Monday, March 31, 2014

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

Hey guys! So Heather Marie, author of the forthcoming The Gateway Through Which They Came, recently tagged me in the My Writing Process Blog Tour, so here goes nothing! Be sure to check out Heather and Gateway too!

1) What am I working on?

Currently, I'm working on my very first complete novel titled VERY tentatively (as in I just slapped together a random title with very little thought because it was NaNoWriMo), A Moment of Forever. In short, it's a story about a male teen whose life dream is to dance at one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the US and in the world. Ballet and dance is, for him, the biggest (and perhaps only) love of his life. But right before his big audition into the company's training school, he gets into a car accident, injuring his leg, thus preventing him from auditioning. He learns that there are other things to love in life besides ballet and dance, and the book very much explores all types of relationships--familial, friendships, the relationship between a mentor or teacher and a student, etc. (There's just no romantic relationship.) There's a bit more to the story than that, but that's the bare bones of the story. I'm working on revising and re-drafting this since I still only have my terrible NaNoWriMo draft.

At the same time, I've been thinking about another story that I'd like to dive into soon. It's another contemporary, but I think it may be about a female in college. It'll definitely explore online friendships and stuff like that because it's something that's always interested me, and I've been very greatly impacted by my online friends, and I think it's important to show how online friends don't have to be any different from your day-to-day friends.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For A Moment of Forever, it's definitely different in that it's written from a male POV, in the present tense, and about ballet. On top of that, my novel doesn't have a romantic relationship in it and focuses on other relationships more. And I'm very proud of the fact that I'm hopefully addressing and breaking a few stereotypes and myths surrounding dancers, particularly male dancers, and the dance world in general.

For the other one, I'm not really sure yet, but there aren't many books out yet about online friendships, so I think that'll be cool. I'm also thinking about playing around with the format of the book, so that may be different. 

3) Why do I write what I do?

I chose to write a ballet-oriented story for NaNoWriMo because I learned last year that it's very hard for me to get bored when I'm writing about dance because I just love dance SO much. One of my main goals for NaNoWriMo this past year was to finish the draft because it would be the first time I ever that I committed to at least finishing one draft. So I knew that writing about ballet would help to ensure that I could write enough and write passionately enough to finish the draft.

I guess the same would apply to the other story I'm dwelling upon right now.

In general, the reason I write contemporary is that, although I love fantasy and historical fiction, having tried to write both genres, I realized that I am not at the stage in my writing where I could write either of those two genres well. This is not to say that I don't have trouble writing contemporary as well, but I don't think I'm good enough of a writer to write those two genres yet. I'd like to try again some day though!

4) How does your writing process work?

This is a tough question for various reasons. I'd rather not go into detail about the reasons why it's a tough question for me to answer. But I guess in the most basic form, I don't really have any set writing process. The longest drafts I've written have both been for NaNoWriMo. I have a hard time finding the motivation to write, and NaNoWriMo is a fun way for me to push myself into writing constantly and diligently. I hate outlining, but I love outlining. I hate actually having to create an outline, but I think I almost need an outline while writing. Mine generally just hit upon key points and pivotal scenes. Then I just sit down and try to write. I'm a huge dialogue person, and I suck at writing descriptive portions, so most of my writing is just dialogue, but I basically just sit down and write. I usually like to type on my laptop, but once in a while, I'll use regular pen and paper. And to be honest, that's about as far as I've gotten. I'm working my way through reading what I call my Draft 0 (my NaNoWriMo draft), and I'm hoping to start re-writing soon. I'm not sure how I'll be going about it, but we'll see!

Now it's my turn to tag three people!

1) Allison @ Sleepless Reads. Allison is a fellow high school blogger and writer. She's lovely, and I love her writing!
2) Christine @ Christiney Writes. I look up to Christine for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons is that she seems like the dedicated writer I've always wished I could be. She's busy all the time, but I hope that one day, I'll be able to read her books and see them on the shelf in a bookstore!
3) Natalie @ Novel Reads. Natalie is a new blogger, but I love how unique her reviews are (in that she includes a wallpaper with each one!). We're both participating in Camp NaNoWriMo together in April, and she's in my cabin, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'll be talking to her about writing A LOT. She's super awesome, and I hope to learn more about her writing process.

Music Monday (#7): Echosmith

Every other Monday, I'll share a song/artist/album that I'm either currently listening to or currently obsessed with, though they often go hand-in-hand. Some may have special themes or surprises. This means that I might share a playlist, fan!mix, Top Ten list, etc.



Thanks to Spotify, I found out about this band. 
Needless to say, I am now a fan!

At first, I was a little hesitant about their music, but after really listening to their music, especially the ones in the latter half of the album and also upon re-listening, I fell in love. Thanks again, Spotify!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Beautiful Creatures Movie

(Source)
This movie fell extremely flat, with characters that weren't engaging and lacked depth, next to no world building, and an insta-love so unbelievable I wonder if anyone actually rooted for it for the majority of the movie.

I went into this movie not expecting much. I've never read the series, but I heard it was an awful adaptation. Even without having read the books, the movie disappointed me on so many levels. I can't even begin to imagine how fans of the books felt while watching this movie. I hope to someday read the books, at which point, I will completely block this movie out of my mind.

First, there's the insta-love that is so incredibly not convincing. Insta-love rarely works, both in books and in movies, and this was no exception. I don't know how the relationship evolved in the books, but it seems as if Ethan is in one moment wary of Lena and the next moment, utterly in love with her. I couldn't feel any real spark or connection between the two. Sure, Ethan was curious about Lena, but he was far from loving her. Besides, the whole star-crossed lovers thing wasn't appealing. Their love just felt rushed and fake, and I couldn't find it in myself to root for their relationship, at least until the very end.

