Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dance Appreciation Week: Guest Post: Sonia Fuderer on Why Dancers Dance

It's Day 2 of Dance Appreciation Week! Today, I have a guest post by the lovely Sonia Fuderer in which she discusses why she dances (and in turn, why all dancers dance) and why she chose for her MC to be a dancer. Enjoy!

Why Do We Dance? 

More specifically, why does Reese, my main character, dance? The simple answer to that question is because I was a dancer. Yet, it’s so much more than that.

When I set out writing The Last Flock, I felt a strong desire to keep everything that happened in the story possible, which meant it was important to keep the character’s reactions real. In my book, there’s a biological attack which forces a family to drop everything and flee to save themselves and they end up living for a year in an underground shelter, and, as if that wasn’t already too much to handle (spoiler alert!) the eldest son doesn’t make it in time. If these things were happening to me, I thought over and over about how I would’ve dealt with it all, back when I was seventeen. What would I have done? I would have danced.

Dancing was always more than art for me…more than a hobby, too. It was my escape, my consistency. No matter what was happening in my life, I could lace up my pointe shoes, crank up the music at the studio, and let go. I could get lost in the music, the movements, and their connection. For those who have danced, I’m sure you’ve felt the same way.

During high school I spent four nights a week, plus Saturday mornings, at my dance studio and never got sick of it. I never sighed and dragged myself there. It was just the opposite - I couldn’t wait to go. I loved the girls I danced with, the ones I taught, and especially my own teachers. There’s an incredible bond that forms from working so hard together, for so long. Fixing each other’s hair for recital and competitions; picking glitter off each other’s clothes; pinning and taping parts of costumes for each other; freaking out when you can’t find a shoe or you find a run in your tights and it’s time to go on stage...these are all fond memories. I’ve heard many people remark about the friendships formed in a locker room and I feel it’s the same for dancers. Although we weren’t working together to win a game, we were working together to create a work of art.

Dance takes an enormous amount of dedication and strength. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is, how hard we practice, in an attempt to make it look effortless. Even though I hung up my pointe shoes years ago I still catch myself zoning out while listening to a song on the radio because I’m picturing the dance. I’m literally choreographing the moves in my mind. “Human” by Christina Perri and “All of Me” by John Legend have both elicited chills recently, as a result of the dances I see in my head.

Escape comes in many forms, and for Reese I chose one that I’m familiar with. For some it might be reading, video games, sports, drugs, alcohol…anything to disconnect from reality for a period of time. When I wrote in the story that Reese had brought her dance gear with her, I was actually drawing on a personal experience…

When I went away to college, I was homesick. I was two hours from home and didn’t know anyone besides my new roommate. One lonely weekend I stumbled upon a dance studio on the second floor of a gym on campus and that changed everything for me. I had, of course, packed my dance gear, and once I was able to shut the door on everything else and dance, I finally felt like myself again. I guess I didn’t realize how much I had missed dancing until, in that studio, I felt complete. There’s something about dancing that becomes a part of who you are. That’s the best way I can explain why I wrote Reese as a dancer. When her world was taken away, when it was suddenly filled with fear, sadness, and uncertainty, I kept thinking, what would be enough to help her through this? How can she escape and find normalcy at the same time? She would dance.

I mentioned earlier that I hung up my pointe shoes, and I meant that literally…in my daughter’s room, before she was born. You can imagine my elation now that she has started her dance journey, especially because she absolutely loves it. Elation not just for the years of classes, recitals, costumes, competitions, and everything else ahead of her; but immense joy that in exchange for all of her hard work and dedication she will be rewarded with grace, strength, friendships, and in the moments when she finds herself alone, surrounded only by the music which inspires her movement, she will be complete.
(Sonia's own picture, featuring young dancers!)
About The Last Flock:
Seventeen-year-old Reese survived cancer as a child, but when a biological terrorist attack is unleashed on America, she finds herself fighting for her life again - spending what should've been her senior year of high school sealed in a shelter below the Rocky Mountains. Her broken family struggles to adjust to this new life, one without her missing older brother, and the only bright spots are the friendships that form below. Even falling in love with fellow shelter-dweller Lucas comes at a price - reconciling with the awful reality that everyone she left above, including her boyfriend, has perished.

Making matters worse, Reese begins to suspect Joshua, the inspirational and charismatic founder of the shelter, has not gathered their group below entirely by chance. As fear and doubt bloom in the community, Reese embarks on a mission to discover what secrets Joshua is hiding. What she uncovers is unimaginable: the greatest threat may not be in the outside world at all, but instead sealed in the shelter with them. With uncertainty breaking bonds, Reese must decide what to do with the information she has uncovered, and most crucially, who to trust.

About Sonia Fuderer:
Sonia was raised in Louisville, KY, the second of four kids, and lived for the arts. She danced, sang, and played piano and cello growing up. Dance, specifically ballet, was her favorite and she practically lived at the dance studio in high school. She went away to college at Morehead State University and earned a degree in elementary education.

She has the incredible honor of being the mother of two of the most amazing kids in the world. They keep her busy, make her laugh, fill her with pride, give purpose to her life, and help her stay grounded.

She taught elementary education for several years before turning her attention to running an after-school program for kids who needed some extra academic help. She started writing The Last Flock in the summer of 2013, after being scared by a TV show.

She loves writing, dancing, knitting, reading, the color blue, peach mango tea, cats, the fall, weddings, fruit, cheering on the Cincinnati Bengals (Who Dey!) and UNC Tar Heels, pedicures, Sour Patch Kids, yoga, Jillian Michaels workouts, watching my daughter dance, listening to my son read and tell jokes, and being married to the best husband in the world.

