Ice Like Fire

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: I loved the first book, Snow Like Ashes, and I was psyched to read this sequel, albeit a little wary of middle book syndrome. Turns out, my suspicions were correct; this book exhibits all the symptoms of middle book syndrome: slow plot, poor character development, a focus on romance rather than politics and battle, and a slew of plot conveniences.

This sequel tracks Meira and Theron as they visit other Rythms and Seasons on a sort of political tour, but Meira and Theron are motivated by different causes and this divide threatens to split the couple. As she struggles to draw Theron to her cause, Meira also struggles to keep her powers under control and find a solution that could save not just Winter but her whole world.

In spite of the slow plot, though, I found myself speeding through the novel. Sara Raasch is a great world-builder, and that, at least, was not lost in this sequel.

Part of what slowed the plot down is the alternating perspectives. This technique is used far too often and is often an encumbrance and annoyance, splitting the plot in two and drawing it out longer. In this book, Raasch alternates chapter perspectives between Meira and Mather. While I enjoyed the Meira chapters (lots of world-building there), Mather’s chapters were often slow and more angsty, and they saw little action until the end of the novel. Moreover, the fact that Mather is voiced but Theron is not irks me (#Theira4ever).

The main characters didn’t seem to grow much aside from dealing with their growth in the first book. Raasch did, however, introduce a few side characters who seem to have the spunk and fierceness to quell our thirst for strong characters for the duration of the novel (Feige and Ceridwen come to mind).

This book also took some liberties with the magic part of the world, inventing new rules for the magic as we went and leaving several questions unanswered (why could Meira make it snow in Summer?). While the majority of the plot’s reliance on magic made sense and fit with the previous series, I was confused about some of the additions. Why exactly could the Decay infect other people? If Angra died, wouldn’t the Decay then infect the entire population rather than a select few? Perhaps I missed these details by reading quickly, but I wish Raasch would stick with clear boundaries for the magic and let the plot play out within that world rather than continuing to change the rules.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed the first book in the series, I recommend continuing with it; I have hopes that the last book (Frost Like Night) will make it all worth it. Those who enjoy angsty YA plots where love triangles triumph burden the plot (guilty pleasure, perhaps) might want to start this series just for the second book. I still stand by my opinion that Raasch is an excellent world-builder, so perhaps the book will appeal to you solely for that reason. There is a brothel scene (which the main characters find distasteful) and some violence (beheading, cutting, etc.), so this book is probably best for ages 14+.

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Rutkoski is the Real Winner in The Winner’s Kiss

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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: It’s always bittersweet to read the conclusion of a series. You want to read it, to have that sense of conclusion so badly, but you’re also afraid of saying goodbye. In the short time it took me to read this novel, I was entranced yet again by the world Marie Rutkoski has built; a world I have not visited in about a year. I’m happy to say the conclusion has left me full of appreciation for Rutkoski.

Kestrel and Arin are just as brilliant as I remember them to be. Kestrel is perhaps one of the most intelligent and tactical characters I have had the pleasure of walking alongside. But she’s not me, and Rutkoski doesn’t try to make her me. That’s where so many YA novels have fallen. They’ve sacrificed their female characters’ originality in an attempt to allow them to reach the reader at their own level. But Kestrel is different than the average reader, I think. She takes risks I don’t think many of us would take. She’s not better than us or worse than us–she’s just different and I love her for that.

I also appreciate Rutkoski’s ability not get lost in the romance. As in the second book of this series, she dedicates proper time and thought to the political and doesn’t force Kestrel and Arin together. I believe the spaces between the romance are when the readers want them to be together most, and this is a plot tactic for which I applaud Rutkoski.

I would have liked to have seen more of the side characters in this novel, as I became close to several of them in the previous book but did not see much of them in this conclusion. I also felt that The Winner’s Crime was superior on a line-by-line basis. Part of what made the second book so good was that I expected little of it, but that just made my expectations higher for this conclusion. Rutkoski certainly met my expectations, but she also has a precedence of exceeding it, which this novel did not do for me.

Nonetheless, the series is brilliant and this book is a fitting conclusion to it all.

