Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spreading the Love of Reading

Recently I came across an awesome website called GoneReading. These people have devoted their website and store towards a mission to spread literacy throughout the world. A statement from their website:
If you’re like me, you just can’t imagine living in a world without reading. Unfortunately, for almost a billion people today, that’s exactly where they find themselves. There are countless villages, towns and vast regions of this planet where the power of reading has yet to shine its light.
This message especially resonates with me because I myself am running a similar (though not as extensive) project. I am running a book drive along with my friend called Hearts for Ghana. Our goal is to raise 1000 books and $500 for a library located in Africa. If you would like to help us out, please donate a few dollars towards our cause through the Paypal on the right sidebar. If you would be so amazing as to even donate your old, gently used books, email me for more information.
The people at GoneReading have been kind enough to provide me and my blog readers (aka you guys) with a coupon code for any product(s) in their store except bookends. You get 25% off and purchases $25 and above will receive free shipping. What are you waiting for? Go check out their awesome bookish products!
ILIVEILAUGH25
For the comments: How do you make your contribution to promoting world literacy?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: Giuseppe Bianco


Please give a warm welcome to Giuseppe Bianco!
Hello, everyone. My name is Giuseppe Bianco, and I’m very excited to share some fun facts about myself as a storyteller, artist, book lover and classic-cartoon fanatic.
3LB: Who or what inspired you to write? Do you have any role models, whether in writing or life in general?
I’ve always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I read the Harry Potter series when I finally realized, “That’s what I want to do!” To take someone out of this world and invite them into one created by my own imagination, through storytelling; introducing them to characters they could relate to and want to hang out with. To me, that is the ultimate form of escapism. There are so many writers that I draw inspiration from, but my role model is undoubtedly J.K. Rowling.
3LB: Describe A Girl Named Willow Krimble in 5 words or less.
I would say:
Friendship, family, selflessness, and wonder.
3LB: If you could hang out with one of your characters for a day, who would it be?
I would like to hang out with Willow, since her personality encompasses everything I aspire to be. She is a very “glass-half-full” kind of gal. With any luck, a bit of her optimism would cling onto me.
3LB: Do you share personality characteristics with any of your characters? Did you put part of yourself in them as you they were being created on paper and ink?
I would say there is a lot of me in Razzel Fiora. Oh, I’m not as cool, brave or as tough as she is, but her sarcasm is very easy to write, since I myself have been known to spin a few cynical quips in my day.
3LB: What’s next for you? What other books have you written?
I’m having a lot of fun writing about Willow and her friends in book 2. Hopefully I can finish it by end of this year. There are still a lot of open doors that Willow and her friends need to walk through, and I love taking the journey with them.
3LB: If you could bring to life any book character in history, who would you chose?
Since I love cartoon characters and I love Dr. Seuss (another one of my inspirational heroes), I would love to bring The Cat In The Hat to life because he knows how to have fun and still be responsible enough to clean up after himself – even if he does wait until the last possible second. I’d love to speak to him in continuous rhyme. Yes, meeting him would be quite sublime.
3LB: If you were to go live on an island and could only choose 5 books to take with you, what would you choose?
  • The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. I love stories that have a lot of heart. This is certainly one of them.
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I would love to take the entire series, but since I need to narrow it down, I’ll go with the last book.
  • Little Jordan Ray’s Muddy Spud by Gris Grimly. It’s a children’s book and he is my favorite illustrator. If I’m trapped on an island, I want to have some inspirational art to look at.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. If you want to be transported into someone else’s imagination while tapping into your own, read this book.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This would be to remind me: If you are going to tell a story, it needs to be BIG. Not long or short, but BIG. This is a very BIG story. Anyone who’s read it will know what I mean.
3LB: Do you have a favorite mythical creature?
I guess I should say something cool, like a dragon, or something magical, like a unicorn or fairy, but I’m going to go with Sasquatch. That’s right, Bigfoot. Here’s the thing; although he is mythical, there is still a tiny possibility that he actually exists. I love the idea of a creature that is the story of legends, yet sways people to wonder that he just might be out there. Nothing stretches our imaginations farther than the realm of slim possibility.
3LB: What other hobbies do you enjoy aside from reading and writing?
I also draw. I illustrated my own cover as well as the chapter icons in the book. More of my non-Willow-related art can be viewed on my art blog.
3LB: Tell us five interesting things about yourself.
  1. My wife has turned me into a cat person and we now have four cats. They are:   Sherlock, Smokey, Misty and Meadow. I actually like all of them. There, I said it.
  2. I can only write during my commute since I work full time. I am writing this on the train right now. Well, not right now.
  3. I love classic cartoons like Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, etc.
  4. I have a collection of action figures and figurines in my basement. From He-Man, Smurfs, Peanuts, Muppets, Rudolph and other Rankin/Bass holiday specials. Hey, stop judging. It’s a hobby, okay? I don’t mind growing old, but I have issues with growing up.
  5. I have a beautiful wife and daughter who put up with all of the quirks you have been reading about.
3LB: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Lastly, I really want to thank Lucia and any other blogger who has shown their support to, not only me, but any independent author. I know that sometimes there is a certain perceived stigma that goes along with self-published novels. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Of course there shouldn’t be, but sometimes there is. I just wanted to say, that it’s not about who believes in printing your book, it’s about who believes in reading it. I believe in Willow, and I hope you will too.
