Monday, September 1, 2014

September Giveaway: ARCs

Free books! I thought I'd share the love :)


ARC of Tease by Amanda Maciel
ARC of Faking Normal  by Courtney C. Stevens
Gravity by Melissa West
ARC of Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman
ARC of The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

  • The giveaway is US Only.
  • One entry per a household, please!
  • Winners will be notified via email.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Film Review: The Giver

Drama | Sci-Fi | Dystopian
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weinde (screenplay), Lois Lowry (novel)

Synopsis: In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about true pain and pleasure of the "real" world.

The Giver is an adaptation of the 1994 Newbury winning novel The Giver by Lois Lowry.
The Giver (The Giver #1)

First off, let's start off with what Lois Lowry has said about the film:

"A movie can never be the same as a book. THE GIVER, in particular, is an introspective book; much of it takes place inside Jonas's head. they had to add visual action. I think they did a good job, within that context, of maintaining the integrity of the book." - Lois Lowry

I agree, a movie can never be the same as the book. [Although some adaptations are better than others, like The Princess Bride or The Secret Garden]. The one major difference of this adaptation is that it does NOT have the same "tone" of the novel,  that quiet introspective tone of a 12-year old boy losing his innocence. Because of this, The Giver will not be winning the Newbury-equivalent award in the film world (a teen choice award? bad joke).

Interestingly, the popularity of YA novel-to-movie adaptations in the past couple of years is probably the reason why The Giver, first published in 1993, was even made into a movie. Because of the success of The Hunger Games, I would argue The Giver was made into a movie. Unfortunately, as novels, The Giver and The Hunger Games are nothing alike, and yet Hollywood wanted to make The Giver into a movie just like The Hunger Games.

In all honesty, I don't think "fans" of The Giver are actually "fans" in how we think of YA fans. They don't obsess about the book and print out quotes from the book and paste them on their walls. (I'm looking at you, Twilight fans). Therefore, I don't think a lot of people who are angry about the changes from the book to the movie are angry because they've been "let down", I think they're just angry at the injustice of "Hollywood-ifying" a perfectly wonderful, thought-provoking novel.

[Hollywood chose to change this movie]
Here are the main differences from novel to film:

1. Jonas, who in the novel is a 12-year-old boy, is played by 25-year-old actor Brenton Thwaites. Because of this, much of the wonder of "lost innocence", the main theme of the novel, is...well, lost. It takes on a Pleasantville quality of "everybody in the town needs to feel pain/pleasure in order to live full lives", rather than a coming-of-age experience specific to young adults.

2. As previously mentioned, the"Hollywood" style changes the movie from a slow-paced, introspective story of self-discovery into a fast-paced dystopian thriller. Like what Lowry said in the above quote, they had to "add visual action" to what is an "introspective" novel in "Jonas's head". Which really just makes the movie completely different than the novel.

3. The blatant casting of Taylor Swift in a role that doesn't even exist in the novel. Her character, Rosemary, is only spoken of by the Giver. She never shows up in flashbacks. Swift's inclusion is an obvious move on Hollywood's part to attract viewers. However, her unnecessary inclusion detracts from the plausibility/genuine-ness of the film.

4. There is no romance in the original novel. There is romance in the movie.

5. The Giver can impart memories to the Receiver, but once he does, he no longer has them. This is actually one of the most powerful concepts of the book because, it's a literal "giving" of both the "burden" of pain and the "gift" of pleasure, which in turn, is lost by the Giver. Once he gives Jonas the memory of love, the Giver no longer has it, which means he's literally giving Jonas the gift of love at his own expense. It's a powerful concept that I felt was lost in the movie.

6. The ending. Spoiler [Highlight to see]: In the original novel, it's implied that by leaving the community, Jonas will release emotions  back into the community, but it's not a surety. There is no concrete closure. Also, the last scene could either be something actually happening, him sledding towards the house in the snow, or it could be a dream as Jonas is dying in 
the cold. 
Odeya Rush is really pretty. Also, doesn't she look like Anna Kendrick in the movie's poster [scroll up to see].
 Should you watch it?
Why not? Lowry mentioned, in the above quote, that the movie keeps the "integrity" of the novel, and I do believe that. The movie itself is super entertaining and thought-provoking. I have a low threshold for tears, and I cried during the montage scenes depicting "love" and "hope" (Don't judge me. I'm a sucker). I went to see it with people who had not read the original novel, and they enjoyed it.

Verdict: If you read the novel, divorce yourself from the source material and you'll enjoy the film (with a little grumpiness). If you have not read the novel, then you will probably enjoy your 94-minutes of a Hollywood dystopian film that is more "theme-driven" than The Hunger Games.

