Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for Me to Read

Once again, I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday, a fun and popular bookish meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, we're talking about books that we found hard to read. My list is split up into three categories; when I find that something's hard to get through, it pretty much always has to do with emotional content, the writing style, or the pace and characters. I didn't include books I didn't finish in order to narrow the list down, and keep in mind though that just because some of these books were difficult for me to get through doesn't mean that I didn't like it. Some of these books are favorites of mine... And others are least-favorites that I didn't care much for at all.
Top Ten Books That Were Hard for Me to Read

The content and the emotions:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi is split into three parts. The first part has a lot of tidbits of Pi's childhood, his beliefs on certain things such as zoos and religion... The need-to-know stuff before you get to he second part. I didn't find any difficulty with reading this first part. I also didn't find it hard to get through the second part, which is the primary part of the story. But then part three happened AND I COULDN'T SEE PAST MY TEARS AND WAS CONFUSED AND DISTURBED, which caused me to read very, very slowly. It was hard to get through that last part.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I feel like I'm the only one who found it kind of difficult to get through this one. It's universally acknowledged that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a masterpiece and has a lot of feels, but the themes of this book just really hit me unlike any other novel. I've known people who have experienced similar types of trauma described in this, and Charlie's raw narrations hurt my heart.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
Night by Elie Wiesel
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
This is such a small book; anybody would be able to read its 100-ish pages in a setting theoretically; however, the content is just... It's a lot. And its awful. It's a Holocaust autobiography, so that's to be expected. Someone's account of their time in concentration camps is bound to stir a lot of emotions, and even though I had to read it chapter-by-chapter for school, I don't think I would've read a lot of it in one sitting anyway because it would've overwhelmed me.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
The writing style:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I love The Lord of the Rings. Granted, the books were written in a passive style and I prefer the masterpiece movies, but I still enjoyed the trilogy. The Hobbit, on the other hand... I just couldn't get into it. It had potential, but it just wasn't written to be vastly entertaining as much as it was written to be descriptive, and the stronger plot points were glossed over.
*I gave this 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
This book sounded like a fantastic idea. I mean, come on, Stephen King and vampires? That's got to be awesome, right? Unfortunately the combination didn't work for me. It felt very slow-paced and ramblesome throughout the book, and it caused me to not like it as much as I probably could have had it been written and generally executed differently.
*I gave this 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I enjoyed The Scarlet Letter. It's a fantastic idea and has plot twists, but I struggled with it at times. Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing didn't try and reflect his own time period; instead, he tried to embody the language of the Puritans, since that's who he was writing about. It was... well, kind of dull. Very ramblesome. It took a while for me to read despite being a small book, but like I said, I liked it overall.
*I gave this 3/5 stars on Goodreads.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God basically has two different writing styles: The style used for the narrative and the style used for the dialogue. The writing in the narration is absolutely beautiful; I had no trouble at all getting through that. Even though the type of dialect depicted in this book is found off and on throughout literature, the way it's presented in this novel is different. I don't mean that in a bad way, but it just took some getting used to before I could read through the dialogue at a decent pace.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
The pace and characters:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
It took me a really long time to get through Wuthering Heights. Like, a really long time. A lot of people seem to discuss how awful Heathcliff is, and even though Heathcliff certainly is flawed, the only character I had a major problem with was Cathy. I didn't understand her at all and she just kept ruining everything! So between her and the slower pace... It was definitely a project. But I liked it in the end; I just had to wait until I could finally grasp Cathy.
*I gave this 4/5 stars on Goodreads.
Dark Flame by Alyson Noel
No comment.
*I gave this 1/5 stars on Goodreads.
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and I must say I definitely enjoyed this one the least. There wasn't enough important stuff going on for me, and Grace was driving me bananas... yeah. (Although Cole and Isabel were quite interesting.)
*I gave this 2/5 stars on Goodreads.

Can you guys relate to any of the problems I described? Were any of these books hard for you to get through? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday list.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Emma Watson Speaks for the HeForShe Campaign... Amen

Emma Watson, who most of the world knows as the actress who portrayed Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film renditions, has recently become the UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador. She recently spoke about gender equality at a United Nations event. If you haven't seen it, I beg of you, whoever you are, to watch her speak in this video:

