Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Penny's Music Recommendations: September 2015

Hello all! Despite my exhaustion and desperate wish that the work week be over already, I'm carving out some late night time to bring you another month of fantastic music recommendations. As always these are the songs that I've been listening to on repeat for the past month and I've loved them enough to want to recommend them to you. These songs are in no particular order and I hope you'll give all of them a listen!
  • Come Together by Echosmith

This wouldn't be a Penny's Music Recommendation without starting out with something from the indie pop genre, so here it is. Before discovering Come Together, I only knew Echosmith as that obnoxious band that sang the Cool Kids song that I hate with a fiery passion. It's all over the radio and I just can't stand it. Imagine my surprise when I came across this amazing song and discovered it was by the same band. Sometimes first impressions are indeed deceiving. Come Together is this infectious and peppy song with just the right amount of rock edge to keep it from being bubblegum pop. I also completely love this song for its music video. For all those that didn't immediately notice, it is inspired by the 80s movie The Breakfast Club, which happens to be one of my all time favorite movies (she says while wearing a t-shirt with The Breakfast Club characters on it).  Now I just might have to look into the rest of the band's music to see if they've released anything else I might like.
  • West End Kids (Piano Version) by New Politics

A couple of music recommendation posts back, I included the original version of West End Kids by New Politics because it was this awesome upbeat rock/pop song that gets stuck in your head really quickly. Not to mention it is the best song from their kind of lackluster new album. When I saw the piano version of this song I was more than skeptical. The lyrics and styling of the song didn't seem like they would translate well to a more stripped down, soulful interpretation and boy was I wrong. You know what makes this song work? Listen, I'll wait. Yep, that gravelly soulful voice belongs to Soren and he's the reason this song works so well. Honestly, I could listen to him sing solo all day long and that's why this song made the music recommendation list this month.
  • Back To Earth by Steve Aoki ft. Fall Out Boy

You had to know that I wouldn't let a new song that includes Fall Out Boy to go unnoticed, right?! I'm going to put a disclaimer out right now. If you are one of those people that can only appreciate songs that demonstrate Fall Out Boy's more punk rock roots, this is not the song for you. Just put on a song from Take This To Your Grave and live in musical ignorance. If you've been open to the musical metamorphosis that the band is constantly going through, then have I got an awesome song for you. Take the incredible Soul Punk vocals from Patrick Stump's solo album and then smash it together with an EDM synth sound and you've got Back To Earth. It's catchy and something you are going to want to get up and dance to.  
  • Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots

In my July music recommendations post I included Tear in My Heart from Twenty One Pilots and I offhandedly mentioned that I might need to take an afternoon to explore some of their songs and I actually did just that. As a general rule, I'm more drawn to songs that have a indie rock/pop feel to them, so when I was listening to the rest of Twenty One Pilots' songs with the style of Tear in My Heart in mind, I was completely confused and kind of let down. I didn't know at the time that Twenty One Pilots is famous for blending genres in a style that is often labelled as Schizophrenic pop. 

So when I heard songs that blended rock, pop, and rap (a style of music I never listen to btw), I wasn't a fan. I resigned myself to just liking two songs from this band. Then I found myself absentmindedly singing Stressed Out, so I went back and gave their songs another listen. Little by little I grew to like more of their songs. Normally I have to let a song grow on me, not a whole band, but it did and now I can't get enough of them. Stressed Out is one of those songs that combines rap and a more laid back indie sound with lyrics that I connect to on an insane level. I'm in that awkward stage in life where I'm technically an adult, but I sure don't feel like it. With college out of the way, people expect me to find a nice paying job with my degree and start making money. This song basically expresses how it feels to want to go back to the simplicity of childhood while facing all of these new pressures and responsibilities. Just trust me on this song for once and give it a listen. In fact listen to it a couple of times and let all of the complexities of it sink in. You won't be sorry. 
  • Car Radio by Twenty One Pilots