Waiting on Wednesday (#9): My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

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

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy?

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss—the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died—is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made—good and bad—that led to her last kiss.

Why I Want to Read This Book

Premise, premise, premise! The premise of the book sounds amazing, and it's really interesting too. Plus, from what I've seen from Allison's What's In the Snow? post way back when, it sounds really good!

And of course, I learned that Cassidy is a ballerina! Yay! As I mentioned before, I love reading anything about dancers, particularly ballet dancers. I'm sure this aspect isn't very important, but it's important to me! ;)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dance Appreciation Week: International Dance Day + What Dance Means to Me

Hey everyone! Happy International Dance Day!!! I'm sure many of you don't dance, so this day won't mean much to you. But to me, International Dance Day is a wonderful celebration of an art form, sport, and hobby that I love so much. So to all the dancers and dance enthusiasts out there, Happy International Dance Day! In celebration, I've planned what I'm calling Dance Appreciation Week. Every day this week, I'll have posts and guest posts centered around dance in some way. I'll try to be encompassing of all forms and types of dance, but if I leave something out, know that I mean it to include all forms of dance. If you're not interested, that's fine! I have a few other posts that are meant to go up, but feel free to just come back after this week is over. :)

What Dance Means to Me
I talk about dance a LOT. To the point where anybody not interested is probably annoyed when I mention it on Twitter. I absolutely love dance, and I love dancing. I have been dancing for a long time--for most of my life, actually. Dance has become a huge part of who I am, and there will never a time in my life where I would ever forget about what it's like to be a dancer, even if I ever have to stop dancing.

Dance is so much more than just a form of exercise. Don't get me wrong, it is definitely a form of exercise. In many ways, I find it to be more intense than when I ran Cross Country but in a different sense of the word. We don't do laps or hills or loops or whatever. But we work our asses off, trying to perfect everything we do and trying to make everything seem simple.

Dance is about expression. It's about going beyond the words that exist. Oftentimes, there's just no way for me to say all I want to say with words--and that's coming from a writer! Dance allows me to express myself in a different form. I've always thought that dance was more about emotion and feeling than pure talent. You can only be so great if you don't feel what you're dancing.

For me, dance is an outlet. If I feel stressed or am feeling horrible, I know I'll always have dance. There's something comforting about knowing that you can almost always dance. There's something comforting about knowing that after so many years, the steps will remain the same and that they've become a part of you. There's even something comforting about trying to achieve a perfection that can't be reached. Just like Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home, I think that dance will too.

Being a dancer and being a part of the dance community at my dance studio has been so rewarding in so many ways as well. I've made so many friends, friends that get you in the way that only fellow dancers can get you. I can't really explain it. You would understand if you've been there. My dance studio is really like a small family, and I love that about it. I know that I'll always have a place at the studio, and it's so nice to know that someone knows my face and has watched me grow as a dancer. It's, for the most part, such an amazing support system, and I love that I've grown up in this studio. I've gone from the one that looks up to all the older dancers to being one of those older dancers. There's something fulfilling about that.

But in the end, there's so much that dance means to me that I can't express in words and that I can't ever fully list out or discuss. There's just something about dance and being a dancer, and I think that most dancers that truly love dance would understand. Dance means the world to me, really. If I could answer the question, What does dance mean to you? in one word, I would choose, everything. Because really, it does. Dance means the world to me. It's about the community, the experiences, the laughter, the hardships, the intensity, the feeling you get when you actually do a triple pirouette, the feeling of being onstage, the stress of a quick change, the adrenaline rush you get backstage and onstage, the emotions, the beauty, the suffering, the dedication, the hard work, the dependability, and just the utter love that I have for dance, dancers, and almost everything dance stands for because it's about learning to find yourself; it's about learning to collaborate; it's about finding your voice, your passion, your muse, your "center." It's about something more than words. And I love almost every bit of it.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 1st, 2013
She has everything she's ever wanted. But not her memory...

When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. When she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can't remember the last six months of her life.

Before, she'd been a mediocre student. Now, she's on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he's her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won't speak to her.

What happened to her? Remembering the truth could be more dangerous than she knows...
I went into this book not knowing what to expect AT ALL. I had heard great reviews/thoughts from other bloggers, and it sounded really interesting. I honestly wasn't expecting a thriller, but it surprised me, and I loved that it was a thriller!

I found this to be an enjoyable, quick read that kept me engaged almost all the time. The mystery definitely helped to keep the pace moving and to keep the reader interested. There were so many plot twists that I never saw coming, and it kept me at the edge of my seat. It's an intense book with a thrilling premise and fairly precise execution.

Another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the arc with Chloe's best friend, Maggie. I don't want to give anything away, but it's so powerful. It definitely made me think about my friends and the friendships I have. I love how Maggie isn't necessarily defined by her speech issue. It pained me to see such a broken friendship, but I understood it near the end, and I think that the message the book sends is an important one.

There were, however, a couple one or two things that I didn't really like. The major one was that I wanted/needed a lot more development, particularly of the characters and their relationships. There was really well-explored characters such as Adam and Chloe, but there were also many that just didn't quite hit it for me. But what bothered me the most was the relationship between Chloe and Adam (and a little bit of her relationship with Blake, but that was definitely very different and more straightforward in many ways). The thing is, I know it's hard to build up and develop a relationship that technically happened over the six months that she doesn't remember. But because their relationship was explored so little, I didn't feel anything about their relationship. Sure, I like Adam, but I couldn't fully see or understand his connection with Chloe. They always felt a bit off, and the relationship kind of fell flat to me because I didn't get the kind of development, both beforehand and afterwards. I also would have loved to see a bit more family growth. It's not a huge issue, and I know it's not the focus of the book, but I think a lot of it was left open and could've been addressed a bit more.

