Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cress | by: Marissa Meyer

*You may want to considering skipping this review unless you've read Cinder and Scarlet. I don't reveal anything vital or consciously spoil the specific events, but even revealing a synopsis of a third book in a series may give more information than one desires depending on the person. You've been warned.
This third novel in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series retells Rapunzel in the most action-packed way possible. Cress is all alone in a satellite hovering in space. She's a mastermind when it comes to hacking, and unfortunately, she's forced to do as the sinister Queen Levana commands. But she doesn't always follow the rules. She's secretly been working to help Cinder and her friends, and now that they know she exists and that she's on their side, they're her only hope for escape.
Things don't always go as planned. In fact, things can seem to go completely wrong. And since the Queen of Luna, Levana, is also about to become Empress and gain control of Earth, there isn't much time to spare. Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress have to worry about the survival and well-being of themselves and their friends, and all the while, they have to prevent Levana from taking the Earthly crown.
Action, cuteness, romance, amazing characters, warm-hearted moments, scary moments, miserable moments... Cress has it all. It should have come with a warning label saying YOU WILL READ AND READ UNTIL YOUR EYES HURT BECAUSE THERE'S NO WAY YOU'LL BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN. That's how good it is.
Where should I start? Well first of all, Rapunzel is in a satellite... That is one of the most genial things I've ever heard. Marissa Meyer really knows how to retell. I love how the hair-cutting is completely different symbolically in Cress than in the original story, and really Cress' character in general is just fantastic. She's still a bit of a damsel, but she's smart; the girl can hack into anything and everything. Furthermore she's just so childlike since she hasn't had much experience in the real world and her imagination is constantly running wild. I think she and Thorne are perfect matches. There's still plenty of room to grow when it comes to their relationship, and that's one of the many things I'm looking forward to when Winter comes in November.
Of course, Meyer didn't abandon all the other characters we've come to love from previous books. Cinder was already a strong heroine in the very first book, but now she's stronger than ever as she learns to wield her gift. She's so honest too. Strong as she is, she's still afraid, and rightfully so. As far as Scarlet and Wolf... I can't say anything about them without spoiling anything, but holy crap, I don't know if it's possible for these two to go through any more. I expect progress with this situation in Winter. Substantial progress. Like, majorly substantial.
And oh goodness, Dr. Erland... again, I won't spoil anything, but I will say this: There are quite a few revelations in this installment. The only downfall (if you can even call it a downfall) of Cinder and Scarlet was that they were predictable. But they're retellings - of course there will be a level of predictability because we all know the stories they were based on. Cress loses this. It's less predictable and more surprising, and it's also way more chaotic. There's so much happening all at once - that's what makes it impossible to stop reading. And it's just so good.
Obviously, I love this series so, so much. I have absolutely no complaints. I don't know for sure if Cress or Scarlet is my favorite; they're both so great! It's been a long time since I've actually been on time with a series aside from the House of Night books and I actually have to wait for the sequel - this is going to be agony. In the meantime, if you haven't given these science fiction masterpieces a try yet, you need to. Right now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Give a Theme Song To

I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday today, a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week we get a topic for our lists, but once in a while we get a freebie to pick whatever topic we want. I decided to backtrack to a topic I missed a while ago that I thought would be fun and fitting for me as a music lover:

Top Ten Twelve Books I'd Give a Theme Song To

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath | "Asleep" by The Smiths
"Asleep" is widely known as the essential theme song to Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I do not disagree with this; "Asleep" is perfect for that book in every way. But I also think it's perfect for The Bell Jar. This song has an incredibly sad tone to it in my opinion, which matches the protagonists ongoing battle with depression, and I always believed that this song is about suicide, and the protagonist is always trying to kill herself in The Bell Jar. It's a beautifully written book and "Asleep" is a beautifully written song.

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan | “Powerless” by Linkin Park
Linkin Park's "Powerless" may be recognizable to book lovers as it was used in the trailer for the film adaptation of Seth Graham-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I posted the promo video that Linkin Park did for the movie, and if I'm not mistaken, it doesn't include the entire song but I wanted to post something official. I always associated this song with Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth follow-up The Dead-Tossed Waves because I think it really matches the conclusion. It matches a post-apocalyptic world and a love story, and The Dead-Tossed Waves appeals to both.

