Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Side Show on Broadway

Disclaimer: I, and a guest, was invited to see Side Show in exchange for a mention on the blog (thank you to Side Show and 87AM). This, however, does not affect my review in any way.

I have to be honest. I barely knew anything about Side Show when I was first contacted about the show. I had seen the image from when I had been in the city, but I hadn't heard about the show. But as soon as I read about it, I got super excited because it sounded like the kind of show I'd love.

And I enjoyed it more than I was already anticipating, though there were some flaws that keep me from being completely in love with the show. But the good stuff first.

The cast was fabulous, with some standout performances. Erin Davey (Violet Hilton) and Emily Padgett (Daisy Hilton) were spectacular in their own way; their acting was so amazing, and they both truly captured the two girls and their similarities and differences. My personal favorites were David St. Louis, who killed it as Jake, Brandon Bieber, dancer extraordinaire, and Charity Angel Dawson, who was my favorite member of the freaks cast because of her voice. His voice is just mind-blowing, and I really hope he'll land another role soon because more people need to be exposed to his talent. Charity Angel Dawson (Fortune Teller) also had an amazing voice, and actually, both David and Charity's voices really shined in the song "The Devil You Know." And as a dancer, I loved Brandon Beiber's dancing; it stuck out to me right away, and I wasn't surprised to find out that he's the dance captain. But honestly, the entire cast, particularly "the freaks," were just great, and the chemistry between everyone was evident.

Next was the singing and the score. Wow! I really loved the big numbers, and I also love how there are silly ones, some deeply emotional ones, and some in between. I feel like that truly fit the tone of the show--a bit light and funny at times, deeply emotional and heartbreaking at times, some in-between times, but overall amazing. There were some songs that seemed a bit unnecessary--some did break up the drama and add a bit of humor--and seemed to break a bit away from the story, but at the end, I really enjoyed the music as a whole.

The last thing is the costumes and sets in general. The moving Freaks set reminded me so much of when I saw Newsies, but that'll lead me in a different direction. So I was a tad irked afterward about how it was mentioned once that this takes place during the Depression but you never really see any of that, but then I remembered the life Daisy and Violet were living for most of the plot, and it didn't really bother me. I especially loved Daisy and Violet's outfits, of course. (Also, that on-stage costume switch was just so woah! to see, despite a slight wardrobe malfunction for one of the girls.)

Now, onto some of the more bothersome parts...to be honest, it was mostly in regards to the plot. The story seemed to be going in an upward projection for the first part of the show, but somewhere along the way, it began to fall apart, leaving me disappointed by the end. Firstly, there were some character-related issues. Though I absolutely loved Jake, it felt like he was in and out of the story and thus in and out of the girls' lives, which of course wasn't true from what we were told. It just felt like he was a plot device when he could've been a much more stellar character. (Also, the not-so-subtle racial undertones were noted.) Then there was the fact that all the romantic plot lines were just so weak--there was seemingly no chemistry between any of the characters involved other than the bond between the sisters themselves. The Jake-Violet part was only semi-hinted at in the beginning but hardly continued in any way. Maybe it was meant to be a surprise, but it just didn't feel that way. But for me, the worst was the Terry-Daisy and Buddy-Violet romances because it seemed either convenient or like a trick meant to further make the girls stay with them and the vaudeville show. There seemed to be little actual chemistry, though they sure tried to make it seem like there was something there. And the hinting that Buddy's gay but oh-I-guess-not-because-wedding! was cringe-worthy at best, and it made the whole romance-might-be-a-ploy idea seem not too far-fetched. I really thought the thing with Buddy was going to lead somewhere, but his possibly being gay was just never brought up again and later didn't seem like had ever been hinted.

And perhaps what bothered me most was the end itself. So I know the show is based on the real lives of the Hilton sisters, but seeing as how the show was already changed a bit for this revival, I don't see why they couldn't change the end a bit. I feel like part of what drew me to the show when I read about it was the fact that it was supposed to be about the girls coming to accept who they are and then through that, learning to do what they want and figure out what's best for them without letting someone dictate that. They went from the hands of Sir to the arguably manipulative Terry (and Buddy), which was another never-mentioned-again plot lines that seemed important but was messed up because of the messed up romances, and then SPOILERS into the hands of a guy making a movie about them called Freaks. This leaves me feeling conflicted because on the one hand, perhaps they're okay with being freaks in the eyes of the world because they understand that the world will always see them that way and that they were the ones who changed inside. On the other hand, it feels like the entire journey the girls when through didn't matter because they're still just freaks and being taken advantage of by the movie director or producer or whoever. END SPOILER The ending just felt so anti-climactic and slightly disappointing, especially since the first half had set up for a great second half, which failed to deliver.

Overall, the show was enjoyable though certainly not my favorite. Many flaws in the characters and plot kept the show from being spectacular and on top of its game. I would say, if you have the time to see the show before it closes, go do so and quickly because the show ends on January 4th (!!!). The music and acting are really amazing, and if the show had a stronger plot, the show would've been ever greater. But if you can't find the time, it's not the end of the world. I'm sad the show won't have a longer run, but I'm happy to have been exposed to it this time around.

And thanks again to Side Show and 87AM for the opportunity to see the show before it closes.
Side Show: Website (buy tickets!) | Twitter

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TV Tuesday (#5): Spotlight: Red Band Society

Once a month on a Tuesday, I'll showcase a TV in some way, whether it be an episode review (or bundle), a discussion, some thoughts and reactions, Top Tens, a fan!mix, or a recommendation.

