Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler

Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Release Date: June 24th, 2014
High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park - star of TV's hottest new teen drama - but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally's ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors' publicist arranges for Van and Liam to "date" for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.
"I love this book. I really enjoyed it, and it's incredibly well-written. I highly recommend this book..."

If I couldn't say anything else, I would just say READ THIS BOOK and shove it in your face. But thankfully for you, I can say something else and elaborate. ;)

With all this talk about diversity in books lately (and always), I love how Behind the Scenes is diverse in many ways. The most obvious one would be that Vanessa Park is Korean, so racial diversity. Can I just say how cool it is to see a character with my sister's name? Almost as cool as seeing your own...unless you have a common name like I do. But anyway, Adler didn't stop there. She took the opportunity to explore and address diversity in film and media. Because as much as book bloggers discuss diversity in books, we also need to do the same for media, film, television, etc. That's not to say there isn't a huge campaign for more diversity of every kind in the media, but in the book blogging community, it isn't as apparent. As an Asian American, I have especially thought about representation a lot and about the lack of Asians in movies and television shows. I think part of that is the still existent tendency for Asian parents to discourage their kids from going into such a shaky field. And this was mentioned in Behind the Scenes too, which really made me happy. I felt that Adler did a great job with portraying a minority group character without being too stereotypical and/or cliche and without making it a plot device.

Continuing with the discussion of media and the entertainment industry, the book offered a very interesting, engaging, and real look at the industry. While I obviously cannot say for certain that it was a perfect portrayal of the industry, it definitely felt that way. At the very least, it doesn't seem too far from the truth. Along the vein of how realistic the book is, I'm incredibly happy with the fact that Behind the Scenes features parents that stick around and play a role in the story and in the life of the character. I think it's really interesting that Ally's father has cancer, especially since it actually reflects (in some ways) Adler's father's battle with the same cancer. Since Adler has experienced what Ally is experiencing in the book, it is written in such a realistic way, highlighting the highs and lows, the doubts, the happy moments, and more of what you go through when a parent has cancer.

On the other hand, I wish Ally's school life was slightly more prominent. While I understand that it's not the focus of the story, she probably would have realistically had a great struggle to balance/juggle adding being an assistant with her school life--as well as her family situation, etc. Maybe that's just because I'm really studious though...but if she is really intent on going to Columbia, I feel like we must have similar schoolwork ethics...The two other aspects that I felt a bit more iffy on were that 1) the conflict resolution occurred pretty suddenly and quickly. I mean, it could definitely be realistic, but it moved a tad too quickly for my taste. 2) I'm still a bit confused about Nate's "friendship" with Ally. At first, I thought they actually were friends, with or without Vanessa, but then it seemed that that wasn't the case. Then Nate basically disappeared from the story--for good reason, but I never felt 100% clear about their friendship. Were they only friends because of Van? Or were they friends naturally too--and in that case, why was it so easy for Ally to drop Nate, even with what he did?

Speaking of friendship, I greatly enjoyed how real and central Van and Ally's friendship is in the story. I love good, solid, well-developed, well-written friendships. In fact, I often treasure well done friendships more than romantic relationships in books because they can be so rare and because I think friends are so important. I know my friends are really important to me and affect me a lot. So of course I like seeing that in the books I read (and the movies and shows I watch). Their friendship is not without some bumps, but seeing how they really keep one another grounded and everything is just amazing. Adler really did a great job of establishing and expanding on the friendship between Vanessa and Ally, and it's one of my favorite parts of the book.

Last but certainly not least, while I love the friendship and I treasure it, I also really enjoyed the incredibly swoony romance between Liam and Ally. It did occur and develop a bit quickly, which bothered me at first, but you know what? I've learned that while I might be one to go at things slowly and wouldn't like someone that quickly, for some people, that does happen. So I've stopped judging books and their characters like that. So it still bothered me a bit, but I do think it was well written and ended up being slow enough in terms of development to just be awesome. Also, a guy that respects a girl that says no to sex? YES. But yeah, I mean, their romance is just well done and developed, and it was really interesting to see how Van and Liam's supposed relationship affected Ally individually, as well Ally and Liam as a couple. Just, gahhh, so awesome. Another romance to add to my list of favorite bookish relationships!

So I clearly love this book. I really enjoyed it, and it's incredibly well-written. I highly recommend this book, and if you read it/have read it, I will totally gush about this with you. I can't wait for Under the Lights, the companion novel.
Behind the Scenes: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Dahlia Adler: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flashback Friday (#5): Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This is a more irregular feature. Flashback Friday is where I review, or possibly discuss, an old TV show, movie, book, or album. So what's considered old? Anything that was not released within the past year and a half. By years, I mean calendar year (so for this year, June 2013-December 2014 would NOT be old)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: December 2nd, 2010
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
"I don't think I can necessarily put into words why I loved it so much..., but it just left me feeling giddy and happy and hopeful."

Why didn't I read this book before now??? Seriously. I kept hearing about how great the series is, but I was repeatedly put off by the old covers. I mean, I know: Don't judge a book by its cover. But still! Now I want to smack myself for not having read this earlier!

I've recently been in a huge contemporary mood, and I always love a good quick, fun(ny), sweet romance. Well, Anna didn't disappoint.

I love Stephanie Perkins' writing, and she wrote such an amazing slow-burning romance. Anna and Etienne are so cute together. There was just enough romantic tension and things holding them back to make the story show a tug and pull between the two characters that were so obviously in love with the other. There were so many feels and definitely a lot of swooning! I think I connect a lot to Anna's insecurity and how she tends to hide when she's upset, turning (for her) to film and what she knows for sure. But I love how Anna and Etienne see through one another and just really fit well together. I'm glad that they had so many bumps and uncertainties because for me, that resembles reality. (But maybe I have a skewed/biased view, seeing as I've never been in a relationship...)