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan | “Edge of the World” by Within Temptation
 Much like its predecessor The Dead-Tossed Waves, The Dark and Hollow Places appeals to both the post-apocalyptic world and a love story, except this one's a bit darker. Within Temptation's bone-chilling power ballad "Edge of the World" always struck me as a perfect theme song for this book and all the travelling. The first half is soft, distraught, but then the second half ricochets into something huge and powerful, thus reflecting all of the book's intensity.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis | “Rise with Me” by In This Moment
 Everything about "Rise with Me" screams something along the lines of "the beginning of an epic science fiction adventure" with its electronic and dark instrumentation and Maria Brink's distant, echoey vocals. It definitely captures the feel of being stuck on a spaceship, and that's exactly what Beth Revis' Across the Universe is about. It's the tension before shit hits the fan and everything's about to explode. It's Elder's curiosity.

Night by Elie Wiesel | “Willow” by Emilie Autumn (the instrumental from Laced/Unlaced)
 *Keep in mind that I only really associate the first half of "Willow" with Night... the second half is just too happy-sounding*
Both times I've read the Holocaust autobiography Night, I've wanted to hear Beethoven in my head when Juliek is dying. Not only because the piece was probably beautiful, but because it's so utterly important that a Jewish person was playing Beethoven even though they weren't allowed - it's like sticking up one's middle finger right at the Nazis. But every time I read it, I hear the first half of "Willow" repeating and repeating because it's so sad and there's something about the way that scene is written hat feels more emotional. It's always been a perfect fit in my opinion.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell | “Introspect” by Epica
 "Introspect" is the orchestral introduction to Epica's celebratory tenth anniversary show, Retrospect. I was watching this concert DVD right as I started reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, and the first time I heard "Introspect," I thought it was so fitting. It captures the urgency of each storyline, for Cloud Atlas is about a series of lives intertwined throughout history due to reincarnation. It's hard to describe it... "Introspect" simply feels like Cloud Atlas.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork | “Tomorrow” by Daughter
 Marcelo in the Real World had a perfect combination of emotions, and so does Daughter's "Tomorrow." It's a fantastic match on a musical level, if I may say so. The wonderful indie vibe of Daughter's music is great for this book in general, but I really think this is THE track for the novel. It has the summertime feel, and it seems to echo some of Marcelo's anxiety throughout with the lyrics "So don't bring tomorrow, for I already know I'll lose you."

The Host by Stephenie Meyer | “Towards the End” by Within Temptation
"Towards the End," which happens to be one of my favorite songs EVER MADE, matches The Host on more of a musical level than a lyrical level, for when I hear these lyrics, I think of war, but I suppose one could put enough spin on it to match The Host in a couple ways. The very beginning of the song is full of lightness with its pretty harp line, which always makes me think of Wanderer's first experiences on Earth (and even her experiences on other planets), but after about a minute of the song passes, the feel completely changes. It's dark. It's large-scale - this is when Wanderer ends up in the caves and faces new challenges.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer | “Blindness” by Metric
Coincidentally, I started listening to Metric's music when Twilight began to really skyrocket to popularity. But apparently Stephenie Meyer was also appreciating their music because "Blindness" is in fact featured on her Short Second Life of Bree Tanner playlist on her website. She really hit the nail on the head, because this song really is perfect. Both the music and the lyrics describe a somewhat bleak accept of fate: "What it is and where it stops, nobody knows / You gave me a life I never chose."

