise! The penultimate song is The Shattered God, and it definitely shattered something within me, possibly any and all hope I had for this album’s redemption… Well, it’s not that bad, I’m just being dramatic. But this isn’t a great song, in my opinion – it’s gone back to the almost too poppy to suit the album/band kind of thing, which is a shame. It’s not even one I can sing along with either; probably because when Andy sings “You are, you are the shattered god”, I was convinced he was singing “you are the shadow god/shadow of god”, until I discovered the song title – THEN I managed to hear the lyrics correctly. But hey, it’s otherwise a nice and cheerful song – my favourite is the part where he sings “You are, you are forever alone”. It’s like he’s singing right to me! All sarcasm aside, I do like that line, it’s one of the few I can understand.

And now, the final song, Crown of Thorns, bringing with it the burning question: will the album end on a high? Well it sounds pretty similar to the previous song…and the nine before that…  Honestly, that’s my main criticism of this whole album. It all just sounds so similar. With their other album, I can tell pretty much straight away what song is playing, but with this album it takes me a while because, bar at least the first two tracks, there’s not an awful lot to differentiate between them. And that’s a shame, because I was so looking forward to this album and wanted to see how they’d improved as a group. Don’t get me wrong, the band play extremely well, and seeing them live is an amazing experience, but they’re just lacking something on this album. I read a review on iTunes which said that although it was a good album, it sounded like it had been recorded in a bubble – and that’s exactly right. From my first listen, I’ve thought it sounded just too clinical and put together. It’s one thing having an album that flows well; it’s something else entirely having an album which sounds like one song…

Overall, I enjoy the album and think it’s good fun to listen to (and as I’ve said, I look forward to hearing it all live), but their first two albums – We Stitch These Wounds and Set the World on Fire – are far, far superior. As much as I’d have loved to have been able to give it 5–stars, I’m afraid it’s only really deserving of 3.5.

And don’t even get me started on that bad attempt at an Iron Maiden album cover…

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