Anyway! One aspect that really stood out to me was the group dynamic between Etienne, Anna, Josh, Meredith, and Rashmi. I've always wanted friendships like the one they have. Sure, they have problems and issues, but they're also there for one another in a way I've always wanted my group of friends to be like. This group is so fun together, yet they all bring something to the table between their problems, their thoughts, etc. But I do wish there was a slightly bigger focus on Anna's friendships outside of the group. For example, I think her falling out with Bridgette was patched up a little too quickly for my taste. (In fact, one of my qualms about Anna and the French Kiss is that it all got wrapped up a bit quickly, but.) Then there was the relationship between Anna and Toph or lack thereof. I think there was a little room for more exploration, especially since that's where many of the tensions between Etienne and Anna and Bridgette and Anna pop up. Along the same vein, I wish her friendship or maybe friendly truce with Matt was explored a little bit more. It would have been really interesting to see the dynamics between Anna and her ex. Another major friendship that does ties in more with the major France plot and the group dynamic discussed above that I wish was developed a bit more was actually Anna's friendship with Meredith, particularly right before and right after the incident with Etienne.

In terms of other relationships, Ellie seemed like both a huge and yet a smaller, background part of the story. I found her annoying. Perhaps if the story was told from her point of view, I'd view everything differently, but told from Anna's point of view, I wasn't that sympathetic towards Ellie, and she annoyed me in a way I can't necessarily explain. I do wish there was a tad more closure on Rashmi's part in terms of her fall out with Ellie. It's so saddening, and while I understand neither of them and their story lines are the central part of the story, maybe just a little bit about Rashmi dealing and/or moving on from the disappointment and heartache would have made it feel a little more resolved.

Despite all of these feelings of "it could have been better if this had happened," I really did enjoy Anna and the French Kiss a lot. As I mentioned above, the romance was incredibly well written, and it's one of the best written slow-burning romances I've read. I am a huge sucker for obvious but slow-burning romances, and Anna did not disappoint. There's a lot about friendship and trust that can be gathered from the book, both the good and the bad, and the group and friend dynamics only strengthened the book. I love books about friendship and also a romance (like Open Road Summer), so I love how well-written and refreshingly new (for me) Anna's take on that is. Overall, the book is a quick, fun read. I don't think I can necessarily put into words why I loved it so much (see how much I wrote about things I wish had been done better vs what I loved about the book), but it just left me feeling giddy and happy and hopeful.
Anna and the French Kiss: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Stephanie Perkins: Website | Twitter | Tumblr 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mini Review: Zita the Spacegirl Series by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Publisher: First Second Books
Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.
What a great start to the series! I absolutely love Zita, who is spunky, brave, clever, and so much more. She is such a loyal friend, and I love her personality. I'm so glad to see a young heroine, which is so refreshing and so needed. In a world where most of our superheroes are male, I'm so happy to see a young, female hero too. I enjoyed her adventures, and the other creatures that she befriended along the way are awesome. The book sets up the next book extremely well, and this is definitely a quick read that is highly recommended for young children but that can also definitely be enjoyed by those of us that are older.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Publisher: First Second Books
Fame comes at a price...

Zita must find her way back to earth...but her space adventures have made her a galactic megastar! Who can you trust when your true self is overshadowed by your public image? And to make things worse...Zita's got a robot double making trouble--while wearing her face!

I thought it was so interesting to see Zita deals with her newfound fame after Zita the Spacegirl. I continue to love Zita, her personality, and her persistence. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Zita impostor, nor did I find the plot to be as engaging as in the first book...until the end. The end shows how much both Zita and her impostor change throughout the book, particularly the impostor, and I think the impostor's sacrifice, as well as the fact that they all end up working together, is so important and vital, and that really sticks out to me. The book, much like the first, is well written and definitely recommended.
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: First Second Books
Zita the Spacegirl has saved planets, battled monsters, and wrestled with interplanetary fame. But she faces her biggest challenge yet in the third and final installment of the Zita adventures. Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita has to plot the galaxy's greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect my thoughts in any way, nor am I being compensated for this review.

An absolutely fabulous end to a fabulous series! Again, Zita is consistently awesome, and I love her. I really like how the characters and plot arcs from the previous two books make an appearance and/or are important in this book, and it adds a lot to it too. Basically, everything from the previous two books were just amplified in this one. I love the team work, and I just love the lessons to be learned in this book. I love how The Return of Zita the Spacegirl emphasizes how by helping others, you help yourself. This book, I feel, is such an important one for young people to read, and I'm sad it's not in the hands of even more children (and teens and adults)! As I said, a fabulous series ender. I can't wait to see what Hatke is coming up with next.
Zita the Spacegirl: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
The Legends of Zita the Spacegirl: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Ben Hatke: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: Harry and the Hot Lava by Chris Robertson

Harry and the Hot Lava by Chris Robertson
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
Harry is a little boy with a big imagination. One day, a simple game of "don't step on the hot lava" turns into a adventure he'll never forget! This children's picture book features the iconic art of Chris Robertson and has fun simple text perfect for beginning readers and story time.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author. This in no way affected my review, nor am I being compensated for it.

The first thing I noticed about this book, aside from the great pictures, was the word choice. It's great for children, and it really fits the story. Though the ever changing font was a bit jarring and sometimes unnecessary (in my opinion), it was a huge hindrance.

The ending was incredibly abrupt and felt a bit awkward. I think that was sort of the purpose, but I think it probably could have been done better. I have to say though, the last page of the story was awesome. I absolutely loved that, and I feel like it might stem from Robertson's own adventures and fun times with his son, to whom the book is dedicated.

