Saturday, April 14, 2012

Monia Leonelle- Social Punk excerpt

Here's an excerpt from author Monia Leonelle's new book Social punk. We also did her interview which can be found here 

After playing God for six years with the world he created, he couldn’t control any of his subjects, none at all. Over the years, he had watched them evolve and become the sum of their own choices rather than the sum of his; and for that, he regretted ever giving them life.
A small, blinking red light from just inside his eyelid reminded him of the news they sent him earlier that morning. The company had cancelled his funding and would shut down his project within three months. According to them, the project cost too much and took up too much space, and the inconclusive results couldn’t be published reputably, now or in the future.
Six years of his work, tens of thousands of lives at stake—and he could do nothing to save any of it. He bowed his head, letting his chin rest on the rim of his breakfast smoothie. The smoothie reeked of powder—crushed pills—but he supposed he had better get used to it. He wouldn’t be able to afford the luxury of real food after they canned him.
He closed his eyes and called up the camera view of one of his favorites, number 3281. She fascinated him; he couldn’t deny it. When he had designed her, her pre-teen rebelliousness lit fire in her eyes. A survivor, he’d thought. He’d meant for her to have it all—to grow up, to get married to the love of her life, and to have a beautiful family of her own someday.
But he had only given her sadness so far. Instead of creating a strict father, he had given her an abusive one. Instead of creating a loving boyfriend, he had given her a friend who could never love her. And instead of creating a strong, proud mother, he had given her a meek one, who watched the whole thing unfold and did nothing about it.
He looked at his last and final creation sitting in the chair across from him—his own son, not awakened yet. The law forbade him to have any children of his own, so this boy would substitute.
But he had done the unthinkable with this creation—he had bestowed on it his own thoughts, emotions, and decision-making processes. He’d given the boy his own mind, his own physical characteristics, his own wants and desires.
He had never done so with any of the others because of the dangers of investing too heavily in any one of his subjects. But who could he kid? He had not stayed objective thus far, watching some of his subjects more closely than others, wishing for the happiness of some at the expense of others. He had become an abomination, a monster of his own doing, who had created subjects only to watch them suffer.
He couldn’t forgive himself; not now, not ever. His eyes lingered on the vial that sat next to his breakfast smoothie, that he’d stowed away for the day when they destroyed all his work, his entire world. He would save it, tuck it away for now, for as long as he could protect them. When things spun out of his control, he would drink it and end himself the way he had ended them.
In the ancient stories, gods frequently gave their sons as gifts. Now, he would give his son as a gift to her, number 3281. So she could be happy in her last months on earth, before they destroyed her with the rest of them.

Ayumi Hamasaki I am review

Album Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- I am

After Duty, I decided to try this one out because it is her second best selling album.

I am...- The title track. Starts slowly with acapella vocals. Guitars join in later and make this a rock song. For the title track, this was disappointing. Not to mention it sounded similar to most of the songs on this album which were better.

Connected- I am not reviewing the interlude in between. Connected begins with a eurodance beat and keeps it consistent throughout the song. The chorus is especially refreshing. It again, has the heavy electric guitar atmosphere which the following songs emulate. Clearly, this track's biggest strength was the chorus that helped it stand out among the other tracks.

UNITE!- Unite is again a heavy guitar track. This sounded much better on the single but fails to stand out among other similar tracks on the album. The chorus is not its biggest strength because it lacks as much melody as connected.

Evolution- Evolution slows down the heavy guitar atmosphere for a bit then launches fully into it. This is one of my favourite songs from Ayumi and I have always loved her lives. However, though thus tracks stood out, it doesn't manage to be anything special in this album. Ayumi's nasal voice in the chorus can get annoying after a while. The lyrics are nice.

Naturally- Another electric guitar heavy track. In fact, this succession of tracks becomes the album's biggest weakness. All the rock tracks are placed together and all the ballads are placed together. Naturally is the peak of this weakness. It fails to stand out among the other good and competitive tracks. In fact, I only vaguely remember this track. It comes at the point when the listener is saturated with similar sounding rock tracks and this is an easy skip.

Never Ever- This used to be one of my favourite tracks on Best 2 Black. It still is on this album. The song is composed by Ayumi herself. The balladish verse transitions into a powerful chorus. The chimes/bells/music box in the background give a nice feel. The chorus is again a strong point in this song. This manages a better entry than some of the above songs.

still alone- A nice opening with mysterious piano melodies. But the song is very predictable. Ayumi sounds fine on the track and that is the thing that probably saved this track apart from its good placing after all the rock tracks. It is a pop ballad that shines after a string of rock led songs with little variety. The chorus is not the greatest part of this song but manages a decent climax.

