Friday, May 30, 2014

{ARC Review} Curses and Smoke: a Novel of Pompeii: Vicky Alvear Shecter

Rating: 3/10
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult,
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Page Count: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Synopsis: When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto? TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But his warrior's heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.

LUCIA is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she's been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air. . . .

When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them -- to Lucia's father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?

Do you know what time it is *does awkward dance that would get her thrown out of places* Backstory Time! If you have been visiting my blog for even a smidgen of time, you will know I am nearly famous for going off on tangents about how I got the book, why I read it, and so forth. This book.... this book sounded AMAZING. I am known to enjoy a his fic (historical fiction novel) every once in a while, and I thought this would be my perfect fix for the next month or so. When I saw it on Netgalley, my click-happy self requested the book, and I got accepted. Let me just tell you a little preview of my feelings. 

You know in those movies where they go into the scary house, or dangerous situation and know that something is wrong? Well, that's what happened the moment I started reading C&S. I could not put my finger on that something, and like that lovely GIF up above, I thought, "If I ignore that something, it will go away." 

So I kept reading.... and reading.... and reading.  

Fast Forward to around 20% or 70 pages of C&S, well that something wasn't disappearing, and that something now had a name. If you fast forward my reading experience to the end of the novel, that list of somethings is LONG. A few weeks ago, I posted my top 10 list of "Books I Almost Put Down, But Didn't" Curses and Smoke needed to be on that list, and the side of the list of the books I wish I had put down. Truthfully, I kept holding on and on by a thin thin thread (Maroon 5 song -Sad). I kept wishing I would get over that precipice of boredom and distraught. 

I didn't.

Where do I even start with this book? It might just be an "it's me not you" thing, but I had issues with the plot, originality, pacing, characters, romance, and especially the writing style.

Plot/Originality: Remember on twitter when I was talking about writing short stories and putting them into books for an assignment? Well one of my classmates wrote a love story set in Pompeii. I could get into how weird that is (immature teenage boy writing a love story), but that has nothing to do with this review. Anyway, he is not the best writer, and certainly not the most creative. Yet, he wrote a story with a plot line almost exactly following Curses and Smoke. I also know for a fact that he is not secretly a book blogger that receives ARCs. So.... that flushes the plot line and originality for Curses and Smoke down the toilet. Obviously, the star crossed lovers living in opposite classes is a universal theme, and one used often in historical fiction, but I honestly think that Shecter could have done something interesting with it.

Characters: Tag and Lucia made me want to rip my hairs out one by one. You know the phrase "still waters run deep"? Well how about "still waters are stagnant and that's all there is to it"? The characters were shallow, so not personable (not a word), and were almost like slabs of rock. The only case in which this would work with characters is if it was some high authority figure who seemed to be untouchable and whose walls seem unbreachable by anybody else. This was completely not the case. I didn't feel like I knew who they were at all, or that they had some storied past, or anything else. I literally had more connection with the destruction that the volcano made than with them. 

Romance: Their romance was freaking cliche. It was as if it was a scene from a play that went like this, "Hi, I'm Tag, I'm madly in love with you but we can't be together because I am a slave and you're the rich Domina that could have me executed if you wanted." The two of them together didn't seem like such a good match either because they didn't balance each other out, or were similar. They seemed a lot like Romeo and Juliette wannabes, stealing "amazing kisses" (from Lucia) in the woods, and wanting to run away together. Yay them *rolls eyes*. 

Writing Style: What got to me so much was the writing style of Curses and Smoke. This is a historical fiction novel. That means they are in the past. They are not supposed to sound like 21st century teenagers. I admit they didn't say, "Whatever" or "Duh," but it came pretty close to it with phrases like, "I got it." It was so seemingly modern, and frankly, poorly written. The description of action sequences,  who the characters were, and the emotions people felt.

Pacing: All you need to do is read my backstory to understand my issues with the pacing, paired with all of the other factors. I believe, that with the interesting premise, I could have given the book a higher rating if the pacing had been quicker, and the plot developed quicker. 