~~~ 
Thank you, Giuseppe! For more information about Mr. Bianco and his books, visit: 
Purchase A Girl Named Willow Krimble, available now!
So, you’ve just discovered that the person who has tormented, mocked and humiliated you for the past three years is lying in the school parking lot, bleeding internally from a hit and run accident. No one else is around and you need to get to a life-and-death family emergency of your own before it is too late. What would you do? Oh, did I mention you have the secret ability to heal others just by touching them? This is just one of the many situations 13-year-old Willow Krimble must face in this Web Novel, A Girl Named Willow Krimble.

Willow lives with her mother and older brother, Wyatt; she loves hanging out with her best friend, the feisty and sarcastic Razzel Fiora, and she has a close relationship with her grandmother. Seems pretty normal, right? It might be if the two most popular girls in middle school, Shayla Stergus and Snella Burenbine, did not taunt and remind her, on a daily basis, that she was born without her left leg.

Forced to maneuver through obstacles most teenagers would not need to tackle, Willow is suddenly blessed (or cursed?) with the unusual power to heal others through touch. Ever selfless, Willow’s desire to help the injured and sick thrusts her into a world where she is given immense responsibility, putting the needs of others before her own, all the while trying to maintain her secret.

Willow’s adolescent journey takes her through an emotional cyclone where she finds joy and purpose in helping an array of patients from an old man with Alzheimer’s to a mauled animal in a pet store. But Willow soon finds out there are limitations to her ability and, no matter how hard she might try, she cannot save everyone.

Through the intermingling of joy and pain, Willow is repeatedly tested to discover just how strong she can be, how strong she has been her entire life, and how everyone possesses the ability to effect another person’s world, with or without a secret power.


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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Poster
 The Hunger Games


Directed by: Gary Ross
Written by: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
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Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.
***This review contains spoilers from the book. Read at your own risk.***


Man, I hate writing difficult reviews. It's just so... difficult. (I bet you can already see how inspired I am.) A lot of my thoughts are jumbled right now and very, very conflicted, but thanks to my friends with whom I chatted with over the movie, I've been able to sort out a lot of my feelings.


This movie. Wow. Was it good? Um, yes. Was it dramatic? Kids killing each other, a side romance... I'd say yes. Was it with the book? YES!!! That right there is where a lot of the points add up. Gary Ross is a genius. He obviously read and understood the book, and he did a fantastic job pulling together chunks from it and spinning it into a format fit for the silver screen. There were some of changes and additions, but they did nothing to ruin the movie or the book's memory. I mean, Suzanne Collins herself was a co-writer for the screenplay. I'd say that if she agrees, then we should all be cool with it.


Everything major in the book is there. Basically, they did a wonderful job capturing the whole book, the best they could've done, really, with a book of this magnitude. It had creative spins that I really enjoyed and enhanced the story. You got to see the background story with President Snow and Seneca Crane and the Beard, which was really cool.


My absolutely favorite part was Rue's death. I'm sorry if you guys have not read the book or have not finished it or have not seen the movie and I've just spoiled it for you. But I just had to shine some light on it. It was beautifully, excellently done. Bravo.


Those of you that have read the book know what happens at the end of the book. The movie? Well, let's just say it ends on a generally happy note. It's very interesting. Frankly, I'm relieved. I didn't want to see broken hearts. However, I am intrigued as to how they will transition to Catching Fire, as moviegoers that have not read the book have not seen and will not understand Katniss's feelings concerning Peeta and Gale. (They did show Gale practically steaming while watching the infamous cave kissing scene. That was rather amusing, and could be the way they present the romance in the next movie.)


Non-book readers will also enjoy this movie plenty. Although, like I said before, because Katniss didn't narrate the story and we don't know everything from her POV, there's some crucial information that I think was left out. I'm sure they'll figure it all out, though. (Click here to see 10 differences between the book and movie.)


Here's where the irony comes in. I was so incredibly excited for this because of all they did to promote the movie and the book. All the awesome Hunger Games-inspired merchandise, of course, but especially the little clips and pictures that they showed us. The problem is, I feel like all those previews ruined what I absolutely would've loved watching the movie the first time. Peeta's interview? One of my most favorite parts of the book with some of my most favorite lines. Unfortunately, having seen the clip already killed what would've been a total "awwww" moment in the theater. Those few minutes of previews made me feel like I had already seen everything in the film.


Last but not least, the film felt too sped up, especially at the end. I know, some of you are probably like "Lucia, are you kidding me? They can't put the whole book there. It'd take forever." I know, I know. In fact, I'm pretty much thinking that they put too much of the book in there (but any different, and I would've been livid that they didn't put enough of the book in there. I'm just weird like that, okay?). What I did want to see more of was the tribute parade (my most anticipated scene) and the cave scene. Those were way too fast for enjoyment. Another review claimed that the movie, already long enough with two-and-a-half hours, did not spend all that time wisely. I have to say I agree.


In conclusion, I'm feeling some pretty conflicted feelings, with fleeting emotions of disappointment, but mostly satisfied and definitely admiring feelings. I think this is a definite must-watch film. For those of you that have not read the book yet, WATCH THE MOVIE. Then read the book. Makes the book 100000x better, although the movie-makers deserve a lot of awesome points and applause. I can't be too disappointed. I mean, if you wanted a one-sentence review of this movie (instead of that super long, tedious review I just wrote), I'd say: They did the best they could and could not have done any better.