On a similar note, it took me a long time to become invested in any of the characters and to the story in general. While there was insta-love, the world building was next to none. They barely explained the world of the Casters and the characters/people involved. It was minimal and rushed when it was actually present. The characters lacked depth, save for one or two, and I couldn't root for most of them. I didn't feel anything towards the characters, and I think almost all of the characters could have been explored more. There's so much complexity that could be involved, and this movie just fell flat on that front.

In a similar manner, many characters were simply plot-devices that didn't offer much else to the story. I hate when that happens! Just like in books when you cut out scenes that don't move the story forward, why include a character if you're just going to use them and then discard them? This bothers me to no end, and this was very clear in this movie, more-so than in most movies I've watched.

So what saved this from being a complete wreck? Well, somehow, the movie was enough to allow me to watch it to the end. By the end, I was starting to feel invested in the story and in the characters. I finally felt as if something was happening, and I felt like there was finally some character growth and deep emotion. All in all though, this movie fell extremely flat, and I definitely won't be bothering to watch the other movies if there are any.
Beautiful Creatures
Directed by: Richard LaGravenese
Written by: Richard LaGravenese, based on Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Viola Davis, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson, and more
Release Date: February 14th, 2013

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Promo: Miss Mabel's School for Girls by Katie Cross

Let's welcome Katie Cross to the blog to celebrate the release of her YA fantasy, Miss Mabel's School for Girls, which releases March 27th, 2014!
-------------------------------------------------------------
For me, writing a book involved a lot of staring at a computer screen, slapping the delete button, pulling my
hair out, and Pinterest.

Oh, yes. You heard right. Pinterest.

The power of Pinterest comes from the images. I always find photos that I want to remember and have access to, so I pin them to a board for later reference. So, I thought to myself, Hey, I'm releasing my first book, Miss Mabel's School for Girls. Why don't I give the readers something to look at in anticipation of the book?

So instead of a boring interview where I talk about how great I am, I'm here today to take you on a visual tour to give you a few ideas of what you can expect to find in this exciting new young adult fantasy novel, Miss Mabel's School for Girls.

Wrought iron fence:
There's a wrought iron fence around the outside of the ancient manor that is Miss Mabel's School for Girls much like this one. It's known for creaking in the wind.

Potions bottles:
Potion bottles hold oh-so-many possibilities. Witches love potions, and the witches in Miss Mabel's School
for Girls are no exception. These particular bottles contain a variety of spices and herbs, all of which you can win during the launch giveaway March 27th-30th!

Peacock feather:
Miss Mabel loves peacock feathers. They represent beauty and vanity: her two favorite virtues.

Green mossy tree:
Miss Mabel's School is located in Letum Wood, a lush, expansive forest that hides many secrets. Some of these secrets catch up with Bianca Monroe, our sixteen-year-old heroine, in the dark of the night.

Trees/forest:
This is another view of Letum Wood as you'll expect to find it in the summer. It's lush, gorgeous, and a little on the dangerous side.


Old book photo:
A grimoire is a book filled with magical spells, a kind of magical diary passed through generations. This grimoire is available to win during the launch day giveaway! Head over to www.missmabels.com to find out how you can participate.

Hopefully these photos gave you an idea of the exciting adventure you'll find in Miss Mabel's School for Girls! Now, get your Pinterest on and start spreading the word! Visit www.missmabels.com to find out how to enter the giveaway and win lots of free stuff!


About the Book:

Never underestimate the power of a determined witch.

Letum Wood is a forest of fog and deadfall, home to the quietly famous Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a place where young witches learn the art of magic.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break free before it kills her, she enrolls in the respected school to confront the cunning witch who cast the curse: Miss Mabel.

Bianca finds herself faced with dark magic she didn’t expect, with lessons more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Will Bianca have the courage to save herself from the curse, or will Miss Mabel’s sinister plan be too powerful?

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is the first novel in The Network Series, an exciting new fantasy collection. A gripping tale about the struggle to survive, it will take you to a new place and time, one you’ll never want to leave.



About the Author:
My world revolves around my husband (who is a major hottie), my Vizsla's, and the mountains.

I wear hiking boots instead of heels when I need to feel powerful, and on a bad day, I love a weightlifting workout. Actually, I love it on a good day.

I don't eat bread because my thyroid doesn't like it, although there are days I miss it. Especially ciabatta. Sweet potatoes are kind of my thing. Cookies too.

I write because I never stopped.

Visit me at www.kcrosswriting.com

Giveaway:

Go to www.missmabels.com and click on the 'giveaway' tab for more information. Enter to win a potions chest, an apothecary bag of herbs and spices, an old spell book that opens to hide apothecary herbs, amazon gift cards, and more! The giveaway lasts from March 27th at 7am to March 30th at 10 pm


Friday, March 28, 2014

Flashback Friday (#2): Review: The Host Movie

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


"I enjoyed the movie to some extent, but it definitely could have been better."

I had heard great things about this movie, as well as the book. I didn't want to go see it in theaters when it came out because I wanted to read the novel first. Then, February break/President's Week came, and I finally borrowed the DVD from the library, resigned to the fact that it'll be quite some time before I read The Host.

Anyway! I enjoyed the movie to some extent, but it definitely could have been better. The premise is really interesting, and I think it's much more interesting than The Twilight Saga.

My first major issue with it was the MAJOR insta-love between both Wanda and Ian AND Mel and Jared. I can almost understand Mel and Jared because of the circumstances under which they're living, but at the same time, I felt no real connection between the two of them more than the feeling that they need one another to survive and keep one another alive. With Wanda and Ian, it was like Ian all of a sudden went from wanting to kill her to being in love with her...I don't get it. What prompted this change? I would have liked the relationship to have been explored more before getting to that point.