***Mini-Spoiler About Ending***
So, I was in the car on the way home from running, and I was telling my mom that books have gotten so cliche, your heart wrenches, you clench your fists, and you cry. All for what? The characters live, they get what they want, "they all live happily ever after." I love happy endings, if I love the characters, and sad endings make me want to punch authors. However, a majority of novels I have read in the past few months have had happy endings, and I just didn't want that to happen with Curses and Smoke. The synopsis sets everything up for a happy ending, but for the first time in forever (another song reference), it is sad. I am so sorry to admit this, but I was quite happy with the ending. I was like, "YAY! One of the MCs died!" This proves just how much of a connection (or lack thereof) with the characters I had. Everything about it was rushed, and if I had enjoyed C&S, I would have thought of it as a WTF moment.

Conclusion: I was highly disappointed with this novel because of the amazing premise, but the characters, plot, and writing style disappointed me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Music of Nashville- Season 2 Volume 2: Media Mondays (3)

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the third ever Media Mondays. I am here to review something that I have been waiting to review for you since like forever....totes. You might know, from the first ever Media Mondays that I enjoy the ABC Drama Nashville a lot. You might also know that the show recently had its season finale for its second season and it was #EPIC! And we #Nashies are on for a 22 episode season 3 which we almost didn't get due to budget cuts. You also might know that Nashville has some of the best music in any genre, and if you think it is confined to purely country, yo are wrong because it has a lot of diversity in sound from good ole hill billy music, to ethereal love ballads, to rocking out "Go to Hell!" songs. 

One thing I would like to point out is that if you go to Target, they offer a deluxe edition of the album with 21 songs, including some never-before-released ones, and coming from the person that bought it, I will say that the extra money was completely worth it. But, if you are so inclined to go the cheaper route, those songs which are included on the regular iTunes version of the album are started.

I am going to do something different with this review, and categorize each song into a different genre and/or subgenre of coutnry music in order to prove my point that Nashville has music for almost every taste.

Track Listing
***1. He Aint Gonna Change ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James). Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes) 

***2. I Ain't Leaving Without Your Love ~ Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott). Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley)
***3. Believing ~ Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad)
4. Hurtin' On Me ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington)
***5. Lately ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor). Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott)
6. Wrong for the Right Reasons ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James)
7. Everything I'll Ever Need ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley)
***8. Joy Parade ~ Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad)
9. Come Find Me ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor)
***10. It's On Tonight ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington). Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Will Chase (Luke Wheeler)
11. Hennessee ~ Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott). Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley)
***12. It All Slows Down ~ Aubrey Peeples (Layla Grant)
***13. Is That Who I Am ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington)
***14. This Time ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James)
***15. Black Roses ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor)
16. Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes)
17. A Life That's Good ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James). Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad)
18. Carry You Home ~ Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton)
19. Then I Was Loved By You ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington)
20. Falling ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor)
21. Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet  [Orchestral Version] ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes)

***1. He Aint Gonna Change ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James). Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes): 5/10: I think this song really wasn't needed on the album of the show itself, I suppose it was included because it's the only Rayna/Juliette song that was meant to try and have the same success that "Wrong Song" had, but I just don't like it too much. The lyrics are generally bland, and what one would cinsider sterotypical country music. The vocals aren't particularly stunning, there aren't many high notes, or particularly inrtiguing riffs. I truly think this was uneeded in the album, and especially as the first song.

***2. I Ain't Leaving Without Your Love ~ Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott). Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley): 8/10: Most of my opinions on this song can be found on Nashville On the Record: Media Mondays (1) because there isn't a huge difference between the live version and studio. I will say that I like the trio (Avery/Gunnar/Zoey) better because of this song.  

***3. Believing ~ Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad): 9/10: I absolutely fell in love with this song when it first aired on the show last January, and almost forogt about it because it wasn't offered on iTunes or Spotify, I believe so vieweres would specifically have tobuy the album. Any song with Lennon and Maisy in it is Stellar (get it, because their last name is Stella), but adding Deacon into it made it even better, especially with the certain turn of events that commenced while the song played. Lennon and Charles's voices harmonized beautifully, and I positively adored Maisy in this song, even if her only parts were "ooooooh, ooooooh" and "you keep me believing". 

4. Hurtin' On Me ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington): 6.75/10: I never really liked the songs Chris sang on the show until the second half came along. I know "What If I Was Willing" was a big hit on both the show and real life, but I never saw what made it so popular. This song is very generic 'guy' country music, but I like it a lot anywway, and I had a fun time embarassing myself while dancing wildly as it played.

