2019 Wrap – Up

As this year is coming to a close, I thought I’d look back on 2019. I did this last year and really enjoyed it, especially because I love reading these posts from other people.

Music:

This year, I decided to start this section off with what I listened to most (according to Apple Music). I listened to 575 hours of music, as of December 30th, which is around 23 days straight of listening to music. (Of course that doesn’t count everything, but still). That’s a lot.

Top 10 Songs of 2019:

  1. Freaks Like Us – Hands Off Gretel
  2. Be Yourself – Audioslave
  3. Misery Chain – Chris Cornell
  4. I Want the World – Hands Off Gretel
  5. Can’t Change Me – Chris Cornell
  6. Nightmare – Halsey
  7. Preaching the End of the World – Chris Cornell
  8. The Last Remaining Light – Audioslave
  9. Superpower – Adam Lambert
  10. S.A.S.S – Hands Off Gretel

This is not surprising…at all.

Top 10 Artists of 2019:

  1. Soundgarden – 67 hours
  2. Chris Cornell – 51 hours
  3. The Lumineers – 36 hours
  4. L7 – 34 hours
  5. Audioslave – 33 hours
  6. U2 – 22 hours
  7. Foo Fighters – 20 hours
  8. Hands Off Gretel – 19 hours
  9. Temple of the Dog – 18 hours
  10. Elton John – 17 hours

…That is a total of 169 hours (or 7 days) spent only listening to Chris Cornell’s voice. Sounds like a good time honestly

Top 10 Albums of 2019:

  1. Echoes of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path – Soundgarden
  2. The Lumineers (Deluxe Edition) – The Lumineers
  3. Euphoria Mourning – Chris Cornell
  4. III – The Lumineers
  5. Higher Truth – Chris Cornell
  6. I Want the World – Hands Off Gretel
  7. Six: The Musical (Studio Cast Recording)
  8. Cleopatra (Deluxe Edition) – The Lumineers
  9. Lungs (Deluxe Edition) – Florence + the Machine
  10. Temple of the Dog – Temple of the Dog

Additionally…

  • I saw L7 play at the Varsity
  • I saw Queen play at the Xcel
  • Hands Off Gretel released I Want the World and it is amazing
  • Adam Lambert released Velvet: Side A and it is amazing
  • I listened to more new music than I usually do…though I clearly still have some favorites…

I posted about what I listened to all of 2019, so check that out if you want!

Books:

Hopefully I’ll read even more good books in 2020!

Life:

  • I posted my own writing on this blog for the first time. (I hope to do more of this, but it’s really scaryyyy)
  • I started my English Major Overanalyzes Song Lyrics posts, which I hope to continue soon!
  • I finished my first year of college and started my second year
  • I saw Daniel Sloss live at the Cedar Cultural Center!
  • I made some new friends!
  • I took my last math class ever!
  • I took some classes I really loved
  • I watched: Queer Eye, Versailles, Mindhunter and finished The Tudors which are all great (and verrrrry different)
  • I saw Six at the Ordway

I hope you all had a great 2019 and good start to 2020! I really like these posts because it’s good to reflect and be proud of all you did in the year, so what are some things you are proud of/were fun in 2019?

Thanks for reading ❤

Book Review: A Nearly Normal Family

Found on Google Images

Title: A Nearly Normal Family

Author: M. T. Edvardsson, Translated by Rachel Willson – Broyles

My Rating: ★★★★

Summary (Goodreads): “Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?”

My Thoughts:

This is what I was looking for when I read You Owe Me A Murder! (You can read the review for that here if you want). I was pulled in fast by the scene in the prologue, where Adam is about to testify at Stella’s trial. Though we know nothing about either character yet, it’s an exciting look at what’s to come.

Edvarsson is able to keep that excitement throughout the novel. The reader slowly gets a picture of what their family looks like and what Stella was like when she was younger, through using flashbacks. This builds up the suspense slowly and well. In addition to the use of flashbacks, there were cliffhangers at the end of nearly every chapter, which made it hard to stop reading.

A Nearly Normal Family is also interesting because it’s written in multiple points of view. Readers get to read from the perspectives of the father, mother and Stella. Given that all read very differently, this made for an intriguing way to tell the story. It slowly shows how each person sees themselves, each other and life in general. This adds to the mystery of the novel, because the reader gets pieces to put together. Additionally, it can be hard to tell what really happened and who is telling the truth, which adds to the feeling of uncovering the truth over time.