All in all, this was a quick, intense read that I really enjoyed.
Natalie D. Richards: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fiction Friction (#5): On Jealousy

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

In part inspired by Nova @ Out of Time's post on jealousy, in part inspired by my personal experience lately, today's post is about jealousy. Not just book jealousy but all different kinds of jealousy.

First, I'll start off with book jealousy. I'll bet that most of us book bloggers have at least been jealous of other book bloggers once. Maybe they got an ARC that you were dying to get, maybe they have an awesome blog you just can't live up to (in your opinion), maybe you're jealous of the amount of followers they have or the number of contacts they have. The list could go on.

I'm a victim of book blogger jealousy too! But recently, I've learned to keep it more at bay. Sure, there are books I really want to get, but the thing is, I know that there would only be a few that I could reasonably get to. Adding more books would just make me even more stressed out. I have enough going on in my life outside of blogging. And I can always borrow or buy the book later on, right? But again, I still get jealous sometimes. It's hard not to! I just try to look at the practical side of it too.

Other things I'm jealous of in terms of blogging are a little harder to deal with and see practically, but I constantly remind myself that I'm doing this for ME. I'm doing this so that I can read more and so I can learn more about awesome books, the authors that write them, and the publishers and publishing companies that publish them. I remember that I'm still fairly new to blogging and that who cares if there are newer bloggers that have been more successful than I've been. I have too many other things on my plate. Again, it's still hard, but sometimes, you just have to remind yourself why you're doing this.

It gets a little harder when you're jealous of friends, particularly those you see offline. When they're friends you've made on the internet, you can remind yourself that they have grown up in and live in a different environment and with different backgrounds and all of that. Plus, it's not like you HAVE to see them or talk to them or anything like that if it's overwhelming you, you know?

I've always been someone that could potentially be really jealous of people, particularly my friends and those close to me. Part of it stems from old wounds and insecurities, making me feel incompetent. I don't want to single out anyone that I know, nor do I want to seem conceited or self-centered, but. Okay, so you probably know that I dance. I've danced since I was young (from before the age of 5). Again, not to brag, but I became one of the better dancers at my current dance school (which I've been going to since I was 5 or 6). I was one of the better dancers in my age group, but even some of the older dancers complimented me, whether truthfully or to be kind I don't know. But a few years ago, some new dancers started dancing at my dance school and some of the other girls started to become really good too. For many of them, it's because they go to Catholic schools that have special dance programs, meaning they dance more than I do. Another part of it is that they were taking classes in multiple dance disciplines. I was only taking ballet (and pointe) up until 2 years ago, when I started taking modern. Now, I've never really meant for dance to become my profession because I know how unrealistic it is, but it was so nice to feel that, just for once, people were looking up to me. It felt amazing. But now? Now, I often feel forgotten about when those other girls are there. I know I probably don't have the right to complain because there are still so many other dancers that will probably never get the praise I once got, sadly, but it hurts a bit to feel this way. Yeah, part of it is that I'm much more introverted than those girls and that I tend to keep to myself, but it still makes me feel jealous. Because I've been where they are. Because I remember how awesome it felt. And sometimes, I'll feel that again, but sometimes, I feel like it's just unfair. But most of it comes down to jealousy.

And I know it's not fair for me to feel this way because those girls deserve it. They deserve all that praise. They truly are better dancers, at least technically. They dance far more than I do. They're my friends, and I should be happy for them. But I'm also jealous.

So how do I deal? I remind myself that they may be great in some aspects but that there are aspects of dance that I excel at too, even if it's not considered as important. Because it's important to me. But also, I dance because I love it, not to show that I'm better than other people. Dance means so much to me, and I won't let anything get in the way of that. Yeah, I still feel badly sometimes, but other times, I remember how the little girls still look up to me, whether I'm the best or not. I remember that in the long run, dance isn't something I plan to pursue professionally (though I'd love to). I remember that it's not just about being the best. It doesn't matter if they're younger than me but are better than me. I can't control the situation I grew up in, which is very different from the one they grew up in (which had different views, parenting styles, values, etc). Besides, what matters is that I've personally improved and that I continue to strive to improve. It doesn't how good you are if you never get better. You may still be better than me, but I think that working hard and improving is much better than staying at the same level.

In the end, how you deal with jealousy is really up to you and the way you think. Does it ever completely go away? I don't think so. There's always going to be someone that has it better than you, but remember that you're your own person and that your experiences are different from the experiences of others. I don't think it's bad to feel jealous so long as it doesn't get in your way. It's hard to deal with when jealousy leads you to feel incompetent, but if you can change your way of thinking, it'll help.

What kind of jealousy have you experienced? How do you deal with jealousy?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Nature Under Constraint and Vexed (Orphan Black)

"Nature Under Constraint and Vexed has me hooked for the rest of the season, not that that's a surprise, and kept me at the edge of my seat." 

"Season Two has certainly started off with a bang, and if this episode shows anything, fans are in for another amazing season."

I don't know why I even bother to review episodes for this show at this point because you should know that it'll be a solid 5. But anyway.


I've waited so long for Season 2, and I can safely say that it started off with a bang. The show continues to be intense, and the cast, crew, and writing continues to make the show the awesomeness that it is. It's so rare to find a show that is almost close to being perfect, but for me, Orphan Black is definitely one of those.

