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.

June 21, 2020

Discussion: Favourite Father Figures in Books (Happy Father's Day)


Hello, everyone! Happy father's day 💖

As today is a special day, I have decided to push my discussions schedule back to write about fatherhood. As a daddy's girl, I have to admit that I have a soft spot for my dad. There are certain fatherly figures in literature that you will find in any list about this topic. However, I thought that I would shake things up and create a list that features only non-biological fathers. There is no need for another list that states that Atticus Finch is the best literary father - you already know that!

All these non-biological fathers are a proof that blood-relationships are not essential for the development of a strong bond. In fact, some of them go to great lengths to protect their children and provide for them. A nice father-kid relationship is heart-warming in any book. The following fathers have moved me with their tenderness and devotion.

And with this introduction, let's move on to the list!


1. Jean Valjean


I have a very special relationship with Les Misérables. If I had to pick one book that I have associated with my childhood and my dad, this would be it. You see, my dad has a fascination with this novel, and when I was a kid he used to read it to me. At some time, I was even able to recite parts from the book. 

So, when I decided to compile a list of non-biological father figures, Jean Valjean was the first and most obvious choice for me. Jean Valjean is a troubled character, who goes through a living hell. However, he is a man of conscience and always try to do justice. When he was hiding under the name of Madeleine, he gets acquainted with Fantine and even stands up for her when she gets arrested. When Fantine, ultimately gets sick, he promises to her that he will take care of her eight-year-old daughter, Cosette.

Jean Valjean is an overprotective father to Cosette and comes to love her dearly. When he learns about Marius, he gets furious and tries to stop her. However, he understands her feelings and he goes as far as to risk his life to save him. 

2. Will Freeman


This unlikely father figure comes from the novel About a Boy by Nick Hornby. Will Freeman is not what a father is supposed to be like: he is a bachelor, he has no need or will to work, he cares about pop culture, and he is often after women. One of Will's schemes to meet women is to attend a single parents' meet-up, for which he invents a two-year-old son. In this meet-up, he gets acquainted with Fiona, the mother of the twelve-year-old Marcus. 

Marcus is a socially awkward boy and Will teaches him how to be trendy. The two of them form a bond that is both heart-warming and hilarious.

3. Sirius Black


The godfather of Harry Potter becomes a fatherly figure for the young wizard. Mind you, the relationship isn't always easy. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Hermione, and Ron confront Sirius and even try to kill him. However, by the end of the book, Harry and Sirius get closer, with Sirius even asking the young wizard to move in with him.However, later in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sirius is killed by Bellatrix Lestrange. Nevertheless, he leaves Harry as his heir.

I know that Harry Potter has been a hot topic lately, for all the wrong reasons. Due to this fact, I need to state that I'm separating the work from the author. Under no circumstance, I agree with J.K. Rowlings' statements. I understand all those who cannot see the Harry Potter series under the same light. In fact, I am also reluctant to revisit it, at least any time soon.

4. Abel Magwitch


This character from Great Expectations is more of a benefactor, rather than a fatherly figure. Pip meets Abel when he is just a boy. Abel is a convict and tricks Pip into bringing him the tools he needs to escape, as well as some food. When he escapes, he flees to Australia where he becomes rich. Even though he is far from England, he hasn't forgotten about Pip and provides everything he need to become a gentleman. When Pip later discovers his secret benefactor, he gets disappointed. Nevertheless, Pip warms up to Abel when he learns more about his story. On his deathbed, Pip tells Abel that his daughter, Estella, is alive and that he has feelings for her. Abel dies at this moment with Pip holding his hand. 

5. Hans Hubbermann


If you are looking for a heart-warming and moving father-daughter relationship, you don't have to go any further than The Book Thief. Liesel's foster father supports her and tries to help her in any way he can. He brings her books and they both struggle together with reading and writing. He is a kind and loving father and one of my favourite in literature.

Honorable Mention: Ned Stark


This is more speculation than anything else as in the books we have yet to learn whether Jon Snow is Ned's son or not. If Jon's origins are the same, Ned Stark deserves a spot on this list for carrying this secret for so many years. Since the show has revealed this information, I think that we are one step closer into getting this theory confirmed for the books. 


