November 25, 2020

I'm Back!

 Hello, everyone! I hope that you are all well and healthy.

These past few months have been a challenge for me. I needed some time off to sort out my thoughts and my mental state. My biggest regret is that I couldn't write the review for Utopia Avenue (the book that I wanted to write the most about). I guess that now it will have to wait until I reread it as I want to do this book justice. 

However, now I feel ready to start writing and be creative again 🎉 

I have plenty of ideas but I believe that my comeback should be with a new discussion post. So, I would like to ask for your help. Below, you will find a list of blog post ideas. What would you like to read about the most? 

August 16, 2020

Play(list) by the Book - Utopia Avenue, by David Mitchell

 

Hello, everyone! It's finally here! I know that I've been hyping you for weeks about this book, this literary playlist, and the book review (which will come shortly - I hope). Today, I have finally compiled this Play(list) by the Book, so it's time to explore the '60s! 

Utopia Avenue is about a psychedelic band in London so the novel has plenty of references to the era's scene. This playlist is probably the biggest one I have compiled for these posts, but at the same time, it was one of the most interesting. So, sit back and enjoy!


As per usual, for this list, I have used every song, artist, band, and album mentioned in the text. Some songs, like Joni Mitchell's For Free or Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street, found a way in the list through lyrics. However, for this playlist, I haven't used any songs by individual members. For example, John Lennon is an elusive figure in the book and he is mentioned numerous times (as well as the rest of The Beatles). Despite this fact though, the book takes place in 1968 his solo stuff came a little later. For this reason, I haven't also included a song by Yoko Ono.

For the albums, I included the song that I liked the most (and in some cases, it was just a random choice). For the artists and bands mentioned, I went to their back catalog and picked a song that was released in 1968 or earlier. Below, you will find a couple of songs that I couldn't find on Spotify and a list of the albums (in case you want to dig deeper).

Nina Simone  You Don't Know What Love Is



Syd Barrett  Have You Got It Yet?



Nina Simone  Mississipi Goddam



Bruce Forsyth  I'm Backing Britain



List of the Albums mentioned in Utopia Avenue
  • Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  • Blue Note Albums
  • The Who Sell Out
  • The Byrds – Younger than Yesterday
  • Big Bill Broonzy And Washboard Sam
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced
  • The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!
  • Cream – Fresh Cream
  • The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
  • Bert Weedon – Play in a Day!
  • Andrés Segovia – Master of the Spanish Guitar
  • Odetta – Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues
  • Harry Smith – Anthology of American Folk Music
  • Stan Getz and João Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto
  • The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majestic Request
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love
  • Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
  • John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
  • Etta James – At Last!
  • Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
  • Love – Forever Changes
  • Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
  • The 13th Floor Elevator – The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevator
  • The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle
  • The Band – Music from Big Pink
  • The Beatles – Rubber Soul
  • Bob Dylan – Bringing it All Back Home
  • Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul
  • The Mothers of Invention – We're Only in It for the Money
  • The Beastie Boys – Paul's Boutique
There you have it! This Play(list) by the Book has been a pleasure to compile (but it's the same every time). I hope that I will soon stumble upon a book with plenty of musical references.

Find more playlists at: Play(list) by the Book

July 29, 2020

2PM - My House: A Fairy Tale Mash-Up (KpopXBooks #5)


Hello, everyone! This week, we are back with another instalment of KpopXBooks. It's already the fifth post of the series and I have to admit that it has become one of my favourites. As a Kpop fan and a bookworm, it's always great to find the opportunity to combine them.

The previous instalments, like The Fairy Tales of IUThe Bookish Concepts of SHINee, and VIXX: The Book Concept Kings required a lot of research. However, this week I'm trying a different take on the series. In the fifth instalment of KpopXBooks, we are going to explore the concept of a single music video.

For this post, I had a few contenders. But I decided to go with 2PM's "My House". It's a song that I really like, and it's (almost) considered a classic in the Kpop community. The concept of "My House" is fairy tales. Some imagery (which will see in more detail later) refers to specific and well-known fairy tales. Moreover, other imagery reveals a fairy tale origin, even though I couldn't trace a specific one. Some examples are the castle, the goat's head, and the crests shown on the walls.

Before we start talking specifics, let's take a look at the MV of "My House" by 2PM.



Cinderella



Surprise, surprise! The music video begins with the clock striking 12 and our protagonist trying to run away from a posh ball. From all the fairy tales referenced on the MV, I believe that Cinderella and another one (I won't reveal it now though) are the main inspirations. The Cinderella reference becomes even more obvious at the ending of the video, where the protagonist takes off one of her shoes and throws it at the staircase. I like this more modern twist of the fairy tale, which is not the only one I have spotted in the music video! 


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland



Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a favourite book for the Kpop art production teams. We've already seen a handful of MVs inspired by it, both by IU and SHINee. Furthermore, I have many other videos in mind, and one of the future instalments will be dedicated to this concept. The Alice in Wonderland imagery in "My House" is just the protagonist running through a long corridor and encountering this cute rabbit. 