My favorite aspect of the book would have to be how it made me remember the fun times I had as a child playing "Lava." While that version was a bit different from the one in this story, it was nice to reminisce about those times. To be honest, I didn't even think that kids these days played "Lava" anymore because I see so many of them with cell phones/smart phones already (what?!), so this was a nice way to see that there are some children out there that do still have extremely active imaginations and are learning to play without technology and only with what they have around them.

Another great picture book from Chris Robertson--one that's sure not to disappoint.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew (ARC)

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of "American Born Chinese," Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in "Shadow Hero," a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.
Disclaimer: I received an early copy from First Second Books. This did not affect my review in any way, nor was I compensated for this review.


"I just found the book so empowering, particularly as a Chinese American. Hank is such a real character, and this story really delves into his internal struggles to accept and treasure his culture, as well as to fight with the morality of his actions."

You may or may not know that I have been slowly getting into graphic novels, particularly those released by First Second Books. It really started with reading Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. While I was not the biggest fan of the book, it was really the fact that Gene writes about Chinese people, Chinese Americans, and Chinese culture that I was drawn in. It's really amazing to me to see my culture and people like me in a book, whether I'm similar to them or not. I think, of the books of his that I've read, The Shadow Hero definitely trumps them all and takes the spot as my favorite by far.

There's just something about this book and about seeing a Chinese American super hero that makes it mean so much more. I've grown up knowing super heroes such as Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman, Flash, the Hulk, and more. But none of them are Asian. It's so empowering to see someone like me, an Asian American, as the super hero. This is why we need diversity in books. There's this power behind seeing someone like you in a book, especially if it's as a main character (though not female). It makes you, in terms of your culture and ethnicity, feel noticed. You feel empowered. You feel like you are important too. To see Hank as the Green Turtle made me wish that the Green Turtle had been more popular as a super hero.

Even more than that, I loved seeing the struggle in Hank as he tries to figure out if what he's doing is right or wrong. Is it right to kill or harm others to avenge those that they killed? Is it right to kill or harm people that will cause more damage alive and threaten the public safety? Oftentimes, you don't see superheroes thinking about these things. They're too busy saving the world. But Hank is also a kid living with his parents, who is going through a hugely traumatic event. He does have to think about the morality of what he's doing, and I'm so glad to see that. Because he's a normal person that makes himself into a superhero, showing that everyone can become a superhero, in which ever way that may manifest itself. Because if it were one of us, we would have conflicting thoughts too. It makes Hank so real because one can imagine oneself in his shoes.

Additionally, The Shadow Hero sticks out because it deals with the discrimination and prejudice against Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in the 40s. Hank's mom often makes excuses just to get out of Chinatown. I don't blame her! I would want to as well. It's like we've been taught, subconsciously, that we should be ashamed of who we are. This book briefly looks into that, and I think that that's really important. I think Hank learns to appreciate, at least a little bit more, his background and culture; it's something I've slowly been trying to appreciate more as well.

I also really enjoyed the fact that the book dealt with the darker side of Chinatown--its gangs. It does so in an interesting way, by showing the other side of things. We see the gangs as being big and bad, but we also see why some people may get involved in these gangs and their business. Gangs, no matter where they are found, are brutal and unforgiving. There's a delicate balance between what's right and what will get you killed. I don't want to spoil much, but Hank's father is involved in a huge Chinese gang. It's scary and leads to basically the whole story, but I think it gives a different look at the same story. We see some of his motivations for getting involved in the gang, and it's just so heartbreaking because he just wanted to be able to survive in America and help his family. And it would come back to haunt him.

As with any superhero novel/comic/graphic novel, there's a bunch of action and heart-racing moments. While it wasn't as strong as I thought it would be, I think it's not necessarily needed. You still get the underlying messages and ideas, and you still get enough action that it is a superhero story. While I'm also not 100% in agreement over how the women are treated in the book, I can't say that it's surprising, given the time and the culture. You do see powerful women, including women that are powerful in more non-conventional ways (such as Hank's mother), in the book, and they are able to stand for themselves, but I can't explain what I mean without giving anything away. So that was my only real problem with this book.

Overall, I just found the book so empowering, particularly as a Chinese American. Hank is such a real character, and this story really delves into his internal struggles to accept and treasure his culture, as well as to fight with the morality of his actions. It's so rare to see such a deeply explored character and such important issues represented and addressed, particularly in superhero stories. It really makes you view things in a different light--how we view ourselves and our cultures, how much parents give up for us (particularly immigrant parents), how people get tied up in bad business because of good intentions, and more. There's a level of complexity in this graphic novel that I've rarely seen in any book, particularly graphic novels (I am not bashing on graphic novels; I love them!). This will remain a really special book in my heart, and I cannot recommend this enough, regardless of your background and/or ethnicity. The Shadow Hero is the one graphic novel you do not want to miss.

The Shadow Hero: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Gene Luen Yang: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: Divergent Movie


"At the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the movie, both before and after reading the book. I would definitely recommend it!"

This review is going to follow a slightly different format because I watched the movie and then read the book. That being said, I'm going to state my thoughts on the movie when I originally watched it. Then I'll discuss my thoughts on the movie after reading the book and gaining more insight. I may watch the movie again, and I may post about my thoughts then (since my thoughts about the movie after reading the book are based upon what I remember of the movie the first time around).

Before the book:
Before reading the book, the movie completely blew me away. I enjoyed it SO much, and it's what actually gave me the final push to read Divergent. I feel like a movie has done a great job when it can get people to want to read the book. Though the movie felt incredibly long, I enjoyed almost every moment of it. After the initiation, events occurred at a fairly rapid pace, and it kept me at the edge of my seat for most of the movie. There was a moment when I thought, when will this movie end??? But really, I didn't mind the length, and I think it needed to be the length that it was.