So it's been a while...but the other day, I had a sudden burst of inspiration. I was thinking about Red Band Society and about my favorite and least favorite character(s) when I suddenly got this idea. For the next few weeks, I'll be spotlighting some of the many shows I watch. It'll (mostly) be the same set of questions, and I'll try to stay on top of this. I watch so many shows, but I still haven't talked about most of them on here. I could be writing reviews, but I've been so busy that it's already been a hassle to try to keep up with one or two shows (currently those two are Red Band Society and NCIS:LA).

Since Red Band Society inspired this post (and I'm really sad it's been abandoned by Fox), my first spotlight will be for the show!

When did you first start watching the show? Why did you start watching it?
I started watching it maybe the second or third week into the show because I had been hearing so much about it. Much of it was mixed, but I grew increasingly interested in the show. I've been watching it ever since! It's far from perfect, but there's something about it that leaves me wanting to watch it week after week.

Who's your favorite character?
I can't pick just one! I'd say Nurse Jackson, Leo, and Emma. I love how snarky Nurse Jackson is, but at the same time, we know just how much she cares. I've loved Leo since the very first episode; I can't pinpoint why, but I just do (there have been times when I've wanted to smack some sense into him, but he's still one of my favorites). I love Emma because I love her story-arc the most, and I can see pieces of her within myself.

Who's your least favorite character?
Definitely Jordi. Jordi has grated at my insides since he was first on the show. I'm not quite sure why, but I just don't like his attitude and the way he acts. He just seems so arrogant? Yeah, I feel bad about him and his background, but I can't stand the dude.

Favorite guest star or addition to the cast?
Hunter (Daren Kagasoff) for sure! I think Doctor Erin Grace (Mandy Moore) is a close second. Sure, the whole plot line with Hunter and Kara was pretty predictable, but I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I also love how complex his character is. I'm enjoying Doctor Erin Grace on the show, but the plot line with her and Doctor McAndrew is much more mehh for me (great for McAndrew's character development but perhaps not so much for Erin).

Favorite episode?
Either Know Thyself or How Did We Get Here? I think....I don't really know! There are positives and negatives for each episode...

What's your favorite aspect of the show?
Honestly, it's Emma's anorexia. I think this is most well-developed story line, and it's one of the strongest ones on the show. It addresses both sides of it, the patient (Emma) and those around her, watching her suffer but not knowing what to do. I love that we got to see how it affected/affects her family, but I think it's also so important to see how it has affected her. All the destructiveness and the feeling of being lost and out of control. It's just so powerful, and I would continue watching just for her story.

What's your least favorite aspect of the show?
There are many things about each individual episode that bother me, but I guess if I had to pinpoint one, it'd be the overwhelming number of romances and romantic conflicts on the show. Not everyone needs to be involved! I think it works and makes sense for certain characters, but does everyone need to have some kind of romantic tension??? I think Hunter and Kara's relationship is important, as is Emma and Leo's and to a lesser extent Doctor McAndrew and Doctor Erin's relationship. But the others (and that horrible love triangle, which (slight spoiler) might now have shifted to a different one) are just too much. I was expecting more friendship, less romance, but alas...*pulls out hair*

OTP and/or ships?
Emma and Leo, and Hunter and Kara! But I do think, on Emma and Leo's front, that Emma really does need to first come to love herself. She's so blinded by her hate for herself and by her disorder, and it makes Leo so...awkward, but I really do love their relationship so much. I think it's a great way to get a deeper look into Emma and to her disorder, and I think it complements both of their struggles. 

What do you think/predict about the future of the show?
It's definitely not going to be continued, sadly. I think there are just not enough viewers. It's really sad for me, and I'll really miss the show. I guess in the long run, it was really the way they looked at certain aspects of the characters that will stick with me, while most of it will fade for me. It's not the best show, but it's not the worst. I'll be sad to see it go, but as long as it's not left too open-ended, I think I'll eventually be okay with it. Can another show explore eating disorders the way this show does though?

You can catch Red Band Society Wednesdays @ 9 PM EST on Fox!
Website | Twitter

(If there are any questions you'd like me to answer, I'll add them in future spotlights. :) I may add some more as they come to me as well.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tour: Shade by Cody Stewart (Guest Post) (+giveaway)

Shade banner

ShadeShade by Cody Stewart
Publisher: Midnight Frost Books
Release Date: August 24th, 2014
Clendon Kiernan has always preferred the shadows. A place where he was free from the hate and fear, from the stares and ridicule of others. One night Clen discovers the shocking truth of why. He is a Shade. A thing of darkness. A creature with the ability to shred souls. When a vile whisper tells him to destroy everything around him Clen does the only thing he can. But he cannot run from himself. The darkness growing inside Clen will soon consume him if he does not learn to control it. In his quest to do so, Clen learns that there is an entire world that exists in the shadows of Ellis, a world that has been hidden from him – secret clans with extraordinary abilities, the ghosts of a hidden past, and a war that’s been brewing for millennia. Clen must uncover the true history of Ellis, see through the generations of lies and deceit, and suffer betrayal and heartbreak if he is to save all those who hate and fear him. But when he learns the truth, will he want to? The darkness in him could save Ellis. Or it could be what destroys it.

