Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary
David Levithan
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult/Adult, Romance, Poetry, Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Beautiful
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I probably will never be able to articulate what this book means to me and how much I love it. It is tiny, but the heart on the front cover beats furiously, every single word holding something baring and honest and magical and alive. Do you get it yet!? Go read this book! What are you waiting for?

If you're still here, I might as well entertain you -- and this sentence exemplifies one of the most powerful devices Levithan employs in the book. The use of the Second Person point of view. It can feel subtle at times but it's huge. It immediately draws you into the story, makes you feel a part of it, forces you to think about how your actions affect another human being. It forces you into the general shoes of a lover, but also of someone with familial problems, with alcohol problems, and infidelity when your partner and you have clearly set boundaries against that. In this way, it helps enormously with the characterization.
motif, n.
You don't love me as much as I love you. You don't love me as much as I love you. You don't love me as much as I love you. (Levithan, 144)
Which leads to my second point: how the hell did he fit all of this poetry and depth into 211 pages? What the actual hell? The language is often as simple as the above quote, but if you know anything about this book at all, you know the lengths of Levithan's poetic abilities. And even when it's simple, it's often meaningful. The imbalanced love provided in Levithan's 'definition' for motif  is a crucial part of what can make or break relationships (of any kind) and is scarcely touched upon with deft hands in the over-romanticised world of fiction we find ourselves in, where it is only ever used as a plot device or character development device. The recognition of this imbalance is a crucial part of what makes this book, because Levithan doesn't handle it like just another plot device: like everything else in the book, he simply recognizes that it is a part of most relationships, explores it, and leaves it to play out on the rest of the pages and then for you to carry with you after the book is done.

This honesty is just so bloody fresh. I've become so spoiled with near-perfect relationships or perfectly destructive relationships in YA that it's hard to spot something that truly feels honest. Levithan sums it up in two pages:
ardent, adj.
It was after sex, when there was still heat and mostly breathing, when there was still touch and mostly thought . . . it was as if the whole world could be reduced to the sound of a single string being played, and the only thing this sound could make me think of was you. Sometimes desire is air; sometimes desire is liquid. And every now and then, when everything else is air and liquid, desire solidifies, and the body is the magnet that draws its weight. (19)
arduous, adj.
Sometimes during sex, I wish there was a button on the small of your back that I could press and cause you to be done with it already. (20)
This. Is. Perfect. I choose this over ubiquitous, which is summed up as: when it's good, you feel like your at the top of the world, and love is everywhere, and when it's bad, it's still everywhere, and it haunts you. This is the message in these two definitions, though this has to do with a more physical facet. Ardent gives desire a poetic, all-encompassing, overwhelmingly poetic and transcendent feeling. Sometimes, though, people can be turned off. This is wonderfully important because, like motif, it is something honest that is hardly ever come up in literature today. Even more so, because these definitions are right next to each other, this does something that the ubiquitous definition, as much as I love it, cannot do, it shows you just how quickly things can turn from good to bad. I've read some people complain about the structure of this book, how it isn't in a progressive narrative order. Those people obviously are missing something here. The structure is one of the most important parts of the book. Since the story itself is so incredibly simple: the narrator falls in love with 'you' and you both go through the motions of a regular relationship: finding an apartment and reconciling the different ways you like your living rooms, having to deal with your alcoholism, having to deal with the narrator's almost pathetic (and this is what sells it) shyness and inferiority complex, meeting each other's friends and family, having you cheat on him, him getting angry because you don't put the toothpaste cap on, etc. It's a simple love story, but love isn't so simple to Levithan, and it's so much more all over the place, confusing, contradicting, and so that's what this book is to me (in part). This book documents the difference between a facile understanding of relationships, and a comprehensive, honest understanding. Of course, there are books like The Art of Loving that offer deeper analysis, but this tiny masterpiece here offers so much more than its 211 pages to the world of budding lovers.

Before I continue to drool effervescently over this novel, I'll cut this review here. You should acquire this book by whatever means you possibly can. And read it.

And the best part? David Levithan continues his story on this twitter page.

- Marlon

What's your favorite love story?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Montana in A Minor - Elaine Russell

Montana in A Minor
Elaine Russell
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Easy, Breezy
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Elaine Russell, the author of Montana in A Minor, contacted our blog about reviewing her book, offering a free copy and attaching a description of the book. What really piqued my interest was the mention of Emily, the protagonist, having mild OCD. For some background, the book centers around Emily having to spend the summer in Montana on her stepdad's father's farm because her dad cancelled their tour of Europe because he is a busy symphony conductor who has too many shows. She has an audition for Julliard coming up so she intends to spend every day practicing and perfecting the piece she needs to play on her cello. Throw in a cute boy working on the farm and a few other things and you've got yourself a novel.

So the OCD thing really interested me and I wanted to know how it affected her character and her music and how it would play out in regards to the story. Unfortunately, I thought it wasn't as highlighted as it could have been. We don't even know she has OCD until way into the book. And it doesn't even mention it on the back cover so unless you read the long version of the description on lie before reading the book, you would have no idea that the subtle things Elaine Russell throws in about her behavior are actually results of that. For example, in the first few pages we see her go through a breakup and she's told that her anxieties are too much. That could mean anything. Maybe she just gets paranoid about her cello skills. And then Russell mentions how she does things in threes and taps things and has quirks like that but if you didn't already know this detail, I feel like the reader would have missed it. Emily does eventually enlighten us about her diagnosis of mild OCD and I really liked one part towards the end when Breck (the cute ranch hand) notices her repetitive movements and she freaks out, thinking about how she was told just recently that her anxiety was too much and can't help but feel a little but crazy. I thought that scene was very well done and showed a lot of depth and was extremely realistic. It ended up triggering a fight, along with one pretty big revelation, but in reality, things like this do cause tension and I'm glad it was included in the book. However, like I said, I felt that it was kindof thrown on the back burner. There wasn't too much focus on it and it was only brought up a few times. I'd like to have seen it play more into Emily's personality and affect her life and her cello playing a little bit more.

One thing I did really like about this novel was how Emily threw in musical terms to describe her life. A few examples of the ways she incorporates these terms into her own daily scenarios:
"I hear the slightest esitazione, that momentary pause in a tango when the dancers freeze."
"I wake up at midnight to a shower of stars twinkling and dancing across the sky like a string of quick staccato notes, each one sparkling for an instant of flory before fading away."
The book is littered with these throughout and I think it's one of the best parts of the novel. I really loved how Emily was so in tune to music that she even started thinking of nonconventional things in those terms. It really added to her characterization.

