Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Actors I Envisioned Playing Specific Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun bookish meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, bloggers were given the opportunity to choose our own topics, and I started thinking about the way I envision characters. Oftentimes the people in my head look like combinations of people I've seen to fit an author's description, but there have been some occasions where I envision specific actors playing characters in my head. I decided I'd list those this week.

Top Ten Actors I Envisioned Playing Specific Characters

Emma Watson as Lucy Snowe | Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Clare Brown as Cress | Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

Ian Somerhalder as Wolf | Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

Logan Lerman as Jacob | Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs

Adam DeVine as The Colonel | Looking for Alaska by John Green

Chelsea Brummet as Antoinetta | Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Nikki Reed as Catherine | Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Chloe Grace Mortez as Amy | Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis

Drew Fuller as Stark | House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Shane Brolly as Kalona | House of  Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

What do you think of these actor-character pairings? Do you tend to envision specific actors as characters as you read?

Feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fairest | by: Marissa Meyer

Between the third and fourth novels of the fairytale- and Sailor Moon-based Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer treated fans to a prequel about the series' villain, Queen Levana: Fairest. This short novel begins with the assassination of Levana's parents and shows the evolution of her character in the events following that particular episode. It provides a great deal of insight not only about Levana, but her family in general - especially her sister Channary. It even answers the question all Lunar Chronicles fans have been asking - what does Levana really look like under the glamour, under the veil?

I must admit that despite being a huge fan of the Lunar Chronicles series, I wasn't excited for Fairest. Why? Well, it seems like most villains' stories follow the same structure: The started out (mostly) normal, something bad happened that isn't entirely uncommon in the grand scheme of terrible things that can happen even in the real world, and they were so affected by what happened that they turn into a bit of a psychopath even if you can't quite understand their rationales.

I suppose I forgot for a hot minute that Marissa Meyer knows what she's doing and underestimated her ability to paint this character's picture. Fairest is actually really good and it breaks the pattern I mentioned before. If Levana's pattern of development could be labeled, it be something like this: She started out crazy as her whole family was batshit crazy to begin with, and in baby steps she just got crazier and crazier. Furthermore, the ONE THING that happened to her (I refuse to spoil) just does not generally happen to people. This girl's circumstances are just... Messed up. She's messed up. And her sister Channary? She is absolutely insane. I feel like I have a whole new understanding of this family after reading Fairest. Levana's deep attachment to Sybil is also explained.

This prequel also provides a bit of insight on exactly who Winter is and what her upbringing was like. It was fun to see cameo appearances of the heroes we've read about in the series as children. Winter, Jacin, and Cinder playing together - isn't that adorable? Well, until that thing that happens that we all know about from the first novel, Cinder. Plus, I really liked Evret and Solstice... The way that Levana treated Evret really enforced how Levana is such a psycho that she doesn't even realize it. From her perspective, she's not quite as manipulative as she actually is.

So, even though I originally thought that Levana's history wouldn't be as exiting to read about, I liked Fairest a lot. I plowed through this quick read in one day, curious to discover more about this villain's past and how it formed her future. Now that I know Levana's whole story, I am prepared for the series' monstrous 800-page conclusion, Winter... but I still don't want the Lunar Chronicles to end!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to My TBR

This is the first Top Ten Tuesday (hosted at The Broke and the Bookish) I'm participating in this year: Top Ten  Eight Books I've Recently Added to My TBR. For this one, I went into my Goodreads to-read list and picked out the recent ones I was most interested in. My TBR is always growing; I always have a nice big list to choose from when wondering what I should read next. However, I don't get to most of them, and if I do it might take a few years... so I didn't bother trying to make this recent TBR list ten items long. Instead, I picked the ones I've added that I'm most likely to actually read someday.

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
The Animal Gospels by Brian Barker
Memories by Lang Leav

 Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim

As always, feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday and let me know what you think of my selections!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Art Angels | Grimes

I love Grimes. Need I say more?