About the Author:
Cody StewartCody was born in Upstate New York. Eventually setting off to seek his fortune, he worked in a paper mill, a whipped cream factory, cleaned apartments, and administratively assisted several organizations before returning to the Adirondacks with a wife and child that he picked up along the way. He approaches life as though it were a page – frequently rearranging paragraphs to make it more interesting if not wholly true, fudging with the margins to fit more in, and, sometimes, erasing entire sections altogether. When not altering reality, he is scouring comic book shops, lying on the ground, or floor (whichever he happens to be standing on when he feels the need to go horizontal), trying to convince his wife to make french toast (she makes amazing french toast), and searching for the darkest cup of coffee in existence.

Guest Post: Deciding to Be an Author

Scribbling stories in the margins of my marble notebook during Social Studies, it never occurred to me that I might one day be an author. I was already a writer. I knew that right then as I wrote an alternate history of the world where Archduke Franz Ferdinand did not die, but was saved with the use of cybernetic implants, and tore across Europe in all his robot fury, brutally dismantling the international conspiracy behind his attempted assassination. I had always been a writer. I couldn’t not tell stories. My head would explode. Writing is how I relate to the world and the people in it.

But to be an author? To publish something? Be paid for it? Pure fantasy. The romantic notions of a wide eyed child. So I didn’t much think about it for the next ten years. I had no idea what I sort of study to pursue at college. I didn’t even know I was going to college until three months before it started. With all the options available to me, none seemed right. Except writing. Literature classes, writing workshops, seminars, degree. Still, I never considered writing as a career option. I just went into soul-punching debt, but, for some reason, didn’t consider my field of study as a viable career path. Instead, I bused tables, waited tables, worked on a whipped cream factory assembly line, worked in a paper mill, and cleaned college apartments before landing at a nonprofit agency.

That was the first job I ever had that I actually liked. It was also my first desk job. I don’t know what I thought a desk job would be like - lots of typing, stacking papers in piles, stapling, I guess. Something. But there were long stretches of nothing. These periods of wasted time filled me with anxiety at first. I’m getting paid right now, right? I thought. I really feel like I should be doing something. I’ve been playing Minesweeper for four hours. Those feelings eased eventually, to the point where I stared blankly at my computer screen with drool dribbling down my chin.

Then, suddenly, my fingers started moving. I was typing something. I was writing a story. I wrote fifty percent of Shade at that desk. And I thought Man, I wish I could get paid to do this. Technically, I was getting paid to do that, but not the way I wanted to. I didn’t want to write secretly at my desk only to have to pretend I was busy stacking papers in piles and stapling things when my boss walked in. I wanted a desk where I was meant to write. I wanted to be published. I wanted to get paid to do what I loved. I wanted to be an author.

The Tour Schedule: 
October 31st
SleepsOnTables – Review
November 1st
Suzy Turner, YA Author – Interview
Hope To Read – Promo Post
November 2nd
November 3rd
Bella Harte Books – Promo Post
November 4th
YaReads – Interview
November 5th
NaYa Books and More – Promo Post
Fictional Thoughts – Guest Post
November 6th
M&EM Read YA – Review
Diane’s Book Blog – Interview
November 7th
Mythical Books – Guest Post
Becoming Books – Promo Post
November 8th
Cassandra M’s Place – Promo Post
November 9th
Bookworm In Barrie – Promo Post
November 10th
November 11th
November 12th
Reading Over Sleeping – Interview
November 13th
WTF Are You Reading? – Promo Post
Reading is My Treasure – Guest Post
November 14th
My Book Chatter – Guest Post
November 15th
Adventures in Writing – Promo Post
November 16th
November 17th
The Caffeinated Booknerd – Promo Post
November 18th
Sleeps on Tables – Interview
All My Book Finds – Review
November 19th
ReadWriteLove28 – Guest Post
Bitches n Prose – Promo Post
November 20th
Imaginative Dreams – Review
A Little Bit of R&R – Interview
November 21st
Never Ending Stories – Promo Post
November 22nd
Book Lovers Life – Guest Post
Pandora’s Books – Promo Post
November 23rd
Mindjacked – Review
Fly to Fiction – Guest Post
November 24th
For the Love – Promo Post
November 25th
November 26th
The Book Beacon – Review
November 27th
Mercurial Musings – Review
The Book Cellar - Promo Post

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tour: Review: The Hit List by Nikki Urang (+giveaway)

I'm super excited to be a part of this tour! If you don't already know, I love, love, love dance-related books. :) But also, as a note, I'm still on hiatus, as I'm right in the heart of college applications time. *pulls out hair* I'll be back soon; I just couldn't pass up this opportunity!

The Hit List by Nikki Urang
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: November 11th, 2014
The Los Angeles Conservatory for the Arts is supposed to be a new beginning for Sadie Bryant. Moving across the country is exactly what she needs to escape the gossip surrounding her injury, the devastating betrayal of her ex-partner, and to rebuild her career as a solo dancer.

When the school announces that the annual Fall Showcase, a performance that secures a spot studying in London, will now require each dancer to have a partner, Sadie’s fresh start is a nightmare. Now she has to dance with Luke Morrison, the school womanizer with a big ego. Sadie doesn’t know how to trust Luke enough to dance with him after her last partner left her broken, but Luke is determined to change that.

Then, The Hit List comes out. A game of sexual conquest where guys get points for all the girls they hook up with—and it seems like every guy at the school is playing.

The girl worth the most points? Sadie.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher in order to take part in the tour. This did not affect my review in any way.

As mentioned above, I live for dance-related books. I never tire of them, and they just fill me with joy. Thus, I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take part in this blog tour despite my busy November schedule. I don't regret it one bit!