Red Riding Hood



In the same corridor that the protagonist encounters the rabbit, she then meets a wolf. It could be Red Riding Hood or any other shapeshifter wolf. However, since we are talking about fairy tales, I thought that Red Riding Hood is the appropriate choice.

Snow White



Snow White is much clearer to spot in the music video. First of all, we get to see the apple (what else could it reference?). If it was this imagery alone, I would be hesitant to call it. However, we do get another one: one of our handsome princes/monsters is giving the apple to the protagonist, which she accepts. 


Beauty and the Beast



This is the second fairy tale hat I believe inspired this MV, even more than Cinderella. This visual is taken straight from the Disney movie. You can even see the fur in the back of the chair. As if this wasn't enough, we get more pointers that Beauty and the Beast is our main fairy tale.


The next Beauty and the Beast imagery couldn't be any clearer. The protagonist tries to leave and the beast grabs her and leads her back to the castle. While we get a closeup of the hands, we see that the prince's hand has turned into that of the Beast. Once more, the imagery reminds of the Disney movie.


Lastly, we get this shot. In my research, I've read that this might be Romeo and Juliet and even Rapunzel. If this were the case, the roles are reversed from the originals and I really like it! However, for me, this is just imagery from Beauty and the Beast. The red roses are huge in this fairy tale, just as the balcony is shown numerous times in the movie. 

This was it for today! Did you get any other fairy tale imagery in 2PM's "My House"?
Stay tuned for more KpopXBook lists!

July 26, 2020

Discussion: What are your Reading Quirks?


Hello, everyone! How is your summer going? As I've already told you, I'm in a somewhat inactive state, just working and reading Utopia Avenue. I've yet to finish it but I can already talk on and on about this book. However, I'll keep all my thoughts for the review, which will be live next week (I hope so). The only thing I will tell you is that this book will have a Play(list) by the Book, and a lengthy one.

Anyway, today we are going to talk about our reading quirks. A thing that you hear a lot about bookworms is how particular we are about reading and books. There are even jokes about it! And the thing is that it is completely true. There are no two readers that have the same habits. Some of the things we do might even be considered weird. I know, for sure, that some of my quirks can raise a brow or two, but we'll get to that later. So, let's get to it...

What are your reading quirks?


And with this, it's time to spill the beans. Some of my reading quirks are normal, for some I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, but overall they make my reading what it is.

I always, and I mean ALWAYS, read the last sentence of a book.

How do you determine if you want to read a book or not? Is it the cover, the premise, the first page, or none of the above? For me, it's the last sentence of the book. This is probably the weirdest and most embarrassing of my reading quirks, as many people look me in horror when they find out. However, I have always been subconsciously doing it.

For me, this is a clear indicator of whether I will enjoy a book or not and it's only on rare occasions that I was proven wrong. This reading quirk, though, isn't working well with e-books, as the preview usually includes only some parts from the first chapters.

As for spoilers, the last sentence is rarely one. Imagine a murder mystery - the killer is revealed in the last (or second to last) chapter, but not in the last line. It would be weird to just end "The detective revealed that it was all X's doing. THE END". I honestly don't know what it is, but there you have it!

I hate it when they change a perfectly fine book cover for the movie one

I know that this is more of a marketing thing, but is there a reason why they can't keep the two mediums apart? Yes, if I loved a book I will watch the movie and if I loved a movie I might read the book (but not always). I even own some books that have the movie cover, for example Atonement by Ian McEwan. However, I will go out of my way to find a book cover that I actually like to keep on my bookshelf.

If I have the choice, I will read the original version of the book and not the translation

I know that this might not apply to many native English speakers. However, as a native Greek speaker, I can find many books both in English and Greek. When I have a choice, I will always go for the book in English, if this was the original language. For example, right now I'm reading Utopia Avenue (I haven't already mentioned it 1000 times). Some days ago, a Greek publishing house announced that the book will be translated in Greek and will become available in 2021. There is no way that I could wait this much to read the most awaited novel of the year for me. Moreover, I'm not sure how this writing style is going to be translated (I know, I know, but more on that on my review). And, of course, I am a die-hard David Mitchell fan that I had pre-ordered a hardcover and signed edition of the book. 

However, as much as I would love to, I don't have much choice when it comes to Japanese literature. My level in Japanese isn't that advanced to understand a novel, and the majority of them aren't translated in Greek. So, almost all the Japanese literature I read is through English translations.

I don't mind spoilers

This applies to books, comics, movies, series, video games, etc. Luckily, this quirk enables me to watch/read the same story on different mediums and still maintain my interest. I could give Pride and Prejudice as an example, and I know that there are many other Jane Austen fans who do the same.