This was my list! Who is your favourite father figure in literature?

June 19, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Love, Rosie, by Cecelia Ahern


Hello, everyone! How was your week? I'm finally beginning to understand that it's summer and I can't wait for the time when I can go to the beach. Anyway, last Sunday, I did a little experiment on myself. To be more precise on my TBR list. I wrote a discussion article on how to declutter your TBR list and I had to try it out. The results were impressive, and it was also a great chance to discover books that I've been meaning to read. So, on today's bookish memes, we are going to take a look at one book I found deep on my TBR list. 

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).


So, this week we're looking at some snippets from Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern. According to Goodreads, I placed this book on my TBR list in 2015 and 5 years later, I've yet to read it. But I have a confession to make: I have watched the movie adaptation. I don't really mind spoilers, so it's not going to be a problem for me. Anyway, now that I'm reminded of it, maybe it's time to finally read it. 

Book Beginnings


"To Alex
You are invited to my 7th birthday party on Tuesday the 8th of April in my house"

This novel is supposed to be epistolary, so the story is told in notes, letters, texts, and emails. I'm curious to find out how this form of narrative will work in a modern setting. However, it sounds interesting. From the beginning, we learn that the protagonists are childhood friends, so it's definitely going to be a friends to lovers trope.

Friday 56


"Divorced_1: ...Does your kid look like your ex?
Buttercup: Well thankfully she's not his so, no, she doesn't.
LonelyLady: My goodness, did he know?
Buttercup: Of course he did, I had my daughter years before I met him.
Wildflower: Oh well that's a shame, thought we were onto something good there."

Ok, I'm lost! I arrived at 56% on my Kindle. It seems like I am in the middle of a chat room conversation. I don't know who is who, but my guess is that Buttercup is Rosie. Anyway, the snippet promises a lot of drama, which is always good in a read!


Have you read Love, Rosie? What are some favourite quotes from the books you've been reading?

June 17, 2020

VIXX: The Book Concept Kings (KpopXBooks #4)


Hello, everyone! We are back with another instalment of KpopXBooks. As a Kpop fan, I'm more than thrilled every week that I decide to add a new instalment to this series. The research is always interesting and I always discover some songs that I really like.

The KpopXBooks series consists of posts that are dedicated to Kpop music videos and songs that have some sort of bookish concept. The first instalment of the series was Book Recommendations from Kpop MVs, while the next ones featured specific artists. We have seen The Fairy Tales of IU and The Bookish Concepts of SHINee.

This week, we are continuing our single artist/group focus and we will discuss a group with undoubtedly some of the most impressive concepts. We are talking about VIXX, a group that is often characterized as The Concept Kings. VIXX debuted in 2012 and they made a name for themselves when they adopted some darker concepts. Some of the MVs we are going to discuss today have a similar vibe.

So, with further ado, let's begin!

Shangri-La



I begin this list with probably my favourite song and music video of VIXX. I actually had a really hard time picking out a screenshot, since every frame is so beautiful.

Shangri-La is a fictional place that appears in the novel Lost Horizon, by James Hilton. The author has revealed that for the creation of this place, he used Tibetan material that he found in the British Museum. In the book, Shangri-La is described as a utopia. It is an enclosed place in the Himalaya, where there is a lamasery. The people there live for hundreds of years and they don't seem to age that much. In recent years, Shangri-La is used as a synonym to a hidden paradise, where people live an enlightened and happy life. 

However, even before Lost Horizon, there has been a reference to such a place. The first one comes from the fable The Peach Blossom Spring by Tao Yuanming. According to this story, a fisherman stumbles upon a grove filled with peach trees in full bloom. There, people live happily, away from the troubles of the world. When the fisherman returns to his home, he reveals this place to the others, but no-one is able to ever find it again. Even though there is not a connection between the story of this tale and that of the music video, we clearly can see a silver peach. Moreover, we get the lyrics "Even peaches/ Under the fluttering petals".