Also, Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are in there's that.

Have you seen the film yet? What did you think?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday: If I Could Switch Places with a Book Character...

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Feature & Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkiee's View & Alison Can Read. Check out their blogs and the Featured Bloggers of the week! This is great for finding amazing new blogs to follow and for gaining followers yourself. 

If I could switch places with a book character, I would switch with...

Sophie Hatter from Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all time favorite novels. And Hayao Miyazaki's film adaptation is one of my all time favorite movies.

When thinking about this question, I had 3 main criteria:
1. I had to admire the heroine in the story (CHECK! I love Sophie. She's brave and intelligent). 
2. I had to want to live in the world she inhabits, want to go on the adventure she goes on, and want to meet & love the people she meets & loves (CHECK! CHECK! CHECK! I love the world, I love the the adventure, and I love all the side characters. Most of all, I love Howl <3 <3 <3)
3. And when the story of the novel ends, I had to want to live as Sophie into the unwritten future. (CHECK! I want to live with Howl in his moving castle!!!)

Howl and Sophie wedding fan art.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review: My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten

My Faire Lady
Title: My Faire Lady
Genre: YA Contemporary
Setting: A Renaissance Fair 
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Paperback: 352 pages
Axie's Rating: 3 out of 5
Rowena Duncan is a thoroughly modern girl with big plans for her summer—until she catches her boyfriend making out with another girl. Heartbroken, she applies to an out-of-town job posting and finds herself somewhere she never expected: the Renaissance Faire.

As a face-painter doubling as a serving wench, Ro is thrown headfirst into a vibrant community of artists and performers. She feels like a fish out of water until Will, a quick-witted whip cracker, takes her under his wing. Then there’s Christian, a blue-eyed stunt jouster who makes Ro weak in the knees. Soon, it’s not just her gown that’s tripping her up.

Trading in the internet and electricity for stars and campfires was supposed to make life simpler, but Ro is finding that love is the ultimate complication. Can she let the past make way for her future?
Reasons WHY you should read this book:
**It's a light-hearted contemporary YA. The story follows the heroine's life-changing summer spent working at a Renaissance Faire
**It focuses more on friendships than romance. The main romance of the book is a friendship that blossoms into a romance as opposed to love-at-first-sight.
**The setting is a Renaissance Faire! There's jousting, horses, costumes, and food!
**It's a Debut novel! 

My cousin Sara used to go to Renaissance Faires/Festivals for her birthdays. My cousin Sara is awesome.

Cover Envy: It definitely portrays the tone of the novel, even though I'm sure the cover model could have worn a prettier Renaissance-style dress. Something like this:

Quick Plot: After being dumped by her cheater boyfriend, Ro pursues an ad calling for artists on the Internet, which lands her a job as a face painter at a Renaissance Faire. 
Concept: The main appeal of this book is its concept. After you read it, you'll know the gist of what goes on in a Renaissance Faire....sort of. Do Renaissance Faires employ teenagers? ::Goes off to ask Sara::
Main Character: Rowena Duncan. She reminds me of heroines in most 21st century teen movies, that is, she makes a lot of silly choices based on emotions, puts her foot in her mouth a lot, but always apologizes and sees the error of her ways. I'm looking at you Disney Made for TV movies! Also, remember when Carmen went to theater camp in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book 2? This book is like that whole section, except at a Renaissance Faire.
All You Need is Love: It's friendship at first sight! Rowena, trying to get over her cheating boyfriend, chases after gorgeous Christian, a knight at the faire. In the friend zone is Will, a charming whip cracker who shows Ro the ropes.
Allies and Enemies: This book is all about them friendships, so there are a lot of side characters whom Ro bonds with, including Suze, a "sassy wench". On the opposite end, there's the requisite mean girl, whose only purpose was mean, really.
Diversity: The three most likable characters (in my opinion) were all diverse characters, so there's that, ahahaha. Ramon. Davis. Sage. 
Writing: First person, present tense following Rowena. Very easy to read. Nothing fancy.
Recommendations: Any Meg Cabot contemporary novel w/ a concept hook or twist, like Avalon High or All-American Girl. Or if you like things medieval, check out Waterfall by Lisa Tawn Bergren about a girl who falls through time to a medieval Italy with knights in shining armor!

