Monday, December 31, 2012

End of 2012 Book Survey

Jaime from The Perpetual Page-Turner created another yearly book survey! I think they're so much fun! Here's her original post.

1. Best book you read in 2012?

Click here for my full list of the best books I read this year!

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card

It turned out to be an okay read, but it was nothing particularly spectacular. Meh.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012? 

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I guess it wasn't that suprising since I didn't know what to expect, but I ended up really enjoying it.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was the only one I read this year that put me on a mission to get everyone in the world to read.

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

Though I did discover a couple of series, none of them particularly blew me away.

However, Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon series was rereleased, and I love them! I discovered Sailor Moon back in the '90s, so a rerelease of something I already knew and loved doesn't really count as a discovery.

 6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

JOHN GREEN! I also read something by Charlotte Bronte for the first time, and I think she's great!

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
I read manga for the first time! Even though I watched the Sailor Moon anime while it was still on television, it wasn't until years later that I started looking for the books. I was having trouble finding them until this wonderful rerelease!
8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

I couldn't put these down:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sailor Moon Volumes 1-5 by Naoko Takeuchi

9. Book you read in 2012 that you are most likely to re-read next year:

Sailor Moon 4 and Sailor Moon 5 by Naoko Takeuchi. I've only read from 1-5 so far, and those two were my favorites. Sailor Moon really steps in up in these two books.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink                                                                            The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sailor Moon 3 by Naoko Takeuchi
(truthfully, I love all the Sailor Moon rerelease covers, but this is my favorite)

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)
Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)
Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)
Usagi/Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon Series by Naoko Takeuchi)
Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask (Sailor Moon Series by Naoko Takeuchi)
Chibiusa (Sailor Moon Series by Naoko Takeuchi)

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?

Seriously, it's 2012 and I just now read something by John Green? I'm ridiculous!

I also can't believe I waited so long for Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I've wanted to read that ever since it came out! The same goes for Crusade by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie, but who knows if I'll even finish it this year.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2012?

 "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am souless and harmless?"
-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2012?

Shortest: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, 196 pages

Longest: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 462 pages (which isn't even that long)

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

There were a few episodes in Jane Eyre that I can't talk about without spoiling anything... and of course, Sailor Moon's badassery in the Black Moon story arc. Oh, and also Sailor Pluto in the same story arc.

18. Favorite relationship from a book you read in 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Usagi/Sailor Moon and Mamoru/Tuxedo Kamen (Sailor Moon Series by Naoko Takeuchi)
Usagi and Chibiusa (Sailor Moon Series by Naoko Takeuchi)
Hazel and Augustus (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)

19. Favorite book you read in 2012 from an author you read previously.

Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink

20. Best book you read that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else:

The only reason why I read Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith was because Annette Curtis Klause spoke positively about it.


There was also a Book Blogging/Reading Life portion of the survey that I chose not to fill out this time around since I haven't been the most active in that department.

Looking Ahead:

1. One book You didn’t get to in 2012 but will be your number 1 priority in 2013?

I said this last year, and I'll say it again: Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Plus, I really, really, REALLY need to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Oh wait! I also need to catch up on a few series by reading these books: Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick, Destined by Aprilynne Pike, Hidden by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast, The Dark and Hallow Places by Carrie Ryan, and Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink. Oh, and the rest of the Sailor Moon books as well.

Yeah, I've got a lot of reading to do.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2013?

The answer I gave to the last question is only a portion of my TBR. Do I look like I have time to anticipate any more? However... I'm totally excited for the rest of the Sailor Moon books... not to mention the Sailor Moon art book. Did you hear me? ART BOOK. *dances, sings, falls over*

3. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2013?

CATCH UP. My TBR is out of control. But, there are a lot of books I'd like to reread... Let's see if I can READ ALL THE BOOKS in 2013.
(Heh. Doubt it.)

One thing I've been feeling lately... I need to meet an author I'm a fan of. Though I'm a major book nerd, I haven't met any authors yet. I must go to a bookish event and get something signed.


Thanks for taking the time to read (or at least skim) all of that! I hope everyone else had a fabulous year in blogging and reading; let's make 2013 even better!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best Books I Read: 2012

Ever since The Critiquing Critica was born, I've posted an annual list of my favorite books that I read throughout the year. For this list, I didn't really pay attention to ratings since I'm starting to get annoyed with my own rating scale, but all Best Books can be assumed 5/5 Stars and Runner-Ups can be considered 4.5/5 Stars. If I reviewed any of these books, I linked the title.

So, here's my yearly list, in no particular order.