First, let's talk about Tatiana Maslany because you can't discuss OB without talking about Tat. She continues to get so into the roles, and I still sometimes forget that she plays half the cast of characters. She's so incredibly talented, and that continues to shine through. You can just feel how scared and furious she is as Sarah. You can feel how much she just wants normalcy as Alison. You continue to love Cosima and continue to root for her. You continue to potentially have a love-hate relationship over Rachel because you hate her but she's also such an amazing character.  But even on top of that, Tatiana pulls off Sarah pretending to be Cosima. Basically, she perfectly captured a British person trying to pull off an American accent/Cosima's accent. It's so rare for actors and actresses to perfect even one accent on screen, but Tatiana constantly proves how amazing, talented, and dedicated she is as an actress.

The other actors and actresses were amazing too. Jordan Gavaris continues to shine as Felix, and I can't help but continue to laugh at his jokes and fall in love with him. Speaking of characters I love, Dylan Bruce's Paul remains mysterious, and it's so hard to tell which side he's really on! Evelyne Brochu plays the two-faced Delphine well, and I can't wait to see how her story arc with Cosima plays out. And I can't forget to mention Kevin Hanchard's performance as Detective Art Bell. It's so clear that he's conflicted about Sarah and how to handle her, and I really hope they both learn to trust one another.

The episode was fast-paced and heart-racing--Orphan Black's signature style. But as intense as the show is, there's also so much character development and exploration in the show, and Nature Under Constraint and Vexed is no exception. Oftentimes, shows are either intense or character driven and development focused; Orphan Black manages to strike that perfect balance, which is why so many people love the show!

We see what makes Sarah tick right alongside the Dyad Institute. They know how to push her buttons, and it's so great to see her flaws, especially when it's her love for her daughter that makes her such a complex character. We see how far she would go to save Kira, as any mother would. It is so refreshing to be able to see a character on screen that is physically strong, mentally and physically brave, incredibly driven, but also very human--she's also a mother, and the writers perfectly capture how being a mother is a part of who she is and influences the decisions she makes. 

The other clones are also slowly starting to develop and grow increasingly complex. Alison joins the community theater, Cosima is still struggling to figure out exactly what she wants to do while also trying to figure out who she is and who she can trust, and Rachel seems infinitely more complex than we've already seen.

Felix continues to provide comic relief, and it's a great way to take a break from the intensity of the show. But Felix is also the rock and logic of the Clone Club. He's the "normal" one under their circumstances. He's the one that tries to reason with the others, and he's always looking out for the clones. He cares deeply about them and will do what he can to help them win their fight against the Dyad, Leekie, and Rachel. He calms them down and makes them think through their actions and plans, and he reminds them that though they are scientific miracles, they're also human. In this episode, Felix shines through, trying to reason with the girls when Sarah wants to execute a highly risky plan. His interactions with Alison are still a highlight of the show, and his banter with Cosima is irreplaceable. 

And just the plot of this episode itself. It connects so much of what happened in Season One to the current situation, while also setting up and putting plots into motion for the rest of Season Two. It's so rare to find a show in which I cannot find a flaw in each episode, but I think Orphan Black may be very close to being that show. Nature Under Constraint and Vexed has me hooked for the rest of the season, not that that's a surprise, and kept me at the edge of my seat. They leave so many hints, while also dropping so many misleading hints that it's hard for me to guess what's going to happen next. And they always find the perfect way to end the episode--with me wanting to find out what happens next. I just can't wait for each episode!

Nature Under Constraint and Vexed continues to highlight the reasons why so many people have come to love Orphan Black. It continues to hit that balance between intensity, suspense, and character. The cast continues to shine and create complex characters, making it hard to decipher and predict what each character will do next. Season Two has certainly started off with a bang, and if this episode shows anything, fans are in for another amazing season.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, and I am not being compensated to write this review.

"I didn't love it, as there were many aspects that bothered me a bit, but I didn't hate it either."

The synopsis completely drew me in at first, as well as the illustrations. I'm very new to graphic novels, but I enjoy reading them when I want to read something in a non-traditional book format. Plus, these tend to be quick reads for me. (I finished This One Summer in one sitting.)

I'm new to reviewing graphic novels, but I had relatively high expectations for this book for various reasons. I wasn't necessarily disappointed, but the book didn't turn out to be what I thought it was going to be (if that makes sense). I didn't love it, as there were many aspects that bothered me a bit, but I didn't hate it either.

Firstly, I don't know if it's because it's a graphic novel and thus very different from other books, but I really couldn't feel any connection to the characters, nor did I particularly feel anything towards them. I also felt that there was a lack of character development. There seemed to be a very interesting, well thought out set up because of the events in the book that would have allowed for great character development, but by the end, I felt like it fell a bit flat. I don't know that any of the book's characters learned anything from the events of the summer, and that bothered me a lot.

Another huge aspect that bothered me was what seemed to be very blatant slut-shaming and sexism in the book. I don't know if the intention was to do this so as to spark a conversation about the topic, but it seemed like very poor choice and taste in my opinion. There's one part when Windy calls Rose out on her sexism and slut-shaming, but Rose just goes on to make fun of Windy. This bothered me for so many reasons, but one of the things that bothered me most about it was that nothing ever came out of this. Rose didn't learn from it, and I doubt she stopped thinking the way she did, which was what bothered me the most. Maybe it's because she's jealous (in the beginning) of Jenny, but again, it just doesn't stick right with me.

Along the same vein, there were some parts when I really felt bad for Rose, and I really sympathized with her, but then she would say or think things that just really irked me. For example, she would be watching a movie with Windy, and I don't know if she was trying to criticize the girls for being so dumb and not being able to save themselves or if she was criticizing the movie for portraying girls in that way, but it felt as if it were more the former than the latter and that just bothered me so much.