What really stuck out to me was the acting and the world-building/setting. I know many people were skeptical about both Shailene and Theo, but I hadn't known enough about the book and the characters to really care. But their performances just BLEW ME AWAY. I felt that they did an amazing job with the characters, and they definitely made me care about the characters and their struggles. It brought the movie and story to life, and there was so much power, emotion, and strength in both of their performances. The rest of the cast was also really amazing. Although I constantly mixed up Al and Will because the actors look SO alike, I think this movie was incredibly well cast. I really enjoyed the performances, and each character was unique. Other examples of performances that stuck out to me were Kate Hudson as Jeanine Matthews, Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior, Maggie Q as Tori, and Zoe Kravitz as Christina.

The setting/world-building was also really impressive. From the Chicago skyline to the sections for each faction to the aptitude test, the backdrop just looked perfect. It felt real, as if such a place existed. I felt immersed in the world, and it really enhanced the story for me.

Another aspect of this film that I really enjoyed was how engaged it made me. I was at the edge of my seat. I felt like I could understand Tris. I really felt for her struggle from the bottom to the top. I hated Peter (but he was kind of funny in a ridiculous way). I loved Four, and I really felt his pain and how torn he felt. I came to really dislike Erudite, though I understand that not all of them could possibly that bad. I really enjoyed how this movie made me think about our world, and I got pretty upset by how stupid people could be. I don't know if you'll understand what I mean, but the political undertones definitely grated at me in that I just really didn't understand Erudite, and I hated everything they were doing.

Okay, the next point is something that I didn't realize the first time I watched it, but after talking to some people about it, I definitely see the point. I think part of it also comes from my thoughts after reading the book, but it's basically about Four and Tris' relationship. When I first watched the movie, I came out of it LOVING Tris/Tobias (still do!). I thought their relationship was well-formed and presented. I liked the development of their relationship. I found it refreshing that they didn't just suddenly get together (insta-love). But after thinking about it, I'm not entirely sure. The thing is, I don't think it was TOO sudden, but I also don't know that there was the kind of development that I usually find in movies. Okay, maybe it's because I'm not used to characters getting together in the first book if it's a series. [SLIGHT SPOILERS] But when I first watched it, I loved the progression of Four being distant to him helping her out and sort of looking out for her while still trying to remain above her. He helps her out and encourages her in private, but he puts up the image of just being a harsh instructor. Then there was the ferris wheel scene and the part where he saves her from being beat up and possibly killed. There was then the tattoo scene, and then it was just like BAM. Okay, so there's a little more in between, but really, I'm not sure anymore. I think I'd have to watch it again.

*Note: So I started this review soon after watching the movie, but it is now July, and I'm trying to finish it, so I've forgotten a bunch of what I wanted to talk about. Oops!*

After the book:
(A lot of this crosses into my review of the book, which will be posted soon, but I'll try to keep this more about the movie.)

It's hard for me to write this because then this gets mixed in with how I felt about the book, as well as other aspects, such as the fact that when I read the book, I just pictured the cast (so I didn't worry about how true appearances were).

One thing I found interesting was how much more I loved Tris in the movie after reading the book. This is because there was so much from Tris' thoughts in the books that really annoyed me. On screen, Tris was awesome, and I love Shailene's portrayal of her. Maybe it's not necessarily true to the book, but I'm glad the movie made me love Tris more than the books. It reminds me of The Hunger Games but only in that I still don't really like Katniss in the movies, which still makes me feel very conflicted. But that's another story for another day.

On the other hand, book Tobias is better than movie Tobias, not that movie Tobias is bad at all. I love Theo's portrayal, but there's just something that the book gets across about Four that the movies don't do as well.

Another aspect that didn't translate very well on screen was Christina and Will's relationship. I hardly got any of that in the movie, which is really upsetting because I loved it in the book! Speaking of things I loved in the book that wasn't so great in the movie was that Uriah was missing from the movie! What a shame because I really like him in the book. (I'm just glad to hear they're bringing him in for Insurgent.)

To continue with the whole character review, I think the movie didn't really hit at Tris' fear of sexual assault and displays of affection the way the book did. I guess I can understand the sexual assault part, but I didn't feel like Tris or the rest of Abnegation really shy away from displays of affection. Peter is also less brutal in the movie than he was in the book, and Drew and Molly played bigger roles in the book.

(Well, it seems my biggest issues after reading the book is character related, so that's all I'm going to discuss for the rest of this section. Still love the action. Would've liked to see the fear sequence more like it was in the book. Otherwise, pretty spot on or at least got the same point across.)