The characters in general are well -written. All of them are complex and have qualities about them that are unlikable or negative, and other qualities that are positive, making the characters feel like real people. Each character can be unlikable at times, but that is why they feel like real people going through a crazy event.

Overall, I would really recommend this book for a fun, fast thriller novel.


Playlist:

I didn’t really have any other songs I could think of to make another playlist about murder, so I’m going to use the one from my review for You Owe Me A Murder. Sorry!

  1. Down by the Church – Semler
  2. Hunted Down – Soundgarden
  3. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  4. Eating Simon – Hands Off Gretel
  5. Every Breathe You Take – The Police
  6. Monster – L7

You can listen to the playlist here 🖤


Thank you for reading! I hope you all had a great October and Halloween 💀🎃

Book Review: You Owe Me a Murder

Found on Google Images

Title: You Owe Me a Murder

Author: Eileen Cook

My Rating: ★★★1/2

Summary (Goodreads): “17-year-old Kim never expected to plot a murder. But that was before her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. Now Kim’s stuck on a class trip to London with him and his new soulmate and she can’t help wishing he was a little bit dead, even if she’d never really do that.

But when Kim meets Nicki, a stranger on the plane who’s more that willing to listen to Kim’s woes, things start to look up. Nicki’s got a great sense of humor, and when she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along — that is until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies.

Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one.”

My Thoughts:

I had a bit of a rocky start with You Owe Me a Murder. But despite being a bit apprehensive of Kim’s judgmental nature and negative attitude (more on that later), I was pulled into the plot. I kept reading because what started as making fun of Kim’s “I’m not like other girls” attitude turned into a genuine interest in what was going to happen. The other reason I kept reading was because I could tell that I would be able to finish this book quickly. Say what you will about mediocre YA fiction, it makes for fast reading.

Despite much of what I’ve just said, there were multiple good twists and turns in You Owe Me A Murder. I was genuinely surprised a good few times while reading, which is what I wanted. However, there were also moments I think were supposed to be more surprising than they were.

My biggest issue with this book was the characters. The background characters all had about one personality trait each. Jamal is a tech geek, Sophie is nice and Miriam, the theater girl is over-the-top and dramatic all the time. Only a few minor characters were interesting or more than two dimensional. Though the characters were pretty boring, the romance was pretty cute, excusing a few very cringe worthy lines of dialogue as seen here:

I grabbed his hand. “Would you do that? Keep the monsters away?”

He placed his hand over his heart. “I happen to be the master monster slayer.”

p.247

I just involuntarily had a physical reaction to how cheesy that is.

On top of that, the main character, Kim, wasn’t very likable. (This was mostly a problem at the beginning of the book, however). She was so judgmental of other people, which usually came across in a very “I’m not like other girls” way.

Kim’s not like other girls. She likes science and reading. What a nerd! I’ve never met a girl who reads the newspaper! Kim is so different.

Sidenote: Kurtis Conner and Tiffany Ferg both have great videos on why this is a dumb concept that women use to put other women down to feel accepted by men and is caused by internalized misogyny. You can watch their videos here: The “I’m Not Like Most Girls” Phenomenon, “I’m Not Like Other Girls”. But I won’t make this review into anymore of a feminist rant. But before continuing, I did want to include some memes making fun of the “I’m not like other girls” concept.

Okay, now onto my last few points. I want to quickly recognize that these are 100% sort of picky. I feel justified in including them though, because I generally don’t get this nitpick-y with my reviews. First off, I think Cook uses too many similes. When they aren’t necessary, putting in a simile or metaphor is annoying, although this comes down to preference.

My eyes darted around, trying to take in everything at once, like a starving person at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

p.50

It feels like she made the point twice here. But again, maybe it’s just me. (Although this is not the only time she did this).

Secondly, Cook references Henry VIII a few times, and Anne Boleyn at least once in her novel. This is completely understandable, since it’s a bunch of students on a trip to London. However, there’s a moment where Kim compares herself to Boleyn and it just comes across as dramatic and cringey.