But there were still parts that I enjoyed about the book. I love the complexity of family dynamics portrayed in the book even though I feels like it is left unfinished. I love how, save for slut-shaming, there's a very large representation/diversity of body types, and there's a perceived acceptance of them. I love how Rose and Windy are clearly very different, but they're still great friends. Something that Windy did at the end for Rose, in part out of friendship, in part to acknowledge that she's accepting Rose's VERY UNspoken apology, just tugged at me, and I found that to be one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire book. Additionally, while the ending felt empty and flat in that it left a lot unresolved and was incredibly anticlimactic, I found the symbolism behind the last scene (the image more than the words) to be really powerful and meaningful.
This One Summer: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository
Jillian Tamaki: Website | Blog | Tumblr | Twitter
Mariko Tamaki: Website | Twitter

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Characterize It (#16): Wild Card

Hosted by Em @ The YA Book Butterfly

Wild Card (Any favorite character from any book)

New book choices, yay!

Will(iam) Fletcher FROM  A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Who's your favorite character from A Mad, Wicked Folly?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guest Post: S.M. Hineline (+Giveaway)

Hey guys! Today I have a guest post by S. M. Hineline about editing, which is always a talked about topic. :)
Editing is probably the best worst thing ever.

It’s true, everyone hates it, but yet we slog our way through it, and in most cases we do it more than once…heck we probably do it more than fifty times for each book. Why? I mean, it’s horrible and we all hate it with a passion, so why do we keep putting ourselves through the pain? Because without editing we’d send books out to publishers and agents, or publish them ourselves, with horrible errors that will keep the people reading them from seeing the awesome because they’ll be too focused on the fact that we said they’re when we meant their.

Editing is for me, the most painful part of writing. When I’m creating I just write and write, I don’t worry about spelling or run on sentences, or even if what I’m writing truly makes sense. I just write away and enjoy the flow of awesome I’m sure is pouring onto the page. And then, I go back and I attack every word with a pointy stick. Does this really need to be here, does that word capture the feeling I’m trying to convey, and why did I think I needed to spend a paragraph explaining that? I slash and hack, and tear it all apart. And then when I’ve made a pass at slaying the monsters in my manuscript…I send it out to trusted alpha readers and make them go through the same process with me.

I am always amazed at how many issues my alpha readers spot that I missed. I usually send my work out to two trusted editors. First one, and then the other, so that I don’t get edit conflicts or confusion, and it always shocks me how much they both spot. It’s proof that you shouldn’t be the only one looking at your finished work and if you can swing it, more eyes are always better.

Once my alpha readers are finished going over everything with a fine toothed comb, I send my work out to beta readers. These are the folks who’ve said they loved my work in the past. They’re the folks I want to tell me if a part of the story doesn’t make sense, or if I’ve messed up a storyline from a past book. In my heart of hearts I want them all to come back raving about how amazing my work is, but that’s not really the point. The point is for them to serve as a final check before I send my baby out the door into the world.

I self publish, so for me editing is crucial, and I believe it is for anyone who is planning on having someone else read their work. If you’re sending out to an agent or a publisher, you don’t want them missing your story because they can’t get past the spelling and grammar errors, and if you’re self publishing, you don’t want to put something out there that isn’t as perfect as you can make it. You may only get one chance to capture a reader, and you don’t want to loose them or have them write a bad review that could lead to you missing out on other possible readers. 

S.M. Hineline has written and self-published two novels.

Find her and her work online: Hunting (book #1) | Discovery (book #2) | Twitter | Goodreads | Hunting Wiki


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Friction Fiction (#4): Hogwarts Houses vs. Divergent Factions

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

Having recently watched the Divergent movie and having read an article on Hypable that stated that "Like at Hogwarts, teenagers in Divergent are asked to suppress their originality and conform to a specific set of ideals," I knew I wanted to write this discussion post. Why? Because I refuse to agree with that statement and for particular reasons.

I must start off by saying that at the time that I'm writing this post (3/22), I have not yet read all of Divergent. I'm basing most of my points off of the movie, and I can only hope that they are accurate with what's in the books. If they're not, please let me know and then decide on your own thoughts based on the books. 

I firmly believe that though they are similar in idea, they are very different in execution and are fundamentally different. They are similar in that they group people based on personality, but that's close to where the similarities stop, in my opinion.

In Divergent, yes, people are ultimately allowed to choose their factions. But once they decide, they're stuck there. They have to learn to conform to their factions' way of life, attitude, personality, etc. They learn that it's "faction over blood." The statement the author of the Hypable article made isn't that far from the truth for factions. People are limited and are forced to become one and the same. They're told how to dress, how to act, and they're even told that aren't even allowed to see their family (except on family visitation day, if I remember correctly from what I read in the book). In Divergent, they are very much expected to conform to the ideals and expectations of their faction. They are told that being Divergent is a bad thing and that human nature is their enemy.

But I believe that Hogwarts Houses are different. Yes, they are similarly based on personality, but the Sorting Hat sort of makes the choice for you. It knows who you are, deep down inside, even if you don't know yourself. You don't have to know who you are yet. Otherwise, would Neville have been put into Gryffindor? I highly doubt he'd ever consider himself brave. Yes, there is some room for choice if you're a hat stall and are like Harry. Even in this idea, I think the two are fundamentally different. At Hogwarts, you're sorted into the House that the Sorting Hat knows is right for you, regardless of what you think. In Divergent, you're given the liberty to make your own choice. I think factions are less about your personality and more about who you think you are, who you want to be, and what you value most. Tris chooses Dauntless because she values their bravery. She wants to be like them. She isn't necessarily like them yet (depending on your definition of bravery). I don't doubt that the Sorting Hat would put her in Gryffindor anyway, but I think there's a specific distinction between the two in that sense.

