Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Wandering Star - Romina Russell

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on Wandering Star by Romina Russell!

Wandering Star
Romina Russell 
Series: Zodiac, #2
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Waited on by: Kiersten

Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn.

But news has spread that the Marad--an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy--could strike any House at any moment.

Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight.

Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there's much more to her Galaxy--and to herself--than she could have ever imagined.

I got an ARC of Zodiac last year at BEA (review here), and I absolutely loved it! The first book was such a fun, fast paced adventure, and I can't wait to find out what happens to the characters, especially after all the things that went down at the end. December is really far away, but I'm sure the wait will be worthwhile!

- Kiersten

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Characters that are Fellow Book Nerds

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Here at We Live and Breathe Books, two of us choose five things each week. This week's topic is...

Characters that are fellow book nerds!

Amrutha's Picks
  1. Cather Avery from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - The book is literally called Fangirl. When I saw this prompt, Cath was the first character I thought of, because not only does she live and breathe books, she literally writes her own super popular fanfiction. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I used to beta-read Harry Potter fanfiction when I was in middle school and early high school, so Cath really resonated with me there, especially with all of the Simon Snow/Harry Potter references in the book. P.S. I'm really interested to see how Carry On (the fanfiction from the novel) turns out in an actual publication by Rainbow Rowell! 
  2. Alaska Young from Looking for Alaska by John Green - "When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books." I feel like this is a quote that applies to any of us here at We Live and Breathe Books -- my room and my car and almost any space that I have ever occupied is clustered with books around and in stacks and in boxes and in nooks and crannies. Alaska embodies that image of a fellow "book nerd," to a tee. There is always something around to read, and she gets that that is something to strive for. 
  3. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling - I literally could not resist. My favorite frizzy-haired know-it-all from Harry Potter. Although she reads a little too much nonfiction for me, no one knows better how good curling up with a good book is than Hermione. Hermione literally manages to siphon knowledge from books while still having a rockin' time reading them. I aspire to be as awesome as she is. 
  4. Klaus Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket - Just like Hermione, Klaus saves his and his loved ones' lives using the power of knowledge (gained from books). I just really loved Klaus because he used JUST RANDOM KNOWLEDGE (he didn't even have magic, sorry Hermione) to save the day. I feel like when I was a kid this is how I imagined reading would impact my life, and while there have been no death threats (yet), I feel should I ever need to save the life of someone I love, the information will probably come straight out of a book. 
  5. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - This needs no explanation. Lizzie Bennett is well read and sassy and lands the hot rich guy who changes because of how much he grows to respect her. Lizzie lives the dream life and I truly believe reading is the first step to allowing me to become her. Lizzie slays the game. 
Marlon's Picks
  1. William Herondale from The Infernal Devices series by Casandra Clare- Will breaks my little heart. But he does so unlike most characters - with good source material, ranging from Tennyson to A Tale of Two Cities. The latter is also a roadmap into understanding him, as he takes many cues from the novel and often believes his life is a representation of it. The character's facade is infinitely confident and flirtatious, and quotes passages from books just to pass the time. But deep down, he truly loves books as a means to help know himself. 
  2. Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak- Liesel is a fascinating character, and part of that has to do with her voracious hunger for knowledge. The same day she buries her brother, she steals her first book, The Grave Diggger's Handboook. Over time, she learns to read it with the help of her foster family. Her love of words grows so much that not even Death can keep away. 
  3. Annabeth Chase from The Percy Jackson series (and The Heroes of Olympus series) by Rick Riordan- Since I read Percy Jackson before I read Harry Potter in full, Annabeth was pretty much my nerdy hero. Her tact and genius carried me throughout many of the adventures in the novels and I often wished the books were about her. Because she has dyslexia, her passion for learning through a medium which constantly fights her, books, is a powerful testiment to her willpower and huge nerdiness.
  4. Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in our Stars by John Green- Hazel is so adorable. Like most characters on this list, she uses books as a means to explain her life while partially escaping from it. Her time is cut a little shorter than most, but her wealth of book nerdiness makes it seem like she's lived a lot longer.
  5. Artemis Fowl from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer- Artemis is 12. And, like Hermione, this does not stop him from being a complete and utter know it all. Unlike Hermione, he's a complete buttface about it. I love Artemis because he grows from a pretty harsh kind of nerd, who uses the knowledge from books (mostly nonfiction) to hurt others and empower himself, to the true hero who uses that same knowledge to place himself in harms way for the sake of others.
What are your favorite bookish characters?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 27, 2015

ARC Review: Pretty Baby - Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby
Mary Kubica
Series: N/A
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: July 28th, 2015
Publisher: MIRA Books
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Are you ready? This book is no walk in the park. It's a walk in the park with lots of death and really unhealthy emotions about small children. It's definitely over-the-top to admit, but it felt like less of a mystery and more of a gradual, precise series of explosions in the form of words.

I'm serious. This book takes some serious mental preparing, mostly because it leans more on what I'd consider psychological drama than thriller. While there are a lot of thriller aspects, most of the really juicy bits come from the obsessive desire, the PTSD, the grief, the distrust of romantic partners, the blurring of reality and fantasy, etc.

Set in Chicago, we center around three characters.

Heidi, a non-profit worker with the obsessive need to help others. She works those who are circumstantially less fortunate (refugees, for example). On the outside, it seems she has everything together, what with her beauty, friends, career, etc. Don't let her fool you, though. This woman has more tragedies than a Sophocles play: she's dealt with cervical cancer, the death of her father, etc. One day, she meets Willow, the second major character, a homeless teen who lost her parents to a car accident and then her sister to the foster system, and then her sense of trust to a bad foster home. Neither character knows the broken past of the other. They simply see the exteriors of the other. Heidi just sees someone who needs help. Someone who has a baby, Ruby. Something clicks within Heidi that prompts her to invite Willow and her child into Heidi's home. And it all goes to hell from there.

