Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most OCD Bookish Habits

For this lovely Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish, bloggers were given a freebie, so I picked a past topic from a long time ago that I missed:

Top Ten Most OCD Bookish Habits
(and some stuff that generally irks me)

FINGERPRINTS. Sometimes book covers are shiny/glossy/etc., and if I smudge it up with fingerprints, I freak out a little. So, how do I hold the book? I always take the book jacket off of my hardcovers when reading, but my paperbacks... It's kind of hard to explain.
I alphabetize my bookshelf by the authors' last names... But I always cringe when I see one of my favorite books next to something I didn't like. It just feels belittling! But I can't just not have my books in alphabetical order either!
I need hardcover books, especially if they're thick. They're just more durable; I don't have to worry about bending up the spines. My paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is so bent up and filmsy that when I open it now, it immediately wants to go to the middle and nearly snaps in half!
Not really a habit, just something that bothers me: Why are my first five paperback Harry Potter books' pages yellowing!? I wanted to get as many Harry Potter books as possible, so I got the 1-5 book box set in paperback. Just a smidge of the top of the pages stick out of the box, and that part is all yellowed. WHY MUST MY HARRY POTTER BOOKS SUFFER?
Large hardcover books make life difficult. I don't mind reading big books; that's not the problem. When I put them on my bookshelf, I often must lay them down so the back of the cover is facedown. (I hope that description wasn't too weird.) Why? Because I own a copy of Stephen King's one thousand-paged monster of a novel Under the Dome, and I tried stacking it normally, but it was so heavy that the spine just couldn't handle it and started to break down. Now I think that's going to happen to all my large books.
I really don't like buying books online because I can't inspect them before purchasing to make sure they're in fabulous condition. Besides, half of the time when I get books in the mail, they're wrapped up tightly in this plastic stuff and it weakens the bottom and top of the spines or marked with Sharpie along the pages.
Why does Wal-Mart feel the need to put the little price sticker on the front cover? Then I have too peel it off when I get home, and hopefully it isn't too sticky so I can actually get the crap off without having ickiness on the front cover.
I often stare at my Sailor Moon books and wonder if I have them in the right order. Can anyone tell me if I should put manga in order from left to right or right to left?
SILENCE! I'm reading! Am I the only one who can't read with outside noise?
I always have to finish a book even if I don't like it or am no longer in the mood... I don't know why I feel the need to do this. I've only had to give up on a book perhaps three times in my life, and it's usually because I really loathe it or am seriously not interested.
So... Am I the only one with these habits/issues? Or am I just weird?

Friday, May 24, 2013

The White Apple | Of Verona

Of Verona is an up-and-coming electronic/indie band with only one LP release thus far, entitled The White Apple. After hearing one of their songs, "Paint the Pictures," on television, I fell in love with it and have anticipated The White Apple ever since.

Anyone who might consider listening the whole album from start to finish must know that the second half of the albums is generally favorable to the first half, with the exception of a couple tracks.

"Castles" is one of those exceptions. It's the first song on the album, kicking off with a calm, electronic verse, the singer's voice like an indie epitome. I must say that at first, the lyrics don't impress me; they're a little cliche, telling a (rather awkward) story of broken love, but I've definitely heard worse. Despite it all, I admit I did like the lyrics of the chorus, they had more imagery than I would have expected. Really, the chorus is by far the best part of the song (other than the breakdown towards the end of the middle eight). Amid the serious meaning, it's so catchy!

Then, The White Apple become a bit lackluster for the next few tracks. "Match"  may bring me a bit of nostalgia for what ever reason as it builds, but overall, it's not the most memorable altogether. "The Enemy" also falls short of a standout.

The next song is called "Dark in My Imagination," a mellow and intriguing track. Yet again, Of Verona created a relaxing song. But this track is different than the previous songs on The White Apple, and reminds me of why I anticipated this album's release with the use of tranquil vocals layering with an electronically-charged musical direction. Though I certainly prefer it over "Match" and "The Enemy," I'm still not too crazy about it.