I did like the struggle between Melanie and Wanda though, including in relation to liking different boys. It reminded me of Kat Zhang's Hybrid Chronicles Series. There's the argument between the two characters that others don't know about. Then when Melanie "disappeared" I just made even more connections to the Hybrid Chronicles. But I know they're not related and that What's Left of Me was published after The Host. This also made for some incredibly awkward scenes. While I KNOW they were meant to be awkward, at times, I felt like I couldn't watch scenes between Wanderer (Wanda) and Ian and Wanda and Jared. But I think the struggles were well portrayed.

I liked many of the characters in this movie, and I thought they were interesting. However, I would have liked for them to be explored more in depth. I felt that even with Melanie, we didn't actually learn that much about her. What was her life like before the creatures took over? What did she like to do? I had a similar issue with the various relationships explored in the movie. Some were better developed but there were many that I would have loved to learn more about, ranging from Melanie's relationship with her brother, Melanie's relationship with her uncle, Wanderer's relationship with Mel's uncle, and Jared's relationship with Melanie's brother. Overall, I think the characters were fairly interesting, but I felt as if they were flat at times.

[SLIGHTLY SPOILER-Y. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK] I liked how the movie explored how characters changed, from Melanie to Ian to Wanderer to the Seeker. While a bit unrealistic and a little too "perfect," I liked seeing what was really going on to the Seeker. It was an interesting reveal, and the ending, while again, too clean and perfect, I quite liked. I liked how it was giving the Seeker's host a second chance. I also wasn't a big fan of Emily Browning playing Wanda at the end. I felt like one of the main lessons in the movie, through Ian's character arc and growth, was that it's not about your appearance that matters. It's about who you are and what you believe in and will fight for. So why did they have to choose an actress that looks so much like Saoirse Ronan? Ian would still love her if she looked completely, right? Well...we don't know for sure, I think. [END SPOILERS]

There were some small details that didn't make complete sense to me, but they didn't hinder most of the important aspects of the film. One example would be: why would they need to put up the mirrors when they're harvesting? If you're harvesting, you don't need to give the plants constant sunlight anymore.

Overall, I really enjoyed the acting. I find Saoirse Ronan to be a fantastic actress, and she shines in this movie. I also really liked William Hurt's character, and I found his acting to be really compelling. The guys were pretty great, though there were some times when I would mix some of them up, but overall, I think they did a pretty good job. Diane Kruger's performance as the Seeker really intrigued me, and the ending blew me away (not the VERY end, but the end-ish, when we learn something big about the Seeker and her host).

Lastly, I just have to include this, but there's a deleted scene about the line "Who would I die for?" I think they should have included this in the movie for various reasons. It was a really pivotal scene, and it was extremely candid. I think that the inclusion of this scene would have made the ending even more powerful, and it would have made a little more sense. It would have allowed the movie to come full circle. But even without it, I think that the end scene regarding that question was very well executed and very emotional

The Host
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Written by: Andrew Niccol, based on The Host by Stephanie Meyer
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, Chandler Canterbury, William Hurt, and more
Release Date: March 29th, 2013

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Characterize It (#12): Wild Card


Wild Card (Any favorite character from any book!)


Harper Shaw FROM Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

I wanted to use a book I haven't (over)used but whose cover I've already uploaded. Fire & Flood has been used before, but it's the best I've got. Besides, it's a different character. ;)

If you've read Fire & Flood, who's your favorite character?

Talk About It Thursday (#6): Songwriting

Every other Thursday I will make a post that's meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate.

If you didn't know already, the reason I was on hiatus in February was largely because I was participating in FAWM (February Album Writing Month), which is basically the NaNoWriMo for song writers. Basically, the goal is to write 14 songs (roughly the length of an album) in 28 days. 

Sounds relatively simple right? You don't even have to write a song every day. Yeah, it's not as easy as it sounds. Firstly, just like with NaNo, you lose steam. This is my third year participating in FAWM, and I know I'm going to lose steam. Maybe I'm already losing steam (this post is being written on 2/6). They have some great ways to help out, but there's also the sad fact that FAWM is smaller than NaNo. Not as many people know about it and participate. There aren't as many resources (I love their Titular tool though!). There isn't as much funding. And there certainly aren't any cool "prizes" for winners. All we get are 14 new songs, pride, and possibly bragging rights. So why do I participate? Much for the same reason I participate in NaNo. This year, it's only day 6, and I've already written some of my best work yet (at least in my opinion). The sad truth is that if it weren't for FAWM, I never would have taken the time to write down these lyrics. I never would have forced myself to get words down on the page. Are the songs perfect? Of course not. But they're something, and I am PROUD of them.

Where does this become a discussion? Well, the truth is that a lot of people don't necessarily appreciate songwriters. When you listen to a song, you usually care more about the singer or band than the person that wrote the lyrics, right? Okay, not everybody. But for the most part, yes. It's sad but true. I try to support singer-songwriters, but I'm guilty of this too. One would think that writing song lyrics is easy, right? Just a few lines, a verse or two, a chorus, etc. It's short, right? Easy? Quick? Simple? Nothing like writing a novel, right? Right....WRONG. Okay, so maybe it's not the same as writing a novel, but songwriters put in just as much into their writing. We also lose our steam. We also have days and months when we don't want to write. But we do. We still have to edit and draft and figure out what we want our songs to get across. Maybe it's not to the same extent as an author (I know, trust me. I participate in NaNoWriMo too), but it's still something. 

And easy? Quick? Simple? HA. IF ONLY. No, writing songs can take time. Sure, sometimes I just spit out words, but then there's the whole editing and revising process. I have to figure out what message I want to get across. Did the words come out the way I wanted them to? Do lines have a similar number of syllables? Should I use artistic license and break some grammar rules? How short or long do I want the song to be? Do I want to follow the traditional structure of a song? Do I want the meaning to be obvious or ambiguous? Yeah. All of that and more. Yes, I'll admit that I tend to spit out words and write a song in 20 minutes tops. But I still think about these, especially if/when I go back to fix it. But I get stuck too. Sometimes, I write a verse that's just so pretty or different that I can't figure out what to write next. I used to have a file of pieces of songs, whether they were verses, bridges, outros, choruses, or a mix. (I don't anymore because my laptop broke, and I lost all of my files. *cries*) And sometimes, you can't find the right words. Sometimes it's because I need a word to rhyme. Sometimes it's because I need a word of a certain meaning but with a certain number of syllables. Sometimes it's just because the words won't come to me. Songs are shorter than novels. Though important in novels, diction is almost even more important in songwriting. Every word matters. Every word has to do something. It's hard to find the perfect word or phrase, whether you're writing a novel or a song.