***5. Lately ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor). Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott): 4/10: I'm truly sorry, but I never liked this song. I didn't like it when I first heard it on the show performed for Kelly Clarkson. I didn't like it when it came on Spotify. I don't like it now. So much pressure is put on a 'Scarllett and Gunnar Song', and this just isn't one, at least in my personal opinion. The lyrics, seem too lovey dovey, and there aren't any very unique notes sang throughout the song. 

"Think of all the morning stars you would have missed....
if you hadn't weathered through the dead of night.
Every single heartbeat you didn't skip....
was the answer why."

6. Wrong for the Right Reasons ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James): 9/10: Don't ask me why, I'm still trying to figure it out myself, but there is this pattern with Connie Britton songs and myself. When I first hear them on the show, or even the second and third time after, I don't like them because I think she doesn't have much vocal range. But something, after a while makes me fall in the love the Connie Britton Specials. For one, the lyrics are usually very inspirational, and for another, she usually builds up from the beginning and ends spectacularly. 

"Even if you think you're at a standstill....
even when you've got not place to call home.
Everyone goes past you running uphill....
just be here.
You don't have to understand the if and when....
you just need to understand it's part of life.
Never certain where you're going.... but you'll always arrive"

7. Everything I'll Ever Need ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley): 7/10: This is frankly just a sweet love song between two people, obviously Juliette and Avery. The circumstances of the song were sweet as well because it was at a point in the show where Juliette was getting a lot of hate from people, so Avery took her busking to prove that people liked her actually for her voice instead of the glitter and teen pop stuff.  

"I will hope and I will love.
I will give 'til there's enough.
That's the life I'm dreaming of,
I won't give up." 

***8. Joy Parade ~ Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad): 9/10: So this song has been on repeat so much that my mom thought it had been around since like 2009, or some previous year that was obviously not this one -THAT is how much I had been listening to this song even before I purchased the CD. It's not the best Lennon & Maisy song, it was actually quite ordinary when I first heard it, but now I love it just because of its positive message and ability to make me happy.

"I will bend and I will sway
I will fight to stand up straight,
When troubled winds blow my way,
I won't break."

"I will stumble, I will crawl.
Bang my head against these walls.
In the end I won't have it all,
But I'll stand tall.

9. Come Find Me ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor): 10/10: Holy sweet mother of something. This song is so good. I think we all remember the episode this was sung on, and how much all of us #Nashies wanted this to go on iTunes. It was literally only a one minute clip between Scarlett and Liam (by the way, I shipped them), but it was magical all the same. While watching the "On the Record" segment about this song, was the fact that this song was a really big step for Scarlett, branching off of her usual comfort zone.

***10. It's On Tonight ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington). Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Will Chase (Luke Wheeler): 7/10: Country Disco. That is what my mother called this song. I don't know if #Nashies should be offended.... or glad with this interpretation of "It's On Tonight." Basically, it is a rocking country trio between Luke, Will, and Deacon, that is along the lines of Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan's single -This is How We Roll. It is a fun, get up and dance song with classic male country lyrics.

11. Hennessee ~ Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott). Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley): 5/10: This is the song I did not like from the trio very much because the words weren't very distinct and I couldn't hear the individual voices as much as I would have liked.

***12. It All Slows Down ~ Aubrey Peeples (Layla Grant): 6/10: I admit, I like the song, it's nice, it's catchy, but it is totally tween music. This is EXACTLY what Juliette was trying to break away from the entire season, and her counterpart does this song. The lyrics, are just about some love story (I'm assuming Layla and Will's), and are not at all unique. Aubrey has only had three songs on Season Two -Gonna Get Even, Tell Me, and It All Slows Down- all of those songs were classic tween songs, and that was the purpose, I believe, but during the acoustic version of "Tell Me" you can definitely 'tell' that she has a voice and a lot of potential for the show.

"I've always been broken underneath my smile, 
So you thought that I was happy for a while,
If I'm being honest I didn't stand a chance,
Is that who I am?"

***13. Is That Who I Am ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington) 10/10: This *might* be my favorite song on the entire album because it shows a very different side of Will. This is all about how he is gay, and that is who he is. Yet, he can't tell anybody for fear of ruining his image. Some of the lyrics just hit home, for me, and people that struggle with their identity and who they are -so basically, every teenager on this planet.