I have always been a proud fan of hers. I've always been proud when people have told me in the past that I look like her, for even though that comparison deals with our exteriors, I've always been happy to be compared to a woman with such a good head on her shoulders. I've always been happy that this child star seems to only rise in respectability and never decline. But now... I don't know if it's possible to be more proud.
When discussing the HeForShe movement, Watson calls for men to join in the movement for gender equality, for she doesn't only acknowledge how women aren't treated fairly; she also speaks quite a bit about male stereotypes. A lot of what she's enforcing deals with the fact that it should be acceptable for women to be strong, to have big dreams and opinions, just as it should be acceptable for men to show signs of vulnerability, to talk about their feelings. She wants to destroy all of the gender stereotypes and expectations that keep us from achieving true equality.
She's a feminist, and so am I. And she speaks the truth:
"And the more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has been too often become synonymous with man hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this. Has. To stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."
I am so sick of the tarnish that seems to stick to this word and I know that I'm far from the only one. Unfortunately, I have met a couple of women that do suggest male inferiority without realizing it, but let it be known that that is not feminism. I have also met a young woman who has argued on several occasions that men are naturally superior. Both are rather sickening points of view.

She really took the words right out of my mouth here:
"Apparently, I am among the ranks of women, whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men... Unattractive, even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?"

The word has become uncomfortable because there are a lot of men and women who don't know what it really means. I've seen people indirectly advocate without any real knowledge of the concept. Because if people really did know its definition, wouldn't more people associate with it? Don't people want equality? Aren't most people largely feminist as most people can agree that gender equality is ideal? It's time to cut the cord on the ignorance that surrounds that word, to educate the people who are confused about the true definition.

Anyhow... Out of everything I said, Emma said it better, so watch that video above.

And thank you, Emma, for being such a fantastic person. You've made the Potter fanbase proud.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oops! The Best Singles I Excluded in 2013

For the past couple years I've compiled my list of my favorite singles of the year, and of course, I made one for 2013 last December. It was pretty cute - Top 13 Singles of 2013. There were some other singles I liked last year and considered for the list that didn't make the cut, and later this year, I realized there were a lot of other songs I didn't include because I either forgot about them, but more commonly, I hadn't run in to them yet. There's so much music in the world; it's easy to get caught up in some aspects of the spectrum and kind of lose touch with others. A little more pop music is on this list; I don't listen to much pop music, so when I find something I actually like, the discovery is made long after everyone else knew about it. If I remembered/discovered these songs in a timely manner, my top 13 list would have some songs switched around, and honestly, it probably would've been a top 20 list because I love them all so much.
Without further ado, the great songs I left out - countdown style... There are only nine and that isn't a nice number for a countdown, but alas, that's just the way it's going to go: 
"Not Gonna Die" - Skillet
I really got into Skillet when their album Comatose was released x-amount of years ago, and then I bought Awake when it was released... And then last year, their newest album Rise came out. I just wasn't feeling it. It seemed to draw from the elements I enjoy the least about Skillet. However, "Not Gonna Die" is a really solid track; I loved it as soon as I heard it last year... And then I kind of sort of completely forgot about it when I was making my list last year... Oops. Anyhow, I really love the blend of male and female vocals in this song; it reminds me of their single "Hero."
"Rap God" - Eminem
 Um... Did you guys hear that middle eight? How is it even possible to say anything that fast? In all four years of blogging, I think this is the first time I've really expressed any love for rap music. That's because I don't listen to much rap music - except Eminem. I love his style, and "Rap God" shows a lot of the different spins he can put on his voice. I think I may have heard this song once back in 2013 but other than that I just got caught up with other music. I didn't realize how cool this song was until this year - I know, shame on Critica!
"Dark Horse" - Katy Perry ft. Juicy J
 This is definitely my guilty pleasure track... It's so freaking catchy! I can't help it! Once in a while Katy Perry will a release a single that makes me happy, and "Dark Horse" is probably my favorite of all the songs she's released. So what kept this single from making my initial 2013 list? Well, I never heard it. As I've mentioned, I don't listen to that much pop music, which means I don't listen to a lot of pop radio, so that's how I managed to avoid it. 
"Wake Me Up" - Avicii
  I heard parts of this song off and on in 2013, but I never paid too much attention to it until this year. I never expected to love it as much as I do now. It's definitely not what I normally listen to between the guy's voice and some aspects of the instrumentation, but I really came across this track at the perfect time. I got to sing it in choir - the final song of my final high school show. Tears, people. Tears.
"You (Ha Ha Ha)" - Charli XCX
Like many, I discovered "You (Ha Ha Ha)" through the Vampire Academy movie trailer. So, at first I just had the fabulous instrumental in my head before looking it up; I wasn't disappointed. This song reminds me so much of Mean Girls for whatever reason and brings me a lot of nostalgia. Honestly, it never gets old either... And I would know because I've heard it about a million times by now and still love it.
"Dangerous" - Within Temptation ft. Howard Jones
Such heaviness! Within Temptation is my favorite band (along with Evanescence, of course) and their single with Tarja "Paradise (What About Us?)" was at the very top of my 2013 list... Which was posted just before "Dangerous" was released. Honestly, I kept putting off posting the list because I knew "Dangerous" would be out soon and would likely be on the list somewhere, but then I decided I was being ridiculous and put the post up anyway. But, this single is so energetic and fun! (The video, however, does not meet my approval. Just saying.)
"Recover" - Chvrches
CHVRCHES! I've only recently discovered how awesome this electronic-based alternative band is, and "Recover" is certainly a standout track out of all the songs in their discography. The verses are sung in a really cool staccato, making lead singer Lauren Mayberry's high voice sound robotic, but she's very melodic in the first half of the chorus. It kind of reminds me of the band Metric in some ways. I'm also in love with their 2012 single "The Mother We Share."
"The Nexus" - Amaranthe
I'd only heard a couple of Amaranthe's songs before listening to "The Nexus," and while I thought they were a decent band, I wasn't particularly thrilled by those couple songs. But since they're going to be opening for the Within Temptation concert I'm going to attend in October, I figured I should look up some songs that will likely be on their setlist... And let me tell you, "The Nexus" is awesome! Synths blend with heavy guitar riffs to create one of my favorite intros/outros of all time, and that chorus is just so magical with the blend of vocals and beautiful lyrics! "I break with the past / Set the nexus free at last / As the future will be there to save us..."