So why don't songwriters get the same amount of credit, especially if a popular singer or band sings the song they wrote? Even the cheesy, annoying, repetitive songs required a lot more thought than you'd think. They must be tailored to the singer. They must appeal to certain audience. Yet, many people forget these behind the scenes people. Even sadder is when singer-songwriters don't get as much credit as other singers. These people write or co-write most, if not all, of their songs AND figure out a melody to them AND sing them! That's a lot, isn't it? So why are they generally not as appreciated? I really wish they were. 

It's hard to find the right lyrics. There are so many artists I look up to because their lyrics mean something. They make me think. They make me feel. They're beautiful words. They're carefully picked words. They work. They shine. And it amazes me. 

Here are some examples of singer-songwriters/bands that I admire (in case you're interested): Nat & Alex Wolff, Sara Bareilles, Anna Nalick, Sara Haze, Vanessa Carlton, The Civil Wars, The Hush Sound, Snow Patrol, OneRepublic, David Cook, Imagine Dragons, Elenowen, and Laura Jansen.

What's your take on songwriters? Do you think about them when listening to a song, or do you sometimes forget? How do you view songwriting? Have you written a song before?

(PS. If you'd like to see what I'm writing for FAWM, this is my account.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: August 27th, 2013
An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?
"...What I loved about Throne of Glass and continue to love in Crown of Midnight is Maas' ability to find a balance between action-driven plot and character-driven plot and to be able to develop them both, with many of the sections even tying both together."

I was so excited to start Crown of Midnight soon after finishing Throne of Glass. Alas, I hit a small reading slump right as I started, but I made myself read through a few pages at the very least. That was the start of the very long journey towards finishing Crown of Midnight. A lot of it was time, but part of it was also just parts of it that didn't engage me as much as Throne of Glass did and parts that quite honestly disappointed me a bit.

The first thing I must say is that I love Nehemia, and I love the character arc she has and the friend that she is to Celaena. I loved seeing that relationship grow, and you could tell how much they loved one another as friends. Friendships are often forgotten about in books, particularly in fantasy novels that are more plot-driven, but what I loved about Throne of Glass and continue to love in Crown of Midnight is Maas' ability to find a balance between action-driven plot and character-driven plot and to be able to develop them both, with many of the sections even tying both together.

There's so much character growth in this novel for almost all of the main characters, and once again, I found myself intrigued by their actions and words. Their interactions were extremely well-written and were really interesting. On that note, however, I did not like how there seemed to be an extreme focus on the love triangle. I know, I'm sorry, but while it worked for me in Throne of Glass, I was really put off by it in Crown of Midnight. What Nehemia and Celaena's relationship had, Chaol and Dorian's relationship lacked. I hated to see their friendship be affected by their mutual love (and respect) for Celaena. I understand both sides, and I understand their motivations, but it honestly annoyed me. A major factor in the reason why it took me so long to finish the book was just being tired by it being bogged down by the love triangle. I'm fine with talking about it, but it seemed a bit excessive after a while.

Nevertheless, much of what I enjoyed about Throne of Glass, I continued to enjoy in its sequel. While there were some plot twists that I saw coming, I liked seeing Celaena figure out the riddles and figure out what the heck was going on. Again, I predicted a large part of it, but it was exciting and kept the pace going. 

Maas' world building also continues to amaze me in this book, and I loved getting to see a little more of it, including within the castle itself. I think it lent itself well to the plot of the book.

I'm so excited for book 3 (Heir of Fire) after the revelations and actions made/taken at the end of this book. I can't wait to see what else is in store. I'm hoping that now that it seems there will be more action, some of the heavy love triangle aspects of it will diminish a bit, at least for the time being. All three of our main characters have various problems to work through, and I can't wait for more.
Sarah J. Maas: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Blog

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson (ARC)

The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 11th, 2014
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?



"The Tyrant's Daughter is definitely an eye-opener, thought-provoker, and conversation starter. "

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through NetGalley. This did not affect my review or thoughts in any way, nor was I compensated for it.

I went into The Tyrant's Daughter not expecting much. Well, I was expecting certain things of the book, but I didn't think it would be as impactful, thought-provoking, and amazing as it ultimately was.

I have to start off by telling you a little bit about myself. I love learning about different cultures and cultural expectations and traditions. Growing up in a multi-cultural family, it's been an integral part of my identity. It's always fascinated me, and I find it interesting to think about how other people view us. When cultures are so vastly different, how do we, as Americans, look?

This book was definitely illuminating. I loved learning about Laila's cultural background, and I loved seeing the world through her eyes, through her experiences. The way that she views America and Americans? It's so true. It's so real. And the way her peers in America perceive her, a foreigner, also ring true. Laila is such a complex character with a very complex background. Sometimes, we forget about the people on the other side of the news we hear. Laila's story re-opened my eyes to that fact. Do the people we think are doing the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing in their eyes? Most of the time, no. America isn't as clean and innocent as we'd like to believe, but neither is any other country. But we generally think we're doing the right thing, and so do they (in both situations, of course, not everyone agrees). I think that this book allowed me to view situations from both sides. We hear about people we deem evil, but we never stop to think about their family, their friends, and their motivations. The Tyrant's Daughter is definitely an eye-opener, thought-provoker, and conversation starter. 