The book was different than I had first imagined it but not necessarily in a bad thing. The character and emotional arcs in The Hit List are what make the book stand out. It was a bit overwhelming at times, seeing how stubborn both Sadie and Luke could be. But at the end, it was my absolute favorite aspect. It was probably the most unexpected part for me, but I'm so glad the book addressed the ways in which loss and betrayal affect us in the case of Sadie and how we can all change and become better people as was the case with both Sadie and Luke. The book is so heart-wrenching because you see Sadie hurting, and it's so easy to empathize with her. Even Luke, who's issues we also get a look at, goes through such a big change in the story. We get to see their struggle, each of them, and we also see them come out of that struggle, and that's so powerful.

Given this is in large part an "issues" book, there were times when I just got so annoyed at both Sadie and Luke for just being so stupid. I mean, I know I can't really judge because who knows what I'd be like in that situation, but there were times when I wanted to smack some sense into them. For instance, with Sadie, although I definitely connected with her struggle and could find pieces of my struggle within her, there were times when I just wanted to yell at her to see the bigger picture and to get over it. Yeah, that's far easier said than done. I know. But she's just so stubborn! I understand her pushing people away and not letting anyone in. Heck, I do that all the time. And yeah, I'm sure it's frustrating, but gahh! I wanted to pull out my hair sometimes! And Luke! He made me even more frustrated because Sadie is right, he leads her on and is cold to her and flirting with another girl the next minute. I get that he is dealing with his own issues, but how stupid can you honestly be?

But moving on, I greatly enjoyed the friendships brought up in the book. The relationship between Brielle and Sadie is an interesting one. They're roommates, and Brielle helps Sadie so much more than I think Sadie realizes. She's almost always there for her, and while it doesn't excuse her of the big twist/reveal at the end of the book, she has shown Sadie that she won't just go away either. But at the same time, I often got the feeling that they were really distant. There was so much more potential to expand on their friendship, but I feel like we honestly barely even got to know Brielle. It was the same with Adam. He helped her so much, and she does recognize that, but they never really seem to hang out otherwise (same with Brielle). They certainly don't have to be with each other all the time, and I know the book has other focuses, but I was under the impression that there would be a large focus on friendships, particularly given the circumstances in the book. This sort of leads me to another point, which is that there are many great characters in the book, but we barely get to know any of them. I think Sadie and Luke are complex and explored beyond my expectations (in a good way!), but what about everyone else? They felt a bit flat to me, as if they just moved the plot along at times.

Then, there's The Hit List itself, of course. I think the premise is so interesting and such a new idea. I haven't read a book like this before, and it sets up so many perfectly tense scenes. I definitely feel the same way Sadie does about the Hit List, but I can't deny it's ingenuity as part of the central plot. You don't know who to trust, and you keep questioning Luke's real motives and intentions. It bothered me that the biggest issue about the game wasn't really addressed--the fact that they're objectifying women and making them pieces in a game where they have so little control. Yeah, some girls like the attention, but I think it's horribly sexist and just gahh! I want to smack some sense into the girls that think it's flattering or fun! And the guys who play the game are even worse! It's so ridiculous, and I certainly hope nothing like this ever happens in real life. Give women some fricking respect, will you?! (And please note that this is in no way a reflection of the author. She obviously wouldn't support this.) But I really can't deny that it's a good way to focus the plot on something other than the character arcs.

And of course, I have to bring up the dancing! There were far fewer dance scenes in the book than I was expecting, given the setting and characters in the book. I don't think it necessarily detracted from the book, but I was certainly looking for a bit more. As students in a dance conservatory, I thought a lot more of the book would be spent exploring Sadie's relationship with dance. Not that there was any implication that that would be the case, but I digress. I believe it worked because of the strong plot and the emotion involved in the story, but yeah. Another minor, minor issue on this front is that I'm really confused as to whether the school is primarily classical or contemporary. I went in thinking it'd mostly be contemporary, but it was honestly hard to tell. It seemed as though the dances were contemporary, but her classes seemed to be classical. Of course I know they do have to have some classical, traditional ballet/pointe classes, but I know that my modern/contemporary class isn't like my ballet/pointe class, and it just seemed like they were always in their ballet/pointe class. Maybe I got the wrong impression, but yeah.

Lastly, as an overall look at the plot and the book, I have to say that as many flaws as I found in the book, I loved it so much. The pacing was overall really well done, and I was so sucked in. I couldn't stop reading, and there was something just so addicting about the story. I absolutely loved the progression of Sadie and Luke's relationship, especially juxtaposed against Sadie's reflections on her relationship with Patrick. I was rooting for Sadie and Luke all along, and ahhh, they just make my heart so happy. They both overcome SO much and become such different people but in a way that allows them to still be genuinely themselves. The suspense and tension are just right, and I think you definitely hate the characters you're supposed to. The character-driven plot made up for many of the flaws because it was just so well-written and explored. The character growth and development were just so superb. I could read this book over and over again, and I was so upset when I got to the last sentence. I just wanted more, more, more! ;) This is another dance-related book that I love!

About the Author:
Nikki fell in love with books at a young age and looked forward to reading a book with her mom before bed every night. It was only a matter of time until her love of reading turned into a love of putting those words onto the page. Now, her days are spent helping those overcoming opiate addiction and her nights are spent writing. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two stubborn cats.

Ends 11/15

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Update :)

Hi lovelies! I'm super duper sorry I haven't been posting recently, both here and at Lit Up Review. I wanted to update you guys in case you don't follow me on Twitter, where I'm still very active. But I can't just leave you in the dark so!

