Posts tagged mini reviews
Words About Sounds: Books About Music

This summer, I got more particularly into music. Although I’ve always loved music (doesn’t everyone?), I feel like it’s one of those domains that’s difficult to attach to your identity if you don’t actively pursue it. This summer, I just read a bunch about it.

I’ve always gravitated towards anything sensory. Obviously, I love art in all forms. (I’m just in constant awe of talented, passionate people, and love to share about them when I can.)

It started because I loved reading about how pleasure works in the brain — in various domains — and how states of flow can tap into that. Flow via music can be achieved in so many different ways: playing it, dancing to it, listening to it. I’m dying to read this book on flow, curious about the science behind it, especially since it’s popped up in so many of my summer reads. A Natural History of the Senses is also the first book on my list for when I have room in my budget again (yikes.)

It feels so lucky that we can enhance our experiences just by knowing more about them. Like, even just reading all these musical books has infinitely expanded my capacity to appreciate listening to a song, and I adore everything about finding time for music in my day. Out of everything I did in my summer, learning more about how music works was one of the most valuable.

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As I’ve thought about escapism, that’s taken various forms. I’ve always loved finding my escape through reading, but I’ve also become more attuned to the transcendent experience of just sitting in your car late at night, listening to a song. How you go to another place in your head. (Did you know that we derive so much of our daily pleasure from daydreams?) That’s partly why music can be so integral to the power of our experiences. For one, songs can capture memories so easily — hence, some being banned from my summer playlists —and for another, they’re just engineered in ways that stimulate our minds in just the right ways.

The books that became part of that unintentional musical series will no doubt appear on the blog in various forms over the coming weeks and months, because they contributed so much to how I think about music now.

Both in what I was doing all summer (dancing) and my latest reading kick (psychology of art/aesthetics), that topic fit perfectly.

I’ve always been around music, because I’ve always played instruments. In college, particularly, practicing guitar or piano was a good way to enter a state of flow. It’s also proven that progress makes human beings consistently happier than anything else, so chipping away at a new song is one of my favorite ways to fumble. Even if I am butchering a rendition of a beloved song, it just feels good.

I spent a lot of my summer driving from city to city. One playlist, a ten-hour drive, still not tired. But for me, especially after some of the musical criticism I read this summer, the same song could unfurl in a dozen different ways and I took a lot of joy from picking it apart for ages. I can occupy myself for awhile.

Part of the reason I got even more interested in how music worked was that I was constantly around it. If you want to know which songs are going to blow up, go to a dance studio. Choreographers are often attuned to big breaks before the rest of the general public. Additionally, a lot of the dancers spanned multiple spheres, singing and acting as side gigs.

Getting back into dance again — especially as deeply as I went this summer, the dance world consuming most of my time and travel — made me realize how much of it I’d misinterpreted growing up. I was used to cranking out routines for recital, perfecting it so everyone followed the same timing. Tricks. Synchronicity. Performing further away from the audience.

Now, the landscape is so different: performing for the camera, infusing the moves with your own flair, choreography as “more of a suggestion.” There’s more musicality and style. Much more focus on Instagram. While I have plenty more to talk about on that front — and you can stalk my favorite dancers and choreographers here — I realized ultimately that my favorite dancers were all fantastic listeners. They punctuated well; they anticipated beats masterfully. I’d never seen dance as so much of a language.

I was inundated in classes where we talked about texture and pockets and riffs, where you could see the application of those concepts so immediately. (That immediate gratification, paired with the slow-and-steady improvement of more long term skills, was an addictive combination. My parents had to drag me away from the Millennium location in Nashville.)

Having had those experiences, and getting a much fuller and richer experience of what dancing could do with a song, I’ve been more intrigued than ever by how we interpret music. How it affects our culture. How our bodies absorb it. Below are some of my favorite reads on the subject — individual reviews to come soon.

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A Selection of Musical Books

Guitar Zero discussed that, as well as various ways to improve your musical habits. It gets a little repetitive, so it got harder to read as I got further along, but I adored the useful ways to get better at practicing. (I’m a sporadic player, and I really should be more consistent about working on my instruments!)

