Album Review: ALICIA

Alicia Keys Returns!

ALICIA - An Album ReviewALICIA is the seventh studio album of Alicia Keys. It consists of 15 songs – seven of which are duets and five are with music videos before the official album release on September 18.

Watch her interview with Apple Music.

There are two keywords to describe this album, beautiful & sexy.

Track 1: Truth Without Love

The first track sounds average the first time I heard it. There are too many playing elements on the background but I am happy Alicia gives it a kick. Her vocals soar high, making me forget how busy this song can be.

Track 2: Time Machine

This sounds sexy. It is underrated but it sounds fun and even sexier when Alicia starts singing.

Track 3: Authors of Forever

The title sounds ambitious but it surprises me that it delivers right on the dot. It sounds friendly to my ears, making me feel happy after a busy day at the office.

Track 4: Wasted Energy

This is the first duet of the seven. Alicia sings it with Diamond Platnumz. It sounds powerful. It sounds soulful. I kind of like it but it is not the kind of duo that can revolve around my head all day.

Track 5: Underdog

This is my favorite. The first time I heard it, I could immediately connect with the message it sends to the world. Alicia Keys makes this song her album signature. This is her brand in the same vein with If I Ain’t Got You, No One and Girl On Fire.

Track 6: 3-Hour Drive

This is the second duo of the seven. Alicia’s voice blends well with Sampha. Its intro sounds like droplets of water on a clean surface.

Track 7: Me x 7

The title of this song sounds a bit weird the first time I read it. What’s this and what’s that. Though when I start listening, it sounds cute. Alicia sings the word “Me” like a candy. Thanks for the rap assistance, Tierra Whack!

Track 8: Show Me Love

It surprises me why this is the album’s lead. I was not into it. Don’t get me wrong, her collab with Miguel is brilliant. Love my man, Miguel, though I forced myself to love the song even if I could instantly felt I neither dislike nor like it.

Track 9: So Done

This is my number one favorite of the seven duets. It sounds sexy, soulful and light to my ears. Every time I hear it, the song brings me joy and it makes me feel inspired. Khalid is flawless here too. His parts add an extra layer of calm to an already smooth surface.

Track 10: Gramercy Park

This is a total surprise! There is something extra special with this song I cannot put into words. Let’s say, it ideally sounds like a powerful lead single than Show Me Love. Watch the live performance during her Tiny Desk Concert starting in 9:08.

Track 11: Love Looks Better

It is a fun song. It is not one of my strong favorites but it is pretty a nice song that can potentially grow on me in the right time.

Track 12: You Save Me

This is another brilliant duet with Snoh Aalegra. Just brilliant!

Track 13: Jill Scott

I love Jill Scott, and I feel happy Alicia sings a song with her and with her name as the title. It seems a smooth flowing song that I can immediately vibe with.

Track 14: Perfect Way To Die

This song articulates what Black Lives Matter means. It is more than a movement. It is a lifestyle 24/7 and 365 days every year. And, listening to this song makes me realize how messy this world is. The inequality and the discrimination narrated in the song made and makes me cry still.

Track 15: Good Job

This is a beautiful song to end an album. Amid pandemic in which everything remains uncertain and everyone feels anxious, this is the kind of song we need to hear every day.

Listen for free.

#Deantastic O-Score: 4 of 5 stars!

Review: A Little Hatred

A Little Hatred by Joe AbercrombieDone reading A LITTLE HATRED – Book 1 in The Age of Madness Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. This is the continuation of The First Law Trilogy, which I made a series review here.

All events take place 28 years after the Last Argument of Kings.

Author’s Writing Style: ♥♥♥♥♥ Yay: Joe Abercrombie does it again! He writes vividly in third-person POV without getting descriptive-heavy, he writes the dialogues with more depth and he writes better sex than any male authors I know.

Nay: I was sleeping early in the morning to get this done.

Character/s Development: ♥♥♥♥♥ Yay: All main and minor characters are sons and daughters of the main and sub-characters of The First Law Trilogy. All of them are neither good nor evil. Some only even exist for their personal interests. Leo dan Brock is my newest favorite. He is a charismatic, brave and confident warrior but reckless. Females want to sleep with him always.