"Staring at my shadow for way too long,
If I never did nothing then nothing could go wrong,
I've always been singing, I never had a song, 
Is that who I am?"

***14. This Time ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James): 7/10: This was the first single we hear off of Rayna's album (the one the entirety of Highway 65 is depending on), and it is a rockin single. It's unlike a lot of her other songs, such as "Buried Under," "Wrong Song," "The End of the Day," "Stronger Than Me," "Ball and Chain," and "Wrong for the Right Reasons." It has this edge to it, and a catchiness some of her others haven't had. Personally, my feelings were mixed when I first listened to it, but I am happy to say I now love it.

"I can see your eyes,
staring into mine,but it's a battlefield and I'm on the other side.
You can throw your words,sharper than a knife,
and leave me cold, in another house on fire."

***15. Black Roses ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor): 10/10: All my feelings are found on my review of "Nashville On the Record," but basically, this is the best song on the entire album and the entire show. The emotion conveyed, the narrative, the backstory. All and every element of it is incredible and leaves goosebumps on my skin every single time. 

"And I'm done trying to be the one picking up the broken pieces
And I'm done trying to be the one who says I love you dear but I'm leaving
Now you only bring me black roses and they crumble into dust when they're held
Now you only bring me black roses but I'm not under your spell"

16. Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes) 8/10: This was a firecracker song that Juliette and Avery wrote together that was basically saying "Go to Hell" to all of country music. Besides that, there are great vocals, lyrics, and instruments.

17. A Life That's Good ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James). Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad): 9/10: I think a lot of us have also heard this one, I mean it is the best narrative/heartfelt song that on the show. It was originally sung by Maddie and Daphne, as a cover of Deacon's song, and when the four of them go to Fort Campbell, it's magical. I personally do not like Rayna singing on the record quite as much as the girls and Deacon, but she does give it more perspective.

18. Carry You Home ~ Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton): 9/10: Zoey. Zoey. Zoey. You have blown us away again. I am not that into churchy hymns, but "Wayfaring Stranger" was one of the most honest and pure songs we have had on the show, so I was very glad to have another inspirational ballad. 

"I was lost as lost could be,
I was running aimlessly....
down a road that only leads to nowhere fast
Couldn't no one slow me down....
lift me up on solid ground
Yeah our love was nothing more than broken glass,
Then I was loved by you."

19. Then I Was Loved By You ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington): 8/10: I really enjoy this song, but something about it makes me wish it was sung a little more acousticly. I know there is just a guitar and maybe some other instrument, and I love the lyrics, but I wish it was a little more pure like "Is that Who I Am"

"I've been a mover and a shaker.... 
a sinner and a taker....
 a big mistake maker all my life,
I was a sucker for the good times,
A crosser of the straight line,
A shadow in the sunshine and I was blind,
Then I was loved by you."

20. Falling ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor): 9/10: This is bad, but I actually don't remember when this song was sung on the show -I believe for the stock holder's showcase, but I could be totally wrong. I don't believe this song was written by Scarlett, but if it was, it is a perfect song for her and Gunnar, and especially her and Avery, because like she said in Your Good Girl is Gonna Go Bad [episode 20] Avery was her first love, and was there for her when her mother was being.... out of the ordinary.

"I thought things couldn't get much worse
But guess what they did
You hit my heart upside with a wrecking ball
Oh but that's what I get
But I'm not going nowhereI can live on my prayers
'Cause I'm done playin' nice
I'm done running for life
'Cause you think that you got me scared"

21. Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet  [Orchestral Version] ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes): 10/10: I actually enjoy the orchestral version better than the original, because it seems even more sultry to myself, and the circumstances in They Don't Make Em' Like Daddy Anymore [episode 15] were quite unusual.