Finally, I think that movie missed a lot of the character and situational depth in the book. My list of examples include Al, Tobias, Tris, Christina, Eric, and Tori. I don't want to spoil the book, so I won't elaborate, but there were fairly big revelations regarding the last two at the very least that I think would've slightly changed the way they're viewed or perhaps even important to the plot (I've only read Divergent so far, so I can't say much on this point). Lastly, I think Tris fit in too easily and was accepted a bit too easily in the movies. There was a glimpse of how difficult it was and of how badly she was treated, but I don't think it was as great as it was in the book. I think that the dynamic of being treated so horribly really shaped Tris as a character and person, so I'm a little disappointed, but it isn't huge, I suppose.

~~~
At the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the movie, both before and after reading the book. I would definitely recommend it! Don't be put off by some of the casting decisions because the cast really was superb. It definitely got me into the fandom, and it inspired me to push through the book that I had put down a while back. It helped enhance the book for me, and that's important, in my opinion.

Divergent
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written by: Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, based on Divergent by Veronica Roth
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Zoe Kravitz, Jai Courtney, and more
Release Date: March 21st, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Tinker Bell (Graceland)

Oh, Graceland, Graceland. What do I even do with you? Season 2 has been such a mess and a downward spiral thus far. Well, at least this last episode was somewhat better. It was painful to watch but watchful nonetheless. 

So in my last review for Graceland, I talked about the changes in the group dynamic in Graceland. Well, that has continued. The "house drama" is like a soap opera--or what I imagine soap operas to be. I really can't stand it because I used to love the character interactions on the show, and now, it's like everyone's attacking one another and nobody cares about each other. I'm not liking the whole Mike/Paige storyline because it doesn't feel real. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am/was a Charlie/Mike shipper (okay, maybe it's a little bit that), but it's really just that it feels forced. And just everyone else is bugging me. I don't like where Charlie's storyline is going, but I do hope it will lead to her (and the rest of the team) finding out the truth about Briggs. I continue to enjoy Jakes' character arc, though my heart breaks for him in so many different ways. I wish Johnny would get bigger roles and cases, but I like how they're incorporating that struggle into his character.

What made this episode far above and beyond the first two episodes of this season, however, was the fact that there was some really good action going on. First, Johnny got to "shine" (sorta) with his plot line. I enjoyed seeing how Johnny works, though I wish he could've shown them how much of a badass he is. I did enjoy seeing how much he cared about the injured man, and I think it shows a lot about his character. 

The other really well done aspect of the episode was Paige's portion of the case, which is where the episode title, "Tinker Bell," comes from. Oh my gosh. Paige just shined, and I could even see Serinda Swan's passion about the topic show through. I am always glad when a show handle tough topics and situations well, and I really like where Graceland is going with this plot arc thus far (please don't mess this up, Graceland!). Human trafficking is such an important topic for the international community to discuss, and the reality of it isn't talked about nearly as much as it should be, both in the media and beyond. The thing is, a lot of people don't know enough about the problem because it isn't in the media, and it needs to be. The episode handled the issue so well, letting viewers see the side of the story from a victim's point of view. Just so important, so pertinent, and SO well done. Thank you, Graceland, for this plot arc, which is the reality for so many girls around the world. 

Johnny's case and Paige's case (that's just what I'm going to call them) are what stood out about this episode. It shows the action but also characterization of the show, and that's why I love the show. These two portions of the episode were the true highlights because it was the "YES" moment for me--the moment they went back to what makes the show so great. There's heart and soul in those scenes, in different senses of the phrase. There's action, but it's balanced. It doesn't involve all that dumb house soap opera drama. If the show can get back to the heart of the show--to scenes and cases such as these two (not the overarching bus case, but the Johnny and Paige aspects of it)--then I will be glad to put my faith back into the show.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Liebster Blog Award


This is basically a very long overdue post that I've been meaning to get to posting but never did (long overdue as in from when I was still blogging as Reviews Abound). But long story short, I was nominated for the Liebster Award first by Allison @ Sleepless Reviews last October when she was still The Lovely Grace, and I was still Reviews Abound. Then, in late April, I was nominated by Alexis @ Alexis Adores Books. After that, I was nominated by one of my co-bloggers, Willa @ Willa's Ramblings. And most recently, I've been nominated by Emily @ Tea & Fangirling, SJ @ SJ Bouquet, and Aurora @ Fountain Pen Girl. Thanks to you five ladies! Instead of writing separate posts for each, I'm compiling all the questions into one post. 

For those of you that don't know what the Liebster Award is, here's the basics (there seems to be a few different versions, so I'm going with the version from Allison's post, as that was the first one I was nominated for):

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.
2. Answer the questions he or she posted.
3. Nominate ten other bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers and inform them of their nomination.
4. Create a set of questions for those nominees to answer.

My Answers:

Allison
(Some of these answers may be slightly outdated since I'm taking one or two of the answers from my old draft of a post back in October or November)
1. What is one thing that you have discovered about yourself during your time as a blogger?

Hmm...this is a tough one! I think I've learned a lot more about my reading tastes as a result of blogging. I always said that my main genre/favorite genre was fantasy, though I've always read books in a plethora of genres. But I think I've come to realize that I am a huge mood reader when it comes to fantasy (except for Harry Potter), yet I almost always love a good contemporary novel. Don't get me wrong, YA contemp. was almost always my second favorite genre, but I think seeing that I'm much more of a mood read in terms of fantasy and not so much for contemp. was something that I learned.

2. Have you had to make any sacrifices (so far) in the name of blogging?

