Tag Archives: review

Album Review: “Artemis” by Lindsey Stirling

Lindsey Stirling has her own unique sound that blends classical music with present-day dubstep. Her sound is mainly relies on instrumental with a hint of vocals for an added bonus. Recently she dropped a new album titled “Artemis.” It takes you on a wild journey through the deep, dark forest — hunting under the light of a full moon.

The album is heavily influenced by greek mythology — especially inspired by the greek goddess, Artemis. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. She represents hunting and all things wilderness. In artwork, she is typically depicted with a bow and arrow. She is also represents purity and protection. Artemis is ruler of the moon.

Also drawing inspiration from comic book-style anime, which especially shows itself through her album artwork, “Artemis” is a musical adventure. Carrying themes of thrill and suspense, it will keep you on your toes.

Book Review: Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow is a thrilling novel full of horror and passion. The story follows two characters: Dominika, a Russian, and Nate, an American — both tangled in the dangerous world of spying for opposing countries.

Dominika is dedicated, passionate, thrill-seeking, and short-tempered. And Nate is a fiery man who is very clever and intelligent. He is more logical and levelheaded, although still has a deep heart.

Dominika was born with a special gift: her extraordinary vision that lets her see the color of people’s auras. When music plays, she can see distinct notes right in front of her eyes. Her ability to see music is what makes her such a talented dancer.

“Dominika gravely explained that when the music played, or when her father read aloud to her, colors would fill the room. Different colors, some bright, some dark, sometimes they ‘jumped in the air’ and all Dominika had to do was follow them. It was how she could remember so much.”

After graduating high school with a particular admiration for history and political debates (due to her strong patriotism,) she attends ballet school in pursuit of becoming a professional ballerina. However, Dominika’s career plans are halted when a jealous couple on the team plots to break her leg, thus destroying her capabilities as a dancer.

“In young adulthood she had learned to cope with the buistvo, the mounting rage, but now she let it grow, tasted it in her throat.”

Following the tragic, sudden death of her father, Dominika is approached by her uncle  with an offer to essentially become a Russian spy. Desperate and lost, Dominika feels she has no choice now but to accept. From here on, her loyalty will be tested: to her country, to her family, to her dignity and principles, and most importantly to her own self.

Dominika attends Sparrow School, where she trains to become an official “sparrow.” Here, is where she is taught in depth about the art of seduction. Sparrows use not just their bodies, but their magical charm and quick wit, to gain precious information for the Russian government.

“This school, this mansion secluded behind walls topped with broken glass, was an engine of the State that institutionalized and dehumanized love. It didn’t count… it was training, like ballet school.”

The trials and tribulations Dominika goes through prove her strength, as the harsh reality sinks in that being strong is her only option if she wants to survive. Too late to back out now. At one point she witnesses a man get brutally, painfully murdered, as his blood spats on her body.

Finally, Dominka meets Nate, her next assignment. Nate seems to always have a deep purple aura, presenting honesty and calmness. Her mission is to recruit him for Russia, while Nate has a counter-mission to recruit Dominika for the USA.

“Dominika played it slow, indifferent. She was correct, reserved, a conscious counterbalance to his shambling American informality. She constantly told herself not to be so nervous. When he looked at her she knew from his expression that he was unsuspecting. He doesn’t know what this is, she thought with a thrill. The CIA officer doesn’t know who he’s up against.”

Although Dominika is successful at capturing Nate’s attention, she quickly realizes that he is different from anyone else. Her feelings build, yet her loyalty to Russia remains firm. As the two get to know each other, Nate notices how triggered and defensive she is when criticism of the Russian government comes up.

“God, she’s serious, thought Nate. Typical Russian, afraid of putting a foot wrong. But he liked her reserve, her underlying sensuality, the way she looked at him with her blue eyes. He especially liked the way she pronounced his name, ‘Neyt.'”