Chris is our outside eye, an investment banker always on business trips (and usually with an attractive and flirtatious colleague). He misses the beginning of his and Heidi's relationship, and is often strained to understand why Heidi seems to place her non-profit work, helping everyone else, above the needs of the family's stability. He provides a much needed palette cleanser and seemingly more objective, or at least more normal thoughts. The way these characters interact (and with other characters, like the very cliched angsty tween Zoe) is what really makes this book. While Chris worries about the family's safety, Heidi loses herself in obsessing over Ruby, and Willow . . . she's just on a level I can't describe.

The language is great. Though quite straightforward by its own right, it shines when discussing its variance between the three narrators: Kubica's ability to work in the different styles of thought (Chris's more solid to Willow's incredibly paranoid) while maintaining the narration from all three characters is powerful. It serves to bring out the heart of these characters and add another layer of realism. However . . . it's also a way to check for unreliability. I bring this up because it was just a little gem of an idea I found in the novel. Willow's narration seems the most formulated, with more frequent complete thoughts and sentences. Much of what she tells Heidi and Chris is a narrative she's constructed. For me, Willow has no reason to tell the truth anyway, and this brings her reliability into question.

The plot is dynamic, exciting, and downright fascinating. I loved the fact that the book played me. It played me like a cheap violin. Every other chapter, I thought I had figured it out. I thought I knew this book and I squealed in my own foolish delight . . . only to have the next chapter dash my thoughts. My only real issue with the plot was that, while I found the three character POV format awesome, I did get a sense of the novel dragging around the 200 mark trying to separately establish the background fro all of the characters. However, for me, the novel picks itself back up again quickly enough, and though it dragged, it never got boring, and because Kubica was able to always seamlessly switch characters, often at a cliffhanger, I'll let it slide.

I've seen a couple of people reference similarities to Gone Girl with this book; I'll have to agree with them that it is similar in narrative construction to Gone Girl. The way the plot unfolds and the secrets and characters become more clear is similar and definitely the emotions the novels both left me with are similar. However the subject matter for Pretty Baby is unique to itself (and the same goes for Gone Girl). While Gone Girl deals with the dangers of projecting one's needs, flaws, and desires onto a romantic partner in a selfish way (and from this, a lot of the novel centers on discussing sexism), Pretty Baby centers on a couple of separate questions: How much of a person is a lie? How far will a person go for another without ever knowing them deep down? How much can a person trust another? (There is a fair share of projecting in Pretty Baby, but it's . . . for a baby, so that's a different problem.)

*Special thanks to MIRA/Harlequinn exhibitors at BEA for the ARC!

- Marlon

Do you like children?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Discussion: Night on the Towns

June 2014, three WLABBers and some extras went to a movie premiere + livecast event for The Fault in our Stars. A few nights ago, on July 23rd, 2015, just over a full year later, three cooler WLABBers (plus Kiersten's mom and boyfriend shoutout to y'all) went to the same event for Paper Towns, another book by author John Green adapted into a film.


For Paper Towns, the event was in Westfield, NJ, a very cute, very photogenic area which was made for walking around (and taking pictures in my opinion) although it was on the hotter side when we arrived so indoors was nice. We had dinner (I ended up getting Qdoba for the first time and it was not nearly as good as Chipotle -- 0/10 would not do again) and headed to the movie theater, where we then spent an hour taking pictures before the movie actually started. 

Here, we can see two nicely posed pictures in our nicely designed spirit jerseys, and if you look in the corner, you can see me taking my shirt off like a hooligan because I was wearing an almost-knee length dress and with the shirt over it for pictures I looked like I should be churning butter on a farm somewhere so I was trying to take it off ASAP. 

We took so many fun poses and I debated posting all of them but I settled on posting three (if Kiersten or Amrutha want to do more it's up to them) but here's one of me being ridiculous while Kiersten inwardly judges me and Amrutha stares into the camera oblivious, and then there's my personal favorite picture where I think we look pretty fierce, and then I thought I'd throw in a cute one so you'd know we're not actually ugly. 

After our photoshoot, where you can see we all channeled our inner Cara Delevingne modeling skills, we headed in for the actual movie. Before the movie, we got to see weird commercials where they superimposed the faces of Cara and Nat onto the unrelated commercials????? That was a little weird, but not relevant to the movie. Anyway, as someone who is a huge fan of the book, like someone who holds this book in High Regard with capital regards, who thinks it's Very Important, I really really liked the movie! 

I liked it more than The Fault in Our Stars but I also liked the book more so for me, I think it stems from entertainment value of the story and the character more than its construction as a movie so if you're looking for a really super analytical movie review don't blame me if you think it wasn't as good in that regard although I think they were both equal in the objective "movie" aspect (does this make sense?????). 

Anyway, I think the actors did a phenomenal job. They really brought the characters to life. Special shoutouts to Radar and Ben, because they were just great and hilarious and their delivery was fantastic. Cara did a great job as Margo too -- I was apprehensive about this because while I didn't doubt her abilities, I just had such a specific idea of Margo in my head I was afraid that because I knew I wouldn't be seeing that on the screen I wouldn't like it, but she definitely portrayed her well and I didn't feel that at all. 

While they did change a few things around, I think the movie as a whole was very well done. The plot was followed more closely than a lot of book-to-movie adaptations and I'm not going to nitpick on things like the fact that Angela came on the road trip in the movie and not in the book because it didn't take away from the movie and in fact added to it and to the closeness and the bonds formed by the character so I was cool with it. The real big changes were at the end, with what happened once they got to New York, but the end result was generally the same and had the same feel to it so I still liked it and I loved the way it highlighted the way Q's obsession with Margo was just that -- an obsession, and an unhealthy one. So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up liking this movie and I'd definitely watch it again (and by "I would" I mean "I will"). 