Daybreak- This is a strong album track. I have loved it since the first listen. The chorus is the strong point of this song. It has a refreshing 'summer' sound and the power of guitars and Ayumi's improved vocals. I can't believe this wasn't a single track. Ayumi did a live of this. It is placed in a better position than some other tracks.

M- One of Ayumi's best selling singles. It was one of her first attempts at composition. The song starts with a gospel atmosphere and transitions into cheerful pop. A nice song but nothing special. Ayumi looks nice in the PV. Some Ayumi fans around me love this song to bits but for me, it is only average. Ayumi herself has composed better songs.

A song is born- Seeing this song live put me off. Keiko and Ayumi sounded like a pack of squealing cats. However, it was always obvious that Ayumi does more justice to this song. This version is more pleasant than the original track. We now enter the ballad phase of this album. The chorus can be a little pitchy but Ayumi sings this song better than the original.

Dearest- Again, a good track I recognize from Inuyasha and Best 2 Black. The placing was not the greatest but the track managed to sound good. An emotional pop ballad with japanese atmosphere. The lyrics are nice and especially meaningful in the context of Inuyasha. A good ballad.

No more words- Starts very well but leads into a very predictable and boring chorus. Lyrics are nice but the chorus ruined this song. Typical Ayumi ballad.

Endless sorrow~Gone with the wind version~- I still can't forgive Ayumi for putting this in the album instead of the original track. This track fits into the 'ballad phase' better though. It has some beat and sounds like an average pop track instead of the powerful rock track on the single. This track doesn't stand out in the album.

 Flower garden- The electric guitars are back again. Not a good ending to the album. The song is cheerful but an inferior choice compared to the other rock/trance tracks on this album.

I always believed this album would be better than Duty after viewing the tracklist. There were a lot of singles in this album and they were among the most successful ones by Ayumi. However, bad placing and similar sounding album tracks did not do full justice to this album. It could have turned out better if the ballads and rock songs had been mixed instead of separated. All the songs are very nice to listen to individually but don't go together in an album. Placing of songs is the biggest weakness in the album. I don't know any other Ayumi album that has as many good songs as this one but a lot of them sound better because the songs are placed in positions where they shine. There was intense competition between good songs but no one won.

Overall, the album is a compilation of great songs but not a good 'album'. Ayumi's vocals are certainly at their best here. I never knew she could manage powerful rock songs without squealing. The vibrato, though uncontrolled, is a nice ornament especially in ballads. Ayumi has also tightened her control over her career by composing songs herself. The tracks composed by Ayumi sound better than those composed by professional composers. She has a lot of flair for composing. After listening to this, it is easy to understand why Duty is her best selling album and I am... is not.


Ayumi's vocals
Strong single tracks
Ayumi's lyrics and composition


Bad placing of tracks
Similar sounding album tracks
Quantity over quality
Lacks replay value

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Author interview- Monica Leonelle

Monica Leonelle is a marketing expert and author of a trilogy of Young adult novels. Social Punk, her first YA book will be released this year. Head over to her website to find out more about this talented author.
You can buy an her book here

Favorite color- pink!
Favorite author- JK Rowling
Zodiac sign- Aquarius
Place of your dreams- Hawaii!
Favorite book- Right now, Socialpunk :)

1. What kind of characters do you like to create and what kind of characters do you like to read about?

I like to create characters that have mysterious sides to them. I like characters who act one way but feel another. I also like characters who are young (teenagers, typically) and good looking, because let's be honest, they are more fun to inhabit that way! These are the same types of characters I like to read about.

2. Why do you write science fiction and fantasy?

I like to create new worlds. Regular life is boring. I like to step it up a notch.

3. Is the life of a writer the way you imagined it to be?

Well, it's definitely hard work. I don't take time off very often because my books aren't wildly successful yet. But I do love what I do day in and day out, which I don't feel many people can say.

5. What message would you like to give your fans?

I hope you enjoy my books!

Album Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- Duty

So, I finally got to listen to Duty- Ayumi Hamasaki's best selling studio album.
Here's a breakdown of the tracks

Starting over- Something like an instrumental intro. It is dance/ rock influenced but doesn't stand out much especially compared to the track that follows.

