Laurie En

Laurie En

English account.

Shadowhunters' origines: Clare takes us back to the 19th Century

jeudi 11 juillet 2013      The Infernal Devices 1: Clockwork Angel

London, 1878. Tessa Gray arrives from New York to join her brother Nate after their aunt, only family they had left, died. But she doesn't have the time to find him before getting abducted and sequestered in a creepy place by two witches who taught her she is what they call "a Downworlder". The two Dark Sisters oblige her to use powers she didn't even know she had, aiming to bring her to the one they call "the Magister".
Freed by Will Herondale, a Shadowhunter, doors to a world she ignored everything about before arriving in England are going to open to Tessa. She gets to know Jem, Charlotte and Jessamine, with whom she is going to do everything to find her missing brother... Without realizing that her whole life is going to be forever turned upside down.

The Clockwork Angel is the first volume of the prequel of the series The Mortal Instruments, this book is set in Victorian London at the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. Within the pages, we learn a lot about the ancestors of the main series' heroes, becoming familiar with Jace's ancestor - both Herondale share the same sarcasm by the way. Relationships between Shadowhunters and their respective families are predominating, many facets and peculiarities of the Nephilims, which remained very vague, are clarified in this book.
Even if this trilogy is a prequel, it is not necessary to read it before the main books City of Bones, City of Ashes, etc. Rather, I read it long after and found it interesting to  plunge myself in the past of our heroes' forefathers, so that I could directly link them with one another thanks to their family names. I think that the order in which we read the two series doesn't really matter, and the prequel is set in London, which avoids any confusion with the main story set in New York City.

Tessa is the main character of this trilogy: the story begins with her, her arrival in London is going to make things move around her. Surlier and more independent than Clary, she is going to enter and to be accepted into the world of the Shadowhunters, while struggling the fact she just learnt she was a Downworlder.
Beside her, we also meet Will, an impetuous young man, arrogant and selfish - but extremely handsome and attractive - and Jem, his parabataï (fight companion), sweet and faithful, who carries a terrible secret... Impossible for Tessa as for the reader not to fall for these two Nephilims, described as unreal beauties. Each of them has his own character, miles from one another, and Will's capricious instability reminds us our favorite Jace...

This series, parallel to The Mortal Instruments, always brings us back to the same Shadowhunters' universe, and Cassandra Clare gives us once again further discoveries to come. The Clockwork Angel is a real delight, we even get more quickly caught in Tessa's adventures as in Clary's ones. The reader has no time to get bored, action and rebounds are redundant all along the story, and once again in Clare's work, the romance between the characters takes time to get off and is quite rough - which is a change from all these fantasy books centered on a love story. No answer is given too soon, the suspense keeps us breathless until the very last pages, and once the book will be closed, we will only have one desire: to know what happens next.

A must-read for all The Mortal Instruments fans, and a very good series to recommend to all fantasy-lovers!

Can Grey and Ana make things clear? Last volume of the Fifty Shades trilogy

mercredi 10 juillet 2013      Fifty Shades Freed

It seems to be a foregone story and it's without any surprise that the first pages of this third - and announced as the last - volume of the Fifty Shades trilogy take us to the wedding between M. Grey and the narrator Anastasia Steele even if they know each other for only... less than two months, which were reported with many details - we'd sometimes prefer not to know - in the previous thousand pages of the two preceding books (see reviews of the first and second volumes). Once again, it brings back a bit of a déjà vu time (Bella and Edward also get married very young, and also after a tearing and harrowing break-up), but things are going to get complicated for our newly weds.

Conspiracies, revenge and always darker secrets, we wonder how the couple manages to stay the course... and it should be noted that they are not exhausted by their relentless S&M antics - another way to keep the flame alive. Tension is rising over the books and reaches its peak in Fifty Shades Freed, even if we are still far from a novel of action. Readers who already loved the previous books are going to be very pleased, those who remained sceptical after reading may not be completely satisfied with the often uneven literary style of the author (sentences with a rich and carefully chosen vocabulary alternate with other ones which seem to come straight out of a 12-year-old girl). The fact remains, however, that we get caught up in the story, sometimes smiling, often blushing for the chastest and more innocent readers.