P.S. What is up with people splitting final books into two movies? ARGH.
Synopses, images, and quotes are taken from the Internet Movie Database. (imdb.com)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: Heather Beck

Please give a warm welcome to Heather Beck!
Hi, iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books! Thanks so much for having me on your amazing blog! My name is Heather Beck and I’m an author and screenwriter who writes scary stories for kids, coming-of-age dramas for young adults and paranormal romances for adults. I started writing professionally when I was sixteen and, ten years later, my passion for this industry has only grown. My other interests include hiking, fishing, swimming and just being outdoors.
3LB: Who or what inspired you to write? Do you have any role models, whether in writing or life in general?
I wish I could offer a more concrete answer to what inspires me to write, but honestly, writing is something that is so natural for me. New storylines, settings and characters are always coming to me, and when I am executing these ideas, the words flow freely from my pen. I definitely believe it’s an innate ability that gets better with practice. If I had to pinpoint an external force that inspires me, it would have to be nature. I always get my best ideas when hiking or being near water and beautiful scenery.


I do have role models in writing and life in general. My literary role models are Tennessee Williams and Jack London. I’ve read all of Williams’ plays and am amazed by his ability to be so blatant, accurate and compassionate about the human condition. He really gets to the core of what it means to be human, and he does so in a beautiful and entertaining way. In my own writing, I strive to achieve Williams’ signature feat. Regarding London, I am impressed by his depiction of the struggle between man and nature. This is a theme that has always interested me, probably due to my love of nature. As for my non-literary role models, I have to admit that I don’t have a particular person I look up to. Rather, I admire anyone who endeavors to achieve their goals despite the odds that may be against them. I also admire people who are kind and try to make the world a better place.
3LB: Are any of your characters or scenes based on people/events in your own life?
I’ve never solely based a character on someone in my life. However, it’s inevitable that external forces will shape how I write, so I’m sure some characters possess traits of people I know. To be honest, most of my young adult writing is autobiography masquerading as fiction. I’ve had many unique experiences in my life so far and always incorporate them into my work.
3LB: Do you have anything that you need to have around you when you write, such as a specific playlist/radio station in the background, coffee, a desk in a quiet room?
When I write, I prefer my surroundings to be quiet. However, since that’s not always possible, I’ve become used to writing in most conditions. My absolute favorite place to write is on the dock at my cottage. I also love writing while I lounge in the sun or in my pool.
3LB: What’s next for you? What other books have you written?
I am currently working on edits for the remaining 20 volumes in The Horror Diaries series as well as writing Assorted Candies, an anthology of literary romance for teens. I have also started writing Siren and Fairy Dust, two young adult novels in the paranormal romance genre. Additionally, I will shortly begin work on What Fairy Tales Are Made Of, which will include the last four volumes in the Legends Unleashed series. On the screenwriting side, I have written several short scripts that are scheduled to go into production in 2012. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry is very unstable so I try not to get excited about a project until it is completed. If all goes well, I especially look forward to watching my award-winning short story, The Gap, come to life. The screen adaptation, entitled Too Sensible For Love, tells the story of Alexa – a hardworking waitress with big dreams who is slowly becoming jaded because of her poor living and work conditions. When she meets a rich man who can seemingly give her everything, she loses sight of her original dream and becomes obsessed with wealthy living. However, wealth has a dark side and Alexa has to learn this the hard way. I always have trouble describing Too Sensible For Love because it’s a really multifaceted story. It’s a dark romantic comedy with social commentary running throughout it. Other short scripts I’m looking forward to are Love’s Folly – a romantic comedy that will keep viewers guessing until the end – and Circular – a chilling social commentary about war.
3LB: Wow, that sounds like a busy schedule! Now describe yourself in 3 words. 
Compassionate, loyal and dedicated.
3LB: If you could bring to life any book character in history, who would you chose?
I’m going to be biased and say Forrester from my TV series, Harbor Boys. He is undoubtedly flawed but strives very hard to overcome the less than stellar circumstances he was born into. He is strong, both physically and mentally, ruggedly handsome and possesses a rational foresight that aids him when he’s inevitably put into difficult situations. I admire these traits and find Forrester to be an extremely multifaceted and interesting character.
3LB: If you were to go live on an island and could only choose 5 books to take with you, what would you choose?
I would choose the following titles:
  • The Ultimate Survival Handbook 
  • How To Find And Prepare Tropical Foods 
  • How To Build A Boat 
  • How to Operate A Boat 
  • The Bible 
3LB: I'm assuming you don't know how to build a boat, either? Ha!


Name one guilty pleasure you have.
Vegetable samosas!
3LB: Tell us five interesting things about yourself.
  1. I’m an award-winning fisherwoman who proudly displays her trophy. 
  2. The trait I’m most proud to possess is compassion. Altruistic behavior is a multifaceted gift because it benefits others as well as oneself. 
  3. I really want to swim with dolphins and go deep-sea fishing for a hammerhead shark. 
  4. I am fascinated by Egypt and the pyramids. I went to a King Tut exhibit once and spent way too much time there looking at the gold items and sculptures. 
  5. I’m kind of obsessed with Hummers. I really want a blue sparkly Hummer.
~~~ 
Thank you, Heather! For more information about Ms. Beck and her books, visit:
Purchase her books:
Check out a short film written by Heather, The Rarity!