But the thing about Houses is that it doesn't confine you to one set of ideals and personalities. You can still be yourself. You're just put with people that also have the same biggest personality trait. Hat stalls and even non-hat stalls show that you can be a little bit of everything. Luna, for example, is in Ravenclaw, largely, I'd say, because of her creative spirit. But isn't Luna also brave? Yes. I think so (for various reasons). Houses give you a place to feel at home where you're surrounded by people that are similar to you but not the same. You can be friends with people from other Houses because you recognize that their strongest quality has its flaws and strengths but that you might have some of that within yourself as well. The Golden Trio, Ginny, and Neville are all friends with Luna. She is not from their House. Yes, they tend to stick with people in their Houses, but they're not limited to those Houses.

Houses allow people to be a mix of everything without condemning them if they are. They even acknowledge the fact that people may have various very strong personality traits. Harry and Hermione are examples of this.

Yes, there may be some sense of the pressure of conformity in Hogwarts, and I will not deny that, but it isn't comparable with that of the factions. Besides, you certainly won't be kicked out of your Hogwarts House, as far as I can tell. Do both factions and Houses cause some kind of conformity? Yes. But Hogwarts Houses do not necessarily tell you who to be, especially at the moment (ahem Neville). Hogwarts Houses do not tell you that you can only be one thing/have one personality trait and nothing else. Houses are much more flexible and fluid, and they don't condemn people that have a mix of personality traits. And no, I'm not just saying this because I obviously love Harry Potter. I believe that factions and Houses are similar in idea but very different in execution.

What do you think? Am I completely wrong? Or do you agree with me?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Music Monday (#8): Cities + It's Just Love by Nat and Alex Wolff

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.

I've been so busy that I've forgotten about my Music Monday posts, so here's one (finally)!

I went to their concert on Saturday, and I just love them so much. So of course I'm extremely excited about their two new singles, and I'm really hoping we'll get news on Album #2 soon because it's been too long!

Anyway, these two songs are just amazing, especially Cities, which I just love with my whole heart.

Now, there are two different versions: the official, recorded version and the live version. I love both in different ways. The recorded version is much simpler, but I also love the live version. Since it hasn't been released yet, I don't have a Youtube video of the recorded versions, but you can listen to them here! I highly recommend listening to this version!

The live versions from the concert I went to are below. These aren't my videos, as mine aren't as great quality.

What do you think? Which version do you prefer?

Blitz: My Not So Super Sweet Life by Rachel Harris (+Giveaway)


Cat Crawford just wants to be normal—or at least as normal as a daughter of Hollywood royalty can be. And it looks like fate is granting her wish: she’s got an amazing boyfriend, Lucas; her fabulous cousin, Alessandra, living with her; and her dad planning his second marriage to a great future stepmom. That is, until her prodigal mother reveals on national television that she has something important to tell her daughter…causing a media frenzy.

Lucas Capelli knows his fate is to be with Cat, and he’s worked hard to win her over once and for all. Unfortunately, Lucas has his own issues to deal with, including a scandal that could take him away from the first place he’s truly belonged.

As secrets are revealed, rumors explode, and the world watches, Cat and Lucas discover it’s not fate they have to fight if they want to stay together…this time, it’s their own insecurities.

Well, and the stalkerazzi.
MY NOT SO SUPER SWEET LIFE is a special digital only, fan requested addition to the series!
It's also told in DUAL POV. Woohoo!


Read the first chapter...


 Amazon † B&N † iTunes

To celebrate the release author Rachel Harris is hosting a giveaway!

US - A Signed RARE paperback copy of MY NOT SO SUPER SWEET LIFE & SWAG PACK


Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong families are a staple in each of her Rachel Harrisbooks…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

A Cajun cowgirl now living in Houston, she firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations. She homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches way too much Food Network with her amazing husband.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and losing herself in story. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Summary Saturday (Technically Sunday): 4/19/14

I'm in the middle of a huge reading and blogging slump because I've been so stressed about school, so I apologize if I barely post in the following weeks. I have a few scheduled posts, but it's not much and many of the posts are for May, so there may not be much in the coming weeks. I'm so sorry!

Sunday (4/13/14):

Monday (4/14/14):

Tuesday (4/15/14):

Wednesday (4/16/14):

Thursday (4/17/14):

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Characterize It (#15): Most Loving Parents

Hosted by Em @ The YA Book Butterfly

Most Loving Parents (Parent that is actually around/big part of story)

Andi's Dad in Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Candace's Mom in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Hazel's Parents and Augustus' Parents in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sally Jackson in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan



Atticus Finch FROM To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley FROM Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling

Who's your favorite literary parent that's actually around/important?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#8): The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

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

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
Publisher: Greenwillow (HarperCollins)
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Why I Want to Read This Book

 Firstly, I've heard SPECTACULAR things about this book. So many people seem to love it, many of them with the same reading interests as me.

This seems like an intense thriller, and the plot seems extremely interesting. I'm also really interested in how Meadow will be portrayed. I'm hoping she'll be as complex as Celaena from Throne of Glass: someone that's not just a killing machine. So interesting!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TV Tuesday (#3): Thoughts and Hopes for Orphan Black Season 2

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.

Before I get started, I want to link you to four things: 
Season 2 trailer, which part of this is based on

Having recently rewatched Season 1, having recently watched the Season 2 trailer and teaser clips, and having recently gotten Willa @ Willa's Ramblings and Lit Up Review (go check us out! ;)) into Orphan Black, I've been thinking a lot about Season 2 and about my hopes and thoughts/theories for the coming season. So here's a brief(ish) break down of the main parts! (PS. This includes some S1 spoilers!)