My overall impression of this book was that it was very light and cute, and definitely entertaining, but could use some smoothing of the edges before it gains back those stars I knocked off. For one, the narration wasn't the greatest. I could see Elaine Russell was trying to achieve the 16 year old girl vibe with the voice and narration but something felt off and a lot of it fell flat and choppy, while in other parts Emily's character shone through. I think there should have been more consistency with the narration and a lot of it could have been improved.

In regards to characters, I thought that's where she did a really good job. The main characters were fleshed out well enough for a story this short and even though no one was super in-depth described, they all had their own aspects that came out. Jake, Emily's step-grandfather, was definitely my favorite character and he was also definitely the best developed one. Breck's friends were mostly one dimensional, but they were supposed to be, as they were only there for a scene or two, just there to further along certain scenes.

The story itself wasn't too shocking or anything but it wasn't completely predictable. While things like the romance part and where she ended up with her college/career decisions at the end were obvious form the start, there were definitely quite a few plot points that were unexpected and kept me on my toes. I particularly liked the stuff Russell threw in about the natives of the area, although I wish she had gone somewhere further with that.

Overall, I enjoyed this story but I think this book needed a few more pages in order to flesh the story out and really give it some more depth, as well as improve upon the narration. Other than that, it was a worthwhile read and a good way to spend an hour or so.

- Noor

Where are you spending your summer?
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Delirium TV Show Pilot

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Disappointing
Goodreads | IMDb | Hulu

What feels like a long time ago, I was following the development of the Delirium pilot - hearing about casting, looking at photos, and being absolutely crushed when FOX did not pick up the series. Now, after being able to see the pilot on Hulu, I can say that I totally understand why it was not picked up.

As many fans were after reading Requiem, I had mixed feelings about the series as a whole because I was disappointed by the end; however, I was still pretty excited about the TV show. Unfortunately, the pilot was choppy, had too much going on, completely skipped over a lot of important information to rush through the entire first book in one hour, and changed so many things for what seemed like no reason. I'm always one to look past changes made in book to film adaptations, but despite seeing the book and pilot as separate entities, I feel that the pilot was just not that great.

In non-spoilery conclusion:

To fans of the series - I recommend still watching this because it's free and it's less than an hour long. Despite how much I was disappointed by it, I've seen people who loved it. If you want to read a more detailed review, continue to read on through the spoilery section!

To people who've only heard about Delirium - Again, it's free and less than an hour. If you like dystopian worlds, you'll probably like this. Also, if you're on the fence about reading the series, watching this pilot provides the basic concept of the first book in a very watered down form. I think those who know little about this series could definitely be interested in reading the books after seeing this pilot.

Onto the spoilers! Please read at your own risk as there will be spoilers for Delirium, the differences between the show and the book, and some spoilers about how the changes they made would effect Pandemonium and Requiem.

The pilot starts out somewhat similarly to the book - Lena is on her way to her interview. The main difference is this: her sister is the one bringing her and she is driving a car. This creates a huge difference in the society from the beginning. The class separation between Hana and Lena, as well as Hana's appearance (since she is lacking the flowing blonde hair of the books) is one that is essential to understanding Lena's insecurities. This may seem knit-picky, but it's the first sign of how little the friendship between Lena and Hana is portrayed in the pilot. After the very first scene with them talking before the evaluations, there is very little of the two together - they go running once, they go to the party, Lena warns Hana about the raid, and Hanna tells Lena she needs help because she's infected (this last one bothers me the most). Hana is WAY more supportive of Lena and Alex in the book. While she is the one who turns them in, Lena has no idea she's been betrayed by her friend.

After meeting up with Hana, Lena goes into her evaluation. In the pilot, she is called upon by Alex, who IMMEDIATELY falls in love with her, obviously. He then leads her to the examination room and watches her. In Lena's question and answer session, her answers are completely different from anything in the book and the scene shows very little of Lena's doubt in the procedure or her different views - cutting the part about her favorite color was particularly disappointing to me. Then, a change that I honestly don't get, sheep come into the room. Sheep. Why did it have to be sheep instead of cows? Were cows too expensive? Messy? I have no idea but I found it odd that they changed the type of animal.

After this, Lena and Alex fall in love. It's completely rushed and doesn't make any sense why she just blindly follows him or how he knows to rescue her from the cure. All the stuff about them hanging out in an abandoned house? Gone. All the stuff about Hana actually getting to know Alex? Gone. Lena and Alex's trip to the Wilds? Gone. All of it gone. One of my favorite parts of Delirium is seeing Lena and Alex fall in love. While their relationship develops quickly in the book, it still makes sense that Lena would fall for him since she was so insecure about her appearance and didn't know what she was experiencing with this crush. In the movie, it's Alex is just like, "Yo, I'm handsome and I'm not really cured and we should totes run away together because I know things about society and stuff." Ok, maybe he didn't exactly say that but it's close enough.

Another major plot point added to the pilot is that the resistance is actually trying to recruit Lena. It's clear from Alex's interactions with the resistance leader, Tack, that Lena was his mission - he was sent from the Wild to get her. As the pilot progresses, it becomes much more clear that they want Lena because in the show, Lena's father was the parent who didn't actually die and was kept prisoner for trying to destroy the cure. I'm sorry, but what? While it seems like a good way to possibly reverse the cure in the end of the series, it's confusing. While it makes sense that Lena's mother survived and would be important to the resistance (like in the books...), there is absolutely no basis for her father to have been uncured. It's really quite a stretch from the books to say that both of Lena's parents had unsuccessful cures.

The stuff about Julian's family was mostly introductory information about the DFA (Deliria Free America) and the way his father went about his political business with the presidential candidate. There's also a really weird interaction between Hana and Julian about how Julian should break the rules. It didn't make sense to me but afterwards, Julian goes into his father's office and finds all the banned books and music. This is a HUGE change in his character! When we meet Julian in Pandemonium, he blindly follows his father's agenda, saying that getting the cure is more important than the risk it poses to his life. In the pilot, Julian is already having doubts about the cure.

I didn't elaborate much on the presidential candidate thing with Julian's dad, but that candidate's name happens to be Elyse Hargrove. Hargrove. Like Hana's future husband Hargrove. The connection between the presidential candidate being Fred Hargrove's mother was pretty unclear at first - I had no idea that the woman they kept showing and talking about was a Hargrove because there is absolutely no basis for this in the books. In fact, they actually made Fred Hargrove younger in the pilot. When we meet him, he has a discussion with his mother about educating people but not allowing them a choice and she says he'll understand after he has the cure. Despite Hana still receiving Fred as a match near the end of the pilot, Fred being uncured is a complete game changer for the series as a whole since he is so cruel in Requiem.