(I liked the Cloud Atlas movie adaptation, though)

I don't read all the books of a series one after another

It's so rare for me to pick the first instalment of the series, and then the second, the third,...., until I finish it. I will read the first one, then move on to other books, and some months later, I will move on to the second book. Even though I usually do that, I have no trouble remembering the characters and story. The longest I've done to read the last book of a series was 5-ish years! According to Goodreads, I read Artemis Fowl #7 in 2014 and Artemis Fowl #8 in 2019. Go figure!

I'm hesitant to read books that are 600+ pages long...

...but this doesn't mean that I won't read one if it piques my interest. Nevertheless, if I'm between two books, the number of pages can usually be the deciding factor. It's not that I want to show that I've read more in a year. Instead, I think that I feel that a novel this long is a commitment that I can't easily make. 

So, there you have it! What are your reading quirks?

July 24, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - The Princess Bride, by William Goldman


Hello, everyone! How was your week? I have been feeling very inactive lately, so I was mostly doing the work I had to do and nothing much else. However, I am enjoying Utopia Avenue, for which I hope that you'll read the review soon. Anyway, today it's Friday, so I decided to drag myself  
to participate in these two fun bookish memes.

1. Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted by Rose City Reads. In this meme, we have to share the first sentence (or a bit more) from the book we are currently reading.

2. Friday 56 that is hosted by Freda's Voice. For this one, we have to share a small snippet from a book, taken from page 56 (or 56% on an e-reader).



Since I'm still reading Utopia Avenue that I featured last week, this week I'll be featuring one of my favourite books: The Princess Bride. This book really has everything: action, adventure, romance, revenge, fights, pirates, and the list goes on! 



Book Beginnings


"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it."

If this opening line can't pique your interest, which one can? The Princess Bride is actually about a book titles The Princess Bride. So, the story we all know and love happens in the book within the book. 




Friday 56



“Nonsense; you climbed the Cliffs of Insanity, and this isn’t nearly that steep.”

“And it took a little out of me too, let me tell you. And after that little effort, I tangled with a fella who knew a little something about fencing. And after that, I spent a few happy moments grappling with a giant. And after that, I had to outfake a Sicilian to death when any mistake meant it was a knife in the throat for you. And after that I’ve run my lungs out a couple of hours. And after that I was pushed two hundred feet down a rock ravine. I’m tired, Buttercup; do you understand tired? I’ve put in a night, is what I’m trying to get through to you.”

This snippet comes from 56% of the ebook. These lines summarise many of the adventures that have already happened in the book so far, and it's only midway through it! The continuation promises to be even more thrilling. Of course, if you've watched the movie, you already know what's going to happen.

What's a beautiful quote from the book you are currently reading? 
  

July 17, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell


Hello, everyone! How was your week? For me, it's been a fairly relaxing week with some great reads. I really enjoyed writing about my favourite love poems and I also wrote a long rant on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Today, it's Friday, so it's time for our two bookish memes:

1. Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted by Rose City Reads. In this meme, we have to share the first sentence (or a bit more) from the book we are currently reading.

2. Friday 56 that is hosted by Freda's Voice. For this one, we have to share a small snippet from a book, taken from page 56 (or 56% on an e-reader).


This week I'm featuring the book I was most eager to read this year! It was finally published this week and I've started reading it. I'm talking about Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell. So far, I'm not disappointed, but stay tuned as I'll soon post a review and (perhaps) a new Play(list) by the Book.


Book Beginning


"Dean hurries past the Phoenix Theatre, dodges a blind man in dark glasses, steps onto Charring Cross Road to overtake a slow-moving woman and pram, leaps a grimy puddle and swerves into Denmark Street where he skids on a sheet of black ice."

The first sentence makes sure to make you have a grasp of the book's setting. If you've ever visited London, then these roads in Soho will probably ring a bell. The book transfers you to Soho in late '60s, where a new psychedelic-rock scene was booming.

Friday 56


Jasper played Asturias by Isaac Albéniz. Formaggio’s guitar wasn’t the best, but the half-dozen fell under the moon-swaying, sun-cracking and blood-thumping spell, and when Jasper finished, nobody moved. ‘In fifty years,’ said Jasper, ‘or five hundred, or five thousand, music will still do to people what it does to us now. That’s my prediction. It’s late.’

This is a cheat, as it's actually from page 51, instead of page 56. However, this quote was just too beautiful not to share it. So, there you have it! 

What's a beautiful quote from the book you are currently reading? 

July 14, 2020

Comic Book Review: Batman - The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Title: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Writer/Artist: Frank Miller

Illustrator: Klaus Janson

Colouring: Lynn Varley

Publisher: DC Comics

Date of Publication: November 2012 (first pub. 1986)

Number of Pages: 197

See it on Goodreads: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns


Summary


Crime runs rampant in the streets, and the man who was Batman is still tortured by the memories of his parents' murders. As civil society crumbles around him, Bruce Wayne's long-suppressed vigilante side finally breaks free of its self-imposed shackles.