New clones--YES NEW CLONES. Apparently we're getting two new clones, which I'm SO excited for! I wonder what their personalities will be like, where they are in life, and how they'll fit into the story. But then the next question is: will some of our beloved clones leave the show? At the moment, I think Cosima has the biggest potential to die, but with such a large fanbase + the whole Delphine storyline, who knows? Helena also has the potential, but I'm not sure! (See below for more) I just can't imagine Tatiana taking on anymore clones. I guess if anyone could do it, it's Tatiana. There's the bald Tatiana in the trailer that could be any of the existing clones or a new clone. (PS. I'm writing this as of 3/12, so there's a large chance we'll learn more before this is posted.)

Rachel aka Pro-Clone--I'm really interested in learning more about the pro-clone. I doubt she's going to die, but I wonder what she's got up her sleeve. I don't really know what else to say about her...

Paul--Paul is such a big give-take character. He could swing either way. In Season 1, he became loyal to Sarah and the Clone Club, yet it seems as if in Season 2, he's siding with the pro-clone (based on the trailer). Maybe he'll go with the side he thinks is winning? I'm HOPING he'll stay loyal to the Clone Club and Sarah. My theory is that he'll stay loyal, but maybe that's just me wishing that was the case. Also, I think stuff about his military past/what happened in Afghanistan will come up this season.

Kira--AHHHH KIRA. Well, I'm going to say she'll definitely be saved/rescued at some point, which is hopefully sooner rather than later. I think they'll learn...interesting things about Kira, such as see what happens when clones create new life *ahem*. Something about how she was able to survive the car crash. Skylar's acting thus far has been spectacular, and I have no doubt she'll continue to shine in the coming season.

Mrs. S--She's definitely somehow involved in this whole thing, but I hope think she's on their side (Sarah/Felix/Clone Club). She seems to really care for Sarah and Felix and Kira (but then again, I guess Paul and Donnie also seemed to really care for Beth and Alison, respectively). I don't think she'd do anything to hurt them. I hope I'm not wrong.

I recently saw a piece of fan!art with Mrs. S as a monitor and that got me thinking. Of course, it's a possibility, but hope there's more to Mrs. S and her involvement. I hope she's not Sarah's monitor, as highly probable as that is.

Police Investigation--I kind of hope Art finds out the whole truth, so that they can work with the police again, but based off of the trailer and teasers, I guess that's not going to happen, at least in the beginning. I'd like for them to work together, as improbable as that is. I just feel like they should focus more on the clones and that fight than on the police investigation aspect of it. I love the characters, but I'm hoping it'll be resolved.

Donnie--Donnie's such an amazing actor (I mean the character himself). I really hope Alison finds out he really is her monitor (though she'd just die of guilt over Aynsley), but I want to see Alison angry again. Is that bad of me to think? Anyway. I hope he'll play a bigger role, but it seems as if unlike Paul, he knows more about what's going on, and he's more willing to leave Alison and side with Leekie and the pro-clone than Paul.

Dr. Leekie--Speaking of Leekie, I'm hoping he'll die this season! I can see that happening, but that would depend on the direction the show goes in. If he's a big part, they'll keep him in, but I'm kinda hoping he'll die. Also, I assume we'll learn more about him, and I hope we learn a bit more about his background

Cosima--I sure hope she doesn't die, but I think she's a give-take character right now, meaning they could go either way with her character. I really just want to see her relationship with Delphine develop and grow. Orphan Black's done such a great job with queer representation and about just allowing it to flow into the story line without making it a big deal. I feel like in general, Cosima's story has always been kind of put on the back burner, with Sarah demanding the most attention and time, so I'm hoping that there will be more focus on Cosima, not just for the audience but also from the clones themselves, and I think that it'll happen, especially with the focus on her illness. She'll definitely be more involved in that aspect, and I'm hoping Delphine won't betray her, especially as she gets sicker and sicker. With the new clone and all, I'm really scared about Cosima's future, but I sure hope she beat the odds or else I'll probably cry.

Felix--Firstly, I think Felix and Alison's relationship will become stronger than it is now. It's funny because they were so different and so annoyed at one another in the beginning. I hope he's the one that will primarily help her deal with her guilt over Aynsley. I also think that with Sarah on the run, they'll be separated again. As in Season 1, they obviously remain close, regardless of where she is, and I think that especially now that he's in on what's going on, he'll understand, but I wonder if it'll place a strain on their relationship. I hope not! I love their banter and obvious love for one another. I hope Felix remains sassy, but I'd like to see him get some more action too (not that kind of action; are you like 12?).

Alison--Oh the guilt she'll suffer. That's for sure. Especially if she finds out Aynsley wasn't involved. I don't think Alison will get arrested for it, but I wonder what will happen when she gets kidnapped. What about her kids? Is she now willing to give up her old, Suburban life? (Not sure she's gonna get kidnapped so...)

Sarah--Of course there's also Sarah. That guy she's with in the trailer? I sure hope that's not Kira's dad, but I can see that potential...I also hope Sarah doesn't get into too much trouble. She has to find Kira, move around Art, deal with Rachel, deal with Leekie, deal with Vic, and so much more! That girl's going to go crazy! But Sarah remains my favorite clone, and the show wouldn't be the same without her. I know that part of it is to keep up with the intensity of the show, but one of these days, I'd like to see a more relaxing episode.