Basically, I'm super busy with all my classes this year (math and science are killing me), club responsibilities, volunteering, tutoring, driver's ed, dance (total of close to 7 hours a week), and college applications. So obviously I haven't been able to read very much, let alone blog. Sure, I could probably procrastinate less and whatnot, but I have actually been better about it this year (promise!).

Of course I feel super guilty about it all, especially as the books pile higher and higher, but it should be better once applications are in and midterms are over, but there's still some time before then.

As always, I just want to think you guys for still sticking around. I know not many really view my posts anymore because a) there aren't many and b) I haven't been promoting, but even promoting takes a long time for me, especially since it usually leads to the dark procrastination hole. I used to draft and schedule posts (and schedule tweets) during my off periods, but now I spend those periods studying, doing homework, or working on apps and Twitter is blocked, so I haven't been able to do that this year (despite having more off periods).

Hopefully I'll be able to get back into the swing of things soon, but yeah! Just wanted to keep you guys in the loop. Love you all! <3

(OH WAIT! IN OTHER EXCITING NEWS: A few other ladies and I have come together to co-blog another book blog. I don't know when we're starting yet, so I don't want to announce all the details yet, but I'm really excited. Yes, it'll be even more work, but it's about discussing and viewing books with a feminist lens, so I couldn't say no. We'll see how I'll be able to juggle the three blogs once college apps are in, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to keep up with them. Stay tuned!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tour: Review: Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke (ARC) (+giveaway)

So I know this is two days in a row posting about the same book and posting in general (I'm so sorry! Senior year and college apps have just made it so hard to get any sleep, much less blogging time.), but this book seriously deserves it all, as I've said before. 

Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn't think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.

When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.
"The book is just so well-crafted and paced, and it's written in such a hauntingly beautiful way. It's so balanced, and I can't get over how well it understands so much of what I've felt, thought, and been through."

Disclaimer: I received an eARC as part of this blog tour. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this review.

Damsel Distressed left me speechless. The book is so beautifully sad, yet amazingly inspiring; it's really the only way I can describe how the book left me feeling. There are happy, joyful moments, but there are intense, heartbreaking scenes as well, and each works just as well as the next.

Part of what made Damsel Distressed the book that it is is Imogen herself. Her voice, her thoughts, her emotions, her actions--oh gosh, it was just so...right. I don't know if I've ever connected to a character as much as I connect to Imogen. We both have different issues, but I think that beyond the surface, our separate issues (some of which do overlap) cause us to think in similar ways. And while there are many ways in which Imogen is much more extreme than I have ever been, at the heart, I understood everything or almost everything Imogen felt. There are times you'll be frustrated by her. There are times you won't necessarily understand why she did or didn't do something. But trust me. I've been there. Yes, it's frustrating; yes, it's sad; yes, it's everything you might be thinking. But when you're in that situation, when you're the one that's stuck, you truly understand. And that's the power of Macke's story. She truly gets it. I don't care if you complain about Imogen being whiny or whatnot because trust me when I say that it's almost exactly how I felt. And there have been books and characters that have scratched the surface or have even made a tiny hole, but Damsel Distressed is just something else; it understood it all.

That being said, I feel as if I've been on both Grant and Imogen's side of the issue, and once you read the book I think you'll understand what I mean when I say side. I've been the person in the situation, in that deep, dark hole, but I've also been on the opposite end. I've been the friend that just doesn't know what to do or say. And it's so painful. On both ends. And I hope that if you've never experienced one or both before, you won't ever have to, but I'm so grateful there's a book out there now that addresses both sides. Because as painful as it is, sometimes, at least for me, just knowing that someone else out there understands means the world to me. This book understands me.

Moving on from the sad, dark parts, I'm so glad that there was enough time in the book for the conflict to develop, occur, and then be resolved. I love the pacing of the book, and I'm so glad the effects of the conflicts could really be addressed and explored because oftentimes, books don't leave enough space and time to really resolve a conflict in a reasonable amount of time. The number of times I've commented that a book's conflict was resolved too quickly was not an issue with Damsel Distressed.

And one of the most powerful parts of the novel is the friendship and various other developing relationships found in this novel. I'm jealous that Imogen has Grant by her side (as horrible as it is to say that I'm jealous of her) because I wish I had had that kind of friend when I was at my lowest point. Grant is such an amazing character, and I love every bit of him as a character. I really admire how he sticks by Imogen's side throughout everything in her life. What an amazing friend, and what an amazing friendship. Grant, and all of the other characters in the book, are so well-developed and explored. I loved seeing Imogen's relationships change as she changed and grew throughout the book. I loved seeing how everything had an impact on her thoughts and/or actions later on. I love Jonathan, and I really love Brice and his perspective. I especially love, love, love Antonique. I love how she looks like the type of girl that Imogen hates because she can't be--pretty, skinny, etc--but she's so much more, and she's not the girl Imogen originally took her to be. Just yes! And everyone's flawed in the book, but that's also the beauty of each person, and I LOVE that. Now, I do wish Jonathan's OCD had been explored more, but I understand why it wasn't. I would have liked to see what happened between Imogen and Andrew because I felt like the book was building up to something, and it didn't necessarily deliver. I wish Grant's financial background/difficulties and his own family life had been explored a bit more because we almost never got to read about his personal life at all, but I guess it's not the most important aspect (or perhaps it wasn't what was most important to Imogen). And I do believe there were times when Jonathan and Brice were overly stereotypically gay; I'm sure it was realistic most of the time, but there were scenes when it just felt over the top. I would have loved to learn more about Imogen's stepmother (whose name escapes me at this moment). But let me just say, these flaws were small in the grand scheme of the book. It's not perfect, but then again, nothing's perfect.