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Sunday, March 18, 2012

In My Mailbox (34) and The Week in Review

In My Mailbox is a meme designed by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie to promote blogger interaction and put new books on the radar.


I've gotten a few books in these past weeks, so here they are. :D (I'm also thinking this with a British accent-terrible, of course. Not sure why.)
*A Girl Named Willow Krimble by Giuseppe Bianco signed postcards (Check out my interview/giveaway with him soon!)
*Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg (ARC for review. Loved Prom and Prejudice!)
*The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (ARC for review. IRON FEY YAY!)
*500 Low Sodium Recipes by Dick Logue (I've already made a number of these. Very good, easy recipes. Great for those on diets or people that just want to be healthy!)
*Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (For school, of course. But I can't wait to read it!)
*The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (From the public library; read, to be reviewed soon!)
*Maximum Ride: School's Out-Forever by James Patterson (Love this series! Except the last few books. But whatever. This is one of the good ones and I snagged this old copy from a friend.)
*The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer (Loved Artemis Fowl. Another steal from a friend.)
Bourne (River of Time, #3.1) 
*Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren (Novella of The River of Time series. Read and reviewed and loved!)
Shooting StarsThe AcadémieArtemis Fowl
*From NetGalley: Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby, The Académie by Susanne Dunlap, Artemis Fowl #1 and #2 (Again, LOVED this series!)
AND BEST OF ALL: A NEW BOOKCASE!!!!