The Dark Knight returns in a blaze of fury, taking on a whole new generation of criminals and matching their level of violence. He is soon joined by this generation's Robin—a girl named Carrie Kelley, who proves to be just as invaluable as her predecessors.

But can Batman and Robin deal with the threat posed by their deadliest enemies, after years of incarceration have made them into perfect psychopaths? And more important, can anyone survive the coming fallout of an undeclared war between the superpowers—or a clash of what were once the world's greatest superheroes?

Review - Who is Batman?


1986... What a year that was for comics! Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was first published that year, influencing the way we see Batman, even to this day. As someone who has enjoyed various Batman comics and movies, I have been meaning to read it for a long time. Finally, I got the chance to do it. Would it live up to its fame?

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns revolutionized Batman by the way it depicts him. In this comic, we get a much darker and authoritative version of him. This is a trend that you will encounter in many of the comics published during this time. Superheroes have become human, thus they are tortured and flawed. I can see why this comic book turned out to be an important one at that time in history. 

And this is the point where the good things I have to say about this comic end. I have really struggled to find a way to appreciate it and understand why The Dark Knight Returns has left a mark. However, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether a comic has to be good in order to be influential. In fact, I can go as far as to say that any book doesn't have to be good to be influential (I have written plenty of bad reviews for classics anyway).


So, let's begin with what I didn't like about The Dark Knight Returns:

The story. It sounds basic, but the story of this comic book is ALL OVER THE PLACE. We get so many story threads and none is really treated as the main story. We have Two-Face that sort of plays like a potential villain in the first issue, but we soon forget about him. Of course, we have Joker as a villain. Then we have the mutant gang, that (I guess) they aren't really mutants. When their leader is killed the members of this gang become Batman fanatics. On top of this, we have a nuclear threat and Superman enters the stage. Why should Batman and Superman fight in the end? I guess because it's cool. Will it end in tragedy? No, not really. 

Did anything of the above make sense? I wouldn't even attempt to try and summarize this book. 

The way that the story is told. The Dark Knight Returns is very political. The whole comic book is a dialogue of Batman's personality and influence in society. Psychologists, politicians, and reporters argue about his sanity and whether the real villain is actually him. We get to read this as a part of news reports. Even though this is a great trick for quick exposition, I find that in this comic it was overused. So much, in fact, that the dialogues feel awfully repetitive. I have been feeling that I am reading the same arguments again and again.

Batman. Yes, I've told it. This is the book that redefined him and I can't stand him! The first thing I have to say about him is that he is one-dimensional. There is not a single characteristic I could think to attach to this character. Throughout the comic, we are constantly reminded that Batman's parents were murdered and that's it. What I get is that he is someone who blindly enjoys violence. He has tried to stay away, but he couldn't keep it in any longer. And he even takes a teenage tomboy as Robin. He says that he only hunts down criminals, but he does nothing to stop the ex-mutants, now Batman fanatics. Some of his expressions reminded me of Rorschach from Watchmen, even though he is a much more complex character.

The art style. This is the first comic book that I couldn't read in one sitting, even if I wanted to! The ratio of text within the illustration was a bit much. Moreover, the smaller panels are a complete pain. There are some that I have to look for a long time until I understand what they are showing. With the being said though, I have to comment that some of the full-page illustrations are more than impressive and completely iconic. 

I think that all these things sum up my opinion on The Dark Knight Returns. I had high hopes that they were unfortunately never met. The page I include here (⬅️) is one of my favourites in the whole comic. Even on this page, you can see that the smaller panels aren't some of the greatest. 

I also enjoy that Batman says "I am born again" as it reminds me of another Frank Miller comic I have read and enjoyed very much, Daredevil: Born Again. It's very interesting if you take into consideration that both of these comics were published at the same time (February 1986), yet the result is so vastly different.  

However, 1986 is the year of publication of two other comic books that are both on my list for the best books ever written. First, we have the first issue of Maus. Then, we have Watchmen that was released just a few months after The Dark Knight Returns. 

In Watchmen you will find all the politics, dialogue, doubt, confusion, deconstruction, humanization of superheroes, flawed characters, in a much richer way than in this comic book. If you want to read something impactful, then you'd better read Watchmen. Unfortunately, time wasn't kind on The Dark Knight Returns. 

(Somehow, this review ended up being a continuation to my love letter to Watchmen).


July 12, 2020

Discussions: What's Your Favourite Love Poem?


Hello, everyone! How have you been? A took a small break from blogging since I was traveling back to my hometown for the summer. Nevertheless, I don't want to miss another discussion post. The truth is that the topic I have been preparing is completely different than this one. However, I have decided to push it until the following week (it's going to be a fun one, I promise).

My plans changed because today is the birthday of Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet. I have always possessed a soft spot for love poetry and Pablo Neruda's work is the most extraordinary example of the genre. I still remember the first time I read "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" back when I was still a university student. The experience was intense and even now, I can't really say that I have read finest love poems.