The book is just so well-crafted and paced, and it's written in such a hauntingly beautiful way. It's so balanced, and I can't get over how well it understands so much of what I've felt, thought, and been through. I highly, highly recommend this book. It addresses mental illness, self-harm, body image, divorce, friendship, jealousy, and SO much more without being overwhelming. Damsel Distressed is without a doubt one of my favorite books not only of 2014 but ever. The book deserves all the love it can get and then some. Please check this one out! And thank you, Kelsey, for writing this book.

About the Author
Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published... a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.

Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.

This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain.

DAMSEL DISTRESSED, and the companion album of original songs, Imogen Unlocked, are scheduled for release in October 2014.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blitz: Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke (+giveaway)

Hey everyone! I'm so excited to be presenting this book blitz, as well as being part of the blog tour. Damsel Distressed is one of my favorite books now, and it deserves all the love it can get. The book understands me and my experiences on so many levels and in a way that most other books haven't before. So please check out this book! More will be said in my review tomorrow. :)

Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters' story. Those girls don't get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.
Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn't think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.

When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.
While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.
And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.
And you know what's even better?! There's an amazing album that goes hand-in-hand with the book. I haven't listened to it yet, but I know that the songs correlate with what's going in the story. What's even better is that the songs are all by Wedding Day Rain, author Kelsey Macke and her husband's band. Be sure to check out the album when you read the book. :)

1. Heavy
2. No Goodbye
3. Something About
4. Sinking
5. Don't Wake Me Up
6. Let Me Go
7. My Strength
8. Unseen
9. Always Speak Too Late
10. The End is Just the Beginning
11. Breathe Easy
12. Edge of the Fall

More about the album:

Damsel Distressed is the story of Imogen, a girl who's survived the years after her mother's death by focusing squarely on her best friend, Grant,
musical theatre, and lots of cheese. The book is full of humor and heart, and also contains a few surprises. Full page sketches are scattered throughout the novel, and each one contains a QR code that corresponds to a song from the book's soundtrack. Imogen Unlocked is a 12-song album of original music written by the author and her husband Daron as their indie-pop band, Wedding Day Rain. Together, the book Damsel Distressed and the soundtrack Imogen Unlocked work together to tell the story of a girl who might just make her own Happily Ever After, if she can just hold herself together.

About the Author:
Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published... a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.

Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.

This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain.

DAMSEL DISTRESSED, and the companion album of original songs, Imogen Unlocked, are scheduled for release in October 2014.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Newsies on Broadway

"Beyond the incredible singing, dancing, and the important lessons, there's this underlying energy and enthusiasm that ties up the show and takes it from great to extraordinary."

If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably witnessed my fangirling over Newsies since the end of August. 

The show closed on Broadway on August 24th, so before then, I had been anxiously hoping to be able to see the show before its closing. I happened to be in NYC on the 15th and figured I would try my chances in the lottery. And I actually won! I was beyond excited, and I could not be happier.

Can I just say, WOW! This show blew my mind away. Most Broadway shows are definitely more theater/acting/singing oriented. But my favorite aspect of Newsies is the dancing. As a dancer, I was especially amazed and blown away. The guys (and the few girls) are superb dancers; I am so jealous of their dancing abilities! Every single one of them shined in their performances. The dance numbers were larger than life, and I think every single person in the audience was watching in awe. Just AHHH! If you're a dancer, you must see Newsies at some point. (And if you're not a dancer, you still must see Newsies. ;))

But of course, as a Broadway show, I do have to address the acting/singing aspect of the show as well. The songs and the singing? Spot on! The audience laughed at the funny moments, and the audience sat in silence at the sad, somber moments. I think everyone felt every emotion we were meant to. The group songs definitely do inspire a sense of camaraderie and the "Yes we can!" spirit of the newsies. You really grow to root for them, cheering for them all along the way. It's frustrating when they are faced with a setback, but ugh, it's just perfect. And the singing is just as great. They really do the music justice. They're all more than 100% into the singing, and it really shows. It really affects the audience, even if it may not seem that way at first. They're just infectious (but in a good way!). And the songs themselves are so sing-able, and once you listen to the songs/the cast album, you'll have it stuck in your head for days. Every song is attacking and completes its purpose and more. It's the same with their acting! Every member is so amazingly talented, as is usually the case on Broadway. (And can we just talk about how for most of the cast, Newsies was their Broadway debut?! Including Corey Cott, who took over as Jack Kelly, the main Newsie, right out of college.)

Then, there's the plot. I like the setting and the exploration of the newspaper industry during the time of Pulitzer and Hearst, especially after having learned a bit about it in my history class. However, parts of the plot were probably the weakest (but not by much) parts of the show. With the exception of one point/twist which may or may not be a surprise to people, it's fairly straightforward and isn't too difficult to predict. But I believe that with the rest of show being so great, you kind of push this to the back of your mind while watching the show. And besides, there are some great lessons that the story shows--from tackling the struggles of females and highlighting a strong, willful female character to showing how determination and teamwork can make the unthinkable/"impossible" happen, the show has something to teach everyone, young and old.