Thanks to: Giuseppe Bianco, Point (Scholastic), Harlequin Teen, Lisa T. Bergren, Netgalley

THE WEEK(S) IN REVIEW
Books Reviewed:
Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)WanderloveThere You'll Find Me
Author Guests:
*Lois D. Brown (Cycles)
*S.R. Johannes (Untraceable)
*Melanie Cusick-Jones (Hope's Daughter)
*Augusta Blythe (Winterborne)
 
Current Giveaways:
*Winterborne and Ravenstoke by Augusta Blythe (International)

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Follow Friday (40)

Wow, it has seriously been FOREVER since I've done one of these!


It's Follow Friday hosted by Parajunkee and Allison Can Read! Please comment and link your blog! I'd love to check it out!
This week's question is:
What is the best book you’ve read in the last month? What is the worst book you’ve read in the last month?
The best: definitely Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver! The worst: Well, I hate to choose bad books, but since you gave me an easy time period of one month, I'd say Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin.


But to be fair, only half of the month has passed, and I've only read 3 books. Not many choices. But Pandemonium WAS FANTASTIC. Might be one of the best of the year. Period.
Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters 
Upcoming Song of the Week:
Have a fabulous weekend! Happy Reading!!
HOLY CRAP ONLY ONE MORE WEEK!
P.S. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and friend me on Goodreads! And check out my Facebook page!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: There You'll Find Me

There You'll Find MeThere You'll Find Me

Standalone or Series: Spin-off to Save the Date
Author: Jenny B. Jones
Reading Level and Genre(s): YA Christian* Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
Source: Purchased
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Grief brought Finley to Ireland. LOVE WILL LEAD HER HOME.


Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She's witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.


She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will's travel journal. It's the place he felt closest to God, and she's hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.


Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She's the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.


Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?


Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she's been looking for has been with her all along?
I was so disappointed to give this book only four stars, and not the full five I had been anticipating. After reading Jenny B. Jones' awesome The Charmed Life series, I just knew that I had to get her other books, and I decided I was going to like them all. As usual, Jones manages to create what you think is going to be some fluffy, cliche book, but she always manages to throw in some stuff that gives the book a (sometimes dark) twist. Psycho football players? The murder of a circus star? Yeah, it was as awesome (if not weird) as it sounded.


This book had a different feel to it. Whereas The Charmed Life was about Bella, the daughter-of-a-world-class-plastic-surgeon-and-former-Manhattan-socialite-turned-Truman-nobody, it was brighter, at least in comparison to this book. The death of Finley's brother, Will, looms over the entire novel, giving it a darker edge. That doesn't mean this book doesn't have its light moments. It does. All the time. Hilarious banter between Finley Sinclair and Beckett Rush? (He is just as much of a movie star as his name sounds.) It's there all the time, and will keep you laughing.


Speaking of Finley and Beckett. Jones is a master at creating believable, real romances that aren't BAM! INSTA-LOVE!. He's one of the hottest celebrities on the earth, and yet Finley keeps her cool around him. She's snarky and witty on the outside, even though she's very broken on the inside. She has this thing (I call it OCD, but I'm not a doctor or anything) with organizing and controlling. She wants everything to be perfect. And she knows she isn't perfect, and that nobody is, but that doesn't keep her from trying to fix everything. Which is the reason that I had to dock a star. Because no offense, but I had not been planning to read a book about anorexia. The degree to which she kept bemoaning how fat she was and how food made her throw up was disturbing and annoying. The funny parts weren't funny. I know eating disorders are a real life problem, but I just didn't pay to read about them in this book.


I also feel like I should give Mrs. Sweeney some of the spotlight. Her relationship with Finley was truly inspiring and heart-wrenching. I don't really want to talk about it much, because it's one of those bittersweet things, but it was such an enjoyable part of the story. Definitely contributes to the book's "must-read-ness." (Yes, I just made up a really awkward hyphenated word.)


All in all, this was another wonderful product from Jenny B. Jones. She's a really great writer: not only in technique, but in how she composes the story and can draw the reader in. She can make you laugh. She can make you cry. I have not lost faith in her, and I am looking forward to more of her books. I feel like she and Beth Fantaskey, author of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, are kind of similar in writing. While one is fantasy, and one is not (they both write about vampires, heh), I would recommend reading that if you liked this book.


*While this book is obviously Christian (many Bible verses and ideas of faith), it's not done so in a pushy way. She's not trying to convert you. Many other reviewers also agreed that this book was not overwhelmingly Christian.