Yeah, I should probably say more. I fell in love with Grimes' dreamy electronic music just last summer (specifically her album Visions), and this fall she released her fourth album, Art Angels. This new piece of art is a departure from Grimes' older material in a number of ways. While the production of her previous albums did not bother me, Art Angels is so much cleaner. Claire Boucher (that's Grimes' real name) likes to make her albums by herself - not only the writing, but also the artwork, production... she just kind of does everything, and while that was always admirable, seeing her improve so much in only a few years is even more exciting. We can make direct comparisons with the fan-favorite song "REALiTi," which was released as a demo earlier last year and re-worked for Art Angels. I may still prefer listening to the demo simply because it's more mellow, while the new, crisp version has more energy in it. Still, the production quality has improved - that is indisputable.

In an article by Emilie Friedlander at The Fader, it was noted that Grimes performed all of the instruments - and she uses real ones in addition to synths now, and that has changed the flow a bit and allowed for more diversity among the tracks. There are actually a number of guitar-led songs on this album. The other big change we see on Art Angels... Well, the songs simply have a different feel than her earlier work. In that same Fader article I mentioned earlier, Grimes explained that much of her music sounded "sad," before but "this time it’s more happy and angry." That seems to sum up the change perfectly. In fact, there are some tracks that sound both happy and angry at the same time. I listen to her previous albums when I embrace weakness, but I listen to Art Angels when I want to be strong. Hence, while it's a little easier for me to appreciate the darker tones of Visions, Art Angels is a very special album to me. 

Grimes has made some really relaxing music all across her discography, and this album is no different. Songs like "California," "Belly of the Beat," "Easily," and "Butterfly" sound like a sunny, laid-back summer day. This certainly isn't sad Grimes - this is a carefree Grimes that uses guitars and a piano in addition to her synths to give us more of a raw feel (but less so with "Butterfly," which I feel will appeal to fans of "Genesis"). Carefree Grimes can still make some jabs at haters, but anyone who has heard the lead single "Flesh without Blood" would know that with lyrics like "After all, I just don't like you." Perhaps on the first listen it might sound happy and fluffy, but I think empowering is the better word. Hearing the line "If you don't need me, just let me go" is like a therapy session.

However, as Grimes promised, we get to feel the rage too - the angrier songs are the most energetic of her entire discography. The most aggressive track (and one of the most experimental) must be "SCREAM," which features the Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes. As I mentioned in my 2015 singles countdown, this song is CRAZY. Grimes screams her head off as Aristphanes makes growly noises... It's kind of scary, and the electric guitar instrumental sounds appropriate for an Underworld film. But the other two more energetic tracks, "Kill V. Maim" and "Venus Fly" (which features Janelle Monae), are more electronic-based and, well, not scary. Grimes is basically cheering in the pre-chorus and chorus of "Kill V. Maim," and I especially enjoy the spacey intro and outro of this one. However, the Janelle Monae collaboration, "Venus Fly," may win the trophy for the most energetic track of the bunch. The high-pitched electronic breakdowns are flawless and easy to jump around/dance crazily to. Janelle and Grimes are sassy and confrontational as all get out, and I love it.

My favorite track is different than much of the other songs - "World Princess Part II." I recommend every fan of Grimes' previous albums that might be hesitant to embrace her new material to start with this one. It has everything I love about both Visions and Art Angels. Instrumentally, it sounds almost like a video game - it's that perfect combination of darkness and lightheartedness that only Grimes can create. It's an epic of sorts. The accompanying lyrics are bound to make any listener feel powerful, especially as she repeatedly declares "It's mine." However, the outro seems to lead the World Princess' tale of strength to the end of her reign, recalling the feel of Grimes' older material. The music dwindles as Grimes'  haunting backing vocals come to the forefront: "I stare into the darkness / I don't know where I am / I haven't seen the daylight since I thought of giving in / My eyes are feeling heavy, my feet are moving slow..." The only other blatantly sad moment on this album comes in the form of "Life in the Vivid Dream," which quite memorable despite being only a minute and a  half long. This song is the most acoustic of Grimes' material and may be one of the easiest for fans of most genres to like, not only because it is simple, but because it's emotional and easy to relate to.