The edgier, rock side of the band appears in "Take Me," especially the chorus. Though the signature 'chilled' factor is still there, I just cannot get into it. There's nothing grabbing my attention.

"Centipede" is the fifth song on the album, and I do prefer it to a few of the other previous songs. It's a bit darker than the others, but nothing too melancholy either. The band is still present despite how electronically-charged it is, and I really enjoyed it. But the ending was quite disappointing. Nothing climatic ever happened, and the song seemed to fade out when I was sure it'd build up. At this point, I'm not feeling too positive about this album.

Finally, we have the title track, "The White Apple." Now I really remember my original expectations for this album, even though it took half of the album to get there. This song is mystifying and wonderful and includes the best vocals of the album. Throughout the song, the usage of piano and strings really blow this one out of the water, sending a chill or two down my arms as the song grows. I am immediately in love. Then, the music changes, becomes more upbeat and jazzy. Honestly, the transition could have been done MUCH better, or they could have cut this part of the song altogether, but I still adore the song despite that. The repeating lines of this section, "White noise white noise white noise screamin' in my ear!" will stay in one's head for a while, despite that part doesn't last very long. (Keep in mind that those lines are not the best example of the well-crafted lyrics, nor is it even close to being the best part of the song.) Yet again, the song changes into a piano/vocal section before gradually moving back into the fuller sound it had amounted to earlier, and then reverting back to the original, haunting vibe. This is definitely the masterpiece of The White Apple; it's no wonder that they named the album after this track.

"Unique in its Madness" follows, and though it's likeable, it's kind of dull in comparison to "The White Apple." The band returns to being more upbeat, but this time they get a little jazzy with the piano line. Though it's not bad, I still find myself wanting something more.

I get what I ask for with "Paint the Pictures," the song that led me to discover Of Verona. It's the ninth track, and it certainly stands out amongst the other songs. Not that it doesn't fit, because it does, it's just quite a bit better than the others. It's a ballad, drenched in melancholy and lyrically superior, especially in the vivid and relatable chorus: "Send me on my way, I'm drifting out of here/ Into outer space, I've found a place out there." Though it's consistently mellow, it really expands in the middle eight, slowly crescendoing to a point of climax and quickly dying back down to its original volume. The contrast is perfectly crafted; the whole song is sad and spectacular.

Next, listeners will encounter "We Are Not Alone Here," which is another standout. Unlike the others, the electronic elements are used in a funky way. It's bouncy, vibrant. Even though this song is completely different than "Paint the Pictures" in the sense that it's happier and more upbeat, it has a similar atmospheric quality. Something about the instrumentation reminds me of Shiny Toy Guns, particularly "Somewhere to Hide."

Then, the albums slows down a bit for another ballad. This one is called "Raining," and it's led by a pretty piano part. The chorus adapts to the generally atmospheric vibe of the past two songs, but then more layers of instruments are added later on. More than anything, I was enthusiastic about the outro; it's gorgeous! It's only the piano and the singer's voice, but then I run into my only issue. It gets vocally ramblesome. It doesn't end comfortably. But, nevertheless, I still really love this song.

The albums concludes with "They Will Fall Like Roses," which is another personal favorite. It has everything I like about Of Verona with its dark, beautiful electronic sound, and smooth vocals. Though it starts out as more of a ballad, it picks up in the second verse, adding drums and guitars. This addition really worked well; it made the song more three-dimensional. The whole thing is a modern symphony of sorts (and I suppose that can be said about The White Apple in general), and it ends the album on a great note.

Fans of mainstream, indie, and alternative need to check out this album. Of Verona is one of the most relaxing bands I've come across as of late, but that doesn't mean it won't leave listeners enthusiastic. Is every single song a perfect masterpiece? No, there are some songs that don't quite stand out, but when Of Verona's good, they're good.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I've Read

Once again, I'm participating in one of the most amazing memes ever created, Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I've Read
(in no particular order)

Fallen by: Lauren Kate

Though I can't consider it one of the best books of all time, Lauren Kate's Fallen has one of the best book covers of all time. All of the books in this series have really nice covers, but I still tend to prefer this one.