First Line:
Sometimes I think about when I was little, and my older brothers would take me out to fly kites.

Random Quotes/Excerpts:
I couldn't look away from him. The breeze tossed my hair, bit against my jacket, and all I could do was watch this mercurial boy.
     His piercing gaze still holding mine, his fingers eased toward my face. I closed my eyes as his skin brushed mine, his thumb tracing a path across my cheek.
     Behind me a seagull called, its cry piercing the air.
     And the spell was broken.
     Beckett cleared his throat, dropped his hand. "It was..."
     Insanity. Ridiculous. A moment of crazy.
     It was seconds of heart-twisting awe.
     "It was a bug."

Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does receive books for review for free by publishers or authors. For every book reviewed – whether sent by publisher, author or books purchased, it will be graded with a clean and open mind. A free book received will not influence any opinion of the contents of the book.
Spoilers may or may not have been present in this review. While iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does review honestly, reviews are not specifically checked for spoilers. Attempts at avoiding spoilers are made, but not all are removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement placed on all reviews as a warning to those who read them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

 Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Standalone or Series: Standalone
Author: Meredith Zeitlin
Reading Level and Genre(s): YA Contemporary
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
*Note: The text featured in this post is from an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC). Changes may have been made in the final proof.
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So, let's say you're fourteen years old and you live in New York City.
     You don't have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express Card. No fake ID, either -- not that you'd pass for 21 in a million years even if you did. The only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made out of an old laundry bag when you were eleven. You've never been to a club, or had a drink served in a martini glass or, frankly, done anything really NYC-ish at all.
     In other words? You're me: Kelsey Finkelstein.
     But don't despair, people—I'm starting high school in less than a week! This is going to be the year that I live up to all of my untapped potential—finally.
Looking at the premise for the book, I pictured a cute book narrated by a funny, quirky, over-dramatic girl who thought that her issues were the biggest and only issues in the world (because isn't that what every teenager thinks?). And I was right. Kelsey Finkelstein is about to be born again when she enters the daunting world of high school, and she's ready to tackle it and have the best year ever. But of course, she is met with the typical challenges of traitorous best friends, bullying upperclassmen, and some extremely awkward "wrong place, wrong time" photo situations that keep her from reaching her highest potential.

The thing that brought this book down for me was the voice. Kelsey Finkelstein was whiny and immature, often to point of being not funny (it was just too annoying). While I understand the author wanted to capture the voice and mind of a "Typical Adolescent," I felt it was overdone. Not only that, but Kelsey jumped between sounding like a 10-year old and using cuss words while talking about controversial topics such as sex and drinking. When those unsavory words made their occasional appearance within the text, it felt awkward, like a little girl wearing her mom's shoes. They just didn't fit her formerly younger voice.

Which brings me to another point. Like many books, Kelsey addresses the idea of sex and how she fears everybody else has done it except her (which we all know is not true anyways). She's afraid to do it, and I applaud her for that. What bothered me was her casualness with drinking. Since when to freshmen just hop over to a friend's house and drink beer? And then, after a violent encounter between heavy glass bottle and tooth gets let off easily with barely a reprimand from Mom? I don't think that's a very realistic situation. If I ever got drunk and broke half my tooth off, my mom would kill me. The thing I would most fear would not be dying of embarrassment at school the next day, but filicide (who's being overly dramatic now?).

The end is what saved this book. Kind of. It finished well enough that I was able to forgive some of what I had just read, but it was still a little too abrupt. Julie, the main bullying upperclassman, is a topic that I wish was broached upon a little more. All we know is that she has evil inclinations towards freshmen (for no reason whatsoever.... made no sense to me at all) and has bushy eyebrows. Oh, but then she gets drunk and Kelsey helps her, so Julie is somewhat human to her... but then acts like a *bad word* again when the other upperclassmen come in. I'm still confused.


There was one seriously LOL scene in this book. The part during the play with the whole beard situation. The problem was, I was reading this during TAKS testing. As in, that annual state-mandated, school board-regulated examination. So I had to hold in my laughter and ended up sounding like I was doing some weird combination of hyperventilating, crying, and gasping.

In conclusion, this book presented me with nothing new or particularly fascinating. Nothing worth special mention stuck with me, and all I can truly remember is her annoying voice. This book would probably be enjoyable to middle school readers, because they're always been interested in what high school is like... oh but wait, we have many mentions of drinking and sex. Which is probably not appropriate. All I can say is, read at your own risk.