Recommendation: Those who have already picked up the first book in the series should certainly not put it down, and should read the series out to its end. I recommend it to those interested in The Hunger Games and The Throne of Glass, as Kestrel is a similarly determined, tactical young protagonist. The series is good for about 14 and up, I’d say.

These Shallow Graves

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Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: I’ve loved Jennifer Donnelly ever since I read Revolution, a book about the French Revolution which has impacted me much more than I expected. When I saw the cover for These Shallow Graves, I admit I felt a little disappointed. It’s a beautiful cover, but I pegged it as less artistic and deep than the covers of her previous novels. To me, the cover makes the book out to be another paranormal thriller type of story, likely featuring vampires. But that’s not Jennifer Donnelly. And that’s not what this book is like.

Set in the 1890s, These Shallow Graves follows Jo Montfort, a young lady who dreams about escaping her duties as an upper-class woman and becoming a reporter like her hero Nellie Bly. When her father dies under mysterious circumstances, she winds up working with Eddie Gallagher, an ambitious young reporter, to try to uncover the truth.

At first, I didn’t buy it. The plot felt predictable and Jo Montfort felt like a familiar character–the typical headstrong young woman stuck in the cage of the upper class.

But then Donnelly threw Eddie Gallagher in the picture, and with him came a slew of unusual characters that brought out a different side of Jo. While I knew the main plot twist from nearly the start of the book, a number of other twists managed to surprise me. Donnelly also managed to capture late nineteenth-century New York in all its depth without overloading me with information. I was a little nervous when I reached the final chapters, as I did not know how the book would end, but that just proves the novel kept me on my toes.

As always, Donnelly understands just how to end things. She doesn’t indulge her readers, but she provides enough information to drive home the meaning of the text and lets the readers guess what happens next.

Recommendation: This novel hits all the right notes. Fans of Donnelly’s previous work should definitely read this one. Anyone interested in catching a glimpse of America in the late 1800s will not be disappointed, either. I think Donnelly is the perfect solution for YA readers who want more than love triangles and shallow messages. I promise this book will both keep such readers enraptured while taking them below surface-level fiction.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Review: Another book I was so ready to love–but didn’t.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of fairy tales. I love how everything has a purpose even if it seems completely random. I love how they can turn so quickly from romance to tragedy. I love how occasionally–not often, but occasionally–a subtly empowering female figure steps into the fray.

It’s no surprise, then, that I also love adaptations of fairy tales. And, props to Sarah J. Maas, her adaptation draws more from Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast than the Disney version. When “Beauty” (Feyre) mentioned her older sisters, I squealed. That’s how excited I get when authors adapt the original stories. From the first few chapters, I was hooked. I wanted to see this strong, independent hunter girl take down the beast.

But the beast (Tamlin) didn’t need anyone to take him down. In fact, he’s the one who seems to take Feyre down, and even that doesn’t take as much work as I’d like–it’s not so hard to get a human to fall in love with you if you look like a freakin’ god.

Another YA book, another instalove story.

So the first couple hundred pages of the book is that constant “he loves me, he loves me not” questioning where the readers complain about the protagonist’s blindness. Yes, he loves you. We get it. He’s handsome, he thinks you’re beautiful, move on already. In spite of the hostilities and mystery surrounding her, Feyre allows romance to take the central theme of the plot.

And why does Tamlin constantly blame Feyre for being attractive to him? Like he can’t control himself, but he can control Feyre? He tells her “don’t ever disobey me again” and says he “can’t be held accountable for the consequences” even when the consequence is his own lust for her.

I’ve said it. This story doesn’t show love–it shows lust. Aside from one scene where Tamlin notes how easily Feyre understands him, there’s nothing more to their romance than mutual passions. More than lust, it shows the sort of dominant-subordinate roles common in abusive relationships.

And then action happens again and Lucien is amazing and Feyre’s sisters are amazing and Rhysand is amazing and Amarantha is–well, terrifying–and every character seems multi-faceted EXCEPT Feyre and Tamlin and I want to yell at this book because is it really so hard to stick to a strong, interesting female character?

Not to mention the fact that the trials and the riddle are way too predictable.