Maybe the ghost of Anne Boleyn figured I deserved the answer since we’d both been overthrown by a guy who moved on pretty quickly to the next model. She would have moved on too — if they hadn’t cut off her head.

p.65

As someone who has a great interest in English history, this stood out to me more than it may have other people. I am willing to admit that. But still. Getting dumped is not the same as dying by beheading and the idea that Anne Boleyn would have been afforded the luxury of marrying again? It likely annoys me so much because it so oversimplifies Anne Boleyn’s time as Queen of England and the complex dynamic of not only Henry VIII and Anne but all kings and queens.

Overall, the plot was the only thing that saved this book. But it was fun and very hard to put down, so if you want a fast, easy read, this isn’t a bad choice.


Playlist:

  1. Down by the Church – Semler
  2. Hunted Down – Soundgarden
  3. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  4. Eating Simon – Hands Off Gretel
  5. Every Breath You Take – The Police
  6. Monster – L7

You can listen to the playlist here 🖤


Thank you for reading! I hope you are all having a great October so far 🎃

My Month in Music – June (2019)

I hope you are all having a great July so far! Here is some music I listened to last month 🙂

You can listen to the playlist here 🔮


I hope you all have a great July! Happy listening and thanks for reading ❤

Book Review: Shout

Found on Google Images

*TW: rape, domestic violence

Title: Shout

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: “Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice — and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.”

My Thoughts:

The minute I heard that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote Shout I knew I needed to read it. I haven’t read all of her books, but I’ve read a lot of them, and all were fantastic. I loved Speak when I read it, and although it’s been a long time since I read it, I remember how well she handled the complicated conversation around rape. She continuously tackles complex issues like eating disorders (Wintergirls) and PTSD (The Impossible Knife of Memory) so well. Shout is no different.

Anderson wrote in free verse, which I really enjoyed. It allowed her the freedom to write each poem in a different form and length, which kept it interesting. I also liked the mix of memoir (especially at the beginning) with poetry focused on the issue of sexual assault as a whole. Anderson was able to tell her own story while also addressing issues she herself never directly faced.

I really loved this book. There was not a poem I disliked. Of course, I had my favorites, but everything was well written and expressed different emotions and ideas. I’ve always thought Anderson is so talented with word choice and writing poetic lines in her novels, and Shout reinforced that. Some of my favorite lines are below (because quoting an entire poem is a bit much).

The image of my father hitting

my mother picassoed in front of me

like Sunday sunshine slicing

through the church windows, fracturing

and rearranging the truth on the floor.

Another example:

I didn’t speak up

when that boy raped me, instead I scalded

myself in the shower and turned

me into the ghost of the girl

I once was

Shout writes about the violence so many women experience in their lives in such a real way that nearly brought me to tears and filled me with rage. Anderson once again tackled a difficult topic with grace, expressing the anger and hurt so many women feel due to their experiences and the experiences of others. I cannot say enough that this book is excellent and everyone should read it.


Playlist:

This is a playlist of angry women (one of my favorite genres of music):

  1. Asking for It – Hole
  2. Nightmare – Halsey
  3. Can I Run – L7
  4. Oh Bondage Up Yours! – X-Ray Spex
  5. Seneca Falls – The Distillers
  6. World Against She – Hands Off Gretel
  7. Suck My Left One – Bikini Kill

You can listen to the playlist here 🤘🏻


Thanks for reading! ❤

My Month in Music – May (2019)

I hope you all had a good May! I finished my first year of college and it’s been very nice not to have homework. I haven’t written down what I’ve been listening to as well since coming home, so I apologize if the playlist is a bit repetitive! Anyway, onto the music 🙂

You can listen to the playlist here 🙂


Special Mentions:

I saw L7 on the 19th and they were amazing! We were standing in the 3rd – ish row and it was a lot of fun!


Thank you for reading! I hope your summer is off to a great start 🙂

My Month in Music – April (2019)

In April I didn’t listen to much new music, but there are some good songs in this playlist either way, since I have impeccable music taste. Just kidding, but I hope you enjoy it!

You can listen to the playlist here!


Thanks for reading! I hope your May is going well!

My Month in Music – March (2019)

March was a great month for music. I didn’t listen to as much new music as in February, but Hands Off Gretel’s new album came out and it’s a masterpiece (as I expected). If you like a mix of grunge, punk and pop, you should definitely check it out! Now…onto the playlist!

You can listen to the playlist here 🙂

Special Mentions:

No other songs to share, but I did get tickets to see L7 in May!