Of course I couldn't limit myself to one Twenty One Pilots song when I spent all that time listening to their discography. Car Radio is probably the one Twenty One Pilots song that most people recognize, particularly since it was featured on the Fine Bros. React channel on YouTube. This song combines rock, rap, and synth pop sounds into a shockingly addictive mixture. I don't know how it works, but it does. Again this song is easy for me to connect to lyrically speaking, since I know what it's like to not want to be stuck with your own thoughts sometimes. I'd imagine it'd be even worse driving around in a car with nothing to distract you. Sometimes people think of music as entertainment, but often it can be an escape from the world around you.
  • Clearest Blue by Chvrches

All I can say is that Chvrches' new album needs to come out soon because I don't know how much longer I can wait for the awesomeness. Clearest Blue is the latest song to be released to the public and of course I've been listening to it on repeat ever since its release. It's the same electric/synth pop you'd expect from the band, but this has to be one of few songs that you actually feel like getting up and dancing too. The beginning starts out a little quiet and then gets so infectious and peppy about halfway through the song. If you need a music pick-me-up, than this is the perfect choice. 
  • Electric Love by BORNS
Electric Love almost didn't make it on this list because I discovered its awesomeness at the last second. When I was in the process of putting the music recommendation list together for this month, it was looking kind of lackluster. I didn't want to give all of you a pitiful list, so I went on a musical exploration and this is one of the songs that came out of it. I was just listening to Pandora in the background while doing other work on the computer and this song came on. It immediately sounded familiar and I'm pretty sure it was featured on a commercial recently, but for the life of me I don't know what for. Regardless I liked it enough to feature it here and of course listen to on repeat this past weekend. Electric Love has this great laid back indie pop vibe that I just love and it's one of those songs that you have to consciously prevent yourself from belting out loud.   

Not a bad group of songs if I do say so myself. Then again I like all of the songs I recommend, so there you go. I hope you found a new favorite song or an artist that you might want to explore in the future. If there is a song you've been obsessed with, feel free to share it in the comments below. As much as I love to give out music recommendations, I don't mind receiving them either!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Used Book Haul - September 2015

Hello again readers! I didn't realize quite how long it'd been since I did a book haul post, let alone a used book haul post. I figured it was about time I shared all of the awesome used books I bought today. A couple of times on this blog, I've mentioned that I like to frequent used bookstores and salvation armies in order to find cheap used books. Today I got to visit my other favorite place to find used books: the Book Barn.

Where I live the local library has a couple of large sheds behind the building where they sell books that people have donated or library books that have been taken out of circulation to make room for new books. Every book is sold at an incredibly cheap price and all of the proceeds are donated back to the library, so I always feel great whenever I buy books from there. The only problem is that the Book Barn is only open during sunny summer days and their hours are never consistent, so when I see that it's open I drop everything to go. Today was no exception. Usually after my long 40 hour work week, I sleep for about 12 hours. No joke. When I found out the Book Barn was open, I got out of my sleep coma early and rushed around to get ready to go. Luckily this haul justifies the sleep loss. Here are all of the used books that I managed to snag.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a book that I have seen everywhere and for whatever reason I decided not to pick it up until now. This book tells the true and investigative story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells have played a huge role in the medical field, unbeknownst to her entire family. It sounds like this is going to be a really engaging book and I might learn something in the process. 

Before you freak out thinking that I haven't read The Hunger Games trilogy, rest assured that I have in fact read them. I read all of them right when they got released before the movies made them really popular. The reason the first two books are in this haul is that I read the trilogy from my local library and never got around to buying them for my own personal library. When I saw The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I knew I had to have them. Now all I need is the final book to complete the trilogy.

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot is another book that I read before, but never owned until now. As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Meg Cabot and I remember reading this book in my early years of high school. For some reason I couldn't remember what this book was about, so I'm thinking that I might have to spend a couple of hours re-reading it. The synopsis mentions that it's about a girl who is her school newspaper's advice columnist and she has to keep the identity of a Hollywood star secret while he researches a role. It sounds like it's a nice, fluffy afternoon read.

In addition to my intense love of books, I'm also a huge classic movie lover. One of my favorite movies of all time is Gigi, staring Leslie Caron and it's about a french girl who is being raised to become a courtesan. Her training is complicated by the fact that her rich best friend starts to develop romantic feelings for her. For the longest time I've wanted to read to text the movie was based off of and I finally came across it in a bind up of some of Colette's other stories. The dust jacket is a little beat up, but I don't mind. 