After the movie was the Q+A (and the performances) and that was great too. The questions were taken from Twitter and most of them were asking about experiences on set and filming and things like that but the answers were just so cute because you could tell the cast got really close and became friends with each other during this whole process. Halston Sage, who played Lacey mentioned how she loved the prom scene at the end because she didn't get her own prom and it was just such a sweet comment and an adorable thought to think about her getting to get dressed up and go to this prom in this movie. Another comment was made about how Justice Smith (Radar) was the funniest person on set, not only in what he said but in who he was -- he just had this aura about him. I loved the way they were so comfortable with one another and they had such a nice dynamic and could understand so easily exactly who they all were. Also, my favorite story about everyone was about Justice Smith and how he just had an argument with Austin Abrams (Ben) about whether aglets (the plastic tips on shoelaces) were important and if the world would be a significantly worse place without them and he just refuse to accept that it wouldn't. 

Also, the Naked Brothers Band made a comeback and Alex Wolff looked so sad up there but kind adorable at the same time it was a strange image. 



!!!! This past Thursday, us peeps - Marlon went to go watch Paper Towns during the Night On The Towns early premiere which was super fun. As you might remember, WLABB - me went to see The Fault in Our Stars last year, but unluckily for me I was sadly doing very high schooly things and therefore could not go. So, continuing the tradition, next year when John Green inevitably comes out with another movie, we will have to leave a member behind for the night. 

The night was awesome (other than that I drove and that Noor is no longer going to be allowed to GPS anywhere in my car) and we ate at Qdoba (which I am not usually a huge fan of but had a good experience with this time) and then we got to the movie theatre. Westfield has this really small movie theatre with tickets sold at the concession stand and no one watching the signed posters and lockets. It's so cute and lo and behold, having gotten there an hour and a half early, we were the first ones there. So naturally, we had a photoshoot.

First of all, turns out our pal Joe is pretty good at taking pictures because I don't hate all of them and that is very surprising as I am very picky about my aesthetic. But also turns out neither me nor Kiersten can hold straight faces/angry faces during pictures because literally only Noor had her shit together during most of these. All in all, I thought the pictures turned out real cute and also very representative of WLABB-Marlon. (Note from Kiersten: In that first photo, we were posing for a serious photo, but someone in a car yelled something like, "Awh, yea!" at us out their window and we all started laughing as this picture was taken. While I don't approve of catcalling people out of your car window, it was pretty funny.)

As for the movie: They held pretty true to the plot (except for some of the end but it winding up ending relatively the same way) and the tone of the story, which I expected after seeing TFIOS. Nat Wolf's casting was impeccable, I don't think I could see anyone else as Q, and literally the entire friend group killed it, Radar and Ben were hilarious and honestly were just so real and just ugh they were all casted so well. Could not have done it better. Cara was okay as Margo, to be quite honest I didn't think she was the right choice before the movie began and I didn't think she was the right choice after watching it. I like her a lot, I think her personality is awesome and she's beautiful and her eyebrows are absolutely insane, but I just don't think she captured Margo completely. I just loved how they didn't end up framing it as a romance when it's really a coming of age story where the main character understands that other people are complex and other people are not to be obsessed over and lauded and made to be something they are not. The movie did a really good job of conveying that theme, and if I had just a little something extra from the character of Margo, I would really be in love with it. 

That being said, it was a good movie, and I'd watch it again just for Q and Radar and Ben. They were flawless. 

The Q&A was cute and I think really reinforced the idea that the cast members were all actually good friends (which I think showed a bit during the movie too). Also, Alex and Nat preformed a song during which Alex's face was very sad and I'm not really sure if he did much preforming at all, so that was a fun way to end the night. 

But hey, it was a really good night and I got to hang with some of my WLABB crew so definitely would do again. 



So, I think pretty much everything relevant has been said. We went to the thing, we took pictures, we watched the movie, and we watched the livecast. I'll have to side with Amrutha about my opinion of Cara as Margo - I'm not sure if it was her acting or the direction, but I didn't feel like the character was well portrayed. She kind of spoke in a monotone and made a serious face the whole time - she seemed more like the hipster chick loner rather than queen bee of the school. For the movie as a whole, my only complaint is that they removed the scene where Q's mom gives him the car as a gift and never mention when he acquires the car - he just switches from saying that it's his mom's car in the beginning to his car near the middle. Not a big deal, but it bugged me. Also, while I think the movie did capture the essence of the book, I found it less entertaining. It was fun to watch, but I don't think I'll be rushing to the store to buy this on Blu-ray to watch again and again. 

Oh, and even though it's not related to the movie, I disagree with Noor - I am a strong Qdoba over Chipotle fan. To be honest, they're basically the same thing, so it comes down to the seasonings, and I prefer the chicken at Qdoba because I find the Chipotle chicken too spicy for my delicate taste buds.

Anyway, the main reason I'm here is to include more pictures of Sloth. Sloth attended the event with us because, as his Twitter handle implies, he likes to go places, but also because he likes to be included in WLABB outings since he is the most prominent honorary WLABBer. Amrutha already included our super cute forward photo with Sloth, but here are a few others.

Also, I'm kind of mad that Amrutha put the version of this first photo where I was laughing, so I'm including the serious one here. The second is the same one as in Noor's section, but I thought it was a shame that she cropped it in and I really liked it. We are WLABB's Angels.

- Kiersten

Have you seen Paper Towns yet?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

1989 Book Tag

I'm very vocal about the fact that I'm a huge Taylor Swift fan, so when Kiersten showed me this book tag (seen on Downright Dystopian, created by Reviews from a Bookworm) I knew I had to do it!

1989 Book Tag!

Welcome to New York 
A Book with LGBT Themes
You can want who you want, boys and boys and girls and girls.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green & David Levithan
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Amrutha mentioned this book in her section of our last Top Ten Tuesday (books that celebrate diversity) and this was the first book I read by both John Green and David Levithan (I'm like 98% sure of this so if you ever see me contradict myself about this I'm not lying I'm just wrong on one of my accounts) so it jumpstarted my love for both authors. Anyway, the writing in this book is fantastic and one of the protagonists is gay and so is the best friend of the other protag and all in all it's an excellent book that I highly recommend.