Nay: There are too many minor characters. I like them but they seem to overshadow the spotlight that is supposed to be given to the major characters. Though the chapters of the third final act build an invisible bridge to connect them all. Trust me, it is damn good!

Plot: ♥♥♥♥♥ Yay: This is a story of good and evil, not the good vs. evil kind of thing. It is about family politics, social politics and inevitable battles.

This is the story for you if you want a timeout from all the dragons, witches and wizards. I mean, there is also wizard here but he is a different one. He talks like a wizard but I am not sure about his intentions.

Nay: It seems this is a 55-45 character-driven story. Pacing is quite slow. It is not made for everyone. This is a high-fantasy made exclusively for adults. This is not the book for you if you are expecting ‘this’ and ‘that’ and more ‘this and that.’ This story is filled with conversations. Like it or not, it is written for those who can accept wisdom and change.

My Deantastic O-Score: ♥♥♥♥♥ Kindly add me as a friend in Goodreads. Thank you.

Review: The Name of The Wind

The Name of The Wind by Patrick RothfussDone reading THE NAME OF THE WIND – Book 1 in The Kingkiller Chronicle Trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss.

Author’s Writing Style: ♥♥♥♥♥ Patrick Rothfuss is a rockstar! I am in love with his writing style. He writes his sentences simple, he makes his paragraphs short, and he varies first and third person perspectives in past tenses effortlessly.

This is a smooth reading adventure. I am mesmerized all throughout. You see, this book has 662 pages but I get to devour it late at night until I can no longer fight sleep.

Character/s Development: ♥♥♥♥ There is something special about Kvothe (pronounced as Kote). One, he is a poor and intelligent lead character with a mission. He enrolls himself in a school that he cannot afford. He strongly believes this is his way of becoming someone who can perform magic.

Two, he keeps loving a woman even without certainty. I keep smiling every time he mentions “Dianne.” This name reminds me of the past. This name is, yeah, Kvothe is right, beautiful.

Just an observation: Some characters are bad. They hate Kvothe too much. I do not get it. There has to be a reason why. Even Professor Snape dislikes Harry Potter for one reason, right?

Plot: ♥♥♥♥♥ This is one of the finest plots I’ve read this year. Basically, this is a story inside the stories. Kvothe narrates his life story to a Chronicler.

It is his journey to University to study various disciplines in chemistry, botany, psychology and more. The University is a lot like Hogwarts but there is no sorting hat.

Once in a while, Kvothe stops narrating and the pagetime is given to three different characters inside an inn. A bigger story unfolds when Kvothe decides to continue his life story the next day.

My Deantastic Overall Score: ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Kindly add me as a friend in Goodreads. Thanks.

Review: The First Law

The Blade Itself by Joe AbercrombieJoe Abercrombie is currently my number one favorite author. And proud to say, I am done reading his The First Law Trilogy.

Below are my book reviews and his interview with my favorite booktuber – Daniel Greene. It is 48 minutes and 14 seconds long.

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Done reading THE BLADE ITSELF – Book 1 in The First Law Trilogy. Author’s Writing Style ♥♥♥♥♥ Joe understands the science and art of good fiction writing. He is aware that easy-to-read writing means hard writing vividly expressed in short sentences and paragraphs.

Joe writes in third-person perspective narrated in past tenses. In writing styles such as this, I am feeling I am only watching a good movie carried by the superb acting skills of the actors.

In The Blade Itself, however, Joe writes in third-person perspective but it reads like he is writing in first-person. It feels like I am the character than I am one with the characters.

Character/s Development ♥♥♥♥ It is still unclear who are the real heroes and villains in the story. All of them are gray, and I’m loving it! No one acts like he is morally righteous and no one acts like he is the enemy number one. This is a guessing game without black and white answers. There are three main characters and they are wheeling the plot forward, not vice-versa.