Ever since reading and loving The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, I've been buying all of her books that I come across. Lady Oracle seems to be about a writer's life story. The synopsis is a little brief, so it's hard to really describe what this book is about before I've actually read it.

The Book Barn has a really great classic book section and I found this beautiful edition of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. This book has been on my to be read list ever since I saw recent movie musical adaption.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is one of those books that I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read as someone with a degree in English Literature. This text is referenced by other works of literature pretty frequently and now that I have the time to read what I want, I'd like to tackle this. Of course the highly stylized edition helps too.

My love for the Bronte sisters is no secret to anyone who reads this blog or knows me personally. While I've read and already own everything that Charlotte, Anne, and Emily have written, I couldn't resist this beautiful edition of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. While I have the sneaking suspicion this may have had a dust jacket at some point, this is a 1940s edition of the book with amazing illustrations peppered throughout the text. There was no way I was going to leave without adding this to my collection.

Here are all of the used books that I bought today and I'm pretty proud of my haul. Some of these books will make nice contributions to my book collection, while the remaining ones will be added to the TBR pile and will hopefully be featured again in one of my monthly TBR posts. If you liked any of these books or got found something fantastic in one of your own hauls, feel free to share it in the comments below.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

September 2015 TBR

Welcome back dear readers! Even though I've already fully embraced the reading potential of September by finishing a few books this labor day weekend, I'm ready to share with you the list of books I hope to read during the month of September. I think I'm going to call this TBR "Penny finally reads all of the books people are obsessing over right now...plus a random classic book." Not really a title, but you get the intention. For this month I decided to raid my TBR pile and finally read all of the books that people are talking about on YouTube and Goodreads. This could either go really well or rather badly considering my track record with overhyped books. Wondering what books I'm talking about? Well here they are!

  • The Winner's Curse by Maria Rutkoski

 I remember some of my favorite booktubers talking about this book awhile ago and I was reminded of it when I finished These Broken Stars and saw this was listed as a recommended book you should read next. I don't know much about this book other than the fact that it is another dystopian ya romance. I guess it also has some sci-fi elements and centers around a main character that has to deal with the repercussions of buying a slave. Oh boy. I'm not completely confident about this book, but I'm certainly willing to give it a try.

  • Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

This is another book that I saw in a lot of booktuber's TBR lists and the synopsis sounded interesting. Of course the cover is so colorful that it draws you in too. The story is supposed to center around a protagonist that suffers from a lung disease on Earth, but soon finds herself on a different planet, Magonia, where she thrives. The only problem seems to be the impending conflict between Earth and Magonia. Here's to hoping there is plenty of world building to make this a solid read.

  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

 Maybe I should have just called this the ya dystopia month, since I didn't quite realize that's what the majority of these books are about. Anyway, who hasn't been talking about The Queen of the Tearling recently. It seems like the reviews of it are pretty polarizing too. Either people love it or they hate it and I'm excited to see what, if any, side I'm going to be on. The main premise of the book deals with a girl who is the daughter of the queen and has been raised in hiding. Now it's time for her to claim her rightful throne, a process I can't imagine goes smoothly.  

  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Again, everybody and their brother has been talking about An Ember in the Ashes and I've had this on my TBR list since it was first an ARC giveaway on Goodreads. This is yet another sci-fi ya dystopia that is supposed to be based off of ancient Rome and focuses on a slave in the empire and of course her eventual romance with one of the soldiers. Will it be engaging or full of genre cliches? I guess I'll find out soon enough.  

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Here is my classic pick of the month and boy am I excited for this. Despite the fact that I've considered Jane Austen one of my favorite authors, I still have two of her books left to read, a fact which annoys me to no end. I mean I wrote my English senior seminar paper on Northanger Abbey! I'm determined to finish reading all of Austen's books before the year is out and this September I'm starting with Sense and Sensibility. I'm ready to dive right into societal mores and the romantic misadventures of the Dashwood sisters. Bring it on!

Those are all the books I'm planning on reading during September and if I have my way, this month will be my most productive month yet. As always if you're curious about my reading progress, you can friend/follow me on Goodreads. If you'd like to read the inane musings of my brain, then be sure to follow me on twitter @Penny_Landon. Now back to reading and enjoying my long weekend!!