Another aspect, which I briefly mentioned above, that I think was well done was Laila's view on American culture and society. Ranging from school dances to American food to interactions between genders, it's amazing to see how a foreigner would view what we consider the norm. But the thing is, it's all true, for better or for worse. Again, it brings back that clash of culture, but the truth is so well-written.

Parts of the plot also kept me thinking the entire time. I was wondering what Gansler was up to. I was trying to piece together what Laila's mother was doing. I was thinking about whether everyone was as sincere as they acted. Some aspects were fairly predictable, but there were some twists that I was not expecting.

Additionally, the cast of characters was very diverse. Each one brought something to the table. Laila and her relationship with both her brother, her mother, and every other character was very well explored for the most part. I loved seeing the different relationships form, change, and grow. There was also the exploration of the different relationship existing between Amir and Laila and Laila and her American peers. I think it's an important distinction to make, and Carlson did that exceptionally well.

There were one or two things that bothered me a little bit though. First was the ending. I felt that it left a lot of loose ends. Okay, so life doesn't usually end up having tidy endings and closure, but there were relationships that were too well formed and explored to just be left the way it was. I think that it made sense, but I also felt like it made it feel a little less like an ending. Yes, I did like how Laila finally took control over something in her life, and I think the ending solidified Laila's transformation as a character, but the ending also felt very incomplete.

Lastly, while I know the book is mainly character-driven, this wasn't one of those character-driven books that I could read quickly. It took me much longer than it should have to get through this book. There were parts that I just had to push through. There were many times when the book was just slow and dragged on. I won't deny that characters weren't explored well, but there was a point where I was just going to give up on finishing for the time being. I'm glad I pushed through it, but even for a well-written character-driven plot/book, it took a lot more time and energy to get through certain portions of the book.
The Tyrant's Daughter: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository
J. C. Carlson: Official Website 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (ARC)

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: April 1, 2014
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.
"A beautiful, harrowing, deep, thought-provoking read"

Disclaimer: I received an eGalley from NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor was I compensated for this review.

This book started off slowly. Very slowly. Yes, there was a lot that had to be set up and explained. But I felt like it was dragging on and on, but I'm glad I pushed past it because it picked up afterward. Don't get me wrong; this is generally not an action-driven book but rather a very character-driven book. Some people might not like that, but I do. I enjoy seeing how character evolve, learn, change, etc, and I love seeing how relationships of all types form and change as well.

Dellaira did a very good job of exploring different issues, including death, abuse, insecurity, self-blame, sexuality, and others that I won't list because it's a bit spoiler-y. They were all explored well, and well executed. Each one added an important piece to the overall puzzle, and I loved seeing how it came together at the end. This was really moving, inspiring, and impactful.

The characters were well-developed, and they were, without a doubt, extremely complex. Both Laurel and the secondary characters were flawed, but they also all had something great about them that made them special and unique. They all had dreams and aspirations. They all made mistakes. They all learned and grew as the story progressed.

In terms of predictability, there were some extremely predictable parts, but there were also many times when I wasn't expecting something. The big reveal about what happened to Laurel was pretty obvious to me fairly early on. Maybe that was the point. *shrug* Overall, I don't know that the predictability hindered my enjoyment of the book, but it did take away from some key scenes and emotional hits.

Lastly, I kind of enjoyed the format of the book (in letter form). While it did restrict the writing a bit, I found it to be interesting to see which people Laurel wrote to about different events. I feel as if I would have enjoyed the letters and the format more if I knew most of the dead people used, but it was still interesting nonetheless. Additionally, I was on the verge of entering a reading slump while I was in the middle of this book, and I think it was the format that saved me. It was nice to read something different.

I lied. One last thing. This book is filled with ALL THE FEELS. I almost cried in a couple of scenes. But it's so worth the read. A beautiful, harrowing, deep, thought-provoking read, I'd definitely recommend this.


Love Letters to the Dead: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

Ava Dellaira: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#MadWritersClub Week 1

If you don't already know, I write...sometimes. I write songs, as is evident from my recent hiatus when I was worrying about FAWM. But I also write books (ish) sometimes. If you follow me/talk to me on Twitter, you've probably seen me talk about it at least once. 

Anyway, Christine @ Christiney Writes asked me if I was interested in her #90DayWritingChallenge / #MadWritersClub. Since I'm gearing up (sort of ) for Camp NaNoWriMo, I figured why not? So this is me giving this a go. I'll probably fail at it, but who cares. I'm not even completely sure what I want to work on yet, and it's already started. If you'd like to learn more about, please check out Christine's into post.

Week 1
Introduce the project you’ll be working on for the next 90 days and the ultimate end goal. For some, it might be a completed first draft of their shiny new idea. For others, a polished, revised draft. Maybe, it’s not a novel but a collection of poetry, short stories, etc. Whatever it is, this is the week to share your project (as much as you are willing) as well as your goal.

So my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo is to start the second draft of my NaNoWriMo novel. That being said, I know I won't complete the revision in April alone. For the #90DayWritingChallenge, I'd like to start to re-write my draft, currently titled A Moment of Forever, a totally random title that I chose because I needed one. You can read more about it on my NaNoWriMo profile. It's about a mixture of so many things that are important to me and that I've wanted to see in YA literature for so long. There's ballet, siblings, friendships, a male protagonist, and lots of breaking of stereotypes, hopefully, especially surrounding male dancers and the dance world in general. It's like my baby, but having read through roughly half my NaNo draft, it's terrible. Additionally, I'm changing a major plot point, as well as major characters, their backgrounds, and their importance in the story. So I've got a long road ahead of me with this. At the very least, I don't think I'll ever get tired of writing about dance, which was why I wrote my novel about it. It's the very first WIP that I've finished a complete draft of.