Furthermore, there is Shambhala, which according to Tibetan Buddhism, is a realm of harmony between man and nature. There is a high chance that Hilton was influenced by Shambhala since the location for Shangri-La can be found in the Shambhala Sutra.


Scentist



So, I've spent a really long time thinking that this song was titled Scientist, which isn't. Its title is SCENTIST and it makes total sense when you learn that it's based on a book. Of course, I'm talking about The Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. As you can clearly see in the image, the members of the group are making perfumes. The lyrics of the song (as expected) talk about scents, flowers, losing control, and madness taking over.

I have to admit that I was impressed that they chose a book like this one as their concept. It is an excellent book that I would recommend you, but it's not one that I would ever think of becoming a song/music video!


Hyde



This is probably the most VIXX song on the list! It's one of the dark concepts that we've got to love them. As the title suggests, the inspiration for this song is the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact, the whole album is titled Hyde. Both in the music video and the lyrics, we see the members of the group be torn between their two shelves. They realize that inside them lives a mad person and we see them try to hurt the woman they love. However, they snap out of it and try to apologize. The lyrics also leave no room for doubt:

Don’t leave me, please... (No, leave me alone!)
‘Cause I love you, dear... (No, I hate you one!)
I am both Jekyll and Hyde, don't run away from me.
I’m not so bad. I love you…
Don’t do such frightened eyes.
Please, believe me – there is a different person that is not me inside of me,
There is a different me that is not me inside of me.
Just can’t control


Dynamite



Dynamite is a part of a series of songs that are inspired by ancient Greek gods. As a Greek, I was very happy when I discovered them. The first song of the series is Dynamite, the song inspired by the daemon of jealousy and rivalry, Zelus or Zelos.

Fun fact: the word "zeal" originates from the name of this deamon.

The only imagery that I've found on the MV that can be interpreted as jealousy is the one you can see on this image. The mannequins that encircle the woman are the competition for her heart. The lyrics of the song, on the other hand, state clearly that this is a song about jealousy.

All mine, her mind
Maybe I’m jealous
what are you looking at? let me go! don't tell me to relax
what's the use of it?
it's already obvious, I see the end




Fantasy



Fantasy is the next song in the ancient Greek Gods series. This song is inspired by Hades, the god of the underworld. As it's expected, this is a song where the members of VIXX lament a lost love. The lyrics don't have a clear reference to Hades, but the music video does. From the above picture, you see that they are in a boat. According to the ancient Greek myth, when people died has to cross the river Acheron on a boat to reach the realm of the underworld. However, this is not the only river that the underworld has. In fact, there are 5 of them:
  1. Acheron - the river of sorrow and woe
  2. Cocytus - the river of lamentation
  3. Phlegethon - the river of fire
  4. Lethe - the river of oblivion
  5. Styx - the river of hate
Even though there is no indication that they used this myth, the fact that they are running in misty woods and the lyric "Exhausted, I’ve lost my way", remind me of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

According to this myth, Orpheus and Eurydice are happily married. One day, Eurydice is dancing in the woods with the nymphs, when she is bitten by a snake and dies on the spot. Orpheus immediately decides to go to the underworld and bring Eurydice back. He plays his lyre and attracts Hades. The god tells Orpheus that Eurydice will return to the overworld with him on one condition: Orpheus should not look at her before they reach the light. If he does he will lose her forever. Everything goes smoothly, but a few steps away from the exit. Orpheus turns to look at Eurydice and she immediately returns back to Hades. Orpheus tried to return to the underworld, but no human can enter the realm twice while alive. 


The Closer



VIXX's ancient Greek gods series closes with the song The Closer. This song is inspired by Kratos, the daemon of strength, might, sovereign, rule, and authority. Kratos is, in fact, the brother of Zelos. The video doesn't have clear imagery that connects it to this daemon, even though we could say that the members of VIXX are dressed in some kind of military outfits. The lyrics of the song describe the feeling of possessive that comes with wanting someone.

The thing about love, I’ll close your doubt
The thing about love, I’ll give you something you’ve never experienced
When the storming night is gone
It will be disappeared with me
Let me control you

Fun fact: In modern Greek, this word means nation. 