Overall, I can see why they wanted to incorporate back stories into the pilot since just following Lena would not have enough dimension for a television show but it felt too choppy. The cuts between the different stories were kind of hard to follow and coupled with the fact that the entire plot of Delirium is shoved into the pilot with all those other stories was just way too much. I had a lot of hope for this pilot despite not being picked up, but it's completely understandable why the series never came to light.

- Kiersten

What did you think of the pilot?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Hunter's Trail - Melissa F. Olson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

After getting another taste of Scarlet Bernard's world when I reviewed Sell-By Date, I'm waiting on Hunter's Trail by Melissa F. Olson!

Hunter's Trail 
Melissa F. Olson
Series:  Scarlett Bernard, #3
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: 47North
Waited on by: Kiersten
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Actions have consequences—a lesson Scarlett Bernard is learning the hard way. As a “null,” Scarlett has always been able to negate the powers of the supernatural beings that surround her. But now her reckless decision to permanently change Eli from a werewolf to a human has left the Los Angeles werewolf pack in shambles, and upset the balance of power among the city’s supernatural factions. To make matters worse, Scarlett’s employers discover that a newly changed werewolf is running amok in the city. To catch the rogue werewolf, Scarlett will need help from both Eli and Detective Jesse Cruz of the LAPD…a situation that will force her to finally choose between them.

However, Scarlett and her friends aren’t the only ones on the hunt—someone else is chasing the wolf. Someone with no reservations about collateral damage. Now Scarlett and her allies must stop both the rogue wolf and the deadly hunter before the full moon rises and all hell breaks loose.

Filled with the same suspense and wit readers loved in Dead Spots and Trail of Dead, this may be Scarlett Bernard’s most harrowing adventure yet…

The Scarlett Bernard series is one that I stumbled upon mostly by accident, buying the first book, Dead Spots, for a Kindle daily deal. After reading that book, I was hooked. Last year I reviewed the second book, Trail of Dead (here), and it left my wanting to know what would happen next. While I had momentarily forgot about the series during the wait, Melissa F. Olson sent me a copy of Sell-By Date (review here), which is a novella about Scarlett's roommate, that made me so much more eager to get my hands on Hunter's Trail. If you haven't read this series, I definitely recommend it for lovers of paranormal - the main premise of "nulls", those who can nullify supernatural beings, is such an original concept that is played out so well in this series. I cannot wait for this to come out!

- Kiersten

What are YOU waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Triple Review: Since You've Been Gone - Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone
Morgan Matson
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Perfect Summer Read
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I picked up Since You've Been Gone at BookExpo America this year and it's been towards the top of my to-read list. Now that I've gotten to reading it, I can say that I definitely was not disappointed.

The plot of the book centers around Emily Hughes and the summer before her senior year of high school. She was supposed to have the time of her life with her best friend Sloane but all of a sudden Sloane has disappeared, but has mailed Emily a list of 13 things to do, all outside her comfort zone. Emily decides that if she sets out to complete all the tasks on the list, she might figure out where Sloane is.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the character development. As I read the book, it became clear that Emily had this sort of unhealthy view of Sloane, that she she was trying to make her out to be this perfect savior type. She idealized Sloane in her head and made her out to be this perfect person who always knew exactly what to say and how to say it and who to talk to and how to dress and it made me wonder if Sloane had actually been more on the manipulative side all along, and whether or not this was a toxic friendship. And in the beginning, when she has just freshly felt the wound of finding her missing, Emily keep talking about how situations would be different if Sloane were there, about how she doesn't know what to say and how if she was there Sloane would carry on the conversation and Emily could open up around her and add in some comments here and there and be more in her comfort zone. This made me irritated by Emily, but what really got me was one scene where Frank Porter made a comment and Emily thought "If Sloane had been next to me, I would have said So to speak or That's for sure or some other punny remark, since there were actual ropes here and Frank had pretty much opened the door for a joke like that. But she wasn't, so I just looked away..." What?! Emily, what? The other times, I get that she felt insecure without her security blanket but this time she literally had the comment in her head and didn't make it. What????? I really didn't understand Emily on that one. So in the beginning we see her as this totally dependent person and it's kindof strange.

And then we see it fall away, which is where the character development comes in.

It starts with Frank Porter and their continued interactions, each time still slightly awkward. And then somewhere along the line they become running buddies and then even friends and then of course we can see where that is leading but clearly Morgan Matson doesn't believe in insta-love and praise her for that. Their friendship is portrayed so well, her at first describing him as his perfect straight-A class President who she would never imagine ever spending time with, and then slowly chiseling away at his exterior to discover his awesome music taste (awesome to me, not so much to Emily, who likes songs about trucks) and family problems and sense of humor. Emily begins to open up, to really find herself and become a person without Sloane attached.

As the story goes on, Emily also ends up befriending Collins, Frank's friend, and Dawn, the girl who works at the pizza place next door to where Emily works. I really enjoyed reading about how, as chapter by chapter she tries to spend her summer completing items on the list, she ends up surrounded by these dynamic and flawed individuals who all give a lot to the story in their own ways.

From having Frank and Collins talk in Beatles song titles to mixing in their running playlists in the chapters, Morgan Matson does such a good job of focusing on developing the characters and making them seem very real and dear.

Each chapter in the book is Emily crossing another things off the list and the more things she does, the more she changes. One of the big things I noticed is that the more she does these things that Sloane wants her to do, the less she needs Sloane there to guide her through her summer and her life. Each task has some degree of difficulty for Emily, but she gets through a lot of them with her new friends, which makes for a fairly interesting summer tale.

The book is also intertwined with flashbacks, not in a weird figure-out-the-plot sort of way, but usually when Emily references something with a story behind it. These flashbacks help the reader understand Sloane and who she really is and what her relationship with Emily was like. I thought they were nicely done and accompanied the story very effectively.

Overall, I loved reading about these characters and Morgan Matson has a very good narrative voice that made this book a pleasure to get through. I thought there could have been some changes made in the ending but I can't say anything without spoilers so I'm just going to leave it at that. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a very cute read and perfectly captured the feeling of a summer book (although I think I'd still enjoy it any other time of year).

- Noor

Marlon's Since You've Been Gone Review
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: B+

Caution: I have very mixed feelings about this book. I'm am like the annoying clumps of flour in the cake, not totally dissolved into a decision. 

If you haven't read the blurb, this novel is about a girl named Emily, who's best friend Sloane mysteriously disappears, leaving her a list of things to do.