Therefore, today's discussion is going to be about our favourite love poems, in honour of the great Pablo Neruda.

Why do we need poetry to express love, anyway?


Poetry collections by Pablo Neruda
What is love? This is probably the world's oldest question with no definitive answer. You can take a look at the psychological effects, the chemical reactions in the brain, and you still have an unclear image of what it is all about. If you are interested in reading more about our body's reaction to love, you can read this easy-to-read scientific article. No matter the physical effects of this feeling, every person experiences love in a different way. On top of that, the expression of love also varies among people. 

This is where poetry becomes essential. Imagine this: your heart burns with love and you are alone in your room. You are too shy to communicate your feelings to your special someone, what can you do? You take a sheet of paper and a pen (yes, I believe that poetry should still be written by hand). You write a word and then another. Before you know it, you have filled the page with your feelings. Will you ever give this writing to the person that inspired you? Most probably not, even though it's the most romantic thing you can do. As the editor of this Observer's article writes: 

When you give someone a love poem, you are telling them, “I love you so much, I have placed myself in the company of generations of poets and wordsmiths. I have created words out of what I feel for you in my heart.”

But why poetry? The answer to why we need poetry has many answers. It is a well-known fact that poetry teaches us empathy and lets us get in touch with something inner deep in our hearts. When you are feeling troubled, you can find comfort in poetry. For many centuries, poets have been trying to express every feeling, both known and unknown to humans. By recognizing your thoughts in someone else's work, you realize that you are not alone (this is a great article on this). Love makes you feel detached from your everyday life, often leading to vast loneliness. Therefore, poetry is the perfect expression for this feeling. 


How many love poems are there in the world? The answer is probably some millions. So, the endeavour to pick just a handful of poems is daunting. This collection from the Poetry Foundation is great to get you started on love poems of many different types. However, in this post, I have chosen some of the love poems that are closer to my heart.

Pablo Neruda - Your Laughter


Take the bread from me, if you want
take the air from me, but
do not take from me your laughter

Do not take away the rose,
the lanceflower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in your joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

I had great difficulty choosing just one poem by Pablo Neruda. I have chosen "Your Laughter" because it is an excellent example of the poet's work and one of the best to get you interested in discovering more. If you know Spanish, then I recommend that you read it in its original language as well.

Odysseus Elytis - The Monogram


This is how I speak of you and me
Because I love you and in love I know
To enter like a Full Moon
From everywhere, for your small foot in the vast sheets
To pluck jasmine petals – and I have the power
As you are asleep, to blow to take you
Through glimmering passages and hidden archways of the sea
Hypnotized trees with spiders that shine silver.

Waves know you from hear-say
How you caress, how you kiss
How you say ‘what’ and ‘eh’ under your breath
All around the neck, the bay
It’s always us the light and the shade.

Always you the little star and always I the dark vessel
Always you the harbour and I the lantern on the right side
The moistened wharf and the shine on the oars
High at the house with the vine arbour
The tied roses, the water that cools
Always you the stone statue and always I the shade that grows

The ajar shutter you, the wind that opens it I.
Because I love you and I love you.
Always you the coin and always I the worship that cashes it:

So the night, so the bluster in the wind
So the drop in the air, so the silence
Around (is) the sea the despotic
Arch of the sky with stars
So your faintest breath

That I no more have anything else
Between the four walls, the ceiling, the floor
To call of you and be beaten by my own voice
To smell of you and cause people’s anger
Because whatever is untried and brought from elsewhere
People cannot bear and it is soon, can you hear me?
It is still soon in this world, my love,

To speak of you and me.

Being Greek, I grew up with a lot of Greek poets. Even though you might not know it, Greece had a generation of great poets. Odysseus Elytis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979 "for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness". His whole body of work is just like Greece, full of the sun, the sea, and intense feelings. The Monogram, in particular, is a devastating work. I have only included one part of it and you can read the whole poem here.

Federico Garcia Lorca - Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint


Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose of your breath
places on my cheek at night.

I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair.

If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master,

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

Federico Garcia Lorca's poetry mesmerizes me. This particular poem is about the fear you have that your love might end. It is a plead for love and affection that cannot leave your heart unmoved.

Leonard Cohen - A Thousand Kisses Deep


I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat.
I´m just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet,
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second-hand physique -
With all he is, and all he was
A thousand kisses deep.

I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, but I love Leonard Cohen. His music, his poetry, and even his fiction. His work merges love, life and death, and religion. A Thousand Kisses Deep is one of my most favourite poems written by him. I have only included a small part, but you can read the whole poem here.

Honourable Mentions


I could go on and on about love poems. However, the post has already gotten quite lengthy, so I'm just going to include some links to some other poems I really love:



These were some of my favourite love poems. What are your favourite ones?

July 11, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides


Hello, everyone! I might be a bit late again, but I don't want to miss the Friday bookish memes for this week, as well! What have you been doing?