Stand Up and Dance Country Music

***2. I Ain't Leaving Without Your Love ~ Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott). Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley)
11. Hennessee ~ Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott). Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley)
***14. This Time ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James)

Classic Country

4. Hurtin' On Me ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington)
***10. It's On Tonight ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington). Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Will Chase (Luke Wheeler)

Soulful Ethereal Ballads
***5. Lately ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor). Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott)

***15. Black Roses ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor)
20. Falling ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor)

Acoustic Narratives 
***3. Believing ~ Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad)
9. Come Find Me ~ Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor)
***13. Is That Who I Am ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington)

Love songs
7. Everything I'll Ever Need ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes). Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley)
18. Carry You Home ~ Chaley Rose (Zoey Dalton)
19. Then I Was Loved By You ~ Chris Carmack (Will Lexington)

My Personal Favorites:
6. Wrong for the Right Reasons ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James)
***8. Joy Parade ~ Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad)
21. Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet  [Orchestral Version] ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes)

My Not-So-Favorites
***1. He Aint Gonna Change ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James). Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes) 
***12. It All Slows Down ~ Aubrey Peeples (Layla Grant)
16. Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet ~ Hayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes)
17. A Life That's Good ~ Connie Britton (Rayna James). Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne). Lennon & Maisy Stella (Maddie & Daphne Conrad)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

{Day Two} Author Interaction & More Than Just Words: Armchair BEA 2014

Author Interaction

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes
Welcome, welcome ladies and gentlemen to Day TWO of the wonderful online celebration known as Armchair BEA. One of today's topics is Author Interaction which is a really fun topic because it means I can show off the post I am most proud of on Loving the Language of Literacy.

So I have always loved books, but it wasn't until I started blogging that I signed up for Twitter, and started actively searching for book signings in my area. Obviously, that was how interactions had changed for myself, because those interactions were non existent before. One of my first and only tips is:
Treat authors like they're real people.
This seems like such an obvious given for anybody with manners, but I consider myself a well mannered person, and I have flubbed up talking to authors. It's not as if I saw an author eating a pretzel and gasped, "You eat pretzels too?" Although I did kind of sort of say that in my head when I was looking through Laurie Halse Anderson's pictures on twitter and saw that she and her husband had peanuts and pretzels on an airplane. Face it, I am a weird person. Anyway, I basically feel like freaking out when I interact with authors in real life the way some of my friends would freak out about One Direction. I kind of idolize authors the way some people like One Direction or the Pope. 
Kind of like this, I'm totally an owl
A perfect example of this is when I met Andrew Smith (aka. author of Grasshopper Jungle and Winger). I had SOOO many good, literate questions I could have asked him that I had thought of while reading Grasshopper Jungle.... instead, my breath got hitched, I almost hyperventilated and sputtered out, "Are you writing a sequel?" So that IRL (in real life) author interaction was a #fail. 

Luckily I have had some amazing author interactions, My biggest claim to fame is the post "Meeting Marvelous Marie Lu" where I talked about.... wait for it.... Meeting Marvelous Marie Lu (the title is self-explanatory). I transcribed 25 minutes of footage I had gotten while at the signing for Champion, and while it was hell while transcribing, I've never been happier to push that "Publish" button on my blog.  
"Find out about "Pantsers vs. Plotters", interrupting Marie Lu, a new series with the Black Death leading to magical powers, the history of paper clips, and Day being named after Daniel Radcliffe."
I actually asked a coherent question at this book signing, and if you want to know which one it is, just look at the questions with *stars* next to them. I also had the pleasure of meeting Amie Kaufman, Megan Spooner (co-authors of These Broken Stars), as well as Margaret Stohl (one half of Beautiful Creatures as well as Icons), and Marie Lu again which was super fun. I do not have a post from this, but during the summer when I'm bored, I might actually transcribe the footage. (Tell me in the comments if you would like this to happen). 

So that covers the extent of my major IRL author interactions since I started blogging, (although I did meet Cornelia Funke author of many Middle Grade books like Reckless and Inkheart) but I have had so many twitter interactions that I never would have had else wise. It feels so good for me to know that an author can see my positive feedback for their book, excitement about a sequel, or squeals of joy from a library haul. Some examples have been with Kasie West, when I tweeted about finishing Pivot Point and she said she had pondered not writing a sequel. Or when I tweeted about a library haul and Courtney Stevens (Faking Normal), Neal Shusterman (Unwind Quartet/Skinjacker Trilogy), and Ruta Sepetys (Out of the Easy/Between Shades of Gray) replied. I have been so lucky to be able to interact with these authors, and the sheer opportunity to interact with them is something I am extremely grateful for.