Best Books

The Fault in Our Stars by: John Green

I could never name my favorite author when I was asked. Now, I immediately answer "John Green." I don't care if anyone read the summary and didn't find much interest; neither did I. Go read this book. The writing is wonderfully-crafted, as are the unique (and funny) primary characters, Augustus and Hazel. John Green painted a perfect picture of emotions, and it takes a special writer to truly capture grief as he did. I cried a lot as I read this book, and I oftentimes think of it now. The Fault in Our Stars is so unforgettable - how could I not name it as one of my favorite books?

The Dead-Tossed Waves by: Carrie Ryan

Carrie Ryan's The Dead-Tossed Waves is the sequal to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and I loved both. Once again, Ryan proved to be an excellent writer, and she added plenty of twists and turns in the plot, following a new character we didn't know in the first book. This character, Gabry, did what any decent character should do throughout a novel - grow. Her metamorphisis made her stronger, less fearful, and more sure of herself. This brought more hope into a rather dark and bleak novel about a zombie-apocalypse. Carrie Ryan's series is the only zombie-related series I read, as she creates a frightening vision of the Unconsecrated that I could personally never understand or care about in any other format than hers.

Jane Eyre by: Charlotte Bronte

I never wanted to put this classic down, and was sad to see the story end. Though Jane Eyre was written in the 1800s, there is something about it that's so incredibly fresh, and I'm not just talking about Jane being so femminist for her time period... does anyone know how excited I was for an ugly love interest!? ALAS! NORMALCY! I'm so sick of these 'perfect' love interests that actually have glaring flaws. I'm sick of reading about perfect hair and eyes and other things that can be perfect like hands and teeth and backs! (Crazy run-on sentence! Whoo!) Anyway, Mr. Rochester outdid them all, even though he's so ugly that Jane told him several times.

A Separate Peace by: John Knowles

Since I wasn't sure what this book would be about, I definitely wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. Like most contemporary novels, it kept me reading and reading with much interest and emotion. Gene and Finny's friendship is indeed a complicated one, and it is also an irritating one as Gene plays head games with himself in fits of jealousy. The domino effect of events that follow one act of Gene's anger is saddening, all told from Gene as an adult looking back on rather unpleasant teenage years.


Sailor Moon 4 and Sailor Moon 5 by: Naoko Takeuchi

"International revival." That's what Wikipedia called it. My reaction as were other fans' reactions. Rereleasing the manga was the spark, and I began my mission to READ ALL THE BOOKS! This year, I only got around to reading the first five, of which volumes 4 and 5 were my favorites. In these books, the second story arc entitled Black Moon is told, and Sailor Moon is a much stronger heroine than in the first story arc, making the already awesome story even more bad-ass. Though some complain about this new translation, let's face it: It's SO much better than nothing. I may not have been a fan of all of Sailor Moon's twenty years of existence, but have been for fourteen of those years upon my first discovery. Something that sticks with someone this long has to be good.


Prophecy of the Sisters by: Michelle Zink

This is my second time reading Prophecy of the Sisters, and I enjoyed it even more than the first time! Michelle Zink's writing can be described as darkly pretty as she tells the story of two prophecy-burdened twin sisters in the 1800s. The plot of this book contains magic and creepy events, making the storyline easy to devour. I really loved this one!

Guardian of the Gate by: Michelle Zink

This sequal ended up being as good as the first! The writing still maintains greatness as the plot gets more fun complicated. I can't wait to see how it all turns out in the last book in the series, Circle of Fire. It's definitely an awesome trilogy thus far, and I doubt Circle of Fire will disappoint.

Unfortunately, I didn't read a huge group of books that made my Best Books list, but who knows what next year will bring.

Did you agree/disagree with any of my choices? Tell me about all the cool books you read in 2012!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Favorite Musical Singles of 2012 (Part 4/4)

This is the final post displaying my favorite musical singles of 2012! I hope you've enjoyed the previous three posts as well as this one. Please leave your favorite singles in the comments; I'd love to hear what you have to say!
"Made of Stone" by Evanescence
Need an angry song? Here's "Made of Stone." Evanescence is back
and heavier than ever while maintaining a level of epicness, and this
song certainly demonstrates that. Like many Evanescence songs,
"Made of Stone" is something I can call a theme song of mine. It'll
keep anyone singing along with their head bobbing. Since there's
no official music video or lyric video for this promotional single,
here's an unofficial lyric video:
"She Wolf (Falling to Pieces)" by David Guetta ft. Sia
This song represents one of those times where pop music can be
beautiful. The piano bit is so pretty, as are the electronic bits.
The lyrical metaphor is just wonderfully written, and it's something
just about anyone can relate to. Plus, it's hard not to love the
wolves in the music video. Though David Guetta doesn't usually
impress me, he's undoubtedly made some magic with Sia.
"Castle of Glass" by Linkin Park
"Castle of Glass" is one of my all-time favorite Linkin Park
songs with its chilled electronic feel. There's nothing one can't
love about it. The music's great, the vocals are so easy to listen
to, and the lyrics are decorated with emotion in the most peaceful
way. The video has a specific meaning to it, and I'm utterly
fascinated by the glass constantly flying around the band. That being
said, why doesn't this single get radio airplay? People need to request
"Powerless" by Linkin Park
This is another of my favorite Linkin Park songs, and (much
like "Castle of Glass") I didn't even realize it was a single since
I've never heard this one on the radio. The two that I usually
hear, "Lost in the Echo" and "Burn it Down" are great songs, but
they sound way to similar for them to both be singles. Anyway,
"Powerless" is a highlight from their latest album, Living Things.
The piano leads this song, but electronic elements pick up
throughout, creating a beautiful sound. The music video includes
scenes from the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and a lot of the movie audio
is potent in the video, so I recommend looking up a video of
just the song's audio.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Favorite Musical Singles of 2012 (Part 3/4)