It is not long before Dominika questions the intentions of her team. The murder of an older fellow sparrow, who she saw as her future-self, is the final straw. Dominika can no longer hide her fury as she goes on another date with Nate. At this point, she realizes that she actually has more trust for this American stranger than she does for her own country, even her own family — most especially her evil uncle. And so, she confesses her identity to Nate, who in turn tells her to join his team.

“It’s just that you should learn to get high on something other than adrenaline,’ he said.

“‘You mean like wine?’ she said, and threw the wineglass against the wall. ‘No, thank you. I prefer adrenaline.'”

At this point, the trouble has only just begun. The pair work well together with a rare, strong sense of trust in one another. Still — they know that they cannot let their passion for each other get in the way. Yet of course, passion persists and finds a way to make things very messy…

I really enjoyed this book. This lengthy nearly-600-pager took me a while to finish, although I’m a slow reader anyway. There were some parts that seemed drawn out and skippable. But there were also many parts that had my eyes glued to the pages. The story is intense and shocking.

***Photos used from the adapted film***

Try-it Tuesday ~ MONQ Essential Oil Pens

MONQ is a personal water vapor diffuser (pen) consisting of a variety of essential oils (nicotine-free, drug-free). Essential oils come from plants, and have therapeutic affects. For example, lavender makes you feel calm.

MONQ pens are a new way to experience aromatherapy. Instead of smelling, you are inhaling. Well, more like “breathing” than “inhaling” — they are not meant to be sucked, but naturally breathed in through the mouth and exhaled through the nose.

“Happy” contains fennel, thyme, and vanilla. I absolutely love the sweet vanilla taste. It really does make me feel lighter a bit more cheerful. It is a perfect balance between calm and alert.

“Sleepy” contains chamomile, kava, and lavender. It won’t knock you out, but certainly gives you that cozy feeling. Perfect for winding down right before bedtime.

“Love” contains cacao, davana, and siam wood. Apparently these have aphrodisiac properties.

I find MONQ pens to be a great, simple and portable, way to use aromatherapy. I like the way it makes you feel more conscious of your breath. It is a soothing stress reliever.

Try-it Tuesday ~ Fire Elixir

The Fire Elixir is a potent herbal cider that can be diluted with another drink or consumed like a shot. It’s made up of organic apple cider vinegar, horseradish, garlic, ginger, onion, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, and raw honey.

It comes with many health benefits such as strengthening the immune system, clearing sinuses, stimulating circulatory system, and reducing inflammation. It also provides a burst of energy and helps you feel awake — therefore best taken in the morning.


Fire Elixir has a very strong, almost nasty, taste to it. But it actually does feel really good. It reminds me of alcohol because I take it like a shot, it has a harsh taste, and leaves me with a warm feeling in my stomach — except it widens awareness instead of diminishing it.

I was surprised that it truly made me feel awake. Certainly not as strong as caffeine, still gave me a decent boost of energy and alertness.

In conclusion…

Fire Elixir is harsh and invigorating in the best way possible. It could potentially serve as a healthy alternative to caffeine. I would recommend it to anyone who can handle spiciness.

Album Review: “Norman ******* Rockwell” by Lana Del Rey

Imagine the last couple weeks of summer, enjoying one last wild boat ride across the sea, in the beautiful country of the USA. Then you go relax with a drink and an enchanting woman comes in to play tunes on the piano and sing songs with her lovely voice.

Yet this is no ordinary woman, this is Lana Del Rey, and she does not hold back.

“Goddamn, man-child,” is her opening line. Her first track, “Norman f******* Rockwell,” is a beautiful piano ballad that portrays a man with a paintbrush, ready to paint your heart blue. You too, will feel the heartbreak.

And by the second track, “Mariners Apartment Complex” you can already get a feel for the whole vibe of the album, classic LDR but also something completely different. Very chill and also catchy with a lot of piano and acoustic guitar.

Venice B****” has a similar sound. It is the longest track on the album — over nine minutes long.

**** it I love you,” is just a beautiful and absolutely cheesy song.

I really like the Sublime cover of “Doin’ Time,” how she made it a little different and made it her own. I also really enjoy the music video.