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green | “We’re On Our Way” by Radical Face
I discovered Radical Face's wonderful music when I heard "We're on Our Way" in the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and within the next month or so, I picked up The Fault in Our Stars. This song was in my head for nearly the entire time I read it. It's lighthearted and serious all at once, and if that doesn't describe the laugh-cry-laugh-cry effect of John Green's masterpiece, I don't know what does. I almost fell off my chair when they used this song in The Fault in Our Stars' movie trailer.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte | “Severus and Stone” by Radical Face
 This song does not fit Wuthering Heights on a lyrical level. "Severus and Stone" is a sad song about the death of a twin brother, while Wuthering Heights doesn't deal with this specific theme (albeit that book does have a hefty dose of death though). But when I hear this song, I think of the moors. I think of Heathcliff's misery, I think of how his son would suffer, and I think of Hareton. And at the end, all I see is Lockwood looking out (I won't spoil what he's looking at) thinking (in modern terms) "Well that was a mess."

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | “The Little Things Give You Away” by Linkin Park
 Once again, not the best of examples on a lyrical basis. "The Little Things Give You Away" is about natural disaster, but Thirteen Reasons Why deals with suicide. Like I've mentioned about every song, it just feels like Thirteen Reasons Why. Because whether there's a natural disaster or a suicide, people are bound to suffer.

So, what do you think of my choices? Do you agree/disagree with any of them? Let me know what some of your bookish theme songs would be and feel free to link my your Top Ten Tuesday freebie for the week. It'll be fun to look at various different lists this week! Have a fabulous day!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

1000 Forms of Fear | Sia

Sia is one of the few pop artists that pleases me nowadays, and while some of her music (whether it was her solo work or songs she wrote for other artists) caught my attention before, I don't think anything ever shouted "BUY THE ALBUM I'M ON" more than her single "Chandelier." Alas, I came across her latest album, 1000 Forms of Fear. (Thanks, Nick!)

Of course, the first thing we all notice when we hear Sia's music is her voice. She has a rougher style compared to most pop stars, and with that massive range, she breaks the mold and is easily recognizable. In fact, she has one of the best voices for conveying emotions - she's right up there with Bjork and Amy Lee, who I've always considered the heads of that department. It's easy to marvel at some of the emotions she conveys on this album, and really, it's easy to appreciate the music in general. I may have discovered the wonder of 1000 Forms of Fear in the winter, but I imagine I'll be playing it frequently when summer rolls around.

"Chandelier" opens 1000 Forms of Fear in a very bombastic way. It's loud... Sia's voice soars in the chorus, hitting bold notes in a heartfelt way. There's a sense of restlessness and a tinge of hopeless throughout even as the instrumentation of the chorus invokes a sensation of climbing (that's the best way I can describe it; I realize that probably makes no sense), but here's also some urgency in the post-chorus: "'Cause I'm just holding on for tonight." The line repeats at the end as all the electronic elements fade away and leave Sia with just the piano and strings. It's definitely the album's most 'pop' sounding song overall with its heavier reliance on synths, and I even dare to declare it a masterpiece of pop music.
One of the other songs that many already know is "Elastic Heart," for it appeared on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire Original Motion Picture Soundtrack in a collaborative format. It's easy to see why this song would appeal a large amount of people with its mellow electronic feel and great lyrics: "I've got thick skin and an elastic heart / But your blade, it might be too sharp." But the characteristic of this song that caught my attention right away is the really weird synthesized/vocal thing happening in the background throughout. It's pretty awesome. Something similar happens at the end of the first chorus of "Free the Animal."
The lesser-known tracks are also special in their own ways. While Sia is most popular for her larger-scale electronic productions like "Titanium" (which was done with David Guetta) and "Chandelier," the woman writes some seriously solid ballads too that don't include many synths at all, and I found them to be some of the best parts of 1000 Forms of Fear. "Big Girls Cry" (the second single) has a strong chorus, it feels like a declaration, and the lyrics focus on the inevitability of emotions and vulnerability, something every human being can relate to. Still, one of her biggest accomplishments is "Cellophane," which quite dark and has fantastic lyrics: "Can't you see I'm wrapped in cellophane? / Watch the blood pump through my veins / Electricity floods my brain." A brooding guitar line reminds me of Pink Floyd and throughout the song there's this thumping pulse that Sia and all the other instruments fill in around. The middle eight is gorgeous, with Sia vocalizing and a series of simplistic piano chords.
"Eye of the Needle" has a few interesting things happening musically. There are lots of echoey effects and sustained piano chords, and something about the instrumentation in the chorus reminds me of Lana Del Rey, and I like that. "Straight for the Knife" also managed to remind me of Lana both musically and lyrically: "You went straight for the knife, and I prepared to die [...] You wonder why you make girls cry." It's a melancholy song, but the lazy piano melody recalls summertime. In fact, the instrumental of the chorus reminds me of Pink Floyd, and I listen to them every summer alongside Lana.
But there are also some fun moments, particularly in the form of "Hostage." It's another song that's perfect for summer, but in a different way than the other more brooding tracks. "Hostage" has a carefree feel that makes me smile every time I here; it's so chilled out and kind of quirky. The middle eight of "Fair Game" also has this quirky quality despite that the song otherwise feels rather serious to me, and this track is overall quite interesting to me. I just really understand it for some reason.
Altogether, 1000 Forms of Fear really impressed and surprised me with the exception of three songs ("Burn the Pages," "Feed the Animal," and "Dressed in Black"... they just didn't excite me). The majority of the songs resonated with me in some way or another. Sia definitely knows how to write AND sing, but that doesn't really surprise me... What surprises me is that when I finished listening, I didn't feel like I just heard a pop album. Some of it feels more like fluffier alternative or like the pop music of the early 2000s, with more focus on guitars and piano than what one may expect, especially if he or she has only heard songs like "Chandelier." I actually think a lot of people who don't generally like today's pop music very much will be able to appreciate this album. It has a little bit of crossover appeal, and at the end of the day, it's just a job well done.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Classics: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