Wings by: Aprilynne Pike

I've always thought this book cover is so unique and pretty. I remember seeing it for the first time at Wal-Mart, picking it up to see what kind of story could lie under such a great cover. This series really captured my love and attention.

Destined by: Aprilynne Pike

Another beautiful floral cover from Aprilynne Pike's paranormal romance series. Really, the other two books in the series have nice covers as well, but these two are my favorites. Coincidentally, they're my two favorite books in the four-piece series. I'm quite sad I've finished them all; I really liked this series.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by: J.K. Rowling

Such a magical cover, but with an eerie feel to it. I've even had dreams of those three doors in the background. Looking at it as I type this, I'm hit by a wave of nostalgia. When I bought my Harry Potter books, the box set was themed by this cover, so I naturally tend to associate the whole series with this cover. Even so, I feel like it sums up the series well in some way.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by: J.K. Rowling

This cover seems to serve as a perfect illustration of fantasy. I've always liked it for some reason, and perhaps it's for that general concept, but I don't know... Perhaps it's more nostalgia... I don't know. Either way, the cover artist did a very good job. (Wow, that was ramblesome.)

Eclipse by: Stephenie Meyer

I like this book cover from the Twilight saga, sue me. Eclipse definitely has one of my favorite book covers ever. It's actually a big part of the reason why I read the series. I saw this in Borders and I was like "OMG pretty!" So, yeah. That's how I came across Twilight. I also really like New Moon's cover, but I don't know if it'll end up making my top ten list.

Prophecy of the Sisters by: Michelle Zink

Kinda dark and almost creepy in a way, huh? It reminded me of the two ghost girls in Stephen King's The Shining. I'm quite angry that the other two books in this series had covers that didn't match this one, and it's even worse because the Spanish editions do match this one, and they're GORGEOUS. I know enough Spanish to save my life, but I doubt I'd be able to read entire novels in Spanish, so these covers' existence just rubs what could've been in my face.
This is what they look like:
Guradian of the Gate is called El Angel del Caos (left), Circle of Fire is called El Ritual del Avebury (right),


Sailor Moon 3 by: Naoko Takeuchi (Reissue)
Look at Sailor Mars, being all BA as usual. All of the Sailor Moon books (both originals and reissues) have wonderful covers due to Naoko Takeuchi's one-of-a-kind manga style, but this is definitely a favorite of mine. I probably would have included a few of the originals' covers on this list, but I never read the originals, and I didn't want to cheat.
Betrayed by: P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast
There are about a million House of Night novels now, and I'm still keeping up with the series, but Betrayed has my favorite cover out of all of them. There's something defiant about the way the girl is holding herself.
 The Silver Kiss by: Annette Curtis Klause

Technically, this could be considered a cliché vampire book cover, but I've honestly never seen anything quite like it on a book before, probably because it could be seen as cliché. But I really like this. It's eerie and sad all at the same time (much like the story, which I adore).

So, these are my favorite covers of books I've read, and perhaps one day I'll make a list of my favorite book covers of books I haven't read yet (because trust me, there are plenty of them, and they've got some awesome covers... *cough*Across the Universe*cough*). Please don't hesitate to leave a comment and tell me if you like any of these, and I'd like to see your favorite book covers as well.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Great Gatsby | Directed by Baz Luhrmann | Screenplay by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

The American classic The Great Gatsby (click the link to see my classics review and hear about the general storyline, symbolism, and characters) just got revamped for a new film adaptation, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby himself, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan.

About a decade ago, a made-for-TV movie was created based on the novel, and let's just say that this new film's trailers looked absolutely amazing after watching that (kind of odd) adaptation. So, between being a fan of the book, the promising soundtrack, the seemingly perfect cast, and comparisons to a worst-case filmographic scenario, my expectations were set extremely high. I wasn't disappointed at all; only one or two nitpicky things irked me, but other than that, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby basically got a perfect adaptation.

I ended up seeing this film in 3D despite that I'm not a 3D enthusiast and I honestly thought it was pointless to put a non-action movie in 3D. However, there were some elements that looked fabulous in 3D... Everything in this movie looks so pretty, and I didn't have any issues looking at three dimensional snowflakes and glitter.