Beautiful Liar



Beautiful Liar is a song by the sub-unit VIXX LR, taken from the album Hyde. Like the title song, it is inspired by Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. For this song, Leo and Ravi play the two facets of a personality. This is another sad song, where the lyrics are about a guy hiding himself. By this, he is trying to protect his lover. 


Jekyll



Jekyll is the title of the repackaged version of the Hyde album. For this album, VIXX has added the intro song Jekyll. In the lyrics, they repeat again and again "I'm still here forgive me", which is fitting with the character of Doctor Jekyll.

This was it for today! Which bookish concept was your favourite?
Which is your favourite VIXX song?
Stay tuned for more KpopXBook lists!

June 14, 2020

Discussion: How to Declutter your TBR list 📚


Hello, everyone! We are back once again with a new discussion topic. Up until now, I've focused more on topics that had to do with our favourite genres and the diversification of our reading. In the last discussion post, I shifted to a more practical matter, that of choosing our next reads. Today, I'll continue with another everyday problem that all the bookworms face: the never-ending TBR list. You know exactly what I'm talking about!

The issue of getting books, only to have them on the shelf without reading them, has been around for (probably) as long as there are bookworms. However, the digital format and all the recommendation websites have contributed to this in a whole new level. You see, adding a book to your Goodreads TBR list, doesn't mean that you spend any money on it and it doesn't occupy any physical space. The same happens with those e-books that you found on Amazon for free and are now sitting on your Kindle for years. So, it is finally the time to face the issue!

How to Declutter your TBR List


For the sake of this post, I will take my Goodreads TBR list as an example. Right now, this list contains 322 books, which is (let's face it) a reasonable number. However, the first books I've added to this list date back in 2011 when I registered to Goodreads. As you may realize, there are so many books on this list that I wanted to read for some reason but never got to it. In this picture, you see 7 books from my TBR list that I'm probably going to remove. Taking a look at all 322 books, I've determined some criteria to help me decrease the number of my TBR list. Let's see how it will work for me so that you can apply it as well. 

So, let's see the criteria that we'll be working with. I have to remove from my TBR list all:
  • Classics that I've added to my list because I had to read them, they are among the celebrated books in the world. Yet, I never seem to be in a mood to actually read them. A Little Princes is an example of a book from my Goodreads list. Another example of mine is Little Dorrit that I actually own a physical copy of.
  • #2, #3, #....... books in a series. Of course, this depends on book #1. If I can't even remember the plot of the first book, then there is no point in keeping all the sequels on my TBR list.
  • Books that were adapted to movies, or books that came after the movie. Yes, I've enjoyed the movie but will I ever read the book? I highly doubt this, since it never is one of my priorities. I don't care about knowing the story from the movie, spoilers never destroy the enjoyment I get from a good story. However, when picking my next read it will never pop up in my head. 🤷‍♀️
  • Non-fiction books that would be cool to read but never actually will. To these books defense, I have to mention the case of non-fiction science books that I've recently built a passion for. A brief history of time was sitting on my TBR list for years and eventually, I did read it (and loved it). Nevertheless, this is the exception. Just like the classics, I never seem to be in the mood for any of the non-fiction books in the picture. And all of you that follow this blog, you know my love for Jane Austen!
  • Books that I've added back in 2013, 2014, 2015,...., because they were extremely popular at the time. A general rule is that if you haven't read it by the time that it's hype has faded, there is a high chance that you never will. I'm sorry to say this, but they have to go.
  • Books I've outgrown. No, I don't mean to remove any children's book if you're an adult. You can always read and appreciate a children's book, no matter your age! I'm talking about books in specific genres that you liked for a period but have since moved on. For example, there was a time when I was reading a lot of historical romance, like Amanda Grange (I still love her books though) and Lisa Kleypas. But, some years ago I worked for a pen name business that released books in the genre and I have to do plot writing, beta reading, editing, blurb writing, and all that stuff. I guess I was so fed up that now I'm very reluctant to pick a book of this particular genre. If you want to learn more about my experience in this job, let me know in the comments and I can write a post on it.
These rules seem more than enough to me. Let's take a moment to declutter the TBR and I'll be back with the final number.