What about you? Have you interacted with some authors you have idolized via Twitter or IRL since you started blogging?

More Than Just Words
I know I haven't talked about this much yet on my blog since it was something I tended to do a lot more when I was younger, but when I was little, I loved listening to audio books. On the occasions, I wasn't reading, I would be playing with my dolls, but I got to experience stories at the same time. I can still to this day recite entire monologues from all 7 Narnia books, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and the Secret Garden. These are by far my favorite form of books because, if they are done well, they are exactly like reading books, but with sounds. This may be obvious, they are audio books, right? Yet there is something magical about hearing different voices and sound effects, the tone of Aslan's voice, or the sound of Jo March slamming a door cannot be described in a book. I also tend to be a vocal/audio learner, so this helps me a lot as well. Audio books are sort of like movies, but they still leave room for imagination. Many times, I hear from book bloggers (and even an author) how a movie ruined their image of a book and its world. Audiobooks let the listener gain knowledge that wouldn't have previously been available, yet they still let you imagine the coveted "puffed sleeves" of Anne's dress.

Mini Plugin: Sync is offering a classic and contemporary audio book every week up until mid-August and I highly suggest that you check it out if you haven't already. Just think.... FREE audiobooks. I am almost through listening to Cruel Beauty by Rosamond Hodge and let me tell you, even though there's only one narrator, she is astounding in her upper-crust British accent. What's fun about this program is that the classic and contemporary Sync chooses have something in common, this week it's love-hate relationships with parents displayed in Cruel Beauty and Oedipus the King.

I don't read graphic novels or comics, but I did recently read Every You, Every Me by David Levithan which was my first photographic novel. Basically, every few pages, there was an image/photo to go along with the story, and even though I didn't like the plot itself that much, this new style is definitely something I would like to see in future YA novels.

I would like to know from you, what kinds of books have you experienced that are "more than just words"? Are you a snob like I am when it comes to audiobooks, do you have to have multiple narrators? 

Monday, May 26, 2014

{Blog Tour+Giveaway+Interview+Review} Branded (Sinners #1): Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Rating: 7.75/10
Series: Sinners #1
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance,
Publication Date: 
Page Count:
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley from Mark My Words Publicity

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ B&N

Goodreads Synopsis: Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best. 

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home. 

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain. 

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me. 
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. 
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.


What was it like co-authoring your debut novel? Now be honest here, Abi and Missy, I know you say you're best friends, but there had to be fights over scenes/characters/descriptions. 

No, we never fought over scenes, characters, or descriptions. We talked about them ahead of time, listing what we wanted, and went from there. But no, there weren’t any arguments over that. As far as co-authoring, it has pros and cons. For us, it was mostly pros. Most people probably wouldn’t want to share their work or allow others to touch or change it, but we’re pretty selfless when it comes to allowing each other to edit and/or rewrite sections. We definitely know each other’s strengths so it’s easy to pass off specific scenes to each other. And if one of us is in a rut, the other person can pick up the slack. It can be hard to coordinate schedules, but I’d say that’s the only difficulty for us. We definitely both enjoy writing together.

When can we expect the sequel to Branded, and what can we expect? Will it be focused more on their life outside of the Hole, on why the Hole exists in the first place, Cole's intense swoonworth-iness/yumminess factor? 

We’re currently writing book 2. You can expect to see more of the outside world. We’ve got some surprises up our sleeves that we’re dying to share!

How long have the two of you known each other, and what made you decide to write Branded together? When did you begin writing, and what made you decide to self-publish?

We’ve known each other since 1999! Abi & I used to meet up to talk about books we were reading and we decided to write our own. She came up with the concept, and from there we built a gritty, violent, unfair society. It just came to life! Honestly, when we first wrote it, it was just for us. After reading through it though, we agreed we should publish it.

Was there any particular reason that Lust was the deadly sin that Lexi was accused of?

I think it’s one of the easiest things to accuse someone of, sadly. Otherwise, not really. It was just what we wrote and we ran with it.

If you committed one of the sins, which one would it be? We all know there would be one. Would you lust after fame and fortune? Indulge yourself in that cute pair of shoes you saw at the mall? Fail to go to church? Break something out of anger? Not share your toys with others?