Love song” is nice but does not necessarily stand out to me, maybe it will grow on me.

What a sweet and sugary melody “Cinnamon Girl” has — but the lyrics, not so much, very sad. One of my favorites on the album.

“How to disappear” is an interesting song. In the first verse she sings about one man, in the second another, and in the third no one in particular except for a nameless “you.” And in the end, she says she will always be there and never disappear.

“California” is about missing someone who feels they have to conceal that they are missing you back.

The Next Best American Record” is similarly about missing someone with more of a nostalgic feel. It also has a little more rock to it.

The greatest” continues with the theme of aching for the past — not so much a specific person but times of the past. There is also worry about having already “peaked” in life and things looking downhill from here on.

Bartender” is a cute song but also does not necessarily stand out to me. Although I do like the t-t-t sound she makes.

“Happiness is a butterfly” is another one of my favorites on the album. I find it inspiring. I love the ending, great way to wrap up the album.

Finally, we end with “hope is a dangerous word for a woman like me to have — but I have it.” This is a wonderful song! It feels raw, vulnerable, yet also empowering. Another favorite!

NFR! covers everything from heartache and total despair, to true love and unshakable faith — all the colors of the paint palette. I like her deliberate use of upper and lower cases of the song titles. This unique album stands out on its own and each song fits together like a beautiful masterpiece. It is an album of reflection and being completely honest with oneself and one’s emotions.

Melanie Martinez’s “K-12” ~ A Cute & Creepy Film About the School of Life

Melanie Martinez just dropped a visual album, “K-12.” The film, essentially a sci-fi musical, is over an hour-and-a-half long. It’s a continuation of her first album, “Cry Baby,” which is the introduction of the persona of Crybaby. Her style is very unique and specific — cute and creepy, a theme of childlike innocence mixed with adult context. Her music tackles serious issues with a splash of creative imagination. It has been four long years since her previous album but it was certainly worth the wait.

The story starts with Crybaby waking up in her bubblegum-pink home and preparing herself for the very beginning of her school years that will take her from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Crybaby looks in the mirror and brushes her half-black-half-rainbow pigtails. Heading into the kitchen, she pours cereal and is pleasantly surprised to see her pet spider fall out of the box.

The pink school bus scene is when her first song plays, “Wheels on the Bus.” Crybaby is getting bullied and feels anxious about making friends. But she has already found herself sitting next to a girl she seems to have already clicked with, and they share their fears about not fitting in. A boy walks onto the bus and they smile at each other, but he has been snatched by an aggressively jealous mean girl.

Now they have arrived to the school building, which looks like a beautiful haunted mansion. Ghosts fly by through the hallways. Crybaby and her new friend head to class, located in room 222. It’s time to say pledge of allegiance but one boy refuses because he’s angry at this country, so a group of people barge in and take him away.

At recess, “Class Fight” plays. The jealous girl from the bus ride attacks Crybaby and cuts her. This somehow “activates” Crybaby’s powers as her eyes turn black and the two girls float above the ground, and then she chokes her with her hair. This song is about the difficult feelings that come with jealousy, questioning if you should give the person up or fight harder for them.

The class fight causes the girls to get sent to the principal’s office. “The Principal” is about blindly following a leader who abuses his/her power. The students wait outside the office while a teacher is getting fired for being transgender. After the students enter, the song plays, and the scene is set like a traditional courtroom mixed with a ballet dance floor.

Later we see the principle drinking a mysterious substance that causes him to pass out, then a group of people with rabbit heads come in and stick him with a needle. If you haven’t figured it out yet, by now we can clearly see that something is very wrong with this “school.”

Crybaby returns to class for “Show & Tell” and every person in the room turns their head and stares her down, conveying the feeling of being watched and judged, causing one to become controlled. By now we are around the age of third grade, generally the time when a child becomes much more self-aware.