Blank Space 
A Book that hit you right in the feels
(but was totally worth it)
You can tell me when it's over if the high was worth the pain
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak 

Ahhhh there are so many of these!! The Book Thief is one of the most prominent though so I'm going with this one. I reviewed it almost two years ago (wow has it really been that long?? I'm due for a reread) and the haunting feeling of the book has never left me. Every time anyone mentioned the book I get all the emotions again and I can honestly say that this a book that has stayed with me since I closed it the first time and will continue to stay with me for years to come. It felt like a punch to the gut but the good kind and I implore you all to read it if you haven't already.

Blank Space 
A book you hated but loved the cover
Darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream
Anatomy of a Misfit
Andrea Portes
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

The first book I thought of when I saw this prompt was this one which Amrutha and I did a double review of a while back where we both agreed that it was pretty on the outside and really really terrible on the inside. And it just made me so sad because honestly, it has such a pretty cover and and such a nice title and the actual book is just terrible and a few hundred pages of whining which honestly doesn't even make sense. Sigh, books that have nice covers but are terrible make me so sad because I honestly really frequently judge books by their covers because covers are supposed to entice you!!!! Don't entice me to a bad product!!!! Entice me to dynamic characters and fluid writing!!!!! Sigh.

Blank Space 
Your latest Book Boyfriend/Girlfriend
I've got a blank space baby and I'll write your name
Harry Potter
JK Rowling
Sirius Black
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Okay, so I realize this isn't a "latest" obsession and I probably should have put one considering I'm so fickle that I have a new fictional crush every week but I really wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how in love I am with the idea of Marauders-era Sirius black. Yes, I know the books haven't given us all that much to work with in that regard but the fandom has come up with such an elaborate idea of what Marauders-era life was like and it's all pretty consistent and I'm i love with Sirius Black, we were made for each other bye.

A timeless classic you love
We never go out of style
The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

I don't even remember when I read this book but I really really fell in love with it. Sometimes when I say I say Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books I feel like I sound like one of those pretentious dudes who lurk in cafes and think they understand the world better than most and really resonate with Holden Caulfield because they think everyone is a phony except them but honestly I hope I don't because I just really liked the book, I liked the way it was written and narrated, and I could reread it again and again because it just stuck with me.

Out of the Woods 
A book which had vivid world building
The rest of the world is black and white, but we were in screaming color
Kristin Cashore 
Graceling Realm, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

While some high fantasy series like Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire go super hardcore into world-building, I wanted to talk about Graceling because I thought Kristin Cashore did a great job integrating her story and plot progression with the world-building. In my review, I focus mostly on the characters and the writing, because the world wasn't thrown in my face and wasn't too much to handle. It flowed as a part of the story and didn't feel like a separate entity which was really nice. I'd still call it vivid though because the world created was intense -- people had Graces (skills they were exceptionally good at), and the protagonist was Graced with killing. It was so interesting to see the type of world they lived in and what the dynamic between all the different people was.

Out of the Woods
A book where things weren't exactly how they seemed
The monsters turned out to be just trees
Beatrice and Virgil
Yann Martel
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

This book was interesting to say the least. I read it and reviewed it about a year and a half ago and I'd like to reread it because it's 100% one of those books where you get something different out of it each time you read it. It's also a love it or hate it book and I definitely enjoyed it. It's not exactly how it seems because the story has so many layers to it besides the simple "a man receives a letter in the mail, here is the letter." It leaves you with a strange feeling at the end, and I definitely feel like this is characteristic of Martel because the ending of Life of Pi was also a very reality-questioning one.

All You Had to Do Was Stay 
A book you were eagerly anticipating, but ended up 
being disappointed by
You were all I wanted, but not like this
The Kill Order
James Dashner 
The Maze Runner 0.5
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Okay, just want to preface this by saying I wasn't totally disappointed, I didn't completely dislike it, I just didn't love it. I'd give it, maybe 2.5 stars out of 5? There's a chance that if I read it again my opinion could change but as of now that's where I stand but I can see how people would like it. For me, there was too much going on and I wasn't invested in any of the characters because they weren't the ones I spent three books getting attached to and I just got bored which was impressive considering that there was so much happening. I don't know, it just wasn't for me, but it was kindof cool to see how everything began though.

Shake it Off 
A book/series that everyone seems to love but you can't help but hate
The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
A Game of Thrones
George R. R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I DO NOT HATE THIS BOOK OR SERIES. I needed to write that in all caps before I started this. What I meant by putting this here is that I feel like there are so many people who I talk to about the show and they're like "yeah the book is so much more intense/so much better, you should read it!" and I think "wow I should read ASOIAF" and I have the series and I've tried to read it twice and it's just so heavy that I can't do it. I don't know what it is, because people have said that Eragon was too descriptive for them and I read that fine and LOTR is pretty high on the fantasy and I'm cool with it but this is another level and I just can't get through it and I really wish I could because I love the show but every time I start reading I think of what else I could be reading.

Shake it Off
A book/series you love that everyone else seems to hate
The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Veronica Roth
Divergent, #3
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Everyone hates Allegiant and the ending of Allegiant and Veronica Roth for everything she did with Allegiant. I am one of the few people who don't share those feelings. I actually wrote a very positive review for it and looking back on that review I'm not sure everything I wrote there is still entirely consistent with how I feel now -- I still would say I perceived the book positively but I think now I'd be a little more critical about it and see a bit more of the negatives with it. In either case, I still was overall satisfied with it and with the ending, unlike most people.

