Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’

Requiem Requiem. The conclusion of the Delirium trilogy. The book where everything that has been building, everything that has happened so far in this amazing story, comes together and we get to see how it finally ends.

I haven’t so eagerly awaited the release of a book, or gone into a book with such high expectations, since the final three Harry Potter books, so poor Requiem was under a lot of pressure right from the beginning. I read a few reviews before I even bought the book and that may have been a mistake because all of them criticised the ending and thought it was the worst book of the trilogy, but of course I had to make up my own mind about it.

If you are reading this thinking “what on earth is she talking about?” then I suggest you go and read my reviews of Delirium and Pandemonium then come back. There will most likely be spoilers from those two books in this review, which I can’t really avoid since Requiem is the final book of the trilogy, but I just thought I better give fair warning.

I went a bit crazy taking notes while I was reading this book because I was so invested in the story and there were so many “OMG!” moments that I sort of just wrote down every little thought or feeling I had as I read. As a result of this excessive note-taking, this review may be a little bit all over the place, so I apologise for that. It’s not often that I get so passionate about characters and their stories, so this was a pretty special experience for me.

The biggest way Requiem differs from the previous two books is that it features alternate chapters from Lena, our protagonist, and Hana, Lena’s best friend in Delirium. I haven’t read Hana’s Story (available as an e-book only) so I hadn’t seen or heard from Hana since Delirium. I was excited to be able to fill gaps and see what was going on back in Portland both with Hana personally and the city in general.  I was also very curious to see how she and Lena would inevitably come together again – why would they include the Hana chapters if that wasn’t going to happen?  It was particularly difficult to put down because I so desperately wanted to see how it would all play out.

Using alternate chapters was probably one of Oliver’s best decisions for this story¸ because I can’t even imagine how she could have included so much information from both sides – the Wilds and the controlled cities – without them. They did interfere with the continuity a little bit, because you were forever jumping from Lena to Hana then back to Lena again, but it didn’t negatively impact the overall story. They also enabled so many questions to be answered, particularly about Hana who played such a huge part in Delirium.

[Side note: It kind of blew my mind that Hana had grown and changed so much in such a short amount of time – it’s been less than a year since we last saw her – but then, so had Lena.]

From the fifth Lena chapter I could already feel something building, especially with the evidence of the governments ever-growing presence in the Wilds. This tension continued to build right up until the climax of the story when an all-out war broke out. I did note, though, that even though there was a rising tension through the story from both Hana and Lena’s sides, I felt like it should have been more intense considering the war that it was leading up to had the potential to change everything. I did get emotional around page 268 (yes, I actually cried) and there were many emotional reveals and scenes, so the lack of intense rising tension was easily redeemed by the emotional tension.

I was so torn between Alex and Julian that I did not envy Lena actually having to be in that situation one little bit. I loved Julian by the end of Pandemonium but Alex is Alex, the first boy, the first love, so I felt Lena’s pain as she loved both of them, struggling to figure out who she loved more. I’m glad about who she ended up with; I think that’s how it was always meant to be. Speaking of the end, despite many negative reviews, I loved it. Yes, it left HEAPS of unanswered questions, but it was perfect anyway.

The description and word choices are as beautiful as ever. I know I have said this before, but Oliver is a truly talented writer who has a way with words that I can only aspire to. After reading Before I Fall and now the Delirium Trilogy, I will definitely be checking out her other work.

I made the mistake of letting myself fall very behind in my book reviews, but I am finally starting to catch back up again. Today I flash back to a book I read in early March called Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007).

Thirteen Reasons Why cover

Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker through an unwitting narrator, our protagonist: Clay Jensen. Clay arrives home from school one afternoon to find a shoe-box containing seven cassette tapes outside his front door. He discovers that these tapes were recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has passed away. The story follows Clay around his small town as he listens through these tapes, learning things about Hannah – and himself – that will change his life forever.

The story had a solid start. I remember being taught in my creative writing classes at university to always start a story with a hook – a question or a statement that would compel the reader to keep on reading – and Asher absolutely nailed it. In only four pages he raised a number of very important questions that I just had to find out the answers to. These include, among others:

–          Who sent the package?

–          Who is Jenny?

–          Who, exactly, is Hannah and what happened to her?

–          What is on the tapes?

–          What is the list? Who else is on it?

From the next chapter these questions start being answered, but at the same time more are being raised. Asher took that initial hook of raising questions that you just have to find out the answers to, and continued it throughout the story. This resulted in an entire novel that is a constant stream of questions and answers that doesn’t conclude until the very last page. I think this played a huge part it what makes the book so addictive.

The whole concept of the book – the story itself, as well as how it has been set out and told – is quite brilliant. Even though it features incredibly heavy content to read and absorb, you feel compelled to keep going. You absolutely have to know what and who comes next, and how that person contributed to what happened. From person to person the suspense builds as you come closer and closer to seeing where Clay fits into Hannah’s story.