*While this book is about 150 years old, I may have revealed a little too much for some people's tastes. However, nothing I revealed is more than what I found through online synopses before reading it. Read at your own risk.

The names of both Charlotte and Emily Bronte have their names carved deeply into the stone of literary history, but their sister Anne isn't known quite so widely. There's a reason or two for this if you do some Googling, but Anne certainly is not less well-known because her work isn't good - it is. And it's important. In fact, she caused quite a bit of drama with her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall because it's so utterly feminist. The world may not have been ready for such a bold statement when it was first released, but now we can all undoubtedly and unabashedly look at Anne with unquestionable admiration and still be considered normal and not improper.

The new tenant of Wildfell Hall, Helen Graham, is sparking a lot of curiosity among the neighborhood. Everyone knows that she's a widow and clings to her only son as though she wouldn't trust anyone but herself to be with him... But neighbors talk. They form theories. And they know that there's something off about this newcomer. Gilbert Markham cannot bear to think anything wrong with her, for his affections for her only increase with time and she seems like a lovely woman. But there is a deeper story behind her, one that would be frowned upon.

It would be a spoiler long ago to mention this, but knowing this fact is the reason why people read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall today: Helen left her husband because he was a horrible excuse for a human being. That wasn't something people did in the nineteenth century, and when they did, they were social outcasts. Anne Bronte, however, found it reasonable, and she made it evident in this novel.

All the while, it's interesting. The Bronte sisters have a way of appealing to my heart, and this novel is no exception. Gilbert's love for Helen just overflows, and Helen's attempts to push him away (even though she obviously loves him) spark impatience and anxiety. Furthermore, I loved seeing how much Helen cared for her child's well-being. Her son was at times all the happiness she had, and I don't think I've ever read about someone so maternal (not to mention forgiving and religious) before. Even now, I'm sure there are women who can relate to her. And of course, there's Huntington, who had me feeling quite the opposite: He's such a plague. Just when you think he can't get worse, he does. I don't think he could've possibly wronged Helen any more.

