2014-09-17

Waiting on Wednesday {48}



Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!


This week my WoW pick is...

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Release Date ~ February 24, 2015


Goodreads Synopsis:
Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. 

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.


Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

Okay, first of all, even though I'm getting a little tired of book covers with girls in fancy dresses, I quite like this one! I think it fits the idea of a Sleeping Beauty story well, and it sounds like it will fit the story well.

For years now, I have loved reading fairy tale retellings and I haven't come across too many Sleeping Beauty ones yet. I'm always curious to see what kind of take an author has on an old story!

2014-09-16

Author Interview: Alice Kuipers


My introduction to Alice Kuipers and her writing was back in 2012 when I read her previous release titled 40 Things I Want to Tell You. I was absolutely blown away by Alice's mastery of storytelling, so I was excited to hear she had a new 2014 release called The Death of Us.

I'm thrilled to have Alice stopping by Esther's Ever After today, where she and I chat a bit about The Death of Us and Alice's writing style in general.


Q: I read 40 Things I want to Tell You when it came out, and I fell in love with your storytelling. I noticed that your books often deal with very difficult topics - why do you choose to include such topics? Is it difficult for you, as an author, to write about these hard topics?

A: Tackling big ‘issues’, like alcoholism, violence, anger, cancer, teen pregnancy, terrorism, means I have to do my research to make sure I get the facts right on the page. The worst thing would be for me to present an issue falsely. The research often teaches me a lot and makes it easier to write about topics that are hard.
One of the best things about writing young adult protagonists is that I feel a sense of hope in them as they become the adults they’re going to be. While I love those characters, and I find it hard for them to have to go through terrible things, I have faith they’ll pull through. What was different in The Death of Us from my other books is that they don’t all pull through, and yes, that was hard to write.


Q: I've heard that The Death of Us has some big plot reveals. Was the ending a surprise for you as well, or have you always known it would end?

A: I remember waking up one night realizing what had to happen at the end and feeling like I needed to get out of bed immediately to get the narrative right. The story was exciting to draft, because, while I had outlines and ideas, the twists and turns kept shifting my ideas and making me rewrite the book to make it better.

Q: I'm very intrigued by the non-linear narration, which I'm sure is very effective for telling a mysterious story. Was it difficult writing in 3 different POVs (at different times)? 

My editor told me that each of us is the hero of our own story. Hearing that made me realize that each of my characters had to be the centre of their own universe. They don’t consider themselves only one third of the story. Once I saw that, then I felt like I really got the hang of a multiple character narrative. 
In The Death of Us, the story actually starts near the end, then goes back to the beginning. Having that happen, AND the three perspectives wasn’t easy at all. I needed a good editor to help me hone the story on the page. And I needed faith that the story was going to work.

Q: You do an excellent job with making characters feel real and I think that's important for readers to be able to empathize with your characters. It sounds like Callie is a character many readers will be able to relate to (just from reading the description, I can see pieces of myself in her already) - whereas as Ivy sounds more like the "unattainable". Do you see yourself in either (or both) of these characters?

Thanks very much. That’s really nice to hear. I think there’s always some small part of the author in every one of their characters. To me, we’re all like paper dolls – layered and complicated with many possible versions of ourselves. Think of how different you are when you’re with a friend compared to with a parent compared to in a formal job or class, and then you’re different again with strangers… As an author, thinking about all my different selves helps me to create characters. But then I have to look out. I have to imagine, to dream, to interrogate those characters. I need to find their differences to make the story feel real and true. 
In The Death of Us, Ivy, Callie and Kurt each have secrets – we all do… I do… and knowing that each of us is capable of dark acts made me feel both close to and far away from these characters at different points of the story. 


Q: Now, I haven't read the book yet (I will - soon! No spoilers, please) but I'm wondering if there's anything you hope readers will take away from reading The Death of Us and Callie's story? 

A: This is a great question, although I’m not sure I have a specific answer. I learned early on in writing that I’m the sort of writer who isn’t trying to send a message. I try to leave the interpretation of my books to the people reading them. In my first book, Life on the Refrigerator Door, the pages are mostly white space (it’s a book written in notes) and that white space is for a reader to fill with their imagination. 
In The Death of Us. I don’t have a message but I do think all of my characters have to find themselves in this book. Life is about being honest with, at least, yourself. And above all in The Death of Us, I’d like a reader to come away feeling the risk was worth it – the pay off for investing their time in these characters and the complicated storytelling was worth it. 

Alice, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions. Congratulations on the release of The Death of Us!

Bestselling author Alice Kuipers was born in London. She moved to Canada in 2003. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. Since then, she has published two further award winning YA novels internationally, with a fourth, The Death of Us, coming out in September this year. Alice has three small children and she began writing picture books for them. Her first picture book Violet and Victor Write The Best Ever Bookworm Book will be published in December this year. Alice’s website is full of tips and hints for those of you who want to become writers too. Find her here: www.alicekuipers.com or on twitter, facebook or goodreads.