Nurse’s Office,” plays as evil nurses drug the students with needles that causes them to go crazy. This represents reaching puberty and becoming flooded with hormones. After being locked up by the evil nurses and rabbit-head people, a magical goddess-like figure appears out of nowhere to save them and offer deep words of wisdom.

Drama Club” is about the roles we are expected to take on, especially as men vs. women. “Strawberry Shortcake” is about body issues that come with puberty and will follow for the rest of your life. It also covers how women are expected to cover up and feel ashamed of their bodies because of how men might react. Both tracks do a great job at addressing sexism.

“Lunchbox Friends” deals with navigating friendship and surrounding yourself with supportive and open-minded people. During lunchtime, Crybaby goes to the bathroom and discovers a classmate with bulimia, then goes onto comfort her with “Orange Juice.” Both tracks deal with social pressures.

Next in the film, a food fight breaks out and the principal’s son has the rabbit-head people send Crybaby to “Detention.” The evil nurses are back to once again stick the students with needles. Crybaby is dragged onto a stage where she is forced to dance with two other girls. She then seems to have used her “powers” to cause the principal’s son to set her free and she successfully escapes detention. The girlfriends gather together and make a plan to set the students free from school, but the son is spying on them and listening to their every word. On another note, Crybaby find a love letter in her locker.

A student falls for a teacher as “Teacher’s Pet” plays, yet luckily Crybaby sees that this girl is being controlled and comes to her rescue. “High School Sweetheart” is a very sweet love song. Crybaby sings it while gracefully dancing around the school.

The film wraps up at the school dance. She is asked to go with the principal’s son and only accepts his invitation in order to help with the plan to get free. Unfortunately it was too late for the other boy who genuinely adores her. But she ends up taking down the principal’s son, gaining access to the loudspeaker so that she can tell everyone to exit the building immediately. “Recess” is about running away and breaking free.

Finally, Crybaby unites with the boy who had been originally planning on asking her to the dance — who confesses to writing the love letter — and the two of them blow a conjoined spit bubble which causes the school to blow up. FREEDOM!!! A magical portal opens up, and Crybaby hesitates to enter, and then the screen goes blank!

I was blown away by “K-12” and all the symbolism and metaphors that came with it. Not only does it cover the joys and challenges of our childhood school years, it also emphasizes the fact that we never truly graduate because life itself is school. The traumas from our early years follow us into adulthood. That inner child sticks with us, for better or worse. Adulthood still comes with insecurities, peer pressure, authority figures, and drama. Most importantly, we must wake up to the injustice of the world and realize our own power.

Top 25 Darkest & Saddest Lana Del Rey songs

Lana Del Rey has A NEW ALBUM coming for us on August 30! I decided to do a thorough investigation into Lana Del Rey’s top 25 darkest & saddest songs. Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with my personal favorites — that would be really tricky, but I may do it another time. This is a bit more fact than opinion. We are looking for 50% dark and 50% sad. LDR specializes in darkness/sadness because she is not afraid of the controversy/public shaming that comes with romanticizing masochistic tendencies — in fact she is “the starving artist” who recognizes that great art comes from great pain. (Even her “happiest” songs have a melancholy tone.) Let’s begin…

25. In My Feelings (Album: Lust for Life)

“If you were me, and I was you, I’d get out of my way.”

Dark, but a lot more ‘anger’ than ‘sadness.’

24. 24 (Album: Honeymoon)

“There’s only 24 hours in a day, and half you lay awake with thoughts of murder and carnage.”

This is very dark, but just not sad enough. Very sassy, actually.

23. Blue Jeans (Album: Born to Die)

“And I know that love is mean and love hurts.”

Kind of sad and kind of dark. Man would rather go out and make money than be in love.

22. Without You (Born to Die)

I can be your China doll if you’d like to see me fall.”

Blessed with fame and fortune — but that means absolutely nothing without love.

21. Million Dollar Man (Born to Die)

“You said I was the most exotic flower.”

This is just hopeless heartbreak.