For me (Missy), it’d be wrath. Haha. That’s why I have a nice, big punching bag in my basement. For me (Abi) wrath. I work out like crazy to get that all out

Disclaimer: I received this book from Mark My Words Publicity which does not affect my honest review in any way.
Were you afraid of writing what could have easily been turned into a cliche novel? The girl falls in love with the enemy, they have to hide their love, or risk dying painful deaths.  
Not really. We knew our society was different than what others have created. We have no sci fi elements. We have a fun-loving dog as a main character. There were just a few things that we feel set it apart. Plus, the Branding itself, is a unique concept.

Pro: The Premise. Like Missy and Abi said, this is a concept that has never been done before. I have never read a book that mentioned the 7 Deadly Sins, and to be honest, I didn't even know the specific sins when I started reading the book. The general structure of the novel, with an oppressive government, and a girl falling in love with her captor, and then them wanting to run away is a classic arc for a lot of dystopian books. Yet Missy and Abi made it all their own. The idea of the Hole is quite terrifying, especially because of how often people were banished to it. It would be one thing if only hardened criminals were thrown in, but Lexi was a one-time offense case.... that didn't actually do anything wrong.

Pro: The Pacing. Oh my gosh, the speed of this book. It didn't let me become bored for a single moment, and I was captured by the different events happening and being described. This was the best part of the book in my opinion, because even when books have characters, romance, and other elements that you dislike, you generally hang on still if there is a good plot.
What inspired the fact that the seven deadly sins were the supposed downfall of humanity?
Abi came up with the concept of branding sinners with their sins. From there, we built an entire world around it and it only made sense to make that the downfall of society. (in their eyes) In all reality, there are some sects of people that believe these things today!

Pro: The World Building. I absolutely adored the ingenuity of the Hole, and uniqueness (not the reasons why characters were in the hole or the conditions), kind of like the characters own personal hell. There were some painfully vivid descriptions that teach you one lesson. Do NOT commit any of the 7 Deadly Sins, because you will not survive being in there. 
What/Who inspired the character Alyssa? Was she just someone the two of you thought of, or was she more symbolic, as a beacon of hope, and a ray of sunshine for the story.
Alyssa is a character of hope in the book. She brings a lightness to the story despite her situation. As far as who she’s based off of. For me (Missy), I thought of a friend of mine I used to babysit, who passed away from cancer when she was only 10. Alyssa reminds me of her in that she carries hope & faith and gives it to others despite her sickness. Abi- Before I had my daughters I was a hospice nurse, and when I was working with a child. Sometimes their strength inspired me, and I couldn’t help but admire the way they were dealing with their illness. I love Alyssa. She is an inspiration to me.
Pro: Alyssa. I hate to say this, but I think Alyssa was my favorite character in the book (sorry Lexi). In the world of darkness that is the Hole, she is the symbol of innocence, purity, and hope -and us readers always need an Alyssa to lighten the story up. for those of you that haven't read the book, she is basically the Primrose and Rue of Branded. Alyssa is a 13 year old girl that has been dying of a deadly disease for months now, and is in constant pain. Then Lexi shows up and the two of them help each other. Lexi provides comfort and reassurance. Alyssa proves to be a much needed anchor for Lexi.

Pro: Cole. I honestly don't know how you can be a guard (like he is) without being totally swoon worthy and hot. The chemistry between the two of them is immediately visible to readers, although I know I can't be the only one when I say that I wish I had Cole to myself. He pulled off the "gruff guar that doesn't want to fall in love with you for the sake of both our safety" without seeming too untouchable. And (this helped me a lot) he reminded me so much of Four from Divergent, more specifically, Theo James. I need not explain myself any further. 

Con: Writing Style. While the story was fast paced and the plot kept me going, the writing style itself was not the highest quality I have ever encountered. The general voice of Lexi Hamilton (who the story is told by) isn't very unique. There are also quite a few descriptions that seemed cliche, "bloodcurdling scream. blood-red object." Lastly, when Cole professed his love for Lexi, I felt like I was reading a script for a cheesy soap opera. Don't get me wrong, I loved the fact that they were in love, but the way he did is seemed almost like the speech you would make when building up to a marriage proposal.