Let's see what the bookish memes are all about: First, we have Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted by Rose City Reads. In this meme, we have to share the first sentence (or a bit more) from the book we are currently reading. The second meme is called Friday 56 and it is hosted by Freda's Voice. For this one, we have to share a small snippet from a book, taken from page 56 (or 56% on an e-reader).


This is a bit of a weird week! I'm waiting (anxiously) for David Mitchell's new novel on 14th and until then I didn't want to start reading a lengthy book. For this reason, I'm currently reading a Greek short story collection. However, it's in Greek and so I can't share it with you. Instead, today I'll feature a book from my TBR list. I've chosen The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. 

Book Beginnings

"JULY 14
I don’t know why I’m writing this.
That’s not true. Maybe I do know and just don’t want to admit it to myself"

Nice opening line! It seems like a diary entry and it captures your attention from the very first line.

Friday 56

“I heard about your plan to get Alicia painting,” he said between mouthfuls.
“I see news travels fast.”
“It does in this place. Your idea?”
I hesitated. “It was, yes. I think it’ll be good for her.”
Christian gave me a doubtful look. “Be careful, mate.”

This is from the 56% of the ebook. Once again, I have no idea what's going on but I find it very intriguing. 


Have you read The Silent Patient
What are some memorable quotes from the books you are currently reading? 

June 29, 2020

Discussion: What's your Favourite Reading Challenge?


Hello, everyone! It's the day of the week when we discuss various bookish topics (and I have to admit that I'm looking forward to writing these posts). This week, I would like to know which is your favourite reading challenge. As bookworms, challenges offer a great way to read both outside of our comfort zones and to read books from our TBR lists. Just a little research on social media and book blogs will bring you a huge number of challenges to choose from.

So, let's get down to it:

What's your favourite reading challenge?

...and how to craft one based on your reading style!


Before I begin, I need to mention that I am not the most active reading challenge reader. I mean, I read a lot but the books I choose are rarely based on a challenge. Maybe this post will help me discover a challenge that I will willingly participate in. Of course, there is The Reading Armchair's Reading Challenge, which is not the easiest one around. It challenges you to read books from different regions and read classics and award-winning books. It's needless to say that I haven't completed it yet, even though this is a promising year.

So, where is a good place to begin? 

The Simple Challenges


If you are like me, the simplest challenge you can take part in is the "read X books in a predetermined time". You all know the Goodread's challenge, where you basically set a number for the books you'd like to read within the year. However, instead of doing it for the whole year, you can also do it for each month. The challenge that I've been seeing a lot and I think that it would be fun to participate in is "a themed book each month". For this one, you know that you will read 12 books. You already know the theme of each month, so you can pick books that have already caught your eye.

Moreover, you can spice things up and create a reading challenge specifically for your reading habits. The challenge on this blog is a great example of this, as I have always been interested in diversifying my reading. An easy way to spice up your reading is to say that you will read "one book of X genre each month". This is not a big commitment and by the end of the year, you will have gone through a significant amount of books in a genre that is not normally your thing. I really liked Book Riot's "DIY Reading Challenges" ideas.

The Difficult Challenges


Apart from the above simple challenges, there are also those who ask you to go all out and actively read books to complete it. They are challenges that ask you to find books with specific colours on their covers and specific words on their titles. They are challenges that ask you to clean your TBR list and others encourage you to read diversely. The most obvious example of a difficult challenge is the "A-Z reading challenge". Some letters are easy to fill, while others are extremely difficult to find any titles. Another one that sounds great is the "TBR jar" (hey, that would be an ideal fit for the How to choose your next read discussion). 

The Fun Challenges


However, we are bookworms and we read for pleasure. So, why not pick a challenge that is also fun? For this category of challenges, I have two ideas: reading bingos and readathons.

A reading bingo is a very interesting concept. If you know of any active reading bingos, let me know in the comments as I think that I would love to try one. If you want a light challenge, you can go for just one line. However, if you want something more demanding, you can go for multiple ones. Here is an old one that Penguin did. I could easily see myself trying this one (I might have even made a bingo with the books that I've read so far).

A readathon is a more demanding challenge as you normally have a short amount of time that you dedicate to reading. They could range from 24 hours to a whole month, although these are the rarer cases. If you are in the hunt for upcoming readathons, I would recommend that you check the directory in Little Book Owl. As for myself, I have spotted readathons that got me thinking. The first one is the "Jane Austen July 2020" readathon, which is always great to have an excuse to read one of her books. The other one is Koreadathon and I'm tempted to join, even though I'm not sure how many books I can read in a week. 

Reading challenges are great and most of the time they are the incentives we need to read novels and genres outside of our comfort zones. For this reason, crafting or joining a reading challenge is a personal matter. It depends on your reading habits and on what you aim to achieve. If, for example, you find it stressful to meet the goals of a more demanding challenge, then you are not benefiting from it. Their ultimate goal is to enrich our reading lists and have us communicate with each other. 