20. Ride (Album: Paradise EP)

“Been trying hard not to get into trouble but I’ve got a war in my mind.”

Feeling out of control, needing to rely on others just to survive.

19. This Is What Makes Us Girls (Born to Die)

“She starts to cry, mascara running down her little Bambi eyes, ‘Lana, how I hate those guys.'”

Very interesting song, probably only relatable if you are a girl. It’s a spotlight on female friendship: how someone can mean so much to you and you can have so much fun together, until boy-drama gets in the way and rips it apart. It’s sad because ladies need to stick together and support one another, but jealousy can ruin it all. The bond is eternal and never forgotten about, though.

18. Pretty When You Cry (Album: Ultraviolence)

I’m stronger than all my men… except for you.”

This is the best song to cry to, if you want to feel glamorous through all the pain. It’s almost kind of funny.

17. The Blackest Day (Honeymoon)

“Got my blue nail polish on, it’s my favorite color and my favorite tone of song.”

Quite sad, quite dark.

16. Is This Happiness? (Ultraviolence)

“Taking violet pills, writing all my songs about my cheap thrills.”

Is it…?

15. Tomorrow Never Came (Lust For Life)

I waited for you.”

Having so much hope, and then getting let down.

14. Terrence Loves You (Honeymoon)

But I still got jazz when I’ve got those blues.”

Really, really missing someone who you lost. And feeling absolutely empty because of it. But you can get through it with sad music and substance abuse.

13. 13 Beaches (Lust For Life)

I’d be lying if I kept hiding the fact that I can’t deal, and that I’ve been dying for something real.”

I think it’s about being fed up with the world and trying to find some peace and quiet, so you can sit back and fully feel your sadness.

12. Body Electric (Paradise)

“Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn’s my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend.”

Loneliness… and cleverness. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” poem.

11. Shades of Cool (Ultraviolence)

“My baby lives in shades of cool: blue heart, and hands, and aptitude.

Cold love.

10. Born To Die (Born To Die)

“The road is long, we carry on, try to have fun in the meantime.”

Life is short. We are missing out by rushing to our deathbeds.

9. Carmen (Born To Die)

“Darling, darling doesn’t have a problem lying to herself cause her liquor’s top shelf.”

Dangerously sick and depressed alcoholic woman who has the world convinced she is happy, healthy, and having fun.

8. Sad Girl (Ultraviolence)

“He’s got the fire and he walks with fame, he’s got the fire and he talks with fame.”

The verses are so confident on the surface and then the chorus is so vulnerable and raw. She makes it seem like she is the one in control, but she is powerless.

7. Summertime Sadness (Born To Die)

“Think I’ll miss you forever, like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky.”

What is summer without sadness?

6. Cruel World (Ultraviolence)

“Because you’re young, you’re wild, you’re free, you’re dancing circles around me.”


5. Old Money (Ultraviolence)

“If you change your mind, I’ll come, come, come.”

Impossible to listen to this song without crying! It’s simply about missing someone and waiting for them to come back even though they never will. The way the song is composed, the whole melody and such, paints a dark energy over heartbreaking lyrics.

4. Ultraviolence (Ultraviolence)

“Cause I’m your jazz singer, and you’re my cult leader.”

Darker than ultraviolet radiation.

3. Heroin (Lust For Life)

“But the facts of life can sometimes make it hard to dream.”

It gets darker and sadder the more you listen to it.

2. Black Beauty (Ultraviolence)

“Oh, what can I do? Life is beautiful, but you don’t have a clue.

When you fall in love with someone who is depressed and you get sucked into their black hole of sadness. Unable to see the beauty of life — that’s sad. Painting the house black — that’s dark.

1. Dark Paradise (Born To Die)

“Your soul is haunting me and telling me that everything is fine, but I wish I was dead.”

This song is the ultimate mix of darkness and sadness. If there was an official Venn diagram for darkness vs. sadness, this song would be smack in the middle. Dark Paradise is when death seems more tranquil than life.