Why two and a half stars out of five, you ask? Why not lower? Like I said, the rest of the characters are amazing and complex and Maas clearly worked hard to weave the original into the adaptation. The setting is gorgeous and Maas has created yet another fascinating world for this series. I’m hopeful that the second book will focus more on the war in the plot rather than the romance, and from the way the first book ends, it looks like some of my favorite characters will play a larger role in the next book.

Recommendation: Fans of Alex Flinn and Donna Jo Napoli‘s fairy tale adaptations will likely enjoy this read.

I would recommend those interested in fairy tale adaptations to look into Marissa Meyer’s YA sci-fi Lunar Chronicles, Ruth Frances Long’s stand-alone The Treachery of Beautiful Things, or Shannon Hale’s fantasy MS series Books of Bayern instead.

Redeeming Love

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love is not new to the shelves–it was published in 1991–but it is worth reviewing.

The Christian romance novel adapts the story of Hosea and Gomer to the time of the California Gold Rush. (Short version: Godly man told to marry prostitute; prostitute keeps running back to prostitution.)

The most important characteristic of the novel is that it is incredibly moving. The beginning and Angel’s last attempt to run away are particularly affecting. Angel’s slow transformation and God’s hand in her life are both comforting and inspiring. It is also an interesting book in terms of plot and setting and the adaptation is very well-done.

Still, Redeeming Love is not without a few less-than-redemptive qualities. One such quality is the constant repetition of thoughts.

Hosea: If God wants her to be my wife, she’ll be my wife, even if I struggle with it.

Angel: There is no God and I must run away to enjoy my independence.

I understand that these thoughts and movements keep the story similar to the Biblical account, but is it truly necessary to repeat these same thoughts so many times? The novel may have packed even more of a punch for me if it dropped 100 pages of these repetitive concepts.

Also, why shouldn’t Angel want to enjoy her independence? I understand that “independence” as it means “return to prostitution” is not to be desired, but she is essentially forced into marriage and, as a result, into traditional feminine roles she has little taste for. I understand that, at the time, women had little freedom to call their own, but Angel’s idea of freedom–a cottage to herself–is made to feel impossible and almost laughable.

I love that, near the end of the novel, she gains some independence and makes a proper job for herself, but this independence isn’t lasting, either. I can’t say anything more on the matter without spoiling the book. I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I prefer reading a story with more empowering female characters.

I’m also very annoyed with what happens to Paul–but again I can’t say much without giving the story away.

This is yet another novel where all the characters are physically attractive. Which bothers me because how can they all be so attractive when they lack indoor plumbing? Wouldn’t smelliness and oily hair detract from one’s attractiveness?

Also, the epilogue feels incredibly rushed. It reads like the end of a touching “based on a real story” film where the screen lists each of the character’s happily-ever-afters rather than tell it all through a believable, satisfying story.

Still, the faults of Redeeming Love don’t negate the fact that I couldn’t put the darn book down.

Recommendation: Fans of Christian romance and historical fiction would probably enjoy this read most. Victims of abuse might want to be careful with this one.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Photograph

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but Ed Sheeran is calling to me again.

And, yes, the ginger boy in these home videos is Sheeran himself. Pretty adorable.


Lyrics

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know (know)
I swear it will get easier
Remember that with every piece of ya
And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That’s okay, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

Wait for me to come home [4x]

Oh you can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were 16
Next to your heartbeat
Where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that’s okay, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

When I’m away
I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost
Back on 6th street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,
“Wait for me to come home.”

Analysis

When I first heard this song, I thought it was about a soldier heading off to war and the importance of photographs to him and his beloved. While I think this romantic interpretation could still apply, Sheeran’s music video–a compilation of home videos from his childhood–brings to light a more familial interpretation.