I Wish You Would
A book/series you know you will always love
I wish you knew I'll never forget you as long as I live
Harry Potter 
J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I know this is the basic answer but honestly, this is the book series that I'll always come back to. It's just become such a central part of my life -- I literally grew up with it, from seven years old to now. And the other day on my Timehop, I saw that it was the eight year anniversary of Deathly Hallows and it felt like the first moment all over again. And the other week I got into an argument with a friend about Snape (by the other week I mean every time we talk) and I just felt so invested in the idea of all these characters that I knew this was a series I'd hold in my heart forever.

I Wish You Would
An upcoming release you wish you could have right now
I wish you were right here right now
Lady Midnight
Cassandra Clare
The Dark Artifices, #1

I knew you were all waiting for Cassandra Clare to show up on this list and here she is. I think this is an appropriate place for her, don't you? I am absolutely dying to explore these new characters, to get to know Emma and Julian, and I am especially interested in the way the Fair Folk are involved in this book as I've always been quite interested in faeries as a general concept. I just really like the idea of a Shadowhunter series set in the same realm and era as TMI but focusing on different but slightly related characters. It's a new and refreshing way to take on the Shadowhunters while still giving us the setting we know and love (and maybe some of the in-jokes?? who knows).

Bad Blood
A character you once loved but grew to hate
Now we've got bad blood, you know it used to be mad love
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins 
The Hunger Games
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

This is like, the most unpopular opinion of them all but I'm really not a fan of Peeta? I liked him in the beginning, when he was really sweet and kind but then it just became too much and it was really annoying and his relationship with Katniss just seemed forced and incompatible to me and I just got really annoyed with him as a character. I don't know what it is, but he just got on my nerves. And while I do feel like Katniss would have gotten so much more done and so much more efficiently if she had zero boys slowing her down, obviously he was still helpful to their team, just in a really annoying way.

Bad Blood
An author you haven't forgiven for what they did to your 
favorite characters/books
Did you have to do this? I was thinking you could be trusted. 
Did you have to ruin what was shiny, now it's all rusted
Gone Girl 
Gillian Flynn
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I will never get over the ending of Gone Girl. I will never forgive Gillian Flynn for the way it ended. This isn't even one of those situations where the fan is harassing the author like "why didn't you end the book the way I wanted you to?????" or "why did you kill off my favorite character don't you know this reading experience is all about me?????" That ending was just so wild, by literally not being as wild as the entire rest of the book. I mention how furious I am with it in my review. Honestly, the book is still excellent and one of the best books I've ever read but I'll never forgive her for doing that to me at the end.

Wildest Dreams
A book that was far too predictable
I can see the end as it begins
Steven Camden

Amrutha and I reviewed this a few months ago and I know between the two of us it's definitely mentioned how predictable this book is because it was honestly ridiculous how easy it was to know exactly what would happen. The connection between the two main characters, which we weren't told until the end, was easy to figure out from just the blurb, and if you didn't read that, then the first few pages. A few chapters in, and you understand the way he's going to try and parallel their stories and have them connect but fail really hard at it. Read our full review for a longer description of how this book was predictable and all the other ways it didn't reach our expectations, but please don't read the actual book.

Wildest Dreams
A book/series that you wish could have gone on forever
Nothing lasts forever but this is getting good now
The Infernal Devices
Cassandra Clare
The Infernal Devices
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Ugh, these books are just so good. Everything about them is so intense, the language is so beautiful and Cassandra Clare demonstrates how varied her writing can be -- the narration of The Mortal Instruments is so different from The Infernal Devices but both offer compelling stories and writing. Not only that, but her characters have such depth and are so wonderful. I fell in love with every single one of them (especially Will. I should have written him as my fictional crush, sigh. I used to have a Tumblr URL dedicated to him and everything. Double sigh). I just wish I could have kept reading forever and ever about this set of characters.

How You Get the Girl
One of your favorite books where they "got the girl"
That's how it works, that's how you get the girl
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Jennifer E. Smith
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

This was such an adorable book and I loved it so much. It was definitely one of my favorite books where they "got the girl" (well the girl "got the guy" because the girl was the protagonist) for quite a few reasons. One of them is a little strange, but it's because the book -- well most of it, including the beginning and their getting-to-know-each-other-ing -- takes place on an airplane and an airport and I really like those things so I just really liked the whole idea of this book even more because I just fell in love with the idea of sitting next to someone who could potentially be the love of your life on an airplane. Besides that, it was an excellent book and super cute and I just felt giddy when I read it so definitely a favorite romance.

This Love
A book that completely shocked you
In darkest dreams, in wildest dreams, I never dreamed of this
Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I know I already used Gone Girl once and I really didn't want to do repeats but I really feel like this is the most appropriate book to put here because honestly it was such an insane and shocking book and I feel like Gillian Flynn deserves hella credit for that so she should get a section where I mention that instead of talking about how I'll never forgive her. It was just so unpredictable, the characters were so wild, something would happen and my mouth would open in shock because I would just not be expecting it.

I Know Places
A book you thought you loved but quickly came to hate
Loves a fragile little flame it could burn out
Stephenie Meyer
Twilight, #1
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I think everyone needs to acknowledge that their Twilight phase happened, and it was real, and that we should move past it. Anyway, seventh grade was clearly a bad time, because I was really into it: Twilight merch, midnight movie premiere, getting into fights over Edward and Jacob. Oh, I was terrible. I can't tell you exactly when I came to my senses but I know it was before the second movie came out because I know I didn't see it and it was a deliberate decision, so I'm going to say I spent about a year in this phase.

I Know Places
A book you didn't want to be seen reading
Something happens when everybody finds out, see the vultures circling dark clouds

I don't have an answer for this one because when I'm reading a book it means a. I've decided to read that book or b. it's a textbook and in either case I don't have a problem being seen reading it???? If the book turns out to be bad, then it's bad, but I didn't know that going in and I'm not the one who wrote it, so if it's something I chose to read, then I'd read it in public.