Thanks for reading! Happy listening 🙂

Book Review: The Merciless 4

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Found on Google Images

Title: The Merciless 4: Last Rites

Author: Danielle Vega

My Rating: ★★★★

Summary: “The ropes tighten on Berkley Hubbard’s wrists. Blood drips down her fingers and lands with a smack on the cold floor of the church basement. She’s trapped, bound, and petrified by fear. A knife punctures her fragile skin as Berkley’s captors search for the mark of the devil on her body. They say they want to save her–drive the devil away and cleanse her soul–but the cuts are deep, the pain is agonizing.

When Berkley arrived in Italy a week ago, she never expected to be fighting for her life. After spending six months at the Institute, confined to a room with the dangerous-yet-alluring Sofia Flores, Berkley was certain that a vacation in Italy with her two best friends would be the perfect getaway.

But Berkley is hiding a terrible secret, one that threatens to upend her life all over again. As she’s forced to face her wicked past, she learns that the devil is always watching, and no one is coming to save her.”

My Thoughts:

Here are the links to my reviews for the other books in the series:

  1. The Merciless
  2. The Merciless 2: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores
  3. The Merciless 3: Origins of Evil

Onto the review!

I was pulled into this book right from the start. It starts with Berkley counting down how much longer she has to spend in the mental institution she’s in. It was intriguing to start with a totally new character, but see an old character, Sofia, in a new setting. Vega does a good job of describing the setting early on, which makes the institution come to life. Something else that is cool about The Merciless 4 is the way it’s written. It jumps between Berkley in the institution and in Italy, which allows the book to move along quickly in both plots.

Speaking of the plot, like I said with The Merciless 3, the plot is better built than the first two. It is more interesting and feels like there is a plot outside of the gore. The friendships (while not as developed as in the third book) are fairly interesting. Berkley and Sofia’s relationship changed over time and was fun to see develop. The readers know more about Sofia than Berkley does, which is a cool dynamic for a book like this. One thing I noticed in the first and last book of the series is the shitty friends. Sofia and Berkley both make friends with horrible people! I’ve had toxic friendships before, but (not even including the gory stuff) they are on another level of terrible people. I don’t understand how they really thought those people were their best friends??!

This isn’t important, but Berkley, Mara and Harper all get into NYU and are super chill about it?! That is a hard college to get into and they all seemed like it wasn’t that hard to get into or something? (I just checked and their acceptance rate is less than 20% this year).

giphy

Something I didn’t love about The Merciless 4 was the setting. This series is supposed to be set in the present, but most mental institutions like the one Vega described have been shut down. Vega described a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest situation, but those have been shut down with good reason. (Examples of why can be seen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

Additionally, the fact that everyone inside the institution is supposed to be crazy is a little bit of a problem for me. I understand that this is a horror novel and so that works with the plot, but regardless, authors need to be careful with their portrayal of mental illnesses. Sofia is crazy and that’s fine. She’s evil and murdered someone, so her being insane is part of the plot. (She’s not even necessarily human, because she’s possessed by the devil). Berkley tries to say she’s different, that everyone else is crazy, but in reality, they are probably in similar situations to her or have mental illnesses. To portray everyone as crazy when they aren’t supposed to be crazy or evil like Sofia is a little problematic.

As I have said with every book in the series, Vega’s descriptions are what really makes the books so good. There were a few lines I almost didn’t want to read because they were gross. But so good. For example…

“Blood runs down my arms and legs in ribbons.”

Lastly, the ending to this book was perfect! It completed the series in a very satisfying way, which is hard to do. I definitely enjoyed this series a lot, though it had some pretty major faults.


Playlist:

Every time I make a playlist for a Merciless book, they get less and less cohesive as I try to use different songs (and end up with many of the same ones). But here goes…

  1. Evil In the Night – Adam Lambert
  2. No Wrong No Right – Soundgarden
  3. Broomstick – L7
  4. Eating Simon – Hands Off Gretel
  5. Voodoo – Adam Lambert
  6. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  7. Devil in Me – Halsey
  8. Ghost – Michael Jackson
  9. Gasoline – Halsey
  10. Basket Case – Green Day (with the music video, this seems very fitting)

You can listen to the whole playlist here.