1) “Loving can hurt / Loving can hurt sometimes / But it’s the only thing that I know / When it gets hard / You know it can get hard sometimes / It is the only thing that makes us feel alive”

Love isn’t limited to romance. So while these seem like straightforward I-love-you-even-though-it-hurts lines, they could apply to people outside a traditional romantic relationship. Take, for example, a mother and her son. Who, in a mother and son relationship, hasn’t had “hard” times? Who would also agree that, in this relationship, love is “the only thing”? Oh, sure, there can be the occasional feud and not all relationships are ideal, but for most people love is prevalent. On a separate note, the final line here reminds me of a Victor Hugo quote: “To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”

2) “We keep this love in a photograph / We made these memories for ourselves / Where our eyes are never closing / Hearts are never broken / Times forever frozen still”

This is what initially brought about my soldier interpretation. I’ve often heard stories of people holding on to a photograph of their loved one oversees or at home, and I connected that with this song. What Sheeran’s saying here is basically that “this love”–be it romantic or familial–is kept in “a photograph” with all the memories they made. In the photograph, their “eyes are never closing, hearts are never broken, [and] time’s forever frozen still.” In the love the song centers around, things are different now than they were in the photograph. Now, they’re both hurt and “time’s forever frozen still” (which is a repetitive line but a beautiful one). “Broken hearts” doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship ended, though. Quite a few people seem to interpret it that way, but I disagree. “Broken hearts” can also be caused by long-term separation between a couple or a family.

3) “So you can keep me / Inside the pocket / Of your ripped jeans / Holdin’ me closer / ‘Til our eyes meet / You won’t ever be alone / Wait for me to come home”

The “me” of the first line here refers to the photograph, which temporarily serves as a representation of him. He encourages her, saying she should “[hold] me closer ’til our eyes meet.” He must be staring directly at the photographer for her eyes to meet his in a photograph. And the fact that their eyes can meet (when his eyes are really just a piece of paper) is unusual. It further confirms that the photograph is like a stand-in until the real thing returns. I also think it show’s that they still connect. They’re eyes meet; they’re equals; they miss each other. Why else would she be staring at his photograph? To reiterate, this could also be his mother staring at a photo of him (I’ve yet to meet a mother who wears “ripped jeans,” but I’m sure they exist). Whoever it is, despite the distance between them, he claims she “won’t ever be alone.” His photograph will keep her company until he can “come home.” As a singer now, I’m sure he’s on tour often, so his mother or sweetheart would be “alone” but for the photograph of him. Definitely not a break up.

4) “Loving can heal / Loving can mend your soul / And it’s the only thing that I know (know) / I swear it will get easier / Remember that with every piece of ya / And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die”

Just as “loving can hurt,” it can also “heal.” While their separation may hurt, their love can leap those bounds and still “mend your soul.” I think the “it” he refers to in the third line here is the obstruction in their relationship, which I believe is physical distance. He begs her to “remember” that “it will get easier.” The “it” of the final line goes back to the first line: “[Love is] the only thing we take with us when we die.” Which prompts the thought; what if the obstruction is death? What if this song is about loving someone who’s already gone? What if “coming home” means joining them in the afterlife? It doesn’t fit perfectly with the photograph motif, but I always like to consider other interpretations.

5) “And if you hurt me / That’s okay, baby, only words bleed / Inside these pages you just hold me / And I won’t ever let you go”

This section is a little confusing. As far as I can understand, he means that she can hurt him–the photograph representing him, perhaps. But “that’s okay” because “only words bleed;” only words can hurt him. This is an imperfect interpretation because he doesn’t say “only words make him bleed,” but this is how I’ve come to understand it. He also says that “inside these pages” she should “just hold [him].” I think “these pages” could refer to the photograph (perhaps it shows them hugging, so he “won’t ever let you go” or the many “words” and memories they share or even the “pages” of their dreams. In my initial interpretation, I heard “only words bleed” to mean that, even though he was going into dangerous territory, the only thing that could really hurt him was her words. In any case, I think he’s trying to reassure her.

6) “Oh you can fit me / Inside the necklace you got when you were 16 / Next to your / heartbeat / Where I should be / Keep it deep within your soul”

Admittedly, this section sounds much more like romantic love than familial love. But how else would you explain the music video? This section’s pretty simple, but it’s my favorite part of the song. He says she can “fit [him]”–his photograph, that is–inside a locket from when she was a teenager. Again, this reminds me of a soldier’s words to his beloved, since some of my friends and family were in serious relationships at a young age and had to deal with long distance as a result of war. The necklace lies near her heart, where Sheeran believes he “should be.” In other words, he thinks his photograph should be near to her heart because it represents him, and he should be near to her heart, as well. He wants her to keep the memories of him “deep within [her] soul,” where he will never be lost and forever be treasured.