I'm also still contemplating another idea that I've had for a while, but I still need to brainstorm a lot of it, and I need to figure out the characters, the direction/plot, the conflict, and the format that I want to write the book in. This means that I can't really explain what I'm really working on, but I hope to get some more ideas figured out and start to outline this. It deals with internet friendships and stuff like that. ;)

All in all, my goals aren't specific in that I have a specific word count or anything that I'm looking to hit. Plus, this will be a very busy time in the school year for me, so let's see how this will work out.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings

The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.



"The cover is gorgeous, and the premise seemed promising. But it fell so flat."

I have to be honest. I went into this book not expecting much. I was hoping that perhaps I'd be the black sheep and enjoy this book. The cover is gorgeous, and the premise seemed promising. But it fell so flat.

Firstly, there was the characters and the format of the book. I've never been a huge fan of books with changing perspectives unless it's done exceptionally well, and this reminded me of every single reason why and more. I felt a major disconnect every time the POV changed. The constant oscillation between three characters meant that I personally could not get attached to any of them almost at all. I didn't care about what happened to most of the characters, no matter how much I wanted to. Then, I was SO overly confused by the different characters. Each story was separate, so there would be times when I would mix up the characters belonging to each POV. Or somebody new would be introduced and brought back a few chapters later, when I already forgot who they were. So this was a huge factor for me.

Next, it was the plot itself. I get it. The world is ending. But come on! Think about this. What would YOU do if you only had a week left to live? I'm telling you, I'd be doing very different things compared to what these teens were doing. I was so bored, generally, by the plot, and it took everything I had to push on til almost 200 pages into the book. I was hoping that it would get better. That it would be worth it. But NOPE. The pace is slow, and there's not much action going on. I would have been okay with this if it had been a character-driven book, but I think the book tried and failed to be just that, making it a painfully slow read.

Additionally, while I see the point in making the three stories semi-connected, I would have liked it if the characters were from different walks of life completely. You're writing about the end of the world. Why limit the characters to being from this one place or island (I can't even remember)? Why not explore characters from all over the world if you're going to have different POVs? Why not have one of them be truly enjoying their last few days? Is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes.

So I sort of DNF'd this book a little bit before page 200. Do I regret that? Not one bit. But I did want to see how the book ended. And it surprised me. Why? Because I actually kinda liked the ending. Yeah, I mean, all three stories come together at the end, and I guess that was the point, but I liked how all the characters got some kind of closure. The ending was beautifully written, and I could picture all of them, standing there, waiting for the world to end. It was a very open ending, and I liked that a lot. But it wasn't worth it to read the pages in between the point where I DNF'd and the ending. So it's not FULLY a DNF, but at the same time, it is a DNF.

Alexandra Coutts: Official Site | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Friday, March 21, 2014

Flashback Friday (#1): Review: Now You See Me Movie

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


(Source)
A refreshing new take on heist films, this movie gives you a look into the world of magic and the art of deception, leaving just enough to keep you on your toes and to keep you guessing.

I've been interested in this movie ever since I saw the trailer. The premise of the movie is interesting and involved, and the plot will keep you on your toes for the entire movie. One of my favorite aspects of this movie was the refreshing new take on heist films. Everyone, I'd venture to guess, loves magic (or at least loved it at some point). I know I'm fascinated by magic, not just Harry Potter magic but magician magic too. This offers a cool look into the world of magic and the art of deception. You think you know what's going on, but then something else happens that tells you you're wrong. 

There were some aspects and some tricks that were predictable and/or obvious. Sometimes I knew something had happened, but I couldn't figure out exactly how it had been executed. I liked how it showed you how the tricks were accomplished, while leaving enough for you to guess.

Some of the back story confused me a bit, but I found that it didn't matter that much at the end. There's a twist at the end that made me rethink the entire movie, and I think that's the point. As I mentioned, this movie is a refreshing new movie that will keep you on your toes and will keep you guessing for the majority of the film.

An aspect I liked was the mix of personalities. I do wish there was a bit more diversity, but I enjoyed the characters and their chemistry. They worked off of one another's talents, yet they are all talented on their own. They work together really well, and you can tell that they're all incredibly sneaky and deceptive. I guess that's why they're magicians. I wish there was more development of the characters and the relationships, but overall, I really enjoyed the characters and the cast. The actors and actresses were beyond amazing, and they certainly pulled off those tricks really well. I'm so glad the crew included an actual illusionist/magician because I think that added to the authenticity of the movie. You felt like you were there experiencing their tricks too.

I think this kind of flows into the setting as well. You see just enough to get a feel of what's going on and where they are. The different cities were a nice way to change the setting but to also so how versatile and popular the magicians were. Of course, the majority of the movie took place in big cities, but the hectic feel and the rush of being in a city and being able to hide made this invariably funner to watch.

There were plot twists abound, but as I mentioned above, the last twist was the one that got me the most. I think that was the most well-executed and while there were small clues, I, for one, was not really expecting that ending!

One last thing that bothered me a bit was the "romance." It was way too obvious, and I found it unnecessary. Besides, why can't a woman want to step up and take the job because she's interested? Why is it assumed that there's something sneaky about her? I'm not overly fond with how women were treated in this movie, but I think this is a movie that's meant to be enjoyed more aesthetically and to just relax, rather than to think too much into it, as horrible as that sounds.

All in all, this was an incredibly enjoyable movie that offered a unique look in the world of illusions and so-called magic. It makes you rethink what you know, and the twists and turns keep you guessing. Movie critics may not be a huge fan of the movie, but if you're looking for something fun and cool to watch, this is your movie. Imaginative and refreshingly new, this is a movie I'm glad I watched.
Now You See Me
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Melanie Laurent, Michael Caine, and more
Release Date: May 31st, 2013

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Characterize It (#11): Second Helping


Second Helping ("Strong" Female Secondary Character Who Helps the Lead Female Character Through Adversity)


Nehemia FROM Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Dee/Delilah FROM Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Which secondary female character that helps the lead female character is your favorite?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#6): Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

This feature is hosted by Breaking the Spine!
For more info on this feature, see my features page.