I suppose, yes. I've started talking to bloggers a lot more, and I've been a bit negligent of my other online friends. Also, blogging has meant less time spent watching my TV shows and more time spent reading. I've also had to cut down a lot on my time on Tumblr. In fact, I've pretty much stopped going on Tumblr altogether. I haven't been on in months, but I hope to balance out everything someday. But I think mainly it's that I'm spending time blogging and/or reading rather than writing, watching TV, or doing some of the other things I used to spend a lot of my time doing.

3. How have you developed as a reader, writer and/or blogger?

In so many ways! I have definitely developed as a reader in that when I used to read, I never thought deeply about what I read. I liked almost everything I read simply because if it kept me entertained and involved, I liked it. I never thought about pacing or complex characters or anything like that. Now? I really do. Sure, there are still times when I simply read and enjoy a book without analyzing it, but now, I'm a much better reader.
Also, I didn't think that blogging would help me as a writer, but I've seen so much great writing advice, and it's been really amazing to hear what works for different authors. I haven't written much lately, but I know that I'm now much more aware of what I write. I think a lot more about character complexities and plot holes and just everything. These are aspects I never would have thought of beforehand.

4. What is one piece of advice that you would give to a younger, non-blogging version of yourself?

Don't be so hard on yourself. Don't be afraid to talk to other people (I still struggle with this though). It'll get better, then worse, then better again. Live your life fully because you'll never get this time back, and one day, you'll wish you had lived a bit more and taken a few more risks.

Alexis
1. If you could suddenly transport into your favorite book world, which would you choose and why?

Hogwarts/Wizarding world, of course! Harry Potter is just everything to me, and it continues to be such a major part of my life. I will always be a Potterhead, and Harry Potter will always be my favorite. So I think this would always be my answer to this question.

2. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Hmm! Good question. It varies from time to time, but I think it's either green tea or mint/mint chocolate chip. But I think green tea most. (Unless we start talking about gelato. Then, I have no idea.)

3. What do you see in your blog's future?

I just hope I'll keep this up regularly for the foreseeable future. Hopefully more reviews, more discussion posts, more giveaways, more followers, more readers, more books/movies/TV shows/music/etc, more events, more guest posts, more blog tours, more interviews, and just more fun, as that's the most important. :)

4. If someone wrote a book about your life, what would they title it?

I Shouldn't Be Procrastinating. 
Sometimes I Do Stuff. 
School, Dance, Books, Writing, Music, TV Shows, Fangirling, and other things. 
What Am I Doing With My Life? 
I Can't Anymore.
(I don't even know. I'm totally joking with these haha)

5. What are you most proud of?

Oh gosh, I don't know...I am incredibly proud of myself whenever I get the courage to talk to someone I don't know. I'm an introvert, and I think I have at least a little bit of social anxiety, so it can be a huge feat for me. Otherwise, it's little (well, probably not big in my mind) stuff. Doing a triple pirouette well for the first time. Doing 18 fouette turns well. Doing 10 fouette turns on pointe. Playing at Carnegie Hall (and more than once!). etc, etc.

6. What are three things you cannot live without?

Hmmm...well I could go with the very obvious, scientific answer of 1) oxygen 2) food and water 3) shelter.
But I'll make it more exciting :P
1) Friends and family
2) Books
3) Dance
Okay, so those aren't concrete things, but oh well.

7. What makes you unique?

Good question. Can someone else answer this? I don't really know. I guess the mix of everything I am/that I like. My mix of hobbies, interests, family background, etc. But really, can I have someone else answer this? :P

8. What is the wallpaper on your cellphone?

My phone has a couple of wallpapers, so my lock screen is a picture of a poster that I have that has one of Degas' dancer paintings. My first screen is a picture from one of the panels near the entrance of the Harry Potter Exhibition when it was in NYC. My second one is a picture of me and my uncle. The third one is a picture of me, my sister, my mom, and my dad at my godmother's house for my birthday last year or the year before.

9. What song always makes you happy when you hear it?

Ooo, this is such a tough one because I listen to so many different kinds of music. Well, my go-to song when I'm feeling down is Bad Day by Daniel Powter, but otherwise, I think the Harry Potter theme (Hedwig's theme). It just fills me with happiness when I think about Harry Potter and everything, and it's such a familiar, comforting song, so yeah.

10. What is your dream vacation?

Oh man, another tough one. Anything that involves travel, to be honest. If I could travel around the world or even around Europe, I'd be so incredibly happy. I mean, I want to go to so many other places, but I think a large portion is in Europe so yeah. It makes me sad every time I think about how I'll never be able to go to all the places I want to visit.

11. What did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to be a teacher from first grade up until around seventh grade, so yeah. And I've always had a dream of being a professional dancer, singer/songwriter, and/or actress. Sometimes I still want to, but that's my dream dream, as in the one I know I won't achieve, but I still hope for.

Willa
1. Favorite past time other than reading?

Does procrastinating count? Just kidding. Dance!

2. Do you have any guilty (or not so guilty) pleasures?

Hmm...I guess? In terms of music, some pop artists are my not-so-guilty pleasures. Like I know their music isn't something I might normally like, but ehh. I used to say The Wanted was my guilty pleasure, but that's not really true, I think. I do think The Wanted Life was a guilty pleasure, though! I hate reality shows, but TWL was okay. ;)

3. What’s your favorite part of your bedroom?

My bed? I'm not in my bedroom that often because my desk is downstairs.

4. What are your top most visited sites?

Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger, Email, Goodreads, YouTube

5. What are some books you’ve reread?

Harry Potter, Bunheads, and Pride and Prejudice (once on my own, once for school). I actually think that may be it...I don't reread often because a) there are too many books that I still need to read and b) I don't like to reread when it's still basically in my head. 

6. What’s your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?

Hmm...I have this floral, floor-length dress that I got at Target that I LOVE (also, it's one of the only floor-length dresses that are short enough for me). There's also a Free People shirt I got as a present that I adore (I'm actually wearing it right now). There are a bunch of other shirts I really love too. Oh! And my current sandals are my favorite pair of shoes.

7. Who’s a character you would like to meet in real life?

Atticus Finch, Hermione Granger, and/or Luna Lovegood. I mean, there are obviously others, but those three are my top three favorite literary characters, so!

8. Who’s an author you would like to meet in real life?

I'd love to meet Sonia Fuderer, who isn't a published author yet, but she's getting close, and I love her! But as for published authors, obviously J.K. Rowling.

9. A blogger?