The novel has a defining characteristic, in that it comprehensively captures Emily's voice. From the moment the novel started, I felt like I knew Emily. She has so many mannerisms of speech (for instance, she's in the business of dropping highish-end grade words like "parse" in casual thoughts) and a distinct thought process (a love for lots of exposition in her head, and never letting any of this outside her head). Emily comes alive so well in the novel that she nearly becomes it, only fuelled by the first-person POV. I honestly started to believe Emily that Sloane was her saviour, that without her, it was like ripping a limb off and refusing to cauterise the wound. She seemed ready to lay at the threshold of Sloane's empty house and die. I felt that this psychological dependence was a bit much, but I could see the connection as bright as day and how it had developed because of Matson's narrative clarity.

At first, this is why I loved the novel. Then, this was why I hated the novel. Now, I realise this is why I both really love this book and hate it a little.

I'll show you why:

Because Emily's are the only eyes through which we see other characters, it isn't until a quarter of the way through the book until I realised that her best friend Sloane, was a lie. This isn't particularly stated, but it's hinted at in flashbacks: for example, Sloane brushing aside Emily's comment on the way to the Orchard. In the beginning, Emily idolizes Sloane to the point where she only ever imagines what Sloane would do in a situation, which always happened to be "the right thing" to do. She is ready to abandon her reckless brother at an indoor extreme sports park just to attempt to find this other girl. 

This is extremely disturbing but totally amazing. Why? This is so rarely done in YA. Friendships are rarely explored in Contemporary or YA works. Instead, there is a tendency to focus on the intricacies of love and/or lust centred relationships. Never have I seen a friendship put at the forefront of a book, and never have I seen a questionable friendship been put at the forefront of a book. Even more amazing is that the love relationship that is displayed in this book is not conventional, it's not instalove, it's barely even recognizable from a Hollywood portrayal: t's a developing friendship that blossoms into something else entirely. This is awesome. 

One thing is certain, this book is absolutely excellent for a specific demographic. Introverted, middle-class, anxious teenagers. Though I admit this is a large demographic, Matson doesn't seem to push beyond this and make the novel any more wholesome and powerful than it has to be. It is effectively the process of Emily, an introverted, anxious, embarrassed-because-of-her-shoe-size etc. teenager losing her safety-net best friend, Sloane, and having to take control of her life and become empowered.

And what I love is that this book is still enjoyable for people who don't fit into this demographic. There is a wealth of other appeal (if you can get past the fairly uneventful and dry first chapter): lots and lots of puns; hilarious dialogue, sometimes in song lyric; and best of all, beautifully flawed characters that help Emily in her development, including a new friend Dawn, the all-over-the-place Collins, and Frank, lovely lovely Frank, who is nothing like the perfect Frank she has imagined for the last three years.

In that same vein, though, Emily was the most boring part of the novel. This can be partially forgiven, because Emily is supposed to be the most boring part of the novel. Yet, though, the transition from the beginning to the end is wonderful, characters like Frank Porter and Matt Collins seemed more worthwhile and a lot less fragmentary and confused as Emily can be. I wanted more depth out of them instead of just a two layer coating of "I'm this way on the outside" and "I have parental problems on the inside". Granted they were well developed, just not well enough.

Also the end? WTF? I don't want to ruin it but the "big reveal" honestly could have been eased into the story better, or at least handled as a narrative device rather than an explosion.

My only other downside is again, Emily. 
Sometimes Emily's thought process is perfectly displayed: when she's having a conversation with Frank early on, she starts flipping out to herself: "I didn't know how to do this by myself and I didn't want to have to learn. Also, I didn't think I'd exchanged more than a few sentences with Frank Porter in three years, so I wasn't sure how we were pending this much time talking about the size of my feet." (Matson, 46)

And sometimes it can be confusing. Page 36 exemplifies the Emily's apparent love for long-winded, semirelated/unrelated exposition by leading off into a tangent about the different childhoods that Emily and her brother Beckett experienced, provoked by . . . well, nothing. . . . Matson transitioned from active voice to reflection by a joke on finding directions. This is damaging since the description in question would be perfectly appropriate in another context, such as a few pages later, when Emily leaves Beckett at IndoorExtreme. Beckett's comfort and security could be shown to stem from living in relative comfort and security. Instead, the reader trudges through an ostensibly random section of information. Emily's thoughts can confound the book in good ways (hiding the questionable relationship between her and Sloane) but also in bad ways, like this.


No short boys? Why? WHY? GIVE ME SHORT BOYS OR GIVE ME DEATH. I'm just kidding, this book actually did a fairly decent job with beauty, giving the reader an average-looking Frank as the love interest. I would have liked a bit more ethnic and gender variability, though. 

There are so many five star reviews on goodreads that I initially did a double take when finishing this novel. Was I just being cynical? In a bad mood? Not enough tea? But no. This book was great, not perfect, but great, as in, a wonderful Contemporary summer read. But no more, and no less.

- Marlon

Amrutha's Since You've Been Gone Review
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Word rating: Summery and Delightful 

When I first started this book, the first chapter or so seemed so dry that I was immediately disappointed. However, do not be discouraged by the slow start. Since You've Been Gone soon transforms into an adorable, breezy summer read. I read this book on one of the first days of summer late into the night, finishing it in one sitting, and when I was done with it, I found myself aching for days at the beach (it's funny because nowhere in the novel is a beach mentioned (also I hate the beach). But the summer atmosphere that the book presents is undeniable.

Since You've Been Gone revolves around Emily, our protagonist, who is presented with a list of 13 things to complete during the summer, given to her by her mysterious best friend Sloane, who disappeared without notice. The story immediately evolves into a story about friendship, laughter, and personal growth (all things that I especially, as a senior just starting the summer before her freshman year of college, needed to read about).

Matson really nails this concept of personal growth with Emily, slowly ridding her obsession with Sloane, whom she idolizes, and pushing her to think more of herself. Whether it be skinny dipping or anything else, Emily learns to be fearless, and how to let loose and have some fun. I think a huge moral here for me was that sometimes it is okay to mess up and take risks and deal with the consequences later, so long as you get an overall positive end result or experience. It was a story I really needed to read right now, so it hit pretty close to home.

What I really enjoyed about the story was that Emily was able to make new friends without replacing her old one, as happens so often in YA books about best friends. Collins, Dawn, and of course, Frank all play intense roles in having Emily finish the list, while also propelling her forward into character development. In the beginning, Emily was shy to do things and often knew what Sloane would do in a situation, but was confused as to what SHE should do. Slowly, via some awkward but adorable encounters with Frank, interacting with her ex, helping out her new friend Dawn, or joking around with Collins, Emily completed the list and was left feeling like a new and improved person, who knew what Emily would say, rather than Sloane.