Con: Characters. I didn't feel like Cole and Lexi were really one-of-a-kind characters. I credit this to my slight dislike of the writing style. Even if Abi and Missy described them, I didn't feel a very strong connection with Lexi and Cole. I didn't get the sense that they were real people, with desires, needs, and values. 

Conclusion: Branded is a perfect quick read if you want your taste of action, adventure, and swoon-worthy romance.

{Day ONE} Introductions & Literature: Armchair BEA 2014


Design by Amber of Shelf Notes
1. Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from?

Who am I? Well, I could literally go on and on and on about who I am, but I think the question is really implying who I am statistically. I am a 5'3 (more 5'2.75, but we're not going to get into specifics) teenager living in Way Too Sunny Southern California, and my name is Sofia Li. I got into blogging because I have always loved to read (one of my oldest embarrassing photos is of me "reading" a picture book on the toilet). The older and older I got, I noticed that the people around me didn't like reading that much, and I was really disappointed because they didn't understand it when I got a case of.... THE FEELS. I had also started writing book reviews for fun a month before, so I thought, "What the heck, I should start blogging." Here I am, almost six months later (I'm doing a series of discussion posts for my six month blogoversary starting the 8th of June), blogging at my very own blog -Loving the Language of Literacy, and every darn time I go to sign up for a blog tour, or register for things like Armchair BEA, I half regret my blog's name because of its length. 

2. What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

I'm not sure if this question implies something specific like Paranormal Romance, or broad like Young Adult kind of genre, because if it means broad, it is hands down YA literature. If you want something more specific, it is either contemporary romance novels dealing with "teen issues," or dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels. I love to read for so many reasons, most of them being cliche, like "Because reading transports me to another world." But to be honest, I read because it provides escape from life, school, society, all of the stress, pressure, and general feelings that come when living disappear, and that's what I love.

3. What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year? 

My favorite book, hands down, of 2013 was Prodigy by Marie Lu, and the entire Legend Trilogy is just one of the best YA trilogies I have ever read. I have serious issues trying to pick favorite books, but my top three that I have enjoyed this year are - Tricks: Ellen Hopkins, Two Boys Kissing: David Levithan, The Runaway King: Jennifer A. Nielsen.

4. Spread the love by naming your favorite blogs/bloggers (doesn’t necessarily have to be book blogs/bloggers). 

I cannot tell you how many bookish friends I have made since I started blogging, and I know I haven't covered nearly a fraction of them, but here are some of my favorites, whether because their writing is unique, their awesome people, they are obsessed with the same things I am. And I hope *crosses fingers* that by the end of armchair BEA, I will have so many new names to put onto this list, I won't know what to do with them.

5.Share your favorite book or reading related quote. 
I know if you are at this post, it probably means that you have never been to my blog before, but let me just tell me one thing you need to know if you want to bridge the gap to friendship. I AM ADDICTED TO QUOTES. Book quotes, running related quotes, sad quotes, happy quotes, all quotes. This is the link to my personal pinterest account, and the only reason it's personal is because it is made of 80% quotes. So you can stop by there if you want to see more of my weirdness.

Reading Related
Book Quote


What do you think of when you think of literature? Classics, contemporary, genre, or something else entirely? We are leaving this one up to you to come up with and share the literature that you want to chat about the most. Feel free to share a list of your favorites, break down your favorite genre, feature your favorite authors, and be creative about all things literature in general.

Literature *folds hands together* what a topic. If you had asked me that question around two years ago, I would say literature is the fancy name that adults use for those old stuffy classics that most teenagers despise when they become required reading. But.... you're asking me that question now. Literature to me now means every book under the sun.  Whether it is a classic, a picture book, a short story, every genre under the sun. Whether it is Twilight or Les Miserables, The Day the Crayons Quit or Percy Jackson. Yet.... literature isn't just books either. 

Literature means words.
Literature means magic. 
Literature means change.
Literature means the feels. 
Literature means the cant-put-it-down sensation.
Literature means the friends you make that are unlike anybody else.
Literature means the world you can be rescued by when the real world shuts you out.
Literature means escape.
Literature means the impossible.

This is an acrostic poem (of some sorts) containing some of my favorite pieces of literature. I wish I could fit more books in, but frankly, L-I-T-E-R-A-T-U-R-E only has so many letters.


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