But The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not perfect, there are some aspects that seem a little drawn out and improbable (particularly the ending with poor Gilbert's trials and journeys), but I really enjoyed it. Considering its general message, it's hard not to, but as I said, Anne knew what she was doing. She told a story and expressed a social view, and she did both well. It's definitely still relevant... Even today, there are still women who marry or stay with men who are as underserving as Huntington... I hope they all read this book and figure out what to do. And I hope they find a Gilbert Markham someday.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

End of 2014 Book Survey

Once again, I am participating in a fabulous bookish survey held by none other than Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner. I always think her end-of-year surveys are a blast, so I'm quite happy that the tradition has been continued for 2014! Unfortunately I tend to not read as much as most book bloggers so there are quite a few repeats as some books fit into several categories. Enjoy!

2014 Reading Stats:
Number Of Books You Read: 26 (I seem to read slower than most)
Number of Re-Reads: 1 (pathetic, I know)
Genre You Read The Most From: Classics and science fiction

Best in Books:
1. Best book you read in 2014?
My complete list of the best books I read this year is right here.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Please don't yell at me. I was SO EXCITED to finally read it... But I just found it incredibly dispassionate. I like to feel all the feelings when I read, but that just didn't happen with this classic. I couldn't believe Elizabeth feelings for Mr. Darcy in the end. I suppose when it comes to 'soap opera' classics I'll have to stick to the Bronte sisters.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?
I was really surprised by how much I loved Marissa Meyer's Cinder. I didn't think I'd enjoy it nearly as much as I did - in fact, I adored it. But The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin also surprised me - I wasn't too sure what to expect before opening it, and it ended up being way more unique than I anticipated.

4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2014?
I'm not much of a book pusher... Primarily because I don't know many people who read as much as I do. But I did buy my bestie Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork for Christmas; hopefully he likes it.

5. Best series you started in 2014? Best sequel of 2014? Best series ender of 2014?
Best series started: The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, The Changeling trilogy by Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer

Best sequel: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, Cress by Marissa Meyer

Best series ender: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
Anne Bronte, David Mitchell, Marissa Meyer, and the team of Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
-I usually don't read fairytale retellings, but I finally bought Cinder by Marissa Meyer - and I absolutely love her Lunar Chronicles series. These are fairytale retellings done right!

-In fact, I typically don't do retellings period, but I tried Black Spring by Alison Croggon (which is a Wuthering Heights retelling). It wasn't fantastic by any means but it wasn't bad.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
I was gulping Marissa Meyer's Scarlet and Cress whole.

9. Book you read in 2014 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
If the next Changeling book comes out this year, I'll likely reread Crossing the Threshold to refresh my memory.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. It's incredibly beautiful. Black Spring by Alison Croggon takes second place; it's so creepy and awesome!

11. Most memorable character of 2014?
Oh goodness, there were so many fantastic characters... Basically everyone from the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, Lucy Snow and Paul Emmanuel from Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Somni-451 from Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and Marcelo from Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Night by Elie Wiesel, and Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2014?
George Orwell's 1984 was definitely the most thought-provoking. And scary. Of course, Elie Wiesel's Night always provokes some thought and it definitely changed me the first time I read it.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. That needed to happen YEARS ago.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2014?

"They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God."
-Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

"To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream."
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

16. Shortest and longest book you read in 2013?
Shortest: The shortest novel I read was Night by Elie Wiesel at 120 pages, but if plays and short stories are included, I read Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest at about 70 pages.

Longest: Villette by Charlotte Bronte at 559 pages. (It's actually a bit longer if you include the pages of French translations.)

17. Book that shocked you the most?
(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)
-The ending of Villette by Charlotte Bronte... Did she really just end this book like this? Yep, she did. Unconventional and genial storyteller that she is.

-Weirdly enough, finding out who exactly Wolf is in Scarlet also surprised me because it had been a while since I read Cinder and the obvious answer wasn't catching my attention. I know, I don't understand how I didn't see it coming either; it was pretty obvious.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)
-Wolf and Scarlet from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

-Cress and Thorne from Cress by Marissa Meyer (so cute!)

-Gilbert Markham and Helen Huntington from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

-Annah and Catcher from The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?
Cinder and Thorne! (From Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.) Their contrasts are so fantastic! But I also love Cinder and Iko; they're best friends for life.