Matson did a wonderful job on this book, and I can't wait to read other works of hers. She really put me in a summer mindset (it's hard to do) and left us with a really lovely story that I'd recommend to just about anyone.

- Amrutha

Do you have a best friend?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stuffed Animal Saturday [13]

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

Hey guys! You might think this is Minnie Mouse, but it's actually just Mickey with a penchant for cross-dressing. Minnie's on vacation. While she's been gone, we've started a novel Since You've Been Gone. A bit fitting, I think.

So Far: So far this book has been freaking awesome. Mickey most loves the fact that, although he might not get along with the main character, her voice is captured so incredibly well, infused with as many quirks and mannerisms as a real person's. Mickey wonders where Matson got her imagination, and where he can get him some (okay that last part was me). We've only got a few pages in so far, but we love it! Stay tuned for the review on monday!

A Sneak Peek: 

Since I haven't got very far I'll post the blurb:

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um...


Are you and your stuffed animal reading anything interesting? 
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cover Cosmetics: Reboot - Amy Tintera

As I continue to be a slow reader and complete slacker, I shall be posting yet another Cover Cosmetics in place of an actual review! (I know, I suck.) For this Cover Cosmetics I was inspired by the cover of Reboot by Amy Tintera! I read Reboot last year and it's such a quick read with an inventive take on zombies. I definitely need to get Rebel soon!

The cover:

The makeup:

For this look I pretty much just replicated the top part of the cover. I used black as a base and I applied the red lines spaced out rather unevenly to mimic the barcode. I dropped three of the red lines down to simulate the drop downs pointing to 178 on the cover.

- Kiersten

What's your favorite book about "zombies"?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Dark Days - Kate Ormand

Dark Days
Kate Ormand 
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Short and Sweet

About the book:

The future world has been divided into sectors--each the same as the other. Surrounded by thick steel fences, there is no way in and no way out. Yet a cyborg army penetrates each sector, picking off its citizens one by one, until no one is left. Behind the sectors' thick walls, the citizens wait to die. Few will be chosen to survive what's coming; the rest will be left behind to suffer. A new world has been created, and its rulers are incredibly selective on who will become a citizen. They want only those with important roles in society to help create a more perfect future.

Sixteen-year-old Sia lives in one of the sectors as part of a family that is far too ordinary to be picked to live. According to the digital clock that towers high above her sector, she has only fifteen days to live. Sia has seen the reports and knows a horrific death is in store for her, but she is determined to make the most of her final days. Sia refuses to mourn her short life, instead promising herself that she'll stay strong, despite being suffocated by her depressed mother and her frightened best friend. Just when Sia feels more alone than ever, she meets Mace, a mysterious boy. There is something that draws Sia to him, despite his dangerousness, and together, they join a group of rebels and embark on an epic journey to destroy the new world and its machines, and to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people.



Dark Days was not a book as dark as the title and description suggests. It was a very quick read, and even though it was a dystopian book set in a very bleak future, I didn't find the content too heavy. While there were some things I wish had been different, overall I liked the book and found it an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

The beginning of the story did a pretty good job of drawing me in. It was written well and Kate Ormand began to set up the world they lived in. I wish that throughout the book there had been more explanation of why the sectors were built and what they initially offered protection from. There's a lot of information we don't get about the world and I wish she had explored that a bit more, especially since there were plenty of opportunities to do so.

I also liked Sia as a character. A lot of the times she made bad decisions or was stubborn and I wanted to yell at her but that added to her dynamic and growth. In general, she was a good protagonist although I think the side characters were definitely a lot more interesting and more fun to explore, even some who only got a few scenes in the book. My favorite thing about Sia is her list of things to do before she dies. It's one of the first things we see and it made me like her instantly. While I liked Mace, her love interest in the book and the guy who kickstarts this whole journey, I thought it was a bit too insta-love. She felt this connection with him after seeing him once and kept thinking about him and I thought it was just too much but I understand that she needed a reason to seek him out again and so I can respect the artistic choices. Mace was very interesting to read about, especially since we only get to see him from Sia's perspective so we learn things about him as she does, which adds to his mystery. I liked his charm and presence and thought he brought out good qualities in Sia.

As for the plot, the book is a countdown starting fourteen days before Sia's sector is supposed to be destroyed, killing everyone in it who hadn't been taken out and chosen to start life in the New World. With that little time to live, everything happened pretty quickly, which I definitely appreciated. I think this book definitely needed a fast-paced plot and anything else would have made it hard to get through. Kate Ormand also tried to include a big plot twist -- you'll definitely know it when you read it. While it wasn't actually all that hard to see coming, I appreciated it and I think it helped move the story along. I also like date ending and how it was slightly ambiguous.

Overall, while I think the book needs some polishing up with things like developing the characters more and establishing the setting, it's a good story and very easy to get through. It's a quick, short read and moves quickly enough to provide a few hours of entertainment.

Also there are cyborgs. I love cyborgs. A+ for cyborgs.

- Noor

Purchase links:

About the author:

KATE ORMAND is a YA writer represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She recently graduated from university with a first class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also a member of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise.

You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website ( or on Twitter (@kateormand).

Author links:

Win A Dark Days canvas bag, signed bookmarks, and a signed hardcover (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tour hosted by:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: In Starlight - February Grace

In Starlight
February Grace
Series: Sequel to Of Stardust
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Little repetitive but decent
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

Sigh guys, this book, while being pretty good, was not as good as its predecessor, Of Stardust (review here). In Starlight, being more from Gus's perspective, I found, was more than a little awkward. Although I loved having more Gus and Till, I just wasn't as into this book as I was the first. (It's still a good read though!)

The reason I liked this book so much was the focus on romance. While the first book was filled with magic and cute things galore, this was a refreshingly upbeat tale of Gus and Till. (Upbeat if we count all the trials and tribulations of their relationship). It is apparent in the story how much Gus cares for Till, regardless of the rules, and not going to lie, the way it was written was adorable. However, I feel as though February Grace did a better job focusing on Till in the first novel, and perhaps focusing on the female lead in the story led to a better outcome. This time around, the plot line presented dire consequences for the couple, as opposed to previously, when the book had a much more upbeat feel to it.

Another issue that manifested itself in this book was the emphasis on love not really being explained. The first novel was all about the rules and while Gus and Till needed to fight for their love here, they just seemed to stop caring so much about the rules with no real explanation. The idea of sacrifice was kind of lost, and I missed it because it was portrayed so well in Of Stardust.