I'd love to meet the other Lit Up Review bloggers. I recently met Willa, which was awesome. I'd also really love to meet Kayla @ Wonderland of Reading and Jayne @ Fiction_The New Reality. But really, I'd love to meet all of my blogging friends!

10. Do you have any blog goals? Share them!

 I don't know...I'd just like my blog to keep expanding, and I hope to keep improving while enjoying it.

11. Do you have an blogging rituals?

Erm...not really!
Emily
1. What is your favorite genre of books?

Fantasy, historical fiction, and contemporary. Also this isn't a genre, but I want to read as many dance-related books as possible.

2. Do you have any pets? 

Well, my sister has a guinea pig, so I guess I technically have a guinea pig. :P

3. What is your favorite stand-alone book of all time?

Hmm...I think Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, but I'm also blanking out on every stand-alone I've ever read, so who knows.

4. What is your favorite final book in a series you've read?

Not sure! I mean, my favorite series is Harry Potter (wow, how many times am I going to bring up HP in this?), so maybe Deathly Hallows. It wasn't my favorite, but it ended such a pivotal book series, so. 

5. Least favorite book character?

I hate so many characters, hahaha! I hate any book character that is evil for the sake of being evil. But maybe Umbridge? (Oh look, more HP.)

6. Favorite childhood book series?

Ha.ha.ha.ha. HARRY POTTER. Still my favorite!

7. Favorite TV show?

This changes all the time, but it's been Orphan Black for quite some time now. The show is near perfect, if not perfect. LOVE.

8. What is one book that you can read again and again and never get tired of?

*hides* Harry Potter series. I actually haven't re-read many books, so that's another reason I didn't have many choices to pick from.

9. A book character you wish was real?

So many! Perhaps Atticus Finch. Atticus for President! ;)

10. Favorite author you follow on Twitter?

Tough question! Sonia Fuderer (@SFuderer) isn't published yet, but I love her to pieces. Maureen Johnson is also HILARIOUS. She's only replied to me like twice, but I love reading her tweets. In terms of authors I talk to fairly often, either Susan Dennard, Leigh Ann Kopans, or probably others I'm currently forgetting because my brain is fried from this heat. Hahaha!

11. Favorite book quote?

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the lights." (Ha! Another HP answer.)

SJ
1. What is your favorite book series?

Oh my gosh. Again, Harry Potter.

2. Who is your literary crush?

So many! I love Hermione Granger (HP), Luna Lovegood (HP), Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Matt Finch (Open Road Summer), Daniel Sheridan (Something Strange and Deadly), Liam Holloway (Behind the Scenes), Tobias Eaton/Four (Divergent), Levi (Fangirl), Micah, Xander Spence (The Distance Between Us), and so many more I'm obviously forgetting.

3. Favorite literary villain?

Tough one! I think Bellatrix Lestrange. She's so fun to hate. I love to hate her; it's pretty awesome. :P (Also, I can't remember all these villains, and she's the first one that came to mind. Yay for more HP.)

4. A book character you wish you could be?

I wish I could be more like Atticus Finch. 

5. What are your thoughts on vampire stories?

Ehh. I'm not huge on Paranormal in general, but I guess they're okay? I haven't read many vampire stories to be honest. And when I read the Twilight Saga, it was when they were all the rage, and I was in middle school, and I enjoyed them. I think I'd feel slightly different if I read them now...

6. Favorite book quote?

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the lights."

7. What book made you laugh out loud the most?

Hmm...I honestly don't know. Most books have a healthy dose of humor, feels, and everything else in between. Sorry I don't have a concrete answer! (Also, I can't think of all the books I've read off the top of my head, so that might be part of the problem.)

8. What is one thing that you absolutely HATE in a book?

There are so many things I could potentially hate. I guess one of my biggest ones would be when a book puts down women or makes women feel small or takes the men>women stance. Really, a book that doesn't support women. I understand if it's the society/setting of the book, but if it makes the reader feel this way, then no. Again, there are many other things I HATE in books, but that'd be a very long list.

9. What is your Hogwarts House?

I always stumble when I get to this question (I know, GASP). I can't decide if I'd be a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. I think I'm slightly more Ravenclaw than Hufflepuff though, so that's usually what I go with. Ravenclaw! :)

10. How many books do you own? Doesn't have to be exclusively YA, just books on your shelves total.

"My" books include my sister's books and the ones we share, but it's over 200 books. 

11. If you could live ANYWHERE (in this world, or in a fictional world), where would it be?

Fictional--Hogwarts/Wizarding world. In real life--Depends! Near NYC, in NYC, Europe somewhere, Quebec City, Brazil (Sao Paulo?). The thing is, I love living near a big city and wouldn't mind living in a big city, but I also really love historic areas/cities, so yeah.

Aurora
1. Character you love to hate?

Bellatrix Lestrange, as I mentioned above!

2. Book/series that needs to be adapted to a movie/TV show, right now?

Ooo...tough one because there are so many good ones! I'd love to see Open Road Summer as a movie or something but mostly because I just want more of the book! So much love!

3. Author you wish you could write like?

There are a bunch! I wish I could write like J.K. Rowling, Emery Lord, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah J Maas, Rainbow Rowell, and more!

4. The most horribly disgusting, terribly written book you would burn all the copies of if you could legally?

Umm...I try to stay away from those books, and I really don't like the idea of burning books, no matter how much I hate them. I mean, there must be a reason it was published, right? But maybe Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Ugh, that woman annoyed me to no end in that book. But who knows? Maybe Mein Kampf too. 

5. Biggest fandom?

If you couldn't tell, Harry Potter. ;)

6. Novel/series you've written fanfic of/want to?

Harry Potter. I don't remember if there's anything else, at least in terms of books. What would I want to? Better HP fanfiction, as well as for every book/series I love. Long list. Hahaha!

7. Favorite forced school reading book?

Hands down, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. 

8. Least favorite school reading book?

There are a bunch...probably Of Mice and Men and The Pearl both by John Steinbeck.

9. First book/series obsession?

*hides* Harry Potter...

10. 3 authors you'd invite to tea/lunch/dinner?

J. K Rowling, Sonia Fuderer (not published yet but getting close!), and...oh gosh! There's so many lovely authors I'd LOVE to invite to tea/lunch/dinner, so I'm just going to go with one more, even though I'd pick like 50 if I could. So I guess Emery Lord.

11. Bookstore you'd raid if you had a $1000 gift card?

Strand? Barnes and Noble? Half Price Books, probably (if only there was one near me).
~~~
Whew! Now I don't even want to think about the other part of this! Many of the <200 follower bloggers I follow have already been nominated, so fingers crossed that these lovelies haven't or don't mind if they already have. Also, I'm not nominating ten, sorry.