Final Thoughts: Overall I enjoyed this book. It's very "innocent" even if the characters drink and speak of "hooking up" and are all seventeen/eighteen or over. It just has that innocent vibe, like it's a PG-13 rated teen movie. I legit had that time-old debate with myself where I couldn't figure out if "hooking up" was kissing or something more. (You totally know what I'm talking about it). The plot and general storytelling are also very PG-13 movie-style. Ro goes to the Renaissance Faire, makes friends, LEARNS LIFE LESSONS, and kisses boys. It's like the epitome of a YA light contemporary w/ a Renaissance Faire setting as a hook. I wrote the word "Renaissance" incorrectly a million times while writing this review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Love, Lucy by April Lindner [Release Date: January 27, 2015]

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that features upcoming novel releases.

Love, Lucy
Title: Love, Lucy
Author: April Lindner
Genre: YA Contemporary 
Setting: Florence, Italy
Publisher: Poppy
Hardcover: 304 pages
Release Date: January 27, 2015
While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, 17-year-old Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

Inspired by E.M. Forster's A Room with a View.
This book sounds really cute! I haven't read E.M. Forster's A Room with a View, but I really enjoyed the movie, so a fun YA contemporary inspired by the classic novel sounds like something I'd love to read.

Also, it's pretty funny this summer romance book is coming out in January.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Young Adult Reading List: Favorite YA Contemporary Romances

This is a list of my all time favorite YA contemporary romances. They're all well-written with great characters, and of course, major swoooooon. I'm not a fan of tear-jerker or issue-driven YA, so these contemporaries all have happy endings (even if it might take heartbreak to get there).

French Kiss (Diary of a Crush, #1)
Quick Plot: Adorkable Edie has the biggest crush on "moody, dark, and delicious" Dylan. If only her crush could be something more. On her art college's class trip to Paris, she takes a chance (or two)!
Bonus: Manning is a British author and the characters are all very British and cute. This is the first in her Diary of a Crush series. The sequel is equally adorable (and sexier).

Saving Francesca
Quick Plot: Francesca attends the recently turned co-ed St. Sebastian's school for boys. With just a handful of girls as allies, Francesca strives to make the school more gender-equal, even if the de-facto leader of the boys, Will Trombal, is a smug [albeit adorable] pain in the ass. She's also trying to piece together her life in the face of her mother's depression.
Bonus: Marchetta is a brilliant writer. This book is laugh out loud funny, but also extremely heartfelt and romantic. A spin-off is The Piper's Son, featuring a side character from Saving Francesca.

This Lullaby
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Quick Plot: Weary of love Remy meets musician Dexter the summer before she leaves for college, and falls in love.
Bonus: Every YA contemporary romance list needs a Sarah Dessen book. Of her books, The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby are my favorites. 

Going Too Far
Quick Plot: Meg is a girl not afraid to break the rules. John is a cop trying to understand why she feels she must break them.
Bonus: Jennifer Echols wrote New Adult books before New Adult was a genre. The sexual tension between the characters is sizzling.

Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, #1)
Quick Plot: In diary format, we follow the life of hilarious teenager Jessica Darling who's going through another year of "teenager torment", and falling for the enigmatic musician Marcus Flutie.
Bonus: This is the first book in the Jessica Darling series

Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, #1)
Perfect Chemistry by Simon Elkeles
Quick Plot: Brittany Ellis falls for her chemistry partner, Alex Fuentes.
Bonus: Perfect Chemistry is the first in a series about the Fuentes boys.

Easy (Contours of the Heart, #1)
Quick Plot: Jacqueline falls for her econ tutor at college. Meanwhile, a man is stalking her...
Bonus: There's a spinoff book featuring a side character from Easy called Breakable.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)
To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Quick Plot: Lara Jean writes a love letter to every boy she's ever felt unrequited love for. One day, the letters get mailed...
Bonus: I wrote a review for this book! Check it out: here. The sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, comes out April 21, 2015.

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Quick Plot: American-born Anna gets send to boarding school in Paris where she meets and fall for adorably British Etienne St. Clair, who unfortunately has a girlfriend.
Bonus: This is first in a series that features a new couple in a different city each book. Paris. San Francisco. New York City. 

Losing It (Losing It, #1)
Quick Plot: Bliss Edwards decides to lose her virginity on a one night stand. At the last minute, she chickens out, leaving the gorgeous boy naked in her bed, only to walk into class the next day to see he's her theater teacher.
Bonus: This is the first in a series of connecting books.