Anyhow, as far as the actual content, this cast is almost exactly how I envisioned the characters. It's kind of creepy. Leonardo DiCaprio kept Gatsby classy, Tobey Maguire kept Nick an observer. But I especially enjoyed how Carey Mulligan portrayed Daisy Buchanan; she was spot-on. She succeeded at being flighty without being ditzy, and she was vulnerable in an innocent way but not a ridiculous way. I don't think anyone else will ever be a better Daisy.

But as I previously mentioned, I anticipated the music in addition to the cast. A little score is made from songs on the soundtrack, and The XX's "Together" and Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" are most prominent. Being a fan of both songs, I was so excited to hear these different movements extracted from the originals. I feel like they really captured the emotion of the film in an accurate way. Altogether, it felt sort of relaxing with a haunted edge, but with all the party scenes, it doesn't always sound like that. Modern pop music is used when the characters are partying and drinking, and though that may seem out-of-place for a movie based on the 1920s, it didn't bother me. I understood it. If a bunch of big band music was used, I don't feel like audiences would clearly get the picture that the characters were getting so hammered, and that even though that time period was nearly a century ago, people still have fun the same way.

Though the music made the movie more dynamic, I must say that this film's pace was so even and the content was nearly identical to that of the book. None of the changes were too crazy from my view, but I was a little irritated that Tom Buchanan's abusive nature toward Daisy was completely left out. It kind of made a part towards the end, where Gatsby keeps watch by Daisy's house because he doesn't trust Tom, seem a little irrational. I didn't feel like Gatsby then had a legitimate reason to worry about Daisy's well-being when she was alone with Tom without that important detail.

A couple other noticeable changes includes Nick's relationship with Jordan, which we don't hear about much at all, and the falling action. These are changes I don't really care about. I feel like if Jordan and Nick's relationship was pursued in the film, it could possibly take away from the need-to-know events and create somewhat of a plot maze. (Intricacy seems to work better in books that it does on screen.) The falling action is cut just a smidge short, but once again, I think what they cut helped the story as a film. It's nothing even remotely close to being an extreme cut from my standpoint, with the exception of Gatsby's father not being included.

Needless to say, I absolutely loved this new adaptation; other than my two small issues, it did a fantastic job of bringing this classic to life. The filmmakers, cast, and musicians that were part of this certainly did The Great Gatsby justice, and any future adaptations will have a have very a hard time making one better.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Finale | by: Becca Fitzpatrick

*Don't read this review unless you've read the other books in Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush Saga. This will probably contain spoilers for those who haven't, but there won't be spoilers for those who have read the previous three but not this one.

The Hush, Hush Saga is one of my favorite YA paranormal romance series, but it has reached its end with Finale, a roller-coaster of an ending that kept me turning the pages and fearing the outcome. Though the other three books in the series held so much action and surprise, none of them match up to Finale in that department.

But I wasn't so excited to get through this one at first. I knew that Nora and Patch were in a (rather complicated) pickle, and I wasn't so sure how they'd manage. Nora has become the leader of the Nephilim army and must fulfill her oath to the Black Hand, but in order to do so, the Nephilim are going to have to believe in her, whether she has the self-confidence or not. She must undergo training along the way, gaining the strength she needs to defend herself, and she can't let the Nephilim realize that her boyfriend is Patch, who they'd automatically consider an enemy since he's a fallen angel.

While dealing with these dilemmas amid training, Nora discovers something that will make her even stronger... and upon this discovery, I started getting irritated with Nora. I just had that feeling one gets when reading and the character does something stupid, and then the reader sits there rolling his/her eyes thinking "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" In the past few books, I've felt relatively connected with Nora, but between her decisions with devilcraft broke this connection along with her new, unnatural dialogue. I just couldn't relate to her or understand her.

Thankfully, any negativity towards this book ends there. (At least for the most part.) Characters like Vee, Scott, and of course, Patch, still stood their ground as fabulous characters while Nora was starting to falter. I mean, what more could I ask for? Patch is one of my favorite love interests while Vee and Scott are two of my favorite BFFs.