The POV being Gus-centric was a little problematic for me, mostly because it was ALL ABOUT TILL. Like I understand they're in love, but they were when the first novel was Till-centric and she wasn't obsessed with him. This couple was really cute at times and my heart melted for them. but some of the repetitive mental I <3 Till that Gus seemed to be thinking about 150% of the time kind of annoyed me. This is why I would prefer to have the book in Till's point of view, as I feel that was done so much better.

All in all though, good read. This was just disappointing more so in comparison to the first novel than to anything else.

- Amrutha

What sequels were you disappointed by? 
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 16, 2014

ARC Review: Flying Shoes - Lisa Howorth

Flying Shoes
Lisa Howorth
Series: N/A
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: A-
Goodreads | Amazon  | Book Depository

This book comes out tomorrow! AH! I received the novel from this year's Book Expo America, so I was more or less excited to crack it open.

And I'm entirely ambivalent about it.

This novel has a few things that make it enveloping and delightful, and a few things I couldn't stand.

Here is a scale:

Thanks Google!

Now, imagine, if you will, the great things about this novel: the cast, the humour, the beautiful word choice.

Mary Byrd Thornton is a heart-warming character, forced to tread lightly on so much broken glass after the old ghosts of her brother's murder are trudged up and thrown at her. What I love about this character is that she is separated by twenty years from this crime, and yet when called by the investigation, she drops everything. Her life in Oxford is still going on, and though she's afraid of flying, she makes the trek to Richmond. All along the novel her character is faced with guilt, guilt from possibly having a connection to the murder, of leaving her family behind to deal with another crime: her housekeeper, Evagreen, is arrested for murder. As if time doesn't heal, and on top of that, stacks more pain on. I just love the richness and depth of her fear and anxiety, it paints such a startlingly real picture of how pain influences people, how we deal with it. It's my favourite part of the novel.

Now multiply that by about ten. Lisa Howorth attemps to give us that level of depth with every character in the cast, from Thornton to Teever, the Vietnam vet. Barely a couple of chapters in and we know as much of Mary's children as we do of her: her daughter doesn't want to smell like her for example, and her son has a penchant for having the messiest room on the planet. It's amazing because she's trying to keep herself centred in her life but her life keeps moving, and Howorth uses this motion to present and capture something incredibly hard in a novel: simple reality.

And the writing is just damn good. The way Howorth pairs Mary's seemingly random thoughts with the action create head-nodding and heart-clenching moments just about every other page. I love love love that.
"She only bought the expensive, out-of-season fruit . . . for Iggy. The gnawed place with the shard oozed onto the heart pine." (Howorth, 7)
And on the other side, just slightly lighter is the plot. I love and hate the plot and it's enough to chip away a star. What I love about the plot is that it meanders and attempts to develop each character, and spin such a comprehensive, poignant story that the effect is charming. Halfway through the novel, I though Howorth was as masterful as Joyce, having set up such a magical version of consciousness through the eyes of Mary Thornton. The character's tangents and digressions often allow a break from the conventional crime thriller, turning it into a psychological landscape instead. Unfortunately, by the end it just fell short for me. I don't know if I'm too picky, but the characters didn't seem as fluid as they had in the beginning.

For example, I got the sense that Maan's life was only important enough to offer up wisdom on the social injustice and hypocrisies of Mississipi's past and the racial implications that has for the present.

Despite this minor infraction (which I admit, doesn't happen to every part of the plot, only to most of the secondary characters), I highly recommend this novel!

(As an ARC, the quotes should be considered with a grain of thought.)

- Marlon

Do you think time heals?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cover Cosmetics (sort of): Sailor Moon

Yesterday I worked on my entry for a "superhero" themed makeup contest. Being the asian culture loving person I am, I decided to do my makeup inspired by Sailor Moon - and, adding to that, I was watching Mew Mew Power while I worked! While it's not entirely book related, I figured I'd share it with you guys!

I was a huge fan of Sailor Moon when I was younger (note the staff I've had since I was 5). For the makeup, I decided to use the colors of Sailor Moon's outfit: I used a blue-toned white on the lid, red and black in the crease, and blue on the lower lash line. To add a little more whimsy to the look, I did Sailor Moon's tiara in gold and red eyeshadow on my forehead and added a little gold crescent under my eye.

What were some of your favorite cartoons as a kid?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare

City of Heavenly Fire
Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments, #6
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: A + a truckful of tissue boxes
Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Book Depository

Well one thing is true: Cassandra Clare knows how to end a series. And at the same time, she knows how to keep our sorry selves hooked from now until the world is consumed and forsaken by demons.

Let me explain. If you've read Clockwork Princess (if you haven't then I don't know what you're doing with your life), then you know what I mean. In the last book, all of the stories that Clare has set from the spindle, has unwoven and unwoven and unwoven, fall completely apart and are stitched back together by the end. The villain has moments of fury, a few people never see the light of day again, certain characters become undone and new again, people die, the romances have their denouements . . . it's a beautiful ending. It may not be the necessary ending, but it's a beautiful, neat, and at the very least, sensible, ending.

Though City of Heavenly Fire (hereafter CoHF) strays from this and stretches the beautiful part, I still think it deserves the description. Developments I never thought of, characters I completely forgot, were given some form of closure (and for a certain Taki's employee, a lot of frustration). There were a few seeming strikes, like the way a certain character seems to move on after someone dies . . . but then that began to make sense under the pressure and emotion of what took place. I do have one strike though, for the end, but I'll save that for the end.

Unlike Clockwork Princess, though, Clare softens the pain of an ending with the prologue to a new beginning. Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn are heavily featured throughout the chapters of CoHF and this was something that immediately won me over. The scene where Emma is doubled over and Julian brings her her blade, Cortana.
" . . .  and there was Jules, leaning against the edge of the bed, and holding something out to her . . .
It was Cortana. . . . Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal. . . .
This is what her father had meant: Like Cortana, she had steel in her veins and she was meant to be strong . . . She hugged the sword against her chest. As if from a distance, she heard Helen exclaim and reach for her, but Julian . . . tugged Helen's hand back. . . . blood was running down her arms and chest . . . She didn't feel it . . . she clutched the sword like it was the only thing she had ever loved . . . " (Clare, 58)
I think that scene is just irrefragably one of the most powerful moments in the novel, as it sums up the horrors of Sebastian's (it's hard not to call him Sebi-chan) 'Dark War', the problems with the Clave, and Emma's manner of coping with pain.

But in wonderful contrast to that, Clare pours out Simon's clipping, sarcastic comedy, Jace's hot hotness and hilarity, Clary's endless wondering . . . things we know we'll sorely miss. For the sake of the Angel, the book starts with Jordan and Jace discussing how hot Jace is, literally, while meditating on a beach. It's so normal that it seems magical in itself.