Ok, I'm done! After this process, my TBR counts just 96 books. In all honesty, it feels like I'm starting afresh! I only hope that I won't end up filling it up again...

How to Declutter your Physical Books


Well, Goodreads decluttering was relatively easy - all I had to do was click an X button. Bus what about all the books on my shelves that remain unread for years? Well, the process is exactly the same. You can use the same criteria as for the online decluttering. The big difference is that now you will end up with a bunch of books that you don't want, and take up much space. In this case, you need to figure out where you want to donate or exchange them. They will certainly bring joy to someone else!

Extra tips


In my case, I tried to be relentless. For some books on my TBR list, I still had second thoughts. But I know that some of them are in my Kindle for years! Why wouldn't I read them? For these books (because I'm sure you'll have some too) try to be firm in your decision. And if you ever read it, you can add it straight to your currently reading list.

The next thing, I would recommend is to make a habit of decluttering your TBR list once a year. At this moment, I might have a list of 96 books but this number can easily increase, especially since most of my currently reading books don't come from my TBR list. And if it's only a year, the process will be much, much quicker.

This was it for the day! Have you decluttered your TBR list? What criteria will you use to help you remove books from your list?


June 13, 2020

Book Beginnings / Friday 56 - Slade House by David Mitchell


Hello, everyone! How have you been? I'm busy as ever, but there was no chance I would miss another week of blogging. The previous week, I didn't have the chance to post anything. This one, at least I managed to post another KpopXBooks instalment, this time about the music of SHINee. But with work and the finals for the journalism seminar I was attending I thought I'd lose the Friday memes. Even though I'm a little late, I decided to do them even on a Saturday.

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 week, I'm featuring a book by my favourite author, David Mitchell. I've just realized that the release of his upcoming novel is just one month away and I can hardly wait! For the bookish memes, I've chosen Slade House, which is a short horror novel that consists of five interconnected "short stories". You can read in more detail about it on my review


Book Beginnings


"Whatever Mum's saying's drowned out by the grimy roar if the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds. The sign shows three beagles cornering a fox. They're about to pounce and rip it apart."

Although I've read this book more than once, I've never realized how grim the imagery at the very beginning really is. Now that I've read it, without continuing to the rest of the page, I believe that it unconsciously sets the right tone for a horror(ish) novel. Of course, we don't learn anything about Nathan and his mother.

Friday 56


"Who gives a shit honestly? I turn off the radio, get out and lock my car. Same space as seven days ago, smack bang outside The Fox and Hounds. What a god-awful day."

So, this snippet from page 56 is from the second short story that takes place 9 years after the first story. The protagonist is different and you can easily understand that by the writing style. Let me fangirl a little and just admire the versatility of David Mitchell's writing. He's done it many times before, but it never ceases to amaze me. This inspector arrives at the same pub, since it is close to the Slade House.


Have you read Slade House? What are some favourite quotes from the books you've been reading?

June 9, 2020

The Bookish Concepts of SHINee (KpopXBooks #3)


Hello, everyone! This is another instalment of the KpopXBooks series and... SHINee's Back (Shawols out there are going to love this 💖💎).

The KpopXBooks series consists of posts that are dedicated to Kpop music videos and songs that have some sort of bookish concept. So far, we've seen Book Recommendations from Kpop MVs, as well as a closer look at The Fairy Tales of IU. 

Today, I am more than happy as we are exploring the music of SHINee! They recently had their 12th anniversary as a group and as a fan, it was very emotional. SHINee is a group with unique sounds and concepts. With every comeback, they bring something new to Kpop. A few years ago, they went through a tragedy with the passing of their leader, Jonghyun. The rest of the group managed to stay strong and keep it together.

In this blog post, we are going to explore the MVs of SHINee that have a bookish concept. Moreover, I went through all of their back catalog and spotted a couple of songs that have been definitely inspired by books.

So, with further ado, let's begin!

Dream Girl



A bookish concept that is very common in Kpop music videos is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (one of the future instalments of this series is going to be about that). So, I wasn't surprised to find that Dream Girl had elements that indicated that this book inspired the MV. 