But all in all, the best elements of Finale are the moments of action that are often followed by unsuspected twists and turns. There were a few times when I wondered if some of Fitzpatrick's twists were even plausible due to their seemingly random appearances, but that's not the case. Fitzpatrick is just so sneaky! I don't know how she keeps everything so well-hidden; I don't think I've ever been so surprised while reading before! The second half of this novel is magnificent!

Now, I'm not saying I'm in love with every single aspect of this book, either. As I previously mentioned, I had some issues with Nora, and Fitzpatrick's general writing style didn't impress me that much. But my goodness, Finale has perhaps the most explosive ending out of every book I've ever read. It's such an adrenaline rush, and it even started to tug at my heart strings. As far as how the plot progressed and came to a close, this was the perfect ending to this series. People keeping secrets, traitors, jealousy, violence, the brink of war, Nephilim officials in cloaks... Yep, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A lot of the series I've been keeping up with are coming to a close, and though I'll miss them, I must admit, I've gotten an amazing ending out of the Hush, Hush Saga. It's been such a fun series, and the crazy/amazing ending surpassed my expectations for this anticipated Finale.

4/5 Stars

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Classics: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Need some classic American literature that'll keep the pages briskly turning? Anyone who hasn't already should pick up F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a story told through the eyes of Nick Carraway about his rich and mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby.

Gatsby has elaborate parties that just about everybody attends, but no one seems to really know anything about him. There are so many rumors about him, and after being invited to one of the infamous parties, Nick Carraway may be able to find out what's real; how Gatsby became such a wealthy icon, who he did it for, and how he sleekly plans to take her heart back.

But before I read The Great Gatsby, I wasn't aware that this story would be so full of this drama and emotion, for each corner of the Internet seemed to describe it in three words: the American dream. This description is vague, misleading, and kind of cheesy. Whenever I think of the concept of the American dream, I think of The Grapes of Wrath... The Great Gatsby is nothing like I initially expected based on such a dull description. Is there an American dream theme still present? Yes, but it's demonstrated in the busy city life with snooty rich people surrounding poor Nick. When I think of this novel, I don't really think about the American dream concept so much. I think of Gatsby himself, and I think of Daisy and their nearly hopeless situation. I think of the climax that was bound to happen, but I never expected it to be so severe and intricate.

Although this novel is (obviously) centered around Gatsby and his story, I certainly don't think Nick is a dead-beat vessel that just tells us what's going on. Sure, he was kind of an average guy, the sane man amid the craziness that cast a shadow on everyone else, but he wasn't boring or not relatable. I liked him; I connected with him when he talked about the hustle of city life and how one may seem lonely even though he/she is surrounded by people. And really, telling Gatsby's story through Nick was probably the best, most realistic way to do it, because the average person will only hear about men like Gatsby or witness men like Gatsby, but never actually be Gatsby. We're all mostly like Nick, observers of inevitable chaos.

However, I'm not saying that Gatsby's situation isn't relatable, because it is. That's part of the point. Gatsby, like many people, clings to the past and longs to return to the time when he was happiest even though he can never go back. But I've never heard anyone try as hard as Gatsby did to get it back.

And symbolism, symbolism everywhere! The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg, the green light, Gatsby's beautiful shirts, knowing everyone and no one... It all captivated me. Plus, it was all written in a beautiful way. Don't get me wrong, Fitzgerald isn't a perfect writer; he has some flaws. The biggest issue was the insufficient amount of commas, which I normally wouldn't forgive, but Fitzgerald has a way of making everything sound so pretty.

From what I've seen in the trailers, The Great Gatsby's new film adaptation looks like it'll be just as pretty as Fitzgerald's writing. Everything about screams 'CLASSINESS AND EMOTION,' so I will definitely go see it. (Besides, the music for this film is supposed to be amazing; that's always a plus!)

That being said, I definitely recommend anyone who hasn't read the book to read it before seeing the movie. It doesn't matter how much someone likes/dislikes classic literature to appreciate this novel; it feels ahead of its time in terms of active entertainment value. There's something in it for everybody, and basically all of it made me happy.