Out of all the albums released in 2015 that I listened to in full, Art Angels is probably my favorite. I love every song - even the ones that didn't originally stand out to me on the first listen would be put on repeat later. Art Angels is definitely the most 'normal' sounding album by Grimes and is more accessible to mainstream-loving listeners, but it's still experimental, it's still genuine... It's Grimes. It's brilliant.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hollow City | by: Ransom Riggs

*This review will likely contain spoilers for those who have not read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Hollow City is the second installment in Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children trilogy, which fuses strange vintage photographs into the reading experience. Jacob and his peculiar new friends are on an urgent and dangerous mission: They must find a way to help Miss Peregrine return to her human form, and quickly - but that isn't the easiest things to do in 1940s Britain. The Nazi army keeps dropping bombs as monstrous hollow and wights chase after the children. As they move along their journey, they have to make decisions concerning their ethical standards, and ultimately, what they are willing to fight for.

Despite the fact that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children really impressed me when I read it years ago as well as when I reread it earlier this year,  Hollow City wasn't as easy to appreciate. I read the beginning and ending rather quickly, but the middle took a while for a few different reasons. To be completely honest... I guess I just didn't expect this entire book to deal with trying to save Miss Peregrine. I guess I thought that would take one third of the book and then the plot would get bigger. So there's one issue. And I will freely admit that by the time I reached the halfway mark I was at an exciting time in my personal life that made this novel seem a little dull by comparison (and I think this is the first time in my whole life I can say this lovely phenomena has happened). But perhaps the most prevailing issue is that despite the singular plot goal, I just didn't feel like all the obstacles the children faced truly tied together. It felt less like plotting and more like 'let's put in obstacles to make the book longer' at times. Placing so many moments where Jacob reflects on how everything is so crazy compared to his old life also gave me this vibe.

However, I did not dislike the book overall - my feelings are generally mixed. It certainly had some good qualities. Once again I appreciated the use of old photographs to enhance the story and the fact that it takes place in the dark WWII-era Britain, and even though Jacob and Emma's romance was underplayed in many respects, I liked that Riggs kept it innocent and fluffy. Plus, I think all the abilities are really cool - especially the ones that Emma, Althea, and Olive have. Even aside from their peculiar abilities, some of the characters warm my heart... Olive is just the sweetest thing and I love how motherly Bronwyn is with her friends!

But what truly made me like this book better by the time I reached the end are the twists. A few things are either discovered or occur that I never saw coming - I gasped at a couple moments. And the cliffhanger! It was a bit of a frustrating place to leave us hanging, but I thing Riggs built a solid foundation for the trilogy's conclusion, Library of Souls, which just came out this year. I anticipate that it will be the most action-packed of the series if this is going where I think it's going.

Hollow City, in short, has some prominent good points and prominent not-so-good points. I wish I could have liked it as much as the first installment of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, but I'm hopeful for the next book, Library of Souls.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Complete List of Songs I Fell in Love With: 2015

Right before 2015 began, I decided to do something I'd never done before as a year-long project. Since I'm constantly searching for more music to love that fits my weird, eclectic taste, I decided to record each and every song I totally fell in love with in 2015 in the order that I became obsessed with them (not necessarily the order of discovery). I thought it would be fun to see how many songs I fall in love with on average in a year and how many different genres are included, but I also knew that when I looked at different sections of the list, I'd see different sections of the year, of my life. Additionally, I made myself a little survey to highlight the best of the best, which I listed before the list of 145 wonderful songs I became addicted to this year.

Nightwish and Grimes
(for those who have not discovered their respective works of genius)

*I cannot repeat any songs in these categories*
Best Artist: Grimes
Best Album: Visions by Grimes, Art Angels by Grimes
Best Song: “The Greatest Show on Earth” - Nightwish & “Genesis” - Grimes

Coincidentally, the two best songs I discovered out of all 145 happen to be the best representation of what I listen to. These two songs are completely opposite. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is a massive symphonic metal track - it's twenty-four minutes long, the instrumentation is enormous and bombastic, it's complicated. "Genesis," on the other hand is a four-minute electronic track that's more ballad-like than anything. While "The Greatest Show on Earth" is much darker and describes the gorgeous planet we live on, "Genesis" describes the lightness your heart experiences during perfect happiness. While Floor's voice has a darker tone, Grimes has a girly tone.