Throughout Thirteen Reasons Why I found myself feeling more and more for Clay as the story went along. He gets to be so emotional and he feels so horrible even before he finds out where he fits into Hannah’s story. I can understand that his experience would have been one hell of an emotional roller-coaster ride and the way Asher wrote Clay; the way the character internalises everything and doesn’t hold anything back; really makes you feel what he is feeling. Even though it is truly painful to read at times, I don’t think you would want it any other way.

I won’t say too much about Hannah, because I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read Thirteen Reasons Why, but I was fascinated by her story. What happened was awful and it really should never have come to that, but the way she goes through the stories of everyone who impacted her in some way, right down to the end where she is so at peace with it all and completely rationalises her decision, was a very interesting read. I said it once already, but this novel is truly a brilliant piece of writing.

From a technical standpoint, the story does jump around a little bit in a few places. It’s something that I noticed, but it doesn’t affect the story too much. I also didn’t particularly like the ending, but I do understand why it ended the way it did. I’m sure every reader has their own opinion on that!

 

Just for something a bit different, I have two songs of the week this week. The first is My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up), the debut single from Fall Out Boy’s fifth studio album Save Rock and Roll which was released in April this year. Check it out:

The second song of the week is also by Fall Out Boy and is the second single from Save Rock and Roll. This one is called The Phoenix. I felt obligated to share both of these videos with you because they follow on from each other – apparently all of the videos from this album will do the same. If you watched the first one, you have to watch this:

Fall Out Boy – consisting of Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley – formed in 2001 and released their first studio album Take This To Your Grave in 2003. (Just for a little side note, this album celebrated its 10th anniversary this week – pretty awesome stuff.) The album won several awards, achieved double platinum status and featured top ten singles Sugar We’re Goin’ Down and Dance, Dance. The band followed this success with the release of From Under the Cork Tree in 2005, Infinity on High in 2007 and Folie a Deux in 2008. In late 2009, they announced an indefinite hiatus, leaving fans worldwide wondering if they would ever hear from Fall Out Boy again.

Fast forward four years to February 4, 2013 and Fall Out Boy announced that they were back! I am yet to pick up a copy of Save Rock and Roll but from what I have heard so far, their new sound is fresh and very different to the Fall Out Boy of old – in a good way. I can’t wait to give it a good listen through and, of course, here’s hoping they make the trek down under again soon!

After my previous 16 songs of the week you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of music I generally listen to. Pop-punk is on high rotation, as are a few other fairly predictable bands that sit within the punk/rock/etc base genres.

This week, I share something so completely different it has even surprised me how much I enjoy it.

Readers, meet Celldweller.

This song, Blackstar, is seriously rocking my world right now. I know that sounds kind of ridiculous, but I love it so much I can never just play it once; it gets repeated two or three times and always a little bit louder each time!

I had to do more research than usual for this post since Celldweller is a new addition to my music library and until today I hardly knew anything about them. Well, him, actually. Here’s the very basic run-down:

Celldweller is Klayton – yep, vocals, instruments and programming is all one guy! (And an incredibly talented guy at that). With three EPs and four albums under his belt, as well as a number of songs featured in movies and tv shows (including One Tree Hill, one of my personal favourites) I think his success speaks for itself.

So why is it surprising that I enjoy this so much?

I have always openly expressed my dislike for almost everything electronic within the music industry. I have never understood how or why people enjoy dubstep and techno and whatever other subgenres fall under ‘electronic music’ when, in my opinion, it all sounds terrible and pretty much the same. I believe in music and artists who play actual instruments – guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, etc – and sing without altering the way their voice sounds with the use of a computer. Music that can be created in so many different forms without the need for all of the bells and whistles, so to speak. It seems absurd, then, that I like Celldweller at all, let alone as much as I do. I can’t explain it, but I’m just going to roll with it!

friday-night-lights coverFriday Night Lights – A Town, A Team and A Dream is the first non-fiction novel I have read since one of my creative writing classes at University included In Cold Blood by Truman Capote as part of the required reading. I read the newspaper, magazines and the occasional biography, but non-fiction novels have never been something I’ve really taken an interest in. I thoroughly enjoyed In Cold Blood, with all of its twists and turns, but I can’t say it gave me a desire to delve further into the genre. In fact the only other non-fiction novel I have ever found myself really wanting to read, was Friday Night Lights. Now, finally, I have.

Friday Night Lights, written by H.G Bissinger and published in 1990, follows the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team from Odessa, Texas. Odessa was chosen by Bissinger as a representative of football-crazed, small-town America and he intended for the story to be a chronicle of high school sports holding a small town together. Bissinger moved his family to Odessa and spent the entire 1988 football season with the players, their families, the coaching staff and many of the townspeople in an effort to understand the football culture within the town. What resulted, though, was a very different type of story. The book ended up being critical of life in the town of Odessa – which, no doubt, also reflected many other towns across America – complete with racism and questionable priorities, where academics were ignored for the sake of having the best possible shot at winning championships, and football conquered most aspects of the town. It is a raw and gripping tale of teenagers forced to become men, to make decisions and sacrifices beyond their years, who were treated as royalty and worshipped like gods around town so long as they kept on winning; boys who couldn’t see past high school football, which for some had dire consequences once the season was over and they had to face up to what came next.     