August 2015 Wrap-Up

As one of my favorite Florence and the Machine songs says, the dog days are over, and with it the month of August. To be fair though, I'm a bit glad August is finally over considering it is the month I will now characterize as the period of one of my worst reading slumps. For whatever reason, I started out the month strong. I was hoping to read as many books as I did in July and then that just didn't occur. Reading slumps happen to the best of us I guess. If you follow me on Goodreads then you probably know that six days into September, I've already finished a decent number of books, so the reading slump is no more! Now that my exhausting work week is over and I've had a ton of sleep, it's time to let you lovely readers know about all of the books I did manage to finish in August.
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

As I've mentioned plenty of times before, I'm not really a huge nonfiction fan. I find that most of the books in that genre are mindnumbingly boring, but I've been pushing myself to expand my reading tastes and Erik Larson is the perfect author for that. He somehow manages to make history read like an exciting novel and I think he deserves all the praise in the world for that. Dead Wake is no different. When I was taking history classes in high school, WWI wasn't a historical period that particularly drew my attention, but I decided to read this book because I enjoyed Larson's previous book about the Chicago Worlds Fair. While this story in no way measures up to his first book, I found myself totally in engaged in this story about the Lusitania and WWI. In case you were curious, this book isn't a typical chronological start to finish story of the creation and then destruction of the Lusitania. Larson threads together countless historical stories that include the tension between Germany and the rest of the world, the life of the Lusitania's captain, President Wilson's own personal life, and the countless personal histories of the passengers. All more captivating than the last. I ultimately walked away from this book knowing far more about WWI than I did previously and now I'm just hoping Larson is in the process of researching his next book because I need him to keep making nonfiction and history just as engaging as the fiction books I read.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I was more than a little nervous when I made up my mind to read Uprooted. Everybody has been praising this book and normally when I read popular books, 98% of the time they turn out to be horrible. Uprooted is anything but horrible. In fact this has to be one of the best fantasy YA books I've read in a long time.
And here is where blogger decided to glitch out on me, thereby deleting the rest of the fabulously written review I had for this book. My rage over it is kind of the reason why this wrap-up came out later than usual. Please enjoy this rage gif, which in some way accurately represents my feelings. After that will be my sad attempt to rewrite my thoughts on this great book.

Uprooted centers around the story of Agnieszka, a girl that lives in a village that is constantly threatened by the nearby dark forest and the creatures within that either corrupt or take villagers. The population's only protection from that evil is the Dragon, a male magician, whose only request for protecting the villagers is that every ten years they allow a woman to go and live with him. After those ten years are finished, the woman is released unscathed, but noticeably changed into a more polished person. The women also leave the Dragon with a fortune, which many of them use to leave the village permanently. That's all the synopsis I want to give you because to say more would spoil your reading experience of this book. Even though that description should be enough to convince you to pick up Uprooted immediately, I would like to add that what makes it so special is the fact that the characters are well developed, the world building is solid, and the romance doesn't overshadow or take the place of the plot. I almost wish I could get the chance to read this book for the first time again just so I could recapture the awesomeness. All I have left to say is that you need to read this and I hope that Novik will release another book soon.
  • One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

About four years ago, I read Jojo Moyes' The Last Letter from Your Lover and I really enjoyed it. I decided to read something else by her and One Plus One is the book I settled on. Originally I rated this 3 stars right after I finished it. This wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't that great either. Then when I came back to write this review, I couldn't remember the book. As in I spent all that time reading it only to completely forget about it a week and a half later. While this could just be my poor memory, I think your book really shouldn't be that forgettable and that's why I knocked off half a star. Plus side is when I read the synopsis on Goodreads, everything came back to me. One Plus One is basically a hallmark or lifetime movie in a literary format. The story centers on Jess, a struggling single mom that cleans the house of a tech millionaire, Ed. She finds out her math genius of a daughter has a chance at getting into a prestigious academy, but Jess can't afford the entrance fee even with the scholarship they've awarded her daughter. Out of nowhere the daughter is invited to an academic competition where the prize money could pay for her schooling. What results is a crazy road trip to the competition with Ed. If you've read any romantic book, you know exactly how this ends. It was still a nice light afternoon read though. 
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars is another one of those books that has gotten a lot of great press lately and as you know, I had to check it out. While the norm for these kinds of books is that they turn out to be horrible, but for this book I just felt kind of lukewarm about it. I didn't hate it, but in no way did it blow me away. The story focuses on Tarver Merendsen, a war hero, and Lilac LaRoux, an heiress, who are both on a luxury spaceship named Icarus. Anybody with even a basic understanding of mythology and the Icarus/Daedalus story knows what's bound to happen to the ship. As a result, Tarver and Lilac are stuck together on a foreign planet and most of the book deals with their romantic relationship, survival efforts, and of course an intergalactic conspiracy. While the romance in the story got a little heavy handed at times, the plot does keep you engaged. The one glaring problem to this book is the lack of world building, which seems to be the curse of the majority of sci-fi ya romance series. That's why I gave it a lower star rating.
  • This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner


After finishing the first book and looking up the synopsis for This Shattered World, I got the distinct impression that this series feels like a lesser copy cat of The Lunar Chronicles. I mean they are both sci-fi ya romance novels with each book centering on a different romantic pairing and each adds to the overarching series plotline. Or maybe I just like The Lunar Chronicles so much that I can't completely accept another series that occupies the same genre/plot set-up. Anyway, This Shattered World takes place on a different terraformed world named Avon where the two romantic leads are Jubilee (what a stupid name), a military captain, and Flynn, part of a rebel force of colonists on the planet who are tired of the poor living conditions. Again the story deals with an intergalactic corporation conspiracy, with a distinct sci-fi plot element thrown in that, were I to reveal it, would spoil the series for those that haven't read it yet. Unlike the first book, this second installment seemed to drag plot wise and I wasn't a huge fan of the romance either. Plus side is there hasn't been a love triangle yet! The story is also interesting enough that I definitely plan on reading the last book in the series and I'd recommend it to anyone that wants an easy sci-fi read for a lazy weekend.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

On to the classic read for this month and it's one I've always felt bad about never reading. Thankfully, I can now say I've read Little Women, but I have to admit I am a little underwhelmed by it. Before reading the book, I watched the movie version with Katharine Hepburn and everything about it captivated me. The book in direct contrast was kind of frustrating. So much of it was full of obnoxious moralizations about life that it alienated me from the story. It wasn't really about the girls' lives so much as what their experiences could teach to the reader. The bright spot throughout the whole reading experience was Jo, but then she finds her perfect and appropriate place in society just as the moralizing Alcott intends. I think this is one of those novels that actually benefits from its movie adaptations. At least Alcott herself recognized that she was basically releasing moral drivel for young girls. If you decide to take on the challenge of reading this book, you're going to need something funny to lift you up again and Lil Women is the video series I'm wholly endorsing to do that. See for yourself

  • Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir

Often on this blog I like to talk about how reading tastes always change over time. Sometimes the books you liked to read in high school won't always be the books you enjoy later in life. My own reading tastes are a testament to this fact. Timekeeper has been on my TBR list for quite a long time. Over five years if I'm not mistaken. When I was in high school  and completely in love with ya supernatural romances, I read Timeless by Alexandra Monir. It was basically the story of a girl who falls in love with a boy from the past and Timekeeper was the sequel to that book that I never got around to reading until now. I knew going in that rereading the first book and then reading this could be potentially disappointing and indeed it was. The writing felt juvenile and obviously catered to a very young audience. The romance was of course insta-love and the time travel romance was resolved in the same way all time travels romances are resolved in movies, so the book really lacked originality.
  • Arthurian Chronicles

As I mentioned in my TBR post, this is one of the books I started to read for a course in college and then never got the chance to finish. Granted both Wace and Layamon are derivatives of the same story. Since they are in part inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Historia Regum Britanniae) they read more like a history than exciting episodic adventures. Regardless I really enjoyed reading them and I would encourage people who like the King Arthur stories to check them out.

Those are all of the books that I read during August and I hope some of them inspired your own future TBR choices. Feel free to check back here soon to see what books I'm planning on reading during the month of September, including my classic pick of the month. For all those back at school, I offer my condolences and wishes for success. For those of us no longer in school, I'd just like to say "Isn't life grand this time of the year?" I know I think so.