P.S. The whole Ben situation made no sense to me. (This brings me back to the too-short-and-abrupt book thing.)


First Line:
Here it is, practically mid-September, and it's still too hot to live.

Random Quotes/Excerpts:
"Em, what is going on?" She wipes at her face as the tears come faster, and people are starting to look at us. I know how much Em hates to be the center of attention, so I quickly grab her books from her and steer her toward the girls' bathroom. Once we get inside, she totally falls apart, sobbing.
Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does receive books for review for free by publishers or authors. For every book reviewed – whether sent by publisher, author or books purchased, it will be graded with a clean and open mind. A free book received will not influence any opinion of the contents of the book.
Spoilers may or may not have been present in this review. While iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does review honestly, reviews are not specifically checked for spoilers. Attempts at avoiding spoilers are made, but not all are removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement placed on all reviews as a warning to those who read them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: Augusta Blythe

Please give a warm welcome to Augusta Blythe!
Hello to everyone on Lucia's blog! My name is Augusta Blythe and I am a mother, writer, aunt, lawyer, wife (not necessarily in that order). I'm American, but I live in the UK. My kids and I are dual citizens. I am left-handed, a Leo, and can bend my fingers back to a disturbing angle.
3LB: Who or what inspired you to write? Do you have any role models, whether in writing or life in general?
No writers in my family, but my great grandmother had an adventurous spirit that influenced my writing early on. Stories about her and my great grandfather had that 'larger than life' quality. When she was 18, she moved on her own from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia. My great grandfather was away at sea at the time so she took their newborn daughter and went by ship on her own.
3LB: Create a haiku about Winterborne.
I'm having flashbacks to English class. Okay, I think I'm breaking some haiku rules but here goes --
Blizzard ages old
Buds of deceit blossom and grow
The shifting sun shines anew
3LB: Are any of your characters or scenes based on people/events in your own life?
Yes. In Winterborne, Loie's Gran is based on my own grandmother. She was one of those people without a filter, said whatever came to mind, however mean or inappropriate. It makes her sound awful, but she was actually hilarious and she liked people who could take it and dish it right back. I sprinkled a little of myself in both Loie and Mia, but neither is more like me than the other.
3LB: Do you have anything that you need to have around you when you write, such as a specific playlist/radio station in the background, coffee, a desk in a quiet room?
I've been adjusting my workspace because I haven't sat at a desk for years and I miss it when I'm writing. I've recently created a space with a desk upstairs but I find myself drifting downstairs anyway. I just need to get in the habit. I prefer silence unless I'm trying to evoke a certain tone or mood and can't get there without help. Then I'll find appropriate music to give me a boost. For Winterborne and Ravenstoke, I played a lot of Glee and Keane (for reasons that will be obvious to readers of Ravenstoke). The Glee soundtracks are so varied, you can find just about anything you need.
3LB: What’s next for you? What other books have you written?
I am about to publish a middle grade fantasy book called In the Land of the Sapphire Sea. I also have a new YA series in the pipeline as well as the third book in the Universe Unbound series, The Yawning Void.
3LB: If you had to live your life as an animal, what would you be?
Can I say a unicorn? If it has to be a real animal, I'll go with a blue whale.
3LB: Time travel: Future or past? And where and when would you go to?
I'm an English history nut (no surprise that I now live in England) so probably Tudor England to warn all those poor wives of Henry VIII. There have been a couple of television shows recently that involved time traveling to kill Hitler. Both were brilliant (Misfits and Dr. Who).
3LB: If you could have any supernatural ability, what would it be, and why?
I like the idea of being able to morph one object into another, limited only by my imagination.
3LB: Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring writers?
Read a lot. Read bad books as well as good books so you can see the difference. Read different genres to get a sense of your own style preferences. Then write a lot.
3LB: Tell us five interesting things about yourself.
  1. I am double jointed (see my intro).
  2. I cannot roll my tongue.
  3. I told a joke on The Muppet Show when I was young.
  4. I once slept in a brothel.
  5. I went cave tubing in New Zealand with a group of schoolgirls from China and Japan (they were traveling together on a bonding trip).
3LB: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If you like a book, even if you're not a blogger, please support the author by posting reviews anywhere you can think of (Amazon, B&N, GoodReads). It makes a huge difference!
~~~
Thank you, Augusta! For more information about Ms. Blythe and her books, visit:
Purchase Winterborne and Ravenstoke, available now!
