Jul 29, 2016

Duel of Fire by Jordan Rivet

This book was a quick fun read. Sword fighting, magic, and a funny prince? I knew I'd like it before reading--and I totally did.

Set in a fantasy world, Duel of Fire is filled with new concepts and strong characters. Dara Ruminor is an eighteen-year old duelist who is serious about her work. And Prince Sivarrion (Siv) is ... well... less serious about his. But due to fate--and the storyline--the two must work together to defeat a secret threat before it defeats them.

Too bad they don't really get along--at first.
Then Siv stuck out his tongue at her. Dara was so surprised she eased up on her blade. Siv disengaged his own and whacked her on top of the mask. 
Dara and Siv are both captivating characters with the rare ability to be more captivating together than apart. With both of them coming from different worlds, they compliment each other in ways that even the characters don't expect at first. But for all their banter, they really do click. And it's a natural process that had me smirking every time things didn't go down the typical YA romance route. All those interruptions and misunderstandings!

More than that, they are wholesome characters that are so relatable I feel we can be friends. Dara is a duelist, yes--but she's also trying to escape a family business and a future of painful memories.
For her part, she was tired of suitors and guilds and paperwork. She was tired of trying to replace her sister when she didn't have the same ability. She had to find some way to ensure that she wouldn't totally dependent on the Fireworking business for the rest of her life. 
And Siv, though a young prince, is out to prove himself with his family heritage. They are different. But they know what they should do and shouldn't--and that's refreshing.
"You think I don't know? My father is a popular king in a long like of popular kings. I'm supposed to maintain the status quo and keep my mouth shut around the right people, nothing more." He whirled back to face her. "You think I don't sometimes wish I could make my own name? You don't know me, Dara."
The other characters are also well-fleshed out. Everyone, from Siv's younger sisters to Dara's duelist friends, is interesting in their own right. Some of them even became characters I looked for in the page.

Although I really liked the characters, I wish I felt the same about the world building. Don't get me wrong, I did like it... but it still felt somewhat lacking. I didn't know what it meant to be a citizen of Vertigon or to come from the distant land of Trure. What were some of their customs or characteristic traits? What made the people different from each other? I didn't find out and that bothered me a bit. Especially since the world has so much potential--I mean, there's molten fire magic to control! (And a water version of this skill that was hinted at but never fully explored.) Also: cur-dragons. I'd love to see more of them in action.

Instead (not that I'm complaining), the action revolved around the duels and the Vertigon Kingdom. It fell strongly in the middle, between being overwhelming and being boring. It wasn't action-packed throughout, as I thought it would be, but it still managed to maintain my interest. And that's all I really care about. There's lots of politics, suspense, and promised danger that actually pays off. The plot is well-structured, and the pacing just right, that it felt natural to read and continue reading. I could easily picture what was happening and where (for some reason, it gave me medieval vibes...).

The story is told from Dara and Siv's point of views, and it was kind of surprising to realise that I didn't prefer one over the other. And the chances of that happening to me when reading alternative point of views is very very rare. I liked being in both of their heads, seeing both of their views, because they both added something new to the story. It really was a wholesome read in that sense.


Definitely recommended to fantasy-lovers who are tired of cliché romances. It hasn't received as much attention as it deserves.

Short Review on: Goodreads

Jul 24, 2016

Traditional Music Instruments from Around the World

Much like how different dialects in different languages have different sounds, music instruments from around the world carry distinct traces of unique cultures. In a way, listening to different music styles and instruments becomes a form of cultural immersion.  

Which is simply beautifuland different, of course. 

Map of the collective origins of music instruments covered in this post.

Because theres so much to cover, below is a list of just some traditional music instruments from around the worldalong with where they're from, how they work, what they sound like, and other fascinating facts. And brace yourselves because I'll admit... its a pretty long post.

Jul 10, 2016

Frederic - A Unique Japanese Sound

Frederic (フレデリック) makes the type of music I would recommend to people who are genuine music lovers. They're so interesting and unique that it's hard for me to label them with a single genre--though Japanese Rock seems to be the general umbrella.

Personally, I'd go with "Indie (pop-ish?) with funk-like rock"--or simply: just good music.

Originally from Kobe, Frederic is a three-member band that has been creating music since 2009. And as a developing band, you can definitely hear their progression--which I'm personally looking forward to tracking. With two members being brothers--Kenji Mihara (Vocals, Guitar) and Koji Mihara (Bass, Vocals)--and the third, Ryuji Akagashira, playing the guitar, the band gives off a close-knit vibe.

Their hit single, "Only Wonder" is such a cheerful tune that it instantly uplifts the mood. And its music video, featuring a choreographed cheer by a class of schoolgirls, is equally adorable--if not motivating.

More than that, they're simply a clever band. Their most recent album, Ototune, is a clever play on words, with the character ("Oto") meaning "sound," and the word "tune"-- vaguely sounding like "autotune." Each track has its own catchy tune--set apart by distinct vocals and different themes. And this happens across all their other albums--including "Oddloop" and "Owarase Night." Like the title tracks of each album--which are equally great--the songs "Ai no Meiwaku" ("Nuisance of Love" from "Owarase Night") & "Jyarimichi" ("Gravel Road" from "Oddloop") have a unique style that just make them classic "Frederic songs." Lyrics either carry weight instead of the usual fluff or create strong images. For a better taste of their Indie-style songs, their album "Uchuu ni Muchuu" ("Fog in the Universe") does not disappoint.

Even without understanding all the words, it's very easy to get lost in their songs. Which is a good thing... usually.