This was it for today! What's your favourite reading challenge? Would you like to participate in a new one?

June 27, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley


Hello, everyone! How was your week? The truth is that I have only been thinking about vacations, even though I'm not sure when that will be. Anyway, today it's Friday and so we have our two bookish memes.

First, we have Book Beginnings on Fridays, hosted by Rose City Reads. In this meme, we have to share the first sentence (or a bit more) from the book we are currently reading. The second meme is called Friday 56 and it is hosted by Freda's Voice. For this one, we have to share a small snippet from a book, taken from page 56 (or 56% on an e-reader).


Today, I'm featuring Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which is a super-famous comic book from 1986. This is one of the comic books that I've been meaning to read for years as it's so influential. For both Book Beginnings and Friday 56 I will be focusing on the first issue of the series.


Book Beginnings


"I've got the home stretch all to myself when readings stop making sense, I switch to manual -- But the computer crosses its own circuits and refuses to let go. I coax it"

This graphic novel begins with a Bruce Wayne that has stopped being Batman for almost a decade. His urge to dress up again and fight crime hasn't gone and he's trying his best to substitute the thrill with other activities. The first panels, that these words come from, show us that Bruce Wayne is taking part in races.


Friday 56

"This should be agony. I should be a mass of aching muscle -- broken, spent, unable to move. And, were I an older man, I surely would... But I'm a man of thirty -- of twenty again. The rain on my chest is a baptism -- I'm born again..."   

In the 56% of the first issue, Batman is back! At this point, Bruce Wayne is supposed to be in his 50s, even though it hasn't been explicitly mentioned. However, when he moves as Batman again he feel younger again. The way he thinks reminds me a bit of Rorschach from Watchmen. Also, the last line "I'm born again" reminds me of another comic Daredevil: Born Again that was written by the same author in the same year as The Dark Knight Returns


What are some of your favourite comic books? 
What are some memorable quotes from the books you are currently reading?  

June 25, 2020

And Here Be Dragons! (Highfire by Eoin Colfer - Book Review)

Highfire - Eoin Colfer

Title: Highfire

Author: Eoin Colfer

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Date of Publication: January 28th 2020

Number of Pages: 377

See it on Goodreads: Highfire


Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However...he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.


Review - And Here Be Dragons!

Growing up, I was a big fan of Artemis Fowl. Even now, I still consider that this series one of the best fantasy series for kids, with great characters and humour. So, when I learnt about Highfire, I was eager to read it. I couldn't imagine how Eoin Colfer's writing style would fit into an adult novel about a vodka-drinking dragon. One of the things I was most curious about was the fact that there was a vodka-drinking dragon. I am used to having dragons in fantasy novels, but they never are the protagonists of the book, or at least treated in this way.

The summary of the book is quite extensive, so I don't need to get into details about the plot. Vern is the last dragon on Earth (or at least he thinks so) and he likes to spend his days watching cable and drinking vodka. His life in the swamp gets disrupted when Everett "Squib" Moreau learns of his existence. Vern decides to kill the teenager but he ends up employing him. The two of them get closer until their peaceful life in the swamp is threatened by Regence Hooke, a constable who has other plans.

Highfire is a book that contains a little bit of everything – action, fantasy, violence, folklore, history, gangsters, heart-warming moments, and even some romance. I somewhat enjoyed this mixture because there is always something happening. Of course, the fact that the main protagonist is a dragon plays a big role in enjoyment. The fight scenes are extravagant and worthy of a mythical creature. I mean, how can a scene about a dragon storming into a gangster hotel and burning everyone ever be boring? But somewhere along the story, the spark has gone.

Other than that, the main trope of the book is pretty over-used (see enemies to lovers, frenemies, etc.). I expected some kind of twist that would bring something new, but oh well... Vern and Squib are in similar but also vastly different situations. At first, they begin on the wrong foot. However, as they get to know each other, the prejudices disappear and they become close. By the end of the book, they no longer are a dragon and his familiar but a family.  

Friedrich Justin Bertuch, Bilderbuch für Kinder, 1790-1830 (Eigenbesitz), Fabelwesen.

Vern is by far the best character of Highfire. The chapters where we are reading Vern’s POV are the easiest to read and if I had a choice, I would want more of them. Vern believes that he is the last dragon, even though he is not sure about it. He prefers self-preservation, rather than risking getting spotted in his attempt to find the rest of his kin. In ancient times, he wasn’t the bulkiest or bravest of a dragon. Even so, this turned out to be an advantage of him as he manages to avoid the mob and survive for centuries. 