I saw the film adaptation when it came out in 2004 and found the story emotional and fascinating. I knew that it was based on a book but I was 16 and didn’t have a huge interest in reading it. Fast-forward eight years or so when I saw a special on television where they had interviewed some of the key players in the story twenty years later and I knew that it was time to get my hands on the book.
Even though I already knew what the story was about before I read it, it definitely wasn’t an easy read. The film – like all book to film adaptations I suppose – left out a considerable amount of the story, including some of the most emotionally heavy scenes and interviews from that year. I knew there would be more in the book, but I didn’t expect there to be so much more. There were integral parts of what happened during that 1988 season that were left out of the film completely, which actually changed the story a fair amount. But the book to film adaptation argument is for another day.
Back to the book.

Bissinger told the story in a way that really appealed to me: setting it up in the prologue and introducing the central players, then going back to the beginning and outlining the history of Odessa and then telling the story of the 1988 season from start to finish. Chapters and part-chapters were dedicated to different players, focussing on the person or people most relevant to each stage of the story. He wrote in such a way that it reads like fiction and I found it so compelling that it was, at times, hard to believe that it all really happened. I can only imagine how much time and work it took to get into the players (and other prominent people’s) heads and write them as well as characters you would make up in a fictional story.

Not to be too critical, but it did get a little repetitive at times. There were a couple of instances where the same thing was said consecutively in a chapter, just worded differently. It’s something that I noticed, which is why I am mentioning it, but it didn’t take away from the story, or the quality of the writing as a whole, in any way. Considering that it jumped around a bit to include as much relevant and important information as possible, it still flows smoothly from subject to subject and chapter to chapter. For whatever reason there were parts of the story that really resonated with me, particularly chapter seven and every part of the story that brought light to how bad racism still was in Texas at that time and how the people dealt with it. It’s a horrible part of history to be fascinated by, but as someone who has grown up to believe that people are people and that’s that, I am intrigued by how the colour of a person’s skin made society view them differently. Bissinger highlighted the racism only because it was relevant and he wrote it very diplomatically, which can’t have been easy.

As always, I have my favourite quotes, but I’m only going to share two.

“…the solemn ritual that was attached to almost everything, made them seem like boys going off to fight a war for the benefit of someone else, unwitting sacrifices to a strange and powerful god” (prologue, p.11).

“He sat on the bench and felt a coldness swirl through him, as if something sacred inside him was dying, as if every dream in his life was fleeing from him and all he could do was sit there and watch it disappear amid all those roars that had once been for him” (Boobie Miles, p.16).

Dashboard Confessional.

Front man Chris Carrabba is one of the best musicians I have ever had the pleasure of seeing live. Being able to own his albums and listen to them whenever I choose to is an honour and a privilege.

I recently discovered his other band, Further Seems Forever. I think I enjoy them almost as much as Dashboard Confessional. They’re two very different bands, but I think that’s a good thing. Chris is able to show another side of himself and his music with Further Seems Forever. They released an album last year called ‘Penny Black’ that is worth getting your hands on.

Anyway, this song is called Hands Down and it’s not only one of my favourite Dashboard Confessional tunes, but it’s also one of those songs you absolutely have to hear.

This may be the most inappropriate music video I have posted so far, but when it comes to Sydney pop-punkers Heroes For Hire, you would expect nothing less.

The song is called East Coast Blazin’ and while it’s not my favourite HFH song, it’s definitely up there. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and it pretty accurately sums up tour life for bands driving around the countryside in a van, trying to make a name for themselves in the music industry.

Since the release of their second album, “Take One For the Team”, in 2011 – which followed their debut release “Life of the Party” – Heroes For Hire have had a pretty good run. They toured the US alongside Unwritten Law in 2011 and were the first Australian band announced for the Soundwave Festival 2012. Their third album,”No Apologies”, was released in September of last year and I think it’s their best work so far. Most recently they were added to the UK’s Slam Dunk Festival which brings together some of the world’s best pop-punk, punk, hardcore etc. This year’s lineup is particularly awesome – you can check it out here.

Unfortunately, like many bands and artists, HFH have experienced their fair share of drama and controversy. This really came to the fore last month when band members Duane, Gremlin, Potter and Anthony decided that it was in the best interests of the band to continue on without their lead singer and arguably the only remaining founding member, Brad. I have read the official statements from both the band and Brad – as well as many unofficial comments on Twitter and Facebook. While it would be easy to choose to believe one side over the other, to direct hate towards either Brad or the remaining members of HFH, I am choosing instead to wish Brad all the best in whatever comes next for him and to continue to support HFH in their new form. It will be different, of course, but I am eager to see how the band pulls together and carries on without Brad as their front-man.

Heroes For Hire are currently on tour with Brisbane band Nine Sons of Dan and I am hoping to make it their Brisbane All Ages show next month. I’ll be sure to post a review if I manage to get there.