When the wait between books made you forget 
everything that happened
The drought was the very worst, when the flowers that we'd grown together died of thirst
Partials Sequence
Dan Wells
Partials Sequence
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Okay, this one is actually my fault. The wait between the books isn't actually longer than normal books, but I read the first book a super long time ago (I reviewed it and everything) and I never ended up reading the second when it came out and in that time the third came out too???? Noor what???? I own the second one too, and I've been meaning to read it forever and I don't know why I keep picking other books over it because I loved the first one so much I thought it was amazing but I'm a terrible person and I remember the plot and especially the important things but I'm going to read a plot summary of the first book before I start the second one anyway.

A book/series you wiped from your memory
By morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean
Those Girls
Lauren Saft
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

When Kiersten reviews a book lower than both Amrutha and I (especially Amrutha though) you know something is wrong with that book. I just want to pretend I never read Those Girls, that the things that happened in that book were not things I read about. It's working out pretty well. The points of view of the three main characters are already flying out of my brain and melding into one blob -- oh wait, they were already basically the same. It's still working though, the scarring left by the book doesn't seem to be too permanent and I think I'll be okay if I never think about this book again.


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Double Review: Paper Towns - John Green

Paper Towns
John Green
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Even though I read Paper Towns a few weeks ago, it seemed appropriate to finally post my review on the day the movie will be premiering. Amrutha, Noor, and I will be attending the Night on the Towns special early showing with a live simulcast after the movie tonight, and we'll be posting about the event in a few days. Anyway, onto the review!

For some reason I always put off reading John Green books until the movies are coming out soon. The Fault in Our Stars was a book so many people told me to read, but I refused to do so until a few months before the movie came out. The same is true with Paper Towns. While Paper Towns was vastly different than The Fault in Our Stars, I really liked the story told.

Paper Towns follows Quentin, a sort-of awkward, sort-of nerdy boy who is mildly obsessed with his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. While the two were friends when they were younger, they've since grown apart and Q has taken to admiring her from afar, sort of making up a perfect version of her in his head. One night, Margo implores him to help her with a revenge plot. After that night together, Margo mysteriously disappears and it appears that she left clues for Q to find her.

Even though I generally don't read mystery novels, there's something so captivating about stories with a mystery subplot. I found myself constantly excited and invested in the whereabouts and wellbeing of Margo, even though she wasn't even in most of the book.

Although the mystery is a large part of the premise, the book is mostly a coming of age story. Throughout his adventure trying to find Margo, Quentin becomes even closer with his friends Radar and Ben, discovering things about them that he hadn't previously realized and learning what it truly means to be a friend. A lot of Paper Towns is about the way we perceive people, making them out in our minds to be something different than what they are at face value. Q struggles with this sort of ideology, mostly with Margo but also with Ben and other characters. I really enjoyed how John Green explored this aspect of knowing people in the story - it's definitely something I've thought about and had trouble with in the past, expecting someone live up to my idea of them when it's just not who they are.

The main thing that makes this book so fun is the characters. The characters of Paper Towns fall along a wide spectrum of personalities, from more serious to completely goofy - John Green did a great job balancing the humor with the seriousness in this book. I loved seeing the way these characters interacted and how their different personalities shaped the story.

Even though Paper Towns wasn't the tear-jerker that The Fault in Our Stars was, Paper Towns was still a deeply emotional coming of age story. I thoroughly enjoyed Paper Towns, possibly more than TFIOS because I think it's just more my type of story, and I highly recommend it to people looking for a coming of age story with a mix of humor and heart, especially if you also like a little mystery.

- Kiersten

Noor's Review of Paper Towns
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Paper Towns wasn't the first John Green book I read, and I don't think it's compositionally as great as the works that come after it (which makes sense, authors improve with every book they write), but it is by far my favorite. For me, this book is one of Those Books. The books that stay with you and are so near and dear to your heart that just telling someone you love the book doesn't seem right. The books where you might resonate with a character you're not supposed to and you might feel like you've been punched in the gut with a line or two or twenty. The ones that affect you a lot and leave you with a lasting impression and feeling the need to capitalize the phrase "Those Books" when talking about the type of book it is. I know that's not the way Paper Towns is or will be for everyone, I just wanted to mention how important this book is to me before I talked about the book itself.

Kiersten did an excellent job explaining the premise so I won't go into that again, and I want to touch on something she said about Paper Towns being about how we perceive people. One of the more popular quotes from the book is "What a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person"  and we see this exemplified with not only Q's image of Margo Roth Spiegelman, but the other characters' as well. Much of the book focuses on the journey to find her, so she's a point of discussion quite frequently, and this is how we learn more and more about Margo Roth Spiegelman. Q certainly believes she is more than a person and that's dangerous because he's looking for her to be a perfection solution to all things when its clear that she has problems to work out herself.

In another portion of the book, his parents describe people as either windows or mirrors. Margo Roth Spiegelman seems to heavily portray a mirror-person, and it seems the everyone on the journey (and some people who weren't, such as her parents), got a little sliver of it, got themselves and their backgrounds reflected back at them, and took away a different interpretation of who Margo was. There was definitely a failure to look past that and see who she was behind the mirror which added to her complexity as a character. She isn't a character to idolize and imitate, she's one to understand.

I realize I haven't touched on the other characters really, but I thought they were spot on. Ben, Radar, Lacey, they all brought their own set of hilarity, skills, and sometimes reality checks to the book. It was entertaining and enjoyable to read them and watch the progression of everyone's relationships. Like Kiersten said, it definitely is a coming-of-age, story, and a large part of that focuses on your friendships and I like the way Paper Towns dealt with that.

I also really loved the mystery aspect, which I don't like using that word to describe, because it makes me think of mystery novels that moms read when they drop the kids off at school and make themselves a cup of coffee that they try not to spill on their white couches. It wasn't like that. It was just the right amount of finding clues that would (or wouldn't?????) lead them to Margo and the right amount of suspense and just wonderful storytelling, really.