It is obvious that EL James doesn't have the same writing skills that authors like Salinger or Proust, but her literary style is way easier to read; if you are motivated, the Fifty Shades trilogy can be read in just a few days, which could have convinced many curious to discover and to explore the darkest corners of the Red Room of Pain (and pleasure). We will however point out that significant progress had been made between the first and this last volume of the saga; James makes intensity grow deeper, what makes Fifty Shades Freed far more consisting and denser than its predecessors. Don't go as far as expecting a masterpiece, but if millions of women around the world joined the movement, it is necessarily that this series does please certain people.. so why not you, after all?

Lace Up, official debut album for MGK

mardi 09 juillet 2013      Lace Up [Explicit]

Lace Up is the young American rapper MGK's first full-length studio album, succeeding four mixtapes always acclaimed by US rap critics. Released October 9th, 2012, the album includes thirteen tracks, among which some were already on Cleveland's artist's previous EPs. Nearly all of these songs (with two exceptions) are featurings with other artists from a very wide range of musical backgrounds - as an example, I already briefly spoke about the artist in my review of the album Feel by Sleeping With Sirens, in which we hear MGK on the excellent title Alone.

MGK, from his full stage name Machine Gun Kelly (referring to his rapid-fire lyrical flow but also and above all to the eerily notorious American criminal George "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes), was influenced by rappers like DMX - with whom he recorded the song D3MONS - and Ludacris, but also by metal bands such as Mötley Crüe or punk-rock bands such as Blink 182. Standing out from the majority of American rappers with his white skin, he rapidly managed to become a front-runner on the East Coast. These various criteria avoid comparing to others, and the young rapper had already succeeded in making a name for himself through his previous tracks he recorded and released without any official producer. With Lace Up, he confirms his notoriety and rubs shoulders with the rap biggest names, as he is only 22 years old.

Big names are not lacking on Lace Up: MGK solicited the rappers Lil Jon (for the title song of the album, Lace Up), DMX, Bun B or Waka Flocka Flame, but also artists from different musical universes like the RnB singer Ester Dean - who had already recorded a song featuring Chris Brown - and even the singer and the guitarist from the rock-metal band Avenged Sevenfold... a priori nothing to do with the rapper's world. Nevertheless. He records with these latter two the opening song of the album, Save Me, on bottom of electric guitar which meekly accompanies MGK's bouncing flow, before Mr. Shadows screams out heartbreaking "Can't you save me?". A very good start, which emphasises once for all that MGK is not trying to be included in the estate, but rather to scream out loud his singularity.

Wild Boy,
featuring Waka Flocka Flame, is the album's first single released, the song's video had been broadcast since November 2011. The explicit and rather trashy lyrics chocked many Puritan American, but are yet far from expressing the depth the artist is able of, and that we feel more on moving - and autobiographical - titles such as All We Have, End of the Road or Invincible (with Ester Dean's voice on the chorus).
There are many and multifarious themes: MGK speaks lightly about drugs, parties and baseball, but also about homesickness, longing and youthful mistakes, on a more serious tone. Even if it can't be claimed that Lace Up is going to please everyone, the album explores a wide range of genres and topics, which can only appeal a broader audience.

It seems to have found its audience in the United States: the week after its release, the album debuted at number 4 on the US Billboard 200. Abroad, Machine Gun Kelly isn't very famous yet, simply known by the more curious music fans - or the luckiest ones, because the artist turns out to be very active on the social networks, taking care of having good relationships with his fans, so that word-of-mouth runs the best.
In order to prove them his love and gratitude, he
put Lace Up's successor, entitled Black Flag, available on streaming and free download in June 2013. One more reason to be interested in the artist and to discover without further delay his first studio album!

The Selection: Cinderella's reality show

mardi 02 juillet 2013      The Selection

Imagine China buys out United States and existing codes are completely revised, back to the time of casts and monarchy. Three hundred years after our era, Illea's whole nation is passionnate for The Selection, a competition between 35 girls aged 16 to 20 and coming from all over the country with the sole aim seducing the Prince Maxon, who is searching a fiancée through this contest which is broadcast on TV. Countless young women seized this unique opportunity to live in a luxurious palace and to enter the very exclusive and glittering world of the Kingdom's highest cast with one goal: to be the one to win the conveted crown.