Best Symphonic Metal: “Shudder Before the Beautiful” – Nightwish
Best Metal (Non-Symphonic): “While We Sleep” – Insomnium
Best Classical or Film Score: “Mea Culpa” – After Forever
Best Rock: “Moaning Lisa Smile” – Wolf Alice
Best Indie: “Blue Pool” – Vanessa Carlton
Best Alternative: “What Kind of Man” – Florence and the Machine
Best Electronic: “Nightmusic” – Grimes
Best Trip-Hop: “Bullet Boy” – Massive Attack
Best Rap/Hip-Hop: “Bad Girls” – MIA
Best Pop: “Flesh Without Blood” – Grimes
Best Ballad: “My Sister Says the Saddest Things by Grimes
Best Throwback Discovery: “He Loves You Not” – Dream
Best Cover: “Skinny Love” – Birdy (originally performed by Bon Iver)
Best Song from an Artist I Don’t Usually Listen to: “Perfect Life” – Steven Wilson
Song That Depresses Me: “Only in Dreams” – Weezer
Song That Somehow Sounds Substantially Better When Played VERY LOUDLY: “Superstition” by The Birthday Massacre
Most Impressive Vocals: “In Remembrance” – Xandria

1. “Shake it Out” – Florence + the Machine
2. “Only If For a Night” – Florence + the Machine
3. “Big Eyes” – Lana Del Rey
4. “West Coast” – Lana Del Rey
5. “Brooklyn Baby” – Lana Del Rey
6. “Fair Game” – Sia
7. “Fire Meet Gasoline” – Sia
8. “Cellophane” – Sia
9. “Bones” – In This Moment
10. “Everytime” – Broods
11. “Andare” – Ludovico Einaudi
12. “Girl I Love You” – Massive Attack
13. “Amaranthine” – Amaranthe
14. “Black Lake” – Bjork
15. “Farewell to Dobby” – Alexandre Desplat
16. “Stardust” – Xandria
17. “Stonemilker” – Bjork
18. “Sagan” – Nightwish
19. “Arcadia” – Leah
20. “Zero Gravity” – Of Verona
21. “Outside” – Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding
22. “Élan” – Nightwish
23. “Buddy Holly” – Weezer
24. “Cruel World” – Lana Del Rey
25. “Pretty When You Cry” – Lana Del Rey
26. “Burning For You” – Shiny Toy Guns
27. “Shudder Before the Beautiful” – Nightwish
28. “Perfect Life” – Steven Wilson
29. “What Kind of Man” – Florence + the Machine
30. “Uma Thurman” – Fall Out Boy
31. “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula” – Nightwish
32. “The Greatest Show On Earth” – Nightwish
33. “Yours is An Empty Hope” – Nightwish
34. “Failure” – Breaking Benjamin
35. “My Walden” – Nightwish
36. “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” – Nightwish
37. “Weak Fantasy” – Nightwish
38. “Mea Culpa” – After Forever
39. “Our Decades in the Sun” – Nightwish
40. “Alepenglow” – Nightwish
41. “Get the Devil Out of Me” – Delain
42. “Jenny” – Nothing More
43. “Army of Dolls” – Delain
44. “Mother Machine” – Delain
45. “Scarlet” – Delain
46. “Electricity” – Delain
47. “I Want You to Know” – Zedd ft. Selena Gomez
48. “American Beauty/American Psycho” – Fall Out Boy
49. “Black Beauty” – Lana Del Rey
50. “Moaning Lisa Smile” – Wolf Alice
51. “Here Come the Vultures” – Delain
52. “I’m a Disaster” – Wolf Alice
53. “American Oxygen” – Rhianna
54. “He Loves You Not” – Dream
55. “Supermodel” – Jill Sobule
56. “Tell Me, Mechanist” – Delain
57. “Tragedy of the Commons” – Delain ft. Alissa White-Gluz
58. “White Leather” – Wolf Alice
59. “Giant Peach” – Wolf Alice
60. “California Dreaming” – Sia
61. “Go Away” – Delain
62. “Nightmusic” – Grimes ft. Majical Cloudz
63. “Circumambient” – Grimes
64. “Go” – Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds
65. “Genesis” – Grimes