This Is Your Brain on Music was perhaps the most comprehensive, and occasionally exhaustive, overview. The musical jargon could be a lot at times, so I worked my way through it slowly. But I loved it. It’s the best for understanding how music affects the brain, and it’s written by a guy who literally can tell the difference between various types of tape that a recording studio uses just by the way the music sounds. It also pays attention to the different formats in which we listen — like how headphones have changed our music taste. Absolutely riveting.

The Song Machine was an engrossing look into how the music industry worked, and how we’re receptive to certain patterns and similarities. For anyone bemoaning how all modern music sounds the same, I’d encourage you to give it a shot!

Every Song Ever could be pedantic — massive words, obscure concepts, a little too much abstract criticism — but completely changed the way that I listen to music. The concepts I hold in my mind when I do. The book covers twenty different ways to listen and afterwards, I could genuinely listen to the same song dozens of times and find new aspects to appreciate.

Absolutely on Music was a gem. Haruki Marukami had some wise conversation with a renowned composer, and their discussions were well-balanced. It’s a read that pays tribute and respect to an important figure Seiji Ozawa, and they cover a range of topics related to music and creativity. It’s rooted in specific songs, referencing particular moments and choices.

I’m excited to fully review each of these in time, but love being able to share them as an overview for those interested in music, art, or why we love the things we love. I relished my time with these books.

Mini Reviews

Hey y'all! Welcome to Words Like Silver!It's Grace and I'm sorry I've been somewhat absent recently. I think I'm going to add a note in the sidebar explaining the situation what with starting high school and whatnot. I know I've been busy and I'm sorry that the blog has been less of a priority, and so has reading.Coming up on the blog soon will be a post about Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, and next week is Alexandra Adornetto Week! Y'all know about my admiration/worship of her and I hope y'all are as absolutely excited and stunned about me interviewing her as I am! If y'all have any questions for Alexandra, leave them below! Also, next week will feature a review of Heaven, a post by me talking about why she's my hero, and several other things that include a giveaway! I hope y'all enjoy.These reviews are books that I've read recently, most from BookExpo America and ones that I've been really excited about.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Release Date: July 31, 2012 (HarlequinTeen)

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America

Pushing the Limits

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

It's taken me a long time to gather my thoughts about this one. How do I even begin to describe the effect that this book has on me? I really enjoyed it.Truthfully, I was not expecting it to be this complex and heavy. It's heavy, but nothing that you can't read at any given time. I didn't cry, but I came away from it changed. I was expecting it to be more like Perfect Chemistry, which also affected me but not nearly on this level. I found myself having to put down the book and think for a bit and that's one of the highest compliments that I can offer to a book.The characters were by far the most spectacular part of the book. Echo was such an engrossing character who was real and heartbroken and confused in the best ways. She's the type of character who I feel like I could come across in real life. She made mistakes and she wasn't perfect and she brought more to the table than the usual "popular girl turned outcast" stereotype. I came in expecting something different but her complexity blew me away.Frankly, I was expecting Noah to be a jerk but he was surprisingly heartfelt. I loved being so surprised by each character and how they developed for me in the book. This book completely flipped my expectations and I fell in love with the sizzling romance, dark backstory, and developed characters. There are some books that leave me without words. I wanted to do a normal, long review of this book but mostly it just left me speechless and thoughtful. It's the type of book that both makes me want to tell everybody about it but also made me want to keep it to myself because it made me feel some emotions that I haven't felt in a long time.While I would say that Pushing the Limits was mostly driven by the incredible characters, the plot was phenomenal. The romance, the tangled history that came up, even a few plot twists were employed. Contemporary novels sometimes seem exactly the same when they use the girl-falls-for-bad-boy formula but this was NOT one of those books.If you're looking for a contemporary novel that's going to make you think and is going to make you FEEL something, I highly recommend Pushing the Limits. Echo and Noah's relationship is really well developed and I completely fell in love with it.

The White Glove War by Katie Crouch

Release Date: July 3, 2012 (Poppy)

Format: ARC

Source: Inkwood

The White Glove War (Magnolia League, #2)

Every society has its secrets.The members of Savannah's Magnolia League have it all: money, beauty, power, and love. Some may call them lucky, but we know better. Spells, potions, and conjures are a girl's best friends, and thanks to the Buzzards -- a legendary hoodoo family -- the Magnolias never run out of friends.Golden girl Hayes Anderson would never dream of leaving the League or Savannah, where there's no problem that can't be fixed with a cup of Swamp Brew tea -- served in a bone china cup, of course -- and no boy who can't be won over with a Conjure Up a New Love spell.But when danger lurks and family secrets are unearthed, Hayes discovers that her life may not be charmed after all.Don't miss the second novel in Katie Crouch's enchanting and mysterious Magnolia League series.