The more YA contemporaries I read and love, the more I'll add to this list. I love recommendations!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han + Quotes

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Genre: YA Contemporary 
Setting: East Coast small town
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Hardcover: 355
Axie's Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover Envy: That cover is gorgeous. 
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Reasons WHY you should read this book:
**It's like the anti-stereotype of Asian people in YA. 
**It's like the best example of a diverse book doing well in the market. I'm so happy that it's been such a runaway hit!
**The heroine is adorable and super likable. 
**Peter Kavinsky

I've never read a Jenny Han book before this one. Blasphemy! I'm Korean-American and live and breathe YA, yet have never read a YA book by a Korean-American! I have read adult books by Korean-Americans...mostly because they're written by people my family is acquainted with, like Chang Rae LeeI mean, all Koreans know each other. Take Ellen Oh for example. She's my father's childhood best friend's brother's wife. As for Jenny Han, she's my old boss's co-worker's client. No lie. Every Korean-American YA author is connected to me! (These are all coincidences).

I was the most excited to read To All the Boys I've Loved Before after Dramabeans, my all-time favorite Korean drama blog, posted a giveaway and review of the novel on their website. Check it out: here! They brought up the fact that the novel utilizes the fun Korean drama trope of a contract marriage/dating, which is when two people who usually dislike one another agree to pretend date/marry for a variety of reasons, usually to make an ex-flame jealous. Of course, the two pretend lovers in the contract marriage end up falling in REAL LOVE. Swooon. Here's a list of great Korean dramas that feature this trope: contract marriage dramas. My favorites are Full House (famous actor enters a contract marriage with a normal girl, who's a writer!) and Goong (in an alternate present-day Korea, a prince enters a contract marriage with a quirky commoner girl).

Main Character: Lara Jean is an adorable heroine. She's very naive and sheltered, but that makes sense considering how protective and strong-minded her older sister, Margot, is. She has wonderful character growth throughout the story, while retaining her sweetness and vulnerability. 
Quote: That's when I see him. Peter Kavinsky, walking down the hallway. Like magic. Beautiful, dark-haired Peter. He deserves background music, he looks so good. - To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Swoon Factor/Love Interest: Oh man, I love Peter. He has so many faults, but at the same time, he also has this boyish charm. And the way he teases Lara Jean is swoon-adorable.
Quote: [Lara Jean is speaking to Peter about being in a relationship with another person] "It's scary when it's real. When it's not just thinking about a person, but, like, having a real live person in front of you, with, like, expectations. And wants." I finally look at Peter, and I'm surprised by how hard he's paying attention; his eyes are intent and focused on me like he's actually interested in what I'm saying. - To All the Boys I've Loved Before.
Favorite Secondary Character: The Korean grandmother who never shows up. She's exactly like my grandmother. #amazing
Quote: Josh has some sixth sense of when my dad's cooking Korean food, because he'll come sniffing around right when we're sitting down to eat. He loves Korean food. When my grandma comes to visit, he won't leave her side. He'll even watch Korean dramas with her. She cuts him pieces of apple and peels clementines for him like he's a baby. My grandma likes boys better than girls. -To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Diversity: It's cover/plot-explanatory. It's also the kind of diversity that feels right and natural to the story. It's not like, oh hey, let me point out this one girl is Asian because by default the rest of the cast is white. The diversity is in the culture of the characters, the world they live in, and in the conversations between them. Here's a snippet of a conversation Lara Jean has with Lucas Krapf, which I thought was brilliant and super comforting to see in a YA contemporary novel. 
Quote: [Lucas is speaking to Lara Jean, first about his sexuality, then about her race]  
"I just let people believe what they please. I don't feel like it's my responsibility to quantify myself for them. I mean, you get what I'm talking about. As a biracial person, I'm sure people are always asking you what race you are, right?"
I haven't thought of it that way before, but yes yes yes! Lucas gets it. "Exactly. It's like, why do you need to know?" 
We smile at each other and I feel that wonderful sensation of being known by someone. -To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Here's a subtle and brilliant way that Han shows diversity & how wonderful Peter is as a character:
Quote: Peter brushes past me and starts taking off his sneakers. "You guys are a no-shoes house, right?""Yeah," I say, surprised. -To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Diversity is as easy as a boy taking off his shoes while coming into a girl's house. (LOVE)
Quote: Margot would say she belongs to herself. Kitty would say she belongs to no one. And I guess I would say I belong to my sisters and my dad, but that won't always be true. To belong to someone--I didn't know it, but now that I think about it, it seems like that's all I've ever wanted. To be really be somebody's, to have them be mine. -To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Writing: I mean, just read these quotes. It's a simple style, but there's so much heart in the words.

Recommendations: For a contract dating romance, check out Smart Boys & Fast Girls by Stephie Davies. I haven't read this one, but The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris coming out Sept 30th looks like a fun "pretend dating" romance.

Looking Forward To: P.S. I Still Love You (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #2) [Release Date: April 21, 2015]