And I love magic! Especially in the form of demon realms! And it's one certain demon realm that leads me to my next point: The characters themselves have definitely developed, and I love, love love the way it's shown. Smack in the middle of the book, Clare gives the characters their final crossroads, their final set of desires and paths, by feeding them to dream-eating demons that show them, crookedly, what they might want. Each character is faced with something horribly interesting: Clary seems to want to be with Jace, married, with her family, including Jonathan, a brother who was never turned into Sebastian by Valentine. Freaking Izzy wants to be human? THAT was character development, from the hardcore bad-ass to settled down? Though the dream-eater was slightly wrong, and the characters don't end up that way, the developments are still as powerful. Jace, by the end of this book, has found his peace, he has found that love does not destroy and he has soften the darkness inside of him. Magnus has determined not to solidify. Simon tracks down Cassandra Clare and demands City of Simon (this might not be at all factual). Hell, even Jonathan Morgenstern finds happiness.

(This is getting long . . . I'll try to keep this review short. I'm sorry, this book is more than 700 pages long! How many forests have been cut down so that Clary and Jace could almost have sex? HOW MANY?)

I realize I have been talking about CoHF as the closing pages of a book. But it's not just an ending. It is quite standalone because of the scope of the material. New characters like Bat are introduced and have their entire developments throughout the book, seemingly to replace the mass grave we suffer a few chapters in. And I love Bat, and I love the new little bits in the books like (SPOILER (skip to next paragraph): Maia's wanting to break up with Jordan) despite the last book never indicating anything as such.

This is such a powerful message: things happen outside the books. These characters DO LIVE ON. That might be some vain, childish wish, but Cassandra Clare makes that wish something worth pining after. There are mysteries and secrets and lives lived after this novel. In The Infernal Devices, Magnus Bane was re-introduced, and in CoHF, he mentions the lives he's lead right up until Alec, to whom he gifts what I'm sure are THE FREAKING BANE CHRONICLES. But the message is the same, Magnus (and another warlock) lived lives before this book, will live lives after it, will have death after it and love . . . I"m getting emotional, let me backtrack to the sex.

Clary and Jace finally had sex. They did the do. The do was done. Finally. Out of the way. Thank all the gods and angels you can think of.


My one real strike is that the ending is almost too happy. Something needed to happen to someone and that thing did not happen. SPOILER (skip to the next paragraph to avoid): Simon doesn't die. Magnus doesn't die. Alec, Izzy, Jace, Jocelyn, etc, live. One of the main cast had to die. Jordan and Raphael do not count. They were secondary and very close to my heart but no, I will not believe Asmodeus was stupid enough to think that our team would not Ascend Simon beyond his control. Unless there's some other motive behind not taking at least Magnus's life, I don't understand. There is a willingness to keep a certain happiness through the novel, and yes, so many people were lost already, but the reader has to feel the loss personally, the effect has to be Luke losing Amatis. We have to lose Simon. Granted, what happened to him sucked, but there was hope for a full recovery. That means we haven't lost anything. We were given a glimpse of what life would be like without Shadowhunters, and then what life would be like without Simon, but this isn't enough. One of them, I felt, needed to die. Unfortunately, I can see why the story panned out the way it did.

Despite this, I still cannot find it in myself to lower this from five stars.

The ending is not full of happiness though, and though I will give you no spoilers further, you will be sad. For me, I knew something like it would happen but I rooted for it not to.

I honestly don't know what else to say. This novel is packed, and a proper review would take ages and ages and bore the hell out of anyone reading it. Bravo Cassie, I can't wait until Lady Midnight.

- Marlon

Are you ready for The Dark Artifices?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Stuffed Animal Saturday

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

Hello there from Winnie the Pooh! Didn't know he had a soft spot for a good paperback, did you? Well, life in the hundred acre woods tends to get a little boring sometimes so he always has a book in his hands for those dull days.

So Far: So remember when I said his life isn't all that exciting? Mine has lately been kinda hectic, so I haven't had much time to read lately. I actually am in the "about to start" phase of this book rather than in the "have started" phase. He's like four chapters ahead of me. But I'll catch up. Slow and steady.

A Sneak Peek: 
Since I haven't started reading, I'll just post the description blurb, from Goodreads. The premise seems really interesting and I'm really excited to settle down and start reading!

In his eagerly awaited fourth novel, New York Times-bestselling author Nick Hornby mines the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they've reached the end of the line.

Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.

In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.

Intense, hilarious, provocative, and moving, A Long Way Down is a novel about suicide that is, surprisingly, full of life.

What's your jumping-off point?

Why is it the biggest sin of all? All your life you're told that you'll be going to this marvelous place when you pass on. And the one thing you can do to get you there a bit quicker is something that stops you getting there at all. Oh, I can see that it's a kind of queue-jumping. But if someone jumps the queue at the post office, people tut. Or sometimes they say "Excuse me, I was here first." They don't say "You will be consumed by hellfire for all eternity." That would be a bit strong.

I'd spent the previous couple of months looking up suicides on the Internet, just out of curiosity. And nearly every single time, the coroner says the same thing: "He took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed." And then you read the story about the poor bastard: His wife was sleeping with his best friend, he'd lost his job, his daughter had been killed in a road accident some months before . . . Hello, Mr. Coroner? I'm sorry, but there's no disturbed mental balance here, my friend. I'd say he got it just right.

I was at a party downstairs. It was a shit party, full of all these ancient crusties sitting on the floor drinking cider and smoking huge spliffs and listening to weirdo space-out reggae. At midnight, one of them clapped sarcastically, and a couple of others laughed, and that was it-Happy New Year to you, too. You could have turned up to that party as the happiest person in London, and you'd still have wanted to jump off the roof by five past twelve. And I wasn't the happiest person in London anyway. Obviously.

New Year's Eve was a night for sentimental losers. It was my own stupid fault. Of course there'd be a low-rent crowd up there. I should have picked a classier date-like March 28, when Virginia Woolf took her walk into the river, or November 25 (Nick Drake). If anybody had been on the roof on either of those nights, the chances are they would have been like-minded souls, rather than hopeless f*ck-ups who had somehow persuaded themselves that the end of a calendar year is in any way significant.