I, for one, believe that The Magnolia League is a highly underrated book. It's not one of the books that is furiously marketed and not as many people know about it. For me, it's one of those books that just has such a unique feel to it that I can't experience with many others. If you're a fan of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia or even Belles by Jen Calonita. It's a dark and creative twist on Southern debutantes!I LOVED the end of The Magnolia League even though it made me want to punch a wall because of the suspense. One of Katie Crouch's numerous talents is being able to manipulate twists and she does it so skillfully. That's both fantastic and unfortunate for me. Fantastic because I love thinking one way and being completely surprised at the end of a book and it takes so much skill to be able to do that. Unfortunate because, well, it meant having to wait for the next book. The second I saw The White Glove War at my indie bookstore for review, I had to have it. There was no waiting until July. I needed the sequel.I loved Alex's point of view in the first one and was a little disappointed that it was going to be dual POV in the sequel. I love her voice and her take on the stuffy debutantes that much. There was a distinct change in voice when Hope was narrating but both point of views melded together really well.I have a thing for Southern books, especially since there are so few great YA ones that really capture the voice that I want to see. It's even harder to find one that contains some other elements instead of only relying on the stereotypical small town setting. The Magnolia League series is such a fantastic example of one that defies the usual.The dark hoodoo aspect of the story is one of the best parts. It doesn't take a classic concept - it takes a concept that not many people think about in terms of paranormal YA and makes it work. It's really easy to understand throughout the book and there's so much backstory and tension that has to do with the hoodoo. I adore this book so much. I do think that it's really underrated and wish that more people would appreciate it. I don't think that it's forgettable by any standards. The characters, relationships, and plot is spot on. There's some romance tossed in, some surprising supporting characters, and it essentially contains everything that I need in a book to be happy.Overall, I was extremely satisfied with The White Glove War. There were politics and there was tension. Plot twists were sprinkled throughout the book and the twist behind the ending is one that completely shocked me. This series should definitely be spotlighted more often and I really enjoyed this enthralling sequel! This series comes highly recommended by me!

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Release Date: August 28, 2012 (HarlequinTeen)

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America

Speechless

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

I was a wreck after reading Saving June. It was the book that I recommended to my sisters - who read it and loved it! - my friends, relatives, everybody that I knew who read young adult and several who didn't. Hannah Harrington is really a stunning writer and not to be cheesy, but I was actually speechless after finishing it.The main part of the book is character development. Chelsea was so obnoxious towards the beginning of the book. She was brutally honest in some ways and completely abrasive and rude in others. She had a flawed logic system that she used to back up her actions that I was completely fascinated by even though I didn't agree with it. I did feel bad for Chelsea though, being friends with who she was and for feeling like she needed to expose everybody, even though I probably shouldn't have. It was so rewarding watching Chelsea develop as a person. Her flaws made her real and her mistake had bigger complications than she ever could have imagined.Chelsea's group of friends after being dropped by her previous "friends" are the type of people that I would love to be friends with. They're funny, unique, and just mesh well together. They felt like real people and they had the most incredible moments together. I really loved all the supporting characters and each had something to contribute to the story that made it that much better.I was floored by this. I had just read Shine by Lauren Myracle and while they cover similar topics, they are completely different. I absolutely adored how deftly Hannah Harrington dealt with the politics and friend groups and confusion that makes up social life, especially Chelsea's. The way that she repaired relationships when she made mistakes was just as important as when she started relationships and fit really well with her personality.Overall, Speechless is a book that really touched me and will definitely be a reread for me. It had life in it, mistakes, real characters and relationships, and everything that I want in a book to make me happy. If you're a fan of contemporary, flawed characters, or romance, I highly recommend this book. Speechless left me speechless.

I hope y'all enjoyed my reviews! Again, sorry for the minimal posting recently but look forward to Alexandra Adornetto Week on the blog next week! Love y'all!Grace