7) “When I’m away / I will remember how you kissed me / Under the lamppost / Back on 6th street / Hearing you whisper through the phone, / ‘Wait for me to come home.'”

I really hope he’s not talking about his mom here. Though maybe he means a light kiss on the head farewell or something like that. In any case, while she has a photograph to remember him by these lines make it clear he’ll keep her in his memories, as well. The last two lines puzzle me. How could they be on the phone if she kissed him? Unless there are two “you”s or two different situations here. And why would she say “wait for me to come home?” He’s the one who left. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, too; please comment below.

My conclusion? This would be an adorable song to play at the wedding of someone who’s about to leave for the military. Or to send to your mother when you’ve been away for a while.

Modern Romance: A Modern Voice on an Age-Old Subject

Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: I have to preface this review by saying this book is written by Aziz Ansari, a standup comedian who played Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation (see video below).

If you don’t like Aziz, don’t read Modern Romance.

If you do like Aziz, we agree on something! After reading this, I’m pretty sure he actually is Tom Haverford. His voice came through loud and clear in each fact, graph, and strange stock photo caption. I heard his intonations and saw his hand gestures in every sentence.

Modern Romance is not a humor book; it’s a nonfiction book about how romance functions in society today–but it’s told in a humorous voice. I’m not a huge reader of non-fiction, meaning I only read it for school. Even then, it’s rare for me to read the whole book.

So the fact that I wanted to read this book was exciting in and of itself. The fact that I kept reading it until the end…speaks volumes. #bookpuns

I read this while camping (apologies to whomever checks it out of the library next and wonders why it smells like bonfire) and I would frequently laugh out loud, then explain the passage that had me cracking up. My mother knows most of the book now.

Here’s an example of one such passage:

Start doing even the slightest research into Japan and love, and you’ll quickly find sensational articles describing a full-blown crisis. According to demographers, journalists, and even the Japanese government, it’s a hot potato.

Sorry, I needed another word for “crisis,” and when I entered the word “crisis” into Thesaurus.com, it suggested “hot potato” as a synonym. I could not write this book without letting you know that Thesaurus.com lists “hot potato” as a synonym for “crisis.”

The book has a very casual, humorous tone, but Aziz and co-researcher Eric Klinenberg make some good points. They combine research from other books, interviews, online dating sites, a Reddit forum, and focus groups worldwide. Aziz focuses on the role of technology in romance today–particularly in the forms of texting and online dating. He also addresses how romance varies around the world and in cities versus small towns.

Aziz calls out younger generations on their reluctance to commit for fear of missing “something better.” He also draws attention to “straight white boy texts,” how waiting to respond to a text makes the recipient feel, the best dating environments, cheating and snooping via technology, etc. For each topic, Aziz uses research to back up his claim.

Honestly, this book helped me feel more comfortable about being single in today’s world. The average age for women to get married at is 28? I have plenty of time. Other people look up people they’re attracted to on social media, too? I’m not the only one! And wondering how long to wait before responding is a normal thing? Thank goodness!

Despite the humorous voice and reassuring facts of Modern Romance, it’s basically what I expected. It’s a wide variety of interesting information told in an interesting voice–and it lacks mind-blowing conclusions. I know technology has transformed the modern world; I know we’re more focused on finding a soul mate rather than a companion today; I know people don’t respond as humanely over text as they might face-to-face. I think this is pretty much common knowledge, though many of the statistics and studies used to support these conclusions were new and intriguing. Still, I feel like Modern Romance was on it’s way to something profound, but didn’t quite make it.

*A note to people who’ve seen Aziz’s standup: I watched the Netflix movie of Aziz at Madison Square Garden and several of his anecdotes and punchlines about relationships are repeated in this book. There are plenty of other good jokes and stories in the book, too, but I figured you’d want a heads up.