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Why I Want to Read This Book

Firstly, the cover. The whole, don't judge a book by it's cover thing isn't completely true. We all judge, and I love this cover for various reasons!

Secondly, I've heard great things about JLA's writing, though I've never gotten a chance to actually read any of her works. Maybe now's my chance!

And of course, it all goes back to the premise. This is so intriguing, and it sounds like the kind of book that would keep me up late at night because I want to finish it. Can't wait to get my hands on this one! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
"This thought-provoking novel blew me away, and I was in the middle before I knew I had begun. The complexity of the world that Rutkoski shapes in The Winner's Curse will keep readers on their toes, begging for more, and will cause them to think about the way that they treat others and the effects their words and actions can have, both temporarily and permanently."

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from another author (as part of a prize pack). This did not, in any way, affect my thoughts in any way, and I was in no way compensated for this review.

Where do I even begin? I honestly didn't even know what hit me when it came to this book. I was expecting to love it a lot and to feel that a lot. Don't get me wrong; I did love this a lot, but there wasn't a concrete moment where it hit me. It's like this snuck up on me and then BAM! I was in love with the book.

One of the reasons why I didn't realize that I loved it until I just did was that while I loved the romance between Kestrel and Arin, there were times when I felt like there was a middle piece that was skipped over. I felt as if they went from hating one another to sort of being friends and then all the way to being in love. I felt like it was a slow build to get them to befriend one another but then it quickly escalated. But that's not to say I didn't love their relationship. I loved their dynamics, and they're both very similar in that they're strategic, witty, cunning, etc. I liked seeing how they viewed one another; one as a Valorian and the other as a Herrani, especially since Kestrel was brought up by a Herrani (sort of).

I enjoyed how this book emphasized that military might isn't enough to succeed. You need to be clever and have a plan. You need to be smart. Military strength isn't better than intelligence. In order to succeed, you need both.

In many ways, this felt like a historical read as well. There were so many parallels between their circumstance and the time around the Civil War in the United States. In many ways, the relationship between the Valorians and Herranis very much reminded me of the relationship between whites and blacks. It was interesting to get a look into both sides of the story, to see how each interpreted the actions of the other.

Though the pace was a bit slow in the beginning, it definitely picked up later in the book. I was completely sucked in. There were turns and twists every which way. I was kept on my toes, trying to figure out when one was lying to another, trying to figure out what their endgame was. I just wanted to keep reading, and I was so immersed in the plot. The Winner's Curse was able to find a balance between being character driven and plot driven. I wasn't disappointed, and I was let going GAHHH I NEED BOOK 2! ;)

The book involves looking into politics, military structure, social etiquette/"the norm," a historical feel, a slow burning romance, twists and turns, betrayal, and so much more. It makes the reader think about how the same principles apply to real life. It certainly made me think about society and the way we treat others, especially during times of war. This thought-provoking novel blew me away, and I was in the middle before I knew I had begun. The complexity of the world that Rutkoski shapes in The Winner's Curse will keep readers on their toes, begging for more, and will cause them to think about the way that they treat others and the effects their words and actions can have, both temporarily and permanently.

Marie Rutkoski: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Monday, March 17, 2014

Music Monday (#6): Taylor Swift Favorite Album Analysis

Every other Monday, I'll share a song/artist/album that I'm either currently listening to or currently obsessed with, though they often go hand-in-hand. Some may have special themes or surprises. This means that I might share a playlist, fan!mix, Top Ten list, etc.

Today's post is a topical one, and it's based on a brief conversation I had with Jessica @ Just Another Teen Reading on Twitter. Basically, she asked which Taylor Swift album was our personal favorite. I responded that I love them all for different reasons and that I couldn't just pick one because they're all great in different aspects. So I figured that I'd go into that in a more thought out post! Thus, this post will be me discussing what I like about each of T. Swift's albums. I won't go into what I DON'T like about them, but feel free to discuss it with me in the comments below! (Note: I used the album covers for the versions I have minus Taylor Swift because I don't own a copy of it.)

I really love the innocence and simplicity of Taylor's self-titled album. The songs feel so genuine, and it's nice to not think about who each song could be about. Additionally, I love her sound here. It's country with just a hint of pop, but it's still mostly country. Most of the songs on this album are among my favorites by her because of the sound and especially the lyrics.





Still writing heart-felt songs with meaningful lyrics, this album showed Taylor delving more into pop, and I think that's fine. I like the mix of sounds on this album, and it shows great variety in her singing. There's still this air of innocence in her songs, and there's just something that draws me to the songs, both lyrically and melodically. Again, many favorites came from this album, although I guess it's only natural that I do have favorites from each.





I feel like this is when her sound really started to change. She moved away from her country sound and became more pop and more appealing to a broader audience. There's so much subject and melodic variety in this album, and I love it. I loved how she didn't just have songs about love and heartbreak, and I liked the playfulness of some of the songs on this album. I think she really grew musically, even though I love her country sound a bit more. Her lyrics for the songs on this album are what I love the most, I think. Most of my favorites are from this album.



This one is a bit tricky for me for a couple of reasons. In the end, though, I love how mature her music sounds. She's really grown as an artist, and it's clear that she's stepping away from the sound of her previous albums. There's a lot less country (to the point that I wouldn't consider her a country artist anymore, generally), but some of the songs are softer pop, which I prefer. I love so many of the songs on here that haven't been released as singles, though that applies to all her albums. There's a difference between the singles released to appeal to a bigger audience and the songs on here with a really deep meaning. Once I listened to the album a couple of times, I really started to love it.


At the end of the day, I think I'd go with Speak Now as my favorite if I REALLY had to choose one, but there's a lot that I like about each of them. I don't know that I articulated that well in this post, but.