2014-09-15

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Release Date ~ August 14, 2014
Dutton ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780525425632
Signed hardcover pre-ordered

Goodreads Synopsis:
Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last? 

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Isla is Stephanie Perkin's third book that proves her to be a master of not only romance, but storytelling. I was first introduced (and convinced) to read her first book, Anna and the French Kiss, when I began blogging three years ago (in 2011!) and I've been a devoted fan ever since then! I was looking forward to Isla because although she only had a small role to play in Anna, I knew this last book in this collection was going to be incredible.


  1. Books with a feeling of nostalgia:

    Very few books leave me with such a strong nostalgic feeling. But Stephanie has this way of writing that makes her readers intensely feel the same emotional roller coaster as her characters. Her books perfectly capture many of the feelings and experiences I had as a teenager, and I love that. I found it was particularly strong in Isla because Isla's awkward moments and intense relationship with Josh were so familiar to me.
  2. Romantic longing:

    One of my favourite feelings in the world is that period when you first realize you have a crush on someone... and then it starts to move in the right direction! It is this crazy, wild adrenaline rush and that is exactly what Isla (and Josh) experience in this book. Isla has pined for Josh for years, and we get to read about how she first approaches Josh and their friendship develops from there. But it's that rising anticipation throughout the book that kept me hooked!
  3. Revisit some of our other favourite Perkins' couples:

    I love how Stephanie includes little cameos of characters she's written about in previous books. It's so fun to get to see glimpses of how their lives turned out, and I think that this is especially true in Isla and the Happily Ever After. Because this book is the end of this three-book collection, it seems like so much more than just the potential of a "happily ever after" for Isla - it's as if it's the happily ever after for Anna, Lola, and even for us as readers. 
I can't sing the praises of this book enough. Isla and Josh are adorable. They're also flawed, and kind of stupid at times. Which is fine, because I've done silly things as well. I truly wish I could crawl inside the pages of this book and live in Paris with Anna and Isla and do my makeup and get dressed up with Lola. Because we would be best friends, even if they are fictional. 




2014-09-11

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

Last night I attended an advanced screening of The Maze Runner hosted by Penguin Random House Canada, a movie adaptation of James Dashner's book of the same title.

Now I have to admit that I have not yet finished reading The Maze Runner book. So I went into the film with little knowledge of the story, and I'm not going to compare the movie to the book here. Movie adaptations of books (particularly YA) books are hugely popular right now, some better than others. With no experience of the book, I came into the movie with minimal expectations.

The protagonist, a boy named Thomas, is played by Dylan O'Brien who we are introduced to immediately. Thomas finds himself in a strange outdoor area surrounded by a group of curious boys, only to discover they are also surrounded by four gigantic walls. The boys call this area the Glade and they have no memory of their lives before waking up here. All they know is that they must have been sent here by someone. They explain that outside of the Glade is a complex maze which changes overnight and which no one has escaped. The group of boys belonging to the Glade and living a truly life-or-death scenario, which was reminiscent to me of the survival story The Lord of the Flies. The dynamics of the group are also familiar to those found in Flies,

I was impressed with Dylan O'Brien's talent at adding some emotional depth and thoughtfulness to a character caught up in a movie that is mostly action and thrills. The remainder of the cast was excellent, as well. Thomas Sangster is brilliant playing Newt, the second-in-command of the boys living in the Glade. He skillfully straddles the line between a humorous young teenager and a burdened man whose experiences surpass his years.

As for cinematography, I thought the effects used were a good fit for the story's atmosphere of mystery and danger. However, I still don't understand this modern obsession with the constant use of shaky cam. Quite honestly, I rarely find the effect of a camera shaking so badly that I can't see what's happening on screen to be a useful mechanism for filming a movie.

Because the story is about survival, there is loss and there is violence. I wish that the film had focused a little more on that loss, because I think it would have added a stronger connection to the characters and their plight. But as a whole it felt rather rushed and simply glossed over. There are some slightly graphic, disturbing scenes that pack a punch (as a heads up).

The main reveal, while very interesting, lacked an explanation which tied the reveals to the previous events of the movie. By that I simply mean that it was hard to understand why the prior events were necessary. It's a neat twist to take which changes the direction of the story which I loved. With a sequel already in the works (and the fact that this is an entire book series), I have the impression that this will be better explained later on but it felt like a poor fit for a movie. But if you can suspend your disbelief for a few minor plot holes, and a larger one that will hopefully be explained later on, you're left with a fast-paced movie filled with secrets that's absolutely worth watching. It's a fun film and enjoyable to watch.

The Maze Runner releases in theatres on September 19, 2014.


2014-09-10

Announcement: Let's chat

Hello, friends!

I'd really like to have a little chat, and get something off my chest.