Are you and your stuffed animal reading anything interesting? 
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Discussion: The Night Before Our Stars

It seems that now that the three college kids over here are off from school, we've just been going to various book-related events and tonight was no exception. Kiersten, Marlon, and I went to see The Night Before Our Stars, the premiere of The Fault in Our Stars, followed by a special livecast. This special screening was being shown in 650 theaters across the United States and the three of us (along with a few other, non-blogging but equally TFIOS-loving friends) were naturally there. Amrutha, unfortunately, needed to catch up on beauty sleep before prom or something and decided she was too cool for us.

Anyway, the movie theater was full of people when we got there (about an hour early) and a lot of them had TFIOS related shirts on, but a lot of others had other Nerdfighteria related shirts on, which made me very happy because wow, look how far Nerdfighteria has reached and how much the Green brothers and those affiliated with them have accomplished and this whole theater was literally full of these people who were wearing shirts that referenced jokes spanning years, which is something that I really loved about the premiere. There's nothing wrong with seeing a movie because it's hyped up or liking a book when it becomes popular, in fact that's how I heard about many of my interests, but it's nice to see people who harbor this deeper connection with the material all getting together to see it unveil for the first time. The atmosphere was just very exciting and that definitely contributed to the experience. Also, apologies to those who had to hear me repeatedly say "I own that shirt!" or "I own that shirt in poster form!" every single time I saw someone with something I also owned. That was probably annoying but I am kindof like a small puppy with a short attention span, so I didn't realize it at the time. 

Anyway, on to the movie itself! I honestly think it was very well done and well executed. I'm so happy with the directing decisions and I feel like this type of movie could have gone very well or very poorly and it definitely did very well. Shailene Woodley KILLED IT in this role. I just saw her in Divergent on the night of that premiere and I think her acting in this movie is definitely improved from that, although a lot of that might be due to better writing in this movie. Her on screen chemistry with Ansel Elgort was phenomenal. Also, can we talk about how perfect he is? Like, his acting was on point and his face never failed to make my heart melt. The two of them worked so well together. Also, Isaac's character was portrayed quite well by Nat Wolff. He really captured the essence of Isaac and who he was in the book and I'm really glad they didn't put him completely on the back burner in favor of playing up the romance part of the movie because in my opinion, he was an important friend to Hazel. Most of the lines in the movie, they kept from the book. They changed a few around and while some of them I wish they had kept the way they were, such as the last few words being slightly different, I don't see it as being a big deal because it didn't take away from anything and I think it was playing more to the appeal of the audience who hasn't read the books, which I understand is a choice they need to make as filmmakers. None of these changes were really big deals to me, it was really just a word or two here or there, so I wouldn't say that's a negative. I also wish they hadn't cut out out my favorite line, as cliche of a favorite as it may be: my thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations. I just personally resonate with that and I love it a lot, so I was hoping it would be in there. However, I get that movies can't have every little detail and it's literally just the one line so I'm not going to get upset over it. They managed to include most of the really big/popular lines and they weaved the movie together very well. Overall, I'm very happy with it and I'm glad it did the book justice!

The livecast afterwords was also very entertaining! First, we had a performance by Birdy, who was beautiful not just in her haunting voice but also her appearance. There was then a Q&A with John Green, Josh Boone, Shailene, Ansel, and Nat answering some questions. Some of them were taken from the live studio audience that was there and some were taken from Twitter. I liked seeing them answer the questions because it was really sweet seeing the dynamic they all had and how they seemed so close-knit. A lot of the questions were very interesting and thought-provoking and definitely gave a lot of insight into the movie. I wish they had taken more questions from Twitter and less from the live audience because the ratio seemed off but most of the questions asked were intriguing ones so I'm not too hung up about that. Some of them were ones I had heard them answer before but there were some new and refreshing ones thrown in there. I really liked Ansel's story about egging the car and accidentally getting it inside the house, especially since he has a very charming way of speaking. There was also performances by Nat and Alex Wolff and I thought they were great too and I definitely want to hear more of their music in the future! One of the last things they showed us was the deleted scene they films with John Green making a cameo as a dad in the airport that was cut for "time, not quality." It was a cute scene, but I can see why it didn't end up in the final cut...Anyway, tonight was just an overall great experience, and also an extremely emotionally overwhelming one. I think I cried for three straight hours. My eyes actually burn from all the tears I shed, but what else can you expect, right?

- Noor

Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Discussion: Re-reading Books in a Series

As you may or may not know, I've been spending much of my reading time in the past two or three weeks re-reading The Mortal Instruments series before diving into the final book, City of Heavenly Fire. Obviously I've fallen a bit behind where I initially wanted to be, having planned to finish the first five books BEFORE the release and having actually just finished the third book, City of Glass.

I talked a bit about re-reading books I've already read with my mother, who thinks that once you've read it you can just move on to more books. While I agree with her in the sense that I could be reading new books, like the ones I got at BEA, I feel like re-reading the previous books in the series is helping me get into a better mindset for the final book. On the other hand, I have also had some bad experiences with re-reading.

One of the best re-read experiences I've ever had was with The Infernal Devices trilogy. While it had only been about a year (maybe less) since I first read Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, I dove right back into them and loved every second of it. I felt so many feels - even feels about insignificant characters! Super minor character deaths gave me extreme feels! I never regretted, for one second, re-reading these books because it allowed me to see some of the clues and hints I didn't catch through the first read and made Clockwork Princess that much more enjoyable.

One less favorable re-read was Delirium and Pandemonium before the release of Requiem. I was actually really excited to read Requiem - when I read Delirium and Pandemonium, I really loved them and I was beyond excited to read Requiem (I mean, the ending to Pandemonium, RIGHT?!). However, while I was re-reading the first two books, I started getting bored of the series and kind of itchy to get to Requiem. Perhaps it was that I loved the series when I first read it but my tastes had grown to like it less, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a re-read. Either way, I felt like re-reading the series almost had a negative affect on how much I enjoyed the third book. (Although the third book could have also been the reason...)

Divergent is one series I wish I had done a re-read for before the release of Allegiant. I feel like the mindset I had going into Allegiant was all wrong - I had a feeling about what was going to happen at the end, although I didn't actually know, and I kind of just wanted to rip off the metaphorical band-aid  and get it over with. The result was feeling extremely detached from the characters. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the time to re-read Divergent and Insurgent. Allegiant was a book I was so excited for - I watched the title and cover reveals live - and I ended up pretty much hating it. I'm actually kind of still hung up about it, which may say something about the book and may not.

I'm really not sure what's best: re-reading the previous books in a series right before the next one comes out or just diving straight in. Yes, a lot of books have recaps and reminders of what happened, but it's not the same as being fully immersed in the story. I think I'm going to stick to re-reading only before the last book and not before other books in the series.

What's your opinion on re-reading books in a series?
Let us know in the comments!