66. “REALiTi” – Grimes
67. “Oblivion” – Grimes
68. “Etude Op. 25 No. 12 (Ocean)” – Frederic Chopin
69. “Black Sun” – Death Cab For Cutie
70. “AM 180” – Grandaddy
71. “With(Out)” – Cheyenne Mize
72. “Dark” – Breaking Benjamin
73. “Save the World” – Leah
74. “Scorn” – Portishead
75. “Good for You” – Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky
76. “Leave Everything Behind” – Amaranthe
77. “1,000,000 Lightyears” – Amaranthe
78. “Various Storms and Saints” – Florence + the Machine
79. “Queen of Peace” – Florence + the Machine
80. “Which Witch” – Florence + the Machine
81. “Only in Dreams” – Weezer
82. “Silk” – Wolf Alice
83. “Enter the Highlands” – Leah
84. “Saturday Come Slow” – Massive Attack
85. “Renegades” – X Ambassadors
86. “Remnant” – Leah
87. “In Remembrance” – Xandria
88. “Unembraced” – Xandria
89. “Don’t Say a Word” – Xandria (Sonata Artica cover)
90. “Man Next Door” – Massive Attack
91. “Superstition” – The Birthday Massacre
92. “High by the Beach” – Lana Del Rey
93. “Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)” – Grimes ft. Doldrums
94. “Visiting Statue” – Grimes
95. “Be a Body (侘寂)” – Grimes
96. “Blue Pool” – Vanessa Carlton
97. “Jekyll and Hyde” – Five Finger Death Punch
98. “Bad Girls” – MIA
99. “Siúil a Rún (Acoustic)” – Leah (traditional Irish cover)
100. “Operator” – Vanessa Carlton
101. “Nothing Where Something Used to Be” – Vanessa Carlton
102. “Bullet Boy” – Massive Attack
103. “Danny the Dog” – Massive Attack
104. “Skin” – Grimes
105. “Theme from To Kill a Dead Man” – Portishead
106. “Origins” – Eluveitie
107. “Carousel” – Melanie Martinez
108. “God Knows I Tried” – Lana Del Rey
109. “Art Deco” – Lana Del Rey
110. “David” – Grimes
111. “Vowels = Time and Space” – Grimes
112. “My Sister Says the Saddest Things” – Grimes
113. “I Fail” – Scala and Kolacny Brothers
114. “Vanessa” – Grimes
115. “Hollow” – Breaking Benjamin
116. “All of the Stars” – Jackie Evancho (Ed Sheeran cover)
117. “Wings” – Birdy
118. “Doing the Right Thing” – Daughter
119. “Skinny Love” – Birdy (Bon Iver cover)
120. “Blinded by Hatred” – UnSun
121. “Flesh Without Blood” – Grimes
122. “Life in the Vivid Dream” – Grimes
123. “It’s a Fire” – Amy Lee (Portishead cover)
124. “Laughing and Not Being Normal” – Grimes
125. “Kill V. Maim” – Grimes
126. “Belly of the Beat” - Grimes
127. “Venus Fly” – Grimes ft. Janelle Monáe
128. “World Princess, Part II” – Grimes
129. “California” – Grimes
130. “Sparks” – Hilary Duff
131. “With or Without You” – Amy Lee (U2 cover)
132. “Talia’s Theme” – Two Steps from Hell
133. “Intro” – Ellie Goulding
134. “Soap” – Melanie Martinez
135. “Pin” – Grimes
136. “While We Sleep” – Insomnium
137. “Could’ve Been” – Two Steps from Hell
138. “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” – Amy Lee (Chris Isaak cover)
139. “Artangels” – Grimes
140. “Butterfly” – Grimes
141. “What the Water Gave Me” – Florence + the Machine
142. “Thriller” – Within Temptation (Michael Jackson cover, only performed live at Black Christmas concerts)
143. “There Are Worse Games to Play/Deep in the Meadow” – James Newton Howard ft. Jennifer Lawrence
144. “Science/Visions” – Chvrches
145. “Ship to Wreck” – Florence + the Machine

I hope 2015 brought you all a multitude of favorite songs as well. Cheers to 2016!