Ultimately, I loved the story and the dynamic characters, and I especially loved the writing. There were quotes that chilled me to the bone, and I think my favorite one in the entire book is "Maybe all the strings inside him broke" which I realize might not sound all that great without context but I promise this book is filled with beautiful prose and you will not regret reading it.

- Noor

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Hunger Games Exhibition

A few weeks ago my friend Cheech came to visit New York. We decided to plan a day trip together, including rushing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Broadway, meeting up with some other friends for dinner, and going to The Hunger Games Exhibition. As you might have noticed, this post is about the exhibition!

I'm not going to lie, I was really freaking excited about going to this exhibition. I'm a huge fan of The Hunger Games franchise - seeing The Hunger Games movie is what got me into reading and eventually becoming a blogger. That morning, I donned my victor t-shirt and did my "Girl On Fire" inspired makeup in anticipation of the exhibition. Let me tell you, The Hunger Games Exhibition was absolutely incredible and it changed my life. For real. I cried a little. It was amazing.

Before I get into actually talking about the exhibition, I'd like to apologize for my photos. They're not very good. While I could take photos in the exhibition, the lighting and the fact that I couldn't use flash made it difficult for me to get good photos on my phone. I also had the screen dimmed so it wouldn't be obnoxious in some of the darker rooms, so I couldn't tell until later that they photos were kind of blurry. These photos by no means do this exhibition justice - seeing it in person is an entirely different experience. These photos also don't represent the entire exhibition since I didn't feel like I really needed to document the entire thing. I think they actually sell a book that does that.

The first thing that happens when you go to the exhibition is that they offer to take a few posed pictures in front of a green screen. You can always say no, but posing for the photos doesn't cost you anything so you might as well. BUT LET ME TELL YOU, these photos become epic and you'll want to give them all your money - at least I did.

Before entering the actual exhibition, you can also get a self guided tour device. While this guide certainly isn't necessary, it's really cool. The way it works is that while you walk around, the guide picks up commentary that you can listen to about certain parts of the exhibition (you can also just read the transcript if you prefer). There are also times when you can pick up movie clips to watch, which is still cool even if you've seen the movies a million times because YOU'RE IN AN AMAZING EXHIBITION ABOUT THE HUNGER GAMES. Another aspect of the guide is that you can create a digital passport. While you walk around, you get stamps in your passport. You can also use the guide to take pictures of the exhibition and add themed borders. The great thing about it is that as long as you put your email in the device at the beginning, you'll get all your photos and your passport stamps. I went the second day of the exhibition so I don't know if they've worked on it since, but when I was there, a lot of people had problems with the guides dying while they were still looking around the exhibition. I personally had this problem, but the people who work there were really good about getting people a new one that was charged more so they could continue. While I was disappointed that I couldn't keep track of the stamps I had on my previous passport (I ended up missing one at some point because of this), it wasn't that big of a deal (I could have gone back to the beginning and walked through everything again if I had wanted to). Even though the first guide died, I still got all my photos, and I just entered my email again in the second guide and got those photos as well. The only thing that I didn't know about the photos that slightly upset me at first was that you don't get the photos right away. I went to the exhibition on the 2nd, and I got the first set of photos on the 4th and the second set on the 5th. The photos are sent to you as a link and you can view your passport stamps and photos online. I was kind of annoyed that I couldn't enlarge and save the photos through the link, but I just screenshot them and it worked out good enough for me. I took a bunch of pictures on my phone as well, so it was all good. The photos I took on the device are mixed in with my other photos below; most of them have the borders on them.

Once you enter the exhibition, there's an introductory video, with a commentary video from Elizabeth Banks, before the really cool stuff happens. This is one of the times I teared up during the exhibition - partially because I was so excited but also because Banks was talking about how The Hunger Games has actually affected the world. After the video, these fancy doors open up and you can step into District 12.

In the District 12 section of the exhibition, there's a replica of a few parts of the hob set up. I couldn't get a photo that showed it, but in the third photo below, the mockingjay pin that Katniss picks up at The Hob (aka the storyline in the movie vs the book) is in the bowl with the really bright light.

Throughout the entire exhibit there are a bunch of interactive parts, including polls where you drop a bead into how you would answer the question and can see how many other people picked the same as you did, an interactive map of the Districts vs a map of North America, and more. Below you can see Sloth finding out how well he would forage if he were in the games. There are also a bunch of signs talking about Suzanne Collins' inspiration for The Hunger Games around the exhibition. I had never looked into what inspired Collins to write The Hunger Games, so the signs about her inspirations were really interesting and informative for me.

Another part of District 12 was a replica of part of Katniss' home with models of her and Prim in their Reaping Day costumes. After that section of District 12, the exhibition features the scene of the reaping in The Hunger Games. It was so cool to see Effie's costume up close (this goes for all of hers). In the photo on the right, Sloth decides he's going to reap the tributes instead of Effie. One really cool thing about this setup is that you can actually see through the paper Effie is holding and that it says Primrose Everdeen on it rather than being a thick paper you can't read through.

Just like the tributes, the exhibition heads onto the Capitol train after the reaping. My favorite part of this was that there's a bench you can sit on and take a photo to look like you're riding on the train to the Capitol.

After "riding" the train, you reach the Capitol! The Capitol felt much less like a linear story than District 12 since there's action from all the books/movies there. From Katniss' fire dress from The Hunger Games, to the chariot from Catching Fire, to Cinna's designs for the mockingjay armor, there's a bunch of cool stuff to see in this section. One thing that really surprised me is that the red fire dress is actually super underwhelming in person. I don't know if it's the fit on the display mannequin or just that there were a lot of special effects in editing, but I was really surprised that it didn't look as pretty as it did on screen. Another interesting thing is that Katniss and Peeta's costumes for the Tribute Parade in Catching Fire are actually made of black and gold brocade. I mean, obviously I knew it wasn't really hot coals, but I just thought it would be a different texture/print. I like the brocade a lot though since it adds that elegance that Cinna had them portray in the parade.