Sixteen-year old Mia Winterborne is destined to be special. Details are sketchy, though, as her dad disappeared with all the answers when she was five. Mia only knows that she’ll inherit her kickass superpowers on her seventeenth birthday. Helping Mia prepare for her anticipated ascendancy is Loie Bryce, her best friend and eternal sidekick extraordinaire. The girls’ intense friendship has never wavered until now, when Andreas arrives in Salcey Ridge. They both fall hard for the British hottie, who quickly becomes a fixture in their lives. When they discover that Andreas is not who he appears to be, the frightening reality of Mia’s powers finally hits home. The nearer Mia’s birthday draws, the more the danger escalates and long-buried lies are exposed, putting the girls on a path that they never expected.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: Entwined

EntwinedEntwined

Standalone or Series: Standalone
Author: Heather Dixon
Reading Level and Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Features: The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2011
Source: Purchased
Photobucket
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.


The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.


Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.


But there is a cost.


The Keeper likes to keep things.


Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
I love fairy tales, and I love fairy tale retellings just as much. Needless to say, I was super excited when I got this book, and I was hoping that the inside of the book would live up to the gorgeous cover on the front. Well it did. Mostly.


Heather Dixon stayed true to the classic fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm (Although I just couldn't fathom how new-born Lily could already dance at such a young age. But that's not that point). Each of the girls shone in her own way, with her own personality. It could get a little confusing, but the more you went along, the more you started admiring Clover and Bramble and the more you wanted to sock Delphinium in the face. Azalea, the eldest, was our heroine. There was something about her personality that I didn't like, which was why I didn't really get into the book as much as I could have. What saved the novel was Dixon's writing, light and humorous, kind of wispy and tendrilly in a way that could pull you in.


This book had its light moments, and its dark moments. Keeper is creepy. There is no other word for it. He gave me shivers, and not the good kind, but the scary kind. Contrasting him is a certain "warm" gentleman that I really wish made more appearances in the novel. Dancing is highlighted in this book, with the Entwine being featured as both a fun, romantic dance and the evil devices of a villainous magician (cue shivers).


All in all, the setting and atmosphere of this story is what really drew me in. The plot wasn't anything new or surprising, but I think Dixon did a fine job making it into her own, as well as not straying from the classic. If you're easily spooked (like me), I recommend not reading this at night, ha. Fantasy fans will definitely enjoy this one.


Postscript: kudos to Heather Dixon for not following the status quo and publishing a fantasy novel that isn't in a series.


First Line:
An hour before Azalea's first ball began, she paced the ballroom flour, tracing her toes in a waltz. She had the opening dance with the King... who danced like a brick.

Random Quotes/Excerpts:
All the girls joined in.
     "I was thirteen last April and it rained on my birthday and I didn't even get to wear anything special-"
     "We turned ten-just two months ago-"
     "I usually get a book for my birthday-but-this year-"
     "You forgot my birthday, too."
     "And mine."
     The girls looked miserable. The King opened his mouth, then shut it.
     "Sir!" whined Lord Teddie. "You forgot my birthday, too!"
     Bramble gave a surprised laugh, then slapped her hand over her mouth, as though shocked at letting it out. The tension broke. The girls laughed sheepishly, and Lord Teddie  beamed. He probably did not have many ladies think him funny. In fact, he probably got slapped by a lot of them.


Azalea knelt on the path and brushed pine needles from the knit shawl. Shaking it and sending a puff of silver dust from it, she folded it, stood quickly-
     And hit her head against something hard and solid.
     "Ow!" she stammered.
     "Oh, forgi-"
     The man's voice cut abruptly. Azalea blanched at the empty mist. No one was there! Behind her, the girls' eyes grew as wide as tea saucers.
     "It's a ghost!" squeaked Flora.
     The girls screamed. They clutched their skirts in both hands and kick footed it to the bridge.

Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does receive books for review for free by publishers or authors. For every book reviewed – whether sent by publisher, author or books purchased, it will be graded with a clean and open mind. A free book received will not influence any opinion of the contents of the book.
Spoilers may or may not have been present in this review. While iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does review honestly, reviews are not specifically checked for spoilers. Attempts at avoiding spoilers are made, but not all are removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement placed on all reviews as a warning to those who read them.

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