Thank you for reading! 🖤☠️🔪

Book Review: The Merciless 3

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Found on Google Images

Title: The Merciless 3: Origins of Evil

Author: Danielle Vega

My Rating: ★★★★

Summary: “Brooklyn knows that there’s no good without evil, no right without wrong. And when a helpless girl calls her teen helpline, whispering that someone is hurting her, Brooklyn knows that she needs to save her anonymous caller, even if it means doing something bad.

Her parents and friends assure her the call was probably a prank — but Brooklyn has always had a tendency to take over, whether someone has asked for help or not.

She discovers that the call came from Christ First Church and finds herself plunged into the cultish community of its youth group. She’s especially drawn to Gavin, the angelic yet tortured pastor’s son.

Torn between an unstoppable attraction to Gavin and her obsession with the truth, Brooklyn is forced to make a devastating choice to rid Christ First Church of evil once and for all….But the devil has plans for Brooklyn’s soul.”

My Thoughts:

Before I start reviewing this book, I’m just going to link the reviews for the first two books here:

  1. The Merciless
  2. The Merciless 2: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores

Now on to the third book!

The Merciless 3 is a prequel to the series. This is interesting because it focused on Brooklyn, who was a very interesting character in the first two books. I love her, even when she’s evil. She’s horrible, but she’s so good at it that I love her for it. In this book, we got to see Brooklyn pre-evil, which is cool, because we get to see more of her personality outside of being a horrible person. The reader can see who she really is and how she got where she is originally seen in the first two books.

The third installment of the series starts right off the bat with a prologue of someone being harmed, which is a great start for the subject matter. It helps to lead into an intense and dramatic book. Even from the very first line…

“The blood feels warm beneath the cold metal.”

Overall, this book felt like it got scary sooner than the previous two. There were freaky things right at the beginning of the second book too, but in this one, it felt like it got right to the point or plot of the story sooner, which I liked. In the second one, I sort of felt like I was just waiting for the gory things to happen since I knew they were inevitable. In this one, I felt more interested and not like I was just waiting for something I knew would happen.

I really liked the characters in this book. They felt more original than in the past books I’ve read by Vega. Brooklyn has a best friend, Deirdre and together they are very funny. I laughed out loud a few times while reading their dialogue. They are both very sarcastic and a good contrast to the kids Brooklyn meets at Christ First Church. Like I said, I loved Brooklyn and seeing her as a normal teenager. In this book, there are many aspects of her I liked. For example, she creates a teen helpline. She also steals a lipstick to protest a company not giving their female employees access to birth control or providing employees with health insurance. She is also a bit like me in music taste, style and being an atheist. This meant I could relate to her in some ways, which always makes me like a book better.

The theme of this book was also interesting to me because it focused on a cultish church and cults interest me. In fact, the whole plot was better to me than the previous book in the series. I felt the plot was better built and more intriguing. Like I already said, I didn’t feel like I was just waiting for something I knew was coming. There were more side plots and the story flowed better. It didn’t feel like the beginning was just there in order to get to the scary part, but that it was an actual part of the story. In the previous books, the part before the exorcism sort of felt like the vessel to get to the gore.

As I have said in the other reviews of this series, Vega writes very good descriptions, which is why the scary and gross parts are good. Some examples are:

“Skin drips from his chin and nose, like candle wax.”

and

“…my fear is a living thing. It squeezes my chest. It breathes against the back of my neck, sending goose bumps down my spine.”

Again, as I said in the last review, there are aspects of this series that feels repetitive, but I am going to read the fourth and final book because I do like this series despite its faults.


Playlist:

For this one, I tried to pick songs that fit the general feel of this book, by being creepy or scary. While making this review, I faced a problem that I had with The Merciless 2 review and will have with The Merciless 4 review: I am running out of songs that fit this theme. So this playlist has some songs from the last two reviews of The Merciless series, but I wanted to try to make one different instead of using the same one.

  1. Helter Skelter – The Beatles (’cause you know…cults)
  2. No Wrong No Right – Soundgarden
  3. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  4. Eating Simon – Hands Off Gretel
  5. Broomstick – L7
  6. One Eyed Girl – Hands Off Gretel
  7. Voodoo – Adam Lambert
  8. Devil in Me – Halsey
  9. Demons – Imagine Dragons
  10. Gasoline – Halsey

You can listen to the whole playlist here.


Thank you for reading 🖤☠️🔪