Luna and Kakeru from Sailor Moon Short Stories 2 by Naoko Takeuchi... Okay, so it may have seemed romantic from Luna's point of view, but at the end of the day, it's utterly complicated and sweet. (For those who don't know Sailor Moon, Luna is a cat and Kakeru is a human.)

20. Favorite book you read in 2014 from an author you’ve read previously?
Villette by Charlotte Bronte - I adored Jane Eyre when I read it a couple years ago and determined that I will everything by Charlotte and her sisters, and one of the books by them I was most eager to read was Villette. It's such an unconventional story even by today's standards... It's genial, really.

I was also really impressed by A Million Suns and Shades of Earth by Beth Revis. Her Across the Universe trilogy is fabulous through and through, and I suppose if I had to choose between the two, I'd pick Shades of Earth because it's so different yet so full of intensity and mystery all the same. I was really impressed by how Revis handled it.

There is a story in Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon Short Stories 2 called "The Lover of Princess Kaguya," and I absolutely loved it. I've always loved it since I was little and saw the Sailor Moon Hearts in Ice movie.

21. Best book you read in 2014 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I only read it because one of my teachers highly recommended it. I didn't know anything about it when I started reading it, and I was pleasantly surprised. It's very good.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Wolf from Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series.

23. Best 2014 debut you read?
Crossing the Threshold by Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer. This is a short self-published book which is the first in a trilogy. I really enjoyed this one; I've never read a fantasy that felt so contemporary before, and I love that. (It sort of reminds me how Annette Curtis Klause writes her paranormal romance novels to flow like contemporaries, and I love me some Annette Curtis Klause.) The characters may seem typical at face value - the nerdy, unpopular girl and the jock with a more sensitive side - but they're actually much more interesting than that. I could relate to Shea in ways I can't relate to other characters.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?
Shades of Earth by Beth Revis. I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read these, so I'll just have to keep my mouth shut on this one.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
-Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, because of all of Thorne's dialogue. And Iko is always adorable.

-My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, because George is so adorable!

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2014?
Night by Elie Wiesel. Again. It's a Holocaust autobiography, so it's only natural that the tears would come. And Wiesel's beautiful writing doesn't help matters much in the emotional department either.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston... Because it's just not fair. Although I acknowledge that even though it's sad, (I'm trying really hard not to spoil) it's good that a certain character was able to find what they were looking for. But it's still not fair. I actually cried a lot at the end.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte had me tearing up a smidge at the end, but I know it's not supposed to be sad. The point is that the character can let go and be independent... But this really wasn't fair either - to the point I reread the last four pages like half a dozen times before I could really believe what just happened. Charlotte Bronte, why do you play with my soul so much?

27. Hidden gem of the year?
I read quite a few "hidden gems" this year. I don't understand why more people aren't reading these - they're all fantastic books!

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork - Marcelo is a contemporary about a boy with autism who hears music in his head as he finally dives into the "real world" and realizes that it isn't all that great. The blend of feelings is just right.

Crossing the Threshold by Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer - Crossing the Threshold is the first book in these 2014 debut authors' Changeling series about two teens with a larger purpose than they realize who are pushed together by some outside force. It's basically a contemporary/fantasy... Yes, I just said a contemporary/fantasy - that in itself should be an incentive to go buy a copy and start reading!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte - Poor Anne just gets no attention in the grand scheme of Brontemania. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is such an important feminist novel, AND it's interesting and has some of those heavy Bronte-esque emotions.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte - Charlotte is really just popular for her classic novel Jane Eyre, but Villette is also a profound piece of literature. I realize that the first half is pretty slow and it isn't initially grabbing as Jane Eyre is, but Charlotte really accomplished something here; this book is WAY ahead of its time, and it's even beyond the time we're currently in.

28. Book that crushed your soul?
For the most part, my soul is unscathed by the books I read in 2014, except for Elie Wiesel's Night. My heart was mostly what took the impact.

29. Most unique book you read in 2014?
Villette by Charlotte Bronte - Like I said, this book is beyond our time. I've never read a book with such a plot... The way it ended, the emotional note it ended on... It's not what anyone would've expected. Ever.