Recommendation: This book has  mature material and language–it’s written by a secular comedian, after all. I’d recommend it for college students and older. People born in the 1980s or 90s will probably appreciate the information and pop culture references most. If the subject sounds interesting and/or you enjoy Aziz’s work, definitely add this book to your to-read list.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Tear in My Heart

Twenty one pilots recently released the music video for “Tear in My Heart” from their upcoming album Blurryface (available May 19th). And its pretty adorable.


Lyrics

Sometimes you’ve got to bleed to know,
That you’re alive and have a soul,
But it takes someone to come around to show you how.

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive,
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire,
She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher,
Than I’ve ever been.

The songs on the radio are ok,
But my taste in music is your face,
And it takes a song to come around to show you how.

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive,
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire,
She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher,
Than I’ve ever been.

You fell asleep in my car, I drove the whole time,
But that’s ok, I’ll just avoid the holes so you sleep fine,
I’m driving here I sit, cursing my government,
For not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement.

Sometimes you’ve got to bleed to know,
That you’re alive and have a soul,
But it takes someone to come around to show you how.

She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive,
She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire,
She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher,
Than I’ve ever been.

My heart is my armor,
She’s the tear in my heart, she’s a carver,
She’s a butcher with a smile, cut me farther,
Than I’ve ever been.

Analysis

Basically, this song is about love. The singer declares that sometimes the only thing reminding us we’re alive is how much we hurt and then says his beloved hurts him. In other words, the pain from loving someone constantly reminds him he’s alive.

That may not have made much sense, so let’s go into a line-by-line analysis.

1) “Sometimes you’ve got to bleed to know, / That you’re alive and have a soul, / But it takes someone to come around to show you how.”

The singer says “bleeding” reminds us we’re alive, but someone else needs to “show you how” to bleed. I think “bleeding” means giving part of yourself away. Love requires a bit of sacrifice; its like trusting someone else with your heart.

2) “She’s the tear in my heart, I’m alive, / She’s the tear in my heart, I’m on fire, / She’s the tear in my heart, Take me higher, / Than I’ve ever been.”

The “she” is the “someone” who showed him “how” mentioned in the previous line. She’s the one he loves; she’s the one he bleeds for; she’s the one who constantly reminds him he’s alive. She’s the “tear in [his] heart.” Not only does she make him feel alive, she makes him feel “on fire” and desire something “higher / than [he’s] ever been.” Fire often refers to pain or–er–passion and “higher” refers to an elevated or better state of being.

3) “The songs on the radio are ok, / But my taste in music is your face, / And it takes a song to come around to show you how.”

These lines are just super cute. He’s saying her face is a song–his favorite type of song. Don’t think about it too hard; just trust me, it’s cute. He also says it “takes a song to come around and show you how,” paralleling the previous lines where it takes “someone…to show you how.” He’s already compared her face to a song, so clearly she’s also the song it takes to “show you how.”

4) “You fell asleep in my car, I drove the whole time, / But that’s ok, I’ll just avoid the holes so you sleep fine, / I’m driving here I sit, cursing my government, / For not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement.”

Again, these lines are adorable. The “holes” he avoids are, quite simply, pot holes. I don’t have much to analyze here, I just think the words are cute enough to merit a second look.

5) “My heart is my armor, / She’s the tear in my heart, she’s a carver, / She’s a butcher with a smile, cut me farther, / Than I’ve ever been.”

His heart is his protection, or “armor;” he’s secure enough in what he thinks that other people who disagree and argue against him don’t hurt him at all. This woman, though, is the “tear” in his armor. What she says can hurt him. She’s a “carver” and a “butcher,” constantly taking more of his love and reminding him he’s alive and able to hurt him in a way others can’t. She “cuts” him “farther than [he’s] ever been,” or makes him feel more alive than he’s ever felt before.

This is one of twenty one pilots’ happier, simpler songs. Most of their lyrics are deeper and darker. I highly encourage you to check out their channel on youtube, especially if you enjoyed this song.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Budapest

This was a song I actually wanted to analyze a while ago, but I completely forgot about it until I heard it on the radio yesterday. Before writing this post, I had no idea what this song meant. Actually, I thought the singer, George Ezra, was some middle-aged, silver-haired chap.