Vic--GAHHH VIC WHYYY. This sort of ties back to the police investigation. I certainly hope it gets resolved soon, and I hope it doesn't end up with all of them being in jail or something. There's so many variables that I don't even have a theory on how they'll go about this situation. But anyway, Vic. I sure hope he's officially gone. Fingers crossed!

Guest Stars--Admittedly, I don't know much about the guest stars, but I do know that Patrick J. Adams will be guest starring, though nobody's announced his role or anything yet. I guess that makes sense, especially if it'll give something away, but. Adams is a fantastic actor (he's the lead in Suits), and I can't wait to see what he brings to the table in the second season.

What's the one thing I can almost guarantee S2 will include? Suspense, drama, intensity, sass, wit, intelligence, fantastic writing, and a fantastic cast and crew. I really can't wait for this coming season. I've been waiting for far too long! Consider yourself lucky, Willa! You haven't had to wait this long for the next season! Anyway, I look forward to Season 2! Be sure to tune in to BBC America THIS SATURDAY for ALL NEW EPISODES! Long live #CloneClub. ;)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Nil by Lynne Matson (ARC)

Nil by Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.
"Overall, I know it makes it sound as if this book was so far from being enjoyable, but there was still an element that I liked about it."

Disclaimer: I borrowed an ARC from a friend. This didn't affect my review in any way, shape, or form, and I'm definitely not being compensated for writing this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I'm not going to lie. I had high expectations for this book, but if anything, I guess I should finally learn to not carry such high expectations. It wasn't a bad book, per say, but a lot of it just didn't work for me and for various reasons.

Firstly, I have to talk about the romance. I understand that time is short and precious, but I was never convinced of their supposed love. There were so many times where I felt like Thad didn't truly respect and understand the fact that yes, of course Charley needs some help, but she's also a big girl that can figure out how to survive on her own. Their dependency on one another just rattled me in so many ways because I understand their desperation and their need to hold on to one another, but it just felt like there was no connection between them other than that they're both attractive and sort of get to know one another. And no, knowing about one another's previous relationships doesn't count as knowing a lot about them. The thing is, I never saw how their lives outside of Nil came into play (for the most part). None of their past struggles, other than Thad's problems with his dad (which were barely mentioned) and Charley's problems with her ex/the kids at school. I just think that there should be more to them as characters than is portrayed. Yes, maybe it's not as important, but to form the type of relationship and dependency they had, yeah, I needed more.

And not feeling the romance messed up many other portions of the book for me. The pacing was very inconsistent. While I understand the need to have more of the beginning explained so that the reader, and Charley, could be acquainted with the island, it felt as if the beginning and middle dragged on while the end went by extremely quickly. Additionally, while there certainly were other themes and plots, I felt as if everything was just so centered around the relationship between Thad and Charley that it overshadowed everything else, including the need to survive.

Going on from there, I felt as if some of it was too easy. Yeah, I get that it's hard for them to get by, but I didn't see much of that. They always seemed to have some type of food and drink, whether they complained about it or not. I mean, come on, there has to be some point where you run out of food or go hungry, right? Then, there's the fact that for the most part, save for the major deaths later on, it wasn't completely hard to survive. They had knives from past islanders (but how does one make a metal knife on an island), they all miraculously had impressive skills that would help them survive (sorry but they're teenagers; most of them should probably be more pre-occupied with school than learning some of those skills, but maybe that's just me). They could go surfing, play volleyball, run, etc. It just...didn't sit right with me oftentimes.

Speaking of major deaths, I sometimes felt as if the deaths were just plot devices. Yes, the deaths had an impact, but on such an island, shouldn't more people have died of other things--perhaps sanitary issues or maybe someone gets sick or maybe even someone has a heat stroke (not necessarily death-inducing).

Lastly, the ending was just so...aggravating to me, and for so many reasons. I don't want to include spoilers, so I can't really go into detail over it, but part of the end felt like a cop-out, and the other part just felt...weird. Unrealistic.

But there were aspects that made the book bearable and kept me from completely hating it. Firstly, there's a diverse cast of characters. Yes, I would have liked to see how differing cultures and life experiences shaped each and changed the way they interacted with one another, but it's a start. Additionally, I felt like despite the diversity, the ones that were in the main focus weren't as diverse. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but I would have liked to see some more. Additionally, okay, I guess this isn't a positive, but I would have liked to see people with disabilities or illnesses or other things. I would have liked to see what life was like for someone who isn't in shape. I wanted to see what life was like for someone that had asthma or allergies to something on the island. We get the sense that Nil doesn't discriminate, and yes, we have a large, diverse cast in terms of race, but what about other forms of diversity? And I know there's only so much an author can include without overwhelming the reader, but even one character would have been nice to see. But overall, I liked that there was racial diversity in the novel, and it was all the better for having a diverse cast.

Moving on, I also liked the "mystery" surrounding Charley's finding out about the Man/Woman in the Maze. That mystery was honestly what ultimately kept me reading towards the end. Charley would figure out a piece of the puzzle, only to find that they were missing something else. I certainly could have never figured out the truth/map, and I believe that this plot arc was extremely well written and integrated. It kept the story interesting when it was starting to get dull.

Overall, I know it makes it sound as if this book was so far from being enjoyable, but there was still an element that I liked about it. I think the premise remains an excellent one, and I'm actually really content with not completely knowing how Nil. I don't think it needs to be explained. Nil is about more than the island itself, and I think that in the end, Lynne Matson portrayed that well, even if not in a way I would have preferred it. Matson's dedication to creating a diverse cast was done as best as she could without having been overwhelming. Certain mysteries were integrated at just the right time to create just the right amount of suspense and tension. Though the pacing, romance, focus, and some of the plot and character arcs bothered me, overall, it wasn't a terrible read.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...