Throughout the book, we read about his hate for humans and what they did to his species. So, instead of having to deal with them, he prefers to stay in his cabin deep in the swamp, watch cable, and drink as much as he can. There is only one guy he trusts, Waxman, and he is not even entirely human (more on him later). Vern has a complexity that I really enjoyed even though I would like to get more backstory. At this point, we only learn about Vern’s past from what he reveals to Squib. A thing that struck me as odd is that the friendship between Vern and Squib came relatively easily. I mean, humans have killed every dragon, apart from Vern. Yes, he argues that this was long ago and he thinks about it from time to time, but I feel like it could play a bigger role. 

However, I would like to comment on a specific scene with Vern. When Waxman isn’t around anymore, Vern feels depressed. He is at a point where he feels that his life has no meaning. He is alone and once he is gone, his species will die with him. So, he decides to kill himself by taking a pill that Waxman has. Squib finds him and manages to save him and from this point on, they start bonding. I think that this is the best scene in the whole book. Vern shows a complexity that no other character possesses. At this moment, you can feel the loneliness of having to leave alone for so long, without being able to reveal himself. He not just a lazy dragon who enjoys his alcohol a little too much - something happened to him and he has fallen into this half-alive state.


Squib is a somewhat interesting character. I like that he is a Kajun and I find it interesting that his talking reminds me of New Orleans. Squib is a teenager who has grown up without a dad and has suffered from a horrible step-dad. He has a really soft spot for his mother and tries to stay out of trouble for her sake. However, he has the bad luck to witness something he shouldn’t, thus finding himself in a dangerous position. No, I’m not talking about Vern. The fateful night, he witnesses Regence Hooke murder someone in cold blood and gets spotted by a dragon. Well, he manages to get in good terms with the dragon but I can’t say the same about Hooke. 

I honestly don't have much more to say about Squib, as I found his character pretty standard. He is a good boy, even though he has to do some illegal things now and then. His friendship with Vern brings him a whole new world and the economic comfort to study and make his life easier. I feel like I should find him more compelling. Even so, I can't say nothing else rather than he's ok. 🤷‍♀️

Hooke is the villain of Highfire and he is the character that I couldn’t stand. He is so over the top that I can only characterize him as a cartoon villain. He is one of those ruthless guys with no conscience that will stop at nothing. Moreover, like all the super-villains, he won’t die even though a dragon is throwing fire on him. The only intriguing part about him is that he is the son of a clergyman. His father apparently was delusional and Hooke at some point killed him. A common theme is Hooke’s thinking is that maybe heaven rewards bad guys after all. But was this enough to make up for his unnatural evilness? Not really. 


Let’s return to the summary of the book to talk about my main issue with Highfire. As you can see, it is too wordy and the book is no different! I have to admit that it took me about two weeks to reach chapter 4 (which is just the 17% of the book) and once I got through this part I finished the book in 4-5 days. The reason why I struggled? We have too much backstory about Regence Hooke! In fact, I find that the whole book dedicates an almost illogical amount of pages on Hooke and his past. Almost half of the book is about the story's villain. If I’m going to read about someone’s past, let it be Vern’s. Hooke’s pattern of thought is very specific and I consistently found it very tiring to get through. Even towards the climax, I was almost inclined to skip the pages in Hooke’s POV. 

Another thing that disappointed me in this novel is that it has so many missed opportunities. Waxman is an excellent example. This character is supposed to be a mogwai, dragon and human. How cool would it be to have some dragon AND mogwai action? Waxman in this story is the one that brings Vern what he needs and we are told that they share a true friendship for about half a century. However, somewhere in the first one-third of the book, Waxman informs Vern that he has to be buried to replenish his energy. This is also the incident that pushes Vern to employ Squib. Until this point, everything is great. The next time we see Waxman again is when Hooke unearths him. At first, Waxman seems formidable but Hooke somehow bullies him and then kills him (???). That's a total waste of a character that was setup to become so much more. Anyway. 🤷‍♀️ 

The next missed opportunity is also related to Waxman. I’ve already mentioned the pill that can kill Vern. Waxman is supposed to have a bag with various trinkets that can deal with anything. Anything. If a writer mentions this bag multiple times, it’s only natural that I would expect it to be used, right? Turns out, I was wrong! In the final battle, Vern is injured and cannot produce fire. For this reason, I thought that he would use Waxman’s bag on Hooke. This would work perfectly as it would also serve as some kind of revenge for Waxman’s death. But no, Vern has a better idea – call the alligators to eat Hooke. The alligators that we had earlier seen try to provoke Vern about the territory. It's as if you have Chekov's gun in the story, but you never use it. 


As you may have guessed, I am disappointed in this book. It could be so much more, but it fails time and time again. In my opinion, this novel needs serious re-working with an editor. They need to find a good balance on the POV distribution and the enrichment of the character. I really enjoy it when the characters turn to have more facets, just like Vern. As it turns out, Vern is only the exception. Now that it has been a few days since I’ve finished it, I can only recall how overwhelming Hooke’s presence is.

I wouldn’t call Highfire a masterpiece. There are a few good and fun parts. Apart from these though, there are bad parts that at some point had me wanting to quit reading.