This past July marked my third anniversary on this little blog.

THREE YEARS! 

I remember when I started blogging and I dreamed of how amazing it would be to continue blogging for years. This blog started at the perfect time in my life.

But somewhere along the line, I lost some of the fun book blogging originally had for me. Like many others have found before me, it became a chore. It's really hard to blog when you lose that spark, that something special that made me love it and want to share it with others all the time. I was fixated on statistics and numbers and the idea of a brand.

I love books. I always have. I still read a lot of YA. But I've changed a bit, and I think it's about time that my blog reflects some of those changes. 

The reality is that I set myself strict rules and expectations about what belongs on this blog. Young adult books. Maybe some middle grade. Then I realized I was missing out on some very cool adult books, so once in a while I'd sneak in an adult review. I thought I had to keep my focus narrow to keep people (and myself interested). It didn't work.

To be honest, I love a lot of other things besides books. I like to watch good TV shows, and I've always been a movie fan! I also have so much fun playing around with makeup and other beauty items. I'm also pretty attached to my Xbox One. You name it! And most of the time, I like working out, too.

There's been a lot more I'd like to blog about, but I haven't let myself because I didn't think it fit. And the worst part is that this is my blog! How often do we tell new bloggers to talk about what they want and not worry about doing things the "right" way (whatever that means)?

I have some really neat posts coming up that I can't wait to share with you. I'm not going to shift away from books completely, because books are my first true love. So my reviews aren't going to change, but you can expect more. I want to have fun with my blog, too!

Waiting on Wednesday {47}



Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!


This week my WoW pick is...

Zodiac by Romina Russell
Release Date ~ December 9, 2014



Goodreads Synopsis:
At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?


Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

Did you read that description?! Science fiction and fantasy were designed to merge and have a beautiful baby together, and that baby is Zodiac.

I am really into sci fi books lately, and I'm especially loving the books that feature new planets. That just makes sci fi extra exciting for me, you know? And I'm very intrigued by the zodiac theme and inspiration here. I'm not sure how it will play out, but it sounds like a neat twist.

Also, Rhoma? I feel you on the math struggle. It's just not my strong point. Stories are much better, let's stick with those.

Is anyone else as impatient as I am for Zodiac? Or are you looking forward to a different upcoming release this week?

2014-09-09

Review: On the Road to Find Out

On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor
Release Date ~ June 10, 2014
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) ~ Raincoast Books
ISBN13: 9780374300142
ARC received from Raincoast Books to review

Goodreads Synopsis:
A funny, uplifting debut about running, romance—and dealing with college rejection and other hurdles

On New Year’s Day, Alice Davis goes for a run. Her first ever. It’s painful and embarrassing, but so was getting denied by the only college she cares about. Alice knows she has to stop sitting around and complaining to her best friend, Jenni, and her pet rat, Walter, about what a loser she is. But what doesn’t know is that by taking those first steps out the door, she is setting off down a road filled with new challenges—including vicious side stitches, chafing in unmentionable places, and race-paced first love—and strengthening herself to endure when the going suddenly gets tougher than she ever imagined.

On the Road to Find Out involves a main character who has received some devastating news and it depicts the story of how she comes to terms with life when it doesn't go the way she planned it. It's an important lesson, but this book lacked the emotional depth I anticipated.



  1. Alice is startlingly real:

    We all know someone like Alice. Many of us (me included) likely share traits and experiences in common with her. She's fairly self-absorbed at times (aren't we all?), spoiled, and introverted. On the Road to Find Out chronicles a crisis period in Alice's life, a period of time where we get to see her grow up. She learns that life won't always go the way she plans, which is so true and a key life lesson for everyone.
  2. A heartwarming running community:

    Alice doesn't intentionally join the running community, instead she halfheartedly stumbles into it. She finds a supportive, strong group of people among the local runners including friendly, warm Joan (who has her own remarkable story to share) and a competitive, cute athlete named Miles. 
I know there are going to be some readers who are bothered by Alice and won't enjoy the book for that reason. But it is beneficial for us to read about flawed characters, for many reasons. An important reason is because we are flawed ourselves, even if we don't care to admit it. Additionally it is important because there are certain stories that are best told with a flawed character. Alice's growth in this book wouldn't be half as remarkable if she was easy to like and mature from the get-go. 

In some ways, this book was not as fully developed as I would have liked. Alice's voice and sense of humour seemed distant at times, and by that I mean that it seemed she wasn't taking her own situation seriously. Her attitude towards this set-back was exaggerated and lacked the sincerity I would have expected from someone in her situation. Alice also has a very sarcastic, cynical attitude which really comes out in her sense of humour. I can see how only certain readers might be able to appreciate that aspect of her character and enjoy reading about it. 

On the Road to Find Out is an enjoyable little story, with a very important lesson behind it which I believe is particularly relevant to teenagers and young adults. 




 
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