Turns out, he’s just British.


Lyrics

My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful CastilloYou
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

My acres of a land
That I’ve achieved
It may be hard for you to
Stop and believe

But for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Ooh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

And give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My many artifacts
The list goes on
If you just say the words
I, I’ll up and run

Oh, to you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Oh, for you
Ooh, oh
Ooh, I’d leave it all

And give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My friends and family
They don’t understand
They fear they’d lose so much
If you take my hand

But, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d lose it all

Oh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d lose it all

And give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo

You
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Oh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I’d leave it all

Analysis

At its core, this song is a love song. The singer would leave everything–his home, his wealth, etc–for the one he loves.

I read a couple other interpretations online and someone suggested that this song is related to Archduke (and heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne) Franz Ferdinand. Never one to discount ludacris historically-based meanings for songs, I looked up the specifics of Franz Ferdinand, who is most famous for being assassinated (an event which led to WWI). Apparently, he was only supposed to marry a member of a reigning or formerly reigning dynasty in Europe, but he fell in love with an archduchess’ lady-in-waiting, Sophie Chotek. He would not consider marrying anyone else. Eventually, he was allowed to wed Sophie on the condition that she and their children would not inherit his titles, privileges, or throne.

Sorry for the brief diversion; the history minor in me found that story fascinating.

1) “My house in Budapest / My, my hidden treasure chest /Golden grand piano / My beautiful Castillo / You / Ooh, you / Ooh, I’d leave it all”

The reference to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, makes the relation to Franz Ferdinand more plausible, since he was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. More simply, these lines mention the singer’s home, his “treasure,” his “golden grand piano” and his “castillo” (which could refer to a type of guitar or a castle). Basically, we get the idea that the singer has a lot of beautiful, material things he loves…but not as much as he loves “you,” for whom he would “leave it all.”

2) “My acres of a land / That I’ve achieved / It may be hard for you to / Stop and believe”

The singer doesn’t just own land; he’s “achieved” this land through his work. It may be hard for “you,” his love, to “believe,” but he’d be willing to leave everything for which he’s worked hard for his love.

3) “And give me one good reason / Why I should never make a change / Baby if you hold me / Then all of this will go away”

These lines seem to be the basis of the music video, in which the change of one person sparks the change of another, then another, then another, until the whole room is full of change. Why should the speaker continue to live with all this wealth, away from the ones he loves. The “all of this” is the wealth, which the speaker says will “go away” if his love holds him.

4) “My many artifacts / The list goes on / If you just say the words / I, I’ll up and run”

This guy’s pretty well-off if he has artifacts. I wouldn’t want him to give all that up for me; I’d want him to give it up to me. I’m assuming “the words” he wants “you” to say are some proclamation of love.

5) “My friends and family / They don’t understand / They fear they’d lose so much / If you take my hand”

Franz Ferdinand’s story fits here too, since his family didn’t want him to “take [Sophie’s] hand.” I think the relations are too loose for the song to be about Franz Ferdinand, but I still like relating history to music. If the singer is willing to give up everything he has for the one he loves, of course his family would “fear they’d lose so much.”

Though the Franz Ferdinand interpretation is a little far-fetched, it’s my only explanation as to the importance of Budapest to the speaker. Perhaps it has some sort of personal meaning for Ezra.

Regardless, the sound’s light, attractive feel makes it interesting and catchy–as if to prove it, my mom’s been singing it around the house for the hour it’s taken me to write this post.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Poet

Happy Valentine’s weekend! I’ll be celebrating in my usual way–watching chick flicks like “Pride and Prejudice” without anyone else to enjoy it with.

*sigh*

All bitterness aside, I really do like celebrating the idea of love. It’s a beautiful thing to write and read about, and love songs are fairly popular in our society (only surpassed, I think, by heartbreak songs). I decided I’d analyze a love song this week in honor of Valentine’s.

But which love song?

The answer came clear when I watched the Grammy Awards Ceremony. (No, I’m not looking at “Stay With Me.” I think the lines “stay with me / ’cause you’re all I need” are fairly straightforward.)