Which Taylor Swift album is your favorite? Why? (Or are you like me?)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: Catching Fire Movie

Before I start this review, I have to admit that I am not a Hunger Games fan at all. I never liked Katniss and still don't. There were certainly some aspects of the book that I liked, but it wasn't enough for me to a) finish Mockingjay and b) like the series (which is also evident from my ratings on Goodreads). However, Catching Fire was my favorite book of the two that I read, so I was a little bit more excited about this movie. I also have to say that this series is one of the rare instances where I think the movies are better than the books. But without further ado, my review.

I think the most important aspect to hit upon first is the characters/acting. I've been feeling very conflicted on this because the movie has changed some of my thoughts on the characters from when I read the book. But I'm going to break this down in some of the different characters. I suppose I should talk about Katniss first. Like I said above, I never liked Katniss. The movies have not changed that, and I'm not sorry to admit that. I certainly think Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress, but I've been wondering how much I've been enjoying her performance. In some ways, I was first thinking that this (and The Hunger Games) was one of her weaker performances on screen. But before you yell at me, let me explain. I saw Katniss to be very emotionless in the first half-ish part of the movie. I know a lot of you will argue with me about that, but that's how I saw it. Later on, I do think it got better, but there was still something that irked me. Jennifer Lawrence's performance didn't honestly help me at all. I still feel the same way about Katniss, and if anything, the movie reinforces how much I really don't like Katniss. I get why a lot of other people do like her, but I think the bad parts I see far outweigh the good that they see. And that's when I realized that maybe that made Jennifer Lawrence a good actress who has done a great job representing Katniss. What I mean is that for those who like/love Katniss, the movies have reinforced that, but for me, among the minority, it just reminds me of everything I don't like about Katniss. Lawrence's performance is good in that I guess she has done a great job playing who Katniss really is, for better or for worse.

Next, there's Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Let's start with Hemsworth first. I just...no. Sorry. Unlike many, I didn't mind Gale in the books (maybe because I never read past ~5 chapters of Mockingjay). But I don't think Hemsworth has captured the character's essence. Maybe part of it is the writing, but I think a large part of it is that he really seems unemotional, and that doesn't fit him, at least from how I interpreted Gale from the books. His performance has really made me dislike Gale. Who knows, maybe that's the point. Josh Hutcherson, on the other hand, I feel has done a great job. I don't even know why, but I was never fond of Peeta in the books, which is weird because in real life, I probably would like him. But I think Josh has done a great job of understanding and portraying Peeta, with a ton of emotions and expressions, and it's made me really like Peeta a whole lot more.

Haymitch and Effie are just as great in this movie, if not better (particularly Haymitch). Also, that mahogany reference? Perfect! Cinna is also still magnificent in this movie, and I'M SO SAD BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENS TO HIM LIKE WHY. (Just as a note, my favorites from the books were Haymitch, Cinna, Finnick, and possibly Johanna (I say possibly because I don't remember much from the books, so I don't know if I liked her).) Speaking of Finnick, MY GOSH SAM CLAFLIN. Yes, yes, yes, yes. He was so perfect as Finnick, and I just love him even more! And speaking of loving a character, Jo-freakin'-hanna! I fricking love that girl. Jena Malone, you are my favorite (not really but okay, maybe in this movie yes). Johanna was so beyond fantastic. I loved how snarky she was, and I loved her unique personality. You could definitely see the hatred she had towards the Capitol. And her attitude and personality and just everything just blew me away. I think Malone's performance was one of the best, if not the best, out of all of the actors.

On a last note about characters after that mini freak out, I don't know how I feel about how Mags was portrayed. I still loved her, and you could still understand her personality, but I didn't really like how she didn't talk. I know it was probably to get around the speech issue that I don't remember but was apparently in the books (you can see how much I didn't like the series in general...also it's been a long time).

Next, on to everything else. I loved the clock arena, and it was definitely freaky. I didn't really like that they didn't at least introduce all the tributes, which made it confusing when they showed the dead. I get that they weren't important, but I'm picky, and I couldn't stop thinking, "Did we ever see that person? Who is that?" I don't know if they were mentioned in the books, so maybe that's why, but still. But the arena was really well done in general. I also loved the Snow scenes, and the parts with his granddaughter were really well done. Caesar's scenes were hilarious as well.

I didn't really understand the huge jump in advanced technology. I get that it's the Quarter Quell, and I get that they had a much higher budget (the movie, I mean), but I don't know...it felt so weird to see such a vast difference in technology in, I believe, less than a year. I know it's not real and whatnot, and I do think that some of the technology did help to add to the movie and to make it look cooler, but I think the movie would have been just fine without that huge jump. Maybe I'm just being over picky.

The last nit-picky thing for me was the awkward scene cuts. It was definitely a lot better compared to The Hunger Games, but there were still a couple of times when this bothered me, particularly the one that cut abruptly from a dark scene to a light scene, making my eyes go WOAH NO.

In general, I really enjoyed this movie. As much as I'd hate to admit it, it's definitely one that I'd see again, and I think it was VERY well done. I would gladly freak out about the movie, as I have a bit already, just as long as you don't mention the book series to me (maybe Catching Fire is the exception but I don't really remember it) and push it in my face.

Basically, as a whole, I think the acting was phenomenal. Almost every actor brought something to their character, whether I personally enjoyed it or not. The pacing went well (if you don't mind that the arena lasted roughly 2 or 3 days and a lot of time was spent on everything before), and I loved the arena. The ending was perfect, and Katniss' facial expression? Awesome. Everyone really stepped it up a notch with this movie, and it really helped to make this epic. While I will never say that this is my favorite book-to-movie adaptation (despite its flaws, I'll always go with Harry Potter, and I'm not sorry about that. Argue with me all you want, but I will never let anything, especially THG, take over that spot. I'm stubborn that way), it's probably on my top ten list, as much as I'd hate to admit that.

Seriously, if you can, go watch it (if you haven't already). It will possibly almost blow your mind away by its greatness.

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