Crossing the Threshold by Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer - It's a fantasy that flows like a contemporary. There are a lot of Irish influences. AND I can relate to Shea in ways I haven't been able to relate to other characters. Needless to say, this book is one of a kind.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - A series of stories intertwined because of reincarnation? Not that unique. All the stories are completely different genres and are written to suit each genre? Incredibly unique.

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin - This story is about a mock-Egyptian society, and I've never read such a fantasy before. The concept of dreamblood and all of that other complicated stuff that I'm struggling to remember (it feels like forever since I've read it) made for a very interesting and unique story.

30. Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Keep in mind that I liked these books:

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick - Samantha's mom. 'Nuff said.

Revealed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast - Zoey needs to get it together. But, considering the next (and final) book of this series is called Redeemed, I imagine she'll be, well, "redeemed."

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork - The way that certain characters treated Maracelo because of his autism is bound to anger anybody. The worst part is that there are people who are like this in the "real world" outside of this book.

Blogging/Bookish Life
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014?
I discovered a couple of new book blogs, but now neither of them are active, but I did discover a couple of music blogs:

The Metal Pigeon (which, of course, is centered around metal music)

Hapfairy's World (centers around symphonic metal and female-fronted metal in general - we all know how much I love symphonic metal)

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014?
I don't really have favorite reviews... But I suppose I'll say my review of Epica's latest album The Quantum Enigma is my favorite because of how happy I was as I was listening and writing.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Probably my concerts post because it was the most fun to write. Going to concerts is one of my most favorite things I life; it's about time I shared some thoughts about my experiences.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I got to go to a local Q&A event in which Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer talked about their debut novel Crossing the Threshold.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?
Discovering that two of my favorite former teachers (Dirlam and Overmyer, as mentioned above) wrote a book and being able to read and review the manuscript before it was released was awesome! I'm so proud of them! And I promise that the fact that I know the authors personally didn't sway my opinion on the book whatsoever. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have praised it as highly in my review or in any of these categories.

6. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Here are the top 5 by views:
1 - Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish Releases First Solo Video: "A Lifetime of Adventure"
2 - Aftermath by Amy Lee (Review)
3 - Hydra by Within Temptation (Review)
4 - I Love Gilmore Girls
5 - Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

7. Post you wished got a little more love?
Some of my poor book reviews just have a lack of love, particularly Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan, and My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

8. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
-HALF PRICE BOOKS. It's the most amazing store that could ever happen to the bookish world. Unfortunately all the Half Price Book stores are far away from me so I always have to make a bit of a road trip. But, when I went there, I got a paperback for $4 and a hardcover that's usually $40 for $6. While I was there, I sold some books and got $8 out of it... So I got a $35 purchase for $2. You just can't beat that.

-I went to a Barnes and Nobel for the first time in my life. (Calm down, I used to go to Borders all the time and I frequent Books-A-Million. Barnes and Nobel is located farther away than where I usually shop.)

9. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I just try to read 20 books a year or more (I know, it's low) and I did it.

Looking Ahead:

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2014 but will be your number 1 priority in 2015?
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. After reading my first book by him this year, I can't wait to see what Mitchell has in store! And I also really need to read Redeemed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. And Thorne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. And - okay, I'll stop now.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2015 (non-debut)?
All of the next Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer (Fairest and Winter) and The Last American Vampire by Seth Graham-Smith, which is a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

3. 2015 debut you are most anticipating?
I never seem to know about debuts until they happen. (I don't get ARCs.)

4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2015?
I'm really anxious for the sequel to Crossing the Threshold in the Changeling series by Amanda Dirlam and Melanie Overmyer as well as Winter by Marissa Meyer.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2015?
Stay consistent with the post flow. I was SO GOOD at this year - SO GOOD, I TELL YOU, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. But then university happened and I only posted once in October. Fail. Furthermore, I need to find balance between reading for school and reading for fun, because it just didn't happen during my first semester at the university. Like, at all.

6. A 2015 release you’ve already read and recommend to everyone:
Again, I don't get ARCs.
I hope everyone's having a great new year!