No, the members of SHINee aren't dressed as Mad Hatters and Red Queens. This MV focuses more on the scene where Alice becomes small and large and small again. In Dream Girl, this scene is reflected in dimension-bending sets and shots that make one member seem larger than the other. It's fun and rather whimsical! I wouldn't expect anything else!


Why So Serious?



Ok, I will admit it - including Why So Serious? in this list was rather a stress. However, I do believe that there must be a connection to Joker, the Batman villain. The music video's story is about a zombie who falls in love with a human. Maybe it has a Warm Bodies influence? 

Anyway, Why so serious is a super famous quote from the movie The Dark Knight. Even though Joker clearly says it there, I couldn't find any reference to any comic book. The closest lines come from The Killing Joke, where Joker says "Why don't you laugh" and "Why can't you see the funny side"

Another thing the makes me believe that there is a connection between this MV and Joker is the subtitle of this album, which is The Misconception of Me. I find that this subtitle is perfect for Joker.

Plus, there is a reference of Romeo and Juliet in the lyrics.


Sherlock (Clue + Note)



The title of this song is pretty explanatory - it is based on Sherlock Holmes. In the music video, the members are in the hunt of an elusive woman. Furthermore, all the video is sprinkled with Sherlock references. A great example is the above picture, where we can see the violin and even Toby. The lyrics of the song don't refer to Sherlock directly, even though they mention investigations, suspects, etc.

Fun fact: Sherlock is one of the most expensive MVs ever made.


Good Evening



The MV for Good Evening, as well as the following song, are both based on The Little Prince. The members of SHINee decided to do that to honor Jonghyun since this was his favourite book. Good Evening is a chill song. In the MV, we get the scene shown above where Onew has a moment with this fox. Of course, the fox is an important character in The Little Prince.


I Want You



I Want You comes from the second part of a trilogy of albums that SHINee released, after Good Evening. For this music video, they got inspired by The Little Prince. At the very beginning of the video, we see the fox once again, but this time all the members are chasing it in the woods. This video also features the interplanetary travel that we all know that The Little Prince did.  


Romeo + Juliette



It comes as no surprise that there is a song titled Romeo + Juliette. This is probably the most famous tragic love story. Therefore, if you want to make a sad love song, then this is the concept to try. As expected, the lyrics are super sad, filled with regret and lingering feelings. 

Juliette



Juliette is included in the same mini album as Romeo + Juliette. The album itself is titled Romeo. Even though the latter is a sad love song, Juliette is upbeat and it expresses the feelings of love and admiration. In this song, we get some direct references to Romeo and Juliet. In more detail, the first verse is the following:

Song for my Juliette!
The moonlight, as if it’ll spill, is definitely dark
Including the almost exploding torchlight
I need to learn how to shine like she does
If I look at her, I’ll be blinded

Quasimodo



It is so rare to get a pop song that is inspired so openly by The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo. Quasimodo is, of course, named after the well-known character from this novel. Like the character, the lyrics of this song are about a man who is passionately in love, even though he cannot express his feelings. It's a beautiful song from the Lucifer album. 

Shine (Medusa I)



Shine (Medusa I) comes from the Why So Serious? - The Misconception of Me album. It is an album that deals with darker themes, compared to other albums. The lyrics of Shine (Medusa I) talk about someone who is in the dark and finds someone that shines for him. The reason why I have included this song on the list is because of the ancient Greek myth of Medusa. However, there is not a clear connection between the myth and the lyrics. I can only say that Medusa is herself a character that stays away from the light.

Dangerous (Medusa II)



Dangerous (Medusa II) is from the same album as the previous song. However, in this song I have found lyrics that refer clearly to the myth of Medusa. According to the myth, everyone who saw the face of Medusa turned into stone - so danger, danger, danger. The lyrics are the following:

They say the moment our eyes meet is the end,
To them you’re nothing but
Trouble, the rumors are double, they’re running wild
Danger, danger, danger
You’re someone that can’t be approached 


This was it for today! Which bookish concept was your favourite?
Which is your favourite SHINee song?
Stay tuned for more KpopXBook lists!