I’m talking about Bastille, of course, who got snubbed as new artist of the year in favor of Sam Smith (who won four Grammys). For those of you who wonder how that was a snub, please do me a favor and focus on the lyrics.


Lyrics

Obsession it takes control,
Obsession it eats me whole.
I can’t say the words out loud,
So in a rhyme I wrote you down.
Now you’ll live through the ages,
I can feel your pulse in the pages.

I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever

Your body lies upon the sheets,
Of paper and words so sweet.
I can’t say the words,
so I wrote you into my verse.
Now you’ll live through the ages,
I can feel your pulse in the pages.

I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you,
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever

I have read her with these eyes,
I’ve read her with these eyes,
I have held her in these hands.

I have written you down,
Now you will live forever.
The virtue’s in the verse,
And you will live forever.

I have written you down
Now you will live forever
And all the world will read you
And you will live forever
In eyes not yet created
On tongues that are not born
I have written you down
Now you will live forever

Analysis

To understand this song, let’s take a look at Shakespeare’s Sonnet 81.

Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Or you survive when I in earth am rotten;
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen)
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

Recognize anything?

Any band who bases a song off a Shakespearean sonnet (one that holds words in high esteem, no less) deserves a Grammy in my book. I can’t grovel forever, though; let’s look at other reasons to love this song.

1) “Obsession it takes control, / Obsession it eats me whole. / I can’t say the words out loud, / So in a rhyme I wrote you down. / Now you’ll live through the ages, / I can feel your pulse in the pages.”

The speaker, who is eaten up with his love for “you,” couldn’t bring himself to say anything “out loud,” so he wrote them down, ensuring “you” will “live through the ages,” since words last longer than people (Shakespeare’s words in particular). The idea of words preserving life is a beautiful one emphasized in the concept of epitaphs and obituaries as well as the line “I can feel your pulse in the pages.”

2) “I have written you down / Now you will live forever / And all the world will read you / And you will live forever / In eyes not yet created / On tongues that are not born / I have written you down / Now you will live forever.”

This mimics the lines “Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read, / And tongues to be your being shall rehearse, / When all the breathers of this world are dead; / You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen).” I’m glad Bastille simplified it, though; it’d be hard to sing lines like “tongues to be your being shall rehearse.” In any case, this chorus serves to emphasize the idea that writing the subject down will preserve a part of her.

3) “Your body lies upon the sheets, / Of paper and words so sweet. / I can’t say the words, / so I wrote you into my verse. / Now you’ll live through the ages, / I can feel your pulse in the pages.”

The first line plays with the word “sheets,” which can mean both bedsheets (scandalous) and sheets “of paper and words so sweet.” The subject may not be literally lying on papers, but she could be lying on bedsheets, and part of her is preserved in the paper on which the song/poem is printed. The other lines should sound familiar, since they repeat those of the first part.

4) “I have read her with these eyes, / I’ve read her with these eyes, / I have held her in these hands.”

The speaker remains ambiguous, allowing readers/listeners to judge whether he’s referring to his love, his poem, or both. He has read the poem, and in reading the poem he has read “her.” It’s also possible to “read” a person to figure out how they feel. The next line is ambiguous, too, since he can both hold “her” and the poem/song. The ambiguity of this section is its strongest feature.

5) “I have written you down, / Now you will live forever. / The virtue’s in the verse, / And you will live forever.”

I almost didn’t include this section, since it mostly repeated what had already been discussed, but then I read sonnet 81 again. The line “the virtue’s in the verse” is a nod to Shakespeare’s poem when he writes “(such virtue hath my pen).” In fact, I think the whole song is a nod to Shakespeare. I mean, the title’s not “Words,” “Poem,” or even “Sonnet 81;” Bastille titled this song “Poet.”

Just when I thought I couldn’t like this band any more than I already do…

If you want to listen to Bastille other songs that mention love and heartbreak, check out “Laughter Lines,” “Flaws” (which I already analyzed), “These Streets,” “Oblivion,” and “Adagio for Strings.” (The last one is their awesome mix-tape cover of “What is Love?” Trust me. Listen to the whole thing.)