Also featured in the Capitol is President Snow's house and some of the costumes from the Victory Tour Party in Catching Fire. I really liked this display because it just looked so pretty. I absolutely loved Katniss' dress for this party in the movie, so I was basically drooling over it when I saw it here.

The last big thing in the Capitol is the Captiol TV set up. There's a fun section where you can sit down and it looks like Ceasar Flickerman is actually interviewing you (note Sloth in the chair and the screen over the body that has a video of Ceasar's face on it). There was also a display of Peeta and Ceasar's costumes from when Peeta is doing the propaganda photos for the Capitol in Mockingjay.

The next part of the exhibition is also technically the Capitol, but this section focuses on the Games. There were a bunch of of the props and costumes from various parts of the games on display, including the training outfits for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire below, Finnick's Tribute Parade costume, a few of Haymitch's costumes, Effie's gold hair costume (aka when she says they should all have a gold token) below, and more. I would have included more photos of the costumes aforementioned, but my photos weren't very good.

Another costume featured was that of Plutarch Heavensbee's costume and figurines of a jabberjay, tracker jacker, and monkey from the arena. Besides the costumes and props, there was also an interactive section that looks like the table the gamemaker uses to change things in the games. On the table, there are screens you can use to read more about different aspects of gamemaking, and if you get the guide, you can simulate the arena from the Third Quarter Quell. I couldn't get mine to work, but other people seemed to have success with this. This area also has an interactive area where you can learn some fight choreography and learn how to tie some knots.

After the Capitol, the last main area is District 13. I loved the way they set up the figures for District 13! Sloth wanted to jump right up there with them and throw his three finger salute, although he realized that when he raises his hand it's always a three finger salute. There were a bunch of other things from District 13, like Prim's nurse costume, some armor, Beetee's desk (below), and part of the room where all the food and plants were grown in District 13. The coolest thing in this area was that you could make your own propos! While it's mostly just picking out a few clips, you pose for a picture to add to the end and the propos shows pictures of a bunch of characters standing in front of the mockingjay symbol and then you. I was really disappointed that I didn't have the option to save the photo / buy it or something.

The photos below aren't actually both in District 13 but it seemed kind of appropriate to put them together. The first photo, if you noticed the scarf, is from Catching Fire and is on display in District 12. The second photo is from when Katniss and Gale leave the shelter of District 13 (in the movie) and Katniss eventually sings "Hanging Tree." I thought putting these two photos together was kind of interesting because although Katniss is wearing the same color coat (possibly even the exact same coat), Gale's coat is much darker.

The last part of the exhibition is THE PART YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR. Before this point in the exhibition, my friend Cheech was like, "I came here and I didn't even get to see the wedding dress." Of course, I knew the wedding dress was on display because I had casually seen pictures of the actors near it, but I didn't expect to be quite like this. On the way out of District 13, you have to round a pretty sharp corner and you can't really see what's coming until you're there. It's at this point that you behold the absolute beauty of the wedding dress because no photos can do it justice. Ugh, this room. This room was the other part where I cried a little.

The room shows the evolution of Katniss - from her hunting costume in The Hunger Games, to the wedding dress and transformed mockingjay dress in Catching Fire, to her mockingjay armor from Mockingjay. In a small case you can also see the mockingjay pin. This was absolutely stunning - the way the room is lit and the inspiration moments from the film being played on screens in the room made it so breathtaking. (Note: There aren't actually flower petals falling around the dress in the photo below - it's one of the overlays you can use on the guide, and I thought it looked really pretty with the dress.)

And so the exhibition is done! After prying my eyes away from that majestic dress, I was surprised to see that before the gift shop, there was another green screen. You want to know what they do there? THEY PUT YOU IN THE MOVIE. For real. Someone will give you a cape and tell you what to do before and as you film. The video is pretty short, but it follows you as you are the tribute from District 12 going into the tribute parade at the Quarter Quell, flaming outfit and all. It was especially funny because Cheech and I kept laughing because the woman giving us directions thought Sloth was a koala. I would show you my movie but I'm pretty sure the file is too large to upload here and Lionsgate actually owns it since a lot of the footage is from the movie. After you film the video, you're given the option to buy the film, as well as the three photos from before the exhibition and a photo taken in the filming area. I told them to take all my money. When I got my pictures and movie (they told me to go look in the gift shop and they'd bring it to me after they printed the photos), I was super impressed by the presentation. The woman handed me a little black paper bag with the mockingjay symbol large on it. Inside the bag, was a pretty little box with a The Hunger Games Exhibition flashdrive inside (aka my movie) as well as a picture book that had some film photos and my photos in the sleeves next to the pages where it related. I SHALL NOW SHOW YOU MY GLORIOUS PHOTOS, although they're slightly less glorious because my scanner isn't great.

Obviously the last thing after that is the gift shop. My main goal here was the Buttercup stuffed animal because I had seen online that there would be one and I love stuffed animals (hence Stuffed Animal Saturday). This is where I once again said, "take all my money," and spent my money on random things that said The Hunger Games The Exhibition on them. I ended up spending less that I thought I would since I told myself I could not get any of the clothes, but in total with what I spent on the photos/movie, it was a little more than most people would deem socially acceptable to spend on Hunger Games stuff. I do what I want.

So, that's the exhibition! Honestly, I think that if you have the opportunity to go to this exhibition, you should. I absolutely loved every second of it - I spent two hours there and I definitely could have spent more time there to thoroughly read all the different boards and listen to all the commentary leisurely. The tickets are a little pricy at face value, but it was so incredibly well put together and I loved it so much. A must see for fans of The Hunger Games! Seriously though - go buy your ticket now. You need to go.

Will you be seeing The Hunger Games The Exhibition?
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