There's just this air about the show and the performers that's different from the other shows I've seen. Of course, everyone on Broadway is amazing and really in character, but with Newsies, there's this deeper energy that goes from the performers to the audience, and I think that's why it's impacted so many people, and I think that's why it's gained such a large following. Beyond the incredible singing, dancing, and the important lessons, there's this underlying energy and enthusiasm that ties up the show and takes it from great to extraordinary. 

I highly, highly recommend Newsies for everyone. Seriously, the show isn't on Broadway anymore (*sobs*), but a different cast is going on a national tour. And while I can't vouch for them for certain, I know they'll put on an amazing show at a Broadway worthy level. Please, if they're stopping near you, go watch the show. I promise you won't regret it!

(Also, my dance competition team is doing a Newsies mash-up for our production number this year, and I'M SO EXCITED YOU HAVE NO IDEA)

Learn more about Newsies and Newsies on Tour HERE

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tour: The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin (ARC) (+Exclusive Art)

The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope and JT Petty; Illustrations by David Rubin
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: September 30th, 2014
The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope's Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes... but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis's last great hero, Haggard West. A prequel toBattling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother's death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption. With a taut, fast-paced script from Paul Pope and JT Petty and gorgeous, kinetic art from David Rubin, The Rise of Aurora West (the first of two volumes) is a tour de force in comics storytelling.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this post.

When Gina, First Second's publicist, emailed to ask me if I would be interested in taking part in this tour, I was thrilled. I love First Second's books, and I've enjoyed interacting with Gina (who is the kindest!). Of course I said yes!

This time around, I wasn't really sure what to expect in terms of the book. I also received a copy of Battling Boy (Aurora West is a companion novel/prequel book), but I had never really taken much interest in the book before. But I decided to give both a shot because I love reading books with awesome, kick-ass female characters, and that's what Aurora West seemed to encompass.

While I wasn't necessarily disappointed in the novel, there was a lot that detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. Firstly, while overall the illustrations were okay (see below for some exclusive art from David Rubin), they're not what appeals to me the most. It's more of a personal preference, but it did take a bit away from my personal enjoyment of the book. Also, I feel conflicted on the black and white and on the size. Sometimes, it felt like there was almost too much going on and in too small of a space. I believe the final copy of the book is a bit bigger. Some of the black and white also bothered me a bit but only when there was a lot going on in a panel or on the page. It felt a bit overwhelming. Additionally, it was just a bit jarring at first to see the difference in illustrations between Battling Boy and Aurora West. While Sadisto's gang pretty much looks the same, some of the characters seem to look a bit different. One thing that especially stuck out to me was the way Aurora, and often her mother's, face was drawn when facing forward. It just looks so...awkward! But perhaps that's Rubin's drawing style. Overall, I enjoyed the illustrations, particularly after the first few pages once I got accustomed to them.

Haggard West also occasionally bothered me for some reason in this book. I enjoyed seeing him outside of the spotlight and to see him as something other than a hero, but sometimes the things he said stuck oddly with me.

But then, one of my favorite aspects of the story is Aurora herself. I love how she's not just kick-ass and awesome; we also see her flaws and her struggles and failures. I believe that makes her more real and more human, something we sometimes forget when we just see the "hero" aspect of someone. We don't see teen heroes and heroines also struggling through school. We don't often see them with their friends, family, and mentors. I love her confidence but also her lack of it at times. I love that she's portrayed as both vulnerable and tough. Because behind every superhero is this duality. You can't be the perfect hero all the time, and both Aurora and Haggard West really embody this idea. As much as Haggard bothered me a bit, I absolutely loved the exploration of the parent-child/daughter relationship. It's really nice because it lends itself to showing Aurora's weakness, but it also shows her determination and spirit. And there's this one scene on a bridge that I can't elaborate on, but that was my favorite scene. It perfectly captures the relationship between a parent and child, and it is SO heartwrenching. I do wish there had been more of a follow-up or a clearer transition or to see its effect more in the rest of the book, but it was amazing nevertheless.

The plot itself was really interesting. The beginning was a bit slow, and it took a lot more time to read the book and get into it than I've experienced with other books in the past. But once Aurora started to piece together the past, it picked up and go very exciting. So do I think Aurora's friend is merely used to lead to important information and discoveries and isn't otherwise needed (beyond the school scenes)? A bit. The connections, though, were cool to put together, and it all came together nicely in the end. Not to say there wasn't a cliffhanger ending that left me like "noooooooooo!" But really, it was the way that the past and present were tied together that made me love this book. It also sets up book 2, as well as explaining some of the monsters and storylines of Battling Boy. (By the way, I should've mentioned this earlier, but you don't need to read Battling Boy in order to read and enjoy The Rise if Aurora West.) Overall, The Rise of Aurora West is a great read!
AND HERE'S SOME EXCLUSIVE ARTWORK (nope, I didn't forget ;))
The Rise of Aurora West: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Follow the rest of the tour:

Wednesday, September 24

Thursday, September 25

Friday, September 26

Saturday, September 27

Sunday, September 28

Monday, September 29

Tuesday, September 30

Wednesday, October 1

Thursday, October 2

Friday, October 3

Saturday, October 4

Sunday, September 21, 2014

To-Be-Read Tag

This tag was created by Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books and Dana from Dana Square.
Thanks to Isabel @ Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews and Em @ The YA Book Butterfly for tagging me!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
So usually, I use Goodreads, but sometimes I'll get lazy and won't. Then depending on the book, I may forget that I wanted to read it. But for the most part, I'm pretty good about keeping track on Goodreads. Then switching books to "read" is a whole other problem...