Duty- The title track and easily the best one on this album. Duty has a mysterious 'Paris Thief' kind of atmosphere that Mirrorcle world had but is much more melodic. Ayumi manages the song pretty well but there are some shrill notes. The instrumental arrangement is fabulous. The enigmatic guitar and lush strings create a great atmosphere.

Vogue- The song is kind of high pitched and too sugary but the arrangement balances its negative traits well. It has an oriental vibe with lots of shamisen/koto kind of sounds in the background. It is quite pleasant to listen to.

End of the world- A good ballad/pop mix. This again faces the same problem as Starting over. Its fails to impress in comparison to the previous and next track.

Scar- Another great track comparable to Duty on this album. It is a poignant ballad that Ayumi puts lots of emotion into singing. Again, no very high notes so, it is pleasant. It seems very sophisticated like Duty, an atmosphere which many tracks in the album don't share. There is a feeling of pain that is very absorbing. Ayumi did a live of this one recently (2 years-3 years back in Next level tour, I think).

Far Away- I can't believe this was a single track when SCAR and Duty weren't. The arrangement can be a little distracting. Typical Ayumi stuff. It is fine to carry the album forward and manages some decent climax. Better than Surreal.


Surreal- I tend to get confused between this and audience. Starts well and heads straight for ruin. Not one of my favourite tracks. Ayumi sings it fine but it just didn't catch my attention. Has a heavy rock atmosphere  with guitar solos.

Audience- Again, a heavy rock track but with high pitched and cheerful vocals. Not Ayumi's strength really. She tries to sound too cute. Didn't impress me. Sounds too distracted(all over the place) sometimes.

Seasons- Despite the substandard mv, this track stands out. Seasons has a good climax and balanced back vocals. The arrangement compliments it well. Ayumi manages to sing it well too. It's genre would be pop. I hear some DAI pop vibe in it.

Teddy Bear- A wonderful ballad. It fades out the previous track beautifully. Ayumi's emotive singing is evident in the track. Instead of distracting with electric guitars, this track leaves Ayumi to display her powerful vocals. The simple arrangement enhances the beauty of this track. It's simplicity is what stands out among the other heavily arranged tracks in this album. Ayumi did a good live of this one.

Key~eternal tie version~- If you ask me, Teddy bear should have been the last track. It has a nice fade out effect. This track is slow paced and pleasant to listen to. The chorus is powerful and convincing. I liked this a lot but the placing was not the best.

Girlish- Not such a great ending for the album. It sounds like something an idol group would sing, not Ayumi Hamasaki. That nasal opening sounds a lot like Yaida Hitomi's style. The back vocals salvage the song (la la and claps, which is most of it). Ayumi manages this one fine. Not the greatest ending to the album but has a pleasant vibe.

Conclusion: Overall, Duty is a nice album. All the songs were pleasant and have replay value (something that other albums from Ayumi lack). It is much better than the Best 2 Black I bought. I haven't heard her other studio albums to compare but this one is very good, a lot better than her recent ones. Her vocals were not fully polished but after this album, her ability to hit high notes diminished. So, in a way, this is a good combination of skill and control. I would recommend this album.


Some really god tracks (Duty, scar, teddy bear)
Most tracks are pleasant and have a nice sound.
Replay Value
Vocals are better than preceding albums


Not-so-good single tracks
Vocals get shrill and harsh on the ears sometimes

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book review- I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I've Got Your number is a brand new book by chick-lit author Sophie Kinsella.

I’ve lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive :) !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life. (from randomhouse)

Style wise, this book is similar to Kinsella's other books with a good dose of humour and a clumsy female lead. Poppy is a very interesting character who never gets annyoing or whiny. Even despite losing the ring, she seems to be in control of her life (mostly).

Sam is a very interesting male lead. His personality is very distinct from usual male leads. He is high-flying and has no time for anything except his job. The texts Sam and Poppy send each other are very interesting and the realtionship is built very realistically. They encounters are always humorous and I wanted to see them together more often. The scene in which Sam takes Poppy to get a fake engagement ring to replace the one she's lost is funny.

This book is a great book and I would definitrly recommend it to both Sophie Kinsella fans and people who are reading her for the first time.


Interesting characters

Real interaction of the main characters could have been increased
There were some parts of the story that seemed a bit over the top

NOTE- Pictures do not belong to me and have been taken from Google image search.