America Singer, young musician belonging to the cast number Five - there are eight casts, the highest is the one of the Royal Family - is secretely and madly in love with Aspen, a Six, when her mother places pressure on her to submit herself as entry in The Selection process. To her surprise, her application is retained and she is compelled to leave her family and her boyfriend in order to integrate the palace, under the intransigent eyes of rivals and cameras. Hopefully, the Prince won't be as dull and boring as she had imagined...

I was quite reluctant before finally deciding to read The Selection: first of all because I was afraid of being disappointed by the "youth" label (you never know what to expect with young adult literature), it sometimes doesn't take much for the book to be too simple, too smarmy or naive to satisfy an audience that has turn the corner of its teenage years. On the other side, I really had the feeling I already knew how the book would end.
To my relief, it wasn't the case at all. From the very first pages, I got literally caught by the novel - what didn't happen since The Mortal Instruments...- and couldn't drop it off anymore. Kiera Cass manages with her first volume of The Selection to find the perfect crossover between children's and adults' literatures. And for once, there are no vampires or dark magic, only a dystopia which reminds us of our childhood fairy tales and of our dreams of being a princess and having beautiful dresses. The great Walt Disney fan that I am couldn't help finding some striking similarities with the ball organized in the cartoon Cinderella in honour of the Prince Henri, where he meets all the young ladies of his Kingdom - including Cinderella, after a whistle-stop under the magic wand of her fairy godmother.

The novel's pace is swiftly, no way to get lost in useless lenghts, the feather is light and concise, in order to make this volume quick to read without getting bored one second. Some unexpected rebounds pushed me to go on with the next chapter without looking up, absorbed by the story told by America, a quite stubborn protagonist I could easy identify with.
The many secondary characters are very important to give a certain size ot the novel: we never know where the danger is going to arise from, who's the next Selected leaving the crown's challenge... nor to whom the loving Maxon is going to give his heart.

No sooner bought than devoured: The Selection is without any doubt my early summer's crush. The saga is being adapted into a TV series, yet another reason to discover this futuristic universe before anyone else!

Feel, undeniably Sleeping With Sirens best album to date

jeudi 27 juin 2013      Feel [+digital booklet]

Formed in 2009, Sleeping With Sirens is a quite young post-hardcore band from Florida which already managed to draw a very large fanbase with their (already!) three studio albums. The last one, Feel, was released on June 4, 2013 and had been announced by the singles Low and Alone. (both videos of these songs have been watched more than one million times on Youtube).
The versatile voice of the inspirational frontman and singer Kellin Quinn obviously helped the group to stand out from others. Quinn has a unique combination of power and pitch, making his voice distinguishable from many other singers.

Despite the band's only four years old, this third album shows a clear progression, proving that Sleeping With Sirens could make their own music sound and stand out from bands like Pierce The Veil or Asking Alexandria (primarly thanks to Quinn's atypical voice). Feel has often been described as a « shining light in an increasingly homogenized post-hardcore landscape », and that is exactly what this album is. Lighter than many others, but still powerful and delivering a strong message, both fans and new comers who heard about Sleeping With Sirens should take the time to discover this quite new group, or at least to listen to this album... it is really worth it!
Perfect to party, Feel has energetic and bouncy tempos, including more elements of electronics and keyboard than the previous albums, creating a pleasant heart-pumping atmosphere. The band well managed to change the dynamics of the sound we knew through their first two albums, and is now recognizable among all other groups.
The first song is the title track Feel and directly introduces us to the new direction the band is taking. The fourth song, Alone, was the album second single release (out on May 21, 2013) and features Machine Gun Kelly, a young rapper who seems to fit perfectly to this track. According to me, the best song of the entire album (or at least the one I consider as the most addictive)! The Best There Ever Was and Déjà Vu are my others personal song-crushes, rousing and refreshing, obviously some of the album's highlights.

According to the general critical reception the album get in the US and UK, Feel is by far Sleeping With Sirens' best work to date, and the band is currently playing its songs main stage at the Vans Warped Tour 2013.