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.


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


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?