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
Definitely print! I mean, technically, I don't differentiate, but my default is almost always print anyway, with the exception of my large number of eARCs I haven't gotten around to yet...

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?
It's different every time depending on the situation, but usually it's a mix of my mood, if it's a blog tour book or not, if it's a Lit Up Review Spotlight book (ahem I need to read Let's Get Lost for this month, and I still haven't started yet), and the release date of my ARCs. In terms of ARCs, I'm much more likely to prioritize paper ARCs than eARCs, unless it's a book I'm really excited for. I'm also the kind of person that starts a million books at once, so....

A Book That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest
In reality, I'm not really sure because the way I added them onto Goodreads doesn't necessarily reflect how long it had been that I wanted to read the book, but according to Goodreads, it's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (in my mind, it's definitely not that, but!).

OH! I found one that's been on my list for AGES (but isn't first on my Goodreads page). I wanted to read this book since I finished Fairest sometime in elementary school...I still haven't read it. Now, I don't know if I ever will. Maybe just for old time's sake. :)

A Book You Recently Added To Your TBR
According to Goodreads, one of my very latest additions is Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. I kept hearing about it but didn't know what it was about. Then, the other day, I finally looked it up, and I was like I NEED THIS. ;)

A Book In Your TBR Strictly Because of Its Beautiful Cover
I don't think anything is on my TBR list just because of its cover, but. Okay, so here's one that I originally was interested in because of the cover. And THEN I got super interested because of the blurb.

An Unpublished Book That You're Excited For
Uhhh...you want me to pick JUST ONE??? Fine...this just one of many

A Book On Your TBR That Basically Everyone's Read But You
Probably most of them? ;P

A Book On Your TBR That Everyone Recommends To You
Besides those two up there (^), these two for sure! I really do mean to read them; I just haven't around to them yet.

A Book On Your TBR That You're Dying To Read
How about every single one of them? Okay fine, a snippet then: Echoes of Us, The Book Thief, Afterworlds, The Sky is Everywhere, Lola and the Boy Next Door + Isla and the Happily Ever After, Lies We Tell Ourselves, I'll Give You the Sun, The Start of Me and You, Salt & Stone, Snow Like Ashes, Red Queen, The Orphan Queen, The Broken Hearts' Society of Suite 17C, Under the Lights, Written in the Stars, The Girl at Midnight, A Thousand Pieces of You, Winterspell, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, The Shadow Cabinet, A Darker Shade of Magic, No Place to Fall, The Hit List, AND MORE. Yup...*slinks away*

How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
533 on Goodreads, plus the ones I haven't put on Goodreads and the books I want to reread...

Now I'm tagging:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tour: Review: Sulan by Camille Picott (ARC) (+Giveaway)

I'm super excited to be a part of this tour! The concept/blurb of this book drew me in in a snap, and I'm excited to share it with you today. I must warn you that's it's been a while since I've read it, but I still feel the same way now as I did at the time when I read the book. Enjoy!


Sulan Book Cover_Amazon
Episode One: The League ~ Sulan by Camille Picott
Publisher: Pixiu Press
Release Date: June 2012
Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics. Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight. When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?
"I enjoyed the book, but there's a lot that keep me from loving the book the way I had anticipated."

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book for this tour. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.  

As I mentioned above, what really got me interested in this book was the blurb. The first thing I noticed when I read it was that the main character is Asian (or at least has an Asian name). I then found out that the author, Camille Picott, is actually a Chinese American. Yay for diversity! It really did make me very happy to see that in this book. However, I was almost a little disappointed that of course, she was the math/science prodigy. I get it in the context, and of course, there are reasons why that stereotype exists but gahh! There's more to people and society than math and science, people! As a social studies/English lover, it makes me so sad that even in this dystopian society, those subjects aren't even close to being valued.

There's a really interesting cast of characters in the book, and I really enjoyed reading about them and seeing their interactions with one another. I like Sulan's fierceness and her determination. She kicks ass! I loved Billy and Hank, both separately, together, and with their interactions with Sulan. It's fun and yet realistic. Hank's anxiety over school is especially well done, as is her relationship with Billy. And while I'm okay with Gun as a character, I am not a fan of how quickly Sulan began to rely on him. Additionally, I was pulled in so many directions regarding Gun, and I guess that's the point but because the beginning of their relationship felt weak, I feel like the reader is meant to trust Gun, and I really don't/didn't. But one of my favorite interactions/relationships (besides Hank and Sulan's) is Sulan and her mother. I just love the way they interact. It's not smooth, and they clash a lot, but you can really see both of their sides of the safety and training debate. I think it represents a mother-daughter relationship fairly accurately, considering Sulan's age and the world in which they live. My last point about characters is that I feel as if they all should have been more fallible. It often felt as if they were invincible or something, and I'm just like no!

The book is fast-paced and engaging. It was a quick read for me, though I felt a bit shaky about the world-building. There's just something that continued to feel off for me, and there was a lot I was confused about for a good portion of the book. The technology is much more advanced, but they're not always explained fully. The book's not perfect, but it's not bad either. There were a few "twists" that were extremely predictable and took away from any of the suspense (namely the reveal about who Midnight is, as well as the frog business near the end of the book). Overall, I enjoyed the book, but there's a lot that keep me from loving the book the way I had anticipated.

About the Author: 

Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings. 

Two $5 Amazon Gift Cards (INT)

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