1) Denise @ Dandelionn Wine Book Blog
2) Klaudia @ The Observant Girl Book Reviews
3) Morgan and Fallon @ Seeing Double in Neverland
4) Annie @ The Runaway Reader
5) Natalie @ Novel Views

My questions:
1. What's one book you've read that's outside your usual comfort zone that you ended up loving?
2. If you could bring one dead book character back to life, who would it be?
3. If you could change the ending to any book (if it's a series, the end of the series), which would it be? Why? What would you do instead?
4. Since it's World Cup time as of right now, what sports do you enjoy playing and/or watching, if any? Favorite teams?
5. What's your most anticipated 2015 book?
6. What are some of your bookish pet peeves?
7. Give a shout out to some of your favorite twitter peeps!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Challenge: Clear Your TBR Pile Challenge Intro (+Giveaway)


Hi everyone! I hope you're having a wonderful summer vacation so far. I hope you've been reading lots. Anyway, today I'm introducing a challenge I'm co-hosting. Hopefully you'll be interested, especially since we all know about the curse of the never ending TBR pile. ;)

From July 28th to August 11th, Klaudia @ The Observant Girl Book Reviews and I will be hosting this challenge!

Objective: Read as many books from your TBR pile as possible during the two weeks this event will span.

Instructions: 
1) Sign up on the linky below if you're interested.

2) Create an introduction post on your blog. Include the banner (with links back to this post) and your goals for the challenge. 

If you don't have a blog, feel free to create a shelf on Goodreads with the books you plan on reading or tweet the books on twitter with the hashtag #ClearYourTBRPileChallenge

3) On August 4th, post a "check-in"/halfway point update on your blog. Include how many books you've read so far, your thoughts on the challenge, etc. Feel free to be creative!

4) On the last day of the challenge, August 11th, post how many books you've read, whether you completed your goal or not, if you enjoyed the challenge, etc. Again, feel free to be creative!

5) Have fun! This challenge is meant to help bloggers/readers tackle their TBR pile. Be sure to grab our button while you're at it!

Giveaway:

Sign Up!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

1 Year Blogoversary!!! (+Giveaway)

*dances around* *throws confetti*

If you couldn't tell, it's my 1 year blogoversary!!! Woohoo! I never imagined that I would make it this far, and I never imagined I'd make all the friends I would make along the way. Originally, I was going to do a huge celebration type thing for this, but since I have a few events coming up in August (and was supposed to have another one continuing into around this time), I figured it was best not to.

I want to take this time to thank every single person that has helped me, supported me, followed me, befriended me, talked to me, and so much more. I would list you all, but the list would go on forever. For the most part, the list would consist of most of the people I follow on Twitter, so just check out those people. And for the most part, I think you'd know who you are. Whether we still talk often or not, I really appreciate everything you have all done for me. I definitely would not be here, still blogging, if it weren't for you!

Thank you for showing me that YA isn't just for teens and that so many people out there love books as much as I do, regardless of age. Thank you for showing me that adults read and love YA too and that I should read what I want, no matter how old I am or what genre I read.

Thank you for being there for me when I need a friend (or a whole bunch!). Thank you for putting up with me on Twitter. Thank you for putting up with my random hiatuses. Thank you for understanding all my reading, school, etc woes. Thank you for all the love and support.

You all rock, and I do love you all.

This has been an amazing year of blogging, and I'm excited for many more. I would write more, like I did for my 6 month blogoversary, but a lot of what I have to say was stated then. I don't want to give shout outs to certain people because there are too many people, and I hate leaving people out because I forget or because I haven't talked to them in a while. I really do treasure my friendships and relationships with all of you.

The only people I want to specifically shout out are 1) my amazing co-bloggers at Lit Up Review: Willa, Emily, Meredith, and Grace. You ladies inspire me all the time, and I'm amazed by all you do alone and all we do together. I love chatting with you all, and I love how despite how different we all are, we still come together as a group when we blog. You rock!

2) Sonia Fuderer, who I've only really begun talking to recently but has been so supportive, understanding (in so many ways), kind, and so much more. Really, our relationship is unlike most of the relationships I have with people. It's so special, and I just want to thank you for everything. My fingers are still crossed that a publisher will be as interested in The Last Flock as I am! Between our conversations about dance, books, and life, I've really found a great friend, supporter, and friend, and I can't thank you enough, Sonia.

Anyway, now, here is a giveaway I've been promising for who-knows-how-long. There's going to be another giveaway up tomorrow along with a post about one the events I was talking about at the beginning of this post. Here's to many more blogoversaries! *hugs*

Giveaway:
Rules:
~Must be 13 or older or have parent permission
~US only, except for the swag
~Winner must respond in 72 hours or a new winner will be chosen
~No cheating will be tolerated
~Damaged or lost prizes are not my responsibility--sorry!
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