 This is the third post consisting of my favorite singles released in 2012. Part four will come later in the week.
"It's Time" by Imagine Dragons
I discovered this song from watching the trailer for The Perks of
Being a Wallflower and began hearing it on the radio shortly
after the trailer's release. There's something about this song that
describes life, kind of like how Radical Face is good at describing
life. It's ordinary and it's extraordinary. Between the music and the
meaning, "It's Time" makes me want to cry and smile and be happy.
"Breathing Underwater" by Metric This is the second Metric song on this list, and though I love the first one listed, "Breathing Underwater" is the one I tend to favor. The feel of it is so light and carefree; I can't  help but love it. I hoped it would be a single when I heard it from their album Synthetica and almost had a heart attack when I finally heard it on the radio.
"National Anthem" by Lana Del Rey
"National Anthem" is the last of the three Lana Del Rey songs
one can find on this list, and it took the longest to grow on me
out of all the songs on her album Born to Die. However, it's one of her
best. The song itself is unique in its general feel, and it includes a catchy
chorus and intense bridge. Still, the video is probably most popular
amongst the general public since Lana embodied both Marilyn
Monore and Jackie Kennedy without trying too hard to look like either
of them. After all, Lana Del Rey is strictly Lana Del Rey.
"Love Bites (So Do I)" by Halestorm
For a change of pace, give this single a try. "Love Bites (So Do
I)" is such a fun rock song. It's hard not to like something so badass
and lyrically exciting. Even the title sounds awesome. But if
rock isn't really your thing, just listen to Lzzy Hale's ending two
notes. Holy. Cow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Favorite Musical Singles of 2012 (Part 2/4)

This is the second post consisting of my favorite singles released in 2012. Parts three and four will come later in the week.
"Lost in Paradise" by Evanescence
One of my favorite songs EVER. Like Evanescence always does, they
created an amazing, tear-jerking ballad. There's nothing to complain
about with this one. Amy Lee's voice is powerful like usual, the
music and lyrics are deep as usual, and the piano leads the way
like a beacon of greatness. There's no official video for this single
yet, so here's the beautiful lyric video. Go follow along with the
lyrics and get chills.
"Storm the Sorrow" by Epica
A big and bold single from Epica, a very worthy symphonic
metal band! This song displays outstanding vocals and lyrics amid
music that's completely epic. Mark Jansen's grunts are limited
to the bridge, creating cross-over appeal for those who don't care
for that style of vocalizing. Plus, the music video happens to be
my favorite Epica video.
"Hats Off to the Bull" by Chevelle
Chevelle's such a cool band, and the single "Hats Off to the
Bull" (released during the previous February) seems to help
enforce that. Anyone looking to rock out with the volume turned
way up? Listen to this song. Then go to one of their shows and
hear it live; they do a great job.
"Breath of Life" by Florence + the Machine
This song is the lead single from the film Snow White and the
Huntsman, and it made the end credits for that movie so much
better. I can't describe this song's genre... There's Florence's voice
plus a choir, exceptional lyrics, and of course the theatrical music...
It's the genre of Florence. And it's very fun to sing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Favorite Musical Singles of 2012 (Part 1/4)

Since 2012 is coming to a close, I thought I'd share my favorite singles released this year!
This will be the first of four posts. Each of these four posts will contain four videos of my favorite singles, making that a total of sixteen songs to expect over the course of the week. I will post the other three posts every other day this week.
Initially, I tried to order these numerically, making it more of a countdown, but the order ended up relying on how much I love the artist, it felt biased in result. So, I decided to randomize them. Plus, I just love these songs so much.
I hope you enjoy these four great songs as well the others coming within the week!
"Youth Without Youth" by Metric
This is an awesome, fun song that makes me feel BA whenever I listen to it.
The album that this single came from, Synthetica, is a fantastic album
that has multiple tracks that are just as cool (or even cooler) than this

"Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey brings a heavy darkness to indie pop with
"Summertime Sadness," and the video does that darkness justice.
It's both mellow and melodic, and even though I wasn't a fan from
the get-go, the greatness ofthis song, as well as the other tracks on
her debut album Born to Die hit me like a ton of bricks.
 "The Other Side" by Evanescence
"The Other Side" is a promotional single from my favorite band's
latest self-titled album (which I loved). Though it's not a happy song,
it's definitely upbeat and catchy both vocally and instrumentally.
As a promo single, it has no official music video, but it does have
an official lyric video in which I have posted.
"Ride" by Lana Del Rey 
Lana Del Rey released a new edition of her debut album (The
Paradise Edition) which includes a bunch of new songs for us
to love, including this single. The song itself is very pretty and
melancholy, but the video doesn't do much for me, personally.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Paradise | Lana Del Rey

Indie-pop artist Lana Del Rey has recently released a new EP entitled Paradise, an addition to her album Born to Die (though it can also be purchased separately). Now, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed Born to Die, but it took a long time to grow on me. When I wrote the review of that album, I wasn't the most fond of it, but I wrote an edit at the bottom explaining that every slight bit of positivity I found became magnified and granted it another star.

Paradise didn't take that extra time to grow, for Lana Del Rey has improved. The very first track (and single), "Ride" still has everything Lana did well on Born to Die. Her voice is relaxing, the music and lyrics are moving... but it's just... better. I didn't have to try and love it; I loved it immediately, especially the strings and how they become even more present towards the end. I totally didn't cry a little the first time I heard it, either. "Ride" is easily one of my favorites.

"American" is the next song, and the strings are still taking the stage, but it does have its poppier elements as well, which somehow reminds me of Bjork's "All is Full of Love" at times (but only on an instrumental level). It's a bit gloomy without being too much; it's nostalgic. Really, that's the best way to describe most of Lana Del Rey's Paradise. It feels incredibly nostalgic.

The next planned single is called "Cola", and oh my goodness, it's weird. Just go listen to those beginning lyrics and anyone will see what I'm saying. As a whole, the song is more fun-sounding than the previous tracks, particularly the chorus. The bridge takes an unusual turn since Lana decides to show off a bit vocally and hits notes that she doesn't normally attempt. "Cola" is definitely my least favorite song from Paradise; it simply doesn't do much for me.

Oppositely, "Body Electric" is one of my all-time favorite Lana Del Rey song. It's very eerie. Sure, Lana Del Rey has made darker music than most, but this song takes it to a whole new level. It was one of the two songs I was most excited to hear from this EP, the other being Lana's cover of "Blue Velvet." I loved hearing it on Lana's H&M commercial and wanted to hear more. She's great with this kind of music, and I hope she continuous to offer quality music such as this.

"Gods and Monsters" seems to be the most pop-friendly song on the album, and I simply cannot relate to it at all. Musically, it sounds catchy, but lyrically, I feel extremely detached. It seems to be about someone extremely reckless without a good sense of what's good for her. Though the general meaning isn't bad and something I'd actually like to hear about, I find myself wishing Lana Del Rey could be more feminist lyrically. I think I'll be able to appreciate this more with time if I can get past the certain irritation I feel.

"Yayo" (whatever that means) returns to the melancholy mood that was set towards the beginning of the album. I'm a little confused lyrically, but there's nothing wrong with the song. It's quite relaxing. If I were to compile a ranking list of the tracks of Paradise from best to worse, "Yayo" would be the middle ground.

The album ends quite peacefully with "Bel Air," as it is reminiscent of a lullaby. The whole feel of it is very different than the rest of the album. Even though it still has a darkness to it, it's so much lighter than the rest of Paradise as well as Born to Die. It's more pretty than it is anything else, like the single that introduced me to Lana Del Rey's music, "Video Games," but it's still very different than "Video Games." It has more of a film score-type of magic to it, too good for real life. That being said, "Bel Air" is another one of my favorite Lana Del Rey songs.

Paradise has a lot to offer. As good as Born to Die is, in the grand scheme of things, it has quite a few repetative sounds. Paradise breaks Born to Die's habits since this EP is different, offering a sound that's even more chilled-out and pretty. It's more soulful and jazzy than anything, breaking from traditional indie pop. The music this woman is making goes to show that some genres will never die, even if they are often hidden by the generic radio stations that will play the same five songs that sound the same until audiences are finally ready for another generic set. At the end of the decade, century, or any other length of time, quality music is still quality music.

4.5/5 Stars

(If you read my review of The Family Tree: The Roots by Radical Face, you know that I was ready to give up star-ratings. As of now, I am unsure... I hope to post about this sometime soon.)