Plot ♥♥♥♥ The horrid story focuses around the development of: Logen – the infamous barbarian, Jezal – the noble captain, and there is Glokta. He is the crippled Inquisitor who I keep wondering why he does not have a wheelchair. No kidding. It pains to visualize when Glokta walks and climbs the stairs with his cane. My mind is screaming at me while reading, “Dude, get a wheelchair and let your Practicals wheel you.”

In case you’re wondering what is the first law, the law states that It’s forbidden to touch the Other Side direct.

Before They Are Hanged by Joe AbercrombieDone reading BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED – Book 2 in The First Law Trilogy. Author’s Writing Style ♥♥♥♥♥ I just noticed a trace of inconsistency on how Joe writes the name of his main characters.

For example, Jezal is one of the three major characters. His complete name is Jezal dan Luthar. Jezal is his first name. Luthar is his surname. It confuses me why Jezal and Luthar are used interchangeably throughout the book. On one paragraph he is Jezal while on the other, he is Luthar.

Either this is a mistake or not, I do not know and I do not care. This inconsistency does not destroy the quality on how brilliant the writing style of Joe Abercrombie. His writing style is still golden.

Character/s Development ♥♥♥♥♥ Glokta is my newest favorite character to love and hate all at the same time. He is the only character in the book who is written in italics when expressing his thoughts.

His full name is Sand dan Glokta. He is written as Glokta from the first paragraph of the first book where he was introduced until the end of this second book.

Plot ♥♥♥♥ There is a war between Dagoska and Gurkhul. Who wins and who lost doesn’t matter as Glokta investigates the disappearance of Inquisitor Davoust.

FYI: I am not the same person anymore when I read the dirtiest sex scene in fantasy history. I got no words until now!

Last Argument of Kings by Joe AbercrombieDone reading LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS – Finale book in The First Law Trilogy. Author’s Writing Style ♥♥♥♥♥ Outstanding. Joe is 10 years older than I am but his writing style makes me feel we have the same age and the same mindset.

He writes to tell a story and to be perceptive. He focuses on each character’s personality – their weaknesses, their strengths and their abilities to bounce back.

Character/s Development ♥♥♥♥♥ Glokta is the star of this finale. His POV shines brighter than the rest. There are other two main characters. One is a fading star while the other one is a frustrated star who just can’t make love with his wife.

Bayaz is a real-standout. In books one and two, Bayaz to me is a lukewarm character. Wizards are expected to be insightful when they talk but I see nothing more special in Bayaz.

In this finale, Bayaz emerges as a no ordinary wizard like Gandalf or Albus Dumbledore. Like him or despise him, Bayaz is unique. It is a mistake to compare him with anyone.

Plot ♥♥♥♥ This finale is insanely good. It is filled with nasty politics, betrayal and mental health disorders. It begins strong. A new king has to be elected. From there, the flow starts to get shaky – down, up, down. The concluding chapters are immaculate.

Here are my objective overall scores:

  • Overall score on author’s writing style ♥♥♥♥♥
  • Overall score on character/s development ♥♥♥♥♥
  • Overall score on plot ♥♥♥♥

Deantastic Series Score: 4.67

The First Law Trilogy stands as the outstanding fantasy series I’ve read to date. These books are entirely different from The Lord of The Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter.

The latter mentioned are about good vs. evil and are somewhat predictable. The First Law Trilogy stays grim-dark gray from beginning until the end. Unpredictable and cynical too.

Hope you enjoy the interview. Add me on Goodreads too. Peace & love!

#Survivor Insights 283: Tony Wins Winners At War – Finale Lesson

To win a war, you need to outwit and outplay your enemies the right way. To outwit enemies means they can trust you back despite of individual differences. To outplay enemies requires a level of competence to get the better of anyone whatever it takes.

Tony Vlachos, 46, New Jersey

More Lessons: Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4 – Episode 5Episode 6 – Episode 7Episode 8Episode 9Episode 10Episode 11 – Episode 12Episode 13

My Early Favorites: All Lost. | Photo Courtesy of: CBS