"Say Something" - A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera
Tearjerker of the year. Seriously, why didn't I ever run into this song in 2013? It's beautiful and I love it. I love how simplistic the piano is, I love the vocal line, I love how Christina Aguilera shows us the softer side of her voice (I honestly didn't even recognize her when I heard this song for the first time), I love the sad video... "Say Something" is utterly flawless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Scarlet | by: Marissa Meyer

I've read a lot of books that left me thinking "Wow! I should read the sequel sometime soon!" and then I get to the next book within another year. Cinder, the first novel of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series, left a stronger impression: I needed Scarlet about as much as we need oxygen to breathe.
In this installment, Meyer puts a spin on the old tale of Little Red Riding Hood, and hence, we are introduced to Scarlet. Scarlet's grandmother has been missing for a couple of weeks now, but no progress has been made in the search. So, Scarlet decides to go looking for her herself, and as it turns out, things are much more complicated than she would've ever anticipated. She encounters a dangerous-looking street fighter named Wolf, who could be her best protector or her worst enemy on this quest, and her grandmother's secrets could be utterly groundbreaking. But can Scarlet save her in time? Meanwhile, what will Cinder do next after that awful cliffhanger in the first book of the Lunar Chronicles, and how are these two teenage girls connected?
Isolated aspects of this book are fabulous: The plot, the characters, the contrasts and relationships, the action... But blended together, it's so good that it's almost too much to bear. I CANNOT STOP FANGIRLING. Scarlet was an amazing book!
As one could tell from a description, the story isn't just about Cinder and Kai anymore; Marissa Meyer has added quite a few new characters and concepts to the story. As much as I love Cinder and Kai as characters, I can't complain about the newcomers taking up any facetime because I adore them just as much. Scarlet is so strong, and even though the poor girl's going through so much, she handles everything with bravery. And oh my goodness, then there's Wolf... I LOVE HIM. He's a flawed character (even though there's not much he can do about it to a degree) and his background is so interesting to me; I've never read about anyone in his situation before. He's definitely my new favorite fictional love interest. I can't wait to see more of his relationship with Scarlet as well as more of his affectionate side.
But I must say, I'm also excited for more of Thorne! Another awesome new character! This guy is hilarious; I was laughing out loud when reading his dialogue, and he clashes with Cinder's personality so much. Thorne's self-centered and materialistic attitude, Cinder's sarcasm... I think they're a great unlikely team.
Even though these characters would be interesting enough sitting in a cardboard box, all the action adds to the excitement - and trust me, there's plenty. The fight scenes are intense and well-executed, and overall, I just couldn't put this book down. It's urgent, it's entertaining... It's basically flawless. There are some more dark moments in Scarlet too. Granted, anyone who's read Cinder will know that the character Queen Levana is evil, but after reading this sequel, the fact feels as though it's been enforced even more. She is horrible and ruthless.
I really just want to babble about this book forever, to be honest. It's a perfect blend of elements, and Marissa Meyer polishes each element as though each one would have to stand out on its own. I don't even care for fairytale retellings in general, but this is just epic. Cinder was a truly outstanding book, and Scarlet is just as amazing. One of my favorite books; one of my favorite series... Scarlet has made me so happy, and I'm sure the third installment, Cress, won't disappoint.